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Building Bridges

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Mark Kermode | 17:24 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Slacker and stoners revere him as the Dude. Kids love him as a video game character in Tron and a comic book villain in Iron Man. Grown ups like him too: Terry Gilliam says if he could he would work with him in every film he made, and after The Fisher King you can see why. And now, finally Jeff Bridges is up for an Academy Award. So why the nod after all this time? Was it the plucking and the singing?

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Cate Blanchett was great as Bob Dylan, though... Best of the bunch.

  • Comment number 2.

    i took the liberty of signing up here as i assumed you don't read the youtube comments

    I'd say King Kong 1976 is my favourite bridges performance. magical, timeless film with strong performances, a great score and good cinematography.

    although the dude would say "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man"

    i wont be watching this film however as i hate music films/musicals, my mouth is dribbling in anticipation of Tron though.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have to disagree, for once, with this blog post. As a big JC fan, it really annoyed me hearing what is basically a karaoke version of the great mans stuff in Walk the Line and it made me really want the real thing. Also with Marion Cotillard's performance in Le vie En Rose, the fact that i was hearing Piaf's original vocal, even though i wansn't already a fan (or maybe because i was) was really thrilling. It might have something to do with the fact that i'm more of a music snob than a film one.

    Oh and while we're on the subject of you being wrong, HOW could you "take or leave" the big lebowski. The world would be a much smaller place if the Dude had never graced us with his presence.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cz2ET5K6zY0

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear Dr. K,

    Please tell me that your closing statement is not the suggestion that you are somehow ahead of the every other simple mortal in the film industry!!!!!!!!!!

    That aside, I think the whole musical element goes back to the argument that films are catalysts in a conversation between the filmmakers and the audience. What I mean is that we bring about 50% of the experience of cinema with us and sometimes see individual elements more pronounced than the person sat beside us.

    You are a musician and so it's clear why you would be impressed at actors showing prowess in such an area.

    My thinking is that the subtle and finer points of an actor's performance is usually taken for granted by most. People look for more obvious stretches: weight gain, weight loss, accents etc etc. Things that are blatant changes (the shorthand being of course De Niro's weight gain in Raging Bull).

    Music playing has become another point value of this "obvious" acting commending that the academy/awards people look for.

    Let's be honest here, it's great that people learn instruments but the real performances with endure over the years. Let's use De Niro as the shorthand again: he won the award for Raging Bull fine, but it will be Travis Bickle that endures.

    There was nowhere near the amount of award interest for Bridges' turn in the Big Lebowski. But I feel the dude will live a more prosperous life in the hearts of the cinephiles than his award drenched turn in Crazy Heart.

  • Comment number 5.

    Totally agree about Big Lebowski. Perfectly fine film, enjoyable, a bit of a shaggy dog story and all that but it is a long way from the masterpiece its made out to be; it certainly didn't have a major effect on me or change my worldview or anything. I kind of wish people would calm down about it a bit. "Take it or leave it"...

    p.s. all of the above (well, virtually all of it) could also be applied to that other greatly over-rated work of the last century, namely "The Shawshank Redemption"... ;-)

  • Comment number 6.

    ... On a slightly different note, I think his performance in "The Men Who Stare At Goats" totally stole the show from the obstensible 'leads' (i.e. McGregor and Clooney) and made an otherwise fairly naff film, into something quite enjoyable.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's like Jackie Chan doing his own stunts, there is something about the actor doing it for real which makes their performance more realistic and has more gravitas.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am more than a little worried about this sudden interest in Jeff Bridges. A good few years ago whenever anyone asked me who my favourite actor was I always said Johnny Depp. The reason being that I believed he was seriously under-rated. I had always admired his career choices, he never seemed to go for the easy option, always choosing more off-beat and interesting roles, and working with great directors. Then he made the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and I have to say I did lose some of the admiration I had for him. Now that might make me sound like a complete and utter movie snob, but so be it! That's the way I feel.

    Anyway, I now find myself having similar feelings towards Jeff Bridges. I think he's a great actor, also very under-rated, and I have loved many of his roles and film choices. I just hope after all this attention and Oscar hype that the same thing doesn't happen again. I would be really disappointed if he started making films that are utter clap-trap too. Having said that, I still very much hope he wins the Oscar this year. It would be very well deserved indeed. All I ask is please Dude . . . don't disappoint me!

  • Comment number 9.

    Spot on as usual. Not sure Crazy Heart as a film on the whole is meant to be that good though...

  • Comment number 10.

    I tend to agree with Mark on this point, although i havent seen that many musical biopics. For me the reason it is important is more that there is an illusion of reality in a biopic, and when the continuity os broken by a patently different voice singing the songs, so the illusion is broken. At times this can be quiet hard to get over, and can grate in what are otherwise perfectly passable films.

    Time to watch Walk the Line again, i forgot how much i enjoyed that film.

  • Comment number 11.

    Because, Dr. Kermode, you've got to be right at some point in your career.

  • Comment number 12.

    Like the polo-neck Mark - all you need is a pipe and you'll be the spitting image of Jean-Paul Sartre

  • Comment number 13.

    #3. Surely the logical conclusion of that argument would be "The actor playing X has different eyes, a different face and body as the real X."

    The only alternative to that particular 'problem' would be to either:

    1) not make biopic films, or
    2) Only make biopics where the living subjects play themselves (ala Howard Stern in "Private Parts"), or
    2) digitally alter the actor's image to exactly reflect the subject, which I would find too weird and distracting to contemplate.

    An authentic interpretation of the role, to my mind, has to go right down to the performance itself (singing, dancing, etc,etc.) - miming instinctively 'feels' artificial.

    Remember of course that the very nature of a biopic is artifice - it isn't the "real" thing, merely an artistic impression or interpretation. Thus the actor has to be allowed to interpret the role in his or her own way, even if this risks their performance being technically "unfaithful" to the subject; so long as the performance is self-consistent!

    For example, from "Walk the line", arguably Reese Witherspoon's singing voice is a more shrill and sweeter than the real June Carter and if you heard the two out of context side by side, it would sound strange.

    However, in the context of the 'film' version of June Carter and the way Reese portrays her, her singing voice fits perfectly well. If they had suddenly cut to a mimed version of the 'Real' June during these concert performance sequences, it would have jarred (as Mark suggests it does with Marion in "La Vie En Rose"), because her speaking voice and her singing wouldn't correlate.

    Although not a musical biopic, I would recommend watching "American Splendor(sic)" for a lesson in "Biopic as artifice" (particularly the scenes where the real Harvey Pekar and the movie version interact on screen).

  • Comment number 14.

    Good post Dr K. The only point I disagree with is about the dubbing of Piaf's voice. Listen to Piaf singing Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien and there is only one voice that people remember when they think of that song.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZPXbKoRfIk

    Joaquin Phoenix managed to sound quite like Johnny Cash in Walk the Line; asking anyone to get really close to sounding like Piaf when at her best may be asking the impossible. But this is a digression.

    Does Bridges deserve an Oscar? Hell yes! But then some actors can even transcend the standards Hollywood judges actors by. Win or no win Bridges just is a great actor.

    I was lucky enough to have been the right age (impressionable teenager) to have see Bridges in his early movies when they first came out. The Last Picture Show, Fat City, Last American Hero, Stay Hungry, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot & Tron. Great cinema with Bridges at his brash, young-self best. (The early 70's was a golden age of cinema.)

    If you get the chance to see John Huston's Fat City then take it; it's a boxing movie taking a hard look at the flip side of the American dream; the Wrestler of its day.

    Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was a buddy comedy/action movie that had the b@lls to kill its most likeable character (Bridges) at the end. It must have given Eastwood ideas that influenced some of his more recent films.

    Look at some of Bridges work between the 70's and now and you've got movies such as Starman, Cutter's Way, Against All Odds, Jagged Edge, Fisher King, White Squall, Fearless, The Big Lebowski, Wild Bill, Tideland, The Fabulous Baker Boys and now Crazy Heart.
    Bridges is also prepared to pay his dues just to keep working as in Iron Man and How to Lose Friends & Alienate People; but he's always dependable, watchable and believable.

    Forget DeNiro and Pacino (whose careers peaked long ago and have slid ever since); for my money Hackman and Bridges are the two truly great actors that came to the fore from the early 70's onwards, and continued to remain at the top of their game throughout their careers.

    The news that the Coen bros are remaking True Grit (One of my [many] favourite westerns, the novel is good too.) didn't exactly excite me, given how wildly their films vary in quality - but then I heard that Bridges is taking the Rooster Cogburn role.

    If the Coens are on form (rare in recent years) then True Grit could be the surprise hit this year. Bridges, as always, will be good in it though; that you can depend on.

  • Comment number 15.

    I was waiting for Walk the Line to earn a mention! I think performance is on par with an actor doing his or her own stunts. There's just something so much more realistic and organic about genuine performances. It makes the film more fluid, too, since the editors aren't bogged down by finding ways to cut and add insert shots of somebody else's hands. Need I bring up August Rush? Oh dear.

  • Comment number 16.

    The vbog calls to mind another great epic: ”Walk Hard –The Dewey Cox Story”. It has some of "the best day ever” songs performed by J C Reilly. JCR plays guitar too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u5x9pdInTU or

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP5YFr4SkCQ

    J. Depp and A Rickman both sang well in presumably their own voices.

    “Pretty Women”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mYpFmcsdeM or the alternate take:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpRlDj-Y1Wc

    And Tufnel/St Hubbins songs….

  • Comment number 17.

    Quick mention for Arlington Road, a much underrated Bridges film.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Why that is?"

    1) Jeff Bridges is always AWESOME.

    2) An actor needs to perform, not just say some lines. Lets not just award those that can act, sing, and play music, but who can fight, dance, and speak in multiple languages in the same role...and who top it off with some long division.

  • Comment number 19.

    Branching off a bit here but I can't stand it when actors get awarded for playing real people. How can you have a scenario where judges can say "oh yes, he was just like so and so, very good, wonderful." It's unfair, it gives them a means of measuring a performance that fictional characters are not afforded. Why don't they give it its own separate category at award shows, something like best impersonation?

  • Comment number 20.

    What is truly annoying about this whole Jeff Bridges Oscar Nomination hooplah is that all of a sudden and for the first time the arthouse DVD shops around Dublin now have a "Jeff Bridges Section", where they display some of his collaborations with renowned indie and arthouse directors and various smaller films which most people will never have heard but...no Blown Away, no Iron Man, no Surf's Up, no The Vanishing, no Starman, no The Mirror Has Two Faces, no Wild Bill, no Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, etc. BUT, they do have Against All Odds...

    Jeff Bridges become "prestigious" all of a sudden? Are certain circles forgetting the fact he made some, in fact many, complete and utter stinkers, some of which are mentioned above but my point being that it annoys me when certain films from an actors ouvre are deemed of greater value just because they are smaller or less well known; why shouldn't Blown Away or Surf's Up be in these Jeff Bridges sections of cinema seasons?

    I love Jeff Bridges, but it seems that in arthouse circles, sometimes certain filmographies are edited to suit the more high minded clientele. In a recent Jeff Bridges season at my local arthouse cinema (yes, to celebrate his newly acquired prestigousness) there was no sign of Starman, Blown Away or many other films which people may associate him with.

  • Comment number 21.

    that should be "in these Jeff Bridges sections OR cinema seasons"

  • Comment number 22.

    #20 - psychfursfan83 - You make a very good point. I always have the same feelings regarding SIR Anthony Hopkins. He made it big with Silence of the Lambs, and afterwards became the face of all British acting talent. It's now forgotten that he was in the TV mini series of the Jackie Collins book Hollywood Wives!

    Regarding some of the stinkers Jeff Bridges has made, would you be including the King Kong remake in that list? Because, I know I should hate it, I do, but I still can't bring myself to dislike it! Both the 1933 and 1976 versions of King Kong were a huge part of my young life. And I still love them both dearly. Even though, watching it through grown up eyes, it's obvious it's a guy in an ape suit! But who could forget lines like "You Goddamn chauvinist pig ape!" Classic! : )

  • Comment number 23.

    I know it's not a biopic, but I think an honourable mention should go to Jane Horrocks in Little Voice.

    She may have been playing a fictional character but it was a magnificent performance.

  • Comment number 24.

    @Wintera

    The Jeff Bridges of King Kong is the true Jeff Bridges to me. I think what happened was post-The Big Lebowski he entered into the public consciousness in a different light. All of a sudden it was cool and credible to namecheck the man who played The Dude. For me growing up Jeff Bridges was one of those reliable actors, like Kurt Russellm, who you can watch and enjoy regardless of the actual quality of the film.

    For me Jeff Bridges is King Kong, Jagged Edge, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Starman, Heaven's Gate and many more films which I grew up with. This belated recognition is a little too late, and I think he sees that as well, as he commented cynically about his current recognition and Oscar buzz thanks to Crazy Heart.

  • Comment number 25.

    'the last picture show' was another bridges great along with 'the contender' a really underated film from 2000(bridges oscar nom?)

    all-time best has to be 'the big lebowski'. has to be

    agree with previous poster regarding bridges/gene hackman over pacino/deniro but gene hackman has been retired for a good six years now

  • Comment number 26.

    i don't think his musical abilities are the only reason for his nomination. it used to be said that if beautiful actresses made themselves 'ugly' for the role they were guaranteed an oscar nomination. the grizzled man coming to terms with ageing seems to be the contemporary actors version with bill murray (lost in translation), mickey rourke (the wrestler), peter o'toole (venus), jack nicholson (about schmidt)all being recent examples.

  • Comment number 27.

    Am I being too pedantic to say I find it ironic that the clip you chose to show of Andy Serkis "not miming" is one where he is underwater and therefore clearly miming?

  • Comment number 28.

    Bridges has been going downhill since Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Everything he has made since then, no matter how admirable, is rendered inconsequential and pointless due to his involvement in Michael Cimino's masterpiece. T&L also features Eastwood's best performance to date either in front of, or behind, the camera

    Search your hearts people. You know I speak the truth.

  • Comment number 29.

    blueeeeeeeee velvettttttt

  • Comment number 30.

    Is 'Crazy Heart' this year's 'The Wrestler'? Both films are far from perfect, with the screenplays being the main culprit. Both have slightly annoying female co-stars Evan Rachel Wood and the always reliably annoying Maggie Gyllenhaal, and both films feature redemptive performances by Hollywood veterans, Mickey Rourke and Jeff Bridges. Both of whom, took great care to 'perform' accurately in the stage as a singer and wrestler.

    Miming to music is wrong. Seriously wrong. As much authenticity as Top of The Pops...

  • Comment number 31.

    'but gene hackman has been retired for a good six years now' 25.

    True, but Hackman is 80yrs (and has health issues I've read) to Bridges 64yrs; but Hackman ended his career with The Royal Tennabaums and Mamet's The Heist; whereas DeNiro and Pacino's past decade or so of work has included a vast amount of cr@p.

    Don't get me wrong, in their day both have given great performances, but nowadays having them in a film is no guarantee they'll do more than just go through the motions or play a parody of themselves, DeNiro in particular.

    I still have hopes that Pacino has one last great performance left in him; he still has that distinctive voice, all he needs is a good script.

    Hackman at least always gave 100%, took on varied roles and his presence alone could lift inferior work such as Enemy of the State, Uncommon Valor, Bat 21, Hoosiers or The Quick and the Dead. As for his performance as Little Bill in Unforgiven... Great actor.

    Hoffman's another actor whose stayed the course; seemingly happy nowadays playing character roles.

  • Comment number 32.

    ...the interesting question isn't why these actors are getting oscar nominations after years of hanging in there waiting for recognition from the industry opinion makers, till it reaches the point where people are asking what's going on - more interesting is why weren't they considered in the first place and what do the others have that they become recognised quicker? What makes an actor fashionable and does the academy's tendency to be influenced by fashions invalidate it?

  • Comment number 33.

    First off, shame on all you so called Jeff Bridges fans for not mentioning Door in the Floor. An outstanding performance. I shall not bother to see his latest flick because country music is ****. Hate it, Hate it, Hate it.

    ... hate it.


    Second off, not this old hobby-horse again. You really have a bee in your Barnet about this 'you've got do your own vocals or your rubbish' business. Are you 'aving a laugh when giving credit to Geoffrey Rush in Shine for using his own hands but miming nonetheless? Maybe Rush should have learnt Flight of the Bumble Bee for the role, it would only have taken 10-20 years tops if he's not already a pianist. Adrien Brody did a better job of matching his hand movements to the music in The Pianist and Noah Taylor probably had the harder job of portraying David Helfgott's performances as an adolescent when he was at the height of his virtuosity. Both Rush and Brody won their academy awards on the strength of their acting, not their ability to mime pianistically.

    There are very few actors that could give genuine performances that would be worthy of the musical icons they are portraying. That's the way it should be otherwise it rather cheapens the achievements of the latter to even think that an overpaid and privileged twerp on the strength of a few months preparation should be able to give a truly convincing performance.

    If the performer you are emulating is not quite so recent or not quite so iconic it might be easier to get away with it. Caruso was of course a nonpareil singer, so if you get anyone at all to portray him using their own singing voice, well then you get a trained singer who can act a bit (Mario Lanza), not an actor-come-johnny-cash-come-lately. No disrespect to Ray Charles or Johnny Cash but in terms of vocalists they were not of the same stature as Caruso (and arguably Piaf). Piaf's voice is still too recent and too well known to be mimicked by an actress with no previous singing form, especially in her homeland. Unless the film succeeded in France we would never have seen it which may account for the absence of mention of WWII as then the filmmakers would have had to address the thorny and disputed issue of whether Piaf was a collaborator. Cotillard gave a fantastic performance which would have seriously been marred by trying to impersonate Piaf's singing voice and either spectacularly failing or barely succeeding. I don't believe any professional singer could have pulled it off either. Maybe somebody who has made a career out of impersonating famous divas like Jane Horrocks could have made a stab at it but then we'd have Edith Piaf speaking French with a northern British accent which is even more unthinkable if you are French.

    Assez!

    Third off, on the subject of Dustin Hoffman. One word: 'Ishtar'. If you don't like that word, how about 'Hook'?

  • Comment number 34.

    thunderbolt and lightfoot

  • Comment number 35.

    'almost famous' are they not playing their instruments/singing the songs as 'stillwater'

  • Comment number 36.

    as far as best actor oscars go, musicians are the new mentally/physically challenged

  • Comment number 37.

    ‘One word: 'Ishtar'. If you don't like that word, how about 'Hook'?’ antimode

    But then again there’s The Graduate, Little Big Man, Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man or Tootsie.
    Ishtar is apparently entertaining (in a good way), or so some of the handful of people that have seen it report.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar_%28film%29

    Hook – the curse of Robin Williams strikes again; even Spielberg totally loses the plot sometimes.

    Totally agree with you about Piaf.

    Mind you, the thought of Horrocks as Piaf is tempting; it could be reset in the slums of Oldham, with Horrocks nicknamed ‘little Sparrow’ who finds a French songbook on a coal tip…

  • Comment number 38.

    @jayfurneaux
    Yes I like that idea too.

    "Avez vous un cuppa?"

    Perhaps we could also have Marion Cotillard making a biopic about Gracie Fields: "L'aspidistra plus grande du monde" with Gerard Depardieu doing a cameo of Ukele playing George Formby singing the classic "Quand je nettoye les fenetres"

    re: Hoffman, the argument was being advanced that he is more consistent than just about anybody else. I was giving examples of the fact that his wheels come off too. I was looking for a two syllable word like "plastics" so I gravitated to Ishtar.

  • Comment number 39.

    zampano:"as far as best actor oscars go, musicians are the new mentally/physically challenged"



    Of course, Geoffrey Rush was playing both a musician and somebody with mental illness as was Jamie Foxx in The Soloist (but maybe you can only get the gong once for playing a musician).

  • Comment number 40.

    Antimode. My 'Bed O' Roses' would have Peter Kay as working men's club owner Lou Leplee that gives little sparrow her first break; with an appearance by Isabelle Adjani as Jessie Matthews - the finale would be a rousing chorus of 'les genoux levent le brun de mere'.

    I'm also lining up Susan Boyle as Maria Callas, Leona Lewis as Billie Holliday and David Tennant as Serge Gainsbourg.

    Come to think of it Dr K, Diana Ross did her own singing as Billie Holiday (Lady Day) in Lady Sings the Blues.

    Ross is a fantastic singer, as was Holiday - but Ross sounded nothing like Holiday. (Rumour has it Anne Hathaway may be playing Judy Garland in a forthcoming biopic. I hope they dub the singing.)

    Your argument might have a hole in it.

    antimode. I'll let you have Hook. It was a misbegotten abomination with no redeeming features. The only defence is that Hoff got an offer from Spielberg (who turned out to be utterly off-form).

    You also could add Meet the Fockers, which had both Hoffman and DeNiro in it.

    But then again, Hoff's also done Rain Man, Kramer vs Kramer, Outbreak, Death of a Salesman, All the President's Men, Lenny, American Buffalo and quite a few other decent performances in good films; even his recent vocal performance in Kung Fu Panda was very good.

    But no, Hoff's not been as entirely consistent - or maybe as lucky - as Hackman or Bridges. But on form, with good material, he still shows can be a good actor.

    I'm unconvinced we can still say the same about Pacino or DeNiro. They appear to be coasting.

    I haven't seen Ishtar, so can't comment on Hoff's performance. It was the film that got slated, not Hoff's performance. Have to say if it ever came on TV (come on Dr K, pull some strings) I'd watch it; just to see if it lives up to any of its various reputations.

  • Comment number 41.

    I agree that Diana Ross sounded nothing like Billie Holiday. How could she? Another very unique singing voice. It's the voice that gets you (or not) and that's why I disagree with Mark that the disconnect between the spoken voice and the singing voice is what causes a problem. It's the disconnect between the voice coming through the multiplex speakers and the real voice that we know all too well that is the problem. A pale imitation is not going to have the effect that the real voice would and does in La Vie en Rose. Did it cause a problem in "My Fair Lady" when Audrey Hepburn is not singing the songs? There is certainly a disconnect between posh Audrey and Flower girl Audrey because I don't think she gets the cockney accent right (you can still hear posh Audrey when she does it) but the disconnect between the dubbed singing voice and posh Audrey doesn't seem particularly noticeable to me. Of course Julie Andrews would have been seamless but due to the vagaries of casting that wasn't to be.

    So they want to do Judy, next, do they? Another totally unique voice. Hope they dub.
    That way can at least enjoy some of the magic even if the film is rubbish.

    Who's next, I wonder? Bette Midler as Ethel Merman? That one might have a chance if anybody wanted to see it.

    Of course there are a few iconic singers that can act. Your Streisands, Andrews, Minellis, (all a bit long in the tooth now), Houston, Madonna who might be able to portray another legendary singer but perhaps these are a bit too iconic in their own right. It would be like having Sinatra play another singer on screen.


    I agree that Hoffman has delivered throughout his career. Apart from Tootsie and Hook I dont think he has really stretched himself in terms of the range of characters he plays. A lot of his recent roles have a touch of aging Ratso Rizzo about them. Why he wanted to do Captain Hook as William F Buckley Jr is beyond me. It must be the most bizarre choice of depicting a pirate captain until Johnny Depp's Keith Richards impersonation.

    Meet the Fockers was a very poor and unnecessary follow up to Meet the Parents but it's an ensemble and he's not noticeably worse than the others.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hey up Mark,
    This will proabably be modded but a number of people are getting anxious. Simon's Drivetime blog isn't working, could you give him a nudge when you see him?

    Ta

  • Comment number 43.

    I want you to explain what your problem is with The Big Lebowski. I understand your aversion to the Coens' other zanier films like Burn After Reading, Hudsucker Proxy or even O Brother, Where Art Thou (which I always thought was their most overrated work.) But Lebowski isn't like those films. It's only as zany as Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, which really isn't very much.

  • Comment number 44.

    41: What’s your opinion of Streisand playing Fanny Brice and Andrews playing Gertrude Lawrence?

    Mine is that because Brice and Lawrence were of an era that saw few recordings of their performances (therefore they were unknown to most of the audiences of Funny Girl and Star) it enabled Streisand and Andrews to dispense with any pretence of impersonation and simply sing as they normally would.

    I guess if a film does have a world class singer portraying another famous singer, it helps if they’re from a forgotten era.

    No matter how hard she may try to sound like someone else, Streisand’s voice would remain pretty unmistakable. Your Sinatra scenario.

    Natalie Wood’s singing voice in West Side Story was dubbed by Marni Nixon.
    Any disconnect between the spoken voice and the singing voice was, I think, small enough to be unnoticeable by most.
    There’s an example here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd_foOvGvho

  • Comment number 45.

    I agree antimode that ‘Meet the Fockers was a very poor and unnecessary follow up to Meet the Parents’... I hope the next “Litter Focker” (my title) is better…(amazing large cast too) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0970866/



    P.S. Ben Stiller has 3 “in the can” and 13 in the works….
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001774/

  • Comment number 46.

    * "Litter Focker"! - well I was planing to type "Little Folker" but "Litter Focker" works if there are twins ;-)

  • Comment number 47.

    44: It's been many years since I saw "Funny Girl" (Streisand/Fanny Brice) and "Star!" (Andrews/Gertrude Lawrence). I have no conception of what Brice or Lawrence were like as performers so I completely accepted the performances of Streisand and Andrews. Of course Streisand is always Streisand whether she's Fanny Brice or Dolly Levi and Andrews spoken voice is very distinctive whether she's Mary Poppins or Maria von Trapp. I think the films would have suffered if they had been about recognizable artists. In Star, I remember that Noel Coward is depicted as a young precocious talent and later as an adult whose voice was/is well known to me but because he's not the focus of the film the depiction did not detract from the rest of the film.
    James Cagney as George M Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy is another example of a legend playing a character that is not known to us.

    Another real character depicted in a recent(ish) film was Ivor Novello played by Jeremy Northam in Gosford Park. It was a fairly minor role but included a couple of songs sung by Northam. I have have no idea what Novello sounded like but I was pretty impressed by Northam as I did not know he was a singer. He also played Dean Martin in a TV movie which I didnt see.

    I was going to cite The Al Jolson story with Larry Parks as an example of a successful performance of a recognizable star, but then I found out he was dubbed by ... Al Jolson, who even appeared as himself in one scene.

    Both the main stars is West Side Story were dubbed. I think if they were doing this today they would have used performers that could sing, act and dance (not like Mamma Mia, of course, more like Chicago). However, it didnt stop the film winning many awards and it still stands up today despite the dubbing of the leads.



    I am sure Mark had no problem with the dubbing by Mercedes McCambridge of a possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist. ;-)

  • Comment number 48.

    A thumbsup to Dr K for pinging a small pebble at the misplaced love for, and unearned reputation of, The Big Lebowski. It's a horrible film and is easily the least interesting of the Coen Brothers' oeuvre - and that includes The Ladykillers which I thought was reasonably acceptable (I have no particular love for the Ealing original). Even Raising Arizona, which is generally too whacked-out crazy for me, is better than Lebowski.

  • Comment number 49.

    Antimode. 48.
    You know your musicals and performers.

    I think on the vocal performance topic we have a meeting of minds.

    Musicals are yet another undervalued cinematic genre.

    Over to Dr K to defend his position...

    West Side Story could do with a good attempt at a remake; probably updated.

    As both Zeffirelli and Luhrmann have showed, there are various ways of telling this tale. I liked both their (very different) visions of Romeo and Juliet.

    I understand Jerome Robbins had his choreography for WSS copyrighted, so it can't now be deviated from.

    Even so, WSS is one of my favourite musicals (on both stage and film); based on a classic, timeless story and with wonderful music and lyrics, it deserves revisiting.

    Nice talking with you.

  • Comment number 50.

    I strongly oppose Dr Kermode's comment about the Big Lebowski, i think people on this forum are allowing pretentious ideas to influence their opinion of a film's worth. Granted the more knowledgeable someone is on a subject the more prone they are to favouring obscurity over commerce. Just because The Big Lebowski is revered as a cult classic, people go out of their way to dislike the film to seem more high brow and sophisticated. Fact is it's a great comedy with some exceptional moments, with a solid comedic straight man performance from Bridges. This may sound like a contradiction but i do find it puzzling the amount of praise heaped on Bridges at the moment, as if he's acting deity. Barre a few choice roles notably lebowski and the fisher king he is hit and miss at best.

  • Comment number 51.

    #50. I think you're being more than a little unfair there. The thing about that chafes the likes of me and Dr. K, is the fact that a film that is (at best) reasonably enjoyable fluff is lauded as a cult classic by a whole bunch of Johnny-come-latelys - its just not that great people!

    I'll try to illustrate what I mean, if you'll forgive me a little metaphorical conceit:

    Imagine your about to go on a once-in-a-lifetime romantic holiday somewhere - Cancun, Maldives, that kind of thing. As you and your partner drive to the airport, looking forward to the great experiences ahead, you notice that you feel a little peckish and decide to stop in at a little road-side cafe - you know the type, the little caravan things you see at markets or outdoor events.

    You both opt for a burger with fried onions on top. It tastes perfectly fine - in your mind its not going to be the best meal you've ever had, but it will suffice for now. As soon as its finished, you hop back into the car and head for the airport and forget all about it.

    After the holiday is over, when people ask "How was the holiday? Must have been unforgettable, eh?", suddenly your partner will only recall how good the burger at the little van before you went away was - how succulent the flavour, the texture of paper greaseproof bag it was contained in, the sugary stewed tea you had with it, perhaps the kitkat you shared afterwards as a desert - nothing about the holiday itself, just the burger van. Your partner seems to forget the sky-diving, the glorious sunsets, the Michellin-star meals - no, the abiding memory is the last-minute burger before the flight.

    Years later, on your deathbed, as you turn to your partner and ask: "of all the memories of our life together, which is your fondest? If you could go back, what would you relive?", your partner then turns around and, with face straight and voice cracking with emotion, states solemnly - "you remember that burger van, before our holiday? What a burger - I've never eaten anything as fine as that. I long for it even now. If only I could go back to that time and relive it. Such memories!"

    "Why is that your abiding memory? Haven't we had better times together? Afterall, it was only a forgettable little burger to keep hunger away until the flight afterall - reall nothing special", you gasp in belwilderment.

    "How can you say that!?" your partner exlaims. "You know what your doing? Yes, your allowing pretentious ideas to influence your opinion of a meal's worth. Just because a mere takeaway burger is revered as a cult classic, people like you go out of their way to dislike the burger to seem more high brow and sophisticated. The fact is it's a great snack with some exceptional moments, with a solid straight performance from the fried onions!". With that, your partner storms out, leaving you forever. As you slip away, alone, wondering what on earth was so good about the stupid burger at the van all those years ago - maybe it was just you...?

    So... there you go: a slightly exaggerated illustration of how I feel about the Big Lebowski. Any clearer now?

  • Comment number 52.

    #49
    Cheers, jayfurneaux. Nice talking to you too.

    I wouldn't say I am a big fan of the musical genre especially in recent times. There is obviously a huge back catalogue of musicals from the glory years of Hollywood and amongst that there is dross as well as pure gold. I suppose in recent times the musical has been supplanted by the rockumentary. perhaps you could say that the musical still endures in the form of animated features with songs.

    Interesting what you said about WSS and its form being copyrighted.
    In 2005 there was a musical comedy made called West Bank Story set in Israel's West Bank about the romance between rival Palestinian and Israeli falafel restaurant families. It won an Oscar for Best Short Live Action Short Film in 2007.

  • Comment number 53.

    Joel_C_ooney what a magnificent anecdote, you made me burst out laughing into my 'unpretentious' cup of tea. I take it the holiday is metaphorical of the Coen's work or maybe it's indicative of good film's in general.

    But i counter your delightful anecdote with one of my own.

    Say hypothetically that I'm a boxing fan, and i mean a serious boxing fan, i've studied every notable fight, fighter and training stable in existence from the ghetto's of Catskills New York, all the way to the bustling streets of Panama. I'm talking encyclopedic knowledge here, knowing every technique and training method ever put to paper or practised in any sweaty little gym the world over.

    I get invited to a houseparty one night by a mutual friend. So i turn up feeling slightly deflated and take a seat next to three very attractive girls. I'm just drinking away minding my business, when i hear one of the girls start talking about boxing. I'm taken aback by this, afterall this is my forte. If theres anything i know about it's boxing right. I look at these beautiful girls that seem at face value to be the vacous type, talk so eloquently about my favourite subject.

    As the debate edges further they start bickering over who was the greatest fighter of all time. My enthusiasm must of alerted them and they turn to me and ask 'who is your favourite boxer?'

    Heres the dilemna do i say Muhammed Ali and give the appearence that i know about as much as the average guy on the street corner, or do i curb into obsurity and reference someone like Willie Pep to entise them with my superior knowledge. Thus showing them my extensive range and verve for the subject.

    Now is Willie Pepp as good as Muhammed Ali? Of course he isnt, but will it make others think that i have superior knowledge / taste as a result of my unconventional viewpoint?

    so... there you go: my exaggerated illustration on reasons for people lambasting the conventionaly well recieved Big Lebowski

  • Comment number 54.

    No, pappion #50. I don't dislike Lebowski because I want to seem more highbrow and sophisticated. I dislike Lebowski because it's dull, full of uninteresting characters and - while I generally don't have much of a problem with it - far too sweary.

  • Comment number 55.

    Now listen Dr K - have you gone back and seen The Big L again, as promised?

    Bottom line, it's bound to be some people's cup of tea and not others', but here's my tuppenn'orth... IMHO:

    - It is Bridges' best performance: his comic delivery and timing, physicality and body language, indeed all aspects of his performance are impeccable, and he created an iconic character (more on this below).
    - The film (as with any great film) genuinely works on many levels: it's a Raymond Chandler pastiche, a screwball comedy, a gentle but heartfelt fable on male bonding and friendship, even a character study - although yes, I admit the characters are exaggerated, but that's part of the fun.
    - So much of the dialogue is utterly catchy and quotable.
    - The 'dream' sequences are uniquely stylised, add to the film's richness and character, and (again) are just very funny.
    - It has a great soundtrack.
    - John Goodman and Julianne Moore are just super-duper too.

    Perhaps most profoundly though, The Dude is a symbol of how it's possible to live your life as your own man, without any big-deal fuss but also without compromise, within a hectic and overly materialistic, commercialised McStarbucks world. He is an inspirational guy. He has nothing, yet everything he needs. His existence is a reassurance, not just to slackers and stoners, but to plain individualists like me.

    I don't mean to go over the top - there's no way I'll ever be converting to Dudeism (remember that VW ad?) but I very much see the point and agree with it. The Dude, most definitely, abides.

  • Comment number 56.

    I couldn't agree more. I think that people get way too bogged down when making biopics, especially those of musicians, by trying to make their performances as accurate to the person they are playing as possible. But I find that this completely detracts from the intimacy of the film, and leaves me feeling almost detached and uninvolved from the story.

    A film that I think covers both bases is Ray, with Jamie Fox playing the legend that is Ray Charles. Throughout the film, original recordings of Ray Charles' songs and recordings of Charles created at the time the film was made are dubbed over Foxx's unconvincing mimes. However, at certain points you notice a change, a more natural feel to the performance of the songs. This is when Foxx himself performs them. You can see throughout the film that Foxx is playing the piano, exceptionally well I might add, but as Mark said, the continuity between spoken and sung voice is hugely important.

    I think the studios think that an audience would be in uproar if an actor playing a famous musician didn't sound completely identical. But personally, I think audiences don't get the credit they deserve. They don't care if Joaquin Phoenix doesn't sound like Johnny Cash. What the audience appreciates is the fact that Phoenix has captured the aspects of Cash's complex personality, and been able to convey that in his performances of, not only dialogue, but Cash's timeless, world-famous songs.

    Sometimes, I think we should be allowed to fill in the gaps between the world that is represented on screen and the real world. Because the current trend in the making of biopics is making those gaps smaller and smaller, in turn creating a much more sterile and unenjoyable genre of film.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    With Tron Legacy out now, it is going to be interesting if Jeff gets any more nominations for awards. I think the Tron movie will win awards but alas, I don't think Jeff himself will win another one. Too bad though, I do like him as an actor.
    Brad
    chi flat irons

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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