January 2, 2007

Nothing Says Christmas Day Like A Movie & Chinese Food


Wow, Cinecultist didn't realize we were intending to take such a long hiatus from regular posting when the business of last month whipped into a fever pitch. However, it was a enjoyable holiday season, one filled with festivities, visits with family and of course, lots of year end movies. We'll try to get to recounting all the great films we've seen (including a year end top 10) but for now, a mention of one.

CC spent a week around Christmas on the West Coast visiting family and friends, and even rented a car -- which was way too much fun than is entirely healthy for this New Yorker who never gets to drive. On the 25th, CC and our Mom did the traditional Jewish celebration of a movie matinee and then Chinese food for dinner. CC's Mom lives in the Marina district of San Francisco, a lovely little enclave of adorable row houses near the water and 30-somethings with just so handbags and Internet money to burn. At the Presidio on Chestnut Street, the locals were out in droves though the streets themselves were pretty quiet since most things were closed. Mom had reserved Dreamgirls weeks ago as our official Christmas Day movie selection, ever since she'd seen the cast interviewed on Oprah.

A movie musical with all of the pageantry and diva posturing is really perfect for the holiday season. Dreamgirls in particular has gotten that tone right, the artificiality of characters singing their feelings to each other fit in perfectly with the bouffant '60s wigs and lavish stage shows in the story. Of the musicals released in the last few years during this revival of the genre, Dreamgirls also seemed to best capture the energy of seeing a great show on Broadway. Walking out of the theater, we hummed the songs all the way to car in between exclamations over Jennifer Hudson's performance as Effie. The buzz is all true, she's just wonderful. The Academy seems to love giving out best supporting Oscars to untested ingenues like Hudson, so we won't be at all surprised if her diva-licious belting isn't handsomely rewarded.

Of course the unspoken oddity about all of the nominee buzz and the casting of this movie is that while Beyoncé Knowles' character, Deena Jones, becomes the lead singer of the Dreams and is loosely based on Diana Ross, she's actually not the center of the movie's story. Instead it's Effie that we really root for when her jerk boyfriend and the band's manager, Curtis (Jamie Foxx) boot her out of the girl group because she's not as photogenic as Deena. Beyoncé gets the best outfits in the movie (oh to channel Ms. Ross with the enormous mane of wavy hair and glittery eyelids) but Jennifer gets the most likable character and best songs. "Listen" is a good song, but "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" gives you chills.

For those used to seeing Beyoncé in the limelight with Destiny's Child and the like, it might seem surprising that she'd take this less-than-plum role. However, for our part it seems like a brilliant career move for Beyoncé. As a member of this ensemble in this kind of movie, she's transformed herself from pop singer or fashion maven to serious actress. All that time spent hanging out with the image conscious Jay-Z was not for nothing, that B is one smart girl.

Posted by karen at January 2, 2007 5:12 PM