Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Dozen Thoughts I Had While Watching Mamma Mia!

...wayyyy after everyone else has already seen it.

01 Meryl Streep is a national treasure. She ought to be on postal stamps, American legal tender and carved into Mount Rushmore... even if that means dynamiting one of the presidents. She's done so much for us. Watching her lift Mamma Mia! up on her preternaturally gifted shoulders is a bit like seeing Charles Atlas lift the world... only with less sweating. Even the most ungainly movie can feel light and buoyant in her care. For a good time call Meryl.

02 Charles Darwin believed that Mary Louise Streep was actually descended from Suidae. Oh sweet succulent HAM! She's always delicious.

03 ABBA are pop geniuses... as gifted as the Beatles even if they aren't as respected.

04 Pierce Brosnan singlehandedly strengthens every argument I've ever made about actual musical talent being necessary to star in a musical. For this I thank him, though my ears will never forgive.

05 This movie is more fun than ABBA: The Movie (my review) but it's just as shoddily put together. On the downside: Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Björn don't appear. So maybe it's less fun.

06 Jukebox musicals are destroying the world... or at least the Aristotelian Unities.

07 I'm really glad Michelle Pfeiffer didn't make this movie (she was an early rumored lead) even though I'd love to see her and Amanda Seyfried paired as mother/daughter. La Pfeiffer can do silly (see: Married to the Mob) but Meryl more thoroughly enjoys doing silly. And if you're not having a ball acting in this type of "movie"...

08 I owe Susan Stroman an apology. When she made The Producers movie I thought 'oh god. she has no clue what to do behind the movie camera. Someone get her out of there!' but then I met her Broadway-to-Hollywood successor Phyllida Lloyd. I believe that genealogy would prove Phyllida Lloyd a descendant of Ed Wood himself.

09 Why is nearly every number staged like an early 80s music videos or deleted fantasy karaoke sequences from Young @ Heart?

10 Ting Huan, Charles Emile Reynaud, and the Lumiere Brothers never meant it to be this way.

11 This might be an impossible film to grade because it's not really a film at all but a crazy quilt of songs shot with dadaist music video sensibility. There are so many things to consider: ABBA the music: (A+), these particular interpretations of ABBA songs (A- to F depending on who is singing), the plot (F) the overall dumbness (C-), the choreography (D), the energy level of the movie (B+), the direction and editing (D), Meryl (B+), Amanda's voice (B), Amanda (B-), Meryl's semen donors (C), Meryl's sidekicks (C+), the (literal) Greek chorus (D), the weirdly kinky sexuality (A- to D+ depending on which particular kink we're talking about), the bipolar characterizations -- someone please write a dissertation on the "Dancing Queen" sequence. Explain to me what the hell was going on there (C-)

Overall: ABCDEFGHIJKlmnopQR.... crap I have no idea.

12 Did I have fun watching it? Sure.


Anonymous said...

u summed it up so perfectly

i just saw and was wondering how to grade it

and realised this ghetto bollywood musical was truly A(meryl) to D(direction)

and seriously dada camp surreal bergman-esque

the other spot on review:
by mark kermorde, BBC

perfect movie for these surreal times we live in when a vice presidential candidate has NEVER met any other heads of state and has only visited canada and mexico

Anonymous said...

I agree on everything except Mount Rushmore. She deserves a Mount Streep of her own. :p I also think she has gone beyond the point of National. She is International Treasure.


Dame James said...

I'm sorry, Lord knows I love Meryl Streep, but this was the most atrocious performance of hers I've ever seen. She overacts everything (that atrocious scene at the dock when she greets Baranski and Walters sticks out in my head) and doesn't do anything to make this character even remotely interesting (although the play itself has a MAJOR part in that as well).

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

I had that same reaction in regards to your "Overall" grade that I just had to leave in my notes "Meryl, stop twisting my arm for a better grade! You can be the top of the class but you can't bring the class to the top!"

Still, I must be thankful for this movie's effective brainwashing capability: my dad loved it so much that I get to go to Broadway for the very first time! (Where I will leave him for whatever the hell Patti LuPone might be doing at the time...)


JS -- smart boy.

the movie was an easy sit (aside from realizing that it may have killed cinema) but OH MY GOD i would have have cut someone if i paid broadway prices to see it. yikes.


dames james henry --yes she was terrible in that scene ...and her rapid moodswings in dancing queen make no sense and her emotional reading of the winner takes it all (my favorite song in the movie) makes no sense at all --though that's more a book problem... these songs were not meant to make THIS godawful story)

BUT the reason i think the performance is delicious is that Meryl is FULLY aware of how atrocious the movie is so she's just gonna hike up her overalls and PLAY the hell out of it to insure that we have at least one takeaway: fun.

but christ the movie is bad otherwise.

adam k. said...

Exactly. The movie's a total mindf*ck, like in the total opposite way to, say, Mulholland Dr.. But you still leave it thinking "what the f*ck was THAT??"

And to compound it, I personally saw it in the VERY first row of the theater with my mom and sister (she uncharacteristically insisted on sneaking us in when it was sold out, even though we'd bought tickets to WALL-E... apparently the first row of seats don't count when they decide movies are sold out).

I especially loved the credit sequence, with Meryl spitting out "DO you WANT anOTHer ONE!?" like she was on drugs. Genius.

My directing teacher HATED the movie and actually hated Meryl in it, too, which took me aback. I see how Meryl overacted a lot, but I think she just made a judgment call that that was the best thing she could given the situation. Or else the directress was forcing her to overact it, so she just did the best she could.

But I loved her in it. And her singing was fab. I mentioned in my review that there's something about seeing the woman from Sophie's Choice dancing around to ABBA that just gives me goosebumps. God bless Meryl Streep.

Haha I also loved her on that British talk show trying to defend Pierce Brosnan's singing. Like, "NO, he's so SEXY! He's like a cross between Tom Waits and Eddie Vedder." Oh Meryl. Loyal to your castmates, to a fault.

Anyway I covered myself and gave the movie a C+.

Catherine said...

"I especially loved the credit sequence, with Meryl spitting out "DO you WANT anOTHer ONE!?" like she was on drugs. Genius." Hahaha. Exactly! That part was genuinely frightening.

I saw this the day it opened in Ireland, so I've almost recovered. Mark Kermode's review, however, I'm still giggling about.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts from the movie were:

1) I loved the Greek Chorus.

2) Meryl and Amanda were very very good.

3) I will never ever ever forget Pierce Brosnan singing S.O.S.

4) Why did they cut "Thank You for the Music?"

5) Thank god they cut "The Name of the Game."

6) The Greek isles would be a great place to visit (or live).

7) Damn that music is catchy.


peter i was so happy that THE NAME OF THE GAME wasn't in the movie so that now my favorite ABBA song is still untarnished!

Anonymous said...

I just hope that the millions of dollars this movie has made, don't serve to let anyone put Phyllida Lloyd behind a movie camera ever again!

The direction and editing were a JOKE!

Meryl absolutely carried this one.

Also, what!? Comparing ABBA to the Beatles...are you mad?! You must not know much about the Beatles music and you certainly are no musician.

Their music is extremely complicated with key changes, unusual chord progressions, sharps and flats and stretched octaves. Oy!

ABBA is easy to listen to , easy to sing, easy to play....I guess that's why it is so popular. We can
almost do it ourselves and we can certainly sing along!

Sean Knight said...

The worst film of the year hands down. When Meryl Streep makes you cringe every time she's on screen you know you're in trouble.

RJ said...

You forgot #13:

"Dominic Cooper is a fox."

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, how do you rate Meryl's chances for the golden globe for best actress in a comedy/musical?

Anonymous said...

I really agree what most you said about Mama Mia ... especially the fact that if Meryl were not the star, no one could have pulled it off.

I do have to say again and again. If a movie makes one feel happy and joyously free, it has done its intended job .. it does not need critics to use a magnifying glass on it.

It surely seems to me that it has done this job for millions of people all over the world ... at a time we need it the most!

By the way, Meryl won the Best Actress Award from the NAtional MOvie Awards. In her speech she took a definite swipe at critics.

Anonymous said...

"as gifted as the Beatles".

I didn't read that.

- cal roth


cal Yay! You're actually reading! i worry these days about blogging and the "skim" factor. making sure you're all paying attention

rick i never take anything actors say about critics seriously. an actors job is to act. a critics is to critique ;) actors aren't very good at critique'ing... just notice all the terrible performances that get nominated for awards and the great ones that don't make a ripple.

and a perfect example adam k letting us know that Meryl defended Pierce's "singing" YIKES.

rj hey! these are my thoughts not yours. although I concur. but there was something really creepy about that big musical number erupting around his girlfriend in a bathing suit and all his guy friends cheering him on. or whatever it is they were doing. what the hell was going on in these musical numbers?!

RJ said...

"what the hell was going on in these musical numbers?!"

I have no idea. I couldn't see any of them with all the cutting.

Anonymous said...

Nat, I think everyone is able to judge. Meryl just said (the way i see it) that she is glad people liked it whereas critics didn't. As for Brosnan's voice, come on, politeness before pointless admission of the obvious. Wow :p


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jim , let's put thhis to rest.

Cluster Funk said...

I actually thought Amanda's acting and singing were (slightly) better than Meryl's in this movie. But both of them single- (or double-) handedly made it tolerable.

adam k. said...

Really can't blame Meryl for defending Pierce. It's part of the job. Actors can't go around saying "yeah that part of my movie's crap" and then expect people to like you. Even Meryl Streep.

I mean, look what happened with Katherine Heigl.

Plus, Meryl's just a nice person and doesn't like to say mean things about people. Especially her fellow actors. It's just putting the best spin on things, it's like politics.

I'm sure she realizes he's not a good singer, but she probably had fun working with him, and I'm sure he's a nice person, and she just puts the best face on it that she can. You can tell watching her say it that she didn't really mean it, and was just playing the game (it was very amusing).

And yes, it's not the actors' job to critique. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Directors, though, that's a different story...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Benny and Bjorn were in it. Benny in a Greek fisherman's cap playing the piano on the jetty during 'Dancing Queen' and Bjorn dressed up with the 'Greek chorus' at the start of the end credits.

Glenn said...

Stephen just beat me to the punch! I noticed Bjorn especially.

But, Nat, I completely agree with you about pretty much all of it. The women I liked, the music itself I liked, Meryl made it fun and it was easy watch, but the direction and choreography and the design and the CGI and all those random slow motion shots mid-number and why did every musical number have to include running?

Chris Na Taraja said...

I agree, Meryl Streep is a national treasure. usually I'm suspicious of people and things so well loved by the public. I'm wary of fads. but She is truly a great actress.

i had the pleasure of seeing her in "Mother Courage" in Central Park, and she was phenominal. I'm surprised they haven't yet optioned it for a film.

I haven't seen Mama Mia yet.

Pfangirl said...

I finally got around to watching this one this weekend as well. My thoughts:

A) Amanda was my fave performer in the film (yes, I preferred her even to Meryl). Appealing performance and the best singer by far.

B) Why couldn't they have swapped Colin for Pierce? Easily the best of the "Daddies" when it came to singing.

C) My favourite part of the whole thing was that weird "encore" at the end. It was the only part of the surprisingly unfunny film that made me laugh.

D) The music was fantastic; the storyline NOT.

D) The cinema was packed with 40-50 something women and they seemed to be infected by the silliness - one woman behind me even yelled out a response to Meryl's question at the end.

Anonymous said...

Aristotelian Unities.
I love Wednesday Addams.

Anonymous said...

MAMMA MIA! the film.

Flawed? Yes?

Lots of fun? Yes!!

I'm still heartbroken that they never cast, nor considered (to the best of my knowledge) Hilary Duff for the role of Sophie. She's the right age, can sing, yadda yadda yadda. No one in Hollywood ever asks me about anything. :P~

So many of my favorite movie memories this year stem from this film. Listening to audience members singing along. People clapping at the end. People coming in social groups to have a fun night out at the movies. And then there was that lady who laughed at so hard at the sight of Stellan Skarsgard's naked butt she laughed for 15 minutes afterwards. Her joy was contagious.

Not every movie has to be the best movie ever made. Sometimes it's just fun to go out and have fun with your friends.

Regarding 05: While the ABBA ladies weren't in the film, the ABBA men were. Benny can be seen for about two seconds playing the piano on the dock towards the end of the "Dancing Queen" segment. Bjorn can be seen for about five seconds as part of the Greek Gods/Chorus at the end of the film. So maybe now it was a little more fun for you?

Regarding 03: BTW, The Beatles? Never liked them. Their music hurts my ears. I'm not joking; I had to walk out of the film I AM SAM because Beatles music was pretty much the entire soundtrack and I didn't know that going into it. Eeeerf.

Unknown said...

Worst big Hollywood production of the year, even thought I can't be hard on any of the actors, at all. But razzie galore, please.

Anonymous said...

great critique, really made me laugh! just to add my opinion, and i agree with everything you said, but i quite liked Pierce Brosnan's tone-deafness, it gave a noticable imperfection and a dose of reality to the film, sort of, true friendship value, "we are not superficial and even though you can't sing, we accept you". Amanda, ok, not too bad but i can think of at least 3 actresses who would be much better for the role. Meryl is a goddess and she is a pure joy to watch. all in all, oldies pull this movie off, young ones let it down, somewhat. maybe it's the connection to the music or just some poor casting choices, it's hard to tell as I don't know any of the young ones, maybe they'll be better in their next movie...

Mackenzie said...

I don't understand all your thoughts. I mean Mamma Mia was supposed to be a movie you watch and simply feel good. It is NOT a movie where you have to take a look behinde every single sequence. To be honest, I tried and ended up with: Just sit there and enjoy the movie.

I loved it from the first to the last moment. There are other movies that can be run through an "autopsy". But this one... on a scale from 1 to 10: It gets a 10 from me. It made me feel good, jump up from my seat and sing & dance along.

As for the director: Phyllida Lloyd did a great job. And it was the best possible thing to have her direct it. She directed the original musical in London and the Broadway version in NYC. She deserved to do this together with Catherine Johnson and Judy Cramer. They brought up their kid to a worlds success. And now to a success at the box office.

So sit back, relax and simply enjoy MAMMA MIA!

And ABBA can take it up with the Beatles. No other band from the 70s sells more CDs than ABBA still does every day.

Anonymous said...

I don't find it fun. I've been watching it on my computer and I keep shutting off because it's unbearable. It's visually ugly in spite of an incredibly beautiful location. I like the songs when ABBA sings them but they hurt my ears and rattle my brain when this cast "sings" them. The chronology (they're in the 2000s but the affair was 20 years ago in the 1960s and the actors are in their 50s and 60s and look it), which adds to the Kafka-esque, alternate-world Twilight Zonish feeling. The actors seem to be on uppers. Should have been called "Mamma's Little Helper."

On a positive note, watching Mamma Mia is better than being waterboarded.

Anonymous said...

Why is Brosnan's singing voice always critized in this film? Didn't anyone stay till the end to see Colin Firth dance (dance?)?
He can't dance, he can't even walk gracefully.

Anonymous said...

Why is Pierce Brosnan's singing voice (in this movie) always being brought up for being so awful? Didn't anybody stay to see the end of this movie to see Colin Firth dance? Dance? He can't dance - he doesn't even walk gracefully.