I APPRECIATE LISTENING TO THE SOUND of a beautiful singing voice. Even some speaking voices are wonderful to listen to, in my opinion. I tend to gravitate to those singers who have powerful voices, who have a wide range and can belt out the notes of a song. It amazes me how a vocalist can maneuver through a musical composition with perfect diction and tone. When I attend concerts to see musical acts, I expect the performers to sing live. When choreography became just as important as the singing, artists started to rely more on recorded tracks and simply lip synch the songs. As some of you are aware of, I am not a fan of lip synching or auto tuning at a concert. Though the staging and choreography play a strong part in live shows, I would rather have live singing be the focus. If I am spending money to see a performer simply lip synch to recordings, I could save the money and listen to their album at home. There have been several music artists I have seen in concert who are on stage performing for close to 3 hours, all of it live. To me they are the standard when it comes to live shows. WHEN A MUSICAL ARTIST ACHIEVES A high level of success, I am highly impressed when they contribute to humanitarian causes, either financially, physically, or as spokesperson. There are singers and bands that are as well known for their charity work as for their performances. I admire the work they do and appreciate them more when they do not let their charitable work take centerstage. Then there are those artists who think just because they are successful in the musical world, they have the right to impart their opinions and thoughts on the general population. I frown on such actions because I do not equate musical success with world politics. An extreme example would be the musical artist who has been recently in the news for his antisemitic remarks. Just like I do not see certain actors’ movies due to their offensive actions, I do the same thing to musical artists. I never played in my fitness classes an artist’s music if they were racist, sexist or prejudiced, either the lyrics in their song or in their personal life. Feeling the way I do; I was taken by surprise while watching this musical documentary. Also, as a sidenote, I saw Dionne Warwick in concert in a small venue during the twilight of her singing career and she sounded as good as when she first started out professionally singing. COMING FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY, DIONNE WARWICK was a trailblazer in her own right. She also was the older cousin to Whitney Houston. You might be surprised to see what Dionne was able to accomplish in her life. Directed by David Heilbroner (Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, The Newburgh Sting) and relative newcomer Dave Wooley, there were several times where I was taken completely surprised by the actions of Dionne. Granted, there has been a lot written about Dionne but there still were a few things I did not know about her. There was a segment in this film where a music rapper talks about the time early in his career when he met Dionne; it was priceless. There were other tidbits like this that Dionne shared throughout this movie. Where I said previously, I distrust artists who brag, I gained a new level of respect for Dionne as she shared some of her charitable work with the interviewer. Mixing in old footage with Dionne’s description of the time was a real treat. Hearing about the history of her songs and the things she fought for, I was left with a whole new appreciation for what she accomplished in the musical world.
3 ¼ stars
SEEKING APPROVAL FROM THOSE YOU LOVE is one of the strongest motivators one has at their disposal. Feeling good about your accomplishment is fine; however, having that “seal of approval” from someone else forms a stronger bond that can last for years. I remember to this day how I felt the first time I had to construct a diorama for a school project. The assignment was to recreate a scene from a book we were reading for class. My choice was an outdoor scene of mountains surrounding a secluded lake that the characters from the book would periodically visit. I had used a combination of materials, including rolled up pieces of plastic wrap for the lake. With a large assortment of colored markers and paints. I colored the pieces of cardboard I had cut out from a packing box, creating a mountain range with snow caps. For trees I used pipe cleaners that I would twist together to form the foliage over brown and black painted toilet paper cores. As I said before, I used a variety of things for this project. Once completed I was proud of what I had done. Family members praised my work which was both wonderful and expected; but, I really was hoping my teacher would shower her praise over my creation. She was a fantastic artist which made me value her opinion more than other people; gratefully she did not disappoint me. WHY I WAS REMINDED OF THIS memory was due to this musical movie. I have seen Elton John in concert a couple of times; once during his earlier years and the other recently. From the variety of acts I have seen live in concert, Elton was not a typical rock star. Many of them played off a certain sex appeal they were portraying. Male guitarists made it look like they were making love to their guitars; female singers would move in seductive ways. Elton was different; instead of trying to use sex appeal he went the spectacle route. The more flamboyant and outrageous he was the more his fans would scream for him. This is only my opinion; but because I was dealing with a poor self-image, I assumed Elton was also. Only when I could “dress up” in my workout clothes or suit did I feel better about myself. Seeing Elton dressed up in so many costumes led me to believe he was feeling the same way. Behind the façade there was a boy who wanted to be loved; I understood. If you wish to see what was going on behind the scenes, then feel free to watch this dramatic film about a music icon. FROM AN EARLY AGE ELTON JOHN displayed a gift for playing the piano. However, he was looking for something more. With Taron Egerton (Eddie the Eagle, Robin Hood) as Elton John, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden (Cinderella, The Take) as John Reid, Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World franchise) as Sheila and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Diary franchise) as Ivy; the cast was well chosen. Standing above all of them though was Taron; he was incredible in his role, including his own singing. The acting and story drew me into this picture. I could not believe what I was seeing behind the scenes of so many memorable moments in Elton’s career. Granted I do not know how much truth was shown in this film, but nonetheless I enjoyed watching this movie for the most part. The one thing that did not connect with me was the use of fantasy scenes. A couple would have been fine, but I felt these scenes drained the emotional impact away from the story. It was amazing to see how so many of Elton’s songs’ lyrics lent themselves to the scenes. I would have preferred spending more time in the moment instead of turning the emotion into a fantasy scene. Whether one is a fan or not; one would be hard pressed not to be impressed with what Elton has accomplished in his life.
2 ¾ stars
If one is fortunate enough they can spend years on an intimate journey with one of their favorite musical artists. The path, lined with stepping stones of shared memories, sings of the joyful times as well as the moments of grief. I have been lucky to have witnessed the “birth” of a few musical stars. Spotting them first as a warm-up act or in a small nightclub, there was something about their voice and the songs they sang that resonated inside of me. As I followed their careers they would have songs that reminded me of particular times in my life. We shared many a night as I played certain songs over and over, depending on my mood. The history I share with my favorite artists made watching this musical documentary extra special. It was between the late 1960’s to early 1970’s when musicians who were singer/songwriters came to prominence. Doug Weston ran a Los Angeles nightclub called the Troubadour, where he would show new talent. He certainly had an ear for music since early performers at the club were Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, David Crosby, Steve Martin and Elton John, to name a few. The main engine driving this film’s story was following the special bond between Carole King and James Taylor through their long musical careers. It was awesome to see early film clips of them performing, besides the other clips of various artists. The variety of people interviewed for this project helped to provide a larger perspective for the events discussed. Looking at this from a historical perspective, this documentary provided more of a light overview than an in depth look into the creation of the singer/songwriter genre. However, it did not take away any of my enjoyment in watching this Sundance Film Festival selection. Granted I am a huge music lover, but I think anyone would enjoy seeing or should I say hearing this fun retrospective.
3 stars — DVD