Episode 091: The Greatest Showman

We wanted to open up 2018 with a bang, so we called in That Guy Named John from the About to Review podcast to have a lively discussion with us about Hugh Jackman’s new circus musical. We all three enjoyed this show very much, but we do spend some time discussing criticism revolving around the real-life P.T. Barnum versus his portrayal in the film. The Greatest Showman is a film that brought us lots of smiles and joy, and we hope that listening to this conversation will do the same for you.

The Greatest Showman Review – 0:01:49

The Connecting Point – 1:06:54

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Greatest Showman

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017)


GOING IN

If there were only two genres of film that I could watch for the rest of my life, they would be Science Fiction and Musicals (and if I had a third it very well might be Biopics). The Greatest Showman is the latter two and looks to be shamelessly nostalgic. Its story of P. T. Barnum’s founding of the famous Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus appears full of bombastic dance numbers, bright lights, and big voices. Jackman’s work in the movie adaptation of one of my favorite musicals of all-time, Les Miserables, coupled with his passion for bringing this project to the big screen instill in me the utmost hope. The thing that I love most about musicals is how they can make me feel and that starts with the entire team of creators buying in first. Jackman has said, “A bad musical stinks to high heaven, but when a musical works, there’s nothing like it. It’s everyone coming together and opening their heart.” I couldn’t agree more. My heart is open, too, and I’m ready to receive the spectacle.

1 Hour and 40 Minutes Later.


COMING OUT

P. T. Barnum is famously quoted as saying, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.” With The Greatest Showman, the Australian duo of director Michael Gracey and star Hugh Jackman fully embrace this sentiment in retelling the birth of show business. From the sensational opening scene, watching the film is a joyful experience. An homage to big musicals of the past, it progresses from start to finish linked together by one grandiose song after another, full of over-the-top production and exciting choreography. The passion poured into the project oozes off the screen in every performance and its multiple positive messages about chasing your dreams, using your imagination, and accepting everyone as they are serve as inspirational lessons for child and adult alike.  Also creating that emotional connectivity are the excellent songs, featuring lyrics from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the break-out songwriters of La La Land‘s award-winning “City of Stars.” Expect at least one of The Greatest Showman‘s awesome musical numbers to receive similar recognition at the 2018 Academy Award ceremony.

Jackman as Barnum is perfect. He has the charisma and vocal talent needed to a showman, and he pulls off both Barnum’s overconfidence and feelings of inadequacy equally well. One thing that must always be considered with biopics is whether or not they accurately depict the characters portrayed. In this case, Barnum’s slave ownership is overlooked completely and the film most likely treats him as more of a champion for the marginalized than he may have been. That being said, it does keep him balanced, showing plenty of poor decisions along with the ones that made him such a success. As a movie-goer, my primary desire is to be entertained, though, and whether its historically correct or not, the pleasure it provides is undeniable.

Also standing out are Rebecca Ferguson as “The Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind and Zac Efron as Phillip Carlysle, Barnum’s eventual partner and romantic interest of trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Ferguson is outstanding and has the most touching solo vocal performance of the film. Efron, meanwhile, provides solid work throughout as someone who slowly becomes a sort of grounding figure for Barnum. He also has a standout musical number with Jackman that made me want an entire movie of just those two actors singing to each other while dancing their way through a plot.

The Greatest Showman is not without fault, however. It’s not a perfect script, and like many musicals of old some cheesiness does slip in. It also could have used a little more character development for the circus performers. While there are the briefest of backstories for them, their unique looks or talents would have been fun to explore further. Yet that would have also made the film longer. As is, its tight runtime of just over an hour and a half is a very good thing, allowing the music to stay center stage and never be silent for long.

VERDICT

The Greatest Showman‘s reverence for the musicals of old shines through in every way. Full of impressive songs that form a soundtrack worth listening to on repeat, it is emotionally provocative and will have viewers smiling and humming their way out of the theater. Though its story may not be 100% historically accurate, the inspirational messages are no less meaningful. Likely to end up one of my most frequently re-watched films from 2017, The Greatest Showman continues the revival of the Hollywood musical and is one of the most enjoyable theater experiences of the year. Take the kids to this family friendly spectacle and enjoy the show!

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 066: Spider-Man: Homecoming

This week we’re excited to be talking about our friendly neighborhood web-slinger and his triumphant return to Marvel storytelling control. Spider-Man: Homecoming is fun, fun, fun. We discuss new tech, getting the high school setting right, and who our favorite Spider-Man of the past 20 years is.

What We’ve Been Up To – 001:15

(Aaron –  Board Games/Pandemic Legacy: Season 1)
(Patrick – The 48-Hour Film Project)

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review – 0:23:59

The Connecting Point – 1:12:47

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

What We Learned This Week: July 2-8

ALL SPIDER-MAN SPECIAL!

LESSON #1: CAST TEENAGERS TO PLAY TEENAGERS— Sorry, makeup artists specializing in the Hollywood Fountain of Youth, but if you want your movie to have convincing teenagers, cast teenage performers.  I don’t care how young somebody looks.  You can tell they are too old when they’re too old.  Take Spider-Man: Homecoming as an example.  Tom Holland was 19 when cast as the web-slinger and he was finally a convincing high schooler after Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both well into their twenties playing the character.  His best bud Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is the same age, as is The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori playing Flash Thompson.  The girls were 50/50.  Zendaya was the same 19 playing Michelle, but then 27-year-old Laura Harrier soars past the mark as #1 crush Liz.   Earlier in the year, 27-year-old Britt Robertson feigned playing 18 in The Space Between Us.  Casting agents, dive deeper and younger.  There’s plenty of talent out there.

LESSON #2: NO ACTOR OR ACTRESS DESERVES DEATH THREATS FOR ANYTHING— Speaking of Tony Revolori, one tremendous and progressive aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming is the casting diversity.  However, when you get enough terrible Comic Book Guy-types from The Simpsons bearing silly and short-sighted torches, stupid and nitpicky crap occurs.  Revolori recently revealed that he received death threats when he was cast as the typically white jock character of Flash Thompson.   I don’t care what someone does to butcher a character or an entire movie (which Revolori doesn’t, by the way).  No one deserves death threats.  It’s a movie and supposed to be simple entertainment.  The film and the people making it have zero effect on the balance of life.  Tony Revolori may have parents of Guatemalan descent, but he was born-and-raised in Anaheim, California.  He’s as American as you or I.  The same goes for the Hawaiian Batalon, the African-American Chicago native Harrier, and the biracial Zendaya from Oakland.  If you want to complain about immigrants or foreigners, kindly remind yourself that the Tom Holland you are watching and loving as Spider-Man is as British as an English muffin.  He’s the least American thing in the entire film.  Wipe the racism off your face and leave everyone else alone.

LESSON #3: SPIDER-MAN IS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN HE DOESN’T CRY— Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield had their chances and, for what it’s worth, had their merits for their interpretations of Spider-Man.  Their films asked for angst and the actors gave them angst.  That said, it is so incredibly buoyant and refreshing to have a Spider-Man that doesn’t cry like a big baby multiple times a film.  Tom Holland plays the kid with stresses and troubles, for sure, but with a gumption to weather the moments.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t ever cry.  I’m just saying stories should save that for real loss and we’re not there yet.  No “Tobeyface” is an awesome thing!

LESSON #4:  DEAR SONY, PLEASE DON’T MESS UP THIS GIFT YOU RECEIVED FROM MARVEL FILMS— Sony Pictures wisely put aside studio rivalries to allow Spider-Man’s appearance in Captain America: Civil War and, even further, Marvel Films to co-produce Spider-Man: Homecoming to fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  They fixed what Sony ran into the ground TWICE with over-stuffed franchises.  Spider-Man: Homecoming smartly scaled the character and setting down to New York and essentially a single villain instead of two or three as has happened in the past.  That’s the right pace.  Yet, we’re still watching Sony not be able to help themselves by announcing a Tom Hardy-led Venom film before our shiny new Spider-Man even works for the Daily Bugle and encounters an alien symbiote costume.  The future introductions of Carnage, Kraven, and Mysterio were also announced.  In addition, director Jon Watts is talking Morbius, Chameleon, and even an MCU version of Blade in his ideal future (which should send Wesley Snipes’s agent into a tizzy). Spider-Man 3 aside, all of those villains, like Michael Keaton’s Vulture, are untapped characters for the big screen and would make excellent stories… but in due time.  Sony, please take your time.  Slow play this and milk every dollar.  There’s no need for a quick score.  You’ve got a young Spider-Man and you’re set to make a billion bucks on his first film.  This windfall could last a decade or more with patience. Don’t screw this up.  While we’re at it, I hope big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are watching how this plays out.  Deadpool was a nice success, but your X-Men films are lacking.  Hop on the Marvel bandwagon and unite families together

LESSON #5: MARVEL KNOWS WE LOVE POST-CREDITS SCENES AND THEY ARE BEGINNING TO MESS WITH US— When you see Spider-Man: Homecoming, you’ll know what I mean.  Face it.  They have us trained.  No one leaves the theater of the MCU film until the projector turns off and the lights come on.  Post-credits scenes have been a Marvel signature since Iron Man and they are fun little details, even when they are not important or essential.  The final post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming trolls our trained behavior so hard.  You will see and I, for one, applaud them for messing with us.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.