The Phantom of the Opera Reading and Viewing Challenge

Are you intrigued by a masked man in the shadows?  Love being swept away by stirring musical tragedies?  Want to visit 1880s Paris?  Then this challenge is for you!

Join us to venture below the Opera Garnier and across the underground lake for a Phantom of the Opera Reading and Viewing Challenge.  Since Gaston Leroux’s first publication of The Phantom of the Opera in 1909, the story has been told, retold and continued dozens of times, on the screen, on the stage, and on the page.  Get a little more Phantom into your life in 2020 by participating in this challenge to go exploring through the many versions of the Phantom.  Maybe you’ll meet a new phan friend, or find a new version of the story to love.

I want this above all to be fun, so the rules (which are really more guidelines) are simple and, I hope, welcoming to all.

What Qualifies: Any book, movie or play based on Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, or an obvious sequel or prequel to the story.  If there’s a masked man with a deformity in love with a singer, while hiding in an opera house, it probably qualifies.  I’ve provided a (non-comprehensive) list of ideas at the end of this post.  Rereads/rewatches are just as valid as new ones, although if you’re someone who watches the Claude Rains Phantom every Saturday, it still only counts as one.  The exception to that rule is if you see a play version more than once in the year, with different lead actors.

Continue reading “The Phantom of the Opera Reading and Viewing Challenge”

Blog Hop: Holiday Reviews

book blogger hopThis week’s Book Blogger Hop question: Do you ever do a review post based on a holiday? For example review Christmas theme books in December.

Frequently!  Although it often turns into movie reviews for holidays–somehow I tend to tie my holidays to movies more than to books.  I usually try to do something Christmas-related for December, I posted about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for the 4th of July, and I reviewed Jesus Christ Superstar on Good Friday.  Although I did miss Guy Fawkes Day for V for Vendetta.

Among my more unusual holiday posts was reviewing Casablanca on Pearl Harbor Day, and the time I shared an old Star Trek fanfiction piece about a very unfortunate redshirt for Friday the 13th.

Bloggers, do you do holiday-themed reviews?  Readers, do you like to read holiday books close to their related day?

Movie Review: The (Gerard Butler) Phantom of the Opera

Phantom 9I finally watched the Gerard Butler Phantom.  I say “finally” because I haven’t seen it in…at least eight years.  I know this, because I know I haven’t seen it since the first time I saw the stage production.  Since the last time I watched this movie, I’ve watched just about every version of Phantom I could find, including the stage production…eight times, actually!

If you’re not familiar with it, the Butler Phantom is a movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical–but very much not the play (for that you want the 25th anniversary/Karimloo Phantom).  I liked this movie when it came out–but I was seventeen and I’d never seen the play.  And ever since I saw the play, I’ve been afraid to go back to the movie…  But I finally did, because I’m writing a retelling and this is research.  And the movie was…not as bad as I feared.  But it’s SO not the play.  Although!  I have a theory that addresses all the movie’s issues, so keep reading for that. 🙂 Continue reading “Movie Review: The (Gerard Butler) Phantom of the Opera”

Saturday Snapshot: Here I Have a Note…

I’ve mentioned once or twice (or thereabouts!) that I’m a fan of The Phantom of the Opera.  I may have also mentioned that I’m a member of the Michael Crawford International Fan Association.  Mr. Crawford, of course, was the original Phantom in London and Broadway.  The MCIFA had a special sale recently of memorabilia…and I bought the most splendid of souvenirs!

Phantom's Letters (3)This is a prop letter from the Phantom to Carlotta, actually used in the Webber production, and signed by Michael Crawford and Leigh Munro, who played Carlotta.  I couldn’t resist a signed letter…or a matching set of Andre’s and Firmin’s notes!

Phantom's Letters (1)Phantom's Letters (2)The Phantom’s letters feel far more personal than almost any other souvenir…and they’re particularly meaningful to me, because of one of my favorite moments in the play.  During the song “Prima Donna,” seven characters run about the stage, mostly waving letters and trying to placate Carlotta.  One of those characters is Meg Giry.  While others sing at the front of the stage, often (not in every production, but often) Meg slips to the back of the stage to examine all the Phantom’s letters.

It’s a tiny moment that probably 99% of the audience never notices.  I always watch for it, and it helped inspire my belief that Meg has a very special interest in the Phantom…and have I mentioned that I’m writing a novel from her point of view?

Visit West Metro Mommy for more Saturday Snapshots, and have a wonderful weekend!

Entangled on Sunset Boulevard

I’ve been meaning to rewatch Sunset Boulevard for literally years.  What with watching The Emperor’s New Groove recently (I’m convinced Yzma is based on Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard) and the beginning of Readers Imbibing Peril, now seemed like the time!

You see, Sunset Boulevard is very possibly the creepiest movie I’ve ever seen.  Not the scariest, not the most horrifying, but the creepiest–with all the old subtlety and art of the 1940s classics.  It’s not Hitchcock, but it feels like it could have been.

The movie opens with the main character, Joe (William Holden), floating dead in a swimming pool.  And that’s not the creepy part!  We immediately flash back in time, with Joe as the voice-over narrator.  We learn about his life as a struggling Hollywood writer, dreaming of success but unable to make his car payments.  By chance and circumstance, he meets Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), star of the silent film era–and she has never forgotten it.  She’s obsessed with her own stardom, and adamantly refuses to believe that her time has passed.  She lives in an insanely-over-the-top mausoleum of a mansion, alone except for her butler, Max, who is equally unbalanced.  Norma draws Joe into her web, and try as he might, he cannot find his way out again…

To quote The Emperor’s New Groove, Norma is pretty much “scary beyond all reason.”  Unlike Yzma, she’s not actually an unattractive woman–but she has these crazy eyes and dramatic hand movements and wildly creepy smile.  And she is SO emotional and SO desperately clinging to her past–and, as the movie goes on, to Joe.  It would be easy to write off Norma as simply insane, but the movie gives us little moments of sympathy and insight for her.  It’s not a movie about a madwoman–it’s a movie about a woman driven mad by fame, and the need to always be the perfect star she was on the screen.

At one point Joe’s narration remarks, “You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit.”  I don’t think he means that negative press destroyed Norma.  I think he means the positive press.  The legend, the star persona, simply became overwhelming.  It’s a message that’s still immensely relevant; glance at the entertainment magazines some time for star after star self-destructing in magnificent ways.

Even though he narrates, I have less to say about Joe’s character.  He strikes me as essentially an Everyman, one with enough insight to tell us about the far more complicated Norma.  He does have his own story about failing to achieve Hollywood success, but I feel like the movie is really less about him than it is about how he gets caught by Norma.

I mentioned the subtlety of old movies–and the creepiness of this one.  There are some, shall we say, less subtle creepy elements.  Near the beginning, Norma is holding a funeral for her pet monkey, and Max the butler occasionally bangs away on an old pipe organ.  However, I found that what really gives the movie its creepiness is the more subtle things.  It’s Norma’s crazy eyes, or her huge empty house, overflowing with pictures of herself.

One of my favorite moments is so tiny and so quick that if you blink, you could miss it.  At one point, Joe tries to leave Norma’s house and escape back into the larger world.  As he goes out the front door, his watch chain catches on the handle, and he has to stop to untangle it.  And sure enough, Norma draws him back again…

I mentioned that the movie opens with Joe floating dead in a pool, which certainly seems like the most spoilerific of openings.  And yet, even though I know that’s how this ends–even when I’ve seen the movie before–somehow it draws me in so much moment by moment that I can’t really remember that that’s where it must be going.  I know it intellectually, but I can’t feel it.

Believe it or not, Andrew Lloyd Webber made a musical version of Sunset Boulevard (but then, I don’t know how anyone would read Leroux’s Phantom and think of doing a musical).  I’m desperately curious, mostly because of the song “As If We Never Said Goodbye.”  It makes me suspect there’s an even more sympathetic portrayal of Norma, and I really wonder how it’s handled–but alas, no filmed version, and I don’t know of anywhere it’s playing…

Until I can track down the musical, I’ll just have to recommend the movie to you–for all its subtle underplays and clever creepiness.  Norma, in her own cracked way, insists a few times that dialogue was unnecessary in the silent films because they expressed everything with their faces.  The funny thing is, she’s kind of right–most of this movie is expressed in the eyes.  Though there are some wonderful lines of dialogue too.  For instance, when Joe remarks that she used to be big, she fires back, “I AM big.  It’s the pictures that got small.”

Then, of course, there’s the famous last line…  “All right, Mr. DeMille–I’m ready for my close-up.”  And oh, how wonderfully terrifying it is, as she looks deep into the eyes of “those wonderful people out there in the dark.”

Other reviews:
The Ace Black Blog
Derek Winnert
Blogcritics
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Sunset Boulevard