Strings on Sunday

Regular readers may recall that I went to see and absolutely loved Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri a few weeks ago, which picked up 5 awards (including Best Film, Outstanding British Film, Original Screenplay, Leading Actress and Supporting Actor (to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell respectively) at the BAFTAs last weekend.

With Oscars night¬†fast approaching, and now armed with my Unlimited pass to my local cinema, I’m trying to get to see as many of the other nominated films as I can.

A couple of weeks ago, I popped along to see Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman in a fat suit as Winston Churchill (winner of the BAFTA¬†Leading Actor, deservedly so, he’s phenomenal in it), and this week I went to see what, with 13 nominations, is¬†the main challenger to Three Billboards… at the Oscars: The Shape of Water (which won Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, and Best Original Music for Alexandre Desplat at the BAFTAs).

The plot of The Shape of Water (don’t worry – no spoilers) is your standard Bad Man captures Fish-Man, Mute Girl meets Fish-Man, Mute Girl and Fish-Man fall in love, Mute Girl attempts to rescue Fish-Man from Bad Man, Mute Girl and Fish-Man¬†engage in some really rather inappropriate sexual activity (don’t send me comments, I understand that it’s symbolic); you know, the sort of thing we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

Joking aside, The Shape of Water really is rather beautiful to look at, and Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito (Mute Girl) is spellbinding, but ultimately I came away from it feeling a little underwhelmed. For my money, the Fish-Man looked just a bit too much like The Creature from the Black Lagoon which apparently inspired this film, there wasn’t really much in the way of tension or surprises, and, knowing¬†the basic premise of the film before I went,¬†the final d√©nouement came as no surprise whatsoever: I quite literally saw¬†it coming from¬†pretty much the opening scene.

And so to today’s string song, which comes from the movie’s soundtrack. Originally recorded by Alice Faye, and appearing in 1943’s Hello, Frisco, Hello, for which it won the Oscar for Best Original Song, it’s perhaps best known this side of the pond as being a Vera Lynn song, although it’s also been covered by Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand, Trini Lopez, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Shirley Bassey, Hugh Masekale and Michael Bubl√©, to name but a few.

Faye’s version makes an appearance in The Shape of Water, but Hawkins also lip-syncs to a new recording, featuring American opera singer Ren√©e Fleming with the London Symphony Orchestra, on a scene where she…erm…dances with the Fish-Man, and it’s this version which appears on the Original Soundtrack release:

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Alexandre Desplat (feat. Ren√©e Fleming) – You’ll Never Know

As for the Oscars: my money’s still on Three Billboards… to scoop the lion’s share of the awards.

More soon.

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Classical Corner

Some culture for you all this morning, even if the inspiration for me posting it comes from a less than cultural place.

On Thursday night here in the UK, the latest series of The Apprentice started. There is a USA version too (it came first, naturally) which is hosted¬†by some chap called Donald Trump.¬†The UK show, however,¬†doesn’t feature an idiotic,¬†racist, sexist, homophobic, lying orange baboon. Were it to follow the absolute template of the US show, then it would be fronted by someone from UKIP, if they weren’t battering the heck out of each other at the European parliament. (By the way,¬†if UKIP hates Europe so much, why do they have so may Euro MPs?)

But instead of either of those options, we have British businessman and former Chiarman of my beloved Tottenham Hotspur, Lord Alan Sugar, who a group of aspiring businesswomen and men compete to impress, for the chance to win a £250,000 investment into whatever their loathsome business idea is.

(Say what you like about the British political system, but at least the only button that Sugar’s finger will be hovering over in six month’s time is on an Amstrad Em@iler Plus)

Each week, the group are split into two teams and set a task; from the losing team at least one person is “fired” from the show (obliquely referred to as “The Process” by Lord Sugar and all others involved in it).

The challenge this week was to sift through a warehouse full of mostly old tut, but with some genuinely high value items and antiques in there too, sort what may be of value, then go and flog it for as much as possible.

I love The Apprentice, and always look forward to seeing this year’s candidates, who, I was delighted to find this week,¬†are the usual mix of greedy, egotistical idiots.¬†There are already several that wind me up, and¬†I can’t wait to see them unravel and fail over the coming weeks.

Anyway, I said there was going to be some culture today, and here it is. The music played every week over the opening titles of The Apprentice is this, taken from Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”. The movement in question is often referred to as “Montagues and Capulets” but is actually titled “Dance of the Knights”. It deserves to be played loudly:

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London Symphony Orchestra – Dance of the Knights

Indie pop kids of a certain age will know that The Smiths often used that as their walk on music, as can be heard here (just about) from the opening of their contract-fulfilling live album “Rank”:

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The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (live)

Of course, this is not the only time that Romeo and Juliet have been referenced in pop music (don’t worry, I’m not going to post Dire Straits’ “Romeo & Juliet” again). I’m thinking here of the mention of Montagues and Capulets in the Arctic Monkeys break-through hit from 2005 (really?? That was eleven years ago????), “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”. Here’s the video, which I’m posting instead of the song because a) I imagine you all know and own it already, and b) I love the moment drummer Matt Helders performs¬†the backing vocals before delivering a pleased-as-punch wink to the camera:

Such a great record, that.

More soon.