Category Archives: movies

Book Review: “The Beatles On Screen: From Pop Stars To Musicians” by Stephanie Fremaux

This review is by Amy Hughes

the_beatles_onscreen_cover

The lens through which we see The Beatles can be a prismatic collage of idol worship, fan participation, and undying gratitude. For most, the forming of those perspectives – beyond the music – was through the medium of film.

As a scholar and author, Stephanie Fremaux demonstrates in The Beatles On Screen: From Pop Stars To Musicians (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), how the band portrayed numerous versions of themselves that helped convey their image as witty moptops, groovy guys, psychedelic creators, and gutsy soul-baring artists.

Of course, from a realistic standpoint, most of the above descriptors have a caveat attached. Fremaux brings us through a studied course of their films (including Ron Howard’s ‘Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years’) and illustrates several touchpoints within the media. Most notable is how each fits within a specified genre and timeframe and pointedly, how their film image interacted with the fans.

1964’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ was not the success or ground-breaking film it set out to be. Conceived before the group hit big in the US, director Richard Lester shot the film with the idea, as Fremaux notes, of a fictionalized account of what it was like to be The Beatles at that time. The advantage of the big screen brought the devoted as close as possible to their idols, highlighting the close-up, stylistic camerawork (mostly handheld) Lester thought necessary to convey their fast-paced lifestyle.

With the tide of Beatlemania shifting to closer examination of each ‘personality,’ Fremaux dissects the ‘real’ from the ‘fantasy,’ comparing and contrasting several notable scenes including the surrealistic sequence of The Beatles running/cycling alongside the train, taunting an old veteran (“Hey Mister, can we have our ball back?!”) to the film-within-a-television broadcast-within-a-film (‘And I Love Her’), surrounded by schoolgirls intercut with a performance (‘I Should Have Known Better’) and creating general calamity (with broad Liverpool humor) throughout the movie.

As Starr emerged as the film’s protagonist, 1965’s ‘Help!’ further showcased his persona as the centerpiece of the plot. Fremaux correctly points to several problematic aspects with the follow-up: as a mirror of the moment, the premise is non-tangible and moves their fans away from the center of attention. The plot is of the day (James Bond-ish), the locales are removed from the storyline and The Beatles themselves have no other job than to lip-sync to their songs (albeit wonderfully filmed by Lester) to avoid a sacrificial sect bent on killing Ringo.

While Fremaux notes that ‘Help!’ as a whole is weak, the individual songs used as connecting links hold up over time apart from the film. Considered among the first ‘music videos’ the segments were a showcase for what was coming in the next year as The Beatles moved away from live performances and into the studio to craft their future.

There would be no feature film in 1966, however several songs would make their debut for television broadcast as filmed shorts, the most noteworthy being ‘Rain’ and ‘Paperback Writer.’  Insofar as the band appears disenchanted or mocking in other versions (or as in ‘We Can Work It Out’ going off the rails in lip-sync laughter), the two color videos (directed by Micheal Lindsay-Hogg) helped to break the monotony, while furthering the experimentation that was on the horizon.

As The Beatles cartoon series chugged along in the US (much to the disdain of the band), Fremaux exams the seismic shifts happening as 1966 yielded to the iconic year of 1967. The ‘lads’ were morphing into serious musicians and their individualism – first noticed in the Lindsay-Hogg videos – were ignited full force with the release of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane.’

A notable characterization study, both films find the foursome further removed from ‘performing:’ recasting themselves with ‘Swinging London’ apparel, moustaches (!) and no instrumentation, their perceived aloofness mixed with a creative detached air of avant-garde musicianship, gave pause to the young audience they had seized upon only three years hence. That coolness factor – adult, yet child-like in execution – did not serve them well in their next film endeavor.

After the death of Brian Epstein, The Beatles moved forward with ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ despite the lack of planning and some say, script. While Paul McCartney loosely directed, the remaining three were given creative license with their ‘characters.’ Fremaux argues that although the end result was much maligned by the press, in hindsight ‘MMT’ brought about certain far-out visuals that predicted the future of music presentation. However the majority of the public, while making the soundtrack a hit, could not understand the psychedelic freeform narrative, resulting in the first major ding in The Beatles armor of commercial value.

In should then come as a slight surprise that 1968 saw a rebirth of their image to the general record-buying public. As their next feature film ‘Yellow Submarine’ was toiling away in the background without their direct supervision or input, the release of ‘Hey Jude/Revolution’ put them squarely back in favor with their fans.

‘Yellow Submarine’ in spite of the perceived lack of support, was a cinematic feast for the eyes. Although they eventually appeared at the end (minus the planned special effects), this animated image of The Beatles has endured, untethered from the real world and pleasantly living as a creative tribute to the men and women who placed their lives on hold because of their love for The Beatles.

Fremaux poses some interesting subjective viewpoints on the ‘Hey Jude’ clip, noting that Lennon, Harrison and Starr seem removed from the proceedings while McCartney (on piano, minus his iconic bass) takes the lead, with only the invited audience streaming in for the coda singalong to enliven the scene. This tendency to read into the tense environment that was slowly evolving, cast the next feature as a 50-year-old conundrum that since the publication of this book, has been turned inside out.

The dirge that ‘Let It Be’became known for, the “visual struggle” as Fremaux describes, is now in 2022 something of a misnomer. While Fremaux can only provide insight for the 1970 chain of events and the version available to critique, it’s exactly where most of the public saw the group at the movie’s release: four grown men, struggling creatively or not participating to the fullest degree, on the precipice of fallout and literally removed from the public who could not see the rooftop performance at 3 Savile Row.

The conclusion showcases the long journey The Beatles travelled from Liverpool favorites to global social influence. ‘Eight Days A Week,’ was their most recent film endeavor (until 2021’s ‘Get Back’) involving the approval of everyone connected. As fans and admirers, the celebrities and notables interviewed onscreen nearly reach the same conclusion: that despite what was going in their personal lives, The Beatles had spoken to them through music and film. Fremaux incidentally notes with no irony, that this film should have been the one between ‘Help!’ and ‘Magical Mystery Tour,’ an idea not too far flung. Director Ron Howard was able to paint a portrait that encapsulated the enormous influence and reach they had during those hectic years criss-crossing the world (not altogether satisfactorily sometimes), while maintaining a connection via concerts and movies for their audience.

“It is interesting to think that some fifty years before social media, before the idea of collective individualism that such platforms encourage, and before the extent to which anyone can be celebrities today, the Beatles used their films to project their ordinariness even at the height of their success.”

Fremaux’s words are in the end, worth a rating of 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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The Beatles in: The Bestles | Animated Short

Found this on the internet  and found it terribly amusing! I decided to entertain my readers with it while I finish reading another great book for review…Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Kickstarter: Blackbird – A Short Film

I just came across this Kickstarter campaign today that I think the Beatles would be proud to see happen.  Blackbird is a short film about a black girl trying to get into a segregated Beatles concert set in 1964 in the South.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

This campaign is only running for another 2 weeks and for a donation of as little as $25, you will be given a free download of the film upon it’s completion.

If you’d like to read more about this film and it’s crowd-funding campaign, click HERE.

Let’s make this happen, Beatles Freaks!

 

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Help! fund “Confessions of a Beatlemaniac! short film

Some of you may remember me reviewing a short book called “Confessions of a Beatlemaniac!!” by Dee Elias.  It’s a wonderful little book taken straight from Dee’s diaries when she was just 14-16 years old and was crazy about the Beatles.  It tells of her adventures with her friends as the set out to meet the Fab Four.

Well, now Dee is having her book made into a short film and has started a Kickstarter campaign to finance it.  She’s only trying to raise $1550 to make this film with her Director – Joseph Souza.

If you can, please help make this dream a reality for Dee.

Here’s Dee talking about the film: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1977683486/confessions-of-a-beatlemaniac-short-film/widget/video.html

Show your support here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1977683486/confessions-of-a-beatlemaniac-short-film

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Upcoming Beatles Documentary

I’m not going to sugarcoat this…this post is going to be a plea for help! This project has just 26 days left to be financed or the entire deal will fall through…and as Beatles Freaks, I just can’t IMAGINE any of us letting that happen.

This is about Freda Kelly, The Beatles’ secretary from the early Cavern Club days when they were playing to audiences of 30 people at lunchtime, all the way through their years of international popularity and stardom, and until they eventually broke up in 1970.  Freda was only one of a handful of employees for The Beatles who lasted for the entire “Beatles Era.”

Freda has kept quiet all these years and is only now starting to come forward and tell her stories about all those years ago with the Fab Four.  She wants her grandchildren to know what their grandmother did in her youth…and what a great story she must have to tell.  I know I want to hear about it.

In order to make her documentary, the filmmakers must raise $50,000 by November 12, 2011 at 2:59 am.  Currently, the total donated is $13,390 from 117 donors.

So, let me break this down for you:  If the next 7,324 fans gave just $5 to this cause, they could make this film!  And you can’t tell me that they aren’t 7,324 Beatles Freaks out there that are dying to hear the inside stories from Freda!  You can give more if you’d like…you can give less…that’s up to you.  But I believe that we are capable of raising this money in the next 26 days.  And there are bonuses…such as, if you give $25, you will get a copy of the DVD when it’s made (there are more gifts for different donation levels, but I thought this was the most enticing for those with limited income).

All together now….come together, right now…

Donate here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1215635909/good-ol-freda

Please share this post on Twitter, Facebook and other social media to help this cause.

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DVD Review: Composing Outside The Beatles (Lennon & McCartney 1973-1980)

The third installment in a series of on the collaboration of Lennon and McCartney, ‘Composing Outside the Beatles: Lennon and McCartney 1973-1980’ brings a lot to the table…if you can bear to sit through it!

I had mentioned to another Beatles freak that I had been sent a copy of this video to review and since I had never seen the first two installments, they informed me that they felt the first two were ‘dry’.  I don’t know that I’d use that same term, but instead I felt this documentary, about the separate careers of Lennon and McCartney after the split of the Beatles, drawled on…and on.  Even my son, who was sitting within ear shot while I watched, commented, “Everyone just went on and on and never seemed to shut up.”

But as I said, this movie is not without it’s good points.  I think it does do a fine job of covering all of Lennon’s and McCartney’s albums in great detail with commentary by such well respected people as: Denny Laine, Klaus Voorman, Denny Seiwell and Anythony DeCurtis, to name a few.  The problem seems to arise when the producers decided to let everyone have their say about the albums, making the whole thing a bit lengthy and boring.  I also think this isn’t necessarily a DVD for the hardcore Beatles freaks, since I don’t know that it gave much information that hasn’t already been published elsewhere.

All-in-all, a well made documentary, but be prepared to pause your player to enjoy life!

This DVD will be released on October 25, 2011 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com.

**Note: I just looked at the Amazon page for this DVD.  It says the run time for this movie is 60 minutes.  Not true…it’s 139 minutes!

I rate this movie: 2 out of 4 Beetles

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Movie Review: Paul McCartney Really Is Dead

Paul McCartney Really Is DeadMy neighbor knows what a huge Beatles fan I am, so he asked me a couple weeks ago if I had seen this movie.  I told him I had heard about it but hadn’t had a chance to watch it.  He said, “It’s not bad…”  Well, I’ll be the judge of that!

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead is listed on the IMDb (International Movie Database) as Documentary/Fantasy/Music.  This should be the first clue that something just isn’t right about this film.  A documentary and fantasy?  I believe we call that a ‘Mockumentary’…which brings to mind images of Spinal Tap or Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney.

The story line of the film is that in 2005, a package from London containing two mini cassettes and recorder showed up at Highway 61 Entertainment’s office.  The package had no return address.   The voice on the tape claims to be none other than George Harrsion, making a confession that Paul McCartney really did die in a car accident in 1966.  (Note: the subtitle of this film is ‘The Last Testament of George Harrison(yes, with a question mark!))  The voice on the tape then narrates the rest of the film as he explains the circumstances around Paul’s death and the ensuing cover-up.

Believable?  Maybe to the young and the gullible who, unlike us Beatles freaks, haven’t grown up hearing the tall tales of ‘Paul is Dead’.  The movie actually does a pretty good job of putting together all the clues about Paul’s untimely demise that could supposedly be found in the Beatles album covers and lyrics.  And I actually found that part of the movie informative since I had never heard ‘all’ the clues.  But the ability to find this movie entertaining came crashing down when the stories of how ‘Faux Paul’ ended up married to Linda Eastman and Heather Mills were discussed.  At this point, I let out an audible laugh and felt the film became a comedy.

Because of this films ability to show new Beatles fans all the album and lyric ‘clues’ that obsessed fans found to support the tall tale of Paul’s supposed death, I gave this movie a bit of a higher rating.

I rate this movie: 2 out of 4 Beetles

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Movie Review: The Love We Make (Documentary)

I have the honor of getting an advance copy of Paul McCartney’s 9/11 documentary’The Love We Make’.  This movie will debut on Showtime on September 10th.

This film isn’t what I thought it was going to be.  Done in black & white, the camera follows Paul in New York City in his travels from October 11, 2001 to October 23, 2001 and his day-to-day dealings to organize and prepare for The Concert for New York, a benefit concert that was held on October 20, 2001.  If you were expecting a 90 minute film on Paul’s reaction to 9/11, then you will be truly disappointed.  If you’re a McCartney fan that wants to see what it’s like to be Sir Paul, then this film is for you.

During TV and radio interviews leading up to the concert, Paul touches on issues dealing with how he’s dealt with grief in his life, how he deals with the conflict of being a pacifist after the devastation of 9/11 and how he came to the realization that he needed to do something while sitting in a plane on the tarmac watching the twin towers burn.

Mixed in with the interviews are Paul and his band rehearsing for The Concert for New York with many guest cameos as Paul discusses debuting his new song, “Freedom” for the first time at the show.  Celebrities to watch for in this documentary: Ozzy Osbourne, Howard Stern, Barbara Walters, Pete Townsend, Bill Clinton, Harrison Ford, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jim Carey…along with many more.

There are moments when Paul reminisces about the days with the Beatles and is even asked at one point, “Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity for the remaining Beatles to get back together”.  (Watch the movie for the answer!)   And it was interesting to see Paul once again trying to outrun his fans in NYC.

Though not a true post 9/11 documentary, I believe this is a must see for more than just McCartney fans.  There are moments that will just give you goosebumps.

Check the Showtime website for their multiple scheduled airtimes over the next week…you won’t want to miss this!  This movie will also be available On-Demand starting September 11th.

On December 6, 2011, this documentary became available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

So how would I rate a documentary by an actual Beatle?  You’d be crazy if you think I’d give it anything less than…

I rate this movie: 4 out of 4 Beetles

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Movie Review: Lennon Naked

Lennon Naked Several weeks ago I received and email from WGBH/PBS in Boston asking if I would take the time to mention their upcoming release of  Lennon Naked on my website.  They also asked if I would like a preview copy of the movie prior to writing about it.  It only made sense since this is a review website.

It would seem that 90% of this film is about John Lennon’s anger management abilities.  It’s as if the people behind the making of the movie researched every moment and every issue Lennon had and put it on film without regard for the happy or joyful times in his life.  According to Lennon Naked all John Lennon did was walk around angry and I believe they should rename this film to “Lennon Pissed-Off”.

My personal message to Robert Jones (writer): Dude….Give Peace a Chance! ☮

The one good point I found is the acting in the film is wonderful.  And though I’m not a Yoko Ono fan, I did find Naoko Mori‘s portrayal ofYoko to be excellent!

I don’t know that I can criticize the details that they present in this movie.  I didn’t walk away with the impression that they took too many liberties with the truth, though they do have a disclaimer before the movie started saying that some parts have been fictionalized.

Lennon Naked will debut on PBS on Sunday, November 21, 2010.  You can go to PBS.org and check your zip code for dates and times that Lennon Naked will be playing on your local station.

As always, I look forward to my readers responses and opinions.

I rate this movie: 1 out of 4 Beetles

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Movie Review: Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy promo I had the opportunity to have a night out with the family and catch a showing of the new John Lennon biopic – “Nowhere Boy” at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.

(A quick history of the Colonial Theatre – this theatre became famous in the 1958 cult classic “The Blob” when the patrons run screaming from the theatre after the blob takes over.)

I was really torn watching this movie.  It a very well made film and the acting is quite good.  It is a wonderful to relax to…if you’re not a die-hard Beatles fan.  I must have leaned over about five times and whispered in my husband’s ear, “That’s not how that happened.”  From John’s blue eyes (his were brown) to Paul McCartney being shorter than him (he wasn’t) to Uncle George dying in front of John (John was away when his uncle died), a hardcore Beatles fan will feel like there are nails scratching a blackboard while watching.  But, for the average, everyday music fan that just wants a little background into Lennon’s early years…yes, this film will please you.  And though a lot of it is a bit out of chronological order, it gets its point across of the turmoil and heartbreak that Lennon must have felt in his youth and adolescence.

I’m not sure how to rate this film.  I want to scream, “Did you think we wouldn’t notice your blatant disregard of the facts?” and at the same time, I want to say, “Great film…very well made!”  This is where I’m going to have to say to my readers, go see the film and try to separate yourself from the truth just enough to enjoy the film.  There really isn’t any one thing in this movie that changes the overall story of John Lennon’s real story and that can’t be attributed to ‘artist license’.  And for this reason…

I rate this film: 3 out of 4 Beetles

 

 

 

The movie will continue to be shown throughout this week (November 5-11, 2010) at the Colonial Theatre.  For more information and showtimes, please go to: www.TheColonialTheatre.com.

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