Blu-Ray Review: The Doors (1991)

Oliver Stone manages to capture in The Doors precisely what made the band so compelling – pretentiousness and brilliance all wrapped into one.

There was a level of kismet in how Stone came to detailing the life story of Jim Morrison, the tragic lead singer of the eponymous band. An aspiring filmmaker at the tail end of the 1960’s, Stone missed out on the excessive West Coast counter-culture revolution that the Doors helped fuel, split as he was between serving in Vietnam and living in New York, but he wrote a script which he sent to Morrison—looking to move away from the group that defined him into filmmaking—which tapped into that aesthetic. When he started developing The Doors twenty years later, Stone discovered that Morrison had his script in the Paris apartment where he was found dead in 1971 of heart failure. A sign of filmmaker destiny? Perhaps.

Stone certainly feels like the kind of director who fits the material, given he had built a career before the 1990’s on pictures which depicted the darker side of America’s post-war boom culture, specifically the Vietnam War in films such as Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. Stone understands that the late 60’s saw the death of something cultural and this is very much reflected in the life, career and ultimately demise of Morrison, around whom the film pivots. Without Morrison, there is no The Doors, much like without the front man there was no band, or at least not the same unique, trippy, rock-fuelled quintessence of the Doors at their height. The Doors understands this and Stone wraps his film around Morrison’s languorous, drug-induced egotism.

You can see why The Doors might divide. It’s a film full of life, full of music, full of colour and dappled sun, yet it is surrounded and subsumed by the somber pallor of death and tragedy.

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TV, Book, Movie & Podcast Roundup – May 2019

Welcome to June! Because there’s not enough useless information floating around on the internet, I thought I would update readers of this blog as to what I’ve watched/read over the previous month, each month, in the form of TV, movies and books.

Some of this I will have reviewed on Cultural Conversation but others I’ve just been watching for enjoyment with Mrs Black.

Let’s start this month with TV…

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New Podcast: Between the Notes – ‘Aladdin / Vox Lux / Rocketman’

Hosted by myself and journalist/film score aficionado Sean Wilson, Between the Notes is a podcast devoted to the sounds of cinema which airs between every two-four weeks.

This time, we discuss Alan Menken’s Aladdin, Scott Walker’s Vox Lux and Matthew Margeson’s Rocketman, plus put together a Top 5 Scores/Songs films list to honour this musicals special, including discussion of films including Guardians of the Galaxy, La La Land, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and the 1996 version of Romeo & Juliet

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Rocketman (2019)

Rocketman doesn’t like to use the word ‘biopic’.

Dexter Fletcher prefers the term “true fantasy” for his flamboyant take on the life story of Sir Elton John, arguably one of the most iconic British rock stars of the last fifty years. That certainly fits many of the creative choices inherent in Fletcher’s film and Lee Hall’s screenplay, not to mention the casting of Taron Egerton as John’s cinematic avatar – the culmination of numerous actors in the frame over the two decades in which John has tried to get a film about his life produced, including Justin Timberlake and Tom Hardy. Now if that is not fantasy, it’s hard to imagine what is! Elton John may be many things but a movie heart-throb he is most certainly not. Rocketman, from that perspective, is pure wish-fulfilment.

Yet this is not a hagiography, despite John and his long-term partner David Furnish producing (the latter more heavily). Hall’s script does not pretend that Elton rise to legendary fame was all champagne and rainbows. The drugs are there, the booze, the sex, the angry outbursts and egotistic trappings. Rocketman points a big, intentional, neon sign at the indulgent largesse of Elton’s life that more than once almost killed him at the height of his fame, and is unafraid to show the man at the most down point of his life. The reason Rocketman fails to quite ascend to the heights of great drama, great biopic or even great musical, is because it stops *just* short of showing Elton at his worst. This Elton is still the hero of his own story, looking for love in all the wrong places.

It leaves you wondering just how much bite Rocketman *might* have had if Elton had been less involved.

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