Mike Kueber's Blog

February 10, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #100 – 20 Feet from Stardom and The Long Hot Summer

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 1:23 am
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Don Imus has been promoting 20 Feet of Stardom (2013) for several weeks, so I decided to give it a try.  The movie is a behind-the-scenes documentary on the role that background singers play in making good music – either live or recorded.

The movie focuses on a small group of black singers who became popular in the 60s for providing more than scripted singing.  The music industry in the 60s asked singers like Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and Tata Vega, whose background was in gospel music, to play a more creative and collaborative role in working with big singers.  Inevitably, though, their role stroked their ego, and they desired more recognition, usually via a career as a solo artist.  But none succeeded, and now they seem to spend a lot of time rationalizing why their singular talent did not result in a solo career.

The critics love the movie (99%), and even the audience likes it a lot (85%).  Me, not so much.  I give it only two and a half stars out of three because it attempts to idolize some singers who don’t deserve to be idols.

The Long Hot Summer is a 1958 classic based on William Faulkner’s novel The Hamlet, plus two of his short stories.  It stars Paul Newman alongside a superb supporting cast (Orson Welles, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick).  The characters are immensely interesting, and Woodward is especially fascinating as Welles’s daughter and Newman’s love interest.  The Rotten Tomato critics give it 88% while the audience gives it 84%.  I agree and give it three and a half stars out of four.

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