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Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mamma Mia, The Movie

This is not a review of Mamma Mia, The Movie - it's a public rejoicing about how much I loved this movie and how lucky I am.

Philo and I saw it a few weeks ago at the Arbor when it came out. He's a good sport and I'm glad he liked it.

MSS of Zanthan Gardens and I saw it yesterday at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Yes, that's MSS and Mamma Mia and the Drafthouse...envy is the only appropriate response.

I have a lot to say. If you're planning on going to Mamma Mia and are afraid of spoilers, please come back after you've seen it.

If you don't like musicals, don't like Meryl, don't like women over 50 or don't like ABBA there's not much point to your being here. Anyone still reading?

Thought pops on Mamma Mia:

ABBA was not even on my radar when they were a big deal around 1980... perhaps we were listening to Vangelis and Willie Nelson and Steve Goodman? Or more likely our young children were watching Sesame Street and the Brady Bunch. TV and Stereo shared the same space back then.
I didn't found out why this group was so popular until ABBA music was used in a couple of films from Australia - Muriel's Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert .

Meryl Streep is a genius. Pierce Brosnan is fine brandy - better all the time. Why has he taken such hits for his singing in Mamma Mia? He's not a wailing juvenile pop singer! He's a mature troubador whose every word is full of emotion. We're talking Gordon Lightfoot not American-frickin-Idol.

When Julie Walters and Christine Baranski and Meryl Streep are together I see echoes of the classic characters the Three Musketeers, with Meryl/Donna as Athos, Julie/Rosie as Porthos, Christine/Tanya as Aramis and Amanda Seyfried/Donna's daughter Sophie, as d'Artagnan. This doesn't have anything to do with swordfights and plumed hats came out in the physical comedy and personalities of the three friends. And in the 24 carat gold flakes and donkey testicles.

In the scene above the song is "Dancing Queen". It was funny and exhuberant and it made me tear up...all the women in the Greek Island town joining in the song - young and old, beautiful and plain, of every body type. You can suppress and bury your dancing queen but she's still waiting for a chance to spin again.

Robert Heinlein had Jubal Harshaw say this in Stranger In A Strange Land: A great artist can ...make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her matter what the merciless hours have done.

But for Meryl and her band it's not a quiet, endless tragedy - keeping the 18-year old girl safe in their hearts is a triumph.

That Pierce Brosnan and the adorable Colin Firth could be funny and charming was not a surprise...that the usually dour and threatening Swedish actor Stellan Starsgard could be funny and charming and smiling at women was enchanting. Donna had excellent taste.

Do guys know that they are a lot sexier when they are intelligently funny?

The idea of visiting Greek Islands never had any appeal for me until I saw this movie. It would take months of training first - those hills and stairs are daunting. Meryl is in great shape and the whole ramshackle island resort is a wonderful set.

The beautiful scene where Donna helps Sophie get dressed for the wedding and does her hair was overwhelming. If you are a mother of a daughter watch out for this one.

The scene when the guys come to take Dominic Cooper/Sky off to his bachelor party, dancing on the pier in swim fins to "Lay All Your Love On Me" sure took the song in an unexpected direction, as did Christine Baranski's "Does Your Mother Know" with boy-toy Phillip Michael. Very Broadway.

Traditional musicals have lyrics that are written for a certain point in the story - for Mamma Mia the songs existed as separate works. I've read that Catherine Johnson refashioned the plotline of Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell to fit the lyrics. I find that very interesting.

I may have to edit this and add more. Although the DVD doesn't have any projected release date, the soundtrack is out. If I buy that it might lead to another post! Or maybe somebody else wants company and I'll see it a third time. More Pierce in a wet, white shirt.


Carol said...

I am envious! I want to see this. Maybe this weekend!

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

There were so many ways this movie could have gone wrong but didn't. It could have been campy (and maybe some people think it is) but everyone throws themselves so completely and exuberantly into their roles that it seems innocent and fresh. There are no sly winks where the actors act like they're just dressing up and playing it for laughs. They're playing it without any self-consciousness. They just let go and have a great time. The audience can't help but join in.

I loved it. And no, I'm not an ABBA fan. But it was sweet without being sacharine, funny (even silly) but never stupid--just full of joy. Intelligent men....mmmm.

Thanks for taking me.

marmee said...

this is the funniest, silliest, most uplifting, well told story in theaters in years. our audience was completely fun with singing along and plenty of outbursts of laughter. i would recommend it to anyone even if you don't like musicals. it is fun!!!!

Lori said...

I'm not a particularly huge fan of ABBA or anything, but I took one look at the cast list for this movie and reserved it on Netflix. I need the closed-captioning, so no theater for me, but the minute it comes out on DVD, I'm so there!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
We've conversed a bit at my place about this, but I'd like to give it a shot. I do love a great musical (Chicago was my most recent fave and Cabaret is an all time fave), though they're a hard sell in our house. I think Moulin Rouge was one of the most innovative musicals in years, and still do. So far, Baz Luhrman can do no wrong with me ... have you seen Strictly Ballroom?

Anyway, I might surprise you with a reaction when I finally see this (which I will some way or another). I have the musical of Hairspray recorded on the DVR, but just never seem ready to see it. I'm so faithful to John Waters, I can't imagine icky Travolta ever doing Edna... maybe I'll be wrong!♠

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Carol - Mamma's made almost $120 million so there's a good chance it won't leave before you get your chance.

You should write your own post about Mamma Mia MSS - your insights are excellent and I was so glad you liked the movie.

Welcome Marmee - I popped over to your blog and am intrigued by your new/old Tennessee Victorian farmhouse - lots to look at! Is Marmee your name or is that in tribute to Little Women?
Mamma was fun, and it made an emotional connection with the audience. And sometimes you really need a movie without bullets!!

Lori, it was the cast that got me into the theater in the first place - what do you want to bet that DVD is out in time for Christmas gifting?
I've read that Benny and Bjorn don't take kindly to singalongs, but sure hope they'll relent so the Alamo South can hold one...maybe with potato pancakes and lutfisk on the menu?

Hi IVG - like Philo, you're also a good sport...thanks for checking out this post.

I don't know if you'd like this movie, but I have Chicago, Cabaret and Moulin Rouge on my movie shelf. We saw all 3 more than once before they left the theater and we've seen Strictly Ballroom both at the movies and on DVD.

On the other hand, we also have Paint Your Wagon and South Pacific, because Joshua Logan doesn't scare me.

I quite liked John Travolta in Hairspray while still respecting Divine in the role. If you can stand to read any more of my jabbering, Philo and I saw three movies in a row last August - Hairspray, Rescue Dawn, and Stardust.

Need you be faithful to John Waters? He took a cameo role in the movie musical so maybe it didn't bother him.

My guess is that you'll still prefer the 1988 version.

Thanks for talking movies with me!


Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie,
I'm happy to talk film with you any time! If you ever want to email about film, you know where to find me. :-)

I'd like to get the DVD of Cabaret but I'd have to watch it alone, probably. Though Fernymoss appreciated what Moulin Rouge was all about (with my coaching, lol), it tends to drive him up to his lair upstairs. We won't even go to why I love Fiddler On the Roof, lol. I have a great big soft spot for that one ... no wonder that all my Jewish friends over the years have been convinced I was stolen from a Jewish couple and placed in a Goyim home, LOL.

I haven't seen Stardust, but remember reading good reviews of it, and on your recommendation I'd seek it out. At first I thought you were referring to Woody's Stardust Memories, which is perhaps my all time favorite of his (among many), but then the old memory kicked in! Just had to throw that out there.

I'll let you know when I get courageous enough to watch Hairspray! And to be honest, I was not really impressed with it when it first came out --I was in my pissy Waters has gone mainstream dammit phase-- but I've come to appreciate it more and more over the years.

BTW, if you haven't seen Pecker, A Dirty Shame and This Filthy World (stand up), put them on your list. Definitely Waters must sees.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Oh yeah, one other thing ... Joshua Logan does/did scare me. I saw Paint Your Wagon once and it was really a cringe fest for me. Diffrn't strokes and all....

Heather said...

Annie, thanks for the review. I didn't read it all though, since I haven't seen it yet. But I want to! I'm a huge ABBA fan and fans of Merryl and Pierce (in a very wet shirt, yum). Can't wait. And I adore musicials. Love Strictly Ballroom too! My husband loves ABBA too. If you haven't seen it yet, try the movie "Once". It's a modern day musical, as they call it. Winner of a Sundance award last year I believe. There are still trailers on the internet to see what it's about if you search. No dancing but lots of great original music and beautiful cinematography etc. The acting is very natural. Cheers Heather

Annie in Austin said...

Hi again IVG - I'm quite fond of the movie version but it couldn't beat an in-the-round staging of Fiddler on the Roof in Chicago back before the movie came out. Zero Mostel's occasional TV appearances singing "If I Were A Rich Man" from the Broadway production made Midwest audiences familiar with the play by the time it went regional.

I'm an older boomer with parents who liked movie musicals - my dad took the whole family to see South Pacific. And there were still musicals being made when I reached my teens - West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and The Unsinkable Molly Brown were new, and if you saw them at a theater in downtown Chicago it was enough of an event that you bought a souvenir playbooks.

Maybe that's why I enjoyed ABBA and Mamma? ABBA is movie music for me - the soundtrack isn't oft-heard pop songs but are connected to characters and actors and a story. That's a lot different from someone who felt their teenage world reeked of ABBA music!

I've seen Stardust Memories but not lately - the most recent Woody Allen was a revisit to Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy near the appropriate Midsummer Night.
If you rent Stardust, just remember it's a summer popcorn movie - fun but not substantial.

I'll check into the John Waters' movies but am pretty mainstream myself... for example, I guess my favorite Woody Allen movie would be Radio Days. Oy!


Annie in Austin said...

Hi Heather - it sounds like you're among the "target audience", too~
Philo and I saw Once and enjoyed you say, it's much more natural in its approach.

Have you seen Bride and Prejudice - a sort of Bollywood take off on the Jane Austen novel? There are scenes in Mamma Mia that seemed very Bollywood to Philo and me.


Heather said...

Hi Annie,
No I haven't seen Bride and Prejudice. Sounds fun.

Most of the musicials that I like are rock orientated. Like Almost Famous, Purple Rain, The Commimtments, Across the Universe, Spinal Tap, The Wall. Stuff like that. But I do enjoy the old Hollywood style ones, that you've all mentioned too. Just don't own any of them but do watch them when they show up on TV. :)

Did you know that the song, Falling Slowly from Once won an Oscar for best original song? I'm not surprised.


Blackswamp_Girl said...

"Do guys know that they are a lot sexier when they are intelligently funny?"

No... I wish more did know that. Then maybe they would cultivate both halves of that equation. *grin*

I usually don't see movies, but between you comparing Pierce's singing to Gordon Lightfoot (LOVE him--he was amazing in concert a few years ago) and mentioning that Stellan Skarsgaard is in it (which would hook Brian in, as long as I don't mention ABBA) maybe I will. :)