Saturday, July 19, 2008

Educating Mamma Knight

What do the two presumptive top movies of this weekend have in common? Both The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! feature one star each from the 1983 art-house hit Educating Rita. In her first film role, Julie Walters plays a hairdresser that takes a lit class from an embittered failed poet played by ubiquitous thespian Michael Caine.

They were both nominated for Best Acting Oscars, but neither took home the trophy. Now twenty five years later they've moved on to supporting roles. In the Abba-tastic musical, Walters (left) is the former Dynamo to Meryl Streep's Donna.

Michael Caine has gone from being the man who ogled Demi Moore's pre-Striptease tassels to being Bruce Wayne's faithful manservant.

I saw Educating Rita when I was in college and now a quarter century later, both actors are still going strong. I just find these odd coincidences utterly fascinating. Who would have guessed that both would have big hits in the same week?

Anyways, here's my Mamma Mia! (Remember: Two m's in 'mamma' and an exclamation point) story: As Broadway hounds, we knew of the Mamma Mia musical soon after it debuted in London. Then we heard that it would be making a Toronto debut about six months before hitting The Great White Way in New York. Always in need of a destination for a driving vacation, we bought tickets for the show and then planned our vacation around it.

We went through the Niagra Falls area before heading up to Toronto. While there we also saw the Canucki production of The Lion King since we were in the neighborhood. So when the Broadway run opened to rave reviews with the Canadian cast's Donna in the lead, we smugly bragged of our North American gun-jumping. It's not everybody that will plan an entire vacation around an Abba tribute.

The stage version has a fresh, clean production style that gets lost in the movie adaptaion. And as one movie critic mentioned, Pierce Brosnan did not get the part on the strength of his singing.

And while I unabashedly love all things ABBA, my wife takes it to a higher level. She called me this afternoon just to tell me that at the 11:15 show this morning, the audience was at best 20% guys. I told her, of course. Real men have to go to work rather than hit musical matinées.

And when we got home from the movie, our son was zonked on the couch from his all-night Dark Knight bash with his friends. Our local cineplex was dumping poorly attended screenings of other movies to add additional shows of both Dark Night and Mamma Mia!

Let's hope those Educating Rita alumni are getting a cut of the gross.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Share your Abba-riffic memory. I know you have one.


The Mistress of the Dark said...

I can't wait to see this movie but it must wait for me to have more gas money! The ABBA movie...I'm not a fan of any of the Batman films.

2fs said...

My Abba-riffic memory? I'm afraid it's a bit...technical. Basically, "Dancing Queen" taught me two things: (1) it helped move me away from my teen music snobbery (and if you think I'm a music snob now, you should have read the blog I would have kept as a teen if there'd been the means!), and (2) it made me recognize the power of recording technology as a musical technique. Specifically, I really liked the song, and I was trying to figure out why - and I realized one huge reason was the reverb, particularly on the string part in between lines of the verses. I realized that somehow that reverb made that part (and others) more magical than if they'd been presented in a dryer manner, and it was the beginning of an ongoing practice of paying close attention to how things sound on record, how they're recorded, which hasn't stopped yet. I sometimes think I should have gone to school to become a recording engineer or something...but I was never all that technically oriented.

Hey, "Mistress of the Dark": Have you seen Batman Begins? Because really, it's much more, and more interesting, than your run-of-the-mill comic adventure film. Haven't seen the new one yet - but it's one of the very, very few films I'm likely to see in a theater this year.

Anonymous said...

Three, not two. Heh. < /nitpick>

I actually have a weird Abba memory. My brother and I were kids, and my mom was inside someone's house while we waited in the car for her. She'd either left the car running, or the key turned to the "accessory" position (anyone remember that?), and he and I were listening to the radio when "Fernando" came on. Being all of 13 and 12, respectively, we didn't have all of the words down but we were singing along with the chorus.

For whatever reason it is that kids have for this sort of thing, we thought it was hysterically funny if we didn't sing the whole chorus, but just the title. So Abba would sing "There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright--" and we'd chime in with "FERNANDO!", which would totally crack us up.

Of course, when Mom returned to the car, we had to tune up and down the dial to find it on another station (this was an easier task in the fall of 1976, when it was a Top 10 song), so that we could demonstrate our hilarity to her. Oddly enough, she didn't find it nearly as funny as we did.

Elizabeth said...

I have their song Waterloo on my iPod's workout list, I LOVE that song! But I don't think I really appreciated Abba until I watched Muriel's Wedding.

yellojkt said...

Abba Inc. definitely put out some highly polished near perfect pop gems. It's good to know that peopele figure out how they did it.

Muriel's Wedding brought a lot of fans to Abba and vice versa, but I found the movie kind of slow and pointless. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I also saw Mamma Mia! when it came out -- who knows, we might have been at the same show. That was pretty much my first exposure to ABBA -- except for Dancing Queen -- and I'm so glad I went! Now there's ABBA on most of my playlists.

Sue T. said...

This was too complex for a mere comment, so I responded over on my own blog.

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