I have realized recently that I just don’t watch movies at home anymore. If I’m watching something on a screen at home it’s either new television or older television. There’s just such a glut of good tv shows these days that I’m never at a loss. I love being able to spend extended periods of time with characters as opposed to only the few hours I get with them in movies. Also, I have some weird mental thing where even though I will sit down and wind up watching 5 or 6 episodes of a tv show in a row it seems like too much to commit to a 2 or 2.5 hour movie. I guess just knowing I have a good breaking point after about 45 minutes with a tv show feels better to me somehow. Thus I’ve pretty much figured out that if I want to see a movie than I need to make the effort to see it while it’s still in the theater.
I do enjoy the experience of going to the movies. It can often add to the movie particularly if it’s a comedy. It was stupid hot in Baltimore this weekend, so going to the movies was the perfect activity to get out of the house but to still stay nice and cool. Luckily there are a number of movies out right now that I wanted to see.
Saturday my husband and I went to see The Heat. If you’re not familiar The Heat stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight FBI agent and slightly crazy street cop who wind up as mismatched partners trying to take down a drug kingpin in Boston. I had heard lots of good things via word of mouth about this movie and thought it would definitely be one that benefitted from laughing along with others in the theater as opposed to watching at home alone. I quite enjoyed this movie and found it to be quite hilarious. I laughed a lot. It was also nice to see Melissa McCarthy in a role that didn’t treat her as one long fat joke. Pretty much a comedic actress of any size could have played that role and the jokes wouldn’t have had to be any different. It was a great buddy cop movie. If you’re looking for something fun to see I would recommend it.
One of the other movies I wanted to see was the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, which is about backup singers. As you know I am a big fan of music, and a couple of people I follow on Twitter had said really good things about this movie so it seemed like something I would enjoy. I had decided to go see an early matinee of this yesterday, but then wound up going out to lunch with some friends after church and not making it to the first showing. After I came home I was debating whether I wanted to drag myself back out for the 4 pm showing. Thinking about the fact that the chances of me actually ever watching this movie if I didn’t see it in the theater were pretty slim I decided to go, and I’m really glad I did.
As one of the people I follow on Twitter said this movie is composed of so many moments of pure joy. The documentary as I mentioned is about backup singers, but really focuses on four of them. If you’ve heard of any of them then it’s probably Darlene Love who sang back up on many of the hits in 50s and 60s. If nothing else you have surely heard her song “Christmas (Please Come Home)”. She was signed with Phil Spector who if you know her story pretty much entirely screwed her over and ruined her career for a long time. Lisa Fischer has sung backup for people such as Luther Vandross and Tina Turner. She has also been the lead backup vocalist for The Rolling Stones on every one of their tours since 1989. She had one hit solo album. The song “How Can I Ease the Pain” won a Grammy, but she never managed to a follow-up. Judith Hill is a much younger backup singer. She was set to tour with Michael Jackson’s before he died and the tour was canceled. She is now trying to make it as a solo artist, but also still sings backup to pay the bills.
Merry Clayton was the final backup singer featured in the film. If you don’t know her from anything else you will at least recognize her vocals in The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. I’m highlighting her in this post because oh my god that song gives me shivers. Her voice is amazing in it. Just listen to this isolated vocal track. Jump ahead to the 2:45 mark to hear the most incredible part.
I kid you not when this song started playing in the movie there was a collective murmur that happened in the audience of people remarking on how great it was. Her story about recording the song was great too. Like Darlene Love her story wasn’t always the happiest. She never broke out as a solo artist like she really wanted despite recording multiple albums.
Even though the movie did cover the challenges of being a backup singer, so much of this movie was just pure joy listening and watching great music be made. So often the background vocals are really what makes a song as is pointed out multiple times in the movie. All of these women have incredible gifts and the world is a better place for what they’ve shared. Even though it seems kind of silly I always like when a movie is so great that the audience breaks out into applause at the end, and that’s what happened at the end of this one. If you love music I can’t recommend this movie highly enough.