Hyde Park on Hudson
Remember your high school history textbook? Remember those little boxes on the side that kept the reading from becoming too tedious? Hyde Park on Hudson is one of those boxes. Bill Murray portrays President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during a 1939 weekend getaway with his mistress and the King and Queen of England. Those who enjoyed The King’s Speech will probably find something interesting here.
This is like your high school history textbook if it were written by William Shakespeare and narrated by Morgan Freeman. Daniel Day-Lewis turns in an unsurprisingly virtuosic performance as our 16th president, for which he won his third Academy Award. The screenplay, written by celebrated playwright Tony Kushner, is immaculate, documenting a few months leading up to the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment. Spielberg’s direction seems appropriate as well, highlighting the detail of the extraordinary process.
Everyone knows the songs and the story. This most recent adaptation of the famous musical has garnered a lot of praise for its supposedly admirable decision to record the singing live. Unfortunately, the cast of movie stars are clearly not trained for the stage. Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe shout through their roles, everything at absolute full volume. The fact that Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks are able to transcend this veritable disaster in brief roles is a testament to their talent.
West Side Story
This is one of the all-time great Hollywood musical productions. Of course, when you’re adapting material like this — Leonard Bernstein’s score and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics — it’s hard to screw up. But this colorful masterpiece is a delight from front to back, swaying effortlessly between emotional ranges. The singing and dancing never falter and the production design is something to behold: New York rendered in gleaming, vivid Technicolor.