Last night, I saw Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.
The late Nelson Mandela is an icon. Next to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Mandela, represents the change many wish they could enact in the world, but few are willing to take the steps to make it happen.
The movie starts with brief clips of his childhood. As an adult, Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) is a lawyer, trying to defend his clients in a country where the native blacks are second class and the whites have all of the power. He is initially hesitant to join the African National Congress, but circumstances change his mind. After he is charged with treason and thrown into jail for 27 years, his second wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris) is forced to raise their daughters by herself and deal with the constant assault by the police.
I will warn that the movie is long, it clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. But the time is needed to tell this man’s story.
Elba completely transforms himself into Mandela. It’s as if he was born to play this character. Harris, as Winnie Mandela is also perfectly cast. Her transformation from being just an ordinary wife and mother to becoming a revolutionary in her own right is incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised, that when award season comes, the movie, as well as Elba and Harris receive numerous nominations and awards.
I highly recommend it.
This past Thursday, NBC aired a live telecast of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical The Sound Of Music.
Any national or Broadway revival of this musical will obviously be compared to the original production from the 1950’s with Mary Martin in the lead role and the iconic 1965 movie.
Carrie Underwood as Maria was an interesting choice by the producers. Yes, the woman can sing. One does not win American Idol and sell as many albums as she has without the ability to sing as well as she does. However, singing your own songs on a concert stage or acting in a music video which will ultimately be less than five minutes long is very different than playing one of the most iconic characters in musical theater. Did she know her lines? Yes. But there was little emotion behind those lines.
And now to Stephen Moyer. A great actor who is incredibly sexy on True Blood. And so wrong for Captain Von Trapp.
He is age appropriate and is as much as a name as Carrie Underwood. I don’t expect him to hit the high notes that Maria hits, but I found him to be stiff and his singing to be simply underwhelming. The Captain is emotionally closed off and stiff at the beginning of the story, but that is his character. Even when he began to open himself up to his children and become the father they needed, Moyer just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself wishing that Christopher Plummer was still young enough to play this part again.
The upshot to this production was the decision to hire Broadway veterans to fill out the adult supporting roles. Audra McDonald (Mother Abbess), Laura Benanti (Elsa Schrader) and Christian Borle (Max Detweiler). Benati played Maria in the last revival, perhaps she might have imparted some advice to Underwood.
I applaud NBC for this undertaking, a live televised production of one of the most beloved musicals is not an easy thing to pull off. But next time, if there is a next time, I would recommend choose actors who actually have musical theater credentials and not just pop stars and TV actors who can sing.
This weekend, I read David Laskin’s novel, The Family.
In short, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Mr. Laskin narrates the tale of his mother’s family, starting with his great-great grand parents, Shimon Dov HaKohen and Beyle Shapiro, who lived in the shtetl of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, which is now in Belarus.
Shimon Dov and Beyle have six children and numerous grandchildren, all choosing different paths in life. One branch of the family emigrated to the United States and became successful business owners. Another made Aaliyah to what was then Palestine and became pioneers of modern day Israel. The third stayed in Europe and became part of the martyred six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
This book could have sounded like a history book or a boring documentary. But it doesn’t. Each member of Mr. Laskin’s family has their own voice and their own story to tell. The details are so vivid that one doesn’t have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to be caught up in this world.
I couldn’t put it down, the book is nearly 400 pages long, but it doesn’t feel like it is 400 pages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a good book.