Merry Christmas! Five Favorite Christmas Songs in Movies 🎄

homealone2-nyc

Happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas, everyone! Like many of you, I’m not traveling anywhere this Christmas… it’s just too cumbersome to plan for traveling, even domestically, given this Omnicron surge. Basically the pandemic is far from over, and you know what, I’m feeling blessed that my hubby and I are in good health and we have roof over our heads … things we should never take for granted at any time, but especially these days.

Well, I’m taking a bit of a break from review writing this weekend and I thought I’d post the last Music Break post for the year. I grew up listening to Christmas music as my late mom had piles of Christmas CDs around the house. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be December to appreciate great Christmas songs.

So let me highlight some of my favorites, both from classic and contemporary movies that never fail to put me in the Christmas spirit!

HOME ALONE 2 – Somewhere in My Memory

Well, since I just saw John Williams in concert this past Fall, we’ve got to start with one of the maestro’s best and most enduring Christmas scores. I’m gonna pretend there wasn’t a remake of Home Alone that exists today… I think the first two Home Alone are as perfect a family Christmas movie as you get.

The one song that stuck with me forever is this lovely, heartwarming song that appears in a scene when Kevin is walking on a Wintry suburban street and saw a family gathering through the window and he misses his family. We all miss our loved ones at Christmas… so this song always hits me hard year after year.

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ELF – Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Elf is one of my fave Christmas comedies and there’s something so goofy yet innocent about this oversized green elf in this fish-out-of-water story. Like Kevin in Home Alone 2, Will Ferrell‘s character too is lost in New York. Zooey Deschanel has such a gorgeous voice! She’s singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside in this clip, one of the three songs she performed in this movie. I love this song and the duet is pretty cute, though I probably would totally freak out like her too if I saw a man sitting in the bathroom while I was showering!

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LAST CHRISTMAS – Last Christmas 

I just saw this movie last year and though it’s not perfect, it’s not as bad as the critics made it out to be. The London setting itself is absolutely adorable. The movie’s got its charm and Dame Emma Thompson wrote a bittersweet love story inspired by the classic song by WHAM! As an 80s kid and a big fan of George Michael, it’s one of my all time favorite Christmas songs. I thought the ending with Emilia Clarke dressed as an elf singing the song is a lovely and sweet finale.

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SCROOGED – Put A Little Love In Your Heart 

I actually saw this 1988 modern-day retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol not that long ago. Bill Murray is perfect as Scrooge, this time portrayed as a selfish and callous TV executive. After being visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, he’s transformed into a kinder man in a rousing finale.  I love this song, sung by Annie Lennox and Al Green, which became a huge hit around the world. Even though it wasn’t an original song written for the movie, the lyrics suits the story so perfectly.

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White Christmas – Irving Berlin

White Christmas is the quintessential classic holiday song and one of my personal favorites, but I didn’t realize it was featured in not one but TWO classic films.

Written by Irving Berlin, he won an Oscar for Best Original Song for the musical Holiday Inn in 1942, performed as a duet by Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds.

Well, the song is featured again a decade later in 1954 in another musical White Christmas, also starring Bing Crosby, co-starring Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, only clips of them, especially this one featuring the namesake song.

Apparently this movie is neither a sequel nor a remake of Holiday Inn as the storyline and characters are completely different. Both have scenes during Christmas Eve however, but White Christmas‘ setting is around WWII.

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Now that I’ve shared mine, what’s your favorite Christmas song(s)? 


Here’s wishing you all

a BLESSED & JOYFUL CHRISTMAS…

Stay safe + healthy, everyone!


  …

Music Break – Five favorite songs from West Side Story

WestSideStory-MusicBreak

I am still humming the gorgeous songs from West Side Story today, as last night I had the privilege of seeing the newly-adapted musical directed by Steven Spielberg at a Dolby Cinema. I haven’t done a Music Break since last August, so I thought today would be the perfect time to highlight the timeless songs in anticipation for the new film’s release on December 10, as well as honoring the late Stephen Sondheim‘s astounding work.

Confession: I actually have not seen the original musical in its entirety, but my late mom had a CD of a bunch of Broadway songs when I was growing up so I’m familiar with most of the music. I’ve seen a bunch of the scenes since then too, so you can say I’m more familiar with the music/songs than the movie.

A few Interesting Trivia about West Side Story and Stephen Sondheim:

  • Per EverythingSondheim.org: West Side Story was Stephen Sondheim’s first foray on a Broadway stage in 1957. He was just 27 when it opened. Already eager to start his Broadway career as a composer and a lyricist, he was convinced by his mentor Oscar Hammerstein to debut as the show’s lyricist, the junior member of a team comprised of three well known artists: composer Leonard Bernstein, director and choreographer Jerome Robbins, and playwright Arthur Laurents.

Bernstein-and-SondheimSondheim (left) with Bernstein – photo courtesy of CulturalAttache.co

  • Per Google Arts & Culture:
    – Arthur Laurents taught him to write from the playwright’s perspective
    – Sondheim had been informally tutored by Oscar Hammerstein II. Hammerstein was one of the foremost lyricists of the first half 20th century, writing the book and lyrics to such classic musicals as OklahomaCarousel, and The King and I. Sondheim describes Hammerstein as a “surrogate father” who mentored the young Sondheim in his teenage years.
  • Since West Side Story, Sondheim has received eight Tony Awards (the most won by any composer) the American Theatre Wing Award Lifetime Achievement Award, eight Drama Desk Awards, eight Grammy Awards (including one for the West Side Story 2010 revival), a Pulitzer Prize, five Laurence Olivier Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors, and the 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ok so here are 5 of my favorite songs featured in the film (in random order, I can’t possibly rank them!):

AMERICA

The lyrics for this one speaks of the immigrant experience, all the struggles and advantages of living in ‘someone else’s land.’ Some of the lyrics really hit home and even decades after the first production was released, the words still resonate and relevant.

Life can be bright in America
If you can fight in America

Life is all right in America
If you’re all white in America

Here you are free and you have pride
Long as you stay on your own side

I just love the spunk of Rita Moreno in this dance sequence!!

TONIGHT

This is perhaps the one song I’m most familiar with… it’s such a powerful ballad that I hope one day I get to watch West Side Story on stage to hear this sung LIVE. In the Spielberg’s adaptation, both actors actually sang the songs… and boy, Rachel Zegler has an incredible singing voice that’s perfect for this romantic song. The 20-year-old Colombian-American actor and singer-songwriter beat out over 30,000 applicants for the role and rightly so!

MARIA

Interesting that another favorite classic musical I love, The Sound of Music, also has a song with ‘Maria’ in it. I quite like this one sung by Richard Beymer who certainly has more charisma than the current actor, Ansel Elgort. Now, I barely pay attention to ‘cancel culture’ that’s running rampant these days, and apparently he’s accused of some sexual impropriety, but my issue is that Ansel is kind of a bland actor, though his singing voice is pretty decent.

In any case, the lyrics are just so romantic and sweet…

Say it loud and there’s music playing,
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.

I Feel Pretty

There’s something so fun and whimsical about this song! Now, there isn’t a clip from the current film yet, which I really enjoyed and Rachel Zegler‘s voice is so gorgeous! So I’m including this clip instead. Natalie Wood‘s singing voice is dubbed by Marni Nixon in the 1961 version. It’s such a catchy song that I often find myself humming and one tends to twirl when hearing this song, ahah.

SOMEWHERE

It’s another ballad with such a beautiful, evocative lyrics… I think it beautifully captures the star-crossed love story and also the Puerto Ricans trying to fit in America, it’s truly amazing what Sondheim did with the words of a song… and of course Bernstein’s melody is equally breathtaking. In the original, the song was a duet…

There’s a time for us,
Someday there’ll be a time for us:
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care.

… but I actually prefer the one sung in the Spielberg version, sung by Rita Moreno as you can hear in the teaser. It packs an emotional wallop!


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Which song(s) from WEST SIDE STORY is your favorite?

Music Break – The fabulous songs from The Greatest Showman (2017)

I can’t believe I hadn’t done a Music Break post on The Greatest Showman since it’s been released three years ago. I’ve been listening to its songs over and over, and it’s truly one of my absolute favorite musicals in the past decade.

Interesting Trivia – courtesy of Screen Rant and IMDb:

  • The musical grossed over $400 million worldwide against an $84 million budget.
  • This film was a dream project for Hugh Jackman since 2009.
  • Jackman did extensive research for the film–reading dozens of books about Barnum, long hours of dance rehearsals, and singing – lots and lots of singing! When asked what was the hardest movie to prepare for compared to Logan, Jackman actually said it was hands down this movie!
  • The film features eleven new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the Academy Award winning lyricists of La La Land (2016).
  • From early on in pre-production on the film, the decision was made to have the musical style to evoke more that of contemporary musical genres like pop and hip hop rather than that of a traditional, classical musical style that would accurately evoke the film’s 1800s setting. As Pasek said, “The choice was to express not just the characters’ feelings, but also how ahead of his time P.T. Barnum was. He wasn’t bound by the world in which he lived; he wanted to create one.”

Ok so here are 5 of my favorite songs featured in the film:

Tightrope

Right from the first moment I heard it, I just fell in love with this song. The scene is so beautiful but also heartbreaking as Charity is lamenting on her husband being away with the opera singer Jenny Lind and that success actually drives him away from their family.

This curtain scene is so exquisitely done… and oh so heartbreaking!

I LOVE Michelle Williams‘ singing voice! In an interview with New Zealand Herald, she said:

I find that singing and dancing is a direct path to joy. And I just wanted more of it, that’s why I wanted to make the film. Singing is natural for me. I don’t know if I’m the greatest in the world at it, but I just love it!

A Million Dreams

Though Ellis Rubin played young P.T. Barnum in the movie, it’s actually Ziv Zaifman who provided the singing voice for  for this song which I think sounds fantastic. I love that in the second part of the song, it’s Hugh Jackman singing it as the adult Barnum, it adds such a wonderful dimension to the song.

Rewrite the Stars

One of my all-time favorite duet from a musical, perhaps beating Moulin Rouge!‘s Come What May (Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) which was my fave for a long time. Zac Efron and Zendaya have a lovely chemistry and this duet as they’re swaying on a rope is such a showstopper scene that takes my breath away every time I watch it.

I read a bunch of articles how arduous it was for them to film the high-flying aerial stunts and the outtake video of them colliding mid-air. Props for the two actors and the entire filmmaking team for making the sequence look so effortless!

Never Enough

Rebecca Ferguson‘s voice was dubbed by Loren Allred. However, in order to get into the role, Ferguson insisted on singing the song in front of the extras while filming. She is actually Swedish, born in Stockholm, just like the character.

I love Ferguson’s passionate performance here, she absolutely sells me that she’s the greatest singer in the world. There’s also some intriguing intercuts in the scene depicting the tension in the relationship between Barnum and Charity, as well as Efron and Zendaya’s characters.

This Is Me

This is such a defiant, heartfelt anthem sung phenomenally by Keala Settle who played the the bearded lady Lettie Lutz. The rousing scene

According to Jackman, the film’s nine-year development process from conception to completion was, in part, due to studios’ unwillingness to take a risk on an original musical. What finally sold the deal at 20th Century Fox was this Oscar-nominated song This is Me, which had literally been written by Pasek and Paul during the two-hour flight to the studio meeting where the film was green-lit.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen The Greatest Showman, which song(s) is your favorite?

Music Break – The fabulous songs from Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Happy mid December, everyone! It’s less than two weeks until Christmas so I’ve been watching more holiday-themed movies than usual… naturally.

So this weekend I decided to watch one new Christmas movie and my hubby + I debated whether to watch The Christmas Chronicles or Jingle Jangle on Netflix. We decided on the latter because of the great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, it did not disappoint! Though my hubby isn’t a huge fan of musicals (and I could sense a slight ‘oh no’ expression when the characters suddenly burst into song in its opening number), he ended up enjoying the movie, yay!

I have to say I really enjoyed the movie! The story has a Dickens-an vibe to it, one can’t help but think this is A Christmas Carol with an all-black cast. Writer/director David E. Talbert has created a new sumptuous holiday classic that’s perfect for the whole family. I was ooh-aahing at the spectacular set pieces, beautiful costumes (by Michael Wilkinson, natch!) and simply magical look of the movie.

The songs by EGOT-winner John Legend are fused with fun and sweet holiday spirit, while some of the songs are emotionally-tinged as the characters deal with loss and betrayal. The score itself is by John Debney, who’s no stranger to working on musical/animated features (The Greatest Showman, The Jungle Book), though I also admire his work for The Passion of the Christ.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t watched it already:

Well, in lieu of a full review, I thought I’d do a Music Break post instead, since I haven’t done one in months! I think we could all use a huge dose of holiday cheer these days, and these songs certainly did that for me. 

I LOVE this opening number sung by young Jeronicus Jangle (what a fabulous name!) played by Justin Cornwell. The set design of the Jangles & Things store that seemed to have been meticulously designed. The choreography is astounding! It’s no surprise that Ashley Wallen is the same choreographer behind The Greatest Showman.

Can I just say I adore Mrs ooops, Miss Johnston (played wonderfully by Lisa Davina Phillip). Her crushing on Mr. Jangle is such a hoot, she’s such a delightful comic relief and more! I wish she had more scenes in the movie but I’m glad she ended up having a bit more to do towards the end. The trio singers add even more whimsy to an already merry musical number!

I’m glad that Jingle Jangle isn’t just all about pretty visuals and phenomenal set design. The movie is filled with memorable characters of all ages. Madalen Mills is such a joy to watch, a bundle of sunshine everywhere she goes. Though the film is set in the Winter, there’s not a drab mood in sight! What an inspiration to young girls everywhere that Journey is a brilliant kid inventor and she’s singing a song about math. Her enthusiasm and jubilant spirit is infectious, and this song is definitely her calling card that this amazingly-talented young performer is ready to be a star!

I should’ve known Forest Whitaker could sing… somehow I always see him as a serious actor, and he did direct one of my favorite dramas starring one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston in Waiting To Exhale. But according to IMDb, Mr. Whitaker went to USC where he majored in music and earned two more scholarships training as an operatic tenor. In any case, this one is such a sad but beautiful song.

Last but definitely NOT least, Tony-award winner Anika Noni Rose absolutely killed this powerful song that’s truly the heart of soul of the movie. The loss and redemption theme is wonderfully realized here… Make It Work Again might as well be an anthem for 2020 as we all hope we can make things work again after this pandemic!

I’m not including Borrow Indefinitely song by the Don Juan toy – I initially thought was voiced by Antonio Banderas, but turns out it’s Ricky Martin. Though at first I thought he was a hoot, the character actually gives me the creeps and I find it quite irritating (sorry Ricky!).

Now, who else saw this movie and thought, man this could totally be a Broadway musical! Well, when we can finally go see live theater again, I could totally see this one become a musical hit. I mean, the set pieces would work nicely on stage and the musical numbers already have a theatrical-feel to it. It would be a fun alternative to White Christmas, Scrooge, Elf, etc. while giving performers of color a chance to star in a new + fabulous Christmas classic.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. If you’ve seen Jingle Jangle, which song(s) is your favorite?

Music Break: 5 Scores To Celebrate JUNETEENTH 2020

Happy Freedom Day! Juneteenth is also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day. Per the National Registry, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

What has began as a Texas holiday in 1980, is now recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia as a state holiday or observance and is marking its 155th anniversary this year.

So to commemorate this significant day in history, I thought I’d post five scores from films that deals with slavery, the fight against racial inequality and savagery… and ultimately, the triumph of the human spirit.

“God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free.” — Harriet Tubman


“Won’t it be wonderful when Black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. history.” — Maya Angelou


Hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. Which of these scores are your favorite(s)?

Music Break: 10 Patriotic Film Scores To Honor Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! It’s certainly an unusually quiet Memorial Weekend for most of us. Instead of kicking off the ‘official’ Summer travel season here in the US, the Covid-19 pandemic has basically ground everyone as stay-at-home order are still in place in many areas.

But one thing remain the same… in that we ought to still feel grateful for those who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Freedom is definitely NOT free and the people serving in the various U.S. military branches – Navy, Army, Air Force and the Marines – risk their lives to protect their country and its citizens. This year, we also should extend our gratitude beyond fallen soldiers, but also first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines fighting the un-seen enemy all over the country.

A few years ago, I did a pictorial tribute for Memorial weekend, so this could be its companion post. Even if the film itself is subpar (I’m looking at you Pearl Harbor), doesn’t mean one can’t appreciate the scores. Not all of these are from war-themed films either, as heroes made sacrifices on and off the battlefield. So here you go…

10 patriotic film scores to honor all the heroes on this day of remembrance:

BONUS:

I had to include one more from the Captain America franchise. Not only are the scores patriotic-sounding, but they’re just fantastic to listen over and over.


Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Stay safe and well.


Now, which other patriotic film scores would YOU add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Music Break: ABBA’s songs in Mamma Mia!

Happy midweek everyone! It’s kind of a sleepy Wednesday even though just exactly a week ago I was extremely busy casting for my upcoming short film project, Master Servant. It was my first time holding auditions (as I didn’t have to do that Hearts Want) and let’s just say it was quite an experience. I have even more appreciation for actors (especially working actors) and what they have to go through to land a part.

In any case, well I saw Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last week… it had been such a whirlwind few weeks that I needed a crowd-pleaser type of movie and it definitely did the trick. It’s funny but when the original first came out, I didn’t even bother to see it and wasn’t really interested. But my friend in San Diego has the DVD so I ended up watching it when I visited her. I actually grew up listening to ABBA (who’s my brother’s fave) and it was fun nostalgia hearing the catchy tunes once again. As for the movie, well I don’t think it would’ve worked at all without ABBA’s music to be honest. It’s the kind of contagiously rousing songs you can’t help but being drawn to it, heck the songs have been stuck in my head for days since I saw the sequel! Plus having Meryl Streep and a pretty phenomenal cast doesn’t hurt. Amanda Seyfried is pretty good as Sophie (Streep’s daughter) but it’s Julie Walters and Christine Baranski who’s truly light up the screen. I wish we all had them as our besties!

Oh and the scenery!! Honestly, I was gawking at the amazing Greek islands (filmed on location on Skopelos, Skiathos and Damouhari Pelion) which surely have become a major tourist attraction now thanks to the movie. Who hasn’t fantasized living in such a incredible place, running a hotel with your handsome boyfriend and your three dads consist of Mr. Darcy, James Bond and Thor’s Dr. Selvig?? I mean, come on!!

Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierce Brosnan as Sophie’s three dads

It’s the kind of movie to just put off your thinking caps and be ready to groove! So here are some of my fave songs and/or scenes from the original and the sequel:

Ok yes it’s a silly movie, but I couldn’t help but tearing up a bit hearing this rendition of The Winner Takes It All (darn you Meryl!)

Donna looked so believably devastated in this scene… I wish the sequel had more oomph in showing her romance with Sam in the flashback scene. I feel like this scene in the original was far more emotional than the entire scene of young Donna & Sam in the sequel.

Oh man, what an end credits!! Such a hoot to see all the three dads in full disco gear. Looks like the entire cast had such a great time making this that they totally went all out in the bohemian spirit of the movie!!

I’ve been a fan of Lily James since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Cinderella, she’s instantly likable and apparently this girl can sing! I actually like her rendition of this melancholy song… yeah she’s my current girl crush.

I really, really enjoyed this scene and the song Why Did It Have To Be Me. I adore Lily James as young Donna (not an easy task playing the young version of a character originally played by Meryl Streep, but she did a fine job!) and Josh Dylan (young Bill) is my fave of the three young actors.

Well one of the highlights of the sequel is Cher (natch!)… and her fans would likely NOT be disappointed. She only appears at the end but her rendition of Fernando (a duet with Andy Garcia), as teased in all the promos, is pretty darn amusing.


Hope you enjoy this Music Break. Well, which ABBA song(s) is your favorite?