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Center Stage Controversy - I object!


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#1 Ed Waffle

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Posted 06 July 2002 - 08:35 AM

All I can comment on regarding Billy Elliot is the trailer, since seeing it convinced me not to see the movie.

In the trailer Billy is first seen wearing boxing gloves and headgear--the huge, pillow-like gloves that amateur boxers use in training. The narrative of the trailer makes clear that he is drawn away from the manly art of self-defense and toward the gentler pursuit of dance.

Which makes him odd, of course, and which I thought was the central conflict in the movie.

Wouldn't it be nice if the movement was the other way--that ballet training was considered the norm for young men and that a few of them, of inexplicable reasons, wanted to become boxers.

#2 dirac

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 01:46 PM

Both of you make good points. And hey -- they never said they were making a documentary. I'm not saying no one should nitpick -- it's very useful to have knowledgeable people point out things that movies and books get wrong. But considering that movies with the dance world as a subject don't grow on trees, I don't think too much complaining is in order. Center Stage is far from perfect, but on the other hand, how many movies at the local multiplex feature the dancing of Ethan Stiefel?


On the other hand, I have no problem with people beating up on Billy Elliot, which had pretensions to Seriousness, and did not present any real ballet dancing. Perfectly useless movie from a dance perspective.

#3 dirac

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 03:06 PM

True. The late Herbert Ross wasn't exactly Stanley Kubrick in the Directors' Pantheon, but he knew how to stage a ballet sequence for the camera. :(

#4 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 10:28 AM

ballet_shalom_ forever, that kind of cutting is pretty common in movies during dance sequences. Leslie Browne got the same kind of assistance for the Don Quixote pas de deux with Baryshnikov in The Turning Point, to cite only one example.

#5 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 12:48 PM

Ah yes, the Fight ("You keep your hands off my DAUGHTER!").

It always reminded me of a recurring sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus. Ladies and gentlemen, the World of History is proud to present the premiere of the Batley Townswomen's Guild's re-enactment of the battle of Pearl Harbor........

#6 dirac

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 02:08 PM

dmdance, thanks for speaking up. I quite agree with you that it was nice to see in Billy Elliot a depiction of a boy who is able to transcend difficult circumstances through his love of dance. And I also agree that the dance doesn't have to be ballet. On the other hand, Billy is aspiring to be a ballet dancer, and yet the dancing we see him do -- tap dancing and "Flashdance"-style thrashing -- isn't what I personally hoped for when I went to see the movie. So that was disappointing. (However, from the ecstatic audience response the film received when it was over, mine was a minority opinion. :() I also meant that, precisely because Billy Elliot is more ambitious and serious in intent than Center Stage, it deserves to be judged by a different standard.

#7 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 04:05 PM

Watermill, I also don't think Hytner is much of a film director (can't speak for his stage work, but in principle I'm against these "reinterpretations" of Rodgers and Hammerstein that turn the harmless kitsch of the originals into pretentious depressing kitsch that goes on longer, if you'll forgive me, glebb. :) I think he may be a gifted stage director who just doesn't have much movie savvy. He may acquire more, but I doubt it -- either you show the knack straightaway, as Fosse did, or you don't, I fear.

I'd forgotten that Altman was going to direct the new one. I haven't thought much of his recent efforts, but he at least is a genuine movie guy, so we'll see.

Old Fashioned, if your movie didn't succeed, the fault would lie not with you but with the Catch-22 that afflicts all biographical movies about great stars. It takes a great star to play one, but but part of what makes a great star is that person's outstanding and unique qualities, which are unlikely to be duplicated or even approximated. Even if you can find a person of equal star voltage, that person is likely to be so different that the concept doesn't work. And if you go with a lesser performer, you come up with Brolin and Clayburgh as....Gable and Lombard. (I'm not making that up.)

#8 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 04:24 PM

I agree those movies aren't very good, and you may very well be right about that production. I'm not a big Rodgers and Hammerstein fan generally, although I admire some individual songs, so that may be it.......

#9 Paquita

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Posted 24 June 2002 - 04:59 AM

I saw ''Centre Stage" when it came out in theatres and haven't watched it again since. What bothered me about "Centre Stage" was that it completely perpetuated ballet stereotypes. It's true that many of the 'characters' (i.e. rebel ballerina, gay male dancer) are common in the ballet world, but the ones portrayed in the movie were over simplified, 1-dimensional. It encourages people to categorize dancers, but few dancers fit perfectly into one of these pre-defined personas. (Our tendency to do this simplifying and categorizing thing bugs me a lot! It's a total rejection of individuality. And it's not just in films like these. Open a magazine and you'll see '5 types of guys who blah blah blah...' or quizzes to find out who you are- are there are only 4 options!). It makes people say "oh, she's one of those dancers. I've got her all figured out." Other than that, the unrealisticness of Jody getting into 'ABC' with poor turnout, and some of the cheesy lines, I agree that if it gets the public interested in ballet, great! And a lot of the younger dance students I know loved it along with my non-dancer friends! I guess it comes down to, what do we have to do to sell ballet to a large audience? Should it be dumbed down and infused with flashy choreography/costumes/music and sex scenes to attract the public and make money? Or does that devalue the initial meaning of the art?
I prefered "Billy Elliot", not for the dance sequences of course (which were disappointing), but for the story (not just the main plot). The acting here is much better than in "Centre Stage". (Jamie Bell was great, I thought). The ballet scenes aren't realistic though: boys don't wear ribbons, girls don't usually wear tutus to class, and auditions are quite different now. If you watch it with a ballet critic's eye, then it's a failure. However, if you watch it for what it is- a regular movie that just happens to be about ballet, directed and produced by people that aren't experts in ballet- it can be entertaining.
As for the notion that the movies film critics like are usually "not as entertaining". I have to agree and disagree (this is a little off topic). If one's idea of entertainment is non-stop action and special effects, then yes. But critics have to study a lot of film theory (or so I should imagine) and their tastes are more cerebral than the average viewer. They look for good acting (not just good looks) and cinematic technique and probably some originality (what hollywood lacks). After watching blockbusters all the time, it takes a while to train one's eye to appreciate the subtlety of foreign/art/independent film. But I think it's well worth it. Some critics however, can get overly pretentious and give a film 5 stars just because it is abstract and from Europe. Sometimes I agree with critics, but sometimes the films they praise are verrry slow (i.e. Cannes' camera d'or winner "Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner"- I really wanted to like it, since it's Canadian, but boy was it slow! Or another Cannes winner "Rosetta"- cinema verite style takes getting used to).

#10 Manhattnik

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Posted 24 June 2002 - 05:52 AM

It's a guilty pleasure, but the last time a group of us got together and watched the Turning Point, we all chanted along with Leslie Browne's fouettes, "one, two, three, FOUR!"

Hmph. And people tease me because I like to count fouttes. At least I pick dancers who are more of a challenge!

I liked a lot of Billy Elliot. It certainly had its flaws, oversimplifications, and mawkish sentimentality. But I can certainly identify with a character who repeatedly falls over while practicing pirouettes!

#11 glebb

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 08:46 AM

I have to say that I adored what Mr. Hytner did with 'Carousel' for Broadway, in the late 90s.

His version with choreography by Sir Kenneth MacMillan was among the top broadway productions I've ever seen. :)

#12 glebb

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Posted 23 August 2002 - 04:14 PM

I could never get through the movie 'Carousel'. The actors seemed directed to be too prim proper and air headed for me.

Hytners stage version besides being cinematic and amazing to watch, grabbed me with it's dark side of the characters.

:)

Wish you had seen it Dirac. I did not go to see the recent broadway 'Oklahoma' because I didn't think it would live up to the experience I had with Hytners 'Carousel'.

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 June 2002 - 11:24 AM

It's a guilty pleasure, but the last time a group of us got together and watched the Turning Point, we all chanted along with Leslie Browne's fouettes, "one, two, three, FOUR!" and dutifully the camera would cut angles every fourth fouette. It was a little like Mr. Owl trying to find out how many licks it took to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop. The only other part we loved nearly as much was The Fight. (There's only one, and it's quite something.)

#14 Calliope

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Posted 03 September 2002 - 11:51 AM

Someone should do a film based on Tanny LeClercq.
Heck, I'd pay to see just actual footage.

Billy Elliott, the end of the movie was a sellout.
Center Stage was far too many cliches looped into one movie.
The Turning Point, I can't get past Shirley Maclaine in a movie about ballet, something about all those past lives....
Dancers. Now that was a waste of celluloid.

Looking forward to Altman's, but given the ballet film preceding it, I don't have much hope.

#15 Guest_Alicia_*

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Posted 19 June 2002 - 07:55 AM

I would also like to add, that as much as dancers may pick apart little details of this movie, it was a good way to encourage a diverse audience to gain some sort of understanding of ballet. I have numerous friends at college who loved this movie because it contained all the elements of a good love story. At the same time, these friends had no clue what the ballet world was like.

Exaggerated as this film may have been, it definitely gave the uneducated audience some sort of understanding of what it takes to get into a company.
and....
At least I am not bombarded with questions like, "What does a dancer do when they graduate from college? Go on Broadway?"

At some level, this movie has alleviated stereotypes that were completely wrong and replaced them with some that aren't too far from believable! :)


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