Second Helping: SPARKLE

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I decided that I really wanted to be able to compare and contrast the 1976 classic movie Sparkle with this much anticipated remake featuring the late Whitney Houston. So the night before the preview screening, I tried to stream the original on Netflix, but they didn't have it. 

I found it through VUDU movies, but my internet was too slow to support the player. So I packed up my laptop at 11pm, and went to watch it using the Manayunk Diner's WiFi; which was kinda fun; the late night diner atmosphere rather lent itself to the setting of gritty 1950's Harlem.  But whatever you do, do not opt for the double layer chocolate cake - so dry, Sparkle could have used it to mop up her river of tears after Sticks left town.

For anyone unfamiliar, Sparkle can easily be confused with DreamGirls, or even, Mariah Carey's 2001 bomb at the box office, Glitter.  But Sparkle came first. It is the story of 3 choir singing sisters (siblings) who for a brief period of time become singing sensations in Harlem (1958), but are brought low by an abusive gangster and the pitfalls of reaching for a dream.

The oldest, called Sister (Lonette McKee (1976) / Carmen Ejogo (2012)) is sassy, sexy, beautiful, and opportunistic. 

In the middle is Delores (Dwan Smith (1976) / Tika Sumpter (2012)) she's the smartest of the sisters, and her part is enhanced quite a bit in the updated version. In both movies this sister gets the least attention, mainly because she's the only one of the three with darker-skin.

The youngest is Sparkle (Irene Cara (1976) / Jordin Sparks (2012)) She's the real singer in the family, sweet, a little shy, and really looks up to Sister. The updated Sparkle is also an aspiring songwriter, creating the hits the girls sing.

By the way, Jordan Sparks has a great deal more presence and singing chops than Irene Cara.

I'm sure many bloggers will be making a play on the names Sparks & Sparkles, so I won't

The girl's mother (Mary Alice (1976) / Whitney Houston (2012)) is the character which changes the most. Not only to accommodate a solo song for Whitney; but Whitney's character is far stricter with her daughters. And more importantly, the socio-economic structure is changed for the family, by making this mother a former performer and current dressmaker, instead of a maid.

I don't want to give all the differences away, but the male characters have interesting changes too (Derek Luke, Omari Hardwick & Mike Epps) let's just say screenwriter, Mara Brock Akil (creator Girlfriends & The Game) was generous with her pen. Which is not a criticism, 90-95% of her changes are to the betterment of the story. She fleshes out characters, relationships and motives lacking in the original.

What is to the detriment, speaks more to Akil's husband, the film's director Salim Akil.  Not only do we lose the grittier, darker, more interesting tones; but he was not successful in maintaining an authentic late 1960's Motown feel for the movie.  Actually, both husband and wife needed to work on keeping the film from becoming too contemporary in dialogue, looks and feel. Costuming - and the wardrobe changes are fabulous! -  are not the only elements that go into making a period piece.  I don't know what all the elements are, but somebody needed to consult with the folks on Madmen who understand recreating time periods to a T!

Still, on the whole, I really enjoyed the movie and recommend seeing it in the theater. No complaints from me as far as the music content is concerned.

Here's a RollingStone mini-review on the Sparkle Soundtrack:

By Jody Rosen
July 31, 2012
The headline-grabbers here are two Whitney Houston songs, her last-ever recordings. They're also this soundtrack's low points. "Celebrate" is forgettable disco pop, and on the gospel standard "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," Houston sings – and croaks – in a voice octaves lower than in her prime. At times the song has a ravaged magnificence, but mostly it's painful. Otherwise, though, this is a delightful record, from Cee Lo's soul-funk "I'm a Man" to Jordin Sparks' torch-y "One Win." Sparkle revives four soul chestnuts and includes three originals written and produced by R. Kelly. It's the second-most-satisfying retro-soul album of the year – after Kelly's Write Me Back. Read more
Sparkle Opens in Theaters Friday, August 17, 2012

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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