Just a thought… When I’m dead I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance. [Freddie Mercury]
I’ve a movie review for you today, but honestly – what fun cinema experience doesn’t include a trip first to the snack bar?
I can’t lie – I’m a popcorn piggie. To be fair, I might not have a choice: it could well come from deep-seated emotional issues. When I was a kid, when all of us kids were either out or tucked into bed for the night, I could hear the telltale sounds and smell the irresistable aroma of popcorn emanating from the kitchen. Alone for so many nights while Dad was away in his job as an armed forces officer, Mom would enjoy some TV and a bowl of stove-popped corn.
To this day, even though we have a domed rotary popper and it does the job well, my favourite way is to use a pot on the stove with the lid off just slightly so that the kernels don’t escape, but the steam does. I’ve got it down to an art, if I do say so myself.
Popcorn memories go back even further in our family: when we’d visit my grandparents at their small home in Alberta, Gram would make – or better still, let us make – popcorn in a flat square black metal basket on a long stick on the stove. There was an iron plate over the gas burner and with just the right wrist action, you’d end up with the perfect basket of corn.
So it’s no surprise that when we go to the movies as we did this past Monday, popcorn is one of the big stars. Our friends Lisa Brandt and her husband Derek Botten are here from London, Ontario and we all wanted to see Bohemian Rhapsody.
What a great surprise when we got to the concessions counter. Rather than let each person order a large popcorn, the guy serving us gave us our free refill of popcorn on the spot! That was mighty nice of him. So we all ended up with a colossal popcorn (and leftovers to take home – instead of the usual three or four that end up in my bra). Fortunately, the snacks were not the highlight of the night.
A box office leader when it came out earlier this month, Bohemian Rhapsody offers a master class in casting. Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury deftly and believably, although to be very honest, until Mercury matures and eventually grows a moustache, Malek’s prosthetic overbite is really distracting. The protruding front teeth (caused by four extra teeth in the back of the singer’s mouth) feature so prominently in Malek’s portrayal that they take away from the character, in the opinion of everyone in our party.
But that’s really the only thing that detracted from the film, besides the licence taken with the timing of such events as Freddie’s departure from the group and his AIDS diagnosis. The latter is used as a way to add dramatic and emotional heft to the band’s Live Aid performance in the summer of 1985, although it’s believed Queen’s lead singer didn’t get the terrible news for another year or two.
Still, the performances are spectacular. Malek shares vocal duties with Canadian Marc Martell as well as actual Freddie Mercury tracks. It’s seamless and enthralling. My pal Lisa spent the second half of the film in tears.
Me? I was remembering seeing lead guitarist and Queen co-founder Brian May in person. It was during a special milestone performance of We Will Rock You and I was invited by Mirvish Productions to see the show. I set aside concerns about my usual early alarm and invited our producer Ian MacArthur to come with me. You can imagine the surprise we both experienced when, during “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Brian May himself stepped out to play the incredible solos we’d come to love in the original recording.
As we stood screaming, tears poured down my face. It remains one of the highlights of my life. I wish I’d seen Freddie, who died in November of 1991, live, but for now, I hope you’ll get a chance to see this film that takes you from the band’s early days to their soaring performance at Live Aid. If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed at the depth and heart of this band’s incredible songbook and of Freddie Mercury’s musical legacy. A real winner.
I’ll be back with you here tomorrow.