15 November, 2018

My thoughts on Bohemian Rhapsody

Spoilers ahead! Proceed with caution!

Also note that it's possible my thoughts on the film might change over time as the newness wears off.

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It just wouldn't be a Queen project if the press and critics weren't being so fucking shitty about it!

I've seen the film twice now, and am still gathering a lot of thoughts on it, but I will say that I genuinely enjoyed it! I was extremely nervous about hearing about alterations to the timeline in places, but I was determined to stay optimistic and open-minded, and I'm glad I did.

The timeline stuff did annoy my pedantic/obsessed fan part of my brain, but it wasn't enough to pull me out of the film, and it genuinely did help the story flow the way films are supposed to. And while it helped them pack A LOT into two hours and thirteen minutes, of course they couldn't include everything. Had the film gone into even more detail while staying true to the timeline, it likely wouldn't even get to the recording of A Night At The Opera by the 02:13:00 mark.

As many hardcore fans have stated before me, I would have had no issue watching a 8-10 hour movie! But seeing as how it was supposed to appeal to a general audience outside the fandom, we have to take what we can get!

The other concern, thanks to Bryan Fuller jumping the gun and being a dick, was the possible straight-washing of Freddie. He was not straight-washed! Some folks are upset that the film doesn't get especially sexually graphic in general, but I feel like there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. The film was written through a straight lens, and that makes a world of difference than if a queer person wrote it even when the film has a PG-13 rating.

2. Brian and Roger (who are straight and had to approve the script) didn't want the focus to be Freddie's sex life. You see Freddie in the leather scene, you see cruising, men dancing, etc. in a montage. As a queer person, I didn't really feel cheated by not seeing specific stuff Freddie may or may not have done. But that's me. Had the film promised to go there, I would have absolutely been disappointed that it hadn't, but Brian and Roger had always made it very clear that they wanted the film to be respectful of Freddie's memory. And considering that they've had to deal with and see the press so often get invasive about Freddie's sex life instead of his music, I can see where they're coming from. Hell, there's even a really intense scene dedicated to how fucking obnoxious the press were! And also, the film is rated PG-13 in the US, so that alone would be reason enough for the film not getting explicit.

3. I've heard some people come back from screenings and report uncomfortable tension from straight people in the theatre every time Freddie would so much as look at another man. As obsessed with queer sex lives straight folks are, they don't handle it well when they have to observe any of it. But while the film doesn't go graphic or sensationalize anything, it's still unapologetic in what we do see, especially if you're able to read between the lines.

Anyway.

It's unfortunate that we don't get to see any of Freddie's boyfriends and more of Jim Hutton. I don't think it's because they tried to minimize Jim's importance to Freddie, but their relationship was still really new by Live Aid, which is where the film ends. It makes sense that we don't see nearly enough of him, but it's a bit of a letdown because I was really looking forward to seeing the chemistry between Rami and Aaron McCusker develop. I really hope there will be bonus footage on the Blu-ray going further into that. Maybe his other boyfriends were left out of the story to maintain Freddie's sense of loneliness and Paul Prenter's isolation tactics as well. I can understand that, and if it was also down to keeping the story moving, but I hope people who become fans through this movie will want to learn more about Freddie's dating life.

And real quick? The idea some folks have that Prenter shoved Freddie into promiscuity and club/bar scenes against his will is a bit much. One of the first things one learns about Freddie when going deeper than his music is that "pushover" doesn't come anywhere close to defining him. Prenter was definitely horrible and a bad influence, but to imply that Freddie otherwise never would have done any of the things he did is pretty disrespectful. Freddie was a complex human being with good and bad qualities just like anyone else. Don't fucking lie about the man just because parts of his life might make you uncomfortable or sad because of hindsight.

The more I think about it, the more I don't like how the film shows Freddie and Mary's relationship. In real life, they were both there for each other, and what I've read in books and seen in documentaries suggests that they had a really good balance. But the film makes it look like Freddie wanted to keep Mary all to himself without giving anything in return when that *probably* wasn't the case. I wish in general the film could have shown how generous and caring Freddie was without making him look like a chore to deal with.

In terms of Freddie's moves, I think Rami fell a slight bit short in being exact, but! I actually really appreciate that he threw in some of his own spontaneity. I feel like if he tried to mimic Freddie's moves exactly, hardcore fans would be able to tell if he'd be overthinking things, and that would have really pissed me off. I've seen videos of tribute band performers try to copy Freddie's moves, only to look a bit clunky and stiff at times, so I'll happily take Rami feeling the music and incorporating a bit of himself into it over something that won't look genuine. so huge props to his movement coach, Polly Bennett! I had also hoped to hear more of Rami singing. I think it's his voice on a bit of Doin' Alright and Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon, and Keep Yourself Alive, but I was looking forward to getting more than that. I really appreciated overall how they used Marc Martel's and Freddie's singing voices, though. I mean, obviously they couldn't NOT use Freddie's voice in good conscience, I'm just saying it would have been cool to hear more of Rami since he worked really hard on singing lessons.

But as AMAZING as Rami Malek was as Freddie, the entire rest of the cast should absolutely get just as much praise for their performances as well! Gwilym Lee, with the combination of natural talent and borrowing some of Brian May's actual clothes, had me believing that he WAS Brian (that he could mimic Brian's voice EXACTLY helped)! And while Ben Hardy couldn't reasonably mimic Roger's speaking voice, his acting is superb, and he hits some pretty high notes! And Joe Mazzello! I was so excited to see the actor from one of my all-time favorite films, Jurassic Park, play John Deacon! He fucking nailed all of it! The moves, the voice/accent, the outstanding one-liners! I hope actual John can feel proud of Joe's performance.

Unfortunately, Lucy Boynton, who plays Mary, didn't get to talk to the real Mary Austin before filming. I respect that Mary's keen on her privacy, but I just felt bad that Lucy could really only base her role on stories Brian, Roger, and Anita Dobson could tell her, and from interviews Mary had done in the past. Lucy did an excellent job, don't get me wrong! But I can't help but wonder if things might have been different had she gotten to actually spend time with Mary and have a first-hand account of things the film goes into. Especially getting to understand a bit more the depth of how much Freddie had meant to her.

Allen Leech as Paul Prenter did amazingly! Some folks had complained that he was a very cartoonish villain, so I was preparing to see a Snidley Whiplash situation, but his performance was very far from that, in my opinion. My only complaint about his role is that the film didn't really show the full scope of Prenter's gradual shift into manipulating and digging his claws into Freddie. As an abuse survivor, I personally get it and can fill in the blanks on that process, but in a general sense it was weird to see Prenter go from shitty personal assistant kissing Freddie's ass to suddenly having the ability to isolate Freddie while convincing him that he knows what's best. But then again, I think Brian, Roger, and Mary(?) only really saw what we see in the film, and from what I can tell, Phoebe didn't consult on Prenter at all, and I'm sure he would have had really good insight. I just hope that people who are lucky enough to have never been in it don't assume that people can only get into abusive situations because they're naive.

With all the attention to detail in the film, I was surprised that there were errors at all (not including timeline adjustments). The idea that Freddie wasn't working on Mr Bad Guy while also still recording and touring with Queen, the interior of Garden Lodge didn't look like actual Garden Lodge (Mary didn't permit filming at the real house), Roger's hair laying flat in the 80's, and his comment prior to Live Aid that Queen "haven't played together in years" when that wasn't the case are the only things I can think of at the moment. I'd have to watch again to see if there were any continuity errors, but overall I think Bohemian Rhapsody does well at keeping blunders to a minimum.

My only major complaint about the film is that Bryan Singer was given the director credit by the MPAA. From what I can tell, this didn't bother Dexter Fletcher in the slightest, but it's not my idea of a good time that a human trash pile like Bryan Singer gets all of the credit.

That said, the Live Aid performance gave me goosebumps! Brian's said on his social media that it will eventually be released separately and in its entirety, so I'm really looking forward to that.

But yeah, I very genuinely enjoy this movie, and I'm eagerly waiting for it to come out on Blu-ray so I can check out bonus features and pause scenes wherever I want so I can take in more details!

13 October, 2018

Advance screening on November 1st

Not to brag (except I'm totally bragging/not actually bragging and for real trying to keep it humble and remind myself that I'm super undeservingly lucky), I'll be going to see Bohemian Rhapsody in Downtown Boston on October 31 (in IMAX!), then November 1, I'll be going to see it in Gloucester with Gunpowder Gelatine and my friend George, and THEN official opening night on November 2 back in Downtown Boston!

There have been tons of screenings nation-wide so far, and 99% of the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but I'm still waiting for input of hardcore Queen fans everywhere else before I feel secure in that. I tried very hard to ignore one twitter post in particular, but it's been eating away at me, read something to the effect of, "The movie was nothing more than a glorified Wikipedia article"

...

While it didn't feel necessary to screenshot such an astute observation, I hope that person has since been schooled on what a biopic is and how they typically work.

Anyway! I thought that Gunpowder Gelatine performing at the November 1 screening would put the evening well over the top in awesomeness, but then I saw on Facebook that The Cap Ann Cinema & Stage in Gloucester, MA will be selling a *checks notes because I'm not a beer snob* "Raspberry Kettle Sour Ale" from Ipswich Brewery called "Bohemian Raspberry"!


Photo shared with permission

(I think Ben & Jerry's had a limited edition flavor with the same name at some point, but I don't think they'd have a problem with this)

I don't really like beer (I'm more of a hard cider/rum and Coke guy), but I plan on buying one for my collection!

06 October, 2018

RIP Montserrat Cabballe`

RIP, Montserrat! Thank you for sharing your fantastic voice, creativity, and passion with all of us!

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-45769808

03 October, 2018

Things I've seen Queen fans complain about since 1998

When the first Bohemian Rhapsody trailer dropped and there was all that mess about Freddie getting straightwashed, etc., it made me think about some stuff I've seen other fans complain about since I first started using the internet, and then I realized that that was about 20 years ago. So I've compiled a list of things - in no specific order because I've never kept strict logs - I've seen Queen fans complain (read: throw a massive tantrum) about since 1998 (most of the older examples are from the Queenzone forums, but also the OIQFC chatroom back in the day) (I swear on my Brian May-autographed copy of his book Diableries that I'm not making any of these up):

- Roger grew a goatee

- Roger shaved off his goatee

- Brian, Roger, and John didn’t want to do anything for a while under the Queen name without Freddie

- Someone suggested it might be cool if Brian, Roger, and John would occasionally tour as Queen, with Brian and Roger taking turns on lead vocals (1998-2000+)

- Someone suggested it might be cool if Brian, Roger, and John would occasionally tour as Queen with a varying lineup of different singers from the tribute concert (1998-2001+)

- Freddie, Brian, and Roger’s solo stuff doesn’t sound enough like Queen

- Brian and Roger would play too many Queen songs at their respective solo shows

- They didn’t sound exactly like previous Queen shows

- Brian and Roger wouldn’t play enough Queen songs at their respective solo shows

- John retired

- Someone said it would be cool if John would come out of retirement

- Manager Jim Beach did his job as band manager and executor of Freddie’s will and should be flensed

- Archivist Greg Brooks did ??? and should be flensed (I honestly have no idea what he did for some Queen fans to wish him dead. Please inform)

- Someone said they didn’t like a Queen song

- Someone said they loved every single Queen song

- Brian and Roger sang lead on some of their songs on the albums, which was apparently unfair to Freddie as HE was the lead vocalist

- Someone expressed an opinion on the Hot Space album

- Someone expressed an opinion on the Jazz album

- Some people said that Bohemian Rhapsody was their favorite song

- Some people said that Bohemian Rhapsody wasn’t their favorite song

- Someone tried to start a discussion on Bohemian Rhapsody’s possible meaning

- Someone tried to speculate who actually wrote which songs on The Miracle and Innuendo before Brian and Roger would eventually casually disclose in interviews, which was apparently grossly disrespectful of their song crediting decisions

- Freddie didn’t hang in there long enough to see advancements in AIDS treatment that would have probably kept him alive up to today, therefore depriving us all of more of his music, which was super inconsiderate of him

- Jim Hutton wrote a book about his life with Freddie and it made him some money

- Peter “Phoebe” Freestone wrote a book about his life with, and another about his life after Freddie and both made him some money

- Mary Austin hasn’t written a book about her life with Freddie

- Mary Austin inherited Freddie’s estate and surely must have been meticulously planning for that since 1970

- Brian and Roger eventually started working under the Queen name again supposedly without considering John’s feelings on the matter

- John had given them his blessing to move forward without him

- Queen have collaborated with musicians that are popular with people under the age of 30 on different occasions throughout the years (although I still agree that 5ive and Robbie Williams were not musically good choices)

- Someone had feelings that were higher than lukewarm about the 1992 version of Greatest Hits

- Someone suggested that members of Queen fucked around with some drugs here and there (just because they didn’t go the “Motley Crue” route doesn’t mean…)

- Newer bands and artists don’t sound anything like Queen (If I had a fucking nickel for every time I’ve heard this…)

- Newer bands and artists who sound a bit like Queen, which is why some Queen fans even noticed them to begin with, cited Queen as a major influence, so that makes them talentless, overrated hacks who are just trying to imitate Queen, and should be flensed

- A famous musician said they didn’t like Queen, or that Queen was just okay, so that makes them a talentless, overrated hack who should be flensed

- A currently popular band covered a Queen song (if it’s even a little bit different, it’s “ruined,” and if it’s close to the original, “it’s too boring”, or they’re “trying to sound exactly like Queen and how dare anyone ever try?”)

- Some people under the age of 18 are only interested in current pop music, and so they should be flensed (I totally used to be in that camp when I was a kid, but then I grew up and got over myself)

- The tribute concert hasn’t been released in its entirety (I understand why it hasn’t, but I do agree that it’s frustrating)

- Queen haven’t released an album with all new material since Made In Heaven or the 1997 track “No-one But You”

- Queen released an album with all new material in 2008

- It didn’t sound exactly the same as any of the albums with Freddie, even though no Queen album sounds exactly the same anyway (It has some good gems in there, though)

- Queen haven’t released more previously unreleased material

- Queen were only able to release more previously unreleased material if it was part of a compilation album because their label wouldn’t let them just release an EP, and people bought it

- Some people buy literally anything Queen puts out there

- Some people don’t buy literally everything Queen puts out there

- Brian stopped dyeing his hair

- Freddie has become recognized as a queer pop culture icon

- Someone did a Queen cover and posted it on Youtube

- Someone whose first language is not English did a Queen cover and posted it on Youtube

- Someone assigned female at birth and presents as femme did a Queen cover and posted it on Youtube

- Someone who was born past a time that they could have theoretically seen Queen in 1986 or earlier expressed a desire to see Queen’s current lineup in concert

- Someone who actually saw Queen in 1986 or earlier expressed a desire to see Queen’s current lineup in concert

- Stories and TV specials about Freddie focus and speculate too much on his personal life and final days because SOME people have the nerve to want to learn who Freddie was as a person

- Stories and TV specials about Freddie don’t have enough factual information about his personal life and final days because “it would just be really great to learn about the man behind all that great music, you know?”

- People taking a minute to be sad about Freddie’s death any time that’s not November 24th are somehow disrespecting Queen’s music (I still don’t understand this logic 20 years on. Please inform)

- The anniversary of Freddie’s death isn’t an internationally observed bereavement holiday giving license to miss work or school for the day

- The We Will Rock You Musical exists and some people like it

- Someone bought Freddie’s NYC apartment and didn’t turn it into a shrine for Freddie

- A tribute band is more focused on sounding like Queen than looking like Queen and should be flensed

- A tribute band is trying to look and/or sound like Queen but falls a bit short because of whatever constraints that are well outside of their control and should be flensed

- A tribute band sounds very shockingly close to Queen and has near-perfect costumes and mannerisms, but isn’t actually Queen, and should be taken down a peg or whatever via flensing

- Mary Austin has had to do stuff to prevent fans from writing on the exterior Garden Lodge wall because it was veering constantly into the territory of public property damage, and it was an ongoing hassle for her and city officials, but she set it up so that fans can still leave Freddie notes on pieces of paper that she’ll collect every so often, and the city will not be inconvenienced or polluted, so fans can still do SOMETHING to pay their respects, and that makes her an asshole who never actually gave a shit about Freddie at all

- Some people voted for someone other than Freddie in a Best Live Entertainer/Singer poll that was made just for fun

- A Queen fan said that their *most* favorite band was not Queen

- Queen worked with Paul Rodgers and some people liked it*

- People said it was awesome how much Marc Martel sounds like Freddie

- Roger agreed with them

- Queen are currently working with Adam Lambert and some people like it

- They made a biopic about Ray Charles, but not about Queen and Freddie (2004) (I too was a bit miffed because it didn’t seem like such a thing would ever happen)

- There were rumors about a planned biopic, and that an actor would be cast as Freddie (just the idea of literally anyone playing Freddie had some people foaming at the mouth)

- There’s now a biopic about Queen and Freddie

- An actor was cast as Freddie (it wouldn’t matter if it was Rami or literally anyone else, there are still people who are determined to foam at the mouth about it)

- The film and trailer acknowledge that Freddie and Mary Austin were involved in the 70’s, and that objective fact somehow counts as straight-washing

- The film not getting up to 1991 clearly means that the script is pretending that AIDS wasn’t a thing at all and that Freddie didn’t die from it, despite what the synopsis says, and confirmation from the cast in interviews

- Brian told Rami Malek that Freddie would be very proud of him for his portrayal

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What a wild ride it's been!

*One person on the Queenzone forums suggested that all "true" fans go out and buy Queen + Paul Rodgers tickets, and then burn them in a huge bonfire to "send Brian and Roger a message."

21 September, 2018

Advance screening in Boston

In today's episode of, "Zander Has Undeserved Luck in the Queen Department," I'm going with a few friends to see an advance screening of Bohemian Rhapsody in Boston on October 31!

I just... Why me?? I have a local Queen tribute band that I can see unless there is a damn good reason I can't go, I'm officially said tribute band's number one fan (their words!) (Gunpowder Gelatine. They're awesome and they're also awesome people), I have a rose that Freddie Mercury touched when he was tossing them into the audience at their show in Maine in August 1980 (this one landed on the edge of the stage, and my friend Tony managed to run up and snag it after the show ended), I've seen Queen Extravaganza, I got to go to the We Will Rock You musical (didn't like it, but it had been on my bucket list since 2002(?), I've met Brian May and gotten his autograph, I've seen Queen + Adam Lambert twice and had kickass seats both times, the movie exists at all, I can make plans with friends to go see it...

I have followers on my social media even though I only sporadically update my blog.

Any day now, my luck will dry up. It has to, right? I just hope I'm striking the right balance between enjoying it immensely and not taking it for granted.

23 May, 2018

Trailer explosion

So!

It has been eight days since the Bohemian Rhapsody trailer went online (the one from 20th Century Fox's Youtube account has 11,597,185 as I'm writing this, and I think it's safe to say that I've made a significant contribution to that number so far.

The day the film is finally in theaters cannot come soon enough for some of us, as evidenced by people posting wonderful trailer reactions (Sally's, and James', and Cam Deacon's (John's youngest son!!) being my favorites - but you should also check out the rest of their videos because they're awesome) but the 1:30 we've all seen so far has resulted in a couple shit storms as well. I'm doing my very best to avoid or at least greatly limit my exposure because November is six whole months away and I'm not interested in speeding up the process of my hair going gray, but I find myself getting pulled in anyway.

(I don't have a problem with having gray hairs, I just don't need to rush that process when I'm not even 32 yet)

Bryan Fuller, an American television producer, has decided that the film is straight-washing Freddie and completely ignoring the AIDS crisis solely based on that 1:30. I was prepared look into it to see if he had a valid point despite my disagreement with those assessments, but his words hold absolutely no weight with me. At all.

HE DOESN'T KNOW WHO MARY AUSTIN IS BUT FEELS LIKE HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT! THAT'S DAY 1 TRIVIA!

ETA - And there's also that shot at 0:32 of what looks like Freddie in the studio with a guy getting really up in Freddie's space (I'm not sure if that's supposed to be Paul Prenter, as they didn't meet until '77 and this shot looks like '75, but it looks like Allen Leech, who's playing Prenter, so maybe artistic licensing?). I can't usually tell when a guy is cruising me, but this is definitely not just queerbaiting (showing something in a promo that's intended to look queer to drive up interest and viewership, but then it's not actually queer at all in the context of the rest of that scene, and queer people have gotten their hopes up for nothing). Dude is coming ON to Freddie! But that's an easy clip to miss when you're too busy throwing a tantrum to pay attention.

The cast list on IMDB also shows a number of (not necessarily all!) men Freddie will no doubt fuck around with, or try to fuck around with. The jury's out, though, if that includes the guys credited as "Meat Packer One" and "NYC Meatpacker" because I'm honestly not sure if that's a euphemism or not! ... I'm also thinking "NY Clubber/Former Lover to Freddie" is supposed to be Thor Arnold.

(Side note: the question of erasing Freddie's sexual orientation is resulting in a really interesting and much needed discussion on gay/bi-erasure in general, compulsory heterosexuality, and queer history on Tumblr, so there's a silver lining in breaking down what those things mean, but the knee-jerk blowing up without a clue will never not be frustrating all the same.)

And as for "ignoring AIDS":

Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid – the biggest concert in history. But fate and past behaviors throw a devastating obstacle at him, one that forces him to confront then accept his own mortality. Pulling himself up from personal strife one more time to overcome the odds, the band puts on one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day. On Freddie’s terms, not the rest of the world’s. - excerpt from Queen Online's Bohemian Rhapsody page

There is a part of me bummed that the movie won't at least go up to the release of Made In Heaven, but I know in my heart that it cinematically makes sense to stop at Live Aid if you have to pick a stopping place sooner than what we're used to seeing in documentaries like Champions Of The World, The Untold Story, Days Of Our Lives, and The Great Pretender. And I also know that biopics tend to always have a text epilogue at the end just before the credits roll, and I'm sure that text will cover the highlights.

I kind of feel like even the Days Of Our Lives documentary glosses over a bit past Hot Space before focusing a bit on Wembley and Knebworth in 1986, and then glossing again a bit before delving into Innuendo, then the tribute concert, then glosses up to Made In Heaven... etc. etc. And while that specific period had a lot going on for all of the guys individually, I could see that not really translating well to film. Also, Brian's life in particular was a pretty big mess around that time (first marriage ended, his dad had died, Freddie was dying/did die, Cozy Powell died, and he struggled in a big way with his mental health and we almost lost him) and I wouldn't blame him for not wanting to revisit that period.

But anyway! I'm still excited for the film, with the full awareness that artistic licensing will be utilized just like any other film based (key word) on a true story. I've asked a number of my friends to save the date for the theatrical release so we can all go together, and I'm especially excited to see how Rami moves as Freddie in further detail on and off stage (a LOT is resting on his movement coach, Polly Bennet). Being straight, can he play gay well enough to convince me that he doesn't need to try too hard? Will he and Aaron McCusker have good chemistry? Another question I have is, "Who the hell is playing Phoebe?" because Google is failing me. He'd better be in the film, as he's definitely consulted.

15 May, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody trailer

IT'S HERE!!!! FINALLY!!!!!

brb - watching the shit out of this all day!