First things first. If you're not a fan of The Princess Bride, (inconceivable!), then I wouldn't bother reading this book. Even if you're a big film bFirst things first. If you're not a fan of The Princess Bride, (inconceivable!), then I wouldn't bother reading this book. Even if you're a big film buff or really enjoy entertainment memoirs, I'd say skip it. This isn't some Hollywood tell-all or insightful exploration of the movie business. There aren't juicy anecdotes about celebrity misbehavior. There aren't big technical explanations about filmmaking. Instead, this is a big, gushy, enthusiastically nostalgic love letter to The Princess Bride and everyone involved in making it. It's sweet and sentimental and affectionate. It also happens to be an incredibly fast read. I finished in two sittings.
If you are a fan of what is arguably the most quotable movie ever made (and one of my perennial favorites), then this is really worth reading. I was touched by how genuinely every one of the actors and crew members involved in the movie seem to care for it. They love it, they loved making it, and they love that we, the audience, love it. So we get little anecdotes about the making of the movie: how hard everyone worked, how nice everyone was, how funny everyone was. How special the experience was. It's all very faraway, Vaseline-on-the-lens nostalgic. But that's ok, because fans of this movie don't want to have their affection tainted by stories of bad behavior and arguments and sullenness. This movie is magical to the people who love it, and hearing that the people who made it feel that way too is exactly appropriate.
Now, please excuse me. I have to go rewatch the movie....more
Parts of this were awesome, and parts were just ok. I got some really interesting tidbits about early American musicals in the form of minstrel shows,Parts of this were awesome, and parts were just ok. I got some really interesting tidbits about early American musicals in the form of minstrel shows, vaudeville, and burlesque. There was a really cool interview at the end with Stephen Schwartz, who explains the evolution of the song that began as "Making Good" and ended up as "The Wizard and I." And the parts spanning the Jazz Age through the Golden Age of musicals was riveting. I came away with even more respect for the talents of the immortal George Gershwin, and fell unexpectedly in love with Irving Berlin. (The man. Already loved the music.)
This lecture series was perfectly poised to be all of my favorite things. Nerdgasm ahoy. But what kept me from loving it really kept me from loving it. First, Bill Messenger, the lecturer, consistently says "thee-ay-ter." It won't bother everyone, but it absolutely drove me up the wall. Second, it's the way Bill Messenger sings. He plays piano to great effect, but when he takes the opportunity to sing portions of a song - very useful in understanding the progression of musicals - he does it in this weird style. He recites the lyrics in a loud, rushed way, and talks rather than sings, kind of like Rex Harrison. Rex Harrison if he were leading a sing-along. We get the music in the background, then the lyrics in this declarative style, almost like he's saying "this is where a singer would sing these lyrics." I'd rather have had him singing, even badly, or a professional singer than the perfunctory recitation of lyrics over music.
As information goes, though, I'd still recommend it. I'm no musical theater expert, even after sixteen discs of lectures, but I do feel like I have a greater contextual understanding of songs, shows, and theater trends. All in all, a win....more