20. Evita

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Movie: Evita

Release Date: December 25, 1996

Director: Alan Parker

Starring: Madonna, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce, Jimmy Nail.

Tag Lines: “The Most Anticipated Motion Picture Event of The Year.”

Relevance: I was born and raised in a small city in Northeastern Pennsylvania. If you are familiar with the sitcom “The Office,” then you know the exact place where I spent the first eighteen to twenty years of my life. Scranton, Pa is about two and a half hours from New York City. Because of that simple fact, growing up I used to watch New York’s WPIX television station quite a bit. If you have ever heard me talking about Carol and Paula and the “chuckle patch” or singing this song: “This is serious (serious). We could make you delirious (delirious). You should have a healthy fear of us (fear of us). Too much of us is dangerous,” you can blame that channel. That is also the place that I first was exposed to ‘Evita.’

My sister and I were no strangers to Broadway thanks to my mom. She was especially a huge fan of musicals and her and my dad had seen numerous shows on the Great White Way when they were younger. She also had many vinyl recordings of many musicals that would get played quite often, especially when she cleaned (which was a lot) and baked. ‘Evita’ was not one that she either saw or owned. My sister and I heard about that through the power of television and marketing.

The musical ‘Evita’ opened on Broadway in 1979. It was a huge success and was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning seven including the coveted Best Musical. My mom and dad were already married with two kids by then and their New York City trips were fewer and more far between. I am guessing somewhere between 1980 and when ‘Evita’ closed in 1983, did I first hear those melodies thanks to a commercial for the show on WPIX. My sister and I used to make fun of both Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at that time, but what did we know. For some reason, the ads just cracked us up. Little did I know I would be singing along to a CD of this show in less than ten years.

In 1990, during Madonna’s “Blond Ambition Tour,” there were rumors of her being cast in the film version of ‘Evita.’ Unfortunately, that particular production never came to fruition. But for those few months that year I thought that was going to be her next big project. So like every super duper fan of hers out there, I ran and purchased the soundtrack to the Broadway show ‘Evita,’ the very same one I was mocking just a few years earlier. Oh, the power of Madonna. I was really into theater at that time in my life, so my collection of CD’s included many musicals, so what was one more. The minute I heard Mandy Patinkin’s voice, I fell in love. I completely immersed myself into this show and it became one of my favorites to sing along to any chance I could.

in 1995, while promoting her “Bedtime Story” single from her “Bedtime Stories” album, Madonna announced that she was cast as Eva Peron in Alan Parker’s ‘Evita.’ After squealing, I quickly resurfaced my Broadway recording of the show and started re-listening to it over and over again. I was super excited to say the least. I spent the next two years following every step of the story. Every magazine article, every news story and every glimpse of Madonna as Eva was front and center in my life. The biggest news during that period was of course the announcement that Madonna was pregnant with her first child. It only made this era of Madonna extra special for me.

In October of 1996, not only did Madonna give birth to her daughter, but she also birthed her next music single. “You Must Love Me” from the ‘Evita’ soundtrack was released to glorious reviews from critics. The Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice ballad also became a top twenty hit in the United States, not too shabby for a song from a musical. Madonna continued her hard work (in between breast feeding I am sure) in promoting the film and its accompanying soundtrack. The latter was finally released on November 12, 1996. Of course, I purchased it as soon as humanly possible. The Broadway recording that I came to love was now replaced. I listened to the movie version over and over again for the next two months.

The soundtrack was a huge success for Madonna, peaking at number two on the Billboard Album chart in the United States, eventually being certified quadruple platinum. I worked in a music store and thankfully the soundtrack was added to our approved in-store playlist. I listened to that music non-stop from the minute I woke up in the morning, on my way to work, at work, on my way home from work and I would even get some listens in my headphones before I fell asleep. I was obsessed. And I was more than ready for the movie to premiere.

‘Evita’ premiered in Los Angeles on December 14, 1996. It received positive reviews from critics which only intensified my interest in seeing the musical film. It received five Golden Globe nominations, eventually winning three including Best Picture, Musical or Comedy and Best Actress for Madonna. After its initial premiere, the movie had a very limited opening on Christmas Day, unfortunately playing nowhere around where I lived. I had to wait until its wider release on January 10, 1997. I was more than ready.

‘Evita’ was finally out for the general public to witness and I was first in line its opening day. The film, thanks to its nominations and general favorable reviews was a commercial success, and I helped contribute to that success twice. The first time I went to see ‘Evita’ I saw it alone. It was a rare Friday day off from work and I took advantage of it by going to check out the movie I had been waiting what seemed like a lifetime to see. I was married at the time and was expecting my firstborn son to come along any day, but I had to goo see ‘Evita.’ Priorities. So in a decently crowded movie theater in Syracuse, NY, I was finally going to see Madonna as Eva Peron. I knew I was emotional but I didn’t know how emotional until the first chords of music started. I burst into tears.

Besides making a fool of myself at the beginning of the movie, I more than enjoyed the film and was extremely pleased with how great the movie turned out to be. I loved everything about it, although no one including myself, was the least bit surprised. I was also excited because I knew that I would soon be seeing it again. The second time I saw the movie was a week later with my then pregnant wife. It was a date night film, dinner and then the movie. The second time through I was able to control my emotions, but again was more than entertained and thrilled by this epic musical on the big screen. My then wife enjoyed it, but not to the extent that I did.

As mentioned, ‘Evita’ went on to win three Golden Globe awards including Best Actress for Madonna. When she won, I fell out of the papasan chair I was sitting in. One could say I was super excited. Of course, I was equally upset when she was snubbed during the Academy Award nominations, although the film did garner five nominations, eventually winning one for “You Must Love Me,” which Madonna performed live during the telecast. Although my disappointment was quickly turned around when my son was finally born on January 28th of that year. You win some, you lose some.

‘Evita’ has remained one of my favorite modern day musicals of all time and it was purchased on VHS and DVD as well as Blu-ray throughout the years. Madonna is my queen, and this was her at her most royal-esque. ‘Evita’ is her seventh out of eight films to appear on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 215. Four Rooms, 177. Body of Evidence, 98. Dick Tracy, 94. Desperately Seeking Susan, 35. A League of Their Own and 30. Who’s That Girl for the other six). She has one more that will appear closer to 2021. I simply adored ‘Evita’ and everything surrounding it, especially Madonna’s radiant performance. I am so proud that it is the film to introduce my top twenty favorite movies.

Today’s Thoughts: “High flying, adored. Did you believe in your wildest moments all this would be yours, that you’d become the lady of them all? Were there stars in your eyes when you crawled in at night – from the bars, from the sidewalks, from the gutter theatrical? Don’t look down, it’s a long, long way to fall.”

I love ‘Evita’ and was very excited to sit down and watch it once again today. I have a cold that just won’t go away, especially the cough. It has been keeping me up at night. Despite my exhaustion, I crawled to the living room couch after everyone else in the house went to work. There, wrapped up in a blanket, drinking tea with a box of Kleenex (for my nose and the expected tears), I watched Madonna showcase her talent like never before.

Alan Parker’s brilliant direction grouped with magnificent sets, costumes, make up and acting make ‘Evita’ a grand musical. It is such a beautiful film. Mr. Parker was one of my favorite directors and I was saddened over the summer to hear of his passing. Madonna is gorgeous and breathtaking and is really stupendous as Eva Peron, despite what Patti LuPone thinks. (Don’t get me started on that c-word.) The rest of the cast is equally impressive. Jonathan Pryce and Madonna have one of the best emotional scenes in the film and I am so glad that the vocals were done live instead of synced. It made the scene that much more spectacular. Tom Hooper must have been watching this.

People both loved and hated Eva Peron. People both love and hate Madonna. They are both polarizing figures. I get that. However, if you are not a fan of either, you should still try to muster up some courage to watch ‘Evita.’ It really is an entertaining, moving and an incredible work of art.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “You Must Love Me,” Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tim Rice (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Darius Khondji (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Brian Morris, Phillipe Turlure (nomination), Academy Award for Best Sound, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ken Weston (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Gerry Hambling (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “You Must Love Me,” Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tim Rice (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Alan Parker (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Antonio Banderas (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tim Rice (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Adapted, Alan Parker, Oliver Stone (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Darius Khondji (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, Brian Morris (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Penny Rose (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Gerry Hambling (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ken Weston (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up/Hair, Sarah Monzani, Martin Samuel (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Production Design, Brian Morris (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner).

Ways to Watch: iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, DVD Availability.

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