Queen

The Film Playlist: Bohemian Rhapsody

Obviously a film title that is also a song title would have no trouble making The Film Playlist. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to write about a film for the playlist. The latest Freddie Mercury biopic released on November 2nd in the U.S.  happens to be too good not to include.

The film stars Rami Malek as the late great Freddie Mercury, frontman for the legendary British rock and roll band Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen from their founding until their performance at Live Aid in 1985. It also stars Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, Joe Mazzello as John Deacon and Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin. The screenplay was written by Anthony McCarten and was directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher (Singer was fired half-way through production and was replaced by Fletcher, though Singer received full directing credit based on DGA guidelines. Fletcher is listed as an executive producer.)

The film begins with showing the formation of Queen and Freddie’s transformation into the group’s lead singer. It shows how much Freddie loved and was inspired by Mary Austin. It also shows how the band landed a record deal with EMI Records and makes reference to the many hit songs Queen is still famous for today. The film also touches on Freddie Mercury’s struggle with his family, his sexuality, and his battle with AIDS, the disease that ultimately lead to his death in 1991.

After researching the film, I learned that there were many historical inaccuracies depicted in the movie. I would start listing them, but there are more than enough that I would recommend reading this article after seeing the film. I’ve also heard about a few more beyond that article as well.

Regardless of the historical inaccuracy of the Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought it put Queen’s music first, which is what I loved about it. Any time a scene regarding Freddie’s life happened, it seemed like the next scene would circle back to music. There were scenes showing the band creating songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “We Will Rock You”, “Love of My Life”, and many others. There were also scenes showing the band playing many of their songs live including the final scenes of the film at their Live Aid performance, which had me singing along to “We Are the Champions”.

The funny thing about Bohemian Rhapsody is that I never planned on seeing the film. I didn’t even realize it was actually a movie until it was already in theaters. In the first few weeks after its release though I heard a lot about it from many people. I decided I should see it after spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my little cousin building Spotify playlists that had tons of Queen songs on them. I’m glad I did because the film was incredible. Malek kills it as Freddie Mercury and it made me appreciate how many Queen songs I knew and how many of their songs are still hits today.

I knew after I saw Bohemian Rhapsody that I needed to write about it and promptly add it to The Film Playlist. It’s focus on music is special and makes the audience appreciate just how legendary Queen and Freddie Mercury are to rock and roll history.

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An Ode to Bowie

This morning when I woke up and checked Twitter I saw that legendary rock music icon, David Bowie, passed away at the age of 69 after an 18 month battle with cancer. I typically wouldn’t make a blog post about someone dying unless it was someone who I really loved or admired or who affected my life in such a significant way, but then something happened. The way I found out solved a 15 year mystery for me and it got me thinking. David Bowie has kind of been a subliminal figure in my life for a while, but especially the last several years. I would never label myself a David Bowie fan so to speak. I never listened to his music frequently, saw him as a personal cultural icon, or followed his life and career, but somehow David Bowie managed to silently sneak into my life at various times. So I figured, I would do a small ode to Bowie blog post as reminder of his subtle influence in my life.

David Robert Jones (Bowie) was born and raised in South London. He took the name Bowie during the start of his career so he wouldn’t be confused with the Monkees’ Davy Jones. He broke into the charts of the music world with Space Oddity in 1969 and released many more albums in the years following to much success. He even released a final album, Blackstar, as a parting gift to the world this past Friday. Bowie was known for his progressive, innovative, unique, and gender-bending persona. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Throughout his life he was involved with many aspects of music, but also acted in several films. He truly was an entertainment superstar.

As a music fan, I know and have heard David Bowie’s music before. I’ve heard “Rebel, Rebel” more times than I can count.  I, of course, know the song “Under Pressure”, which he recorded with Queen in 1981. I’m pretty sure most people in general know the song, can hum the baseline, and also confuse it with Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, which caused some legal controversy in the early 90’s. “Heroes”, however, is my most favorite Bowie song of recent years, solely for the fact that it was featured on the soundtrack of a movie based off of my favorite book of all-time, which counts for one subtle Bowie appearance in my life.

Two more of those times involves two music themed movies. One of those movies has already been featured on The Film Playlist series (The Runaways). The other will be featured in the near future I’m sure. Both films have references to Bowie. Thus, two subtle David Bowie life appearances. Besides casually seeing David Bowie t-shirts, hearing celebrity references, and occasionally hearing his music throughout my life (more subtle appearances than I can count), Bowie’s limited acting career includes a few life appearances. One of his acting roles was in the movie Zoolander, a favorite movie of mine in middle school. He played himself and was the judge in the famed walk-off  challenge scene between Derek Zoolander and Hansel. Another movie he starred in back in the 80’s was Labyrinth, a movie I’ve never seen before.

You’re probably wondering how this movie and David Bowie fit in with my life then, right? Well in middle school a girl in my class used to randomly sing this song “Dance Magic Dance” , which at the time I thought she made up because it was so ridiculous. For those of you who have seen Labryrinth, you now understand the Ah-ha moment. For those who haven’t, let me explain. David Bowie played the role of Jareth the Goblin King and sings this song in the film. It wasn’t until the very moment that I found out about David Bowie’s death that I connected the dots on that song. I read a tweet by a celebrity I follow on Twitter that referenced Bowie’s death, the “Dance Magic Dance” song, and Labyrinth. Finally, I made the full connection. Right before I wrote this, I watched a clip of the song in the movie on Youtube. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and shook my head for the entirety of the clip. It was the first time I’d ever heard the real version of the song this girl used to sing in middle school, which was more than 15 years ago. Crazy. Subtle Bowie. So Subtle.

Lastly, I had a Halloween party a few years ago where one of my friends came dressed as David Bowie with the classic Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt painted across his face. Both him and another one of my friends had an appreciation for Bowie and his uniqueness that translated into him being Bowie for the party.

I’m sure there have been other times Bowie appeared in the background somewhere in my life. It’s like he’s photobombed all these life scenes for me. He may very well continue to do that even if he’s no longer with us. So thanks David Bowie. Thanks for being involved in cool things and random things, music things and movie things. Thanks for influencing so many in a variety of ways. And thanks for being subtle yet not-so subtle at the same time. *insert pic of Bowie creeping in the background*