While I’m in the middle of finishing up a few blog posts (for here and other sites), I want to share a quick tribute to three men in the entertainment world who passed away last week. Each lost their battles to cancer, and each have had an impact (some more than others) on the movie fan or music lover in me.
To be truthful, I’m more aware of David Bowie’s contributions to music and film than I’m an actual fan – but it’s not for a lack of trying. He just falls into the category of “I haven’t checked out his work yet.” I’m not sure if his music would appeal to me… but I do know that The Wallflowers covered his song “Heroes” and other artists have sampled from or recorded renditions of other tracks of his. And his music clearly still has an audience. In the wake of his death, Bowie’s brand new album Blackstar debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Albums Chart, making it his first top-selling album in the U.S.
Bowie’s movies, though. That, I can say something about. The only one I’ve seen so far is “The Prestige,” and his portrayal of real-life inventor Nikolas Tesla (and his appearance in the film in general) was a pleasant surprise. It was cool and charismatic, a balanced blend of scientist and sage. He serves as a logical yet humane contrast to Hugh Jackman’s Robert Angier, an aristocratic magician obsessed with outsmarting his rival. If you want the above compilation of some of Bowie’s scenes from “The Prestige,” you’ll see what I mean.
Notice that I said “The Prestige” is the only Bowie film I’ve watched to date. Yes, I haven’t seen his most famous movie “Labyrinth.” And yes, I need to fix that. It sounds like it has a mix of fantasy, music, comedy, and weirdness I’d appreciate. (Plus, it’s a Jim Henson movie! With puppets and animatronics!) So, if anything, Bowie’s death is a sorely needed reminder that I should make time for “Labyrinth.”
You might remember him as Hans Gruber in “Die Hard,” Colonel Brandon in “Sense and Sensibility,” or the Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” But to many, including myself, Alan Rickman is most loved for his role as the coldly sarcastic yet deeply complex Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. And oh, did Rickman nail this character. He portrayed Snape just as I pictured him in the books: rigid, arrogant, and increasingly complicated as the series goes on. His strongest performance is definitely the finale, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” (The above clip is from that film.) Once Snape’s true loyalties are finally revealed, it’s hard to feel anything but admiration and sympathy for Snape, no matter how much you hated him for being so awful to Harry in the past.
If I had to pick my favorite Snape scene from the Harry Potter films… it’ll seem odd, but it’s the opening scene for “Deathly Hallows Part 2.” Rickman doesn’t deliver any icy dialogue or calculating stares here. Instead, it’s all about Snape’s silence, and the way he watches students march into Hogwarts. If you’ve read the entire book series and watched all the previous movies, you know everything that must be swirling through his mind then. And if you look at the subtleties in Rickman’s expression, you can see how much it’s weighing Snape down. It’s the perfect beginning for this film.
So, thank you, Alan Rickman, for not simply playing Severus Snape, but for understanding Snape so well and becoming him.
There was such a Twitter buzz about Alan Rickman’s passing that I didn’t find out about René Angélil’s (which happened the same day) until two days later. And in truth, René was more of a “behind-the-scenes” contributor than Rickman or David Bowie. But what a contribution he made by finding Celine Dion, one of my favorite singers from my childhood and teen years, and letting her unleash her powerful, emotive voice for all the world to hear. Her music was a constant in our household, and the first musical “bonding” my mother and I had. We saw Celine Dion together during her Falling Into You Tour in 1996 – and not only was she funny and engaging with the audience, but her voice was even better live than on CD. “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (see above) was one of my highlights from that night.
People might comment about the age difference or how Celine and René’s relationship shouldn’t have evolved beyond protégée and manager. None of that matters here. What’s more important is René discovered a singer who changed the music world forever, and now that singer is mourning the loss of her husband. So, René, thank you for bringing us Celine and reminding us that music – and voice – can truly be magic.
Rest in peace, gentlemen. And dear readers, let’s hope we can one day find a cure for cancer so that other people, including our loved ones, don’t have to suffer as other cancer victims have.