Sunday, February 17, 2013

Oh, Beyonce: Life IS But A Dream

Mrs Beyonce Carter is fabulous. There's no other word to describe her. She has an amazing voice, she's gorgeous, she's a wicked dancer, she's humble and soft-spoken, she's a talented songwriter, and she'll go down in history as probably THE best female performer of our time.

But the documentary....meh!

I wanted to love it. I wanted to be moved to tears, and motivated, and inspired to go conquer the world (GIRLS!), and I wanted to walk away from the TV (um, YouTube...no HBO for me!) and feel like I had a new found respect for the singer.

But...meh. I kinda feel the same. If not sliiiiiiiiiightly disappointed.

After all these years, and to hear that Beyonce was finally gonna let us the fans in, and show us a side never seen before. And there would be exclusive footage, and we'd see the baby's face, and hear all her deep dark secrets...no such a thing. This documentary "Life is But A Dream" that inconveniently aired on NBA All Star Saturday night (in the heat of the skills challenge and dunk off) was average at best.

Again, not because Beyonce is lacking anything as an artist. In fact, her artistry was actually the one thing I will walk away from this experience with more respect for. I could feel the artist in her. Her thoughts, her perfectionism, and her dedication to her craft. Whether you're a writer, or a painter, or an actress or performer, I think all artists can relate to that constant internal struggle of needing the right environment and series of processes to bring you to your optimum performances.

I got that message, loud and clear: she is the consummate performer, and this is why we all love her so much. This is why I drove to Detroit in 2004 to see her on tour (when they weren't coming to Toronto), and why I hit up that Ticketmaster at the crack of 10 o'clock last week (after two failed pre-sale attempts) to make SURE I copped some tickets to the July 21 date of her "Mrs. Carter Show" tour this summer.

She is the best at what she does.

But the documentary....whatev.

Like honestly, it just seemed like pseudo-artistic glamour shots of her "keepin it real" looking into the computer. A little bit contrived. Like I appreciated her attempt to get up-close-and-personal, and give us a behind-the-scenes look, which for the most part we did...but it still didn't come off like the most natural production in the world.

It was weird, having her narrate her story...a lot of talking, but still really not saying much. OK, so she gets sad, and she's human. Understandable. And I get that she wants people to see that she's not "perfect" and that she's flawed, and that she's just a regular girl like you and me. No really...she is...? But I kinda felt it was a lot of beautiful imagery...but not really going anywhere.

I'm not trying to hate, I just think it was much ado about nothing.

Don't get me wrong...the story of the miscarriage was terribly unfortunate, and I could feel her struggle "breaking up" from her dad's management. There were some moments of genuinely raw emotion and sadness. And there were moments of extreme joy and love (especially for ol Jay-Z), which probably made the most passionate scenes of the film. Her speech at Jay-Z's birthday dinner, and just the few seconds of watching them interact, it was clearly evident that this man has her heart, body, and soul. And rightfully so...they are a power couple if there ever was one. Rubbing shoulders with the Obama's and at the top of the respective games, Jay-Z and Beyonce are the bomb.

But the movie...um....

I wasn't convinced. I'm sorry. Like I said, I love Beyonce, she's fab...but the film itself was just weak. Could have been an MTV special, or a one-hour program on E! network. Not sure if it was "film" worthy, and premiere worthy. Although for Beyonce, I guess these series of confessions and invasion were pretty dramatic for her.

But we, the fan, have been watching this shit for years. We've seen celebrities exposed inside and out. Breakdowns, and divorces, and murders, and we've seen them hit rock bottom, and we've watched them pick themselves up and excel again. We've seen overdoses, and marriages lasting decades...or days. We've seen public heartbreaks, and public triumphs. Been there...DONE that.

So for Beyonce to be like: look at me, I'm human. I cry sometimes. I really and truly think it's great that she's FINALLY able to let us in. But on the dramatic scale or effective scale...kinda not really making a mark. Classy, yes, to keep the information still at arm's length, but also slightly anti-climactic, to say the least.

Back in 1991 I was addicted to Madonna's "Truth or Dare" documentary. I had it on VHS and watched it repeatedly. This movie to me was beyond fascinating. I loved the backstage interactions with her, the dancers, the backup singers Donna and Nicky, and yes...I could probably still quote 99% of that film because it has such an impact on me as a youngin.

Now we all know Madonna is as theatrical as they come, and the queen of imagery and creating personas and manipulating the press. We know this about her. But even in her semi-British-like accent, and her over-the-top antics, and her protests, and drama, and everything terrible yet wonderful.."Truth or Dare" the movie was still a work of art.

It was an act, but we knew this. We knew Madonna was putting on a show, and creating a crazy look at life on her Blond Ambition tour. We knew a lot of it wasn't natural, but that was part of its appeal. It was staged, but it was still sooooooooooo entertaining, and so authentically "Madonna."

I loved that movie because it painted a picture of life on the road, and despite the theatrics, there was something really human and likable about Madonna. The bond she had with her crew was so real. Like Beyonce, her performances were amazing, but the back story was also great. Getting through the tour, struggling with illness, and romance, and interpersonal conflict with team members...it was full of life and a never before scene glimpse at the world of a pop princess. There were other characters, and other points of view.

So to watch Beyonce talk about her creative struggles, and essentially how happy and blessed she is...don't get me wrong, it's lovely. I'm glad life is working out for her, and she deserves all of her successes because she's freaking awesome. But newsworthy...not so much. And she was the only one really speaking, so it really was almost just like a diary. It just kinda confirmed that Beyonce is incredible. Her life is fabulous. Sometimes she cries...but God always hooks her up in the end, and she's confident in that.

No "story" there. Again, could have been an hour episode on Much Music with equal impact.

Cute-as-can-be Katy Perry came out with a documentary "Part of Me" last year that I kinda stumbled into accidentally. THAT one moved me! I didn't know much about her, but I loved to see her footage, and her quirkiness, and her love for her fans, and her connection with those around her. I kinda missed that in Beyonce's doc...it was really just about her. Not the fans, or even anything else...just her need to be seen. And heard. Kinda.

It was heartbreaking to see Katy cry over her breakup with husband Russell Brand, and triumphant to see her still keep going for her fans and through exhaustion. There was something really tangibly motivating and inspiring about that documentary that I can't explain, but it made me feel GOOD after watching it.

I've seen it done well before. For a pop princess, it's always going to be easy to impress your fans. For the true Beyonce lovers, that documentary was easily 90 minutes of bliss, staring into her eyes and marvelling in all of her fabulousness. It was nice to hear Beyonce sing, my goodness! That girl can sang, I'll for sure give her that. And the clips chosen of her singing in the studio, at the piano, and even in the car were phenomenal. Sometimes all of the hype makes you forget just how incredible her voice is. Really clear. Really classic.

And on top of that, a treat to finally see that cute ass Jay-Z-looking little baby girl Blue Ivy. OMG. Adorable.

So don't get me wrong, I was definitely glued to the documentary today, just like I was semi-glued to that Oprah Next Chapter interview last night (while flipping back to NBA All Star Saturday, of course) where Lady O here and Beyonce...pretty much talked about the same thing. Not much. Real generic. No expose here!

I get it: what's not to like. This girl is a wonderful girl. She empowers women, she makes us wanna dance and bounce and her songs are really really unstoppable hits that make you feel GREAT about yourself, and life. Beyonce is a superstar, there's no doubt about it.

So I appreciate her directorial efforts, and attempts at cinematography...and then at the end, when she came full circle back to the tree, and the blue ivys and stuff I alllllmost had to stop an eye-roll. A little predictable, and a little cheesy at times...but she made her point. She's human! She's more than just a perfect performer! She is a perfect performer who also sometimes cries, and sometimes feels insecure, and talks to herself "in the computer" a lot. Just a regular girl...right?

Beyonce is as Beyonce does, and if she wants us to continue to believe that she's the greatest female performer of our generation by showing us this "groundbreaking" documentary, then dammit, that's what we'll do. The world is at her fingertips right now, and she has created a visual image of exactly HOW she wants us to view her. We don't even have a choice!

It essentially doesn't matter what we think, because she (as her own manager, now) has full control of her exposure, of her story...and frankly...she wouldn't have it any other way. So if she thinks this film is a masterpiece...it was written. Regardless of what the critics say, she will remain on top!

She has done a great job controlling herself and keepin' it classy over all these years, and as a woman, it's really nice to see her work hard, to see her stay relevant, stay in control, and really have the power and independence to shape her career the way she wants it to be. That is for sure commendable.

So despite the weak documentary that won't be receiving any Oscar nominations any time soon, all hail Beyonce, still! And I mean this was all sincerity. Good for her: she's making her dreams come true on her own terms. What more could anyone ask for?

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