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Laramie Movie Scope: Evita

Hollywood's try for a Best Picture Oscar strikes out

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 1, 1997 -- I wondered why "Evita" didn't pick up more Academy Award nominations than it did. Now that I've seen it, I know why, zzzzzzzzzzzzz, huh? Is it over?

"Evita" was Hollywood's big attempt to gather some awards, and it did net some Golden Globes, but it didn't get many Oscar nominations, and most of the ones it did get were in technical categories. The only nominations it received were for cinemaphotography, art direction, original song, film editing and for sound. The film's musical score wasn't nominated. Why? It's a big spectacle. A cast of thousands, wonderful sets, snappy photography, knock-'em-dead costume designs and some of the top names (Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) in the business worked on the music.

True, it's got all of that, but it has problems, too. Some of the songs, like "High Flying Adored," "Rainbow High," "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," and "You Must Love Me," are very good, but most of the rest of the stuff is mediocre at best. One scene, in particular, is very clumsy when Evita (Madonna) and Juan Peron (Jonathan Pryce). They try to sing a greeting to each other simultaneously, with each singer singing different words. That's a tough thing to do well. It falls flat in the film.

This film is essentially an opera, with nearly all of the dialogue being sung. While Pryce and Antonio Banderas (who plays a sort of one-man Greek Chorus named Che) give it a good try, they are not great singers. Madonna acts and sings her heart out, but aside from two or three good songs, there's just not much for her to sink her teeth into.

The film lacks dramatic tension. It tries to be a romance, but Evita's ruthless use of men to get to the top doesn't translate into romance. It is mere opportunism. It really isn't a tragedy either, because Evita basically got what she wanted out of life before she died. So she died young. Her tale is just not that tragic, especially compared to the lives of the peasants of Argentina. Evita and Juan are not Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps if the story had concentrated more on people, instead of the great sweep of history, it might have been more compelling.

The way I see it, in order to be an Oscar selection, "Evita" needed one of the following three elements. A great romance, a great tragedy, or great music (and great performers). It was zero for three, but you have to give Hollywood credit for trying. This is much more ambitious than any other 1996 film I have seen, so I'll be lenient and give it a B-.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)