Mervin Malone
This is a place — a BLOG, if you will — about music, film, culture, the arts and whatever else co-exists and generates popular culture. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Review: Madonna - "The Confessions Tour"

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In 2006, Madonna released her first live CD recording, Im Going to Tell You a Secret, which was accompanied by a bonus DVD documentary of the same name. The CD – more of a live music sampler than an outright concert retrospective – boasted songs from Music, American Life and Confessions on a Dancefloor. While certainly entertaining, I'm Going to Tell You a Secret left a bit more to be desired in the way of consistency – namely a more complete rendering of Madonna's live-show prowess. More, the bonus DVD was obviously more directed at longtime Madonna-fans than casual admirers. Now – less than a year later – Madonna delivers a more complete live CD/DVD set highlighting one of her finest concerts to date.

The Confessions Tour is immaculately packaged (no pun intended) in a digi-pak and documents the singer's highly-successful show of the same name. The set is culled from her Augest 13, 15, and 16, 2006 concert performances at Wembley Arena in London and is the official DVD release of Madonna: The Confessions Tour Live From London, which originally aired Stateside on NBC on November 22, 2006 (and was re-broadcast on Bravo on December 29, 2006). The bonus CD boasts 13 live tracks and/or highlights (eight from her 2005 Confessions on a Dancefloor Album). Also, classic songs like "Like a Virgin", "Erotica" and "Lucky Star" get live makeovers. Indeed, "Like a Virgin" – with its contemporary electro re-rendering – never sounded so fresh. Another standout – "Music" – is given the campy mash-up treatment as it is re-spun with the Trammps' immortal "Disco Inferno". And, who could know that "Lucky Star" could be made to effortlessly segue into "Hung Up"? The true meat of this live collection resides not on the CD, however, but on the DVD.

The Confessions Tour is one of Madonna's best concerts. Sure, the woman's reputation for live performance is legendary, but the Confessions Tour Live From London is singularly exceptional based on the fact that Madonna's trademark penchant for controversy is here – more a product of public misunderstanding than the Maddy's intent. Indeed, the show's most poignant (and controversial) moment comes when she [Madonna] performs her seminal classic, "Live To Tell"; Madonna performs this sequence on a metallic, makeshift cross wearing a crown of thorns – an obvious reference to Jesus. Near the end of the performance, a background screen flashes passages from the book of Matthew wherein Christ encouraged philanthropy, love and kindness interspersed with images of suffering in Africa. This sequence has been massively misinterpreted by a segment of [religious] Americans. Madonna's conservative detractors – of which there are many – have totally misread this sequence to be an attempt at controversy, as well as a blaspheming of Jesus Christ, when in fact Madonna seems to be trying to convey a sense of urgency concerning the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Perhaps these conservative "Christians" would be more validated if they dedicated their time to pursuing an end to poverty, racism and war – not to mention ending their obssession with tax breaks for the wealthy – rather than badgering Madonna about her artistic choices.

When all is said and done, The Confessions Tour DVD/CD set is a must for diehards and casual admirers alike. Madonna-faithful will love the CD, but the DVD will most certainly bring in those less-familiar with the star and affirm once and for all why this woman's shows continue to break attendance records worldwide!

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Posted at 04:09 pm by Mervin Malone
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
And, the Oscar (nomination) Goes to...

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The nominations for the 79th Annual Academy Awards were announced early Tuesday morning. Dreamgirls – favored by critics and the public alike for Oscar nods  – did not disappoint with an impressive eight nominations. However, the musical failed to garner nominations in two of the larger categories, those being best picture and best director. As predicted, Dreamgirls did earn nominatiions for two of its performers – Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson – both of whom were nominated in supporting roles.

The film, Babel, came in a close second to Dreamgirls with seven nominations and did earn a best picture nomination. Curiously, the film [Babel] only earned two nominations for its performers – Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuch – both in the category of supporting actress. The film's major stars – Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett – received no nominations (though Blanchett earned a nod for her work in Notes On a Scandal). Likewise, The Departed – starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon – earned best picture and best director nominations, but failed to garner any acting honors for its major stars (though Mark Wahlberg was nominated in the supporting actor category). And United 93 earned a best director nomination for Paul Greengrass; for this honor, Greengrass is pitted against the likes of Martin Scorsese for the aforementioned 'Departed, Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima and Stephen Frears for The Queen.

In the category of best actor, Forest Whitaker and Peter O'Toole are nominated for their roles in The Last King of Scotland and Venus, respectively. And Helen Mirren and Judi Dench were among the best actress nominees for their work in The Queen and Notes on a Scandal respectively.

When all is said and done, this year's Oscar nominations affirm the presitgious award organization's penchant for surprise – never more so than in the Academy's snubbing of Dreamgirls in the best picture and best director categories.

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Posted at 12:53 pm by Mervin Malone
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