In The Heights (movie)

Started by scenicdesign71, Dec 15, 2019, 06:30 am

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Quote from: KathyB on Jun 02, 2021, 10:53 amNo, the apprehension is due to being in a theatre where a mass shooting took place and 12 people were killed.

Your proximity to THAT theatre had gotten so entirely lost in the murk of my brain that I couldn't put two and two together.  Deepest apologies, I'm an idiot.


:-* :-* :-*
I actually saw one of the Star Wars movies at That Theatre in 2016 or so, and nothing happened to me, and although I admit to not feeling entirely comfortable with being there, the experience was... well... nothing happened.

P.S. I think the theatre has a good COVID policy because when I bought my seat, they automatically excluded seats to either side of it, so those are seats that can't get sold now.

But back on topic, I am still very much looking forward to seeing In the Heights, regardless of where I see it.


Jun 03, 2021, 02:01 am #17 Last Edit: Jun 07, 2021, 01:08 am by scenicdesign71
That thing of excluding seats to either side must be nationwide theatre-chain policy, it's what they're doing here too.  Front and back too, maybe?  If I were Sondheim, I'd have intuitively grasped the pattern of existing X's on the seating chart, mosaic'd around other people's previously-purchased seats, and thereby immediately deduced the "game" rules; but I didn't look that hard.

Quote from: KathyB on Jun 02, 2021, 09:47 pmBut back on topic, I am still very much looking forward to seeing In the Heights, regardless of where I see it.

Me too!  :) :-* ;D


Jun 07, 2021, 01:06 am #18 Last Edit: Jun 09, 2021, 12:22 am by scenicdesign71
17-minute "Behind-the-scenes" featurette with book/screenwriter Quiara Alegria Hudes, producer Scott Sanders, and cast members:


Cinematographer Alice Brooks:

Production Designer Nelson Coates:

Costume Designer Mitchell Travers:


Sneak preview of the entire title number:


And, at long last:

The question now is, can I wait nineteen more hours for tonight's screening, or will I give in to temptation and watch it on my laptop as soon as it drops on HBOMax three hours from now?  I'll undoubtedly watch it there at some point (probably more than once), but part of me really wants to stick to my guns and see it first on the big screen with an audience.  On the other hand, paciencia has never been my strong suit.


Wow! I have more to say than that, but I have some work I need to get done. :( I am very glad that I stuck around to see the credits for the scenic artists  :-* (which nobody else in the theatre did--not that it mattered much, because I think there were fewer than ten people in the theatre).


Jun 10, 2021, 09:18 pm #22 Last Edit: Jun 12, 2021, 03:15 am by scenicdesign71
Their loss: they missed the post-credits scene of
Spoiler: ShowHide
Piragüero's revenge! (do I smell a sequel/spinoff?) :))

But seriously: thank you, Kathy.  I was astonished and tickled when my name scrolled up -- I've gotten so used to working in television, where listing entire crews is almost unheard-of, that I don't even bother hoping for screen credit anymore.  But unlike TV, movies can afford to have endless credit-crawls -- and making it into this one, in particular, has me giddily happy.

What tickled me even more was that my favorite mural made it, briefly but prominently, into several scenes -- once even before the opening number: a smaller-scale re-creation-from-scratch (no digital printing involved) of three iconic "curler girls" from original street murals by the brilliant Dominican artist Evaristo Angurria.  Painted in just under a week by me and two other scenic artists, if I had to pick just one single project as my happiest and/or proudest professional experience to date, this mural might well be it.

That, and just seeing scene after scene that I had worked on in one capacity or another: street locations, interiors, the crazy gravity-defying fire-escape set.  In the end, sets/locations that I wasn't somehow involved with were a slim minority (including, sadly, the subway and the pool -- but the former was hellishly hot and the latter cold and wet, so maybe I'm not too sorry to have missed out on those locations).

I'm in too much of a happy daze to say much else about the movie itself right now... except that the dancing-on-the-side-of-the-building sequence is even more dizzily, breathtakingly gorgeous than I'd hoped.  Beyond that, I'll just say that A.O. Scott's NYT review (glowing, despite caveats) is dead-on, and beautifully-written to boot.  I will be watching this again (and again) on HBOMax in the coming days, and probably seeing it at least once more in the theatre too.  Tonight's screening was in an IMAX theatre, and I got there early enough to nab an ideal seat -- not a bad way to see this film, especially after fifteen months of watching things on small screens!


I loved, loved, loved it. I am saying this as someone who is medium-familiar with the music and lyrics, zero-familiar with the book, and who has impatiently waited a year to see this. Unfortunately, I had no idea of an audience reaction to any of the movie, because there were so few people in the theatre, and no others in my row--it was as if I was isolated and seeing the movie by myself. Which is not necessarily a bad thing (especially since I spilled my drink around my seat).There were at least a couple other people whom I could hear talking--I guess they felt that if there weren't other people there, they could comment on the movie as much as they wanted. :( Fortunately, they weren't all that loud.

I noticed the beautiful murals right away, maybe because I had been somewhat conditioned to pay attention to them. :)

It was--well--exhilarating to see the music and choreography come alive after only hearing the score before. I was wondering how certain moments worked on stage (I thought the dancing wigs would be terrific onstage), and also wondering how the fire escape set was constructed and how that number was filmed. When I was leaving, the usher asked me what my favorite number in the movie was. I couldn't think at the time, because I enjoyed all of them so much, but looking back, I would say "Paciencia y Fe," which is also my favorite song on the cast recording--but now I know what happens during that number.

I definitely want to see it again, although I don't have HBO Max, and my list of friends who (1)might be interested in seeing this and (2) are in town this summer is small to nonexistent, so I will probably go see it solo again. At a different theatre. (I was unnerved by, of all things, the standard movie announcement to look for the exits and remember where they are in case of an emergency.) The weather is supposed to hit triple digits next week, which might be a really good excuse to see it again.


Jun 12, 2021, 09:37 pm #24 Last Edit: Jun 13, 2021, 10:02 pm by scenicdesign71
There's been a common criticism (even in otherwise favorable-to-glowing reviews) about the framing device set on a postcard-perfect beach in the D.R.  I would probably have agreed with the charge that it's superfluous (and even that the kids in those scenes, serving as a surrogate audience for Usnavi's narration, risk becoming "oppressively cute," as one writer had it)...

I might have agreed, that is, until:
Spoiler: ShowHide

...the payoff at the end. (As A.O. Scott observes, the name of Usnavi's [dad's] beachfront watering hole is "at once a spoiler, a clue, and a key to the themes" of the film).

[Sidebar: those child-actors, including the little girl who played Usnavi's daughter, were sitting directly in front of me at the cast & crew screening the other night; they're just as impossibly cute in real life, and clearly very excited to see the finished film, but thankfully also very well-behaved].

Maybe I should have seen it coming, given Mr. Chu's well-established-by-then affection for movie-musical magic realism, but it actually took me completely by surprise -- despite having worked on or around most of the sets involved: the reconfigured "bodega boutique" showcasing Vanessa's creations, the beach mural, the "El Sueñito" palapa playing on both the real beach (Long Island, digitally Caribbean-ized in post-production) and the bodega-interior set.  But without having read the screenplay, I never fully grasped what all these elements were meant to add up to. (Nor did I try especially hard to find out, figuring that it might be classified information anyway, and that it would be more fun to wait and see; who knew that wait would balloon from nine months to twenty-one?).

In the end, Ms. Hudes's epilogue landed for me with such emotional force that I almost wonder whether the complainers had stopped paying attention by then, or whether they were just too jaded to take its full measure.  The final tableau of sunset celebration in the streets isn't exactly a jolt of brutal reality, but it's a far-enough cry from the fantasy of white-sand beaches and endless summer to bring a catch to your throat -- just as Vanessa displaying her designs in the bodega is beautiful and moving both despite and because of being such a distant echo of the glamorous life she had dreamed of.

The clincher is the kids' begging to "go in the water," threaded through the framing sections and finally granted at the end, when the water in question turns out to be not those sparkling Caribbean waves lapping at Usnavi's vividly-remembered beach, but just a quenching summertime hydrant-spray en el barrio.

Cue the waterworks:  in its insistence on honoring not just the "big dreams" (in Busby Berkeley Technicolor, gravity optional) but also "the little details" (photographed no less gorgeously, and with palpable love and respect) that dignify apparently humble lives, this movie touches a nerve and makes my eyes all leaky.


Jun 13, 2021, 02:59 pm #25 Last Edit: Jun 13, 2021, 11:19 pm by scenicdesign71
After several viewings of the movie, and granting both my built-in bias and my therefore immoderate excitement now that it has finally opened... I'm think I'm gonna withdraw my agreement with Mr. Scott (among others) that In The Heights is a great time (and perfectly-timed, re: cinemas reopening) without necessarily being a great movie. His review remains the loveliest and most perceptive of the many I've read, but I'm starting to think ITH might in fact be a great movie, deserving of major awards, of "classic" status, of academic study, the whole nine yards.

During production, I kept my growing excitement partly in check by focusing on the experience of simply being there: however good or bad the movie itself might turn out to be, it was clearly being made by exceptionally talented creatives whose passion, artistic ambition, and love for the material was infectious.  Even without yet understanding exactly how the fantasy elements fit into the story, they suggested an exuberant embrace of movie-musical spectacle; and [what very little I understood of] the plot changes intrigued me.  But, without reading the screenplay or being present on these sets during the actual filming, I just didn't know enough to get a really clear sense of what the finished picture would be like, never mind whether or not it would succeed (either artistically or at the box office).  Still, by the end of production I had an inkling that there was, at the very least, a non-trivial chance that we had been making something kinda special.

When the first trailer was released, I got goose bumps. Maybe "something kinda special" had been too modest a hope... notwithstanding my still-relatively-minimal knowledge of both the original show and Ms. Hudes's adapted screenplay, I started to wonder whether Mr. Chu's film might possibly stand as a worthwhile companion, on Mr. Miranda's growing list of achievements, to the Hamilton phenomenon.  Not that it would top or even equal that juggernaut, but that it might prove that Hamilton was not a fluke-ish brush with greatness by a writer who had never before (including with the stage version of Heights), and would likely never again, be touched by real genius.  The trailer left me only a little less vague about what to expect from the movie than I had been while working on it, but it suggested thrilling possibilities (as any good trailer, of course, is meant to do).

For me, the finished film lives up to that hope, brilliantly.  LMM may well remain best-known and -loved for Hamilton, and perhaps rightly so.  But the movie of In The Heights is an honorable and supremely graceful addition to his oeuvre, the furthest thing from a sophomore slump or an embarrassing bit of juvenilia brought to the screen as a vanity project or a cash cow -- all distinct dangers after such a meteoric rise as his.  And that, in turn, gives me hope that he might have more wonders in store for us.  Sooner or later, he'll presumably have to stumble at least once (and at this point, he has a worryingly long way to fall).  But I think this film should dispel any lingering concern (if any exists) that Hamilton was a flash in the pan.  It was almost certainly a once-in-a-generation (or -lifetime?) revelation; but what it revealed was indeed an original and important voice, not just a single lucky inspiration.

I'm sure the film (of Heights) will accrue a contingent of haters, if it hasn't already.  But my hope is that once the hype and the inevitable backlash both settle down, it might come to be regarded as LMM's second-greatest achievement (so far, anyway) -- by a not-so-very-wide margin.