TIME Music

Alan Menken Tells the Stories Behind Your Favorite Disney Classics

attends a PBS SoCal Holiday Celebration with David Foster and Friends at Dolby Theatre on December 10, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Composer Alan Menken attends a PBS SoCal Holiday Celebration on December 10, 2014 in California. Mathew Imaging—2014 Mathew Imaging

Composer gives background to iconic tunes from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and more

If you’ve ever loved a Disney song, chances are 65-year-old Alan Menken wrote it. With Oscars, Grammys, and Tonys to his name, he’s now set his sights on TV with ABC’s medieval musical comedy Galavant (which concludes Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC). EW asked the legend to recount the stories behind some of his most iconic songs.

“Part of Your World,” The Little Mermaid (1989)
“There had never really been an ‘I want’ number before in a Disney film. Subsequently everybody at Disney would ask, ‘Where’s our “I want” moment?!’ But it’s that important moment where you engage the audience in the quest of the central character so you know what you’re rooting for. We jokingly used to call this one ‘Somewhere That’s Wet,’ like ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ [from Little Shop] but underwater. My favorite part is that motif [that sounds like] water flowing, which beautifully set up the tone and became the central theme. We knew the whole score was going to a Caribbean place, so we toyed with the idea of reggae [for the rest], but we landed on calypso because it’s poppier and more interesting. Sebastian is more of a Trinidadian crab than Jamaican, certainly more of a Harry Belafonte type.”

“Belle,” Beauty and the Beast (1991)
“The story behind this is that Howard Ashman was HIV-positive and wasn’t telling anybody—he had been very quiet. And here we had written this crazy seven-minute opening number that was much more ambitious than anybody had asked for, and I remember his fear [about everything] in that moment. I remember Howard was very, very reluctant to send it out, thinking that we were going to be laughed at. He delayed sending it for two days. Finally, of course, we sent it, and Disney loved it. You didn’t open an animated movie with a seven-minute number, but it redefined the form. We wanted to keep it very classical Mozart, very She Loves Me, with a quiet opening—’Little town, it’s a quiet village…’ And then it explodes. ‘Bonjour!’” [Beauty and the Beast was dedicated to Ashman, who died eight months before the film’s release.]

Read the rest of the interview, including stories about songs in Aladdin and Pocahontas, at EW.com.

TIME Television

You Can Stream Transparent for Free on Saturday

(L-R) Actors Jeffrey Tambor, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffmann from 'Transparent' pose for a portrait during 2014 Television Critics Association Summer Tour on July 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
(L-R) Actors Jeffrey Tambor, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffmann from 'Transparent' pose for a portrait during 2014 Television Critics Association Summer Tour on July 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Maarten de Boer—Getty Images

Amazon announced today that it will stream the show in honor of its Golden Globes success

There will be no more excuses for not having seen Transparent come this weekend.

In honor of the show’s success at the Golden Globes, Amazon announced today that it will stream for free this coming Saturday via the Amazon Instant Video app or Amazon.com/Transparent.

The Golden Globes exposure has brought viewers to Jill Soloway’s show about Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), who comes out as trans, and her family. The average number of Amazon customers watching the show has grown 250 percent since it won Best TV Comedy and Tambor won Best Actor in a TV Comedy, according to Amazon Studios.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME politics

Watch Larry Wilmore Nail the Secret of Obama’s State of the Union Speech

"Barry got his groove back"

When reviewing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech on Wednesday’s episode of The Nighty Show, host Larry Wilmore noted with glee that “Barry got his groove back.”

The President touted job growth, deficit cuts, and a plan to go to Mars. But why, Wilmore pondered, was Obama so positive? \

“Doesn’t he realize he just lost an historic election, both houses, by historic margins?” he asked. “Even his own party was deserting him? Doesn’t Obama know he won’t be able to get anything done in his last two years?”

What could possibly going on in Barry’s brain?

“Oh wait!” Wilmore exclaimed. “He doesn’t give a f–k. No wonder he’s throwing Mars at us, man. Why not Jupiter, Obama. Jupiter’s got more moons!”

See the full clip below.

The Nightly Show
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TIME Music

What Will Katy Perry Perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show?

Katy Perry "The Prismatic World Tour" - Washington D.C.
Katy Perry performs onstage during "The Prismatic World Tour" at the Verizon Center on June 24, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

From "Firework" to "Roar," there's a lot to choose from

The Super Bowl halftime show is the biggest promotional opportunity an artist can get — as covered in TIME’s feature on the evolution of the franchise. Year after year, artists have consistent sales bumps and less quantifiable boosts to their prestige after all of America watches their act. And yet stars use the opportunity in radically different ways. In 2013, Beyoncé ambitiously performed nine of her songs, racing through the eras of her career; Bruno Mars, in 2014, pulled off a more manageable four. (Five if you count his supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their “Give It Away,” six if you count the children’s choir introducing him.)

This year’s act, Katy Perry, has — over the course of her three major albums — strung together enough hits to make choosing a set reasonably difficult, but has a short enough career that making herself seem like a credible successor to past halftime acts Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney will be imperative. What will she sing? What will she snub? Here are a few predictions.

“Roar”: In. Perry has said she believes “maybe there is no better person” for the Super Bowl in a year marked by scandal over domestic abuse in the NFL, thanks to the particular inspirational quality of songs like “Roar.” If only the Jacksonville Jaguars were playing, this would be even more perfect!

“California Gurls”: Out. To be clear, “Gurls” is one of Perry’s signature hits. But it’s a little too specific, perhaps, for a broadcast that reaches the widest audience of the year. Also, there’s only so much time in the broadcast for a performance that’s meant to touch on each era of Perry’s career, and when it comes to tracks off the Teenage Dream album, there are better options, like the sunnily appealing title track, or like…

“Firework”: In. This seems obvious, particularly as a show-closing moment. It’s already Perry’s signature song even before one considers that there are often pyrotechnics in Super Bowl halftime shows. On-the-nose? Sure, but this is hardly a moment for subtlety. On the other hand, too-explicit material presents a conundrum.

“I Kissed a Girl”: Out. The NFL looks at their halftime performer as a brand ambassador of sorts, and it’s not hard to expect that Perry’s act will be more allusive than blatant, meaning that her 2008 breakout hit may be a tough sell for a league looking to focus on the sunny. (Perry herself has moved beyond the particularly lazy provocations of this song, so it’s hard to imagine her really pushing to sing it.) But given the Super Bowl’s power to sell albums, there’s a need for Perry to include some of her earliest material.

“Hot N Cold”: In. That’s why Perry may want to include the only other big hit from her 2008 One of the Boys album. It’s a little less recognizable than hits like “Roar” and “Firework” and less of a piece with their uplifting messages, so maybe it could be interpolated with another single. Still, it’s likely that Perry will pay homage to her history.

“Dark Horse”: In. She’ll also need to salute the Prism era: Her most recent album did not produce an unbroken string of hits (Perry has said she is passionate about ballad “Unconditionally,” but it’s hard to imagine her putting it in front of some 110 million viewers after the market didn’t make it into a “Roar”-sized hit). But the 2013 record did give her what was arguably her biggest song ever. Performing “Dark Horse,” a world-beating recent hit, makes Perry look credible; it also fits what we know about the act. Perry has said there will be “distinct worlds” in her act, and “Dark Horse,” which she’s performed at the 2014 Grammys as a witch burning at the stake and performed in the music video as Cleopatra, lends itself to visual metaphor. Also, with its break for a rap verse, the song provides an ample opportunity for Perry to welcome a second guest.

“American Woman”: In. The first announced guest is Lenny Kravitz, who’ll presumably be tapped to do more than support Perry on guitar. It’s about as likely that he’ll sing this while Perry vamps and poses as that he’ll sing “Fly Away” while Perry straps onto some sort of trapeze apparatus, but in keeping with the broadcast’s celebration of obviousness, give the edge to the song with “American” in the very title.

New Perry material: Out. The Super Bowl has not traditionally been as hospitable to brand-new material as it has for back catalogs: It’s easier to remind audiences of songs they’ve liked but never bothered to buy than it is to introduce a new song. (Neither Beyoncé nor Bruno Mars, the past two acts, bothered to play any new songs.) Sorry to anyone who’s hoping for a Prism reissue with new songs: This set is likely to be about Perry’s past legacy. Perry can emerge from the big game a champion—she already has the raw materials—so why should her playbook include any risks?

Predictions:

  • “Roar”
  • “Teenage Dream”
  • “Dark Horse”
  • “Part of Me”/”Hot N Cold”
  • “American Woman” (duet with Lenny Kravitz)
  • “Firework”
TIME movies

The Boy Next Door Is the Bad Movie Hollywood Needs Right Now

Jennifer Lopez's new sexual thriller is clunky and ridiculous — but it's a rare movie about women

On its face, The Boy Next Door is a perfect example of the very sort of movie that’s dumped in January. It looks cheaply made and has a plot hinging on provocation and contrivance far more than good sense or good taste. It’s, shockingly, the schlockiest possible iteration of the elevator pitch, “What if Jennifer Lopez had a one-night stand with her teenage neighbor, and then he got violent?” It’s hard to decide the movie’s best screamer: Is it that Lopez teaches “AP Classics”? That her paramour-turned-stalker knows how to remotely control printers, and uses this superpower to humiliate her? Any of the jaw-droppingly lewd come-ons in the film’s trailer? The Boy Next Door is not meant to be good. But its release should be applauded nonetheless.

Let’s be clear: It’d probably be a victory for Hollywood if the projects it gave to actresses as charismatic as Lopez were better than The Boy Next Door. But many, many movies are as bad or worse; that is, The Boy Next Door is not exceptional in a film landscape where there have been three Takens. The thing is, most cheaply made bids at box-office success star Liam Neesons, not Jennifer Lopezes. What makes The Boy Next Door important is its subject matter and casting: It’s an explicitly commercial film focused on the (bizarrely unrealistic) life of a middle-aged woman.

And for that reason, it couldn’t come at a better moment. At last year’s Academy Awards, Cate Blanchett, accepting the Best Actress prize, exhorted Hollywood to do better by its women, decrying “the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money.” A year later, the movie industry hasn’t gotten the memo. While the Best Actor nominees, drawn from a competitive field, each come from movies that met with wide acclaim, four of the five Best Actress nominees performed in movies that received no nominations in other fields, as if the Academy couldn’t figure out any way to honor a woman’s story, or maybe thought there weren’t enough stories about women worth honoring. (The fifth Best Actress nominee, by the way, was Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything — a movie about the life of Stephen Hawking in which she plays supportive wife.)

This phenomenon makes a sort of sense: There are far more movies made about the lives of men than about the lives of women, from the arthouse to the Marvel universe (where the announcement of a standalone female superhero movie had been very slow in coming). But it’s truly strange to witness how those films about women that are made get marketed. Julianne Moore’s Oscar bid Still Alice, for instance, is a viscerally moving film about the onset of illness, paced like an old-fashioned weepie and based on a best-selling novel. What failure of imagination led its studio to give it a tiny release, in New York and Los Angeles, rather than the major rollout that could have turned it into a genuine hit? If Jennifer Aniston and her studio were as confident in Cake as their zealous (and ultimately unsuccessful) Oscar Best Actress campaign implied, why did they hide the movie from the public? It’s still not in theaters, despite Aniston’s many interviews about how hard she worked to transform herself. The only actress this year who managed to merge critical acclaim, commercial success, and Oscar attention was Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, in which she plays a woman who habitually fakes her own rape in order to get back at men. That’s a particularly disturbing vision of womanhood — but it’s the one that Hollywood was okay with endorsing at the loudest possible volume.

Say this for The Boy Next Door, a movie in absolutely zero danger of getting Lopez an invitation to the 2016 Oscars: It’s actually very kind to her character. Every action Lopez’s character undertakes is given clear justifications. She sleeps with her neighbor, who’s a student at her school, but it’s at a moment of extreme vulnerability as her marriage collapses, and the “high school student” is 19 (and looks 30). She then, quite rationally, explains over and over that she made a very bad mistake and wants to calmly move forward with her life; meanwhile, her neighbor puts her through hell. No film with this much violence against its female characters could credibly be called feminist, but Lopez gets every opportunity to defend herself, both against charges of child endangerment and charges of being too intellectual for her own good. (J. K. Rowling, she tells a callous date, studied classics. And she’s a billionaire.) The Boy Next Door‘s depiction of a woman who’s capable of making mistakes without allowing them to define her is orders of magnitude more sophisticated than viewers should expect.

If we want better movies about women, we have to start with movies about women in the first place. The Boy Next Door wastes Lopez’s talents, just as much of the schlock classic actresses like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis appeared in wasted theirs. That was the price they paid for working in an era when enough movies about women were made that a few might be good.

Lopez’s new project represents an earnest attempt to capitalize on a very real public hunger to see a woman at the center of a mainstream movie — not an indie, but an old-fashioned popcorn flick. Can either the boy-centric Best Picture nominees or the elusive Best Actress pictures say that? If every director, at every level of ambition, were making commercially ambitious movies about women, The Boy Next Door wouldn’t feel so perversely refreshing. But its director is one of very few who actually did.

TIME movies

Why Oscar-Winning Director Kevin Macdonald Decided to Make a Submarine Thriller

Film Independent Screening Of "Black Sea"
Kevin Macdonald attends the Film Independent screening of "Black Sea" on December 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Araya Diaz—WireImage

Black Sea, starring Jude Law, hits theaters Jan. 23

Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald loves to put his characters in peril. The Scottish filmmaker, known for the acclaimed historical drama The Last King of Scotland and the Oscar-winning documentary One Day in September, frequently explores the psychological effects of life-threatening situations on human behavior, both in reality and in fiction.

His new thriller, Black Sea, out Jan. 23, stars Jude Law as a submariner who, having just been laid off by a salvaging company, puts a crew together to find Nazi gold supposedly preserved in a sunken U-boat. The team, half-British and half-Russian, procure an old submarine and journey secretly to the bottom of the Black Sea to find the treasure. Surrounded on all sides by dangerous water, bitter disputes over shares of the gold soon threaten the security of the submarine and the lives of the crew.

TIME spoke to Macdonald about working in a submarine, keeping the peace on-set and balancing documentary with fiction.

TIME: Did anything in particular drive you to do a film about the sea?

Kevin Macdonald: I’ve always wanted to make a submarine movie. There’s something about this claustrophobic setting that means you can really make a film about human behavior. The environment produces a lot of natural tension. Are they going to survive, is the water going to burst in, are they going to end up on the bottom of the ocean floor, are they going to be able to get away? Are they going to turn on each other? In fact, the inspiration for the movie was an incident that happened in 2000 in Russia. The Kursk was a submarine that had an explosion on it, went down and sat on bottom of the ocean floor. There were 25 sailors still alive inside it in one of the compartments. They were only 350 feet from the surface, and they were banging on the side of the thing sending signals to the people above, but they could never rescue them and they all died when the air ran out. “What a horrible, frightening scenario,” I thought, and that’s where the idea of the movie came from.

What was it like shooting in the sub? Did that claustrophobic tension affect you guys behind the scenes?

A little bit. We were shooting on a real submarine for a couple of weeks to begin with. It’s airless and smelly, with diesel and sweat. It’s a very harsh, metallic, machine-like environment. Also, crucially for a filmmaker, it’s not an easy environment to work in because there’s no space. But shooting on the real submarine helped the actors, because when they went on to a set, they brought with them the knowledge of what it’s like to be entombed in this metal submarine—the smell and the feel of everything. It’s very hard sometimes for actors when they’re on a set that’s fake, because you kind of know it’s fake. Nothing feels real, nothing works. It’s like playacting. So, to start it off in a real submarine, understand that claustrophobia, and the reality of what it means to be stuck down there, that was enormously helpful for everyone.

Was there any tension between the cast and crew, then — any frustration?

I think it’s like anything. You’re with a group of people in a confined space, pushed up against each other. You have to quickly learn not to have the same concerns about personal space that you would normally have. And the Russians found it quite frustrating because they often didn’t understand what was going on, because they didn’t speak any English. But they were actually lovely warm people, the Russians, and so for the most part it was fairly tranquil.

How did you deal with the language barrier with all the Russian actors?

It was very difficult. I had a translator next to me the whole time. It definitely added a sense of authenticity to the movie, which I was really going for. I wanted people to feel like, “I’m in a submarine with a bunch of Russians who don’t understand English.” And yes, you were in a submarine with a bunch of Russians who didn’t understand English. But I love the fact that we had these real Russian actors, several of whom are big stars in Russia. They’ve never done foreign language films before, because they thought, “When we’re asked by Hollywood to play a Russian character it’s usually someone who wants to blow up the world or somebody who wants to bring down the American financial system.” They’re ridiculous villains in Mission Impossible or something. And in this they got to play more rounded characters, they’re on equal footing with the British characters, they have equal respect with the British characters. So, yeah, that was nice.

What do you want audiences to take away from the film?

My ideal is a movie which is entertaining and fun, but also, afterwards maybe sticks with you, and you think about some of the themes in it as well. I hope that it’s an exciting, thrilling adventure film that you’re going to go and see and be, you know, thrilled and excited. It’s a very gripping story. But on top of that there are a lot of interesting character things going on, in particular the character of Robinson, played by Jude. There’s this whole theme about greed and what money and gold does to you. At its heart it’s psychological. It’s about the tragedy of men not knowing what to do with themselves, not knowing who they are if they lose their jobs. And these guys are driven by the resentment behind that. They want to get the gold but they want to also regain the respect of society and their own self-respect.

So, as a filmmaker, what’s it like for you going back and forth between documentaries and fiction films?

Journalism is what I wanted to do when I started my career, but I couldn’t get a job and I ended up working in documentaries. And then I started doing feature documentaries for cinema and that was how I got into doing fiction. But I really like reengaging with the world. I’m interested in people, I suppose, so I want to ask nosy questions. Whereas in fiction, the fun of it is working with actors, the psychology of performance, and trying to tell a story using the craft of filmmaking. When I’m making a fiction film, I’m trying to make it feel as real as possible, trying to make it feel spontaneous and textured, like real life. When I’m making a documentary I’m doing the opposite. I’m taking the chaos of reality and I’m trying to give that shape and give that a story, make it feel like it was written. So I’m trying to make a fiction film feel like a documentary and a documentary feel like a fiction film, in some strange way. I hope I can carry on alternating. I’m doing a documentary at the moment. It’s like a breath of fresh air. I feel like you can get stuck in the world of fiction, speaking to agents all day, and trying to get money together. It’s an exhausting and tedious part of the job. If I had to do one after the other I think I’d go crazy.

TIME Television

Watch the New Trailer for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The new trailer for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is here, and it looks like the show will be worth the wait.

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s new comedy stars Ellie Kempner as a girl who has just escaped from a cult after 15 years and begins her life anew in New York City. The show will begin streaming on Netflix beginning on March 6 and has already been renewed for a second season, E! Online reports.

“We found the inspiration for this series in Ellie Kemper’s shining all-American face,” Fey and Carlock said in a joint statement.

Watch Kempner’s shining face above, and start counting down the days until March 6.

 

TIME Television

Knope and Change: The Politics of Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation - Season 7
Colleen Hayes/NBC

How the sitcom has cheerfully made the case for a "liberal" idea that didn't used to be considered so liberal.

Reviewing “Leslie and Ron” earlier this week, I wrote that part of the appeal of Parks and Recreation, specifically Leslie and Ron’s friendship, is that it’s a model–or fantasy–of how people of opposite politics can still work together and care about each other. It’s a sitcom about politics that works, in part, because of how its characters put friendship over politics–or at least aside from politics.

But what about the show’s politics itself? I wrote about that in my farewell column to Parks in the print TIME this week (subscription required). Even though Parks has never been assertively political (it’s foremost a workplace sitcom, set in a world as richly developed as The Simpsons‘ Springfield), and it’s generally avoided real-world, hot-button issues, the show does have politics in its way.

Parks‘ politics, like Leslie’s, are liberal. But “liberal” only in the sense that the definition of liberal has been shifted rightward, along with the general conversation about government and what it’s for, over the past few decades:

There’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”)

One reason, I think, that Parks‘ politics don’t play especially “political” is that they grow out of a worldview that goes way beyond politics: about the importance of community, the idea that people need each other, that when you help someone, you’re also helping to make yourself better. That community goes well beyond government–it’s friends, neighbors, businesses–but Parks doesn’t hesitate to say that government, however imperfect and ludicrous, is another aspect of community, not an outside force imposed on legitimate community. (At the same time, though, it’s been respectful of the opposition view, if only by putting it in the mouth of Ron Swanson, the most awesome man on the planet.)

I’ve written this before, but this is one of the biggest things Parks has in common with American stories from It’s a Wonderful Life to Friday Night Lights, a touchstone that Parks has referenced repeatedly. People in FNL were liberal or conservative or neither; community meant everything from teams to churches to school systems. But the constant was that nobody does anything alone.

So it is on Parks: it’s only by pulling together that you turn a pit into the Pawnee Commons. In its own little way, that central story has made the case for what didn’t used to be such a divisive idea: that there is such a thing as the public common, and that it’s a good thing. Congratulations, Leslie and Parks: You built that.

 

TIME celebrities

Watch: Julianne Moore’s Secret to Good Skin Is… Sunscreen?

“Sunscreen everyday”

Julianne Moore, the 54-year-old actress, revealed her surprising skincare secrets on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live.

“Sunscreen everyday, but whatever I can get at the drugstore, sunscreen,” she said last night, adding that she puts face oil on first. “Doesn’t matter what kind of face oil.”

And we thought it was magic all this time.

TIME movies

New Writers Picked for Star Trek 3

"Star Trek Into Darkness" Stage Greeting
Chris Pine attends the "Star Trek Into Darkness" stage greeting at Toho Cinemas Roppongi on August 13, 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. Jun Sato—WireImage

New writers required after departure of Roberto Orci

Star Trek 3 has found new writers and a new director.

Doug Jung, the co-creator of the television series Dark Blue, and Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the Star Trek franchise, will co-write the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Justin Lin will direct.

The new team needed to come on board after Roberto Orci, who was writing and supposed to direct the film, left the project. This film will be the third in the Star Trek movie franchise, following the successes of 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

The movie is still set to be released in July 2016.

[THR]

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