Tribute to the films of Olivia Newton-John – escYOUnited

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Three weeks ago the world lost one of its biggest stars when Dame Olivia Newton-John died of cancer aged 73.

Newton-John, who came fourth at Eurovision 1974 with “Long Live Love”, topped the adult contemporary and country charts in the 1970s before rising to the pop charts with rafts of Number Ones on the British, American, Australian, Dutch, French, Canadian, German maps and many more.

But the Newton-John star also shone in the cinema, with his turn in 1978 Fat being a huge commercial success. And today, three of our screenwriters comment on the Newton-John films that have touched them personally. Although Newton-John’s film career was not as successful as her music career – it is suspected that she actively avoided Hollywood rather than try again after a few commercial flops in the early 80s – no one can say that she was anything but the highlight of the films she played. in.

Oklahoma’s own Connor Terry will no doubt examine Newton-John’s cinematic pinnacle in FatYorkshire-born California resident James Maude will assess the underrated criminal Xanaduand our newest writer, KP, from Vermont, will tell us about a late Newton-John effort that only the hardiest of you have heard of Tim Horton’s food and poutine, Music: A hockey musical.

Grease (1978) – Connor Terry

When you think of Olivia Newton-John, you think of two specific things – her hit song”Physical” and his iconic portrayal of Sandy in the film adaptation of Fat. And while the prior is a wonderful bop of a tune I like to listen to, Fat will always have a special place in my heart. Growing up with an older sister in the school drama program, I had the opportunity to attend the local high school production of Grease which she had worked hard on. It was the first musical I remember seeing at the time (although technically I saw Cats at a very young age…we don’t talk about that though) and I was obsessed with musicals from then on.

Olivia’s impact on the film is astronomical. In fact, many people don’t know that writer Bronte Woodard actually rewrote the film’s main character from American Sandra “Sandy” Dombrowski to Sandy Olsson – a girl from Australia whose parents moved to America – in order to adapt his Australian accent to the film adaptation of the musical. And despite its theatrical release in 1978, Fat the film aroused the interest of the public for its 45 years of life.

In the United States alone, the film and its cast were nominated for 16 individual awards in seven award ceremonies, with Olivia being nominated for three of the awards alone (she would only win one of the three People’s Choice Awards). 1979 Prize). The film was also inducted into the US National Film Registry in 2020. For those who may not be aware, the NFR is a collection of films selected for their historical, cultural and aesthetic contributions to the American film industry. , with only 825 films. currently kept in the register.

In 1998, on its 20th anniversary, it was re-released in US theaters, and in its opening weekend of March 27–29, it was the second-highest-grossing film behind the film at success of James Cameron. Titanic (which was also inducted into the National Film Registry in 2017). The film’s soundtrack has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and as of January 2022, it held number three on Billboard’s US Soundtrack Albums chart. The musical has been revived several times (five times to be exact!) and despite not being in the original series, the first revival added “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One that I Want in the storyline of the series. These additions remained for all future tours of the musical on Broadway, West End and around the world.

Although I know my colleagues will continue to discuss the impact his other roles have had – I believe Fat It’s why Olivia Newton-John has remained a household name and why I fell in love with musical theatre.

Xanadu (1980) – James Maude

When I wrote for The Pitt News, the student newspaper at the University of Pittsburgh, and was an arts and entertainment editor, I often ate lunch outside the William Pitt Union Building on a bench dedicated by the school to alumnus Gene Kelly (Economics, 1933). One day a theater major came to me to roast me for a theater review that one of my writers had done of a play she was in. For some reason she had rolled around on roller skates and a woman’s jumpsuit on skates (even though she looked more like Ashley Laurence from hellraiser than Olivia Newton-John, but I digress) and Gene Kelly put it in my mind that night to go to my local video store and rent a VHS copy of Xanadu before heading to the beer distributor for a crate of Iron City.

I had only heard of the infamous Xanadu at this point, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was far from the “bad” movie the sarcastic students had painted. Of course, it has its flaws. Although the camerawork, set design, choreography, and set design are top-notch, it’s obvious that these four departments never had a meeting to optimize the mix of the four. For example, one sequence mixed 40s jazz dancers with 80s punk-rock dancers, the sets and the dancers being moved together, and the effect is that the Heaven Shall Burn guys violently mock each other. a Zoot Suit Riot.

However, the real stars are Olivia Newton-John, and she performs the music of 70s pop rockers Electric Light Orchestra. She plays Kira, one of the nine Greek muses of Olympus, who is sent to Los Angeles to help a struggling artist called Sonny (played by Michael Beck, who you should check out in Walter Hill’s superb thriller The Warriors). She also meets a wealthy construction magnate played by Gene Kelly, whom she inspired as a big band leader in the 1940s, and she connects him with Sonny to start a fusion roller-skating disco club. 40s/80s called Xanadu. The film draws the line between the two thematic eras, sometimes falling on its butt (which shows Gene Kelly dancing and rollerblading but never showing his feet?) but sometimes gliding gracefully between eras.

Newton-John has never looked more radiant, and despite what must have been a difficult production with difficult-to-navigate sets, none of the film’s problems fall on her. Audiences thought so, with “Magic” being a number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and “Xanadu” reaching number 8 there and reaching number 1 in the UK. The film is a fever dream. I watched it later without Iron City to confirm it. Like the millions of shooting stars referenced in the theme song, Olivia Newton-John’s neon glow will never be dimmed, an inspiration and muse to us all.

Score: A Hockey Musical (2010) – KP

There is a moment in the 2011 independent film Music: A hockey musical where Olivia Newton-John sings the line in a clear, high-pitched voice, “Look at the temperature, it’s colder than Venus, you’ll get frostbite on your-” only to be interrupted by her character’s husband who frantically sings about she, “TOES”. It’s the kind of moment that could almost be followed by a classic sit-com record-scratch-you-may-be-wondering-how-I-got-here voiceover; A beloved international superstar, working through goofy melodies about the evils of organized sports in a film almost certain never to be seen outside the festival circuit.

However, not all artists are lucky enough to reach a stage in their career where they can pursue projects simply for the love of the game, and each time Olivia Newton-John gasps and grabs her husband for stability under the shock as her step son teaches her. something about hockey against his will, the human element that I connect with the most is not the struggle of a mother learning to let go of her protected son, but with a person doing something completely crazy just to pleasure.

There’s such a fine line between love, hate and the love of hate. Olivia Newton-John’s charisma is present throughout the film to create a piece so whimsical and lovely despite its own fatal flaws that it tests the limits of even how to measure the quality of a work of art. As she groans the long notes of Ordinary Boy, she radiates joy through her deep mourning as if the character Hope would shatter at any moment, not only under the weight of pain and grief for her handsome intellectual boy abandoning her ideals and passion for Hockey of all things, but also because underneath it all there is a professional who channels years of her own ideals and passion into potentially the campiest and least consequential performance of her career. It’s a tension that happens to be inherently funny, as if the whole movie was one long blooper. I like to imagine this role was a gift she gave herself, an easy paycheck on a fun set doing something for love, but whatever, it’s a gift for all of us.

Which Olivia Newton-John movie do you like? Is there any of his movies that #YOU like that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below, on our social media, and on our forum.

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