• Cinematic Strumming: Blue Valentine

    BLUE VALENTINE (2010)

    Director: Derek Cianfrance

    Stars: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Faith Wladyka

    WITH the mighty uke on the rise once again, it’s not surprising to see it popping up on the silver screen more frequently. However, it is somewhat surprising – and refreshing – to see the instrument featured in a gritty drama.

    A love story with a difference, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is a very good film. In fact, it’s basically two films in one. It opens in the present, where doting dad Dean (Gosling) is a part-time house painter and his wife Cindy (Williams) is an overworked resident at the local hospital. Their marriage is obviously strained, but Dean can’t seem to understand why. Rewind six years and we get to see the young couple falling madly in love, where it’s all hope, passion and, of course, ukulele serenades.  

    As the movie switches between the time periods, more about Dean and Cindy’s intense relationship is slowly revealed, and it becomes obvious that a physical and emotional boilover is on the cards.

    Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her work, both deliver powerful performances, but don’t expect a typical Hollywood ending. We should have known things were going to go downhill when Dean started singing and strumming the old Mills Brothers hit You Always Hurt The One You Love.  

    This article originally appeared in Issue 4 of KAMUKE Ukulele Magazine, which is available in the Store

  • CINEMATIC STRUMMING: BLUE HAWAII

    BLUE HAWAII (1961)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Stars: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury, Nancy Walters

    NOTHING illustrates the popularity of Hawaiiana in the early 1960s better than Blue Hawaii. The first of three Elvis movies to be filmed in the islands, it was one of his most successful, and the soundtrack spent 20 weeks at number one on the Billboard chart.

    Presley plays Chadwick Gates, the heir to a pineapple fortune who returns to Honolulu after a stint in the US Army. While he’s happy surfing, singing and playing uke with his beach-boy buddies, Chad’s snooty parents don’t like it one bit and pressure him to join the family business. He refuses and instead becomes a tour guide, which leads to him working with a visiting high school teacher (Walters) and her four female students. Chad’s girlfriend Maile (Blackman) gets jealous of his relationship with the pretty teacher and some fairly predictable miscommunications form the basis of the comedy.

    While it’s not high art by any means, Blue Hawaii is undeniably entertaining and the scenery is stunning. Much of the film was shot on location at the Coco Palms Resort on the east coast of the island of Kauai. Sadly, the resort, which was once a playground for the rich and famous, has been abandoned since it was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

    The Coco Palms Resort in 2007

    The soundtrack was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood before filming began, with Fred Tavares and Bernie Lewis playing the ukuleles. Elvis later gave a Martin uke used in the flick as a gift to famous session guitarist Hank ‘Sugarfoot’ Garland. Aside from the title track, notable songs include Rock-A-Hula Baby, Ku-u-ipo (Hawaiian Sweetheart) and Aloha ’Oe.

    Surely a movie that features the King of Rock ’n’ Roll strumming four strings instead of six deserves a spot in any uke fan’s collection.