Michael Caine’s Little Voice?

Happy 85th Birthday to Sir Michael Caine! Cheers and a heart warming wish for a wonderful celebration. Two time Oscar winner, Sir Michael Caine has an amazing acting career with 167 movie credits, to date. He, Lawrence Olivier, and Jack Nicholson are the only actors to be nominated for an Oscar in five different decades. That is an impressive longevity in Hollywood. So, when the opportunity arrived to write a blog post about him, I couldn’t wait. There was only one problem, which film?

At first, I decided to write a review on one of my favorite Caine films, Gambit (1966) with Shirley MacLaine and Herbert Lom.  Then, I planned to compare it with its reboot made in 2012 with Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, and Alan Rickman.  I changed my mind and decided to compare another Caine movie, Alfie, with its reboot.  It offered Jude Law as the curious Alfie in 2004. Unfortunately, for Jude Law, Caine’s 1966 Alfie was much more convincing, sympathetic, and likeable. Actually, it didn’t matter which movies I compared to the original Caine movies. It always had the same result. Caine’s movies are better.

So, I changed my mind yet again. I decided on writing a post on one of his darker characters. This character reminds me of someone or someone’s I have had the displeasure of meeting in my life. Caine’s portrayal of the mean, despicable music promoter and talent agent, Ray Says. Caine’s portrayal is so believable that I hated the movie the first time I watched it. Then, I realized how brilliant his performance was in this film. He went places with that character that was just shocking. Now, I love watching this bittersweet comedy/musical: Little Voice (1998), even if I still flinch at Ray Says singing, It’s Over.

Before I begin, I want to give many thanks to Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews for Hosting The Marvellous Michael Caine Blogathon: From Alfie to Zulu.  I must say that Marvellous is a near perfect adjective to describe Sir Caine. To read more articles about this marvellous actor, please use the link below…



A Bit of Caine’s life and Cockney Accent

To understand my fascination with Michael Caine movies, it is important to understand his voice. If a Caine movie is on, I don’t need be in the room to know it. As long as I can hear Caine speaking, I will know it’s him. Especially, if he is allowing more of his natural dialect, Cockney, to shine through. Cockney is a London dialect from the “rough” Southeast end of the city. In the old British class system, if you spoke with a cockney accent, you would immediately be labeled as part of the “working class.”  As part of the working (lower) class, you might also be stereotyped as a funny but not too bright, uneducated, and unclean, poor person. I always think of English actor Charlie Chaplin’s lovable character: The Little Tramp when I think about this stereotype. It is no wonder that Chaplin’s characterization reminds me of this; since, he and Caine grew up in the same poor area of London. The area is known as the Elephant and Castle.

Although there is a certain amount of charm in Chaplin’s Tramp; Caine understood, in reality, that this insulting stereotype influenced people to keep them from a better life. His accent and dialect became a badge of honor for him. He would keep it his whole life. His Cockney hero growing up was his father. During WWII, he went off to fight the Germans for four years. During the war, the section of London that Hitler heavily bombed was Caine’s neighbor.

As a child, Caine watched movies that helped him escape the suffering for a while; however, there were no Cockney heroes in the movies, just the opposite. They were usually portrayed as the criminal, drunk or idiotic comedy relief.  Caine wants to be a Cockney hero for people still living there and struggling. He wants them to say: If he did it, so can I.  He never forgot where he came from nor does he ever want too.

Summary of Little Voice (1998)

Little Voice is based on a successful play written by Jim Cartwright ( The Rise and Fall of Little Voice). It stars: Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Annette Badland, and Phillip Jackson.

The story is rather simple. LV (Little Voice) (Jane Horrocks) is a crippling shy and fearful young woman who lives with her overbearing, narcissistic mother, who never shuts up. Their relationship is based on resentment and jealousy. The father was a barely surviving record shop owner who died years before. The only thing he left for his wife was a run down shop with a livable attached home. His favourite records became LV’s most cherished possessions. When she plays records by Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Billie Holiday, or Ethel Merman, she escapes to a fantasy world where she is singing, in their voice, these special songs for her father. She desperately wants to please him; so, she can see him smile and be happy. Which is something he didn’t experience much of while he was alive.

Her insensitive, and vulgar mother played perfectly by Brenda Blethyn (won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this role) thinks LV is a kooky, weird and a total waste of time nut. I doubt there is a nurturing bone in this mother’s body.  LV is soft-spoken; but, around her mother she chooses to hardly speak at all. Probably, she can’t get a word in edgewise. Oddly enough, the mother’s best friend is a neighbor across the street who is mute, Sadie, (Annette Badland). These two friends is hilarious.

Mari (Mum) likes to hang out at the local nightclub owned by Mr Boo (Jim Broadbent). She likes to drink to excess and flirt around for a bit of fun and to feel desired by men. Here, she meets Ray Says (Michael Caine). To give you a taste of Mari’s exuberance and quirky ways, watch this funny clip of her telling Sadie how great it was to meet Ray Says in an open room cafe.

If Mari’s accent is too much, just play it over few times. Her meaning will come through. I love the way she refers to her derriere as her golden, old arse. The whole clip makes me laugh. Annette Badland is just brilliant with her facial expressions.  I assume Sadie is still a virgin.

Ray Says is a talent agent with no clients. He is a one hit wonder with a song he recorded thirty years ago, It’s Over. His fifteen minutes of fame expired years ago. Yet, he continued to squeeze every drop of life and passion out of it for years. He is a man afraid of change and refuses to let go of the past. He has met some good friends along the way; but, most have fallen to the wayside. Mr Boo is probably he most loyal friend. He loans him money to pay his debtors and gambling debts. Says is a desperate man at the end of his career rope. He keeps his 1960 Chevy, cherry red, Impala convertible as a status symbol of who he was.

In the meantime, electrical things keep shorting out at the record store/home. Even the phone. So, workers come to the house to replace the phone. One of the workers is young Billie (Ewan McGregor). He is intrigued by LV’s shyness because he too suffers fit. Billie finds a unique way of getting to know LV. He will eventually befriend her; and, they will share bits and pieces about each other’ s life.

Billie tells LV how much he enjoys taking care of homing pigeons and is worried about “Dwayne” who has not returned from France. LV tells Billie she never goes out of the house. It a start for the two of them.

On the Second night of Ray and Mari’s date, Mr Boo wants Ray to hear the angelic voice coming from LV’s window. Ray believes LV is his ticket back to success and fame. LV doesn’t sing for anyone but her Father. Watch how sleazy Ray convinces LV to do it for her father in front of an audience to make him proud.

When LV tells Billie, he knows right away that LV is being taken advantage of and he tries to make sure that Ray and her MUM is stopped. So, LV promises Billie it is for only one time. So, she performs and is a great success at Mr Boo’s Nightclub. The following day, Ray begs, borrows, gambles, pawns and steals to enough money to redecorate the nightclub and produce an expensive show, tailored around LV’s songs. He even invites “real” talent agents and music CEOs to watch LV perform. He can almost smell the ink on the contracts.

However, LV only promised one show. Why would a misogynist like Ray Says believe what a woman says? When Mari fails to get LV ready for the big night, Ray horrendously lashes out at her MUM.

Again, I don’t want to spoil the whole movie. However, I did mention before how Ray Says meanness near the end almost spoiled the movie for me. Well, I was not the only one with that problem. Here is a quote from highly respected movie critic, Roger Ebert concerning this meanness:  One problem is that the Michael Caine character, sympathetic and funny in the opening and middle scenes, turns mean at the end for no good reason.

This is one of the few times I have to disagree with Roger Ebert.  Ray Says has every reason to turn mean.  First of all, he too is a narcissist, like Mari. Unlike Mari, he can use the charm to get what he wants. He is not a NICE guy. He uses everyone. When he realizes his dream is dead and the mafia is ready to take him to his maker….He breaks down and screams that blasted song, It’s Over. It’s almost like a Greek tragedy for Ray’s bitter end.

Of course, there is so much more to this really funny movie. The most spectacular, besides the acting, is Jane Horrocks singing impressions. She is beyond good. I couldn’t believe she sang those songs. She was near perfection.  I erroneously thought she lip synched those songs.  Let’s just say, the movie must be pretty good; since, I laughed through nearly all of it.

Little Voice was more than a good movie for me.  It also allowed me to see that even an unlikable character is important to move the plot of the story along. I finally understood Michael Caine when he described the difference between a movie star and a movie actor. When this movie first started, I saw Michael Caine the movie star. However, near the end, I saw Michael Caine the movie actor. He admits in an interview that Ray Says is nothing like himself.  To him, Ray is so evil, he’s funny.  If you have not seen this movie, I think it would be worth your time. Here’s just a sample of Horrock’s LV performance.







More than an Award’s Show: Oscars, The Host and Forrest Gump (1994)

“It’s that time of year again when the best of the best in the film industry vie against each other for the coveted and sought after Oscar. The Academy Awards is celebrating its 90th year. On March 4th, it is hosted, for the second time, by popular late night talk show host and executive producer, Jimmy Kimmel.

JimmyKimmel Live! has been on ABC since 2003. To be on television for 15 years is no small feat.  Kimmel is a witty, entertaining comic who has an unassuming persona. To general audiences, he is likable.  Based on the title of this post, please do not assume that I am trying to imply that Jimmy Kimmel comes across like Forrest Gump or even that he looks like Tom Hanks. However, some people claim to see a resemblance.

So, what am I implying? My claim is that Oscar nominees have worked on, contributed and created an Artistic film version of a great story. This story has attracted audiences due to its relevancy in their lives.  The social issues explored, alluded to or addressed in the film imitate real life. An example of this is the Oscar-winning movie: Forrest Gump (1995). It has numerous social ills that reflect its relevance. It is because of the importance of relevancy that Jimmy Kimmel is the perfect host for the Oscars. As far as hosting the Oscars, you could not find a better and more perfect host. Unlike The Last Week Tonight show with John Oliver or  Steven Colbert in The Late Show, Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmel Live! stayed out of the political fray; until, this year.

Soon after his son was born, a nurse noticed an unusual breathing pattern in the child. Jimmy Kimmel’s second child by wife Molly needed heart Surgery.  This life threatening medical problem for his infant son will later provide Kimmel with a social issue, child health care, that he felt he must address with his audiences. His concern was for thousands of children who need expensive medical care; but, whose parents could not afford it. Now, his show was not just about comedy, it now became relevant to every parent in his audience.

Over the years, the Oscar ceremonies has evolved from just an award show.  It has become a platform for social issues and injustices too. Watching the Oscars is not just about the red carpet, glamour, clothes, who will win, and the beautiful. Today, it makes social statements with interviews, ribbon pins or speeches.  Watching the Oscars has evolved into an event that is extremely relevant today.

This is an excerpt from The Washington Post quoting part of Kimmel’s monologue from last year’s Oscars:

He mentioned that the Oscars were airing in “225 countries that now hate us,” and said he was happy that Homeland Security let French Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert into the country.

The U.S. is divided right now, Kimmel said, and people have been telling the host that he needs to say something to unite everyone.

“Let’s just get something straight off the top: I can’t do that. There’s only one Braveheart in this room and he’s not going to unite us either,” Kimmel said referring to Mel Gibson. Then Kimmel said that the best thing to do would be for people to reach out to someone they disagree with and have a conversation. “That could make America great again,” he said.

If you were one of those people who did not see Kimmel’s heart wrenching pleas to politicians and lawmakers to extend funding for Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), I have included it below this paragraph. Again, his own infant son had to undergo heart surgery, not once but twice, as an infant and at age 7 months.  Kimmel’s  passionate cry  for  “common sense and decency” touched the hearts of millions. So, besides the fact that Kimmel is an excellent choice for hosting the Oscars due to his wit and comic timing,  he is also a relevant choice because he publicly cares about many social issues that people face today. By the way, CHIPS was not extended due to budget cuts.

Kimmel’s Plea For “Common Sense and Decency”

This clip is a little over 13 minutes.  If you have not seen it, you might like to watch it now.  Warning! If you do watch it, you will laugh; but, your eyes will tear up too. This is a parent who not only loves his child; but, who is also deeply concerned for other parents whose children are sick and; cannot afford healthcare without government assistance.

Once again, I believe that one of the common attributes of an award-winning film is its relevancy for people of today and in the future. I had to think about all the movies that touched my heart.  Nearly, all of them were Oscar-winning movies: To Kill a Mockingbird; On The Waterfront; Road To Perdition; Signs; The Prestige;  Rocky; Inception; Warrior; Locke; The Patriot; and so many more. The topics varied; but, they always had heart warming moments that touch my very soul.

Here is my favorite scene picks that personally affected me the most from Forrest Gump

The last 15 minutes of Forrest Gump is pure movie magic. Forrest (Tom Hanks) is recently widowed and raising his five-year old son as a single parent. When Forrest watches his little boy get on the school bus, alone for the first time, is when my eyes become floodgates. He sits on a tree stump at the bus stop; and, there he patiently waits for his son to return to him: safe and loved. This always brings tears to my eyes.  The relevancy should be obvious for any parent and perhaps children too. Especially, in light of the heinous acts of violence on America’s children in schools and on the streets. The unspoken fear of every parent: their child does not return to them after school or after play.

This first clip is Forrest caring for his sick wife and some discussion of what Vietnam War was like. Then, he visits her grave. It is nearly six minutes long. It goes by very quickly.

This next clip is very short: 36 seconds. Forrest is sending little Forrest on a school bus.  Haley Joel Osment plays Little Forrest in his first film role at the age of six.

This scene shows Forrest prepared to sit there on that tree stump; until, little Forrest returns. Besides the great story, the acting, the cinematography, the director, …music adds layers of complexity to the make a memorable scene.

Forrest Gump won six Oscars at the 1995 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects. It was nominated for 13 Oscars.  Many critics agree that this movie is one of the top ten movies ever produced. I believe one of the reasons is its relevancy for the audience.  This movie addresses single parenting, the physically and mentally challenged, child abuse and incest, War, Veterans of war, Civil Rights, falling in love, burying a love one, revolutionaries, racism, social protest, drug addiction, bullies, etc…The list is long.  The story of Gump is a story of human kind; good and evil.

Forrest Gump touched my heart and will remain in my memory; but there were other winners that year that are definitely worth noting

Other Oscars winners that year that included parenting as part of the plot or subplot were The Lion King; The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Legends of The Fall; and The Madness of King George. There were two other Oscar winners that did not have parenting as a subplot; but, they did address other social issues. Ed Wood addressed drug addiction, ageist, and acceptance of alternative life styles like transvestite. Speed addressed violence and the fear of a homegrown terrorist. The main point is that nearly all Oscar caliber movies have some kind of social relevance to engage its audiences. Thankfully, we can honor all those creative artists and their movie magic; especially when we have talented hosts like Jimmy Kimmel to guide the way.

I would like to thank Oscar’s Blogathon hosts:

In honor of the Oscars this year, Paula from Paula’s Cinema Club (Twitter -@Paula_Guthat); Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled (Twitter @Irishjayhawk66) and Aurora from Once Upon A Screen are hosting this year’s 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon.  Please use the following links below to read wonderful posts about Oscar movies and other Oscar topics!

Day One


Day Two

Day Two: 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

Day Three

31 Days of Oscar: Oscar SNUBS, 2018 Edition!


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