The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Tommaso
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#526 Post by Tommaso » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:24 am

Which would fit the idea of a 'musical' very well. The term 'musical' was unknown in Germany at the time, and late Weimar sound film musicals were called 'Tonfilmoperette', even though there's very little or no difference formally between something like "Love me tonight" and "Der Kongress tanzt".

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zedz
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#527 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 19, 2013 3:45 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
PillowRock wrote:Is The Threepenny Opera not a musical?
The Kurt Weill foundation classifies it as "a play with music". See: http://www.kwf.org/kurt-weill/weill-works/132-n4main" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If you're looking for a very simple definition of the musical that distinguishes it from related forms like opera, this is a good place to start. Though you'd need to add a few specifics (e.g. the music comes in the form of songs, they're sung by the characters, and there are more than a couple of them) to further distinguish from, say, melodrama.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#528 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:19 pm

Except that singspiels like Freischutz and Fidelio and Magic Flute (which are spoken plays with lots of music) are now generally treated as if they were operas. And operettas (also plays with lots of music) may or may not be treated as if they were operas. Not sure about zarzuelas from Spain. And then how does one classify Carmen (originally spoken -- not sung -- dialog). And works like Porgy and Bess and Regina -- which certainly feel like operas. Historically, spoken, semi-spoken (recitativo secco) and sung dialog don't really seem to be markers for whether or not something can be considered "opera".

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#529 Post by zedz » Tue Nov 26, 2013 5:48 pm

I'm pleased to announce that the domino harvey / zedz mutual bafflement zone is in full effect with Lili, which I finally managed to see.

It's an admirably peculiar film, starting with a thwarted rape (presumably) that nobody in the film seems to acknowledge, and then developing into a really odd love triangle with a whole lot of additional, not necessarily human, vertices. The momentum of that oddity kept me watching, but I didn't feel that any of the performances truly rose to the distinctiveness of the material (Caron's awkwardness was appropriate, but hardly revelatory) and I continue to regard Walters as a rather perfunctory director, with nothing in the film demonstrating any particular flair (or, again, any real grappling with the strangeness of the material). The comparison with a Powell / Pressburger film is certainly valid, but it doesn't do this film any favours.

This is all kind of academic in the context of the musicals list, anyway, since there's no way I could consider this a musical. I know the definition of the genre is flexible, but if there's any First Commandment surely it must be: "one song doth not a musical make." Sure, the song is partially reprised by puppets, but if there's any Second Commandment of the Musical, it's a toss up between "likewise two songs" and "reprises of songs don't count towards the total." Still, Lili is a very interesting test case, because there are also a couple of fantasy dance numbers, which bring the film closer to something like The Red Shoes (which I also couldn't in all honesty consider a musical). In the end, I'd have to consider it as a fascinating mutant offspring of the Hollywood musical which nevertheless doesn't meet the bare minimum requirements of the genre.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#530 Post by david hare » Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:23 pm

Lili is not in any way a musical, a fact it shares with another 50s Chuck Walters, Torch Song despite having Crawford lip synch Two Faced Woman in blackface, and a supposedly blind Michael Wilding doodle nonchalantly on the piano at what seems like the cinema's first Manhattan mixed race gay men's party in Joan's apartment. In some respects I suppose one might pause to consider either or both films in some sort of musical context given the purely florid aspects of Walters' narratives and staging. But staging is indeed all that you can say for the films' content and certainly Walters' direction. They are not musicals in any meaningful shape or form. Only in a genuine musical like Summer Stock or Good News or Easter Parade do you get Walters actually employing mise en scene to express meaning and emotion. And it's precisely this degree of attention that helps to define those pictures (and others) as musicals.
In Summer Stock, for instance, half way through the picture Walters films Garland's big solo four minute number "Friendly Star" in two long travelling shots, edited with a semi invisble (but reverse angle) edit. Starting from level profile to a high overhead crane and pan, then the edit and a swooping and swooning crane pans left down and back to hold Garland singing about her unknown love, only to tilt at the last moment to reveal a barely hidden Gene Kelly sitting in the shade having heard every syllable of her private invocation. It's one of the most electrifying and important pieces of mise en scene in the entire Hollywood musical canon. Fully the equal of anything in Demy or Minnelli or Donen, and its effect and intention is frankly not unlike the long takes and movements Dreyer give to his heroine in the sublime Gertrud.

So musical definitions per se have as much to do with the degree of engagement of the director, as they do with the cast and dye of their form.

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zedz
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#531 Post by zedz » Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:06 pm

I probably have undervalued the Walters that directed Summer Stock and Good News (though the direction in Easter Parade has always struck me as somewhat anonymous, and I get the feeling that Astaire was really the auteur of the best numbers). In Lili, and The Barkleys of Broadway, and High Society I can see lots of evidence of an MGM house style, but not much that points to an individual directorial personality.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#532 Post by david hare » Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:30 pm

Zedz, the real problem with Easter Parade, which I least like of all Walter's musicals IS Astaire himself. And in particular the profoundly uncomfortable pairing of Astaire and Garland. They always look uncomfortable with each other (I can assume fairly certainly Astaire was unimpressed with Garland's offscreen bad behavior). Absolutely zero chemistry. And quite frankly I find the scenario/book a gigantic middlebrow bore, to the point I don't even care much about the Irving Berlin score. The screenplay always sags during their scenes together, and the other characters simply seem drawn out into meaninglessly isolated subthreads with bits of business substituing for characterization, especially Lawford. The best numbers - Astaire's big percussion solo, Ann Miller's knockout Chasing the Blues Away and of course the sadly eliminated Mr Monotony (which was really Harold Arlen's and Judy's piece in any case) all feel like they come from another totally more swinging picture. Good News is far more organically and successfully conceived, written, dressed, staged and choreographed by Walters and co as a period piece, inheriting as it does the inimitably, energetic Joan McCracken ("Pass that Peace Pipe") from the Broadway cast. And Salinger's great orchestrations take pride of place on the soundtrack there, whereas the brass (MGM as well as orchestral) seem to have leaned far too heavily on Salinger during Easter Parade to allow him free reign on the scoring of all those sacred cow Irving Berlin numbers. Again it's only Monotony and Chasin the Blues that sound anything like Salinger.

This of course only goes to show how much I rate Salinger as one of the prime auteurs in the collaborative team under Freed (and Pasternak) that MGM was so blessed with for nearly twenty years. Roger Edens and Chuck's long time BF Bob Alton are others in that firmanent.

Getting back to Garland and her partners. The pairing of Garland with Kelly in Summer Stock is peerless and as personal and perfect as she could get to anyone. Same goes for The Pirate and that very problematic (to me) Cole Porter score.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#533 Post by david hare » Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:22 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Except that singspiels like Freischutz and Fidelio and Magic Flute (which are spoken plays with lots of music) are now generally treated as if they were operas. And operettas (also plays with lots of music) may or may not be treated as if they were operas. Not sure about zarzuelas from Spain. And then how does one classify Carmen (originally spoken -- not sung -- dialog). And works like Porgy and Bess and Regina -- which certainly feel like operas. Historically, spoken, semi-spoken (recitativo secco) and sung dialog don't really seem to be markers for whether or not something can be considered "opera".
Michael, I guess there is still argument going on about Singspiel vs. Opera. But I seem to recall being taught all those decades ago in my B.A. and Conservatorium days that it was the sheer force of Mozart's skill in wedding song to dramaturgy rising to the peak with Die Entfurhrung initially, then Zauberflote which really also wedded the Italian Operatic tradition (itself a long time evolving from the Sacred to Secular, from incidental to narrative, from Oratorio and Cantata etc..) to the new German Operatic form. The fact Beethoven felt sufficiently liberated by Mozart's work to write the mammoth Ode to Conjugal Love that is Fidelio is sure evidence. The national demarcation lines surely erased with Mozart.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#534 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:43 pm

I have mixed feelings about Fidelio. I admire some parts, and find others not terribly convincing. Nowhere close to the level of Mozart at his best.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#535 Post by david hare » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:28 pm

Totally agree. Also th 9th Symphony.

Beethoven loses his "touch" when the bloat sets in. It gets eapecially heavy handed in the late period, especially with vocal music. To me the Ode to Joy still sounds like a Salvation Army band tune.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#536 Post by roujin » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:45 pm

I missed this but if I had participated I would've thrown some votes at these films:

Amar Akbar Anthony (Desai, 1977)
Awaara (Kapoor, 1951)
Pyaasa (Dutt, 1957)
Deewaar (Chopra, 1975)
Dil Se... (Ratnam, 1998)
Kaagaz ke Phool (Dutt, 1959)
Sholay (Sippy, 1975)

and because why not

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Johar, 1998)

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YnEoS
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#537 Post by YnEoS » Sat Jul 19, 2014 11:44 pm

Going to start digging through these old genre lists which I didn't get a chance to participate in. Hopefully one day we'll get around to doing a genre 2.0, though I'm sure that's a ways off.

Anyways I recently got around to watching My Sister Eileen which was just a tremendous experience all around. Part of what I love about the exaggerated nature of the musical genre, is some of the on the nose, no bullshit, narrative shorthands it allows for, like with the effects gag of the dynamiting the new subway underneath the apartment is just so perfect both in technical execution and in how and when its used. A lot of really outstanding musical numbers as well, they do a great job of building up in a such a way where I'm just so giddy about what's happening on the screen and it just continues to escalate past my expectations (with 1 or 2 of them employing some false stops? my memory is fuzzy.)

Admittedly I probably don't have quite as large a database of musicals in my brain yet as some other veterans here to contextualize how well it stands apart from other films in the genre, but those were a few points that spring to mind in a muddied attempt to verbalize such a great viewing experience.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#538 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jul 29, 2014 5:16 pm

Glad you loved My Sister Eileen, always glad to welcome a convert into the fold!

Has anyone here seen this series or even know where it originates? It sounds intriguing but I'm picturing how it could just be thirteen hours of a bad AFI special with the same material

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#539 Post by knives » Tue Jul 29, 2014 6:43 pm

From the director of The Van Halen Story. I'm not sure what kind of sign that should be taken as.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#540 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:35 pm

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (Charles S Dubin 1965) CBS' updating of the original Julie Andrews-starring production a decade earlier has a vocal fanbase (Including my mother-- apparently our love of lissome gamines is genetic) and I'd long wanted to check it out despite my general intolerance of R+H, so special thanks go to Shout! for bringing this OOP title back on the DVD market. I can not speak for every fan of this production, but I can imagine that roughly 100% of the good will and love for this film is directly attributable to Lesley Ann Warren's unbelievably adorable portrayal of the titular damsel. All doe eyes and sideways grins, Warren's bashful cuteness is the epitome of non-sexually threatening attractiveness-- ie the perfect actress for Cinderella's perfect young girl wish fulfillment story.

As for the non-Lesley Ann Warren moments of the film, of which there are some, I will say that the songs are better than usual for R+H. However, the spare dance numbers are staged without imagination and the hideous local library-level production values and shot-on-video aspects of the film often highlight some of the worst flaws that a more polished production could smooth over. I don't understand why CBS went through the trouble of pre-taping this with several name Hollywood stars (Pidgeon, Ginger Rogers, Celeste Holm, Jo Van Fleet) only to use multiple video cams on three sound-stage sets garishly adorned for a pick-up puppet show.

I was especially struck during this interpretation of the fairy tale at the bizarreness of the prince's inability to recognize Cinderella when removed from the specific ballroom setting, especially since this version gives the prince and the waif an additional encounter prior to the ball wherein the two appear to share a moment before the prince, being hot shit that he is, seemingly abandons all memories of this event for recollections of fighting dragons and saving princesses (recited back in an appropriately-pitched tone of comic boredom). The prince's solution to the issue of falling in love with a woman who immediately abandons him (Walter Pidgeon as the King helpfully informs his son that this girl lacks the most important quality in a potential queen: she shouldn't disappear into thin air) is to just go from woman to woman prompting all women in the kingdom to try on the slipper, even those he held conversation with at the ball just prior. Whether intentional or not, this version highlights the coldness and detachment of the monarchy in this particular land, and yet all subjects we meet are head-over-heels for the young prince. And it's understandable, given that Stuart Damon's perf as the handsome prince hits the right notes of polite assholeishness and appealing sensitivity that despite the nagging questions about his methodology and actions, it's hard to still not pull for him and Cinderella to get together at the end. And that's of course why so many stories like this still get passed on-- they work.

What I appreciated most about this particular adaptation is its ability to understand and share the mindset of a young viewer who sees a movie like this at an impressionable age and has romantic notions introduced and reinforced in ways that culturally have not gone away in the nearly fifty years since it aired (though I'm not sure fairy tales hold the same degree of importance to kids of today as compared to even a generation prior, if my students are any proof). As presented here Cinderella is the ultimate romantic fantasy for anyone who's ever been young and unhappy: you are misunderstood and put down by those around you but with more resources you could sweep the most eligible and appealing romantic partner in the land of their feet. The object of your affection realizes this at the last moment, sweeps you off your feet, and you go off to live in unfathomable wealth, influence, and romantic bliss for all the rest of your days. Hell, forget being a kid, it sounds good now. Like our most popular new/modern fairy tale, Harry Potter, Cinderella centers around the idea that we are all secretly great and important. Here though there is an appealing humbleness to Warren's Cinderella, taking all licks in a Christlike-fashion and doing right and good at every turn. Warren's performance choices and the script wisely remove any sense of entitlement from the equation, though I'm not sure given the state of society in the present that those who've grown up with this story in other versions didn't take away the wrong message and add their own delusions of self-importance into it.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#541 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 28, 2014 1:53 am

Phantom of the Paradise (Brian de Palma 1974) A good musical can have bad songs and a bad musical can have good songs, but it's so much nicer when one has both, isn't it? Not quite sure this one fits that bill, though the songs here are all so good that I don't think the overall experience could possibly have been sullied by even the most inept of final products. Though de Palma's manic virtuosity makes for a natural fit with a musical, I must admit this one didn't come off anywhere near what I was envisioning, and either there were some less than judicious cuts made to the film or de Palma just ditched helpful linking material to get to the songs and set pieces faster, but the film is often incoherent in its mad dash to be flashy and attention-seeking. Though no doubt it will all play better when I watch it again and again, because the songs will surely keep bringing me back. Jessica Harper may not be a name one goes to often in memory but I was thinking it over while watching this and she really does appear in a lot of interesting, often great films in her not that extensive filmography (requisite reminder to watch the brilliant Inserts goes here).

Stage Fright (Jerome Sable 2014) / the Legend of Beaver Dam (Jerome Sable 2010) Obviously the greatest achievement of making a slasher movie musical is hoodwinking all the die-hard horror fans into blind buying what is for 85% of the running time a throwback Broadway production (done on a small scale with no budget and sadly not particularly good songs, but still). This is a B-minus film but it's A+ bait-and-switch (and like the House of the Devil a few years back, the film's marketing is on-point as well). The audaciousness of the central genre conceit carries some weight, though, and the film is just a touch smarter than it needs to be, with a charming central performance by Allie MacDonald as the daughter of a slain Broadway star who decides to revive her mother's last, cursed role as the body count goes up around her. Director Jerome Sable clearly knows his genre stuff on both ends, though like many an 80s slasher despite common perceptions, much of the gore here seems to be a reluctant addition and there's an almost willful uncleverness to most of the murders (and it has as dumb an ending as any of the dregs of the genre). Also there's a weird tendency in the second half to give the question mark assailant their own musical numbers scored by shitty heavy metal and a squealing "funny" villain voice that is… regrettable. But I still walked away from this noble attempt willing to offer it a slight recommendation for its general amiability. Also, Stage Fright has the best "Based on a true story" title card I've ever seen.

The Best Buy exclusive on the Blu-ray for Stage Fright includes Sable's earlier short film, the Legend of Beaver Dam, which is in most ways a superior film, as the groundwork for making an unlikely pairing of musical and slasher movie (here Madman-esque undead camp-slayer tale) finds a more effective and efficient package. It's not every day you see a 12-minute film that manages to be both a catchy rock opera and a hard-R Goosebumps adventure!

Victor / Victoria (Blake Edwards 1982) Nominated for seven Oscars but not Best Picture (Because this was the year of Tootsie and two crossdressing comedies in the final five is excessive?), this was a popular and critical favorite and like nearly every other Blake Edwards film, it falls mostly flat for me. The central problem of the film is exemplified in its only functional working part, that of Lesley Ann Warren's Harlow-styled, Holliday-voiced tart (justly nommed for Best Supporting Actress in a much better perf than Jessica Lange's winning role). Warren's character and performance are the only ones in the entire too-safe, old fashioned production to hit the right levels of vulgarity a post-60s sex comedy like this needs to reach. Warren is brashly crude throughout her scant screentime (she basically only figures into the second act of the film, which makes the first and third an even heavier slog in comparison), punctuated with a cheerfully tasteless music number in which one of the dance moves involves bending over and spreading her cheeks.

In contrast to Warren, Edwards seems to be unsure how to proceed with the homosexual content of the film, treating Robert Preston and other gay characters with kid gloves of phony reverence that are really just acts of cowardice: Edwards is obviously comfortable enough with the strong showing of outward heterosexuality Warren represents, but not with any of the gay characters, who fall either into patter-happy queens or noble "regular joes," neither capable of arousing anyone's ire (or libido). And while the film circumvents the usual reveal of transvestism by having James Garner become aware of Julie Andrews' true sex, he does so while spying on her Porky's-style, and of course the film does not find this of any critical interest or worthy of comment. No, it'd much rather pencil in another bar fight, of which by my charitable estimate there are eight-thousand within the too-long 133 minute running time. Ultimately what we're left with is a bunch of cinematic white bread so formless that when the credits rolled, I was shocked: Did this film really think it had finished? I mean, I was glad to see it go, but that the final cherry on this fake-gay acceptance fraud is the hee-larious image of Robert Preston Friars Club-ing it in drag says more than enough about how far from the farm this one wandered.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#542 Post by swo17 » Sun Sep 28, 2014 2:10 am

Phantom of the Paradise! I was wondering where you were going to fall on this one. Have you seen the Swan Song featurette on either the Arrow or Shout! editions? The film was indeed injudiciously hacked apart at the last minute. You can blame Led Zeppelin for that.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#543 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 28, 2014 2:13 am

I have the Shout! disc(s), I'll make sure to watch that extra the next time I cue the film up

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#544 Post by swo17 » Sun Sep 28, 2014 2:14 am

In the meantime, you can read about it here.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#545 Post by domino harvey » Sat May 02, 2015 2:16 pm

April Love (Henry Levin 1957) Squeaky-clean Pat Boone plays a JD, which is mostly indicated via not saying "thank you" and chewing gum, sent to Arthur O'Connell's farm for rehabilitation. Will there be a cute neighbor girl to romance? Will a horse that could never be tamed find itself under the spell of the outcast? Will Pat Boone exhibit all the screen presence of a pair of well-ironed church slacks? You know the answer, folks. I was glad to have seen this film finally via TT's 'Scope presentation, but it's nothing I'd ever sit through again. There is some minor interest in how the film attempts to navigate the new role teens were playing in American society at this time, and Shirley Jones is about the only thing here that works (and she has a fun number involving the changing of clothes that's about as wholesome as could be regardless of all the implied nudity), but ultimately this is a relic that doesn't offer much outside of its cultural context.

Call Me Madam (Walter Lang 1953) Walter Lang, Fox's go-to visionless automaton overseeing the studio's worst and most-bloated musicals, is at it again with this lifeless Irving Berlin adaptation. Ethel Merman is the neophyte diplomat sent by Washington to deal with a foreign country's economic crisis and ends up falling for George Sanders' apolitical general. Sanders is a master of getting through lousy contract-required films and he never looks anything but bored here. Donald O'Connor and Vera-Ellen as star-crossed lovers don't fare much better. The film does feature some interesting negotiations wherein the more one side wants to not borrow money from the US, the more the US wants to give it-- man, the 50s really were a time of boundless prosperity, huh?

Lost Horizon (Charles Jarrott 1973) I can imagine few ideas that make less sense than remaking Lost Horizon as a musical. Post-classical American musicals are already godawful in this period, but this takes some kind of prize. Lots of embarrassed-looking stars, including Peter Finch and Liv Ullmann, run through some truly dreadful music numbers. I could post at length a list of things to mock about this misfire, but it turns out Roger Ebert already did it for me forty-two years ago. His review is probably funnier if you've actually sat through all two and a half hours of this garbage, but it's worth reading regardless.

Shock Treatment (Jim Sharman 1981) Weird sorta-sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show from the same songwriter and with a handful of the original actors (though none of the actual stars). I've never heard much in the way of praise for this film, but I checked out one of the strength of one of the songs I randomly found on YouTube and overall my verdict is that overall it's about as good as the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Which is to say it's pretty much a mess and front-loaded with the best songs ("Denton USA" and especially "Bitchin' in the Kitchen" are great. But they also happen and are done twenty minutes into the movie). As for the movie's half-assed satiric barbs, they are confused at best-- the whole film takes place in a TV studio which is also functioning as a makeshift city and insane asylum (oooooookay), and That Means Something. Overall this is a painless misfire, but hardly a disaster (but then again, I'm not a card-carrying member of the RHPS cult, so take that for what it's worth).

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#546 Post by YnEoS » Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:40 pm

TCM doing their Summer of Darkness right before the noir list was some really good luck for me, but I'm guessing I won't be able to count on them to dedicate 2 months of screenings to every list we do on the forum, so I'm going to try and get a head start on the other genre lists whenever there's interesting stuff on. TCM showed a number of musicals recently and had a whole day of Fred Astaire movies for their Summer Under the Stars thing they're doing this month. My Fred Astaire education was a little backwards with The Band Wagon being the first film of his I saw, and aside from that the only other one I had previously seen was Swing Time. So really glad I could fill all those in, and see some other interesting musicals.


Broadway Gondolier (Lloyd Bacon, 1935) – Dick Powell can’t get a break as a singing cab driver, but finds himself much more marketable when he travels to Italy and becomes a singing gondolier. What will happen if people find out he’s not really Italian!? Nothing wrong with this, but I found it very tiresome and dull. Not even the farm animal song makes it worth sitting through.

Gold Diggers of 1935 (Busby Berkeley, 1935)
– So, this was the first Busby Berkeley musical I’ve seen, and wowie!!!

Give a Girl a Break (Stanley Donen, 1953) – I thought this was pretty incredible, and jeez was this tense. I really thought this did a good job of building the anticipation of an audition and like that they made all 3 women equally talented and made me want to root for each of them. I was expecting the whole time for there to be some crazy scheme to bring them all into the musical, but was really glad that it went for the more true scenario of 3 very deserving performers and not enough roles for all of them. And what great song and dance numbers!

Summer Holiday (Rouben Mamoulian, 1948) – I don’t have a lot of context for these small town musicals so I'm still sorting out how to rank and categorize them. This was enjoyable enough and Mickey Rooney reading communist literature was an amusing touch. The whole woman from a city corrupting Mickey Rooney stuff was kind of flatly handled, I guess there’s probably some camp value to be found in there, but I was kind of meh’d by it.

Small Town Girl (László Kardos, 1953)
– Having Farley Granger locked up in jail for most of the film is such a fun premise for a musical! This had lots of really great dance numbers here as well. I found this was way more enjoyable than Summer Holiday.

TCM Summer Under the Stars 2015: Fred Astaire

Flying Down to Rio (Thornton Freeland, 1933) – Perhaps the core plot here is a little unremarkable, but I thought this really crackled! I know nothing about this era, but is this the only pre-code Astaire-Rogers film? The witty innuendo-laden dialog and knack for visual and auditory gags really give this a lot of energy. Maybe its one of the lesser ‘Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Musicals’, but this was one of my favorite musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in it.

The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934) – Perhaps this got used as the blueprint for many of the later films, but I thought this one stood out from the later iterations in shifting the misunderstanding by having Ginger Rogers catch on before Fred Astaire does, when she’s usually the last one to know. I enjoy some of the other variations, but I thought this had a nicer balance and flow to it than most.

Roberta (William A. Seiter, 1935) – The double plotlines of this and Follow the Fleet didn’t work at all for me. There’s some likable things here but I was completely unengaged with most of the narrative developments.

Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935) – I thought this film did the best job of building up the misunderstandings to the furthest possible extreme and it worked well for me both in terms of comedy and legitimate tension. Lots of really solid material here, like when Fred Astaire is tap dancing above Ginger Roger’s room in the beginning.

Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich, 1936)
– I loved the opening "We Saw The Sea" number, but afterwards this really lost me. All the stuff involving Randolph Scott wanting to captain a boat and the sisters’ father having once owned a boat seemed hopelessly convoluted and uninteresting.

Swing Time (George Stevens, 1936) – Not one of my favorites of the bunch, but still really great.

Carefree (Mark Sandrich, 1938) – While the narrative in here was probably not as engaging as some other variations, some parts of this were a hell of a lot of fun, like pretty much every scene were Ginger Rogers is under hypnosis and just going crazy. I kind of like that this is sort of the most extreme variation of the usual plot setup where Ginger Rogers is just flat out hypnotized into trying to marry someone she'll be unhappy with, instead of some strange plot misunderstandings making her decide to spontaneously marry the first goof she comes into contact with.

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (H.C. Potter, 1939)
– I quite enjoyed this, though that’s probably more due to the interest of seeing a new variation of the Astaire-Rogers couple more than the filmmaking here. It was a refreshing switchup to see them working together as a married couple rather than watching Fred Astaire have to navigate some weird web of misunderstandings and hijinks. I secretly wish the slapstick numbers didn’t have to be the lowpoint for Fred Astaire’s character, as that would’ve been fun to see him do a lot more of those genuinely.

Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
– This was another excellent variation on their formula, and I thought this film had some of the best character moments during the dance sequences. That moment where Fred Astaire slowly reveals he can tap dance to Ginger Roger’s character part way through the dance is probably one of the most delightful things to watch.

You Were Never Lovelier (William A. Seiter, 1942) – I thought the setup here was a little slow, but otherwise another delightful movie. Perhaps not quite the same energy as the Astaire-Rogers films, but really enjoyable none the less and a nice switch up.

Bandwagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953) – Still one of the most fun possible things to watch.

Silk Stockings (Rouben Mamoulian, 1957)
– I’m not super enthusiastic about the Ninotchka storyline, but, as with the older one, some really great performances do wonders to elevate the material . I’m probably wearing out my superlatives by now so I should figure out more intelligent ways to discuss musicals but this was another delightful film.

Royal Wedding (Stanley Donen, 1951) – Not as involved with the characters this one, but still a really beautiful film with a lot of fun numbers.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#547 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 11, 2015 7:15 pm

An interesting selection, I've seen all of them but Broadway Gondolier. Small Town Girl is the best of the small town musicals, the two Doris Day Booth Tarkington movies are the worst. Everything else falls between. I used to be pretty down on Silk Stockings, though I think "Stereophonic Sound" is one of the greatest off all musical numbers, but I started rewatching it recently and loved it, so I'm not sure what my problem was with it.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#548 Post by bottled spider » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:02 am

Finally got around to watching Silk Stockings, with much skepticism (but what to do, I'm running out of Astaire films), only to be rewarded with one of best. The only shortcoming of this film is that it's dull up until Charisse & Astaire's first dance.

Oodles of sex appeal -- Yoshenka's risqué silk stocking scene is almost shocking. At the same time, it's one of most tasteful Astaire films, with nothing cringe-inducing in it. The dancing is top notch: Charisse & Astaire's first dance in his apartment, their second one at the studio, Charisse's lingerie solo, the big number "Red Blues", and Astaire's final number. The absence of gimmicky stunt dancing is a refreshing change. Just really elegant stuff.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#549 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:48 am

Recent viewings:

Aladdin (Ron Clements and John Musker 1992) And with this rewatch I can now safely declare the Little Mermaid to be in no danger of relinquishing its crown as the best of the Disney Renaissance. I liked this when I was a kid, though mostly for the songs (I definitely played the tape of this soundtrack all the time), and that’s pretty much where I fall again as an adult. There are some good songs, though despite all efforts, nothing here is as show-stoppingly perfect as “Kiss the Girl” or “Under the Sea.” Robin Williams’ schtick lands more often than it falters, which is good because there is so much of it. However, the film has no internal logic thanks to indulging all of Williams’ improvs and suffers as a result, anticipating Family Guy-style narratives years in advance. That isn’t a good thing.

Anything Goes (Robert Lewis 1956) It's hard to go wrong with great Cole Porter tunes and a cast including Donald O'Connor, Bing Crosby, and Vera Ellen, but this movie exceeds expectations in the not-right direction by being perfectly awful. I kept up hopes for entire minutes until the first number, one of the worst I've ever seen in any musical, shamelessly rips off "Make 'Em Laugh" minus wit, clever dancing, adept songwriting, and anything else that made that number so memorable (besides Donald O'Connor, who is helplessly adrift here). Save the decent finale, the musical numbers are unimaginatively staged and the arrangements limp and miscalculated, especially Jeanmarie's truly hideous slowkey defilement of "I Get a Kick Out of You." Speaking of, the callous Leslie Caron-aping of Jeanmarie's presence here is an insult to viewers of all walks of life, as her screen presence has all the pleasure of being kicked in the face.

Billy Rose’s Jumbo (Charles Walters 1962) The slew of circus-themed films that flourished in the fifties into the early sixties in Hollywood produced meager positive returns: the Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture in 1952 (and became a living embodiment of Oscar cowardice in the interim despite being a decent film) and Danny Kaye made a wonderful underrated musical set under the Big Top with Merry Andrew. But we mostly got unwatchable dreck like Carol Reed’s Trapeze and this, coming in at the tail end of the craze and embarrassingly square and out of step with the era, is the worst of the lot. The mediocre songs and body double work are plentiful. Entertainment is not. It does feature Martha Raye with giant inflatable clown breasts, though, so perhaps some fetish lover in the Warner offices can be blamed for this somehow making it to Blu-ray.

Higher and Higher (Tim Whelan 1944) Michele Morgan is wasted in this dumb upstairs/downstairs musical as a scullery maid masquerading as an heiress in order to save her boss’ fortune and standing with the other hoi polloi. Even the comic bits that work, like how Morgan keeps finding herself doing menial labor by default instead of acting like a member of the ruling class, don’t make much sense: unless this character is mentally retarded, would she really think she needs to scrub the front stoop the day after her debutante premiere? Frank Sinatra makes his film debut as… Frank Sinatra, the popular singer across the street.

Love Me or Leave Me (Charles Vidor 1955) I know this has its fans but I found this barely watchable, with James Cagney’s (inexplicably Oscar-nominated) pathetic gangster ruining aspiring singer Doris Day’s life with his jealousy and need to control. By the time the film practically defends Cagney and shares Day’s abused wife mentality, I was more than happy to take the latter option offered by the film’s title.

Lullaby of Broadway (David Butler 1951) Gene Nelson is described at least three or four times in this film as an amazing dancer. I guess the studio hoped if they said it enough people might not notice he’s really, really not. Acrobatic and athletic, maybe, but lacking style, charm, and rhythm to be sure. He even jokes at one point that he’s better than Fred Astaire. Oh child, no. The film he finds himself in is a tired (loose) reworking of Lady for a Day, with Doris Day being quasi-romanced by SZ “Cuddles” Sakall, who provides the only saving graces of this bottom of the barrel musical. I spent a lot of the running time of this film creating an imagined biography for Sakall’s career. I decided his daughter married one of the Warner Brothers and they liked his dinner table presence enough to put him in movies. Anything to not focus on the actual film we got was a good investment of time here, really.

Nine (Rob Marshall 2009) A musical remake of 8 1/2 with songs you forget the moment they end (sometimes sooner than that) and a lot of good actors phoning it in, rudderless in a production set adrift in the cosmos. Marshall proves his great Chicago was a lucky fluke. Penelope Cruz was presumably only Oscar-nominated because voters wanted to fuck her (?). An utterly unnecessary movie.

Step Lively (Tim Whelan 1944) Let’s remake a Marx Brothers movie! And make Frank Sinatra the straight man! And other bad ideas!

Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Francois Girard 1993) A fun concept that never quite rises above the novelty of its construction— we do indeed get thirty-two vignettes explaining Gould, some just interviews with those who knew him, others full-on biopic moments— but it proves a decent enough entertainment, and at not much over an hour and a half, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Young Man With a Horn (Michael Curtiz 1950) Lovely classic Hollywood tale of a musician’s rise and downfall (and somewhat unconvincing literal last-minute salvation), with Kirk Douglas doing strong work as an uneducated trumpet player who somehow ends up unhappily married to psychiatrist-in-training Lauren Bacall (doing the ice queen thing to perfection). I enjoyed the film’s topical embodiment of the era’s skepticism of psychiatry, and Douglas’ relationship with his black mentor is given surprising depth and importance in the film, making it far more progressive in its fashion than many so-called liberal pics of the day. Recommended.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#550 Post by dustybooks » Mon Jan 25, 2016 12:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:Love Me or Leave Me (Charles Vidor 1955) I know this has its fans but I found this barely watchable, with James Cagney’s (inexplicably Oscar-nominated) pathetic gangster ruining aspiring singer Doris Day’s life with his jealousy and need to control. By the time the film practically defends Cagney and shares Day’s abused wife mentality, I was more than happy to take the latter option offered by the film’s title.
I didn't see this film as defending Moe, although obviously that's going to vary from person to person. I found this one of the more harrowing portraits of an abusive relationship I've seen, with some scenes calling up uncomfortable memories from growing up with my dad. That might be why I found Cagney's performance very moving -- he's a monster but he's also a human being who's clearly broken. It's been too long since I've seen the film to mount any further defense, but I did love this, and Day's work in it really turned around my opinion of her. (Since she'd been married to an extremely violent man earlier in her life and her career was ostensibly controlled by her second husband, I also wonder how much of herself she saw in Etting.)

The movie I thought of when reading your criticisms was Interrupted Melody, the weird MGM biopic of Marjorie Lawrence; after a search I see that you've seen it, and I agree with your remarks. It sticks out in my mind as being oddly mean-spirited, with exploitative shots of Eleanor Parker writhing across the floor to turn off a recording of her own music, etc.

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