Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I've Got a Theory!

A good morning to all y'all visiting Film Experience Land. This is JA from My New Plaid Pants pulling my head outta the dirt and waving howdy; I'm one of the lucky few chosen to spread love and wonderment here while my pal Nathaniel goes and gays up Utah a lil' bit. (sidenote: You know he travels with a life-size cardboard cut-out of Michelle Pfeiffer in that red dress from The Fabulous Baker Boys to throw on top of the nearest piano, right? A little bit of home where ever he goes.)

Anyhoo, hello. I figured now would be the perfect time to try an experiment I've been mulling in my head for a bit. If this goes well, I might just make it something recurring back in my neck o' the blogosphere. I don't know if you've heard, but I went through a little rough patch a couple weeks back. Upended my entire sense of self, it did. See, I've always been a staunch non-supporter of a certain cinematic genre. One that... well, tends to (or tended to, as the case may now be) cause fits of bloat, nausea, headaches, bleeding from the eye sockets. That genre is the Musical. Leggings, off-center top hats, sequined gloves... not for me, I said!

But then... well then I bit the bullet and watched a pair of Bob Fosse movies. All That Jazz and Cabaret, to be crystal. And... I liked them. I liked them! I liked them a lot. I smiled, I smirked... I secretly sashayed.

So what's all that got to do with today, and y'all? Well, I want you guys and dolls to make me watch a musical.

The list is short - very short - of musicals I have seen already. Disney cartoons are out; I've long been able to stomach song and dance from animated rodents. One of my favorite movies of all-time is a musical - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I, like every other American I would think, have seen The Wizard of Oz more times than I could count.

So how do I come up with options? Options for what you ask? I am going to give y'all the opportunity to vote between 5 different musicals, and I will watch the top 2 choices, and then I will tell y'all what I, an admitted musical novice (not just a novice, honestly, but an active hater), thought. It might not be pretty. But my Fosse-moment made me realize I've been unfair, excluding an entire genre from myself. And I need y'all to help me see what I ought to see!

I was just going to go with the Top 5 Musicals listed at IMDb as your choices to vote upon, but as I look at them this morning I think... no. I need a wider array of choices. The ones I feel an ever-so-slight hint of shame for having avoided for so long. Plus another Fosse, for good measure. I've talked enough! Let's see the choices!

Singin' In The Rain (1952) - I've seen the title song sequence - who hasn't - but none more. Gene Kelly... I don't think I've ever seen a Gene Kelly movie in my life. Stop staring at me! Put down that pitchfork. We're being forgiving here!

Top Hat (1935) - This is generally considered the best of the Fred and Ginger movies, right? Tell me again: which one is Fred and which one is Ginger?

West Side Story (1961) - Something about jazz-handy gangs and knife-dances and Natalie Wood playing ethnic, right?

My Fair Lady (1964) - My love for Audrey Hepburn actually had me try to watch this movie once before, but so great was my hatred for 'Enry 'Iggins that I had to stop watching. This one I included because it guarantees a vitriol-laced rant from yours truly if forced to sit through the entire thing. This movie might eat my brains.

Sweet Charity (1969) - Fosse! Did you know Bob Fosse only directed five films? And two of them aren't musicals? That's what IMDb is telling me anyway. I plan on seeing both Lenny and Star 80 some time, but for the fifth and Fosse-inflected spot in this list, that leaves us the Shirley MacLaine starring Charity. Which I know zero zilch nada about. I like Shirley, though!

So bring it on! Voting will end tomorrow morning - so I can throw the winners into my rental queue and get them on time to watch and review before Nathaniel is back next week (Netflix turnaround and all) - and I will tell y'all what I thought of the two top vote-getters over the next few days. Choose wisely, my friends! This is four plus hours of my life we're playing with!



Anonymous said...

it's going to be a lot more than 4 hours of your life if My Fair Lady & WSS both win

E Dot said...

I agree with anon. My Fair Lady and WSS won Best Picture oscars for a reason. But the other films are fantastic too. Glad you liked the Fosse films. Cabaret is amazing.

Anonymous said...

WSS and Singin. Singin is just a great film and funny, WSS was ground breaking and unlike a lot of those, you can still see why. Plus Rita Morena could power the whole the US east coast.
My Fair Lady leaves me cold, Top Hat kind of meh, Sweet Charity needs a high Shirley McClaine tolerance which I admit to not having (sorry Nathaniel). This from someone who unabashedly loves musicals, watches a LOT of them and directs a few.

Anonymous said...

Singin' in the Rain I think is absolutely the best of the bunch... it's hard to imagine anyone not liking that movie. It's kind of a non-musical musical, in the way it makes fun of itself.

Anonymous said...

Singin' in the Rain I think is absolutely the best of the bunch... it's hard to imagine anyone not liking that movie. It's kind of a non-musical musical, in the way it makes fun of itself.

Deborah said...

Sweet Charity is only for the hardcore Fosse devotee.

My Fair Lady is brilliant, but it's static. It's funny and satiric and beautiful, but most of the singing is of the standing there variety.

Top Hat is my personal favorite, but it's a confection; your love of Fosse suggests you want more meat.

Therefore Singin' in the Rain is the best of the bunch.

West Side Story is also pure genius.

Really, the only one I wouldn't recommend on the list is SC.

Anonymous said...

Singing in the Rain has become such an influence on later filmmakers and videographers in terms of it's imagery, I'd say it's one not to miss if only for that reason and the title sequence.

Heart to anon in yorkshire re: Rita Moreno. "America" is reason enough alone to watch WSS. (oddly enough, for once the film does a better job with this number than the play, which takes place entirely amoungst the women. An attempt to give the girls some equal time to the guys, but the plays version lacks the gender politics, the fire and the flirtaciousness of the film's version of that number.)


Anonymous said...

Top Hat represents a better America when all a balding geeky guy needed was grace and well padded tux. Fred was my childhood hero

Neel Mehta said...

My Fair Lady is a 3-hour movie that runs exceedingly slowly, starts to get interesting, then suddenly stops.

West Side Story is reliable entertainment, but if you haven't seen it by now, you could probably go a while longer without it.

Singin' in the Rain, however, is a must-see. It's the Raiders of the Lost Ark of musicals, piling on scene after scene after scene of memorable numbers and dialogue. Funny, entertaining, and a good intro to Gene Kelly. I would also recommend the first half hour of An American in Paris to see how fluid his movements are when he's not dancing.

Catherine said...

That was the easiest pol I've ever taken part in; West Side Story and Singin' In The Rain are both superb films. Both of them would enter into my top 20 films of any genre and you MUST watch Singin', purely for Donald O' Connor. Gene Kelly be damned, O' Connor and Debbie Reynolds are the real stars of this.

May I also recommend "Guys & Dolls"? It's not on your list, but it's worth a view.

Thombeau said...

I am so glad you saw Cabaret! It's a brilliant and very adult film. Nearly perfect! (and obviously one of my favorites!)

Scott said...

Singin' is the class of that group by leaps and bounds. That's true for lots of reasons, but really you should see it for Jean Hagen's hilarious supporting turn, if for nothing else. But there are lots of other great things about it.

Anonymous said...

I really like West Side Story but for someone who dislikes musicals, I don't think you're gonna enjoy it. It's overlong and the leading couple is really hard to stomach. Still, the dance sequences are dazzling and Rita Moreno alone is worthy the price of admission.

Anonymous said...

speaking of the musicals, please go see LOVE SONGS this weekend!

Nick M. said...

Well, you've already seen my favorite three musicals--Cherbourg, Jazz and Cabaret--so I'd say stop while you're still ahead.

(Although, as the comment above me just mentioned--I really, really cannot wait for Honoré's Love Songs. The musical telephone conversation in Dans Paris is the most splendid moment in that already-wonderful film.)

SusanP said...

I was going to suggest Sweet Charity, simply because you've already shown a preference for the Fosse style and you like Shirley. It also has a few show-stoppers, my personal favorites being "Big Spender," "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This," and "If My Friends Could See Me Now."

But I agree with the consensus that Singin' in the Rain is the must-see on this list. It's not only (arguably) the best musical ever made, it's a great commentary on the transition from the silent era to talkies. It's more than a musical, it's a great movie about movies.

It looks like it's leading along with WSS (also great, but perhaps a tad too long for the musical-averse?)

I will look forward to your reviews.

Cengiz said...

Singin' in the Rain and West Side Story are your 2 best choices. Top Hat was good. My Fair Lady was long and slow and I much prefere Mary Poppins for Best Pic of that year. With Sweet Charity, I recommend YouTube-ing Big Spender and Rich Man's Frug (6 min. of nothing but Fosse style dancing. You can't get better than that)

Jason Adams said...

I knew you guys wouldn't let me down! Save My Fair Lady, I'll definitely get around to seeing all of these films at some point in the future. Unless something changes drastically overnight, it looks like I'll be catching Singin' in the Rain and WSS very soon in the future. And I'm excited to see both! I just needed to force my hand with something like this do get it done.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone is itnerested in this story....but I thought it was. They were filming Audrey in the "Wouldn't it be Lover-ly" number on Friday morning, November 22, 1963. News broke shortly after they began filming that JFK was assasinated in Dallas. George Cukor pulled Audrey aside to tell her the news asking her what they should do? How should they break the news? I guess it's some sort of British tradition that if a tragedy strikes, the star should break the it was she who broke the news to the cast & crew - all of whom were devastated (rmember this was a very vibrant young 46-year-old much-loved President). Many of the people left Warner Brothers sound stage in tears that day - Audrey stayed til the very end, consoling everyone. She really really was something. Big heart.

Anonymous said...

Definitely Singin' in the Rain and West Side Story. Both are among my favorite all-time films, not just musicals (although I do love musical, so I'm biased opposite of you). But really, they're both good films outside of being musicals. My Fair Lady is fun if you like the music, but it's much too long and as much as I love Audrey, it should've been Julie Andrews in there. I love Top Hat, too, but I'm a huge Fred-Ginger fan. Not sure I've seen Sweet Charity, but I can't imagine Fosse topping Cabaret and All That Jazz, which are so phenomenal.

Have you seen The Young Girls of Rochefort? Same director/composer as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; you'd probably like it. It could ease you into Gene Kelly, too, since he's in it. ;)

Jason Adams said...

I haven't seen The Young Girls of Rochefort, jandy, but I just looked it up and it does indeed sound like something I could maybe end up liking. Thanks for the rec!

jimmy - Great story. Audrey was such a class-act. I wasn't even near being alive when she was a big star, but I miss her something terrible all the same.

Anonymous said...

WSS is mandatory film watching - not just because it's a great musical, because it's a wonderful film! None of the others can quite boast this level of creative talent: Bernstein, Sondheim, Laurents, Robbins. And they are just behind the scenes!

Singing in the Rain has some brilliant dance sequences in it, which is what really propels that film.

My Fair Lady is overrated. Sweet Charity is fun, but disposable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Deborah and honeslaughter. My votes are WSS (greatest ensemble dancing EVER, fabulous score) and Top Hat. Astaire is the dancer all other dancers aspire too.

Mikahil Baryshnikov said he thought all American dancers were like Fred Astaire, and he was intimidated to come to the US. Then he found there was only one Astaire.

Astaire's "Bandwagon" with Cyd Charisse has the best long dance sequence, and "Funny Face" with Astaire and Audrey Hepburn (dir. Donen) had the great photographer Richard Avedon as consultant, so every frame is GORGEOUS.

"Tap" with the much-lamented late Gregory Hines has almost every great living African-American tap dancer in it, from Sammy Davis Jr. and the Nicholas brothers to a young Savion Glover. A dancer's delight.

Anonymous said...

Sorry -can't shut up, but as you've said you have a great love for Audrey Hepburn (and who doesn't) kill two birds with one stone and see "Funny Face" so you can see Fred Astaire WHILE watching Audrey.

Glenn Dunks said...

Ja, Sweet Charity has great musical sequences but the stuff around it? Well, let's just say you can tell it was Fosse's first film.

I personally prefer West Side Story, but I chose Singin' in the Rain for you. It's a bit more sweet and has a "aww shucks" and I know you liked Once, which has the same quality (although I like Rain and I don't like Once).

I've never seen My Fair Lady because it's so long and when I hired it out from the video store I just couldn't be bothered.