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« Best "Cats" Tweets | Main | How are the nominees introduced in their movies? (A Smackdown '60 appetizer) »
Friday
Jul192019

Yes, No, Maybe So: "Cats" (and personal "Cats" histories)

by Nathaniel R

All longform discussions of the trailer to Cats must be prefaced with one's own history with the Andrew Lloyd Webber megahit. It's the law. This is why no matter how insane the movie may appear, no matter how much it be instantly mocked on the internet, it will have (at least) a gigantic box office opening. The megamusical has been a phenomenon since 1981, grossing literally billions of dollars on stage, winning awards and selling millions of albums (back when people actually bought such things) with the hit song "Memory" being covered by hundreds upon hundreds of musicians thereafter. 

Cats was my first Broadway touring show which I saw in Detroit (presumably at the Fox Theatre?) as a kid. My parents bought me the t-shirt and later for Christmas the Original Cast Recording. On my first ever trip to NYC in 1989 (?) it was then my first Broadway show. I know I know... I was once a typical tourist who saw something he'd already seen *shakes head at self* while in New York when other surely better and newer things were playing. I was so obsessed Cats that I learned "Memory" on the piano and named my next two kittens "Mistoffles" and "Rumpleteaser". How young and foolish and easily manipulated I was by splashy worldwide sensations as a child. And yet from the 1990s onward I've barely thought of it but for whenever discussions of a possible movie version would come up, most notably all the joking in Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

Okay that's my history. You must share yours (it's the law) and since Cats is such an event brand, we must do the Yes No Maybe So™ breakdown after the jump in real time screencaps rather than trifurcating with our yes, no maybe so headings. Ready?

To quote Judi Dench as "Old Deuteronomy"...

We're about to begin

YAAAAS it's finally here. A second or two of overture with cobblestone street. Beautiful.

Yes. Look at the color and the cinematography... and people in cat suits? Okay, so it's just like the Broadway show filmed.


aaaaaAAAAAAAhhhhh *hyperventilation at first appearance of a Cat-Human  (translation: no). Why does it look like an actor's face was transposed over a humanoid with fur cgi creation. This is like that scene in Titanic where two stunt people run down the watery hallway and Kate & Leo's faces sort of float on top of them. YIKES.


YES. Casting real dancers is always good for musicals. Just look at the lines of her body. It's gorgeous (when you don't have to see the human face floating on cat body in closeup.


"I haven't seen you before" Judi Dench is most often a yes. And the cat people with lots of fur look better than the shorthaired cats which are a big no in this freaky vfx technique they've opted for. Which makes Judi Dench a... maybe so?

For those of you who don't know the "plot" of Cats, quotations intended, you're about to get spoilers. There is no plot. Old Deuteronomy is the boss and each year they meet and decide which cat ascends to the Heavyside Layer which is a fancy way of saying which cat gets reborn as a kitten (the whole nine lives thing, y'know.) So each cat introduces themselves in a big production number and then Grizabella is chosen and ascends. The end. [/spoiler] If this movie is longer than 100 minutes they have severely miscalculated their adaptation.


No. still not used to the CatPeopleFaceTuning and I've now watched the trailer four times (it's a sickness). 


No. The first shot of Grizabella the glamour cat (Jennifer Hudson) is not doing anything for us. There's not enough glamour. Yes, she's supposed to be a faded beauty but still, a bit more degraded sparkle, please... like shouldn't the coat be both more impressive and more uncared for and matted?

Yes. So one Oscar nomination locked up for sure: Eve Stewart headed for her fifth nomination for all these practical oversized sets which make neat if slightly camp visuals with the little people cats dancing among them. Eve Stewart was previously Oscar-nominated for The Danish Girl, Les Miserables (BAFTA win), The King's Speech, and Topsy-Turvy and won the Emmy for Elizabeth I (2006). 


No. Don't the proportions seem off though. Are these mice or cats? Toycats? They're so small for that bed. 


Yes. Mr Mistoffles (the magic cat) was my favourite as a kid after Grizabella of course. This is Laurie Davidson, who previously starred as Shakespeare in the short-lived series Will (2017). He's quite a looker and also with the disconcerting face visual effects, the cats whose eyes look less human come off much better. We've never met a human with naturally masked eyes though they're some of our favourite cats.


Yes but No simultaneously. Real dancing is so beautiful. But these strange... just put CGI fur on human bodies looks vaguely too sexual. Furries are going to get so wet watching this movie. The graveyard kink here is probably making Tim Burton jealous... why didn't I do this one instead of Sweeney?

YES. At this point in the trailer Judi Dench gets her "come, we're about to begin moment" which is classic trailer technique 'let's check out this world we want you to buy tickets for' but it's classic cuz it always works. 


Maybe So. The girl cats line up to watch Rum Tug Tigger (Jason DeRulo) dance. Do these girls know about the barbed penis? It's gonna hurt.

Maybe So. ROLL CALL time. The credits begin and this will all depend on performances so who knows... 


NO. James Corden as "Bustoffer Jones". We didn't mean to get so down on James Corden but his casting in The Prom really irked and he never surprises us as a performer because he is so ubiquitous. There are so many other actors out there, Hollywood.

YES. A cat jumps in the trash can. Same while watching this trailer last night though we've since grown fond, more or less ironically. What? We're entitled to change our mind.

YES. We're glad they gender-flipped this role so we can have Judi Dench as "Old Deuteronomy"


Maybe So. Jason DeRulo as "Rum Tug Tugger" We've never seem him act so who knows... Oh but wait, we did watch "Empire" and he was on one episode so perhaps we have but don't remember. He looks like he's having fun as Rum Tum Tugger and he'll need to since it's such an exuberant role. Fun fact: Theater actor Terrence Mann was the original Rum Tug Tugger on Broadway and you probably know him as the old man villain "Mr Whispers" on Sense8


YES. Idris Elba as "Macavity". We are a big NO on the need to make things look realistic (especially fanciful musicals) so the cats look way better more stylized like he is with the crazy green eyes and the hat. For those of you who aren't familiar with Cats, Macavity is an evil cat but he doesn't sing in the original musical so perhaps they've written a new song for Elba? Or maybe not. At any rate Bombalurina hates him. So it's Taylor vs Idris! 


MAYBE SO. Jennifer Hudson as "Grizabella". The success of the music rests largely on Jennifer Hudson (no pressure!) since Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals generally have one good song which is repeated ad infinitum. I think Memory gets three moments during the musical? Still deciding if we like this interpretation or not. JHud tends to oversing but her instrument is glorious so wouldn't you?


IT'S ALWAYS A YES WITH SIR IAN. Sir Ian McKellen as "Gus the Theater Cat" - what a good role for him and he'll be fun on the press circuit. Trivia: Sir Ian and Laurie Davidson (playing Mistoffles) have two movies together this year because they're both in The Good Liar, too, which opens a month before Cats.

Do you think Sir Ian said he'd only do that if they'd make him look like Lon Chaney Jr's Wolfman (1941)?


NO. Taylor Swift as "Bomabularina". I don't mean to alarm you but she's wearing high heels (and nothing else). For what it's worth the costume design is by one of our favourite men Paco Delgado but perhaps he was high while designing this one. For what it's worth the last time we remember him putting a cat costume on someone it was for the rape scene in The Skin I Live In (2011)

YIKES


NO. Rebel Wilson as "Jennyanddots" Her two slapstick bits in the trailer don't work. 


Yes, "uncle". And they know it. "Memory" is ssuch an all time classic that they know it's going to thrill even if you want to be all NO about it. So they save the big unveil til after the cast list and then go for the full throated nostalgia kill

NO. Tom Hooper. Until  he gifts his Oscar to David Fincher, it's rightful owner, we shan't be a yes. 


Yeah, sure. At this point we're used to the hallucinations. Lots of crazy images of cat people dancing. The trailer starts out revolting but true confession: once you watch it three or four times you can acclimate to the insanity and even appreciate it though you'll probably still plan on being very intoxicated or high before hitting the movie theaters. 


NO. A) THERE IS NO FOOD ON THIS PLATE AND B) THIS IMAGE IS GOING TO GIVE US NIGHTMARES.


Yes? We'll see. The real dancers might be the highlight of this spectacle. That's Francesca Hayward, a ballerina, as "Victoria," the youngest cat and we think this is Robert Fairchild as "Munkustrap" but we could be wrong. Robert Fairchild is a pretty great dancer from Salt Lake City who was Tony-nominated in the Gene Kelly role in An American in Paris on Broadway.


No. We are not actually anti-Swiftie, by default, but it's too disturbing to see the pop star in this context. It keeps taking us out of it. This is like an excerpt from a music video.


Maybe So. Yes, rescue us Mistoffles. Do something.

Maybe So. Grizabella is still singing and crying. She'll be doing that for the running time.


YES. Give us spectacle. That is the only reason for a Cats movie to exist since it's not a good musical and it has no plot. Having been acclimated /brainwashed by this trailer we are now certain that going for all out hallucinatory broke with the imagery -- including this rhythm nation salute to the sunrise or the heavyside layer or whatever is going on - was the only way this would have worked. Not that it does. We'll see on December 20th.


Yes. If it aint broke... and that logo is too iconic to mess with.


NO. This sounds like a threat. 

Are you a Yes, No or a Maybe So? Did your opinion keep shifting while watching this like ours. Have you watched it more than once. Do you feel it's a bad dream you can't wake up from? We have so many questions... both for the filmmakers and for you.

 

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Reader Comments (56)

This seems a little too mock-able to have any Oscar chances, outside some techs. Right?

The visuals deserve some kind of "Eyesore in Wonderland" shorthand. I know you can do it.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

And just like that, a whole new generation of furries was created.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

Um... NO.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterByrd

@beyaccount, LOL - that was my exact first thought. This feels... fetishy.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I'd rather shoot myself in the face than see this.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCharlieG

https://media.giphy.com/media/xiMUwBRn5RDLhzwO80/giphy.gif

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJ.B.

My history with CATS is that I've never even made it all the way through the original Cast Recording, so I'm probably not the intended audience.

But this is all a giant NO. The stuff of nightmares really. I hope it breaks even so they'll make another...much better musical movie, but that's about it.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

What kind of sleep paralysis shit is this? NO.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

I'm sorry but I just can't!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

It looks bloody awful. The CGI is atrocious.It's a big NO!

I went to see 'Cats' in London when I was about 10. It's alright but not one of my favourite musicals. The big thing I remember is one of the cats nuzzling up to my Great Aunt Gladys and her absolutely hating it!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

I'm going to say no. As much as I love Judi Dench I don't feel drawn to this.
I will watch the French & Saunders satiric version when it gets
made. Jennifer Saunders is bound to be funnier.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Remember the opening of Love Actually with Bill Nighy messing up the lyrics to Christmas is All Around Us, that he at some point says "this is shit, ain't it?" And his manager replies "solid gold shit, Maestro!"

That was the trailer for Cats

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

My history with CATS is as of 3 years ago I didn't know anything about it except those local commercials that would play ad naseum on TV in the 90s. And of course the show Memory. I knew it was popular, but I literally knew nothing about it.

Then in 2016, I finally saw it on Broadway with the revival. Apart from a couple of fun things, it left me so confused. Mostly because I have NO IDEA how something so... terrible and confounding... could have been so popular for such a long time. I literally thought the whole world had gaslit me into thinking it was a great musical.

Anyways, at least with that knowledge in hand, I will be prepared to mock this movie when it comes up. My friends and I will likely be high and/or drunk because why else would ANYONE see this sober if they didn't have to?

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I am here for it. Even odds it is terrible, but even then... I am ready.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

Looks like shit.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFaye

WTF is this thing? (I've never seen the musical, and all I know about Cats is the song Memory.) I know I'm feverish and sick with the flu today, but this looks pretty crazy, right? That said, I'm kinda interested in seeing more, but maybe it's that can't-look-away-from-a-train-wreck sort of thing. The one thing that would disappoint me is if this movie ends up being boring. Bad or tacky, fine. But don't be boring.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

I first saw the stage musical in my mid-twenties when a tour came to Baltimore in the mid 2000s, and with my expectations set so low my enjoyment was heightened.

The movie already has become infinitely meme-able, so in that regard it has succeeded admirably. My husband turned off the entire television set halfway through the trailer, but I'm more inclined to predict it to be a spectacular disaster best taken in after pre-show cocktails. The whole thing looks like it was shot through a Snapchat filter.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I first saw Cats in high school at the Muny with Stephanie J Block. She was awesome but I was so confused by the lack of plot.
To see how people feel about the trailer watch videos of them reacting in real time. One guy just said "Can we just stop this?!"

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G

WHY DO THEY HAVE BREASTS.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArlo

I loved Cats ironically as a kid; the whole thing was so ridiculous and terrible!

The movie looks like a mess but I'll totally see it just for its WTF factor. I'm sure others will, as well.

Not into J-Hud's rendition so far, but really, how can you top Betty Buckley's?

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

I'm officially obsessed. Not with the movie, but with the last 24 hours of tweets about the movie.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

"So one Oscar nomination locked up for sure: Eve Stewart headed for her fifth nomination for all these practical oversized sets which make neat if slightly camp visuals with the little people cats dancing among them."

Oh Nathaniel, no.

"The internet" isn't just affecting a pose by mocking this. It's hilariously heinous.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Oh, boy. I'm no fan of Cats (though a huge fan of cats), but have wondered why a stage-to-screen transfer never happed (till now). Perhaps, given our seemingly collective obsession with FaceApp, memes, Snapchat filters, etc., this is exactly the right time in history for a movie version of Cats.

To Nat's point about proportions, I have a California King and as few as three cats practically would crowd me out of that bed, so that's just one thing to fret. And why, when the filmmakers are touting their breakthrough fur-rendering digitization, can they not be bothered to edit out actors' breasts accordingly? That's bonkers.

Anyway, good luck on topping Betty Buckley's iconic, heartfelt rendition of Memory, because Hooper, Hudson & Co. are going to need it.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

P.S. I think the absence of plot is why Cats has been enormously popular in the first place. For a musical, it's beguilingly basic, so expect this to be a monster hit (à la The Greatest Showman).

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Everything about this is awful. But it can become a huge hit, right ? Look at Aladdin, after all.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKl

AW HELL TO THE NO!!!!!!!!!!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I hate the musical so this is the only way I could see the movie... if it's as messy as this looks. I told my friend I'd go with him if we get really high beforehand. lol.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

i have been refreshing since last night, waiting for this post! didnt disappoint.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAB

I am a Maybe So, but the more and more I watch this I'm going towards Yes. Some of the casting still has me concerned and the effects definitely are concerning, but I'm so on board with this trip.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I can't stand the sight of my own cat now. Thank you Mr. Hooper!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I haven´t seen the musical stage but this looks very bizarre for me. I think it could work better as an animated movie but as a cartoon version, not like the new Lion King movie, That would have been creepier.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Cats, yes!
Cats, the stage musical, once was enough.
Cats, the film musical adaptation with Hooper at the helm, hell no.

@LadyEdith Would rather everything in French & Saunders pantheon again or actual cat videos than watch this.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

The millions spent on this ear & eyesore could’ve been used for a film of Wicked.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

@Arlo - LOL, I didn't even notice that.

Are there humans in this Cats world? If not, why is all of the furniture oversized? I'm not understanding.

This is a huge no for me...I don't need Cats to take the place of the Kafka-esque qualities of my usual nightmares.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Razzies .

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJavier

Well can at least Billy Eichner is not in it.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Thanks for the ‘plot’ summary, Nathaniel. I saw Cats years ago but had no idea that’s what was happening on stage. It is still a crap musical and the relationship of the cats to their environment looks plain weird. Work out the proportions of this world and stick to
It!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Omfg. Possible future cult classic??

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Let's see, James Corden intensely irritates me, I've never liked Jennifer Hudson, I dislike Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show is pure cheese and this movie is coming out about oh, at least 25 years past its sell date.. I'm gonna have to take a hard pass.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

" it will have (at least) a gigantic box office opening. The megamusical has been a phenomenon since 1981, grossing literally billions of dollars on stage"

Les Miserables had just as many advantages, probably a lot more, and it still only opened number three at the box office with $27 million and it wasn't opening against a Star Wars movie. That movie did prove to have some legs but being an old Broadway hit clearly only gets you so far in the film market. Hell, look what happened to Phantom of the Opera. Am I missing something?

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMJS

My history with Cats is that my dad took me to see it on Broadway when I was seven and I became completely obsessed. I would go around singing the songs, and I dressed up as Grizabella one Halloween (no one knew who I was). So the musical brings up a lot of nostalgia even if there's also a big part of me that's kind of horrified that I was so obsessed with it.

This looks kind of completely awful, but I will totally be there opening weekend and will probably end up being really annoyed by changes to songs and/or missing songs, because apparently I'm not really capable of behaving logically about Cats.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFelicity

I showed this trailer to my wife, and about a minute in she turns and asks, "Is this real? Like, and actual movie?"

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBen

MJS -- hmmm. perhaps you're right about Les Miz but a nearly half billion gross worldwide is a major acehivement so Les Miz was an unqualified financial success. But yes, Phantom didnt do so hot.

July 19, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I love everyone's reactions.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

Les Miz was a good movie, altho not a reference in its genre.

The movie looks awful. None of it is appealing, except for that dance group number salute to Bovril, the meat paste. How can they turn a great musical into a project you dont want to see?

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterG.ShaQ

if a two minute trailer can do this much damage, there'll be no recovering from a two hour feature...

good grief no!

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpar

This looks like one of the worst things i’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like Batman & Robin without being somewhat self aware of its camp value. God it’s so, so bad. Shockingly bad.

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTyson

Oh I am so a YES. This looks insane and while I have long heard jokes about how weird CATS is, I've never actually seen and know almost nothing about it other than "Memory" and even that was vague. I will be going in with as little knowledge as possible (I skipped your spoiler section). It's been too long since we've had a legit what the fuck moviegoing experience that's been actually fun (SERENITY tried it and ultimately failed at the fun part). I can't wait to be literally screaming in the cinema at what is happening on screen.

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

All I can say is...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one irked by those pasted-on Winslet and DiCaprio faces on those poor stunt doubles from Titanic.

HORROR.

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterManny

Yes to everything except James Corden. He and Caleb Landry Jones bother me to no end, yet are cast in everything it seems.

July 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

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