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Entries in musicals (257)


Remember Jesse L Martin's "I'll Cover You"

Ten years ago today the quickly forgotten film version of Rent (2005) premiered in movie theaters. At the time Rent had been a visceral sensation on stage for nearly a decade and was just a few years short of closing its nearly $300 million grossing Broadway run. Let's just say the movie didn't have a prayer of measuring up, even financially, grossing only $31 million worldwide in theaters. Rent (the movie!) was a dubiously near-perfect example of all the things that can go wrong with movie musicals and despite many other films teaching Hollywood the same exact not-all-that-complicated lessons, Hollywood is still having trouble learning.

You nearly always need these three things: visually stylish directors who also understand storytelling within the musical idiom (it's not an easy thing to move from the abstract friendly medium of the stage to the usually literal medium of the cinema); sly confident casting and gifted performers (transferring entire Broadway casts absolutely won't do. And neither will its opposite, replacing them all with "names" whether or not they can sing and dance. Why? Both strategies just reek of insecurity); and, finally, the right blend of zealous passion and merciless intelligence from the filmmaker since musicals are complicated and needy and fragile and they tend to come with a tricky but essential mix of artifice and sincerity. 

Of course Rent had it's own problems apart from failing to meet those three essentials. It is also a story wherein New York City is as much a leading character as Roger, Mark or Mimi. In the abstract friendly environments of the theater, a simple flourish like a fire escape can represent and entire teeming city with millions of stories in it with ease. If you try to fake New York City in the movies without a stylized visual approach, it just going to look cheap and weak.

But for all of its problems Rent (2005) did give us Jesse L Martin singing onscreen and for that we'll always be grateful. I mean, just listen to his superbly emotive instrument.

A couple of years ago Martin was supposed to headline a biopic about Marvin Gaye and though his casting was inspired financing fell through somewhere along the production phase so the movie seems like one of those phantom features now, caught somewhere between development hell and actual existence. Other roles for Martin just haven't satisfied his musical fans. The much missed Smash (RIP) did a lot of things wrong in its two seasons as a network musical but one of its true unforgiveable sins was actually giving Jesse L Martin a job IN A MUSICAL and then denying the audience that voice. (We keep waiting for The Flash to have a meta-human musical episode since a hefty percentage of its principle cast comes with gorgeous pipes and real musical theater cred.)

Did you ever see Rent on stage? If not do you have any strong memories of the movie?


The Honoraries: Debbie Reynolds in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (1964)

This week we're celebrating the three Honorary Oscar winners. Here's abstew on Debbie Reynolds' favorite role.

Molly Brown is my favorite of all the roles I've played. I love something about almost every part I've done, but I identified with Molly as soon as I met her. In the sometimes blurry line between art and and real life, Molly is the woman I've become as the years have passed. I'm right there with her when she declares, "I ain't down yet!"

-Debbie Reynolds Unsinkable: A Memoir

In her decades long show business career, amid the watchful eye of media scrutiny, Debbie Reynolds has endured trials and tribulations and come out the other side of it stronger. Caught in a Hollywood scandal, the original jilted girl-next-door (long before Jennifer Aniston was even born), Reynolds stood by while then husband Eddie Fisher left her and her two young children for screen siren Elizabeth Taylor. Her luck with men didn't improve later as second husband Harry Karl spent years gambling away her hard-earned money, leaving her with mounting debts to cover. Even her dream of finding a permanent home to house her legendary collection of movie memorabilia never came to pass and forced her to put them up for auction. So you can see how playing a character like the real life Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the Titanic, earning her the moniker "Unsinkable", would find a kindred spirit in the guise of feisty spitfire Debbie Reynolds. The actress, like the legendary woman, simply doesn't know what it means to be defeated...

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The Honoraries: Dancin' Debbie Reynolds

For the next two weeks we'll be celebrating all three of the Honorary Oscar Recipients at TFE. Here's Dancin' Dan to kick things off... with musical numbers. - Editor

Debbie Reynolds may not have started out as a dancer, but she sure made a great one on film. I can be (and honestly have been known on occasion to be) somewhat churlish and point out the exact moment from the legendary "Good Morning" number in Singin' in the Rain where the 19 year-old ingenue starts cheating her steps... but it's my favorite movie, and we're here to honor the unsinkable Ms. Reynolds, so why would I want to?

And besides, she's already proven herself the cat's meow in her first number in the film, the perfectly pretty in pink "All I Do is Dream of You". (more...)

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Our Small Screen MVPs of the Week

Who or what was your MVP of this past week on your small screens at home?

We polled Team Experience to share theirs. In this new world of infinite screens and schedules, whether you're bingeing, right up-to-date, or on demand surfing, we're all probably on different time tables so please do share yours as well.

If you watch these shows do you have the same MVPs?

MVPs of the Week

Homeland's Showrunner
Alex Gansa, showrunner of Homeland, has managed to take a great-show-turned-shitshow and make it thrilling again. I said it. I said thrilling. About late season Homeland!? Am I crazy? Maybe. The thing I fear is that it will all fall apart, that three (out of three!) excellent episodes this season will turn, by season’s end, into a fluke. But here’s what we’ve got: Characters behaving in ways that don’t immediately strike you as utterly stupid. Unpredictability. Twists. Bigger twists. Signature Homeland footchases involving losing people in crowds (we all love that, right?). A connection of the CIA to geopolitics that is complex. And I have no idea what Saul Berenson is up to.  I mean, I could have given the MVP to Mandy Patinkin just for drumming his fingers, but there’s so much going on visually, and in the writing, that Alex Gansa is my guy. (I’m recapping weekly here if you’re so inclined.) - Deborah Lipp

The Flash - Whoever Thought This Callback Up
In a strange reversal of current billion dollar movieverses, Marvel goes dark for television (see Daredevil and the upcoming Jessica Jones) and DC (The Flash/Supergirl) lightens up. The Flash's first season was a shock to the system, in that it was genuinely good: well plotted, bravely silly (Gorilla Grodd anyone?), filled with fizzy action sequences, jokey quips, and an unashamedly sentimental soul (has a lead male in a TV series ever cried as much as Grant Gustin on The Flash?) in other words: just like a comic book. Season 2 hasn't been as fun but the addition of drama from Earth Two (don't ask) in the form of another Flash Jay Garrick (played by TFE favorite Teddy Sears from Dollhouse/Masters of Sex) is promising. And this joyful bit ripped directly from comic book pages when a victim calls out for Flash and both heroes come running was pure throwback bliss. It was like I was a little kid hungrily flipping comic book pages again. - Nathaniel R

Bob's Burgers's Kristen Schaal
Confession: I love Kristen Schaal. In many circles that is a somewhat controversial stance since her comedy is at times almost intentionally grating (see 30 Rock which half the time didn’t know what to do with her Hazel Wassername). When it’s harnessed correctly (see The Daily Show, Flight of the Conchords) it is magical to behold. Seeing as her comedy so depends on her distinctive voice (a loony rubber band of a squeal) it’s no surprise she’s found success doing voiceover work (in the Toy Story franchise, in the great Gravity Falls, even in the amazing Archer). But it is her work as Louise Belcher in Bob’s Burgers which may be her crowning achievement. A conniving, no-nonsense, entrepreneurial nine year old whose adult schemes are hilariously at odds with her signature pink rabbit-ears hat, Louise prides herself on being the smartest person in the room. The latest episode, "Hauntening", where her parents attempt to give her a worthy scare with the world’s lamest haunted house was a brilliant showcase for Schaal, as her Louise goes from blasé indifference to outright fright by the end of the episode. - Manuel Betancourt

Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Chelsea Peretti 
When Captain Holt was transferred out of the 99 at the end of season two, and Gina Linetti loyally followed him out the door, devotees of TV's most reliable sitcom feared the worst. But of course the show wasn't going to let its two most valuable characters (give or take Rosa Diaz) go that easily, and if nothing else, the third season's initial episodes have made their contrived inclusions of the pair's new office a chance for Gina to exercise her superiority over everyone in the vicinity. "Gina Linetti," she introduces herself at one meeting, "the human form of the 100 emoji." Stand-up comedienne Chelsea Peretti has been acing this part from the very beginning, giving Gina a confidence that never seems arrogant despite almost complete narcissism. Whenever she speaks, her self-love seems completely genuine, because it is completely valid, but Peretti also roots it in an unspoken sense of the subservience Gina knows most women in her position would likely feel, and makes that rebellion even more empowering. Brooklyn Nine-Nine's most surprising strength is its variety of strong female characters in a workplace not typically kind to females, and Gina Linetti, despite her stereotypical role, is the crown emoji. - David Upton



Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Musical Numbers 
The pilot of the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does not get off to the strongest possible start. But then, about ten minutes or so in, protagonist Rebecca Bunch (the supremely GIF-able Rachel Bloom) bursts into song, singing the praises of "West Covina, California" - the sun-dappled home of her former summer camp boyfriend Josh, who she not-entirely-accidentally runs into on the streets of NYC. Of course, she decides (much like Felicity before her) to ditch her soul-killing Junior Partnership at a high-powered law firm to follow him. In true movie musical fashion, she moves from the grey-blue streets of NYC to the golden-hued roads of CA over the course of the number, and in so doing kicks the show into high gear. The number just gets funnier and funnier as it goes, until it ends with Rebecca ascending to the heavens on a giant pretzel. It's musical comedy heaven. And that's just the first number. After what happened to Smash and Glee, it's tempting to think that musical series will only disappoint, but right now it looks like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is on the glitter-strewn path to greatness. - Dancin Dan


Golden Globe Musical or Comedy: a thin field or just a mysterious one?

Last week was a good one for Gold Derby. Not only did Ryan Murphy elevate their brand status by ____ them to death with an Oscar on American Horror Story but their story that David O. Russell's Joy would go Drama at the Golden Globes got a lot of "whoa, really?" press. I'm sure it's true-ish now but people are so exciteable about any "news" that I'm always finding myself in the position of splash of cold water realism. Truth: there are few certainties this early as it's only October and there's lots of wiggle room still for campaigns and precursor ponderings and such. Films are still entering (The Big Short) and exiting (I Saw The Light) the 2015 calendar and some switcheroos of fate/precursors/campaigning happen at all junctures on the way to Oscar: remember when My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Gangs of New York were suddenly Original Screenplays (oy); remember when Oscar decided abruptly that all the precursors were wrong and Kate Winslet was a leading lady in The Reader (they were right of course but it was super gross how all the precursors and media were all "Yay, category fraud!!!"); or when Whiplash was determined to be Adapted too late for its FYCs to urge voters to vote that way.

So let's assume that Joy is out of the Golden Globe Musical or Comedy and let's assume The Martian is in (though obviously things could change on either front). And after shedding whatever tears must be shed that the Coen Bros Hail, Caesar! is not opening in time to own this category, we move on.

Is the field thin or just mysterious to our eyes in October? Let's take a look after the jump...

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Posterized: Joe Wright's "Pan" and Peter Pan Movies

Jackman and Wright talk on setYou have to admit that Joe Wright was asking for it. He went and titled his Peter Pan epic, Pan, which is functioning like a command for the nation's critics who have done so mercilessly. It probably didn't help that he uglified one of our most handsome movie stars (no one needs to see Hugh Jackman going the Johnny Depp route). Worse, he truly stepped in it early on by casting the very white Rooney Mara in one of the few iconic roles meant for a Native American actress. (This issue has been discussed at very high volumes in the past few years since moviegoers and the media are sick to death of Hollywood's white-washing. But Hollywood is still wearing ear plugs.)

Will you see his latest despite the reviews?

And how many Peter Pan related movies have you seen? (More on Peter and Joe after the jump)

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A Spoonful of Annie? Perhaps...

Kieran here. In the age of remakes, re-imaginings and two Spiderman reboots in less than five years, the announcement that Disney is developing a new musical featuring Mary Poppins actually feels kind of refreshing. Revisiting a character from a live-action musical? And a female character at that? I say "kind of refreshing" because it still feels like a very strange project this far out. It's supposedly set twenty years after the events of Mary Poppins, which immediately had me imagining something darker in tone, not unlike Return to Oz. How does the Banks family fare two decades after the wind changed and Mary bid them adieu? This is all speculative of course. No plot details have been released and only a few key crew members have been announced. Rob Marshall is slated to direct and the script is being penned by David Magee (Finding Neverland and Life of Pi).

How do I put this diplomatically...Can we stop giving every live-action musical (unfortunately few and far between at this point) to Rob Marshall? It seems knee-jerk and lazy every time a musical is announced with Marshall at the helm. I liked Chicago quite a bit, but it's been a pretty steep decline since then. He seems to direct screen musicals with the desire to make them palatable for modern audiences rather than leaning into the medium and truly working well within it. Remember that odd "Musical for People who Hate Musicals" campaign during Chicago's Oscar run? Or that first Into the Woods trailer where no one was singing? Or how over half of the musical numbers were cut out of Nine and the rest were sung on a stage for no reason? It's time to give another director a chance. Perhaps someone with a little less internalized musical self-hatred (Yes, I just made that term up). Musicals are a tough medium with a specific audience. They need a director who will embrace their heightened theatrics and overt sentimentality without pandering to 21st century audiences who aren't accustomed.

For the role of Mary herself, no one is officially attached as of yet, though Anne Hathaway's name is certainly being thrown around. A lot. I think she'd be a fine, more than worthy choice. I was relieved, as someone who likes Anne Hathaway and doesn't understand why I'm not supposed to, when it seemed that she wouldn't be doing that Judy Garland biopic that was in development a while back. Should she play Mary, I do worry about the inexplicably pilloried actress having an even larger target on her back by stepping into such an iconic part. Other names being tossed around are pretty much the ones you'd expect. Any young actress who's been in a musical or shown vocal talent. 

Who would you like to see in the role of the magical singing nanny? Discuss in the comments.


Who Should Play Mary Poppins?
Anne Hathaway
Emily Blunt
Anna Kendrick
Amanda Seyfried
Sutton Foster
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Someone Else Entirely!
I Don't Care. I'm Not Watching This!
Quiz Maker