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Janelle Monae's Breakout Year

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Entries in musicals (354)

Thursday
Dec082016

Exactly How Rare / Precious is "La La Land"?

With La La Land opening tomorrow (go see it) we must discuss it's already combed over reception from film critics and awards pundits and the like. When La La Land took the Best Picture prize from the NYFCC last week, certain pockets of people were outraged. Suddenly it was a "safe" movie, middlebrow, something utterly and completely common. 'Boy meets girls. Boy loses girl. UGH Romantic Dramas, am I right?!' Awards season backlash and contrarianism is a real thing though people try to pretend it's not each and every year and consider their motives solely pure. I know I've been guilty of it myself. I trust exactly no one in the entire talking-about-movies ecosphere who claims they haven't. Awards season is like politics; It affects everyone, even or especially those who rage against it and claim it to be meaningless to them. File that type under "the lady doth protest too much".

Naturally I was quick to jump to La La Land's defense whenever this happened. This was not because I love it (which I do...but keeping it 100 it's not a Moulin Rouge! level masterwork or anything) or even because I am a die hard warrior for the musical form. No, I bristle solely because this stance is ridiculous. La La Land is absolutely the furthest thing from a "safe" or common movie. And how uncommon it is, after further research, was stunning even to me!

Some lists before the revelation... 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec072016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Judy Garland Christmas Show"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Full disclosure: I am in the middle of finals hell, wherein I have to write roughly 45 pages and grade exactly 48 exams before I can finally collapse at home for the holidays. So this episode is an especially selfish choice on my part. Since it's been a rocky year, I thought the best choice would be to post the entire episode, so that we could come together over a warm Christmas computer and spend the holidays with Judy.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 15
The Songwriters: Various, arrangement by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Mel Torme, Liza Minnelli, directed by Dean Whitmore

The Story: Call me a sap (and I am), but I cannot watch Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" while she and her children watch fake snow fall out of a studio set window. In a season that seems to demand yearly special televised events, The Judy Garland Christmas Show ranks as one of the most special Like every episode of The Judy Garland Show, there are some nasty rumors that have risen to the level of legend: that Judy and Mel were fighting, which caused her to flub his name and two song lyrics, that Judy refused to rehearse, that she was high, etc. But somehow the backstage antipathy doesn't diminish the near-camp joy of Judy and co. sitting around a mid-century fireplace singing the songs that she made famous. Much of it has to do with her kids: as the Luft siblings and Liza make appearances, their improvised bits may be stagey, but their affection for their mother is real. Gaffes, bad jokes, and creepy Santa dancers notwithstanding, The Judy Garland Christmas Show remains a classic staple of holiday television.

Wednesday
Nov302016

Judy by the Numbers: "I Like Men Medley"

 Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

So it may not look like it offhand, but today's episode marked another big shift in the rocky history of The Judy Garland Show. After producing seven episodes, firing most of the staff, kicking Jerry Van Dyke to the curb and reformatting the show, Norman Jewison exited as planned after the 13th taped episode. He would be replaced by Bill Colleran, a producer from Your Hit Parade.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 13
The Songwriters: Various, arrangement by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, produced by Norman Jewison

The Story: (My favorite part is the surprise boas at 3:00.) Though Jewison wasn't able to improve the unsteady ratings of The Judy Garland Show, the episodes he produced would set the established characteristics of the show at its peak. More cinematic production, the movement away from sketch comedy, and an emphasis on music and a variety of guest stars all defined Jewison's tenure on the show. The Peggy Lee medley exemplifies all of these qualities, but also points towards the show under Colleran's stewardship: two cabaret singers belting standards. Colleran would transition the show towards a concert format. But before he could complete that transition, it was time for Christmas.

Wednesday
Nov232016

Judy by the Numbers: "Moon River"

 Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the simple things. This series (like TFE as a whole) has been a classic cinephile sanctuary for me this year. As the outside world has spun out, sped up, slammed down, and generally tossed us around, I’ve really enjoyed sharing music and tidbits of trivia with you all this week, and reading your reactions/stories/controversies – even when I haven’t been able to reply myself. So briefly, before we get to this beautiful solo number, I just want to thank Nathaniel & you, the TFE readers, for continuing to create a lively, loving community.

The ShowThe Judy Garland Show Episode 12
The Songwriters: Johnny Mercer (lyrics), Henry Mancini (music)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Vic Damone, Zina Bethune, George Jessel directed by Norman Jewison

The Story: I just realized that this is the first solo from The Judy Garland Show that I’ve featured on the series! Judy actually did several per show, but usually the highlight of the show was her duets and collaborations with odd guests, musical legends and nascent superstars. However, this version of “Moon River” is a good reminder of what made the show so good.

It’s not just the trivia or the name-that-guest throwback; it’s the genuine skill andoccasional artistry overlaid with real emotion. The number is comprised of two long takes, as the camera moves in and pulls away from Judy. The scene actually resembles the long take of “The Man That Got Away” from just a decade before. The camera dances through a shadowy set. Garland, bathed in spotlight, alternately moves with the camera and stands getting lost in the song, and adding wry humor to sweetly sad lyrics. Her quiet sweetness the emotional and cinematic complexity of her song.

Friday
Nov182016

La La Land's Soundtrack and "City of Stars"

Chris here. Rejoice musical lovers - we can finally hear a full number from La La Land! The complete soundtrack drops December 9 when the film opens in limited release, so those clammoring to hear the full version of Emma Stone's potential Oscar moment "Audition" will still have to wait. We've heard a glimpse of "City of Stars" in the film's first teaser many months ago, but here is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in full glory:

This year's Best Song race is potentially one of the most heated in many years with La La Land's tunes likely going head-to-head against Lin-Manuel Miranda's chance at EGOTing for Moana. It could make for one of the starriest lineups in some time with pop stars like Sia, Alicia Keys, and Justin Timberlake as possible performers/nominees. Let's just hope the ceremony doesn't shove off their lesser known nominees again this year!

What original songs are you rooting for?