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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in musicals (198)

Tuesday
Aug282012

Nathaniel On His Travels: Streep Branding & Les Miz Jitters

Hi kids. I thought I'd check in briefly from my mom-centric travels. I'm typing this from my hotel room in St. George, Utah where the air is hot, the rocks are red, and my nephews live. They were inundating me last night with all sorts of information I didn't understand (mostly about video games) but once we got to the movies I was on sound footing (their preferred topics: superheroes and Miyazaki).

But how are you doing -- Aren't the guest bloggers doing a bang up job keeping us entertained? I ate up all of Leslye's posts (by which I mean read them multiple times) and pricked my ears up to a new voice in our sound mix, Matt Zurcher. Thank you as ever to longtime regulars Jose and JA. And to Beau, too,  because Sharing is Caring -- TFE is like his new Confessional which I guess makes me (and you) the priest? Hee!

I bought two books in the airport from sheer indecision about what to read (why don't I have a kindle or iPad yet?) and the one I've started is "The Meryl Streep Movie Club" which is probably a shameless attempt to borrow TFE's most discussed movie star's bankability to sell some books. But here's the catch to shamelessness: it often works. I bought the book didn't I? It's about an estranged family of sisters, who after a tragic orphaned childhood, reunite as adults and get some very bad news. Their aunt hosts a weekly movie night at the inn where they've gathered and it happens to be Meryl Streep Month. So far Silkwood has been name dropped the most -- a choice I fully support -- and they're about to watch Bridges of Madison County. I'm not very far in because my inflight movie was The Avengers (more on that in a couple of days when I'm back to NYC) which was more than enough to keep me occupied.

As you read this my soul is being stirred.

 Chances are at least. See, I'm off to see Les Misérables on stage for the first time in aeons. As a teenager I wore out my tape of the soundtrack and when I found out it was playing at Cedar City's annual widely acclaimed Shakespeare Festival (they've even won a regional Tony Award) I jumped at the chance to take my mom because a) she doesn't get out much and b) she's never seen it on stage but loves musicals and started me early on them for which I can only give her millions of hugs. It's a perfect opportunity to see the show before the movie hits and becomes the possibility definitive version for millions upon millions of people who don't get to stage shows often or ever. Which is unfortunately a lot of people -- even for shows as successful as Les Miz which has earned over $2 billion globally in its 27 year life.

I have no jitters about seeing the show on stage again because it's a magnificent epic in its original medium. But will it work on the movie screen? Bring it home, Tom Hooper! Bring it home.

Which brings me to my exit questions:

  • Have you ever seen Les Miz on stage?
  • Which is your favorite song? (If you must know mine is "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables")

 

Monday
Aug202012

Review: "Sparkle"

This review was originally published in my column at Towleroad.

Leaving for the theater to see Sparkle, the boyfriend wrinkled up his nose. "Is that that Dreamgirls remake?" he asked rhetorically. He doesn't care about movies (...I know!) so I just said "yes" rather than getting into it. Sparkle, like Dreamgirls before it, does pair an "American Idol" alum in her big screen debut (Jordin Sparks / Jennifer Hudson) with a genuine legend (Whitney / Beyoncé) to tell the story of a troubled female pop trio in 1960s Detroit attempting to make it big as Motown explodes. But the similarities are cosmetic. (Which is not, unfortunately, to Sparkle's benefit. If you're going to load up your screenplay with familiar clichés, rob from superior work!)

The immediate jarring difference between the two films is first noticeable in the Jennifer/Jordin continuum. In both films the biggest talent of the trio has to play second fiddle to "the hot one" but only in the earlier property does the Major Talent bristle mesmerizingly against her runner-up status; Jordin's "Sparkle" is a willing wallflower, happy to let her sister (the crazy gorgeous Carmen Ejogo) sing all of her songs whilst shimmering in the warmth of the spotlight. Sparkle's sister's name is "Sister" and their group is called "Sister and Her Sisters" and the men competing dramatically for their hands (that's a euphemism for vaginas) are named "Stix" (Derek Luke) and "Satin" (Mike Epps). So any moviegoer with a sybilant "S" should avoid all discussions of the movie

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug152012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Singin' in the Rain"

I'm multi-tasking with this, the penultimate episode of Season 3 of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, the series wherein we choose the single best shot of pre-selected movies and discuss. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's masterpiece Singin' in the Rain (1952) is also a member of my personal canon (top ten to be exact) and we're using it to kick off our Gene Kelly Centennial Celebration. I'll be looking at a few more Kelly features next week, but we're starting with his greatest achievement. Weirdly the far inferior An American in Paris which directly preceded Singin' won Oscar's heart with ease and yet they ignored this one. 'I caaaannnnt stan' it').

"Monumental Pictures"... Yep. It sure stands tall among them!

Singin' in the Rain more than earns its reputation as 'the happiest movie ever made.'  I am reasonably certain that I could write about Singin' in the Rain every day for a year and still not run out of things to say. I'm already sad that this article will not include an ode to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen SO deserved the Oscar and nabbed one of the film's two nominations. Only two!) or an examination of the largely unheralded  "All I Do is Dream of You" number which I love beyond all reason and would be the best number in most musicals but is just a little toss off here. 

All things considered, the film is lighter than air and swift on its feet both of which are jaw-dropping accomplishments since it's actually incredibly dense. Take the structure for a prime example: this movie about the history of movies (and, oh so casually, the DNA strands the medium borrows from the stage) starts with a premiere of a movie and then flashes back to previous (multiple) films before moving forward to become a movie about the making of new movie which too closely resembles the previous movie "if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all" which then gets rewritten as an entirely different movie with another movie embedded inside of it !!! After all of that, it ends with a poster of a movie that's yet to come... or is possibly the movie we've just watched. Whew. (It's got as many dream layers as Inception, Synecdoche New York or a David Lynch movie but way less fussiness about them.)

"and I'm ready for love ♪ " - usually my choice for "best shot" or at least the moment which I fall the hardest for Gene Kelly each time

Singin' in the Rain's killer combination of joyful buoyancy, masculine athleticism and artistic grace as it leaps from scene to scene are perfectly paralleled in the face, body, and talent of Gene Kelly himself. Kelly is one of my two all time favorite male movie stars, the other being Montgomery Clift. As I watched the movie for the umpteenth time today it suddenly occurred to me that the two of them are a perfect bipolar representation of my own very particular Gemini cinephilia; they're my beautiful big screen avatars of Joy and Despair.  

My "Best Shot" choice last night

I bring this up because, curiously, for the first time while watching Singin' in the Rain I felt a wave of sudden sadness hit me. I was grinning from ear to ear as "Good Morning" began (the only sane response knowing the bliss to come from the scene's inventive choreography, perfect tripled performance and fluid feeling) when suddenly my eyes welled up and stayed that way for the entire number. This had never happened to me before! As Cosmo, Kathy and Don collapsed on the couch in a big heap of giggling, I felt as simultaneously elated and exhausted as the characters were meant to and as the actors might have been after multiple takes (so few cuts, so much dancing!). But I was laughing through tears because they don't make 'em like this anymore.

BEST SHOT PARTICIPANTS


What a glorious feeling, they're blogging again...
The Family Berzurcher "It’s impossible to ignore the ecstasy of Singin’, but it takes movies very seriously."
Dial P For Popcorn "it makes me shiver... it makes me swoon"
Serious Film "continually reframing the dancers, moving them in and out of shadow" 
Antagony & Ecstasy "the lies movies tell are part of what makes them work as movies
Coco Hits NYC "a playfulness that is just magnetic"
Okinawa Assault "a sequence where gray and black dominate, is just as happy as the scenes with brighter colours in them."
Film Actually "the suggestion of sex is never this overt"
Being Norma Jeane "Cosmo and Lina are just beautiful in this movie. So funny, so brilliant." 
Sorta That Guy "It made me laugh, made me want to learn tap dancing, and most obviously made me fall in love with Kelly." 
Encore's World "Lina, unable to discern the difference between real life and fantasy" 
Pussy Goes Grrr  "Show biz is not sophisticated. In fact, it’s crude. It’s stupid. But per Singin’ in the Rain, it’s a glorious, outrageous, beautiful kind of stupidity"

And welcome these 'best shot' first timers!
Arf She Said "I love how the whole film opens up as Don's heart expands." 
Kelli Marshall "the one shot of Singin’ in the Rain that gets me every time"
Allison Tooey "looking utterly at ease despite flimsy support"
Lerblacompo "Don and Gene believed in their fantasies so much that it's impossible for us not to believe them, too.

If you didn't participate, tell us about your favorite shot in the film!
Do your feelings line up with any of these joyful to read articles?

[P.S. Next week is the Season 3 finale of "best shot" as we watch "Dog Day Afternoon" together. Best Shot will return in 2013 for a fourth season! Every episode thus far]

Sunday
Aug122012

Anne vs. Amy. Oscar Chart Updates!

If anyone can threaten the widely held assumption that Anne Hathaway will win the Supporting Actress Oscar come February for dreaming that dream in time gone by in Les Misérables, isn't it Amy Adams in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master? In the heat of August, Anne seems to have this thing sewn up. But August is August. It ain't February.  

Actress Wars 2012: Anne vs. Amy

Though we haven't seen either performance yet, it's worth noting that Oscar wars are rarely won by a stand alone acting achievement. They can be, sure, but more often than not they're fought with a fluctuating combo of deft campaign tricks, strong timing, media drum beatings, general feelings for the film that houses said performance, barely acknowledged collective memories of past triumphs and defeats, preconceived notions of what the actors in questions are capable of, and other films  -- particularly brand new ones or "snubbed" but beloved efforts -- that contribute to or detract from the "It's Her/His Time" argument.

So, let's discuss ANNE & AMY (&, yes, STREEP) with a fancy battle chart...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug072012

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - An Appreciation

[Editor's Note: Last winter when Michelle Williams was in theaters cooing as "Marilyn", I had planned on a Marilyn week. It didn't happen but I wanted to share this piece by our once in a blue moon contributor Ester Bloom because I, too, adore this movie. - Nathaniel]


'Say, they told me you were stupid!'

'I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.' "

Marilyn Monroe is not so different from Lorelei Lee, the part she plays in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Both are entertainers from small towns who started out poor but are determined to transcend their origins; both turn themselves into sexy cartoons; both play dumb when necessary; and both perform under alliterative pseudonyms that are as girly as all get out. (Compare the name “Lorelei Lee” with that of her friend “Dorothy Shaw.” The difference tells you almost everything you need to know about their characters.)

Maybe Monroe recognized a kindred spirit in Lorelei Lee...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug032012

MIFF 1: Battle of the Aussie Pop Stars

[Editor's Note: Glenn of Stale Popcorn fame, pictured left, will be covering the Melbourne International Film Festival for us. Yay!  He'll hit titles we're interested in because we've definitely perused his plans. -Nathaniel]

Glenn checking in. As I type this it is August 2nd, opening night of the 61st annual Melbourne International Film Festival. With the festival proper beginning tomorrow, I have 32 films booked (whether I get to them all is another thing altogether...) but I've caught a few biggies beforehand.

You have probably heard about Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires, what with its rapid ascent from unknown Aussie musical to full blown Harvey Weinstein pet project. While I can’t see this chintzy sixties-set musical garnering much in the way of Academy buzz – unless the music branch’s “no end credits original songs!” attitude suddenly changes for the swingin’ original tune “Gotcha” – I can’t see how its light-as-air sensibilities can’t turn it into a pretty money-maker for The Weinstein Company and net itself a couple of those eternally in flux “Musical or Comedy” Golden Globe nominations in the process. 

Musical Madness, Kylie Minogue and Holy Motors after the jump...

The Sapphires

 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul302012

Smash Season 2 Now Filming

If it were January instead of July we'd be tuning in to Season 2 of Smash right this second. Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC, don'cha know. Only six months to go. Ugh!

Here is Katharine McPhee as "Karen" (who won the Marilyn Monroe role on Season 1) bowing down to Jack Davenport as "Derek" her director. As well she should since Davenport runs circles around her as an actor and convincingly sells us on his Karen-fixation which goes at least a little bit of the way towards understanding Karen's otherwise invisible charms as a leading lady.

I kid. I kid.

About the bowing down part (I meant everything else). I have no idea what McPhee is doing in this photo?Adjusting her marks maybe -- but doesn't she have people for that?

I am so excited for Season 2 of Smash and I have no idea why since there might be less Megan Hilty (the MVP) since she didn't get the Marilyn part. But a new show runner, new song writers (for a competing musical in the Season 2 plotline), and new cast members including Jennifer Judson in a multiple episode arc (a la Emmy nominated Uma Thurman last year), and rising stage star Jeremy Jordan of Broadway's Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies (and the Dolly/Latifah musical Joyful Noise) could mean a better show but it could also mean a lot of change for the sake of change and that's not always helpful either.  


Right about now or 5 minutes ago, you're like "Why is Nathaniel talking about Smash in July?". It's only because I'm suffering withdrawal and seeking solace in my Smash-patch (i.e. playlists. I recommend listening to Hilty tearing into "Let's Be Bad" at least once a week to stave off the cold sweats and palpitations).

Smash was the target of much internet and media ire last season (musicals always have big bullseyes on their chests just visible underneath the sequins) so I was happy to read recently in Variety that its fate wasn't as dire as armchair and professional TV pundits originally suggested which could bode well for a Season 3 unless Season 2 is disastrous. Apparently Smash commands a very high CPM for an in house drama and it's also popular in high income households which is a big deal to massive corporations like NBC. 

Are you hopeful or un about Smash S2? Will you join us on Tuesdays in the winter for weekly recaps like we did this year?