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Entries in musicals (333)

Friday
Jul292016

Pete's Dragon - 1977 and Now

Our year of the month is 1977! Here's Chris looking back on Pete's Dragon...

As Disney has been increasingly revisiting their classics in live action, big budget form, the resulting films have revealed the evolution of family storytelling over the decades. Cinderella showed an increased emphasis on character, while this year's The Jungle Book was an example of the shift towards realism even in fantastical, unrealistic settings. While these rehashings are becoming old hat already, one of the most exciting films still to come this summer is the remake of 1977's Pete's Dragon.

The recent Disney revamps have extrapolated upon or directly lifted from their original source films, but the first glimpses of Pete's Dragon have already revealed a sharp turn in tone. Again, they are trading in a more modestly minded lark for larger spectacle. If nothing else, the creation of the dragon Elliott embodies the shift from traditional animation to digital imagery.

Rewatching the original is almost a shock as an adult - it's far more absurd and loose than you might remember...

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Tuesday
Jul262016

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E7-8)

Dancin' Dan here taking over for Nathaniel a bit on the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend beat. This time out: crazy guest stars, crazy accents, and crazy mothers!

S1:E7 "I'm So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!"

Feeling depressed about Josh moving in with Valencia, Rebecca screws up a pitch to win the firm a new client. But that new client only has eyes for Paula. Meanwhile, Josh gathers his bros to try to do something nice for Valencia while moving in to their new place. Let's rank the crazy after the jump!

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Monday
Jul252016

Marni Nixon (1930-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Marni Nixon, beloved voice of Hollywood's supersized musicals of the 50s and 60s has died of breast cancer at 86. It was a long and good and musical life, if never celebrated enough by the culture she gave so much to. It had been our long held dream to see her given an Honorary Oscar which must now be a dream unfulfilled. Because I don't have the words today, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote ten years ago on how special Marni Nixon was to me, a baby cinephile growing up with musicals as my favorite form of cinematic bliss.

Marni Nixon is my Kathy Selden
by Nathaniel R 

Toward the end of Singin' in the Rain (1952), which chronicles Hollywood's seismic shift from silent films to sound production, a hilariously dim and screechy movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) gets her comeuppance. She has cruelly locked the sweet voiced Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into a contract to provide her a suitable movie voice. Lamont is after self-preservation: she can't make sound movies with her own unappealing voice, but she also cruelly takes pleasure in preventing Kathy from pursuing stardom. At a live performance Kathy stands behind a curtain, her dreams in tatters, as she sings for Lina. But Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) pulls the curtain on the act in progress, rescuing his new girl from obscurity and dooming his former co-star to a fast fade.

Singin' in the Rain is many things: a true musical masterpiece, a stellar romantic comedy, and the best movie Hollywood ever made about Hollywood (give or take Sunset Blvd). It's a completely absorbing viewing experience but for this: Every time I see it my mind drifts away to Marni Nixon during this particular scene. Kathy's story isn't exactly Marni's. Marni wasn't forced into submission as the silents were dying. But she was the songbird woman behind the curtain for beloved movie musicals and she was born in 1930 as the silents were emitting their death rattle (Hollywood studios had halted silent film production by 1929. Only a few emerged in movie houses of 30s). Marni Nixon was to be a famous voice but not a famous face ...just like the almost-fate of the fictional Kathy Selden.

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Thursday
Jul212016

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E5-6)

We haven't forgotten about Crazy Ex Girlfriend. We'll just mix in it as we get through its hilarious episodes in preparation for Season 2. 

S1:E5 "Josh and I Are Good People!"

Rebecca, still guilty from her terrible behavior with Greg, attempts to prove to herself that she's a good person by getting mixed up in people's lives including Daryl's custody battle for his daughter. Josh also goes a little mental worrying that he's too much of a sinner. Let's rank the crazy...

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Wednesday
Jul202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Get Happy"

In 'Judy by the Numbers' Anne Marie looks back at Garland's career through key songs

By the time Judy Garland turned 28, her entire adult life and her entire star persona had been a product of MGM. In 1950, Judy Garland's image - as cultivated by MGM and the Freed Unit - was of an exuberant talent, small in stature but big in heart and voice; a buoyant box office sensation. However, the reality was different. In the 13 months between the release of In The Good Old Summertime and Summer Stock, Judy Garland fought drug addiction, rehab, an increasingly strained marriage, an unsympathetic studio, and a suicide attempt that made headlines worldwide. Filmed before her attempt but released two months after it, Summer Stock is a record of the conflict between the image of Judy Garland and the reality of Frances Gumm.

The Movie: Summer Stock (1950)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria de Haven, directed by Charles Walters 

The Story: "Get Happy" is the number that shouldn't be from the movie that shouldn't exist. Neither Judy Garland nor Gene Kelly was supposed to be in Summer Stock.  Judy had just dropped from Annie Get Your Gun and entered rehab, and Gene's star was rising with Arthur Freed. However, Joe Pasternak coaxed them into another picture, a return to form based on the old Rooney/Garland "let's put on a show!" model. Though it was intended to be a triumphant return, ultimately Judy lags through much of Summer Stock, which needs her energy to carry through a plodding plot. She looks and sounds a little slower, though sources disagree on why - either she was recovering from rehab or further spiralling into addiction. 

In this context - and even out of it - "Get Happy" is a shock. Filmed months later at Judy's insistence, with design and directorial help from husband Vincente Minnelli, the number shows Judy shining like she hasn't in a while. She's sexy, she's witty, she's beaming, and she's urbane in a way that sticks out from her nostalgia-laced image. Even without the maelstrom of malady surrounding her, this would be a defining number for Judy. With this backstory, "Get Happy" takes on another meaning too - the "fix." If Summer Stock is the movie where Judy Garland's facade slipped, then "Get Happy" is the number that restored it, at least temporarily. Don't worry about the exhaustion! Judy's back, and better than ever. Forget your troubles!

The fix was a public one only. Though Summer Stock was a success, Judy and MGM parted ways in 1951. Divorced from the studio that had raised her, Judy Garland would find the 1950s to be both happy and heartbreaking. She would live out private struggles in public, and her image would change from child star to musical maiden to something more complicated. For some stars, the tragedies of their lives become as image-defining as their successes.

Wednesday
Jul132016

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1.E3-4)

We're encouraging you to watch season 1 of Crazy Ex Girlfriend before the show returns in the fall. It's one of the best comedies on television and a musical, our most beloved entertainment genre. We previously covered the first two episodes so here's two more...

Both Rebeccas - the neuroses only multiplied with age

S1:E3 "I Hope Josh Comes To My Party" 

In which Rebecca throws a housewarming party despite not knowing anyone in town and childhood trauma from party-throwing. Josh saves her from humiliation. Let's rank the crazy...

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