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Entries in musicals (198)

Wednesday
Apr232014

April Showers: Éponine in Les Misérables

waterworks at 11. here's abstew on Les Miz...

Ever since the musical version of Victor Hugo's sprawling novel hit the boards, Éponine, the tragic waif whose love for her friend Marius goes unreciprocated, has always been a fan favorite. Her storyline in the musical is definitely the most relatable. I don't know about you, but I've never had to turn to prostitution to support my young child or served a 20 year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. But being in love with someone that doesn't have the same feelings for you? Yeah, we've all been there. And this patron saint of unrequited love's anthem "On My Own" has become the rallying cry of broken-hearted teenage girls (and gay boys) for decades now.

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Tuesday
Apr222014

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Visual Index ~ Pocahontas (1995)

For Earth Day, Hit Me With Your Best Shot returns to Disney's long neglected Pocahontas (1995). Can you sing with all the colors of the wind? The movie uses a lot of them and not shyly: blues, greens, pinks, oranges, yellows, and that glorious raven hair of Disney's most beautiful heroine.

Pocahontas's Best Shot(s)
13 savages chimed in. Click on their best shot selections to read the corresponding article

One of the greatest marriages of image and melody in the entire Disney canon...
- Three Pounds Lost 


She's still dwarfed by the majesty of the earth...
-Film Actually

The best scene in the movie is a silent one... 
-Coco Hits New York 

...not one without its wonders.  The main two of which for me are its use of long lens widescreen framing and the music.
- Best Shot in the Dark 


It’s not that the film isn’t beautiful, it’s just that I remember it more for it’s music.
-Missemmamm


We're no longer looking at moving drawings, but being moved by the drawings...
- The Film's The Thing 

Pocahontas looks really good especially when her hair is wind blown (nature as her personal wind machine for the win)... 
- Sorta That Guy 

 At times it feels as if Pocahontas is a feature-length version of a lost Fantasia sequence... 
-The Entertainment Junkie

One of the least busy and textured images in the film, 
- Lam Chop Chop


Love Story, Flawed History Lesson, and Nature Appreciation Pamphlet all in one go? No easy feat...
-Minnesota Gneiss 

It's dealing with big themes that kids don't think about and visualizing them in a way that kids can understand at every level...
- Dancin' Dan 


For all of Pocahontas failures, I love it and feel deeply protective...
- The Film Experience 

 

Confession: I totally started to tear up here...
- I Am Derreck 

 

NEXT TUESDAY ON 'HIT ME...'

Tuesday
Apr222014

"should I choose the smoothest course...is all my dreaming at an end?"

Happy Earth Day to all! For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot we're looking at the environmentalist drama, romantic fantasy, historical epic, animated musical (*whew*) known simply as Pocahontas. Though Disney's 1995 release was a hit, in 2014 is has something of a stepchild reputation, coming as it did on the heels of four consecutive gargantuan critical / cultural smashes (The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King) that are all still beloved today.

Disney's most beautiful and best sung heroine ever

Should I choose the smoothest course
Steady as the beating drum?
Should I marry Kocoum?
Is all my dreaming at an end?
Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver
Just around the riverbend?

Pocahontas admittedly suffers, as those earlier hits did not, with the weight of sky high expectations. You can feel the pressure and strenuous attempts to be all things to all people by repeating the things Disney knew everyone already loved: princesses, showtunes, jutting triangular cliffs (seriously what was with that visual fetish they had for awhile?), fat/skinny foppish villains, and animal sidekicks. But Pocahontas actually wants to be something else, something earthier and more grown-up (womanly rather than girlish for one) and thematically sober. That same push-pull friction between Delivering What People Want and Listening To Your Heart (to borrow Grandmother Willow's sound advice) to follow your true path beset Hunchback of Notre Dame the following year. But in many ways I prefer both of the "trouble" pictures to the latter half of Disney's Magnificent Foursome from 1989-1994.

Best Shot
For all of Pocahontas failures, I love it and feel deeply protective. This is a melancholy love without a happy ending. In other words, just like the movie itself. This image, from the penultimate climax (the true climax is Pocahontas's decision to stay with her tribe, screencapped above, while she lets her dream man sail away), was really my only choice, though hardly the film's most beautiful; it's a perfect snapshot of my love for the movie, and its adult romanticism. Note that the figures are nearly horizontal (as John and Pocahontas will be in the most passionate kiss drawn for any Disney animated film), which is a far cry from the moony eyed straigth to the altar romance most Disney films favor that's so removed from the earthier passions of the body.

I know Pocahontas is not the masterpiece it could have been if the studio had lifted its chin as proudly and bravely as their heroine does throughout. The absolute worst decision Disney made was to excise the love ballad "If I Never Knew You" which was relegated to the end credits but was to have been sung between John Smith and Pocahontas in the tent where he's held captive. Pocahontas might have been a masterpiece if they had pulled back on the standard Disney motifs to make more room for the things the movie is doing superbly. And that's chiefly Pocahontas herself who is the best-sung and most fully realized Disney heroine. Whenever the movie embraces her passions for her own truth ("Listen To Your Heart"), the bounty of the earth ("River Bend" and "Colors of the Wind") and John Smith (the missing song!), it soars like an eagle and gestures to the kind of grand romanticism that demands magical wind machines and a whole rainbow of leaves.

Speaking of, where were they in my Best Shot? Oh, thank god. They sweep in when we cut back to the Native Princess and her man after they realize they've saved countless lives by embracing love rather than fear. 

 

P.S. I actually have a lot more to say about Pocahontas, which I might share in random list form later this week if I sense that there's interest, but I wanted to return Best Shot back to its original beauy focus. That is to pick one image and discuss why it's the image for the beholder.

Next Tuesday Night

Sunday
Apr132014

Strictly Baz

As you may or may not have heard Baz Luhrmann has been in the news again this week. 2013 was another big year for him with The Great Gatsby exceeding expectations (financially). The buzz on Baz hasn't quieted in this new year. On March 2nd, his wife Catherine Martin won another pair of Oscars to match her Moulin Rouge! statues and new collaborations for the Bazmark spouses are on the way.

First up is the stage musical adaptation of his breakthrough debut hit Strictly Ballroom (1992). The Guardian featured him a few days ago -- the video is more of a commercial for the show really than a true interview but there are clips from the show and Baz statements worth parsing.

I was 29 for the film. In the back of my mind I always thought 'it's got to be a musical'. I thought 'God, I hope I don't end up 40 and I'm doing Strictly Ballroom musical.' And I'm 52. So I think it will always be in my life. I think a bit like a band that had their first hit song. If you aren't playing that hig song at concerts until you have a foot in the grave then probably you're doing something wrong for the audience and probably you're doing something wrong for yourself. So I've just accepted that it's actually a fundamental part of our life and our journey"

The show, which obviously intends a Broadway run given how frequently Baz drops the word "Broadway" while talking about it is playing in Sydney Australia and the reviews for the show have just arrived which are generally positive though it's amusing that the Telegraph and Guardian critics say almost exactly opposite things about how it stacks up to the beloved film version. 

Baz's next film project-- if he actually goes through with it -- is a real surprise. The rumor is he'll direct the big screen version of the ol' TV series Kung Fu. I can't imagine what would attract Luhrmann to this property which is such an about face, even if he does love to genre-hop. But I pray to God, they dump the whole non-Asian conceit that the TV show went with. David Carradine was such a white dude, you know, and nobody needs 21st century narratives about ethnic anything that pretend audiences can only bear to look at white faces. Even if he does decide to do it, we won't see it for years; his films often appear to be on speed but the auteur isn't speedy. What's more he's supposedly also doing a Napoleon miniseries for TV and a TV series about the early days of hip-hop. How many of those do you think will actually come to be? It takes him five or so years to make everything, after all.  

People will surely make jokes about him adding musical numbers to Kung Fu though it's tough to graft those on to memories of that sedate and dusty TV show. But maybe it's not as impossible as it sounds. Every single one of Baz's films yearns to be a musical even though only one of them truly is.  Given that pervasive feeling, it's just bizarre that he hasn't made one since Moulin Rouge! but maybe he knows it's untoppable? Singular sensations are called that for a reason. They're rare and glorious freaks. 

Friday
Apr112014

TCM Film Festival: OKLAHOMA! is better than OK

“So it’s a film festival, but for old films? Why?”

When I told folks how excited I was to finally go to the 5th annual TCM Film Festival this year in Hollywood, I got this question a few times. This isn’t just about the old adage “see a film on the big screen, like it was meant to be seen.” This is about celebrating the old and new: old films for new audiences, new restorations for old classics, old audiences sharing the new experience, and at the center of it all, Turner Classic Movies, which turns 20 this year, thereby becoming something of an old classic itself.

Last night, TCM rolled out the red carpet and opened TCMFF with a brand new restoration of OKLAHOMA!(1955) starring Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae. Diana and I were able to nab (literally) front row seats to the screening at the TCL Chinese Theater, and this may count as the first I’ve been glad to sit front and center. The reason for the hooplah surrounding OKLAHOMA! has to do with its history: When Twentieth Century Fox brought the Rogers & Hammerstein musical to the screen in 1955, they shot it twice: once in Todd AO 65mm widescreen, and once in a lesser 35mm widescreen. This is a fact that has mostly been relegated to behind-the-scenes trivia, and the difference between the two versions has been negligible in home theater viewings. I’ve seen one or the other a few times on TV (including TCM) over the years, so I thought I knew what to expect. And then the film started, the camera pushed through the corn as high as an elephant’s eye, and I realized how very important it is that we save moments like this.

Photo Credit: Mark Hill

Twentieth Century Fox provided a beautiful 4K restoration of the 65mm version, complete with a restored 6 track stereo score, to play on the Chinese Theater’s huge IMAX screen.  Speaking as someone who usually isn’t usually an OKLAHOMA!-lover, I fell in love. When Shirley Jones said Gordon MacRae was her favorite singer, surely she didn't imagine him on such a grand scale. The sheer power of it won me over. Personally, I'm usually a South Pacific kind of gal, but I've been whistling since I left the theater and I would feel like a bad cliche if not for the fact that my fellow Metro passengers nearly broke out into "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin" with me. If you can get cranky Angelenos on a rundown train to sing at 1AM, then you've clearly made an impression.

Film restoration is a tricky balance between preserving the original filmgoing experience while also using to best advantage modern digital tools. Turner Classic Movies has arguably been one of the most important commercial advocates for restoration, providing studios with large audiences via the small screen for 20 years. How grateful we can be to TCM that for a weekend in Hollywood they’re bringing back the oldschool via new methods.

Anne Marie is our resident classic movie freak. Follow her on Twitter and read her weekly series "A Year With Kate"

Wednesday
Apr092014

Mickey Rooney (RIP)

I came to the news of Mickey Rooney's passing late due to my offline vacation but it wouldn't be right to not mention it here at the musicals-loving The Film Experience. My first exposure to Mickey Rooney, as far as I remember, was Babes in Arms (1939) for which he was Oscar nominated at 19. I think my parents took us to see it at an awesome revival house in Detroit. Tweens and teenagers, who always fear being uncool, aren't supposed to love old black and white movies made many decades before they were born but cinephiles and/or musical-fanatics are a different breed and I had no shame whatsoever about seeking them out. [More...]

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Wednesday
Apr022014

Can't Stop The Glitter. Or the Best Shots. 

glitter attack!True story. In the late 1990s after graduating college, before New York City and The Film Experience years, I was working as an artist at a company that specialized in parties and events. Every day in a big warehouse I was a hot mess of glue guns, paint rollers, foam shavings, and glitter. Glitter above all else. Three years later in New York City I was still finding glitter in the weirdest of places; that shit lasts forever.

I thought about this as soon as the opening credits of Allan Carr and Nancy Walker's Village People origin comedy, Can't Stop the Music (1980), our "HMWYBS" April Fools Selection. It was like the movie was blowing its glitter load in the first frame. Turns out there was no refractory period. The glitter just keeps on coming and not just over animated fonts. Dancers actually FLING physical glitter at each other and in the final scene it RAINS glitter. David Hodo (the construction worker) falls victim to the glitter the earliest in his introductory song, the ghastly "I Love You To Death" (pictured left). Hodo is now 66 years old and only stopped performing with the group last year. I bet you anything that he still finds glitter in the retirement home.

Surprisingly my choice for Best Shot is glitter free. But it's still really gay, don't worry. But no it's not this one...

Click to read more ...

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