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Oscar History

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Oscar Horrors: The Sixth Sense

"I love this movie so much. And to those sad about M. Night's current career, Split with James McAvoy has gotten positive reviews!." -Connor

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Entries in musicals (340)


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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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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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.


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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Judy by the Numbers: "I Don't Care"

Though nobody foresaw it at the time, 1948 was a major turning point in what would be Judy Garland’s last few years at MGM. After the one-two Freed Unit punch of Easter Parade and Words and Music at the beginning of 1948, Judy was supposed to head straight into her third Arthur Freed film,The Barkleys of Broadway. With Fred Astaire coaxed out of retirement, the duo of Astaire and Garland looked to be a new box office guarantee. Unfortunately, what wasn’t a guarantee was Judy’s health. After two months of rehearsal, Judy backed out of The Barkleys of Broadway, to be replaced by Ginger Rogers. This decision sounded the death knell for her partnership with Arthur Freed, the producer who had created the Judy Garland formula. Judy was too tired, too thin, and too weak to go on filming, until another producer from her past swooped back into the picture: Joe Pasternak.

The Movie: In The Good Old Summertime (1949, MGM)
The Songwriter: George Evans (music), Ren Shields (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Van Johnson, Buster Keaton, S.Z. Sakall, Spring Byington, directed by Robert Z. Leonard 

The Story: Joe Pasternak would end up producing what would be Judy Garland’s last two pictures at MGM. The first was In The Good Old Summertime. Pasternak used many of the Freed Unit tricks, including recycled music and a recycled plot, this time from the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner (which would also be remade again into a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks comedy and a Broadway musical that was revived just this year). Despite the title, In The Good Old Summertime was shot in Fall and set during Christmas. Such is Hollywood. It teamed Judy with the affable black hole of charisma Van Johnson, the (at the time) nearly forgotten Buster Keaton, and a cameo by three-year-old Liza Minnelli. This movie also gave us Judy Garland’s single most gif-able song.

There’s a lot to love about this number. Judy is healthy, smiling and sassy. With less focus on footwork, we get some great Judy gestures and a lot of broad comedy from the diminutive diva. (The foot kick is my personal favorite.) As is so often the case during these high-energy numbers, Judy looks like she’s having a lot of fun and by all reports that was really the case, because Joe Pasternak did one thing very different from Arthur Freed: he refused to overtax his star. No more pressure, no more forced slimdowns. And it worked! Judy finished the shoot incident-free. Unfortunately, MGM took this as a sign that her health and ability had returned, and immediately cast her in Annie Get Your Gun. Judy wouldn’t complete that picture, though the film she made after would add another iconic performance and sad chapter to the Judy Garland legacy.

Select Previous Highlights:  
"Dear Mr Gable" (1937), “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (1941), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), "The Trolley Song" (1944), "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "I Love a Piano" (1948),  "Johnny One Note" (1948)


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (S1. E1-2)

You know what's crazier than leaving a half a million salary in NYC to move to West Covina, California (2 hours from the beach! - 4 in traffic) on the off chance your ex boyfriend from teen summer camp might be interested in reviving your fling as an adult? Not much. But it is crazy that The Film Experience didn't adopt Crazy Ex Girlfriend in the way it adopted Smash since musicals are kind of our thing (well, one of our things). Over the past two weeks I accidentally ended up rewatching the first five episodes again with friends who hadn't seen them so they're fresh in mind. So with Season 1 now on Netflix, let's catch up before Season 2 arrives in October.

S1:E1 "Josh Just Happens to Live Here!"

In which Rebecca randomly spots her first love in the street and takes it as a sign that she should follow him to West Covina, California, leaving her entire successful New York City life behind.  Let's rank the crazy... 

Greg: Yes, like a date because you're pretty and you're smart and you're ignoring me so you're obviously my type.
Rebecca: I'm sorry what were you saying?
Greg: Perfect.  

Relatably Foolish (Or as Norman likes to say 'We all go a little mad sometimes')
Greg, a bartender, falls hard for Rachel at first sight when she barely looks at him, and talks incessantly about his friend Josh...

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Posterized: Zac Efron

Given that it's only July and this weekend brings us the third Zac Efron movie of the year (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), perhaps it's time for a Posterized for America's favorite twinkly-eyed twentysomething heartthrob?

Though people are touchy lately about acknowledgement of star beauty, some stars more than obviously lean into it. Efron clearly understands where his plentiful bread has been buttered, regularly getting his shirt off sometimes even as setpiece plot points (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). And he's increasingly becoming a living example of unrealistic body expectations. If women can feel bad about their bodies via supermodel objectification, so can men via superheroes...or actors with superhero bodies! Low self-esteem for everyone, hooray!

Happily though, Efron is also talented. He's proved to be a deft comic performer and there's still the possibility of more musicals in his future (he's been offered a role in Hugh Jackman's P.T. Barnum musical) so the immediate future looks bright.

How many of his 18 films have you seen? The posters after the jump...

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