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Entries in musicals (310)

Sunday
Apr172016

Review: Sing Street

Like Begin Again, his last love song to the restorative powers of music and collaboration, John Carney can play your heartstrings like an orchestra. And like that film’s original title – Can A Song Save Your Life? – Sing Street addresses songwriting as soul food, with a face full of neon eyeliner and a deliciously poignant streak of youth in revolt. And as a young kid trying to forge a path in 1980s Dublin, there’s plenty to rebel against – institutional alcoholism and abuse, isolation from the mainland and mainstream, and the collapse of your elders’ hopes playing out in an endless depressive cycle. The future looks as bleak as the dark and stormy skies portending above the Irish shore, but it just so happens that these are the conditions where inspiration can strike like a lightning bolt. If you don’t like the only song playing on the radio, you’d better chuck it in the bin and dream up a new one.

As the story so often goes, Conor (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, the love child of Bud Cort and Harry Styles) starts a band with a ragtag uniform of Catholic schoolboys to impress a girl. He may not know it at first, but that’s not the only reason. More after the jump...

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Wednesday
Apr132016

Judy by the Numbers: "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. revolutionized entertainment. Though he was best known for the Vaudeville showgirls in the musical review that bore his name, but his reach extended beyond the Follies. He legitimized Vaudeville and funded the show that would spawn the modern American musical. Though Ziegfeld died in 1932, MGM continued glorifying - and profiting from - Ziegfeld's legacy.  In 1936, MGM released a biopic, The Great Ziegfeld based on the life of Ziegfeld and his wife, Billy Burke. The success of that film led the studio to announce a spiritual successor in 1938: Ziegfeld Girl, set to star Joan Crawford, Eleanor Powell, and Virginia Bruce. But when the movie was finally made 3 years later, the cast had changed a bit. 

The Movie: Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
The Songwriters: Joseph McCarthy & Harry Carroll, from a tune by Chopin
The Players: Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, Jimmy Stewart, directed by Robert Z Leonard & Busby Berkeley.

The Story: After the success of Little Nellie Kelly, MGM had another collaboration planned for young Judy Garland. This time, instead of Mickey Rooney, her costars were two other young starlets: Lana Turner, and Hedy Lamarr. Ziegfeld Girl was Judy Garland's first adult melodrama, though Garland still played a child. The plot might have inspired Valley of the Dolls.* As one of three showgirls trying to make it in the Follies, Judy is mostly relegated to musical comic relief while Hedy cries and Lana nearly dies. Still, the movie allowed young Judy to stretch her talents dramatically and vocally. Ultimately, that stretch mattered. The movie wasn't the success MGM had hoped for, but Judy got stellar reviews. 

*I have no evidence to support this claim.

 

Wednesday
Apr062016

Tveit Me, Baby. Or Leave Me

We didn't do our usual Stage Door column this past Monday (on account of no theater trips this week) so let's talk Aaron Tveit since we're focusing on male actors for a change this month. While he originally made his mark in stage musicals (including in the DiCaprio role in Catch Me If You Can) the small screen seems to have eaten up his time since. Nevertheless this week's "Miscast" benefit concert reminded us of his inarguable charisma. (More on that concert in a minute)

 

He hasn't done enough movies given how perfect he was as Enjolras in Les Misérables (2012) but at least we got to see him do Grease Live early this year. Unfortunately he's highly vulnerable right now at falling into the trap that many stage stars do where they end up wasted in TV genres like political, hospital, lawyer, or cop shows  that actors with far less broad-ranging gifts could play just as well as they do. Their musical gifts end up completely invisible/wasted. See most of Mandy Patinkin's & Audra McDonald's TV careers. (Obviously Patinkin is excellent on Homeland but his TV career has been... strange)

The gold standard for current stage stars trying to make it on TV is arguably Sutton Foster...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr062016

Judy by the Numbers: "It's A Great Day for the Irish"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Have you heard the good news? April is Judy Garland month on TCM! Check your local listings to see the movies surrounding the numbers we've discussed, and the ones we haven't gotten to yet!

Before the end of 1940, young Judy Garland got two major kudos from Metro Goldwyn Mayer. First, her weekly salary was increased from $600 to $2,000. Second, MGM made her the top-billed star of another Freed Unit musical. No longer just Mickey Rooney's mooning gal pal, Judy Garland would finally get to play another leading role - in fact, in this movie she'd do it twice!

The Movie: Little Nellie Kelly (MGM 1940)
The Songwriter: Roger Edens
The Players: Judy Garland, George Murphy, Charles Winniger, Douglas McPhail, directed by Norman Taurog

The Story: Little Nellie Kelly was based on a hit George M. Cohan musical from 1922. However, any Cohan fans looking for a trip down memory lane would have been sorely disappointed - the movie only contained 2 of Cohan's original songs. The rest of the film was filled to the brim with the Freed Unit's usual tricks: a few well-loved showstoppers (including "Singin' in the Rain"), a smattering of the original show's material, and of course a Roger Edens song handcrafted for Judy Garland's talents.

Little Nellie Kelly had Judy Garland working double duty - literally. Judy played two Nellie Kelly's, a young mother (with a questionable accent) from Ireland, and later her starry-eyed daughter. Judy sings as both (mostly as the daughter) and even includes a rousing parade song with her Babes in Arms costar George Murphy. Fortunately for MGM, Judy Garland proved that even without Technicolor or Mickey Rooney, she was a star in her own right. Little Nellie Kelly grossed just under $1 million in the US (a solid gross then) proving Judy Garland could carry a movie. She could even do it twice.

Friday
Apr012016

April Showers: Joe Manganiello ♥s Pee Wee

You know what we haven't discussed yet? How totally delightful Joe Manganiello is in Pee Wee's Big Holiday (2016). The new film, Pee Wee Herman's first movie since 1988 (!) has been been streaming for a couple of weeks but it's a great fit for April Fool's Day because it feels so impossible that it happened at all. 

Because Pee Wee is Pee Wee and his work has always been skillfully aimed at both adults and children with equal panache, it's often filled with hilarious sexual innuendo that sails over the head of tiny tots but is playful enough not to spoil the exuberant innocence of the comedy for adults who are in on the jokes. Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse, the beloved series that ran for five seasons in the late 80s and early 90s was no stranger to the occasional hunky visitor but for the new film the hunky visitor graduates to full co-star level, courtesy of a very game and funny Joe Manganiello playing "Joe Manganiello". [A few spoilers ahead...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar302016

Judy by the Numbers: "Our Love Affair"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

By 1940 it was undeniable: Mickey and Judy were a success. Even more, Mickey and Judy with the Freed Unit behind them were a bona fide hit machine. Babes in Arms, the first Freed Unit collaboration, earned over $2 million domestically and $1 million abroad. With the promise of another blockbuster and the rise of patriotic sentiment on the verge of WWII, Louis B. Mayer dusted off an old, patriotic-sounding title and set his hitmakers on a new project: Strike Up The Band.
 
The Movie: Strike Up The Band (MGM, 1940)

The Songwriters: Arthur Freed & Roger Edens
The Players: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, directed by Busby Berkeley 

The Story: The original Strike Up The Band was a George & Ira Gershwin political musical satire from the early half of the 1930s. However, the new patriotic musical produced by Arthur Freed & company bore no resemblance to the show from which they took their title. With Mickey Rooney now the confirmed box office champion - unseating Shirley Temple at last - the majority of the movie was geared towards his talents. Rooney sings, dances, acts, plays piano, and even plays the drums. However, Freed and Edens didn't overlook young Judy. They wrote "Our Love Affair" especially for the 18 year old singer. Though Mickey introduces the song, it doesn't come alive until Judy sings it, and her song is the musical theme used throughout the movie. 

Ultimately, the movie was another smash success for MGM. It garnered another $2 million domestically and $1 million abroad, as well as 3 Oscar nominations (including one for "Our Love Affair" and rave reviews from critics. Mickey, Judy and the Freed Unit were an undoubted blockbuster force. But how would Judy Garland do on her own?

Wednesday
Mar232016

Bye Instant Watch: Sinatra, Flashdancers, and Spielberg's Worst

It's your last chance to watch the following multiple Oscar nominated titles for free on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are more films leaving than these but you know The Film Experience isn't good copying and pasting press releases and calling it a day. It would make our lives SO much easier but it's just not how we do. This is for you Oscar completists -- you know who you are. As is our habit, we've freeze framed the titles at random and just shared whichever image came up.

Got any feelings about these pictures? Or will you by midnight on March 31st? Do you think they deserved their wins and/or nominations?

10 OSCAR TITLES LEAVING NETFLIX AT THE END OF THE MONTH
* indicates Oscar win in the category 

African violet. I can't tell you how difficult that was to come by.

Amistad (1997)
Oscar Nods: Supporting (Anthony Hopkins), Cinematography, Costumes, Score.
Shameful Confession: I've never seen this. I think it's my most significant gap in 1990s Oscar viewing. 

9 more after the jump...

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