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Entries in musicals (309)

Saturday
Jan302016

Retro Sundance: John Carney and "Once"

John Carney at the Spirit AwardsLynn Lee revisits the 2007 Sundance hit Once as the current festival wraps up.

I was at Sundance in 2007—the only time I’ve ever been.  It was one of the highlights of my life as a moviegoer, albeit more for the experience than the actual movies.  While I enjoyed most of the films I saw there, few really stuck with me beyond the festival, with the exception of the lovely character study Starting Out in the Evening (which really should have gotten Frank Langella an Oscar nomination). 

Somehow, I missed the true breakout success of Sundance that year—the low-budget Irish musical Once, which won the festival’s World Cinema Audience Award.  It went on to become a critical darling, a sleeper indie hit, and even an Oscar winner for Best Original Song. How could I have bypassed being one of the first in the U.S. to see it?  Well, somehow I did, even though I became a fan when it arrived in theaters later that year. 

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Thursday
Jan282016

Retro Sundance: 2001's Hedwig and the Angry Inch

2001 was the comeback year for the musical. As the massively-scaled Moulin Rouge was reinventing the genre for the post MTV era, John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch was an unassuming small scale success that didn't disappoint its cult following from its Off Broadway run and the cult grew rapidly after its Sundance debut. Still a genre anomaly for Sundance, this musical was awarded the Audience Award (Dramatic) and Mitchell won Best Director for his first time behind the camera.

The dramatic Audience Award winners are typically optimistic, but rarely this uniting - Hedwig is a musical that reflects our deepest human needs. Nothing brings together a crowd of strangers like music (or film) we can all connect to and Hedwig's score is packed with emotional insight. Composer Stephen Trask fills the songs with rage, wit, and a hard-won optimism that burns through whatever baggage we as an audience bring to the table. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jan272016

Judy by the Numbers: "Dear Mr. Gable"

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

In 1936, 14 year old Judy was selected to perform at Clark Gable's birthday party. Gable, the biggest MGM star at that time, was to have an all out bash. For Judy's performance, Roger Edens wrote an intro lyric to an old MGM property, "You Made Me Love You," which directed the 1917 song specifically at Gable. At the party, Judy jumped out of a cake and sang the star his song, charming not only the birthday boy, but also his boss, Louis B. Mayer.

The Movie: Broadway Melody of 1938 (MGM, 1937)
The Songwriter: James V. Monaco (music), Joseph McCarthy (lyrics), Roger Edens (new title & intro)
The Players: Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Judy Garland, Clark Gable's photo, directed by Roy del Ruth

 

The Story: The result of her hit at the birthday party was that Judy Garland was cast singing her new song in  Broadway Melody of 1938. The Broadway Melody series was designed for MGM to try out up-and-coming talent; Buddy Ebsen made his debut there, and it helped make Eleanor Powell a star. Judy was no exception. All of the reviews raved about her: NYT called out her "amazing precocity" while The Hollywood Reporter asked why she'd been kept under wraps so long. "Dear Mr. Gable" would become her first single, too. Judy Garland was an overnight hit, but it would take her 2 more years and 5 more movies to become a star.

Tuesday
Jan262016

Finding Linky

LA Times the Academy has clarified some of its new rulings on membership due to confusion from within its own ranks - very useful info
In Contention Kris Tapley has some thoughts on that as well and depressingly mentions there is still talk of "expanding" the acting categories. This will be very hard for yours truly to stomach if it happens. Traditions are important (and no I dont mean traditions of discrimination - don't confuse the issue!). Changing an 80 year tradition of a set of five slots in no way helps diversity and may actually serve to make the Academy look much much worse sending an accidental message (you weren't good enough for five but maybe with seven -- oops you weren't good enough for seven either!) so I pray to all the cinematic gods that wiser heads prevail and they reject it. 
Fistful of Films... speaking of working through something by talking about it. Fisti takes on the subject of Leo's Oscar baiting through the years and denies it! Interesting and entertaining though he's totally crazy that his work in The Revenant will be the best leading actor win in some time. (Noooo. I mean, he's fine but good ≠ great) 

Guardian $17.5 for Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation a record Sundance sale
TFE ICYMI we were just discussing that film's buzz last night
Pajiba reminds us that Blade Runner 2 is about to start production so Harrison Ford is reviving another one of his classic roles
Pajiba also tries to decipher Kristen Stewart's much misquoted outrage producing "stop complaining - do something" quote by transcribing the interview. (This serves as yet another reminder why the outrage factory is so annoying and boring itself. People contradict themselves ALL THE TIME when they're talking on at length about complicated subjects and sometimes they dont even know what they're saying. And if you lift a few words out you can make anything look worse. Give everyone a f***ing break. Chances are they weren't trying to offend anyone.)
Comics Alliance I keep hearing competing things about Thor: Ragnarok. First that it's the "darkest" film yet (ugh) and second that it's going to be the funniest. Usually those things dont go hand in hand so who is telling the truth? But Taiki Waititi the new director has a good sense of humor (see What We Do In the Shadows) so let's hope for the second one.
i09 Speaking of Taika... the sequel to his great vampire mockumentary has a title We're Wolves (get it werewolves) but he has to wait until after Thor to do that.
Vulture Sir Ian McKellen would like to remind you that the Academy could be more inclusive with gay people too. Thank you Sir Ian, Hero.  
Playbill well that didn't take long. Hamilton, Broadway's new mega hit, has already announced its tour plans to kick off in 2017
Playbill Jonathan Groff's turn in A New Brain -- which I don't think we discussed here - has been recorded for posterity. He was just superb in that staged reading and Saturday Night Live's Ana Gasteyer was sensational as his mom... can we get them both in movie musicals please? 

Cinematic Corner reacts to a bunch of recent news but I'm linking up because it's always fun when Sati drools on Tom Hardy and she's so enthused about his enthusiasm over the Oscar nomination
Towleroad okay this is adorable. One of the dancers from Kinky Boots celebrates his 29th birthday by doing 29 death drops around Manhattan
Vulture has a longread on the fall of Ryan Kavanaugh and Relativity's bankruptcy
Variety Abe Vigoda, the film (The Godfather) and television (Barney Miller) actor has died at 94
John August... responds to that but encourages us not to dismisses the story as opportunism or embrace it as cautionary tale.

Today's Teaser
Awww, it's Ellen DeGeneres signature film role, returning to us in Finding Dory. In which we will find out if a character that was so wondrous in short comic relief doses can handle carrying a whole film...

 

Wednesday
Jan202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Americana"

Anne Marie here with one of the foundational building blocks of the legend that is Judy. This week it's the story you've probably heard: young Judy Garland sings in a two-reel with another mostly-unknown MGM child actor named Deanna Durbin. Mayer sees the short and decides to dump one of the girls. Which he chooses and why is up for debate, but the practical fallout turns one girl into a big star at a small studio, and puts the other on the road towards a mythmaking career.

The Movie: "Every Sunday" (MGM, 1936)

The Songwriter: Roger Eden

The Players: Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin directed by Felix E. Feist

The Story: When young Judy had signed with MGM, she had done so without a screentest. The powers that be decided to rectify that in 1936, casting Judy with Deanna Durbin, another girl singer whose classical style contrasted nicely with Judy's big, swingtime voice. Durbin's option at MGM was about to expire, and the studio decided not to renew it. Durbin was rapidly scooped up by Universal, cast in Three Smart Girls, and became a nearly overnight sensation. These are the facts as we know them.

Many variations on this storyfeature heavily in the Judy Garland myth. In some versions, Mayer tells an underling to "get rid of the fat one," and the studio mistakenly lets go Durbin. In others, Arthur Freed recognizes young Garland's talents and intercedes on her behalf. Whatever the real reason was, this story remains the most romanticized near-miss in Hollywood musical history. It's a story of foils: Classical Deanna vs Brassy Judy, the flashpan sensation vs the undying star, the nonegenarian vs the talent gone too soon. Every good myth needs an origin story, and this moment, when Judy's career nearly stopped before it began, serves neatly as the genesis for Judy Garland, Child Star.

Tuesday
Jan192016

Well "Hello, Dolly!" ...Again (Feat: Channing, Pearl, Bette, and Babs) 

Bette on the Tonight Show in 2014Bette Midler basically gave the game away in a tweet last night but today it's official: The Divine Miss M will be taking over Carol Channing's signature role Dolly Levi in a Broadway revival of "Hello, Dolly!" due in the Spring of 2017. Carol Channing made a huge enduring career out of the role, of course, playing it three different times across four decades on Broadway and touring with it, too. Barbra Streisand tried to wrestle the role away from her in the movie musical adaptation in 1969 -- there are multiple catty anecdotes about this in the trivia-filled gossipy book "Roadshow! The Fall of the Film Musicals in the 1960s" that do not paint a pretty picture of Babs --  but despite the plentiful Oscar nominations thrown that movies way, it didn't really stick and no one thinks of Dolly as anyone's but Channing's.

Babs, Bette, Carol Channing & Pearl Bailey after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jan132016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Texas Tornado"

Anne Marie back with the next installment in our new Judy Garland series. Before she was a legend, Frances Gumm was a contract player. This meant that MGM could loan her out to other studios. It was common practice for both large stars and minor players. But what makes you Frances unique is how rare it was for her. Today's musical marks the only time MGM loaned out Judy Garland; the rest of her contract with the studio would be spent snugly - if not comfortably - within the white walls of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Judy's next short would kick off the Garland legend, and jumpstart the young teen's career.
 
The Movie: Pigskin Parade (20th Century Fox, 1936)
The Songwriters: Lew Pollack (Music), Sidney D. Mitchell (Lyrics)
The Players: Stuart Erwin, Patsy Kelly, Betty Grable, Jack Haley, Judy Garland, directed by David Butler
The Story: Already under contract to MGM at the age of 14, the newly renamed Judy Garland's first feature film was a loan out to 20th Century Fox. Pigskin Parade was a low-budget musical - Fox's favorite kind - that cashed in on the early 30's fad for college crooners. Judy plays the hick sister of a barefoot football prodigy (Stuart Erwin) who's invited by accident to play for Yale. Judy gets a handful of numbers, all shot and sounding more or less exactly like this one: she stands, feet planted, and belts pep songs in medium closeup. Young Judy hasn't quite mastered lip synching yet, but already one of her defining features shines: she looks like she's having a hell of a lot of fun performing.
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