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Visual Effects Oscar Semi-Finals 

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Entries in musicals (352)

Wednesday
Aug032016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Faraway Part of Town"

After the critical and financial disappointment of A Star Is Born (1954), Judy took another hiatus from moviemaking. While she continued an active concert touring schedule, and began popping up on television on occasion, exhaustion, disappointment and illness kept her from another film. It took an old friend to coax her back into movies, in the weirdest cameo of her career.

The Movie: Pepe (Columbia, 1960)
The Songwriters: Dory Previn (lyrics), Andre Previn (music)
The Cast: Cantinflas, Shirley Jones, Dan Dailey, directed by George Sidney

(A cleaner version with proper aspect ratios can be found here.)

The Story: Cantinflas was already a beloved megastar of Mexican cinema by the time he made a splash in Around the World in 80 Days. Hoping to capitalize on a new opportunity, Columbia cast him in Pepe, and added cameos by 35 Hollywood stars just in case the Mexican comedian didn't pan out.

Judy was one of the 35 cameos. Originally coaxed on board by her former director, George Sidney, Judy was just recovering from hepatitus when the movie began shooting. Columbia reduced her cameo to a singing one, either for health reasons or because they were afraid she'd gained too much weight. At any rate, this may have inadvertently saved Judy - the movie bombed, but she ended up with an Academy Award nominated hit. 

Regardless of the rest of the film's legacy or reception, there is something truly trippy in the best way about watching a Mexican comedian dance with the current Hollywood "it" soprano (and future Mrs. Partridge) to a Judy Garland number. It sums up the strange transition period that was early '60s Hollywood better than any other clip I can think of. It worked in Judy's favor, too. The next year, Judy Garland was awarded a Golden Globe for lifetime contribution to American film. However, her contributions weren't over yet. She was about to give one of the most devastating performances of her career.

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...

Click to read more ...

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!

Click to read more ...

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.

Click to read more ...

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...

Click to read more ...

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