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Entries in Rob Marshall (6)

Thursday
Sep042014

"Happy now and happy hence and happy ever after"?

Manuel here, to discuss some news that got lost in the shuffle last week -in an interview with EW last week, Rob Marshall confirmed that that new Stephen Sondheim-penned number for Into The Woods was cut. [Gay gasp!] Yes, that song which Meryl was so effusive about last year and which Sondheim had penned just for her (seemingly in response to certain plot strands that were left dangling by, well, Disneyfied cuts to the fairy tale musical) has found itself on the cutting room floor. In Marshall's words,

“It was beautiful and spectacular, but it was very clear, as good as the song was, that [the movie] was stronger without.”
Rumblings on the web lead me to believe there's more to the story (isn't there always?) but rather than give credence to the rumor mill, we'll at least have something to look forward to in the film's DVD/Blu-Ray bonus features (they still have those, right? I feel as though I've been streaming so many films lately, I haven't sought out or outright explored these behind the scenes featurettes unless they become viral sensations). 

 

But rather than ask that obvious question ("will the song still be featured in some way in the film and thus be eligible for the Best Original Song?") I thought I'd open it up to a more interesting, if obscure, conversation. Writing new songs for existing musicals as they make their way to the silver screen is nothing new. Written either as an Oscar-grab or as a way to solve cinematic problems when adapting stage-primed material, these songs have been just as often outright hits as they've been unmistakable misses. For every serviceable number such as "Suddenly" (Les Mis) there is a head-scratcher like "Cinema Italiano" (Nine). For every tacked on song like "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (Grease) that nevertheless finds life outside of the musical film therein, there is "Mein Herr" which is now integral to stage mountings of Cabaret

I know I'm talking to the theatre queens in the audience, but I'm sure there's plenty of you out there: If you could choose one such number to nix it from a musical film adaptation, which one would it be? Or, conversely, which numbers written specifically for the screen do you think have captured the spirit of the show and made significant contributions to its sensibility? 

Monday
Apr072014

Stage Door: Michelle Williams in "Cabaret"

Jose here. I have a confession to make that might make me very unpopular around here: I don’t get Michelle Williams. I understand the reasons why she’s beloved and acclaimed and why she’s earned three Academy Award nominations so far, but I can’t bring myself to declare myself as part of her fanclub. The reason behind this is that I can’t fully fathom her as a true sexual being, yet time after time she’s asked to portray characters for whom sex is an essential trait. For instance, as much as she aced the moves, comedic timing and picaresque tone of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, she played the most famous sexual icon of all time as a timid porcelain doll, whose internal turmoils kept her from having an emotional life. What is the point of having Marilyn onscreen if you’re not having at least mildly naughty thoughts about her?

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Wednesday
Jan292014

We Can't Wait #6: Into the Woods

[Editor's Note: We Can't Wait is a Team Experience series, in which we highlight our top 14 most anticipated films of 2014. Here's abstew on" Into the Woods"]

Into the Woods
Director Rob Marshall tries his (jazz) hand at another movie musical based on the popular Broadway show. The film centers around a Baker and his Wife who have been cursed by a Witch to remain childless. To break the spell, the couple must go "into the woods" to bring back certain objects. Along the way, they encounter classic characters from fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack (he of the famed Beanstalk).

Cast & Crew
The sprawling cast is a mix of movie stars (Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife, Meryl Streep as the Witch, Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, and Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf), Broadway performers (Tony winner James Corden as the Baker, Lilla Crawford, from Broadway's latest revival of Annie, as Little Red, Tony nominee Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince), and talented individuals at home in any medium (Christine Baranski as Cinderella's Stepmother, Tracy Ullman as Jack's Mother, and 2014's "It" movie musical star, Oscar and Tony nominee, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella). [more...]

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Saturday
Apr272013

Into The... Trainwreck?

For those of you who've had the pleasure of seeing Stephen Sondheim's classic Into the Woods (1986) on stage, you know that, like most of the great composer's once-prolific oeuvre, it is very particularly a Work of Theater. Some artists' skill sets transfer easily between stage, screen, television and literature and so on but others do not. Certain geniuses are so tied to a particular medium they become it; Stephen Sondheim IS Musical Theater. 

But musical theater is different from musical cinema. Naturally compromises will have to be made. The person doing the new compromising is Rob Marshall who Hollywood is still giving the musicals to, presumably because of the huge success of Chicago (2002) and not the floppery of Nine (2009). So yes, compromises must be made...  but they do not have to be made in casting. Many star actors -- if you're forced to cast that way -- have great singing voices. Les Misérables may have botched its casting of Javert (Ugh. Russell Crowe) but elsewhere Tom Hooper seemed to understand that beautiful melodic musical-friendly trained voices were required and could be found in big stars (Hathaway, Hackman, Seyfried) and rising ones (Tveit & Redmayne) and he cast accordingly... except for that bit about letting Helena Bonham-Carter "sing" again post-Sweeney Todd.

Unfortunately Hollywood loves to repeat its mistakes and somehow Sweeney Todd did NOT result in Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter being lifetime banned from future musicals ...

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Wednesday
Oct032012

"Into the Woods" Seeks Investors & Very Famous Witch

This happened Monday. (Thanks to Julia for alerting.) How crazy is that?

A live reading of Stephen Sondheim's wondrous "Into the Woods" shortly after its Shakespeare in the Park summer (with only Donna Murphy as The Witch transferring from Central Park) to raise interest/funding for Rob Marshall's film version. He's surely hoping to redeem himself post-Nine which angered critics and lost a ton of money at the box office and return to his Chicago heyday. But I swear to god if he makes up some stupid framing device where it's all a dream/fantasy...

I don't know about you but the idea of Patrick Wilson & Cheyenne Jackson as the eternally unsatisfied but self-satisfied Princes is to die for. The other names that most excite me here are Nina Arianda, Victoria Clark, Christine Baranski,  Anna Kendrick, Megan Hilty,... oh wait, I'd just type up every name! 

How do you read "Into the Woods" -- Did they talk/sing through their table read, stand beside the piano for Hollywood moneybags or was it very very short? Broadway.com confirms that this reading did happen as planned though the film version would obviously *sniffle* get an entirely new cast. (We once had a very robust discussion of who should play whom right here at The Film Experience.) Many of those names listed above are famous and accomplished and have golden statues of some sort and are amazing vocalists but you know they'll be thrown over in a second for bigger names with weaker chops.

Streep will probably get the role made famous by Bernadette Peters, and later played by Vanessa Williams and Donna Murphy

Meryl Streep is already reportedly in talks about the most coveted role in any production: The Witch (who raises Rapunzel as her daughter and sings "The Last Midnight" and the show's thematic anthem "Children Will Listen"). That sucks for the great great Broadway diva Donna Murphy who, to date, has only ever had one movie role worthy of her (The Witch... who coincidentally raises Rapunzel!... in Tangled) though she gets frequent tiny roles. But that's how it works for stage-to-film transfers. And Meryl does have a wondrous vocal instrument; I can and have listened to her tracks from Postcards from the Edge, Prairie Home Companion and Death Becomes Her on loop (Mamma Mia not so much). If rumors that Marshall originally wanted Toni Collette for Roxy in Chicago are true -- and why wouldn't they be cuz damn if she isn't great in musicals -- can't we throw her in this movie somewhere?

Thursday
Jan122012

Cast This! Rob Marshall and "Into the Woods"

As frightening... as bewildering... as wrong as it is to say after a decade of breakthroughs (Moulin Rouge!), critical triumphs (Dancer in the Dark, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and box office hits (Chicago, Dreamgirls, Hairspray) and problematic but Oscar nominated efforts (Nine, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera) ... the movie musical is still in trouble. It probably will be until another Vincente Minnelli or Bob Fosse arrives on the scene, someone who understands and breathes and trusts the very cinematic language of the musical. Until then we'll get bored directors detouring or novices who think it might be "fun" to try one... or Rob Marshall.

Will no young director challenge Rob Marshall as King of the Musicals?

Stage turned film director Rob Marshall was initially seen as something of a savior of the form when Chicago (2002) became a smash hit and Best Picture winner. It had been 34 years since a movie musical had had that honor. But his musical follow up Nine (2009) proved a massive flop and a target of critical derision. Though I thought it was better than it got credit for being (how could it not be given the vitriol?) in tandem with Chicago it revealed too little range and an inherent distrust of the form he had been handed, without competition, to rule; the music in both films emerged on sound stages as hallucinations or performative fantasy. His two subsequent non-musicals (Memoirs of a Geisha and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) were much worse, with listless dramatics and overstuffed weightless business for plot. Nevertheless, Hollywood logic prevails. Disney, looking at the colossal gross of On Stranger Tides, has obviously forgiven Marshall for Nine's red ink and rewarded him with the reigns of the film version of a bonafide masterpiece, Stephen Sondheim's twisted fairy tale classic Into the Woods. Never mind that I could have directed On Stranger Tides (it would have been all about the mermaids and they would have drowned Captain Jack in the first half hour) and it would still have been a top grosser. In Hollywood you get credit for blockbuster grosses even if you are obviously replaceable since anyone helming a long running franchise will produce a similar size hit. Audiences are lemmings when it comes to those big franchises. 

So though I weep that Into the Woods isn't getting a world class auteur, and I shudder most of all to think of those glorious songs sung by people who can't handle the intricacies of the music -- Marshall casts for stardom first even if they can't sing and Sondheim obviously writes only for great singers who can act -- we should try and stay positive. Let's play...

Bernadette Peters leads the cast of the original INTO THE WOODS (1987)

CAST THIS!

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