Tag: Musicals

August 19, 2010 / / Main Slate Archive

New York, New York – 1977 – dir. Martin Scorsese

The legendary Martin Scorcese likes to dabble in different genres: urban angst and alienation in Taxi Driver, sports in Raging Bull,  mobsters in The Departed, mystery/thrillers in Shutter Island. Here, with New York New York is his loving tribute to Hollywood musicals of the 30s and 40s.

Headlining his film are Robert De Niro as saxophone player, Jimmy Doyle and Liza Minnelli as big band singer, Francine Evans, both up-and-coming musicians hoping to make it to the top.

August 7, 2009 / / Main Slate Archive

By Amy Tetreault

The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1984 – dir. Frank Oz

Muppets Take Manhattan is the third in a series of live-action musical feature films with Jim Henson’s loveable Muppets. Released in 1984, this is also the final film before Jim Henson’s sudden death in 1990. In 1992, Henson was posthumously awarded the Courage of Conscience Award for being a “Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play.” Muppets Take Manhattan is a great example of Henson’s renowned work for both kids and adults. In fact, at times, I thought the Muppets were better geared for adults than kids. Besides the fact that the Muppets are made of cloth, their story in Muppets Take Manhattan is totally relate-able. Especially right now.

June 30, 2009 / / Main Slate Archive

By Peggy Nelson

Nashville – 1975 – dir. Robert Altman

Set in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville (dir. Robert Altman, 1975) follows musicians, con artists, politicians, and weirdos as their lives overlap and intersect over the course of a fateful few days.  The film showcases Altman’s signature style of combining multiple story lines, noisy, overlapping dialogue, and realistic, scattered camera angles into a complex yet consistent narrative whole.  Considered by many to be Altman’s best film, it sashays between dialogue and song, the individual and the political, and humor and tragedy, without missing a beat.

February 9, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Chris Bamberger

TOP HAT (1935) dir. Mark Sandrich

In 2007 National Public Radio played an excerpt of Fred Astaire singing “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and asked listeners to describe in a single phrase the quality of his voice. One participant’s entry was, “The boyfriend you longed for before you found out about sex.”

Oh, really?

Donald Spoto, in his biography of Audrey Hepburn, describes her one-time co-star as having “nothing erotic or even sensual about him… Fred Astaire was a gentleman up there on the screen—so much a gentleman, in fact, that there was never an atom of erotic appeal about him.”

It gets worse.

February 6, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Christina Moreno

(1990) John Waters

Though not the typical tacky filth-fest movie many of us know, Cry-Baby is definitely a John Waters film.  Full of over-the-top parody of teen culture of the 1950’s and a great performance by Johnny Depp’s cheekbones, Cry-Baby has reached the cult status like most Waters’ films.  Some other notable faces in the movie include Ricki Lake, Iggy Pop, and Traci Lords. It’s cheese and camp, which is a trademark of any good Waters movie and should be embraced by anyone who sees them.  For those unfamiliar with John Waters’ work, it may come across as a bad movie, but that’s what John Waters is known for: making bad movies (that are so bad they’re good).  Cry-Baby’s appeal is that it takes the squeaky-clean image of the 1950’s and rolls it around in the mud, but still keeps a nostalgic charm about it.  The ironic thing is, Cry-Baby isn’t that different from more “serious” teen genre flicks of the era, such as Rebel Without A Cause.  Just compare the two together.

August 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: KJ Hamilton

Hairspray – 2007 – dir. Adam Shankman

It’s 1962 and Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is an overweight high school student from Baltimore, Maryland. She rats her hair and knows every dance step thanks to spending her afternoons watching “The Corny Collins Show” with her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes). She’s also madly in love with the show’s star crooner, Link Larkin (Zac Efron); who doesn’t notice her at school mostly because he’s so wrapped up in his own career.  Though her mother Edna (John Travolta) does not approve, Tracy auditions for the show. Initally, she’s rejected because of her weight and her belief in integration. However, Corny accepts her onto the council after Tracy wows him with her dance moves. She soon becomes the most popular dancer/council member. The station manager, Velma VonTussel (Michelle Pfeiffer) is threatened by this, as she goes to great lengths to make sure her daughter Amber (Brittany Snow) is the most visible council member, and to keep the show segregated. However, Tracy shares Corny’s (James Marsden) views on integration: “It’s the new frontier.”

August 16, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: KJ Hamilton

The Muppet Movie – 1979 – dir. James Frawley

The basic plot of the film is absolutely charming. Kermit the Frog leaves the swamp and heads west to Hollywood to try to “make millions of people happy.” He encounters a host of enchanting characters along the way, and discovers that it is possible to make your dreams come true if you work hard enough. Ok, I admit it: I love this film. I have loved it since I was a kid, and it’s one of only five films that I can watch repeatedly and never tire of them. So, I jumped at the chance to write about it. I’ve never before wondered just exactly what I love about this film until right now. There are so many things that make me smile and laugh about this film, but I managed to narrow it down to eight things. Let me tell you, this was not easy at all. Here we go…

May 27, 2008 / / Film Notes

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg dir Jacques Demy – 1964 – Trailer

Jacques Demy’s 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg isn’t quite like anything else you’ll ever see (and that includes Demy’s loopier, messier musical follow-up The Young Girls of Rochefort). The first things that viewers notice about the film, and the last things that they would ever be likely to forget, are that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg unfolds in a rainbow of candy colors, and that every single line of dialogue is sung. It feels like a tribute to the glorious movie-ness of the movie musical, the heightened reality of all those sweet confections that the studios used to release so often, and viewers used to gobble up so eagerly. (At the top of the film, one gentleman ironically sings that he prefers movies to stage shows because all of the singing gives him a pain: a nod to Demy’s self-aware desire to make the movies sing again.) Yet while Umbrellas displays a reverence for Old Hollywood’s lavish musicals – which were the farthest thing from fashionable in 1964 – it uses their frothy look and feel to tell a story with a surprising level of grown up melancholy. As Roger Ebert puts it, “This style would seem to suggest a work of featherweight romanticism, but Umbrellas is unexpectedly sad and wise, a bittersweet reflection on the way true love sometimes does not (and perhaps should not) conquer all.” Unlike so many of our favorite movie musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg understands that a passionate kiss and a glorious swell of music does not necessarily guarantee happily ever after.

May 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By KJ Hamilton

West Side Storydir. Robert Wise – 1961 Theatrical Trailer

I have a confession to make: I really don’t like love stories. Why? Well, they usually end up one of two ways: Happily Ever After (which is the stuff of fairy tales) or one or both of the lovers die (and I wonder what the point was). West Side Story is the latter, although there are many different levels to this film that I wonder about. For example, although this story takes place in the 1950’s, it is still relevant today. There are still turf wars, and people are still dying for the sake of trying to carve out a niche. That may be an over -simplification, but the fact of the matter remains that it’s beyond unfortunate that rivalry like this still exists. This story has always been a commentary on the social aspects of a society that doesn’t understand its own place in the grand scheme of things.Second: although this love story is hundreds of years old, it’s still poignant, and it doesn’t have to relate to race, it could be wealth, social standing, background, etc. This story has been done and redone; why do people still find it so fascinating? Why is the idea of the rich socialite falling in love with the delinquent biker rebel, for example, so intriguing that it’s retold again and again? Perhaps it speaks to the core of who we are as people and as a society.

March 31, 2008 / / Film Notes

Is there a film more famous than The Wizard of Oz? There are films with loftier reputations, yes: as impressive an achievement as it truly is, The Wizard of Oz is still written off as kids’ stuff on occasion. But what other film has embedded itself so firmly in our culture? It’s a reference that most everyone picks up and the one Old Hollywood classic that nearly everyone has seen (and, until recently, one of the few being broadcast on network television in primetime). It’s been remade and spun-off in all manner of ways, 0from a television version populated by the Muppets to the misbegotten disco epic The Wiz, to surprisingly bleak incarnations like the eighties semi-sequel Return to Oz and the Sci-Fi Channel’s recent Tin Man miniseries. It crops up even in unexpected places: as a key reference point in anxiety-ridden fair like After Hours and Blue Velvet, and a throwaway line in Reservoir Dogs’ infamous torture scene (“How’s about a little fire, Scarecrow?”). Heck, Richard O’ Brien originally wanted The Rocky Horror Picture Show to imitate The Wizard of Oz’s iconic – and still breathtaking – leap from black-and-white to color. The film is also a merchandizing perennial, the inspiration for a booming cottage industry of hand-numbered music boxes and collector’s plates.