Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 89

The films are alive with the sound of music.

What is your favorite musical?

Panelist: ScottDS

I'm partial to Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You but at the end of the day, my mind goes back to two classic films from my childhood: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Chitty in particular features some crazy musical numbers, including "Me Ol' Bamboo" in which Dick van Dyke has to dance several beats behind everyone else, and "Chu-Chi Face" in which the villain spends the entire song trying to kill his wife!

Panelist: T-Rav

Definitely Grease, insofar as it's the only musical I like at all. (I know, I'm a terribly uncultured person.) John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are great as Danny and Sandy, and if that movie can't make you want to go back to the '50s even a little bit, nothing can.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

Okay, I know I’m not supposed to like it, but I really did like Barbra Streisand’s version of “Hello Dolly”. I also loved Rosalind Russell’s versions of “Auntie Mame” AND “Gypsy”. All the critics panned and pan all of these, but I think they are classics.

There are so many movie musicals that I like (and don’t like), but I prefer my “written for the stage” musicals to stay on the stage and my “written for the movies” musicals to stay on the screen.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

This one is difficult because I do like a lot of musicals. Cabaret is great, so is The Sound of Music, and of course South Park. I also really like Moulin Rouge. But when it comes to favorites, on stands head and shoulders above the rest... Jesus Christ Superstar. Tasseled jumpsuits, baby.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

O.K. I have to split this into old and new(er) picks. For the old, I like South Pacific with Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi. Loved the songs (Bali Hai, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair, Some Enchanted Evening, etc.) The story, about war in the south Pacific held my attention as a youngster, and it was probably the film that got me into musicals. More recently, it would be hard to top Les Miserables.

Comments? Thoughts?


AndrewPrice said...

We need to review more musicals around here.

Mycroft said...

We got trouble, my friends, if no one mentions The Music Man.
Robert Preston is The Ultimate Con Man!
plus Shirley Jones as the world's sexiest librarian
Buddy Hackett sings!
and little Ronnie Howard singing with a lisp in his first film appearance.

tryanmax said...

You might think that my favorite musical would be animated, but you would be wrong. My favorite is actually The Music Man (1962). Not much else to say about that.

Close runners-up are Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965), followed by Oklahoma (1955), Chicago (2002), Moulin Rouge (2001), and Singin' in the Rain(1952).

tryanmax said...

Mycroft's comment might have posted first, but I'm pretty sure I started mine first. I had to check the dates.

AndrewPrice said...

Believe it or not, I only first saw The Music Man about five years ago. Excellent musical.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, In all honesty, I don't like Chicago. And the reason I don't is that it feels like a rip-off of Cabaret to me.

tryanmax said...

I've never seen Cabaret.

AndrewPrice said...

IMO, the style is very similar, the dance numbers and costumes in particular are similar. The in between story isn't, but when I watched Chicago my first thought was that this had to be an homage to Cabaret... but it wasn't.

tryanmax said...

In fairness--this is my theater background speaking--Chicago is a cabaret musical, both it and Cabaret are Kander and Ebb, and Bob Fosse had a hand in choreographing both--the former on stage, the latter on film.

AndrewPrice said...

That would explain it. Musicals often feel similar, especially when they are done by the same people. It's just that in this case, I think they flew too closely to the original.

tryanmax said...

I happen to think all cabaret musicals feel the same regardless who wrote them.

AndrewPrice said...

Could be. You should see Cabaret though and see if you still think that. To me, it really does stand out. It's deeply perverted and rather inspired at times. Joel Grey is awesome. It's got Nazis, which makes for an interesting backdrop too. They "vogue" long before Madonna did it. It's strange.

Mike said...

Rocky Horror Picture Show


I first saw it in Denton, Texas (and a town named Denton was where it first started in the flick) not long after it "came out". -ahem- I never had experienced anything like it before or since, with water being sprayed in the air, people talking back to the screen (OK, I've seen that since, but now it's annoying)and folks dressed up like the characters and dancing the Time Warp in the aisles. Not only was it a clever spoof of the old sci-fi movies, it had some great tunes. Several of the stars went on to pretty good careers in TV and movies.

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, I concur. I like that one a lot as well. It's a ton of fun, Tim Curry is hilarious, and I really like a lot of the songs.

Anonymous said...

Fiddler On The Roof,followed closely by The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.

Kristina said...

Love The Sound of Music, and I'm going to go totally classic and say Meet Me in St. Louis is an almost perfect musical, sentimental and nostalgic, Judy Garland at her prime, Christmas song that became a standard

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Singin' in the Rain hands down... hands down. The Music Man is a very close second.

Dave Olson said...

In no particular order:

1) The Wizard of Oz. OK, so it's not in random order, this is my favorite musical of all time. I can remember when it was only on once a year, at Easter, and it was a treat to get to watch it with the whole family. One year I was sick and Mom brought in a small black-and-white TV to my room so I could watch it. And what young child didn't feel a chill go down their spine when the WWW pointed a crooked finger and said "And your little dog, too!"

2) Grease. Americana at its most cheerfully nostalgic. Perfect casting (even a 30-something Stockard Channing as a high school senior), excellent writing, great songs and stellar dancing.

3) Singin' in the Rain. They don't make movies like this anymore, and it's about movies they don't make anymore. A wonderful gem from a time when actors didn't just look pretty on screen, they had to be able to sing, act, tell a joke and dance. And all of that is in this movie.

4) The Blues Brothers. The movie that put Chicago back on the cinematic map. An extravaganza of chaos, fabulous music, and cheerful destruction.

11) This is Spinal Tap Not really a musical per se, but there is an awful lot of singing in it, and it's one of my favorites. So it's on my list.

Tennessee Jed said...

Music Man is great, particularly the barbershop quartet numbers. Tryanmax: yes, but which one of you "thought it" first? ;)

Fosse, Fosse, Fosse, Martha Ray, Martha Ray ... Madonna, Madonna ...

This morning, it occurred to me that almost anything involving Howard Keel was very good. Younger viewers may think of him primarily as Clayton Farlow, the character who replaced Jock Ewing in the original Dallas. That said, Annie Get Your Gun, Showboat, Kiss Me Kate, Calamity Jane, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, Kismet et al were all damn fine.

Ty in TX said...

I cannot believe none of you didn't think of The Pirates of Penzance. Kevin Kline as the Pirate King, Rex Smith as Frederick, and Linda Ronstadt as Mabel. Wonderful support by Angela Lansbury as Ruth, George Ross as Gen. Stanley, and Tony Azito as the Police Sargent. The story is humorous, the music great and the lyrics catchy. Or maybe it's a little too old school to be considered a musical? :)

K said...

New School: Nightmare Before Christmas.

Oldschool: Wizard of OZ.

Operatic: The Magic Flute

BevfromNYC said...

Okay, I have to amend my answers. First, I just recently re-watched Barbra on Hello Dolly...she is just awful. Now I understand WHY the critics panned it. Really, she is awful and annoying. I apologize for being so wrong.

2 Auntie Mame was not a musical...but I still love her in Gypsy

3. I don't have a 3, yet...

Tennessee Jed said...

Ty in Tex - I guess technically The Pirates of Penzance is an operetta, but the definitional difference is very subtle, and hardly worth dissecting for our purposes here ( a fancy way of saying it's a distinction without significant diffrerence!)

I've seen most of the old Gilbert & Sullivan performances, but I think few have been brought to the silver screen. That may be why nobody thought to include them in the early comments. A fine choice! ;)

PikeBishop said...

Chicago is interesting and popular because its a musical for people who don't LIKE musicals! At least the traditional format.

A lot of people can't break that thread of reality, where people stop talking and burst into song and dance.

In Chicago, all the musical numbers are dream or fantasy sequences, except the title track at the club. They are separate from the reality of the plot.

Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks, Bev - you saved me the trouble of cruelly (and unfairly) chastising you for mentioning Babs. Does she have a good voice? ... of course. Is she so obnoxious that I just can't even stand to see her name in print? You bet :)

PikeBishop said...

My favorite "traditional" musical (talk, sing and dance, talk, sing and dance) has to be West Side Story."

Timeless plot of doomed lovers straight from the Bard.

Very real (even today) feelings and emotions about immigrants, racism, what it means to be American, the melting pot etc.)

Dynamite supporting-supporting characters, Schrank, Officer Krupke, Doc,

Rita Moreno. Damn she was good in this film

One of Bernsein's best ever scores.

A perfect mix of love songs, hope songs, humorous songs and tragic songs.

I could go on: Two years ago, they ran WSS on the big screen, around the country to commemorate its 50th anniversary. My Filipina wife has some big gaps in her pop culture Americana and she had never read Romeo & Juliet, nor had seen this film. She was absolutely enthralled by the film and then at the ending, when Tony steps out of the shadows and Maria sees him, my wife's face beamed, followed by a very loud gasp when the gunshot felled Tony. She couldn't believe that, that there was no Hollywood happy ending.

One of those simple human reactions that a well-done film can evoke.

PDBronco said...

1. American in Paris
2. West Side Story
3. Singin' in the Rain
4. The Music Man
5. Fiddler on the Roof
6. Godspell
7. 1776
8. 42nd Street (okay, a musical about a musical)
9. Yankee Doodle Dandy
10. Meet Me in St. Louis
10a. Sound of Music
10b. State Fair (1945)

Honorable Mention: All That Jazz, Cabin in the Sky

That's my list at this moment - it does keep on changing. There are also a few that have a memorable moment, but don't keep up the momentum, such as Harvey Girls and Show Boat (1951)

BevfromNYC said...

Actually 10J, I do not think Babs has good singing voice technically speaking. She has her own style.

Oh, oh,oh, I have a #3! Any Gershwin, Any Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and anynof the classic musical writers of th 30's to 60's. with a lot of Stephen Sondheim thrown in for the greatest lyricist of the post'60's. okay that ought to cover me...

Btw, Gilbert and Sullivan wrote operettas, okay they were precursors to the modern American musicals, but the were British, so they don't count. There, I said it when no one else would...;-)

BevfromNYC said...

No one has mentioned "Mary Poppins"...

AndrewPrice said...

Krista, I love The Sound of Music.

AndrewPrice said...

GypsyTyger, The Best Little Whorehouse is really a fun movie. I love watching Charles Durning dance around he capital.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, Grease is awesome. And I love the music in The Blues Brothers.

PikeBishop said...

Bev: Mary Poppins is in my top five. Great film, awesome cast, and great tunes.

Even as a kid I suspected there was something "wrong" or "off" about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Almost it was like the Sherman brothers were shooting a giant middle finger at the traditional Disney musical, like Poppins.

Some of the songs are so over the top, they set off the BS detector in even small children. Plus there is a lot of sly, adult content in that film, allusions to S&M, and the child catcher, whom one pop culture site, argues quite effectively is an "abortionist."

Chitty is a strange film to me.

BevfromNYC said...

Rita Moreno lives in my neighborhood, however I have never seen her singing on her fire escape or dancing in the street..:-(

PikeBishop said...

You bring up a good point Bev, along the lines of what I consider the most unbelievable thing in West Side Story. I mean I can take the singing and dancing street gangs, but a guy wonders through Spanish Harlem calling out "Maria" and ONLY ONE GIRL pokes her head out?! C'mon!

AndrewPrice said...

K, I like Nightmare Before Christmas a lot, especially Mr. Oogey-boogey's sone. I do feel the film has been diminished a bit by his later films which basically copied it, but I still do like it a lot.

Ty, I haven't seen that one actually.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, You should sue. :)

BevfromNYC v. Moreno: To require Moreno to sing once on balcony per day as advertised in West Side Story.

PikeBishop, LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Truthfully, I've never liked Streisand, even apart from her politics. Something about her just rubs me wrong on screen.

AndrewPrice said...

Here's another one I should have mentioned: Xanadu. I like that too. ELO is awesome.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, West Side Story is definitely one of the better ones.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, I've never seen 1776, but I have heard really good things. I remember a writeup at BH.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Nice third favorite. LOL! Well done. :)

Good call on Mary Poppins.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev and Pike, I think that Mary Poppins is like a "gateway drug" for kids to look at other musicals and I think it's very effective in that.

Interestingly, have you noticed the total dearth of musicals aimed at kids today?

BevfromNYC said...

Pike! OMG!! In all my years of reading Westside Story reviews, not ONE person has ever brought that up!! So true!! LOL!

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: About the only thing I really, really liked Streisand in was her screwball period, specifically "What's Up Doc?" She definitely showed some comedy chops.

Mycroft said...

The fact is that there have been a lot of great musicals. Some that deserve at least an honorable mention:
The Court Jester - a jester unemployed is nobody's fool!
The King and I - Yul Brynner singing!
7 Brides for 7 Brothers - kind of disturbing if you think about it.
Lil Abner - with Julie Newmar as Stupifying Jones.
King Creole - Elvis and Walter Mauthau.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, She always rubs me wrong. There is something just so stunningly arrogant about her. I know I couldn't last five minutes in a room with her.

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, I like The King and I a good deal.

Anonymous said...

I only really like two musicals, The Blues Brothers and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

I'm not a big fan of the music or most musicals that is why these two stick out to me.


AndrewPrice said...

Scott, South Park is a fantastic musical with some really strong songs. "Blame Canada" is great. And of course, the "Uncle F-er" song is hilarious... and shocking.

K said...

Hey, wait a minute. The question was "What is your favorite musical." - not name every movie you didn't hate with a song in it since 1933.

Who's in charge of enforcing discipline on this board?

AndrewPrice said...

K, We're not great with rules around here.

Kit said...

Fiddler on the Roof: For a musical set in Russia, it seems so quintessentially American. I can't explain why.

West Side Story: Beautiful, tragic, and one of the best ensemble climaxes in history.
"Tonight Ensemble"

Singin' in the Rain: Great singing and amazing dancing. Some of the best song and dance scenes in motion picture history.
"Good Mornin'!"
Note: By the time Debbie Reynolds, who had limited dancing experience at that point, finished filming that scene her feet were bleeding.

BevfromNYC said...

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - because "Fiddler" is the quintessential immigrant story.

Anonymous said...

I can't say I'm much of a musical person, though I'm surprised no one's mentioned Little Shop of Horrors yet, which would be my favorite. Steve Martin's sadistic dentist in particular cracked me up and it was just a whole lot of fun. I have seen and enjoyed West Side Story, too.

- Daniel

AndrewPrice said...

... cuz I'm a Deeeentist. LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, True. Badges would be nice though. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I concur with Bev, because it's an immigrant story.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew, can I have crown instead?

AndrewPrice said...

Sure. :)

Backthrow said...

I'm not a huge fan of musicals --not nearly as much as I am of other genres, anyway-- and I prefer the ones that focus more on singing than dancing, but that said, my top faves would be:


I also like:


Then there are the rock 'n roll movies, which are technically musicals, but seem to be a somewhat different animal, in that they star musicians who stop to perform some songs while in the midst of an otherwise normal comedy or drama (or hybrid of the two), and they are nominally the only singers in them:


Anonymous said...

Even as a kid I suspected there was something "wrong" or "off" about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Figures... and this is why I turned out the way I did, after a childhood spent watching this movie once every couple of weeks (and not getting any of the adult humor till much later). :-)

And SHAME on me for not mentioning The Blues Brothers in my answer!

wulfscott said...

Very late to this discussion - a musical that was not mentioned so far, even though the musical numbers help move the story along - Casablanca.
Singing in the Rain would top my list, though.

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