Author Topic: Merry Music of May 2018  (Read 2259 times)

Sandy

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2018, 11:02:22 AM »
The Toast of New Orleans



A greatest hits of opera, as Mario Lanza's Pepe the fisherman takes a crash course in refined singing. It's dumb, it's contrived, but as in That Midnight Kiss, I could care less, cause Lanza's got the pipes! And so does Kathryn Grayson. I first heard of this film in That's Entertainment and then like now, I sat back in awe and knew this was something extraordinary.



Notable notes:
Rita Moreno's first musical
"Thirty-five sets were required; three adjoining sound stages on the MGM lot were combined to house one of the largest indoor sets constructed for a film musical." --Los Angeles Times
David Niven is a class act in this film, which is no surprise.
"I'm a new day rising."

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2018, 12:22:00 PM »

Kid Nightingale (1939)

The little film that could. Running just under an hour, this sports comedy musical gets by on a cast of familiar faces. John Payne (Miracle on 34th Street) plays a wannabe singer with surprising boxing talent. His manager (comedy character actor Walter Catlett) wants him to box, but his girlfriend (Jane Wyman) thinks he can be great at both. The great Edward Brophy (Thin Man, Larceny Inc.) rounds out the cast as a nervous boxing promoter looking to see the champ fail.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Okay
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2018, 11:13:37 PM »

You Can't Run Away From It (1956)

A couple of years ago, I watched a musical remake of Ball of Fire. This time the screwball source is It Happened One Night. The strength of the material and director Howard Hawks putting the story into a fitting musical context helped make up for the weak pairing of Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. This film brings nothing new to the material, the musical numbers are forced in. The script is followed pretty closely, but it seems remarkably tame with two decades of dust. What gives the film any interest are the two leads, June Allyson and Jack Lemmon.

These actors may seem completely wrong replacements for Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. Allyson is too sweet to be a spoiled brat and Lemmon doesn't sizzle like Gable in his prime. However, they compliment each other very nicely and there's genuine chemistry, even though it's more lighthearted. It's particularly interesting to see Lemmon take many of Gable's shining moments (though notably not the shirt removal scene) and transform them into something that fits his persona.

While the musical numbers don't mesh, they're a fun and happy bunch, perhaps due to the lyrics by Johnny Mercer (4 Oscars, 19 Nominations) and the direction by 1930s crooner Dick Powell. The kick-off, "Howdy Friends and Neighbors", performed by Stubby Kaye (Cat Ballou) is probably the merry highlight, but Allyson and Lemmon have some nice duets during the famous "Walls of Jericho" and Hitchhiking scene, and Allyson dances a "Scarecrow Ballet". So while the songs don't fit, that doesn't mean they weren't welcome.
Rating: ★ ★
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oldkid

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2018, 01:02:47 PM »
Hairspray
(If you read this review in the Top 100 Club, there is an additional paragraph about the music at the bottom of the review)

I avoided John Waters movies.  I heard about the story of Divine eating dog feces in Pink Flamingos and decided that he had gross comedy, which I don't care for.  But Martin has a couple music-oriented films on his list and so I thought I'd focus on those movies I hadn't seen.  Okay, I'll give Hairspray a chance.

O
M
G

How did I not see this film before?  Why did I not watch it in the 80s when it came out?

It's been a while since I had such a good time watching a new film.  It is so lighthearted and fresh and uplifting.  I laughed.  I tapped my foot at the music.  And I had a silly grin throughout the length of the film.  I am not sure how he did it, but he took a film about racism and fat-shaming and turned it into a guilt-free romp.

In a sense, it is Grease turned upside down.  The opening song is about what you put in your hair for fashion, and there is a dance competition at the center of the plot.  But while the end of Grease is the victory of sexy fashion, Hairspray rebels against mainstream fashion, encouraging young people to fight against the common sensibilities of fashion and morality.  And it is much funnier than Grease.

The script is full of silly statements and though the readings are stilted and shallow, it is perfect for the tone of the film. We are supposed to laugh at everyone, and with everyone.  Everyone is projecting their performance, inviting us into the fun of it all.  We aren't supposed to delve into the depth of these characters, but to enjoy the fun with the actors.  Even so, I am ready to watch Rikki Lake and Divine in whatever they do.  I want to have more of this.

Apart from the opening song, most the music comes from the dance-oriented soul of the early 60s.  The music is continuous and provides much of the tone of the film, as well as many of the plot points.  Music is the punctuation of every scene, and an exclamation point is the most frequent mark used.  Like the film, the music constantly communicates, "We are here to have a good time! Let me tell you how to move, how to enjoy yourself right now."   The music and plot merges at the end when "The Roach" and "The Bug" are used to turn the tables, using the frequent theme to take an insult and to proudly accept it as a label.  The perfect, joyous way to end this film, using the strengths of the characters as the final conclusion and then using the music to enforce that. I've known a number of these songs for years, and I love the use of them in this film.

4.5/5
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2018, 12:14:31 AM »
Carmen (1983)

Babes in Toyland (1934)

I was going to leave this one alone, but it's been a day now and I hate it even more than when I watched it. This is the Laurel and Hardy feature with the can't miss premise of a land where Mother Goose and all her nursery rhymes live. So there's the old lady who lives in a shoe, one of her children is Bo-Peep, Santa Claus owns a toy factory here, Jack and Jill pass through, and there are the 3 Little Pigs and the Cat and the Fiddle... who wear unintentionally creepy costumes.


The highlights are L&H, the opening "Toyland" and the climactic "March of the Toys", but the overall film, which has the makings of a fun mega-mashup, aims way too young for me. It's not that the humor or storytelling is juvenile, it's younger than that, like what I've seen of Barney or Telletubbies. I have to wonder if this film can even work magic on little kids anymore?
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #25 on: May 08, 2018, 01:16:45 AM »
Betty Grable Double Feature


Betty Grable starred in over 20 Hollywood Musicals and was THE box office attraction during World War II. Yet, you never hear anyone suggest a Betty Grable Marathon and she's still best known for her famous pin up photo featuring her legs. None of her Musicals have reached 1000 votes on IMDB. I now have a pretty good idea why.



Footlight Serenade (1942)

There's some good cast here, with John Payne, Victor Mature and Jane Wyman. There's also Phil Silvers, playing a bad, obnoxious comedian. (I wish scripts wouldn't encourage him. He does bad just fine on his own.) There are similarities to Kid Nightingale with a story about a Broadway show built around a heavyweight boxer. Problem is, Mature plays it so sleazy you just want the film to get away from him. There's also a last minute change of heart that's one of the most disingenuous turnabouts I've seen in a film.

Grable and Payne make a cute couple, but they don't get enough time together. As for Grable's musical abilities, she's okay and it's clear the instructions were to emphasize her legs, but she lacks the smooth precision of the dancing greats. You see it most in a duet with Astaire choreographer Hermes Pan. He's precise, controlled and effortless. She hits the target but never quite the bullseye.
Rating: ★ ★




Pin Up Girl (1944)

I thought the first film was light, but this one evaporates immediately. The heavy pro-military angle and emphasis on moments of entertainment instead of an overall story cued me in on who Grable's target audience was, and why these films aren't mentioned much today.

The first musical number throws in everything: feathers, roller skates, symmetrical patterns, red, white and blue chorus girls. It's too much too soon. The finale is a Yankee Doodle choreographed march, and while it's just a parade of legs, I have to wonder if the soldiers in the audience were all that excited to see so much marching after a day of doing much of the same.
Rating: ★ ★


I'd already seen a couple of other Grable Musicals, and I'm sure I'll accidentally bump into them again. (Hopefully without Phil Silvers.) I don't have a problem with her, it's the low quality of the material. The humor is especially poor in both films.
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #26 on: May 08, 2018, 12:37:42 PM »

Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)

A&C movies are all varying degrees of silly mixed with stupid, and this is one of the better entries because of the generous participation of Charles Laughton. Laughton played Captain Kidd in a more serious film in the 1940s. I debated watching that first, but decided not to make a meal of this. Much like Anthony Hopkins in that recent Transformers movie, you don't quite know what the actor is doing here, but he brings class, dignity and gravitas which makes it even funnier when you see his willingness to roll with the stupid.


I saw this was listed as a Musical and they pack a lot of songs into 70 minutes, mostly sea shantys sung by a chorus of pirates, but the lyrics are humorous. This could easily be mistaken for a Disney film, with its friendly pirate tone and familiar images. (I love the costume design on the pirate chorus girls in the Tortuga Tavern.) The romantic lead Bill Shirley also voiced Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty. He wears a green vest much like Flynn Rider. There is also a female pirate captain, which is pretty progressive.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Okay
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #27 on: May 09, 2018, 01:23:03 PM »

Swing Your Lady (1938)

We got Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins, Frank McHugh, Nat Pendleton and Ronald Reagan in a.... Wait, what month is this? Oh, sweet cheese and crackers.

The good news is none of them are asked to sing or dance. For that they bring in Penny Singleton (After the Thin Man) who's pretty good at both, and an Ozark local music band called The Plunkett City Hillbillies. Together they make a lot of fine music including a rousing square dance number, which makes all the hillbilly humor all the more tone deaf. The film celebrates and mocks the culture in equal measures. It's also a wrestling film, not my sports genre of choice.

Back to my boys (and Reagan). Jenkins and McHugh are right at home, able to produce laughs just wordlessly watching a suitcase fall to the ground. Bogart does as best he can with a role clearly written for Cagney or Pat O'Brien, but lovable hustler just isn't quite him. It would take a few years to realize Bogart required a new, tougher type of leading man. He called this his worst performance ever, which isn't quite right because I've seen him sleepwalk through a few, but you can see this is an uncomfortable fit.
Rating: ★ ★
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #28 on: May 10, 2018, 08:42:21 PM »
Van Johnson (gets upstaged by the Female Lead) Double Feature



Remains to Be Seen (1953)

First, something a little different for this Marathon, a Murder Mystery. Van Johnson is the manager of the building who finds the body, but there's little doubt the star of this film is June Allyson as the daughter of the deceased. She's the last main character to enter, but all attention is on her, whether dancing and singing to "Too Marvelous for Words" or facing off against some suspicious characters, including a spooky Angela Lansbury.

The mystery isn't deep, but the characters make it involving, and it's not that Johnson is a weak lead. His character is immediately blown away by Allyson and so was I. The only person able to steal the spotlight is Dorothy Dandridge, who shows up to perform "Taking a Chance on Love". It's sad to see someone so talented who was never afforded work to equal her star power.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Okay




Easy to Wed (1946)

I tried to think of a way to explain this screwball plot simply, but can't. Van Johnson once again leads, and while Esther Williams has a large role - and the film really goes out of its way to get her in the water as often as possible - the actor who comes out on top is Lucille Ball. I like Ball's movie work, which is as sharp and tart as Ginger Rogers. Her TV persona I find her whiny and shrill. I've seen several of her films made between this and the premiere of her show, but this is the first time I've seen bits of Lucy Ricardo poking through. Overall though it's the sharp, quick-witted Ball with some daffy facial expressions so I was happy.

Musically, this is the kind of film where the song breaks keep halting the comic momentum, mostly because the songs themselves are very forgettable. The major exception is some scene-stealing organ playing by Ethel Smith.
Rating: ★ ★
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MartinTeller

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #29 on: May 11, 2018, 12:16:41 AM »
Synth Brittania - I think I learned about this when verbALs mentioned it. It's a BBC doc about the rise of the synthesizer in British music from the 70's through the early 80's. It focuses on the experimenters (Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle), the pioneers (OMD, Human League) and the early breakout successes (Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, New Order). A nice balance of material. I especially liked how it emphasized that early use of the synth was more connected to punk than pop (although I'm also a huge fan of synth pop, and thought it was a bit petty of the film to sneer at Howard Jones and the like). Another interesting observation was how the duo (Yazoo, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, etc) came to the forefront, usually with a soulful "warm" frontman/woman backed by the "cold" keyboardist providing the instrumentation. There isn't a whole lot here that will be revelatory to fans of this era of music, but there are some nice little tidbits, like the fact that the club where OMD saw all their early influences is directly across the street from the Cavern Club. It piqued my interest in some acts I haven't paid much attention to, and renewed my passion for some I'd put aside. Rating: Very Good (83)
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