Author Topic: Merry Music of May 2018  (Read 2277 times)

Sandy

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #40 on: May 17, 2018, 12:20:48 AM »
It's here, and it's cranky.

Ha! I've been working on something to post, but am glad you mentioned the tired plot and all that isn't working. Since those are well documented, I'll just gush a little about my Astaire nostalgia. :)

Oh! And yes about the "Whatever Lola Wants" comparison. 
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Sandy

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #41 on: May 17, 2018, 12:41:55 AM »
The Belle of New York



Let other men build the mighty nations,
Or stairways to the sky,
I'll leave a few creations
To show that I was a dancin' by.


:')

I have a movie in my top 100 that doesn't really measure up to great films. It's not great, it's mediocre... except! Something happens during three numbers that transport me somewhere entirely magical. One is about nothing more than a squeaky floor board and a discarded newspaper, another one is a moonlight wish on a star and the last is a showstopping number from a woman who shines anew for a brief moment, before her swan song of A Star is Born. The film is Summer Stock, where the sum of its (few) parts is greater than the whole.

The Belle of New York is an even more mediocre film and has fewer parts which transport, but Vera Ellen and Fred Astaire are as good as it gets and even a poor story can't keep them from being radiant. And, Astaire's soft shoe, "I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man" is such a theme for his life, it brings me to tears. He just wants to dance for us. Yes, please. The sum of this man is greater than I can express.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 12:54:03 AM by Sandy »
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2018, 01:27:35 PM »
I love Gene Kelly and used to think he was the greatest dancer in cinema, but I've come to realize that Fred Astaire is the greatest there ever was and probably ever will be. I've been sitting on this and Sandy's post makes it the right time.

(More Than) 4 Times Fred Astaire Proved To Be The Greatest Dancer in Movies

To best make my case, I focused on routines where Fred danced solo or was the primary dancer.

4. Royal Wedding - "Sunday Jumps": The more famous scene is the one where Fred walks up and down the walls of a rotating set, but this one is less gimmicky, interacting with props around an exercise room.


3. Blue Skies - "Puttin' On the Ritz": My original list had the title song from Top Hat and "History of the Beat" from Daddy Long Legs, and it says a lot that all three sequences are as good as you will ever see. Ritz has elements from the other two dances, but is the best of the three for the graceful opening that builds into a thunderous finale.


2. Holiday Inn - "Firecracker Dance": Fred Astaire dances while smoking! Then uses the cigarette to set off firecrackers, using them as his dance partner. Nothing more to say.


1. Holiday Inn - "Drunk Dance" (start 1:30 in): While Astaire is technically dancing with Marjorie Reynolds, his character is so drunk he's not really aware of her. She stands there for most of it while he tries to find his rhythm. It's amazing to watch Fred stumbling gracefully, out of sync but in perfect harmony. Only a master could attempt such a feat, which ends on a perfect final step.


Honorable Mentions:
Some of my favorite movements by Astaire is during the "Girl Hunt Ballet" in The Band Wagon

I had to include these two tap routines with Eleanor Powell from Broadway Melody of 1940. Powell was the greatest tap dancer in movies and only Fred could hope to match. Together they are perfection.
"Jukebox Dance
"Begin the Beguine"
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #43 on: May 18, 2018, 09:57:31 PM »

Thanks a Million (1935)
We've made up our minds that what the people want is action.
Politicians love to promise, but they don't give satisfaction.
The state is fairly shrieking for a leader from the masses,
Who will soak the rich, protect the poor and help the middle classes.

Yesterday I watched but didn't write about Go Into Your Dance, starring Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler and a bunch of those 1930s character actors I know and love. I didn't write about it because the script is pretty terrible in terms of both structure (introducing two unconnected murder plots in the last 15 minutes) and dialogue (a comedy with no punchlines). I bring it up to show that even I don't think charm can make any film from my favorite era work. So, when I enjoy The Great American Broadcast or Thanks a Million that isn't because it has a bunch of people I like. There's genuinely something more to it than reasons to sing and dance.

As you may have figured from the lyrics I quoted, Thanks a Million is a political musical about an entertainer (Dick Powell) who's more likable and becomes more popular than the candidate for Governor he's warming the crowd up for. This is an excellent vehicle for Powell, who projects folksy charm better here than in any other film, but he's not alone. Ann Dvorak (Scarface, G Men) has enough charisma to transcend her girlfriend role. Both are topped by Fred Allen, one of Jack Benny's comedy group. I think he was just brought in for laughs, but he gives an Award worthy supporting performance as the leader of the entertainers. If not for a bit of romantic idiot plot and a dip in energy towards the end, this would be highlight of the month.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Okay


[
Lady in the Dark (1944)
If there's a party, I'm always the host of it.
If there's a haunted house, I'm always the ghost of it.
If I'm in town, I'm always the toast of it.

While running a successful fashion magazine, Ginger Rogers is having a nervous breakdown. In this drama, directed by Mitchell Leisen, we see her subconscious anxieties through elaborately staged musical dreams, which are visualized with bold splashes of color like you would find in a Guardians of the Galaxy film. The jaw-dropping highlight is a red gown that looks like a fur-skirtted bottom until Ginger grabs it and opens it like flower petals.


There's interesting material here about sexual suppression and balancing being taken seriously as a woman in a high position, while also being allowed to find your own personal style that expresses your serious and feminine side. Unfortunately, the film leans too heavily into a woman being fulfilled once she starts dressing pretty and finds a man who will love her. Ray Milland is also here, mostly in the background, which is uncharacteristic. So you know he's going to be important as the story comes to its conclusion.
Rating: ★ ★
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oldkid

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #44 on: May 19, 2018, 11:56:11 AM »
I remember well the Firecracker Dance from Holiday Inn, and I really appreciated the dance you speak of in Royal Wedding, much better than the more famous turning room scene.  I haven't seen Blue Skies yet, so maybe it's my turn.

Newsies
I've heard both good and bad about this film, and I have to admit that both the promoters and the critics are correct: this is a great/terrible film.  The musical is great: over-the-top dancing, songs by Alan Menkin, a rousing libretto, wow, there is so much to love. On the other hand, Christian Bale.

Perhaps I'll call it the "LaLaLand Syndrome", where you put in all the work to make a top-notch musical and then rest all of that work on a mediocre song-and-dance performer.  Look, folks, when I go to a musical, I want to be wowed by the singing and dancing.  The jokes can be corny, the acting second-rate, the plot threadbare, but I need it to work when the singing is happening.  In a musical, if the moment I'm taken out of the movie is during the music scenes, that's the wrong place.  And if the lead performer is the primary cause of my distraction, then you chose the wrong lead.  Look, I love Clint Eastwood.  But I come to watch him snarl, not sing.  I never needed to see Ryan Gosling dance, except perhaps in a candid drunken nightclub jig.   I know that Disney could get great singers and dancers for Newsies, because they did. And then put them behind someone who couldn't keep up.  I know the reasons.  Bale is charismatic and "feels" like a good leader.  But the real leader of the historic strike was Kid Blink, placed so far behind this pack of handsome leads that he only got a couple quips in the film.  So they made up a leader, gave him the handsomest face they could find and decided as a singer and dancer he was "good enough."  Well, not for me. /rantover.

Still, there is much worthy to see in this film.  Great sets, Duvall acting silly, wonderful dancing (if you look past Bale), and just an overall good time.  But honestly, it is such a good musical that I think I'll watch the Broadway production to see what it should really be like.

3.5/5
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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #45 on: May 21, 2018, 10:10:16 PM »

I'll Be Yours (1947)

I wasn't going to let the month go by without a visit with Deanna Durbin, my 13th of her 21 features. Little did I know I was backing into a musical remake of The Good Fairy, which I realized as soon as I learned Durbin was playing Louise Ginglebusher. While many of the story beats are the same, the script by Felix Jackson (Destry Rides Again) ditches much of Preston Sturges' dialogue, which might sound like a disaster, but the replacement dialogue plays to the romantic comedy strengths of the new cast.

This is another case where I like the film in spite of Durbin's operatic singing. Her voice is amazing, just not for me. There's a cute college fight song duet with comedian Walter Catlett, but the love ballad is a total dud, though I like how it's staged on a lake with each boat containing young couples serenading each other with instruments. Durbin's voice completes the orchestra.

As a rom-com powerhouse, Durbin is in excellent form, though she doesn't remove memories of Margaret Sullavan in the role. William Bendix on the other hand only works in shades of terrific, and I had to look up who he was replacing (Reginald Owen). He's a delight every time I watch him. Adolphe Menjou doesn't attempt Frank Morgan's master class in stuttering, instead going for a performance similar to his immoral producer from Stage Door. (10 years earlier, Menjou played Durbin's father in One Hundred Men and a Girl. Ick.)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Good
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Sandy

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #46 on: May 21, 2018, 10:29:21 PM »
I love Gene Kelly and used to think he was the greatest dancer in cinema, but I've come to realize that Fred Astaire is the greatest there ever was and probably ever will be. I've been sitting on this and Sandy's post makes it the right time.

(More Than) 4 Times Fred Astaire Proved To Be The Greatest Dancer in Movies

Sweet! What a tribute you've created. This is excellent. I try not to compare Astaire and Kelly, because I love them both so much, but your words are compelling. :) Thank you for compiling all of these.

Quote
My original list had the title song from Top Hat

Childish Gambino!


Quote
1. Holiday Inn - "Drunk Dance" (start 1:30 in): While Astaire is technically dancing with Marjorie Reynolds, his character is so drunk he's not really aware of her. She stands there for most of it while he tries to find his rhythm. It's amazing to watch Fred stumbling gracefully, out of sync but in perfect harmony. Only a master could attempt such a feat, which ends on a perfect final step.

It's so hard to dance badly, but perfectly! Great choice for your number one!
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1SO

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #47 on: May 24, 2018, 12:05:44 AM »

Colleen (1936)

The film opens with a charming bit of verse sung by the cast directly to the audience.
DICK POWELL:
I'm the one who loves Colleen.
I hope to win her in the final scene.

RUBY KEELER:
I'm the Colleen that he's speaking of.
He's the boy that I learn to love.

JACK OAKIE:
I am known as Mr. Cork.
I'm the fastest thinker in New York.

JOAN BLONDELL:
He's got lots of grand ideas, it's true.
I'm the gal who helps put 'em through.

That's a powerhouse quartet and they get this by on pure charm. The plot is pretty goofy and the laughing fit performance by writer Hugh Herbert will try most patience, though I've seen him in many films and he doesn't bother me. I liked seeing Jack Oakie from The Great American Broadcast playing with Warner's All-Stars, and he does a fine comic duet with Blondell that includes some ballroom dancing, which I think is a first for Blondell. There's Busby Berkeley style choreography and Keeler does some of the most impressive tap dancing of her career. I especially liked the finale, "You Gotta Know How to Dance", which featured a battle between Keeler's feet and Powell's pipes that reminded me of the Astaire/Crosby duet that opens Holiday Inn.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Okay



Listen, Darling (1938)
I've got you. You've got me. Who cares how rough the road may be?
We'll go bumpty, bumpty, bumpty, bump. On the bumpy road to love.

Arguably a more talented cast than Colleen - Mary Astor, Walter Pidgeon, Alan Hale, Freddie Bartholomew and Judy Garland, who sings three songs - but they don't have the charm to make this silly plot work. A surprisingly short 75 mnutes, the highlights are Garland's songs (of course) and Alan Hale in an uncharacteristic heart-warming performance.
Rating: ★ ★



Somebody Loves Me (1952)

It's amazing to think this was just two years after Hutton's triumph in Annie Get Your Gun. The movie looks cheap, the songs don't play to Hutton's strength as a character vocalist and co-star Ralph Meeker is as musically inclined as Clint Eastwood. I understand that Betty Hutton isn't for everyone, but she deserved to at least get to play to some strengths.
Rating: ★ ★
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Junior

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #48 on: May 24, 2018, 01:38:44 PM »
I've been neglectful here because my Celtics have lasted longer in the Playoffs than I expected and God of War has taken longer than I thought it would to beat. But I watched Streets of Fire again and gave it a full review!

Streets of Fire

I’ve seen Streets of Fire before. I watched it in 2014 and it was my 33rd favorite discovery of the year. Not great, but not bad either. I saw it got a Shout Factor release since then so I picked it up, remembering the amazing opening scene and the overall vibe fondly. Turns out my memories are pretty reliable. I liked Streets of Fire even more this time around, though my problems with it remain.

Let’s start at that beginning. We get a bit of text on a black screen first telling us that this is “A Rock & Roll Fable” then doing the best scene setting by text in a movie that I can remember: “Another Time/Another Place…”. Already we know what we’re getting into. The opening shots of people in 50s-ish outfits on a street set decorated to look like 1955 and 1985 had a baby that they then neglected set to music that you hear when I say “80s” to you. It’s amazing how quickly Walter Hill, co-writer and director, sets the mood of the film. Then you get people filing into a concert venue where Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) and the Attackers will soon take the stage and rock your socks off. During their electric performance of “Nowhere Fast,” one of the best musical songs there is, a group of shadowy guys comes into the venue from the street where they parked their motorcycles. At the end of the song a light shines on the leader’s face and it’s Willem Dafoe playing Raven Shaddock, who kidnaps Ellen and busts up the joint before going back to his home base. A diner owner writes a letter to her brother, Tom Cody (Michael Paré) who soon teams up with a down-on-her-luck veteran, McCoy (Amy Madigan) to get Ellen, his ex-girlfriend, back.

It’s kind of a weird setup, especially when you consider the logistics of the letter that Cody’s sister writes him and the span of time that doesn’t seem to pass between her writing and his arrival. But because you’ve already gone with the strange time-slippage in the sets and dialogue, the time jump that simultaneously does and doesn’t happen (Ellen seems to have been kidnapped for maybe an hour later in the film) doesn’t bother much. Later, when the movie continues to ask you to buy stuff happening that maybe shouldn’t make much sense, you do because it has already shown you that this is set in a world of its own where the normal rules don’t really apply. What matters more is the feeling of something, the pulse-pounding music of “Nowhere Fast” is the life-blood of the film that infiltrates the score and pushes the characters along. At least, it does for the first half.

Ellen is rescued surprisingly early in the film, and after that happens (with a standoff and explosions and a lot of motorcyclists popping wheelies for no discernable reason), the movie loses some momentum on the trip back to the street where it started. It is enlivened a little by the addition of a band of black doo-wop singers whose bus is commandeered by the rescuers and who add a bit of new energy to the one scene that they’re in before the conclusion. After everybody arrives home safely, we have to sit around for what feels like an eternity but is probably only about 10 minutes. Then there’s a big fight between Raven and Cody involving sledgehammers and ridiculous outfits and a final few musical numbers and by the end the movie has regained some of the verve that it had when it began but not all of it.

I really wish that back half was as good as the opening because if it was this would probably be among my favorite films. There’s something simultaneously lived-in and wildly unreal about this movie that appeals to me. It, like Brigadoon, takes the fantasy inherent to musicals and turns that fantasy into the premise of the rest of the film. In fact, Streets of Fire might have been better served to have even more musical numbers in it. All of the performances here happen on a stage and when there isn’t a logical reason for a stage-show to happen, the songs exit the picture. Even a ballad would energize the second half of the movie before the battle a little. Streets of Fire is an amazing movie for about 60% of its runtime. That other 40%, though, is boring enough to knock the whole proceedings down a few pegs.

B+
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oldkid

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Re: Merry Music of May 2018
« Reply #49 on: May 24, 2018, 01:47:42 PM »
I gotta agree, but that 60 percent is magic.

Pitch Perfect 3

My daughter and I watch the Pitch Perfect films because they are a good time and nothing more than that.  Corny jokes that I laugh at, fun musical sets and a couple good comedic performances.  Absolutely nothing deep, because sometimes we need just that. 

This film is much like the first two: the Bellas get together, there's a competition with other groups, a couple reporters snark at them the whole time, friendship, romance, etc.  This time, they threw in some action, giving a mobster/Bond thread to chew on, but it's just more fodder for the formula.

My daughter sings the songs (as they are all covers), I laugh at the humor, we have a good time and talk about how good it is when it is really something to pass the time with.  Now that the series is over, we will almost certainly rent them again so we can enjoy it again.

3.5/5
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