Author Topic: Merry Music of May 2020  (Read 1375 times)

Sandy

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 11621
  • You're not alone No matter what or who you've been
    • Sandy's Cinematic Musings
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #40 on: May 14, 2020, 11:34:30 PM »
Call Me Madam



My, Donald O'Connor is dreamy. Those big blue eyes, those precise, seemingly effortless dance steps and the voice. Heaven help me, the voice; so velvety smooth and as mesmerizing as any crooner of the day. Maybe it's his boy next door demeanor, or side kick persona, but he completely glides beneath the leading man radar. He plays his triple threat abilities so understatedly, it's as if he's saying, "Don't mind me, I'm just doing my job." Could he be the most humble performer in Hollywood? After reading about his trauma filled childhood, and adulthood for that matter, it's very possible. Now I understand what's going on behind those blue eyes: pain and a lifelong drive to make good.

Vera Ellen, with her tiny waist and ballet slippered feet, wafts over all the surfaces, as she twirls and leaps. She's a sight to behold. The only thing I don't like about the night-time duet dance is that some of her dance steps get lost under all those beautiful yards of tulle. Luckily later at the fair, she gets to show off her moves in a high speed "folk" dance. Ellen is so exact with her posture, she really does come off as a royal. Even when not dancing, every nod of her head, or lift of an arm is carefully choreographed. As for triple threat? Not all performers can do it all. Alas, she once again has to be dubbed.

My dad hates Ethel Merman, but my dad hates a great many things; coconut, Paris, boat rides, roller coasters... I took his disdain as a type of challenge and came to love those things he didn't. I just love Ethel Merman, with her brassy, bold, belting. I can imagine her voice easily carrying to the back seats in a theater, just as a thespian's voice should. I love her work ethic and bigger than life presence. Call Me Madam really highlights her gifts. This is her show. She commits to the part, whether it's super compelling or not, and makes it her own. Much respect, Madam Merman.

Sandy

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 11621
  • You're not alone No matter what or who you've been
    • Sandy's Cinematic Musings
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #41 on: May 14, 2020, 11:56:09 PM »
Jesus Christ Superstar (Norman Jewison, 1973)

This was a big surprise. Not the story itself, it is well known I'd say, but how it was executed. The art design is relatively stripped down and set in the desert for the most part. Contemporary objects are partly used as props and the juxtaposition between these and the historic environment works really well throughout. The actors have a hippie flair which accompany the song and dance numbers in a very nice way. I also liked the consitency of the photography with many close-ups and a lot of shots from below. Ted Neely's characterization of Jesus on the other side was a little bleak.

75˚

That's a really high score from you! I just saw the filmed 2013 arena tour version, but you make me want to go back and see this one again. :)

Sandy

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 11621
  • You're not alone No matter what or who you've been
    • Sandy's Cinematic Musings
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #42 on: May 15, 2020, 12:16:37 AM »
I often love not telling my wife anything about what she's about to watch. I just hit play in in walks Ethel Merman followed by Donald O'Connor. Soon after comes Billy De Wolfe (Blue Skies, Dixie) then Vera-Ellen. Finally George Sanders completes the picture. And he sings! (I checked the credits. He sounds like Rossano Brazzi, but he's not dubbed.) "Geez Honey, this is quite a cast." I then told her it's an adaptation of a Broadway musical from the writers of Broadway's The Sound of Music, a show where Merman won the Tony, and the songs are by Irving Berlin.

Yeah! What a line up.

Sanders started his career in the chorus. :)

Quote
This film is not lacking talent, but it sure takes awhile to get on its feet.

A musical about politics. ho hum. Not a promising premise.

Quote
Merman's brassy Bette Midler joke delivery

haha! I used the word brassy too. It must say Ethel Merman under that word in the dictionary.

Quote
As soon as "That International Rag" ends, DOC and V-E sneak away for a lovely dance to “It’s a Lovely Day Today” and suddenly all is right with the musical world.

O'Conner said that for him, that number was his best dancing.

Quote
From here we get the insanity of DOC and Merman singing two different songs at the same time,

I really like this and Irving Berlin in general, but I have a pet peeve about reprises. They sing their songs separately, then together and then together again (same lyrics each time) and then the song is reprised at the end a few times through! Ugh! At least bring in some more lyrics and preferably use the song sparingly, so it leaves the audience wanting more, not less. I had the same problem with Kiss Me Kate. That movie was shameless in its use of reprises. Cole Porter and Irving Berlin were similar in their styles.

Quote
a show-stopping dance with Vera-Ellen to which Mrs. 1SO commented the choreographer was being unfair to the cast with such complicated and exhausting steps,

I agree, Mrs. 1SO!

Quote
and Donald O'Connor doing a drunk dance with props and while popping balloons with his feet. This was the film being worthy of the talent.

So this begs the question, who's drunk dance is better, O'Connor or Astaire?

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 33558
  • Marathon Man
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #43 on: May 15, 2020, 01:08:15 AM »
My, Donald O'Connor is dreamy. Those big blue eyes, those precise, seemingly effortless dance steps and the voice. Heaven help me, the voice; so velvety smooth and as mesmerizing as any crooner of the day.
I saw a Letterboxd comment about how they never thought of Donald O'Connor as handsome until this film. I always see the boyish charm. And the problem with all velvety smooth voices is that they're in Crosby's shadow. I'm sure there are those who would name other crooners they like more, but Bing is the Michael Jordan of crooners and I agree with that majority.

That said, DOC can do it all. He's like Danny Kaye in that respect except you want to hang out with Donald, and he's genuinely funny. Kaye is only childishly amusing.

Vera Ellen is the one I think of more as the troubled soul. I haven't done a deep dive into her eating disorder, but it seems like it kept her from superstardom even more than her (sorry) weak acting. She reminds me of Eleanor Parker (the Queen of Tap), where the dancing makes up for the acting, but Parker had a Fred Astaire quality where she makes you believe the dance routines were planned by her as well as executed. Vera Ellen is more like the world's greatest stuntman, and whatever crazy move you need executed, she's the one to do it, without being worried about the grace of her posture like Cyd Charisse.

The only thing I don't like about the night-time duet dance is that some of her dance steps get lost under all those beautiful yards of tulle.
The wife said that too. "Her dresses are great, but there's so much of them."


My dad hates Ethel Merman, but my dad hates a great many things; coconut, Paris, boat rides, roller coasters... I took his disdain as a type of challenge and came to love those things he didn't.
I know this isn't my first Ethel, but it feels like her signature role. I know there was Annie Get Your Gun, but Betty Hutton owns that role for me (an opinion much despised by fans of musical history.) I wish she got to do the film version of Gypsy. Much as I love Rosalind Russell, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was made for Merman.


Quote
From here we get the insanity of DOC and Merman singing two different songs at the same time,

I really like this and Irving Berlin in general, but I have a pet peeve about reprises. They sing their songs separately, then together and then together again (same lyrics each time) and then the song is reprised at the end a few times through! Ugh! At least bring in some more lyrics and preferably use the song sparingly, so it leaves the audience wanting more, not less.
I've never had a problem with reprises. I prefer when a song returns with new meaning, like "Master of the House" being more menacing each time the music comes back in Les Mis, or a recent example in Moana when "How Far I'll Go" returns as "Song of the Ancestors". I get used to musicals from this period ending with a montage of all the hit songs.


Quote
and Donald O'Connor doing a drunk dance with props and while popping balloons with his feet. This was the film being worthy of the talent.
So this begs the question, who's drunk dance is better, O'Connor or Astaire?


O'Connor slips in and out of it while Astaire commits to being near-blackout drunk the whole way through. The dance here takes a bit from Astaire's drunk dance, throws in some of the firecracker pops, a touch of "Make 'Em Laugh" slapstick and a helping of "Moses Supposes". In other words, it's good but a rehash of older, familiar elements.
Must See  |  Should See  |  Good  |  Mixed  |  Bad  | The Worst

Sandy

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 11621
  • You're not alone No matter what or who you've been
    • Sandy's Cinematic Musings
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #44 on: May 15, 2020, 04:28:19 PM »
I saw a Letterboxd comment about how they never thought of Donald O'Connor as handsome until this film. I always see the boyish charm. And the problem with all velvety smooth voices is that they're in Crosby's shadow. I'm sure there are those who would name other crooners they like more, but Bing is the Michael Jordan of crooners and I agree with that majority.

I'm going to quietly agree with you. Hope Frank Sinatra isn't listening in. Actually, I can't really choose between those two, so I'll take both. :)

I hadn't thought of O'Connor as handsome before this movie either. It might be the way they highlight his eyes with those red glasses, or allow him to strike some pensive poses. This would be worth studying some more.

Quote
That said, DOC can do it all. He's like Danny Kaye in that respect except you want to hang out with Donald, and he's genuinely funny. Kaye is only childishly amusing.

I loudly agree with this!

Quote
Vera Ellen is the one I think of more as the troubled soul. I haven't done a deep dive into her eating disorder, but it seems like it kept her from superstardom even more than her (sorry) weak acting. She reminds me of Eleanor Powell (the Queen of Tap), where the dancing makes up for the acting, but Powell had a Fred Astaire quality where she makes you believe the dance routines were planned by her as well as executed. Vera Ellen is more like the world's greatest stuntman, and whatever crazy move you need executed, she's the one to do it, without being worried about the grace of her posture like Cyd Charisse.

These are great observations. Yes on Cyd's style vs. Vera's and about Eleanor's presence. It's really true. You help me pinpoint better what I'm seeing in their performances. We've talked about the triple threat before and how small that pool really is. I lean toward wanting a great dancer. The voice can be dubbed and the acting can be worked around, since a musical usually isn't about that anyway. How would you rank the three skills? Have I asked you that before?

Quote
I know this isn't my first Ethel, but it feels like her signature role. I know there was Annie Get Your Gun, but Betty Hutton owns that role for me (an opinion much despised by fans of musical history.) I wish she got to do the film version of Gypsy. Much as I love Rosalind Russell, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was made for Merman.

It is. I haven't seen much of Merman's film work, but have listened to her Broadway songs enough that I see her in those parts. Call Me Madam is a great signature role for her. It fits her persona very well.

Quote
I've never had a problem with reprises. I prefer when a song returns with new meaning, like "Master of the House" being more menacing each time the music comes back in Les Mis, or a recent example in Moana when "How Far I'll Go" returns as "Song of the Ancestors". I get used to musicals from this period ending with a montage of all the hit songs.

You are a more patient musical watcher than I. :)

Quote


O'Connor slips in and out of it while Astaire commits to being near-blackout drunk the whole way through. The dance here takes a bit from Astaire's drunk dance, throws in some of the firecracker pops, a touch of "Make 'Em Laugh" slapstick and a helping of "Moses Supposes". In other words, it's good but a rehash of older, familiar elements.

:)) I thought my question would get a reaction from you! I'm glad I asked, because I like how you break down O'Connor's dance. It was cute, but O'Connor had to remind himself he was drunk. Astaire is the master at drunk dancing.

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 33558
  • Marathon Man
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #45 on: May 16, 2020, 12:58:19 PM »

Sitting Pretty (1933)
Like a port in the storm,
Like a breeze when you're warm,
Like sugar in your tea,
You're such a comfort to me.

Like a coat when you're cold,
Like a cane when you're old,
Like honey to a bee,
You're such a comfort to me.

See that guy on the right? There's a scene early on where he's tap dancing with Ginger Rogers, and I thought this must be the high point of this actor's life. Well the joke's on me. His name is Jack Haley and he played Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

"Get out. There's the door, use it."
"We just used it coming in."

Haley stars with Jack Oakie, a ham who can be awful chewy at times, as a pair of songwriters trying to get work in Hollywood during the depression. It's a basic premise that isn't used nearly enough, especially compared to the one about starving actors looking to put on a show. It's barely used here too, with 75-minutes of whatever they can make a movie out of. Even Ginger comes and goes at random, and it all ends in a big Busby Berkeley style number with black and white feather fans.
RATING: ★ ★

Must See  |  Should See  |  Good  |  Mixed  |  Bad  | The Worst

1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 33558
  • Marathon Man
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #46 on: May 16, 2020, 01:29:18 PM »
We've talked about the triple threat before and how small that pool really is. I lean toward wanting a great dancer. The voice can be dubbed and the acting can be worked around, since a musical usually isn't about that anyway. How would you rank the three skills? Have I asked you that before?
I'd say they're all equal. Finding a good dancer is probably hardest today. There are countless examples of actors being taught to sing better.
Must See  |  Should See  |  Good  |  Mixed  |  Bad  | The Worst

Sandy

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 11621
  • You're not alone No matter what or who you've been
    • Sandy's Cinematic Musings
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #47 on: May 16, 2020, 11:40:18 PM »
I'd say they're all equal. Finding a good dancer is probably hardest today. There are countless examples of actors being taught to sing better.

Astaire and Kelly had to work hard to get to the mediocre singing level they achieved. :)



Andrew Lloyd Webber looks like Jack Haley. :)


1SO

  • FAB
  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 33558
  • Marathon Man
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #48 on: May 17, 2020, 12:03:27 AM »
Andrew Lloyd Webber looks like Jack Haley. :)


When I saw that image I thought Jim Parsons had gotten old.


I would throw in that Ginger Roger's great weakness is a thin singing voice. Her dancing is great, but mostly for how well she matches up with her dance partners and how fabulous she looks in the dresses. Her great musical strength is the acting, which has all the glamour AND all the street smarts.

So who's the best when you average all three together? Who would you say?

Judy Garland. That's a hard triple threat to beat. Of the three, I can't think of a particular standout dance from her, but her singing and acting is unapproachable.

Must See  |  Should See  |  Good  |  Mixed  |  Bad  | The Worst

Bondo

  • Objectively Awesome
  • ******
  • Posts: 21848
Re: Merry Music of May 2020
« Reply #49 on: May 17, 2020, 09:43:00 PM »
Streets of Fire

Well, the pandemic pushed this from 1SO's Top 100 Club month to Music of May. And why not, the music is the film's best asset. Winston Ford and The Sorels two songs here are great and a lot of the other songs are at least enjoyably 80s. In light of all the combat, when we hit the last couple performance numbers I was getting a sense that this might have been in the mind of Edgar Wright for Scott Pilgrim.

What this film probably could have used was even the slightest bit of world building for its peculiar portrait of Chicago and the US in the early 80s. Like, I get that crime was higher in the 80s (and this is Chicago) but it is clear from a few pieces of dialogue that there are some major institutional failures. I had essentially no investment in the characters or their conflicts. It was a distraction from the music.

There were a number of nice lines. In particular I'm thinking of is the cop near the end who says something like "Well, my plan went all to hell, let's see what you've got." Anyway, you note this as your big personal pick in your Top 100, if I understood exactly what you see in it, it wouldn't be personal.

 

love