Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blog Is Good for Anything That Ails You

Last week the ever-clever Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus and the Pinstriped Blog (he's a real writer trapped in a baseball writer's paycheck) added to what seems to be a sort of meme flying around the world of baseball bloggers--a list of their Top Ten favorite movie musicals. His is pretty good (certainly better than Keith Law's and Joe Posnanski's), but of course you know mine's better, cause it's mine and all. It seems the "rule" was to leave off rock docs/concert films, so mine does not include faves like Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Big Time (why is this not on DVD?), perhaps even Urgh! A Music War (which I haven't seen since the '80s and it might not have aged as well as I have, very unfortunate for it). But my list also leaves off animated musicals, because, after all, you can make a cartoon sing any way you'd like (it's like auto-tune, but done with drawings and computers and probably the powder they made from Walt's head when they realized it wasn't worth keeping him on ice any longer). *

Clearly my love of the musical takes a bit more twisted and dark a turn than these fellows, who might know baseball better, but in Goldman's case, he's a Yankee fan, so the smarts has to stop a bit short of a full double feature, no? Without more overture, and with all apologies to musicals from my youth that have their horrible little songs lodged in my brain (what I'd give to excise "Truly Scrumptious" from my head) but really aren't very good--Willy Wonka (the Wilder one, no comment on Johnny Depp as Michael Jackson as Wonka), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang--and then something like Grease, which I had seen on Broadway and realized the movie was a big big sell out/mistake, even then, proto-snob that I was.

10) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
How this film didn't make one of the three lists is a mystery to me, but then again it probably wasn't an immersion experience for everyone. At least for this suburban NJ boy, it certainly helped me to think about not dreaming it but being it. Plus the first hour, till Meatloaf gets served again, more or less doing an imitation of all of Sha Na Na at once, is pretty damn fun.

9) Pennies from Heaven (1981)
Steve Martin revealing his coarser side, music suckering the characters first, us second, Bernadette Peters' best film role, Christopher Walken years before Fatboy Slim made him dance famous, and some lovely lovely original period songs, all set to Edward Hopper recreations. Not a happy film about film as the wrong way to happiness.

8) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
It's simply undeniable. Plus Margaret Scary Hamilton.

7) It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Way better than On the Town--it's sort of a sequel--for my money, as it's about disillusionment (I'm a sourpuss, ain't I?). But there's Cyd Charisse, ever lovely, and the trash can dance, and the -wise song, and people worried advertising was a sell out in 1955. All in CinemaScope (except no substitutes).

6) All That Jazz (1979)
When Roy Scheider passed away, it's this film, not Jaws, that lept to my mind, which says something about me, doesn't it. Very '70s, very Fosse, not in the least fussy. Go see more of what I wrote upon Scheider passing. In fact it's interesting how many of these films have made their way into the blog at least a few times before this accounting.

5) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
How did this not make any of the three lists? Hilarious, moving, and great great songs (although, oddly, like one of its obvious models RHPS, it sort of loses steam towards the end--I guess with a mere inch it's easy to peter out?). John Cameron Mitchell is an amazing talented man. Bonus points for Emily Hubley animation (yes, Georgia of Yo La Tengo's sister).

4) Top Hat (1935)
I love Fred Astaire, would want to be Fred Astaire, all that amazing grace, how sweet the feet. All the Astaire-Rogers musicals are great, and they can seem interchangeable, but I'll give this one the nod. Plus here's a tip of the top hat to Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton.

3) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Nostalgic about 1904 in 1944 and therefore now a double time trip. Great score. Judy Garland before she was all fucked up. One of the classic child performances of all-time by Margaret O'Brien (for the Halloween section alone). Not on one of the other guys' lists. Huge mistake by all three.

2) Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Hate the ballad. Love all the rest. Even the ever-too-beaming Kelly. (Remember, all his most famous dance bits, like the title one here, are un-partnered. Hint hint.) Still wishing there was a sequel following Jean Hagen and Donald O'Connor in which the studio hires him to be her tutor
and they somehow fall in love. Probably has to do with singing.

1) The Band Wagon (1953)
Got a whole essay up about this one, so what more can I add now? Oh, Jack Buchanan cracks me up. And this is a lovely number, isn't it?

*Please tell me you don't read my parenths, as sometimes they get a bit excessive.

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Blogger George said...

So, did anyone of you comment here and then the comment vanished?

It wasn't me, so if you did let me know so I can bug Blogger about it.


11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good list, though The Rocky Horror Picture Show is on my I Just Don't Get It list, and I probably underrate Pennies From Heaven because I compare it to the original Dennis Potter TV series (I prefer it even to The Singing Detective). And nobody listed Cabaret! Shame!

4:55 PM  
Blogger George said...

Have you seen RHPS with an into it crowd? Just does not translate into home theater.

And I have not seen the British Pennies, so that might help me over-rate the Martin one.

I've got this Liza Minnelli problem, so that's my Cabaret excuse.

4:58 PM  

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