Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Musicals


This week was a week close to my heart.  Yes, it's Thursday, and that means that it's time for another installment of Wandering Through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks, where we choose three films sharing a specific theme.  This week I had a hard time narrowing my list down, because, off the top of my head, I had a list of 30; seriously.  

Any guess as to the theme?

Yes, I know that it's in the post title...

Today we're talking about:



So, in an effort to narrow this down, I decided to stay within a decade, choosing films only from the 80's (since that's a decade I've been exploring deeper lately) and I tried to give three very different interpretations of the genre.  I hope you like these!

Pennies From Heaven
This is such a cool interpretation of the musical genre because it plays with the genre in ways you wouldn't expect.  None of the actors actually sing, which is part of the gimmick.  Instead, the lip-sync over classic records.  Sure, they dance and prance and make the most of those glorious sets, but their mouths utter no sound.  Next, the film is horribly bleak.  Despite the glitz and glam and lavishness of many of the musical numbers, the story is extremely depressing and the ending is far from a happy one.  Still, it is an exceptional film (my Best Picture winning for 1981) and a real triumph of genre.

La Traviata
This is the newest addition to my musical collection, and I'm in love.  Achingly romantic and desperately atmospheric, this lavish opera (yes, it's an OPERA) is almost too much for my heart to handle.  Those booming voices, that tragic love story, those sets dripping with lushness; what more could you ask for!  Also, I might add that I'm convinced Baz adores this film, as it feels like it must have been the inspiration for 'Moulin Rouge!'...just watch and you'll see.

The Little Mermaid
I'll be honest, on my initial list my #1 choice was 'Beauty and the Beast', but then I decided to stick to the 80's. so I went with the next best thing.  Yup, Disney has always had a knack for giving us full and rousing musicals, and 'The Little Mermaid' is top tier, for sure.  Whether Ariel if belting out the heartfelt 'Part of Your World' or Sebastian is jovially inviting us to party with him, 'Under the Sea', this film is filled with exceptional music that gets to the heart of what it means to be a musical!

16 comments:

  1. Great picks. I've only seen The Little Mermaid and it's not may favorite Disney flick, but I do enjoy it. Can't believe I haven't seen Pennies from Heaven. I definitely need to fix that. Haven't heard of La Traviata, but it definitely sounds interesting.

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    1. You really should see Pennies from Heaven...it's such a great film. La Traviata is hard to find, but worth it if you can.

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  2. I've only seen Little Mermaid, but I love that one. This week's pick was so hard for me too, I love musicals.

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    1. Right! There are so many great musicals to choose from.

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  3. Pennies From Heaven is dark indeed but a fascinating viewing experience. Haven't seen La Traviata but I'm intrigued by it, I see it's directed by Zeffirelli and I usually enjoy his films, it however doesn't look readily available so the search commences. I am not an animation fan so The Little Mermaid has always been one I've avoided even when my nieces were young and crazy for it.

    I'm a huge musical fan, seriously my list could be over 50 or more if I got going, but the category is so broad I thought I'd do a couple themes within the theme so I chose three musical biographies where the songs are more performance based than films where the characters just burst into song, although that has never bothered me as it does some folks.

    1. Love Me or Leave Me (1955): Doris Day plays 20's songtress Ruth Etting and James Cagney her first husband Marty "The Gimp" Snyder. For a film made in the 50's the subject matter is pretty dark. Etting is plainly shown as a shamelessly climbing user, Snyder a violent abuser and their relationship as sadomasochistic.The film is solid dramatically and in her best performance Doris, whose voice is at it's peak, sings a big chunk of the American Songbook. Make sure to see the letterbox version.

    2. The Rose (1979): It's a wild ride down the rabbit hole with Bette Midler in this pseudo Janis Joplin biography. I wouldn't say she's the whole movie, Alan Bates and Fredric Forrest are strong in support but she's definitely the engine that makes it go. The songs are excellent, they aren't necessarily era appropriate but they fit the story.

    3. La Vie en Rose(2007): The film's non linear approach can be confusing at times especially for those who don't speak French (like me) but it quickly becomes compelling and that's because at the center of the film is the brilliant performance of Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf, as hugely talented as she was self destructive. She performs all of "the little sparrow's" best known songs and more.

    Honorable mention-I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955): Susan Hayward does her own (quite capable) singing and dancing as 30's Broadway star Lillian Roth who drank her way from the top to skid row then fought her way back again becoming one of the first famous proponents of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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    1. La Traviata is very hard to find, but I wound up finding it through a third party vendor on Amazon.

      Love that you mention Love Me or Leave Me. Day was exceptional in that (so sad she was snubbed the Oscar nom).

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  4. Nice! I chose to not include Disney movies, but The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast are two of the finest musicals ever made, in my opinion. Have not seen your other two picks.

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    1. Yeah, I personally consider Beauty and the Beast one of the very best in the genre.

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  5. Pennies From Heaven is a huge blind spot for me, and I'm a devoted musical fanatic. This must be rectified. The Little Mermaid holds a special place in my heart as this first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater. I still love it. La Traviata is not my favorite opera, but I am intrigued by its inclusion here - didn't realize Zeffirelli had made a film of it!

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    1. I hope you get to see Pennies soon. I can't recommend that movie enough, it's so good!

      I saw La Traviata recently, being completely unfamiliar with the Opera, and was smitten. It's beautifully transferred onto the screen.

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  6. I love La Traviata and know the music but forgot about this gem. I remember wanting to see it in the theatre but it never came my way. Pennies I have seen bits but not the whole film and it is so under-rated. Steve Martin is exceptional. I have yet to see The Little Mermaid because i have read the story and know she actually dies at the end(Hans Christian Anderson had many sad stories...wonder if he was depressed). I love Musicals-LOVE!!! I love the big ones that are always mentioned-Singing In The Rain, The Bandwagon, Top Hat, The Wizard of Oz, but I would have chosen The Story of Vernan & Irene Castle, On The Town and Invitation To the Dance.

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    1. Steve Martin is great, but that ensemble as a whole is just magic!

      There are just so many perfect classic musicals, the list is nearly endless.

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  7. Oh, great picks. I must see La Traviata! Especially since it will likely SLAY at the Fistis. ;)

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    1. It will slay with nominations...it's those wins I'm not so sure about anymore. I rewatched Blade Runner. I have such doubts.

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    2. If you catch me in the right mood, I'd list Blade Runner in my top 10 of all time. LOVE that film. No wonder it wins 7 CinSpecs. ;)

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    3. Yeah, that was E.T. for me for the longest time, and so now I'm torn...like...so torn.

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