The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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david hare
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#476 Post by david hare » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:21 am

My top ten (and 42 more nominated for the list)

Funny Face
The Band Wagon
I love Melvin
The Pajama Game
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
Les Girls (a stretch for definition, I totally rule out Star is Born as a musical of course)
Gay Divorcee
The Pirate
Singin' in the Rain
Romance on the High Seas

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Cold Bishop
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#477 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:28 am

Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)

It is interesting to see how in the ensuing decade since these films' reached their popularity, the fairy-tale musical has become the primary mode of the genre. Not only that, but the Backstage Musical has fallen largely to disrepute. It's a cheat, a way to tack on musical numbers without thinking of the whole narrative, revues masking themselves as musical-comedies. Likewise, it's a way to make a musical without committing to the genre, as the "realism" of Fame or the sitcom/soap-opera conventions of Glee show. In practice, this may happen more often than not, but in theory, I think it has all the material to make a truly interesting film. Let's think of the Noveau Roman for a second... no, really. The world of Robbe-Grillet and Duras may be a far cry from Berkeley or Rooney-Garland, but at least the potential for overlap is there in the characteristics of the Backstage Musical. For, among the many ideas and innovations of the new novel was the idea of making works that were about their own creation, eschewing psychology and personalization so as to make self-contained, sometimes hermetic works which seemed to generate themselves from between covers. Steven G. Kellman calls them "self-begetting novels". The Backstage Musical, likewise, is one of the most interesting of all cinematic sub-genres as they're precisely and chiefly about movie-making: Not just movie-making in general, but they're about there own creation: the self-begetting movie. We watch the film unfold as the various characters come together and create the very narrative that follows. The characters are creative people straining to use their talent and build a film, like behind the camera. The drama of the narrative is the drama of putting together a film. The final climactic denouement comes in the joy of having accomplished pure cinema.

All this in theory, mind you. I don't know of any Backstage Musical that has taken the implications of the sub-genre to its logical conclusion. Some other films, of course, have done similar things with stories about the theater or filmmaking itself: an almost-musical like The Red Shoes is clearly about cinema. But even then, that film eschews the physical (rehearsal, performance, set-building, writing... the actual processes of creation) for the philosophical (it's contemplation about the passion of creation). Berkeley doesn't get any closer himself, but at it's best moments, his backstage musicals are intoxicated with the joy of creating, and palpable to the sweat and tear that is expended in doing so. Footlight Parade isn't the best of the Backstage Musicals, but it is the best Backstage Musical. Here, the actual act of creation is brought front and center. While good actors have had the reign of impresario in the cycle (Warner Baxter, Adolphe Menjou), none were as charismatic and energetic as James Cagney. If those outsized, tyrannical personalities exist a class above the working folk in the chorus line, here for once the impresario is as blue-collar as the rabble he's overseeing. Appropriately, this is one film where it's no doubt who the true star is.

Yet, for all the things it does right, there is something it does wrong: Berkeley and Bacon choose to make a film about film-making, about the act of mounting a film musical, but then refuse to commit to it. It even starts at the birth of the movie-musical, that is, the death of silent film. But Cagney isn't a filmmaker, he isn't making movies: he's making "prologues". The first ten minutes of the film are the most awkward, as it twists itself in logic to make it's premise work. In hindsight, it seems rather silly. While I don't doubt Broadway was hit by the rise of talking film (shoestring productions, particularly), it was never wiped out, and it still remained a major and viable artistic force throughout the Thirties. Cagney's panic is really that of a filmmaker faced with a changing medium. Likewise, if Berkeley's numbers often stretch the incredulity of the Broadway shows they were suppose to take place on, the very nature of these "prologues" are complete fantasy. Prologues existed but never in this capacity. What Cagney really does throughout the film is clearly design and choreograph film numbers. The insular offices and rehearsal spaces don't look like the stage rehearsals in his other films - there's no stage in sight until a number begins - but look like movie studios; even the exterior shots, supposedly New York, look suspiciously like Burbank. Cagney's entire artistic process isn't that of finely-tuned stage show; he throws off ideas at a rapid pace, conceiving and developing numbers around the simplest (or wildest) of gimmicks. This isn't a stage impresario, but the head of a studio unit. He even deals with the Production Code in the form of Hugh Herbert's censor, a problem that belonged mainly to the screen and not the stage. The film even expands the majority of its run-time to the act of creation, as Cagney turns his small ideas into big, lavish spectacles. There's sub-plots, such as the embezzling or Dick Powell's gigolo, but they're all woven into the backstage work. Only the Clair Dodd love-triangle pulls us away from the rehearsal space and into Blondell's apartment; there's nothing wrong with this storyline, but the film would be better served had in not strayed. I don't want to damn the film too much; it's a fine comedy, and the fact that Berkeley was never that concerned with integration probably prevented it from every coming together. But, if Bacon and Berkeley could have made it truly about a film unit, if they could have taken its "self-begetting" scenario to its conclusion, it may have been the best film of the bunch, instead of the runner-up.

Now, on to the prologues. The film follows the same back-end structure as 42nd Street. Much like that film, it drops a mini-number mid-way through. This one at least looks like a Berkeley creation, but like that earlier number, it's better that they get it out of the way early. It's only crime isn't in anticipating a certain Andrew Lloyd Weber travesty. It's half-baked and halfheartedly presented. I'm almost willing to bet that Berkeley conceived and mounted the number, only to realize it wasn't working during filming; what we're left with in the film feel like the leftover scraps salvaged together. Sure, Ruby Keeler and the dancers are cute in their outfits, and Billy Barty does his usual bit of indecency, but the whole thing lacks punch. When Frank McHugh yells "that's enough!", I'm inclined to agree. I commend Cagney's taste by later cutting the number. In fact, Berkeley may have felt the same way: he would again attempt another cat number in Dames, this time in a much more risqué fashion, with Joan Blondell in the Ruby Keeler role. It's infamous punchline ("Come up and see my pussy sometime") led it to be sacrificed to the rising tide of censorship.

Now, the number of romantic courtship, and this may be the best of them all. How appropriate that "The Honeymoon Hotel" is the culmination of a style, since the whole number is about... ahem... consummation. People remember Berkeley for his power of abstraction, but this goes as strongly in the opposite direction. If "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" was a riff on a very particular scenario, and if "Pettin' in the Park" indulged itself in feveristic flights of fancy, "Honeymoon Hotel" takes the material of those two pieces, and uses it to tell a coherent and complete story. In fact, dancing and choreography, at least in the way we usually conceive of it, is largely absent in a number that is completely narrative. We follow the young lovers from pre-marriage jitters to post-marriage cohabitation, and the number actually manages to effectively capture all the excitement, tenderness, playfulness, apprehension, and embarrassment that comes with it. It also works well as comedy; stuff like the "Telegram for Mr. Smith" gag, or Powell and Keeler hopping out of the elevator, or Powell meeting eyes with his neighbor in embarrassment... it's funny! Billy Barty is at his mischievous and creepy best, Berkeley does the cool trick with the key-cards turning into a picture (one of two distinct uses of animation in the film), and the number gets away with some pretty raunchy stuff. The fact they try to check in before they're married, or that it ends with them under the covers in the same bed, are a complete flaunting against the Code it mocks earlier. That the number ends with a pan into a baby picture isn't a concession to the Code and to the moral crusaders that we're quickly gaining ground after the failure of Prohibition. The baby-picture, in all it's chasteness, is actually a clever and clear visual metaphor for the very unchaste moment of consummation that happens right off the screen. With this one image, Berkeley makes clear that this risqué naughtiness is, in fact, inextricably linked to the "clean", "moral" living that they advocated for.

One question: doesn't "By the Waterfall" make the Esther Williams' musicals redundant? Oh sure, they have their charms, but that Berkeley was recruited to direct them is as wasteful as it is completely unsurprising: they find him literally treading water when he already mastered the form 15 or so years earlier. In fact, this may be Berkeley's ultimate play with human kaleidoscopes, drill formations and living geometry. His pieces often made use of the contrast between lily-white bodies against starkly black surfaces; here, the bodies become literally suspended on all sides, allowing patterns and animations he couldn't dream of in the earlier films. While the second number usually concern themselves with the complete abstraction of the physical realm, this number manages to pull it off while featuring the most ornate and detailed set design in all the musicals. These sets are literally among the masterpieces of 30s set design, and are breathtaking in their rococo opulence. My favorite shot: the reveal of the Art-deco swimming pool, surrounded by statues; suddenly, the lily-white statues spring forth, and dive into the water. In fact, there's an interesting progression at play here for a number concerned about "mother nature". The number starts off immersed in the natural world of the hidden oasis with it's many aqueducts. The swimmers completely dissolves themselves in the water, leading to the many different formations which at different points call to mind living ripples, water lilies and reeds, even a water snake. Then, at the end, they in fact fuse with the stone and marble set-design, when they turn into a living fountain. Second question: is there not a really strong Sapphic overtone to the whole piece? It starts off like an average Powell-Keeler piece. Powell is lulled to sleep, and Keeler finds herself inexplicably drawn by beckoning female voices. When she undresses, she takes special care to make sure Powell doesn't see catch her sneaking away, and she escapes into a women-only paradise. In fact, some of the shots in the water, with bodies interlocking sometimes layers on top of layers, have a slight hint of an orgy, and there's that one formation in which a swimmer paddles through a row of interlocking legs. There's even one shot, perhaps the most strikingly composed of the entire number, completely symmetrical, in which we see swimmers dive into the swimming pool, while in the foreground, two women sit, simply locking eyes. Maybe I'm just turning into a dirty old man, but I almost like to think of the piece as a distant sequel to "Honeymoon Hotel", where Keeler starts to get sexually bored in her union and indulges in her wildest fantasies while Powell is unaware.

Of course, Berkeley makes such interpretations too easy with his fetishistic gaze of the female form. It is then perhaps appropriate that the final number is one fetishistic master saluting another. With "Shanghai Lil", Busby Berkeley collides head-on with Josef von Sternberg, in this tribute/parody/imitation of the high stylist, and Shanghai Express, in particular. With it's shimmering surfaces and perverse undertones, I'd like to think the man would be proud. Granted, I still don't know whether the reveal of Ruby Keeler as Lil is either anticlimactic or a brilliant punchline, but, she sure ain't no Dietrich. If Blondell could sing or dance, she'd be a perfect fetish object for Berkeley's camera. As it is, though, it's still a cracker jack number. The last hurrah before the Production Code broke up the party, it also gives a full work out the freedoms of the time: prostitution, drug addiction, interracial sex, violence, left-wing politics... all things that Hays, Breen and McNicholas heavily frowned upon. I'm still not sure what to make of the numbers sudden shift into agit-prop, and I'm not sure it has much internal logic. But it is the ultimate reversal of the last film: that ended with a pessimistic number about abused veterans. Here, the soldiers are back in uniform, the future is optimistic under the spell of FDR and the NRA, and now the people are mobilizing, to fight the Depression, I assume. It must also be the ultimate wish fulfillment for Berkeley: in this film, not only does his surrogate manage to jump front and center in the show itself (the bait-and-switch on the stairs is one of the great movie moments). In the end, the whole Berkeley ethos comes full circle:Cagney ends up back in uniform, and Berkeley once again devises the military drill formations that would send him to Broadway in the first-place.

Next up: Dames and The Gold Diggers of 1935

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#478 Post by domino harvey » Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:55 pm

THE MUSICALS LIST (GENRE PROJECT) TOP 100*

01 Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1952) 385
02 the Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli 1953) 308
03 Top Hat (Mark Sandrich 1935) 274
04 Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli 1944) 271
05 Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian 1932) 265
06 On the Town (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1949) 258
07 Calamity Jane (David Butler 1953) 252
08 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon 1933) 244
09 Good News (Charles Walters 1947) 215
10 Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Jacques Demy 1967) 214

11 West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins 1961) 212
12 the Pirate (Vincente Minnelli 1948) 207
13 Lili (Charles Walters 1953) 205
14 Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon 1933) 195
15 My Sister Eileen (Richard Quine 1955) 191
16 the Harvey Girls (George Sidney 1946) 188
17 the Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich 1934) 160
18 Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy 1933) 155
19 Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney 1953) 149
20 Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen 1954) 145

21 the Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming 1939) 144
22 the Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy 1964) 143
23 Easter Parade (Charles Walters 1948) 137
24 Swing Time (George Stevens 1936) 134
25 the Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin 1956) 132
25 Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma 1974) 132
27 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks 1953) 129
28 Funny Face (Stanley Donen 1957) 123
28 It's Always Fair Weather (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1955) 123
30 Cabaret (Bob Fosse 1972) 122

31 Dames (Ray Enright 1934) 121
32 Annie Get Your Gun (George Sidney 1950) 116
33 Romance on the High Seas (Michael Curtiz 1948) 105
34 the Hole (Tsai Ming-liang 1998) 102
34 Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich 1937) 102
36 Red Psalm (Miklós Jancsó 1972) 101
37 All That Jazz (Bob Fosse 1979) 97
38 Broadway Melody of 1936 (Roy Del Ruth 1935) 96
39 An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli 1951) 91
40 Nashville (Robert Altman 1975) 90

41 Artists and Models (Frank Tashlin 1955) 88
41 Daddy Long Legs (Jean Negulesco 1955) 88
43 Guys and Dolls (Joseph L Mankiewicz 1955) 85
44 Dumbo (Samuel Armstrong and Norman Ferguson 1941) 81
45 I Love Melvin (Don Weis 1953) 80
45 Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Busby Berkeley 1949) 80
47 Pennies From Heaven (Piers Haggard 1978) 78
48 A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester 1964) 76
49 Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli 1943) 75
49 the Wicker Man (Robin Hardy 1973) 75

51 Sweet Charity (Bob Fosse 1969) 74
52 Two Weeks With Love (Roy Rowland 1950) 73
53 Hallelujah I'm a Bum (Lewis Milestone 1933) 71
54 Summer Stock (Charles Walters 1950) 68
55 French Cancan (Jean Renoir 1954) 67
56 the Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch 1929) 64
57 the Pajama Game (Stanley Donen and George Abbott) 63
57 the Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch 1931) 63
59 A Song is Born (Howard Hawks 1948) 62
59 Gold Diggers of 1935 (Busby Berkeley 1935) 62

61 Lil Abner (Melvin Frank 1959) 60
61 the Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch 1934) 60
61 Pyaasa (Guru Dutt 1957) 60
64 Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz 1942) 59
65 Pal Joey (George Sidney 1957) 58
66 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker 1999) 56
67 Stormy Weather (Andrew L Stone 1943) 55
68 Give a Girl a Break (Stanley Donen 1953) 54
68 Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical (Andy Fickman 2005) 54
70 Hit the Deck (Roy Rowland 1955) 53

71 Royal Wedding (Stanley Donen 1951) 52
72 Popeye (Robert Altman 1980) 51
73 the Boy Friend (Ken Russell 1971) 47
74 the Gang's All Here (Busby Berkeley 1943) 42
74 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (William Cottrell 1937) 42
76 Hallelujah! (King Vidor 1929) 39
76 Marry Poppins (Robert Stevenson 1964) 39
78 Tommy (Ken Russell 1975) 36
79 Yellow Submarine (George Dunning 1968) 35
80 Bye Bye Birdie (George Sidney 1963) 34

81 Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier 2000) 32
81 Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich 1936) 32
83 Cry-Baby (John Waters 1990) 31
83 It's Trad, Dad! (Richard Lester 1962) 31
85 For Me and My Gal (Busby Berkeley 1942) 27
86 Gigi (Vincente Minnelli 1958) 26
86 Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan 2007) 26
86 Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Tim Burton 2007) 26
89 Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann 2001) 25
90 Show Boat (James Whale 1936) 23

91 Invitation to the Dance (Gene Kelly 1956) 21
92 Duck Soup (Leo McCarey 1933) 17
93 Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen 1996) 15
93 the Muppet Movie (James Frawley 1979) 15
95 Silk Stockings (Rouben Mamoulian 1957) 12
96 Applause (Rouben Mamoulian 1929) 9


(*Only 96 qualifying films out of ten ballots cast)



ORPHANS
A Damsel in Distress, A Mighty Wind, A Night at the Opera, À nous la liberté, A Star is Born (Cukor), A Woman is a Woman, Aar-Paar, Aladdin, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Alice In Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy, the American Astronaut, Anchors Aweigh, Andaz, At Long Last Love, Audition, Aventurera, Awaara, Baaz, Baazi, Der blaue Engel, Beauty and the Beast (Disney), Best Foot Forward, Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire, Blues in the Night, Bobby, Brigadoon, Broadway Melody of 1938, Broadway Melody of 1940, Can Can, Cannibal: the Musical, Carefree, Carmen (1983), Carmen Jones, Chandni, Chico and Rita, the Cloud Capped Star, Colma, the Commitments, Cool as Ice, the Cotton Club, the Court Jester, Cover Girl, Dance, Girl, Dance, Der Kongreß tanzt, Die Drei von der Tankstelle, Dil Se.., Distant Voices Still Lives, Dilwale Dulhanie, Jayenge, 8 Women, El amor brujo, Evita, the Fabulous Baker Boys, Fiddler on the Roof, Finian's Rainbow, the 5000 Fingers of Dr T, Flashdance, Follow That Bird, the Girl Most Likely, the Girl Next Door, the Glenn Miller Story, Godspell, Gold Diggers of 1937, Grease, the Great Waltz, Große Freiheit Nr. 7, Gypsy, Hairspray (Waters), Hedwig and the Angry Itch, Hello Dolly, Help!, Hellzapoppin, Holiday Inn, Hollywood or Bust!, Ich bei Tag und du bei Nacht, In Good Old Summertime, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, It Happened in Brooklyn, Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai, Juke Box Rhythm, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Kabhi Kabhie, Kismet (1955), La Dolorosa, Lagaan, Le Million, Les Girls, Let's Make Love, Love Songs (2007), Lovely to Look At, Lucky Me, Madam Satan, Malu tianshi, Marat / Sade, Melo, Merry Andrew, Monte Carlo, the Moon Over the Alley, Mother India, Murder at the Vanities, New York New York, the Nightmare Before Christmas, No One Knows About Persian Cats, O Lucky Man!, Oh, Rosalinda!, On connaît la chanson, Once, One Hour With You, Paint Your Wagon, Pakeezah, Panama Hattie, Paris Blues, Pinocchio, Presenting Lily Mars, Princess Raccoon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Queen of Hearts (2009), Red Garters, the Red Shoes, the Road to Morocco, Roberta, Rock-A-Bye Baby, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shall We Dansu?, Shock Treatment, Sholay, Show Boat (Sidney), Sleeping Beauty, Small Town Girl, the Sound of Music, State Fair (1945), Street Angel, Sunnyside Up, Tea For Two, That Midnight Kiss, Thousands Cheer, Three Little Words, Threepenny Opera, Tko pjeva zlo ne misli, Topsy-Turvy, True Stories, Two Tickets to Broadway, U-Carmen, Umrao Jaan, Up Down Fragile, Velvet Goldmine, Víctimas del pecado, the Wayward Cloud, Whitty, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Wonderbar, Words and Music, Yaadon ki Baaraat, Ye mei gui zhi lian, Yolanda and the Thief, You Were Never Lovelier, You'll Find Out (Pshew!)

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tarpilot
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:48 am

Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#479 Post by tarpilot » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:59 pm

So heartened to see Love Me Tonight place so high! I watched just under 30 films for this project, not enough to wipe out even a fifth of my initial to-see list, but I found a half-dozen I’d be comfortable calling all-time favourites regardless of genre and only a precious few out-and-out stinkers, and that’s a pretty good ratio in my book.

Top Ten:
1 Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932)
2 Good News (Charles Walters, 1947)
3 Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli, 1943)
4 Artists and Models (Frank Tashlin, 1955)
5 Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
6 Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935)
7 My Sister Eileen (Richard Quine, 1955)
8 Dames (Ray Enright & Busby Berkeley, 1934)
9 Broadway Melody of 1936 (Roy Del Ruth & W.S. Van Dyke, 1935)
10 Rock-A-Bye Baby (Frank Tashlin, 1957)

Orphans:
#10 ROCK-A-BYE BABY Frank Tashlin, 1958
One of my favourite sequences in my favourite Tashlin after Artists and Models.

#15 UP, DOWN, FRAGILE Jacques Rivette, 1995

#22 YOLANDA AND THE THIEF Vincente Minnelli, 1945
One in which the non-musical aspects are every bit as essential to me. There’s an early joke here that works ostensibly as a throwaway gag but seems one of the film's key moments: Lucille Bremer’s titular princess arrives at her newly-inherited estate on her 18th birthday, her aunt doling out introductions, attempting to loudly reminisce and locate someone in the vast crowd of mansion personnel who remembers sending Yolanda off for schooling when she was a child, but all she can find are either temporary workers or brand new ones, with this inability to find even a loosely tangible connection to the past instills a distinctly, enormously sad undercurrent and functions beautifully as a thematic extension of the already-mystical “Patria” (anything can happen, dontchaknow).

#25 SUNNYSIDE UP David Butler, 1929
An impressive visual spectacle that, if overlong and saddled with the inevitable difficulties associated with being a musical at the onset of the sound era, manages to coast by extraordinarily well on charm and chemistry. The film opens with a jaw-dropping 3-minute shot that takes us through the inhabitants of a NYC housing project (featuring a quintessentially pre-code joke about birth control!) and the second half features some gorgeously surreal passages that include a sequence in which a portrait of Janet Gaynor comes to life and urges Charles Farrell to go after her real-life counterpart.

#29 LA DOLOROSA Jean Gremillon, 1934

#30 SESAME STREET PRESENTS: FOLLOW THAT BIRD Ken Kwapis, 1985
Leftover childhood appreciation is of course a part of it, but this is one of the best examples of childrens’ entertainment made in the last 30 years and Big Bird's “I'm So Blue” (song w/o video, Nostalgia Critic appreciation w/ clip) is one of the undeniable high points of the entire Henson canon.

#31 ALICE IN WONDERLAND: AN X-RATED MUSICAL FANTASY Bud Townsend, 1976
Pre-defended it here. I swear I didn’t mean for having a porno after Sesame Street to be a smartass juxtaposition!

#32 THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT Cory McAbee, 2001
Wish I had made more of an effort to promote this. A rock musical in the lovably smarmy Phantom of the Paradise tradition (also on my list), it's astoundingly inventive and resourceful in its visuals and would also probably make my sci-fi list without much deliberation. John Waters and Guy Maddin fans need apply.

#33 TRUE STORIES David Byrne, 1986
I suppose being a massive Byrne/Heads fan made it inevitable, but I actually deliberated with myself for quite a while before finally adding it. It comes very close to almost taking on the form of a revue, but there is a narrative, and a love story (kinda), and it’s so in love with music and performance that I couldn’t justify its exclusion. I’m firmly of the opinion that John Goodman is one of the finest comic actors we have (not to disregard his very strong dramatic roles), and if he had more consistently outstanding film work I think he could very well have filled the James Stewart void in American movies.

#36 HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH James Cameron Mitchell, 2001
Just a difference in taste thing? I guess I could see how Mitchell could grate on people but I think this is the rare case of something deserving of every morsel of its cult.

#37 THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T Roy Rowland, 1953

#40 MADAM SATAN Cecil B. DeMille, 1931
One of my first pre-code experiences; wonderfully unhinged.

#41 GOLD DIGGERS OF 1937 Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley, 1936

#46 CAREFREE Mark Sandrich, 1938

#47 BROADWAY MELODY OF 1938 Roy Del Ruth, 1937

#48 YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER George A. Seiter, 1942

#50 COLMA: THE MUSICAL David Wong, 2006
You would certainly be forgiven for being so put off by the premise -- an ethnically diverse cast of mallrats belting out cheap casio tunes about growing up and coming out -- to prematurely write off the entire thing as a proto-Glee-meets-Improv-Everywhere trainwreck, but Wong and actor/songwriter H.P. Mendoza display a genuine affection and affinity for the classical musical form as well as a welcome perspective on what has become the de facto coming-of-age framework. Wong’s attempts to dress up his sub-$20K budget with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink visual conceits include an ambitious use of split-screen that sees its inventive peak in a bit where the left panel stays on a close-up of a Polaroid drying on the fridge while the right depicts the picture’s female subject being chatted up by our male protagonist. The first half’s liberal use of ‘faggot’ and Araki-esque fuck-offs is fascinatingly confronted in a mid-film shift when Mendoza’s character is beaten bloody by his father after a closet-opening visit by his ex-boyfriend. A large number of the jokes are gracelessly DOA, but its generally amiable mix of ribaldry and sweetness and its handful of brilliant moments make it an ideal number 50 on my list.
Last edited by tarpilot on Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#480 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:27 pm

Well, since no one wants to get this discussion rolling, I'll be the first (Edit: second)... and I won't let the fact that I didn't turn in a list stop me. :)

Top Hat OVER Swing Time!?... If you put the first two-thirds of each film against each other, I'd agree, but the last act of Top Hat is such a deflating bore of a farce that even the studio knew they had to edit down the big finale, lest they destroy all the good will built up before. Swing Time is the default Astaire-Rogers masterpiece, not because it does everything right, but unlike the other films (including The Gay Divorcee), it doesn't do anything wrong.

42nd Street OVER The Gold Diggers of 1933?!... This is where my hypothetical list may have helped. 42nd Street is a nice statement of purpose, but 1933 is where the vision is polished and pushed to its most startling and effecting.

With that said, it doesn't look like me adding a list would have changed much: it may have launched a few films out of orphan purgatory: At Long Last Love, Dance Girl Dance (whoever voted for this, I owe you a "swapsie" on any future list), La Dolorosa and Threepenny Opera (although the late 70s NYSF album remains the definitive cast recording) probably the likeliest.

It would have also shooken up the order... but probably not by much. Top Hat would have been pushed out of the top five, for sure, although the actual ten would have remained up there. Pennies from Heaven (!) would have been considerably higher. The same goes for I Love Melvin and Give a Girl a Break... you guys really dropped the ball on those two. As far as orphans go, the three obvious entries for me: Moon Over Harlem, Edgar Ulmer's no-budget all-black underworld musical, undoubtedly roughly made, but it has plenty of charm; New Snake Princess, a 1960s samurai-musical starring superstar Misora Hibari; Shanghai Blues, from when Tsui Hark could do no wrong.

The most successful surprise this cycle has to be the two Charles Walter films which, I have to admit, it pains me not to have seen yet.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#481 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:45 pm

I would have voted for La dolorosa and Threepenny Opera as well and, between the two of us, we might have put GD33 in the top 10. I feel mildly ashamed though to have only presently seen one of the eight '50s musicals appearing in the top 25. :oops:

JakeB
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:46 am

Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#482 Post by JakeB » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:06 pm

I only saw Carousel (1956) for the first time this week, and immediately did a forum search for mentions. Not only were there none in this thread, but the only mentions on the board are negative!
Are there any fans out of the people who didn't end up contributing lists? I particularly loved the "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" number, and "Soliloquy", where Billy shifts from narcissism to a naive form of selflessness that leads to his death. I also highly enjoyed Billy's fruitless return as a ghost, including the beautiful dream ballet-esque musical sequence where his daughter dances on a human carousel. The scope photography and choreography in general are stunning too.

I really wish I'd pushed on and got a list together now. I have no idea how many I watched, but I doubt I have seen enough I truly enjoyed to make a top 50 list.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#483 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:11 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:The most successful surprise this cycle has to be the two Charles Walter films which, I have to admit, it pains me not to have seen yet.
Though there were a lot of crushing disappointments re: Orphans, the two huge successes of this list are the fantastic showings for two of my long-waxed prized pets on the board, Lili and My Sister Eileen. Lili's showing is of course especially notable since there's no DVD release anywhere (except maybe Spain?), so backchannels or TCM definitely aided, as this is a film you have to work to see and that many did and ranked it so highly makes me very happy indeed-- at one point it was the number one film on the dynamic list, and what a canon-blaster that would've been! As for My Sister Eileen, golly, I have been talking myself blue over this film and Quine for quite a while with seemingly no one listening, but it finally paid off in a big way, and this makes up for every failed swapsie and orphan ever encountered in one of these lists. Couldn't be prouder of "my" little film that could.

Top Ten + Orphans
01 the Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli 1953)
02 My Sister Eileen (Richard Quine 1955)
03 Lili (Charles Walters 1953)
04 On the Town (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1949)
05 Daddy Long Legs (Jean Negulesco 1955)
06 Calamity Jane (David Butler 1953)
07 Good News (Charles Walters 1947)
08 Singin in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1952)
09 Li'l Abner (Melvin Frank 1959)
10 At Long Last Love (Peter Bogdanovich 1975)
ALSO ORPHAN
21 the Girl Next Door (Richard Sale 1953)
22 Two Tickets to Broadway (James V Kern 1951)
If you only buy one musical from the Warner Archives, this is the one. C'mon.
24 Hollywood or Bust (Frank Tashlin 1955) I only voted for this and its sister film for my Tashlins, but I am sympathetic to the others to receive votes-- only so many spots, but how could I deny a place on my list for the wild and wooly west?
29 Best Foot Forward (Edward Buzzell 1943) I assume its scarcity led to its poor showing, but this is one of the best self-reflexive musicals around, with Lucille Ball playing herself and June Allyson and crew performing dazzling numbers around her.
34 Small Town Girl (László Kardos 1953) The best of the "small town" musicals, easily.
35 Godspell (David Greene 1973)
37 Merry Andrew (Michael Kidd 1958)
38 It Happened in Brooklyn (Richard Whorf 1947)
Perennial favorite-- a bit of a programmer, but its loose, low-budget construction and its grand talent on display make it a musical its always fun to revisit.
39 Paris Blues (Martin Ritt 1961) My favorite of the subset of jazz obsessed flicks coming out around this time, featuring the nth pairing of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman alongside Hollywood's token black stars of the period, Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll, with wonderful location shooting, authentic tunes, and beautiful cinematography.
42 Lucky Me (Jack Donohue 1954)
43 Red Garters (George Marshall 1954)
44 the Girl Most Likely (Mitchell Leisen 1957)
47 Presenting Lily Mars (Norman Taurog 1943)
Proof that Taurog made a memorable film post-Skippy
48 Thousands Cheer (George Sidney 1943) The best of the war-era filmed USO show musicals.
49 Can-Can (Walter Lang 1960) Typical uber-lavish Fox musical with their man Lang at the helm, but one that fairs a little bit better than its brethren thanks to game performances by the reteamed Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra.
50 Juke Box Rhythm (Arthur Dreifuss 1959)

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#484 Post by david hare » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:29 pm

Before I can piece together support for my own orphans I thought quite a few successfully nominated films don't qualify as Musicals at all:
French Cancan is a masterpiece and one of my favorite Renoirs but it aint a musical. It has a musical sensibility and ends with a 15 minute spectacle of life affirmation. But it's not a musical.

Nor is Star is Born despite the default twenty minute musical centrepiece actually directed and staged by others than Cukor The integration of a handful of songs by Cukor into the narrative is superbly realized but Cukor never ever coinsidered this a musical or even a melodrama and firmly positioned the songs into precise diegesis. . I personally nominated both Les Girls and the totally neglected Let's Make Love and I could even be persuaded to consider Heller in Pink Tights as a Western Musical. But not Star is Born.

A similar issue with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes which I didn't count but possibly should have - all the numbers were directed and staged by Jack Cole - Hawks had nothing to do with them. But Cole deserves an honorary place here for a ton of work, not least the evoilution of the 40s Columbia musical. Ball of Fire and the musically (but not cinematically) superior Song is Born definitely are Hawks musicals although they both suffer from their director's disinterest in the genre.
There are a couple of others like Dumbo which I recall zedz argued for and I wear that but at this level you have to open to door to most if not all of the Disney feature animation up to and including Song of the South (which would definitely get my vote If this were so.) I do feel Disney intended the features from Snow White through to Song of the South as musical entertainments (with Fantasia as the "Classical" one.) My top Disney if so would have been the sublime Bambi.

Orphans to come. I opined to DH that the love for the musical is thin on the ground these days so its great to see this exercise get at such a big result.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#485 Post by david hare » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:36 pm

Cold Bishop - Charles Walters is as much an axiom of the cinema and the musical as his life partner (husband for those inclined) Robert Alton, and the great great Roger Edens.

There never would have been a musical without the contributions of these distinguished "gentlemen".

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#486 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:43 pm

I also would have voted for Best Foot Forward and Bambi. If only you guys would have given me a six-month window in which to fill in sufficient gaps in my viewing to be able to come up with a top 50 list or something.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#487 Post by zedz » Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:55 pm

My top twenty, with orphans boldly stigmatized. As mentioned above, I tried to keep my top ten reserved for ‘pure’ (or ‘pure’-ish) musicals in the classical Hollywood mould, with 11 to 20 mainly being distinctly non-standard musicals or great films that I love which just happen to be musicals.

1. The Band Wagon (Minnelli, 1953)
2. Singing in the Rain (Donen / Kelly, 1952)
3. Nashville (Altman, 1975)
4. Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (Demy, 1967)
5. Meet Me in St Louis (Minnelli, 1944)
6. Top Hat (Sandrich, 1935)
7. It’s Always Fair Weather (Donen / Kelly, 1955)
8. The Girl Can’t Help It (Tashlin, 1956)
9. On the Town (Donen / Kelly, 1949)
10. Pennies from Heaven (Haggard, 1978)

11. The Hole (Tsai, 1999)
12. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Davies, 1988) – I’m sure I wasn’t the only person talking this up! How did it end up so lonely? Anyway, it’s a great film about how popular song functions in everyday life and a useful reminder that there was a time when ordinary people bursting into song wasn’t just something that happened in the movies.
13. O Lucky Man! (Anderson, 1973) – Well, this is an odd one. Like The Hole, it’s a film that’s been transformed into a musical by the addition of a character strand – though of course it’s an hour or so before you realise that it’s a character strand. I like Alan Price’s song score well enough, but the film is really on my list for its overall quality.
14. The Wicker Man (Hardy, 1973)
15. Red Psalm (Jansco, 1972)
16. Audition (Forman, 1964) – Another defiantly non-standard musical, that barely squeaks by timewise as a feature, being barely over three quarters of an hour in length, but having always been coupled with a half-hour ‘short’. But Forman is just terrific at weaving his fictional narrative through the documentary footage. I’d rather watch this fifteen times in a row that suffer through a series of X-Factor
17. Pinocchio (Hand, 1940) – I see Snow White and Dumbo got through, and I suppose they might be better musicals than Pinocchio, but this is a much better film, probably still the high-water mark for classical animation.
18. Whity (Fassbinder, 1971) – This is a rancid pot pourri of all sorts of different genres, so why not count it as a musical? It’s Hanna Schygulla who manages to make it qualify, performing five songs on screen, though there’s also the closing ‘dance’ and star Gunther Kaufman sings the (wonderful) theme song, ‘I Kill Them.’
19. A Mighty Wind (Guest, 2003) – Very surprised by this omission, since I thought Guest’s films were well-regarded around here. This works pretty well as a straight musical, as the songs are generally strong enough to transcend pastiche, but I confess that it would have made my list solely on the strength of Jennifer Coolidge’s few minutes of screen time.
20. Topsy-Turvy (Leigh, 1999) – I think this is easily Leigh’s best movie-movie, and it really makes smart use of its deconstructed found score.

My Other Orphans:

32. The Cloud-Capped Star (Ghatak, 1960) – I guess this is another musical-on-a-technicality, since it doesn’t play like a Hollywood (or even a Bollywood) musical, but there are enough musical numbers to put it over the edge for me. Most of these boil down to one character, but he does such musical-genre things as bursting into song as he walks along the road, and one of the numbers is a duet with the lead actress. Plus there are other musical numbers performed by tertiary or musical-number-only characters. But mainly it’s here because it’s a great, grim film and the music is generally superb.

33. Hellzapoppin (Potter, 1941) – Again, this exclusion is understandable because for the most part the musical numbers in this film are the dullest part of it all. But I had to rank it because of that one number which is among the greatest ever filmed.

42. New York, New York (Scorsese, 1977) – And here I was thinking this was a hot contender to be the most overpraised film on the list. Weird. I don’t think the film works that well as a whole, but I admire what Scorsese is trying to do, and bits and pieces of it are excellent. And since an awful lot of the films on my list are here because of ‘bits and pieces’, so is this.

43. No One Knows About Persian Cats (Ghobadi, 2009) – Another really good film that just happens to be a musical, even though a lot of the ‘musical numbers’ play more like inserted music videos. Though it’s hardly alone in that!

47. Broadway Melody of 1940 (Taurog, 1940) – Discussed upthread.

48. The Moon over the Alley (Despins, 1976) – Discussed upthread.

50. Velvet Goldmine (Haynes, 1998) – Sort of a perfect number 50, in that it’s a film I’m completely ambivalent about. I’ve seen it twice, both times on the big screen, and the first time it pretty much blew me away (biggest reservations – the framing plot was much less interesting and clever than it should have been; Shudder to Think’s glam pastiches are generally pathetic and drag the score down whenever they appear, whereas the period music and covers of same worked beautifully). The second time, in a much grander theatre with a much larger and more enthusiastic audience, it didn’t work at all. The big difference was the sound – not as good a system and, crucially, not loud enough. It’s thus become a salutary lesson in how important a good sound system is to appreciating a theatrical experience.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#488 Post by david hare » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:18 pm

I was sorely tempted by Whity but stupidly refrained. Im glad zedz nominated it , it's well deserving. So is Querelle really, if only for Jeanne Moraeau warbling "Each man kills the thing he loves... la de dah..la de dah..")

Funny Face
Bandwagon
I love Melvin
Pajama Game
Demoiselles de Rochefort
Les Girls (a stretch for definition, I totally rule out Star is Born as a musical of course)
Gay Divorcee
The Pirate
Singin' in the Rain
Romance on the High Seas
Footlight Parade
Showboat (Sidney)
Summer Stock
The Gang’s All Here
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (Janacek definitely counts for Musicals!)
The Girl Can’t Help it
Calamity Jane
Roberta
Gold diggers of 1935 (for Lullaby of Broadway)
Wonder Bar (for Going to Heaven on a Mule and Don’t say Goodnight)
The Merry Widow (Lubitsch)
The Harvey Girls
An American in Paris
42nd St
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
On the Town
Give a Girl a Break
Meet me in St Louis
The Great Waltz (esp for Sternberg’s glorious final montage of waltzes)
Top Hat
Follow the Fleet
Good News
A Hard Day’s Night
Carmen Jones
Let's Make Love (another stretch but worth arguing for.)
Melo
All That Jazz
The Threepenny Opera (Pabst)
Gypsy (a salute to full on theatrical staging and lighting with dialogue breaks, spots in blackness to soloists, numbers to camera and painted backdrops.
My Sister Eileen
Murder at the Vanities (esp for Sweet Marihuana and Rape of the Rhapsody.)
Finian's Rainbow
Tommy
The Boyfriend
Pal Joey
Kiss me Kate
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Applause
One Hour with You (I have really turned sour on most of these precode Paramount musicals!!)
West Side Story
Dance of the Seven Veils (and what Russell does to Richard Strauss is definitely Musicals territory!)

Way out of the circle
BEST VITAPHONE SHORTS
Jammin’ the Blues (Lester Young Dir.Gjon Mili)
Rufus Jones for President (Ethel Waters et al Dir. Jo Henabery)
Symphony of Swing (Artie Shaw Dir. Roy Mack)
Rhythm is our Business (The sublime Jimmie Lunceford, Dir. Roy Mack)
BEST CONCERT/LIVE EVENT
Stop Making Sense
The Last Waltz
Paris is Burning (Jennifer Livingstone)

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#489 Post by tarpilot » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:25 pm

On the subject of concert films, I'd also like to dole out an enthusiastic rec for Demme's seldom-discussed Storefront Hitchcock. It definitely falls into the you-have-to-be-a-fan category more than Stop Making Sense, but it's a small masterpiece of composition and I find it hard to imagine anyone not being at least somewhat endeared to Robyn during his many streams of non-sequiturs

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#490 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:29 pm

And on the same ineligible on the list concert designation, F.T.A. is a little-seen but fascinating look at the un-U.S.O. show with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland doing political vaudeville during Vietnam interspersed with catchy protest numbers like Len Chandler's "My Ass is Mine"

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#491 Post by zedz » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:33 pm

Tarpilot: if I’d thought of True Stories, it probably would have made my list. I did think of The 5000 Finger of Dr T, but since I couldn’t remember any song from it, I thought it would be bad form to include it on a list of musicals.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#492 Post by david hare » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:44 pm

I would really welcome a thread (??) on concert films, performance, even opera, classical, jazz movies. MOvies about jazz, performanc,e etc....

Have we done this before????

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#493 Post by Shrew » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:47 pm

Top Ten:
1) Love Me Tonight
2) Lili
3) Singin’ in the Rain
4) Meet Me in St Louis
5) Pal Joey
- Sad to see this finish rather low (and almost orphaned I think). Great performances by all 3 principles, but what made me feel in love is Sinatra's rendition of Lady is a Tramp-- a great song, but the arrangement makes it a wonderful bait and switch and deconstruction of the relationship between chorus and verse.
6) The Love Parade- Again, far lower than I expected. Yeah, it might be a better comedy than a musical, but it's still pretty damn great, and I'd argue a musical sensibility leaks into all the sound design of the film, to justify my fancy for it.
7) The Pirate
8) Footlight Parade
9) The Young Girls of Rochefort
10) On the Town


Orphans
12) Street Angel- I've harped on this before. I probably rated this higher than it deserves as a musical (not it's strongest points), but I wanted to push up something more unconventional, and the film is absolutely charming. Just watch it.
26) Le Million
39) A Woman is a Woman
49) Hello Dolly
49) Monte Carlo
50) Cool As Ice- Honestly, the most thrilling cinematic experience I've seen this year.

Also, we totally blocked out Rodgers and Hammerstein didn't we?

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#494 Post by tarpilot » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:51 pm

Just an orphaned State Fair from what I can see.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#495 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:00 pm

And an Orphaned Sound of Music

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#496 Post by david hare » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:12 pm

Une Femme est une femme - a great call.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#497 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Dec 22, 2011 2:38 am

Shrew wrote:6) The Love Parade- Again, far lower than I expected. Yeah, it might be a better comedy than a musical, but it's still pretty damn great, and I'd argue a musical sensibility leaks into all the sound design of the film, to justify my fancy for it.
I actually think this is the best of the Lubitsch musicals, as it's the one that works best as an actual musical. It's about twenty minutes too long (no film like this should pass 90 minutes unless it can earn it), but the songs are great: "Paris, Stay the Same", "Love Parade" and especially "Let's Be Common" are all lovely.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#498 Post by the preacher » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:58 am

Cold Bishop wrote:Dance Girl Dance (whoever voted for this, I owe you a "swapsie" on any future list)
I did. :lol:

Domino, Malu tianshi=Street Angel. Then, not an orphan. :wink:

As I expected I was the only voter for "Paint Your Wagon". The film was a huge critical-commercial success in Spain, more than any other place in the world. :-"

Weimar's musical comedies deserved a better fate: "Three Good Friends", "The Congress Dances" or "I by Day, You by Night" are all comparable to the best Lubitsch or Mamoulian. :(

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#499 Post by JakeB » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:12 am

the preacher wrote:Weimar's musical comedies deserved a better fate: "Three Good Friends", "The Congress Dances" or "I by Day, You by Night" are all comparable to the best Lubitsch or Mamoulian.
Are there English friendly releases of these? 'Three Good Friends' and 'I by Day, You by Night' sound really interesting, being a fan of the Lubitsch and Mamoulian musical comedies.

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Re: The Musicals List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Proj

#500 Post by the preacher » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:14 am

If I remember well the "Three Good Friends" DVD has no English subtitles and "I by Day, You by Night" has not even been released. But you can find English fansubs out there.

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