They’re singing my song

10-musicals-that-dont-suck-20090921073227172

It’s no secret around these parts that I love a good musical. Emphasis on both the “good” and the “musical” part. If you let me, I’ll give you an hour long dissertation on why John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedvig and the Angry Inch” is way better than “The Sound of Music” which is, however, way better than Pauline Kael said it was and why Rogers & Hart songs are much better than Rogers & Hammerstein songs but that I still like “The King and I” and, yes, “Flower Drum Song.” Then, we’ll move on to MGM and the Freed Unit.

In fact, coincidentally, my last post here last night was also about musicals. I’m also actually angry at the place where I got the picture  from above (it’s linked) because it’s from a “10 Musicals That Don’t Suck Piece” which fails to include any movies older than “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and therefore implies that all musicals made prior to 1974 suck, especially “West Side Story.” So “The Bandwagon” and “Singin’ in the Rain” suck also, I guess. That really sucks.

So, if there was one thing possible to distract me from the current almost-everyone-is-somewhat-or-very-or-incredibly-wrong clusterfrack in our nation’s politics at the moment (and I’m incredibly glad I’m not a political blogger these days), it has arrived. The Hollywood Reporter (via Monika Bartyzel) reports that the “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” duo, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are in negotiations to direct a project I’d either never heard of before or forgot all about, “Bob: The Musical.” The music will be the very talented composer Marc Shaiman, whose fingerprints are on countless film scores and everything from “Hairspray” to “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.”

If you’re wondering what the big deal is and you’re not one of my three known regular readers (for some mysterious reason, all of their initials are “R.R.” — okay, two of them are brothers, so there’s that), look up at those tiny red letters near the title of this post and that’s all you’ll need to know. All I’m saying is, assuming this ever gets made, it’d better be good. Yes, I know “Bob” is a common name, but since I already have to live with “What About Bob?,” this better be at least as good as that decent comedy was. Good or bad, I’m going to have to deal with jokes about it until I die.

And now a great moment from my favorite previously made Bob-themed musical film.

  

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Trailer for a Friday night: “Rabbit Hole”

I always like to say that no good movie really depresses me, no matter the subject matter, but that the happiest truly bad movie can really bring me down. Especially if it’s a hit. Still, when the topic is parents coping with the aftermath of the death of a child, even I might wonder if that’s pushing the sadness envelope, no matter how well handled. On the other hand, given strong material and a really good director anything is possible and this genuinely lovely trailer for “Rabbit Hole” starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, hints that the movie might be a small miracle. Take a look, you’ll be okay.

Talking about walking a fine line. I wasn’t wild about Mitchell’s hardcore non-porn, “Short Bus,” though it had its moments. On the other hand, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” was the best musical of its decade in my book and also showed that humor and the worst human pain could coexist. Could this do for the subgenre of quality “depressing” movies with Oscar-friendly actors what Mitchell did for rock and roll musicals? Possibly.

  

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It’s your Yom Kippur Friday movie news dump

Yom Kippur is the holiday where one abstains from worldly pleasures of all kinds, including eating and drinking, and reflects on spiritual and moral values, atoning for one’s sins, and becoming a better person. In other words, just another day in Hollywood!

*  The big news right now is the bombshell, but not unexpected, admission to the New York Times by Casey Affleck that “I’m Still Here” is a fictional film. Moreover, Affleck still may not have come completely clean because he stated that David Letterman wasn’t in on the truth during the notorious interview with star/co-conspirator Joaquin Phoenix. Via Company Town, we learn that Letterman writer Bill Scheft is comparing what went on to Andy Kaufman stunts and even took credit for one of the lines.

Joaquin Phoenix in A lot of people apparently think that Affleck, perhaps more than Phoenix, has some atoning to do, including Anne Thompson. I guess I can understand her frustration at being manipulated and lied to, but ultimately, it’s only a movie and we in the show biz press have all the credibility of car salesmen. Also it is, after all, a movie. From everything I’ve heard about the film, the far greater sin would have been if it had actually been real.

* Orthodox Jewish-bred Israeli-Brit Sacha Baron Cohen seems to be well on his way to a Shana Tova (good year). He’ll be moving into the world of “serious” acting in a planned biopic about the late multitalented Queen singer/songwriter/pianist Freddie Mercury to be written by the exceedingly busy docu-drama specialist Peter Morgan. I’ve read some ethnic quibbles somewhere (sorry, lost the link) since Mercury’s family hailed from parts of Asia. It seems to me the physical resemblance tells the tale and is no more offensive than the multi-ethnic Asian-Caucasian-Native American Lou Diamond Phillips playing a Mexican-American teen in “Stand and Deliver,” despite having not a drop of Latino blood in his veins. All ethnicities are really ethnic mixes anyhow. I can’t count the number of times I assumed someone was Jewish only to find out they were actually a mix of other groups that just came out looking all Jewy or people who look Latino who are actually Eurasian, etc.

No one seems to know whether Cohen, who can sing a little, will sing his own part. Considering Mercury’s remarkable voice, I wouldn’t complain if they simply used the old recordings. If it was good enough for “The Jolson Story” it’s good enough for this.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Advice for directors of new musicals in a wicked little town

So, earlier tonight I went off on a bit of rant inspired by a really strange sounding remark made by show-biz reporter-pundit Nikki Finke to the effect that she thinks “Nine” failed at the box office not because it’s a fairly poorly received film with a vague premise, but because it wasn’t gay friendly enough. No need to repeat my snark-laden commentary, but I thought I’d present the piece below as a bit of food for movie thought.

I debated whether or not to include this sequence in my recent look at musical films of the 2000s, but opted to include another scene from John Cameron Mitchell’s amazing “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” easily my choice for one of the two or three best musicals made over the last decade or so. Now it seems apt.

Given the storyline, this movie — and this scene — certainly does not lack for the LGBT awarness Finke seems to demand of a modern musical. However, the reason I’m including it here is that, despite my personal opinion that Kate Hudson is way cuter than anyone you’re about to look at (sorry, Kwahng-Yi, et al), I think Mitchell’s approach to filming a musical sequence is pretty vastly superior to Marshall’s — though they are both disciples of Bob Fosse.

Sometimes all you need to do is to keep things simple. So far, I’ve never seen Marshall try that approach. Maybe he’ll give it a shot sometime.

  

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