They’re singing my song

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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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Once more with whinging

It has yet to spawn a full on blogosphere geek tantrum though that may be just a matter of time, but the news is out tonight via Mike Fleming that “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy is “eying” a remake of, you guessed it, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Now, it’s anyone’s guess how much this story may be a cannily opportunistic exaggeration to pump up the ratings of the upcoming 10/26 “Glee” episode paying homage to Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien’s odd little musical. Russ Fischer is certain an actual film would be a “fool’s errand.” I don’t want to reiterate my standard defense of remakes in theory (though not always in practice, lord knows) for the millionth time, but I will say there’s absolutely nothing holy or perfect about this particular original. I actually think that “Rocky Horror” in a funny way became enormous not so much because it was partly great, but because it was also badly flawed. The first 30-45 minutes of the film are a complete hoot and really did touch a huge socio-political-sexual nerve, but the second half becomes increasingly morose and dull. Hence, the need to dress up, yell funny stuff back at the screen, throw stuff, etc. I certainly wouldn’t mind a version that actually worked without audience participation — like an actual movie.

On the other hand, there is one thing that any remake by anyone will find impossible to top, and that’s Mr. Tim Curry.

What a performance. Not that Barry Bostwick or especially Susan Sarandon were exactly chopped liver  — I’m also a pretty big fan of the late Charles Gray, who played the narrator about as perfectly as you could imagine. Meat Loaf wasn’t bad either, and I had a bit of a crush on Nell “Little Nell” Campbell’s tap-dancing Ruby Keeler homage, Columbia. (On the topic of redheads — I’m for them.) Where was I? Ah, never mind.

  

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

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