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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Friday movie news dump: the first Salinger movie, the Sundance beat goes on, etc.

Hey folks. I’ve got a relatively limited amount of time today and, just to add to the drama, the usually excellent free wi-fi at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf slowed down today to a relative crawl for a time while I was researching this. Let’s see how much I can cover.

* Just as I was ready to wrap things up, we have a breaking story. As I sorta alluded to yesterday regarding J.D. Salinger, it’s inevitable his death will pave the way for some new films. It turns out I was, if anything, way behind the curve. Working screenwriter Shane Salerno — whose work, like the planned James Cameron-produced “Fantastic Voyage” remake, bends toward the geek — has been working on a documentary about the writer who became almost as famous for his escape from the public eye as for his actual work, and it’s apparently nearly completed. Mike Fleming has not only broken the news of the formerly under-wraps project, he’s seen most of the movie

* Of course, Sundance continues slogging away, and word of acquisitions by film distributors have been making their way round the usual spots. Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez has news on the well-regarded “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. He also gives a quick nod to such other highish profile films as “The Tilman Story” (a documentary about the late Pat Tilman), “The Kids Are Alright” (not to be confused with the old rock-doc about the Who) and “Hesher,” a not very appealing sounding film that nevertheless has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead. The “Valentine” sale is of particular interesting as it was the troubled Weinstein Company that picked it up. Coincidentally, the company named for Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s parents, Mira and Max, has gone on the block.

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Celluloid Heroes: Eight Musicals of the 21st Century

A funny thing happened this decade — the once dying genre of live-action movie musicals seems to have returned to the movie repertoire. As the decade closes, I can think of exactly two major westerns, but I keep remembering musicals that I should consider for this piece (including the mostly well-regarded French musical “Love Songs,” which I forgot to see before writing this, je suis désolé).

As a lifelong fan and a nearly lifelong tough critic of musicals, I love most of these films. However, this list is not so much a traditional “best of” and I’ve included one choice I definitely don’t like. (It won’t be hard to guess which.) These are musicals that I think contributed to the development of this polarizing and hard to pull off genre. They don’t hark back to times gone by or try to recapture a past glory that will never return, but actually take us into the future. That’s important now that musicals seem to have a future.

“Dancer in the Dark” (2000)

Earlier this year, the brilliant but often irritating Danish director Lars von Trier shocked hard-to-shock European festival audiences with graphic sexual violence in “Antichrist.” Back in 2000, all he needed to divide audiences was some really intense melodrama and an approach to making dark musicals partially borrowed from TV creator Dennis Potter (“Pennies from Heaven,” “The Singing Detective”).

Featuring a literally once-in-a-lifetime lead performance by singer-songwriter Björk as a young mother ready to sacrifice everything to save her son’s failing eyesight, “Dancer in the Dark” is maybe the most emotionally potent story of parental love I’ve ever seen. As a musical, it’s strange and arresting.

Like the Potter television shows and movies and “Chicago,” further down the list, the musical numbers take place in the mind of the lead character. In this case, however, it is particularly poignant as our heroine is a fan of musicals who, though she is gradually going blind, is attempting to appear in a community theater production of “The Sound of Music.” Below, she musically confesses her situation to a smitten Peter Stormare (yes, the guy from “Fargo”). Lumberjacks or not, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” sure seems like a long time ago.

Moulin Rouge” (2001)
As the non-musical Pixar films became the dominant template for animation and the musical form lost its last apparent movie bastion, big studios began to experiment with musicals starring humans. Unfortunately for me, the first and still one of the most popular of this decade’s high profile film musicals was Baz Luhrmann’s beautifully shot, amazingly designed, dull-witted, and over-edited “Moulin Rouge.”

Yes, this musical fan is not a fan of the musical that’s been credited with resurrecting the genre. Why? A couple of sequences work, but on the whole I expect the funny parts of a movie to make me laugh and, even more important, I like to see the movies I’m seeing. As far as I can tell, Luhrmann simply doesn’t have the confidence in this film to allow us time to view the arresting images he’s worked so hard to craft, nor does he permit time to actually see the hard work his dancers and actors put in. Editor Jil Bilcock is expected to do all the performing instead.

As for what Luhrmann and his arrangers did with the various classic songs they threw into a musical Cuisinart, the less I say about it the better. At the risk of sounding like a fogey (or a member of an 18th century Austrian court), too many notes. Way, way, way, too many notes. See if you disagree.

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A buncha movie stuff….

When in doubt, lead with Disney, even if you’re not sure what the story actually means….

* Mark Zoradi, the Big D’s head of worldwide marketing and distribution for movies, is stepping down. This surely has something to do with the arrival of Rich Ross and the departure of Dick Cook some weeks back.

* As per Company Town, Lions Gate is doing better right now from TV than movies. Could “Mad Men” have been their biggest money maker the last quarter? I’d like to think so.

* Self-appointed protector of Catholicism from the scourge of Hollywood Bill Donoghue has found a new source of “anti-Catholic bigotry” (i.e., not conforming 100% to his highly particular and extremely reactionary view of how all things Catholic should be treated in the media): “2012.” Chris Kelly at the Huffington Post mocks accordingly and appropriately.

Here’s a fascinating quote from idiot boy Donoghue on his life’s work:

Every time I say Hollywood hates Christianity, especially Catholicism, my critics cringe. But they never offer evidence that I’m wrong.

I’m not cringing and I’ve got evidence. Skipping around the decades and off the top of the my head: “Going My Way,” “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “Cabin in the Sky,” “Chariots of Fire,” “Lilies of the Field,” “The Trouble with Angels,” “Dead Man Walking,” “The Sound of Music,” “Sister Act,” “Signs,” “Gran Torino,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “City of Angels,” “The Apostle,” “Tender Mercies,” “Ben Hur,” “Shadowlands,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “The Shoes of the Fishermen,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” “King of Kings,” “The Exorcist,” (who saves the day there?) and on and an on and on. In fact, it’s much easier to find a pro-Christian or Catholic Hollywood film than to find one that even features an openly Jewish, Islamic, or, heaven forfend, openly atheist or agnostic, character. Even the movies Donoghue attacks, like “Dogma” or “Saved” or most especially “The Last Temptation of Christ” are actually highly pro-Christian films, though espousing a more liberal version of the religion than he personally cares for. If there is a bigger idiot on this planet than Donoghue, I doubt he has the brain function enough to breathe. Every time the guy opens his mouth, he makes a new atheist.

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