There are only three musicals, excluding Disney movies, I've actually enjoyed enough to see twice. That's what you'll find here this week in yet another fun entry in Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks.
I've also decided to go with musicals in the traditional sense. No movies that feature music as a theme or movies about music or musicians. There are plenty of those I love, one of which will get an honorable mention, but I'm going musicals in the classical sense, sort of.
Here are my Thursday Movie Picks:
Directed by Randal Kleiser
Screenplay by Bronte Woodard
Adaptation by Allan Carr
from the original Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
The movie version of Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John resides in the annals of my movie memory more strongly than just about any movie. It was one of my first movies and just kept on showing up throughout my life. At key moments, too. Like it was meant to be a part of my life forever. As a child, we watched it constantly at my house. For some reason, the totally inappropriate sexual innuendo that fills this movie was overlooked by my Mother, who let this run like today's parents run Frozen. In middle school, I had a "Music" class in which we watched movie musicals as pretty much the entire curriculum. This was on the syllabus. During this time, there was also the re-release of the Grease soundtrack on CD, which, for some reason, found itself back in heavy rotation on pop radio. So, at school dances, we would certainly get a dose of "Summer Nights." In high school, I was in Showstoppers (our Glee Club), which was a crash course in classic movie musical numbers. We did a Grease medley my Junior year. It's a great movie. I have no problem admitting that.
Directed by John Huston
Screenplay by Carol Sobieski
from the book of the play by Thomas Meehan
Music by Charles Strouse; Lyrics by Martin Charnin
If you are a child of the 1980s and haven't seen the original movie version of Annie, I feel sorry for you. It is one of the high points of my childhood memory. I still to this day discuss it often. A good friend of mine has a young daughter, and, with the emergence of the updated version with Jamie Foxx (which I refuse to see), it has pretty much overtaken Frozen at his house as the movie of choice. Good call. We texted quotes from Albert Finney's Daddy Warbucks back and forth for half an hour a few weeks ago. And the songs are awesome! I bust into "It's a Hard Knock Life" weekly, and, to make Amanda (my wife) laugh, I will randomly belt out, "We could call him Tiger. But there's no bite in him. Tiiiiiiiiger? Kittens would frighten him. Roveeeeeerrrrrrr? Why not think it oveeeeerrrrr? Rover is the perfect name for this dumb lookin' dog." Don't judge me. I won't apologize.
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Songs from Various Movies and Movie Musicals
In college, I took a class called, get this, Topics in Film Studies: Woody Allen. It was incredible. It met once a week for three hours. We watched a whole movie for half the class, then discussed the movie for the rest of the time. It was basically a rundown of his "best" works, starting with Annie Hall. My professor, a poet and playwright, had actually written books on both Woody Allen and David Mamet. Pretty cool guy. Anyway, Woody Allen's only musical plays just like any of his movies, but it has a magical edge that not many of his do. It's fun and charming as hell. And all of the actors, except Drew Barrymore (who actually can't sing) really sing their parts, even Woody, mostly classics from cinema and musical history. Edward Norton doing "Just You, Just Me" is the biggest highlight.
Directed by Milos Forman
Screenplay by Peter Shaffer, based on his original stage play
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Milos Forman's Amadeus currently holds the number four spot in my favorite movies of all-time. It is not a musical in the sense of people breaking into song and dance, but it is a musical in that music drives it. Or I should say the drive to create the best music ever created drives it. It's hero is not Mozart proper, though he is a leading character, played brilliantly by a cackling, disheveled Tom Hulce. No, the hero of this film is a spiteful, jealous Italian composer named Salieri, played by an equally brilliant and Oscar-winning F. Murray Abraham. It chronicles the years the two composers spent as rivals in Vienna in the late 18th Century. Everything about this movie is perfect. At three hours, it out-paces most 90-minute movies, and it just oozes cinematic style and sound.