15 January 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Musicals

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:

Grease (1978)

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.

Annie (1982)

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.

Honorable Mention

Amadeus (1984)

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.


  1. I love Grease, also. It is most certainly a great movie. No shame in saying so. I've only seen bits and pieces of Annie. I actually refused to see it because it was ALWAYS playing at my house. My little sister watched it literally every day for months. I only saw the parts that were playing when I had to go into my mom's room for something since that's where the VCR was.

    Just never got around to seeing Amadeus. I remember all the critical acclaim, but at that age (13) I was still firmly entrenched in seeing almost nothing but action flicks and teen comedies. By the time I came out of that phase, it was way in my rearview mirror. Need to actually see it at some point.

    I had no clue that Woody Allen made a musical. That alone has me intrigued.

    Great picks.

    1. Thanks, man. Everyone Says I Love You is one of my favorite Woody Allen. It's hard to find, but if you do, you won't be disappointed. Amadeus is essential, man. Get on it! As for Annie, it is a childhood favorite. I think it would charm anybody.

  2. Nice list! I loved Annie, I don't think I'll ever bring myself to see the remake because I just adore the original so much.

    1. Thanks. I'm with you. I just can't do it to myself.

  3. I hate that I've never seen Grease, but I hate even more that I've never seen Everyone Says I Love You, because that film is SO HARD to get ahold of! Great list.

    1. Thanks, man. Woody's movies need good Blu-ray releases. There are so many of them, I guess it's just hard to do. I know that when you can find them they're expensive. This one is great! Keep trying to get a hold of it. Grease is pretty much my first musical experience, so it will always be a favorite.

  4. Aw, I have such a soft spot for Everyone Says I Love You. It's so unexpected coming from Woody, and I love all the musical numbers to bits. I feel sorry for people who don't like Grease. I really do. I understand that these people actually exist, but I just don't understand how it's possible that someone doesn't like that movie. I remember that weird Grease revival in the 90s - I remember going to see the re-release in the theater with my grandparents. Given all the sexual innuendo it should have weirded me out but it didn't.

    Annie, on the other hand... I will defend the show to the death (that score is damn catchy) but the movie is leaden and dull. LOVE Carol Burnett in it, though.

    1. You are so right on about Grease! It just kept popping up throughout my childhood and adolescence. I've probably seen it 50 times and never get tired of it. I hear you on Annie, especially in the end. But the songs are so good. And Burnett owns.

  5. Like your choices. Love Grease and Amadeus is such an interesting grandiose piece of work. I'm neutral on Annie, it didn't blow me away nor did I hate it. It has many good things in it but the pace is somewhat lumbering. The one I'm missing is Everyone Says I Love You, I've been trying to fill out my viewing of Woody's filmography this year and have caught up on many but not this one yet, it sounds worth seeing. Unfortunately it also looks to be a bit tough to get a hold of.

    1. Yeah. I'm not sure how I even saw it. I guess there was a DVD in print back then. I saw for a class I took in college and then rented from a Blockbuster at one point too, I believe. Hopefully, they'll get it back in print on a nice Blu-ray. I'm game for a series of Woody Allen on Blu-ray box sets.

  6. I think I would have to feel my three choices, if I were doing this series of course, with Disney films. Yes, I would consider them musicals. I might also include Footloose as my Honorable Mentions. That is not to say that I don't like your choices.

    "Santa Claus we never see. Santa Claus? What's that? Who's he?!"

  7. Grease is a favourite of mine. Annie I think I have seen, but not sure which one. There were TV movie and sequels of it too I think. Heard the new one isn't good. And hey I didn't know Everyone Says I Love You is a musical...I'm going to try and get it now.

    1. The 1982 Annie is by far the best. There have been several. I have no interest in the new one. Everyone Says I Love You is incredible!