Musicals through the decades

The latest Mach Was challenge is about musicals and ever since I saw that call, all sorts of musicals have been floating around in my head! Even though I am not the world’s greatest musical fan or connoisseur, I really do enjoy a good (movie) musical and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve seen quite a few of them over time – enough to be able to pick my favourites for each decade in musical movie history…


The 1930s – The Rogers & Astaire era

I realize that I should probably choose The Wizard of Oz (from 1939) as a favourite musical from the 1930s but I have to confess that I have never seen that movie! I’ve seen many clips & excerpts, I have read about it, but I have never actually watched it. For me, 1930s musicals are synonymous with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! I have already once before enthused here on blog about this dancing and singing screen couple. I’ve been reviewing their movies again and I think my favourite would have to be Top Hat (1935), although I also really liked Swing Time (1936). The plots for both movies are somewhat contrived but, oh, the dance numbers!

Top Hat is a mistaken-identity movie. It centers around a model (Ginger Rogers) on holiday in London and Paris who mistakes an entertainer (Fred Astaire) for the husband of her friend. The movie features the very famous Fred Astaire in top hat dance…

… and the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ feather-dress-dance (the feathers on Ginger Rogers’ dress were flying around everywhere, if you look closely in the video you can see it – apparently after that, Fred Astaire nicknamed Ginger ‘Feathers’)…


The 1940s – More Fred Astaire!

The 1940s are still about Fred Astaire for me. He reunited with Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), which I really enjoyed (and of all the Astaire/Rogers movies the plot of this one makes the most sense to me), but the movie I liked even more was Easter Parade (1948) with Astaire and Judy Garland. Easter Parade is about nightclub performer Don (Fred Astaire) who hires naive chorus girl Hannah (Judy Garland) to become his new dance partner to make his former partner jealous. He wants to prove he can make any partner a star. Hannah bristles against Don’s attempts to make her just like his old partner and grows into her own kind of performer.

‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ may be the most well-known song from that movie…

… and here’s a fun number,  ‘A Couple of Swells’, where Hannah truly is very different from Don’s elegant former partner…

It’s a fun watch! Especially Judy’s acting, and of course Fred’s dancing, stand out here.


The 1950s – The Gene Kelly era

The 1950s had a ton of musicals. I really like another Fred Astaire musical called Funny Face (1957), also starring my darling Audrey Hepburn, and a lovely jazz musical with Danny Kaye called Five Pennies (1959) but, most of all, the 1950s is Gene Kelly’s decade to me! He did An American in Paris (1951) with Leslie Caron, which is a fun musical, but I think my fave 50s musical has got to be Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which Gene Kelly did with Debbie Reynolds.

Singin’ in the Rain is set in the late 1920s when movies went from silent to sound. When two silent movie stars’ latest movie is turned into a musical, a chorus girl is brought in to dub the female movie star’s singing and speaking. Gene Kelly plays the movie star Don Lockwood and Debbie Reynolds plays the chorus girl Kathy Selden. The very iconic title song is maybe the most well-known musical number ever. It never gets old looking at this…

The one I catch myself singing sometimes, just like that, is ‘Good Morning’…

I swear, virtually every number in this musical is legendary, there isn’t a bad song and dance routine in it!


The 1960s – The Julie Andrews era

I liked Hello Dolly (from 1964, with Barbra Streisand) but the mid 1960s is really the Julie Andrews era. She famously starred in My Fair Lady on stage but wasn’t deemed well-known enough for the movie, so the Eliza Doolittle role for the 1964 movie went to Audrey Hepburn instead. In the meantime Julie Andrews made Mary Poppins (yes, we’re still in 1964!) and became very famous for that.  However, my fave 60s musical has got to be The Sound of Music, which was made a year later in 1965.

The Sound of Music is about a young postulant, Maria (Julie Andrews), who is sent to be the governess to the children of naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). It is set in Salzburg (Austria) in 1938 around the time the Nazis gain power there and is based on a true story. It’s awfully corny in many ways, but I do love it; it is well-acted and has real heart. There are some songs there I don’t like very much (like when the Mother Superior sings ‘Climb Every Mountain’ or the ’16 going on 17′ song), but others are absolutely irresistible, like ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘My favourite things’ (which incidentally is also the tag-line of this blog)…

There is also this very romantic dance. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to German/Austrian ‘Volksmusik’, which this is to a certain extent. This scene, however, always makes my heart skip a beat…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie; I even went to a Sound of Music sing-along once, eight years ago!

It was absolutely silly but a lot of fun.


The 1970s – The rock & pop musical era but I liked fairytales!

This is the time of the rock & pop musicals, like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), or Saturday Night Fever (1977) or Grease (1978). All of them fine! But, I was a little girl in the 1970s and just starting to learn about movies and musicals. At the tender age of 7 I fell in love with a kitsch Cinderella movie musical called The Slipper and the Rose (1976) with Richard Chamberlain as the prince and Gemma Craven as Cinderella. I have blogged about The Slipper and the Rose before here and I have shared some fun musical clips from that movie here. It’s probably got a lot to do with nostalgia, but I still love this musical (that virtually nobody knows anymore). Let me share another romantic dance video with you: the prince and Cinderella meet and dance…

… and my father’s favourite song, I always think of him when I see or hear this…


The 1980s – Youth musicals

There was Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984) and Dirty Dancing (1987), which was all very youth centered and I remember them all being very popular when they came out. I liked them and enjoyed them and fell in love with David Bowie and a teenage Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth (1986), but the musical I loved most was Yentl (1983), which was not so youth oriented. In my house, the whole family loved that movie, we had the soundtrack on LP and played it continuously.

Set in early 1900s Eastern Europe, Yentl is about a young woman (Barbra Streisand) who dreams of studying Talmud but as a girl is not permitted to do so. After her father dies, she disguises herself as a boy and goes out into the world to find a place where no one knows her, so that she can get the education she so covets. Things get complicated when she falls in love (with Avigdor, played by Mandy Patinkin)…

The song ‘Papa’ from the movie, then and now, always makes me think of my own father. Again, in this movie, all the songs are great, like ‘One of Those Moments’…

… or the final song. ‘A Piece of Sky’…

This is also a musical I have seen many times and it never grows old!


The 1990s – Cartoon musicals

There were musicals like Sister Act (from 1992, which was fun) and Evita (from 1996, just OK) but to me mostly the Disney cartoon musicals stand out in the 1990s, like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). The movie that sticks out most for me is The Lion King (1994). I thought I was all over cartoons by mid mid-20s until I saw The Lion King in the cinema (I only went because some friends wanted to see it). To my surprise, that movie made me cry in the first 15 minutes! For me it isn’t a musical masterpiece like some of the musicals I mentioned in earlier decades are, but I did love it! The ‘Hakuna Matata’ song was cute! At the time everyone also said ‘hakuna matata’ to each other, it was a bit of a hype.

Last year I went to London for a few days with my son and I promised him a stage show. He picked The Lion King, so we went to see that and very much enjoyed it!

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I like that this musical is now linked to my son like that. 🙂


The 2000s – Fairytales & books

Not many musicals spring to mind in this era, but I did really enjoy Moulin Rouge (2001 about a writer and a cabaret star). That movie didn’t have many original songs but it did have great covers of great pop songs which made it a joyous watch. As a Jane Austen fan, I also really loved the Indian answer to Pride and Prejudice, called Bride and Prejudice (2004). In fact, I need to share one clip from that movie. The actor Naveen Andrews (he plays Balraj, the Bingley character, dressed in black), really reminds me of my youngest brother and I could actually picture my brother doing this dance act as well…

I love the way P&P translates to an Indian story and the joy that seeps through in all the songs and dances.

My fave 2000s musical, however, has got to be Enchanted (2007). A young maiden called Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in a land called Andalasia and is prepared to be wed to Prince Edward (James Marsden), is sent away to cynical New York City by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon), where she falls in love with lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). It’s a real princess story yet also a spoof on all (animated) Disney princess stories, with even a hint of The Sound of Music spoof thrown in. See if you can spot that reference in this joyous ‘That’s How You Know’ number…

It’s fun and funny for adults and there’s also serious princess stuff there for the little ones. I discovered Amy Adams through this; she plays the princess so brilliantly and is nicely offset by grumpy Patrick Dempsey who slowly thaws (and she learns how to be angry!).


The 2010s- The Hugh Jackman era

So, here we are – the musicals of this present decade! I probably should mention La La Land (2016) here, as it won so very many awards! I felt, however, that that movie was very over-hyped. It was nice enough but the quality of the main actors’ singing and dancing just couldn’t hold a candle to some of the musicals mentioned above. I was underwhelmed. For me, the best musicals of the past 7 odd years have starred Hugh Jackman, so to me this is the Hugh Jackman musical age!

First off, Les Miserables (2012). I have always loved Les Miserables. In the mid 1980s we had a tape at home with all the songs from the London stage musical. I knew all the songs before I even knew the story. I finally saw the musical live in the West End in London in the fall of 2013 which was a dream come true for me! About half a year before that, I saw the 2012 movie musical version with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the cinema. I know several people who didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved it!

Les Miserables is set in 19th century France. It’s the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has served 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks parole and after that is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russel Crowe). He agrees to take care of a factory worker’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Once grown, Cosette falls in love with revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), while Valjean wants to keep Cosette and himself out of the way of Javert.

Jackman was brilliant, as was Hathaway (she deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I felt) and Eddie Redmayne has this surprising angelic voice. Recently I already shared a clip of Hugh Jackman singing ‘Who am I’, let me share Eddie Redmayne singing ‘Empty Chairs’ here (makes me cry every time!)…

I can’t possibly begin to select songs here to post, I would have to post the whole movie! So, here’s a trailer that gives a nice sampling overview…

I can’t just pick one favourite for this decade, now that the latest Hugh Jackman musical installment is here: The Greatest Showman (2017). I thought it would be a mildly amusing movie to go see, I never expected to love it this much!

The Greatest Showman is a musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman). Barnum rises from nothing to create the “Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and circus, starring ‘oddities’ like the bearded lady and a dwarf. It is inspired by true events but must certainly not be taken as gospel! It’s basically the fairytale version of Barnum’s life, with a nice message of celebrating difference and inclusion.

I can’t find many clips from the actual movie on YouTube (although you can see the trailer), but I can share a clip of a live performance the cast did of one of the songs…

And the anthem about being OK with who you are and showing yourself as you are, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Song this year! Here is a clip from the movie, when the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) sings ‘This Is Me’…

Again, with this movie I love every single song! I have been playing the soundtrack in the car virtually non-stop for all my commutes to work these past few weeks. I’m secretly hoping for the sing-along version to also come to The Netherlands… 😉


So, there you have it, my Mach’ Was musicals through the decades list! I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of great musicals, so if there are any you feel should not be left unmentioned, feel free to do so in the comments. 🙂

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Oh what an Oscars night!

Yep, stayed up for the yearly Oscar night marathon again! My friend came over, my son also stayed up and we had a great time watching it. The food wasn’t bad either…

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Frankly, my brain is a little too fuzzy today to go into a long analysis of the night. Suffice it to say that I went in hoping the 14 La La Land nominations wouldn’t all be won… I mean, I liked La La Land well enough but I really really don’t get what the fuss is all about for that movie. Heck, I even felt Amy Adams should have been nominated over Emma Stone. Emma Stone was fine but Amy Adams in Arrival was just top-notch for me!

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Jimmy Kimmel was a great host. Loved the Trump and Meryl Streep jibes, especially loved the ‘feud’ with Matt Damon, loved the tourists he brought on…

… and him lifting up kid actor Sunny Pawar from Lion in a The Lion King imitation…

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… and he was even gracious over the Best Picture snafu at the end, taking responsibility, joking that this would end his Oscar hosting career.

The Oscars for acting… I was very pleased with Mahershala Ali winning Supporting Actor for Moonlight! He was also the most dashing looking man on the red carpet, I felt.

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For me it was a tie between him winning and Dev Patel for Lion (he came to the Oscars with his mum).

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Oh, how I loved the movie Lion! I still plan to blog about that. Not only was the movie and the acting great, adoption is a theme close to my heart as well, as I have adopted brothers and sisters myself. I also loved Moonlight, however, and Mahershala Ali winning was a definite highlight!

I was also very pleased for Viola Davis winning Supporting Actress (she looked stunning in her red dress, by the way). I haven’t seen Fences yet but I think she is a phenomenal actor and deserves any win!

Mahershala Ali, Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Casey Affleck

Emma Stone winning the Best Actress award was… OK. With no Amy Adams in the running I was rooting for Meryl Streep or Ruth Negga, but in my heart I knew Emma Stone would win and I am able to reluctantly accept that. Casey Affleck I know is a good actor but I haven’t seen Manchester by the Sea and so far he doesn’t really do it for me. I was really rooting for Viggo Mortensen, who I know was an outsider choice, but still… Viggo was at the Oscars with his son.

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One day I really want to see him win one!

And then there was the whole already infamous Best Picture thing! When Best Director went to La La Land I thought I knew what Best Picture would be and my heart was sinking. There was some hesitation by Warren Beatty before Faye Dunaway then announced La La Land as winner…

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… and I was ready to throw leftover popcorn at my TV screen. I just really don’t get the La La Land fuss (and I really do enjoy a Hollywood musical, it’s not that). The La La people were doing their thank you speeches when soon it started getting chaotic on stage and before we knew it the producer was saying that Moonlight had won! We were looking at the TV screen, wondering  what the f-word was going on! Then the proof was held up, Moonlight had won!

The Moonlight people came on stage and the La La Land people graciously handed over their Oscars to the rightful winners…

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It was chaos, some sort of speech thing happened and before we knew it, it was all over! My friend, my son and I were left a little stunned, although at 6.15 am my son was admittedly more exhausted than stunned and he high-tailed it to bed instantly while my friend and I still looked at each other in amazement at this turn of events. It’s sad the win happened this way but I have got to say I was elated over the outcome in the end! I was rooting for Lion, Survival or Moonlight to win Best Picture and in the end Moonlight triumphed. Yay!

Yes, this was a memorable Oscars night.

Arrival

Yesterday I went to see a sci-fi movie called Arrival with Amy Adams in the main role. I didn’t know much about it, except that it was supposed to be different… and it was! I was blown away by it, it was an absolutely fascinating watch.

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The movie is about a linguistics professor who is asked to decipher the language of aliens that have arrived in 12 pods all over the world. As she begins to learn their language her perception of reality changes. You’d think an alien sci-fi movie would be fast paced, full of explosions and action and while there is a very little bit of that and that is also featured in the trailer…

… the movie itself is nothing like that! It is slow-paced and thoughtful and really highlights how our perception of reality is coloured by our use of language.

I was just reading a review about the movie that explains all this in more depth: “Arrival is a stunning science fiction movie with deep implications for today”. The author says, ” […] it makes a strong case that communication, not battle or combat, is the only way to avoid destroying ourselves. Communication means not just wrapping our heads around terms we use but the actual framework through which we perceive reality”. In these times, when there is so much fear for the future (at least there is with me with the Brexit vote and now Donald Trump becoming the next US president), I hope frameworks can be redefined and that we can come together from such differing viewpoints through communication and cooperation instead of recrimination and hate…  I know it’s utopian, but one can hope and dream… Can we redraw our own frameworks? And when we do, will the future look a little brighter and will we be able to cooperate better? I truly hope so…

Yes, this movie has struck a chord with me, more so in light of the divisive times we live in. I don’t want to say much more about it, I don’t want to give anything away. This is a story that you just need to slowly see unfold before you. Some people sitting behind us during the movie seemed confused after they watched it… and yes, it really is a little confusing, but in a very good way! Also, yet again Amy Adams shows what a great actress she is. Really, I can only highly recommend this. I love movies that make me think and this one certainly made me think.  I need to go see it again sometime…