In December I was sitting at home one weekend lamenting the absence of even one decent film worth heading to the cinema for (or even worth renting).  It then occurred to me that it might be time to reach back to Hollywood’s Golden Age for some entertainment.  Not knowing quite what I was looking for, but feeling a bit weary of all the Hitchcock films in my cabinet, I stumbled onto the American Film Institute’s list of the 25 Best Movie Musicals, and a goal (of sorts) emerged:  to watch all 25 musicals in rapid succession.

I make no claim to be a film critic, nor am I particularly well-informed when it comes to the structure of a musical, but below are a some brief comments on each of the movies, in case there’s anyone out there interested in visiting the genre:

25.  Moulin Rouge!  (2001) – A visual feast.  The costumes, sets, make-up and editing are so fantastic you can barely rest your eyes (or ears) the entire time.  Truth be told, I did not care much for the actual story, and think its only original song (“Come What May”) is kinda bland, but I remember seeing this in the theatre when it was released and know it thrilled me completely at the time.  I also like the fact that Nicole and Ewan did their own singing.

Highlight:  Opening sequence with a mash-up of Fatboy Slim’s “Because We Can-Can-Can” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  The Nirvana sample is possibly my favorite moment, listen for it early in the film.

24.  Show Boat  (1936)

I’ve been unable to view this because the 1936 version is incredibly expensive to obtain on DVD (over $50, if you can find a used copy online somewhere).  I plan to get an old VHS of it eventually, but will still need to find a VHS player on which to view it… maybe on my next trip to the States.

23.  Guys and Dolls  (1955) – Even with the insanely talented male leads of Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, this one was a bit tough to endure.  Several of the songs are super fun, but overall it's particularly ridiculous.  Especially when it's Marlon Brando's turn to sing.

Highlight:  The song “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” (led magnificently by actor Stubby Kaye) was in my head all day after watching the movie.  A close second fave was the song “Fugue for Tinhorns” (aka “I Got the Horse Right Here”).  I subsequently watched both of these scenes repeatedly on Youtube.  Good fun.

22.  Beauty and the Beast  (1991) – The only animated feature on the list.  I had a lot of folks tell me the various reasons why this is/was the appropriate Disney/animated musical on the AFI list, but personally I didn’t much dig it. 

Highlight:  Broadway veteran Jerry Orbach as the voice of Lumiere, the French candlestick.

21.  Seven Brides for Seven Brothers  (1954) – In a word, painful.  I won’t even get into the - umm… sexist and politically incorrect plot, because things like that don’t really apply in period musicals.

Highlight:  Amazing choreography for the brothers (and other men) in this one.  Oh, and Julie (Catwoman) Newmar when her screen name was still Julie Newmeyer – playing a girl named Dorcas.  I couldn’t keep from saying “Dorcas Malorcas” over and over in my head once I heard that name.

20.  Grease  (1978) – What’s to say?  This musical rules, and most of us already know it.  If you’ve never seen it, get ye to your Netflix cue and add.

Highlight:  Three words… 

young John Travolta.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the next five films on the list.

Grease is indeed the word.

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