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  1. 24 points
    I gave up depression disorder every Tuesday and Thursday. I gave up low self-esteem when I completed each module and passed the tests. I gave up loneliness and isolation every time I participated in discussions, like now. This course has been the best thing in the world for me. I hope they offer another one.
  2. 18 points
    I just wanted to share (I truly apologize if this feels like name dropping) that in the mid 1970s I took tap classes from Gene's Kelly's brother, Fred in Oradell, NJ. One evening, quite to our surprise, Gene showed up at the studio and watched us dance. Talk about intimidating. When we finished - he danced for us. 40+ years later I can still feel the swoon and passion. It was wonderful. He was very generous with not only his time but his feedback and advice.
  3. 15 points
    This class has been fantastic! I have enjoyed every minute of the discussions, film clips, podcasts...you name it. I cannot wait for Mad About Musicals II. So much more to cover....The Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals - South Pacific, Oklahoma, Carousel, etc. We hardly touched on the Fox Blondes - Alice Faye, Betty Grable, some Marilyn Monroe. The Sound of Music. There is so much more to cover. Please keep it going!
  4. 12 points
    1. It starts off like any backstage musical from the 30's, taking us back to the days of vaudeville and may remind us of so many films that took place at that time. The long shot includes the orchestra pit as well as the stage. Mama Rose even quotes an early Jerome Kern song ("Every little movement has a meaning all its own"). The girl in the balloons hints at where the plot will go and may point out the tension between vaudeville and burlesque. While there are a lot of colors on stage, the colors are more subdued than the bright popping colors of the 40's and 50's, and there is very little glamor, hinting that this story may be a little grittier than earlier musicals. The widescreen hints at epic, but the scene is actually intimate. The camera even backs up when Baby June sings her song, rather than going in for a close up as we are used to. 2. Roz enters from the audience, as Ethel Merman did on Broadway. But while Merman seemed to appear from nowhere, Roz's entrance seems more deliberate and forceful. She has broken into the theatre and brazenly makes her way to the stage. She knows her way around comedy and delivers lines non-stop, like she did in His Girl Friday. Rosalind Russell has said that after Auntie Mame, she played variations on Mame for the rest of her career, and it isn't too hard to see that here. Here she pushes her girls to live, live, live the life she wishes she had lived, lived, lived. 3. It has already been pointed out that there is sexual innuendo in the lyrics, though they seem innocent here in this scene. Louise's lyric, "I will do some tricks... I'm very versatile" here refers to a child's playful hand tricks, but becomes more suggestive when Louise sings the same words in burlesque.
  5. 11 points
    1. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? Many of its backstage musical elements hearken to the entire history of film musicals: a vaudeville setting, musical numbers performed on a stage to “us” in the audience, someone interrupting the proceedings (so many of the early Warners musicals). The story and acting style, though, reflect the intense 1950s dramatic style of Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando. Karl Malden’s frustration at his work and life situation is as intense as his work in A Streetcar Named Desire or On the Waterfront. The cinema’s move away from a certain fantasy style from the Golden Era was reflected in the musical’s evolution in the 1960s. The gritty film adaptations of West Side Story (1961) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971) wouldn’t seem possible during the Golden Age. 2. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress. Mama Rose gets a brash, stage mama entrance. Rosalind Russell’s Rose dominates the audition by boldly advancing down the aisle in her leopard-print coat and honking orders in her commanding voice. When Herbie (Karl Malden) tries to reason with her, she tops him through vocal and verbal energy as Russell did in The Women (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Auntie Mame (1958), and others. Rosalind Russell clearly knew how to “pull focus” and here she uses it to focus the attention on Baby June. 3. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not). There is a slightly sexualized slant to Sondheim’s lyrics here, later used as double entendre by the young adult version of Louise – “Let me entertain you/Let me see you smile/I will do some kicks/I will do some tricks” – which are especially uncomfortable coming from little girls. Baby June is dolled up and dances in a way that seems designed to appeal to men, much in the way JonBenet Ramsey (second photo below) was sexualized in real life decades later: mounds of golden curls, makeup, confident grin. There is a sense of Mama Rose pimping her daughters throughout the story, though we're guided to see that it comes from love (and her own failed dreams).
  6. 10 points
    1. "Gaslight" (1944) and "My Fair Lady" (1964) are two of my favorite movies, and I think George Cukor did a great job directing both. While the former is a Gothic thriller and the latter an Edwardian-era musical, both take place in London around the turn-of-the-century, both deal with gender politics of the time between men and women, and the idea of personal identity. Cukor uses the production and set design for both in films in similar ways, emphasizing the dark, heavy, cluttered, and heavily-patterned style of the Edwardian era to create a sense of oppressiveness and wealth, though in "Gaslight's"' case the result is much more foreboding than in "My Fair Lady"! 2. There are a lot of emotions going on in this scene, and George Cukor does a great job of letting them flow naturally through his specific use of shots and lack of cuts. While there are a few close-ups of Eliza, the majority of the scene is covered in long tracking shots, almost like a stageplay rather than a movie, that show both characters at once and catch the breaks between lines, which also serve as the emotional transitions. The continuity seems to aid the actors in their performances; there is a cohesiveness and natural flow of the move from one emotion to another, which I don't think would have been as easy to achieve if Cukor had used a more fragmented approach with more cuts and shorter shots. 3. While it is a natural setup given the action going on in the scene, it's interesting to note the way Cukor has Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) continually standing above Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) as she crouches on the sofa, emphasizing the superiority that Higgins is either purposely asserting over her, or that Eliza is merely imagining that she feels. It is also interesting how Eliza has her back to Higgins for most of the scene, which not only allows the audience to see her conflicting emotions, but externalizes her struggle to hide her unspoken feelings for him.
  7. 10 points
    Meredith Willson called "The Music Man" a Valentine to Iowa, and "An Iowan's attempt to pay tribute to his home state." He revealed all of the rivalries, small mindedness, pettiness, meddling, and family interconnectedness of small town, midwestern life in the early part of the last century. It is clear Willson remembered all of his childhood lovingly. This is a very different musical concept from "Victor/Victoria in which Julie Andrews asks: "So, I'm a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman?" The gender bending concept also contains a lead gay male character portrayed by Preston, who also plays the Music Man in the earlier film. 1.As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable? To compare and contrast both roles, Preston is essentially a con artist in each movie, who cheats and tricks others persuading them to believe things that are not true. Based on the time period in which each story was released to the public, and in which each story is set, ("The Music Man" 1962, set in 1912) ("Victor/Victoria" 1982, set in 1934) is determinative of the type of characters which were available for the American public to see. In 1962, a con man could be many things, but not out and out gay, and 20 years later, he could be many things including openly gay. 2.What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? As the "Music Man" Preston sees the character as a cross between a hustler and a revival preacher. In many ways his performance is akin to Burt Lancaster's portrayals of "The Rainmaker" (1956) and "Elmer Gantry" (1960). In both Lancaster performances he dances around gracefully, with well defined movements and speech, invading other characters' personal spaces, while trying to ensnare them in his web of lies. Preston's movements are in the same well-defined mode, his diction is also precise and understandable even though he is speaking rapidly, and he also uses his hands quite gracefully for a man. It makes me wonder if one didn't study the other's performance while crafting each character. Since "The Rainmaker" is the first production, we will have to give the credit to Lancaster. While the Music Man is not a nasty, insulting individual, Preston's character in V/V is. He is particularly disparaging to members of his audience after he delivers his song. Although Preston gives a more subdued performance of his song in our clip, as befits his cabaret singer, he is still Preston and utilizes the same well defined physical movements as in the "Music Man." In fact, I found him to be a bit limp wristed in both portrayals, which might have simply been the manner in which Preston used his hand to express himself. His diction and enunciation, however, is not quite as precise as in "Trouble." 3.Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work? Personally, I always find Preston to be rather charming and seductive. In "Marion," he is very tempting and provocative. Other films in which I have seen him are "Union Pacific" (1939), "Beau Geste" (1939), and "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942). In most of his films, Preston was a secondary leading man, and in two of the films mentioned he is a sort of charmer who goes wrong, betraying the leading man each time. As far as his acting technique, Preston could obviously play a wide variety of parts, including roles requiring triple threat duties. He was a well rounded versatile actor whose greatest success was in the legitimate theater.
  8. 9 points
    This was discussed in the 6/28 lecture, so I'll bite. Here are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. (I've excluded concert films and musical bios.) There are surely a bunch I have missed: 1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 2. The Graduate 3. Forrest Gump 4. A Mighty Wind (might even be considered a musical) 5. Saturday Night Fever 6. American Graffiti 7. Pulp Fiction 8. Easy Rider 9. Shaft 10. O Brother Where Art Thou
  9. 9 points
    1. Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) In both Gaslight (1944) and My Fair Lady (1964), a man attempts to control a woman for selfish reasons. In Gaslight, it’s for money, and in My Fair Lady, it’s for professional pride. In both cases, the woman’s well being is a price he’s willing to pay, and in both cases, the woman is worn down and angry at the end of the process. In both cases, Cukor at certain point frames the woman as if she is a subject to be studied, a guinea pig on which to be tested. The scenes with Ingrid Bergman in the center of the frame, in the room alone feeling she’s going crazy, are a little like the scenes with Audrey Hepburn centered in the frame trying to learn correct pronunciation and manners. In both cases, the truth gradually dawns on the woman. In this Daily Dose scene, Hepburn’s Eliza finally articulates her frustration at being used by Higgins (Rex Harrison) just as Paula (Bergman) finally confronts Gregory (Charles Boyer). 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Cukor keeps the camera focused on where the emotion is happening. When Eliza suddenly drops to the ground (:29) giving in to her frustration, the camera knows to pan down with her. As mentioned in Gary Rydstrom’s Curator’s Note, shadow is used throughout this scene to suggest that we are not only seeing Higgins’ prize version of Eliza, but the private Eliza who now doesn’t know what to do with the elegant version of herself. In the early part of the scene, Hepburn walks around the dim room with eyes mostly closed, suggesting Eliza’s introspection at this point. We are allowed to see Eliza trying to regain her dignity when Higgins offers her a chocolate. We cut to Eliza and “sit up” with her as she transitions immediately from a belligerent “NO” to a polite “thank you.” 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? We see the relationship shifting in the scene, with Eliza starting to take back control of her life. When Eliza throws Higgins’ slippers at him, the editing picks up this energy by showing Eliza throwing them and cutting immediately to them nearly hitting Higgins in the head. In this scene, Higgins attempts to control the situation by being unflappable in his response to Eliza’s outburst, retaining the parent-child relationship he established during their lessons. As the scene begins, she is even on the floor (the camera tilted slightly downward) and he is standing (his head at the top of the frame). He taunts her (“Oh, so the creature’s nervous after all”) and she responds by screaming and moving as if to strangle him. He grabs her wrists and pushes her onto the sofa as she bursts into tears. Cukor often focuses on their faces, sometimes when the other is talking to catch the reactions. We get a two-shot when we need to see both at the same time, such as “them slippers/those slippers!”
  10. 9 points
    Too much outrage in the real world for me to get terrribly worked up over a 60+ year old movie.
  11. 8 points
    Pardon me if I am distracted by the fabulous Omar Sharif. I wish we were analyzing his exciting seduction song "You Are Woman I Am Man." As it is I wonder why the great William Wyler staged the scene with Sharif in it at all; I always feel a bit uncomfortable when one character is singing to another character who gets to stand around watching the performance, with just a reaction shot here and there interrupting a big solo. After all what can Sharif do in this scene but just observe Streisand from afar or in reaction shots, trying hard not to move so as not upstage her? 1.How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? Belting is a specific technique of singing by which a singer brings his or her chest register above its natural break at a loud volume, often described as sustained yelling. If Sharif is in the scene with Streisand, and she is engaging in sustained yelling at him, the audience would be sure that Fanny and Nick are never going to get together. Consequently, Sharif's presence dictates that Streisand sing the song more intimately (even though the two are really not in close proximity to each other). The lyrics of the song, however, make the audience wonder why Streisand and Sharif aren't closer to each other ("People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.") Are we watching two personalities who are so aloof and independent that they are not the lucky people who need people? If that is the case then Streisand's somewhat wistful tone makes sense. Otherwise, Wyler should have placed these two in such a way that they show the audience that they need each other. Or, he could have let Streisand flirt with Sharif, had Sharif exit the scene, and then let her belt her heart out. That would have been a homely girl's plea for a lover and intimacy.  2.Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? I admit I had to watch this scene several times in order to find any way in which these two are relating to each other. In the beginning of the scene, Sharif is warning Streisand that he doesn't like to get too involved, and keeps himself free from amorous attachments. She takes his meaning and wonders if such a singular soul is happy or if he needs intimate friends or lovers in his life to really make him happy. Wyler then has them walk away from the alley, with Streisand leading, not too close to Sharif, and we see their backs for the first few bars of the song. So she is basically rejecting his proposition for singularity. Once they reach the iron fence, Wyler has Streisand in profile and Sharif's back is still to the audience, after all this is Streisand's song. After Streisand starts to walk to the steps we see only her until much later Wyler cuts to a reaction shot of Sharif. Not very interesting, nor does it advance our understanding of what Sharif is thinking of Streisand openly wooing him in this fashion. The only thing we are left to think is that Sharif is not persuaded by her thoughts on how much he should need people, especially her. Streisand then emotes about lovers being very special people alone in the camera's view, until we see her on the steps, and Sharif looks miles away, not moving toward her at all. Streisand would like to get together with him, but she wants love and he likes to be footloose and fancy free. She does not appear to be convincing him otherwise. Once we end with her close up we realize these two aren't getting together anytime soon. 3.How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. In addition to my comments on Wyler's blocking and editing to highlight the remoteness between Streisand and Sharif, Wyler shows us how isolated her character is in her quest to remain an original talent who can't necessarily be pigeon-holed. After all, Brice is not going to make it based on her looks; her talent is really all she has.
  12. 8 points
    A couple of comments on the Daily Dose notes. First, Cukor was called a woman's director because that was code to signal others that he was gay, not that he was better at working with women than men. Second, Cukor was not fired as the first director of GWTW because he was a woman's director. Selznick knew Cukor well as they had worked together quite a few times before and were friends. Selznick knew that Cukor was gay and hired him anyway. The reason Cukor was fired was because he had trouble with the pace and timing of the direction on that particular film. If you watch some of the early scenes directed by Cukor, they drag a bit and the tempo is slow and a bit boring. Although some of those scenes made it into the final film, it fairly easy to tell a Cukor directed scene from those directed by Victor Fleming, or Sam Wood. Also, Cukor was behind schedule. Third, Clark Gable did not like Cukor, and he was a star who had enough clout to demand that a director be replaced. (A bit homophobic perhaps?) Fourth, and this is ironic given this discussion, but Cukor was reassigned to "The Women." I would say he did a bang up job on that movie, wouldn't you? 1.Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course)try. Hmmm, I think it is a bit of a stretch to think that "Gaslight" is comparable to "MFL," but I will try. In MFL, we are watching one of the final scenes in which Harrison's grand experiment, which exploited poor Hepburn, is over, and as she points out, he won. Everyone at the ball thought she was of royal descent. The room is dimly lit with gas lamps (stretching, stretching...), and Hepburn is upset because she will be leaving Harrison and the life with him to which she has become accustomed. Harrison seems completely unfazed, and not troubled at all to be losing her company, so Hepburn is angry and lashes out at Harrison for the mistreatment she has suffered at his hands, even though she had agreed to the entire scheme to begin with. She gets in his face and is yelling charges at him in an accusatory tone. Her conduct is irrational and not remotely ladylike. Hepburn is not exercising any self control because she is throwing heavy objects at Harrison with pretty good aim. Through the entire scene Harrison keeps his composure, which further maddens her. He's just not that into her. In "Gaslight," toward the end of the film, Bergman has had a belly full of Boyer too, although for very different reasons. Boyer has been slowly manipulating his wife to believe that she is losing her mind such that she needs to be incarcerated at an asylum. The reason for his torture of her is that he wants the house to himself so he can search for her aunt's jewels which he had to drop the night he killed her because a much younger Bergman interrupted his murderous attack on her aunt. Boyer has purposely sought her out in order to gain access to the house so he can complete the crime he started many years ago. In the scene in which Bergman confronts Boyer, she in not alone as in MFL, but is with trusty leading man and all around do-gooder, Joseph Cotton (actually a favorite of mine). In her verbal assault, Bergman dredges up all of the wrongful conduct in which Boyer has engaged during the course of her very unhappy marriage to him. Bergman conducts the inquisition using Boyer's own words with which he led her to believe she was losing her mind. Bergman, however is a better actress than Hepburn, and doesn't turn melodramatic in her emotional scene. She is tearful, but always displays frustration, not despair, nor does she whine about her disappointments. In Bergman's scene the audience is actually relieved that she has some spine left with which to take the evil Boyer to task for his crimes. In Hepburn's scene she is hysterical because she can't have a man who appears not to want her anyway. That is a bit too melodramatic a motivation for me. Cukor should have given Hepburn some guidance as to how to manage her big scene without descending into melodrama, when the motivation is not really there. She could have played the scene to express an emotional let down after the big party at which she was very much on display, but even that shouldn't lead a grown woman to hysterics. So the award goes to Bergman who knew how to avoid melodrama without the director explaining it to her. At any rate I don't think the two films have much in common at all. 2.Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Hepburn's first transition into hysteria comes after she appears to be alone and upset in the study. She turns out the light, a nice bit of business Cukor gives her to do, while the music grows louder as she walks to the couch and collapses to her knees in tears. Once down, Hepburn shakes and pounds the sofa, but little transition prepares the audience for her throwing slippers at Harrison who has wandered into the room casually looking for them. After accusing him of not caring about her (which is apparently true) she actually states that she wants to kill him. (Bergman doesn't descend to that even though Boyer has killed her aunt). Once Harrison calls her a "creature" (Frankenstein?) she flies at him as if to scratch out his eyes! We really aren't prepared for that either. After Harrison corrects her grammar Hepburn settles down a bit. She then admits that no one has ill-treated her in the house, and reveals that the reason she is so worked up is that she doesn't understand her place in society anymore. Hepburn no longer fits in anywhere. 3.What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? Eliza respects her teacher, and his reasoning discussion with her serves to calm her down. Harrison remains her instructor who sees her as an "pretentious insect," who is a "creature," whose grammar he is still correcting. He offers her candy like a child, and tries to have her see that she is now free to do as she pleases, without understanding that such freedom is her problem; she doesn't know what to do with it.
  13. 8 points
    Criss Cross (1949) - Noir crime drama from Universal Pictures and director Robert Siodmak. Burt Lancaster stars as Steve Thompson, who has just returned to L.A. after an extended absence. He meets up with his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), and while the spark quickly reignites between them, she's now married to criminal creep Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea). How far will Steve go to get Anna back? Also featuring Stephen McNally, Richard Long, Meg Randall, Joan Miller, Edna Holland, John Doucette, Tom Pedi, Percy Helton, Gene Evans, Tony Curtis, and Alan Napier. This was one of the best noirs that I've seen in a long time. I'm a fan of Lancaster, so seeing one of the few of his films that I haven't seen before was a bonus. It helps that he's very good in the lead. De Carlo is also noteworthy, gorgeous and believable as the type of gal that a guy loses his cool over. Duryea doesn't have to do much, as his screen persona and well-tailored look spells out his character as a groomed snake. The score by Miklos Rozsa is excellent, and the direction is exemplary, particularly during a smoke-obscured robbery. The ending is a nihilistic treat. (8/10) Source: Universal DVD.
  14. 7 points
    I love the classic horror movies! Just wondering if other people would love a course in this subject. Vincent Price,Peter Cushing,Boris Karloff and so on. Frankenstein,Nosferatu,Dracula, The Pit and the pendulum etc! This is my favorite genre next to movie musicals.
  15. 7 points
    You shouldn't have burned The White House in 1814.
  16. 7 points
    Thank you Mr. Long for your insight regarding the comparison between "MFL" and Gaslight. The theme of men controlling women for a specific purpose was eyeopening. You say, that both women are "warn down and angry" at the end of the process. Women throughout history have men controlling their lives for a specific purpose. Eliza wants to get out of her former life and look towards a future. I especially liked the part of the clip that suggests that she will do anything for a chocolate. much like a animal will perform for a treat. We also see in this clip that Eliza is like a child. How many times have you seen parents bring their child into a setting to perform for their co-workers, family or friends. That is Miss Doolittle through out her time with the Professor. I want to comment on the idea that Cukor has the reputation of being a women's director. In this film MFL, he know how to show the audience what Eliza feels. First we see her coming back from the ball where she was the prime attraction. At the Ball, Cukor certainly shows the audience she is the "center of attention." In this clip, we first see her fading into the back of a very large, full room of things. We see her as only a thing. Just like a piece of furniture. Cukor only lets the audience see her through the darkness, by having the lights highlight the jewels she is wearing. The scene in which she is crying, she is placed at the footstool "at the feet of her master" just as a pet or child would find themselves. It is only at the time the professor notices her. Earlier in the film the director points out that her job was to 'fetch" the slippers. Just as a personal assistant or "dog." Here Eliza find herself thinking that this is the only thing I am good for, all for a piece of chocolate? Relationships throughout the film starts with that of need: need of help to survive the world outside. Second, the idea of support. I will support you to help you achieve notoriety. Much like a wife supports her husband. Third as a child or a pet. I will perform to please you, provide an opportunity to show me off and finally as all of the above relationships/ roles we all play during our lives. Everyone of us have been children, everyone of us support someone, we all perform as members in a family. We love many different ways during our lives. Our relationships can sometimes show disgust, dislike, resentment and regret. But we always come back, due to love. This film and its relationship all exhibited .
  17. 7 points
    I can’t believe we will soon be in our final week of the course. Time sure has flown by. In the past three weeks I have learned so much that will forever change the way I view musicals and my enjoyment of them. I’ve always been a Credits lover but now when I watch the names and titles scroll by I feel as if the many ppl responsible both above and below the line are old friends. It’s telling how many of these behind the scenes individuals had lasting careers responsible for some fine work in a long line of great musicals. I thank them all as I thank all responsible for this course. I can’t wait for the coming week but at the same time I hope the week crawls by as I don’t wish the course to end. I’m going to miss the lectures, Daily Doses, clips, podcasts and the friends I have made in the discussions on the TCM MAM Forum. I’m even going to miss the quizzes! After taking this great course I will never again find it so easy to answer the question, “So what’s your favorite musical?” My reply will most likely be, “Well, if you can spare an hour sit down and I’ll tell you!”
  18. 7 points
    DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #12 (FROM AN AMERICAN IN PARIS): “Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.” (from Funny Girl) 1. All musicals should be more-than-realistic. They should take us where we can’t go ourselves: physically and emotionally. They should leave us wanting to sing and dance through life if only as far as the car in the parking lot. The plot and dialogue should also be heightened and mainly serve to bring us to the next number. The actors should wear their hearts on their sleeves. What was unfortunate about casting Ryan Gosling in La-La-Land is that he’s a subtle, understated actor (and he can’t sing or dance). As Jeff tells Tony Hunter in The Band Wagon, “icebergs only show 1/8—I want 8/8!” We need them to show the emotions that we must suppress to get through our day. Some of us must pass the homeless everyday without making eye contact. Some of us can’t quit our lousy jobs. Some of us never tell our parents or children that we love them. Some of us never really live because we’re too busy facing reality. We need musicals to cry, laugh, sing and dance for us with heightened reality. Musicals remind us that living without heart is no life at all. And maybe it’s impossible to care about every one in the world—but maybe it’s damn worth trying to. 2. I found Gene Kelly's character to be completely likable but then, I'm from New Jersey.
  19. 7 points
    Minnelli's view of life, whether that life is in St Louis (as in "Meet Me In..." 1944, Technicolor), NYC (The Clock, 1945, B&W), the suburbs (Father of the Bride, 1950, B&W) or Paris (AAIP, 1951, Technicolor) was a painterly aspect. Each scene in his films is akin to a genre painting. As stated in a previous essay during this course Minnelli paid meticulous attention to set design, lighting, costumes and shot composition. All of his careful construction of a scene equally inhabits Spencer Tracy's bursting cutaway sequence in FOTB, and the fantasy ballet in AAIP. The problem with AAIP in my view is that the ending does not match the message of the rest of the film. Kelly is a brash American (which I personally love him for) who apparently does not have a great deal of painting talent or success in his profession. His desire to be a kept man by Nina Foch is loathsome. His better nature finds Leslie Caron to be his love interest, but she already has Georges Guetary who can provide for her and be faithful to her, to make up for the sad things which have happened in her life. Kelly is not in a position to do that. The fantasy ballet is triggered by Caron's rejection of him for Guetary. When she leaves him, Kelly expresses his fantastical desire for Caron in the only way he knows how, through paintings, albeit paintings by master artists, not his own work. If the film had ended with Kelly's unfulfilled fantasy, it would have been more consistent with all of the information the audience has up until, inexplicably, Caron returns and chooses Kelly over her French fiance. After all Kelly is a loser and the audience really isn't given any rational explanation for Caron's sudden shift in inclination. The ending is what keeps AAIP from being a masterpiece in my view. Minnelli chickened out of letting the story go in its natural direction by having the wrong man win the girl. 1.Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film? Well, the point of the wildly beautiful and fantastic ballet is just that. It is fantasy, so everything else in the film must look more realistic compared to the finale, but that doesn't mean it has to look like the "kitchen sink" films from Britain in the late 1950's. Minnelli's use of Technicolor, costuming, and lighting to charge up AAIP is really no different than his portrayal of mid-western American life in MMISL. Some of the scenes in that film are highly stylized. For example, an early scene between Garland and Bremer in which they sing MMISL while in their undergarments has some unbelievable camera work which throws their profiles into relief in unison. Its really gorgeous. I never heard anybody suggest that other parts of the film have to display realism to counteract the magnificent musical sequences. No, the point of the ending ballet is that it is a wild artistic dream which comes true in the end. The rest of the film can be breathtaking too, even if it is merely taken up with the plot.  2.What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Kelly himself is a likable actor, who can definitely play a cad. After all he was the original Pal Joey on Broadway, and you can't get more of a caddish role than that. So here Kelly is a more likable cad because the audience feels a little sorry for his lack of success in life, and his humiliation at the hands of a pretentious American college student who wants to criticize his work while he is hungry and out of smokes. When Kelly is impudent to Foch, he doesn't realize he is looking at his meal ticket. Does Foch like his paintings or does she like the cut of his jib so to speak? When Foch's expensive, chauffeur driven car pulls up, the audience realizes that these two can do business. Foch likes Kelly for his body and he likes her for her money. A perfect match.
  20. 6 points
    Acclaimed writer Harlan Ellison has died at the age of 84 of natural causes, peacefully in his sleep. One of the most cantankerous voices in science fiction, he had as many enemies as he did admirers. He wrote short stories, novellas and novels, as well as editing anthologies such as the landmark Dangerous Visions series. He won 8 Hugo awards (science fiction), 4 Nebula awards (science fiction writers), 5 Bram Stoker awards (horror writers), 2 Edgar awards (mystery writers), and 2 World Fantasy awards. Ellison also worked extensively in television, scripting some of the most well-loved episodes of Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His story "A Boy and His Dog" was adapted into a cult favorite movie in 1975. Ellison was nearly as famous for his lawsuits as he was for his writing and commentary. Those who are interested should peruse his Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Ellison#Controversies_and_disputes In the end, though, Ellison should be remembered as one of the loudest, most distinctive voices in 20th century SF, and one of the last true legends of the field.
  21. 6 points
    1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? It’s an introspective song, which Fanny (Barbra Streisand) is only sharing with Nicky (Omar Sharif) and herself. If she were proclaiming to the world (as Streisand’s Fanny does in “Let’s Hear It for Me” from Funny Lady, 1975), belting and more broad and theatrical gestures would be appropriate. Here, there’s a sense of needing some space a few steps away from Nicky to consider their relationship. Adding to the private feeling is the muted brown palette of Gene Callahan’s production design. This contrasts with the couple’s worlds of vaudeville and gambling. This quiet, earthy environment gives Fanny (dressed in Irene Sharaff’s beautiful beaded brown dress) a place to reflect on her romantic dilemma through the song “People.” 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? This is cleverly done. The first big transition (:21) is when Fanny walks away from Nick to begin singing/thinking. They’ve been smiling in a shared medium close-up, but she leaves it to consider their relationship. The camera pans right, losing Nick and watching Fanny walk away from the camera (a non-traditional choice as a leading lady begins her song). After he follows her right, she and the camera stop at the railing for the next transition (:56), the beginning of the song proper (“People. People who need people.”). She tries looking at Nick to share the lyrics, but soon closes her eyes looking away, as if this is still too private or painful to share. This beat continues as she (and the camera) move toward the stairs. In his only reaction shot without Fanny in the frame (1:46), Nick stares directly at Fanny on her lyric, “Acting more like children than children.” They are separated for the rest of the song, relating only minimally though they are both invested in the progression of her thoughts through the lyrics. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. Streisand navigates Fanny’s dilemma in the song – she is in love but unsure if it will work – by smiling gently when she’s facing him and often closing her eyes when she’s singing to herself. What’s fascinating and unique about the blocking and filming of this number is that most of the time, Fanny is walking away from Nick (and sometimes the camera) and only occasionally looking at him, even though their relationship is what she’s singing about. At the beginning, Fanny and Nick are in close proximity, but then director William Wyler separates them with a lamp pole, which suggests their dichotomy – he values his freedom while she values their relationship (and her work, which wasn’t always an ultimate concern in earlier film musicals). A couple times she turns around to include Nick in her thoughts, gesturing wide on “Maybe we’re lucky, but I don’t know” and the even more uncertain “I guess we’re both happy, but maybe we ain’t.” Wyler makes sure we catch a little of the back of Nick’s head in the lower left corner of the frame as he follows her. The camera zooms in on the “Lovers” verse, suggesting this is the most private and important part of the song for Fanny. Streisand closes her eyes and sways slightly on the lower note on the second syllable of “lovers.” At the end of this phrase, cinematographer Harry Stradling elegantly dollies right to catch Nick in the background on the left. Here, Streisand sings passionately about Fanny’s evolution “Says you were half, now you’re whole.” Stradling zooms in for her emotion on “luckiest people in the world.” The number ends with a close-up of Fanny in profile against a mostly-black part of the stairs. Streisand’s gifts are on full display in this number: technical mastery, deep emotional connection with the lyric.
  22. 6 points
    1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? The song as sung is very intimate and personal. Every note Streisand sings, every mannerism she makes brings us deeper and deeper inside her heart and mind. I cannot imagine it sung any other way. Absolutely, Streisand has the pipes to belt it out and I do recall times when she performed this beautiful song when she did. But to do so in this scene where she is opening up to Nick and to us the audience her deepest most intimate feelings and longings about life, about her relationship with him would do the character of Fanny Brice and therefore the musical an injustice. Streisand hits the perfect blending of pathos and vulnerability in this scene. Drawing us in closer and closer as the scene progresses. We and Nick can't take our eyes off of her. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? In the beginning of the scene when they are acting out their parts hidden behind their day-to-day, “grown-up pride” they are friendly and flirty standing face to face. However, as the scene continues and she prepares to begin her song Streisand turns her back on Sharif, walking away though she turns back towards him from time to time while he pursues her. There is still connection but Streisand is beginning to pull away out of self-consciousness or apprehension or both emotions. They stop and Streisand begins singing but she finds it difficult to look at Sharif. She looks down or closes her eyes but not at him. She runs her hand on the railing as the song grows more introspective as if she is caressing him. The emotion Streisand is feeling in this moment of the scene is too intimate, too close so she slowly breaks away and begins to climb the stairs yet still facing him. He is wise enough to recognize her distress so stays at a distance while still watching her and smiling. As the song enters the lyrics regarding lovers she is restless and can no longer even face him. She pulls away further to the farthest side of the staircase, closes her eyes and sings. She is totally absorbed in her own world. Sharif is still physically present and she is aware of this but nothing now exists but the words and the feelings the words evoke in her. Eyes shut, head thrown back in reserved abandonment she is sharing with this man and the audience her deepest feelings. The ones she's always hidden behind her mask of humor and boldness. We see that it has all been a ruse. That she is vulnerable and afraid and in this moment, unguarded and unsure. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. With the editing we get only the bare bones of the scene. There are no extraneous props or shots. The director has boiled down the scene to the sparse mise en scene of a darkened city alley, two people and a staircase. And that is how it is edited. There is nothing to distract us or to cause emotions within us other than the profound feelings being evoked by the actors’ actions and that of the song. Sharif's reactions are consistent yet he extends no encouragement to have us react in any way inauthentic to what we are personally experiencing. Streisand is the heartbeat of the scene. She holds us spellbound by her performance. The lighting, the limited setting, the camera angles especially the close-ups of her singing hold us in the palm of her hand as she takes us along with her on this very intimate journey inside her true self. Her singing is perfection. She restrains her marvelous voice yet is still able to inflect such strong emotion in her words. She shouts without shouting, punches certain words and phrases with an uncommon ability to keep her voice strong yet restrained thus evoking empathy and compassion from us. She embodies the opposite sensitivity to what her character has shown us till now. Her performance is masterful.
  23. 6 points
    In case you missed it, people are raving about CBS late-night host James Corden's nostalgic Carpool Karaoke segment in Liverpool with Sir Paul McCartney. The "Cute Beatle" turned 76 on the 18th of June.
  24. 6 points
    Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book for the original Broadway production of "Gypsy" said of the film, "...it was one of the worst movies ever made. Rosalind Russell in black-and-white shoes is all I remember. " According to Samantha Ellis, Laurents wasn't even sure he wanted to write the book for "Gypsy:" "Arthur Laurents wasn't sure - he was, he thought, "too grand for any of that trash." What changed Laurents' mind was a girl at a cocktail party. "Everybody was getting smashed," he said later. 'We all got to talking about our first loves, and one girl said, 'My first lover was Gypsy Rose Lee's mother.' That interested me." He remembered another story, relayed by the same girl: "Rose had a big fight with a hotel manager ... So she pushed him out the window and killed him. How can you resist doing a musical based on a woman like that?" So Laurents was only excited about Rose, not Gypsy, which is the reason "Gypsy" is all about Rose. But why did he think the film of his book was so bad? I think I know part of the reason. When we first see Rose, she does not remind me of the dangerous, lesbian who so interested Laurents at the cocktail party. No, Russell plays her like a private girls' school field hockey coach. Her speech is slightly upper class, she is sure of herself like ladies of that status and experience are, she can chat up a storm with anybody in a polite way, but like a hockey coach (and I had a few of them during my school days) she can do a little menacing trash talking as well. I think Laurents saw Russell's performance much the way Russell acted in many of her 1940's comedies. In fact her performance in "Gypsy" brings to mind her role in "The Women." There she is also funny, enthusiastically loud and not terribly nice. For both characters Russell can deliver comedy lines with good timing and facial expressions, and also make use of her long limbs and slim form in a comic way. The class notes suggest that Russell is sexier than was Ethel Merman, the original Rose. I do not find Russell to have a tremendous amount of sex appeal. In her youth she was pretty and clothes hung well on her tall slim frame. I never thought she was sexy and I can't think of many film roles in which she starred, which required that trait. Russell was occasionally cast in a dramatic part, but sex appeal was not necessarily called for dramatically either. Russell was a good comedienne, (especially in screwball comedies) with a slightly upper class manner, which befitted her background. Playing a dangerous lesbian stage mother was probably out of her range, and it shows in "Gypsy." 1.In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? "Gypsy" is a film version of a Broadway musical, so that is a conventional way in which to bring musical entertainment to the big screen. Although a previous book written by Gypsy Rose Lee ("The G-String Murders") was made into a film about a burlesque entertainer ("First Lady of Burlesque") starring the great Barbara Stanwyck, not many films, musical or otherwise, were made about out and out strippers. So the subject matter is "disruptive" of the Code, which was slowly but surely being eroded on all film fronts. This was especially true about directors such as Otto Preminger, who loved to flout the Code's proscriptions and didn't care if his films were accepted by the censors or not. 2.This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress. In addition to my previous observations about Russell's performance in "Gypsy," I would say that irrespective of any training she had, Russell was out of depth as an actress in any kind of nuanced part, and the part of Rose takes nuance. She certainly didn't impress the author of the musical's book. For example Rose has a mean side to her, but Russell buys into the idea that Rose is just working her heart out for her girls. Rose is using her girls to make a living and a name for herself. Rose is exploiting her girls, which is a terrible thing for a mother to do. 3.Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not). We have to admire a prodigious talent like Sondheim, even at the very beginning of his career. His internal rhyming in some of his compositions is brilliant. For example, in "A Little Priest" ("Sweeney Todd," talk about a "disrupter"...) pretty much introduces the entire plot of the story (baking people into pies) It contains a whole rhyme sequence in which the baker suggests pies and the barber responds: "Tinker? Something pinker. Tailor? Something paler. Potter? Something hotter. Butler? Something subtler." In "Let Me Entertain You," in this particular scene, analyzing the lyrics is next to impossible because Rose, Uncle Jocko, and the theater owner are all talking over Baby June and Louise. The audience can scarcely hear the lyrics. So perhaps the staging is disruptive in that the audience can't hear the first song in this movie musical.
  25. 6 points
    I hope they do offer another course. This has been a blessing for this retired person. Kinda gives me a reason to get up and enjoy the day. And I learned so much! Another great benefit is the wisdom acquired from such knowledgeable classmates! My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you!

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