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thstarkweather

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Everything posted by thstarkweather

  1. I liked the first shot, which was a good 50 seconds in length. It allows us to see the reality of Eliza's emotions as she is always central in the frame. We and the camera stay with her. Here, Cukor's direction allows us to sympathize with her and later question Higgin's motivations and manipulations. Without this shot, the tenor of the rest of the scene would be dramatically different, and we would be less able to identify with Eliza.
  2. So the first thing I need to write is that I never before noticed how this clip from Music Man inspired the song sequence from Monorail episode of The Simpsons, with Phil Hartman voicing the huckster. My opinion on question 1 varies from some of the other posters. I feel that the move away from Astaire or Kelly like dancing and operatic singing was done to make the male performers more masculine. I don't know when, but I feel that song and dance became coded as gay and/or feminine. Men can still perform, but they can't be too showy (or flamboyant, to use a term laden with connotations). In these two clips, Preston doesn't do anything that makes his character come across as a Julliard School graduate. But he is obviously well trained in such arts, which makes the clips and his performance effective. This model of male acting appears to influence other musicals that cast male leads who lacked song and dance training. Think of Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon. Or Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd. Those actors are asked to sing along (not really sing) and essentially be their sexy, swaggering selves.
  3. It is on Filmstruck if you want to try that streaming service. I watched it last night. Can't explain the US and Canada discrepancy.
  4. I don't know if my response is what Jon Severino had in mind, but I have been thinking about that post and surmised that the analysis has to do with genre and the direction of Hollywood's leading male actors in the 1960s (and possibly in the 50s). Gene Kelly can more than capably perform as the lead alpha male in these musicals, but I have a hard time picturing him taking on the roles of Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Burt Lancaster, etc. This statement is not an indictment of Kelly, nor should it be taken as a ranking of which actor is better. But as the musical waned and the studio system eroded, Hollywood seemingly prioritized certain characteristics in its male leads, and the types of movies and roles in which Kelly was great were no longer as plentiful. So I don't think GK is a beta male, but he would have a hard time being an alpha male in a western or action flick just as Eastwood and Lee Marvin struggled mightily in Paint Your Wagon.
  5. This trio here work into the template of the professor/teacher who is not street smart enough to know that he is being had by the two school buddies: class clown (O'Connor) and the too-cool-for-school alpha male (Kelly). All three play their roles perfectly. And O'Connor facial expressions are pitch perfect. I love how he and Watson go back and forth and how O'Connor skillfully sides with the professor only to undercut him later.
  6. I don't know if I could identify a single person as "the lead" in this scene. Indeed, take this number out of the film and ask someone who has never seen the film who is the lead, I don't know that they could answer. They all appear to work communally to convince us that they are all equally entertaining. As I formulate a response to the costumes, I realize that I really don't remember much about the costumes, which might be the point. They were all well dressed, but there was nothing obvious or flashy or distinct. The male costumes in particular did nothing to highlight or accentuate the bodies or the physiques. And Fabray's costume is pretty, but not extravagant. The song seems staged to allow us to focus on both the lyrics and the props. The first things that spring to my mind when I recall this scene are the lyrics ("killed his father / and caused a lot of bother" as one example) and the usage of the props: ladder, doors, etc. I see this song and dance number as figuratively building the stage for the future numbers. Here they are stagehands helping with the pre-production, which is just as necessary as the production.
  7. Alicia Malone's Filmstruck podcast brought up this film. A month or two a ago she had a panel discussing art versus artist and how we view view films in the #metoo era. The podcast also turned to issues of race and depiction of race in film, and Song of the South was discussed. The panel largely agreed that the film is incredibly offensive, but some panelists mention the necessity of seeing such films to see how and why such art is created. I haven't listened to the podcast in a while, but I believe they drew parallels to Birth of a Nation.
  8. The Kid from Spain is available on Filmstruck. I was looking for something else, and then I remembered your post.
  9. Filmstruck has a good number of musicals. They don't have everything that the course is recommending. I do believe that 3 of the 4 for next week are available. But only 1 in week 4's recommended viewing list is (Cabaret). However, Filmstruck has many of the other films, particularly 30s musicals, that have been referenced by Dr. Ament and her guest lecturers.
  10. I agree with this in at least as far as the camera's depiction of the city is concerned. That is what struck me the most. The camera does not turn the city into a stage. So in that sense I do not view the scene "presentational." I will draw a quick comparison to the dance scenes in Top Hat. Let's take the dance competition in the gazebo in the rain and the ballroom dance in the hotel. While Astair and Rogers don't look into the camera, those scenes are presentational in that they present those settings as theatrical stages for the dance numbers (which are great!). In On the Town, New York is not "presented" as a stage. It is the setting in which they dance and sing. The guys adjust to it rather than having it staged or presented as a platform for song and dance. I thought that the direction in this scene was terrific in how it traveled through the city. I wonder if others felt that the direction and depiction of the city was sometimes fighting with the the three male leads for attention. I actually like the tension between the camera wanting to display the city and simultaneously wanting to capture the song and movement of the sailors.
  11. Thanks for the West Side Story reference. I will see it next weekend in the theatre and look for similarities in how the city is captured.
  12. I agree with you TopBilled. While my personal preferences skew in certain directions, those preferences should not be seen a statements about which genres are more important or significant. But I will inevitably draw upon my current knowledge of films to help me think about a genre with which I have limited experience. And I was struck by the convergence of those two opening sequences filmed on location in NY and released within roughly a year of each other. I appreciate the feedback and conversation.
  13. Well, if we can't draw comparisons between and across genres then I suppose that we will be prohibited from talking about the amazing noir influenced musical number in The Bandwagon.
  14. Rather than commenting on today's Mad about Musicals Daily Dose, I wanted to write briefly about Dr. Ament's discussions regarding On the Town and the significance of it being filmed on location, particularly the opening sequence and musical number. During the lecture, I couldn't stop thinking about the opening sequence in Dassin's The Naked City (1948). This was also shot on location in New York and its opening also begins with large panoramic views of the city. But unlike its musical counterpart, this noir film digs into the particular nitty-gritty aspects of the city as night falls and dawn approaches. And instead of sailors beginning an adventure, we have detectives solving a murder. Dr. Ament commented on how New York is a character in On the Town, and it functions as such in The Naked City. But if the character of New York in On the Town is jubilant and entertaining, the same city in Dassin's film is sinister and dangerous, but still compelling and fascinating. I was wondering if anyone else in the Mad about Musicals course had any thoughts on the connection between noir and musicals post-WWII. If musicals sought to unite the nation during and after WWII, does noir unconsciously expose all the cracks and fissures in American society during that time. Musicals unite couples, families and communities. Noir shows how individuals within those couples, families, and communities are socially and psychologically troubled, and those troubles lead to thoughts and actions that disrupt rather than unite. Maybe the viewing audience in 1940s USA had a need and desire to see both: the musicals and the noir flicks. To be honest, I have always been more of a noir fan than a fan of musicals. If Double Indemnity and Meet Me in St. Louis were screening at the same time, I think I would always choose Double Indemnity. (That is n't a comment on quality, just personal preference.) One of the reasons I took this course was to learn more about musicals and force myself to watch films that I probably would not have sought out on my own.
  15. And after I posted I was glad to see another poster confirm my shot count. MrDougLong did even better by time stamping each one. Thank you.
  16. I enjoyed the insights or previous commenters who discussed the score and the blocking in the locker room and hall way. All that worked quite well. I counted 11 shots in this sequence, so each shot has a fair amount of time. And many of the shots center on Sinatra and Sewall, from the waist up. They are not really dancing (well, not Top Hat dancing). I agree with Motomom's comment about the bleacher shot. That was the most distinctive shot of the sequence. IT was the only shot that actually reminded me of how baseball would have been filmed in that era. A single stationary camera would have been forced to follow the action, even if the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Sinatra appears to be tracking a fly ball in the outfield. I also liked how the scene used the bleachers as the place of action. Bleachers are where spectators watch the action, but here the direction inverts that space.
  17. Yes, my first encounter with Garland was in The Wizard of Oz. My second was Meet Me in St. Louis. In both of those films she is in that liminal stage between child and adult. She is sweet, innocent and imminently likable. Watching her in these clips made me realize her talent in breaking out of that teen star image. There is still a sweetness and likability to her, but there is also a maturity. She is convincing as an adult. I don't know many other Garland films that would allow me to comment on question three, but I want to draw a parallel between Garland and so many teen stars that I watched on Nickelodeon with my children. Many of the stars from Drake and Josh, iCarly, Sam and Kat, etc. were never able to project anything beyond their youthful teenage characters on film or TV. They were only able to perform as those tweens and teens. This lesson has shown me that Garland was able to be both the wonderful teen star and then mature beyond those roles.
  18. The direction of the Cagney walking up the stairs with the pictures of presidents in the background, the last one George Washington, established the greatness and unity of the United States. Continual lineage of "great men" leading a "great nation." Even the casting of someone playing the current sitting president must have been a little bit awe-inspiring. Unlike today, even unlike the sixties, moving picture of a US president must have been rare. FDR's mention of "Irish Americans" was telling in terms of the film's patriotism building. All peoples (well, white peoples who emigrated during the last two or three generations) were now Americans. FDR also referenced the "four Cohans," again building a lineage and legacy embedded with the nation. The Irish emigres from Scorcese's The Gangs of New York were never present in the America of Yankee Doodle Dandy. The film is much better for having opened with the scene with FDR. It provides an immediate grounding and let's the audience know the purpose of the film. The parade seems more open ended and cliched. There was something gratifying about watching Cagney interact the actors playing FDR. The audience connects with that immediacy. The parade in Providence does not have such an immediacy or urgency about it.
  19. I don't know that I have too much to say about questions 1 and 3 (at least not more than what other posters have written), but I did want to take time and use question 2 to discuss one element of Top Hat that endlessly fascinated me: the art deco mise-en-scene. The sets were wondrously elaborate and fantastical in nature. Many of them reminded me of German expressionist cinema. While not gloomy or ominous, they seemed dreamlike. I suppose that this might be the most extreme version of bright-siding the depression that I have encountered in 1930s musicals. The the direction in this film was terrific in how it balanced the the overwhelming sets and decor without drowning out the main players letting them properly shine as the stars they are. But there were definitely moments in which the mise-en-scene was the focal point of the camera.
  20. Others have mentioned the garters and guns as the specific props which inform us about Alfred's character. The collection of guns in the drawer was telling. All were rather small, delicate and feminine, which may very well indicate one for each woman he has seduced. If that is the correct reading, they signify notches on a bedpost or names in a little black book indicating sexual conquests. By the way, Garters and Guns would be a great name for band. The sound editing was magnificent for the era. The gunshot was well done, but I was particularly impressed with the chatter that we heard when Alfred opened the door near the end of the scene. The chatter commences once he opens the door and then ends when he closes the door. That sound editing was mighty impressive considering how recent the introduction of sound was.
  21. I completely agree with GeezerNoir's comment. Gray is allowed to dance and perform to demonstrate to the audience what is unacceptable and should be shunned. Of course, purporting to demonstrate bad behavior in an effort to demonize it still allows the film to showcase such scandalous sexuality. I suppose that this allows the film and to have its cake and eat it too. By the way, the composition of that scene with Gray dancing in front of the piano and next to a disheartened MacDonald is tremendous. Reminded me of the piano scene in Only Angels Have Wings. Maybe Hawks used Rose Marie as inspiration. I have never seen either Eddy or MacDonald (at least that I can remember), but the clips demonstrate a terrific nimbleness by MacDonald. Her facial expressions in the first clip in the canoe were brilliant. She communicates so much with her eyes and mouth. Eddy does seem a tad wooden, but the straightness of his dialogue delivery (and his hat and facial features) make him honest and forthright. There is nothing that is coy about him. His sincere, concerned look in clip 2 is convincing in depicting his feelings for MacDonald.
  22. 1. While the happiness and frivolity might be exaggerated, the clip sill portrays verisimilitude. Whether "we" could expect such a bright outlook might depend on individual and group circumstances. 2. Some other posters have mentioned the theme of money and economics. The undercurrent of finances would be something that I would expect to run through many depression era musicals. In fact, many backstage musicals work with this theme. Even the 2011 Muppets movie dealt with issues of financing and financial hardship. 3. A pre-code film would have contained a great deal more sexual innuendo as it played out the love triangle. I can imagine the glances from Held to her male suitors would be filled with more sexual tension, and even the discussion she has with her maid might have utilized innuendo and double entendres. The woman here is played quite innocently (why would a man send me flowers!), and a pre-code portrayal of Held would, in my opinion, be a little wiser to the sexual and financial motives of the men.
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