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About JoeSmith95

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  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? There’s such subtely and nuance in her performance. You get the sense that she’s coming up with this on the spot. That’s what the song is meant to do—the repetition of “people” for example harkens to someone trying to finish a thought. She’s expressing a profound idea; she’s not expressing a big emotion, say anger or fear. So belting this out in a showy way would have an entirely different, and frankly, the wrong effect. Here, it’s a tiny realization about what their connection means. it’s personal, it’s small, it’s unexpected. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? I love the subtle movements and reactions. A tiny smile, almost a wink. Small turns to and from each other. He’s always watching, listening. She’s unsure, so sometimes speaking directly to him and sometimes has him at her back, walking away or turning around. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. I love that the two characters are not together—they are staged apart in the frame most of the time. They are looking at each other and reacting. He’s following, listening, understanding. She’s at times expressive, at times slightly embarrassed or perhaps wondering if she should be, as she pours out a deeply felt idea that she may not be certain he will fully understand.
  2. It looks back as it’s literally on the stage, with the proscenium and vaudeville as framing devices. It looks ahead as the song, while seemingly for the stage, is really making a story point. It explains so much about June’s upbringing, her family dynamic, and her commitment to putting on a show that continues throughout her life. She owns the stage. When you see this show performed, the show almost always stops for applause at, “sing out Louise!” Here, there’s no pause for a reaction—Russell is simply barreling ahead, spitting out dialogue at a rapid clip, overtaking all the men and children around her—basically a human steamroller. Yet you like her immediately. There’s still that twinkle in her eye, and that determination to charm. It’s interesting in that perhaps her most famous role, as Auntie Mame, plays so much like a musical (and plays so much better than the musical version, Mame). It’s one of my favorite films, and Russell is why. I never really thought there was anything edgy about it. I guess because it’s performed by a child, or perhaps because I’ve heard the song since I was young that anything sly went over my head. As performed here, with two, not-so-talented tots, it doesn’t seem to mean much. Yet I appreciate the discussion of the changes to the lyrics and how they have changed on the screen and stage.
  3. It’s similar to today when we compare the “Chris’s” from the Marvel films vs. the Stallones and Arnolds of the 80s, the “ideal” lead goes through phases. And it’s often that it’s not just one that is preferred even at the same time. But it does, like fashion, seem to go in waves. The biggest change seems to be an increase in empathy, and an understanding that the man doesn’t know it all. Those are probably the biggest changes in not just musicals, but American film in general. Preston is truly a leading man in both performances. He commands attention of those around him, and while the camera and direction are aimed at him, he allow would be calling attention to his presence. His actions seem filmic, where small facial movements and subtle gestures (small, not big, hand movements; the placement of his scarf in his pocket) have large meaning. As a child of the 80s, I remember him best from The Last Starfighter—a film that I always hope will get better the next time I watch it! Like in these roles, he’s the strong presence. Interestingly, we has come back to the roles where he starts as the snake oil salesman who is ultimately redeemed.
  4. Wow, this scene points out how sexist both of these movies are. Higgins is really despicable here, treating Eliza with such contempt and disrespect for her feelings, with little more than token empathy. In neither film are the men worthy of any trust nor love bestowed upon them. While reflective of the time of both films, it's still hard to reconcile today. Additionally, both movies are melodramatic. And both use the tight confines of a stuffed and stuffy room as settings that showcase how trapped the women feel in the space. The best is the switch from sadness and suffering to hot anger by Eliza. And while I still can't quite align myself to see how this scene eventually leads to a happy ending, I do appreciate the way Higgins is portrayed as a brute throughout. Unfortunately (although again, likely in keeping more with the norms of the day), Eliza does start to feel silly for her being angry and frustrated, while he seems nonchalant to the end. There is a smart sense of staging and framing, so that the two are apart and come closer together in the scene. Eliza remains emotional;Higgins cold. It enhances their emotional distance. One more thought... it seems neither Cukor nor the cinematographer really knew what to do with the ultra widescreen format, as the characters very much end up either in the center of frame with a bunch of stuff to the sides, or off to one side in most of the scenes. The extra space is just that--extra and unneeded--in this scene.
  5. Not at all. Musicals have artifice built in from the start. Who breaks out to song, and has a backing track and tap shoes at the ready? So there’s freedom to explore and use different styles. What movies need to be is authentic and consistent to themselves. The stylized scenes in these films almost always have a setup—a dream, a production number from the show within the movie—that allow for more expressive vs. realistic approach to make a point or emphasize a feeling. First, and most simply, it’s Kelly. Whether his performance choices, or those of the director, there are subtle ways he delivers the lines, including his position and posture that make the viewer understand this character. At the same time, the preceding scene before he starts talking, when he’s simply walking through Paris, feels at first unnecessary. Yet that is a crucial scene. Kelly is smiling, happily perusing the city’s artists on his way to his spot. This sets up his character up as a likable sort. So now when you see him interact with the snooty American woman who wants to criticize his work, it comes from a place of resignation that here’s just another person who wants to talk, not to buy. Also, it’s interesting to contrast this scene with first scene of Gene Simmons in Guys and Dolls—she’s truly unlikable in a way that different actor or different staging could soften from the start. She’s supposed to be hard—yet she’s also supposed to be the main love interest. And I find her simply whiny, and wonder why anyone would ever want to be with a person who’s simply going to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
  6. O’Connor and Kelly are already in rhythm and in sync even before the real dancing begins. It builds slowly, starting with movement and reaction, and then finally bursting into full dance that builds and builds until the big finish. The straight man is often underrated in movies—and very much so in comedies. O’Connor’s antics don’t work without the professor’s position and almost non-reaction at times. If this were set in high school, you’d have the smart, nerdy type (prof), the class clown (O’Connor), and the all-start jock (Kelly). In other parts of this film, there’s almost an indication that O'Connor and Kelly are more than friends. Yet there are key scenes and lines that indicate bromance, not romance, between the two. Their mannerisms, posture and demeanor, and a few quick scenes (O’Connor flirting at the party, a bit of dialogue by O'Connor about how Kelly's lines don't work on Reynolds) indicate that these are straight, masculine men in this film.
  7. She's somewhere in the middle. While on one hand she is an independent career woman, she also has a traditional story arc that leads her to a man and traditional wedded coupledom. Before she is often the ingenue and naive. After, she rarely is. Even as her comedic roles could be absurdly silly at times, almost always is Day either in control of the situation or at least clear eyes about it. She's always the equal to the men she stars with, and often superior to them. Doris Day's persona really adds something to the character. She was sunny, yet she was as often feisty and direct, which is needed for a female character who was both against the norms of the 50s and of the time the film is set. Her sunny character often reflected optimism, which was of the time and also works for the role.
  8. They are almost always acting and dancing in unison. Even when apart, they are connecting, such as the lighting of the cigarette. In many of the earlier works we've watched, it's been about dance as a sparring match, even if it's two characters we know will end of together, it's a dance off. Here, it's clearly about quickly convincing one reluctant (yet not all that reluctant) character to join in. Not only do the costumes coordinate, they are also very plain. These characters wouldn't stand out off the studio lot on a city street. Grays, dark suits, nary a speck of color even where pops would be expected (white handkerchiefs, monochrome ties). Even in B&W musicals of the 30s, the design popped off the screen. Here, the costumes blend in. Interesting, you don't get a sense of a strong lead character. They are really all equally weighted. No one is taking the lead, the lyrics are often sung together, and the steps are combination. It's very much a collaboration.
  9. It's really about Petunia. She's almost always favored in frame. Joe is an accent at best, even as the song is clearly about him. The switch to the laundry scene is interesting, as it implies a few things: that she is the caregiver, that she's able to focus on something other than impending death, and ultimately as you finally see Joe later in the scene, that he truly is OK. The love from mother to child is almost always seen as eternal, so a song about a mother's love for a child wouldn't have as much weight. It would be expected. To love an errant husband, unconditionally, is something much different and more powerful in setting up a unique bond that goes beyond typical marital love. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? It always seems amazing a film like this was made. And while it is great to see so many talented black performers in a movie, there are some interesting choices that reinforce perceptions. The biggest is probably the judgmental good/bad, heaven/hell nature of the movie. While all movies in this code era had a moral code, it's very heavy handed here, with the meaning seeming to be that you have to be exceptionally moral--especially if you're a black American. Separately, the choice of wardrobe for the angel--a very regal, yet very military in style uniform--may have been completely differently if this wasn't during WWII.
  10. There's a really nice mix of shots that the director considered, with wide shots at the beginning of the number to closer shots for the chorus around "fate" where you really see their faces and the growing connection between the two actors. The cuts between scenes always seem to be in the right places to, just the right time to make the most of the action, or show the desired movement and reactions. This may be one of the best examples of going from a visual/spoken scene to singing. The movement increases in pace, the music goes along with, and the actors are delightfully choreographed to run, well, right into a song.
  11. She's Dorothy of course. I grew up in the 80s when the big three musicals--Oz, Mary Poppins, The Sound Of Music--had their annual showing on a big three network. As I would have been so young, I'm not sure what I thought, other than she was likely a proxy for most kids who want take the journey. It's not until later that I appreciate those sepia-tone scenes, where her acting--and particularly the melancholy delivery of Somewhere... makes not just that scene but the entire movie become a classic. It's Judy who allows that to happen, in her delivery, her reactions, etc. Having watched many an Andy Hardy picture, it's astounding what a good director can do to unlock the talent within. She seemed to be treated as a pretty voice in her youth, yet watching these clips you a fine actress who does so much more than is written on the script or in the song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas is probably the best example. That's not a happy song. It's a reassuring one. It's melancholy. It's ultimately hopeful. It's been performed by countless singers. Yet has there been a better interpretation of the lyrics, pacing and structure? Every word has meaning--both in he scene and in the reworked version we hear each December.
  12. The scenes are overtly patriotic, starting with a setting in the White House which includes a walk up the stairs past Washington and other presidents, then going to the literal flag waving parade scene. The dialogue is very purposeful, hinting at cross party unity in one line, while ina other, it sets up unity between races while simultaneously reminding viewers of Cohen's American songbook. As mentioned in my first answer, the dialogue is wonderfully written to accomplish many things at once. Almost every line hints at the ideals and beliefs that most Americans value--freedom, liberty, and interestingly, opportunity. It's interesting at how purposeful the dialogue is to speak to so many different ethnic and immigrant groups, celebrating them as part of a collective one. That encourages wartime collaboration and promoted national harmony. This opening works better in he sense that this movie is also a biography or biopic. Yet even as a musical, the opening gets so much out of the way in a short scene that then allows the scene that follows to focus on music and celebration. In writing this, I was reminded by the opening of the stage production of The Phantom of the Opera. That's a bookend opening, where the speak-singing dialogue explains in a similar what who his story is about and like Yankee, then breaks time and space with boisterous music.
  13. 1. In the setup for the clip, it's described as he leads, she follows. Yet, that's not always true. Even when she first stands up and they pace around the room, it's Ginger who he seems to be following. So I find that interesting, the way that she is in charge of this situation. And he really does need to work to woo her. 2. It feels a bit more personal. Many of these films are on such grand or fantastical scale. And while there are moments of that in Top Hat, the scenes like this, which take place not on some backstage (although still on a stage!) but in a intimate space. Circumstances (the rain) drive these two people together. And we're shown an intimate moment where music and dance tell a story of romancing blossoming. 3. Sometimes restrictions enable creative solutions. With the production code really coming into play as the 30s goes on, the things that used to work (more overt sexual references, non-marital relations, etc.) would not. So there's a shift to prolonging the courtship. And not everything could be about a virginal woman simply being afraid (or contrarily, ready to be wed) to marry. The idea of balancing the male and female leads gave more ways for storytelling, and allowed for more interesting narratives.
  14. This is simply a delightful scene. It's laugh out loud funny when he the knock on the door is about her husband, completely turning the scene on its head. The Lubitsch touches in some ways are so common today--probably even more so on TV than film. And they basically remind me that film is a visual medium first and foremost. It's funny that in a class about musicals, that I'm thinking how the best films use visual images well to make the narrative work best. Even great dance numbers can be enjoyed without the sound on. Here, the story could be told with many more words, yet instead, half the dialogue is in French, yet the images tell us what we need to know about the character. Two great sound parts: "her husband" (I may be paraphrasing). And to the gun shots. I went from a laugh, to shock, to a-ha with simply 3 beats. There are the themes of the lower classes being the heroic sidekicks, seen in the butler cluing in Chevalier's character. The use of grand, opulent sets--playgrounds for the well-to-do--to see how life could be. All combined with petty issues that don't really seem to that important, at least not to the wealthy characters. Here we go from infidelity to death to an exit that seems to scream, "but wait, we're late for dinner, allons-y" in moments.
  15. These two have great screen chemistry, knowing how to match glance-for-glance, acting when not speaking, all to a greater effect by the two paired. It's amazing to me how much I was taken by their acting--not their singing. That's party because I find the operatic style a bit off-putting, even if their voices are beautiful. So even when her singing style made to be a counterpoint, with her style played for laughs and pathos, in the second clip, I can appreciate her pipes yet don't really enjoy. But the couple and their acting--that I liked. There's genuine affection--and attraction--between them. Most of all, I loved their repartee and comic timing. I enjoyed that more than the singing. 2. They both seem familiar, yet I can't recall distinct reactions other than, "yeah, that guy" and "she was in something." Again, given my reaction to their comic timing, I hope to see more soon. 3. As the code took some time to really take hold, there are part of these clips that were still a bit provocative. Yet you get the sense that there's something viginal to their relationships. Even as he's shown with girls on each arm, you don't get the sense (at least from these clips) that he's more than an adult boy scout, which is reinforced by his uniform. She seems more like she's "looking for love," not "playing the field."
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