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Everything posted by Soprano12

  1. I would like to add one more aspect to the definition of musical: its lasting emotional power. When we watch a musical, the melodies touch our innermost soul, creating empathy for the character. The lyrics articulate the love/hate, frustration/victory, sadness/glee so that we identify with him or her. The character's feelings become our own. Many songs are lyrical or repetitive enough so that at the very least, we walk out of the theater humming a few tunes. At least one of the songs becomes an earworm that plays in our heads for a while. Maybe we learn it. If the song has enough emotional dep
  2. We have been challenged to define the term "musical.' I would like to begin with what it is not. The definition of a musical cannot include "any film in which music is used. All films use a musical theme in the introduction and credits and a musical score in the background throughout to enhance the drama. The music is integral and serves the film but is not the focus. Similarly, neither does a film that includes popular songs from the setting's times. There, the music sets a mood and gives authenticity to setting. It is part of the setting in the same manner as costumes and props. Again,
  3. This is not the most effective scene since I don’t see any chemistry between Streisand and Shariff. They are just acting out a scene while Streisand does what she does best, sing. The director uses lighting and camera angle to try to downplay Streisand’s nascent acting ability and help her. When Fanny begins to sing, she walks with her back to Nicky and turns toward him for each phrase. At first, Nicky’s back is always to the audience, in the shadows and he walks off to left of the camera. The camera is just beyond his right shoulder. His dark suit, position and the lighting give focus o
  4. Leonard Bernstein's Daughter Jamie published a Biography about growing up in the Bernstein family, Famous Father Girl. I have only read three chapters but the second chapter was so vivid because of this class. She mentions his compositions, West Side Story and a host of details and insights that will be interesting to all who are fascinated by this man and his works. The timing marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. For anyone interested in Rodgers and Hammerstein, a new book, Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution, covers their lives and partnership. Again
  5. The very nature of MFL lies in its story and the word “but.” Originally based on a myth where an artist falls so in love with the stone sculpture of a woman he has created that she comes to life, George Bernard Shaw modernizes the narrative to the situation we see here. Since the raw material is not rock but a human being, the creation and the artist fuse together like a Zen meditation for Eliza to make the transformative breakthrough. Throughout, Henry Higgins, the artist, works hard to remain at cold distance from the emotional needs of his “blank canvas” and is so disconnected from his own
  6. 1. Art (in all forms) always pushes the social envelope much earlier than other aspects of culture. In the 17th century, Shakespeare used cross-dressing effectively in his plays so the roots have been deep in theater productions for centuries. Shakespeare’s actors were all male but the concept of women dressing as men to gain entry into levels of power allowed for double entendres and mistaken identities. However, it was always to get the laugh, and in the end, characters paired off boy-girl. In 1895, in England, writer Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for gross indecency. There were many such ca
  7. TCM needs to update its method of introducing films. It is surprising that a company that uses technology in so many ways still gives intros with available, basic information, especially in this setting. They should assume that the audience is knowledgeable and interested in learning more. It really dumbs down the intro and insults viewers. Back to the film, one backdrop detail that exemplifies the use of the set as part of the message. When the Jets head to the rumble, they are seen at first from the side with the words "East" and "War" on the building behind. As the camera pans left to
  8. 1. This scene is like all show audition backstage stories with hopefuls on stage and the overbearing manager. However, it quickly twists into an existential battle that exemplifies disruptive elements in the 60’s. Unlike earlier vaudeville or burlesque films, children rather than their parents are the ones trying out. The reality of the rigged audition is evident here with children as the pawns of the game. The struggle is between Irving who is idealistically looking for talent and the manager who thinks cuteness (Shirley-Temple-ish) is primary way to gain an audience. So, it is between
  9. Just returned from seeing West Side Story on the big screen. I hope this film gets discussion in the remaining modules because it is the BEST film musical of all time. Bernstein's score is incredible and Sondheim's lyrics perfect. The choreography and dancing superb. The acting and singing by the two leads poignant. The integration of song and story delicately and precisely accomplished. Camera angles accentuate the dancers' positions and movements, especially when they seem to defy gravity. There are so many things I noticed this time that I missed before. However, I will address one and
  10. One of my favorite scenes is when Bert Lahr hams it up as the lion when they first meet him. His performance steals the scene with lots of facial expression and subtle and unsubtle moves. Thank you for posting the Mr. Rogers clip. Last weekend, I saw the documentary about him and loved it. He knew what children needed. In the case of this clip, he was helping them see the Witch as a role for an actor in a costume. It is pure Rogers. Of course, in the 1939 film, away from the clip, she is frightening. One thing we have not discussed is how background music heightens the sense of mena
  11. By plan or coincidence, TCM has scheduled theater showings of this great musical on June 24th and 27th. It will be a wonderful opportunity to apply what we have learned in this course as we watch it on the big screen. In preparation, I have done some research and prepared some notes to share. Some of this comes from my experience as an English teacher or as a singer as well as childhood memories and personal opinion. Perhaps after viewing, this thread can get us talking about the experience. West Side Story (1961) 1. Origins: Like many of his plays, Shakespeare’s Romeo
  12. Our class so far has taught me to watch films with more awareness. It made me stop to analyze a movie I have always enjoyed for its more salient merits. Putting together some research as well as previous knowledge gained as an English teacher, the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has many distinct qualities but its pedigree has deep cultural roots and off-shoots. a. During WWII, FDR had given many Fireside Chats in which he delineated Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. In 1943, Norma
  13. I hear Katherine Hepburn's voice and cadence in Grace Kelly's performance. Both women had stylized voices and stage/screen presence which are complementary in these two films. That said, the musical is much richer. Crosby and Sinatra's musical styles add a lot to the character development. If two men are vieing for the same woman, they should be equally adept in their art and these men are. The Cole Porter songs rise above the musical landscape. The melodies are more complex and the lyrics quick and clever, more than those of most of the other films we have studied for this class. Further, the
  14. One more point. Jerry and Adam join a long tradition of American, post-war ex-pats who lived in Paris for artistic education and to join the enclave of artists. Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as well as Gertrude Stein were the most notable examples of “Lost Generation” authors of the 20’s who did this. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris taps into that milieu. Jerry and Adam represent the era after the Second World War but exemplify the hopes of individuals who consider Europe as still the best place to be recognized as an artist and in this case, freedom from conformity of th
  15. 1. For the film to keep from falling completely into the realm of fantasy, it needs anchoring in realism. There is a delicate balance in this film. In contrast, Brigadoon begins with mist and references to lore to ensure that there is no mistake; it is fantasy. Much later, the bar scene in the city is a jarring contrast but that is deliberate as it shows that Tommy no longer belongs in reality. The inference is that love takes us out of reality, into either a nebulous world or to a place where romance and reality can co-exist. Of course, the gorgeous Lerner and Lowe music adds much to tha
  16. Looking at the clips, I see their influence on Gene Kelly's routines. Even in today's Daily Dose (#11), Kelly and O'Connor use several of the steps he learned from the Nicholas Brothers. We are so fortunate to have this material available to us.
  17. One reason we are taking this course is because we love musicals. Many are dear to us for various reason. At first, I tried to figure out why some of my favorites did not make the cut. So, I went back to the first lectures to re-examine the goals for the course and the instructors' criteria. Now, as we are now in the third week, I have a better handle on it. First, this course is about the development of musical films. Each of the ones selected for viewing is a definitive example of the historical, cultural changes of each decade, the film's contribution to the industry's innovations, and
  18. Gardner has a pleasant voice but she makes rookie mistakes. Her intonation is adequate but she drops the ends of lines, especially when she turns away. Instead of melting away, a line must be "spun" to its very end. A singer can't just peter out. Her tone color is pleasant but she does not have the drama in her voice that the dubbed performer has because of lack of depth. With these factors, the interpretation is lack-luster and boring. Really owning the part comes from within. One way to relate this is an example from a different context. In 1972, Richard Nixon went to China, ending 25 years
  19. The genius of Kelly the choreographer and virtuosity of his dancing are highlighted here although it is a duo-dance. Before they dance, O’Connor and Kelly begin as respectful students, but O’Connor has an irreverent glint in his eye. He deftly moves slightly out of the professor’s field of vision and uses his rubbery face to mock him. After asking him to show off, they both applaud the professor’s performance. The fun starts when Kelly starts to accentuate the rhythm of the tongue twister. O’Connor’s ratchets the rhythm up and leads directly into the song and we are off to the races. The dance
  20. Doris Day’s performances in these clips jolt the viewer jolted. She had been a very successful singer with Paul Whiteman, known for her smooth, bright, sweet voice. Her breath control was excellent and she was tonally accurate with a softness in her voice that kept any edges at bay. She made many recordings during that time and of course, from the 50’s on. Today, we know her from her later movies in which a song or two was inserted to show off her talent (and sell recordings) but that cast her in the role women assume in the 50's. In those later movies, she played the stay-at-home wife with se
  21. 1. The theme of conformity and cooperation are subversively presented through costume, the props and gesture. First, we do not have the usual configuration for four characters (two paired couples) as there is an extra man. Already the scene poses imbalances, so equality must be achieved in other ways. Therefore, it begins with three picking up a fallen chum, restoring his equilibrium, setting the stage for the theme. Buchanan rises, singing, at first pointing at Astaire, a normally aggressive movement. However, its that gesture is softened by quick change of the pointed finger to a flat pal
  22. The background, historical information here is interesting. But take a look at the most enduring women's voices/presence over the time of musicals on film. The Durbins and Graysons did not last as long as Garland, Shirley Jones and Julie Andrews. The move away from the more classical voices parallels the shortening of the vocal range and technical skill required to sing the songs written from the 40's on. Durbin and Grayson were given true operatic arias whereas singable, popular songs that would prove marketable to the record-buying public became another revenue stream for the studios. That i
  23. I would like some of you with dance backgrounds to help me understand some of the technical differences between these two great dancers. This has long intrigued me. Having so many of their films available for comparison and new learning through this course has impelled me to write up the differences. So, attached is my understanding of their styles but I would like more information about their footwork, etc. that only dancers can explain. Kelly vs Astaire.pdf
  24. Darlene, I was a high school English teacher. At least one person in each class would ask how I "saw" all those symbols, style elements, etc. in a poem or story. I will tell you what I told them: no one ever starts off knowing how to do this. In fact, I almost failed my first college English lit class because I did not have the background and could not see it. It takes experience and help from the masters. In this class, the materials teach all of us some new elements that we had not been able to see before. The lecture notes and videos let us learn at the knees of the experts. These mess
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