Posts Tagged: Movie Musicals Challenge

Movie Musicals Challenge –
The King and I

January 21, 2017 Just for Fun, Movies 8

Time for another selection from the Movie Musicals Challenge!

The King and I is another re-watch for me. More than that, though, it was a little trip down memory lane — when I was a kid, I was in a local theater production of this musical (as one of the king’s many children). It was an enriching experience and I’ll forever be able to recite certain scenes word-for-word… but I also experienced my first instance of paralyzing stage fright during one show, so that’s kind of a cringe-inducing memory in particular.

The music, of course, is grand and sweeping and moving. And the scenery and costumes are so gorgeous — I kept pausing the movie just to sort of look around and take in all the rich visuals. BUT it’s also kind of a mid-century American interpretation of a colonial-era Englishwoman’s(*) memories of a very foreign land, so… great as the audio and visual components may be, I wouldn’t exactly rely on them to be historically accurate, you know?

Despite my personal attachment to this musical, I can’t ignore its undercurrent of stereotypical orientalism. However, I also can’t pretend to know enough about this particular cultural issue or the story’s historical context to be able to lead an in-depth discussion on it. So I would simply remind any potential viewers that this is a nearly 70-year-old American theater version of a slightly older novel based on a 19th century memoir written by a white-passing mixed race expatriate.

One of my favorite scenes is the play based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin that Tuptim presents towards the end of the film, which is based on a traditional type of Thai drama-dance called khon. This play-within-a-play is beautifully done and I can’t think of anything else quite like it in musical theater.

Have you watched this movie or seen the musical performed live? What did you think of it?

Movie Musicals Challenge –

December 8, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 4


I re-watched Grease on Netflix recently for the Movie Musicals Challenge based on the AFI’s 25 Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time list.

I love this movie. It’s quite silly and campy in some ways, but it’s also funny and smart and — obviously — packed with great musical numbers. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I absolutely had to narrow it down to ONE… it’d be “Beauty School Dropout” with Frankie Avalon (the scene where Frenchy contemplates her career/educational options after a disastrous dye job).

Of course, like many musicals on this list, Grease is based on a stage play. I vaguely remember seeing one of my cousins in a high school theater production of it ages ago — and I also vaguely remember that they got in a bit of trouble for not cutting out some of the raunchier lines! (This was conservative small town Texas, after all.)

Speaking of raunchier lines… Rizzo is one of my favorite characters, ever. I confess that I kind of hated her as a kid — she seemed too mean and slutty compared to the naive Sandy, almost like a villain. But there isn’t really a villain in this film, is there?

Oh, sure, there’s the guy from the other car-racing gang with the spikes on his wheels and the fancy-dancing girlfriend. But his rivalry with the T-Birds is secondary to the main storyline, just a convenient device to move the plot forward and create a little conflict to frame the more interesting problems the main characters are having: first love, first car, first job… and first failures. Rizzo experiences perhaps the most serious problem of all the characters — her unintended pregnancy — but this is too-neatly wrapped up in a throwaway line in the final number: “It was a false alarm!”

Anyway… I don’t really know where I was going with that line of thought, other than to say that I think Rizzo is an interesting-yet-underrated character.

Do you have a favorite character or song/dance number from this musical?


Movie Musicals Challenge –
Singin’ in the Rain

September 16, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 6

I am SO BEHIND on my Movie Musicals Challenge! This one is only number 5 out of 25. Yikes. Looks like I might have to extend this challenge on into 2017… maybe 2018, haha.


Anyway — Singin’ in the Rain is another one of my favorite classic films. Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds are the perfect trio. The dance scenes are so impressive! The movie took me twice as long to watch as it ought to have, since I watched the best dance sequences twice….

I really wish I had more to say about this movie, but I didn’t take notes while watching like I usually do — I decided to just have a bit of fun and not worry about content for a blog post. Oops?

So, talk to me. Have you watched it, and did you like it? Do you have a favorite dancing scene?


Movie Musicals Challenge –
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

June 20, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 6


I made the mistake of watching this film the day after I rewatched The Sound of Music.

This one does not quite live up to THAT, and in my case suffered quite badly in comparison. I remember watching this movie with my mother a couple of times as a kid. She enjoys it, but I was not at all into it at the time. I thought that perhaps my feelings for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would change now that I’m an adult. Well, I’m still just not into it — but at least now I can sort of articulate why.

First, though, let’s talk about the good stuff. After all, the film made it onto the AFI’s Top 25 Greatest Musicals list, so it must have some redeeming qualities!

Adam (the main dude character, played by Howard Keel) reminds me of a young, fit, handsome Santa. I know that sounds weird, but whatever, it’s true. Must be the red hair and the old-fashioned haircut/beard — don’t believe that poster image up above; the color version of this film gives Adam red hair + he starts off with a full beard. And I have to admit my L-O-V-E for Howard Keel’s voice. The man can sing.

The ultra-athletic dancing & fight scenes are also great. The studio actually hired mostly professional dancers rather than actors to play the brothers and their brides, and I have to applaud this choice. Thinking about it now, I kind of want to go ahead and rewatch a bunch of the dance scenes just to sigh over the choreography.

The scenery was not done particularly well, but again, I watched this just after finishing a film where the scenery was A+++ top notch amazing, so perhaps I’m not being fair. Milly (the main lady character, played by Jane Powell) has the most boring songs and — now this really is petty — her bright orange-pink lipstick was distractingly anachronistic (#makeupnerdproblems, #historicalcostumingnerdproblems). But, again, the dancing was SO GREAT that I could easily have overlooked this stuff if it hadn’t been for the particularly grating storyline.

This is where a lot of people are going to disagree with me, but I could not get past the grossness of the plot:

Bros want gals to cook/keep house/get sexy for them, bros can’t get gals to volunteer for this duty, so bros KIDNAP said gals, but really it’s fine because they’re totally nice guys, then Stockholm syndrome sets in and the gals decide that this is fine, meanwhile the one actually-married bro abandons his pregnant wife for the entire winter because she yelled at him for KIDNAPPING PEOPLE and he’s too much of a manchild to apologize, and anyway when the rescuers finally show up they elect to leave the gals in the hands of the kidnappers because one of them had a baby therefore they have all been deflowered and are ruined unless they marry the bros.

What the everloving heck? This is SO GROSS. Can we just acknowledge that no amount of cute puppy eyes and sad (yet totally on-beat) Lonesome Polecat stuff and impressive dance moves will change the fact that it is basically a subtly misogynistic retelling of the Rape of the Sabine Women (referenced several times in the show itself)? Even as a little kid this whole thing bothered me.


Does this musical deserve a spot on the AFI’s list? Probably. Do I have to personally like it? Nope nope nope. I vaguely remember enjoying this as a stage play done by a small theater company ages ago, though I can’t at all remember when/where. Perhaps they did a better job of playing up the funny bits and smoothing over the more troubling themes.

Tell me — do you like or dislike this musical movie? Or have you seen a cool version of it on stage? I’d love to hear some other opinions on this!

Movie Musicals Challenge –
The Sound of Music

June 4, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 0


Um, I am way they hey behind on my Movies Musical Challenge right now! SHAME.

Anyway, I actually watched (well, re-watched) The Sound of Music a month or so ago, and am only now getting around to writing a little something about it. At least I took notes at the time, right? And I’m very glad that I did spend an afternoon with this movie because I was reminded again why it has always been one of my favorite musicals.

I forgot how beautiful the scenery is. The aerial views of the Alps in the opening scene are especially impressive, just unbelievably gorgeous. And the Austrian town/countryside, too. The cinematography in general is amazing. I have to say that this is one of those shows that has just been done so well as a movie that no live stage play can really compare — although I have seen a couple of very entertaining stage versions of it.

I’d also forgotten how snarky the Captain is at first and how silly all the crying at the first dinner was. There are some very funny lines + scenes in this film; it isn’t all just epic music and anti-Nazi sentiment. Although there is plenty of that, too, both on purpose and accidental. I mean, I know that the “You are 16, going on 17” scene/song is supposed to be cute and romantic, but really it’s a bit creepy the way Rolf calls Liesl “little girl” and treats her like one, too, while at the same time being super flirty. Oh, well, the associated dance sequence was lovely and quite athletic, so I suppose I can’t be too critical.

The children are generally adorable without being too sickly-sweet (always a danger in old movies — or heck, even modern ones). Their little German costumes were especially charming. Yes, German, because even though they lived in Austria they were culturally German, which is a big part of why the Nazis took over the area, and anyway the whole history of the thing is quite complicated but also fascinating, if you like that sort of thing (and I do).

You have to appreciate The Sound of Music not only for its impressive soundtrack, but for telling the based-on-a-true-story story of non-Nazi Germans during WWII. ‘Edelweiss’ is incredibly sad in this context. Of course the song was invented for the film, but the flower was a cultural symbol for the people of the Alps well before that.


Watching the movie again was like seeing an old friend. Though the particulars of her face might be forgotten over the years, she is instantly recognizable and it is as though no time has passed at all.

Movie Musicals Challenge –
The Wizard of Oz

March 5, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 2


I finally got around to watching another selection from the Movie Musicals Challenge!

I’m so behind on this challenge already… and it doesn’t help that right now, I’m trying to manage a behind-the-scenes blog move. So, I’ll be brief with this post.

I chose to watch The Wizard of Oz because I got a copy on DVD as a gift this past Christmas, along with a set of the books by L. Frank Baum. (I’m thinking of doing a read-along or something like that with them soon, but don’t hold me to it.)

I’ve seen the movie many times before, of course, and it’s something of a comfort-watch for me now. I watched part of it the night that our cat died a couple of months ago. I was too torn up to sleep, but there was something so calming about listening to Judy Garland sing “Over the Rainbow”… it was just what I needed at the time.

This time I did it properly and watched the whole thing, popcorn and root beer in hand. I admit that I sang along just a little bit. (Um. Maybe a lot. Maybe every word?) And don’t let Gary fool you — he sang along just a little bit, too. He was playing some sort of violent video game in the other room, but he was still enjoying the movie from afar. It’s just one of those movies that grabs you like that, I guess!

It’s interesting, the things you see when you rewatch an old favorite again after a gap of a couple of years. I never noticed before how mature Dorothy looks for her supposed age — of course, Judy was about 16 years old at the time. Apparently she was forced to stick to an abusively strict diet and wear a special corset to help her look more child-like. Some of the acting and staging is so exaggerated as to be silly, but of course movies were still being made like modified stage plays back in the 1930’s.


But let’s be honest, Toto is the real star of this show!

Have you watched The Wizard of Oz lately, or read the book(s)? Do you have any favorite scenes?


Movie Musicals Challenge –
On the Town

January 26, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 0

This is first musical film I’ve watched for my Movie Musical Challenge.

I chose this one to watch first for a couple of reasons: (1) I’ve never seen it before, even though it features both Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, whom I love in just about everything I’ve seen them in, and (2) it was on Netflix.


On the Town is the story of three sailors who have just 24 hours of shore leave in New York City, which none of them have been to before. They start off sightseeing, but soon get distracted by all the interesting girls that cross their paths.

Gabey (Gene Kelly) becomes obsessed with Ivy Smith, a.k.a. “Miss Turnstiles” (Vera-Ellen), who he mistakenly thinks is some kind of big celebrity. Ivy Smith is ridiculously described as a homebody who likes high society, goes out with Army boys but really likes the Navy, paints while she dances ballet, a frail flower who is also a great athlete… who apparently spends her free time beating up piles of dudes while wearing short shorts, in Gabey’s imagination anyway.

(Which, can I just say, I super admire the athleticism required for her intro dance routine!)

Gabey’s obsession leads the boys to scramble all around town looking for the illusive Ivy Smith. The three sailors pile into the back of a taxi driven by Brunhilde (Betty Garrett). Her shift is over and she isn’t really supposed to give them a ride, but she takes an immediate liking to Chip (Frank Sinatra) and decides to try to get him to go out with her. She protests at first that her intentions are entirely innocent, but then she pretty much immediately plants a big smooch on him and starts up a super goofy song’n’dance routine about how attractive she thinks cavemen are.

OK, the bit in the museum was quite cute until all the vandalism and racist caricatures started happening. I mean as much as I would like to have a sexy dance party in that outfit in a museum….

Anyway, after knocking down an entire dinosaur skeleton, the group decides to split up to “look for Ivy” in three groups: Chip and Hildy, Ozzie and Claire, and Gabey on his own. Of course, Chip and Hildy head back to her place and apparently have a fine time (after she kicks out her annoyingly oblivious roommate). I guess and Ozzie and Claire found some place to do a bit of necking, too.Gabey finally tracks down Ivy while she’s taking a dancing lesson, and proceeds to be a complete creep.

He apologizes and starts telling her all about his hometown, which she finds charming (because, spoiler alert, she is also from his hometown). They have a really, really cute little dance scene together and agree to meet for a date later that night. The pals all meet up at the top of the Empire State Building, where Frank Sinatra sings one of my favorite songs in the whole movie, “You’re Awful” (which is really more romantic than it sounds).

The group then decides to go out for a bit of evening fun, and does a really crazy number called “On the Town” which was honestly not my cup of tea. Did MGM have some kind of military-promotion agreement left over from WWII or something? The song started off being about how cool NYC is, and ended up being basically a derpy commercial for the Navy.

All the themed clubs with the cute little dancers were sorta fun but also sorta… racist? Black girls making that minstrel show mugging face during the “Dixieland Review”? East Asian girls singing with a stereotypical accent at the “Shanghai Floor Show”? Ew. I mean, I know it was 1949 and that’s just how things were, but it makes a modern viewer a little uncomfortable.Sadly, Ivy has to ditch her date at 11:30 pm in order to be on time to her job as a dancer at some kind of burlesque show. She can’t bring herself to tell Gabey about it and she just disappears, throwing him into another obsessive spiral of despair over her. His distraught imagination takes us into a weird little musical-within-a-musical recap of the whole story so far, which did feature some extremely impressive dancing (including the sexiest damn barre session ever) but otherwise seemed kind of out of place.

But the “You Can Count on Me” song that Gabey’s pals (+ Hildy’s awkward roommate) perform to cheer him up was pun-tastic and hokey and derpy and amazing. It definitely ties for my favorite number with “You’re Awful” except that it’s less romantic and more slapstick.Ozzie and Chip can’t stand to see their friend so depressed so they decide to chase after Ivy. Unfortunately, it turns out that the police are after them because of the aforementioned destroyed dinosaur, plus Hildy’s cab company owner is accusing her of having stolen the taxi… which she proceeds to drive like she did steal it to get away from the cops.

They do eventually manage to find Ivy, who is embarrassed that Gabey has now found out that she’s just a struggling small town girl instead of a high society big city dame.

And then we turn to cross dressing for the lulz. Our trio of sailors tries to get away from the police by joining the “cooch dancers” but they don’t manage to get away with it for very long. They end up in the back of the Navy’s very own paddy wagon. The show concludes with the girls begging for leniency and singing the praises of the United States Navy, which I guess somehow works because everyone is still in that WWII era “anything for the boys in uniform” state of mind.

Overall, I’m VERY glad I watched this. What a great movie to start this challenge with!

If you’ve seen this one, what did you think of it? And if you haven’t seen it yet, do you think it sounds appealing?


The Movie Musicals Challenge

January 4, 2016 Just for Fun, Movies 0

This year, I’ve decided to try a fun challenge that has nothing to do with reading:

The Movie Musical Challenge!

Hit that link to learn more at Bookish Whimsy, the creator/host of the challenge. Basically, the goal is to watch the films on the AFI’s Top 25 Greatest Musicals list over the course of a year.


Check out the full list at the AFI website.

Here’s the list….

  1. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  2. West Side Story (1961)
  3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  4. The Sound of Music (1965)
  5. Cabaret (1972)
  6. Mary Poppins (1964)
  7. A Star Is Born (1954)
  8. My Fair Lady (1964)
  9. An American in Paris (1951)
  10. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
  11. The King and I (1956)
  12. Chicago (2002)
  13. 42nd Street (1933)
  14. All That Jazz (1979)
  15. Top Hat (1935)
  16. Funny Girl (1968)
  17. The Band Wagon (1953)
  18. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  19. On the Town (1949)
  20. Grease (1978)
  21. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
  22. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  23. Guys and Dolls (1955)
  24. Show Boat (1936)
  25. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The ones in green type are films that I’ve seen at least once in the past. I’m looking forward to viewing some of them again –in fact, I even had a part in a community theater version of The King and I — and I’m also looking forward to seeing some new shows!

(Check out my Current Projects page, where I’m keeping track of this challenge.)