The other day I showed my flatmate Bob Fosse’s 1972 film, Cabaret for the first time, exclaiming it was one of my absolute favourite musicals. He really liked it but as soon as it was over he said that it most definitely wasn’t a musical because the songs don’t drive the story at all as they’re all within the context of the setting. i.e the Kit-Kat Club. Well, we argued for AGES about this, “It’s obviously a musical!” said I, “it’s a classic fucking musical!” Anyway the fight ended after Wikipedia came up with…
“The musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing”
It’s wrong though, clearly, as Cabaret is a musical, and a fantastic film to boot. Anyway one could argue about genre and generic conventions forever but I prefer to just write a quick little list.
So here’s my Top Five Musicals.
It’s not just that the songs are fantastic, the choreography dirty and the cinematography striking, it’s that the story is great. A ménage a trois set against a foreboding backdrop of the increasing Nazi rise in 30’s Berlin.
Liza Minnelli is truly magnificent and sexy as hell. If you’ve seen the nightmarish horror of her doing Beyonce’s Single Ladies in Sex and the City 2 then I urge you to go back and watch Cabaret, it will wash away those visions that you may have thought were seared onto your retinas for all eternity.
Singin’ In the Rain
Now Fred Astaire is just the man isn’t he. I’ve always loved him n Ginger and though the films may have dated somewhat, and the acting and scripts aren’t always up to scratch, there’s no denying that the chemistry between them is magical. Watching them dance ‘Cheek to Cheek’ with Ginger in that feather dress has always made me blissfully happy.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Every song is pure fried gold.
Now I feel this needs some explaining. So here goes…
In 2001, when I was just a nerdy little 15 year old, I didn’t really know much about pop culture. I liked musicals, both stage and screen, Monty Python, and Preston Sturges. I was the opposite of cool.
One day I went to see a film I didn’t know anything about with my Dad. When it was over I couldn’t speak. When the soundtrack came out I listened to it on repeat for months and when the DVD was released I watched it 78 times before I stopped counting. Yes, that film was Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!.
Not only did I repeatedly watched the film, but I also watched every single special feature on the DVD which was and still is a very well put together package. So I learnt about how the film was made and the story writing processes as well as the joys of DVD special editions!
Not only that but I fell desperately in love with Ewan McGregor which encouraged me to watch his whole back catalogue and get really into British cinema. I’d never seen Trainspotting for Christ sake, that’s the kind of person I was, although, to be fair to myself, I was only fifteen. Anyway Moulin Rouge! was the biggest single reason that I turned from someone who loved watching films into a complete and utter film geek.
At the time I thought it was the most exciting and romantic thing I’d ever seen in my whole life. I now realise it has many flaws and totally understand why people hate it. However, it really was a brave and bold movie to make and the Roxanne Tango I do still think is stunning.
I’ve since parted ways with Ewan.