|Posted on August 10, 2009 at 12:38 PM|
I hate musicals.
Wait, okay, that's unfair and a bit of an exaggeration. I don't hate musicals, I hate the musicals that pass themselves off as movies. Let me explain.
There are two types of musicals: the kinds that are performed on stage and the kind made into movies. Most of those made into movies were originally stage oriented and likely major successes on Broadway or in London's West End. It's these that I seem to have the most problems with. You see, many stage musicals, such as The Producers (which was originally a regular comedic film), West Side Story, Oliver and Chicago are later filmed into movies and played in every theater for moviegoers to enjoy. I especially hate it when they win best picture. I feel that it's just a walkthrough and nothing more than a vehicle for more famous actors to get easy recognition.
If you've seen the Producers, for instance, it's literally no different than the director having the play on stage and there just happens to be a camera there-just more recognizable names to market it. The sets are the same, look fake even, and are shot from one side and at one angle as if we're supposed to feel like we're in the audience. But we're not in an audience, we're supposed to be watching a movie. The musical films based on stage musicals are using film as just another outlet to show us the stage musical, the creativity doesn't go beyond that. It's because of this, the lack of imagination and creativity, that I despite most musical films.
It's no coincidence that the musicals from film I like weren't based on stage plays to begin with. These offer more originality in their presentation because they don't have to limit themselves to be "faithful" to the stage version. Mary Poppins, Singin' in the Rain and the haunting Dancer in the Dark are examples of creativity, use of the concept of a camera and film (in fact, Singin' in the Rain's entire story is making fun of this concept) and do things creatively that couldn't be done on stage. The imaginative world of Mary Poppins, the numerous scene changes and audio use in Singin in the Rain and the beautiful editing of Dancer in the Dark. (note, just because something wasn't on stage first doesn't automatically qualify it as 'good', but even the mediocre Moulin Rouge at least got the originality, the creative work and advantages of a film and visual aspect down.) Of course, let?s not discount the numerous animated pictures which, at their heart, are musicals.
Some of the others based on the stage versions that I enjoy also offer something the stage version couldn't do. For example, what would the Sound of Music be without those rolling hills and sweeping vistas? It puts the stage version to shame. It's that element that makes it great and it doesn't feel like we're just watching the show in a theatre as a result. The same could be said for Little Shop of Horrors (a film first, then musical, then musical film, I should note) where Hollywood special effects really brought it to life (no pun intended) and the camera work, editing and overall look is spectacular. In contrast, look at Hairspray. I might as well pay my ticket for the Broadway show, I wouldn't have to see John Travolta that way (same goes for Grease, but that was before he got all weird). Stagnant camera work and long takes for the most part, and I think that element is by biggest problem. How can you give Chicago best picture when all it is is taking the material already set from the play and not progressing it into a film? It's already written, it's already directed on how everyone should act, it's already designed and when the film doesn't at least advance that element, it's a waste of time.
This goes both ways, too. You see, like Hollywood, musical producers are running out of ideas and they're looking to make easy to produce cash-ins. They then look to films to turn into musicals or plays. This, again, is just laziness, but at least a bit more creative due to the fact music and choreography needs to be implemented on the musical side and stage directing needs to be focused on because editing and cuts are nonexistent.
To me, to see a musical on film is like listening to the audio tape of a book. It?s merely a different presentation, it doesn?t change the aspect of the original enough to get credit where credit isn?t due and damn sure doesn?t deserve to win ?Best? anything when it was already ?best? to begin with. I think it?s cheap, lazy and just a way a device for celebrity movie stars to try and enrich their public image and credibility. It?s not that these can?t be made, but it?s that they don?t deserve the praise they seem to automatically garner.