Convinced you don’t like musicals? Have a read of this and think again.
Musicals are like onesies; they come in all shapes and sizes, and everyone pretends to buy them ‘ironically’. But most of the time, you still come off looking like a dickhead. Sadly, there are some actual film-tastic opportunities being shunned because of preconceptions and pride surrounding the genre. From a film lover’s perspective, the musical contains twice as much substance as a standard movie for your ears and eyeballs to feast on, which should surely be an obvious selling point. So why has the musical collectively gained such a negative and repellent reputation?
From a film lover’s perspective, the musical contains twice as much substance as a standard movie for your eyes and ears to feast on
Well perhaps one factor is that, for years, we’ve been force fed the same regurgitated musical concepts, and the same productions in various forms, becoming more predictable or nauseatingly cheesy. The ‘jazz hand’ has become a parody of itself, and is now a ironically none-ironic staple in the stereotypical ‘Musical’. It might also be accurate to suggest that there is a generational aspect at play. The musical was being produced in abundance between the 1930s-70s, as opposed to now. To boot, the classic, ‘wholesome’ screen musicals such as Annie, South Pacific and The Sound of Music (despite being thoroughly dated) are still being promoted as the poster child for the genre.
Much like creepy adult baby-grows, I’m sure they have their place in the world. But as with life itself, everything must evolve to stay alive. Thankfully, it has. Although it just seems to have happened in small doses, and in secret. Over recent years, some real cinema gems have sprung up out of the musical genre, but were quickly swept to the wayside by assumption. It’s hard to deny that there has been some utter toss produced under the same umbrella, but the same can also be said for regular cinema. The key is to put your feelings aside, and sift out the roses from the thorns. To set the ball rolling, below are a few musicals which are not only bearable, but worthy of your precious time.
Although one from the archives, this is still sharp, relevant and slightly debauched, tackling issues from excess to abortion. A somewhat mis-sold musical, Cabaret has a relatably current, unhinged lead character, living an unhappy existence masked in makeup and alcohol. The 1930s setting may be very ‘last century,’ but with such a prominent vintage revival happening over the last five years, this is the perfect choice for anyone who enjoys the darker side of glamour. The music is aptly cabaret-esque, making the numbers themselves blend into the body of work, and therefore pretty inoffensive to the anti-musical viewer.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
Repo! The Genetic Opera is a truly guilty pleasure, with the benefits of pleasure far outweighing the guilt. This vaguely futuristic cult film is set entirely to music, with every last line sung by the characters (hence the ‘opera’). But don’t be afraid, film-ites: this movie has quirks, humour and surprises by the bucketload. With the tongue-in-cheek decadence and insanity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it caters for the slightly camp and wild, but the unique storyline (bastardised by Hollywood smarm in 2010 for Repo Men) also gives it the strength to stand alone as an enjoyable film. Its surprises come in the form of a heartfelt twist, the bizarre success of a mish-mash cast (including Sarah Brightman and Paris Hilton), and Anthony Stuart Head’s freaking incredible voice.
Across the Universe
Although heavy on the music aspect, the music in Across the Universe is – at the end of the day – by The Beatles. Surprisingly well translated into more contemporary numbers, these nostalgic songs fit comfortably into the story, which is set on a fun, evocative backdrop of 1960s New York in the era of bohemia, psychedelia and the Vietman War. Although there are some cleverly choreographed ‘routines’ there is no dancing to speak of, meaning: no painfully coordinated bunnyhops or so-called spontaneous spirit fingers. A cool cast is understated and breezy, with Eddie Izzard and Bono making smile-worthy cameos as pretentious leaders of Transcendentalism. Some nice details from the era pop up throughout the film.
Once may be the perfect gateway film for those who are still too dubious to indulge in an outright musical. Despite undoubtedly ticking all of the boxes for a musical, Once is so down-to-Earth that it would be easy to forget it belonged to the genre at all. The numbers are mostly performed live, veiled by the sneaky disguise of busking, which makes the music feel completely organic to the film. Very much a basic, ‘no frills’ film, this modern day tale of relationships, friendships and choices could well be the one to stimulate your musical interest. The songs, admittedly, aren’t blow-your-mind catchy, but the movie’s personality makes up for what it lacks in tune.
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Featured image: Icon Film Distribution
Inset images: Allied Artists; Lionsgate; Columbia; Icon Film Distribution