Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
The Happiest Musical Ever Made is Irving Berlin's Easter Parade
On the day before Easter in 1911, Don Hewes is crushed when his dancing partner (and object of affection) Nadine Hale refuses to start a new contract with him. To prove Nadine's not important to him, Don acquires innocent new protegee Hannah Brown, vowing to make her a star in time for next year's Easter parade.
I'm not saying that they don't make 'em like that anymore; only saying that they don't make movies that provide this variety of pleasure anymore. It's true: that's entertainment. Garland. Jesus. Grounds every movie she's in and simultaneously sends it soaring. It would have been a pleasure seeing her as a healthy older woman. Sacrilege to say, but I found myself imaging her in a part like Maude in Harold and Maude - in an alternate universe where we still get Ruth Gordon's take of course. Garland is so funny, so present so emotional.
Also: Jules Munshin. And some great tunes.
Having been brought up in a healthy shame based environment where pleasures of the flesh were deemed unnatural and verboten, the cinematic excursions me and my family traditionally undertook were limited to a window between the post-Hays code era, and the dawn of the sexual revolution (and James Bond. We're a contradictory bunch).
So profound was this sociological imprinting that even in my early thirties I steer clear of sharing with them a movie, with accidental, or incidental nudity. Murder is perfectly acceptable, as long as it's administered via a surreptitious dose of strychnine by steely-eyed turn of the century matrons.
During their occasional visits, after having exhausted everything in the canon from Hawkes to Capra to Lang to Wilder,…
At one point Judy Garland asks Fred Astaire if he loves the titular Easter Parade, and he replies with something like ''It's okay... if you like Easter Parades.'' Likewise, if you love musicals, you'll like this one. Or even if you don't, because I don't really seek them out often.
But be warned: Sure, the musical numbers, dance choreography, (favourite bits include watching Astaire dance in slow motion whilst others in the backdrop dance in normal speed... and "A Couple of Swells") the colourful costumes/sets and the splashes of humour (the restaurant waiter who never gets to serve food and the bartender earn the chunkiest laughs) are the show... but there isn't much plot controlling your interest. There's like 3…
I'm not generally an Irving Berlin fan, but
Oh, I could write a sonnet
About your Easter bonnet
remains one of my favorite couplets in all of 20th Century popular music. Don't know why.
I love these post-war years of the Hollywood musical. While Gene Kelly, along with his collaborators Vincente Minnelli and Stanley Donen is busy redefining the parameters of physical and emotional space in the genre, Fred Astaire is busy obliterating the laws of physics. In film after film, objects, simply by their proximity to Astaire, become imbued with some kind of magical essence: they become living props, they dance. In Royal Wedding he transcends gravity and in Easter Parade time itself submits to Astaire's whims.
“A girl dancer has to be exotic; she has to be - a peach.”
-Don Hewes (Fred Astaire)
I’ve probably said it before, but I’ve never really been that much of a fan of the musical sub-genre, bar several notable exceptions. I would wager that it is actually one of the hardest to work within, since not only is there strong competition, but it really takes something special, some magic spark, in order for one to differentiate itself against other similarly themed films. What this usually results in are several truly great musicals, yet hundreds of poor knock-offs and cheap imitations.
Recently however I have cultivated my love/hate affair with the genre with some sincerely solid entries. Between this, Bye…
Whimsy, unimportant plot but enjoyable musical featuring talents of Astaire and Garland. The only thing is it shoots itself in the foot by breaking an important rule in musicals: you can't have your best number as your first. It's a charming film, but it never lives up to the beauty and perfection in execution of Astaire in the toy shop at the start.
Suffers from a total lack of chemistry between Astaire and Garland, but the opening number that's got Astaire dancing in a toy shop is priceless and potentially addictive. See for yourself, if you don't believe me.
The story is pretty pedestrian as are the songs but it ends with a couple of back-to-back treasures - Astaire dancing to "Stepping Out with My Baby" and Astaire and Garland clowning it up to "A Couple of Swells". Reviewed on flickersintime.com
An entertaining enough outing. Besides the title song, this film lacks memorable tunes and Judy and Fred are individually lovely, but it's as though they're in different films; Judy is all quivery-lipped and dewy-eyed and Fred gives her nothing. Conversely, Judy has nothing on Fred's many other dance partners. But it has some good bits, for sure, and it feels that niche, film to watch on Easter window, so it's a nice relief from the biblical epics.
A lot funnier/cleverer than I remember it being. The drum crazy and slow motion sequences are classics in my eyes.
Some killer routines in this one. And Irving Berlin never disappoints.
Starts off with a great set piece in a toy shop, after that it lost the kids, some half hour later it lost me. There is no plot to speak of, it seems like they had some great song and dance numbers that they wanted to get on screen but spent very little time stitching them together with a coherent story.
This ain't no Singing in the Rain.
The exact minimum amount of plot or dialogue required to string 17 Irving Berlin songs in 100 minutes.
And splendid for it!
Print quality: A.
The kind of movie that makes my "50% pre-1960s" quota for the year seem easy - the kind of colour, songs, dance sequences and attitudes to match that you just don't see (in some cases, arguably, for good reason) anymore. This movie brought a ton of other movies and other media to mind - My Fair Lady (the play of which, of course preceded it), A Star Is Born (the original of which, of course, preceded it), Mack and Mabel, even Dirty Dancing (which, of course, it preceded)… but the nonchalant style of the musical numbers is the kind unique to its era - back when they somehow made it feel natural and unremarkable and as if it was bursting out remarkably unexpected.
This list is the Letterboxd version of The Oxford History of World Cinema.
The book celebrates and chronicles over one…
Missing films I can't locate on Letterboxd:
Blonde Ambition (1981)
The Devil in Miss Jones (1972)
I Like to Watch…