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,…
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.
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…
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.
“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…
A man is devastated to learn his dance partner is going off on her own and vows to make a plucky newcomer a star by the next year's Easter parade. Oh, man, I really liked this one a lot. As I travel through years in cinema, I find my general loathing for Judy Garland disappears around the late '40s. I think that's because, by this time, she was growing comfortable with film and had refined her acting skills to resorting less on childish pouting and more on actual emotion. You know, either that or the drugs. Who knows?
But this is a really delightful movie. Irvin Berlin's song score is magnificent with several showstopper and memorable rags. And Fred Astaire…
So much good stuff in one film. Fun songs throughout, great chemistry between Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and plot a-plenty. It's unfortunately missing a really good payoff on the antagonist, but the rest shines enough to dispel those shadows.
Despite being short on story, this film has many great musical numbers that make it worth revisiting time and again. Though I love Fred Astaire, I never can help but wonder what the movie would have looked like if Gene Kelly had played the lead role as originally intended. I'm sure it would have been quite different, but no less entertaining.
Judy Garland's expressions are to die for. I absolutely love her.
The age difference between Garland and Astaire is a little icky, but you're here for the song and dance numbers, and they're very good.
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.
This list is the Letterboxd version of The Oxford History of World Cinema.
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