Musicals: A movie genre that is becoming extinct

Matt Vielkind

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It's harder and harder to find a mucical now a days. There really aren't anymore true musicals that remind us of such classics suck as The Music Man and West Side Story. This thought crossed my mind after I saw The Music Man on AMC. The movie was very enjoyable and then I got to thinking of a more recent musical I had seen and I couldn't think of one. I don't know if I'm missing somehting or what, but I don't think there has been a musical recently that has measured up to the old days of musicals.
 

Edwin Pereyra

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I don't know if I'm missing somehting or what, but I don't think there has been a musical recently that has measured up to the old days of musicals.
By that exactly what do you mean? Musicals have transformed over the years. Just in the past year, we've had three: Dancer In The Dark, Moulin Rouge and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Before that there was Jeanne and the Perfect Guy and Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You.
~Edwin
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http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uub/Forum9/HTML/005780.html#8
 

Chad R

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And Disney releases (at least they used to) many animated musicals.
But, your are right that there jsut aren't as many as there used to be. mainly because today's audiences have problems with people bursting into song. It just doesn't work for modern audiences, and with the relative disappointment of Evita at the box office, I don't see them coming back in force anytime soon. It seems the musical has been relegated to where it came from, the stage.
 

Richard Kim

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Let's not forget South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut!

Actually, I'm glad that Disney is starting to move away from the formulaic musical format, as it is starting to get old rather quickly.
 

Michael Reuben

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There really aren't anymore true musicals that remind us of such classics suck as The Music Man and West Side Story.
That has more to do with the theater than the film industry. Both of those shows started off as hugely successful stage shows, of a kind that is no longer being written. In recent years, the flow of material has been reversed, so that many of the new musicals are adaptations from movies. Most of them haven't succeeded, despite the occasional smash like The Producers (which succeeds, IMO, by reaching back to an even older tradition: vaudeville).
The most successful original musicals from the last 20 years have come from the Lloyd Webber/Cameron Macintosh school of stage extravaganza that has proved almost impossible to translate to film. Evita took years and burned out countless directors and adapters, and while I think the final result was spectacular, it wasn't a big hit with audiences. I'll be surprised if anyone tries anything similar in the near future.
M.
 

Jeff Kleist

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First off, I love, and have performed, many musicals.
But I have ALWAYS had a problem with films like West Side Story. If the film takes place in a fantasy setting (Rocky Horror, Little Shop), a musical will work as a movie. But once you move into the ghettos of New York, sorry, suspension of disbelief goes right out the window. I'd much rather have a quality taping of a stage performance then a movie.
Jeff Kleist
 

BarryR

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I too think there's something of a resurgence in the musical genre, especially given the enthusiasm that greeted MOULIN ROUGE. To me it's an incredibly underrated, neglected part of film nowadays. I agree that a very stylized musical like MOULIN ROUGE makes it easier for some viewers to buy the concept, but then, check the upcoming DVD of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF to see how successfully it can be done when the setting is meant to be more literal and reality based.
 

Glenn Overholt

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Chad, Nate & Michael - I hate to burst your bubble, but Evita is not a musical, it is an opera.
Glenn
 

Seth Paxton

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I'm with Edwin and Adam, I thought the musical had suddenly refound a presence in cinema lately.
Moulin Rouge and Hedwig and the Angry Inch are not only good films, but great musicals in the tradition sense even (although Hedwig is more rock, but the songs still tell the narrative which is key for a good musical).
South Park was a musical for the most part. Lyrically it might have offended the traditional musical fan, but the songs are well written and intertwined in the best sense of a classic musical.
Dancer in the Dark is a bit more drama than a normal musical, but it has to be considered a musical with so many song and dance pieces in it.
So musicals haven't just resurfaced, they happen to have been some of the top films over the last couple of years.
 

Michael Reuben

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I hate to burst your bubble, but Evita is not a musical, it is an opera.
Does that mean Robert Stigwood has to give back the 1980 Tony Award for Evita as best Broadway musical?
Not to mention Patti Lupone for best actress in a musical, Mandy Patinkin for best featured actor in a musical, Harold Prince for best director of a musical, Tim Rice for best book of a musical, or Rice and Lloyd Webber for best score of a musical.
M.
 

Jason Seaver

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Not to mention Love's Labour's Lost and (ugh) The Fantasticks.
Still, I think you can probably trace the recent demise of the musical to the early 1970s. A certain literalism crept over film at that point, and the emphasis in movies shifted from the fantastic to the realistic. Film, at this point, sort of uprooted itself from its stage roots, and started to capture our world, rather than create a movie world. More importantly, it removed the property of abstraction from film - the audience no longer really had the concept that people weren't really singing and dancing; this was just a convenient way for the filmmakers to show what they were thinking and feeling.
The spectacle element didn't leave films entirely, it just became a more purely visual spectacle. Star Wars and the like. You could say the modern F/X movie replaced the musical.
So the musical more or less disappeared from live-action, and over time film actors became less "performers" and more, well, actors, and the number who could sing, dance, and act dropped drastically.
People still occasionally tried to make live-action musicals, but they wound up being curiosities like Love's Labour's Lost, bad throwbacks like The Fantasticks, self-conscious period pieces like Little Shop Of Horrors, or total disasters like I'll Do Anything. What has happened in the past year or so is that filmmakers have managed to make musicals using the modern tools of filmmaking.
Moulin Rouge, for example, is a musical that isn't tied down by the traits of the genre. Luhrman uses non-linear storytelling, quick-cuts and patches bits of song together like a hip-hop producer samples. It's contemporary, the musical evolved to meet the style of modern cinema.
 

Glenn Overholt

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We are talking about movies here, not Broadway plays. I have no idea how Evita was presented on Broadway.
A musical (in our respect) - is a movie in which an often simple plot, developed by dialogue, is interspersed with songs and/or dances.
An opera, on the other hand, is a theatrical presentation in which a dramatic performance is set to music. (no dialogue).
Sorry to come on so strong, and I know that it isn't up to us to classify it, but someone has grossly mislabeled it.
Another commonly misused word today is diva, which is only supposed to refer to an operatic prima donna. (not any rock stars) - but maybe we need to reclassify Madonna now.
Glenn
 

Seth Paxton

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Jason makes a good point.
This is something I just brought up (I think in a thread about bad films lately).
I was discussing that a lot of what film is about has to do with trends, film fashions if you will. We haven't left behind good films, film has simply progressed as it always has done.
Go watch The Great Train Robbery and tell me that looks like something from today. Yet at the same time it's a fine film.
The gritty 70's did kill the musical off, as well as the fantastical, at least until SS and Lucas decided to change that. And really, CE3K still has SS with one foot tied to the gritty, in visual style and character suffering (Dryfus' life falls totally apart and we have to bear it for most of the film).
So the heyday of musicals ended, just as the extravagaza films had died before that (singing, swimming, big dances), and the westerns which died before them.
And what's the latest major Vietnam film you can think of? That used to be any easy question to answer, but lately we are back to WW2, and more explicitly we see a focus on the Holocaust.
Film has a lot to do with releasing public tensions, exploring public fears, fullfilling public desires. Currently the musical fits those needs a lot less than it used to.
But you have to wonder, if the economy continues to slow and things get a little nasty, will that bring about a return of the happy escapist films, especially musicals? Could be.
Or maybe we will never return to the traditional musical success of the past, but instead find film going into uncharted territory as Jason already mentions about MR and which also fits Dancer in the Dark (Dogme meets musical).
 

Wes Ray

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Flame me if you want, but I really don't consider Moulin Rouge a musical in the classical sense. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I really wouldn't put it with other musicals out there. The simple reason, it didn't really have any original songs. They were covers. If you consider that a musical, then there are plenty of other musicals out there where the actors just sing an older song that's already been recorded. For example, there are two scenes where Chris Farley and David Spade sing in to the radio in their car in Tommy Boy. Was it a musical? Nah. What about when Jerry O'Connell sings "I Think I Love You" to Neve Campbell in Scream 2? True, Moulin Rouge has more music than both of these examples, but the fact remains, the songs are all basically covers.
A musical to me is something that has an original soundtrack/score by a person or persons. The Wizard of Oz is a musical. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which, I like the music but really don't care much for the movie) is a musical. Phantom of the Paradise is a musical (a damn good one at that...a much better film than Rocky Horror, IMO).
Moulin Rouge is just actors and actresses singing slightly-altered covers. Like I said, I enjoyed it a lot, but I really wouldn't call it a musical in the classical sense of the word. We need more original musicals, not more like Moulin Rouge. Otherwise the genre WILL die.

[Edited last by Wes Ray on September 10, 2001 at 12:32 AM]
 

Jason Seaver

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. Otherwise the genre WILL die.
And good riddance to it.
To a certain extent, the classic musical has no place in modern film; it's mannered and static and artificial in ways that the audience no longer appreciates.
 

Michael Reuben

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quote: We are talking about movies here, not Broadway plays. [/quote] You may be, but I wasn't. It's hard to have a meaningful discussion of the development of movie musicals without looking at the stage where, until recently, most of them originated. (And many still do. Case in point: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.)
quote: Another commonly misused word today is diva, which is only supposed to refer to an operatic prima donna. (not any rock stars) - but maybe we need to reclassify Madonna now.[/quote] Indeed. According to your definitions (which I consider rigid and artificial), Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce are opera performers.
M.
[Edited last by Michael Reuben on September 10, 2001 at 08:22 AM]
 

Dale Dobson

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Regarding Moulin Rouge and its use of "covers," let us not forget that Singin' in the Rain was a collection of covers as well. All of those songs were pre-existing hits, grouped together into a film that most people regard as a classic of the movie musical genre.
I also believe we're seeing a resurgence of the movie musical of late - I can't tell you how thrilling it has been to see Moulin Rouge AND Hedwig and the Angry Inch this year.
Musicals have also been selling well on DVD, judging from the releases we've been seeing. We're getting some of the more obscure titles to boot - Elite's even bringing the Philippe Mora/Richard O'Brien musical comedy The Return of Captain Invincible to the format in a few months!
 

BarryR

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No matter how 'artificial" a classic musical may seem nowadays, I think it's still possible to renew it if done with a creative, enthusiastic attitude. Bad musicals are bad musicals, but good ones will connect whatever their style. Look at the success of THE PRODUCERS--assuming that becomes a film, it'll be right up there in the tradition of, say, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS.. or other core Broadway musicals of yesteryear--if done well, audiences will definitely want to see them, and bless 'em all!!!!!!!!!!
[Edited last by BarryR on September 10, 2001 at 08:28 AM]
 

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