Friday, September 6, 2013

Go Go Movie Show: What Are Your Go-To Musicals? On Hedwig & More

No other movie genre has the re-watchability of The Musical. You can play them while you work and sing along over and over again. I was raised on The Classics and watch more musicals than your average 20-something, these are my favorites: (Click through to the blog if you're reading via e-mail to see the videos)

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Favorite Song: Wicked Little Town. (Oh, but ALL the songs are SO good.)

Plot Crunch: Transgender rocker Hedwig (pronounced Hedvig) tails a huge rock legend's tour, telling her life story and setting the record straight. All at once kitschy, irreverent, pensive and poetic.

Hedwig's a more recent obsession but it quickly ascended the ranks to my favorite musical. Hedwig will surprise you. The quirky art direction and over-the-top transgender lead will recall Rocky Horror, but in this movie you get kitsch and a sensitive character study. It's a coming of age story where you watch a lost soul become whole. Hedwig has it all: humor, catchy and eclectic songs with fascinating lyrics, and heart. Watch it if you haven't!

2. Little Shop of Horrors

Favorite Song: IF FORCED to choose I'd go with the soaring "Suddenly Seymore," but I love "Skid Row's" crushing realism, and "Feed Me (Git It)" is also perfection.

Plot Crunch: Pathetic nerd Seymore lets a mysterious talking plant tempt him to commit heinous acts in exchange for fame, fortune, and protecting the love of his life.

Coming in at a very close second, Little Shop of Horrors is a lot like Hedwig in that it has a lot of heart beneath the kitsch. It says a lot about the writing and acting when you come to care about the characters in a musical this campy! It's a technical marvel and pure eye-candy, with expensive practical affects and the biggest sound-stage of its time putting it over budget. (Money. Well. Spent.) The plant, Audrey II, is timeless puppetry. He will always be convincing. Throw in songs by the genius team directly responsible for ushering in a new era for Disney's animation department (Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin would soon after compose the supernaturally catchy music for "The Little Mermaid") and you have one of the best musicals. Ever! Forever!

3. My Fair Lady

Favorite Song: I Could Have Danced All Night, I knew this one years before watching the play. Eternal song, this one!

Plot Crunch: Accomplished linguist makes a bet that he can turn "squashed cabbage leaf" cockney flower girl Eliza into a proper, well-spoken lady.

Brilliant and timeless, this is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Another film that should be required watching for everyone! The Edwardian period sets and stylized costumes are beautiful to behold. The performances are perfection, Rex Herrington is the biggest ass alive and we love him for it. Even without the original Edwardian era play's (Pygmalion) perfect (anachronistically feminist, even) ending intact "My Fair Lady" is surprisingly female empowering. Misogyny is played up for laughs and Eliza, our lead female, becomes her own independent woman, starting at the lowest rung of society and triumphing over her tormentor in the end. Another musical that delivers everything in spades: comedy (even some gallows humor), excellent songs, and strong character development.

Extra Damn Points for Dialog: I cannot help but laugh at Rex Herrington's impassioned insults hurled at Eliza. So cruel, so hilarious. Particularly, "You incarnate insult to the human language!"

4. Dream Girls

Favorite Song:  "And I Am Telling You."  Known to nearly everyone alive even if you haven't seen Dream Girls.

Plot Crunch: Girl band The Dreamettes make their break in show business, but have to become everything they once despised in exchange for super-stardom.

I seem to have trouble finding people who love Dream Girls as much as I do. If you were raised on Motown like me, this movie removes the glossy veneer to reveal the hard facts of showbiz. The editing is tight, the costumes and sets colorful, glamorous eye candy, but more than any other movie on this list, Dream Girl's strength is character. The ensemble cast is incredibly well-developed and their ups and downs feel real. Dream Girls is an immersive experience and a big crowd-pleaser movie. I will never get tired of watching it.

5. Chicago

Favorite Song: "Mr. Cellophane."  Love ALL the songs. Damn you for making me choose!

Plot Crunch: Wanna-be star Roxie Hart murders her lover and becomes a media sensation, the O.J Simpson of the 1920s, but with gams up to 'er eyeballs!

Hedwig's full of heart, Little Shop is a technical marvel, My Fair Lady has genius writing, Dream Girl's strength is character and Chicago is just pure spectacle. A Broadway staple before it went to screen, this movie is perfectly casted and directed. Every musical number dazzles, incredibly choreographed in a perfect throw-back to the era (owing a debt to the style of Bob Fosse). Chicago is one eye-gasm after another and pure entertainment. One tiny complaint is the characters. Though well-acted and perfectly cast, they're all (intentionally, and with one exception) extremely flawed, selfish, manipulative assholes. They're entertaining as hell and you even like them despite their crimes, but they deserve death sentences! And I'm not even for capital punishment, that's how shitty they are. They have it comin'! 

6. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Favorite Song: Sweet Transvestite! It could be no other!

Plot Crunch: Sexy Dr. Frankenfurter unveils his creation, a muscular blond Adonis to "relieve his tension" on the same night a virginal engaged couple get stranded at his castle. Chaos and hilarity ensues.

Turn off your brain and just enjoy, damn you! How can the kitschy-campiest of all musicals not make my list? With homages to many classic horror double features from the drive-in era of cinema in the opening song alone, this is my kind of flick!

Honorable Mentions: South Park Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, Burlesque (hilariously bad/good), Hairspray, The Wicker Man (an odd example as a horror/murder mystery movie musical that defies true genre), Singin' in the Rain, The Sound of Music. LOTS of animated versions but I'll just include live-action here.

More Go-Go Movie Show: Nostalgic Movies | The Best of So Bad it's Good Cinema | Top 5 Vintage Horror Movies

What are your favorite musicals? Do share in the comments, always looking for more to watch!
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  1. Haven't heard of a lot of these. Thanks, I'll watch them soon.

  2. There are a lot of great ones:
    Singin' In The Rain
    Jesus Christ Superstar
    The Harvey Girls
    Meet Me In St. Louis
    White Christmas
    The Band Wagon
    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    Bugsy Malone
    Easter Parade

    Just a sampling!

    1. Oh I haven't heard of some of these. Gonna look them up!

    2. YES to the original Gene Wilder Willy Wonka :)

    3. I like the remake better, bwaaahaha ;D the songs in the original of course are far superior though if we're talking about music movies

  3. Hell yes Hedwig. I love that movie!

  4. When Chicago came out I was 17 and absolutely obsessed with it. It was the first time I said "Thats where I want to live!" Granted, it took me ten years to actually get around to it...haha...but yeah, I can watch Chicago over and over again.

    1. I 16 when it came home but my friends and I got obsessed with watching it right before graduation when we were 17, too :) You just reminded of a guy friend who did an "All That Jazz" drag show wearing my clothes for my graduation get-together. It was the bees knees :D I can watch the movie over and over too, and need to visit Chicago someday. I hear the art scene is awesome.

  5. I love all your choices! Haven't seen Dream Girls yet, but now I have a new required viewing musical!

    Singing in the Rain would be on my list for the hilarity of it. Oh, and the love story.

    1. Singing in the Rain is a marvel, I love it. Your must watch Dream Girls, I feel like there was little hope the big budget musical could be good again until Dream Girls came along.

  6. I grew up with the classic musicals - Sound of Music, South Pacific, Man of LaMancha, West Side Story
    Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, A Star is Born (the Streisand version) Mary Poppins! The Wizard of Oz!

    1. I grew up on 'em too. Still need to catch up on some of the classics!

  7. Jesus Christ superstar (which is funny that I love it so much because I am an atheist) But it is the best! Also I love Hair and Rent. I love that whole hippie dancing around free love great music kind of stuff. My hubby likes stuff like Oklahoma and South Pacific. I am embarrassed to admit that I never have seen Cats. Im such a cat lover. I don't know why I haven't seen it.....Probably because I am too busy jamming to my Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack....

    1. I haven't seen the whole of cats, liked what I saw though! I like Jesus Christ Superstar for the retroness- and Judas is AWESOME in it!

  8. oh you just made me love you even more! little shop of horrors is my favorite movie of all time! with hedwig a close second. i love "wig in a box" and "wicked little town" the tommy gnosis version though. it makes me CRY SO MUCH! the part where he says "you think that luck has left you there, but maybe there's nothing up in the sky but air" oh my goooooooosh. now i need to watch it again!
    i'm a sucker for all musicals. jesus christ super star, chitty chitty bang bang, RENT! i'm down for them all!

    1. i have to add, i bet i love dream girls as much as you. it is SO GOOD! my favorite song is "I love you i do" but i have been banned from listening to that cd when travis is in the car! i guess I just don't have the pipes the effie has. but it is so FUN to belt those songs out!

    2. I looove to sing along to Dream Girls. Alone. To spare all onlookers to horror ;D

      Little Shop of Horrors might tie with "Transformers the Movie" (1986) as my favorite movie of all time, I could write a book about it, it's so glorious. The story of human acceptance in Hedwig is SO beautiful and universal, I always recommend the movie to EVERYONE. When I'm filled with self-doubt I love to listen to both parts of "Wicked Little Town". My favorite line, "There's no mystical design/no cosmic lover pre-assigned/there's nothing you can find/that cannot be found."

    3. Oh, and I'm glad to find another Dream Girls fanatic :D

  9. Love the Rocky Horror and Chicago. But my all time favorite has to be Grease!

    1. I love Grease, you can't NOT sing along to the songs!

  10. Dude...this post is so up my alley. I've had an obsession with musicals ever since I was a kid. My mom used to rent me one musical a week and I was hooked. Hedwig and Rocky are movies I love so much I can watch them anytime and smile no matter what my mood. But my favorite of all time was always Gypsy (the original with Natalie Wood). Maybe it's just because I'm a musician. But who wouldn't want to live in a world where a city full of complete strangers spontaneously break out into song??? Some of my other favorites: Gentlemen prefer Blondes, A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar (I'm not religious but the songs are just musically so well written), Singing in the Rain ( because Gene Kelly is sexy) City of Angels (super film noir style) and Bye bye birdie.

    1. I hear so many good things about Gypsy, MUST watch it soon. I absolutely love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, too :D

  11. You have to watch "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" which I believe is available in its entirety on youtube. It was filmed in the 70s based on the hilarious Sondheim comedy. I feel like it's right up your alley! I did a production of it when I was in high school :)

  12. I love a lot of these already mentioned ("Grease," "Singin' In the Rain," and "The Wizard Of Oz") A lot of yours are proper stage musicals, but I feel the need to mention these--

    "What a Way to Go!" with Shirley McLaine IS AMAZING, I believe I've been madly in love with every man she's married to in that one.

    "Down With Love" is cute and entertaining just because of the camp factor-- the costumes, the scenes, the songs.

    But my all time favorite movie is "Funny Face" with Astaire and Hepburn. It's loosely based on the life of Richard Avedon and it includes everything I love-- Paris, the fifties, beatniks, fashion, the color pink, photography... whenever I'm sad I put it in, it feels like my *correct* soul.

    I'm going to have to watch a few of your recommendations that I've missed!

  13. Haven't heard of those first two recommendations, must make time to watch them! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Musicals! I love musicals! Four perfect classics: Cover Girl (Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth), You Were Never Lovelier (Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire) Swing Time (Fred and Ginger) and Singin' in the Rain. And one modern marvel: Moulin Rouge.

  15. Musicals! I love musicals! Four perfect classics: Cover Girl (Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth), You Were Never Lovelier (Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire) Swing Time (Fred and Ginger) and Singin' in the Rain. And one modern marvel: Moulin Rouge.

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