by Roberto Cruz
Musicals for me stand out more than other genres of film. Yes, you might get excited over an action movie, swept away to "a galaxy far, far away" or scared out of your wits, but musicals stay with you like nothing else. Think of Judy Garland and immediately Dorothy singing "Over The Rainbow" comes to mind. Who can watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance and not want try to do the same? Try not to get lost in the grand sets designed for them. Try not to imagine yourself in a tuxedo, complete with a top hat, or a dress fit for a princess and dancing with your love by your side, as if the world belonged solely to the both of you. Try to forget watching a hundred people dancing and singing together, all moving in sync, in perfect rhythm and harmony; it's impossible. Musicals have a way of really transporting you to another time and world. A world where a song or dance will make you snap your fingers, tap your toes, hum or whistle, take away your fears, feel joy, make you fall in love and give you hope for a happily ever after – all in the span of two hours.
Movie musicals are a genre of film that in the past 30 years have largely gone unnoticed. There have been a few musicals in the past couple of years that have been the exception. Moulin Rouge was the first musical nominated for best picture in 20 years. Chicago was the first musical to win Best Picture since 1968 when Oliver! Won. With the surprisingly good music biopics (Ray, Walk the Line) and movie adaptions of Broadway musicals (Hairspray, The Producers, Les Misérables) that have come out in recent years, hope springs eternal that musicals will once again be a box office gold mine as they were during Hollywood's golden era. Many forget that musicals were more popular than westerns at one time. The first talking picture was a musical and ever since, musicals were a way to escape from the harsh realities that existed before World War II. MGM Studios at the time claimed that they had "more stars than there are in the the heavens." The Great Depression was a period in American history that many could not avoid. The promise of a "better way of life" was a fantasy in which musicals used to their advantage. The huge movie sets that depicted rich people going to parties, drinking, dancing, singing allowed an escape from everyday misery. Swing Time, The Wizard of Oz, The Little General, Gay Divorcee, Show Boat, The Broadway Melody, The Great Ziegfeld are a few examples of movie musicals that were the norm during the 1930's. Every major star from that era from Fred Astaire to Jimmy Stewart to Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Peter Lawford, Mickey Rooney, June Allyson, Judy Garland, even Elizabeth Taylor starred at one time or another in a musical. The musical took a sharp decline in the 1960's, and by the 80's, they were box-office poison. There are a few films during this period that do stand out (Little Shop of Horrors), but for the most part, musicals were only to be found on Broadway. In 2000, Moulin Rouge made over 100 million dollars at the box-office and was nominated for eight Oscars. Chicago won best picture the very next year, and since then, a trend has continued. A number of current actors and actresses, 11 in fact, have been nominated for musicals (Jennifer Hudson won for Dreamgirls and Anne Hathaway won for Les Misérables, respectively.) As a lover of movies, musicals have a played an important part in the making of Hollywood as it is today. I only hope that more production companies will start making musicals. Given the technological age in which we live in, seeing a movie where the plot is as simple as boy and girl meet, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl break up, boy and girl sing a song, they dance, kiss, and live happily ever after – for me that would be the perfect escape.
Hey MJ subscribers! Did your MJ soundtrack CD that came with the May issue have a neat shiny green sticker on it? If so, you've won our monthly prize! Email email@example.com to claim it.