Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best Music Videos of the Aughts

Slant Magazine has an excellent round-up of the best music videos of the first decade of this, our new century. Sure, I don't agree with a lot of the choices, but as I see the music video as a direct linear descendant of the old-time musical movie, I thought I'd present their list for your perusal.

The 50 Best Music Videos of the Aughts

Monday, February 15, 2010

The 29 Funniest Musical Numbers?

The Huffington Post has a round up of what they consider the 29 funniest musical numbers of all time. Not sure why they couldn't include even a single Tenacious D clip to make it an even 30, but there ya go. Enjoy.

The 29 Funniest Musical Sketches of All Time


Here's a case of a classic show getting the mondo treatment - apparently musician Nick Cave (formerly of The Birthday Party) and mime actor Andy Serkis (he played Gollum and King Kong) are teaming up for a CGI, motion capture film of Brecht & Weill's The Threepenny Opera. Sounds interesting. Nick Cave seems like an obvious fit for this material, but the CGI element makes me wonder just what kind of movie they have in mind.

Threepenny Opera, of course, was based on the 18th Century play The Beggar's Opera by John Gay. It has been filmed at least twice before, including a brilliant version from 1930 by G.W. Pabst, and is the source of the ever-popular song "Mack the Knife," as sung by Lotte Lenya, Louis Armstrong, Bobby Darin, Marianne Faithfull, Ella Fitzgerald, and a raft of others. It also contains the song "Pirate Jenny" which was brilliantly performed by Nina Simone in the 1960s. The play was recently mounted in a star-studded Broadway production which got mixed reviews.

Allow me a moment to weep that Raul Julia never got to film his Public Theatre turn as Macheath from the 1970s. We miss you, Raul!

Via SlashFilm

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BLUE VELVET: "In Dreams"

As a sidelight to the main idea of "mondo musicals" I'd like to briefly discuss non-musicals which have a musical number that comes out of nowhere, and seems to push the film into the realms of the surreal. And where better to start than with Blue Velvet? It's a film that is fairly surreal anyway, even for an ostensibly realistic crime drama, but the "In Dreams" sequence stands out after all these years as a milestone of creepy musical strangeness. Click through to read more.
David Lynch's 1986 masterpiece is a landmark of film noir, a film of multiple layers and ambiguities, about which much has been written elsewhere. In the celebrated sequence below, the psychotic Frank (Dennis Hopper) has caught the hapless voyeur Jeffrey (Kyle McLaughlin) hanging around his tragic moll, Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini). (Ironic that for these three accomplished actors, this one low-budget art film would provide them all with their most memorable and definitive roles.) He takes them both for a ride, with a stop off to see the disturbingly fey Ben (Dean Stockwell) along the way.

Frank obviously thinks Ben is a riot - not to mention "suave" - and Ben, while he seems to find Frank a bit much, condescends to indulge him. Who is Ben, and why does he seem to be the only person who can talk sense to the twitchy, edgy Frank? Is he a pimp, drug dealer, white slaver, or what? Who are the fat old women surrounding him? Why is Ben the one holding Dorothy's son hostage? Who knows...and who cares, when there's ice-cold PBR for all? (Hopper's line "Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!" was single-handedly responsible for making PBR the swill of choice for your modern hipster.)

Before Frank's rage gets out of control, Ben calms his nerves with a lip-synched rendition of Roy Orbison's "In Dreams," using a shop-light as a microphone. This is obviously Ben's favorite party piece, and it prompts Frank into a reverie in which he mutters "Now it's dark" (an incantation to be repeated ad mysterium in Lynch's later Twin Peaks). Frank gets emotional, then agitated (bad memories?) and finally stops the song in the middle. Ben looks piqued, but resigned. He is obviously used to, and wary of, Frank's rages.

This sequence (which does not appear in the screenplay; or rather, the scene is there, sans music) is justly famous, and helped revive Roy Orbison's popularity in the 1980s. David Lynch has always had a canny ear for pop music, and always chooses songs which seem haunted by sinister, melancholy undertones. The film itself is named after the Bobby Vinton song, which is performed by Isabella Rossellini's tortured torch singer. Intriguingly, Frank is seen weeping during her performance. Apparently there's a heart - weird and twisted though it may be - inside him after all.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Idiots, Monsters and Peas at the Grammy Awards

I don't think they won anything, but here's the cast of American Idiot performing "21 Guns" with Green Day at the Grammy Awards. I would love to see this show!

I have no idea why the new blogger format won't allow full-sized YouTube videos...I could be the American Idiot here, but I can't figure out the new tools.  Oh well - you can always click "Watch On YouTube."

Lady GaGa and the Black Eyed Peas both gave stellar performances as well, with staging and concepts that turned their own numbers in to little mini-musicals of their own.


Variety reports that Duncan Sheik (2007 Tony award winner for Spring Awakening) will write songs for a stage adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. Should make a nice double bill with American Idiot.

Monday, February 1, 2010

COBRA: The Musical

Presented without comment - video of the GI Joe-based musical which premiered at the 2002 Montreal Fringe Festival.