Saturday, March 03, 2007

Perfect Movies

I have a sort of mental list of, what I consider to be, "perfect movies". These movies aren't necessarily classics or award winners. They may or may not be critically or publicly acclaimed.

They are, however, in my estimation, perfect little jewels of filmmaking. Perfectly cast, perfectly paced, perfectly accomplishing whatever it is the filmmakers have managed to accomplish.

They are movies that I have seen dozens of times, often from somewhere in the middle, because once I stumble upon it on TV, I sit down and watch the entire rest of the movie, regardless of whatever task I was in the middle of performing.

There are several movies on my list. This is the first in a series of posts focusing on some of those perfect movies. I don't have a particular order for them, but I am am going to try to group them by genre. Today, because one of the many things I am is a great big musical theatre geek, I am going to start with musicals.

Victor/Victoria: I defy anyone to watch any scene with Robert Preston or Leslie Ann Warren and not laugh off their posteriors. The score, by Henry Mancini, is beautiful and whimsical. And Julie Andrew is, as always, practically perfect in every way.

Singin' in the Rain: This movie is so very joyful. There are whole scenes of dialogue that are always quotable. ("Dignity. Always dignity.") Jean Hagen, as the not-quite-as-dumb-as-she-sounds Lina Lamont, steals every scene she's in. ("'People?!' I ain't 'people'! I am a 'shimmering star in the cinema firmament.' It says so. Right here.") One note: The fabulous "Make 'Em Laugh" number is taken almost note for note from "Be a Clown", a song from another great Gene Kelly (and Judy Garland) movie, The Pirate.

Cabaret: This might be the first movie musical to avoid the controversial convention of movie musical: the idea that whole towns burst into the same song at the same time for no apparent reason. Bob Fosse very beautifully showcases all the musical numbers as acts within the cabaret and frames them to comment on the action. I've never been fortunate enough to see a stage version of this show, so I'm really not sure how much the stage version uses this convention. I know it works here regardless of the idea's origins. Also Liza Minnelli performs the role of her lifetime as the downtrodden Sally Bowles. If you ever wondered where the love for the downtrodden Liza comes from, look no further than this movie. Some fans of the text prefer a less obviously talented Sally; I prefer the idea that Sally's life choices are responsible for her (lack of) success. Her character seems much more tragic that way.

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