Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

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A poster for the film.

This is a FUN (which we REALLY need these days) Technicolor musical full of dancing, singing (duh), and witty humor!  The tale centers on a trio: Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly)- popular star of MANY silent films, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner)- Don’s comical accompanist/best pal, and Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds)- a unknown talent that Don meets by chance.  He brags about his work, BUT she is NOT impressed, calling herself a serious actress who works on the stage (NOT film).

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Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) performs at a party, along with other dancers.

At a big studio party one night, Don is amused to discover Kathy popping out of a false cake and performing w/ a troupe of dancers. Don’s co-star/wannabe fiancee, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), is VERY jealous when she sees him chatting w/ Kathy. Don has NO romantic interest in Lina, who is a self-centered bimbo, BUT the magazines have linked them together (w/ help from their studio).

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A director talks to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) while Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) watches.

The studio head insists that Don and Lina make a talkie next; silent films are on the out (audiences are crazy for sound). The MAIN problem: Lina, though familiar to moviegoers, has a terrible voice (screechy w/ an unrefined New York accent)! Hmmm… HOW will this get solved? 

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Cosmo (Donald O’Conner), Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), and Don (Gene Kelly) perform “Good Morning”- an impromptu song.

Don and Cosmo realize (after spending some time w/ Kathy) that she has MANY talents, incl. her lovely voice.  SHE can do the talking for Lina in the new film; after that, she will get HER own work.  What could go wrong?

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Cyd Charisse (famed dancer/choreographer) with Don (Gene Kelly) during a number.

There is some VERY interesting trivia re: this film.  In 2007, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked this as the #5 Greatest Movie of All Time. Reynolds (only 19 y.o. when filming began) was NOT a trained dancer; Fred Astaire saw her crying on the set (after Kelly insulted her), and decided to help her prepare.  After the “Good Morning” number, Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room b/c she had burst some blood vessels in her feet- OUCH!  Are you a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?  Cyd Charisse is the maternal aunt of Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor); you’ll see the obvious resemblance.

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Movies & Plays To Check Out (JAN 2017)

MOVIES:

Hidden Figures

This movie centers on three brilliant African-American women (referred to as “human computers”) working at NASA in the 1960s. The three leads are Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (who is also a singer). They are joined by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Kristen Dunst, and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards; Luke Cage). Before Col. John Glenn (up-and-coming actor Glen Powell) went into space, Henson’s character (Katharine Johnson) had to “check the math” behind the mission. I learned that Johnson is still alive in small-town Virginia- wow!  Check out the trailer below.

 

Lion

Critics have raved re: Dev Patel in this film, as well as the boy who plays Indian adoptee to Australia (Saroo Brierley) as a child.  In case you’re NOT a big fan yet of the British-Indian actor, know that Patel is transformed for this role (hair, body, and accent).  I’ll be seeing it next weekend.

See the trailer below; the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham.

 

Singin’ in the Rain (in select theaters: SUN, 1/15 & WED, 1/18)

TCM and Fathom Events is co-presenting this musical at select theaters for two days ONLY. This movie premiered 65 years ago (1952) and stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds (who recently passed away at age 84), and Donald O’Conner. I heard about it on TCM, then checked online for details (see link below).

http://fathomevents.com/event/singin-in-the-rain/more-info/details

One of the most famed/respected dancers/choreographers of her time, Cyd Charisse, has a supporting role. Checking IMDB, I found that Rita Moreno is part of the ensemble (VERY cool). I’ve never seen this film before, but it’s available on YouTube for ONLY $2.99! 

 

The Salesman (AFI Silver Theatre: SUN, 1/22 at 5:15PM)

This film is part of the 21st Annual Iranian American Film Festival which was previously held at the Freer Gallery (now undergoing renovations).  It is directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), who is NOT afraid to realistically tackle subjects which are still taboo in his native Iran. While A Separation was about impending divorce, this film deals w/ the assault of a young wife and her husband’s subsequent emotional turmoil and drive for revenge. I got my ticket already.

Follow the link below for tickets and see the trailer.

https://silver.afi.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/m-0100001136

 

PLAYS:

As You Like It: Folger Shakespeare Theatre (Pay-What-You-Will: TUES, 1/24 at 7:30PM)

This adaptation of The Bard’s comedy will run from JAN 24th – MAR 5th starring actors from Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. I’m interested in this b/c I’ve only seen one movie re: this play. I haven’t read the play (it’s rarely taught/studied in schools/universities). 

See the link below for more info.

http://www.folger.edu/events/as-you-like-it

Caroline, or Change: Round House Theatre (UPDATED: Pay-What-You-Can on THURS, 1/26 at 7:30PM & WED, 2/1 at 7:30PM)

This is a musical written (book and lyrics) by the renowned Tony Kushner; it contains aspects from his own life as a boy growing up in the South. The play centers on Caroline, an African-America maid for the Gellmans, a Jewish family in 1960s Louisiana. It combines different types of music: spirituals (gospel), blues, Motown, classical, and Jewish klezmer and folk. 

More details at the link below.

http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/performances/caroline-or-change

Into the Woods (NOW PLAYING)

NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

The Witch (Meryl Streep) wishes to reverse a curse to restore her beauty.
The Witch (Meryl Streep) wishes to reverse a curse to restore her beauty.

Anything can happen in the woods…

I saw this movie musical last weekend with my parents; they are both big fans of Meryl Streep.  We didn’t know what to expect, since we hadn’t seen the play or read up on many details.  I just thought it was a reimagining of several fairy tales with songs.  It was directed by Rob Marshall (who has an unexpected hit with Chicago).

The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish for a child.
The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish for a child.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Emily Blunt was a key role- she plays The Baker’s Wife.  The Baker is played by a likeable Everyman type, James Corden, who is from the theater world.  These actors had good chemistry together and made a quite believable couple.  They were the center of the story. 

The Wolf is played by Johnny Depp.
The Wolf is played by Johnny Depp.

Stay a child while you can be a child.

The Wolf (Johnny Depp in a small role) has a song about the deliciousness of Little Red Riding Hood and Granny; this bordered on controversy because of the lyrics.  The song was changed from the original version (which was heard by playgoers).

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Cinderella’s stepmother is played by Christine Baranski (center).

Fans of The Good Wife will get a kick out of seeing Broadway vet Christine Baranski and Tammy Blanchard (who had a recurring roles on the courtroom drama series).  I got a kick out of their outlandish hairstyles and clothes.  And the trying on the shoe part- well. you’ll see! 

Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is indecisive about The Prince.
Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is indecisive about The Prince.
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Cinderella’s prince is played by Chris Pine (right).

Careful the path they take, wishes come true, not free.

Anna Kendrick seemed to be miscast as Cinderella; she even admitted that she thought she’d be cast as Red.  The two princes have a hilarious duet along a waterfall (Agony)!  Chris Pine, who actually looks good with a bit of a beard (unlike many men), said he did a Captain Kirk (William Shatner) impression at one point in the number.  (I’m sure the Trekkies out there will notice it.)  Pine did a good job with the material, I was surprised to see! 

Aside from Streep, Blunt, and Corden, young Daniel Huttlestone does a good job.  You may remember him from the latest Les Miserables film, where he also sang.  Tracey Ullman provided some bits of comedy as Jack’s irritable/critical mother.   

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Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) with his cow and mother (Tracey Ullman).

One reviewer (IMDB) commented: “I think that the later half of the movie, after the ‘happily ever after’ scene, was not given the same attention as the first half of the movie.  It felt like someone stepped in at the last moment and said: Hey, movies shouldn’t be allowed to have a happy fairy tale ending anymore. Let’s add some grim to it.”  In response, a theatergoer said: “The stage show has a two act structure that works a lot better. The first act is the fairy tale happy ever after. The second, which takes place roughly a year later, is what happens when you get your wish but are still unsatisfied and want for more. The second act is really a metaphor for greed and looking a gift horse in the mouth.”  If you want more analysis of the film, check out this podcast ep!