Monday, January 15, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Please Mr. Kennedy"

Today's Musical Theater Therapy teams Poe Dameron with Kylo Ren and Justin Timberlake with one of the original songs from Inside Llewyn Davis. The 2013 Coen Brothers movie is loosely based on Dave Van Ronk, a folk singer who was such a mainstay of the Greenwich Village music scene that he was called the Mayor of MacDougal Street (MacDougal Street being in Greenwich Village or the whole thing makes no sense, amirite?).

The songs are diegetic, and performances were captured live either as characters were writing/rehearsing, recording or performing on stage. In this scene, Oscar Isaac (ace pilot for the Resistance Poe Dameron), Adam Driver (Darth Vader's grandson Kyle Ron, err, Rylo Ken doll, err, Kylo Ren), and Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker, founder of Napster [entirely different movie]) write and record "Please Mr. Kennedy," an homage to the novelty song "Mr. Custer."

The movie picked up Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography from the National Society of Film Critics, and won a few other accolades. It was nominated for a slew of awards, often losing to Gravity, Her, 12 Years a Slave, or American Hustle. Never saw it, but it seems like it would be good.

Today's song is "Please Mr. Kennedy" and today's lesson is that the power of music can bring even Resistance and First Order together in harmony.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Poor Unfortunate Souls"

Musical Theater Therapy still isn't sure what all the fuss is about with respect to "Poor Unfortunate Souls." We love The Little Mermaid, well, we love much of The Little Mermaid.

We love much of The Little Mermaid's music.

Hmmm, we might want to quit while we're ahead...

"Poor Unfortunate Souls" is from Disney's The Little Mermaid, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Little Mermaid based on the novel Push by Sapphire. It's the clearest articulation of the recurring Disney motif that girls are nothing without a man, and the best way to get a man is to be pretty and stay out of his way (here it is literally to shut up and be pretty).

None of the boys' cartoons features a man who has to get the girl (they get the girl, to be clear, but that's just a lesser story line to them saving the village; or discovering their role as the true leader of Pride Rock; or to be a mofo (we edited our language) car, racing a bunch of other mofo cars, repeat as needed.

Surprisingly few Disney films pass the Bechdel Test. Those that do often involve "partial credit" or a liberal interpretation of the guidelines. When they pass cleanly it's because the villain is female.

All that being said, Rebel Wilson as Ursula in concert=awesome casting. Ursula is the only Disney character whose inspiration is a member of the opposite sex. Fun fact: Ursula is based on Winston Churchill*.

Today's song is "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and today's lesson is maybe limit the number of Disney movies you let your daughters watch. The patriarchy isn't going to destroy itself... although it's confusing as to what that's the case considering how inept and lecherous the patriarchy is. Seriously Matt Lauer, a remote door lock button under your desk?

Grab them by the pussy? That sounded like a 5th grader who had not actually had sex education yet.

That's the patriarchy, and it's not yet exploded in a burst of stupidity or slipped on a pool of urine from when everyone missed the toilet?

* No, Ursula is based on Divine who is, in turn, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Be Our Guest"

Musical Theater Therapy salutes the man of the year, Jerry Orbach (in the Chinese zodiac it's the year of the dog; for the musical theater zodiac it's the year of the Jerry Orbach), with his performance during the 1992 Academy Awards. The song, "Be Our Guest," is from the 1991 animated musical Beauty and the Beast, based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's mid-18th century adaptation of Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve's early 18th century fairy tale which is, ultimately, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

It was the first animated film nominated for Best Picture and earned Alan Menken 2 of his 8 Academy Awards (3 of them were deserved). It accounts for 4 of his 19 Oscar nominations. And now I've just updated Alan Menken's Wikipedia entry to show "Belle" as a song from a Disney film for which he was nominated for an Oscar but didn't win, and removed "Colors of the Wind" since he did actually win an Oscar for that (one of his 8, 3 deserved).

Between Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury, Beauty and the Beast had 2 magnificently talented Broadway performers who also appeared in many episodes of Murder She Wrote (I am just learning of the attempt to launch a spin-off of M,SW starring Orbach and Barbara Babcock--one wonders if they weren't cast because of their rhyming surnames--The Law & Harry McGraw). Given CBS's propensity for launching spin-offs, it's a surprise that TL&HM didn't last. They probably should have added a city name or some initials after the title.

Today's song is "Be Our Guest" and today's lesson is not to overlook the talent on your television. It might be a Broadway legend.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life"

Musical Theater Therapy congratulates Harry and Meghan (kinda, but not really, we were holding out hope Harry would come around and start seeing us again—he's royal but not inbred, and a ginger, 2 things his brother can't claim—but ultimately we knew it wouldn't work with grandma around. Their royal wedding is May 19th.

Meanwhile we've got a Royal Wedding today. The 1951 movie musical, directed by the charming and talented Stanley Donen, starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell who is adorable here. Why didn't she star in The Fairer Sex?!

While she didn't get that role, she did get this role from June Allyson who proved so inept there. Powell in uninept... quite ept indeed.

Today's song is "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life" which, much like Prince Harry, is more than a mouthful.

Today's lesson is that compulsive liars tell little lies, often due to low self-esteem, that are mostly harmless; pathological liars, on the other hand, live in an alternative reality of their own creation, lying brazenly and getting defensive when their lies are pointed out... "fake news!" they declare, even when no one else is in the room, which is often the case because, you know, they're so awful.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Yes, Yes"

Pennies From Heaven, the 1981 movie musical, is based on Pennies From Heaven, the 1977 BBC television series that introduced the world to Bob Hoskins and, to a lesser extent, to Cheryl Campbell. The BBC series is based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

The 1981 movie was Steve Martin's follow-up to The Jerk and as Pennies From Heaven was an homage to depression-era movie musicals and NOT a comedy, it was confusing and disappointing to the Steve Martin fans that actually showed up to see it. Per Martin: "I don't know what to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy."

Critics loved the movie (its Rotten Tomatoes score is 84% fresh) with Pauline Kael basically orgasming on to the newsprint calling it the most emotional musical she'd ever seen: "The dance numbers are funny, amazing, and beautiful all at once; several of them are just about perfection."

Fred Astaire, who objected to the movies use of footage of him from Follow The Fleet, said "every scene was cheap and vulgar."

The movie was a flop, earning (in today's dollars) $23 million on a budget of $64 million. The Jerk, from 2 years earlier, earned about $240 million in today's dollars.

It managed 3 Oscar nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Costume Design for Bob Mackie. Mackie might not have been a shoe-in, but his costumes, or those for Reds or Ragtime, were probably superior to the winner for Chariots of Fire (although I haven't actually seen that movie so who can say).

Today's song is the Tin Pan Alley song "Yes Yes" by Sam Browne and the Carlyle Cousin from the movie Pennies From Heaven. Today's lesson is that you can't change your milieu radically and still expect your audience to follow.

Song of the Day: "You Broke Up With Me"

You got bro in my country. You got country in my bro.

Song: "You Broke Up With Me"
Artist: Walker Hayes

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "My Favorite Things"

For 15 seconds we were considering using a version of "My Favorite Things" from Dancer in the Dark, Lars Van Trier's dark as fuck musical movie that earned the Golden Palm and Best Actress for Björk at the Cannes Film Festival. Then we re-read the plot and decided that there was no way. We here at Musical Theater Therapy like the occasional dark or realistic musical, but holy shit, not that dark. It's so dark that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association considered the musical a Drama (as opposed to a Musical/Comedy) for purposes of nominations.

So today's "My Favorite Things" comes from exactly the place you'd expect it to come from, the Oscar-winning 1965 movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, based on the hit Broadway musical The Sound of Music, based on The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp (nee Maria Augusta Kutschera), based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

Some call The Sound of Music the fourth greatest movie musical of all time. We assume Grease is the first. (We are just kidding about Grease.)

We also assume you've seen it. And if not the Julie Andrews classic, then you've at least seen the Carrie Underwood mess that NBC produced a few years ago. And if you haven't, 1) ask your parents why you were deprived as a child, and B) Netflix that shit now! Or OnDemand or Amazon Video or iTunes. It's worth the $4. At the very least keep an eye out for it on TCM.

Today's song is "My Favorite Things" and today's lesson is that Lars Von Trier is a clear limit to how dark we will accept musicals here at Musical Theater Therapy.