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The Folk Prophet

Musicals

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7 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

I think you'd be surprised.

Don't get me wrong. The problem with rock in musicals to me is like pineapple on pizza. It just doesn't belong. Give me rock when I want rock. Give me musicals when I want musicals.

That being said, it can work. I secretly really like Jesus Christ Superstar. I dislike the concept. I very much like the music.

Understand. Yup, I’m a little surprised but I shouldn’t be given your Metallica videos on your Youtube page. 
 

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my all time favorites. If I could sing, which I can’t, I’d love to play Pilate. 

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2 minutes ago, LDSGator said:

Understand. Yup, I’m a little surprised but I shouldn’t be given your Metallica videos on your Youtube page. 
 

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my all time favorites. If I could sing, which I can’t, I’d love to play Pilate. 

I've always secretly kind of wanted to write a heavy metal opera. But....I won't ever.

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30 minutes ago, LDSGator said:

Understand. Yup, I’m a little surprised but I shouldn’t be given your Metallica videos on your Youtube page. 

I'm not sure what tastes might overlap but just for fun here are some of my other favorites in the rock and or roll world.

Metallica

Queen

White Zombie

Rob Zombie

Children of Bodom

Meshuggah

I like lots of styles of music here and there. 

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7 minutes ago, LDSGator said:

Do you like the musical “American Idiot”? Named after the Green Day album of course. 

I'm not familiar with it. I'm not a fan of Green Day. In that grunge rock world I'd go with The Offspring instead. 

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6 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

I'm not familiar with it. I'm not a fan of Green Day. In that grunge rock world I'd go with The Offspring instead. 

I was a fan of Offspring until they tried comedy-punk. Lost me on that one. 

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So, I've been kind of wondering how Steven Spielberg planned on improving West Side Story. In some ways, the original movie is put together very well. There's some obvious flaws, and I think fixing those is likely...but in some ways I wondered if it would just be "different" instead of better. But one way this trailer indicates he may have improved on it is in the "movie score" part of the movie. Like backing the dialogue scenes with big orchestral emotional stuff like in the trailer. That could really up the ante with the emotional punch.

I also think the original missed the boat on the ending with the acting (or director's direction on acting) choices, and that will probably be more punchy too. And I expect the rumble to be more intense. And I know that Steven Spielberg will improve the overall cinematography and lighting and what have you, which in the original was hit and miss...sometimes great, and sometimes terrible (like the monochromatic lighting during the song Maria which just looks terrible.)

Either way, I expect this to be a shining example of how to do musical films now-a-days correctly. I hope that's true, that it's a hit making tons of money, and it inspires other great musical movies to be made.

 

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5 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

So, I've been kind of wondering how Steven Spielberg planned on improving West Side Story. In some ways, the original movie is put together very well. There's some obvious flaws, and I think fixing those is likely...but in some ways I wondered if it would just be "different" instead of better. But one way this trailer indicates he may have improved on it is in the "movie score" part of the movie. Like backing the dialogue scenes with big orchestral emotional stuff like in the trailer. That could really up the ante with the emotional punch.

I also think the original missed the boat on the ending with the acting (or director's direction on acting) choices, and that will probably be more punchy too. And I expect the rumble to be more intense. And I know that Steven Spielberg will improve the overall cinematography and lighting and what have you, which in the original was hit and miss...sometimes great, and sometimes terrible (like the monochromatic lighting during the song Maria which just looks terrible.)

Either way, I expect this to be a shining example of how to do musical films now-a-days correctly. I hope that's true, that it's a hit making tons of money, and it inspires other great musical movies to be made.

 

Do you think that movies based on musicals lose something in translation? Not arguing, strictly curious 

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17 minutes ago, LDSGator said:

Do you think that movies based on musicals lose something in translation? Not arguing, strictly curious 

I think that it depends on a multitude of factors and that there is no yes/no answer. I believe some are better as movies. West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof are two examples. The stage versions lose something, in my opinion. Man of La Mancha is an interesting example that loses something in both forms. The stage loses the realism of the real inn and the gritty reality of real life. The film loses the creativity of the play within a play. The movie does that too...sort of. It's a play within a movie....but the play then is shown as reality....but it doesn't have the same, "that's clever" sort of feel, etc...

Really though, it depends on so many factors. Some things work better as a stage play. Dance numbers are one example of that (usually). Dance numbers on stage usually work. Those same numbers in a movie can sometimes kill the show. But even when they don't, they still don't work as well as live.

Live orchestra also has something about it that just can't really be recreated with a recording. You feel the timpani hits and the loud brass melts your face. Live orchestra is something to hear! Recordings don't translate -- ever. Even a small orchestra playing live can punch in ways that movie music can't. Alternatively, small orchestras can also stink, and a movie allows for a bigger orchestra and perfected takes. So......

It really just depends.

Mostly though, I think skill is skill. The right director/producer/talent/etc. will sell a movie. The same is true of a stage play. People who understand the property and build it right for the medium in which it's being presented will create art. Most musical movie failures are failures of the creators, not the property.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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4 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

I think that it depends on a multitude of factors and than there is no yes/no answer. I believe some are better as movies. West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof are two examples. The stage versions lose something, in my opinion. Man of La Mancha is an interesting example that loses something in both forms. The stage loses the realism of the real inn and the gritty reality of real life. The film loses the creativity of the play within a play. The movie does that too...sort of. It's a play within a movie....but the play then is shown as reality....but it doesn't have the same, "that's clever" sort of feel, etc...

Really though, it depends on so many factors. Some things work better as a stage play. Dance numbers are one example of that (usually). Dance numbers on stage usually work. Those same numbers in a movie can sometimes kill the show. But even when they don't, they still don't work as well as live.

Live orchestra also has something about it that just can't really be recreated with a recording. You feel the timpani hits and the loud brass melts your face. Live orchestra is something to hear! Recordings don't translate -- ever. Even a small orchestra playing live can punch in ways that movie music can't. Alternatively, small orchestras can also stink, and a movie allows for a bigger orchestra an perfected takes. So......

It really just depends.

Mostly though, I think skill is skill. The right director/producer/talent/etc. will sell a movie. The same is true of a stage play. People who understand the property and build it right for the medium in which it's being presented will create art. Most musical movie failures are failures of the creators, not the property.

Well said, thank you. 

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3 hours ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Really though, it depends on so many factors. Some things work better as a stage play. Dance numbers are one example of that (usually). Dance numbers on stage usually work. Those same numbers in a movie can sometimes kill the show. But even when they don't, they still don't work as well as live.

I’ve looked for a clip on YouTube but it looks like it isn’t there. Apparently Ashman and Menken were hired by Disney and Ashman said he preferred to be attached to an animated film. The reason was that when you go to a play there’s a larger suspension of disbelief that allows you to get away with song and dance. When a person goes to a play and sees a street lamp on the stage that think, “ah, yes, so we’re pretending this is a street and a sidewalk.” Once you start playing along they can easily convince you that in this world emotions burst out in song and, when even that’s not enough, dance.

Ashman said he figured animation would similarly have a lower threshold to cross. Once you’ve agreed that fish can talk, how much more does it take to convince you that they already know the words to spontaneous songs and all the steps (?) for a complex choreography?

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4 hours ago, mordorbund said:

I’ve looked for a clip on YouTube but it looks like it isn’t there. Apparently Ashman and Menken were hired by Disney and Ashman said he preferred to be attached to an animated film. The reason was that when you go to a play there’s a larger suspension of disbelief that allows you to get away with song and dance. When a person goes to a play and sees a street lamp on the stage that think, “ah, yes, so we’re pretending this is a street and a sidewalk.” Once you start playing along they can easily convince you that in this world emotions burst out in song and, when even that’s not enough, dance.

Ashman said he figured animation would similarly have a lower threshold to cross. Once you’ve agreed that fish can talk, how much more does it take to convince you that they already know the words to spontaneous songs and all the steps (?) for a complex choreography?

I've seen that clip. I don't fully agree with Ashman on the point though. Even more-so with modern CGI capabilities. It does take a different approach to pull it off in live action though (see the live action Lion King as a primary example how to not pull it off...though I'm not sure the singing was the problem there...). And it is, perhaps, more challenging -- maybe... I think probably just "different" challenging. But really the part I disagree with is that suspension of disbelief that a fish can talk is the same suspension of disbelief that's required to accept people bursting into song or that the one correlates to the other (though I grant that the expectation of music in an animated film might be higher). Moreover, live action movie musicals were highly successful and there are many examples of them working very well before The Little Mermaid came along. I'm not saying I don't understand his preference to sign on to animation. And credit due. Ashman was the genius behind the Disney Renaissance. But really the problem of suspension of disbelief in a musical is a cultural thing. No one had a problem with it in the 40s, 50s, or 60s. By the 80s it was passé and kids weren't buying into it. That's a cultural result derived from various things. But it's not indicative of the medium itself being a problem as to suspension of disbelief. Ashman may or may not have been plugged into that idea.

Really though (and this is my actual disagreement), accepting a musical as a form of entertainment is not about suspension of disbelief. That's a bit of a semantic argument because, of course, by literal definition one could make the argument it is. But it's different. It's not the same as, "You'll believe a man can fly!" No on believes someone would burst into song. It's not belief they're suspending, even in the moment, in the same way it is buying into a fish talking. Music is expressionistic. It's representative. It's not a cold, hard thing happening in the same way a fish talking is. You aren't buying into a reality that people sing to each other in this world. You're letting the singing represent something else. (I know...semantics. Argumentative. But I think there's a reality to what I'm saying.......I think....that would serve those who create musical movies if they understood it. Ashman, for example, was adamant that the music started underneath the dialogue so the talking flowed into the song naturally. And that's fine as one approach. And it works well. But there are many fine examples of people breaking into song otherwise in movie musicals that have worked. And I don't think that's key to Under the Sea having worked. If Sebastian had said, "Ariel, listen to me. The human world is a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything they got up there..." and then the orchestra had kicked into the Caribbean rhythms as he took his place in front of a band and started singing would it REALLY have hurt the show much? I'm not saying it isn't better as is...but I'm contending maybe it's not as key to the song working as he implied....) That being said....I do get his point as a box one could work in to make life easier. I just think there's some definite outside the box thinking that is fully legitimate as well. Maybe.

In other words, people whose primary critique of musicals is, "This is stupid. People would never break into singing and choreographed dance in real life" are missing the point by a long shot. If the musical creator is trying to sell that angle, they already failed.

Thoughts?

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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On 9/15/2021 at 1:36 PM, mordorbund said:

Once you start playing along they can easily convince you that in this world emotions burst out in song and, when even that’s not enough, dance.

 

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On 9/15/2021 at 4:31 PM, The Folk Prophet said:

Thoughts

I think Ashman’s techniques for music / dialogue blending are only useful once you’ve committed to the musical format. The question is, what films can get away with the musical format? Traditionally the highly stylized form of musicals required vibrant visuals. On the stage it may be difficult to see faces, but I’ll know who the main cast is because they’re wearing bright colors and don’t change their palette. These bright colors used to be translated over to the silver screen and you see them in all the classics you love - West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and so on. Even the set still maintained an artificial stage-like look forced you to fill in the reality behind the image.

Then the 70s rolled around and either audiences weren’t buying it anymore or the producers weren’t selling them anymore. The traditional format didn’t cut it for live musicals (with 3 exceptions which I’ll get to). The 80s musicals were either animated or Muppet films. And then comes along Ashman’s films seeming to confirm his philosophy.

Back to the 70s, the 3 exceptions I’m seeing are Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Grease. For Grease, I rather suspect that there was a lot of nostalgia at play, not only for the 50’s but also for the 50’s coming-of-age films that already placed the setting slightly outside of reality so you know you’re not seeing how it really was but how your self from 10 years ago fantasized your teenage self wanted it to be. This nostalgia allows the audience to be more forgiving than otherwise.

For the other 2 films, Norman Jewison gets it. He understands what the musicals are trying to portray and adapts that into the new medium. For Fiddler, the set is a foreign land and a foreign time so we have to go along with there being some slightly different rules there. And just in case we think it’s just another town like so many we’ve seen, Tevye pulls us into his confidence to let us know that we need a guide and he’ll get the job done. It’s a fourth wall break that works because of Jewison’s technical handling. When Tevye speaks to us he’s actually only talking to me because the shot is so tight. When Tevye works through his feelings on various marriage proposals not only is time stopped (which could be awkward by itself) but there is instantly a physical distance drawn between the two. Tevye is working it out on a different plane and this happens frequently enough that we are never fooled into thinking this is a standard drama or that it’s going for the “gritty realism” that is so popular today. And credit to Jewison for not leaving it at the freeze frame from the stage, but adding to it the distance that only film could allow (same praise for visuals in Tradition).

For Superstar, I think Jewison differed from the play by making it a play within the film. The odd thing is that there doesn’t seem to be an audience and we may be voyeurs spying on a rehearsal. By allowing us to see everyone get set up we know we’re not seeing a singing Jesus - we’re seeing a singing actor who represents Jesus.

In recent history, Chicago did a good job of adapting the stage to film. The choice there was to make portions of it look real like a traditional crime film but the musical portions would exist in their own sphere. The use of the nightclub announcer serves as the transition to this burlesque world that shows the lawyer giving arguments before a judge and jury but because the two are kept separate we know he didn’t really tap dance in the well.

One that did a mixed job was LaLa Land. It opens with a bright stylized dance number in rush hour traffic. Clearly this is fantasy. Everything about it says it’s fantasy: they’re singing, the colors are vibrant, and even the lyrics describe LA as a dream (as they’re stuck in traffic). When they’re in love they dance among the stars at the observatory. It’s An American in Paris or Singing in the Rain, but it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t recall any songs when they hit their lows. When they’re fighting it’s not an angry duet. And there’s no sulking solo when they break up. It’s like “life happens” and life is by definition gritty and gloomy.

As I think on LaLa Land, I think they could have done the film with more realistic costuming (instead of the bright yellow dress and such) and more grounded love-dancing (without the flying) and it could still have worked.

West Side Story is already pretty realistic. If they took the original and toned down the bright colors and, you know, people actually bled when stabbed (and maybe stabbed multiple times if it needed to be lethal) then I don’t think it could be reasonably argued that “it was good except the singing and dancing pulled me out of it”.

So I guess I would say in my mind Ashman is correct that it’s more difficult to write a live movie musical simply because the modern formula for it hasn’t been captured yet.

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21 hours ago, mordorbund said:

So I guess I would say in my mind Ashman is correct that it’s more difficult to write a live movie musical simply because the modern formula for it hasn’t been captured yet.

Argumentatively true... I say "argumentatively" because I would argue that with modern CGI capabilities that there's little difference between what one could do with animation and live action. The formulas aren't fully translatable yet, but they should be. There's clearly a block in movie-folk's mind on the matter. An example of this can be seen in Sonic. The original preview had a "realistic" sonic to try and match the real life. When they got terrible feedback, they cartooned him up, and it worked, rather well I think.

Yes, the expressions of the reindeer in Frozen might be problematic to translate...but otherwise, what about that movie couldn't be live action? And why couldn't it work just as well in every way if it was? Frozen II as well.

Additionally...if you took Les Miz and didn't do the two things that ruined it (putting star power above singing prowess, and having them sing live on set when filming) then it could have been fantastic. There's nothing problematic about it otherwise, really. That was less about the movie folk not having the right formula as it was about them not understanding that that specific musical needs great singing above all else. Alternatively, Sweeney Todd worked wonders without great singers -- because Sondheim isn't a singers song writer, partially. Sweeney Todd captured the formula pretty well, I'd say. So did Into the Woods, actually. The live action-ness of these didn't do anything to hurt suspension of disbelief.

Granted, these are sung-through musicals. And that, in my book, works a charm both live action and on stage to the acceptance of story through song. (Basically, it's opera.)

I think Miss Saigon could absolutely kill as a Movie. Gritty, live action, Viet Nam era with full on singing throughout. They were planning on doing it. I'm not sure if they are any longer. Of course it might suffer the Sweeney Todd problem of ending up being R-rated, which is not a good thing for a musical any way you cut it. (It's annoying to me that every version of the Miss Saigon (in recording and staging) has gotten progressively raunchier.

Anyhow, I think you left out Man of La Mancha and Scrooge from your working 70s movie musicals exceptions. Of course maybe those weren't big enough hits and that's what you mean by "working". If you mean working as in actually work even if they don't sell as well then they need to be included. (Scrooge has a few flaws, but overall, it works quite well, imo. But I may be biased by sentiment.)

Edit: As I said earlier too, I'm hoping Stephen Spielberg's West Side Story version cracks the code.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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15 hours ago, LDSGator said:

I mentioned that one earlier in the thread, do you like it too?

I haven’t seen it. When I first heard of it I laughed. Then I saw the Tony performance (or maybe it was the German equivalent) and thought “this is actually good”. I need to listen to the album to help me decide if I actually want to see it. Or the recommendation from a trusted source.

In general musicals based on movies start with one strike against them.

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36 minutes ago, mordorbund said:

I haven’t seen it. When I first heard of it I laughed. Then I saw the Tony performance (or maybe it was the German equivalent) and thought “this is actually good”. I need to listen to the album to help me decide if I actually want to see it. Or the recommendation from a trusted source.

In general musicals based on movies start with one strike against them.

Totally understandable. 

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