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158. The Wizard of Oz – w/ The Movie Palace – Winter of ’39 (#–)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, a special crossover episode with The Movie Palace Podcast, a film podcast hosted by Carl Sweeney taking a look at the classics of Hollywood’s golden age. Carl suggested a crossover episode taking a look at the list, and particularly some of the classic movies listed on it.

So this week, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Mervyn LeRoy, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe and King Vidor’s The Wizard of Oz.

After a freak hurricane scoops her home off the ground and deposits her in a vibrant magical land occupied by talking scarecrows and wicked witches, Dorothy Gale must confront a shocking reality: she’s not in Kansas anymore.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Rocketman

As has been noted, the iconic Elton John song that inspired the film is titled Rocket Man, while the film itself is simply Rocketman.

The missing space is an intriguing stylistic choice, given that the film is obviously designed to evoke Elton John’s beloved contemplative ballad about space-age truckers. What purpose does the omission of that space serve? What is gained by contracting the song to create a single-word title for the biographical feature film. Having watched the film, it feels like the missing space might have been lost as an inadvertent consequence of a thorough find-and-delete of anything resembling subtext from the screenplay.

Fancy, that.

To be clear, this isn’t entirely a flaw with Rocketman. Musicals are fundamentally designed to render subtext as supratext, to literalise and articulate the themes and ideas and emotions underscoring a character or plot. By their nature, musicals feature characters very theatrically expressing their innermost feelings and desires directly to the audience through the medium of song and dance. Subtlety is not necessary in this context, and could even become something of a hindrance. A musical – especially a jukebox musical like this – is narrative as stadium rock.

The musical sequences in Rocketman capture this beautifully, and are the film’s strongest attribute. The movie just has trouble turning the volume down in the scenes between those numbers.

Key details.

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Non-Review Review: Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys looks and feels pretty much exactly how you might expect a musical directed by Clint Eastwood to look and feel.

Adapted from the Tony-Award winning hit musical, it is awash with nostalgia. Jersey Boys provides an account of the career of Frankie Valli from his early days in the local neighbourhood through to induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the nineties. The film is shockingly traditional in terms of construction, adhering rigidly to the formula for a successful musical bio-pic, from the early grifting to the eventual discord to the heart-felt reunion epilogue, complete with questionable old-age make-up for the cast.

Jersey Boys hits all the expected notes, but never quite brings the house down.

Sign of the times...

Sign of the times…

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Non-Review Review: Pitch Perfect

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which is as much of a joy this year as it was last year.

Pitch Perfect seems like a recipe for a disaster. It’s a college pseudo-coming-of-age comedy set in the competitive world of acapella, with a women’s group fighting to break “the acapella glass ceiling.” (We’re told – by a commentator described as “a misogynist at heart” – that “woman are about as good at being acapella singers as they are at being doctors.”) However, the film is a joy to watch, a light feel-good film with a wonderful charm and a bright wit about it, brought to life by a fantastic cast working off a wry script. It’s never too heavy, and it never insists upon itself, but it’s engaging and fun in a way that makes it hard to resist.

Anna-phonic sound…

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Non-Review Review: Nine

I have to admit, I greatly enjoyed Nine, even if it never really felt substantial or fulfilling. I’m not convinced that the film works as a story, but it does provide director Rob Marshall the opportunity to put together setpiece after setpiece, each choreographed with impeccable skill. Indeed, given his ability to stage glitzy sequences and the sheer volume of talent in front of the camera, coupled with lavish production values and a mesmerizing setting, it’s easy to forgive Nine its faults – the most glaring of which is that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of it, and then stuff happens which doesn’t necessarily feel earned in the last quarter. Still, it looks damn pretty and the soundtrack is quite catchy.

Now that's a showstopper...

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Chorus Lion: The Musical Magic of the Lion King…

Thanks to the ever wonderful Andrew who is running a mini-blogothon event this weekend. I’m delighted to have been asked to take part, and I’m sure there are some interesting choices being made.

When you mention “musical”, is it a cheat to think “Disney”? I’m not really sure. I mean, I could point to any number of iconic and important live-action musicals. The Wizard of Oz is perhaps the most enduring of these, but they run the gauntlet from quirky indie numbers like Romance & Cigarettes to bona fides Oscar winners like Chicago. There’s ones that have transitioned from stage to screen and those who have gone from cinema to theatre. However, for me, it has to be a Disney film. And not just because they own a monopoly on my childhood. And, if it’s going to be a Disney film, it has to be The Lion King.

Pride and joy...

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Non-Review Review: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Who would have thought that the writers’ strike last year would have been a blessing in disguise? Not only did the condensing down of seasons of House and Lost give the series a tighter narrative flow, but we also got the highest-profile “web original” series ever written. It may have been somewhat disingenous of Time to name this little musical masterpiece “one of the best inventions of 2008” – as there have been web-based series before – but what is astounding is how well this little drama stands on its own. Produced with a shoestring budget using favours called in from all over the industry as a means of artistic expression circumventing the studio system (which was being boycotted by the strike), Joss Whedon continues to demonstrate his cult credentials with another sure-fire geek hit.

The doctor will see you now...

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