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Author Topic: FilmStruck
Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 19, 2018, 15:05
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Roller dancing does indeed sound impressive. I never got the hang of simply using them, partly because I hardly ever tried. The results didn't encourage me to continue.

I’m reasonably athletic in the sense of not being a klutz. I could play tennis. Play golf badly. Throw and hit a baseball. But the kind of body awareness and movement needed for gymnastics or dancing is completely beyond me. I’m quite tone deaf to it.

I’ve tried roller skating a couple times. I could probably do it if I practiced but it just didn’t feel right. It has to feel right or else you’re just going to injure yourself. I’ll cruise down a mountain trail at 25 mph on my bike but you won’t catch me trying to roller skate or ice skate at even 3 mph. It’s not in me.

There’s something remarkable about the kind of “body intelligence” shown by Gene Kelly and others. It’s a special type of athleticism and skill…infused by a free-wheeling artfulness that comes from a place deeper than both.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 19, 2018, 15:16
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There are also people who have tastes for a variety of things. I've seen a lot of light musicals, and I've also seen horror thrillers such as Psycho and Halloween (neither of which is really a slasher movie -- there are 2 murders in the first and 5 in the second). And plenty of other movies of all sorts. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.

Well, I'm glad you answered that question. I'd sort of been wondering about that. Nor would it be surprising that Fred Astaire tops Gene Kelly -- though the movies I mainly recall Astaire in are Finian's Rainbow (with Dame Petula) and Ghost Story (whose makers greatly misunderstood the book). Neither of those very different movies involves any sort of dancing.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 19, 2018, 15:31
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After seeing Astaire (at 49) in the toy store sequence, it’s an easy answer: Astaire. When Kelly is dancing he’s dancing hard and well. With Astaire, he’s dancing just as hard but it’s so light and elegant.

Astaire's dancing flows smoothly and seems effortless. There is no jerkiness to it, no rough corners, so to speak. Kelly's dancing is very athletic, but not nearly so smooth as Astaire's. Sometimes it has a certain abruptness to it, which can be a little uncomfortable. Like brute force over talent. Not to say Kelly was not talented but his dancing does sometimes seem to have more to do with force than rhythm and flow.

Brad-
Nelson
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 08:59
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Not to say Kelly was not talented but his dancing does sometimes seem to have more to do with force than rhythm and flow.

I think that’s a fair description. I think a lot of dance is wonderful, kinetic brute force….forcing the body to do things that aren’t particularly natural. But it’s still fun to watch when done well. And few did it better then Kelly.

But with Astaire we see the same sort of complex moves but with the smooth flair of stylishness. I Googled on “Greatest Dancers” and the first list I came up with is one from IDMB:

1) Fred Astaire
2) Gene Kelly
3) Shirley Temple
4) Debbie Reynolds
5) The Nicholas Brother (Who? I’ve gotta find some of them.)
6) Rita Hayworth
7) Ginger Rogers
8) Donald O’Conner
9) Ann Miller
10) Gregory Hines

A somewhat strange list past #1 and #2. Really. Debbie Reynolds was better than Cyd Charisse or even Ann-Margret? Still, you might run into a modern list where Justin Timberlake is #8. If you want to go more modern, by all means put Mikhail Baryshnikov near the head of the list. But Michael Jackson? Well, yeah. He we certainly good.

Here's a more classical sort of list that puts Rudolf Nureyev at the top. Joaquín Cortés is #4? Who? Well, I admit there must be a lot of great dancers out there I’ve never heard of.

Madonna appears high on many lists. I think there are a lot of over-rated stars, and she’s one of them. I suppose one needs to distinguish between different forms: ballet, classical dance, and modern pop-slop.

Anyway, getting back to the latest. I finished Easter Parade last night. These movies could be rated simply by how much time I spend surfing the web on my iPad while having them on in the background. The plot of this one is amongst the worst of its kind.

But there are three moments worth viewing. The first is Fred Astaire doing a solo dance in a toy store. The second is about three-quarters into it where there is a pretty big formal production number with vivid costumes and sets and Fred dancing with a number of ladies. The third is nearer the end still with Fred and Judy dressed as hobos. They do a charming number, making you wish the writers and producers had made better use of Garland (and comedy...most falls flat) like this. She’s funny and interesting.

But in much of the rest of the movie she just seemed to be having a bad hair day. It’s as if her hair stylist was doing what she could to make her as unattractive as possible.

And how did Peter Lawford ever become a name? He’s basically a good-looking fencepost in most of these movies. So I spent much of the time surfing the web while waiting for a dance number to come up. Garland had a few songs here and there but nothing (solo) that was particularly memorable. Ann Miller had some numbers but, again, nothing particularly gripping except for the big production of “Shakin’ the Blues Away.”

And then it all ends with an “Easter Parade” proper with Astaire and Garland walking down the boulevard in full dress with that famous song playing. Why? What? Good song, but what’s it got to do with the price of tea in China? This is another case where they just tried to patch some songs together. This isn’t a musical (which one might define has having the story, songs, and dance generally supporting the same themes) as much as it is a patchwork of on-contract studio stars. The humor is flat. There is no chemistry between Astaire and Garland. And aside from the wonderful hobo comedy routine, Garland isn’t all that great of a partner for Astaire. In a really odd moment as described by another reviewer:

Astaire is obviously the far superior dancer of the two. Garland gamely tries to keep up but the contrast is rather jarring. It kind of works for the story in that Garland's character is supposed to be an anonymous nobody of a dancer. But when Astaire's best musical number pairs him with a couple of anonymous hoofers while Garland stands idly by offstage it says a lot.

I would note that I think this is a horrible misuse of Garland’s talents. They could have let her play the scrappy, feisty, up-and-comer taking Astaire’s arrogance (that he can take any dancer and make her a star) as a challenge. But Garland is just an automaton for a horrible script. Another reviewer states it exactly:

Unfortunately, the film crams in too many songs and the viewer may lose interest in the musical offerings, especially towards the end, as none of them are particularly good or memorable unless there is dancing involved.

Really, aside from the actual dancing scenes, there’s little to hold one’s interest.

Kung Fu Zu
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Kung Fu Zu
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 09:22
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A somewhat strange list past #1 and #2. Really. Debbie Reynolds was better than Cyd Charisse or even Ann-Margret?

Be happy they didn't include John Travolta.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 09:59
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I can't claim any expertise on dancing. For example, in reading the wikipedia entry on Fred Astaire, I find that there was some dancing in Finian's Rainbow, but I don't recall it. (Of course, some of it might have been lost to TV cuts and there was a certain amount of frolicking that could have included some dancing.) It also notes that Astaire was nervous about singing with Dame Petula, who was similarly nervous about dancing with him. Only a handful of Fred Astaire's movies didn't involve any dancing, including Ghost Story, his last. (Actually, there was a segment in which the friends who later became the Chowder Society did a little dancing with Eva Galli, but it evidently wasn't enough to count. Besides, that was set decades earlier and might have involved different actors.)

I did see a performance of The Nutcracker featuring Rudolf Nureyev long ago, but recall little about it. I was there mostly for the music. Nureyev also appeared on The Muppet Show once, but I don't recall what he did. They had Beverly Sills on once, and that I do recall some of. Clearly I'm more interested in music than in dance. The fact that I multi-task while watching may have something to do with that -- I can read while still listening (somewhat) to music, but not while carefully watching dancers.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 11:01
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He did do a nice job in Saturday Night Fever.

One of my favorite musical numbers is Danny Kaye doing Choreography from White Christmas. This is quite a poke at the pretentiousness (as with everything from the left) that would overtake yet another art form…in this case dancing.

Much like a splotch of black paint in the corner of the canvas that is called high art, so too are various forms of “interruptive dance” little more than pissing in the gutter and calling it art. One commenter said “Danny Kaye had been a dancer before a comedian and he was making fun of Bob Fosse and his method of choreography that was taking over in Hollywood.” That’s some of the specifics I did not know.

And Vera-Ellen should be on any list. No one could do that toe-tap like she could. (One commenter wondered how many Jolt colas she needed in order to do that.)

Speaking of dancing, coming in toward the middle of that Danny Kaye number is the John Brascia in the white suit with the padded shoulders. Many of these uncredited dancers are as good as or better than the name pop stars so revered today by the easily pleased. Brascia didn’t have a huge career in the movies but he also danced with Cyd Charisse in Meet Me in Las Vegas. He also does a short but great tap number with Vera-Ellen in White Christmas. I couldn’t smile like that all the time. It would hurt my face.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 11:39
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Oh, one thing I came across in the wikipedia entry on Fred Astaire is that Gene Kelly was intended to be the star in Easter Parade, Astaire having just decided to retire (for the first but not last time). Then Kelly was injured, and they offered the role to Astaire, and he unretired.

Brad-
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Brad Nelson
Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 21:30
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I can't claim any expertise on dancing.

This is what I don’t like to hear. I think it’s okay to say “I know what I like.” Sure, some pompous ass could come on here and look at one of these videos and give a name to every technical move that, say, Danny Kaye is making. But the essence of dancing is not nomenclature. It’s the dancing.

Now, in order to accomplish the dancing you have to have a lot of practice and be able to speak the lingo. And knowing some of the ins-and-outs of any art form will aid in its appreciation. I’d love someone with knowledge to do an article on the history of dancing, or what is was like for them to learn to dance, or what they liked about dancing, or a compendium of the technical terms for all the moves.

But if one is reasonably aesthetically acute, you’re going to notice something special about Fred Astaire even if you’ve never danced nor know the first thing about the names of the moves he’s making.

It also notes that Astaire was nervous about singing with Dame Petula, who was similarly nervous about dancing with him.

Musicals often make for strange bedfellows in this way. Think of Sinatra and Kelly. Or Garland and Astaire. Bing and Danny Kaye. But probably many of these big singing stars have some background in dance, even if they never developed it. Or their enormous talent (and ambition) just seems to flow over to it.

Nureyev is a great dancer. It’s just not my thing. To me, that’s just too much dancing. It becomes too pretentious. I love when a dance also tells a good story, or has a bit of humor, or is just elegant as all heck. Formal ballet tends to bore me. I get more enjoyment out of watching Astaire and Garland ham it up as singing and dancing hobos.

To each his own, I guess. Perhaps the magic of Fred Astaire is not only the quality of his dancing, but he was an approachable everyman with class. He’s what we all would like to be: talented gentlemen, humble and quick with a smile. A decent sort of fellow.

Timothy-
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Post Re: FilmStruck
on: November 20, 2018, 22:03
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One other dancer, though I certainly can't rate him, was Ken Berry. I remember a sketch on Sonny and Cher involving his dancing and not having time for anything else. The wikipedia entry on F Troop noted the irony that a good dancer played a clumsy oaf.

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