Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Favorite Movie Musical Moments (Part 1)

I am a huge fan of musicals. A HUGE fan. Both in theater and in the movies. There are very, very few things that move me as deeply as a story told in beautiful song. In light of that, I thought I would share a few of my favorite musical numbers from movies. At the time of writing this, my list contains 18, but I expect some to be weeded out as I rewatch them and discover they're not quite as awesome as I thought they were. So my guess is that this will take up 3 different blog entries.

I wanted to make this film-specific, so I've chosen only original movie musicals - none adapted from the stage.

In no particular order:

1. Moulin Rouge - Your Song
This particular clip starts with the (audio NSFW) scene between Nicole Kidman's prostitute character and Ewan McGregor's idealistic poet. She thinks he's a rich duke she needs to entertain for the evening, he thinks he's been offered the chance to show her his songs, hilarity ensues. The contrast at the beginning between her showy but insincere sensual moaning and his humble innocent love song is great, and as he sings her his romantic ballad she's slowly swept up in the beauty and romanticism of it all, and so am I. I particularly love how the visuals support the song here - it's enormously grand and over-the-top as the two dance on literal clouds outside her window. Ewan McGregor's voice is never particularly smooth but it fits perfectly with this song - sincere, sweet, untrained. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

2. Moulin Rouge - El Tango de Roxanne
This is the only film I duplicate in the list, but there is a reason this movie is my all-time favorite movie musical. It has so many brilliant moments. This is one of the scenes that inevitably comes up in my discussions of my favorite music moments in film. I am amazed by this every time I watch it. Where to begin? This time around I was most struck by the main singer's raspy growl. In the final moments of the song, he practically *roars* his lyrics, and the pain is so clear and so vivid it's almost overwhelming. The violins that soar in the background as the song comes to its chilling climax... the scene of Ewan McGregor marching slowly out the front door as the dancers whirl around behind him... the contrast between the duke's cold dining room and the passionate but heartbroken couple on the dance floor... there are too many things I love about this song to list them all. It's one of the ones where I simply can't understand how you can watch it and *not* be moved by it.

3. Singin' in the Rain - Singin' in the Rain
This spot nearly went to Moses dance (one of the best musical numbers with no plot connection whatsoever), but in the end I had to give it to this. I can't watch this and not smile. Not even two viewings of A Clockwork Orange can steal the joy of this song from me. Gene Kelly's dancing and singing has never been more delightful. Every time I see it I'm amazed to remember that he had a fever of 103 while filming it... what a great performance.

4. The Prince of Egypt - Deliver Us
The Prince of Egypt tells a huge, sprawling, epic story of an entire nation being saved from slavery, and the opening makes it work. Its dark lament is a desperate prayer for deliverance. We see the people working as hard as they can but still being mistreated, and the song rises out of their pain. It resembles "Work Song," the opening number of Les Miserables, except that here the people have done absolutely nothing to deserve the plight they're in. A powerfully dark number for an animated feature.

5. High School Musical 3 - The Boys Are Back
Ah, I can feel your judgment from here. ;-) I only kind of like High School Musical, but I really love this song from the third one. It may be little more than a music video in the middle of a movie, but it is so, so much fun, and it's clear that Zac Efron and Corbin Bleu are having a blast with it. It's an anthem for the awesome adventures every little boy imagines himself a part of. It's full of just-because dance breaks, sudden extra participants in the song, and people looking awfully intense as they sing about silly subjects... everything High School Musical is about, but this time with a bit of a sense of humor. Probably my favorite moment from the whole trilogy.

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