Episode 35: My Sister Eileen (Fossepocalypse #2)

My Sister Eileen

It’s a Wonderful Town! …wait.

Jazz Hams! It’s time to begin our season of devotion to the master: Bob Fosse.

This is the second episode of the Fossepocalypse because way-back-when (Episode 17, November 27, 2018) we began the Fossepocalypse with KISS ME, KATE.  Inspired by the impending miniseries Fosse/Verdon, we have now committed to the Fossepocalypse completely:  we will watch his entire musical filmography (plus a few bonus works) in chronological order (or as close to it as we can manage).  By doing so, we will be able to track the evolution of his choreography, his directorial style, and his self-destruction.

This week we begin with his first choreography credit for a whole movie:  MY SISTER EILEEN (which is just WONDERFUL TOWN by a different road). (Mike and Vinnie had never even heard of this one, of course.) Still hoping to make it as a star himself, Fosse leveraged his contract as choreographer into an acting role as well. He may not have become the next Fred Astaire, but we did get the amazing “Alley Dance” with Tommy Rall.

My Sister Eileen

Fosse being Fosse

My Sister Eileen

Tommy Rall being Tommy Rall

Betty Garrett (our gal Brunhilde Esterhazy from ON THE TOWN) stars in her biggest movie role (thanks to McCarthyism, her career was cut short) and she knocks it out of the park. Paired with the charming Jack Lemmon, with Janet Leigh (yes, that Janet Leigh) in the titular role, it’s a charming film that gets overshadowed by it’s more well-known counterpart (the wonderful town mentioned previously).

Fosse’s signature style is still in development, as he works to prove he can choreograph just as well as his idols. But we get his percussive snaps and pops, plus some wonderful small group work. Also, one of Fosse’s largest on-screen roles.

For Fosse fans (and that is us), this is a must-see!

Alley Dance

Give Me a Band

My Sister Eileen (1955)
My Sister Eileen poster Rating: 6.8/10 (1,468 votes)
Director: Richard Quine
Writer: Blake Edwards (screenplay), Richard Quine (screenplay), Joseph Fields (play), Jerome Chodorov (play), Ruth McKenney (stories)
Stars: Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett, Bob Fosse
Runtime: 108 min
Rated: Approved
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Released: 22 Sep 1955
Plot: After submitting a story of her beautiful sister, a woman assumes her identity to maintain the attention of a playboy publisher.

Episode 34: Princess Raccoon

Princess Raccoon

Delightfully WTF

This week, Jazzhandians, your hosts dive into completely unknown territory: a Japanese musical! Seijun Suzuki’s PRINCESS RACCOON.

Based on Japanese folklore, but mostly just coming from Suzuki’s highly visual, stylized, rather bonkers brain – PRINCESS RACCOON has a variety of musical styles, gorgeous (and mind-bending) costumes, and at its heart a love story.

If our commentary strikes you as scattershot and disorganized, it’s probably partially our ignorance of the original Japanese tales, but also Suzuki’s own storytelling style.

Bonkers, hard to decipher – yes. But still very much worth the watch.

#ymmv  (fo sho)

Princess Raccoon (2005)
Princess Raccoon poster Rating: 6.8/10 (613 votes)
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writer: Yoshio Urasawa
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Joe Odagiri, Hiroko Yakushimaru, Mikijirô Hira
Runtime: 111 min
Rated: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Musical
Released: 28 May 2005
Plot: Amechiyo (The banished prince) falls in love with Tanukihime (a princess of raccoon dog disguised to human). This is an Operetta which includes comedy, singing and dancing, and a love story.

Episode 33: The Muppet Movie

, with special guest:
The Muppet Movie

*flailing Kermit arms*
(in German)

Citizens of Jazzhandia! This week’s episode has your hosts (Windy, Vinnie, and Mike) filling in a glaring hole in silent partner Jenny’s filmography – THE MUPPET MOVIE!

If it’s been a while since you’ve watched it, let us remind you how absolutely wonderful this movie is.  Featuring some of Paul Williams’ best music, a slew of ridiculous cameos, and groundbreaking practical effects, the movie nonetheless rests on the sweet, pure heart of the muppets.

While we recorded this episode during the holiday season, this is a great movie to help you get through the last dregs of winter and welcome in the brighter days of spring, along with the lovers, the dreamers, and us!

The Muppet Movie

doogadoong doogadoong

The Muppet Movie

Creating movie magic, magically

 

The Muppet Movie

Prince and the Electric Mayhem (you want this to be a thing, don’t you?)

The Muppet Movie

Brilliant holiday stockings!

 

Musical performance at Jim’s funeral

Yoda sings “Seagulls! Stop it now!”

“Russian Unicorn” bad lip reading video

Orson Welles drunk champagne commercial

 

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Episode 32: Once Upon a Mattress (2005)

Once Upon A Mattress

Stellar cast, silly show, simply delightful.

When the movie you were supposed to watch won’t play, you pivot immediately to the colorful and charming ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.

The original Broadway production launched the career of a young comedienne named Carol Burnett. Now she takes the role of the conniving Queen Aggravaine, scheming to make sure her son never marries and stays her little baby forever. Until Princess Winifred (Tracey Ullman) shows up.

Ullman and Burnett are fantastic apart, but even better when sharing the screen. Denis O’Hare makes Prince Dauntless charming (a minor miracle). Tom Smothers, Zooey Deschanel, Matthew Morrison – it’s a terrific cast!  Directed by Kathleen Marshall (Tony winning choreographer), the dances are top notch, and the story zips along.

But what we mostly talk about this episode are the costumes.

Once Upon A Mattress

Bob Mackie makes me FAAAABulous!

Once Upon A Mattress

So. Fabulous.

Take a listen, and then find the movie and take a watch! And then tell us which costume was your favorite!

Once Upon a Mattress (2005)
Once Upon a Mattress poster Rating: 6.4/10 (1,025 votes)
Director: Kathleen Marshall
Writer: Marshall Barer (musical), Dean Fuller (musical), Jay Thompson (musical), Mary Rodgers (musical), Janet Brownell (teleplay)
Stars: Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, Denis O'Hare, Zooey Deschanel
Runtime: 90 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Released: 18 Dec 2005
Plot: In this hilarious tweaking of the fairy tale, "The Princess and the Pea", Queen Aggravain has ruled that none may marry until her son, Prince Dauntless marries. However, she has managed to ...

Episode 31: Ziegfeld Follies (Part 2)

Ziegfeld Follies

“Follies” seems so appropriate.

This week, your hosts finish our discussion of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, that star-studded dud of a musical revue.

They say that failure is a great teacher, and we certainly learned a lot about what we don’t like, and what doesn’t work, watching this one. If you are truly interested in the deeper workings of comedy, watching old comedy can be fascinating. It’s not funny – but it is fascinating.

While it may have been an effort to get through this movie, that effort was rewarded handsomely by the penultimate number: a duet between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire that shows them both off at their best, with charm and wit to spare.

Don’t bother to watch the whole movie, it’s right here on Youtube:

The Babbitt and the Bromide

Take a listen, and if a segment seems interesting – watch it on Youtube and let us know what you thought!

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)
Ziegfeld Follies poster Rating: 6.5/10 (2,769 votes)
Director: Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, Merrill Pye, Charles Walters
Writer: David Freedman, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane
Stars: Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice
Runtime: 110 min
Rated: Approved
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Released: 08 Apr 1946
Plot: The late, great impresario Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. looks down from Heaven and ordains a new revue in his grand old style.

Episode 30: Ziegfeld Follies (Part 1)

Ziegfeld Follies

Look at all those famous movie stars! How exciting! #lies

Jazz Hams, this week your hosts discover a movie that none of us had seen – ZIEGFELD FOLLIES.

This movie has been mentioned frequently in other episodes whenever we would check a major movie star’s resume and find that they, too, had also been in this mysterious film ZIEGFELD FOLLIES.

The cast is an embarrassment of riches resulting in a movie that is, sadly, mostly just an embarrassment. Like the Follies of yesteryear, the film is simply a collection of musical numbers and comedic interludes, showcasing the stars and the comedy routines that Ziegfeld made famous. Unfortunately, the comedy is one hundred years out of date.  But the musical numbers provide a steady source of entertainment, with a few stellar performances that are worth seeking out.

Given how jam-packed the movie is with talent, it’s no wonder our recording session ran long. So this week is Part One.  Tune in next week for the continuation of our epic discussion.

Ziegfeld Follies

If I ever find out who is to blame for this nightmare fuel, shit will Get Real.

Ziegfeld Follies (1945)
Ziegfeld Follies poster Rating: 6.5/10 (2,769 votes)
Director: Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, Merrill Pye, Charles Walters
Writer: David Freedman, Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane
Stars: Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice
Runtime: 110 min
Rated: Approved
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Released: 08 Apr 1946
Plot: The late, great impresario Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. looks down from Heaven and ordains a new revue in his grand old style.

Episode 29: Kismet

Kismet

In a word…LUSCIOUS

This week’s episode features Windy’s beloved Howard Keel and the gorgeous melodies of Borodin – it’s KISMET!

Mike and Vinnie literally had no idea this movie even existed.  And yet…

The Broadway musical ran for over 500 performances. When the film production was announced, the biggest stars of the day vied for the leading role of Hajj. It features the exciting choreography of Jack Cole, the father of modern jazz dance.  All this, and the musical has been largely forgotten by modern audiences.

Seek this one out, Jazz Hams! Howard Keel positive revels in the wily charms of the Poet. And his wiles are more than matched by the arched side-eye of Dolores Gray. Throw in Vincente Minelli’s eye-popping palette, and you’ll find yourself swept away by its sensuous, sly, and silly chams.

“Not Since Ninevah” watch JACK COLE choreography here!

Kismet (1955)
Kismet poster Rating: 6.3/10 (1,323 votes)
Director: Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen
Writer: Charles Lederer (screenplay), Luther Davis (screenplay), Charles Lederer (adapted from the musical play "Kismet": book by), Luther Davis (adapted from the musical play "Kismet": book by), Edward Knoblock (founded on "Kismet" by)
Stars: Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone
Runtime: 113 min
Rated: Approved
Genre: Adventure, Musical, Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
Released: 23 Dec 1955
Plot: A roguish poet is given the run of the scheming Wazir's harem while pretending to help him usurp the young caliph.

Episode 28: Starstruck

Starstruck

Cyndi Lauper’s adorable Australian cousin?

Citizens of Jazzhandia, we are here with an ambassador from the 1980s by way of Australia – it’s STARSTRUCK!

If a Cyndi Lauper music video had a love child with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the result would be the delightfully bonkers STARSTRUCK.  Featuring catchy early 80s punk/pop delivered in the form of mini-music videos, the movie flies by with quirky interactions sprinkled liberally between musical set pieces.

None of your hosts had ever even heard of this movie when the Alamo Drafthouse did a screening of a newly restored print, and this episode proves that it’s really hard to describe dance with just words. Which means you’ll just have to seek out this movie and see it in all its glorious joy for yourself.

And if you have seen and loved THE APPLE, you need to make this a priority, Jazz Hams.

Take a listen and fill up our letterboxes with your own thoughts!

BEST NUMBER IN THE MOVIE

SECOND BEST BUT STILL AHMAZING

Starstruck

“Penis envy!” (It makes sense if you watch the movie.)

Starstruck (1982)
Starstruck poster Rating: 7.0/10 (849 votes)
Director: Gillian Armstrong
Writer: Stephen MacLean (original screenplay)
Stars: Joey Kennedy, Ross O'Donovan, Margo Lee, Max Cullen
Runtime: 105 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Drama
Released: 26 Jan 1983
Plot: Young woman wants to become the next big singer with the help of her friends and despite the wishes of her working class family.

Episode 27: The Band Wagon

The Band Wagon

Legs not to scale: They’re even longer in real life

Jazz Hams, this week’s episode features a pairing that is sure to delight:  Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse! THE BAND WAGON is a light, frothy delight featuring iconic and influential dances created by Michael Kidd. Neither Vinnie nor Mike had seen it before, but Windy was downright giddy at getting to revisit this gem.

Meta as all hell, THE BAND WAGON tells the story of an aging song-and-dance man (Fred Astaire) who wants to revitalize his career by doing a show. He gets paired with a ballet dancer (Cyd Charisse) and the two have concerns about the age difference and their differing dance styles. But the real fun comes when Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) agrees to helm the show and decides it is clearly a modern retelling of Faust!  Hilarity and shenanigans ensue – along with dances that have cemented this film’s place in cinema history (“Dancing in the Dark” and “Girl Hunt Ballet”).

Vincente Minnelli – the man who loves color – directs, and the sets and costumes are eye popping.

The Band Wagon

Arm loofas are a thing that should come back in style

But the real star is the amazing amount of talent from our leading players.

The Band Wagon

“Whose idea was this again?”

If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a treat!

Triplets! You know you’re curious

Gilda Radner and Steve Martin dancing in the dark

The Band Wagon (1953)
The Band Wagon poster Rating: 7.5/10 (9,760 votes)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Writer: Betty Comden (story by), Adolph Green (story by)
Stars: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray
Runtime: 112 min
Rated: Passed
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Released: 07 Aug 1953
Plot: A pretentiously artistic director is hired for a new Broadway musical and changes it beyond recognition.

Episode 26: RENT

Rent

ENTIRE CAST: “It was easier to play a decade younger on stage.”

Listeners, this week Mike leads us through the movie version of RENT which Vinnie has never seen.

The 2005 film unites much of the original cast which seemed like an exciting idea at the time – until you have a close up on a 30-something trying to sell the uniquely narcissistic arrogance of the mid-20s. It also illustrates how very much “of the time” the musical was in 1996:  ten years later and the themes, topics, and music do not age well. A period piece rather than a timeless classic.

Perhaps the greatest stumbling block is uninspired and clunky (and strangely sanitized) direction that manages to take an ensemble of incredible talent and render them lackluster.

Join us as we cover RENT (see what I did there?)!

Rent

“WHO is directing??”

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