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 (9,070 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??”

Rent (2005)
Rent poster Rating: 7.0/10 (46,712 votes)
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Jonathan Larson (book)
Stars: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Jesse L. Martin
Runtime: 135 min
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Released: 23 Nov 2005
Plot: This is the film version of the Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical about Bohemians in the East Village of New York City struggling with life, love and AIDS, and the impacts they have on America.

Episode 25: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

, with special guest:
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

French. Charming. COLORFUL. (Did we mention colorful?)

Citizens of Jazzhandia, this week we go international with guest Melissa Kaercher who shows us THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (which neither Vinnie nor Windy had seen!).

We actually recorded this the same night as THE LAST FIVE YEARS and it made for a surprisingly eloquent double feature about the relationships of youth, and the conflict between our dreams and our needs.

The movie inspired much of the visual look of LA LA LAND, and wow – is it obvious! Much of our discussion focused on the visuals – hard to encapsulate in words – so we hope you’ll seek this out and take a look yourself.

If only for THE WALLPAPERS.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The Wallpaper. Her dress MATCHES the WALLPAPER. (And every single room has more breath-taking Wallpaper.)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The WALLPAPER.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

OMG. THE. WALLPAPER.

 

 

 

 

 

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg poster Rating: 7.9/10 (20,655 votes)
Director: Jacques Demy
Writer: Jacques Demy (scenario and dialogue)
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel
Runtime: 91 min
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Released: 16 Dec 1964
Plot: A young woman separated from her lover by war faces a life-altering decision.

Episode 24: The Last Five Years

, with special guest:
The Last Five Years

Notice how they’re looking in different directions. Foreshadowing.

This week, we explore the uniquely constructed, emotionally haunting THE LAST FIVE YEARS. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s okay. This is a theater nerd deep cut (frankly, Windy is shocked that a movie version even got made).

One of the often-mentioned “lost episodes,” we grabbed special guest star Melissa Kaercher while she was in town for Fantastic Fest.  The resulting conversation gets into a deeply psychological character study – very appropriate for this musical (but with our patented goofiness).

It’s on Netflix and we highly recommend a watch.  The music by Jason Robert Brown is excellent, Anna and Jeremy are sublimely charismatic, and the concept is an intriguing gimmick that actually does add to the emotional story.

You can’t do better and we guarantee you’ll be smiling (those are song references).  Take a listen and let us know what you think!

The Last Five Years

Yeah, this isn’t gonna end well.

The Last Five Years (2014)
The Last Five Years poster Rating: 5.9/10 (8,717 votes)
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Writer: Jason Robert Brown (based on the musical play by), Richard LaGravenese (screenplay)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Tamara Mintz, Cassandra Inman
Runtime: 94 min
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance
Released: 18 Feb 2015
Plot: A struggling actress and her novelist lover each illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair.

Episode 23: Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns
LOVELY

Alright, Jazz Hams, it’s an extra giddy, extra squeeful, extra-long episode this week because we all absolutely fell in love with MARY POPPINS RETURNS!

SIDENOTE: We promised to link to the Drafthouse no talking PSA featuring Lin and Emily, but it was not to be found on Youtube. Apologies!

BONUS SIDENOTE:  The BMX bikes do not have motors, that is just the spokes whirring.

EXTRA SIDENOTE: That random whirring sound you hear is Windy’s laptop fan getting excited.  Not – as Mike has theorized – an alien spaceship beaming us up.
PLAY ALONG BONUS ROUND:  Jazz hands everytime you hear the laptop fan!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Mary Poppins Returns poster Rating: 6.9/10 (54,034 votes)
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: P.L. Travers (based upon the "Mary Poppins" stories by), David Magee (screen story by), Rob Marshall (screen story by), John DeLuca (screen story by), David Magee (screenplay by)
Stars: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer
Runtime: 130 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical
Released: 19 Dec 2018
Plot: Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael's children through a difficult time in their lives.

Episode 22: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins
Contract killer or straight-up witch?

Listeners, it is no surprise that your hosts have been anticipating the opening of MARY POPPINS RETURNS since Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were announced. In anticipation, we’ve found a stunt virgin who has never seen the original MARY POPPINS! This week, Ashley Landavazo finally learns about all those cultural references she’s been missing, and your hosts revisit their childhoods!

Featuring Julie Andrews’ film debut (which also won her an Oscar) and Dick Van Dyke’s most outrageous accent, the movie is chockablock full of tuneful originals courtesy of Disney’s house composers, the Sherman Brothers. Almost every song is a classic, as well as an irritatingly persistent earworm (currently, I have “Sister Suffragette” stuck in my head. Again.).

Join us as we reminisce, hum a few tunes, deconstruct family dynamics, explore fan theories, and make up a few wild ones of our own. Good luck will rub off if you take a listen!

Chim Chim Cheree as performed by a pencil

Mary Poppins (1964)
Mary Poppins poster Rating: 7.8/10 (143,215 votes)
Director: Robert Stevenson
Writer: Bill Walsh (screenplay), Don DaGradi (screenplay), P.L. Travers (based on: The "Mary Poppins" books by)
Stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns
Runtime: 139 min
Rated: G
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical
Released: 18 Jun 1965
Plot: In turn of the century London, a magical nanny employs music and adventure to help two neglected children become closer to their father.

Episode 21: White Christmas

White Christmas

Songs, dancing, Edith Head gowns…who needs plot??

This week, Holiday Hams, Mike and Vinnie are exposed to that Christmas mainstay WHITE CHRISTMAS.

Directed by Michael Curtiz (CASABLANCA) with costumes by Edith Head and filmed in glorious VistaVision, it’s a visual treat.  The dance numbers are lavish, and the cast is glorious. The actual plot is… good enough to keep watching for the next dance number!

This movie is an annual tradition at Windy’s house having grown up with it, but we think it’s worth a watch no matter your traditions. Snappy dialogue, engaging relationships, and tunes galore – happy holidays from Windy, Mike, and Vinnie!

 

 

White Christmas (1954)
White Christmas poster Rating: 7.6/10 (28,482 votes)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Writer: Norman Krasna (written for the screen by), Norman Panama (written for the screen by), Melvin Frank (written for the screen by)
Stars: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen
Runtime: 120 min
Rated: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Released: 15 Nov 1954
Plot: A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.

Episode 20: Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn

Is there a film genre for “problematic but charming”?

This week, Vinnie and Mike finally take in the seasonal classic HOLIDAY INN, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with Windy as their native guide.

It’s a standard romantic comedy love triangle, except that one-third of the triangle is crooner extraordinaire Bing, and another third is one of the best dancers of his (or any) era.

The plot serves mainly as a vehicle to get from one Irving Berlin song to the next, but along the way you get gowns by Edith Head, and snappy banter courtesy of Claude Binyon.

But.

You also get one of the most infamous blackface numbers still remembered today, as well as troubling gender politics, and even a bit of jingoistic war propaganda.  Because that’s what the holidays are all about!

There’s so much that is delightful – and there’s so much that should be seen and not forgotten – that you should take some time out to watch HOLIDAY INN.

Holiday Inn

Bing is giving some side-eye to the film tropes of 1941

Marilyn singing “Lazy”

Holiday Inn (1942)
Holiday Inn poster Rating: 7.5/10 (11,780 votes)
Director: Mark Sandrich
Writer: Claude Binyon (screenplay), Elmer Rice (adaptation), Irving Berlin (based on an idea by)
Stars: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale
Runtime: 100 min
Rated: Passed
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Musical, Romance
Released: 04 Sep 1942
Plot: At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.

Episode 19: Broadway Melody of 1940

Broadway Melody of 1940

Not Picture: George Murphy because DUH

It’s a super-sized episode this week, Jazz Hams! Vinnie and Mike just couldn’t stop talking about the amazing dance numbers in BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940!

Teaming up two of the best tappers of the era, Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell, the dancing is fast and light, just like the banter. The plot is as fluffy as meringue, but you’re watching for the amazing dancing anyway. Eleanor Powell doesn’t get mentioned as often as her male counterparts of the era, or even Ann Miller, which is a shame because her tapping, ballet, and gymnastics are all top notch – not to mention a smile that lights up the screen.

All the dances are beautiful, but it’s the finale “Begin the Beguine” that has made this an enduring classic.  Fred and Eleanor tapped themselves into history, and they look like they’re having the best time doing it.

Take a listen and if you can’t find the movie, at least hit up Youtube for the dances. You won’t regret it!

Eleanor in “All Ashore” – adorable and amazing!

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032284/

Episode 18: Tangled

Tangled

Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical! (but charming!)

This week, Jazz Hams, we dive into our first Disney animated musical with the charming and tuneful TANGLED!  Mike was our virgin this week, and he absolutely fell in love with Donna Murphy’s performance as Mother Gothel, and – of course – the sassy sidekicks Maximus and Pascal.

With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater (GALAVANT), the songs are catchy and clever, but it’s the gorgeous animation that really shines, even if Rapunzel’s hair might be sentient??

Mother knows best and she says to take a listen!

As Mentioned: SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF SONGS IN DISNEY MUSICALS

Little Mermaid                   5 (plus 1 reprise, and 2 forgettable chorus numbers)
Aladdin                                   5 (plus 2 reprises)
Beauty and the Beast     6 (plus 2 reprises)
Mulan                                      4
The Lion King                      5
Tangled                                   4 (plus 3 reprises!)

 

Tangled

Yep!

Tangled

Is your hair…prehensile??!

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0398286/