Wednesday, 23 January 2013

I Was Miserable at Les Misérables

If you know me sort of well, you know that I have a pretty big penchant for musicals, be they in movie or stage form. I like to go see a live one every few months if possible (the last one being Rock Of Ages, ugh) and their movie counterparts as often as I can.

There's just something about the grandiose-ness that I love, everything is over the top, every plot nuance is belted out and the fourth wall is shattered to smithereens!

So when I heard they were making Les Mis into a movie I was excited, hoping for another Chicago to breathe life into the dying Frenchman that is movie musicals. I watched it when I was battling a terrible flu, so I cried during the whole 3 hour screening because I related to the characters' illnesses. 

Pictured: Emotion! [via]
That was a few weeks ago and I'm just coming to realize now that I really didn't like Tom Hooper's revamp, and it was not because of the "gritty" and "real" "singing" that the actors did. Honestly, I just think this movie didn't need to be a musical at all, for the most part the characters would just sing out their dialogue, but they might was well have been talking.

I'm a big fan of the golden age of musicals, the mid to late 50's. Americans were mostly shell shocked from the War and needed an escape, so the big studios funded tons of flicks where smiling people danced and sung their problems away. The movies would ask you to suspend your perception of reality, and the actors would all have to be triple threats to even be considered good enough for "showbusiness". 

Call me old fashioned, but I love my musicals as hokey as possible. Why the hell was there no dancing in Les Misérables? Because the director wanted it to be "real". If it was a "real" account, nobody would've been singing while dying of the plague during the French Civil War. They would be too busy coughing up maggots or something. 

Here are just a small portion of live-action musicals I thought were better than Les Miz:

The 50's
Guys and Dolls (1955)
Frank Sinatra plays good 'ol reliable Nathan Detroit. The cast is supported by Marlon Brando, which gives the flick a leading man with vocal chops and one that's real easy on the eyes. 

An American in Paris (1951)
How cute is Gene Kelly in this movie, not to mention supremely talented.

A Star is Born (1954)
I love everything about Judy Garland. Her flaws are what made her stand out from the whatever pile. She was way better when she wasn't being forced to act like a flustered teen like in The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me In St. Louis.

The 60's
The Music Man (1962)
A classic, Robert Preston is a treasure, and I love the huge production and huge cast.

Oliver! (1968)
Fantastic movie, adapted from a super bleak book (take note Les Mis!). One of the few movie musicals to win an Oscar for Best Picture and one of my favourite films of all time. It's also one of the only tolerable movies with kids in them ever, Nancy's hair is atrocious, though.

The 70s
Cabaret (1972)
Liza Minelli is one of the most polarizing starlets ever. Her father was a famous director who 
was responsible for reigning in Judy Garland's talents in A Star is Born. He later fathered a child with Garland and named her Liza with a Z. I love her unconventional look and over-the-top voice; and Bob Fosse really knew what to do with her dance-wise.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
This movie was apparently only ever famous(?) in Winnipeg, I think it still gets a run at the Park Theatre at midnight. Take this strange mess for what it is, but the director went on to make Scarface and the first Mission: Impossible.

The 80s
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Based off an SNL sketch, the (first) Blues Brothers movie has some amazing guest artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Ray Charles; which is good because Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are not the best singers. I think they kill a bunch of Nazis. 

Victor/Victoria (1982)
And basically any other movie that Julie Andrews is in. She's like the best human ever. 

The 00s
Rent (2005)
This movie is a perfect example where the cast are mostly not famous in Hollywood, they're, for the most part, seasoned Broadway actors and actresses. The movie still managed to gross 31-million dollars and chose talent over star power. 

Hairspray (2007)
I love love love this movie and watch it like once a month to replenish my soul. John Travolta and Queen Latifa are fabulous.

Honourable Mentions:
Some Like it Hot, Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, The Producers, All That Jazz, My Fair Lady, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,  Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sister Act, Little Shop of Horrors, Moulin Rouge!, Dreamgirls, Once, et al.


  1. Wow, you sure do know a lot about musicals. All I can say is I'm glad I said no the other week when I was invited to check out Les Mis, and will wait to watch one of your recommendations for my musical fix.

    1. Haha, let me know what your findings are.

  2. Looking through your list and I wondered how Cabaret ended up in there. It's delicious and sexy and fun, yes, but super dark.

    1. One of my favorite scenes is the song by the Hitler Youth when the Jew is like "oh crap!"

  3. I'm a Rent kinda guy myself.

  4. I agree! Les Mis was a travesty ! PS you missed Singin' In The Rain AKA the one movie that brings a smile to my sour face... lol

    1. It's basically made of dreams and wishes. Really every movie with Gene Kelly is. Not sure if you've seen "On the Town" but it's pure magic.