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Evil Jim

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01:30 am: Saturday weekend, part II
The past two days have been more like a second weekend for me despite already having one. I spent much of both days with toastmastertom, koriandrkitten or both. Monday, silly me, I decided to hunt down more cows & rephotograph some that had previous unsatisfactory pictures. This is the Monday, you may recall, that reached 92 degrees & got no lower than 74. Needless to say, Gemma wasn't very thrilled with the idea, & she had plans with Tom anyway so I tagged along. Her apartment was unbearable so we opted to lunch at Noodles (where it's air conditioned) & then return to the Casa de Maligno to watch movies & Internet nonsense (where it's air conditioned.)

We saw the new musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers. I suggested watching both old & new back to back but in the end there wasn't enough time. But now having seen the new version, a marathon would not be necessa. Almost all of the dialog (when they weren't singing) was word for word from the original so I was able to quote scenes before they happened (sorry guys.) Even a lot of the body language was the same. Sets & costumes too. I was surprised. There were some new gags, tho', most notably references to Brooks' other films but otherwise the new material was primarily the music.

To be honest, if I were watching this movie alone I would have fast forwarded through most of the musical numbers. It may be more flash & dash & some expensive eye-candy but it really adds nothing to the story ("Springtime for Hitler" excluded, of course) to take a single paragraph & pad it out to five minutes. And it grows in aggravation when most of it just repeats the chorus in different ways. "You can do it!" "I can't do it!" "You can do it!" "I can't do it!" -- "That's enough, I've heard enough. Just get to it!" -- If they were going to make a musical out of The Producers they should have just expanded "Springtime for Hitler" out to a full show. Otherwise, making a musical about making a musical becomes redundant quicker than you can ask whether life or art is imitated first.

I was wary about the casting since I had not heard of most of the actors before. Plus, I watched the original just last Friday along with much of the bonus DVD material & found that most of the principal roles were pretty much written for their actors. Still, I was surprised at how well Nathan Lane played Max Bialystock, even making the character a little less repulsive, and Gary Beach as queer director Roger DeBris was spot on. However, the others, namely those that played Leo Blum, Ulla & Franz Liebkind were disappointing. Broderick's was a watered down & inexpressive Gene Wilder, & Thurman's Swedish was muddled at best. It was as if they watched the original film once & took their direction from there.

Still, there were plenty of parts I enjoyed & some delightful surprises thrown in. Switching a fruity Hitler for a hippie Hitler threw me quite a bit, & hearing Brooks' single line of dialog in the same place but 30 years later was another laugh. I am glad I saw the movie version of the stage musical, but now having seen it, I don't need to own it. The Producers, tho' enjoyable, still isn't among my favourite Mel Brooks films. And speaking of which, I'm looking forward to the stage play version of Young Frankenstein. I'm not fond of it being a musical as well, as it could only befoul John Morris' beautifully haunting score. But I am fond of the idea of seeing it on the stage & will try to travel if it ever plays locally. . . even if Madeline Kahn isn't in it. (sigh)

Today I had the pleasure of seeing Gemma again as the guest at her company picnic. We arrived on time, meaning, before the caterer & most of the other guests. Surprisingly the caterer was from (shudder) Bellville. You'd think they could have found one somewhere close in the city. But the food was good & evil_jim was happy. People kept showing up throughout the four hours we were there. Gemma showed everyone where to find the water balloons & squirt guns & things started to get wild once the dunk tank was open for business. Somehow, & I can only say "somehow" because I don't know how or why it worked, but somehow I talked Gemma into taking a turn in the tank. I even have the blackmail evidence photos to prove it. She was up there for at least ten minutes & braved the icy hose water. Actually, comparing that to her apartment temperature the day before may have been adequate encouragement. If I had my trunks along I would have braved the water but as it was I had to live vicariously through Gemma by dunking her a couple times.

Tomorrow will not be as leisurely. Having two days gone from this week already I will have to redouble my job search efforts. Nonbusiness hours, however, will still be generally free. Tomorrow phil_bond & I will go back in the studio for more recording & Thursday I believe will find some time with Tom. Right now? I'ma go over there. I'm posting this two hours later than I thought I would.

E V I L O U T -

Afterthought: Hmm. After installing Gaim on this computer I've seen very few people online with which to try it out. It appears this will take longer than even I had at first been imagining.

Current Mood: amusedGoing to the white zone, only
Current Music: Joe's Garage ~ Monsignor Zappa
Tags: , ,


[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
Wow, I forgot to sign in. I came home, made food while talking to Tick and put a movie in and zzzzzzz
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
As far as I'm concerned, the new version of The Producers is far superior to the old one. Yes, it's practically a shot-for-shot remake, but I think the purpose of the musical was to have another go at a good idea that didn't quite work the first time around. For me -- and probably for a lot of other people within, say, ten years of my age -- a lot of the original movie doesn't work. My favorite example, and I know I've mentioned it before, is the character of LSD. I'm sure he was funny and topical in 1968, but by 2006 he no longer resembles what we call a "hippie." I've always hated LSD, and I think that removing him and reworking the story improves it immensely. I wasn't as displeased with the casting as you were; we both liked Nathan Lane, but I thought Matthew Broderick did fine, too. I think I like Uma Thurman's Ulla better than the original, and I prefer Will Ferrell's Franz Liebkind to Kenneth Mars', which is odd because I usually don't like Will Ferrell. I'm guessing that my preference here has to do with the new versions of Ulla and Franz having more and better lines than the originals. Between the two films, I'd rather sit through the remake.

I'm also excited about Young Frankenstein, though I imagine that the songs will seem just as out of place there, too. You state that you found the songs to be an unnecessary annoyance in The Producers, and I think that's a symptom of reverence for the source material. The writers could have written new scenes or reworked the expository scenes into songs, but I think they tried so hard to preserve the charm of the original film that they couldn't bring themselves make major additions, cuts, or changes (other than LSD). The only way to make a musical was to insert redundant songs.

This brings up my only problem with musicals: there seem to be three approaches to songs. The first approach is to use the songs to tell the story (as in Little Shop of Horrors). The second (and least popular) approach is to write a story where the inclusion of songs is logical (Hedwig and the Angry Inch springs to mind, but you refused to watch that so I'll just say that it's a movie about a rock band). The third approach seems to me as if the story was written as a play first, and the songs were inserted into it. I think the entire purpose of the third approach is to create potential hit songs that function without the context of the story (consider Forever Autumn from The War of the Worlds). Unfortunately, the this approach seems to have become a habit on Broadway, and has led to musicals like The Producers. I like the songs in The Producers, but most of them could be reduced to a few lines of dialogue.

While I'm rambling, I'll mention that I would love to see Spamalot!, the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I picked up a used copy of the soundtrack a few weeks back, and it's incredibly entertaining. It sounds to me as if they approached the project from the standpoint of, "well, most of our audience knows the original material by heart, so let's just keep the best bits and fill the show up with new material."
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
I agree that swapping DeBris for LSD was a great improvement. I'm not a fan of either of them but the story works much better this way. In the original, the characters end up being throw-away jokes & here DeBris becomes essential to the story. Liebkind as an almost Hitler surprised me too, but I'm glad it didn't go that way. Ferrill's performance wanted to outdo Mars' which was over the top to begin with & why it didn't work the second time. The mechicanical pigeons didn't help either.

If you have access to the special edition DVD of the original, I recommend the "making of" documentary. It's much better than the one for Spaceballs & Lee Meredith dances during the intermission. She's still hot. They put some effort into the featue & you can tell they had fun making it.

I don't dislike all musicals, but I am very picky about the ones I do watch. People don't seem to consider The Wall or Fantasia musicals but they're among my favourites, along with Top Secret! & The Blues Brothers.

Spamalot is another one I'd travel to see. Is it even playing anywhere?
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
I agree that Mars and Ferrell were both over the top, but I guess Mars just wasn't far enough out there for his performance to work for me. Ferrell's extreme exaggeration helped cement the "holy carp, this guy is nuts" aspect of the character. It's his usual schtick, imported directly from his work on SNL. I hated it there, and can't really justify why I like it here.

I don't know whether Spamalot is playing anywhere, but I have friends who saw it last year in Chicago. They came back with rave reviews.

As for the musicals you mentioned which don't top anyone else's list... I'm not sure how I'd define a musical, but I don't classify Top Secret! as one. There aren't many songs and they don't really relate to the plot. The Blues Brothers and The Wall, on the other hand, are most definitely musicals.

I think people don't consider Fantasia a musical because it contains no songs, just instrumental music. I can understand that, I guess, but I'm not sure how else to classify it. Experimental animation? Either way, Fantasia is one of my favorite Disney features, and I wish there was a bigger market for that sort of animation. I know it exists, but it's not popular enough to make it easy to find.
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)
I've always felt that a song is to music as a painting is to art. Fantasia is full of them, whether people are singing or not. I think a common misconception is that all musicals fit into the third approach you described above which is unfortunate because of the three, it's my least favourite.

I think Top Secret! generally isn't viewed as a musical because it's a comedy first & the music is there to accent the main character. But there is enough music for me to categorize it as such, & the numbers are just as enjoyable as the rest of the movie.

Speaking of Fantasia, have you seen the Sunflower clips on YouTube? It explains why there are some odd & ugly zooms during the Pastoral Suite. I'm glad to finally know why they're there, but now I'll be annoyed whenever I see the movie advertised as the "Original Uncut Version."
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