You know, there was a time when I hated musicals. That was before I discovered Gilbert and Sullivan’s work. Their plays technically aren’t musicals, but operettas. But they are similar enough that after that, I came to like musicals. Well, the good ones, anyway.
What bothered me for a long time about the genre was how strange it was that the characters sometimes speak like normal people for a time and then burst into song at key points. This was actually kind of immersion-breaking for me. I still wonder about how this genre was originally created: how did it ever even occur to a dramatist to try this?
Have you ever seen the Monty Python skit that is purportedly a trailer for an upcoming film entitled “The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights”? It also includes “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Morse Code” and other things like this. It’s very funny, but in a way, that’s how musicals can seem: like introducing a strange new form of communication into a story.
Musicals do have a major advantage over other genres in that they can be more memorable, because rhyme and music make it easier for people to commit lines to memory. I still wonder at how it’s not an inherently audience-distancing device, though, because it’s very weird if you think about it.
*The title comes from a line in what is probably my very favorite Gilbert & Sullivan song, “About a Century Since”, from The Grand Duke.
It reminds me of the movie Last Action Hero. A lot of people hated it, but personally I thought it was brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, what happens is: Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a generic action movie hero in a movie-within-the-movie. Then he gets magically transported into the “real” world, and is confused when all the stuff he did in the movie world doesn’t work. Like, there’s a scene where he shoots at a car the bad guys are in, and is shocked when it doesn’t explode.
Still, that’s why people watch movies: to see stuff that doesn’t happen.
I read this Slate review of the movie Crooked Arrows, which is apparently a fairly predictable movie about lacrosse. I’d never heard of it till I saw the article. But from this review, it seems that it simply reinforces what I’ve said before about sports movies being dull and predictable.
I still like my idea for a movie about a super dominant team that destroys their plucky opposition. I envision a football movie, about a team on a quest for its second undefeated season in a row. I’m thinking it would be a musical, with the big number sung by the half-Lombardi-esque, half-Belichickean head coach. (I’ve thought about this too much.)
Even that would just be a satire of the sports movie genre, though. It couldn’t be a lasting formula for films, just a one-off. The problem is that sports are dramatic affairs themselves. And they’re more dramatic than movies, because they are harder to predict. If Hollywood had written it, the Cardinals would have beaten the Steelers. The Giants and Patriots wouldn’t have even been in it last year in the movies. The unpredictability is what makes it good.
I think the best sports movies are the ones that involve rigging and corruption in the game. That way, the drama of the game is subjugated to serve the larger drama of behind-the-scenes machinations. Political issues and sports might work, too. I’ve never seen all of Invictus, but I’ve watched some scenes from it, and it seems pretty good because of the larger political issues at stake in the movie. The outcome of the big game doesn’t even matter to the real point of the movie, because it’s more about what the South African rugby team means to the country.