HE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Alex
My first movie musical experience (besides Disney movies) was West Side Story. At the time, I didn’t know what a musical was so I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought I was watching a regular movie when these gangsters proceeded to snap their fingers and have a dance off. At this precise point I said to myself, “What the fuck is this shit?” immediately followed by an all caps “WHY?”
Since then, I have had an extreme dislike of musicals. I have given others a chance, like The Sound of Music and Chicago, both of which sucked. The Sound of Music sucked particularly hard. Who watches a three-hour movie that is not Lord of the Rings? It’s mind boggling to me. Chicago had a decent story, but as soon as you’re getting into the drama, someone decides to bust into a dance number. And the all caps “WHY?” starts pirouetting on my frontal lobe.
I am not going to sit here and say that musicals need to go away or that zero skill goes into the dance numbers. I just find the act of placing a dance number in the middle of a tense scene jarring and somewhat pointless. To have my wife try to explain the choreography to me is like trying to learn Japanese from a Portuguese person. Not to imply that she doesn’t know anything about dance, but to me, it’s all just gibberish. She’s basically speaking gibberish about gibberish and I’m just rolling my eyes so hard I go into a seizure.
Because you see, the seizure is supposed to signify my unnatural distaste for musicals. It also has this deep meaning about—oh God, I’m going catatonic!
Ask most guys and they will tell you: musicals are pointless. Please take us to see a rom-com instead. We beg you.
SHE SAID WHAT?!
Posted By Wendy
Look, I get it. A lot of musicals can be really cheesy. People get wicked excited about mundane shit. They run around with manic cokeface, singing and dancing their way through racial tension, gang fights, and Nazi takeovers. In real life, if guys started chaine leap-turning into a battle zone, they’d be shot dead faster than you can say “chorus boy.”
But that’s the point. Musicals are not supposed to mirror real life. They are fantasy. They are an exercise in suspending your disbelief. When Will Smith flies an alien aircraft up to the mothership in Independence Day and uploads a 1990’s computer bug that supposedly takes down a super-advanced extraterrestrial society’s technology, then you need to pretend for a second that Jeff Goldblum really is that smart.
A lot of guys I know, including Alex, love their popcorn action films. They can appreciate the effects, the sound, the cinematography, even the choreography of a badass ninja fight. I feel the same way about musicals. When I listen to an uplifting song or watch an intricate dance sequence, I’m blown away by the talent of the actors, actresses, and dancers onscreen. I love to see how a director shoots a particular piece of choreography—zooming in tight on a tap dancer’s foot or going for the overhead shot on a number with kaleidoscope formations. How does the costuming and set design help immerse the viewer in the experience? How does the music enhance the mood of the scene? To me, a musical employs the same kind of eye and ear candy that an action movie does.
Do musicals make a lot of sense? No. Would anyone in the real world actually sing and dance their way through a murder trial or a drag race? If only. I usually care about realism in movies, but when it comes to musicals, the genre doesn’t try and pretend to be real, so it works. Just like when I watch Harry Potter, I’m not upset that there aren’t witches and wizards and spells and trolls in real life. It’s fantasy! I don’t need to know why Harry can make a broomstick fly and I can’t. I just accept the logic and move on.
And really, when you stop trying to understand the “why” of a musical and enjoy it for its entertainment value, you can actually find some of the most beautiful and moving moments in Hollywood history. In The Sound of Music, when Captain von Trapp gets choked up singing “Edelweiss,” he’s basically saying goodbye to his country and his culture as he knew it. In Gypsy during the raw “Rose’s Turn,” Mama Rose bitterly admits that pushing her children into show business was for her own selfish pursuits. In South Park when Phillip mumbles “suck my balls” at the end of a rousing rendition of “Uncle Fucka,” he puts the perfect punctuation on the most jaw-droppingly obscene musical number to open a movie in the last 50 years.
I’m not asking everyone to love musicals. But a little appreciation from my husband would be nice. I do think that many of them have a lot more to offer your stereotypical rom-com. Just close your eyes and pretend you’re watching Transformers dance battle their way to victory over the Decepticons.