The Musical Makes a Comeback

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the perfect day to discuss the exciting comeback of the movie musical! (A little contrasting discussion will be good on this dominantly testosteronic day.)

The Oscars are coming up in a few weeks and everyone is excited to find out which movies we’ve never seen or even heard of will win this year. The buzz is all about the musical La La Land and its record-tying fourteen academy nominations.

I’ve actually seen this flick because it’s a musical and even an unknown overrated musical can’t escape my notice, even if I have to drive an hour away to see it in its limited release of select theaters. I’ve unabashedly gushed about my love of musicals, which is why I’m stoked a modern musical movie is in the top tier of cinematic attention and recognition. More than it deserves, really.

It’s nominated for the granddaddy award of “Best Picture” and it’s probably going to win, and it probably doesn’t deserve it because it’s not necessarily spectacular movie-making per se. The most complicated special effects are floating dancing people and orchestrating the redirection of traffic on a Los Angeles interstate long enough to film an elaborate dance number.

The plot is predictable, the scenery is simple, the dialogue is conventional, the characters are common, the singing and dancing are mediocre. So why all the hype?

Some critics say it’s because the movie theme is show business and the folks who hand out the golden guy status are show business people, so they like to pat their narcissistic selves on the back. That could be part of it, but I have my own theory.

I think its strength lies in its weaknesses.

It’s perfectly relatable and ridiculous at the same time. It’s about two ordinary people who have small lives but big dreams. Boy meets girl. They don’t like each other, then they do. They struggle personally. They struggle professionally. They struggle romantically. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Funny things happen. They sing about it sometimes. They dance about it sometimes. Sometimes other people join in. Some of their dreams come true. Some don’t. Big musical production number finish! The end.

That’s it. That’s all there is too it.

No political statement. No global cause. No social agenda. And I think people are watching it and liking it and giving it awards because it resonates with our humanness. With technology these days, anything and everything can be created, portrayed and perfected cinematically which is amazing, yet overwhelming. Sometimes we just want to see a bit of ourselves on the big screen – flawed yet oddly beautiful. That’s the relatable appeal of this flick.

The ridiculous appeal is the characters have the hokey luxury of dealing with the normal ups and downs of life by expressing themselves with spontaneous public performances of song and dance without being arrested or institutionalized.

How fun would that be in real life?

Come on, deep down we all wish we could do it. I mean, look at those macho football players you’re watching today. What do they do in the end zone when they make a touchdown to show their excitement? Sing and dance.

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