Tuesday, September 05, 2006

AFI's Top 25 Musicals List

These lists are usually fun as jumping-off points for discussion, but I do think this list is one of AFI's goofier efforts.

The list is too heavily weighted with movies made since the '60s which really don't deserve the honor (or at least such high rankings) when stood side by side with older musicals. One has to wonder how well those on the voting panel actually knew their "vintage" musicals.

For instance, I liked CHICAGO well enough to buy the DVD, but putting this film, with its myriad quick cuts, ahead of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie is just, well...dumb.

GREASE is a film which is mildly amusing but never especially impressed me -- certainly not enough to be among the 25 Greatest Musicals. As I recall, there are times in the dance scenes when the camera cuts off the dancers' feet! Yet we're going to put that on the list ahead of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS? Get real.

THE KING AND I is a fine adaptation of the Broadway musical, but again I would not have placed it ahead of such original film musicals as SEVEN BRIDES or THE BAND WAGON. I don't necessarily dispute its inclusion on the list, but would have ranked it in the lower fifth.

GUYS AND DOLLS, while fun, is just not a Top 25 musical. Maybe they didn't want more than two Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals on the list, but the films of OKLAHOMA! and CAROUSEL were far better than GUYS AND DOLLS. And the adaptation of THE MUSIC MAN was "practically perfect in every way." How is it that THE MUSIC MAN was omitted and GUYS AND DOLLS included?

MOULIN ROUGE made the Top 25, but not GIGI, the Best Film of 1958?

I would have put any number of things on the list ahead of FUNNY GIRL or CABARET, including less acclaimed musicals such as Fred Astaire and Judy Garland's EASTER PARADE or Astaire's YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, which has a hokey plot but divine Jerome Kern music and divine dancing with Rita Hayworth. Or SWING TIME. Or PAJAMA GAME. Or the underappreciated WHITE CHRISTMAS. Or...

I'll stop there with my complaints. If you were to remove roughly a half-dozen titles from the list and make some substitutions, it would be a pretty good list.

I'm pleased to see MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and MARY POPPINS recognized in the Top 10. I would place ST. LOUIS on the short list of "greatest movies ever made," and MARY POPPINS is a film I appreciate more on each successive viewing. I believe its stature among original film musicals is growing with time, as it should. And THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY definitely rank in my mind as the all-time best film adaptations of Broadway musicals.

I was also pleased to see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on the list. I'll never forget the first time we saw it...my husband and I turned to each other after the opening number and jointly exclaimed "Wow!"

Marni Nixon hit the jackpot...at a glance, it seems she might be the talent who "appeared" in the most movies on the list. She dubbed the leading ladies' singing in MY FAIR LADY, THE KING AND I, and WEST SIDE STORY, she was a nun in THE SOUND OF MUSIC...and she also sang for one of the animals in MARY POPPINS!

In closing, I note that my three favorite movies are included on the list -- SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. If you haven't seen one of these films yet, it's way past time. :)

Update: Missy has posted her thoughts.

While I'm at it, another candidate for the list: LOVE ME TONIGHT, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, with a Rodgers and Hart score and a remarkable opening musical sequence.


Anonymous Missy said...

I've been really busy today and haven't had a chance to study the list. I'm debating whether to blog about it. Seems odd that they chose the Irene Dunne Show Boat...not Kathryn Grayson's version!

7:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

A lot of critics prefer the Dunne version, but I must say I far prefer the gorgeous MGM version, myself!

Hope you blog your choices too! Laura

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Missy said...

OK, I've posted my comments...too many as usual, but oh well. ;-)

10:20 PM  

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