Sunday, December 23, 2018

1952: An American in Paris

This is another movie that I watched first when I made my way through the AFI Top 100 films. At the time, I wrote that I was unimpressed. I still feel the same way.

I have the disadvantage of having watched Singin' in the Rain before An American in Paris. Singin' came out a year after American. That's my problem. There were very few moments watching this that I wasn't thinking about and wishing I were rather watching Singin'.

Gene Kelly as Jerry Mulligan is great (he plays himself, so yeah. I mean more of his singing and dancing). The music is great (you can't beat Gershwin).  As so many musicals are, the musical numbers are the tiles and everything else is the grout keeping the musical numbers together. I didn't enjoy watching the grout. I liked the grout in Singin' in the Rain.

I got a bit excited to watching this movie during the opening scene. It's excellent. I noticed (with no surprise) in the opening credits that Gene Kelly was the choreographer. The opening scene is of him getting out of bed in a room that barely fits the bed. He puts the bed away and gets out everything else. It's a well choreographed and beautiful scene, even though it isn't a dance number. Every move works with every line of dialogue. There isn't anything else like it in the movie, however.

The closest is when Mulligan's fellow expat starving artist, pianist Adam Cook, is sitting between Mulligan and another man talking about the girls they are seeing. The only one who knows it's the same girl is Cook. Cook's "choreography" as he takes in the scene is a lot of fun. The scene is at around 1:18 if you have it and want to take a look.

I also liked this line, spoken by Grant about American students studying in Paris. "They're always making profound observations they've overheard."

There are many things to like. You could probably edit this movie down to a good, solid 20 minutes. That 20 puts it above a bunch of other movies. The other hour and 20 minutes puts it below the rest. I'm going to spend a week in Paris this summer. I enjoyed watching the different views of Paris, and that includes the surreal version during the closing number, though it goes on 15 minutes too long (it's about 17 minutes). I guess that's how I made it through the rest of the movie. It's pretty?

I thought it was interesting that the opening credits that they give credit to "Gene Kelley's painting's by Gene Grant." Shouldn't they have given credit to his character? Aren't they Jerry Mulligan's paintings?

NEXT WEEK: 1953 - The Greatest Show on Earth

Oscar Project Rankings:

  1. Casablanca (1944)
  2. It Happened One Night (1935)
  3. Gentleman's Agreement (1948)
  4. The Best Years of Our Lives (1947)
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  6. Rebecca (1941) 
  7. All About Eve (1951)
  8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  9. You Can't Take It With You (1939) 
  10. Gone With the Wind (1940) 
  11. Hamlet (1949)
  12. An American in Paris (1953)
  13. The Life of Emile Zola (1938)
  14. All the King's Men (1950)
  15. Grand Hotel (1933)
  16. Cimarron (1932)
  17. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  18. Broadway Melody (1930)
  19. The Lost Weekend (1946)
  20. Going My Way (1945)
  21. How Green Was My Valley (1942)
  22. Wings (1929)
  23. Mrs. Miniver (1943)
  24. Cavalcade (1934)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sorry, Music. It Was Me, Not You.

I've recently had a few different conversations with people about music. One of the things I've slowly realized is that I've lost touch with music. I haven't gone out of my way to look for new music. In the car, I listen to podcasts instead of music. At home when I want background noise, I listen to Netflix instead of music.

One of these conversations involved creating a playlist for work about popular songs of the summer. Of the ten or so songs considered, I barely recognized one or two of them.

I wasn't happy with myself with this realization. I used to love music. I have a freakin' music degree. I used to pride myself in enjoying such a wide variety of music. I used to make mix tapes and CDs and knew every song backwards and forwards.

The thing is, I don't think I'm alone in this. That's because I used to get music recommendations, either directly or indirectly, from people I knew. I haven't in quite a while.

Three things happened recently that got me to take some action and change that. First, I was having a conversation with someone about the realization. She mentioned that I shouldn't worry about it, because if I really cared I would do something about it. It's the same thing I've told others, especially students, about many things. It hit home

I was next invited by our evil overlords, Amazon, to subscribe to Amazon Music. Three months for $.99. I went for it. Every song ever for a buck. It's $7.99 a month after that, but I can unsubscribe after that. This ends the advertising portion of the blog post.

The third was that I found my set of mix tapes that I made the summer before heading down to SDSU.  I made them for the drive. I had this six set of cassettes, called "Plethora of Music" (each one numbered), in my car for the next five or so years until I paid too much money to have a CD player installed.

I have no way to listen to the tapes, and I was in the middle of a major purge of almost all of my stuff in my house when I originally found them. I held on to the liners, which listed all of the songs in order. When I first got the music subscription, the first playlists I made of were those tapes.

The first listen through, I knew exactly which song was next. In many cases, I remembered that I had filled the last couple minutes of each side of the cassette (those under the age of thirty, your parents can tell you what that meant) with movie soundtracks. I knew exactly where they cut off, too. One weakness of Amazon Music is its Soundtrack collection. They have all of the Jurassic Parks except for the original. Why?

For the first time in a long time, I sat down and just listened to music. It wasn't just background music. I was actively listening to it while doing nothing else.

These tapes were very heavy with Van Halen, Billy Joel, and the Beatles, so that can give you an indication of what I was listening to in my high school years. I hadn't listened to two of the three of those in quite some time, so it was fun to hear.

There were lots of songs that I was really happy to hear for the first time in a long time. There were also a few songs that I chose to delete from the playlist. They were bad. Really bad. So they're gone.

I'm going to try to make an effort to seek out new music. I'm going to play music in the background instead of listening to another run-through of The Office. In my car, I'm going to continue to listen to podcasts. I have quite a long playlist right now, and I enjoy those a lot. With a relatively short twenty to twenty-five minute commute, that list only gets longer and longer. So that won't change. But at home, especially the upcoming winter break, I'm going to listen to music

This morning, I actively looked for a playlist of Grammy nominated songs, which I'm listening to right now. Most of the songs so far? I don't like them. And I recognize almost nothing. But I look forward to listening to them again to see why I don't, or to see if anything sticks.

I think I might make a future post blogging about some of these songs. That might force me to think about the music more actively, much like my very slow Oscar Project makes me watch those movies in a different way.

If you've read this far, throw me some modern music suggestions in the comments. It's easy to find the top hits, so something more obscure would be especially welcome, but I'll even take the popular stuff that I don't know, too.