Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Two Very Different Movies That Both Show a Room Full of Mannequins

Title: The Band Wagon (1953)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Language: English
Rating: Not rated

The Band Wagon is a musical about people making a musical, and the leads - Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse - are amazing dancers. They aren't strong actors, so when they have to convince the audience their characters are falling in love, they can't do it through dialogue. There's one dance - filmed in the park and called 'Dancing in the Dark' - that does it, because of how they flow together, with Charisse's balletic grace and strength mesmerizing.


Another dance number, 'The Girl Hunt,' is a musical parody of film noir and hard-boiled detective stories. Astaire plays the tough detective (which is funny in and of itself), and Charisse plays both a helpless-seeming blonde and a dangerous brunette. There's some amazing dancing in this number, and a room full of mannequins at one point. 'The Girl Hunt' is both ridiculous and riveting. (If you're a fan of Michael Jackson's music, you might like to know that his music video for "Smooth Criminal" took inspiration from Astaire's suit and the scene at the nightclub from 'The Girl Hunt.')

Another notable musical number - 'The Triplets' - features Astaire, Nanette Fabray, and Jack Buchanan as triplet babies. They wear baby gowns and dance on their knees. (I'm not making this up.) The lyrics are also funny. These are violent babies who rhyme cleverly.

Fabray, who has great presence and sings wonderfully, should have been in more musical scenes. At least she's part of the group singing 'That's Entertainment,' the most famous of the songs from the movie. This isn't a movie that takes itself seriously. It's silly and full of music and dance talent (ballet, jazz dance, a tap routine in top hat and tails). A really enjoyable movie.


Title: Ghostbusters (2016)
Director: Paul Feig
Language: English
Rating: PG-13

I got talked into watching this one, and I didn't think I'd enjoy it. (Years ago, I watched the one that came out in the 1980s and found it disappointing, with the exception of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at the end, which was pretty cool.) I was surprised to like this one. The leads - Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones - have great energy and play off one another nicely. I wish I could see them together in a movie that isn't a Ghostbusters reboot, and one with a script that gives them more to work with, though I found it enjoyable enough if you're in the mood for something goofy. One of my favorite moments is when McCarthy's character is trying to convince the villain not to give up his life by telling him that even though he hates people, there are plenty of wonderful things in the world... and in the stress of the moment, the only thing she can think of is soup.


What about the room full of mannequins? Leslie Jones is the highlight of that scene. Because her character really didn't sign up for something like this. Unlike the others, who are misfit scientists, she's a public transit employee who knows a lot about NYC history and assumed the Ghostbusters was something like a book club. What else is there to say? Chris Hemsworth is worth a mention playing a character who is over-the-top vacuous, except for when he gets possessed and becomes a diabolical genius for a short while.

3 comments:

Roderick Robinson said...

Gosh, it's been a long time since I read anyone refer to Nanette Fabray. I wonder if I could pick her out of a line-up.

I note you say Fred and Cyd "aren't strong actors". I'd tend to say Fred did at least have a way of projecting himself but Cyd (horrible when you have to say her name aloud) had only two expressions: an impassivity which suggested not a single thought was passing through her beautiful head, and a quick insincere smile which she rationed to two per movie. The photo you've chosen seems to confirm my belief that she was quite tall; taller than Fred although she is, admittedly, wearing heels. Just checked: she was 1.71 m, whereas Fred was 1.75 m. Amazing that Gene Kelly was shorter than both at 1.7 m.

Good grief. At 1.8669 m I am King Kong to their pygmy shrews.

All those wonderful women dancers: Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Anne Miller and (more recently and distinctly hotter) Rita Moreno. As a kid I used to hate the dancing bits, now I like them best.

Brian Joseph said...

The Mannequin connection is interesting. I never saw The Bandwagon. I liked the new Ghostbuster film, though I think that that the original was a bit overrated too. Leslie Jone was very good.

HKatz said...

@ Roderick - I agree that Astaire is the stronger actor of the two (he also had decades more experience in movies by this point) but he's only convincing while dancing :) As for height, taller female dancers (like Charisse) would wear flats, or if they wore heels, they'd keep their knees slightly bent so as not to be noticeably taller than male partners. Also, some of the other dancers you mention are great, I agree, though I haven't seen much of Vera Ellen yet except for some YouTube clips.

@ Brian - the mannequin connection was just something I thought of for Halloween. As for Ghostbusters, it's silly fun, whether you like the original, the reboot, both or neither.