Willy Wonka or Charlie?

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Music

Contributor: Mark Holland

Hunky Dory Music Shop in Spiller’s Lane, Clonakilty stocks a huge range of instruments, accessories, CDs and vinyl. Contact Mark on 023 8834982 or pop in to have a listen.

To be fair to Damien Chazelle, La La Land is not just a film he decided to make ’cause there was little else to do and he thought at least it would be different. In fact it’s got quite a lot in common with his first feature film ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’, but with a bigger budget. Filmmaking was Chazelle’s first love, then, in high school he pursued notions of the possibility of making it as a drummer in the world of jazz, an experience which provided the raw ingredients for his second film ‘Whiplash’. He felt he was never going to be good enough to make it as a musician and so returned to his original plan.

La La Land was released with reasonable expectations but when it won the seven Golden Globes that it was nominated for, including best female, male and film, viewer’s expectations went way up, as of course did the box office, which is what counts, but what had been a sweet little gem of a thing was now not half as good as they said it would be. Does anything ever live up to its hype? As for reinventing the genre, re-popularising the musical, well, I’m sure they said the same about Mamma Mia is 2008, Chicago, Moulin Rouge, and all that…

The hard core of the musical genre seems to come from irrepressible spirit in the face of adversity, for which the American depression of the 1920s and 30s provided fertile ground.  Something to lift the spirits with one big gung-ho number and a line to kick poverty’s ass, em hmm! I don’t think what Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did in the 30s were strictly musicals but movies with loads of dancing. What Shirley Temple did was though, a victim of early conspiracy theorists, who said that she was really a thirty-year-old very small person, her hair was a wig (people used to pull at it when she was out) and that they filed down her teeth to make her look young. Oh god! And then along came Judy Garland over the rainbow in 1939 with The Wizard of Oz, in what is regarded as one of the finest films ever made of any genre with enduring characters and quotable dialogue.

The studios had their man in Judy and she dominated things until Gene Kelly took up with Debbie Reynolds, Singin’ in the Rain, in 1952. The bar was raised again in 1961s West Side Story, in fairness as street gangs go these guys were total saps, but the lyrics were great. By 1968 we had seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oliver, Jungle Book, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night with its superb music and surreal banter.

In 1975, The Who brought us their Rock Opera ‘Tommy’, while John Travolta was balancing the scales with something a bit more funky, Saturday Night Fever doesn’t count apparently, but Grease does. There are too many to mention in this little space and too much debate to argue; can I include The Wall, what is the best line, the best tune and was it playing Evita that Madonna first got the notion to blow up the White House?

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

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