Singin’ in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain PosterRating: ★★★★★

“Singin’ in the Rain” has provided me with probably the most joyful cinematic experience so far in my life. The movie functions entirely on happy juice. Some movie characters can light up a room; the main cast in “Singin’ in the Rain” can light up the whole darn street. Many profound critics, like Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael, has declared it as the best Hollywood musical ever made. No wonder.

Great movies have a way of beating time. Their original audience is replaced by a new generation, but the positive reception stays the same. Curiously, “Singin’ in the Rain” earned more praise as it got older. Though a success at the box office upon its release in 1952, people were late to give the praise it really deserved. It seemed that the increasing admiration continued with the following generations. And as I saw the film for the first time only a few nights ago, I was struck and stuck in a state of awe. It’s been a long, long while since Hollywood has made a musical like this one, hasn’t it?

“Singin’ in the Rain” is a marvelous movie for many reasons, but watching it at this point in time highlights some things about it that has become a rarity in today’s movies, making these things all the more treasured. Consider, for instance, its attention to a sense of movement. The sets are simple and the props are few, but one can tell that the makers of “Singin’ in the Rain” have spent a whole lot of time and training to the people and their performances. And these performances were about feelings and passion and about the art of performance itself. Most musicals today, and other genres too, have learned to place too much dependence on money, for the sake of money. The recent excess of 3-D movies may prove a point.

Singin' in the RainOf all the exuberant and splendid musical numbers in “Singin in the Rain”, two are in a different level, and has achieved eternal popularity. First is Donald O’ Connor who sings, dances, leaps, falls, spins, and bounces his way through a song called, “Make ‘em Laugh.” ‘O Connor combines music, athleticism, and stand-up comedy in a performance that requires him to purposely fail at a few stunts for comedy’s convenience. For an excellent dancer like him, it must have been harder to fail those stunts and steps than to nail them. Reports say that because the song was so exhausting, O’Connor spent the next three days resting in bed after the number was completed. The final product is a delight.

The other memorable act in “Singin in the Rain” is not only the film’s best, but also dubbed by many as the musical number that both defines and represents the entire Golden Age of Musicals. The character of Gene Kelly, Don Lockwood, has just kissed Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) goodbye, and realizes that he is madly in love. He decides to walk home under the pouring rain. Consumed with splendid joy, Don allows himself to get wet from the rainfall; he starts singing and dancing. He hugs the lamp post, waves his umbrella, tap dances on the street and sidewalk, and stomps crazily on a puddle, making huge splashes all over. This entire sequence is quite probably the most enthusiastic and ingenious portrait of a man who has just fallen in love. What a beautiful scene. At one point, in the middle of Gene Kelly’s soaked performance, I thought to myself: “Wow. Whatever made this guy feel that way, I want it too.”

Gene KellyAs a movie-lover who grew up in the 2000’s and only started hunting for “old movies” in the latter half of that decade, I realize that I have a lot of catching up to do. There were a lot great movies made between the 1930’s and last year, and a part of me is dedicated in finding them, watching them, studying them, etc. You know the drill. For the past couple of months, I have seen three films that are part of the Golden Age of Musicals: “An American in Paris”, “The King and I”, and “Singin’ in the Rain.” All three of them, I watched in DVD format, which were all lent to me by the same friend. Not a lot of people from my age group would recommend such films, let alone own a copy and trust them in your care.

It’s funny how I’ve encountered some of my favorite films through the same kind of friendly recommendations. A long time ago, before I started hunting for “old movies”, another movie-loving friend insisted that I borrow his copies of “Vertigo” and “Fargo”. When people lend us movies, we unconsciously prioritize them, putting them ahead of movies we initially plan to watch. I’m glad I saw “Vertigo” before I went to see “Transformers”. Just a few months ago, a close friend of mine has jokingly threatened to harm me if I don’t see all three “Lord of the Rings” movies by the end of the year.

It’s good to have friends with great taste in movies. Would you like a friend who keeps bugging you to watch The Twilight Saga? Me, I have great inspiration. I’ve seen the first two “Lord of the Rings” movies, and it’s only August.

Burlesque

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

“Burlesque” is a 119-minute movie that could have worked if it trimmed down around 60 minutes of its running time and became what it really wants to be; an exceedingly long music video starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. Whenever they’re not singing, the movie attempts to lure us into a story that’s not even good enough to be used in, uh, music videos.

Aguilera plays Ali, a sweet young girl who works as a waitress in Iowa. This girl can sing, believe me. And dear Ali believes it too. That is why she quits her job and heads to Los Angeles hoping to fulfill her dream as a singer/dancer/performer. Ali eventually enters a club called, The Burlesque Lounge, and it is there where she wants to start.

In these early scenes, we see Christina Aguilera projecting an uncanny charm. We see minimal make-up accompanied by some… no, a lot, of clothes. Where were we? Oh, yeah. Pretty Ali desperately wants to work in Burlesque, and so she approaches Tess (Cher), the club owner, and does her best to convince Tess that she’s Got What It Takes.

Of course, Tess is a bit doubtful and ignorant in the beginning. (This is where the movie gives Ali some time to meet The Guy whom she will later fall for.) So, Ali works extra hard to reach the top, and the closer she gets to her dream, the less clothes she wears. We know that she’s made it when there’s barely anything there anymore. And now that Ali is where she wants to be, we see a lot of song and dance numbers. These performances are full of talent and fashion, and they are all worth a look and listen.

Fans of Cristina and Cher will enjoy these parts, and are most likely not to mind every clichéd, uninteresting, and uninspired moment that happens between them. The required, dull romance between Ali and The Guy are only delayed by unreasonable fights, and their first conflict is made possible by a wet towel. Not a metaphor. Much time is spent during this conflict. I wonder what madness can be brought forth by two wet towels. It will take me a long time before I find a person who enjoyed all 119 minutes of this movie.

So. Are you a fan of Cher? Are you a fan of Christina Aguilera? If you said “yes” to both questions, watch this movie. If you said “yes” to one of the questions, watch this movie. If you said “no” to both questions, watch this movie, and then tell me how much you hated it.