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Pennies from Heaven--1981

roquat
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Pennies from Heaven--1981#1
Posted: 1/15/08 at 2:59pm
Anyone else have any love for this one? One of the strangest and most ambitious movie musicals ever made. A mythology of the Depression in which the songs express the character's deepest yearnings, which they can only spell out in the language of movie musicals of the period. The contrast between the character's movie-fed fantasy lives and their actual desperate, scrabbling existences is tonic and thrilling (and has more bite than CHICAGO, which uses the same technique.) Herbert Ross misdirected the dialogue scenes in a sodden "realistic" manner, which helped sink the film financially; if the real-life scenes had been as snappy and quick-witted as the musical sequences, this film might have outdone CABARET in acclaim. Denny Daniels' witty choreography, Ken Adam's production design (which incorporates Edward Hopper paintings) and Bob Mackie's costumes combine to make the musical numbers unforgettable. Steve Martin is a revelation as the schmucky hero Arthur (in a departure style which he never returned to) and anyone who loves Bernadette Peters HAS to get a look at her early work here as a small-town schoolteacher. (Those who claim she can't act should also take a look at the nuance she mines from every line, every gesture.) I know I'm rambling, but I don't know when I've seen a film this flawed that was also so exhilarating.
I ask in all honesty/What would life be?/Without a song and a dance, what are we?/So I say "Thank you for the music/For giving it to me."
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doodlenyc
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#2
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:03pm
Love it...and Peters took home the Golden Globe.
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Borstalboy
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#2
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:03pm
A really ahead of its time, unlucky film and Herbert Ross' best film by several miles. I think it definitely found influence in DANCER IN THE DARK, PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, THE COTTON CLUB and definitely CHICAGO.

General consensus is that the original BBC version is infinitely better (it is, with Bob Hoskins playing the lead), but this one is still a lost masterpiece. The musical numbers are breathtaking...especially Christopher Walken's tap dancing in "Let's Misbehave".
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. ~ Muhammad Ali
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JoeKv99
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#3
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:06pm
I saw this one in the theater and loved it. I was stunned when it bombed. Everyone seemed to love it at the showing I attended.
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doodlenyc
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#4
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:07pm
Walken is wonderful...Peters and Jessica Harper tear your heart out.
"Carson has combined his passion for helping children with his love for one of Cincinnati's favorite past times - cornhole - to create a unique and exciting event perfect for a corporate outing, entertaining clients or family fun."

"In Oz, the verb is douchifizzation." PRS

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Borstalboy
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#5
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:08pm
You should absolutely check out Dennis Potter's other lipsynching musicals for the BBC: LIPSTICK ON YOUR COLLAR (one of Ewan MacGregors early roles) and THE SINGING DETECTIVE which rivals ROOTS as the greatest miniseries ever made.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. ~ Muhammad Ali
roquat
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#6
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:10pm
I will. Is the Robert Downey, Jr. movie version of DETECTIVE any good? I suspect not.
I ask in all honesty/What would life be?/Without a song and a dance, what are we?/So I say "Thank you for the music/For giving it to me."
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Borstalboy
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#7
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:13pm
I skipped the Robert Downey version, but the BBC one stars the great Michael Gambon.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. ~ Muhammad Ali
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best12bars
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#8
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:30pm
It was definitely ahead of its time, and I had a sour reaction to it, when I first saw it in the movie theatre. I thought it kinda sucked except for the numbers.

I was also young and loved my candy-colored musicals back then. So it was disturbing to have the "candy" wrapped inside such a dark and ugly plot.

Once I got over the initial shock, and my "young self," I began to appreciate the film and its concept more and more.

I own the DVD and watched it again not too long ago. I was surprised at how much I loved it. The cast is fantastic, and I think it was great to have a "charming goofball" leading man, who's also a villain. Very complex, and sort of shattered all conventions of content, conventional storytelling, conventional characters, and conventional style.
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artscallion
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#9
Posted: 1/15/08 at 3:37pm
It was the first DVD I converted to add to the video ipod I got for Xmas this year. Love, love, love this film.
Art has a double face, of expression and illusion.
RetroBoy
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#10
Posted: 1/15/08 at 4:18pm
Add me to this list of those who absolutely LOVE this film. I also own this on DVD and converted it for my iPod as well. Great musical numbers especially "Let's Misbehave" and "Love is Good for Anything that Ails You". Top notch performances from Martin, Peters, Walken and Harper. I love the soundtrack as well, I listen to it at least once a week.
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Borstalboy
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#11
Posted: 1/15/08 at 4:24pm
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. ~ Muhammad Ali
Jon
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#12
Posted: 1/15/08 at 7:42pm
I think the BBC original worked better because it is easier to believe that Bob Hoskins MIGHT be a creepy sex fiend/murderer than Steve Martin. Hoskins was such a pathetic little fellow, and Martin seemed so clean cut.
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miss pennywise
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#13
Posted: 1/15/08 at 7:50pm
Tommy Rall, my favorite film dancer, is in this movie.
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roquat
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#14
Posted: 1/15/08 at 11:19pm
As uaual, the great Pauline Kael summed it up best--"There's something new going on--something thrilling--when the characters in a musical are all archetypes yet are intensely alive...This movie shows that the talent to make great movie musicals is out there, waiting." She didn't live to see the movie-musical boom we're enjoying now, but she certainly wasn't wrong.
I ask in all honesty/What would life be?/Without a song and a dance, what are we?/So I say "Thank you for the music/For giving it to me."
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HorseTears
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re: Pennies from Heaven--1981#15
Posted: 1/15/08 at 11:35pm
Love this film.


Bernadette & The Children in 'Love Is Good For Anything that Ails You':
http://youtube.com/watch?v=KXLVISY5guY

TV Spot:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=p0TzXuPMCi4

Christopher Walken in 'Let's Misbehave':
http://youtube.com/watch?v=e3iNc5iRXQQ