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BWW Blog: My Five Favorite Musical Movies

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A musical movie (or movie musical, for the purists) is a film that incorporates music so thoroughly into its storytelling that the plot would be lost without it.

BWW Blog: My Five Favorite Musical Movies

To me, a musical movie isn't merely a stage production on film. In fact, I have disqualified all movie versions of Broadway musicals from this ranking-all movies here either came before their stage version or do not have a stage version. A musical movie (or movie musical, for the purists) is a film that incorporates music so thoroughly into its storytelling that the plot would be lost without it. It's not always about characters bursting into song and tap dancing, it's about how the music drives the plot of the movie forward and represents the innermost thoughts of the characters. So, what are the best musical movies?

5. The Muppet Movie (1979)

I've always been a huge Muppet aficionado, so it should come as no surprise to anybody reading that The Muppet Movie has made it to my list of best musical movies. From the iconic opening shot of Kermit the Frog playing his banjo and singing "The Rainbow Connection" in his swamp to the road trip classic "Movin' Right Along" to the bluesy "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along", The Muppet Movie provides hit after hit while giving the world the Muppet prequel it was longing for, re-introducing the familiar characters with a younger, purer sense of starry-eyed wonder. Plus, there are plenty of running jokes throughout the movie that keep viewers of all ages laughing.

4. Mary Poppins (1964)

This is my comfort movie. I remember many a night curled up next to my grandmother as we sang along to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Step In Time", pretending we were Mary Poppins and Jane. Every single song from this movie has made it to the

popular lexicon, proving its timelessness. Julie Andrews plays the practically perfect nanny flawlessly, blending her beautiful voice with a firm yet kind demeanor. Dick Van Dyke, questionable Cockney accent aside, also delivers many a heartwarming line and toe-tapping tune. The film runs the gamut of emotions, bringing anyone who watches from immense joy to sadness to anxiety to hope in 139 minutes.

3. Baby Driver (2017)

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Although Baby Driver is by no means a traditional movie musical-there is very little singing in it at all-every single moment of this film is fueled by its music. The auditory experience of watching Baby Driver is unparalleled, from the never-ending diegetic soundtrack hand-picked by Baby to the subtle nods to Baby's tinnitus. (Pay close attention during the very beginning of the movie, before "Bellbottoms" begins. There is faint whining that simulates the ringing in Baby's ears.) What completely convinces me that Edgar Wright's masterpiece belongs in the pantheon of great movie musicals, however, is the fact that almost all of the action is choreographed in time with the music. So, instead of giving the impression of run-of the-mill car chases and shootouts, the entire movie reads as a frenetic, iPod-fueled ballet-a level of choreography that even the best movie musicals could look up to.

2. Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Recently adapted into a Broadway musical (and nominated for quite a few Tony Awards, at that), I have long counted Moulin Rouge! as one of my favorite movies. Baz Luhrmann is my favorite director, and he holds this title for the way he so flawlessly incorporates music into all of his movies. Moulin Rouge!, obviously, is no different. Although it is a jukebox musical, every single one of the songs included in the film takes on a new life thanks to the orchestral arrangements alongside the lush costuming and production design. One moment in particular, the El Tango De Roxanne scene, stands out as the best way to seamlessly bring the energy of a live performance to the screen. The lighting changes, razor-sharp editing, sweeping choreography, and orchestral arrangement of a song originally by The Police recreate the heart-pounding ecstasy of watching a live musical, all from the comfort of your living room, a feat that most movie musicals can only dream of achieving. Rather than pushing away the conventions of film, Moulin Rouge! embraces them.

1. Begin Again (2014)

While also not a traditional movie musical, Begin Again follows a singer-songwriter on her quest to recover from a bad breakup and produce her debut album. The songs from the film all have a heartfelt, earnest quality to them and seem to defy genre. As an audience, seeing Keira Knightley outside of her usual period drama fare is refreshing, and she has incredible chemistry with both James Corden and Mark Ruffalo. For lovers of music and lovers of New York City, Begin Again is food for the soul. My favorite scene is when the two main characters wander the streets of New York all through the night, sharing their music with one another and taking in the city. This movie, which was originally entitled Can a Song Save Your Life?, is a love letter to New York City, and above all, those who are young, driven, creative, and a little bit lost. It is the ultimate pick-me-up movie, and does twice the work by also inspiring creative energy in its audience. It shows that there is beauty in music and art. There is beauty in paving your own way while doing what you love.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson