Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fred Astaire Is Tapping In His Grave

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of classic Fred Astaire musicals. When I was a kid I never wanted to see any of these because I imagined they’d be sappy and annoying... which is totally not the case. Though some may be better than others, they all seem to own a sense of pride in their star that modern pictures can’t comprehend. Now why is that? 
Back in the time of the Studio System actors were forced to pump out up to (and beyond) five movies a year. Now that’s a lot of time on set. I don’t know if you realize, but every minute of a film takes at least an hour (at least) to capture... you’ve got the lights to put up and the set to set, and once you’ve gotten the perfect angle on that camera you go ahead and you shoot a take of the actors. This take will probably never be seen again, because that same day fifteen more takes will take the first take’s place and another ten takes will take those takes’ places. Even I’m confused. 
But everything has to be perfect (we hope). And the musical is one of the hardest formats to shoot “perfectly”. Choreography has to pop, and mouths have to match up with the track, and everything has to look spectacular. So what’s my point? Go and watch Moulin Rouge! (a flick I still love) and see how many times in a song the camera will cut between shots... that is very possibly because they had to cover up a mistake (or Baz could just be a total spaz). Now go back and watch a film like Funny Face (a top five favorite musical of mine). How much of Mr. Astaire’s dance was faked? None. Not a single bit. He tapped and he tapped and he’s probably still tapping in his coffin, because that is what the man was made for, and his movies prove it. How many takes do you think it took to get that quality? Hmmm?
Good flicks to check out (not listed above): Top Hat and Swing Time.
And if you’ve got some more free time on your hands, check out these slightly less topic related flicks: Living It Up, All That Jazz, Singin’ In The Rain, and Kiss Me Kate.
Then check out The Producers and try and figure out why people were so negative on that (I’m still scratching my head).
Snap if you agree.

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