Wednesday, December 31, 2014

MY 10 FAVORITE IMAGES FROM FILMS OF 2014

It’s time for two celebrations here at The Establishing Shot. The first is in regards to the blog’s anniversary. It’s about to start its fifth year online, come January, and I truly appreciate all of you who follow my musings on the film world. The Establishing Shot is read in 27 countries, miraculously, and I appreciate that as much as Seth Rogan appreciates Christmas Day VOD. After all, the world of film transcends mere countries, and I’m glad that in a small way the discussions here about them do too.

The other celebration here at The Establishing Shot is in regards to reflections on the past year in film. It’s a great time for remembering the best of 2014 and lauding them as awards season swirls around us. Thus, I’ll be posting my 10 Best List shortly, and today I’m listing my favorite images from the year’s movies. It’s been one of my favorite posts to do each year since the blog’s inception, and I hope it’s one you enjoy too.

What’s my criteria for a favorite image from a film? Well, it isn’t a scene or a line of dialogue necessarily but more intrinsically, an image that really struck me as special in the course of the story. And it’s usually one that’s very cinematic or even audacious. So here then, without any further ado, are those images that wowed me, gobsmacked me, and stayed with me throughout the year. (WARNING: There will be spoilers throughout this post, so if you haven’t seen some of these films yet, tread carefully.) 


ENEMY
I’ve written extensively about this gem before here. This sublime psychological thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve barely got a release in NY and LA this past spring, and then was unceremoniously dumped on VOD. That’s where I discovered it, as it never opened in Chicago, but it was an incredible discovery even online. My favorite image from the film, and my favorite image from a movie this year, is the second to last one in this one. As Jake Gyllenhaal’s cheating husband decides to go back to his infidel ways, his wife overhears his plans. He opens up the door where she’s been eavesdropping from and discovers his terrified spouse. However, he doesn't see her as a cowering woman. Instead, he visualizes her as a huge spider that constantly wants to keep him in her web. It’s a metaphor writ large, and a scene worthy of a horror movie, but the true monster here is the macho, hurtful man who just can't appreciate the woman he has. 


IDA
The year’s best foreign language film directed by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski is easily one of the year’s best too. And it yielded my second favorite image from a 2014 movie. IDA is the story of a young woman named Anna who’s about to takes her vows as a nun in the 1960's era Poland. She discovers she has an aunt named Wanda who reveals the girl’s true heritage. She’s actually Jewish and was named Ida, and her parents were killed during World War II. Together they travel to her folks' burial ground and discover that not only were her parents murdered but so was her young brother. And he turns out to have been the secret child of Wanda’s. Wanda (an Oscar-worthy Agata Kulesza) has been established as a tough cookie versus the waifish Anna/Ida thorough out their journey together, but learning of the demise of her child turns out to be too much for her to bear. One day, while futzing around her high-rise apartment, she just casually walks out of an open window and falls to her death. Her suicide is bold and shocking, and it's rendered all the more so because it's done with no warning music or foreboding camera work. But then the whole movie is startling too as it expertly examines the issues of identity and the choices one makes in life with a bluntness and artistry seldom seen in modern cinema.


GONE GIRL
I love shots that book end a movie. Usually, the same shot has a different meaning by the end of the film vs. the first time we saw it. That’s certainly true of GONE GIRL. The first time we see the enigmatic Amy respond to her husband Nick’s touch by turning towards him, we worry that she's going to be his victim as he narrates, “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.” But by the end of the movie, Nick (Ben Affleck) and the audience realize that his wife (Rosamund Pike) isn't anyone's victim. Quite the opposite as she is a ruthless monster. Director David Fincher ensures that the same shot that opened his film reads entirely different by the end. It's now one resonating in horror. 


ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Speaking of horror, the year’s best in that genre is a character-driven vampire tale about a longtime couple losing interest in living, even thought they're already existing as 'the living dead'. The characters played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have survived too many centuries. They've lost friends as well as interest in the world around them. Even their home of Detroit is deader than they are. And by the end of the movie, they're literally starving for a reason to go on as they've gone without blood for days. Yet, they find resolve in their love for each other and that drives them on.  Thus, in writer/director Jim Jarmusch's outrageously creepy final  image, he presents them for the first time as the true ghouls they are. They bare their fangs as they prepare to live by ending the lives of two others. 


WHIPLASH
What was scarier than any ghost, goblin or Godzilla onscreen this year? J.K. Simmons was, playing the sadistically demanding music teacher in WHIPLASH. He’s an obsessed perfectionist who requires the best from his jazz students and lords his demands over them with a stern fist. And it's exceedingly clever how writer/director Damien Chazelle uses that character's fist as it is not only the literal physical gesture to stop in the music world but it's also a punch to his minion's guts each time. It terrifies them, and it terrifies us in the Cineplex as well.


THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Sometimes a movie's setting can burn itself into your brain the way any character or story point can. Such is the case of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Its personification of the hotel, both in the 30's and 60's, is the movie year's greatest achievement in production design. The hotel is itself as main a character in the film as any of its all-star cast. It was truly a sorrowful 'character arc' to see the hotel's lush grandeur dilapidate into the gauche shell of its former self over the 30-year history presented in the story. Any fan of Wes Anderson’s knows that his visuals are always a crucial part of his work, and that's never been more true than here. The images of the hotel stay with you from first shot to last. And the hotel haunts you. 


THE BOOK OF LIFE
Another film that is a triumph of production design is the animated THE BOOK OF LIFE. The story of a ghost trying to reclaim his love stems from Mexican folklore is as macabre as it is beautiful. In Spanish culture, death isn’t feared as much as embraced as another world to find family, friends, love and beauty. And when Manola, the story’s hero, dies for his love of the unattainable Maria, he travels to the Land of the Remembered as a skeletal ghost. There he finds a non-stop carnival of spirits and quite spirited celebration. Filled with parades, parties, balloons and song, the spectacle of the dead is sumptuous and eye-poppingly gorgeous. Director Jorge Gutierrez created one of the most imaginative family-friendly animated features this year and it'll make you wish you could enter such a world. Ahem, just not as one of the deceased! 


X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
One can quibble with this screen adaption of the beloved X-Men comic story because it puts Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) at the center of the story, which is really supposed to be Kitty Pride's. Nonetheless, this sequel remained fun and involving even if it screwed with the equities. This film merged X-Men of old (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) with those of the new (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and in one of its cheekier set pieces, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) helps Wolverine and Professor X break Magneto out of prison. Prison guards stop them in the kitchen and start shooting at them, but before any bullets can hit their mark, the Marvel version of The Flash stops their trajectory with his lightning speed. Director Bryan Singer shoots the hilarious sequence in ultra-slow-motion to catch every detail, like Quicksilver sampling the kitchen's wares as he runs circles around everybody. And it's all put to Jim Croce's tune "Time in a Bottle". For me, this was truly the funniest and best action sequence in any superhero movie this year. (Ah, sorry about that, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.)  


INTO THE WOODS
As a movie director, Rob Marshall is often unsure of how to frame or edit a musical number. (His frenetic cutting marred an otherwise terrific CHICAGO in 2002.) Some similar issues resurface in his latest too, the adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s INTO THE WOODS, but thankfully his staging of the “Agony” number plays assuredly and is the best in the film. This song of comedic lament bellowed by two pompous princes is sublime as they splash their egos around as easily as the water under their feet in the babbling brook. They're like too little boys throwing a fit at bath time and it turns their crocodile tears into hilarious waterworks. 


BOYHOOD
My final favorite image of the year is from the best film of the year. The image that's so stunning in Richard Linklater’s masterpiece BOYHOOD is the ever-changing face of lead Ellar Coltrane. Linklater shot his story of a boy’s development from age 5 to 18 with the same actor for 13 years, and it becomes more than a mere film. We're truly watching the boy become a man on film and it adds weight to this venture in a way that most movies cannot fathom. And everything that happens to the boy becomes part of him. His image is formed by his mother’s divorce, troubled family life, moving from city to city, experiencing different friends, difficult friends and love interests, and it all becomes a part of his personality and looks. Thus, this individual's ordinary face becomes rather extraordinary in all that it tells in this wondrous film.


Those are the 10 favorite movie images of mine this year. What are yours? Let me know what made your eyes pop and your jaw drop! And if you haven’t seen any of these films, do yourself a favor and seek out them out. They're filled with exceptional images, indelible and unforgettable.

Friday, December 19, 2014

THE BEST IN BIG SCREEN HORROR 2014


The terrorist threats over the movie THE INTERVIEW, as well as the rash reactions from Sony and the theater chains who all caved into the demands to squelch the release of the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy, were truly frightening these past couple of days. Too often it's real world monsters that eclipse any fictional vampire, alien or zombie. But at least horror on screen remains fun, and all of the following films picked as the best genre entries of the year were able to be seen and find an audience.  


So good was 2014, that some horror films - like Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN, and Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK - have climbed onto traditional 10 best lists. Those rate listing here too as the year's best in screen horror.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE was tops, and the fact that it was such a fresh take on the overdone vampire genre made it even more of an accomplishment. Jim Jarmusch’s story wasn’t a bloodfest but rather a dissertation on love and loss. His vampires were a longtime couple witnessing far too many centuries who've lost friends and their will to live. Even their home city of Detroit seems dead and buried. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston played the world-weary duo giving subtle, sensitive performances. This vampire tale was both a poignant romance and a dark comedy. And it proved that when unconventional directors approach horror, wonderfully unique movies occur.  


Perhaps the most unfairly treated movie of the year was Denis Villeneuve’s ENEMY. (Okay, okay, THE INTERVIEW had it worse.) Nonetheless, ENEMY was dumped on VOD this past spring without a national release. That was a true shame as this psychological horror/thriller proved to be one of the year’s most thrilling once seen. It was a dark and brooding piece about the monstrous male ego, and Jake Gyllenhaal rendered both impotence and hubris equally well in one of the year's best performances in any genre.  


There were also two monsters in Mike Flanagan’s wonderfully creepy OCULSU. One was a demonic mirror that caused death and destruction wherever it appeared, and the other was one of its survivors determined to defeat it. Ultimately, it was survivor Kaylie (Karen Gillan) who proved the most frightening in the piece, and Karen Gillan made her both sympathetic and despicable. Gillan can be funny (the short-lived ABC series SELFIE) and fierce (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY), but here she went utterly cra-cra as she helped bring Mike Flanagan’s sharp thriller to edge-of-your-seat life.


Can a children’s movie, and an animated one at that, truly be considered a horror tale? Well, THE BOOK OF LIFE wasn’t really scary, but it was a tale about death and the supernatural, so indeed yes is the answer. Like 2012’s FRANKENWEENIE this was a story that challenged the family audience with more mature subject material. But it wasn't a dark, funeral dirge. Instead, it was a buoyant and colorful spectacle that brimmed over with life in every scene. Never had resurrection been so gorgeous or fun. Oscar will likely nominate Jorge R. Guittierrez' sparkling effort for Best Animated Feature, but it deserves nods for costumes and production design too.


Last year’s THE CONJURING was my pick for the best horror movie of 2013, and its prequel ANNABELLE was one of the best this year as well. John Leonetti directed a sharp horror tale that was less about the demonic doll namesake, and more about how evil overwhelms good people. The young couple battling against a haunting spirit was reminiscent of Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes in the horror classic ROSEMARY'S BABY. It’s a worthy comparison as Leonetti showed wonderful slyness in his direction and helped star Annabelle Wallis turn in a memorable heroine fighting for her life and family.


 Movies don’t have to have lots of blood and gore, big budgets, or supernatural aliens to terrify, and CHEAP THRILLS is the proof. It’s a four-hander about two middle-aged losers coaxed into a creepy bar game by a rich man and his alluring, trophy wife. The two sad sacks are so down on their luck they're willing to compete for whatever dollar the riches wave in their face. It starts with pranks and soon turns into violent exercises and bloodletting. CHEAP THRILLS was as funny as it was disturbing as it showcased how far desperate souls will go and how they'll lose those souls in the process. Director E. L. Katz ratcheted up the tension throughout and drew expert performances out of the game Pat Healey, Ethan Embry, David Koechner and Sara Paxton.


LUCKY BASTARD was another offering that mostly found its audience on VOD, and this nasty little thriller spoofed both crazy killer movies as well as gonzo porn. Robert Nathan's clever film earned its NC-17 rating due to the unflinching nudity and language, but its true shock was how skilled a movie it was against such an unsavory backdrop. Don MacManus excelled as the put upon producer, and Jay Paulson made his regular Joe killer both pathetic and empathetic. Finally though, Betsy Rue steals the picture as the worldly starlet who stayed between the sheets a few films too long.
There were other wonderful movies that did the genre proud too.

HONEYMOON asked how well one really knows their spouse in Leigh Janiak’s knowing thriller about a marriage undone by forces alien and internal. The unsettling AFFLICTED was a wicked riff on vampires and documentary filmmaking written, directed and starring Clif Prowse and Derek Lee. VHS: VIRL was the third of that franchise in as many years, and it's best. Zachary Donohue’s THE DEN played as a shrewd updating of REAR WINDOW with a strong performance by Melanie Papalia as the doomed grad student. And the versatile Elijah Wood continued to excel in the genre with superb and varied turns in GRAND PIANO and “OPEN WINDOWS.  



UNDER THE SKIN struck me as more of a science fiction film, but it certainly mined scares and thrills with Scarlett Johansson's fully committed work as a sexually voracious alien. GONE GIRL wasn’t really a horror movie but David Fincher’s direction, Jeff Cronenweth’s photography and Rosamund Pike’s scary lead played as if they were and the results were absolutely chilling. And THE BABADOOK certainly established writer/director Jennifer Kent as a real up and comer in the genre with HER auspicious Aussie winner. She also got an Oscar worthy turn out of lead Essie Davis but the Academy will likely ignore the actress' superb performance. What a shame.


Horror had a banner year on TV too, and that will be the subject of a future list. 2014 did the horror genre proud and its best proved that it doesn't take ginormous budgets or star power to make stunning thrilling films. All it takes is a storyteller that knows how to scare, and make us care. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

WHERE IS ROD SERLING WHEN WE NEED HIM?

The story about the Sony hacking scandal isn’t fully known yet. It started out as an embarrassing exposure of Sony executive snarkiness by cyberhackers who seemed delighted to shame them with the release to the public of their bitchy emails about pampered movie stars and President Obama’s taste in movies. Then the scandal became something far worse, a turn towards terrorism. Whoever these cyberhackers were, they didn’t want Sony to release their movie THE INTERVIEW, a controversial comedy skewering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Was North Korea behind it? Was it a real threat or just more saber rattling?


Whoever they were, apparently they were truly put off by the trailers for the Seth Rogan/James Franco political farce about two fools sent to North Korea to ‘take out’ the dictator. They didn’t want the movie to open Christmas Day or ever, for that matter, and the threats promised bombs at theater chains that would deign to show it. They dropped the term “9-11” and suddenly everything got very heavy.

And within hours of the released threat to the Web, five of the major theater chains agreed to the terrorist demands and chose not to open the film. Soon after, Sony announced that they too would capitulate, and they decided to not release the film at all. Ever. Not in theaters. Not on VOD. Not on DVD. No Netflix, no Amazon, nada. The film would be metaphorically buried.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, eh?

Perhaps those theater chains (Carmike, AMC, Regal, Cineplex and Cinemark) have good reason to exhibit caution rather than the controversial film, but they sure acquiesced promptly. They didn’t even take 24 hours to think about it, mull it over, or organize a committee to discuss all the options. And Sony made a grand stand for their product, didn’t they? Why were they all so rash? Sure, they might have reached the same conclusions a few days later, but at least it would have been a few more days of serious examination. Is there more here than the public knows? Is that why such quick caving?


It would seem that the public doesn’t really know. There’s got be more to the story, especially when the US government publicly states that they think the North Korean government is behind it. Looks like there might be more than just saber rattling here this time as the movie executives were truly rattled by the threats.

But no matter the uncertainties of exactly what is going on here, there is one thing certain. Our nation is afraid. Very, very afraid.

It took less than 48 hours for all parties to get in line with the threats and that should be more frightening to this nation than anything. Does this mean that now entertainment will continue to withhold their product if it is offensive to the powerful? I hope not, but the swift actions by Sony and the theater chains are not encouraging for any artist or proponent of free speech.

One can’t help but think that since 9-11 we have become a nation of overreaction. The rashness and quick escalation of the theaters and Sony’s response to the threat reminds me of that famous episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE where “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”. In it, a peaceful suburban street experiences a few strange occurrences and questions regarding certain neighbors. That stokes their paranoia so deeply that this sleepy little burg devolves into chaos, violence and destruction as they think an alien is in disguise and trying to take over the planet.

The paranoid citizens of "The Monsters Are Do On Maple Street" episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959).
The kicker, of course, is that all of this was indeed caused by little green men bent on colonizing Earth, but their shrewd plan was to merely plant the seed of distrust. The natural failures of man would supply the rest and do all their dirty work for them. Writer Rod Serling was making a comment on the Cold War and the fear of Communism that was rampant in 1959, but that story seems more than a little prescient about today. All it took was conjuring up the ghosts of 9-11 and fear of terrorism, and our nation jerks its knee rather than stiffen its backbone.

Discretion and caution can be the right move, but anytime art caves to protest, it sure feels wrong.  Maybe the movie is just a silly trifle,  and it doesn’t matter that much to most in the big scheme of things when death and destruction are possibly at stake, but the principle of it getting released sure should. And too many seemed ready to appease all too quickly and bury it.

The sad truth is that the Internet has been the Wild West for some time now. It's unchecked, often unlawful, and capable of raising a ruckus faster than any medium the world has ever known. This latest fiasco shows how rumor, fear and panic can spread like wildfire. So we as a nation, heck, as a world, need to start getting a lot smarter about participating in it, judging it, monitoring it, and assessing threats that come from it. And how about better enforcement of the many crimes being committed there these days?  If ISIS is on Twitter, why can’t we find them? Why can’t we catch that cretin who leaked all those private celebrity iCloud photos? Where is Interpol? Where are the international laws for the web? And can't we find all these awful hackers and terrorists quicker? As quick as we squelch the release of a movie?

Rod Serling, creator of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and writer of "The Monsters Are Do On Maple Street" episode.
I wish Rod Serling were around these days. At the height of the Cold War, he dared to criticize our paranoid nation for squelching rights and humanity that were all too easily shelved by our need to beat back the 'Red Devil'. And he did it in entertaining ways that were a hit with audiences, and have stood the test of time. Surely, his fight is still one we need to be as passionate about today.

Yes, we should fight terror, but that shouldn’t mean that in order to do so, we suppress speech, put the kibosh on rights, and live in fear of our own shadows. The monsters aren’t due on Maple Street. Damn, they’re still here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

FIVE MUSICALS THAT SHOULD TAKE FLIGHT AFTER NBC'S VERSION OF "PETER PAN LIVE!"


With great fanfare and a ton of ad dollars hawking it, NBC’s PETER PAN LIVE! finally was broadcast last night and – surprise, surprise! – it wasn’t the disaster that many had predicted and even wanted it to be. Twitter stood by, anxious to live tweet its demise, but from the moment Allison Williams flew in the window in an impressive bit of wire work, we all knew it wasn’t going to be the train wreck that last year’s THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE! was. The second Carrie Underwood started singing about the hills being alive, we knew that her lackluster star turn would render the mountainous journey DOA.

If there were any problems with NBC's live take on PETER PAN they were evident the moment the cast was announced. It may be tradition to cast a female in the role of the boy who never grows up, but in this modern age that decision seemed sexist and silly. What? Weren’t Chris Colfer or Justin Bieber available? Is there no young actor in Hollywood who can sing and dance? Is Peter Pan that unplayable?


The casting of Allison Williams struck many as wrong from the get-go. She was too pretty, too feminine, too untested as a musical comedy star. Those all may be true, but she did a very good job as Peter, showing off a terrific singing voice and a mischievous take on the role. She was expert at the physical parts, and she sure sold all that flying, particularly during the final battle with Captain Hook. Her spinning and spinning was something to see, for sure!

She may not have been as plucky as Sandy Duncan or as elfin as Mary Martin, but she conveyed a danger that those two did not. When Williams stares, she is a little scary. (Someone will cast her as a villain some day and it will be a sublime turn, I’m sure.) Her only real handicap was that she’s simply too attractive a woman. By casting her, the show brought a subtext of lesbianism to the forefront, and it was a little too sexy for what is supposed to be a family musical. Still, that’s more of the casting’s fault than hers as a performer.


And those who bitched and moaned on Twitter all night long, and at the water cooler today, about Christopher Walken’s take on Hook, I ask, “What did you expect?” If you’ve ever seen him perform in say, the last 30 years, you know he’s eccentric to a fault with his halted line readings and thousand-mile stare. If you’ve ever seen him host SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, you know he relies on the cue cards like he’s reading the script off of them for the first time. And has he been truly scary in any material since he shot Dennis Hopper in TRUE ROMANCE back in 1993? Ah no. And arguably, as written, Hook isn't frightening at all in this frothy bubble of a musical.

Actually, Walken was quite a hoot throughout despite not really singing his role. He did give his Hook an appropriate world-weariness that added to the show's themes of of maturity vs. youth. And it seemed at times that he was trying to show Johnny Depp how a real eccentric buccaneer walks and talks. His make-up was as gay as anything this side of Gary Beach, and outside of say, Gary Beach, I can’t think of an actor who could’ve camped it up as well. And if you've ever seen the estimable Cyril Ritchard's performance as Hook in the 1960 TV production, Walken did his legacy proud.  

The real problem with this production of  PETER PAN wasn’t the casting of the two leads, or the way-too-old Lost Boys, or the limits of wires and sets on a soundstage. The true issue is that it’s simply not a great musical. It’s got a few wonderful songs, and that soaring number where the Darling children first fly, but other than that, it’s a creaky old chestnut that hasn’t particularly aged well. And it's really quite inferior to the superior Disney animated take on J. M. Barrie's classic story.


THE SOUND OF MUSIC had a similar problem last year as they brought the stage version to the screen, and it's far inferior to the movie version we all know and love. The original Broadway production had many problems - too much Baroness, too much Max, too little time with the children - and all those issues were eradicated by a shrewd screenplay by Ernest Lehman. If only he'd have adapted PETER PAN. 

Some musicals on stage, despite their reputation, aren't that great to begin with, or they haven't stood the test of time all that well. PETER PAN is one of those shows that is both. And here's hoping that next time out, NBC picks a truly wonderful show to adapt for the TV screen. There are some great musicals out there whose screen versions could easily be bettered. Here are five that could stand a more exemplary and definitive version that echoed their stage greatness. 


1776

The 1972 big screen version of the Tony award-winning 1969 Broadway show isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either. What it mostly is…is loud. Sure, director Peter Hunt brought most of his original New York stage cast with him for the movie, but too many of them played things as if they were still on the stage. Every joke, note, and facial expression seemed absurdly big. It’s rather garish, and this exceedingly clever and moving show could use a new screen version. 

And TV would be perfect for it as most of the show takes place in the Continental Congress hall in Philadelphia. The sets of both THE SOUND OF MUSIC and PETER PAN were simply too limited by soundstages, but that wouldn’t be a problem for this single setting show. And think of the actors you could get to play our Founding Fathers! How about Jason Alexander or Kelsey Grammar for John Adams to start with? Filling that hall of men with TV’s great male stars could make for an all-star extravaganza. And it would give Hollywood’s rather bereft supply of Fourth of July entertainments a network perennial that could return year after year.


HELLO, DOLLY

Here's another film version that isn't bad at all. It’s just that this 1969 version of the great Broadway musical has a too young Barbra Streisand playing the aging matchmaker Dolly Levi. Babs is actually quite a good Bubala in the role, but she was only 27 at the time. And watching her chase after the curmudgeonly Walter Matthau, who was an old 50 then, seems incongruous. Thus, the key romance in the piece isn’t believable. 

HELLO, DOLLY is one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, but it’s shocking that something of its stature hasn’t been revived on Broadway more often, and doesn't have a better filmed version. Perhaps TV can get there with a comedic actress like the 46 year-old Debra Messing or Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who's 53. And let's face it, the show is certainly relevant to our modern times what with the saturation of dating sites like Match.com, eHarmony and J-Date. Oy vey! 


MAME

Here's another Jerry Herman classic, and it’s one that's never been revived on Broadway, and a TV version would be ripe for the picking. This story of a ‘live for the moment’ aunt taking her young nephew on a journey through nonconformity is wholly right for today’s anti-one percent sentiments, and Herman’s score is one of the best ever written. The 1973 film version with Lucille Ball again wasn’t a disaster, but the senior citizen Ball was simply too old for the verve needed for this 40ish bachelorette. What about someone like Megan Mullally or Julie Bowen cutting loose in this role? Heck, Cameron Diaz would be better for this role than that of Miss Hannigan in ANNIE. (Something tells me that film is going to make me wish that tomorrow came sooner!)


A CHORUS LINE

Another stage-bound musical that would seem to be tailor-made for TV is A CHORUS LINE. It’s all about the cast and the dancing, and if television can do wonders with those two elements on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE why couldn’t the same thing be done with this 1975 Pulitzer Prize winning musical that Sir Richard Attenborough turned into one of cinema’s biggest musical turkeys in 1985. Today, this story couldn’t be more of-the-moment with everyone and their brother clamoring to become a star in one reality competition after another. 

And with GLEE ending this coming year, there’s half your cast for this show already. This searing and soaring stage musical deserves a more honorable tribute on screen than the wincingly bad one that exists. God, I hope NBC gets it...I hope they get it!


GUYS AND DOLLS


If it’s good enough to perform at every high school from Boise to Baltimore each year, than it sure would be worthy of a definitive screen version. The 1955 movie of the Frank Loesser classic may star  Frank Sinatra but he's playing Nathan Detroit, not Sky Masterson. Detroit only has a few songs, while Sky gets to sing "Luck Be A Lady". And who plays Sky in the film adaptation? Marlon Brando. He may have been the actor of his generation, but he was no singer. Thus, the picture was doomed before it even began. 

NBC shouldn't try to better Robert Preston in a new version of THE MUSIC MAN next year, but rather try to find a proper Sky to do GUYS AND DOLLS proud. How about Chris Pine? He's about to sing the part of Prince Charming in INTO THE WOODS that opens Christmas Day, and the word is he's spectacular. Doesn't a great musical deserve that? 

NBC, are you listening?