Saturday, November 19, 2011

"The best things happen while you're dancing. Things that you would not do at home come naturally on the floor."*

Judy Garland in Easter Parade, 1948.

I am in a foul mood.

What I would like to do more than anything right now is watch a musical—preferably Easter Parade or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Both of those movies (and musicals in general) cheer me up and you want to know why? Because nothing can ever be too terrible in a world where people randomly break into song and entire towns seem to have spent months painstakingly rehearsing intricate choreography.
Millie teaches the brothers to dance. They pick it up really quickly. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954.
But I’m at work and I couldn’t pay these kids to watch a musical. They’re far too grounded in modern filmmaking—they can’t stomach a black-and-white film or special effects from before 1995. Once I showed them Willow and they admitted that the special effects were pretty good “for an old movie.” Good grief. 1988 is not old, first of all. Anything born at the same time or after me is young. So that’s practically brand spanking new!

I admit that I do tend to like “old” movies more than most people of my generation (outside of filmmakers and cinephiles, of course), but that’s merely because I wasn’t allowed to watch anything new until I was a teenager. I actually thought movies were only made in black-and-white until I was about eight.

The lengths I would go to for some quality time in front of the television as a kid would embarrass most people. But I grew up in a very Catholic, somewhat bizarrely strict house where we were forced to pride ourselves on the “higher” pursuits: reading, classical music, homework, struggling to learn Greek or the history of Ireland at the dinner table, attempting to be entertained by conversations. You know: boring, Jane Austen-type crap.

My sisters and I were allowed television only on weekends, and then only at strictly predetermined intervals. It was annoying, to say the least, because I’ve always adored TV. I managed to stay entertained anyway because, at one point in time, kids played outside. We had stuff like bikes and these things called “balls” and sometimes we even played this weird game called “tag.”
Today kids play on their iPhones and don't know how to read books printed on paper--they can only maintain focus if the stuff is printed online. Weird.
Wow, maybe I am old.

You know what’s funny? While I’m writing this, the kids I nanny are outside playing basketball and screaming and running around. Wow, I’m a really superior caretaker, yes? But it is sort of ironic—now I’m the one abusing technology while they play in the fresh air.

Anyway, when I started my freshman year at college, my roommate brought a 14-inch TV and I was beside myself, mindlessly watching any show that happened to be airing. I thought things like Cheers and Who’s the Boss? were new shows. I had no idea they’d been off the air for 15 years. It was a very exciting time.

Who's the Boss?
But I maintain that my favorite part of watching any movie or television show is the escapist element, and nothing meets that need quite like a good musical. It’s somehow more impactful when a character expresses him- or herself in song. Or when you can tell people are falling in love because they’re dancing together on a bridge in Paris. Or on a rooftop in New York City. Or on a soundstage on the MGM lot. And sometimes their costumes change IN THE MIDDLE OF A SONG. It’s like magic!

And when you’re in a foul mood or feeling sad, there’s nothing like singing a torch song with Judy Garland or Marni Nixon to get you fully into that truly self-pitying, pathetic mind set that feels so bad it’s good. (“Look at how tragic I am, world! It’s sooooo SAD!”)
Man, I could really use some magic today because I am a grade-A, cranky bitch and I’m taking it out on everyone around me.
But the kids have decided to watch Elf tonight. And that has some magic, too. Nothing could be too terrible in a world where Ed Asner is Santa Claus.
Ed Asner or Santa Claus? Or both?

*"The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" by Irving Berlin, from White Christmas, 1954.

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