Oscar Clip Roundup: Does The UK Success of Mamma Mia! REALLY Indicate the Return of the Musical?

Last night’s Oscars had some truly wonderful moments.  And then there was that whole damn Slumdog Millionaire sweep.  Blech.

But there were some wonderful moments!  Like how cute was it when Kate Winslet’s dad whistled to her?  

Answer: the cutest!  Added to that, her speech felt wonderfully unrehearsed and genuine.

Or when Penelope Cruz won supporting actress for her feisty turn in Vicky Cristina Barcelona?  How great was that?

Awwww, she thanked Almodovar!  That’s more adorable than a dozen terrier puppies in my book!

And really, how gay–in all the best, most politically-forward-thinking ways possible–was this year’s Oscars?  Consider exhibit A:

Oh, and of course, exhibit B:

So gay.  I found both Dustin Lance Black’s and Sean Penn’s wins (along with their speeches) to be two of the moist poignant and affirming moments of the evening, blissful reminders that art and politics need not remain separate spheres of discourse; each can enrich the other, and together they capture something truly transcendental.  

Also, their speeches made me cry, but really, what doesn’t?  Making me cry is less of a litmus test for greatness so much as a litmus test for ensuring I still have a pulse.   

Anyways!

There was one moment that truly stuck out for me in this year’s ceremony, and that was this one.  Be sure to watch it all, because it will make you re-evaluate your current understanding of the world:

MY PARADIGMS OF UNDERSTANDING HAVE BEEN SHIFTED BY YOUR MUSICAL MEDLEY, ACADEMY!  Oh wait, that was just last of the chili-cheese dip working its way through my system.  Oops.

On one hand, I’ll gladly applaud this insanity as, well, insanity.  I suppose it only makes sense that Baz Luhrmann (who, by the by, was totally silver-fox handsome at the awards, if I do say so) is involved when the songs are perpetually strung together as though we’re all ADHD-addled children who’ve just downed a pot of coffee and an all-musicals Netflix queue.  Cracked out?  For sure.  Still, it had a certain camp, je-ne-sais-quois charm.

Yet also: proclaiming the musical is back?  Now?  Wasn’t Moulin Rouge! or Chicago at least vaguely responsible for this obviously false proclamation?  I get how, with a theater-savvy Hugh Jackman hosting and the stage being styled towards a classic Hollywood nightclub, the idea would be towards recapturing the incandescent, let-us-entertain-you magic of the Busby Berkeley days.  Sure, great idea.

But, based upon Mamma Mia!‘s box-office success in Britain, you’re proclaiming that the musical, as a genre, has returned?  Sorry.

 Mamma Mia‘s success is because it’s a musical filled with ABBA songs and Meryl Streep.  I love them both, but neither suggests that the musical, as a genre, has returned.  If it had, why weren’t we (other than myself) salivating over The Phantom of the Opera?  I’ll certainly admit that the musical is a genre that can survive, but it needs a new vision.  

Just as old tropes of the horror and western genres have passed away to new ideas, so will those of the musical.  The musical is in a liminal phase, one stuck between a past of old notions (the Berkeley song-and-dance numbers so evidenced by the 2009 Oscars) and a future of possibility (such as the post-modern appropriation of pop songs for new narratives that occurs in Moulin Rouge! or Mamma Mia!).  Perhaps, in more time, we’ll see a reawakening of the musical as a genre, but such a possibility cannot be declared; it simply takes time.

Also, it musn’t look or sound like Rent because that movie is the faux-hemian worst.  Double-blech.   

Until that glorious day, though, let’s at least give thanks for one aspect of that medley: Dominic Cooper.

dominic-cooper

Say what you will, but that man is delicious.

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