The American Film Institute, is at it again, having conjured up another one of its inanely gratuitious, highly arbitrary film lists. This one is devoted obsensibly to "The Greatest Movie Musicals" of all time, although "Most Popular" would be a more apt and honest description of the list. The fact that the list consists of only 25 titles, instead of AFI's usual 100, tellingly says something about what AFI really thinks of the musical film genre.
Not surprisingly, the usual suspects abound. Is it any surprise that "Singin' in the Rain" tops the list? No. And, of course, such faves as "The Sound of Music," "West Side Story" and "Cabaret" have been dragged out for the occasion, too. Am I the only musical fan who finds that these three titles have grown increasingly unwatchable with age, particularly WSS?
Number 25 is actually -- drum roll, please! -- "Moulin Rouge" (and NOT the John Huston version). Look, I like "Moulin Rouge," thoroughly enjoyed it, but it's more of an anti-musical than a musical, if you get my drift.
And "All That Jazz" (number 14) isn't a musical either.
Too many wonderful musicals have been overlooked. I won't name them all, but frankly, I don't know how one can put together a list like this and manage to skip Warner Bros.' grand 1962 film version of "The Music Man," arguably the most perfect movie musical, better than even -- dare I say it? -- "Singin' in the Rain." Blasphemy? Probably, but I think theater hand Morton DaCosta set the standard with "The Music Man." Apologies to Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.
Anyway, as with all of AFI's announced lists, expect the inevitable TV special to be fashioned around the picks, as well as a lot of aggressive DVD tie-ins.
(Artwork: top: Robert Preston and Shirley Jones march on the dustjacket cover of Warner Home Video's VHS edition of the film; bottom: Preston leads the kids in "The Music Man," )
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