They say that the movie musical was resurrected at the turn of the century. Sure, Disney was still producing beloved animated musicals in the 1990s along the lines of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Even the famous voice actors Trey Parker and Matt Stone got into the game in 1999 with their brash and brilliant musical adaptation of their hit television show “South Park.”
But the live action musical seemed as though it had been laid to rest for decades… Until 2001, when an Australian madman/genius by the name of Baz Luhrmann unleashed his third film, Moulin Rouge, on the world.
Google the word “garish” or “gaudy” and I’m sure you will find a still from this movie. Luhrmann’s splashy musical sent some viewers into a tizzy, but it developed an ardent fan base of audience members who were sent into joyful delirium. The colorful, vibrant musical was not your dad’s musical from the MGM days; Luhrmann’s vision was risqué, and he filled his film to the brim with hooky and anachronistic pop songs.
The year after, Rob Marshall’s fun and lively adaptation of the hit Broadway show “Chicago” amassed more than $170 million, and won six Oscars, including Best Picture.
Yes, the live action musical was registering on the EKG again. Thanks to those films, the aughts were jam-packed with exhilarating and memorable musical moments. Here are five of the best.
# 5 “Cucurrucucu Paloma” (From Talk to Her)
Just like Baz Luhrmann, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is known for making florid films and for utilizing pop music extraordinarily well. He recruited pal and world class vocalist Caetano Veloso to sing this song live for a crucial scene at a house party.
The guests are spellbound by Veloso’s tender and fragile rendition of the classic. One of the main characters, Marco, leaves midway through the song, and is chased down by his lover, Lydia. When she grabs him, all Marco can say is, “That song gave me goose bumps.” Well said, Marco, well said.
# 4 “Elephant Love Medley” (From Moulin Rouge)
Luhrmann’s masterpiece is so chock-full of invigorating musical moments that this entire list could have been devoted to it. However, I went with the finest five minutes of the film, when stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor exchange short snippets of the finest pop songs of the past century, including songs by U2, Paul McCartney and Whitney Houston.
In this scene, their characters Satine and Christian, profess their love for each other. I’m pretty sure that while watching this scene, thousands of audience members did likewise to the movie itself.
# 3 “Falling Slowly” (From Once)
While I find this movie to be largely overrated, there’s no denying the magic that emanates from this scene. When the two unnamed lead characters wander into a music shop, she takes the piano and he wields his trusty acoustic. After knowing each other for only a day, the two conjure up this beautiful song in a matter of minutes.
In just one scene, the actors, Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova, demonstrate the unrivaled bonding powers of music. This song is good enough to bring anyone together, and I’m not alone in thinking so: The Academy Awards voted this Best Original Song of 2007.
Watch Once on Instant Video
# 2 “I’ve Seen It All” (From Dancer in the Dark)
Dancer in the Dark is one of the few films to include iconic and peculiar pop star Bjork, and the only one in which she starred. It’s only right that she paired up with an equally peculiar director like Lars Von Trier. Von Trier not only allowed the star to dig deep emotionally, enabling her to give a thrilling performance, he also had her write the songs for this bizarre but magnificent musical.
Bjork’s character, Selma, leads a tragic existence: She is not only going blind, she is on trial for murder as well. Her only escape is her vivid imagination, where life is a musical. If my imagination produced songs this hauntingly beautiful, I wouldn’t want to leave it either.
# 1 “Tiny Dancer” (From Almost Famous)
Next to the medley from Moulin Rouge, this is the most obvious choice. Cameron Crowe was a rock journalist in his youth, so it’s no surprise that he knows how to apply a little musical magic to his cinematic work. This film is his semi-autobiographical ode to the early 1970s rock scene, and comes equipped with a brilliant soundtrack. But this Elton John classic stands head and shoulders above the rest, thanks to the scene it accompanies.
The film’s band, Stillwater, is on the verge of breaking up, and has just picked up its guitar player, who is hung over at a fan’s house, on their tour bus. All is silent and awkward… that is, until this tune starts playing. Everyone suddenly remembers the music that brought them together in the first place, and a group sing-along begins. One of the most classic moments, musical or not, from any film ever.