I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An American in Paris, 1951

Not Rated

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. (I was supposed to have finished watching all 83 winners by now, but it proved too difficult a task. I promise I’ll finish by next year’s award show!) My first post was about one of my favorite musicals, “The Sound of Music”. It just so happens that I’m posting about another winning musical 365 days later. (Although this one didn’t tickle my fancy nearly as much….)

In this Best Picture winner, American Jerry Mulligan (played by Gene Kelly) is an ex-GI living in Paris, the city of l’amour, trying to make it as a painter (since that’s his dream). A wealthy and attractive American purchases two of Jerry’s paintings for her home and basically wants to become his “sugar mama”. He doesn’t seem to catch on that she obviously has a crush on him. Meanwhile, he falls for a young Frenchwoman named Lise who’s actually already in a relationship with Henri who Jerry’s friend Adam introduced him to earlier that day (but he’s not aware of that connection). Confused? It’s just your typical “girl finds guy who finds girl who has guy” story in song and dance form.

As I’m sure everyone knows, Gene Kelly is a fantastic and talented dancer/choreographer. He doesn’t disappoint in this movie, however, I will say I think I preferred him more in “Singing in the Rain” which came out the following year. This was 19-year old Leslie Caron’s breakout role (Lise) and she went on to star in another one of Vincente Minnelli’s musicals and Best Picture winner, “Gigi”, seven years later. I MUCH prefer Minnelli’s musical “Meet Me in St. Louis” starring Judy Garland from 1944, although sadly, there’s much less dancing.

Adam Cook, Jerry’s friend in the film, introduces himself as a concert pianist, which is “a pretentious way of saying [he’s] unemployed at the moment”. He has his five minutes of fame in the film when he daydreams playing the piano during a concert. (He also plays the other instruments in the orchestra while also conducting.) I was pretty amazed at his piano-playing abilities, so I looked him up, and he IS a concert pianist extraordinaire.

The film’s musical score was taken almost entirely from songbooks of George & Ira Gershwin… and I don’t know why. The songs sung (and danced to) were already used in other musicals, so why did they need repeating? (ie. The song “Fascinating Rhythm” is from “Lady Be Good”, “Swonderful” is from “Funny Face”, and there are three songs from “Crazy for You” – I know because I was in two of those musicals.) Why couldn’t there be a whole new fun score for this musical? I guess it’s seen as a “tribute” musical to the Gershwins.

I couldn’t help but notice Gene’s pants and shoes in the film. He wears cream high-water pants, white socks, and brown loafers which is very different from the other men in the film (whose pants and footwear were “normal”). It was obvious to me that the costumer designed that look in order to pull the audience’s gaze down to his fast-moving and gifted feet.  Even if the costume changes, the level of his pants and the stark difference in color of his socks doesn’t. You just can’t help looking down at his feet. I also couldn’t help but think how different that is from one of Danny Kaye’s outfits in “White Christmas” just three years later. On the contrary, he is dressed in gray from head to toe: gray pants, socks, and shoes. This, I believe, is done to actually minimize distractions and force the audience to really appreciate the art of their synchronized dancing.

This was the first full-color film to have come out since “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, so naturally it won for Best Color Cinematography. (I don’t know why there was such a gap in color film production.) And I think it being in color was what had audiences ecstatic about the film. It brought in six awards from its eight nominations (none were for acting though). This film’s fellow nominees for Best Picture were “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Quo Vadis?”, “Decision before Dawn”, and “A Place in the Sun”. I haven’t seen any of these, so I can’t honestly tell you if this musical deserved to win.

The film is famous for the 13-minute long avant-garde dream ballet at the end. It goes against my musical-theatre loving self to say, but it was a bit too long for me. I started to get bored and sidetracked. Sorry Gene. It is referred to as an “uninterrupted” dance sequence… and yes, it appears as if Gene and Leslie dance their way onto new Impressionist-style painted sets without missing a beat, but their costumes change so there are obviously breaks. It reminded me of “Babes in Toyland” for some reason (another film I’m not a huge fan of). Overall, if you’re not really a huge fan of musicals, let me know, I have others I can recommend first.


Jerry sings the Gershwin classic “I’ve Got Rhythm” partly in French and partly in English to a bunch of children randomly gathered around an outdoor flower shop. It was cute and the tap dancing was fun. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvglHa_P9BA - The fun starts around the 1 minute-mark. (The beginning of the clip makes it look like a foreign language film, which it is not. J)


Be true to your heart and follow it. (I’m not going to give away what happens to the love story at the end…)

Costumes make all the difference for a dancer.

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