The Final Curtain Call: Our Singin’ September Wrap-Up

Posted in The Screening Room by - October 01, 2015

Singin’ September has come and gone, and now it’s time for our monthly wrap-up where we highlight the best and worst of the month!

Best Movie

Chris: True Stories

Call me a mark for the Talking Heads, but there is something so quirky and charming about True Stories. Not only does it take place in the state I called home for almost twenty years, but it also has a story that could only come from the mind of David Byrne and Stephen Tobolowsky: a small town’s celebration of the Texas sesquicentennial. On top of everything else, the latter half of the film has some unique covers of Talking Heads songs, including “Papa Legba” and “People Like Us”. It’s my pick for best of the month, and it may be my new all-time favorite musical

Ben: Into the Woods

Almost all of the movies I watched this month were basically on par with one another, and while I learned to love Daft Punk’s style from Interstella, I have to give the final nod to Into the Woods, since it was actually an original idea with original music, not based on a licensed product. I mean, as long as you ignore that pesky “based on the Broadway musical” bit. But it’s still a great film with the widest appeal of any on my list.

John: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is a classic musical comedy, and for good reason. Although it barely made it’s money back in it’s original theatrical release, it has become a cult classic film that’s made far more than anyone ever expected it to. Its story of Seymour, a mild mannered, slum dwelling botanist, and Audrey 2, the alien plant that drinks blood, manages to be both twisted and hilarious at the same time. Its dark humour, coupled with its funky music stylings and its list of celebrity cameos, rivaled only by the selection in the Muppets films, make it a great piece of cinema to watch. While the music wasn’t quite enough to make it onto my list as best musical, all the parts work together to make the best movie of the month.

Worst Movie:

Chris: Cannibal! The Musical

It’s not that Cannibal! The Musical is a bad movie, it’s just that it isn’t that great in comparison to the rest of this September’s lineup. It feels like what it is: a college student film with glimmers of greatness by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the co-creators of South Park. The music is mildly memorable at best, the acting is not great, and the film looks like it was shot on the cheapest camera they could afford. It isn’t the worst thing I’ve seen, but it’s definitely the weakest of the month.

Ben: The Devil’s Carnival

Let’s be clear – The Devil’s Carnival isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not that great. Zdunich and company knocked it out of the park with their original, REPO! The Genetic Opera, and the years between those movies were not kind. Carnival has the signature dark style, but half the quality of music and none of the character. In a month of otherwise great movies, this one just falls short of the status quo.

John: Grease

Grease is another classic film, but I just don’t get this one. If it was meant to be a serious love story, it sends a terrible message to its audience, and if it’s meant to be a comedy then it doesn’t go nearly far enough, and perhaps I’m being too picky, but John Travolta’s decision to constantly change pitch and tune mid word was one of the worst vocal performances i’ve heard all year, both during songs and outside of them. I’m surprised there isn’t a remix on youtube of him saying “Sandy” over and over again. It’s astounding

Best Performance

Chris: David Byrne, True Stories

There is something unbelievably charismatic about David Byrne that you can’t help but be enthralled by every time he is on screen in True Stories. He is just the right amount of quirky and funny without ever being pandering or sarcastic. He doesn’t sing on screen during the film (he does lipsync) which is surprising considering his immense talent on the mic. He’s quirky without being overbearing in his quirkiness.

Ben: Terrence Zdunich, The Devil’s Carnival

My feelings on the film noted above, Terrence is still a fantastic performer. His portrayal of Satan was intriguingly creepy, and of course the man can sing. You can tell Terrence had the whole series played out in his mind, and that clearly gives him the advantage over the other players in his carnival.

John: NPH in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Neil Patrick Harris is an excellent actor and singer. There’s very little that I’ve seen him in that I didn’t like, and the few exceptions that exist were slightly better for including him. In the quirky, independent musical that was created during the 2008 writers strike, NPH plays the titular Dr. Horrible, by day a mild mannered, shy, downtrodden loser, and by night a mild mannered, shy, downtrodden super villain. Harris does an excellent job of maintaining the image of a sympathetic lamewad that we all want to see succeed, while also portraying a buried layer of seething hatred that never quite makes it to the surface. It also helps that his solo in the song “Brand New Day” is one of the best songs of the film.

Best Song

Chris: “King of New York”, Newsies

I went into Newsies expecting to hate it and its music, and boy was I surprised, especially since it featured my favorite song of the month. Not only is the song performed by Christian Bale, but also the always talented Bill Pullman. Not only is the music great, but the song showcases the fantastic choreography and direction from Kenny Ortega. It’s not the most extravagant tune in the film, but it’s definitely the best.

Ben: “Superheroes,” Interstella 5555

Maybe it’s cheating to give this slot to an established band whose “musical” was basically an extended music video of self-indulgence, but, then again, the music is just REALLY GOOD. “Superheroes”, in particular, is just a fantastic piece, and the one track that completely won me over about the movie and the musicians themselves. Not only is it an amazingly hype track (I spent the day after watching the movie with the album on loop while I ninja-flipped around in Warframe – a transcendent experience, indeed), but it is, perhaps, the best choreographed scene in the movie. As the interstellar hero breaks the bonds of the Crescendolls and fights back the Baron’s goons, everything swells to a fantastic climax. Man, it’s great!

If that doesn’t seem fair, take an honorable mention nod to “A Penny for a Tale” from The Devil’s Carnival because if more songs and performances in the movie had been like this one, it would’ve been an amazing film.

John: “Beelzeboss”, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny is a hilarious jumble of stoner humor, rock and metal music, and a level of earnest dedication that gives the movie a real stand alone feel from the rest of it’s competition this month. That rock and roll soundtrack is best showcased by the final song of the movie, “Beelzeboss”. As Jack Black and Kyle Gass have a “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”-style rock off against satan himself, played by Dave Grohl. With the combination of Tenacious D’s Vocal stylings and Satan’s hard rockin bad assery, “Beelzeboss” was so cool that when we were picking best song from the film we had to discount it’s awesomeness in order to give the other songs in the movie some attention

Honorable mention: “Dulcinea” in Man of La Mancha

The audio is a little out of sync with the video, and other versions have weird Spanish dubbing that fucks up the audio.

Best Overall Music 

Chris: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

While I picked True Stories as my favorite movie of this month, some of the music is hit or miss, and frankly there isn’t enough of it. The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the other hand, aside from one song, had the best music of the entire month. Every song is expertly written by Richard O’Brien and executed flawlessly by the cast, particularly Tim Curry and Meat Loaf. The real standouts of the film are “Sweet Transvestite” and “Rose Tint My World”, the latter due to the strength of the ensemble cast.

Ben: Interstella 5555

It’s Daft Punk. It totally changed my perspective on their music. It’s just fun stuff. What else can ya say?

John: Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness is a parody of an old school American anti-marijuana propaganda piece. You’ve probably seen the kind of video it’s making fun. They often used irrational fear and the idea that anyone who disagreed with them was a traitor. Reefer Madness takes this concept and exaggerates it into a comedic musical with huge variety of music styles. Each song feels different from the last and contains some truly funny visual gags, from the animated “The Brownie Song”, in which the main character has sex with an anthropomorphized brownie, to the tune “Murder!” in which John Kassir eats another character and drags the deceased’s head across a persian rug.

This post was written by

Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He’s a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You’ll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.

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