You should get one with the Covid shot: Can musicals save cinema?


All bets were off until 2020. Studios scrambled in chorus as spring arrived and screen after screen closed its doors to move their award-winning films to a time when they would be lucrative for film audiences – but one big film did the opposite: the studio postponed its theatrical release by a full 17 months to July 3, 2020, for a Disney + premiere in October 2021. Hamilton, the revisionist rap musical about the Founding Fathers by Lin-Manuel Miranda, was already a landmark. Now the loosely styled version of the movie can also claim to be the most streamed movie in a year when people did nothing else but watch movies. Superhero sitcoms, hardcore sci-fi and Belfast noir: 2021 must-see TVsContinue readingFor obvious reasons, Hamilton was prime lockdown fodder. It was a hot mess even when we were able to leave the house; it was irresistible to simulate a top night in a very bleak time. Four days before the release of the film, the closing of Broadway was extended to January 2021; it was moved back to June in October. The healthy precedent of Hamilton will continue to buoy theaters in the new year. For fans of the counterpoint couple, it will be a rich season, as many stage shows make their way to the screen, as well as original film musicals and animated films. The singing version of Cinderella by James Corden, starring Billy Porter as a sexless fairy and Frozen’s Idina Menzel as the wicked stepmother, opens in early February.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie arrives the same month, based on the West End hit about a teenage drag queen and featuring a Richard E. Grant stiletto-like performance. Film adaptations of Broadway’s Wicked and West Side Story hits (directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Tony Kushner) will hit theaters later in the year, as will two other Miranda projects: an adaptation of his first stage show, In the Heights, and a new animated film, Vivo. Musicals are always a shared experience. Annette is a rock opera by Leos Carax, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, with new music by Sparks, originally scheduled for Cannes 2020 (and now possibly Cannes 2021). The standards are high given the shape of Carax-he coaxed gold from Kylie Minogue in Holy Motors-and the fact that Driver’s improvised roar from Sondheim’s Being Alive was the most indelible scene in Marriage Tale. “Film historian Neil Brand, who made The Sound of Movie Musicals, the BBC4 series, points to the central role that the films of Busby Berkeley and Rogers and Astaire played in “leading the war against the Depression” more than 90 years ago. People needed something like that, and now I think we need it,” he says.

Movie musicals need to be loud, upbeat and thickly populated in 2021. Musicals are often communal: in an audience that usually moves as one, several people on the screen have a joyful experience.

Brand claims that such films will serve as a gateway drug for those who fall back into society: a reawakening to the kind of engagement we have become unaccustomed to. “For Robin Baker, chief curator of the British Film Institute’s National Archive, who programmed the 2019 musical season, “the best musicals offer much more than simple escape.

And that may be the primary explanation why musicals will perform so well when, hopefully, the pandemic hits its final act.

Although several films made before the pandemic and postponed until 2021 remain in an unfortunate intermediate point, appearing to be from the world but not coping with the events that shook them, musicals are in a completely different area. Hamilton review – Broadway hit is now a stunning screen phenomenon.

As people wake up from quasi-hibernation, it is only to be predicted that others will sing in the rain, dance in the streets or cheer the mundane’s technicolored beauty. Thus, it is unlikely that jukebox musicals will hit the same note – of which there are several next year, about Elvis, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin.

Says Brand, “I want a story where when a character breaks out into song, it is completely understandable.” The phrases have let them down


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