Behind the Screen

Desson Thomson
Washington Post Film Critic
Friday, April 4, 2008; 12:30 PM

Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson was online Friday, April 4, at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss the latest movies including "Shine a Light," "Flawless" and "Run, Fat Boy, Run." Plus, he'd like to know what your pick is for best movie musical. Send in your choices and he'll talk about them.

Thomson, a movie critic at The Washington Post for 15 years, was raised in England where he was entranced, like most, by Hollywood movies. It was a visit to see David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia," that made him realize movies had to be a part of his life.

A transcript follows.


Desson Thomson: Hey folks. As "Shine a Light" comes to town - a concert documentary about the Rolling Stones by Martin Scorsese - we are thinking about our favorite, and most hated movies involving music bands. Rock docs. Or even Musicals. Or movies built around musicians. When music is the focus, which ones linger in the heart, or buzz annoyingly in the memory? Of course, feel free to talk about anything else on your mind.


Washington, D.C.: Hiya Desson,

My pick for best movie musical would have to be "My Fair Lady" with the incomparable Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Songs like "Why Can't the English..." "Just Wait Henry Higgins" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" make me smile at any time!


Desson Thomson: Yes, that is one of the great chestnuts of the movie musical. So many people grew up with that musical, either as a movie experience or a record album playing at home. (I repeat: record album.) And Audrey Hepburn of course was the human equivalent of champagne.


Silver Spring, Md.: I saw In Bruges recently and hated it. Really didn't like it at all. I also hate Tarantino, to give you a reference -- I don't like movies that are cute about violence. In Bruges is very gory. But another thing I didn't like about it was the cheap European humor -- hahaha, everybody hates Belgium! Hahaha, American tourists are fat and stupid! Is this funny if you're British? What did you think of the film?

Desson Thomson: I agree it was very violent. And I understand your distaste for Tarantinoesque violence mongering - and making light of it. And I agree, too, that the movie leaned on old saws - the Belgium as armpit of Europe one and the fat yank tourist thing. It's tiresome to me to hear all that too. But I will say that I liked the movie beyond all that, simply because it was a film about two very interesting characters and it had some fascinating plot twists. I lost my love as we came to the end because the movie got too convoluted.


Falls Church, Va.: Concert movies - The Last Waltz. Levon Helm, case closed, end of story. Also MTV was around the corner from this and MTV 'killed' music as far as I'm concerned. Case in point: Christopher Cross was the top rock act when MTV started broadcasting.

Desson Thomson: I see your point there about MTV. I loved The Last Waltz too. I liked the way it gave time to all the artists between songs and during performances.


My Fair Lady: I do love My Fair Lady, but it does bring up the troubling practice of casting actresses in leads who don't sing, i.e. Audrey Hepburn or Natalie Wood in West Side Story.

I kinda feel sorry for the women who did the singing and got no notice, while the stars lip-synched.

Desson Thomson: I understand what you mean. (Singin in the Rain is kind of about that, of course, although it's to do with the change from silents to talkies.) But the movies are visual and most people come to see stars and feel transformed by the music or story, more than listen to great professionals singing. As recently as Sweeney Todd, we had a cast that was singing but not singing in the pure professional sense. They were actors not singers. And if you really want to appreciate a musical, it is a stage affair at its purest, I think, and that's where you'll find the real singers.


Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.: Hi Desson,

I have to say I remeber seeing the Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" in high school and being blown away. I think Jonathan Demme directed, no?

Desson Thomson: Yes, Demme directed. A terrific movie. My favorite point was watching David Byrne perform "Psycho Killer" with a boom box and a guitar. Very cool.


Washington, D.C.: Just wanted to recommend a film I saw twice over the weekend in San Francisco, Shelter, as it's the best gay film since Latter Days, as Brad Rowe, the love interest in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss teaches Trevor Wright the ropes while surfing. The female lead will tear your heart out and remind you why you're gay. Superb work.

Desson Thomson: Thank you for passing that along.


Arlington, Va.: Hey Desson,

I rented Revolver over the weekend, and I liked it. Although I totally see why so many people didn't. It is best seen on DVD since it really requires multiple viewings and it helps have some idea of what Guy Ritchie was thinking when he wrote it.

Also re: musicals, my introduction to My Fair Lady was when we performed it on stage back in 4th Grade. It was fun.

Desson Thomson: Glad you had a better time of Revolver than I did!

I assume you have pictures of that performance?


These go to 11: Spinal Tap was pretty decent.

Desson Thomson: Pretty decent? I hope you are deliberately understating. One of my favorite all time comedies. I could watch that movie every day.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Hey Desson, I got to see Shine A Light and have to say, it's a great piece of entertainment... I wanted to get up and dance and applaud, but, you know, it's a movie. I'll best that didn't stop the kids at The Mylie Cyrus concert movie. Do you know if Shine A Light could be considered in any of the Academy Award categories, even the technical ones like sound for instance?

Desson Thomson: Great movie isn't it?

That's a good question. It certainly qualifies as a documentary. But as such I am not sure if it would be considered for the "technie" awards, although I'm not an Oscar expert on such things.


New York City: Worse movie involving rock or music -- Kiss Meets the Phantom of the, something or other. Awful!

I love the classic from Rogers and Hammerstein, Rogers and Hart, etc.

What abou the new movie about the Stones? Did you like it?

Desson Thomson: I certainly did like it. See the posted review link somewhere on this chat. Or just click on the review in today's Style section.


Silver Spring, Md.: My favorite all-time concert movie has to be Stop Making Sense. I love the way the band and stage is assembled through performance, the oddness, the giant suit....and of course, the music itself.

Desson Thomson: Yes, yes.


Martinsburg, W.Va.: Favorite Musical: Singin' in the Rain

Favorite about musicians: The Glenn Miller Story

Desson Thomson: The classics are classics for a reason.


Re: Spinal Tap: Of course I'm understating - it's a great film. I loved it.

Desson Thomson: Brilliant. It's an 11.


Arlington, Va.: For me, best musical movie is an easy choice (and I've seen a LOT). It's gotta be West Side Story, hands down!

Desson Thomson: You and a billion others agree!


Arlington, Va.: Desson, Have you seen Street Kings? The cast looks great, I will give anything with Forest Whitiker in it a shot -- but I have yet to see any reviews of it which makes me not want to shell out $12.

Desson Thomson: I can tell you in my review on the 11th. I see it later today.


We had the record!: My mother played the records from musicals for us all the time -- I grew up with Oliver, The King and I, and My Fair Lady -- though our record of My Fair Lady was from the stage production, which starred Julie Andrews with Rex Harrison.

Desson Thomson: Cool!


Arlington, Va.: The best movie musical is OKLAHOMA -- not My Fair Lady. Who can't feel tingly when Joel McCrea sings "Oh what a Beautiful Morning?" And the best movie about a rock band is, of course, "Almost Famous." Loved it!

Desson Thomson: Good choices, Arlington.

_______________________ Under His Thumb ( Post, April 4)


Crazy Love: Desson,

Hi. If anybody is up for a documentary like movie, please rent "Crazy Love." A hard to believe true story of a man obsessed with a woman.

Crazy Love is a great title for this strange relationship.

Desson Thomson: The one about Burt and Linda Pugach? Yes, that's one I haven't seen. It does sound fascinating - about an obsessional relationship in which she married a man who threw acid in her face. Not exactly a first date movie, let's say, but sounds fascinating.


River City: Hands down: best musical movie is "The Committments."

Kick butt singing and a gut wrenching story too. Based on the book by Roddy Doyle, who also wrote the book "The Snapper," one of the funniest U.K. movies ever!

Desson Thomson: I'm with you on how great both those movies are.


Falls Church, Va.: Desson, I am convinced Clooney the mega-star is a media creation. Sure he's handsome, a capable actor. But get outside the D.C. bubble with "regular" people and they'll snort when they hear his name. Case in point, while I was in Alaska doing my mechanic contracting, nobody wanted to watch "Where brother" (except for the ladies) because Clooney was in it. In other words, no street cred. Brad Pitt, on the other hand gets admired because how fearless he is not caring if he messes up that pretty boy face (and he has). How many of his films have been runaway successes anyway? The non-Ocean films. That head-bobbing thing he does is supremely annoying. You call it confidence, I call it cocky.

Desson Thomson: Interesting. But somehow I get the feeling if Clooney ventured anywhere outside the big metropolitan areas, he still turn a lot of heads and set off a lot of tickers!


Arlington, Va.: Deeson,

My plan for this coming week is to get all the Twin Peaks DVDs from Netflix, concluding with the movie Fire Walk With Me, and sit down with some cherry pie and have a marathon. Sound like a good plan to you?

Desson Thomson: Sounds like a great plan. Say hello to the Log Lady for me.


Nitpic, KS: That's Gordon MacRae, not Joel McCrea, in Oklahoma!, of course.

Desson Thomson: You are correct, Nitpic, KS. Thanks for helping sweep up the fact-challenged dustballs all over the Internet.


Bethesda, Md.: I realize no one else likely would think this is one of the great movie musicals, but I absolutely love "Guys and Dolls." A young Marlon Brando singing and dancing and romancing a young Jean Simmons? And Stubby Kaye singing "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat"? Mmmmm. Comfort food for the soul.

Desson Thomson: Ah yes, that Brando beam. Kinda made me think of the cartoon Dick Tracy.


Best movie musical?: Uh...ONCE? How quickly we forget.

I remember an interview after Cillian Murphey dropped out, where the director said he was happy to cast singers who maybe couldn't act all that well rather than actors who can't sing worth a dime. Made all the difference in that case.

Desson Thomson: Agreed. Great film.


Washington, D.C.: Movie version of Oklahoma: Small correction. Curley was played by Gordon MacRae, not Joel McRea, who did all those cowboy films with Randolph Scott.

Desson Thomson: Ditto to you. Yes. Gordon.


Reston, Va.: Joel MacRae sings in "Oklahoma"?

You mean Gordon MacRae was lip-syncing?

All these years I've been misled. I feel like such a fool.

Desson Thomson: Talk about hitting a nerve.


Annapolis, Md.: The best straight movie musical is Singin' In the Rain -- fantastic dancing, decent songs, and a funny book, plus great costumes and a happy ending.

The best movie about music is The Commitments, because it conveys the hard work, the passion, the despair, the love, and the glory of making music and being in a band. And the ending is poetry.

Desson Thomson: Nicely put.


Bethesda, Md.: Well, let's get the obvious out of the way: "Spinal Tap," of course. Not only comic genius from start to finish, but surprisingly good music (the soundtrack holds its own on my iPod, next to "real" bands) that is dead-on in parodying every era it covers.

Also, just saw "U2: Rattle and Hum" this week, which was intriguing. It doesn't have much extraneous stuff -- it's mostly performances and recording sessions, with minimal commentary or fluff. It's especially interesting to watch it now -- a successful but still relatively young and green Irish band traveling through America and explores blues and gospel music (while wearing typically '80s clothes, now more amusing than ever), before becoming the full-on international spectacle that they are 20 years later.

Desson Thomson: Yes to ST of course.

I saw Rattle and Hum and enjoyed it way back when.


Audrey: But Audrey did not do the vocals in that movie. It was done by Marni Nixon.

Desson Thomson: Yes, and she also did an uncredited Maria in West Side Story. She was Sister Sophia in the Sound of Music.


Alexandria, Va.: I hate musicals but I can sit through Little Shop of Horrors simply for Steve Martin and Rick Moranis.

You know, when they used to be funny.

Desson Thomson: Haha.


Takoma, D.C.: Music movies? I love love loved U2 3D! And I think it's still in town, so I can see it again...and again...and again... It's just so cool that something that seems so gimmicky -- a concert movie seen through 3-D glasses -- turns out to be a completely natural, exciting way to watch a show.

Desson Thomson: Very exciting isn't it? You can see the stubble on the band members' chins. And it feels like you're rubbing shoulders with the concert fans.


Chicago, Ill.: Desson,

Have you seen Planet B-Boy? I have a five-year-old who is obsessed with breakdancing, and I'm trying to get a sense of whether he is too young for this movie. Because it's not rated, I can't determine whether it contains inappropriate material -- swearing, nudity, etc. I'm not a total fuddy-duddy, but I don't want to take him to a movie where every fourth word is an F-bomb. Although if the F-bombs are in the subtitles, that might be okay because he can't read yet.


Desson Thomson: I haven't seen it. But from the reviews I've scanned, the buzz seems very good. And I don't see them having an issue with language.

Maybe you can peruse these reviews too and get a better sense.


Marni Nixon Fan Club: She also sang for Deborah Kerr, twice: in "The King and I" and "An Affair to Remember."

Desson Thomson: Thanks for passing along, Marni fan.


Alexandria, Va.: Favorite musical movie: Chicago. Even my folks who hate musicals loved it. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah were the standouts.

Desson Thomson: It really was a musical for people who hate musicals, wasn't it? And for people who love them too.


Washington, D.C. : Hello Mr Thomson,

Thought I'd compare two "hit-man" movies:

Saw "In Bruges" and thought it was great! Yes, there were stereotypes, and it was gory in spots, but it was also well done.

I also saw, on a flight back from London on Monday, "No Country for Old Men". I hated that movie, absolutely hated it. Was so ready for the hit man to "buy it" and it appears he never did. And what about that ending? Seems like they just ran out of money and decided to end the picture. Hated it, hated it, hated it.

Thank you

Desson Thomson: I understand your issues with No Country. We have worn out that topic in these chats before. What DOES the ending mean?


But get outside the D.C. bubble with "regular" people : Did you talk to any "regular" women? We are people too!

I know plenty of 'bubbas' who loved "O Brother..." (my husband included, he HAS to watch it every time it's on cable even though we have it on DVD. 'it's not the same' lol)

Seriously, the reason I love George is not his pretty boy good looks, it is his daring to do political movies that will not generate much exposure or money, but dare to say what others will not: Syriana. I gues those "regular" men in Alaska don't like liberal free thinkers.

Desson Thomson: Noted!


I am Legend: Finally watched "I Am Legend" a couple nights ago and was completely underwhelmed. I thought it failed as an action movie (28 Days Later was much better) and I wouldn't have minded if it had been a slow, non-gory movie if it had some intellectual heft behind it like the original book apparently did, but it had none of that either. In the end, I thought it was boring. Can't recall if you liked it?

Desson Thomson: I liked it till the CGI took over the movie.


Best musical:"Showboat" if only to hear Paul Robeson sing "Ol' Man River" which was a breakthrough of sorts for African Americans (written of course, on the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death).

Desson Thomson: Yes indeed.


Musicals: Hello! Fiddler on the Roof. Sound of Music.

Desson Thomson: Of course.


Washington DC: Great review of Shine the Light in Post today. I saw it at AFI last night -- and I thought it was interesting that the cinematographers included this year's Oscar winner and other greats who were more than happy to do the camera work for the Maestro. I have seen the Stones in large venues and I loved the intimacy of the theater. The AFI acoustics were great and I wanted to dance in the aisles! I also thought the insight to how the film was made was interesting. But I am a Stones fan forever and even wore my homemade Vote '08 with Stones logo decorated in Stars and Stripes with Mick POTUS, Keith VP. You can tell these guys love what they do. It is infectious and reminded me of the Vodoo Lounge Tour at RFK and how they can captivate a huge audience.

Desson Thomson: Thanks very much! Glad to meet a fellow Stones and movie appreciator.


Come on!: Purple Rain?????????????

Best soundtrack EVER, too.

Desson Thomson: Okay, now that song's going to be in my head all day. Fun movie.


What?!: to the person who said Steve Martin "used to be" funny, I encourage you to go pick up his recent autobiography. Actually, get the audiobook, read by him. Hands-down hilarious.

Desson Thomson: Good to know. (You have to admit he's been in his share of movie turkeys.)


Petworth, Washington, D.C.: Why does everyone who talks about "The Commitments" and "The Snapper" forget about "The Van?" I loved all three of them!

Desson Thomson: A great trio, I agree.


Arlington, Va.: Regarding your mention of record "albums" --

I remember enjoying my parents' 78 rpm album of The Desert Song (with Gordon McRae). As a kid, I especially enjoyed The Riff Song (Ho, so we sing as we are riding...)

Desson Thomson: Good memory to share. And to save the MacRae-istas swinging at you, the correct name is Gordon MacRae.


Singing but not singing in the pure professional sense: Paint Your Wagon. Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood and a few others...sing.

I love this movie, for the story, not the singing, but the singing isn't horrible (except for Clint).

I think there was only one trained and talented singer, not counting the chorus of townspeople, who sang They Call the Wind Maria.

Desson Thomson: That Lee Marvin song was Number One on the charts in England, I remember.


San Antonio, Tex.: Hi Desson, It's just not Friday without reading your chat, or Ann's or Stephen's.

Saw The Martian Child, loved it. Sweet, fluffy, but very kindhearted. Saw The Bank Job, pretty good though not really memorable.

Also saw Atonement. Gag. Absolutely hated it; the sisters were loathsome, and the "twist" was just disgusting. How on Earth was this thing nom'd?

Musicals: Where's Charley? And Once -- though I never thought of it as a musical when I saw it.

Desson Thomson: Thanks San Antonio for being such a faithful online partner. Once was on my top ten list last year, so I have to agree with you there.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Just for the performance footage, the doc "Who is Harry Nilsson" isn't too shabby, actually it's very good; it's great at explaining the art he created with his voice while singing the songs. It also documents the downward slide of the person a little too long, but fortunately, it keeps coming back to the singing. Round Midnight did that in quasi fictional form too.

Desson Thomson: Ooh, thanks for alerting me. I love his music. I'll have to see if I can get that.


Burke, Va.: I just don't see how the best movie musical can be anything but The Sound of Music. C'mon, how about a little love for Julie Andrews!

Desson Thomson: Hey, you don't have to convince me. Growing up in England that movie was practically mandated by law for everyone to see.


Arlington, Va.: Since this chat is dominated by talk of musicals, can I just state for the record that I could barely sit through The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Desson Thomson: You should have brought dried rice so you could throw it at the screen.


Arlington, Va.: I actually DON'T like My Fair Lady.

Shaw wrote a brilliant, acerbic play.

Lerner and Lowe wrote some lovely songs.

And they go together like asparagus and marshmallows.

Desson Thomson: Now there's a culinary mismatch.


Rosslyn, Va.: Many people didn't like it, but one of my recent favorites is Neil Young's Greendale. I think it's an interesting story, and some of the best material he's put out in awhile. I'm also a fan of Pink Floyd's The Wall. It's bizarre and compelling, and a personal exploration of the feelings of isolation and loneliness the artist experienced as a child in WWII England and later as a celebrity. It's also strangely addicting -- if I put it in to watch a song or two, it's hard to turn it off.

Desson Thomson: Those were both fascinating films. Glad you brought them up.


Annapolis, Md.: Falls Church is only kidding themselves. Clooney is a genuine huge star all across this great land. When he showed up in Duluth, Minnesota -- quite a ways away from the Beltway and from Hollywood -- for the premiere of his new movie, he stood on the train platform for two hours to sign autographs for everyone who showed up.

Falls Church seems pretty dismissive of star appeal to women -- "only the ladies" wanted to see O Brother -- as if to say that you can only be a star if men like you. Which is ludicrous on its face. But even if it were true, there are way too many men who dig Clooney -- just turn on, say, PTI -- and I suspect that if men had to choose between Clooney and Pitt (both fine and underrated actors) then Clooney would win in a walk.

Desson Thomson: Annapolis - laying it down. Good thoughts.


Another:"Velvet Goldmine" was pretty good, at least in capturing a particular genre and time, though I suppose you have to be a fan of that genre/time (Bowie/Ziggie Stardust, Iggy Pop, etc.).

Desson Thomson: An underrated film.


Baltimore, Md.: Movies about music: Because I saw it when first released, I always put D.A. Pennebaker's Dylan documentary Don't Look Back at the top my list. More than 40 years later, it's still remarkably fresh, because Dylan allowed such intimate access to the filmmaker and Pennebaker used that access brilliantly. He showed Dylan (who was in his early 20s then) as a guy who could be "pull the wings off flies" cruel, especially to journalists who kept asking about the meaning of it all, then showed him being incredibly sweet to a crowd of young English schoolgirls. When one of them says to Dylan that she doesn't like hearing him with electric guitars and drums, Dylan just smiles and says, "Hey, the guys who play with me are my friends. I should give my friends work, right?" It's an amazing portrait -- one that was very closely replicated in tone in the Cate Blanchett section of I'm Not There.

Second favorite music movie: Scorsese's The Last Waltz, in which Van Morrison does an amazing version of Caravan while guesting at the last concert of The Band.

Desson Thomson: What a great film DLB was. Thanks for mentioning.


Menomonie, Wisc.:

Can we count soundtrack music in your topic today? The music for "Pan's Labyrinth" is unforgettable, especially "The Lullaby."

BTW...I have watched "Pan's Labyrinth" four times now; and each time I watch it, I see something I missed the previous time. This is by far, the best foreign movie, of all time. There is so much symbolism and even irony. The irony is that it is a movie about non-violence, peace, and sacrifice, while at the same time using acts of extreme violence to making that point. The symbolism in the movie would probably take a Master's thesis to explain...

Desson Thomson: Very good to think about. I'll tell myself to listen more closely the next time I watch that great film.


Re: actresses who can't sing: Did you know that it was same woman who did the singing in both My Fair Lady and West Side Story? Her name is Marni Nixon. She also played one of the nuns in The Sound of Music.

(I can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing at work right now but I'm a whiz at movie trivia.)

Desson Thomson: Haha. Your last comment is funny.


Richmond, Va.:"Freejack," starring Mick Jagger, has got to high on the list of worst musician-related films. As I recall, Jagger plays a time-traveling bounty hunter who abducts people from the past in order to provide donor organs in a dystopian future ruled by Anthony Hopkins.

Desson Thomson: I remember that movie with pain.


Washington, D.C.: Susan back again. Regarding In Brugges, I found the use of the Medieval City, the Heironymous Bosch images of heaven and hell interesting. The idea of redemption and the underlying possibility of change and salvation elevated it above the brutal gore. Sadly, the American tourist as armoire may be a reality. For favorite movie musicals I return to Salzburg both for Amadeus and The Sound of Music. (Goodness that would mean ignoring Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.) I must now rent The Last Waltz haven't seen it but I remember friends lusting for Robbie Robertson.

Desson Thomson: Good points about IB. Yes Robbie was a handsome dude.


Washington, D.C.: Music doc: Stop Making Sense; Spinal Tap.

Musicals-Busby Berkeley musicals; Wizard of Oz; practically anything by MGM from the 1950s, esp. Singing in the Rain, An American in Paris, Gigi. Later favorites: West Side Story; Fiddler on the Roof; Once.

Did I mention I'm only 37?

Desson Thomson: You don't have to be old to appreciate the classics - clearly.


Armchair critic mentions: I have two passions, film and music. And I thought I'd take a tangent and mention something else other than music films and favorites and so forth.

I have a real big beef with the AA awards best song category. I really think this should be removed.

A good song can be in a bad movie, a bad song can be in a great film. A good song could be used INCORRECTLY in a film as well conveying the wrong sense of mood and so forth. Also many times songs are just used as rollouts for the credits. Does that really constitute a possible nomination for an award? (Don't get me wrong I am a credit watcher and always stay till the end).

I really think this category should be killed by the "academy." Scores work in films, but using soundtracks is a mixed bag. The only kind of modern score like songs that I think worked absolutely brilliantly was in Requiem for a Dream. I wonder what others think??

Like to hear everyone's thoughts.

Desson Thomson: Sorry I posted this too late in the chat! Good question. And you make a great point. If there's one time to take a bathroom break during the Oscars, the best song award - or the performances thereof - is an easy decision for me, personally.


Fairfax, Va.: I love this topic of musicals! I could rhapsodize all day about this genre. The first movies I remember watching are "Silk Stockings" and "Show Boat." While I didn't get the Garbo/Ninotchka impression at age 6, I certainly got Cyd Charisse's talent. Ditto for missing the racial plotlines of Show Boat, I certainly knew a star in Ava Gardner when I saw one. (And Agnes Moorehead, and Katheryn Grayson, and Howard Keel.)

But my answer: While "An American in Paris" holds a special place in my heart, my favorites are "Singing in the Rain" and "Gigi." (Favorite musical star is Gene Kelly.)

A shout out to: On the Town, Chicago, Meet Me in St. Louis, Oklahoma, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Oh,I could go on for hours.

Desson Thomson: Good titles all, and you've hit upon the fact that musicals are not necessarily superficial. So many of them touch upon deep themes.


Vero Beach, Fla.: Sort of not a musical, "Tommy" was novel back when. I picked up the DVD, cheap, but fear that the movie may be better remembered than rewatched/relistened.

Desson Thomson: Think you may be right there!


Silver Spring, Md.: Probably pointed out already, but I'm just starting to read today. Audrey Hepburn could sing. It was the big brass that decided she couldn't sing good enough. HA! Compared to Harrison's singing?!

Desson Thomson: Interesting. Yes, I remember reading about that. That she could sing.


Woodbridge, Va.: Your opinion of Richard Widmark?

Desson Thomson: A great B movie heavy. Terrific face and actor.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Desson!

Sorry that this is a bit off-topic, but with the Jean Eustache retrospective at the National Gallery opening tomorrow ... I was wondering what you could tell us about this director's work and style. Is there a specific film that would act as a good starting point for an uninitiated viewer? I'm not at all familiar with Eustache's work, in fact I only know his name because of the dedication in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. But I figure a dedication by one of my favorite directors should be as good as any a starting point for expanding my cinematic knowledge.


Desson Thomson: What a tremendous venue the East Building is, as run by Peggy Parsons. This is a great chance to see a cult figure whose films tackled the very elapsing of time - they're long and slowly paced, by the standards of today. Such as "The Mother and the Whore," a nearly 4 hour film about relationships. Go to all of these films if you can!


Music Movies: Dig! That documentary was amazing. And I find Girl, with Dominique Swain, Portia di Rossi, and Tara Reid (who was young, curvy, and dark-haired). Nothing defines the Pacific Northwest like these two films.

Desson Thomson: Good to pass along.


Herndon, va: Mr. T: Musicals -- "Gigi" is tops, for me. Maurice Chevalier's last film, I believe. To take issue with one person's comments -- "The Glen Miller Story" has Jimmy Stewart and some good music, plus, briefly, the always great Louis Armstrong -- but it's so untruthful (even for a movie biography) that I find it tough to watch. Speaking of Louis, don't forget "High Society"

Desson Thomson: Yes, good films.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, Desson. As a devotee of musical theater, I've always thought Hollywood did a disservice to a great many of the stage musicals it adapted for the screen. "My Fair Lady," "The Music Man," and "West Side Story" fared better than most, but then there were the travesties made of great stage musicals such as "Camelot," "Man of La Mancha," and "A Chorus Line." Wonderful shows like "Fiddler on the Roof" and "South Pacific" became nearly unwatchable on the screen, the life and exuberance sucked out of them.

It's been rewarding to see recent adaptations hew more closely to the spirit of the shows -- even "Sweeney Todd," with its mediocre voices, was true to Sondheim's brilliant musical (although I really missed the chorus!).

All of which is my long-winded way of saying that I think the best movie musical of all time is, notably, not an adaptation of a theatrical piece: "Singin' in the Rain." Everything about it is letter-perfect.

As for movies about rock bands ... "Gimme Shelter" rules.

Desson Thomson: Nicely put. And Gimme Shelter is one of the great cinema verite classics, for sure.


Woodbridge, Va.: I really enjoyed "La Doublure" ("The Valet") when it made its way through D.C. last year.

Now I see that "Priceless" has the same male lead, and a similar plotline.

Am I going to feel like I bumped my head and am watching the same movie.

Or will the French farce show enough variation to make my day.

If it's any help, I find the stars charming as all heck.

Desson Thomson: You should see it. It's great fun. Sure it's the same thing all over again. But yet ... still fun!


Desson Thomson: Folks, gotta run to -- you know -- a movie. I'll catch you all on the rebound. In a coupla Fridays. Great talking with you.


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