Aren’t You Glad You’re You

The Bells of St. Mary’s is the very first sequel nominated for Best Picture. It was released only one year after the Best Picture winning Going My Way. In fact, Best Actor winning singer Bing Crosby was the first actor nominated twice for playing the same character. With the same Oscar winning team involved, it’s no surprise The Bells of St. Mary’s had the same top notch quality. It probably could’ve won Best Picture, but The Lost Weekend was too much competition.

Father O’Malley returns to help another parish in need. This time it’s St. Mary’s school ran by a bevy of nuns. O’Malley’s unorthodox methods clash with the old fashioned Sister Superior. Screen legend Ingrid Bergman is the perfect foil for Crosby. Bergman’s Oscar nominated performance as Sister Mary is traditional, but she’s not above boxing with a child to teach him self defense. Like Going My Way, O’Malley has several duties to contend with. He helps out the troubled, but intelligent Patsy who’s sent to St. Mary’s while her mother sorts out her life.

Clarence himself Henry Travers becomes a guardian angel to the nuns when they pray for a new building. The Bells of St. Mary’s is partly a Christmas movie with an adorable Christmas pageant put on by the children. The ending is equally sentimental with Sister Mary as the one who leaves after a job well done. Though Best Original Scoring was the only win, “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?” was another good song nominated for Best Original Song. The Bells of St. Mary’s is another blessed offering from the crooner himself.

The Bells of St. Mary's

Father O’Malley and Sister Mary watch a Christmas pageant

Preceded by: Going My Way

After Happily Ever After

Disenchanted is a sequel 15 years too late. The 2007 Enchanted was a surprise hit that deserves way more recognition. It subverted the traditional Disney formula long before Frozen. I wouldn’t exactly call it forgotten, but it is strange that it took this long to get a sequel. Regardless of quality I’m still mad that Disney continues to dump films like this on Disney+. Despite the dominance of computer animation, Andalasia is still traditionally animated in a familiar way to the first movie. There’s also a lot more Andalasia than the trailer let on. Disenchanted is all about after happily ever after. Giselle has been happily married to Robert for 10 years in New York, but she longs for a more fairy tale life in a small town called Monroeville. Amy Adams has become a more seasoned actress since Enchanted, but she manages to recapture the pleasantly positive honorary Disney Princess.

Though mostly sticking to TV, Patrick Dempsey returns with a less significant role. Disenchanted is primarily centered around Giselle trying to be a good stepmother to an older Morgan. Original actress Rachel Covey is replaced by Gabriella Baldacchino since they wanted Morgan to be a sarcastic teenager. King Edward and Queen Nancy visit from Andalasia to give Giselle and Robert’s baby daughter Sophia a magic wand. When their new life isn’t as magical as they hoped it would be, Giselle wishes for a fairy tale life. Disenchanted is a mostly clever reverse of Enchanted where this time the modern world is brought into the fairy tale world. Which means everything has a face, everyone sings, and magic exists. Robert’s only role is to find adventure as a brave Prince. Despite his steady work in kids movies, James Marsden is similarly shortchanged as Edward.

Maya Rudolph assumes the role of an overbearing town councilwoman turned eccentric evil Queen Malvina. Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays play her henchwomen, while Oscar Nunez plays a nervous magic mirror. Alan Tudyk continues to serve Disney as the voice of a magic scroll. Though there are plenty of villains in the movie, Adams is equally good as a wicked stepmother that Giselle slowly transforms into. Pip the chipmunk returns as the narrator and ends up transforming into Giselle’s evil cat. Morgan attempts to reverse the spell with Nancy’s help. Since Idina Menzel’s popularity has skyrocketed since the first movie, she’s given at least 2 songs. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz return to compose, but there’s a few too many songs in the sequel. The biggest standout is obviously Menzel’s power ballad “Love Power.” Morgan uses Giselle’s memories to save her and the town with it. Disenchanted respects the original, but the magic isn’t what it used to be.

Disenchanted

Giselle competes with Malvina

Preceded by: Enchanted

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Sing 2 is bigger and more high energy than the original. It’s definitely the best Illumination sequel not associated with the Minions, but I’d say both movies are about equal. Both Sing and Sing 2 ironically ended up with the same Rotten Tomatoes score of 71%. Although I got tired of seeing the same trailer over and over again, Sing 2 exceeded all my expectations. The computer animation is dazzling and it makes proper use of all its previously introduced characters. The main cast including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, and Nick Kroll all return except for Seth MacFarlane. Either because of his already tight schedule or the fact that Mike was never a team player. In the sequel, the theater is thriving and Buster Moon continues to put on elaborate shows with his committed theater troupe. Meena, Johnny, Rosita, and Gunter put on a colorful performance of Alice in Wonderland to the tune of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Ash isn’t around since she has her own solo career, but she returns to help out when a dog talent scout named Suki Lane tells them they aren’t good enough. Eddie doesn’t return either, but Nana is still around to inspire Buster. They travel to the Las Vegas inspired Redshore City where they audition in front of high powered media mogul Jimmy Crystal. Bobby Cannavale voices the big bad wolf who isn’t above killing Buster to get what he wants. Buster promises an even more elaborate sci-fi show called Out of this World. The idea was actually Gunter’s who plays a robot in the show. Rosita has all the confidence she needs, but her biggest challenge is a fear of heights that costs her the lead role. Her role is temporarily given to Crystal’s spoiled daughter Porsha voiced by Halsey. She can sing well, but she can’t act (the character, not the singer).

Rosita’s husband Norman and 25 piglets are very supportive and the moment she leaps is very inspirational. Meena is in an awkward romantic scene with an egotistical yak voiced by Eric André. She ends up developing an adorable crush on a local ice cream vendor voiced by Pharrell Williams. Johnny deals with his own bully when he’s tasked with learning to dance for the show. Klaus Kickenklober is a pompous monkey who hates Johnny for no reason. So the latter befriends a street dancing lynx named Nooshy voiced by Letitia Wright. Ash is arguably the lead this time around since she has the most important job. Tracking down the reclusive star attraction Clay Calloway. Miss Crawley does it at first, but she’s still given plenty of funny scenes. Calloway is an aging lion voiced by Bono himself. Calloway has an emotional arc that ends with a satisfying performance of Bono’s signature song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Sing 2 unites multiple generations through the awesome power of song.

10. Sing 2

Buster Moon and his theater troupe

Preceded by: Sing

There’s Only One Way Left to Go, and that’s Up!

Sing was a guaranteed success. Kids love talking animals and everyone loves music. Proving that Illumination prefers to play it safe. Sing came out the same year as The Secret Life of Pets, when the studio was experimenting with Non-Minion movies. Even though they basically followed up bipedal animals with anthropomorphic animals. Despite a ridiculously simple title and premise, Sing ended up trying a lot harder than it needed to. The computer animation used on the animals is just as good as The Secret Life of Pets with the addition of colorful outfits. Although it came out the same year as Zootopia, the animal world isn’t that much different from our own. There’s arguably more attention given to the singing competition. Singing competitions are a dime a dozen these days, but it feels fresh thanks to the committed cast.

Matthew McConaughey voices passionate theater owning koala Buster Moon. He’s loved the theater ever since he was a little joey. Jennifer Saunders voices the once famous sheep singer Nana Noodleman who used to be a star attraction. John C. Reilly voices Buster’s rich kid best friend and Nana’s grandson Eddie who can’t help when the theater has financial trouble. Sing is another “save the theater” movie with the bank trying to foreclose the property. The singing competition brings out several aspiring animals with big dreams. The director Garth Jennings voices Buster’s klutzy iguana assistant Miss Crawly who accidentally advertises the prize money as $100,000. The audition is a fun musical number with a variety of fun songs and a diverse group of animals. Reese Witherspoon voices pig housewife Rosita with 25 piglets who loves singing well known pop songs. Although she has a workaholic husband named Norman appropriately voiced by Nick Offerman, Rosita is partnered with fellow pig Gunter. Nick Kroll voices the enthusiastic German dancer who gives Rosita the confidence she needs. Their closing song ends up being a high energy take on “Shake it Off.”

Taron Egerton voices British gorilla Johnny who works for his father’s gang, but dreams of being a singer. Despite his father’s disapproval, Johnny wins his admiration after learning the piano and performing “I’m Still Standing.” His closing song is ironic since Egerton later played Elton John. Scarlett Johansson voices teenage punk rocker porcupine Ash who breaks up with her boyfriend for a solo career. Although I don’t buy Johansson as a teenager, Ash’s original songs are a refreshing change of pace. Her closing song is called “Set it All Free.” Despite being a kid’s movie, Seth MacFarlane found time to voice Frank Sinatra-esque crooner mouse Mike. Although Mike is a jerk throughout, he desperately needs the money to pay off angry bears. Yet he’ll still risk his life to sing “My Way.” The lead singer is arguably Tori Kelly as young elephant Meena. Despite having terrible stage fright, Meena literally brings down the house performing “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” Even after the theater floods, the performances are enough to keep it open. Sing puts on a great show.

9. Sing

Buster Moon reopens his theater

Followed by: Sing 2

All You Need is Love

Across the Universe brings The Beatles music to life. Much like Mamma Mia!, the movie is a jukebox musical that uses over 33 Beatles songs incorporated into the story. The difference is Across the Universe was never a stage production. Even though director Julie Taymor got her start in theater. Across the Universe would’ve honestly made more sense on Broadway, because there are so many songs jammed into a 2 hour & 13 minute movie. Across the Universe bombed hard at the box-office and I have no memory of it coming out.

Characters are loosely tied together, underdeveloped, and their story is very standard. Across the Universe takes place in the 1960’s during Vietnam with characters named after Beatles songs. Jim Sturgess plays Jude from Liverpool, Evan Rachel Wood plays Lucy from America, and Joe Anderson plays her brother Max. Jude falls for Lucy and Max tries to avoid being drafted. They’re joined by a Bohemian assortment of hippies including T.V. Carpio as closet lesbian Prudence, Dana Fuchs as sexy singer Sadie, and Martin Luther McCoy as the Hendrix-like Jo-Jo.

Plus cameos from Bono, Eddie Izzard, Joe Cocker, and even Salma Hayek. They’re all pretty aimless and free-loving, but they do protest the war. Everything else is centered around musical performances. Some renditions are great and others can’t compare to the original. “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” works as a draft song, but “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” doesn’t work as a somber coming out song. One thing Taymor gets right are the trippy and often psychedelic visuals. Across the Universe honors the legacy of The Beatles, but it could’ve used more work.

Across the Universe

Hippies sing “Because”

In the Land of Submarines

Yellow Submarine is a groovy mix of trippy visuals and songs by The Beatles. The late 60’s were far more psychedelic and experimental. The Beatles were apprehensive about making a third film after Help!, but they still needed to honor their three picture contract that began with A Hard Day’s Night. An animated production was a fair compromise since Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr didn’t need to physically appear until a quick live-action cameo. The Fab Four are all voiced by soundalikes, but you can’t really tell the difference.

Yellow Submarine sparked my curiosity the most since it was the closest thing to adult animation at the time. It has a cult following and even a LEGO set. The only real comparison is Fantasia, both for its abstract visuals and strong emphasis on music. Yellow Submarine takes place in the magical music loving world Pepperland where the villainous Blue Meanies attack. Old Fred takes the titular Yellow Submarine to Liverpool where he recruits the Beatles to save them. The band experience the Sea of Time, the Sea of Science, the Sea of Monsters, the Sea of Nothing, and the Sea of Holes until they reach the Sea of Green.

Yellow Submarine is a weird nonsensical adventure, but it gets weirder when they make friends with intellectual creature Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D. voiced by Dick Emery. When they reach Pepperland, the Beatles fight the Blue Meanies with the power of music. The soundtrack includes way more hit songs like the titular “Yellow Submarine,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “All You Need is Love.” Yellow Submarine is a one of a kind experience.

Yellow Submarine

The Beatles in their Yellow Submarine

I Need Somebody!

Help! helped increase the popularity of The Beatles. Director Richard Lester was given a bigger budget that included more actors, more locations, and filming in color. Although Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr all admit the follow up wasn’t the best experience. Apparently they were high on marijuana half of the time. I’ve known about Help! for years since my parents had a copy of it on VHS. Much like A Hard Day’s Night, Lennon wrote the title song after Beatles Phase II and Eight Arms to Hold You were denied.

Unlike A Hard Day’s Night, Help! sort of has a plot. This time The Beatles are targeted by a religious cult who sacrifice people to their goddess Kaili. Ringo is singled out since he’s the one wearing the sacrificial ring. Help! is like a parody of spy films since Ringo’s ring is the McGuffin that everyone wants. John, Paul, and George all attempt to help their mate. Leo McKern is the cult’s psychotic leader Clang and newcomer Eleanor Bron switches sides to help the band.

The Beatles are also targeted by a scientist who seeks to rule the world with the ring. Help! is obviously more absurd and reliant on British humor. The movie is filled with slapstick gags and comedic on-screen texts. Each song feels more like it’s own music video since the Fab Four travel from London to the Austrian Alps and the Bahamas. Such new songs include the titular “Help!” and “Ticket to Ride.” Although it doesn’t quite compare to A Hard Day’s Night, Help! needed no help being a fun adventure for the band.

Help!

The Beatles go skiing

And I’ve Been Working Like a Dog

A Hard Day’s Night capitalizes on the immense success of The Beatles. Beatlemania was at an all time high in the mid 60’s. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are all part of the most popular band that ever lived. The title was suppose to be either The Beatles or Beatlemania before Starr came up with A Hard Day’s Night. Of course I’m a Beatles fan, but I’ll admit I always assumed the movie was named after an existing song. Turns out Lennon wrote the song in one night.

A Hard Day’s Night is a very low budget black & white mockumentary directed by Richard Lester and starring the real life Fab Four. The movie is basically a day in the life of The Beatles as they deal with screaming fans and explore London leading up to an important television appearance. Paul is joined by his troublesome grandfather played by Wilfrid Brambell, Ringo leaves the band temporarily, John is a smart-aleck, and George is there too. The boys from Liverpool are natural actors who play off their chemistry with one another.

There isn’t much of a plot, but the movie was still nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Along with Best Score, since music is the true star of the movie. We hear hits like the titular “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “She Loves You.” A Hard Day’s Night was a highly influential precursor to music videos. Each song is like its own music video with jump cuts and other commercial techniques. A Hard Day’s Night is one of the greatest rock musicals ever made.

A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles run from their fans

You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog!

Elvis has re-entered the building. The undisputed King of Rock and Roll will forever be Elvis Presley. His impact on music and pop culture is so legendary that a proper big screen musical biopic was inevitable. Sure there were TV movies and shows, but never what you’d call an event movie. After The Great Gatsby in 2013, Elvis was immediately announced as director Baz Luhrmann’s next project. Though it was nearly a decade before he could fully realize it. I’m an Elvis fan like everybody else, so I was excited to see it on the big screen. Elvis is just as flashy and stylish like only Luhrmann can accomplish. Unlike most biopics, Elvis feels like a comic book movie that emphasises every important piece of Presley’s life.

Modeling himself after Captain Marvel Jr, inspiration from black Gospel artists on Memphis Beale Street, his controversial hip movements, liberating effect on girls, military service, meeting Priscilla Presley, his acting career, Vegas, love of guns, and eventual weight gain are all covered. Although most of the attention is given to Elvis Presley’s relationship with shifty manager Colonel Tom Parker. A lot of the movie is told from his perspective as an unreliable narrator. Casting Tom Hanks as the mysterious Dutch snowman was a perfect full circle moment since Forrest Gump is the one who inspired Elvis. You can tell Hanks was included for star power, but the movie truly belongs to Austin Butler. I’ve been familiar with Butler for years since I grew up seeing him in Nickelodeon shows like Ned’s Declassified, iCarly, and Zoey 101. I always love when an unsuspecting actor gives a career-making performance.

Along with a possible Best Picture nomination, I predict Butler gets nominated for Best Actor. Butler fully transforms into Elvis in a way that doesn’t feel like another impersonation. From his look to his voice and every energetic performance. Fellow musical artists like Hank Snow, B.B. King, and Little Richard are acknowledged, but more attention is still given to just about every hit Elvis song. My only real complaint would be the unneeded inclusion of modern remixes. Elvis is a fun show, but there is tragedy that needed to be acknowledged. Like Elvis’ relationship with his late mother and managing father. Olivia DeJonge is just as uncanny as Priscilla Presley who, along with their daughter Lisa Marie, gave the movie their seal of approval. Elvis is also affected by the Memphis assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Elvis ends up with other managers, but his continued affiliation with Parker led to his prescription drug abuse and inevitable heart attack. Elvis is an emotional tribute that took care of business.

Elvis

Elvis Presley performs for the crowd

P.S. I have officially finished my 96 day Oscar movie marathon from 1927 to 2022

The Sensational Susie Diamond

The Fabulous Baker Boys is as fabulous as it is sensational. Writer and first time director Steve Kloves took a chance with an old fashioned low budget film about modern day piano players. The Fabulous Baker Boys did fail at the box-office, but it became one of the most beloved movies of 1989. The Fabulous Baker Boys is notable for two reasons. This was the first movie to feature real life acting brothers Jeff & Beau Bridges. It’s far from a gimmick since their natural chemistry is perfect for the Baker brothers. Beau is the older more responsible and optimistic Frank who runs the show, but continues to get them lousy gigs. Jeff is the younger more cynical and disillusioned Jack who’s no longer passionate about the job.

Frank has a family back home, but Jack has a crappy apartment, one night stands, a sick dog, and a lonely young girl who drops by from time to time. After 15 years it becomes clear that the piano players are in desperate need of a singer. A young Jennifer Tilly stands out as one of the terrible potential singers, but it’s Michelle Pfeffer who steals the show. The Fabulous Baker Boys was nominated for 4 Academy Awards. Best Cinematography for its dreamlike Seattle setting, Film Editing for its creative camera work, and Original Score for its infectious mix of jazz and pop standards. It could’ve won either award, but the most shocking loss was Pfeffer for Best Actress. Jessica Tandy winning for Driving Miss Daisy was more of a lifetime achievement award.

Meanwhile, Pfeffer won every other major award with the most mesmerizing performance of her career. Former escort turned lounge singer Susie Diamond is an icon thanks to Pfeffer’s beauty, spunky attitude, and sexy singing voice that she hadn’t done since Grease 2. Susie saves the Fabulous Baker Boys with several memorable performances. The sexiest, most iconic, and often imitated scene features Susie singing “Makin’ Whoopee” in a gorgeous red dress on top of Jack’s grand piano. Jack and Susie fall for each other until they end up making whoopee themselves. That of course breaks up the trio and Jack ends up ruining every meaningful relationship in his life. He apologizes to everyone, but the ending is left ambiguous. The Fabulous Baker Boys is a smooth examination of small time show business.

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Susie Diamond sings “Makin’ Whoopee”