Monday, September 29, 2014

Singin' in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain
seen @ Landmark Loew's Jersey Theater, Jersey City, NJ

And now, five things I thought about while watching Singin' in the Rain:

1. There's just something about musicals. When they're done right, that is. I don't seek them out, most of the time. It's not like I'm crazy for them or anything, but the best of them have a way of making you just feel good about life, as silly as that may sound. And while there are modern musicals that I adore, such as Dreamgirls and Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Rent, the older ones, especially the MGM ones, had something more to them. It was spectacle to the nth degree, and I think the studios embraced that aspect more back then.

2. Even though I had already seen this film several times before, for some reason, I had this image of Donald O'Connor being much older than he actually was. Don't know why. I know now that he started out as a child actor, and that he starred in series of films featuring a talking mule named Francis (it was a different time back then) before appearing in Rain, and he had his own TV show at one point. 

Where I got the impression that he was a middle-aged man instead of being 27, which he would've been when Rain came out, I couldn't tell you. I am kinda surprised, looking at his IMDB page, that he didn't make bigger movies following the success of Rain. He had the looks to be a romantic lead. Instead, he kept making Francis movies. He did play Buster Keaton in a biopic of the man, but apparently, it's not very accurate. That said, "Make 'em Laugh" remains my favorite part of the movie.

3. I thought about The Artist, naturally, and the things I've learned about the silent movie era since. That transitional period when sound came into movies was such a fundamental change in the industry. I don't think anything else in the history of the medium compares to it. These days, we've seen Hollywood go from 35mm film to digital production, and that's had a profound impact on how movies are seen and distributed, but I don't think even that is comparable to how sound changed everything. I'm thinking of the sequence where Lina keeps trying to perform a scene with Don with sound, and how she keeps missing the microphone no matter how close the director puts it near her. It's funny to us now, but those really were the kinds of problems they faced back then.

4. I had no idea Rita Moreno was in this movie. Hers is a small part, but still.

5. Gene Kelly took lots of chances as a dancer and as a director. The performance of the song "Singin' in the Rain" is so iconic now, but as a performance, it must have seemed unusual at the time. I mean, he really gets himself soaking wet in that number, splashing around in puddles and swinging his umbrella around and around like he does, all while dancing. How would you choreograph something like that if you'd never seen it done before? How many rehearsals would it take to get it just right? But that's the kind of approach he took throughout his career, pushing the boundaries of what kind of dancing he could do in a movie, and how it could be filmed. This is the guy, after all, who danced with a cartoon mouse and made it look realistic.

You don't need me to tell you what an amazing movie this is, though. I had forgotten just how good it is, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, seeing it on a big screen with an enthusiastic audience makes all the difference in the world. It's the way it was meant to be seen, which goes back to the point I made about how musicals like this embrace spectacle. You don't get that feeling from watching this on an iPhone.

This was the first weekend of the fall movie season for the Loew's JC, and this outing was significant for me because starting next month, the fare for the PATH train, the subway line connecting midtown Manhattan with north Jersey, will go up again, from $2.50 to $2.75. That's more than the New York transit system (for the moment), and I have a feeling that this is gonna affect how often I go to the Loew's from now on. 

When I started going to the Loew's on a semi-regular basis a few years ago, the PATH fare was $2.25, and that, of course, was on top of the $2.25 I was paying ($2.50 now) for riding the bus and subway - together, not separately. PATH has been struggling in recent years. When the Super Bowl was held at the New Jersey Meadowlands, PATH, and New Jersey Transit in general, was expected to handle a much larger load of passengers than usual, and they did a less than stellar job of servicing them. Coming after their inadequate response to Hurricane Sandy, this gave the transit system a huge black eye that they've yet to fully recover from. From time to time, I had considered moving to north Jersey one day. Now I'm not so sure.

I think I may become a lot more selective from now on as to what movies to see at the Loew's, not because of the theater itself, which remains as remarkable now as it was the first day I walked into it, but because getting there is about to become more expensive. I hate that with a passion, because I love the Loew's and I wanna continue to support it, now more than ever.

And on that note, host and Friends of the Loew's (FOL) head Colin Egan had no news to report on the struggle his group has had with the Jersey City government for control of the theater, but it's just as well, because Saturday night was more of a festive occasion. This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Loew's JC, and in his introduction to Rain, Egan spoke eloquently of the history of the theater and of his group's efforts to preserve the theater, to strong and warm applause. Indeed, there was a big crowd for Saturday's doubleheader; the second feature being Sunset Boulevard. The line for that one stretched all the way down the block!

This one was a little rushed, because I took it before I left,
so it's not as pristine as the others, but what the hey.

And Aurora was there! I'm so lucky to have seen so many classic movies this year, on both sides of the Hudson, with someone who loves them as deeply as she does. She was pretty excited about seeing Sunset on the big screen, and can you blame her? She wrote about the Loew's 85th on her site, which includes some great pics of the theater from back in the day, so check that out when you're done here. Also: here's a short video she made from inside the lobby of the Loew's (which I am in).

Little Fugitive
He Who Gets Slapped


  1. Wonderful, Rich! I love your five "things." I am always taken aback when I watch RAIN by how great O'Connor is and the fact that in comparison to the "biggies" like Kelly he remained fairly unknown. Or so it seems to me. Thanks much for the mention and I am impressed you're able to include my little video, which I have no idea how to do. I'm going to include a link to this on my post since I barely mention RAIN.


  2. Well, all I did was link to the video from your Facebook page. Of course, people can only see it if they're on FB themselves...


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