Back in the 1940's and 1950's (and a bit of the 60's) when musicals had their heyday, things were good. People believed in the magic and glitz of Hollywood, and reveled in its singing and dancing stars. Audiences were high on life. Then in the 70's, real drugs came along, and watching Gene Kelly tap dance on a chair just wasn't enough anymore. People were angry with the government and the world and they had questions. Questions that a brilliantly choreographed dance number and Julie Andrew's perfect soprano could just no longer answer.
Since then, musicals have struggled to find their place in cinema. I attribute this to the fact that today's audiences just can't condone a promising storyline being suddenly interrupted by inexplicable music. For some reason we praise "reality" and "truth" and "profundity" and other such made up concepts.
Yet, some brave souls are desperately clinging on to the glory of the musical's past. Some have found success, like TV's "Glee," which parodies itself enough to be almost bearable, and 2006's Oscar grabbing "Chicago," which smartly justified its musical numbers as being part of the main character's imagination. Yet those that weren't clever enough to give reason to the involuntary outbursts of song suffer from some pretty awkward moments.
5. Moulin Rouge: Your Song
Like "Chicago," "Moulin Rouge" is a contemporary musical that understood the old conventions of film and theater musicals just don't fly anymore. With a storyline that centers around a dying prostitute, vibrant eye popping visuals, and a repertoire of songs that cover classic Rock and Pop ballads, "Moulin Rouge" attempted to make the musical accessible to modern cynical audiences. For about half of us, its quirky originality truly resonated. Everyone else thought it was a decadent spectacle or a superficial load of vomit. But, c'est la vie.
Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that it's never not awkward to break out in an Elton John song when a hooker is in the middle of trying to seduce you, and she's doing it by growling like a tiger and writhing around in a fur rug, even if you are Ewan McGregor. And although its awkwardness is intentional, I thought it had to make the list.
4. Sex and the City 2: Liza Minnelli sings "Single Ladies"
This movie may not be classified as a musical (most critics classify it as a giant pile of shit) but it does throw a bone to its gay musical loving fan base by way of a Liza Minnelli cameo. A tired and completely unfunny line about how having so much gay in one room will cause Ms. Minnelli to simply manifest, is supposed to serve as an explanation for this scene, which is so lame it's a bit offensive. I did really want to give props to the musical icon for getting up there and shaking it as she does, but I just can't. It's all so...wrong.
3. Mamma Mia: Dancing Queen
"Mamma Mia" clearly embraces the fact that it is just an annoying, campy, poorly sung bit of fluff. And that's fine. It might be a giant waste of time, money, and Meryl Streep's talent, but that's fine. What's not fine is forcing Ms. Streep to do a slow motion cheerleader toe-touch while jumping on a bed. NOT okay.
2. Rent: The scene where she dies and then comes back to life.
If I were on my deathbed with a room full of people who claimed to be my friends, I would want them to enlist the help of some kind of medical professional, rush me to the hospital, or take my last will and testament. The last thing I would want them to do is break out into song. Awwwkwwward.
1. Cop Rock: All of "Cop Rock"
To anyone not yet acquainted with "Cop Rock," prepare to be severely enlightened. Back in 1990, television producer Steven Bochco was fresh off of some of TV's greatest successes, like "LA Law," "Hill Street Blues", and "Doogie Howser, M.D." Having truly proved his worth as a series creator, he did what any self respecting producer would do: take advantage of the network's trust to make a purely self-indulgent, completely ahead of it's time cop drama/musical. Due to it's excessive cost (almost 2 mill an episode) and low ratings (the general public will never be prepared for something with such a high caliber of awesome), "Cop Rock" was pulled after 11 episodes, not even making it through a full season. But I think if there's anything to be learned from this lesson in awkwardness it's:
Let's be careful out there, and when shit gets rough, let's harmonize.