Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #90 SWING TIME


Directed by George Stevens
Written by Allan Scott and Howard Lindsay
Starring: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.

* rating 100%

*"Of all of the places the movies have created, one of the most magical and enduring is the universe of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers." -Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times

*"Tip-top Fred and Ginger delight, which is another way of saying one of the best musicals ever." -Carol Cling, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

*Academy: Won best Original Song; nominated for Best Dance Direction

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

*Budget: $886,000

*Gross: $2,600,000

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements.

*"Astaire introduces two new elements into his approach to filmed song and dance, both of which represent the abandonment of theatrical staging conventions"

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

* In 2004, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Jonesy:  Musicals have always been a part of my life. My first memory was being obsessed with SINGIN IN THE RAIN when I was about seven, then my mom took me to see it live onstage that summer, and I was hooked. My knowledge is somewhat extensive, but I never took the time to watch the classic RKO musicals of the 30s and 40s. Thankfully, AFI countdown took care of that for me.

SWING TIME is one of the quintessential Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. The plot itself is a tad boring and predictable, but the charm of the duo masks all of that. Their chemistry on and off the dance floor is undeniable. They’re absolutely charming. People sometimes forget how difficult dancing really is, but Rogers and Astaire make it look so effortless and fun, that their numbers could inspire almost anyone to turn to dancing.

Musicals seem to get lost among today’s films. There’s almost a stigma attached because it’s assumed that if it’s a musical, then it’s all cheese and no substance. SWING TIME plants the seed that eventually will shatter that stereotype. There are songs that actually move the plot along, which is later mastered by OKLAHOMA, and the dance sequences between Rogers and Astaire are so emotional that their characters develop through their movements.

SWING TIME is a perfect platform for the modern day musical genre. It’s sweet, charming, and memorable, and Astaire and Rogers are just sheer perfection.

Javi: Yes, I don’t like musicals, Broadway, or Glee. This is very ironic, due to my love of music. Regardless, I do try to go into musicals with a bit of a more open mind, considering how well-versed I want to be in movies and their history. Seems that I don’t need the open minded-ness.  SWING TIME, starring the famous Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is one of the more unexpectedly funny movies I’ve seen in a long time that dazzled me with its technicality.

The story and its set up are very indicative of its time. The set up is done in such an easily avoided way that it’s really frustrating, but then once we get to New York, the humor and performances liven up and just stay enjoyable the rest of the time. Astaire plays Lucky with a charm that I don’t see often with many actors nowadays; he’s witty and quick on his feet. Ginger as Penny was great as well with her standoff attitude and contempt to Lucky which transforms into affection seems more believable than most modern romantic comedies that come out today.  While Victor Gardetti as Pop is a great comedic relief for some of the movie, I can say he was easily the least interesting character in a cast full of colorful characters.

The thing that makes me appreciate and enjoy the movie is the sheer technicality of the dancing. There are some impressive scenes and displays of skill shown off here and some great camera work. One of my favorite scenes is where Lucky is dancing in black-face (I know... how scandalous!) and there are three shadows of him in the background. The fact that there are very few scenes where you don’t see the dancers’ full bodies make me appreciate their sills even more. My big complaints are with the details of the story because, at one point, the final conflict is established and then completely resolved in a way that could never even be realistic. The resolution takes the phrase “turn the other cheek” to another level. 

This movie is in this countdown I figure due to the technicality of its performances and to celebrate one of the best on-screen couples ever. This is something that you don’t see very often in Hollywood anymore and has a reason to be remembered and honored. 

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