Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Hitting in the Clutch"

What do you know? It’s a trilogy.

Two posts ago, it was “Punt” – there’s a creative Moment of Truth and despite your best efforts, you are unable to come through. Yesterday, the Moment of Truth was imaginatively sidestepped with “A Brilliant Idea.” Today, the Moment of Truth reappears. But this time, it has to be confronted. Successfully.

There is no way around it. It’s the bottom of ninth with the game on the line. There is no pinch hitter available. It’s you. And it’s now.

Exciting, isn’t it?

The example this time is not comedic. It’s musical. But it makes no difference. Moments of Truth are all the same. The target is there. You hit it dead center. Or it’s over.

Here’s a confession that may cost me some male readership. Of the particularly manly variety. Which I can scarcely afford to lose. My daughter, Anna, once asked me who I thought read my blog more, men or women. I reflexively replied both. I don’t think either of us believed me.

Here comes the confession. Gentlemen, prepare to flee.

I was a big fan of The Little Mermaid. Not the story. Too girly. And I’m not trying to win the men back by saying that. The story meant nothing to me. A half-fish girl wants to live on land. I’m really not interested.

What I loved about The Little Mermaid was the colorful underwater world the animators devised, and most especially, I loved the songs, most especially of the “most especially” the Jamaican flavored “Under The Sea.” And even more “most especially” than that, I loved “Kiss The Girl”, which I can almost play on the piano, though don’t ask me to, because I’m too nervous to play in front of people.

The Little Mermaid’s songs made me an immediate fan. As a result, I could hardly wait for the movie’s songwriting team’s – Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s – follow-up animated outing, Beauty and the Beast. (It was helpful to have had a very young daughter at the time. I had a “cover.” I could pretend I was going to these movies for her.)

The first part of Beauty and the Beast disappointed me. Not the visual element, that part was fine, though I’m not really a visual person. Basically, I watch with my ears. I don’t care about HD or 3-D, or any other D. Just give me a picture that’s not out of focus. When it is out of focus, I start worrying it’s my eyes.

It was Beauty and the Beast’s songs were letting me down. Generally, they were eh. Nobody one does this like Gaston. Nobody does that like Gaston. What do I care? I didn’t like Gaston.

An entire song of bragging? I’m Canadian. Bragging turns me off.

The other notable song, “Be Our Guest”, was so vanilla, it ended up as a jingle for some hotel chain.

Where’s the fun here? Where’s the memorability? This was a Disney musical. I wanted “Zippity-Doo-Dah.” Not a laundry list of Gaston’s accomplishments, and high-kicking crockery.

The movie I’d been looking forward to was losing its hold on me. I was on the brink of falling asleep. Which, to be honest, I do a lot in movies. But this time, I wanted to.

We’re beyond the halfway point. I can feel the movie edging towards its Moment of Truth. The “Big Event” is about to play out.

There’s this grand ballroom. The beast, bathed and nicely dressed, is having a date, or something, with the girl, also nicely dressed (and presumably bathed as well).

They’re eating at a long table, one of them at each end. Then, the girl gets up, walks the length of the table (not on the table, beside the table.) She takes the beast’s hand, and escorts him onto the dance floor. She places his hands in the appropriate spots, and they begin to dance.

This is it, the “make or break” moment of the movie. Dramatic. Romantic. And emotional – a self-conscious ugly guy, with what one imagines are enormous feet, is slow-dancing with a really beautiful girl – who knows which way this will go? So there’s danger in there too. He’s so big, and she’s so petite…though, you know, it’s a kids’ movie, so it probably won’t be too bad.

It is also the Moment of Truth for the songs. So far, nothing has popped. No competition for Randy Newman in the “Best Song” Oscar sweepstakes.

This is the title song. It has to clear the fences. The entire movie is riding on it.

The introduction is sweetly melodic. It’s a promising start.

And here we go. I’m a little on edge. Everything’s on the line here.

Shhh. The teapot is singing.

“Tale as old as time

True as it can be

Barely even friends

Then somebody bends


Wow. They rhymed “be” and “unexpectedly.” That was surprising. And that rhyming pattern. “A-B-C-C-B.” I’ve never seen that before. I like it. I also like that eternal quality they’re going for. It’s not just any story. It’s a “tale as old as time.”

Let’s see what they do next.

“Just a little change

Small to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast.”

Neat and compact. I like the “scared” and “prepared” rhyme. This song growing on me. Will the “bridge” keep me onboard?

“Ever just the same

Ever a surprise

Ever as before

Ever just as sure

As the sun will rise…”

There’s a surging quality in the arrangement. It’s carrying me away.

“Tale as old as time

Tune as old as song

Bittersweet and strange

Finding you can change

Learning you were wrong…”

Whoh, this song is deep. And now it’s surging even higher!

“Certain as the sun

Rising in the East

Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and the Beast…”

Okay, now go quiet. Oh, my God, it is going quiet!

“Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and…

The Beast.”

Tears are streaming down my cheeks. Maybe for the song. Its wisdom has moved me. Its lyricism has touched my heart. Most importantly, the writers had faced their Moment of Truth head on

And they hammered it out of the park.


My thanks to my friend, Gracie, who provided me with step-by-step instructions for embedding things in my blog, and to my daughter, Anna, for successfully following those instructions while I watched. It looked really easy.


growingupartists said...

You've sold me on the song too, it does sound wise. Nice use of technology Earl...can hardly wait to see what else you'll embed.

Brian Fies said...

I'm an almost-never commenter, but as a Dad who also used his girls as cover ("Hey, I dunno, it's sumthin' Disney, gotta keep the kids happy, y'know. Yo?"), I had to say I loved the same movies and songs you loved for the same reasons. I won't tell if you won't.

One of the great things about seeing a movie with an audience is The Moment: that rare occasion when the audience reacts as a communal One. You're sitting in the dark alone and yet The Moment feels very intimate. I had one in "Jaws" when Dreyfuss sees a man's head pop out of a boat and we all jumped and then laughed at ourselves. In "Close Encounters" (Spielberg again) when the enormous spaceship emerges from behind Devil's Tower, the woman beside me, a complete stranger, grabbed my arm and held tight through the rest of the scene. A Moment.

That dance in "Beauty and the Beast" gave me another Moment when the "camera" swoops down from the ceiling past the chandelier and circles the couple. CGI was pretty new; nobody had ever seen anything like that shot in animation before. The audience audibly gasped, a "holy crap!" murmur ran through the crowd. That Moment was something special. I still get a tingle everytime I see it.

It takes much macho to admit as much as we just have. Mucho.

Alan said...

Didn't hurt to have Angela Lansbury sing it, either

moopot said...

Hey, I like that Gaston song. You're supposed to hate him - he is the villain, and a giant jerk. That is the point of the song. It's actually really clever - it takes the guy who would conventionally be the hero of the piece and points out the fact that a 'hero' is often as not a giant douche.

Fred said...

And you skipped over the "Bonjour" song that introduced Belle. That one is clever and uses the same device used to introduce Gaston. Everyone in the town is dismayed at the odd girl Belle, who turns out to be the real hero.