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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays Week 22 Bugsy Malone

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Not to worry, real life gets ahold of all of us.

 

I just finished Bugsy Malone myself today and I just have to say, I was not prepared for this. Not at all. This was, the strangest, weirdest, but funnest film I think I've seen. I want the main show to do this movie. I can't wait to hear everyone's thoughts.

 

ETA: I mean it when I saw this is one of the strangest movies I've seen...and I've seen SONNY BOY, which features David Carridine, in drag raising a mute feral killer boy. And Brad Dourif is in it.

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Yeah, I wasn't quite prepared myself. Honestly, I was charmed by the kid actors and was amazed how cream pies can equate the most gruesome deaths I've ever seen on screen. I loved Fat Joe(?). I thought he did a fantastic job. My biggest issue was, after the initial novelty had worn off, I was left with only the "plot" and that didn't really do too much for me. I have to confess, my mind wandered quite a bit toward the end.

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Also, in the future, if it's later than 10AM EST and I haven't created the thread, please feel free to create one. I don't want to hold you guys up. I feel really bad, too, because it's Cam's movie and he wasn't able to get in on this in the morning...

 

Sorry, bud :(

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Fat Sam, the only reason I remember this is because in my head canon, he grows up to be Fat Sam in the first Fletch movie.

 

Yeah the novelty wore off pretty quick, and the story was pretty thin, as a pastiche of gangster films. But the kids were good, and Jodie Foster, which shouldn't be surprisiging coming off of Taxi Driver and The Little girl Who Lives Down The Lane, was certainly the powerhouse "star" of this, even without top billing and what was a supporting role.

 

Interesting fact I learned on Wikipedia, Parker did a stage version of this that starred Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tallulah.

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I've also learned the Paul Williams has a very unique, vaudevillian/folk rock thing going that I quite enjoy...in small doses.

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I've also learned the Paul Williams has a very unique, vaudevillian/folk rock thing going that I quite enjoy...in small doses.

I thought the Paul Williams music was very reminiscent of Harry Nilsson. So, I'd recommend checking out some of his stuff if you like the music. Specifically, his album Harry which is probably closest in style to this.

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I only lasted like 30 minute into this movie because the youtube movie was giving me a massive headache. Which is probably my own fault for attempting to watch an already low quality video on a regular sized tv.

 

The kid thing was very odd but I appreciated that instead of putting kids in an adult situation, they just made everything childlike - the bar served milkshakes, the cars were bikes, etc. It was a very surreal world they built into this movie. I will say that the biggest complaint was the pairing of adult voices to small children. The voices didn't match the size of the children - why not just hire children that could sing?

 

Also within the small time frame I watched, Jodie Foster immediately popped off the screen. I wasn't surprised to IMDB and learn most of these kids didn't do much acting, but she was great!

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In New York's fair city,

Where girls are so pretty,

The movie is set that's named Bugsy Malone

The talent acts the parts out

They sing their little hearts out

Crying "Tommy guns and flappers, alive, alive-o"

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I only lasted like 30 minute into this movie because the youtube movie was giving me a massive headache. Which is probably my own fault for attempting to watch an already low quality video on a regular sized tv.

 

The kid thing was very odd but I appreciated that instead of putting kids in an adult situation, they just made everything childlike - the bar served milkshakes, the cars were bikes, etc. It was a very surreal world they built into this movie. I will say that the biggest complaint was the pairing of adult voices to small children. The voices didn't match the size of the children - why not just hire children that could sing?

 

Also within the small time frame I watched, Jodie Foster immediately popped off the screen. I wasn't surprised to IMDB and learn most of these kids didn't do much acting, but she was great!

I made it about 15 minutes before I started tuning out and checking my phone and I watched it on DVD. So, video quality wasn't it.There was something very usettling about this to me and I'm not sure what it was. I could say having children portray gangsters or flappers is off-putting but I've been able to watch things like Taxi Driver where Jodie Foster was even younger and plays a literal child prostitute without issue (I mean, beyond child prostitution being objectively awful that is). So, I don't know why this was so weird to me.

 

You're so right about the singing. Not only did the voices not match, but the kids were not good at lip syncing either.

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I'll also admit to doing other things (reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, checking Twitter, checking my fantasy football scores, etc) but at the same time, I kept going back to this.

 

My biggest take away (outside of Foster and Cassani and to a lesser degree Baio) this felt like watching a middle school production that the teacher wrote (and considering it's basedo n the stories Parker told his children, that makes sense).

 

I do want to add that the "Tomorrow" number with the ballet was particularly powerful, considering it was an African-American (I'm assuming the actor was american) child singing it with another POC dancing to it. That was probably the stand out number to me and didn't really fit with the silliness of the rest of the film, but what a number.

 

I also want to add that I particularly loved seeing kids of all types in all sorts of roles.

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Like everyone else has said... I liked that it was a more "adult" story being told through a kid perspective.

I thought most of the kids did a good job / were funny.

But I also had a hard time focusing after about 30 minutes--- once the fun of the kids/ kid perspective wore off.

 

I don't know if it was the plot that made the fun wear off? But I also wasn't digging the adult singing voices with the kids lip syncing.

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As a side note, I'm honestly shocked at how many positive reviews this movie has. I thought it was mostly gimmick rather than substance, and then I googled it after I gave up watching. Its got 83% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 Stars on Amazon. Imdb says The movie is ranked at the No. #353 rank on Empire Magazine's "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" list compiled in 2008."

 

I do want to add that the "Tomorrow" number with the ballet was particularly powerful, considering it was an African-American (I'm assuming the actor was american) child singing it with another POC dancing to it. That was probably the stand out number to me and didn't really fit with the silliness of the rest of the film, but what a number.

 

Did he ever get to tap dance? I was going to fast forward and try to find it, but I didn't see it passing by. I was rooting for him.

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As a side note, I'm honestly shocked at how many positive reviews this movie has. I thought it was mostly gimmick rather than substance, and then I googled it after I gave up watching. Its got 83% on Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 Stars on Amazon. Imdb says The movie is ranked at the No. #353 rank on Empire Magazine's "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" list compiled in 2008."

AFI nominated it for it's Top 10 Gangster films (it didn't make that list)

 

 

Did he ever get to tap dance? I was going to fast forward and try to find it, but I didn't see it passing by. I was rooting for him.

 

I don't THINK so, like I said I kind of checked out but I don't remember a tap dancing number.

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Some tidbits from imdb I thought were interesting about the movie production and dealing with the child actors/child labor laws:

 

When looking for Fat Sam, director Alan Parker went to a Brooklyn classroom and asked who was the naughtiest boy in class; all the class replied John Cassisi, who subsequently got the part.

 

Every child actor working on the movie had to have an individual medical approval and working license. The official paperwork to allow children to work in the movie was mountainous. More than thirty-three English councils were involved as well as bureaucracy in New York and Los Angeles.

 

 

The 1929 New York street complex was the movie's main and largest set. It was built on the largest sound stage at Pinewood Studios on one meter rostrums. The massive set utilized over eighty tons of concrete which had to be poured into its foundation. Real steam was piped through its base so as to gush out of the street set's manholes. The street complex had to be a constructed set rather than a real life location as the child actors were not allowed to work at night due to regulations. As such, the set could be lit for night during daytime filming.
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This movie felt like an SNL sketch that never ended. It was novel and somewhat cute at first, but I got over the children playacting gangsters pretty quickly. Then came the ending. Oh boy. So let me get this straight. For 90 minutes, the film asks us to accept bizarre rules such as that these children are adults and that you die if you get cream pied. But then in the last scene, they say no, these are just children having a food fight with cream pies and they're all friends. So, what the fuck. I can't decide if the ending is a giant wink or a fuck you. I was pretty mad about it, tbh.

PS - I think I would've liked it if I had watched it as a kid.

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First off I'll explain my reason for picking this.

 

Many years ago I was working with a British fellow. Something came up about doing stage work and I said I was telling him about things I had done. I said I was in Guys and Dolls twice and he said he was in a production of Bugsy Malone which was the British Guys and Dolls. I'd never heard of it at that point. Sure enough every British person I'd meet over the next few years loved, was in or wanted to be in Bugsy Malone while nobody outside the UK seemed to have any idea what it was. I went on to hear the soundtrack and liked a great deal of the songs. There is something charming about the "Bad Guys" song and then the twist on it to become "We Could Have Been Anything We Wanted to Be" at the end. I also like the little things like in the "So You Wanna Be a Boxer" song with the super deep "Let me have him Joe" However I never saw the movie. Then Musical Mondays started and I thought this would be great chance to finally see this movie and for something with catchy songs that nobody had seen outside maybe the one or two Irish and UK people here.

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That out of the way, I wanted to like this movie so much but nothing ever seems to come together. Like the ending has also briefly been discussed but I want to talk briefly about Bugsy Malone.

 

So the titular character is suppose to be this streetwise charmer yet he can't get a job, dines and dashes, and other petty little things. He meets a girl and seemingly falls for her, gets hired as a driver, and then to steal guns, and then runs away at the end with the girl. That's it? Those are all things that could have been removed from the story and it still would have proceeded as normal. I half wanted it to be that he was a free agent that both sides were using and it was through his actions they worked things out. Yet the titular character seemingly makes up less than a third of the story and adds nothing to it. Fat Sam and his story way more interesting to boot.

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Perhaps also best known for being Alan Parker's directing debut. He would go on to do some other music-styled movies that we got to discuss about in the future like "Fame", "Pink Floyd: The Wall", "The Commitments" and "Evita".

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There is a five part documentary that you can find on YouTube about catching up with the stars 30 years later. One of the interesting things mentioned was that Paul Williams wrote the music for adults because it would capture the emotions better than children singing and they would get the songs very late. Also the songs were written with no consideration of who was playing the parts and that's why the voices would often not match the child at all.

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I just want to say that even though this movie didn't work for me 100%, I'm still glad you picked it, Cam! This is the type of movie I feel like is perfect for MM. It's something I didn't even know existed. I'm glad I'm aware of it even if just to improve my pop culture knowledge :)

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There is a five part documentary that you can find on YouTube about catching up with the stars 30 years later. One of the interesting things mentioned was that Paul Williams wrote the music for adults because it would capture the emotions better than children singing and they would get the songs very late. Also the songs were written with no consideration of who was playing the parts and that's why the voices would often not match the child at all.

 

I really wished the kids sang the songs themselves. Not hating on Paul Williams, but whenever I heard his voice, which was often, I kept thinking of Phantom of the Paradise. I thought the songs were fairly similar between the 2 movies as well, which didn't help.

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I only have a little regret. To me the most disappointing this about the movie is there is so much good in it that if the story had another pass or two and maybe one more music number it would have been much better.

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Despite the cream pie continuity issues with the last scene, if we accept that cream pies equal death, then this is one of the most violent movies ever made. Even Tarantino doesn't show the kind of POV head-shots that this flick does -- it's like if Call of Duty were set in prohibition-era Chicago. And the way the screen froze for just a second when they got hit made it even creepier.

 

And for a second, in the final scene, it isn't clear at first that everyone is ok and the cream pies aren't actually killing them this time. And for that second, I was horrified thinking that this movie was about to end with a bunch of kids basically getting gunned down. Maybe that's just my present-day mentality reacting to a scene shot in 1976. Of course, the fact that they weren't getting killed in the end was simultaneously relieving and confusing.

 

Like most of you, I had other things going on while I watched, and the thought I kept having was, "God, this music is hard to listen to." The pitch-shifted adult voices were intolerable. If they couldn't get child actors who could sing, they may as well just use unmodulated adult voices in the songs. That would've helped add an extra level of camp and it would've have been so grating on the ear. This is extra sad considering that the composition of the songs is actually quite engaging.

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