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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays Week 80 The Greatest Showman

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Ladies and gents, this is the moment you've waited for (woah)

We watched:

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Just to start off, I unabashedly love this movie. I love it’s use of modern music and CGI to create a larger than life spectacle. Everything looks and sounds so vibrant as a way of capturing the same sense of awe in a modern audience that witnessing the circus must have imbued in a 19th Century audience. For me, it’s extremely effective.

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I like this movie a lot. The music is good. It looks great.

But Barnum sold his "freaks" on their physical differences and racist ideas. He didn't think of them as family. He profited off of them and treated them horribly. I'm kind of fine, or at least understand, whitewashing a movie to make a real life person seem not so monstrous by the cultural standards of today. I'm not fine changing that person to a champion of equal rights.

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36 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

I like this movie a lot. The music is good. It looks great.

But Barnum sold his "freaks" on their physical differences and racist ideas. He didn't think of them as family. He profited off of them and treated them horribly. I'm kind of fine, or at least understand, whitewashing a movie to make a real life person seem not so monstrous by the cultural standards of today. I'm not fine changing that person to a champion of equal rights.

I get this, and understand how it can be a deal breaker, but I also there’s something to be said about fictive truth versus historical fact. It’s not like the *movie* is propagating his racist and intolerant beliefs. Honestly, I kind of get a kick out of the movie co-opting his life to tell a story counter to his own beliefs.

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Yeah, it almost is using Barum's show business ideas and practices against him to tell this story. The movie is selling a totally fictitious depiction of a real man in a setting that resembles the real 19th Century America about as much Lawnmower Man was an accurate portrayal of virtual reality technology. Just like the Fiji Mermaid, we, the audience, know it's a sham, but we are here for it because it fascinating and beautiful and we get lost on those Zac Efron eyes and Hugh Jackman smile.

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Again this is a case of love the soundtrack but not the movie. The movie is great to look at but anytime starting around the middle of the movie people started talking and not singing I felt the movie really started to drag for me. It has less to do with historical inaccuracies and more about the half baked Zac Efron and Zendaya romance.

One one hand I get it that you can't sell a historical musical biopic on the charm of Hugh Jackman alone so you have to spice things up with a younger hotter romance. I get that and I can't fault the movie for throwing it in. However, that doesn't stop it from feeling thrown in. Zac Efron doesn't enter the movie until nearly halfway through and falls in love with Zendaya at first sight. Up to this point I'm not sure she has had a line of dialogue. You have basically two new characters meet. Then there is a bit of stink eye from her trapeze partner who is her... father or brother or something, again underdeveloped character. So he's all lusty eyed and she's whatever. The next time we see them interact is her asking if she's allowed to go meet the queen and Zac is like "Of course." So now they have talked once but the next scene with them is when Zac chooses to go stand in the back with them and they start holding hands. These three scenes are all basically one after the other too. This relationship builds so fast and out of nowhere. What is her attraction to him? Is it just two hot people recognizing the other is hot and they should make it a thing?  Zendaya is pretty much a nothing character at that point.The only "freaks" at this point with any kind of story about them are Tom Thumb and the bearded lady. This movie is a very breezy 100 minutes or so. I think that's great, but spending another 10 or so to maybe make Zendaya a character, have more scenes of her and Efron flirting, a song about them meeting and how it was love at first sight or just something more would have sold me on their romance. The rope dance is fantastic but I just can't get into the emotion of it all. The thing is both the characters are completely fictional so you could do whatever with them. How about he works at the bank and he's checking in with PT Barnum about how the place is going and status of the loan. This would lead to him being better with money and again place him in the story earlier and have a chance for earlier and more scenes with Zendaya. Or just more scenes or lines for Zendaya. Maybe have her talk more in the interview. Have her explain to PT how hard it is to be a person of colour at that time. Something. Anything. Just make her more of a character than "trapeze girl." But hey, if it works for you than I'm glad. I just wish there was a little more so it could have worked for me as well.

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That said I loved some of the dance numbers a lot. Visually the rope dance is great. I was particularly a big fan of the Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman number in the bar. Just some sold prop choreography and work there. I also loved some of the little things like the hammering of posters to the rhythm of the song and little touches like that. There is a lot of things in this movie to charm you.

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While I did enjoy the movie, I will stand against the the look of it. It's too CGI'ed for me. That prop choreography, I don't think it's real. It is all a good spectacle, but can't help but think it would be much better if they actually, instead of CGI, used actual props or theaters or animals or real mustaches.

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I think where the movie suffers for me is the Jenny Lind bit. Never mind that she was a real person whom the movie does dirty,* everything about her is kind of dull - her song and the whole plot line. I get why it’s there, but I think they could have dug a bit deeper to create the conflict she presents.

*I don’t really have an issue with a movie taking an objectively bad person and twisting their ethos to create something positive, but I do get miffed if you take a real life good person and turn them into kind of a heel. I think there was a guy on the Titanic that happened to. I want to say, in the movie, it was the guy who shot at people trying to get to the lifeboats. Apparently, in real life, that guy was a hero and James Cameron made him a bad guy just because the scene required it. I mean, I guess you could just make a person up, but why bother when you can slander someone already in their grave?

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12 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

I think where the movie suffers for me is the Jenny Lind bit. Never mind that she was a real person whom the does dirty,* everything about her is kind of dull - her song and the whole plot line. I get why it’s there, but I think they could have dug a bit deeper to create the conflict she presents.

*I don’t really have an issue with a movie taking an objectively bad person and twisting their ethos to create something positive, but I do get miffed if you take a real life good person and turn them into kind of a heel. I think there was a guy on the Titanic that happened to. I want to say, in the movie, it was the guy who shot at people trying to get to the lifeboats. Apparently, in real life, that guy was a hero and James Cameron made him a bad guy just because the scene required it. I mean, I guess you could just make a person up, but why bother when you can slander someone already in their grave?

I agree with this and I am also very curious about why the film even hired Rebecca Ferguson to play her in the first place if they were going to redub her completely after the fact as well. I get them redubbing Tom Thumb (although maybe not give him such a cartoony tough guy voice) because they needed an actor of a certain height, but you're telling me they couldn't find another actress that could sing and act? I read they redubbed it because she's suppose to be this great singer and Rebecca Ferguson wasn't good enough. Why was she cast then? I'm very curious at point in the process was it decided to completely redub her.

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1 hour ago, Cam Bert said:

I agree with this and I am also very curious about why the film even hired Rebecca Ferguson to play her in the first place if they were going to redub her completely after the fact as well. I get them redubbing Tom Thumb (although maybe not give him such a cartoony tough guy voice) because they needed an actor of a certain height, but you're telling me they couldn't find another actress that could sing and act? I read they redubbed it because she's suppose to be this great singer and Rebecca Ferguson wasn't good enough. Why was she cast then? I'm very curious at point in the process was it decided to completely redub her.

Hmm, good point. Maybe they didn’t realize she wasn’t good enough until after the fact? Maybe when the movie was nearly complete they realized she wouldn’t work? 

Regardless, it was the weakest song in the movie. A real snoozer. I would have rather that time have been to one of the other characters - like Efron and Zendaya.

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19 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Hmm, good point. Maybe they didn’t realize she wasn’t good enough until after the fact? Maybe when the movie was nearly complete they realized she wouldn’t work? 

Regardless, it was the weakest song in the movie. A real snoozer. I would have rather that time have been to one of the other characters - like Efron and Zendaya.

I agree. I think that’s why the back half of the movie is a bit of a struggle for me. The “affair” story line is kinda a miss and you’re furthering this romance I didn’t connect with. I would have been very happy with Jenny Lind being dropped or part reduced to have more scenes and another song for Zendaya and Efron to flesh out their burgeoning romance at that point. 

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Apologies for missing the first day of the discussion: I'll try to get in to the forum as much as I can but I hope we can find plenty to discuss here.

This movie gets me every time, even though I know there are enough terrible things that mean I shouldn't buy in. 'A Million Dreams' makes me cry every god damned time, and I can't make it through with a dry eye. I don't know, if it's the performance or the content, but the idea of hope and dreams hits me just in the right way at the moment. I love the fantasy version of Barnum and Charity's early relationship, and love the quick transition from urchin into fifty-something Jackman pretending to be thirty years younger.

Honestly, I think for me the things I love best are the things that speak to me as a father, so songs like 'From Now On' really strike the right chord with me. Others, not so much. My daughter hates Jenny Lind with a burning passion and refuses to watch her scenes, and that's no great loss.

My favourite part of the existence of 'The Greatest Showman' comes from the latest season of The Good Place, which states that Michael and Janet's meddling with the afterlife meant that the world is all messed up: Brexit happened, the Jacksonville Jaguars are good now, and this movie musical about PT Barnum made $400million...

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Given the problematic reality of the real life Barnum, would it have been better if the movie was entirely fictitious? Would people care enough to see a completely fantastical Musical about a made-up 19th Century huckster, or does the movie need some sliver of reality to make it work?

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20 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Given the problematic reality of the real life Barnum, would it have been better if the movie was entirely fictitious? Would people care enough to see a completely fantastical Musical about a made-up 19th Century huckster, or does the movie need some sliver of reality to make it work?

I think having a fictional character who is clearly inspired by Barnum would probably be better for me. Or at least not make him seem like he's the reason his side show performers are a big happy family. Imagine if, 100 years from now, there was a movie made about a scummy racist in 2019 but the movie made them seem like a father figure to the people he exploited.

I'll admit I'm not an expert on Barnum. It's possible some of his side show performers lived slightly better lives under him than they would have as poor nobodies. So, idk.

I did really like this movie when I saw it in theaters. I'm kind of harping on about this one thing but at least make the performers a family in spite of him instead of because of him. Honestly, that's my only real flaw with this.

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16 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

 Imagine if, 100 years from now, there was a movie made about a scummy racist in 2019 but the movie made them seem like a father figure to the people he exploited.

Coming soon to a theatre near you!

It's RUPERT!

The wise-cracking, fun-loving Australian urchin who rose to become the world's most beloved man and newspaper oligarch! For the Rupert Murdoch lover in YOUR life!

Coming on Trumpsday, 23rd of Trumpruary, 2122!

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14 minutes ago, Cakebug Tranch said:

Coming soon to a theatre near you!

It's RUPERT!

The wise-cracking, fun-loving Australian urchin who rose to become the world's most beloved man and newspaper oligarch! For the Rupert Murdoch lover in YOUR life!

Coming on Trumpsday, 23rd of Trumpruary, 2122!

Just imagine a journalism movie like All The Presidents Men or The Post but it's about News Of The World.

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9 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

Given the problematic reality of the real life Barnum, would it have been better if the movie was entirely fictitious? Would people care enough to see a completely fantastical Musical about a made-up 19th Century huckster, or does the movie need some sliver of reality to make it work?

I mean the movie as it exists now is like 75% fictitious (he met his wife in his 20s, there was no affair, his museum burnt down a bunch of times, Zendaya and Efron weren't real people, he didn't retire to be a father) so I don't know why they didn't just full hog on making things up. I think having a made up story about Barnum is very much in keeping with the spirit of Barnum.

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2 hours ago, grudlian. said:

Just imagine a journalism movie like All The Presidents Men or The Post but it's about News Of The World.

we're getting this in December!

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16 hours ago, Cam Bert said:

I mean the movie as it exists now is like 75% fictitious (he met his wife in his 20s, there was no affair, his museum burnt down a bunch of times, Zendaya and Efron weren't real people, he didn't retire to be a father) so I don't know why they didn't just full hog on making things up. I think having a made up story about Barnum is very much in keeping with the spirit of Barnum.

That’s what I mean though. The movie is almost entirely a work of fiction, so why tie it to Barnum at all? Does the Barnum name really carry that much cache in the 21st Century? And it’s not like the writers didn’t do their research. If the movie had been exactly the same except it starred Jackman as “Cecil the Circus Guy” would people have still gone to see it? Would it have even be green lit at all? 

Honestly, I wonder if the reason to put the Barnum name on it had anything to do with the impending implosion of the circus - which I believe ended the same year as this was released. I wouldn’t doubt it.

 

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3 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

That’s what I mean though. The movie is almost entirely a work of fiction, so why tie it to Barnum at all? Does the Barnum name really carry that much cache in the 21st Century? And it’s not like the writers didn’t do their research. If the movie had been exactly the same except it starred Jackman as “Cecil the Circus Guy” would people have still gone to see it? Would it have even be green lit at all? 

Honestly, I wonder if the reason to put the Barnum name on it had anything to do with the impending implosion of the circus - which I believe ended the same year as this was released. I wouldn’t doubt it.

 

It's interesting because by all accounts this was a passion project for Jackman. Like something he had been working on and trying to develop for a long time something like 5 years. With that in mind I think he just liked the idea of "circus the musical" and he probably thought the message of accepting and loving yourself despite of appearance and what society thinks was good. What says that more than the freakshow, who is famous for the freak show, etc. and it was backwards worked into being Barnum. 

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On 11/18/2019 at 5:03 PM, Cam Bert said:

I agree with this and I am also very curious about why the film even hired Rebecca Ferguson to play her in the first place if they were going to redub her completely after the fact as well. I get them redubbing Tom Thumb (although maybe not give him such a cartoony tough guy voice) because they needed an actor of a certain height, but you're telling me they couldn't find another actress that could sing and act? I read they redubbed it because she's suppose to be this great singer and Rebecca Ferguson wasn't good enough. Why was she cast then? I'm very curious at point in the process was it decided to completely redub her.

I agree completely having a singing actress would have been much better.  For me the greater "sin" is having such a bad song as her "debut".  This is a woman who sold out La Scala singing a song that just repeats over and over?  This shows her great range and talent?  For me, hardly.  Not to mention the "affair" took away completely from the story for me.  As others mentioned, it's a case of making a hero the villain.  There was no affair.  Jenny famously donated most or all of her earnings to charities.  She married the man who was her accompanist on the tour.

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As others have said the soundtrack outlasts the movie (except for the piano duet -- that works wonderfully for me on the screen and not so much on the soundtrack).  It also seems a little strange that Zac would be a rope master during his duet with Zendaya.  It would have worked for me more if he had taken a "leap of faith" and let her hold him to show his love for her instead of him matching her in some spots.

My other big part is Charity's role over all.  Her character was great as a kid and on the rooftop where he gives his daughter the projector.  She was good during the hammering song and when she shows that she bought the 3 tickets.  After that she kind of disappears.  It would have been good to see a slow burn on her part where he succeeds more and more and they show her increasing loneliness before she leaves him.  Then she takes him back at first chance?

I admit the entire movie charmed the socks off me the first time, to the point I saw it several more times in the theater.  However watching it since points up the holes more.  (Granted most movies do that and I try not to binge-watch TV shows for the same reason.)  This was a great pick and I appreciate the chance to revisit it.

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*late additional thoughts*

I do really like this Greatest Showman, but I am also fascinated by how intensely some people love it. I ended up revisiting it for Musical Mondays with the friend I saw it with in the theaters. It was the first time I had seen it since then, but it would have been at least the 10th time for my friend, which to me, who doesn't re-watch films that often anymore, seems almost insane. But whatever. It was cool to revisit a film with somebody who really loves it.

I think some of the shakey foundations in certain relationshipsis are not helped by the very arbitrary use of time in this film. Zac Efron just kind of shows up with an invitation from the Queen of England, then everyone decides that the invitation extends to the whole show, then the next scene they've made their way across the goddamn Atlantic. It's as if, in the course of two days, an invitation was sent to an entire cadre of performers, who then made travel arrangements, sailed to England, and made their way to Buckingham Palace at a time when a transatlantic trip actually took weeks. And all the business of how long it takes for Barnum to raise money, then build and rebuild his circus seems to be done over the course of a couple days as well. I think we're just supposed to intuit that all that is happening over weeks or months. All this is happening in the background as our characters are falling in and out of love with one another, so it makes it harder to track the emotional arcs of these relationships.

But then again, a lot of big historical musicals that we've covered in the past get into the details like this and, as a result, are bloated, slow, and have a running time approaching three hours. That would definitely not have worked for something like this.

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On 11/18/2019 at 6:13 AM, Cam Bert said:

One one hand I get it that you can't sell a historical musical biopic on the charm of Hugh Jackman alone

Speak for yourself!

I think this movie has a lot of songs that are very good in and of themselves and also don't fit with the story or world of the movie at all. It feels like a jukebox musical, only all the songs are originals. It's weird. Then again, maybe this was inevitable since the story just kind of lurches from plot point to plot point without providing much connective tissue at all.

And yeah, the historical revisionism is kind of off-putting and in a number of cases seemingly unnecessary. You could still do a story about misfits finding themselves while also acknowledging Barnum's faults. Hamilton manages it.

I theoretically understand why people are charmed by the musical numbers, but it didn't work for me.

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