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I want to preface this post by saying: I love Jennifer Hudson. I love her voice. I love the passion and power of her presence.

That being said:

She was the wrong person to sing Memory for this abomination of a movie.

This song is nostalgic and melancholy. Going through the lyrics, there are lines like "I can smile like the old days, I was beautiful then, "Withered leaves collect at my feet," and "Burnt out ends of smoky days, the stale cold smell of morning." Each of these lines suggest feelings of deep regret and sadness. Further, the time signature shifts from 12/8 to 10/8 within the chorus, which gives a rhythmically uneasy feeling to the song. These are not confident musical motions meant to communicate strength or resolve, quite the opposite. The slightly-off feeling time signatures accompanied by shifts between major and minor tonalities give the sense of complex emotions being weighed down by memories of a past glory. While Hudson did an adequate job with the early verses, when she let loose on the last verse it went from melancholy to pure generic emotion. Her voice pushed the words too strongly, to the point it would have communicated resilience had the lyrics sounded such. 

Even as June and Jason were discussing this in the episode, they didn't really discuss WHICH emotion Hudson was expressing, just using the term "emotive." This may have been from the confusion of the tone and the lyrics. They knew it was emotive, but didn't key into what exactly was being emoted. In the last verse, the key line is "Touch me, it's so easy to leave me, all alone with MY memory of my days in the sun." Imagine this being sung as type of Swan Song, the last breath of someone wrought with regret. There may be some anger, but it's not about what others did to this person. It's more of a lamentation about aging.

Hudson's voice doesn't capture this type of song very well and it was just a bad match. I would love to hear Hudson sing some of the old school Ethel Merman or Bette Midler broadway tunes like "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (From Gypsy) or "As Long as He Needs Me" (From Oliver!). Her voice would be killer in songs like that.

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While I respect that Jason doesn't like Musical, here are three suggestions that HDTGM should honestly cover:

Repo!Soundtrack-Standard.jpg

(Because it's gross and I think it would blow Jason and June's minds.)

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(A Cannon film and all that entails)

PhantomOfTheParadise_30x40_USA_RichardCo

(A legitmately amazing cult classic)

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10 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

While I respect that Jason doesn't like Musical, here are three suggestions that HDTGM should honestly cover:

Repo!Soundtrack-Standard.jpg

(Because it's gross and I think it would blow Jason and June's minds.)

MV5BMTMwMjg5Mjg4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTM0

(A Cannon film and all that entails)

PhantomOfTheParadise_30x40_USA_RichardCo

(A legitmately amazing cult classic)

While I think Phantom of the Paradise is legit too good for the show, they would have a lot to talk about with it for sure. All great choices. Seeing the Rockula poster just makes me want to rewatch it.

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Skimbleshanks may be made up and have a false sense of authority, but let me tell you the amazing true story of Tama the cat that actually ran a railway.

In the early 2000s the Wakayama Electric Railway Company was facing hard times. The Kishigawa line was dropping in passengers and the company was severally in the red. They tried to close the smaller less used stations but faced massive resistance. A compromise was made. Local business owners were named station mangers of these smaller stations and were in charge of opening them, maintaining them, dealing with passengers. etc. Koyama Yoshiko who ran a small shop near the Kishi station was picked to be its manager. Koyama had been looking after and feeding 4 stray cats that lived in the area. The newest addition to the family, Tama, took a liking to living and sleeping in the station. As a joke Koyama made a special collar and got a tiny hat for Tama and created a sign that had Tama introducing herself as the station manager and greeting the passengers. Soon word in the area got out about this cat station manager and people started traveling to Kishi station to see her. Word spread out further and further and soon people from across the area were all flocking to see the cat. Wakayama Electric Railway Company got wind of this and seeing the increase in business made Tama an official station manger with a special made hat, ceremony and everything. As word grew and spread across the country so did Tama's position. An old ticket booth was remolded into being a home for Tama. She climbed the ranks becoming a super station master then operating officer of the company and then managing executive officer. Photobooks of Tama were widely sold, she got a new uniform, goods of all kinds were made of her, and eventually the station got profitable enough that they remodeled the whole station into a cat themed station. The train line got into the black and made a special Tama themed train. The increase in tourism from Tama's popularity boosted the local economy so greatly Tama was knighted for her work. Eventually Tama was named honorary president of Wakayama Electric Railway Company for single handedly turning the entire company around. Sadly in 2015 Tama passed away at the ripe old age of 15. There was a massive funeral attended by the entire top brass of the Wakayama Electric Railway Company. There was a statue erected to her and she was finally given the title of "Eternal Station Master" of the Kishi station. 

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1 hour ago, Cam Bert said:

While I think Phantom of the Paradise is legit too good for the show, they would have a lot to talk about with it for sure. All great choices. Seeing the Rockula poster just makes me want to rewatch it.

Yeah, I think Phantom would definitely fall into “Thank God this Got Made” territory.

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23 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

grizabella_112811.jpg

This was Judi Dench's role in the original cast before she broke her ankle and had to be replaced. She was also going to be Jennyanydots since the show allows for some actors to play multiple parts.

There are a lot of weird choices in this movie that only make sense for fans of the Broadway production, like Jennyanydots unzipping her skin. That's a reference to an onstage costume change where she removes basically a fur coat and then has sequins on and does a dance. I think the film would have been better received among a certain demographic if they had leaned further into the weird horniness and went full-furry instead of falling into the uncanny valley. I also remember seeing a paper (which I admit I haven't read) which mentions that people on the autism spectrum may not experience the uncanny valley effect in the same way as neurotypical individuals. I don't know if Tom Hooper is on the spectrum, but that could be an explanation for why production proceeded in this direction. 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6211702/

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No one has mentioned Kimmy Schmidt's terrific send up of CATS the play where it's something of an Emperor's New Clothes. Webber had just won a Tony for Evita in 1980 and CATS came out in 1981. I can easily imagine that it could be embarrassing to admit you didn't "get it" at the time and everyone has just accepted it.

My favorite bit of trivia of this movie is that Idris Elba, who himself is allergic to cats, had been named People's Sexiest Man of the Year in November 2018, a month after he accepted the role of Macavity. My personal theory is that Macavity is a lost pet, which is why there are signs with his face on them, though many of the signs switch during the first song from being about human things to cat things/puns to signify we are entering the jellicle world.
 

 

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Okay, one last comment.

Jason mentioned the green screen issue. From the special features, it's clear that they used some other method where the actors/dancers were recorded using transponders in their suits rather than visual dots which would be painted on (though the faces had the reference dots and cat makeup painted on). They don't go too closely into detail, but this recorded multiple actors at once and their positions relative to each other and the set. You can see they are wearing weird white coresets with antennae coming out of small packs on their backs in the DVD features. It's mentioned briefly in this youtube clip, but not really and mostly shows the rehearsals:

 



I don't recommend the commentary for the film, but the other special features are interesting to see how pivotal it seems Taylor Swift was in getting this greenlit and how everyone seems pretty optimistic about the finished project.

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What I absolutely loved about this movie was not the movie, but one of my friends' reactions to it.

As Paul mentioned at the end of this episode, a lot of movie drafthouses started doing rowdy-showings of Cats, and the Alamo in VA was hosting one early this year. That sounded like it would be hilarious, so me and a handful of friends (we all love to riff on movies/shows) decided it'd be a fun night, and got tickets. The night of the show, a different friend of mine texts me, and asks if I wanted to do something, and I tell them that we're going to watch a rowdy screening of Cats. He asks if he can join, and he gets to the Alamo with about a minute to spare...

They had cat ears for us to wear, a cat toy at each seat, the cocktails came in little cat saucers, they gave us name tags to write our jellicle names on them. They encouraged us to sing-along and be generally rowdy (as long as we weren't yelling the whole time). About a minute into the first song, the last-minute-addition friend leans to me and asks "Is this going to be one of those singing things? ... 'cause I hate those."  It turns out, he'd never heard of the Broadway show, the poems, none of it. The only thing he knew was that it was a movie that came out last year, and totally bombed. (He'd seen midnight showings with our group of things like The Room, and Monty Python, so he was always down for a hilarious movie) But he was completely unprepared for what a delightful travesty we'd experience. He'd occasionally  ask what this or that meant, who these cats were, etc. and the rest of our group got to watch his face contort as we explained "Nothing means anything." I think it was about 3/4 of the way through, we see a scene of a lit-up city street (or alleyway, I can't remember) with no people, and he asks

him: "So, is like the plot that the world ended in 1920's London?"
me: "The real world ended about 80 minutes ago, and this is our last acid-trip, fever-dream before we all die."
him: "No, but like...what's the plot?"
me: "A bunch of cats are auditioning to die."
him: "Seriously? That's it?"
me: "That is it."
him: "...metal."

And given all the times the whole theater was chanting for two cats to kiss (who never did), when Grizabella and Old Deuteronomy are in the hot air balloon, that same friend yells out "OKAY! YOU KISS, THEN! I DON'T REALLY CARE WHO, AT THIS POINT!", which got a great laugh from the theater. After the movie, we all joked about not knowing whether we actually died in that theater or not. And about 4 days later...the Covid lock-downs started happening. To this day, we blame Covid-19 not on illegal pangolin-trade, but Cats.

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1 hour ago, Bat Facts said:

I think the film would have been better received among a certain demographic if they had leaned further into the weird horniness and went full-furry instead of falling into the uncanny valley.

I said something similar in my Letterboxd review. I feel like this movie would have been better with either practical costumes (like the stage show) or been a full on CG animated movie. Like, you’re watching this movie for the dancing, and ultimately, even the real stuff looks fake.

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Ok. I made an account to respond to episode. In many ways, my entire life has been leading up to this. When I was a child I had a substantial surgery where I was on bed rest a while with a lot of Children's Motrin. I chose to spend my recovery watching the VHS of the 1998 performance film of Cats every day. I became obsessed and literally watched the VHS to Cats EVERY SINGLE DAY for over a year. I would estimate I've seen that specific filming of Cats at least 200 times. I have also seen the stage show a few times and then saw the 2019 movie in theaters I think three times. I had a Cats (musical) themed birthday party. Yes, I've become a weird 26 year old, also gay. Obviously. Also I am unfortunately a Swiftie and studied film theory, so 2019 was a big year for me.

I could write a dissertation on Cats, but I'll make this as brief as possible. Off the bat, I would say the movie is very different than the musical- it definitely has more plot than the stage. The musical takes place in an abstract theater space and is just kind of silly songs with the underlining “plot” of cats introducing themselves and their culture to the audience to see which of them will go to the Heavy Side Layer to be reborn. In the film, the cats introduce themselves to Victoria, a white cat in the stage show that typically gets a ballet solo, but no songs. I think for what the musical is, they made a much more digestible story in this movie, which still does not make sense! To enjoy Cats you have to radically accept nonsense, and it’s not easy. My biggest critique of Cats (2019), is with the new song that Andrew Llyod Webber and Taylor Swift. The song “The Naming of The Cats” is about the real names of cats that humans don’t know and explains why you have characters who are named Mungojerrie, Skimbleshanks, etc. Essentially, when cats get to choose their name they go wild. Victoria is not a cat name, Victoria is a name that a human gave to a cat, so it would make sense in her original song that she gets to name herself something like Fluffergumbles. Instead they give her a ballad in a musical that already has an iconic ballad. I feel like this film didn’t fully commit to the (illogical) logic of the musical, and that is my main problem with it. I have other things to say but I will get carried away and I'm actually supposed to be working right now. Skimbleshanks is the best cat because he has actually has a job.

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7 hours ago, Meredeath said:

Skimbleshanks is the best cat because he has actually has a job

Sure. 

Quote

To this day, we blame Covid-19 not on illegal pangolin-trade, but Cats.

I also buy this. 

You all make excellent points. 

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Does everyone want to share their cat name?

I’m Piddledimple the Literary Cat.

71a5UsLFdrL._AC_SX425_.jpg

 

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In my elementary school all 3rd graders were weirdly required to pick a performance arts “class”. Option 1 was CLOGGING. Option 2 was putting on puppet shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and Phantom. I desperately wanted to avoid clogging in front of the entire school to Elvira by Home Free, so I opted for the Cats puppet show. The teacher that ran it was obsessed with everything Andrew Lloyd Webber and rehearsals were like David O Russell’s I Heart Huckabees behind the scenes. She shared with us all her Cats knowledge and how it was so clever that Deuteronomy was the name of an old cat because Deuteronomy is one of the older books of the Bible/Torah. I think about the puppet show more than I’d like to. During Phantom I played the title character and my 3rd grade crush played Christine. The teacher put a lot of pressure on us to have our puppets kiss but even our 3rd grade brains knew that was super weird. 
I was horrified to see clogging in this movie. 

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On 11/25/2020 at 9:44 AM, Jozinga said:

In my elementary school all 3rd graders were weirdly required to pick a performance arts “class”. Option 1 was CLOGGING. Option 2 was putting on puppet shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and Phantom. I desperately wanted to avoid clogging in front of the entire school to Elvira by Home Free, so I opted for the Cats puppet show. The teacher that ran it was obsessed with everything Andrew Lloyd Webber and rehearsals were like David O Russell’s I Heart Huckabees behind the scenes. She shared with us all her Cats knowledge and how it was so clever that Deuteronomy was the name of an old cat because Deuteronomy is one of the older books of the Bible/Torah. I think about the puppet show more than I’d like to. During Phantom I played the title character and my 3rd grade crush played Christine. The teacher put a lot of pressure on us to have our puppets kiss but even our 3rd grade brains knew that was super weird. 
I was horrified to see clogging in this movie. 

I have nothing to add, just loved everything about this.

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