Sunday, June 15, 2008

Oklahoma (1955)

Until you have seen a troupe of tap-dancing men in chaps, you haven't seen anything - no I take that back - until you have seen an interpretive-ballet gunfight, you haven't seen anything.

I knew almost all the songs from Oklahoma, thanks to my best friend and, well, the whole world. But up till today, I'd never seen the movie. My good friends gave me a Rodgers and Hammerstein collection for my birthday, so I figured it was high time I watched it.

At first I thought that this movie seemed so gay because the song "I'm Just A Girl Who Cain't Say No" seems made for a drag queen to sing. Until the next song...which also seemed so camp it was asking to be remade in drag. That's when it dawned on me: I had seen this movie before - or parts of it. One night in a gay bar, between two pieces of fascinating hard-core gay porn, was this even more fascinating mash-up of electronic dance music and the ballet numbers from Oklahoma. And it's instantly recognizable as Oklahoma - cause what other cowboy musical is there?

Initially, we thought the DVD player was broken, because the volume was turned down and it seemed stuck on a title card. But once we turned the volume up it turned out that the first five minutes of the movie is a title card that says "Oklahoma Overture". This is followed by five minutes of credits and a long slow tracking shot through a cornfield. Obviously they wanted to pay homage to the theatrical score. Also, during intermission, there is a title card that says "Oklahoma Entre' Acte" useful if you need to pee and can't find the pause button on your DVD player's remote. Finally at the end is a card reading "Oklahoma Exit Music" so you have a score as you walk off to bed.

If that is not enough to bore you, there are also two or three very long interpretive ballets. In one of them, the two main characters are replaced by dancers who stand in for them as they act out the entire plot. At this point you could
a) opt to watch only the ballet-within-a-play and skip the rest of the movie
b) skip the ballet because you'd like to watch the rest of the movie
c) skip the ballet and the rest of the movie

I would not recommend option a unless you are a fan of pantomime. A BIG fan. The only reason I would recommend b over c is the closing number, Oklahoma! gives me chills. It is just an awesome musical number. One of the best of all time, I'll wager.

Other than that, there are some fun moments, outrageous costumes, the great character Annie - unprecedented as far as I have seen - a stubbornly silly girl who stubbornly stands up for her right to sleep around.

I like the female lead, but the male lead is one of those full-grown men playing a young man that never seems quite right. Also the leads have a habit of singing "graahnd" as if they were brought up in Boston and then singing "I keer" in a bastardization of an Oklahoma accent. It's awkward, if not outright offensive.

I did enjoy the movie, but less than I had expected, based on the music.

Two stars, one for the costumes, one for the title number.


Jessica said...

Didn't "Oklahoma" bring back fond memories of towing the Lemondrop out of Gitchy Goomy? "Oh the farmer and the cowman should be friends..."

So, my feeling about musicals in general: Sometimes you just have to love them for the songs and ignore minor things like the story line, etc. Wait until I blog "Finian's Rainbow." I sing the songs to myself all the time, but every time I sit down to watch the movie I end up swearing to never see it again. But then years later, after a lot more happy singing, I get confused and say, "Wait, it can't really be that bad. I love the songs." But yes, it is that bad!

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