My dear friend… let us not forget that heaven is blue.

Yellow Submarine (1968)   The best thing The Beatles ever did? Well, apart from Tomorrow Never Knows. And that’s without their involvement, aside from a brief appearance at the close of the picture (Wiki has it this was a contractual obligation, while the alternate explanation is that, when they saw what director George Dunning and co were cooking up, they readily approved and agreed to feature in the flesh). Forget Theodore Adorno, this is the ultimate version of the Fab Four as fabrications, distilled into much more appealing incarnations of themselves and voiced with wit and distinction by a quintessential

The plot, I found a shade torturous, but the exposition of it, remarkably adroit.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)   Goodbye, Mr. Chips really oughtn’t to be as agreeable as it is. More still, it ought to stink. Its raison d’être is, after all, a complete bust: James Hilton’s novella reconceived as a musical. Perhaps the manner in which the songs entirely fail to take centre stage – unless the songs are diegetically taking place ona stage – saves this element; by and large, they’re solo soliloquies utilising montage or controlled choreography, rather than flamboyant budget busters. It would still have been preferable had they’d been entirely absent – and easy to see why a number of them

I can’t wait to get back to all that music and fun and diversion.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)   While up to its eyeballs in Oirishness – Disney had attempted to secure professional Hollywood Oirishman Barry Fitzgerald as Darby, to no avail – this adaptation of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh’s stories is surprisingly unfiltered by the studio’s predilection for sentimentality and cutesiness. The Sean Connery-Janet Munro romance lends Darby O’Gill and the Little People a sniff of a supernatural (or is it?) The Quiet Man, while Albert Sharpe’s unmoderated accent – unless you’re unfortunate enough to see it on Disney+ – in concert with the emphasis on boozing, all the while with the main drama/comedy revolving

Don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

My Fair Lady (1964)   As an adaptation, My Fair Lady is hardly a cinematic triumph. George Cukor brings none of the acumen Robert Wise did to The Sound of Music (or West Side Story), or even the comic-strip brio Robert Stevenson daubed across Mary Poppins. It’s (very) expensive, sumptuously costumed, shot and lit, and rather inert. But as a performance piece, this take on the 1956 Lerner and Loewe stage musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, is irresistible. I certainly can’t countenance the idea that Julie Andrews was robbed of the part. I mean, yeah, she didn’t get to repeat her stage performance,

Do you wanna start World War III?

West Side Story (2021)   Spielberg’s West Side Story remake isn’t merely redundant; it’s a lifeless, mechanical VR machine version of the original, the kind of soulless facsimile you’d expect to find discarded in some corner of his other recent, empty attempt at recapturing youthful brio, Ready Player One. The director previously dipped a toe in musical waters with the dance-hall tumble of 1941 and the opening number from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; both set pieces tantalised the prospect of his tackling an entire movie with such energy and aplomb. But they were forty-odd years ago, and he’s no longer the same eager geek.

You’re going to make me drop a donkey.

Encanto (2021)   By my estimation, Disney brand pictures are currently edging ahead of the Pixars. Not that there’s a whole lot in it, since neither have been at full wattage for a few years now. Raya and the Last Dragon and now Encanto are collectively just about superior to Soul and Luca. Generally, the animation arm’s attempts to take in as much cultural representation as they possibly can, to make up for their historic lack of woke quotas, has – ironically – had the effect of homogenising the product to whole new levels. So here we have Colombia, renowned the world over for the US’s benign intervention in

Good heavens, we’ve completely forgotten it’s Christmas!

Meet Me in St. Louis  (1944)   Seasonal fare, in as much as it covers all four of them. Meet Me in St. Louis isn’t the kind of musical designed to win the attention of those, such as myself, already reticent of the genre. Scant of plot, it very loosely follows the dramas – if you can call them that – of the Smith family over the year leading to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair. I dare say I may have seen the movie before, as a nipper; certainly, many of the songs are familiar, which always helps when a

I’d like a pint of Prospect Park.

Wonder Man (1945)   For my money, the best Danny Kaye movie, although most of the plaudits tend to go – also quite reasonably – to The Court Jester or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Kaye makes the most of Wonder Man’s dual roles, showing off both his theatrical and introvert modes, and the screenplay’s a veritable wind-up motor for gags based on disbelief in supernatural goings on. Double takes at the ready! Buzzy: He’s a bookworm… I’m just a worm. The plot – with a story from Arthur Sheekman (Duck Soup), the screenplay is credited to five writers including Don Harman (a slew of

We got two honkies out there dressed like Hassidic diamond merchants.

The Blues Brothers (1980)   I had limited awareness of John Belushi’s immense mythos before The Blues Brothers arrived on retail video in the UK (so 1991?) My familiarity with SNL performers really began with Ghostbusters’ release, which meant picking up the trail of Jake and Elwood was very much a retrospective deal. I knew Animal House, knew Belushi’s impact there, knew 1941 (the Jaws parody was the best bit), knew Wired was a biopic better avoided. But the minor renaissance he, and they, underwent in the UK in the early ’90s seemed to have been initiated by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, of all things; Everybody Needs Somebody was part of their That Sounds

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965)   One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but