The Ultimate Movie Musicals Bracket - Round One, Day One
Let's set the stage.
Hello, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful and restful Labor Day weekend (unless you don’t live in the United States, in which case I hope you just had a wonderful and restful weekend, period). For those of you who aren’t paid subscribers, it’s been a minute and a half! (You really ought to become a paid subscriber, because then you’ll get more work for me once a week. Just $5 a month or $50 a year!) That, of course, is thanks to the latest edition of my essay series The Disney Canon, which posted yesterday. I wrote there about the ultimate blank-check movie, Fantasia.
But the time has come, for something very exciting. Yes, of course, it’s a new bracket, but it’s part of a new frontier of brackets…because it’s not specifically about Disney. Who’s ready for the Ultimate Movie Musicals Bracket? As is always the case with the first day and the first round, I’ll start by answering your questions before we dig into the voting fun.
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Are you even allowed to do a bracket that isn’t about Disney?
If you don’t tell my good friend Bob Iger, I won’t.
Does this mean there are no more Disney brackets to come?
I would not say that, specifically because I have at least one more supersized theme-park bracket up my sleeve for sometime next year. But listen, let’s be realistic. I have been doing these brackets, either on Twitter or Substack, for nearly 3 and a half years, and that’s not a fact that makes my eyes bulge out at the passage of time and at my frivolous activities! The poin here is, even with the brief breaks I’ve built in over the last year or so, I’ve done a lot of Disney brackets. Songs? Done. Parks? Done. Movies? Done. Characters? And so on. I’m not sure what else is left, especially since there’s fewer voters (which is not a bad thing) here than there were on Twitter. I’m open to suggestions, of course, but I think it’s time to branch out.
Can I see the full bracket?
I see you found a way to keep Disney alive here, huh?
Yes, it’s true, there are some Disney films in this bracket. Mary Poppins is the quintessential Disney film, yes, but it’s also a pretty notable musical and would feel weird to omit from this set of 128 seeds. I did limit myself to just a handful or two of titles from the House of Mouse, but some of those titles are among the best or most memorable musicals of all time.
I see a few films here that feel…I don’t know, not exactly musicals.
I would submit that the musical genre is more than just one type of film. It’s true that my categorization of movie musical includes movies about real-life bands. (One of those real-life bands is the subject of a film that is part of the very first matchup in today’s post.) But seeing as those movies are as squarely about the musicians as about their songs being performed on screen, I would argue that they fit within the genre.
What if I don’t like musicals?
I said what if I—
No, I hear you. I’m saying I’m sorry that you don’t like musicals. But also, I am shrugging, because — to quote a favorite line of mine from a film with lots of music but not a musical — that is a YP, not an MP. I appreciate that some folks have a difficult time suspending their disbelief when people in a film burst into song and dance, and yet those some folks have a very easy time suspending their disbelief when watching superhero movies! We’ll all survive here.
Are all of these movies good, in your opinion?
My word, no. With the grievous admission that I actually haven’t seen all 128 of the seeds here, I can say with certainty they are not all classics.
Is that your way of saying that the adaptations of Cats and Dear Evan Hansen are in this bracket?
Whatever could you mean, I wonder. (I should note — I reviewed the latter of those titles.)
What about Cats?
Oh, we’ll get there when we get there.
For those of us who like musicals but have not seen all of these, what do we do?
For anyone who does not already know: I love bracket-related chaos. You not being familiar with each film here should not stop you from voting, especially if you choose — in a word — chaos. But I will include a scene or moment from each film here (if not a trailer) for your viewing pleasure and reference before you vote.
When does the vote start?
(1) Singin’ in the Rain vs. (64) Bohemian Rhapsody: So, I have not seen Bohemian Rhapsody, but boy, I have seen the clips of its janky editing and questionable performances, and…yikes. But you know what? Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite film of all time. Doesn’t really matter how well I know the story of Freddie Mercury, because just about any other film would lose in this matchup. Vote for dignity. Always dignity. (AKA, vote for Singin’ in the Rain.)
Singin’ in the Rain
(32) In the Heights vs. (33) Hamilton: On one hand, I would like to make my opinion known here (so back up!): Hamilton is a movie. I find it weird that people debated whether the 2020 Disney+ release was a movie, when it very much was. Was it a fully realized adaptation of the stage phenom? No. But it’s a movie. On the other hand, in this battle of the Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptations, I’m giving the edge to In the Heights; I prefer Hamilton as a show, but Jon M. Chu made In the Heights an effectively flashy, slickly stylized movie musical.
In the Heights
(16) Little Shop of Horrors vs. (49) Paint Your Wagon: I have nothing against Paint Your Wagon as it allowed us to all enjoy a very funny bit from a season 9 episode of The Simpsons. But a) I have also not seen Paint Your Wagon, and Little Shop of Horrors is the prototype for the Menken/Ashman musicals of the Disney Renaissance. Suddenly, I think you should vote for Seymour.
Little Shop of Horrors
Paint Your Wagon
(17) Royal Wedding vs. (48) Cat Ballou: You ever go down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and get shocked at what you find? To wit, one time earlier this year — I obviously do not recall what prompted the start of the rabbit hole — I was stunned to realize that Lee Marvin, one of the great tough guys of American cinema, won just one Oscar…for Cat Ballou. For Cat Ballou! (I can only assume this film’s success was partial inspiration for his role in the above Paint Your Wagon.) It seems incorrect, and yet it is very much historical record. That mystifying detail aside, I feel like Fred Astaire’s iconic dance on the ceiling in Royal Wedding is going to be enough to send him to the next round, as it should.