I have been sadly disorganized the past two weeks and have done very little from my voluminous to-do list, which of course includes "write post!" (the goal being at least every other day). Alas! I have been reading instead of writing.
But an easy way to ensure that this little site does not go completely dormant is to make a Top Ten list. I am not the first to indulge in this kind of filler, and I certainly won't be the last. So herewith, my Top Ten Dance Movies.
10. Save the Last Dance. An interracial romance, family tragedy, cultural tensions, ambition and fear. A really good central performance from Julia Stiles (who I appreciate as much for her lovely speaking voice - so rare! - as her acting skills) and an interesting look at the elemental teenage problem of fitting in.
9. Shall We Dance (US, Richard Gere). This one has to be in the top ten because it's specifically about ballroom dancing. I thought the script rewrite gave Gere's character a believable motivation, I have always thought Jennifer Lopez is underrated as an actress, and I really enjoyed Lisa Ann Walters in her role as the brassy blonde (as we've since seen in "Dance Your Ass Off," Lisa is really a big softie).
8. Center Stage. This one makes it because it addresses the real challenges facing young theatrical dancers, but in a way that still makes the career seem possible, for those who dream of ballet. The Broadway studio scene is really exciting. Plus, the big finale number (completely unrealistic as a stage piece!) is way cool.
7. The Company. What a harrowing picture! But such beautiful, beautiful dancing. There really isn't anything I didn't like about this one.
6. Step Up. The "streets to the stage" story arc is hardly original, but the lead performance and the writing around it gave considerable gravity to the protagonist's challenges. There is the stock character who really wants to be a gangsta - the one character who is a criminal out of desire, not out of inertia - and, rather shockingly, this character does not get redemption. His fate is the heart attack that finally gets the chubby middle-aged man off the couch (metaphor alert). The dance numbers were also great.
5. Silk Stockings. Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in a musical re-imagination of "Ninotchka," which is itself a great movie. This one has some sublime dance numbers as well as fun songs.
4. The Band Wagon. Fred and Cyd again, and while this is not primarily a dance movie, the staging of "Dancing in the Dark" is so indelibly gorgeous that a new Broadway musical, based on this movie, was written under that title. Sadly, there will never be another Fred. (Incidentally, Mr. P and I saw the new musical down at The Globe in San Diego, and it was fun - and had a more cohesive story - but Scott Bakula, with all respect, is no Fred Astaire and they didn't even attempt to stage any dances for him. Plus, there was a weird modern-day coda which to me needed to be written out; the show had just gotten to the point where the hero and heroine finally get it together! I needed some payoff!)
4. Strictly Ballroom (tie). The beautiful Paul Mercurio and a cast of terrific Aussie actors in the quintessential ballroom sendup - which is at the same time a family drama, a romance, and a sports movie. It even has a training montage. Funny, sad, exciting, and funny - with a thrilling finale.
3. Singing in the Rain. The great Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds, not to mention Jean Hagen, hilarious as a screeching harpy of a flapper. Unforgettable dance numbers and songs. A witty and fast-paced script, too.
2. Top Hat. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, "Cheek to Cheek," and the famous feather dress. A very witty script well-delivered by the RKO stable.
1. Shall We Dance (1997, Japan). Koji Yakusho and his performance as a stifled salaryman got me dancing. I saw this movie three weekends in a row. Someone from L.A. Dance Experience had left flyers in the theatre lobby (smart!). I started dancing and have never wanted to stop.
Okay, so I cheated and put eleven of 'em. Did you really think I could stop at ten?? And there's only one Astaire & Rogers film? Only one Gene Kelly? Well, it was an impossible task. But there you go.