Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fantasmo Episode 42: Can't Stop the Music Vol. 3

It’s hard to believe, but another year of Fantasmo is coming to a close and you know what that means faithful Superfans . . . you Can’t Stop the Music! Yes it’s time once again for our annual holiday show featuring the Village People’s cinematic tour de force (not to even mention the important contributions of Steve Guttenberg and Bruce Jenner : ) Like fine wine some things only get better with age, and that is certainly the case with this much maligned 80’s musical classic! If you’ve never experienced this film at Fantasmo, it’s an absolute must . . . and I know those of you have witnessed its magic need no additional encouragement. What’s always the big question mark at the holiday show is what Rob and I will pull up to pair with CSTM. While there have been instances where we’ve really gone off the subject of music (e.g. Superman II: The Donner Cut), generally we aim to screen a like-minded film. Last year we had what seemed like the ultimate perfect partner in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band starring The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. Rarely has there been a film so disastrous and reviled by the general public! It was a great pairing to be sure, but this year we think we’ve managed to top it with . . .

Xanadu!!!! If ever there were a guilty pleasure on the order of CSTM this is definitely it! One of the greatest misfires in cinema history, this film managed to crush the careers of 70’s icon Olivia Newton-John and Warriors star Michael Beck. It even left a little bit of tarnish on the memory of screen legend Gene Kelly (what was he thinking?!?). To be fair the project, which combined the then hot trend of roller disco with golden age musical sensibilities, probably seemed like a great idea. After all Grease, which celebrated another bygone era with modern panache, was one of the 70’s biggest blockbusters. Bringing its female star to a similar project would be a no-brainer right? Wrong. By 1980, the year in which both CSTM and Xanadu were released, disco had been declared dead. Bands like Duran Duran, Human League, Flock of Seagulls, Talking Heads, etc., were all the rage, leaving little room for The Bee Gees, Village People, and their disco comrades in arms. Instead of ushering musical films into a new era, these two films managed to pound the nail in the coffin lid of modern musicals for quite some time (although Fox studios would unsuccessfully try to relaunch the genre in 1982 with the Kristy McNichol vehicle The Pirate Movie).

So what are you getting into with Xanadu? It’s basically the story of a struggling artist (Beck), and a washed up musician (Kelly) trying to open a roller disco club with the help of a mythical muse (Newton-John). All done to the tunes of Electric Light Orchestra and The Tubes, and even featuring a wildly unfortunate Don Bluth cartoon midway through. It’s easy to see in hindsight that this was pure lunacy, but let me assure you that despite all it has going against it Xanadu is truly a magical film. Much like CSTM there’s something about Xanadu which hooks you and never lets go. I think it’s probably the innocent feelgood attitude it (and CSTM) sports with a vengeance. The relentlessly positive spirit of both films is infectious, and keeps one returning again and again. Now I should state for the record that I generally don’t like old school musicals. I think that’s why, even though their plots are clearly derived from the golden age of musicals, these appeal to me personally. They integrate a somewhat edgier attitude in line with their times, and are loaded with kitschy qualities that contribute to numerous jaw dropping sequences . . . and the songs are incredibly catchy. This last point can make a world of difference, as horrible songs keep the 1980 Canon film The Apple (the subject of a memorable screening at our second Schlock-O-Thon) from reaching a similar beloved status.

With that little pep talk fresh in your mind, here are your 2008 holiday episode details:

When: Friday, December 5

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322


8:00 P.M. – Can’t Stop the Music (1980) – Rated PG

10:30 P.M. – Xanadu (1980) – Rated PG

So there you have it Superfans, perhaps the greatest holiday show lineup yet! We’re going to have some real trouble topping this next year, so you definitely don’t want to miss this one! See you there . . . and remember you Can’t Stop the Music so don’t even try : )

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