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CULTURE ARTICLE

Can We Finally Be Excited About the 'Into the Woods' Movie?

The plot and the actors are all very nice, but a movie trailer's impact often relies on its soundtrack. Let's explore the latest Trailer Tunes and see how well they're working.

This Week's Trailer: A glimpse of Into the Woods, Rob Marshall's big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's beloved musical about what happens to fairy tale characters after they get to "happily ever after." Arriving on Christmas Day, it stars Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, and Johnny Depp.

This Week's Tune: Orchestral snippets of the Act I prologue and the amazing ballad "Stay With Me," in which the Witch tries to convince Rapunzel not to leave her tower.

How Faithful Is It? That's the big question, right? From the moment this movie was announced, there have been certain Sondheim purists---especially those who remember the disappointing Sweeney Todd film---who have hated it in advance. "Too many changes!" they cry. "Little Red shouldn't be played by a child actress! Meryl Streep isn't equipped for a role as vocally challenging as the Witch, and I doubt Christine Baranski's ability to play Cinderella's stepmother!"

Hahaha. Just kidding on that last one. Everyone loves Christine Baranski. But otherwise, I'll admit that even though I'm not willing to despise a movie I haven't seen, I've shared some of those doubts. Into the Woods might use fairy tale characters, but it's actually a sophisticated look at the consequences of adult desire. So you know… I don't want the movie version to screw it up by choosing family-friendly effects and A-list stars over a sensitive interpretation of the material.

This trailer, though, gives me hope. For one thing, it seems like Marshall and company have found an eerie cinematic language that honors the spirit of the show, but also plays like a movie, not a stage production on camera. In these glimpses of the major characters, we also get a sense of their massive, forbidding world, and it's thrilling.

And let's talk about those orchestral selections. As has become the custom with teasers for musical pictures, we don't actually hear any singing. Because god forbid we alienate anyone, right? But whatever. If these samples are any indication, then Sondheim's score is actually going to sound richer and fuller in this movie than it probably would in a Broadway revival. That's because Broadway economics are forcing shows to have fewer and fewer orchestra members, which means any score is almost guaranteed to sound diminished. A studio film, however, can afford many more musicians, hopefully resulting in a sound that is faithful to the composer's vision. So score one for Hollywood right there. (For those who keep track of these things, the film's orchestrations are by EGOT-er Jonathan Tunick, and the orchestra was conducted by the great Paul Gemignani. These are theatre pros who also have serious movie chops.)

How Emotional Is It? For me, these arrangements are producing chills, and it's largely because of what I just said: I'm relishing the chance to hear this music so beautifully wrought. Can Meryl Streep sing it? Can Johnny Depp? Who knows? But for now, it seems like there's going to be glorious life in this old gal.

Will We Associate It With This Movie? Chances are good that Sondheim fans will have boundless opinions about "the movie version." Hell… chances are good there will be some kind of convention near Times Square to parse the differences between this recording and all the others.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: Hope springs from my breast. I'm ready to see what happens in the woods.

Fomo Feed

“Her performance requires us to pay a great deal of attention to the detail and implication laid out across her expressive face, but the final result is a nothing less than a vigorously full-bodied creation.” In an ideal world, the amazing Lily Gladstone would have been an Oscar contender for her revelatory, @FilmIndependent-nominated performance in Kelly Reichardt’s exceptional drama CERTAIN WOMEN. Find out why. Link in bio.
John Cassavetes' SHADOWS (1959) — Peep THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on the marquee in the background
As we continue our #BlackHistoryMonth exploration of Tribeca selections helmed by black directors, it's time to turn our attention to a daring and genuinely monumental exercise that was ignored upon its first bow but remains radical and required viewing for anyone who cares about the past, present, and future of movies. In 2005, writer, director, documentarian, and film movement leader William Greaves debuted SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM: TAKE TWO AND A HALF, in which the late indie pioneer, with the help of invaluable executive producers Steve Buscemi and Steven Soderbergh, revisited and reconceived his 1968 avant-garde landmark, a cult classic and film school staple that acerbically captured the making of a film within a film within a film. Greaves' update of his experimental, docu-fictional meditation on the warped and knotty act of moviemaking only intensifies this fluid work's status as a bona fide cinematic revolution unto itself.
Like Haile Gerima's HARVEST: 3,000 YEARS, today's #BlackHistoryMonth selection highlights another retrospective screening from a past Tribeca Film Festival. From 1989, Charles Lane's Sidewalk Stories is a silent masterpiece that updates Charlie Chaplin's soulful slapstick for modern times but imparts a heartrending worldview all its own. It tells the story of a homeless New York artist who assumes parental responsibilities for the young daughter of a murdered man, finding humor and humanity in every corner of the city. If you have yet to see this independent gem, seek it out immediately.
“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Raoul Peck’s magnificent new film essay @IAmNotYourNegro dives into the complex legacy of the peerless, fearless writer and social critic James Baldwin, seen here in Istanbul circa 1960. @Eng_Matthew explains why it’s necessary viewing. Link in bio. #BlackLivesMatter

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