film fatales #113: shadow in the cloud (roseanne liang, 2020)
losing it at the movies: one flew over the cuckoo's nest (miloš forman, 1975)

original cast album: company (d.a. pennebaker, 1970)

This is the thirty-second film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 32 is called "Documentary Now! Week".

As film enthusiasts, we owe it to ourselves to watch anything that caters to the more niche aspects of our hobby. And Documentary Now! may be the most inside baseball show about movies since The Critic. Helen Mirren hosts this Masterpiece-Theater-in-its-own-right lampoon of some of the most influential documentaries ever made. Its a show made with so much respect and love for its source material while also providing delightful caricatures of said films. In order to get the most of the show, this week's a little bit of a challenge+, as you must check out both a documentary they have parodied and the episode that parodies the film you select.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film parodied in "Documentary Now!" AND the corresponding episode.

This is only my second year doing the Letterboxd Challenge, but I'd have to say this week's category was the most complicated I've seen yet. Not only did I watch a movie, I watched a related televsion show, from a series I admit I'd never heard of, Documentary Now! It's a mockumentary, created by some SNL folks, that takes a real documentary and parodies it. Helen Mirren appears as the Masterpiece-like host. Some of those real docs were hard to find, and I ended up with Original Cast Album: Company almost by default. It's a "direct cinema" film from D.A. Pennebaker, which in itself gives it some interest.

Pennebaker was invited into the session to record the cast album for Company, which had just begun its run. It was intended to be a pilot for a proposed series, but that idea fell apart, leaving just this one example. It's the usual fly-on-the-wall approach, and more interesting if you are familiar with Company (I was not). There were a few familiar names, even to me. Dean Jones, who starred in a zillion Disney movies like That Darn Cat! and The Love Bug, was the male lead and showed off a fine voice. The legendary Elaine Stritch was her inimitable self. Best of all was Beth Howland. At the time, she was known for appearing in stage musicals, and she was the original Amy in Company. But I recognized her for the nine years and 200+ episodes she appeared in the TV show Alice. I don't think I even knew she could sing. Amy, it turns out, gets to be the main singer for "Getting Married Today", which is described by Wikipedia: "With 68 words sung in a total of 11 seconds, "Getting Married Today" was notable for being the most difficult musical song with the fastest verse in history."

As for the Documentary Now! parody ... what's the word, meh. It was close to the original, too close ... the only humor came from making the connections to the original. There was nothing inherent in what they were doing that was funny. It's quite the academic exercise, though.

Comments

Arthur

I was actually in a student production of Company at Cal and it was one of the best show experiences I had while at school. We definitely watched the section of the documentary with the producers (and Sondheim himself?) making Stritch redo her song over and over to get it to their liking. I still really love the music in the show, granted I have happy memories attached to it. Even if I didn't, though, I think I'd still feel that 'Being Alive' might be the best Sondheim song period.

Steven Rubio

I was thinking about you as I watched the movie. I was trying to figure out how the various actor/singers were able to get involved for a recording, especially if they had a live performance near that time. It's one thing doing a patter song, and Stritch was just tired. But the others ... how can they access the emotions when there is nothing but a mic in front of them. Then I realized, that's how musicians make their studio recordings. It's not that hard if you're already good at it.

In 1980, we saw Bruce Springsteen 5 times in a week. Each show, I would rush the stage near the end, and watch him belt out "Jungleland". How did he do it, I wondered, cranking it up night after night for an emotional blast like that song. Then I realized ... he was acting. We just don't expect that from musicians.

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