When the movie Annie was released in 1982 I was a month away from turning nine years old. The perfect age to see the movie since the orphan characters are in the same general bracket.
I don’t think it was one I saw in the theatres but I definitely learned every single song in the flick after seeing it numerous times. It was my foray into learning a few things about movies, music, what I liked about both as a kid and how the mashup of the two became a staple in my life.
First, musicals. Annie was probably the first one I’d ever seen, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. From Disney gems like Aladdin to grownup plots like Grease, give me a movie with singing and dancing as part of the script and I’m in love.
And I’m also learning every single word so I can sing along.
Which of course prompts the question: Do I break out into random song and dance in my daily life because I watched musical movies or was I already predisposed to singing and dancing my way through life so the movies just feel normal?
So many of my favorite movies have a script punctuated by music that crosses over into the character’s lives.
Stand by Me. You may argue with me this isn’t a musical, which it isn’t in the traditional sense of the word. But the music of the time period in which the movie was set had such a heavy influence on the script and characters that I count it nonetheless. Go back and watch the movie and see how many times the kids break out into song or dance.
Another that falls into a similar category? Singles. A true ‘90’s classic with so much musical influence a bunch of the members of Pearl Jam co-star in the film. As another band who’s front man is one of the main characters.
My mom and I used to duet half of Xanadu. Okay, “used to” is a little overstated. I think the last time we did this was, what? Two years ago?
Rock Star? Without the music there would be no movie. Literally. The main character becomes the lead singer of his favorite band. Fame and all its tragic glory ensues. It’s awesome.
And that’s just scratching the surface because if my CD collection or iTunes are any indication, I have way more than a summer romance with soundtracks.
Because that’s the second thing I learned from musical movies: soundtracks are awesome. If I had to guess, I’d estimate 40 or 50 soundtracks exist in my CD/vinyl/digital collection. And that’s probably conservative because, of the seven movie posters hanging on my walls, I can say with 100% certainty I own four of the soundtracks.
Recently I finished binging Parks and Recreation and in episode 3, season 4, the characters Ben and April take a road trip. April, looking through Ben’s CD collection asks why he has so many soundtracks. The ones she listed off? I have all of them.
His character then sums it up so beautifully:
“I kind of look at it as your favorite directors making a mix tape just for you.”
I mean, Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn’t have half of its plot if it wasn’t for the literal mix tape owned by the main character. And that’s a movie for dudes, right?
Many men wouldn’t admit to it but they love a good musical movie. Don’t believe me? Poll the men in your life, ask if they’re a fan of The Blues Brothers. Yup. That’s what I thought. Singing and dancing pretty much was their mission. They were so committed to music they tell the audience, through song of course, what type of music they’re representing in four little words: “I’m a soul man.”
What brings me back to today’s song choice is the last thing these flicks taught me. The promise of what musical movies provide. The knowledge that, after their final number, everything is going to work out okay despite the tragedies they face in the moment.
Annie almost dies on a drawbridge when another character chases her to the top and he’s got her hand then…okay I can’t talk about it, that scene scared the crap out of me as a kid. And the only thing that changed my mind about Tim Curry after that? You guessed it, Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But in the end, whether Annie was lamenting why It’s a Hard Knock Life or contemplating if Maybe her parents would be swell, the most poignant moment in her young life comes when she proves that she’s an eternal optimist.
Because no matter what dark cloud today throws at you, there’s always the promise of the sun coming out Tomorrow.
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