With all the aca-anticipation for Pitch Perfect 2 finally cresting with its wide release today, it’s interesting to note the shift in popular cinema away from the big, challenging singing-and-dancing set-pieces that Stanley Donen and Vincente Minelli, amongst a slew of others in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, mastered in their salad days. These days, big musicals like Dreamgirls and Into the Woods are filmed more like tinny Oscar bait, all forced visual maturity with no antic, anxious energy in the filmmaking to match the loamy variety of vocals and unbound dance moves, though, frankly, The Raid 2 offers a more elegant and astonishing study of body movement than most major musicals of the last decade.
To find the true offspring of Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon, one must search in the independent-movie corridors for what’s been called “music movies,” where love of music, dancing, musicianship, and technical know-how are swirled together. One can look at, say, Matthew Porterfield‘s somber, moving I Used to Be Darker or even (if you truly must) Stuart Murdoch‘s lazy God Help the Girl and see the innovation of song and dance being met by directors who offer fresh, innovative ways to explore the craft and cult of music. In both the mainstream and slightly left of the dial, there have been plenty of moments at the movies for music lovers, and in celebration of Pitch Perfect‘s Elizabeth Banks-helmed sequel hitting theaters, I thought I’d pick a few of my favorites from the last decade or so. I avoided strong documentary candidates (Ne Change Rien, Beware of Mr. Baker, etc.), but otherwise, no rules, which is a philosophy embodied in the very best of these particular genres and sub-genres.