Should it seem that less is automatically better let us now praise the wisdom of excess. Rather than being glittery, feathery filler, the numbers below are a reminder that sets, lights, colors, and costumes can be as much an extension of character and say more than a wordy monologue.
"I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" An American In Paris. I run hot and cold on this film, but never this number. In less than three minutes I think it better captures the brio and life force of creating art than the lengthy ballet. And it's practically a throwaway bit too, but what an utterly sumptuous and rose damask covered one.
"Remember My Forgotten Man" Gold Diggers of 1933. The scrappy, not giving a good goddamn of Warner Brother's thirties musicals is an age we are not to see again, and we're all the worse for it. The climatic number might seem a sucker punch coming on the heels of much baldly randy numbers, but it's the darkness that has been lurking at the edge of every frame, every shadow of a nude chorus girl. Joan Blondell doesn't step outside the moment, she lives it, making it devastating.
"Think Pink" Funny Face. A giddy celebration of fashion, glamour, color, and rank consumerism And I don't begrudge them a note of it. Kay Thompson begins her march of utterly walking away with this film.
"Singin' in the Rain" Singin' in the Rain. If "Make 'Em Laugh" was the genius of simplicity, this is the genius of the Freed Unit at their full powers. It's why you fall in love with the movies in the first place, scenes like this.
"Aquarius" Hair. Milos Forman's adaptation of the stage show might have arrived a decade too late, but it's lovely elegiac vision of New York City and youth in autumn. His sharp eye and Twyla Tharp's thumping, earthy choreography making for a potent mix.