Film Crit Hulk Smash: HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM WITH HULK-SIZED SEMIOTICAL ESSAYS ON STORYTELLING, CINEMATIC PRINCIPLES, AND MEDIA THEORY! HULK EVEN MAKE PRACTICAL HOW-TO GUIDES! See More...

Hulk’s Favorite Movies: ALL THAT JAZZ

Bob Fosse's 1979 musical is a masterpiece.

Hulk’s Favorite Movies: ALL THAT JAZZ

ALL THAT JAZZ IS ONE OF HULK'S FAVORITE MOVIES EVER. WHEN HULK TRIES TO TELL PEOPLE THAT, HULK GETS SEVERAL DIFFERENT REACTIONS:

1) THERE ARE THOSE CONFUSED THAT HULK WOULD LIKE A MUSICAL. WHICH IS A GRIEVOUS ERROR!

2) THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE FILM, BUT DON'T GET WHY HULK WOULD FEEL THAT WAY AT ALL. WHICH IS ALSO A GRIEVOUS ERROR!

3) THEN THERE ARE THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN THE FILM AND LIKE IT A GOOD DEAL, BUT DON'T GET WHY HULK WOULD ELEVATE IT ABOVE THE TANGIBLE GENIUS OF FOSSE'S MASTERPIECE CABARET OR SOMETHING. WHICH IS A NOT-SO-GRIEVOUS ERROR!

4) AND EVER SO OCCASIONALLY, HULK MEETS SOMEONE WHO FEELS THE EXACT SAME WAY. WHICH IS NEAT!

LET'S ADDRESS #1 FIRST AND SORT OF GO FROM THERE.

HULK DOESN'T REALLY GET HOW PEOPLE DISLIKE MUSICALS. FOR ONE, MUSICALS ARE JUST A FORM LIKE ANY OTHER AND HULK DOESN'T SEE HOW ANYONE WHO ISN'T SUPER-LITERAL CAN HATE A "TYPE" OF ANYTHING. THINGS ARE EITHER GOOD OR THEY'RE NOT. AND THE BEST PART IS, UNLIKE A LOT OF OTHER FORMS, MOST MUSICALS ARE PRETTY AWESOME ACROSS THE BOARD. HULK MEANS THAT IN THE SENSE THAT EVEN THE MOST MUNDANE BROADWAY OR MOVIE EFFORT TENDS TO EXUDE A SUBLIME LEVEL OF TALENT AND EXECUTION. SO IF YOU CAN GET OVER: A) THE IDEA THAT YOU "SHOULDN'T LIKE THEM" FOR SOME VAGUE SOCIAL REASONS, B) THE SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF THAT PEOPLE WOULD BURST INTO SONG, AND C) THE GAY PANIC, THEN HOPEFULLY YOU REALIZE THERE'S SOMETHING SO DAMN ALLURING AND GREAT ABOUT MUSICALS. THEY IMBUE THE STORY WITH PALPABLE ENERGY AND THE ABILITY TO CROSS GENRES, DRAMATIC CONVENTIONS, YOU NAME IT. MUSIC AND SONG CAN BE SO EMOTIONAL THAT THEY DRAW YOU RIGHT INTO A STORY OR MOMENT. THEY'RE GREAT. THERE'S EVEN THIS WEIRD, BULLSHIT ASSUMPTION THAT MUSICALS CAN'T BE MASCULINE OR HETERO OR WHATEVER, WHICH IS FUNNY BECAUSE A) THE WORLD OF MUSICAL THEATER IS ACTUALLY A PLACE THAT IS FILLED WITH MORE HYPER HETERO-SEXUALITY THAN YOU EVER IMAGINED AND B) ALL THAT JAZZ MIGHT BE ONE OF THE MOST BALLS-OUT, HETERO MOVIES EVER MADE (THE KEY DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT'S ALL IN THE CONTENT, NOT THE TEXTURE / POSTURE - CUE TANGIBLE DETAILS THEORY!). BUT AS MUCH AS HULK HOPES THAT COUNTERS THE NONSENSICAL AND UNCALLED FOR GAY PANIC, IT'S STILL NOT IMPORTANT OR EVEN RELEVANT TO THE CONVERSATION. IT'S A GREAT FILM BECAUSE IT'S A GREAT FILM.

IF YOU ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH BOB FOSSE, JUST KNOW HE BELONGS ON THE MOUNT RUSHMORE OF MUSICAL THEATER. HE STARTED AS A DANCER TRYING TO MAKE IT IN THE BIZ, BUT WITH HIS CERTAIN JAZZ-INCLINED AND SEXUAL MOVES THERE WASN'T REALLY A SPACE FOR HIM...

CUE THIS AWESOME HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE IN MOVIE HISTORY! IN 1953'S KISS ME KATE, FOSSE AND HIS DANCE PARTNER WERE FUCKING AROUND DOING SOME COOL NEW JAZZY MOVES THAT FOSSE WAS INTO. KATHRYN GRAYSON APPARENTLY LOVED WHAT SHE SAW AND CONVINCED DIRECTOR GEORGE SIDNEY TO WORK IT IN ONE OF THE NUMBERS. SO HE DID. THE RESULT IS THE FOLLOWING MOMENT:

PLEASE PLEASE WATCH THE WHOLE THING, BUT AT 2:33 YOU CAN LITERALLY SEE THE MOMENT THAT WOULD UNKNOWINGLY CHANGE MUSICALS FOREVER.

YUP. THE MUSICAL THEATER REVOLUTION WAS MET WITH A LITERAL RECORD SCRATCH. HULK FINDS THAT HILARIOUS. AND WHAT YOU SEE IS SO RECOGNIZABLE AS FOSSE'S FULLY FORMED STYLE. FROM THAT POINT ON YOU MAY KNOW THE STORY. HIS DANCING CAREER WENT ON TO HAVE SOME REASONABLE HIGHS, BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL HE GOT INTO CHOREOGRAPHY AND DIRECTION THAT HE COULD ACCENTUATE HIS ARTISTIC VOICE, AND THAT'S WHEN THINGS REALLY CHANGED. HE DID SOME KICK ASS PRODUCTIONS INCLUDING CHICAGO AND THEN HE TRANSITIONED TO FILM WITH A PRETTY SWEET VERSION OF SWEET CHARITY STARRING SHIRLEY MACLAINE. BUT IT WAS WITH CABARET THAT HE BLEW THE DOORS OPEN IN TERMS OF SUCCESS. OFTEN CITED FOR TAKING A BOATLOAD OF OSCARS FROM THE GODFATHER, IT'S STILL ONE OF THOSE PERFECT FILMS FULL OF EQUAL PARTS DARKNESS, SOCIAL POIGNANCY AND DELIGHTFUL GLEE. AND HE OFTEN DOES IT ALL AT ONCE (THE PAN DOWN DURING "TOMORROW BELONGS TO US" IS AN ALL-TIMER). FRESH OFF THAT SUCCESS, HE FOLLOWED IT UP WITH A HUGE CHANGE IN TUNE WITH DUSTIN HOFFMAN'S LENNY BRUCE BIOPIC LENNY (WHICH WAS ALSO WELL-RECEIVED). AFTER THAT, IT WAS TIME TO DIRECT HIS OBSERVANT STORYTELLING INWARD.

BOB FOSSE'S ALL THAT JAZZ IS ESSENTIALLY THE STORY OF BOB FOSSE: A WORKAHOLIC CHOREOGRAPHER / DIRECTOR / WOMANIZER FACING GRAVE HEALTH ISSUES (MOSTLY FOR HIS DESTRUCTIVE CHOICES). FOSSE HELD NOTHING BACK IN THE PORTRAYAL. THERE'S SUCH CASUAL BLUNTNESS TO HIS HONESTY, WHETHER IT'S DIRECTED AT OTHERS OR HIMSELF, BUT IT'S ALSO MET FAIRLY WITH ALL THE CHARISMATIC THINGS THAT MADE HIM A TRULY SPECIAL PERSON. THIS HUMANE YET BRUTAL UNDERSTANDING OF HIMSELF AND THEATER IS MADE ALL THE BETTER BY THE FACT THAT IT IS NONE OTHER THAN ROY SCHEIDER PLAYING FOSSE'S ALTER EGO, JOE GIDEON. SCHEIDER SIMPLY GIVES ONE OF HIS BEST PERFORMANCES AND, MAN, IS THAT SAYING SOMETHING. THROUGH THIS PRISM, ALL THAT JAZZ ENDS UP BEING ONE OF THE BEST EXAMPLES HULK CAN THINK OF AS THE LIFE-AS-STORYTELLING MODEL, EVEN COMPARABLE TO THE BEST WORK OF WOODY ALLEN.

BUT IT'S FUNNY HOW SOME PEOPLE HAVE A WEIRD REACTION TO THE FILM'S AESTHETIC. IT TAKES PLACE IN THIS WEIRD, SPECIFIC MOMENT OF NEW YORK HISTORY WHERE THE '70'S WERE MOVING INTO THE '80'S AND THUS EVERYTHING HAD THIS SEEDY, GLAM ROCK GLITTER MODE, BUT HULK COUNTS THAT AS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT MAKES THE FILM SO UNIQUE. IT'S A REFLECTION OF A TIME AND PLACE WHERE A DECADE OF EXCESS WAS CRASHING AND BURNING (AND RESTARTING AS SOMETHING FAR MORE REACHING FOR EXCESS). BEYOND THAT, FOSSE CREATED A FILM SO UTTERLY PERSONAL, YET SO DEEPLY ACCURATE TO THE MEANING OF CREATING ART AND PARTICIPATING IN COLLABORATION. IF ANYTHING, THE FILM IS ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ARTISTIC AND COLLABORATIVE HUMAN BEING IN LIFE ITSELF (AND THE WAYS WE OFTEN FAIL AT IT).  ALL THAT JAZZ IS A MOVIE LACED WITH SO MUCH SUBTEXT AND BRILLIANCE AND WIT AND HUMANITY AND ALL THE THINGS WE LOOK FOR IN GREAT STORIES. AND HULK WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER IT FOR HOW IT DELIVERS ONE OF THE MOST SILENTLY DEVASTATING CUTS IN MOVIE HISTORY. FOR YEARS, IT HAS STILL STUCK WITH HULK. A MOMENT EXEMPLARY OF EVERYTHING WE HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THIS MEDIUM.

SO, UHHHHH, HULK MOST DEFINITELY RECOMMENDS YOU SEE IT.

<3 HULK

Film Crit Hulk's photo About the Author: FILM CRIT HULK WAS CREATED IN A CHAOTIC LAB EXPERIMENT INVOLVING GAMMA RADIATION, TELEPODS, AND THE GHOST OF PAULINE KAEL. NOW HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE CINEMA.
t