1984-a-thon: Purple Rain (1984)

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By the 1980s, the movie musical was… well, far beyond the time of transition. Since their heyday in the ’30s and ’40s, musicals had become limited to just a handful of movies per year, without a lot to choose from—Disney films for kids, pop hits designed to sell soundtracks, the occasional prestigious musical dramas, and the cheesy movies that seemed to capture everything cringeworthy of their era. For the studios financing the films, musicals were, to put it mildly, anything but a sure thing. That’s partly what makes Purple Rain such an interesting moment in film history—though it’s easy to see its significance 25 years after the fact, Purple Rain is still a weird, weird movie.

Honolulu (1939)

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When you settle in to watch a film called “Honolulu,” you might expect to see a lush, expansive musical with plenty of opulent sets and numbers, perhaps a sequence or two in Technicolor to highlight the natural beauty of the island and to wow the viewer’s imagination. But, lest you start to think that all of 1939’s films were big epics, that’s really not the case for MGM’s 1939 Honolulu—it’s a very small-scale movie, set mostly in the interiors of passenger ships and homes instead of tropical jungles and pristine beaches. Instead, we’re treated to some fun trick photography and several Eleanor Powell dance numbers, which may be a fair enough trade for some people.

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