The Set of 400: #369 – My Favorite Descamisados

Today! Because oh, what I’d give for a hundred years, but the physical interferes –

Evita (1996)

Directed by Alan Parker

Starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce, Jimmy Nail

Look, I get it, theater people – in a lot of ways, this movie is a jumble of bungled nothing. Like many modern musicals, it had to cast stars just to make the film, and movie stars don’t tend to have the voices to pull off even moderate singing, never mind borderline operatic Andrew Lloyd Webber/Stephen Sondheim type shows. The 2012 Les Miserables barely missed this list, it’s still sitting out there as #401 – I really like that movie, and it actually has a bunch of decent singers, but the Russell Crowe Javert just kills me. Same deal with Sweeney Todd, my favorite stage musical of all time, is just gutted by the warbling.

However, somehow, I think Evita manages to transcend this problem. First off, the production values are terrific – they really manage to pull this show off the stage and make it a movie. The opposite is a more prevalent problem with filmed versions of musicals (and a lot of plays) than not. Second, for what it is, Madonna’s voice works okay. Sure, if she didn’t have Banderas opposite her she might’ve looked worse, but because they’re both okay singers performing at around the same level, it stays a pretty steady, nice film.

And this also helps as Evita is almost exclusively a two-man show. It was nice to bring in theater pro Pryce to play Peron, but Peron really doesn’t have much to do. No, it’s Eva and Che on virtually every song, and so there aren’t one-offs by super talented stage veterans to really put a spotlight on how ill-equipped the leads were to handle this music. But oh what glorious music! Were I not a huge admirer of the stage show to begin with, I doubt this movie would’ve broken onto my radar and twenty years later made this list. So thank Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin for this inclusion, guys!

Also, get over yourself, theater people. Movie musicals are fine. Appreciate them for what they are. Sure, you could probably sing better than these people, but then you know what you end up with? The movie version of Rent, and no one wants more of that. La La Land is a great movie, too. Get out of your own way and try to separate plays from movies. Just saying.

Okay, this did kinda suck, though

This movie won Andrew Lloyd Webber his only Oscar so far – for the meh song addition “You Must Love Me,” while also snagging Madonna a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy, whatever your opinion of that choice is, and Best Picture – Musical or Comedy. It’s shocking when you run all that together. I also think it’s fair to award Evita with Ballsiest Song Heist, as against all internal logic, Madonna’s Eva sings “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” a song intended for one of Peron’s random mistresses, but see above – I suspect they may have had to do this, just for the movie to work.

Coming Monday! You’ve gotta dunk that shit!

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