My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 67: The Sound of Music (Best Picture Ranking)

There it is. Surely one of the most famous and beloved movies of all time – well, in some countries. It seems that in America, every child grows up while watching Maria and the van Trapp children singing their way through Salzburg. Overall, The Sound of Music is probably not just an ordinary movie but rather a true phenomenon. On the imdb-forums (I don’t post there but they are always good for a healthy laugh) people treat it as some kind of religious revelation, going so far that people who dislike it can’t have a soul…

Well, maybe I am a little party-pooper, but the sugar-coated, overly-wholesome The Sound of Music simply isn’t my kind of movie. But: I warmed up to it quite a bit. When I saw it the first time, it wasn’t really to see it for its own sake – instead, I wanted to find out what all Americans were so obsessed with. And initially, I placed it at the end of this ranking, but it managed to climb up some positions because, even though it’s not my kind of movie, I don’t want to deny that it succeeds in being what it wants to be – good, old-fashioned entertainment.

Since this is a musical, the first question has to be: what about the songs? I admit that they are a mixed bag for me. The melodies, as expected, are all catchy but the actual execution of the songs is mostly disappointing. When the nuns discuss about Maria during their song and the Mother Abbess dramatically declares ‘She’s a girl!’, it’s one of many, many, many moments in The Sound of Music that are unintentionally funny. ‘Edelweiss’ could have been a nice moment if Christopher Plummer wouldn’t sound so awful. ‘Climb Ev’ry mountain’ is presented rather boring while ‘Do-Re-Mi’ is too exaggerated (and features what must be the worst costumes in any movie ever). I think, the opening number, ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’ and ‘The lonely Goatherd’ might be the best musical numbers overall.

I have already mentioned Christopher Plummer, but, of course, The Sound of Music completely depends on Julie Andrews who gives probably her most famous, but also her best performance as the singing nanny Maria. Her spirit, her seriousness in a silly part, her voice, her ability to brighten up the screen, fit perfectly to the role and she obviously works very hard to make the movie work. But I have to admit that my personal favourite is probably Eleanor Parker as the Baroness – maybe because I can understand her so well when she wants to send the children to a boarding school. In a weak year like 1965, she could have easily taken a nomination for Supporting Actress (which was wasted on Peggy Wood who, to be honest, did nothing in The Sound of Music – not even singing). In my review for Going my Way, I have already mentioned my aversion to ‘annoying movie children’ – well, The Sound of Music offers plenty of them. Personally, I can’t relate to those kids who are supposed to be such little brats but start crying at the dinner table and even themselves offer their reason for their misbehaviour – how else would they get their father’s attention?

The plot in The Sound of Music constantly changes from implausible to officious to acceptable. The first part of the movie which focuses on Maria, the Captain and the family, has some nice moments and is almost loveable in its innocence but it’s hard for such a family-oriented and sweet-natured movie to include such a serious topic as the rise of Nazism and the whole combination of wannabe-thriller, sentimental drama and over-the-top comedy that follows doesn’t really rise to the occasion. (And I know that every movies has a lot of mistakes and I won’t hold my following complaint against The Sound of Music, but I still want to say how much the ending annoys me when the family escapes to Switzerland by crossing the Alps – the boarder to Switzerland is probably 200 miles west of Salzburg. The only country they reach by crossing the Alps is Germany and I am not sure that they want to end up there…)

Well, as I said, it’s not my kind of movie but I don’t want to deny that it does feature some entertaining performances, offers some nice songs and knows how to portray a sweet and innocent story without becoming too saccharine. It is captivating in parts and provides some wonderful entertainment but I am not sure I would consider it Oscar-worthy.


J.C. Marrero said...

Actually, I agree that this movie would not be much without Julie Andrews. The famous opening scene leading up to her marvelous, twirl with outstretched arms is a distillation of the joy of cinema. In fact, it conveys an almost religious thril. And it is all due to the combination of a helicopter, a camera, the Alps, Rogers and Hammerstein, but above all the future Dame Julie.

I agree that the nuns singing "Maria", as well as the "Climb very Mountain" numbers are, at best, campy. For the sake of reality, I would definitely have cut "Maria" at least and had "Climb" as background music.

But, Julie's "I Have Confidence" number, no more realistic, is thrilling, as is "My Favorite Things". I guess my bottom line is, if Julie performs it, it's good, otherwise its tripe. (I can't stand the "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" number). It struck me as having the production values of a slick deodorant commercial.

The movie loses all steam after the nuptials. Post martial bliss, Julie's part is almost nothing. She seems to have lost her zest and spark with whatever else she lost to the Captain.

Your review of "Patton" suggested that it was a great performance wearing the uniform of a Best Picture. Similarly, this film should have been titled, "The Sound of Julie" and be done with it. But, overall, it was a better musical offering than the plodding, irritating "My Fair Lady".

Anonymous said...

Debbie Reynolds puts perfectly my feelings:"The Sound of Music takes you from any place you might be that's not happy and makes you happy."From iconic opening scene to terrific musical numbers and Julie Andrews...This woman is in class by herself.I just can't imagine any other actress doing Maria and that is a definition for a great performance.

Louis Morgan said...

I think it is fine family entertainment. It has its nice moments, and I would put it above a few musicals that have yet to be listed. I do not love by any means though. Also for the record, despite being American I was not raised on this film, having not watched it until a few years ago.

joe burns said...

Love this movie, it's corny, the kids are annoying, and yes, Julie is the best thing in it, but I really feel it's beautifully made, well-directed, and it's not too sappy at least to me.

I really like Eleanor as well, though maybe not a nomination from her.

Tom said...

I am surprised that Gigi and Oliver are ranked higher than this.

Fritz said...

I know it's a classic but just not for me.