Monday, November 9, 2009
All movies require a certain degree of suspended disbelief. We know and understand that these words and images do not constitute real life, nor should they. If we wanted real life, we'd go out and live it. If we want a brief period of escapism, we shell out ten bucks to watch other people lead more exciting lives.
Despite this understanding that movies should not be taken as real life, there are some scenes that make it more difficult than others. In real life, very few of us are trained dancers who have spent grueling hours under the guidance of professional choreographers and stage blockers. In movies, though, we're just supposed to ignore the fact that the cast has put in hours of dance rehearsals (or better yet, have body doubles) and just assume that there lives are just so exciting and carefree that it's impossible to not spontaneously break into well-organized group dancing. It's awfully convenient when someone spontaneously breaks out into dance and their costars know all the complex prechoreographed steps, but we just accept it as movie truth.
This trick was especially prominent in 80s and 90s movies, with directors throwing in a spontaneous eruption of dance whenever things seemed to be getting a little slow. Nothing like a foray into the art of dance to get things moving again. Except, you know, some plot twists and character developments. Honestly, though, that would probably be asking too much from these films. It's almost better to just take their cop-out flashy spontaneous dance distractions for what they are.
Regardless of their plot-thickening merit, these scenes are pure fun. They're almost enough to make us wish our current coworkers would toss aside their desk chairs and assemble into formation for a grandiose musical number. Until that happens, though, you'll have to rely on these clips to hold you over for your spontaneous dance fix:
She's All That
Let's start strong here with the classic 90s teen movie example, She's All That. This movie is not exactly grounded in high school reality, so it's not wonder they were able to pull off this spontaneous eruption of choreographed prom dancing. Depending on your definition of "pulling off", of course. The scheming prom attendees got down to the Rockerfeller Skank by Fatboy Slim, proving that a movie doesn't need a wealth of substance to crank out a spontaneous dance number. Well played, She's All That.
I'm not embarrassed to admit my boyfriend and I watched this entire movie in full this weekend. Okay, I lied, I'm incredibly embarrassed. What I thought was a hilarious caveman comedy is actually possibly the worst movie ever made, though this glaring fact won't stop me from loving it unconditionally. This ending dance scene was indeed the inspiration for this entire post, so I refuse to concede that I wasted 88 minutes of my life engrossed in this glaringly awful piece of 90s cinematic ridiculousness. The entire movie is so hokey and nonsensical, this dance number almost seems like a shot of realism.
As a parody, Austin Powers was a prime candidate for a group dance number. It was already mocking everything these movies stood for, so why not throw in some groovy swinging moves well-timed to catchy theme music? It was a dance that spurned a thousand imitators, each more annoying than the last, but you must admit the original was pretty entertaining.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
I've never been in a marching band so I can't say for sure, but I imagine it's not the kind of thing you can just orchestrate with a snap of your fingers. Unless you're Ferris Bueller, that is, in which case the world is your parade float. Like I said, though, I'm not expert in this arena, so it's possible my inexperience as a marching band member is throwing off my judgment a bit.
In this now-classic scene, Ferris performs a spur-of-the-moment show-stopping version of "Twist and Shout" atop a parade float at the Von Steuben Day Parade in Chicago. Everyone joins in on the dancing, from his Oktoberfest costume-clad floatmates to scaffolding-bound construction workers. It's classic John Hughes: totally over the top, yet almost believable in the moment.
This one isn't quite a stretch considering the whole movie hinges on a dancing equals social freedom plot line, but the dancing is great nonetheless. You've got to admit, these kids seem incredibly at ease with their moves for people who've never danced a step in their lives. Just saying.
I still can't watch this clip without yearning for Molly Ringwald's awesomely 80s dance moves. This scene embodies the movie because it pounds each character's two-dimensional stereotype into our heads with their personality-specific dance moves. The wild one is going crazy, the nerd's nerding out, the weird one is going nuts. We get it, they're all different. I'm not sure if I could have grasped at that conclusion without the help of this handy dance scene.
Do the wolf, man. Or is it...do the Wolfman? We may never know for sure. Either way, it's cheesy 80s school dancing at its finest.
I admit, with its 1980 release date it's pretty unlikely many of us children of the 90s grew up with this one, but the scene is just such a classic example of the spontaneous group dance I would be depriving you by leaving it out. At least in this case, most of the group in question is actually made of trained dancers, so it fits in well. Plus, it's just a really catchy song. I'm pretty sure if someone started singing it while I was on the street, I'd bust a move or two also. Probably two.
This movie was meant to be the defining Generation X film, so it's fair enough that this group doesn't go for the all-out choreography. They're far too cynical and angsty for something that mainstream. No, they're content with their makeshift moves certain to humiliate Ethan Hawke's character. Can you blame him, really? I'm not saying the gas station attendant is there to judge, but if I were him I certainly would be. If nothing else, I'd be judging the hell out of Janeane Garafalo's bangs. What is up with those?
These movies may not be especially reflective of real life, but they're entertaining enough to almost make us believe that a crowd could instinctively just feel the moment was right for breaking into some serious dance moves. Our everyday lives may not contain copious amounts of extemporaneous group choreography, but that just makes it all the more fun to watch.