Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Sound of Music

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I dig through my old notes for a bit I used to do on my podcast, and post it here on the blog.  As I mentioned last week, my old notes are currently dated December 2010, so we're into a spate of Christmas movies.  We now get to a film that seems to be on TV every Christmas, The Sound of Music.  This review is originally dated December 18, 2010.

There's a longstanding tradition in my family.  When Christmas rolls around, you've got to watch The Sound of Music.  It's a grander tradition than just my family.  If you consult your local television listings, I'm sure you'll find that it's playing some time this week.  I think CTV has made it a Christmas Eve tradition.  What helps perpetuate this tradition in my family, though, is that it's my mother's favourite movie. So ingrained in me is this tradition that The Sound of Music was one of the first DVDs I bought for myself.  Mom was rather upset when I packed it up and took it with me when I moved out.  She`d remind me ever Christmas that I "stole" her DVD when I moved out, and that she'd like it back.  So a couple of years ago I finally bought her her own copy and gave it to her.  But enough of my mother issues.  It is Christmas, so that means it's time to fire up The Sound of Music!

I remember when I was first learning about the concept of a movie director and what a director does.  It astonished me to learn that the director of The Sound of Music is legendary director Robert Wise, who did another legendary musical, West Side Story.  But, geeks like me know him best for his science fiction work, having directed the legendary sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still, and not-as-legendary-but-equally-famous Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  So, yeah.  The same guy who gave Captain Von Trapp his marching orders also gave them to Captain Kirk.

The plot, in case you don't remember, tells a highly fictionalized account of the Von Trapp Family Singers.  The film opens when we're introduced to the free-spirited nun Maria, played by the legendary Julie Andrews.  (I'm going to be saying "legendary" a lot in this one...just so you're warned.)  Now, there's nothing wrong with being free-spirited, but it's not exactly a coveted quality in a nun.  Not quite sure what to do with Maria, the Mother Superior sends her off to the Von Trapps, who are in need of a new governess.  So she shows up at the Von Trapp manor, and meets Captain Von Trapp, played by that national treasure, Christopher Plummer.  Von Trapp is an old military man, and has taken to marching his children around like troops to keep them in line.  Of course, this means the kids have started to act out in order to get their father's attention, and the target of their constant acting out is always their governess.  Fortunately, though, Maria soon wins over the kids with her free spirit.

Sadly, we never really get to know the kids as characters.  About the only one who gets some form of character development is the eldest daughter Lisel, who's romance with the telegram delivery boy Rolf is one of the film's major subplots.

So Captain Von Trapp goes away on business, Maria wins over the kids, teaches them to sing, and the Captain returns, and he's infuriated with this lack of military discipline.  However, once he hears his kids singing, it melts his heart, and he stops being a captain and starts being a dad.  However, Captain Von Trapp has brought back to the mansion his girlfriend, the Baroness, and she soon become jealous of Captain Von Trapp and Maria's relationship.

At a grand ball Captain Von Trapp holds one night, the Baroness corners Maria and points out that it's quite obvious that Maria has fallen in love with the Captain, and vice versa.  However, she manages to convince Maria that the Captain's feelings are a harmless crush that will soon pass.  Feeling all conflicted now between her love for the Captain and her duty towards God, Maria runs away and heads back to the Abby.  The Baroness, however, is delighted that her romantic rival is gone, and goes back to plotting world domination with Cobra Commander.  Sorry, wrong Baroness. 

The children have grown despondent that Maria is gone.  The announcement of the Captain the Baroness's engagement just deepens their funk.  Meanwhile, back in the Abby, the Mother Superior sits down to have a talk with Maria about why she came back.  Maria tells the Mother Superior about her conflicted feelings, and the Mother Superior tells Maria that she should stop being such a pussy, and rather than run away from this problem, go back to the Captain, tackle the problem head on, and get her feelings sorted out.  Of course, though, the Mother Superior uses more nun-like language and sings Climb Every Mountain.

So Maria goes back, the Captain admits to himself that he's in love with Maria, and the Baroness decides to stop being such a bitch and steps aside so the Captain and Maria can live happily ever after.

The Captain and Maria get married, and when they return from their honeymoon, the see that the Nazis have taken over Austria.  The Captain is greeted with a telegram saying that he's been drafted by the Nazi navy, and he's to report to duty the next day.  Another subplot that's been brewing is that the Captain has no love for the Nazis, so when he gets this telegram, he and his new wife decide to take the kids and flee the country. 

However, their escape attempt is thwarted by the Nazis, and the Von Trapps say that they were actually on their way to sing in the festival.  The festival actually provides an excellent cover, and the Von Trapps run off as soon as they finish their final number.  They hide out in the Abby, and the nuns help them escape.

Actually, in what is my favourite scene in the movie, the Von Trapps are about to run off, when they are spotted by Rolf, who is now a full-on Hitler Youth member.  The Captain and Rolf have this very tense stand-off as the Captain tries to pull back Rolf from "the dark side."  When the Captain asserts that Rolf will "never be one of them," Rolf takes this as an insult and calls for his commanding officer.  Rolf is lost.

I just looked it up online...in the original Broadway show, when Rolf's commander arrives, Rolf spies his young love, Liesel, and tells his CO that it was a false alarm.  So maybe Rolf was redeemed after all.  But then, by leaving that out of the movie, we now get the great gag at the end where we see the nuns sabotaged the Nazis' cars so the Von Trapps had time to escape. 

And that's The Sound of Music, one of my holiday traditions now checked off my list.  I tell ya, it truly is a tradition.  Some of my earliest conscious memories of television are of watching it.  My earliest memory of watching the film is catching bits and pieces at my aunt and uncle's place one Christmas.  Heh.  I even remember watching it in Grade 8.  We watched it dubbed in French for French class.  I tell you, if you want to get a bunch of junior high boys interested in learning another language, forcing them to watch a classic musical is NOT the way to do it.

But yeah.  It'll be coming up on TV in the days ahead, I'm sure, so keep an eye out for it.

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