Friday, August 6, 2010

For the Weekend: Dance Your Cares Away

Woohoo!  It's the weekend again!  Really, these things don't come around enough in my opinion.  So, time to have some fun, relax, maybe know, dance your cares away (worries for another day) with some great dance flicks. (I know, I'm a cheese.)

First up is "The Turning Point" from 1977 starring the wonderful actresses Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft.  The ladies play old friends who used to be members of the same ballet troupe until one chose a family (MacLaine) while the other chose stardom (Bancroft).  They reunite years later when MacLaine's daughter becomes the new budding ingenue of ballet, and let's just say, a lot of long-awaited dirt comes to the surface between them.  "Turning Point" received 11 Oscar nominations that year, including a Best Actress nomination for both MacLaine and Bancroft and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for "newbie" Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Unfortunately, all those nominations led to absolutely no wins, the highest number of nominations in Oscar history to not win anything (a feat matched by only one other film, "The Color Purple" (1984)).  As for the two leading ladies, MacLaine (the family one) is the accomplished dancer of both.  Bancroft had no dancing experience so all her dance shots were done with a body double.

Next up is a more modern ballet troupe film, "Center Stage" (2000).  The story of a group of new ballet students at the fictional American Ballet Academy in New York City is one of my guilty favorites, I proudly admit.  It's a great little coming-of-age film that has all the classic subplots you would expect from a privileged school flick.  The acting isn't the best, but that's because the filmmakers decided to actually find real ballet dancers to play ballet dancers.  Of the main cast, four are professional dancers, including the lead ingenue character Jody Sawyer, played by Amanda Schull.  A young Zoe Saldana made her film debut in "Center Stage."  Though not a professional dancer, she does have formal ballet training.  Like I said, it's full of tributes to former films, like "Fame" (1980).  Even the lead character's name, Jody Sawyer, is a reference to the ingenue from the classic musical "42nd Street," Peggy Sawyer.

And finally, another guilty pleasure of mine, 2001's popular "Save the Last Dance."  Starring budding starlet Julia Stiles and young Sean Patrick Thomas, it tells the tale of a young ballet dancer (Stiles) whose life is flipped upside down when she loses her mom in a car accident and must move from the safe Midwest to the rough streets of Chicago.  Heartbroken, she gives up ballet, but when Thomas and her fall in love, he pushes her to follow her dream.  Stiles didn't have professional dance training before this film, but she won the lead when the director Thomas Carter saw her table dance in "10 Things I Hate About You" (2000).  The film was actually a surprise success for MTV Films, making over $130 million worldwide.  It didn't receive any Oscar nominations, of course, but it did receive a slew of MTV Movie Awards.

So, get out your dancing shoes and pirouette the weekend days away.  All these fun films can be found on DVD.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!  Til Monday!

(Post-tidbit:  Audrey Hepburn once said that her only regret in her career was missing out on Anne Bancroft's role in "The Turning Point.")

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