Skip to main content

Empire Magazine Greatest Movies List - #333: Grease


Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. You have some good times in a period of your life, time goes by and you feel like going back to that time period. I am guessing someone in the late 70s felt nostalgic about late 1950s high school life in America, leading to the creation of “Grease,” one of John Travolta’s first hits. The life and time are very dated today, but every now and then you still hear the soundtrack on classic rock stations. Clearly the lyricists did their jobs right.

This is not my favourite musical. It’s cutesy with catchy tunes, but my top two musicals are “The Blues Brothers” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” If it involves car chases, Ray Charles, the Time Warp, Meat Loaf, and Carrie Fisher with a rocket launcher then count me in. I have less enthusiasm for Danny Zucko singing about his summer love for Sandy. But the movie was available for a dollar on iTunes during an evening when I had nothing to do in University, so I might as well kill two hours and see why it is an enduring success.

Set amid a world of high school greasers, guys with a lot of grease in their hair, and Pink Ladies, the girl gang, “Grease” tells the story of seniors Danny Zucko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olson (Olivia Newton-John). Danny and Sandy met and fell in love during the summer and thought they would never see each other again since Sandy thought she was going back to her native Australia. Turns out, change of plan, she’s staying and finishing her senior year at Rydell High School, where Danny studies.

“Study” is a bit of a stretch as Danny prefers to hang out with his gang the T-Birds, consisting of his pals Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci) and Putzie (Kelly Ward). Meanwhile Sandy joins the Pink Ladies consisting of Rizzo (Stockard Channing), Frenchy (Didi Conn), Marty (Dinah Manoff) and Jan (Jamie Donelly). Danny and Sandy sing different accounts of their encounter, Danny bragging about it like he scored a goal while Sandy has a more romantic view on the whole thing. When they realize they are in the same school, Danny tries to act aloof in order to keep up appearances in front of his pals while Sandy is shocked at being ignored.

The rest of the school year is spent as Danny and Sandy navigate their relationship while trying to keep face with their respective social group. Danny initially wants to keep up his bad boy image but eventually decides winning Sandy matters more so he turns to sport. With the help of coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar, a comedic icon of the 1950s) he becomes a long-distance runner.

Subplots involving the minor characters include a possible pregnancy, breakups and conflicts with rival gang the Scorpions. The gang rivalry leads to a car race in the L.A River, a setting of many car races in that city.

Of course al of the major and minor conflicts are all solved by the end of the school year, right in time for the last day of school and for one big dance-off involving the whole cast.

High school hasn’t changed that much since the 1959, but the clothes, music, and cars have all evolved so it is rather retro to see a musical recreating that particular era. The cars in stand out the most as cars today look all the same and lack personality. George Lucas honors such vehicles in his own slice of 50s nostalgia, “American Graffiti.”

I find “Grease” to be a rather safe musical that features actors in their late 20s playing high school kids who solve all of their problems by randomly bursting into songs. However I can’t deny the soundtrack sure is catchy.

Comments

  1. A Fan's Cut

    http://afanscut.blogspot.com/

    This is my blog on how Great Films Could Have Been Made Differently.

    if you have time then please take a look.

    I'm also looking to collaborate with a screenwriter.

    Comments are welcome

    Sorry for disturbing,thanks.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …