It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
January 6, 2020 9:28 AM   Subscribe

The big screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats (previously) has been a box office trainwreck, with critics and audiences panning it, resulting in an estimated loss of $100M. Given the bad press on the film, the Washington Post asks a simple question - does the film play better while under the influence? (SLWaPo)

The Post's findings were mixed, with examples of drugs affecting watchers in both directions. As they state:
It was unclear, on balance, whether getting high made “Cats” better, or much, much worse. Certainly, it seemed to raise the emotional stakes. One person reported bursting into tears before the film even started, during a trailer for “Trolls World Tour.”
posted by NoxAeternum (149 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I realized the other day that the best take on Cats, both the musical and the movie, was made by a cartoon that aired nearly 25 years ago.
posted by SansPoint at 9:39 AM on January 6 [26 favorites]


Film reviewers sank their claws into Cats, but is it really so awful? Our stage reviewers steeled themselves for the caterwauling ... but ended up quite enjoying it
posted by philip-random at 9:47 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


The Guardian's dance and stage critics rather enjoyed it (in contrast to The Guardian's film critic, who... did not), further reinforcing my conviction that all forms of three-dimensional art are the work of the Devil.

edit: jinx!
posted by inire at 9:47 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


My partner's mother went to see this before Christmas and we were expecting to hear how bad it was. She loved it. Go figure.

I'm still waiting for Disney to get around to remaking The Cat from Outer Space. C'mon. You've remade everything else... The trend has been for Disney to remake its animated films as live action, I'd be happy with a Pixar-animated version of TCFOS.
posted by jzb at 9:55 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Counterpoint to the idea that seeing the play helps you appreciate the film more here.
posted by dannyboybell at 9:56 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


> "The Guardian's dance and stage critics rather enjoyed it ..."

I mean, they did, yes, but --

"... the plot’s flimsy, it’s nowhere near as funny as it wants to be ..."

"The amazing cast of world-class dancers ... are often relegated to the background and we don’t see half of what they can do – or they’re on wires, which makes their dancing look oddly unreal ..."

"This production doesn’t have a strong enough [throughline] and ends up feeling overlong ..."

-- their review is still not exactly encouraging me to rush out and see it.
posted by kyrademon at 10:00 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Took the kids to see the new Star Wars film in a small town theater early in the New Year. Couple of other kids were there to see "Jumanji 2"; they had to come back to the ticketing counter because the guy there had mistakenly printed them tickets for "Cats".

When he realized his mistake, he apologized profusely and said no one should be made to watch that film. I expressed surprise that they still had it running; he rolled his eyes and said "today is its last day".
posted by nubs at 10:04 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I won't be seeing this movie but I think this is a good point:
Cats is far from a perfect film. Yes, the plot’s flimsy, it’s nowhere near as funny as it wants to be, nor as poignant – although Jennifer Hudson gets the payoff with her final chorus – but it’s a perfectly entertaining musical.
All musicals are inherently dumb. You can't go in to one expecting to see Citizen Kane or Apocalypse Now. And Americans are in love with comic book movies which are basically just musicals set to the sound of gunfire. Nobody's standards are as high as they're pretending they are.
posted by klanawa at 10:05 AM on January 6 [36 favorites]


Things I heard before, during, and after a New Year's Day showing of Cats in a nearly packed Los Angeles theater:

"I'm so glad I'm high right now."
"I wish I'd been high for this."
Upon seeing the Amblin Entertainment production logo, in tones of intense betrayal and surprise: "Spielberg was involved with this?"
"That movie was propaganda for normalizing furries!"
Upon being earnestly asked how the movie was by a nice lady in the restroom, clearly trying very hard to be polite and not unload all her horror upon this innocent woman: "I'm not sure how I feel about it yet!" while my friend a few stalls over has no such compunctions and shouts: "IT WAS BAD. IT WAS VERY BAD. DO NOT SEE IT."
posted by yasaman at 10:14 AM on January 6 [18 favorites]


“I had a realization partway through that I am the only person in the world who understands ‘Cats,’ ” says Kate, 31, a medical researcher in Chicago, who soon found herself plotting a “Cats”-based doctoral thesis while still in the theater: She would examine the class dialectic of 1930s London (when T.S. Eliot wrote the poems that inspired “Cats”), the late ’80s heyday of Webber and police brutality in 2019.
I wonder what her Metafilter handle is.
posted by clawsoon at 10:15 AM on January 6 [193 favorites]


Before this year I hadn't really ever thought about Cats, The Musical. I knew it was really popular, lots of people hated it, and it was about cats. Then the Cats Trailer happened. "What the fuck?" me and everyone else on Earth thought. I watched it at least ten times the day it came out and many, many times after that. My partner and I would start quoting little pieces of it to each other, like James Corden saying "here we go, ha ha!" or doing the AND INTRODUCING FRANCESCA HAYWARD arm pump. I read all the fun articles dunking on Cats and the ones defending Cats. Eventually I downloaded the 1998 film of the Cats stage musical. I was not prepared for two things:

- it's so much weirder than I thought, even with non-CGI human performers. Incredibly weird. The weirdest super-popular thing in the world.
- most of the music is really catchy.

At some point we realized that we unironically loved Cats and couldn't wait for it to come out. Just constantly texting each other "32 DAYS TIL CATS" at work. Finally, it came: Cats Day. We had saved some 10mg edibles brought back from California. We were ready.

Cats delivered. I screamed when Rebel Wilson cat peeled off her skin and vored a bug person less than 10 minutes into the movie. I shouted when the Idris Elba cat takes off his coat and starts dancing and he's somehow even nuder than a completely nude man. I gasped when Ian McKellan cat lapped up milk. I folded myself into a knot when Judy Dench cat curled up in a big cat bed just like a sleepy cat. I wept as Jennifer Hudson cat sang TOUCH MEEE and flew away in a big balloon. There were about a dozen people in the theater and we were all losing our minds at these dancing singing cats!

After Cats everything felt dull and gray. What do you do after that? How can any experience be as rich? I keep listening to the Cats soundtrack. I catch myself humming Mr. Mistoffeles while I'm cleaning dishes. Will it be like this forever? Cats. Cats. Cats
posted by theodolite at 10:19 AM on January 6 [172 favorites]


I'm pretty sure my kids would love this but the intensely horny way people keep describing it give me pause.

My older daughter, who is seven, just saw the recent "Into the Woods" film version, which I thought was awful and she thought was the single greatest film ever made. So I'm thinking she likes musicals.
posted by selfnoise at 10:22 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I love, so much, the original Cats movie. Its weird! It has no plot! That's fine! A lot of the complaints just seem to not know what Cats is and they were never going to like it. This new movie, however, I didn't go and see because the trailers turned me off so badly. Why isn't the cast musical theatre people, I don't care about celebrities, and the scale seemed to vary hugely whilst never actually being right. And the CGI looks awful. It doesn't look like a good Cats to me.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:44 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I don't get the hate. If you don't like it, don't go see it. If you "don't get it", don't go see it.

Your attention is susceptible to others, but your focus is your own. Take some ownership.
posted by lon_star at 10:48 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


All musicals are inherently dumb.

You need to get out more.
posted by dnash at 10:53 AM on January 6 [29 favorites]


Arguing about Cats would be more entertaining if you only did it with quotes from Cats.
posted by clawsoon at 10:53 AM on January 6 [3 favorites]


> "Arguing about Cats would be more entertaining if you only did it with quotes from Cats."

OK.

Well, of all ... Things ... Can it be ... really! ... No! ... Yes! ...

such a fuss. is a terrible bore. a horrible muddle.

Well I never! broken every human law. breaks the law of gravity.

there isn't any need for. Cats.
posted by kyrademon at 11:11 AM on January 6 [18 favorites]


You need to get out more.

If there was more singing and dancing out there I'd never go home.
posted by klanawa at 11:11 AM on January 6 [14 favorites]


> "it give me paws."

Fixed that.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 11:13 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I loved this movie - I saw it a traveling version of Cats as a kid and this version gave me the exact same feelings of seeing into a weird fantasy world and watching people dance the way cats moved. How could anyone not want to see that?
posted by buildmyworld at 11:17 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I'm still waiting for Disney to get around to remaking The Cat from Outer Space. C'mon. You've remade everything else... The trend has been for Disney to remake its animated films as live action, I'd be happy with a Pixar-animated version of TCFOS.

No, no, no, they need to remake The Incredible Mr. Limpet! The 1964 Don Knotts vehicle in which he turns into a fish and helps the Navy hunt down Nazi submarines! The animated parts, where Don Knotts is a fish, can be done in live action with a CGI fish. And the live action parts...wait for it...are animated!
posted by Naberius at 11:21 AM on January 6 [20 favorites]


I really loved the movie. I loved the musical. I have always loved the music (except for "Memories" for some reason). I laughed out loud when the last number started. I walked out of it saying that I must be the intended audience.

I do take exception to people hating the movie who haven't seen it or at least seen the musical.

The main criticisms based on the trailer seemed to be about the CGI - particularly the size/scale issues and the fact that some of the people playing cats have breasts. I will tell you that neither of these things bothered me, partly because I was able to accept that it was a fantasy and that it was based on an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with people dressed as cats. The sparse amount of plot didn't surprise me because the musical was based on a book of poems.

------ Crazy Cat Lady
posted by diane47 at 11:24 AM on January 6 [7 favorites]


All musicals are inherently dumb. You can't go in to one expecting to see Citizen Kane or Apocalypse Now.

I was thinking that 2020 would be the year I stopped disagreeing with people who are wrong on the internet, but then I saw this and.

Anyway, I was going to list all of the musicals that are better than Apocalypse Now, but I don't have the time and it could be argued that Apocalypse Now itself is a musical.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:24 AM on January 6 [30 favorites]


it could be argued that Apocalypse Now itself is a musical.
And now for the second The Critic reference in this thread.
posted by dannyboybell at 11:41 AM on January 6 [14 favorites]


 Amblin Entertainment

Ambien Entertainment, amirite?
posted by scruss at 11:45 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


All musicals are inherently dumb.

That's like reading Twilight and saying that all novels are inherently dumb.
posted by tzikeh at 11:46 AM on January 6 [28 favorites]


If only all dumb things were musicals. I’m talking 25/7 singing and dancing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:48 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Maybe 'inherently dumb' was an unnecessarily glib way of putting it, but I think there's something to the idea that musicals are not the appropriate mode of presentation for all types of films. For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.That's not to say that musicals are inferior, but certainly they're not always the right choice for the subject matter.
posted by axiom at 11:52 AM on January 6 [1 favorite]


For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.

Les Mis?
posted by clawsoon at 11:53 AM on January 6 [14 favorites]


axiom: Agreed. For serious drama, you want opera.

Anyhoo, not all musicals are silly and inherently dumb... but certainly most of Andrew Lloyd Weber's are.
posted by SansPoint at 11:54 AM on January 6 [10 favorites]


That's a fair point. I'm not the world's biggest musical fan (haven't seen Les Mis) but in my head at least the translation of certain types of film to song just isn't obvious. The example that came to mind was The Usual Suspects. Verbal singing at Chazz Palmintieri just... no.
posted by axiom at 12:03 PM on January 6


All musicals are inherently dumb.

This generalization must be a musical! Fine, you don’t like them. They are simply not inherently dumb.
posted by less of course at 12:09 PM on January 6


For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.

Les Mis?


I was going to say South Pacific (which won the Pulitzer for Drama), and still presents some uncomfortable truths 70 years later.

There's a LOT of breadth to the genre.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:09 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Cats delivered. I screamed when Rebel Wilson cat peeled off her skin and vored a bug person less than 10 minutes into the movie. I shouted when the Idris Elba cat takes off his coat and starts dancing and he's somehow even nuder than a completely nude man. I gasped when Ian McKellan cat lapped up milk. I folded myself into a knot when Judy Dench cat curled up in a big cat bed just like a sleepy cat. I wept as Jennifer Hudson cat sang TOUCH MEEE and flew away in a big balloon. There were about a dozen people in the theater and we were all losing our minds at these dancing singing cats!

I have not seen Cats in either form and I have no idea if these descriptions of movie scenes are real, but if they are count me in.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:10 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


Making a movie out of Cats was a great subtle punchline in the under-appreciated film Six Degrees of Separation.
posted by Paragon at 12:10 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I had a lot of fun watching Cats, but not because it was particularly good. I love the inconsistencies of the world (it's a human sized world? why are all the businesses cat-themed?) and the inconsistencies of the cats themselves - clothes, shoes, full fursuits. What is going on?

My only complaint is that I wish we could have seen the dog.
posted by graventy at 12:11 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The example that came to mind was The Usual Suspects. Verbal singing at Chazz Palmintieri just... no.

That would be so cool. Interrogations make awesome patter songs. In fact, Muppets Most Wanted already did it.

And Cats is going to sweep the Razzies. In a perfect world, Halle Berry would come out to present the award for Worst Picture.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:15 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Porgy and Bess? Wicked?

Musicals? Opera? Who knows? Anyway, if Gershwin, why not Wagner?
posted by bonehead at 12:17 PM on January 6


All musicals are inherently dumb.

You’ve clearly never seen Sunday in the Park or Floyd Collins or Hedwig or Hamilton or 1000 other shows but I recommend you do so before saying nonsense like this!

Although maybe all Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals are dumb.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:17 PM on January 6 [16 favorites]


Operas are just high budget soaps made for rich people to be able to pay attention to while probably inebriated and/or dying slowly of gout. And I love them. I'm always trying to get people to see them but the buy-in is way too high, culturally and financially. Of course the medium has much more breadth than my glibness here implies, but I just wanted to briefly object to the srs dramaaaa perception that opera has just because a lot of it is old.

Anyway I saw Cats on broadway in 98 as a tween on a choir competition trip reward and it blew my tiny mind. The previews for the movie freaked me out too much as an adult, though. I'm too interested in practical effects and stagecraft for it to not be like I myself am a cat getting petted the wrong way.
posted by Mizu at 12:19 PM on January 6 [9 favorites]


For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.

Really...Really?
posted by Naberius at 12:20 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Cop Rock is surely the ultimate example to both sides of this discussion.
posted by BeeDo at 12:24 PM on January 6 [13 favorites]


Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing

Oh for god's sake. If you can't find any serious drama wedged into the ~350 years of stories staged to music between let's say Monteverdi and Sondheim, you are just not interested. Which is fine.
posted by less of course at 12:26 PM on January 6 [26 favorites]


maybe all Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals are dumb.

Of course, not everyone in New York would pay to see Andrew Lloyd Weber.
posted by nickmark at 12:29 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


in my head at least the translation of certain types of film to song just isn't obvious.

I'm just gonna highly, highly recommend The Band's Visit to everybody in this thread, if you ever have a chance to see it, go. The movie (not a musical, although it does, obviously, have a band in it) is an intensely quiet, introspective set of character-studies, not exactly the first thing you'd picture as a musical.

And for something completely different, I haven't personally seen it but my parents (my dad's an actor who met my mom when she was working as a theater critic, for bonafides) swear that Carrie: The Musical was great.

So there's a lot of range in what can make a good musical. I will grant you that songs lend themselves to capturing emotion - and really, I think any emotion, or mix of emotions, can be captured, conveyed, or even amplified by the right song - but that films which are more purely intellectual puzzles are harder (though not impossible!) and less rewarding to set to music; The Usual Suspects is a pretty good example of an intellectual puzzle-box film. I dare say someone could make an awesome musical out of Seven, though.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:31 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing

I really liked the adaptation of Fun Home - and anyone who thinks that Into the Woods is just comedy wasn't paying attention.
posted by jb at 12:31 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I've seen Cats twice already. I have tickets for a third screening tonight.

The first time, I got mildly high (one edible gummy) at a "rowdy screening" at the Alamo Drafthouse. I've watched enough movies high over the years to have a solid grasp on how drugs might affect my enjoyment or interpretation. After that screening, it was pretty clear that drugs would neither help nor hinder the experience of Cats. Rather like Burning Man, I found the film to be sufficiently strange on its own merits that the drugs felt unnecessary.

True to its billing, the "rowdy" audience seemed like they really, really wanted Cats to be BAD in every respect, so quite often they would guffaw loudly at things that plainly didn't require/deserve it. Like a horrible college party, there are few things worse than being stuck in a room with a bunch of people trying way too hard to have a good time, so I knew I had to try again under different circumstances.

The second time, I saw it stone cold sober with my partner in a weekend evening screening at AMC with a mixed crowd of ordinary folks. A few giggling hipsters, yes, but also people with small kids and other ordinary adults on date nights and such. My favorite part of that screening was the clutch of Black ladies to my right who couldn't stop mocking Jason Derulo and singing along to "Memories." I actually got a terrible headache at that screening because we were seated directly next to Ordinary Date People, and I felt I had to suppress my own laughter/reactions out of respect for their experience.

I can't put my finger on why I want to have a third go. I think I'm having a hard time nailing down how the movie makes me feel. It's true that I have a genuine appreciation of bad cinema, but this isn't that. I enjoyed Cats far more than I expected to, while also acknowledging that its weak spots are impossible to overlook. As another commenter said above, a lot of the blame rests on the source material itself. Cats the musical was savaged just as badly as Cats the film in its time. If you're going into the movie having never seen or experienced the musical, the same problems may persist.

The dancing really is the biggest disappointment: they undercut the human magic of musical theater (seeing bodies at their peak performing great and sustained feats of athletic prowess) by slathering it with ridiculous CGI and fake-ass anti-gravity stunts. What isn't ruined by the CGI is finished off by the poor shot framing and editing. You can never watch what you actually want to in Cats (not to mention all the things you never wanted to see in the first place). They went to the trouble of casting a bunch of stage/theater/dance people in the principal roles - Robbie Fairchild, Laurie Davidson, Francesca Hayward - and then completely wasted them. It's the biggest travesty of the whole thing, really.

Despite all that, I cried hot tears during "Memory" both times despite my best efforts to hold my shit together, and I think Laurie Davidson is weirdly adorable as Mr. Mistoffelees, so I guess it still has something in it for me. I'm going back tonight to another rowdy screening, so at least I can indulge fully in my reactions without giving myself an aneurysm, but I'll save my drugs for a better occasion, like a nice long weekend in the forest or something.
posted by mykescipark at 12:32 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]


“I had a realization partway through that I am the only person in the world who understands ‘Cats,’ ” says Kate, 31, a medical researcher in Chicago, who soon found herself plotting a “Cats”-based doctoral thesis while still in the theater: She would examine the class dialectic of 1930s London (when T.S. Eliot wrote the poems that inspired “Cats”), the late ’80s heyday of Webber and police brutality in 2019.
I wonder what her Metafilter handle is.
Wow, uh...hi.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:32 PM on January 6 [441 favorites]


(That is me, and I am the only person in the world who understands CATS.)
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:33 PM on January 6 [200 favorites]


nickmark: Of course, not everyone in New York would pay to see Andrew Lloyd Weber.

Buddy, I was once _paid_ to see Andrew Lloyd Weber. (Well, it was cashing in one of my perks of working for a theater, so close enough.) Specifically, Aspects of Love. It was the worst thing I had the distinct lack of pleasure to sit through just so I could have dinner a couple beers at the cast party afterwards.
posted by SansPoint at 12:39 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


[1940s thru the turn of the century]
"Psychedelics cleanse the doors of perception that we may see the universe as infinite! Revel in the cosmic ultrapeace!"

[The Aught's]
"Microdosing psychedelics can make you a better worker!"

[This New Hell Decade]
"Psychedelics might make this shitty movie more entertaining? Who can say?"
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:43 PM on January 6 [31 favorites]


I dare say someone could make an awesome musical out of Seven, though
The Lemonheads agree
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:46 PM on January 6


"Psychedelics might make this shitty movie more entertaining? Who can say?"

I'll volunteer that in the run up to "Rise of the Sith" ( Episode 3), there was this great animated Star Wars Clone Wars shorts on Cartoon Network by Genndy Tartokovsky. It was wonderful, and ended at a cliffhanger into Episode 3.

So, opening nite of Ep 3, I end up in the theater and really excited for the resolution to the tension built by Tartakovsky, dropped a hit of acid.

It was a waste of a hit of acid. Disappointing.

Not as disappointing though as the later demote of Tartakovsky's Clone Wars to the Extended Universe.
posted by mikelieman at 1:01 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Wow, uh...hi.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:32 PM on January 6 [27 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

(That is me, and I am the only person in the world who understands CATS.)
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:33 PM on January 6 [15 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


IS THIS REAL??? because if so I am SCREAMING WITH JOY

(I favorited, but it was NOT ENOUGH)
posted by alleycat01 at 1:09 PM on January 6 [55 favorites]


quadrilaterals: Wow, uh...hi.

Hah! That's amazing!

And, uh... Hi!
posted by clawsoon at 1:13 PM on January 6 [22 favorites]


posted by alleycat01

...

...

...


😺
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:16 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.
This poor dead horse will agree with me that

“Not to be born is best “


As the singing, dancing chorus to the Greek tragedy Oedipus at Colonus put it so long ago.
posted by clew at 1:21 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


Although maybe all Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals are dumb.

I saw the movie of Jesus Christ Superstar at a tender age and it was essentially my introduction to Christianity (aside from the kids who kept telling me I was going to hell). I loved it. We had a VHS copy and I did my best to wear out.

I thought maybe it was something I could talk about with the Christian kids, to build rapport. That didn't really work out, but that made me like it even more. For a number of years I was a militant atheist who unreservedly loved Jesus Christ Superstar.

I got over being a militant atheist.

I'm not a fan of any of Webber's other works (or honestly, most musicals), but Jesus Christ Superstar will always have a special place in my heart. (The only time I saw it live, I was hugely disappointed because ⓐ Ted Neely's voice was wrecked and ⓑ at the end Jesus physically ascended into heaven by wires lifting up into the rafters)
posted by thedward at 1:22 PM on January 6 [16 favorites]


Things overheard during and after a San Francisco screening, as carefully recorded by me for posterity:

"She has sexual tension with every single cat"
"What does jellicle mean?"...[the entire movie elapses without that question being answered, so when jellicle is mentioned once again] "what does that mean?"
Someone shouting "Gandolf!" at the screen as Ian McKellen appeared
"He’s tap dancing like a human and not like a cat. Also his tail should have a tap shoe, obviously. What are we even doing here?" (ok that one was me)
"Sí se puede" shouted at the screen after one of the cats said "yes we can"
[entire theater does the drumroll] [it leads to absolutely nothing]
"A cat is not a dog: is that the moral of the story?" [yes.]
"I was not high enough. I hate you."
"Up until this movie I thought I wanted to see Idris Elba naked. Now I don’t. Keep the coat on."

I have just so many questions. Why did nobody, at any point during this $90 million dollar process, did someone simply look at this movie? Why didn't anybody decide how large the cats would be, relative to the rest of the world, and make at least a minimal effort to scale everything accordingly? They change size from dinner plate size to human size within the same song. THEIR HANDS; why do they have human hands? Is Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, like the cat for the entire railway company, or merely the Cat of this one singular Railway Train? Or perhaps in the Cats universe the entire West Coast Main Line inexplicably only has one train, and come to think of it, why are all the cats going to Glasgow all of a sudden anyway and can this same cast just start doing Starlight Express right this minute?

I had the absolute best time.
posted by zachlipton at 1:25 PM on January 6 [22 favorites]


I watched Cats completely sober and came out with the absolute conviction that it would make a great cult midnight showing movie. It ought to be experienced in a crowd of blazed undergraduates singing along to Magical Mr. Mistoffelees, which is, in fact, a banger.
posted by storytam at 1:34 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Perhaps catnip brownies are needed.
posted by bz at 1:37 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I wonder what her Metafilter handle is.
Wow, uh...hi.
Shut down the site; heck, shut down the whole internet. It will never get better than this actually happening.

(Quick comment regarding genre: if there’s singing on stage, it’s some kind of opera. “Opera” (“work”) is the basic kind of creative mode, with multiple “genre” manifestations over the past 400 years or so—opera seria, opera buffa, singspiel, opéra comique, music drama, bel canto, verismo, operetta, musical theater—but it’s all some kind of opera.)
posted by LooseFilter at 1:38 PM on January 6 [15 favorites]


Related: Birth Movies Death interviews someone who did mushrooms and saw Cats.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:39 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


If true, and clawsoon didn't already know, this is mind-boggling. Appropriately.

I had no idea. It just seemed like the most Metafilter thing someone could say.
posted by clawsoon at 1:45 PM on January 6 [70 favorites]


Haven’t seen the movie yet but I have a sneaky suspicion that CATS is going to be this generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show.
posted by Eikonaut at 1:56 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


My mom dragged me to a lot of musicals growing up, including the touring company of Cats. So I knew exactly what I was getting into; once I realized that most of the weirded-out reactions to the movie were, essentially, reactions to, well, the inherent weirdness and incoherence of "a musical based on a bunch of goofy poems TS Elliot wrote about cats with no overarching narrative, which mostly exists as an excuse for a bunch of great dancers to slink around the stage sexily in cat-painted leotards, and also there is Memories, which I am pretty sure is a genuine Song of Power whose creation was the end result of a vast hidden magical conspiracy with Elliot and Weber as its unwitting pawns".

I think the one big mistake unique to this version was re-working the White Cat as an incompetent new cat who did not know a single one of the big group numbers. Especially when you cast a pro ballerina in the role. And honestly a lot of the magic goes out of the dance numbers when you cut around a lot and possibly sweeten them with CGI, the only one that really had the magic of watching a Good Dancer do their thing for me was the beginning of Skimbleshanks' number.

There were many other big mistakes in this version, but they are mistakes that are fundamental to any incarnation of Cats.

My SO and I saw it in a nearly empty theatre in Akron, Ohio. For me it was a very welcome break from the absolute suburban mundanity of visiting the suburb they came from. And while my SO didn't get into it like I did... the whispered snark just completely stopped once the first chorus of Memories showed up midway through. Song of Power, I swear.
posted by egypturnash at 2:04 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


I thought maybe it was something I could talk about with the Christian kids, to build rapport. That didn't really work out...

I recall, wayyyyyy back when the original Broadway cast recording came out and made its way here to the midwest, encountering several seriously super-christian folks being outraged and incensed by the song I Don’t Know How to Love Him because of the lyrics “He’s just a man”, empathy apparently being not a thing with them.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:05 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Anyway, I was going to list all of the musicals that are better than Apocalypse Now, but I don't have the time and it could be argued that Apocalypse Now itself is a musical.

I read that "inherently dumb" comment to be more about a certain fundamental silliness of the format than the quality but whatever I don't feel the need to fight about musicals as a genre one way or the other. I do feel the need to hear your argument as to how Apocalypse Now counts as a musical, however.
posted by atoxyl at 2:15 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Haven’t seen the movie yet but I have a sneaky suspicion that CATS is going to be this generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I haven't seen the movie either. But I did see comedian Demi Adejuyigbe's (aka electrolemon) Instagram story where he attended a half-empty opening night screening in LA. From those clips, it seemed like a very RHPS-type experience: people standing up and cheering, laughing at parts that weren't intended to be funny, mass singalongs, etc... And, let me remind you, this was on opening night. Some of this, of course, was facilitated by the previous popularity of the musical. But, apparently a bunch of people in attendance (including Demi himself) had no previous experience with Cats but was just able to jump right in anyways.

Seeing those clips made me realize that we may be seeing a very rare (perhaps unprecedented?) beast: an instant cult classic. The normal route of cult classics (I'm thinking of things like RHPS, The Room, Eraserhead, etc...) involve: 1) box office failure, 2) some period where it's largely dropped off the mainstream radar, 3) rediscovery and re-evaluation of the movie among a certain "cool" population that leads to things like passing around dubbed VHS tapes and midnight screenings, 4) promotion into cult classic status. Somehow, Cats has been able to accomplish step 1, bypass steps 2 & 3, and jump straight into step 4. I'm trying to think of another example of such a movie but I can't really think of one.
posted by mhum at 2:17 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I do feel the need to hear your argument as to how Apocalypse Now counts as a musical, however.

I don't think I've ever watched that movie completely sober; but I don't recall the part where Martin Sheen sings "The End."
posted by atoxyl at 2:18 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


taquito boyfriend & I decided to see it completely sober so that there'd be no question as to what was The Drogs Talkin' & what was the sheer unadulterated experience of watching the movie Cats. imo this was the absolute right call.

Also, for whom it may concern, I saw a tweet from someone cautioning people to examine whether they might have Cats-related childhood trauma (such as not having been allowed to participate in the musical for gendered reasons) before going to see it high. (The tweeter did not & apparently "stoned off your pancake in the middle of a theater showing of Cats" is not an enjoyable way to first confront this stuff.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:28 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I think this horse has been beaten sufficiently, but:

For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing

Oliver?
posted by DanSachs at 2:33 PM on January 6


Haven’t seen the movie yet but I have a sneaky suspicion that CATS is going to be this generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show.

NY Post: Hear me out: ‘Cats’ is the next ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (one hour ago)
posted by Apocryphon at 2:35 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


"That movie was propaganda for normalizing furries!"

Speaking as a furry, if actual furries were involved in the production, it wouldn't have looked nearly as uncanny-valley as it ended up looking. :P
posted by Aleyn at 2:47 PM on January 6 [24 favorites]


"What does jellicle mean?"...[the entire movie elapses without that question being answered, so when jellicle is mentioned once again] "what does that mean?"

Well, to be fair, T. S. Eliot was himself a little vague on the subject as well. I got curious enough to track it down; apparently the term comes from a poem Eliot wrote called "Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats". As for what "pollicle" and "jellicle" actually mean - they are sort-of-phonetic renderings of the mumbled phrases "poor little" and "dear little" - "poor little dogs" becomes "pollicle dogs". So "Jellicle" is "dear little", apparently.

As for the whole "musicals not being serious" issue - about 95% of all musicals are based on already-extant works of literature, some of them quite serious (Oklahoma is based on a play called Green Grow The Lilacs, Carousel is based on a Hungarian play called Lilliom, The Color Purple was based on Alice Walker's novel of the same name, Caberet was based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin memoirs and on the play I Am A Camera, etc.). I have a strong feeling that you'd deem the works they're based on to be sufficiently "serious" - so it strikes me that perhaps instead of musicals themselves not being serious, it may be a matter that if you're making that claim, that it is instead a case where you personally can't accept the musical format itself with any seriousness.

And that is honestly okay! We all have things that we look at and something in us just goes "nope, I'm not gonna go there." There are indeed some musicals that I've realized that I"m never gonna be able to swallow - I strongly doubt I'd ever be able to get anything from Starlight Express, and as eye-poppingly fantastic as the movie Moulin Rouge looks, the music is always, always gonna bother me (I'm not really that big a fan of the whole "jukebox musical" thing, where you take existing songs and use them in other contexts, unless it's really, really done well).

Cats is something else again, though, it seems.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:07 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


is st of bleecker st a musical or an opera
posted by PMdixon at 3:18 PM on January 6


"poor little dogs" becomes "pollicle dogs". So "Jellicle" is "dear little", apparently.

I'm grateful for your research and recognize that this is T. S. Eliot's doing and not yours, but is this something I'd have to be on one of the substances mentioned in the article to understand? The phrase "dear little" doesn't have a silent "J" in it that I'm missing, right?
posted by zachlipton at 3:32 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


I think Saint of Bleecker Street would be casually categorized by most people as an opera but I also think the distinction is at the same time complicated and not productive? Wikipedia calls it an opera, FWIW.

The most rough and ready distinction I can think of is that opera is generally sung without amplification, but this hasn't been universally true of opera in a while.
posted by less of course at 3:34 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


all musicals ARE inherently dumb, that is why they are great, in fact i would go so far as to say that any musical which is not in some sense incredibly dumb is not worth seeing and not worth the august title of being called a musical. bursting dramatically into song is always, always dumb and hilarious even if the song is about the most serious and depressing thing ever! deal with it, haters! i might sing a dumb fucking song about it! i hope you hate its dumbness!
posted by poffin boffin at 3:42 PM on January 6 [22 favorites]


i have not seen cats nor have i read any of the links in this post! i have a song about that too!
posted by poffin boffin at 3:43 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


OK, I will confess I love Cats, the original (West End and Broadway) musicals. I've been listening to the original Broadway cast recording since the mid-80s, and saw it on stage in the late '90s. The very idea of this movie delights and terrifies me. I won't spend money to see it in the theater, but I will lap it up (hah!) when it hits DVD. I don't know if I will love it, hate it, cringe through it, or what. But it's Cats, so I will be open to the experience. If nothing else, to see Jennifer Hudson sing "Memory" and Ian McKellan as Gus.
posted by lhauser at 3:43 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The phrase "dear little" doesn't have a silent "J" in it that I'm missing, right?

There is a certain type of British accent in which the sound of the word "Dear" is phonetically more like a "jyeaahhh"

If it helps, you can imagine a French accent, which has a similar way of handling "D"s.
posted by bluemilker at 3:44 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


all musicals ARE inherently dumb, that is why they are great, in fact i would go so far as to say that any musical which is not in some sense incredibly dumb is not worth seeing and not worth the august title of being called a musical. bursting dramatically into song is always, always dumb and hilarious even if the song is about the most serious and depressing thing ever! deal with it, haters! i might sing a dumb fucking song about it! i hope you hate its dumbness!

Calling em dumb is dumb, (and even more dumb the further you go, quite literally, like calling fireworks silent or the sun cold).

Calling em silly is more accurate, though that hasn't demonstrably gotten people's hackles up in this thread, so I can see why it would get less traction.
posted by avalonian at 3:53 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


ooooh somebody doesn't like my soooong
posted by poffin boffin at 3:57 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


I thought "jellical" was "angelical". But never mind; this is from Sunday's NYTs:

Among the more tantalizing (and possibly apocryphal) threads of “West Side Story” lore popped up not in The Times, but in an interview Laurents gave to The Hartford Courant shortly before his death in 2011, in which he addressed rumors that Disney had once proposed an animated version of “West Side Story” with … cats?
“Someplace I have a seven-minute reel that they made with white cats and black cats,” he said. “I remember the Maria cat came down the rope of a steamer illegally into the country. In the end I remember the Tony cat got run over. You can’t believe how terrible it was.”
posted by acrasis at 4:25 PM on January 6 [10 favorites]


Saw it. It was okay, but hated hated HATED that Mungojerry and Rumpleteezer's number had been completely rearranged almost beyond recognition. Loved loved LOVED Ian McKellan's performance of Gus, the theater cat. Absolutely worth the price of admission twice over.
posted by Quasimike at 4:40 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Jia Tolentino on the cultural history of Cats is a treat:
I asked Napier for his thoughts on the trailer, but he told me that, out of friendly loyalty to McKellen and Dench, he was waiting to take in the whole movie with fresh eyes. I told him that the phrase “digital fur technology” had become a buzzword. “Oh, dear,” he said. “I told Tom, you have to be very careful or they’ll end up looking like werecats. Fur is dangerous territory. For example, what are you supposed to do about their testicles, and their dicks, and their tits?”
posted by jshttnbm at 4:52 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


"For example, what are you supposed to do about their testicles, and their dicks, and their tits?”

WHAT INDEED
posted by merriment at 5:18 PM on January 6 [25 favorites]


Cop Rock is surely the ultimate example to both all sides of this any discussion.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:19 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I'm not a fan of any of Webber's other works (or honestly, most musicals), but Jesus Christ Superstar will always have a special place in my heart.

Same same

(The only time I saw it live, I was hugely disappointed because ⓐ Ted Neely's voice was wrecked and ⓑ at the end Jesus physically ascended into heaven by wires lifting up into the rafters)

One thing I’ll say for him: Jesus is cool.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]




Is Pennies From Heaven (either the Bob Hoskins or Steve Martin version) a musical? Are Carlos Saura's flamenco movies musicals? On the other hand how serious was Eliot about Possum's Book? (I think he viewed it as an entertainment, which is only serious to certain people some of the time.)
posted by CCBC at 5:44 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]




“Her face still looks like Taylor Swift,” he tells The Post — and also, it seems, himself. “But no, she’s a monster.”
posted by panama joe at 5:50 PM on January 6


The phrase "dear little" doesn't have a silent "J" in it that I'm missing, right?

Not if you're imagining an American from now saying it, no, of course not. Try again imagining the Queen saying it after a half-pint of sherry.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:04 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.

Hi, Next to Normal would like to make your acquaintance.
posted by tocts at 6:07 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Cop Rock

Okay, as one of the few (only?) people in this thread who’s actually seen Cop Rock, I’m going to have to deliver some bad news — it actually isn’t very good.

I mean yes, obviously. But I also mean, like in the midnight movie sense, it really isn’t very good. Yes, some truly inexplicable song and dances numbers that really have to be seen to be believed — for example I remember one about working out and losing weight? But really, most of the show tries very hard to play it straight as a fairly typical 90s cop show. The whole thing comes across as this sorta surrealist brew, like there’s this universe of “serious cops” who live their lives perfectly unawares that there’s an alternate dimension where all their acts are simultaneously being portrayed (loosely, badly) in song and dance. And one of the cops is sort of a stock character “Hothead Cop” except turned up to 11, which is sorta fun to make fun of, except that is LITERALLY his only mode of acting. We tried to imagine him like ordering coffee or buying a new pillow, and just couldn’t. Like I think he actually physically grits his teeth while delivering all his lines. Funny at first, but got exhausting real quick. And also I remember lots of super maudlin ‘dramatic’ scenes, and at least one or two (failed) ballads. We couldn’t get through it. Glenn Campbell inexplicably does the intro music, like he’s actually performing it live, and he seems really into what he’s doing, really earnest and super professional, yeah it’s pretty clear nobody let him see the show. “Yah it’s real good Glenn, real good show, we’ll let you watch it later. But let’s get this theme music down first, yeah?”

Very limited potential for enjoyment. Feel free to try, but be prepared to fast forward A LOT.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s no Captain Alex.
posted by panama joe at 6:29 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I saw it over the weekend. There were 5 people in the entire theater, me and a woman and 3 girls (it was the first showing on a Saturday). One of the girls was a dancer. During the credits, she danced all the way down the stairs. I found her really cute. She reminded me of me when I was that age.

I actually enjoyed it. I don't mind Andrew Lloyd Webber even though he's really weird. I had not seen Cats previously so I didn't know the story going in. I'll admit, it was really really off the wall. The CGI was a bit much. I loved the dancing and choreography.

If it were free, I'd see it again. But as a person who doesn't make a lot of money, I can't afford to pay for it again.
posted by kathrynm at 7:36 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


God damn it...

sigh...fine.

Metafilter: what are you supposed to do about their testicles, and their dicks, and their tits?
posted by Naberius at 7:44 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]


didn't see the hit broadway musical cats. did perform school orchestra medlies and hit tunes enough to wedge the songs into the brain pretty well. did read ol' possum's tedious poems.
did see hit broadway musical les mis (& read book) with concomitant school orchestra immersion in music. did see, against better judgment, the motion picture. which....
so, i was dismayed to become aware that hollywood hadn't learned, but had made a motion picture of the broadway musical cats too.
i will not go to see it in a theater (due to no fault of cats, but also to cats shortcomings so far in enticing me); chances are i will have an opportunity to see it some other way at some future time. i've probably sat through worse, likely including les miserables the motion picture, and am not afflicted by the body horror many expressed upon seeing the trailer. not yet. not at this low dosage.

anyway i'm only here to register my objection to the washington post expending its resources on this story: has democracy ever died in darkness on weed?
posted by 20 year lurk at 8:33 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I don't recall the part where Martin Sheen sings "The End."

That's because it was such an amazing scene that your mind simply cannot encompass the information, leaving only a vague sense of it's shape and tone drifting around the darker corners of your sanity.

In still moments, when you've been plied with sufficient intoxicants, you know that scene exists. You can picture it more fully if LSD is involved, but even with mere alcohol you still have a primal sense of it.

... But no matter many times you've watched the movie and seen that scene, you will never be able to truly know it. It exists beyond our capacities, waiting for the day our minds have advanced enough to look upon it's majesty and remain whole.
posted by aramaic at 9:15 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I'm not a fan of any of Webber's other works (or honestly, most musicals), but Jesus Christ Superstar will always have a special place in my heart.

I have a soft spot for it but only because I was introduced to the Laibach covers first.
posted by benzenedream at 9:19 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Hi I am unable to let this go! I feel like anyone saying musicals are dumb, whether that’s a condemnation or some kind of weird praise, is thinking of one or two examples. On the Twentieth Century is urbane and nostalgic. Company is tart and debauched and slyly melancholic. Sweeney Todd is gleefully sociopathic. A Chorus Line is suffused with the last gasp of youth. Cabaret is exuberance on the brink of despair. I think a number of you are assuming everything is “The Pajama Game” or something. Or, ok, Cats, which is indeed pretty dumb.
posted by less of course at 9:20 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


what are you supposed to do about their testicles, and their dicks, and their tits?

Y'know, I was just thinking that what this movie needs is maybe just a shit-ton more CGI. Specifically, make everyone wall-eyed and add genitals.
posted by sexyrobot at 9:58 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


In still moments, when you've been plied with sufficient intoxicants, you know that scene exists. You can picture it more fully if LSD is involved, but even with mere alcohol you still have a primal sense of it.

I mean, did you catch my disclaimer about why I could conceivably be forgetting an important scene from this movie?
posted by atoxyl at 10:29 PM on January 6


Wow, you guys are really hung up on this "inherently dumb" thing. Yeah, it was a throwaway comment, but if you don't think musical theater, even beautiful, moving, tragic musical theater, is at least a little bit absurd, I don't know what to tell you except that maybe that's what makes good musical theater so effective in the first place.
For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing

Oliver?
Have you seen Oliver? It may be Great Art by some standard, but you gotta work hard to not see the silliness that is starving boys dancing and singing about food, glorious food.

Aw fuck it. Send in the clowns.
posted by klanawa at 12:16 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


I have just returned from my third screening of Cats, and I am hopelessly won over. It is a movie you just have to surrender to ... even in the most horrifying metaphorical sense. I will second every flaw, miscalculation, and gross abuse of directorial authority, and return to watching Ian McKellen broadly tonguing a saucer of milk.
posted by mykescipark at 12:44 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


> my objection to the washington post expending its resources on this story: has democracy ever died in darkness on weed?

Democracy Dies in Dankness
posted by Westringia F. at 6:32 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


@rob_sheridan went to see it on shrooms:
Cannot overstate what a terrible idea this was. Thought it’d be funny but it was HORROR. The shrooms exacerbated every grotesque whisker & furry crotch of this garish atrocity of a film. I still feel dirty from it, like it touched me inappropriately and told me to keep a secret.
posted by gwint at 6:40 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Ok, you know what: I really wish people would stop hate watching stuff. When they're counting the receipts, they don't know which dollars came from a hate watch and which ones came from people who legit like this shit and want more of it. That's why we have a reality show star in the Oval Office and why we're overrun with Kardashians.

(I am aware that this particular picture lost money, so far. The point still stands.)
posted by holborne at 8:00 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


AFAIK, Cats only sin is being a bad movie. I won't lose sleep if it actually ends up making money through people enjoying hate-watching it.
posted by No One Ever Does at 8:35 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I laughed, I cried, I loved it! I’m going to see it again and again.
posted by nicepersonality at 8:39 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Having seen Cats twice now, I just want to point out that the film starts with the main character tied in a sack and thrown in the river Thames wherein she awakens to the world of Jellicle cats which means the whole thing is.. what? a pre-death talent show to get her life back?

That she was presumably murdered is a plot point that bears no weight throughout the entire rest of the movie and I can't seem to find anyone else talking about it but it's driving me nuts.
posted by bookwo3107 at 9:00 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


That she was presumably murdered is a plot point that bears no weight throughout the entire rest of the movie
It's explained in a throw-away comment just before cat Martin Sheen sings the lyrics of The End to the tune of Memories.
"rii-iiide the snaaaaaake!"
It's a good scene.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:10 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


Hi I am unable to let this go! I feel like anyone saying musicals are dumb, whether that’s a condemnation or some kind of weird praise, is thinking of one or two examples.

I took it to mean they are more escapist, like cartoons made for kids (who are certainly not dumb but are overwhelmed with absurd adult reality). And that is not to say that all movies aren't escapist, but the more weighty a film is, the harder it is to get made no matter what price, and whether one is in the old Soviet system or modern Hollywood, the producers must fool the money into believing their movie is not a subversive instrument of persuasion with hidden elements. Musicals died out because people experienced a lot less uncertainty in their lives and we're talking about polio and cities bombed and crop failures. One didn't need Bye Bye Birdie to feel like the world is relatively safe any longer, and although Paint Your Wagon is just as daring as Citizen Kane or Apocalypse Now, we can handle the straight serious without exceeding limits for anxiety.
posted by Brian B. at 9:13 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Ok, you know what: I really wish people would stop hate watching stuff. When they're counting the receipts, they don't know which dollars came from a hate watch and which ones came from people who legit like this shit and want more of it.

If there's a problem I have with the movies today, it's too many formulaic blockbusters. I'm fine with more insane Lloyd Webber adaptations.
posted by atoxyl at 10:49 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


I am probably more adventurous than most but I once made the truly bad really no seriously horrible mistake of getting far too high and accidentally seeing the improbably, inconceivably bad Super Mario Brothers movie in the theater.

I'm pretty sure I'm still traumatized. I remember when we got out of the theater my group of friends was uncharacteristically quiet until busted everyone up when I finally said something like "So, what the hell was that? I'm so confused."

Because I was seriously questioning my grasp on reality because my poor brain was having a lot of trouble accepting that I did indeed just watch a movie that was that bad and that confusing and therefore something must be seriously wrong and 'oh my god this is it I'm going to be high forever aren't I?' but no... No, the movie is just that bonkers.

"That... that was just really bad." someone else said. I found the note of trauma in their response very reassuring.

Why anyone would intentionally do this to themselves with a known on sight to be very bad movie like Cats is beyond me. It's practically a form of self harm. You might as well intentionally give yourself pinkeye.
posted by loquacious at 11:04 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I haven't seen it yet, but I'm absolutely positive that I'd rather live in the world where Cats exists, than the world where it was replaced with Transformers 27. There's nothing wrong with formulaic blockbusters if that's your thing, but doing weird new things should be encouraged, even if they don't always turn out great.

People trying to do weird shit is how we get cyriak, and that's an unambiguous good.
posted by mrgoat at 11:06 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]


I am probably more adventurous than most but I once made the truly bad really no seriously horrible mistake of getting far too high and accidentally seeing the improbably, inconceivably bad Super Mario Brothers movie in the theater.

The one time in my life I took way too much molly*, I was watching the Wachowskis' Speed Racer on a gigantic flatscreen TV at a friend's place. Somehow those two things seem perfectly synergistic.

*i.e., near-death-experience level panic attacks for nearly a year afterwards. Not recommended!
posted by mykescipark at 11:26 AM on January 7


To this day, very close to the only thing I know about CATS is that it is, somehow, a wildly successful stage adaptation of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

I am quite keen on the poems and it is a complete mystery to me how one would turn it into a stageplay with any success. So, in a way, the fact that it is completely tanking as a film just makes it feel like the world has moved a slightly closer to order.
posted by 256 at 11:29 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


> "... doing weird new things should be encouraged ..."

I would have accepted this argument for the stage musical, since it was a bizarre, nearly plotless piece based on the works of a modernist poet that Lloyd Webber took out a second mortgage to finance etc. etc.

I don't *like* the stage musical, but I would accept the argument that it was actually a goofy strange made-for-the-love-of-it art piece of the kind that should be encouraged.

However, a movie based on the stage musical, made *after* the stage musical made a gazillion dollars over umpteen decades, made during a period when movie musicals are finally starting to make some real money again after a long fallow period, and rushed into theaters so quickly that there were noticeable errors in the original print, seems like less of a "weird new" thing to me and more of a "hey, this cash cow has not been completely milked yet!" thing.
posted by kyrademon at 12:58 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I'm less thrilled about seeing this, mostly because the whole point of Cats the stage musical is getting to watch beautiful and talented dancers performing magnificently choreographed numbers to a series of cool and trippy songs. There's little narrative and there's no real point to it beyond "look at/listen to this performance". When you CGI the hell out of it you might as well just make it an animated feature; the skill of the dancers gets lost.

I'm not a musical theatre person, really, but it seems that many of the musicals produced in the 70s & 80s were built like this -- a series of songs and dance numbers without an underlying plot. A Chorus Line is a series of turns, too. But I could be absolutely wrong about that -- I'm speaking from ignorance.
posted by jrochest at 2:40 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


> clawsoon: "If true, and clawsoon didn't already know, this is mind-boggling. Appropriately.
I had no idea. It just seemed like the most Metafilter thing someone could say."

I think clawsoon deserves a special tag. I have a cold and can't think what it should be, but this should happen. Maybe a star, at least for a month.
posted by theora55 at 3:42 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


To this day, very close to the only thing I know about CATS is that it is, somehow, a wildly successful stage adaptation of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
I am quite keen on the poems and it is a complete mystery to me how one would turn it into a stageplay with any success.

On a related note, from this week's Captain Awkward:

"When you get discouraged or depressed, consider “Cats.”
“Cats” is a real thing in the world. It was ridiculous poems. Then it was a ridiculous show. Now it is, for some reason, a ridiculous movie. If “Cats” can do it, YOU CAN FUCKING DO IT. Approach your creative endeavors with the audacity of every single person who thought “Yes, ‘Cats’ is a thing we will make with our time.” The next time I see the words “worryingly erotic” I want them to be about you and your show."

posted by jenfullmoon at 4:47 PM on January 7 [11 favorites]


Whether we asked for it or not (we did not), Louis Peitzman brings us A ranking of the cats in the “Cats” movie by how much they fuck
posted by zachlipton at 6:07 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


bookwo3107: Having seen Cats twice now, I just want to point out that the film starts with the main character tied in a sack and thrown in the river Thames wherein she awakens to the world of Jellicle cats which means the whole thing is.. what? a pre-death talent show to get her life back?

That she was presumably murdered is a plot point that bears no weight throughout the entire rest of the movie and I can't seem to find anyone else talking about it but it's driving me nuts.


You may have seen Cats twice, but you didn't watch it carefully at all; the pillowcase containing Victoria is thrown into a street or an alley, not into the Thames.

So there's an explanation, if not an answer, to why nobody but you is talking about Victoria being murdered in the opening scene.
posted by tzikeh at 6:54 PM on January 7


klanawa: Wow, you guys are really hung up on this "inherently dumb" thing. Yeah, it was a throwaway comment, but if you don't think musical theater, even beautiful, moving, tragic musical theater, is at least a little bit absurd, I don't know what to tell you except that maybe that's what makes good musical theater so effective in the first place.

Along with so many other forms of art. Animal Farm, as just one example, works because it throws one a bit off-balance. I do not believe it is inherently dumb.

The de-rail on that throwaway comment is interesting, and it would be great if someone wanted to make a Meta about it. (1-2-3 NOT IT!)

less of course: Hi I am unable to let this go! I feel like anyone saying musicals are dumb, whether that’s a condemnation or some kind of weird praise, is thinking of one or two examples. On the Twentieth Century is urbane and nostalgic. Company is tart and debauched and slyly melancholic. Sweeney Todd is gleefully sociopathic. A Chorus Line is suffused with the last gasp of youth. Cabaret is exuberance on the brink of despair.

Okay, I nominate less of course. :-D

Sweeney Todd and Company immediately came to mind for me. Slapped my forehead when I didn't think about Cabaret. It's been decades since I have seen Chorus Line, but it seems like the music just worked. It was seamless for the show. Our views of the shows don't completely align, but that's a good set of shows where.... well, for the sake of argument, I narrow it to Cabaret. I just don't see how you do that show without tunes.

EmpressCallipygos: There are indeed some musicals that I've realized that I"m never gonna be able to swallow - I strongly doubt I'd ever be able to get anything from Starlight Express

Ha! So, I'm only sharing this because I am pretty sure Empress would find it amusing doing the behind the scenes work one does for theatre...

I had a colleague that worked the Starlight Express show the first time it rolled through Vegas. They had hundreds and hundreds of lamps for each show. (Light bulbs for those not in the biz. Work with me here.) As is custom, they would do a lamp check before each show. Duh. If a lamp is out, you need to replace it.

Well. The producers of that run didn't want to risk the color temperature (brightness, whatever) be off by changing one lamp. So, if one lamp burnt out, all 300+ lamps were replaced on the spot. The lamps that weren't burnt out were just supposed to go away and the producers didn't care how they were disposed of.

(So, in theory, you could have gotten something from Starlight.... Just wrong place, wrong time. But, yeah, I wouldn't watch it either.)

Off-strip Vegas theatres lived on those lamps for years.

I'll probably see Cats at some point, although I hope it's years from now.

To come full circle, one of my favorite musicals is incredibly smart because it is so inherently dumb. If you enjoy musicals or parodies, I strongly suggest The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) it you ever get to see it live.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:13 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]


It's been fascinating to read all the responses here (especially from quadrilaterals! the only person in the world who understands Cats!).

I'm seriously considering seeing the movie because the choreography was done by Andy Blankenbuehler, who won Tony awards for his work on Hamilton and In the Heights (and also Bandstand, which looked fabulous based on the clip they showed on the Tonys).

So now I don't know whether to see it for his work or not, given the comments here about how the CGI and the wires ruined the dancing.

Ah well. I have a DVD player and a library card; I can always check it out when I run out of other things to watch.
posted by kristi at 7:43 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


The producers of that run didn't want to risk the color temperature (brightness, whatever) be off by changing one lamp. So, if one lamp burnt out, all 300+ lamps were replaced on the spot.

no joke, this gave me a full-body shudder
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 PM on January 7 [8 favorites]


...a series of songs and dance numbers without an underlying plot. A Chorus Line is a series of turns, too. But I could be absolutely wrong about that -- I'm speaking from ignorance.

Well yes, this is in fact incorrect. It's a series of turns but here are two plotlines: one is a bunch of dancers who are beginning to age out of being likely to be considered for chorus line jobs auditioning and hoping to get one last show, which in the end some of them do and some of them don't. Another is sort of a B plot about one of the people auditioning, who has a history with the guy running the auditions. It's not War & Peace but it's not a revue, either.
posted by less of course at 8:06 PM on January 7


The de-rail on that throwaway comment is interesting, and it would be great if someone wanted to make a Meta about it. (1-2-3 NOT IT!)

I don't honestly even know what that would look like. I've mostly read ask in my time here and have never 100% understood metatalk. So I must sadly un-nominate me, though I do wonder why it's a derail to respond when people dismiss an entire genre. I have no assumptions about the gender/sexuality of the people who are dunking on musical theater here or their motivations, but I do know that, in my experience, it's easy to dismiss the whole of it as something frivolous because, historically, gay people like it.
posted by less of course at 8:16 PM on January 7


Haven’t seen the movie yet but I have a sneaky suspicion that CATS is going to be this generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It's as equally likely to be this generation's CATS.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:20 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


You can't really say that Hamilton is not a dramatic work either, although we could quibble over "Serious Drama" versus melodrama perhaps.

More broadly, I think this attitude comes from the idea that identifies seriousness and worth in fiction (especially movies) with realism. Musicals can be a lot of things, but they will always present a heightened form of reality, and always require some degree of suspension of disbelief. There is a certain view of fiction that demands that if something is serious then it must be as realistic as possible, so musicals are disregarded.

But on the other hand, in this aspect musicals are in line with staged theatre in general. A play is always at least a little heightened, and we are asked to understand that sets and props represent certain places and objects without being a realistic portrayal of them. Non-musical stage acting can still be recognized as serious, but it's also serious in the way of an opera or an art museum or a classical concert. That is, it can be a Serious Art associated with the Great Artists of the past while also being more marginal and participating less in contemporary popular culture. Different cultural space.

Stage theatre is nowhere near as ossified as opera as an art form, but I'd wager that the people who are into contemporary theatre are also less likely to hold that musicals as a genre are inherently non-serious.

This is also the kind of thinking that regards science fiction as inherently non-serious. Not always an opinion held by the same individuals, but the same reasons.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:26 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


I have no assumptions about the gender/sexuality of the people who are dunking on musical theater here or their motivations, but I do know that, in my experience, it's easy to dismiss the whole of it as something frivolous because, historically, gay people like it.

Wow. Uh. That's... really, really not what's happening here.
posted by tzikeh at 11:28 PM on January 7


Whether we asked for it or not (we did not), Louis Peitzman brings us A ranking of the cats in the “Cats” movie by how much they fuck

Rum Tum Tugger's position on this list is much too high, given that his whole deal is the very catlike being about to do a thing but then changing his mind.

on this note, I asked taquito boyfriend if he wanted a rum tum tugger this morning & he responded "You want to give me half a handjob and leave?"
posted by taquito sunrise at 1:12 AM on January 8 [12 favorites]


That's... really, really not what's happening here.

As I’ve acknowledged. But it’s a thing that happens.
posted by less of course at 6:09 AM on January 8


selfnoise, I urge you to take your daughter to see Into The Woods on stage if you get the chance, and if you don't, get her the DVD of the Broadway production. It is approximately *infinitely* better than the film. (Except for Chris Pine as William Shatner as Cindy's Prince, who was awesome.)

*

For example, Serious Drama doesn't really fit a bunch of folks singing and dancing.

axiom: sometimes it does. As many above me have already pointed out, see Cabaret. A musical about why Nazis take over—that's pretty damn Serious Drama. I mean, there is a lot of frothy delightfulness in musical theatre, but that doesn't mean none of it has Something To Say. G & S is exceedingly frothy, but not without a Point.

A general rule would be 'don't see the film version', though even that is not always true. I have nothing to say about Cats (and probably shouldn't even be on this thread), but my personal experience is that musicals I really love are way better on stage than on film (see Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd (uuuurgh), even Guys and Dolls), whereas if I am not that invested in a musical, the film version is unlikely to dismay me (see Evita, which may in fact have been rather good).
posted by Pentickle at 6:50 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


what are you supposed to do about their testicles, and their dicks, and their tits?

And the Oscar for best costume design goes to....Jay Naylor!
posted by Thorzdad at 7:01 AM on January 8


I once saw a community theater in Tacoma do an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical review.

The presenter described Webber as "the greatest composer of this half of any century. "

And I've thought of him that way ever since.
posted by Laura Palmer's Cold Dead Kiss at 12:59 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


less of course:
The de-rail on that throwaway comment is interesting, and it would be great if someone wanted to make a Meta about it. (1-2-3 NOT IT!)

I don't honestly even know what that would look like. I've mostly read ask in my time here and have never 100% understood metatalk. So I must sadly un-nominate me, though I do wonder why it's a derail to respond when people dismiss an entire genre. I have no assumptions about the gender/sexuality of the people who are dunking on musical theater here or their motivations, but I do know that, in my experience, it's easy to dismiss the whole of it as something frivolous because, historically, gay people like it.

less of course, I sincerely apologize for not being more precise. I absolutely did not mean you had derailed and/or had done something wrong. If you feel that way, my sincerest apologies.

The derail I was speaking of was a commenter posting in this thread about how all musical theater was, by definition, absurd, when the the post was clearly about the Cats movie.

I am enjoying the de-rail. But, the original FPP is about Cats: the Movie, and so I was totally suggesting to move the derail (that is: talk about Musicals being absurd or whatever) to an entire other area.

(I need to walk away from the computer for a little bit. less of course, please accept my heartfelt thanks of anyone who loves musicals. although I am still amused the artform is any more absurd than any other.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 6:00 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos:

The producers of that run didn't want to risk the color temperature (brightness, whatever) be off by changing one lamp. So, if one lamp burnt out, all 300+ lamps were replaced on the spot.

no joke, this gave me a full-body shudder

I can only remember one time getting really angry with a stage manager. Short version... I missed my first light cue. She was in the booth in no time chewing my ass. My response was, "I just broke my fucking foot trying to fix a lighting issue before curtain. I'm sorry I missed the damn cue."

In minutes, there was a bucket of icewater for me to soak my foot, so I could run the light board for the next three hours. (x-rays said no break, but I had to take a couple days of from the job that actually paid at the time.)

I've hung 20+ feet over a stage with no harness more times than I care to admit.

We had an (analog!) dimmer die.... 30 seconds into the first song of a show. Figured it out in about 2 minutes (because of how we had things plugged in.) At this particular theatre, we ALWAYS used a live band. Our dimmer rack? Right behind the sax player. Cutting power to half the theatre to reseat a systemboard during the first song was.... fun.

Empress, I apologize for all the lighting people that have given you shudders during rehearsals/performances.

We're not ALL idiots. We may be a little overconfident, though.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 7:49 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Empress, I apologize for all the lighting people that have given you shudders during rehearsals/performances.

Oh, dude, usually the techies are the people I bonded with, no worries. In 95% of the shows I did I also was the light crew as well (yaaaaaaaay off-off-Broadway).

No, that "if one of the 300 bulbs burns out you have to change all of them" sounds way more like a directoral/producers' comment and that's a whole different thing.


...My first ever show in NYC was in a venue where the ceiling was about 30 feet up over the floor, and one of our spots was in a rack dead-center of the house. And about 10 minutes into act 2 of the show, one of those spots shorted out. ...Fortunately, the lighting designer's assistant was running the lighting board, so after a brief and intense discussion over the headphones, he and I completely rewrote the design for the rest of show on the fly, tweaking every one of the remaining cues and progamming them into the board to compensate for that missing light. We were a tag team - he'd give me a cue number, I'd tell him what happened on stage at that exact moment, he'd figure out what other lights needed to be intensified to fill in the missing light and re-write the cue, then save it, then ask about the next cue. When we had an actual cue come up during our repair work, he just paused what he was doing, called up the newly-edited cue we needed to run, and then went back to rewriting things.

Nothing but respect for the light guys and techies. We are the undersung lynchpins holding things together.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]




Haven’t seen the movie yet but I have a sneaky suspicion that CATS is going to be this generation's Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Twitter personality and queer activist Anthony Oliveira (@meakoopa) is hosting two sing-along screenings this weekend in Toronto.
posted by dnash at 11:45 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


OK, this is probably too late for anybody to comment on - but can I just point out that one value of making Broadway musicals into films is that more people can see them? For instance, Hamilton. I have a good friend who is in a very successful "Hamilton tribute band" and I would dearly love to see Hamilton so I can appreciate her band but alas, it has not come to my city. She herself had not seen it until she flew to San Francisco just to catch it!
posted by diane47 at 11:48 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


can I just point out that one value of making Broadway musicals into films is that more people can see them?

Along those lines, the preview for Miranda's In the Heights has been received with much excitement at all four of the Cats screenings I've been to.
posted by mykescipark at 2:59 PM on January 9


Possibly a bit relevant given that a new letter from T S Eliot, embargoed for 50 years, in response to correspondence he wrote, which had also been embargoed for 50 years, has just been released. In the letter he writes about his first marriage, and how in marrying and staying in England he became "a poet".

Cannot track down the original observation - but just think how infuriated he would be that rather than being known for his poetry, he is best remembered for a kid's book of almost nonsense rhymes.

Mind you, I was given a poetry book collection when I was nine years old (half a century ago) and it had "Macavity the Mystery Cat" in it, and as a cat lover, that was and is still my favourite poem in the book.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 3:24 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Nothing but respect for the light guys and techies. We are the undersung lynchpins holding things together.

~12 years ago, I saw a kid wearing his HS Drama shirt. On the front it said "school name Drama - Tech Crew". On the back, "Without us, it's just a bunch of ugly people in the dark."
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:46 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


can I just point out that one value of making Broadway musicals into films is that more people can see them?

FWIW they made a film of the Cats stage show, specially lit and produced for cameras. It's certainly not the same thing as seeing it live, but it's definitely better than not seeing it at all, and most assuredly better than letting a filmmaker do a terrible job adapting it into a fully reimagined movie.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:28 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


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