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Thread: Cats

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    DrowGuy

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    I watch Cats this morning and I'm going to tell you my thoughts on the movie.

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    Cats is based on the Broadway musical. It's about a tribe of cats who decided yearly to be chosen to Heaviside Layer to be ascended to a new life. This movie was great. There were singing and dancing. And Jennifer Hudson did an amazing job singing her part. This movie is Oscar-worthy. I'll give this movie 5 out of 5 stars for an Oscar-worthy movie.

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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    All I've heard about this movie indicates is such a train wreck that I actually kinda want to see it now... Maybe while drunk.
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2019-12-28 at 05:33 PM.

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    My impression so far is that the critics don't like it, and the audience score is lukewarm at best (but significantly better than the critics).

    My wife liked it as well, although I won't be going to see it (we are both veterans of the stage show - I've seen the stage show about three times - The Gillian Lynne Theatre - formerly New London Theatre - no less).

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    All I've heard about this movie indicates is such a train wreck that I actually kinda want to see it now... Maybe while drunk.
    Short version: Not while drunk, but if you go in understanding its flaws you will probably appreciate it more. It's not about the story as it is watching the song and dance.

    I wouldn't say train wreck so much as genuine attempt that is flawed by its nature. The big problem with Cats is that it is a stage show, and doesn't transfer to film very well.

    On stage you know it's people dancing in cat costumes, and you are at a distance so you can see all the stage and action and the defects are blurred by distance. On film they insist on close-ups, and on top of that there's the CGI which is off-putting, distracting you from the dancing. They did a direct to DVD movie about a decade ago that had simillar problems (less the CGI, of course).

    Added to that there's virtually no plot - it is literally (and openly) Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats set to music with a thin veneer of plot - so while it is great on stage where you expect spectacle rather than necessarily story, on a film you tend to expect a little more of a plot.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Quite a lot of critics appear to have lost SAN from being exposed to it.

    That said, it's CATS, it's for people who like CATS but it's probably a worse way to experience that particular piece of media than watching it on stage because Tom Hooper is a bad director who makes questionable shot choices and Hollywood doesn't have a tradition of dance-led movies and hasn't had for a very long time.

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    I actually had a great time with it. The spectacle was spot on and roughly a third or halfway through the film I had just accepted that these were cats dancing and singing. There are a couple of numbers that don't really hit right and most of the attempts at humor fail, but the effects are nice, the actors do a good job of being cats, and the music is fun.
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    It's such a weird choice for a movie adaptation... IIRC, CATS has basically zero plot.

    I didn't particularly care for the original Broadway show, but even with its cheesy costumes, it never felt like a Uncanny Valley nightmare... And at very least it had the added artistic/entertainment value of being performed live.
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    I didn't really see them as an Uncanny Valley nightmare, just actors/dancers in very high-tech costumes. I had the feeling that I could have imagined them as actual cats only if I put in a lot of work on my side.

    Over the years there has been a broad spectrum of styles of musicals. This one was more on the light on plot "revue" style end, though there was some plot. Furthermore, it had very little dialog that wasn't sung. I can't think of a movie musical that was similar in these respects. Some of the early Busby Berkley musicals had long plotless stretches of pure spectacle, but there was always some non-musical segments with actual plot. Stage musicals can get away with more.

    Oh, and my headcanon is that Andrew Lloyd Weber must have seen Logan's Run before coming up with the play. I barely restrained myself from calling out "Renew! Renew!" when the cats were vying to ascend to the Heaviside Layer.
    Last edited by DavidSh; 2019-12-29 at 01:03 AM.

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    The movie I don't know about, but I happened to see a showing of the Broadway version on television. I was bored to tears. No question the songs are fantastic. They're beautiful. The show itself was absolutely nothing. It's cats singing about themselves until the leader chooses one to die and go to cat heaven. Even the beloved "Memory" was ruined as it was sung in two parts with a long separation between but wasn't part of anything. I could not understand why this was such a hit. I wouldn't have seen this move even before the bad reviews before it premiered. There is no plot, no story, nothing happens.
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    If you were to approach an adaption of Cats from stage to silver screen, there are changes that would be made. Certainly, if the focus of Cats is the story or characters (and by extension that songs that portray those two things), there is one simple fundamental change that would almost be absolutely vital to the adaption: make them actual cats, rather than humans in cat costumes. Maybe this is physical cats in a physical environment, trained and coaxed into looking like they're "acting" with voiceover lines (ala Beverly Hills Chihuahua and countless similar movies before it), CGI cats in a physical environment (ala the Garfield movie), or fully animated films (2D or 3D, either could work). But if you are starting from the position of "Cats is about the story and/or characters", then you have to accept that "humans dressed like cats" is a compromise that had to be made because this was originally a stageplay.

    ...but that's not what this movie does. It is an absurdly simple change that could have been made if they wanted to do the story/characters better, which leaves only one conclusion: the story/characters aren't what's important about Cats. What's important about Cats is, in fact, the humans dressed up to look like cats.

    We know why this movie was made. We know who this movie is for.


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    Cats is such an obviously bad idea for adaptation that's its mind-boggling that someone signed off on spending 95 million dollars to make this movie. Honestly Cats works best as a concert production - my parents had a Cats cassette when I was younger and it lodged a solid place in the road trip rotation. The actual musical resembles a ballet that happens to have lyrics as opposed to just instrumental music more than anything else (the similarities to something like the Nutcracker Suite are actually rather striking), but ballet isn't exactly a favored art form these days.

    Cats is going to lose Universal a gigantic pile of money. It'll be lucky to pull in 50 million worldwide, which, depending on the marketing budget, means it could lose well over 100 million dollars before all is said and done.
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    If the musical had even slightly acknowledged the poem-book's Sherlockian roots, there would have been no trouble about a plot. Just sayin'.
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    What bothers me is the critics who say "beautiful music, but where's the plot?"

    You're a critic. You should know the source material for a movie that is a direct adaptation of one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. You can say that the lack of plot makes for a poor transition to a movie. But getting confused by the movie being in the same format as the play? That indicates a lacking in the critic.

    For myself, despite loving the musical I don't intend to watch the film. I have a visceral reaction to the CGI cat bodies and the trippiness of the clips I've seen don't inspire the same wonderment as the ballet-style dancing of the stage show.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DomaDoma View Post
    If the musical had even slightly acknowledged the poem-book's Sherlockian roots, there would have been no trouble about a plot. Just sayin'.
    Other than Macavity obviously being Moriarty, what Sherlockian roots?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarVecna View Post
    We know why this movie was made. We know who this movie is for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSh View Post
    Other than Macavity obviously being Moriarty, what Sherlockian roots?
    In his theatrical career, Gus "once played a tiger, could do it again/That an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain." Just make the most of the cross-poem tie-ins from there, et voila, a plot is born. Grizzabella can totally come too.
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    It would have been very, very unlikely that I were to go to see CATS, but then I found out that James Cordon is in it.

    James "was publicly caught sexting someone who was not his - at the time, pregnant - fiance and yet somehow still has a career" Cordon. The man is fingernails-on-a-blackboard in vaguely human form, even in a bit part.

    Because of that, I will be actively avoiding this movie. I can scarcely imagine a premise more repulsive: weirdly sexualised, hideously CGI'd non-professional singers croaking their way through a plotless, neon-coloured jumble, guest-starring James friggin' Cordon. Except maybe a cameo from Ricky Gervais, that would be the final seal that would open the gates to literal Hell on Earth.
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    I have now seen the movie.

    The story and songs are nonsense. The characters are interesting enough. It's clear to see that the limitations the stage play had that film doesn't have to worry about are being done away with entirely - the sets and the 'costuming' enhance everything a great deal. But I cannot recommend this movie for one simple reason: the editor needs to be taken out back and shot.

    It seems clear to me that "fantastic dancing that makes them really feel like graceful cats" is the main draw of this musical, and the CGI didn't ruin this part for me nearly as much as it does in some movies. A lot of effort has gone into the 'costuming' and it shows. No, what ruined this movie for me is that all the shots basically focus on one dancing cat at a time (with the rest kinda dancing in the background), and while that dancing looks like it's probably pretty impressive, no individual shot holds long enough for you to ever be sure. Two seconds of dancing CUT TO A NEW ANGLE three seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER CAT two seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER CAT three seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER ANGLE. There's about a half-dozen times in this movie where an actor or actress goes to do one of those cool spinning jumps, and the editor has cut to another angle in the middle of the goddamn jump. They do not leap and land in the same shot, and it is jarring. And from what little I'm able to see, there's a lot of effort going into the choreography, and these are all very talented dancers. But on a stage, you could just watch the whole scene and focus where you want to - that makes it infinitely rewatchable. But here, you have to focus on this one cat, but never for long enough to actually enjoy it. There is one really cool dancing scene in this movie, and the only reason the editor couldn't ruin it is because you could enjoy it with your eyes closed: the Railroad Cat does a tapdancing number straight out of the play that's very intentionally mimicking the sound of a train slowly chugging to a start, and it's wonderful.


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    I just wish I could find a review of the movie done by people familiar with the stageplay. Hearing the same complaints over and over about gets old. Honestly I think this thread is the only place I've seen anything other than a scathing memefuelled rant.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    It's such a weird choice for a movie adaptation... IIRC, CATS has basically zero plot.
    Welllll... not zero, but very close.

    It's essentially about a reaping ceremony for a tribe (cult?) of cats where the tribe's leader(?) Old Deuteronomy, chooses one to be sent to the Heavyside Layer (afterlife?) and reborn. Most of the songs are various cats describing their key personality trait, basically making their case to be the one chosen. In the end, one is chosen and sent, likely due to her showstopping number which many believe is the one actually good song in the whole thing.

    I believe the movie added some details to this (as well as a new POV character) but not much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    I didn't particularly care for the original Broadway show, but even with its cheesy costumes, it never felt like a Uncanny Valley nightmare... And at very least it had the added artistic/entertainment value of being performed live.
    Yeah, I feel like a lot of the original's appeal came from the live action and the striking costumes. You can't really get that kind of wow factor from CGI - we already know it can do basically anything, so a bunch of humanoid cats in 2019 isn't nearly as impressive as human-cat-costumes in 1981. And the uncanny valley effect makes it far worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarVecna View Post

    We know why this movie was made. We know who this movie is for.
    I sincerely doubt anybody thought enough Furries would want to watch this to make it a profitable endeavor
    Unless you mean fans of the stage production in which case you have a point
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    If they were actually dressed up as cats that would be one thing. But the Uncanny Chasm CGI monstrosities they went with instead...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Welllll... not zero, but very close.

    It's essentially about a reaping ceremony for a tribe (cult?) of cats where the tribe's leader(?) Old Deuteronomy, chooses one to be sent to the Heavyside Layer (afterlife?) and reborn. Most of the songs are various cats describing their key personality trait, basically making their case to be the one chosen. In the end, one is chosen and sent, likely due to her showstopping number which many believe is the one actually good song in the whole thing..
    Oh, right... I vaguely remember Old Deutheronomy having to choose someone for something "under the Jellicle moon" or something like that. I didn't remember it essentially being a death cult, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    Yeah, I feel like a lot of the original's appeal came from the live action and the striking costumes. You can't really get that kind of wow factor from CGI - we already know it can do basically anything, so a bunch of humanoid cats in 2019 isn't nearly as impressive as human-cat-costumes in 1981. And the uncanny valley effect makes it far worse.
    Not to mention that Cats was very innovative back in 81, since it was the first "megamusical", the theater equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster.
    But we now have a million megaproductions in theaters and a billion of them in Hollywood movies, so that appeal is lost as well.

    TBF, I only watched Cata twice... One in a DVD of the show, out of curiosity to see what all the fuzz is about... And another one back in 2016, during the Broadway revival, because a friend of mine really, really wanted to see if and didn't want to go alone, and since I was the only person she knew in a 300,000 km radius...

    Maybe I wouldn't mind the barely existent (and somehwat creepy) plot and nightmare fuel CGI if I had more Nostalgia for the musical... But then again, if all a movie has to offer is nostalgia bait, then it deserves to fail.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    The movie I don't know about, but I happened to see a showing of the Broadway version on television. I was bored to tears. No question the songs are fantastic. They're beautiful. The show itself was absolutely nothing.
    You just said that the songs were fantastic and beautiful, how is that nothing?

    There is no plot, no story, nothing happens.
    Right. There never was a significant narrative, nor was it intended to have one. It was a vehicle for singing and dancing. Much like musicals about the King of Siam, or a Malibu Stacy Doll (to invert the Simpsons reference).

    In all seriousness, the stage play was super sparse even for a musical, but it was never meant to be anything more than it was. I'll give it credit for that. I'll bet it was something of a surprise when it took off like it did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rodin View Post
    What bothers me is the critics who say "beautiful music, but where's the plot?"

    You're a critic. You should know the source material for a movie that is a direct adaptation of one of the most successful Broadway musicals of all time. You can say that the lack of plot makes for a poor transition to a movie. But getting confused by the movie being in the same format as the play? That indicates a lacking in the critic.
    Not at all, at least not necessarily. They are (/can be, I don't know to which reviews in particular you are referring) pointing out that a direct adaptation of the source material was a bad idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by AvatarVecna View Post
    I cannot recommend this movie for one simple reason: the editor needs to be taken out back and shot.

    It seems clear to me that "fantastic dancing that makes them really feel like graceful cats" is the main draw of this musical, and the CGI didn't ruin this part for me nearly as much as it does in some movies. A lot of effort has gone into the 'costuming' and it shows. No, what ruined this movie for me is that all the shots basically focus on one dancing cat at a time (with the rest kinda dancing in the background), and while that dancing looks like it's probably pretty impressive, no individual shot holds long enough for you to ever be sure. Two seconds of dancing CUT TO A NEW ANGLE three seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER CAT two seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER CAT three seconds of dancing CUT TO ANOTHER ANGLE. There's about a half-dozen times in this movie where an actor or actress goes to do one of those cool spinning jumps, and the editor has cut to another angle in the middle of the goddamn jump. They do not leap and land in the same shot, and it is jarring. And from what little I'm able to see, there's a lot of effort going into the choreography, and these are all very talented dancers. But on a stage, you could just watch the whole scene and focus where you want to - that makes it infinitely rewatchable. But here, you have to focus on this one cat, but never for long enough to actually enjoy it. There is one really cool dancing scene in this movie, and the only reason the editor couldn't ruin it is because you could enjoy it with your eyes closed: the Railroad Cat does a tapdancing number straight out of the play that's very intentionally mimicking the sound of a train slowly chugging to a start, and it's wonderful.
    There's definitely something to be said for this. Sometimes the medium defines what we will be impressed by. We are impressed (or not, but bear with me) by the costuming of the Broadway production because we know it is people in costumes, AND that they are costumes that have to work for an entire performance (and that the performers have to be able to dance in them). Likewise, every individual leap and turn doesn't have to be the greatest thing we have ever witnessed because we're impressed by the whole of the experience. They got all of these people together to do this one dance all at once, with no reshoots or do-overs, on stage (so you can't zoom in, and need to work with very minimalist cues to focus attention on a given performer), massively multiple times, and made something exciting to watch -- there's an inherent level of impressiveness to that that gives gravitas to the stage performance. In a movie, where you only use your best footage, a lot of that goes out the window. Start cutting it up such that you're only looking at an individual dancing or leaping for a few seconds (or less) and suddenly a lot of the good will gets wiped out and criticisms like, 'well, heck, *I* could look good dancing or leaping for a quarter second if I got to choose which quarter second it was.' I feel that in some cases that criticism can be overblown -- people who complained that they used editing tricks to make Margot Robbie do some of the impressive skating moves in the Tonya Harding biopic (y'know, those unbelievably impressive leaps that only a few trained athletes in the world can do in their prime) -- but when you are making a film adaptation of a stage production and refusing to actually adapt the thing in terms of plot or the like, well then you are resting your hopes of public goodwill towards the thing on those not-as-impressive-when-not-a-stage-production dance moves.
    Last edited by Willie the Duck; 2019-12-30 at 02:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    You just said that the songs were fantastic and beautiful, how is that nothing?
    I was expecting a story and got none. I could get the same wonderful singing listening to a soundtrack. I wanted a performance and got a glorified school glee club. Fiorello Laguardia High School of Performing Arts quality, but still a glee club.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    There's definitely something to be said for this. Sometimes the medium defines what we will be impressed by. We are impressed (or not, but bear with me) by the costuming of the Broadway production because we know it is people in costumes, ·.. but when you are making a film adaptation of a stage production and refusing to actually adapt the thing in terms of plot or the like, well then you are resting your hopes of public goodwill towards the thing on those not-as-impressive-when-not-a-stage-production dance moves.
    That makes sense a bit like poetry and art. And is why I dislike much 'modern art' and 'blank verse', as it's lost the constrainsts without adding the content. Although sometimes, of course you find that you didn't notice the new constrainsts or a particularly subtle way there's more in there than you'd expect.

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    I am imaging that somewhere downwind, possibly a town in Belgium (Ypres?), once a year, a dead cat falls out of the sky, after the balloon bursts on reaching the upper stratosphere.

    Now, can anybody who saw the stage production tell me, was the bit where Macavity abducts the other cats to eliminate competitors original to the film, or was it in the stage production?
    Last edited by DavidSh; 2019-12-31 at 07:10 AM. Reason: Wipers

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    I think Disney is secretly behind this movie to give YouTube movie critics something to talk about instead of "The Rise of Skywalker".

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidSh View Post
    Now, can anybody who saw the stage production tell me, was the bit where Macavity abducts the other cats to eliminate competitors original to the film, or was it in the stage production?
    In the stage production, Macavity abducts Old Deuteronomy, who is later brought back by the Magical Mr. Mistoffelees.

    EDIT: And there's no hint that he is trying to play for the Jellicie Choice either.
    Last edited by Manga Shoggoth; 2019-12-31 at 09:25 AM.
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    That's a good quick summary...

    Everything that was innovative and/or impressive in the original stage musical is either absent or simply not particularly impressive (and definitely not innovative) in a Hollywood mega production made almost 40 years later.

    Simultaneously, it seems none of the aspects that could be made better in a big budget movie were improved... In fact, some were made worse (like the "costumes").

    So the movie ends up with the worst of both worlds.
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2019-12-31 at 03:34 PM.

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