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John Travolta first made his name in film in the 1970's, often as the result of dance scenes.  During the 1970's Travolta was young lithe, rangy, and an excellent dancer.

As he aged, gained weight, and took on dramatically different roles, some of them included memorable dance scenes, not the least of which was the one in the whimsical film "Michael," made in 1996.  Travolta played an angel on his last trip to earth and was staying in a motel in Iowa.  Three reporters from a Chicago rag and a pet dog are sent to the motel to uncover the Angel and then return on a road trip back to Chicago.  While stopping at a roadside tavern for some nourishment the following dance scene ensues:

Done to the music Chain of Fools, Travolta, as the pied piper of dance:


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I was reviewing the Film Index (why don't we have a thread for Birdman?!), and was intrigued when I came across "Michael," because I'd never even heard of it before. It features not only Travolta, but also Andie MacDowell, William Hurt, and Jean Stapleton, with music by Randy Newman. Dave seemed to like it well enough, so I figured, 'Gee, I might as well at least *know* about it - why not give it a go?'

A friend recently urged me to watch "It's a Wonderful Life," and the brief, few sentences I read about "Michael" make it sound like something of the same, fantasy genre, although I have no doubt it will be more modern, and less like "A Christmas Carol," so I might as well watch both.

I have to say, I really enjoyed seeing Jean Stapleton - I power-watched "All in the Family" to completion, and I once saw her in "Arsenic and Old Lace" on Broadway (with, I think, Polly Holliday), but I'm just not that familiar with the rest of her ample career, at least not from firsthand viewing. My initial impression (based on her introductory scene, when she has her coughing fit) is that I've never seen Stapleton perform *anything* without wretched excess - she was over-the-top in both All in the Family and Arsenic and Old Lace, and based on this first scene, she seems to exude an almost Lucille Ball-like comedic extroversion; yet, she also seems to have prided herself in being a deadly serious actress (from an interview I once saw her on). 

The music that plays when the three reporters enter their cabins (after their first meeting with Michael) sounds *very* Cajun, even though it was presumably written (or borrowed) by Randy Newman. I'd be curious to hear MC Horoscope's take on this (the riff sounds *a lot* like the one in "The Back Door").

"Why don't you pull on your pecker and see how *that's* attached?" LOL

I began enjoying this film as "Hollywood escapism at its best," and thought it was fun seeing so many stars together in the same scenes (Travolta, Hurt, MacDowell, and Stapleton - Robert Pastorelli, too, especially if he becomes more famous one day; although his premature demise makes that less likely). Now, about halfway through the movie, it's getting just a little tedious - my "escapism needs" can usually be fulfilled in about an hour, and this often happens to me at around the one-hour point. I actually just finished that "Chain of Fools" dance scene, and thought it was cute. I'm still not convinced Travolta is, or was, a great dancer - not even after "Saturday Night Fever" - he was certainly "good," but I'm not sure he was any better than Patrick Swayze, for example (of course, "Road House" is a guilty pleasure of mine, so I might be biased in this comparison).

I assume people who've watched this know that Teri Garr made a cameo as the judge, but did you know she was also in "Assignment: Earth" in "Star Trek?"

Trivia: Does anyone know who played the Sheriff (a brief, cameo role played in the jailhouse)? Hint: He's written about this website. Yes, you just read that correctly.

The scene with Michael in front of (what was then) Sears Tower is a perfect example of how Hollywood can take a situation which is, at its core, absolutely ridiculous, and evoke - through the use of human expression, music, cinematography, and situation - a tremendous amount of emotion from the viewer. If you were to describe this scene to someone, no matter how skillful of a storyteller you were, it would be virtually impossible to extract a tear from your listener, but the magic of Hollywood is on full display in this scene, and it is unquestionably sad, even if it is completely absurd. In this way, skillful movie-making is much like Modern Art (as opposed to Abstract Art, which is mostly devoid of human beings as subject matter, and thus handicapped when it comes to evoking sadness) - with movie-making, as well as with Modern Art, a blip in time, whether on a canvas, or in a film, can take the viewer from a neutral posture to one of extreme emotion in a matter of seconds. Without appropriate buildup, you will not find this in literature, music, or any other medium other than those that offer immediate visual impact, in one form or another. I am unable to convey why this scene was beautiful and touching; yet, it was, and this is why even the worst of films can have moments of great sensual beauty - it's also why people watch porn.

Screenshot 2017-01-28 at 12.28.39.pngScreenshot 2017-01-28 at 10.09.49.png

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