A blog that discusses contemporary a cappella music, the educational practices of a cappella music, a cappella improvisation exercises, and a cappella in popular culture.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
PP2: The Mighty Ducks
Remember the Mighty Ducks? That trilogy of movies starring the Charlie Sheen who is related to Charlie Sheen but has a completely different last name and looks nothing like him?
Like the rest of the aca-population, I saw, and loved, Pitch Perfect. It was everything I expected from a fictional movie based on a non-fiction book. As I often do, I Immediately started thinking about the future of a franchise. Sure, for the next four weeks, we a cappella fans will be in aca-heaven as the non aca-population begins to discover the aca-awesomeness of this movie.
Okay. I'll stop with the aca-puns. (Aca-awkward...)
But then what? Will we be written off like a fad? Will we disappear into the canon of teen movies? What's the next step for us?
I thought about it for a while. And then, D2: The Mighty Ducks appeared on television. It was destiny. It was (close-up) magic. It was a sign from the aca-gods.
The Mighty Ducks. A Disney franchise that spawned two sequels, an animated series, and an ACTUAL NHL hockey team. If that isn't influence, I don't know what is. Why would I reference this trilogy of movies when there are so many other (and better) trilogies out there (See: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back To The Future, Christopher Nolan's Batman, Toy Story, Naked Gun, etc.)? Simple: The Mighty Ducks are about kids who train hard and overcome the odds stacked against them. Plus, it was on T.V.
So where does Pitch Perfect go from here? Let's start with the obvious:
1) Group Influence
Let's make a bet. I bet you five dollars that the next all female a cappella group to be formed calls themselves the "Bellas." Annoying? Yes. Uncreative? Yes. Bad for a cappella music? No.
There is nothing wrong with a new group sprouting up here and there. In fact, there is nothing wrong with a hundred new groups, if it means the spread of a cappella music continues. After reading Dr. Duchan's book, "Powerful Voices," I was shocked to discover that the number of collegiate a cappella groups only numbers about 1,200. I find it very hard to believe, but then again, Dr. Duchan actually did the research, while I sat on my couch and played Bad Piggies for two hours.
Ladies and gentlemen, this number needs to grow. We are in a unique kind of musical genre that does not claim group ownership over our collective souls. I ran into a couple people at last year's BOSS festival who belong to three or more professional groups simultaneously. For someone like me who wants to immerse himself in this kind of music, this feels very freeing. So if you are already in a group, start ANOTHER one. Double your a cappella, double your fun...
I have a great idea! Let's create a television show that features a cappella groups competing in an ICCA-like situation with announcers, celebrity judges, a host from a cancelled MTV show...
Oh...Wait...That's right. We had that and it was cancelled by NBC. Jerks.
Is it entirely possible that we could storm the gates and seize television again? I think we can. The idea is not to televise the ICCA's. MTV tried with disastrous consequences (Though I don't think any of us would be opposed to John Michael Higgins or Elizabeth Banks as a guest announcer). And we've already seen a reality show. What about a scripted show?
I know. I know. You're saying: "Isn't this exactly like Glee? In fact, doesn't Glee have The Warblers?" Yes. All true. But have you ever seen The Warblers practice? Have you ever seen an a cappella group, on television, grow from September to May, from beginners to pros, while navigating the difficult waters of college life? A show where "Glee" meets "Greek" meets "Freaks and Geeks?"
Smash is a big success and it shows a much more realistic world of behind the scenes theatre. Why can't we have something like that for choral music/a cappella singing? Or even still, what if we focus on a pro group of college graduates who were superstars in their collegiate a cappella group but struggle to make ends meet in New York City?
There's like...a thousand possibilities here. Hell, you could even make a cartoon featuring a group of aliens who fight evil-doers in outer space while singing in an a cappella group in their free time. Don't laugh...It worked for the Mighty Ducks.
If you've made it this far down in what is probably my most ridiculous blog post ever, then congratulations. This is your official "call to arms."
You MUST see this movie. I'm not even speaking like a fan who loves comedies. I'm speaking as a music educator who desperately wishes that a cappella music would progress and evolve. Is this the greatest comedy of all time? No. Is it the furthest a cappella music has entered the Hollywood scene? Yes.
Hollywood's number one priority is money. Despite the Bella's insistence that "it's not about the money," it is. A few years ago (2009 to be exact), a movie came out that literally begged for our money. It was called "Watchmen." You probably know it. Below is a sample of the plea made by screenwriter David Hayter:
"So look, this is a note to fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life.
If the film make you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse.
Please go see the movie again next weekend.
You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or balls, (and this film's got both, literally), or true adaptations- And if you're thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it'll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we'd like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again." -David Hayter, 2009
Hayter was arguably passionate, because Watchmen had drawn the eyes of Hollywood, who believed that independent, faithful-to-the-original-source material, was not a big money draw, and then failed to exceed expectations.
The expectations were very high. The movie was directed by wunderkind Zack Snyder (fresh off his success directing 300) and Snyder insisted on following the book as closely as possible, even though the book took place in a fictional 80's decade where Nixon had been elected to serve more than two terms. Snyder's decision to adapt the original material led to a short, but heated debate over movie adaptations of books and whether or not the faithful adaptations are better for fans.
Needless to say, the effort failed. The movie was praised by both critics and fans alike, but lost money. Screenwriter Hayter claimed that this would be the end of independent comic-book adaptations.
Despite the failings of the movie, Hayter was (thankfully) wrong. Comic books are more prevalent than ever in Hollywood and independent comics are making it big on the small screen (See: The Walking Dead).
I know that a cappella music will not die if Pitch Perfect falls below expectations. I know that we should focus less on the cancellation of the Sing-Off and more on the fact that it lasted three seasons. But still...it would be fantastic to see Pitch Perfect exceed expectations and skyrocket our momentum. One can only hope there is a Pitch Perfect 2.
Oh, by the way. If Pitch Perfect ever does plan for a sequel, here is my pitch (no pun intended):
Becca graduates college and becomes an a cappella copyright lawyer. When she gets drunk and illegally arranges a song, she gets disbarred and sentenced to coach the "Bellas" for community service hours (Emilio Estevez makes a cameo as the judge who disbars her.)
The "Bellas" are on their way to compete in the World Choir Olympics (this is actually a real thing...look it up) where they will represent the United States in a cappella singing. It is here that they meet their rivals, the Icelandic Choir, coached by Joshua Jackson, who vows to destroy them.
Seeking help, the "Bellas" recruit five a cappella singers from around the country: A girl who has perfect pitch but always sings too fast and can't stop, a girl with awesome beat-boxing skills who is crazier than Lilly, a former figure skater, a southern girl with a heavy Texan accent and fantastic lassoing skills, and a girl who was recently released from prison.
After being disgraced in the first round by the Icelandic Choir, the girls are challenged to a riff-off by a passionate, talented group of inner-city girls, led by Kenan Thompson playing a woman in drag, who teach the Bellas all about full-contact "street singing." Armed with their new skills and teamwork, the Bellas make their way to the finals of the World Choir Olympics and defeat the Icelandic Choir by impressing the judges with their signature move, "The Flying V."
As for the third movie...you are on your own. D3 was terrible and should never be referenced. Or discussed. Or watched. Ever.
Oh, and Kay Cannon, you can have this idea for free. Just let me visit the set and be the leader of Sockapella.
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