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Fri November 8, 2013
A Complete Curmudgeon's Guide To 'The Sound Of Music'
NBC has released the first trailer for its live version of The Sound Of Music, airing December 5.
Now, some have chosen to focus on the negative; on the nostalgic sense that to remake this show — or, more precisely, to remake the movie version, as they may well do, at least in part, owing to its ubiquity — is a mistake. No matter the talent involved, like Audra McDonald (as Mother Abbess) and Laura Benanti (as the Baroness), it will be an NBC remake.
But if we truly want to be fair to the new version, we must allow our inner curmudgeon to truly let loose upon the original. The bad news is that you may not have an inner curmudgeon. The good news is that I do. In fact, I have several. It's quite possible that several other people's inner curmudgeons have taken up residence in my soul, which is why they frequently throw parties.
Let us begin. We will not start at the very beginning, because that is not necessarily a very good place to start; it is actually a rather arbitrary place to start, Maria.
1. Out of "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do," the only one Maria apparently can spell is "la." This is no educator.
2. Rolfe is presented as a romantic hero despite the fact that he is clearly intimidated by Liesl's burgeoning sexuality to the point where he calls her "timid and shy and scared" at the very moment she is leaning in, if you know what I mean. "Innocent as a rose," Liesl sings while spinning around so her boyfriend can see her underpants. Soon after, she engages in one of cinema's more erotic instances of fully clothed head-rubbing. As Melinda Taub once rather brilliantly wrote at McSweeney's on behalf of the Baroness, Liesl is in fact rather "intent on losing her virginity to the mailman."
3. You only have 17 favorite things*, and one of them is "doorbells"?
4. Maria claims that the hills are alive with the sound of music, despite the fact that the opening of the movie clearly establishes that they are, in fact, alive with the sound of wind.
5. Maria is apparently sent off to the von Trapp household in the early summer, "until September." At the time she leaves, she wants to be a nun. Before the end of the summer, she has decided she wants a military husband and seven children. Maria needs a gap year, or she's going to enter into a series of unsatisfying short careers.
6. When Mother Abbess tells Maria, "Climb ev'ry mountain," she is setting a very unrealistic expectation of success, especially since they are in the Alps. It's one thing to use a metaphor about uninterrupted mountain climbing if you're in Nebraska, but when you look out of the window every day and see more mountains than you could ever climb in your entire life, that's just setting you up to feel like a failure. Even if it's only until you find your dream, getting up every day and saying, "Well, I haven't found my dream yet, so I guess it's mountain-climbing all day long" isn't necessarily helpful.
7. Mother Abbess also tells Maria that her dream will be "a dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life, for as long as you live." So basically, you are going to live the life of Sisyphus until you die of exhaustion because your insatiable dream forces you to throw all of your energy into its gaping, unsatisfiable maw.
8. Winning children over by ignoring the fact that they tried to injure your behind with a pinecone is no way to build character.
9. The "Lonely Goatherd" puppet show is all about coerced mountain marriages, including coerced goat marriages, which send a bad message to children and anthropomorphized goats.
10. Certainly, becoming a Nazi who turns the family in, thus exposing both the family and a large building full of nuns to grave danger, makes Rolfe much worse. But even before that, let us be honest: Rolfe is a smug punk, unless you think being called a baby is romantic. Not "baby." "A baby."
11. The problem isn't really that Maria makes clothes out of curtains. It's that she makes clothes out of ugly curtains. And Maria didn't pick the curtains.
12. You would start by teaching untrained children to sing in unison. There's nothing wrong with unison. Having them sing in seven-part harmony is overly ambitious and likely to create stress.
13. If Gretl is really dozing off in the middle of performances, she probably needs to focus less on her singing career and more on going to bed early.
14. See once again Melinda Taub: He should have married the Baroness. (Younger, more pure-hearted people often believe the best line in the movie is "You can't marry someone when you're ... in love with someone else." More mature people often conclude it is instead, "Why didn't you tell me to bring along my harmonica?")
15. It is possible that once upon a time, we lived in a world where a greedy but good-hearted opportunist might try to make big bucks by scouring Austria for roaming bands of folk singers, but at this point, it does seem rather quaint.
16. "You look happy to meet me," sings a man to a plant.
17. "Heil Hitler" might be the worst way I've ever seen a young man get out of being caught tapping on his girlfriend's window.
18. Sure, the Captain perhaps overreacts to discovering the children playing, but ask yourself this: if you hired a nanny and later saw your children, under her supervision, hanging from trees over a road without so much as a safety rope, would you find that whimsical?
19. "My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds that rise from the lake to the trees." Do you know how fast birds' wings beat? This would be tachycardia. It's dangerous.
20. That's a very short time for children under 15 to all become accomplished puppeteers.
21. Sending Liesl to bed at the same time as Gretl seems like bad practice.
22. It's pretty convenient that the musicians at the fancy party know an orchestration of the song about the goats who get married.
23. Not a single person at that fancy party sees that they're about to enjoy a musical number from the host's children and can be spied making an "Oh, goody" face? Does Captain von Trapp really seem like a guy who wouldn't know any cranks? Not even the guy who wants him to prepare for the arrival of the Nazis?
24. "Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu"?
25. Louisa's middle-child thing is not going to be helped by sharing a verse with her sister.
26. The lack of meaningful exploration of the Baroness's status insecurity is perhaps the film's greatest flaw.
27. The Baroness is hardly a monster for not enjoying a game in which children hurl a ball at her pelvis.
28. Maria's struggle between house and abbey, between Captain von Trapp and Mother Abbess, is framed entirely as following your heart and facing your problems and fording streams and ultimately love, but no one wishes to say entirely explicitly, "Celibacy is not for everyone. Just ask Liesl."
29. "There's isn't going to be any Baroness." That is cold. THERE WILL STILL BE A BARONESS.
30. As is closing an iron gate on a bunch of children whose mother died who want to visit their governess that it was your brilliant idea to send to their house.
31. Everybody sings a song about what a flake Maria is. At her wedding. Etiquette fail.
*Yes, there are 14 in the song. There are three she mentions before that. Don't come at me.