If it weren’t for a certain television series, we American dance and movie fans would have dried up and blown away in 2013! This is why our announcement comes so long after film-award season. We’d been looking for dance movies in all the wrong places.
In 2012, we were blessed with so much wonderful dancing in so many movies, we had to split the annual Cosmic Dancer Dance-in-Film Awards into several categories, including a few “worst” awards. But unless we blinked, Hollywood released only one dance film in 2013 that met our original criteria for “English-language films.” And if a film in another genre featured even a single dance scene, it was so far under the radar that we couldn’t find it. We didn’t even come across terribly bad dance movies. Now that’s rare!
What to do? We broke the rules to find a winner. We went global.
The annual Cosmic Dancer Dance-in-Film Award is sponsored by Cosmic Visionary Music & Books to highlight the dramatic and inspired use of dance in the film medium. It is named in honor of Cosmic Dancer, an inspirational, visionary novel about an aspiring ballerina. This year, you could also say it is named in honor of the Hindu deity Shiva, depicted as Nataraja or “the Cosmic Dancer.” That’s because our grand prize winner comes from the Bollywood film industry.
Happily, it fulfilled all our dance-film dreams!
2013 Winner of the Cosmic Dancer
Dance in Film Award:
ABCD: Any Body Can Dance!
You want plenty of great dancing? A decent story line? Inspiration, tears, color, variety, and inventive choreography in satisfyingly long dance numbers? Highly skilled dancers? More moves and rhythms than the current fascination with breaking b-boy crews, stepping up or down, battling around and about? How about a moving plot with genuine food for thought? ABCD: Any Body Can Dance! is your movie. It has it all, in addition to the staged battle.
Never mind the subtitles. If you have never tried a Bollywood movie, try this one. I thought I liked it mostly because it featured more dancing than talking. But then we watched it again and I realized how many more favorable attributes it has. And water! It’s not a real Bollywood film without a deluge or two! The dance-in-water scenes do not disappoint, and yes, you’ll see lots of costume changes as per Bollywood tradition.
I’m not an expert, but we do love to watch these films. You have to shift your cultural biases and enjoy what they do best to fully appreciate them. If you love dancing, I think this film will appeal no matter what you think of Bollywood excess.
I keep quoting one memorable exclamation by the villain: “You can keep crabs in an open bucket and they’ll never escape! Every time one tries to crawl out, the others pull him back in!” Of course, all the crabs in this movie have to work their way out of the bucket they’ve been thrown into, but not in the trite, sterile way too many dance films portray. You’ll laugh and cry with this one.
I’ve discovered that the director of ABCD, Remo D’Souza, has 98 choreography credits on IMDB.com. He’s been a judge on India’s version of Dancing with the Stars. He’s so famous, in fact, that he only uses his first name in the credits for this film, and I’m going to have to watch it a third time to spot his cameo appearance. You can’t go wrong with a dance film directed by a dancer/choreographer!
Several of the dancers give stunning solo performances, in addition to their group numbers done with typical Bollywood flare. One of the most amazing dance riffs is performed by actor Prabhudheva in the role of a dance teacher who can actually show the kids how it’s done. (Did he really do all that?) I’ve since learned that many of the dancers were contestants or winners in India’s versions of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. They’re wonderful.
Bravo! I hope there’s a sequel! Wish I’d seen the original 3D release. And now I realize I’ve been writing with an Indian/English accent. Please read accordingly!
Battle of the Year 3D
I certainly can’t fault the choreographers for Battle of the Year (supervised by Dave Scott) or the skill of the dancers (a few of them familiar faces) for our runner-up, #2 film by default. What irked me was the replay of the same plot I saw reworked in Street Dance and Street Dance 2: the b-boy and b-girl dance crew that must hold itself together in order to win at the big competition. ABCD features a dance competition or two, but it’s so much more richly portrayed, it hardly compares.
Not only has this plot been worn as thin as an old pair of dance shoes, but the stellar athleticism the performers display grew surprisingly numbing to me by the end of the film. I had to pinch myself to wake up and remember that I was watching people do the impossible. As the two hours wore on and the lame plot dulled my senses, I stopped caring and my eyes blurred. That’s a terrible shame. (Joseph didn’t agree; see below.)
Perhaps the problem here was that the movie was inspired by a documentary (Planet B-Boy) and not by an intriguing story. In fact, both were directed by Benson Lee. So to solve the mystery of this film’s inability to enthrall me, Joseph and I found a copy of Planet B-Boy to watch, since we’d missed it’s original run in 2007.
Oh my gosh!! What a great film! And it showed real dance crews doing incredible things with their bodies. Even the “story” of the dancers woven into the documentary far surpassed the weak plot of Battle of the Year. Now I understand why the director wanted to revisit this scene.
If you plan to watch the 2014 film, make sure you see Planet B-Boy first. It explains everything. And Joseph’s opinion of Battle of the Year is much higher than mine. He gave it a “good fun” rating and thought that it was a delight in a dance-drought year.
Here’s hoping 2014 brings us new and inspired choreography, and better yet, compelling scripts that keep us watching! Fingers crossed for Step Up 5 and Cuban Fury, opening soon. I see Step Up 5 is heading toward the same old plot-territory, so I will prepare to be awed by excellent dances. And the Cuban Fury trailer promises hilarity from this comedy team we love.
The exciting documentary Dancing in Jaffa has opened in limited release, featuring a Mad, Hot Ballroom sort of story about schoolchildren crossing the division between Jews and Arabs to dance with each other! As honorary board members of San Diego’s own schoolroom program, Mary Murphy’s Chance to Dance, this is right up Joseph’s and my alley! Hope to see it this weekend.