Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A lot of critics complained that most of the actors playing high school students in Grease were about 30 years old. That didn't bother me or most people I know one bit -- and we were just about to start high school when Grease came out in the summer of 1978. I saw it at least three times that summer. (It was probably kids about high-school age who turned Grease into the biggest box office film of 1978.)

(pic originally posted April 3, 2013).

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Vincent Canby

"The gang at old Rydell High ... is unlike any high school class you've ever seen except in the movies. For one thing, they're all rather long in the tooth to be playing kids who'd hang around malt shops. For another, they are loaded with the kind of talent and exuberance you don't often find very far from a musical stage. They not only portray characters but effectively make comments on them.

"Olivia Newton-John, the recording star in her American film debut, is simultaneously very funny and utterly charming as the film's ingénue, a demure, virginal Sandra Dee-type. She possesses true screen presence as well as a sweet, sure singing voice, while the Sandra Dee I remember had a voice that seemed to have been manufactured in Universal's speech-and-special-effects department."

-- Vincent Canby, New York Times, June 16, 1978

(originally posted August 12, 2015)

Drew McWeeny, HitFix.com

"There are many things I love about Grease. I love the film's energy. I love the movie-star charisma of John Travolta in the lead. I love the 'am I doing this right?' hesitancy of much of Olivia Newton-John's performance....

"Without Newton-John, though, it wouldn't work. I honestly think much of my romantic life was set in motion when I first saw and imprinted on "Grease," because Olivia Newton-John remains a sort of perfect ideal pretty cheerleader type, the ideal that I've always compared women to in some sense. For all film fans, there are those early sexual icons who set the standards for us, and every generation has their own. What I think works best about Newton-John in the film, aside from the fact that she's so fresh-scrubbed pretty, is the way she's Travolta's onscreen opposite in terms of how comfortable they are. She was not a professional actor, and was hired for her pop idol status, and she's game for every single song. In the acting moments, though, her awkward discomfort ends up working perfectly for the role she's playing, and if anything, it makes her even more endearing.

"There are a lot of performances here that make the movie special. Stockard Channing probably got the loudest reactions all night long, and I can't blame the audience for that. Rizzo is pure sarcastic majesty, and she plays the sweaty dirty girl with ridiculous confidence...."

Drew McWeeny, HitFix.com, June 17, 2010

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Rocky Haines

"Olivia Newton-John plays Sandy to a tee."

-- Gary Rocky Haines, 2012

(originally posted August 11, 2015)

David Thomson

"Grease is here [in this book] not just because any large machine needs lubrication, nor even because of its stupefying success on stage and screen. It is here because I like it, and because it showed how camp attitudes could resurrect the good-natured ethos of old musicals and rearrange the universe so that being in high school was really equivalent to being in a musical....

"....The whole idea of a couple torn between being Elvis and Ann-Margret or Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee is what the film is about. And with all these silly role models knocking around, there's no need for real character.  Sandy and Danny (the lead kids) are Barbie dolls, and we can change their clothes and songs to suit our mood....

"....Of course, the casting was crucial: John Travolta is Danny, and in Travolta the idea of a James Dean-like aggression or menace is a hoot. Danny is cuddly, gentle and cute; in turn, Olivia Newton-John's Sandy manages to be the safe sweetheart who puts on tight pants and foxy makeup. Their combined gestures toward sexiness are full of charm and sweetness and the essential coded promise of never needing to grow up...."

"....The supporting cast is full of jewels: Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo, Kelly Ward as Putzie, Jeff Conaway as Kenickie, Didi Conn as Frenchy, Eve Arden as Principal McGee, plus Frankie Avalon, Joan Blondell, Sid Caesar, and Edd Byrnes...."

-- David Thomson
"Have You Seen...? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films" (2008)

(post originally published August 26, 2013)