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Ever since the 1930s, the creators of Hollywood have brought popular music to life in their own Utopian image; either a better world was waiting somewhere over the rainbow, or else there was no place like home. Join film critic and author Adam Nayman (Politics at the Movies) as he traces the evolution of the classic American movie musical from its origins up to the present, exploring the new popular music forms—rock, pop, disco, and more—that have flourished on the big screen. As we survey iconic movies and music videos—from The Wizard of Oz and A Hard Day’s Night to Saturday Night Fever and MTV—we’ll examine the cultural shockwaves produced when pop music hits the screen.

Led by Adam Nayman, a film critic and lecturer based in Toronto, and the author of several acclaimed books, including The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together, and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks. Adam is a popular lecturer at the University of Toronto, the Chang School and the Miles Nadal JCC.

Registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)


Lecture 1: Another Day of Sun
As La La Land attempts to Make the Musical Great Again, Adam outlines the Utopian ambitions—and contradictions—of the genre before looping back to The Jazz Singer and the early days of movie sound.

Lecture 2: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Hollywood vs the Great Depression; optimism, escapism, and revised realities in Showboat, Gold Diggers of 1933, and The Wizard of Oz—plus a look at racialized tensions and acts of solidarity on and offscreen.

Lecture 3: There's a Smile on My Face
A quarter century after the birth of the Hollywood musical, Singin' in the Rain arrives as the pinnacle of the art form—as well as a deconstruction and critique of the form itself. Meanwhile, in the American South and across the ocean in England, the first chords of rock musicals are stirring.

Lecture 4: Staying Alive?
The Hollywood musical buckles under its own weight in the mid-1960s, while rock, punk and disco variations thrive, above and below the mainstream radar; highlights include Cabaret, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Wiz.

Lecture 5: Video Killed the Radio Star
The birth of MTV and its music video supernovas; the movie musical keeps splintering and reconfiguring in the direction of spoof, satire, and revisionist pastiche. All hail Spinal Tap!

Lecture 6: Rewrite the Stars
Everything old is new again: Showgirls goes gold-digging; 8 Mile redoes The Jazz Singer; Bjork makes a life a Cabaret. The 21st century isn't the end of anything.

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