While most of my high school years were spent making mix tapes of Debbie Gibson and Rick Astley songs, I was also obsessed with Electric Light Orchestra for the simple reason that Jeff Lynne's ability to consistently write seductively catchy melodies is unparalleled. My friend Robert is convinced that Jeff Lynne must've made a deal with the devil because it's inhuman how great almost all of Lynne's songs turn out, whether they're for ELO or for Tom Petty or for Roy Orbison or for Randy Newman or for whomever he happens to working with.
So of course I went to go see the 1980 cheesefest, Xanadu, on the big screen with a rowdy audience at the New Beverley Cinema in Los Angeles last week—ELO songs galore, the delightful Olivia Newton-John (who had a hyphenated last name before hyphenated last names were even hip!), and the ringing endorsement of Diablo Cody, who selected the film as part of her "film festival" at the New Bev (which wraps up on Wednesday and Thursday with Desperately Seeking Susan and Pretty in Pink—I know!). (By the way, the New Bev used to be a porn theater! Extra points!)
Although I know the Xanadu soundtrack, I had never seen the movie all the way through, and I have to say that it's absolutely atrocious. (The plot? A heavenly muse is sent down to earth to help a sad-sack "artist" and Gene Kelley build a roller disco!) What saves it, as you may have guessed, are the—there's no other way to describe it—FABULOUS musical numbers, which vary in style (one's animated, one's all in front of a blue screen, etc.) and are imaginatively staged.
The following video clip is the first number in the movie, "I'm Alive." Do you recognize Muse #6? OH MY GOD, that is East West Players' Marilyn Tokuda, who costarred in the world premiere production of The Theory of Everything in 2000! (She's the Asian that comes "alive" right after Olivia.) Holy shit, I'm two degrees from the power and spirit of Xanadu! (By the way, for 1980 Xanadu has an unusually high number of minorities on screen. Cheesy and progressive!) Enjoy: