In Which I Spend a Sleepless Night Contemplating the Cats Trailer

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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20 Responses

  1. Kolohe says:

    Still waiting for the Amazing Alexander biopic tho.Report

  2. George Turner says:

    I wanted to comment on the Cats trailer last night but nobody had a post up. Thanks!

    Aside from the uncanny valley reactions, there was the now tired and irritating social justice outrage, triggered this time because a black singer was “whitewashed” by being cast as a white cat. Did people take Black Panther so seriously that cat colors are racial stand-ins?

    Side note: black panthers actually have straight black fur and white skin, so they’re maybe just brunettes, or perhaps Chinese, or perhaps just cats. Lord knows what paroxysms of outrage such people must express down at the dog park when they see a white Shih Tzu yapping at a black labra-doodle. ^_^

    However, I think that reaction, along with people voicing other peeved opinions (such as the human furniture being way too big), are just side-effects of people reacting to the uncanny valley issues. Their brain is screaming “something is wrong, wrong, wrong!”, and their conscious mind is trying to identify just what that disturbing thing might be. Is it the all-too-human dancing? Putting the wrong colors on the wrong actors? A too great cast for a cheesy musical?

    The film is a long way from the release date, so they still have plenty of time to go back and tweak the CGI until the digital make-up stops making the screening audience’s skin craw.

    In the meantime, I recommend eye-wash and brain-bleach with a Pussycat Doll singing and Andrew Lloyd Weber sitting at the piano.

    Nicole Scherzinger is one of my favorite people from Louisville.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I have seen Cats twice (maybe three times? They all blur together!) and it’s a delightful trifle of a play that will have you remember very little about it except for the amazing costumes, the actress playing Cassandra, and the barn-burner of a crescendo of a closing song.

    But, seriously, those costumes themselves were worth the price of admission. When people talked about the play, they would not stop talking about the costumes.

    And if you’ve never seen the play, when you see the movie, you’ll see why they didn’t really talk about any of the songs except for “Memories”.

    I’m not sure that having the characters be vaguely furry-adjacent will work to the musical’s benefit. By taking away the costumes, you’re taking away one of the main things that everybody talked about after leaving the play.

    Maybe Memories will carry it.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Jaybird says:

      I never saw cats, but I remember seeing advertisements for it as a kid. I found it intriguing because of the costumes. Something about them really captured my interest.

      This trailer has not done that.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Jaybird says:

      The song from Cats is “Memory.” “Memories” was an Elvis Presley song.

      And yeah, it was a pretty low point in Lloyd Webber’s career. I don’t get why Cats just goes on forever while Aspects of Love totally bombed.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Saul should probably write about the theater more.

        Without him, though, I’ll just say that I could probably sing Jesus Christ Superstar right now from memory.
        Evita had a handful of pretty good songs (along with another barn-burner of a closer).
        The Phantom of the Opera was good from start to finish.

        And I’m pretty sure that right around there is where Andrew Lloyd Weber switched from being a Broadway guy to being a Middlebrow Kitsch guy. “Sure, it sells out every night… TO PEOPLE WHO FLY IN FROM KANSAS! Last week I saw a revival of Feiffer’s Knock Knock at the Helen Hayes and it was absolutely brilliant. I’m not surprised if you’ve never heard of it. It was nominated in a Tony in 1975 and it was *ROBBED*.”

        What were we talking about? Oh, yes. Cats.

        Fillyjonk below gets into how theater doesn’t always translate to the big screen. Cats was *HUGE* because of the costumes. Here, they got rid of the thing that made people want to see the play and made the play go on FOREVER. (I remember reading an article in the mid-80’s about how you, yes you!, could go and get done up like a Cat from Cats for your Halloween party for the low-low price of $1,500 in mid-80’s dollars! (That’s $3500 in 2018 dollars!)

        Reformed Republican mentions this above: the costumes just grab you. The songs are little sugar cubes, forgotten the moment they melt. But the COSTUMES! That’s something that the theater did that you can’t get anywhere else. No matter how much CGI you use.Report

  4. fillyjonk says:

    I think the problems I have are partly what Jaybird mentioned….some of those cats look awfully…well, naked….and I think in the original musical there was more COSTUME there. And the digital tech used to ….cat-ize….the actors is very uncanny valley for me here. (I am SURE there will be a tie-in app where you can get a stripped down version of the “real fur tech” to turn your own selfies into cats.)

    But also: stage plays do not always translate well to the screen. Some of the early, early talkies were basically filmed stage plays and they feel weird and stilted today because of the stationary camera work. This is a little different; I feel like part of the “magic” of Cats on the stage was that you were seeing it from a distance….you weren’t seeing the actors close up and in HD. Stage makeup looks weird and sometimes horrifying up close because it’s designed to be seen from a distance. (I find myself thinking of Cher Horowitz’ “Full-on Monet” remark from “Clueless,” these cats have the feel of being full-on Monets to me).

    Also, maybe it’s just me, and I suppose this was in the original stage play, but “fat female character played as broad clumsy comedy trope” feels extremely cheap and tired. Minor quibble, but yeah. (And yes, I get: James Corden too, but I didn’t see enough of him being a butt of a joke)

    I won’t be going to see this. Then again, I don’t go to see many movies these days. But I won’t be buying this when it comes out on dvd.Report

    • George Turner in reply to fillyjonk says:

      Part of the costume issue may be that most cats are fur bags that can mold themselves into any container. My cat doubles in apparent size when it lays on the floor, like it was made of Silly Putty. Unless you’ve got one of those odd-looking bald Sphinx cats or some large, short-hair variety, they’re almost all that way.

      Humans, in contrast, have bodies that are about as bald as a rhino, but without the loose folds of skin (hopefully). What little body hair we have is often shaved off (but not by any real men who aren’t competitive body builders). Adding a little bit of short colored CGI fuzz doesn’t make us look like cats, it makes us look like pervy ballet dancers.

      A proper cat costume would look more like the bulky caribou or reindeer full-body suits worn by Samoyed, Nenets, Sami, and other arctic tribes for many thousands of years, or somewhat like the electrically-heated “bear suits” worn by WW-II bomber crews. Just as with a cat, we’d know there was a thin little body somewhere under all that fur, and we also wouldn’t care. Taylor swift shouldn’t look like she’s reclining in body paint for some fetish flick, she should look like she’s wrapped up in a fur blanket or bearskin rug with her eyes and nose poking out. We should hardly be able to tell if she’s a boy or a girl because cats and dogs aren’t very sexually dimorphic.

      Considering how long Cats has been on the stage, I will bet that the velveteen skin-suit look has been unsuccessfully tried many times, though those attempts probably didn’t get so deep into the uncanny valley.Report

    • atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk says:

      That was EXACTLY what I said when I saw it too. The trailer I saw even had Rebel Wilson falling off a windowsill and dancing like she was a klutz and it wasn’t at all funny to me.

      Great piece Andrew!Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    Cats looked less creepy when they had to use heavy make up rather Han CGI.Report

  6. James K says:

    If you take Twitter’s word for it, the Cats trailer is to uncanny valley what the Charge of the Light Brigade was to military tactics

    Catmen to right of them
    Catmen to left of them
    Catmen in front of them
    Uncanny Valley
    Danced at by anthro cats
    Some wearing coats and hats
    Excessive CGI,
    Twitter cried out “alas!”
    Can the film rally?

  7. Jaybird says:

    Here’s one thing that the movie will not do:

    Mamie Parris sang that line with *ONE FREAKING BREATH*. Watch it again. That ain’t possible. But she did it.

    Seriously. That’s one freaking breath.

    The movie won’t pull that off. They’ll have three cuts of the camera during that line in the song. If not four.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

      Doesn’t Jennifer Hudson have that line in the movie? I’m pretty certain she could do the same.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

        I mean, for real, singing talent does not at all seem a thing this movie production is missing. (*sideeyes Les Mis*)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

          I will wait and see.

          But the movie will have a lot of stuff done in post. I have no doubt that Ms. Hudson’s line will involve multiple breaths.

          If my assumption is bad, I hope someone points it out to me come the movie’s release.Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    If you haven’t seen how Kimmy Schmidt sends up CATS… well, you should. Season 4.Report

  9. dragonfrog says:

    You’ve got to admire the accomplishment – they made a cat video the internet dislikes.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    One last theater-related thought. In “A Chorus Line”, there is a dark humor song called “Dance 10, Looks 3”.

    One of the things that Cats did was put everybody in makeup so very heavy that in a theoretical world where casting directors who still used this outdated method, you only had to look at “Dance 10”. (I understand that, today, they use the old Marvel Superhero stats on the casting card. Feeble, Poor, Typical, Good, Excellent, Remarkable, Incredible, Amazing, Monstrous, Unearthly and Class 1000. So now it’s “Dance Unearthly, Looks Typical”. Far kinder.)

    Given that there’s this undercurrent of love that seeps out into normieland from the love of a particular play from the actors, singers, and dancers, having a play where the best dancers and best singers get cast no matter what they look like?

    Man, no wonder Cats took off.Report