Coming soon to a bar near you: all singing, all acting 'Movieoke'

Click to follow
The Independent US

Juan Cardenas, an 18-year-old student in Manhattan, is on stage in a dingy basement bar in the East Village, singing along to Summer Lovin' from the film Grease. Like most karaoke performances, it's borderline gruesome but fitfully amusing. But there isn't just his slightly off-key singing to enjoy - or otherwise. There's his acting too.

Juan Cardenas, an 18-year-old student in Manhattan, is on stage in a dingy basement bar in the East Village, singing along to Summer Lovin' from the film Grease. Like most karaoke performances, it's borderline gruesome but fitfully amusing. But there isn't just his slightly off-key singing to enjoy - or otherwise. There's his acting too.

Welcome to the fledgling world of Movieoke, a new fad that just may just spread to a town near you. The brainchild of 24-year-old Anastasia Fite, it is the obvious progression for anyone who enjoys making fools of themselves singing the words to their favourite songs in front of their friends.

Go to the Den of Cin on Avenue A, just below the Two Boots video shop, on a Wednesday night and you can mangle your favourite film instead. Remember when Maggie Smith says "yummie" to breakfast in bed with marmalade in Gosford Park? Well, maybe you could play the scene even better.

"I love karaoke, but this tops it," a grinning Mr Cardenas exclaims, triumphant after singing the parts of not just John Travolta but Olivia Newton-John as well, while prancing about on stage with the original scene on a sports field playing on a screen behind him. He follows Travolta's dance steps and mimics the yearning in Newton-John's eyes, looking soulfully into the yonder. "I love this idea."

It first came to Ms Fite, who lives in Brooklyn, because she is a film addict herself. "I thought this was a great way of getting people out of their basements alone with their DVD players. Some of us communicate using movie lines in place of real conversation." It seemed to her that this was an affliction that needed to be brought out into the open, and shared with like-minded souls.

She may have been spurred on by a film she herself made while at college. The main protagonist was a girl who could only talk in famous movie lines. Eventually, the lines dry up and she ends up a hopeless mute, unable to talk to anyone.

So last October, Anastasia took over the Den of Cin one night a week to start her Movieoke venture. There is no charge for admission, but beer and wine are available at a cash bar. She says she has been besieged by the media and flooded by inquiries from film fans around the world, eager to start their own Movieoke bars.

The mechanics of her Movieoke night could stand some improvement. Patrons can either bring their own DVDs along or browse for a favourite upstairs. It then takes Ms Fite about 10 minutes to cue up the chosen scene. Finally she plays it - muted, with subtitles - on the back screen and on a monitor at the foot of the stage, so that the participants can see the words.

For some, the monitor is redundant, such is their familiarity with the material. Matthew Dujnic, a 29-year-old computer programmer, has been coming to Movieoke every Wednesday since it started. He needs no help remembering the words from the scene in an animated Winnie the Pooh adventure when Pooh gets stuck in a doorway from eating too much honey and Owl and Beaver come to help. When Beaver (not in the book, of course but - thank you Disney - in the movie) falls down a hole, Mr Dujnic falls down on stage. When Owl mops his brow, so does he.

"I'm a ham," he explains without the slightest embarrassment. "This allows me to justify all those nights I have spent seeing these movies - maybe 30 or 40 times. Now I can say, I wasn't wasting time, I was preparing for Movieoke!"

The top five Movieoke favourites

The Princess Bride

The movie for those who fancy a fairy story, though it is played in a knowing style which subverts the conventions. You can act out classic derring-do or knockabout comedy, depending on your preference.

The Breakfast Club

Perfect for recapturing lost youth. The story, set in a Saturday detention class in an American high school, allows participants to choose from a range of types - the teen princess, the jock, the delinquent, the nerd.

Apocalypse Now

No prizes for guessing that it is Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore - "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" - or Marlon Brando's Kurtz that Movieoke addicts want to play, rather than Martin Sheen's blank-faced Captain Willard.

Zoolander

One for fans of Ben Stiller's brand of wacky comedy. The ludicrous plot centres on a brainless male model (Stiller), upstaged by an even more empty-headed rival (Owen Wilson), who is brainwashed to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The favourite among the Python gang's many American admirers, who welcome the surrealism, the chance to do silly voices, particularly in the "witch-burning" scene, and, of course, the Knights who say "Ni!"

Comments