Friday, December 23, 2011

Gift Giving

One of my favorite traditions my family has is when we go shopping for Christmas gifts for each other. I have seven younger siblings and we've never had much money, so a tradition we started several years ago was that we kids shop for each other at the local dollar store. That way all the kids can get and give something affordable.

When most of us were actually *little*, it was easy because we were all super excited about the cheap plastic tiaras and generic crime-fighting action figures. Now we're ages 10-25 and it really, *really* does become the thought that counts. People give each other silly or joke gifts because the amount of people who actually seriously want something from the dollar store is getting smaller. (Also, a lot of people give candy. A LOT.) It ends up being much more about the process of gift giving than the actual gifts.

All the children are allowed to pick out their own presents for everyone. This had led to some fantastically strange gifts over the years. One time, one brother bought 3-foot plastic candy canes for every one of us. Another time, my youngest brother (maybe a year old at the time) got dog toys from two of his older brothers. There was the year the dollar store stocked plastic swords that made swishing sounds whenever they moved. We ended up with three of those swords under the tree, all making noise inside their wrapping paper whenever somebody accidentally jostled the pile of presents. My father narrowly escaped getting a Pirates of the Caribbean night light a few years ago, before that brother changed his mind. As I got older and realized there was nothing really left that I actually *wanted* for Christmas, the game became, "What in the world will the little siblings get me this year?" (It might be straws. Apparently the youngest this year was debating buying packages of straws for people.)

Ahem. To my sister Rebekah, if you've randomly decided to read my blog before Christmas, stop reading here, because I'm about to talk about what I got you this year.

So, yeah. My sister Bekah. I had chosen a gift for everyone else and couldn't think of what she might like. I was discussing it in the store with two other siblings and mused out loud, "Does she want..." I trailed off, but was reminded of an inside joke in our family - a home video that shows 3-year-old Bekah alternately speaking to and speaking as her imaginary friends. "Should I sing... Jingle Bells?" she asks, speaking for someone else, and then she switches voices and responds as herself: "Not yet!" I realized that when I said, "Does she want," it was very similar in tone to Bekah's "Should I sing," so I morphed the line into that quote: "Does she want... Jingle Bells?"

"Not yet!" my siblings both responded.

So, you know what? Bekah's getting jingle bells from me this year. Or, well, a doorknob hanger with bells on it. With that quote written on the outside of the wrapping. It is a ridiculous gift, but it's connected to a silly inside joke, and it will hopefully make her laugh. And that's kind of what our Christmases end up being about anyway.

So for those of you celebrating a holiday this month that involves gift giving, I hope you get gifts that make you smile and make you thankful for your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top 5, Bottom 5: Holiday Movies

This is pretty self-explanatory as far as blog features go. (I like how I keep making up blog features but don't ever actually blog. Right now I am doing a lot of deliberate nothing, thanks to Christmas break.) I use to show me what my top 5 and bottom 5 movies are in a certain genre. Mini blurbs about them all.

Today's genre, in honor of Christmas being right around the corner, is holiday movies.

Top 5:
1. Love Actually (2003, #2 on my FlickChart). This is probably the first, definitely the best of the ensemble rom-coms. Not as Christmasy as it is romancey, but it always gets to me.
2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, #146). A really solid drama. It's a holiday classic for reason.
3. White Christmas (1954, #159). Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in one of my favorite movie musicals. Great musical numbers, a fun script, ever so Christmasy.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, #165). Any story about a child feeling empty and hollow at Christmastime gets my vote. My favorite Christmas movie soundtrack.
5. Amahl and the Night Visitors (1978, #223). Televised version of an opera about a crippled boy and his mother, who offer the three wise men shelter. Moving story and wonderful music.

Bottom 5:
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006, #1640). I could barely sit through this. I longed for a joke, any joke, that made even the tiniest bit of sense.
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (1978, #1639). A ridiculous, embarrassing holiday special that I managed to see, thanks to the Internet, though I now regret that decision.
3. The Santa Clause 2 (2002, #1623). Yeah, I really hate these movies.
4. Frosty Returns (1992, #1591). The first movie is kind of cute. The second one is terrifying and bizarre.
5. The Christmas Shoes (2002, #1586). The worst Christmas song of all time gets its own movie. How could that possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some Relationship Rules (That Are Silly)

Now that the character limit on Facebook statuses has disappeared, the terrible sappy stories and lists of cutesy sayings that used to show up in email forwards and MySpace bulletins have started reappearing. I used to mock them all the time, but then they started disappearing, and now they're back, and I'm getting oh so very tired of them. So they just might show up in my blog from time to time.

Here is one that I've seen three times over the past week and a half. Original is in bold, my comments are in... um... not bold.

I used to wonder if when I was actually in a relationship, I'd become less snarky about these forwards and start thinking, "Aww, that's actually pretty sweet." Answer: Nope. Not at all. Good to know.

‎(written by a girl)

(critiqued by a girl)

There, mine has the same amount of credibility now.

Guys, when she pulls away pull her back.

See, right away, we have a problem. I suppose I'm kind of okay with that as an occasional jokey thing, but if that became a regular thing, that would seriously tick me off. If I'm pulling away from someone, it's because I want/need to be away from them. For whatever reason. And I'd rather that person respect that. And, admittedly, I'm a little touchy about physical boundaries, but so are a lot of girls I know, so offering this as general romance statement is a really bad idea.

This will turn out to be a regular theme throughout this list of advice - assuming all girls think and act the same way leads to really awkward moments with real life people who, surprise, may have different responses to things.

When you see her start crying hold her and don't say a word.

Now that's probably better advice for most people, but, once again, this is the danger of pretending generic relationship advice is applicable for everyone: I don't generally like to be touched when I'm crying, and I like to be talked to. So this is pretty much the opposite of what would be encouraging for me.

When you see her walking sneak up and hug her waist from behind.

Again, I'm not the only one I know who would not care for that. Not all of us like surprise hug attacks.

When she steals your favorite hoodie let her wear it.

Uh, OK. I mean, I'm not planning on ever stealing my boyfriend's favorite hoodie, but I suppose if I did and he snarled at me that I couldn't wear it, that might be a problem? This is just a really specific one that assumes that this is the kind of thing I do all the time, and I'm really having trouble imagining it ever being something I run into.

When she says she loves you she really does mean it.

This one isn't bad, except for one that it's contrasted with later. But I'll get to that one when it comes up.

When she grabs your hands hold hers and play with her fingers.

*shrug* This is OK, I guess... but all I have is mental images of a girl going, "STOP! No! Stop playing with my fingers! Just let me HOLD YOUR HAND, DANG IT!"

When she tells you a secret keep it safe and untold.

Safe and untold. Not just one or the other. (Obviously I agree, though, keeping secrets is a good thing unless they're secrets that are going to hurt other people.)

Make sure she knows your hers and no one elses.

OK, I think that's supposed to come across as an "I love you more than everyone else, let me be the main person in your life" kind of thing but it just comes across as "You're my property, I will possess you" and makes it a little creepy. There's a fine line there.

When she looks at you in your eyes dont look away until she does.

No, no, no. That's one of those ridiculous cutesy things that I would deliberately avoid doing. It's right up there with, "You hang up first." "No, YOU hang up first."

When she's mad hug her tight and don't let go.


Anybody who did this to me would immediately lose so much of my respect. It would mean they had absolutely no sense of who I was as a person and what was important to me. I've already ranted on this blog about people who think it's cute or endearing to hug me after I've politely asked them not to. If I want a hug, I'll ask for or initiate a hug. If I don't, I won't. And if you try to hug me when I'm upset, and, worse yet, don't let me go, that is just going to redirect my frustration right back at you. There are people in my life I no longer share actual feelings with because they react this way. My significant other should not be one of them.

When she says she's okay don't believe it.

This one makes me mad (I can say that because none of you blog readers are able to hold me and not let me go while reading this). This especially makes me mad in contrast to the last one about believing the girl - the message here is that girls always tell the truth about their boyfriends, but always lie about themselves? What?

Sometimes people do lie about how they're doing, and say they're OK when they're not... but sometimes they are OK, and they say they're OK, and people don't believe them, and that is awful. It's very annoying when people assume that I'm either lying to them or that I don't know myself well enough to know if I'm really okay.

And, honestly, if I'm lying about how I'm doing, it'll be for one of two reasons: either I don't trust you enough yet to be honest about my feelings (in which case your prying is going to make it even more difficult for me to do so), or I'm frustrated/scared/sad/whatever but know if I talk about it, it'll just make it worse, so it's safer to dismiss it until I can properly deal with it (in which case your prying is unhelpfully dredging up something I'm trying to get past).

This assumes that girls are all either stupid about their own emotions or like to play mind games with you. And neither is true of me, or of most of the girls I am close friends with. Not all of us are crazy like that.

Call her at 12:00am on her birthday just to tell her you love her.

Again, this one is so specific. It's a nice idea, I guess, but there are so many factors involved. Is she going to be up that late? Does she like talking on the phone? Would she much rather be told this in person? Does she like celebrating her birthday? If you just say you love her, would she want you to say happy birthday instead? Would a text or Facebook message be more meaningful? It just doesn't seem to belong in a list along with things like "Don't tell other people her secrets," which is obvious common sense advice for everyone all the time.

(My answers: Yes, no, yes, sometimes, maybe, maybe.)

Treat her like she's all that matters to you.

Nope, I don't like this one either. I don't want me to be the only thing that matters to someone. For one, from a Christian standpoint, I'd like God to matter to him. I'd also like his friends to matter to him. And his family. And his work. And his hobbies. I do not want to be the sole thing responsible for happiness and meaning in his life. That's a lot of pressure, and it can't be a healthy way to function. Besides, if that's how he treats me, how am I ever going to get introvert alone time?

Watch her favorite movies with her even if you think they are stupid.

Actually, I'm quite comfortable watching movies on my own, and I get self-conscious when people watch movies with me that I like but think they'll probably dislike, and I can't enjoy it anymore. If you don't want to watch a movie with me, don't, and just let me do it by myself. We'll find a movie we both like later and we can watch that together and have a much better shared experience.

Don't talk about other girls around her.

Uh, in what capacity? I'm perfectly comfortable talking about close opposite-sex friends with my boyfriend. This message might be specifically referring to comments like, "Your best friend is super hot," which would indeed be a really awkward comment and shouldn't be said. Or maybe discussion of exes or something. I don't know. This is one of the few that isn't specific enough.

Kiss her in the pouring rain.

A nice gesture, but couldn't that be done without the pouring rain part?

Make her know she's loved and wanted.

Yup, I completely agree with that one. That's 2 out of 18.

When she reposts this bulletin she wants you to read it.

Does snarking it on my blog count as reposting this? Because that is so not why I'm doing it.

Guys; repost this if you'd do it. Girls; repost this if you would love a guy like this.♥

Would I love a guy who paid absolutely no attention to my personal preferences, assumed that all girls functioned the way they do in movies and TV shows, and was always trying to get past the sneaky mind games I'm not actually playing?

Yeeeeah, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.

(I'm wondering now if Edward Cullen fits all the criteria... Probably not the crying one. I mean, he likes to watch sad movies so he can watch Bella cry. If he was holding her, he wouldn't be able to do that.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

November Movies

It's December, holy cow. What happened in November? Let's see... we opened and closed our production of Once Upon a Mattress, which went wonderfully well, and now we're opening our Christmas revue 'Tis the Season tomorrow. I finished my education practicum with the local high school. I had Thanksgiving break. I finished NaNo, but then you all saw that.

And I saw six movies. I only saw six movies in October, too, so at least I'm not slowing down any further. Can't wait until Christmas break when I can go crazy and watch movies ALL THE TIME.

So here are the movies I watched.

Maurice (1987). Based on the E.M. Forster novel, a story about homosexuality in early 20th century England. It's far less interesting than I expected, though. It's mostly rambly and bland with no interesting characters. 2/5.

Mickey Blue Eyes (1999). Hugh Grant plays a man who finds out his fiancee's father is connected to the mafia. This could have been a pleasantly fun movie if the plot made any sense at all. As it was, it's complete nonsense and all the jokes get lost in the mush. 1/5.

Small Time Crooks (2000). Woody Allen movie about a group of bumbling criminals. That basic premise has been done much better in Take the Money and Run, and while there are a few good moments in this one, it's pretty bland overall. 2.5/5.

Soultaker (1990). A group of teenagers are supposed to die in a car crash and have their souls taken, but two of them... er... survive? Their souls are thrown from their bodies or something so their bodies are in a coma but their souls are wandering around. Watched the MST3K version of this one, and that's the only reason to watch it, really. 1/5.

Paul (2011). Two nerds on their way back from Comic-Con take a road trip to visit famous alien crash sites and meet an actual alien along the way. Full of great comedic actors and homages to classic sci-fi movies. Some truly funny moments. This is well worth the watch for people who consider themselves slightly nerdy/geeky. 4/5.

28 Days Later... (2002). Cillian Murphy wakes up a hospital to find himself in a post-apocalyptic England. Extremely solid horror thriller with an amazing sense of atmosphere. Danny Boyle remains one of my favorite directors. 4/5.

So, some pretty good ones and some pretty crappy ones. Who knows what December holds as far as moviedom, but here's hoping I watch more than six of them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

50,000 Words.... Done.

Well, there's one thing done that was taking up my time this month.

I gave up on my novel being any good long ago, but it feels to have accomplished it nonetheless.

When I realized I had less than 100 words left, I decided I was going to have some fun with the ending. So in the middle of a very tense confrontation between the protagonist and her boss, this happened:

I stared at Dr. Crance for just a moment, then stood to my feet, pressed the secret ballroom dance button under my desk, and as the tango music began to blare through the office, I grabbed him in my arms and said, “Now is not the time to be suspicious. Now is the time to dance!” Maria peeked her head in the door to find out what was going on, but then noticed Dr. Crance and I whirling madly about the room in our dance, an artistic expression of our mutual rage toward each other, and she ducked back out, as she should have.
From that day on, Dr. Crance and I were best buds, and we always enjoyed our mid morning dance breaks.

The End.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Musical Spotlight: Sleeping Beauty Wakes

I knew I would have to address this musical sooner or later, and I'm on a Groovelily kick these days, so it looks like "sooner" is the right answer. :-)

Sleeping Beauty Wakes is probably my favorite musical at the moment. It was written by my favorite band, Groovelily. It's a musical nobody's ever heard of by a band nobody's ever heard of, but it is AMAZING stuff. It tells the story of Sleeping Beauty waking up after her 1000-year sleep. She wakes up in a modern day sleep clinic. The narrative jumps back and forth between the original Sleeping Beauty narrative (how she got here) and picking up from when she wakes up.

The clips I found here are from a concert version of the show Groovelily performed. They only have three band members, so there's lots of doubling up on characters.

Narrowing this down to my favorite songs is nearly impossible, since I sincerely love each and every song in this show (which never happens for me). So I tried to choose the ones I was drawn to most immediately.

Disclaimer: This is one of those shows that I love so much that it's hard to actually articulate why I love it. I've done my best, but at its core it's just full of songs that resonate with me on a deep emotional level - even the upbeat ones. So these blurbs are short and really never capture why I love any of the songs, no matter how hard I try.

1. Can You Cure Me?
The opening song of the show, sung by the patients at the sleep disorder clinic. I remember this song instantly catching my attention when I sat down to listen to the CD. I like its cheerful little tune and the descriptions of all the different sleep disorders these patients deal with. The harmonies sound a little weird in the live version but they sound pretty great on the CD.

2. Uninvited
The villain song of the show, sung by the wicked fairy about not being invited to the party. This song is incredibly satisfying to sing along to on a bad day. The rhymes are fun, the lyrics are entertaining, the music does exactly what it should for an angry villainess' rock anthem.

3. I Think You Understand
Sung by Sleeping Beauty's father. He's managed to get enough magic to stay alive until his daughter wakes up after 1000 years, and he visits her every day in the sleep disorder clinic to tell her what's going on in the world, even though he knows she can't really hear him. This song is a soft, simple, beautiful little ballad that occasionally makes me tear up a little.

4. Drifting
This song... ahhhh, this song! The princess is tired of her overprotective parents and sneaks out to go for a midnight swim with the groundskeeper's son. It's an absolutely gorgeous love ballad that just melts me into a big puddle whenever I heard it. There's something so haunting for me about the lyrics at the end of the chorus: "I'm almost always never touching you." This whole song has such an atmosphere of "almost" - there's something there between these two, but they aren't sure exactly what or if they could do anything about it if they knew. Sometimes, when I really listen to this song, it literally takes my breath away for a moment.

5. I Dare Say I'm In Love
The live recording doesn't do this song justice, really. There are some awesome counterpart moments that work better when they're mixed all nicely on the CD. But I still love this song. It's sung by one of the orderlies at the sleep disorder clinic who has fallen in love with Sleeping Beauty now that she's awake. It's such a sweet, cheerful song, and it just always makes me smile whenever I listen to it.

It's breaking me a little bit that I've limited myself to only 5 songs and so can't include the beautifully sad Everything Changes But You, the ominous The Wheel Goes Round, the lullaby Dream With Me, the quirky Out of Harm's Way, or any of the other wonderful songs in this show. Except I kind of cheated just now by linking all those. :-)

If you enjoyed these, I *highly* recommend... well, pretty much everything else Groovelily's ever done. You can find all their songs here on their site (and can even listen to them all fully to see if you like them). I highly recommend their other musicals - their demo of Long Story Short has given me some of my very favorite showtunes of all time.

And that is Sleeping Beauty Wakes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The "What? They Did Musical Theater?" Mix

In the middle of a Star Trek conversation with a friend last week, I mentioned that Brent Spiner (Data from TNG) was a musical theater guy. This led to a discussion of famous celebrities who had done musical theater but weren't really known for it. And I thought, "Oh, right. I've always wanted to make a mix like that."

Initially the plan was to make an "I Didn't Know They Could Sing" mix, intending to include people who had released solo albums or been in bands, but as I started collecting songs, I ended up focusing mostly on cast recordings, so I decided, whatever, I'd just make it about the theater people. Also, when I pulled the list together, all but one of them were guys, so I kicked the one female performer off in favor of a slightly more unified theme. (Sorry, Glenn Close, people are going to have to look up your Sunset Boulevard performances on their own.)

So! Not a lot of commentary here - mostly just the tracklist and links. And, actually, I don't physically own all these songs yet, so no downloadable mix (yet). In the meantime, listen to the songs provided on YouTube.

1. "Rosie" from Bye Bye Birdie, performed by Brent Spiner (Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation)
I first discovered Brent Spiner was a singer when I heard him in the 1997 Broadway revival cast of 1776, where he played John Adams. He's also released a CD of jazz standards called "Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back," so if you liked this, check that out.

2. "Marry Me a Little" from Company, performed by John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood)
I knew John Barrowman from musical theater long before I started watching Doctor Who. I had seen clips of him in the Sondheim revue Putting It Together (which is where this performance comes from), and then I discovered some of the clips from his Sunset Boulevard. He's also released several CDs.

3. "Sweet Transvestite" from The Rocky Horror Show, performed by Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Most of the cast of Buffy got to sing in the musical episode from season six, but Anthony Stewart Head was a musical theater person long before that, with performances in Rocky Horror, Pirates of Penzance, Chess, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

4. "Not the Boy Next Door" from The Boy From Oz, performed by Hugh Jackman (Wolverine from X-Men)
Most people are aware of Hugh Jackman's musical theater prowess now - he's sung while hosting award shows and there are all sorts of jokes made about the fact that he's both an action movie star and a Broadway singer. But for anyone who wasn't aware of it... here he is at the Tonys with Boy From Oz (he won Best Actor in a Musical that year).

5. "Put on a Happy Face" from Bye Bye Birdie, performed by Jason Alexander (George Costanza from Seinfeld)
I find Jason Alexander's voice to be oddly soothing. This particular clip is from the 1995 TV cast of Bye Bye Birdie, but he's also had plenty of theaterperformances as well. He even won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway in 1989.

6. "Why Can't the English?" from My Fair Lady, performed by Jeremy Irons (Scar from The Lion King...and a lot of other things)
Jeremy Irons has indeed done a fair amount of musical theater. Here he carries on the Rex Harrison tradition of speak-singing Professor Henry Higgins' songs, but he's also been in productions of A Little Night Music and Camelot.

7. "Show People" from Curtains, performed by David Hyde Pierce (Niles Crane from Frasier)
I have to admit, I have never seen even one episode of Frasier. So I only ever knew David Hyde Pierce from Spamalot and Curtains. Well, and A Bug's Life. Here he is at the Tony Awards.

8. "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods, performed by Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya. You killed his father. Prepare to die)
Mandy Patinkin's kind of a big deal in musical theater land. Among other things, he starred in the original casts of Sunday in the Park With George, Evita, and The Secret Garden. I've never been a huge fan of his (his voice is a style I've never been fond of) but he most definitely belongs on this mix.

9. "Guido's Song" from Nine, performed by Antonio Banderas (everybody knows who he is, right?)
Besides playing Che in the movie version of Evita, Antonio Banderas was also in the 2003 revival cast of Nine, which got him nominated for a Tony. He's set to play the title role in the Broadway revival of the Kander and Ebb musical Zorba, opening... uh... sometime. Wikipedia said fall of 2011, but that is nearly over, so not sure what's happening with that.

10. "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks, performed by Jerry Orbach (Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order)
Jerry Orbach was also kind of a big deal in musical theater world. He originated this role in The Fantasticks, Chuck in Promises, Promises, Julian Marsh in 42nd Street, and Billy Flynn in Chicago. At least he got to sing when he voice Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast.

11. "Half As Big As Life" from Promises, Promises, performed by Sean Hayes (Jack McFarland from Will & Grace)
And here's another celebrity in the role that Jerry Orbach originated. I actually got to see this production in New York and while Sean Hayes is not a terribly strong singer, he was a very likable protagonist and was definitely fun to watch in the role. He was nominated for a Tony for this part.

12. "Is Anybody There?" from 1776, performed by William Daniels (Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World)
I only watched Boy Meets World once or twice ever, so William Daniels was always John Adams to me. He reprised his Broadway role in the 1972 film version of 1776 and is fantastic. He's not really much of a singer, but does an amazing job portraying the character.

13. "Luck Be a Lady" from Guys and Dolls, performed by Peter Gallagher (Sandy Cohen from The O.C.)
OK, I don't watch The O.C. either, but apparently that's where a lot of my friends know him from. I knew him as the coma guy from While You Were Sleeping. But back before that, he was in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls with Josie de Guzman, Nathan Lane and Faith Prince in 1992.

Two links here because the first one has video, which I think is so much more fun with this song, but the quality isn't great. The second link is the cast recording version. Jesse Tyler Ferguson sings my very favorite song from this show, playing an easily distracted young child who comes from a large family. This song always makes me laugh, and he does a great job with it.

And that's my mix! I'm sure I'll eventually think of more, so there might eventually be a part 2, but I figured this was a good introduction to some people who I always associate with musical theater, but nobody else does. Heh.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some Thoughts on Personal Boundaries

Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time with me probably knows that I have a rather large personal space bubble. I don't much like to be touched. I'm OK with occasional hugs that mean something - "I'm sorry you had a crappy day" hugs are fine, as are "I haven't seen you in a year and I missed you" hugs. But I don't like flippant or teasing physical contact, I don't like people stroking my face (had a group of people who tried to do this to people one year... creeped me the heck out), and, most of all, I really don't like casual acquaintances to touch me.

I'm understanding when people don't know this about me and try to give me affectionate physical contact. If it's a one-time thing I'll let it slide, but if it starts happening a lot (some people are just much more likely to express themselves physically) I will explain to them, "Well, thank you, but actually I don't really like to be touched. It's not really my thing." Most of the time, they just go, "Oh! OK, I didn't know, I'll try not to do that again," and we're all fine.

And then... sometimes things like this happen.

I had an encounter once where I ran into a couple people who I know are particularly touchy-feely. I knew they were probably both going to try and hug me, and I simply didn't have the energy to deal with that. So as I approached them, I said, "I'm sorry, I'm not feeling well today" (not entirely true, but it's a good introvert fallback phrase). One of them said out loud, "No hugs today, huh?" and I sort of smiled back and said, "No, please, not today," and walked past them.

Crisis averted.


One of them then chased me down and hugged me anyway. When he finally let me go, he said he hoped I felt better and I left.

This made me angry me for at least a week and a half after it happened.

I have similar experiences every once in awhile. Usually it's extroverts who do this to me, but not always - sometimes just outgoing introverts (no, that term is not an oxymoron). I think they think it's cute or endearing or kind of a playful teasing action.

Well, it's not. It really, truly isn't.

It's one thing if you don't know. If I've never told you this, there's a little leniency there. And my very close friends who I feel comfortable with are allowed more physical contact (on good days when I'm not tense or on edge).

But if I outright say I don't want to be hugged in that moment, and you ignore that and hug me anyway... that's harassment. Even if you didn't mean it like that, that's what it is. You've decided that I don't really mean it, that it's not really that big a deal, that you don't have to follow the rules I've presented. Except, uh, you kind of do. Because this is my body and if I say you can't touch it, then you can't touch it. No matter how innocent or playful it's supposed to be, no matter if you think it'll cheer me up (you're wrong). If you step over that line for any reason, you make me feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

Personal boundaries aren't a joke. They really aren't. And ignoring them makes you creepy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

October Movies

Well, October was a pretty busy month for me. Brief recap of some of the highlights:

1. I turned 25 years old. Although that didn't really take time out of my life, it just happened.

2. That musical theater revue happened - it went stupendously well and I had a great time.

3. Rehearsals for Once Upon a Mattress really got going. We open tomorrow night and I'm really impressed with the show. No matter how many times I see it in rehearsal, the cast continues to make me laugh.

4. I went home for fall break only to find my mother in the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. She was in the hospital on and off throughout the entire break. They now think she was having seizures caused by cluster migraines, and she's home and being medicated for it.

5. And last, but certainly not least, I began dating one of my very close school friends. I've never been in any kind of a relationship before so this is all new and exciting and strange... and we will see where it all goes from here.

All that to say... I didn't really end up with a lot of movie-watching time. In fact, I only watched six the entire month. One of them (Bitter Moon) was mentioned in my last movie update, so I'll go ahead and tell you about the other five I managed to squeeze in.

Boy A (2007). Don't want to give too much of the plot away, but Andrew Garfield plays someone with a past who is trying to start over. Garfield's performance is what sells the movie for me. The rest is OK, but he is amazing. 4/5.

A Serious Man (2009). A man's life starts falling apart and he tries to find meaning in it. I *almost* loved this, but couldn't quite connect the ending to the rest of it, and so ended up being let down. 3.5/5.

Mean Girls (2004). Lindsay Lohan plays a homeschooler who has to go to public school for the first time and finds herself involved with, well, mean girls. I watched this with a group of friends because when they found out I hadn't seen it, they all yelled, "I LOVE MEAN GIRLS AND WE ARE WATCHING IT RIGHT NOW!" I wasn't that enthusiastic, but the script is smart and I laughed more than I thought I would. 3.5/5.

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011). Creepy stuff happens in a house, and people try to get it on camera. The same group of friends convinced me to see this (even though I haven't seen the first two), and I was much less impressed. It's not scary, just startling. The only gimmick that worked for me was when they put the camera on an oscillating fan, which did a good job of building tension as you tried to work out what you were looking at. Overall, not even remotely impressed. 1.5/5.

Wild Strawberries (1957). A doctor receiving an award reminisces about his life and whether it has meant anything. This one was technically impressive and well-done, but I never actually connected with it, for whatever reason. 3/5.

All right! On to November! Where I will do one show, start rehearsal for another, and attempt NaNoWriMo! So... no hopes for a lot of movies this month either, unless I squeeze in a bunch during Thanksgiving break, which is absolutely possible.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Halloween Showtunes Mix

Someone asked on the FlickChart Facebook group today what our favorite horror movies were. According to FlickChart, my top two are Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd. I shouldn't be too surprised, given the fact that I love musicals and am not so crazy about horror movies... but that got me thinking of all the other horror musicals. Or, well, Halloween-appropriate ones. So I've decided to put together a little playlist about some of the darker things musical theater has to offer. Some are serious, some are silly, but all are songs I thoroughly enjoy.

I found all the songs on YouTube, so I linked to those. There is some adult language in some of these, so be aware of that (I know #12-14 for sure, and probably #17, but I can't remember).

1. "Come Look At the Freaks" from Side Show. As you can probably guess from the title, this musical is about a group of people working as side show freaks. The song emphasizes how drawn we are as humans to the scary, the "unnatural," and the unusual. There's always just a hint of the suggestion that we are the freaks for being so fascinated by the macabre. I figured this was an appropriate opening for the mix!

Come look at the freaks
They'll haunt you for weeks
Come explore why they fascinate you
Exasperate you
And flush your cheeks!

2. "Hold Me, Bat Boy" from Bat Boy. I discussed Bat Boy on this blog about a month ago and covered most of it there, so let me copy over some of what I said there: "This song talks about the Bat Boy found in a cave and all the ways he was mistreated. It even nicely provides us with a moral." It's one of the darker songs from the show.

In a cave many miles to the south
Lives a boy born with fangs in his mouth.
Sleeping until the fading light,
Flying through bloody dreams;
When he awakes the summer night is filled with screams.

3. "Sunset Boulevard" from Sunset Boulevard. This has always felt to me like a haunted house song, even though this character is not physically trapped here - just psychologically. He realizes what is happening to him but finds himself unable to escape from it.

Sunset Boulevard, twisting boulevard
Secretive and rich, a little scary
Sunset Boulevard, tempting boulevard
Waiting there to swallow the unwary

4. "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago. This is, IMHO, one of the best villain songs to ever appear in a musical. Each murderer tells their story with not only a complete lack of remorse, but also a sense of wicked glee at what they've done to their men. It's very creepy, but extremely entertaining.

So that night, when he came home, I fixed him his drink as usual... You know, some guys just can't hold their arsenic.

5. "The Master's Song" from Dracula. Truth be told, I don't know this show very well and just discovered this one today as I realized I had the studio cast of Dracula and couldn't not include something from it in this mix. It's sung by Renfield, a servant and worshiper of Count Dracula. It's a great creepy little song and I definitely am going to be listening to this one more often now that I've discovered it.

Master! They think a locked door prevents you
You're on your way, I can sense you
Through the window, through the grating,
Through the floorboards, through the fanlight
Comes the mist
And your kiss!

6. "Malevolent Oberon Suite" from A Little Midsummer's Night Music. This is Groovelily's musical adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream and this really isn't that scary a song lyrically - Oberon, the fairy King, is plotting revenge on his wife, and the lyrics are taken directly from the play - but the music creeps me the heck out. "Malevolent" is absolutely right.

And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.

7. "The World Has Gone Insane" from Jekyll & Hyde. Frank Wildhorn sure knows how to write dark music. I ended up choosing this one over "Alive" from the same show because although "Alive" is a great villain song, this one is sung by Jekyll about how he knows he is completely losing control, and to me that is a much creepier theme.

The world has gone berserk
And hiding in the murk, new monsters lurk
I see a sea of snakes upon the floor
I see the reaper grinning at my door

8. "Sweet Transvestite" from The Rocky Horror Show. (Or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, depending on the version you're referring to. Either way, it's another show that had to be included in this mix.) This is a slightly lighter song than the past few, but amidst all its campy entertainment there's definitely a sense of "Yeah, those main people are going to end up dead." Don't trust anyone living in a big creepy castle with a bunch of mysterious servants.

So you got caught with a flat, well, how about that?
Well babies, don't you panic.
By the light of the night when it all seems alright
I'll get you a satanic mechanic.

9. "The Phantom of the Opera" from The Phantom of the Opera. Although I debated a few other songs from the show, this one ultimately is the showtune monster anthem. It's pretty much instantly recognizable as such. And no matter how many times I see the show or how much I recognize that it's kind of silly, I still get a bit of a chill every time I see the dressing room fade away to reveal the Phantom's lair as he lures her down there. Here's to buying the DVD version of the 25th anniversary recording when it comes out so I can watch it without having to suffer through Gerard Butler.

Sing once again with me
Our strange duet
My power over you grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me to glance behind
The Phantom of the Opera is there
Inside your mind

10. "Life, Life" from Young Frankenstein. The Frankenstein story also has to be represented here. Although I do have a song from Frankenstein: The Rock Opera, it's a pretty mellow one that isn't very Halloween-ish... so here's this wonderful mad scientist song for you all instead.

Life, life, ere the break of dawn
Life, life, let my dream be born
Fate, fate, through this storm and strife
Fate, fate, give my creature life
Give my creaure life

11. "It's Alive" from Zombie Prom. And here's a song about a creature who did come back from the dead... Although not because a mad scientist brought him back to life. Nope, Jonny came back from the dead to ask his girlfriend to go to prom with him, much to the surprise of his teachers and classmates.

Lord, would you look at this creature feature
What a disgusting display
Check out this nightmare that rose with the moon
Straight from the depths of the black lagoon
Cover your popcorn and duck!
Frankenstein's running amok!

12. "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" from The Book of Mormon. Just a warning to my religious friends (Mormon or not), you might wanna skip this one. This show in general has a tendency to offend. I'm a Christian and do believe Hell exists, but I'm also thoroughly amused by this song because I've occasionally had these dreams... although with less Jeffrey Dahmer in them, and usually less prompted by guilt.

Spooky Mormon Hell dream!
Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler, Johnnie Cochran
The spirits all surround you!
Spooky, spooky, spoooo-ky!

13. "Another National Anthem" from Assassins. Maybe kind of a weird choice (I debated "Unworthy of Your Love" instead), but there's something really creepy about a bunch of assassins (many of them probably mentally unhinged) sitting around realizing that their impossible goals weren't met by killing anyone... and then just deciding they need to keep trying and cheering each other on. MEEP.

You've got to try again!
Like they say,
You've go to keep on trying
Every day
Until you get a prize
Until you get a prize...
Mustn't get discouraged
Spread the word

14. "Evil" from The Witches of Eastwick. For being a musical all about witches, it's surprisingly light on songs about anything Halloween-like. This is the closest I found. It kind of is a nice song with a theme of "Something BAD is going on and no one will listen to me! Even though I'm vomiting up candles and you would think someone would notice that is not normal!"

Evil, Clyde! And it feeds by degree on our apathy
Evil, Clyde! Creeping in without sound, it starts in our homes,
In our beds, on our floors strewn with clothes.
Like a plague, how it spreads- and pity the woman who knows

15. "Epiphany" from Sweeney Todd. The wonderful (and terrifying) scene where Sweeney Todd goes completely insane with vengeance and fury and decides he's just going to kill everybody. And although I quoted the most obviously evil crazy lyrics down below there, my favorite part is actually when he sings, "I'm alive at last and I'm full of joy!" at the very end. Creeeeepy.

Now we all deserve to die
Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.

16. "Suppertime" from Little Shop of Horrors. Although "Feed Me" would perhaps be the more obvious choice from this show, this one has a darker vibe. Seymour knows exactly what Audrey II is asking of him and deliberately makes the choice to kill off his boss to save himself.

He's got your number now
He knows just what you've done
You've got no place to hide,
You've got nowhere to run
He knows your life of crime
I think it's suppertime

17. "It's Time" from The Evil Dead: The Musical. Let's end on an upbeat note... everyone needs a good zombie demon-fighting anthem, right? Well, this is a pretty great one.

You know that I’m right
I’m not dying tonight
It’s a holiday
When I’m in despair
I adjust my hair
And make evil pay

And thus we conclude my Halloween showtunes mix. I was actually surprised at how many I had in there - I had to do a lot of paring down the list. I ultimately decided to just allow songs from theatrical productions in here, rather than movie/TV musicals. This eliminated the following songs, in case you want even more of my favorite songs about monsters, killers, and demons:
"Friends on the Other Side" from The Princess and the Frog
"Oogie Boogie's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas
"Playing With the Big Boys" from The Prince of Egypt
"Slipping" from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
"Walk Through the Fire" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Emotional Openness - A Blog From My Dad

My father has just posted a blog about a conversation he had with my sister and I about movies and our very, very different approaches to watching them. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me where I discovered some of the reasons my sister and I clash so much in our movie opinions and experiences.

I encourage you to read the whole entry on his page (he talks movies and then waxes philosophical about emotional openness in general - pretty interesting stuff) but I've quoted here the part that's most likely to be interesting to the movie buffs among my readers.
A few days ago, my two daughters Hannah and Bekah and I had an interesting conversation about how we watch movies.

First, Bekah and I analyze movies as we watch. Hannah analyzes movies and her reaction to them after seeing them, but as she is actually watching it is very important to her not to analyze.

Second, Hannah evaluates a movie almost entirely on the basis of how intensely it makes her experience the story. She doesn’t mean that a good movie has to explore grand themes. Some movies are about routine, about the ordinariness of life. That’s fine. Other movies end in emotional ambivalence or even confusion. That’s OK with Hannah too. What she wants, though, is for the movie to allow her to live through the story in the movie as though she had experienced it in her own life. She wants to have really felt the happiness or the tragedy or the sense of routine or the emotional ambivalence.

Bekah and I are more concerned with enjoying or appreciating the various things the movie does well. We have fun when it makes us laugh and enjoy the tingle when it makes us scared, but I think we don’t live through it the way Hannah does. I think it’s a little more distant from us than Hannah experiences.

The reason Hannah can’t analyze a movie as she watches is because she doesn’t want to put any wall between her and the story the movie is telling. She doesn’t want to hold it out at arms’ length and inspect it. She wants to get inside it and then enjoy the ride.

It’s also important to her not to know anything about a movie before hand. She doesn’t even like to know whether other people liked the movie or not. She wants to experience it naively, without expectations or preconceptions about where it will lead.

This is a pretty accurate summing up of what I do with movies. Not that I can't appreciate the technical elements of a film (and frequently on a second or third viewing, I pick up on that more) but I need to have an overall good experience with the movie first. It feels weird to me to admit that because I respond to most of my life in a much more objective, analytical way, and then, with movies... it's almost entirely about the emotional experience. I don't quite know yet how to mesh that with the rest of my life, but maybe it's keeping me balanced in some way.

How about you guys? Are you more analytic or intuitive in your response to movies - or art in general?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Movies This... Month?

I've been lazy about writing in my blog. Well, not lazy here so much as busy elsewhere. Between classes and rehearsals for two different shows, I haven't had much time to write anything, much less watch movies. In fact, I've only seen a movie a week for the past three. But, well, here are my thoughts on those:

Hop (2011). Kids' movie about the Easter Bunny, who just wants to be a famous drummer. This movie makes absolutely no sense. The only laughs it got from me were when I laughed in disbelief at how stupid a plot point was. (None of the kids I watched it with were laughing either.) 0.5 stars.

The Beaver (2011). Mel Gibson plays a man dealing with crippling depression who finds relief through using a beaver puppet to talk to people. I loved this one. It's funny and dark and beautiful and fascinating. So much better than I expected. 4.5 stars.

Bitter Moon (1992). A Roman Polanski film about a couple whose love turns into cruelty and hatred. Not only unpleasant to watch, but also just boring most of the time. 1.5 stars.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some TV Pilots...

I'm trying to catch most of the new fall pilots. Here are the ones I saw over the last week, if you want to know my take on the newest shows to catch.

2 Broke Girls - Not going to keep watching, although I deliberated. I do like Kat Jennings and the premise is pretty entertaining, but it's all a little too "HA HA IT'S A SITCOM LET US MAKE SOME JOKES" for me. However, it's no more so than the last 3 seasons of Big Bang Theory, so if you're still on board with that one, you'll probably enjoy this.

Free Agents - Almost skipped over this one because I forgot I saw it. It's incredibly bland. I will not be continuing with this one.

H8r - I watched the first episode because it sounded ridiculous and stupid, maybe entertainingly so. Unfortunately, it was not. It was just boring.

New Girl - This one definitely has potential. I'm hoping for her to continue being genuinely genuinely awkward rather than just kind of cute and quirky - not nearly enough truly awkward female characters as leads. Zooey Deschanel breaking away from her stoic cynicism and playing emotionally unhinged is nice, too. I will continue watching this one for sure.

Ringer - Tentatively keeping up with this one. It's got an interesting premise and I like Sarah Michelle Gellar and I really like Ioan Gruffud, so we'll see where it goes from here.

The Playboy Club - Too many characters, too vague a plotline, kind of interesting as a period piece but it just didn't grab my interest at all. So... no.

Unforgettable - That's a sad name because this was so completely forgettable and boring that I didn't even make it all the way through the pilot. This isn't going to make it.

Up All Night - Will Arnett is back... and he and Christina Applegate are really entertaining. This is the second show I'm watching now where the premise hinges on taking care of a baby (the other being Raising Hope) and I should hate both of them, but they both work. I'm definitely going to keep watching this one.

Whitney - I did watch this whole pilot, but I have no idea why. It's extremely unfunny. Not going back to this one.

So, to conclude... I'm still watching Up All Night, New Girl, and Ringer, in that order of interest. The rest have been cheerfully deleted from my Sidereel TV tracker.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Musical Spotlight: Bat Boy

The musical in the spotlight this time around: Bat Boy: The Musical, since posting the finale last blog got me thinking about it.

Music and lyrics for this show are by by Laurence O'Keefe, who later went on to do the musical adaptation of Legally Blonde (which I also love and will probably be featured on here at some point). It's based on the 1992 Weekly World News story about a half-boy, half-bat creature found in a cave. The show has very dark themes but tackles them all in a very silly, tongue-in-cheek manner. I haven't gotten to see this one live yet, but I love the music and the story and have seen a ridiculous amount of clips from it.

So! In the order they appear in the show, here are a couple of my favorite songs from Bat Boy. All the videos embedded are just the music, no video included, and they're all from the London cast because it was what I could find on YouTube. (I have the original off-Broadway cast myself and love it, but both are pretty good.)

1. Hold Me, Bat Boy
This song opens the show and sets up the scene for the rest of the musical, talking about the Bat Boy found in a cave and all the ways he was mistreated. It even nicely provides us with a moral: "Listen to his ungodly shriek, / Watch what they put him through. / Heed the tale of a filthy freak / Who's just like you!" This song, like many of the songs in the musical, is very silly although it claims to be profound and life-changing. I enjoy how seriously all these singers appear to be taking the tale of the Bat Boy.

2. Show You a Thing or Two
A bit later in the show, Bat Boy (now named Edgar) has been adopted by the local veterinarian and his wife and his daughter. In this song, the veterinarian's wife, Meredith, manages to teach Edgar now only how to speak, but also social norms and etiquette. It's a jaunty little tune that is really fun to sing along to, but I'm not even close to knowing all the lyrics to this one.

3. Comfort and Joy
This one is my favorite from the show, but is hard to explain, plotwise. There are several things going on here, but the main ones are: 1) the vet, Dr. Parker, has decided to destroy Edgar in an attempt to win back his wife's attention, and 2) there is a town revival meeting coming up, and Meredith and her daughter, Shelley, are taking Edgar. All the different people involved in these things sing together about how they're trying to find... well, comfort and joy. I'm a sucker for counterpoint, so I love the moments when all the different characters are singing about all the things they want.

4. Let Me Walk Among You
At the revival, Edgar earnestly pleads for the townspeople to accept him, despite his appearance. Musically, this is a really pretty song, but the lyrics don't ever let it get too serious ("Let me file your taxes. I am a CPA! / And maybe then you'll shake my hand someday"). The song ends awkwardly because it's interrupted by another song.

5. Three Bedroom House
This was the first song I ever heard from Bat Boy, and it was the one that made me want to find the rest of the show. Meredith has decided to take Shelley and Edgar and run away from her husband, so here Meredith and Shelley plan their escape and their lives all together afterward. During the song, Shelley reveals that she's falling in love with Edgar, which terrifies Meredith because (as we will learn later in the show - spoilers) Meredith is actually Edgar's mother, so Edgar and Shelley are brother and sister.

Bat Boy's an odd little musical, but it's a good one, with a dark, bizarre story and some really entertaining songs. It was also the first show where I heard Kerry Butler, who plays Shelley in the off-Broadway cast and has become one of my favorite musical theater people.

If you like Bat Boy, I'd suggest also checking out Zombie Prom, Little Shop of Horrors, and The Evil Dead: The Musical, which are all pretty similar in tone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Thoughts on Friendship

We're about three and a half weeks into a new school year. This is when one of my pet peeves starts happening. It's not really fair to call it a peeve, because it's not something that's necessarily wrong or inaccurate or rude... it just bothers me.

It's the freshmen who are friends with people 3 weeks after they meet them.

Here's the deal: I move slowwwwwly when it comes to friendship. I may be in every class with you, eat lunch with you all the time, and study together, but I almost certainly won't consider you a friend until we've weathered at least a year together. (Frequently even longer - I only started saying I had friends here at HU recently, at the beginning of my third year here.) Nor does this have anything to do with how much I like you as a person. There are people I connect with and tend to like very quickly - that doesn't make them my friend. Even if they connect with and like me quickly as well. We're still just friendly acquaintances.

Part of the reason for this is that we don't really know each other yet. Unless this person has crazy mood swings or you've caught them in the middle of an especially up-and-down time of life, 3 weeks is not enough time to see the darker side of someone (or, for some people, the lighter side). There are people that I have liked instantly and then as I spent time with them more often in more situations, I realized I really didn't like them at all - they were cruelly judgmental, or they didn't like to listen to other people's points of view.

Just as I need to take that time to get to know them and all their ups and downs, I feel like that time's important for them to get to know me as well. I'm equally uncomfortable when someone considers me a friend in that short period of time. I had someone once inform me just a week after they met me that they thought I was one of the most awesome people they ever knew. Well, that's just silly. They'd only seen me in one light. They'd seen me when I was cheerful and chatty and entertaining. They hadn't seen me get whiny because I was scared, or say something really awkward and then obsess about it, or shut myself up in my room because I didn't want to talk to anyone (disclaimer: obviously I don't really consider that a bad thing, but whatever. It's perceived as such). If they don't know who I am to judge me in that period of time, how can I possibly know who they are and judge them? How can I consider myself friends with someone I don't really know?

Maybe some of these people are good judges of character and they sense better than I do what people are like... but I know for a fact that some of them don't, even when they think they do. (I had a weird experience where someone who called themselves my friend but didn't know me that well ended up with a very bizarre idea of who I was. Not bad things - just incorrect. When I told my group of close friends the ideas this person had about me, they all started cracking up and agreed it was entirely inaccurate.)

The fastest I ever made friends was when I worked with NLDC, where you were with some of these people every second of every day for 10 weeks (minus bathroom time and any days you wound up staying at a host home by yourself). Even then, my closest friends were almost all people I traveled with multiple times.

I guess I don't really begrudge people 3-week friendships... I just don't understand them. They make me nervous. I don't want to be in one.

Anyone reading this, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you claim friends quickly? If so... why, or how, or what makes that decision for you? I'm sure some of this probably has to do with the extrovert/introvert breadth vs. depth distinction (explained here in a Google Books link to Adam S. McHugh's Introverts in the Church), which has always been harder for me to understand from the extrovert's POV.

I need a good ending for this post and I don't have one, so here's a Broadway finale for you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Movies This Week

I'm a day late on this one because yesterday I was out all day seeing movies. I went with a couple friends to the $3 movie theater and we watched three movies from 12:30-9:00. We had a dinner break in the middle there - not just watching 3-hour movies.

So, with that being said, I managed to see 5 this week. Four of them were seen on Friday and Saturday.

Silver Streak (1976). Action/comedy/mystery kinda thing starring Gene Wilder as someone who witnessed a murder on a train and now has to prove it happened. Richard Pryor plays the escaped thief who helps him. Not terribly funny or suspenseful, so it kind of fails on both ends. 2/5.

Our Idiot Brother (2011). Paul Rudd plays a well-intentioned hippie who keeps accidentally messing up his sisters' lives. Not very memorable, but very pleasant, and the three actresses playing the sisters work well together. 2.5/5.

30 Minutes or Less (2011). Action/comedy where Jesse Eisenberg gets a bomb strapped to his chest and is forced to rob a bank. This has a moment or two where I laughed really hard, but the rest of it is gratuitously crude with unpleasant characters. 2/5.

Super 8 (2011). A group of children making a movie start seeing things get really weird in their town and they try to figure out what's going on. Sort of a cross between The Goonies and E.T. (better than the first, almost as good as the second). A very satisfying coming-of-age sci-fi flick. 4/5.

Horrible Bosses (2011). Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day all have horrible bosses and try to kill them off. So much funnier than I thought it would be. It turns out to be actually a pretty good black comedy. Where 30 Minutes or Less felt unnecessarily crude, all the rude moments in this are really used to enhance the story and are some of the funniest moments of the movie. 3.5/5.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Musical Spotlight: Les Misérables

I want to write about something besides movies to shake things up. :-) My other main interest is musical theater, so I figured every once in awhile I'd share a musical I'm listening to a lot these days and showcase some of my favorite songs. I'm going to start off with one of the classic musicals - Les Misérables. If you're into musical theater at all, you probably know this one pretty well. But if you don't... here are some of the songs that make me love it.

The music for Les Mis was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, with lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, later translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer. It's based on the book by Victor Hugo and features a large cast of characters, including an escaped convict, the policeman who chases him down, a group of French students planning revolution, and the neglected daughter of a sleazy innkeeper. It's a very dark show, with only four characters surviving at the end, but has absolutely beautiful music, including some songs that people have come to know even outside of the musical theater world.

I loved this show in high school and then got tired of it and stopped listening... but the musical theater revue I'm working on this month features several songs from the show in honor of its 25th anniversary, so the songs have been in my head and I was reminded once again of how gorgeous they are.

Here are a few of my favorites. All clips are taken from the 10th Anniversary Cast because that's the one I first fell in love with. Plus it's got a crazy awesome cast.

1. Work Song. This is the show's opening - possibly my favorite show opening ever. The show opens in a prison where the men are horribly mistreated and being disproportionately punished for their crimes (as the song explains, our protagonist has been imprisoned 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread). The powerful men's chorus carries so much despair, even when they're just singing "Ah-ah-ah-ah."

2. Stars. Easily one of my top 5 showtunes of all time, sung here by the marvelous Philip Quast. He plays Javert, the policeman who is so concerned with doing what is just that he gives no thought to what is right. He's the show's main antagonist, and this song showcases why he's such an interesting character - he believes that what he does, he does for God. This song is moving and beautiful and very, very sad, because there's no room for any grace in his life, and thus, no room for God.

3. A Little Fall of Rain. In this scene, neglected teenager Eponine has been fatally wounded trying to deliver a message to the man she loves (but doesn't love her back). They sing this song together as she dies. Eponine's character spends most of the show trying to hide her feelings and not show that she's in any pain, inside or outside, so this final cry of, "Don't you fret, I don't feel any pain" is rather heartbreaking.
I chose this version because Lea Salonga is my favorite Eponine... and although I dearly love Michael Ball as Marius, I can find no justification for the fact that he does a bizarre grin at the end of the number. It's so inappropriate. What was he thinking? Shame on you, Michael Ball, shame on you.

4. Bring Him Home. I'm not a huge Colm Wilkinson fan, but this is one of the few songs where I think he really nails it. In this song, Jean Valjean is singing about one of the students fighting the revolution - the man who hopes to marry Valjean's adopted daughter. In this song, Valjean begs God to bless this young man and to carry him through this battle alive. It's a beautiful song that always feels to me a bit like a lullaby. (You should also take note of the silly madlibs version found here.)

5. Do You Hear the People Sing? While not my #1 song from the show, I think it's a great one to use at the end of this spotlight, since the reprise of this song ends the show. It's sung by the students calling each other to stand in their revolution and fight to change France. I can only think of one or two other showtunes that have the power to truly inspire me, and this is one of them. Heard live, it can be an incredibly powerful moment. That can only be somewhat captured in a recording... but here goes.

And that's Les Misérables! Schönberg and Boublil did a few other musicals (including the very good Miss Saigon and the not very good Martin Guerre) but none of them have ever reached the level of popular interest Les Mis has. It has characters everyone can root for, an abundance of beautiful songs, and a story that ends oddly hopeful, given how many sad events happen during the course of the show. It was one of my favorites for several years and I'm glad to get the chance to be a part of some of these songs this year.

Will I ever do this feature again? No way of knowing. But it sure was fun to do it at least once.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Movies This Week

I managed to watch four movies this week amidst schoolwork, starting rehearsals for the Troupe, and auditions for Once Upon a Mattress. This was a pretty light week as far as my activities went - can't imagine I'll be watching many movies once rehearsals get going for real, unless I go crazy with movie watching on the weekends (a definite possibility).

Anyway. After that brief update on my life, on to the movies. Not a lot of luck this week.

Curious George (2006). Animated adaptation of the children's book series. Not quite as bad as I thought it was going to be - the parts with George himself are great. The main problem was that they made the Man in the Yellow Hat the main character, and he's not entertaining for children or adults. 2/5.

Open Season (2006). Kids' buddy movie about a bear and a moose. WHYYYYY do movies like this exist? No original plot, no original characters, a single joke that worked for me, and a surprising amount of violence for a kids' movie. 1/5.

The Brother From Another Planet (1984). A fugitive from outer space shows up in Harlem and wanders around doing stuff. I was thoroughly unimpressed with this movie - strange unrelatable characters, completely random sound effects, jarring transitions, unexplained motivation shifts... My roommate and I were completely thrown off when we discovered this movie had a 92% on RottenTomatoes. Clearly there's something we're missing. 1/5.

Happythankyoumoreplease (2010). How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor writes/directs his first film, about a group of people trying to find happiness in New York. Not an awful indie comedy drama, but not a very good one either. Some great stories and characters, but keeps sliding into sentimentality or pretension. 3/5.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movies This Week/Hannah's Movie Awards

Since I have only seen two movies this week (oh, the shame) I figured I'd compile it with my starting-a-new-month movie award thing! (If you don't know how my fake movie awards works, check out this entry.)

First, the new movies:

Barnyard (2006). A kids' movie about a barnyard. That's all I remember. This movie is so boring that when I left and came back to it, I accidentally rewatched 15 minutes of it because I didn't remember where I'd left off. Easily forgotten even when I was in the middle of the movie. Nothing worth seeing here. 0.5/5.

Mother (2009). South Korean drama about a woman whose son is accused of murder. Impressive and interesting but I never connected emotionally, so it ends up getting the "admired but didn't like" rating of 3.5/5.

And now on to the awards for movies I saw in August.

Best Story
- Heavenly Creatures
- The Majestic
- Brothers
- After the Fox

No question about this one. Heavenly Creatures is easily the most interesting story of these four, at least to me, although I do have a fondness for stories about people going crazy.

Best Characters
- Best in Show
- After the Fox

Not really any question about this one either - it's Best in Show. Although After the Fox was great fun (enough to pop up in both awards so far), the characters were what made Best in Show funny.

Most Enjoyed
- After the Fox
- Love and Death
- Fright Night (the 2011 remake - every time it's mentioned in this post that's the one it's referring to)
- Limitless
- Ponyo
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead

Oh, those are some fun movies right there. Take out Limitless and Ponyo, and you have four movies I greatly enjoyed, all for very different reasons. After the Fox and Love and Death are snarky, quick-witted, and absurd, while Fright Night and R&GAU are so campy and over-the-top that I just had a blast watching them. I think I'm going to have to give it to Love and Death, though. That one was most consistently fun - I can only think of maybe one or two moments I didn't really enjoy.

Most Interesting
- Source Code
- Brothers

Jake Gyllenhaal vs. Jake Gyllenhaal! And he wins with Source Code.

- The Majestic
- The Lost Boys

Fright Night and R&GAU should be on this list, for sure... but I enjoyed those movies, as opposed to Lost Boys, which had so much cheese but seemed so be so bored by it. It wins. Or loses. Whatever that means in this category.

Blandest (Most Bland?)
- Barnyard
- The Lion King 2
- Anything Else

I have already mentioned how boring Barnyard was in this post. It absolutely deserves this award. IT. WAS. SO. BORING.

Most Over-the-Top
- Fright Night
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead
- ...And Your Name Is Jonah

Well, I'm thinking Fright Night wins this one. The other two have a few long stretches where people seem relatively normal and laidback, but every character in Fright Night is insanely hammy, and it's wonderful.

Best Acting
- Marvin's Room
- Brothers
- Opening Night

Opening Night, without a question. Even though I wasn't really captured by the movie as a whole, I was constantly impressed by the quality of the acting.

Best Actor
- Fright Night (Colin Farrell)
- Fright Night (David Tennant)
- Marvin's Room (Leonardo DiCaprio)
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (Jake Hoffman)
- After the Fox (Victor Mature)
- The Man Who Wasn't There (Billy Bob Thornton)

Wowww. That's a bizarre list. Much as I liked the guys hamming it up in my silly over-the-top comedies of the month, this one's going to go to Leonardo DiCaprio. Billy Bob Thornton was a close second, but I think Leo deserves it because there were so many ways that character could have been done wrong. He turned in a subtly realistic performance without overacting or pushing for big emotional breakdowns. He just seemed like a real character looking for... whatever he's looking for. I've always been pretty impressed with Leo's acting, but he really managed to shine there.

Best Actress
- Heavenly Creatures (Melanie Lynskey)
- Heavenly Creatures (Kate Winslet)
- Marvin's Room (Meryl Streep)
- Brothers (Bailee Madison)
- Opening Night (Gena Rowlands)

As much as I raved about the acting in Opening Night, this one has to go to Melanie Lynskey, who was wonderful in Heavenly Creatures. Terrifying, but wonderful. I've seen her in one or two other movies but she made this character so entirely her own that I completely forgot she was an actress playing a part and was swept up into the bizarre world of this imaginative girl. Fantastically done.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Movies This Week

Well, school has started back up again. This meant that not only did I not watch very many movies last week (only four, and three of those were before I left home), I forgot to even write about them on Saturday. Whoops.

Heavenly Creatures (1994). Based on the real life story of two girls charged with murdering one of their mothers. Kate Winslet's first movie. It's fascinating and chilling and has some wonderful acting in it. I'm not sure I could say I "liked" it, but it was really well done. 4/5.

Limitless (2011). Bradley Cooper plays a man who takes a pill that helps him use every part of his brain. Fun premise and I liked it fine watching it, but mostly forgotten just a few days later. 3/5.

Unknown (2011). Liam Neeson wakes up in a hospital with no ID and no memory of how he got there. When he is released, he finds someone else has taken over his life. This was fine. Extremely implausible and very silly, it might rank higher for someone who likes action movies better than I do. 2.5/5.

Fright Night (2011). Remake of a 1985 vampire horror movie. This movie is ridiculous and campy and the actors are clearly having a blast, so it's fun for the audience. Worth seeing solely for Colin Farrell and David Tennant, who milk every moment of their ridiculous characters. 3/5.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Movies This Week

I watched six movies this week... and realizing this may be the last time for awhile where I can watch 5-7 movies in one week, as I'm heading back to school next Wednesday. Silly life, keeping me from my movie watching.

Anyway. This week's movies:

Ponyo (2008). Hayao Miyazaki film about a goldfish who wants to be human. Mostly adorable, but occasionally mind-numbingly boring, and I'm not sure what age range it's supposed to be for. 3/5.

Source Code (2011). Sci-fi/action/thriller by Duncan Jones, who previously did Moon, which I loved. I don't really want to give away the plot, so no details here. I didn't like it as much as I liked Moon - the ending didn't quite work for me - but the premise is great and worked out in a really interesting way. 4/5.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Martin Scorsese's controversial movie about Jesus' life. Everything leading up to the controversial part was mostly uninteresting, and everything after it felt silly. Disappointing, because I thought I might love it. 2/5.

The Majestic (2001). Jim Carrey plays a 1950s blacklisted screenwriter who gets amnesia and ends up in a small town, where he is mistaken for a soldier presumed dead. This movie has good intentions, but it's very sappy and the ending really pushed my suspension of belief limits. 2.5/5.

Marvin's Room (1996). Drama about a woman diagnosed with leukemia and her relationship with her estranged sister. Very good acting from Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio, but Diane Keaton never quite works in her role for me, so the whole thing falls flat. 3/5.

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride (1998). The direct-to-video sequel to The Lion King poorly imitates all the good things about the first film and it just ends up being a bland mess. 1/5.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Destroying Happily Ever After: The Majestic

I'm not a fan of romance movies. Too frequently when the movie ends I'm left thinking, "But - but they - how could he - that is going to cause SO MANY PROBLEMS!" As a cynic, I've decided it's my job to destroy the happily ever after so many movies choose as a happy wrap-up ending, by predicting how these romantic choices will play out in the rest of their lives. I hope to make this an ongoing segment of the blog, updated whenever I find a movie romance that pushes my buttons.

These posts will obviously contain spoilers (although if you're watching a romance, chances are you know the characters are going to end up together at the end anyway).

So. The Majestic.

This movie stars Jim Carrey as Peter Appleton, a Hollywood writer in the 1950s who is accused of having Communist ties and has to be brought up before HUAC. Before that can happen, though, he has a car accident which ends with him washed up on the beach somewhere with no memory of who he is. He makes his way to a nearby town, where the townspeople all mistake him for Luke Trimble, the town darling and a decorated soldier who was presumed killed in battle nine years earlier. Peter starts to make his life in this town, re-opening the movie theater Luke and his father ran together and connecting with Luke's fiancee, Adele (played by Laurie Holden).

After several months of living there, Peter remembers who he is. He tells Adele, who admits tearfully that a part of her knew he couldn't be Luke, but she wanted it to be him so badly she let herself believe it. The law finds Peter at the same time and offers him a prepared statement allowing him to renounce the Communist party and go free if he will provide them with some names. He tells Adele he's going to follow through with it, and she tells him he should fight instead, because he's innocent - and Luke would have fought for the right to freedom of speech.

Peter leaves to go read his statement to the court, but when he gets there (with all the townspeople listening to the proceedings on the radio), he ultimately finds himself unable to read his prepared statement and stands up for the right to say whatever he wants whenever he wants. Because this movie is a happy movie, this all somehow works out for him and he gets to go free. He returns to the small town, only to find the entire town waiting for him to welcome him as a hero. He finds Adele, kisses her, and over the credits song we see framed pictures of their wedding and their kids.



Adele has known Peter for a few months, during which he's acted as her former fiance, Luke. However, the main problem is that he's not Luke. He never will be. This is not necessarily a problem except for the fact that 1) he looks exactly like Luke, and, 2) he's been unintentionally masquerading as Luke this whole time. Any new personality traits or physical quirks that might be part of Peter's personality have just been incorporated into her perception of Luke over the past several months. So every time she looks at him, she's going to see Luke, even the parts of him that aren't very Lukelike.

The things she loves about him are the things she loved about Luke. She was upset when she discovered he didn't have strong moral convictions, not just because having strong moral convictions was a good thing, but because it made him less like Luke. ("I guess I really did have you two confused," she says angrily to him.) He then went off to court and did exactly what she said Luke would do. The line between Luke and Peter has gotten fuzzier.

Peter returns to Luke's town, marries Luke's girlfriend, works at Luke's job. He's made friends with Luke's friends. The awkward kid who looked up to Luke now looks up to him. His name may be changed, but he's essentially living Luke's life.

Eventually that's not going to work. Eventually he's going to do something else that's not Lukelike. Now, we don't know what that is, because we don't get to see much personality from Peter in the movie - he's just kind of a pushover until the end. But just considering the fact that Peter was from the city and Luke was from a tiny Mayberry-esque town, there should be some differences in the experiences they've had, how they think about things, and the way they act, even if we don't really see it in the movie. This is going to startle the townspeople, but most of all it's going to startle Adele. The Peter she "fell in love" with was essentially Luke - at least enough like Luke to make everyone think that's who he was.

Marrying someone who looks and acts exactly like your deceased fiance is... well, certainly a situation full of difficulties. It's impossible not to compare. Every argument they have is going to end with her saying, "Luke wouldn't do that!" Even subconsciously, she'll expect him to continue acting like Luke, and when he doesn't, it'll be a really unpleasant shock - reminding her over and over again that the first love of her life can never really come back to her. He, in turn, is going to resent all those comparisons and feel like she's never really loved him - which, of course, she probably hasn't.

This doesn't have a happy ending. That kiss at the train station is not the end of a beautiful love story, it's the beginning of a seriously complicated one.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Movies This Week

I saw eight movies this week... and it was a GREAT movie week for me, because half of them got 4 stars. Now it's possible I'm just in a happier mood and enjoying my movies more or something (they were all comedies), but either way, I'm OK with it.

After the Fox (1966). A comedy written by Neil Simon and starring Peter Sellers as an escaped thief who poses as a film director as part of a plot to steal some gold. Apparently a box office flop, but I liked it. Zany, silly, lots of fun. 4/5.

Best in Show (2000). Christopher Guest mockumentary about dog show competitors. While not as brilliant as Waiting for Guffman or This Is Spinal Tap, still very funny, with great characters and good jokes. 4/5.

Kick-Ass (2010). A superhero action/comedy about a high schooler who wants to be a superhero. I loved the parts of the story that focused on him, but didn't care for the foul-mouthed little girl... made me uncomfortable watching her cheerily bringing gory vengeance to her enemies. 3.5/5.

...And Your Name Is Jonah (1979). Drama about a couple and their deaf child, who had been misdiagnosed as mentally retarded. Nice idea, but everything about it falls apart. I initially gave it 2/5 but as time has passed it's dropped down to 1/5. Really nothing held together.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009). Campy comedy about a group of vampires putting on a production of Hamlet. Ridiculous and silly and I loved every minute of it. Laughed out loud several times. This movie is not for everyone but for those who like stories about vampires and/or theater, check it out. 4/5.

Gypsy (1993). TV adaptation of the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim musical, starring Bette Midler. Although Cynthia Gibb is good as Louise, it takes a more charismatic actress than Midler to make me pay attention to this rather lackluster musical. 2.5/5.

Brothers (2009). Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a soldier and his ex-con brother. Maguire is presumed dead, but returns to find his brother has moved in on his life. Strong and compelling second half, mostly uninteresting first half. 3.5/5.

Take the Money and Run (1969). Woody Allen's directorial debut, about an incompetent thief. Loved this one. FlickChart now reports it as my #1 movie of 1969 - probably not correct because it places it about 10 spots above Butch Cassidy, but I did really like it. The only comedy of the week to truly make me *giggle*. 4/5.