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.