Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The "What? They Did Musical Theater?" Mix (Vacation Repost)

Well, I'm off visiting my family in Illinois for most of this week. Tune Ins will still happen on T/Th as scheduled (those are easy to write ahead of time) but the rest of this week, we'll be reposting a few of my most popular blogs ever.

This particular one was first posted on November 11, 2011.

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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Journey

Well, uh, I'm pretty sure everyone already knows this song, so just enjoy it. Unless you're my husband, in which case, you don't have to enjoy it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

100 Things I Love About Films (Vacation Repost)

Well, I'm off visiting my family in Illinois for most of this week. Tune Ins will still happen on T/Th as scheduled (those are easy to write ahead of time) but the rest of this week, we'll be reposting a few of my most popular blogs ever.

This particular one was first posted on March 27, 2011. Nonworking picture/video links have been removed, since my Internet is being crazy and not letting me find good replacements.

Blogger and FlickCharter Travis McClain posted this on his blog. It was originally a Facebook note composed by a friend of his (Beau Kaelin - credit where credit's due) but it's also been spreading to the blogosphere. (May that be the first and last time I ever use that word.) Here are the instructions:

Rather than posting your 100 favorite films (which has been done and overdone), you simply post your favorite things about movies. I dig the concept, because instead of obsessing over whether the films you put on a list are "objectively good enough" to put on said list, you simply jot down 100 moments/lines/visuals that have made a lasting impression on you or sneak their way into running gags between you and your friends. Just read below and you'll get the idea.

1. "La Marseillaise" in Casablanca.

2. The fact that every single line in Napoleon Dynamite is quotable.

3. When live Broadway shows are filmed and released on DVD. There needs to be more of that.

4. The scene in The Fisher King where Robin Williams follows Amanda Plummer through Grand Central Station and the entire place turns into a ballroom.

5. The first half hour of Wall-E and how it evokes such strong characters and story without dialogue. Or live actors.

6. Tom Baxter from The Purple Rose of Cairo.

7. Watching Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau interact in pretty much everything they've ever done together.

8. The soundtrack for Love Actually. The gleeful Christmas cheesiness of "All I Want For Christmas" fills me with joy every time I watch it. "Both Sides Now" was an amazing, heartbreaking choice of Emma Thompson's discovery of her husband's affair. "God Only Knows" is the best possible song to choose to end this movie. The love theme has made me cry quite a few times.
8b. I absolutely love the "Here With Me" moment in that movie, as Mark walks away from his apartment... then turns back... then keeps turning, until he finally decides to keep walking away.

9. The Woody Allen opening credits. They make me feel at home every time I watch one of his movies.

10. The angry dance from Billy Elliot. (The linked clip has some adult language.)

11. Similarly, the angry warehouse dance from Footloose. There's just something about people releasing so much pent-up emotion through dance...

12. "I do love eating with a spoon, don't you?" -Cold Comfort Farm

13. All of Sinbad of the Seven Seas. My all-time favorite so-bad-it's-good movie. The fact that Sinbad keeps drawing his sword to fight and then throwing it away. The wonderfully awful dialogue ("Gosh, you're beautiful"). The humor that makes absolutely no sense. Sinbad inflating an entire hot air balloon by blowing it up manually. The expressions he makes when fighting the Ghost King.

14. The entire dream city folding in on itself in Inception.

15. How a premise like "Guy falls in love with a sex doll" can turn into something so surprisingly sweet like Lars and the Real Girl. I would never have thought that story would be as good as it was. It gives me hope for other movies whose premises are unimpressive.

16. "You always see the glass as half empty."
"No, I see it half full, but of poison." -Scoop

17. When I watched Shattered Glass and realized Hayden Christiansen could act.

18. The king's speech. In, er, The King's Speech.

19. I take the same emotional ride as the title character in the 1995 remake of Sabrina. Every single time, even though I know how it ends, I fall in love with the guys in the same order and at the same time she does. That's what every romcom should do and almost never does.

20. Anton Yelchin in Charlie Bartlett.

21. "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid. IMHO, easily the best animated musical sequence of all time.

22. The final act of Bug. Eeeep.

23. "Sardines! I've forgotten the sardines... No, I haven't. I haven't forgotten the sardines. I remembered the sardines. Well, what a surprise; I guess I'll just go into the kitchen and fix some more sardines to celebrate!" -Noises Off

24. The over-croweded cabin in A Night at the Opera.

25. Twist endings that take me completely by surprise.

26. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - probably the most fun I've ever had at a movie theater.

27. Recognizing actors I know and love from TV shows or musical theater in bits parts... an especially bright spot in not-very-good movies. ("Oh my gosh! That's Chris O'Dowd as the blind swordsman!")

28. All of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. One of the best genre spoofs I've ever seen. It involves skeletons, meteors, aliens, and several different forest animals turned into a single woman.

29. "After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I realized what a terrific person she was, and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I thought of that old joke, you know, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken.' And, the doctor says, 'Well, why don't you turn him in?' The guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd... but, I guess we keep going through it because most of us... need the eggs." -Annie Hall

30. The "Moses" dance from Singin' in the Rain. There's absolutely no reason for this song to be in the movie, other than it is FUN.

31. The imaginary baseball game in Once Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

32. "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge! Well, and the entire movie, but this part of the movie left me literally breathless when I first watched it. The chaos of sound at the end, along with the barrage of images of the Duke's attack on Satine, just mesmerizes me.

33. When Truman sails into the wall from The Truman Show.

34. "All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close-up!" -Sunset Blvd.

35. The sad, sad final scene of The Others. So much atmosphere in this movie.

36. Edward Norton in Fight Club.

37. Speaking of Edwards... the title character of Edward Scissorhands.

38. The tiny Stonehenge debacle from This Is Spinal Tap.

39. Watching a classic movie you've never seen before and going, "Oh! THAT'S where that reference comes from!"

40. The moment in Back to the Future 3 where the characters suddenly switch catch phrases. I missed it the first couple times around.

41. When Broadway musicals are adapted into movies and they don't mess it up, despite casting big-name stars.

42. Han Solo.

43. "We'd like you to meet some of our... friends."
"Yeah. This is Dave Beethoven. And, uh, Maxine of Arc. Herman the Kid."
"Bob Genghis Khan. Socrates Johnson. Dennis Frood. And uh, uh... Abraham Lincoln." -Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

44. Finding directors whose films I consistently like. Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, Baz Luhrmann...

45. ...and Richard Linklater, who first convinced me with Before Sunrise. Just two people talking for a couple hours, and yet it's more compelling than most romantic dramas with twists and turns of plot.

46. Life is Beautiful: Robert Benigni deliberately mistranslates the German soldier's instructions in the concentration camp because he doesn't want his son to know what's really going on and get scared. Great bit of comedy in the much darker second half of this movie.

47. Ferris Bueller.

48. Watching a film with subtitles and forgetting afterwards that it was in another language at all because you were so wrapped up in it. (I keep forgetting Pan's Labyrinth is Spanish.)

49. In 12 Angry Men, every character's personality can be seen. You can almost predict when each characters is going to be pushed to vote not guilty. None of it's arbitrary, none of it's random.

50. Elwood P. Dowd.

51. The second stabbing in Psycho. I knew the famous first one, but the second one took me completely by surprise. I'm pretty sure I yelped out loud.

52. "The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!" -The Court Jester

53. Finding a movie I love in a genre I hate.

54. The library scene in Wings of Desire.

55. Seeing now-classic actors in the very first thing they ever did.

56. I'm really, really trying not to make this all Woody Allen or musicals-themed, but here are two in a row... John Cusack as the Woody Allen type character in Bullets Over Broadway. Kenneth Branagh, Will Ferrell, and Scarlett Johansson have all tackled the same role, but Cusack is by far the best.

57. The opening of Manhattan.

58. The Lives of Others, which proves that slow-moving movies are not necessarily boring.

59. The talking dogs in Up. Disney's had talking animals in their movies since the beginning, but this was a new and creative way to make it happen.

60. William Daniels in 1776. Everyone else knows him as Mr. Feeny. To me he'll always be John Adams.

61. Actors who seem to be totally different people with every role they play. I'm thinking Amy Adams and Edward Norton right now.

62. The revelation at the end of Tootsie.

63. Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.

64. Seeing two very different versions of the same character in remakes and discovering you love them both the same.

65. The scene in August Rush when Freddie Highmore first plays around with a guitar.

66. Tiny throwaway jokes that you only catch on a second or third viewing.

67. Jeff Daniels' character in The Squid and the Whale. Such a vivid personality.

68. Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

69. Hogarth's prayer in The Iron Giant. I'm pretty sure I've been to churches who prayed like this...

70. High Fidelity, the best book-to-movie transition of all time. Every character is exactly what I imagined them to be like.

71. Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. I'm extremely, extremely picky about my child actors. But he not only didn't get in the way of the movie, he made the movie.

72. Buzz Lightyear.

73. Colin Firth in A Single Man. I think he deserved his Oscar this year, but he deserved it even more the year before.

74. Charlie Kaufman. His ideas are the most interesting and original of any screenwriter out there.

75. The interaction between Josh Hartnett and Radha Mitchell in Mozart and the Whale. The two of them are amazing individually, but the way they play off each other is even more amazing.

76. Robert Downey, Jr. can do neither math nor grammar in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

77. The first appearance of the T-rex in Jurassic Park.

78. Dean Martin playing a parody version of himself in Kiss Me, Stupid.

79. All the fake trailers that start off Tropic Thunder.
79b. ...And the part where the director explodes. I laughed out loud.

80. "I'm 37. I'm not old!"
"Well, I can't just call you 'Man.'"
"Well, you could say 'Dennis.'" -Monty Python and the Holy Grail

81. How silly and yet completely satisfying John Hughes movies are.

82. The unsentimental ending of The Apartment.

83. Rewatching The Wizard of Oz with my brothers and sisters. We used to watch it ALL the time when we were little, then not at all for years, then we went back and watched it again and found all these things we completely misunderstood the first time around.

84. The song "After Today" from A Goofy Movie. It's one of my favorite Disney songs of all time. The movie itself is kind of iffy, but the songs are fantastic.

85. The trailer for Cloverfield. I really liked the movie as well, but the trailer was one of the best I've ever seen.

86. Unforgiven as an anti-vigilante movie. Watching Clint Eastwood's character fall back into that is chilling.

87. Neo fights a bunch of Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded. Not so crazy about the rest of the movie, but that was just cool.

88. The opening scene between James Mason and Peter Sellers in Lolita.

89. Darren Aronofsky, who portrays obsession on film better than anyone I can think of.

90. Watching the American adaptation of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch and being greatly disappointed... then watching the British adaptation and LOVING it.

91. The animation in Waking Life.

92. Ellen Page in Hard Candy. What a role.

93. Watching Adaptation a few years after it was made and realizing that Ted Dekker's book "Thr3e" has the exact same plot as the terrible movie Donald Kaufman's writing.

94. "Klaatu barada nikto." -The Day The Earth Stood Still

95. A child receives a shrunken head for Christmas in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Makes me laugh every time.

96. "I know a little German. He's sitting right over there." -Top Secret!

97. Kevin Kline tries to do the live show without his contacts on Soapdish. "It seems that Angelique has a rare case of brake fluid. Bran... fluid. Bran flavor."

98. Identifying celebrity voices in animated movies. (Particularly nice that the most celebrity-studded ones are usually the least interesting to watch. "Who's That Celebrity?" is an awesome game to play to pass the time.)

99. Patrick Bateman kills his co-worker after a long explanation of Huey Lewis' work in American Psycho.

100. The absolute main thing I love about movies, though, is that they let me see through someone else's eyes for a little bit.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tune In Thursday: Relient K

I had another song chosen, but it's Christmas today, so I figured I should choose a Christmas song.

So here's one of my favorites: "I Celebrate the Day" from Relient K's pretty awesome holiday album "Let It Snow, Baby... Let It Reindeer."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A 2014 Christmas Mix!

Since Christmas is tomorrow, have a Christmas YouTube playlist, mostly new discoveries from the past two to three years! Enjoy!

Hallelujah Chorus- John Schlitt
Holly Jolly Christmas- Idina Menzel
Baby, It's Cold Outside- Idina Menzel and Michael Buble
We Three Kings- Zenith
Mele Kalikimaka- Amy Stroup
White Christmas- Glee Cast
Let It Snow- Glee Cast
Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal)- Vince Guaraldi Trio
Feliz Navidad- Mandisa
Christmastime Is Wunnerful- Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick
One Christmas At a Time- Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick
Christmas With You is the Best- Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick
Carol of the Bells- Pentatonix
Where Christmas Is Found- Cameron Mitchell and aprilemade
Almost There- Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant
Sleigh Ride- Bailey Jehl
Silver Bells- Venus Hum

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: The Fantasticks

The Fantasticks is a beautiful little show about love and adventure and finding your dreams. The basic plot is of two young people who fall in love, but one keeps coming back to the big romantic dreams she's planned for herself, and she must decide whether she will be satisfied settling down and getting married. "Soon It's Gonna Rain" happens in the show's first act, when the two are beginning to fall in love.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 5, Bottom 5: Holiday Movies Edition!

I didn't do this last year, but in 2012 and 2011 I looked at my top 5 and bottom 5 holiday movies on Flickchart, and in 2012 I looked to see how the rankings had changed. So let's do that here too, comparing it to 2012!

I don't know how many holiday movies I'd seen in 2012, but right now I have 43 on my Flickchart.

My current top 5:
1. Love Actually (#2)
2. Amahl and the Night Visitors (#155)
3. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (#164)
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (#207)
5. It's a Wonderful Life (#217)

2012's top 5:
1. Love Actually (#2)
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (#145)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (#181)
4. White Christmas (#193)

5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (#199)

Oooh, that is definitely a difference. White Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas don't make the cut on this year's top 5, but they are numbers 6 and 7, so that's not too far behind. In the meantime, we have two new musical holiday movies at the top, though they could not be more different in terms of tone and music.

Let's look at the bottom 5, which changed virtually not at all from 2011 to 2012.

My current bottom 5:
5. The Christmas Shoes (#2232 out of 2281 movies)
4. Frosty Returns (#2233)
3. The Santa Clause 2 (#2262)
2. The Star Wars Holiday Special (#2276)
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (#2277)

2012's bottom 5:
5. The Christmas Shoes (#1751)
4. Frosty Returns (#1756)

3. The Santa Clause 2 (#1786)
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (#1801)
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (#1802)

So, yup, the exact same lineup, but I've seen more movies this year, so they all got pushed down farther. Santa Claus 3 is 475 spots lower than it was two years ago -- as it deserves to be.

What new holiday movies have I seen since December 2012? Well, none in 2014. I watched Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (#2006) and The Year Without a Santa Claus (#1169) in May of 2013, and Arthur Christmas (#1123) in January of 2013.

I should watch more holiday movies this year. So, as I did two years ago, let me look at the top 5 holiday movies I have not seen.

Top 5 unseen holiday movies:
1. Gremlins (#493 on the global chart)
2. Die Hard 2 (#584)
3. Black Christmas (#713)
4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (#769)
5. Diner (#823)

I am going to make a pact to see all of these in 2015. We'll see if any of them end up at the top or the bottom of next year's list!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Small Talk Tips From Rothdiener (Chapter 7)

So I'm going to be giving these blog titles names now. Just naming them after the chapters doesn't work anymore when so many chapters need to be chopped up into multiple pieces. Well, and the book probably needs to be chopped up into multiple pieces as well.

Anyway, last time, Brianna and Sonya were planning to go fight the big music company and accuse them of stealing Brianna's music. Also, everybody talked creepily about how beautiful Brianna was.

We start off with Sonya and Brianna going on their promised morning run together. During it, Sonya muses on 1) how healthy Brianna is, 2) how emotionally fragile Brianna is, and 3) that all Brianna's lyrics are about searching for something, and that God probably put Sonya into her life to help her find true contentment.

We learn more of Sonya's back story -- she was married before to a military man who was killed in Iraq, and she hasn't dated anyone since. Brianna shares a little of her story with Sonya, and then Sonya gives her a birthday gift, which reminds Brianna of the last birthday gift she got.
“I mean, Ethan, gave me a guitar which was signed by Tammie Allen.” 
“The Christian recording artist?” Sonya asked excitedly.
"Excitedly" is a weird word to choose here, like Sonya is wowed by being in the presence of someone who once owned a Tammie Allen-signed guitar. But Sonya works as a music business lawyer, so surely she's been in the presence of famous musicians before. Or maybe she gets all hyped up every time she hears someone say their names too. Maybe she's just easily excited all the time.
A big smile came to Brianna’s face as she tore off the wrapping. It was special for Sonya to see an innocent child-like side of this girl, something she had not witnessed.
Uh, well, I'd argue that all of Brianna's interactions that Sonya has witnessed in the one day she's known her have been fairly innocent and child-like. She's certainly very naive about the music business (to the point where it took her like twenty minutes of Sonya saying the label was stealing her songs to realize they were stealing her songs). She's embarrassed in a very childlike way about her sexual past. Sonya keeps saying that there's an older, mature sense to her, but we certainly don't see any of that in action. It must just be the way she's carrying herself. She must be saying things like, "Mrs. Ellis, do you really think I can make it big?" in a mature, cynical tone. Somehow.

Anyway, the gift is a new outfit, and Brianna gets dressed up in it and they head off to fight the music label.
She was stunning; her long black hair blowing freely in the wind as she walked.
As someone who has had long hair blowing freely in the wind as I walked, let me tell you right now, this sounds a lot more romantic than it actually looks or feels. It typically looks a lot less like this:

Blowing with the wind - Take 2 | IMG_1558 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Jimmy Baikovicius, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
And more like this:

Ikle from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 mynameisdan, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
Unless you are fortunate enough to be walking in the exact right direction for the wind to be blowing your hair straight back the whole way. And even if that does happen, it'll probably look a little crazy once you get indoors again.

Anyway, we get more fawning over how beautiful Brianna is (I swear, this could be a drinking game). Sonya is even jealous of all the men that stare at Brianna on the street.

Finally, we detour away from that and Sonya decides now is the time to witness to Brianna:
“Do you believe in God?”  
Emotionless, she stared straight ahead. “The big man upstairs?” She said more like a question than an answer.
Er... yes, it's more like a question than an answer. That's what the question mark means. Besides, what kind of answer is that? Who would expect that to be an answer? Next time someone asks you if you believe in God, respond with, "The big man upstairs," and then just smile like that answers the question, and see what their response is.

Brianna says she doesn't want to talk about it, and kudos to Sonya for leaving it alone. Instead, they talk about the upcoming meeting, where Brianna asks 1) what Sonya's getting out of this, and 2) how much money they're asking for.

...Let me quickly refer you to some earlier conversations:
“And now, why are you doing this?” Brianna’s eyes widened as she waited for a response. 
“I still am doing it to help you, but also there’s the money. Whenever we can go after the big music companies, we will. There’s good money in these cases for the firm I work for.”
“Like I said, if what you say is true, and we can prove it, you are going to become very wealthy. . . . In other words, those four songs could have made you a minimum of five million dollars.”
So I'd think the answers to Brianna's questions were already given, but we've already established Brianna doesn't really listen to the things people tell her, so that's why she's asking it again. She'll probably ask her again in another 10 pages.

They talk for a bit about how people are more interested in entertainment than politics, which make Sonya sad, and then Brianna abruptly tells Sonya she's sorry her husband died. Sonya says God got her through it and asks Brianna if she knows Jesus.
[Brianna] “I know of Him. I was baptized seven or eight years ago.”  
“Was it real? Did you mean it?”  
She glanced at Sonya. “You know me pretty well. You don’t beat around the bush, do you?”  
Yeah, she doesn't beat around the bush. She assumed Brianna was a sex worker just minutes after meeting her. So she's got weirdly accurate instincts, but I'm not sure that qualifies as "knowing Brianna pretty well."

We get more weird exchanges during this little evangelism section:
“Are you looking forward to the end?” 
“I know what the end is, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Nope. That's not what she was asking. But I shall always make that assumption from now on.

Cheerful Small Talk Person: "Are you looking forward to Christmas?"
Me: "I know what Christmas is, if that's what you're asking."
Cheerful Small Talk Person: "......?"

I will say though, that as silly as these exchanges are, they have one advantage over Skye. Quest for Forgiveness is an awful book, but at least it tries to talk about God. Quest for Skye didn't really bother with God -- I guess you don't need to if you have Skye the Magical Summoner of Butterflies herself. Both of them fail as good or coherent books, but QfS also fails as a Christian book. At least QfF knew what it was trying to do and attempted to do just that.
“You wonder how I can continue loving God after the death of my husband. Please understand that God didn’t kill my husband. A man did. Sin did!”  
“A Muslim must have killed him!” Brianna blurted out.  
Sonya shot an astonished look at Brianna. Perhaps it was the way she said it. Maybe it was her black hair or dark complexion. Could the girl be of Arab descent?
This is just... confusing. First of all, Brianna's outburst doesn't make a lot of sense. It's not like there was a mystery as to how Sonya's husband died. His truck hit an explosive. I'm not sure what Brianna's statement is meant to convey, unless it's like... suddenly occurred to her that people in her religion might have been responsible for Sonya's husband's death, and her blurting this out isn't so much to tell Sonya as to acknowledge it to herself.

But that's not nearly as weird as the next paragraph. What is this "Perhaps it was..." section referring to? The way it's written, it sounds like it's saying that the way Brianna said it made Sonya astonished, but then it goes on to imply that Brianna's dark hair and complexion made Sonya astonished at what she said, which is ridiculous.

(Cheerful Small Talk Person: "That dog is adorable!"
Me: "WHAT? But you have red hair!"
Cheerful Small Talk Person: "....I don't think I'm going to talk to you anymore.")

I think the "perhaps it was/maybe it was" is referring to Sonya's suspicion that Brianna is of Arab descent. But once again, there's not an actual verb connecting to that. It's not "Maybe it was this, maybe it was that, but something made her think Brianna was of Arab descent." That would have been a coherent sentence.

This paragraph just breaks me and therefore we're going to have to take a break. Back next week with more of the interminable chapter 7!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tune In Thursday: Camelot

Today's song is "I Loved You Once In Silence" from the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot, based on the legend of King Arthur. It's no My Fair Lady, but it does have some good songs, including this one. In this song, Queen Guenevere has fallen in love with Lancelot and the two of them have been having an affair. She talks about how sad it was loving him unrequitedly before she knew he loved her back, and then compares it to how much worse it is now, knowing that they're going to inevitably hurt Arthur. The song has her realizing that there will be no happy ending to this story at this point (and there isn't). The music to this song is really gorgeous. Here is Julie Andrews from the original Broadway cast performing it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Networking Tips for Introverts

From my profile:

Do you have any tips for professional networking as an awkward introvert?

Well... let me start off by saying that I haven't had a lot of opportunities to practice this, thanks to a lot of working from home or nonsocial jobs. So I'm not particularly good at it. But I would like to address this, so what I've done here is done a little Internet research, found other similar articles, discovered advice I would give myself, and presented it here for you with my own spin on it. So I can't necessarily verify that this works all the time, but a lot of these principles apply to social interaction in general, so they should transfer fairly well to the workplace.

Shepton Mallet Christmas Party 2012-59 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Niki Odolphie, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
1. Schedule prep time and downtime at any networking events.

Yup, this sounds about right. I know I'm no good to anybody when I'm overpeopled or stressed, so just like I would for any other big social event, I need to plan for some quiet time, whether that means mapping out time before and after to veg or planning strategic trips to the bathroom to hide throughout.

You can also determine beforehand how long you're going to stay. If things go well, you can extend that time, but I'd suggest that you commit to staying at least 20-30 minutes. Often the first few minutes are the most uncomfortable, and if you leave 30 minutes in, that gives you time to meet one new person or have a conversation with an acquaintance. Measuring it in goals is good too. Sometimes I've gone to social events where I tell myself I can leave as soon as I've had at least five brief conversations with new people. That way, I push myself to accomplish my goals and don't risk standing in the back talking to no one for 30 minutes and then giving up.

2. Start small.

I've found that a lot of introverts have a tendency to be all-or-nothing at work. Either you never talk to anyone ever and are the hermit in the corner, or you go out of your way to talk and chat with everyone because you feel you should, and you come home more stressed than ever. I read an article recently that those who typically go out to eat for lunch should consider spending one or two lunch breaks a week in the workplace for networking purposes with your co-workers. This is an attainable goal. It could be awkward or uncomfortable at first, but it's not impossible, and it strikes a workable balance between hermit and social butterfly.

3. Have some conversation starters in your back pocket.

This is good social advice in general. For those of us who dislike small talk, we may not practice it enough to actually, you know, be okay at it. So keep an eye out for some good icebreakers, and keep the ones that work with you. This site suggests "What is your favorite part of your job?" which is a great one for introverts -- it's not just communicating mindless or uninteresting facts. It's a question that will actually reveal the personality and passions of the person you're talking to.

WWW_D3_Mingle-35 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 worldwaterweek, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
4. Take advantage of your strengths.

Introverts may not like mingling, but once they get into conversations, they can come across very different than they feel -- particularly because introverts are often very good listeners. Take advantage of that! If you can get someone talking about themselves, you can just sit back, listen, display interest, and occasionally ask questions, and while you may feel like you didn't do anything, the person you're talking to may leave thinking positively of you because your attentive listening felt so validating. Of course, if the other person isn't talking much, share some personal stories of your own -- you don't want it to feel like you're interrogating them for information -- but you'll be surprised how often you can just get the ball rolling and then pay attention to it while it does all the hard work.

While for some of us (including me) it can feel awkward or difficult to mix professional situations with social situations, it can definitely work to your advantage. So it's worth it for us to practice these skills and become so awesome at them that nobody else even knows we're uncomfortable. Magic!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Aida

Today's song is "A Step Too Far" from the Disney musical Aida. This song is sung by three different characters: the princess Amneris, the slave Aida, and the soldier Radames. Radames and Aida are in love, but he's engaged to Amneris, so things are a little tricky here, and the three sing about, well, how weird life is and how none of them are really happy.

I have two versions of the song, and the women in both are played by Sherie Rene Scott and Heather Headley, but Radames is played either by Broadway cast member Adam Pascal or show composer Elton John. I prefer Adam, so you're getting this live version that the original Broadway cast performed on The View back in 2000.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Day in the Life of Flickchart

I casually mention Flickchart here on my blog a lot, but if you've never been quite sure what it is, well, let me walk you through the process.

The basic idea of Flickchart is a simple one: It shows you two movies and asks you to choose which one is better in your opinion. If you haven't seen one or both of them, you can click a button to indicate that and they will never come up again unless you manually add them back into your chart. You can also rank "filters," meaning groups of movies that have something in common. For example, I could rank only movies directed by Woody Allen, only musicals, or only movies in the top 100 of my chart.

Over time, this ranking of one movie as better than another movie creates a chart of your favorites in order. Granted, it takes a lot of ranking to get it to this point. My chart is probably 90-95% accurate right now, but I've ranked movies almost 140,000 times in almost five years. So if "making a list of my favorites" is your main goal with Flickchart, you're probably going to get impatient very quickly when the movie at the top of your chart is Terminator 3 for some reason. But, for me, the fun of Flickchart is in pitting two movies against each other and making me choose one. It's a fun exercise in and of itself, and the list creation is just a nice extra.

I've heard other people argue that too many of the matches are impossible to choose a winner for. It may be easy to choose between The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers as comic book superhero movies, but how do you choose between Se7en and Finding Nemo? They're too different, it's comparing apples and oranges. Or how can you compare two brilliant movies, like The Godfather and Rear Window? For me, though, I love trying to find something that will edge the other out, even if they're completely different -- or too similar in quality to make it an easy choice. (Incidentally, I think would choose Se7en, oranges, and Rear Window.)

The other thing I like to remember is that my chart is fluid. It's a reflection of my tastes right now. Plenty of movies start high on the chart and then, as time goes by and I realize that it didn't have a lot of lasting redeeming value, it starts dropping. So I don't have to agonize too hard because even if I choose one over the other, that doesn't set it in stone forever. A few weeks later, I may get a match-up where I choose the losing movie against the movie 3 spots up from the original winner. My chart changes in small increments all the time.

To demonstrate this, I figured I'd go through a couple match-ups with you guys right now. I'm a pretty quick decision maker, so some of these will be no-brainer choices for me, but hopefully I'll get a couple where I'll have to think about them. I'll be ranking my own chart today, which has 2277 movies on it currently, so it won't show me any choices I haven't seen. Feel free to chime in about where you think I've chosen all wrong!

#1: Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) vs. La Haine (1995)

I would like to rewatch Bridge on the River Kwai someday, but on its first viewing it was much more interesting to me than La Haine, which had a good ending but meandered too much for me up until that point. Checking my stats, it looks like Bridge is at #170 on my chart while La Haine is at #1460, so voting for Bridge doesn't do anything as far as chart movement.

#2: Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2011) vs. Crazy Heart (2009)

This is a slightly tougher match-up for me, as these were both movies I liked but didn't love. I watched Crazy Heart as one of the first movies in my movie challenge this year, actually, and was a little surprised by how much I liked it. Jeff, Who Lives At Home, on the other hand, I liked, but not as much as I thought I would. So let's give the nod to Crazy Heart for now.

#3: A Time to Kill (1996) vs. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This is a very easy choice for me. I found A Time to Kill boring and The Pursuit of Happyness charming. Pursuit is a little less than 700 spots higher than A Time to Kill, so my chart definitely reflects accurate feelings about them both.

#4: Bully (2011) vs. The Spanish Prisoner (1997)

Documentaries are often difficult for me to rank against non-documentaries, and there are some Flickcharters who feel the same way and choose not to include them in their lists at all for that reason. I do include them, but their chart rankings always feel inaccurate. However, this choice is easy, as I thought Bully was one of the better documentaries I've seen and The Spanish Prisoner didn't work for me at all. Bully takes it here.

#5: Brief Encounter (1945) vs. Hot Fuzz (2007)

I probably owe Brief Encounter another watch someday, as I'm not sure I was at all old enough to understand it when I watched it, but until I rewatch and rerank, Hot Fuzz takes it as my second favorite of the Cornetto Trilogy. (#1 is The World's End.)

#6: The Devil Wears Prada (2006) vs. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Two chick flicks! Definitely not my favorite genre, but I happen to really like Sleepless in Seattle -- it's written very well -- and found The Devil Wears Prada OK, but a little tiringly overdramatic. Sleepless wins here.

#7: The Thing (1982) vs. VeggieTales: An Easter Carol (2004)

Shorts are another thing that are hotly contested among hardcore Flickcharters. I let some of them in but not others -- 30-minute shorts like VeggieTales or the Charlie Brown specials are in my chart, but shorter ones don't tend to make the cut because at that point I feel like I'm ranking a YouTube video and I apparently think of those differently in my head. All that being said, though, An Easter Carol was one of the most boring VeggieTales movies out there -- it didn't even have any good songs -- and so The Thing wins, even though I wasn't crazy about it.

#8: Hustle & Flow (2005) vs. Mr. Superinvisible (1970)

I saw Mr. Superinvisible once as a kid and thought it was kind of dumb even then. Hustle & Flow, on the other hand, is a solid and well-done story that I enjoyed a lot. Easy win for Hustle & Flow.

#9: Girl Shy (1924) vs. Big Business (1988)

I actually JUST saw Girl Shy about a month ago, suggested for my movie challenge by one of my Flickcharter friends. I liked it, especially the madcap race to the church that took up the last third of the movie. That was terrifically fun. I haven't seen Big Business for years, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't hold up. I'm pretty sure it's ranked low on my chart. Yeah, it's at #1929, which is unfairly low, because I remember not thinking it was terrible, just kind of bland -- not bad enough for the bottom 300 on my chart. But it doesn't get a chance to move up today, as Girl Shy wins.

#10: Interiors (1978) vs. Copying Beethoven (2006)

I had to think for awhile before I remembered what Copying Beethoven even was, which doesn't bode well for that movie... especially since Interiors is a solid, interesting Woody Allen drama. Interiors absolutely takes it here.

So I didn't have any chart movement in those ten match-ups, which is fairly frequent now, since, as I said, my chart is pretty much in order -- but I still enjoy the exercise of comparing two movies against each other. It also reminds me of movies I should rewatch at some point and brings to mind movies I haven't thought of in ages.

This was a fun time, and I may have to do more match-up blogs like this for you guys in the future. And, hey, if you're inspired by this to sign up for your own Flickchart account, add me as a friend, browse through my chart, or talk to me about the first match-ups you're given!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 6, Part 3

OK, so last time, Sonya and Brianna were talking about how this music company stole Brianna's music and what they're going to do about it. Hopefully I'll actually make it through the rest of the chapter today!

We start off this section of the chapter with Brianna's response to learning her music has been stolen:
“I’ve been living on the street, giving in to the whims of men, just to survive, and these people have been making millions with my music.” Her expression sobered. She brushed away a tear, recalling her devastating teenage years.  
Then as anger took hold, Brianna slammed her fist on the table. “What?” She glanced around and noticed some of the patrons watching her. She sat down, leaned across the table to get as close to Sonya as she could, and spoke softly, “What can I do about it?”
This is one of those moments where I just want to say, "Rothdiener. No. Take one second to PICTURE this interaction. It doesn't make any sense, right? No, it doesn't." I cannot even a little bit figure out how to deliver that "What?" (Today's challenge, for anyone who wishes to undertake it, is to record yourself doing this scene and make it sound plausible. Mood swings and all.)

Anyway, Sonya suggests they propose a settlement to avoid court, as long as Ethan didn't waive his rights to the songs. Brianna agrees she can research it, but asks her to keep Ethan completely uninvolved.

Brianna asks Sonya what she was even doing in the restaurant that night:
“The owner of this restaurant is my uncle. He called me a few weeks ago and told me about his new singing sensation. He said you had the beauty of a goddess and a voice of an angel. . . . Now that I am here, I know he is right. You do have the beauty of a goddess, and I have never heard anyone with such a crystal clear voice.”
This here is one of the other huge issues I have with this story overall. Brianna is such a Mary Sue that they can't seem to figure out what to focus on. Her physical beauty is nearly always tied to her talent, as if she is talented just by merit of being beautiful. It's almost a little creepy how often her beauty is mentioned by... well, everyone around her. In fact, since we haven't seen any evidence of good lyric writing thus far, I find it extremely plausible that she's just extraordinarily beautiful and people don't realize how crappy a songwriter she is.

Meanwhile, Sonya keeps prying into Brianna's back story, and it's a long, boring series of pages. Eventually, Sonya asks to see the other songs she's written.
“Follow me.” Brianna signaled for her to come. They bounded up the stairs and walked into a quaint room.
Oh, I hope I hope I hope they really did "bound" up the stairs. That's a hilarious image.

Sonya starts looking through Brianna's bajillions of notebooks of songs.
The only word she could muster was, “Wow!” She flipped over a few more pages. “These are good. Good tunes, good lyrics.”
"Nothing like I've heard from you thus far. Wow indeed!"

Sonya continues:
“If these are as good as they seem to be, I will not be looking for any more clients. You’re all I need.”

Sonya's not a music manager or anything like that. She's a lawyer. She makes money from, you know, practicing law, not someone else's musical talent. Is she anticipating that either 1) she'll make so much money defending Brianna this one time that she can retire happily? or 2) Brianna will continue to be entangled in lots of legal battles and Sonya can be her own personal lawyer forever?

(Of course, Sonya does become Brianna's manager later, according the book's first chapter, but that doesn't make any sense, and it certainly doesn't make any sense for her to imply here.)

Sonya and Brianna make plans to go running together the next morning -- or, rather, Sonya announces she's going to run with Brianna and Brianna goes on a diatribe about how awful men are, and Sonya is sad that her 17-year-old friend is so bitter. Sonya teaches Brianna how to properly shake hands and then leaves to call her lawyer friend Harry.

Harry updates Sonya on the whole Brijanna-accusing-Ethan-of-abuse situation, and then Harry asks Sonya to dinner, to which she responds:
“Harry, when you see this girl, I’m not the one you’ll be chasing anymore.”
Yeah, you probably shouldn't be making comments about a jaded, traumatized, once-prostituted 17-year-old's hotness to your coworkers in a way that kind of sounds like you're giving them permission to sexually harass her...

Sonya calls Robert, Ethan's lawyer, who tells her that the music company they sent the songs to said they were trash. Sonya updates him on the whole they've-been-stealing-her-music thing. Sonya asks for proof of copyright, but Robert derails it by trying to convince Sonya that Ethan never abused Brianna, before finally agreeing to fax over copies so they'll be there in the morning. The songs are all copyrighted in Brijanna's name, so Ethan doesn't have to be involved at all.

Then Robert calls Ethan, who's still in the rehabilitation center or wherever he ended up, and tells him what's going on, as well as this bit of information:
“Ethan, I understand she’s a beauty.”
First of all, that's completely irrelevant to the situation at hand... but, secondly, it's really creepy for him to know about because Sonya managed to go an entire conversation without mentioning how beautiful Brianna was, so he'd have no reason to know this at all. I can only assume he's been stalking her.

The chapter ends with Robert musing on how awful life is for Ethan. And on that cheerful note, we're FINALLY done with chapter six.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tune In Thursday: Nichole Nordeman

Nichole Nordeman has been one of the few contemporary Christian artists that I've liked since she started. Her lyrics are thoughtful and reflective and not at all afraid to touch on the darker, more melancholy side of life (something that is tremendously important for me). "To Say Thanks" is from her first album, Wide Eyed, which was a little bit darker than her later ones, and this is one of the darker songs, just about how difficult it is to praise God sometimes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tune In Tuesday: Bowling for Soup

Bowling for Soup is probably going to come up a lot, as they're one of my favorite bands -- a pop punk group that has a tendency to sing cynical and cranky songs that sound ever so cheerful. "I Don't Wish You Were Dead Anymore" is about (kind of) getting over an ex -- at last to the point where you're not as angry with them as you had been. I enjoy it. It's fun and silly and upbeat.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Musical Spotlight: Into the Woods

With the official movie version coming out in theaters at the end of this month, I figured it would be appropriate to a musical spotlight on this iconic musical by Stephen Sondheim.

The show made its Broadway debut in 1987 and ran until 1989, closing after 765 performances. The show was nominated for ten Tonys in its original run and won three of them (Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress for Joanna Gleason as the Baker's Wife).

The musical has one of my very favorite stories. It begins as a mash-up of several different fairy tales all connected to each other, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. There are also some lesser-known fairy tales involved, most notably one of a baker and his wife who must break a witch's spell to have a baby. (The Baker, the Baker's Wife, and the Witch are all prominent characters in the musical.) By the end of the first act, the stories have all finished with the happy endings we all know, and everything seems to be fine.

In the second act, however, everything goes awry. The giant that Jack killed has a wife who is out for vengeance, and she starts tearing apart the idyllic world of happily ever after endings. Everybody's fulfilled wishes slowly unravel, and the show gets much darker, deconstructing the original stories and delving into themes of death, infidelity, fear, and loss of innocence. While the show does end on a hopeful note, with evil being defeated again, the world has changed significantly, and the remaining characters have changed significantly as well. It's a brilliant takedown of fairy tale endings and how they don't reflect reality.

I'm cautiously hopeful about the new movie. Some casting choices have me a little worried, and I've heard some unsettling rumors that they're "Disneyfying" the very bits that were meant to "unDisneyfy" the fairy tales in the first place. But in the meantime, let's just focus on how great the songs are to begin with!

1. I Know Things Now

Movie casting choice that scares me #1: casting Little Red and Jack as actual children. As you can see in this song and the next one, they both have songs reflecting on their experiences that serve pretty clearly as fairly mature coming-of-age songs, especially in regards to possibly sexual meanings. Either way, they're definitely about losing innocence. Little Red's story in particular seems to portray the Wolf as a sexual predator, and her final thoughts reflect her new concerns that she is not immune to danger and that she isn't entirely comfortable with the new knowledge she's acquired through this experience (as evidenced by the final lines: "Isn't it nice to know a lot? ...And a little bit not"). In fact, the first girl cast as Little Red left because her parents felt precisely this -- that this song had undertones far too mature for an elementary-school child to be singing.

Nevertheless, it's a great song, and it does convey well how new experiences can leave us wiser but not necessarily happier.

2. Giants in the Sky

While Jack's story has fewer overtly sexual overtones than Little Red, his song here parallels hers in many ways. His story is a little less dangerous, but it also reflects his new knowledge and how it has changed him and how he's not entirely sure about it yet ("You think of all of the things you've seen / And you wish that you could live in between / And you're back again, only different than before"). I really love this song, with its combination of excitement at the new discoveries and wistful memories of who he was before, with the knowledge that he can never truly go back.

3. Agony

Here's something a little lighter for you. This song is sung between the two prince brothers who are in love with Cinderella and Rapunzel and frustrated that they can't seem to catch them -- both literally and figuratively. The two are shallow and even competitive in their sorrow ("Agony! Far more painful than yours"). It's a very funny song in the first act that has interesting repercussions in the second, and it's one of my all-time favorite musical theater duos.

4. No One Is Alone

Skipping through most of the second act to avoid too many spoilers, I thought this would be a good one to share from act two. It's near the end, and the two children have confessed that they feel very lost, alone, and scared in this new, darker world. The adults comfort them with this song, which reminds them that nobody is ever truly alone. It's really a beautiful song with deceptively simple lyrics that convey a much deeper meaning.

5. Children Will Listen

This song closes out the show (sung here in concert by Bernadette Peters, who played the Witch on Broadway originally). In the show, it's given as a piece of advice to those raising children in the aftermath of the shattered fairy tales, but given that the entire show is based on stories we tell to children, it clearly has a larger meaning to it. "Careful the things you say / Children will listen / Careful the things you do / Children will see and learn." It's a question of the stories we choose to tell and the stories and messages they communicate to the others. Like No One Is Alone, this song brings up our connectedness as humans, how the things we say and do will affect others, even when we don't think about it.

Plus, the song is just so pretty.

There are a lot of other really great songs in this unique musical, and my feelings toward the upcoming movie version are... well, to quote Little Red: "It made me feel excited... well, excited and scared."

Are you a fan of Into the Woods? How are you feeling about the movie? What other fairy tales would be interesting turned into a darker musical version of themselves?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Quest for Forgiveness: Chapter 6, Part 2

Last time, we dissected Brianna's terrible, terrible song that everyone thought was amazing. If I recall, there are more later, so I'm sure we'll have another couple blogs devoted to them. But for now, back to the story.

As I said last time, the owner and everyone else is completely gaga over Brianna's awful song. The owner runs up to her and asks her about the song, and she tells him she wrote it:
“I never sing anything but my own songs. I’m not up on today’s music. In fact, I haven’t even listened to the radio for years.”
Well, that could explain why she's not good at coherent song structure. By the time she was old enough to start writing songs, she'd stopped listening to them and had nothing to build off of.

She gets tipped TWENTY DOLLARS from a single person for singing this one song (looks like she can charge exorbitant amounts for digital downloads and retire at 30) and the owner gives her a new job singing in the restaurant instead of being a waitress. The business booms because people come eat at this place just to hear her sing.

Flash forward to right around her seventeenth birthday, and her songs get a standing ovation. She leaves the stage to a cheering crowd wanting to hand her money. (Literally. That's not metaphorical at all.)

She goes sits at a table in the restaurant to write songs which is reserved for her in between sets, which is a little weird, because, first of all, the restaurant is super busy now because of her so somebody probably needs that table, and secondly, wouldn't she rather have someplace a little more out of the way? Do they have a break room, or does everyone take their breaks in the rest of the restaurant? She continues to talk about how she's constantly being hit on by guys in the restaurant. She IS kind of the face of the place now, so I feel like this is an awkward arrangement.

A guy approaches her. He turns out to be from a music company and compliments her on her last song.
“I always close with that song. One of these days, I hope to record it.” 
Burns chuckled. “Ma’am, where have you been? Don’t you know that song has already been recorded? It was written and performed by Sandra Porter two years ago. It went platinum.”
This leads into a thing where apparently someone stole her song, but I'm more confused that apparently this guy doesn't know covers exist. Worst music scout ever.

Brianna argues with the guy that she wrote it, and a lawyer woman at the next table chimes in and says that if she has proof (which she does) then this guy and his music company representing Sandra Porter could be in mega trouble for stealing Brianna's song. This lawyer woman turns out to be Sonya, who was in the first chapter of this book as Brianna's lawyermanagerprivatedetectiveoncall. Sonya goes to talk about other cases she's done:
“[M]y firm was the front-runner of the internet download case. Millions of songs were downloaded and sold on the black market.” Sonya spoke with confidence, never missing a beat.
A bewildered Brianna asked, “What happened?”
Burns stepped in. “Songs were downloaded by a group of Americans and sold to fans in Asia as originals.”
First, as a minor thought, I like that Sonya speaks "with confidence, never missing a beat," as if a lesser woman would have faltered and stammered through that explanation, not really sure if her firm had been involved in that case at all. Actually, maybe it IS remarkable how confident she is, given that what she's saying makes NO SENSE.

...The black market? "The Internet download case"? So... that one time someone pirated a song?

I don't even know what it would mean to sell songs to fans as originals. Does this mean Americans tried to download other people's songs and resell them as their own creations? But if that's the case, who are the Asian "fans" of? Was someone like... pretending to be Katy Perry and reselling all Katy Perry's songs to the Asians who had become fans of the fake Katy Perry?

Maybe they were pirating music and then selling them at normal price to Asians who... couldn't access them or something. But, um, I'd assume most of them could. Even just glancing at iTunes store available, it's accessible from a lot of Asian countries. And that's just iTunes. I'm sure there are other legal music purchasing services -- or, if not legal, free. International music is, on the whole, much easier to get than movies.

As I said on Facebook posting about this weird section, I think Rothdiener genuinely has no idea how Internet piracy works. (As is the case with so many other topics.) Like there has to be some sort of for-profit reselling in order for it to be a crime. Maybe he doesn't know there are ways to get things for free. That's also weird to call "the Internet download case" -- the main issue here isn't the downloading, it's the reselling. Their crime was not downloading, it was reselling illegally. I mean, maybe they downloaded the songs illegally, but that apparently isn't important enough to mention in this recap.

So, yeah, I have no idea what in the world Sonya's firm actually did in all this.

Back to Brianna. It turns out Ethan had sent some of Brianna's songs to some Nashville agent, so Sonya assumes they've stolen them. Music Guy Burns tries to sidestep it by offering Brianna a contract. Sonya says she and Brianna will be by in the morning, and that she'll be researching their claim on the song in the meantime. Burns quietly takes Sonya aside to say this to her:
“Knock yourself out, lady. You may think you’re powerful, but I represent the biggest recording company in the business. You’re out of your league. You have no real proof of anything. It’s that little tramp’s word against mine. And lady, I can make yours and Miss Tattoo’s life really miserable... just wait and see!”
Well, threatening the lawyer who already thinks you're sketchy seems like a really awesome idea. If he wasn't in trouble before, he sure is now.

He storms off, and Brianna and Sonya chat for a bit. Brianna reveals that she's only 17.
“Seventeen... and you have really been around, haven’t you?” Sonya typically got straight to the point. 
Brianna whispered, “Yes, and I’m not proud of that. Unfortunately, it is what it is. It is part of my life. I had to survive... somehow.”

So, the way they deal with this subject, I'm pretty sure they're talking about the time when Brianna sold sex in exchange for food, a place to live, or a ride to wherever she was trying to get next.

What a WEIRD and inappropriate statement on Sonya's part.

First of all, there's... absolutely no reason for her to think that. Brianna seems fairly trusting and naive, so she doesn't give off an "older than her years" vibe. All she knows about her right now is her name, her age, that she wrote this song, and that her father's not in the picture anymore.

Secondly, it's an incredibly awkward thing to just suddenly say to someone. Replace that careful phrase with what she's ACTUALLY saying: "I bet you've been a sex worker," and it becomes clear how inappropriate that is. It's entirely irrelevant to anything in the conversation.

Small Talk Tip from Rothdiener: When meeting a new person, always do your best to casually find out if they've slept with people for money. Then pry into their personal life as much as you can.

Sonya calls a friend of hers and asks Brianna to sing some of her other songs that were sent to Nashville so they can check and see if they were stolen too. So she does, and we get tiny examples of her songs again. This, I think, is my favorite one:
It was a time to love, 
It was a time to reflect, 
Where will it lead me? 
When will it start?
Check out those confused tenses! I now have NO IDEA whether the time to love/reflect was, is, or will be in the past, the present, or the future.

Of course, the guy on the other end of the line is amazed by her:
“Who is that singing?” Simon inquired. “My goodness, her voice is beautiful. It’s so full and crisp... it’s hard to explain. It’s unique... it’s... I can’t even describe it.”
Yes, yes, we know, Skye is Jesus, and Brianna's voice is Jesus.

Her third song she sings is the most exciting of all:
“That song is, I’m Thinking of a Time, and is the biggest song in America, in fact, the world. It has sold over nine million copies and won three awards so far. It was written by Judd Stevens. It was his mega hit on his latest CD, My Time, and also was in the movie, Time. And guess what! It has been nominated for a Motion Picture Award.”
That's like if "Let It Go" had also been released on an Idina Menzel CD called "Let Go" and featured in the movie "Go."

Anyway, that song is a big deal. Sonya tells Simon to send someone named Harry out from their law firm immediately, because Brianna's songs were stolen and they're going to get her money back.

Sonya then hangs up, tells Brianna her songs were stolen and they're going to get her money back.
Brianna, still in shock from the surprising news, shook her head in disbelief. “You’re saying someone stole my music?”
...Has she not been paying attention to anything this whole chapter?

Well, I have, and it has left me exhausted, and we're only a little over halfway through this huge mountainous chapter. So we're going to take a break and return next week to see the showdown between Brianna/Sonya and Petrichor Records for the worst songs ever stolen.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tune In Thursday: The Producers

(Language warning for this song.)

Today's song is "The King of Broadway" from the musical The Producers, with music and lyric written by Mel Brooks. In this song, once-acclaimed Broadway producer Max Bialystock has produced several flops in a row, and he sings about the fame and glory he once had. It's a fun number that, unfortunately, was removed from the final cut of the movie musical.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Top Twelve Villain Showtunes

This is another blog requested on my page (remember, if you have something you want me to blog about, submit it there and I'll get to it eventually!). I'm glad I finally get to do this one, I've been sorting through it for awhile:

What are your top ten villain songs from movies/musicals?

This is tough. Even if it was just "top villain songs from Disney movies/musicals," it'd be tough. Because musicals are just awesome at creating awesome songs for their bad guys -- funny, scary, sad, and everything in between.

Looking through my list of musicals, I managed to find 44 villain songs I really enjoy, and managed to whittle that down, eventually to 12... and then I absolutely could not pick two of those twelve to throw out. So I'm cheating and allowing myself two extra songs.

In alphabetical order of song name are my picks and why:

"Be Prepared" (The Lion King)

I wrote about my love for this song back in September of last year on my blog post about great Disney song sung by male characters. I haven't actually see the stage production, but it's really hard to imagine it could be better than this. The tremendous animation REALLY enforces the ominous tone of the song, which is spectacular all by itself. I honestly think this song might be like 60% of the reason I like The Lion King so much. Definitely one of my all-time favorites.

"Cell Block Tango" (Chicago)

Like the rest of this show, this is a combination of dark and funny. When the characters are telling their stories, there's definitely a very morbid sense of humor running throughout, but every time they return to the explosion of rage in the chorus, it gives me chills. Such a simple song, but so intense.

"Dentist!" (Little Shop of Horrors)

Oh, man, narrowing down a song from this show was so difficult. I was stuck for quite a long time between this, "Feed Me" and "Suppertime," all of which are tremendous... but in the end I went with this. I really like songs that mix cheerful and dark elements, and this fits the bill perfectly. The dentist seems so happy about having found a career that lets him just hurt people all the time. (My poor sister Elizabeth watched this movie the night before she had her wisdom teeth taken out -- that may not have been the best choice!)

"Do the Necronomicon" (The Evil Dead: The Musical)

I got a chance to see this show live this October, and it was one of the most fun theatrical experiences I've ever had. In this song, the main characters have just summoned a horde of demons... who appear and instantly do a choreographed dance to honor the Necronomicon (despite the fact that most of them are annoyed they can't start killing people until they finish the dance). It's silly and fun and easily belongs in this list of favorites.

"Everybody's Got the Right" (Assassins)

This song both opens and closes the show, but I particularly like the shorter version at the end. I find this a really creepy villain song (and I've written about it before). The show focuses on several famous presidential assassins or attempted assassins, and this song at the end has each one justifying their actions -- they were reaching for their dreams, they were trying to make a difference in the world, they hope to inspire others to make their own mark, throughout whatever means possible. It's one of the most terrifying inspirational songs I've ever heard.

"Everything You Ever" (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog)

(Definite spoilers here, so if you missed out on this, go find it somewhere, watch all 45 minutes, and then come back and read this.)

This was another show I had a lot of trouble choosing a song for. It's all ABOUT villainy, so it's no surprise that a lot of the songs work. Do I go with the angry "Brave New Day"? The you-think-he's-a-hero-but-he's-really-the-villain "Everyone's a Hero"? In the end, I chose this song, which closes out the story with Dr. Horrible getting everything he has been working toward, reaching the upper tiers of supervillains... but finding it it's not what he thought it would be. Man, just rewatching this breaks me a little. This may be due for a rewatch soon.

"A Little Priest" (Sweeney Todd)

Choosing between this and "Epiphany" from this show was tough, but in the end I went with this, one of Sondheim's most enduring numbers. It suffers a bit from Cole Porter Syndrome (i.e., when a song has like 500 verses because the songwriter is just having TOO much fun with his clever wordplay) but the lyrics are clever and fun, and seeing the two giggle for so long about baking people into pies is both morbid and entertaining.

"Meant to Be Yours" (Heathers)

The first one I don't have a performance video for, since, well, there aren't any for this song. I wrote about this only about a month and a half ago in my musical spotlight on Heathers, so I'm just going to repost what I said about it then:

"Veronica has decided she doesn't want to hurt anyone anymore, and she tells J.D. so in no uncertain terms. He threatens her, only to come back and sing this song to her, where he describes his plan for killing everyone in the school at once in the hopes of making some sort of statement about society and says he needs her to be there with him. When he opens the door to her room, he finds her (supposedly) dead body, sings his love for her, but then vows to carry on the work they started.

I find the music to this song just fascinating to listen to. It does an awesome job of switching between J.D.'s tender, emotional proclamations of love and his clearly unhinged fantasies of violence. It does everything it needs to to build the tension of his character toward the end of the show."

"No Good Deed" (Wicked)

Another one there's no good live performance of, unfortunately, but it's really a fantastic villain song -- it isn't just a evil character singing about their evil plans, but it's actually almost more about the concept of villainy (as is a lot of this show). Elphaba has been trying her whole life to do the right thing and it keeps backfiring on her, so here she decides to just give up trying to be right and just do whatever she wants. It's a painful, furious cry of pain and injustice.

"The Phantom of the Opera" (The Phantom of the Opera)

You can't compile a "villain showtunes" list and leave this one off. It's so iconic, especially those opening notes. This is one of those shows that no matter how many times I see it, it still retains its magic for me, and this is one of the most magical moments. Is it ludicrous that the candles rise up out of the water in his underground lake? Yes. But it's also so much fun :-)

"Stars" (Les Miserables)

Dang it, Russell Crowe, you very nearly ruined this song for me. But Philip Quast's marvelous performance can bring it back. I find Javert easily the most interesting character in this musical, and this is the first time we hear his inner monologue and see a side of him that's not just "he's the antagonist because he's supposed to be." This song brings out his rigid, inflexible moral guidelines that drive his whole life -- and that he's not just "evil to be evil." He is firmly convinced he's on "the path of the Lord." It fleshes out a character who could very well just have been a nameless, motivation-less villain and makes him so much more.

"Uninvited" (Sleeping Beauty Wakes)

I couldn't leave this one out! This is not only one of my favorite villain showtunes, it's one of my favorite showtunes, period, from one of my favorite musicals. It's a fun angry song sung from the Maleficent character's point of view in the Sleeping Beauty story. She's so snarky and annoyed in the verses, and then chorus just bursts out in extreme frustration... and this is one of the MOST fun songs to sing along with.

So that's my list. What are your favorite villain songs from movies or musicals? Or just who are your favorite villains?