Thursday, March 5, 2015

Clare's Requests (Music Thoughts: Clare Teal, At Your Request)

I remember Clare Teal from the early 90s, and for some reason I used to confuse her with Stacey Kent, maybe because they were on the same label. Kent skyrocketed to larger stardom, maybe because her sound was distinctive. I know I have a couple of Clare teal albums on my collection, and it looks like she has a couple of them( there were thirteen available on iTunes)  but I don't remember much to be honest.  So when I got a hold of her new one, "At Your Request," I decided to pay more attention and write about it. Listening to this one, there's no doubt she is a great singer : clear voice with a jazz flare, with careful lyric consideration. Backed by her "mini Big Band," the arrangements are nice and supple, I mean she knows what she is doing, as evidenced by her hosting BBC Big Band every Sunday night on BBC 2.  The musicianship on this album is first rate all-around.  But, I couldn't help but look for something more. At first listen, it was good music, but it was also kind of forgettable.  The songs elections are obvious choices (perhaps because these are fans requests? ) and while she sings them with much gusto, there's not much int hose songs that surprise me anymore. I mean, I like the hot and swinging "Mountain Greenery" and the thoughtful "The Folks Who Live On the Hill,"  but I don't know if i will ever find myself reaching for her tracks, as I already have definitive performances of those from Patti Page and Peggy Lee, respectively. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

No Gardenia (Perfume Thoughts: Chanel Gardenia, Les Exclusifs Collection)

Yesterday was one of those "just staying at home and relax" days for me, and that is when I grab samples from my ever-growing samples box.  I always say I do this because I can concentrate on smelling the new-to-me scents. But really, I try not to use my samples (unless I am traveling) because a lot of times I fall in love with a fragrance and would want to get a full bottle right away.  Chanel's Gardenia called out to me yesterday, and this, of course, is the 'modern' version, the one on the Les Exclusifs line.  And of course, it called to me because I was wearing Annick Goutal's Un Matin du Orange the day before,and was on an orange blossom kick. Chanel Gardenia obviously does not have a gardenia note in it : it is a bouquet of jasmine, orange blossom, and tuberose, a blossomign white floral. But this version is slightly watered, slightly aquatic, and though it advertises as having some musk, I don't get it. It's nice and fine, but that's about what it is: nice and fine. It's nice and easy to wear, but it did not challenge me, it did not want me to reach for it. It's inoffensive, and I would imagine it is perfect as an office scent: the sillage is not obtrusive, and it smells "classy" enough for someone past the age of 25. Crisis averted, I say. If I saw a cheap bottle, i would probably get it, but otherwise, I have other Chanel wants (La Pausa or Jersey, for example) on my list. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

In Grief (Television Thoughts: Looking Seaso 2 Episode 7, Looking For A Plot)

Tonight's episode of "Looking" was part road trip, part Will and Grace. Doris' father dies suddenly, so she, with Dom and Patrick drive back to Modesto Arizona to attend the funeral. While it is a depressing circumstance, the tone of the episode is part black comedy, part nostalgia. We get to learn that Doris and Dom were childhood sweethearts, and this episode brings them right into the middle of that situation. For example, they have to explain to people that they in fact did not get married, even though they reveal that they live together. I like the mixture of grief and morbid humor here, as it is very real, if surreal. As someone who has been touched by death recently, I can sympathize, empathize, and I couldn't help but shed a couple of tears. And Lauren Weedman is tremendous, equal parts pathos and comedic timing, and really deserves an Emmy nomination at the very least for her role here. Things ebb and flow for the trip in Modesto, with the occasional side of zaniness that reminds us of Will, Grace, and Jack.  But when Patrick gets back to San Francisco, Kevin is waiting for him at his doorstop, with a bombshell in his hands: he has left Jon. This development did not really surprise me, but at the same time I did not expect it. Is he really in love with Patrick? Will the two of them find love and happiness, and a happy ever after?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Falling In Love (Movie Thoughts: Jongen, The Way He Looks)

Over the weekend, I saw two films that perfectly capture falling in love. They are also two films about first love. And, they are also films about gay teens falling in love. But this is 2015, and gay love isn't the love that dare not speak its name anymore. For the youth of today, same sex attraction is so matter of fact that none of these characters even blink at the thought. 

Daniel Ribiero's "The Way He Looks" is set in Portugal, about Leo, a blind adolescent (Ghilerme Lobo) who spends his waking time with his best friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) until a new boy in school arrives, Gabriel (Fabio Audi) When Leo and Gabriel start spending tiem together, an awakening happens in Leo: he finds himself falling in love with Gabriel. But then Leo finds that Karina, a fellow classmate, is aggressively pursuing Gabriel, and is Gabriel interested in reciprocating, Leo wonders. I think the best thing in the storyline is the fact that the story shows love is not blind. Love is when two souls connect. In this case, we canno argue that infatuation is just physical lust. Leo is not sighted after all - it's his emotional connection with Gabriel that trumps whatever he has with Giovana. 

More or less the same emotional conflict is seen in Jongens, a Dutch movie by Mischa Kamp. Sieger gets promoted on his running team, pairing him off with Marc (Ko Zandvliet) and we instantly see an attraction. But even as things heat up between them, and they first kiss, Sieg is still conflicted with his orientation, telling Marc that he is not gay. To prove to himself, Sieg starts dating a young lady, only to see what is inevitable, something hsi best friend realizes and shrugs about. 

Jongens is a nice sweet story (I read that this was originally made for Dutch television) and addresses gay teen love matter-of-factly. As a matter of fact, no coming out happens, here, people just assume, and see, and accept, as if its no big deal to have these teenagers accept their orientations, and move on.

In both films, when the young women accept the fact that these teens are gays, the conflict revolves more about heartbreak, and homophobia is never present. They become more matters of the heart, not politics. I would like to believe that this is how teens look at life nowadays, and I realize how far we have gone since I have been a teenager myself. While, yes, on that level I see that things are easier for them, on some level, heartbreaks are teh same. They still fall in love, they still have their hearts broken. And that is the essence of life.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Let It Go (Television Thoughts: The Slap Episode 3 Anouk)

This week's episode of The Slap focuses on Anouk, the character played by Uma Thurman. I think Urman is a real underrated actress, and here he displays her acting chops. Whether you like this show or not, you will have to agree that this has a top notch cast. The show starts this week as Anouk goes to lunch with Aisha and Rosie. Anouk gives  wise advise to Rosie, regarding the slap : "Let It Go," and Rosie doesn't take it well. That seems to be the extent on where we are regarding the slap, as we go to Anouk's personal life, her relationship with Jamie, and her mother Virginia (played by Blythe Danner) Halfway through the episode, Anouk finds something that's been hinted at, that she is pregnant with Jamie's baby. She doesn't tell Jamie, but he knows, he says he can tell. She then tells him she cannot have the baby, as she isn't wired to be a parent. Then she discovers that her mother is moving to Scotland, and selling their Upper West Side apartment, because of a tumor. This gives her a reawakening, and she decides to keep the baby. It's an episode with a clear focus, though apparently the story doesn't stay true to the original content (of course on American network television, it would be so controversial for her to get an abortion) As I have said, Thurman is great in every scene, and breathes life to the character even if we do not agree with her choices. I thought Penn Badgely was also good here, displaying a maturity he never got to show in Gossip Girl.   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Child Is Born (Book Thoughts: The Secrets Of Midwives, Sally Hepworth)

I don't know what possessed me to start reading "The Secrets Of Midwives" by Sally Hepworth because I had the mistaken notion that it would be a lot about child-bearing, a topic I really am not attuned to, nor will I ever be. But Hepworth is much more than that, it's more about three generations of midwives and their own individual stories. Some stories are more interesting than others, and the earlier ones can be a bit too soap-opera like, but this is an entertaining enough read. The first half is slower than the second, which felt a bit rushed (I suspect that it's an editing issue) so it took me a bit more time to read the book, but when the action picked up, all became well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pink In The Park (Scent Thoughts: Bond No 9 Madison Square Park)

When I left New York,  the idea of Bond no 9's scents - celebrating New York City neighborhoods  started to appeal to me. I have always had mixed feelings about the house, feeling them over priced for what they are. But, these are well-done scents, if a bit too conventional and safe at times. I sprayed Madison Square Park on my palm today, and I feel liek suddenly I am in love. And I ask myself why - it's a fruity floral, a pretty basic one at that. Opening with a big burst of "red leaf rose," it's green and smells of crushed leaves, and I loved it. A rose slowly creeps in. It evoked walking through Madison Square Park in a way, as you first see the grass on the grounds, and discovering a patch of roses inside. Then some  berries - raspberry? something red - bursts in and it's well blended enough to have a great mix of fruits and florals. The scent reminds me of a well-balanced bouquet - there's equal parts of any ingredient, that the freesia doesn't get lost with the vetiver root, or tomato leaf. And it's good i guess that not one note really stands, and what you see is a beautiful painting. I am kind of loving it, to be honest. It brought a little smile on my face, and I can't remember the lasttime a fruity floral did that. Maybe because I have smelled all these cheap incarnations that I have forgotten that there is beauty in the genre. I think this perfume perfectly represents the park on 32nd Street, which, incidentally, borders the New York perfume district. Oh, the memories.

Monday, February 23, 2015

To The Beat Of The Drum (Film Thoughts: Whiplash)

I was so uncomfortable watching "Whiplash" but I guess that was the point.  The dust has finally settles and J. K. Simmons has now won the bulk of Supporting Actor awards this season for this film, and does he deserve it? Yes, I think he does, though he isn't really my first choice. (That would be Ethan Hawke for 'Boyhood')  I do understand that Simmons is one hard workign actor, and he worked his butt off here, so it's a matter of taste. Perhaps as I am getting older I am more drawn to subtle shades than broad strokes. Maybe that is also my problem with the film. Damian Chazelle's movie hits all the right marks, but I am infinitely drawn more to movies that I identify with, and make me feel good. And Miles Teller (why do I feel like I have watched a lot of his movies?) just more than a swell job as the protagonist here and in a less crowded year would have been a shoo-in nominee for the Academy Award. This truly is a star-making performance for him. You see him literally give blood, sweat, and tears for his role. The whole thing is too overwrought for my taste, but I feel it, just like Teller's drum solos.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Love Is Scary (Television Thoughts: Looking S02 E06 Looking for Gordon Freeman)

All the stress, all the pressure, all the secrets, everything that has been bottled up inside Patrick boils over on tonight's episode of "Looking." (Looking For Gordon Freeman," as he hosts a Halloween party and things go so awry he has a fantastic mental breakdown. Gross deserves an Emmy for his performance tonight: one of those pained performances that was just too tough to watch because all of it is you and me, and everyone else who have been madly in love, and have felt the scare of love slipping away. For me, it was akin to watching a horror movie - I was watching it through slanted fingers - perhaps making the Halloween theme of the episode more appropriate. The episodes this season have been crescendoing to a climax so powerful, so intense, but in a sense so quiet and yes, it pierces your heart into small pieces.  Look at the photograph of that scene above, when Patrick pleas to Kevin that he doesn't want himt o go away - look at the mixture of fear and affection in his eyes - this is genius writing. Look at how Richie and Patrick look at each other towards the end of the episode, and you will multitudes of love and sorrow there. Looking is real life, y'all. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Duff With The Heart (Movie Thoughts: The Duff)

Did you know that DUFF meant "Designated Ugly fat Friend"? Well, neither did I. I guess that goes to show how out of touch I am with today's teenage lingo. I can identify more with the stereotypes from "The Breakfast Club," which are referenced in the beginning of this movie. Written by Josh Cagan and Directed by Ari Sendel, "The Duff" is a little shallow, just a tad earnest, but it has a big heart and is a lot of fun. With these type of movies, everything falls in the hands of the actors, and Mae Whitman, as Bianca, is the female nerd, and maybe the plainer looking between her two friends. But Whitman is a smart actress and knwo when to mine the laughs, and when to add depth to the proceedings. And surprise, Robbie Amell is terrific, makign his jock stereotype character much much more than a dumb stereoptype - he is at lal times dreamy, sensitive, and yes handsome and swoon-worthy. I couldn't help but get touched with their chemistry, and look, the plot is predictable as can be but you still ride along, and I got ridden hard here. For a couple of brief moments, I felt like I was young and in love for the very first time, again. Isn't there a quote that good acting makes the audience feel like the character the actor is playing? Well,  if that is the case then Whitman should win an Academy Award. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Kinda Jazz Gal (Music Review: Tina May, My Kinda Love)

So many contemporary jazz singers, so little time.  Apparently Tina May  (I confused her with the American actress) is a major deal in the London jazz scene, but I confess I have never heard of her. Or perhaps I have, but never really paid attention. May has a clear voice, and a nice languid style, which reminds me of Helen Merrill. She uses it well, working around tenor saxophonist Frank Griffin's thoughtful arrangements. I played the album twice already, and like it lots, but I felt like there is more to discover here. It's that type of album where there is such magnificent subtlety in her delivery, and the arrangements that you sometimes exclaim, "wow, I didn't realize she did it like that)  For example, the sbaik silent phases in "I'm Through With Love" needs careful listening (this will not work as background music, folks) And even when she swings in "My Kinda Love," you know there's some lyric interpretation brewing in her mind. But my most favorite track is Duncan Lamont's "Where Were You IN April," a song I really should champion, but honestly just want to keep near and dear to my heart.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

She Ain't Heavy (Book Review: Paperweight, Meg Haston)

If you just saw the cover of Meg Haston's "Paperweight" you would think it's a fluffy YA novel - and I thought it was - but it really is a serious book tackling a very serious subject: eating disorder. When the book begins, Stevie has just entered a treatment facility in New Mexico, and by a series of flashbacks, we get to find out what led her there. While I thought the book was compelling, it depressed me. It was sad to see that these situations, which I know are real situations that happen to real people, exist n the world, and the caretaker in me wanted to smother and rock these characters to comfort. I feel like I want to look at cute puppy pictures after.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Anger Management (Television Thoughts: The Slap Episode 2)

I am really getting into the show, and I know a lot of people are saying that it is not as good as the Australian version, but since I have not seen that, I will just go by what I think is meritorious about this. The second episode focuses on Harry, and the aftermath of the slap from the first episode.  We see that Rosie (Melissa George) wants to press charges, and is hell bent on making sure that something happens to Harry, and truly, by the end of the episode, something does. We see Harry's regimen, and how he is with his wife and kids. And Harry is a complex and maybe unlikeable, but I cannot help but sympathize with him. Sure, I may not agree with what a lot of he stands for, but he stands for them proudly and with no apologies. And speaking of apologies, he does try to do the right thing by going over to the kid's house to apologize, only to horrendous results. The most telling thing for me here is Zacahary Quinto. My God, he is an amazing actor - intense and fully committed to his character. I think I have only seen him from the Star Trek movies, so I haven;t really paid as much attention, but he is on point here. He certainly knows his character, and how flawed it is, and essays it with brevity. Perhaps that is why I am on Team Harry on the slap issue. I think he is on the right - Rosie is a horrible parent - breastfeeding a five year old, are you kidding me - and you can even sense his internal struggle as he tries to parent his own child. I am hooked on this show, officially.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Livin La Pura VIda (Book Review: Pura Vida, Sara Alva)

"Pura Vida" is just a sweet short story, no more no less. Sara Alva wrote this for the M/M Romance Group event on Goodreads, and she has a great flare for romance. I was instantly hooked by the love story between Simon and Juan, and the added tropical feel of the setting enhanced it. Set in Costa Rico, Simon vacations with his family and meets a local souvenir seller, but there's more to Juan than tchotkes as they bonded over saving sea turtles. The sex scenes were kind of unrealistic (why put them there at all) but the romance is on fire here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (Movie Review: 50 Shades Of Grey)

Well, here's a newsflash: I liked "50 Shades Of Grey," the movie (Why, by the way, isn't the number fifty spelled out?)  I have no opinion of the book, by the way, except that I couldn't get past the tenth page when I started to read it because I thought it was badly written, but hey, it got one hundred million people reading, so that couldn't possibly be the worst thing in the world, right? And yes, I wasn't even rushing to see the film, and only did so because why not, it's a Holiday today and it was a nice way to pass time. But, I left the movie house wanting more, actually curious and panting for what is to happen next. Not that I can't discern, by the way. The story is rote, and you can sense what what will happen before they do, but Sam Taylor-Johnson infuses the filmw ith style that she got my attention. I will not go into detail as to why the story is shit - even Stevie Wonder would be able to see that - and I am not even going to go as to why this movie is bad for the female psyche (if one were to take it seriously) but as pure entertainment, it works. The two stars look good, and have pretty good chemistry, and they made me believe. Well, almost. I never got to sense the "danger" of their BDSM (somethign I wasn't looking forward to) but as far as love stories go, this is pretty convincing. Did it inspire me to go to the S & M place on Christopher Street? Um, no. Just like Anastasia, I rolled my eyes whenever Christian mentioned it. (oooh, maybe he will spank me) I just wished there were more plot: the movie was about to end and I kept telling myself, if something is abotu to happen to the story, they better start soon. But this has style and good looking people, mostly naked, so for a Valentine's Day weekend movie, that satisfied me.