Saturday, October 29, 2011

Out Of Tune (Book Thoughts: Tune Up, Terry O ' Reilly)

"Tune Up" is yet another e-book I got a while back when Amazon had their 99 cent sale.  I am all for supporting independent bookstores, self-published authors, but I keep on getting burned. Thank God I wasn't expecting much from this novella, because I didn't get a lot anyway. It is a story of a gay guy who lives in a small town, and of course he is lonely and looking for love until a guy in a motorcycle stops by the garage where he works, and...well, more or less you can kind of see where the road leads for the story.  I expected this to be predictable, but I also wanted some aspet of romance, of some kind of depth. I didn't get it here. What else is there to say, but you do get what you pay for. In these times, 99 cents really does not get you much.

BC- 35

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Art Of Healing (Television Thoughts; A Gifted Man/Hart Of Dixie)

For some reason, I got drawn this season to two new shows, both about doctors. I am thinking it is a coincidence, but maybe it is subliminal, as I recently started working in the medical field. Or maybe I am just getting old - I never really liked hour long dramas before, but now... In any event, I first got attracted into watching "A Gifted Man" because of its star, Patrick Wilson. In my opinion, Mr. Wilson is an "old reliable." He is excellent in every role I have seen him in, whether it be on stage (he is a Broadway veteran) or movies. Well, it looks like he is as great on television. As the gifted man in "A Gifted Man," he is the best thing in the show. He plays a top neurosurgeon who is on top of his game, and on top of the world. Well, until the "ghost" of his ex-wife starts appearing before him. It's kind of a hokey premise, but with Jennifer Ehle playing the ex-wife, anyone would be game. A Broadway fanatic like me is just in ecstasy every week seeing these two seasoned theater actors at the top of their game. The show is more of the disease-of-the-week variety at times, but there's enough human drama involved that it still keeps my attention week after week.

Meanwhile, over at the CW, Rachel Bilson returns to series television with "Hart Of Dixie," a "fish out of the water" series about a young doctor who moves from New York City to Bluebell, Alabama. And... hilarity and drama ensues. I almost gave up on this show because I am just not 100% convinced that Ms. Bilson is a doctor. Plus, most of the supporting characters started out grating and unlikeable. About four episode in, though, I am still on board. Perhaps that heat wave episode where everyone was half-naked kept my attention? This show is chock-full of eye-candy, and shallow as I am, it is keeping me glued.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kiss Me Once (Film Thoughts: Judas Kiss)

Sometimes you watch a film and you get so frustrated because it could have been better, and in fact you root for it to be better, only to end up being disappointed by it. Such is the case with "Judas Kiss," a film I had been eagerly awaiting to see since it started doing the rounds of the film festival circuit. I liked the idea of the movie : wherein a character meets the younger version of himself, and he is put in a position to change the direction of his life.  It's a case of "If I knew then what I know now" kind of thing. That premise was set up quite well in this movie, but sadly, something went amiss in the narrative. They say in a case of suspending disbelief, what would make it successful for anyone is good acting. In this movie, we get half of that. Up and coming young actor Richard Harmon successfully narrates the younger version of the character Danny ReyesJr./Zach Wells. He has just enough vulnerability/bravado/cockiness  which showed us why the young character felt "doomed." However, Charlie David just doesn't have the acting intuitiveness to pull off the same character. It seemed that he focused more on the external/physical aspects, by affecting a cigarette habit, or carefully tossing a well-coiffed hairdo, which he substituted in place of developing a believable character. Sean Paul Lockhart plays the sensitive boy-that-got-away and he is terrific (think of him as a young gay version of James Marsden) He has infinite charm, and surprising depth. I wish his character was less thankless since he lights up the screen whenever he is on. Ultimately, I would borderline recommend this movie, if only to see Harmon's and Lockhart's performance. I hope these two actors would find more worthwhile vehicles next time 'round. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Until You've Smelled The Meaning Of The Blues (Scent Thoughts: Wild Bluebell, Jo Malone)

That little beloved good girl Jo Malone is getting frisky. The whole Malone line is known for its quiet countryside scents - perfect for those nice girls who have a keen sense of style *and* they go to church. I have always imagine the Jo Malone girl to be very trendy, very girly,  and sexy only in the subtlest of ways. But it seems like the company is gearing towards a different direction. Look at the ad for their latest fragrance, "Wild Bluebell," and it reminds you of something from Vivienne Westwood or John Galliano.  The fragrance itself is quite unique in the sense that besides it, I can only think of one other Bluebell scent: Penhaligon's Bluebell. I have that one, and like it lots, but I always think of it as a "museum fragrance." I often look at it, smell the cap, admire the scent, but never really wear it. Jo Malone's "Wild Bluebell" is quite different from that one.  Perfumer Christine Nagel has concocted a real floral scent,  and it smells like a bouquet of flowers literally just picked from the fields. I was in London when I first smelled it, and it was love at first sniff. I knew I had to have it right then and there because it smelled so different, so alive, so modern. The top note that was to die-for for me was lily of the valley, and it is strong and quite pungent. I think I have written that I have been in love with white florals lately, and this just fit the bill. The lily note is rounded out by other white flowers - freesia, osmanthus, jasmine, maybe a hint of tuberose - and the over all effect could be heady, but just like everything I put on my skin, it turned sweet right away for me. It is a very transparent sweetness that stays with me till the end, as the fragrance is pretty linear.  The scent has medium sillage, and is very close to the skin. I find it lasts a full day of wearing it, as I find myself smelling my arm over and over again in the evening. This scent is probably one of those you will either love or hate, but I am sure it will make an impression on you. 

Too Much For One's Heart

Sometimes, simple stories just get to you. "Heart Of The Matter" isn't Emily Giffin's best novel (it's a little dry and sober) but there were times when I was reading this book when I just couldn't help myself; I found myself sobbing. Told in the voices of two women, I felt like I knew these women - I empathized with them, I related with their plight, I cried their tears. The book centers around a story of infidelity, and it does seem like a simple story, but really, we all know that nothing is at simple as it seems. This story is a testament to that statement. Each character is flawed, but that's what makes them more real. They just act and react based on the circumstance they are faced. There is no "bad guy" in here, just three dimensional realized characters, with personalities so vividly written by Ms. Giffin. I especially liked the fact that each woman has a distinct voice (chapters are alternately written in first and third voices)  If I have to "critical," I could note that some of the situations are wrung for maximum dramatic effect, and there are holes in the plot, but just like a romantic movie, the characters are so believable you can suspend some of your disbelief and you go along for the ride. I was so particularly drawn in the character of Valerie that at one point I was shouting out loud, "Can't she get a break?" Thank God I wasn't at a public place, or people would have looked at me like I was crazy.  Up to now, I still feel about these characters, and I am left wondering about them. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Michael's Christmas (Music Thoughts: "Christmas," Michael Buble)

Every year, it's always an "event day" for me when I listen to my very first Christmas release for that year, and for 2011, it's a doozy : Michael Buble's "Christmas." Yes, the title is spare and direct to the point, just that word. And this is going to be a huge hit, I predict, and will be the "go-to" Christmas album. I suspect we will be hearing songs from this album when it's time to buy our Christmas gifts. And why not? It's a solidly-produced album, and Mr. Buble sings all these songs with as much gusto as he can, and no stone is left unturned to make sure this release appeals to everyone. There really is nothing wrong with that. Sure, Mr. Buble sounds like he swallowed Bobby Darin whole, but that is just part of why I like him - his phrasing is pretty good,  he can swing, he makes the songs his own. He even injects a couple of surprises, like a "Jingle Bells" arrangement that sounds like he is singing them with The Andrews Sisters. There's a swingy "White Christmas" that he has fun singing with Shania Twain, and a more contemplative take of Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You."  And for the first time ever, a singer doesn't ape the Eartha Kitt arrangement of "Santa Baby," with Mr. Buble singing it as "Santa Buddy." He even visits the Ghost of Elvis, Buble style, in "Blue Christmas." It's a jam-packed album, with eighteen or so songs that run the gamut of every Yuletide style you can think of, from modern to classic.  Where else can you find "Ave Maria" and "Feliz Navidad" in the same album? (The latter he duets with Latin songstress Thalia) On his interviews, Michael Buble says he wanted to make an album that is reminiscent of Bing Crosby's, but I think he does Bing better, because he brings these songs to our modern times and he makes it appealing enough to, I suspect, get the attention of everyone. From Grandpa, to father, to the hipster kids, even to the Bieber fans, I am sure there will be something to appeal to each family member. This year, it will be a Buble Christmas.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Thrill Isn't Gone (Movie Thoughts: Margin Call)

Can you have a thriller without guns, car chases and explosions? Well, apparently you can. "Margin Call" is a big roller-coaster ride, one that kept me at the edge of my set with each story turn. The movie was inspired by the 2008 demise of Lehman Brothers, one of the most prestigious investment banks on the street. The movie happens in a span of 24 hours, and is framed by downsizings. At the beginning as the financial downturn affects the company, and at the end after the company is eviscerated by the risks it took in the market. Both events rests on the shoulders through an astonishingly layered performance by Kevin Spacey, who in my opinion gives his best performance since "The Usual Suspects." He is the almost-moral heart of the movie.  I worked in Invest Banking for more than twenty years, and each of the characters her ring true that at times I felt like I personally knew these characters. Wall Street is, as an industry, tantalizing. It lures you, but it has such vicious highs and lows that you have to have a steel stomach to survive. Maybe that's why I have such mixed reactions to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I am still mentally in the industry to be offended by it, but believe you me, I know where they are coming from. A lot of the financial intricacies are explained in this movie, and while it still may be confusing, you will no doubt see these people as human beings, mainly because of the terrific ensemble casting. I can't think of a weak link - Jeremy Irons is commanding as the CEO, Simon Baker and Paul Bettany as spineless middle managers, and even Demi Moore is terrific. Zachary Quinto, as the catalyst who unravels the whole thing, is quietly effective, and even Penn Badgely, in a thankless but showy role, convinced me for the first time that he is a grown up. Mostly shot indoors, I know some people say the movie is a bit claustrophobic, but I think that just helps the insular mood. I wonder if the movie will play in Peoria, as they say, but I hope it gets an audience. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

To My Love, The Tuberose (Scent Thoughts: Do Son, Diptyque)

When I got to work today, an office-mate of mine quickly said, "You smell like Sampaguita."  Sampaguita is a jasmine flower from the old country, and it is mainly used to offer idols, whether in church or in real life. A string of it can be given the Virgin Mary shrine, for example, as well as the top television star who is visiting your city. The thing is, I was wearing Do Son by Diptyque, and it is a tuberose fragrance. I used to be afraid of tuberose - it is extremely heady and, for me, the epitome of what I used to not like about white flower scents. To coin an offensive phrase, they smelled of "old ladiies" for me. But as I grew older, and as I explored more and more scents, I became more and more enamored of tuberose, in all its incarnations. I love the really heady in-your-face quality if it, like it screaming at you. "This is Perfume, and I Am wearing It." (Such is the case with Fracas, for example) Do Son doesn't have the obnoxiousness of Fracas. It is sweet and strong, for sure, but after a while it behaves. At first it is a warm tuberose but after the orange flower kicks in, it becomes greenish, it becomes watery (but not aquatic) and it kind of disappears, until you can get a whiff of it and you realize it is still very much there, like a little aura that never leaves you the whole day. It's very floral, it's very pretty, it is quite romantic. The Diptyque description describes it perfectly, and I sometimes forget that I have it, but when I do, I regret not wearing it more often.

“The evening breeze still carries all its mysteries along, soft lulling exhalation, when the scents of heavy flowers and the seaside wind gently mingle at the end of the day.” 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nature Sounds (Music Thoughts: Biophilia, Bjork)

Musically, there's no one like Bjork. I don't think she makes music in the basic definition of music. I think she defines her music as her own. Truly, everything she does is a work of art.  She creates something, she nurtures it, she presents it, and you are baffled, you are challenged. Sometimes you understand. I will not lie and say I have understood everything she has done. One thing is certain, though, I always learn from her music. I always ask myself, doubt myself. Her music always makes me think, makes me explore things I have never considered before. I may not always appreciate it, but I always admire it, like any work of a true genius. Her new album, "Biophilia" is no exemption. The concept of the album is the exploration of algorithms in nature - she said in an interview that she wanted to make music that sounded like gravity. So because this is music like I have never heard before, I really can't tell if it succeeds or not. It just is. I would have to listen to it a hundred times, and by then I still won't know if I get it. I may never. But at the same time, it may catch me at some unguarded moment, and I will discover what it is all about. That's Bjork, and that's why I love her. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Young And Foolish (Book Thoughts: Geography Club/The Order Of The Poison Oak)

I don't really read YA (Young Adult) books because ... I'm old. But I have read that there's a whole lot of recent great books in the genre. I mean, the Harry Potter books, and the (IMO horrid) twilight series ones are technically YA titles, so there's not a lack of interest and success in the genre. But I have always wanted to read Brent Hartinger's "The Geography Club," as I have heard only wonderful things about it. I never had a chance until recently. I read it and its sequel, "The Order Of The Poison Oak" during my vacation and they were swift reads, and they were enjoyable and light, and at times profound. Both books follow the character of Russel Middlebrook, a gay High School student who has to deal with daily life and then compounded by conflicts because of his sexual orientation. Set in a high school, the first book has a very important message - that of tolerance, compassion, and self-acceptance, and that makes the book very universal, its relevance not constricted to teenagers. Mr. Hartinger has a great ear for dialogue: these kids sound very real, and believable. You can relate to their plight, and their actions would remind anyone of their own adolescent years. I read that this title has been banned by the most school systems. There is a scene in the book wherein the gay character meets someone online and decides to meet with him. Apparently, this has caught the ire of Fundamentalists who think that youngsters would emulate the character and start setting up clandestine meetings with strangers. I suspect they are anti-gay groups who want to propel their hate. "The Geography Club" is an important book, one that should be read by those exact same people.

"The Order Of The Poison Oak," is the sequel to "The Geography Club," and it more or less follows the same characters after the school year ends as they work at a summer camp for burn victim kids. So, as you can see, the message here can be a little heavy-handed. It's not as good as the first book, but it is still pretty good. Sometimes I feel like Mr. Hartinger is guilty of churning the same themes. Russell's character is so well written that even if we are subjected to his flaws, he still comes out heroic. I am sure a lot of people who liked the first book would want to tune in and see what happens to him here.

BC - 32/33

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Let's Give The Boy A Hand (Movie Thoughts: Footloose 2.0)

Now talk about getting old. I still remember when I saw the first "Footloose" in 1984. And I still remember when I saw "Footlose" on Broadway, the show which was based on the movie. Today I went full circle, by seeing the remake of the movie. The one thing I asked myself, was a remake of this movie really necessary? The original just came out on Blu-Ray, and truth be told, I wasn't really that fond of it, though I remember crushing on Kevin Bacon then. I was ready to be underwhelmed by the movie, but I was still curious. Well, guess what? I like this version a lot, and in a lot of ways prefer it to the original. I thought the best thing about it was Kenny Wormald. Playing the James Dean type, he succeeds on a lot of levels, and it is a joy to see him dance. I guess casting a real dancer in the role makes a difference since dancing is such a major plot point in the story. In that scene where the character of Ren lets his steam out by dancing up a storm, Kevin Bacon's version was almost embarrassing because it looked so fake and you could tell a real dancer was doing it for him. In Wormald's case, you can see him give his blood, sweat and gusto to the routine. I wish I liked Julianne Hough more, though. Yes, she is cute in a sexy Jen Aniston kind of way, but something about her just bugs me. Miles Teller, who played the kid in Nicole Kidman's "Rabbit Hole" takes over the goofy sidekick part from Chris Penn, and he is great fun in here, at times attempting to steal the movie from Wormald. This version is very faithful to the original, with subtle updates that worked for the film. I was reading at one point that the director wanted a "darker" version of the movie, but I didn't really think that was the case here. I hope Wormald goes on to bigger and better things that would showcase his enormous dancing talent. he made me want to cut loose as I was leaving the movie house.

A Bad Sailing

Since I love cruising, when Amazon "suggested" an e-book to me a book about cruise stories for just a dollar, I immediately clicked and said, why not. Well, sting me, why don't you. "Cruise Ship Stories," is a total waste of my time. Never mind the dollar I wasted, but my precious time ! I have so many books lined up to be read, and I read this sad excuse of a book. That is why nowadays I am so wary about eBooks. Any Tom, Dick, Jane or Harriett can think they are authors and try to sell you their writing, when they can barely form sentences. If I were reading this as an actual book, and had a red Sharpie, no doubt I would have spent my whole time crossing all the grammatical errors here. I think Amazon should be a little more choosy in what they sell, actually. I blame them for this travesty. How could they even stock this thing in their catalogue? This is pure trash in every sense of the word.


Everything's Rosie Again (TV Thoughts: The Rosie Show on OWN)

I remember when Rosie O 'Donnell had her daytime talk show, I used to record them everyday on my VCR (remember those?)  She was fun, she loved what I loved, and she had the creme of the crop guests then. I remember watching her show every night when I got home from work. When she had her stint at "The View," i didn't tune in as much: even though I still liked her, and even agreed with her politics, she seemed a little too angry then, too out-there, too over-the-top. Plus, I couldn't stand to watch Elisabeth Hasselback everyday. Now, she is back with a talk show which was very similar to her daytime one, and this Rosie is kind of new, too. She's a lot more grounded, sort of like a Mother Goose Lesbian, and she doesn't seem as angry, and by golly, she is still a lot of fun. I think the show is still in "development" stage, I venture they are still ironing out what works and what doesn't by trial and error, but I like it enough for me to keep on saving it on my DVR.  I like her earth mother granola vibe - she is honest, and at times cringe-worthy, but all in all nothing that's a dealbreaker. I wasn't too happy with her initial telecast guest - Russell Brand, but it has improved 10000 % since then. As Lisa Kudrow said to her the other day, "Compared to the Real Housewives, we are a breath of fresh air," and I agree. The real Housewives exhaust you, The Rosie Show will (gasp) entertain! Imagine that!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Carrie's Wish (Stage Thoughts: Wishful Drinking)

"If you never saw 'Star Wars,' then what the hell are you doing here?" asked Carrie Fisher in the middle of her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking." Well, confession time. I never ever saw any of the Star Wars movies, nor the ones with Empires or Jedis. Yes, I do realize that I may be the only person in the world who is a Star Wars virgin, but I will take any virginity where I can take it. So, you see, perhaps that was the reason why I never saw her show on Broadway. I know she has a couple of books out, but I remember starting to read one and never finishing it. When the show, which was broadcast on HBO finally hit DVD, I figured why not, and saw it. I liked it enough - there weren't any revelations to me, and I can't discern why. Maybe I have read enough about her to be knowledgeable enough about her drug addictions, and even her marriages to Paul Simon and Bryan Lourd. I guess that she has been fodder for the gossip columns enough. The show is thin, but I think the DVD version may be judiciously edited - there are bits that are missing. I know I remember reading an audience participation portion wherein she calls people to wear her Princess Leia wig and that portion is not on this version. I like *her* more after watching the show - she seems pretty grounded, self deprecating without being too self pity-ish. And the show itself may not be worth a top price of $110.00, but streamed through  Netflix on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, one could have worse options. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Heart's Reminder (Music Thoughts: Doris Day, "My Heart")

When I was in London watching the morning news as I was dressing up, the television presenter had a news bit about Doris Day, and of course, it made me stand still. Apparently, her "new" album was topping the charts over there. So later that day, when we went to check out HMV, I held the disc in my hand and looked it. And there, she was,  smiling at me with her dog.  Well, I think I heard that people were saying that this was an album of never-before-released tracks, and in one sense it's true, and in another, it's not. A good chunk of these songs were put on CD before, in a disc that was sold exclusively to members of her fan club. I have that disc, because, after all, I am a Doris Day completist. So essentially, this material isn't new to me. As reported, most of these recordings come from her television show. I would have been the first one to rejoice and say, "Hallelujah,' had it been true that these were all new recordings. But at 88, I hardly expect her to go back and record. There are priceless gems in here: clean renditions of classics like "Ohio," and "hurry It's Lovely Up Here," sung in that unmistakeable Doris Day style. But out of context from her series, some songs fall flat for me. "Disney Girls" and "You Are So Beautiful" have been serviced better by their original artists. I have tried hard, believe you me, to fall under Doris' spell, but I honestly think she had little understanding of these then-current songs when she was recording them. I felt like she was slumming, and didn't connect to the material. Maybe I compare it with the fluidity in her voice when she sings "My One And Only Love," also from this collection. In there, you sense her living and interpreting the lyrics in a deeply personal way. I know this could very well be just me, but after listening to this album, my mood just made me want to pull out her classic recordings, like "Day By Day," or "Love Him." That's my Doris before, now and forever. "My Heart" is just a reminder. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

London Love Call (Book Thoughts: "The Last Letter From Your Lover, " Jojo Moyes

Sometimes you read something, and it just grabs you from page one. I started reading this book when I was in London, because it was set in London. While I was there, I wanted to feel place and connect the book with my surroundings. Truly, a lot of people consider Paris or Venice as most romantic of all the world, but I do believe London can be romantic as well.  "The Last Letter From Your Lover" is a poignant romantic story gloriously set in Londontown. For hopeless romantics like myself, it is like hitting pay dirt. Jennifer Stirling wakes up from a car accident losing a lot of her memory, but she knows she is in love with someone...other than her husband. How we learn her love story is written in a non-linear way, and it's suspenseful, and thrilling. I love how the story, just like real life, takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns. It's an old-fashioned romance, the kind I sometimes think they don't write anymore, and it is written beautifully by Jojo Moyes, with teh words strung like poetry. Lovers correspond through letters, and I envy the time when lovers write to each other. Nowadays, it's email and text, and it's just not the same. Moyes parallels two stories, a grand one from the 1960s, and one from present day. Some things are so different, yet emotions, feelings, and human nature, they do not change. I found myself drawn to the Jennifer Stirling character, so much so I still think about her story, what might have been, what is... When I get back to London, I will look at each street, each park, each monument a little differently after reading book - looking for a scene, a sign, a someone. That's what a good book will do to me. 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Half A Whole Number (Movie Thoughts: What's Your Number)

I have not seen the Summer sleeper hit "Bridesmaid" yet, but a lot of people use that movie as the yardstick for this new trend of raunchy, female-centric R rated comedies. I don't know if I will care much for it, based on my dislike on that side of "What's Your Number," which a lot of people say takes from that movie, and that trend.  Allie Darling, the main character in this movie played by Anna Farris, reads an article in Marie Claire Magazine saying women who have slept with more than twenty men have lesser chance of finding a husband. That's the premise of the movie, which is like the blind leading the blind. I am not going to lie- that first part of the movie was torture for me. The concept is just so numbingly dumb, I was asking myself what the hell I was doing watching the movie. Even the eye candy sight of Chris Evans (and he spends a good part of the movie looking good shirtless) couldn't keep me interested in this. But then towards the last eighth of the movie, it rallied for me, and while I am normally not a fan of weddings (and weddings in movies) I found myself verklempt by the wedding scenes in here. I guess, in my heart of hearts, I am still that hopeless romantic. I can't say I connected much with the Faris character, and I thought Evans was particularly one-dimensional in here, like he was lost in the wrong movie. I never believed them. And I felt sad for Blythe Danner, caught once  again in a shallow character in a bad movie. Even though the finale of the movie worked for me, I was lost by then. Perhaps this movie would be a good rental, but I cannot really recommend it.