Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Experience Of Angela

After all these years, I still love listening to Angela Bofill. Ms. Bofill hit it big in 1978, signed to Clive Davis' Arista records where she introduced the "smooth soul" sound. But in the span of her musical career, one cannot pigeonhole her music in just one genre - she also gave wondeful R & B, Jazz, and Afro-Cuban music. Part Cuban and part Puerto Rican, she was one of my favorite singers growing up, and to this day, not a lot touch me musically as deeply as she does. Her album, "Experience" is meant to celebrate her artistry, it's a companion peace to her 2010 show where she came back on stage after suffering two strokes in 2006 and 2007. It's a great collection, with a mix of her hits, like "Break It To Me Gently," and Under The Moon And Over The Sky" to lesser known gems like the wonderful "You Can't Hurt Me Anymore," and "Love In Slow Motion," an underrated jewel from her last studio album from 2006 of the same title. Jazz and R & B purists hold her to high esteem, and she has a cult following that is very vocal. I love the whole album, a treat from beginning to end, and you even get a glimpse of how electric she is singing live, on "Follow Your Road," which is from a  small club date from 2004. And anything with her "You Should Know By Now" is magic by itself.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blu Velvet - 2

I really don't do well with sports movies because I am not a sports fan. I don't follow them, barely understand them, and they don't interest me. I am just not into them, simply put. But I wanted to see Brad Pitt's performance in "Moneyball" since he has been lauded in the role. He is handsome in this movie, and there is still that sparkle in his eyes that will melt your heart. I wish I could say that I loved the movie, but again, I go back to the fact that the subject matter did not really interest me. It took me a while to keep up with the plot, and when I did, I was like, "Meh." And while Jonah Hill was competent, I do not get the high accolades he is getting, and can think of other actors more deserving of his Supporting Actor nomination from the Academy. And I spent a lot of time thinking where I have seen the young actress playing Pitt's daughter here, then I realized she is also Jon hamm's daughter in "Mad Men." That was the extent of my attention span for this movie. 

Joseph Gordon Leavitt is so good in 50/50 that I am sad for him that he wasn't recognized by The Academy. And "50/50" is a different kind of cancer movie, which is more bittersweet than bitter. I think this is because of the sparkly writing, and the great chemistry between Leavitt and Seth Rogan, who plays his best friend in this movie. (If The Academy wanted to give a Supporting nod to a sidekick role, they should have given it to Rogan instead of Jonah Hill)  Still, as "uplifting" as this movie is, it is still kind of depressing - cancer and all. And Anna Kendrick - she seems to be playing the same roles with each of her movies. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wrong Parks-ing

Tell me the truth. Did Adele Parks really write "Happy Families," because it sure doesn't seem like her other novels. I have not read everything she has written, but the ones I have read always had sophisticated characters and here the protagonist is a ... suburban housewife. You can sense that she is out of her elements because the characters all seem bland: cardboards, plastic. And, dare I say it, dumb. There is a "misunderstanding" plot point that is too stupid to be believed, and the feel-good happy ever after rang false. I really don't mind predictable, if it is a sweet journey getting there, but this is just too sweet in the wrong sense of the word. 

BC- 8

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Does Joan Know Best?

I love Joan Rivers. I have been a fan of hers for as long as I can remember, and I remember watching her on The Tonight Show when she used to sub for Johnny Carson every Monday. I even followed her when she herself had her own late night talk show on Fox, and somewhere in my boxes I have a VHS tape of her first night hosting that show. However, I never saw the first season of her reality show, "Joan Knows Best" when it premiered early this year (I think I was in the middle of moving) so when Season 2 started last night, I made a point of DVRing it (Wow. I cannot believe I just used DVR as a verb) and i just saw it and I have thoughts about it. Thoughts! First of all I don't think this is a reality show at all, but I would classify it more as a sitcom. Huge parts of it are obviously scripted, and it's well done in that regards. Joan is great as a doting grandmother, and it is a full three dimensional character, and we see all sides of her. On one hand, she is a sweet grandmother, and even takes her grandson's friend under her wings, as he is an aspiring stand up comedian. It is nice to see Joan be a mentor for someone, as it gives her a human side. Yet there is the "annoying" Joan, too. This is a woman who wants to get her 734th plastic surgery (I wonder if that was a joke, but I have read that it wasn't) and I don't think she is coming off as sympathetic because it is obviously a play of addiction for her. The show, as an hour of entertainment, can be a bit much, and I wonder if it wold be more suited for half an hour. Melissa is loathsome - she comes off to me as humorless and condescending. I have pressed the "Season Pass" on my DVR and I still wonder if I would tune in next week. 

Down To Earth

No no no, my nose is not deceiving me. I am not wearing Thierry Mugler Angel, I am wearing  Laurence Dumont Les Senteurs Gourmandes VANILLE CHOCOLAT,  and I really do like it a lot. It's a cheap thrill - it's a little more than twenty bucks for 100 ml - and if you think Angel is a bit too loud and bombastic for you, then this is a good alternative. The chocolate note is front and center, but it is not overly sweet - there's a coco vibe that is kind of earthy and dirty. As a matter of fact, the vanilla is almost non-existent for me, because it is pretty linear and it goes straight to that patchouli chocolate right away. It's not the most original thing in the world, but I think it's better than those too-common fruity floral pink pepper concoctions that are a dime a dozen nowadays. And during the wintertime, it's comforting enough to envelope you. I am a lot less of a gourmand fan nowadays when it comes to perfume, but I will wear this one easily. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back To The Bushless

Everyone I know, and whose taste I trust, has been raving about "Remembrance Of Things I Forgot," Bob Smith's novel. So I was super excited to start reading it. The premise was interesting enough: a Middle-aged gay man travels back to 1986 and tries to change history. His main goal was to stop George W Bush from becoming president, because his boyfriend of the future becomes a Log Cabin Republican, and it has strained their relationship. Hilarious enough, and the novel starts out very well, presenting a narrator who is witty and erudite. And then he travels back in time, and then...I start to lose interest in the novel. I try very hard to "understand" and "sympathize" but I found the narrator too shallow and maybe I was looking - and expecting - a different kind of novel than the one I was reading. I know that if I had travel back in time I would visit my old life quite differently than what he did. For example, he talks about friends who have died from AIDS but he never contacts them. Then he tries to interact with the younger version of himself, and even tries to cruise that person, which I thought was over all very creepy. And I just didn't understand the energy spent in dealing with Cheney and Bush then, when I would have gone to places I have missed and people I have lost. I guess I was looking at things in a more romanticized angle, and this book leaned more in the whimsical, science fiction kind of story. Smith writes well, and there were several jokes and one-liners that landed, but all in all, I was just not into the book. I wanted to love it but just barely liked it. And I kind of hate myself for that. 


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Moments Of Bittersweet Alohas

Maybe it's the traveler in me, but he first thought I had after seeing "The Descendants" was how beautiful Hawaii was, and I need to rectify the fact that I have not been there in almost 32 years, and truly, I don't even remember much from my very brief visit there.  The place is such a prominent presence in the film that you could consider it as George Clooney's co-star. And this is definitely Clooney's movie - he is on almost every frame of it, and he carries its emotional core. He has been lauded for his performance here, and has won awards for it, including the Golden Globe, and I would have to agree it is a great performance all in all. But, I must say, that it took me a while to warm up to his performance. There was something about it that rang untrue in the beginning, and I just couldn't believe it. Actually, I didn't like most of the characters in the movie, including his children. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but on the day that they unplug their mother's life support machine, the whole family goes to the beach. Maybe it's just me, but in a situation like that, i would not leave my mother's side. Yes, I know that the trip is  a pivotal plot point for something else, but that is just one of the reasons why the character weren't endearing. I had loved Alexander Payne's previous movies, like "Sideways," and "Election," so maybe it's a personal taste thing that is making me just liking this film instead of loving it. It's just a little too much of "rich white people" problems which may be a reaction as I look around and see the current economic climate. I wanna go to Hawaii....

Romantic Guitar

I guess I am still on my "instrumentals" kick because, on a Saturday night, I found myself listening to Kenny Burrell's "Tenderly." This is just-released live album, from two intimate shows in California last year. It's a retrospective show, and there are spoken introductions on some of the numbers. And what a great crowd, they do not start clapping until he has played the very last note, so you can sense the energy of the whole night. He gives the impression that the song selections are random, going where the crowd takes him, and it's exhilaratingly good. I love his "Ellingtonia Medley," where he says he will start out with "Azure," and "I don't know where I will end."(He ends with "Come Sunday.) He reminisces playing in the studio with Lady Day, and her tribute to her with a trio of songs: "No More," "Don't Explain," and "But Beautiful." And the romantic, melancholy arrangements of "Why Did I Choose You," "My Foolish Heart," and "Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" are just that and achingly so. Imagine yourself in a smoky jazz club in the Village, with a glass of Scotch, watching a guitar master in action, because that's what this record feels like, a moment caught in time, so quintessentially something that can no longer be replicated. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Royal We

Coming-Of-Age stories always interest me. Perhaps because in everything I read, I always try to find a lesson learned, may it be a life lesson, an information learned, sometimes even a food recipe, or a food or music reference. Justin Torres' "We The Animals" made me reflect a lot. It is a story of a dysfunctional family that could either be yours or mine, but not really. It is Mr. Torres' first novel, and as first novelists tend to do, the writing is very stylized. Here the story is initially told in third person plural, with the "we" being three boys of mixed heritage. Their father is Puerto Rican, their mother is white, and their father beats their mother. He disappears, has affairs, comes back, and she takes him back. She tries to escape, she tries to take her kids away, she eventually comes back. I was lost in their world instantly, and up to a certain point I was wondering why this book was filed under "gay fiction"on Amazon. The last third of the book switches narrators, it now becomes the youngest kid, but the tone of the novel stays the same. I kind of wish the latter part was more explored, since I thought it was just as interesting. I know some people have written the abrupt change threw them off, but I kind of knew it was there all along. Maybe nothing surprises me anymore. This is the kind of book I liked a lot, but I don't know if I can bear to read again. 


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kai Kai

In drag queen lingo, "kai-kai" means a love affair between two drag queens, and as much as I celebrate love in all its forms and colors, I have yet to feel comfortable about that pairing - and yes, I freely admit it is a personal prejudice. (And I am working on getting rid of that prejudice)  Maybe that was the reason why it took me a long time to sample Kai, the scent which was developed by Gaye Straza Rappaport, who owns an ultra chic Malibu boutique. Kai has been favored by a long list of cleberities: Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Naomi Watts, Nicole KidmanReese Witherspoon, Debra Messing, Miley Cyrus, Tommy Lee are just a couple of names who are fans of this. Apparently, the scent was created to capture the scent of a Hawaiian vacation. the notes: a bunch of white flowers, but essentially, it's a gardenia scent. Well, I love it. I wore it on a cold-ish winter day and maybe because I have that Hawaiian Tropical vision in my head, but I did feel like I was transformed at some cottage by a beach. The last time I was in Hawaii was 31 years ago, and I don't remember much, so this is making me crave a Hawaiian vacation (One of these days...) Now this is making me want to try other Gardenia perfumes. Kai is light and musky, and is pretty uncomplicated. It is also linear. If you are looking for depth in your perfume, this won't satisfy you. But it is fun and easy to wear, akin to watching a cute romantic comedy, or reading a chick lit novel. We need that once in a while...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Telling Tales

Finally, a jewel from the ruins. I got "Tales From My Hard Drive" free from Amazon  a while back, and the other day I just chose it randomly to read. I wanted something light and mindless. And truth be told, I didn't have high hopes for it because my experience with free Kindle books hasn't been the best. And it did start out kind of  cliche-ish. A woman catches her husband cheating and moves cross country to start a new life. Blah blah, I've seen this before. I was ready to walk the familiar.  Then she gets prodded to do internet dating, a concept that is new to this 40+ year old woman. (Yay for the 40-somethings, by the way) I thought this was going to be just a novel with a cavalcade of internet horror dating scenes - and it is -  but I found it was much more than that. Megan Karasch is an effective writer, first of all. She has funny tales in there, but underneath it all she has a flair for "the sensitive." There are wry observations of life and love that got me thinking, interspersed with situational comedy. You find yourself laughing and then realize there was much more to it, and you find yourself being touched. And the cartoonish chick-lit cover is a too pandering choice for this much more adult story, but I guess they have to try to sell some copies through that. This was an unexpectedly good (and free!) read. 


Book Review: Tales From My Hard Drive, Meg Karasch

Smash Into Us

"Smash" is smashing. While some people have compared it to "Glee," this show is more adult, more promising, and more Broadway-centric. Written by Theresa Rybeck and directed by John Mayer (both represented on Broadway right now by "Seminar," and "On A Clear Day" respectively) the creators of this series clearly love The Great White Way, and it shows. The concept of the series is that for every season, the audience gets to how a show on Broadway gets created, from the artistic side to the commercial side, including casting, staging, and promoting it. Debra Messing and Christian Borle play the creative team, and Anjelica Houston plays the producer, and for the first year, they are mounting a show based on Marilyn Monroe - "Marilyn, The Musical," as it were. Marc Shaiman does the original music, and the songs range from good to great, but maybe that is part of the process. Things go fast on the pilot, and by the end of the episode we get a director is brilliant but may be difficult to work with, and they have a big decision to make - whether to give the role of Marilyn to a brilliant neophyte (Katherine McPhee) or the Broadway veteran (Megan Hilty) Characters aren't fully fleshed out yet so we cannot determine who the heros and heroines yet (and who the villains are) but it sure looks like the audience will have a ball finding out. I am excited for the series, and I thought the acting is universally great. I love Debra Messing, and even in the little she was given to do in the pilot, Anjelica Houston commands presence. And Katherine McPhee is a revelation. I have always had a soft spot for her as a singer, and she has only gotten better, and as an actress, she may well surprise everyone. I cannot wait till this airs weekly, and I hope it smashes into people's livings rooms. Thank you, NBC for bringing a little slice of Broadway to network television.  

Television Review: "Smash" NBC

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Magnificent Silence

I have go to admit, even I was skeptical about the whole concept of "The Artist." A silent movie in this day and age? I thought to myself, will I even understand the plot? But seconds into the movie, I even forgot that it was silent, because it was not *completely* silent of course, there was the grand score of Ludovic Bource, who borrows a lot from Bernard Hermann's score of Vertigo. The score perfectly envelopes each scene, and the effect is that it is that your senses are more highlighted. The whole movie is a celebration of classic filmmaking, and you feel the love. Jean Dujardin (who is much deserving of his Golden Globe from last evening) shines as George Valentin, a silent film superstar who refuses to cross-over  to talkies. He and Berenice Bejo, as Peppy Miller, "meet cute." She is a fan of his, she gets pushed in a mob while asking for an autograph. There is  bit of both "A Star Is Born" and "Sunset Boulevard" in the plot, and of course "Singing In The Rain." I even sense a lot of "French" in it, it's unique and kinda weird in the most vivacious way. The film doesn't take it's being a silent film too seriously, there is a wink in there, and the audience is in on all the jokes. It is old-fashioned without seeing dated, as a matter of fact somethign about it feels very contemporary, and as I had stateds, it has such infectious joy that it makes me want to take tap-dance lessons. The characters are quite memorable that they stay with you. As I was watching Berenice Bejo on the E! Red Carpet being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest, I even almost thought that he was interviewing Peppy Miller! "The Artost" is my favorite movie of 2011, and in my opinion, lacks the heavy hand of "the Tree OF Life," the other front-runner. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lyrical Goodbye

After a day that was kind of busy, I wanted to listen to something that would soothe me, so I put on Dominick Farinacci's "Dawn Of Goodbye," expecting a smooth and soothing record featuring trumpet interpretations of the Great American Standards. I had not heard of Mr. Farinacci at all, but someone recommended his record to me, so I checked it out and was glad to discover him. He is young, 28 years old, but plays like an old pro. I am more a jazz vocal person enthusiast so I like instrumentalists who have lyrical takes on how they play. For example, one of my favorite pianists is Bill Charlap, who when he plays the piano sounds like a singer interpreting lyrics. I am not going to lie and say that Mr. Farinacci is on the same level, but he has a good start. One listen to his "I Concentrate On You" and you can tell that he has a lot of respect for Cole Porter's lyrics. And on "Lover Man," you can sense the sensitivity in his arrangements. He got a little too frenetic for me on "It's Alright With Me," and perhaps I need to listen more to his originals ("Dom's Blues") to fully grasp them. Right now it's close to midnight, and his "Willow Weep For Me" is playing, and I close my eyes and am imagining myself in a smoky boite. Another round of scotch on the rocks, please.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Joyful Joyful I Adore Thee

Diva Catfights and Gospel Music, do they go hand in hand? In "Joyful Noise," they do, and the musical is a lot of fun. If I put my cranky critic curmudgeon cap on, I could find a whole lot of things wrong with the film. The whole story is kind of stale (the let's-put-on-the-show routine is as old as Judy and Mickey) and the plot is too predictable.  But let's not dwell on those, for this Glee- goes Gospel movie is a lot of fun. Queen Latifah (who also executive produces this film) lights up the screen whenever she is on, and add Dolly Parton's bling and you have got a rousing movie musical that is rarely seen nowadays. Technically, maybe this shouldn't be called a movie musical, since it's more a fim with songs as the songs do not forward the plot, but the musical numbers are all entertaining and energetic that the afternoon crowd I saw it with started clapping in beat with the songs. Clearly, director Todd Graff knows how to please the crowd.  When Queen L and Dolly P square off, the jokes may be middling, but these gals sell 'em lik ethere's no tomorrow, and you just cannot help but laugh. I could watch these two bicker and banter for hours. Graff devotes equal time to he love story between Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan. I praised Mr. Jordan when I saw him on Broadway on "Bonnie and Clyde" and he is just as good here, proving he is a legitimate triple threat, and he has great screen presence to boot. The film may seem overly long because of the musical numbers, but it's all worth it, especially the finale. And the songs are great. Sure there seems to be karaoke renditions on some of them ("Man In The Mirror," for once) but both Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton get solo dramatic musical arias: Ms. Latifah's soulful "Fix Me Jesus," and Ms. Parton's self-penned "To The Moon And Back," which made me cry. I actually would love the soundtrack to this film, especially the songs Parton wrote. In the end, I was grinning from ear to ear as I exited the theater, and I thought this movie fitting to be seen on the weekend celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King. Joyful, joyful, I adored it!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Faith In A Box

Spirituality and Sexuality - can they coexist? Fundamentally, that's how Alex Sanchez' "The God Box" started and it seemed like a pretty interesting premise, and though the beginning seemed a little preachy, I understood why it had to be there, to lay the foundation for the story. Paul was happy and content living a Christian-filled High School life - he even has a girlfriend, Angie, whom he feels so comfortable with. But then one day Manuel comes along, and from the first moment he sees him, something is awakened in him. He realizes he needs to reconcile his feelings with his faith. Can it be done? He goes to his trusty God Box - a small box where he writes his prayers and intentions, and asks for enlightenment.  He even makes an appointment with a chaplain, who promptly sends him to be a minister who runs an ex-gay program. But love is stronger than faith, and he finds himself falling for Manuel. I liked the book a lot - there's a lot to take from it, and I even felt like I was learning new things about how to interpret Scriptures, whether I liked it or not. However, the book seemed to be preaching to the choir, pun intended. I am not going to knock this because this book can help someone out there who may be struggling with their faith. Having said that, though, I kind of detested the turns the book made towards the end of the story, wherein the gay characters were turned into victims once again, wringing the melodrama for cheap tears. Well, they were cheap tears for me, anyway. It seemed like a little bit of a cop-out for a story that started out intelligently. I must say that the book was a page-turner once I got into it - I was so into it I was reading well into the night. I am probably one of the few people in the world who has not read Alex Sanchez's Rainbow series, but that's in my TBR pile. 


The Rose And The Musk

One of my favorite fragrance houses is Maitre Parfumeur de Gantier, because they are so ... French. I think most of their scents are, for lack of a better description, so opulent. I always feel good and regal when I wear them, and I don't know exactly how that means, or if I even make sense. When I wrote about a rose scent a couple of days ago, I realized I hadn't worn Rose Muskissime in a while, so I went and digged it up. I still love it, and I know this scent could be a little bit of a tough sell, because the rose here is framed around musk. It's not a dirty, peppery rose, but more a musky fruity one. I have even seen this scent described as smelling like a dirty sock, and that it is not entirely untrue, but only if you are saying a glass is half-empty. Rose Muskissime is described as a fruity-floral, and it is, but in a good way. No pink pepper here, but some tropical flowers mixed with the rose, which, curiously, really never takes center stage. There are some fruits there, and they share the spotlight, but the musk comes in, and it's a doozy. I am sure there are some oakmoss in there, which makes it earthy. However, the whole thing doesn't really get "dark," like the stewed fruits of Serge Lutens. The musk takes on a powdery direction, and with the fruits and flowers, the drydown has everything still in full bloom, making it sensual, sexy, and sinful... and still very unique.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Paul's Kisses

So I have never been a big Beatles fan, though I certainly respect them and their huge contribution to pop music. (Weird, but I like Beatles songs better when sung by other people) When I heard that Paul McCartney was going to do a "jazz" album singing songs from The Great American Songbook, I was kind of glad, if only because it will bring the standards more attention. Plus when I heard that it was going to be produced and arranged by Diana Krall and her band, I was doubly glad, because she did such a great job when she worked with Streisand.  Well, the arrangements are glorious, and the production (by Tommy LiPuma) are top notch and you can tell these songs are close to McCartney's heart, since he has been quoted as saying these are the first songs he learned, as his father was a great big fan of these songs. But, and this is a big but, it just didn't appeal to me. It was nice and very very pleasant, but I felt like the idea has already been covered with great success by one of his contemporaries, Rod Stewart, and I feel like he was just following suit. I know my opinion will be unpopular, as McCartney has millions of fans who will lap up everything he will serve, but, for me, anyway, these songs have been sung better by other people, and I didn't hear anything new or interesting in his interpretations. I forgot his versions seconds after I heard them. Yes, there was Irving Berlin's "Always," but I found myself dreaming of other versions while he was singing them. Maybe it's the straightforward reading he gives them that doesn't do it for me. Superstar guests like Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton drop by to liven proceedings but all they did was just provide some distraction to the big elephant in the room. Paul McCartney fans - we will all just have to agree to disagree about "Kisses On The Bottom." I'll stick to my old jazz vocal albums, you can all have Paul. 

Winter White

I had read a lot of glowing reviews for Jennifer Closes's "Girls In White Dresses" so I was looking forward to reading it. I liked its format - it's not really a novel, but a series of short stories, somewhat inter-related because they are about a group of friends. And I love the quirkiness of the characters and the situations they get into - a young lady only dates "ugly" guys, a young woman finds out her old friend is dating her ex in college, another one goes on a horrid ski trip with her boyfriend - and separately they are really quite well-written pieces. But taken together as a whole, they do not form any kind of arc, and you felt like you were going nowhere with the stories. There were numerous times when I couldn't distinguish one character after another, and I thought it was my attention span, so I was kind of relieved to find on Amazon that other readers were having the same problem. The weird thing was, as good as some of these stories were, almost always I wanted to take a break from it. Most books, if interesting, have me wanting to not stop reading, while this one was the opposite. Maybe because I really did not like the characters: they were petty and catty towards each other and maybe I can charge all of that to the fact they are young, and with age you do know better. I kind of thought this book was a lot more adult, too, than the cover suggests, but its target audience may be younger. I did like that the title came from "My Favorite Things."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We Need To Talk, Tilda.

Oh God, how I love Tilda Swinton. I love everything about her. I even love her perfume. I don't think I have ever seen her give a bad performance, and she gives an unforgettable one in "We Need To Talk About Kevin." But I really loathe this movie, a pretentious piece of crap that literally made me angry while watching it. I guess I am giving it too much energy by letting it anger me so much, but I thought it was needlessly violent, and the psycho babble really turned me off early into the movie, and I never recovered from it. And as much as I respected Swinton's performance here, I despised her character. I despised it for being stupid, for letting her terror of a son control her, for letting her dickless husband be...dickless.  The director, Lynne Ramsay, reminds me of a hipster who is trying in vain to make everything look weird, and artistic, that it really drew my patience. Most scenes, I thought, were unwatchable, and even the idea of film seems familiar (I preferred it when it was called "Beautiful Boy" starring Michael Sheen) I despise horror movies, and this was one, and it tried to tempt me by making it seem like its dramatic, but horror is horror. I love you, Tilda, but sorry, I can't recommend your movie. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Minty Fresh Rose

Since I wrote about Prada Candy last week, I have been in a Prada scent kind of mood. So today, I wore Prada Infusion De Rose, and I remembered how much I love it.  Maybe it's the colder weather that did it, but today the mint was much more pronounced, and combined with the ephemeral rose note here, it created something so uncommon, and just starkly beautiful. It's a rose scent, but it smelled much more modern. The rose part of it stayed much close to the skin, and I found myself sniffing my arms just to get the "jammy" part of the rose scent. However, the mint (and the hint of oolong tea) permeated throughout the day, providing what I can only describe as halo-like. You can feel and sense it's presence, but it never overwhelms, it doesn't call attention to itself, and is quite subtle all in all. That really describes everything in the Prada Infusion series for me, and I love every single one of them. This rose one is limited edition only, and I fear will probably be very elusive to find now, so I will cherish it. I also sense this will be a more winter scent for me, as when I lat wore it in warmer weather, the effect was like a more subdued rosewater mint thing. The honey/beeswax note gets more subdued in the colder temperature. I am a big fan of rose scents - the big bold ones (like YSL Paris) even the screechy ones (Tea Rose) and the sophisticated versions too, of course (Frederic Malle's Lipstick Rose) Infusion De Rose, to me, is the most transparent one, and it will always have a spot in my wardrobe.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Looking For A New Love

For the first days of the New Year, I wanted to read something "thematic" so I found "New Year, "New Love," a simple fun-to-read story that is mindless and light.  The story starts when a divorced woman spends New Year's Eve alone much to the horror of her best friend, and her two teenage daughters. So, the daughters concoct a plan to set her up with anyone they could think of so she wouldn't spend the next New Year's Eve alone. Around the same time, a similarly divorced contractor starts working on their basement, and I don't think I need to expound more on the story as you could more or less tell where it is headed.  First of all, what is wrong with spending NYE alone? Some people (i.e. myself!) prefer to be just relaxing instead of going somewhere crowded. Second of all, the author's name is Sherry Lewis and all I could think of was Lamb Chops! The book isn't too bad, though the last quarter of it seemed unnecessary, and most times it couldn't make up its mind if it was a drama or comedy, and the sitcom set up wasn't too utilized. 

2012 - 2

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Heading For A Moonlight Swim

The first thing I thought of after I finished listening to Sophie Milman's album "In The Moonlight" was how I loved the song "Moonlight" was so I did a little research on it, and realized (and remembered) that the song was done by The Bergmans for the 90s remake of "Sabrina." And then I thought about how it was a wasted opportunity for Streisand to not have recorded it for her recent Bergman tribute album. So I went back and played Milman's version again, and fell in love with the song, and the track more. I think I have all of Milman's album now, and love them all. This new album, from late last year, is her slickest album to date. Jazz purists may scoff at that thought, but I think it's a step in the right direction. This is a more commercial effort for her, for sure, but I don't think she skimped on any of the artistry as well. My favorite track - a bluesy, flamenco lilt on "Till There Was You," a song that always touches me. I love her wordless vocal play in the beginning, it didn't feel forced or show-offy. Milman has a husky mahogany hued instrument that I love, and there is just that hairline bit of (Russian? Canadian?) accent that makes it personal and distinctive. For some reason, her "Do It Again" always gets chosen by my player randomly and I think I know her version by heart now. That's not a bad thing. And I totally dig that she sings "So Sorry" originally sung by Leslie Feist, so you know she still has her finger in the pulse of what is current, and is not close-minded when it comes to music. Well, she is still in her twenties after all and has her full musical journey ahead of her. I hope to be able to see her musical evolution.

Blu Velvets - 1

Some flicks I have been catching up recently on Blu-Ray.

1.  "The Art Of Getting By"  is a cute coming-of-age mixed with a bittersweet first love type of movie. It's been done a million times, so there is nothing too original here that makes it stand out. Unfocused boy falls in love with a girl who is much more experienced than he is in life and love - you know what happens next. I wish it was less predictable than it was, and I totally did not agree with the happily-ever-after ending, because  you end up asking, what are the lessons learned here? But then again,   should all life experience have a lesson? Perhaps not, or maybe I am just overanalyzing this film that really does not aim for much. 

2.  Sarah Jessica Parker still cannot escape the ghost of Carrie Bradshaw and that was all I kept thinking about when I was watching "I Don't Know How She Does It," or as I call this film: Bradshaw Does Wall Street. I remember when the book was a monstrous hit, but I never did have a chance to read it, though I still have it now on my Kindle. The film is a bore, and a bit unfocused, and her character, Kate, comes out as one of those entitled bitches I used to work with and despised. Sadly, SJP couldn't make it more likeable, and really, she really should portray characters outside of her comfort zone. And I remember the book was set in London, but they moved the location to Boston, only for most of the movie to be shot in New York City. And that kind of bothered me. Nothing else in the movie worked for me, and the ending kind of defeated the whole feminist slant of the book, not to mention the movie. 

3.  I was very angry after watching "The Green," a film I had been waiting to see since it was featured in the New York Gay and Lesbian Film Festival this year. I was angry because the story and the characters infuriated me. A teacher gets accused of sexually molesting one of his students. Simple enough,right? But the warnings were all there, and any one with any kind of common sense would not have been caught in the situation that the main character of the movie got himself into. Plus, the promising premise had a resolution that was kind of trite. And Cheyenne Jackson was wasted in the movie. So I think, do I laud the movie for getting a rise out of me? Or should I just file this movie with all the other things that annoy me in life, right The Kardashians and lumpy oatmeal?

4.  I was looking forward to seeing "One Day" when it came out over the Summer, but it's opening weekend coincided with our Baltic Holiday, so I missed it. When I got back, it was already gone. I loved the book, and hoped that the translation to film would be successful. It wasn't. The "gimmick" of the book - taking a day yearly in the lives of two people over a period of 20+ years - didn't quite work in the screenplay. Perhaps if the movie was written in direct narrative, it would have been better. But all was not lost, though. There is an electric chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess that you root for them to get together, and let's face it, you know they were going to be together, and if you read the book, you know that getting together isn't the point of the story. I kind of concur that Anne Hathaway, in theory, did not fit her role. Her character was supposed to be plainer, but more intelligent, and smarter, and funnier. Sturgess' character relied on his looks, and Sturgess fit that role to a T. I mean, he is one handsome bloke. Both actors work hard, and they mostly succeed when not bogged down by the script. And the story is still heartbreaking, and found myself crying at the end. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

So Sweet Like Candy, But Not Really

I was expecting something so so different from Prada Candy . I mean just look at it, look at the box, look at how it's marketed, look at the bottle, which looks like a distant cousin of something from Marc Jacobs' Daisy line. I guess Prada is trying to get a younger demographic by marketing this scent as such. However, this scent isn't what it looks like. It's not your typical sugary-sweet fruity floral. No pink pepper! What it does have that is sweet is caramel, and it opens with a big burst of it. But quickly, it tames down, due to an abundance of benzoin. You are never drowned int he sweetness, and perfumer Daniela Andrier treats it like one of her "Infusion" series scents - it is tempered, it is dried down to a sophisticated sweetness, and it is very subtle, and it is beautiful. I remember I was at the duty-free shop at London Heathrow when I tested this, and my heart went a-flutter. I told myself, I had to have this, and immediately grabbed a bottle (It didn't hurt that the price point was almost guilt-free over there at Duty-Free) The middle notes, to me, have almost none of the sweetness, dissolving to a more dry brown sugar with hints of vanilla, and enveloped with musk. This one blends with any of the Prada scents, they could call it "Infusion de Caramel" and it wouldn't be out of place with the rest of the line. I do hate the bottle, though, I hate that half-cylindrical top thing that turns around when you press down. More often than not, the first spray tends to get lopsided. But I read that this is a success, though, and that's almost always never happens to something I like. This is one of my top favorites from 2011. scent-wise. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Prepare Ye

The current production of "Godspell" at The Circle has been much maligned. It got mostly bad review from the critics that I felt sorry for it, and was expecting much when I saw it. I almost skipped it, actually. I am not the biggest fan of its score, which I still feel is dated save for some songs. And it is much too earnest, and kind of preachy and those are two things that are low on my list of favorite things. And, I still feel that way after seeing this production. And there were tons of cringe-worthy moments, starting from the cell phone entrance, the "join the cast on stage" gimmick, and the corny jokes they inserted just to make the material more topical. I can't say that I really enjoyed it but I have to say something for it, though: it has one of the best singing cast on Broadway right now, a literally who's who of the stars of tomorrow. There isn't a bad egg in the cast, starting with Hunter Parrish (who has an electric stage presence, and a sweet sweet voice) and Terry Leung (I kind of wanted to ask him - you left 'Glee' for this?) to Lindsay Mendez and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (she needs to shorten that name) As a matter of fact, it was sort of a delight to see all these kids having a good time, and you know they are having the time of their lives, and their energy is infectious - but up to a point. The show is still badly directed, and kind of looks cheap, and nothing in it could make me like the score (a personal thing, but still...) I know the show has rabid fans, and I do wish it well, but once was enough for me. I'll look for the talented cast in their future, better shows. 

P.S. That said, though, I must say I cannot get this song out of my head, and Hunter Parrish sings it so beautifully here. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

She Gets Lonely

I was expecting a comedy before seeing "Young Adult," perhaps because the trailer had funny lines. And, look at the poster of movie with its pastel colors and cutesy dog. But, truly, it is a sad movie about a sad woman who never grew up, and never found happiness, despite the fact that everyone thinks she made it in the big city. Her marriage ended, the series of young adult novels she ghostwrites for is ending, and she spends her days and nights alone in her apartment watching the Kardashians (and that scene is even more pathetic since) So she goes back to her hometown, where she thought she was happiest, and she seeks to get it back. But of course, it's not the same. Charize Theron plays this woman fearlessly, and it is heartbreaking, because you know that inside she is broken, and you see it in her eyes, in how she moves, in how she masks her insecurities behind heavy makeup and hair weaves. Diablo Cody paints this picture - and this character - pretty well that you instantly understand her, and she is put in cringe-worthy situations that a lot of times I felt like looking away from the screen because you want to scream at her and say "No....Don't."  She keeps on bumping into an old classmate of hers that she barely remembers, played by Patton Oswalt, and at surface, he is even more pathetic than she is - an invalid who spends his time recreating action figures - but of course, he turns out to be the rock she holds on to when the going got tough. There is a big reveal in the end that is supposed to be a spoiler, but I not only saw it coming from the beginning, but I detected it from the trailer. I wish I wasn't apathetic about the ending, since I thought Theron's character's nervous breakdown scene was just a little overwrought to be believed. In this imperfect movie though is Theron's performance, and for that it is worth a look. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mid Century Wish

Well, here we go again, and I am glad the ball has started to roll on my new challenge of reading 100 books for 2012. truth be told, I started reading Wally Lamb's "Wishin' And Hopin'" on the last days of 2011 but finished it the next year. I know Wally Lamb's work, having read "She's Come Undone," And "I Know This Much Is True," and think well of his work. Oprah Winfrey is a fan of his, too, having chosen SCD as one of her initial picks for her then book club. I remember that was such a devastating novel. "Wishin' And Hopin'" is a much lighter read, set in the mid century, written in the point of view of young Felix Funnicello, who is a third cousin of Annette. It is written so well, you get inside the mind of a fifth grader, in that cusp of a period between innocence and puberty. It is a sweet sort of story, a snapshot of his fifth grade year, startin with the beginning of the school year at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Elementary School and ending at their Christmas pageant.  The Catholic School experience of his is slightly reminiscent of mine, and I even had pangs of nostalgia as he described reading about St. Gonzaga's life story, which I also had to read during my Elementary years. There were several laugh out loud moment here, and I found myself laughing like a fool in my lonesome while I was reading this. It is the perfect book to start the year with! 


Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Follies To Remember

You wanna get a rise out of a theater queen? Mention "Follies," and you will get a diatribe from any theater lover about it. They love it, they hate it, the original is best, no one can touch it, it's imperfect, it should have been rewritten, no one should be reviving it. You will hear almost everything there is to hear. As for me, as a musical, I admired it more than I loved it. After I saw this latest production at The Marquis Theater, I realized why I had felt this way. I had not been ready for it then, but as I approach (I dare say I am at) middle age, I realized that finally got it. But I didn't just get it - this show touched me more profoundly. I found myself weeping after the curtain fell down, and as I thought about it more, I was still at a loss as to why I reacted that way. I had only seen clips of the original, and saw the Roundabout Production a couple of years back so I will not even attempt to compare/contrast any of the productions. All I know is that when they sang "Too Many Mornings" in this production, there was something about the song, the lyrics that got to me. When Bernadette Peters, as the dowdy housewife Sally (who would have thought?) sings the following lyric with a quiver in her fragile voice, I found myself trembling, excited, fearful. 

How I planned:
What I'd wear tonight and
When should I get here,
How should I find you,
Where I'd stand,
What I'd say in case you didn't remember.
How I'd remind you--
You remembered.
And my fears were wrong!
Was it ever real?
Did I ever love you this much?
Did we ever feel
So happy then?

A lot of people have made comments that they don't like how Ms. Peters interprets her role here, that is, she is literally playing it like she is crazy, thus making her interpretation of "Losing My Mind" literal. But I have to say that of all these years of seeing shows, I have only seen few performance like hers: emotionally raw, like she ripped her heart open right there center stage for everyone to see. I would be devastated if she doesn't win the Tony. But then again, Jan Maxwell gives her a run for her money, as the brittle Phyllis, and she is exquisite as well, and her fierce and forceful "Could I Leave You" is also one for the books. Danny Burstein and Ron Raines are great, too, and above all, this production boasts of Elaine Paige - yes the First Lady Of British Theater - as Carlotta, and she stops the show with "I'm Still Here." I can't remember the last time I felt so many emotions on one night, and I thought to myself, this - this show, this cast, this theater - this is why I go to see theater. It's the best show I have seen in a long time, a night I will never forget. 

Feel Young And Listen

Just last week, Kennedy Center bestowed honours to Barbara Cook for lifetime achievement, and what wonderful way to start 2012 than by listening to her newest album, "You Make Me Feel So Young: Live At Feinstein." I have seen Ms. Cook numerous times, and she is always magnificent live, so a live album from her is always a cause for celebration. Of late, though, her repertoire has gotten just a tad stale. While she sings these songs gloriously, they have been the same songs for a while. On this new show, she has rebooted her line-up, and the result is nothing short of heavenly.  She even says in her patter how she realized she didn't have a lot of Alan Jay Lerner's songs on her, and that she was rectifying that on her show instantly by including three of his songs that night. And they are all wonderful: "I've Grown Accustomed To His Face," "Wait Till You're Sixty Five," and "What Did I Have That I Don't Have." Her voice may not have the texture of the porcelain soprano from her younger years, but it is still robust and full, as clear in the higher registers as her supple lower ones. I certainly love the more pensive version of "What Did I Have," with a light lilt in the rhythm. "Here's To Life" is a song that suits almost all singers as I have yet to hear an uninspired version of it. Though Shirley Horne's moody version will always be definitive, there is a clarity in how Ms. Cook sings it here that's straightforward and honest. Ms. Cook is also one of those abilities to effectively essay the mindless ("Frim Fram Sauce" ) to sophisticated ("I Live Alone And Like It") and make both of them sound with equal weight. And her phrasing, of course, is impeccable. Just listen to how she syncopates the lyrics to "This Can't Be Love" for the song to be both rhythmic and lyric-interpreted. I could go on and on, but just listen and enjoy. The Kennedy Center did not err in honouring her.