Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yemenic Romantic

I love movies that go against the grain, and "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" was just that. It's a romantic comedy, and it's one that doesn't compromise either word. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie wherein I grinned from ear to ear from the first scene. Fueled by low-watt chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, they prove that you don't need unnecessary slapstick and all its accoutrement to show characters falling in love. They are brought together, they resist, and they fall for each other seemingly without any big hoo-ha, but it works just as well. The premise of the story, that of a shiekh trying to bring a fishing river to the desert, may seem far-fetched, but it's a storytelling ploy that works effectively, bringing out effective performances from everyone. Kristin Scott Thomas, playing the Prime Minister's media secretary, chews scenery whenever she is on, but it is in line with teh satirical feel of the movie. I love the dry British humor of the film, moodily directed by Lasse Halstrom, who also directed Chocolat.  At times, this feels more like a BBC telefilm, but it's opened up enough to be cinematic enough for the big screen. Dare I say it, the first feel-great movie of the year!

Into The Woods, Straight To The Heart

"Every Time I Think Of You" is a sweet and tender love story, but the thing that struck me most about it is the fact that it sounds and reads like a love story written by a gay man, one who understands gay man's mind.  Things don't get sentimentalized for the sake of cheap sentiment, and there's an underlying dignity above it all. Jim Provenzano created two characters so likeable you fall in love with them from the first page - or in my case since I read from a Kindle, the first click - and as they grow and fall in love with each other, you love them more.   A freak accident happens, and you are asked if their love will survive. I think the book takes imaginative twists and turns, and even if you get close to losing hope, you never do. One can sense that the author loves the outdoors as it is described so beautifully and vividly, and is almost a major character in the book. (It opens and closes the story)  I was up until one in the morning finishing the book, a clear indication how much I was taken by it. My only quibble: even if the book was set in the ate 70s, some of the dialogue sounds too modern (did people say 'dude' then?) It doesn't distract overall, though. 


Friday, March 30, 2012

Carol, On Miss Lee

I don't know when I started paying attention to Carol Welsman. I remember when I was still actively collecting CDs that she was prolific, but for some reason or another I had thought she was one of those generic voices. But she had an album titled "The Language Of Love" which I loved , and ever since then I have looked at her with a different eye. On the surface, she can be easily misjudged: she is blonde, she is pretty - she sings pretty - but I have come to realize she has depth, and she has great taste in music, and it shows in her craft. She has a 2009 album called "I Like Men - Reflections of Miss Peggy Lee" and I adore it. It caught my attention because I am a big Peggy  Lee fan and after hearing this album, I can tell how La Pegala has influenced Carol. She doesn't really get the light earthy lushness of Miss Peggy Lee, but no one ever will anyway. Carol is more modern, less sleek, but she totally gets the Peggyvibe, and it shows here. I love how she can go from a hard-hitting swinging "Do I Love You" to a tender "Folks Who Live On The Hill." I love the quirky arrangements, like a samba-ish "Just One Of Those Things," or the slow burn of "Johnny Guitar," which almost gets the wistfulness of the original version. Well, Peggy Lee always was the master of wistful, and Ms. Welsman comes close with "Remind Me."  The "Fever" her is just a little bit too weak sauce, but the best track is "I Like Men." She gets Peggy's humor, her sex appeal, and her musicianship. Check it out in this music video below:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Dystopia

It took me two weeks to read Gary Shtenygart's "Super Sad True Love Story," and at times I couldn't figure out why. It is fast-paced, funny, witty. But it is also very depressing. Set in a dystopian society of the future, Shtenygart describes a world we dread, militant and repressed, where American principles no longer exist, where the treasured fields left are Media and Credit. I sometimes didn't know if what I was reading was satire or science fiction - it is so vividly imagined that it could be never, or tomorrow at the same time. And then to use that as a backdrop for a love story that you knew would not just end well underscores the perfect melancholy of the story. But it is never sappy, nor sentimental. These characters are intelligent, never foolish, but make mistakes and all end up in places where you don't want them to be. I cannot say that I *enjoyed* reading this book, but it certainly made me stop, and ponder about the world we live in right now.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Smash Ep 8: Touch Me I'm Falling

So the workshop is over, and everyone is waiting. Ivy is doing cardio at the gym, and Karen is...well, Karen has just been summoned by Derek the Director for a special "secret" project. What is the project, you ask? Well, it's for her to sing a song titled "Touch Me," sort of Marilyn-style, but not really. You know what it is, truthfully? It's the carrier single for the SMASH album that's supposed to be out next week, so this episode is basically to capitalize and promote that. It's a boring episode, and we are back to exposition again. I think that's a big problem with this show - they spend a lot of time setting up storylines but the payoff is so short, or sometimes unrealized.  This episode also (seemingly) ties up two plot points - Michael and Julia get some "closure" (and I must say Debra Messing was excellent at that park scene) and Julia's son's case also got a resolution. And we also get to find out what caused the animosity between Derek and Tom, and it was an emotionally charged (and well-acted) scene, if a bit too trivial (You ask yourself, that was it?) And I refuse to devote a lot of words for Ellis, but I do wonder - he is so cretinous, so that does mean he is an effective villain? Whatevs. The episode closes with Tom telling Ivy that producers have made a decision to go with a name, and she is welcome to go back to the "Heaven On Earth" chorus, which is really not the worst thing. I mean, I am sure that show is better than Memphis!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Falling, Failing

I wanted to love Marisa de los Santos' "Falling Together" so badly.  I have heard so many great things about it, and it is partially set in Cebu, Philippines so in some ways, I am predisposed to have great affinity for it. But, as much that there were a lot of things about it i loved, there were much more in it that I didn't. First, it was so slow-going that it took a lot of effort for me to keep on reading. I wanted, and expected, a big payoff. It did come, towards the last quarter of the book, but for me it came too late. This is one of those introspective novels - and I normally love those - but the style was so ADD that as soon as I would start to relate, focus would shift to another character that I would lose momentum. I wonder if I would have liked it more if it were written in first person? Plus, when Pen & Will started looking for Cat, I missed the point because the Cat character was so unlikeable that I didn't care either way. I must say that Ms. de los Santos has a wonderful way with words. This was written so beautifully, so poetic that if you read the book aloud, it would sound lyrical. I just wish I cared about the characters more, and there was more fluidity in the story. 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Marvelously, The Second Time Around

Nowadays, I very rarely watch anything more than once. Not from lack of interest, but from lack of time. However, I found myself watching "My Week With Marilyn" yesterday, and again, go to engrossed in it. Here is my rave from when I first saw it. It also fascinates me how some movies are so larger than life that it doesn't "translate" well when seen on a smaller screen. I think, on video, is more precious than great. I like it just as much, but I get more objective. I now see gaps in logical story-telling, but I think, this movie is more feelings than facts anyway. Michele Williams' performance still sparkles, but I must agree that on a smaller screen it could be a little too "big." Eddie Redmane maintains his charms, and is even more effective, while Kenneth Branagh is just a caricature in here, and the way he is written doesn't help matters. I couldn't help but compare Marilyn to Whitney Houston. That tortured artist thing seems almost a cliche, but so prevalent. And there's even a bathtub scene that seems a little ironic now. There are so many things I see on video that become a chore to watch. I breezed through this.

Lactose Intolerance

I am trying to use scents that I have been languishing in my cabinet for a while - the ones in the "back row" that I know I have been neglecting, and only because they are in the back. Today I wore Sensuous, by Estee Lauder. I remember getting it when it first came out in 2008. There was huge hype in the perfume community and everyone and their mother was raving about it because for a house like Lauder it seemed "revolutionary" to release a "woody" fragrance. I also remember realizing that I did not own a single Estee Lauder fragrance. Growing up, I remember "stealing" spritzes from my mom's bottles of Estee and Aliage, and I wish I still had original bottles of those, for the reformulations now are so watered-down that I barely recognize them. Sensuous is woody alright, and I remember loving it at first spray. So warm, so vanilla that is not gourmand vanilla, and I thought so well blended that you really never know what you are smelling, only that it was good. But then it turns so sweet, like sugar sweet. On my skin it turns to like creme brulee. I don't know how to explain it but after awhile, it smells like milk on me. And my stomach starts to churn a little bit. You see, I do not like the smell of milk, it makes me want to throw up. It is also the main reason why I do not drink it. At all.  I now remember why I rarely wear Sensuous.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I Dream Of Melancholy

It's a Friday night, and as usual, I am home and relaxing. I was feeling a little melancholy this evening and felt that I somehow needed to indulge in it. Cue in: Michael Feinstein's 2011 album "We Dreamed These Days." I've been meaning to write about this album, for it is one of the most romantic albums I have heard of late. I figured, since I don't have romance by my side, I can put romantic music on and feel like it's the same thing. Ultimately, it's not, but this album is great in making you feel like you are in love: it's lush, it's sappy, it's mushy. On a cold cloudy night like tonight, it's the perfect musical score. Backed by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (of Carmel, Indiana) the arrangements of these classic songs are so beautiful that Mr. Feinstein just goes along with them, without any of the excesses he has been displaying lately. Here, he lets the songs speak for themselves. My favorites: a pleading "As Long As She Needs me," with a lyrical trumpet backing that invokes a smoky jazzy rendition. Imagine yourself in a slow dance with the one you love, with just a spotlight to lead. It's swoon-worthy. And why do I never tire of listening to "How Do You Keep The Music Playing," a song that plays better sung as a solo, in my opinion. The urgency of trying to salvage love never loses its appeal. And the couplet of "When I Fall In Love/My Foolish Heart" stings so bad - you just give in to that notion that when the heart speaks, you just listen. And even on pop-ized songs like "I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love," the heartbreak doesn't dissipate. Yes, this is a collection of mostly melancholy, but sometimes you really do need to indulge. On such a night like this, is perfection.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Love Smells

Ever since I got a Kindle, I have been reading more. In fact, it pushed me and challenged me to read more since I found it so convenient for reading.  However, I still had a physical pile of to-be-read books, and I told myself to go through them one at a time. Carole Matthews' "The Scent Of Scandal" was one of the physical books on the pile, and I confess, it was a little bit weird to be reading physical pages again. This book is an easy read, and that helps. It didn't really inspire me, though. It gave me a great flavour of a small English countryside town, but the story was predictable. I don't even mind predictable, really, as long as there's something about it that sticks out or makes it fun and interesting for me. As a lover of scents, I thought the main character being an aromatherapist would being a welcome novelty, but it was kind of bland. I did love, though, that the female characters were named after scent notes (Rose, Gardenia, Angelica, Anise) but all in all, it was just okay for me. 


Monday, March 19, 2012

Smash Episode 7: Everything's Coming Up

Well, it turns out that Episode 7 is my favorite episode yet (second only to the pilot) because of one word: Bernadette. I don't mean to sound gushy, but she was excellent.  As Ivy's mother, she was a diva, she was a mother, she was hardened, she was a legend, she was tender, and she sang the bejesus out of "Everything's Coming Up Roses." Though I wish they were more original in their choice of song for her, I guess they want to appeal to the broadest scope of audience.  I loved her facial expression when she was watching Ivy sing - she was proud, she was envious, she was reminiscing, she was glowing in the moment. (It was kind of like seeing her Sally in Follies)

 The show, thankfully, ,is finally hitting.  its stride. All the expositions from previous episodes have blown up. I like the way that they resolved the Julia-Michael affair. Last week, someone told me that someone gets fired from the cast in this episode and I honestly never thought it would be Michael. But will it stick? And the workshop, I thought, was wonderful. The music is a little disjointed. If this were a real musical, the styles of the songs would clash, but we will suspend disbelief. One thing is getting more and more evident for me, though: Ivy is perfectly cast. Even when Karen was in Marilyn drag, she seemed ill at ease. Vocally, even, Kat McPhee is more a pop singer. Maybe that's why they have her singing pop songs every week (She was great singing that Colcie Caillat song tonight) I actually think it would be a great plot point to have her be discovered as a pop singer, because I really feel that is her strength.

Watching the show within the show made me realize how much I love "Let Me Be Your Star." (I have played it 56 times on my iPod) It really is the perfect song for this show.

Gavin A Good Time.

I have never watched a concert via "livestream" before but there's always a first time, right? I remember Melissa Errico did one a couple of months back, and silly me, forgot to tune in so when I read that Gavin Creel was doing one tonight, I wanted to not miss it. And I waited along with his fangurls, and well, it was very enjoyable in a different kind of way, for me. The show is a CD Release party for his new album, "Get Out" which comes out tomorrow, March 20th. Though I wish it was a "Showtune" kind of show, he song all pop-rock songs from his album, which is a collaboration with Singer/Songwriter Ben Cullum. Not what I ordered - I want the Gavin of Millie, Poppins and Hair - but this is what's being served. I must say, though, that he has fantastic sexy stage presence, much more so in this small space - he fills it up and sets it on fire quite well. He is a star.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pink Tale

Sometimes, when I am reading something, I get caught in a rut, and I have to "distract" myself by starting something else.  So I did that yesterday by reading "Kiss & Blog" by Allyson Noel. I knew it was going to be a quick read, relatively mindless, hopefully fun. And for the most part, it was. I won't wear my critic hat and look for things wrong with it, but it passed the time quite pleasantly. It reminded me of something from the Sweet Dreams series from my teen years, updated ca 2006. A lot of the topical references are dated. Who would think that something from 5-6 years ago would seem almost a museum piece? But, it served its purpose, and hopefully gets me out of the rut from my current read. And it's pink!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

After Baby Comes Love

I read someone on my Facebook Newsfeed write that after he saw "Friends With Kids," he describes Jennifer Wesfeldt, the writer and director of the movie, as a modern-day female Woody Allen, writing a story about present New York City with wit and intelligence. I had to think about that, since I did enjoy the film, and did enjoy the writing. And Woody Allen no longer does NYC-centric movies, so there really is an "opening" for that job. "Friends With Kids" is a rom-com, but not really, it's also a commentary on parenting, on friendship, on how relationships change between friends after all reach maturity. I thought in the beginning that it would be a story about how a group of people and their dynamics change after they have babies, and I still think that would be a good premise. But, two pals (Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt) decide to have a baby without the complications of being in love with each other. I initially thought this was a gimmicky premise (I rolled my eyes) but you could never doubt great acting. Westfeldt and, especially, Scott are such good actors that you get on-board right away. Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's real-life husband) and Chris O'Dowd with Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig play their friends and the set-up and banter is so wonderful and natural that I wonder if these people are real close friends in real life. The story takes somewhat predictable twists and turns, and there is a great scene in a New Year's Eve dinner table that is touching and moving and funny and infuriating, but all so great. The last eighth of the movie seems a little forced, but by then this cast has already won you over (even Megan Fox was surprisingly effective) that it really won't matter anymore. i won't give Jennifer Westfeldt the title of the new Woody Allen just yet, but she is definitely a contender. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Winter Green

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I want to write about a fragrance that smells "green," and it's Airborne, by Hussein Chalayan for Commes de Garcon. Mr. Chalayan has always been one of the more avante-garde fashion designers, and this perfume is based from his FW07 collection also titled Airborne. He has always been influenced by the idea of transformation, and this was his idea for his fragrance: "After selecting different elements such as neroli, lemon and lentiscus from Cyrpus, I proposed an imaginary scenario as how these ingredients could incur change during and after an air journey from  Mediterranean Cyprus to an urban setting." I kind of get it, about how scent transforms and evolves as it moves from one place to another. But first, I had to look up what lentiscus was, for I had no idea. It's a Green evergreen shrub that is associated with the Greek island of Chios. I don't know if that is what I smell, but the top notes are bright greens - I get neroli, and more lime than lemon, and it's big and sweet. It's a cold kind of green, like waking up to a winter morning in a mountain full of Evergreen trees. It then transforms to frankincense - and I love the transition. It's somewhat unexpected and unique for me. And it becomes a fuller incense, but still green. only lasts for an hour or so and then it's...gone. I love this, and while it has great sillage in the beginning, it just disappears too quickly. It's avante-garde and I respect it a lot, but I give it low points for longevity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Ali Wentworth's memoir "Ali In Wonderland" has the most wonderful book cover. It's fun, it's kind of retro, it's very "American." Her book is a lot of those things, filled with fun stories,  essays strung out in a random fashion, humorous and very appealing.  She tells stories from her childhood, about her life as a struggling actress in Los Angeles, about living in Washington DC, motherhood tales. They are all laced with a humor, that you really can't discern whether the stories are exaggerations, or accurate. I guess it really does not matter, this is not a warts-and-all kind of book in the dramatic sense, but something more suited to the "Humor" section at Barnes And Noble (As opposed to "Biography")  I wish I liked it more, though. I don't know if as a person, I even like her. She is one of those spoiled and rich women, your typical Republican. (She praises Nixon and takes a dig at Obama) I have nothing personally against her, but based on this book, I really don't think I have a lot of things in common with her. Obviously, though, she connects with a lot of people, as this book is on The New York Times Bestseller list. It's a quick, fun read, and if you like Ms. Wentworth, you will find a lot of things to like about her stories.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zing, Jason Zings!

Pop stars singing standards? It's almost a predictable trajectory, almost everyone has done it.  There are so many out there that I am so jaded - very few impress me. Even Sir Paul McCartney's standard failed to make an impression for me. So when I saw Jason Donovan's similarly-themed album, "Sign Of Your Love," I was kinda rolling my eyes. I really am not even a big fan of his pop songs, although I did like his SAW duets with Kylie. Plus, I was not a big fan of his foray into West End via Joseph. But I did like this album. The arrangements are fun, they are bright and fun, and he seemed to be having fun with the material, not treating it too seriously, and not handling them like museum pieces. I love that he seems to really connect to the material. For example, he is zippy and joyous singing "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart," and has the same mirth as Judy Garland. And not a lot of people do Peggy Lee's "Bewitched" (yes, from the situation comedy) and Peggyphile that I am, I was so happy hearing someone else do that song, in a modern arrangement. Actually, that's the one great thing about this album - it sounds very "today." I was even digging the original songs. I am welcoming these songs for my playlists, his dreams will do!

Just A Perfect Blendship

Sometimes I am reading a book, and I just don't like it. That was the case for me and "Jack Holmes And His Friend. I have wanted to read this since I saw the Times (rave) review, and I thought the topic was so interesting, it centering on a friendship between a gay man and his straight friend. The book started out fine, when the main character Jack Holmes, moves from the Midwest to Manhattan. We get a glimpse of Manhattan in the 60s (and it was kind of interesting for me since I just finished 'Just Kids' which covered, more or less, the same era) and it was interesting to see their friendship flourish. After a while, though, the friendship rang false and shallow for me. Something happens (a bathroom incident) and they fall apart around the same time that Will, the straight friend, marries Alex, Jack's best friend. The book then fast forward to nine years later, where they accidentally see each other again, and they rekindle their friendship. The narrative also shifts to Will's first person, and it became so uninteresting for me that I almost gave up on it. This maybe a personal choice, but I would have preferred to hearing Jack's voice, self-loathing though it may be. I think I just didn't like both characters - they were miserable most of the time, and I just did not agree with most of their life choices. It could also be a generational thing. Still, White's elegant prose is beautiful to read. It sounded and felt like "literature." I really wish I liked it more. There's a part of me that wants to re-read it sometime in the future, maybe I just missed some nuance, maybe I need a little more life experience.  As small aside: I loved the cover above, it is so 70s, and I even think I know that exact spot, somewhere on park Avenue in the high 40s. Though, curiously, the UK cover is quite different, see below (BC-23)

Smash Episode 6 - Chemistry? Yeah, Chemistry,

Can this be real, can this be true? SMASH is starting to have one thing that, for me, would make it even more delicious: camp. Whether intended or not, there were a couple of scenes last night that came close to classic camp. It first comes when Ivy is in her bedroom singing "Who You Are," (by Jessie J) and the lights kind of dim, and then all of a sudden, she sees Karen as Marilyn, her very worst nightmare. It's being credited to Prednisone, of course. I really don't know if Prednisone causes hallucinations, but I have taken it and it does wonders! I am allergic to seafood and had hives galore, and seconds after I took it, I could literally see my hives disappearing, it was like magic! And now the same drug brings Valley Of The Dolls to Smash, how great is that? And then of course Anjelica Houston goes to a bar where there are $7 Martinis, and she starts playing video games. I personally think Ms. Houston has accepted the fact that her character is a one-dimensional cartoon, so she is just having fun with it now, and more power to her. The Julia/Michael affair went full throttle last night, where they finally succumbed to their desires right there at the couch at the Rehearsal room. And lo and behold, the cast stages a number on *that*very*same*couch* the next day. All I was thinking was, Gee I hope they wiped it clean! Seriously, though, I really liked that scene right before the big whoop, there was all kinds of emotions on Deb Messing's face, and it was quite effective, and touching, and dangerous, and lustful...and did they use a body double? Of course, tehre's even a double entendre in the song from ths show, titled "History Is Made At Night," History? Yeah, history. There's a side storyline where Kat McPhee sings Florence And The Machine's "Shake It" song and it was kind of funny how all the Jewish kids start grooving to her. And she gets a card from Bobby Raskin, a record executive. Cue suspense music - I suspect he will be an integral character to all this soon. All in all an enjoyable episode.

One last thing, though: On the scene where Julia accidentally burns pancakes, she takes them off the griddle but she never turns off the flame. This went on for minutes, and the scene brings them out of the kitchen. All I could think of was: please turn the flame off, please. I'm OCD like that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Woman Builds A Man

I was in the middle of a serious book when I had the inkling for something light, and funny so I started "Build A Man" by Talli Rolland.  I thought, well, the cover has one of those whimsical drawings so it should be a breeze. And fun it was, especially in the beginning. Although you have to suspend a lot of disbelief, you come along for the ride, though at times I want to smack the main character and want to shout at her to grow some balls. Without about a third left in the novel, though, the tone turns serious and it really does make you think: about life and what you need to give up for success, and realizing what is truly important. It even makes you think about plastic surgery, its pitfalls without being condescending or preachy.  Ms. Rolland even has a knack for suspense, and got me second guessing myself in various parts of the story. I was quite touched by the end. Although the novel follows a certain pattern, I felt it was still original enough to keep my attention. I was truly pleasantly surprised by this book.


Sarah, Seriously.

Seriously, just give Juliane Moore the Emmy now. As Sarah Palin, she has humanized a monster. With every facial tick, a smirk, a snort, she has given Palin a soul that even I - who despises the ex-Governor of Alaska - kind of felt sorry for her. "Game Change" premiered on HBO last night and tells the story from the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Extracting and expounding from two chapters of the book, the story feels full, and scarier than a Horror film. I guess this is what happens when you thrust someone unprepared on the biggest political platform. My biggest concern about the piece, though, is how Steve Schmidt and John McCain seems to be washing their hands of the responsibility for creating the demon that is Sarah Palin. Yes, she is stupid about foreign policy and stupider about thinking she is the new Gods gift to Humanity, but I am just a little miffed that they almost don't acknowledge that they had a big hand on making her that way. I think it would be safe to say that they were the sources for the content of this film. And they sound like they are still bitter, and some people are saying that to this day John McCain is still bitter about losing to Obama, that's why he opposes everything the President does. Sarah Palin has told her supporters not to watch this movie and that's bad for them because she was treated fairly in this movie, showing a side of her that her haters would even like.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Loud Lavender

I don't believe in genderizing scents. However, I also believe it takes a certain kind of man to carry a heavy floral, like Carnal Flower, for example. On the other side of the spectrum, some scents just scream "Man, man, man," and Pour Un Homme de Caron is one of them. This is your typical barber shop scent, and when I smell it, the vision in my head of the wearer would be a "Cary Grant" type, a classic mid-century man with a well-tailored suit and a fedora.  I really haven't fully appreciated the Caron house, and I know this is one of their signature classic scents. I don't own this as I am smelling it from a sample given to me.  It's loud, it calls attention, and usually I like those kinds of scents, but this just is not me. It's too barbershop, and I am more a salon kind of guy. Right now, as I sniff my wrist, I really can't imagine myself wearing this - it's too plain for work, and too "boring" for going out. Years ago when I used to wear suits and ties maybe I would have worn this, but on second thought, I doubt it. (I was wearing bombastic 80s scents even then) It's not a scrubber for me (it's night and I wore this after showering) but it's not a keeper either.

Under My Skin

You never know what to expect from a Pedro Almodovar film, that's why I purposely did not ready anything about "The Skin I Live In" before seeing it. I did not want to know anything about the plot, since I think that's the best way to experience his films. I want my reactions to it to be fresh. This movie is definitely bizarre, a hybrid of horror, melodrama, all wrapped in wit and intelligence, though. You don't know if he is doing all of this with a *wink* but you do know he definitely knows what he is doing. Nothing is not planned, and all of it makes sense. About a quarter into the movie, I was so confused and was doubting my comprehension. And then the whole thing started to make sense, and it is full of vivid imagery that you just succumb to it. You believe it before questioning it. This is one of those movies I cannot wait to see for a second time. After you know how everything goes down, you now search for clues you may have missed, and concentrate on the layered performances here. Antonio Banderas has never looked better. I have read about him and his wife getting his and her facelifts, and if that is true, then his surgeon has done a magnificent job on him. He gives a straightforward performance her that doesn't call attention, even if its very essence is so complicatedly bizarre. I can't remember the last time I saw hm give as good performance. As a matter of fact, I am now racking my brain on the last movie I have seen of his. Marisa Paredes gives an almost comic-relief presence, but I was mesmerized by Elena Anaya. Her face is a blank slate, and that is exactly almost a literal translation of her role. Almodovar sets a mindset, and everyone is on board, and even if, let's be real, this is a story that's almost science fiction, it's human and very honest. I am still in pleasant shock.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Her Story Of His

"Just Kids" is one of the most successful books of 2010, both commercially and artistically.  It stayed for 37 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and it won the 2010 National Book Award for non-fiction. This has been on my TBR pile for so long, definitely for more than a year now. I just finished the book literally minutes ago and it is definitely well-written. Smith definitely has a way with words, but we all knew that for she is a celebrated poet and a songwriter. The last chapters are heartbreaking, when she describes her last encounters with Robert Mapplethorpe, of whose life this book is a celebration of. I wish I related to it more, or was more interested in this time line for artists, spanning the late 60s, all the way to the 70s. I was mildly interested in The Chelsea Hotel when it was an artists' colony, because I have passed by that building hundreds of thousands of times because that area is very close to my heart. A lot of times the book seems to be constantly name-dropping, but it never sounded put on. I wish there were more "story" to their story, and some people have commented that her version is a bit white-washed. I have to admit that I was more interested in his part of the story than hers, and how his art was created more than how she hers. Truth be told, while reading the book wasn't boring, it took me a longer time than usual to finish it, but I was glad to read it, and it gave me a glimpse of the city I know and love right before I met it. 


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Smash Episode 5 - Let's Misbehave

I have mixed emotions about Episode 5. For me, it's another one of those "exposition" episodes where things are getting set up. But, didn't we just have one of those? When are all the dramatic payoffs happening? Or maybe the payoffs aren't as good as I expect them to be? And I really don't know what they are doing to the Megan Hilty's Ivy character. Yes, I do understand the insecurity and the passive aggressive diva thing, but in this episode it's more aggressive than passive lately, and they are trying to create a villain out of her. I liked it more when she was a real, three-dimensional character. And next week's episode hint that she may be going through a pill-abuse situation, which, come to think of it, was Marilyn's situation as well, so they may be doing a parallelism kind of thing, and I don't know how I feel about that. But then again, that's just a hunch. And speaking of other hunches, I feel like they are also setting up something between Tom and the black chorus boy who likes basketball (Chorus buy into basketball? Doesn't exist) so at least the gays may have a love triangle to look forward to. And Kat McPhee - she showed such promise, but her character is so all over the place that she probably doesn't know what to do with it either. Is she a Midwestern hick? Then her being sassy at the Intrepid last night seemed so out of character. I have said from the very beginning that I liked the Deb Messing love story line, and that went front and center last night, and I kind of liked it, though it felt kind of funny to see art imitating life. You can see that there was mad chemistry between them personally. Oh, and the scene from the show they are creating? I loved the number - well choreographed, fantastically sung. I wished that I liked the song, but it could grow on me. With each episode, though, it is becoming more and more evident that Ivy is better for the role than Karen. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Clooney. Pitt. There couldn't be bigger stars involved in the Los Angeles reading of '8,' Dustin Lance Black's play based from transcripts from the Prop 8 hearings. And they were all there, in their glory, bringing attention to this project, even broadcast worldwide on YouTube. This certainly is good for the cause, bringing awareness to its importance. The play "exposes" a lot of the bigotry and ignorance of those who side with Prop 8, and it is quite clear in their testimonies. I initially questioned if Black as being fair, as these people look like buffoons, their characterizations quite cartoonish, and unbelievably stupid. Then I realize that these were actual transcripts from the testimonies. They did say they were "condensed," and I just hope Black didn't just pull the stupid quotes. On a dramatic level, it diminished whatever suspense there was in the piece. I think i would have preferred a fairer fight, because I would also like to understand where these people are coming from, as they appear to be cardboard characters presented as such. Of the performances, I was quite surprised to be touched by Chris Colfer's. This trumps everything he has ever done on GLEE, and made me realize there is something else beneath that vapid exterior. I also liked the small monologues done by Matthew Morrison and Jamie Lee Curtis. I crinegd when Jesse Tyler Ferguson was on, and that was just me - he makes my skin crawl. Matt Bomer, Brad Pitt and even Clooney really weren't given much to do, and Martin Sheen's bombastic monologue became the crowd pleaser it was intended to be. John C Reilly almost steals the show as the bumbling Mr. Blankenhorn. All in all, I can nit pick things about the play, but when the cast took their bow, and the real figures behind the case went up on stage, I became the stupid fool when I found myself crying. Crying on a Saturday night, that's what my life has come to. 

Hugo Nots

Did Marty Scorsese really direct HUGO? There are no gangsters, no swear words, no violent killings here. It's a children's movie, made to warm your hearts during the Holiday season (This movie opened Thanksgiving weekend) I passed on the movie last year, but since it won five Oscars past weekend, I figured I might as well see it. It certainly deserved its technical Oscars, and I am sure it must have been magical to watch on 3D, though on Blu-Ray a lot of the visual details are still very much evident on-screen. The story worked well, though a bit too "long tooth" for me. It's a good movie. I just didn't emotionally connect to it. I'm old now, and I'm cranky, and sometimes I have very little patience for things I don't respond to initially. I wish I could say that this movie had me enthralled from the very first frame, but I had to watch, stop, and repeat a couple of times. Ben Kingsley was great, and Saha Baron Cohen is perfectly cast for his role. I am sure this movie has brought, and will bring a lot of joy for a lot of people, and I am just going to have to accept that I am not going to be one of those. It's like going to a museum, looking at a painting and recognizing its beauty, significance, and artistry. Then you leave and you instantly forget about it. I thought of one other thing, though. I think this would make a great stage musical.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bring Back Romance

Sometimes I just want to read something mindless, something fun, something light. Beth Orloff's "Romantically Challenged" fit that bill to a T. It's a cute book, it made me laugh, it passed time quite pleasantly, it was entertaining. Sometimes that's all you need. I can't say it made me think real deep thoughts, but it kind of made me think anyway. Julia Burns is a lawyer in Los Angeles, and she is 32, and she is looking for love. She goes through every imaginable scenario out there, just to get a date: blind date, set-ups, dating service, speed dating, internet dating. Of course, the right man for her is right in front of her eyes, and we all know it half-way through the book of course, even though she doesn't. It's pretty standard fare, but Orsoff is a great storyteller and she makes even the most cliched scenarios interesting. I see the publication date of the book as 2006, but  I bet that that this was written way before that, as some things are kind fo dated. Plot points hinged on answering machine messages, a relic of ancient times if there ever was one. This is a very enjoyable book, and this is just what I needed right now. In a lot of ways, it seems old-fashioned in tone, but of course, things have not changed much since, and love is still love and romance is still romance.