Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Movie Thoughts: Woman In Gold

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Movie Thoughts: Woman In Gold

Movie Thoughts: Woman In Gold


Monday, June 22, 2015

Book Thoughts: Finding Audrey


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book Thoughts: The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund, Jill Kragman)

Thoughts here:


Friday, June 19, 2015

Perfume Thoguhts: Caudalie Zeste de Vigne

Thoughts on Caudalie Zeste de Vigne:


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Movie Thoughts: And While We Were Here

Transitioning this blog.

Review found here:


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Television Thoughts: Odd Mom Out, Bravo

I am slowly transitioning this blog ,
here is my latest thought re: Odd Mom Out on Bravo


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I See London Three Times (Book Thoughts: London Triptych, Jonathan Kemp)

"London Triptych," by Jonathan Kemp is my kind of book. It tells three subtly interwoven stories of male prostitutes from three generations: the 1890s, the 1950s, and the 1990s. These men are not shy about their sexual desires, and that could make for some fidgety reading from some circles. But it tells a certain kind of truth that may not exist anymore. These are from generations of men where there is still shame in what they desire, and nowadays in the age of marriage equality it may be good to look at where we came from, before we enjoy the freedom that we have today. These are quite compelling stories, based on historical facts - I couldn't stop reading once I started the book. I was happy to read about London (my favorite European city) as seen through the eyes of these men from three different moments in history. Lastly,  these are all stories of unrequited love - I am sure all of us will be able to relate to the ache, the euphoria, and the craziness which that entails. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lulled By Lola (music Thoughts: Lola Haag, Love Notes

Lola Haag has a new album, titled
Love Notes." It seems to be her fifth album, and believe it or not, I think I have most if not all of them. And don't ask me how I got them, probably from perusing jazz vocal bins. Looking at her website ,  she seems to be based in Ojai, California.  Haag has a breathy but full voice, a little on the bland side, but she uses it well. Once she starts singing, you can't help but keep on listening. And she definitely has great taste - her previous albums included tributes to Sarah Vaughan and Billie Hollday. Her sound veers more jazz - on this album, most of the arrangements have a light swing to it, and chestnuts like "Just In Time," and "the Very Thought Of You" sound well enough. There's an interesting lilt in "Moonlight Becomes You." but all in all, it suffers from being too familiar, and lounge-y. While it's okay if you were at a Holiday Inn on a business trip, as an aural experience it just lacks that certain oomph to catch your attention.  And there are some tracks with pitch problems. So while I have to give her an A+ for effort, all in all it just passes.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Father and Mother (Movie Thoughts: Eastern Boys/Mommy)

Robin Campillo's "Eastern Boys" is an odd film.  It starts out so interestingly - the camera follows a group of male hustlers at Gare du Nord Train station in Paris and we see them running, frolicking, hustling. We see them operate wordlessly as if spying. Then a businessman, Daniel, played by Olivier Rabourdin, zeroes in on one, named Maerek,  follows him, and they under the stairs.  he gives him his address, planning to meet the next day.  Someone else arrives the next day, and forces himself into the apartment. Then other young men do, and take over the house - and strips it of its contents. Daniel doesn't resist, probably because of shame of being found out as gay. Marek then comes back later, and he lets him in, and they develop a sort-of relationship, getting to a point that Daniel gives him a monthly stipend. The last third of the film centers around Daniel helping Marek separate from the gang (the tone of the last third - that of a suspense/action movie - is jarringly different) Emotion wise, we go through a roller coaster, and the ending seems a bit off - you wonder how they arrive to where they eventually end, wherein Daniel becomes a literal father figure to Marek - but darn it if these characters don't get to you. I found myself caring for these characters and I still think about them.

I had the opposite reaction to the characters in "Mommy."  Set in Montreal, it tells a story of a sassy mother who is taking care of her ADHD-addled son. There is non-stop fighting, screaming by mother and son here. Anne Dorval is the kind of actress who hammers her point by shrieking at the top of her lungs, and after a while you are so exasperated that you stop caring. Yes, I know what director Xavier Dolan is trying to do: he is trying to show you what she is going through, and having you "experience" it.  But one hundred twenty nine minutes of it? I can only take so much.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sam's Hams (Book Thoughts: Ham- Slices Of Life, Sam Harris)

I liked Sam Harris voice enough to have all his CDs - even the rare ones fromhis Motown years. I have also seen him on Broadway in "Grease," and liked him especially in "The Life." So I was looking forward to reading his book "Ham - Slices Of A Life," which is not technically a memoir but more "essays and stories." They are numbered writings on some of his life experiences. Harris' first rise to fame was from being a Grand Champion on "Star Search" from the 80s, and I do remember him from that show, which was a precursor to this generation's "American Idol." These stories are unstructured but it doesn't matter - they are hilarious, touching, and you get a peek at his heart. I was hooked from the first page and spent a good part of my Saturday morning finishing the book. It's also juicy but not mean - you get a glimpse of his close friendship with Liza Minnelli, and his unfortunate brush with Aretha Franklin. I had hoped he would write about Liza, and he paints her in such a glowing light that's not fawning. He talks about some of his experience as a child in Oklahoma, and I could say I can relate to a lot of them: growing up gay and finding his place in the world. This is quite an enjoyable book, and has a lot of poignant moments. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer Amber (Perfume Thoughts: Prada leau Ambree)

I am in the process of cataloging my scents and I am finding a lot of "neglected"  ones. As I use them, I of course wonder why i don't use them more.  Prada L'eau Ambree is one I think I have used once, twice tops since I got it. I was hesitant to spray today because it is a hot dry day, and when I saw the amber in here, I thought, gee will the harsh ambergis annoy me? But I know Prada scents are on the light side, so I sprayed anyway. This is perfect for a summer day, akin to the house's Infusion d'Iris. Actually, should have called this Infusion d'Ambre, because probably this gets lost in their regular collection (I myself cannot get them straight) Daniela Andrier has crafted a light take on the amber - it's there, but the light florals take center stage. It is very close to Prada Amber Homme (which I wore a lot when it first came out) without the men's soapy/lavander vibe. The florals here give the scent softness, with the amber edging it out. This is an elegant scent, perfect for office, as it  stays very close to the skin, and has almost no sillage. I found myself tugging at my shirt so I could smell it. Even non-amber lovers will appreciate this.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In Love And War (Movie Thoughts: Testament Of Youth)

Wasn't I just raving about Alicia Vikander in "Ex-Machina"? Well, here she is again, giving a fine performance in "Testament Of Youth."  She is the reason to watch this movie - it is one of those star-making performances and should cement her status as the new go-to girl for those young British girl roles usually played by Kiera Knightley. The film, directed by James Kent, is one of those regal, elegant films one associates with something like Masterpiece Theater. (I have to check - are they produced by the same people?) It's a movie about war but it doesn't show explicit war scenes - we experience it through the eyes of Vera Brittain, who leaves her studies in Oxford to volunteer as a nurse, and then sees her fiancee, her brother, and most of their friends perish from the war. Though we see some familiar set up of scenes (train station farewell between lovers, overhead shot of injured bodies at war sites) we feel like they aren't cliched. There is one harrowing scene where Vera looks for her brother amongst those injured, and I couldn't look at the screen from the pain. So did I love this movie? I shoudl say yes, but I have to admit there were lulls in it that kind of bored me. But I like it enough to recommend - this is a story that should be heard by everyone, if only to hammer the thought that war is stupid.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Fraudulent Life (Television Thoughts: Younger Season One Finale: The Old Ma'm and The C)

After watching the season finale of "Younger," I realize the series has to be redefined a bit for Season 2. I guess the first season is for Liza to fully know herself, and we as a viewer did as well.  It dealt with ageism, and how youth centered our society can be. It defined Liza and her relationships - first with Josh, then Kelsey, her boss, even her daughter. At the end of the season, we see her firmly standing ground - even staying above fray to keep her dignity (with regards to dealing with an ex-colleague blackmailing her, for example.) I was kind of expecting some kind of big cliffhanger, but we only get quiet ones. It was nice to see her in a better place with Josh. I don't think they are going to rush back to them having their relationship back right away, but it should be interesting to see where they go from here, with Josh knowing her "secret."  Liza's daughter coming home should also widen the net for Season 2. I wonder, for example, how she would deal with Josh. I can imagine her being attracted to him as well, and that could provide more conflict between mother and daughter. A lot of questions that set us up for season two, and I cannot wait till January. I must say that Sutton Foster is great here, showing strength, and vulnerability at the same time. I like that they are using how awkward Sutton is to fit her character - I never get that Liza is ever truly glamorous, for example. I feel she will always have some kind of insecurity in her. I think I have written before that I feel Hillary Duff is somewhat wasted - weren't they setting her character up to be some kind of doormat for her boyfriend? I guess that went nowhere. I hope she gets to do a little more next season. Al in all, I love this show, though, and you know I will be there January.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Getting To Know Kelli (Music Thoughts: The King & I 2015 Broadway Cast Recording)

"The King & I" won a couple of awards Sunday night at The Tony Awards, and it inspired me to listen to its recently released cast recording. This score is one I know in and out, one of my earliest memories of listening to cast recordings. (I think I was more acquainted with the film soundtrack, though, before I first heard the 1951 Cast Recording) I am not even going to compare this to previous recordings, as I am one of those purists who almost always prefer original casts. So I will take this recording as it is - a representation of the current Lincoln Center revival now playing at The Vivian Beaumont. And what a glorious recording of a glorious score. there is such profound richness in Richard Rodgers' music, and Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics still resonate and make me think. And if there's only one reason for this recording to exist, it is to preserve Kelli O Hara's Tony award winning performance. She is as close to perfection here: that soaring soprano, and you can see her go through vulnerability, hurt, and strength all in one sitting. She is joyous, luminous in "Getting To Know You," and in Anna's dramatic soliloquy, "Shall I Tell Him What I Think Of Him," she is defiant, a pillar of her principles.  A lot of people have complained about Ken Watanabe's diction, but here on the recording, his accent (he learned the role phonetically) just enhances his charming take as The King. Ruth Ann Miles is also great here, and you can see why she won a Tony as well. To my ears, the orchestra is a bit thinner, but nowadays, what isn't? I will proudly file this recordings with previous Kings and Annas.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fate Follows Facebook (Book Review: The Status Of All Things, Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke)

Summer's here, and the beach reads are pouring. "The Status Of All Things," by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is a great one to pick up. It ponders that modern question - what if you can write various Facebook status and they all come true. This book is a variation on that age-old wish story, only this time via a social media platform. But the book is much more than that, of course. Kate, dumped by her husband-to-be the night before her wedding, gets a chance to rewrite history. But should she? We probably all know the answer to this question but Fenton and Steinke takes us on a wild and believable journey, and I was taken along by all the twists and turns - the book is far from predictable. I found myself rooting for people I didn't think I would, and then second guess myself. This is a light, enjoyable book but it also made me think. Summer just got a little more sunnier.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Tonys Thoughts

Well, another year, another Tony Awards. This season was a pretty good one, with some real good theater, and there were a couple of tough tight fights in some major categories. My thoughts on this year's Tony's:

1. As hosts, Kristin Chenowith and Alan Cumming did a good job. They were zany and wacky most of the time, and I just wish there was an equal balance of elegant and class. But, they kept the show going at a great speed, and I felt bad for Kristin losing. I was rooting for her anyway, but to see her work her ass of and come home empty handed was heartbreaking. But Kelli deserved it, too, and yeah that whole she finally won a Tony thing.

2. I had no real horse between Fun Home vs An American in Paris thing. Though I am slightly for the latter. Fun Home is deeper work, but I found the score a little less tuneful. I would have voted for Kander & Ebb myself. 

3. The numbers from the musicals were all good: I thought "A Musical" from Something Rotten was a good opener, and the medley from "the King & I" touching. But the standout number for me was "On The Town," where you saw the real breadth and scope of the production. Out of context, the numbers from "On The Twentieth Century," and "The Visit" were just good. The "Fun Home" number was touching and brave: middle america needed to see that. 

4. The "In Memoriam" number was hyped but fell short, in my opinion. I would have wanted real Broadway singers (the house was full of them) Instead we get Josh Groban, who while competent, was just there to promote his new album.

But I may bitch and moan, still I look forward and enjoy teh Tonys every year.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Love In The Afternoon (Film Thoughts: 5 To 7)

Imagine if Woody Allen today were still writing love stories. What you would get would be very similar to "5 to 7." This is a movie that was made for someone like me - it tells of a love story that any other person would think would be doomed from the start: a young man gets infatuated with an older married French woman. When she first meets him, she says she is only available to meet from 5 to 7 pm, which is a code for her wanting just an affair. he is hesitant at first, but acquiesces to the set up, and the rules. This film captures that feeling when someone just falls in love, and throws caution to the wind, and just dives in that pool, not caring, not thinking five steps ahead. You know you are going to be hurt, you can practically taste the hurt, but still, nothing compares to the euphoria of being in love. We have all been there. It wouldn't take a genius to tell where this love story is headed, but it gets there so beautifully, in a poetic, romantic, heady kind of way. I was enchanted, I felt ever single scene of this movie. Anton Yelchin, as Brian, will make you remember that feeling of love, and he engages you in his love instantly.  This is also for me, a New York film. the city and its inhabitants are a separate character here. It made me miss it, it made me want to fly right now and sit t a bench by Central Park. I can't remember the last time a film really touched me, and I hope this film means as much to you. Please see it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Traveling Patchouli (Perfume Thoughts: Chanel Coromandel)

Today will be a long day for me - a full day at work, and then flying to Los Angeles after. It's a short flight, but God knows where I will end up later. Whenever I have these kinds of days, I always want to wear scent that is tenacious - one that will stay with me till the wee hours of the morning. (I am almost positive I will go out after landing at LAX) Last week it was Dior's Oud Ispahan, and it got me through a similar day. Today I wore Chanel Coromandel - I wanted something strong, but also versatile - something that will withstand weather changes, bar hopping, and an after-midnight food trip. Coromandel is kinda rough - a big blast of patchouli and woods. But it is also pretty - amber, benzoin, vanilla. And since this is Chanel, it has the sheen of aldehydes.  It's unique, but has an oriental feel that's familiar. I can imagine it on Coco Chanel, with her pearls and pearl buttons. I can also imagine it on a French businessman, with his blue shirt and navy tie. Whenever I wear it, I find something new to smell about it - as I sprayed this morning, I think I never noticed how pine-y it is in the beginning. Now, about two hours after, my arm smells mineral-ly - I sense a little bit of dirt in the patchouli. It is a perfume that evolves as you wear it, and I look forward to what it will smell on me after a couple of Gooseberry drinks tonight.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Dull Murder (Film Thoughts: Let's Kill Ward's Wife)

Everyone hates Stacey.  Her friends annoy her, and she is a pain in the ass to Ward and his friends. So there is only one way to get rid of her, right? By killing her. If you find that premise funny, then you may like "Let's Kill Ward's Wife," a black comedy of sorts. Written and Directed by Scott Foley (I know everyone knows him now from 'Scandal,' but to me he will always be Noel from 'Felicity') it starts out kinda fun, but by midpoint, you kind of feel all of them trapped with nowhere to go. They had this big idea but nowhere to go with it. I will watch anything Patrick Wilson is in, so I finished the movie, but then I had to ask myself, "Why?"

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I'm Confessin That I Love You (Television Thoughts: Younger S01 E11, Hot Mitzvah)

Well, with one episode to go, I guess some revelations have to happen - it's been a slow burn in that department - and you have to thank Molly for that. No, not Molly Shannon, though I could really see her in a role in this show. Liza took "Molly" (MDMA) and in a fit of honesty, confessed to Josh that she is really a 40 year old housewife from New Jersey. This after a very sweet moment when Josh, also high, says "I Love You" to Liza. Is Molly really a truth serum that forces these characters to be honest with each other? I don't know if I like the pacing of this particular story line. I can imagine Liza carrying over her secret to the second season. I mean, the show hasn't really explored that fully, in my opinion. (i never read the book so I don't know what happens next) Josh, at the end of this episode leaves the party dejected and forlorn, so I guess we will see that development next week, at the season finale. I wonder if the secret will spill over to Empirical. My only other big thought on this episode (and this series, actually) is how Hillary Duff's role has been thankless - that was it for her? She had an affair, and after a mutual confession with her boyfriend, everything is fine? Hmmm, Hillary, you got the short end of the stick.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

There Is No One Like A Dame (Music Thoughts: Hello Like Before, Dame Shirley Bassey)

Dame Shirley Bassey has a new album. Well, it's new-ish, as it came out late last year but I am just getting a chance to write about it now. Can you believe she has been in the business for sixty years? Her 36th album, "Hello Like Before," shows that she is still ins trong voice: it's still big, brassy, and the Bassey voice that we have all grown to love after all these years. The album itself is an incoherent mix, with tracks from all over the place. There are re-recordings of previous Bassey hits - she does "Goldfinger" again because she claims three were a coupel of bum notes from her original version. Yet to my ears it sounds exactly the same. She duets with Paloma Faith on a fun "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend." and it sounds funky and modern. But, my favorite tracks are the more reflective ones: her life and experience shine through on melancholy tracks like "Here's To Life," "It Was A Very Good year," and the slowed down "Hello Like Before."  There's some quiet dramatic and realistic readings in there, and those are what I related to the most.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Good Bitchin' (Television Thoughts: Vicious, Season Two, ITV)

I don't think I ever got a chance to write about the first season Vicious, but I did watch every single episode.  I didn't love it, but it was a fun mindless sitcom, and hello, it is always a treat seeing Sir Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi being bitchy and mean to each other. Yes, they are old bitter queens (and I know the series got a lot of flack for that) but honestly, they would be the type of companions I would want to have at a dinner party.  As the second season starts, you can see the ease these actors have in handling their roles. I feel like they are more relaxed, and the audience knows these characters well now, and we are just waiting for the punchlines to come. Not all of them land, but McKellan and Jacobi deliver them with perfect timing that I can't help but laugh anyway. The first episode of the season, "Sisters" was great episode: full of zings, mistaken identities, role-playing that you can't help but get taken by its infectious energy. I look forward to the season.