The Movie In My Mind (Movie Thoughts: Miss Saigon 25th Anniversary Presentation, Fathom Events)

14354958_539173059613102_3258299395576722054_nI am a Broadway super fan, everyone knows that. But I am a Miss Saigon duper duper fan, if such a thing exists. It is one show I truly love – I know every word of its score, and it is the one musical I have seen probably close to fifty times. I am at that age now when I see a show that gets a revival,  I can say “I saw that when it first came out’  But yes, I did see Miss Saigon in 19189 with the Original London Cast, and in 1991, with its original Broadway cast. So yeah, the show and I have major history.

When I saw the London Revival Cast in 2014, I was, again, awed by the show, though if I must be honest, the scaled-down production seemed just a tad cheap compared to its earlier production. But, it worked well with what it got. There were some changes that annoyed me, but all in all, I think it got right everything that needed to be improved from the original.

So here we are, and that production has been filmed for theatrical cinema release. This performance was from September 22, 2014, and I realized that I saw the show three days before they filmed this. (I found out that the film version was culled from a couple of performances)  The big ‘get’ from this release is that it was filmed on its 25th Anniversary, and on that night, original cast members Jonathan Pryce, Lea Salonga, and Simon Bowman show up to ‘celebrate.’

But first, the show. I was kind of skeptical about this film, because, really, one can never capture the energy and heart of a live performance on film. But about five minutes into a film, I realized that this was thought of as a film, and it is astonishingly brilliant. We get closeups, and strategic camera angles that draw us in vividly into the story. The staging, frankly, is almost non-existent, and the frame is brought out enough to make the show cinematic. You never feel caged in, and you will notice details you never would have thought of if you were watching this on stage. (Did you know Kim holds Chris’s name plate while they sing ‘Sun And Moon?’)  And the performances feel even more intimate – Eva Noblezada is a wonder – her subtlety here is even more powerful – and the pain in her eyes is more piercing. Alistair Brammer is photogenic, and their love is bigger, more brilliant, so it consequence is more painful. The engineer’s role is a stage conceit, and Jon Jon Briones’ big performance is dwarfed here, and suffers, but you still get it. This is still the show, and I even told myself, after all these years, after all these performances, this is still a piece that never fails to make me cry. Again, I wept. When Pryce and Salonga show up after the curtain, you get swept into a fine air of nostalgia.

In a lot of cases, the film is even bigger than the show. On screen, its flaws are masked by the medium’s slickness. This ‘capture’ is excellent, and I suspect, will be a template for future stage-to-screen transitions.

Kristin, Elegantly (Music Thoughts: The Art Of Elegance, Kristin Chenoweth)

kristinchenoweth_theartofelegance_rgb-950x950When I first saw the track listing for Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘The Art Of Elegance,” I thought to myself, “Meh.”  I thought the whole idea a bit uninspired, the song selection very familiar. But of course,  there was no way I wasn’t going to listen to this. At first listen, I thought it was quite good, if a bit too clean maybe? This music would be great for the ballroom scene of a romantic comedy, I snarkily said to myself. (Why couldn’t she do Gilbert & Sullivan tribute album instead?) But of course, as I listened to it more, I found myself finding new and great things with each spin, and now I am hooked. I can’t stop listening to this.

Maybe it’s the piano playing, by the great Alan Broadbent, or the top notch production by Steve Tyrell, but I keep on coming back to Kristin’s. She give these songs little nuances that make them sound very Kristin. There is much joy in the way she sings “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, ” for example, and a light sexiness in ‘Bewitched Bothered, and Bewildered.” In the latter song, she exudes a wholesome kind of sexiness. And of course, she can still bring the drama, like in ‘I’m A Fool To Want You.’  A little pause here, a sigh there, and you can feel the pain, the self-pity, the marvelous melancholy of it all. The simplicity of “Smile” made me cry. When I saw her sing this song live, the effect was more chamber-like, but with Broadbent on the piano, she is made to go though so many emotions here, like a mini area. And even though Chenoweth is a soprano, her middle range here is beautiful, and you never feel like she is slumming singing these songs. This is a beautiful, and yes, elegant recording. Dim the lights, have a glass of wine, and indulge.

Always Be My Baby (Movie Thoughts: Bridget Jones Baby)

indexIt has been twelve years since the last Bridget Jones movie and this is how old I am – I remember when Helen Fielding’s first book of the series came out, during the height of the ‘chick-lit’ trend. The world was a much different place then, and even now this whole rom-com concept seems a bit dated – Judd Apatow has raunched up the genre. But here Bridget is, still there, hangin’ on to dear life, and at age 36, still single, looking for his lyrical (and literal) Mr. Darcy. The film starts on her birthday, as she blows a lone candle on her cupcake (another dated concept, it seems) while singing along to Celine Dion’s ‘All By Myself.’ (must I say it?)  And we get it: the biological clock is ticking, and as she goes from wedding to christening party, her desire to have a child is there.

But first she must try to get laid, and with the help of her best friend (Sarah Solemani) she goes to Gloucester for a music fair (I guess that’ the British Coachella) and she meets jack, played by Patrick Dempsey. Days after, she meets Mr. Darcy again – her Mr Darcy, the one played by Colin Firth. And a month later, she finds out she is with child. And surprise, she doesn’t know who her father is. Hilarity ensues, as they say. We get dragged into this scenario for a little bit until it gets serious, and Bridget has to make a choice. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is headed.

While I was glad to see characters I know and love, the film just barely registers on me. I felt like it was not believable, although Renee Zellweger, as Bridget, certainly can be. At 47 years old, you have to kind of root for the old gal, and sure it is refreshing to see a story about a middle aged woman nowadays. But jokes fall flat, and there is just a tad too much slapstick for my taste. I like the film’s message, but I do kind of resent the dumbed-down ending. (Bridget should be smarter than that) Dempsey and Firth are appealing, and I will always love anything set in London. Stream this when you can, but nothing more.

 

Am I Blue (Perfume Thoughts, Dylan Blue, Versace)

 

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A couple of years ago, a magazine did a profile of Donatella Versace and they had pictures of her perfume collection:

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Since Donatella seems like she knows perfumes, I wonder why most of Versace’s perfumes have been lackluster. None of them are really bad, but I cannot think of one that is truly memorable. I recently saw the ad for their newest release, Dylan Blue, and what caught my eye was Trevor Signornino. There is a video that was produced directed by Bruce Weber, and it had a little bit of an 80s feel. Did it make me want to try the scent? Sure, why not, and this just proves why they are masters of marketing and advertising.

Then we get to the scent – a big bore. It will drown in the sea of similarly-smelling perfumes in department store counters. It is your typical woody, ambery aquatic fougere. There really is nothing unique and remarkable about it. They mention a fig note but it’s fake-smelling and weak at that. There’s a bit of musky floral on the drydown, but darn if it projects like an actual flower.  I guess it is made from not-bad materials, as the longevity and sillage is decent, but I ask myself, why, what’s the point? There seems to be no creative anything here, and really, Donatella should know better.

Unsolved Mystery (Television Thoughts: Jon Benét: An American Murder Mystery, Investigation Discovery Channel)

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Twenty years ago, Jon Benet Ramsey died. And even though two decades has passed, the case is still unsolved, and on its twentieth anniversary, there are a slew of ‘specials’ dedicated to the murder. I saw ‘Jon Benét – An American Murder Mystery’ from the Investigation Discover Channel, which I guess is an offshoot of the Discovery Channel. This three part series is very comprehensive, but I don’t know if I learned anything new from it. The main point of the documentary seems to be that after reviewing the facts, people tend to be polarized, and are divided into two groups – those who believe that her parents had something to do with it, and those who think otherwise.

Lump me with the first group. I don’t know why – and this is just more gut instinct – but something is off there somewhere, and apparently a grand jury had recommended that John and Patsy Ramsey be charged, but the district attorney was against it, and some key people are saying that it is because the Ramseys have gone friendly with her. Not on this special is the ‘revelation’ that when Patsy placed the 911 call, she thought she had already hung up and was asking two other people “Now what?” This bit of information seems to have come from the CBS special tackling the same subject (Actually, I thought this special had that info, and was the driving factor behind me watching this)  I think it is bewildering that this case has never been solved over the years, and a lot of that stems from the fact that Boulder police made a lot of mistake when they were first conducting the investigation.

i wish I could say that this three part series was riveting, but it was not. I felt a lot of it was padded, and I almost stopped watching. Maybe I should have researched more and watched the CBS one.

The Script Says (Book Thoughts: Unscripted Joss Byrd, Lygia Day Penaflor)

24755483A lot of child stars grow up to be messed-up individuals, and we always wonder why. In Lygia Day Penaflor’s novel ‘Unscripted Joss Byrd’ we get a glimpse of why. The heroine of the book is Joss Byrd, a twelve year old child actress who is enjoying some success. She is on location in Long Island, New York for her film ‘The Locals,’ and she is not having a fine time on this shoot. She is having difficulties with the screenplay changes, and we find out it is because she is anorexic. Plus, she seems to be in an abusive relationship with her mother, who invests her earnings in shady business deals, and is having an affair with her director. I felt bad for Joss, and in this case, blame her mother for putting her in the situation, which becomes increasingly frustrating for the reader. When Joss tries to stand her ground, she is blocked in every step of the way, and when the film ends, seems to be back in square one. I was totally into Joss’s story, and now have an idea why child actors grow up to be damaged people. I wonder if this story is part of  a series, because the books in a kind of open-ended manner. I would certainly like to know what happens to Joss.

Men Of Steel (Movie Thoughts: Steel)

page1‘Steel,’ directed by Sven Matten is described as a ‘psychological thriller’ but I really think it’s a love story. Daniel (Chad Conner) is a television talk show host who suffers from anxiety. While he is on a big-deal interview (with an arms dealer!) he suffers a breakdown. He locks himself inside his apartment. Apparently he also has a bit of agoraphobia and can’t even deal with buying groceries. Enter Alexander, played by David Cameron, a nineteen year old who catches his fancy, and slowly takes him pout of his depression, even helping him deal with a traumatic incident in his past that caused all of his problems.

This isn’t really a bad film. The story was interesting, and the acting – Connell is believable – helped move the story forward. I don’t really know if the plot is plausible – A twink helps me out of my anxiety – but since twinks are my type anyway, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it. And certainly both Conner and Cameron are not bad on the eyes, and Matten settles teh camera often on their beautiful bodies (Hmmm – is that why i got so engrossed?) They shower together naked and swim on a lake on sun-kissed frames over mood piano music . Sure, those were unnecessary, but I enjoyed them.   There’s a twist in the end that should have been more obvious, but it got me. All in all, not really a bad may to spend 90 plus or so minutes.

Shirley Swings So Slow (Music Thoughts: Shirley Horn Live At The 4 Queens)

mi0004095034I have to admit that I was a late convert to Shirley Horn. It took me a while to appreciate her and her music. In the beginning, I was wary of her nine and ten minute tracks, telling myself that I do not really have the time to listen to songs sung that long. Until i realized the rhyme and reason for all of it – Horn is the master of using pace and silence in interpreting a song. No one sings so strongly in a manner so slowly. And that is most evident when you listen to her “new: album” : Shirley Horn Lice At The 4 Queens. Listen to all the drama of ‘Love Man,’ where she infuses all the intimacy here but at some point it becomes a full-fledged jazz performance, beating the rhythm. At one sense it may seem schizophrenic, but her style is so soft, so subtle you barely notice the shift. And Jobim’s ‘Meditation’ sounds so different – and as effective – without all its bossa nova accoutrements. Horn sings with such personality that she makes each song sounds so earthy, and you forget at times that you have heard that song a million times before.

Who would ever think we would ever get a new something anything from Shirley Horn. This recording is from May 1988, just as she was beginning to get a later resurgence. It is glorious, and I am immediately saddened that the 4 Queens on Fremont Street is no longer showcasing these jazz class acts. I wonder if my old friend Joel E Siegel knew about this recording, as I am sure he would have loved it. He could even have been involved in this performance. As I listen to it now, I hark back on an older time of innocence, where people appreciated these kinds of things more.

Us Versus Them (Television Thoughts, This Is Us, NBC)

this-is-us-season-1-keyart-posterEveryone is talking about “the big twist” in the new NBC series “This Is Us,” and of course, since I hate surprises, I went to search for what this big secret is even before watching the pilot episode of the show. I don’t know if that ‘spoiled’ the show for me. Or specifically I wonder if I would have appreciated the show more had I been more shocked by that big reveal. Because ultimately, I didn’t think it was that big of a shocker.

The show, based on the pilot, basically gave us four stories. We have Jack and Rebecca playing a pregnant couple and they are expecting triplets. Rebecca is played by Mandy Moore, and can I just say I love her? She seems to be the least successful among the foru 90s teen queens (along with Britney, Christina, and Jessica) but I actually think she is the most talented of the four, and definitely most subtle. Jack is played by Milo Ventimiglia, and by the way the characters talk to their doctor regarding the delivery of the babies, you can kind of tell that something somewhere will not go well.

We also get Randall who just found his biological father, Kate who is struggling with her weight, and Kevin (a delicious looking Justin Hartley)  an actor on a sitcom unhappy playing his role. We learn that all three of them are celebrating their birthdays on the same day. And then – voila – the twist: Jack and Rebecca’s storyline takes place in teh late 70s (or if we are to calculate, 1980) and Kate, Kevin, and Randall are the triplets. Well, a triplet with a twist: Kate and Kevin are biological siblings, and Randall was adopted because the third biological triplet was stillborn.

I liked the show, and don’t think it needed any gimmicks for it to work. Dan Fogelman created and wrote this (he wrote the film ‘Crazy Stupid Love’)  and NBC is probably positioning this for people who used to watch ‘Parenthood.’  It has a competent – and very attractive – cast, and I am curious how they will incorporate the old and the new in how the show progresses. I’m in.

With Jasmine Thrown In (Perfume Thoughts: My Burberry Black)

nd-32566There is something about Burberry, as a House, that I like. I like their back story, their apparel, their perfumes. I especially like their perfumes for some reason. I think they are always well-made, accessible, and I always get compliments when I wear them. I got a sample of My Burberry Black and wore it today, and lo and behold, am in the office for five minutes and instantly got two compliments. This is a flanker of the original “My Burberry” (here were my thoughts   on it) so I was especially looking forward to this. Upon spraying, my first thought: jasmine. I think for this release, they supercharged on jasmine, and for me that is a very good thing. The official notes are: candied rose, peach nectar, patchouli.  What I smell are watery versions of those notes. The dewy feeling of the original is carried over here, and with more jasmine, I get why they would say this is a deeper, more intense version of the original. Signed by Master Perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the perfume is a wonderful floral scent. I don’t know if it is because of my old age, but I have been getting more and more attracted to white florals of late. I don’t know if anyone really needs this if they have the original ‘My Burberry,’ but I want this.