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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catching Up On Movies

Now that my production job has ended, and my next one won’t begin for another week, I’ve had time to relax, get to the gym, and check out the latest movies.

Those sixty-plus hour workweeks put the squash on my social life, especially going to the movies. I was usually so tired I was afraid I’d fall asleep and snore rather loudly, or worse yet drool, and wake up with everyone pointing at me whispering, “That’s the man who snored through the whole movie. And look at the drool running down his chin. Disgusting!” I couldn’t risk the humiliation.

Now that I’m well rested I ventured out to the nearby Cineplex to catch up on the current spate of films vying for an Oscar or Golden Globe or Independent Spirit Award. So far I’ve seen three films worthy of the admission price.
First is the wonderfully quirky “Juno” starring the incredibly talented Ellen Page. It’s the story of a teenaged girl (Page) who gets pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption. Through the nine months we see her mature and make decisions that are right for her, though they might not be right for someone else. Her journey into womanhood is something to be admired.

The soundtrack features singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson. Her songs are woven intricately into the story, and what might appear as an attempt to sell her songs actually works wonderfully. Dawson’s songs really do add to the story, rather than distract from it like so many pop songs usually do.

Next was the Coen brother’s “No Country For Old Men,” based on the 2003 novel by Cormac McCarthy. This is a powerful and violent film that will leave you questioning life and its dark souls. I loved it. Josh Brolin gives a stunning performance as hunter Llewelyn Moss who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad and two million dollars cash. He grabs it and goes on the lam. Here’s a bit of dialogue:

Llewelyn Moss: If I don't come back, tell mother I love her.
Carla Jean Moss: Your mother's dead, Llewelyn.
Llewelyn Moss: Well then I'll tell her myself.

And finally there’s “Sweeney Todd,” the film adaptation of the Steven Sondheim musical. Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors of our time and he dives into the role of the demon barber of Fleet Street with gusto and raw passion. He’s astounding, and his singing voice is near perfection for the character.

Burton uses a lot of black and grey to obtain that Gothic foreboding atmosphere, and when the bright red blood starts pouring from the slit throats it’s all the more shocking.

So there you have it, three totally different films yet each one fascinating in its own right. Don’t miss them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Touched By An Angel

Saturday night I went to my friend Carole’s annual Christmas party. She lives out in the canyon area in a rustic house with a huge fireplace that was crackling with a holiday fire. There was food and drink and some real interesting people, a nice eclectic mix.

Carole asked everyone to bring a gag gift for the annual gift swap.

Last year I brought a pink piggy bank as my gag gift and went home with wind up plastic sushi. I still have them.

This year I wasn’t feeling to gag-ish and brought Godiva truffles. How are truffles a gag gift you wonder? I reasoned that if someone didn’t chew the truffle it would get lodged in their throat causing them to… gag.

Prior to the gift swap two people who brought guitars played a whole range of holiday and non-holiday songs and everyone sang along. The Christmas spirit was flowing as freely as the Merlot. The multi-lingual crowd joined together and sang the beloved “Silent Night” in English, German, and Portuguese. It was a beautiful moment.

Then came the gift swap. Oh the anticipation deciding which gift to pick. The biggest package? The smallest package? The one with the brightest wrapping paper? I stood in front of the gifts like a child surveying the numerous packages. I decided the medium package with the red and silver wrapping.

All eyes were on me as I tore the paper open…

Inside the box were snowmen with angel wings. Upon closer inspection, and reading the description on the box, I realized they were a sugar and creamer set. They’re adorable little ceramic things, and will complement the holiday table perfectly. I don’t consider it a gag gift at all.

One woman received a box of adult diapers. Someone else got large penis shaped cookies. I consider those gag gifts.

I left the party in a wonderful holiday spirit humming carols all the way home.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It’s All About Business

I have a cell phone and I use it frequently, but there are places where I need to not have it within reach.

One place is the gym, where I like to relax and workout without any cell phone interruptions.

The other place is the bathroom.

Today I was in the men’s room at work standing at the urinal when I heard someone talking on a cell phone. It was quite a detailed conversation about contracts and what sounded like a confidential matter. His bold and loud voice I didn’t recognize so I knew he wasn’t one of my co-workers. I looked around and didn’t see anyone. Was it coming from the heating vent? No. The voice was coming from one of the stalls.

I began to wonder how this man could be sitting on the toilet conducting business and not feel embarrassed. How could he concentrate on both at the same time? I’d be afraid the person listening would hear what I was doing, and we all know that sometimes we make bathroom sounds that cannot be explained away.

It was then that he started unraveling the toilet paper to wipe his.... and he never missed a beat of the conversation.

I wondered what the other person would say if they knew what he was doing. Would they be so disgusted they’d cancel the business deal? Or were they also sitting on the porcelain thrown without embarrassment?

Something inside me wanted to pound on the stall door and yell, “Do you know he’s taking a sh*t!” But I didn’t. I just giggled at the strangeness of it all.

As I walked out the door I heard the whoosh of the flush.

I just hope he washed his hands… and sanitized that phone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Music Of The iPod

My iPod has been a constant companion lately keeping me musically satisfied. I’ve rediscovered some old performers and have embraced some new ones.

So here they are, the songs/CDs that are making me sing in the shower:

• Morrissey’s “You Are The Quarry” CD (including all the bonus tracks)
• Maximo Park’s “Our Earthly Pleasures” CD
• Maximo Park’s “A Certain Trigger” CD
• Bette Midler’s “Live At Last” CD (A concert disc from 1976)
• Buffy Sainte-Marie (all her songs: past, present, and future)
• The soundtrack from “Breakfast On Pluto” (A quirky little film from 2005 starring Cillian Murphy)
• Jill Johnson’s version of “Tumblin’ Dice” (a duet with Kim Carnes)
• Kelly Clarkson’s “My December” CD (An underrated CD that deserves more attention)

Where’s the holiday music? I haven’t quite gotten into the Yule-time cheer… yet. I will. It’s just taking a little more time this year. I’ll put it on the “to do” list.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa

I love theatre. From the big Broadway shows with elephants, feathers, multi-million dollar sets and overblown production numbers to the smaller, more serious and quieter productions I am completely enthralled with the theatre experience. For me it’s magical.

Through the years I’ve seen hundreds of productions, and have written reviews for many. I always looked for something good to say, and restrained myself from giving a horrible review. Just because I was having a bad day – stress, fatigue, jealousy, stomach cramps, or whatever – didn’t give me the right to berate someone’s earnest efforts. I’m not a theatre snob. I appreciate all forms of live entertainment.

After seeing the truly wonderful “The History Boys” on Thursday night I took a complete theatrical u-turn and headed to a cabaret venue in the basement of a Mexican restaurant on Friday night to see a show called “Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa” starring the fabulous Boofant Sisters, Ruby and Vicky.

The Boofant sisters, actually a guy and a gal all dolled up in their boofant finest, sing, dance, tell irreverent jokes, and act totally silly. They entertained the sold out crowd with all the gusto of a size 14 sausaged into a size 4. In other words, their holiday spirit was busting out all over.

In one of the shows highlights they performed Dolly Parton’s poignant “Me and Little Andy” with puppets. It was over-the-top hilarity. I even think Dolly would get a laugh out of it.

Not everything worked. A segment with half-naked elves and circumcision fell flat, and should be cut.

But when they shined the Boofant Sisters shined like a star on the top of an aluminum Christmas tree. Their wacky performance of “Totally Eclipse of the Heart” has to be seen to be appreciated.

“Jesus, Booze & Kwanzaa” is an evening of mindless fun, something we all need every once in a while.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Night At The Theatre… Finally!

Since March I’ve been working 60+ hours per week in film production, which has left little time to check out theatre, or any other of my favorite pursuits. It seems like ages since I’ve been to a concert, cooked a gourmet dinner, flown a kite, hiked the canyon, gone bowling (well… not going bowling has been a conscious choice), or gone on a road trip to wherever the wind blows.

My sense of adventure has taken the backseat to work. And we all know that all work and no play leads to depression, bitterness, and incontinence.

I was feeling all that and more, so last Thursday night I ventured to the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles to see “The History Boys.” I really didn’t know much about the production except that it won acclaim and numerous awards in Britain where it debuted, and subsequently on Broadway. It was made into a movie last year but I never found time to see it (again, work took precedence). I just figured that if it earned this much acclaim it must be worth seeing.

As the lights dimmed and the stage lit up I was full of anticipation, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“The History Boys” is the story of eight history students in the North of England in the 1980s that are working hard at gaining acceptance into Oxford and Cambridge. Their pursuits are guided by an overly zealous headmaster, a headstrong teacher with a non-conforming teaching style, and a new teacher who wants the boys to think above and beyond what they’ve been taught. As the play unfolds sex, camaraderie, acceptance, loyalty, and dark secrets are confronted.

The play uses a large video screen above the stage to move the story forward. At first it was a bit jarring mainly because I’ve never experienced this in a major theatre production before. Once I realized what was happening I found it rather exciting. It was device that worked. The video used 80s music and that MTV fast paced editing to keep the action going.

Under the direction of Paul Miller this incredible play written by Alan Bennett shines with a wonderfully talented cast. Most notable are Dakin Matthews as the headstrong teacher, Peter Paige as the new teacher, and Alex Brightman as the sexually confused student.

“The History Boys” is definitely worth seeing. Don’t miss it.