In My Own Little Corner

OK, first of all, it’s my 200th post! HOORAY!

Second of all Happy Halloween! (I do love Halloween, just not posting about it.)

Now, onto the actual post. Last night as my 26th birthday present, my mom took me out to dinner and to go see Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway.

I’ve always felt a special connection to Cinderella. I mean the character. She was always my favorite Disney princess. Probably because she has dark blonde hair like I used to (still do depending on the lighting.) Her song in Into The Woods was a particular favorite. The only good poem I ever wrote was about Cinderella. (I, like most teenagers who want to be writers, wrote some God awful poetry in high school.)  I love Gail Carson Levine’s amazing book Ella Enchanted, (But not the stupid movie version starring Anne Hathaway) and even A Cinderella Story starring Hilary Duff, Chad Michael Murray, Stiffler’s Mom and The Son from Cougar Town.

Also, BEST CASTLE!

Also, BEST CASTLE!

And of course I loved the Rodgers and Hammerstein version, that was originally written for Julie Andrews as a teleplay then was redone with Leslie Ann Warren and Brandy through the years.

When it opened on Broadway this past year with a new book, I was overwhelmingly excited to go.

Here’s the thing though. No one really wanted to go with me. Despite the music being some of RNH’s best, no one really likes Cinderella, largely because the script has always been kind of a mess. The attempts to update it over the years always made it look even more dated, even if some of the changes (giving The Prince a name, Christopher, is one such instance) were warranted and necessary.

The latest book is phenomenal, developing characters instead of relying on the familiarity of the story, and shaking up the order of the classic songs. It feels current and classic at the same time, which is a massive achievement when it comes to musical theater.

And speaking of those classic songs, oh God! I did not expect to have the reaction that I did.

I’m a pretty emotional person, it doesn’t take much to get me choked up. A sweet commercial will do it, or someone saying that they think I look pretty. So when I say that I had a completely over the top, even for me emotional reaction to these songs, you can trust me. When Ella began singing “In My Own Little Corner,” I felt a lump rise in my throat. By the time she was “a young Norwegian princess or a milk maid,” the tears were running down my face, when she was “lost in the jungle all alone and unarmed,” I was sobbing.

This behavior continued and culminated in Act II when Ella and Prince Topher sang “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” This is possibly my favorite RNH song, to me it epitomizes what they were good at as a team. It’s a tentative love song, like “Some Enchanted Evening,” or “If I Loved You,” or “People Will Say We’re in Love,” but not overly schmaltzy, and sweetly emotional. Also it’s Jen and my favorite (we watched the Brandy version a lot when we lived together.) I was inconsolable. It was just so beautiful.

Go see Cinderella. Or don’t, because the sooner it closes, the sooner I can produce this version.

And At The End, Everyone Dances: The Lord of The Geeks Gets The Bard

I finally watched Joss Whedon’s interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing a few weeks ago. (This is what happens when my family goes away for the weekend, I order Mexican take out, and I watch movies that I know they would hate.) I really enjoyed it. Analyzing Shakespeare was probably my favorite part of my entire five year trek as an English Major, not least of which because my favorite professor, Dr. Michael Friedman, taught all of my Shakespeare courses. (Hi Dr. Friedman! If you Google yourself and this comes up, cool! Also, hi any of Dr. Friedman’s current students, the discussion questions aren’t that hard, and there will be a time when you miss them.) And Whedon took an approach that I myself have always felt fits Much Ado, that is setting it at in a vacation community. Also it ended with a dance party, which is pretty much how all Shakespearean comedies (and frankly, all movies) should end, in my opinion.

For some reason I felt like Beatrice and Benedick belonged on a beach. Is that weird?

Anyway, the go to version of Much Ado About Nothing is the 1993 film version, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring the man himself and his then wife Emma Thompson as the lovers. Other people you might have heard of in that version? Kate Bosworth as Hero, Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio, Michael Keaton as Dogberry and two guys who never did much else names Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as The Prince and Don John respectively.

Bunch of nobodies who never did much of anything, this group.

Bunch of nobodies who never did much of anything, this group.

But I think English professors and Shakespeare nerds can rejoice, for there is a new version that we can all celebrate now.

I’ve both praised and quibbled with Joss Whedon before, but I like the man’s work, and as a theatre person I appreciate the idea of a repertory company, which is basically what he’s done with his Whedonites, and so many of the are on display at their best here.

Amy Acker and Alexis Denissoff are amazing as Beatrice and Benedick, Clark Gregg shines  as Leonato and Nathan Fillion owns his small scenes as Dogberry. Others pop up too, the guy who played Andrew on Buffy, the guy who played Topher on Dollhouse. Whedon’s people will always be his people and a repertory company lends themselves well to Shakespeare. These are people that know each other inside and out, so can interact easily with what’s given to them. And Whedon’s vision is clearer than Branagh’s, even if it’s not as true to the text. (He cuts more, thankfully.)

I managed to get into the play before my CSD got the better of me. I love Much Ado. It’s my third favorite Shakespeare, behind Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the kind of statement that people who study literature fully understand.

The movie was fantastic. I loved the black and white, I loved the music and the setting. But it also made me sad.

There are days when I miss studying lit more than I can possibly explain. I miss staying up until three in the morning going over a passage for the fiftieth time trying to make sure I have the subtext right. I miss reading poorly printed journal articles that I have to squint at to fully make out. I miss trying to make heads or tails of theory that I barely understand. I miss sitting around with my friends and talking about whatever we were all working on, going through our interpretations trying to come close to what we thought our professors wanted to hear.

I miss slaving over my thesis statements, emailing them to my professors, only to hear back a few hours later, “You’re so close, but you need to specify more,” so spending a few more hours getting my quotes and outline together with a more specific thesis statement. I miss writing papers, and getting my citations just so.

I miss these things more than I miss going to bars on Thursday nights, or eating crappy food at two in the morning or taking naps all afternoon. (I miss those things too.)

I sometimes wonder if when other people leave college they miss the actual work. I couldn’t wait to get out of school. I mean, I really couldn’t, circumstances kept me in an extra year and it drove me nuts. The one thing I’m sure of, that I’ve always been sure of, it’s that if I go back to school it will be for my MBA not my MA.

But then I watch a Shakespeare adaptation, or chat with my friend Joe about the Humanities class he’s teaching and I miss theory and analysis. Don’t get me wrong, I have no interest in getting an MA in literature. I do NOT want to spend $30,000 to read Beowulf again, I’ve read it twice and that was one time too many, but I want to join a reading group for ex English majors who want to move past plot and talk about Lit theory.

Does anyone know of such a group and if it’s something I could join?

New York Comic Con – First Contact

I’d never been to a Con before this weekend, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had a picture in my head of the opening and closing scenes of Chasing Amy, so I thought I might see Jason Lee arguing about whether inkers deserved as much credit as artists and writers, but beyond that, I had no idea.

I went dressed as Supergirl and Aless as Wonder Woman, (we were also Shadowhunters for a few hours, and she was Clara Oswin Oswald whenever we saw a Doctor to take pictures with.)

Over on my facebook page, I’m going to be posting pictures as I track them down, but it really was a great time!

I’m a terrible reporter and really just did a lot of chatting and not a lot of asking real questions or note taking, but here’s the philosophy that we spent the weekend espousing:

Photo Booth

That’s not to say that Aless and I are abnormal people, but it’s cook to go someplace where we can let our guard down. While I don’t have much of a filter anyway, I mean, if someone shows the slightest interest in something I like, I’ll babble to them about it for at least five minutes, maybe more. (God forbid any one say the word “Nightwing” around me. We’ll all lose a few hours.) But at Comic Con, there’s no reason for that. You can be, say waiting on line to get your picture taken with John Barrowman.

AHHHH!

AHHHH!

And someone notices that you’ve got a Camp Jupiter button on your lanyard and you can spend the rest of the time in line talking about how much you all love Percy Jackson and no one will get bored, no one’s eyes glaze over. Or say you you’re waiting to get your special edition of Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth signed by Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert and Travis Stever.

Amazing

Amazing

And you and the guys in front of you talk about the different shows you went to, and your favorite songs and their Coheed tattoos and how import Chondra is to the group and you don’t have anyone asking, “Wait? Who?”

Or you can sit in a room with almost one thousand other people, a few of whom stand up to a mic and say the same thing that you were thinking. “Um, before my question, I’d just like to thank Bruce Timm for everything, I mean, all of the work is so amazing.”

It’s like a building full of people who agree to be on the same page for a few days, and that’s such an incredible feeling.

So thank you to everyone who was in The Javits Center this weekend. I had an amazing time and learned so much. Can’t wait to do it again!

MY FANDOMS ARE TOUCHING (And I’m afraid it might be Icky)

So, it was widely reported this week that Matt Smith will be playing Patrick Bateman in the musical version of American Psycho. Theatre people have been talking about American Psycho for a while. I think I heard about it the first time back in high school.

The music will be written by Duncan Sheik, who you probably know from his super 90’s song “Barely Breathing,” and who theatre people know for writing Spring Awakening, which gave the world Lea Michele. So, thanks Duncan.

Anyway, while I was hoping that one Jeremy Jordan would play Bateman, for reasons of hilarity and CSD (Jordan played Jack Kelly in the broadway version of Newsies, thus he will be the stage version of Christian Bale in my head forever), I’m actually intrigued with Smith as a choice, and fascinated by how the show is going to work at all.

Here’s why I’m not super psyched:

I don’t want to (if and probably when the show moves from London to New York, with Smith), save for a weeks, buy a ticket, wait for weeks, put on a dress, go to the theater and spend the entire night being inundated with “ZOMG, he’s soooooo hot. I loved Doctor Who, but I don’t like it now with that old guy.”

I’m afraid that now, this show I’ve waited years for will be completely ruined by the wrong kind of fangirls, which is terribly unfeminist of me, but hear me out.

I’m not saying that fangirling doesn’t belong on Broadway, obviously, that’s not what I think, at all. but I don’t want a bunch of stupid Whovian girls, who don’t know Sondheim from a hole in the wall, and who’ve probably never heard of Brett Easton Ellis, let alone read any of his books, coming in and ruining what could be a landmark theatrical moment.

You want to squee over Matt Smith chasing hookers with a chainsaw, do so. But do it with the right foundation.

I’m not saying that newbies shouldn’t experience theatre. I think everyone should try out musical theatre as entertainment, because whenever people say they don’t like musicals, I figure they probably just haven’t seen the right one yet. And if some squeeling fangirl comes to American Psycho for Matt Smith, and leaves having fallen for the art form I’ve loved since I was prenatal, that’s fantastic.

But just, be cool, and don’t ruin it for the rest of us, like The Potterheads and Gleeks did for How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. 

The House of Hades hits me right in my feels

The House of Hades

I was so excited for The House of Hades by Rick Riordan to come out this week. After Sea of Monsters and The Son of Sobek I was even more so. I’m always pulled so fully into Riordan’s world of brave magical teens, gods and monsters. He’s created such a rich tapestry of characters and placed that falling into it for 24 hours ever year or so is always a treat.

The House of Hades is the fourth book in The Heroes of Olympus series, the ninth “Greek” story, and the twelfth set in this universe (The Kane Chronicles is the Egyptian half and The Son of Sobek is a short story that sets up a clear crossover as the next step.) and is by far the most romantic. Not just because of Riordan delves deeper into the complex emotional relationships of his characters than ever before, but because it’s intense emotions and beautiful imagery feel like something out of the romantic era. Which, incidentally is my favorite literary era. Hades is also probably my favorite book in the series now, after The Last Olympian held on to the spot for a very long time.

Because it’s the most romantic, though, let’s talk about some of the kick ass relationships that got explored. Mainstay couples Jason and Piper and Hazel and Frank basically got a pass from angst this time around, which was nice to see. It also made their personal internal journeys a little less interesting than their friends this time around. Especially Piper, who grows into her powers, and defeats an old enemy but does very little else.

Anyway, let’s start with Percy and Annabeth. When we last saw them, they were falling into Tartarus and their inevitable doom, but for a couple that has overcome kidnapping, oracles, Annabeth’s past, the goddess Calypso and amnesia, a little hopeless doom is nothing. In a lesser series they’d probably be separated again, but Riordan makes it absolutely clear, Annabeth and Percy are past that. They’re together now, and will stay together. The journey they take, while desperate and horrific, they take together and in the end, vow never to be separated again. One terrifying scene has Percy living through the agony of every curse ever uttered against him. The heartbreaking moment comes when Annabeth walks away from him, essentially abandoning him to his torment. This curse came courtesy of Calypso, who Percy has a brief but lovely relationship with in The Titan’s Curse. This is the worst for Percy because losing Annabeth shatters him and he’s reminded of Calypso, who he did care very much for, and it stings that she’d curse him at all.

Speaking of Calypso, she was probably my favorite part of this whole endeavor.

If you recall, when I read The Mark of Athena was really hoping that Leo Valdez was going to get the girl. The girl in question at that point was Hazel Levesque. Riordan did better. Much better. After being shot into the sky by the snow goddess Khione (who later got her ass handed to her by Piper), Leo crash landed on Calypso’s island. But this isn’t the sweet, sad Calypso of The Titan’s Curse, she’s grown pretty bitter an angry over the past few years. (Which would explain her cursing of Percy.) She hates Leo on sight, and he pretty much feels the same. They avoid and ignore each other for his first few days, but eventually respect each other, like each other and fall in love. It’s really quite touching. Because of Calypso’s curse, that no man she loves can stay with her, Leo has to leave, but unlike her previous lovers (Odysseus and Percy, among others), Leo doesn’t have anyone waiting for him at home, and vows to return.

Guys, it was amazing.

But it was nothing compared to the most touching and unexpected twist Riordan’s ever given us.

I’m telling you, this one made Rachel being The Oracle look downright contrived. It made Luke being in love with Annabeth all along seem predictable. It made Leo being the great grandson of Hazel’s boyfriend look well, snooze worthy.

I also might have thought this because it was about my favorite character.

See, I’ve always loved Nico Di Angelo, the Son of Hades. Of the Big Three kids we met in the first series, Percy, Thalia and Nico’s sister Bianca, he was always the most interesting. His motivations were never clear, he always seemed to be on his own side, and that tended to line up with Percy’s so yeah, there they were.

But while Nico and Jason confronted Cupid this time around, again, in an incredibly spooky scene, we learned the reasoning behind a lot of Nico’s decisions.

Fans have theorized for a while that Nico had a thing for Annabeth. It’s understandable for a few reasons, his clear avoidance of Percy, and extrapolated almost entirely from a moment when Nico agrees to do a favor for Camp Half Blood because Annabeth asked him.

What Jason, and we, uncover during their visit with cupid is Nico isn’t in love with Annabeth at all. Nico is (or was, the current status of his feelings is unclear) in love with Percy. I’m not doing the moment justice because it was incredibly touching and deeply rendered. And it cements Nico’s character in a way. Yes, all of the Half Bloods are outcasts, in the mortal world. But in the Greek and Roman worlds? Our main characters aren’t outcasts at all. Percy and Jason are like high school quarterbacks. They win a lot, they have pretty, smart, talented girlfriends. Nico isn’t like them.

Nico is The Son of Hades, he isn’t from this era, and he’s isolated himself, no matter how many times he’s been reached out to. When Jason considers this, he tries again to tell Nico his friends won’t reject him, but Nico makes him promise not to tell.

One of the things that I really admire about Riordan is how he doesn’t condescend to his child readers and he also doesn’t dispense with the nastier bits of mythology. They’re watered down, but not thrown out. Of course, he also isn’t ignoring some of the more unconventional aspects of Ancient Greek life, including that homosexuality was both widely practiced and widely accepted. But Nico is still a product of our world, and even more so a product of being a child of a time when being gay wasn’t accepted at all, he would have trouble reconciling it.

Also, how much you want to bet that in the next week or so the internet explodes with Nico/Jason fanfiction? You know it’s coming world, there’s no getting around it.

Good Luck, Sir: Runner, Runner

Runner Runner

As I sat watching Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck grin and laugh their way through Runner, Runner I realized how many really fantastic movies there are about gambling, gamblers and casino culture.

Yes, Runner, Runner reminded me of 21 the not as good as this movie about MIT kids who go to Vegas and count cards, and yes it reminded me of Justin Timberlake’s other big box office moment, The Social Network, but primarily I was thinking about a Rat Pack Musical about a prohibition era Chicago speakeasy and Casino called Robin and The Seven Hoods. I don’t know why that’s the one I thought of, but I’ve had “My Kind of Town (Chicago)” stuck in my head.

Anyway, my craziness aside, Runner, Runner was very good and has been sent to the top of the list for “things to look at to show that Ben Affleck is going to be a good Batman.” His character Ivan Block is a straight up bad guy bastard, don’t get me wrong. There’s not a sniff of anti hero on this guy, but his behavior, throwing lavish parties he doesn’t care about, posing with trappings of wealth to divert attention from his real deal is Bruce Wayne to a tee. The scene where he throws a couple of government officials into croc infested waters only to pull them back from the brink was a Batman move if ever I’ve seen one.

Of course everything Affleck does for the next two years is going to be studied by people like me to see how it will fit into what he’s going to do as Batman.

I’ll try not to focus on that moving forward, because the guy will probably have a few movies coming out in between.

Anyway, Gemma Atherton is also in this movie as The Girl. Generally it drives me nuts when an actress as talented as Atherton is wasted on The Girl, but she does a good job and really there isn’t a single character that steps out of their type. Affleck is “The Charming Bad Guy,” Timberlake is “The Wide Eyed Kid,” Anthony Mackie is “The Fed.” But God, it’s a good formula that I’d watch over and over again, especially with a cast this charismatic.

Richie Furst (Timerlake) is the son of a gambler who lost his shirt working for a hedge fund and is attending Princeton to get is Masters in Finance. He’s paying for school by recruiting to online gambling sites. When the administration finds out they shut him down. Furst then bets his savings in an online poker game and find out that the site cheated him. He decides to go to Costa Rica and confront Block, who owns the site. Recognizing Furst’s exceptional mix of abilities, Block hires him.

Then the feds get involved and a twist ending worthy of The Sting (another favorite movie of mine about gamblers) hits.

Runner, Runner is a tight hour and a half, so there’s no time to get bored with it, and from a personal taste standpoint watching JT smile and bat his baby blues and Affleck give profanity laced tirades doesn’t get old.

I loved this movie, and will probably continue to love it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going order some Thai food and watch Rounders, and maybe The Sting.

Trailers:

The Monuments Men again. God, I can’t wait for this movie.

Her looks unfathomably weird and after reading the Ender Quintet, I can’t help but think that Samantha, the sentient computer that Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with will wind up being as whiny, annoying and bullying as Jane.

Oldboy looks like exactly the kind of movie I don’t like. But I’m sure it’s a very good movie that I won’t like.

Rankings:

1. Pacific Rim

2. Runner, Runner

3. The Great Gatsby

4. The World’s End

5. Salinger

6. Kick Ass 2

7. The Butler

8. Man of Steel

9. Don Jon

10. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

11. The Wolverine

12. Iron Man 3

13. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

14. Despicable Me 2

15. Star Trek Into Darkness

16. Elysium

17. Monster’s University

18. After Earth

Expectations, Images and Reality: Don Jon

Don Jon

Don Jon is Joseph Gordon Levitt’s writing and directorial debut. In another Joseph Gordon Levitt movie, 500 Days of Summer, there’s a scene where we watch two scenarios pan out, what the main characters expectations are and what the reality is, which serves as a wake up call for him to get his life together.

Don Jon meditates on similar themes to Summer, but in a different way. Our protagonist, Jon, rather than an LA “hipster” like Tom in Summer is a Central New Jersey “guido.” It’s a pejorative term, but I don’t know a better one. I know these guys, I see them when I go out, I went to school with them (or they went to the boy’s school equivalent of my school), and I even love some of them.

Anyway, in the first scene, Jon falls hard for Barbara (Scarlett Johannson), who fits well into his life for a while. She refuses to sleep with him immediately, demands to be introduced to his friends, encourages him to go back to school, gets along with his family etc. This is where Levitt gets tricky with the script. It looks like the only thing that’s coming between them is Jon’s porn addiction.

That and the fact that Jon is fantastically unhappy. Comparing it to Summer, Barbara is Tom and Jon is Summer. It’s not that Jon doesn’t want to be in a relationship, he’s searching for something, and connection turns out to be that thing, he just doesn’t want to be in this relationship, even if Barbara is apparently the girl of his dreams.

They break up over the porn, and Jon loses it a little bit. He because bitter and violent and after talking it out with a friend, decides to keep going to school. Then he begins relationship number two. Jon has been talking to a classmate names Esther (Julianne Moore) and they wind up having sex in her car. They argue about the porn and she points out that he’s probably addicted.

She basically shows him how to be in a real relationship, there’s no manipulation or demands, like with Barbara, but she doesn’t take his shit either. It’s a subtle difference.

My favorite moment, comes though, when he’s telling his family he broke up with Barbara, and his parents vent their disappointment very loudly. It’s only his younger sister who says,  “That girl had an agenda. She didn’t care about Jonny, or know anything about him. She just wanted someone who would do whatever she wanted. It’s good that she broke up with you.”

There’s an honest and heartbreaking scene where Jon reunites with Barbara to talk about what happened between them and apologizes for lying to her. She dismisses his apology, and he tries to talk to her about what went wrong and how her demands that he change everything about himself for her were as bad as his refusal to really connect. She dismisses this and walks away.

But Jon does start to connect, with Esther, with his sister, with his friends and with some guys at his gym.

I enjoyed the movie, even if it wasn’t anything new or special. The performances were excellent and it made me laugh a few times, and the characters definitely rang true.

Trailers:

I don’t want to see American Hustle except that it has more superheroes in it than The Avengers (not really). Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams are all in it though. (Lois Lane isn’t technically a superhero, but she counts.)

Out of The Furnace is going to be a movie I’ll probably hate, but good God, Christian Bale is playing Casey Affleck’s older brother. Sorry, but that’s just too much for my brain to handle.

That Stallone/Schwartzenegger break out of prison movie is going to be great. I don’t even remember what it’s called, but I’m sure I’ll love watching it on HBO someday.

Rankings!

1. Pacific Rim

2. The Great Gatsby

3. The World’s End

4. Salinger

5. Kick Ass 2

6. The Butler

7. Man of Steel

8. Don Jon

9. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

10. The Wolverine

11. Iron Man 3

12. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

13. Despicable Me 2

14. Star Trek Into Darkness

15. Elysium

16. Monster’s University

17. After Earth