Remember Me

Coco_(2017_film)_poster

You know how sometimes you see something at just the right moment in your life? Like there’s a weird confluence of events that leads to you sitting in a theater with a bottle of Miller Lite crying like baby on a Saturday morning?

That’s kind of what’s happening with me and Coco…

You guys know at this point that stories about art, family and faith are heavy hitters for me, so like, I was primed for Coco to begin with, but there’s also a deeply touching subplot about aging family members, which given some personal stuff these past few years absolutely destroyed me.

From a purely objective standpoint Coco is a brilliant work. It’s tightly scripted, stunningly animated with delightful music and memorable characters. It may be my new favorite Pixar flick, it’s certainly in the top 3.

But regardless of where it sits in canon, it’s a wonderful movie about figuring out your place, and the price of dreams.

Bonus: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is very cute with some good jokes and some OK songs. It is WAYYYY too long to be placed in front of a feature. Also, I’d imagine if you weren’t just back from Disney World where “That Time Of Year” was played at least once an hour…you might find the song more amusing and less groan inducing.

Rankings:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. The Big Sick
  3. Coco
  4. Battle Of The Sexes
  5. Dunkirk
  6. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  7. Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 2
  8. Thor: Ragnarok
  9. Justice League
  10. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
  11. The Dark Tower
  12. Cars 3
  13. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Trailers:

Duck Duck Goose: No.

Ferdinand: MMmm… Maybe? Seriously, it looks quite charming, and I can’t get over how good a pick for Ferdinand John Cena is.

 

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Sexiest Man Alive? Eh? Fine…

So Blake Shelton was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive this year.

This is only on my radar because The AV Club wrote this fun article about it. Which makes me a little sad, because this used to be the kind of thing I paid attention to. Not sad in like, “OMG I miss being that person,” way, I like who I’ve grown into and the interests I’ve cultivated beyond main line celebrity gossip pipelines, more in a “huh, the world has moved on and so have I and change is weird,” way.

Anyway, on to Mr. Shelton.

This means nothing, really, but on a planet where all four Chrises exist, I have trouble clocking this, and I like Blake Shelton. Actually I think I just like Blake Shelton’s taste in women…both Miranda Lambert and Gwen Stefani are awesome. But he’s fine.

He is not, in my estimation, the sexiest man alive. (All opinions below take this as a granted fact)

He is not even the sexiest male country star over 40. (Tim McGraw exists.)

tim-mcgraw

Hello Tim

He is not even the sexiest guy who’s show is on NBC on Tuesday nights. (This Is Us airs after The Voice, so Milo Ventimiglia, Justin Hartley and Sterling K. Brown are there. Depending on what you’re into into, dude wise, your bases are pretty well covered) (I think there’s also a Chicago on…which, while I can’t name any of them, all those shows are pretty full of sexy dudes, I know from watching said shows with my mom)

He may not even be the sexiest male judge on The Voice. (I’m kinda into Adam Levine, y’all, he’s exactly my brand of scum bag. Also, Usher.)

usher

I mean, even if you didn’t want to give it to a Chris, specifically (Though, why not, People? THERE ARE FOUR OF THEM! And I think you’ve only given it to Hemsworth…) there are also two lesser but still quite sexy Hemsworth brothers.

Hell, there’s a whole universe of Non-Chris sexy dudes in Marvel movies, not to mention John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, who should be gearing up the publicity machine any moment now.

I know, I know, my choices tend to skew nerdy, but since nerd culture is now pop culture, (I know this because my nerdy websites told me so!) they’re basically the mainstream hotties nowadays. That or like youtube stars or whatever the kids are into. (Teens still like the YouTubes, yes? I’m 30 now, so I’m old and do not know the things)

Trust me, this is better than when I was sixteen and consistently whined that Adam Pascal was overlooked. (Although he was. And is. Just in general. He’s very sexy.) At least now most people have heard of my choices and are familiar with their work.

Anyway, I know everyone’s been making these jokes for the past twenty four hours, but seriously its weird.

But hey, Blake Shelton really does have AWESOME taste in women .

Top 5 Disney Duets

Guys! I’m leaving tomorrow. With a collective 10 hours of holding for cast members (all of whom were super courteous and helpful, and frankly a lot of folks are dealing with bigger fall out from Irma than having to wait a week to ride Flight of Passage) and tonight I’m going to see War Paint, so I though it was a good time to talk about duets.

A duet is, quite simply, a song sung between two people. They are often, but not always, romantic in nature (all of the ones on this list are…) and often they take place in the climax of Act II. Some of classic Broadway duets include, “People Will Say We’re In Love” from Oklahoma, “Friendship” from assorted Cole Porter projects but mostly Anything Goes, “For Good” from Wicked, “What You Own,” from Rent, and the ultimate Act II duet “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors.

5. “I See The Light” from Rapunzel

I see the light

I remember the first time I heard this song, when Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi sang it at the Oscars. I was already deep into crush land with Zach, because I’d been watching Chuck and learning that he could sing, whoo baby. Anyway, the song, it’s beautiful and illuminates (ha!) the relationship between Rapunzel and Flynn so perfectly, as well as walking through their journey. This is the fulfillment of what they both want more than anything before. And those lanterns.

4. “Once Upon A Dream” from Sleeping Beauty

Once Upon a Dream

There are few things in the world I love the way I love the moment where Aurora and Phillip waltz through the woods together. It’s so lovely, and this perfect little song about feeling like you know some one and being connected by fate and love. Ugh, it’s so beautiful.

3. “Something There” from Beauty And The Beast

Something There

I have deep affection for the music from Beauty And The Beast and “Something There” is certainly up there in the “songs that sometimes get forgotten.” A big function of the duet is often to move us emotionally from one place to another with characters. This does that, almost as clearly as anything.

2. “If I Didn’t Have You” from Monsters Inc.

Monsters Inc

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how much I love Billy Crystal, and I also love John Goodman, and I love the sort of old school-ness of both of them, which is captured in this delightful bff duet between Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc.

1. “A Whole New World” from Aladdin

A_Whole_New_World.png

In the intro I described “Suddenly Seymour” as the ultimate Act II duet. It is. It is the best one ever written in my very very unexpert opinion, however, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken also wrote the second best Act II duet ever for Aladdin and it’s “A Whole New World.” Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet ride around the world is delightful, romantic and soaring. Also, Lea Solanga.

Runners Up: “Love is An Open Door” from Frozen, “If I Never Knew You” from Pocohontas

 

The Great Comet, Digressions, and The Nature of The Epic Novel

natasha

It’s been over two weeks since I saw Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet Of 1812 and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of something like, adapting a few chapters of an epic novel into an Avante Garde rock opera. I was listening to the OBC yesterday and started thinking about how epic novels in general play with subplots.

The digression is a staple of the epic novel, and sometimes they can be a delight, and sometimes they can be a slog, and sometimes completely forgettable.

I’ve never read War And Peace the epic from which the digression that inspired The Great Comet is drawn but I’ve read others. (Les Miserables, Great Expectations, Gone With The Wind, The Lord of The Rings, hell at the moment I’m working through The Stand, which, whether it was Stephen King’s intention to write an old school epic or not, certainly reads like one.) And not all digressions are created equal. I know now that when I read War And Peace that this one will stand out to me, but whether it would have done anything without The Great Comet is hard to know.

Some digressions I love? The extended flashback to Waterloo in Les Mis where Thenardier saves Marius’s father’s life, which leads to Marius becoming the protector of Eponine and Gavroche (oh, did you not know that Gavroche is also a Thenardier child? Well, he is.) and deep guilt at their deaths. Scarlett and Rhett’s trip to New York & Saratoga in Gone With The Wind (Where Scarlett gets pregnant with Bonnie.) Anything where Pip was at school in Great Expectations.

Some digressions I can’t stand? Tom Friggin Bombadil, anything about Marius’s family history not connected to the Thenardiers, anything about Ashley Wilkes that isn’t directly illuminating how Melanie Wilkes is The Bomb Dot Com.

Anyway, that’s been in my head lately. As for actually reviewing the show? I don’t think that I understood enough of it to that. I really enjoyed The Great Comet, it’s a remarkable piece of theater and I’ve fallen very in love with the cast album, but it’s also strange and more than a little bit odd and deeply overwhelming in certain ways.

Top 5 Disney Character Songs

As I get ready for my next trip to Disney World, I’ve been listening to a lot of Disney music and since I spent a large amount of time thinking about my relationship to musical theater this summer, I decided to talk about the way Disney songs fit into the general Musical Theater song categories.

A Character song is a song that basically sets up a character’s thesis statement. Sometimes, an “I Want” song (chronicled here) is a character song, but not all character songs are “I Want” songs. (You know, it’s a squares and rectangles sort of a situation.) So I’m trying to steer clear of “I Wants,” here. Some classic character songs include, “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No,” “The Worst Pies In London,” ” “Popular,” “Master Of The House,” “I Am What I Am,” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

5. “Why Should I Worry” from Oliver And Company

Dodger

Oliver features a couple of great character songs, and one of them is going to be in runners up, but “Why Should I Worry,” got the spot because, I mean, it’s a Billy Joel song, sung by a dog, who then plays piano with his tail. The song introduces us to Dodger, a too cool for school mutt, who recruits adorable kitty Oliver into the life of an animal of the streets. Also, he plays the piano with his tail. 

4. “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid

Ursula

I love The Little Mermaid, fiercely, and this song, the introduction of Ursula The Sea Witch is such an integral part of what makes it amazing. Ursula lays out her whole deal on the line in this song, which she still manages to use to trick Ariel into going along with her plan. Also, like every from The Little Mermaid, it is masterfully and brightly performed.

3. “Let It Go” from Frozen

Let it go

One of my favorite things is when the rest of the world catches on to something that subcultures have known for a long time. And “Let It Go,” gave theater people that when the rest of the world realized that Idina Menzel is amazing, and we should listen to her belt high d’s for always and forever. Also, “Let It Go,” gives Elsa her grand moment, the moment where she realizes that her power, while terrifying is also beautiful, and that she can’t hide from what’s inside of her anymore.

2. “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King

timon and pumbaa

We get two character’s life statements in this song, both Timon and Pumbaa lay out their “problem free philosophy,” as they teach Simba about life with “no worries,” and hey, this song introduced us to what would later be one of the greatest song and dance teams ever, as the song finishes up with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick harmonizing.

1. “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin

The-Genie-Aladdin

Not only would my brother stop speaking to me if I didn’t choose this one, (His favorite Disney song from his favorite Disney Movie) I happen to agree that it’s the best in this section. Tailor made to it’s performer, as many character songs are, laying out who the character is and relentlessly catchy. Robin Williams gave us a lifetime of amazing performances, but this is probably my favorite.

Runners Up: “Perfect” from Oliver And Company, “Mother Knows Best” from Tangled, “You’re Welcome” from Moana

Top 5 Disney “I Want” Songs

So, I’m going back to Disney World in a few weeks.

I’m going four times this year.

I know.

I know.

Anyway…because of that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Disney music. And I started thinking about Disney’s place in musical theater canon. Some of the best “showtunes” of the past 30 years have come from the House of Mouse, which is why I’m convinced that Disney is (part of) why I became a theater geek. I instinctively understood how musicals worked by the age of 4 because of how many times I’d watched The Little Mermaid. (A LOT of times, you guys. A LOT)

So, I’m starting with “I Want” songs. An “I Want” song is sung by a protagonist and states what their goal is. It usually takes place in Act 1, after the opening. Some classic “I Wants,” include, “Somewhere That’s Green,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?,” “Something’s Coming,” “One Song Glory,” and “The Wizard And I.” (See, I went modern for a couple!)

5. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – Snow White

Snow White 1

I gave it a spot for being the original, and it really is a lovely piece of music. Snow White’s trilling soprano is dated now, and annoying always but the chirpy bird-like sound is a nice thematic touch. Snow White is dreaming of escape, this is what she wants, it’s clear and pretty and kind of perfect for her.

4. “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

MoanaPortrait.0

Only this low because it’s new, and we don’t know how we’ll all feel about it in a few decades. (Good, I’m betting on good.) I love this song. Lin-Manuel writes good “I Want.” (“My Shot,” and “It Won’t Be Long Now,” LISTEN TO THEM. I will wait.) But when I heard this song for the first time, I was blown away. We know Moana so perfectly through this song, not just it’s lyrics, but it’s rising and falling melody and pulsing rhythm. So good!

3. “I Can Go The Distance” – Hercules

Hercules-Go-The-Distance

Hercules is my number one most underrated Disney Soundtrack, and this song is another one that gives us such a clear picture of our hero. We know everything that Hercules wants, what drives him, from this song. It’s also a great heroic theme, those soaring horns and strings, so beautiful!

2. “Belle (Reprise)” – Beauty And The Beast

Belle

Look, it LITERALLY has the phrase, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” in it. We’ve already met Belle before this reprise, but it’s still a good one! This is her thesis statement. Also…Mencken

1. “Part Of Your World” – The Little Mermaid 

Ariel-in-Her-Cave-in-The-Little-Mermaid

Sometimes I think that “Part Of Your World” is the platonic ideal of an “I Want” song, and it’s definitely one of my favorites ever. My eyes and insides have their own reactions to this song. (I cry, a lot, with wild abandon.) Ariel’s greatest desire is to be human, to experience a world she’s only ever caught glimpses of, that she doesn’t really understand, but desperately yearns to. The song also has the secret weapon of Jodi Benson’s voice, which is exceptional. That belt is insane, when she hits, “when’s it my turn?” if your heart doesn’t just melt to that little red haired fish girl, I don’t know if you have a heart.

Runners Up: “For The First Time In Forever” from Frozen, “Almost There,” from The Princess And The Frog, “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” from The Lion King, “Out There” from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame.

Not Disney But Should Be Mentioned Because It’s One Of The Greatest “I Want” Songs Ever: “Journey To The Past” from Anastasia. 

 

 

No Day But Today

Sometimes I have to make myself very strict rules, when it comes to my media consumption. It’s usually for my own good, sometimes it’s completely arbitrary and it’s often for a reason that would seem nonsensical to an outsider.

A big one, that some people might think is very strange, started a few years ago. “I’m not ever going to encounter Rent on purpose.”

I won’t listen to it.

I won’t watch the movie. (Not that I’d want to, ugh, it’s so awful)

I won’t watch the filmed closing night performance. (Much better than the movie and still includes Tracy Thoms’s transcendent Joanne. With JV Elphaba Eden Espinosa as Maureen no less!)

This rule is in place for a few reasons. It keeps me from swirling down a bizarre hole of nostalgia, disappointment and obsession. It keeps me from poking holes in a piece of art that meant a lot to me once, means less to me now and which I know is DEEPLY, DEEPLY flawed. And mostly, it keeps me from boring the people around me with conversation about Rent. Because, and I mean this kindly, most normal humans ran out of things to say about Rent in either 1998, or when they turned 19. Whichever came first.

I could talk about Rent forever. I could talk about the original cast and how I still clap with raucous joy every time I see any of them in anything. (Remember on Smash when Daphne Ruben Vega and Jesse L. Martin were on it?) I could talk about how the replacement casts shaped Broadway talent for a generation and are still shaping it in certain ways. (Not least of all because of Hamilton and Lin-Manuel’s admitted affection for the show and it’s style.) I could talk about Jonathan Larson, the stranger than fiction circumstances of his death, the good work done by his family in his name, and speculate about what theater would look like if he’d lived. (My guess? A lot fewer revivals & movie adaptations. A lot more rock operas about gay people.)

Anyway, this is all by way of saying that on Friday, I half broke the rule. I was listening to my Spotify “Weekly Discovery Playlist” and the first track off of Anthony Rapp’s Without You: A Musical Memoir, his recreation of his audition for Rent came on. I then spent my lunch hour listening through Without You, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, since the book Without You is one of my all time favorite memoirs. (It’s about his mom dying as much as it’s about Rent and it.is.stunning.) And as Anthony recreated his memories of the show, my own came rushing back and I knew that I needed to at the very least listen to the OBC again.

Since I had a 2 hour drive to Juli’s that night, I had the perfect opportunity.

It’s funny, the things that come back to you with music. Seeing Rent for the first time with my brother. Parking lot and diner renditions of “La Vie Boheme,” with my summer stock friends after rehearsals. Learning the alto line to “Seasons of Love” with at least 3 different choir directors. Screaming with joy as my name got called for the front lottery when Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp were back in the show for a few weeks. My friend Ali and I dressing in our bohemian best to go see the movie on opening night. (Cannot reiterate it enough, DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE. Do however, listen to the movie versions of “Seasons of Love,” “Out Tonight,” and “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” Jesse Martin, Tracy Thoms and Rosario Dawson make those songs worthwhile.)

And then there’s the show and the album itself. The beauty of the music, the emotions of the story, and the urgency and earnestness of the whole thing. Looking at it as an adult, “One Song Glory,” and both versions of “I’ll Cover You,” feel much more at the heart of the whole thing than “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons,” though as an adult, I’ve also come around on “Seasons of Love,” which while overused and misused as it has been, is just a beautifully composed choral number and achingly melancholy in a way that a teenager could never in a hundred years understand.

But there’s also an oddness to the show now. It was written when Idina Menzel’s wailing belt was trangressive and edgy, when thinking about Angel’s gender identity was taboo and confusing, when the New York I know didn’t exist, and gentrification wasn’t yet a foregone conclusion. That gives it a time capsule quality that makes it hard to evaluate outside of it’s moment.

Idina’s probably the most interesting case of the original cast. Rent made her a star theatrically, and Wicked cemented it, and while I love that I now live in a world where she and Lin-Manuel Miranda are household names, it’s weird, and half the time when people talk about Frozen, I really really want them to listen to “Over The Moon.” Not just because making people listen to “Over The Moon” out of context is hilarious, but because the image of Elsa shouting, “NOT IN MY BACKYARD UTENSILS GO BACK TO CHINA!” breaks a lot of people’s brains. The rest of the casts’ evolution makes more sense. Adam Pascal is still a theater guy, Anthony Rapp and Daphne Ruben Vega became working character actors, who it is always a joy to see. Jesse Martin became everyone’s favorite cop/dad (Sometimes both!). Taye Diggs was swallowed into Shondaland. (I actually think Taye should be a much bigger star than he is, but you know…whatever.) But Idina as Disney Supernova still baffling to me, in a very good way.

As you can see, I could keep babbling for ages about this. Which is why I have the don’t listen to Rent rule.