Grown Ups Always Forget

Mary Poppins Returns

There are moments during Mary Poppins Returns where it feels like the whole precarious exercise is about to go off the rails and Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda pull it back from the brink with sheer charm.

Like the very large shoes the pair are stepping into, Blunt and Miranda are just so damn likable, you find yourself fully tapped in to this movie, even when it maybe doesn’t all hang together cleanly.

There are genuine joys in this movie. “Imagine That,” Mary Poppins’s first number with the new generation of Banks children is a technical wonder and Blunt delivers it beautifully. A few of the songs get the music box style quality of The Sherman Brother’s on point, though I’m perhaps a little bit too familiar with Mark Shaiman’s style to not see the seams there.(Hairspray! And also Smash….but mostly Hairspray…) “The Cover Is Not The Book,” uses it’s music hall styling to organically allow Miranda to rap. (I mean, they hired the man, they had to find a way to work it in, right?)

I didn’t quite connect to grown up Michael’s story, which involved losing his wife and giving up his artistic dreams to go to work at Fiduciary Fidelity Bank in order to support his young children. (And taking out a loan on the house. Michael had a lot going on.) But I adored Jane’s story, which has her picking up her mother’s social justice causes (Mrs. Banks was a sufragette you may recall) as a union organizer,  and resuming what must have been a lovely teenage flirtation with Miranda’s Jack.

The new kids, John, Annabelle and Georgie are sweethearts, forced to grow up before their time due to the family’s financial difficulties. Colin Firth is the villainous banker trying to foreclose on the Banks house which is a perfectly fine use of him, I guess. A few other cameos do the hard work of selling that this is the same world, that’s just moved on a bit. Even if it’s very clear that Angela Lansbury’s balloon lady was clearly written with Julie Andrews in mind.

Rankings:

  1. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  2. Aquaman
  3. The Incredibles 2
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody
  5. A Star Is Born
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  7. Creed 2
  8. Mary Poppins Returns
  9. Deadpool 2
  10. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  11. Ocean’s 8
  12. Infinity War
  13. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  14. Venom

Trailers:

Many the same as Spider-Verse, but also The Lion King! Which, I will see. Whether I like it or not is a different conversation, but I’ll see it.

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1+1=3

There’s a moment towards the end of Springsteen On Broadway where The Boss, after talking about the darkness of our times, the difficulties of absorbing the world as it is right now after making a study of the American soul over the course of his life, and his hope in the youth of our country, plays the mournful Grapes Of Wrath themed masterpiece of a ballad “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” and the lights go out, as he finishes, and they turn blue as they switch back on, and he plays, “The Rising.” It’s a moment of art and wonder, symbolising the fall and rebirth of the American dream, the inevitability of each generation. It’s a beautifully artistic moment bringing you into the end of an evening where things that were infinitely familiar to me, were stripped down, re contextualized and elevated.

I was born, and I was a Bruce Springsteen fan. I was baptized twice, once with water and Chrism and once in the surf of The Jersey Shore (which, Bruce assures us, he invented, pretty much.) (He also assures us, several times throughout the evening that he’s full of shit.) At fifteen I stood before a bishop and took a new name, confirming my place as an adult in the church, but the year before I’d heard Clarence whale the sax on “Thunder Road,” confirming my life long love of this music.

Springsteen On Broadway is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and that includes the ten or so times I’ve seen the man perform live before. The stripped down arrangements of the music, the sheer raw intimacy of the thing, is beyond compare. It’s uplifting and emotionally exhausting, and a singularly illuminating look into a mind of artist, who’s work has meant so much to me.

Anyway, the show goes onto Netflix in 10 days, and I’m immensely grateful for the chance to see it live. (Even if my credit card company isn’t.) I’m sure I’ll watch it many more times, because it’s deeply moving and truly special, an essential entry for any Springsteen fan.

Any Way The Wind Blows

Bohemian Rhapsody.jpg

Like many people my age, I first came to the incredible power of the music of Queen in the movies. I was born in 1987. I fell for “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions” during The Mighty Ducks, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” during Wayne’s World.

Which is why sitting as the lights when down in Bohemian Rhapsody  yesterday, it felt, right, to be hearing it there.

Bohemian Rhapsody is getting dinged for being a by the numbers biopic. It definitely is, which also makes me kind of a sucker for it, since along with “heists,” and “lady with a fancy job,” “musician biopic,” is one of my favorite genres of movie.

Here are some things that I didn’t expect in this movie, to cry during the recording of “We Will Rock You,” to cry pretty much the whole back half of the movie, and for Gwylim Lee to possibly have shapeshifted into Brian May…

Obviously the story of Freddie Mercury has the beats of many many rock star stories. Reinvention, desperation, loneliness, debauchery, redemption. This is the myth arc of these men. (And Stevie Nicks) His diverges a bit, of course, because of his cultural background (Farsi Zoroastrian), his sexuality, (One of the greatest queer icons of all time) and his tragic death from AIDS.

The movie is also a tough pill, because of it’s director, who is one of those men who’s name we no longer speak after this year, although, being very familiar with that man’s previous work, this feels nothing like it. Which supports the narrative that he didn’t really direct the movie at all, pretty much excepted at this point.

Rami Malek’s performance is moving in the extreme, and the cast around him, a bevy of British TV actors who’s faces I’m always glad to see. (Aiden Gillan is going to go a long way playing smiling men who you’re not sure if you should trust or not. I despised Paul Prenter so much by the end that I had to watch like six episodes of Downton Abby to remind myself I once loved Allen Leech so…)

But overall, this music what it got into me again. Not that this is hard, it’s music that’s always with me. Leading crowds at football and baseball games with foot stomps and claps for “We Will Rock You,” as a cheerleader, singing Freddie’s part in “Under Pressure” with my sister at karaoke. (Mary is always Bowie. ALWAYS) Arms wrapped around my cast mates at parties swaying to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” twirling and laughing to “Don’t Stop Me,” with my college friends at parties.

Maybe it’s the theater kid in me, but seeing something that’s inside of you dramatized feels incredibly powerful.

Rankings

  1. The Incredibles 2
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  4. Deadpool 2
  5. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  6. Ocean’s 8
  7. Infinity War
  8. Ant-Man And The Wasp

Trailers:

The Mule – “I reject everything about this movie” – Aless (I’ll probably wind up watching it when it hits HBO, because I find Clint Eastwood’s directing fascinating)

Rocket Man – Ooohh, bring on the sparkles Elton. BRING THEM ON!

Widows –Oh, sure, yeah, gritty heist movie starring Viola Davis, I’m gonna skip that. (/s)

 

 

My Fair Lazy, Culturing Up, and Six Months Of Lovely Accidents

So, a lot of people are writing, “it’s halfway through the year, here’s a check in posts.” I wasn’t planning one, but last night I has a realization that made me very happy.

A few years ago my favorite non fiction writer Jen Lancaster, wrote a book called, My Fair Lazy that was about a year long project to expand her horizons and get a bit more cultured. The project included exploring fine dining, attending theatrical performances and reading “important” books.

Y’all, between The Epics Project and The Best Theatrical Year of My Life, this sort of happened to me by accident, I realized as Aless and I picked up our champagne at the second intermission of ABT’s production of Don Quixote. (Partially, realizing that this wasn’t a terribly unusual outing for us anymore. We’ve come a long way since those $5 margaritas on 34th Street!)

Here are the cultural milestones I’ve had this year:

  • Read: War And Peace, Ulysses, Middlemarch, Don Quixote, Dune, David Copperfield, The Alchemist and Lincoln In The Bardo. As well as several other books that are probably not as culturally important but I have enjoyed quite a bit. That I’m reading a lot again is good. It means I can read things that are important and literary and the crap that I’d been consuming for the past few years. And I’ve got six more of the biggies (and a few smallies I’ve been putting off) before I’m through that project.
  • Watched: I’m still not good at watching things that are good for me. I’ll hit an occasional indie film or documentary, but for the most part, what I’m watching is still junk food. Often very well crafted junk food, like those sundaes from Serendipity or whatever, but still, empty calories
  • Attended: BEST THEATRICAL YEAR OF MY LIFE! It’s amazing how no longer participating in theater has made seeing theater feel essential to me. The Children, Children Of A Lesser God, Once On This Island, My Fair Lady, Angels In America, La Boheme and Don Quixote. I’ve still got a revisit to Hamilton and Springsteen On Broadway coming up and likely a few more.
  • Food: Most of my food exploration has come from cooking rather than eating out and my skills are still basic but improving. I can make Chicken Korma, which is exciting (Though I’m still tweaking my spice mix. It comes out a little too sweet for me every time…)

So that’s my culture year so far. It’s been good.

Fangirl Concert Series: Flogging Molly & Dropkick Murphy’s at The Stone Pony

I’m seeing a bunch of concerts this summer so I figured that I’d talk about them a little bit, y’all up for it?

Anyway, my summer concert scheduled kicked off with seeing the two most famous Celtic Punk bands in existence. (As these things go, I know it’s a niche genre.) Also, the show was at The Stone Pony, (Well, their outdoor summer stage…not the club itself…) which if you know a lot about Rock history, you’ve probably heard of. (As a primer, it’s the small club in Asbury Park, NJ where Springsteen first assembled The E Street Band.)

I was excited for this show, I’ve been a fan of both Flogging Molly and Dropkick for a while, and hadn’t seen either of them live. This was mostly out of fear, if I’m honest. I like a lot of punk music, but a lot of the crowd action freaks me out. I hate moshing and crowd surfing, so if a venue isn’t big enough that I can hang back, I tend to skip it.

Dropkick’s shows in particular, are notorious for their heavy violent pits, because you know, drunk Irish dudes and angry music.

Anyway. I drove down to Asbury on Sunday, worked my way into the summer stage area (gorgeous, really well laid out.) picked up a Coorrs Lite (Only $6! AT A CONCERT VENUE IN THE TRI STATE AREA! I was floored!) and prepared for the Shenanigans.

Shenanigans were had, friends were made, dancing occurred. I preferred Flogging Molly’s set. I’ve always preferred them though, being more of a Ramones type punk than a Sex Pistols one, and thus I place more emphasis on general songcraft than loud emotion. (There are merits to both) But man, when both bands came out and closed the show with “Shipping Out To Boston” it was such a joyous explosion of musical joy that Dropkick may have won the day. (If this were a competition.) Also enjoyable? Flogging Molly congratulating the Mexican World Cup team on their win, and dedicating their song about parenthood to the separated families at the border, to the general uncomfortable rumblings of their audience. (I had found a lovely group of queer ladies by then, and we all WOOOED and clapped, but it was quiet when they said it.) (Also, I was not like, blown away that discussion on ICE activity brought on uncomfortable grumbling from this audience rather than wild applause, but I’m glad it was brought up.) (For the record, I am staunchly AGAINST ripping children away from their parents and putting them in cages and warehouses.) (I have already called my reps about it and so should you. ALSO VOTE IN NOVEMBER!)

Discussion of human atrocities aside, I also just liked their vibe more. Flogging Molly plays like a prototypical rock and roll group, letting the music largely speak for itself, which I think suited the laid back beachy vibe of the venue. Dropkick puts on a heavier show, which was also fun, but way less my scene for this kind of thing.

I’m glad I went and I’ve broken another “single girl” barrier, by going by myself. More solo concerts to come, I’m sure!

The next concert (that I know of, unless something comes up) is Taylor Swift at MetLife Stadium on July 20.

So…that’ll be different than this…almost entirely.

 

I Could Have Danced All Night

Sometimes I just wind up going to see Broadway shows all the time.

Seriously, I’ve had a very good theater year, and I’m planning on taking the summer off, mostly, because of my wallet.  And I’m doing a bunch of concerts instead!

So, on Sunday, after the ultimate theatrical binge watch the was Angels In America, I went for something completely different and took my dad to see My Fair Lady at The Lincoln Center Theater.

My Fair Lady is easily my father’s favorite musical so this was a no brainer. I’m also a fan, and genuinely love all of the music. Also, as a bonus, the cast featured Dame Diana Rigg (YESSS) and Norbert Leo Butz (Widely considered by people who are related to me as the greatest musical theater actor of  his generation.)

The production is beautiful, as one would expect from Lincoln Center, with firm beautiful music direction, strong comedic acting performances, particularly Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Patten, both of whom I’ve enjoyed in various 90’s teen comedies and X-Files Episodes (Ambrose) and favorite British TV period dramas (Hadden-Patten). They were electric together, as Eliza and Higgins should be, and she hit Eliza’s Julie Andrews Mandated high notes with ease, while he infused actually melody and range into Higgins’s Rex Harrison Mandated talk-sing patter.

The set was beautifully constructed, especially 27A Whimpole Street being on a turntable, which allowed us to move between the study, hall, and front stoop with ease. A directorial choice makes the ending a bit less questionable from a modern sexual politics angle. I loved the details of the costumes, and in general the show was played very naturalistic-ally which with visual gags throughout with the ensemble. (As a frequent flier of the chorus back in my performing days, I always appreciate that kind of thing)

I was happy to see the show and of the big budget revivals currently running, I’m glad a chose this one over the one with the wife beating and carnival. (Carousel sucks!) And in general, I’m happy about my theater in take for the first half of the year. I don’t feel as blindsided by the Tony’s as I did last year. (Though I haven’t seen any of the new musicals. I’m cool with it. I’d like to see The Band’s Visit but Spongebob and Mean Girls can wait…) and I’ve fallen in love with seeing straight plays, something that I used to avoid like the plague. (Turns out all it took was comped tickets, former teen idols and you know, arguably the greatest American play ever written! WHO KNEW!)

 

The Dark Sentencer

There is a new Coheed & Cambria song.

It is 10 minutes long and we’re re-entering The Amory Wars story line. (The Future? The Past? DOES IT MATTER?) (It kind of does…I’m pretty sure we’re post the fall of Supreme Tri-Mage Whilhelm Ryan…but I could be wrong.)

This is all very important and exciting if you are me, or any of my siblings, or our high school friends.

I don’t think I need to fully outline my very long, emotional history with this band again, but to catch up people that are new:

I was a fourteen year old dorkus who loved Billy Joel and Boy Bands and showtunes, and then I heard Coheed and became a fourteen year old dorkus who also loved Emo. My love of the rest of the genre has faded but Coheed stuck, due to them, well, being SO FREAKING NERDY, an incredible band to see live, and constantly evolving their sound, while still sticking to what attracted me to them in the first place. (Hard driving guitar, ultra violent lyrics and space ships)

Travis Claudio Chondra NYCC

Also, ya know, the multiple times I’ve met them!

There, you’re caught up, on to the new song.

WARNING: What follows will probably require you to be passing familiar with the mythos of The Amory Wars and Coheed & Cambria to make any sense at all. I have neither the time nor inclination to explain that whole mess to you. Google it. There will be some parenthetical for context though.

So we know that “our story begins with the romance of two unheavenly beings.” I assumed this meant Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon, the Beast and Knowledge, IRO-bots created to destroy Heaven’s Fence, and free the planets of the Keywork from the tyrannical control of Supreme Tri-Mage Whilhelm Ryan. (A sentence I will never get tired of typing, btw)

But then we go on to learn that our narrator here is, “their son, Vaxus.” NOW, this intrigues me, because that means, we may not be talking about Coheed and Cambria up top, since their son is named Claudio, (also Matthew, but Matthew is long dead.) (His parents killed him thinking that they were preventing the release a virus called The Monstar which would destroy The Keywork.) (This was a lie and they were very upset about it later. Also, they both died.) I mean, it could still be Claudio talking, to someone named Vaxus? Or this is a new title? Or, we’re far enough beyond Claudio’s destruction of Heaven’s Fence as he accepted his destiny as The Crowing that this is a completely new character who’s dealing with the wreckage? OR, as we’ve learned that “The Dark Sentencer” is a prison, it might be Claudio’s time in prison. (Between The Second Stage Of The Turbine Blade  and In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth)

I don’t know, but I’m curious. Amory has always been very influenced by Star Wars so seeing the rise of a new savior in a post Force Awakens and Last Jedi world would not be totally ludicrous. (Plus Claudio’s talked about a sequel a few times, but decided he’d rather write nice little pop songs about his wife and baby for a while, because I guess he can do whatever he wants.) (“Atlas” and “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid” are pretty great.)

But what intrigues me the most is the repeated use of the phrase “Welcome Home.” “Welcome Home,” is of course, one of the band’s most recognizable songs, since it was in Rock Band. (Also, they tend to either close a set or start an encore with it at live shows) Claudio Sanchez tends to repeat imagery and themes from album to album, The Keywork itself and it’s accompanying musical theme (Which I think is supposed to represent the passage of time, if I’m recalling correctly) the Kilgannon family, themes of tragic or lost love, appeals to a God who may or may not be listening, rebellion against horrifying authority, lines crossed that should never be, child murder, mad scientists, space ships, a sentient evil bicycle who wishes the death of a main character, and brings it about through a meta narrative about a writer. (Everything sounds weird out of context!) (That one, actually, is always weird.) (How’s that work? You’re a bicycle!) So I feel  like that’s probably significant.

Either way, while I talked to Mary about it last night I just got more and more excited. “It feels like the old days, when we had no idea what the fuck he was talking about!” I said. She also noted the music feels heavy again, which is true, and exciting.

Also, I’ve had “A Pharoah Story” from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat stuck in my head for a week, completely inexplicably, and now it’s been pushed out. Which is a relief.

Children Of The Fence, we’re back!