Friday, May 25, 2007

Not Dead!!

Sorry for the complete radio silence, but Tosy and Cosh have been slammed by malevolent real-life forces intent on stealing all free time. We are going on a short holiday, but hope to resume posting late next week.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!!

Until Whenever

Friday, May 11, 2007

Doin' the Friday Shuffle

1. "Day after Day" - Dave Brubeck - Dave Brubeck Songs
Did you know that Dave Brubeck wrote art songs? Me either. They ain't half bad.

2. "Gold & Goldberg" - Michael John LaChiusa - The Wild Party (Original Broadway Cast)
Loose and jazzy character piece sung by a pair of hopeful Broadway producers.

3. "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" - Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez - Avenue Q (Original Broadway Cast)

4. "Entr'acte" - Stephen Sondheim - Anyone Can Whistle - Live at Carnegie Hall (1995 Broadway Concert Cast)
Very brassy and bouncy, almost Jerry Herman-esque, if you can believe it.

5. "The Park" - Michael John LaChiusa - See What I Wanna See (Original Cast Recording)
I still haven't been able to get into this score, and I usually love LaChiusa. This track in particular sounds a bit too much like some of his Hello Again material.

6. "Love and Peace or Else" - U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
I love that crunchy, fuzzy opening.

7. "The Car Chase" - James Horner - A Beautiful Mind (Film Score)
Dramatic and portentous cue from one of my favorite Horner scores.

8. "Back in the Car" - Danny Elfman - Music for a Darkened Theater Volume I: Film and Television Music
An avant-garde, atonal, guitar-heavy short piece from his score for the early Resse Witherspoon/Keith Sutherland vehicle Freeway.

9. "Do You Think It's All Right" - The Who - Tommy
An earnestly sung ditty about child abuse. Creepy.

10. "Heat Wave" - Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook
Not one of my favorite songs, to be honest.

Until Whenever

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Buried Beauties - Tina Marjorino

Last night's most excellent episode of Veronica Mars had me remembering that it's been ages since i did a Buried Beauties post. Tina Marjorino may not fit the Hollywood standard beauty mold, but, as these pictures indicate very well, it's hard to argue that she's truly a beautiful young woman.

Until Whenever
Movies I've Seen in the Past Few Weeks

Children of Men
I'm trying to remember the last time I so taken with a film and I simply can't. I was just blown away by the world created here, by its organic, deep-woven feel. The much lauded and discussed long, long shots are as powerful and seamless as advertised, and do an amazing job of adding a feeling of complete naturalism to the film. As much as I love films like, say, the Star Wars films, and as much as they might feel "real" within their constructed universes, they don't feel "real" in the sense that this could all be happening right now. Children of Men does. The acting is uniformly excellent, with Clive Owen putting in probably the best "reluctant hero" performance I've ever seen and Michael Caine inhabiting his character so fully that you swear you know him. Even the score is spot on; haunting and beautiful and modern; for the first time in a long while I finished a film wanting to get the soundtrack. It seems premature to put a film on my all-time top ten list after just one viewing, but I suspect that after a second viewing it will easily be right up there.

Now, with all of that praise said, I did have one quibble. The central notion, that for eighteen years no woman on the planet Earth has given birth, is a good and compelling one, and one the film embraces and makes real. The scenes of masses of people grieving at the death of the world's youngest human were perfect. But the central drive of the film, the effort to get the first pregnant woman in decades out of England and to some rebel group felt a bit off. We get a brief discussion about how if she made her condition known to the government they'd take the baby and pass it off as a native (in this vision of the future, England has cracked down on illegal immigrants hard, putting them in camps and encouraging violence). But this felt slight, and as a result I was never quite sure why there was such urgency to get her out. In the end, the film overcame these objections through sheer storytelling power and an abundance of breathtaking and beautiful moments, but as the glow faded I did find myself coming back to that nagging concern. All the more reason to give it a second viewing though, right?

The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith his great, his kid is more than passable, and the story of triumph against the odds moved me and held my attention. So why, in the end, did I feel that The Pursuit of Happyness failed? Because, to me, a film like this has a very simple pass/fail litmus test. That moment at the very end when the Will Smith character gets the job, should elicit tears, or send a shiver down the spine - it should move you big time. And it didn't. So while I enjoyed the film, and recognized its virtues, in the end it failed in its very simple primary directive.

(I apply a similar litmus test to any version of A Christmas Carol. When Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning a changed man, and starts doing all of the good, giddy things he's done, I should be moved to extreme happiness, to tears of joy really. If I am, it's a good Carol. if not, not. This is why for me the Bill Murray version, Scrooged!, works. When he goes into his big monologue at the end, I'm moved to tears. So it works.)

Until Whenever

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Trio of Audra

"See What I Wanna See" - A slinky, jazzy speakeasy evoking song from Michael John LaChiusa's musical of the same name.

"The Glamorous Life" - A great lesser-heard Sondheim song sung by a young girl about her absentee actor mother.

"Farewell Letter" - Audra singing my favorite Sondheim score. The fact that this isn't available on CD kills me.

Until Whenever
Idle Dreams

Lefty passes along a simple and elegant meme on his blog, a meme taken from his wife: Name ten things you'd like to learn to do. OK:

1. Play guitar. I can fumble my way through some very basic chords, but I'd love to be able to play enough chords capably enough to play and write some songs.

2. Play piano. See the sentences after "play guitar." Copy and paste.

3. Run a marathon. (Well, not learn exactly. I know how.) I ran cross country in high school and keep imagining that I'll get back to it someday.

4. Ski. Looks awfully fun.

5. Hike. Again, I know how, but I'd like to learn enough about it to do it for real, to climb some of those small mountains in New Hampshire the wife and I love so much.

6. Cook. I can grill a steak and make some tasty meatballs and sauce, but that's about it.

7. Do that "walk the coin across your knuckles" thing. That's awesome.

8. Write speeches. This is a professional thing - I'm a business writer by trade, and have dabbled in speech writing, but would love to learn more about it.

9. Swim. I technically can swim, but get tired very quickly. Would like to learn to do it properly.

10. Enough simple magic tricks to delight my kids and their friends.

Until Whenever

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Mellow, Vaguely Chemical Smell of Faux Butter Hangs in the Air

Lots o' bloggers are doing the summer preview thang. But writing a comment or two about dozens of movies seems . . . hard. So here are the five movies I most would like to see in a theater this summer. I will not see all five of these. I have three-year old twin girls. I may see two. But if wishes were fishes? These.

Spider-Man 3
Will hopefully see in the next week or two. I was very fond of the first two, so, despite some negative buzz, expect to at least be greatly entertained by this one. Three villains does seem like overkill though.

Knocked Up
The Forty-Year Old Virgin was hilarious and touching a feat that is very hard to pull off. (The regularity with which The Simpsons did it for six or seven years during the peak of the show's run there notwithstanding). So this follow-up by many of the same suspects is s strong in-theater contender, especially given that the wife's tastes and mine don't converge often, and we both loved Virgin.

Evan Almighty
Steve Carrell and Lauren Graham? And Morgan Freeman? In what actually looks like a pretty funny big comedy? I'm in.

I still haven't seen Cars so the Pixar 1.000 batting average may or may not be intact with me. But this is more than just Pixar, this is Brad Bird-directed Pixar.

The Simpsons Movie
I have nine seasons of The Simpsons lined up on my shelf and faithfully Ti-Faux two syndicated episodes a day to try and catch post-season nine unseen episodes. I must see this movie.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Ex, Shrek the Third, Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer, Hairspray, Stardust, Superbad, and The Bourne Ultimatum - we may get together on DVD. We'll see.

Until Whenever

Friday, May 04, 2007

Smart Move

If this is true, then the suits at ABC, in a move uncharacteristic for their breed, are being smart and not greedy. As has been said many times before, giving the Lost creators a firm end-game will allow them to do a much better job of structuring the large story they're telling, and of determining when it would be most appropriate to provide certain answers. And five seasons strikes me as a fair run for the show, and gives them more than enough time to finish telling their story. We had heard a while back that the producers wanted this, and that ABC might have been amenable to the idea. If the E! report is right, then this would be the natural end result of these rumors. Excellent news, and I hope we hear it confirmed soon.

Until Whenever

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Gilmore No More

According to Alan Sepinwall, the CW has officially announced that Gilmore Girls will end with the season finale. The rumored short season eight will not be happening after all. I know many fans are actually happy about this, given their lack of respect for the Sherman-Palladino-less seventh season. But as I have said, I've found this season, if less than great, consistently enjoyable, and I suspect that this news will make the last few episodes somewhat less satisfying than they would have been, not as artfully conceived a capper to seven seasons as they would have been.

Until Whenever
On the Nightstand
Oryx and Crake
I read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale last year, and she immediately jumped up pretty high on my personal list of favorite authors. And now, after reading Oryx and Crake, she only keeps climbing. Just as The Handmaid's Tale showed us a dark vision of the near-future, with the details teased out in bits and pieces only, so does Oryx and Crake. But where the former focused on a future in which women's rights were all but stripped away completely, and the dark Fascist America in which that happened, the latter focuses on a world in which genetic experimentation and bio-engineering have been followed to what Atwood convinces us is an inevitable conclusion.

Atwood's explorations of her characters, especially Jimmy/Snowman, the central figure in her tale and the one who gives us, the audience, the story of how society fell is superb, as is her handling of the present/flashback structure. And I loved the world and story she has laid out - the concepts behind the Crakers (a new race of humans genetically engineered to be polyamorous non-violent herbivores), and the spliced-together new animal races (pigoons and wolvogs), and the way that mega-corporations have created a demarcated society even more split than the one we have now. But I did find myself wishing for some more vigor and detail behind the science, of the kind of fact-based, dryly scientific verisimilitude that someone like Kim Stanley Robinson brings to his near-future, based-on-real-science creations. There was a felling throughout of the science - and, given how dependent her world is on real scientific advances, the world Atwood was creating - being not completely real, not as finely textured and convincing as it could have been. In the end, this feeling was easily ignored, given the remarkable skill at hand in the other elements of the novel. But that faint whiff of "what if" was nonetheless there and present as I read.

Other minor faults? The romantic triangle angle, and Oryx herself, the distaff point of that triangle, were surprisingly underdeveloped, especially given the title. But, again, in the end, none of that really mattered, given how good what is focused on is. The character of Jimmy, who goes from smart-assed kid to unhinged, sheet-clad oracle is completely believable. And the self-centered, Aspergery genius character of Crake, whose hubris proves so devastatingly destructive, was likewise completely realized.

The bottom line is that the book grabbed and moved me like few others have, making me eager as can be to dive into another Atwood novel as soon as is feasible. Any suggestions? (I've read The Blind Assassin as well but no others save Oryx and Handmaid. ?

Until Whenever

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's the Role She Was Born to Play, Baby!

The Obererver notes that Saturday Night Live has yet to feature a Barack Obama impersonation, due to the glaring lack of a thin black castmember. While they are correct in noting that the show really will have to feature an Obama at some point, given that election-season candidate mockery is so finely woven into the DNA of the show, they are incorrect in claiming that SNL currently has just one black cast member. Maya Rudolph is, as far as I'm aware, at least partially black, and it occur to me that she could turn in a pretty interesting Obama impersonation, if they let her. She does that deep-voiced orator thing pretty well and with the right makeup and wardrobe - why not?

Until Whenever

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Fiber-Rich Diet

So, at long last, we have replaced the lamented DVR, by giving the new competition a chance and switching to Verizon's FiOS TV, Internet, and Phone package. For the same price we were paying before for phone, cable, and high-speed Internet, we now have a faster Internet, 11 HBOs (previously had none), and a brand-spanking new DVR. So, a week in, what do Tosy and Cosh think of FiOS?

  • The picture is noticeably better - and we are not springing for HD, nor do we have a HD TV - just a plain old picture tube.
  • The channel choices. I especially like the multitude of digital music channels, a list that includes a beast I have long longed for - the showtune channel!
  • Faster Internet. Not crazy noticeable, but noticeable all the same.
  • The tech who installed it all. Eager, helpful, and superbly diligent - even when Verizon corporate dropped the ball (see below).
  • The DVR. Dual tuner. Much easier to work than the old model. Series priority capabilities.
  • Widgets - with a push of a button I can get a five-day forecast on-screen, under whatever I'm watching. Neato.
  • On Demand. After much searching, I finally figured out that I could just order up, for free, that first episode of The Sopranos. Awesome.
  • On install day, some card on some pole was out, so after doing everything the tech realized that phone calls were disconnecting after 30 seconds, and that the Internet would disconnect as well. Stupid Verizon home office refused to let him put us on another card, and told him to tell us to just wait for the card to be fixed - which would mean he came into a house with working phone and Internet only to leave it with neither. He yelled at Verizon home office. He was awesome. And yet ineffectual in the end - they wouldn't budge. In the end, we made him put us back on copper for the phone. SO he had to come back this week to finish.
  • Without a box, you get only network TV and a few odd cable channels. I knew without the $5-a-month box I wouldn't get all those HBOs, but I figured, as with cable, all the basics would work - TNT, Comedy Central, ESPN, etc. Not so much. So the bedroom and basement TVs are very limited. Ugh. Still, another $5 a month galls. Will try to go without.
  • Call waiting is included. Never had it before. Me like.

So overall, while the tech gets an A, Verizon FiOS as a whole gets a B-, for screwing up the install and for the shortsighted, piggish box strategy. But on the whole? Happy.

Until Whenever
Random Top Ten

Random Top Ten!!

Top Ten Adam Guettel Songs

10. “The Beauty Is” – A delicate song about being on the threshold of adulthood, about being ready for responsibility and for consequences.

9. “The Riddle Song” – A great scene/song that closes out Act II of Floyd Collins. Floyd is trapped underground in a cave and his brother refuses to let him lose hope by getting him to relive childhood fun. Stephen Sondheim has called this one of the songs he “wishes [he] wrote,” so there you go.

8. “The Light in the Piazza” – A gorgeous ballad, with Guettel’s trademark understatement shining through.

7. “Let’s Walk” - More from The Light in the Piazza. The ingenue's parents discuss the difficulties inherent in letting their children grow up.

6. “Fable” – The finale to The Light in the Piazza. Note the Sondheim allusion at the opening, with a very Into the Woods-esque vamp introducing the lyrics about "looking in the forest" for a "prince to appear."

5. “The Carnival” - A basically instrumental piece from Floyd Collins that plays as the media circus overtakes the town (think Baby Jessica eighty years earlier with a young man instead of a toddler).

4. “The Ballad of Floyd Collins” - A dead-on pastiche of a folk ballad, used to introduce the show in lieu of an overture and in a eerie, angry reprise later.

3. “Dividing Day” - Light in the Piazza again. Clara (the mother) ponders when her marriage went from one of love one of convenience, ponders when that "dividing day" was. An achingly melancholy and pensive melody.

2. “Migratory V” - Guettel gets a lot of the beauty and power in his music through harmonic language and effects and odd rhythms. But here a pure, pristine melody drives the song, a beautiful hymn to the power of what people can accomplish in communion with one another.

1. “How Glory Goes”- The finale to Floyd Collins, with a dying Floyd asking God what heaven will be like. Heartbreaking.

Until Whenever