Image Source: Naked With Socks On
(That old man is exactly what I looked like. Except I wasn’t old or male or eating popcorn.)
I am decidedly alone in my little journey through life right now. My fiance is gone to sea and I’m in a city where I have no friends, and things are a little… depressing. At least on the surface.
I personally find alone time to be quite spiritually fulfilling. I seek solitude when I need to sort out complicated emotions or when I just get too overwhelmed with the shit life likes to throw at us, often in grand, massive heaps, coating us in sludge so thick we feel like we can’t move. I love alone time; often to a fault, since my reclusiveness can, in the end, make me a bit lonely, though I’d usually never admit it. After all, I take great pride in having no qualms about eating out alone or going on trips by myself or really doing anything at all sans company. I don’t need anyone! I am a spectacularly independent woman! I am a lone wolf! Fuck people!
But for all my time spent enjoying the company of my own (admittedly brilliant) brain, I’d never done one stereotypical single act until yesterday, when a sudden whim struck me and I made a declaration: I was going to go see a movie by myself. In the theater. In the middle of the afternoon. On a Tuesday. ALL ALONE.
I had been itching to see “Pitch Perfect” since it came out (I mean… Exhibit A), and since I have no one to see it with me (cue Eeyore walk), I ripped myself away from my computer, drove the 10 minutes to the theater, bought a matinee ticket for one, and sat down in a near-empty theater to enjoy the film. It was perfect. And even as I waited for the film to start, I surprised myself by feeling… happy. Not self-conscious, or despondent, or even angry, as I had anticipated. I was simply really excited to watch a movie about college a capella singers.
It was a rush. A thrilling rush. Why had I never done this before? Oh, I know why… because it IS such a stereotype - going to the theater alone (or doing anything out in public by yourself, for that matter), is often depicted (ironically, usually in movies and/or television) as one of the worst situations people can find themselves in. The protagonist finds himself newly dumped, so he goes to the theater to cry, alone, in the dark, where he won’t be shamed by his tears as he glares at all the happy couples surrounding him, cuddling in the seats. Or in the first act the protagonist hasn’t yet found love, so she has to eat out alone, and all the wait staff pity her and bring her a complimentary stiff drink or oversized dessert in which to drown her sorrows (This has never happened to me, a fact that has always irritated me. I want my free cake, dammit!). Or he/she walks a lonely road, the only road that he/she has ever known; don’t know where it goes, but it’s home to him/her and he/she walks alone. (That last one might be an old Green Day song. My creativity is waning this morning.)
I had a glorious time. The movie made me laugh out loud, I munched on the snacks I smuggled from home (I’m poor), and as I caught my own eye in the ladies’ room afterwards, I thought to myself, “Yup. I’m hot shit.”
Truly, I think participating in activities that are normally considered +1 endeavors is one of the most empowering moves a single person can take to improve their own self-esteem. After all, our relationships with ourselves are the most important ones we’ll ever have; even more important than the one you’ll have in the future with your soulmate or your children or your pet rat (to each his own). But we barely give ourselves any quality time at all. We neglect ourselves, starve ourselves emotionally, abuse ourselves with cruel words and acts.
I have, in the past, treated myself the same way one would an unseemly cockroach infestation. I tried to kill myself, and then when that didn’t work, I chose to ignore myself and pray that I would eventually go away (Another decade-old song reference for you: Pink’s “Don’t Let Me Get Me”). I don’t think anyone would ever eventually find cockroaches endearing, but I realized my perception of myself had been all wrong: I wasn’t a cockroach at all. I was ME, and I was awesome, and I was someone I would totally want to go see a movie with. So that’s exactly what I did.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” came out on Tuesday, so, naturally, I was at the movie theater, happily bouncing in my seat and sporting my 3D glasses.
Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero for many, many years, but the first trilogy of films kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm. That last movie, with Tobey Maguire doing his best John Travolta walk down the street… we’re not even going to discuss it. It makes me too upset.
But THIS movie gets everything right. Andrew Garfield, in addition to being ridiculously adorable (Look at that hair!), captures the spirit of Spider-Man to a tee: his intelligence, his awkwardness, his guilt… everything. The entire cast is perfect. The story is great. The effects are brilliant. I read an article in “Entertainment Weekly” discussing the stunt coordinator’s method of studying gymnasts to get Spidey’s swing down pat… and it looks freaking awesome, especially in 3D.
The only part of the movie that made me go “huh?” was the scene where Gwen invites Peter over for dinner. She explains that her mom is cooking branzino (a rare weird type of fish that, coincidentally, I had eaten for the very first time just a short while before). The characters then crack about 40 jokes discussing how weird branzino is. I kept wondering who has an obsession with this food – The writer? The director? Andrew Garfield? Am I missing some kind of inside joke?
Anyway, fish jokes aside, “The Amazing Spider-Man” gets two thumbs up from me. Consider me one satisfied Spidey fan.
The boyfriend and I went to see “Rock of Ages” yesterday. We felt it was an appropriate way to celebrate Father’s Day (we are both parents, see, to our beloved child, Corgi) since we thoroughly enjoyed the Broadway musical when it stopped by the Pantages here in L.A. We were curious what the Hollywood adaptation would bring to the table.
The movie was… well… exactly what I expected. Pleasant, fun, inoffensive, but overall underwhelming. My boyfriend and I had both been surprised to admit that we’d LOVED the musical, since we normally cringe, grit out teeth, and constantly check the time when we go to any form of live theater. I had been won over by the fact that it was all about my favorite musical era: the 80s. I almost pass out from excitement every time I hear “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” (I was born a decade too late.) Anyway, since I’d loved the live show so much, I knew that the movie version wouldn’t stack up. Hollywood kind of ruins everything, anyway. But I was hopeful.
Call this a review, or more of a comparison of the two adaptations, whatever you want. I think of this as a general spewing of my thoughts, with lots of spoilers (you are warned!).
We’ll start with the good stuff. Here’s what the movie did WELL:
1. Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx was a superb casting move. No one else could have pulled it off quite as well… after all, Cruise IS Stacee Jaxx - his life has gotten so out of control that he can’t really find himself anymore, and so he talks with his eyes all bugged out and he tries to convert people to Scientology and shit.
2. It was inevitable that the ending of the love story would change (the musical doesn’t have things end quite so sweetly for the aspiring young singers who fall in love), but I was surprised at how well it worked in the movie’s version. It was very Hollywood, but not so saccarine as to cause eye-rolling. It fit the tone of the movie well.
3. Speaking of those young lovebirds, I was pleasantly surprised that the writers chose to have Sherrie NOT sleep with Stacee. After that happens in the stage version, it’s nearly impossible to find her character likable or identifiable, since she’s basically portrayed as a stupid whore.
4. I am SO glad they took out that god-awful annoying hippie protestor chick from U.C. Berkeley and replaced her with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character, Patricia Whitmore, the mayor’s wife who happens to make the abolishment of rock and roll her personal mission. The hippie chick was beyond grating.
5. Speaking of cuts, no one’s missing the two German dudes who wanted to tear down The Bourbon Room. They were useless fodder.
6. The addition of Paul Giamatti’s character, Stacee’s manager Paul Gill, was a great writing adjustment - it kept the all storylines much more connected and streamlined.
7. Diego Boneta. Now THAT’s a star:
Here’s where the movie stumbled:
1. I love me some Bryan Cranston, but what the hell was the point of his character? And WHY ON EARTH would he cheat on his wife, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES (aka the hottest woman ever), with some ho-hum assistant? Also, what happens to him in the end? He just disappears, while we assume Catherine leaves him to go back to his groupie ways… I don’t know. I need CLOSURE.
2. The songs were so-so, as is usually the case when actors and/or pretty people (i.e. Julianne Hough, a lovely girl and a fantastic dancer with an obnoxiously thin voice) are doing the singing, but what the film lacked most was the immediacy of a live rock band. That is how rock is meant to be experienced: raw, all-encompassing, blasting out your eardrums… you actually get this in the stage version, but not so in this dubbed, flashy film version. The men also basically hit the same notes all the way through - no falsettos here.
3. Why the hell is the strip club that Sherrie ends up at so darn CLASSY? It’s not seedy or scary at all; I mean, jesus, I’D like to work there. She doesn’t even wear mildly skimpy clothing, either… When she finally makes the decision to hit the pole, she’s wearing a long-sleeved black leotard. The only thing risque about it is there’s some strips cut out in the cloth above her boobs so you get a hint of cleavage. Who cares?!
4. Mary J. Blige was focused on a disproportionate amount, given that her character, strip club owner Justice Charlier, was all but cut out of the movie. In the play, we get to know her backstory, which is heartbreaking and real. In the movie, we see Justice crying inexplicably in one shot out on the street in the rain. What the hell’s the matter, Mary J.? Why you crying? You’re still getting a million close-ups (And don’t think we didn’t notice that you keep looking directly at the camera. That’s a no-no in acting land, my dear.).
5. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand - a duo I could not have been more excited to see. And yet, like Justice, their characters (Dennis Dupree and Lonny, respectively) were reduced to next-to-nothing (damn time constraints). Those characters are the comic relief in the stage version - they hold the whole thing together. It was depressing to see neither Alec nor Russell get the chance to be very funny; for that matter, they didn’t get the chance to do very much at all.
6. There needed to be a hell of a lot more camp overall. Good old Warner Bros. tried to turn “Rock of Ages” into a legitimate movie musical, but the essence of the original is that it KNOWS it’s ridiculous. There are moments of hysterial self-referential sarcasm about how “dramatic” it is when the love story starts hits a rocky point. Lonny serves as the “Playwright” who guides the audience through the story, making comments about how close we must be to the end of Act 1 because shit’s going down, and thank goodness because everyone has to pee. It’s brilliant.
If you get the chance, go see the currently-touring stage version of “Rock of Ages.” The crowd gets rowdy, the music gets real, and everyone’s drunk and laughing and having a riotous good time. In a THEATER (I know, what?). It’s insane, it’s hilarious, and it’s a lot of feel-good fun.
The movie did its best, but at the end of the day, it couldn’t quite capture the unique spirit of the stage musical.
I saw the most stunning documentary this week: “First Position” (Isn’t that just the most clever title ever? First position, as in winner, AND first position as in the ballet stance! WHAT.), directed by newcomer Bess Kargman. The movie is a breathtaking, exclusive look at the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet competition. It awards over $250,000 annually in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition, which is open to dancers 9-19 years old, is held around the world, and the finals are held in New York City.
The film follows 7 hopefuls:
Aran Bell, age 11, and his friend Gaya Bommer Yemini, age 11
Miko Fogarty, age 12, and her brother Jules Jarvis Fogarty, age 10
Michaela DePrince, age 14
Joan Sebastian Zamora, age 16
Rebecca Houseknecht, age 17
One of the things this documentary does so well is show ballet’s appeal on a global scale. All of these contestants hail from remarkably different backgrounds. Joan Sebastian is from Colombia, living on his own in New York City away from his family to try to make it as a ballet dancer. Aran is part of a military family, so they travel a lot, but his devoted family has found him instructors in whatever country they currently reside. He is friends with Gaya, an enchanting little wisp from Israel. And Michaela was adopted from her war-torn homeland of Sierra Leone, where she eventually wishes to return to open a dance studio. The filmmakers showcase their subjects’ homes brilliantly, visually demonstrating that dance really is a universal language.
I grew up dancing, so I related to the dancers’ struggles on a more personal level than some viewers might, but it’s impossible to watch this movie without getting choked up a few times. These kids are incredibly inspiring. They are so dedicated, so driven, that they’ll suffer through injuries or being countries apart from their families in order to pursue their dream. They endure stress with composure and confidence. These young dancers teach the viewers how powerful it can be to want something so badly that nothing, truly nothing, can stop you from getting it. And their talents are truly unbelievable (except for poor Jules, who decides halfway through the film that ballet really isn’t his style). You have to see the film to fully appreciate the talent coursing through these young stars’ unbelievably strong bodies.
What I wish the film discussed more is the fact that dance (and ballet in particular) is struggling to stay afloat as a sustainable industry. The point is mentioned, particularly in the story of Rebecca, in an off-hand voiceover interview, but it really is an issue that can’t be overlooked. Even after all that hard work, all that pain and time and waiting, if a contestant DOES make it into a company or a ballet school, what next? Companies are letting many of their dancers go because funding is down so much right now. It’s heartbreaking to think that even the most talented and devoted of dancers might still struggle to have a sustainable career.
How do we change that? I’m not sure, but I know that supporting films that promote ballet like this one is a start.
I made a mad dash to see “The Avengers” this weekend, and the box office numbers would suggest most of you did, too - the film had the biggest opening in Hollywood history, bringing in a cool $200.3 million in the U.S. and Canada and $441.5 million abroad.
I’d been looking forward to this mega-superhero-mash-up flick for years, and purchased my advance ticket (for a 3D showing, of course) the day it went on sale. My man Joss Whedon did not disappoint. His trademark wry humor was ever-present, as were the heavier emotional moments and the epic sweeping action sequences that are essential in order to successfully transition comics to the big screen. Miraculously, the filmmakers managed to make a succinct, gripping film with 7 lead characters. It was a joy to watch from start to finish, even if I did have minor gripes about the antagonist Loki’s somewhat ambiguous goal (Does anyone understand what the guy wanted, besides to “take over the world,” a la Pinky and the Brain, and simultaneously one-up his brother Thor? Whatever. He had a cool helmet.).
All this Avengers frenzy got me to thinking… if they were all pitted against each other, which Avenger would win?
BATTLE ROYALE TIME!!!
Iron Man is pretty much ready for anything. In his suit, billionaire/genius Tony Stark can fly, shoot lasers, punch things, and make direct calls to his girlfriend, Pepper Potts. However, all you have to do is get Stark out of the suit, and he’s dead. Granted, that’s the problem - the suit is nearly indestructible. And even without the suit, Stark could probably fast-talk you into a state of confused distraction while he pressed a secret button hidden under a remote rock that would blow you to pieces. You can’t bribe him, either, because there’s nothing this guy wants more than to win.
Captain America: My personal favorite (this may or may not be entirely due to the fact that, hello, Chris Evans has the most stunning physique ever), this old-fashioned piece of American apple pie is blessed with unusual strength, endurance, agility, speed, reflexes, durability, and healing, all of which are at the zenith of natural human potential. He doesn’t have to strap on a suit or anything to get ready for a fight, since he’s already awesome, but his fancy shield sure helps. The Captain would probably never fight a woman, though. He would refuse, out of his 1940s beliefs in respect (swoon!), while Black Widow punched him silly.
Thor is practically a god, so there’s that. He’s nearly invincible, has godlike strength, and can control the atmosphere. Plus he can summon his Hammer to him whenever he wants (“Accio Hamer!”), and the thing causes major damage, but not enough to break through Iron Man’s suit or Captain America’s shield. It would be best to throw Natalie Portman at him to distract him, then attack. But really… Thor’s probably going to win. Sorry.
No one, not even Thor, is a match for the Hulk’s brawn. However, the likelihood of Mr. Hulk getting distracted by some random shiny thing is pretty high. The dude just does what he wants, much like a 4 year old. A very, very big 4 year old. He doesn’t strategize; he just smashes. So someone with sharper wits about them could get the upper hand easily - if they can figure out a way to contain him and bring him down. Otherwise, it’s probably best to let him run off after that airplane. (My tip? Make the guy happy. Someone really just needs to give him a hug and bring him a batch of homemade cookies.)
Black Widow has the ultimate weapon at her disposal: her breasts. Honestly, all she has to do is unzip that suit and every man fighting her will be rendered stupid and defenseless. If I were her, I would use that in every fight. On the other hand, she doesn’t have much else going for her. She’s awesome as far as humans are concerned (she’s a world-class athlete and gymnast, trained in every type of hand-to-hand combat ever created, and an excellent marksman), but in a fight against someone with super powers, she’s done for. Plus her little hand guns are no match for Iron Man’s missiles.
Poor Hawkeye. He’s just a really fit dude that knows archery. He might be able to shoot his opponents in the eyes (and Black Widow he could just straight up kill), but take away his arrows and he’s done for. Plus you already know where he’s going to try to hide - way up high somewhere in a dark corner.
My odds are complete bullshit, true, but my money’s on Thor. Anyone care to defend their champion of choice?
Boys and girls, today I want to talk about something in complete seriousness, a topic near and dear to my heart: bullying.
By now you’ve probably heard of a little movie called Bully. Or perhaps you haven’t, which would be evidence of the bigger problem at hand. I saw the movie on Friday at one of the six theaters that were showing it in town. Keep in mind that the “town” I speak of is Los Angeles, which means there are a hell of a lot of theaters to pick from – way more than six.
Why is Bully in such a limited release? There are a couple of reasons. One, the movie was given an R rating by the MPAA because the kids featured say a couple of bad words (everything is a reiteration of the tormentors’ language), so Harvey Weinstein, the film’s producer, said fuck that shit and decided to release the movie sans rating. The other reason no one will see this little movie is that it’s a docu—
WAIT! Come back! Don’t stop reading! I promise this documentary is actually interesting!
Believe me, I rarely go see documentaries because they just remind me of watching the History Channel in school. But this movie will take your heart, rip it from your chest, cover it with fire ants and stomp on it until it’s a smooth pulp which it then can smear on a puppy that it runs over with a semi. It does its job, and it does it well.
Bully is, quite obviously, a film about bullies. It showcases a handful of poor young middle and high school students who have experienced first-hand the fact that people really, really suck. These kids (all smart, talented, beautiful little people) are tormented daily, both physically and emotionally, while everyone stands back and does nothing. There will be times when you want to scream at the school officials who shrug and say, “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” You may even decide to become a bus driver so you can grab bullies by their backpacks, drag them to the curb, then tell them they are horrible human beings who deserve to publicly flogged.
As someone who never quite fit in during my adolescence, I identified closely with the kids’ plight. I was once in a situation where one girl made it her life’s mission to destroy mine, and even though I told higher-ups about it, nothing was done. The saddest, loneliest, most frustrating mix of emotions accompanies the tragedy of being the victim of bullying… and it’s easily enough to drive someone to kill his or herself, which is indeed the plight of many young people in this film.
I cried every-other minute during this movie. It’s impossible not to feel roused to do something about this problem after watching it. And so, I implore you, if Bully is playing anywhere in a theater near you, please, go see it. It will be worth the price of a ticket. Or wait until it’s on DVD. Afterwards, when you feel like setting fire to this nation until all the evil people burn away, check out the Stop Bullying: Speak Up! Campaign, and take the pledge to do what you can to stop bullying wherever you may encounter it.