My Favorite Movies of the Decade Monday, Dec 28 2009 

Everywhere I turn, it seems that I’m reading someone’s list of the best movies or songs or albums (etc) of the decade. So, I thought that I would join in on the fun starting with my favorite movies of the past decade.

Overall, I’d say the 2000s have been a good decade for films. While there are lots of great movies to choose from, my list is of my twenty twenty-five favorite movies. I’m not necessarily saying that they’re the best; they’re the ones I’ve enjoyed most in the past ten years. Usually they’re the ones I want to see again (and again). I’ll start with number one and work my way down the list. The top ten are more or less in order; after that, it’s less specifically in order.

1. Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2003, 2004)

My favorite movie of the past decade is Quentin Tarantino’s epic revenge thriller, which I’m treating as one movie even though it’s divided into two as a release. I love everything about this movie: the direction, Uma Thurman, the fights, the unbelievable soundtrack. Everything. This is the movie that, if I see it on TV, I can’t help but sit down and watch it.

Elle Driver is, of course, my favorite of the “bad guys:”

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SotW: When Love Takes Over by David Guetta Monday, Dec 28 2009 

I’m closing out the year with one last song of the week, David Guetta’s “When Love Takes Over” featuring Kelly Rowland. I’ve enjoyed listening to it on the radio for months, so I finally downloaded it from iTunes. It’s quickly become one of my favorite songs. Needless to say, it’s a great dance song, and I love Kelly Rowland!

The embedding for this video is disabled on YouTube, so just click here to see it.

Avatar: A Review Saturday, Dec 26 2009 

Last Saturday, PJ and I saw James Cameron’s new movie, Avatar. We both really liked it, which was surprising, since PJ dislikes 3D movies and I tend to be mostly indifferent towards sci-fi movies that aren’t Star Wars. Here’s the trailer:

Avatar stars Sam Worthington, who plays Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine who gets the chance to participate in a special mission on Pandora, a moon on which a precious metal (unobtainium) has been discovered. The marines are there to “relocate” the indigenous population, the Na’vi. Sully’s special mission is to participate in a scientific enterprise in which humans virtually inhabit avatar bodies that are crossed between the humans’ and the Na’vis’ appearances. The scientists want to learn more about the Na’vi; the military wants them to help in the relocation efforts. Soon Jake  must choose between his mission and the Na’vi people he has come to love.

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A Single Man: A Review Thursday, Dec 24 2009 

While in New York last week, PJ and I saw A Single Man, which stars Colin Firth as an English professor, George, who is deciding what to do with his life now that his partner of 16 years, Jim, played by Matthew Goode, has died suddenly in a car accident. Set in 1962 Los Angeles, we follow George as he goes through the day putting his affairs in order; having decided that life is meaningless without Jim, he is going to kill himself at the end of the day.

Here’s the trailer:

A Single Man is a kind of gayer version of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Like that novel, this film, based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, allows us to not only follow the lead character as he prepares for a big event but also allows that character to reflect on life and its meaning. The narrative jumps back and forth between George’s depressed present alone and joyous past with Jim.

While George understandably feels alone, we see that there are at least three other options out there for him. While buying alcohol for a dinner party with his best friend, George meets a male escort, who sees George as a lonely guy who obviously needs his company. I really like what Tom Ford, the director and co-writer, did with this scene. It could have been incredibly clichéd and stereotypical; instead, it’s a beautiful moment of almost connecting.

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The Understudy: A Review Wednesday, Dec 23 2009 

While we were in NYC last week, PJ and I saw one off-Broadway play, The Understudy, which was written by Theresa Rebeck and stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Justin Kirk, and Julie White. We saw White a couple of years ago in her Tony winning performance in The Little Dog Laughed, which was a great, devastatingly satiric play on Hollywood, and so we looked forward to seeing her again in this work, which, at least on paper, sounds a little like The Little Dog Laughed.

Kirk, who is perhaps best known for his work in Weeds and Angels in America, plays Harry, who has just been hired as the understudy for an action movie star, Jake, played by Gosselaar. Jake and another action star, Bruce, are starring in a hit Broadway play that is a recently discovered work by Kafka. The play-within-a-play more or less combines elements from Kafka’s The Trial with elements from The Castle. There are sixteen roles in the Kafka play, but Bruce plays fifteen of them and Jake plays one. Harry is Jake’s understudy, and Jake is Bruce’s understudy. The real-time action of The Understudy involves a rehearsal of the play so that Harry can learn Jake’s part.

White plays the stage manager, Roxanne. She’s trying to keep everything together despite several setbacks. She used to be an actress but had to give up that career when she fell apart after a breakup. She also has a complicated relationship with each of the other characters. And finally, her tech person, Laura, is too stoned to be entirely cooperative during the rehearsal.

Basically, on one level this play is about these characters’ relationships with one another; on another level it’s an exploration of the current economic realities of Broadway, the need to attract large audiences and the use of big name movie stars to do so. The play explores some of the complications this use of movie stars on Broadway entails.

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SotW: Old Devil Moon by Cheyenne Jackson Tuesday, Dec 22 2009 

This week’s song of the week is “Old Devil Moon” by Cheyenne Jackson. Last week we saw him in Finian’s Rainbow, and I can’t get this song out of my head. Here’s a clip of him singing it from the show:

I was slightly familiar with the song, since it’s become an old pop standard, but it had never really stood out to me before. Now it’s one of my favorite songs. I love its old-fashioned romanticism, and Jackson does a great job singing it.

It is a great song, but the main reason it’s impressed me so much is that I thought Cheyenne Jackson was a revelation in Finian’s Rainbow. The moment he first walked out on stage I gasped out loud at his hunkiness. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is, “What a man, what a man, what a mighty fine man!” I had read about him on gay blogs before, and I have to say everything I’ve read about him is true: he’s a total hunk!

He really fills out a pair of jeans. I once read that his thighs are amazing, and they are. But what stood out to me was that he’s hunky without looking like a gym queen. Not only is he handsome with piercing blue eyes, but he comes across on stage as unselfconsciously butch. Kind of like he’s been raised on a farm rather than in a gym. In fact, on stage he looked a little closer to normal than to a beefy gym queen, which makes him even sexier.

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South Pacific: A Review Monday, Dec 21 2009 

When PJ and I planned our trip to New York this year, there was one show I absolutely wanted to see: the revival of South Pacific. So, this was the only show for which we bought advance tickets. I’m glad we saw it — it’s a wonderful interpretation of the musical — but we clearly did not need advance tickets: we sat in the balcony with only about 20 other people. The theater was probably less than two-thirds full. I assume the production won’t be sticking around much longer (unless the weekends really bring in the crowds — we saw it on Wednesday night).

As I’m sure everyone knows, this 1949 musical is about the war in the South Pacific in the early 1940s. It tells the story of Ensign Nellie Forbush, a girl from Little Rock, who meets Emile de Becque while stationed on an island. The two instantly fall in love when they see each other across a crowded room; the play is about what happens when they begin to learn a little more about each other’s lives and beliefs. The secondary plot is about a hotshot lieutenant, Joe Cable, who sees an opportunity to turn the tide of the war. His plans are complicated by Nellie and Emile’s relationship and his own attraction for a native islander. Both couples have to confront the Americans’ racism to varying degrees of success. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1950.

I’d never seen a live production of the play before. I had seen the 1958 film, which I have mixed feelings about. I like the songs and message, but the movie’s direction is too much for its own good. In particular, the film is famous for its mood coloring, which never appealed to me.

My parents raised my sister and me on old movies, and this one was probably one of the racier ones that we were allowed to watch. I was totally crushing on John Kerr, and I loved the song “Bali Hai” beyond all reason. I now think it resonated with my adolescent queer yearning for love and unconscious knowledge that it would have to be found elsewhere than in my parents’ community.

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Finian’s Rainbow: A Review Monday, Dec 21 2009 

Last week, PJ and I saw four plays while we were in New York City: Finian’s Rainbow, South Pacific, The Understudy, and God of Carnage. None of them knocked our socks off, but I enjoyed the musicals a lot and we were both pleasantly surprised by The Understudy.

We arrived in New York on Tuesday. We didn’t buy advance tickets in case our flight was delayed or something like that happened. SO, after we checked into our hotel we went to the TKTS booth for discount tickets. We did this last year and were really happy with the tickets we got for In the Heights.

Also like last year, we had nothing in mind for the Tuesday night show. We just knew we wanted to see a musical. If there had been tickets for it, we probably would have seen A Little Night Music starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, but that wasn’t available. One of the options PJ suggested was Finian’s Rainbow, which we knew almost nothing about. The only thing we knew was, as PJ pointed out, Cheyenne Jackson was in it. That seemed more tempting to me than the other alternative PJ suggested, Hair. I intend to write more about Mr. Jackson in another blog later this week, so I’ll save some of my thoughts about him for that. For this post, I’ll just start by saying that this was our chance to see him in person, and I was going to take it unless PJ insisted on Hair. He didn’t.

So, we got out tickets for Finian’s Rainbow. Overall, it’s kind of lightweight even for a musical. It originally ran in 1947. The plot revolves around Finian, an Irishman who moves from Ireland to the mythical state of Missitucky with his daughter, Sharon. Sharon soon catches the eye of Woody, who is leading an effort to combat the racist policies of Senator Rawlins. We soon learn that Finian has stolen a pot of gold from a leprechaun, Og, who wants his gold back. Comic mayhem ensues.

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Visiting the United Nations Sunday, Dec 20 2009 

The office space of the United Nations building

One of the things PJ and I definitely wanted to do during our trip to New York City this past week was the visit the United Nations building. We’ve walked past it before, but we’d never been inside. So this year we decided to put it at the top of our agenda.

After going through security and getting out ticket (and waiting about 45 minutes until our tour time), we followed our tour guide around to see various exhibits about the work of the United Nations. These included ones on the U.N.’s peacekeeping work, the history of the U.N., and the U.N.’s activities against landmines, hunger, and malaria.

The highlight of the tour was a brief walk through the U.N.’s General Assembly Hall, where all of the delegates meet to hear speeches and debate resolutions up for a vote. The General Assembly was in session while we were there, so we weren’t allowed to sit down or stay long. Instead, we had to quietly walk through the very back of the room up in the balcony.

The exhibits we saw were relatively simple. Most were just posters mounted on the walls of hallways. Our tour guide, who was from Algeria, and did a very good job explaining everything to us and answering questions. The most elaborate exhibits were about the U.N.’s work providing basic living supplies for refugee camps, malaria nets, and school kits.

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Back from New York Saturday, Dec 19 2009 

The Empire State Building

PJ and I had a great time in New York City this week. This was our fourth trip to the city. I guess we’re getting used to it now, because this time everything felt so easy and simple. We could just sit back and relax, so to speak.

Our flight out of LaGuardia left this morning at about 10, which was just about the time that the airport started canceling flights due to the wintry weather on its way into the area. So even our escape from the storm was pretty easy and simple. As much as we loved visiting NYC again, we didn’t want to get stuck there, so we were glad to make it home ok.

But we did have loads of fun! We walked around Manhattan’s shopping district, including Macy’s. We wanted to buy a lot of clothes but ended up talking ourselves out of it because we didn’t want to carry it all home. (I’m hoping the Macy’s in Columbus has similar stuff!) We also visited Borders and two different Barnes & Nobles. (I finished a book while we were there, Regina Jeffers’s Vampire Darcy’s Desire, which made me want to read Jeffers’s rewriting of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view.

In addition to walking around Manhattan, we ate incredibly well — Turkish, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Korean, and Chinese cuisine. We ate at some of the restaurants we’d eaten at before and we tried some new ones. We also ate at a couple of good diners for breakfast.

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