SotW: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye Thursday, Dec 22 2011 

I heard Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” in the car recently and immediately fell in love with it:

Gotye was born in Belgium but grew up in Australia. After listening to this song a few times, I tried out some of the other tracks on Gotye’s new album, Making Mirrors, which is great, and so I bought it. It’s now one of my favorite albums of 2011. Gotye has been compared to Sting, especially in his interest in drawing on various forms of world music, which seems an apt comparison.

Part of what makes this song great, of course, is that he inserts the woman’s point of view, underlining the male perspective, who ultimately comes across as kind of whiny. I think this is bloody brilliant! It’s also risky. I love it.

I also found a great live version of “Somebody I Used to Know”:

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Other Desert Cities: A Review Wednesday, Dec 21 2011 

The hottest ticket on Broadway right now is Other Desert Cities, a family/political drama by playwright Jon Robin Baitz, who my be best known for creating the television drama Brothers & Sisters. Like that show’s early days, Other Desert Cities explores big political issues by filtering them through a family’s internal rifts, recriminations, and love for one another.

In this case, the play focuses primarily on the Wyeth family’s Christmas gathering in Palm Springs, California, where the elder Wyeths, Polly and Lyman, played by Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach, live. Polly and Lyman are Old Guard Republicans who remain active in a certain kind of Republican circle. Lyman was a former actor, much like Reagan, and was appointed an ambassador during his administration. Polly is friends with Nancy.

Polly and Lyman have taken in Polly’s sister, Silda, played by Judith Light, who has had a drug problem. Now out of rehab with no place to go, she resents living with her sister in part due to their former success as a screenwriting partnership, which broke up with Polly’s turn to Republican conservatism. As Silda constantly reminds her, Polly is a Jew who plays the part of a transplanted-Texas WASP.

Rounding out the family gathering are the Wyeth “children,” both of whom are adults. Rachel Griffiths plays Brooke, an emotionally delicate writer who suffered from a six-year emotional breakdown after the publication of her first novel but who now insists that she knows how to manage her depression. Trip Wyeth, played by Matthew Risch, who will soon be replaced by Justin Kirk, is a producer on a cheesy Judge Judy type of television show in which celebrities serve on a jury and decide cases.

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Seminar: A Review Tuesday, Dec 20 2011 

The third–and best–show that PJ and I saw in New York with our friends last week was Seminar, which stars Alan Rickman as Leonard, a problematic creative writing instructor teaching a private seminar for four up and coming writers. Paying $5,000 for the opportunity to study with him, these four students get more than they bargained for as Leonard upends all of their notions of what it means to be a successful writer.

Seminar is hilariously witty and a crowd-pleaser (even if you’re not an English professor!). Rickman is excellent as Leonard, a boozing, lecherous, washed-up writer who makes end meet by writing magazine stories and teaching these private seminars. He imbues Leonard with life, pathos, and egotism, making him a fully rounded character when he could easily be a one-dimensional stereotype instead.

Here are a few clips from the production:

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Private Lives: A Review Monday, Dec 19 2011 

The second show PJ and I saw last week in New York was the revival of Noel Coward’s Private Lives starring Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross, who play Amanda and Elyot, respectively, a divorced couple who meet again during their honeymoons with their new spouses.

Both quickly realize that they’re still in love, and comic mayhem ensues as they flee their new spouses and run off together to Amanda’s Paris apartment. The reason their previous marriage fell apart five years ago, however, was that Elyot and Amanda fight as passionately as they make love. We see both sides of their relationship in Acts 2 and 3.

Here’s a brief glance at the Canadian production, which is nearly the same as the one in New York:

This next sentence is probably one of the gayest things I’ve ever written: one of my favorite plays as a kid was Private Lives.

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Follies: A Review Sunday, Dec 18 2011 

As is our annual tradition, PJ and I spent a week in New York this past week. The first show we saw this year was the revival of Sondheim’s Follies, which is great! We saw Bernadette Peters in A Little Night Music last year, and so we couldn’t wait to see her in this show too.

Follies takes place on the night before an old theater is being torn down to make room for a parking lot. To say goodbye to the old place, Mr. Weismann, the former producer of “Weismann’s Follies,” hosts a party in the theater for a group of his former performers.

Here’s a quick look at these ladies:

While the former “Weismann girls” remember days gone by, two couples become the focus of the show’s plot: Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone. Sally and Phyllis were showgirls, and Buddy and Ben are the guys who courted and then married them. The “ghosts” of the past take the stage throughout the show, showing us this courtship and the couples’ interactions. It soon becomes clear that Sally, played by Peters, and Ben had an affair before their respective marriages and that Sally is still in love with Ben.

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Sylvester the Talking Kitty Thursday, Dec 15 2011 

I am officially in love with the Talking Kitty videos created by Steve Cash. In these videos, Sylvester the cat is kind of a dick to his owner, Steve, the dog, Shelby, and the other cat, Gibson.

Here’s my favorite of the videos, which all feature Sylvester’s potty mouth:

He had me at “Fuck ’em!” All of the videos are great and highly addictive!

SotW: Take a Bow by Matt Alber Tuesday, Dec 13 2011 

Last week I bought Matt Alber’s new album, Constant Crows. I haven’t had a chance to really listen to it carefully yet, but so far I really like its quiet, acoustic sound. Alber is most known, at least in gay circles, for his wonderful “End of the World,” a beautiful, romantic love song that had a great, Mad Men type video. I’ve been waiting for his follow-up all year.

One of the highlights that immediately stand out is his cover of Madonna’s “Take a Bow.” Here’s a live version I found on YouTube:

I’ve uploaded the album to my iPod so that I can listen to it more. “The River,” “Velvet Goldmine,” and “Tightrope” also stand out as potential favorites. I hope he puts out a video or two too — “End of the World” demonstrates that he has the video aesthetic to be a great video artist.

The Devil’s Double: A Review Sunday, Dec 11 2011 

Last night, PJ and I watched The Devil’s Double, which tells the story of Latif Yahia, who was forced to become the body double for Uday Hussein, Sadam Hussein’s psychotic son. Based on a true story, The Devil’s Double stars Dominic Cooper as both Latif and Uday in a memorizing performance that makes this movie a must-see. Here’s the trailer:

Cooper is amazing in this role. In the past, I’ve mostly thought of him as a sexy actor. In such movies as Momma Mia!, An Education, The Duchess, and The History Boys, he stands out as a handsome, attractive man rather than as an accomplished actor. The Devil’s Double certainly makes the most of his physical attractiveness. Early in the movie, for example, we see him in various states of undress, such as with his shirt unbuttoned:

In a speedo:

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SotW: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by She and Him Thursday, Dec 8 2011 

Unlike PJ, I’m not a big She and Him fan. I love M. Ward, but Zooey Deschanel is a little too much for me. So, I was surprised when I heard a bit of their new Christmas album and immediately loved it. I ordered a copy of the CD ostensibly for PJ, but I probably love it even more than he does.

I love the album’s quiet simplicity, which really works on a song like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” the old Judy Garland classic:

The album also features “The Christmas Waltz,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Blue Christmas,” all of which are great! I highly recommend it.

The Future: A Quick Review Wednesday, Dec 7 2011 

Miranda July‘s You and Me and Everyone We Know is one of my favorite movies, so PJ and I were looking forward to seeing her new movie, The Future, which is about a 30-something couple, played by July and Hamish Linklater, who lead rather aimless lives until they decide to adopt a cat, Paw-Paw, who happens to be severely ill and who they think will only live a short time. In essence, they’re going to adopt it just so it can have a home to die in.

When they go to pick up the cat, they learn that they will have to wait 30 days before it can come home with them and that it might live for a few years if they nurse it properly. This isn’t at all what they had planned for, and it throws their lives into disarray. Jason, played by Linklater, quits his job as a computer tech guy and volunteers to help save the environment, and Sophie, played by July, quits her job as a children’s dance teacher and starts an affair with an older man with a young daughter. As their relationship falls apart, Paw-Paw, who also narrates the film, waits in the shelter hoping they will come to rescue him/her.

Here’s the trailer:

I won’t give away any more of the plot than that, but I have to say that this is one of the most affecting movies I’ve seen in a long time. Just thinking about it recalls the emotions I felt while watching it. I’m not sure I understand it, and I’m not even sure I enjoyed it, but I nevertheless think it is an interesting, smart, complex, and powerful movie that has stayed with me.

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