SotW: Believer by American Authors Monday, Mar 25 2013 

Alt-Nation has been playing “Believer” by American Authors a lot lately, and it’s gotten stuck in my head:

I like this song’s peppiness and optimism. It also helps that all four members of the band are cute! They’re currently working on their first EP. If this first song is any indication, the band has a lot of promise.

Finally, here’s an interview with the band from earlier this year, which includes a brief introduction to “Believer.”

Nice Work If You Can Get It: A Review Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

Since PJ was in New York City over spring break to work at the Public Library, I went along for fun. While he worked, I went to the matinée of Nice Work If You Can Get It, a musical starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara featuring the songs of George and Ira Gershwin.

I had heard a positive review of the show from a colleague, and I love Gershwin tunes, so I decided to see it. Besides, my seat was perfect, and I could only get a front row seat at either of the other two musicals I wanted to see.

Broderick plays Jimmy, a dim-witted wealthy playboy during the Prohibition era. O’Hara plays Billie, a bootlegger who stashes gin in the basement of Jimmy’s summer home thinking that he won’t be in residence. When Jimmy shows up with his new bride (wife #3), Billie has to think fast about what to do. She has to think even faster as she and Jimmy begin to fall in love.

Judy Kaye won a Tony for her featured role as a zealous temperance leader determined to stomp out all alcohol. Suspicious that something isn’t right in Jimmy’s household, she embarks on a quest to ferret out the local gang og bootleggers and have them arrested. She definitely deserved her Tony — she’s hilarious in this role!

Broderick and O’Hara are also great. Nothing terribly surprising happens in the show — everything one might predict would happen does happen, but it’s fun entertainment nevertheless. It also has one of my new favorite songs: “Treat Me Rough.” I immediately purchased the soundtrack just so I could have this song along with O’Hara’s beautiful rendition of “But Not for Me.”

Once: A Review Saturday, Mar 23 2013 

PJ and I were in New York City for a few days over spring break. I saw five plays over the four days we were there. The first show we saw was Once, the musical adaptation of the great 2006 independent film. I loved the movie, so I was both eager to see the musical and a little anxious about it. I had tried to see it before but could only get seats with a partially obstructed view. This time we could get tickets without obstruction, but our seats were on opposite sides of the orchestra, which seemed fine to us.

The challenge this musical faced was that the movie’s plot is rather thin: guy meets girl; she inspires him to make music; they fall in love, raising the question of whether they’ll get together or not. Other than sing together, there’s not really much more to the plot than that.

To fill it out into a two-act structure, the musical adds a few supporting roles and a couple of musical interludes. Steve Kazee won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as guy, but we got his understudy, Ben Hope instead. We had really wanted to see Kazee, but Hope was excellent in the role.(He also has great deltoids!

Indeed, the whole cast is great. I was especially glad to see David Patrick Kelly, who starred in the Broadway production of Twelfth Night that I love to show students when I teach the play. He plays Guy’s father. Cristin Milioti plays Girl; she’s wonderful too.

Overall, it’s a great show, and I see why it won Best Musical: it’s not your usual Broadway show. The spareness of the plot forces the production to think outside the box and be a little more creative. I definitely recommend it!

SotW: “Against All Odds” from Glee Friday, Mar 22 2013 

It’s fitting that this week’s episode of Glee was about guilty pleasures. I don’t watch the show regularly anymore, but I indulge the guilty pleasure of peaking in from time to time to see what’s happening. When I flipped over this week, I was treated to Darren Criss’s performance of Phil Collins’s “Against All Odds,” the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures:

I’ve always loved this song. Against All Odds was one of the movies I liked to watch on cable when I was young and closeted. Jeff Bridges is so hot in it, and we get to see him mostly naked several times. Hearing this song always reminds me of a teenager lusting after him along with the overwrought emotions of the movie and song — why wouldn’t a teenage gay boy love it!

Contestants on American Idol sometimes try to cover this song, and until I heard this version I would have said that it simply can’t be sung any more — it’s too cheesy and too clichéd. But Criss demonstrates here that any almost any song can be redeemed with the right arrangement and a big dose of emotion. As I read later, the song apparently didn’t really match what was happening in the episode, since its emotion is too big to fit Blaine’s crush on his best friend Sam, but it’s a beautiful cover regardless!

My Favorite Movies of 2012 Sunday, Mar 3 2013 

I am finally ready to compile my list of favorite movies from last year. Living in a small town means that it usually takes longer to see all the important films of the year; some films never come here. Nevertheless I’ve managed to see all of the films that I think have the best shot for making my list. There are two major films I missed this last year: Argo and Les Miserables. I can always add them later if I see them and really like them.

1. Django Unchained

My favorite film of 2012 was Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Here’s the trailer:

As a general rule, I tend to love Tarantino’s films. Unlike everyone else in the world, however, I didn’t really care much for his previous film Inglorious Basterds. For me, that film was missing the element that I most enjoy in my favorite Tarantino films: personal revenge. (I know that the Shosanna Dreyfus character was more or less fulfilling this function, but I felt that the film’s revenge plot got swallowed up in the fantasy of killing Nazis.)

Many viewers and critics loved that movie and had a more lukewarm response to Django Unchained, arguing that the latter failed in its depiction of slavery and racism. I obviously disagree. For me, Django’s personal revenge story gives us an interesting, albeit fantastical glimpse into nineteenth-century slavery. I thought Tarantino was back in the mode of Kill Bill, my favorite of his movies, using violence and spectacle not merely to entertain but also to make us think. I think this is a challenging film that also happens to be really stylish and interesting. Consequently, it’s number one on my list!