Tag Archives: music

ALL the Theater!

I’ve always loved musical theater—see this post, and all the ones about Les Mis—but lately I’ve been obsessing about it more than usual. I think seeing Les Mis over the summer triggered something in me.

 

I traveled to New York twice in seventeen days. The day before New Year’s Eve, I just took a day trip there (it’s about a four-hour bus ride if the traffic’s not bad) to see Allegiance on Broadway. I had a feeling it would be closing soon and I wanted to see it before it was gone, and the subject matter—a Japanese-American family in an internment camp during World War II—interested me. Plus, Lea Salonga, who has one of the most gorgeous voices ever, and George Takei! The show had gotten mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot. The music was okay, but the story and performances were what made it really strong. I’m sorry to hear that it’s closing in a few weeks.

 

Then last weekend, I went down Saturday and Sunday for two shows. One was, for the third time since it’s come to Broadway, Les Mis. I’m quite sure I’ll never see a Jean Valjean better than Ramin Karimloo, but his replacement, Alfie Boe, played Valjean in the 25th Anniversary concert and is also very good. Unfortunately, Alfie ended up being out sick that night, but the understudy, J. Michael Finley, did a good job. Other standouts in the cast—Adam Monley was an excellent Javert and Brennyn Lark was great as Eponine.

 

The other musical I saw, at the Sunday matinee, was the second-to-last Broadway show for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I didn’t know very much about it before I saw it, other than that the lead role was played by Bryce Pinkham, who graduated from BC a year before me (I don’t know him, though) and that Jefferson Mays played multiple characters. I’m glad now that I didn’t know more, because it turned out to be hilarious and delightful and if I’d been spoiled about much of the plot, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much. The entire cast was excellent, and my head is spinning thinking about the quick costume changes Jefferson Mays, who plays NINE characters, must have had.

 

I have another trip to New York planned for Memorial Day weekend, which I’m really excited about because I’m going to see…Hamilton! I had to spend a ton of money on StubHub to get the ticket, but I’m dying to see it with the original cast, so I think it will be worth it.

 

I bought the Hamilton soundtrack recently after several listens on Spotify. Before I listened to it there, I’d heard a lot about it and thought it sounded interesting, but I was hesitant about it because I don’t like rap—like, at all. So when I finally heard the whole thing, I was shocked at how much I liked it, and it gets better with every subsequent listen (partly, I think, because you know the story better). If you’re like I was and think it sounds interesting but don’t like rap, have a listen to this song, “You’ll Be Back,” first. It’s sung by King George in the play (the hilarious Jonathan Groff), and it’s essentially a breakup letter to the colonies:


Now listen to the whole thing:


I’m really excited to see it in May—it’s one of the things to look forward to that I’m giving myself. I hear there’s some awesome choreography in it as well, so even though I’ll know all the music, seeing that will be new.

 

I’m also hoping to see Waitress on Broadway at some point. It’s moving there after premiering in Cambridge last fall, but unfortunately, it sold out very quickly and I missed it. The music is by Sara Bareilles, whom I LOVE, and she recently released an excellent album where she sings some of the songs from Waitress. Again, listen:


The other show I might see on Broadway this spring is She Loves Me. There are a lot of cool people in it—Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, Jane Krakowski—but I mostly want to see it because of Andrew Kober, who until recently was in the Les Mis cast and featured heavily in Ramin’s vlogs.

 

Plus, my friends and I are thinking about seeing The Sound of Music when it’s in Boston in a couple of months. I love the movie but have never seen it on stage.

 

So this is shaping up to be the year of ALL the theater, and I’m really excited!

Dancing About Architecture

Last month, I watched a movie on Netflix that I hadn’t seen since high school. Jon Stewart was, sadly, about to leave The Daily Show and I was remembering how I saw him in the 1998 movie Playing by Heart, which I’d sought out as a teenager because Gillian Anderson, whom I loved on The X-Files, was in it. Pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart plays her love interest. It’s a pretty good movie, although not likely to be anyone’s favorite- an ensemble drama about love with a cast that also includes Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Sean Connery, Ellen Burstyn, and Gena Rowlands, among others. It was trying to do what Love Actually did more successfully a few years later– show a big group of people and their various romantic scenarios, although it’s more of a drama than Love Actually (there’s one storyline about a guy dying of AIDS). In one scene, Angelina Jolie is yelling at someone on a pay phone, which amused me.

 

The notable thing about this movie, though, is what it was almost titled– Dancing About Architecture. It was only changed because there was a movie out at the same time called Dancing At Lughnasa. But Dancing About Architecture would have been a much better title. It comes from a scene where Angelina Jolie’s character recounts how, when she tried to talk with a musician friend about his music, he told her that “talking about music is like dancing about architecture,” and she countered that talking about love was the same way.

 

I tend to agree. But for now, let’s focus on talking about music– though it might indeed be like dancing about architecture, I’m going to make an attempt.

 

I have the hardest time discussing music. When someone asks me what kind of music I like, I wince. There never seems to be a good answer to that question. Back in middle school, people started to define themselves by what music they listened to and would make judgments about you based on your own music taste.

 

Here’s the thing, though–it never ends. Even as an adult, people judge you by the music you listen to. You might not make fun of someone who’s bad at sports or isn’t into partying, but judgment about music never ends. When I read this post I wrote a long time ago, I cringe at how defensive I sound. But I feel that way because I can’t believe that even as we’ve grown up, we haven’t evolved beyond these petty judgments we made as pre-teens.

 

There’s much more music that I like than music I dislike and, ironically, I feel like a lot of people would say that means I don’t really love music, as if you can’t love many different things. It’s hard for me to talk about music to the kind of people who consider themselves music lovers by virtue of being picky about what they like, prizing the obscure and wanting to be ahead of the curve with popularity, and making a hobby of seeing live shows. I don’t think I’ll ever be a very picky music consumer, as my tendency is to go with my instinctual like or dislike without thinking too much about why. And while I get how it feels good to like something before it becomes popular, I seem to be missing the disdain-for-popularity chip.

 

I think I’m coming around on live shows, though.

 

I wrote about it a bit here and here— how I don’t like most concerts, at least ones in small venues, and how I don’t seem to get the high from live music that so many people seem to. I did go to a concert earlier this summer in a larger venue, and I really enjoyed it. Due to that middle-school judgment factor, I’m hesitant to say who the artist was–it’s a popular artist about whom people tend to have strong opinions, both positive and negative. But I started to understand that high-on-live-music feeling that people have described to me.

 

Then I got that feeling myself in August when I went to New York to see Les Mis again. Ramin Karimloo was leaving the show at the end of August and I wanted to see the show one last time with him in it. So I did, and it was fantastic. My obsession with Les Mis is well-documented, but this seriously put me in a good mood for the next week. It was actually kind of amazing– I spent way too much of this summer in absolute misery, and not without good reason, and yet the thing that made me happier than I’d been in months was the power of this show’s music. (I was brought out my misery by a show called…Les Miserables. Heh.)

 

This led to me spending a truly embarrassing amount of time watching clips of Ramin Karimloo on YouTube. I got really disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see him in Les Mis again–my new job (which I’m liking so far) started the day after Ramin’s last show, so going down for that was out of the question. But then I remembered that he was playing two concerts at BB King’s in New York the following weekend- and I was pretty sure I could make it down for the Saturday show.

 

So I did.

 

I have Ramin’s album and, like I said, have spent a ridiculous amount of time watching him on YouTube. He does these shows in a style he calls “broadgrass”–everything from Broadway to bluegrass, and sometimes Broadway in the style of bluegrass (like singing “Bring Him Home” on a banjo). I love, love, love this guy’s voice, and I was excited to see what he’d do at the show. (And, let’s be honest, also a bit excited to look at him.)

 

The show was at BB King’s on 42nd Street, which has first-come, first-served seating. It started at 7:30 with doors opening at 6. I got there at 5 and the line was already pretty long. I’d brought a book to read while I stood there. The crowd was, hilariously, about 90% female.

 

I was standing there in line when suddenly I heard screaming coming from up ahead in line…and the next thing I knew, Ramin was standing right in front of me. Because he’s freaking awesome, he’d decided to come out and say hi to everyone waiting in line. I said hi, and he shook my hand and said, “Thank you for coming.” I think I started to tell him that I’d come in from Boston, but he’d moved on by then.

 

So it was a pretty amazing night already. I had not been prepared for Ramin walking right up to me, so unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone out and didn’t get another picture of me with him, but I did get a shot of him with the people behind me. (Random side note: when I ended up sitting at a table with some random people, whom I talked to, they told me that a minute after Ramin came out, George Takei walked by! I didn’t see him at all and wouldn’t have believed it if they  hadn’t shown me the picture they took with George.)

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I settled in at the table once they let us in and talked to the people around me. There was an opening act, Jamie Cunningham, who told us about how he became the opener after connecting with Ramin on Twitter. And then it was time for broadgrass!

 

He sang all kinds of things- songs from his album, songs from shows he’d been in, songs from shows he hasn’t been in, bluegrass, Broadway in the style of bluegrass, original songs, covers, mashups, you name it. He also made me tear up when he sang “Bring Him Home” and dedicated it to Kyle Jean-Baptiste.

 

Most of the concert ended up on YouTube, and I’ve been rewatching obsessively. A few favorites: here he sings “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime, a fantastic song that his voice is perfect for:

 

I wasn’t familiar with James Bay, but after Ramin covered his song “Scars,” I looked it up and…sorry, James Bay, but I think I like Ramin singing it better: :

 

And here’s “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma!, broadgrassed-up. Beautiful morning, beautiful man.

 

I think I get it now– how people get a high from live music, because while it had happened to me with musical theater before, this was the first time I got it from a concert. I don’t know how many artists could provoke this kind of reaction in me, but I understand now the feeling people get from live shows.

 

What I understand even less now, though, is looking down on other people because of their taste in music. Ramin’s music does something to me that I can’t even describe, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. And there are people out there who have the same kind of experience I just had with music I don’t like or am indifferent to.

 

I wish I could do a better job explaining the feeling I’ve had since that concert last week. But it’s like dancing about architecture.

Things I Loved in 2014

I did a “Things I Loved This Year” post for 2013, and here’s another one of sorts for this year. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m consuming fewer and fewer things that I dislike. I think I’ve just gotten better at realizing what I like. Every book I read this year got at least three stars on Goodreads. I only saw a few new movies and didn’t hate the ones I did see. If I wasn’t getting into a show, I didn’t continue watching it—I stopped watching How to Get Away with Murder after five episodes and didn’t make it past the pilot of The Leftovers. (I did stick with Season 3 of Homeland to see how it ended, but didn’t continue with Season 4.)

Books
If I finish the book I’m currently reading by tomorrow, I’ll have read sixty books this year. I’m going to post more about the books of this past year in future posts, but some highlights were Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. All YA, interestingly enough. Also, at book signings, I met both Ann M. Martin and Neil Patrick Harris!

Movies
You know, I haven’t seen that many movies yet. All the Oscar movies are coming out now, though, so I’m sure that will change over the next couple of months. So far, I’ve enjoyed Gone Girl and The Fault in Our Stars, both of which are based on books I’ve read.

TV Shows
The Good Wife was a big highlight. So was Jane the Virgin, which is hilarious and adorable. Gina Rodriguez is just really sweet and relatable in the title role, and it reminds me a lot of Ugly Betty. I’ve recently started watching Community, too, and am enjoying it.

Theater
LES MIS. Freaking fantastic. I also saw a production of Into the Woods that got me interested in the movie that just came out (haven’t seen the movie yet), and Finding Neverland when it was in Cambridge—I liked it but didn’t love it. My friends and I also saw both The Book of Mormon and The Lion King in Boston, both great.

Music
I never disliked her, but this year I’ve started to like Taylor Swift more than I anticipated. I think part of it is a backlash-to-the-backlash thing—I’ve never really understood why some people who don’t like her are so vicious towards her. If you don’t like her music, fine, but what has she, as a person, ever done that’s so bad? So I put a lot of energy into defending her, but it was really only this year that I started to like her music.

I also really enjoyed Ramin Karimloo’s solo CD. Speaking of which…

Celebrities
I still love Jon Hamm and Aaron Paul, but Ramin is one of my new favorites. And a late-breaking addition: Trevor Noah, the new Daily Show correspondent, whom I can already tell I’m going to love.

Food
I discovered that almond butter fudge—really just almond butter mixed with coconut oil and frozen—is awesome and healthier than most other desserts. I also started making this awesome cinnamon-apple smoothie.

Things I Loved This Year

I’ll do another post about the events of last year, and I’m going to do some more substantial posts later on books, movies, and TV, at least, but I wanted to do this post on some of the things that I enjoyed the most this year. Without further ado:

Books

October was my book month. Two books I’d been anticipating for a long time were published that month—Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Halfbook and The Disaster Artist, a book about the making of The Room by Greg Sestero, who played Mark. I also attended the Boston Book Festival, where I had conversations with J. Courtney Sullivan, Tom Perrotta, and Hallie Ephron. I read many other wonderful books throughout the year, and I’ll blog about them more in a future entry, but some highlights include John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Judy Blundell’s What I Saw and How I Lied, J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead.

Movies

The best movie I saw for the first time this year actually came out twenty years ago—Schindler’s List. I don’t know how I made it to this year without ever having seen this movie. And…wow. I have such a hard time talking about this movie because I’m not sure I can in a way that does it justice. It completely deserves the reputation it has—I will say that. And the very end has me in tears every time. (I’ve seen it quite a few times since I first saw it in August, most recently last night at Erin’s. Yep, our super-fun movie night was with a three-hour movie about the Holocaust.) It also motivated me to learn more about the real story behind it, so I’ve now read several books about Oscar Schindler and the Jews on the list- so many that I could tell where writers got their sources from. And there’s so much more I want to say about this movie that I’m not sure how to say, but just know that it profoundly affected me.

Future entry coming about the movies that actually came out in 2013.

TV

The two TV shows I caught up with this year that I loved the most could not be more opposite. Parks and Recreation is this happy, upbeat show about nice people doing good things. Breaking Bad is a dark, tense show about an increasingly evil guy doing increasingly terrible things. They’re at opposite ends of this TV mood scale, but I loved them both so much- Parks and Rec because it’s funny and sweet and I enjoy all the characters, Breaking Bad because it’s incredibly well-written and acted and basically a masterpiece. (Yes, I’ve seen this clip.)

I also started watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report regularly for the first time. The week of the marathon bombing, I desperately needed something to make me laugh. Previously, I’d only watched these shows sporadically, but after that week I put them both on my DVR. They keep me sane.

Music

I didn’t listen to much new music this year. I did listen to a LOT of U2. I’ve always liked them, but over the summer I started listening to them kind of obsessively and discovered some songs I hadn’t heard before or re-discovered songs I hadn’t listened to enough. As for new music, I enjoyed Sara Bareilles’s The Blessed Unrest, especially her song “I Choose You.”

Theater

Aside from the very welcome news that Les Miserables is coming back to Broadway next year, there was a lot of good theater in my life this year. I traveled to New York to see Lucky Guy on Broadway, which was wonderful and moving and…there’s so much I could say about it and maybe I will in a future post. I saw Wicked for the second time. I saw a local production of Les Mis. I also saw a great play in the fall called The Power of Duff.

Technology

Two devices have massively improved my life this year. I bought a Roku, allowing me to stream Netflix and Hulu on my TV, and it’s been fantastic. (Future post about everything I’ve been watching via Roku.) I also finally caved and got my first smartphone, which was a good decision. I’d always been afraid I’d end up spending too much time online if I had the Internet on my phone, but that hasn’t really happened. Plus, now I know when the bus is coming.

Celebrities

My two biggest celebrity crushes this year are both guys on AMC shows- Jon Hamm and Aaron Paul. It’s kind of interesting- with guys in real life, I’ve never been attracted to good-looking jerks, and I realized this year that even with celebrities, there’s a personality element present with everyone I like. Jon Hamm, I am convinced, is a perfect human being. I could look at him all day, and I think it’s a travesty that he doesn’t have an Emmy yet. But even if, for some strange reason, you’re not into his looks or his acting, you have to love him after this. And this. And this.

Aaron Paul (who does have two well-deserved Emmys), is possibly the most adorable person on the planet. I love him on Breaking Bad, where he played one of my favorite TV characters of all time, but he seems like such a sweet person, too. Read this. And this. And watch this clip of him on The Price Is Right before he was famous, because it’s hilarious. And look at his Twitter and his Instagram, from which I have learned that he really loves his wife and he really loves pizza.

Food
When Pigs Fly bread is the best kind of bread, and it’s awesome when you toast it and spread avocado on it.

Remember that if you take nothing else away from this post.

Happy New Year, all!

On Love and Deserving

Warning: herein lie spoilers for the movie The Town, Season 4 of Gilmore Girls, and the novel Driver’s Ed.

I started thinking of all my associations with the words “love” and “deserving” when used together.

Here’s one—this lovely song by Lori McKenna (possibly the subject of a future Katie Recommends):

[spotify id=”spotify:track:0p5x6zmXBjXdQ0bVcvMPhm” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

Here’s another—the cheesy book and self-help tape Luke listens to on Gilmore Girls (which, laughable as it is, does help him realize that he’s in love with Lorelai). I can’t find the clip where the tape says, “You deserve love,” but here’s another one that includes the tape.

But here’s another, the one I think of most often. A few years ago, I’d just seen the movie The Town and hadn’t really liked it. My biggest issue with it was that when the female lead discovers that the guy she’s been seeing is the same guy who traumatized her by kidnapping her at gunpoint during a bank robbery, she still wants to be with him. I did not buy that for a minute, and shared that thought with some co-workers at lunch one day. One co-worker, who’d seen the movie and liked it, was surprised. “But she loved him!” she said.

“Some people don’t deserve love,” I countered.

And I’ll never forget the look on her face. She looked like I’d slapped her—as if, with an offhand comment about a character in a movie, I’d hurt her personally.

But I meant it when I said it. I really did believe that not everyone deserved love. Everyone deserves to be loved by their parents and families, but does everyone deserve romantic love?

I have a lot of friends who have fallen for lousy guys when they deserve much better. It’s frustrating to see your friends continue to see and to respond to jerks, and my response, more than once, has been that guys like that don’t deserve love. Not that they don’t deserve the love of my awesome friends—that they don’t deserve love, period.

But how far does that theory go? If a fictional bank robber/kidnapper doesn’t deserve love, what about real people? Do murderers deserve love? Rapists? Domestic abusers? Cheaters? Do genocidal dictators deserve love? If you do a terrible thing, should your karmic punishment be the permanent loss of romantic love?

This almost seems like a set-up to a discussion of religion, but my thoughts here aren’t quite so high-minded. Honestly, I’m thinking about myself—someone who has never received romantic love from anyone. Someone who has no firsthand experience with the emotion they sing about in so many songs, that drives the plot of so many of my favorite movies. Someone who, most of the time, tries very hard not to talk too much, in this blog and in real life, about how frustrating my lack of success at dating has been—but someone whose psychic real estate is largely occupied by thoughts on that subject. It’s been getting worse and worse now that I’m twenty-nine and have spent the entirety of my life single and without romantic love. I worry every single day that I will never have the things I want the most—despite trying as hard as I can to meet someone who will help me get those things.

It’s very hard not to wonder what is so wrong with me and to come up with things that are wrong. I am by far the least attractive girl in my group of friends. When I was on vacation in Florida back in August, I had a hard time looking at myself when I was on the beach with three much thinner friends. I’m not getting any younger. And I am, as I’ve mentioned before, not a very nice person, and my success at disguising that fact varies. I’ve always wished I could be one of those people whom EVERYONE likes, but I’ve already failed at that—there are more than a few people who actively dislike me, maybe even hate me, and I have to take responsibility for that. I’m not even sure why I still have any friends at all.

And I guess this has all been a roundabout way to this realization: I’m not always sure that I deserve love. I know nothing productive can come from this way of thinking, but there it is. When trying to find someone has been this discouraging, I find myself thinking—what do I really have to offer a potential boyfriend that no other girl can? With so many awesome single girls out there, why would anyone ever want to be with me? Do I really deserve that kind of love?

Maybe I don’t. But maybe no one does. Because this brings me to my final association with the words “love” and “deserving” –a quote from the young adult novel Driver’s Ed by Caroline B. Cooney. In the book, two teenagers have confessed to stealing a stop sign, which resulted in a fatal accident. At the very end, one of them says to his father that he doesn’t think he deserves love. His father says that he’s right—he doesn’t deserve love:

“That’s the thing about love,” said his father, wrapping a Christmas arm around his son. “Nobody deserves it. Love just is.”

 

I think that might be closer to the truth about love and deserving than anything else.

Stop the Internet, I HAVE SEEN THE LES MIS MOVIE

Christmas was lovely—lots of family, good food, and, because it’s my mom’s side of the family, gossip about people from Lowell. Christmas, I forgive you for forcing me to wait one day for….

….drumroll….

LES MIS! Yes, Internet, I’ve finally seen it after months of anticipation. And it was wonderful. Not perfect, but still incredibly amazing, and I will be seeing it again soon. (I have a cold right now—my first cold in over three years, which must be some kind of record—and I’d like to see the movie again while fully healthy, so I can use tissues for another reason.)

Anyway: my thoughts. SPOILERS LIE HEREIN.

  • Everything you’ve heard about Anne Hathaway’s performance is true. She’s a heartbreaking Fantine—and I normally find Hathaway a little annoying, so you know I mean that. Her voice is gorgeous, first of all, and her “I Dreamed a Dream” is outstanding. That’s one of the more popular songs from the musical, and here they’ve moved it to after Fantine becomes a prostitute. She manages to capture perfectly, in less than five minutes, Fantine’s extraordinary pain while still singing it beautifully. You’ve heard the song before, but never like this. She’s totally going to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
  • And if there’s any justice in the world, Samantha Barks will get a nomination as well. SO GLAD they went with a theater veteran for Eponine. She knows this character, she GETS this character, and she plays her perfectly. Her “On My Own” was lovely, and in the movie, they went with the book’s version Eponine’s death—she gets shot trying to protect Marius, which of course just makes her death even sadder. I have a feeling she’ll be the voice for a whole new generation of teenage girls with unrequited crushes—and I really hope that this is just the beginning of lots of great things for the luminously gorgeous Ms. Barks. If they ever do a movie version of Wicked, how about her playing Elphaba?
  • Hugh Jackman was wonderful as well, and he should get an Oscar. The only reason I’m not more enthusiastic about his performance is that many theater actors (including Colm Wilkinson, playing the bishop here) have sung the part better than he did. But even with such intimidating predecessors, he was excellent. It’s a difficult role—the character goes from hardened convict to distinguished mayor to doting father to reluctant revolutionary—and he’s convincing throughout. And he does sing well, his voice just isn’t as pretty as many of the stage Valjeans.
  • Biggest surprise of the movie: Eddie Redmayne! I’d never heard of him before Les Mis (apparently, he was in My Week with Marilyn), but he was excellent. (Cute, too.) He managed to do what I’d thought was impossible: he made me like Marius. I’ve never really liked Marius—he’s the rich kid who pretends he’s poor, like a nineteenth-century hipster, and he’s totally oblivious to his generous and caring friend’s love for him because he’s too busy mooning over the pretty rich girl. But Redmayne somehow made him much more sympathetic. I think I just bought his love-at-first-sight with Cosette more when we could see it up close on screen, and he captures Marius’s innocence well and makes him kind of adorable. He has a wonderful singing voice as well, especially on “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” That song doesn’t normally move me much, but Redmayne made me tear up a bit. I mean, really, poor guy—he gets to marry the love of his life, but only after every single one of his friends dies. Now that I think of it, who even came to the wedding? Anyway, I’d love it if Redmayne got an Oscar nomination as well.
  • Amanda Seyfried was better than I expected as Cosette. While her voice is very thin, it’s also very pretty, and she hits all the high notes (Cosette has the highest range of any character). Cosette comes across with slightly more personality onscreen than she does onstage or in the book—but just slightly. Damn it, Marius, why do you like her better than Eponine again? She’s totally the simple girl to Eponine’s Katie girl.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were hilarious as the Thenardiers, although I’m not quite sure why he was the only one in the movie with a French accent. I was, however, a bit disappointed with “Master of the House.” That’s such a fun song, and I felt like they could have made it into more of an ensemble number rather than just using it to flesh out the Thenardiers’ characters through a frenetic series of cuts. I think it ultimately came off too cartoon-y in a movie that’s otherwise brutally realistic.
  • Russell Crowe was the casting choice I was most apprehensive about, and that concern was…warrented. He’s not awful, and people who aren’t familiar with the musical or story will probably like his performance, but I just didn’t think the color of his singing voice was right for the character. His style is more laid back and croon-y, when Javert needs to be more dramatic and belt-y. I’d downloaded the highlights soundtrack before seeing the movie, so I knew what to expect going in, and that helped me to pay attention to Crowe’s good acting choices rather than his subpar singing. Still, during the confrontation scene, when Valjean yells at Javert, “I’m a stronger man by far!” I was like, “Well, duh.”
  • Speaking of Russell Crowe, while most of the actors take advantage of the live singing and throw in some talk-singing to make it more realistic, he really sings every note. But that seems weirdly appropriate for a character who is dedicated to following the rules at all costs. “NO! This is a musical, and we’re supposed to SING, damn it! I’m going to SING!”
  • One criticism I keep reading about Tom Hooper’s direction is that he uses too many close-up shots, and that’s valid. It works really well in some places, but in others I was dying for the camera to be pulled back. Ultimately, though, I think his good directing choices outweighed the bad, and the same can be said about the movie as a whole.
  • One thing I though was really cool visually was the building of the barricade, which doesn’t come across onstage or in the book. The scene with furniture being thrown out of windows for the barricade was awesome.
  • One Day More” was perfect, as was the end scene. The latter made me tear up, and probably will do so more upon subsequent viewings.
  • They barely left anything out! Unless I’m mistaken, the only song eliminated completely was “Dog Eat Dog.” Other songs were shortened, but nothing was left out. They also added “Suddenly,” which isn’t a particularly memorable song, but I think it worked well for an area of the plot that could have used a little something extra.
  • The sewer scene was a little too realistic. Ugh. Somehow the stage show and book managed to make me forget that sewers are, quite literally, full of shit.
  • “Lovely Ladies” is a song I don’t pay much attention to in the stage musical, but here it’s a much bigger number that illustrated the world of prostitution that Fantine is entering very well.
  • They changed the order of some songs, but in a way that I think works. “I Dreamed a Dream” is more effective when it’s sung when Fantine really is at her lowest point. “One Day More” before “Do You Hear the People Sing” works onscreen since there’s no first act that needs a big number at the end.
  • I like that there were a lot of things they added back into the movie that were in the book but not the musical—Marius’s grandfather, Fantine selling her teeth, Valjean escaping Javert by jumping into the ocean, Valjean and Cosette being helped out by Fauchelevent, Javert apologizing to Valjean prior to the “Who Am I?” scene. They were going to include a reference to Gavroche being Eponine’s brother, but settled for him shedding a tear over her death.
  • Speaking of Gavroche, Javert leaving his medal on Gavroche’s corpse was a surprising but nice touch. It showed a bit of a crack in Javert’s resolve before his suicide.
  • And speaking of Javert’s suicide, what was with that noise when he hit the water? Did they just want the audience to know that he was very dead, like Howard Graves?
  • As nice as it would have been to hear Anne Hathaway singing with Samantha Barks, I like that the ghost of the bishop rather than Eponine shows up at the end. The bishop changed Valjean’s life, and I don’t think he ever even met Eponine.

I saw it with my parents and sister, none of whom had ever seen the musical or read the book, and they all liked it, too. It was interesting seeing it with people who weren’t familiar with it. My mom spent a lot of time ruminating on the story’s themes, and while I’ve always thought “A Heart Full of Love” was a little cheesy, she really liked that scene (which does come off better onscreen than onstage). My dad was a big fan of “One Day More” and the Thenardiers.

God, I haven’t been this obsessed with a movie since Titanicfifteen years ago. (Holy shit, FIFTEEN YEARS AGO?) And I was thirteen years old then.

So who’s going to go see it with me when I go again?

The Last Les Mis Post I Write Before I See It. I Promise.

Less than two weeks before the Les Miserables premiere (oh, and Christmas, too!) and I’m starting to get antsy. What if the direction isn’t as good as it could be? What if the actors can’t sing well? What if “Master of the House” isn’t staged in the best way? What if the parts that always move me when I listen to the soundtrack don’t move me like they should? What if it doesn’t win all the awards I’m hoping it will win?

Oh, the woes of a Les Mis fangirl. But even if the movie isn’t perfect, I have a feeling I’ll love it anyway. I already love the storyline and music so much that it would be hard not to. Plus, I’ve already seen the worst crime committed against Les Mis– Katie Holmes butchering “On My Own” on Dawson’s Creek.

*shudder*

Other important final thoughts before it premieres:

-Let’s get this out of the way: it’s dramatic, it’s unsubtle, it’s emotional, it’s sincere, it’s sad. If any of those adjectives sound unappealing to you, don’t see it.

-If you already know that you don’t like musical theater, this probably won’t convert you. It’s also sung-through, like Evita and Rent. There’s virtually no dialogue, and I’ve heard that they didn’t add much in for the movie, so don’t see it if that bothers you, either.

-I’ve seen surprisingly little discussion of how relevant a lot of the storylines are to today’s world, although one review did note that the student revolt evokes both the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement. But there’s plenty of other relevant parallels in here, too- like Valjean, as an ex-convict, having trouble finding work and getting people to overlook his past. Today, that’s still the case for many ex-convicts. Or people like Javert clinging to rigid interpretations of rules that leave no room for flexibility- the way so many people do now when discussing illegal immigration or homosexuality or reproductive issues. Or Fantine losing her job for having a child out of wedlock, while men can sleep with whomever they choose and the foreman is free to sexually harass his employees with no consequences. With all of the double-standards in the news recently (see: Rush Limbaugh’s comments on Sandra Fluke), it’s not hard to bemoan how little some things have changed since the 1830s. WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT THESE THINGS? We should be!

The funny thing, too, is that I’m currently re-reading the book (I recently learned that Les Mis fans refer to the unabridged book as “the brick,” since it’s about the size and shape of one) and Hugo clearly wrote it to criticize specific problems in French society at that time. It’s kind of sad how much those themes still resonate.

-Finally, I will share Nostalgia Chick’s thoughts, which I COMPLETELY agree with. Although she’s also a huge fan and goes into great detail about how awesome it is, she also good-naturedly mentions a couple of plot issues (i.e. the excessive use of coincidence, which is explained a little more convincingly in “the brick,” and how, although “Bring Him Home” is a beautiful song, the sentiment behind it kind of comes out of nowhere).

Seriously, even if you totally ignored the rest of this post, WATCH THIS VIDEO. Nostalgia Chick is both hilarious and completely right.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I love to sing. Love. To. Sing. It makes me happy like nothing else does. It relieves stress like nothing else does. Case in point: we had a shortened chorus rehearsal on Election Night, and the one-hour break in which I sang Vivaldi’s Gloria rather than watch election coverage was much needed and much welcome.

I love singing in the chorus that I’ve been with since 2008. I love singing karaoke with my friends. When I had a car, I loved singing along with the radio. Now, when I’m home alone, I love singing at the top of my lungs. When my roommate was away for the weekend, I spent the whole weekend singing “All That Jazz,” and “Defying Gravity” and the entirety of Les Mis for Juno’s entertainment.

Yes, this is how cool I am. I SING SHOW TUNES TO A DOG.* Although, I don’t think Juno minds- she’d probably sing herself if she could. My roommate and I are pretty sure that if Juno, who has very high self-esteem, could talk, she’d be singing a song that goes something like, “I’m the cutest! I’m the cutest! I’m the cutest!” (It’s not a very complicated song because she’s not a very complicated dog.)

In this period of gratitude, I felt like I should write about this because it really is something that has consistently brought me great joy. I’m not so sure if this will bring anyone else joy, but if you’ve ever wondered what my singing voice sounds like outside of KROD, here’s me singing “Back to Before” from Ragtime, a lovely song that I included on my “Sad Broadway” playlist. I am definitely not Marin Mazzie or Christiane Noll, and it’s a crappy recording that I did on my computer, but if you want to hear me, listen away. (And if you want to hear me and are reading this in Google Reader, open up my actual blog to hear it.)

*I also sing “The Juno Song,” which is to the tune of “Voicemail #5” from Rent and goes something like, “Juno/You are a puppy/Juno, I love you/You are so cute.” Oh, God, I’m going to regret revealing exactly how weird I am, am I not?

The Five Stages of Relationship Grief, According to Kelly Clarkson

I love Kelly Clarkson. Who doesn’t, really? If you’ve never sung “Since U Been Gone” at the top of your lungs or danced around the room to “Stronger,” I pity your poor, deprived soul.

Kelly is pretty much the go-to artist for empowering breakup anthems. And while a handful of her songs are love songs, the majority are about relationship angst.

Today, while listening to Kelly, it occurred to me that her songs could take you through the five stages of breakup grief. So, without further ado, here is your guide to grieving a relationship with the help of Kelly Clarkson.

Denial

 “Call Me”

Hoping when I get home
It’s all just been a bad dream
Then I’m not alone
And you aren’t gone

Anger

 “Never Again”

I hope the ring you gave to her turns her finger green
I hope when you’re in bed with her, you think of me
I would never wish bad things, but I don’t wish you well
Could you tell by the flames that burned your words?

Bargaining

 “Can We Go Back”

Can we go back to the way we used to be
Back to the butterflies
Staring deep in your eyes
Can we go back to how we used to be
Cause living and loving was easy
We gotta find a way to fool reality
And go back to the way we used to be 

Depression

 “Behind These Hazel Eyes”

Now I can’t breathe

Now I can’t sleep

I’m barely hanging on

Here I am, once again
I’m torn into pieces
Can’t deny it, can’t pretend
Just thought you were the one
Broken up, deep inside
But you won’t get to see the tears I cry
Behind these hazel eyes 

Acceptance

 “Sober”

Three months and I’m still sober
Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers

And once you move past acceptance to wow-I’m-so-much-better-off-without-you,

In conclusion,

How Not to Be a Snob

I feel like lately, I see more and more people copping to being some kind of “snob.” Music snobs. Beer snobs. Wine snobs. Book snobs. TV snobs. Food snobs. Fitness snobs. And the thing is, they don’t even say it in an embarrassed, yeah-I-know-I-shouldn’t kind of way. They’re proud to be snobs. They are proud to look down on others.

So it’s time to make something clear here.

It’s okay to have likes and dislikes. It’s okay to have opinions.

It is not okay to be a snob. Ever. For any reason.

This is especially relevant now that Aaron Fucking Sorkin has come out with a new show that’s been blasted for using the same kind of snobbery that pissed me off so much when he tried it with Studio 60. As usual, if you don’t like it, you’re too stupid to get it—or, despite being  a reporter for a major newspaper, you’re a silly “Internet girl.” The fact that so many people defend what he says and does is what makes posts like this necessary.

So how do you know if you’re a snob or just expressing your opinion? It’s pretty easy. Let’s have a brief primer on what kinds of snobs there are and the things they say:

The Music Snob

One of the most infuriating kinds. You know those people—the ones who look down on you as a person if you like that overplayed pop song or that indie band who went too mainstream. The ones who consider pensive indie rock or less-mainstream classic rock the only music that matters. The ones who will tell you how wrong you are for listening to what you’re listening to. And 90% of the time, music snobs are people with no musical talent themselves. But they’re so good at listening, you guys! Their ears are so discriminating!

What it’s okay to say: “I actually don’t really like them. That one song gets on my nerves.”

“I did like them, but now they’re starting to annoy me.”

 

What it’s not okay to say: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how anyone can listen to them.”

“See, this is what you shouldbe listening to.”

*eye roll* “Is this [non-snobby band]? Really?”

 

The Beer Snob

Here’s the thing: beer is inherently something not snobby. It’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Historically, it’s been a drink for the masses, for the common man. Some people don’t like it, but most people who aren’t teetotalers have tried it at some point.

So of course people felt like they had to invent reasons to feel superior for drinking beer. Microbrews! Craft beer! Light beer sucks! You’re an idiot for drinking Miller and Bud!

And the worst part is, they consume their pretentious obscure brew so fucking slowly, because they want to savor it and not, of course, because it actually tastes like crap, that it’s going to be awhile before they get so drunk they forget to keep putting up the snobby charade.

What it’s okay to say: “I don’t really like that beer…it tastes too watered-down to me.”

“Have you ever tried this? I’ve been getting into craft beer lately.”

What it’s not okay to say:  “I don’t know how you can drink that. You don’t think it tastes like shit?”

“Oh, come on. Don’t they have any good beer?”

The Wine Snob

This kind of snob has been around longer than the beer snob, and thankfully, it’s less culturally acceptable among people my age. You know exactly who these people are—people who, like the characters in Sideways, swirl the wine around in their glasses, stick their noses in to smell it before tasting, and go into monologues about the quality of the wine until people’s eyes glaze over. Save it for the country club dinner, dude.

What it’s okay to say: “I’ve been getting into wine tasting lately. It’s really interesting!”

 

What it’s not okay to say: Pretty much anything else. No one cares.

The Book Snob

Here’s where I should make something clear: there is a difference between snarking on something you don’t like and snarking on the people who enjoy that thing. On the TV front, I used to be a big fan of Television Without Pity, and on the book front, there’s nothing wrong with making fun of a particularly cringeworthy book. A few years ago, the Twilight series was the snark of choice, and now it seems like every other post on my Google Reader is about how much Fifty Shades of Gray sucks—Lorraine’sposts are especially funny. (For the record, I have never read Twilight or Fifty Shades of Gray and don’t plan to.)

What’s not okay is making fun of the people who read those books—stereotyping them, insulting their intelligence—or telling people that they shouldn’t read it, like Joel Stein did with young adult books. I’ve seen a lot of photos begging people not to read Fifty Shades of Gray. But my feeling about this, which I’ve expressed before, is that at least they’re reading something—in an age when books have never been more threatened, why would you want to discourage people from reading?

What it’s okay to say: “Oh, my God, [plot point or badly written phrase] is so ridiculous.”

What it’s not okay to say: “Don’t listen to her—she’s just some idiot who likes Twilight.”

The TV Snob

This is an unusual one because it has nothing to do with what the snob likes and everything to do with what the snob dislikes: reality TV, Two and a Half Men, and sometimes just TV in general. It’s funny—people don’t generally get snobby about watching critically acclaimed shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, etc., but certain people will make sure to let you know what they think of you watching American Idol or Jersey Shore. I don’t think they realize that most people aren’t actually taking their reality shows that seriously. And if you’re one of those people who uses that tone to inform people that you don’t watch TV…um, kindly shut the fuck up. Contrary to what you may think, this makes you less interesting, not more.

 

What it’s okay to say: “I actually don’t have a TV. I just decided there were other things I’d rather spend my money on than cable.”

“I don’t really like reality shows. They’re all so staged.”

 

What it’s not okay to say: “Um, I don’t watch TV.”

“Um, I don’t watchreality shows.”

“You actually like that show?”

 

The Food Snob

There are about a million varieties of this one. There are the snobs who won’t eat in chain restaurants. The snobs who don’t eat junk food and make sure to let you know what they think of people who do. The snobs wholook down on you for eating meat. The snobs who look down on you for not eating organic. The snobs who look down on you for eating the healthy diet that you’re not forcing on anyone else.

Who really cares? This is a why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along kind of thing. You eat what you like, I’ll eat what I like, if we’re eating together we’ll figure out together what works for us. It’s really quite simple.

What it’s okay to say: “I don’t really like that restaurant. What about this one instead?”

“I’ve been trying to eat healthier—I found some really great organic recipes!”

What it’s not okay to say: “That is not food. How can you eat that?”

“You like Domino’s? Have you never had any other kind of pizza before?” (Side note: a friend of a friend actually said this to me once, and I kind of wanted to smack him.)

 

The Fitness Snob

So you work out. Great! You should be working out! You’re an inspiration to us all! But for the love of God, we do not need to hear about how much you work out and how we should all be doing it, too. Not everybody likes yoga or running or strength training. And those of us who do aren’t necessarily willing to run five miles at 6AM every day and then work out again at night. (So that I don’t sound bitter, I need to clarify that I’ve run two half marathons and am not averse to working out, just to hearing about how much other people do.) If someone asks you for workout tips, you give them—otherwise, you say nothing.

 

What it’s okay to say: “I’m really getting into running lately. It’s kind of addictive!”

“I’m really liking yoga. I feel great after I do it.”

What it’s not okay to say: “Oh, I feel so great after running five miles before work, like I do every day. Have you been working out lately?”

“The world would be a better place if everyone did yoga.” (I’ve mentioned this before, but someone actually said this to me at a party once.)

The Snobby Snob

Most people know better than to be this kind of snob, but some people have managed to surprise me. I had a roommate who went to Cornell and, like Andy on The Office, mentioned it every two seconds. His family had money and in his mind, anyone who didn’t come from a liberal, educated, East Coast background was probably stupid. The 2008 Democratic National Convention happened not long after I moved in, and when we watched this guy speak, after his great mention of how “we need a president who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney,” my roommate said, “There’s no way he came up with that line himself.”

Yeah. I’m not even going to give examples of what to say and what not to say because, frankly, everyone should already know that.

I’m sure there are plenty of other kinds of snobs I haven’t mentioned. What other kinds of snobby things do people say that they shouldn’t?