I find this odd, Netflix

October 28, 2011

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So, I’ve already admitted here that I *heart* Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite, or considered, you know, a good movie.  But I can’t help my love for it.  You can not believe my delight when this week I was told on This American Life that Peter Sagal (host of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me) has story credit for the movie.  It was from a movie (his only one) that he was commissioned to right about intersecting stories of Cuban Revolutionaries and the girl that love one of them.  He got the note to make the story more “like Dirty Dancing.”  The movie never got made.  Until someone had an idea to make a Dirty Dancing sequel and they remembered his script.

It’s kind of like discovering that my two friends already know each other.

Anyway… Erin is a nerd, with dubious taste in movies.

You can listen to the episode here. And I do take offense to calling it “one of the worst movie sequels ever made.”

A matter of taste

May 28, 2009

I must admit that I prefer Hugh Jackman and Liev Scheiber in period costume rather than bone claws.  But that might be just me.Kate and Leopold

“Well, insertion of bread into that so-called toaster produces no toast at all, merely warm bread! Inserting the bread twice produces charcoal. So, clearly, to make proper toast it requires one and a half insertions, which is something for which the apparatus doesn’t begin to allow! One assumes that when the General of Electric built it, he might have tried using it. One assumes the General might take pride in his creations instead of just foisting them on an unsuspecting public.”

Like I told the Facebook world, I spent most of the day crying on Easter. It was obviously a very emotional day. First think I was up at 6:00 to sing at the sunrise service and that’s enough to make anyone cry (well me.) It was bit chilly but not like it was last year. Singing went fine, we did this kind of old fashioned-y “Easter Anthem.” No, that’s really what it was called, creative right? Joyce preached the sermon for the morning service, and it was great. I think she’s getting to be a really great preacher. I love that she always uses personal stories, it’s really brave and vulnerable, and it really makes the message seem sincere.  She was discribing a scene from a movie to illustrate a point. 

There was little boy in a consentration camp that got assinged to cleaning the commander’s bathroom. One day he stole a used bar of soap and brought it back to his teenaged friend to show it off.   The theft was soon discovered and everyone was called together to be questioned.  Just as the boy was holding his hand out with the soap, his friend snachted it away and yelled out that he had the soap.  He was shot on the spot.

Wow… that got me.  There is just something about sacrificial love.  Someone else taking the blame.  It’s real easy to say “Jesus died for our sin.”  But it’s good to feel it sometimes.

We had bruch of Sam’s pastries and frozen fruit, not quite the Easter spread we get in Pensacola.  But when Cynthia sat on one of the said pastries that almost made up for it.  That kind of made me cry too, with laughter.

For 8:30 service we were in the sactuary.  The theme for Clarke’s sermon was transformation, and we used butterflies to decorate the window sills and we brought in potted plants to the narthex.  During the service we added butterfly garden stakes to the plants… you know like the tranformation had just taken place.  It was very pretty and colorful, but a little less impactful than it could have been because our narthex is a bit cluttered (my hospitality workshop told me that’s not a very welcoming thing.)    That work great for 8:30 but the service was so long that the 9:45 people were already waiting and saw them before the other service let out.

The thing during 8:30 that made me cry was the lady that was sitting next to me in the pew.  We had a bunch of kids, of course, and they were all being cute during the children’s sermon.  But the whole time the lady who was maybe in her late fourties was holding her husband’s hand and weeping.  I don’t know anything more than that, what happened, if she had a loss.  She was just sitting there in pain.  Besides my empathy for her, I just thought about all the other people who feel pain and regret during happy times.

Then I had to teach Sunday School, which was maybe a little too creative.  I took the kids to the 9:45 service to remove the butterflies from the plants, and to watch my friends play in the pickup band that was playing that day.  Then we had our lesson outside, which was a bit challenging and distracting for my little people.  Then we went back to play Easter symbol memory, which is always the biggest hit ever.  They love it.  Cokesbury must be up on their developmentally appropriate materials (I think I want that job) because they always include at least three memory card sets for each unit.

Then I had my Easter Whataburger meal and had a laundry and movie day.  That night was the Tallahassee episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  Which was just sad in the classic, human interest story way.  You can watch it for yourself.  But that was so sad.

I told my Sunday Schoolers that Easter is the happiest day of the year.  For me it was little crazy too.

Unhappy Anniversary

January 22, 2009

RoarToday Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar on the first anniversary of his death. That bums me out.  I miss him.

A little more Jane

October 31, 2008

There’s this scene in Becoming Jane, when the neighborhood rich lady strongly suggests that Jane marry her uptight nephew.  She tells Jane that she doesn’t have children and it has caused her a lonely existence and she didn’t want Jane to suffer the same pain.  The directors point out of course that’s just what happened to Jane.  She never married.  That she did suffer the pain of not having children… but also the freedom; the freedom to write her books and not be burdened by children.

So I was thinking about that… the relationship between pain and freedom.  I think that you can’t have freedom without pain of regret.  Because when you can choose to go down one road and not another there’s always the thought about what could have been.  And you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.  You don’t generally regret the things that you are forced to do because you didn’t have the choice, you weren’t free.  And maybe that’s why we are sometimes reluctant to make choices. We’re afraid to miss something good.

Movie Night: Becoming Jane

October 30, 2008

I rented Becoming Jane to watch again.  And since I had the DVD at home I went ahead and watched the commentary track.  It was pretty interesting, especially the parts that they told you how they had changed the real known history of Jane Austen to make a more entertaining movie.  In fact they used many of the plot points of Austen’s novels to flesh out the story lines, like how Mansfield Park was supposed to be based on Jane’s brother’s romance with their cousin.  I think that my favorite part was how there is record of the Austen family staying on a certain street in London.  There were only five houses on that street and no inn and the only people that the Austens would have know would have been Judge Langlois, Tom Lefroy’s uncle and benefactor.  So that’s how they deducted that Jane and Tom’s relationship continued past the two meetings that there is direct evidence for; that trip was about a month after they first met.

What else… the cousin (the one who married the brother) was the widow of a French Aristocrat.  And one of Jane’s other brothers was adopted by like the third riches man in England.  And Tom Lefroy became the Prime Minister of Ireland during the potato famine.  Oh and then we have Jane Austen, inventor of the omniscient narrator.  All these fancy people hanging out together.  So what’s the difference from today?  How come pastors’ daughters don’t move in the upper realms of society?  It’s the rise of the middle class.  The fact that so many more people can afford to keep themselves in a comfortable manner.  So in Edwardian times connection and family were almost everything… you could be struggling to get by and still be seen as high society.  In fact that conflict between money and status is a major theme of all of Jane Austen’s novels.   Because she was witnessing the first time when money could buy the entry ticket to a respected life.  Now that’s about all you can do is buy your way in.

Under fire

September 30, 2008

The following is based on a comment that I left on Shaun’s post and his was based on Ted’s post.  I supposed it should be said that neither Shaun nor I have seen the movie, Fireproof, that we are critiquing.

Shaun said, if I may take the liberty of summarizing, Fireproof does a lot of telling (sermonizing) instead of showing.

The first time I heard the dictum “show, don’t tell” was in my eleventh grade English class.  In that context what our teacher meant was “don’t overuse your omniscient narrator.”  Describe characters by their actions and words, comment on situations by showing their consequences.

I’ve not seen the movie but what I’m assuming Shaun means is that the characters portrayed in the film are given to over-analysis and sermonizing that is unrealistic for who they have been shown to be.  To me that’s less of a problem because it is not a fundamental flaw of the story telling but rather of characterization (like if a pastor gave a sermon we wouldn’t have a problem with it.)  I feel like one can be preachy without messing up their storytelling effort, if the circumstances are right… you have to forgive my over-analysis but I’m a sometimes playwright and amateur dramaturg so I have spent some time thinking about things like this.

Shaun says “Have you ever seen the movie gang member or the mafia guy or the serial killer go to his son and explain his philosophical and moral position on violence in a long chunk of dialogue? Again, heck no.”  But I say that is more a matter of the character’s motivation… if the plot of the story is serial killer dad wants to convince reluctant serial killer son that killing is good I’ll bet there would be some dialogue about it.  Or how about just in real life, my parents do a lot of telling to me.

There is also in my view a difference in saying, “violence is acceptable” versus “violence is good.”  A bunch of movies say, “violence is acceptable.”  It’s a lot harder and uncommon to get a “violence is good” message across.  I think this movie is saying “unconditional love of your wife is good,” a more difficult proposition than say “unconditional love for your wife is sweet when it happens.”   The dad is saying “Please Kirk Cameron(‘s character and also the rest of the world) start acting this certain way all the time.”  That’s his character’s motivation.  I find a movie like The Notebook to be more of the “isn’t it sweet” variety; no one is trying to convince or change each other.  Shaun talked about the filmmakers’ motivation was to motivate the audience to act Jesus-y.  I think there’s the rub… few other movies are trying to motivate anyone to do anything.  Can it be done with more finesse? Definitely, but I think that you’d be hard pressed to find something motivational that isn’t at least a little bit preachy.

So who does write with the “doing this thing is good” message in mind?  Commercial writers.  So in a way I see this movie as a big commercial.  I guess it also could be called propaganda.  And what do I know about commercials? First, some are better than others with better dialog and characterization.  But also… commercials work, they sell things and convince people “candidate X is good.”  Luckily there are more Budweiser purchasers than serial killers.

From the reviews I have read I think most would agree that the insufficiencies of “art” makes the movie a less successful commercial.  But is it bad just for being a commercial? For being Christian propaganda?

Shaun replied to me “A movie is not a commercial.  or at least the audience doesn’t expect it to be.  And so if they get one when what they thought they were getting was a movie, well…”

Yes, most movies are not commercials, they don’t want to make you do anything.  Some do, say Michael Moore documentaries;  I think everyone’s clear they are getting a commercial there.  Most people who go already agree with his slant on things, but I know at least one republican who rethought her gun control postion because of seeing  Bowling for Columbine. …if we only reach one…  Or take Crash, on the other side of the “good art” question, it could be considered an motivational piece don’t you think?  Saying “not being racist is good.”  It’s a bit preachy, but in a good way.

My point is just that if you are making something preachy or telly you probably do have to be twice as good as your commetition who’s offering a take it or leave it message.  But I think that Superbowl commercials prove it’s not impossible to make something both directly motivational and entertaining.

Last Night’s RENT

September 26, 2008

I was in middle school in 1996 when RENT opened on Broadway. I was singing with the children’s chorus at the time and the high school group did this whole Broadway medley that included “Seasons of Love.” Which I of course thought was awesome.  But by the time I was in drama in high school the craze and phenomenon was over.  It was just another show that was on and we were more excited about the new shows like Jekyll and Hyde and Ragtime and Titanic.  When I was in college the tour came by Tampa and a bunch of the theatre folks went in a group together, but I missed out on that.  So the first time I saw the songs in context was the 2005 movie.  Then the tour came to Tallahassee about a year and a half ago and my friend and I went see it.  It was in the civic center and we were defiantly in the cheap seats.  We were farrrrrrr from that stage.  I am such a Broadway fan when I heard about the showing of the final Broadway cast and performance was a opportunity I could not miss.  It’s such a rare thing to have access to a recording of a Broadway show.

So what did I think of “the Rent movie that doesn’t suck” as one blogger says.  First this is something that producers defiantly need to do again.  I hope they made enough money to justify it.  Tallahassee was a little sparsely attended.  The performances of course are sublime and sounding so much like the original cast by the way.  The crowd noise was fun too as they cheered all the actor’s entrances and most of the songs.  And getting to see the production at the Nerderlander, that’s priceless.  But I hope that they’ll learn from some of the mistakes.

Almost from the beginning it was clear that the camera was right there on the stage because of the extreme close-ups and I later found that this was actually a composite of footage from an earlier performance with the closing night footage.  Well I don’t feel so bad for the live audience, but I then felt a little duped.  I found the camera work frantic at times and the editing to be suspect.  Even in duets the camera would flip back and forth between the actors.  There were these odd close-ups of Rodger and Mimi’s backsides during “Light my Candle.”  I think the one song that I appreciated the in-your-face-ness was “One Song Glory,” a monologue song in spotlight.  But even that was unfortunate for Will Chase the actor playing Roger who is 38 years old.  Not that he’s bad looking he’s just obviously older than his cast mates and is playing a 23 year old(ish) character.  And “Contact” looks like a music video with all of the cuts.

At the end of the show many of the original cast members came on stage for an encore of “Seasons of Love” minus Adam Pascal, Idina Mendzel and Taye Diggs.  Too bad, but we can see Taye on Private Practice every week and Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp will be touring with the show in 2009.  Another thing that I appreciated was the great! sound quality.  It really showed me how much the civic center eats the mix.  You have to turn the sound so high that you miss the subtle things, especially in the songs with counterpoint.  I love actually being able to tell what everyone was saying all of the time.

Over all this reminded me why everyone loves RENT.  I think that lots of people can write a heart breaking song or two, but to have 10 couched in between recitative that actually sounds like words people might say, is emotionally deep, and has a lovely melody.  That takes a special author.  Jonathan Larson was a genius.  Granted there are moments that don’t feel period enough yet to not be a bit clique, but I think that will fade with time.  Man, I got out of the theatre thinking how much I’d like to direct it.  Now I’ll be able to.

It’s not too late to see it; the last showings are Saturday and Sunday at noon.

Here’s to RENT, we were the lucky ones!

It has a name

September 19, 2008

I have watched exactly 3 minutes and 25 seconds of Made of Honor.  They are talking about the “coffee collar.”  The thing that keeps you from burning your hand on a paper coffee cup.  Now I know for a fact that Patrick Dempsey did not invent that.  That thing is actually called a zarf.  And it’s been around as long as there has been coffee.   It used to be these brass handle things to use on a glass cup.

How do I know that.  The potty paper and the book of lists.  When I worked in the counseling center my fellow student assistant and I were in charge of making the potty papers (it’s not as gross as it sounds.)  They were the counseling center’s news letter that got hung in all the campus public restrooms.  You know for some reading material.  So they’d have announcements and info, but they also had interesting information.  Our favorite place to get the fun info was the book of lists.  And one list we used was the list of things that you didn’t know had names.  My favorite word… zarf.  So there you go.

Update: Man that was one bad movie.  I have liked many that critics haven’t like Because I Said So, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, but this is really bad on so many levels. Besides the bad acting, camera work, and sight gags, I’m like “Tell her you fool.” Stupid.