Le Weekend

Jul. 29th, 2013 11:29 am
ceebeegee: (soccer)
So this weekend I watched the old '80s miniseries Masada via Netflix. I remembered hearing about it back in the day but had never watched it. Have to say, it stands up pretty damn well. It is a little dated-feeling (feels very '80s and my GOD does Peter O'Toole camp it up--that EYELINER) but the story and the performances really hold up. I especially liked Peter Strauss as the Jewish commander, Eleazar ben Yair--it's not easy bringing to life the stolid hero but I thought he did a credible job. Since it's a siege story there aren't a lot of dramatic battles to stage, so the focus goes to the psychological game and the Zealots make a point of taunting the Romans about the heat and the desert. The scenes where they just pour water down the side of the cliffs--water which the Masada fortress collects in cisterns and water which the Roman soldiers crave desperately--is pretty awesome. And there was a really cool recreation of Roman theater at the time--they showed the ending of Oedipus Rex and then a political satire. I also liked how nuanced the characters were--the grudging respect ben Yair and the O'Toole character have for each other is great. On a shallow note, ben Yair was HOTTT.

Watched the US Classic (a gymnastics meet that's a qualifier for Nationals) this weekend--I had to stream it from my phone because my fios went out on Saturday (MOST annoying, since I just had it installed a week ago). For the record, McKayla's vaults were on point and Kyla Ross won the AA. I had been thinking about attending Nationals next month--it's in Hartford CT so not too far away. But it's kind of difficult to get there--believe it or not, Metro-North doesn't have a stop in Hartford. Peter Pan has a bus there but I'd be leaving at the end of the evening and I don't really want to catch a bus in the late evening and get back into the city at what--2 am? 3? SO I don't think it'll happen. HOWEVER! Next year's Nationals are in Pittsburgh! And I know someone in Pittsburgh! *sly smile* That *would* be fun, a weekend trip to the 'Burgh. Good food, quality gymnastics, spending time with dear friends--win/win/win!

BTW this? Is beyond obnoxious. Being a good citizen dictates you should offer your seat to pregnant women, the disabled and the elderly. Children as a group do not fall into those categories. The "tipster" who sent this in is a drama-stoking a-hole. You have no idea what that woman's situation is--she may have hidden disabilities. And trying to stack the deck by trashing her appearance? All-around dick move.

Had a soccer game Sunday. My Dolphman team isn't doing too well this season, I'm sorry to say, and we're still not sure if we'll make playoffs. We've had a hard time with numbers (nearly every game has had 1-2 subs at most) and I personally have been sick for most of the season which is affecting my stamina and energy. The last two games have been frustrating, especially yesterday's. 5 minutes before game time the other team only had four players--you're supposed to have 7 on the field. Suddenly 3 new players show up, none of whom had the team tee-shirt, and they were all really good. Every team is allowed two players who are not on your team--but not 3. At half time the ref was asking the captain about it and I could hear them saying "....no, she's on our team...she just didn't have the tee-shirt" and then something about "...we didn't have enough girls" (you have to have two girls on the field). So, in other words, she's NOT a team member. And girls ARE subs--girls do count toward your 2-sub total! WTF? Clear cheating. The league is expensive and this is something we're supposed to be paying for--enforcement of the rules and fair play. We ended up tieing them and it was so frustrating--we didn't even play THEM, half their team wasn't them. I did at least score a really cool goal--Sam was coming up the left and I floated in toward the center, hoping he'd see me. He looped it over the heads of several of their players and I kneed it in. My team was talking about it for quite awhile afterward, it was quite picturesque!
ceebeegee: (St. Patrick's Day)
St. Patrick's Day coming up soon, yay! I am looking up Irish knitting patterns in honor of the season--I bought two Aran sweaters back in Dublin but you can never have too many Irish sweaters. I like this one.

Just finished (re)watching 2005's Kingdom of Heaven. Okay, the history is sort of crap--it really, really wasn't just Frankistani = bad, Musselmen = good. Very simplistic view of the Crusades, although it does get you interested in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. And holy crap, Reynald de Chatillon! Pretty much WAS that bad. Saladin didn't suffer fools gladly. The leprosy stuff, though--leprosy wasn't genetic, even then they knew that. It was contagious, that's why lepers were quarantined. I love the bitchslapping Baldwin IV gives Reynald.

But the best parts were the battles! Especially the siege of Jersualem--I'm starting to think I should've gone to the Naval Academy after all (I did consider this for a time in high school, my dad's uncle is friends with Bush Sr. and Daddy told me he would be able to get me the appointment). Battle tactics are very interesting--they never change. It's all the same principles. The cinematography in the siege of Jerusalem was GREAT, especially when they start shelling the walls with FIREBALLS. From trebuchets! You see it from the defenders' POV at first, and you just see this glowing orbs approaching and then they hit and you realize what just entered the walls. And THEN they pan over to these glorious, towering trebuchets, these precise, elegant machines of war and death, swaying back and forth and snapping these fireballs over the walls. Trebuchets were *very* accurate because you could make the counterweight larger or smaller.

The only real change I can think of in battle tactics in the last 3000 years would have to be the introduction of air attacks, which combine artillery and cavalry (you can shell and you can use your plane as an intrument of blunt force although although only as a suicide maneuver). Which makes me wonder how the hell Leningrad held off for two and a half years. Against the Wehrmacht *and* ground troops? Supposedly defense is the inherently stronger position in war but not when your fortifications are THAT porous! It's pretty incredible.

I'm on a couple of history listserves at Columbia, and they're having an event next week--an inaugural event for a group called Quadrivium, which explores medieval history along with other disciplines. My professor from last semester who taught Medieval Intellectual Life, will be one of the panelists.
ceebeegee: (Default)
I Netflixed Spike Lee's documentary 4 Little Girls; MAN.  It's not manipulative and there's not a strong POV in it; the camera just tells the stories.  There are extensive interviews, mainly with the remaining family members, but with other commentators as well, including Walter Cronkite and Bill Cosby.  And George Wallace.  Wallace is an interesting character, one of those byzantinely complicated Southerners regarding race relations.  Like Lyndon Johnson.  Johnson, in his personal life, was racist, called his chauffeur "boy" and expressed other racist sentiments.  But politically this man pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964--at the cost of his own party's hegemony.  (No one knows for sure whether Johnson said "we have lost the South for a generation" (after Reconstruction, the South was all-Democratic)--but you know a politician as savvy as Johnson recognized that reality.)  He was able to transcend his own personal racism and be the rarest of leaders, someone who appeals to the better side of people.  Sometimes, in fatalistic mood, I think Kennedy had to die in order to make Civil Rights happen. If he'd lived the administration wouldn't have had that emotional leverage, that nation united in grief, to push it through.

At any rate Wallace was another one of those torturously complicated racist Southerners.  (It's frequently like that down there--Southern racism is very different from Northern racism because even back then, blacks interacted much more with whites than they did up North.)  Wallace was THE arch-symbol of segregation--in his inaugural address as Governor of Alabama, he famously declared "segregation now, segregation tomorruh, and segregation forevuh!"  And yet later in his life, during his last term as Governor, he renounced his racist beliefs, apologized o civil rights leaders and acted on that--appointed blacks in record numbers.  Lee's documentary seems not to take that change of views seriously--it has an odd couple of interview snippets with Wallace where it uses subtitles for his speech (I dunno, I understood fine what he was saying, although he did have a strong accent--I guess I see that as a tactic to undermine what he was saying) and in general films the Wallace segments differently (no closeups, for one thing).  But I can understand why someone might not accept Wallace's conversion; he acted pretty badly in the '60s.  He had a lot to answer for.

Anyway, the documentary is very strong, just breaks your heart.  One of those pieces that just makes you hate people, sad to say.  Birmingham was some kind of dark place on the planet then--the background on the city, "Bombingham," is interesting because I have a lot of family there, my grandfather was from Birmingham.  A very dark place in the '60s that attracted a lot of dark, angry energy. 



I love this graphic for the DVD.  Although that's some awfully Catholic iconography for a Baptist church!

At one point in the documentary, two of the girls' sisters were talking about the last time they'd seen their sisters, or spoken to them, and the music was playing this one sustained string note.  Tension.  As if--their fate was nigh.  When we look back at events, especially those that are iconic, important turning points like this, we tend to accept them as already having happened, a fait accompli.  Fate.  We know it's already happened, we know the ending of the story and it's hard to watch the narrative without that foreknowledge.  Was this their fate?  Was Ate looking over the 16th Street Baptist Church, was it meant to happen?  Or was it a series of choices made by the racist filth who planted the bomb, and the leadership of the city and the South (like Wallace and Bull Connor--God, what an uptight, angry, hateful creature he was) who, deliberately or not, encouraged this kind of action, in conjunction with the random choices made by the girls and their family, and the church, that all aligned to place these girls in that basement at 10:22 that morning?

And the choir kept singing of freedom...

ceebeegee: (rome)
I gotta say now, as in 21st century (at least the first ten years), is a GOOD time in which to become interested in classical history. Thanks to Gladiator, the sword-and-sandal genre has been revived, and I've been able to add tons of such movies and TV shows to my Netflix queue. In addition to

*Gladiator (which has the added bonus of being actually good with Russell Crowe having won Best Actor and crazy-ass Joaquin Phoenix being nominated for Supporting Actor), there's also

*the HBO series Rome of which I've only seen a few eps but which looks extremely promising;

*Troy which wasn't well-reviewed and doesn't actually have much to do with Rome except that one Roman tradition was that Aeneas, a Trojan prince who escaped from the city, later founded Rome. But notwithstanding I really liked Troy--I liked everyone in it, even Orlando Bloom who actually made Paris likeable. I also respected how they made Helen thoughtful and intelligent. And the eye-candy was off the hook! Eric Bana as Hector and Brad Pitt and His Abs as Achilles--rowr!

*Helen of Troy, a mini-series that aired in 2003. I watched it then on TV, and then watched the DVD about 6-7 months ago. This teleplay covers a lot more ground than Troy did because it's not based on The Iliad (heck, even Troy covered more ground than The Iliad, which only covers the last few weeks of the Trojan War)--Helen of Troy is, naturally, about Helen and it starts with her abduction by Theseus, and ends with the aftermath of the War. An odd cast--an English model as Helen who gives a game, energetic performance but her inexperience shows. And she's a little too toothily British to really pass for the face that launched a thousand ships. The guy who plays Menelaus is quite good and makes him very sympathetic, and the woman who plays Cassandra is AWESOME. When she sees Paris again for the first time in years, she has this LOOK on her face and she whispers to him in amazement you should be dead. Good stuff. The guy who plays Odysseus is good, too (they always seem to get good Odyssei, Sean Bean was also great in Troy). The weirdest bit of casting is Stellan Skarsgård as....Theseus? Stellan Skarsgård is a fine character actor but well past his prime physically and really completely miscast as Theseus the Strapping Hero of Greek myth.

But then the big guns come in--John Rhys-Davies as Priam. He's terrific. And the best is Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon--God, he is fantastic, absolutely riveting through the whole piece. His best scene is when he sacrifices Iphigeneia--this complete psychopath actually loves his daughter but the course is SET, the Achaean army is determined to sail, and if he has to make sacrifices to ensure positive winds, then that's what he's going to do. It's a fantastic scene, you see this adorable giggling girl being walked up to the altar by two soldiers, then you see the knife come down as her scarf is dangling over the edge of the altar and Agamemnon's sick, determined expression--then the winds start blowing. Just great. Another really good scene is when the Horse is revealed for the first time--you see it from this little boy's point of view, the camera sweeps and this enormous horse is looming over him, with this weird exotic music playing. And when they're dragging in the horse, the sun is setting in the background as the music is ratcheting up the tension and it's just a perfectly constructed scene. Trojans, this is Atë writ large--it arrived on your doorstep and you broke your own city gates to force it in. No wonder this story has lasted the ages.

*A side note--I've talked about this before but the city of Troy actually existed, roughly where Homer says it did (remember, The Iliad was first written down about 700 BC). They've done archaeological research on it, and there have been many different...uh, iterations, I guess you could say, of the city on that site. So they number them, and Troy VII is the one that was there in about the 12th or 11th century BC, when the Trojan War is said to have happened. There is no historical evidence that the characters, Helen, Paris, Hector, etc., actually existed, but they do know that the city was leveled by a war. And they know that Troy VI was leveled by an earthquake. Often, as stories are handed down, the narratives get conflated, and one explanation for the Trojan Horse is that the storytellers conflated the destructions of the two versions of the city. This is the theory--there was a myth of an enormous horse that was delivered to the city in the context of the war and caused its destruction. How did the mythmakers decide upon a horse? Because horses are a symbol of Poseidon (the whitecaps are the manes)--and in the eastern Mediterranean, earthquakes come from the sea. Isn't that fascinating?

Ahen. Back to sword-and-sandal movies. Another one is this new TV series, Spartacus which got an hilariously snarky review in the Washington Post. Ain't nothing not to like in sweaty Roman men beating the crap out of each other.
ceebeegee: (crescent moon)
After visiting Ipswich, Mass. (which is near Salem) in July for my cousin Larson's wedding, I watched a terrific miniseries about the 1692 witch trials. And then this week I saw the 1996 movie adaptation of The Crucible. Miller wrote the screenplay, and he did a terrific job--as heavily stage-bound and unnaturalistic as the play is, he really adapted it well to the screen. For instance, the second act, which takes place entirely in the Proctor farmhouse on one night, is spread out over weeks, and you see some of the events that the Proctors discuss. The one big change I didn't like was how much he cut the scene in the forest between John and Abigail--her monologue was eliminated, and I LOVE that monologue, it is so creepy and poetic and wonderful. "...As bare as some December tree I saw them all--walking like saints to church, running to feed the sick, and hypocrites in their hearts! And God gave me the strength to call them liars, and God made men to listen to me, and by God I will scrub the world clean for the love of Him! Oh, John, I will make you such a wife when the world is white again!"

The performances are all very strong, especially Daniel Day Lewis as John Proctor, Joan Allen as Elizabeth Proctor and Paul Scofield as Judge Danforth. And I actually quite liked Wynona Ryder as Abigail--she can be a little mannered for me sometimes but I thought she did a good job here. Her (and the director's) take on the character was interesting--more waifish and little-girl-lost, especially in her first scene alone with Proctor, than the Homewrecking Temptress as she is typically portrayed. This is entirely appropriate since when you think about it--John Proctor is completely at fault for their affair. A teenage girl in a sexually repressed society who is therefore completely unaware of her own sexuality, an orphan living in the scraps of her uncle, who's working in someone else's home--he was obviously much more in control of the situation than she was, and is therefore more to blame. Now, what Abigail goes on to do is her responsibility--I'm certainly not defending that--but you can't help feeling for her at the beginning of the story. She really is lost. I've just seen so many harpy Abigails* that I liked this take on it.

History's Mysteries... )

*Years ago, in Virginia, the play group of my home parish, St. Andrew's, was performing The Crucible (they were using the altar as a stage, which I thought was extremely cool. Hey, we're (Anglo-)Catholics, there's a very fine line between performing and celebrating Mass! Anyway, one of the supporters of the group, my grandmother's best friend June Hansen (a well-known Equity actress and Helen Hayes award winner in DC) asked me to look in on the rehearsals and give the director any feedback I might have--I guess this was at his request, I certainly made it clear to him he was free to reject or accept my thoughts, as he wished. I watched a little bit of the first scene--this scene is set at the Parris's household, and Betty is catatonic and we hear how the night before, Parris caught the girls dancing in the woods. Proctor comes over and eventually he and Abigail are alone together. She tells him "'tis nothing--my uncle caught us dancing in the woods, is all" and he replies "you'll be clapped in the stocks before you're twenty." And she melts, saying "give me a word, John, a soft word."

Well, the way this scene was being performed by my church group, John says the stocks line (and the preceding lines) to her sternly, as though he were lecturing her. There was absolutely no flirtatiousness between them--he is stern and stiff, holding her at arms' length. The director asked me for any feedback, and I said "uh, you may want to consider exploring some of the subtext in that scene--it's more interesting if John is still attracted to her and he's fighting against that." Not to mention--it's hardly even subtext when the script itself adds it--the stage directions say that John is smiling on that line and she responds with "a giggle." It's this buildup that leads to "give me a word, John--a soft word." The director looks at me in confusion--"really? You think I should put that in?" Well, YEAH! Arthur Miller thinks so too! May I introduce you to THE SCRIPT? I know Miller's asides are long but they're actually quite helpful.

Anyway, getting back to the movie, as I said the performances are all great, and the last scene between John and Elizabeth will blow you away. Truly fantastic acting between the two of them. And the direction is quite strong as well--in the commentary track, Nicholas Hytner says how he and the crew had this fancy that the Devil had entered the camera, and at times, there was a Devil's-eye-view. For example, the "yellow bird" that the girls "see" during Mary Warren's testimony comes swooping down on the girls--I thought that was great. It was filmed at some uninhabited island in Cape Ann, and the whole thing just looks gorgeous.
ceebeegee: (Massachusetts foliage)
So in the wake of my visit to the Cape Ann area (where the train paused in Salem), my imagination has been reawakened and I Netflixed some videos about the Witch Trials. This happens every few years, I get fascinated all over again by that story and have to read/study everything I can find about it. One time back in the early '90s I was watching a PBS (PBS? Maybe it was another channel. Here is a link to the transcript but I know it aired much earlier than '97, I thought I watched it in '93? ANYWAY) documentary about the Little Rascals day care molestation trial in the late '80s, and what I saw horrified me. In the documentary they talked about little kids testifying--very young, as young as 3 and 4--which is scary enough. Kids that young are completely unreliable witnesses, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is they don't always know the difference between a lie/story and the truth. Furthermore, at that age they generally want to please the adults in their lives, so they'll tell you what they think you want to hear. You can use them for investigative purposes, perhaps, but not to convict someone. And the testimony proved it--these kids were talking about being fed to sharks and aliens and babies being murdered and whatall. Uh, HELLO!--maybe the kid doesn't have a firm grasp on the truth if that's what s/he is saying on the stand?!

The absolute nature of this statement scares me: "I believe the children. I know now that children do not lie about things like this." Now, I am certainly not saying never believe your children or act skeptical when they come to you, not at all. But the idea that "children don't lie" is a dangerous one--children DO lie sometimes, for many reasons--revenge, power, for fun. And they can lie especially when the adult they want to please is asking them leading questions. Heck, there was a case just the other day about some poor father who'd been in prison for 20 years for abusing his children, and the kids (who are now grown up, obviously) recanted their stories. You can't just take kids' words as the gospel truth, you have to apply some kind of reasonable theory of proof to what they say.

There were other things that gave pause as well--one of the jurors admitted that he'd lied during the voir dire process (when the defense and the prosecution interview members of the jury pool to decide who they want on the panel). They try to weed out anyone who might be "out for revenge"--one of the questions they ask is if you've ever been a victim of a crime, especially a crime like the one that's being tried. This particular juror lied and said no, but admitted later he had been molested as a child--and lied so he could get on the jury. In other words, he hijacked the whole judicial process, because he'd decided that the defendants were guilty before they'd even been tried. Absolutely horrifying.

Between the dark and the daylight, when the sun is beginning to lower/Comes a time that is known as Children's Hour... )

And then after I came back, I got a "History's Mysteries" DVD about Salem, and also a movie, a miniseries that aired in 2003 starring Kirstie Alley and, again, Shirley MacLaine. The former was a'ight--didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know and was a little cheesy. But the miniseries! I was astounded at good it was--and how come I'd never heard of this? I had cable in 2003, I watched TV all the time then, I can't believe this slipped under my radar. It's extremely well-researched--I kept looking up stuff to check their facts and almost everything is right on. For example when Rebecca Nurse is examined before going to trial, she is made to strip naked and be physically--and intimately--examined by two midwives, in full view of a bunch of men. And they go everywhere. If you read the records, one piece of "evidence" that worked against her was that way down in her nether regions (basically her perineum) was some bit of flesh that was deemed "insensitive"--somehow this was supposed to be evidence that she was a witch. Can you believe that?? This elderly woman, of impeccable reputation and a founding member of the church, being fingered in full view of these men who are sitting in judgment on her. Unbelievable!

And the performances! Every single actor in this does an amazing job, especially the girls. They're incredible. The girl who plays Ann Putnam, Jr. (one of the major witnesses--i.e., "afflicted" girls--The Crucible notwithstanding, Abigail Williams wasn't a ringleader so much as some others were, and she was only 11 when this was happening and certainly had never had an affair with John Proctor) is just OUTSTANDING--not one false note in her performance and she has a doozy of a role to pull off. There are a couple of scenes that are especially creepy, one of which is when, well into the whole ordeal when they're sending the girls to other districts to try to "sniff out" witches there, the girls are on their way to Andover. Young Ann sees her mother and smiles shyly and waves--like "aren't you proud of me?" *Shudder* The other girls are all terrific as well, especially the little one playing Betty Parris--very, very strong, self-assured performance, she just submerged herself into the role. Kirstie Alley plays Ann Putnam (Senior) and does a great job, and Shirley MacLaine is just luminous as Rebecca Nurse. I'm so used to seeing her play these fiesty types and this was completely against type--and she nails it. The guy who plays the minister, Reverend Parris, is also terrific.

What I thought was so great about it was how it manages to suggest not just one, but several explanations for what happened. It sets the tone with the Indian attacks and the whole terrifying worldview that the Puritans had--life is incredibly hard, and then you die and possibly go to Hell. Fun is sinful--your only salvation is in suffering and hard work. With all this psychological stress, I can't believe MORE people didn't go crazy. And even with all that, you still have to watch out for your neighbors, who are more than happy to screw you over as well. (You would think in an environment as harsh as a Massachusetts village in 1692, they would see the benefits of getting along and working together.) It certainly seems apparent that in some weird way Ann Putnam Jr. served as some kind of instrument of revenge for her parents--all the "witches" were on the other Salem faction, the one that opposed the Putnam/Parrises. (There's a great scene toward the end when Ann Putnam Sr. warns her brother-in-law--Thomas Putnam's much younger half-brother whose birth had carved out even more land from what Thomas saw as his birthright--and who had further infuriated Thomas by marrying a Porter from the other faction. Ann Sr. warns her brother that he might be next--she's starting to see the pattern--and then you see little Ann staring at the young man, taking in every word. And you see Joseph Putnam and his bride and the mother of his newborn child being arrested in slow-motion. Beautifully shot sequence.) And of course all the "afflicted" girls were on the Putnam/Parris side. But it was much more than a simple power grab--I do think those girls went a little nutso, and I don't necessarily think they were faking it, as such. I think they allowed themselves to be convinced that they were bewitched. They were so little valued, these girls--and what had they to look forward to? Death in childbirth? A joyless marriage and existence? Finally someone was listening to them, finally they felt alive. (Obviously I am not at all condoning what they did--I'm suggesting this is how on some dark, hidden level, it happened.)

They don't introduce the ergot theory though--it's an interesting theory but the Puritans did know about ergot poisoning, and probably would've identified that. Besides why would that only affect a small group of girls?

The scenes where the condemned go to be hanged are the most powerful, of course. When Rebecca Nurse is standing there on the cart, lifting her face to the heavens and praying as the noose is out around her neck, Reverend Parris is furious--he is literally bellowing at her to stop praying. You can see this is where the tide begins to turn, the crowd is visibly upset at her execution (and an interesting note--she was actually found innocent at first, and the judge basically told the jury "go back and try again." They knew what kind of verdict was expected of them. The miniseries leaves that fact out, probably for lack of time, as it is pretty long already but definitely worth it).
ceebeegee: (golden hearts)
I've been watching (in what very little free time I have right now--rehearsal for Ore has turned into a full-time job) the '70s BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I remember watching this as a child with my Mom when they reran it on PBS--the only scene that sticks in my head was Catherine Howard saying "Me? The King wants to see me?" The idea of the series is that each episode focuses on a different wife--each episode is kind of a mini-play. In theory this is an interesting idea but the fact is some wives mattered a lot more than others. Anne of Cleves, for example, was not that important at all, and wasn't around (as a wife) for very long. Catherine Howard also was not around for long, although her story marks Henry's entrance into old age--Catherine really did run around on him, and his vanity was devastated.

So the format inevitably leads to the more important wives sort of getting the shaft. The first one, Catherine of Aragon, was married the longest, 24 years. This episode actually came off quite well, even though they had to skip over quite a few years. It begins with her meeting Prince Arthur and then goes through her difficulties during her widowhood, her marriage to the new King Henry and the early years of their marriage. Then it skips way ahead to King Henry mulling over how to dissolve the marriage and so forth until her death. It sounds a little rushed but it actually comes off quite well--in contrast to The Tudors, this is very well-researched, and every scene and character are pretty much true to what happened. I like spotting characters and then thinking ahead to how they are connected, or will be connected in the future. For example, at one point during Henry and Catherine's impasse, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk (a close personal friend of Henry's), is confronting Catherine in her bedroom, and Maria de Salinas is running interference. (Great actress, I'm loving her.) I'm looking at this, thinking "her daughter will marry him someday."

I've just started the second episode, which is of course Anne Boleyn. The actress, Dorothy Tutin, is good enough but WAY too old--she's at least 10 years older than Anne Boleyn was during the events depicted. I only bring this up because part of Anne's appeal was that she was young and energetic (and, Henry assumed, fertile, whereas Catherine had already gone through menopause by then). Unlike the first episode, Anne's story is much more truncated--almost no time is spent on Henry's courtship of her, which is one of the more fascinating elements of the King's Great Matter. Henry was OBSESSED with Anne--he wrote her constantly and kowtowed to her at every turn in the first years of their relationship. That's what made his complete reversal later so startling--Henry could've put Anne into a nunnery but he chose to obliterate her, even to the extent of allowing himself to be portrayed as a cuckold--even to the extent of sacrificing the lives of innocent men, including one of his best friends. Anne is also written a little thinly--she has the requisite sharp tongue, but no charm or piety (that I've seen yet, that is. Perhaps it will get better). The actress playing Catherine did a great job and even looked the part--NOT like the stereotypical brunette Spaniard but with reddish hair, as the real Catherine had. It's nice when they get the little things right.
ceebeegee: (Mercutio)
In my continuing obsession with West Side Story, I watched it again this weekend, and surprised myself by bursting into tears in the last scene. Natalie Wood brings it in that scene. (Richard Beymer kicks ass as well.) She is just barely holding herself together when she's pointing the gun at the rest of them--you can hear the tears in her voice, and then when she crumples....aw, man. She just breaks your heart--very emotionally truthful. Great, great job. I think if she hadn't already appeared in Splendor on the Grass that year (for which she got a Best Actress nomination), she might've gotten one for WSS. (You can't be double-nominated within a category.) Another amazingly affecting moment is when the Jets are struggling with Tony's body...and two Sharks step forward to help. WOW. And the way the scene--and the movie--just....ends.

I like picking out the scene when actors win their Oscar. (For example, in Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel won with the scene where she's recounting Bonnie's death: "Gimme my baby what you kilt!") For Anita, it's after the Taunting, the staging of which is almost a little too stylized to inspire real terror (almost, not quite--it's still effective). But when she's leaving--THAT'S when the truth hits the fan. The way she says "I have a message for your friend--tell him..." She is THERE, that scene could stand up in any (non-musical) drama.

I used to have (it's at my Mom's now) a novelization of West Side Story which I really enjoyed. It has last names for the characters (Riff Lorton, Maria Nunez), weirdish backstory and a slightly different narrative (Action takes over after Riff dies, not Ice/Diesel).

Although I think Richard Beymer does a decent job as Tony, very invested and sincere, I do wish he seemed a little more...dangerous. Tony is supposed to be a former gang member--it's only been a month since he's left the Jets. I'd also like to see more indications of a true friendship--a long-term friendship--between Riff and Tony. Tony seems so distant from him in their one big scene with just the two of them, and after all, it's Riff's death (like Mercutio's) that maddens Tony into killing Bernardo. This is where the source material is stronger--Romeo and Mercutio have three strong scenes together, scenes where you see how close they are, not just in what they say but how they say it, and it's believable that Romeo would flip out and avenge his friend's death. Tony says to Maria "...Riff was like a brother to me"--we are told this but not really shown it.

I had to go back and watch the Dance at the Gym a few more time. I still LOVE it. Glad Hand is still such a dork ("well, it won't hurt you to try...") and I love it when the promenade stops and you see Ice's girl opposite Bernardo. She gives him the most hilarious look, like "ex-CUSE me?!" I love how everyone freezes, and then the guys all leap forward elegantly and reclaim their women. And then the BEST sequence, the Mambo! God, it is so awesome! There's nothing like seeing a pack of amazing dancers showing each other up, one upping each other with their moves, all cocky. They all look like they're having such a good time in that scene, the characters as well as the actors, especially Riff, he has this big grin on his face. Right now I'm splitting my crush between Bernardo and Riff (I mean the characters, not the actors, although they are fine as well!).

I've decided if I ever do WSS, I want to play either Riff or Anybodys. Yeah, yeah, Maria would be great but Anybodys is such a cool little role, and Riff of course is me, Mercutio :)

Check out the original Broadway cast performing "Cool" on the Ed Sullivan show:



Aren't they amazing?
ceebeegee: (Vera Ellen)
Last week I Netflixed West Side Story (crappy DVD, BTW, no extras whatsoever). It's been a LONG time since I've watched the movie--not all the way through since I was a little kid. But I grew up knowing it intimately nonetheless--my brother and I knew the soundtrack by heart and acted out the dances. Bart especially loved staging the Dance at the Gym in the living room, and when I would walk past he would reach out and yank me in, yelling "Mambo!" at me. We also loved "America"--the part during the dance break where the person yips like a puppy dog killed us. And my dad and bother would make jokes about ABLT: "A boy like that/who'd kill your brother!/I know him well/He mooned your mother!"

This is the sort of musically dorky family in which I grew up.

But I haven't actually sat down and watched the movie in a very long time, so I've been doing that this week, in honor of the upcoming revival. Man, I gotta say--Jerome Robbins' choreography and direction is amazing. The opening sequence is just incredible--what is it, ten minutes of nothing but choreography building to the fight? Only a few words of dialect, almost the entire sequence is told through the performers, the music and the dance. It's incredible. It's movie-making at its finest--I find I'm absorbing the movie viscerally, through my pores. And I love those birds' eye shots of the city, going over what looks like--the GW Bridge? Panning over upper Hell's Kitchen (which had been condemned and emptied out to make room for the about-to-be-built Lincoln Center) and narrowing in on those streets, where these young men strut and hunt and prey. My favorite shot in the Prologue is after we first meet Bernardo--he just smolders at the Jets in that shot--and then as the Jets leave, two other Sharks join him, and they stalk their way down the street in unison, doing that skipping step and then pirouetting right, and as they do so the music gets tenser and tenser. They really are sharks in that moment--predators on the prowl, who must move or die.

All the performers are great (Richard Beymer gets a bad rap but I think he's fine as Tony, a difficult role to make vivid) but George Chakiris absolutely owns this movie. He really deserved that Oscar. I love his scenes with the women--I love it when he lectures Natalie "when you are an old woman with five kids, you can tell ME what to do." They are both so cute there. And his exchange with Rita Moreno on the stairs and suh-mokin' hot! "First one...then the other" in that bedroom voice. Oh Anita, you foolish woman, don't walk away from him! *fans self*

And as a side note, how did I miss John Astin as Glad Hand? He is hilarious!

Other terrific sequences are the dance at the gym and the rumble. I LOVE the rumble--just unbearable tension, especially between Riff and Bernardo at the end there. And that agonizing end of the scene when you hear the siren as Tony is grieving.

A classic piece of moviemaking.
ceebeegee: (Default)
Inspired by the clips I saw on the Oscars, I Netflixed Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Holy crap, Clive Owen is WHITE hot in this movie. Damn. He is amazingly hot in this--I seriously want to have his children right now. I liked Closer a lot but never saw him as particularly attractive but the combination of his tan, his tight little doublets, his piracy privateering and his all-around awesomeness--rowr.

It's a terrific movie, BTW--several sequences are breath-taking. The Spanish Armada sequence is just awesome, and there's an amazing shot of her standing on--I guess--the cliffs of Dover observing the Armada (I guess? That seems off). But the shot is incredible--in general, the mythos of the movie, the way it constructs her march toward her destiny, is wonderful, some incredible direction.
ceebeegee: (golden hearts)
I caught a little bit of The Karate Kid on cable last week and decided to netflix it. It came in on Saturday and I watched it this weekend. I haven't seen it for a long time--maybe not since the late '80s. I was really struck by what an unexpectedly great piece of movie-making it is. It would've been so easy to make some cheap, high school Rocky lknockoff, but TKK is so much more than that. The performances are terrific--almost everyone in it nails it (as great is Martin Kove is for the most part, he has one moment where I sort of cringe, when he says "But I like that!" in the dojo). I'm frankly stunned that Ralph Macchio didn't seem to get any award nominations--William Zabka (who played Johnny) got one, but RM didn't. That terrific scene where he says "to hell with this! I'm going home" and Miyagi takes him from "show me wax on" to that flurry of defensive blocks--the look on Danny's face as he realizes what he's been doing all along...it's just great. And that look of terror, resolve, and anticipation all at the same time, as he prepares to do the famous crane kick. Pat Moriyuta certainly deserved his Oscar nomination but I'm disappointed RM didn't get an Young Artist Award or something.

My favorite sequence is that long scene when Miyagi gets drunk, reminiscing about his wife, and then Danny puts him to bed and you see that those tears on Miyagi's face...and then Danny reads the telegram about the death of his wife and infant son in the internment camps. When Danny bows to him as he leaves---tears were running down my face. Man, I'm tearing up now, thinking about it. It's incredibly moving. The sequence goes from that to that beautiful montage of Danny training himself--on the piling practicing the crane kick, and on the rowboat, with that light on the water. That is some movie-making, people.

I also love how, as obvious as the good/bad dichotomy is, the "bad" kids are not completely unredeemable. I like it when Bobby tries to apologize to Danny after nailing him in the tournament, and I think it's damn classy of Johnny to humble himself to Danny at the end. (I mean, Ali-with-an-I must've seen something in him to have dated him at all, right? One thing I don't get though, is when Kreese orders Bobby to take Danny "out of commission" in the tournament and Bobby protests--Johnny is standing right there, following the conversation. And yet later he's stunned when Kreese orders him to "sweep the leg"--although I will say I love that look, that look of shock).

On a purely shallow note, the sheer display of man-candy is also quite enjoyable. I typically prefer brunettes and Ralph Macchio is just so cuuuuute in this, but I gotta say, William Zabka is pretty delicious as well, achingly-'80s red shiny jacket notwithstanding. In fact all the Cobra Kais (except maybe for Dutch, even if he IS Steve McQueen's son) were kinda hottt.

Sybil

Apr. 16th, 2007 01:16 pm
ceebeegee: (crescent moon)
I watched the DVD of Sybil the other night. I remember when it was on TV--I must've wandered in a few times because I did remember some of the scenes, and then I read the book when I was in the 8th grade. The book is pretty mind-blowing--I had nightmares about it. I'm sure many of you know the story already, but it's a true story about a woman who developed a severe case of multiple personality disorder as the result of terrible childhood abuse from her mother. There are a couple of chapters in the book which talk about the mother who was just...a monster. I hate to say that about someone who suffered herself from mental illness (she was diagnosed as schizophrenic but she and her husband poo-poohed the diagnosis and their church was highly suspicious of the psychiatric community in general). But her schizophrenia notwithstanding, she obviously KNEW what she was doing was wrong, because she lied about it and tried to hide it.

Anyway, the movie is very powerful, especially considering it was a TV-movie. It could easily compete with any cinematic release--it's that good. Sally Field is unbelievable as Sybil--she is riveting. And since it was a TV-movie, the abuse isn't really shown graphically on the screen--a lot is implied. Notwithstanding there are some sequences that I'm amazed were allowed to air on TV--the mother does some truly horrific things to the child that I can't bear even to write about. I had to not-watch one scene, it was just too disturbing. I can't believe this stuff got past the censors. One of the more powerful scenes that I can actually discuss is a dream sequence--Sybil dreams about finding a litter of abandoned kittens in a trash can. When she picks them up in a box she sees the mother cat who's dead but still hissing and growling at her. She picks up the kittens and runs away but no matter where she runs she hears the mother cat. She's running through a field (lugging the box full of kittens)--her dad and grandmother are waving to her from the field, but she still hears the mother cat. She runs into a stable and the cat is still right nearby, growling viciously. It's terrifying--CGI could probably make it seem more realistic nowadays but the concept, the cat's relentlessness, is what makes it so powerful.

The one weak part of the movie is the inclusion of this fictional love interest, played by Brad Davis. It feels so forced, so "okay, gotta have a love interest," so commercial and it falls flat--every minute he's on screen I was impatient. It doesn't help that his character is by turns annoyingly pushy, and cheesy. He's that classic '70s urban-funky-"I'm so quirky--love me!" type, complete with clown makeup and suspenders. It's like Jesus from Godspell is trying to hit on Sybil. But there's one interesting thing in his scenes--he has a young son who picks up on Sybil's disorder and tells her (when one of the other personalities is in control) "you're not Sybil..." and later on tells his dad "Sybil is full of people." Since the father and son characters are fabricated it loses its punch but as a dramatic device it's still interesting.

*Shudder* I was going to re-read the book the next time I was at my mom's but now I think I'll pass. I don't think I can handle it again.
ceebeegee: (Default)
Can someone tell me whyyyyyy Spike Lee insists on casting himself in major roles in his movies? He is a fine director but he cannot. Act. As soon as he's in any scene requiring--well, anything--I'm jerked out of the movie and reminded "oh yea, Spike Lee vanity casting." He embarrasses himself. I just watched Do the Right Thing--great movie as far as visuals, angles, theme, directing, great acting--except for him. He's HORRIBLE. Every time I see him I think "why did he take away that great part from a capable African-American actor? There're few enough parts for black actors--why does he cast himself when he's not an actor?"

Other than that, very interesting movie. Dan Aiello is TERRIFIC--he's really strong. Ossie Davis is the awesome. I LOVE the visuals--his use of color is just...perfect. You're drenched in that heat, it's unavoidable. I even liked Joie Lee although she's not much of an actor either. For all Lee's nepotism, I gotta say his father sure knows how to compose--the score's amazing.

ETA:

Upon watching it again (God, I love commentary tracks), it impresses me more--Spike really takes so much care with each shot. There's almost a loving quality to the shots--it is obvious he enjoys moviemaking, he cares about his pictures. I guess that's one reason I like them--I'm not too crazy about Spike himself, but I do like his movies, even if I don't agree with them. I feel they're idealistic movies, they're trying to say something, they're not cynical. It's refreshing.

I like the portrayal of the community. There's a tight, "known" quality to the block--these people know and like each other. It all feels familiar, the bodegas, the stoops leading up to those old, old brownstones with their faded and peeling interiors and dusty moldings.

And damn, those Lee kids are some skinny dudes! Spike's actually kind of cute, all 110 pounds of him.
ceebeegee: (Tatiana the Sausage Kitty)
So I've been watching various Little House on the Prairie DVDs from different seasons. I didn't watch that show religiously or anything when I was a kid, but I did watch it, although since I never read the books as a kid, the whole prairie girl fad (including Holly Hobbie, although I did have some HH merchandise) missed me. (I did however read Caddie Woodlawn in the 7th grade and LOVED it--I loved her tomboyish ways and her sassy red hair.) Anyway so I remembered this one episode--something about Christmas and a blizzard and the kids getting caught in it--the image that stuck with me was that someone had dropped their Christmas presents on the snow as they trudged through the blizzard. I looked it up and got the DVD through Netflix and watched it this weekend. WOW. I think Little House has something of a rep for saccharine TV but that episodes on that disc are genuinely powerful. The first episode is called "The Bully Boys"--it's about this family of three brothers who move to Walnut Grove and they throw their weight around by threatening and swindling the townsfolk. The youngest brother is still in school--there are no older boys because it's still planting season, so he is able to get away with a lot. The most shocking moment was when, during a dodgeball game, he grabs the ball and nails this little kid. Mary steps up to reprove him and he hauls off and hits her. I mean, he really slugs her, right in the face. I can't even imagine a scene like that happening in a show today without it being considered abuse, whereas Mary deals with it on her own (she never tells her parents and seems more chagrined than terrified). And then later the two older brothers actually grab Mrs. Ingalls and maul her. Michael Landon has a terrific scene when he demands that she tell him what they did--"did they put their hands on you?" and then he storms off to beat the crap out of them. Go Charles, with your oh-so-'70s hair! The weirdest scene is when the kids finally stand up to the youngest boy--they all rush him, knock him down, and pile on, kicking and punching. It's staged at this rather light-hearted scene, with a pan back showing all the kids punching the bully, and Laura dancing around punching the air. Weird! Yeah, he's a shit and deserves it, but it's not a lark. It's kind of sad when kids are pushed to that kind of violence.

The "Blizzard" episode is even more powerful. Nobody, apparently, is aware that a blizzard is forecast and when it starts snowing flurries Miss Beadle dismisses all the kids early since it's Christmas Eve. The kids all get caught in this blizzard, the mothers all come to the schoolhouse expecting to find their kids--and then they wait with Doc Baker, hoping the kids will find their way back. Miss Beadle is horrified and guilt-stricken--there's an incredibly sweet moment when Willie Oleson (who reminds Bart and me SO MUCH of our cousin Skip, it's scary--they look so much alike) sees how terrible she feels and tells her "it wasn't your fault." The single best moment in the episode, though, is when one man, a father, comes in with a couple of kids. One of the mothers goes over to him and says quietly "where's my husband? They said he was with you." The guy looks at her and says exhaustedly "after we found Joey and Alicia he went off on his own, to look for Henry." She gives him a long look and finally says "but Henry's here." It is an amazingly powerful moment--you know the man is going to die. And then when they actually show him dying--he stumbling around calling for his son and he says "Henry!! My God, boy, where are you?" and his voice breaks. And they actually show him dying, on network TV. I had to turn away, it was so depressing. Very strong TV.

And then when Mr. Edwards comes in with his two kids--all the kids have been found and are recovering and everyone is hugging Mr. Edwards and it seems the people are all rejoicing--until the camera pulls back to show the afore-mentioned woman, now a widow, watching with her son. They are not part of the celebration.

With all that, and God love her but Melissa Sue Gilbert was not a terribly strong child actor (nor, it must be said, was Allson Arngrim, although they never gave her much to do but be a brat). Anyway MSG did the spunky thing fine but she could be a little shrill sometimes.
ceebeegee: (Southwest cactus)
So I watched an oldie courtesy of Netflix the other night--The Towering Inferno. This is one of those iconic movies to my brother and me--Bart was very much into disaster movies when we were kids, and for some reason I had to see all of them with him, and was traumatized (or desensitized) as a result. I saw The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake--I'm not sure if it was in the theaters, since I was so young, but I knew the stories and the footage, and this was before VCRs. I remember watching TTI with Bart on network TV in the early 80s (?) and it seemed very familiar. I absolutely remember all those shots of that glowing building in the night, those shots from below.

Anyway, so this movie is imprinted on my imagination, and I watched it again. I have to say--beyond the whole disaster film craze, beyond the trendiness of having lots of stars in one movie--it is a damn good film. It is really well-done, and a lot of times these "knockoff" genre films aren't. (TTI was the first big disaster film after The Poseidon Adventure, which was the first and a huge success. Both were produced by Irwin Allen.) I think TTI even surpasses TPA in many ways--to start with the acting is, on the whole, muuuuch better. There was some rank acting in TPA, Gene Hackman and Shelley Winters notwithstanding. Ernest Borgine, Stella Stevens and Carol Lynley in particular make you sort of cringe. TTI has a weak link or two (OJ Simpson, aside from his many other sins, simply cannot act. WHY they gave him a featured part--he has several decent-sized scenes--is beyond me.) but on the whole everyone is terrific. Steve McQueen is just so solid and alpha male as the battalion chief O'Houlihan, Paul Newman rocks as the architect, Fred Astaire is terrific (and got an Oscar nod--can you believe, though, this was the ONLY Oscar nomination Fred Astaire ever got???) and Richard Chamberlain gets to play a bad guy! (He's a real asshole too, it's great.) The cinematography and editing (both of which won Oscars) are AMAZING--the way the movie ratchets up the tension is extremely effective. There's one scene where they handpick 12 people to go down the building in the scenic elevator (that is, the elevator *outside* the building, one of those glass elevators), after several other escape routes have been cut off. Power to the elevator has failed, so they're going to bring it down manually, and you see this elevator full of women, a few old women, and two children inching its way down the track, while explosions and fireflashes are occuring periodically throughout the building. They cut back to the scene a couple of times, and it's just great. I won't tell you if they get down to the ground safely or not--you'll just have to watch it yourself!

There's one very poignant scene near the beginning of the film, right after the fire has really started to grow, but a lot of people don't realize the danger yet. Robert Wagner is some kind of businessman who comes into his office (which is like on the 82nd floor--the fire starts on 81) and sends one of his secretaries home, saying to the other "I need to dictate a letter." He has the departing one cut off the phones, saying he doesn't want to be bothered. Of course he and the remaining secretary are really having an affair, and they fall into each other's arms. The next time we see them, they're enjoying the afterglow, and they're standing and he's caressing her--she's wearing just a shirt and some pantyhose. They banter, and then she says "do you smell cigarette smoke?" He stops and says "that's not a cigarette"--he opens the door and they see the fire. They're both in this weird kind of denial, and don't IMMEDIATELY run when they might have just made it. Instead he pretends to call the FD (the phones are off) and then confesses he was just trying to make her feel safe. And she of course knew he was lying, because she knew the phones were off. They both know they're going to die at this point but neither one admits it. And they don't say "I'll always love you" or even kiss--they just give each other these steady looks, and then he wets a towel and makes a break for it through the fire. Of course he dies--she sees this, and then sort of panics and eventually dies by falling through the window.

I can't stop thinking about the scene because that's just so weird--20 minutes ago this couple was making love, one of most life-affirming activities possible--and then they're dead. There was almost no buildup. The commentary track talks about how this movie, like the Titanic, deals with us facing our own mortality--how it can confront you unexpectedly, and how the object lesson is even more meaningful after 9/11. The commentary track was fascinating--the commentator (a film historian) describes how the two directors (Irwin Allen shot the action sequences, and some other guy the character scenes) compose their shots and their scenes, and about the color design and a lot of technical stuff. Very interesting.

I will say, the movie is loooong--almost three hours. But it's worth it--and the ending is awesome.
ceebeegee: (Beyond Poetry)
I'm watching a documentary right now about Byzantium (oddly, earlier today I was watching the first 30 minutes of Midnight Express). There's a strong strain of Byzantine culture in Russia (which is still going strong today--Russia's Orthodox lean is one example), so the documentary deals with that as well. One thing that makes me wonder is seeing the grandeur and scale of these old, old buildings. The things that determine what makes a "good" building (engineering, geometry, scale, etc.) had all been figured out by the people over a thousand years ago--by medical and technological standards, these people are primitive, but by architectural standards they were, essentially, our peers. They left buildings and structures that are still standing, still utilitarian. And when you see the pictures of how some of the buildings originally looked, the palaces and churches--they were amazing. Shining, glorious, gilded towers and spires reaching up to the heavens. Where did these people get the inspiration? Kiev was a frozen wasteland back then--how the hell did these people take time off from fighting the weather, from surviving, to create these glorious churches and icons?
ceebeegee: (CAWFEE)
I was able to sleep some last night--the Terrible Tabbies were much quieter. But I did wake up around 5 am and couldn't get back to sleep. The apartment leaks a lot of light--the window is so big, it's difficult to mask the light completely. God, my ass is dragging today.

Mickey and Sami had their show at the Knitting Factory Friday which was pretty cool. I'd never been there before and I'd never heard Mickey's music outside of Apathy. Afterward some of us hung out and I got in a long, cool conversation with Silas, Sami's fiance and our Starveling. He asked me what Holla Holla was thinking about doing next--I said I had not thought that far ahead, and we kicked around some ideas. Of course I always like to do the comedies in summer, but Twelfth Night *is* done an awful lot. We talked about the Scottish Play, although my main objection to that is the same one I have to Lear--Holla Holla's mission is implicitly feminist (in part), and I don't particularly want to do a play that focuses so much on a guy, unless I cast that role as a woman. Silas and I talked about this--he said he'd seen a Lear where it was cast as a woman, which struck me as odd. I'm all about the recasting of men's roles with women, IF it works (heck, I'm playing Puck, and I'm dying to play Mercutio sometime) but Lear seems like a role that only a man could play. His ego seems very male (not to say women don't have egos--of course we do, it's just his seems particularly masculine); his testing of his daughters seems very male. OTOH, Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes has Lear-ish echoes and has a woman in the Lear role.

Silas also said he wanted to show us what he could really do--he indicated he hadn't really prepared for his audition for Midsummer. I can't remember what his prepared monologue was, but I *do* remember his reading of Bottom's stuff--he was fantastic. I told him he had NOTHING to apologize for--he blew Jason and me away. He was also talking up the histories but I gotta say, the histories are not that interesting to me, except maybe for Richard III, 'cause he's such a badass. I like my highs and lows. I would LOVE to do The Tempest but--see objection above re: Lear. Maybe Romeo and Juliet...I *love* that one. But there are so few women's roles in it...I could cast Mercutio as a female, and...I'd have to reread it to see who else I might cast as a woman.

Melissa (our First Fairy), Jason, Chris and Mickey all descended on my apartment on Saturday for a production meeting/rehearsal. Jason and Melissa went over her FF stuff, and Mickey and I discussed the music, and Mickey gave me shit for not casting any guys as the fairies! Although, since Mickey is our new composer/accompanist, he will be onstage with Titania's court, and all bedecked out as a fairy. Heh heh heh...After Melissa left, I popped in my DVD of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Their reactions were gratifying--it's impossible to describe how truly wretched that show was. When it got to the part where Greg and Mrs. Brady sing "All by Myself" as a duet, all three of them visibly recoiled and cried out. The '70s were the high-water mark for bad variety show TV.
ceebeegee: (golden hearts)
Last week I bought the Season 1 & 2 DVDs of The Facts of Life (the TV show)--they FINALLY released it. Yay! This show was one of my big favorites during my early adolescence (I lost interest a bit after they entered the "Over Our Heads" years--couldn't stand those nasty '80s mullets all of them seemed to have). My favorite season was the first, which was very different from the other--the show had seven main girls instead of four, and they lived in a dormitory where Mrs. Garret was the house mother. There were a LOT of blondes, including my favorite, Blair. She's remembered as the snobby rich girl, but her character was a lot wilder--she dated a LOT, and even had to fight off an older guy in a van on one date. She was in a clique where the girls--*gasp*--smoked pot. The best was when Blair ever so delicately hinted that Cindy, the tomboy who played baseball and ran track, might be gay. "You're really WEIRD with all that HUGGING and 'I love you'--you'd just better be CAREFUL." Even at the tender of age of 11, I knew what she meant--that was eye-opening stuff for that era! Especially coming from a Mousketeer (Lisa Whelchel and one of the other girls, Julie Piekarski, had both been on the '70s-era The New Mickey Mouse Club which I also watched religiously with my BF Beth. We even choreographed our own dances in the back yard. "Hurry, hurry grab a seat/This is to the rhythm of the Mouse-ka-beat/We're gonna sing/We're gonna shout/We're gonna show you what it's all about/It's Showtime...with the Mouseketeers." I ADORED all those disco-tastic color-coordinated jumpsuits they had on).

Molly Ringwald was also in the first season, and Julie Anne Haddock (who'd played the youngest daughter in The Great Santini) played Cindy, the afore-mentioned lesbionic athlete. And if anyone remembers that classic '80s cheese-fest, Zapped!, Felice Schachter was also a regular cast member. After the first season, though, the long knives came out and they fired four of the girls (Molly, Julie Piekarksi, Julie Anne Haddock and Felice) and then hired Nancy McKeon to play Jo, the tough-as-nails biker from the Bronx who fought with Blair at every opportunity. The show became different--and, I must admit, better-written. The smaller focus lent itself to better character development, and there were some genuinely sweet moments between the girls, as when Blair goes after a family friend--a teenage boy who attends the school down the road--who asked Jo to a dance but instead, took her out on the 9th green to pressure her for sex, saying later to Blair, "c'mon, she's that kind of girl..." I love it that her sense of sisterhood--and she and Jo were arch-rivals--was stronger than her desire to feel appreciated by the guy (and of course she also recognizes what he's saying is an insult to all women). Interestingly, after sacking all those girls, they still used them for featured guest roles and under 5s, which couldn't have been easy for the fired girls.
ceebeegee: (Ben on Tatooine)
Can't. Wait. FINALLY, the man sees the light. I don't care about Hayden Christiansen at the end of ROTJ, and I actually liked seeing the celebrations throughout the galaxy and the new song ("Celebrate Tonight" was pretty craptastic, guys, let's admit it). But Han Shot First, dammit!

I am so George Lucas's bitch.
ceebeegee: (Me)
I watched this DVD last week. It's quite well done. It's a two-part BBC miniseries about the short life of Prince John, the youngest son of George V and Queen Mary--the Prince had a number of health problems and died at 13. I actually knew of him before because he was another one of those "hidden" people in a large family that interest me--people whose stories weren't told because they died young, or had some illness, or there was some mystery attached to them for whatever reason. People like Rosemary Kennedy, or my aunt Maude. I've seen pictures of John with his older siblings, David (aka Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor) and Bertie (aka Prince Albert, later George VI, the current Queen's father), Princess Mary, the younger brothers Henry, Duke of Gloucester and George, Duke of Kent. I remember seeing this sweet little baby, sickly looking, in his mother's arms--he always intrigued me, that sweet doomed face.

The Lost Prince )

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