December 2006

Why do they have to keep the soup in the cafeteria at atomic levels of heat? I mean, sure, if I needed to get my soup in the cafeteria and then walk with it to Nebraska and eat it there, it might be good to serve it at this temperature so that it’ll still be piping hot when I finally eat my lunch. But considering the fact that it’s a cafeteria, and that people purchase food there for immediate consumption, it might be nice to keep it at an edible temperature, or maybe a temperature slightly higher than edible, instead of a temperature used for melting steel.

Technically it dipped down below freezing sometime earlier this week, but I think this is the first day that it’s been below freezing, and it’s significantly below freezing. It was 19°F at ten o’clock this morning, which is quite cold for New York City. Usually our lowest low for the winter is around 10°F, so the temperature this morning was pretty close. And we usually only have a few days total that go down into the teens. So yeah, it’s officially cold.

11:56 am Comments Off on Winter Is Upon Us

The new Broadway musical Spring Awakening is based on an 1891 German play about teenagers discovering their sexuality in a strict, prudish German town. The adults are unwilling to be straightforward and honest with the teenagers about the changes they’re experiencing, and the children are victimized and hurt as a direct result.

The play has essentially been translated verbatim, but songs have been added and both characters and plot points have been fleshed out. The play still takes place in 1890’s Germany (apparent in the costumes and minimal set pieces), but the songs are full-on modern rock.

It actually works remarkably well. The songs generally happen as inner monologues, or as expressions of emotion when words aren’t enough. And it makes sense that in these teenagers’ heads, they hear something akin to rock music. Because rock music has always represented youth, and how youth is misunderstood by the adult world around it.

The show is edgy, unexpected, and full of captivating, addictive tunes. It’s satirical in both comedic and dramatic ways, and it tells its story very well. It also helps that the cast of young actors (plus the two adult actors who play all of the adult characters) are superb, easily attacking both the rock music and the antiquated dialogue with great conviction.

I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show, because you need to see it for yourself. A limited number of $25 student tickets are available at the box office beginning at ten o’clock daily, and there are always seats on stage available for $36 if you’re not squeamish about that sort of thing.

5:00 pm Reviews , Comments Off on “Spring Awakening” Rocks

Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical was not so great. It would have been one thing if they’d just taken the movie and turned it verbatim into a musical: We wouldn’t have been surprised by anything, and it wouldn’t have been anything new, but it still would have been entertaining. But instead, they decided it was important to change every single scene–for the worse. Every iconic memory from the movie was missing or thrashed, the plot was choppy, and the whole theme of the show was way off.

I can’t name every wrecked scene, but I’ll give an example. For some reason, they felt it was necessary to move the “Spoonful of Sugar” scene to the kitchen. Okay, that might have been fine, but then they decided that it wasn’t the kids’ fault that the kitchen was messy–it was the butler’s fault instead–which completely ruined the whole point of having that scene in the first place!

And then to make up for the missing plot points, they just interspersed new scenes where Mr. Banks scolds everyone and Mrs. Banks mourns being his wife, so that it’s clear he’s an awful parent/husband and that the children and Mrs. Banks are victims. These scenes make the plot choppy, because the whole show went back and forth like a pendulum: a song and dance with Mary Poppins followed by a serious scene about family dysfunction.

Another example of a wrecked scene: Obviously they couldn’t do “Jolly Holiday” in a watercolor vacation land with animated livestock, but instead… they set it in the park (which turned from winter to summer, woo-hoo), with half-naked “statues” coming to life and dancing. I felt it was not only disturbing, un-jolly, and boring, but that it was also somewhat inappropriate for a young audience.

The list of bad choices goes on and on: Mary Poppins quitting her job, the Banks family hiring a replacement nanny (think Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty who used to be the nanny of Mr. Banks, the kids not spending their coins on birdseed from the bird woman (Mary Poppins pays for it instead, and the kids save their coins), the Banks children not getting into trouble at the bank, the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene taking place in a carnival-like store that sells “ounces of conversation,” Mrs. Banks being ashamed because she used to be an actress (random!), Mrs. Banks not being involved in the suffragette movement, the children’s toys coming to life and sentencing them to imprisonment (which is still better than the British version, in which they’re sentenced to death by firing squad), and finally a completely unnecessary scene in which Mary Poppins takes the children into outer space.

The only good scenes were the conversation between Mr. Banks and Bert (because it was left exactly as it was in the movie) and the whole “Step in Time” number (which once again was very faithful to the movie). Since the writers decided that the movie’s dialogue for the scene in which Mr. Banks has his revelation (the climax of his plot) was irreplaceable, I can’t imagine why they didn’t realize that the same choice would have benefited the musical throughout.

Thank God for the cool special effects, or else we would have walked out after about half an hour.

4:43 pm Reviews Comments Off on Let’s Go Force a Kite Down the Audience’s Throat

I highly recommend Bobby. It was basically two movies in one, and each was equally well-crafted and touching. The first was a valentine to Bobby Kennedy, showing what he stood for and his effect on others as a statesman. It’s hard to ignore the obvious comparison to the current war in Iraq, but the point of this movie isn’t just anti-war, it’s highly pro-America, and that makes it come off as patriotic, not rebellious. The second (and more prevalent) movie was an ensemble piece about the lives of several ordinary citizens whose only connection, it seems, is their presence at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of the California Democratic Primary.

For me, not knowing much about this time in history or the specifics of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the movie had a surprising conclusion. Yet even without knowing why the movie unfolded as it did, or knowing who the characters were, I still found that it drew me in and held my attention. For other viewers, the ending will obviously be much more expected; however, I think the movie developed its ensemble so well, it doesn’t matter if you’re familiar with the assassination or not. You know that “the ship is going to sink,” to use a typical metaphor, so it’s the burden of the filmmaker (writer-director Emilio Estevez) to make it interesting nonetheless. Estevez succeeds.

One of the most shocking choices in the film was the casting of Bobby Kennedy: He plays himself. Most scenes of the title character use archive footage of the man himself. Kennedy is obviously a necessary character in the film, but the point is his true effect on others, so there’s no need for an impersonator.

Regardless of your familiarity with Bobby Kennedy or your personal politics, I think this movie is an important piece for every American. It’s a historical piece, but it also reminds us about the American dream and our values–both personal and national.

11:50 pm Reviews Comments Off on “Bobby” Wins

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