Sunday, December 30, 2012

12 Posts I Never Got Around to Writing in 2012

Oh, Blog. How I have neglected you these past 9 months! I had vowed to write 12 posts a month all year and then after March... it just didn't happen! Play writing took over my time and despite my best intentions, I just never carved out the time to post things. Not that there weren't things to blog about! So often I thought "I should write about [insert topical thing that happened here] when I get home" but then the moment would pass and I'd never make the time. But the new year is upon us, and it's a time for resolutions and I resolve to get back to being good about the blog. And here, in brief, are 12 things I meant to blog about but didn't get to. Some of them might find their way to expanded individual entries in 2013, because they involve some great stories that would be fun to tell. I neglected to write many more than just these 12, but these are things that first jump to mind.

1. BARCELONA! My trip to Barcelona was awesome and filled with many adventures, great food and the most walking I've ever done in a city - which is saying something. (People told me Barcelona was very flat. It's not!) and I vow to write it all out as concisely as a bit of a wacky travel guide on the flip side of the new year. Barcelona is such a great city. I'm prepared to give you all the travel tips you could ever want for a long weekend in the capital of Catalonia.

2. The Disney World Marathon - Almost a full year ago, I went to Disney World with my whole family and ran the marathon down there and I swear each day was its own marathon and I cannot believe by the time the day the actual marathon came around I had any energy left to run the race. It was really an incredible event, one I would want to run again. I started writing about the trip on the blog, but never got to the part with the actual race. The next Disney Marathon event is on Jan 13th, so my goal is to reflect on the 2012 race by that time.

3. Readings! I had readings of two new plays I've been working on this year, "Vestments of the Gods" and "Meaningful Conversation." They are still both works in progress, but I wanted to thank the producers, directors and actors who gave their time to help we develop these pieces and the friends and family who read early drafts and came to the readings. Your support continues to mean so much to me. I'm also really thankful for Playwrights Gallery as a place to keep bringing in new pages and keeping me moving forward with a talented group of writers and actors. Hopefully I will have more news about these pieces and some new things I'm also hammering out throughout 2013!

4. The Hobbit - Special Screening! My friend got me into a special screening of the Hobbit before it was released and there was a talkback with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. It was so much fun! I thought we were going to a much less buzzworthy movie screening and was totally surprised by this early return trip to Middle Earth. Hearing them talk about the making of the film was really interesting, even if the moderator was kind of a dud. I wanted to share my advanced thoughts like some cool internet nerd, but life was so busy and then the movie actually opened! Fan reaction to the Hobbit was rather muted, but for me The Hobbit is one of those rare movies that I enjoyed watching it and then enjoyed more and more as I thought about it afterward. Usually it goes the other way where I like them less and less upon reflection. But there's a lot that's really solid in the Hobbit and   I thought this movie was gonna languish in development hell forever, so the fact that it got made with the same creative team that did LOTR ten years ago is a real treat. Personally, I didn't need to see it in 48 frames per second or 3-D, as I did at the screening. Regular 2-D has a stronger connection to the look of the original trilogy, and that's the world I was interested in returning to as a viewer. But the filmmakers should have the freedom to tell the story in the format they want to work in, not in the one I expect. So I like what was done in the first movie and look forward to the next two movies as well.

5. Survivor: Philippines was a Great Season! Y'all know I love my reality tv competition shows. Especially if there are obstacles or the opportunity for contestants to fall into a giant pool of water. I still enjoy Survivor. Season 25 was definitely my favorite season since Heroes vs. Villains and definitely among my top 10 seasons ever. The cast was dynamic, the 3 tribes each with 1 returnee was a good format switch and nobody playing this time was riding coat tails. Also, it had Blair from Facts of Life - Lisa Welchel! And stunningly almost nobody knew who she was - making me feel so very very old in the process. The best part of this season was that Tribal Councils often didn't feel like foregone conclusions. I very often had very little idea who was actually going to go home and that made for great drama. The Final Four contestants were all legitimate contenders for the title, and eventual winner Denise was a very worthy champion. I hope they can keep this momentum in the upcoming Fans vs. Favorites season in the Spring.

6. The Amazing Race ALSO had a Great Season! Something good was in the water over at CBS when these two reality shows were casting and filming last year. The 21st running of the Amazing Race had a great roster of teams. None of the couples were on the race as a "test" to see if they were meant to be together, a scenario which always drives me crazy. Nobody was abusive or gross to their teammate. There weren't obnoxious rivalries between teams. It was a bunch of enthusiastic decent folks racing around the world for $1 million. The challenges were tough and the locations were beautiful (although they went a VERY long time without having to drive themselves anywhere this season. The Fabulous Beekman Boys pulled off the most improbable of underdog victories by clawing their way up from the bottom to finally take their only lead of the race right when they crossed the finish line. I was glad to see my favorite travel competition show in such top form the fall.

7. RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars had a bit of a She-mergency. I LOVE me some Drag Race and was very excited about the prospect of an All-Star season, especially when the cast of returnees was announced via the awesome preview embedded above. But then... the show made some weird moves. It made the Queens compete in pairs and eliminated one team per week. That meant a lot of great queens went home quickly. The whole endeavor just felt rushed and never really found its groove. I appreciate Ru trying to make it work, but it didn't quite come together the right way. If they ever do it again, they should tinker with the format and drop the pairs angle. It did give us a great lip sync for your life between Jujubee and Raven though. That made it all worthwhile. A lackluster All-Star edition in no way diminishes my excitement for Season 5 in January. Gentlemen, start your engines and may the best WOMAN... win!

8. Mark Fisher Fitness - This fall I needed a new physical challenge and better nutritional foundation and I found my way to Mark Fisher Fitness. I jumped in kinda head first into their SNATCHED! in 6 weeks program and I'm so glad I did. I found an amazing work out environment, learned a lot about nutrition and fitness and made a lot of amazing friends and found this new community of like-minded fitness ninjas. If you are looking for a new gym environment and enjoy wonderfully crazy people and unicorns you should check out what they have to offer at

9. Andy Murray - Tennis Champion. Andy Murray finally took that next step and made it to the true top level of Tennis Champions winning the Olympic Gold Medal in Men's singles at the London Games and following that up with his first Grand Slam event win by taking the 2012 US Open title. With Rafa sidelined by his knee condition, Murray really capitalized and seized his moment taking down Federer at the Olympics and then Djokovic at the Open. Now he has the belief and the major titles to legitimize his place at the top of the game. Murray still is not my favorite player, or my second favorite, but I was happy for him to finally get a major and to win for his country on the Wimbledon stage. But now that Rafa will be back on tour in 2013, I don't want Murray winning anymore. Vamos Rafa!

10. In Memoriam: Amy Pond - Dr. Who closed out it's current run of episodes by saying goodbye to long time companion Amy Pond and her husband Rory. I was a big fan of the Ponds, as they were known by Amy's last name. She had amazing red hair. That's basically all I need. But they started to kind of take over the show in a weird way. Maybe because they literally outnumbered the Doctor, the story really seemed to be about them. I would tease my die-hard Who-fan friends that the name of the show was really "AMY POND! ... and the Doctor." and oh how it would make them grumble! But then it was announced that Amy and Rory were leaving the show and that they would NEVER RETURN!! (until the 50th anniversary happens in 2013. They'll at least be referenced. They've gotta be!) I was worried they'd die a stupid death, but they wound up just living their lives in a time and place The Doctor couldn't go get them and where they didn't have cell phones or even the internet. I shudder at that nightmare lifestyle. I will miss Amy Pond and her beautiful hair, but this new companion for the Doctor seems very promising and I'm excited to see where the show goes when it's back on the air in the Spring.

11. Obama's re-election!! Guys, did you hear? OBAMA WON! GO-BAMA! As we are currently being subjected to this fiscal cliff stupidity, it's important to remember that only like 2 months ago, the majority of Americans had the good sense to stick with President O and take a pass on Mitt Romney. I seriously can't imagine what a Romney presidency would've looked like and I'm so glad I never again have to try. I still have the Rachel Maddow Show from the day after the election saved on my DVR. It's SO GOOD. I'm also still so delighted that ballot initiatives supporting Gay Marriage in Maine, Maryland and Maryland supporting all passed and the proposed constitutional ban in Minnesota failed. There's SO MUCH that needs to be handled in the immediate future and for years to come, but I'm so relieved that we still have Obama in the captain's chair until 2016, at which point I'm already completely prepared to vote for Hilary Clinton as our 45th President. This HAS TO HAPPEN!!

12. PARIS... 2010??? It's still on my blog To Do list to write about my trip to Paris from what is bordering on 2 and half years ago. Maybe it will never make it to the blog, but I have to write it out. I took all these notes and it was such an amazing experience, I owe it to myself not to leave it half done. Just like Barcelona, there were so many adventures and such great food. I'm currently thinking about the ham and cheese sandwich I had when I first arrived that made me want to punch someone it was so good. I vowed that I'd revisit this trip in narrative form in 2012 (as I also did in 2011 AND 2010) but I'm putting my foot down in 2013. It WILL happen.

Have a great New Years, folks!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Les Motivations

(I'm ready for my close up, Mr. Hooper.)

After years of waiting for and dreaming about a Les Miserables musical movie, it is finally here! After seeing it this weekend, I can honestly say I think it's the best Les Mis movie we could've hoped for. There are minor quibbles of course, of which I will name three and then be done with them. Warning: SPOILERS!! 

QUIBBLE 1) I was happy they kept in "Every Day" which is one of my favorite little musical passages toward the end of the play, but they oddly cut out Marius's line about not knowing who saved him from the barricade. So from a viewing standpoint, it seems to not be in question that it's Valjean who saved him. But then later, Marius clearly doesn't know Valjean saved him, so why cut the lyric establishing that mystery? It looked like it was a hard cut too, as if they filmed it with the lyric in there and then cut it out in editing. The movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. 10 extra seconds of song wasn't gonna make an already long-feeling movie THAT much longer, and it would've brought clarity to this late-in-the-game plot point. I am very curious as to why they made this cut.

QUIBBLE 2) The ending confessional lyric switch out for Valjean. His line "it's a story of those who always loved you" was changed to basically be "it's a story of how I was so awesome." Valjean makes no mention of Fantine's sacrifice for Cosette - and Fantine's ghost is standing RIGHT THERE in the room with them at the time! How rude! But seriously, this lyric change added nothing, made Valjean appear to think Cosette's truth was all about him and slighted Fantine. Everyone in my viewing party was baffled by the change. 

3) The "CRUUUNCH!!!" sound effect that accompanied Javert's suicide was totally gratuitous! He could've just disappeared into the water over the swell of the music and we all would've understood he died. Had the sound of him going splat been omitted, no one would've expected a hidden scene at the end of the movie credits, prepping us for "Les Mis 2: Rise of Javert!" I mean, SERIOUSLY. 

Those are my three things. I'm sure other fans have other issues since some liberties were taken in the transition from stage to film. Still I thought this Les Mis movie was really great. It's an impressive and exhausting cinematic experience. And there were so many ways it could've gone horribly horribly wrong. As a fan I feel very lucky this is the film we got. 

The most impressive aspect of the movie to me is that the entire gigantic cast just seemed SO INTO IT the whole time. Singing the songs live on set really transported them to another level of FEELING IT on screen, and they were committed to making sure you felt what they were feeling too. Hooper's penchant for close up framing during the songs really let the actors' eyes do the talking while their mouths did the singing. You couldn't help but feel an intense connection to them. Below I review my impressions of what I thought the different motivations of the cast were, based on what I was getting from them during the songs.

HUGH JACKMAN (JEAN VALJEAN): Strap in, mates! We're go on this crazy 3-hour emotional roller coaster TOGETHER! I'm so glad you're watching this. We are gonna share, and we are gonna CARE. Look deep into my Crazy Eyes! The framing requires you to do so! I will sing, and you will FEEL what I'm feeling, and you will WEEP for the glory of my performance. You WILL. FEEL. MY. CONFLICT. You'll believe I've been pulling giant ships ashore for 20 years, because I know I believe it. These songs are set high in my range, but don't expect any falsetto because I am also Wolverine and I always go at everything  FULL FORCE!

RUSSEL CROWE (JAVERT): Guys, Hugh is SO INTENSE with his Crazy Eye Technique right now. I'm gonna go in the opposite direction, balancing things out by having nothing going on behind my eyes AT ALL. Many of you may say that this is the path to failure. You may say that if ever a role was designed for Crazy Eye Technique, it is that of the obsessively determined Inspector Javert! But I cut my own path, ladies and gentlemen. I'm making choices here even if you're not getting them. And nobody's cutting my songs, so you better just accept it and stop resisting. I bet by the end of the film, you'll consider my "failure" to be so epic it somehow goes all the way back around to being oddly perfect within the context of the movie as a whole. That's what I've been aiming for all along. (Also, I'm not coming back for any of the sequels, so I made the sound editing guys add a loud crunching sound to make it clear I didn't survive that fall into the river so you didn't hold out hope. You're welcome.)

ANNE HATHAWAY (FANTINE): I'm about to wreck you completely. Even if you think you're prepared for what I've got, you won't be. And then by the time you get over my on-screen death, I'll come back as a ghost and wreck you all over again. For your own good, I sincerely hope you brought tissues. People have NOT been exaggerating. You're about to Ugly Cry. Now I'll be standing over here no longer starving myself while you engrave my name on my Oscar, thanks very much.

SASHA BARON COHEN (THENARDIER): I can do accents, so I'm sing in a French accent to remind you, the audience, that this movie IS set in France, despite no one else in the cast sounding even remotely French. You'll  miss one of my songs from the stage show, it's true, but did you really want the film to make you sadder OR spend more time down in that sewer? I didn't think so. I'll still have plenty of time make you love me while I'm on screen. No worries.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER (MME. THENARDIER): I'm finding my sweet spot here somewhere between "Mrs. Lovett-Crazy" and "Bellatrix Lestrange-Crazy." I know it sounds like a lot, but I'm going to surprise you. Less WILL be more. I'm grounding this dame in something real, and I'm gonna SING OUT, Louise! I won't be chewing more scenery than the songs require. You'll be glad I'm on the scene.

ISABELLE ALLEN (YOUNG COSETTE): I'm looking cute. I'm looking vulnerable. I'm looking distressed. I'm singing on key. I'm so on top of this. I'm living the dream. Hand me my rag doll and off we go.

DANIEL HUTTLESTONE (GAVROCHE): I'm gonna be scrappy and awesome! Let everyone else in the cast be the embodiment of misery. Being in this movie RULES! Don't be sad, Audience! This is all just PRETEND! Now I'm off to collect me some bullets...

AARON TVEIT (ENJOLRAS): I'm battling this crazy wig as much as I am the French Army, but this is a fight I KNOW I can win! My vocals ring loud and true. I know I have the Broadway chops to ace this assignment! I'll act the hell out of Red & Black too.  I'm not just that dude from Gossip Girl! I'm the real deal. I believe in this production! I believe in myself! I believe in us!

EDDIE REDMAYNE (MARIUS): You probably don't know me from anything - did you see My Week with Marilyn? No? Okay... - but now you're hearing my singing voice, and you're at ease. If you don't like my songs, the extreme close ups will give you the opportunity to count the freckles on my very attractive face. But I'm not coasting on good looks, good sir! I am going to sell the kinda-unbelievable-falling-in-love-at-first-sight scenario to you HARD, and I'm gonna get through this whole movie without ever seeming the least bit annoying. You heard right. Marius won't seem annoying. I might not win any awards for this film, but I certainly deserve some kind of medal for my efforts.

AMANDA SEYFRIED (COSETTE): With really no heavy lifting to do, I'm gonna play it light and sweet with an old school vocal trill in my voice that'll be unusual and play nicely. I know I've got an uphill battle for the shippers since Eponine is so awesome, but like RuPaul says I've got cunning, uniqueness, nerve and talent! Maybe my performance won't have the IMPACT! of some of my fellow cast members, but by the time we get to the wedding, I'm gonna make you love me. Yes I will. Yes I will.

SAMANTHA BARKS (EPONINE): Hullo there! I'm the Les Mis ringer you haven't met before, but trust that you haven't seen the last of me after this film. I'm gonna start my leg of this "Make The Audience Cry" Relay Race at full pace, and I won't be letting up until I have to pass the baton to my buddy Redmayne for his anchor sprint to the finish. I am NAILING On My Own! I'm thinking of that love YOU love that doesn't love you back. Don't worry, I'm not naming names. I'm just FEELING it for you! That's not rain falling down from the skies that you see. It's the film crew on the crane weeping at my heart-wrenching performance. Even though I look really sad, you know deep down I'm really delighted to be here!

COLM WILKINSON (THE BISHOP): My dear friends! I've been Les Mis'ing for more than a quarter century now! Since before some of you were even BORN! And now some of you even have children of your own? My, my! How soon the summers really do fly on and on. Anyway, my motivation here is to show you there really are no small parts in Les Mis. Sure the Bishop isn't going to get a lot of screen time, but that doesn't mean I'm not pivotal! And I might even show up at a time when you expect me! Who am I? B-I-S-H-O-P!!! I'm so happy this movie finally happened in my lifetime.

That's what I got from it. But don't just take my word for it. Go See Les Miserables in theaters now. It's worth the price of admission. And remember the truth that once was spoken. To love another person is to see the face of God...