Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Write the Musicals of this Year's Top Movies??

(Selling a show is less easy than bein' green.)

So the Oscars have now come and gone and the biggest question that remains as all the glitter and then the dust settles is this: which of this year's top movies are going to become stage musicals and how fast can we get them here? I love original musicals as much as the rest of you, but we need to face the financial reality that in today's production landscape, lots of what gets produced in NYC needs to be a bankable commodity. Since we cannot fight the trend, let's at least get our best and brightest theatrical composers attached to the right projects. Many have already tried their hand at converting movie properties to stage shows with great success! ...and others maybe not so much. But just because one property didn't work, didn't mean that the next one won't be a hit. Let's see what this year's nominees offer us. We'll go through the list alphabetically:

AMOUR - While I didn't think this movie was a total downer, lots of people I know just found it incredibly sad. So when looking for a comparable musical that just filled me with sadness, the first one that jumps to mind is "A Catered Affair" so I'm sure that creative team with book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by John Bucchino could really bring the goods on this source material. The musical will be performed without intermission, so there is no easy way for the audience to escape the horrors of lovers held tighter and tighter in the grip of death! If they pass, we pursue Alan Menken, or Elton John and Tim Rice. In that order. But honestly, of all the movies here, I think this is our toughest sell, folks. Put on your thinking caps!

ARGO A movie with Oscar-Winning Gold requires a composing with Tony-Winning... um, whatever the Tony is made out of. We need a team that really gets the movies-to-musicals process, and who's more up to the task than Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman? After Hairspray and Catch Me If You Can, I can already hear their version of "Argo Fuck Yourself!" in my head, and it's a showstopper, folks.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD - Okay, so for this a fantastical, emotional and powerful piece I'm not going to go with a tested Broadway composing team and instead go with some fresh new faces destined to make their mark on the scene. It makes sense given the youth and freshness of the movie's creative team. So I think Julia Meinwald and Gordon Leary (whose work on Pregancy Pact is so fresh and surprising and gorgeous) are certainly up to the task of magical realism. Annie might currently be on Broadway with its little girl anthems "Tomorrow" and -"Maybe" but I'm looking forward to Hushpuppy's stirring "I'm The Man!"

DJANGO UNCHAINED - Tarantino films have soundtracks that practically make them feel like musicals already, but if we were going to scrap all that and start anew, I know another collaboration between Lin-Manuel Miranda & Tom Kitt would make this project totally rad. Their score for Bring It On is engaging and fun, it really elevated the source material. Please oh please oh please, fellas? You KNOW you want to! We could even invite John Kander to come play in the sandbox this time. You know what I'm saying makes sense. It'd be crazy NOT to do it! Django Unchained could be turned into Django: Perfectly Harmonized!

LES MISERABLES - Well this one is already covered. We will see you back on the Great White Way in 2014! It will be totally new this time except will be exactly the same as before, but maybe we'll find 10 more minutes to cram "Suddenly" into the mix.

LIFE OF PI - Converting the book to a movie was really the hard part. Converting that movie into a stage musical should be a piece of cake! Since he already created a song I love about Monkeys in Speedboats, how far off could it be to write a score about a tiger in a lifeboat? Jeff Bowen - Go. To. Town. And bring along all your sexy [tos] friends for the journey too! ....However I also could be persuaded to hear a Stephen Schwartz score to Life of Pi, so maybe you boys just fight it out amongst yourselves. And this is the theater, so NO. HOLDS. BARRED!!

LINCOLN - Stephen Sondheim tackling the many speeches of Lincoln and his whole Gang of Rivals sounds like a wordsmith's dream come true. He already knows his Presidents from Assassins, so this thing will practically write itself. And you all know you want an 11 o'clock "Last Midnight"-esque number belted out by a grieving Mary Todd Lincoln. This one is a no-brainer. Start lining up the producers now, and I'll go book the Rodgers for 2016.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - I'm tempted to give this assignment to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who would undoubtedly give me the happy ending song I desire where everyone sings, "Every cloud has a silver lining!" but if we want this shit done right, we're going to have to enlist David Yazbek, whose scores for both Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels hit so many right notes both emotionally and musically.

ZERO DARK THIRTY - Okay, maybe THIS is the one I want Andrew Lloyd Webber to write. I want him to take the "Dark" in Zero Dark Thirty very literally. Perhaps Bin Laden is the Phantom of the Opera inside Maya's mind? If you don't want to go high camp with this project, I'm willing to hear what Jason Robert Brown would do with the source material. Maybe Bin Laden is moving backward in time while Maya is moving forward? It would be two very different visions of the same source , but that's what makes the brainstorming process so fun!

Honorable Mention! PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER - Not really nominated for anything at this year's Oscars, Perks is still many kinds of an amazing film and I wouldn't mind Ryan Scott Oliver taking a crack at this. No reason this movie can't be sung on stage. No reason they all can't be sung on stage!

What do we think, Friend-O's? Can we make these deals happen?? Start the whispering campaihn at Sardi's.... now!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rafa WINS! Triumph in Brazil!

Ladies and G's - your attention please! Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, won his first tournament since injury last June - beating David Nalbandian 6-2, 6-3 in the Brazil Open final on Sunday. It's his second title in Brazil, having won the event in 2005 as well. Hooray for Rafa!!! I'm so happy for him. It's a pretty nifty trophy too. I LOVE when the smaller tourney's have these enormous trophies. Make your mark, ATP 250's!

It's good to see Rafa biting a trophy again. He came so close last week in his first tourney back at the VTR Open in Chile, but lost the finals in both singles and doubles.  Rafa's form is still not great. He's still shaking the rust off as he becomes Match-Ready. Nalbandian was making his first appearance in a final since he was disqualified at Queen's Club last June for kicking an ad board that wound up injuring one of the line judges. Rafa had enough firepower to take control of the match from David. Winning right now is good, but I still don't think he's ready to take a win off of any of the top players, even on clay. He'll get there though! He's moving in the right direction.

Rafa now gets a week off and then plays the Abierto Mexicano Telcel Event on clay in Acapulco. After that the two major tournaments on the horizon are Indian Wells and Miami, both on hard courts. There's a lot of speculation as to whether Rafa will play at both, one of the two or neither. Right now, I'd say skip both and keep strengthening physically and mentally on clay. But Rafa says he's not made a decision yet and is solely focused on Acapulco. That's probably the best strategy for now. And in the meantime, Rafa already has a title trophy for the year! VAMOS!!

Downton Abbey Season 3 Recap: Who's heading Upstairs/Downtairs?

(Blimey! This isn't even the entire cast!)

And so another exciting season of Downton Abbey comes to an end. I must say I thought this season was much stronger dramatically than the last one. We don't want Downton Abbey to be a convalescent home, we want it to be a grand estate that throws expensive weddings it can't possibly afford! Along with all the fantastic dinner parties we got a marriage, two births, two deaths, a guest spot by Shirley MacLaine,  guy-on-guy kissing action, a cricket match, a carnival a trip to Scotland and endless quips from the Dowager Countess. But where's it all headed? Now that the dust from the season has settled, let's check in with the roughly 143 Upstairs and Downstairs characters and see where each one's fortune seams to be heading.

The Right Honourable Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham - Heading: Upstairs. It was a very difficult season for Daddy NoBucks. First he lost all his Money and Cora's Money because of bad investments. Then he broke up his middle daughter's marriage to a nice old dude. Then he lost control of Downton to Matthew and his multiple inheritances. THEN he brought in a fancy doctor that killed his pregnant daughter. THEN his wife froze him out. THEN his first grandchild was baptized Catholic. ALSO all the women in his household got served lunch by a former prostitute! Still, by the end of the season, Robert had shifted enough of his thinking to allow Downton to modernize in a respectable fashion, his wife and children warmed to him, and he made a strong ally in his widower son-in-law Branson. Considering where some other people wound up by the end, The Earl of Grantham came out okay.

The Right Honourable Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham - Heading: Upstairs. She was very gracious in finding out that Daddy NoBucks lost all her money, but had a much more difficult time forgiving him for Sybil's death. Her grief and anger kind of brought out the best of her though, as she eventually forgave her husband, vowed to fight for her son-in-law and granddaughter in Sybil's name and let her sensible voice be heard in the house.Also, she survived a visit from her own American Mom. Good work, Lady Cora.

The Right Honourable Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham - Heading: Upstairs. Pretty much every scheme she set her mind to worked out in her favor this year. The quips just keep coming. Even though she seems centuries old, she's got some modern ideas in that brain of hers and at this rate it looks like the Dowager is going to outlive them all. Nothing succeeds like excess!

Lady Mary Crawley - Heading: Downstairs. She got married and got to keep her name! Score! She got Matthew to invest his inheritance in Downton thus saving the house for generations. Double Score! She got pregnant and birthed an heir. Hat trick! But then the actor playing her husband felt he'd seen enough, his character got killed off and Mary is about to find out she's a widow with a newborn baby. Damn. Where does she go from here??

Mr Matthew Crawley - Heading: Downstairs. Got married to the love of his life. Saved and modernized Downton. Got to hold his baby son in his arms. And then immediately afterwards died in a car crash. He's not only heading downstairs, he's heading six feet under.

Lady Edith Crawley - Heading: Upstairs. She was left jilted at the altar by Old One Arm, her whole family views her as a disappointment and generally I've thought she was the WORST. BUT! She picked herself up nicely following public humiliation, took a job writing a newspaper column, made good friends with her brothers-in-law and is on her way to having an affair with a married man. As long as she doesn't catch a case of the Preggers Death that plagues Downton, I'd say everything coming up Edith!

Lady Sybil Branson (née Crawley) - Heading: Downstairs. She came back from Ireland with a cute new haircut and a baby bump, but caught the Downton  Preggers Death Curse and shuffled off her beautiful mortal coil, halfway through the season. At least she is survived by her very handsome husband and her adorable baby girl. RIP, Hot Sister!

Tom Branson - Heading: Upstairs. It's been a tough year for Branson. Exiled from his beloved Ireland and widowed by his beloved Sybil. Tom spent most of the second half of the season in a fog of grief and shock but has no emerged with a new purpose in securing Downton's future. He's also taken a shine to being a part of the family even if he hates to admit it to himself. Thank god he didn't sleep with Slutsky The Maid 2.0. She was a horror.

Mrs Isobel Crawley - Heading: Downstairs? I'm not sure what's going to happen with Isobel, now that her son's dead. She had a solid year sparring with Dowager Maggie and rehabilitating Prostitute Ethel, but she's going to take her son's death extremely hard. I can imagine she'll be VERY invested in her grandson's future now. And maybe she'll reconsider Dr. Clarkson's romantic overtures.

Lady Rosamund Painswick - Heading: Upstairs? I hope we see a little more of Rosamund around Downton. The place could use some more cheer and she could come help out with her new grand nieces and nephews since so many of their parents wound up dead.

Mr. Carson - Heading: Upstairs. Carson loves to play the role of Fuddy Duddy and keeper of tradition and propriety, and though he was overly critical of Prostitute Ethel, he was gentler with Evil Gay Thomas.Plus Baby Sybil seems to have warmed his heart and I can only believe he'll have an even softer spot for Mary's little baby boy, especially since he'll grow up to be the heir of Downton... provided he lives that long. You never know on this show!

Mrs. Hughes - Heading: Upstairs. After surviving a cancer scare, Mrs. Hughes was putting out fires left and right. She helped out with Prostitute Ethel AND Evil Gay Thomas. She also put a quick end to Slutsky the Maid putting the moves on Branson and gave some straight talk to Mrs. Patmore. Plus the ongoing Who's The Boss? dance she does with Carson continues to entertain.

O'Brien - Heading: Upstairs. She got a new ally in her nephew Alfred and a new enemy in former ally Evil Gay Thomas. Her long con of getting Thomas in trouble for being an Evil Gay showed off her skills at playing people against each other, but she pushed her winning hand too hard and forgot there was one trump that could still beat her. She's still smart though. Karma's a bitch, but O'Brien's a bigger one.

Thomas Barrow - Heading: Upstairs. Evil Gay was heading down down down for most of the season, as he fell for all of O'Brien's traps, and he would've been sacked without a proper reference and left with nothing had it not been for the "Born The Way" sexual philosophy shared by Lord Grantham, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. And though it took over a year of awkwardness in their timeline it looks like Evil Gay Thomas, might just become Gay Thomas and finally have a friend in the object of his affection Super Straight Jimmy James.

Mr. Bates - Heading: Upstairs. He's out of prison! He's Robert's Valet again! He's living in a cottage with Anna. What's the downside of any of that?

Anna Bates (née Smith) - Heading: Upstairs. Her husband's out of prison! She's Mary's proper Lady's Maid! She's living in a cottage with Bates. What's the downside of any of that?

Mrs. Patmore - Heading: Downstairs? This fat oaf only wanted her for her cooking when he went around courting her. She was goodnatured about it and is having a decent time of it right now, but that makes me think she is being set up for some bad news next season.

Daisy Mason (née Robinson) - Heading: Upstairs. She finally got that promotion and a new Kitchen maid and then was jealous and hated her. She likes cooking, but might leave it all behind to be a farmer at her Father-in-Law's property. Usually I think Daisy is the worst, but she kind of pulled it together in the second half of the season. Although it's been a year and we still don't know if she's given up the idea of moving out to that farm.

Ethel Parks - Heading: Upstairs. After prostitution, giving up her son and cooking for Isobel, is there really anywhere to go but up? Unless she manages to burn down her new boss's house in a baking accident, I'd say we've seen the last of Ethel showing up on Downton's doorstep.

Dr. Clarkson - Heading: Downstairs. He wasn't able to save Lavinia, then Sybil and soon won't be able to save Matthew. He also got shot down by Isobel for a little later-in-life marriage. Poor Clarkson has it tough in Downton.  

Isis The Dog - Heading: Downstairs? Isis isn't getting any younger. Perhaps the next shocking death will be a doggy. If a litter of pups come along, I'd say the writing's on the wall..

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Muppets Take Manhattan - A (Somewhat) Live Blog

"Peoples is Peoples."

Former Mayor Ed Koch passed away today at 88 years of age. Whether you were a huge fan of his or not, he definitely had a New York personality and he definitely left his mark on the city. He showed up in several NYC-based films and shows throughout the years, but none made such an impression as did The Muppets Take Manhattan. So in honor of Mayor Koch, let's take a (somewhat) live blog look back on this gem of a movie. If it's a love letter to New York, and he is Mr. New York, than by transitive properties, it's kind of a love letter to him as well. Let's get this train movin'!

- A Frank Oz Film!

- No matter how long I live here, if I close my eyes and think of New York it looks like the opening shot of Manhattan from Muppets Take Manhattan.

- toll booths with no EZ pass lanes! madness!

- Kermit scat singing to Together Again gets me

- Danhurst College seems like a nice place to go to school. Apparently the part of "Danhurst College" was played by Vassar College in this movie. Thank you for this knowledge, Muppet Wiki.

- Miss Piggy 80's perm! I can't even deal!

- I love that Animal is a skirt chaser and it's totally cool with everyone. WO-MAN! WO-MAN! WO-MAN!

- Kermit is the only one who realizes the show isn't good enough for Broadway. I respect his realism.

- They came to NYC via Port Authority?? Poor bastards.

- Speaking of poor, living in mini-lockers is not far off from the real NYC apartment experience.

- Star Trek TNG's Dr. Crusher is the secretary of the evil theater producer the Muppets first meet with! Love her!

- I love the side-to-side Muppet dance move, the Muppet Sway. It makes me feel like I can dance too!

- Evil producer has grabbed Gonzo by the nose and is threatening to kill Camilla. NOT COOL, DUDE. Luckily Animal is on the case.

- Gonzo gives Camilla mouth-to-beak resuscitation and STILL this movie is rated G. The 80's had different standards, folks.

- OMG, "You Can't Take No for an Answer." Every race that I run I create a new playlist for my ipod. This song is always the first song on any running playlist. It sets a good pace. It keeps me going right at the beginning. In the movie, there's also this awesome shot of all the muppets legs walking down the mean streets of NYC.

- Just as despair is setting in, Pete's Luncheonette! Rizzo! Pete! Homewrecker Jenny! Soup bowls for everybody - with soup in them!

- Peoples is Peoples! Best speech ever. Words to live by.

- Everyone's leaving. Oh no. This is too sad. "Saying Goodbye" Piggy on the train gets me every time. But what train station is this supposed to be? Grand Central Station? Where are the outdoor platforms in NYC? Fozzie has a teddy bear which is amazing.

Kermit visits the Empire State Building, as one does when they are at their lowest. The Frog is STAYin'! And so - secretly - is a pig...

- Homewrecker Jenny gets Kermit a job at the diner and is trying to get TOO CLOSE to Kermit. Back off, Jenny.

- A frog with an affro. Boffo, Lenny! Socko Lenny!  Selling people on your show is hard, y'all. Trust.

- Piggy is spying on Kermit and Honewrecker Jenny outside the Plaza Hotel and is rightfully concerned. Piggy is also getting the BEST cat calls from some construction guys, which is hilarious. Her rage at Homewrecker Jenny puts them in their place and leads to...

- The best scene ever recorded on film. Quelle Difference! Joan Rivers and Miss Piggy. Extreme Makeover! Now you're gonna REALLY wear rouge!

- Rats in the kitchen! A little more scatting coming your way. Skillet skating on pads of butter makes for delicious diner pancakes.

- Kermit's got stacks and stacks of letters. Scooter's working in a movie theater, it's 30 years earlier and 3-D movies were the fashion then too.

- Beth the Bear wants to "snuggle" with Fozzie. He does not see ready for anything that intense. Always check beforehand to see if the cave you're selecting is co-ed!

- The Whispering Campaign! Kermit is heading to Sardi's. Replacing Liza's picture with Kermit's is not the best move, Kermie. She will blow up your spot.

- The rats ruin everything. I'd like to say that the reaction by the customers in Sardi's to the rats is over the top, but that's probably really how people would react in that situation.

- Central Park. Oh, man, so much drama is about to go down. Kermit and Homewrecker Jenny jog and Piggy tries to pursue them. Then a mugger steals Piggy's purse! Piggy borrows Gregory Hines' roller skates and puts on her "Angry Eyes." This dude doesn't stand a chance. It's fun to see him run through CP though. His shirt is drenched at the end of it. Piggy WINS!

- Kermit gave Jenny the huggies! I love when Kermit and Piggy fight and yell at each other. Time for a make up carriage ride!

- Muppet Babies Dream Sequence!! I love Baby Piggy's slightly misshapen face. The only thing missing here is Nanny and her amazing striped socks.

- Piggy still won't be nice to Homewrecker Jenny after she gets her a job at Pete's diner. Let it go, Pig.

- Brooke Shields sighting! She has gone out with a few rats before. She is pro-inter-species dating!!

- Rowlf carrying a real dog around in a kennel is weird and unsettling. Snook-ums, for the record is a boy.

- Ronnie Crawford is Bernie Crawford's son and his going to produce the show on Broadway! Things are looking up! So it's about time Kermit got hit by a cab and lost his memory!

- Kermit is missing! Jenny and Piggy bond and forgive. Ronnie tells them show is going up in two weeks! Time to rally the gang and find Kermit!

- Kermit has amnesia! And spotty reflexes. And a masochistic doctor. He's released into the wild in a new clean suit to start again.

- A trip to an ad agency gives him the new identity of Phillip Phil, and new friends named Jill, Gil and Bill. Ocean Breeze Soap: It's just like taking an ocean cruise except there's no boat and you don't actually go anywhere.The Mad Men Frogs rule.

- Manhattan Melodies opens in one week. Time to find Kermit! Yay! That means... Here's Mister Mayor, Ed Koch! I feel like he's the kinda guy who just always looked old. Raise a glass, folks!

- The Muppets are despondent over Kermit's disappearance. But the Mad Men Frogs happen to have lunch in Pete's Diner. Kermit's subconscious affinity for "Together Again" leads him to play the melody by tapping glasses of water. The other Muppets turn around and find him, but he still doesn't know them. So they kidnap him and bring him to theater. As one naturally would.

- One of my earliest memories of being in a movie theater is watching the moment Miss Piggy punches the lights back into Kermit's brain. "Cancel the show!" Some things just stay with you!

- Somebody's getting MAH-REEEEEEED! Somebody's getting MAH-REEEEEED! Greatest musical number ever? It has to at least crack the Top 10.

- "Days go passing into years. Years go passing day by day." Don't make me burst into tears, movie.

- Too late! She'll make him happy! That's all she needs to know! They're all doing the Muppet Sway! I'm not made of stone!

- Uh oh, Piggy got a real priest! Are they really married? Nobody knows! Piggy seems pleased though. Fake it til you make it, girl. Kermit did say I do... though perhaps one could argue it was under duress.

- What better way could anything end - hand in hand with a friend? FOR SERIOUS. Well, played, Muppets. Well played.

So thanks, Mayor Koch, for stewarding the city through an incredibly rough time in the late 70's and 80's and for being part of a movie that made young impressionable artistic kids like me want to come to the city and have their shows produced. Your love for the city and the impact of your time is mayor lives on!!