Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mamma Mia . . . and I mean that literally!

Mamma Mia is the latest Broadway musical to make its way to the big screen, bringing with it a cast led by Meryl Streep. I went into this movie with high hopes. I LOVE musicals with a passion, I love Abba, this should be awesome, right?

Well . . . . no, not so much. You know a movie has problems when during a big production number your thought is “This kind of reminds me of that scene in From Justin to Kelly.” I had that exact thought as Christine Baranski was camping it up on the beach like a drag queen singing “Does Your Mother Know?”. . . and it was a thought I couldn’t shake for the rest of the movie.

Mamma Mia uses the music of Abba to tell the story of Sophie, a young woman who has grown up on a Greek island where her mother Donna runs a dilapidated hotel. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie has just one dream – to be walked down the aisle by the father she’s never known. A little sleuthing leads Sophie to the conclusion that her father is one of three men that Donna slept with over the course of a few weeks one summer 20 years ago. Sophie invites all three men to the wedding in the hope of discovering which one is her father.

It’s a simple enough story, but one which I never became all that interested in. We don’t get to know Sophie all that well, so it’s hard to care who her father is or whether her wedding to the cute but dull Sky will go off without a hitch. Sophie remains a mostly peripheral character as the focus of the movie shifts more to Donna and her reaction to seeing these three men. There’s little interaction between Donna and Sophie until a third act musical number where Donna helps Sophie prepare for the wedding – a number that’s meant to be sweet and touching but comes across as rather dull since we don’t have a lot emotionally invested in this relationship – or any of the movie’s relationships for that matter.

Perhaps a more musically inclined cast would have helped. Meryl Streep has a nice voice (as anyone who has seen Postcards from the Edge or A Prairie Home Companion will attest) but it’s not a Broadway voice. More than once, you could hear the strain in her voice as she tried to belt or hit a certain note. Bless her heart, she does seem to be having a good time. It’s clear, though, that at times, Meryl is just coasting here and not bringing anything particularly new to Donna. It’s unsettling at times to watch her camping around – and the presence of a child named Sophie here makes you question Meryl’s choice to take on this project.

Meryl, though, is probably the most capable of the singing leads, although Amanda Seyfried gives Sophie a sweet enough voice and Colin Firth was better than I expected. At least they don’t sound like a constipated Muppet like Pierce Brosnan does. When he began warbling his way through “SOS,” I could not control the convulsive laughter. It was painful! Brosnan isn’t a particularly great actor, either, so he’s not able to salvage even that part of this role. Surely there are older leading men out there capable of singing who could have taken this part and spared us this misery.

Aside from the performances, Mamma Mia has some other problems. The staging of the film is rather stagnant and the musical numbers, with the exception of the rousing Dancing Queen, often lack the energy that could be found in more successful recent musical films such as Hairspray or Chicago. The musical numbers were so dull that my companion took one as an opportunity to head to the bathroom – and when a gay man can’t sit through a musical number, you know you have a problem. The choreography is bland, often resorting to little more than hokey line dancing rather than trying for something a little more visually interesting. Director Phyllida Law is making her feature film debut here, coming to the film from the world of opera. A more seasoned hand could have been used here, perhaps Adam Shankman who worked wonders with Hairspray or Rob Marshall who made the seemingly unfilmable Chicago a viable and Oscar-winning film. The movie needed more behind the camera than it got.

Mamma Mia isn’t all bad. Julie Walters is quite funny as Donna’s friend Rosie, often coming very close to stealing the movie right out from under Meryl. The production design is lovely – but if I’m paying attention to the sets during a musical, something is wrong.

I feel bad not liking this movie. As a fan of musical theatre (and musicals in general), I so wanted this to be a great film and help keep musicals alive in film. And I might be in a minority. The many, many older women surrounding me at the theatre seemed perfectly charmed by the film. I heard several raving about wanting to see it again as they walked out of the theatre. And it is nice to have a film out there that has such an appeal for women, particularly older women. It’s just too bad they couldn’t have been given a better movie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sibling Hilarity . . . Sometimes

Before I get started, let me just preface this review by saying that Step-Brothers is a truly stupid movie, full of crude, scatological humor and moments where you find yourself cringing and hoping no one in the theatre recognizes you.

And yet . . . I laughed. I laughed a lot. There are a lot of moments in Step-Brothers that don’t work on any level, but when the movie gets something right, it’s pretty damn funny.

In Step-Brothers, Will Farrell brings us his manchildy-est manchild ever, playing 39-year-Brennan, a frequently out of work wannabe singer who still lives with his sweet, enabling mom Nancy, played by Mary Steenburgen. (Is Mary Steenburgen really old enough to be Will Farrell’s mother?? According to, she could be if it was a teenaged pregnancy. What can I say – Babies having babies, yo!) Brennan’s life is thrown into turmoil when Nancy goes to a medical conference and meets Robert, played by the underrated Richard Jenkins. Nancy and Robert seem to instantly fall in love, particularly when Robert reveals that he has a 40-year-old son named Dale who still lives at home. John C. Reilly’s Dale is rude, selfish, dumb, and yet quite lovable. Dale and Brennan hate each other at first sight and the first part of the movie is full of their juvenile resentment and jealousy. Their frequent battles and increasingly childish and destructive antics prompt Robert and Nancy to issue an ultimatum – the boys have one month to find a job and move out. Will Brennan and Dale grow up and embrace adulthood? Or will they rebel against this parental tyranny and find friendship in their common ground? What do you think?

Step-Brothers works in theory and does allow Farrell to do what he does best, playing that clue-free manchild who straddles the line between innocence and ignorance. Bringing Reilly along for the ride only adds to the mayhem. Reilly, like Farrell, plunges into his character with a childlike glee. There’s a certain sparkle in his eye when he says some of his more crude dialogue. (There’s a particularly hilarious yet offensive scene where Dale informs Brennan that his dad only married Nancy so that the two of them could share her – only he states it a lot more explicitly than that). The movie is full of tiny moments like that which almost hurt they are so funny.

The problem with Step-Brothers, though, is that there are also a lot of moments that don’t work. The movie is too willing to go the toilet route, mining supposed humor from licking white dog poop and long, smelly farts. It undermines the moments of real, genuine wit that the movie employs more skillfully.

The characters that surround Dale and Brennan, too, often border on the intolerable, especially Adam Cook as Brennan’s cocky younger brother and Rob Riggle as his toady co-worker. These two play broad caricatures that undermine the hints of humanity that Farrell and O’Reilly bring to their characters. By the end of the movie, I seriously wanted someone to just stab Rob Riggle’s character and put me out of my misery.

There are also those moments that leave you scratching your head in bewilderment. How did two intelligent, successful people like Robert and Nancy allow this situation with their sons to go on as long as it has? Okay, Nancy is clearly a coddling enabler, but surely Robert would have snapped long before this. How could Brennan’s younger brother beat him at the talent show in high school by lip syncing to “Ice Ice Baby” if Brennan is 39? I was a sophomore in college when that song came out, and I am a few years younger than 39. Something like that is just sloppy script work, and I would expect better from Farrell and his co-writer (and director) Adam McKay.

Overall, Step-Brothers is in no way a great film, but its moments of inspired humor make it worth a viewing. Just wear your baseball cap and shades so no one will see you laughing at things you’d be ashamed to admit you found funny.

Monday, July 28, 2008

For Your Consideration

Imagine for a moment that you are a well-respected actress -- nominated for three Oscars and two Golden Globes in the past 12 years. Your two Broadway appearances to date have garnered you two Tony nominations (and one win). You are an actress of intelligence, wit, and grace on screen, whether it's in smaller indie films or bigger budget action movies. The common denominator in your work, though, is that it reeks of elegance and intelligence.

How in the hell, then, do you agree to make this ????

Joan, you are better than this!

While My Thumb Gently Weeps

It was announced last week that Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper were leaving "At the Movies," the film review program that Ebert launched with Gene Siskel decades ago. To me, "At the Movies," though, had been dead for many years, ever since the death of Siskel. Nevertheless, this news still made me a bit sad.

Of all the television shows I grew up watching, "At the Movies" was perhaps one of the most influencial. It was a show that taught me that not all movies were good and how to discuss what made a movie good or not good with intelligence and wit. In my teens, I dreamed of becoming a movie critic like my idol, Gene Siskel. I always preferred him to Ebert. I thought his analysis of films tended to be a bit more cerebral and thoughtful. When the two disagreed on a film's merit, I rarely sided with Ebert. Although I ultimately chose to pursue a career in education, my love of film has never waned, nor has my love of sharing my opinion about a film I've seen. This blog (and my on-air stints on The Ford Show ) has allowed me to make that youthful dream come alive. Every time I sit down to my computer to write a review (stay tuned later this week for my review of Step-Brothers), I think of Siskel and those many Saturday afternoons spent in front of the television learning about film from him and his partner in crime.
What prompts me to write this particular post, outside of procrastinating in the face of the amount of yard work that waits for me outside, is this article I read this morning. Here, Roger Ebert looks back on the program that turned these two geeky Chicagoans into stars. It's a funny, touching inside look at how the program turned film criticism into entertainment and renews my appreciation for the influence these two men had on film -- and on me. The balcony will always be open for them.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Harriet and Me

I have what can best be described as an amibivalent attitude towards children. I do not, as I have been accused of before, hate children. There are many children I've met in my life who are cool kids and I've enjoyed hanging out with them. My problem isn't so much with individual children as it is kids in general. Babies freak me out because they're so helpless and unable to communicate. I mean, they cry and you have absolutely no reason WHY. And they're, you know, pretty breakable -- another check mark in the "freaky" column. Toddlers and pre-school aged kids can be a little better. They can at least speak (although sometimes their speech borders on gibberish which can be incredibly frustrating). My issues with kids this age is that screaming and sticky thing that they often have going for them. I hate walking through a store or sitting in a restaurant hoping to enjoy a pleasant conversation with a friend only to have some child screaming at the top of its lungs in the next aisle or at the neighboring table. It's like a dagger through my soul that sound. Older kids are a bit cooler although they can often be a bit on the squirrelly side. I mean, why can't they focus?!? I think I just find kids so baffling and that makes me uncomfortable. You can't joke around with kids the way you can with teenagers and adults. You can't talk to them at the same level. They're just such a challenge -- and sometimes a chore!

When I was in the process of moving into my house, I found out that the next door neighbors had an 8-year-old daughter. My friend George (who is the president of the "Mel Hates Kids" Information Society, having one night over our second or third bottle of wine turned to me and said, "I've never known a woman who hates kids the way you do") found this hysterical and had visions of me taking this child under my wings and turning her into my protegee. He said, "I can see it now. I'll come over one afternoon to find the two of you on the patio, reading a book, sipping martinis. She'll have glasses on and be dressed in a black turtleneck with her hair up in a bun. That poor kid!" I laughed even harder when I caught my first glance of the kid to see that she already had the glasses. Over the course of the week when I was moving carloads of boxes in at night after work, she would ride up and down the street on her bike, clearly watching and taking all this activity in. I dubbed her "Harriet the Spy" since she looked quite a bit like the heroine that adorned the cover of what was one of my favorite books as a child.

A week or so after I'd moved in, the doorbell rang one evening. I opened it to find Harriet standing there asking if she could come over and visit. She spent about 20 minutes or so that evening, sitting on the couch, quizzing me on my favorite doughnut flavor, and chatting away. Through our conversation, I gleaned that the people next door were her grandparents and she lived with them. She has a younger sister who lives with their mom elsewhere here in town. Her sister is often next door as well and has joined Harriet on several visits.

For the most part, I do enjoy Harriet's visits although there are times when it's kind of a challenge since Harriet really doesn't seem to have a lot of boundaries. She has no qualms with walking around my house and opening closets or cupboards to see what's inside. She was mystified to find that an adult would buy Rice Krispie Treats since "those are for kids!" She's astounded by things like having both a sliding glass door to my patio and a second, regular door. She's fascinated by the automatic garage door opener. She has that I guess you'd call it charming childlike ignorance. Spotting the picture I keep on my desk of me and Barack Obama (more on that in another post), she pointed and said, "Is that your husband?" I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Have you seen that guy around? What do you think?" I then had to explain to her who it was, although she was on to another object of fascination before I'd even finished the sentence -- I think it was how lovely and soft the carpet is in my den. Once when I sent her on her way because I was supposed to go meet George, she wanted to know why she couldn't go, too. Saying that we had "grown-up work" to do (meaning we were getting together to drink a couple bottles of wine, eat some cheese, and watch an old movie), she announced she liked "grown-up work" and wanted to come. It took a lot of firm refusals to get her to give up on that idea.

Harriet tries my patience at times and yet I can't help but enjoy her company. There's something charming about seeing your world through the eyes of a child. It IS cool that I have 2 patio doors. The automatic garage door opener IS fun. And bless her heart for thinking I could be married to a man as handsome as Barack Obama. Maybe, just maybe, Harriet may be the thing that makes me stop cringing at the sight of children and actually being open to the possibility that they're pretty cool little people.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Things that Make You Go, "Really??!!??"

So another unspectacular quirk of mine is that I like to listen to the oldies station. I often say that the oldies station saved my life. I was driving home from Chicago late one night many years ago (I'd taken my sis up to see her then-favorite band Oasis in concert but had to be back for work at 8:00 the next morning), and I was just about dead to the world. I was fighting the desperate need to just nod off. The tail lights of the cars in front of me looked like jawas . I flipped through the radio stations to find some music to keep me awake and landed on the oldies station. I began singing along (I know all the words to so many of those old songs) and suddenly found myself awake and alert for the last leg of the drive. So yes, the oldies saved my life!

Anyway, today, I was driving around running all the errands I hadn't had time to do this week during tech week -- groceries, putting gas in the car, paying bills, etc. I flipped to one of the two oldies stations I have preset in my car. I was happily bopping along to Martha and the Vandellas and then the next song came on. And it was . . . are you ready for this? . . . "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister.

Let me say that again.


This "Broken Wings." The one that came out in the 1985, my freshman year of high school. I am so not ready for music that I listened to (and loved) in high school to be played on an oldies station. And I know that I have readers out there who were in high school during the Motown years and the British Invasion, so this isn't meant as an insult or anything like that.

Sure, part of my horror was in the fact that music I remember so vividly was being played on an oldies station. I accept that I'm old, but those little reminders, especially when they happen for the first time, are a little jarring. What really kind of bothered me more, though, was insult on behalf of Motown and the British Invasion and the early days of rock-n-roll. Does Mr. Mister really belong sandwiched between Martha and the Vandellas and the Beatles? As much as I enjoyed Mr. Mister back in the day (heck, I even owned a copy of their album Welcome to the Real World on cassette -- remember those?), I don't know that I buy the notion of them being "classic." Does anyone besides me even remember Mr. Mister?

It brings to mind a friendly debate that I had more than once with a former colleague of mine who has since retired. Has there been any good music made since the 1960s? Another teacher and I tried to argue that we would be comfortable putting a band like U2 alongside the Beatles and Stones and the gang. I'd add to the list REM, Talking Heads, the Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, the Ramones . . . but after a handful of bands, I kind of come up empty. And then, too, there's the question of how would it sound to have, say, the Beach Boys followed by the Chili Peppers?

Are we creating music anymore that's built to last? I'm sure back in the 50s and 60s, the notion didn't exist that this would become the dominant music of our culture, and maybe that thought that this music was a fleeting fad allowed them to create the music that they did. Now that pop and rock rule, have we gotten sloppy? Is anyone going to be psyched to hear Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers on the oldies station 20 years from now? Is anyone going to even remember Miley Cyrus 20 years from now?

Open for Business

Well, the show I've been working on this summer opened last night. I'm so relieved to have it up and running -- and for it almost to be over. This past week has been a very busy, exhausting week as I've spent countless hours working with the director to get things ready. We had a full run-thru of the show late yesterday afternoon before officially opening at 8:00pm last night. Being the assistant director and a cast member is a challenge I'm not sure I'm up for ever again. I think somewhere along the line I forgot that I actually had to act. During yesterday's run thru, I had an abyssmal performance mostly because my mind was focused on whether the lights and sound were going to work okay and whether the set changes would go as smoothly as I'd scheduled them and trying to figure out when to schedule people to sing between one acts. Finally, about an hour before curtain, I went to a quiet room and just sat for about 15 minutes trying to focus and get my energy to a performance level and not have people asking questions or being distracted by the chattering (14 actors make a lot of noise) or the kid who insists on wandering around singing -- and not quietly. I'm not sure I gave my BEST performance, but I felt pretty good when it was over and I was back at the sound booth again helping run the show.

The only real problem last night (outside of body mics that seemed to have a mind of their own -- or actors who decided to turn their mics off or to mute and then didn't understand why their mics didn't work) was the bugs! It's an outside show. We sprayed for bugs yesterday afternoon, but we either missed a couple spots or the lights for the show were stronger than the fear of spray. I know the light/sound booth area was pretty much swarmed with bugs and my sis said she had a bug fly up her nose in the middle of a mini-monologue. Another actor visibly cringed and swatted at a bug mid-scene (NICE FOCUS!).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quirks, I Have a Few

So I've been tagged. How cool is that? I know that there are all these rules I'm supposed to follow about recognizing the person who tagged me (What up, Nicki? Check out her blog, Grin and Baer It listed in my blog list to the left) and tag a bunch of other people. Here's the thing -- not only am I sort of lazy but it's also tech week (well, technically, I guess not anymore since we opened tonight) so, well, I'm playing the diva and, as Cartman would say, "I do what I want!"

What intrigues me about the tagging thing (other than the fact that it has brought some new people to my blog to visit) is the item that says I'm supposed to list "six unspectacular quirks" about myself. That sounds sort of fun. I don't know that these quirks are unspectacular or not, but they're all mine, baby!

1. I LOVE cucumbers but I HATE pickles. Like my dream salad is pretty much lettuce, a ton of cucumbers, and a little bit of raspberry vinaigrette, but if a pickle so much as even touches my plate, I freak out.
2. I love Barry Manilow. I'm sorry. I can't help it. The guy is a flipping genius!
3. I really tend to be a slave to routine. It's one of the hardest things I face during the summer -- a day full of open possibilities. I sometimes struggle with the "aimlessness" of those kinds of days. Which leads to number 4 . . . .
4. I can be a little on the OCD side. I brush my teeth so many strokes, I spray so many spritzes of my perfume, I like my food to be label side out in the cupboard, my CDs and DVDs are meticulously alphabetized. The only thing I am not particularly OCD about is my books and that's probably because I have so many that truly organizing them the way I'd like would be a Herculean task.
5. I am really disgusted by lumpy things (with the exception of mashed potatoes, which I like on the lumpy side). I think it goes back to when I was a child and we were in some restaurant and this man came in whose skin was all lumpy -- like covered in boils. I was so horrified that it gave me nightmares for days. To this day, I can't stand to look at lumpy things.
6. I have to fall asleep with the television on. I don't know if it's the slight flicker of light or the lull of the voices, but I have a really hard time falling asleep without it.

So . . . those are my quirks. Will anyone still talk to me now?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business!

Well, friends, it's been a busy week here what with having to bust my friend out of the clink and getting ready for the show I've been working on this summer to open. Tech week is always a nightmare, even more so when you're dealing with outdoors theatre. I've spent every day this week painting and gardening and schlepping to help get this production up and running tomorrow night. I'm fighting sunburn, exhaustion, and the feeling that my fingernails may never, ever be clean again. Le sigh! To make matters even more stressful, I found out that a bunch of my students have reserved seats. I play a murderous lunatic and a sex maniac. They may never look at me the same way again! At least I got to do one of my favorite things when it comes to working on a show -- I got to be interviewed on the radio yesterday. The director and I went in to the local AM station to be interviewed during the morning show there. The host of the show, Terry Cavanaugh, is a great interviewer, knowledgeable and fun. It's always fun to be on Terry's show. As we were leaving, we ran into a disc jockey friend of ours, Eric Hanson, who has appeared in a couple shows for us over the years. He hosts the morning show on the country station, so he pulled us into the booth to tape an impromptu interview for him to play on his show this morning (which I overslept and didn't get to hear). Things were a little looser with Eric but a lot of fun. Here's hoping all this PR gets the people in!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Go Ahead -- Believe the Hype

Again, my sis asked me to write a review for The Ford Show on, so I'm sharing it here with you. I kind of get the feeling it's going to be a regular thing, so I guess it's going to be a regular thing here too. I'm not as happy with this one as the one I wrote for Hancock, but I was under the gun to clock in at under three minutes, so . . . .

Christopher Nolan’s newest installment in the Batman series is perhaps the most hyped movie of the year if not the entire millennium. Even before Heath Ledger’s death last January, rumors were flying about his incendiary performance as The Joker. After his death, the murmurs grew to an almost deafening pitch as critics such as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone began banging the drum for Ledger to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for his work. All of this hype begs the question: is Ledger’s work really that good? Is the movie itself really that good?

The answer, quite simply, is yeah, it is. The Dark Knight is a truly spectacular film.

Picking up where Batman Begins left off, we find Bruce Wayne’s alter ego Batman continuing his quest to rid Gotham City of the organized crime that is causing the city to rot away. He sees that the people are hungry for a hero. The question, though, is whether or not Batman can be the hero they need while still doing what needs to be done to fight crime – sometimes the good guys have to make unpopular choices. Batman’s internal conflict is only further complicated by the arrival of a new nemesis who makes the mob look like a box full of fluffy kittens: The Joker. Joker operates under no code with no greater purpose. As Alfred the butler notes at one point: “He just wants to see the world burn.” Joker kills and steals pretty much for the hell of it. If he has any agenda, it is chaos and a desire to prove to the world that the same darkness that drives him is a darkness that lurks in us all.

Battling the Joker pushes Bruce Wayne to question his mission. If he can’t be the hero Gotham needs, maybe Harvey Dent can be. Dent is the new crusading district attorney (and boyfriend of Bruce Wayne’s beloved Rachel – played here by a much stronger and more convincing Maggie Gyllenhaal). Like Bruce Wayne, Dent has made ridding Gotham of crime his number one goal. Harvey is the white knight to Bruce’s Dark Knight; they compliment each other perfectly. Of course, anyone who is familiar with the Batman canon knows Harvey’s fate – a fate which comes heartbreakingly to fruition and kicks the third act of the film into high gear.

The Dark Knight is an exciting, complicated, intelligent film that proves that action films don’t have to be mindless pieces of drivel. When you hire a talented, visionary director like Christopher Nolan and cast true, gifted actors like Christian Bale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Aaron Eckhart, it is possible to create a film that both entertains and challenges, that has heart and pathos and energy. In all honesty, I often found myself thinking throughout the film that an actor of Bale’s caliber was maybe wasted in this film, but a lesser actor would never be able to walk that line of darkness that Bale does with such skill. Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent is largely overshadowed, at least in the press, by Ledger, which is a shame as Eckhart brings real charisma to his scenes as Harvey and terrifying pain to Harvey’s eventual fall.

This, of course, brings us to Heath Ledger. That this character will be Ledger’s lasting legacy is both heartbreaking and inspiring. This performance is truly an acting master class in surrendering to a character. Much has been made about how the darkness of the Joker may have played a part in Ledger’s accidental overdose, that he had such a hard time letting go of that darkness to the point that it haunted him. I didn’t see a character consumed by darkness so much as I saw an actor consumed by the sheer joy of playing a character that takes him on such a ride. He looks like he is having the time of his life just letting go and surrendering to the gleeful mania that is the Joker. Ledger has never seemed quite so alive and vibrant on film as he does here. Is it Oscar worthy? Most definitely. Let’s just hope that the Academy remembers him – and this film – in 6 months.

Coming Soon to an X-Box Near You

This morning, I read that Paramount is launching a series of girl-oriented video games based on the films Clueless, Mean Girls, and Pretty in Pink. According to the article, players will get to become characters from the movies and presumably re-live scenes from said films.

Which left me wondering this morning: does that mean that I could "fix" all of Andie's mistakes in Pretty in Pink? Could I pick sweet, quirky Ducky instead of milquetoast Blaine? Could I make sure that the hideous sack of a prom dress pictured here never sees the light of day? If so, it just might be worth a trip to the local Game Town (or whatever it's called -- I drive by it on the way to Menards but pay no attention to it) to pick up a copy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You have to be freakin' kidding me!

Those of you who know me may know that one of my all-time favorite books is Kay Thompson's Eloise, the story of a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Growing up, I would read the Eloise books and dream of living at the Plaza myself. Of course, I didn't realize then how kind of sad Eloise's life was -- she was raised by her loving Nanny while her mother was jet setting around the world and her absentee father was nowhere to be seen. (At least her mother called every once in a while!) As an adult when I learned that Thompson had based Eloise on a young Liza Minelli, though, my love for Eloise only grew.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Eloise would be hitting the big screen -- and hitting Paris no less. I read the article and was only confused by one thing -- Uma Thurman's name listed as one of the stars. Perhaps, I thought, she would be playing Eloise's mother. Perhaps, I thought, the producers were making Eloise's life a little less sad and full of negligence. So I hopped over to Internet Movie Database and found that Uma Thurman is playing . . . are you ready for this? . . . NANNY!
Please take a moment to look at the picture accompanying this post. That's Nanny. What about the woman in this picture suggests to you Uma Thurman? This is a role that has been played in the past by actresses such as Julie Andrews (who appeared in a few made-for-tv Eloise films) and Lynn Redgrave (who voiced Nanny for Starz's animated Eloise series). When there is such a dearth of parts out there for older actresses, why take a role like this and give it to Uma Thurman -- WHO IS MY AGE! I am NOT old enough to play Nanny, and neither is Uma!
And seriously, how do you pitch something like this to Uma Thurman, and if you're Uma Thurman, how do you accept? Personally, I'd be INSULTED if I were offered that part, and I have an ass to rival Nanny's (whose ass is ample enough that Eloise plays it like a bongo)! But I'm about 20 years too young. If I were Uma Thurman, I'd be like, "Screw you for even offering me this part! I am a still young hot woman, not a menopausal English nanny!" Were Emma Thompson (who's probably too young, too), Joan Plowright, Frances McDormand (again, maybe a bit too young), Brenda Blethyn, Julie Walters, Lynn Redgrave, Julie Andrews, or Judi Dench (to name just a few) too busy? And if so, could someone please steer me towards what they're too busy doing because, quite frankly, I would rather see them read the phone book than watch Uma Thurman get uglied up to play Nanny. (As my sis said as I ranted about this over dinner, "If they want to ugly up a hot young actress, why not just do what everyone else does and hire Charlize Theron?")
As the boys from South Park would say: "SHENANIGANS!!!"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Snap Judgement

It's good. It's very, very good. I'll write a lengthier review later, but it's really worth braving the crowds. For once, the hype got it pretty right.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Shameless Plug

Okay, it's my turn to shamelessly plug a project I'm working on. As the poster says, it is, indeed, an evening of music and one acts under the stars. More specifically, it's a night of Christopher Durang one acts punctuated by musical performances from members of the cast and other local musicians. In addition to being assistant director for the project (and handling the marketing -- including the above poster design**), I also appear in two of the one acts. In "Phyllis and Xenobia," I play a potentially homicidal sister opposite, in a bit of inspired stunt casting, my own sister. It's a very short little script but very funny. I really get to let loose and just play balls-to-the-wall crazy by the end of the script, something I've never really gotten the chance to do before. In "The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From," I play the school nurse, Nurse Ratched, who holds the key to the mystery the boys are trying to solve -- and who also just so happens to be a sex maniac. I get to be just this total maniac, throwing around double entendres and doing my own homage to Kim Cattrall.

In addition to those two pieces, the night also features "Mrs. Sorken," "Funeral Parlor," "DMV Tyrant," "Canker Sores and Other Distractions," and "Naomi in the Living Room," which features my sis as Naomi. You know, I've always thought my sister was a pretty decent comedic actor, and then I saw her in rehearsals as Naomi and realized she is a freakin' AMAZING comedic actor. I don't think I could ever pull off the kind of performance I think she will next week. It's absolutely inspiring.

So, if you're in or around Galesburg next weekend, stop by for a free night of music and laughter. It's better than a lot of the other options out there. :)

** A note about the poster design: It was actually designed per request. I was a little "weird" about using a picture on the poster design, particularly one that has my face pretty much dead center. Do you know how awkward it is to walk down Main Street and see your face in every store window? But you have to respect the wishes of the director on things like that, and, my own lack of comfort aside, it is a pretty cute poster, I guess.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mel's Good Deed of the Day

As many of you probably know, in my free time, I do a lot of theatre. (In my non-free time, I do a lot of theatre, too, since I'm a high school drama teacher/director, but that's beside the point) For the past 4 years or so, I've been involved in a local theatre company here in Galesburg. A couple weeks ago, our artistic director Gary received a phone call from the Knox County Housing Authority which manages the local public housing complexes. They wanted us to come and spend an afternoon playing theatre games with the kids (aged about 6-10) who live in the two local housing complexes. Of course, Gary agreed. Of course, very few people volunteered to help out with this, so it ended up being me, Gary, and another actor (and former student of mine) named Matt who trekked over to "the projects" today to work with this group of kids.

Going in, I was pretty excited. I directed a summer theatre camp last summer, so I have a ton of fun theatre games to teach these kids. And I also felt really good about giving these kids something fun and productive to do on a very hot Wednesday afternoon. (It was over 90 degrees when I pulled up outside the complex community center.) We walked in as the kids were sitting down to lunch (hot dogs and potato chips -- mmm!) and there were two things that we noticed immediately -- it was a cacophony of shrieks and noises and we were the only white faces in the room outside of the woman who had called us and the police officer who volunteers his time to help out. It was, to me, a sad commentary on the great income discrepency between the races in our country, and I couldn't help but wonder what the future held for these kids. Many of them already looked pretty beaten down and defeated by life -- and they aren't even 10 yet.

We started our program for the day out with Gary performing a magic show for the kids which kept them pretty mesmerized and left them with blown minds. We then broke the kids up in two groups (with us keeping the youngest and the older group going over to the nearby park with the police officer volunteer and a couple parent volunteers) and started with some basic theatre games. I was in charge of this portion, and I had decided to keep things pretty simple since none of these kids had a lot of theatre experience and asking them to play a complicated character improv at the age of 7 might have been too much. As it was, a simple game of "Zip Zap Zop" was asking a little much. We started off with a couple good energy builders -- one that focuses on vocal energy where the kids just keep repeating, "Gee whiz, we're energized," getting progressively louder each time they say it and a new one I found online recently called "Human Bop-It" where the kids perform various movements on command to music. I chose "Blitzgrieg Bop" by the Ramones for our Bop-It music. You can take the girl out of the punk, but you can't take the punk out of the girl. :)

All in all, it was a lot of fun despite the fact that we were dealing with a room full of kids with no focus. Just keeping them on task was a Herculean task. But at the end of the day, it was a good feeling seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids as they left the room and thinking that maybe one of them just might give theatre a try when it presents itself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Forget Obama and McCain . . .

Maybe Dexter is what we need to get America back on track! Somehow, I have a feeling Dex would find Osama Bin Laden in a second, and what a great score for his blood sample collection! Frustrated with gas prices? Dexter has a special plastic-wrapped room waiting for the big oil companies. Go, Dexter, go!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I Named Brangelina's Baby!!

So in case you haven't heard (and wasn't it sneaky of her to schedule it on a weekend when people are less apt to check the news -- at least I am), Angelina Jolie gave birth to twins this weekend -- a girl named Vivienne and a boy named Knox. To this last name I say, "You're welcome, Angie." (I call her Angie. I'm like that)

Here's the story: I have this beautiful purple and gold verbena plant that sits on my back patio. It's had a difficult journey since it was the first plant I bought and, well, um, I sort of didn't know about that whole "water daily" thing where plants are concerned. It actually was on the brink of death and I managed to somehow, miraculously bring it back to life. I bought said plant, though, precisely because of its colors -- purple and gold which are, for those of you reading this who did not go to Knox College , Knox's colors. It was my own little shout out to my alma mater as I moved into my new home. Because of its colors, I also started calling it "the Knox plant" and then shortened it to "Knox."

Friday, I was out shopping for a new pot into which I could move Knox. When my sis asked me what I was looking for when we went into the garden center, I said, "A new pot for Knox." She kind of looked at me funny and I told her that I had named the verbena plant Knox because of its colors and then I said, "You know, wouldn't that make a great name for a kid? If I ever had a boy, I think I'd name it Knox. That would be cool."

So imagine my . . . I don't know -- shock? Horror? Jealous fury?. . . when I woke up this morning and discovered that Baby Boy Jolie-Pitt had been named Knox. So if I ever DID have a boy and DID name it Knox, everyone would just think I was copying Angelina Jolie.

Thanks a lot, Brangelina, for stealing my thunder! Thanks to you, I'll never reproduce!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Jewel of My Domain

I don't want this to be one of those pathetic "single girl odes to her cat" posts and yet . . . .

I have a cat. Her name is Tela. She was named after the Phish song, of course. Tela wasn't always my cat, though. In fact, despite the fact that she's been living with me for ten years, it's only been recently that she truly became my cat. You see, any story about my relationship with Tela really begins with a story about China.

When I moved back in with my parents after deciding law school wasn't the right choice for me, I found that, in my absence, a new cat had joined our family. My parents had found this stray cat in the garage and brought her inside. She was this small, all black cat that they named Noir. When I came home, my parents warned me about Noir's existence and that she was, to be quite honest about it, a pretty aloof, downright unfriendly cat who just hadn't warmed to anyone in the family. The warning was primarily because Noir spent a lot of time in what was (and was now again) my bedroom. I can remember rolling my eyes in exasperation thinking, "Great. Now I have to deal with this diva cat in my bedroom! And the hits just keep coming." I walked into my bedroom to see this cat curled up, dreading her reaction when I would have to shoo her off so that I could sleep. But here's the thing: she took one look at me, I took one look at her, and I think we both just fell in love. Before the night was over, she was curled up in my lap, purring, snuggling, and shocking the heck out of the rest of the family who had pretty much written that cat off as "difficult." As part of my adoption, I renamed her China Cat Sunflower, after the Grateful Dead song, of course. For the next 13 years, China was my constant companion.

Ten years ago, my mother came home from work with a surprise -- a kitten. Someone had apparently dumped a box of kittens off in the parking lot where she worked and several people had taken the kittens home, my mom included. I named the kitten Tela, honestly a little excited to have a kitten since I'd never gotten to experience kittenhood with China. (She was over a year by the time I knew her) China immediately adopted Tela as her own. (China never had any kittens of her own, so Tela was the closest she ever came to her own kitten) Tela would follow China everywhere. She never particularly warmed to me, although I've often thought a lot of that was out of respect to China. There seemed to be an understanding that I was China's human. She could co-exist with other pets (and she did), but she never really cottoned to the idea of sharing me with anyone and was pretty clear with any other pet just whose human I was.

A little over a year ago, China died. It was honestly one of the hardest things I've ever experienced, to hold her in my arms as she took her last breaths, knowing that the last thing she ever saw was me. I took her death pretty hard, and it's still really hard for me to think about her without tearing up. (I'm actually crying right now as I type this) I mourned hard, and so did Tela. And that's when a funny thing happened. Within a couple weeks of China's death, Tela suddenly became glued to my side. If I happened to be sitting down, Tela would jump up on my lap. When I slept at night, Tela slept beside me (often on the same pillow my head was on). If I got up and walked to another room, she would follow me. Suddenly, I had a cat I'd never had before -- and yet had owned the whole time. It was tough those first few weeks. More than once I called her "Chi" by accident (only to burst into tears). More than once I found myself a little resentful that she didn't perch on my knee the way China did or understand that a certain twitch meant it was time to get down. And yet, I found myself growing to love Tela and am confident I saw that love reflected in her huge green eyes. Over the past year, Tela has become my chum and constant companion. She often plays "secret service agent" for me -- walking into a room before I do and checking it out for enemies before I walk in. (I've seriously seen her do this more than once!) It's not the same as China but it's been the thing that has best gotten me through losing China.

So what's the morale of this story outside of the fact that it IS a pathetic single girl ode to my cat? It's simply this: love heals everything. Tela's love for me has helped me work through my grief, and I like to think that my love for her has helped her work through hers. We both lost someone we loved and who loved us. It's really not just a girl-cat story; it's a universal story. Believe in love, and you will survive anything.

(Note: The picture is not actually of Tela. My digital camera didn't seem to survive the move -- I've found it but I can't get it to work -- and I don't have a scanner to scan the pictures I do have of Tela. So you'll have to make do with this lovely sketch that Tela would probably hate because she's much thinner than this cat.)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hancock -- The Full Review

So my sis is involved in this online radio show ( and she asked me today to write and record a movie review for this week's show. I decided the review I wrote was pretty decent, so I'm posting it here. Enjoy!

There’s no denying that Will Smith is Mr. 4th of July. Ever since he blew up aliens in Independence Day 12 years ago, he has been the go-to guy when a studio wants a big opening for the holiday weekend. What’s refreshing about Smith is that he has figured out over the past decade how to balance that blockbuster appeal with an artistic sensibility – giving us our big 4th of July spectaculars and then showing up in the fall and winter with more serious, intelligent fare like Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, and I Am Legend.

What’s so appealing about his latest July 4th offering, Hancock, is that he has found a way to bring those two sides of his celebrity personality together to create a movie that’s entertaining but dark, funny but thoughtprovoking. It’s a noble effort that doesn’t quite get the mix right and ultimately lets the viewer down in the third act, but I’d still rather sit through Hancock than some of the other mindless summer junk getting thrown down our throats this summer – I’m looking at you, Mike Myers.

Hancock is essentially a postmodern superhero tale. Smith’s Hancock, for reasons unknown to him and to the audience for much of the film, has been blessed with super powers – flight, strength, invincibility. While these powers would make many of us giddy with joy, Hancock is mired in an existential funk. He literally has no idea who he is and that frustration fuels the rage that seems to drive Hancock – that and the bottle of whiskey that seems to be permanently attached to his hand. He plays the hero, but he is a true reluctant hero – seeming more pissed off that he has to save humanity than eager to fulfill his destiny. That reluctance and rage makes Hancock a sloppy hero who often creates more damage trying to save the day than might have occurred had he not intervened.

One such “rescue” introduces Hancock to idealistic PR man Ray Embrey (played by the sublime Jason Bateman). Ray sees opportunity in Hancock, the chance for the bitter hero to repair his image and become the hero he is destined to be. He takes Hancock home to meet his family – including his luminously beautiful wife Mary (played by the luminously beautiful Charlize Theron). Mary is put off by Hancock and urges her husband to let the hero wallow in his funk, but Ray refuses to give up.

One of the things that charmed me about this film was Smith’s performance. There’s no denying that Will Smith is an actor who oozes charm and charisma on screen. It’s hard not to like Will Smith – no matter what character he’s playing. Here, Smith does his best to hide that charm and charisma behind the booze and the anger and the grime that envelop Hancock. Some of my favorite moments involve Bateman’s character trying to teach Hancock how to be smooth and gracious – things that seem to come easy to Will Smith but are next to impossible for Hancock.

The film is careful to keep the film light enough that Hancock’s funk doesn’t overpower the audience and leave us all reaching for the razor blades as the final credits roll. At the same time, though, it’s not afraid to give us a hero who is sad and angry and surrounded by confusion and fear. Hancock the man is all those things, and Will Smith lets those feelings play out really nicely.

He gets solid support from Bateman and Theron. Jason Bateman is a great, understated, wry comic actor. He brings a great deal of heart to the film and becomes a key to the emotional center of the film. There are times when you want Hancock to succeed not for Hancock but for Ray.

As for Theron, it’s so refreshing to actually see her get to play pretty for a change. She’s not hiding under layers of makeup or prosthetics or dirt or fat. She’s, quite simply, gorgeous throughout the film and the lighting gives her a glow that I suspect she has in real life. For the first half of the film, I was a little frustrated that an actor of Theron’s quality had been relegated to playing “the wife” in the summer blockbuster. Isn’t she better than that? As the movie progresses, though, Mary emerges from under the shadow of “the wife” and becomes a key to the movie’s ultimate climactic showdown. You need an actor of Theron’s caliber to play that second half of the movie, to bring that heart and passion and heartbreak and make Mary a character that we are invested in.

Hancock does have its flaws. The climax feels rushed and left me with some questions that I wanted answered more definitively. There are a few times when the movie resorts to the cheap and easy laugh rather than one that might be a more sophisticated one. (I’m thinking in particular of a confrontation between Hancock and some prisoners that results in heads going places they really, really should not go. Yeah, it’s funny, but it’s the sort of funny that you feel sort of ashamed for laughing at – especially in a theatre full of people, even if they are laughing too). At times, the editing felt a bit frenetic and left some of the action a little hard to follow. Some of the closeups, too, were a bit extreme. I really didn’t need to see every single pore on Charlize Theron’s face, and yet I felt at the end of the movie that I knew her pores more intimately than my own.

If you’re looking for a wild, mindless summer romp, Hancock isn’t your film. If you’re looking for a serious, existential drama, Hancock isn’t your film. If you’re looking for a movie that offers some laughs mixed with some pathos, you just might want to consider dropping your $10 on a ticket for Hancock. It’s a good way to spend 95 minutes, flaws and all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Reality TV Can Make You a Better Person

Today, I was at rehearsal for the show I'm working on this summer (a collection of Christopher Durang one acts). The director was telling an actor that he wanted him to do a "model walk" like on a catwalk. I instantly began giving all my best advice from America's Next Top Model -- not too make shake, confidence, and make sure you give a couple poses at the end of the runway. That immediately got me to thinking about how, before I started watching ANTM, I never would have been able to give any kind of advice as to how to walk like a model. I don't know if I'd ever really ever SEEN a catwalk before ANTM with the exception of the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie ends up as fashion roadkill. * Anyway, it got me to thinking about what other life lessons have I learned from my guilty pleasure -- reality television.

1. Project Runway: Never underestimate what you can do with limited (or unusual) resources. On Runway, we've seen designers create amazing garments out of flowers, recycled products, and items purchased in a grocery store or candy store. The designers of Runway are constantly being forced to think outside the box and move outside of their comfort zones, and that's something we all need to do every once in a while.
2. Design Star : This is my newest reality tv addiction, but in just the short amount of time I've been watching it, I've learned that creativity is not safe. You need to take chances and push yourself. Things don't have to be perfect and "matchy matchy" to be incredible. When you play it safe, you become boring and that's when it's time to go home. That's a lesson that Michael Stribling learned the hard way.
3. Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods : Sometimes, it's NOT who you know. When I first started watching this show, I was positive that the winner would be Emma . It wasn't that Emma screamed Elle Woods to me or that she stood out as the best singer (although she was quite good) or the best actress (again, she wasn't bad). It was the fact that I happened to find out that Emma was Emma Zaks . . . as in Jerry Zaks . . . as in multiple-Tony-winning director Jerry Zaks. When I looked Emma up on the Internet Broadway Database, I found out that her limited Broadway credits included appearing in the revival of La Cage aux Folles which was directed by Jerry Zaks and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (now the director and choreographer of Legally Blonde: The Musical). Not only that, but another member of the La Cage ensemble included actor Paul Canaan who not only is currently a member of the Legally Blonde ensemble but is also one of the three judges on The Search for Elle Woods. Emma didn't scream Elle Woods; she screamed ringer! I watched with a cynical eye as Emma struggled with her recent decision to quit smoking and the ensuing havoc it wreaked on her vocal stamina. I watched with a cynical eye as Emma battled bronchitis the week of the big dancing audition. I snorted as Emma informed the judges that, with her bronchitis, she would have called for an understudy that day. I felt no concern when Emma was in the bottom two. I just felt sorry for the clearly more talented but also struggling Autumn. I hoped Autumn had her bags packed. And then, the unthinkable happened. Head judge Bernie Telsey informed Emma that he just didn't see her as Elle Woods. SHE WAS CUT! Gone was the Broadway legacy, leaving behind six genuine unknowns to continue battling for the role in the show that's sure to close as soon as she takes over the part.
4. American Idol : Idol and I have had a rocky relationship over the past eight seasons. It's the Tommy Lee to my Pamela Anderson -- we can't live with each other and we can't live without each other. It began as a relationship of derision. I watched the first episode to mock it out of boredom and promptly fell in love. I spent that first summer glued to the screen (and my phone) cheering for the person I was sure would win -- Tamyra Grey -- only to see Tamyra's chances fade when America somehow thought that a punk rock wannabe karaoke singing single mom named Nikki McKibben was somehow more worthy of the crown than Tamyra. I sobbed that night and vowed to see the show through to the end if only to make sure that Nikki's evil reign was stopped and that the next deserving winner, Kelly Clarkson, was crowned. Over the years, the heartbreak and joy continued -- whether it was the disappointment to see Clay Aiken's Cinderella story not quite come true (although I'd argue he is more of an American Idol than Ruben Studdard), the shock of Chris Daughtry's elimination, or the embarrassment of Taylor Hicks winning and Sanjaya Malakar lasting as long as he did. I even walked out on Idol for awhile. I missed most of the most recent season in protest of Melinda Doolittle's elimination in season 6. (I still seethe when I think about it -- that and the fact that a year later, Melinda STILL has no record contract!) What brought me back was Paula's infamous "oops" moment from season 7 when she critiqued Jason Castro's performance BEFORE he gave it. Oh, Paula, what you won't do to win my heart back! I knew that no matter what, Idol was going to give great tv, and I didn't want to miss out on those water cooler moments even if those water cooler moments broke my heart. So what is the lesson of American Idol other than the American public has often questionable taste in music (which, honestly, isn't most of pop music a lesson in that?)? The lesson is that love conquers all -- heartbreak, disappointment, disgust . . . none of it compares to the love I still feel when Ryan says, "THIS . . . is American Idol." Oh, Ryan. You had me at "THIS."
5. Dancing with the Stars : Anyone can dance. It just takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Natural athletic ability helps (Kristi Yamaguchi!), but even someone like Marlee Matlin can do it. She can't even hear the music, people! Besides that, I've also found that I can appreciate the technical aspect of dancing much more now that I've become a fan of DWTS. As someone who directs a musical every spring, I've gained a little more confidence to help my students find their own grace on stage. Plus, Cristian de la Fuente should never EVER wear a shirt.
6. America's Got Talent : America may have talent (and based on the couple of episodes I've watched of this show, a couple of us out there do), but isn't it kind of sad that it takes two Brits and a washed-up 80s icon to determine that talent? The lesson here clearly is that the British are smarter than we are and that washed-up 80s icons are sad and freaky. Wait -- I guess American Idol taught me that last lesson first. My bad, Paula!

* For some reason I could only find this clip dubbed in Spanish. The brilliance transcends language, though.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

For your summer reading list

My friend Peter has just published his book Peter Pan's NeverWorld. It's currently available on amazon. This has been a long, arduous journey for Peter to get this book out, so hooray for Peter for making his dream a reality at long last! So when you're cruising amazon looking for something to read as the height of summer (and summer heat) approaches, add this to your shopping cart and help a new author (new in terms of entry into the publishing world) take off. You can be one of the first to discover a star!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Some things are just worth more than a dollar

Guilty pleasure confession time: I LOVE the Dollar Tree. It's one of those stores where everything inside costs $1. You can really find some cool stuff in there. I often go there to stock up on cleaning supplies and it's a great place to shop for props for shows. We created an Italian bistro last summer for a show all at the Dollar Tree.

Today, I stopped by the Dollar Tree to look for some 8X10 frames. I have some vintage-style advertisements, such as this one, that I bought several months ago at Target. When I bought them, I didn't really have the space to hang them anywhere, but I sensed that would come in handy and I am such a fan of these vintage ads. Well, now that I'm in my house, I have the space for them. I found 4 lovely black frames that will be perfect for said pictures. Woo hoo!

As I was in the line to check out, I let my eyes wander over the "impulse buys" kept at the register -- stuff like gum and mints and cheesy key chains and . . . . home pregnancy tests. Yes, one of the "impulse buys" at the Dollar Tree was a $1 home pregnancy test. Imagine the woman standing in line at the Dollar Tree with her dish soap and cheap candles and gift wrap. She glances over the impulse buys at the register and thinks to herself, "Ooh! Mint breath spray. Billy Ray might like it if my breath was minty fresh when we go parkin' at the creek. I'll get me some of that. Oh, and look at that! A home pregnancy test. You know, it has been a couple weeks since I last had my monthly visitor. Maybe I'd better pick me up one of them too!"

As the headline of this post says, some things are just worth more than a dollar. And a home pregnancy test is probably at the top of that list.

Friday, July 4, 2008

And the rockets' red glare . . .

I hope everyone out there had a nice 4th of July. I honestly can't complain about mine outside of the fact that my allergies were not playing nice for a good chunk of the day. I got up early to get things ready for today's cook-out before my sis and I headed over to the local multiplex to see Hancock. Long story short: I liked it. Many of the reviews I'd seen were rather scathing, but I think that I saw the same movie that the New York Times saw -- a decent movie that, while "far from perfect," kept me pretty entertained for 95 minutes or so. What more can you want for a 4th of July movie? And honestly, it was so refreshing to see Charlize Theron actually get to play pretty!

After the movie, we hosted a cookout at our house, giving me a chance to break in my new grill. I grilled burgers and brats and despite the copious amounts of smoke I inhaled, I had a good time. We then headed over to a friend's house to watch the fireworks. The friend lives on the edge of town and has a great view of the fireworks out at Lake Storey so that we didn't have to face the throngs trying to get the best spot. We had a great spot with the music being simulcast on a local radio station and homemade ice cream to top it all off. I'm not sure when I've had such a nice 4th of July -- good entertainment, good food, good friends, and fireworks. Yee haw!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why can't I be an American Girl, too??

Okay, here's the thing. I really want to see the American Girl movie -- Kitt Kittredge, starring Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin. Here's the problem with that: I am a 36-year-old, childless woman. As my sis pointed out, the only thing creepier than me going to see that movie by myself is if she and I went to see it together. Or even better, if she and I went to see it together with our American Girl dolls.* Imagine a theatre full of pre-pubescent girls running around with their dolls and then there are the creepy old ladies sitting in the back row clutching their own, slightly battered from age American Girl dolls. The only way it could be worse is if we were men!

And yet . . . I want to see it! It looks so charming and so fun and so girl power-y! I love those girl power-y movies! I might be the only person in America who was charmed by the recent Nancy Drew movie. And yet, I really don't want to be that creepy old lady sitting in the American Girl movie. So I will patiently wait for the video release of Kitt Kittredge, slyly add it to my Netflix queue, and watch it in my house . . . with my American Girl doll. In the meantime, I guess I'll join those Americans over 12 who will be spending their 4th of July weekend seeing Hancock. And maybe, just maybe, I won't be the only one wishing I were in the next theatre with Kitt Kittredge.

* -- I really don't have an American Girl doll. I was too old for dolls by the time they came out, and I'm not really able to justify spending $100 to own one now. But face it, the thought of me and my sis sitting in the back row of Kitt Kittredge is just a little funnier if you picture us clutching to our own American Girl dolls, isn't it? And to answer your other question, if I WERE to have an American Girl doll, since there doesn't seem to be a ginger American Girl, it would probably be Molly if only because of the glasses and jaunty beret and argyle sweater. I'm also a little miffed that the groovy 70s hippie chick American Girl doll is named Julie . Not fair!!!

Words sort of fail me

This is for Allen. I don't know if he reads this blog or not, but this is still for him.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Take me to the . . . lake

Today, I did one of my favorite summer things. I drove out to the lake that sits on the outskirts of town and took a nice, leisurely, mile-and-a-half stroll. It was a beautiful morning for a walk -- sunny but not too hot, a gentle breeze keeping things comfortable. I had my mp3 player on playing selections from Entertainment Weekly's "100 Greatest Summer Songs." I was in heaven.

Lake Storey is a sort of marvel to me. A friend of mine once got into a small argument about the lake when I made the comment that Lake Storey was a testament to Mother Nature's gift. He argued that Lake Storey was a man-made lake and therefore Mother Nature had nothing to do with it -- almost impugning "man" for trying to create its own beauty. My counterargument was that while humans had indeed dug the hole and planted the trees, Nature had taken it from there and created a truly beautiful little nook sandwiched between the cornfields and the city.
Regardless of whether the lake is a testament to human engineering or Nature's brilliance, it's still a nice way to spend a morning spotting butterflies and dragonflies and all sorts of beautiful flowers and plants as "My Sharona" propels you along the path. After "working" nature for the past couple weeks out in my yard, it was nice to just appreciate the work someone else had done.
And yes, this is an actual picture of Lake Storey, not just some random lake somewhere in America.