Star Wars Teaser Trailer Friday, Nov 28 2014 

We finally got our first glimpse of the new Star Wars movie, and it’s so much better than I had even hoped!

 

I’ve loved Star Wars almost my entire life, and I wasn’t really happy that Disney had decided to dump the expanded universe and go in a new direction with the new movie. But I really like the look and feel of this teaser; maybe J.J. Abrams will correct the horrible mistakes of the prequels (which I both hate and adore)! I have high hopes for the film. I can’t wait for December 18, 2015!

Anything Goes: A Review Wednesday, Nov 19 2014 

Last week, PJ and I saw the traveling show of Anything Goes, which won three Tony Awards in 2011 for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Choreography. Originally written in 1934 and featuring songs by Cole Porter, the musical’s book was completely rewritten just weeks before its premiere on Broadway (the original plot revolved around a bomb on a cruise ship; when an actual bomb kills more than 100 people, the book was rewritten). The show was revived in 1962, 1987, and 2011, on which the traveling show is based.

Producing a traveling show must be difficult: you’re adapting a big Broadway production by downsizing it and making it possible for smaller regional theaters. But this troupe does an excellent job — this is one of the best touring companies I’ve seen. Emma Stratton does an excellent job as Reno Sweeney, who has a thing for the play’s leading man, Billy Crocker, who is in love with another woman. Reno and Billy decide that they’re better off friends, and she helps him win the hand of his lady love (and gets her own romantic reward in turn). Brian Krinsky plays Billy; he’s great too. Indeed, the entire cast is really good, and the show is a lot of fun.

During the 2011 Tonys, the Broadway cast performed “Anything Goes,” a vibrant tape dancing extravaganza that is wonderfully reproduced by the touring company:

This routine was so iconic that Jonathan Groff reproduced it at Miscast:

But back to the musical, my favorite song from the show is “Easy to Love,” a beautiful love song:

It’s a great show that will be on tour at least through May 2015. I definitely recommend it.

Visiting the Wexner Center for the Arts Tuesday, Nov 18 2014 

For Veterans Day last week, PJ and I drove up to Columbus and visited the Wexner Center for the Arts, which is exhibiting “Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection.” It’s a well designed show, and we really enjoyed seeing these works. As the title suggests, the exhibit is a collection of paintings, drawing, and sculptures from the private collection owned by the Wexner family, who are major donors to the center. The artists in the exhibit are Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, and Susan Rothenberg.

C_Dhotel-500x653 I especially enjoyed seeing the work of Dubuffet (1901-1985), with whom I was previously unfamiliar. Dubuffet was born in France and, according to Wikipedia, “His idealistic approach to aesthetics embraced so called “low art” and eschewed traditional standards of beauty in favor of what he believed to be a more authentic and humanistic approach to image-making” (source).

This is an image of “Dhôtel” from the Wexner exhibit was my favorite one. It is oil paint and sand on canvas and was produced in 1947. As the Wexner website explains, “his portraits act more as caricatures, in which one or two defining features serve as the only connection to the subject. For Dubuffet’s depiction of the novelist André Dhôtel, his likeness is boiled down to exaggerated versions of the subject’s glasses, three shocks of hair, and the creases of his forehead” (source). What stands out to me about this work is its emphasis on the figure’s skull. It thus becomes a kind of memento mori, an increasing contrast between the infinite lifespan of art and the morality of the artist. I think it’s an amazing piece.

I also enjoyed seeing the work of Rothenburg (b. 1945). A major subject of her work is horses that often seem to represent power and vitality for her.

As usual, there is also a lot of educational materials in this exhibit. Those, along with the collection’s website, make this an excellent opportunity to see great art and learn about the artists who created it. I highly recommend it.

Begin Again: A Review Monday, Nov 17 2014 

On Saturday, PJ and I watched Begin Again, the latest movie by John Carney, the writer/director of Once. Keira Knightley stars as Gretta, an idealistic singer-songwriter who just wants to create art. When he boyfriend, played by Adam Levine, has an affair and unceremoniously dumps her, she’s about to go home to England when she runs into Dan Mulligan, played by Mark Ruffalo, a down-on-his-luck former record producer. They decide to make an album together. Here’s the trailer:

In many ways, like Once, this movie revolves around two things: music and a will-they-or-won’t-they-fall-in-love plot. I like the movie, even though it’s not as moving as Once, which is one of my favorite movies. But Knightley is very good, and Ruffalo is excellent.

My favorite part was the music. One song in particular stood out my favorite. As she writes her new album, Gretta gets inspired to write a break up song. She then calls her ex up and leaves it as a voicemail on his phone:

Overall, it’s a good movie, and I like Carney’s willingness to experiment with the romantic comedy.

SotW: Hard Wired by Smokey Graves Sunday, Nov 16 2014 

Smokey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia) is one of PJ’s and my favorite musicians. He came to the Nelsonville Music Festival this year, and we were determined to finally make it into the no-fi cabin to hear him. (After years of trying to year bands in there, we finally made it!) It was wonderful seeing/him perform just a few feet away from us.

His second album, And the War Came, was released a few months ago, and I love it! It’s definitely going to be one of my favorite albums of this year. My favorite track is “Hard Wired”:

And today, PJ had me watch a few videos of Smokey Graves on eTown. We both especially liked his version of “You’re the One that I Want”:

He also performed one of my other favorites from the album, “Dearly Departed,” a duet with Esmé Patterson:

I highly recommend the album and everything else he does. I wish we could see him in concert again soon!

SotW: “Handsome Man” by Matt Alber Wednesday, Oct 1 2014 

This just might be the sexiest video ever!

“Non-Love-Song”: A Review Thursday, Aug 28 2014 

If I were teaching my Lesbian and Gay Lit class this term I would show my students this 2009 short film, “Non-Love Song” written and directed by Erik Gernand

I think this short beautifully captures the experience of many young gay men: king of having an unrequited crush on your best friend and trying to let him know how you feel and who you really are while worrying about what would happen if he knew you were gay. At least that’s how I interpret the film — some viewers argue that straight guys have the same interactions. But I think the part where Josh asks what would happen if they meet up again in a few months and they’re different suggests the character’s anxiety about coming out and whether Alex will still be his friend. His defensiveness about Alex’s use of words like queer, faggoty, and gay further reflects this, I think. As does Alex’s assertion, “I know” when Josh tells him how much it bothers him. I think the emotion on the actor’s face when Josh asks, “Do you understand?” is especially poignant. 

I also like how the grittiness of the cinematography and some of the jumpy editing reflects the nervousness of the main character.  

And Alex’s line, “You won’t be different. Not to me” is just perfect. 

 

Test: A Review Wednesday, Aug 27 2014 

Recently, PJ and I watched Test, written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson and starring Scott Marlowe and Matthew Risch. Set in 1985, it tells the story of the early days of HIV testing through the eyes of Frankie, a gay modern dancer in San Francisco. Here’s the trailer: 

AIDS movies can often seem cliched and preachy. What I like most about this film is that it avoids the preachiness while still getting it’s point across. While it isn’t a perfect film — I’m not sure it entirely captures the look of the early 1980s — it is nevertheless an excellent one. It really conveys the fear and indecision that marked the early AIDS crisis and testing in an era in which testing positive was usually a death sentence. Frankie explores such questions as whether an HIV diagnosis be misused to discriminate against gay men and whether gay men should stop having sex — was it even possible to stop having sex — in order to preserve their lives. I thought the dance scenes were also quite good, and there’s a little man-on-man action to spice it up a bit. 

I really liked this film and think it could easily make it onto my top ten films of the year. I highly recommend it. 

SotW: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran Tuesday, Aug 26 2014 

This summer I’ve clearly listened to more male solo artists than I usually do. While many of these have been gay (Adam Joseph, Sam Smith, and Eli Lieb), some have also been straight. Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” is one of my favorite songs right now. Here’s a live version:

I love the sentiment and romance of this song. While the latter part are more particular to Sheeran’s experience as a musician, overall the song is universal is expressing love for that someone special. I especially like the lyric about falling in love every day. That’s definitely how I feel about PJ! 

 

SotW: “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith Monday, Aug 11 2014 

Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour has rapidly become one of my favorite albums of the year. He recently released his latest video, “I’m Not the Only One.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, and I think the video is hauntingly beautiful:

 

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