Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Movie Review:THE WORK AND THE GLORY: AMERICAN ZION -- by naudy (1)

There comes a point when one realizes that :

  1. People are really just blood thirsty monkeys
  2. People, when they're afraid, make very bad decisions
  3. People, in general and specifically, suck

This was reinforced to me last night as I watched this film. You might think I'm talking about the mobs portrayed in this movie, the groups of men who felt threatened and started killing people. Or, you might think I'm talking about the First Mormon Batallion who thought it was a good idea to walk to Missouri and kick some butt. I'm not talking about any of these characters. I'm talking about the men who made this film. Bloodthirsty monkeys like to make movies about guys getting beaten up by other guys. Lots of loving shots of shirts being ripped off and naked man chest and (badly)acted agony. Filmakers, when dealing with a lousy soap-opera-y book, a pointless story, and Larry H. Miller, feel fear and make very bad decisions. (i.e. actually making this film.) And, the guys who made this movie HAVE to personally suck 'cause they wouldn't have made all the lame decisions they made if they wern't.

I went to a free showing and it wasn't worth it. The ONLY good thing was the last five minutes when I got the giggles 'cause the "sexy bad" brother ripped his shirt off, lit his house on fire, and then walked away -- well oiled -- from the blaze. It made me laugh 'cause he had so much oil on him that he looked like he had just gotten up from a massage. The rest of the time I just rolled my eyes and worked hard to not actually yell at the screen.

Terrible terrible movie.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Best of "The Muppet Show" on DVD -- by naudy

It's nice to know some things really are as good as you remember them. The Muppet Show, wholesome, full of bad puns, and featuring such guest stars as Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper, probably did more to mold and shape my personality than anything else. This weekend I watched 21 episodes of The Muppet Show and the one underlying theme is:

You don't have to be just like everyone else.

Yeah, I know, it's been said before, but the Muppets sort of live the dream. It has a lot to do with Jim Henson deciding that he could make a career by playing with hand puppets made out of his mom's old coats. Sam the Eagle ,with all his "you people are WEIRDOS" cracks, is the (slightly ridiculous) Man who told Jim he couldn't do it. Sam is also the same sort of character who sends me hate mail if I say I'm against the draft. Miss Piggy, a result of that little sexual revolution America had, is delightful because she happens to be more "human" (i.e. imperfect but still cool) than a lot of the other impossible ideals created since. It's fun to watch Animal and James Coburn together explored the concepts of aggression and meditation. I'm always delighted to cach the tail end of one of Janice's stories about her fights with her mom. Scooter is the ultimate techie, all the musicians act exactly like musicians (they're rowdy and when stuff gets bad they get out) and Statler & Waldorf make fun of the Muppets and look around to make sure everyone heard them. Gonzo, (the word itself being Boston slang term for the last man standing after a drinking contest) is the ultimate weirdo. He's unafraid to pursue his own interests, he's in love with chickens (though has has dated a cow), he takes photo essays of people's knees, and he likes being shot out of cannons. He's not even of an identifiable breed/type/race. Conveniantly, the Muppet mindset tied in perfectly with '70's culture, but it really is Jim behind everything. Kermit The Frog, like Mickey Mouse, is truly the inner self of Jim Henson.

So, it's nice to see these shows resurrected on DVD. The DVDs are put out by Time-LIFE-Whoever, and were intented to be subcribed to. So, rather than being purchased in a box set like most telvision shows, you just buy three episodes at a time. The episodes unfortunately aren't in chronological order, which is a shame. I would much prefer to watch the show and characters evolve instead of having a "themed" DVD. (Alice Cooper and Vincent Price are on the same DVD.) However, what's done is done, and it's good to see the gang again.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harsh Reality

It's official. I am now a member of the Great Unwashed. No one ever accused me of being rich, cultured, discrete, or classy, (though I staunchly maintain that people who use the word "class" don't have any), but I always managed to stay just this side of White Trash. Sure I have a White Trash Barbeque every summer, but who dosn't? Yeah I went to a monster truck rally but it was just harmless experimentation and I'll never do it again. I'm not known for being subtle or ironed or polite or any of those things which are the hallmarks of the intellectual, but I usually have a few good qualities. If there is a trivia question regarding Baroque composers, recurring leitmotivs, or theatrical costuming, I know it. Who was that red-headed guy? It's Vivaldi, the red-headed priest who taught 14 year old peasant girls how to play the violin! What's that annoying tune? Why it's Chi il bel sogno di Doretta potè indovinar, and you'll be hearing that throughout all of La Rondine to describe Magda's feelings about "sentimental love" and what it means to a kept woman! Why is she wearing that hideous dress? Simple! Her costumer hates her guts!

So, along with my specialties I know how to dress for snooty parties (black, black, some more black, and a touch of the orient), eat strange cheeses, laugh at all the right bits of literary jokes, and talk a lot of trash about art and the artist's use of color and motion. AND, on top of that, I have my ace in the hole, my secret weapon. I'm an opera singer, and currently am under contract. So there. It's heartbreaking that all of this achievement will now go utterly to waste because I have officially succumbed to the allures of the the Lowest Common Denominator. I am addicted to a reality television show.

Horrifying, isn't it? And yet I can't stop myself. I dismissed the fans of 'Survivor' for years, and openly sneered at those who watched the endless (and increasingly tacky) spin-offs on Fox. Now all the artistic educated discerning voices in my head can't be heard becase the TV is constantly tuned to Bravo and the "Fab Five" commercials are too loud. I can't be bothered finishing "The Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie or complete the intricate embroider in the lining of a replica Benjamin Franklin coat because I'm too busy watching Santiago destroy his life. Yep, I watch PROJECT RUNWAY. I love it. My buddy Christopher (also a designer) comes over and we sit on the couch rapt and motionless until the episode is over. (Or at least until the commercials start up again.)

I like to think that I enjoy this show because it stimulates my creativity. And, while it's true that I lie in bed at night planning what I would make were I facing the design challenges the contestants do, I'm not all that certain that I only watch it for the clothes. I'v a sneaking suspicion that I watch it just to see the disaster. It's like a train wreck, with hair and reputations and opinions and (in Santiago's case) feathers flying. [see above photo. A Santiago ice skating dress. Tragic. And passe.] I feel very strongly about the design but more strongly about the personalities involved. Just so you know, I now hate the editor of Elle magazine, I really like Michael Kors, Heidi Klum is... a model, and Nick is who I want to win. He might not, but I want him to win anyway. Okay, top three are Nick and Daniel and Andre. But I still like Nick best, though Daniel has a good eye....

On the plus side PROJECT RUNWAY has given me some choice catchphrases. Last night when the blonde who has been described as having "that long marshmellow body what walks like a piece of wood" said "Tonight I'm going to model really hard." It still makes me laugh.

Anyway, on Wednesday night I have opera rehearsal. I'm in the chorus of The Magic Flute, the Utah Opera production that opens in March. And then, right after, I'm rushing home to turn on Bravo and immerse myself in the tragico-comic world of high fashion and the people who make it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Movie Review: BUBBA HO-TEP -- by naudy (6)

It's been a while since I watched an "R" rated movie. I'd kind of forgotten what they're like. BUBBA HO-TEP, the movie about Elvis Prestly and how he ends up living in an east Texas nursing home fighting a soul-sucking mummy, is really kinda dirty. And it's not just the constant bad language from Elvis and his buddy JFK (on the right in the picture) it's also the crude situations and gross nursing-home humor.

But it's funny, and really a delight to see Elvis walking triumphantly down the corridors of a home all jupsuited up and swinging that walker like there's no tomorrow. Which there isn't. These guys are old and soul-sucking Egyptian mummies are pretty tough to kill.

Bruce Campbell is really great in this movie. Ossie Davis is magnificent as the old man who insists that Lindon Johnson had a bag of sand put into his brain and threw him in this nursing home to rot after that unpleasantness in Dallas. When Elvis points out that he's actually black, Jack points out that it's a perfect disguise. Cracks me up.

Also in this film, a giant bug puppet, a klepto grandma, infections in unpleasant places, a boot-wearing mummy, Elvis as a man who sees visions, one Marilyn Monroe reference, a medicine bag w/ powerful mojo, and lots and lots of karate moves.

I liked it a lot but it is definately not wholesome. But, were Elvis alive, he probably wouldn't be either.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Movie Review:THE NOMI SONG -- by naudy (7)

This film is a documentary about the life and art of Claus Nomi, a New Wave countertenor/performance artist from Germany. It's a well-done documentary about a musician who had a mind-blowing concept.

The problem is, I hate movies about musicians. If I wanted to watch yet another musician ruin his life I'd read my journals, email my all my music buddies from college, and hang out in local clubs more often. There's a strong case for the theory of zero-sum personalities. There's only so much ability in a person's soul. Those who spend most of that ability on being ridiculously talented, often seem to be short in those basic skills that make life livable (or at least normal.) Mozart could write music but he couldn't hold down a job, pay his bills, or maintain an adult relationship. Neither could Beethoven or Elvis or Michael Jackson. All the recent musician movies (RAY, WALK THE LINE) are about this tremendous dichotomy of ability in two recent superstar musicians. I'm certain they're well-made movies, too, but it always hits a little too close to home for me.

Anyway, NOMI SONG is about a man who finally becomes notorious for his excellent use of the countertenor voice. He developed this very alien/androgynous look and sound and combining that with the times meant he was famous in his East Villiage way. Eventually, after abandoning everyone he ever worked with, he became famous in Europe. Then he died of AIDS in the early 80's, completely alone.

So, it's sad. And his friends are sad that they didn't go see him when he was dying, sad that they were so afraid of the unknown disease called "Gay Cancer" that they couldn't support a friend who had abandoned them and treated them badly. Which means, Claus Nomi had good friends and shut them out to become famous. A sad end to an interesting talented glorious sad life.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I saw SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TO- MORROW. And... let's just say the chocolate buzz did not hold through for me. Angelina Jolie in a eyepatch didn't do it for me either. I will admit the computer graphics/CGI were pretty incredible. There's a couple of parts that look totally fake, but overall, it was visually believable and seamless. Now believablity with regard to the storyline is a whole other matter. They set the story in the 1940's, with their intrepretation of futuristic technology. That's all well and good, but then there's a shot of a live miniature elephant under glass. Later when they're flying and trooping through artic snow, all of a sudden they're on a island with a Garden-of-Eden-like setting, all jungle-y with dinosaurs and everything. At first I was like "what's up with this?", but then I decided I didn't even want to know.

Other than crazy plots and what-the-hell shots, it's very beautiful to watch. I liked how every actor had their own personal lighting. That was fun. What was not fun was watching the horrible non-chemistry between Gwynth and Jude Law. Her antagonism seemed kinda personal, all her bitching and sniping. Hmm... I wonder. Was it personal? Was Gwyn somehow angry about Jude's relationship with his nanny?

Really, there's no way to know. But since my eyeballs have already been scarred, I think I'll check out some more tacky movies.

Friday, January 13, 2006

"La Rondine" at the Utah Opera -- by naudy (8)

This rarely performed work by Puccinni is a charming bit of theater. Set in 1860's Paris, it tells the story of a glamorous courtesan Magda and how sentimental love changes her world. It happens to be in sung in Italian (because it was written by Italians) so the name of the opera (which means "the swallow") is pronounced ron-dee-nay. Just so you know. Also, no one dies, so that's a pleasant change.

I wasn't familiar with this opera and didn't expect to like it as much as I did. However, it is Puccinni so I should have known better. The aria Chi il bel sogno di Doretta surprised me because I found I am familiar with it (though I don't know how.) It's a beautiful song. This aria is one of the underlying harmonic themes throughout the opera. The tune itself is introduced in the beginning of the first act by the poet-parasite Prunier. It's his new song about a character he's invented named Doretta. Doretta is smitten by the fashionable and new "sentimental love". Prunier's song is a story about a king proposing to Doretta. Doretta rejects the king because she dosn't love him and his money can't buy her happiness. Prunier then stops singing because he hasn't finished writing the end of the song. Our heroine Magda then takes up the song. She finishes it by singing about how a young student one day kisses Doretta so passionately that she now knows what passion is. Magda and the other guests at her house are all very touched by her understanding and appreciation of this ideal love but her boyfriend (a.k.a. the guy who paid for the house) tells everyone it's all nonsense and then gives Magda a phenominally expensive necklace.

And there we have the point of the whole opera, this conflict between pure sentimental love and the baser, more economic affection that rules Magda's life. Eventually Magda argues with her patron and runs away with a poor student to live by the sea in blissful delicious love. And, eventually, things don't work out. (It is, after all, an opera.) Throughout the entire opera the tune from Chi il bel sogno di Doretta return, wafting through and around the characters, changing each time to communicate what this ideal of passionate love really means to Magda and how ideals don't always live up to reality.

It's a beautiful piece of work. As for the Utah Opera's production, the lighting and sets are wonderful, the costumes are charming and the director stages it in a very honest believable way. The cast is solid and the chorus is fun in the cafe scene. The dancers are a little weak but, hey, no show can be perfect.

La Rondine is opens this Saturday and runs through January 22nd. The running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. Tickets for the Monday and Wednesday performances are 50% off so if you've got an extra $5 lying around, this is definately the show to go see.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

TG Barbie's Very Bad Horrible No Good Day + movie review.

This past week hasn't been a good one. Monday I was extremely tired, cranky, going thru the " first day on the diet" sugar withdrawals and about 3 minutes away from snarling "piss off" to the office manager.

Since I want my job, I decided to leave work early and confine myself to the house watching movies and eating all the stashed leftover christmas candy. I saw Debra Messing's THE WEDDING DATE. This is a really cute movie. Pretty predictable but still enjoyable. A nice "feel good" sort of movie. I felt so much better after watching this and the next movie SKY HIGH. While difting along on my Disney/cheesy movie/chocolate bar buzz, I put in ENVY, that movie with Jack Black. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad move on my part, and totally bad movie. I couldn't even watch this movie in fastforward. Just gaggy. Definately a buzz killer.

So, to get the happy feeling back, I saw CHER'S FAREWELL TOUR on DVD. This was just fabulous. I even picked out a new outfit to wear disco dancing. (Those fur vests Sonny used to wear are "in" now, ya know.) Since I'm still feeling great, I think I'll watch SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW tonight. (Though that might just be the chocolate talking, I'll get back to ya)

In summary, THE WEDDING DATE is cheesy enough to keep me from going postal and with enough chocolate, I can almost sit through anything. Overall, it's better than Prozac.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Shake Rattle 'N' Roll Monster Truck Challenge 2006

It has been one of my lifelong dreams to go to a monster truck rally. It all started with a commercial (as most things do, right?), a commercial I often saw on late night television. The Singles Connection 60 second ad was one of the worst pieces of advertising I have ever seen. It included a lot of stock footage of restraunts and Hawaii but also an overweight grumpy-looking couple walking on a polluted beach during a hurricane. “Call Now!” it would say, “Make a connection to last a lifetime!” This delightful commercial would then show a quick sequence of events. First you would see a shot of Las Vegas from on top of the Stratosphere (one of the tackiest places in Vegas). Then a shot of hula girls dancing (a shot they might have stolen from the DVD “Tahitian Treasures”) followed by a championship bull rider (Go NFR!), an image of a monster truck demolishing several cars, and a final picture of a wedding couple kissing in front of a temple.

By this point I was usually hysterical. “Monster Trucks!!” I would yell. “Of course! That’s it! I haven’t been to enough truck rallys!! Now I know!!! That’s the secret to a serious relationship! Monster Trucks!!!” I would then wipe the tears from my eyes and sit there muttering “monster trucks” to myself for the next couple of hours.

Naturally, I told everyone I knew about this pinnacle of advertising. And I told everyone who was single that obviously monster trucks have some mysterious connection to temple marriages. For some reason, no one believed me, which naturally meant I needed to be louder and declare that I would marry the man who took me to a monster truck show.

I got over that. However when a monster truck show came to Salt Lake I decided that I would take my nephew as he specifically told me he likes monster trucks. He mentioned this to me as I was asking my nieces if they would like to go to a U of U volleyball game. The girls were telling me who would like what (Aimee = volleyball, Katie = soccer or baseball, Jamie = gymnastics) when Matthew (aged 5) leaned over the seat and yelled “ I LIKE MONSTER TRUCKS.” So, Matthew got to go.

As I sat in the E Center choking on fumes and hoping the hearing loss wouldn’t be permanent, I realized that monster trucks are a lot like sumo wrestlers. They’re big, there’s a lot of build up, and then it’s over. Thankfully the show had a lot more stuff in it, local trucks competing for speed, minicars, guys on motorcycles doing tricks. And the monster trucks themselves were really loud and really flashy. But, I, like my nephew, was ready to go after two hours. We checked monster trucks off our list of things to do before we die and then went home to watch television. There were some good commercials on.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Harold and Maude

I knew that this was a favorite of Maddy's and others have recommended

it so I finally sort of broke down and saw the thing. The assumption I make about a movie with a title of two names, one male and the other female is that it is some kind of romance love-story chick-flick. Though this movie had its love story it was not the sort of sappy melodrama I expected. The romantic aspect of it was more creepy than anything because the age difference between Harold and Maude was somewhere between 60 and 65 years. I agree with the priest in the film in being appalled at the notion of "mingling flesh with the wrinkled skin, sagging breasts, and flabby buttox." The eighty-year-old Maude makes an interresting game of corrupting the young Harold by introducing him to all kinds of human vice in the name of trying out new things and experiencing life. Was this thing made in the 60s? Not sure. Normally, I'm all about corrupting the young out of a sense of fun but Maude takes it to a point I might talk about but never actually do.

Otherwise the movie is pretty funny, particularly Harold's interactions with his mother and the girls she tries to set him up with. Out of 10 I give it a round 7.8312 stars. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Firefly" on DVD -- by naudy

As some of you might have noticed, I am a little obsessed with the movie SERENITY. It was definately one of the best things I got for Christmas this year. Well, "Firefly" is the Fox show that SERENITY was based on. The series was cancelled after 14 episodes and all of the 16 shows that were made were released last year on DVD. Those DVD's have been on the Amazon Top Ten list for almost a year now, a considerable achievement for a show that was never watched and subsequently cancelled.

Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I watched the first three episodes of "Firefly" last night. Last night I also managed to wake myself up from nightmares four separate times. When they advertising guys say "Western In Space!" they don't mean Gene Autry/Singing Cowboy western in space, they mean Clint Eastwood/Bloodbath western in space. I'v seen the movie, I know what Reevers are, and I was still scared to death.

Which isn't to say the show's not good. It's just scary. My co-worker suggested I perhaps only watch one show a day, in order for my system to have a chance to process everything. I don't deal with scary stuff very well or very quickly so I think that's good advice - for me. Everyone else will probably be just fine and laugh a good laugh at my squeamish tendencies.

So, enjoy "Firefly", which is MUCH more "Western" than the movie and chock full of scary adventure. Let me know how it goes as I won't finish watching all 16 for another couple of weeks.