Thursday, December 28, 2006

Performance: Wicked

I do my best to keep my promises and I promised Luna that I would take her to see Wicked once upon a time. So to fulfill my end of the bargain, we went to see it. Simple enough.

This incarnation featured Saturday Night Live alumna Ana Gasteyer in the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and Kate Reinders as Glinda the Good Witch. I must say that Ms. Reinders does a a great kristin Chenowith impression, the wonderful performer who originated the role on Broadway. At points its honestly scary how much she mimics her mannerisms and performance style. I never got tired of it though. Gasteyer was especially strong in the comedic elements of the show. Her wit and acidic sarcasm were on display this eve and she used them to her advantage.

Enjoyable show. Not much more to say I guess.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Moving Pictures: The Holiday

Being a good only son, Mom and I have our movie dates from time to time. And the holiday season is so overloaded with movie choices that it is not difficult to find a suitable one that we would both enjoy. Since every black person in Brooklyn was losing their mind over Dreamgirls we avoided it to go see The Holiday.

Now when I saw the trailer for the movie, I immediately tagged it a date movie I could tolerate. Why? Well, it had Kate Winslet, who I gain more appreciation of with each movie I see with her. Also Cameron Diaz, who I've liked all the way back to The Mask. But if even they were not in it, the inclusion of Jack Black was the dealmaker. The man is just funny and I haven't seen him ever take away from a movie. Matter of fact, Jack Black is often the only reason to watch a movie (Orange County, Saving Silverman). But of course when the one person I would have gone on a date with to see the movie already saw it, it freed me up.

So two women depressed with their circumstances trade houses for the Christmas holiday. Winslet comes to the L.A. movie executive's house as Diaz moves to the journalist's cozy English cottage. Along the way, they spark up unexpected romances as they try to get over their old ones. Diaz with Law, the journalist's brother and Winslet with Black, a friend of movie exec's ex-boyfriend. Cuteness & flirtation ensues and everyone ends up happy in the end. But then again it's Christmas and New Year's. Who wouldn't be happy?

So that's the gist. Wonderful performances all around, although Ms. Diaz kind of weighs things down a little. Something this movie opened my eyes to a little more was the idea of chemistry. The opening scene for Diaz has her kicking out her boyfriend played by Edward Burns. But there is absolutely no chemistry and Diaz is trying so hard that you really ending up being super annoyed with her. It's something she has to overcome for the rest of the movie. Thankfully her partner for the rest o her. But for a while it wasn't looking good. Jack Black, in his few scenes, manages to be quite the charmer and plays the sensitive, lovable guy quite well.

So if you are a guy and your lady would like to watch the movie, don't roll your eyes too hard. It's tolerable. And just wait for Jack Black.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Movie: Apocalypto

Man movie times are a interesting beast. And because of it I saw this movie I barely even knew existed. Lots of resistance off the bat.

1) Mel Gibson was prominently involved. For some reason I just feel he feels himself a little too much.

2) The whole thing was done in the ancient dialect of the native Mayans so that meant I had to read. This is not usually a problem but at midnight on Christmas, English would have been appreciated.

3) Plus I didn't know the plot going in. Few want to see a movie not knowing what it's about.

Groupthink wins out over everything though.

So it's a bout 16th century native tribe presumably in Central or South America. The rain forest is being overtaken by another scivilization capturing people to be human sacrifices to end their drought. It follows the journey of Jaguar Paw (that is his real name) on his escape from the captors and back to save his family.

It was fast paced. Funny at points. Actually a decent movie. There is no need for regret if you never see it. It wasn't some amazing achievement in filmmaking either. It just seems like an exercise Gibson did to prove he could and yay for him he did. Now when is the Good Shepherd playing?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Notes: Handel's Messiah - A Soulful Celebration

My mom used to manage a pianist who did lots of work with Afrocentric twists on classical tunes. So he was commissioned to work on this little project which was an African-American take on one of the most performed classical pieces in the world.

Now I usually break it out around the holidays and even though it must be like 15 years by now it still amazes me that such an endeavor was undertaken. And even more, it was executed so wonderfully. From the start, the African-American musical aesthetic is emphasized. The overture is a minor history lesson that travels trhough the evolution of Black music in America from spirituals to house music. Most of the songs take on the style prevalent in the late 80'sand early 90s which was contemporary R & B, I guess what would be termed today as adult. But there is young Busta Rhymes (now 5 Percenter) rapping on "Glory to God" and a reggae version of "And The Glory of the Lord". Jazz also comes through in the form of the Yellowjackets and Al Jarreau, who won a Grammy for his work on the album.

So this album is great for a multitude of reasons. There's a versatility and diversity displayed on the album but it never seems too scattered or entropic. Furthermore, it just makes you proud at seeing how much Blacks have contributed to the musical landscape. If they ever do it again they need to include some rock though. And blues wouldn't hurt either. Those are ours too.

Notes: Mozart's Requiem

When I first joined my choir in college, Mozart's Requiem was the first major work that we did. I soaked in all the history our director tried to impart to us about the significance of the work and all the many elements that occurred in the music. Initially I was just worried about learning the incredibly difficult music.

So today as I walked and needed release from a disappointing chain of events, the new iPod was dispatched to the Requiem playlist. It's hard to explain why, but the Requiem just hits a place in my soul. Maybe it's the intricacy that is necessary to sing it correctly as it swoops from gentle dolce suono all the way to sweeping power. Maybe it's the dichotomy of complexity and simplicity that is characteristic of all the separate parts working in concert together. It just moves me.

Mozart accomplishes so much in one work. There's a haunting sweetness in the Lacrymosa only moments after he has bowled you over with the rushed energy of Dies Irae. I am too ignorant over the many elements of the work that I am sure countless papers have touched upon. Lisstening to it made me sad that so many are just ignorant to its true beauty just cause they don't understand the words or it doesn't make them dance. Such is life.