Monday, December 31, 2007

Here's to 2008

It's New Year's Eve. My daughter is out with friends. She leaves early tomorrow morning to return to Boston. Fred and Ginger are dancing cheek to cheek. My cat is on my lap. My wine is within reach. Considering the year I've had, it's practically perfect.

I've been thinking about this all day and decided that I won't do resolutions. I haven't done resolutions for many years - not really. It's just another chance for me to fail myself. So this year, I thought I'd give serious thought to what I'd like my life to look like in a year. And maybe that will help me focus on what is really important and let go of all the other stuff.

So, a year from now, this is what I'd like to be different from tonight. I should like to be more kind to myself, more forgiving. I should like to worry less about my body and my diet and feel like I've made changes that are healthy and life long. I shouldn't mind being alone, but I'd prefer a small gathering of friends. If I'm watching Fred and Ginger, I should like to be cheek to cheek with someone who very much wants to be cheek to cheek with me. I should like to know that I wasn't living a half-life, filled with fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of looking like a fool. I should like to feel that my own personal economic future was secure, as well as that of my country. I should like to know that all my family is safe and sound with their loved ones and no one is overseas serving in a war that never should have happened. I should like to see my daughter happy, even happier than she is now. I should like to know that she is content with her path and feels confident in her future.

Most of all, I should like to believe that 2008 was the best year yet, and that many more happy years are ahead of me. I should like to be kind. Very kind. To myself and to everyone I love.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Raindrop Review - ENCHANTED

ENCHANTED (Kevin Lima, 2007) is enchanting. A Disney movie that makes fun of Disney movies while being a perfect Disney movie.

Amy Adams is Princess Giselle and James Marsden is her Prince. Or is he? On their wedding day, one day after they meet, the Prince's evil stepmom lures Giselle to a wishing well and pushes her in. The well is a portal between the animated kingdom Andalasia and New York City. Giselle rises up out of a man hole into New York traffic. (A moment worth the price of admission) And quickly is lost in this world of reality. Rescued by Patrick Dempsey, Giselle proceeds to turn his world upside down with her innocence and unwavering belief in True Love.
Excellent performances all around. Everyone must have had a marvelous time - especially Susan Sarandon as the evil queen. (That's the costume I want for next Halloween!) Timothy Spall is a wonderful second banana to the queen. Idina Menzel, as the spurned love of Dempsey's Robert, was supposed to have a song - I wish that she had. I love her voice. But the sweet songs by Alan Menken (the king of Disney songs) and Stephen Schwartz (the king of B'dway's Wicked) are perfect for the film.

Can True Love survive in New York? Well this is a Disney movie, so of course it does. But the fun along the way is not to be missed. A fully staged musical number in Central Park? Why not. Isn't everyone's life like this when they fall in love?

Perfect for hopeless romantics, like your's truly. Perfect for would be princesses of 8-12 years. They get a little cynical after that. Perfect for anyone who dreamed life could be a musical. Perfect for you, if you ever believed, if you still believe, in True Love's Kiss. Do you believe?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Raindrop Review: SWEENEY TODD

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd
He served a dark and an angry God.

Tim Burton's vision of Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece is dark and angry. Johnny Depp is brooding, empty, fueled by revenge. Helena Bonham Carter is surprisingly (to me) wonderful as Mrs. Lovett. And I am completely in love with this film.

Now, you must understand that I wanted to love this film. Sweeney Todd is one of my very favorite musicals and Sondheim is a god as far as I'm concerned. His skill of sculpting beauty out of rhyme and his gorgeous melodies have always captured my ear and my heart. And Sweeney Todd is his finest work, imho. The sweetest songs come out of the vilest beings from "Not While I'm Around" to "Pretty Women". (on a side note...I can die happy. Alan Rickman and Johnny Depp singing Pretty Women made me so very happy....) The lyrics are clever and poetic. And the music drives us forward to the inevitable, bloody, sad, ending.

Now to the movie itself. From the first blast of the organ and bloody raindrops falling on a cartoon London to the last pool of blood, the film is bloody. But it should be bloody. This is a bloody tale of revenge and lost innocence and lies and pain. Yet it is remarkably funny. Black humor to be sure. And no one but Tim Burton could adapt this musical so well. He has used all his skill as a director to visually move the story along. And it everything serves the music, which it should. While the vocal chorus is absent from the film, the music is still there, driving us from moment to moment.

Performances are top notch. Depp, Bonham Carter, and Rickman are all perfect in tone and style. Timothy Spall is perfectly awful as the Beedle. Sasha Baron Cohen is wonderful comic relief. And newcomers Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower are lovely and hopeful as the young lovers. Wisener has the voice and face of an angel and it is easy to believe in loving her at first sight. Sweet little Ed Sanders handles my favorite song, Not While I'm Around, with wonderful voice and great maturity.

Ahead there be spoilers....

There were things I missed from the stage production. I wished there were more of the interplay between Lucy(the beggar woman) and Sweeney. Gives that final "Don't I know you?" a bit more punch. The staging where you can see Sweeney killing the Beedle above and know that Toby is about to get a nasty awakening in the cellar doesn't work quite as well for me. And I do miss the chorus - at least some of the song could have been included...perhaps at the opening or at over the credits. But these are minor points. I loved it. One of my favorite movies this year, to be sure. And a favorite for a long, long time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Poetry Corner - Global Warming

For Winter Solstice

Global Warming - written Dec. 2006


The iceberg thaws. Floes of frozen matter,

Large and small,

Break off and enter the vast ocean.

The waters rise. Salty oceans are cooled.

The heat expands the air above,

And the planet is shaken.

This passionate fury

Of tempest and turbulence

Brings down upon us

Great suffering and pain.

Homes are broken and lives are lost,

And we wander without purpose,

Seeking Moses in the rushes,

Seeking answers in the questions,

Seeking light in the dark.

The Planet howls its' fury

Left too long ignored; her needs unmet -

So much given and so little asked.

Yet we wander on oblivious to the change that comes unbidden.

We stay the course. We refuse to see.

"We cannot change," we cry.

"This is the only way."

Change – and challenge –

Choose possibility.

Say yes.

Accept the grief and loss.

Ride out the storm that shook our core.

And let the thaw be not in vain.

Let every heart.

Prepare a room.

For possibility.

KC McAuley

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On a Desert Island

Every so often someone will ask me that question. If you were on a desert island what book would you take, what movie would you save, what music would you want? As if somehow these answers will define me once and for all. But it's a good exercise and I enjoy seeing where I am at this particular point in time. My movie hasn't changed for many many years. Children of Paradise - Les Enfant Du Paradis. I love this movie for so many reasons. Its history, its artistry, its story all appeal to the deepest romantic in me. Book - has to be the works of William Shakespeare. That will come as no surprise to those who know me.

Music is much more difficult for me. The recent request told me I had to limit my list to 10-15 pieces - just enough to fit on a CD.

There are some pieces of music that I simply adore and would have to have on my desert isle...

Rhapsody in Blue - G. Gershwin - Oscar Levant
Lacrimosa - Mozart's Requiem Mass
Violin Concerto in D - Beethoven - So many interpretations - but I think I'd prefer Pinkas Zucherman
They Can't Take That Away From Me - Gershwin again - but sung by Fred Astaire
Fields of Gold - Sting - but I'd want Eva Cassidy's version
San Diego Serenade - Tom Waits
Song About the Midway - Bonnie Raitt
Yesterday - The Beatles
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Leaving/Wee Small Hours - Kurt Elling
If I Had A Boat - Lyle Lovett
Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughn
Don't Smoke in Bed - Nina Simone
Trouble....from Music Man with the inimitable Robert Preston
Not While I'm Around - Sondheim - by Babs

I was the first to respond to this question and as other people began to answer I found myself realizing the gaps in my list. No Dylan. No Stones. No Porter or Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe. So today I expand a bit.

My 10 MUSICAL cuts (Broadway and movie - which is painful enough.)

Night and Day - Cole Porter - The Gay Divorcee
Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Cole Porter - Kiss Me, Kate
What I Did For Love - Marvin Hamlish - A Chorus Line
If I Loved You - Rogers and Hammerstein - Carousel
Dancing in the Dark - Schwartz and Dietz - The Bandwagon
I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face - Lerner and Loewe - My Fair Lady
Finishing the Hat - Sondheim - Sunday in the Park with George
I'm Not that Girl - Stephen Schwartz - Wicked
Singin' in the Rain - Freed and Brown - Singin' in the Rain
They Can't Take That Away From Me - Gershwin and Gershwin - The Barkleys of Broadway

Top 10 Classical Pieces

All of the Requiem Mass - not just Lacrimosa - Mozart
Violin Concerto in D - Beethoven (Pincas Zucherman)
Goldberg Variations - Bach (Glenn Gould)
Concierto de Aranjuez - Rodrigo (Christopher Parkening)
Symphony No. 2 in C Minor - Mahler - especially the final two movements
Sonata No. 3 for Cello & Piano - J. S. Bach
Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor - Chopin
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 - Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 ("Moonlight") - Beeethoven
Piano Concerto in E Flat - Mozart

That's enough for today. I can't even start with popular music. I'd have to do 10 jazz, 10 rock, 10 blues, and on and on....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Present(s)

Be here now.
Feel the force.
Let your light shine.
You had the power all along.
Click your heals three times....

I was watching the new SciFi miniseries TinMan - which wasn't too bad actually. I like Zooey Deschanel and the story was a nice twist on the OZ tale. And I started thinking about Joseph Campbell and the Hero's journey and all the times in my life that I've tried to be present to what is happening in my life and not worry about what it might mean or that it might all go away. Because it always does. That's what makes friends so precious and memories so treasured. Because we only have those moments and those friends and those precious connections for a heartbeat.

It's been a year where I have had to let go of people. But mostly it's been a year where I have had to let go of me. A year where I have had to learn to be more gentle with myself - as gentle as I am with others. And where I have had to find the courage to be me, no matter what the cost.

I've realized much. I've learned much. And I've been greatly blessed, because I took a chance. And I found the courage to risk. Now I have to find the courage to forgive myself and be gentle where my aims have fallen short.

I've been so busy TRYING to be present, that I haven't been present. So busy TRYING to be safe, that I was not safe. So busy TRYING - that I have not Been. So it's time to realize...

That the power was inside me all the time.
It's time to let my light shine and stop worrying about it being seen.
I have a brain, a heart, a home and the nerve....

To be here now.

To be present and to be a present.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Raindrop Review - ONCE

6/20/07

Once in awhile a movie comes along with that
Once upon a time feeling of something that happens, if you're lucky,
Once in a lifetime.

Such a movie is ONCE. Frames singer Glen Hansard is 'guy' - a vacuum repairman who spends his spare time playing his guitar on the streets of Dublin. During the day he sings what people want to hear, but when the night comes and no one is around, he sings his own song. Well, no one but 'gal', Markéta Irglová, who is enchanting, beautiful, wonderful and heartbreaking. She spends her days selling flowers and magazines on the streets - but she listens to his song. The two quickly form a bond, perhaps recognizing the sense of aloneness that can so easily be hidden in this world.

The music is perfect, flowing out of the hearts of the characters. Who hasn't felt like a Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy - at least once in their life? The un-produced feel to the songs and video lend a sense of voyeurism. We are peeking into these lives, learning just what they are willing to show us. There's are no big dramatic moments - no climactic scenes - no grand declarations. There is a guy and gal and their willingness to find each other, to see each other, to hear each other, to love each other - once.

I hesitate to say anymore. There's a fragility to ONCE that asks for an open heart, a listening ear, a willing spirit. Do yourself a favor and surrender to this gentle film. I'm going to see it more than once. And I already bought the soundtrack....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Working for a Life

I just finished watching an episode of LIFE and toward the end of it, something happened which got me very excited. No it wasn't the cute blond trapping Damien Lewis in the elevator and kissing him. Although I have to admit that I'd be tempted to do the same if I were in an elevator with Damien Lewis. It was the introduction of a new character and it would appear that the actor playing this new character will be none other than Titus Welliver - which for me means the appearance of another DEADWOOD alum.

One of the main characters on LIFE is played by Robin Weigert (Calamity Jane) and a recent episode featured Garrett Dillahunt (Jack McCall/Francis Wolcott). And it isn't only TV. A group of friends who discuss DEADWOOD at length - among other TV shows - took to spotting actors from DEADWOOD in other shows and movies shortly after the end of the series - premature as it was. And these actors turn up all the time. Some, like Dillahunt and Dayton Callie (Charlie Utter) and our dear friend Jim Beaver (Whitney Ellsworth) work all the time. But even the central actors Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, John Hawkes appear to be working steadily in an industry known for hot today and not tomorrow.

So what does this constant appearance of DEADWOOD alum say to me? Two things. One - The work done on DEADWOOD was of a consistent high quality and highly respected in the industry itself. People who know want to work with these people. Two - these are are WORKING actors. They show up and they do their work. It shows in everything they do. Go find their work before DEADWOOD and you'll see consistent good work. And they have NOT become prima donnas since their success on DEADWOOD. They show up. And they do the work.

In a world where people don't always show up and especially where they don't always do their work, it's good to know that good, hard work still gets rewarded. So show up. And be prepared to work for a LIFE.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Who's On The Line

I love writers!

Where have all the writers gone?

Of course, they're on strike. I know that. You know that. But have you really thought about what's at stake here? Since I fancy myself something of a writer and since I'm using this blog here to hone my skills - I thought I'd add my own humble opinion about writers here.

Writers are my salvation. I turn to Shakespeare, Yeats, King James and even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert when I'm looking for the answer. At least once a day, a Seinfeld-ism pops into my day - from "it's in the vault" to "SALSA" to "master of my domain" And at the end of a long week, nothing soothes my soul like a new movie or TV show.

It's easy to fill the gap that the writer's strike has facilitated. I have plenty of backlog in my TiVo, a never ending list of movies to see, and boxes of videos and dvds to rewatch. I'm sure you are much the same. But I can see the horizon where I will have watched all there is of interest to me and my life will be much less rich because of it.

There are plenty of places where you can send a message to the management - Viacom, NBC, etc. - Let them know that WE know who really owns the intellectual property. Don't let the writers go.