Monday, April 30, 2018

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (A Review)

I finally saw the 2016 Ghostbusters movie this weekend.  And ya know what?  I liked it.  It was fun; I laughed.

I didn't read much of the criticism (legitimate and otherwise) when it first came out, other than perusing headlines, because
  1. I hadn't seen the movie yet
  2. I didn't have any immediate plans to see the movie
  3. I try not to critique things I haven't actually read/seen/watched/experienced.
It did strike me, even before Leslie Jones' character's entrance in the film, that why does the black woman have to be the non-scientist?  If you have the opportunity to "reboot" or "do over" a film to include women and have more diversity, why go that route?  On the other hand, I realize that when pitching this project, it was probably as "a Ghostbusters film for Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kirsten Wiig, and Leslie Jones" rather than "a women-led Ghostbusters reboot."  The difference between the two is that when a project already has a star (or stars) in mind, it's written and tailored for them; rather than a project that might have open auditions with at least one goal of having a more diverse cast.

That said, I have met, known, and interacted with many women like Jones' "Patty" in all kinds of professions, everything from public transit like Patty to academia to corporate overlords, and maybe they want the representation, too.  Patty herself was one of my favorite parts of the film and had many of the best lines.

I feel like the film addressed many of its criticisms head-on directly through the script in almost meta-textual fashion, including the race/diversity issue with Jones' character.  Case in point:  the scene at the metal rock concert when Patty goes to crowdsurf like Abby does.  The crowd does not hold her up; she falls flat on her back on the hard floor.  And I winced, both at the physical impact and at the implication.
And then Patty said it for me:  "Okay, I don't know if it was a race thing or a lady thing, but I'm mad as hell."
Exactly, Patty.

And there's more.  When Abby tells Erin to read a specific comment on their first ghost video:  "Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts."  Yeah, pretty sure that could have come directly from any one of the press releases when this reboot was announced.

And, of course, when Dr. Martin Heiss shows up to the team's "office" and demands to know, in all of his white male privilege, "Why are you pretending to capture ghosts?"  As if to say, "how dare you attempt to do this thing?" which is what many of the "critics" have said all along.  And Abby and Erin both have the two reactions we tend to have to such a thing:  to prove ourselves imprudently and to attempt to not "lower ourselves" to their level.

For me, the movie as a whole shows what we women have to put up with on a daily basis, no matter our profession:  the constant questioning, how-dare-you-ing, the automatic assumption/requirement that we must prove ourselves, constantly and continually, and even then the majority of people (not just mean, though largely so) still do not believe us, give us credit, respect us in our own fields.  Every. Fucking. Day.  And, again, Abby and Erin display the two major reactions we women to have that continual questioning (neither of which are "right" or "wrong," they're just the most common).

So yeah, I liked it.  I recognized a lot of those experiences -- minus the paranormal part.  Well, mostly minus the paranormal stuff, but that's a different story.

Other things I liked (in usual Leonard bullet point style):
  • The cameos!  So much fun, even the building cameos and ghost cameos.  By the way, where was Rick Moranis?
    • And how the O.G. firehouse is super expensive rather than looking like a "de-militarized" zone.  
  • How many different ways can we not say "Ghostbusters"?  I really enjoyed the little wink and  nudge at the original movie(s) without actually saying it: from the bits with the logo, to the theme music, to managing to say "who you gonna call?" out of context.  That was cheeky and fun.
    • Really LOL'd at "Ghost Jumpers" TV show -- mostly because my Unit and I refer to one of our favorite ghost shows (that we used to watch all the time) as "Ghost Humpers."
  • In fact, lots of different "points" to the original movie without being too on the nose; example:  if they had gotten the firehouse building right off the bat, that would have been too much.  If they had also said some of the favorite, quotable lines from the first movie (in similar contexts), it wouldn't have worked.
  • I liked the fact that 1) it was not an attempt to recreate a shot-for-shot O.G. movie, simply putting in women instead of men as the lead roles.  This is its own film and should be enjoyed as such.
  • I especially appreciated the fact that not one of the female characters was attempting to be "the girl version" of Murray's, Aykroyd's, Ramis', and/or Hudson's characters.  Sure, there were nods to them:  Holtzmann's crazy hair is reminiscent not necessarily of Harold Ramis' Egon, but the Egon in the cartoon (remember that thing?), and yeah, both Patty and Zeddmore are black and non-scientists.  But that's kind of where it ends, and I like that.  These women are their own characters and not stuck to the molds the O.G. guys created.
Little Leonard watched this every Saturday morning.
  • Chris Hemsworth a.k.a "Kevin" -- that was fun.  And weird and dorky and fun.
    • Speaking of weird, some bits with Kevin show that certain type of humor that occasionally devolves into absurdist (you can see it in The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt as well, especially the first few episodes of Season 2).  There is no "why" or "reason" for many of his quirks (like the eyeglass thing!).  They simply are and there is no other tie-in to the joke or punchline; it simply is.  Thankfully in this script, they did not get too heavy-handed with that type of humor (I don't usually care for it).
I don't think I had the same visceral reactions many other women had to watching this movie, similar to some of the visceral reactions many women had seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen as well:  those reactions that brings tears to one's eyes seeing a dream made real.  But I think that has less to do with either film (I didn't have that reaction to WW myself) and more to do with the fact that Leonard is dead inside.  I also think my reactions go the route of being able to see something and enjoy it and not have the immediate reaction of "Where are all the women?" or "Why is this all straight white dudes?"  It's more an absence of my reaction/frustration with the patriarchy than a reaction to seeing women on screen.  And that's still a good thing.  (Plus also, dead inside.)

Quotable Quotes:  One of the things many of us enjoy about the first two Ghostbusters films are the things we can quote for them.  So I tried to think of what quotes stuck with me from this movie -- unfortunately, not too many right off the bat, but perhaps more will make themselves apparent on subsequent viewings.  In the meantime:

  • The power of Patty compels you!
  • Too sexy for academia?
  • Room full of nightmares right there.
  • Ma'am, can you tell us where you got the world's tiniest bow tie?
In conclusion...
I also want to dress like Holtzmann, particularly the leather jacket, the little leather fingerless gloves, the smoking jacket, and the lady-suit complete with vest.  And I'm fairly certain given enough time and hairspray, I can get my hair to look like that.  Just not blonde.  Leonard does not make a good blonde.
Tangent:  I find it interesting that they approximated the look of an undercut without actually cutting/shaving her hair, which she probably didn't want to do.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Feelin' Good

Sometimes you just have a good audition.  I mean, you feel good about it.  It's not a matter of "Yeah, I nailed it!" but a matter of feeling incredibly satisfied with whatever you did in that room for those five or ten or fifteen or twenty minutes.

I had one of those yesterday.

And the experience reminded me of a callback for a Shakespeare show I had a few years back.  Despite having a Master's degree in English, Shakespeare is not my forte; in fact, I've only done four Shakespeare shows in my 30-plus years of acting -- and that's including a high school production of Macbeth.

During that callback (for a queen!), the director asked me to use my lower register and diaphragm and really let my voice resonate in the space during the queenly monologue.

And I did.

And it. Felt. Fantastic.

Very powerful -- hearing those words ringing in my ears and bouncing off of the rafters in the room.

I didn't get cast in that show; I'm not sure I could have even done the show if I wanted to due to scheduling conflicts.  But that callback is one of the first in recent memory that I felt good about what I did, and I knew I'd continue to feel good about it, no matter the casting outcome.

I didn't necessarily think, "Oh, I'm totally getting that part!" or "I nailed it!"  But I felt immensely satisfied with what had transpired in those few minutes.

And that happened again yesterday.  It was ugly and real and raw, and I feel good about it.

That is all.  Carry on.

Obligatory cat meme

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Difference a Preposition Makes

In case you hadn't noticed, I've been on a bit of a k.d. lang kick lately.
"Kick," "small obsession," tomato, to-mah-to.

I've even taken to listening to some songs while I fall asleep.  There's nothing quite like hearing her say, "Sleep, silent angel / Go to sleep" in my ear as I do just that.

Those lyrics are from "The Air That I Breathe," and when singing along (in the car, not in bed) as I am wont to do, I realized I was singing a line wrong.  I was singing, "Making love to you / Has left me peaceful, warm, and tired."  But that's incorrect.

The actual lyric is: "Making love with you / Has left me peaceful, warm, and tired."

Just one small preposition mix-up, but it makes a world of difference in the song and when using the phrase in life.  And I was briefly stunned when I realized the difference.  To make love "to" someone makes the other person a rather passive participant in the love-making.  But making love with someone -- that's entirely different.  That's two people engaged in a (fun, wonderful) activity together.

So thank you, k.d. lang, for writing the difference.

Breaking News Update:  While finishing this post, I discovered that lang did not write this song/these lyrics.  The Hollies did in 1972.  All of the songs from her Drag CD are covers, actually.  So I guess I should be thanking The Hollies...but I think I'll stick with k.d. because see above:  "obsession."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Concert List

I mentioned earlier that I can count on one hand the concerts I've been to.  Here's the list, FYI:

  • Bangles & Mr. Mister (Nebraska State Fair, 1986)
  • GWAR (Mississippi Nights, 1996)
  • Sheryl Crow (Fabulous Fox, 1997)
  • Fast Ball, Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray (Riverport Amphitheatre, 1999)
  • Train, Matchbox 20 (Riverport Amphitheatre, 2001 -- their first concert, post 9/11).
  • Diana Krall & Chris Botti (Fabulous Fox, 2007)
  • k.d. lang (Peabody, 2018)
I've made it on to two hands now -- woohoo!

Why has Leonard gone to so few concerts?  See any of the many posts regarding anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mental health, mental illness, and/or not liking people or crowds or crowds of people.  Leonard was fairly wee at that very first concert (8 years old) and nearly got trampled, so maybe that influenced everything else down the road?

As it stands, it would have to be someone I really like to get me to a giant stadium concert.  I adore P!nk, and she was just in town, but I did not go.  It never strikes me as something that I "can" do; like, I never even entertain the possibility.

3 different times in my life I've been offered Melissa Etheridge tickets (and I would have made an exception for her!), and all three times, I had rehearsal.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Trying to write this while the memory is still fresh.  Should preface with the fact that I can probably count on one hand the number of concerts I've been to, so I don't have a lot of experience with them.

Opening Act:  The Gregoryan Brothers from Australia.  Two adorably nerdy Australian brothers playing classical guitar, which I enjoyed immensely.  Some of it I found very soothing (which is a good thing), other pieces involved drumming on the guitar which was very cool, and one piece I said to my friend, "This suddenly has a Ren Faire vibe."  After that piece, they mentioned it was a fantasy on a theme by an Elizabethan composer.
Me & Friend: "Aha!"
Me:  "Ren Faire!"
 I bought their CD in between acts, and they were in the lobby signing them, so I got that, too.  Sidenote:  this venue only had one dude working the merchandise table, all by himself!  Don't know if that was venue or Ms. lang's tour's doing, but either way, a poor decision.

The Main Gig:  Aaaahhhhhh!  Not sure I can do much more than squeal with joy.  In getting these tickets, I realized that k.d. lang was one of my first gay crushes, long before I think I even realized my own queerness.  I just remember being attracted to and fascinated by her and her androgyny.  In listening to her perform live, I wish I had been more familiar with the Ingenue album when I was coming out as there were a couple of songs that nearly had me in tears.

The Set:  Maybe this is typical for concerts, especially those in smaller, more intimate venues (not giant stadiums), but I freakin' loved this set!  My friend snapped a pic of it below.  The blue velvet curtains (which later changed color, so maybe they weren't actually blue, but lit to be blue at first), the candle-looking lights which of course changed.  Not only did I love it, but I was impressed and fascinated by the changes.  Lighting design is something I've never worked on, so my mind was whirling with questions like "Who decides when and what?  Does k.d. lang have input?  Does she make someone stand in her place on stage so she can view it from the house?"

She is performing barefoot!  *swoon*

Good lighting (and sound design) should always enhance a show, but not necessarily be noticeable.  The way this lighting design worked was subtle, but I see you, design director!  Well done, sir/madam!  We were eased into it with more basic light changes (usually those ones that look like candles inside drums), mostly to the beat of the music.  The changes and and colors and goboes increased as the show went on, then faded back out to more basic designs towards the end of the show.  lang's show isn't necessarily about set & lighting, but as a theatre nerd, I watch these things.

Back to the Main Gig:  Hot damn, girl has some amazing breath control!  She can still belt out and also croon out those long, sustained notes -- be still, my heart!  And she's funny!  Not that I doubted it, but I love a good personality, and she clearly isn't taking anything too seriously.  To quote my friend, "There's definitely a bit of 'cheesy lounge singer' in her show."
Me:  "Yes, and I LOVE IT!"

And I do.

Her band is awesome as well, and she gives them their due with solos and introductions; they've clearly worked out a comfortable arrangement, working together as one organism.

I don't really know what else to say as I don't usually go to concerts, let alone review them, except that I had a blast!  And hearing her sing "Hallelujah" (one of my all-time favorite songs) was, well, like a religious experience.  And now I need to buy ALL THE SONGS (and perhaps work some into my cabaret project).  Maybe this is a turning point for me; I may go to more concerts (in smaller venues) in the future...

Lookit that grin!  She's gonna charm the pants off ya.
k.d.lang's website

Friday, February 2, 2018

Beauty & the Beast: A Review

Well, maybe not so much a review as a collection of bullet points of things I said aloud whilst watching this movie the other night.

  • Oh hey, a multiracial cast!  Nice.
    • (Although only 2 of the main named characters were POC)
  • Ooh, I like the dancing.
    • In fact, I appreciated the attempt to give a wee bit more (pseudo)historical background in the film, except
    • The fabulous opening sequence sets us up for an over-the-top experience, nearly cartoonish without being a cartoon -- and that's not a bad thing.  The attempt to give some historical context is at odds with that; you can do one or the other filmmakers, but you can't really do both (at least not well).
  • Nice addition to the Prologue about everyone in town "forgetting" about castle and its servants; it fixes one of the major plot holes of the animated film, namely:  how the fuck do you not notice a giant creepy castle right next door?!?
  • Holy fucking Autotuning, Batman!
    • I nearly turned the movie off, but a friend said the Autotuning wasn't as bad as the film progressed.  BUT GOOD GODDAMN.
  • Oh, Bard.  I'm disappointed in you.
  • So now the bookseller is...a priest?  That's an odd choice.
    • Upon further reflection, if she's the only one in town who likes to read, then a bookseller wouldn't be able to make a living; having a person who just happens to have a wee library from which she can borrow makes a bit of sense.  But it felt weird to have a sudden injection of religion, never to be addressed.
    • And the priest gave her Romeo & Juliet to read??  Odd choice.
  • Oh Josh Gad.  You make me laugh.
  • Kevin Kline is a national treasure.
  • *Belle picks up a stick as a weapon*  Oh, girl, that's not a wand.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about Ewan McGregor with a French dialect.
  • Oh dear God!  What kind of dialect is that for Mrs. Potts??  It's sounds awful and fake!  Who the fuck did they cast?  *looks it up*  Ohhh, Emma Thompson.  What have you done?  I'm not angry, just very disappointed.
  • Wait, so the feather duster is a peacock?  Err, a peacock-shaped feather duster??  Je suis confus.
  • So if we're gonna add new songs, why not include "Home" from the Broadway version?  It's very pretty.
    • Reflection:  well, if Hermione can't handle the easy notes of the opening number, there's no way she could handle "Home."
  • They're all peacock feather dusters/showgirls?  What happened to the dancing napkins?
    • *angry sniff as I played a dancing napkin in the stage version*
  • They cut our favorite line!!!  *throws movie across the room*
    • "You've got a library?"
    • "With books!"
  • So the prince/Beast was a spoiled brat because his father abused him?
    • I found this extra background on the Beast largely unnecessary.  Why can't he just have been a spoiled douche like the 1991 film said?  Why do we have to blame parents we never meet?  It just opens up more questions and doesn't really resolve anything.
    • It does attempt to explain why the servants were cursed along with him (because they "did nothing"), but clumsily and unsatisfactorily.
  • I don't understand the reason behind changing/adding lyrics to the existing songs, especially in "Gaston."
  • Speaking of unnecessary changes/additions:  Bard and Olaf take Kevin Kline out into the woods and tie him to a tree?  And then a "hag" (but not really) saves him and he confronts them about leaving him to die and THEN they try to sentence him to an insane asylum??  Super unnecessary and it robbed Olaf of another bit of song.
    • Truly, he was underutilized in this movie.
  • I'm not sure how I feel about the Beast just happening to show Belle the library as opposed to presenting it as a gift he (well, the servants, really) know(s) she'll like.
    • I guess that's what happens when you CUT MY FAVORITE LINE!
  • The "trip to Paris"/childhood home scene also felt unnecessary.
  • YAS QUEEN!  You wear that Marie Antoinette drag!
  • A friend of mine said they enjoyed Bard's performance as Gaston, that when he needed to be dark, he got dark.
    • Disagree.  I mean, he did fine, but the animated Gaston, when he starts mocking the Beast and looks rather crazed, is far scarier, in my opinion.  Bard's Gaston is a little one-note.
  • Belle and the Beast's reuniting felt...anticlimactic?  Maybe Hermione and Cousin Matthew just didn't have any real acting chemistry together?
  • One change from the animated film that I did appreciate:  when all of the castle's staff slowly began changing to objects permanently.  That was heart-breaking and very well done.
  • Olaf and the drag guy from before (I think?) dancing together at the end.  Brief, but I appreciate it.
All in all, I like the original animated version much better.  This had some nice touches, but I feel like this movie wasn't sure what it wanted to be; it ended up trying to be two or three different things, but doing none of them well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

School for Sidekicks: A Review

School for SidekicksSchool for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is fun and a fairly easy read. It definitely could be classified as "Young Adult" lit. I liked it just fine, although there's nothing particularly outstanding to write home about. #SPOILER -- STOP READING HERE

McCullough does [eave plenty of room for a sequel or three as there is no real resolution, not to the major issue at hand. That said, there's barely a resolution to many of the smaller issues. That's not necessarily a bad thing; not everything has to be wrapped up neatly in a bow.

If you have a day to spare and like superheroes, give it a try.
A quote I highlighted (and good to know):  "for the record, fresh scabweb tastes like condensed essence of armpit."

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