OK, this is gonna be the longest post ever, so lots of cuts. First of all, though, yay! I'm on spring break! It's totally lame and short and I'm going back Sunday afternoon, but still! Yay!
I hysterically texted la_belle_ange with "HFS DRUMS & HAIR & PERM. TOP 10 OMG" (or something like that) as soon as it was over, and it's true. Josh has managed to secure himself a spot in my permanent top-ten lovahs-list, because OH MY FREAKING GOD ON A POGO STICK. He's amazing live -- every bit as good as in the studio, and he's ridiculously cute and hilarious -- he was chatting with the audience and being adorable:
Screaming Girl In the Audience: *shrieks something unintelligible*
Josh: "I have a seven-year-old who" what?
Screaming Girl In the Audience: *something else unintelligible*
Josh: Oh, well... *waves goofily* Hi, seven-year-old! Wherever you are! Thanks for coming! *starts playing the "Mr. Rogers" theme song* "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood"...this song was brought to you by the color GREEN! "It's a beautiful green day in the neighborhood..."
Audience: *L's their A's O*
Josh: No, OK, I won't -- well, hey, you're crazy and I'm caffeinated. Let's go there! *plays it again*
I love funny guys. He kept saying that the Garden was, like, the best place ever and he was so excited to play there for a second time. And he came out into the audience (like, IN the audience) during "In Her Eyes" and people were FREAKING out. (My seat was atrocious, and I screamed "CHEAP SEATS NEED LOVE TOO, BABY," but I don't think he heard me.) Angelique Kidjo opened for him, and she was really fun. She came out with Josh later and tried to teach him how to dance, which ws HILARIOUS. And I'm kind of insanely in love with his violinist, Lucia Micarelli -- I've NEVER seen anyone play like that in my life. It's not just that she was good, she was, like, INSANE. You know how musicians sort of get their own rhythm and get really into it and sometimes kind of look like they're going to kill you? Like that, and AWESOME. He gave her props, like, three times, and did this little "Ahhhh! *angelic choir sound with bowing worship-yness thing*" that was adorable. And Ladysmith Black Mambazo showed up (which, yeah, always makes me think of Mean Girls), and I really like their sound.
(And he did this little thing right after "So She Dances" about how when he first heard the song, he thought it was funny: "I just sort of pictured, like, this guy in a theatre with a moustache watching a ballet: 'So...she dances.'" Y'kinda had to be there. But it was really good.)
And he basically did all of my favorites: "Alla Luce Del Sole," "Remember When It Rained," "Machine," "February Song" and "You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)" -- he opened with that one, but he did the first few lines from under the stage and we were screaming like "WHERE IS HE??? WHERRRRE?" and then he came out from a rising trapdoor thingy and we were like AAHHHHHH OMG. It was really really really good.
Oh, and yeah, during one of the last songs he just sort of jumped on the drums, and OMG, WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME. I knew he sort of played them, but SHIT, THAT WAS AWESOME. I...I...yeah, OK, I kind of freaked out and there aren't really words because MY GOD. Yeah. I'm going to go calm down now.
I took some vids on my little camera thing -- I'll try and YouTube them and post 'em here if I can. The quality's pretty bad, although the sound's good.
And now for the movie-review extravaganza. This took SO LONG, you guys. (Don't you love how I'm, like, assuming you've all been waiting with baited breath?) No spoilers, although possible spoilers in comments:
Penélope Cruz brings her strongest performance yet in this strange tale about families, secrecy and redemption. She takes a risk in playing Raimunda all over the place, as both sensible and impulsive, as calm and unraveled, and it manages to pay off as the viewer comes to believe her despite the increasingly unbelievable circumstances. There is a particularly moving scene where Raimunda sings a song taught to her by her mother -- the hackneyed voice-over job is easy overshadowed by Cruz's passion. The movie blends supernatural and reality to the point where one doesn't quite know where things stand, and has to work to catch up with it as the action plows ahead. Still, stand-out performances pull the plot back together and keep things moving along satisfactorily.
Notes on a Scandal
Most critics have lauded Judi Dench's alarming, madcap performance as Barbara, a scheming, amoral schoolteacher who manipulates everyone around her to achieve her own ends. The most remarkable thing about her, though, is how frightfully sane she is the entire time. She keeps her performance on the very edge; you wait for her to cross the line into senseless madness, but she never does. Everything she does is carefully designed and freakishly logical. Cate Blanchett brings an equally impressive performance, her delicate naivete playing off Dench's treachery and playing right into her hands. There are no wild surprises in the plot -- indeed, the viewer can do nothing but watch people's lives are destroyed in a style worthy of a Greek tragedy.
Guillermo Del Toro's elegant dark fairy tale apparently received 22 minutes of applause at Cannes, and it's understandable. His story is a unique, bittersweet tale of a child's imagination as the only light in a dark time. Ofelia creates a beautiful and frightening world to escape to as she struggles to understand what is happening in her own life, as her cruel stepfather grows more dangerous and her mother grows weaker. Maribel Verdú is wonderful as Mercedes, cook in Ofelia's household and her brave surrogate mother. The film allows itself to be both excessively brutal and beautiful, leaving the viewer not knowing what to expect at every turn. Some of the longer scenes involving the rebels could have been trimmed a bit; most viewers will long to get back to Ofelia's story and the tasks she is meant to accomplish. Still, the themes balance out, and skillful direction leads to a memorable classic. Javier Navarrate's haunting score (totally ripped off at the Oscars) also cannot be missed.
Children Of Men
Films adapted from books appear to be split into two categories -- those that cut out minor plotlines and characters for which there simply isn't time, and those that attempt to include everything, just in smaller amounts. This film decided on the latter approach, and it often throws things into vague disarray. Clive Owen brings an excellent performance, especially in his scenes with the always-welcome Michael Caine, but they are not allowed more than a few brief scenes together. The film teases with their relationship (as well as that of Owen and Julianne Moore), piqueing (?) the viewer's interest and then bounding on to the next thing. The supporting cast is strong, including newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey as the brash, brave Kee and Chiwetel Ejiofor as conflicted renegade Luke. Visually, the film is quite unique and fairly impressive, painting a bleak, detailed dystopian landscape of the 2020s. Viewers and critics alike appear to be split over the film's final scenes; although it's hard to say that anything else would have felt reasonable. One can only hope the DVD's deleted scenes will help to tie up the many loose ends.
The Last King of Scotland
Nothing more needs be said about Forest Whitaker's shocking performance as Idi Amin -- except, perhaps, that one of the film's most interesting techniques is the way the viewer is seduced by him, just as his countrymen were. In the beginning, the viewer is intrigued and lightly entertained by his eccentricities, almost unsure if he is serious. The audience's nervous amusement is reflected expertly by James McAvoy's young Dr. Garrigan, who is surprised to find himself so close to the leader so quickly, but seems content with his place, for a time. As the film progresses, though, Amin's light-switch moodiness and impulsiveness become less and less funny, culminating in a few of the most horrifying scenes put to film in recently memory as he shows his mercilessness even to those closest to him. It is over-the-top, and yet believable. The film carefully drops hints and symbols to clue the viewer in; there are a handful of moments that feel somewhat unnecessary and distracting, especially in the midst of such careful directing. Still, the strong, complementary performances between Whitaker and McAvoy, much like those of Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal, make the film.
[NOTE: I ♥ James and I want to smooch him and have his Scottish babies and put him in my pocket.]
Oscar-baiting is annoying. It's as simple as that. Any movie critic will be able to tell Oscar-baiting from a mile away, and just the trailer for Venus betrayed the hopes of everyone involved. Admittedly, Peter O'Toole has one of the most impressive resumes out there, and is due an award, but not for this picture. Maurice, his aged veteran actor, can't seem to decide whether he wants to start out a lecherous old man and become redeemed by the end or just stay that way; as soon as the viewer starts to have hopes, he says something foul and sends it all the way back. Newcomer Jodie Whittaker is passable as the mouthy, immature Jessie who grows a soft spot for the old codger, but their relationship never feels truly even. A few third-act subplots feel awkwardly thrown in (Jessie's current and past boyfriends, primarily), and by the end, the viewer doesn't much care how things turn out. Corinne Bailey Rae's excellent first album provides the music for the whole film and boosts a few of the scenes, as do a number of funny moments and line deliveries from everyone involved, but overall, the film is disjointed and underwhelming.
Starter For 10
James McAvoy brings his A-game again as the impish, awkwardly charming (in McAvoy's own words, "gormless") Brian in this quirky romantic comedy about English university life in the '80s. What might have been a standard, boring coming-of-age story is made more unique by a few plot points -- Brian's relationship with his working-class best friend, Spence ("It's just a tape; don't get all gay about it!"), and the conflict between that and his new life at university is a simple, realistic plot choice. Brian's unresolved father issues could also have lapsed into dully typical, but he underplays it in such a way as to not insult the viewer's intelligence and instead make them understand him even more. Benedict Cumberbatch, as the absurdly pompous leader of the quiz team, steals every one of his scenes; the amount of contempt he can fit into the word "mate" is a beauty to behold. The main plot, of course, is the romantic triangle, and it plays itself out fairly predictably, but by that point, the viewer is so fond of those involved that it's a treat.
EDIT: Mad props for a completely hilarious use of "Eye of the Tiger."
Black Snake Moan
This odd little black comedy/thriller/romance can't really seem to decide what it wants to be, and yet it's somehow effective and enjoyable. Christina Ricci, last seen with her hand on a bomb in "Grey's Anatomy," is oddly sympathetic as Rae, a fragile nymphomaniac who turns to anything male and alive when she's stressed. Sam Jackson's unsubtly-named Lazarus 'rescues' her from her sinning ways, and they form a bizarre and yet sincere relationship. Justin Timberlake isn't bad as Ricci's wronged boyfriend, but he doesn't have much to do -- it'd be nice to see him get a really good role for once. (One can only hope his voice-over in Shrek 3 will be a little more interesting.) The ending feels a little forced; the characters are surprisingly deep and a more thorough conclusion for them, but at least the viewer sees that they've all been allowed to change.
With last year's strong-but-ignored Hollywoodland and the wretched Black Dahlia, another unsolved, real-life mystery story is a gamble. This one largely pays off, though, with its close attention to detail and sharp, yet not over-done characters. It's hard to say which of the male leads is best, with Robert Downey Jr. as a manic, off-the-wall journalist, Jake Gyllenhaal as a cartoonist-turned-vigilante who eventually pours his whole life into solving the case, and Mark Ruffalo as a harried, overworked detective who hits endless dead ends in his investigations. One of the most interesting things overall is how everyone involved works hard to catch the murderer, and yet any viewer who's watched even one episode of "CSI" notices all their slip-ups. What's more, it's clear that the separate police departments are competing, not working together, and the viewer feels every bit as frustrated as Gyllenhaal's Graysmith as answers evade the good guys one after another. A good forty-five minutes could easily have been trimmed; a slow second act makes the viewer lose interest in some of the subplots. However, it's still an ambitious, original project, going back and forth from dark comedy to frightening thriller (see especially the lakeside murder, which almost lures viewers in with its quirky dialogue and then turns suddenly, horribly twisted). The good parts are good enough, though, to make the whole thing strong.
There's not much to say about this one that hasn't been said by fans everywhere or communicated fabulously in the trailer. Frank Miller's rollicking graphic novel has been lovingly and carefully adapted into an over-the-top, ultra-violent, adrenaline-pumping film that, fortunately, throws enough scenes of dialogue and character development in there between the battle scenes to keep things from getting static. Gerry Butler's Leonidas is somehow still human under all the bravado and strength; his relationship with his queen is appropriately distant and Spartan, almost business-like at times, and yet is still tinged with Hector-and-Andromache-worthy passion and genuine love. It is surprisingly funny and occasionally sad; the violence is more human and real than in Miller's Sin City, but still stylized enough to be kind of awesome. It manages to have heart amidst all the splashes of blood, and comic fans and newcomers alike won't be disappointed.
I guess it's weird that I was going "HELL YEAH!! *rock-on fingers*" about 300 and then about Josh, like, one night later, 'cause they're kinda different, but my tastes are wildly divergent.
- (no subject)