Some great rolled-up sleeves

There's nothing more irresistable than a guy's forearms when it's set off by a nice pair of rolled-up sleeves. Just short sleeves will never do, and it's preferable that the sleeves belong to a button-up shirt--it gives that sexy disheveled look. Anyway, here a list of a random 10 rolled-up sleeves:

1. Julian Sands as George Emerson in A Room with a View (1985). He's kind of a weirdy, but him reclining post-tennis match in rolled-up sleeves and a bonus set of suspenders wins me over every time.

2. John Cusack voices the awesome Dmitri from Anastasia (1997). Yeah, it's rolled-up sleeves on top of another shirt, but I'm counting it just because there is also a vest and floppy hair involved.

3. Yul Brynner as General Sergei Pavlovich Bounine in Anastasia (1956). He's the character Dmitiri was modeled after for the 1997 version, but he's a different sort of attractive. Bounine is almost all business and only loosens up on occasion such as this scene. He's almost likable here, which I owe mostly to the sleeves.

4. Jonathon Rhys Meyers* as Joe in Bend it Like Beckham (2002). Irish accent, footballer, awesome coach, and a habit of rolling up his sleeves. What more can you ask for?

5. The entire case of Newsies (1992). Like any girl who grew up in the 90s, Newsies is just a feast for the eyes. In fact, it still is, but I feel a little creepy knowing that almost all these guys were younger than I am when they made this film. Whatever. The point is, you've got the totally ripped Mush, my childhood crush Spot Conlon, and Max Casella (um, apparently Racetrack Higgins) in one shot here all with rolled-up sleeves singing about being the king of New York.

But this isn't enough to show you. You can't bask in its entire glory. Here's the whole scene (with some Christian Bale sleeve action. Too bad Bill Pullman is so buttoned up):

Unfortunately this is kind of pixaly. Just go rent it. Or buy it. Just love it.

6. While Eduardo Verastegui does sport an epic beard in Bella (2006), the sleeves of his chef jacket are probably the most endearing part of his costuming.

7. Clark Gable as Peter Warne in It Happened One Night (1934). Mr. Gable's sleeves are just one reason to love this film. And him.

8. David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in the tv series The X-Files. You know the case is serious when he's rolled up his sleeves.

9. Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in North & South (2004). I recently read the book, and while it was delightful to read some of Mr. Thornton's inner-most thoughts, seeing these sleeves when Mr. Thornton is stressed out about finances beats it all.

10. Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman in the television series The West Wing. Nary an episode goes by when Josh doesn't have rolled-up sleeves. No wonder Donna fell for him, working with those exposed forearms every day.

*Not to be confused with John Rhys Davies.


I just realized I love Embeth Davidtz

I've noticed Embeth Davidtz in a smattering of great films: Schindler's List, Bridget Jones' Diary, Army of Darkness, etc. But there's a few that I adore her in:

1. The sexed-up version of Mansfield Park (1999) as the saucy Miss Crawford. I'd need to read the book again to really compare, but this version of the film brings out a lot of undertones which are 1) pretty legit themes to bring out, and 2) make the story actually entertaining. Anyway, Ms. Davidtz's role is a big part of that.

Here's Embeth's Miss Crawford stirring up trouble with Alessandro Nivola's Mr. Crawford.

2. In the endearing indie film Junebug (2005) as the new wife Madeleine. Not only do you get to see another sweet Davidtz/Nivola pair up (see my blog header for proof), but also see some great acting. You can clearly see Madeleine's discomfort, awkwardness, and attempt at fitting in at her in-laws' house.

Embeth checking out some artwork by a self-taught artist*.

3. But what really won me over--and I just figured this out--is that she played Miss Honey in Matilda (1996). AKA one of only a few non-Disney movies that we actually owned when I was a kid, and that's only because it was a gift**. This is to say I watched it a lot when I was 10-11 years old***. Miss Honey was the kindest sweetest teacher, with my dream house. Which is really like a cozy cottage. Plus, she helps defeat the evil Miss. Truchbull****. I think her only downside is that she let's Matilda choose Moby Dick as a bedtime story at the end of the film.

This is the moment when Miss Honey should have given Matilda the greatest lesson a person can ever learn: Herman Melville will only break your heart with promises of grandeur, but he'll only give you the dullest and most pedantic reading of your life.

But she's so perfect and lovely, your really can't hold it against her too much. Thanks, Embeth, for the tweenage memories.

*Who is played by Frank Hoyt Taylor who played the awesome Uncle Bogg on the TV show Christy.

**My parents were never crazy strict about movies, we just didn't own very many. My mother, to my knowledge, only repeat watches two movies every decade or so: Moonstruck and A Town Like Alice.
***Except the cake eating part. I can think of nothing more terrible than being forced to eat more than you can stomach. Poor fat kid...at least he got to feel up Drew Barrymore in The Wedding Singer.
****My middle school choir teacher, I swear, looked exactly like Miss Trunchbull, especially the low ponytail of thick, curly hair.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 12

Countrified blues rock.

My senior year of high school, I realized I loved country music. Sure, a lot of modern country music is more pop than anything, but I love me some slide guitars and twangy vocals. And when you combine a country aesthetic to rock grit, you've got yourself a perfect combination.

"When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin (1971)

This is one of my favorite Zeppelin songs where John Bonham's insanely hard percussion thrives and Robert Plant's harmonica soars. Not to mention a great vocal performance and some insane slide and electric guitar work by Mr. Jimmy Page. It's one of their long songs, but it never drags for me. They've got a couple of major/minor key changes, unique sound mixing, and a lot of passion that makes this just so cool to listen to.

"Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" by Cage the Elephant (2008)

With a more hip hop recitation of the lyrics on top of the bluesy guitars, this song is uniquely modern rock. The other stuff that I've heard from Cage the Elephant is kind of boring rehash of other bands, this song stands out as both catchy and fun because of the country blues arrangement.

Questions to ponder:
1. What makes country music so legit? (I'm talking old school country.)
2. How is it, in a world where real instruments and skill can be used to create bluesy-country-rock fantastic-ness, that Lady Gaga dominates the music scene? And why are her songs so catchy?

Click on the label below for more installments of The Audacity of Rock.


Goal: Become a legit Led Zeppelin Fan: Presence

My takes on Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti.

I'm back, baby dolls! This time with Zeppelin's 7th studio recording, Presence. They recorded and mixed this album quickly and shortly after Robert Plant was in a serious car accident, making it a unique album in their repertoire.

1. "Achilles Last Stand" - They start off the album with this 10 and half minute epic. The militaristic drums and building bass of John Bonham and John Paul Jones line give the song its power. At about 4 minutes, Jimmy Page starts into the best part of the song where he gives powerful and resonant guitar solo. The only downfall for me is the vocal line, which lacks an interesting melody, although contains classically cryptic Led Zeppelin lyrics.

2. "For Your Life" - Like most of the songs on this album, this really shows off Page's guitar chops. It has a vague sort of riff that feels like a shadow of earlier ones, but the bridge* is lovely with it's fast work in unison to the bass. Plus, we get to hear Plant snort in mockery to the rampant cocaine use in LA at the time.

3. "Royal Orleans" - This is a kind of funny story told/sung about a transvestite and setting fire to a hotel room set to a funky beat. I don't really have much to say about this song because honestly it's kind of boring. Kind of riffy, kind of sung, kind of interesting ideas, kind of boring.

4. "Nobody's Fault but Mine" - Based on a traditional blues song "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine," this song achieves some of the power and drive that "When the Levee Breaks" does. Much of that has to do with Plant's harmonica playing, which is stronger than a lot of his vocals on the album (poor guy had to sing from a wheelchair). With a solid beat established once again by Bonham and Jones, and sweet solos by Page, it's a hard rock pleasure.

5. "Candy Store Rock" - Taking another walk down doo-wop lane, this song is a fun reimagining of 50s rock. Plant's vocals are echoey, the percussion is softer (although still more than just keeping the beat), and Page mostly keeps a swing-y feel to the song rather than a huge solo.

6. "Hots On for Nowhere" - This song is a lot of fun. The nonsense-word chorus and light drum and guitar work add to the levity of the song. In fact, it sounds more like Aerosmith than anything else, and I mean that in a good way.

7. "Tea for One" - The band itself admits that this is "Since I've Been Loving You Redux," but that's not a bad thing. It's bluesy and lonely and gives Plant something to work with vocally.

Overall assessment: It's not an easy or particularly enjoyable listen, but there's some good stuff here. Unfortunately, the good stuff seems more like cast offs from earlier days.

*And it kind of sounds like Pearl Jam or something. I can't figure out where I've heard a similar interlude. Listen at about 2:30


Apparently Pandora is an equal opportunity advertiser

Click for a better view.

Dylan McDermott: Great supporting character

I made a discovery yesterday while watching Home for the Holidays: Dylan McDermott and his his glorious hair really put the finishing touch on perfectly enjoyable films. I remember my sister being in love with Dylan when he was on The Practice, but I was too young to enjoy the show, and therefore didn't bask in his glory then.

But I do now.

In Steel Magnolias (1989), Mr. McDermott plays Jackson Latcherie, aka Shelby's (Julia Roberts) husband. We join the story when the two are getting married, but other than a few more appearances, he's kind of pushed aside to let the women shine (and really, who can outshine Dolly Parton? Answer: no one). Even when Jackson's own wife is dying, we see more of the mother's suffering than his own, but he's a good husband and son-in-law. And has awesome hair.
Poor guy can't compete with such an awesome female cast.

In Home for the Holidays, Dylan McDermott plays Leo Fish who joins the messed up Larsen family for Thanksgiving dinner. Initially thought to be Tommy's (Robert Downey, Jr.) boyfriend, it turns out he was there to give Claudia (Holly Hunter) something good in her life and a chance to spend some time with a good guy. For how calm Leo is during the whole holiday debacle, he seems like a keeper. And he even sings poorly to Aunt Gladys. Keeper.

McDermott and Downy, Jr.: Could there be more attractiveness and adorableness in this picture? Answer: Probably not.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 11

Let's rock about rock.

By special request* from ke, I'm talking about some meta-rock. This can really mean anything, but for Part 11, it's all about singing about rocking in general.

"I Wanna Rock" by Twisted Sister (1984)

The instant I read "meta-rock" I thought of this song. Twisted Sister is the epitome of campy hair band, before the trend really got out of control. In this song, we have the classic rock hater demeaning a poor kid who stands up for himself by answering that he wants to rock with his life. Awesome, ridiculous, and need I explain that Dee Snider is one of my favorite VH1 regulars? Anyone who took on the Parents Music Resource Center and defends freedom of speech is brilliant and pure rock 'n' roll in my book.

"Radio/Video" by System of a Down

I have a special place in my heart of System of a Down. While some of their songs are pretty much screaming and hard and fast guitar riffs, a lot of their songs have gorgeous European-folk-song-like melodies. In this song, there's a bit a both, with a shout out to the Danny and Lisa in their lives. But most importantly, SOAD rocks hard when they are singing about rockin' out.

Questions to ponder:

1. Does singing about rocking take away from the actual rocking?
2. Do ridiculous outfits help when singing about rock?

*Yes, I do take requests and suggestions.


Two BBC Miniseries

I don't think I love anything more than a well done period piece, especially in miniseries form. There's rarely a more satisfying love story than those told in 19th Century costume and British accents. This Saturday I watched two, taking short breaks to stretch my legs and catch some sun. In other words, a perfect way to spend my day off.

1. The first one I watched was North & South (2004). I've heard fantastic things about this series for a while, so I had high expectations. They were met. My roommate described it as Pride and Prejudice on steroids. But to be fair, it's quite different than Pride and Prejudice, lacking in the amusing criticism of society and instead going for a harsh criticism of society set in the context of the Industrial Revolution with discussion of worker conditions, capitalism, poverty, and unions. Although I would say it's just as satisfying a watch as Pride and Prejudice.

Margaret Hale is a young woman whose father has quit the clergy on basis of doubts about doctrine. Mr. Hale moves his wife a daughter from the idyllic south to a bleak industrial town in the north. Margaret struggles to adjust to her new environment, including different social customs, interacting with the working class, and especially the cotton mill owner John Thornton. Margaret manages to make friends and get entangled in the town's labor movement just by doing what she thinks is right. In terms of Mr. Thornton, many smoldering stares and fiery arguments ensue as they can never see eye to eye. But the relationship is within a larger context of the town's strife and complex motivations, with Thornton being more pragmatically minded and Margaret more socially minded. In other words, their disagreements are based on more than just societal slights, but principles.

[above: brood brood smolder smolder]

But a lot of what makes this miniseries so good is the actual filming. The lighting is beautiful, coming mostly from windows and candles. The southern settings are always bright and rich with saturated colors, while the north is rather bleak with muted and faded colors. There's also a lovely use of focus, creating interesting shots--especially as Mr. Thornton broodingly stares at his workers amidst the flying cotton balls of his mill.

At four episodes, about an hour each, it's a well-paced watch that never feels dragged out. Certainly some things were probably rushed for the sake of adaptation, but it works well and key characters are established and developed. The lovely theme written by Martin Phipps adds to the sorrowful and passionate feel of the film. And I've kind of avoided swooning, but I'll let you know the melancholy Mr. Thornton is perfectly swoon worthy, especially when he grows scruff when he's especially bedraggled. This is just to say, it satisfies my need for period romance.

Listen to the music swell as Thornton walks in his mill and Margaret writes her friend Edith:

2. The second miniseries I watched was Daniel Deronda (2002). This has been a favorite of mine since it aired on Masterpiece Theatre when I was in high school. It's based on a novel by George Eliot, meaning it's somewhat mystical with a healthy dose of cheese. Andrew Davies works his magic as a master adapter of text to screen. I have it on good authority that the book is a pretty ridiculous and a bit long, and I believe it having read Eliot's overly cheesy and somehow overly long Silas Marner in high school which is pretty short. I'm sure DD is filled with sentimental muckraking, which also bleeds through this recent adaptation.

More than anything, Daniel Deronda is a character study of several young people in 1870s England. The main character Daniel Deronda is a young man searching for purpose. He doesn't know his origins, but has a caring adoptive father in Sir Hugo who is rumored to have fathered Daniel illegitimately. Daniel is kind and described as "not like other young men." Gwendolyn Harleth is a selfish young woman who is a master at manipulating others to give her what she wants and manages to string along young men for game. She's very much like Scarlett O'Hara. She captures the attention of Daniel, but also a Mr. Grandcourt who is deliciously malicious and likes to play games with people. Grandcourt manages to win over Gwendolyn despite his several odious characteristics/actions because of her need for money. And of course there is Mirah Lapidoth, a Jewish woman in dire straits who is saved by Daniel. And then there's the family that takes in Mirah that includes Daniel's artist friend Hans. And then there are several people of the society, such as the great musician Herr Klesmer who is known as much for his expertise as his heritage as a Jew.

[above: Gwendolyn, played by Romola Garai, aiming at her target. I'd like to see more of this actress.]

I'm doing a terrible job of summarizing the action; suffice it to say that the characters' lives weave in and out of each others' within several story lines during this three and a half hour series. It's all about society and how people fit into it. Some of the issues discussed are antisemitism (obvs), power struggles between the sexes, the Zionist movement, and love. Somehow Daniel Deronda never feels overwhelmed with characters or plots since it's spread over a longer time frame. Much of the series is very tense in a keeping-up-appearnces sort of way, especially between Daniel and Gwendolyn or Gwendolyin and Mr. Grandcourt. Butt he film manages to find its center in Daniel and his decision regarding what he's going to do with his life, finding out his heritage, and who he will love.

The style of the film is a lot like North & South, featuring lovely natural lighting, interesting use of focus, and the frequent use of close-ups. The soundtrack for Daniel Deronda is even more distinguished than North & South since it features several motifs, from the mysterious vocals whenever a scene is featured in the Jewish district of London to the haunting theme following Mirah to the doomed melody following Gwendolyn.

And of course I swoon over Daniel who is played by Hugh Dancy. He plays Daniel as a ponderous young man that thinks little of himself. I'm always excited to see Dancy in other performances; unfortunately, he's placed in fairly bland roles much of the time. Perhaps embarrassingly, my second favorite role for him was in The Jane Austen Book Club as a tech support guy who gets weaseled into the club (which is actually kind of good for a chick lit film, but certainly not a masterpiece. Here's a clip). Anyway, there is rowing and singing and all together adorableness coming from this role. Love.

[above: attractive man rowing and smiling.]

Overall, Daniel Deronda somehow seems more bleak after watching North & South since the relationships between people are seen more intimately and thus more complexly; it never ignores the realities of marrying for money or loving someone who loves someone else. But it's also rather hopeful, with the ever optimistic Daniel at the center.

And did I mention the costuming? Gorgeous. Enjoy this clip:

Gwendolyn at her privileged best, being admired by many men despite her musical mediocrity.

Confession: Star Trek edition

I kind of find myself in love with new Spock.

But then again, JJ Abrams always has my heart.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 10

Why yes, I do know how to count.

Part 10 is inspired by the hundreds of times I've heard Plain White T's' "1, 2, 3, 4" on the radio at work. We have a limited number of radio stations to choose from that are "everyone" friendly, so sometimes it ends up on the recent, but bland music station that can be best summed up by saying they also play a lot of the Fray.

Anyway, a surefire way to make sure your song gets a lot of air time is apparently using sequences of numbers. Prepare yourself for some bubblegum, boy band pop.

"1-2-3 Red Light" by 1910 Fruitgum Company (1968)

This clip begins with an awkward interview in which the lead singer basically admits that you don't need a lot of talent to make it big in the music business, you just have a lot of promotion from the record company. However, if we draw a connection between the strictly tambourine guys in 1910 Fruitgum Company (in the following video) and the Jonas Brothers (check out the tambourine fail), we have hope that the Jonas Brothers phenomenon will die in a few years.

The following is a fluffy pop song that was the band's follow up t0--I kid you not--"Simon Says." (And, yeah, it cuts off, but that's basically the end anyway).

"You Got It (The Right Stuff)" by New Kids on the Block (1988)

This time it's the verse that gets the ordinal number treatment. Say what you will about NKOTB, but they had some catchy music. And hey, remember when white kids dancing was unironically awesome?

I take it back, these moves are still awesome.

"1, 2, 3, 4" by Plain White T's (2009)

This song sounds almost exactly like "Hey There Delilah," but with more Super Mario World instrumentation in the background. So basically, bubblegum pop that gets old after 2 listens, but since it's on an acoustic guitar, it's heartfelt.

Questions to ponder:
1. Could a government harness the power of repetition and numbers in pop songs to start an army of brainwashed youth? Also, was that an episode of South Park?
2. How dreamy and awesome of a dancer is Jordan Knight in this:

Did you catch the numbering in the bridge (minute 2:41)? Genius.


Medley of the Day: 70s awesome edition

What follows are songs that I always associate together, probably for their strong and simple percussion, but mostly for their gritty sing-along-ability.

1. "Bad Company" by Bad Company. A supergroup that consisted of some of the band from the next song. A little theatrical with awesomely mysterious lyrics.

2. "All Right Now" by Free. Fun vocals, great beat, simple chorus = awesome.

3. "Mississippi Queen" by Mountain. If I have to explain why the sensual guitar and vocals are so awesome, you need to get your rock gland checked. Also, includes my favorite sentence tag of all time, if you know what I mean.


Random mini-review update of good movies

Brick (2005). I've had this movie recommended to me for the past 4 years, but I finally got around to it, and I'm glad I waited. It's a film noir set in high school which only works if the viewer knows and enjoys noir tropes. Only in the last few years have I watched enough of these kinds of films to be familiar and comfortable with the genre.

This film could have been cheesy or too reflexive, but it's fairly effortless. It's delightful when you see how things in high school act like a more mature setting, like auditorium dressing rooms act like a showgirl dressing room or a home basement as an underworld lair. But the film also rings tragic. This is bleak view of high school full of drugs and murder, although a very good watch. And I ended up liking Joseph Gordon-Levitt even more than I already do, and now I'm looking forward to the director Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom even more.

Adventureland (2009) is an entirely too timely movie for me to watch. It tracks James, a guy recently graduated for college, ending up in a crappy summer job before heading out to his dream of grad school in New York. While I can't relate to everything that goes on the film, I can relate to still feeling young and confused when you're supposed to be growing up. It captures a feeling through being subtle, not making anyone an easy enemy or friend, and just showing people sucking at being in relationships.

I never thought I'd find Michael Keaton remotely attractive, but Batman (1989) did that for me. Probably since I'm used to thinking of Keaton as Beetle Juice, any semblance of a normal guy would make me double-take. Anyway, this was the first time I've seen this film (I'm a little late in the game), and I really enjoyed it. It's nice to see a streamlined plot when the superhero movies of recent years have been overblown with villains, tons of story lines, and length in general. This is a fairly simple tale that slowly introduces the characters of Batman/Bruce Wayne and the Joker/Jack Napier through details and only the occasional flashback. This is more of a Joker origin story, which was amusing to watch--especially in that it featured music by Prince*. While this wasn't as campy as I expected, it's still a lot more fun than the recent reboot of the franchise, opting for a simple tale with comic book colors rather than dark aesthetics.

Movie highlights: The Joker wearing a suit of purple, orange, and green which are all secondary colors and apparently prove he's a little off-kilter. The Batmobile in this one looks way cooler than the jumbled mess of the reboots: sleek is almost always cooler. Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale kicking off her high heels before running from the Joker = totally something I would do.

*Random aside: was this cool when it first came out? I always wonder about stuff that seems really dated. What would be an equivilant musical artist today?



Yet again I'm sick.

I was in denial before, trying to function normally:

And then I tried to be awesome instead:

And now I'm just sitting around my apartment, incapable of doing much but sit around. At least I'm not making someone feed me:

Hopefully I'm not dying of swine flu or something.


The Audacity of Rock: Part 9

Let's put a little reggae into this rock.

I'm defining reggae as a mid-tempo music that emphasizes the 2nd and 4th beat of a 4/4 measure especially by a guitar. Or, you know, this.

"Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police

The Police was an adventurous band (with Sting just getting weirder as his solo albums went on). Anyway, this is when they dabbled in reggae, put on school robes and mortar boards, and danced around like idiots. Also, Sting is hot (I don't blame the girl for standing so close).

"Santeria" by Sublime

Probably one of the better acts during the ska-era of the 90s. Classic and well done, this band does reggae rhythm well. And Bradly Nowell's voice is one of my favorites ever.

"No One's Better Sake " by Little Joy

Oh, ironic vintage. I think I'm sick of it already, but these guys have an organ and ponchos, so I'll let it slide.

Questions to ponder:
1. When did you go through your Bob Marley phase?
2. Is it ridiculous to mix rock and reggae, or just awesome?


Dear How I Met Your Mother writers:

Please please please don't make Sarah Chalke the mother. That would be lame/wouldn't make sense.

A concerned viewer


From an indirect recommendation from Anne, I decided to check out Delicatessen (1991), a delightfully quirky film directed by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Quick summary of action: An unsuspecting Louison moves into a building where, because of a food shortage, residents are killed by the butcher on the first floor to feed the rest of the hungry residents. Julie is the butcher's daughter, but she has a good heart and falls for Louison. The rest of the film is about saving him from death.

The dark plot is juxtaposed to the delightful interior settings and eccentric characters in a very communal building. It might get too twee and ridiculous for some, but I loved it and was thoroughly entertained the whole time. To say any more would ruin the fun of watching each new and quirky event/character pop up, but the lovely visuals are so fun I thought I'd share.

As an intro, I probably would have a hard time placing when this film was made if I didn't look it up since it looks so timeless. The quirkiness somehow doesn't date it since it looks more mid-20th Century than anything. Anyway, enjoy:

Even from the credits you know this is going to be visually awesome.

The exterior to the building with the sketchy delicatessen. I love how House of Usher creepy it is.

Louison unpacking part of his past.

Louison entertaining the two latchkey kids that live in the building.
Dominique Pinon's physicality in this scene is a great use of subtlety to establish character.

Even chaotic scenes are beautifully staged.

The other tenants of the building are pretty hilarious.

Julie and Louison bond over music on a cello and a saw.

Probably my favorite scene (much better in action) where Louison helps Mademoiselle Plusse with her squeaky mattress. They bounce on the bed and move along to the hula performance on the television to find the squeaky spring.

Julie talking to her father while he threateningly scrapes large knives together.

The butcher once again.

Suffice it to say that the night that an old performance by Louison is on TV, the most ridiculous/delightful chaos breaks out.
Can I use delightful one more time?


You guys look great in red--have you told you that yet?

As emotional recovery to a film that I will only link a very accurate review to, I put in my VHS copy of possibly my all-time favorite movie: That Thing You Do!* (1996). I've seen this movie more times than I can count, can quote entire scenes, and have a ton of inside jokes with my sister about it. In other words, the great film to make me happy again.

Written and directed by Tom Hanks, That Thing You Do! permeates with the good-natured humor and easy charm of the movie star, and the cast brings it to life perfectly.

It's the 1960s, and Tom Everett Scott plays the drumming protagonist Guy who works in his father's appliance store. He's 20-something with little life direction and a very attractive girlfriend played by Charlize Theron. Guy is recruited to play percussion for a local band when their drummer Chad (Giovanni Ribisi) falls down trying to jump a parking meter.

Guys, Chad fell down.

Guy masters Jimmy (Jonathon Schaech) and Lenny's (Steve Zahn) song "That Thing You Do" quickly, but speeds it up when they play at a local college talent show. While it's an awkward adjustment to a faster tempo, it's a genius move that gets the band going.

Give me a pen. I'm signin'--you're signin'--we're all signin'!

Soon, the band finds itself with a hit single and records to sell at a local Italian restaurant. They're soon recruited by a man who wears black socks with shorts. "Would you step into my office please?" Horace asks, while leading Guy into his camper filled with stew and beers. The whole band is there and they sign a contract, although Jimmy reluctantly.

There he goes, off to his room, to write that hit song "Alone in My Principles."

The rest of the film shows the rise and breakup of The Oneders/Wonders. They get recruited by Play-Tone records' Mr. White (Tom Hanks), thanks to Horace, and start to tour all over the country while their record climbs the charts. Soon, Jimmy's serious side directly conflicts with the band's contract, Lenny runs off with a Playboy bunny, and the military dreams of the bass player (Ethan Embry) cause him to eventually leave the band, too; Guy ends up stuck in the middle with his love of playing good music. The fair Faye (Liv Tyler), Jimmy's girlfriend, is also along for the ride, although to the detriment of that relationship and to the good of another.

As in I wonder what happened to the Oh-neders?

It's a simple story of a young band, but like I said before, the cast makes it a fun ride. Tom Everett Scott plays Guy as a relatable good guy(!) with a talent for music and a life open for new experiences. Schaech is appropriately serious and handsome. Embry is incredibly sweet and innocent. I don't know that I've seen any of these three actors in any film even half as good or act half as well in as in That Thing You Do! Anyway, Liv Tyler is lovely and plays a supportive and perfect girlfriend. It's also a lot of fun to watch Tom Hanks in a supporting role. He's still got a big presence, but it's used to be a straight man to the band's youth.

Lenny, why don't go and see if you can visit the cockpit. Tell 'em it's your birthday. Go! Go!

But the real standout in this cast is Steve Zahn. Almost every line out of his mouth is comedy gold, a perfect mixture of good writing and great delivery. A standout scene is when the band is interviewed at a Midwest county fair for TV and he tells the reporter that "Oh, I'm not here with these fellas. I got a pig in competition at the livestock pavilion, and I am gonna win that blue ribbon!" And Mr. Zahn gets to be the leader singer to one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack:

If that was a pick-up line, we're a match made in heaven.

Other small things like the bass player mimicking the Chantrellines' dance moves, Guy's enthusiasm for jazz, throw-away lines, behind the scenes views of the business of TV and music, and the fabulous 60s settings and costuming make this worth multiple viewings. Appearances by familiar but not too recognizable faces in fun minor roles like Chris Isaak, Alex Rocco, Chris Ellis, Rita Wilson, Kevin Pollack and Clint Howard just add to the film's fun.

I lead you here, sir, for I am Sparticus.

It's incredible that a tight script, competent acting, a clean but not cheesy story, and good music don't come together that often, but this is a case where it does. The only recent film I can think of that does that is Slumdog Millionaire. Films like these might not be considered the best/most groundbreaking films in the history of film, but they make for solid and extremely rewatchable cinema. When you sit down in your living room looking to relax and you want to watch something light and satisfying, something like That Thing You Do! is always the best choice: you don't have to think too hard, but you don't feel like you wasted your time or brain cells either. And for me, that's a great film.

*Exclamation point included in the title, although I am really enthusiastic about it as well.


Another Pride & Prejudice

I admit that I kind of love the Mormon adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2003). In no other modern culture would Jane Austen's society of marriage obsessed young men and women make sense but in the bizarro world of a Utah Valley singles ward*. While this film, like many during the early 00s influx of Mormon culture movies, is full of cheese and "it's funny cuz it's true" sort of moments, it's endlessly amusing.

Elizabeth in this adaptation is a 26-year-old living in Provo/Orem, Utah (believe me when I say most of the outdoor locales looked familiar). She's (I'm assuming) a master's student studying English and a budding novelist who works in a bookstore. But most importantly, she's not married. To give you some context, I'm 22 and have lived in Provo for four years without getting married. However, by the end of this summer, 6 of my former roommates will have married. It's weird here**. Anyway, Elizabeth doesn't have the best of luck with guys. Her current situation with men is her sanctimonious stalker William Collins and the inactive Mormon friend Jack Wickham who clearly has the hots for her.

It was a genius move to have Collins and Jack already part of the story for a two hour film. Like I've mentioned before, trying to introduce and develop a relationship with Wickham in other adaptations is difficult because two hours is not enough time. The Mr. Collins character will always be odious and easy to establish and dismiss, but if Wickham is supposed to be an actual contender for Elizabeth, a brief meeting or two is not enough.

The sister roles are played out as roommates. Jane is Elizabeth's Brazilian best friend and roommate and is probably my favorite character. Kitty and Lydia are boycrazy and severe adherents to the new bestselling book about how to get a guy, The Pink Bible (probably the cheesiest of all the plot devices). Mary is a socially awkward young lady who's trying to be the epitome of a good Mormon girl. Mostly she's an embarrassment.

Another device in the film is the use of title cards which are kind of charming. Quotes from the novel Pride and Prejudice are placed in between scenes once in a while that are usually out of context for the storyline, but add some of Austen's wit and commentary into the film without awkwardly having the characters have to spew off regency-era dialogue.

Then of course you have Will Darcy and Charles Bingley. Darcy is appropriately pompous at first and then just a dork.His initial asking out Elizabeth scene (analogous to the first proposal) is wonderfully awkward when he tells Elizabeth she's "strangely attractive". Bingley is kind of just dumb in this adaptation***. He's rich for selling high pitched versions of classical music for dog, but whatever. He's adorable, which I guess is all you need.

But there's really just one scene that wins me over every time I end up watching this movie.It's after Elizabeth has had a bad meeting with a book publisher (of course it's Darcy) and Jane's just been email dumped by Bingley (who's going out of town). You see them both encrusted on a couch, covered in blankets and crumbs, with greasy hair and empty ice cream cartons and pizza boxes around them. To figure out if it's morning, Elizabeth picks up a nearby stick and moves open the curtains a smidgen and quickly hides her face from the bright morning light. And when their roommates drag them to the store, they just go for tampons and large vats of ice cream. I honor any film willing to make the women all-out ugly if only for a scene.

At the end of the day, this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is on the level of a made for TV movie, but it's so innocuous and fun that it's completely entertaining. Non-Mormons might be confused in some spots since the setting is assumed without a lot of explanation (which I think works in its favor), but it's always fun to see how people adapt favorite novels. For me, this version is far more enjoyable that the 2005 version, if only because it effectively establishes characters, makes the plot work for the time constraints, and keeps the the mocking, but accepting of society tone of the book. In the end, the film basically becomes a standard romantic-comedy, but you could do a lot worse than Jane Austen source material.

*Well, also apparently India.
**and I'm leaving Utah for grad school in the fall. Victory!
***Poor character always gets the short stick.