Weekly Adventure: West Side Story at the Music Box

This week and last one of my favorite movie theaters in the whole world (but more specifically in the city of Chicago) The Music Box has been hosting the 70mm Festival, which has included a few wonderful revival screenings (you can read more about it here.) Last night’s film was West Side Story. If you have read this blog at all, you are probably aware that I love movies, and musicals, and Chicago nostalgia – so this event was pretty much designed for me.

First the nostalgia – The Music Box is a real old school theater, with only two screens, obviously non-digital projection (hence the festival), and even an occasional organ player between showings. There is even a curtain that rises before the show (or halfway through the overture in the case of West Side Story last night). The older seats might mean that you really resent a tall person who sits directly in front of you, but the atmosphere as whole makes going to a movie really feel like an event, which is saying something considering how often I go to the movies.

And it was such a joy to get to see West Side Story in all its big screen glory. I have seen this movie too many times to count, it’s one of my all-time favorite musicals, and as a child I choreographed many a routine to “Cool” and the “Gym Mambo” – because you know I knew better than Jerome Robbins, which is of course a joke, because no one knew better than Jerome Robbins. So what did I gain from last night’s viewing that I couldn’t get from watching my copy of the DVD? A few things:

1. I had to watch the whole thing.

I routinely (like once a year) have a craving to watch West Side Story, but I never want to watch the Rumble or the scene where the Jets attack Anita (my distaste for violence extends even to stylized dance violence I guess.) But I was reintroduced to the brilliance of those troubling sequences last night. And they even included the intermission so I got to hear the whole score.

2. I got indulge my love for background scouring

When I go to plays my favorite thing to do is scan the background actors during a speech or solo, the people who remain completely engaged quickly become my favorite actors. It’s harder to play this game in a film, when the background actors are generally kept out of frame, but in a big sweeping musical like this there are plenty of opportunities. Check out the random kids (I think?) in the background of the dance at the gym. Or that man in the green blazer who can’t dance – how had I missed them before?

3. It felt, well, theatrical

I took a class on the musicology and history of Broadway musicals my last quarter of college, and my professor gave a long speech about how the use of dance as storytelling that Robbins had pioneered on the stage didn’t translate to film. That it was hard to take dancing gangs seriously when you see them dancing down actual streets, instead of the already artificial world of the stage. At the time I think I understood what she meant, we had all just come in from watching the movie on our tiny laptop screens, and the snapping and pirouettes did seem a little hokey. But seeing it up on the big screen felt much more like seeing it on a stage, and it was easier to see the stylized world not a flaw of the film, but as a stylistic choice. I mean there are never any other people on the streets, they clearly aren’t meant to be realistic.

4. I got to listen to this song on an excellent sound system:

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A Word a Week Challenge: Zoom

When I first saw that the word for this week was “Zoom” I thought I would be really creative and get a bunch of images of things going really fast or something, but then I started going through all my pictures and decided that I use the “zoom” function on my camera way to often to not take advantage of this week to share a few favorite pictures.

My first picture with my current camera - in my parent's garden in New Haven, CT

My first picture with my current camera – in my parent’s garden in New Haven, CT

Austin, TX (with Miro & Jules)

Miro and Julia in Austin, TX

Note left on the "peace wall" barricade between Catholic and Protestant Belfast

Note left on the “peace wall” barricade between Catholic and Protestant Belfast

Wall Decoration in the Louvre in Paris

Mulled Wine from my holiday party this December

Mulled Wine from my holiday party this December

Non-Required Reading (My List)

So now that awards season is over for another year, I think it’s time for a new project! And lucky for me, my dad recently asked me a question that lends itself well to this blog. For those of you who don’t know, my dad is an educational consultant, and one of his sometimes thankless tasks is trying to get kids who don’t love reading to, well read more. So in an attempt to give these kids a list of books they might actually like he reached out me, and I in turn has reached out to a bunch of my friends, and now I’m going to share those lists with you, and invite you to share yours too!

The question is basic:

– What books did you read outside of school when you were in high school that you loved and remember to this day?

To get us started here’s my list (it’s embarrassingly girly, but whatever…)

Better Than Running at Night by Hilary Frank

Sloppy Firsts (and the rest of the Jessica Darling books) by Megan McCafferty

 

The Probably Future – (and literally everything else ever written) by Alice Hoffman

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

 

What were your favorites? Have a blog? – Link back to this post with your picks, or if you want to send me a full list to feature here e-mail it to igetabitobsessive@gmail.com (or my personal e-mail if you actually know me.)

Award Show Round Up: Oscars 2013

Yesterday was my favorite holiday of the year – Oscar Sunday. (Before you judge me at least it’s celebrating actual achievement in something, in theory.) Overall I was not a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane as host – I mean he did what I expected, he was crass and a little scattered, but he can sing. And well he sang a lot, because the producers of this year’s show seemed to think they were producing the Tony’s – which is OK with me in that I love the Tony’s, but in a year when one musical came out to just up and decide that the show needs 18 musical numbers is a bit odd, even to me. But whatever because it meant Aaron Tveit was on the Oscar telecast singing with Eddie Redmayne and Hugh Jackman – which basically means I can die happy now:

Also as Justin pointed out last night, huge shout out to whoever blocked the Cosette/Marius/Eponine part of this number, the emphasis on Sam Barks and choice to literally push Amanda Seyfreid out of the frame, was perfect. (Because Cosette is pointless, if you’re just finding this blog.)

Also – Adele has an Oscar!

Now we just need to get her a Broadway show and a TV special – because that woman needs an EGOT.

Is it just the fact that she’s my age (OK fine a year younger than me) that makes me feel like Jennifer Lawrence is the most relatable “A-Lister” to come along in long time? I mean I totally would have fallen up those stairs, I frequently fall up stairs and I am never wearing a ball gown/accepting an Oscar when I do it…

Are you sick of me talking about Daniel Day-Lewis yet? I don’t care listen to this speech and then try to tell me he’s not one of the best humans…

The only real surprise I guess was Ang Lee winning Best Director, and although I have a lot of (mostly negative feelings) about Life of Pi, it was ably directed, and I love his earlier work so I’ll just say I’m happy for him, but really I’m still confused at the Affleck snub.

But whatever because the Academy remains fundamentally predictable (in a way that I love mind you) so this happened:

(I’m also very happy for Anne Hathaway – though apparently we’re all supposed to hate her now, but I don’t understand why and refuse. But her dress was weird.)

And now gowns!

Jessica Chastain in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Stacy Keibler in Naeem Kahn

 

Jennifer Aniston in Valentino (Photo Credit: Getty)

Naomi Watts in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Olivia Munn in Marchesa

 

Sally Field in Valentino (Photo Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Octavia Spencer in Tadashi Shoji (Photo Credit: Getty)

Alicia Vikander in Elie Saab (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

 

Sandra Bullock in Marchesa (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Oh Boy: Girls Episode 6

Am I alone in feeling like this was the saddest episode of Girls in a while? Is that mostly because I love Ray in the irrational way that I do, and he ended up sitting sad with a dog no one wants on Staten Island? Maybe, but this was also a bleak episode I think.

Not that it wasn’t funny, somehow even the most depressing parts, Marnie convincing herself that she was Booth’s girlfriend and then having a non-breakup in a wine storage unit (because of course he has a wine storage unit in his weird pseudo-industrial lost), were also actually laugh out loud funny. Though I am really starting to feel actually bad for Marnie, I did love that Booth, while remaining callous and ridiculous, called her out for only wanting to hang out with the idea of him. But seriously can something good happen to that poor girl now.

Hannah write your book – your editor is charming but does not seem like he will put up with you not writing your book. And I understand what Lena is getting at with all the awkward tension between Hannah and Marnie, but it’s breaking my heart. Stop it.

And onto other things that are breaking my heart. Ray, I get that you are feeling stuck, and that your love for Shoshanna is making you feel like you aren’t good enough for her. (I know she isn’t helping with the whole “take this class at the Learning Annex” thing, but she means well.)But trying to be friends with Adam is not the solution. The man is crazy enough to steal a dog and answer his door wielding a hammer. Their failed bromance (as the guys at Slate called it) was sad and everything, but I apparently only like Adam when he is interacting with Hannah, and I don’t like anyone being mean to Ray, because I feel oddly protective of him. Maybe because Alex Karpovsky is so interesting, or maybe it’s just the Shoshanna in me.

I Get a Bit Obsessive Receives the VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD

This weekend I was honored to find out that I was nominated for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award by the lovely Johbell Kristyl http://bookmavenpicks.wordpress.com/> (you guys should all check her blog out, she’s amazingly prolific.)

This is the first award or recognition like this that I’ve received, and I’m really thrilled about it. The process is sort of like a chain letter, but I like lists and celebrating other bloggers so read on for my nominees!

very-inspirational-blogger1

Rules:

1. Display the award logo

2. Link back to the person who nominated you

3. State 7 things about yourself

4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them

So…

 7 Facts About Me

1. I don’t like lettuce

2. I don’t have a diver’s license

3. I would be perfectly happy to eat pasta every day

4. As a kid I was a competitive Irish dancer

5. Jane Fonda once told me that she liked my earrings

6. I haven’t studied French in almost 5 years but for some reason I always think the phrases “What time is it?” and “What is that?” in as “quel heur a t’il?” and “Quelque chose?” (I’m sure that those are spelled wrong/grammatically incorrect…)

7. My favorite books growing up were the Anne of Green Gabels novels

And now the really fun part – my nominations! These are 15 bloggers (in no particular order) who inspire me, and I think you might not have heard of. (Full disclosure I know a couple of these people personally, but I only chose them if I really love their blog, I promise.)

1. Dose of Dash

2. Martha Bernie at homethoughtsfromabroad626

3. Today I Watched a Movie

4.Cinemaniac Reviews

5. A Word in Your Ear

6. When Bad Dates Happen to Good People

7. Cinema Parrot Disco
8. Canadian Hiking Photography

9. Confessions of a Music Snob

10. The Newest Wrinkle

11. Hollis Plample Daily Comic

12. In Our Words

13. Beer & B-Movies

14. Mettel Ray Movie Blog

15. Sethsnap

 

Thanks again for reading and for the nomination Jhobell!!

A Word A Week Challenge: Industrial

This week’s word for the wonderful A Word A Week Challenge is “Industrial” – I tried searching through my past photo library – and it turns out I don’t take a lot of pictures of industrial things, so I took a longer (and it turns out blustery) route to the L this morning and took some shots of Ravenswood Avenue. Although my cozy Northside neighborhood is mostly residential, Ravenswood Ave used to be, and some extent still is, a little industrial pocket. Nothing to rival the sprawling industrial parks on the Southside that Chicago is known for, but smaller factories that are operational, in some way or another till this day, plus trains!

metra

Ravenswood Door

Ravenswood Industry2

Ravenswood Construction close

Bonus Adventure: She Kills Monsters from Buzz 22

As a wonderful capstone to a lovely Chicago Theater Week Julia and I headed to the Steppenwolf Garage Theater to catch the first of their winter rep shows She Kills Monsters from Buzz 22. (For more info on the Steppenwolf Garage Rep – click here.) I knew nothing about this show going in except that Buzz 22 was founded by Northwestern theater kids a couple of years older than me that I used to be impressed with in my seeing five shows in a weekend.

And they continue to be impressive, but the thrill of seeing them perform in a Steppenwolf space was only beginning of the joy of this show. The plot centers around Agnes (played wonderfully by Katherine Banks), a ‘perfectly average’ girl in Ohio who right after her college graduation tragically loses her family in a car crash. I know, I know cheery start, but bear with me, all she has left of her family is her nerdy little sister’s Dungeons & Dragons game. So in an attempt to connect to her sister she recruits nerdy (and hilarious) Chuck (Richard Traub), to walk her through her sister’s story, which comes alive on stage – dead sister included.

I know less than nothing about D&D, but this show makes it seem like a lovely, if silly pastime; a way for a bullied teen to be a hero, and the characters the game involves are hilarious and make for great theater. The whole cast did a great job of totally committing to the ridiculous plot, even those not involved in the game – Agnes’s sassy friend played by Daeshawna Cook was especially amazing – so that when the real emotional moments start coming it blindsided me, but in the best way.

The show runs in rep through April 20th at the Steppenwolf Garage Theater at 1650 N. Halstead  

Weekly Adventure: Julius Caesar at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

I had an incredibly romantic Valentine’s evening of anachronistic Roman tragedy and simulated gun fire. In other words Julia and I went to see CST’s new production of Julius Caesar.  I knew nothing about this show beyond “beware the Ides of March” and “et tu Brutae,” and I will confess that when the execution/murder scene took place in the first act I got very confused as to what the rest of the show was going to be about.

It turns out that show is much more about the aftermath of the political upheaval of Caesar’s murder, and the way that director Jonathan Munby has staged it the modernized guerilla warfare called Coriolanus to my mind, but that might be more about Ralph Feinnes than anything else. I have issues with the plotting of the second act, but as I haven’t got to this one in my Shakespeare project I’ll reserve those thoughts till then.

The production value is spectacular, I expect nothing less from Chicago Shakes, and the set captures the “majesty” of the first act and the desecration of the second excellently. And the supporting cast juggle their multiple roles as citizens, senators, and soldiers ably. And David Darlow is sufficiently charming and menacing as the titular character.

But John Light, making his American stage debut as Brutus, really carries this show. I spent the first act trying to remember where I recognized him from and then checked the program at intermission. He was the wonderfully shy Peter in Heights (which I love by the way, and I just found out was directed by Chris Terrio who wrote Argo, which is awesome), and it is no wonder I couldn’t place him. For one he doesn’t have glasses in this show, but seriously the strength he exudes as the conflicted leader of the revolution is almost opposite of the meek character he plays in that movie. But he completely convinced in me in both roles.

 

The show runs through March 24th, at the Courthouse Theater at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at 800 E. Grand Ave – the end of Navy Pier

I Want All The Things: Girls Episode 5

Apparently this episode of Girls was polarizing. The first I heard about it was a male acquaintance on Facebook complaining about how this was “an OK short film but not an episode of Girls.” And while it was a dramatic departure for the show, I think that is amazing.

Hanna Rosin over at Slate wrote an excellent piece about how this episode is a fantasy sequence, and Lena herself admits that she wrote in a “sort of fever dream,” and it really does feel divorced from the gritty reality of the show. This is, as Rosin says, the Sex & the City relationship, with the conventionally attractive, not weirdly damaged, genuinely kind man (hello Patrick Wilson), that Hannah is in no way emotionally ready for.

There isn’t really much of anything to recap as far as action, but emotionally I think this episode is maybe the most important one this season. Hannah realizes in the face of Joshua-don’t-call-me-Josh’s kindness that she really does want to be happy. I know that this seems like a simple thing to admit, that’s how Joshua reacts too, but for Hannah this is huge. It’s an admission that the pursuit of experience for its own sake, particularly painful experience, no matter how much it helps you be a writer, leads to a really shitty life. I know she must feel like she is selling out in some way, but I really hope that she just lets herself be happy. But this is Girls so of course it won’t be that easy.

In the spirit of the emotional reality of this dream-episode, I’ll admit that I fear all the time that my dreams for my life are too small, that to really be interesting I have to like quit my job and ride the rails or something equally crazy and hard. But at the end of the day I’m not built to do something like that, all I want is friends that I love, a nice guy, and to be happy. And it was refreshing, as it always is when Lena seems to read my mind, to see that struggle reflected in this admittedly strange half an hour of television.

(P.S. Ray calm the fuck down OK? I know that the café is the only thing you have under control in your life, but Patrick Wilson did literally nothing to you.)