Ten Songs to Lull Me to Sleep on the Plane

So I know it seems like I’ve already been on a blog vacation lately, (sorry, summer slump…) but I leave on my actual annual trip to the East Coast tomorrow morning. In preparation I’ve put together a really mellow travel mix to listen to on the plane. Enjoy and expect a vacation recap post in a little over a week! (You can follow my on Instagram now @kathryndennett if you must know what I’m doing while I’m away.)

If I Die Young – The Band Perry

The first of many of these songs that make me cry if I’m in the wrong mood, but instantly calm me if I’m in the right one.

America – Simon & Garfunkel

A perfect traveling song.

Bad Religion – Frank Ocean

This version in particular, gets me every time. I love that he brought a string section to Fallon.

In My Place – Coldplay

One of my favorites in high school, the repetition makes it like a lullaby to me.

Almost Love – A Fine Frenzy

OK so this one pretty much always makes me cry, but I adore it anyway. It’s about a situation that I think is pretty common in modern life but you never hear songs about, and it captures the bittersweet emotion perfectly.

We Can’t Have Nice Things – Kelly Hogan

If you have ever read this blog before this should not be a surprise.

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

This song has been stalking me the last few weeks. It was playing at the MSI as I walked into the Omnimax, it was Jimmy Kimmel’s wedding walk out song (according to the stalkers at People Magazine, I wasn’t there), and someone was playing it really loudly out of an open window as I was walking home last night. I’m OK with all of this.

Anna Begins – Counting Crows

Because I share Luke on TBTL’s not-secret-at-all-secret love of the Crows.

Cover Me Up – Jason Isbell

Formerly of the Drive By Truckers – I heard him on Fresh Air last week and fell in love.

Sam’s Town – The Killers

The ultimate coming home song for me. I don’t even really know why.

 

Have a good week!!

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Weekly Adventure: Pitchfork Festival 2013

vip

For those of you who aren’t aware, I volunteer at the Open Books bookstore near Chicago & Franklin, which is part of a great literacy non-profit that you can read all about here.  You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about this at the beginning of a Pitchfork post, but it actually makes sense I promise.

Pitchfork has a great program where they get volunteer staff through non-profits and then give those organizations booth space and money from the ticket proceeds, and the volunteers get to hang out for free after their shifts.

So this past Saturday if you were a VIP at Pitchfork you probably saw me pointing you away from an exit. After I was done with my incredibly taxing job, I wandered around the tents. Part of what I love about Pitchfork is the poster vendors, and while I didn’t buy any, (a blessing given the rain I got caught in later) there were a lot of gems:

bear

After taking in a few, only at Pitchfork sights, like this man actually cutting the new Cut Copy single, which randomly wearing a doctor’s coat:

 

rock doctor

My fellow volunteers and I sat in the grass listening to The Breeders, who I know I should know more about. But I really liked them, especially this song:

Then it was time to get up and dance to Solange, who was adorable and energetic, and probably insane:

(I loved this song so much better live without the over production, she’s more talented than this recording shows.)

solange

Then Belle and Sebastian, who were clearly having so much fun, and so was I, until it was raining, a lot. And I gave up, but not before hearing this song (and a few other favorites):

belle

 

AS you can probably tell I have an iPhone now, and have joined Instagram – follow me! @kathryndennett

Triple Digit Movie: The Way Way Back

So for the first time this summer I went to the movies solely for the air conditioning yesterday, but the movie I ended up walking into, The Way Way Back, was delightful. All of the posters and press for the movie heralded the fact that it came from the “studio” that brought us Little Miss Sunshine, which makes sense given Toni Collette and Steve Carrell’s presence. But despite the fact that it also features a dysfunctional family and a great soundtrack, this movie really stands on its own.
The plot follows Duncan (the quietly compelling Liam James) as he is dragged to an East Coast beach town (which oddly made me miss New England a lot) along with his divorced mom (Collette), her (controlling) boyfriend Trent (Carrell), and his wonderfully catty daughter (Zoe Levin). The movie wonderfully captures the claustrophobia of forced familiarity, but it really takes off when Duncan escapes to the freedom of the local water park and bonds with the misfit staff there, led by the charming man-boy Owen (Sam Rockwell) and fondly exasperated Caitlin (Maya Rudolf).


This is essentially just a really sweet coming of age story, with an absolutely wonderful supporting cast, but what’s wonderful about it is the core message doesn’t seem to be that Duncan needs to “go his own way,” no matter how many times Rockwell repeats that mantra, but rather that growing up is realizing that no one really knows what their way will be. (And those who claim they do are probably controlling jerks who will yell at you about the rules of Candy Land.)
I have to give a special shout out to Allison Janney as the delightfully drunk, but deceptively wise neighbor whose daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) manic pixie dream girls her way into Duncan’s life, by sharing the magic of ghost crabs. Janney steals every scene she’s in, and considering how strong the rest of the movie is that’s really remarkable.

P.S. I also spent a lot of time, riding in the way back of a car, the opening sequence really captured the banal joy of watching the world pass out the back windshield of a car.

Weekly Adventure: Rogers & Hammerstein’s Concert in Millennium Park

millennium park

Sorry I’ve been kind of been missing from the blog this week. I’ve mostly just been watching a lot of Doctor Who in front of my tower fan. (And watching the US beat Costa Rica in the Gold Cup!) Which I couldn’t think of a way to make that interesting for all of you. But last night the Grant Park Music Festival (which confusingly takes place in place in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park) presented a night of Rogers & Hammerstein music, and while there was rain and sauna-esque heat, it was lovely.

There are few things I love more than a full chorus singing R&H’s songs. (Especially when one of the soloists is Rebecca Luker). I, of course, don’t have video of last night, so here are some of my favorite recordings of the songs that they did:

“Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma

The Hugh Jackman version is wonderful too…

“Soliloquy” from Carousel

As good as they were last night, nothing will ever beat Gordon MacRae for me.

“Shall We Dance” from The King & I

I don’t really have a favorite version of this show, I just loved the families standing up and dancing to it in the park last night.

“Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music

Yes, I know that isn’t really Christopher Plummer singing, but as Justin said last night “this movie is my childhood.” And when they led the whole crowd in a sing-a-long of this one I may have gotten chills. I love communal singing.

And then for their encore:

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel

Because apparently they needed me to cry. (Also I just learned from Google, that this is the fan anthem for the Liverpool football club, which makes about as much sense as “Chelsea Dagger”)

Weekly Adventure: Rooms from Broken Nose Theater

Goldstar sometimes leads me to wonderful surprises. Rooms: A Rock Romance is being produced by a theater company I’ve never heard of (Broken Nose Theater – this is only their third production), in a space I don’t pass by casually (the Collaboraction space in the Flat Iron Arts Building), so I wouldn’t have happened upon this any other way. But I’m so glad I read all the ridiculous e-mails Goldstar sends me, because this show is so much fun.

A rock musical, a duet really, set in 1977 Glasgow (and London and New York), the show follows Monica (Hillary Marren) and Ian (Matt Deitchman, who I used to see in plays at Northwestern all the time!) through a familiar show-biz narrative: boy meets girl, they write music together, fall in love, get famous, it collapses, etc.

The plot may not be groundbreaking, but these actors, and their fabulous band, have an infectious energy, and a great chemistry. I believed them, which carried me through the trite bits of the script. The score was upbeat and clever, I especially loved the “Scottish Jewish Princess” Bat Mitzvah anthem.

I saw a preview last night, so I’m not going to nitpick things they’re probably still tweaking, but I can whole heartedly recommend this show. Even Julia, who admittedly does not love musicals, had fun at this one with me. I believe her exact quote was something like “It was like RENT mixed with Once but happy.” High praise.

The show runs through August 10th at the Collaboraction space at 1579 N. Milwaukee

The Shakespeare Project: Hamlet

Somehow I managed to get an excellent high school education and a degree in English Literature from an elite university without ever reading Hamlet. I’ve seen a student production and the Kenneth Branagh movie adaptation, but until this past week I’ve never actually read the text.

Honestly, at first I wasn’t in love. I found the monologues a little bit tedious and I wasn’t really emotionally connecting to the young Prince. But after a wonderful discussion with Julia, while lying out in the sun last week, I realized I was being a hipster about Hamlet. Meaning, I wanted to not like it, because I was supposed to love it. But ultimately, I did love it. It’s a portrait of a man, in Julia’s words, “struggling to do something he believes to be right, which is completely out of character.”

This is a play about a man in an extraordinary situation and I think my annoyance going in came from how everyone tries to use his struggle as a metaphor as if it is somehow relatable, because it isn’t. It doesn’t even really make any sense without a deep understanding of Danish royal politics (their King’s are elected by the way, that’s why Hamlet didn’t inherit his father’s crown, a fact Shakespeare doesn’t include till Act V.) Also I still can’t really figure out where Queen Gertrude is supposed to be coming from. Is she evil? Coerced into marrying her brother-in-law? Completely devoid of any character? (Oh my God is that it? Is Gertrude a robot? Someone get me a storefront theater I have a space age Hamlet to produce.)

On the subject of the women; I love Ophelia. She holds her own against Hamlet’s relentless punning (seriously that man and the wordplay…) and tries her best to keep up with his (admittedly warranted) mood swings.  Her descent into madness, if played correctly (very difficult I grant), makes sense in a way that many of Shakespeare’s heroine’s demises do not.

Also if you like Shakespeare and haven’t watched the old Canadian TV show Slings & Arrows you are missing out. The first season follows a production of Hamlet with Luke Kirby and Rachel McAdams, and this song, which makes me giggle all the time:

Next up is all of the Henrys – all in a row…so that should be fun…

Best Picture Baking Project: All About Eve

allabouteve

All About Eve is the first movie from the Best Picture list that also could have been a “Classic from the Queue” in that I have lied about seeing it for years. Anyway this entire movie is a flashback that takes place at an awards show, so it seems particularly appropriate for this blog, and so when I Googled “Glamorous Desserts” and happened upon “Jellied Champagne” I knew I had found the best pairing possible.

Onto the questionnaire:

Had I seen this one before?

No, but it is referenced in so many things that I’ve felt like I’ve seen it for a long time.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. This movie has all of the best one liners: from the iconic “buckle your seat belts it’s going to be a bumpy night” to “I’ll admit I may have seen better days, but I’m still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut.” Margot Channing (Bette Davis) is cleverer drunk than most people are sober. The dialogue was amazing, the voice over I could have lived without.

2.  Beware of people whose faces do not move. Eve Harrington though seemingly sweet, is creepy. And anyone who looked how still her eyebrows were would have known that.

3. Marilyn Monroe is epic. Even when all she wants is a drink. Actually make that especially when all she wants is a drink.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Born Yesterday – Never seen it. I’m not sure if I’ve even heard of it.

Father of the Bride – Watching Spencer Tracy look overwhelmed is fun and everything, but this isn’t as sophisticated as Eve

King Solomon’s Mines I know I have never even heard of this

Sunset Boulevard – This is a tough one, because I really love both of these movies, and they have remarkable similarities. Boulevard is darker, but I don’t know if that actually makes it better…

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes! Finally yes! There are at least six named women I can think of. And they all talk to other women. And they all discuss things like the theater and themselves! I’m so glad, I honestly was getting scared that there weren’t going to be any Best Picture winners that passed the test.

And I really loved the campiness of this whole thing. And jellied champagne turns out to be actually really good. (It’s just alcoholic Jello.)

Jellied Champagne

Ingredients

–          1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (one envelope)

–          2 cups cold white grape juice

–          2 tablespoons sugar

–          2 cups champagne

–          8 fresh strawberries, hulled

Directions

–          In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup cold grape juice

–          Let stand for 1 minute.

–          Heat over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved.

–          Stir in sugar.

–          Remove from heat.

–          Stir in remaining grape juice.

–          Cool to room temperature.

–          Transfer gelatin mixture to a large bowl.

–          Slowly stir in champagne.

–          Pour half of the mixture into eight Champagne or parfait glasses.

–          Add one strawberry to each glass.

–          Chill glasses and remaining gelatin mixture until almost set (about 1 hour though it took mine like 2)

–          Place the reserved gelatin mixture in a blender.

–          Cover and process until foamy.

–          Pour into glasses.

–          Chill for 3 hours or until set (I let it sit overnight.)

Bonus Adventure: Yellow Moon at Writer’s Theater

I’ve always meant to go to a show at Writer’s Theater. I’ve heard great things and Julia used to intern there, but it’s in Glencoe, and while it is very accessible by train it can be hard to talk myself into a suburban adventure. But last night’s trek out to see Yellow Moon in the Writer’s black box (which is in the back room of an independent bookstore therefore combining my two favorite things in the entire world theater and buying books) was definitely worth the Metra ride.

Yellow Moon was written by David Greig, who also wrote one of my all time favorite plays The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart. Moon manages to be remarkably similar to Prudencia, in that the actors are really story tellers, who slip in and out of character and speak directly to the audience, and at the same time completely different from it. Mostly this is a much darker story. It follows a teenage delinquent kid named “Stag Lee” (played by the remarkable Josh Salt) and Leila, a shy troubled girl enamored with Lee’s charisma (the equally wonderful Ashleigh LaThrop) as they deal with the consequences of a terrible Friday night they share in a cemetery.

Like with Belleville I fear that revealing too much will take away from the powerful way the story unfolds, but I will say that this cast (filled out by John Lister and Karen Janes Wodsitch as the various adults that come into Lee and Leila’s path) has great chemistry, and a clear love for the piece they are performing. Their energy was palpable (which makes it even more insulting that a man fell asleep in the back row. It’s a tiny theater, I literally can’t think of anything ruder.)

Anyway you should all hop on the Northern Line Metra to Glencoe, this play is worth it.

 

The show runs through July 14th at 664 Vernon Avenue in Glencoe

Weekly Adventure: Belleville at Steppenwolf

What better way to start a patriotic holiday weekend than a tense emotional thriller set in Paris? OK so admittedly Belleville may not have been the most festive entertainment choice for Wednesday night, but it was definitely powerful.

This is one of those shows that it’s hard to write about, because it starts as one thing and then devolves brilliantly into another and describing the plot too much would give too much away. But I will say that Cliff Chamberlain and Kate Arrington had wonderful chemistry, even when the actions of the characters were completely insane.

A brief spoiler free introduction: the plot follows Abigail and Zack, American ex-pats who live in a seriously gorgeous apartment in Paris (I wanted to move in) and have a tenuous friendship with their Senegalese landlord/neighbors. Pretty standard, seemingly relatable characters, but from the beginning there is a strange sense that something is a bit off.

I know this isn’t much of a review, and I apologize, but I’m still reeling from the strength of this play. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve stood in the lobby of a theater dissecting my reaction for a good 10 minutes, and not really coming to any conclusion. So you should go see it, especially if you speak French (because if you don’t certain scenes really won’t make sense) and have a friend’s hand to hold during the worst parts toward the end.

The show runs through August 25th at the Steppenwolf main stage at 1650 N Halsted Street

Not at All a Triple Digit Movie: The Bling Ring

It was almost chilly yesterday, my favorite weather, but I went to the movies anyway, because I wanted to see if Emma Watson could make herself as completely devoid of personality as Alexis Neiers on Pretty Wild.

Full disclosure, I don’t tend to enjoy the work of Sofia Coppola. I find the stories she chooses to tell shallow and her characters distant and cold. (Yes this includes Lost in Translation, no I’m not particularly interested in your thoughts on why I’m wrong about that movie. It’s a matter of taste.) But that totally worked for this subject matter. These were shallow, emotionally disconnected kids, who didn’t think of their victims as people but as icons of a sort.

I’ve wasted a lot of my time watching stupid reality shows about people who aren’t particularly talented at anything other than self-promotion. So while I’ve never aspired to go to the school where “The Hills girls” went or “have my own lifestyle brand,” I can understand to a certain extent what these kids were fixated on. Obviously I can’t understand how you jump from reading too many gossip blogs to robbing houses, but I don’t know if this movie is even really about that.

Overall the movie was a quick, slightly repetitive, glimpse at the dangers of excess. No new ground was broken really, but I was moved by the performance of Israel Broussard. The sole male member of the central group, his baby face really drove home how young these kids were, which made the truly astonishing amount of cocaine they do even more shocking. He was the most sympathetic of the kids, seemingly motivated more by a desire for social acceptance than a weird love/idealization of Lindsay Lohan.  

By the way Emma did a pretty good job (though her accent slipped through a bit at times):

And the end credits feature this fantastic Frank Ocean song, which is pretty apt