Saturday, July 20, 2013

Parade of Lost Dreams (and Icky Taffy)

We went to the parade today.  I can't exactly call myself a parade expert.  The last time I went to a parade was the Days of '47 Parade when I was like, 9.  (For you out-of-towners, it's a parade in Salt Lake City commemorating the arrival of the pioneers into Utah.  I think.  I'm an out-of-towner myself, and I was, like, 9 when I saw it on a vacation to Utah, so I'm not really sure if what I told you is completely bogus or not).  Anyway, it would be accurate to say I really have no clue what parades are all about.  Other than the ones where they fly a giant Snoopy in between skyscrapers or dye the river green.  But the local ones, like our city parade today, shall I say...BOLOGNA?

It wasn't all a bust.   The coolest thing about the parade was the cops.  Motorcycle cops doing really intricate maneuvers literally inches away from small children sitting on blankets and almost colliding with each other at certain parts of the show.  THAT was cool. 

My second favorite part was the pooper scoopers.  My kids' favorite too.  Nothing is so fascinating as seeing how fast a couple of 11 year old boys can hop out of a golf cart and shovel steaming horse plop in 101 degree heat without being run over by clowns on 3-wheeled bicycles.

The Chick-Fil-A cow in a convertible got a big reaction from the little ones.  I can't blame them.  I got excited too until I realized they were launching stuffed cows into the crowd out of that t-shirt cannon and not chicken strips.

There were also 4 awesome floats, borrowed from other nearby towns that actually took the time to make cool floats.  Sparkly, glittery, moving parts, mildly-attractive local beauty queens waving from the tops.  Did our town have one?  NO.  Not even for our own parade.  (FAIL.)

The part of the parade I did not like was the other 95% of it, which was people in A) old cars B) giant red-neck trucks  C) red-neck camaros with an advertisement for some local store on it and 15 people throwing salt-water taffy at you while 15 more people ran around and handed you fliers for their store.   Winners such as "Amy's Tae Kwan Do," (nothing says Asian martial arts like "Amy's"),  "Skinner horse training (Really? We're not THAT far from the city!)," and "CANTASTIC trash bin cleaners."  (Ok, I have to admit, I'm a little intrigued by this last one.  Have you seen the inside of trash bins?  I'm not a germ-a-phobe by a any means, but the on thing that gives me the strong desire to wear rubber gloves, a coverall, and a gas mask is going anywhere near the inside of my trash bins!)  But anyway, yes, 95% of our parade was local stores, services, and fund raisers passing out endless amounts of fliers which were sucked up 30 minutes later by the local street sweeper truck.

And what's with the salt water taffy??  Does anyone even like that stuff?  It's the Wal-Mart of candy.   At the beginning of the parade, we would jump out of our seats and scream to the extended family of the various local stores to throw candy to us.  Our kids would dive for it, like a piñata of solid gold nuggets had just exploded.  But after the 300th advertising truck had passed by, we started wrinkling up our noses at them and waving our hands in the universal sign for "No thanks, that stuff is disgusting, I wouldn't take it from you if you paid me."  I feel bad for those advertisers at the end of the parade.  They probably went home with 500 pounds of the stuff they will have to donate to the local homeless shelter, who will hand it out to the desperate, who will take it and throw it in the nearest trash where it will melt into sticky goo.  And it will all have to get cleaned out by Cantastic Trash Bin Cleaners.  Oh the irony.

I could do a whole segment on the fashion faux pas at the parade.  The $2 a pair silky elastic waist black basketball shorts worn by the Tooele High marching band, for one.  Even the hottest person in that band looked like a reject from special ed (not that the Tooele Marching Band is a group of lookers.)  And did you know high-waisted, pleated jean shorts are back?  At least that's what I gather from watching the Bluffdale dance squad sashay past.

So, ya.  I'm so glad I woke up at 7:15 on a Saturday, rushed my kids through half dry bowls of cereal, and carted 6 lawn chairs, 2 blankets, 3 beach umbrellas and 14 bottles of water 1/2 a mile down the street to stake out a good spot to get pelted with mailers and gross candy.   If only the motorcycle cops had run over a spectator.   Now THAT would made for a good parade.

Where the blog did Gooogle Reader go?!?

Did you know I used to blog?  Like BLOG.  A lot.  Like 2-3 times a day even!  (I know, I know, what did I possibly have to say back then when I can't come up with 2 posts a month now??).  And then I fell off the wagon, and then I promised I was getting back on the wagon several times, only to freefall off the wagon 2 days later.  But anyway, back to my point (I'm getting to an actual question here...wait for it), if anyone else used to blog, you'll know there was a wonderful thing called Google Reader back then to keep track of your fellow bloggers' blogs.  It's gone now.  (I know, it's been gone for a while, but like I said, I fell off the wagon and right into a black hole, so I'm just now crawling out to realize that I need it. ).  So anyway, (here it is, the question!), does anyone have an alternative "web-based aggregator?"  i.e. a blog feeder that they love???  'Cause, you know, I SWEAR I'm getting back on the wagon.  Again.  For realz.  No, seriously. 

Help a sister out!

(Also, who has a blog they want me to read?  Or one they love that they can recommend?  Maybe if I get addicted to other peoples' blogs again I'll actually stay on my blogging wagon until, like August!)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Not Much Ado About This Movie

So, Big Daddy and I went to the artsy-fartsy movie theater downtown last night to see the latest interpretation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  This one was directed by Joss Whedon (who also directed 2012's Avengers, which I loved, and wrote for several hit TV shows like The Office and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as writing Toy Story.)  He's got a pretty impressive résumé.  But I have to say, he made some strange choices for this production and most of them were misses for me.

Let's start with the story.  This is one of the thumbs up.  Whedon wrote the adaptation for this film and I think he did a good job of using the parts of the play that were most important and which kept the plot moving.  Everything was pretty clear (which is not always a given in a Shakespeare production) and there were no huge holes in the plot....other than why the Prince and his brother Don John were at odds and why Don John was under house arrest, but it's not terribly crucial to the story line, so I'll forgive it). 

Now the cast.  Well, if you've seen the 1993 Kenneth Branagh version, you'll know there were some pretty amazing performances that would be hard to compete with.  I think it would be very difficult, though possible with the right cast, to give that version a run for its money.  But this version's cast fell way WAY short.   There were two, maybe three, stand-out performances and the rest ranged somewhere between unimpressive and atrocious. 

Hero--ATROCIOUS.  Almost every line she gave was a throw-away...mumbled, spoken with zero enthusiasm, or utterly unintelligible (as in during her wedding rampage, which was more like a loud speed mumble.)  She should play a sweet, pure, utterly endearing love interest for Claudio.  But both her looks and her acting left me thinking, "WHY?"

Margaret--Milquetoast.  There's hardly anything to be said about her.  Her role is small but could be key to the plot if played well.  This was not played well and therefore seemed dispensable.

The Prince--meh. Not awful, but nothing stellar.

Leonato -- another so-so performance.  It didn't detract, but it certainly didn't add anything special to this production.

Conrade-- What the heck???  Whoever chose her should be fired.  Punched and then fired.

The saddest disappointment of all was definitely Benedick.  It was just so lackluster.  His looks were bland, his acting was bland. Not bad, just bland.  I know, I know, it's hard to fill Kenneth Branagh's shoes.  But he didn't even come close.   He was just dull.  No spark, no fire, no wit.   The lack of chemistry between him and Beatrice (see below) could have been salvaged if he had been twice the actor, but she just couldn't carry him alone.

Now to the good (ish) ones:

Claudio.  I think he was the only one in the entire production who played his part WELL.  He had fire, he had vim, he had passion.  It took a few scenes to come out, but once it did...well done!

Beatrice.  She was attractive, likable, intelligent, and played her role quite a bit differently than Emma Thompson did.  I was intrigued and excited to see how she would interpret this star character.  And she did alright.  She is a good actress.  But she didn't have the sharpness of wit and tongue like Emma did to make that incredible spark between herself and Benedick so captivating.  And her slapstick clumsiness felt forced.  In the end, I was left wanting more from her.

Don John.  Don John wins a place on the good list really by virtue of comparison only.  Since anything beats the Don John played by Ted, as in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, as in Keanu Reaves (who plays ALL rolls as Ted), I can't complain too much.  He seemed villainous and dark enough.

Friar Francis.  Perfect.  Classic.  A real acting job (the kind where you don't actually notice that the person is trying to act!  Hint hint, almost every one else in the cast.)

Borachio.  I liked him!  Aside from the fact that I spent the first 10 minutes after his entrance trying to remember where the heck I knew him from (he was the son in Unbreakable) , I really enjoyed his role.  He did a very good, believable job.  One of the best in the cast, in fact.

The comic duo of Dogberry and Verges.   Big Daddy and I laughed.  We laughed a lot at these two.  I'm not really sure if it was them we were laughing at or the memory of the incomparable Michael Keaton playing this role.  But there was some actual comedy here not detracted from by their acting in any way.

So on to my other comments:

1) THE BLACK AND WHITE!!!  :(  :(  :(      Why, oh, why did Whedon choose black and white?  I know there are certain genres of movies where black and white ups the artsy factor quite a bit, but this one was not a good fit. There were some would-be beautiful scenes of colorful wedding flowers, jeweled masquerade masks, amber and ruby liquids (from the almost non-stop drinking the characters do) with the sunlight streaming in through the windows.  ALL lost in the flatness of black and white.  Where usually artistic choices such as this quickly become familiar after a few minutes, I found myself wishing away the black and white through the WHOLE movie. 

2) Modern Day.  I did appreciate the more modern-day setting of this movie.  But most of its nuances were lost in the black and white, sad to say.

3) What was with all the booze?  Morning, literally, noon and night.  This movie must have been sponsored by Smirnoff and Southern Comfort. 

4) Beatrice and Benedick.  This is by far one of my favorite Shakespearean relationships.  You can really see the talent of the bard as these two dual with their wits and tongues.  The chemistry and sexual tension was nearly tangible in the 1993 version.  You couldn't wait for Beatrice and Benedick to finally realize that they loved each other.  But here the relationship was watery, the culmination of their pursuit of each other anti-climactic. 

So, in the end, it just was no comparison to the 1993 Kenneth Branagh version.  I wanted to like it.  I looked forward to a fresh, updated interpretation of it.  But this movie goes to show that sometimes being different just to be different does not pay off.