Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best Picture Shenanigans: Mad Max, Spotlight, and The Big Short

Alright, since I"m knocking out all these Best Picture movies pretty fast, here's like, three different movie reviews for the price of one. Just kidding, I don't have ads. Maybe I should do that?

Mad Max: Fury Road

This movie is pretty much the best car chase ever. EVER.
Have no idea what's happeneing? That's okay, just know that it's awesome.
I mean, there's a dude with a flamethrower guitar, like for real.
Also, I'm amazed at how Tom Hardy can act with like literally two thirds of his face covered all the time.
Anyway, Mad Max kind of came out of nowhere over the summer. Since everyone was getting pumped about Age of Ultron (and subsequently let down HARD), this movie, after several years of buildup and a cast change (Mel Gibson is ((thankfully)) nowhere to be found), had a lot of stuff riding on it (Terribly sorry about the pun). You've got Tom Hardy in the title role, being awesome.
But the real big deal here is Charlize Thereon as Imperator Furiosa. You know that female action hero that Marvel has refused to release a movie for, or the one that every other movie has turned into a sex kitten? Furiosa is all your dreams come true. She's awesome, she kicks butt, and she's got a great story. That's not even to mention the band of pregnant ladies she's helping escape the citadel.
You've got Nicholas Hoult being crazy too, which he does a good job with.
The film is visually stunning, always exciting, and completely unique.
Will it win Best Picture: Probably not, but hey, if it does, I'll drink to that.


Spotlight

When I went into this movie, I was readying myself for a movie that was going to be hard to watch with lots of A-listers yelling at each other. Thank God that is not the case. Spotlight manages to strike the perfect balance between a watchable movie and an expose' on an awful series of events.
The acting is excellent, very down to Earth, not a lot of showing off just for the sake of it. I especially enjoyed Michael Keaton (who is redeeming himself after Birdman for me). Despite being an all star cast, I actually believed them as all of these normal people.
It's about the Boston Globe reporters tasked with the investigation of allegations of abuse within the Catholic church. Not exactly your usual Friday night fare but it's a beautifully and tastefully done piece that cuts straight to the heart without any excess vanity.
Spotlight is not a melodrama. That is precisely why it works. Absolutely worth seeing.
Will it win Best Picture? Signs point to yes. And I'd be perfectly happy with that.

The Big Short

Just a note: if you're photosensitive, I wouldn't really recommend seeing this movie. The editing is frantic and could cause seizures if you're sensitive to that.
Anyway, on to the movie.
I didn't love this film despite its best efforts. I laughed a couple of times, but most of the time it just felt rather meh.
Christian Bale's character takes up far too much time in this movie for a character that easily could have been developed in two or three scenes. The movie soars whenever Ryan Gosling is on screen, and Steve Carrell is basically playing Michael Scott with anger issues, which can be kind of fun. The ending is effective, but it just takes too long to get there. The pacing is the Achilles tendon of this movie. It's alternately lightning fast and slow as molasses.
I liked the devices they use to explain some of the more complicated economic stuff (i.e. Margot Robbie sipping champagne in a bathtub, Selena Gomez playing poker, Anthony Bourdain cooking stew) but I still felt confused for chunks of the film (my mom did too, so it's not just me being two weeks into AP Econ).
Ultimately, those of you who loved The Wolf of Wall Street will probably either find a kindred spirit or an eager ripoff.  I am somewhere in the middleground on that one.
Will it win Best Picture? Not a chance.

I'll be back in the next couple of days with The Revenant, Carol, The Danish Girl, Room, and whatever else I can squeeze in.

-Randi

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Great Oscar Predictions of 2016

Welp, the time is come. Let's get down to business.

But before I write out this sure to  be lengthy post,  I would like to take a moment to express my utter sadness at the passing of Alan Rickman. Rest in peace.


Best Picture

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

So nothing out of the ordinary here. As much as I completely adored Mad Max, I still believe it will be a tough battle between Spotlight and The Revenant. If you're of the money betting type, I'd put it on Spotlight at the moment. Also, where is Carol? I would have EASILY replaced Bridge of Spies with that. Heck, I'd have even thrown in Straight Outta Compton.

Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Adam McKay (The Big Short)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)


Again, a battle between Revenant and Spotlight to me. Alejandro is hot off a win for Birdman last year, but Spotlight seemed a lock in since day 1.

Best Actor

Leonardo Dicaprio (The Revenant)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

No Johnny Depp for Black Mass, which is unfortunate, and I'm slightly weirded out that Matt Damon made it in, but LEO IS FINALLY THE FRONTRUNNER TO WIN EVERYBODY GET HYPE.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saorise Ronan (Brooklyn)

You can count on Brie Larson for this one. Her performance in Room has been gathering steam for some time now, and while I haven't personally seen the movie, she has done awesome work in the past (check out Short Term 12, it's one of my favorite newer films). If there is an upset, it's Cate. Also, where in the world is Charlize Theron? She made Mad Max one of the best movies of the year.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale (The Big Short)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

What is Stallone doing here? This might be the only performance to get nominated for both an Oscar and a Razzie. I have no idea what to say about this one. Mark Rylance wins a Tony every time he walks on stage (usually in Shakespearean garb), but I don't know if that will translate to the screen. Seriously, no clue here. If Idris Elba were nominated for Beasts of No Nation, it probably wouldn't be wide open but whatever. Don't listen to me Academy.

Best Supporting Actress 

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Personally, my money is on Jennifer Jason Leigh. Tarantino has a way with the supporting categories. But pretty much all of these awesome ladies have a pretty good shot. Again, if you're the betting type, Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Best Original Screenplay

Spotlight
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
Inside Out
Ex Machina

Cool to see Straight Outta Compton and Ex Machina put in. I have no clue who's gonna win though. You're on your own guys.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Martian
Brooklyn
The Big Short
Carol
Room

Hm. I'm gonna say it's a fight between The Martian and Carol, with Room being a possible upset.

Best Cinematography

The Revenant
Carol
Sicario
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hateful Eight

I'd say The Revenant, although the Academy might be on board with Tarantino and Co.s dedication to the 70mm format with Hateful Eight. Mad Max would be the upset.

Best Film Editing

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Holla at Star Wars! But seriously, I'm praying Mad Max can get this one, because the lady who did it (and it was a lady whose name is escaping me at the moment) did a brilliant job, especially in comparison to some other terribly edited car chase sequences in the movies this year (cough cough Spectre cough cough).

Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Once again, the Academy has proved that the only category allowed to have fun is Visual Effects. If Star Wars gets honored, it will probably  be here for the fantastic mix of CGI and practical effects. But then again, The martian and Mad Max both had excellent special effects as well. But Star Wars!

Best Production Design

The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
Bridge of Spies
The Martian
The Revenant

I'm gonna go with Mad Max, but The Revenant and The Martian are up there too, with a possible upset by the Danish Girl.

Best Costumes

Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Mad Max vs. Cinderella. That's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Best Original Score

Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
Carter Burwell (Carol)
John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies)
Johann Johannson (Sicario)

I'm thinking Ennio has this one. It is nice to see John Williams here, for his excellent work blending new and old with his Star Wars score (I listen to Rey's theme a lot).

Best Original Song

Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Manta Ray (Racing Exctinction)
Simple Song #3 (Youth)
Til It Happens To You (The Hunting Ground)
Writing's on the Wall (Spectre)

I really disliked a lot of things about Spectre, but nothing more than Sam Smith's utter Adele rip off of a title credits song. My heart is set on Lady Gaga's emotionally compelling Til It Happens To You.

There's a bunch of other categeories that I don't have sufficient knowledge in to discuss so I'll just leave this post off here. It's Anomalisa vs. Inside Out for Best Animated so we'll see how it goes. Best of luck with your viewing party. I'll probably be in rehearsal for a show during the broadcast, but I'll be sure to catch it when I come home.

This is like the whitest Oscars ever, wow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Things to Get Hype About in 2016

There's something I've realized over the last couple of years in my life: The first three weeks of January are the worst. I literally have felt nothing in the past few days and am desperately trying to pull myself out of my funk. Seriously, have you any of you tried to be in Legally Blonde the musical with the winter blahs? It's helping no one.
So here's some stuff that's gonna be pretty cool or something. I don't know. Maybe. I think so anyway.

1. Deadpool. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. As someone who is going to study marketing in college, I've been taking notes on Deadpool's ad campaign, like oh my sweet chimichangas. I'm especially loving the fakey Nicholas Sparks-esque ads. Although in the regards, I also like this quote from the independent.

While it's wonderfully left field to see Marvel's hero take on The Bachelor crowd, let's not pretend there aren't hordes of women who don't need their boyfriends to tell them who Deadpool is, and actually can't wait to see him rip the arms off a couple of thugs and dance in the fountains of their blood.

2. Moana. Hamilton homeboy Lin-Manuel Miranda is composing the music, Dwayne the Rock Johnson is going to be singing this music, and actual representation in a Disney movie? Sign me up. It looks totally gorgeous.

3. Leonardo DiCaprio getting his Oscar. Of course, nothing is for sure as of yet,  but as I'll probably end up writing about sometime before the long awaited (or perhaps long dreaded) ceremony, our dear actor of constant sorrow Leonardo DiCaprio is finally the frontrunner for his harrowing work in The Revenant (don't go see this movie if you're of a faint of heart disposition or don't like bears). 

4. Hail Caesar. Holla at the Coen Brothers for always somehow making movies I want to see across all genres. This movie has the potential to be pretty awesome.

5. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 coming to Broadway. This show is incredible, an electropop opera that takes a section of War and Peace and turns it up to eleven. The Russian traditional and modern pop mix together seamlessly. If you haven't listened to the cast album yet, go check it out. Also, if you're a fan of Philippa Soo, who is Eliza Schuyler Hamilton in Hamilton, she plays Natasha (brilliantly, I might add).

6. Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. The legendary Audra McDonald won her record breaking sixth Tony award for this show, and HBO will air a special performance from New Orleans sometime in March. This is a heartbreaking piece and McDonald completely transforms into Billie and it's incredible. Even if you're not familiar with Lady Day, this is a play worth watching.

7. Seeing more regional theatre. I've discovered a couple of really good companies in my town and I'm excited to see more stuff. I'm also going to attempt the National Tour of Bridges of Madison County in Nashville. But seriously, go support regional theatre, it's totally worth it.

-Randi

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Things Randi Really Liked In 2015

I hate year end lists.

Just kidding, I read all of them just like the rest of you.

But here are things I liked in 2015 regardless of what year they came out.

1. How Big How Blue How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine. It's no secret that Flo and co. are pretty much my favorite band ever. This third album is their best to date and I'm still obsessed with it. I will forever associate it with an extremely sketchy hotel in Macon, Georgia where I was theoretically going to stay the night on my way to Disney World. The wi-fi wasn't solid enough for the download so I had to wait, but dang, it was memorable trying. Not five months later, the music video for Delilah would also find Florence in a sketchy motel, except this one had literal demons, and the one I was in only had blood and dirt on the sheets (yikes).

2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt. This show is probably my favorite that has come out of all the Netflix originals comedy wise (I'll get to the dramas later). Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess are fronting a hilariously original show and Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski are the multitudinous toppings on the sundae. You'll laugh, I promise.

3. Hamilton. Anyone who has been within thirty feet of me knows that I can rap all the way through Hamilton with varying degrees of success. I'll excuse you from reading the rest of this post if you wanna go listen to it. It's that awesome.

4. Lizzie the Musical. A rock concept album/musical about Lizzie Borden featuring awesome hard rocking songs? Sign me up.

5. Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino. I don't know why it took me so long to figure out this was on the menu, but once I did, I didn't order anything else.

6. The cute barista at the Barnes and Noble Starbucks who can usually be found serving me these green tea frapps. we should probably talk sometime about something other than how to spell my name or whipped cream preferences. Will we? Probably not, because I'm not good at talking to anybody, much less boys.

7. Dole Whip. My aforementioned trip to Disney World was an awesome week in my summer. And every single day, at some point, usually in the hot afternoon or humid evening, you could find that pastel yellow nectar of the gods in my hand, that fateful soft serve delicacy: the dole whip. Pineapple soft serve should not be allowed to be this delicious, and yet here we are.

8. Crimson Peak. This movie perfectly fueled my performance in Poe's Midnight Dreary. It's like House of Usher turned up to eleven with 200 percent more Tom Hiddleston, so a win win situation.

9. Deaf West's Spring Awakening. The coolest show on the street is fittingly right next door to the coolest show in the world. A re-imagning of the rock musical Spring Awakening, already a favorite of mine, this show is accessible to both deaf and hearing people and is performed in sign language and spoken at the same time. It adds so many beautiful layers of story telling without adding or taking away a single word form the original show. Gorgeous, inventive, and even better than the original. my attempts at signing along to Blue Wind are hilarious.

10. Star Wars. It hasn't even come out yet and I'm just really happy at the influx of Star Wars in my life. Holla at that, am I right?

11. Hellboy. I'm definitely really late to the party on this one. But both the Dark Horse comics and the Guillermo Del Toro films never fail to cheer me up. My vision for a third film: Hellboy 3: The Abe Sapian Synchronized Swim Team. You know you want it.

12. Hand to God. A small Texas town? Religious commentary? A possessed sock puppet? How did I not write this?

13. Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Two really different shows, both totally awesome in their own ways. I love the action packed drama of Daredevil and the terrifying re imagining of Wilson Fisk, finally making him a truly scary villain. I love Jessica Jones being a female led superhero show, David Tennant's sickeningly evil Kilgrave, and Krysten Ritter's excellent portrayal of Jessica herself. Marvel's Defenders are turning out in full force.

14. Nanowrimo.  Holla at me for winning.

15. Didn't He Ramble by Glen Hansard. After seeing this tour de force of a guy live in February, this September release felt like eons away. It was worth it though. An awesome collection of songs with influences from every genre under the sun.

16. Becoming a more independent person and making really hard choices for myself.

17. Composing the score to Poe's Midnight Dreary.

18. Getting to perform that score and be in the show at district and state levels of competition alongside some really hella awesome shows (shoutout to Bob Jones' Axe Man's Requiem and James Clemons' Silenced on Barbour Street, two standout shows full of standout people).

19. Edgar Allan Poe in general tbh.

20. MEETING ALICE RIPLEY

21. Mr car Butters. I don't know, he's just really great.

Well this devolved real quick. Imma sign off now while I'm ahead.

-Randi


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? (In Which Randi Reviews the Hamilton Soundtrack)

If you had told me about two years ago that the hottest Broadway musical would be a rap musical about Alexander Hamilton, I definitely would have laughed at you. But alas, here we are.

Hamilton is like nothing you've ever heard before. A game changing musical that combines contemporary musical styles and a racially diverse cast to tell the story of the birth of a nation and a legend the history books tend to downplay. 

The man behind all this, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has done an incredible job of breathing life into the stuffy old history of America. We see people like Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, heck even King George III, as young vivacious human beings, not old dudes in wigs.

The cast of this show is positively astounding. Lin-Manuel stars as Hamilton, capturing his frantic non-stop style. Daveed Diggs is a true standout, playing Marquis de Lafayette in the first act and Thomas Jefferson in the second. His motormouth work on Guns and Ships is particularly impressive. Leslie Odom Jr. is a revelation as Aaron Burr, creating a full bodied portrayal of a full bodied character, that both Miranda and Odom could have simply played off as the villain. Renee Elise Goldsberry is strong and commanding as Angelica Schuyler, her Act I showstopper Satisfied is one of the very best moments of the show. And shout out to Jonathon Groff for his hilarious turn as King George, for real the funniest part of the show.

If you don't have a lot of time, feel free to stop here. If you do, here's a track by track.

Alexander Hamilton- it's so interesting to see how this song has grown. It started out as a piece at the White House poetry jam a few years back when Lin was still writing Hamilton. This piece perfectly sets up the show and has some pretty awesome moments highlighting what is to come of the brilliant cast.

Aaron Burr, Sir- This is our introduction to Aaron Burr, a central foil to Hamilton. Seeing how the character grows from this point onward is a treat, thanks to the genius writing and the equally amazing work from Leslie Odom Jr. Seriously, this dude is awesome. It also serves as our introduction to Lafayette, John Laurens, and Hercules Mulligan, the latter of which gets some excellent lines.

My Shot- Is it weird to have a showstopper this early in the show? Nope. This is the I Want song for the show, and it is awesome. The section where Hamilton raps "I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory/when's it gonna get me/in my sleep/seven feet ahead of me/" with the snare drum motif that repeats at some key moments later is pretty awesome. What a jam.

The Story of Tonight- This one took a little longer to grow on me, but now it is definitely neck and neck with my other favorite revolutionaries drinking song from Les Miserables. This one really sets up the "forget the stuffy old white dudes" thing for me. Hamilton and co. were young revolutionaries, literally and metaphorically. It is so easy to forget that.

The Schuyler Sisters- The jam to end all jams. In a show like Hamilton, it can be easy to neglect the ladies (God knows how many people have done it before), but instead, Lin brings them to the forefront as an integral part of Hamilton's story. Here we see Peggy, Angelica, and Eliza brought startlingly to life. These were ladies who were taking charge of their own fate and minds in colonial Manhattan. How lucky we are to be alive right now, indeed. 

Farmer Refuted- A song that more easily fits into preconceptions of musical theater, Farmer Refuted could be in a show like Les Miserables, or that other musical about revolutionaries, 1776. However, it does not feel jarring, a testament to the prefect blend created by Miranda. There are some excellent zingers and clever lyrics, and great character insights.

You'll Be Back- A comedy tour de force, this is King George's breakup song to the colonies. Literally. How could you resist lyrics like You cry/in your tea/which your hurl in the sea/when you see me go by. Groff delivers this song perfectly on the cast recording, his timing and inflections are so funny. This role gets all of ten minutes on stage, but don't be surprised come Tony time if King George gets a little love.

Right Hand Man- Wondering where George Washington is? Here he is. This song is  a jaaaaam. It creates the Washington as a man not to be messed with, a little older and wiser than the younguns like Hamilton and Hercules Mulligan, but still a force to be reckoned with. Chris Jackson is both an excellent singer and rapper, and his booming voice fits perfectly with the part. 

A Winter's Ball- This one doesn't do a whole lot for the story, except reveal that Hamilton and Co. were ladies men. If you're short on cash and going for the Hamilton sampler, you can skip this one. It's pretty funny though.

Helpless- Eliza's big Act I song. A doo-wop jam, this really demonstrates Philippa Soo's awesome range of style. It's a bit mushy, but in the best possible way, documenting Hamilton's courtship of Eliza. Super romantic and fluffy.

Satisfied- Arguably the best song in the show. Renee Elise Goldsberry knocks it out of the park. This woman can switch from rapping to singing in a matter of two seconds, and does both extremely well. The wordplay and lyricism in this piece are also some of the best in the show, and advance the story and Angelica's character at the same time. It's an insane song that serves so many different functions, but also is just fun to listen to. This is a HUGE moment, and should be recognized as such.

The Story of Tonight (Reprise)- Is there anything better than tipsy revolutionaries? Answer: no. Not even a sober Aaron Burr can ruin this party.

Wait for It- Thus far in the story, there really haven't been many redeeming qualities for Burr. He's been this annoying guy constantly ten feet behind Hamilton and just a little too late to get in on the spotlight. Non-Stop is his first of a few big moments and creates this perfect foil to Hamilton. "I am not falling short or running late/I am not standing still/I am lying in wait" is the complete antithesis of Hamilton's non-stop philosophy.  And it frustrates Burr to no end. An excellent character number. I tend to feel this one gets a little overshadowed by Satisfied, and while I have to give the edge to the former, Wait For It is a really awesome jam.

Stay Alive- In case you forgot, there's a war going on. This song is intense, but not without it's comedic moments. Not a standout track, but certainly essential to the story.

Ten Duel Commandments- Not only is this one a banger, it also serves as great foreshadowing for a later event in Act II. Also, now you know how to duel someone. I don't recommend trying that out or anything, but hey, the more you know! Also, a fun fact: All the pistol sound effects on this album are from real flint lock pistols, so what actual duelists of the time would have used.

Meet Me Inside- A brilliant insight into the relationship between Hamilton and Washington throughout the story. It's interesting to see how Washington and Hamilton are so similar and yet so different. 

That Would Be Enough- This is the first interaction we see of Hamilton and Eliza once they are married, and it's heartbreaking and perfect. Angelica says in Satisfied that "You will never find/anyone as trusting/or as kind" and this song really brings that side of Eliza out. Their interactions are very sweet and sincere, a contrast to the driving intensity of the last few numbers.

Guns and Ships- a banger to end all bangers, this is a standout moment for Daveed Diggs in his portrayal of Lafayette. He raps like lightning in this song, but every emotion is clear. This brings in the strength of the relationship between Lafayette and Hamilton as well, that will become a part of the narrative later.

History Has Its Eyes on You- A contemplative moment in the middle of the storm, this Washington led number took a few listens for me, but has now become one of my favorite moments. It's also a great tie in to the finale of the show.

Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)-  HOT RESERVOIR THIS IS MY JELLY! Seriously, what a cool, awesome, epic song, for the battle of Yorktown. Hercules Mulligan steals the song, props to Okieriete Onadoowan . Another fun fact: The World Turned Upside Down was actual drinking song for the Battle of Yorktown. Neat stuff.

What Comes Next?- Another great King George moment, although this is weakest of the three. Worth it simply for the way Groff sings "Awesome, WOW." So sassy.

Dear Theodosia- checking back in with Burr and Hamilton as they contemplate their newborn kids, this song is the best Hey There Deililah homage ever. It's very expressive and sweet, and an interesting change of pace.

Non-Stop- the finale of Act I, encompassing all of the motifs from Act I and setting up the shift from war heroism to political intrigue in Act II. Everyone gets their moment, it's everything an Act I finale should be.

What'd I Miss?- Our segue back into  the show is by way of Thomas Jefferson, who was in France during the revolution. A very fitting introduction into the very self-centered portrayal of Jefferson by the ever fantastic Daveed Diggs.

Cabinet Battle #1- FOUNDING FATHER SMACK DOWN. This is the perfect example of Hamilton's mix of history and hip-hop. Also, it's hella funny.

Take A Break- A look at the home life of the Hamilton family, and how Alexander's work ethic can get in the way of things. Also, anytime we can get more Renee Elise Goldsberry makes for a good time.

Say No To This- You know you're making poor life decisions when the entire ensemble of the show is just shouting NO. Spoilers, but Alexander Hamilton had an affair, and this song is all about that. Jasmine Cephas-Jones, criminally underused in Act I, really gets her moment in the spotlight here. This isan awesome take off on an R&B slow jam. As morally dubious as this song is, what a jam.

The Room Where It Happens- You know how I said Satisfied was arguably the best song in the show? This is where the argument happens. Leslie Odom Jr. pulls off this amazing shift of character with his song. The arc of Burr within the show is incredibly intricate and this song is where he finally breaks out of the shell. But if you're just looking for a catchy song, it works there too. That is the genius of Hamilton: catchy jamz and incredible character work.

Schuyler Defeated- the after effects of Room Where It Happens. If you have to, skip this one.

Cabinet Battle #2- YAAAAAAS MORE DRAGGING FROM HAMILTON AND JEFFERSON. 

Washington On Your Side- I think this is another big narrative shift in Hamilton, where it goes from Hamilton being on top to his descent. His enemies are finally catching up with him, and Washington on Your Side is the strongest example of that. 

One Last Time- Washington's last jam as president. This is such a sweet song and a fitting farewell to Chris Jackson's excellent Washington. A chill moment in the emotional intensity of act II.

I Know Him- King George's last number in the show is hilarious, as are all of his pieces. Seriously, these are highlights in an already amazing piece.

The Adams Administration- SIT DOWN JOHN.

We Know- IF you thought things were going to hell in a handbasket earlier, you clearly haven't hit We Know.

Hurricane- This is such an interesting variation on both History Has Its Eyes on You and parts of My Shot. An interesting check in with the emotional state of Hamilton.

The Reynolds Pamphlet- The greatest self drag of all time. Also, I can't get over that weird low voice. And "he ain't never gonn be President now" is pretty great too. Also, Renee is cold as ice in this song and it is amazing.
 
Burn- Oh my God, get your tissues out because the crying starts now. Philippa Soo delivers a shattering performance all around, but this is where she really blows it away. Her emotion that she pours into this song are heartbreaking. Eliza has gone from wanting to 'be a part of the narrative' to 'erasing herself from the narrative'. There's another part yet to come, but this song is such a beautiful piece.


Blow Us All Away- In case you forgot, Hamilton has a son. And just when you remember, you'll wish you had forgotten. Spoilers, but Phillip dies in a duel. It's a lot to deal with on top of the emotional bomb of Burn.

Stay Alive (Reprise)- How about no.

It's Quiet Uptown- A reflective piece on the slowing down of the Hamilton household. This really paints Alexander in a new light, and also reveals more about Eliza's through her forgiveness of Hamilton. I don't think I've made it through this song without crying, and I am not a weepy person.

The Election of 1800- Hamilton is basically a turd.

Your Obedient Servant- This chronicles letters back and forth between Burr and Hamilton leading up to their duel. A bit of humor in the darkest parts of Act II. How passive aggressive can these guys get?

Best of Wives and Best of Women- Get your tissues back out.

The World Was Wide Enough- That fateful duel that some of you may be familiar with. Hamilton and Burr historically duke it out in a shattering fashion. Hamilton's a capella rapping confronting all his fears about death and what he sees on the other side doesn't feel cheesy lie other people might make it.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story- The finale of Hamilton is really the perfect end to the show. And oddly broad. Eliza tells us how she worked non-stop after Alexander's death, keeping his legacy alive, and her greatest accomplishment was the orphanage in New York. You have no control over who lives, who dies, who tells your story. Luckily, Alexander's story is told by Eliza. And thank God for that.

It's a wild ride, and one worth taking. Whether you like hip hop or not, whether you like musicals or not, whether or not you consider  yourself a history buff or not, Hamilton is absolutely knockout. Yay Hamlet!

-Randi


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Randi Reviews the Oscars: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The very name Wes Anderson conjures up images of opulence: crazy miniature sets, witty and dry humor, symmetrical shots, maybe a Bill Murray cameo. For some people, it sticks. For others, not so much. I've always been a fan of Anderson's whimsical story telling (The Darjeeling Limited is one of my absolute favorite movies), but The Grand Budapest Hotel is the best blend of all of these signature ingredients, coming together to make a film that is deliciously and deliriously great.

Ralph Fiennes is at his best as the decadent and hilarious hotel concierge M. Gustave. He's like James Bond if Bond had any manners. Hilarious and just a little heartbreaking. You can usually find Fiennes playing villains or at least morally gray characters, so seeing that he does indeed posses excellent comedic timing and a pitch perfect sense of ridiculousness makes the performance that much more awesome.

The cast around Fiennes is just as amazing. Tony Revellori as Zero the lobby boy and F. Murray Abraham as Zero's older self are both fantastic. Tony plays straight man to Fiennes whacky concierge, while also lending that note of sadness and seriousness to the story. Saorise Ronan as Agatha, Zero's love interest, is as always great. I'd love to see her do a more major role in an Anderson film. Jude Law as our narrator is great in a mostly only speaking role. As with many Anderson films, the very very minor characters make it great too. It's good to see Jason Schwartzman, the expected Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton (in old lady make-up nonetheless), Edward Norton, and many others, obviously having fun.

It's a good old fashioned caper movie that in any other hands would probably not have been not nearly as good. The amazing set design, full of bright colors and eye popping intricacy is even better than what one has come to expect from Mr. Anderson. Alexendre Desplat's score, full of jangling strings and weird yodeling, is one of his best.

It's clear that everyone involved in this movie really loved it, from behind the camera to those in front of it. And that's what makes the Grand Budapest Hotel so great, is that it is unapologetic in its silliness and its clear that it was a labor of love. It's a candy coated escapsim with just enough below the surface to not come off as shallow.  I adored it.

-Randi

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Oscar Nominations

Believe it or not, I've actually seen a lot of the Best Picture nominations this year.

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

So my pick for the film that will actually win is either Boyhood or Birdman. As far as the one I liked better? Boyhood all the way. I'm going to try and review all of these films so I can get back into writing reviews (I felt that my last couple have been kind of bad because I just haven't had a lot of time to write a lot of things in the past couple of months), but I can tell you right now that Birdman was the most pretentious piece I've ever seen in my life, and it didn't sit well with me. If I want meta, I'll go watch Community. I also really really loved Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson's magnum opus for sure. It's such a fun, well designed, and whacky movie you can't  help but enjoy. I also loved the beautiful romanticism of the Theory of Everything, and the Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are stellar (haha). The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing's code breaking days, was so bland for me, so I'm very meh about that one. I'm planning to see Selma soon, I'm interested to see a good civil rights biopic (I feel like a lot of them are just pats on the back to white people), extra points for being directed by a woman. Whiplash is the obvious underdog, and its greatest reward is probably just being nominated, but I do still want to see it. As for American Sniper, I'll probably skip because it looks just a tad too intense for me, but I'm totally rooting for Bradley Cooper because he has been making some super quality movies in the past few years.

Best Actor
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher)
Bradley Cooper (American Sniper)
Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

As far as who is actually going to win, I'd say it's evenly matched between Keaton and Cooper, with Eddie Redmayne possibly upsetting. Again, I'm not worshiping Birdman like everybody else, so I'm definitely hoping for a Bradley Cooper Oscar, but alas, that's how the world turns.

Best Actress 
Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything)
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)
Reese Witherspoon (Wild)

First of all, let's talk about who is not here, because it is a travesty. Amy Adams gave what I thought was the best performance of the year in Big Eyes, a movie that was also not nominated for anything else, which is terrible, because it was fantastic. It was unpretentious and beautifully done, and perfectly sad and funny in equal amounts. Also, Emily Blunt's excellent turn as the Baker's Wife in Into the Woods should have earned a nod, because not only was she a fantastic singer, she really brought energy to a part that absolutely requires it, without being really over the top. It was a beautifully subtle performance. But nope, we had to nominate Marion Cotillard again fr a movie that nobody saw. Anyway, with Adams out of the race, I'm really not sure who will win, so I'm going to say it's between Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon, with maybe Rosamund Pike thrown in as the upset.

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall (The Judge)
Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)
Edward Norton (Birdman)
Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

I have to admit, I'm kind of wanting J.K. Simmons to go in for this one, he's been doing quality work for years and really has never been recognized. But realistically, Ethan Hawke vs. Edward Norton. And again, where is Christoph Waltz for Big Eyes? I know he just won, but I really enjoyede this more nuanced take on characters that he has played more zainly in the past. He truly depicts the intricacies of a controlling and abusive husband perfectly.

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightly (The Imitation Game)
Emma Stone (Birdman)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

For once in my life, I actually really want Meryl Streep to win (I usually think someone else deserves it). But her work as the witch was fantastic, so I'll take that. This is probably the only category I actually agree with in the entire Oscars race this year. If not Meryl, Patricia for Boyhood.

Best Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
Richard Lanklater (Boyhood)
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

I'm calling Linklater on this one, this movie was a miracle shot over twelve years and it was so good. If not Linklater, Birdman, for pretentious reasons.

That's it from me for now. I'll keep checking in to review these films, and maybe a couple of other things too. Stay tuned!