Friday, August 3, 2012

This Is My (Summer) Jam!

Ah, "Summertime and the living is easy". Nay, "summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin' through the jasmine of my mind." Fie, "I think it's fly when [a guy] stops by for the summer."

I have always been told that I have a musical memory. It is both a blessing and a curse to hear a song and be forced to rack through the files in my brain to remember "Oh, yeah. It was on that episode of Grey's Anatomy four seasons ago," or "Oh, yeah. It was on that car commercial. You know, the one with the handsome guy driving through empty city streets?". For some reason, no one is ever on the same page as me. Where I really love my musical memory, is when I am able to hear a song and have it take me back to a specific time and place. Viva La Vida takes me back to driving around in my friend's Saturn and doing spazzy dance moves. "Umbrella" or "Bubbly" take me back to my semester in Vienna. Madonna: The Immaculate Collection take me back to driving from Maine to California with my family as a little girl. Jagged Little Pill takes me back to when I was a little older in Spokane, WA, but still too young to understand what she was talking about in "You Oughta Know".

I don't think I am alone in this part of my musical memory. For me, summers especially have always been an even better harvesting ground for those albums or songs with which I will identify that point in my life. It probably has something to do with being more carefree or open to the music (pretty sure that is straight out of a dancing movie. I've been on a kick).

Whatever the reason, I love to find my "Summer Albums". While they may not be quite on-the-nose-summery as the songs at the top of this post, I find that my summer music tends to always have that open, breezy, windows-down quality.

With all that said (sorry that all really got away from me), I thought I would talk about the five albums that I have been playing on repeat this summer, in no particular order because I just couldn't:

Summer Camp (quite apropos for this post, no?) - Welcome to Condale
Genre: Pop
Music Equation: Summer Camp = Sixteen Candles soundtrack + a dash of Heathers x current music + Zooey Deschanel's voice but stronger
Why I love them: Where do I start? It takes me back to the girl that started an 80's club at her high school with her friends while still allowing me to feel current. Welcome to Condale is one of those albums where I love every song, whether it be the fun and poppy "Better Off Without You" or the creepy cool "I Want You". Also, I bought this album in November and it's still going strong on repeat because it's the gift that keeps on giving.
Best Lyric: "And if I could I'd squeeze your hand so tight every knuckle would crack
I'd wrap my arms around you and snap every bone in your back." - "I Want You"
Best Songs: Where to even begin? "Losing My Mind", "Welcome to Condale", "Brain Krakow" and "Better Off Without You", to name a few

The Lumineers - The Lumineers
Genre: Folky, Bluegrassy Rock (?) (I'm not claiming to be a music expert)
Music Equation: The Lumineers = Mumford & Sons - over hype + Fleet Foxes + Bing commercial
Why I love them: I'm ashamed to say how I discovered this band, but CW or not, I'm happy I did. After first hearing "Ho Hey", I fell so hard for it that I had to find, only to discover that the song or album wouldn't be available for another 4 months! Needless to say, a Youtube video of the song was played several times to help me bide the time. Then when the day finally came, I fell even harder because the whole album is awesome.
Best Lyric: "Classy girls don't kiss in bars" - "Classy Girls"
Best Songs: "Stubborn Love", "Ho Hey", "Big Parade", "Flowers in Your Hair", "Classy Girls"

Metric - Synthetica
Genre: Alternative Electro Rock
Music Equation: Metric = Letters to Cleo x 2012 + Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Why I love them: They have music in Scott Pilgrim. Done! Oh, you want elaboration? Fine. Lead singer Emily Haines has this voice that melts butter, and kicks ... butt at the same time, yet she also is able to do quirky things with her voice without it seeming out of place. While I still hold a candle for their last album Fantasies, this latest is able to keep up with both lush, synthy, drifting songs and loud, hard-hitting anthems.
Best Lyric: "I was looking for a hooker when I found you." - "Lost Kitten"
Best Songs: "Lost Kitten" (love), "Breathing Underwater", "Dreams So Real", "The Void"

Passion Pit - Gossamer
Genre: Alternative Electro Pop
Music Equation: Passion Pit= MGMT + Architecture in Helsinki - some quirkiness x Polyphonic Spree
Why I love them: Because I can have the following scenario: After buying the album last week, I was listening to it while driving home from a trip to Target when I happened upon "Carried Away". Now this could be attributed to my post-retail therapy high, but I proceeded to listen to the song five times in a row while unabashedly dancing in my car. It is the best car dancing song. EVER. This and many other reasons are why Passion Pit is great.
Best Lyric: "Don't call me crazy, I'm happy" - "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy"
Best Songs: "Carried Away","I'll Be Alright", "Cry Like a Ghost", "Hideaway", "Love is Greed"

Purity Ring - Shrines
Genre: Electronic
Music Equation: Purity Ring = Phantogram (check out "When I'm Small". Changed my life last summer) + Crystal Castles
Why I love them: My newest discovery, but we are currently making up for lost time by getting a lot of quality time in. They have this really open sound that pulls you in and then you listen to lyrics and get creeped out. It's awesome!
Best Lyric: "Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you." - "Fineshrine"
Best Songs: "Fineshrine", "Ungirthed", "Crawlersout", "Amenamy", "Saltkin", "Lofticries"

Well, there you have it. I hope that some of you can find something new here to enjoy or if you didn't, aren't these albums awesome?!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What's Your Flavor? Nathan Fillion Edition

I recently went on a Firefly binge and this one was a doozy. It was one of those situations where I re-watched the entire series and movie with my brother and then a few days later I was reflecting upon how good a particular episode is and then ended up watching the whole series and movie again. That happens, right? Just to me? Okay, moving on. In the midst of this relapse, I watched that week’s episode of Castle and a big part of me was thrown. Even though, I have seen all of Castle and watch it every week, I was so immersed in Captain Reynolds and the crew of Serenity that it was hard for me to separate the two characters.

This slide into fanaticism got me thinking of a blog post I had written a couple years ago about my preference of Edward Norton characters, and I thought Nathan Fillion deserved the same attention. For this match-up, I give you the best-selling author, restless bachelor, and devoted father with a streak of danger, Richard Castle; the broody rebel who is hiding his soft side, Captain Malcolm Reynolds; and our wildcard option for those of you who prefer brawn over brains, Captain Hammer.

I am going to rule out Captain Hammer right away. I just don’t know that I am willing to “do the weird stuff” with him, even if the "hammer" is his... never mind. This leaves me with Castle and Mal. The romantic in me wants to pick Mal. I would become a part of his crew and wear him down until he realized that I was the person he wanted to explore the ‘verse with and we would sail away on Serenity all the way to the outer limits, out of the Alliance’s watchful eye. Sigh. However, in reality, I know my choice would be Castle. He’s handsome, funny, debonair, family-oriented, and, let’s not forget or act like I’m above it, loaded. I would still get the satisfaction of making him a reformed bachelor without as much drama as I would get from Mal.

What is your choice, reader who is as familiar with these Nathan Fillion characters as I am?

Note: Also, in case the description of my decline into lunacy isn’t enough, I am going to use this post as an opportunity to stress the importance of watching Firefly. Even though it is a heartbreaking bandwagon to jump on, it is so worth it. I don’t know what it is about that show, but it creates fanatical fans. Exhibit A: Me. My heart breaks every time I watch the last episode or movie. Exhibit B: Troy and Abed from Community. They have a pact to make each other’s deaths look like a suicide over the unjust cancellation of the Joss Whedon vehicle. Yeah, it produces that kind of devotion. (The whole series and follow-up movie are available on Netflix Instant Streaming)

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Top 5 New TV Shows

As some shows, much to my chagrin, are now entering their mid-season hiatus, it is safe to say that we are well into the TV season. The crop of new shows is being pruned of the bad (goodbye, Playboy Club and Charlie’s Angels) and we’re reaping in the good. While some shows’ fates have yet to be determined, it’s fairly clear who is going to get to stay around. With that in mind, I thought I would give some recommendations on what I think are the top 5 new shows of the season.

5. Hart of Dixie (CW) – Okay, bear with me here. If you go into this show knowing that it is schlock and suspend your disbelief to allow for the possibility that we live in a world where Rachel Bilson could be a cardiothoracic surgeon, then I think you, too, could enjoy this show. It’s nothing groundbreaking, sure. But if after two episodes, you DON’T want to live in Bluebell, Alabama with Wade Kinsella, well, then hells bells, I don’t know what to think. Best episode so far: “In Havoc and In Heat”

4. Once Upon a Time (ABC) – With the first couple episodes of this one, I didn’t see how they were going to make an interesting show out of stories we have all heard/seen a million times, but this latest episode restored my faith. If they continue giving our beloved storybook characters a different back story than the ones we are familiar with, I’m all in. Best episode so far: “Snow Falls”

3. Up All Night (NBC) – Before this show premiered, I was crossing my fingers so hard for it to be good. I mean, Will Arnett, Christina Applegate, and Maya Rudolph? It needed to be good. I was so pleased when it was. Best episode so far: “Working Late and Working It” (for Jorma’s presence alone)

2. New Girl (Fox) – Considering that I am in love with her band, obsessed with her website, and already a fan of another TV show starring a Deschanel, it was pretty much a given that I was going to love Zooey’s new show. Yes, she’s a little over the top in her dorkiness, but us girls love to see our lesser qualities amplified in the media to make ourselves feel better about them. Since the premiere of Jess on New Girl, I’ve been wearing my dork badge with a little more pride. Best episode so far: “Wedding” (“He’s so soft like a towel” and Slo-Mo Chicken Dance, y’all!)

1. Revenge (ABC)- Yes, Revenge is my favorite new show. Before you start with the judgemental looks, have you seen this show? It’s nuts burgers! But get past all the pandering to our basic need as a society to see rich people dress pretty and ruin their lives or, at the very least, each other’s lives, and you have a show that actually has a lot to say about morality and, what do you know it, revenge. I also give it major props for having what is possibly the most morally ambiguous lead character on TV. As Emily Thorne seeks revenge for her father’s life, she consistently resides in the grey area. The most empathetic characters on the show are the two guys that she is stringing along as part of her ruse. It’s so good, you guys! Trust me. Best episode so far: “Pilot” (Because you really need to start there.)

So there you have it. What are you liking this season? Anything I missed? I am (sadly) always open to new shows.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Last Movie I Saw: Like Crazy

Like Crazy opened yesterday and as it is a smaller movie, I felt like I needed to tell some of you about it, because as you are about to read, I really liked it.

The film begins with an American boy, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), and a British girl, Anna (Felicity Jones, who I have watched and re-watched several times in the most recent adaptation of Northanger Abbey), falling in love. Anybody who has ever seen a movie knows that if we start with people falling in love, they are bound to run into some bumps in the road. Like Crazy is no different. Anna overstays her student visa to remain with Jacob in Los Angeles after they graduate, but is eventually found out and forced to return to London. Now they must learn how to handle being constantly drawn to each other while being thousands of miles apart, and as the film progresses that distance becomes more than just physical.

In interviews, director Drake Doremus has said that much of the dialogue in the film is improvised. The actors were simply given an outline of what needed to happen in the given scene. The result of this was me cringing throughout a good chunk of the movie because everything feels agonizingly real. Recently, I wrote a post on wanting to live in a Nora Ephron movie because I was amazed at how she was able to make her characters seem so naturally eloquent and witty. As I was watching the new film Like Crazy last night, I came to the realization that as much as I want to be in a Nora Ephron movie, it is the world of Like Crazy in which we actually live. And I am intending that as praise. When Anna and Jacob argue, it is a real argument of sputtering and not knowing how to state your case. When they go on their first date, it is awkward but sweet. This is no Hollywood romance, but a real, honest-to-goodness romance, with all the red-faced crying that usually comes with it.

Felicity Jones is getting a lot of praise for her performance in this film, but I will extend my praise to Yelchin, as well. As both characters go through this hurricane of emotions, you can see every single one written all over their faces as clear as day.

With all that said, I suppose this long-winded review could be summed up like this: Like Crazy is one of the most honest movies I have ever seen and I think you should see it, too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Ode to Nora Ephron

I wish my life were a Nora Ephron movie.

If Nora Ephron wrote my life, the human race would only include people who are smart and speak in the most eloquent and well executed of sentences. Even the most menial of conversations would be witty and urbane. Best of all, we would find ways to relate the plots of films and books to all of life’s problems. When I would try to argue a point, I would know exactly what to say and how to say it. Every barb would be cutting and to the point. Accompanying every stroll through the park or lunchtime in the flower market would be a tune by Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong. You know, something classy and sophisticated. Like what you would hear in a Starbucks or bookstore.

Every season would be romantic.

But the best part of all would be falling in love. Falling in love in my new Nora Ephron world would be the best falling in love ever. Love conquers distance, awkward hook-ups, and dreadful first impressions. Men aspire to be Cary Grant. Yeah, the straight ones, too! When they cite reasons for why they fell in love with you, they list things like the crinkle on your forehead or how you peel apples. They usually cite these reasons in a sweet, comical, and perfectly executed speech given when you are least expecting it.

In Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan’s character gets accused of wanting to be in love in a movie. But who wouldn’t? As long as it is written by Nora Ephron.

(Can you tell I had a day in watching When Harry Met Sally…, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail?)

Don't watch the video below unless you have already seen When Harry Met Sally... And if you haven't, I suggest watching it pronto.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Get Your BBC Period Drama On! BONUS!

In my, ehem, research for my post about the BBC period dramas, I stumbled across this little gem.

My first reaction is, “What is wrong with these Australian women?” I am totally on board with Darcy being their number one fantasy, but even if you know nothing about Pride and Prejudice, wouldn’t you stop and talk to this guy simply out of morbid curiousity? My favorite part has to be when he resorts to getting wet.

Get Your BBC Period Drama On!

Ah, summertime. When the living is easy, the sun is shining, and movies in the theaters are better. Of course, for me, there are still those summer days when I prefer to cool off by being magically whisked away to jolly old England. Granted, I will watch a BBC period drama anytime of year, but just work with me here.

Over my countless years of experience and numerous viewings of these miniseries or TV movies, I have noticed something. If I am ever having a bad day or I’m feeling low, I’ll just pop one of these in or go to YouTube and just watch a particular scene, skipping over Lydia and Wickham in Pride & Prejudice or all the people dying in North & South. I know that those among you who I count as my faithful readers also have an affinity for these shows, so I decided to countdown my top ten favorite moments in a BBC period drama.

Just a few things before we start: 1) I had to restrict myself to the shows that originally aired on TV, so if you are wondering where Becoming Jane is or why I pick certain versions of a scene over the perhaps better version that is on film, now you know. 2) No comments from the peanut gallery on how I am only representing four authors with this list. I know what I like. I won’t apologize for that. 3) A lot of my choices for scenes are highly spoilery, but I give my full endorsement to all of the options referenced in this list, so just find the whole thing and watch it.

Honorable mention: Lost in Austen (2008) “Lake scene” – While I have to respect this series as an Austen-phile, I never particularly warmed to it. I blame it on the Darcy, who never seemed to embody the role for me. That being said, I loved the meta-ness of this scene. If you haven’t seen the series, all you need to know is that a modern girl gets placed in the middle of Pride & Prejudice. Best line: “Will you do something for me?”

10. Persuasion (2007) “Run-in at the Shop” – This version would almost be perfect if it hadn’t so royally screwed up the ending (KISS HIM ALREADY!) with the exception of that tacked on last scene. Persuasion is my favorite of Austen’s novels and the ending is, of course, my favorite part, so you can imagine that this was quite the blow. What this version has working for it, though, besides the scrum-diddly-umptuous Rupert Penry-Jones, is that it nails the awkward longing from Anne and Wentworth. This is nowhere better exemplified than this shop scene. Best line: “A man cannot recover from such a passion. With such a woman. He ought not. He does not.” And if it can count for a line, Rupert’s smile.
9. Cranford (2007) “Lace” – Yes, it’s my only choice that does not have explicit romantic connotations. While there is romance in Cranford, I had to include this scene on my list. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is the only period drama that gets away with a fart joke. Juvenile though it may be, it’s still dang funny. Best line: “We are in the throes of an exceptional emergency.”
8. Emma (2009) “Proposal” – In my opinion, Johnny Lee Miller is no Paul Rudd. Nor a Jeremy Northam for that matter. However, this has always been my second favorite Austen proposal scene (see number 5 for my favorite). I love that the crazy mix-ups almost spoil the whole thing, but then… he tells her. Way to man up, Knightley! Also, this version of Emma gets bonus points for the inclusion of possibly my favorite Austen line ever. Best line: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
7. Jane Eyre (2006) “Proposal” – Oh, poor Jane Eyre, to think that if you had been in a Jane Austen novel, this scene would mark the end of your story and we could get to assume that you married Mr. Rochester in that little church without any worries about his loco wife. Alas, this is Bronte and sister does not mess around. What I really like about this scene is that if it was given modern language, Jane would be saying, “Screw you! You don’t know me!” (Note: If you are a fan of close-talking and loud kissing, you might prefer this scene.) Best line: “If God had given me some beauty and wealth, I would make it as hard for you to leave me as it is now for me to leave you.”
6. North & South (2004) “Train Station” – I once did a scene analysis of this for a Literature and Film class where I had to transcribe the scene and describe each shot. Best. Paper. Ever. Words cannot express how much I love this series, but especially this ending, so instead I will give you a topic of discussion: This scene is made much more effective by Richard Armitage not wearing the cravat. Discuss. Best line: “You’re coming home with me?” Anytime, day or night.
5. Sense & Sensibility (2008) “He’s Not Married!” – Ms. Austen certainly had a thing for the romantic entanglements, huh? Let’s get something straight. Nothing tops the moment when Emma Thompson’s Elinor breaks into tears, but there is something to be said for this new version, as well. First of all, I am not the biggest Hugh Grant fan, so I fell much harder for Mr. Dan Stevens’ Edward. Also, this version plays the awkwardness pretty well. Best line: “So now you can marry Elinor.”
4. Northanger Abbey (2007) “Kiss”Northanger Abbey was my first Austen novel and after I had been let down by the atrocious 1986 version, you can imagine how utterly pleased I was by this latest interpretation. Felicity Jones and JJ Feild are perfection and their kiss at the end is so adorkably perfect that I feel I can go out on a limb and say it is my favorite Austen kiss ever. Haters to the left. Best line: “But you can see their house from the window.”
3. Little Dorrit (2008) “John’s Speech” – Everything about this scene is heartbreaking. The look on Arthur’s face when he realizes what a fool he has been, John’s befuddlement at Arthur’s blindness, John offering his hand at the end, everything. John Chivery certainly gets the award for being the most heartbreaking character in a BBC period drama and you naysayers can talk to me in the comments. Best line: “All the time I was breaking my heart over her, she was breaking hers over you.”
2. North & South (2004) “Look back at me” – Some of you may be surprised that I am ranking this scene over the train station scene, but you shouldn’t be. This scene has equally as much passion but it is all crammed into four little words. (Topic #2: Richard Armitage has the sexiest voice in the world. Discuss.) Best line: Um, duh.
1. Pride & Prejudice (1995) “Pemberley” – Okay, I am going to cheat here and deem any and all scenes taking place at Pemberley as the best scene from a period drama. I have seen this scene hundreds (Yes, literally hundreds) of times, yet I still get twitterpated when Darcy comes around that tree or when he gets that little smile on his face when they longingly gazing at each other over the piano. While I have no qualms with the whole wet Darcy thing, I mainly love this scene because he is trying so hard to impress her and she is so confused that it all results in this perfect little awkward situation, which you may have noticed that I am a fan of. Best line: “And your parents are in good health and all your sisters?”

So there you have it. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Is there one that you haven’t seen that you now realize you need to watch? Let me know!

And check out the pretty entertaining bonus post!