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By The Mighty Kymm in Sports, TV

I am one of those people known as a “biennial know-it-all,” meaning that I don’t know the basic rules of football, but every couple of years I think that I am a sporting expert. Why? Because it’s Olympics time!

I love the Olympics beyond all measure, winter or summer, and I will watch any sport, no matter how boring, with the avid interest of a parent watching her child in the sack race on Field Day. Or a bored office worker watching cat videos on YouTube. As far as the Summer Olympics goes, my favourites are gymnastics, (rhythmic and artistic, I am no rhythmic snob) (see what I mean? I’m starting already!), swimming, diving, equestrian and track and field, though I’d watch someone standing still and staring into space if you told me it was called the statue race and it had a complicated jargon and you could tell me the history of the sport and maybe there was an underdog involved.

But the best part of the Olympics are the opening ceremonies. By the time the closing ceremonies roll around, even people like me are kind of over the whole thing, but the opening ceremonies are all about the hope and anticipation that this will be the Best Olympics Ever.

Of course, the Beijing opening ceremonies set a pretty high bar, especially in retrospect, as personally I practically remember a game of Quiddich being involved. London has a lot to live up to, especially after that double-decker bus that they trundled out in the closing ceremonies four years ago, which everyone said made it look like a bunch of red-assed baboons interrupting a performance of Le Lac des Cygnes, but I have faith in Danny Boyle.

So, it’s my favourite part of my favourite biennial occurrence in my favourite city, what could go wrong? Can these ridiculously sky-high expectations be met? How many double-decker buses will there be? Will there be pearlies? Well, I’m about to find out!

It starts with the sun rising over the British Empire, beautiful shots of scenery, pictures of Shakespeare and Darwin and Lennon and McCartney, while two beautiful voices speak words of pride. The guy is definitely Ewan McGregor, which makes perfect sense considering the Danny Boyle connection, though I think the woman’s voice is Emily Blunt. Is this a subliminal way to boost DVD sales of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? Then they show Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four minute mile–a clip of him doing it, and him standing on the track now, holding his medal, and I immediately burst into tears. We are one minute into the show, so that’s about par for me and the weeping.

They show various Olympians at the last summer Olympics, Beijing, 2008, triumphant, and include a Paralympian, which I think is pretty awesome. Many shots of clouds going quickly across the sky, as though to make you realize that there will be plenty of rain over the next couple of weeks, but look how fast the sky clears!

Then there is Bob Costas, without whom there is no Olympics. Um, wait a minute. Did Bob Costas have a face lift? Seriously? Because that may be Bob Costas’ voice, and that may be Bob Costas’ hair, but there is no way that that is Bob Costas’ face. I suppose if you are famously boyish, and HD-TV has been invented, the pressure to remain glassily smooth in the face department must be pretty great, but I find it disappointing. Unless I am imagining the whole thing. No, I am not. He looks like a vampire. Especially next to Tom Brokaw, who is a normal old man.

They talk about Olympic security and how much it costs, then the weather. Way to be dynamic, guys. It’s like listening to a couple of retirees down at the donut shop.

Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera? Well that sure is a kiss my ass to poor old Ann Curry! Matt mentions that the British call television “the telly,” as though nobody had ever heard the term, and Bob Costas said that someone used the term “dismal Johnnies” about Olympic doubters, and so far it seems that NBC is going to be acting as if the Brits are re-enactors at Colonial Williamsburg or possibly performing mice. Really? “Telly?” Don’t ruin my Olympic fever by being condescending, guys, especially since I actually love Bob Costas and Matt Lauer!

After an interview with some gymnasts, a few commercials, and me wrestling with two corgis (not televised), there is kind of a marvelous little film showing the length of Britain, starting from the mouth of the Thames, passing land so idyllic that you expect to see a dead body any minute (Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple, etc.), swooping past British Olympians, then what is clearly a brief glimpse of Pink Floyd’s flying pig, the Clock Tower to the London Eye, a brief snatch of the Sex Pistols, then a bird’s eye shot of the Thames and I expect to hear the theme from Eastenders, but it leaves me hanging. The Tube, “London Calling,” posters from all of the modern Summer Games, a countdown, and here we go! Nice start, Danny Boyle!

Bradley Wiggins, first British Tour de France winner, comes out in his yellow jersey and rings a gigantic bell to start it off. An adorable child sings “Jerusalem,” and hopefully it’s the same adorable child singing as is pictured, unlike in Beijing, while old-tymey Brits dance around a maypole and play cricket. Then we go to Northern Ireland, where a children’s choir sings “Danny Boy,” then Scotland where the children are singing “Flower of Scotland”, then Wales where they sing “Cwm Rhondda” and I would be crying, except there is Ken Brannagh in a top hat and I am being distracted from tears. Also, they are singing in English, and that song only makes me cry in Welsh.

The rest of the English children in the stadium continue with “Jerusalem,” and let me tell you, when they get to the line “Bring me my chariots of fire,” there is such a cheer! I would cheer too, but I’d wake the corgis.

Then Ken Brannagh starts talking, and it’s Shakespeare, and it sounds familiar, than then I really start crying, because it’s me, it’s Caliban. Thank you, Danny Boyle, this is such a gift. I don’t care what happens in the rest of the opening ceremonies, I don’t care what happens in the Olympics, that moment was just for me. Pardon me while I rewind and watch it four more times.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

Then, drumming. Evelyn Glennie, practically the only percussionist that I actually know who they are, because she is deaf, who sort of looks like a druid witch, beating forth the industrial revolution along with a drum chorus. No more cricket whites and maypole dances, instead it’s grim-faced miners emerging from the ground. Will there be a strike as part of the ceremony? Will they burn Thatcher in effigy?

The workers, as directed by men in top hats, rip up all of the green grass all over the stadium and turn it all into a smokey, hellish nightmare of industry. As the smokestacks rise, I am waiting for the workhouse to rise as well, because it ain’t the industrial revolution without debtor’s prisons and hard-faced children selling matches and picking pockets in the street! Will the Ghost of Christmas Present open his robes and show us the girl, Ignorance, and the boy, Want? So far, this is actually kind of subversive. Progress can only happen if you destroy the past? These are the people who built this great nation and then were abandoned by it when they outgrew their usefulness? Men in top hats gesture, men and women in rags toil? What are you saying, Danny Boyle?

Holy cats! A suffragette march! While the fat cats in suits grin, standing on the bones of the workers! I may have exaggerated that last bit, but not the former. Then, poppies, and a moment of stillness for the dead of the Great War, and all wars.

Then, streams of men in Sgt. Pepper costumes! And the forging of a giant ring. Is it really, actually being forged? It kind of looks like it, and Matt Lauer says that you can smell the forging in the stadium. Well, since they are making the Olympic rings, it would be pretty sad if the forging didn’t work, so it probably is an Amazing Simulation, but it’d be nice to think it was real. Pearlies! I freakin’ knew there would be pearlies.

The ring rises and joins four other rings that fly in and they all rain fire down on the performers and the audience, somehow not killing them. This is kind of standing up to Beijing. And what I love about it is that it is not all “Britain is the greatest thing ever!” it’s more, “This is our history, good and bad, and sometimes the bad creates the good.” Or at least, that’s what I’m taking away from it.

Then a film where a taxi drives into Buck House while children are on a tour, and Daniel Craig as James Bond, wearing a tux and accompanied by two corgis who are frankly not as cute as Cathy and Josh, my current companions. And holy cats, it’s the actual Queen! Saying, “Hello, Mr. Bond!” How the hell did Danny Boyle make this happen? They get in a helicopter and fly over London, everyone smiling and waving, including the statue of Churchill that comes to life (hopefully after the camera goes away it doesn’t suddenly start eating the citizenry, which is what I expect when statues come to life), then they switch to live and actually DO fly into the Olympic Stadium! And then they jump out of the helicopter with Union Flag parachutes, although I am pretty certain that Her Majesty didn’t actually make that jump herself. Apparently, Daniel Craig died, because he’s not there at the end of it when the Queen and Prince Philip come out.

Members of the various British armed forces carry in the Union Flag, is this to commemorate the sad passing of James Bond? Then the national anthem is performed by the Chaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children, which just may be my favourite thing ever. Between this choir and Evelyn Glennie, the deaf are being reasonably well-represented tonight, for once.

After the commercial, they show a book with raised letters saying, “Second to the right and straight on till morning,” which means one of two things will be next, either a parade of great British fictional characters, or a surprise tribute to Michael Jackson. Probably the former, but that Danny Boyle, he’s a wild card! Wait, it’s a celebration of the National Heath Service while “Tubular Bells” plays? Is one of those children in the beds rolled by nurses going to start spitting pea soup? This was exactly neither of my guesses; I wasn’t even within sight. You got me again, Danny Boyle!

Now everyone is swing-dancing and the kids are bouncing on the beds and a giant NHS is lit up, and now this opening ceremony is officially as weird as all of the others turn out to be. Okay, now the children are nestled all snug in their beds. If we then watch them get a good eight hours of sleep, I might end up tuning out, but only after about four or five hours, I’d give it that long without my expectation flagging.

Nope! The kids are reading under the covers with flashlights (my childhood, right there) as J.K. Rowling reads from Peter Pan and, um, nightmare creatures in black with glowing yellow eyes spill out over the stadium. Are you trying to create the restless sleep of all the children and half of the adults watching this all over the world, Danny? Because if so, you are doing an excellent job. Terrifying puppets! The Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Cruella DeVille, and Voldemort! As all of the nurses dance in a zombie-like fashion! Good luck ever sleeping again, kids! And then, down from the heavens, fifty Mary Poppinses fly in on their parrot-headed umbrellas to kick the nightmares’ asses. Then everyone dances some more and a giant baby is created out of sheets. Matt says, tentatively, “I don’t know if that’s cute or creepy!” You do too, know, Matt.

The London Symphony Orchestra plays the theme to Chariots of Fire, with Rowan Atkinson marvelously playing the single note over and over, brilliantly playing how bored he is by the whole thing, checking his watch, changing fingers, flipping through the music to see if anything changes, taking pictures with his iPhone, sneezing and trying to get to a Kleenex without stopping the note, it’s fantastic! Then he closes his eyes, imagining, and we see them running down the beach in the movie, and there’s poor Ian Charleson throwing his head back, and I’m singing in my head the words that we used to sing, “The chariots of fi-i-i-i-re/We run down the beach/In our bare fe-e-e-e-eet/I’ll sing it again.” I’ll bet they are going to bring the actors out from the play version that is currently in the West End, but I won’t bet very much, as Danny keeps fooling me. Nope, Rowan’s in the film and he beats them all!

Now it’s “Frankie and June Say Thanks Tim”, the digital age and everyone is on their devices and there is too much information all at once, but everyone is also having a good time! And Frankie and June, a girl and a boy meet. Seriously, this bit is much harder to describe, but they are traveling though British music, while bits of movies and TV shows play. A Matter of Life and Death, one of my fave raves! Earlier they had Gregory’s Girl. And of course, Trainspotting, then Four Weddings.

Finally some live music, Dizzee Rascal, or, as I always think of him because of The Catherine Tate Show, Naughtee Rascal. The Tim thanked by Frankie and June is Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, and there he is, typing out the message “This is for everyone.”

The torch is coming up the Thames, David Beckham is driving the boat. I have been watching this for four hours and I am not even two hours into it yet. I need to go to bed soon, I am running out of words.

***

Okay, it’s the next day, I have been singing “Jerusalem” all morning, and I am refreshed and ready to watch another two and a half hours of Opening Ceremonies! Which is mostly going to be the Parade of Nations. The Olympics: when you say, “There are this many nations?” And if you are a bad, thoughtless person, you start fast -forwarding around the K or L mark.

The first two flag bearers, for Greece and for Afghanistan, were both Tae Kwon Do-ers. Did they beat up their teammates for the opportunity? My favourite teams are always the ones with two or three athletes. Although if you are from a team that small and you are not the flag bearer, that’s gotta be a blow. The flag bearer for Andora is 61 years old, a shooter who has been participating in the Games since 1976. I love sports that you don’t have to be young to participate in.

Okay, John Cleese’s DirecTV ad is just one of the most spectacular things ever.

Will the athletes from Bermuda ever be allowed to wear long trousers in public? Nope, never. I’m pretty sure they wear them in the Winter Games as well, if they field a winter team.

I’ll admit, I have zoned out and am checking Facebook, and we are only at Chad. The Dominican Republic’s bearer is in Tae Kwon Do as well! Bob just said that in all of his Olympics, he has never seen a Parade of Nations zoom along at such a pace. He said that perhaps it was the uptempo music, which was, at that point, “Stayin’ Alive”, and it is completely impossible not to walk to that beat, so I think he has a point.

The Independent Olympic Athletes? Three athletes jumping around like loonies (one not arrived yet), who have no country so they are competing together. I kind of love that beyond all measure and am rooting for them ahead of any other country. They are a marathoner, a 400m runner, a sailor and a judo-er. Go IOA! The Irish flag bearer is a female boxer, a sport I am really interested in because NPR did a whole series of stories on it and got me hooked. Usain Bolt bears for Jamaica.

Bob keeps mentioning how fast they are marching, that they have to edit through their notes as the various nations sprint in. I, for one, appreciate it! The exhausted athletes, less so. The Solomon Islands win best outfits, brilliant blue, green and yellow to match their flag, and one of the athletes dyed his beard to match.

The United Arab Emirates! We are in the U’s, and here comes the USA! Great Britain is soon, then the lighting of the flame, then Sir Paul McCartney, hopefully not on fire. The cameras keep drifting away from Uruguay and Vietnam and the other teams later in the alphabet, and back to the USA. The cameras are a magnet and the USA team are steel.

And here is Great Britain, as everyone loses their freaking minds. The Queen kind of looks irritated at the whole thing. Weirdly, Bob says, “There’s the Queen, cheering wildly for Great Britain!” but I think he was saying that the crowd was cheering, and in the middle of the sentence, as an aside, said “There’s the Queen,” but it did sound funny as she had her grump face on. David Bowie’s “Heroes” accompanies their entrance, which is kind of grand. Bob says that Great Britain only won one gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and set themselves a programme to up their medals, then said that the home country gets about a 50% medal boost. So that means they will get two? JUST KIDDING, GB! LUVS YA!

Okay, the Parade of Nations is over and we are BACK TO DANNY’S BOYLE’S IMAGINATION! We come back from commercial, and it’s the Arctic Monkeys singing “Come Together”, while hundreds of people ride around on bicycles with flapping, light-up wings on their backs and livid red faces, because they are doves of peace. Doves of crazy nightmare peace, maybe. Then one flies off like ET on his bicycle (Bob said that before I thought of it, but it totally is).

Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the LOCOG, will now be boring. Caught up on Miss Doxie‘s Facebook posts, then realized that the Olympic flag was being carried in. They bring the flag over to Muhammad Ali, who is almost completely paralyzed due to Parkinson’s, and it is just agonizing to see him like this.

Back to David Beckham driving the speedboat up the Thames, the torch is then passed to Olympian Sir Steven Redgrave, who will carry it into the stadium. I feel as though that boat was driving for a really long time, but of course, I went to bed in the meantime.

Redgrave runs past an honour guard made of construction workers who worked on the stadium, then passes the torch to young British athletes, Olympians of the future, as an original composition entitled “Caliban’s Dream” plays, calling back to Branagh’s speech from the beginning. I hold Caliban as close to me as I do Bottom, I love that he has a song and was an integral part of this Opening Ceremony. Good heavens, Evelyn Glennie is still playing? She must be exhausted! The young athletes each have an Olympic champion as a sponsor, who embraces them, and then the flame continues, running past all of the nations, then they light the copper bowls, one for each nation, carried in during the parade, then the bowls all rise up to form the Olympic cauldron. It is astoundingly beautiful and symbolic. Then all the fireworks on earth! Followed by Paul McCartney, singing “And in the end/the love you take is equal to the love you make,” which has made me cry uncontrollably since that moment on SNL when Chris Farley asked him about that line, hopefully, fearfully, “Is that true?”

He sings “Hey Jude”, which I think he needs to take down a half-step, as it may no longer be in his range. But as he goes on, especially at the “Better, better, better, better, WAAAOOOOHHH!” he proves me wrong, it was just a momentary glitch at the beginning, because Sir Paul does not flipping lip-synch. He has the audience sing the “Na na na na, hey Jude” part on their own, which sounds huge and marvelous. This has never been my favourite Beatles song, but it sure works as a climax to the evening, because it’s a song that everyone knows, and even if they don’t, they can pick it up pretty fast!

And except for Meredith Vierra interviewing Danny Boyle about directing the Queen, then Matt and Bob chatting about what happened over the past four hours, we are done, and everything went, as Danny Boyle said, tickety-boo!

Let the Games begin!

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Stagecoach, 1939

July 9, 2012
By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

Somehow I got to be almost 48 years old and have never seen Stagecoach, so when I heard that they were playing it at Oscars Outdoors on Vine St., I decided to go.

Mom tells a story about the first time she saw it. It was during the war, the film had arrived in Belgium before the Nazis had shut everything down, but hadn’t been released, or even had subtitles added. One day, a friend of my mother’s told her that there was going to be a secret screening, she didn’t even know what the movie was. They all snuck to the theatre and quietly watched this banned film with no subtitles, and if they had been caught they would have all been arrested. And it was the best movie in the world. I think it was like a cold drink of water when you are really thirsty, a John Ford western when the Nazis are occupying your country and you have German soldiers living in your house. Mom says all of the 1939 films were released all at once when the war was over, just a glut of amazing movies all at once, like movie Christmas.

Stagecoach is about group of people in a stagecoach, all needing to get to where they are going for very urgent reasons while being chased by Geronimo and his Apaches. It actually would be a great movie to watch if you don’t understand English, because it’s super-clear who everyone is and what is going on at all times! There is the lady, the whore, the gambler, the prison escapee, the banker, the drunk, the tenderfoot, the driver and the marshal. The lady (Louise Platt) is going to meet her husband, who is in the cavalry, the whore (Claire Trevor) and the drunken doctor (Thomas Mitchell) are being kicked out of town, the tenderfoot (Donald Meek) is a whiskey drummer, though the doctor keeps drinking up his samples, the gambler (a very young John Carradine) is there to protect the lady, the banker (Berton Churchill) is doing something nefarious, the driver (Andy Devine) is, well, driving while being Andy Devine, meaning comic relief but also a real character and the marshal (George Bancroft) is riding shotgun and also, once they pick him up, escorting the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) back to jail, while Ringo is trying to get to the town where the men who killed his father and brother are so he can get his revenge.

I grew up with old John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn and The Shootist, when he was basically a caricature of himself, made of stone. In this film, you see why he was a star, you just can’t stop watching him. He is emotional, handsome, naive, strong, he falls for the whore and has no idea what’s what she is, it’s a remarkable performance. Claire Trevor is also terrific as Dallas, the woman thrown out of town by the hatchet-faced ladies of the Law and Order League, whose heart breaks at every slight by the higher class members of the stagecoach party. Crackly-voiced Andy Devine, whom I first discovered as Friar Tuck in Disney’s Robin Hood, I have listened to far more than I have ever watched, but he is a marvelous part of this film. Sometimes comic relief characters, particular at the beginning of cinema, have nothing to do with the reality of the film, but Andy’s Buck always lives in the same universe as the other characters, he just is kind of goofy. And both he and Donald Meek have a couple of quiet, serious moments where they show that they are emotionally connected to the moment, and other revoltingly actor-y things like that.

As far as I am concerned, though, the movie belongs to Thomas Mitchell, drunken, silly, heroic Doc, whom I spent the whole picture wondering why he looked so familiar before being told that in that same year he played Scarlet O’Hara’s father. I loved how the movie didn’t betray him by making him realize the error of his drinking ways, he sobered up when he needed to do some doctoring, then immediately started drinking again when it was done. At the end of the film, he and the marshal go off and have a drink together. But it also shows how drinking has ruined his life, it doesn’t make it easy. Gorgeous performance, beautifully conceived character.

The best bit, though, was this speech by the dishonest banker who is doing nefarious things, it got a huge laugh from this 2012 audience:

“I don’t know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having *bank* examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!”

It’s a satisfying film where all the right things happen to the right people, terrific stunts in a time when there is no question but that those are real stuntmen doing them, and a story that doesn’t cheat by making people act out of character just because it would be nicer if they would.

STAR RATING:
****

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Tony Awards, 2012

June 21, 2012
By The Mighty Kymm in Theatre, TV

For some unknown reason, I didn’t watch the Tonys last year. O yeah, I was dogsitting at Josh the golden retriever’s house, I think, and Mom recorded it on a DVD, that I never watched. Maybe I’ll catch up on it this year! And tonight? I’m at Josh’s again, but I’m watching it anyway. You can’t stop me from watching the Tonys twice in a row, you golden retriever, you!

Here’s the thing, when I first heard the cast album of The Book of Mormon, I knew for a fact, a solid fact that they would have to start the show with the song “Hello”. I mean, it made perfect sense, didn’t it? It’s the opening number to the show, it’s one of the few numbers without bad language, it gets in the two main guys as well as a Mormon chorus, it’s perfect!

Instead, they used the song “I Believe”, which is almost entirely a solo, but it features the lead, and it’s not such a pure white number, as it has some of the African characters in it, and it also is very funny and good and I got why they used it. Kind of.

This year? The year The Book of Mormon is up for zero Tonys? They finally took my advice! The replacement cast did it as an opening number, exactly as the original cast should have in 2011. Pay more attention to my thoughts, Tony Awards, I am doing my best to beam them to you, but all my sending doesn’t add up to a bucket of spit if you aren’t receiving!

It was very cute, they started with the Mormons ding-donging the dressing rooms of presenters, like Ricky Martin, Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Cynthia Nixon, before going onto the stage. Then, after it ended, the Mormons re-did the ending, singing, “This host will change your life, Neil Patrick Ha-a-a-a-a-ris!” and Neil is there in the short-sleeved white shirt and black tie. Hello!

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the 66th annual Tony Awards, or, as we like to call it, 50 Shades of Gay!” That’ll be a joke that nobody on earth will get in probably three years. Maybe even six months. Very narrow window for that joke, is what I am trying to convey.

Then he sings his own personal opening number, “What if Life Were More Like Theatre?” “What if all your questions had rhyming answers and you never left home without your backup dancers?” Sounds pretty good to me. Amanda Seyfried has a cameo, that goes a little roughly, then Patti Lupone, whose goes perfectly, because she is Patti Lu-freakin’-pone. “What if all of your colleagues were hotties, with freakishly flexible bodies, and none of them needed to sleep, or eat, or pee!” Chorus, brightly: “We don’t peeeeee!” Then he calls his understudy to cover him, and it’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, which is completely awesome and perfect. He then chases Jesse away and finishes the number, “If life were more like theatre, life wouldn’t suck so much!” Terrific!

Paul Rudd is presenting the first award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. The Tonys have the longest award titles around. I have a feeling all of these awards are going to be kind of random to me, since I haven’t been in NY since last season and have no idea what’s going on on Broadway. Right away, the first nominee is for Linda Emond for Death of a Salesman, and I thought, Death of a Salesman is on Broadway again? Then I remembered that Philip Seymour Hoffman is doing it, apparently as the junior version of Willy Loman, as he is approximately twenty years too young for the role. So maybe I’ll be able to keep up. Except that the remaining four nominees were for shows that I hadn’t heard of. Judith Light wins for something called Other Desert Cities, and freaks out all over the stage. Not that I would do anything different. She thanks the box office and the understudies, which I think is pretty cool.

Nick Jonas, fittingly, introduces the number from Newsies, sounding like he’s doing a bad Edward R. Murrow impression. Nick Jonas, if you are trying to show that you have talent and range beyond your kiddie band years, you didn’t manage it tonight. The Newsies just yelled “Strike! Strike! Strike strike strike strike strike! Strike!” I am getting the idea that there might be a strike in this show. I am assuming that the audience rises as one at the end of the show yelling “Strike!” and raising their fists in the air, like when they did Waiting For Lefty in the ’30s. Look it up, kids. Golly, those underfed street urchins sure can do gymnastics!

Before and after the commercials, they show tiny clips of the less sexy, non-televised awards. Once won for Orchestrations, Newsies for choreography. For all those damn flips.

NPH is back, giving suggestions of movie/musical mash-ups. “Psych-O-Calcutta” gets a small titter, and he shrugs, “I wasn’t sure about that one,” which gets a much bigger response. Nobody remembers O, Calcutta anymore. Poor little terrible nudie musical.

Amanda Seyfried, whose name is apparently pronounced “Sigh-Fred”, presents Best Featured Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. Michael Cerveris is in Evita? Playing whom? Eva? The nominee for JC Superstar applauds wildly for himself. Michael McGrath, who Amanda pronounces as McGraw, wins for the only show I haven’t heard of, Nice Work if You Can Get It. Then the announcer also pronounces it as McGraw. Therefor, it is McGraw. I’ll bet that guy has spent his entire life correcting pronunciations.

Bernadette Peters, whose eyes look as though they are slowly being pulled apart by a very strong force, introduces the number from Follies, nominee for Best Revival. Guess she’s not in it! Nope, it’s “Buddy’s Blues”. Which is spectacular. Danny Burstein is absolutely terrific.

Now a song from Ghost, which looks absolutely horrible.

John Larroquette, who apparently won a Tony last year, thanks a lot for the spoiler, Tony Awards! He is presenting for Best Direction of a Musical. John Tiffany wins for Once. He doesn’t thank his family, he acknowledges them, which is an interesting turn of phrase. Then is Best Direction of a Play. Several women are in these categories, two in the musical and one in the play, which is pretty cool. Hey, Roger Rees, my beloved Nicholas Nickleby, is nominated for something called Peter and the Starcatcher, along with his co-director. Mike Nichols wins for Death of a Salesman, which is no shock. C’mon, who’s gonna beat Mike Nichols? He says that he is touched at the ovation, but that they used up part of his 90 seconds. He says that when he was a kid, the theatre they are in was his neighbourhood movie theatre, and when he was a kid he won a pie-eating contest on that very stage. That it was nice, but this Tony was nicer.

***

It is now the next day, because I was feeling so sick in my stomach, nauseous and feverish, that I had to stop watching. I don’t think it was because of that terrible number from Ghost, but I’m not making any wild assumptions, that number was pretty awful.

Back to Mike Nichols. Blake warned me that I would cry either two or three times watching the Tonys, and watching Mike Nichols be unable to speak about his cast, due to welling up with tears definitely did it.

Ben Vereen, who is apparently coming back to Broadway next season (!!!), introduces the number from Jesus Christ Superstar, one of my favourite shows of all time, though, as I always say, it is a terrible, terrible show. The show is awful, the music is sublime, so it doesn’t matter that the script is absolutely dreadful. When Blake and I saw it done by high school students in Edinburgh a few years ago, he said, “Wow, that was kind of awful,” and I said, “It always is! It’s a tradition!” The Tony loser who plays Judas kicks out the jams doing the title song, but he will never beat Tony Vincent as the last Broadway Judas, who was as brilliant an actor as he was a singer.

They come back from the commercial with Neil Patrick upside down in the Spiderman rig, of course they get a shot of Andrew Garfield in the audience, though he is a different Spiderman, introducing Ted Chapin and Angela Lansbury to talk about the American Theatre Wing. They raise Neil partway, then lower him again, while Ted and Angela talk in front of him. I can’t actually tell if it’s a bit because of how famous the Broadway Spiderman is for constantly injuring its cast, or if they really can’t raise the rig. Okay, since Ted and Angela keep saying things like, “No strings attached” and “We won’t leave you hanging,” it’s definitely a bit. But I was fooled for a minute!

Here’s Jessica Chastain, who will make her Broadway debut as The Heiress next season. Really? Another stunningly beautiful woman playing one of the few parts actually written for a plain girl, thank you very much, casting people. She is presenting Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play. Every time Peter and the Starcatcher is mentioned, there is always very enthusiastic applause, I wonder what that show is? This is what Google is for, I know, but I can’t look anything up until I finish watching this, or all of the surprises will be given away like candy. And then, Christian Borle, the actor from Peter and the Starcatcher, wins! I was sure it would be the guy from One Man, Two Guvnors, the best show in the whole wide world. I hope the lead from that wins, but I’ll bet Philip Seymour Hoffman will, because Willy Loman is a Tony Award winning part, the end. Ah, it’s some sort of Peter Pan prequel. Sounds pretty good! This must be what it’s like to not be a New Yorker and not know anything about what’s going on on Broadway.

Matthew Morrison introduces the number from Nice Work if You Can Get it. He sure does backflips to avoid the term “jukebox musical”. This looks like a good one, though, it’s a real trick to have Kelli O’Hara both sing “Someone to Watch Over Me” really sincerely and also get laughs. Then Matthew Broderick does a big chorus number, “Sweet and Lowdown”.

Earlier in the evening, Enda Walsh won Best Book of a Musical for Once, “When I told my friend that I was gonna take on this delicate little love story, he said it’s like the equivalent of producers having the stage rights to It’s a Wonderful Life and getting Charles Manson to write it!” And Clive Goodwin won for Best Sound design for Once. Once sure is cleaning up, but only secretly, away from the cameras.

James Marsden, “a talented actor, seen on the big screen in Hairspray!” Really? That’s the best they can do for a presenter? An actor who not that many people could pick from a lineup who had a supporting role in a movie musical five years ago? You are reaching pretty far for presenters this year, Tonys. I was available, you could have called me. I could have gotten someone else to babysit the dog! Ol’ James Marsden is presenting Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. Judy Kaye wins for Nice Work if You Can Get it, and since Judy Kaye is a genuine Broadway star, this makes sense. In this show she plays a chandelier-swinging duchess, and her last win was for Phantom of the Opera, so the first words out of her mouth were, “I guess chandeliers have been very, very good to me!” O God, her father died last week. Of course, I cried there.

Ellen Barkin is presenting The Year in Plays, which includes actual people from plays on the stage, being allowed to perform some of their play! Pardon me while I topple the fuck over in shock. Somebody put a cloth in my mouth so I don’t bite off my own tongue. Now, of course, what they are doing from the play Peter and the Starcatcher is a song, but I don’t care, the red-headed stepchild of the Tony Awards is getting a moment in front of the television public at long last! O my goodness, now there’s One Man, Two Guvnors! This is the best Tonys EVER! It’s a monologue by James Cordon where he beats himself up, which is very easy to pull out of the show. See, Tonys? You could have been doing this all along! And now, eight bars from “You Made Me Love You” from the Judy Garland show, End of the Rainbow, sung by the sure to be Tony winner for Best Actress in a Play, though it might involve a cage match with the lead of Venus in Furs. Really? Only eight bars and then back to the clips from the other shows on the screen? Okay, they came back to her and she sings “The Trolley Song”. I guess there was nothing they could pull from the other nominated shows, but I’m not complaining. I’ll bet the other nominated shows are, though.

***

Another break, this time for work. I promise to finish this by next year’s Tonys.

NPH sings a medley of one line each from as many of the 65 previous Best Score winners as would fit, ending with introducing Sheryl Crow, the presenter of Best Score. I wouldn’t want to follow that, it wouldn’t be possible not to be a disappointment! Seriously, look it up on Youtube, I’m sure its there by now. Sheryl Crow comes out, all astonishment, like Caroline Bingley, “Can we hear it again?” She just wrote the score for Diner, indicating that is sounds a little like the NPH medley, which explains why she is on the Tony stage, that they didn’t mix it up with the Grammys. And also 1993. Two plays have been nominated for Best Score, meaning that somebody is either confused about what a play is or what a score is, but whatever. Alan Menken wins for Newsies, and I was about to say of course he wins, he’s Menken, but apparently this is his first Tony. He talks very slowly and thanks everyone, and I was afraid that his poor, unknown lyricist co-winner wouldn’t have a chance to talk, but Menken finally moved his butt away from the mic and the director kindly didn’t play him off.

Somebody named BeBe Winans introduces the number from Porgy and Bess. I’m sure for a reason that I don’t know, besides the fact that he is black. They start with Audra McDonald singing “Summertime”, which everything on earth should start with forever. Then Porgy sings “I’ve Got Plenty of Nuttin’”, as the camera swings back and forth in front of him as though it was being manned by a drunken sailor. David Alan Grier then sings “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, then Audra and Porgy sing “I Loves You Porgy”. So it’s kind of like a trailer where afterwards you don’t have to see the movie, though in this case it’s good, because most of America isn’t going to see this production of Porgy and Bess, excuse me, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, aka Porgy and Bess Original Flavour is Out of Copyright, Please Use This Version and Pay Us.

Off-camera, Peter and the Starcatcher wins Best Costume and Best Sound Design for a Play.

Tyler Perry comes on to present Best Revival of a Play, and immediately says, “It’s great to be back here at the Beacon Theatre, where, I’m happy to say, my Medea shows have sold out more than 120 performances in this room.” Gee, defensive much? It’s not as though everyone was saying, “Why on EARTH is Tyler Perry at the Tonys?” Wait, actually that is exactly what I was going to say. Carry on, Tyler. There is kind no way that Death of a Salesman can possibly lose. I mean, Wit is a fine play, but it’s not a Great American Classic that breaks everyone’s hearts every decade or so. Everyone, cast and Mike Nichols and everyone, troops onstage in record time to stand behind the producer, proudly. I think they might have expected their win!

Josh Groban, looking very handsome in his glasses, introduces the number from Once. This one, this one I’d love to see. It may be crushed by the behemoth that is Newsies, the little Disney musical that could, but it looks like the best musical to me. God, it starts out with The Guy playing a song to an onstage audience, who, one by one, stand with instruments and join in, as The Girl looks about in wonder and I fall apart in tears. Was this one of the times you thought I’d cry, Blake? Because if you didn’t call this one, you have never met me. I need to go download this cast album immediately.

They keep telling us that, coming soon, “From the first time ever from the Atlantic ocean, Hairspray!” Really? Whose idea was it that anyone not on a cruise ship wants to see a cruise ship show, that this would bring viewers from far and wide to their TV screens, “I wasn’t going to watch this show because I hate musicals and theatre and actors and awards shows, but I sure do love boats, so now I’m a’watchin’! Hey, Broadway ain’t half-bad, my mind, it is blown!”

Offscreen, in a basement somewhere, Nice Work if You Can Get It won Best Costumes for a Musical, and Peter and the Starcatcher won for Best Scenic Design.

NPH: “While you were gone, Tyler Perry just sold out the entire season of Porgy and Medea!” Jim Parsons, who is doing Harvey on Broadway, though he is too young, is presenting Best Play, though at first it seems as though he is presenting the mere idea of theatre as a whole, but since frankly that it’s what this show is all about, “PLEASE COME TO THE THEATRE, AMERICA!”, the speech makes sense. Holy cats on a flying sofa, are they actually going to do snippets from the plays? Live? Are the plays going to get featured twice on this broadcast? Be still my frantically fluttering heart. Or are they only standing around in silhouette behind Jim Parsons, sort of doing a revolving tai chi on something that looks like their set? Yeah, it’s the latter, don’t know why I thought otherwise. The weird human shadow puppets wander as Jim Parsons tells the plot of the play, then they show a 15 second filmed clip. I suppose it’s better than just flinging the Best Play Tony out into the aisle and saying, “Who cares, it’s only a play?” but not by much. Clybourne Park wins. The playwright says that it took them two and a half years to go the eight blocks from 42nd St., which must have something to do with mid-town traffic. He also talks fast as a rattlesnake, saying “um” more than anyone has all night long. The producer clearly knew he would win and had a lovely speech prepared. Good work, dude. Unless the first guy was the producer and the second guy the playwright, but I doubt it. Playwrights usually aren’t allowed to speak in public, producers have to raise money from strangers, it makes sense that the latter would be better at saying words out loud in front of said strangers.

***

I’m not certain how many days later it is now, but I’m pretty certain that the new ice age has come and gone and I’m finally back to watching that last hour of the Tonys. The only reason I think that I am still unspoiled as to who won what is that nobody gives a shit about the Tonys.

Cote de Pablo, aka Ziva David on NCIS, slinks onto the stage. Because they think that old people watch NCIS and old people care about the theatre? Or possibly old people are too old to change the channel off of CBS, so might as well give them someone they recognize? “Look, it’s that nice girl from that Mark Harmon show. She’ll get these people whipped into shape! Wait, why is she talking about Evita being an authentic Latin production? She’s Israeli!” Of course, she is actually only PRETEND Israeli, actually she is Chilean. Cote de Pablo: fooling the Jews since 2003. Anyway, obviously she is presenting the number from Evita. I have been warned about the number from Evita. Let’s see. “The most powerful woman in Latin America, she was adored as a champion for the poor and women’s rights, but her greed, ruthless ambition and death at 33 made her one of history’s most alluring figures.” Wait, what? That sentence makes no sense. Anyway, on to the number.

The song is, for some unknown reason, “The Foundation Eva Peron,” which starts with a very nasal line sung by Eva, then Ricky Martin, as Che, bounces around the stage all chippily, over-gesturing and changing random lyrics. The line, “Think of all the people guaranteed a good time now,” he sings as “Think of all the people gonna see a good time now.” Really? What’s wrong with “guaranteed”, Ricky? Because it ain’t that I remember the line wrong, as I could sing that whole damn musical right now, just try me! And I’d make a better Che than Richy Martin! Okay. Here’s what I have to say about the number from the revival of Evita. I’d rather have seen another number from Ghost. I’d rather have seen six more numbers from Ghost with the kids from Newsies doing flip-flops all over the stage at the same time. Ricky Martin plays Che like Bugs Bunny, the Actual Argentinian™ playing Eva stalked around the stage in her blue suit and blonde wig as though she had wandered in from a mannequin display in the window at Barney’s, and all that number showed is that being an authentically Latin production doesn’t mean that it’s an authentically good production. Bring back the Jews and Italians who did it in ’79, they knew how to do the fucking show! Which is full of seething anger, not bouncy cheerfulness! Authentically Latin my sweet behind, grumble grumble. I wish they had gotten a shot of Patti in the audience, that look would have been worth a thousand words, I’ll betcha. And the first person they showed on the “Coming up” list was Mandy Patinkin! O Mandy, I hope you took Ricky Martin aside backstage and gave him a few seething lessons!

Once won Best Scenic Design off-camera.

Now is the number from Godspell, announced by Faceless Voice-Over Lady. Godspell doesn’t deserve a celebrity, actual Broadway star or slumming TV personality, to introduce it? Really? Superstar gets Ben Vereen and Godspell gets shit on a plank? And it wasn’t that nobody famous was ever in the show, Victor Garber did the movie and was in the Toronto company, with his enormous ’70s white boy afro, I’m sure he was available! They start with “Day by Day”, because they know what their hit song is, then continue with “Light of the World”, which includes running down into the audience and one of the girls dancing giddily with Hugh Jackman, whose middle name should be “Good Sport”, then throwing confetti into the audience. Did you watch that, Evita? That is how you make your show look good on the Tonys, dammit. Also, we got to see Bernadette Peters in the audience, clapping along with no rhythm whatsoever, did Evita give us that? It did not!

And here come Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin to present Best Revival of a Musical. I wonder why they didn’t follow the number from Evita? Were they too busy THROWING UP? Because it was UNWATCHABLE? Okay, okay, I’ll let it go. Someday.

They sing slightly re-written lines from the Best Revival nominees at each other, from Follies, then Porgy and Bess, then Superstar, then, “Have we said too much? There’s just one more thing we can think of to say to you…” which is, of course, from Evita. You know, the real version, starring people with talent, not just people from South America. I can think of several things that they can say, but I’m pretty certain that they will just present the award. If Evita wins, though, I imagine they will announce it through clenched teeth. Nope, Porgy and Bess wins and Patti jumps up and down with joy. The producer thanks the Gershwins and Debose Hayward and the Gershwin estate who TOLD THEM to bring it into the 21st Century, then thanked the director and updating playwright. He gets played off before he tells Stephen Sondheim to go suck it.

Harvey Fierstein comes on in a giant blue inner tube and pink swim shorts. Why do I think that the number from Hairspray on a Cruise Ship is lumbering into port? Royal Caribbean Cruises is committed to enchanting new audiences around the world. Do we think that they might have some sort of sponsorship deal with the Tony Awards? They can’t show Best Orchestrations, Best Choreography, Best Book from a Musical, Best Sound Design, Best Costume and Best Sound Design for a Play, Best Costumes for a Musical, or Best Scenic Design to America, but they can show a cruise ship production of a ten year old musical that closed on Broadway in 2009? I hope that when you were sucking Royal Caribbean Cruises’ dick, Tony Awards, they didn’t pull your hair too much. Close to three minutes wasted on that shit. I don’t even want to go back and see how much airtime the Best Plays got, because that might be one of the times that BLAKE PREDICTED I WOULD CRY.

Also bumped by the Hairspray cumfest was a Lifetime Achievement Tony to Emanuel Azenberg, the Isabelle Stevenson Award to Bernadette Peters, a special award for Actors Equity Association, and the regional theatre award to the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC. These are admittedly boring awards, but this horse is too high to get down off of in one go.

Good heavens, a special Tony is being presented on the broadcast! Could it be because it is being presented to a big time movie star? I think so! Deborah Lee Furness is announced as the presenter, and they show Hugh Jackman (award recipient) bending forward, absolutely howling with laughter. I guess it was a big surprise to him that they were getting his wife to do the presenting! Every time they show him looking at her, it is with such adoration. This is one of the reasons that he is so crushed on by everyone, because he is just that nuts about his wife. That kind of loving loyalty is sooper sexeh, boys! Take the hint! He is winning the special award for general awesomeness, and also for raising two million dollars for Broadway Cares during the run of his last Broadway show. Hugh comes onstage and says, “She’s never kept a secret her entire life! ‘I’m just off to the loo,’ I was like, ‘Okay, see you in a bit’!” He thanks everyone, then brings his wife over and thanks her specially. Because he is the sweetest guy on earth.

NPH: “I just got terrible news that the cast of Hairspray has been taken over by pirates. (long pause) Of Penzance! Thank you!”

Candace Bergen presents Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, the winner is Steve Kazee as The Guy in Once. Excuse me, apparently he is called Boy in the musical. Because he is a dog? I’ll bet he’s an Irish Setter! Ha! I slay me. He weeps thanking his leading lady, which only makes me think that the Once magic may have struck them, as it did Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. O God, this was the crying moment that Blake was predicting. “My mother told me once, she always told me before shows to stand up there and show them whose little boy you are. And I’m showing you today, I am the son of Kathy Withrow Kazee, who lost the fight with cancer on Easter Sunday this year. And I miss you every day, and I feel you here with me.” It didn’t help the crying that I had to listen to that about eight times in order to transcribe it.

Candace goes on to present Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play. Go, James Cordon, go!I don’t think he stands a chance against the juggernaut that is Death of a Salesman, let alone the fact that the other nominees are James Earl Jones, John Lithgow and Frank Langella. Holy shit, he won! I can’t believe it! You know, except for the fact that he is TOTALLY AWESOME AND ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS IS THE BEST SHOW IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD EVER! Ahem. Excuse me. He looks adorable and flustered, and overwhelmed to be on the same list as the other nominees, especially, as he says, his favourite actor in the whole world, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and they show shots of all of them, looking happy for him except for PSH! Did he leave? Ah no, they show him later, also looking happy. How can you not be happy for such joy, no matter how much you wanted that damn Tony yourself.

The number from Leap of Faith, also introduced by Faceless Voice-Over Lady. Because Steve Martin was stuck in traffic? This is the third Jesus-y show of the year. Is it because of the Mayan calendar? New York is trying to get saved before the end of 2012? Too little, too late, NYC! You’re just going to have to wave goodbye to everyone else during that Rapture, nightly crucifixions on the Godspell and Superstar stages or no! I’m sorry, but I just cannot stand Raul Esparza, never could, never will. He has no sincerity at all, which might work for a cynical preacher, but even in cynicism, there must be sincerity. He just kind of sucks, that’s just the way it is, sorry Eliza.

I kind of want to go to bed, but there is only fifteen more minutes left, and if I don’t stick it out, I might not get this up until Christmas.

Offscreen, secretly, Once won for Lighting Design of a Musical and Peter and the Starcatcher won for Lighting Design of a Play. Somehow, the viewing audience found out anyway.

Christopher Plummer presents Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play. It doesn’t matter who the other nominees are, the chick from Venus in Fur and the gal from the Judy Garland show are the only two who have a chance. And Nina Arianda gets it for Venus in Fur. To Christopher Plummer: “Sir, you were my first crush! When that whistle blew in Sound of Music…you made my day!” She thanks Wes Bentley, who started with her downtown as well as Hugh Dancy, who plays it with her now, which I think is super-classy.

Plummer now presents Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. I think it’s Audra’s to lose, mostly because Audra never loses. And she didn’t lose this time! Ah, I didn’t know this, her four previous Tonys were for Featured Actress, this is her first Leading Actress Tony. I have never heard an actress say how great it is to get raped every night in a show before! Particularly with that big a smile on her face!

The Tonys are actually running over! I remember it used to be that CBS would threaten the Tony broadcast that if it dared to go over, it would be summarily cut off, because nothing on earth is more important that the 11p local newscast. Apparently they realize now that nobody actually watches local news anymore, and they might as well not alienate the theatre fans, because an eyeball is an eyeball.

Matt Parker and Trey Stone are presenting Best Musical, being all fakily upper-crust, as Tony Award winners. “Tonight, we who are the Broadway establishment are pleased and honour-ed to welcome this year’s nominees for Best Musical. You young whipper-snappers who so desperately seek to join our ranks!” Come on, Once! Beat that Newsies shit all up and down 47th St.! And it does! Hooray! The producer tells a story starting with the words, “Once upon a time in Czarist Russia…” so here’s hoping that this guy doesn’t get played off before he gets to the end of that story or I won’t be able to get to sleep.

NPH pretends he can’t sing the closing number that gets written during the show because they are running over, but that was just an hilarious joke, because frankly, the audience would riot.

And I made it! Only eleven days after it actually was on the TV! Like the wind, that’s me! The really, really slow wind.

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Marty, 2012

June 5, 2012
By The Mighty Kymm in Theatre, TV

Marty is the story of a short, fat, plain, 36-year-old butcher who lives with his mother and hangs out with his friend Angie and can’t get a girl. His five brothers and sisters are all married, but nobody wants Marty. One day, he goes to a dance hall and meets a girl as homely as he is, skinny and funny-looking and 29 years old, a “dog”. And these two dogs finally find someone to be with.

It’s by Paddy Cheyefsky, originally a teleplay in 1953 with Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand, later made into a movie in 1955 with Ernest Borgnine (winning him an Oscar) and Betsy Blair. Every minute of this story makes me weep, though I actually have never seen the whole thing before, only clips, but that scene when Marty’s mother is urging him to put on his blue suit and go to the ballroom because there are lots of tomatoes there, and Marty says, “Blue suit, gray suit, I’m just a fat, little man. A fat ugly man,” gets me every time, you don’t have to have seen the whole thing. Both Seiger and Borgnine are great, but Steiger really breaks my heart.

This version of Marty, though, was a reading at the TV Academy, with TV personalities playing the roles. In a way it was like watching a radio show, as most of the people would not be castable in their roles, Loretta Devine is no sister of Brenda Vaccaro, but everyone could act the heck out of their parts, which is what is important. Though I did wish that there was an actual plain actress on TV who could play the dog, there are only gorgeous blonde actresses available, so one of those had to play Clara, though she was very good.

The cast was great, Ray Romano played Marty, Brenda Vaccaro played the mother, Dermot Mulroney played Angie, Marty’s friend (“Whaddaya feel like doin’ tonight?” “I dunno, Ange, whadda you feel like doin’?”), Anna Gunn played Clara, (“You see, you’re not such a dog as you think you are.” “I’m having a very good time too.” “So there you are. So I guess I’m not such a dog as I think I am.”), Loretta Devine was Aunt Catherine, Raymond Cruz was Cousin Tommy, Pauley Perrette was Virginia, Joel McHale, Cleo King and Max Adler played various role, one of Joel McHale’s being, “I’ll give you five bucks to take this dog off my hands.”

The standouts from the cast were Joel McHale, who played three small roles and differentiated all of them clearly, and got big laughs in all of them, Cleo King who played the lady in the butcher shop in the first scene and absolutely killed it, and Pauley Perrette as Cousin Tommy’s wife, Virginia, who was hilarious telling the story about how she threw the milk bottle at her mother-in-law’s head.

Brenda Vaccaro, though, was brilliant, and was practically the only actor (besides Max Adler) who was the right type to play her role. She drove a stake through its heart and killed it dead. Why doesn’t she work more often? She is completely a national treasure.

Ray Romano, though not being short and fat, not to mention 36-years-old, was perfect as Marty. The monologue where he calls the girl on the phone that he had met at the movies a while back, and she gives him the brush-off, was absolutely terrific, and when he asked Clara, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” I just wept.

Because I only knew scenes, not the whole plot, I was a little nervous at the end when all of Marty’s pals are saying, “I hear you was with a real dog last night,” and urging him to dump her and go with them to 72nd St. to pick up girls, or maybe to a burlesque show in Union City, thinking that he would let them talk him out of happiness and stay in his rut, but then they start up with, “Whaddaya feel like doin’ tonight?” “I dunno, whadda you feel like doin’ tonight?” he snaps out of it, saying, “You don’t like her. My mother don’t like her. She’s a dog. And I’m a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I’m gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I’m gonna get down on my knees. I’m gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year’s, I got a date for that party. You don’t like her? That’s too bad.”

I wanted to stand up and cheer. It was a really good, fun idea to do this, though I with the performers would have gotten a little bit out of their scripts. Cleo King clearly is a choir singer or something, because she held her script up high, which got her face out of her lap, and Brenda Vaccaro mostly had her face up, but a lot of the others were down down down. This is a small quibble, though, because basically, this was great.

STAR RATING
*** 1/2

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By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

When a sequel to a mainstream movie is a decade in coming, there is usually only one reason, moolah. Everyone wants some dough, a sequel is generally a license to print money, it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to have the title. Everyone will rush out to see it no matter what the reviews say, and though word of mouth may kill it later, it’ll have those opening weekend bucks if nothing else.

Somebody forgot to tell Barry Sonnenfeld and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones that this was just a money grab, though, so they actually made it good!

Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still partners, lo these many years later, though J can never make K ever talk about himself or open up in any way. Meanwhile, a Very Very Bad Alien that K captured in 1969, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from jail on the moon, gets his hands on a time machine and goes back in time to kill K before he can capture him, therefor making it possible for his Very Bad Alien race to eat the earth for breakfast. Agent J then does what any good partner would do, which is go back in time as well, team up with the younger version of K (Josh Brolin), and save the day! Spoiler alert, I suppose, but do you really think that Will Smith would let them destroy the earth? He has never failed to save the day before, why start now?

The performances are all around terrific, though Tommy Lee is not in the movie nearly as much as I would like. Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee impression just mops up the movie and would walk away with it in his pocket, were it not for Jemaine Clement being as awesome as Vincent D’Onofrio was as the alien in the first Men in Black movie, particularly in the scene where he has a long conversation with himself, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, an alien with such an angelic countenance that I am shocked he doesn’t have wings. Stulbarg practically is wearing a sign saying “Becoming a star in 5…4…3…2…1…”

Also appearing are Emma Thompson, who looks terrific, which is weird as if you do the math, her character can be no younger than 63, (alien youthening technology? Perhaps they should have slapped some on Agent K as well, who looks about 750), Michael Chernus whom I recognized from looking exactly the same in every Adam Rapp play I have ever seen him in, and Bill Hader doing a perfect Andy Warhol.

The whole film is a great ride, loads of fun all around, summer movies ahoy!

STAR RATING
*** 1/2

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By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

The summer of Whedon has begun. I haven’t posted my review of Cabin in the Woods yet, due to crazy busyness, but (spoiler alert) it’s the best film of the year so far and if you don’t agree with me, I will fight you. No, I won’t, but I sure will pity you. And possibly kick you in the shins a little bit.

Now, Cabin in the Woods may be the Best Film of the Year (tm Kymm Zuckert), but it also is a cult film that needs to find its cult. It’s chugging along in the theatres, but hasn’t blown away any box office records, though the people who love it are like me, they love it. It’s kind of what you expect from Joss, small but extremely intense audiences, i.e Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Dr. Horrible, etc., he is the king of the slightly under-appreciated geniuses.

Not no more.

The Avengers has a 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Avengers had a $200 million dollar opening weekend, Hulk-smashing the previous record. Through Marvel superheroes, everyone is joining the cult of Whedon, best cult around. Welcome! Now go back and watch the canon, we’ll wait. Don’t forget Cabin in the Woods, best film of the year, if you haven’t heard! Don’t worry about Dollhouse, leave that one for last.

The Avengers brings together Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (currently played by Mark Ruffalo), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth, also in BMOTY Cabin in the Woods!) vs. Thor’s little brother with a grudge, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Also, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Stellan Skarsgård as Professor Erik Selvig, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Alexis Denisof, Wesley from Buffy/Angel whom I only noticed in the credits, as it’s a big makeup (or possibly only vocal) role. And especially Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, who was memorable even surrounded by these literal and figurative heavyweights. He was born to play Oscar in The Six Million Dollar Man.

This is just a shocking amount of talent on display–the first thing that people picture when they think the words “comic book movie” generally isn’t “World class actor”, but this movie is just stuffed full of them. And these world-class actors? Are saying the lines written by a guy who knows how to write the kind of crunchy lines that said world-class actors can make an eight course meal out of. I mean, the script has Loki call the Black Widow an Elizabethan insult so dirty that the only reason the censor didn’t slap the film with an R is because he/she didn’t spend all his/her time in history class looking up the good insults, and didn’t realize that he just called her what more squeamish people than I call, “the c word”. It’s a great moment for the word nerds.

Anyway, Loki comes to earth to steal the tesseract (from Meg and Charles Wallace Murray? They don’t say), and the Avengers need to be brought together to stop Loki and the Bad Guys From Outer Space from destroying the world. It basically goes like this: set up, set up, introduce characters, introduce characters, bring characters together, action, action, more set up, the train goes up the hill, I think I can, I think I can…then AN HOUR OF AWESOME ACTION THAT NEVER ENDS OR GETS CONFUSING!!!!!!!!!

I only realized it afterwards how well the action was done, how clear it all was in terms of where people were in relation to each other, no shaky-cam nonsense that makes you feel as though you are right in the middle of the action but also what is going on? Who just hit who? Who’s winning? Is that your hand on my ass?

So, in short, a well-structured script with great dialogue, performed by actors who can bring it to its highest level, directed by a man who knows how to stage action as well as dramatic scenes, and all of this together makes for a big screaming pile of awesome. Also? This is a movie containing men with some really super big guns, if you’ve got any kind of an arm fetish, run don’t walk, because Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are having some kind of arm-off and the winner is…me!

STAR RATING
****

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Headhunters, 2011

April 22, 2012
By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

Yesterday I was sitting around thinking, “Do I really want to see a Norwegian/Danish film?” also, “Am I so terribly English-language-centric that I don’t want to see a film merely because it is in Norwegian and Danish?” Then I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes, and it was at 97% positive ratings, which got my butt into the car toute suite!

And thank you, Rotten Tomatoes, because this movie is unmissable!

Headhunters, or Hodejegerne in its original title, is about Roger Brown, a headhunter for a company that places executives and CEOs in big companies, but on the side he is an art thief. He has a gorgeous wife, a house he can’t afford, he lives way beyond his means behind the facade of calm and wealth. He is also 1.68 metres (5’5″ for those who don’t speak metric), and, as he says, you don’t need a psychiatrist to say that he might just be compensating.

Roger uses his position interviewing excutives to find out if they own art, if they have kids, or a wife, or a dog who might be home during the day, and when he comes upon a likely prospect, with the aid of his partner, who works at an alarm company, he breaks into the home and replaces the artwork with a copy. Then he blows his take on a gift for his wife, whom he thinks won’t love him without expensive presents, though what she really wants is a baby.

Roger is living on the edge of having the whole house of cards tumble down, when he meets an ex-mercenary and current executive who happens to own a lost Rubens stolen by the Nazis and given to his aunt during the war. This piece of art will set Roger up for life, but it turns out that there is a lot more going on that Roger realizes, and he just may have messed with the wrong person.

This movie is the heist movie to end all heist movies, there are twists, there are turns, there is an ending that I had to explain to my mother, and Roger goes through the most spectacular degradation that I have seen in a film in a while, but (no spoilers) he does learn a few pretty big lessons through all of this, one of which is that a man whose job it is to read people can end up counting on that skill when the chips are down.

Why are you still reading this? Go see this movie! Did you not notice the word “unmissable” above? It asn’t an exaggeration!

STAR RATING:
****

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Modern Times, 1936

April 22, 2012
By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

Now, I have seen all of the Chaplin films, as mentioned when I saw City Lights, but I still walked into Modern Times thinking it was the one where Chaplin plays Hitler. Of course, that one is The Great Dictator, but somehow I missed that fairly obvious title and watched a good several minutes thinking, “Wait a minute, where’s Hynkle?”

No, Modern Times is about what the title says (again, how I missed this, I haven’t the foggiest), industrialization, factories, and the little people struggling to retain their humanity amongst all this machinery and might. Sounds hilarious, don’t it? Well, it is, but it also has a lot going on in it that speaks to today as strongly as it did to 1936.

This is a very very late silent film, though it does have some spoken elements, they mostly are in the modern sections. Charlie works in a gigantic factory where the boss watches them on TV sets everywhere, including the bathroom (this predates 1984 by almost a decade) and yells at them to get back to work. Also, some people bring in an eating machine in order to make the feeding of the workers more efficient, and they put on a record that explains how the machine works as they stand there silently.

Charlie really was resisting the whole talkie technology, I remember that he thought that having the Little Tramp talk would ruin the character, so he held off as long as possible. Which meant that he made films with spectacular visual and slapstick moments when everyone was all about the words. In Modern Times, however, we do hear his voice! He becomes a singing waiter, though he protests that he cannot sing, and when he gestures too enthusiastically he loses the lyrics that he wrote on his cuffs, and has to improvise the song with gestures and gibberish–in a song that I have a weird feeling that Joel Grey must have seen before creating his character in Cabaret, because my goodness me does it remind me of the Emcee!

his whole character is much less innocent in this picture, he has a scene where he has been tightening bolts on the assembly line so long that when he gets off it, he’s still automatically tightening everything he sees, especially buttons on a woman’s skirt, or on another woman’s chest, very Harpo Marx stylee! There is another scene where he accidentally does a bunch of cocaine, not something modern audiences realize might occur in a pre-WWII film.

This is a wild comedy, with Charlie working in the factory, fired from the factory, arrested for leading a Communist march that he just happened to be walking down the street in front of, loves jail so much that when he is realised for good behaviour, he tries everything to be arrested again, to no avail. He meets Paulette Goddard, overacting charmingly as The Gamine, stealing bread, he tries to take the blame, she escapes and takes him with her, they try to make a life together with all odds against them.

This is a terrific film, interesting to see in comparison to The Gold Rush as it was made eleven years later, and he had grown a great deal as a filmmaker, not to mention he looks so much older that he had to move on from playing the complete innocent, although still most of what happens to him is outside of his control.

STAR RATING
****

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By The Mighty Kymm in Books

Some months ago, I heard Darrell Hammond on NPR’s Fresh Air talking about this book and his experiences growing up with an insane mother who tortured him and becoming a gigantic alcoholic and drug addict and I wept and wept. It was actually agonizing listening to this broken man trying to heal–my maternal instinct kicked in big time and all I wanted to do was take care of him and make him better.

Reading the book was less of a visceral experience, maybe this is one that is best as an audio book and I would have gotten more of the Fresh Air feeling from it, or maybe this is a story that you can only hear for the first time once. I didn’t cry at all reading it, but on the other hand, I stayed up way past my bed time in order to finish it. I read super fast, but even considering that, I raced through this book.

Darrell Hammond has had one hell of a life, and I admire him so much for surviving what he has been through. I still want to take care of him and make him better, and I’m pretty sure that if I happened to meet him any time in the next few years, I will immediately embarrass myself by weeping and clutching his hand.

This is a well-told tale by a man who spent a lot of time talking in other people’s voices; maybe he has found his own at last.

STAR RATING
*** 1/2

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By The Mighty Kymm in Movies

I saw the trailer for this twice, they played it with The Artist and either Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol or The Woman in Black, neither of which I think is that likely, but those were the only current movies I saw in the theatre, so it kind of has to be one of them. I figure that if they show the trailer for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with a horror film or an adventure film, they are very specifically following me personally around with that trailer, saying, “Kymm! We made this movie for you! You will see it, won’t you?” I did, and thank you for making me such a nice movie!

The completely endearing Emily Blunt works for a very nice sheik, the totally hot Amr Waked, who wants to bring salmon fishing to the Yemen, to the complete surprise of everyone who managed to wander into the film without having seen the title. She contacts a fishing expert, the utterly sweet Ewan McGregor, who says it can’t be done, but then a government woman, the hilariously funny Kristin Scott Thomas, says he has to help out anyway, because they need good Arab news on the TV. So we have endearing Emily Blunt and sweet Ewan McGregor, obviously meant to be together, but he has a wife and she has a boyfriend, what on earth will happen? Don’t worry, everything turns out as it should, though at first there seems to be insoluble roadblocks in the way of everything, especially the salmon fishing.

This movie is entirely charming, Emily and Ewan are terrific, it’s nice to see Kristin get to be funny again, I smiled for the whole movie. It might not go down in history as one of the greatest romantic comedies ever, but it’s one that, if you are flipping channels in a few years and come across it, you will think, “I forgot how good this movie is!” as you settle down to watch it, no matter where you are in the movie when you turn it on.

STAR RATING
*** 1/2

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