I Hear Music When I Look At You (Television Thoughts: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, S01 E01)

bdc983c7-f340-4324-8787-6c11daf86a65I started watching the new show and I couldn’t concentrate because I couldn’t figure out where I have seen Jane Levy before (she is the star of this new series) and I had to stop and google her. Of course, she was in that ABC show Suborgatory, which I used to watch. When I finally realized that, I settled now and tried to enjoy ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.’

What piqued my interest is that this is a show with music, and has been described as similar to ‘Glww,’ and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ two shows I have enjoyed in varying degrees. It even has int he cast alumnus of both shows – Alex Newell from the former and Skylar Astin from the latter (though, really, I knew Astin from Broadway’s ‘Spring Awakening’)

I have to admit that in the beginning, the ‘concept’ of the series was a little hard to grasp. Because of an incident involving MRI and an earthquake, the main character, Zoey, is able to hear people’s thoughts (akin to ‘What Women Want’) but the twist? She hears them through songs conveyed by those feelings. Sometimes it works wonderfully and other times it baffles. So, say, when she sees her work crush one night, she hears him singing Tears for Fears ‘Mad World,’ and the premise kind of works. But when random street people start doing a production number of ‘Help,’ the concept is a bit forced, for the sake of the musical number anyway.

There’s also a heavier side to the show – Zoey’s father is suffering from some debilitating diseases (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) and is unable to talk, so when she reads his mind later on via a song, the effect is poignant. The father is played by Peter Gallagher, and at first I thought, this is such a thankless role, but then Gallagher got a musical number later, so I am thinking maybe not? I mean, why would one accept a role where you are basically just a vegetable. Lauren Graham plays Zoey’s mother and she has good chemistry with Levy.

In the end, I am on the fence. I don’t know if this will really work, and it will all depend on how they use the ‘gimmick’ for future episodes, but I will happily support shows wth music, and this show holds much promise.

Kristen’s Kountdown (Stage Thoughts: Kristen Chenoweth at Disney Hall, New Year’s Eve 2019)

kristin-NYEI usually just stay in on New Year’s Eve (I always say it’s Amateur night) but this year I wanted to do something different, and there was Kristen Chenoweth at Disney Hall in DTLA. I thought it would probable be the same as her November Broadway show called ‘For The Girls,’ culled from her new album of the same. Since I missed the Broadway run, I thought this would be just as good.

I was wrong. It really isn’t the same exact show (based on the New York reviews I read) but it’s close. This show is basically a set, which makes sense now since she does an early and a late show – we were at the late show which ends with a countdown to midnight. There are some great elements here – she opens with Peggy Lee’s ‘W O M A N’ with her two fantastic back up singers, Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen. Indeed, most of the repertoire comes from the new album, and I kind of loved a lot of it, from her wistful ‘The Way We Were,’ ably accompanied by her longtime Musical Director, Mary Mitchell-Campbell. And while there were good versions of ‘You Don’t Own Me,’ and ‘Yesterday Once More,’ the arrangements of those songs did not veer too much from the original versions. The acapella non-amplified version of ‘I Will Always Love You’ was pretty welcome, at least it wasn’t a retread of Whitney Houston’s bombastic version. All in all, it kept me wanting more, though. I wish she had gone through some of her, um, popular songs like, um, ‘Popular.’  But it was still a great way to ring in the New Year.

When You’re Going Through Hell (Film Thoughts: Kathy Griffin: A Hell Of A Story)

MV5BYTVkOTE4NjYtYWU0YS00ODIxLWEwMzQtZjAwZTBjMmJmNDZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQ0NzE0MQ@@._V1_Closing out 2019 by writing about Kathy Griffin’s ‘concert film,’ titled ‘A Hell Of A Story.’ I thought it would be fitting considering the times we are in. I remember a couple of New Year’s Eves with her, watching her on CNN with Anderson Cooper. I thought they were effective ‘counter programming’ with the slick but bland shows of the major networks – her show felt like she was just ‘winging out,’ though I am pretty sure she wasn’t.

‘A Hell Of A Story’ starts out with a short ‘documentary’ of what happened after her infamous viral photo that changed her life and career. I thought that part was very interesting, and I wish it had been longer. The film is really a concert film of her (now) stand up act wherein she basically discusses the fall out after her incident. She talks about being on FBI’s watch list, then the Interpol list. She talks about being detained at airports all over the world, she names who supported her, and friends she felt betrayed by her. It’s a lot, but never too much. And Griffin being Griffin, she never holds back. It’s very funny to me, and a tad sad as well, because it shows woman exercising her First Amendment rights, and being penalized for it. She is unapologetic about it all now and whether you agree with her or not, you have to admire her for having balls to say so. In a lot of ways, this is a very important film, because as she says in the film, “what happens to her can happen to anyone.”

You Found Love At A Hopeless Place (Television Thoughts: A Fresh Start, You S02 E01, Netflix)

screen_realm_77103724_548043389151671_3045263192257241630_n-696x870‘You,’ is back, and it’s now on Netflix. Or I guess the first season was also on Netflix, where it garnered such a huge following. In the beginning of the first episode of the second season, we see that Joe has moved to Los Angeles, and we wonder why when you know he is probably one of those New Yorkers who loathe LA, and everything it stands for. We realize that of course, he moved there because it is the last place where one expects him to be. Sure enough, he is hiding. From Candace, the one he loves, or the one he loved too much and now is out to torture him by letting him know she is alive, even though he attempted to kill her. So he is disavowing love now – it only brings him trouble, we listen to him in his internal monologue. Of course, we knew he would never , could never resist love – he lives and kills for it (like, literally) and he cute-meets a girl at the supermarket, and her name is Love (like, literally)  And then as the episode ends we find out that nothing in his new life is accidental, that is all pre-planned as only Joe can, and there are no secrets here, and everything is a secret.

Again I am hooked. I was hooked watching the first season and it looks like I will be hooked again watching every episode of the second season. And the good thing? I can binge watch it, and I can’t wait to do it.

Women Remixed (Film Thoughts: Little Women)

Little-Women-Characters-Posters-Movie-Preview-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-1Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ is the perfect Christmas movie. It bristles, it makes you wonder, it makes you think, it entertains.  But then again, i feel like the ultimate target market for the film, as it seems like I have been seeing its trailer from all the movies I have sen since September. I was a bit skeptical at first – do we need another film adaptation of this? – but the only way I can describe this film is that Gerwig has ‘remixed’ the material. It’s still the same great story by Louis May Alcott, but it somehow feel urgent, current, and modern.

Maybe it’s the performances. Saoirse Ronan is at the core of this, and she gives us a great Jo March – relatable, strong willed, a woman of today set in the 1800s – who values her art in her own tomboyish feminine way. She broke my heart towards the end when she sees the consequence of turning away Laurie. On paper, I could say that I am not too fond of Amy, but Florence Pugh here gives us depth that for maybe the first time I understood the character much more. The rest of the cast is great – Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Lara Dern – and Meryl Streep steals the scene in every that she is on. I also think we should give Timothee Chalamet props – he holds his own here as Laurie against all the girls, and he is swoon worthy with his high cheekbones. As Amy Pascal noted, ‘he has the most beautiful face on screen since Elizabeth Taylor.’  This film made me feel good, and I can’t think of a better Christmas present.

As Snow Falls (Music Thoughts: Christmas Secrets, Enya)

190295307820When I saw this Christmas release from Enya, I thought, well, finally, if there was an artists whose voice lends to Holiday music, it would be hers.  Well, this compilation, titled ‘Christmas Secrets’ is a collection of previously-released tracks from previous albums. While I really frown on compilations, this one serves a good purpose, and is a good substitute in lieu of a new album. And this is one of those albums wherein you know exactly how it will sound. Someone described this as a great aural companion to if you were stuck somewhere while it is snowing outside. Imagine looking at the window, as snow gracefully falls, as you listen to her calm versions of ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel,’ or ‘Adeste Fideles,’ and well, you get the picture. In Southern California where I am, there isn’t quite snow, but while listening to this, for a brief second, it felt it.

A Mother In Aleppo (Film Thoughts: For Sama)

for-sama-french-movie-posterWar is never easy to look at, and war is front and center in Waad al-Kateab’s documentary ‘For Sama.’  This is simply one of the most harrowing watches for me, and there were times I wanted to up and leave in the middle of watching it. This is centered in the city of Aleppo in Syria, under the corrupt Assad regime, who continually bombed the rebellious forces in the city with the aid of the Russians. Using that as a backdrop, the documentary documents the filmmaker as she struggles with everyday life with the resistance. It’s a wonder of all wonders that in the middle of all this chaos and strife, she falls in love with a young doctor, and has a child, Sama. This film is a love letter to her child, a sort-of explanation for her on why she stayed in Aleppo. As I said, it’s a tough watch, and the middle part can be exhausting as we get to see over and over and over the ravages of this war. But for me, this is an eye-opener. I will not pretend to know a lot about what is happening in that region, and this film made me want to do more to educate myself.