Richard Linklater, via his Before Sunset/Midnight series, started that thing about a couple talking and exploring each other’s feelings in a course of a night/day. ‘Nobody Walks In LA,’ written and directed by Jesse Shapiro, takes a familiar route: Miles and Becca, played by Kim Shaw and Adam Shapiro, walk, take the bus, Metro all over Los Angeles as they talk their way out of their problems – mostly his as he discovers his girlfriend cheated on him days before their upcoming wedding. Cue in a couple of montage scenes, some party sequences, and just about every cliche out there. Los Angeles, for me, has never been the most romantic city – much too manicured for that – but this film shows some grit along with that that makes the city more down to earth. In the end, we do get to know a little bit more about these two characters, but we ask did we care in the first place?
It’s telling that Lea Salonga chose ‘Blurred Lines’ to title her new album. She sings the Robin Thicke hit – seemingly an unlikely choice – on her newest album, which is a live performance from her residency at 54 Below in New York City last Spring. The song is a bit of a departure for her ‘persona,’ as she is known to sing nice wholesome songs. Here she gets too ooh and cooh and gets to show her sexy side. She takes on a couple of pop songs here – One Directions’ ‘The Story Of My Life,’ John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ – and she mostly does well with them, but she sounds like she is slumming, because, her voice – one of the greatest voices in theater today, with its peerless precise perfect pitch – stands out best when she is singing theater songs and standards. For example, I love her version of Jeff Blumenkratz’s ‘I Won’t Mind.’ It may not replace my all time favorite version, which is Audra McDonald’s, but it comes close. And I love two of her medlettes: the closer – How Do You Keep The Music Playing/How Deep Is the Ocean – and the combo of Beatles and Kander & Ebb in Blackbird/A Quiet Thing. there’s even a slight huskiness in her voice on the latter, probably because she had just finished her run in ‘Allegiance’ at that time. The ‘A Song For You/I Can’t Make You Love Me’ arrangement is a miss for me – in the slight uptempo version here, the poignancy in the latter song is missed. Her ‘Greatest Hits Medley,’ where she sings all her ‘signature’ songs, seems like an afterthought here, but it is very well remembered.
All in all, the disc is a nice souvenir of her cabaret act. But I still long for a nice studio album from her. It will suffice all our Lea Salonga cravings, but we all sure want more!
‘Four Days in France’ (‘Jours de France’) is one of the weirdest movies I have seen in a long time. It is one of those films that is truly hard to describe. Directed by Jérôme Reybaud, this premiered at Venice Film Festival. It stars Pascal Cervo as Pierre Thomas. At the beginning of the film, Pierre leaves his lover in the middle of the night, and starts driving through Central France. We don’t know why he is doing this – we get a very vague idea in the end. As he goes through the different rural cities, he goes to rest stops and cruising areas looking for hookups. Most of the time he is aided by the ever-reliable phone app Grindr, where he ‘meets’ the men of Central France (Are there really that many there?) There is the idea that he has sex with a whole lot of them, but curiously he doesn’t. He meets a lot of other people along the way – his French teacher from childhood, a young gay man who wants to move to Paris, an older lady walking to the market.
And then there’s his partner, who (again) uses Grindr to track him down. That familiar notification notice of Grindr is ever ubiquitous here, if Pierre isn’t listening to classical music. One can find this film very tedious, pointless even. At times I did as well, but I have to admit I also liked the languid pace of the film, and was amused by the quirky characters he met, even if most of the set ups were quite contrived. This film runs at least 140 minutes, and you feel its length. Oddly enough, though, I felt that my time wasn’t wasted.
‘Honestly Ben’ by Bill Konigsberg is the sequel to ‘Openly Straight’ and I kind of wish I had brushed up on that book before starting this because the novel starts just right after where that book ended. But I remember enough about the characters that I quickly got into their story. The narration also changes to Ben’s point of view and I like his voice better – more mature, and in a lot of ways he know more about himself. But there’s some irony to that, though, cause in here he finds himself in conflicting emotions about who he has fallen for, for he meets Hannah, and he finds that he is attracted to her as well. He decides that he is straight, but in love with one boy – Rafe.
I found the book enjoyable, and Ben is irresistible, though there are times when I wanted to shout at him for always doing the right thing. Seriously, his honesty is to blame for a lot of the conflicts here. And I don’t know why, but I found myself rooting for Hannah too. But the end is a good payoff, and we know a lot more about these characters – and ourselves – by the end of the book.
The idea of Frédéric Malle x Alber Elbaz is so wonderful – “a grand aldehydic floral” – that I wanted to sample it just as I finished reading that description. Even its name is alluring: Superstitious. The notes, as described are as follows: Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, peach, apricot skin, labdanum resinoid, sandalwood, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, mask.
That’s a lot right there, and when you first spritz Sueperstitious, you kind of smell all of them right away. My skin always skews sweeter, so I got a little more peach and ‘apricot skin,’ which, I am guessing, is its rind? It’s not too sweet on me, and I particular like its dryness. But maybe because I am in a dry climate area that the aldehydes – here it is fizzy and soapy – came out so strong that it smelled way too clean on me – and you know I don’t like clean. Even Louise, my Malle Sales assistant, said “this is turning a little more soapy on you.’ And yes, she is right, I was laughing with her because on me, it smelled like I bathed in Dial Soap – the orange one – and my skin smelled freshly-soaped as if I just stepped out of the shower. I thought, well yes, that’s an interesting idea, but is this idea worth its price point. Honestly, I gave up and put it on my ‘close, but no cigar list.’
Then I got home, and I started smelling it on me again. And the long dry down (about a couple of hours later) proved to be much more appealing. Yes the clean aldehyde apricot Dial soap accord is still there but there was also something that jolted me – a cold incense note that is quite wonderful, smoky sweet and quite unique. And my heart started to palpitate – wow that Dominique Ropion is a genius Elbaz himself described the perfume as such: “the perfume of a dress, the silhouette that lingers after it has left a room,” and I get what he is saying (it’s not just flowery press release after all)
Superstitious is a great gauzy soapy scent that maybe too much when it is there, but is haunting when it starts to leave. And I am madly in love again.
‘Toni Erdmann’ was Germany’s submission for the Academy Awards last year, and I think it is easily one of last year’s best movies, regardless of what country it came from. It is also one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time as there were times I found myself literally laughing out loud while watching it.
Written and Directed by Maren Ade, the movie is about a father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek) and his adult daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) They have a very complicated relationship, and it has gotten to a point where Winfried thinks he has ceased to know his own daughter. So he visits her in Buacharest, where she is working, and starts to stalk her, at times disguised as his alter ego Toni Erdmann. But the movie is much more than that, it i an exploration of how we as adults treat and disregard our parents. Remember when we were kids and everything our parents did embarrassed us? Well, magnify that situation hundred-fold – that’s one of the premises of this movie. You see Winfred’s character and I have to admit that in the beginning I found the character a pest, as he inserts himself into his daughter’s life coarsely. Simonischek wisely plays the character without too much charm, and as the film unfolds, we get to see what he is doing and where he is coming from, and it happens organically. Not that Hüller’s Ines is an angel, either – we see her as a very strong independent modern woman, and is also a damaged one. We see both characters heal each other.
There are a couple of situations here that are laugh out loud funny. I won’t spoil it, but they involve Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Love You,’ petit fours, and a naked brunch. This film is both enjoyable and contemplative, and depending on your mood, will hit your heart and your funny bone both. I read somewhere that Hollywood is planning to remake it with Jack Nicholson, and that idea both scares and excites me, depending on my mood.
West Hollywood’s ‘The Abbey’ is supposedly one of the most famous bars in the world, and I must admit I have been there quite a few times. That’s probably because one of my best friends who lives in Los Angeles is obsessed with the place: you can count in one finger the number of times he has missed its famous ‘Sunday Funday’ party, and he probably knows every single bartender there, and surely about ninety percent of the regulars. So why does the bar featured in ‘What Happens At The Abbey’ not feel like The Abbey that I have visited over the years?
I think its because this show wants to be a version of ‘Vanderpump Rules,’ (the show which is se at the restaurant down the block) Here we have these crazy, sexually-charged employees of The Abbey, just like that other show, and we see them go through their hot mess episodes, again just like that other show. The Abbey is (or was) primarily a gay bar, but you wouldn’t know it from this first episode. Barely a gay customer was featured
The cast of characters here include two meathead jocks/bodybuilders who womanize the women of West Hollywood. We also get, among assorted Angelenos, two lesbians, a small basketful of gay guys, and as the heart of the piece – a young woman who moved from Long Island New York to work at the bar – probably cast just for the ‘fish out of water’ angle. I have to say, though, that I am glad they are at least featuring the gay characters here as prominently – it has always been a mystery to me that Vanderpump Rules the show is not as gay as its location.
It looks like we get hot mess storylines alright – the drinks here are free-flowing, with some parties for the staff set up by its owner, David Cooley, himself – more for drama escalation, surely. Just on the first episode, we see two girls (a lesbian and a straight woman) fighting for the sperm of one of the gay guys. There are no hookups yet, but there were some hard tries there.
I’ll be watching it, with a wink. I don’t think the producers meant this to be Masterpiece Hour, and it is just plain trashy fun. So, bring on the rubbish!