Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guilty pleasure pick: She's the Man

Anytime She's the Man is on television (it was just on last weekend), I get sucked in. The modern take on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Or What You Will stars Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. When I stop and think about the how ridiculous the movie is, I somehow manage to overlook this and only see it's virtues.

If you're not familiar with the plot of Twelfth Night it is quite farcical: a woman, Viola, pretends to be a man and befriends a man, Orsino, whom she ends up falling in love with, but he likes another woman, Olivia, who in turn likes Viola (thinking she's a man). Get that? Anyway, She's the Man follows along these lines, but it is centered around teens in high school who play soccer. Bynes' character, Viola, finds that her school's girl's soccer team is cut and after trying unsuccessfully to tryout for the boy's team, she ends up transferring to a rival school and posing as her twin brother Sebastian to be on their boys team. (Why she doesn't transfer and tryout for their girl's team is never addressed, although, neither is whether a girl's team exists at this new school either...) She rooms with Duke (Tatum) and he subsequently helps her win a starting spot on the soccer team, all the while believing her to be Sebastian. Shenanigans and romance ensue.

The supporting characters and actors are appealing, most notably David Cross as the principal of the school (why he did this film I don't know, but I don't care because he's awesome). Viola's friends from her original school are likable and Julie Hagerty and John Pyper-Ferguson play Viola and Sebastian's divorced parents with an air of perfect ignorance. They have an excellent scene in the last several minutes while - SPOILER ALERT - the truth comes out about the gender of Sebastian/Viola. Pyper-Ferguson remarks "this soccer game has more nudity than most." Bynes is funny driving the film's kookyness, and last but not least, Channing Tatum is easy on the eyes.

She's the Man
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 100th birthday, Lucille Ball!

Comedienne Lucille Ball would have been 100 today. She was born on this day in 1911 in Jamestown, New York. After working as a showgirl and model in her twenties Lucy started to get small movie roles, beginning with Roman Scandals in 1931. In 1940 she met future husband Desi Arnaz on the set of Too Many Girls; they married in November that same year. After several years of dealing with schedules that kept them apart, Lucy and Desi worked together on the radio show My Favorite Husband, which debuted in 1948. With the growing popularity of television, CBS decided to adapt My Favorite Husband for TV, which became I Love Lucy. The first episode aired October 15, 1951. Lucy played Lucy Ricardo, a housewife who longed to break into show business. Desi played her husband, Ricky Ricardo, a bandleader. Their friends and landlords, Ethel and Fred Mertz, were played by Vivian Vance and William Frawley.

I Love Lucy episodes demonstrate how great Lucille Ball was at physical comedy.Whether it be stomping on grapes in an Italian vineyard or reacting with her unique facial expressions, you never want to take your eyes off her. I think my favorite Lucy facial expression is when she opens her mouth really wide without making a sound and raises her eyebrows as if to say, "WHAT?!" In honor of Lucille's Balls 100th birthday check out seasons 1-9 of I Love Lucy on DVD and re-watch some of the best moments in TV history.

The Complete First Season
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This DVD set also includes the lost pilot. Highlights from this season include "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" for the product Vitameatavegamin, which contains vitamins, meat, vegetables, minerals... and is 23% alcohol. "Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular?" In "The Diet" Lucy almost starves herself in order to fit into a size 12, the size of the dress of the girl appearing with Ricky in his show.

The Complete Second Season
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In "Job Switching" Ricky and Fred stay home to cook and clean while Lucy and Ethel get jobs in a chocolate factory. Lucy isn't able to get Ricky alone to tell her the news she is pregnant in "Lucy is Enceinte." She comes to his show at the club and writes down a song request; when Ricky walks to each table asking if they are the happy couple, he is surprised to find it's Lucy.

The Complete Third Season
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In "Equal Rights" Lucy and Ethel wind up washing dishes at the restaurant where they just ate dinner after Ricky and Fred split the bill into four checks.

The Complete Fourth Season
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During this season Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel visit L.A. and meet such celebrities as William Holden and Eve Arden ("L.A., At Last"), Cornel Wilde ("The Star Upstairs"), and Harpo Marx ("Harpo Marx").

The Complete Fifth Season
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At the start of this season the gang is still in L.A. I always liked the episode "Lucy Visits Grauman's" where Lucy and Ethel steal the slab of cement of John Wayne's footprints. Later in the season the group leaves for Europe, visiting London, Scotland, Paris, the Swiss Alps, and Italy, which features the classic episode  "Lucy's Italian Movie."

The Complete Sixth Season
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In "Lucy and Superman" Lucy asks Ricky to invite Superman (George Reeves), who is in town to sign autographs, to Little Ricky's birthday party. When Ricky tells Lucy that Superman cannot make it, Lucy dresses as Superman and goes out on the ledge outside their apartment in preparation to surprise Little Ricky and his guests. And when Superman changes his plans and does show up to the party, Lucy can't join in on the fun as she gets locked out on the ledge in the rain.

The Final Seasons 7, 8 & 9
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These seasons were called The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, or The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remembering Amy Winehouse

We only said goodbyes with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black.
- "Back to Black"

Grammy-winner singer Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27 on Saturday, July 23 in her London home. While she had struggled with drugs and alcohol these past few years, a cause of death has yet to be determined. Family and friends gathered for her funeral last Tuesday. During her career Winehouse released the albums Frank (2003) and Back to Black (2006). Many celebrities from around the world have used Twitter and other social media outlets to respond to Winehouse's death. I think the words shared by comedian Russell Brand and singer Adele are very touching. As a fan of her small but powerful collection of work, I was devastated to hear the news of her death, and in a way it is still hard for me to fathom she is no longer here.

I have been a fan of Amy's from the first note of "Rehab" I heard her sing on the radio in 2007. After buying my own copy of Back to Black the album followed me everywhere. Her lyrics reached straight for my heart and I played the songs over and over. I never get sick of her voice. Ever since those first listens of her songs I still feel Amy's longing and loneliness whenever I listen to her songs, especially "Love is Losing Game" and "Wake Up Alone," as if I were hearing them for the first time. When I feel down, I put on Back to Black because, and maybe it's weird to put it this way, Amy Winehouse knows those dark feelings, too. She dug so far inside herself on her songs, and in my opinion she was in a class of her own in the music world. No one can take her place. It's heartbreaking that someone so young, and so full of talent, can be gone at the age of 27. Amy Winehouse, you will be missed.

Amy Winehouse on video: Five classic moments from her career
One of the moments featured is her 2007 set at Lollapolooza

Listen to music by Amy Winehouse:
Back to Black
"Valerie" on Version by Mark Ronson
"Cupid" on the Valentine's Day soundtrack
"It's My Party" on Quincy Jones' Q: Soul Bossa Nostra
"Fool's Gold" on Sex and the City. Volume 2 soundtrack
"Monkey Man" on the Run, Fat Boy, Fun soundtrack