July 29, 2008

The iPod shuffle challenge

OK, I'm game. ScottE sent me this little challenge from pricklygirl. I'm sure it will be embarrassing, but here we go!

If you are in shuffle mode, what are the first twenty songs that come up on your iPod? And no skipping past the embarrassing stuff. I usually run mine in shuffle mode on some general song list (i.e. show tunes, not show tunes, pop/rock/soul, 80's). But this is the whole enchilada! Ready?

1. "Being Alive" - original Broadway cast of Company

We've greatly enjoyed the soundtrack with the 2006/2007 Broadway cast starring Raul Esparza. But I wanted more, so I got the original cast as well. This is the show closer, and it's a doozy!

2. "Dangerous Game" - Gloria Estefan

I know she's not everyone's cup of tea, but I've been a big Gloria fan for ages. This is off her most recent album, and it's got a mellow sound I enjoy.

3. "Icicle" - Tori Amos

Tori is brilliant on the piano, and this is one of her best off my favorite album - Under The Pink.

4. "Blue Wind" - original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening

If you haven't seen this show, you're missing out. This soulful song is what made me fall in love with Lauren Pritchard.

5. "Little Perennials" - Indigo Girls

My favorite band ever, this is the first single off their latest album. And it's catchy.

6. "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" - Queen Latifah

She was a rapper first, but it's become accepted that Queen is also a smooth jazz singer. I've enjoyed her last couple albums that showcase this talent.

7. "Rhode Island Is Famous For You" - Blossom Dearie

Don't recognize the singer? You might know her better from her work on Schoolhouse Rock! - remember "Figure 8"? Or "Unpack Your Adjectives"? That childlike voice of wonder is hers, and this cute song makes me smile.

8. "The Ballad of Czolgosz" - 2004 Broadway cast of Assassins

At this point if you're shocked I have so many show tunes, you don't know me very well. Loved the show (saw it at Studio 54), especially Neil Patrick Harris, who sings this one. And he says "Michigan" in a song, so I've got hometown love.

9. "Locklat Africa" - Zap Mama

Zap Mama is a unique Belgian group of women who fuse European and African styles. I bought this album (Sabsylma) for the choreographic possibilities, but still listen to it for fun as well.

10. "The Dock of the Bay" - Otis Redding

The classic summer song of chillaxin'.

11. "Shattered Dreams" - Johnny Hates Jazz

Ah, the carefree and bizarre 80's. It was such a simple and...odd time. This particular song was great while driving with friends at night.

12. "You Can't Hurry Love" - The Supremes

Classic Motown never goes out of style. And no I do NOT have the Phil Collins cover on my iPod!

13. "Lorrell Loves Jimmy" - movie soundtrack for Dreamgirls

I love this movie musical even more than Lorrell loves Jimmy. Also, Anika Noni Rose is totally my BFF, in case you hadn't heard. (In my head, that is.)

14. "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" - Kathy Mattea

Somber bluegrass-tinged folk music isn't my usual thing, but I heard Kathy perform songs from her new album (Coal) live, and it was entrancing. It's sad, but it's beautiful.

15. "I Feel The Earth Move" - Carole King

Carole King is an amazing songwriter. My first memory of this song was some random singer (maybe Helen Reddy?) performing it on The Muppet Show. Actually I have far too many memories of classic songs being sung on that show...

16. "Midnight Radio" - movie soundtrack for Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hard to explain the plot of this movie musical, but let's just say it involves hard rock and a botched sex change operation. Anywho, this is my favorite song. Lift up your hands.

17. "Hey Genius" - Rebekah

I first heard for Rebekah when I got a sampler cassette at my first Lilith Fair. I bought the album, and this song is my favorite - strong singing/songwriting.

18. "Liza with a 'Z'" - Liza Minelli

This makes me really super-duper gay, I know. But it's an adorable song, regardless.

19. "Members Only" - Los Angeles cast of Naked Boys Singing!

No comment.

20. "Turn! Turn! Turn!" - The Byrds

For everything a season and a reason. What an appropriate way to end my list.

All right, I've laid my iPod bare - how about you?

July 28, 2008

A Dark Night with The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Believe the hype - it really is that good. No, really. This is not some frothy superhero movie that's all action and no substance (I'm looking at you, Daredevil). This film transcends the genre to become a substantial drama and thriller.

Emphasis on the thriller aspect, by the way. I was downright SCARED several times! Not like horror-movie scared, but in the nervy-suspense sense - like in The Silence of the Lambs.

And the reason for that is three-fold:

1. A killer script by Jonathan & Christopher Nolan is full of twists, turns and seemingly impossible schemes. Guaranteed to keep you guessing!

2. The direction by Nolan (the latter one) is also very strong, keeping a frantic pace, but still throwing in solid substance to make you care about the characters and what happens next. My only quibble with the movie is that I think it was a tad long, but I admit I don't know what to cut out.

3. But the real reason to see the movie, actually the whole POINT of the movie is the unsettling performance by Heath Ledger as The Joker. He's creepy, perverse, frightening and just a bit funny. Do I believe a posthumous Oscar is appropriate? Um...kinda. I certainly haven't seen an acting performance this year to surpass Ledger's.

Now, all that being said, let me put it out there - the film is disturbing. The Joker's madness is not purely sadistic - he's also an anarchist. And that's a potent and downright scary combination. That sense of "It could happen to anyone at anytime" is pervasive and gets inside your head! Let's just say I didn't get much sleep last night. And what happens to Aaron Eckhart's character (Harvey Dent) is not for the faint of stomach. But for us former comic book geeks, it was really frakkin' cool!

So, other than my obvious A grade for the movie, I'll advise you to see it and see it soon, but perhaps go to a matinee, and take your teddy bear with you!

Oh, and you can debate with your friends - which is more annoying - Christian Bale's weird gravelly voice as Batman, or Pierce Brosnan's singing?

July 23, 2008

Mamma Mia indeed!

Mamma Mia!

I've already mentioned that I felt this was one of my most-anticipated films of the summer. And I certainly wasn't disappointed. But like another great movie recently, I think a little viewing guide would be helpful:

1. Remember that the plot is thin.
Really thin. Like 1-ply toilet paper thin. As long as you don't go into it expecting deep existential messages, you're good to go.

2. It's silly and wild, which is part of the fun.

Just sit back and enjoy the ride. Laugh! Sing! (OK, maybe not sing. Perhaps humming is more appropriate until you buy the DVD for home viewing.)

3. Girl power!

The strength of the movie comes from the fun and crazy antics of the female characters, and the delightful actresses playing them. Meryl Streep shines as the lead, proving that not only can she master accents, but she can sing, too! She's very believable as a mother feeling pulled between parental responsibility and her youthful freedom. She's joined by her wild & crazy pals, played to the hilt by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters. Also delightful is the daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried who shines when she smiles and can cry on cue. Coupled with a strong voice, she's a winner.

4. Colin Firth. Shirtless. Singing sweetly. With a secret.

'nuff said. *drool*

5. Turn on your Pierce Brosnan filter.

You'll figure this out real fast - Brosnan can't sing. Like, at all. He's AWFUL. So the grand debate is, can you cover that up if you're suave and sexy at a certain age? I say no - the film features him too prominently when he does decide to torture us with those vocal cords. His singing mars an otherwise wonderful film.

6. Stay for the credits!

You won't be disappointed. Trust me.

So that's it folks, a definite A- for the film. I'd give it a full A score, but...shut up, Pierce, seriously.

Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go see the movie again, so I'm off to strap on my platform boots and sequins while I belt out "Super Trouper!"

July 16, 2008

Catching up with The Mole

All right folks, let's cut to the chase about this week's episode of The Mole. No need for a recap. OK, if you insist:

- Nicole continues to act like a princess and play dumb.
- Paul continues to be evil to just about everyone.
- Alex continued to fade into the background.
- Mark continues to be paranoid.
- Kristen was executed last week, which shot my theory about the winner all to heck.

Got it? Now for my predictions, of which I'm feeling quite solid.

Least likely - Mark

Nicole and Paul continue to bicker like idiots, but no one is working harder lately to get the money in the pot like Mark. His running on that treadmill was most un-Mole like behavior. Plus no one has been this paranoid since Corbin Bernsen.

Most likely - Craig

I'm now firmly convinced that Craig is the Mole. First of all you'll notice that although Nicole was terrible at this week's brainteasers and made a big show of it, Craig wasn't really much help, either. But what really tipped me off was a potential clue they threw in for the viewers. As the execution scene began, the camera pointedly froze on a barrel with "N20" stamped on it. What was Craig's guess in the bungee challenge? $20 thousand. And as has been pointed out on the TWOP forums, what did Craig say his birthday was? November 20th. Booyah!

The winner?
- Clay

At this point I think it's time to stop with a second-choice Mole candidate and talk about the winner. I'm pretty sure that we now have at least one contestant that knows Craig is the Mole, possibly more. And I think he/she/they may be covering up for him. Nicole and Paul's mutual incompetence could be evidence of that. But I think it's Clay's apparent cluelessness coupled with his ability to contribute to the team just a little bit which makes me think he's on the trail and poised for a win.

You heard it here first, people!

July 15, 2008

Icons for Gay Men

Recently I was re-watching the film Hello Dolly! after hearing those great old Jerry Herman tunes in the film Wall-E. For those unfamiliar, there was quite a hulabaloo when the young Barbra Streisand was cast in the role, whereas the stage version had been pretty much synonymous with Carol Channing. Despite that, we gays still love her, even if we recognize this was perhaps not her best (or most appropriate) role. But how to explain that? Why is it that the majority of gay men love Babs the way we do, and so many others?

Thus I think it's time to offer you, gentle reader, a primer for the pantheon of female icons that we gay folk adore so much. And because I love lists, I'm going to offer my top 10 icons, followed by a laundry list of honorable mentions. Also we'll look at a few potential icons of the future - who will be talking about 25 years now with a great sigh saying, "Oh, I remember when I first saw Elizabeth in the theater. Now THAT was a great time in movies!"

First up, my top 10 list. These are in no particular order, because no matter how I rank them, I will hear cries of sacrilege (probably even from myself).

1. Judy Garland

How does one explain the pull of Judy? I admit that I wasn't even that impressed with Judy in my nascent years as a gay collegiate. But there are several reasons to explain her appeal. First is that quintessential role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Her experience reminds us of our own - lost in a world that is new and scary, wishing for the comforts of a home where you truly belong - if only you had some kind friends to lean on and show you the way. Also Judy has that cache of being a young child star at the time when movie musicals were becoming quite popular. When she exhorted us all to "Get Happy," we gladly obliged.

2. Liza Minelli

One can hardly mention Judy without bringing up her daughter in the same breath. We admire the way she fought to step outside her mother's shadow, taking the musical stage by storm all on her own. She pushed buttons and sang of hot jazz in Cabaret (making us forget that the role of Sally Bowles is supposed to be played by an Englishwoman). And of course she kept marrying men of our number, so she's practically a gay man already. Liza with a Z - that's her!

3. Barbra Streisand

*sigh* Oh, Babs. It's the voice. It's the nails. It's the Jewish girl from Flatbush who makes it on the Great White Way and wins an Oscar in her very first movie role. It's her unconventional choices in leading men that makes us realize all of us stand a chance. (Ryan O'Neal as sex symbol? Believe it.) And of course she's just so easy to impersonate - a godsend for the drag queens out there.

4. Cher

First she declares herself a "Half-Breed," and we identify with the outsider who isn't loved. Then she wears ostentatious-yet-fabulous gowns by Bob Mackie. And then she proves that she can really act, too - "Snap out of it!" Once she went disco, all the gays were ready to dance along and toss our non-existent long hair. Whoooaaaa!!!

5. Madonna

Although she's the youngest on this list, Madonna has done more in her half-century to win the hearts of the gays than most singers do in a lifetime. She has continually skewered social norms regarding sex and religion, and we appreciate it. She also knows how to construct a lot of amazing dance tunes!

6. Bette Davis

We love Bette for one simple reason - she was the first big-mouthed broad who brought the bitch every time she walked in a room. Only she could turn, "Poor Eve!" into a classic line.

7. Joan Crawford

Joan was in some ways Bette's twin for bitchery, but she also brought the glamour and the drama. And of course we know that she was (mostly) Mommie Dearest in real life, which makes her both cool and creepy.

8. Audrey Hepburn

Audrey defined glamour of the era - she looked good in everything, and always had those big fabulous sunglasses! No one else before or sense has made a string of pearls and a long cigarette holder look so very elegant. Then she became a big-time humanitarian, and no one appreciates selfless acts to help the world's forgotten more than the gays.

9. Donna Summer

Donna was the queen of the disco, and we sure loved our disco. Why, exactly? Disco was the chance to show of your hottest threads while shaking your booty on a lighted dance floor. Gay, gay, gay!!!

10. Bette Midler

Her history starting in the gay baths made Bette an instant gay icon for life - she entertained us first, and we've been loyal ever since. Yet we also would have adored her anyway for being loud and brassy with big bazooms. Once she made us weep with Beaches, we have never been the same.

And that's the list! Now for a few honorable mentions, who are certainly gay icons for some, but have not perhaps reached the pinnacle of gay icon stature:

- Dolly Parton - "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap."
- Julie Andrews - Sound of Music - love! Victor/Victoria - gay friendly!
- Patti Labelle - Soul sistah had the craziest hair of the 80's. And she likes to eat.
- Marlene Dietrich - She's the woman who made androgyny edgy and fabulous. Madonna owes her a debt.
- Elaine Stritch - Elaine made it OK to drink vodka and sing at the top of your lungs. Not that I ever do that.
- Gloria Gaynor - "I Will Survive" has been our anthem for years - if only she had more hits...
- Carol Channing - She's the smile that ate Broadway - Hello, Dolly, indeed!
- Carol Burnett - That Gone With the Wind sketch was worth a lifetime of laughs.
- Lucille Ball - The original (and perhaps greatest ever) comedienne. And who wouldn't want to marry a hot Cuban?
- Mary Tyler Moore - When she threw her hat up into the Minneapolis sky, she signaled freedom - for all! (Or that's how I saw it.) Plus having a sassy Jewish neighbor was totally our life.
- Whitney Houston - She...eee...eee....will always love uuuuuuuuus...or maybe crack. It's whack!
- Reba McEntire - Short, spunky, redheads are always our best girlfriends. Plus, girl loves her costumes!
- Diana Ross - She was so fabulous and controversial that they made a really, really good musical about her! (Even if she denies it.)
- Katherine Hepburn - She really qualifies as more of a lesbian icon (the jaw, the pants, that red sweater), but we still think she was a strong woman, and we love that.
- Judi Dench & Helen Mirren - Tough British babes for the ages!

Finally, without further adieu, I propose the women with the greatest potential to become our great icons of the new century. Which of them will stand the test of time?

- Jennifer Hudson - She's our new Diana Ross. But girl's got curves!
- Kathy Griffin - She adores us, so how could we not return the love?
- Margaret Cho - Ditto!
- Kelly Clarkson - American Idol no more - she is hot, hot, hot.
- Beyonce' - We're crazy in love with her.
- Cate Blanchett - One minute she's a British queen, the next she's clawing out the eyes of Judi Dench. Bold!
- Tilda Swinton - Androgyny is hot again, and Tilda's at the forefront. A new Marlene in the making?
- Meryl Streep - When she gets Oscar nomination #20, you know we're throwing a party.
- Glenn Close - She was in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway. She may actually BE a gay man!

OK, now's your time to let me have it - where did I go wrong? Whom did I forget? Whom I have shown too much love? (Yeah, right.) And who else will define the future of gay men's DVD and CD collections?

July 14, 2008

For those of you watching So You Think You Can Dance

[Click the link above, or click here.]

Ooo - the drama!

I admit I thought Jessica's days were numbered, anyway. But now Comfort has to work doubly hard to stay in it.