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“Hometown Glory”

Adele, the Grammy-winning English crooner, has had mad props given to her for her divine talent and sensational debut album, “19.” Her commanding vocals resemble those of Etta James and Amy Winehouse, yet Adele maintains a very distinctive sound.

Songs like “Chasing Pavement” and “Cold Shoulder” rocketed Adele to stardom, even earning her the Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance awards at the Grammys this year. The song that ignites my bones, however, is Adele’s soon-to-be smash hit, “Hometown Glory.” It’s poetic; it’s haunting; it’s ardent.

I beg you to listen to it, and see if you don’t find yourself reminiscing of summers during your childhood or growing up in the cities and suburbs.

Love that Adele.

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They’ve Got Heart

Damn Yankees” was the production of choice this year for the Pearland High School choir. I saw the musical during opening weekend, and I was blown away by the immense talent of these high school students. I felt that Van Buren did the best. I may be slightly biased, considering my brother plays this roll; however, John does have a great voice. What can I say? The Obenhauses can’t help but to be exceptionally talented–sorry.

Check out my brother singing his solo, “Heart” (he’s the first to begin singing).

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Jessica “Jelly Belly” Simpson

Jessica Simpson performed in Florida at the 99.9 Kiss Country 24th Annual Chili Cook Off this past weekend. Err, Jessica is looking quite corpulent in these photos (found via The Superficial).  Did she eat Tony Romo?

The bulging beauty has been getting a lot of slack the past few years, from her divorce from 98 Degrees pop sensation Nick Lachey (ha ha, I laughed at that too), to her bitter break up with John Mayer, to being nicknamed “Yoko Romo,” to having a miserable country music crossover career, to her sister being the first to have the opportunity to name her child something that will surely scar it. Yes, poor swollen Simpson has hit a rough patch.

I pray to the gods of popular culture that those repugnant high-wasted pants and tuck-in tank top are the reasons for surfeit of skin in these photos.

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“If It Moves to Music, I’m in Love”

“Theoretically, I am ready to go to anything– once. If it moves, I’m interested; if it moves to music, I’m in love.” -Arlene Croce

Arlene Croce, formerly a dance critic for twenty-five years at the “New Yorker,” makes her love of the arts and, especially, dance clear in the anthology “Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the “New Yorker.'”

“Writing in the Dark” covers Croce’s long reviews of performances from the time she started at the “New Yorker” in 1973 until she left in 1998.

Croce’s work covers a topic about which very few have real, substantial knowledge; however, her reviews are just as informational as they are critical. Going into “Writing in the Dark,” I assumed that Croce would frequently use dance jargon and refer to performaces about which I did not know. I found myself, to my suprise, thoroughly enjoying Croce’s reviews of dance performaces and even learning a thing or two about this lovely art form.

Croce’s word choice is exemplary; it conveys the kinesthetic movements of the dancers, the underlying themes of the performances, and the powerful vitality of the music. “Writing in the Dark” is 745 pages of vivid description and sharp criticism, making it a wonderful read.

Ballet

The only criticism of Croce–for whom I have tremendous respect since reading her work– is in her 1994 review entitled “Discussing the Undiscussable.” The performance in question was Bill T. Jones‘ “Still/Here,” where Jones presented people who were terminally ill and proceeded to talk about it (Jones himself has AIDS). Croce stated that she had no intent on reviewing it, the reason being that Croce felt the performance was “pity art.” Croce wrote that by working dying people into his act, Jones put himself beyond the reach of criticism. She continued to defend her decision not to review the perforance which she dubbed unreviewable. I absolutely respect her decision and support her right to make such a choice. I only criticize Croce for this for the reason that a “New Yorker” writer has a certain authority and voice. When she wrote this controversial piece, it could have seriously cost her her reputation. Nonetheless, Croce wrote what she did and that is simply that. Read an excerpt of the review here.

Arlene Croce’s reviews, especially those published in “Writing in the Dark, Dancing in the “New Yorker,'” are as close to an acclaimed dance performance as you can get. Her writing style, as well as her knowledge and love of dance, makes for tremendous reviews.

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Judging a Book by the Cover

An adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world–a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler…

https://i1.wp.com/assets.kaboose.com/media/00/00/05/1d/e23332247e1d3c2f593f8d072395b972a74c95b3/476x357/Where-The-Wild-Things-Are_476x357.jpg

“Where the Wild Things Are,” the lovely, whimsical children’s book written by Maurice Sendak, is being adapted into a movie thanks to Spike Jonze. Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano, and Catherine Keener–to name a few–lend their voices to the film. The book itself was an enormous success; it was awarded the Caldecott Medal,the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and was an ALA Notable Book.

I’m curious–and dare I say hopeful–about this movie because it has great potential.  Judging from the photographs, it seems that director Spike Jonze has really done a solid job making sure that the movie doesn’t head down the paltry path that many adaptations of books take.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is set to hit theaters October 16th of this year.

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O… Saya

The last post I wrote mentioned the sensational “Slumdog Millionaire” sountrack.  The track listing includes well known artists, like as M.I.A., the artist behind the insanely popular “Paper Planes” song.   It also includes internationally acclaimed artists who have yet to really establish a fan base here in the States; however, that is about to change for at least one.

A. R. Rahman is a Golden Globe nominated film composer, record producer and musician…  Skilled in Carnatic music, Western classical, Hindustani music and the Qawwali style of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahman has been noted to write film songs that amalgamate elements of these music systems and other genres, layering instruments from differing music idioms in an improvisatory manner.

Rahman‘s inluence permeates the movie’s soundtrack, tieing together the more traditional-sounding Indian music with artists who have a lot of Western influence.  The most exciting of the tracks is “O…Saya,” performed by both Rahman and M.I.A.  The sound is infections and exotic, but it is not so far removed from the baseline that listeners are alienated by it.

Again, here’s the track listing for you all.

  1. “O… Saya” performed by A. R. Rahman, M.I.A.
  2. “Riots” by A. R. Rahman
  3. “Mausam & Escape” by A. R. Rahman
  4. Paper Planes” performed by M.I.A.
  5. “Paper Planes (DFA Remix)” performed by M.I.A.
  6. “Ringa Ringa” by A. R. Rahman featuring Alka Yagnik, Ila Arun
  7. “Liquid Dance” by A. R. Rahman featuring Palakkad Sriram, Madhumitha
  8. “Latika’s Theme” by A. R. Rahman featuring Suzanne D’Mello
  9. “Aaj Ki Rat” performed by Sonu Nigam, Mahalakshmi Iyer, Alisha Chinai
  10. “Millionaire” by A. R. Rahman featuring Madhumitha
  11. “Gangsta Blues” by A. R. Rahman featuring BlaaZe, Tanvi Shah
  12. “Dreams on Fire” by A. R. Rahman featuring Suzanne D’Mello
  13. “Jai Ho” by A. R. Rahman featuring Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalakshmi Iyer

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Without a Doubt, the Best Film I’ve Seen

This film–along with its doughty protagonist, Jamal Malik–imlodes with passion, adversity, and (most of all) hope.  The movie about which I’m writing is “Slumdog Millionaire,” which I now consider to best best film I’ve seen to date.

The story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life.  With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”  But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much?  Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost.  Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions.  Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible quizzes.  But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show?  When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out.  At the heart of its storytelling lies the question of how anyone comes to know the things they know about life and love.  Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

I went to see “Slumdog Millionaire” with two friends of mine; we went into it with high expectations.  Positive feedback spread like wildfire as news got out (via word-of-mouth, no less) that the movie was a remarkable and fresh movie-going experience.  Armed with a bottle of water and a bag of Sour Patch Kids, I sat in the theater and waited to be blown away, as I’d heard I’d be at the end of the movie.  Within the first ten minutes, my jaw had already dropped to the floor several times as adverse scenes of both absolute poverty and extreme wealth flickered in front of me.  By the end of the 120 minutes, I had laughed out loud at the characters’ antics, had tears well up in my eyes when the scenes playing out before me were too hard to imagine, had my hands cupped over my mouth when I was in absolute shock, and had my teeth clenched together as I waited for answers. 

It sounds cliché to say that a movie is inventive and rare; however, this movie–based on the novel Q & A–is one of the most exceptional and inspired films I’ve seen to date, and the critics agree.  “Slumdog Millionaire” is up for four Golden Globe awards, and it is the top contender in each of the categories for which it is nominated.  It it up for Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Drama, Best Original Score (A.R. Rahman), and Best Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy).  Innumerable awards have already been given to the film’s actors, writers, and crew.  Its breakout stars, including Dev Patel, have become internationally recognized and accaimed for their work in this film. 

If you’d like more information on the movie, check out IMDB.  There, you will find the cast list, production notes, plot summaries, comments, and more.

As a side note, the soundtrack for “Slumdog Millionaire” is absolutely sensational.  It mixes beautiful, traditional Indian vocals and melodies with Western infuences (enter artists like M.I.A.).  The track list can be found at Wikipedia, but I’ll save you a click.

  1. “O… Saya” performed by A. R. Rahman, M.I.A.
  2. “Riots” by A. R. Rahman
  3. “Mausam & Escape” by A. R. Rahman
  4. Paper Planes” performed by M.I.A.
  5. “Paper Planes (DFA Remix)” performed by M.I.A.
  6. “Ringa Ringa” by A. R. Rahman featuring Alka Yagnik, Ila Arun
  7. “Liquid Dance” by A. R. Rahman featuring Palakkad Sriram, Madhumitha
  8. “Latika’s Theme” by A. R. Rahman featuring Suzanne D’Mello
  9. “Aaj Ki Rat” performed by Sonu Nigam, Mahalakshmi Iyer, Alisha Chinai
  10. “Millionaire” by A. R. Rahman featuring Madhumitha
  11. “Gangsta Blues” by A. R. Rahman featuring BlaaZe, Tanvi Shah
  12. “Dreams on Fire” by A. R. Rahman featuring Suzanne D’Mello
  13. “Jai Ho” by A. R. Rahman featuring Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalakshmi Iyer

 

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