Blah Blah Land

What is great about a musical? La La Land seems to think that the most important thing to learn from Singing in the Rain is that things were better in the past. Please remember, however, that the whole point of Singing in the Rain was: “embrace innovation.” La La Land, a movie I’m practically alone in disliking, is about to win a bunch of awards and its director/writer Damien Chazelle will be congratulated for bringing back the movie musical. This is a shame and a misunderstanding of musicals. (I want to recognize Richard Brody’s perfect take down of the film, for which most of this will merely be an extended illustration, plus more references to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).

La La Land is a musical in form but not in spirit. The tragedy is that we are living in a moment when many excellent things are being made in the spirit of a musical, but not in its classical form.

Here are some things that are actually great about musicals:

  1. They allow the bravado of GREAT singing and dancing to overwhelm narrative. A superlative voice or body breaks up the momentum of a story and transports you through its sheer excellence.

  1. Musicals, made often by those outside the mainstream, perform a kind of pathos that is too much for the normal world. In their essence, musicals make space for difference through their weirdness.

 

  1. Musicals comment on the world around them (usually with stinging comedy). Singing and dancing are not trans-historical universal art forms, they are the perfect crystallization of what a particular moment feels like.

 

I’m reverent of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s commitment to the essence of musical theater and its bravery in getting rid of the all the stuff that old people feel nostalgic about when they think of musicals (or when they think they are thinking of musicals). Hey, what if everyone’s not white? What if the music is in the vernacular of the era? What if we use the ability to have fantasy set pieces to emphasize the actual mental illness and unhealthiness of romantic constructs? La La Land’s doubling down on the nostalgia of musicals is not only regressive, it’s not in the spirit of musicals.

-D

Top 7

These are not the best things (Moonlight, Fates and Furies, Better Call Saul). These are the things I enjoyed the most; the things that I had so much pleasure consuming I wish I could experience them again for the first time.

  1. Hands to Myself-Selena Gomez. This is probably the song I listened to the most, the song I secretly choreographed a dance to, the song that I wish every cardio dance class used. And for albums: it’s a close tie between Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert’s 2016 albums. Miranda Lambert’s album is almost too substantive for this list, inching towards “best” instead of most enjoyable.
  2. John Mulaney’s special The Comeback Kid.
  3. Keep in mind that I have not yet seen La La Land or Edge of Seventeen, but the movie that filled me with the most delight was Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Close second was Hell or High Water. Also this movie is not officially from 2o16, but 2016 is the year that it finally came to Netflix where you can STILL watch it (as an “indie” movie it’s release date might as well be the year it comes to streaming anyway). Lucky Them starring Toni Colette and Thomas Hayden Church was my favorite romantic comedy of the year. These two actors are currently being misused in a variety of movies and tv dramas so it is a great reminder of their charisma and smolder.
  4. Re-watching Working Girl, which I actually re-watched twice this year. Once in desolate Erie, PA then again after moving to a fancy new city where I have a fancy new job. Coincidence? Basically I started the year as Joan Cusack and ended as Melanie Griffith spinning in her swivel chair. Also Let the River Run is the official song of every professional success.

5. I really got back into romance novels this year, but realized that romance novels are universally terrible at plotting. You know who is great at plots? Young adult writers! Thus the perfect combination is romance + YA. I give you Sarah J. Maas’s second series A Court of Thorns and Roses. The other great thing about Maas is that she heralds the end of Hunger Games/Twilight mimicry in YA. Maas is not interested in metaphors that knock you over the head with their social relevancy or toying with our repressed desires. No, Maas trusts that you are a nerd who is deeply interested in elfish political systems that have no parallels to our own world. And she is a truly sex positive author who assumes you’ve already worked out your desire for elf ears.

6. The Everlane Street Shoe-best purchase I made this year. They make me feel fresh like Ellen.

7. It’s a tie! The Durrells of Corfu and Poldark. I have, as of now, still not convinced anyone to watch the Durrells. It is only six episodes people! Please get on it, I desperately need to discuss the finale with someone. I also have to apologize to friend of the blog Liz, who has been telling me to watch Poldark for the last six months. An eighteenth century mining operation, a love triangle, class intrigue: why did I resist this show?! This is also a reminder to you all to just give in and watch whatever people tell you to watch.

-D.

Boyfriend Update

If my logic is sound, meet your future Star Wars star: Juan Diego Botto

 

I say this because no sooner do I gain a new boyfriend, than George Lucas casts him for a Star Wars movie. Ask anyone who has known me for 10 years, Dirty Dancing Havana nights IS and WILL ALWAYS BE my favorite movie. Did you know that dancing caused the Cuban Revolution? Look it up. Anyways, Diego Luna is long overdue for another starring role. Riz Ahmed and I got together just this year. And of course MAAADDDSSS.

Juan Diego Botto is starring with Lady Mary in the Lady Mary Breaks Bad Show on TNT (real name: Good Behavior). This show is unexpectedly great. And by great I mean (following Willa Paskin) that the show is genuinely committed to romance.

-D

How to look Younger

The most important decision that the showrunners of Younger made was to cast Sutton Foster. I think she plausibly passes for 26. But aside from her natural features the makeover within the show provides crucial lessons about how to look younger.

  1. STOP CUTTING YOUR HAIR
  2. Get highlights

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This realization has caused me to reflect on my twenty plus years of pro-short hair experience. When I was in third grade my mom cut all my hair off because what person in their right mind wants to brush a little girl’s hair?

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Since then I have always embraced haircuts as a way to radically transform myself. Mostly this has been unsuccessful.

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Giving up on cutting my hair is giving up on the possibility of finally achieving the dream that Meg Ryan embedded in all our hearts in 1998: a haircut for the female gaze.

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The one truth that I never seemed to accept about the Meg Ryan-dream is that you have to get your hair cut and colored every three weeks. My parents have very chic short cuts, and they get highlights and LOWLIGHTS. I’m not even sure what a lowlight is.

Now that I have entered the point in my life where I seem to disappear into the background, merging into the mass of neutered older ladies in their boring work attire, I guess I have to say goodbye to the dream of being cool and unfussy and acquire some more hair. Also, I made an appointment for some balayage. That hair is not going to sun-kiss itself.

Also for no reason, here is the greatest tribute to Sutton Foster:

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