Sunday, September 17, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Last Sunday I decided to finally watch the Spielberg classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during its fortieth anniversary run in theaters. Two years ago I saw Jaws for its fortieth anniversary release and was only disappointed that I hadn't seen it sooner. I didn't quite have that same reaction to Close Encounters.

I thought the film was technically brilliant and beautiful. The light images of the "flying saucers" were amazing, and mood and atmosphere were not lacking. But, for me, the story didn't quite capture my interest. This was especially true after Richard Dreyfuss goes crazy and insists on ruining his life. His wife sadly had nothing to do but scream and be hysterical. The government people covering up and figuring out were interesting, to a point (especially with the casting of famed-director Francois Truffaut), but it all ultimately went on too long.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Baseball and Tennis

I traded in the arts for sports on Monday, hitting up both baseball and tennis. I went to one Mets game when I lived in NYC, and never made it out to watch the U.S. Open. When I realized I would be there during the U.S. Open I immediately bought a ticket.

Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium share the same subway stop in Flushing, Queens. Needless to say, the subway was full and the station a flurry of activity. 


The Mets were playing the Phillies, and both teams are nowhere near the playoffs. So I just sat and enjoyed the game. Sitting in front of me were Royals fans! The game wasn't terribly exciting, but at least it wasn't oppressively hot. I chatted with the people around me and cheered for the Phillies (because my dad is a Phillies fan). 


 This dog's owner dresses him up for tips post-games. He was so calm and chill!


After the game I walked over to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park to kill time before the tennis match. I've never been to this park, but it is large and quite awesome. It's where the large Unisphere is (you see it in the Men in Black movies, the large globe). There were so many people there - playing sports, riding bikes, eating ice cream, just enjoying the lovely weather. 




I then headed over to Arthur Ashe Stadium to wait in line to get in. There are several courts at the grounds. I chose to get a reserved seat for the evening match at Arthur Ashe, which is the main court where the big stars play. I had no idea who would be playing that night when I bought my ticket, but I lucked out and got to see Rafael Nadal play! 



People are crazy for Nadal! I've never been in the presence of that before. He played well and everyone was happy for him. But, tennis fans are pretty nice to all players. Maybe because it's a solo sport and it seems really mean to boo at an individual. The crowd cheered and clapped for the opponent, but it was clear that everyone was there to see Nadal and he was the star (certainly warranted). The women's match was after, and sadly it was getting quite late at this point so I only stayed for the first match (or is it set? I don't know; I had to google tennis terms while there). It was such a fun, neat experience though!



Sunday, September 10, 2017

NY Transit Museum

My second day in NYC I hit up one of the places I never did when I lived there: the NY Transit Museum. I had time before my matinee showing of The Great Comet to make my way to Brooklyn to the museum. It was tight, though, when it was discovered that no red line trains were running to Brooklyn on weekends! I had to improvise, but it was pretty easy with the extensive transit system in NYC.

I love transit, which is a direct result of living in NYC. The museum is in an old, once-working subway station by Brooklyn Borough Hall. The museum highlights the history of the NYC subway and bus systems. The first subway opened October 27, 1904. 1904! Whoa (also, that's my sister and best friend's birthday!)! I loved seeing the old photos of the workers building the lines.




The museum highlights the response of transit workers - bus drivers, engineers, steelworkers, everyone - during weather events and the attacks of September 11. It was moving to see this group of people that I had never really heard about as helping in the aftermath. For a city so dependent on public transit, any major disruption in service has a huge affect.

In the lower section, on the tracks, is a vast showing of old subway cars. I loved it!







Saturday, September 9, 2017

Four Shows

Before heading to NYC I had bought tickets to two shows - Waitress and The Great Comet. I would enter the lottery for other shows (including Hamilton, which is still a bit too pricey). I ended up getting into two other shows!

Waitress
I knew I wanted to see this after watching Jesse Mueller's performance at the Tony Awards last year. I tried to see it when I was in NYC back in April, but it just didn't work out. When I decided I was going to New York for my ten year anniversary the first thing I did was buy a ticket to Waitress. It's based on the 2007 movie of the same name, with songs and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. I love Sara Bareilles, and you can tell the songs are from her. I liked how the show found a way to incorporate the thoughts in Jenna's head as she plans pies that relate to her feelings and predicaments. The band is on-stage most of the time, and the background characters are regularly integrated into the story.

This is a very emotional show, with the main character, Jenna, having to deal with a very bad husband and the choices she has made in her life. I love that she is allowed to be multi-dimensional; she makes good and bad choices and yet I never judge her. The females characters have a strong bond, but are allowed to fight and still be good friends.


The Great Comet
I didn't know very much about this show other than Josh Groban was once in the lead role, and the whole brouhaha with Mandy Patinkin. A friend suggested it so I went ahead and bought a ticket a few weeks ago. I got there just in time, because the show ended up playing its last performance the day after I saw it.

The play is based on a 90-page slice of War and Peace. There are a lot of characters, and the Playbill provides a chart of who is connected to who; I found this very helpful. The play is immersive, with most of the characters on stage during the whole run time. The stage was reimagined to accommodate this experience, basically blowing out the entire back of the stage and providing seating right next to the actors. It turned the normal "Broadway play" on its head, and I wish it had gotten more notice for the way it was so different.


The Book of Mormon
Besides the tickets for the two previous shows, my plan was to enter lotteries and see what happened. After The Great Comet I went back to my Airbnb to reassess what to do for the night. I hadn't won the lottery for anything yet. I decided I would go back to Times Square and see about getting a cheap/standing room only ticket for The Book of Mormon. When I arrived about thirty minutes before the show, the Box Office told me they didn't have any standing room only tickets left. However, they did have single tickets available to sell. I decided to wait it out in the cancellation ticket to see what my chances were - if I was going to be paying a lot for a ticket I wanted it to be a good seat! I stood in a line that had just one other person in it - an English girl from Houston! We each ended up getting a premier producer's seat for a third of what they normally go for! My seat was in the orchestra, in the middle, about ten rows back.

The play was awesome! It was so much fund and everyone was laughing the whole time. I think it's probably better if you are Mormon or know Mormon culture, because you get the little jokes and comments that others don't. It is entirely irreverent (what else do you expect from the creators of South Park). I laughed a lot, which made for a very fun night. I stage-doored it in the rain after and had a couple of the actors sign my Playbill.


Dear Evan Hansen
When I told one of my friends about my plan to go to NYC he said he'd love to see Dear Evan Hansen. I remember seeing the posters for it when Ivy and I were in NYC, but I wasn't all that familiar with it. I looked at getting a ticket but just never committed to it. Then it won a boatload of Tony's in June, I loved Ben Splatt's performance, and I wanted to see it. Too bad - ticket prices had now sky-rocketed (not to Hamilton level, but still a bit too pricey for what I was willing to pay). My plan was to enter the lottery and hope for the best.

By Sunday afternoon I hadn't won any of the lotteries I had entered, and had pretty much resigned myself to not seeing it. I was taking a walking tour of Greenwich Village when I decided to just check StubHub again and see what the prices were. At 1:30 p.m. there was a single ticket for the 3 p.m. show that was at a price within my budget! So I bought it right then and there!

When I got to the theater and the line started moving, I felt so happy and lucky that I was seeing it! As I got to the theater doors I noticed a white sign posted: The role of Evan Hansen usually played by Ben Splatt will be played by Michael Lee Brown. Well, that explained the relatively-cheap ticket I was able to buy. And I was bummed.

But then I got over it! Because I was seeing Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway with all of the original cast. It did not disappoint, and understudy Michael Lee Brown was amazing. Like seriously. He is the understudy for two other characters and has played them all throughout the run. That's right, he understudies for three characters - three sets of songs, three character's dialogue and movements and props. That is amazing. I stage-doored it afterward just because I wanted him to feel special, and he signed my Playbill.



I loved all the shows I saw, book-ended by the emotional stories of Waitress and Dear Evan Hansen and stuffed with flair and fun of The Great Comet and The Book of Mormon. I loved the kids and pre-teens I saw at the shows and the excitement they had for theater. The kid sitting behind me at The Great Comet was seriously so excited his mom had to tell him to stop talking at one point and not spoil the show for her. So many kids had posters and art and I could feel their excitement.

Friday, September 1, 2017

10 Years Post-NYC

Ten years ago this very day I arrived in New York City, intent on making it my home. I had grand dreams and was pretty sure I would live in the City for the foreseeable future. Which is why I loaded up a Penske truck with all my belongings when I moved here as a twenty-four year old in 2007.

Those grand dreams changed; I only ended up living in the City for about eighteen months before going back to SLC to pursue new dreams. But those eighteen months were some of the best in my life. It was a time when, to get very cliche, I discovered myself.

I will have much more to say about that, but for now I am going to go out and enjoy NYC. That's right, I decided to come back to the City on the very date I arrived here ten years ago - September 1, 2007! I made this plan back in June when other summer plans fell through. I knew that I would want to mark the momentous anniversary, and nothing is more momentous that being in New York City.



Thursday, August 24, 2017

It Happened One Night

The Cinemark Classic Series this go-around includes the classic rom-com (or screwball comedy) It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. I went to see it last night so I could cross off one more Best Pic Winner from my 35 by 35 list.

Colbert is the rich, pampered socialite Ellie Andrews, a woman so controlled by her father that she married a man just because he didn't want her to. When she jumps off the yacht (?) her father owns at the beginning of the film, she ends up meeting newspaper man Peter Warne (Gable) on the bus at the depot in Miami. She's trying to make her way to New York to her husband without getting caught by the press (apparently nothing else of newsworthy note is occurring in the world). He's trying to get the scoop on her to save his career and together the two make a deal - he'll get unlimited access and the story, she'll get to New York unnoticed.

This is what is called the meet-cute in movie parlance.

And their meeting on the bus is pretty cute. Along with their interactions throughout the film, most memorably the way they play off each other in their hotel room when being interrogated by detectives sent by her father. They just click, and they both realize it.

There are of course some miscommunications, but all ends well with the "walls of Jericho" finally coming down. Being the first rom-com, it set the stage for what all of them contain - opposites attract, initial dislike of each other, the falling in love over a very short period of time. As the first, It Happened One Night is quite charming (just overlook some of the dated gender stereotypes about men and women).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bonnie and Clyde

I hit up my local Cinemark for their showing of Bonnie and Clyde, a classic from 1967 celebrating its 40th anniversary. I've always been curious about this film, as it gets name-checked a lot in film circles.

I didn't particularly care for the film. It was oddly shot and oddly edited. The music was odd. I didn't believe any of the motivations for the characters (Bonnie and Clyde and the Barrow gang must have been more interesting in real life, right?). I couldn't stop thinking about how Bonnie always looked so fabulous when she left with Clyde on a whim one day with nothing.

The film is fun just for seeing a very young and very handsome Warren Beatty. Other than that, I'd likely skip it.
 

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