Sunday, February 28, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 17: 101 Dalmatians

Series Intro: Here's Part 17 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title:101 Dalmatians
Release: January 25, 1961
Running Time: 79 minutes
Estimated Cost: $4 million (1961) ($28,986,442.95 (2010))
Estimated Revenue: $14,000,000 (1961) ($101,452,550.34 (2010)) (That's just the original release!)
Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Pongo, tired of bachelor life, tries to set up his "pet," Roger, with a woman (later revealed to be Anita) so he can end of with the lady dalmatian, Perdita. After some misadventures in the park, Anita and Roger wind up together, and are soon married.

As winter approaches, Perdita becomes pregnant! And gives birth to 15 puppies (almost 14, but thanks to Roger's efforts all are safe). Cruella De Vill, a school friend of Anita, comes to visit and buy the puppies. Her visit both inspires and disgusts Roger (he eventually writes a best selling song called Cruella De Vill).

Cruella, not to be told "no," hires two goons (Horace and Jasper), to steal the puppies. Pongo and Perdita use the twigh-light bark to inform all of London an beyond about he puppy napping as Anita and Roger inform Scotland Yard. The twigh-light bark reveals the puppies (and 84 other, legally bought dalmatian puppies) will be turned into coats. Pongo and Perdita take action and run away to save the puppies.

Thanks to the help of various dogs, cows, horses and cats Pongo and Perdita and the 99 puppies (who were adopted by the Pongo family) safely make it back to London and the town house of Roger and Anita, who mistake the disguised dogs for labs, but are more than happy to welcome the 84 puppies into their family too! Deciding to open a dalmatian plantation, which will be a sensation!

Songs:
Cruella DeVille
Canine Crunchies
Dalmatian Plantation

None of these really became stand out songs, but this would become a trend for a while, where the songs were just a side bit.

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

What a great story! Who can't relate to dogs? I found myself wanting all of the dogs, even the unnamed puppies, to get home safely.

Cruella was a full 3 dementional character. She has a lot of depth and unlike other villains up to now, she has a reason to do what she's doing. She just wants to make coats. (I'm not saying this is a good reason, but looking back one movie to Malevicent, she was mean because she wasn't invited to a party!) She also had a bit of a history... we know she and Anita went to the same school... though it's not said if it is college or high school.

Animation Rating: 2 out of 5

One word: Xerox! After the bomb that was Sleeping Beauty, WDAS and Disney wanted to scale back. And now that they had more options, they cut the inking department and used more Xeroxing. That left more pencil marks all over the drawings.

Grant it, this was a great stylized technique, but I felt like I was watching the rough draft of a movie. The colors in the background would bleed into other objects, i.e. if a picture frame was pink, the pink would extend beyond the lines establishing the frame and into the brown of the wall. This did not help the finished product, but it did create a very distinct style for 101!

One thing that did work was the continued work of filming live actors as models for the humans. This really gave Roger and Anita some of the most realistic faces yet! (Although Walt was a bit more hands off at this point - his head was wrapping around the Florida Project (WDW) - he still insisted that all human characters first be filmed by real actors.)

Also, the animators were a bit lazy, many a time, when there were 99 puppies walking or moving, I would see the exact same puppy doing the exact same thing many times. Also at one point almost 50 had collars, because of this recycling.

Recycling is most apparent in Hanna Barbara cartoons when the background keeps repeating itself, so that Fred Flintstone now has 30 couches! Recycling puppies is lazy!

Something else that was recycled though, were character designs. Take a close look at the twighlight bark and you will see Jock (the Scottie), Bulldog and Peg (mutts who know Tramp), even Lady makes a silhouetted appearance! Now, if Lady and the Tramp took place in modern London, this would have been a great cross over, but given the fact that Lady and the Tramp took place in 1901 and in America (based on accents and such), this is a big problem! I don't appreciate the animators beings so LAZY!

The Test of Time:


I loved the dog movies as a child, but they aren't anywhere near my favorites. As with 101 Dalmatians, there just isn't a lot to write home about. They have little to no attractions in WDW (save for Cruella making an appearance in Fantasmic! trying to capture Mickey.

I hope that the new pet friendly hotel WDW is building uses their plethora of domestic animal characters to help create the atmosphere in this resort.

101 had many re-releases when it was popular to do so, and has made nearly $1 billion in adjusted figures over the life of the movie.


Through the Modern Lens

We've seem to taken a step back in Women's Lib as Perdita always follows whatever Pongo says, loosing some of the independent thinking that Lady had! But other than that, nothing stood out too badly as a gross misnomer of things to come. This movie taking place in "present day" probably helped this a bit.

I do have to say, that if PETA were around, they might have denounced the movie, for the mere fact the Cruella (who isn't actually cruel to the animals on screen) wants to kill the puppies! But in defense of WDAS, they never hold Cruella up on a pedestal, and she gets her cummupin's although she is never prosecuted for stealing the puppies (though she could have a counter suit that Roger and Anita essentially stole 84 puppies from her!)

Next Up:
Should be Sword in the Stone (but I've been sitting on Jungle Book from Netflix, afraid that it might have been pulled for the vault, so JB is next!).












Saturday, February 27, 2010

Walking into a room...When do I stop thinking about being gay?

Who's gay?
A fellow blogger on Equality 101 recently posted this article Roleplay in the Classroom about a lesbian who recently came out, and was asked to role play in her college class. She was uncomfortable and please read her article for her whole story and reflect.

But she posed a question that I'd like to discuss. When I ever not think about being gay? When I enter a room, I do think about if I'm the only gay one there. I wonder if someone here might throw out a slur aimed directly at me. Will some one be offended by my present they'll want to do physical harm to me? When I'm on a date, are we being judged by the wait staff? Are they treating us any differently because we're gay? Are the parents of my students going to pull them from my class because they think homosexuality is wrong?

And that's just the tip of the ice burg.

Grant it, 5 years ago, these were on my mind all the time, when I was in undergrad, like this blogger. But as time has gone on, I've really learned how to prioritize these "ramblings." First, I decide if I'm in a safe place, and if I am, then sucks to the rest of the questions. I am me, glitter and all, and if someone has a problem with it, they'll just have to deal. I'm not on this planet to make their lives comfortable. I'm here to challenge their version of normal.

So is it my sexuality and gender that I'm thinking about, yes, but it's not all I think about anymore. It has just become one of the lenses that I see out of - like a series of binoculars, while when I was younger I only had a monocle and could only see things in a gay way.












Sunday, February 21, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 15: Lady And The Tramp

Series Intro: Here's Part 14 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Lady and the Tramp
Release: June 22, 1955
Running Time: 75 minutes
Estimated Cost: $4 million (1955) ($32,351,910.11 (2010))
Estimated Revenue: $93,602,326 (1955) ($757,053,509.26 (2010))
Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Jim Dear and his wife Darling (could she be an American relative of the Darlings from Peter Pan?) celebrate an earlier Christmas in their marriage, during the Victorian era. Jim gives Darling a Cocker Spaniel whom she names Lady. Lady goes through an adorable puppy phase, but quickly gets ousted as the family favorite when the new baby comes. Soon she and the baby earn their fair share of attention, but Jim Dear and Darling need to take a break, so they go away for a weekend, leaving Lady and the Baby with Darling's Aunt Sarah.

Sarah's an old busy body who loves her Siamese cats and doesn't like Lady being friends with the baby. Lady escapes Aunt Sarah after being placed in a muzzle. Lady runs into Tramp, who we've seen gallivanting through the town with his stray dog friends. Tramp takes Lady to the zoo to remove the muzzle, takes her to all of this "homes," takes her to dinner at Tony's for the famous meatball scene, and he takes her on other misadventures, until finally she is caught by the dog catcher and is placed in the pound.

While in the pound, she learns that Tramp is more than a one woman man. Luckily, Lady had recently received her license and was promptly returned to Aunt Sarah. Sent into a depression because the man she loves has a sordid past, Lady refuses to see her old friends, the Scottie dog: Jock and the old bloodhound: Trusty (who believe that they should propose marriage to Lady to get her out of this funk!).

While still tied to her outside dog house, Tramp visits Lady, but after an argument, he leaves very disappointed; only to quickly return to help save the baby from a menacing rat. Aunt Sarah is at it again, and has Tramp taken to the pound to be but to sleep. But Jim Dear and Darling return just in time for Lady to show them the rat. Jock and Trusty chase after the car with Tramp (proving that old-Trusty is still very viable and can really smell) and knock it over, almost killing Trusty.

Later that year, at Christmas, Tramp has been adopted by Jim Dear and Darling; and Lady and Tramp have had several puppies. Jock and Trusty come to visit, to show that Trusty is still alive, but a little worse for wear.

Songs:


La La Loo
The Siamese Cat Song
He's A Tramp
Bella Notte

Bella Notte, although nothing particularly special about the themes in this song, has become the big romantic number in the Disney cannon.

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Here we go! One Movie! As can be seen from my summary above, we have one plot line that runs through the whole story. Everything in the movie helps move the major plot (the romance between Lady and Tramp).

It was great how throughout most of the movie, everything was from the perspective from Lady/the dogs. Even the names of the owners were from the perspective of Lady. She would only hear the owners call each other their pet names for each other. So that leaves us with Jim Dear and Darling.

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5

This was the first WDAS movie drawn in CinemaScope. It is the widest film too! This presented new problems for the animators at WDAS. They had to fill more space left to right. So many opportunities for close ups were removed, considering how large the dog's face would have had to been.

I think the background art was decent, by this point WDAS is using the multipane camera so they can easily move the characters without redrawing the background, but because of the extra wide screen, a lot of the background art seemed to be second to characters.

The best part was how great the dogs emoted! Without having human faces to base the emotions off of, I'm happy with how WDAS has given rise to the animal emotions. Speaking about human faces. I love how we rarely see the humans' faces! This again adds to the perspective of the dogs.

The quality of the colors, was that of a bit darker pallet, reminding me of Pinocchio, where the darkness wasn't just reserved for night time.


The Test of Time:

Lady and the Tramp is one of those much loved movies that doesn't get much air time. In Florida's Disney World, there is just one mention of it, with Tony's Ristorante on Main Street. The dogs aren't overly commercialized; it has spawned on Direct-to-Video sequel about Lady and Tramp's puppies; and has been re-released in theatres many times.


Through the Modern Lens

The Siamese Cat song! When I watched it the other day, I couldn't believe how racist it was. The cats had slanted eyes and speak in incomplete sentences. This is one song that can be written out and rewritten to make it more friendly in our Post "Post-War" mentality, now that Asian people are feared!

I was happy to see how independant Lady was. Unlike Wendy (Peter Pan), Lady, although relying on Tramp to help save the day many times, becomes more self-sufficient by the end, and even takes it upon herself to discipline one of the puppies, instead of waiting for Tramp to do it.

Next Up:
Should be Sleeping Beauty (But I've done that, so now onto 101 Dalmatians, the next domestic animal tale).









Monday, February 15, 2010

What Happened to the Theatre?

Looking for my theatre reviews? Look no further than My Theatre Ramblings. I've decided to break up the blog again to help those who follow me just for theatre reviews. Enjoy the new style!








Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Color Scheme!

How do you like the new color scheme and the new title?

Don't you love snow days?












Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 14: Peter Pan

Series Intro: Here's Part 14 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Peter Pan
Release: February 5, 1953
Running Time: 76 minutes
Estimated Cost: $4 million (1953) ($32,140,374.53 (2009))
Estimated Revenue: $87,404,651 (1953) ($702,304,554.74 (2009))
Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Plot Summary:
Wendy, John and Michael Darling are playing "Peter Pan" on an evening when their parents are going out. Mr. Darling decides that Wendy is now too old to live in the nursery and must grow up! This doesn't sit well with the boys (and Wendy herself), so when Peter comes back to get his shadow back, the Darlings are more than excited to fly to Neverland! So Tinkerbell (who resents the relationship Wendy and Peter have) reluctantly agrees to help the Darlings fly.

Once arriving in Neverland, Captain Hook begins his attack on Pan - seeking revenge for Pan cutting off his hand and feeding it to the Tick-Tock Croc. Tink begins taking her revenge on Wendy as she is supposed to lead the Darlings to safety, but instead, convinces the "Lost Boys" (young boys who migrated to Neverland so they would never have to grow up) that Wendy is an attack bird and they try to shoot her down.

After Pan banishes Tink (forever, but then changes it to for a week); John, Michael and the lost boys go on an "Indian" hunt, while Peter and Wendy go to Mermaid Lagoon. The Natives (sorry I just can't call them "Indians") don't play the game, and actually intend to hurt the boys because Princess Tiger Lily has been captured. The mermaids, also jealous of Wendy, intend to drown her as Peter laughs.

Pan saves Tiger Lily from Hook, the boys are freed, and Tink betrays Peter by revealing the secrete location of his hideout to Hook. The boys and Wendy get captured, Peter is gifted a bomb and finally Tink forgives Pan and saves him and the captives by warning Peter in time of the bomb.

After a great action sword fight, Pan defeats Hook and sends him running off being pursued by the Tick-Tock-Croc. Pan commandeers the ship and finally brings Wendy, John and Michael back home (the same night that they left). Mr. Darling sees the ship flying through the air (as a cloud) and vaguely remembers it from his childhood.

Songs: 
  • The Second Star to the Right
  • You Can Fly!
  • A Pirate's Life
  • Following the Leader
  • What Made the Red Man Red?
  • Your Mother and Mine
  • The Elegant Captain Hook
"You can fly!" is one of the Disney staple songs, encouraging the idea of anything is possible with a happy thought and just a little fairy dust.

More on "What Made the Red Man Red?" in the new section entitled Through the Modern Lens

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I've got to say, this movie is probably the first one since Snow White (I haven't seen Dumbo yet, so I can't comment on that) that felt like one movie with one story! Despite there being the several smaller story arcs, this one really had the continuity that made it seem like each bit was leading us to the final destination of a sword fight.

Also, A HERO movie! Despite my love of princesses, this movie had a bit more happening, other than a helpless princess that needs rescuing. Grant it, Wendy did need a lot of rescuing, but I blame a lot of that on Pan having the flight ability, and Wendy a visitor in Neverland (much like Alice in Wonderland). The adrenaline in Pan and Hook's action scene has not been seen since Pinocchio had to escape the whale (though will quickly be trumped by Phillip's battle with Maleficent).

Animation Rating: 4 out of 5

Unlike Alice, the backgrounds were fabulous, despite being in a different world, the detail was amazing! I'm sad though that at this point, WDAS is still having actors walk through the movie to help the animators do their job. Although, I've got to say, it really has helped them create more believable characters. Take a look at this picture to the right of Bobby Driscoll (voice actor and model for Peter). I can't believe how much he and Peter look exactly the same. As WDAS continues to improve the animation techniques they do rely less on actually copying the actors (such as in Snow White where they traced over many of the film scenes to make the animation).

The Test of Time:

This was one of my favorite movies as a child. Although I didn't overly watch it, like my favorite princesses, but it was a fabulous movie none the less.

Pan has rides in four of the Magic Kingdoms, and down in Walt Disney World (WDW), his ride consistently has a long (really long) line.

I remember watching this once as an adult, and noticing how much the mermaids look like The Little Mermaid characters. One mermaid, in fact, looks so much like Ariel, that when I rode the Pan ride in WDW I couldn't understand what Ariel was doing there. Could these mermaids have been some of the influences for the character designs for Little Mermaid?

Much like Alice, Disney's Pan is what many consider to be the definitive version.

Through the Modern Lens

Welcome to the new subsection of "Test of Time." I thought that this would be a great new section because of the song "What Made the Red Man Red?" and some of the other themes in Pan.


What made the red man red? is such a bad song by today's standard. It "blames" the Native's coloring on his ever passion for ladies. How racially offensive today! But looking back at 1953, as WDAS was still only hiring male animators, had yet to have a non-white lead (unless you count the birds of the Three Caballeros); just finishing a War and hostilities towards the "other" were still rampant.

A more modern song might be "What makes the brave man brave?" and talk about many of the non-war aspects of how Natives were pioneers. Lyrics could be traded for ones about Native Americans using the land and all parts of the buffalo.

I'd also would like this "Black Foot" tribe to be more authentic and be more culturally correct. As opposed to an amalgamation of all Native tribes.

During this song (and throughout the movie)  there are many anti-woman comments that Wendy takes offense to. Such as, she's not allowed to dance because it's the Squaw's job to get the fire wood. Wendy takes a stand against this, but it continues to show the mind frame of the time.

I do have to applaud WDAS for coloring the Natives many different shades of brown and burnt sienna (other than the Chief who was just about fire engine red), as opposed to the singular shade of "white" we see from all of the Caucasian characters.

I'd also like to look at Pan's attitude about never growing up. This is the ultimate dream of many an adult. And today, there are many adults who don't grow up. Not to be a self-loathing geek, but many a time we are presented as living in the basements of our parents' homes, still playing video games, not working (maybe part time at the comic shop). These modern day Pans have a "failure to launch" as they continue to feed upon their parent's income. As opposed to Pan, who refuses to grow up, but lives on his own. I'm happy to say that this geek has successfully launched and although I still play video games and enjoy many of Pan's philosophies about living life, I have a grown-up life too.

Next Up:
Lady and the Tramp (the first of several domestic animal movies)









Sunday, February 7, 2010

Three Sisters @ Constellation Theatre: Chekhov? Check On!








Photo Credit Constellation Theatre

I went into this night with great hesitation. I've seen two plays by Anton Chekhov before, The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull. Both were just mediocre. They were boring and long. Each left me not with a sense of hopelessness or that things could be better, but with a sense of lost time and a splitting headache.

So I went into Three Sisters expecting much of the same of the "woah is me" from my previous Chekhov experiences. With slightly higher hopes since Lanford Wilson, one of my favorite American playwrights, translated this play!

The moment I entered the theatre, I knew this was going to be a more enjoyable experience than those in the past. The set designer, A. J. Guban, completely revamped the Source Theatre and turned it into theatre in the round! And the director, Allison Arkell Stockman, really used this to help tell the complacency of the story.

Three Sisters is about three Russian woman and their brother, of the Prozorov family. They once all lived in Moscow and long to go back, but were moved to some outpost because of their father's military career. Oh how they all long to return to Moscow.

So much action is packed into the 4 acts of this play (and yet full of typical Chekhov inaction). No one does anything, but thanks to the direction of Stockman, the play continued to move at a wonderful pace not too typical of Chekhov interpretations. Though at the same time none of the inaction and despondency was lost due to faster pacing.

Of course Stockman can't get all the credit. We have to look at the wonderful cast too! Every person on stage seemed to have a great understanding of his/her character and how they related to each other and the story proper.

One of the standout performers was Katy Carkuff (portraying Natasha - finacee/wife to Andrei Prozorov). During the intermission I turned to my theatre partner and said, "God, I loath Natasha." And my theatre partner said, "well you're not supposed to like her." And I said, "Carkuff has done such a great job portraying the naive girl with the ulterior motive." And as the second half continues, Carkuff continues to make that transition from frumpy girl to a giant bitch. Natasha believes that since she is married to the male Prozorov, she has the right to run the household, despite her implied affairs with Protopopov (the town's "mayor"). Carkuff's performance was very believable and well acted. I look forward to her returning for many more Constellation performances.

Another great performer was Catherine  Deadman (Masha Kulygin (nee Prozorov)). The play opens with Masha (and her sisters) mourning over the death of their father one year earlier. Her hopelessness is very typical of Chekhov, and Deadman could have been easily swayed into the boring aspects of this character. But Deadman brought life to this listless character. You really felt for her as Masha settled into life with her boring husband, Kulygin (portrayed by Ashely Ivey). You wanted her to end up with Vershinin (Michael John Casey) as the two teased the audience with their torrid love affair (often portrayed as torrid through Deadman's and Casey's body language, verses the few words spoken about it in the actual play). Casey also stood out because of his reluctant desire to be with Masha and abandon his suicidal wife and their two daughters.

Shakespearean actor, Billy Finn (Tuzenbach) was not only nice to look at, but wonderful in keeping the pacing of the play more "American," as his character talked the most of change but did the least (other than fall in love with Irina Prozorov (Amy Quiggins))

The whole of Three Sisters' cast were fabulous. Really giving the fairly new Constellation Theatre a strong foothold for drawing in talented actors. 

Three Sisters is performed Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Source Theatre in the U Street Corridor from now until February 21. Tickets can be purchased here ranging from $17 - $25. Seating is general admission and I recommend sitting on the left side (behind the round table with two chairs). Arrive 15 minutes prior to curtain to get great seats. The show runs nearly three hours, with just one intermission. Due to the nature of the "round theatre" there will be no late seating.






  






























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snOMGasm! (Blizzard 2010 a photo essay)

Outside my building. The cars are buried under the snow. I thank the lord my car is tucked safely inside the building! I left at around 2 for a lunch date with a friend in Downtown Silver Spring.
I take the first step into the un-shoveled grassy area behind those cars on my way to Easly Street. 
A snow/ice covered tree. They're down all over DC. Leaving over 200,000 residents without power! (My building lost power for about 10 minutes and I was freaking out! I've never lost power in the winter) 
Uphill on Easly. I don't think it had been plowed yet. But as you can see, there were some nice tire marks making paths for the few brave pedestrians.  
One kind home-owner has already shoveled a path on what Silver Spring calls sidewalks. But not enough home-owners did this, so I was banished to the car-less street.
PEOPLE! My first sighting! Walking uphill I come to a plateau and see people! They to are taking advantage of the tire tracks as easier walk ways.  
This home-owner cleared a nice path to get into his/her home! Look at how high that pile is compared to the window!  
  Another gorgeous tree covered in ice and snow.
Finally hit the end of the second block from my apartment and it only took 15 minutes! (lol)  I thought this would be the best time to take a picture of myself, you know, when the snow is blowing into my face
Look at those icicles! They look over three feet long! I wouldn't want to walk under them. It would be like Mario in an ice world, where he could die if he misjudges the time of the falling icicles. 
This car had just given up! The side walk is close to the bushes on the left and the fence on the right. Normally this road has cars parked on both sides and enough room for two way traffic!
Knee high snow drift that I had to cross to make it to my final destination. 
Downtown (DT) Silver Spring! Just 30 minutes (normally 12 minute walk). The sidewalks are nice, but normally the amount of people in DT overflow onto the street, not today. Not a single store was open in DT, though I believe one pub was serving today.
Jenn and I discover that all the stores are closed, so we trek around. Settle in a Tastee Diner (my first time there ever).
After watching some TV at Jenn's I decide to leave before the sun sets and it gets too cold. I was a little disappointed to see that the snow had stopped.
Tastee Diner all lit up, under the snow.
  Georgia Ave (a major artery to DC) doesn't look like it's been plowed in the past few hours.
The DT sign is covered in snow, surrounded by snow. A lonely man has the task of clearing the path.
During the warmer months this is fountain. I can't even seen the pool where the water would sit!
More paths throughout the DT plaza. The people in the background were digging paths while their children played in the snow. 
I was confused. Why were they all congregating here? I checked it out, and nothing but more maze-like paths.
I chose to walk in the snow, but this woman chose to walk on one of the nice paths, while carrying her dog, wrapped in a giant scarf.
The Mariott in DT has great lights in the sidewalk. Here you can see the lights are lit and they illuminated the snow. This was really cool.
On Bonifant, the roads are looking pretty good, but now the people have to dig out their cars!  
On a side street, the snow had not been plowed (thigh high) but walking in the tire tracks.
  Yes, he's skiing!
  I couldn't believe it! I've never seen it before.
I head through the park and see a dad and his son sledding! How fun. I wish I had a sled. Gonna need to get one before the next snow storm. 
I was walking in the foot prints of others, but then chose to go it on my own. I was sweating and huffing walking in thigh high snow. 
That's my feet again. Where are they? Under the snow. Those are my thighs in the snow. My trench coat was pushed up way too high. I quickly left my exploitative path and ran home. It was a fun day, but I'm happy to be safe (and warm) in my apartment. 

I've only finished 2 bottles of wine! I still have three more! Here's hoping for a snow day on Monday to give me plenty of time to polish off the wine.

Happy snOMG2, snOMGasm, snowpocalypse, snowmageddon and possibly my favorite snObama!

  





















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Friday, February 5, 2010

Are you kidding me? I thought this was a joke

So I'm spending this snOMGasm catching up with my dear friends from Miami: Rose, Blanche, Sophia and of course Dorothy. And as I tend to do with marathons of television, I was seeing what the internet has to say about my girls.

I ran across this article that I honestly thought was on some gay humor website, but when I looked at the web address, I noticed it was from Christwire.org. But even then, I just thought the addy was a joke. You know, it's nearly impossible to tell sarcasm over the internet. Then I checked out the mission statement on christwire:

But alas, the Left Wing Conspiracy and Liberal Agenda is spreading like a plague not only through our fine society, but through lesser cultures as well. Their sinful antics and attempt to pass off their wanton carnal desires into mainstream culture is destroying society and mankind.

So this article isn't a joke! The Golds Girls: How One TV Show Turned Generations of American Boys Into Homosexuals

Too lazy to read the several page article?... let me give you some highlights:


Many studies have been done on why the gays love The Golden Girls, but science can’t fathom the moral challenges and social upheaval of those historic times. The 1980s was an epoch of President Reagan’s manly wisdom and the terrifying threat of Cold War annihilation. America had sobered up from the flashy lights of 1970s disco. We were skipping all night cocaine and sex parties to focus on our careers. Spiritual leaders like Jerry Falwell were telling us that Christianity was in the majority again. On the other side, there was a subculture of homosexuality creeping up on our youths. It gave them an excuse to wear tight jeans and to sneak off to public parks for quick releases with hairy men of different ethnicities.

Let's look at "Many studies" first. The link should lead here instead. Where author Jim Colucci is selling his fabulous book about many behind the scenes stories from Golden Girls. Wow, one book equals so many studies (and the study is a basically glorified wiki, that just happens to have a gay spin). And the "gays love" link leads to list on a gay blog. Not a scientific study, just a list.

Cold War annihilation aside, the author of this article Stephenson Billings, seems to just shovel one stereotype after another down our throat! Cocaine? Sex Parties? Tight Jeans? Hairy Men?

And the "homosexuality" link? That leads to a gay blogger who covers LGBT news.


But let's get past the third paragraph. Later on Billings says:


Our horny, lonely boys sought out intimate comforts with likeminded Golden Girls addicts who didn’t mind each other’s theatrical voices and touch-feely hand gestures. Together, these clusters of awkward teens and twentysomethings bonded over their favorite episodes and characters, mimicking the voices and gowns of their tv friends. When the rush of cheesecake and gabfests wore thin, these hairless boys needed a harder thrill. They were so desperate for the next big trend they turned to same-sex sexual experimentation. What woman would have them now, anyway? This led to the worse excesses of early homosexual visibility– the most enormous of drag queens, the dirtiest of leather daddies, the most enticing of twinkie boys, androgyny, overeating, public sex and the birth of “camp.”

A: I think "camp" was around for decades before the Golden Girls.
B: Where's the evidence that "when the rush of cheesecake and gabfests wore thin, these hairless boys needed a harder thrill"? I mean, just because I bond with one person over one TV show, doesn't mean that when the talk of the TV show is over I'll go have sex with the guy. 

Billings goes on to talk about how each of the three leads can be found in the gay society.

Of Dorothy he writes: Dorothy has given them [gay men] permission to be two-faced. Because only gay men can be two-faced.

According to Billings Blanche has set a time limit on gay relationships by: Most gay relationships last a week. It is no coincidence that this is the amount of time between Golden Girl episodes when they first aired on primetime. Blanche’s appearances on the show taught today’s 30-something homosexuals that you need a new strange man on your arm every seven days or else your viewers/friends will lose interest in your life’s plot.

Where's the link this time? I know many straight relationships that only last a week. Why not blame F-R-I-E-N-D-S for the same thing with straight relationships. How many girls did Joey bring home?

About Rose Billings says: Senility is not at all funny, but the careless creators of this awfulness used her stupidity for a relentless barrage of immature jokes. Once again, Rose’s most salient trait was picked up and celebrated by the gay community.

Here we go again, of all the senile people I know, they are Straight! They are Christian! They are closed minded bastards who look at one tiny aspect of a tiny fraction of a community.

By the end of the article Billings is just talking out his ass, spouting Right-wing reteric:

Will they [retired gay men] follow in the lusty steps of their forebears, the Golden Girls? When all these gays are in such close proximity to each other, will we see a huge upsurge in illicit homosexual elderly trysts? Will they vote out Florida’s married Christian Republican leaders, like Governor Charlie Crist? Will they embrace any and every cutting edge social issue that will be hip in 2020? Personally, I do not look forward to the day when we’re having moral debates about robot sex, gay jetpacks or houseplant marriage.

I don't even know how to respond to that! That's just random words put together to make some sense. It's as if Billings were writing in a foreign language and used a bad translator. The words make sense but seem out of place. GAY JETPACKS? HOUSEPLANT MARRIAGE!!!!!

The Golden Girls is a powerful comedy that was a hit in its time and has transcended the '80s. I can't believe that anyone could blame a television show for making someone gay, and on such weak arguments that we were/are trying to emulate these vague caricatures that can be found on every single television sit-com! I could say that playing/watching football made me gay. All those showers after practice, the tight bodies. And the ass slapping is what lends itself for the gay community to embrace BDSM!

Let's face it, Billings has his Christian agenda and wants to hit us in pop culutre. Most of his blogs are about television or the internet, and many have gay-bashing language and un-queer friendly dialogues.
  
























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Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 13: Alice In Wonderland

Series Intro: Here's Part 13 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: Alice in Wonderland
Release: July 26, 1951
Running Time: 75 minutes
Estimated Cost: $3 million (1951) ($24,754,269.23 - 2009) Estimated Revenue: n/a
Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5


Plot Summary:
I honestly couldn't do a blow by blow summary because so much happens. It's much like a Family Guy episode, that doesn't end anywhere near where the beginning started but I'll give my overview of it:

Alice is lazily spending the afternoon being tutored in history, when she imagines what life would be like if animals wore clothes and flowers could talk. Then mysteriously a white rabbit in a petty coat runs by shouting he's late! Alice follows this strange creature down a rabbit hole.

After her first "drug" experience where she gets both high and low, as she begins to figure out how these potions work, Alice finds herself meeting the Dodo, who has a group of blockheads running around in the tide to get dry. Alice gets caught up in his story (as she tends to do all over Wonderland).

Alice continues her misadventures as she meets Twiddle Dumb and Twiddle Dee (who tell the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter). More White Rabbit.  And then off to the talking Flower Bed. Things tend to not be what Alice was thinking back on the shores with her tutor, as the Flowers treat her badly. Then she meets the huka smoking caterpillar. And The Cheshire Cat. None of these creatures are very helpful while Alice struggles to follow the rabbit and eventually figure out how to get home.

The Mad Hatter, March Hare and Door Mouse invite Alice to an Unbirthday Party, and probably one of the most vexing scenes of the movie, they never let her have a word. She leaves and finds herself in the Queen of Hearts' garden, where the cards are painting the roses red. The Queen of Hearts also prevents Alice from getting home and threatens "off with her head" to Alice more than once. After a crazy trial, Alice races away trying to get back home, to realize that she's only asleep under a tree.

The Alice in "our world" wakes up and ponders upon her "dream."

Songs: 
OH MY!

There are so many to count and innumerate,

Some of my favorites are: The Walrus and the Carpenter, I'm Late, Un-birthday, Painting the Roses Red (for a full list go here)


Although none of the songs would become "classics" they really helped move the story along in the truest sense of the word "musical." I wish Alice would have sung more though too!

Plot Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This movie seemed like a great Transition between the crappy package films and the full narratives that are to follow (skipping over Cinderella). With so many characters and short vignettes it allowed WDAS to have multiple directors (which has been sighted as one of the downfalls for this box office flop).

Disney himself has said that some of the reason this movie didn't do so well was because Alice was to apathetic and no one was able to relate to her. I would have to disagree with this, although, Alice was no Dorothy Gail and Wonderland was no Oz, their situations were almost identical. So what makes Dorothy more empathetic than Alice... I don't know. I wanted them both to quickly exit those lands. I think the problem was the rest of the characters. While in Oz, Dorothy had helpful friends that truly wanted to help her solve her problem, while Alice was met with obstacles every step of the way. I wonder if Dinah had accompanied Alice on her journey, if Alice would have gained more sympathy.

Animation Rating: 3 out of 5

Some of the cartoonyness of previous releases are gone, giving way to more of the craziness out of this world animation that really gave Wonderland a unique perspective. Cinderella boasted grand sets, while Alice had wild imaginative places, just a bit askew from reality. The entire movie took place in the exterior, but did lack some of that authenticity that made Bambi so real.

The Test of Time:

I didn't like this that much as a child, but seeing it again, I really like it. Alice has rides in every Magic Kingdom park around the world (two in Anaheim). Disney's Alice has become the staple of all Alice (and one that is the flame all future Alice's are compared to). Hell, Disney Studios (not WDAS) is scheduled to release an updated live action version of this tale.

Alice had several re-releases since it's premier (although none were within Walt's lifetime).

Next Up:
Peter Pan! (A "hero" movie versus a "princess" movie. Note: "Hero" was a failed marketing ploy Disney franchised to counteract the "Princess" campaign in hopes to draw in as many young boys as the princess campaign did for girls.)
  


















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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Walt Disney Animation Studios Part 11: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Series Intro: Here's Part 11 of this multi-part retrospective of Walt Disney Animation Studios' endeavors. They'll mostly be in release date order, save for those that aren't available on DVD at Netflix. (Numbers will be skipped to note missing movies)

Some background info (compiled from Wikipedia and imdb and my own knowledge of the movie).

Official Title: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Release: October 5, 1949
Running Time: 68 minutes
Estimated Cost: n/a
Estimated Revenue: n/a
Overall Rating: 2 stars out of 5


Plot Summary:
Wind in the Willows: Something happens to Mr. Toad where he squanders away his family's vast fortune and his love of cars drives him quite mad. Other things happen, but as with all of the other "package films" from WDAS, this film had a hard time keeping my attention.

The Legend of Sleepy Hallow: Standard story of The Headless Horseman, with a fun little twist involving Ichabod and a local woman.

Songs: 
Although I can't recall any stay out song, the soundtrack from this movie (particularly Sleep Hallow) was great.


Plot Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Considering that the narrators heaved the bulk of the story, the music was really important. I've got to say, that by this point, WDAS really had a knack for these package films. It has big stars (that are still recognizable today), longer "shorts" with none of the "Fab Five" (Mickey and gang). But thank goodness this "package" era is over. (I see a future post after my retrospective is finished comparing all the eras of WDAS movies).

Animation Rating: 2 out of 5

Grant it, the cartoonyness of many of the previous releases worked great for "Toad." The same can't be said for "Ichabod." As I was watching the bully in "Ichabod" - Brom Bones - tell the story of the headless horseman, I thought it was reminiscent of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and I long to see that style of animation, the crisper lines and darker colors. 

The Test of Time:

Mr. Toad did get his own "Opening Day Attraction" in Disneyland (Anaheim) and a clone on "Opening Day" of Walt Disney World. I rode the one in WDW in 1997, about a year before the VHS release in the Masterpiece Collection. I had no clue who this character was, but did enjoy the ride. While Mr. Toad Disneyland is still going on his "Wild Ride." Down in Florida, he's handed the deed over to Owl from Winnie The Pooh. I enjoyed this ride much too (2007 and 2008). Considering Pooh's staying power, I believe this was a good change.

Mr. Toad and Ichabod will probably continue the vault-ing cycle (every 10 years) with little fan fare (as it's past releases). And I'm fine with that. This was probably the best of the "package films."

Next Up:
Should be Cinderella (but did that one already) so next is Alice!
  















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Monday, February 1, 2010

When is it time to break up?

Here's a scenario:

You meet in college. And immediately hit it off. The two of you were outcasts from one group and socialites in another. You spend hours a day together. You can see yourself spending the rest of your lives together. Then as time goes by, you grow apart a bit. Not able to spend as much time together as you used to, but still, the time you do have together is impressive.

Then the unthinkable... graduation and "real life." The two of you try the long distant thing, and it seems to work fine, for a while. You see a lot of each other during those few years. Then, when you both are back in the same city... nothing. Almost two years and no contact. Every time plans are made, they get canceled.

Is it time to call this relationship as dead? But why can't I?
  



























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Check out The Permanent Collect @ Roundhouse in Bethesda, MD

 
In the program, the Dramaturg, Jacqueline Lawtron, said "when you put a white person and a black person on stage, befroe they even open their mouths, it's a play about race." This is right when it comes to Permanent Collection. The play opens with Sterling North - played by Craig Wallace, - a business man, recounting the events of the morning to the audience. Sterling is a black man, driving a jag, wearing expensive clothes and pulled over for DWB (driving while black). He's on his way to his new job as the curator at the Morris Collection (an art gallery that has recently been bequeathed to a historically black college (said to have been Alfred Morris' last "screw you" to the art community).

So right from the beginning, we know that this play is going to be heavy, and full of racial tensions.  And the moment Sterling meets Paul Barrow - played by Jeff Allin,- the museum's director of education, things seem to hit the fan. Sterling has already made some changes to the staffing at the collection, which don't sit well with Paul. From the beginning of their relationship, it's hard to tell if Paul dislikes Sterling because he is Black or because he is changing too much.

As the play goes on, Paul becomes very friendly with Sterling's assistant, Kanika Weaver - played by Jessica Frances Dukes (who in my opinion steals the show with her candid approach to racism and was so well acted). But what gets the ball rolling is when Sterling wants to add some more art to the collection (pulling it from the storage department). But Paul wants to uphold Alfred Morris' will, that no changes to the permanent collection will be allowed. Again, it's have to tell if Paul is upset about the changes or about the fact that the new art is African. (The current collection on display includes hundreds of paintings by European men, but only four small African statues and masks). 

Things get blown out of proportion and Gillian Crane, local style reporter - played by Susan Lynskey - gets involved. Paul looses his job and is slandered as a racist. Sterling is quoted as calling Paul and his protest group the "Ku Klux Klan." Kanika is fired for not being able to keep quiet (or was it because she was trying to play for both teams? black and white?) In the final scene with Kanika she talks about how she never thinks about herself as black, but there is always someone there to remind her of it. How she hoped that it wouldn't ever matter; it just wasn't something that was important to her (in her mid-20s) as opposed to Sterling, 40's - 50's who had to claw his way up the corporate ladder.

A few years later, Paul revisits the Morris Collection and it is revealed that because of the lawsuit he brought upon Sterling, the Collection was moving "downtown" to a new arts district, with corporate sponsors. (All things that Mr. Morris despised). Paul becomes upset at this prospect but understands it, thus making it more confusing if he just hates change or is a racist. 

The script of this play was amazing! I couldn't believe how emotional this play was. And how well acted it was too. As I said before, Dukes (Kanika Weaver), did steal the show. Her characterizations were very believable, he voice and body represented her generation well. I could easily see myself taking on her position of being unable to definitely take a side.  While at the same time, both Wallace and Allin also performed wonderfully in their roles. They seemed to really work at creating the tension. Props to director Timothy Douglas, and his creative team. The sounds, lights, costumes and props truly enhanced the whole experience. I do have to draw attention to Tony Cisek's set. I was disappointed to find out that this set didn't take advantage to Round House's revolving stage. But as the play went on, I quickly forgot about it, because the set was so stunning, with it's blank picture frames (that could be lit from the rear to help create new scenes).

Now, one thing I didn't get was the random vignettes where Alfred Morris (played by Lawrence Redmond) would come out on stage and would appear to help explain about the Morris Collections' exclusivity or help deny the fact that he was a racist himself. But they never came across to me. Again, could this have been another example of not being able to take both sides. And since Morris didn't want to take either side, he was never able to express ideas for any side. 

Hidden underneath all this was a criticism of the media. Reporter Gillian Crane, seems to be very unbiased, giving both sides equal chances to be represented in the press. But the thing is, she seems to have to push Paul into action. Is she just doing this to create more drama for her own writing? This critic also wonders what she was doing in the "epilogue;" did she ever transfer to the city desk to leave the politics of the suburban style section?

The play runs through February 21, 2010 at the Round House Theatre in Bethesda. I say check it out now. Purchase tickets here


  



























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