Friday, June 02, 2017

City of Stars and Magic

I overslept this morning and didn't get moving until nearly 11. Did an episode of Sailor Moon's first season while getting organized. "The Summer, the Beach, the Youth, and Ghosts" is what it says on the tin. Usagi, Rei, Ami, and Luna hit a quiet resort for a summer of fun at the beach. Their hot-weather holiday takes a spooky turn when the creepy hotel seems to be haunted, and Usagi claims seeing strange creatures performing unholy rituals. Then Ami sees the unfriendly owner pushing his little daughter to perform psychic magic on the beach, and things really get crazy...

Finally made it to the Acme around noon. I was going to do this week's grocery shopping tomorrow, but then I remembered I was going to at least spend an hour or so at Dana's college graduation party and opted to get it done today. Not to mention, there were some major sales I'd clipped from their online coupon app, including one for 29 cent eggs! Found grass-fed chicken drumsticks with a manager's coupon and an usually cheap price. Used another online coupon to get a free bag of baby carrots, Also picked up strawberries, grapes (on a good weekend sale), and bananas, since I work too early to make it to the Farm Market this week. Restocked canned chicken, mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, cereal, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, brown sugar, cooking spray, peanut butter, and Chobani yogurt. Found cake mix, organic diced tomatoes, and more of those butterscotch chips on clearance.

I arrived just in time to get next week's schedule. It's decent, still not enough hours, but par for the course for the time of year and what I have been getting. Two unusually late days on Monday and Wednesday will still allow me time to clean and write, and another late day next Saturday will give me the chance to not only hit the Farm Market, but check out Oaklyn's Town-Wide Yard Sale.

Charlie stopped me on my way in. Evidently, he wants to replace my front door and put a dormer on the front entrance. He said he'll be doing this Tuesday or Wednesday. (I hope, anyway, given his mixed track record with showing up when he actually claims he will.)

Continued with Sailor Moon while I put everything away and had lunch. "Protecting Children's Dreams: Friendship Through Anime" gets a bit meta when Usagi, Rei, and Ami visit the anime studio that's working on the new Sailor V movie. A young up-and-coming animator is jealous of her best friend's vibrant work and uses the artist's pencils they bought as students, despite their promise not to use them without the other's permission. Nephlite gets to the girl, making her prolific, but also threatening to kill off Sailor V...and a lot of kids' dreams. The Guardians not only have to stop a pair of double-teaming monsters, but heal the rift in their relationship, too.

Headed right back out after I ate and dropped off the rent for the next errand on my list. I needed to get the laundry done. I picked the right time. It was pin-drop quiet there at quarter of 3. By the time more people did start to filter in, I had 10 minutes left on the washing machine. I worked on story notes and half-listened to ABC's mid-afternoon shows. I didn't have much of a load, anyway. I was out in less than an hour.

As soon as I got in and got everything put away, I went right back out again. Today was Free Doughnut Day. Stopped at the Dunkin' Donuts on the White Horse Pike to buy a bottle of water to get the freebie. They were out of my first choice, Vanilla Cake Batter, but the strawberry iced I did get wasn't bad.

Made a quick stop at the Haddon Township Library after I finished my snack, mainly to return Wonder Woman at Super Hero High. They were an hour from closing and busy kids out of school. I mainly organized kids' DVDs and shelved a stack of audio books and CDs. Didn't take anything out this week. I'm still working on the DVDs from the Oaklyn Library and on the remaining two Super Hero High books. Got out around quarter of 5. It was so late, I took the short way across Cuthbert and down Johnson, dodging rush-hour traffic both ways.

Settled down for an hour of writing when I got in. Leia and Charles are trying to figure out where to land the Falcon at Chalindria Court when Cedric points out some unusual activity below them. Charles recognizes the Coruscant military carriages. It would seem Vader's boys got there first...and have annexed both properties. But Leia is determined to get her aunt and her friend back, even if she has to blast into the place to do it.

Broke around quarter of 7 to have leftover chicken legs and boiled green beans for dinner. Made Carrot Cake Muffins while watching La La Land. This colorful homage to Hollywood musicals takes us to modern-day LA, among current struggling hopefuls. Two of those hopefuls are Mia (Emma Stone), an actress, and Stephan (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist obsessed with music history. Mia wants to be a great artist; Stephan wants to open his own jazz club. Both are constantly frustrated in their efforts and told by others and their own insecurities that they aren't good enough, aren't special enough to make it in show business. After a magical night and a nearly-botched date, they fall for each other and encourage each other to pursue their dreams. But when dreams collide with reality and both nearly give up, they begin to understand the importance of determination and sticking to one's goals...even when the people around you don't quite understand.

This won six Oscars, including making Damien Chazelle the youngest person to ever win a Best Director Oscar. This apparently was his baby from start to finish, and the effort was worth it. The first half in particular, with its amazing Technicolor numbers and delightful music, is really charming. There's also a bit of surprisingly realistic commentary on jazz, traditions vs innovations, and the need to take a steady job even when it's not what you want.

The big disappointment here was the bittersweet ending. It was well done...but after all that came before it, it really seemed kind of abrupt and didn't fit the rest of the film, including the huge musical number in the finale. It sort of reminded me of an equally bittersweet Technicolor musical romance from France, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This deserved to end on a far happier note.

No fault in the amazing music. "City of Stars" and Emma Stone's big solo near the end "The Audition" were Oscar-nominated; "City" won. (Stone also won an Oscar.) Between some hot jazz licks and the discussions on jazz and its future, this movie was made for jazz and vocalist aficionados. Some great ensemble numbers, too. The opening "Another Day In the Sun," with people turning LA standstill traffic into a routine worthy of a 60's widescreen extravaganza, had nothing to do with the rest of the movie but was awesome nevertheless.

If you're as big of a fan of jazz or movie musicals as I am, ignore the controversy surrounding this at the Oscars and chase this dream of a movie down.

Finished the night with Xanadu, another LA-set musical romance. A touch of magic is involved in this 1980 tale of a failed artist who falls in love with a girl he can't have. The artist in question is Sonny (Michael Beck), who first encounters the lovely Kira (Olivia Newton-John) at the park, and then at the (real-life) dilapidated LA landmark the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Also at the beach is Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), a former musician-turned-contractor. Kira convinces Sonny and Danny to turn the Auditorium into a disco nightclub, Xanadu. But Kira's not what she seems...

While most see this as notoriously bad, I find it to be so campy, it's oddly charming. Unlike the movie, the music was a hit, spawning the Newton-John ballads "Magic" and "Suddenly." My favorite number from this is another Newton-John solo, the lovely "Suspended In Time."

(If you're intrigued, but don't want to or can't handle the camp, this was made into a stage musical in 2007 that plays it even more for comedy and adds a few more songs from the Electric Light Orchestra and Newton-John.)

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