Monday, December 31, 2012

Banished Words

Year-end lists of "banished words"—yes, they're fun to snark at, but they should be used for entertainment purposes only! Paul and I explain why in a new Moxy Blog post, "The Futility of 'Forbidden Words.'"

Now. All that said, here are some words and phrases that I would like to banish (a purely subjective list!):
  • Off the reservation—This term is used to mean "off brand," or just "inappropriate" in corporate America. I hate it and am pretty sure it's in poor taste if not outright offensive. 
  • Edgy—Used only by people who wouldn't know "edgy" if it shivved them in dive-bar bathroom.
  • Manscaping—Just blech. 
  • Fiscal cliff—The cliff metaphor is not apt. Call it what it is: a clusterf&%#.
  • Huntie—If you don't watch Ru Paul's Drag Race and don't know anyone who does, you might not have been exposed to this term; it's sort of a disdainful way to say "Honey." Like a lot of drag argot, it was funny the first thousand times and then became awfully tiresome.
  • Awesome—This is a personal challenge: Charles, stop saying "awesome" so much. Use your words! You are a 4[redacted]-year-old marketing professional with a massive vocabulary, not a teenage skateboarding prodigy. 
  • It is what it is—Talk about an empty sentiment (in the category of YOLO and similar painfully obvious platitudes). If you don't have anything useful to add to a conversation, you can always just nod politely and make sympathetic noises. 
  • Hipster—The definition has gotten too broad. I challenge speakers to use appropriate subcategories, like "skinny-jean lumberjack guy," "neck-tattoo pixie girl," and "bicycle militant."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Agony of 'Les Misérables'

As for the new film version of Les Misérables, I wouldn't trust a reviewer unless he loved the musical (in all its sappy excess) as much as I do. So here's what I thought:

If you love the musical, you're going to at least like the movie. (You can stop reading my review now if you don't want any further spoilers.) The music and the story have been successfully transported to film. The major themes—redemption, forgiveness, and all that—are handled in an appropriately melodramatic and heavy-handed way. (This is a musical we're talking about.)

The scenes I liked best were ensemble scenes: "Lovely Ladies," "At the End of the Day," and "One Day More" stand out in my memory the day after viewing—these scenes seemed to best capture the energy and emotion of the good stage productions I've seen, while taking advantage of the medium of film and adding visual interest and depth. I also very much enjoyed seeing Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thénardiers: they brought the comic relief (much needed in this very earnest show), and their scenes were just dark enough.

Poor Anne Hathaway's presence in the film has been incredibly polarizing. I sort of understand the animosity: she's just so ... perfect and lovely, and maybe she seems a little smug. Often, she's too obviously acting when I see her on screen. However, I want to now give Hathaway her due. She was pitch-perfect as Fantine, both as an actor and as a singer. Melodrama suits her, and she has a lovely voice. The other female leads also did a fine job. Samantha Barks as Éponine turned in a Tony-worthy performance if not an Oscar-worthy one—clearly a professional. Why weren't more casting choices made like this one?

That is to say, the film's primary problem was in the area of casting—specifically the male leads. Much has already been written about Russell Crowe's singing inability, so there's that. (His singing voice reminds me of a Muppet doing a musical impersonation of Marlon Brando in The Godfather.) But can we talk about the Hugh Jackman problem? He's so likeable and well liked that I'm almost afraid to say this, but ... he was not good in this movie. His singing voice was reedy and too weak to carry the role of Jean Valjean. It's almost like he was forced into the wrong key.

And Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Oy vey. Why?! He seems like a nice boy. But for one thing, his hairstyle (the same onscreen as off) annoys and confuses me. For another, his singing voice is not up to Les Mis. Just about every other student revolutionary in the film was a better singer. Why wasn't, say, Aaron Tveit, who played Enjolras, cast in the more important role? Tveit can sing!

Another missed opportunity was in the area of scale. I've named some ensemble scenes that took advantage of the medium of film, but not all of them did. A lot of the scenes—particularly the battle scenes on the streets of Paris—were far too sound-stage-y, and the lengthy closeups on singing actors got claustrophobic. Occasionally, I had too look away from the screen because I just couldn't look up Jackman's nose for one more second. (Keep in mind, I saw the film in XD.) I thought the film's beginning sequences—for instance, the prison scenes and the scenes of Valjean wandering the countryside after his parole—promised some filmic grandeur that later scenes failed to deliver.

I'm looking forward to seeing this movie again, on the small screen—to which it might be better suited. Oh yes, I will be buying the DVD. But I'll keep listening to my Broadway cast recording.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Classic Artichoke Dip for Your Next Party

You know how some people muck up their artichoke dip with spinach and stuff? No, that doesn't happen chez Purdy. Here's what you need to do:

  • 1 can of artichoke hearts (14 ounces)
  • 1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts (6 ounces)
  • 3 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 or three tablespoons of canned green peppers
  • 1/2 cup of mayo*
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream*
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese (the block kind, at room temperature)*
*Listen, it's your life, but this is a party. Don't ruin everything with nonfat this or low-fat that.
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh ground pepper (a few good twists)
  • a sprinkle of garlic salt
Drain the artichoke bits. Now get out your food processor and chop up all the vegetables (we're using the term loosely here, I know) until it's pretty much a puree. Then add everything else and mix it up. Put everything in a casserole dish and cook it uncovered for about 25 minutes (maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more) at 350 degrees ... the top should be light brown and bubbly.

I hope you really like your friends; otherwise, you won't want to share.