Archive | November, 2009

What the Cuss?

30 Nov

It’s pretty clear early on that Fantastic Mr. Fox is going to be a very special movie.

It’s during the first scene, when Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife, Felicity (Meryl Streep), raid a chicken farm to the sounds of the Beach Boys, that you get your initial taste of director Wes Anderson’s vision.

The characters, with their overly long legs, run and jump, pop up here and there, and speak intelligently, like adults — unlike the characters in most kid-oriented movies.

Yes, the director of such films as Rushmore (one of my all-time faves) and The Darjeeling Limited has not made a typical children’s animated film. Continue reading

More to Be Thankful For

29 Nov

I was remiss on Wednesday when I posted my list of the things I’m thankful for this year because I left off my sister and brother-in-law, Mitzi and Jason. This weekend they gave me a couple more reasons why they should have been on the list.

First, on Wednesday afternoon, they surprised me by taking Abby and me to the mall after we picked her up from day care. A shopping trip? Why, no. They figured, why not bring together my two great loves — Christmas and Abby — and celebrate them in a picture with Santa Claus? (And if it got me to change my mind about not doing a new Very Marty Xmas CD this year, then that would be a bonus.) I was stunned, impressed, and excited, because I’ve never had my picture taken with Santa Claus, and I thought taking one with him and Abby would be really fun. Alas, Abby did not agree. She was a bit freaked out by Santa and just wouldn’t go anywhere near him, despite how nice he looked, and how helpful he was trying to be. Clearly, I have some edumicating to do about how wonderful this man is. But the point is, Mitzi and Jason tried, and for that, they earned some big points.

The second thing they did was give me a niece. Alright, that’s nothing new, but this weekend Abby made me happier than ever. During the day on Friday, while Mitzi, Abby, and I were hanging out (at Stepping Stones and other places), Abby began to say some new words: “Unca Momo” and then, more clearly, Mar-Tin. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to hear a toddler say your name for the first time, then you know how it made me feel. It warmed my heart and made me feel even more loved. Abby says my name in syllables, with the first one a higher pitch than the other. It’s awesome. And it’s even better because I know she knows it’s me she’s saying, and not just any word (because she would say it and point at me). Even better than that? At 8:10 a.m. this morning, Mitzi sent me a text message: “Abby has been up since 5:30 and keeps walking around saying Martin.” Another text came at 2:40 p.m.: “Mom and Dad showed up before and Abby yelled out Martin!” Too bad I was not there.

So yes, I am also thankful for my sister and brother-in-law for bringing me joy this past weekend, and always. Thanks!

Three Years Later

28 Nov

I don’t really know what to say today, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that it’s the third anniversary of the day my Bubby passed away. Jeez. Three years. It still feels like yesterday. It’s no lie to say that I still think of Bubby every day, due in large part, I guess, to the fact that I keep a picture of her at my desk at work and right next to my couch at home. Not that I need the reminders, of course. And until recently, when I got a new cell phone, her number would always come up when I scrolled through the Bs. It was like I didn’t want to let her go.

My Bubby was a very special lady, and we were very tight (as I’d imagine all my cousins would say about themselves and her). Every day, either at 8 a.m. as I walked to the train or at 1 p.m. when I went to lunch, I’d call her and we’d talk and laugh. I miss those daily chats. The last couple years of her life, every time I’d leave her, I made sure to give her a big hug and kiss, because I never knew when it would be my last chance to do so, and I was very aware of that fact. When she passed away, I had just seen her days earlier, on Thanksgiving, and we had spoken on the phone not even 24 hours before she left us.

Days like today, as much as I take comfort in the fact that Bubby never doubted how much I loved her, and as much as I made an effort to make sure I said a proper farewell, I long for one more chance. What I wouldn’t give to give Bubby one more hug. To talk with her on the phone one more time. To tell her how much I love her. Oh well.

I really miss my Bubby, and today, on the third anniversary of her death, I wanted to you all to know that.

Time to Say Thanks

25 Nov

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d continue my tradition of posting a list of some of the things I’m thankful for this year: Continue reading

A Rave for Radin

23 Nov

I hadn’t really heard of Joshua Radin before my friend Fidge asked me a couple weeks ago if I’d be interested in going with her to his concert at the House of Blues here in Boston. I said yes, and I’ll admit that after listening to his two albums, and finding his music pleasant but maybe a little too low key for my tastes, I didn’t really have high hopes for the show. But I have to say, Radin’s an awfully talented and engaging live performer and I really did enjoy the concert. Sure, he started the show by singing the one song I knew best, “Brand New Day,” but his voice and lyrics really impressed me and kept me entertained for the entire 90-minute set.

Maybe you’ve heard of Radin because his song “Today” was Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s wedding song. His music has also been featured on Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs, and on the soundtrack for the movie The Last Kiss (most likely because he’s Zach Braff’s good buddy). Radin’s music is similar to that of Jeremy Fisher or Josh Kelley, which is to say it’s chick-friendly, guitar-strumming, sensitive-guy singer/songwriter tuneage, with a sound not unlike modern-day Simon & Garfunkel. It’s “whisper rock,” the kind of music you can “put your babies and dogs asleep to,” as Radin himself described it on Sunday night. Yes, it’s mostly mellow stuff, the kind you might hear in a coffee shop on any given night, but in Radin’s case, it’s quite good … if you like that sort of thing. (And for the record — no pun intended — his most recent release is called Simple Times.)

Radin’s show Sunday night was like an episode of VH1’s Storytellers: The stage had little on it other than Radin and his 4-man band (and some lamps), and before each song, Radin explained its backstory. The HoB’s excellent, sharp sound system — and an audience that barely made a peep during the songs — allowed us to hear every word clearly. While he didn’t sing “Only You” (another song I’d heard before — probably because it’s a cover of the Yaz song), he did play others that I look forward to getting to know better, such as “I’d Rather Be with You,” “No Envy No Fear,” and “You Got Growing Up to Do.” He also got some yayas out by singing some more uptempo songs from his soon-to-be-recorded third album, which should be out sometime next year. And then he closed the show with a great cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright),” during which he was joined by openers the Kin and the Watson Twins.

I always enjoy finding a “new” artist that I can add to my iPhone playlist. Radin’s concert was a pleasant surprise, and his music will certainly get a few more “spins” from me.

She Just Wants to Be Loved

18 Nov

If you’re anything like me, then chances are good you’ve not seen many movies like Precious. Oh, you may think you’ve seen one too many movies about underprivileged young people from bad homes who deal with multiple hardships but who find the strength to persevere despite all the odds being stacked against them, but I’ll bet those movies didn’t move you like Precious moved me. Believe the hype; this is one great film.

In Precious, Gabourey Sidibe stars as the title character, 16-year-old Claireece Precious Jones, who lives with her abusive mother (played by the comedienne Mo’Nique) and is pregnant (for the second time) with a child fathered by her own father. To say life is hard is an understatement; at one point, Precious says she wishes she were dead, and that it wouldn’t be much of a change for her because she’s already used to being so far down and looking up at the world. When she’s thrown out of her school, Precious enrolls at an alternative education center, where her teacher (played by the beautiful Paula Patton) and classmates show her the love and guidance she’s never had, and help put Precious on the road to redemption.

The film is marked by some super performances: Sidibe, in her film debut, gives a heartbreakingly natural performance of such subtlety that you’ll think she’s not acting at all. Mariah Carey, as a social worker, is impressive and real and nearly unrecognizable. Lenny Kravitz, as a nurse, is charming and great. Patton is more than just a pretty face; she shows depth and feeling, and turns the saintly role into something more well-rounded.

And Mo’Nique … What can one say about this performance? Mo’Nique’s character is perhaps the purest definition of evil that we’ll see on screen this year. She’s one of the worst on-screen mothers of all time. And Mo’Nique is so good in this role that it’s hard to believe she makes a living telling jokes. It’s a career-changing performance, and it will leave you in awe. Near the end, both Mo’Nique and Sidibe get the chance to deliver devastating lines of dialogue that will have you tearing up. Bring your tissues to this one, my friends. Even the hardest hearts will be affected by what they see on screen.

Adapted from the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire, Precious was written by Geoffrey Fletcher and directed by Lee Daniels, and it is a raw and unflinching portrait of a young girl with very little going right for her. Yes, there’s hope to be found, but there isn’t a sappy happy ending here where everyone smiles and the music swells. Precious is hard to watch and it isn’t pretty, but it’s well worth seeing. I’m giving the movie an A–.

Does John Mayer Read Martin’s Musings?

16 Nov

It’s always an exciting thing when a highly anticipated album leaks ahead of its official release date (at least it is for me. I can’t say the same for the artist). Such was the case with John Mayer’s Battle Studies, which I downloaded a week ago and have been listening to almost nonstop ever since. How great is it when an artist you like releases an album that’s worth the wait? (This is the second time in a week or so that it’s happened for me.) From the opening track, the U2-esque “Heartbreak Warfare” to the closer, “Friends, Lovers, or Nothing,” Battle Studies is a keeper. Sure, traces of John’s on again/off again relationship with Jennifer Aniston are all over this one (or at least, that’s what a tabloid reader would assume), but they do say heartbreak is the impetus for the best art, right?

Anyway, as much as I like so many of the tracks on Battle Studies (a shout-out to the Taylor Swift collabo “Half of My Heart,” as well as “Edge of Desire” and first single “Who Says”), my favorite one is the track called “Perfectly Lonely.” Listening to it, I feel like John took my recent blog post about how “content” I am with being single, and just set it to music — with an upbeat melody, too. He perfectly captured the underlying denial that’s inherent in a post like that. Have a listen for yourself and see if you don’t see the similarities in tone. Or, just read some of the lyrics here:

“…Nothing to do, nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free.
Nothing to do, no one but me
And that’s all I need.

I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely, yeah
‘Cause I don’t belong to anyone
And nobody belongs to me.

I see my friends around from time to time
When their ladies let them slip away.
And when they ask me how I’m doing with mine
This is always what I say:

Nothing to do, nowhere to be
A simple little kind of free.
Nothing to do, no one to be
Is it really hard to see

Why I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely
I’m perfectly lonely, yeah
‘Cause I don’t belong to anyone
And nobody belongs to me.

And this is not to say,
There’ll never come a day
I’ll take my chances and start again.
[ … ]

That’s the way (3x)
That I want it.”

Yeah, that’s my new personal theme song. No wonder it’s the track I’ve played the most times thus far.

Battle Studies officially drops tomorrow. Pick yourself up a copy and see which track speaks most directly to you.