Category Archives: Music

Elvis Movie Review

There are only a handful of artists who are known by a singular name. Their image and influence have permeated the culture in a way that everyone knows who they are and what they represent. Elvis Presley is one of these artists.

The new biopic, Elvis, hit theaters last week. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film stars newcomer Austin Butler as the title character and Tom Hanks as his manager with sometimes questionable intentions, Colonel Tom Parker. The narrative follows both of them from the early days of Presley’s career until his death in 1977 at the age of 42. The Colonel tells the story, casting himself as the manager who saw the potential of an unknown artist. As Elvis becomes a megastar, he faces criticism for his supposedly “wild race music” and its effect on the nation’s young people.

As the years pass and he becomes a has-been, Presley, and the Colonel pivot. After a very successful television special, he becomes a Las Vegas regular. But while his client is on stage, the Colonel is enriching himself. When everything comes to a head, Elvis has to choose between staying with his manager or trying to go his own way.

Though Butler does not look exactly like the King, he completely inhabits the man and the legend. Playing him from his teenage years until his early 40s, Butler is enigmatic and completely convinces the audience that he is Presley. Hanks, as usual, is up to the task. His character is a man who sees an opportunity and takes it, even if means crossing some boundaries.

What made the movie work for me was the man behind the icon. Presley was a devoted son to his parents, Gladys and Vernon (Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh). He was also madly in love with his wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) and a devoted father to their daughter. He respected the black artists whose music he “borrowed” (depending on your perspective) from. What Luhrmann does brilliantly as a filmmaker is to point out that while African-American musicians of the era were largely ignored outside of their community, Presley made a fortune singing the same songs.

My only complaint is that the middle of the narrative could have been trimmed down a bit. Other than that, the film is incredibly good and definitely worth the price of a movie ticket.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Elvis is presently in theaters.

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Filed under History, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Television

Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic Book Review

Societal change comes in many different forms. Sometimes, it comes via a book. In 1962, Sex and the Single Girl hit bookstores. Written by Helen Gurley Brown, it broke barriers and opened doors. Brown’s groundbreaking narrative told women that they didn’t need marriage to be fulfilled and happy.

In May, Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic, was published. Edited by Eliza Smith and Haley Swanson, it contains a series of essays by well-known authors who apply Brown’s rules and recommendations to their own lives. Each comes from a different background and tells her own story while responding to Brown’s ideas. They also take on some topics that for any number of reasons are not mentioned in the original text. It both honors Brown and takes her recommendations to a level that would have been unfathomable sixty years ago.

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I love this book. Though Sex and the Single Girl was and still is groundbreaking, it is firmly set in its era. This anthology is the perfect follow-up. The contributors walk in the footsteps of women like Helen Gurley Brown while creating new paths for future generations of women. For me, it was a reminder of how far we have come and how much further we need to go.

Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.

Sex and the Single Woman: 24 Writers Reimagine Helen Gurley Brown’s Cult Classic is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Music

Throwback Thursday: Gene Simmons Family Jewels (2006-2012)

The “celebrity reality show” is an interesting subgenre within reality television. It can show that the subjects are just like the average person. It can also show how they are not like the average person.

Gene Simmons Family Jewels aired on A&E from 2006 to 2012. This reality show followed the daily activities of musician Gene Simmons and his family (a la The Osbournes).

It was an interesting and quirky look at a man whose reputation (depending on the viewer) may only be known by his out-there stage antics and his claim about how many women he has taken to bed. His family-man aesthetic is a 180 that I don’t think that many people saw coming.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

P.S. His exploration of being Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor I find to be touching, human, and very refreshing.

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Filed under History, Judaism, Music, Television, Throwback Thursday, TV Review

New Randy Rainbow Videos: PINK GLASSES (A YouTube Exclusive) & Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You? (A YouTube Exclusive)

One of the beauties of the internet is that it opened the door for new artists/performers whose work might have gone unnoticed or unappreciated. Randy Rainbow is one of these artists/performers.

Rainbow released two videos this week. Both songs come from his new album, A Little Brains, A Little Talent.

Co-written with Alan Menken (Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc), I love how this song is about being yourself and not caring what someone else thinks.

When you love something, it shows. Rainbow’s affection for Broadway musicals is obvious as he pays tribute to The Music Man. There are some who would pretend to like something for their career or their bank account, but not him. Underneath the hilarious parodies, there is a sincere love for the genre. He knows these shows in a way that allows him to spoof whatever is going on in the world while remaining true to both the characters and the narrative.

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of Randy Rainbow. I love these videos and I look forward to whatever he is going to do next.

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Filed under Beauty and the Beast, Life, Music, Randy Rainbow

Let’s Talk About the Real Baby Killers (Hint: It’s Not Pro-Choice Activists)

We all know that children are our most precious resource. Without the next generation, our future is non-existent. As we all know, 19 of those precious resources were taken from us earlier on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.

Those who are pro-life and against Roe V. Wade argue that abortion is nothing more than the killing of babies. I would argue the opposite. Republicans who are vocally against gun control laws are the real baby killers.

In the three days since the murders, Texas leadership has placed the blame on every issue except one: the fact that the gunman was able to easily get access to a firearm. The only one of them to speak the truth is Beto O’Rourke. When he dared to confront public officials, he was booted out of the room and called all sorts of names.

Courtesy of Facebook.

What I find completely ironic and sad is that while Governor Greg Abbott placed at the feet of responsibility among other things, mental health, he authorized cutting millions of dollars of mental health aid from the state budget.

When I think of both of these topics entwined together, I think of the younger generation who has been traumatized by these events. Not just the kids who are hearing about this on the news or from adults, but the ones who were there. The scars of hearing and/or watching their classmates and teachers being killed will likely create scars that will stay with the survivors for decades.

I remember that right after Columbine happened, there were some who condemned the band, Marilyn Manson, for the killings. I’ve never had even an iota of interest in their music. The problem is that instead of looking inward to understand what led to the tragedy, the accused were outside actors who in reality, had nothing to do with the problem.

It’s been three days and my heart still hurts. The only silver lining is that this may be the figurative fire that finally forces us to codify legislation, both at the national and state level that stops this kind of event. The question is if our lawmakers have the balls and the backbone to do so.

P.S. The husband of one of the teachers who tried to save her students died from a heart attack, unable to deal with the grief. I can only imagine what their kids are going through, having lost both of their parents.

Z”L

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Cyrano de Bergerac Review

Cyrano de Bergerac is the tale of unrequited love and finding the courage to tell the one you love how you feel.

The newest adaptation is playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn. Told in a spoken word/hip-hop/Hamilton style, James McAvoy plays the title character. Evelyn Miller is Roxanne, the woman he loves, but is unable to reveal his feelings due to his unusually long nose. Eben Figueiredo is Christian, the young soldier who Cyrano uses to express his love.

My main reason for wanting to see this show is McAvoy. He is one of those actors who cannot be pegged as a certain character type. That being said, this version is not for the purists. It’s a creative take on the story that we all know. Beyond the unorthodox re-telling is that McAvoy is not wearing a prosthetic nose. This makes sense because even the most conventionally attractive of people are likely to harbor insecurities of some sort.

My problem with the play is that the first half is just a little too long and despite the excellent performances, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. There is something missing that I cannot put my finger on that would have made the show that much better

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Cyrano de Bergerac is playing at BAM until May 22, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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Filed under Broadway Play Review, Music

Thoughts On the Discontinuation of the iPod

The technology of a certain era can tell us a lot about the world in which it existed.

In the early 2000s, Apple released the iPod. This little device changed the music industry, allowing fans to pick and choose which songs they wanted to buy and/or listen to. Last week, the company announced that the product is being discontinued.

I bought my iPod more than ten years ago. It lasted until earlier this year when the battery died and I had to replace it. I’m not one of those people who, technology-wise, is brand loyal only to Apple. I’m more of a mix and match kind of person. What I love about this device is its simplicity, its ingenuity, and how much it can do than simply play music.

I came into this world in the early 1980s, when records were still king. By the time I was in junior high in the early 1990s, everyone was listening to music via tapes. Flash forward another ten years and CDs were giving way to mp3s and other early forms of digital music. When I was in college, Napster and LimeWire were the rage, even if their legal footing was on shaky ground.

Saying goodbye to the iPod is not going to be easy. It represents not just a generational change in technology, but also how our world has changed overall in the last twenty years or so.

RIP iPod, thanks for the years and the memories.

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Filed under Life, Music, National News, Thoughts On....

Playing with Myself Book Review

Overnight success is a misnomer. What is really is years of hard work and a few moments of luck that open the door to seeing a dream becoming reality.

Randy Rainbow‘s new autobiography, Playing with Myself, was released last month. Born in the suburbs of Long Island, he spent his childhood in both New York and Florida. Rainbow was a chubby, introverted child who was exposed to classic Broadway musicals at an early age. After coming out in his late teens, he returned to New York City and dreamt of being on Broadway.

When that didn’t come to pass, Rainbow took the out-of-work actors’ career route: working both at a restaurant and as a receptionist. Using his MacBook and the news as his raw material, he started creating videos. His career took off at the start of the 2016 Presidential election and the announcement that you know who was the Republican nominee. From there, he became the satirist, comic, and musical genius that has kept us laughing and sane for the last six years.

I loved this book. Rainbow is candid, funny, and authentic. He is uniquely himself in a way that is both universal, endearing, and charming. There is something universal in his struggle that I think we can all learn from while getting a few giggles in the process. And if anyone is still asking, that is his real name.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Playing with Myself is available wherever books are sold.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Music, New York City, Politics, Randy Rainbow

Flashback Friday: Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back (2000)

No one gets through life without a few bumps in the road. The only question is if it holds up back or makes us stronger.

The TV movie biopic, Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back (2000), tells the story of the late singer and actor. Marvin Lee “Meat Loaf” Aday (W. Earl Brown) was born in Texas to a loving mother dying of cancer and a father who was far from parent of the year. As a young man, tormented by his father and peers due to his size and decided to strike out on his own.

Fate would lead him to an audition for a musical where he met future music partner Jim Steinman (Zachary Throne). Together, they would create Bat Out of Hell, which has become one of the best-selling and most respected albums of all time. But while Meat Loaf had incredible career success and a happy family life, his demons were not too far behind him.

As I recall, I enjoyed watching it. It reveals both the highs and the lows in a way that is entertaining without being too heavy, kitschy, or predictable. In telling Meat Loaf’s story, I would hope that members of the audience find the courage to overcome their own demons.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Is the Wicked Child From The Four Children Really That Bad?

Character types are the backbone of storytelling. Whether or not a writer(s) chooses to go beyond these stereotypes tells us everything that we need to know about the creators of the narrative.

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts on Friday night. One of the components of the story of the exodus from Egypt is the Four Sons. Each son (whom I refer to as a child instead, because of well, feminism.) is a stereotype. The eldest knows everything that there is to learn about and is still eager to know more. The second-born would rather be someplace else, doing anything else. The third child knows the basics and needs a simple answer. The youngest does not even know how to ask the question.

My problem is with the image of the second eldest child. In traditional terms, this person is dealt with harshly. They are basically told that had they been in Egypt, they would have been left in bondage. Looking at the text with a modern lens, rebellion or questioning the status quo is not a bad thing. It forces us, as a culture to look our demons in the eye and make a decision: do we deal with our problems or stick our heads in the sand?

In a religious context, the second child speaks to those of us who are discontent with the all-or-nothing aspect of faith. According to a Gallup poll from last year, less than half of all Americans attend regular religious services. This is compared to 80 years ago when almost three-quarters were in a house of worship at least once a week. I think this comes down to flexibility and understanding that many younger people are turned away from the old-school way of looking at religion. If the wish is for the pews to be full, a little creativity may be needed to bring back those who have drifted away.

To everyone celebrating, have a Happy Passover.

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