Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 Books and Movies

Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office : A Memoir
Jen Lancaster

Loved it! Where was I when this came out? I'm pretty sure I was heavy into the chick-lit back then. Although this book blows traditional chick-lit out of the water. First of all it's a memoir, so everything is real, albeit embellished, I'm sure. I had to keep reminding myself of this, especially when reading about some of Jen's crazier antics. She is laid off from her high paying job in the dot com crash, and her boyfriend then husband also is laid off a while later. They go from living the high life to not knowing where their next month's rent is coming from. It sounds depressing, but while being unemployed for almost two years, she discovers her penchant and talent for writing when she starts a website that I'm looking forward to checking out. People start taking an interest and finally a literary agent takes notice. Obviously a publisher did as well! Apparently she has two more follow up memoirs. Yay!

The Worst Noel - Hellish Holiday Tales

I was interested in this title because a) I don't really care for the xmas season and b) Marian Keyes had written a story for the collection. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite a disappointment. The Marian Keyes story was a cute piece of fluff, but not up to her usual. I understand though, that she has been struggling with her depression, and potentially wasn't well when she was approached for this project. There were very few stories that really interested me. Some of the authors that stood out were (in case I want to look them up too, I need a record): John Marchese, Anne Giardini, Mike Albo Elizabeth Noble and Neal Pollack. It's not a bad read, if you like short stories, but if you are a real xmas lover, stay far away.

Alias Grace
Margaret Atwood

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Where was I in 1996 that I didn't read this when it came out? Especially since I had already read and loved all her other books by then. Come to think of it, I haven't actually finished The Robber Bride yet... Anyway, back to this book. I LOVE historical fiction, and when it's about somewhere I know very well, even better. Every time a street name, or place was mentioned, my brain would ping. The story, based on the facts of the 1843 Thomas Kinnear/Nancy Montgomery double murder trial convicting Grace Marks, who eventually received a pardon, was far more interesting than I could have imagined. I absolutely felt as if I had been transported back to the 1850s. I even had to look up a few old fashioned words, the vocabulary was so accurate. Transferring back and forth between Grace's first person narrative and a third person narrative for the rest of the characters, you are never sure if Grace is lying or telling the truth. An absolute must read for any Margaret Atwood fan or historical fiction nerd. One of the best reads I've had in a long time.

Midnight in Paris

I'm not generally a Woody Allen fan (shocking to some, I know) but this one was pretty good. And that's saying a lot considering I don't much care for either Owen Wilson or Rachel McAdams (gasp, even more shocking, she's Canadian!) in most roles. What made this watchable was that it was historical fiction and even better yet, 1920s Paris historical fiction. It's just my thing. Gil (Wilson) meets up with the literary and artistic gems of the day (Kathy Bates is fantastic as Gertrude Stein) and the sets and costumes are absolutely stunning. Add the Parisian backdrop, and you have a cinematographic genius. Some of the present day dialogue and plot lines were pretty cliche, and the ending was totally trite, but stepping into the past made it watchable.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Danny Bhoy

Let me start by saying, Danny Bhoy is one of, if not my favorite comedian. After seeing him at the St. Lawrence Centre in 2008, I was really excited that he was coming back to Canada. I bought the tickets months in advance, and eagerly awaiting the day of the performance. Unfortunately, it was just meh. Some of the jokes were funny, and he's quite amazing at keeping an audience entertained for an hour and forty-five minutes, keeping track of and tying up all loose ends, but some of the new material just wasn't that funny. I liked the fact that he was a "slice of life" comedian who didn't resort to race or toilet humour. Sadly, some of that made it's way into his new material. I would still go see him again, but hopefully he goes back to his old style of comedy.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

La fille mal gardée

It's been ages since I've been to the ballet. I used to go a lot when I was younger, even though money was sometimes tight growing up, there were a few good years where we had a two seat National Ballet of Canada subscription. Since there were four of us, everyone got to go twice.

This production was a little girls dream. Seriously, all the little girls in the audience, from 8 to 80 were mesmerized. There was even a real live pony on stage! :) Apparently he was in the 1990 production as well! This was classical ballet in it most beautiful form. Gorgeous pas a deux and corps du ballet, with the lead male dancer bounding across the stage in powerful grands jettés and showing he had springs in his shoes with countless tours en l'air. All of the leads were debuts, which gave the performance a great energy. There was a great life sized chicken dance, and an impressive clog dance. The use of ribbons and a flexible Maypole was absolutely brilliant. I loved the traditional sets that used large caricature set painting and over the top props. The melodramatic acting between dances was spot on as well. It's a true narrative ballet, with very few noticeable "breaks" in the story to highlight the dancing.

Karen Kain, who is now the National Ballet's artistic director, spearheaded this revival, dedicating the run to Alexander Grant, who created the role of Alain and brought La fille mal gardée to the NBC in 1976. I believe that Kain danced the role of Lise in that production and later in a CBC television special in 1979, but I couldn't find hard evidence on the internet, as much as I tried. It's the oldest continually performed ballet in history, and premiered in 1789.