Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Reading: The Nest

The next selection on my summer reading list was The Nest, the debut novel by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. Four adult siblings have been looking forward to inheriting a large sum of money, nicknamed "The Nest," set aside by their father to be dispersed when the youngest sibling turns 40, which will be soon. However, Leo, the eldest, is involved in a devastating car crash involving a Porsche, cocaine, and a young woman (not his wife) who is severely injured. His mother depletes "The Nest" to cover expenses and to pay off the young woman to avoid a scandal.  This sends the other siblings, Jack, Beatrice, and Melody, into a tailspin because they are in financial difficulties and have been counting on receiving their inheritance to bail them out. I found all of these characters to be self-absorbed, selfish, and unlikable and they spend the entire novel whining about losing some unearned and undeserved money. By the end of the novel I didn't even care about what happened to any of them but I was infuriated that Leo seemed to get away with it without any consequences. Even though the three younger siblings deal with the loss of their inheritance, there is absolutely no character development from the beginning of the novel to the end. I was actually more interested in some of the minor characters (there are a lot of them) but the resolution of their stories seemed very rushed to me. I think the story is very mediocre and, as I mentioned, I lost interest very quickly. Like other novels which seem to be lauded by the critics, I wonder if I've read the same thing.

Have you read The Nest?  What did you think?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cars 3

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of the Cars franchise and I definitely did not expect to love Cars 3, Pixar's latest installment, but I did.  I loved the story of redemption and the character of Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) really resonated with me.  Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) continues racing on the Piston Cup circuit when a younger and more technologically advanced car named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) emerges on the scene and begins beating him.  In the final race of the season, Lightening tries to overtake Storm but he is involved in a devastating crash.  Many think his career is over and it is even suggested that he start endorsing products for his sponsor, Rust-eze.  But Lightning doesn't want to give up.  He is assigned a trainer, the aforementioned Cruz Ramirez, and uses a state of the art facility to get back in racing form.  When this doesn't help him get any faster, Lightening, along with Cruz, goes back to his roots and seeks out Smokey (Chris Cooper), who mentored Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), for some unconventional training.  I will not give away the ending of Lightning's race but I will say that it is brilliant.  I was not expecting the outcome and it literally had everyone in my screening cheering out loud!  The theme of youth vs. experience, while not especially original, is very well developed and I really loved the message that it is never too late to pursue your dreams.  Cruz is a wonderful role model for girls and I found myself willing to suspend my disbelief in not only an anthropomorphic car world (in a way I couldn't in the first two movies) but also one with gender stereotypes that need to be overcome.  Finally, I loved the dazzling animation, especially during the Piston Cup races.  I'm not often surprised by my response to a movie, but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed it and I recommend it!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

La Boheme in San Francisco

The main reason I wanted to go to San Francisco was so that I could see La Boheme, one of my very favorite operas, performed by one of the best opera companies in the world.  It has been on my bucket list for a long time (I have a ticket to Rigoletto at the Vienna Staatsoper next summer and I hope to be able to see an opera at the Met some day as well) and I've been looking forward to it for weeks.  It was a magnificent production!  I really enjoyed the performances and the doomed love story was very affecting.  Marcello (Audin Iverson), a painter, and Rodolfo (Arturo Chacon-Cruz), a poet, are penniless and live a hand-to-mouth existence in a Parisian garret.  One evening their neighbor Mimi (Erika Grimaldi) knocks on the door looking for a light for her candle.  She faints from breathlessness (she is suffering from consumption) and Rodolfo catches her in his arms. They soon fall madly in love.  Marcello, Rodolfo, and Mimi meet friends at Cafe Momus in the Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve.  Marcello sees an old lover, Musetta (Ellie Dehn), with her new suitor Alcindoro (Dale Travis), a rich old man, and she tries desperately to get Marcello's attention.  Musetta eventually leaves with Marcello, leaving the bill for Alcindoro!  After a few months, Marcello is jealous of Musetta's flirtation with other men and Rodolfo is guilty because he feels he is endangering Mimi's life with his poverty so the couples separate.  Later Musetta brings a dying Mimi to the garret because she is desperate to see Rodolfo.  Marcello, Musetta, and their friends go for the doctor but Mimi eventually dies in Rodolfo's arms.  What could be more romantic?  I loved every one of the actors who all sung their roles beautifully.  I had tears in my eyes after almost every duet and aria (except when I was laughing).  I loved the staging, especially the scene where Musetta is flirting with Marcello as she is having dinner with Alcindoro at the same time.  The costumes and scenery were all amazing.  The Cafe Momus was a lot of fun with hanging lights and I loved Musetta's pink dresses, especially against the dark tones of the rest of the costumes.  By the end of the opera I was completely overcome and the gentleman sitting next to me leaned over and said, "It was good, wasn't it?"  Yes, it was!  I am so glad I had the opportunity to see such a wonderful production!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

24 Hours in San Francisco

Last week I took a really quick trip to San Francisco to see the opera La Boheme and it was so much fun.  I had a JetBlue credit that was going to expire and I decided on San Francisco because I've always wanted to see a production of the San Francisco Opera, which is considered to be one of the top opera companies in the world.  Even though I only had literally 24 hours hours in the city, I got to see a bit.  When I have a short time in a city I've never been to before, I like to take a hop on/hop off bus to see as much of the city as I can.
I got on the bus at Alamo Square and had a great view of the Painted Ladies, the beautiful Victorian houses that line the street.
Haight Ashbury.  This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love!
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge.  Everyone kept telling me that this was the perfect time to visit San Francisco because it was so clear.  Usually the city is shrouded in fog and it is rare to get such a good view of the bridge.
Views of the bridge as we drove across it.
Chinatown.
Coit Tower in the background.
Fisherman's Wharf was a great place to get off the bus and wander around.
The Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39.  I started the tradition of collecting a pin from the Hard Rock Cafe in any city that I visit.  I have hundreds of them.
The Transamerica Pyramid.
Union Square.
City Hall.  Thursday night it was lit up in blue and yellow to celebrate the Golden State Warriors winning the NBA Championship.
My hotel was in the Civic Center near the opera house.  There were lots of great places to eat there and then I attended a magnificent performance of La Boheme (more about that).  I left San Francisco the next morning and, even though it was a quick trip, I really enjoyed it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Hard Day's Night

I think most of you know by now that I absolutely love the Beatles and I have seen A Hard Day's Night more times than I can count.  However, I have never seen it on the big screen (how I wish that I had been alive in 1964 to see this when it first premiered) until it was screened as part of Salt Lake Film Society's classic musicals series last Tuesday.  To say that I was excited to see it on the big screen would be an understatement and I definitely sang along (I was not alone but I was the youngest person in the audience).  This movie stars the Beatles and it is basically an extended music video featuring their songs with the thinnest of narratives tying them together (they are traveling from Liverpool to London to tape an appearance on a TV show).  But it matters not because it is the Beatles.  The Beatles!  I found it to be quite amusing because it features the witty banter the lads are known for ("Are you a mod or a rocker?" "I'm a mocker.") and there is a running gag with Paul's grandfather getting into trouble and the lads escaping from their managers.  I also thought the cinematography was quite innovative with lots of different angles.  But, of course, what makes this film so much fun is the music including the title track, "I Should Have Known Better," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "All My Loving," "If I Fell," "Can't Buy Me Love," "And I Love Her," "Tell Me Why," and "She Loves You."  I just loved every minute and it is a must see if you are a fan of the Beatles.  Go here for a full schedule of films being screened as part of this series.
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