Thursday, August 31, 2017

Silver Screen Classics 2017

I am so excited that my local Megaplex Theatre is offering the Silver Screen Classics movie pass once again because I enjoyed it so much last year!  This series is a lot of fun because you get to see 10 different classic movies, one per week, for just $10.00.  This year the movies that will be included are: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, From Here to Eternity, The Bridge on the River Kwai, All the President's Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Citizen Kane, High Noon, and Forrest Gump.  I've only seen two of them on the big screen (and there are two that I've never seen before) so I'm really looking forward to all of them.  I was so excited that I bought my pass the day the series was announced (and so did my two best movie buddies).  Check back every week for a review of each movie or, better yet, go here to get a pass for yourself if you live in the SLC area.

Note:  They are screening each movie at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm each day at each participating theater so it is much more convenient than last year!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Team Captain

I loved watching my nephew play football last year!  It was such a fun fall activity for my whole family to wake up early on a Saturday to watch Sean play and then go to breakfast afterwards.  Sean had his first game of the season last Saturday against the Tooele Buffaloes and this year he is one of the team captains!  He gets to lead the team out onto the field and he leads the team in their pre-game warmup.   He takes this responsibility very seriously!  I think Sean is a really good player and I think rugby has done a lot to boost his confidence.  Unfortunately, the Bountiful Braves lost this game.  The Buffaloes scored four unanswered touchdowns and Sean was quite frustrated; in fact, the coach pulled him out of the game (he plays both offense and defense so this was one of the only times he wasn't on the field) for a few minutes to give him some encouragement.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Braves were able to score a really pretty touchdown so they felt better about the game.  The team has a lot of potential and I think they will get better.  I am really looking forward to spending my Saturdays watching Sean and the Braves this fall!

Note:  Sean is a year older so he plays an hour later than last year!  Hooray!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Studio Ghibli Fest: Castle in the Sky

Last night I met my friend to see Castle in the Sky, the next film in the Studio Ghibli Fest, and it is absolutely amazing.  It is very different from the other films I've seen in this series because it is an epic adventure filled with imagination and emotion and I will probably be thinking about it for a long time to come.  It involves a quest for a mysterious and powerful floating island called Laputa (there is also a flying island named Laputa in Gulliver's Travels) by pirates who seek it for treasure, by a Colonel and his army who want to use its power to control the world, and by a young girl who has a glowing pendant, passed down through the generations of her family, that seems to lead to Laputa.  She is aided by a young miner who rescues her and together they must decide the fate of Laputa.  The characters go from one adventure to the next and I was simply blown away by the imaginative world-building.  It is all so fantastical and I was captivated by the storytelling.  I loved the two main characters of Sheeta and Pazu because they are very determined and resourceful and their relationship with each other is so pure.  But more than that, the two of them are so brave, especially in a powerful and emotional scene where they make a decision about Laputa.  I was quite fascinated by the unusual technology, especially all of the flying machines and the machines used in the mine.  I'll say it again.  Hayao Miyazaki has an impressive imagination.  The music used in the film is fantastic, ranging from choral pieces, to beautiful and atmospheric melodies (I loved the harp), to pulse-pounding beats to heighten the tension.  Finally, I think my very favorite aspect of this film is the color palette.  I loved the use of blue, turquoise, green, and purple to represent the power of the pendant.  I cannot recommend this film enough!  I am starting to understand why people are such fans of anime.  I never knew that cartoons could be so powerful!

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Only Living Boy in New York

I was mildly intrigued by the trailer for The Only Living Boy in New York and, since I had already seen everything else on my list, I decided that it would be the cure for a lazy Sunday afternoon.  Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is a young man at loose ends who aspires to be a writer.  His father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), with whom he has a distant relationship (there is a reason for this which is revealed later), is a hot-shot New York publisher who gives him little encouragement, calling his work "serviceable."  He is incredibly protective of his mother Judith (Cynthia Nixon), an emotional mess (there is a reason for this which is revealed later) who throws pretentious dinner parties as a way of dealing with her unhappiness.  He pines over Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), a girl with whom he has been in love forever but only wants to be friends with him.  One night while at a club with Mimi he sees his father out with another woman (Kate Beckinsale).  He begins following her with the intention of telling her to stop seeing his father but eventually begins an affair with her.  Thomas begins discussing all of the above with his new neighbor, the writer W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges), who has aggressively wormed his way into Thomas's life (there is a reason for this which is revealed later).  W.F. eventually turns these conversations into a novel about Thomas titled The Only Living Boy in New York.  The problem with this movie is that it thinks it is an edgy treatise about New York City when it is really just an run-of-the-mill family drama.  There are tons of mind-numbing speeches about how New York has lost its soul, including one by a character who exists only to give a speech at a wedding, which do nothing to advance the plot.  I was so bored that I checked my phone multiple times (the only other person in the theater with me left mid-way through).  By the time the big plot twist, which explains everyone's motivations, is revealed I didn't really care because I just wasn't that interested in any of the characters.  Turner is very handsome and appealing to watch but I didn't really buy his alienation and I thought his response to the big plot twist was way too accepting.  Brosnan is just playing another version of the judgmental father he played in Remember Me.  Bridges speaks as if he has just had major dental work done.  Everyone else is fine but largely unmemorable.  I did like the music but after listening to moody songs from Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, and Procol Harum, it was a little jarring to hear a peppy song by The Head and the Heart in the final credits.  It is an entirely forgettable movie that should only be viewed on Netflix when you can't sleep.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West is another gem from Sundance that friends of mine have been talking about lately so I put it on my list.  Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is sad, lonely, and desperate for a connection with someone.  When she comes into some money after her mother's death, she decides to move to California in order to befriend Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a social media celebrity who seemingly has the perfect life.  In her pursuit of Taylor, she ironically sabotages the only real and authentic relationship she has with someone (O'Shea Jackson, Jr.) who genuinely cares about her for the sake of a fake one.  As Ingrid gets close to Taylor, she ultimately realizes that Taylor's life is just as empty and meaningless as her own.  It is a fascinating commentary on social media and I have to admit that it hit a little bit too close to home (right before the movie I checked my phone and noticed that I had two new followers on Instagram).  It is really easy to compare yourself to the people you follow on Instagram or Facebook and judge your life to be lacking and it can take up all of your time and energy creating a fake persona to make your life as exciting as everyone else's seems.  It can be really easy to determine your self-worth by the number of followers you have or likes you get on a post.  I find it incredibly ironic that Ingrid finds the notoriety that she has been craving for so long after the only real and vulnerable moment she has on social media.  Even though this movie is a cautionary tale I found it to be quite funny (probably because I recognized myself in the characters), especially in a scene where Ingrid tries to decide whether to post "ha ha ha" or "he he he."  I really liked the production design.  I read that the filmmakers used popular Instagram feeds to inform how they decorated Taylor's house and her costumes!  Too funny!  Plaza does a good job at making Ingrid into a sympathetic character, even when she makes one bad decision after another, and Olsen's portrayal of a woman obsessed with her "brand" feels very spot-on.  If you have ever taken a picture of your avocado toast to post to Instagram before eating it, you will probably enjoy this movie (or squirm in your seat).

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Good Time

I usually make the decision to see or not see a movie based on the trailer and the one for Good Time really intrigued me so I knew I had to see it.  Constantine "Connie" Nikas (Robert Pattinson) has anything but a good time when an ill-conceived robbery that he pulls with his developmentally challenged brother Nicholas (Ben Safdie) goes awry.  As the two of them attempt to flee, Nicholas is apprehended and sent to Rikers Island.  Connie then spends a frenzied night trying to get the bail money to get him out.  The hand held camera follows Connie's every move as he progresses from one dangerous situation to the next so you feel his ever increasing desperation as if you were right there with him.  It is intense, to say the least.  Connie does some pretty despicable things and I wasn't entirely sure if he was motivated by concern for his brother or guilt for getting his brother in the situation to begin with but I was captivated by his image on the screen.  That is due to the fact that Robert Pattinson gives one of the best performances of his career.  You cannot look away as he digs himself deeper and deeper into trouble.  He portrays so much nervous energy that I was on edge almost from his first scene and I carried that feeling of unease with me for quite a while after I left the theater.  The supporting cast is also excellent and I especially enjoyed Jennifer Jason Leigh as Connie's unstable girlfriend and Buddy Duress as a criminal that Connie inadvertently teams up with.   Good Time is visually stunning with lighting that alternates between dark shadows and psychedelic neon (I loved the scenes at an amusement park).  The pulse-pounding electronic score by Oneohtrix Point Never is absolutely incredible, rivaling anything done by Tangerine Dream in the 1980s (this is high praise from me because I love Tangerine Dream; they have a thematic album called Phaedra), and it adds greatly to the overall feeling of tension.  This film is filled with violence, language, sex, and drug use so not everyone is going to enjoy it but I think it is brilliant!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Brigsby Bear

Quite a few of my friends really loved Brigsby Bear when it screened at Sundance this year so I thought I'd check it out now that it is in wide release.  James (Kyle Mooney) was abducted as a baby and has been raised his whole life in an underground bunker by Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams).  His only contact with the outside world is a TV show called Brigsby Bear Adventures which has hundreds of episodes about a life-size bear who triumphs over the evil Sun Catcher and teaches valuable life lessons.  James is obsessed with the show, accumulating memorabilia and participating in an online forum dedicated to it.  One day the police come to the bunker and James is reunited with his real parents Greg (Matt Walsh) and Louise (Michaela Watkins).  He has difficulty adjusting to the outside world (in some incredibly amusing scenes), especially when he discovers that his beloved TV show does not really exist and that it was created by Ted just for him.  It is his only frame of reference so, as a way of coping with his new circumstances, James decides to make a movie continuing the adventures of Brigsby.  I loved so many things about this charming and original film.  Mooney is incredibly endearing in this quirky role.  He makes James into an entirely believable character and you find yourself rooting for him.  I also really enjoyed Greg Kinnear's performance as the detective on the case and a scene where he performs in the Brigsby movie made me laugh out loud.  I loved the message that being a fan of something, even something that is ridiculed and not understood by others, can be meaningful.  I definitely recommend this delightful film.

Note:  Brigsby Bear was filmed in SLC and I had a lot of fun recognizing various venues.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Depeche Mode at Usana

Last night Depeche Mode brought their Global Spirit Tour to the Usana Amphitheatre and it was a fantastic concert.  Depeche Mode was one of my favorite bands in high school so I try to see them whenever they come to SLC.  My inner fifteen year old was so excited!  They played quite a few songs from their latest album, Spirit, including "Going Backwards," "So Much Love," "Cover Me," "Poison Heart," and the anthem "Where's the Revolution" which had the audience singing along with fists in the air.  Of course, I really loved it when they played the hits because these songs brought back so many memories for me!  I sang every single word to "Barrel of a Gun," "In Your Room," "World in My Eyes," "A Question of Lust," "Everything Counts," Stripped," and "Enjoy the Silence."  Whenever I see a band in concert there is always one song, usually an obscure one, that I hope they will play.  I was hoping that Depeche Mode would play "Blasphemous Rumours" but I wasn't too upset that they didn't play it because it is pretty depressing.  I think my favorite moment was when they played "Everything Counts."  I remember listening to the live album 101 on the bus to and from debate meets in high school and on one particular night, when we had a long way to travel back home, we all sang "Eveything Counts" at the top of our lungs.  The band had the audience sing an extended version of the chorus and it gave me goosebumps because I remembered that night long ago!  They ended their set with "Never Let Me Down" which featured another extended chorus with audience participation.  For the encore, they did an acoustic version of "Somebody" and the audience sang every word!  Sigh!  They continued with "Walking in My Shoes," a really amazing cover of David Bowie's "Heroes," "I Feel You," and "Personal Jesus."  The stage was pretty cool because it had a giant screen with a platform so Dave Gahan could strut in front of it and he can certainly strut!  He gave a very energetic performance and I found him just as appealing as I did when I was fifteen!  This concert was so much fun!

Note:  A big fight broke out in my row!  This guy just started punching the guy next to me for seemingly no reason.  He clipped my shoulder when they guy next to me tried to get out of the way!  Security came and they removed several people involved.  It was really scary but what irritated me most was that all of this commotion happened during the song "In Your Room" which is one of my favorites!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Logan Lucky

I am happy to report that the first day of school went extremely well yesterday so as a reward I decided to see a movie.  Most of my friends really liked Logan Lucky so, despite the fact that I was a little bit lukewarm on the trailer, I decided to give it a chance.  It is absolutely hilarious!  Down-and-out brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver) Logan create an elaborate plan to rob the vault at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because Jimmy learns how the pneumatic system for moving money works after working there.  They recruit their younger sister Mellie (Riley Keough), an expert safecracker named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) who is currently in-car-cer-at-ed, and Joe's brothers Sam (Brian Gleeson) and Fish (Jack Quaid).  Due to circumstances beyond their control, they must move the date of the robbery to the biggest race of the year: the Coca-Cola 600.  While this is definitely a typical heist film it is just so much fun to watch the oddball characters execute the complicated plan and I really enjoyed the twist at the end.  The ensemble cast is excellent with an absolutely hilarious performance by Craig.  In addition to the principal cast there is Seth MacFarlane as an almost unrecognizable businessman, Sebastian Stan as a NASCAR driver, Katie Holmes as Jimmy's ex-wife, Katherine Waterston as a former classmate of Jimmy's, Hilary Swank as an FBI agent, and Dwight Yoakam as an incompetent prison warden.  In fact, these actors do such a good job that I would have liked to have seen even more character development.  The script is very clever and I laughed out loud during the prison riot scene when the inmates demand that George R. R. Martin release Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring!  So funny!  The action is as slick and stylized as in the Ocean's movies but just with a West Virginia accent and a soundtrack featuring John Denver.  This film is so entertaining and I highly recommend it!

Note:  Even though most of my friends really liked this film and recommended it, I have to admit that the main draw for me was Adam Driver.  I find him to be strangely appealing!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Farewell to Summer

This weekend my family took the motor home to the KOA in Fillmore and I had such a fun and relaxing time.   For me this camping trip was a sort of farewell to summer because, even though the calendar says there are a few more weeks of summer left, school starts today which means that my break is over.  I have had the best summer!  I didn't go on an overseas trip this year but I did have a quick trip to San Francisco, a few fun road trips, a bunch of camping trips, some wonderful outdoor concerts and performances, lots and lots of movies (with some great new friends who like movies as much as I do), and countless McDonald's ice cream cones (seriously, I am addicted to them and, on multiple occasions, I went out on midnight runs just to get one).  Usually, I am really sad for summer to end but I am actually looking forward to the start of the school year and to the fall which is my favorite season.  I feel like I can really enjoy the fall because this year I don't have to worry about student government responsibilities.  I have a few more outdoor concerts coming up and two road trips that I am so excited about (and the possibility of a third) plus the new symphony and theatre seasons will be starting soon and I am looking forward to many productions.  Bring on the fall!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wind River

Last night I went to a Thursday preview of Wind River, a psychological thriller with an ending that I am still thinking about.  Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner, in one of his best performances to date) is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officer who is called out to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to track a mountain lion who is killing cattle.  He finds, instead, the body of a young woman.  The cause of death is exposure but, because it is clear that she has been assaulted and raped, the FBI sends rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen, also excellent) to investigate.  She is laughably unprepared for the elements and doesn't understand the complex dynamic of the people on the reservation so she asks Lambert to help her.  The story is, on the surface, a typical murder mystery but dig a little deeper and it becomes a powerful commentary about life on a reservation in an environment where people live with silence and snow and little else and either survive or succumb.  It is also a story about grief with an incredibly poignant scene between two fathers who have lost daughters.  The scenery is starkly beautiful but always menacing, the dialogue is sparse, and the tension is almost unbearable.  The mystery unravels in a scene of shocking violence, which caught me by surprise, and the resolution is an interesting exploration of justice that I found to be strangely satisfying (the people at my screening cheered out loud) much like my reaction to another film by Taylor Sheridan.  All of the performances are compelling (I always enjoy Graham Greene) and the score, by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, is suitably atmospheric.  If you enjoy tense thrillers with something to say about people who live on the margins of society, go see this film!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Step Is Life

My friend saw the documentary Step at Sundance this year and she has been raving about it ever since.  It will hit select theaters nationwide this Friday but my friend invited me to a special screening last night at the Broadway and I'm so glad that she did.  Yesterday was my first day back to school to prepare for the upcoming academic year and I don't think I could have watched a more inspirational film to get me energized to help my students achieve success.  The film is set against the racially charged backdrop of inner-city Baltimore and follows a group of African-American girls selected by lottery in the sixth grade to attend the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women as they become the first graduating class.  The narrative emphasizes the struggles the girls face as they apply to college and find financial aid and the obstacles they overcome as the step team competes at a prestigious competition.  Blessin is the founder and captain of the step team but she struggles academically because of her attendance and lack of focus.  At the beginning of her senior year her GPA is too low for college acceptance but she vows to do whatever it takes to succeed despite her mother's depression and anger issues.  I have to admit that Blessin's story made me quite emotional because so many of my students get to their senior year having made many mistakes and struggle to overcome deficits.  Cori is a stellar student, set to become the valedictorian, who dreams of going to Johns Hopkins University so that she will never have the financial struggle that her blended family faces with six children.  While she has the grades and test scores to attend a prestigious university, she will need a full-ride scholarship to do so.  I also cried when she mentioned that the power was currently turned off at home and vowed that this would not be her life.  Tayla provides a bit of comic relief ("I'm a notch down from Beyonce because I still do mess up") with a helicopter mom who attends every practice and tells her to stay away from boys because they have cooties.  What I loved most about this film is that you cheer just as much as they achieve their academic goals as you do when they give the performance of their lives at the step competition (the audience in this screening literally cheered out loud and applauded at every milestone).  My favorite moment in the whole film is when the team gets new warm-ups and they swagger down the hall in their best Reservoir Dogs impersonation.  It made me laugh through my tears!  I cannot recommend this documentary enough!  Please go see this heart-warming celebration of hard work, dedication, and perseverance!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Sundance

School will be starting for me very soon so I am definitely trying to cross items off my summer bucket list.  Last night I got to cross off seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Sundance Mountain Resort.  As you may remember, I am suffering from a bit of Joseph fatigue because I have seen it so many times but I always love being up in the mountains for some cooler temperatures than in the valley.  Actually, this production turned out to be a lot of fun because it incorporated a Western theme that worked really well.  The setting was the Jacob & Sons Ranch and the brothers and their wives were cowboys and cowgirls.  The Ishmaelites were cattle rustlers and the song "One More Angel in Heaven" featured a hoedown with fabulous choreography, including rope tricks.  Potiphar was a saloon owner which was a lot of fun with Mrs. Potiphar and her saloon girls.  When Joseph sang his signature song "Close Every Door" in jail he was wearing red long johns and the chorus held lanterns around him which was a cool effect.  The song "Go, Go, Go Joseph" featured saloon girls dancing a rousing can-can.  The Pharaoh was a railroad magnate and he made quite the impressive entrance on the engine of a locomotive with real steam.  "Those Canaan Days" featured a flamenco dancer and the brothers sang "The Benjamin Calypso" wearing giant sombreros.  I enjoyed all of the performances and Preston Taylor was an amazing Joseph.  Emily Rose Lyons, as the Narrator, had more of a country and western twang to her voice but it really worked with the theme.  I certainly wasn't expecting to enjoy the show as much as I did but it was a fun night.  I especially loved the fact that I had to put my hoodie on during intermission.  There is only one more performance of Joseph left and, unfortunately, it is completely sold out.  However, I heard a rumor that Sundance will be performing Oklahoma! next summer.  I definitely recommend making plans to see it!

Note:  I sat by some seriously cool people who bought me popcorn!  Here's a shout-out to them!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Glass Castle

Last night I went to see The Glass Castle, the film adaptation of the best-selling memoir of the same name by Jeannette Walls.  It is the story of Jeannette's childhood of extreme poverty with a brilliant but alcoholic father and a self-absorbed mother who cares more about her art than her children as they move from place to place, often just one step ahead of the bill collectors or law enforcement.  We meet Jeannette (Brie Larson) in 1989 sitting in a taxi as she sees her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) and mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) digging through a garbage dumpster which embarrasses her.  Then we go back and forth between flashbacks to Jeannette's (played at various ages by Chandler Head and Ella Anderson) childhood experiences and her attempts in 1989 to leave her childhood behind with her job as a gossip columnist and her relationship with a wealthy banker (Max Greenfield), both of which clearly do not bring her any happiness.  Jeannette must ultimately come to terms with her past and make peace with her parents before she can movie forward with her life.  Most of what happens to the children is very difficult to watch but I found the story to be very compelling and authentic, particularly the scenes with Anderson who is brilliant as the young Jeannette.  The performances of Larson, Watts, and, especially, Harrelson are also outstanding.  I was impressed with how Harrelson is able to portray Rex as both dangerous and captivating, someone who is both feared and fiercely loved.  Many alcoholics have incredibly charismatic personalities and know how to manipulate the people around them which makes it difficult to completely abandon them even though they do despicable things and Harrelson nails it.  Some people might have a problem with the content but I didn't because I really loved the themes of resilience and forgiveness.  Just because Jeannette ultimately forgives her father for the horrific things he does to her and her siblings doesn't mean that he is absolved and I don't think the film glorifies his behavior.  Forgiveness is less about the person being forgiven and more about the one doing the forgiving.  Jeannette must reconcile with her father for her own sake rather than his and she can only live an authentic life if she acknowledges her past and the impact that her parents have had, for good or ill, on the person she has become.  However, I had several problems with this adaptation.  It is overly sentimental, in stark contrast to the memoir, with a very manipulative score that tells the audience what it should be feeling and it sometimes feels like a Lifetime original movie as a consequence.  I also didn't like the conclusion because it is too easy and abrupt, almost as if Cretton (who co-wrote the screenplay and directed the film) wanted to give us all a happy ending that is not earned.   I think the memoir is better at telling the story objectively but this film is ultimately worth seeing for the dynamic performances.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Incubus at Usana

It was a windy and rainy night at the Usana Amphitheatre last night but it didn't really matter at all because Incubus!  Incubus is a band that is extremely nostalgic for me and I have been anticipating this concert for a long time.  It was my second concert of the week and it was another great show.  Brandon Boyd was as comfortable and relaxed as Billie Joe Armstrong was frenetic, rarely speaking to the crowd, but he sounded great!  Quite honestly, I could watch him all night long no matter what he did!  They got the night started with "Quicksand" and "A Kiss to Send Us Off."  I really like their latest album, 8, and they played quite a few songs from it including the hit "Nimble Bastard," along with "State of the Art," "Love in a Time of Surveillance," "Loneliest," and "Throw Out the Map."  As much as I enjoyed the new songs, I was really happy that they played my very favorites because they brought back so many memories for me.  "Love Hurts" pretty much got me through a very difficult time and I loved their rendition of it last night.  They combined another favorite, "Wish You Were Here," with Pink Floyd's song of the same name and the crowd just about went crazy!  I also enjoyed "Drive" and "Stellar" but I think my favorite moment of the night was an incredibly passionate rendition of "Here in My Room."  I loved the piano!  They rounded out their setlist with "Anna Molly," "Megalomaniac," "Pardon Me," "Dig," "Pantomime," "Sick Sad Little World," "Pistola," and they ended with "Nice to Know You."  For the encore, they came back with a mesmerizing version of "Aqueous Transmission."  It was a great evening, definitely worth sitting through lots of wind and rain!

Note:  The opening acts were Judah and the Lion and Jimmy Eat World.  I only knew one song by Judah and the Lion, "Take It All Back," but they put on an energetic show which included frontman Judah Akers running through the crowd.  Of course Jimmy Eat World played their two biggest hits, "Sweetness" and "The Middle," but I also really liked one of their new songs called "Pass the Baby."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Last night I went to see Detroit, one of the most powerful films about brutality and injustice that I have ever seen.  It is set against the backdrop of the riots that happened in Detroit in 1967.  As the city burns out of control the local police, along with the state police and National Guard, are asked to do the impossible and keep the peace.  We meet a trigger-happy young white officer named Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) who has been reprimanded for shooting a looter in the back, an aspiring black singer named Larry Reed (Algee Smith), and a black security guard named Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega).  They all converge at the Algiers Motel, where Reed has taken refuge for the night when he can't get home, after a resident foolishly fires a starter pistol at the National Guard who mistake it for a sniper attack and fire back.  What follows is a long and protracted sequence where Krauss and two other white officers brutalize Reed and the other black residents in order to get them to confess, ultimately killing three of the young men, despite Dismukes' attempts to intervene.  These scenes affected me on a visceral level but I was even more upset when the young men seek justice.  In my opinion, they faced more discrimination in the courtroom than they did while being beaten in the motel.  I was very moved by Boyega's performance, especially in the scenes where he is interrogated unjustly as a suspect just because of his race.  Poulter also gives an incredible performance because I hated him and, frankly, I am going to have a hard time watching him in any other movie from now on because he is so menacing in this role.  This film was incredibly difficult for me to watch because in my mind I pictured my nephew in that motel and I cried through most of it (and for hours after it was over).  However, this is a film that I think everyone should watch because, as much as we would like to think that we as a society have moved on from 1967, I don't think we have.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Green Day at Usana

Last night I saw Green Day at the Usana Amphitheatre and it was a great concert.  As you may know, I love attending outdoor performances and it was certainly a perfect summer evening.  Green Day got the crowd on their feet by starting out with one of their biggest hits: "Know Your Enemy." They played quite a few songs from their latest album, Revolution Radio, including "Bang Bang," "Revolution Radio," "Youngblood," "Still Breathing" and "Forever Now."  In between the new songs, they proceeded to play their hits for over two hours starting with a rousing rendition of "Holiday" and then "Letterbomb," a poignant performance of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Longview," "2000 Light Years Away," "Hitchin' A Ride," "When I Come Around," "Welcome to Paradise," "Minority," "Are We the Waiting," "St. Jimmy," "Knowledge," "Basket Case," "She," and "King for a Day."  For the first encore they played "American Idiot" and an epic version of "Jesus of Suburbia."  For the second encore Billie Joe came out on stage alone for an amazing acoustic performance of "21 Guns" and "Good Riddance."  Just as the second encore began it started raining and not one person left.  Everyone just started swaying in unison and singing every word.  It was really cool!  Green Day puts on an incredibly entertaining show and I think my favorite moment of the night was "Are We the Waiting" because it is my favorite song from the musical American Idiot!  Billie Joe suffers a bit from Lead Singer Syndrome and sometimes his antics overshadow the performance but I can't deny that he is fun to watch.  He strutted across the stage, rolled around on the stage, and conducted an extended chorus of "Hey Jude" from a prone position on stage.  He mugged for the cameras and, at one point, he sat down on the stage waiting for the crowd to yell loud enough for him to continue.  All through the night he exhorted the audience to get on their feet, put their hands in the air, clap, and sing along to every chorus (I think the audience sang more than he did).  He even pulled members of the audience up to the stage to sing during two different songs and one lucky girl got to keep the guitar she came on stage to play during "Knowledge."  He got in a few political rants (but they were pretty mild) and I lost track of how many times he mentioned Utah.  Billie Joe's antics aside, Green Day can definitely rock and this concert felt like one big party!  

Note:  The opening act was Catfish and the Bottlemen, a band handpicked by Green Day to open for them on this tour.  I really like them and, one day during the last few minutes of class I told the students that I had the song "Seven" stuck in my head.  They wanted me to play it for them, so I did.  After class, one student came up to me and asked me who sang the song because he really liked it.  About a week later he came up to me again and told me that he had downloaded the album because he liked them so much (It's a little service I provide, introducing my students to new music!).  I wonder if he was at the concert?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mt. Rushmore with Sean

Last summer Marilyn and I took Sean on a road trip to the Four Corners Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.  Apparently, summer road trips are now a tradition so we asked Sean where he wanted to go this year and he picked Mt. Rushmore.  We went last weekend and, aside from a very long drive, we had so much fun!  Sean said that the view was worth the drive!
At the entrance to the monument.
Sean in front of a sculpture of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created Mt. Rushmore.
The plaza leading up to the monument.
It is quite impressive!
Sean and I walked along the Presidential Trail to get a few different perspectives of the presidents.  We ate lunch at the cafeteria and, of course, we had to get some of the famous ice cream.
As we drove away from the monument there was a turnout to get a really good view of Washington's profile.  It is pretty spectacular.
Sean posing in front of the sign in his new Mt. Rushmore hoodie!
In the late afternoon we decided to visit the Crazy Horse Monument.  So far only the head has been completed and they have started working on the horse.  It doesn't seem like much has been done when you look at what the completed monument is supposed to look like but it is quite different from what I remember seeing as a kid.  Sean really liked the Native American museum.  In the evening we went back to Mt. Rushmore for the evening patriotic program and to see the monument illuminated.  It was a great day.  Marilyn and I had so much fun with Sean and it seemed like we were laughing all of the time at everything he said.  He means so much to both of us and I am so happy that we could take him on this road trip.  He is already thinking of where he wants to go next year!

Note:  It was the beginning of the Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis so we saw lots and lots of motorcycles which was really cool.  The street in front of our hotel was lined with parked motorcycles.
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