Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Talkin' Broadway with The Muchacho

"George! Get this mother effing spider off me!!!!"

There was a time when I was one of those musical theatre people. You know the kind I’m talking about. I was ALWAYS debating what the best musicals were. Or at least what my own personal favorites were.

That was a long time ago. These days, I don’t hang with many musical theatre folks, so I’m relegated to talking extensively about drywall, and corning wear, and wet willies, and how fucking hot it is outside. It’s not that none of my friends like musical theatre. Maybe it’s just that making unnecessary lists is a thing we all do in our early 20s and after a while it just gets old. Maybe it’s because there hasn’t exactly been a huge number of game-changing musicals over the past decade or so.

My theory? At least for me, the two most prominent venues for glorifying musical theatre have done the exact opposite. Glee and Smash are both horrific television programs which intend to show how awesome musicals are, but mostly just show how awful people can be. It’s kind of forced me to take a bit of a break from the greatest American art form.

After having a brief conversation with the Tofu Muchacha (and perhaps more with myself than anything), I’ve decided to revisit an old discussion I used to have and list my favorite musicals. My list is weighted toward the modern. There’s not a lot of obscure stuff. It’s just a straightforward list of shows that mean something to me, and have kick-ass music, and sometimes I just dream about being in them.

So… Without further ado..

The Beefy Muchacho’s Top 10 Favorite Musicals.

Honorable Mentions:
Bat Boy – I was first introduced to Bat Boy about 10 years ago while I was teaching at a local high school. We were really interested in doing it, but we couldn’t get the rights, so we ended up doing Godspell. That turned out really well, but I was always a little disappointed we couldn’t do Bat Boy. It’s just so weird and quirky and fun. It has a huge helping of “silly” in there. Also it’s twisted and perverted. It’s totally awesome. Hidden under all of that silliness and quirk, though, is a very challenging score with some exceptionally fun songs to sing. My personal favorites include the quartet at the end of Act 1 and this really beautiful section of a song toward the end of the play where the mother and father sing this gorgeous harmonic duet for about 4 measures. It’s just a neat piece of music. People should do it more.

Hair – I was in Hair a couple of years ago, and I spent most of the time thinking “This is the dumbest, weirdest show ever. Why do people like this?” Of course, I was in the unenviable position of playing “The Man”, and I wasn’t part of the tribe and I didn’t have a ton of fun stuff to do. I was playing the square over and over. It wasn’t until the show started to really come together, and I had a chance to really listen to the songs, and really pay attention to what was happening in the scenes I wasn’t in to appreciate Hair for what it is… It’s an archeological piece. It’s a time capsule. It’s a perfect window into an important, altering moment in our country’s history. Yeah, it’s bizarre. Yeah, some of the songs are really stupid (The musical version of Hamlet’s “What a Piece of Work is Man” speech is especially ridiculous), but there are also some really interesting moments. The song “Frank Mills” where this sweet hippie girl sings a love song to this dirty biker she met once for a minute is one of the sweetest songs in musical theatre. Oh… also? It fucking rocks. There are some great, great rocking musical theatre songs. “Aquarius”, “Hair”, “The Flesh Failures”, “Let the Sun Shine In”…. those songs are extremely catchy, and really fun. I’m especially fond of the titular “Hair”. That song is badass.

Chidren of Eden - I’ve always felt that there’s this unspoken thing where you’re either a Sondheim person or a Schwartz person. They are the two most successful composers of musicals of the last 50 years (along with Webber). I think that I am one of the few people who fall somewhere in the middle of the two. The thing I love most about Stephen Schwartz are his harmonies. He creates some of the most soaring, beautiful choral harmonies, and I think Children of Eden has the best ones. I played “Father” in Children of Eden a while back, and while it was a lot of fun, and a huge challenge, I was always a little disappointed, because I didn’t get much opportunity to participate in the great harmonies. The finale is such a lovely song, and the build into the a capella section is one of the prettier pieces of music in all of musical theatre in my opinion.

Godspell - I really had a hard time choosing between Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. I realize there’s no rule that says I have to choose just one, but to me they’ll always be compared because they came out around the same time, lay people confuse the two, and they are so clearly telling the same story but from different world views. I think that ‘Superstar’ would be amazing to be a part of (there are like… five parts I’d love to play), but ultimately the thing that sets Godspell apart for me is that there’s just this way that it manages to connect with the audience on an emotional level. It’s one of those shows where the actors become very close if it’s done right. That closeness comes through. It’s a team effort in a way. I also think the music of Godspell is just so much fun, and has so much life. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been a part of two productions of it that were both particularly positive experiences for me. It’s just a great show.

South Pacific – Rogers and Hammerstein has a tendency to be viewed as passé for “inside” theatre people, and I think that’s like an art student saying they like Picasso, or a musician saying that The Beatles are their favorite band. They might be dinged for being unoriginal, and they might be snickered at by their fellow art and music majors, but you know what? The reason those things are passé is because so many people for so many years listed their work as being their favorite. They’re just good. That’s all. South Pacific is a classic. It’s Rogers and Hammerstein at the top of their games, churning out a dozen memorable, enduring songs (“Some Enchanted Evening”, “Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair”, “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy”, “Younger Than Springtime”, “Carefully Taught”, “There’s Nothing Like a Dame”, “Bali Hai”.) I mean… these songs are all musical theatre classics. The show is powerful, and entertaining, and a damn lot of fun to be in. The production I was in at Jenny Wiley Theater was one of the most fun times I’ve had on stage. It was just a great time.

Okay… and now the tough part. Ranking my 10 favorite musicals of all time... In order ending with my all time favorite musical.

10 - The Last 5 Years It’s certainly on my list of shows I’d like to be in. I love Jason Robert Brown’s music. I love his lyrics. I love that he writes pretty much exclusively for the Baritenor in his lead roles. I could have picked a few of his shows, but this one stands out to me as his best, and also his most heartbreaking. He has this great knack for infusing great emotion into his work, and it’s obvious he was conflicted when he wrote this auto-biographical work about his failed marriage. The most creative part is that it shows the progression of the relationship from the perspective of both characters (man and woman) but their stories go in reverse. At the beginning of the show, the relationship is starting for the man and ending for the woman. There are so many good songs here, but it’s hard not to fall in love with “The Next 10 Minutes” where the stories of both people intersect and they sing the one and only true duet of the 2 person show. It’s a very powerful theatre experience.

9 - West Side Story – If I were a dancer, I’d probably have West Side higher. If I were a tenor, I’d probably have it higher too. I’m definitely bitter that I have a tough time singing Tony’s songs. Look… This is probably the most technically perfect musical ever created. It’s got the score by Leonard Bernstein. The Lyrics by Sondheim. The source material by Shakespeare. The original choreography by Jerome Robbins. It's just spectacular. The only real downside is that this show tends to be mounted by people who don't quite get how difficult it is, and don't quite get how important all of the factors are. The music is very difficult to sing, so sometimes groups will cast it with the best singers, and the dancing suffers. There are people who cast it to showcase dancers, and the music suffers. The acting almost always suffers. Believe me, though... As soon as you see a cast that can sing, dance, AND act the show. It's amazing.

8 – Little Shop of Horrors – I distinctly remember singing “The Dentist Song” while playing on the playground in 2nd or 3rd grade. For whatever reason, Little Shop spoke to me from a young age. I think it was the first time it registered to me that a musical could be funny and dark. It’s possible that The Dentist is the first role I ever wanted to play. I remember riding around in my mom’s car and listening to the cassette tape of Little Shop over and over and over. Clearly my mother loved me a lot, because damn. I knew EVERY word of that show. It’s just so funny and smart, but at the same time, the tunes really stick with me. Far more than other “funny” shows. Not that those shows are bad, but I feel like Little Shop really paved the way for a slightly more irreverent strain of Broadway musicals. If you follow me… I’m essentially saying that without Little Shop of Horrors, there would be no Urinetown, Avenue Q, or even The Book of Mormon. It’s absolutely classic.

7 – Assassins – I know it’s blasphemous to many, but I’m not a huge Sondheim fan. I mean… I like several of his works, and I acknowledge the skill he has, but it’s mostly not my thing. I far more gravitate toward the melodic rather than the wordy. There are a couple of exceptions, though, and easily my favorite of all of Sondheim’s shows is Assassins. It’s the perfect combination for me of my love of history, my love of musical theatre, and my love of dark material. There’s nothing to dislike about Assassins. It’s clever, it’s got some truly touching and emotional music. It’s bitingly funny. It has provided me with more than one victory at a trivia night, because who else would know who the hell Samuel Byck was? The scene in the Dallas Book Depository is one of the most chilling scenes in all of theatre, even if it’s playing fast and loose with one of the worst moments in our country’s history. I’m not as fond of the cast of the more recent revival with Neil Patrick Harris and Mario Cantone and Michael Cerveris. I much prefer the version with Victor Garber and Terrence Mann. It’s one of the better cast recordings ever.

6 – Big River – Man… this is getting really, really tough. I think it’s safe to say that on a given day I could potentially list any of these next 6 as my favorite all time musical, and I likely wouldn’t argue…with myself… Anyway, Big River is awesome for several reasons… First, the source material is one of the most important, entertaining, and touching books ever written. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). Second, the songs are uniformly either catchy as all hell (“I, Huckleberry Me”, “Guv’ment”, “Hand for the Hog”, “When the Sun Goes Down in the South”) or beautiful (“River in the Rain” “Waiting for the Light to Shine”) just plain moving (“Worlds Apart”, “You Oughta Be Here with Me”, “Leavin’s Not the Only Way to Go”, “Free at Last”), or even exciting (“Muddy Water” “Waiting for the Light to Shine (Reprise)”). It’s probably the only soundtrack I own where I’ll listen to it straight through every time. I never want to skip a song to get to another. Third, I think it provides some of the most interesting visual possibilities of any show. It’s perfect for outdoor stages. Fourth, it’s got a lot of personal, emotional connection for me as it was one of my all-time favorite experiences in a show as a teen. It’s just a wonderful show. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several wonderful productions, and even being in one of those.

5 – Carousel – This breaks my heart, because I honestly expected it to end up higher. I have some very sentimental reasons for loving Carousel so much, but I first want to talk about the more factual reasons for it being great; I don’t think anyone would deny that Rogers and Hammerstein were one of the great musical theatre writing teams of all time. They created several of the truly great musicals ever. Some were very, very broad and commercial (Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Cinderella), some were more political (The King and I, South Pacific), but one was the perfect combination of a beautiful story, a little serious message-delivery, and insanely gorgeous music. That, of course, is Carousel. From the very beginning, Carousel is a masterpiece of music. The opening sequence where the overture plays and the carousel is assembled on stage in a dance is one of the most beautiful sequences in anything. There are so many great moments and memorable characters, but of course, none greater or more memorable than Billy Bigelow, who is arguably one of the more unsympathetic, or at least… morally ambiguous… main characters in Broadway history. I remember seeing the national tour in Cincinnati around 1995. It was the revival staging and design, and I went into it thinking I would be bored, and I was the absolute OPPOSITE of bored. It was magical.

On a personal note, when I needed to write my senior one-act about a figure in theatre history, I chose Broadway legend John Raitt (Bonnie’s dad). He was the original Sid in The Pajama Game. The 2nd Curly in Oklahoma, and famously the original Billy Bigelow. I couldn’t find any information on him at all, really. This was before Wikipedia, and there were no biographies about him like there was about Ethel Merman or Sondheim. There was just… nothing. I wasn’t sure where to turn, and I was getting close to changing streams and choosing another person entirely. I had one final recourse, and I had no expectation of it yielding anything close to a result. I called Information and asked for “John Raitt, Fullerton, California”.

I was connected and an old man answered the phone.

I said “Can I speak to Mr. John Raitt, please?”

He said: “Speaking.”

I said: “Is this John Raitt the actor?”

He said: “I prefer to think of myself as a singer.”

After that, a lot of the conversation was a blur, but I can tell you that it lasted 3 hours. I explained to him my project. I asked him a million questions, many of them pretty personal. I asked him what it was like to work directly with Rogers and Hammerstein. I asked him what it was like to sing their amazing music. He was unbelievably gracious. It was truly one of the more amazing experiences of my life. At the end of the conversation, he asked me for my address. A couple of weeks later I received a letter from him, wishing me luck on my project, and a signed headshot.

How could I not love Carousel just a little bit extra after an experience like that?

4 - Ragtime. This one is a little simpler, I guess. The first time I saw Ragtime, with the original cast in their pre-Broadway run in Toronto in the Summer of 1997, is the single most insanely awesome production of something I’ve ever seen. Audra MacDonald. Brian Stokes Mitchell. Marin Mazzie. Peter Friedman, Mark Jacoby. All of them really. It was a truly incredible show. And one of the great, most special things about that experience was that because it was so new, nobody knew a thing about it. How often can you go into a show completely unaware of what you’re about to see? It could have been tragically bad. It could have been unwatchable. Instead, I got one of the most arresting, moving theatre watching experiences I’ve ever had, featuring what is easily the most stacked cast of performers I’ve ever witnessed in person. I loved it so much, and talked about it so incessantly for the next 10 months that when my Dad, Dee Anne, and I went to New York the next Spring, there was no way we couldn’t see it. I got to see the original cast TWICE.

Of course, as with everything with me, I have personal connections to this show. I was in a production of it in the Fall of 2003, and while I was woefully too young, I had the privilege of playing Tateh. For a multitude of reasons, it was among the more memorable shows I’ve ever done, and while not all of those memories are entirely positive, it was a show I felt honored to be in at the time, and it just felt like we were doing something really cool. It was.

3- Les Miserables - Listen… I know that at least to some degree, loving Les Mis is a bit of a cliché along the lines of loving Phantom of the Opera (I don’t, particularly.) There’s just a huge swath of musical theatre nerds who grew up listening to Les Mis over and over and over again. I’m absolutely one of them. It’s become one of those things where every person has sung every song. A lot of Musical Theatre programs and companies won’t allow you to sing a song from Les Mis for auditions, because for a while there that’s all they heard.

Here’s the thing, though… It really is something spectacular to behold. Of all of those big spectacle shows from the 80s, I believe that Les Mis holds up the best. Better than Cats. Better than Phantom. Better than Miss Saigon. It’s got these huge themes and huge set pieces, and every song ends on a 30 second glory note that will PROVE that Colm Wilkinson is a fucking MAN damnit. Like, for real. If I told you that I didn’t spend a good amount of my youth dreaming about one day playing Javert and singing the absolute shit out of ‘Stars”, I’d be lying to you.

It’s the ultimate “Singers Musical”. While “A Chorus Line” is the ultimate dancer musical and Avenue Q is the ultimate puppetry musical, and “The Life” is the ultimate hooker musical, Les Mis is the absolute peak of Singing Masturbation. Not to be lewd or anything, but there’s not a girl on this Earth who didn’t drop everything to sing “On My Own” or “I Dreamed a Dream” if they ever wanted to be on Broadway. It just didn’t happen.

Frank Wildhorn attempted to make a cottage industry around singer-masturbation shows, but Les Mis is the all-time champion.

That is not, in any way, to diminish what it does exceptionally well, and that is make the audience totally melt at about 9 different points. It’s an incredibly moving show, with moving music, and if performed by talented people who do it justice, it’s one of the best things to go spend 4 hours seeing. It’s great.

2 - Rent - It’s possible that I’ve spent more time thinking about Rent than any other show. I’ve debated the merits of it with people I respect, and I’ve discussed the sticky-wicket that is mounting new productions of it. I’ve thought about that original cast and how almost all of them have moved on to being big stars because of it. I’ve blogged about it at least twice.

The thing about Rent is that it speaks to us. It features music that is visceral and kind of dirty, and slightly unedited. (much like this blog), and it was born of a genius who died too soon, and ironically NOT from the virus that Rent talks about so candidly. It is THE musical of my generation in terms of what it meant to be a musical theatre nerd in the mid 1990s. I’ve talked about how it was a given that if it was put on the radio at a nerdy musical theatre party that without exception every person there would BLAST out the words to every single song. It means a lot to us aging Generation Xers. It tells the story of struggles and being an artist and dealing with losses in a positive way. Remembering the good. In a way it’s the opposite of Slackers or Reality Bites where the whole thing was centered on this malaise and apathy. The characters in Rent FEEL everything around them. They’re all raw nerves. It’s a very youthful, hopeful, idyllic show, and it makes me remember that time in my life.

I said last year, after seeing CCMs insanely good production of it, that I’d always been of the opinion that it should never be done. No production can reasonably expect to be favorably compared with the original, and that there was no show in Broadway history where the original was so KNOWN. So memorized by every person who would care. It could be argued that The Book of Mormon is headed down that road.

I’m starting to move away from that a bit, in that I do think it can be done, and maybe even SHOULD be done. It’s a time capsule from that time in our lives, so it’s important. I just hope that the next one I see does something totally out of left field. That’s what I crave now in my musical theatre viewing. I want someone to take a look at Jonathan Larson’s brilliant piece of art and say…

“I can do this in a new way. I’m going to make people think about this show differently than they have for the last 16 years.”

I hope it happens soon, because it’s too amazing a show to let it sit on a shelf.

1 - Spring Awakening… Weren’t expecting that, were you?

I’ve seen Spring Awakening two times. The first was a national tour where I wrote two long, wordy-ass blogs about how blown away I was. Considering I’m so succinct most of the time, you have to know how much I was set on my ear by Spring Awakening the first time I saw it. It was a revelation for me.

I’d listened to, and LOVED the soundtrack for a solid 6 months before I saw it, but I think that more than any other show I can think of, you can listen to the songs and have no real idea of what’s happening in the show without the visual context to support it. In a way, I love that about it. It’s the evolutionary grandson of shows like Oklahoma! Which famously integrated the musical for the first time 50 years before. By “integrated”, I mean that it was really the first major production to have the songs progress the story. Before that, most musicals were a hodgepodge of popular songs by Cole Porter or George Gershwin where something happens… a character sings a semi-related song… and then things happen some more.

Spring Awakening is the first musical I can recall where the lyrics forward the story, but ONLY when taken in as a smaller part of the whole. The dance, and the staging, and the full performances. It’s the MOST integrated show I can think of in that way.

That’s all very technical, I guess, but what can I say? The show moves me.

In another way, Spring Awakening is the next generation’s Rent. There’s this exciting, innovated portrayal of youth that talks about another side of growing up. It’s so much about the unknown and how dangerous half-truths can be. It takes on large themes like those, and makes me think about them in a different way.. . It also handles tiny moments, and it does so in this painful, elegant manner. It’s crushing to see how the small, seemingly minor choices of people have repercussions.

The second time I saw it, (in a production at CCM), I realized that what I loved most about it was the intimacy of it. We watched it in the studio theater where I could see every facial expressed the pain and confusion and wonder and love of the characters. It’s a show that is meant to be done in a closet. It’s works on such a personal level when you can see every crease of an eye or flick of a grin. The scenes between Melchior and Wendla, especially, take on this whole other feel when you can see the trepidation and excitement in their faces as they discover that they love each other.

Honestly, I could go on and on about it. I have done so in the past. It’s just a wonderful show with killer music and innovative dancing and staging. I truly love it.

If you asked me tomorrow what my favorite musical is, I may or may not say Spring Awakening, but as I went through this exercise today, that’s the show I landed on, and I am pleased with my choice.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's a "Gut" Thing.

I’m 32 years old.

There are very few people who’d say that is “Old”, but I feel it sometimes, nonetheless. I rarely think about that in most of my life. You know… aside from the occasional “Wow… the kids who start high school this year were born the year I graduated”, there aren’t a lot of real life reminders.

The one thing that always gets me, though, is sports. I’m confronted with reminders every day. I think about how if I were a major league baseball player (my short-lived childhood dream), I’d likely be declining out of my prime by now. I think how I vividly remember the 1992 USA Basketball team, and how that was 20 years ago, and how every single one of those players is long retired. I remember guys like Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza… where I remember their entire careers from beginning to end.

And now…

Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame.

Barry Larkin was my favorite Red growing up. He was the best (or 2nd best) player on every Reds team for my entire childhood. His career spanned, almost exactly , the same years I spent in school. I started 1st grade in 1986, his rookie year. I graduated college in 2002, his 2nd to last year. I saw him play more games in person than any other player. He was the most recognizable player of the only championship team of my lifetime.

Now… he wasn’t my first favorite Red. That honor goes to Johnny Bench or Pete Rose or maybe Mario Soto, but those guys weren’t my players. They were my Dad’s players, and since I want(ed) to be like him, I adopted the players he admired. Pete Rose’s rookie season happened when my dad was 9 years old. Pete Rose was my Dad’s Barry Larkin.

Barry Larkin was the first favorite Red of MY time as a baseball fan.

I’ve had a long running argument with my best friend (The Brawny Hombre) about whether Larkin deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. I always took the “Pro” in that fight, and maybe aside from the overwhelming numerical support for my argument, there was always something else. Something unquantifiable.

The Brawny Hombre always made the statement that it was more of a “gut” feeling that told him Larkin wasn’t a hall of famer, and I made the same argument for him.

You see, for me…Barry Larkin WAS baseball for me, growing up. He was the guy I wanted to hit like. He was the guy who carried me through the dark end of the Marge era. He was the guy who led the most exciting teams of my life, the 1990, 1995, and 1999 Reds teams. He was the guy who ALWAYS got on base, who ALWAYS made right base-running decision, who ALWAYS got to the ball in the hole. He was Barrrrrryyyyyy LARK-innnnnnnnnn. Through all those years, the Reds had other good players. Eric Davis was electrifying. Chris Sabo was a fun flash. Jose Rijo was a reliably strong starting pitcher. Rob Dibble was Aroldis Chapman before Aroldis Chapman... and was completely insane. Reggie Sanders…Paul O’Neill… Ken Griffey Jr… Sean Casey. God forbid, Adam Dunn.

None of them held quite the same place of esteem in my heart and mind that Barry Larkin did… Does.

It’s a sign that I’m getting older that a player came up, rose to greatness, declined as all players do, retired, and achieved his place in the Hall of Fame, and I remember it all. I loved it all.

I can’t think of a player I’ve rooted for as hard as I rooted for Barry Larkin. Maybe, one day, another player will come along to grab my imagination. It’s going to be difficult. I’m a jaded old adult now. I’m not as prone to idolatry.

Maybe that’s as it should be. When my dad talks about his favorite baseball moments, he invariably talks about The Big Red Machine. The team of his youth. Baseball is a kid’s game afterall. My teams were Larkin’s teams. My favorite player was Barry Larkin.

And now Barry Larkin is in the hall of fame, validating the 10 year old kid who would scream and yell and cheer for his hero at Riverfront Stadium all those times.

And damn… I’m old.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not So Magical

One of the more nuanced moments of Magic Mike

I went to see Magic Mike.


My period didn’t spontaneously begin.

That is not to say that I would go out of my way to see it again (I wouldn’t), but I want to talk about it for a bit. I also want to talk about the looks I received when purchasing my ticket, the snickers I got from the hoard of teen girls in the audience (for a Rated R movie!) as I walked in to the theater, and the looks of amusement and/or the audible surprise from literally everyone I’ve told about my experience.

First, let’s talk about this movie… It wasn’t that great. Not because it was chock full of greased up, mostly naked dudes. I mean.. it absolutely is chock full of greased up, mostly naked dudes, but I feel like those greased up, mostly naked dudes are not why the movie isn’t great.

The movie wasn’t great because almost all of the characters are dicks (figurative ones… sheesh).

The dramatic arc is pretty weak. The 2 major conflicts are both telegraphed from miles away. (What? The girl who they identify ONLY as trouble actually IS trouble? You don’t fucking say.) Neither of the major conflicts are particularly concerning, because one of the main characters you are mostly supposed to dislike, and the other is better off anyway.

They try to establish the Channing Tatum character as this care-free playboy, jack of all trades, artist or whatever. Instead, he’s written as clingy. You never actually see him creating his art. You never see him being good at his other various jobs. They do their best to establish him as a dude getting his life together, but for all the money he supposedly makes in all of his jobs, his well-established nest-egg is pitifully small. Basically, the character you’re supposed to like the most for all of these reasons is really only likeable because he’s Channing Tatum.

The first love interest, played by Olivia Munn, is an amoral “free spirit” who starts off fairly likeable and gets to be a cartoon. The second love interest, played by the daughter of newly appointed Disney Studios head Alan Horn, starts off overly stern and officious, and then just seems to change her mind. (I especially liked how her “boyfriend’ is immediately established as a douche. Like… you don’t like him immediately, and that seemed cheap.

Some stuff happens.

Then it just ends. It’s supposed to be cheeky (no pun intended), and naughty, and all “whatever, we’re rated R”. It mostly just comes across as an excuse to display the undeniably impressive abs of several 2nd tier Hollywood actors.

The main laughable thing is that Matthew McConaughey is getting some sort of bizarre “best supporting actor” buzz. That’s totally insane, and a clear attempt to try to bring legitimacy or… something…. to a movie that really should just embrace the silliness.

I feel like if the movie was directed by someone else, I wouldn’t be cutting it down as much. If it were directed by Joe Johnston or some anonymous rom-com director, I think my issues would be framed a little differently. It really is just a silly movie full of eye candy for both sexual preferences (there are a lot of boobs in the movie, and it is my suspicion that there are even more that will be in the unrated version).

Unfortunately, the movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh. The same guy who directed Traffic. Ocean’s Eleven. Contagion. Movies with real points of view. Movies that are more than just a bunch of greased up dudes showing their asses (literally). The man was the first person in 60 plus years to be nominated for Best Director twice in the same year. I had higher hopes is all. Unfortunately, something got in the way, and I’m not quite sure what it is. There’s a nugget of a good movie somewhere in there. Maybe we just needed Don Cheadle to show up and cause some trouble. In an inexplicable British accident.

Overall… I give the movie a C-minus. Could have been much better.

Let’s talk for a minute, though, about the way the movie has entered our collective consciousness. Somewhere along the way, it’s been adopted by horny women (it’s really the era of Horny Women, isn’t it? What with Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey ) and gay men. That’s cool, you know… Everybody needs a movie to grab their attention. I just can’t think of another movie in my memory that has been so completely coopted that literally any other demographic of audience member risks ridicule.

I’ve gone to dozens of movies by myself. In fact, I mostly prefer it. Also, I don’t care if people think I’m gay. The people who need to know my sexual preference know it, and the rest of the world is free to speculate. I just think it’s weird that something as silly as a movie could even at all inform my sexuality.
Let me pose a question for you…

If there were a sports movie about a male swimming star… would that be off limits to sports fans because of the dudes in speedos? What about a movie about Greco-Roman wrestling?

I understand that some gay men and straight women might like to check out the greased up dancing dudes, and that’s cool. What if I just wanted to see a movie by the director of one of my favorite movies of the past 12 years? What if I have a thing for Olivia Munn? If a movie is good, I have no problem with seeing naked guys. It’s no different than straight women and gay men being subjected to the naked women who have proliferated movies for like… ever.

I hate it when I ramble… Here’s my point.

I think it’s time to stop assigning movies, people, songs, whatever to various groups. If I want to enjoy a Judy Garland movie, I should be able to without jokes and giggles. If a woman wants to go by herself to see some movie about football (Not a rom com that features football players) she should be able to without people throwing her a sideways eye. If a gay man wants to write a blog about hockey, he should be able to without fielding the numerous “but… I thought you were gay” questions. (Is that even a question?)

Of course, to make strides, we all have to play the game. We have to break down the walls of taboo.

We must go see fluffy ab-porn movies if they look remotely entertaining.

Just maybe not this one. Because it was dumb.

Coming Soon to the Blog: My Top 10 Broadway Musicals (I'm really throwing that gaydar for a loop today, I bet.