Friday, December 28, 2012

Things that are making me happy today.....

Love note from my littlest BFF

Lunch with FB and blog friends - meeting IRL

My new carry with me all the time

Ballroom dance recitals

Packing to go spend Splenda's birthday and New Years with fam in Las Vegas

Happy, happy, happy!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserable - My official review

I have three words for you


That's it.

NO!  Just kiddin - I have lot's more to say.........

I purposely did NOT read any reviews or google any audience reaction prior to last nights viewing.  I wanted a clean slate in my head.  I knew nothing other than the the big names were Gladiator, Wolverine and Catwoman.

The theater was sold out and a nice vibe to the room while we watched over 20 minutes of trailers.

Once the film started - I was enraptured and other than a sip or two of diet coke my eyes were glued to the screen.

Now to be fair, I have read the book more than twice.  I have seen it performed live on the stage.  I have watched other film versions.  I really had no expectations other than I knew the story, I knew the power of it's message and I was anxious to see how this version treated it all.

I was not disappointed.

Facts you should know:
1.  All singing was done live on camera - no lipsyncing.  That is important to remember
2.  Some of the performers are also theater regulars so their experience certainly lends to the film
3.  You will cry.  If you don't - you have no soul

Okay, now my thoughts

Let's talk Hugh Jackman.  Considering he was discovered on Broadway in the production Oklahoma, I had in my mind he must be able to sing fairly well.  He did more than fair.  I didn't even recognize him in the opening scenes.  He was fabulous and while he does sport some sideburns later, he had already established himself as Jean ValJean to me, so Wolverine wasn't a part of the picture.  Two stellar moments:  The abbey in which he changes his heart and life.  The ending scene of his death.  I don't think I have ever seen two more powerful scenes done with this story.

Russell Crowe.  Not sure of the casting decision behind him, but I will say that as much as critics are panning his performance, I didn't find it offensive.  He was singing live.  His background is not in voice.  He gave it his all.  Have there been better Javert's?  Yes.  But his final scene is one to be remembered. Also, because of his simple singing (no loud vibrato) I could understand his lyrics better and learned something about the character that I either didn't pick up on before or didn't remember.  

Anne Hathaway. For all the jokes about her looks, her acting, her singing.... I was impressed.  Again, remember she is singing LIVE.  At first her lack of vocal strength was a little distracting to me, but then  when I put it into context of the character, it actually made her as Fantine completely believable.  Who is a pathetic, sad, broken woman.  I predict an Oscar nomination for her.  There is no way you can watch her perform "I dreamed a dream" and not be moved to tears.  Again, not a stellar vocal performance, but really is a slovenly, wretched, miserable poor french prostitute REALLY gonna have the voice of an angel?  This woman is at her lowest point in life and manages to eke out a heart stirring and soul shaking performance.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thendardier's were delightful.  At first glance, they both looked familiar as actors but it wasn't until I saw the credits that I realized who they were.  Excellent job.  Mild comedic relief.

Eddie Redmayne as Marius was absolutely brilliant.  He was an unknown for me and at first I wasn't sure of his voice strength.  However, by his solo "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables", he had won me over as a fan.  Stellar job.  Excellent work and perfectly cast

Isabelle Allen as young Cosette stole my heart the minute she appeared on screen.  Her soulful eyes and perfect pitch brought the young girl's plight straight to my heart. I fell in love with her and cared deeply to see how her scenes were done.  As the older Cosette, Amanda Seyfried was less impressive. Of all the voices, I cared for hers the least.  As in, I didn't like it when she opened her mouth at all.  And by that I mean, I inwardly cringed when she came on screen.  Her singing reminded me of the old Disney Snow White.  Think goat.  Beautiful girl, but her voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

Samantha Barks as Eponine.  Perfect.  So well played.  Her singing, her emotions.  All on point.  

How does film compare to theater?  I don't think it's fair to compare them.  On stage, it's all about the music.  The singing is done by professionals with incredible range and deepness to their voices, their instruments, their art.  The orchestra cannot be matched as the soundtrack rolls forward.  I've yet to see a stage production where a character lacked in the vocal department.  The music, is the highlight of a stage production.

The film version?  With the ability of a camera for close up shots, the acting takes center stage.  The emotions as they sing give deeper meaning to the lyrics and to their characters.  Nothing like watching Fantine's face as she sings such a haunting "I dreamed a dream".  Same for young Cosette performing  "Castle on a cloud"

Of course the stage limits the set production whereas a film can take it 6 levels better.  The barricade and fighting scenes are incredible and that little Gavroche?  Love him!  He became more of a character to me.

And while nothing can really compete with a live orchestra that is not to mean the soundtrack is lacking in this film.  Far from it.  When the people's anthem "Can you hear the people sing?" begins, well - it got my pulse pounding as much as ever.

This particular director seemed to include much more of a religious tone to it than in previous versions.  There is much more meaning behind the monsignor and the candlesticks, Jean ValJean giving his life to God, Fantine believing she will see her daughter again, and of course the final scene with Jean ValJean passing.  The entire theme of mercy and justice is felt throughout it and during many solos, I could see myself with maybe some of the same feelings?  Jean ValJean's wonderment at the mercy shown him.  His desire to change.  Javert's conflict of the drive for justice yet feeling strangely compelled at the idea of mercy.  Marius's survivor guilt.  Pure, Christlike love of Jean ValJean.  It's all there and captured beautifully.

Some have voiced concern over the appropriateness of the film.  Let's can I put this nicely.......GET REAL PEOPLE!  It was a horrid time in France.  People were suffering unimaginable things just to survive.  Fantine sells her body.  It ain't a cake walk kids.  It's war, it's poverty, it's oppression.  It's MISERABLE PEOPLE!  It holds true to Victor Hugo's novel.  It's PG13.  And for good reason.  There are battle scenes and some sauciness on the pier and in the Thenardier's inn.  Fantine's scene where she finally sinks to her lowest is what you would expect, but I must say tastefully done.  You feel her self loathing and hatred oozing from the screen.  And let me state clearly - IT IS NOT PORN. (gosh, chillax peeps)

Now as to other reviews dissing the film.  I can see where critics could find fault.  I needed to think it over, let it soak in, and compile my own thoughts before I felt like I could be fair in a review.  Overall, it was extremely well done.  If you have never seen or don't know the story of Les Mis, then this film is the perfect one to see and understand the story.  You will be able to follow along perfectly.  But then, if opportunity presents to see it on stage, I would highly recommend that as well.  Both versions are unique and complete the entire experience of "Les Miserable"

It's a film I will own.  I will go see again at the theater if the opportunity presents itself and as soon as it comes to the stage near me, I will do my best to procure tickets.  I became a fan the day I turned the last page in the book and while there are always pro's and con's to every adaptation and production, this one was well done.  Deserving of every Oscar nomination it will garner.

And my favorite quote of the entire story

"To love another person is to see the face of God"

True words Victor Hugo, true words indeed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Jillian......never forgotten, always honored and forever grateful for the Savior

The reality is....Christmas is different now.  It all changed two years ago and no matter how much time passes, it will never be the same.

I pray for peace for her parents and siblings.  I pray for understanding for her daughter (when she needs it), I pray for all her many friends and other family that get that sudden ache unexpectedly, but mostly I pray in gratitude for the knowledge of the plan of happiness and that our deceased are never gone forever.

One might think Christmas would be ruined forever.  I think not.  It does bring to surface tender feelings and bitter tears, but it also gives deeper meaning to the entire season.  Celebrating the birth of the Savior also entails celebrating His life, His sacrifice, His atonement and His gift of eternal life.   So with sadness, comes peace and ultimately happiness.  We choose not to be sad or distraught, but instead we choose to see the beauty in the divine plan from our Father in Heaven.

I thank God for the faith and testimony that I have and for that of my children's.  I thank God for His Son and His willingness to make all things better.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2012

SoCal - some partying, some beach, some food

Our last day here.  BOO!

The morning started off with cooking in the kitchen with the Chloee's new Easy Bake Oven.

This isn't the oven of my generation - noooo.  They had to go and make it all safe and crap.  Now one can hardly operate the thing there are so many safety catches in place.

Chloee did turn out some stellar red velvet cupcakes that no one but me and her Dad would taste.

Then it was the kids ward Christmas party.  It was breakfast, a craft for the kids, some singing of a few carols led by two very awkward missionaries and then Santa came!

Corbin photobombed, but look at the baby in the background.  Even a more subtle photobomber

After the ward party, Karalee was feeling horrible.  The last couple of days she has had the aches and chills, today was full on fever, and feeling like crapola!  She and Corbin went home while me, Luke, Mindy and Chloee hit the beach

Chloee and Mindy had been playing in the waves so it was inevitable that they would end up soaked.  Chloee was covered head to toe in sand, but meh - who cares.  I'll replace her clothes, can't remake those memories!

Luke and Mindy went to the San Diego Temple while the rest of us chilled at home.  Some movie watching, some youtube video viewing and basically calling it a quiet afternoon.

Our last adventure of the day was dinner at Ruby's on the pier.
Never can go wrong there

After we got home, I snuggled with Chlo for a few minutes, then got showered and packed as much as I could tonight.  We hit the road early in the morning.....sad tears.

One last random pic.
Luke and Mindy took this when they were at Disneyland and I can't believe I didn't post it then.  I just found it and thought it was cute

SoCal - guys and girls style

Yippee!!  Chloee's Christmas sing-along program!
First thing the day....

Lot's of treats in the classroom after

Home to decorate her new ornament

Look at that smile!  I freakin love the missing teeth!!

The the guys and girls split up.  Corb and Luke took ran some errands while the Karalee, Mindy, Chloee and me went off for some lunch and shopping.

The boys took Corb's car, so we loaded in the Cooper.  As we were driving on base, out of the neighborhood, some truck behind me kept honking and making weird hand gestures behind me.  I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.
And then we noticed:

Totally drove off with my drink on the roof of my car!

Luckily, I was able to save it before we got to freeway speeds!

We headed into Carlsbad thinking that we could find a particular lunch spot.  It didn't exist anymore so we parked on one of the main little streets in the village and wandered around.  Tons of boutiques consignment shops!  Found lunch in a little deli and just enjoyed the sunshine and meandering around.

Had to get a car wash - and it was pretty magical

Our last stop in Carlsbad was the Chocolate Bar!

We met the boys at home, another stop at the MCX, Chipotle's for dinner and last minute wallyworld excursion.

So much fun packed into one day.  Love the SoCal time!

Friday, December 21, 2012

SoCal Christmas - keepin it all on the chill

Some of us went to Disneyland

Some us did not

Luke took Mindy to Disneyland for her Christmas present.
Chloee went to school
Corb, Kar and I chatted and napped.

Once the Princess got home, there was playing in her room, pizza and Yogurtland and then meandering the MCX.

Love a relaxed and chill day.  

Did I mention it's a little chilly here?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today's Post of a word......Peace

Ever read something that sinks right down into your heart?  And then like, sits there for a bit feeling real comfortable and all?   You notice your eyes and nose start dripping with that salty discharge stuff, your insides get all squinky, and next think you know........peace.

Well I did this morning and the feeling is too exquisite not to share.  I hope you'll click the link.  Read his post.  Click and read the link inside his post and then let that feeling sink deep down, nestling right into your very soul where you cannot deny truth.

I thank God that I stumbled on this dude's blog and I stuck around (even if it was just too bring sarcasm) because right now...  Today... This moment..  he posted words that I needed to hear.

Even if you're not of my same faith, or have experienced suicide of someone close, or deal with mental or emotional disabilities within your inner are a human being and the message is for everyone.

Middle-Aged Mormon Man nails it:  CLICK HERE

Peace and blessings

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

SoCal Christmas - The joy is in the journey right?

Time for a fix.  

Luke planned the excursion, I just went along for the ride...... plan was to hit the road as soon as he got off work, drive until Vegas, stay the night with family in Sin city, and then roll into Oceanside and Camp Pendleton sometime in the am.

Legit plan.  Until the storm.

First off - let me clarify, we are in the Cooper. 

Yeah.  It's so dang cute and great gas mileage, but not so much a "more than two person ride".  S'okay, no worries.  Packed myself, my luggage, Luke, his luggage, Mindy, her luggage, and then SoCal kid's

Splenda was worried based on news reports of snow packed roads, I had tried to find us a place in St George just in case, but when we finally pulled out, we had no back up plan other than find a hotel room or sleep in the car if worse came to worst.

I drove for the first 3 1/2 hours.  Made it as far as Beaver.  From Provo, that is about an hour extra on time.  Snow packed in spots but mostly slippery, icy, slushy and windy.

We made the swap in Beaver and Luke climbed behind the wheel.  I took a muscle relaxant since gripping the steering wheel and exerting all my energy to keep the car on the road had tied my shoulders, neck and back into huge knots.  I dozed waking only occasionally when I felt us go over the rumble track or the tires slipping.   We got as far as a Lake Mead exit.  Snow packed, blizzard like, slippery and slow until St George.

Luke was tired now, but I was wide awake.  
time and temp in Vegas - freezing cold and 9 hours into it.

I took over, refueled in Vegas and then another quick stop in Baker.  

Just in time for the sunrise

A nice stretch the legs break, crack the back and neck into proper alignment again and off we went. 

Luke and Mindy are now just plain rummy and the lame, punny jokes are being flown about.  Not gonna lie though, I do love watching the sunrise over the desert.  A quick breakfast at Denny's in Barstow and back on the road for the final stretch.  Side note observation made whilst in the Denny's in Barstow:  Wicked old people come in three pairs at about 8am and either have no idea that they are producing loud flatulence or don't care.  And subsequent to that observation, when you have 3 immature, rummy-from-sheer-exhaustion people in the same area - there will be laughing.  Loud laughing.  At which, the wicked old people still either have no idea or just don't care.  Still trying to figure out if I should be mortified for them or give them a standing ovation.

We finally hit base at about 10:30am.  What is usually a quick 10 to 11 hour drive (max) turned into about 15.  We cleared the gate, found home, unloaded, showered, dressed and ready for naps all within about an hour.

Dinner out 

Crashed early (school night).  Tomorrow's agenda will include finding a car wash and ridding the Cooper of the white, disgusting road elements it's accumulated.  It resembles a salt lick right now.