Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Hangover

I'm not sorry Randy and I went to see The Hangover Friday night; something stupid and fluffy seemed appropriate for a spontaneous date night after Randy's long day of golf and the imbibing that accompanies those kind of work functions. But I am sorry that the filmmakers had to make such a horrible movie. I did laugh, guiltily, at absurd lines like "I didn't know they handed out rings at the Holocaust" but more often I just sat and stared. The actors try desperately for hilarity in the leaden hands of a director and editor who make most of their efforts futile. Three white guys being beat with a tire iron by a naked Asian man could be tastelessly riotous if shot and cut with weightlessness and a sense of surprise. Not here. The trailer is cut more deftly than the film.

Compare The 40 Year Old Virgin's justly famous chest-waxing with Hangover's lame Tasering scene. Sure, Virgin had the spectacle of Steve Carell's genuine pain, but the staging, acting and cutting of the scene also work to maximize our shocked laughter. When the three protagonists of Hangover line up one by one to get zapped by schoolchildren, there's no tension, no growing suspense, and barely a resemblance of actual pain.

In fact, the entire search for the missing groom after a bachelor party gone bad lacks the crucial elements of urgency and risk. The show inexplicably needs to go on, but you don't feel why that is so important. The bride whose "special day" might be marred is portrayed as a cipher, yet a severe one. The three groomsmen are well-off enough to financially recover from trashing their $4000/night hotel suite.

The homophobia, racism and Helm's harpy girlfriend (Rachel Harris) are gut-churning enough, but I have to reserve some special ire for the character played by Bradley Cooper, a perfect ass who desperately needs his comeuppance. Lacking the endearing awkwardness of co-stars Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, Cooper plays a cock-sure pretty boy with understanding wife, cute child and a never-ending stream of quips who lands on this feet by the end of the film, annoying confidence intact. I want him to lose the tooth. I wish this movie could have reached down deep into the funny place and tattooed Cooper's face.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Initiated by Muscle, Then Boney Movement

Did you watch Randi and Evan dance last night on SYTYCD? Jaw-dropping.

Randy (my Randy, not the versatile little powerhouse on display here) says, "I have a new show to hate!" but he was really talking about cheesy production values. I'll forgive him his "Mummenschanz!" dismissal of the beautiful crash test dummies number from two weeks ago. The "dance-off" portion on results night is truly silly (low-scorers flail around and do as many splits as they can while the audience counts down until a deep voice intones, "So You Think You Can Dance?"), but the "Koop Island Blues" number last night was haunting, special, beyond the level of your typical reality show talent contest. Can you call 90 seconds of butt worship a work of art?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In the Garden

Really, is there any lovelier garden flower than the peony? Zero upkeep except for staking, huge blossoms that last long when cut and carried inside by the armful to decorate your kitchen in extravagantly lush arrangements, sweet scent. I don't even mind the big black ants; if I was a lowly insect, I'd want to live inside their soft petals too. My roses need timely pruning, fertilizer and special-order ladybugs to eat the aphids. All my peonies need to thrive is my gratitude.

Sorry I didn't capture the false indigo in full bloom. It was gorgeous. Another low maintenance plant that astounds every spring by sprouting up four or five feet from the bare ground. Delicate blue blossoms on long curly stems.

Weed or no? The Chalet woman says yes, but I'm liking the color. You can see more false indigo to the side.

Only three of the eight alliums we enjoyed last year have returned and smaller than I remember. Do I need to fertilize these? I think the four who didn't even put up flower shoots were in too shady a spot. Still love what I got. Those purple balls on impossibly long stems crack me up. Two weekends ago we saw another version of this flower in the quiet walled garden tucked into the northwest corner of the Art Institute. The flower heads were enormous, composed of individual purple blossoms that looked like opening stars. The effect was purple fireworks, caught in mid explosion.

Weed? It resembles astilbe, but a giant honking version of that usually delicate flower.

Can you name this pretty spring flower?

Our kind neighbors replaced the old fence bordering our yards last month. The dad surprised us with a small gate so our girls can easily run over to play with their daughter, their new puppy and the playset. "It's the kind of neighborhood where you'll walk into someone's house to borrow ketchup," he had described when we first moved here. They're good people and we're lucky. It's a delicate balance of intimacy and tolerance to be neighbors that work well. I'm delighted when their six year old knocks on the door, usually bearing a tiny candy gift for Mia and Nora; I feel their trust and it feels good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We Have a Winner!!

Here, Mia and Joanna the Amazing draw the winning name for the first ever We All Fall Down contest.

As my girls like to say, "Wait for it...wait for it!" (My, that blue wall behind them needs a little something, doesn't it? I have just the painting, Mike Zaremba's "The Mighty Jumbo Saving Little Tom Thumb From the Oncoming Locomotive," but we haven't found our stud sensor yet to hang it properly. Oh sorry, did you want to see the name? Back to the drawing...)

Winner! Winner! Winner! Congratulations, Anne Ward!! Not only do you win four tickets to Aladdin on stage at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, but here's a plug (entirely heartfelt) for your blogs!

Anne is the talented writer of "Ward on Words" and "Sippycup Nation," both worth a read! Check them out!

Thanks for all who entered!

New Post on Chicago Moms Blog

It's called "Body of Knowledge" which it what it takes to be 45 years old and finally, finally, totally comfortable in my skin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free Tickets to My Sister's Keeper

Readers of We All Fall Down are invited to a screening of the new movie My Sister's Keeper on June 22 at 8pm, at AMC Theater River East in Chicago. The adaptation of Jodi Picoult's bestselling novel is directed by Nick Cassavetes and stars Alec Baldwin, Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Jason Patric and Joan Cusack.

To get your free tickets, follow the link below. You'll be asked to register, but the process is quick and painless.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Free Tickets to Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Aladdin!

Sing it with me! "I can show you a world...Shining, shimmering, splendid!"

I'm thrilled to host my first contest for tickets to Disney's Aladdin at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. You can win four tickets to any performance July 1-11 at the beautiful CST on Navy Pier.

All you need to do is leave a comment below by 6 pm on Tuesday, June 23. The lucky winner will be notified the next day.

Remember the story of a Baghdad orphan who impersonates a prince with the help of a hilarious Genie? The unforgettable songs include the Oscar winning "Whole New World" with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman.

Leave a comment now for your chance to win!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Read Rolling Stone So You Don't Have To

You should have seen the cute knowing smile on the clerk's face when I asked for the latest Rolling Stone at Evanston's City News, the greatest magazine and newspaper stand north of Chicago.

He knew I was looking for the Adam Lambert cover article. My fascination with the American Idol runner-up is made up of equal parts admiration of his music and the charismatic mismatch between Lambert's "rocker" persona and his chubby cheeks and persistent graciousness when the music stops. The piece offered plenty of sex and drugs talk, but a little less than I wanted on the rock 'n roll. (He did say of "Whole Lotta Love": "The groove is so sick on this song.") I was hoping to read Lambert's own thoughts about his vocal technique and his craft and where he finds that amazing falsetto and control; I had to be satisfied with his revelation that his strategy was not about winning the competition, but about staying "on the platform" as long as he could. Turns out that by taking second place, he got the car, the contract, as much (if not more) exposure than Allen AND he didn't have to sing the crappy Kara "No Boundaries" song ever again nor try to find a place in his condo for the ugly trophy. Lambert wins.

PLUS, we got the amazing spectacle of a shocked-to-the-point-of-reluctant winner. After the surprising result was read, while Seacrest blathered on about the "dark horse," Allen tilted his head back and put down his mike. With his scrawny half-grown mustache and his reluctant attitude, he resembled nothing so much as one of my high school students when caught where he knows defiance is futile. His first reaction a guilty one, he could only say, "Are you serious? Are you freaking serious? It feels good, man, but Adam, Adam deserves this. I'm sorry, I'm sorry I don't know what to feel right now. This is crazy." (As in crazy-wrong!)

Another reveal from the article - Lambert's version of "Ring of Fire" was inspired by Dilana Robichaux, a RockStar Supernova contestant who did a beautiful "Time After Time" in her throaty Marianne Faithful voice. Well, it is one of those near-perfect songs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Shedd Aquarium's New Polar Play Zone

I took the girls to the Shedd today to check out their years-in-the-making renovation and new children's play area. We had a lovely time. We'd planned to go yesterday afternoon but the line was out the door and down the steps. I knew there would be another endless snaky line once we were inside the doors so we passed on the visit and walked over to the Field instead.

Today, we breezed under the inflatable whale arch and through the Shedd entrance around ten with no problem. We spent our first moments gawking at the sea turtle, rays and schools of fish serenely flying through the 90,000-gallon circular Caribbean Reef aquarium in the rotunda. Then we headed down to the Oceanarium on the lower level. The beluga whale habitat has been enlarged and enhanced, retaining the illusion of the coastal Pacific Northwest. The girls were entranced by the four belugas we saw, including a gray baby who has yet to change his coat to shining white. The whales waved their tails and fins and one spit at a guard to the delight of my girls.

We made out way to the north end of the Oceanarium and descended another set of steps to the Polar Play Zone. The thick glass walls of the whale and beluga tanks line the new play and eating areas of the Play Zone so your lunch could be interrupted by gasps as a Pacific white-sided dolphin glides by, up-side-down and only a few feet away.

Child-level wave pools invite little ones to get wet and explore the play and real versions of shallow sea creatures. The girls and I were amazed at the strange feel of spiny urchins and giant starfish in brilliant shades of purple and orange. Plenty of hand-washing stations keep kids and creatures safe.

The soon-to-be-interactive penguin exhibit is still under construction, but we watched the cute wobbles and hops of the birds before moving on to the highlight of our visit. A tiny yellow submarine, built for children seven and under fascinated the girls. They joined a crowd of kids working the knobs, dials and lit buttons of the sub, peering through the periscope, revving up the propellor and operating a tiny robot arm that picks up shell samples. The child-sized scuba tanks and masks to wear as they worked/played were in high demand. The role-playing reached a level of intense engagement that was very cool to observe; kids called out orders, bustled and reached over the instrument panels, completely serious in their fun.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Storm Large Sings Dramarama

Last weekend my friend Kristen laid down the guantlet when she said she liked the new music I post here. Thanks, Kristen, but really? Now I'm tempted to show MGMT's new video. I'm mad mad mad about the band and "KIds" raises interesting questions about sacrificing children on the alter of art, but I can't bear seeing how they make a child cry. Reminds me of the Stephen King story, "Morality" in the new Esquire.

So instead, here's a flashback to the summer of 2006 when Randy and I were following Rockstar Supernova, another reality singing competition, but this time with the talentless culled out and a judges panel that featured two of business's biggest tools, Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro.

Below is the stunning performance of Storm Large (yes, that's her real name) singing Dramarama's "Anything, Anything." I love how she belts it, love how the song captures the restlessness we feel even with those we love most.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Profundities of the Six Year Old

"What if zero was the largest number and infinity was the smallest?"

Of the Scooby Doo mysteries: "It's always the person you least exshpect."

"When you say, 'Ug,' it means the same thing as when you roll your eyes."