March 25, 2015

An evening with Rosanne Cash...

Crossed one off the bucket list this week...

We saw Rosanne Cash live in concert on Monday, and she did not disappoint.

The singer-songwriter defines music category labels, having started with country in the 70s before going pop in the 90s and more folk/Americana in recent years, winning 3 Grammy awards this February for her most recent album The River & The Thread.

The daughter of country legend Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash is known for country hits like Seven Year Ache and Tennessee Flat Top Box, and also delivered lesser known pop albums in the 90s, including one of my all-time favourite albums of any genre, The Wheel; she has had a resurgence lately with The List (country classics inspired by her father) and the southern-themed The River & The Thread.

Cash has also written several books including a terrific autobiography Composed.

Her show Monday was about musicianship not spectacle; the first half of the show was with Cash and her five-man ensemble performing the new album in its entirety, in sequence, which worked beautifully as it ties together as a diary of travels in the south, with musical meditations on family and history and faith and country and blues and the strangeness of the south. 

The second half of the show was a sampling of her hits, plus a sparse beautiful cover of Ode To Billy Joe (she talks about its setting at the Tallahatchie Bridge when introducing her current music).

With her rich voice and playful personality, Cash is a treat to see live as she tells stories and links the songs together into a tapestry of her life. I recommend her tour highly... and if you can't see her, check out her music especially The Wheel or The List.

March 22, 2015

Kerry Washington's Amazing GLAAD speech

At last night's GLAAD media awards in Los Angeles Scandal star Kerry Washington received the Vanguard Award for her support as a powerful LGBT ally and brought the audience to its feet with an inspiring fiery speech; I saw it posted on YouTube this morning and now love her even more....

"We need more LGBT representation in the media. We need more LGBT characters and more LGBT storytelling. We need more diverse LGBT representation. And by that, I mean lots of different kinds of LGBT people living all different kinds of lives. And this is big — we need more employment of LGBT people in front of and behind the camera."
"There are people in this world who have the full rights of citizenship in our communities our countries and around the world, and then there are those of us, who to varying degrees, do not. We don’t have equal access to education, to health care, and some other basic liberties – like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices. Now you would think that those of us who are kept from our full rights of citizenship would ban together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that, no, often we don’t... Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people, we have been pitted against each other and made to feel that there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of other."
She went on to call out the hypocrisy of marginalized communities turning on one another throughout her speech and encouraged those groups to support one another rather than rejecting "the other other."  
"So when black people today tell me that they don't believe in gay marriage… the first thing that I say is please don't let anybody try to get you to vote against your own best interests by feeding you messages of hate. And then I say, you know people used to say stuff like that about you and your love. And if we let the government start to legislate love in our lifetime, who do you think is next?" 
"We can't say that we believe in each other’s fundamental humanity and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each others existence and the truth of each other’s hearts. We must be allies. And we must be allies in this business because to be represented is to be humanized. And as long as anyone, anywhere is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable."

March 19, 2015

Agatha Christie's Poirot... Born Again!

I grew up on Agatha Christie mysteries, those archetypal proper British whodunit's set in pre-war country estates and upscale houses; shortly after I graduated from Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys, my grandfather introduced me to the Agatha Christie mysteries and they became my favourites. 

Christie, who died in 1976 at age 85, is the world's best selling author having sold more than two billion copies in more than a hundred countries (holy crap, that's a lot).

While we've seen many relaunches of novels and book series, from Sherlock Holmes to James Bond to Gone With The Wind, the heirs of Agatha Christie never allowed anyone to touch her detective Hercule Poirot... until late last year.

The new bestseller The Monogram Mysteries, by Sophie Hannah, is the first new Hercule Poirot book since Christie's finale Curtain was published in 1976. And it was worth the wait.

Monogram begins with a grisly triple murder in 1929 London, where three corpses are found in three different rooms, each with a monogrammed cufflink in their mouth. Hannah's Poirot does all the right Christie-ish things, working with and working around the police to discover what really happened.

The book has the intricacy if maybe not the brevity of vintage Christie. On its own this is a sparkling mystery, and any non-Christie-esque voice is explained by a new narrator as Poirot's new sidekick.

Even if you haven't read earlier Poirot novels, give this one a shot... I'm already looking forward to the next one, and am going to check out other novels by Hannah...

March 10, 2015

Netflix discovery 'Every Day' ...

Sharing a Netflix discovery... Helen Hunt and Live Schreiber in Every Day, a 2010 flick I had never heard of and that should have gotten more attention than it did.

Ned (Schreiber) writes for a sleazy TV medical drama. He sits around with the other writers who make wisecracks like "sex with one's dog is the new sex with one's cat" while dreaming up crazy new plot twists, and Ned feels square and out of place.

Times are changing and Ned is finding it hard to keep up, from money issues to his teenage son coming out as gay to his raging incontinent depressive father-in-law (Brian Dennehy) moving in. He starts up an affair with a younger co-worker, fumbles the relationship with his gay son, and messes up with his wife. 

While this feels like the plot of a TV movie (and granted we watched it on our TV), it is elevated above that by superb writing and acting. 

Oscar winner Hunt is especially terrific -- from worrying about her aging body to being aware of her husband's roving eye to taking care of the father she doesn't really like to trying to be realistic and supportive of her gay teenager, this is a complex performance and she nails it.

While it is not a happy film, it is a touching one; check out Every Day... 

And what are you watching on Netflix?

March 1, 2015

TV: What We're Watching...

I spent much of this winter weekend binge watching season 3 of Netflix's House of Cards, the buzzy award-winning soapy political drama.

Netflix is the crack for binge watchers, as in addition to having full seasons of classic and cult TV shows to stream, they do things like release the full 13 episodes of a season all at once. Bastards.

In addition to Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as the most manipulative first couple ever in House Of Cards, I have already finished the latest season of Downton Abbey, and How To Get Away With Murder is over for the season; on the upside am pretty happy that the best show on TV The Good Wife is finally back this month, and Outlander returns in April.

Here's three other shows I am watching... let me know what you are hooked on!

Looking - Season two of HBO's gay comedy drama (known as the homo Sex And The City) is still slow and not sexy enough, however it is touching and fascinating. Not sure if I love watch it or hate watch it, but I watch it.

Grantchester - This BBC series is Downton Abbey meets Murder She Wrote, with a handsome soldier turned vicar who suffers from PTSD and unrequited love as its lead... gorgeous drama, interesting mysteries and really careful handling of gay topics make this one better than expected. Plus the hot vicar has a cute puppy!

The Mindy Project - Season three of Mindy Kaling's romantic comedy far surpasses its first two years -- faster, funnier, looser, with Mindy and coworker Danny finally together, the witty culture clash of their families, a surprise pregnancy, and great cameos from the likes of Rhea Perlman and Stephen Colbert. This one should get way more attention than it does.

.... What are you watching?