Are You Not Entertained?: Rock of Ages Not For Me

I love eighties music so much!

I discovered most of my favorite music from this decade on my own as a preteen, but when I met Josh whose entire childhood had been defined by his nostalgic music-buff parents, the two of us couldn’t help making cheesy eighties anthems the soundtrack of our courtship. The songs we would blare on Pennsylvania back roads with our windows down were energetic, full of emotion, and just plain sexy. It didn’t take long for us to associate some of our best memories as a couple with rocking out and singing along to Journey, Chicago, and other gods of the era.

I have to admit that being the good little Christian girl that I was, the emotional and often hormonal high that eighties rock gave me was a little unsettling at times. I was beyond excited at the way that being married dissolved that tension between Josh and I and enabled us to just have fun and really enjoy each other.

Hey, if we wanted to make out on a hillside to Bryan Adams at midnight, we could!

Sorry if that’s TMI, haha.

My point is, the 1980’s were one, giant, decade-long party. The music, movies, fashion, and pop culture icons all pointed to the rockstar lifestyle founded on three things: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Or sex, hateful music, and sex if you prefer to quote Rock of Ages‘ Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What, then, did I expect to find in going to see the eighties lovefest that is movie musical Rock of Ages? Well, I expected a dazzling trifecta of film, music, and theater, three of my all-time favorite things. I expected a good time like those that filled my high school days with Josh.

I expected the music I loved without the lifestyle that I knew went along with it.

PROS:

The music. This goes without saying. The vocals are good (although a bit uninspiring because of inevitable comparison to the originals), but what really take this film to the top are the ingenious mashups mentioned in the above featurette. Songs that I never would have thought to combine are layered together in a musical cocktail that always succeeds in creating powerful moments and telling a story.

Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough as starry-eyed pair of dreamers Drew and Sherrie are pure sugar. They are adorable and touching whether in the bar, at the beach, or rollerblading on the boardwalk. We can’t help but share their enthusiasm be it about rock and roll or about each other. Well cast and well played. These kids rock!

As the critics have already declared, Tom Cruise is king in this film. He absolutely killed this role. Not only is the character vastly different from anyone he’s ever portrayed before, but it requires an out-of-this-world amount of confidence and gutsy, ear-splitting rock-and-roll vocals. Cruise rises to the challenge, owning the character and really living in Stacee Jaxx for every second of the film–from the stage to the steamy hotel room.

CONS:

Too many subplots. Director Andrew Shankman took some creative liberties with the story line, and he’s honestly made it difficult to emotionally commit to one character’s (or even group of characters’) progression. Is the main conflict Drew and Sherrie’s struggle to gain the spotlight without losing love? Is it the Bourbon Room’s battle against the squelching conservatism of the mayor and his wife? Is it Stacee Jaxx’s internal fight with the lonesome and empty cowboy found inside his sexed-up rockstar exterior? I don’t know, and I don’t think they do either.

A climax to the film was also hard to pinpoint due to the fact that there were so many explosive musical numbers that seemed to “sum up” what had happened thus far in the plot.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The Bourbon Room is a temple to partying becoming “a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music, and puke” every night. Drunken sexual encounters and unpleasant bodily functions are laughed off, stripping and pole-dancing are idealized, and a mocking homosexual romance is injected into the plot.

And then there’s Stacee Jaxx. Stacee is always surrounded by a virtual harem of groupies who wander around with him in a perpetually drunken and drugged haze. His fiery interaction with Malin Akerman’s mild-mannered journalist character involves a strip down which the audience witnesses fully, kissing of rather intimate body parts, and a whole lot of licking. Now that is TMI.

CONCLUSION:

Rock of Ages is both a glorifying tribute and teasing parody of 1980’s American culture. That being said, a whole lot of filth accompanies what I had hoped would be good-natured fun centered around an incredible style of music.

I wish the movie had just been about Drew and Sherrie’s inspiring romance kindled by good times together and a pursuit of crazy dreams. But alas, Stacee Jaxx’s tortured character who has been shaped into a sex idol by the rock and roll industry shatters this innocence. Stacee even acknowledges to a magazine interviewer that being in the public eye keeps him from searching for true love, “the one thing that could save [him.]” Unfortunately, the “true love” he finds with this same magazine interviewer is illustrated by full-tongue french kissing and groping on a pool table to “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” 

Pretty sure that is not what love is.

I understand that the point is to show what the breakneck-paced rockstar life can lead to in contrast with the hometown wholesomeness of Drew and Sherrie. It is a film about being true to yourself, holding onto your dreams, and deciding what you really want. Unfortunately, Rock of Ages shows us a little to much of what we really don’t want. I think these points could have been made with less near-explicit sexuality and attention to drugs and alcohol. Definitely not a family movie. Probably could have used an R rating instead of the tenuous PG-13. All in all, a disappointment.

Just buy the soundtrack 😉

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For Your Inspiration: Neil Gaiman Love

**READER ADVISORY** There is an instance of (censored) strong language some will find objectionable in the poem included in this post.
 
The purpose of this post is no doubt a bit unique.
 
I would first like to shed some light for the currently oblivious crowd of lit-lovers who have yet to make his acquaintance to the off-beat and infinitely charming Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a poet, novelist, writer of short stories and non-fictional musings, lover, fighter, dreamer, and magic-maker–not to mention the fact that he is British and has one of the most delicious accents imaginable. His creative mind is wild and limitless but at the same time controlled, collected, and narrated in a level and soothing tone of voice that no one can quite duplicate.
 
I recently watched all of the YouTube videos recorded at the “Ninja Gig” of Amanda Palmer, Gaiman’s musician wife, at Good Records in Dallas this April. To my delight, Gaiman decided, as he often does, to humbly read a few of his favorite poems, one of which had recently been written about his beloved wife.
All of the poems were beautifully written and even more beautifully read. I cannot recommend enough The Day the Saucers Came.” Make sure you listen to Gaiman recite it rather than just reading it for yourself. It really makes all the difference. The thing that struck me the most, however, was that in my fandom I had never yet discovered the following poem dedicated to Amanda Palmer and that scouring Google didn’t turn up any text versions of this beautiful work. All I seemed to find were video recitations.
 
Well, for those who come behind me, I leave you this, the written version of Gaiman’s “For Amanda,” that you may pour over it’s beauty and sweetness over and over again. Keep in mind that poems written specifically for performance can vary from reading to reading and that many words in this particular piece may be different in other versions available online.
 
For Amanda, An Appreciation After Christopher Smart, Sort Of
by Neil Gaiman
 
For I shall enumerate my lady’s charms although they are numberless.
 
For firstly, she has a smile like a beam of sunlight breaking through a cloud in a medieval painting.
 
For secondly, she moves like cats and panthers, and also she can stand still.
 
For thirdly, she has eyes of a color that no two people can agree on which I remember when I close my eyes.
 
For fourthly, she laughs at my jokes, sings unconcerned on the sidewalk, and gives money to buskers as a religious act.
 
For fifthly, she f*cks like wild cats and thunderstorms.
 
For sixthly, her kisses are gentle.
 
For seventhly, I would follow her or walk behind her or in front of her wherever she wished to go, and being with her would ease my mind.
 
For eighthly, I dream of her and am comforted.
 
For ninthly, there is no one like her, not that I’ve ever met, and I’ve met so many people, no one at all.
 
For tenthly, she squeals when I say “wastepaper basket,” and also in the morning, eyebrowless and waking, she always looks so perfectly surprised.

A Country-Hater Defends Country Music

Dear Country Music,

I don’t like you.

In fact, there was a time in my life when I could honestly say, “I like all music except country.”

Life was simple. None of the awkwardness of my hipster friends asking me what I thought of some obscure band and then needing to actually go and listen to some of their songs before I could make a judgment call. If it was a country song, I could guarantee that I wouldn’t like it. The stereotypical whining drawl, the severely outdated twang of the hillbilly’s banjo, the adoration of trucks and beer–none of it appealed to me. In fact, I was offended that this stuff was taking up the airwaves.

Things have grown complicated now that I have been condemned to carpooling with my sister for the length of the summer. It’s her car. She runs the radio. We listen to country.

To maintain my sanity, Ive tried to open my mind to the great variety of music available in the country genre. If I were to be honest with myself and the rest of the world, I would have to admit that there are now a few country songs that I enjoy and even more that I can tolerate quite easily.

Wanting to give all art forms an equal chance (and to convince myself that I will make it through these next few months of car pooling), I have therefore made an effort to objectively analyze the good points of the country music industry.

Here is my country-hater’s defense of country music:

1. It tells a story.

I dare you to find a country song whose lyrics don’t form some type of narrative. A lot of the stories are sad (hence the “I lost my dog, my truck, and my woman” stereotype), but just as many are joyous and/or party-related (hence the “Let’s drink Bud Lite on my tailgate while we baja through some farmer’s cornfield” stereotype.

More importantly, the fact that the lyrics of these songs are trying to weave some type of yarn for listeners makes them automatically meaningful. Just for this reason country is instantly greater than the arbitrary “tick tock on the clock but the party don’t stop no” mumbo jumbo chasing you every time you change the dial.

2. It is uniquely American.
There isn’t an aspect of pop culture that captures the pure apple-pie-and-ice-cream American reality better than country music does. While as many people will sing along to “Call Me Maybe” in South Korea as in North Dakota, country will forever be the product of Nashville, Tennessee and will forever sing about topics close to the heart of it’s motherland. Good home cooking, faithful friends, the freedom to turn our music up as loud as we want, and the sex appeal of a guy or girl in uniform are themes that will never cease to blare out of the nation’s country stations.
I doubt there’s a United States citizen who doesn’t know a few bars of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.” We are all proud to be Americans, and country songs don’t merely come out and say just that. They take time to sing the praises of the little things that make living in America so great.


3. It expresses emotion in a way that no other musical style can.

Somewhere between the impressive vocal ranges of the singers, the explicit declarations of love and loss in the lyrics, and the tense crescendos followed by glorious musical climaxes, even the most hard-hearted country-hater inevitably finds herself feeling something. Now that is art.

If you’re a lady who can resist the charm of a country love song, you’re a stronger woman than me.

4. It brings people together. 
Maybe it’s the patriotism. Maybe it’s the nostalgia. Maybe it’s the sense of good, clean, reckless fun that makes you want to take to the freeway with your top down. Like it or not, liking country music is contagious. The way it can make a crowd of people clap their hands, stomp their feet, or just sway side to side creates an environment that no one would want to miss out on.
If someone you love and/or respect and spend a lot of time with is into country, I guarantee that it is only a matter of time before you start to find that you are as well. *Ahem* Rachel.
While I still can’t quite say that country music has made a believer out of me, to quote Gloriana, I’m “on the edge and ready to fall.”
Sincerely,
A (former?) country-hater  

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Everything’s Better at Wegmans

Feelin’ webcammy in Weggies

Awkward:

  • My eye is all puffy in the above pic because I haven’t put makeup on in so long!
  • So Rachel drops me off at Wegmans on the way to work. I have no car, and it turns out Grandma doesn’t come in to work at the bakery until 2:30 in the afternoon. This means there is no one to watch my stuff (including my laptop, purse, and the groceries I just bought) while I go to the bathroom. I have to lug it all in with me. There is nowhere to set my laptop except the filthy floor. I decide to hold it on my lap while I do my business. Well, why not check for the email I’m expecting from my mom while I’m here? Awkwardest silence ever after everyone in the public restroom jumps out of their skin at the incredibly loud startup sound of a computer coming from the handicap stall.
  • Not to mention the general awkwardness of trying to kill three hours in Wegmans while I wait for my Grandma to come into work with her car.
  • Getting locked out of our car in downtown Rochester and jimmying the thing with a dead branch (actually, that lats part was pretty awesome)
  • Having to leave the house at 4:45am so that Rachie can get to work, planning on working out in the two and a half hours until my shift started, falling asleep until two minutes before I was supposed to be at work, and then going to work in my fluorescent gym clothes.

Awesome:

  • Wegmans Jamaican Me Crazy coffee. Dark roast coffee, warm cinnamon, and Jamaican rum–a trinity made in heaven!
  • Never thought I’d be a fan of Polish food, but I love bialys! They seem so easy to make, too!
  • The uber-comfy patio lounge at Weggies.
  • New makeup! I bought my first ever lipstick. I am now the proud owner of the shades of Really Red, Berry Haute, and Peach Me 🙂
  • Lovely mild and sunny weather today.
  • I see about 3 cardinals a day out here in Canandaigua.
  • Frappe Freezes–particularly of the chai tea variety.
  • The King’s Faith movie screening last Saturday! The vintage theater at the George Eastman House was absolutely gorgeous, and getting together with my friends to celebrate our hard work was truly special.
  • Meeting up with Mom for Mexican food tonight.
  • Almost a whole week with my honey because of his weird schedule! But that means it will be much longer than a week before I can see him again :-(. Ten days, to be exact.

Artist Inspiration: Mike Tompkins


Mike Tomkins, his voice, and a pair of headphones
These are the only items you will notice in a typical Mike Tomkins music video. No background dancers, no background singers, not even any instuments. Mike is all of the above.
I know that artists like Sam Tsui and Nick Pitera are already quite famous for posting videos and recordings of musical arrangements featuring only one singer’s voice duplicated into multiple layers of harmonies. While I can hardly get enough of either of these guys, Mike Tompkins blows me away far more than either of them.
Mike is, first and foremost, a beatboxer; however, he is so much more than just this. His “beats” are not only made up of the typical drums, cymbals, and bass lines that are good for a few laughs at a party. They are also rich with piano harmonies, guitar riffs, electronic bleeps and bloops, and multiple lines of background vocals. Personally, I find his singing much less impressive than his “vocal innovation” and impersonation of musical instruments and effects, but it is without a doubt the charming performance in its entirety and unity that creates the mesmerizing effect.

Perez Hilton has described Mike as “pretty on the eyes and the ears.”

True as this may be, it’s still easy to get tired of watching video after video of a pop song cover sung by digital replicas of the same guy bopping around and singing to each other. That’s why the video for Chris Brown’s “Forever” is by far my favorite performance of Mike’s. The video is still simple, but the cinematography is warm and creative as well, full of energy and intrigue. I hope you found it enjoyable.

Also worth checking out are Mike’s covers of Coldplay’s “Paradise” and Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Can’t quite compete with the originals, but still amazing displays of talent and creativity.

Hats–or rather, headphones–off to you, Mike Tompkins!

Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Get My Model On!

Derp
Haha! So I realized that I didn’t have a modeling-related picture of me to include with this week’s A&AT that has a lot to do with modeling, so I thought I would just awkwardify an old picture of me. Brilliant, right?

Awkward:
  • Dude, nude models get paid like a bajillion dollars per session! (Not considering this, guys. Just jealous)
  • Pineapple basil gelato. It was actually pretty good. Very refreshing. Very odd.
  • Waiting for important emails. I must check each account once every five minutes! 
  • Having to work all day while it’s sunny and gorgeous and my sis has the day off.
  • Ray Bradbury is not with us anymore. Sad days.
  • Craigslist. Just be careful out there, ya’ll. It can get supersketch.
  • Not having a car.

Awesome:
  • Getting back on the modeling circuit. I’m on the web! JessicaThurston.webs.com. I’m all professional and stuff.
  • An absolutely lovely day spent with my mom, sisters, and grandma at the breathtaking Sonnenberg Gardens. It was a photography hayday.
  • Remembering to Tweet and/or update my Facebook status. I’m so proud 🙂
  • Brandon watching Arrested Development next to me at the ILL desk all day.
  • Getting to work on both sides of the camera this summer! Lot of exciting shoots coming up.
  • Neon. I’ve finally jumped on the trend bandwagon.