Monday, March 25, 2013

Share and Share Alike

From a very early age, children are encouraged to share their food, their toys, and their lives with others. That may be one reason why adults find social media so rewarding.
  • One's ease in sharing photographs, articles, and videos with friends is infectious. 
  • One's sense of humor gets tickled on a regular basis.
  • One's ability to learn from people with differing viewpoints is empowering.
  • One's curiosity is constantly nurtured.
Every now and then, a wild and campy gem pops up, like this video that was posted by James Jorden on his Facebook page:

Sharing requires a certain degree of intimacy. Whether that intimacy is physical, emotional, or intellectual, it can easily be challenged by forces beyond one's control. Consider the following short, which was screened during the recent CAAMFest.

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Some people's work allows them to nurture a rich fantasy life. For writers, artists, and other creative types, the ability to have imaginary friends may fan the flames of surprisingly deeper emotions than those felt by their co-workers. With a wonderfully imaginative script written by Maki Arai, Nobuyuki Miyake's 23-minute short stars Akinori Doi as Ryosuke, a young dental specialist who works on sculpting replacement teeth for people who have suffered major facial injuries.

While his comrades at work tease him for being so devoted to his craft, there's a lot more going on in Ryosuke's mind than they could ever imagine. As the promotional blurb for No Longer There explains:
"Visible both when our bodies are alive and dead, teeth transcend the show-and-tell of time. A young women (Ann Nakamura) suddenly falls victim to an accident and loses her front teeth. The man tasked with making her artificial dentures grows close to this woman he has never meet as he envisions her style and voice in an intimate imaginary world of his own creation. Their time together was only supposed to last until her dentures were complete. But what happens when this man and woman meet in the real world?"

This exquisite short shows a remarkably mature talent at work. I don't know which was more effective: the scene in which Ryosuke sits in a restaurant, recognizes the woman whose dentures he created, and watches as she gets cruelly dumped by her boyfriend or the scene by a beach, where an elderly woman urges the shy denture sculptor to make contact with Sonomi as the young woman passes by.

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In 1956, when Around The World In 80 Days was released in Todd-AO, Bing Crosby scored a major hit with his recording of the film's title song. I'm especially partial to the slide show that accompanies this recording by The Chordettes.

Patti LuPone recently brought her Far Away Places show to Live at the Rrazz's new digs in the old Don Lee Cadillac Building on Van Ness Avenue. Although the room is still undergoing some physical alterations, it's an extremely attractive venue that can hold a substantially larger crowd than the old Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko. Here's a clip from her show when she performed Far Away Places at New York's new cabaret venue, 54 Below.

LuPone's show revolves around an international theme. Whether ladling a thick Sicilian accent onto "I Wanna Be Around" or going full Cockney for Stephen Sondheim's "By The Sea" (from 1979's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), LuPone took great pride in her Juilliard training, noting that  "I do all kinds of accents -- just like Meryl."

Thus it came as no surprise to hear LuPone spoof Edith Piaf's famous "Non, je ne regrette rien" with Bill Burnett's "I Regret Everything" before launching into the beloved French torch singer's "Hymn to Love." Nor was it difficult for her to travel the stylistic distance between Cole Porter's "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking" and Clay Boland and Moe Jaffe's "The Gypsy In My Soul." With her trademark dramatic intensity, LuPone performed David Yazbek's "Invisible" (which she sang in 2010's musical adaptation of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown).

Her skill as an actress allows LuPone to bring a lonely wistfulness to songs like "I Cover The Waterfront" and "Travelin' Light" and yet, accompanied only by Chris Fenwick on piano, to flex her dramatic muscles on Kurt Weill's "Pirate Jenny" (from 1928's The Threepenny Opera) and "September Song" (from 1938's Knickerbocker Holiday).

What I love about cabaret acts like LuPone's Far Away Places is how they give singers a chance to introduce contemporary audiences to long-lost novelty songs. Consider "Nagasaki" (a jazz song written in 1928 by Harry Warren and Mort Dixon (which is sung in the following clip by Adolph Robinson in a scene from a 1935 Major Bowes "Harmony Broadcast" that was distributed to movie theatres).  After the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, that song quickly lost its popularity.

LuPone scored strongly with Cole Porter's "I Love Paris" (from 1953's Can-Can) and her encore of "Istanbul (not Constantinople," a delightful tongue twister that could easily hold its own against any patter song written by Gilbert and Sullivan.

With a devoted crowd of loyal fans packing the room, LuPone's Far Away Places program, though barely 75 minutes long, was filled with some wonderful singing by an artist who gets a visceral thrill from making music. Here's a delightful clip of Patti LuPone performing with the one and only Seth Rudetsky.

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