Monday, January 1, 2018

All The World's A Stage

We are very lucky that our family enjoys doing many things together.  One of the things we all truly enjoy is live theater.  We enjoy great stories told well, great writing, innovative use of the stage, memorable music and great sets and costumes.  Both of our kids enjoy performing themselves and so they really get a kick out of seeing how different actors choose to interpret roles.

Yesterday, on New Year's Eve day, we saw our last (and 27th) show of the 2017.  Our first show of the year (on January 5th) was "Dear Evan Hansen".  It was definitely one of our favorites for the year and the original cast recording has been played many times in our home and car over the course of the year.  Our last show was "Once On This Island" which we enjoyed but didn't love.  The performances and voices were excellent, but the music never rose to the level that we would want to play it over and over the way we have with many shows.  The story is basically a simple, straight-forward Haitian fable.  It was 90 minutes with no intermission but still felt a bit tedious at times.

At brunch with our kids before the show, we all went through our calendars, Facebook and Instagram stories to compile a list of the shows we saw this year.  We limited the list to Broadway and off-Broadway and excluded the shows our kids performed in and other regional performances.

Here's what we saw:

Amelie
The Band's Visit
A Bronx Tale
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
The Great Comet
Groundhog Day
Hamilton
Hello Dolly
The Humans
Indecent
Kinky Boots
Meteor Shower
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Once On this Island
Oslo
The Play That Goes Wrong
The Portuguese Kid
Present Laughter
School of Rock
Spamilton
Sunday in the Park with George
Sunset Blvd
Sweeney Todd
Time and the Conways

War Paint

Despite our rather impressive list, there were still shows we missed. I won't complain too loudly.

Can't wait to see what 2018 will bring.

On a final note, given that this is January 1st, that means the end of our blog for this year.  Very proud of my family for keeping new entries coming to the blog every day of December.  This was our sixth year of doing the blog as a family and I love that it will serve as a time capsule of what was on everyone's minds each year.

Thanks to everyone who followed our blog again this year.  See you again next December!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reed’s Favorite Movies Of 2017

The end is nigh and boy did I have a great time at the theaters this year. The following are my favorite movies of 2017 (in order of release).

Get Out
Holy Jesus. This was probably one of the best movies I've seen in a while. So much cool sneaky symbolism that wasn't easily spottable but also wasn't patronizing. Had me on the edge of my seat. This is the kind of movie that makes me want to remember what it was like to watch it the first time in theaters.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
As I've written about in past years, I'm a huge fan of Marvel movies. This one was special to me because it stars a kid who was not much older than I was when I fell in love with this genre. His heroes were mine as a kid.

IT
I think this might be my complete favorite of the year. Never has a movie satisfied so many bases for me. It was creepy, funny, wholesome, and terrifying all at the same time.

An utter delight. It really shows when a director tries to make themself laugh instead of trying to make the audience laugh. I've never seen so many high quality special effects go to silly jokes and that was my favorite part. 

We'll see you in 2018

Saturday, December 30, 2017

NYC Four Days In A Row

I’ve gone/am going to be in New York City for the last 4 days of 2017, so I figured I'd write about that.

On Thursday, we went into the city so my brother and I could go to doctors appointments, and then we went to Brooklyn Diner and I got a really good, really big chicken pot pie (perfect for a freezing day). Later, we went to see The Post (because it's in theaters in the city but not in the suburbs yet). That was also REALLY GOOD. I love Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

Yesterday we fulfilled one of our Hanukkah presents and went on a tour of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. Jeez, those people must have serious electrical bills. After we went to Don't Tell Mama, a piano bar. There was a bartender who easily and flawlessly sang Waving Through a Window from Dear Evan Hanson while casually pouring and mixing drinks, which was very impressive.

Today, my dad won the Kinky Boots ticket lottery, and Im the only one in my family who hadn't seen it yet, so he and I went in to see that, which was really good and very inspiring. Billy Porter was SO GOOD. 'Nuf said.

Tomorrow, we're all going to the city again (I know, we're insane to go in on New Year's Eve, but we got tickets to see Once on This Island, so we're going to go in and see that matinee and gtfo of there before we get stuck there with tourists from all over.

That's what's up! Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve everyone, and I'll see y'all next year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Rob's Favorite TV Shows

So tonight is my turn to pick up the gauntlet laid down by my family and talk about my favorite TV shows. In no particular order, they are:

SHAMELESS
This is a show I wasn’t expecting to like when it first came out. It’s about a very poor family of six siblings who were basically raised by the eldest sister, Fiona (played by Emmy Rossum) because their mother was not around much (substance abuse and mental health issues) and their irresponsible drunk of a father (played by William H. Macy) can barely keep himself alive let alone care for any of his kids. Each character is different and richly drawn. They form a complex web of a family with many intersecting plots and situations. Although it has a scuzzy feeling, underneath it has a lot of heart. 

GAME OF THRONES
My son turned me on to this show after the first season and even offered to re-watch the entire season with me to “help” me catch up.  There are a lot of characters and storylines to follow but it pays to invest the time.  This show is an epic fantasy piece with really tremendous production values and a dark and dangerous undertone.  The show’s willingness to kill off major characters sets the stakes very high and establishes a tone that lets the viewer know that nobody is completely safe.  It is going to have its final season in 2018 so there’s time to catch up. 

WALKING DEAD
A tragic “end of the world as we know it” show.  It introduced us to zombies that crave living tissue and are more abundant in the world of the show than the “normal” people are.  It is graphic, violent, bloody and many of our favorite characters meet their fate in gruesome ways.  The fascinating thing about this show is that the humans that survive the zombie apocalypse are actually more scary than the zombies.  Living without laws or social norms, the humans fall back to their most base instincts to kill or be killed.  It is a graphic novel come to life and always keeps me at the edge of my seat.

BIG BANG THEORY
I couldn’t even tell you what season this show is in.  It is a lot.  But despite being on the air for many years, the producers and writers always come up with great situations to put the cast in and excellent lines that produce humor time and again from the simple premise of watching nerds interact with each other and with “normal” people of lesser intellect.  After so many seasons, one might expect the cast to start “phoning it in” but they seem as engaged and entertained by each other and themselves as we are.

HOMELAND
The first two seasons of this show were some of the best television I’ve ever seen.  It was tense, edge-of-your-seat, intrigue and action every single week.  And one of the most distinctive aspects of this show was the aggressive pace of its story-telling.  Storylines that other shows would milk for 3 or 4 episodes are brought forward and dealt with in a single episode, with more storylines following right behind them.  The acting and writing have stayed very strong and the key players of Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin never disappoint.  It has been and remains appointment viewing for me and my wife.


Those are my favorites among current television shows still on the air.  What are you watching?


Pat's Favorite TV Shows

Inspired by Grayson’s theme a few days ago, I will share my Top 5 shows.  However, in the interest of time, I have chosen to restrict myself to shows that are currently still on (even if on hiatus at the moment). Here goes in no particular order….

Shameless
I tend to like shows that I haven’t “seen” before.  And Shameless is definitely that type of show.  In the first season in particular, the viewer really has a window into this scamming family.  They work the system, gaming any and every opportunity that comes their way.  Nonetheless, I care about the characters because the kids, against the odds, seem to be good people.  We are currently in season 8, but apparently the writers thought the show was going to end with season 7. So, at the end of season 7, they did that lame wrap-up of tv shows that writers always seem to do – where everybody ends up on some unrealistic happy note.  And then the best thing happened: the decided to make the additional season.  So now, they had to pick up where they left off in happyland and get really creative.  Loving season 8!

CBS News Sunday Morning
I have been a fan of this show for like a decade now.  I love the unique topics they cover and I walk away from this show feeling like my time was well spent and I learned something new.  Did you know there is a museum of toilet bowl covers? Want to learn about leather-clad architect Peter Marino? Or design in Amsterdam? It’s all there on a silver platter for you. 

Black-ish
First let me say that I did not like this show when it first came on.  The first episode I saw was about the mom who felt underappreciated for all she does, then the father does all her work, and then she misses it, has no purpose, and is glad to get it all back.  Felt very 1950s and turned me off for quite some time.  However, at some point I must’ve been bored and started to watch another episode.  Since then, I have found their approach to racial issues very interesting. Often, they will do a little back story about a point in time in African American history.  Then, they have the family address that issue from the perspective of a black family living a “white” life.  I like the insight this show gives.

Finding Your Roots
Love this show.  Each week, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. picks three celebrities and does research on their family trees.  Spoiler alert: lots of people are shocked to learn that their ancestors were slave owners or actual slaves.  But in addition to that harsh realization, he tracks people back to kings, or soldiers, or thieves, or presidents, or just regular folk who managed to beat all the odds.  Lately, he has used genetic testing to close holes in the family tree, as well as to tie master to slave.  I thoroughly enjoy seeing what method of geneology he uses to find facts – ship manifests, census, wills, etc.  Fascinating all around.

Talking Dead
So this one you might find a little surprising.  Why not The Walking Dead? What the talk show that follows it?  Well, it is kind of like book club for me.  Watching/Reading is great, but I enjoy the discussion about the story even more.  I discover parts I missed, different analyses of what is happening, and Easter Eggs and symbolism I may have overlooked.  Great to see fans of the show get so intense about, face it, just show.


Well, that’s it for me.  I will think more on my Top Five of all time and get back to you on that one!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Reed's Favorite TV Shows

To my understanding my sister ranked her top TV shows so I'm inclined to do the same. The following are my top 5 shows.

Game of Thrones
Bit of a basic one here. When I first started watching this show, it was like a breath of a fresh air in many ways. First of all, it was awesome to see high fantasy being embraced as an element of pop culture that wasn't Lord of the Rings. In general, it was (and is) awesome to see high quality fantasy on a weekly basis. This show takes a genre that is often regarded as nerdy and niche and made it into a gritty, dirty, and beautiful world with a huge book of interesting characters and storylines.

Brooklyn 99
So so fresh. Andy Samberg is so fast and quick witted and generally just adorable to a degree it's impossible not to love this show. The ensemble of characters has a family feel as in other shows like the Office, Community, and Parks and Recreation. The surprisingly progressive feel and betrayal of stereotypes is the sugar on top of a truly fun comedy.

The Office
The perfect blend of clever humor and stupid humor. A fun ensemble of characters with an incredible moving run. A beautiful love story and a beautifully tragic lead. I will watch this show at least twice more before I die.

Master of None
This show breaks so many rules that we think we have of narrative flow and television in general yet works so well and therefore proves there really are no rules. Both funny and enlightening, this show really isn't about anything, yet is a delight to watch. 

The Walking Dead

Specifically, seasons 1-3. To be completely honest, I've stopped watching this show, but that's neither here nor there. The pilot of this show was utterly harrowing to me the first time I watched it. The zombies and new state of the world devastated and intrigued me like no other show or film I've seen before. And then as soon as the zombies stopped being scary, the show was smart enough to show how bad humans in a torn apart world are scarier. Loved this show.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Grayson's Top 5 TV Shows

I don’t have much of anything scheduled today, and after I’m done writing the blog, I want to go watch TV, so this has inspired me to tell you guys my top 5 TV shows. Including short Google descriptions of each, in no particular order, here they are;

• Teen Wolf
“The high-school anonymity Scott McCall was trying to break free from couldn't have happened in a more mysterious, complicated way. While walking in the woods one night Scott encounters a creature, is bitten in the side, and his life is forever changed. Is he a human or a werewolf? Or a little bit of both? Controlling the strange urges he now feels is the toughest part, and he's afraid the urges could end up controlling him. Will the bite be a gift or a curse, especially as it relates to the mischievous Allison, whom Scott can't get enough of?”

Teen Wolf is HILARIOUS (Love you Dylan O’brien!), smart, dramatic, and every guy in it is really hot. I have no complaints.

• Shameless
“Oscar-nominated actor William H. Macy stars as Frank Gallagher, a single father of six who spends much of his free time drinking at bars. The Gallagher children -- led by oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum), who takes on much of the child-rearing responsibility due to her mother's absence -- manage to raise themselves in spite of Frank's lack of parenting and unusual parenting style when he does choose to act like a father.”

Shameless is also hilarious, and raunchy too. My favorite thing about it is the family dynamic between the characters, what with the main family of the show having 6 kids in it. Gallaghers for life!

• The Secret Life of the American Teenager
“A drama about the ways a teen pregnancy affects the lives of close-knit friends and family members. When Amy finds out she's pregnant after a fling at band camp, she faces a number of challenges. Her decisions have far-reaching effects on her family and friends, but Amy also learns that most teens in her school have issues they must deal with.”

The Secret Life of the American Teenager is also really dramatic, which I LOVE, and focuses on teen characters and problems, which I think are interesting.

• Gossip Girl
High school is over for the privileged former students at an exclusive prep school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but Gossip Girl still shares text-messaged scoops on scandals and heartache. As the graduates embark on their futures, with some attending college and others focusing on burgeoning careers, Gossip Girl continues to stir the pot and feed any potential scandals. And still the identity of Gossip Girl remains a mystery.”
As you can guess, I really like super dramatic shows, and Gossip Girl is no exception. What’s special about this one is that it’s so glamorous! Even though the characters on the show get into a lot of trouble, the look like a million bucks while doing, so I enjoy it a lot.

• Girl Meets World
From 1993 to 2000, viewers followed the relationship of Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence-Matthews on "Boy Meets World." More than a decade later, the couple's daughter, Riley, is trying to navigate her 'tween years -- and problems that go with them -- especially in regard to bonds with family and friends. At John Quincy Adams Middle School in Manhattan, Riley finds being a student more difficult because her dad is a history teacher there, and she's in his class. Her mom, a lawyer, is involved in her social life and owns a trendy teen hangout. Among Riley's classmates are best friend Maya, crush Lucas, and quirky Farkle, son of Cory and Topanga's peer Stuart Minkus.”


Girl Meets World may be a “kids’” show on Disney Channel, but the lessons about growing up and living life that it imparts to its viewers are important for people at any age.