Friday, June 18, 2010

Ode to a Childhood Toy

So I was able to see Toy Story 3 at midnight Thursday night (or Friday morning?) and I'm so glad I did. I saw it next to a friend of mine I've known since second grade and promised that I would see the movie with them in high school. We did. It was absolutely amazing. In case you haven't read the bios on this blog, I'm 19 years old. I saw the first two in the movie theatre way back when, and I still revisit them on my VHS. When I was little, I convinced myself that while I was gone my Barbies, horse figurines, Power Rangers, dinosaurs, and the GI Joes I stole from my brother went on adventures together, much like Andy's motley crew of play things. As the third movie came to a close, I cried, like I do at most movies, but for different reasons.

I don't think there's many movie trilogies that literally grew up with its original audience. When the first movie came out, I was living a life similar to Andy. I was a little kid with a dog, a little sibling, and a bunch of toys playing out huge adventures in my head. As twelve years passed between the second movie and the third movie, I grew up. I was just in Andy's shoes last year, going off the college with a very old dog, a now-pubescent sibling, and a bunch of toys in storage, neglected in the corners of my room, or out on the curb. Sure, I kept the ones that had memories attached to them-a pink flamingo my dad bought me when he was stuck in a Florida airport on my birthday, Ugly Dolls because I still love them-but, I've been getting rid of the toys that are broken and sending anything that is still in one piece or has all its pieces together to various foundations or my attic.

There's something really bizarre about sitting in a movie theatre and seeing that the kid on screen that you identified with in a weird way was as grown up as you were by the end of the film. While I highly doubt that most of us would be able to be as selfless as Andy was at the end of the movie, us viewers that are 17-20something know very well what it's like to be in-between two versions of yourself- a high school senior and a college freshman-and be totally aware of it.

Like Andy, we all had That Toy. You know what I'm talking about. The one that is in every photo in your family's album. The one that your parents mention you toting around. The one your mom not only threw in some form of a washer on several occasions, but made sure to check the instructions so it wouldn't get damage. That toy was your best friend, especially when you really didn't know the word for it yet. For me, that was Brown Dog, a furry brown creature of no real breed with plastic brown eyes and suede paws. He was given to me via my mom at my baby shower, and I don't think he's left me since. He's endured millions of hugs, vacations across the eastern seaboard, and a few washings that resulted in his fur being matted and his stuffing isn't distributed properly. While Kimberly the Pink Ranger occasionally seemed as if she would replace him, she never did. He was the Woody to my Andy. Sure, he was low tech, kind of floppy, and legitimately older than me, but he was my Brown Dog.

When college ended up becoming more than just a fantasy of sorts, I initially decided that Brown Dog deserved a retirement. After serving 18 years as my best friend, he deserved to perch on my bed at home and not have to do anything for a long, long while.

I decided last second to bring Brown Dog. I thew him in a green cube with my posters and DVDs and brought him to Rutgers, where he lounged on my best, went on a free trip to Florida, and even got caught in a makeout session between me and my SO. But what's hilarious about the life of Brown Dog is that college gave him a comeback- people would go into my room and take him off his spot on my bed and on their head, or on their shoulder, or just gave him a hug. He's been tagged on Facebook and now has a fanpage which you should be a fan of. Brown Dog isn't exactly everyone's childhood toy, but he reminds them of that time.

The only thing I will never understand is how make believe, pretend, making up stories is so great and so cherished when you're little, and yet we can't play pretend unless we're doing kinky shit in the bedroom when we get older. Sure, it's probably not a good idea to jump around in your room and be like "I'm a fairy princess yayyy!", but that doesn't mean that you can't play pretend in your own way. Write something. Seriously, just write it. Put your pretend on paper. Hang on to your One Toy and hope to pass them down to someone, or just hang onto them. Be aware of your inner child, because if you take yourself too seriously, you're going to lose it. And that's what Toy Story 3 has taught me to embrace. Crazy, but true.

I'll write something more serious/commentary-based in a little bit. For now, just think about this. If you want, become a fan of Brown Dog on Facebook. Feel free to comment about your childhood friend :) Or even say what you think of the movie!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Donna Reviews Stuff: American Idiot

All right, so I was wondering if I should do reviews on this blog, and then I realized, fuck it: It's my blog. So I'm going to review something.

A friend of mine and I decided that we were going to see American Idiot. He's a Broadway kid, and I'm a fan of Broadway productions, but definitely a Green Day fan. A lot of people seem to need to disclaimer what kind of fan of Green Day they are at this point, but to be honest, I love Green Day. Dookie-era, Warning-era, American Idiot-era, I really don't care. I like the sound, I like their aesthetic, I like that they've grown up and while they sound hasn't necessarily, their content definitely has. I'm seeing them in August, and I'm super excited, along with AFI, which is my favorite band ever, and it's just exciting to be me right now, obviously.

Anyway, keep it in mind that this whole experience, when a Green Day fan, is ten times different from a kid that just wants to see a Broadway show and maybe knows a few Green Day songs.

American Idiot is playing at St. James Theatre. It's a very old school-looking theatre, but they made sure to add a punk rock feel to it. The walls in the entrance are covered in words and the doors are spray painted. The bar has ST. JIMMY written across it and when you look at the copious amounts of merch for Green Day being sold, you realize you're in a combination of a rock concert and a Broadway musical. Which is definitely what it is.

When the show starts, it's loud and abrasive. My friend winced, but I smiled. As "American Idiot" started, the cast was screaming the lyrics, while harmonizing at times. I loved it. These lyrics are not pretty. The music is arranged very similar to the original Green Day songs, and the band itself is mostly lead by a guitar, drum, and bass. There's occasional string instruments, but in terms of the music, it's definitely a rock show.

The story itself is very much like the album- a guy goes into the city trying to find something, he falls into the trap of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and eventually grows up to be like everyone else. However, they decided to split the lead into three roles of sorts- Johnny, who flees into the city and goes through the temptation of St. Jimmy, a very hot, androgynous embodiment of heroin addiction, Will, a guy that decides to stay home and falls into entire ennui with his girlfriend Heather, and Tunny, a guy that escapes into the city with Johnny only to enlist into the army. While it was sad, and very true to life, to see how these three options in life do lead you back home, and possibly a little broken, I do wonder if Will's storyline was needed. His relationship with Heather is constant throughout the story, but we honestly don't know anything about the two of them. Most of their scenes are pantomimed over the music and only really becomes relevant when Will sings "Nobody Likes You." Tunny's storyline is very similar to a Hair-type storyline of boy tries to be part of counterculture, boy ends up taking conventional route, boy ends up conflicted, however, it does remind the general audience of the constant war that is going on, even though it's not on the home turf. However, his relationship with The Extraordinary Girl and his dream sequence to the song that is her namesake is a total wtf moment with a princess Jazmine costume.

Seriously, costume designers, there ain't anything punk rock about this outfit.

Once again, for whatever reason, this storyline isn't explained very well, either, in terms of the relationship between the two characters. Why is she such an extraordinary girl, aside from the fact that she's in love with a soldier? What's the image she wants to sell to anyone willing to buy?

Johnny's storyline is naturally more thought out, and the lack of connection between him and Whatsername makes more sense. He's in a constant haze of heroin during most of the production, and does not realize how awesome she is until she's gone. But when a very sexy, willowy guy you're imagining named St. Jimmy is dancing around who can blame you? Uh, hello? I have never seen Tony Vincent in my life, but I will totally own up that I want to do indecent things to him with his asymmetrical hair and killer vocals. He hits an Adam Lambert glory note during it and just. Wow.

The rest of the class is very talented. Their vocals are great, and they definitely took a note from Green Day in the way they sang. The choreography is not great, but it's very headbang-y, and people throwing themselves into the music. There are some notes taken from Green Day when they perform, as well. When Johnny makes the sign of the cross during the lyrics of "To a hymn called faith and misery" during "Holiday" I smiled a little, remembering Billie Joe doing it multiple times before. Of course, because of these references, and notes in choreography, this is definitely not a show that you want to want to see unless you're a fan of Green Day circa American Idiot. The plot is not the greatest thing in the world. They definitely could have detailed certain things better, and maybe even considered adding more conversation, or taking away plot lines when writing it for stage. Of course, with being a fan of American Idiot with a runaway imagination, you may sit there and go "But I thought this song meant this D:!" But hey, it's totally worth it. Plus, with a lottery for tickets only 27 dollars, and then partial view seats for 37 dollars, it's very easy to see this show for cheap.

Overall, it's a decent show. If you like Green Day, you should check it out. If you're not, I'm not really sure you should get in on it. But hey, if you're ready for a punk rock show on Broadway, go for it. Just be ready for a rock show that's better than Tommy, with a lot of kids not afraid to use fuck.

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go listen to Green Day and party like it's 2003. I'm seeing Adam Lambert on Saturday, so if people like me reviewing stuff, I may end up doing one for that show. Let me know what you think of this show if you've seen this, of course!