Friday, December 27, 2013

The Time of the Doctor

So I recently watched the Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Time of the Doctor".  And I've got to say, it left me pretty confused.

Oh, as a side note:  I love gifs, and I finally found out how to make them, so beware, my posts will probably have a lot of gifs from now on.  Many of them will most likely be of the Nostalgia Critic's many priceless reactions, like the one above.  Why, you may ask?  Because I've been a fan of him for about four years, he's my favorite comedian and my favorite film critic besides Roger Ebert, plus he makes the most hilarious facial expressions ever.

Anyway, back to Doctor Who.

I'm not a Steven Moffat hater.  In fact, I love nearly every episode he's written in the past.  Every time someone bashes every single thing he's ever contributed to Doctor Who, I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes.  I'm tired of fans hating on whatever he does.  And I think a lot of those same haters probably love the episode "Blink", the tenth episode of series three (from David Tennant's era), which was written by Steven Moffat.

But The Time of the Doctor is very confusing.  I've been caught up for a while now - I've watched all of season five, six, and seven, but I could hardly understand what I was watching.  Warning:  there are spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen the Christmas special yet, I suggest you don't read anything of what I've written below.

I don't mind the story in this episode.  I find the idea of the Doctor growing old in a town called Christmas to be interesting and heart wrenching.  For me, heart wrenching is good.  Intense stuff is the stuff I like best.  I want a story to make me feel, and to leave an impact on me.  Comedy is great and always helps to lighten the mood, but I need substance.  And for me, drama has substance, it's what makes a story stick with me.

I mean, it bothered me a little bit that the Doctor spent three hundred years of his life in one location (it seemed a little wasteful in my opinion, and frankly, very hard to believe), but overall, I was okay with it.  However, the whole episode (or special, whatever you want to call it) seemed messy and confusing.  I think Moffat is a good writer.  He has a lot of talent.  But sometimes his episodes seem a little messy, and they leave me with more questions than before.

Unfortunately, accidentally going on Tumblr kind of ruined the special for me.  It's silly, I know, but it's true.  One day I went on Tumblr and saw a picture or gif (I can't remember which) from the special before I had seen it.  It didn't ruin anything for me, but it reminded me that I would have to avoid Tumblr, and probably the internet all together, if I didn't want the special to be spoiled for me before I got the chance to watch it.  And, naturally, the next day I completely forgot that I should be avoiding Tumblr and carelessly logged in.  And there, the first thing to appear on my dash, was an entire set of gifs of a scene from the special, in which Amy tells the Doctor, "Raggedy Man, good night".

I've stated a few times on my blogs that I am not a crier, that I don't cry easily.  And yes, that's usually true.  I get it from my dad.  We're as cold as ice sometimes.  But it's not that I don't feel or am not emotionally affected by things, I'm just good at keeping it in.  I could cry if I felt like it, but for some reason I hold it in.  There's not really a reason, I'm just naturally like that.  I deal with my emotions by keeping them in.  I guess it probably has to do with my introverted and reserved personality.

It also depends on the day.  Sometimes I'm emotionally invested and cry easily when I watch a sad scene in a movie or T.V. show, then other times I find it hard to get emotionally invested.  Sometimes things just don't affect me very easily.  Only things that are incredibly powerful to me, like the ending of the Pixar film Wall - e (which makes me cry every time by the way, I don't know why) can penetrate the wall I sometimes put up and make me cry on the spot, whether I was invested before or not.  But I have to see the story from beginning to end for the sad scene to make an impact.  Maybe it's like that for everyone, I don't know.  If I watched a random sad scene from a movie, I wouldn't cry at all, because I did not watch it from the beginning.  I have to be invested; I have to see the story build up to that moment in order for it to make me cry.  So, seeing the scene with Amelia and Amy Pond before I saw the special from the beginning, lessened the emotional impact it could have had on me considerably.

I think the best scene was when Amy Pond said goodnight to the Doctor.  It was like the ending of a bedtime story, which reminds me of this quote:  "I'll be a story in your head.  But that's okay, we're all stories in the end."  That may be my favorite Eleventh Doctor quote of all.  Then, there was this moment, when Eleven dropped his bow tie.  It was quite a powerful scene, one that seemed to carry a lot of emotional weight.

The reason I am bringing all of this up is because I did not cry during "The Time of the Doctor" like I thought I would, and I'm trying to figure out why.  I have come to the conclusion that I am in denial.  I often go into denial when I try to deal with emotional stuff, or rather, not deal with it.  It's my natural coping mechanism.  I don't want to believe Matt Smith's left, and I don't feel like dealing with it.  It hasn't really sunk in.  Originally I predicted that it would not sink in until Eleven actually regenerated, but he has regenerated, and it still isn't sinking in.

Eleven's regeneration scene, or the scene right before he regenerated, was very touching, but his actual regeneration was far too fast.  He regenerated into Peter Capaldi so quickly that there was no time for it to leave an impact on me.  I'm looking forward to seeing Capaldi as the Doctor in series eight, but to me Matt Smith will always be the Doctor, and he will always be my favorite.  To say I am sad that he is gone is an understatement.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


It seems that the holiday of Halloween has been downplayed over time.  Some people try to make it less frightening and feel the need to suppress it.  For example, some parents make their children trick or treat during the day time.  That takes all the mystery and excitement out of Halloween.  Why do we, as a society, feel the need to contain everything so that it is tame?  That says to me that there is something freeing about Halloween that makes some people nervous, and they feel like they need to push it down.  Frankly, it's too cool of a holiday for people to stop celebrating.  There's a reason so many celebrate it to this day.

It has become the norm for only young kids to go trick or treating.  When I was a kid, there would be crowds of people trick or treating on Halloween night, and a lot of people participated in it.  But as the years went by, fewer people trick or treated, and I was beginning to be pressured not to trick or treat any more because I was "too old".  I was still a kid, but people began to think that only small children should participate in trick or treating.  I wasn't too happy about this, and it bothered me when an adult commented on it while giving me candy.  They would usually say something like, "aren't you too old for trick or treating"?

But the fact is, lots of teenagers like to participate anyway.  I don't believe it's fair to leave them out, especially when there doesn't seem to be many places for them to go and socialize.  I remember that there were sometimes a group of teenagers at the park I would go to as a kid, because they didn't really have anywhere for people of their age to go and have fun.

I know my great grandparent's generation had fun social events in their community during the late twenties, and again during the war years - they would go to dances.  I've noticed that people don't really go to dances any more, at least not usually.  In fact, most people don't know how to dance.  Teenagers are also worked too hard in school, and because of this, they undergo too much stress, and don't have as much time to socialize with their peers, something which surely is a human need for their age group especially.  I find it unnerving that people in their youth have most of their teenage years swallowed up by worrying about school.  So it makes me happy that a lot of teenagers my age have been deciding to go against the norm and trick or treat anyway.  I completely understand why they still want to - it's fun, freeing, and nostalgic, because they probably went trick or treating when they were little.  Why should we let go of childhood completely, just because of our age?  Does not being a child any more mean we can't have any fun?  Well, maybe it does, but not for me.  I think we should always keep in touch with our childlike side, because when we were children, we knew how to be free.

A jack-o'-lantern I made a couple years ago for Halloween.

Halloween was a part of my childhood.  Every year I looked forward to October, because it meant that one of my favorite holidays was approaching.  I loved picking out a pumpkin, carving it, then watching it glow in the dark after my dad lit the candle inside it.  I also loved dressing up in a costume and going trick or treating with friends.  The best part was going from door to door, and seeing the decorations all lit up in front of each house.

The picture above is of me on Halloween night when I was 12 years old.  I was trying to look like the Faery Queen from the Scottish ballad "Tam Lin", but most people thought I was an angel.  This frustrated me, so I kept having to repeat that I was not an angel, but in fact a Celtic Faery Queen.  They were a tad bit confused.  Some guessed I was a fairy, and only one or two people caught on that I was something Celtic.  Below is an illustration of the Queen of the Fay from the picture book I had when I was little.  The Queen of the Fay is the woman on the right, almost completely dressed in green.

I have always felt that Halloween is a very unique and interesting holiday.  The atmosphere it creates draws people to it.  It is the one holiday that is dark and encourages people to face their fears, instead of suppressing any dark emotions we may have.  Our society tends to numb its feelings and dwell in a pretend world too much, shying away from anything real and acute, even though such experience is a natural part of our humanity.

Halloween comes from Celtic origins, when the Irish and Scottish were still Pagan, and before Christianity entered their lands.  In ancient times, the Celts would celebrate Samhain, a festival that celebrated the darker half of the year, which took place from sunset on October 31st to sunset on the first of November.  This festival appears in much of Irish mythology.  The fact that Halloween comes from Pre-Christian Ireland only makes me love it more, as I am interested in ancient Ireland.  It is wonderful to have a bit of ancient custom survive the past.  I know some people who do not celebrate it for certain reasons, but I do not believe that it is wrong to celebrate Halloween.  I will always look fondly on it as one of my favorite holidays as a kid.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week - Why I'm Team Erik, or Why I Don't Like Raoul

I have never been a fan of Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera.  He has always seemed to be the goody-goody pretty-boy that Christine goes after.  He is a shallow character, and there is not much to him.  To be honest, he’s very boring, too simplistic, and one-dimensional.  He has youth and good looks, but not nearly as vast or broad a soul as the Phantom has.

Christine’s love for the Phantom is more profound, more complex, and deeper than the love she harbors for Raoul.  The Phantom represents her inner passion for art, and for reaching great heights, which reflect the Romantic yearning for knowledge and achievement.  The Phantom wants Christine to dedicate herself to her art, but that isn’t the only aspect of their relationship; it’s more complicated than that.  He does truly love her, which is proven to us when he makes the ultimate sacrifice in the end, and lets go of the only one who could have loved him in return.  The love between Christine and Raoul is young and immature, while the love between Christine and the Phantom is more mature and developed.  In the book, which I have not yet read, but intend to get, I have heard that the Phantom is portrayed as passionate, both romantically and artistically.  Christine feels safe with Raoul, because what she shares with him is more platonic than romantic.  The Phantom’s passion is too wild and frightening for Christine.  She is afraid to go “beyond the point of no return”, both in terms of her personal relationship with the Phantom, and in terms of her art.

The fact that Raoul and Christine were friends as children is very symbolic, because their love is youthful and underdeveloped, and in that respect, childish.  The Phantom seems to regard Raoul as a mere boy.  During “The Mirror”, the Phantom sings, “Insolent boy, this slave of fashion, basking in your glory.  Ignorant fool, this brave young suitor.  Sharing in my triumph!”  To Christine, the Phantom is mystery, darkness, sensuality, and danger, while Raoul is innocence and safety.  The Phantom wants her to get in touch with her darker side, and to learn to love him in spite of his outward disfigurement.  This is why he hides his disfigurement with a mask – he believes that Christine could not love his real form.  The Phantom is a magician, which adds to his deceptive and elusive nature.  He believes that by creating an illusion, he can veil reality, because he knows that others cannot accept reality as it is.

While Christine is torn between Raoul and the Phantom, she is forced to make a choice.  When the Phantom decides to let her go, their farewell is heartbreaking and reduces me to tears every time.  When the Phantom sings the line, “Christine, I love you”, it is clear that he really does love her, but he can never have her.  I believe the ending of The Phantom of the Opera is beautiful the way it is, and I do not like the idea of a sequel (I’m looking at you, Love Never Dies...), but I can never like Raoul.  He is not a character I am capable of liking.  He never has been, and never will be.

Raoul and the Phantom can be seen as two sides of Christine’s nature, which she must choose between.  These two sides of her are mutually exclusive, and cannot coexist.  In the end, she cops out, and chooses the safe and rational life, rather than the life that the Phantom represents, which is fraught with danger, risk, intensity, and sacrifice.  The Phantom inhabits the subterranean regions of the Opera House, symbolizing Christine’s subconscious being.

There are many ways of looking at this story.  You could think of the Phantom as a murderer who wants to possess Christine because he is desperate for love, but I think that is a limited perspective, and that there is far more to this story than that.  The Phantom is perceived in a threatening light, because in terms of Christine’s psyche, it is threatening for her to continue probing her subconscious, and threatening for her to listen to the demands of her inner self, and to contemplate fulfilling such wild and ambitious desires.  Ultimately, her childish self decides to stay in the safe, tame, surface world with Raoul.

Celebrate Musicals Week - Comparing the Past to the Present

There are many differences between The Phantom of the Opera (2004), and the original Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  One of the differences between the two that is especially noticeable, is how the main characters are portrayed.  I am going to compare the Phantom and Christine of the 2004 adaptation to the Phantom and Christine of the original musical from 1986.

Gerard Butler vs. Michael Crawford

Gerard Butler.
I like Gerard Butler, I really do.  He seems like a very nice person, and he is definitely a talented actor.  However, even his awesome Scottish-ness can't make him a good Phantom.  In fact, it hurts him rather than helps him - at some moments in the 2004 movie I can hear a hint of his Scottish accent, which is weird, since The Phantom of the Opera takes place in Paris, France.  But then, the original musical from 1986 was British (Andrew Lloyd Webber is English, and most or all of the original cast were British as well), so none of it makes sense anyway.  In the movie, Madame Giry has an over-the-top French accent, while a lot of the other people in the cast have a British accent, which only makes it all more confusing.

Some prefer Gerard Butler's singing to Michael Crawford's, because his voice has a darker and deeper quality.  Gerard Butler can sing well, but his singing style is not meant for the role of the Phantom.  Being in a band does not provide the kind of experience needed to play a major role in Musical Theatre.    The Phantom is supposed to be the angel of music, and Christine Daae's teacher.  The decision to cast Gerard Butler was made by marketers and producers to draw in the masses, rather than being driven by the artistic vision.  The role of the Phantom requires a breadth of soul and depth of human experience, that is lost on such young and pampered actors as Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum.  Michael Crawford betters Gerard in this respect, because he brings a certain maturity to the role.

The Phantom is supposed to be capable of sounding like an angel, and sounding like a demon.  I think of him more as an angel living in hell, or someone whose soul has become corrupt and disfigured because of the mistreatment they have suffered.  He is an angel corrupted by his Faustian zeal.  Like in the British film, The Red Shoes (1948), by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the Phantom's artistic ambitions have a demonic quality.  In Romanticism, people strive to reach for the sublime.  In The Red Shoes, the ballet dancer strives for perfection in her art form.  She becomes possessed by the spirit of her art, and must sacrifice to achieve artistic perfection.

The Phantom should have a hypnotic and angelic voice, like in the song "The Music of the Night", in order for Christine to be deceived by him, and to fall under his spell.  In "The Music of the Night", the Phantom wants Christine to be blind to his disfigurement, because he wants her to fall in love with his soul, not his body.  He wants her to "learn to see, to find the man behind the monster".
"Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth 
And the truth isn't what you want to see 
In the dark it is easy to pretend 
That the truth is what it ought to be..."
Michael Crawford.
The important theme of appearance versus reality in The Phantom of the Opera, and the concept it contains of a many layered reality of subterranean depths and soaring artistic heights, is completely lost on these two young and inexperienced actors.  Butler's and Rossum's characters are too superficial, more Romeo and Juliet than the Phantom and Christine, but its more than that.  The society that finds this empty headed, clean cut, pretty-boy quality appealing has remade this story in its own image.  

Gerard Butler's Phantom is less versatile than Michael Crawford's.  He just doesn't seem as convincing to me as Michael Crawford's Phantom.  If Gerard Butler's Phantom showed up in my mirror, I would be less compelled to follow him to his lair.  His singing voice is uni-dimensional, while Michael Crawford's is far more developed, and in my opinion, much more Phantom-like.

Physically, Gerard and Michael's Phantoms differ from each other, as well.  When the facial disfigurement of Michael's Phantom is revealed, it is more distinct and dramatic, and actually has an effect on the audience.  Gerard's Phantom, on the other hand, has a sunburn on one side of his face instead.  That takes so, so, so much away from the story.  One wonders why Christine chooses Raoul over him in the end anyway, if his disfigurement is so minor, and after all he is the more handsome of the two.  Well, we all know that Christine is not so shallow as all that, but wouldn't the story have been far different if the Phantom had not been disfigured?  There wouldn't be a story if he wasn't.  He would never have become a murderous Phantom; he would just be Erik.  Everything meaningful about The Phantom of the Opera has been dissolved and stripped away from this production.  It has been eviscerated.

This all brings me to something I have observed in our society - we are pretty-ifying everything.  The vampires of folklore were dark and frightening:


...but now they look like models...

Edward Cullen.

Look at what's happened to the Phantom.  Once he was visibly frightening, like Lon Chaney's Phantom from the 1925 horror film, based on Leroux's novel.  His Phantom was so frightening, that during the unmasking scene, many of the women in the audience fainted.

Lon Chaney as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Now, the Phantom looks like this...

Gerard Butler as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (2004).

...and Gerard Butler is a very handsome guy.  That's the problem.  The Phantom is not supposed to be a very handsome guy, even with the mask on.  Michael Crawford is a very handsome guy too, but when he is unmasked, he actually looks deformed, while Gerard's Phantom doesn't really have a deformity at all.  I find that this strongly and obviously contradicts one of the messages that can be taken away from the story - that we are beautiful if our soul remains untarnished, even if we are tarnished physically on the outside.

Emmy Rossum vs. Sarah Brightman

Sarah Brightman.
I think that people over-react when they go on about how scary Sarah Brightman's eyes are, or that she doesn't blink enough, or that she can't act or emote feelings, blah blah blah.

Okay, I'll try to put it more lightly...let's just say, I strongly disagree with the idea that Sarah Brightman does not make a good Christine Daae.

Although, however much I love Sarah Brightman, I will admit that I prefer Sierra Boggess's performance of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again".  Sierra didn't just perform that song, she felt it.  Just look at the tears in her eyes after she has performed the song.  She put so much feeling into it, that I was impacted emotionally.  I could feel her pain, and the emotion that mounted up during the song.  I always feel a sense of emotional fulfillment after listening to it, like I could let go and allow myself to feel sad, and grieve with Christine, despite not experiencing what she has experienced.  She forced me to feel empathy.

As I stated in my previous post, Sarah Brightman's Christine embodies the dark Romanticism of the Gothic genre.  The Phantom of the Opera is very much a Romantic story.  Not in the romantic way, with a little r, although The Phantom of the Opera has romance too.  I mean Romantic, with a big R, as in the Romantic Era, or the Romantic Philosophy of Byron and the other Romantic poets (John Keats, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Blake), the Brontës, and Mary Shelley, and the Romantic music of Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann, etc., etc..  People of the present day seem to shy away from anything real, dramatic, or Romanticized.  We've replaced the vampires of old folklore with a model, and Lon Chaney's Phantom with Gerard Butler's.  We are down-playing everything, and as a result, characters and stories have become more stale, and are limited to the constraints of what we're comfortable with.
Emmy Rossum.

I like many of the portrayals of Christine Daae that other women have to offer - Sarah Brightman's portrayal is not the only one I like.  But the other Christine Daae's are all very different from hers.

Take Emmy Rossum's Christine.  Emmy Rossum can act well enough, but her Christine is very bland and forgettable.  There's no soul in her performance - she only presents to the audience what she feels she is expected to present, and nothing more.  She can show emotion, but I never feel like she's really feeling it.  She never really becomes Christine.  I'm always aware that she is acting.

The 2004 adaptation sterilized the story of The Phantom of the Opera to the point that its meaning was removed.  It was too timid to keep to the intrinsic artistic vision of the original story, and instead conformed to the usual generic formula in film making today.  We should allow art to reveal, not manipulate it to hide and suppress.  When compared to the original musical, the movie is superficial and reduces the story to something cheap and shallow.  This process of evisceration is common in today's culture.  In The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), for example, one of the most significant happenings in history is reduced to a cheap titillating tale, a tale which ignores all the mysterious and wondrous aspects of the true story of Anne Boleyn, and her pivotal and captivating role in the struggle for religious and social reformation in England, that had been going on since Wycliffe and the Peasants' Revolt.  Why does our society strive to cover up the meaningful with the meaningless, the significant with the insignificant?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week - Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman

When I was fourteen, I became obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera.  It all began when I saw the 2004 movie with Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum at a store, and decided to get it.  I had seen it once before when I was ten years old, with my cousins during a visit to Ireland.  One of my cousins, who was my age, loved the movie.  At that time, I couldn't understand what she saw in it.  Years later, my feelings toward the musical completely turned around.  After watching the 2004 movie for the first time again in years, I fell in love with the music, characters, the dark themes, and the Gothic story.  I could not understand why I had not liked it before.

My fourteen-year-old-self dived into the world created by the musical and I quickly became a "phan".  After seeing the movie a few more times and enthusiastically researching about it and finding out all about it, I introduced myself to the original Broadway musical from 1986.  I had thought the movie was good, but when I learned of the actual musical, I realized how faded and inferior the movie was in comparison.  Michael Crawford was the original Phantom in the 1980's, when big Broadway musicals became hits, such as Cats and Les Miserables.  Although my list of favorite Phantoms grew, Michael Crawford was always my absolute favorite, and still is.

To me, his Phantom is the best Phantom, and Sarah Brightman's Christine is the best Christine.  Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman became two of my favorite singers of all time.  When I saw this video of him accepting an award for his performance as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, I was so happy, because he deserved it so much.

Michael Crawford

One of the reasons Michael Crawford is my favorite, is because his Phantom is the most Phantom-like.  I love his hypnotic voice, which captured both the angelic and demonic sides to the Phantom.  His voice is eerie, haunting, and seems to float effortlessly when he sings.  He expresses so much in his voice and with his body, even with his hands.  When I watch him perform as the Phantom, I feel as though I can understand the Phantom on an emotional and psychological level.  His portrayal is very powerful because he puts so much feeling into it, and he encompasses everything that the Phantom is.  He shows the Phantom's dark, mysterious, and elusive side, while also revealing his fragile and vulnerable nature.  He is both destructive and gentle, full of hate for the world that has always mistreated him, and full of love for Christine.  Whenever I hear Michael Crawford sing the part of the Phantom, I hear the pain and torment in his voice.

I have always viewed the Phantom's half-mask as very symbolic, because it shows that he is half dark, half light.  He is torn between the two sides of himself.  This quote from "Stranger Than You Dreamt It" expresses this a lot.

"Can you even dare to look, or bear to think of me 
This loathsome gargoyle 
Who burns in hell, but secretly yearns for heaven  
Secretly, secretly... 
Oh Christine... 
Fear can turn to love 
You'll learn to see, to find the man behind the monster 
This repulsive carcass 
Who seems a beast but secretly dreams of beauty
Secretly, secretly..."

When I was fifteen, my dad introduced me to "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em", a British comedy show from the 1970's that starred Michael Crawford.  Yes, Michael Crawford is a comedian too.  And did I mention he was also once an acrobat?  That's a lot of talent.  Needless to say, I am a very big fan of his.

Sarah Brightman

Some people dislike Sarah Brightman's voice, which is perfectly fine, since everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I completely disagree that she is the worst Christine, as some people say.  I think her voice sounded perfect for the role, which is no surprise since Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music to fit her voice and show off her vocal abilities - the part was literally made for her, for goodness sake.  Sadly, Sarah Brightman damaged her voice, so she is no longer able to sing quite as well as she could when she was younger.

This is the music video for the song "The Phantom of the Opera", with Sarah Brightman and the Rock singer Steve Harley, before Michael Crawford was cast as the Phantom.  As a warning, it's very 1980's, but that's why I like it.  I'm glad Michael Crawford was chosen to play the Phantom instead, but I don't intend to bash Steve Harley at all.  People are far too hard on him.  As a rock singer, his singing style is of course very different.

I feel that Sarah Brightman really understood the Romantic aspect of The Phantom of the Opera.  Sarah Brightman's Christine seems to come from a story of the Romantic Era, and she embodies the dark atmosphere that was at the core of Gaston Leroux's Gothic novel.

Many think that Sarah Brightman's eyes are too wide in the video below, or that she lacks expression or the ability to emote, but I disagree.  In "The Music of the Night", Christine is supposed to be in a sort of trance; she is mesmerized by the Phantom, put under his spell.

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman set the standard for other people who would later play the Phantom and Christine, and without them, there's a good chance we wouldn't have as great a show as we do now.  Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman were a part of The Phantom of the Opera's beginnings, and made it the great success it was.

Although Crawford and Brightman are my favorite Phantom and Christine, I don't really view them as the Phantom or the Christine.  That implies that no one else can be the Phantom or Christine, and that their portrayals were the only good ones, or that they own the roles of Erik and Christine.  Yes, it is my opinion that they are the best Phantom and Christine, but that doesn't mean their portrayals were the only good ones.  There are so many other interpretations and portrayals to appreciate.  It is your decision how to view the story, and you will know whose portrayal of the characters has had the most impact on you.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week - Tag

I have decided to participate in Celebrate Musicals Week, the blog party Miss Dashwood is hosting at Yet Another Period Drama Blog!  Go here if you want to participate, too, and would like to know the details.  The blog party is starting off with a tag, so here are my answers to the tag questions.

1)  What musical did you pick to "spotlight" this week and why?

I chose to spotlight The Phantom of the Opera.  I was already planning to write about it, so I thought Celebrate Musicals Week was a great opportunity to do so.

2)  How did you discover the musical you picked (hereinafter referred to as "your musical")?

I was ten years old when I was introduced to The Phantom of the Opera.  I watched the 2004 movie with my cousins during my visit with my relatives in Ireland.  My cousins loved watching movies, so we ended up watching a lot of movies together, and the 2004 adaptation of Phantom was one of them.

3)  If you had to pick three favorite songs from your musical, which ones would they be?

I love so many songs from Phantom, but I think my three favorites would be "The Phantom of the Opera", "The Music of the Night", and "Think of Me".

4)  What's your least favorite song from your musical?

Maybe "Prima Donna".  I always skip it when I'm listening to Phantom songs.  In the 2004 movie, I can't stand Andre and Firmin's singing.  They don't really sing, especially Ciarán Hinds, who plays Firmin - they kind of talk-sing.  Talk-singing grates on my nerves.  I prefer the song Prima Donna to whenever Andre and Firmin sing by far, but if I had to choose a specific song I disliked, I think it would be Prima Donna.

5)  Who are your favorite characters (choose up to three)?

Christine, the Phantom (also known as Erik), and Madame Giry are my favorite characters.  I have heard that some people dislike Christine, but I think she is a well developed character.  Erik is a very interesting and complex character, which I love.  Madame Giry is mysterious and I like her personality.  She seems like a smart person who knows what she's doing.

6)  Which versions of your musical have you seen/listened to, and which is your favorite?

The first version of this musical that I ever knew, was the 2004 movie, which I watched when I was ten years old.  When I was fourteen, I rediscovered the movie and loved it.  Then, I discovered the original broadway version with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, and fell in love with that.  I now prefer the version with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman to the 2004 movie.  I thought the movie was good, but when I discovered the original musical, it seemed faded in comparison.  Since then I have listened to other versions, with John Owen-Jones and Gina Beck, for example.  When I was fifteen, I discovered The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, and I absolutely loved it.

7)  Is this your favorite musical of all time?  If not, what is?

Yes, even more than Les Mis, which is in second place.  I love The Phantom of the Opera for the gothic story, complex characters, dark themes, strong emotions, and the beautiful sets, costumes, and music.  It is definitely my favorite musical of all time.

8)  Which cast album/musical soundtrack in your collection do you listen to the most?

The original Broadway version of Phantom with Michael Crawford, and the 10th Anniversary Concert of Les Mis.  I don't like the 25th Anniversary (cough Nick Jonas cough cough) of Les Mis as much as the 10th Anniversary.

9)  What is your favorite costume from your musical?

That's a hard question!  There are so many amazing costumes in Phantom.  Well, I really like the dress and hooded cape Christine wears during her song, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again".

Sierra Boggess as Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera at The Royal Albert Hall.

10)  If you could change anything about your musical, what would you change?

I wouldn't want to change anything, since it's Andrew Lloyd Webber's work of art, not mine.  I want it to be exactly as Andrew Lloyd Webber intended it to be.  Then, on the other hand, I think the song "Prima Donna" could be taken out, though it isn't that bad of a song, really.  I just don't see how it's necessary.

11)  Which role(s) would you most like to play in any musical, if you had the opportunity to do so on stage?

I would like to play Fantine or Eponine in Les Mis, or Christine in Phantom...that is, if I could sing really really really well...

12)  If you could choose one performer to play any part in your musical, who would you choose and which part would you have them play?

Perhaps Sutton Foster as Christine Daaé?  I don't think the role is suited for her, but Sutton has a beautiful voice and I'm curious as to what she would do with the part.  I'm a big fan of Sutton Foster, so it would be cool to see her play a major role in my favorite musical.

13)  Do you consider yourself a musical theatre fan in general or do you just like a few musicals?

I am a musical theatre fan, without a doubt!

14)  Are you tired of the word "musical" yet?


15)  Turn your music playing device on shuffle (or utilize Pandora if you don't have one) and tell us the names of the first three show tunes that come up-- no cheating!  How do these rank on your favorites/most-listened-to list?

 - "Memory" from Cats.  I'm not a big fan of Cats, but I love this song very much.

 - "Agony" from Into the Woods.  This is a memorable song from Into the Woods, and absolutely hilarious.
 - "More to the Story" from Shrek the Musical.  "More to the Story" is one of my favorite songs from this musical, along with "I Know It's Today".

Monday, September 2, 2013


I have never felt a sense of belonging in North America.  Even though I was born here, my family's origins are in Western Europe, and throughout my life I have been influenced by Irish and Scottish culture.  My Irish cousins keep expecting me to be Americanized, but I’m not.  In fact, I couldn’t be less Americanized.  Yes, some of the expressions I use are American, and I call my mother “mom” instead of “mum”, but otherwise, I have never really felt at home here.

I hate the feeling of being uprooted.  I have always wanted to return to my roots, to where I belong.  I want to live in a country where I can feel completely myself and at home, somewhere I don’t have to wear a hat and put on sunscreen all the time, somewhere the weather is more agreeable to me, somewhere I feel a cultural and emotional connection to, and somewhere I understand.

I feel almost no connection to North America.  Of course, there are places I will always remember, because much of my childhood took place here, but I still have always felt out of place in this country.  You can take an Irish girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take Ireland out of an Irish girl.  That's how I feel about it.

Ireland is in my blood.  Irish people "have a love for the land", and to be separated from it is painful.  Like my family, I can't feel completely whole without it.  It's a part of me, and there's no getting away from that.
"It's my field.  It's my child.  I nursed it.  I nourished it.  I saw to its every want.  I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it!  My only want is that green grass, that lovely green grass, and you want to take it away from me, and in the sight of God I can't let you do that!"The Field (1990)
Richard Harris in The Field (1990).
My homesickness has only increased more and more over the years.  Lately, it has reached the point where it is nearly unbearable.  I know now that I will move to Ireland at some point in my life, and live there.  I don’t want to stay stuck in North America forever – I’ve got to go home at some point.  The question is when?  Should I go before or after University?  (Because my mom is Irish and Scottish-Canadian, I sometimes refer to College as University out of habit.)

So, I discussed this subject with my mom, and she made some very good points.  If I want to move to Ireland, it’s better to go sooner, while I’m young, rather than later.  When my mom was young, she wanted to go to Ireland too, but they wouldn’t let her in.  At that time, Ireland didn’t have enough jobs for everyone.  They wouldn’t let anyone into their country.  That was why my dad left Ireland – he came to America for a job.  Many people were leaving Ireland to find jobs at that time.  Now, it’s different.  I can go to Ireland.  The first step is getting my Irish citizenship with help from my dad.

My mom pointed something else out, which I have been considering.  Perhaps I should visit Ireland first, and see if I would really want to live there?  Maybe America has become my home now, and I would feel homesick all over again when I got to Ireland?  Of course, I’ve been to Ireland more than once, to visit my relatives, but actually living in Ireland might take some getting used to.  This is actually a terrifying concept to me.  What if I can never feel at home anywhere?  I could end up feeling homesick no matter where I go.

I clearly remember Ireland, and how at home I felt there, and I’ll always remember how much I did not feel at home here.  I believe that moving to Ireland is the right choice for me.  The only downside is the separation from my mom's side of the family, though I would have my dad’s side of the family in Ireland.  Although, however much I love my dad’s side, my mom’s side are the people I have grown up with, and the thought of leaving them saddens me.

So you could say I am going through an uncertain phase in my life right now.  But really, when you get down to it, it's all very simple - I just want to go home.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Best Commenter Award

Note:  Now that summer has ended, I find that there isn't as much time to blog.  I will try to blog whenever I have time, as I love blogging and I have a lot to say that I want to express.  This means I will most likely be blogging on the weekends, but even so, I will not have time every weekend.  Even though I will not be posting as much on my blogs, I will continue to comment and read the posts of other bloggers.

I have been awarded the Best Commenter Award by Magdalen Aithne Arkwright at Marcmire!  This is my first blog award, so I'm very excited and happy about it!  Thank you Magdalen for bestowing it on me.

These are the rules:

- Should you choose to accept the award, you will always have the power to pass it on to other outstanding commenters like yourself.
- In addition, at the beginning of next month, evaluate the comments of this current month and graciously present the Best Commenter Award to the person that commented the most often.  Give a testimony of their greatness and, if they are also a blogger, link to their blog.  (This is a one time obligation and you will not be expected to repeat this every month for the rest of your blogging career.)
- Optional:  give an acceptance speech on your own blog and leave a link in the comments below!

I am going to bestow the Best Commenter Award on Elizabeth at The Endless Road and James The Movie Reviewer at J and J Productions, who both left the most comments for the past month.

Elizabeth was the first friend I ever made on Blogger.  I found her blog in the early days of blogging, when I had just recently begun both of my blogs.  I stumbled upon her blog through her post about Anne Boleyn.  This all happened roughly about a year ago, which means I have been blogging for about a year!  Ever since then, Elizabeth has left many comments on my bog, sharing many interesting points of knowledge and also sharing about herself.

James The Movie Reviewer is one of the writers at J and J Productions, a blog full to the brim with great movie reviews.  James has kindly left many relatable comments and always has something interesting to say.  I'm glad to have found a blogger who is also a Star Wars, Sherlock, and Doctor Who fan!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


I have found out that on the 23rd of September, Jessie J's second album will be released in Britain, and then released worldwide the next day.  It has been revealed that the title of her new album is "Alive".

Jessie J
As of late, a few songs from her next album have been released, including "It's My Party", "Excuse My Rude", and "Square One", as well as "Wild", which was released in May.  I shared my thoughts on "Wild" here.

I like "It's My Party".  For me, it doesn't rank as high as "Who You Are", "Nobody's Perfect", or "Big White Room", but I like it.  It's catchy and it has an energetic beat that makes me feel like dancing.

"Excuse My Rude" is the second album's "Do It Like a Dude".  Like "Do It Like a Dude", it has an intimidating and empowering feeling.  And unlike "Wild", it has rap that goes well with the rest of the song.  Becky G's rapping is energetic and flows rhythmically.  Jessie J and Becky G's style go well together in this song.  As a result, this is a very catchy and addictive song.

Of course, I can't know for certain, since I have yet to hear all of her new songs, but "Square One" may quite possibly be my favorite from her second album, "Alive".  My favorite part of the lyrics is:  "I don't want to hold hands with a stranger, I don't want to walk when I just learnt how to run."

"Magnetic" is beautiful, haunting, and addictive.  I can't decide which I love more, "Square One" or "Magnetic".  I've heard rumors of "Magnetic" not being on the second album.  I hope this isn't true.  It now ranks among my favorite songs by Jessie J.  "Magnetic" is featured in The Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones, which will be in theaters August 21st.

There's also "Hero", which is a really great song.  "Hero" is featured in the sequel to the superhero movie Kick-Ass, which is now in theaters.  I like "Hero" more than "It's My Party", "Excuse My Rude", and even "Wild".

I prefer the acoustic version of "Wild" to the version that will be on her album.  Jessie J is one of the few musicians I know who sounds better live.  I actually prefer the live acoustic versions of most of her songs.  It shows off her voice, and it just suits some of her songs better.

An acoustic version of "Wild" (not the whole song):

In an interview, Jessie shared that there will be an emotional song on her next album that she will not perform live, as it would be too emotional for her.  I think this song will be the "Who You Are" of her next album.  I was wondering if there would be a more emotional and personal song like "Who You Are", and this song seems to be what I have been hoping for.  It will only feature Jessie's voice and a piano.

Well, for now, until the release of "Alive", I will content myself with listening to her earlier songs as I wait:

"My Shadow":

An amazing live performance of "Who You Are":

A heart-felt live performance of "Who You Are" at a concert in 2012.  She is a musician who sings with her heart and soul, and she gives every performance her all.

And an awesome performance of "Nobody's Perfect" at the same concert:

The hair style Jessie has in this performance is my favorite of her hair styles - it's very 1970's-like.  She reminds me of Julie Christie with this hair style.  I like how Jessie interacts with her audience - she's very down-to-earth and personal with her fans, and a natural at performing.