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Movin' right along

This week's Friday Five are on the theme of "movement," but mostly they're about music, so sit back and relax. I'll have a lot to say! Ready?


1. What's a song that recently moved you?
I just saw Mary Poppins Returns, and I loved it. Now, I'll freely admit that there's not a single piece in this new one that can touch any of the original's Sherman & Sherman hits, but that doesn't mean that the Returns songs (by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) aren't, for the most part, both consistently effective and often affecting in context. Oh, and they're very Sherman-esque, which I think was intentional and, in the main, wise.

There are three particularly sweet songs in the movie, each in its way moving in the sense I believe is intended by the question. The breakout "sad song," and the one my friends are already calling their favorite, is "The Place Where Lost Things Go," sung by Mary Poppins as a lullaby to the youngest of the three half-orphaned, next-gen Banks children. Carefully crafted to draw a tear from all but the most stony-hearted, it definitely got to me. For that I give more of the credit to the music, finding (as I often do, because I really am an impossibly critical person) the lyric to be maybe a little weak.

A stronger song, in my opinion, is the opening number, "(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky," sweetly crooned by the impossibly adorable Lin-Manuel Miranda (every time he opens his mouth, the universe defies one not to love him) as he establishes both the story's setting and his own Dick van Dyke stand-in role of Jack the lamp-lighter. A lushly scored up-tempo waltz, Sky elicited a thrill of anticipation and had me misting up before one bit of plot had actually unfolded.

Last but not least, there's Ben Whishaw's temporarily movie-stealing piece, "A Conversation." Mr. Whishaw inhabits what might have been the thankless part of grown-up Michael Banks, now a distracted widower and reluctant bank employee whose woes prompt his erstwhile nanny's return. In a poignant early moment, he sings to the memory of his late wife about things both mundane and profound, ending with, well, the question whose answer we'd all like to know (and that Mary's above-mentioned lullaby is supposed to answer, I suppose). It's quite the most genuine thing in the film.

2. What's a song that recently moved you — right out the door?
So, this would be a song I disliked so much that I wanted to leave the room? I can't think of anything, so I'll give you a counterfactual instead. I just (as in, less than a week ago "just") saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway. I'm going to assume that you are at least vaguely familiar with this award-winning hit musical by the creators of South Park, and how it gleefully skewers a curious American religious subculture which offers, it must be said, a pretty wide target for such treatment. I can now say with authority that, while the show lampoons the heck out of its title material, it is quite affectionate toward its naively believing characters, to the extent that the overall effect is kinda touching ... however, at the same time, I am also able to confirm that the play is incredibly, infamously, deeply, and distractingly profane. I mean, the squishy center of its message ("dogma bad; hopeful human spirit good") is surrounded by a thick crust of "F" words and risque jokes that most people of my allegiances and sensibilities will find impenetrable. I know a good number of folks (church friends all) who innocently bought tickets to the touring production and didn't make it past intermission. Indeed, I'm pretty sure that had my five-years-ago self, and certainly my ten-years-ago persona, bought a ticket without doing the research, she would have abandoned things at the fourth number (if you've seen it, you know the one I mean). Because F-words are one thing, but F-words directed at Ultimate Reality are another, right?

It's not that Former Me wouldn't have understood that at the end of the day, "bad words" are only syllables, and that the really subversive aspect (vis-a-vis religion) of any play would surely lie in its theme, not it's naughty vocabulary. It's simply that Former Me valued her still-tender conscience, knowing that the possession of such a thing so far into adulthood is a deliberate choice, and that it can't really be regained once it's surrendered. Former Me believed that the rest of the world could, of course, do as it pleased, but that she wasn't going to pay for the privilege of seeing the admittedly tiny perimeter enclosing the things that are truly sacred crossed by the crassness of the world. You want to debate whether the problem of evil entitles us to be angry at G-d? (I am referring again to that fourth song.) I'm in, I would have said. But some presentations of the argument are off-limits, I'd've insisted, because some things must never be allowed to lose their ability to make one flinch. As a price of my choice, I was willing to be lumped in with the fundamentalists in the eyes of more sophisticated chums who might ask whether I was going to see The Book of Mormon on its next Baltimore stop. "Just not for me," I said more than once.

But sometime in the last five or so years, I guess I crossed over, and last summer I realized that I was ready to give The Book of Mormon a go. I bought the ticket but only told a few churchy-type folks, which is a good thing, because now I'm not in the anomalous position of having to say to too many people that "It was great, but I cannot in good conscience recommend that you go see it. In fact, I think you definitely shouldn't."

(You, reader, should go see it. Except, of course, not.)

3. What kinds of dance performances interest you?
Okay, this is where I remind you just how much a square I really am. The fact is, I am not really a dance person, but here are the kinds of dance-y things I've derived pleasure from and would be happy to look at any time:

  • classical ballet, but only in person. The fatigue hits sooner when it's a filmed ballet (sorry, Great Performances).
  • choreography-laden musicals, in person or on film.
  • filmed performances of great 20th-C hoofers like Astaire, Kelly, the Nicholas Brothers, and the host of others in their category (if not in their league).
  • ballroom, but only in small doses (similarly, ice dancing in various ballroom styles).
  • things that are extraordinary of their kind, at least once, just to admire the skill involved -- this might include Michael Jackson videos, some hip-hop, really avant-garde modern stuff, etc.
It appears that I better appreciate dancing when it's to music that I like. Also, that I am hopelessly, helplessly, uselessly white. And old.

May I add here that I can't dance, but really, really, really wish I could?

4. What’s a good song with the word move (or some form of it) in the title?
The obvious answer is the Carole King hit "I Feel the Earth Move," and my runners-up are Billy Joel's "Movin' Out," The Muppet Movie's "Movin' Right Along," the folk song "She Moved Through the Fair" (here's another version), Muddy's Waters' "She Moves Me," and the theme song to The Jeffersons ("Movin' on Up"). I originally had the Beatles' "Something" on the list, in the mistaken belief that its title was its entire first line -- and there's actually an interesting story about that, which I just learned today.

That's a pretty '70's-dominated list, but it *was* my coming-of-age decade.

5. How do you feel about prunes?
Born circa 1960, I'm from the era of kids whose parents made them drink a glass of prune juice if, well, you know. I thought it was foul stuff then, and I've never been tempted to try it as an adult to see whether my opinion would be different. I also can't remember whether it ever had the desired effect.

I have eaten the odd prune as a grown up -- my mother-in-law went through a phase of offering them round whenever we visited. They're okay, I guess. A little like a giant raisin.
 

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
scrivener
Jan. 21st, 2019 02:16 am (UTC)
"...the admittedly tiny perimeter enclosing the things that are truly sacred crossed by the crassness of the world."

This is a great sentence. As a person of faith and a lifelong lover of heavy metal music (including, in my middle-agehood, some extreme forms), it's soemthing I had to deal with most of my young life. I'm in a more comfy space now, but I admit that I look with a concerned eye at (and listen with a concerned ear to) that comfiness once in a while. I didn't see The Book of Mormon when it came to Honolulu, but now I might have to if it returns. :)
philosophymom
Jan. 21st, 2019 04:28 am (UTC)
I thought it was both hilarious overall and quite touching in spots. But part of the price of admission, for me, was acknowledging that I'm not who I was, and that not all change is progress. (It's not necessarily regression, either; lateral moves are possible. As in the old Joni Mitchell song, "Well something's lost, but something's gained / In living every day.")
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )