Thursday, December 27, 2012

Domerberry Movie Review: Les Miserables

To most of the world, this week was, like, Christmas and stuff. To anyone who's anyone, though, this week's biggest event was, of course, the opening of the movie version of Les Miserables. The whole Christmas celebration thing kept me from going on opening day (would that I celebrated Hanukkah), and a stupid blizzard kept me from seeing it yesterday. Today, then, two carloads of Cahalans headed to Kokomo to, at long last, see Les Mis. And now, it is time for the blog post that anyone who has ever met me should have seen coming for weeks: the official Domerberry Les Mis review. 

Before I begin, I'll make one important note: until today, I had never actually seen Les Mis. Not live; not online; not on DVD; not at all. This is shocking, I know, but what can I say? I am nothing if not fascinatingly full of surprises. I've heard (and heard, and heard, and heard) the music, and I have enough super-Les-Mis-fangirl friends to know the story pretty well. Essentially, though, I am a Les Mis newbie - and these are my thoughts. 

Let's start with the hands-down best part of this movie: Gavroche. The. Best. Part. That adorable little revolutionary urchin may just be the cutest and most perfect thing upon which I have ever laid eyes. When he crawled up on that first carriage and started spouting out his sassy little song (a song whose words and tune I cannot remember, so which I am imagining as "Officer Krupke" sung to Javert), I immediately realized he was the best part of the film, and I have not changed my mind. Sorry, Anne Hathaway. Sorry, all the other 85 people who will win Oscars for this film. Team Gavroche 4eva. 

Now that I've mentioned them, though, we might as well talk about the important people in the film. Hugh Jackman. You're perfect. Whatever. Go home, continue to be perfect, continue trying to cleanse yourself of the replicated human feces you had to crawl/swim through in the sewer scene. Ew. Anne Hathaway, I and everyone else in the world really wish you were in this movie more. Alas, though, bald woman, these are the occupational hazards of signing on for a movie with twenty-five different main characters and seven different plotlines. Russell Crowe, it would be great if you could just not sing again, maybe ever. You can go and live a wonderful life on some non-singing famous actor island where I trust Pierce Brosnan has been living ever since he tried to star in Mamma Mia. And while you're at it, stop walking on the edge of stuff so much! There has never in history been a grown man as interested in teetering on the edges of high-up structures as Javert is in this movie. You don't see perfect Gavroche walking on dangerous stuff like that, and he is a child. Take some notes. 

I could obviously write an entire blog (not blog post, blog, as in dozens of posts) about the Thenardiers. I want to be Helena Bonham Carter. Sacha Baron Cohen is also flawless in this movie. Young Cosette did not appreciate how good she had it living with these two perfect humans. "Castle on a Cloud" - one of the worst songs ever - was cut mercifully short in this movie, but anyone living with Helena Bonham Carter has no right to sing any verses of that song at all. In the castle on a Domerberry cloud, Helena Bonham Carter is the lady "ohl in whyit." I sympathize with the plight of young Cosette, but like...come on. 

Old Cosette, however, is another story. Dumb. I did not mind Amanda Seyfried in this, though my years of Mamma Mia watching did leave me concerned the whole time that she would spontaneously break out in a rousing chorus of "Honey, Honey." As a character, though, I cannot bring myself to like old Cosette. She's rich. She falls in love with a guy after seeing him for a total of maybe 7 seconds, which somehow no one has ever told her is a horribly misguided idea. And worst of all, she completely ruins everything for poor, friend-zoned, tiny-waisted Eponine. In the immortal words of Amanda Seyfried's most important character, "That's not right, is it?" No, Karen. That is so not right. 

Old Eponine, on the other hand, I felt a bit more sorry for. By the end, I think (in a manner completely uninfluenced, I'm sure, by my extreme disinterest in "A Little Fall of Rain") she's gone a bit too far on the route to Crazytown. Homeboy is not interested in you, and there comes a time to move past that fact, my inhumanly skinny friend. But for most of the movie, I feel terribly bad for her. I want to be her friend - partially because she obviously needs one, but also mostly because she seems sort of interestingly ethnic and kind of sings with a sassy little somethin' going on. I know she's played by the impossibly-dimensioned Samantha Barks, but I like to pretend she's played by JoJo. Oh, and have I mentioned she's really freaking skinny? 


And finally, there are the revolutionaries. I'm not really sure where to start with them. So many feelings.  So many thoughts. I've been pondering this pretty extensively since the revolutionaries first walked on screen today, and I've decided that, in my ideal vision of this film, Aaron Tveit actually just plays both Enjolras and Marius. They give him two separate haircuts, put him in two separate costumes, and give him two separate halves of a picture of Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson, just to complete the Parent Trap effect. Mostly, this is because I find it completely improbable that anyone would ever fall for weird-looking Eddie Redmayne when Aaron Tveit is even in the same zip code. Don't get me wrong; this Eddie Redmayne guy did a great job. I just wish that poor, beautiful Aaron Tveit got a love story.

So let's put it another way: in a really, really perfect version of Les Mis, it is actually Enjolras and Eponine who, out of mutual realization that they will never be Marius' #1, fall madly and conveniently in love and who end up living happily ever after. And then they adopt Gavroche. And the four of us all go to dinner together a lot. Cool. 

Anyway, all in all, this movie was awfully close to perfect. I did not cry, but I did walk out of the theater with a slight limp from the absolute beatdown the movie gave me with all twenty thousand of its heart-wrenching tragic plot twists. Have I seen better performances of "Stars" from high school students than I did today from Russell Crowe? I mean, maybe. And do I really, really think Samantha Barks needs to go eat a sandwich? Yes. But that was pretty darn awesome. If, at any point during the rest of Christmas break, you need to find me, I will probably be at the movie theater watching Les Mis again. 

Oh, and just because why not: 

Grumpy Cat Fo Eva

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Unabridged and Uncensored Thoughts on Dentistry

Well, friends, I've been finished with finals and home from school for just about 48 whole hours, so naturally, it was time this morning for me to be subjected to various medieval tortures disguised as a teeth cleaning.

My mother despises dental medicine more adamantly than any human I have ever met - with the possible exception of her own mother, who, rumor has it, has kicked dentists from the chair on multiple occasions - so I have been taught well to hate dental work in all its forms. If that upbringing weren't enough, I also endured a mouthful of braces for almost 6 years, and I have a pain threshold that has not widened since I was about five years old.

Dentistry, then, is not my friend. So this morning, as I sat/laid in the chair, holding on to the armrests for dear life and trying futilely to shield myself from the 3 types of fluorescent lights shining directly into my eyes, I decided to really think about all the reasons why dentistry is actually the worst.

Let's start with the setup of this whole endeavor. Unlike my second-to-least favorite brand of face-related medicine, optometry, practitioners of dental work feel the need to come at your mouth from above. Just from a gravitational and/or anatomical perspective, this is a weird choice. Things will necessarily get complicated to accomodate this ridiculous need. First, the patient must be placed in an entirely inconvenient adjustable chair. Today, the particular chair I was placed in "kinda moves back and forth pretty fast - sorry about that!" After being thrown around in this chair at 30 mph for a few minutes, though, I finally achieved the proper level of reclining - the point at which the room's overhead light shines down directly into your poor, defenseless eyes. From there, the dentist or hygienist is free to attack your mouth from above and to move that stupid gooseneck light around in a million different ways until it is just angled enough to completely blind you for the next half hour. Once all this is in place, the dumbest part of dentistry begins: small talk. Inevitably, right when the person working on your teeth has both of his/her hands and three or four different instruments of torture in your mouth, he or she will ask you a question. In other cases, perhaps, you'll be offered hygiene tips that sound like clips from a personal health PSA for first-graders. No matter what the person says, though, you will, as a rule, be unable to respond with human words. The range of meaning you can convey through differently-pitched grunts is really tested when you're sitting in the dentist's chair. For me this morning, this unfairly one-sided conversation went something like this:

"So, you're going abroad next semester?"
"That'll be really cool. My daughter did that in college!"
"Your teeth are lookin' pretty good. Still pretty straight after the braces, could be better, but pretty good."
"N-hnh." [Accompanied by the closest I could muster to a -_____- face with four dental implements hanging out of my mouth]
"So remember, you know, brush twice a day and everything."
"Looks good! Have a nice Christmas!"

I must admit, I impressed everyone involved today by actually initiating a conversation through these meaningless "nnn"s at one point. Upon hearing my mother's voice from the hallway - odd, since I am 20 years old, came by myself, and generally like to blindly hold on to the belief that I am somewhat capable of taking care of myself - I said to my hygienist, "....Hnnn?" Apparently, if there's one thing a career in dental hygiene gets you besides the occasional bite mark on your hands, it's an ability to decipher complete nonsense words. After taking no time at all to translate my "Hnnn," she responded, "Oh, yeah, hearing your mom in the hallway?" "N-hnnnh, hh hh." "Sounds like she's talking about your sister, you're good!"

This exchange was the one instance during my time in the chair that I was more impressed by the people working on my mouth than I was repulsed by them. The rest of what they do is pure evil. I swear that dentistry is the only branch of medicine in which you can legally get away with straight-up ignoring dozens of indicators of pain. On some level, this makes sense. When almost every single part of your job inflicts pain on the person you're hovering over, I guess you can't drop everything any time that blood flow to your patient's knuckles completely ceases as a function of their vicegrip on the chair or their eyebrows contort in ways previously confined to silent film actresses tied to the tracks and in the path of an oncoming train.  While I can sort of, almost understand this willful ignorance of human pain, however, there is a simple solution to one of these pain problems - and I don't understand why, in my experience, dental offices never take advantage of it. Chapstick! Sure, there was a tube of chapstick in the goody bag they gave me on my way out the door (goody bags, by the way, being one of the few saving graces of the field; don't think they hand out free earrings at the ENT), but it would do everyone a lot more good if they handed out chapstick before forcing your mouth open and exposing your poor lips to the recycled office air with no chance for moisture for an hour. Just saying, dentists. Think about it.

My final complaint with dentistry is its unwavering ability to completely disorient me in every way. Nothing unusual went on at my appointment today - no numbing substances, no anesthesia of any kind. And yet, somehow, there was almost no point at which I was confident in my assessment of what was going on in my mouth. The twenty different kinds of weird angles involved in a dental checkup just throw me for a loop. When the hygienist was dealing with my front teeth, I could barely tell if she was on the top or bottom of my mouth, let alone whether she was working on the front or back of my teeth. As to where she was in relation to the permanent-retainer wire that spans the back of my bottom front teeth? Forget about it. I kept trying to figure out what she was doing, and I simply could not. I'm choosing to blame it on the lights.

Overall, though, whether disorienting, painful, illogical, or some combination of the three, dentistry is terrible. As it turns out, I have to go back to the dentist at 7:20 tomorrow morning to have some "almost-cavities" filled - so my hatred is going to stay fresh for at least the next couple of days. Fortunately for my dentist, I have just enough of an obsession with the mouth-centered activities of talking and eating to ensure that I will keep coming back and not just become a scary toothless person like the dentist-hater inside of me wants me to do. But I'm not gonna like it.

And to any dentists reading this (since I'm sure there are, like, sooo many)? If you want to avoid creating dentist-haters like me, it's pretty simple - don't keep braces on a kid for six years. Unless you want to ruin their childhoods and give them endless fodder for future memoirs.

Oh, and stop giving college kids appointments at 7 AM. That is the middle of the night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Calm Down, People

Recently, I have unearthed what is clearly a missing section from Genesis. Based on how today has gone, we all appear to have missed a crucial section in the creation narrative of the Christian world - the part that says, "And on the fourth day (of December), there will be lots and lots of things that girls will obsess over."

In Notre Dame circles, the big topic of the day was the Great National Championship Game Ticket Lottery War. Today, you see, was the day when all of the brewing unrest over the perceived injustices of the ticket lottery came to a sizzling, cat-fight-filled boil in The Observer and all over the internet. For those of you who have not heard about this controversy, first of all, sorry your school's not playing in the national championship, suckas. (Because let's be honest - if you're part of the ND family by any of the many interpretations of that term, you've heard about this controversy.) Secondly, the controversy is essentially this: students at both Notre Dame and our sister school, St. Mary's, are being allowed to enter the lottery for the 2500 student tickets at the national championship, with no special weight or statistical help given to any group. And let me tell you, people are up in arms about this. The student newspaper published an article today that included some probably unfairly decontextualized but nevertheless incendiary quotes on the topic. All day, the "comments" section on the article's online page has been blowing up with cyber-arguments, and, from what I hear from my friends at St. Mary's (yes, I have those!), the Facebook newsfeeds of the students at the school across the road have descended to a level startlingly close to full-tilt jungle madness. To all of this, I have only one thing to say:

Calm the heck down, people.

Let's address the problems of the ticket lottery that it actually makes sense to contest. First of all, as a certain HoCro transfer friend of mine eloquently pointed out in his own Observer piece (proofreading/eloquence-enhancing services provided by yours truly, you're welcome bro), Notre Dame's other sibling institution, Holy Cross College, was left clear out of the lottery. Guys, Rudy went there. Let's re-evaluate this choice.

Secondly, let's just think for a moment about what exactly it is we're arguing about. We are all currently vying for spots in a lottery where the prize you win is the loss of $170 from your wallet. Even if you don't win in the lottery, you still lose $20. Last time I checked, winning a lottery was supposed to reward you. Obviously, the tickets you're paying for are totally worth the ridiculously low price you're forking over for them, but like...could we think of no better term than lottery? "Lottery" to me just sounds like "free money," "hey you are winning stuff for free," "winning this will be awesome and not cost you more than like $2 unless you are one of those weird people whose lottery addiction goes hand in hand with the Marlboros they buy with their tickets." "Winning stuff that you still have to pay $170 for, in addition to all the other costs involved in a random vacation to Miami," does not sound much like my typical idea of a lottery. If I win a lottery, I want you to pay me.

(A quick note to any Notre Dame people of influence and/or overwhelmingly generous concerned alumni reading this: please do not allow the above statements to influence my chances of winning the lottery. I am okay with paying $170 as a prize. Also, feel free to take my lunch money.)

So, in sum, please shut up about the ticket lottery. If Monday comes and you don't win, don't blame a St. Mary's girl; blame your shoddy faith life. After all, if ND can use God as justification for our victories, it's only fair to attribute your loss to your insufficient Grotto time.

Meanwhile, in the world outside of South Bend, today was also the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I didn't watch it. I do not care remotely about it. But once again, I am forced to offer but one piece of pleading advice:

Shut up about it.

If a girl wants to watch the show because it's entertaining - my boy J. Biebs performed, for instance; the ensembles really are pretty cool; the models say really hilariously stupid stuff in their interviews sometimes; etc - let her. Don't go on and on about offensive or anti-feminist it is. It's a piece of television entertainment. Whatever. If you want to watch it as a weird pity party where you sit around eating ice cream and crying about how you'll never look like that, first of all, maybe put down the ice cream. Secondly, go ahead and do that! Just don't broadcast it all over the internet. Channel it into something positive. Watch it and quietly acknowledge that normative cultural ideas of beauty are unrealistic and body pride is super righteous. Watch it as motivation to start on a health kick. Do not watch it so you can sit around tweeting about how fat you are and waiting for your friends to tell you, like, no, you're totes like sooo skinnyyy. That, my friends, is annoying.

Oh, and for the record? As I've said before, you probably actually are skinny. Given the sheer demographics of my friend/acquaintance base, the odds are very, very good that if you're reading this, you're not morbidly obese. So congrats, and shut up about being fat.

Finally, plunked down in the middle of all of today's obsessive emotions, there were some obsessions with which I am entirely okay. The first of these, of course, is Glee Club caroling. To explain to the non-ND students among my readership, each year in the days leading up to finals, the Glee Club goes around to all of the girls' dorms on campus to serenade the ladies with Christmas carols. It is swoon city. With the inclusion of the traveling mistletoe, it's both exhilarating and terrifying, sending girls into the most obscure 24-hour-lounge corners they can find in order to avoid ending up under the mistletoe. (I, for one, am proudly 3 for 3 on mistletoe avoidance.) It is one of the few hall traditions that sends girls of all participation levels in the dorm and of all grade levels flocking to one room, year after year, despite the fact that the format literally never changes. It is an obsession, and I'm not even going to try to tell you to shut up about it. God knows I'm not shutting up about it any time soon.

The other acceptable obsession of this day is, shockingly, also related to the menfolk. This one comes to us through tonight's combined Folk Choir/Coro Primavera rehearsal for this weekend's Guadalupe mass.

I'm just going to be honest here - the trumpet player for the Coro Primavera is extremely good-looking. If you happen to somehow be reading this, Coro trumpet player, sorry I'm not sorry. You're good looking. Our corner of the soprano section calls you Trumpet Hombre. Every girl in the room was snapchatting all the other girls in the room tonight to communicate her awe over your trumpet-playing and singing skills and your tall dark & ethnically ambiguous good looks.

This is just a fact. For the sake of Trumpet Hombre's dignity, we should probably all calm down on this a little bit (and I should probably stop calling him Trumpet Hombre). But as long as you're not sending out self-pitying tweets about how you'll never snag a guy as hot as him or starting a Viewpoint war over the kid, I can't complain.

In all, I vote that we all just try for a general sense of calm over these insignificant matters. After all, finals begin in a few short days, and I bet you probably have enough actual concerns to worry about with that impending reality without freaking out about other things. Have an opinion on the ticket lottery or the VS fashion show, but don't wield it as some weird, aggressive weapon. Obsess over the Glee Club if you want, because that is typically a healthy interest that won't keep you from functioning as a normal, not-completely-insufferable human. Send those shocked snapchats about hot Trumpet Hombres, because gosh darn it, hot Trumpet Hombres are hot.

And if you want something to really freak out about? Start counting down the days until the arrival of the Royal Baby.