Christmas tree & Talmudic law

Learning and questioning and arguing certain points of life, philosophy, theology, etc. are central elements of Judaism. The Talmud (Jewish law with countless commentaries on it) is made up of thousands of arguments rabbis have made about everything that governs life, it’s basically a sacred book (made up of several volumes) of arguments. In yeshivas (Jewish religious schools), the Talmud is studied and the endless laws and arguments are argued about. To give you a little idea, the kashrut (the dietary laws for eating kosher) alone are made up of 613 rules!

Historically, yeshivas have only been open to boys although nowadays in non-Orthodox Judaism women are allowed as well. In the 1983 movie Yentl, Barbra Streisand decided to dress up as a boy, just so that she could try to enter a yeshiva in early 20th century Poland to broaden her learning. Her happiness at being accepted into one is a beautiful moment of triumph in the movie. It also gives you a little glimpse at what a yeshiva looks like…

Anyway, all this yeshiva explaining is just the context for the video I actually wanted to show.

My sister shared a comedy video in our family group chat that is a couple of years old but that I’d never seen before. Watching this, you just know that the comedian, Elon Gold, must have attended a yeshiva himself as the arguing of rules and regulations in it is just so typically Jewish (useful to know before you watch this: “Shecht” = ritual slaughter / “Bracha” = a blessing)…

As someone who grew up around and with Jews and has Jewish family, this just feels so familiar and is really the funniest thing I have seen this Christmas season! I do wonder, however, if it as funny to people who are less familiar with Judaism. Regardless, I thought I’d share anyway, along with just about all the basic knowledge I have of yeshivas and Talmud. And hey, if you’re not familiar with Judaism, at least you’ll have learned something, i.e. it’s a good thing Jews don’t do Christmas trees. 🙂

#StayAtHome entertainment

All these weeks of staying at home and you’d think it would be boring, but it’s not really, not for me. Yes, I do miss the freedom of coming and going anywhere I please, seeing my family and friends for real, going out to cinemas and restaurants, travelling and experiencing new things. However, for all that I miss, I also have things I am grateful for: I’m with my wonderful husband and kids (seriously, I could never get sick of having them around), I still have work that pays me a regular salary, a roof over my head, a garden I can sit in when the sun shines, I have online and phone contacts with people outside and, as a bit of an introvert, I am also very well able to entertain myself.

I take walks with my husband but sometimes also by myself, with music playing in my headphones as I enjoy the scenery. The other day I took a lovely walk in a little green area about a 7 minute walk away from my house. I was listening to the Yentl soundtrack that I hadn’t listened to in a while. Papa is always an emotional song for me, connected in so many meaningful ways to my own papa…

Anyway, listening to beautiful, relaxing music like that while walking can really lift your spirits, especially when the views are so pretty with nature blooming now in the spring…

Not that many people walk there at the end of the afternoon/beginning of the evening when I tend to take my walks, so it’s a good keeping-your-distance route. I love to see the trees starting to bloom and flowers popping up.

And there is more to entertain me! There are re-reruns on Dutch TV of my absolute favourite show of the end 1980’s / beginning 1990’s, the Australian TV series The Flying Doctors. We’re in the doctor Geoff and nurse Kate heydays right now, so even though I have seen all the episodes and I own them, I also do tune in now and again to see how they’re getting on and where they are in the story. We’re getting close to the big Geoff and Kate rift in season 4 when Geoff’s brother comes to town; that was one of the most exciting times of the whole series, I love seeing those episodes.

There were 9 seasons of that show, the last two seasons or so weren’t as fun, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a special on how they’re doing now, 30 years on.

On Friday evening I enjoyed a broadcast of  a 2011 The Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary performance on YouTube. By the time I post this, it will almost be going offline, but oh my goodness it was good (and worth a donation)! I didn’t mean to watch the whole thing but I got stuck anyway. Ramin Karimloo plays the Phantom with such feeling and intensity, I became a fan instantly. And Sierra Boggess as Christine is just amazing. I had never heard of them before and they have great chemistry together. Here a clip of them perfoming at the Brit Awards in 2012…

I also loved the celebration bit after the musical ended and, with just small gestures, again Ramin Karimloo made a great impression on me.

And then last night there was another #stayathome highlight for me. For the first time ever I did a three person video chat with two very good friends of mine in the US. We always chat a lot in writing, have done so for 18 years, but until this corona crisis when seemingly everyone has taken to video chatting, we had never thought to do a video chat amongst ourselves before. We’re usually busy and rarely online at the same time but with all of us staying at home now, we figured we should be able to arrange something. So, last night at 9 pm my time and 3 pm their time we finally got together for a video chat and ‘hung out’ for close to two hours, also seeing husbands and a few kids. It was wonderful! The internet and social media really can be so amazing.

Besides all this I have also been going down a Jean Simmons rabbit hole in recent weeks. I had been going through my Richard Chamberlain collection a little while back and saw bits and pieces of The Thorn Birds again where Jean Simmons plays Meggie’s mother, Fee. She is so good in that role!

It made me think of The Big Country with Gregory Peck again, in which she co-stars, and I re-watched that (yup, it’s good movie!). I have always loved her in the role of school teacher Julie Maragon, I always wished for her role to have been bigger.

Looking at her filmography I know I have seen her in a lot of things already over the years, most of the them ages ago, and I have always liked her. Besides the roles I just mentioned I remember her best in Great Expectations from 1946, Black Narcissus from 1947 (excellent movie!), even though those were small roles…

… and of course in Spartacus from 1960. I remember enjoying the film and story but I mostly remember loving Simmons as Varinia. I remember the tension in the Laurence Olivier scenes and the love in the Kirk Douglas scenes.

I have also seen The Robe (1953) with Richard Burton, Young Bess (1953) with her then-husband Stewart Granger and Désiree (1954) with Marlon Brando, all historical costume dramas. I confess to remembering little about them, although Young Bess and Désiree stick in my mind as movies I did like at the time.

I came across a movie called Until They Sail and, when I saw the trailer, remembered I had seen that too. I watched that one again and boy, I really liked it! It’s about four sisters in New Zealand during the Second World War and the relationships they have with Americans stationed there. I loved the understated, almost philosophical scenes between Jean Simmons and Paul Newman…

… and the conclusion between them is just everything. It’s not only about them, though, it’s about four sisters who are very different at handling the same situation. I really liked it, it’s going onto my fave Jean Simmons movies list.

Last night, after that two hour video chat (I’m a night owl), I watched Guys and Dolls from 1955 that Simmons also did with Marlon Brando. I’d never seen that before, apart from bits and pieces. Both are only OK singers but oh my, they have such great chemistry! I loved them together in this movie, like in this clip.

The movie was alright (it apparently also has Frank Sinatra) but really shone and came to life when those two appeared together on screen. It was fun!

Yeah, this Jean Simmons rabbit hole is going deep. I want to re-watch Désiree now to see if the chemistry with Brando was also there in that, and I want to see Young Bess and Spartcaus again. I also need to see Angel Face, a film noir movie with Robert Mitchum in which I think she plays a psychopath; it is said to be one of her absolute best roles.

jean simmon sangel face mitchum

Oh, and she did one with Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr called The Grass is Greener which I also saw many years ago, need to look into that one again as well.

I’m sure there will be more as I dig on.  I’m loving my journey of Jean Simmons re-discovery.

I feel it is so important to be social and stay at home and yes, I do feel restricted during this corona crisis but I am also lucky that I have enough ways to entertain myself. Thank goodness for the world at our feet on the internet and for a world that is beautiful outside.

Musicals through the decades

The latest Mach Was challenge is about musicals and ever since I saw that call, all sorts of musicals have been floating around in my head! Even though I am not the world’s greatest musical fan or connoisseur, I really do enjoy a good (movie) musical and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve seen quite a few of them over time – enough to be able to pick my favourites for each decade in musical movie history…


The 1930s – The Rogers & Astaire era

I realize that I should probably choose The Wizard of Oz (from 1939) as a favourite musical from the 1930s but I have to confess that I have never seen that movie! I’ve seen many clips & excerpts, I have read about it, but I have never actually watched it. For me, 1930s musicals are synonymous with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! I have already once before enthused here on blog about this dancing and singing screen couple. I’ve been reviewing their movies again and I think my favourite would have to be Top Hat (1935), although I also really liked Swing Time (1936). The plots for both movies are somewhat contrived but, oh, the dance numbers!

Top Hat is a mistaken-identity movie. It centers around a model (Ginger Rogers) on holiday in London and Paris who mistakes an entertainer (Fred Astaire) for the husband of her friend. The movie features the very famous Fred Astaire in top hat dance…

… and the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ feather-dress-dance (the feathers on Ginger Rogers’ dress were flying around everywhere, if you look closely in the video you can see it – apparently after that, Fred Astaire nicknamed Ginger ‘Feathers’)…


The 1940s – More Fred Astaire!

The 1940s are still about Fred Astaire for me. He reunited with Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), which I really enjoyed (and of all the Astaire/Rogers movies the plot of this one makes the most sense to me), but the movie I liked even more was Easter Parade (1948) with Astaire and Judy Garland. Easter Parade is about nightclub performer Don (Fred Astaire) who hires naive chorus girl Hannah (Judy Garland) to become his new dance partner to make his former partner jealous. He wants to prove he can make any partner a star. Hannah bristles against Don’s attempts to make her just like his old partner and grows into her own kind of performer.

‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ may be the most well-known song from that movie…

… and here’s a fun number,  ‘A Couple of Swells’, where Hannah truly is very different from Don’s elegant former partner…

It’s a fun watch! Especially Judy’s acting, and of course Fred’s dancing, stand out here.


The 1950s – The Gene Kelly era

The 1950s had a ton of musicals. I really like another Fred Astaire musical called Funny Face (1957), also starring my darling Audrey Hepburn, and a lovely jazz musical with Danny Kaye called Five Pennies (1959) but, most of all, the 1950s is Gene Kelly’s decade to me! He did An American in Paris (1951) with Leslie Caron, which is a fun musical, but I think my fave 50s musical has got to be Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which Gene Kelly did with Debbie Reynolds.

Singin’ in the Rain is set in the late 1920s when movies went from silent to sound. When two silent movie stars’ latest movie is turned into a musical, a chorus girl is brought in to dub the female movie star’s singing and speaking. Gene Kelly plays the movie star Don Lockwood and Debbie Reynolds plays the chorus girl Kathy Selden. The very iconic title song is maybe the most well-known musical number ever. It never gets old looking at this…

The one I catch myself singing sometimes, just like that, is ‘Good Morning’…

I swear, virtually every number in this musical is legendary, there isn’t a bad song and dance routine in it!


The 1960s – The Julie Andrews era

I liked Hello Dolly (from 1964, with Barbra Streisand) but the mid 1960s is really the Julie Andrews era. She famously starred in My Fair Lady on stage but wasn’t deemed well-known enough for the movie, so the Eliza Doolittle role for the 1964 movie went to Audrey Hepburn instead. In the meantime Julie Andrews made Mary Poppins (yes, we’re still in 1964!) and became very famous for that.  However, my fave 60s musical has got to be The Sound of Music, which was made a year later in 1965.

The Sound of Music is about a young postulant, Maria (Julie Andrews), who is sent to be the governess to the children of naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). It is set in Salzburg (Austria) in 1938 around the time the Nazis gain power there and is based on a true story. It’s awfully corny in many ways, but I do love it; it is well-acted and has real heart. There are some songs there I don’t like very much (like when the Mother Superior sings ‘Climb Every Mountain’ or the ’16 going on 17′ song), but others are absolutely irresistible, like ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘My favourite things’ (which incidentally is also the tag-line of this blog)…

There is also this very romantic dance. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to German/Austrian ‘Volksmusik’, which this is to a certain extent. This scene, however, always makes my heart skip a beat…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie; I even went to a Sound of Music sing-along once, eight years ago!

It was absolutely silly but a lot of fun.


The 1970s – The rock & pop musical era but I liked fairytales!

This is the time of the rock & pop musicals, like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), or Saturday Night Fever (1977) or Grease (1978). All of them fine! But, I was a little girl in the 1970s and just starting to learn about movies and musicals. At the tender age of 7 I fell in love with a kitsch Cinderella movie musical called The Slipper and the Rose (1976) with Richard Chamberlain as the prince and Gemma Craven as Cinderella. I have blogged about The Slipper and the Rose before here and I have shared some fun musical clips from that movie here. It’s probably got a lot to do with nostalgia, but I still love this musical (that virtually nobody knows anymore). Let me share another romantic dance video with you: the prince and Cinderella meet and dance…

… and my father’s favourite song, I always think of him when I see or hear this…


The 1980s – Youth musicals

There was Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984) and Dirty Dancing (1987), which was all very youth centered and I remember them all being very popular when they came out. I liked them and enjoyed them and fell in love with David Bowie and a teenage Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth (1986), but the musical I loved most was Yentl (1983), which was not so youth oriented. In my house, the whole family loved that movie, we had the soundtrack on LP and played it continuously.

Set in early 1900s Eastern Europe, Yentl is about a young woman (Barbra Streisand) who dreams of studying Talmud but as a girl is not permitted to do so. After her father dies, she disguises herself as a boy and goes out into the world to find a place where no one knows her, so that she can get the education she so covets. Things get complicated when she falls in love (with Avigdor, played by Mandy Patinkin)…

The song ‘Papa’ from the movie, then and now, always makes me think of my own father. Again, in this movie, all the songs are great, like ‘One of Those Moments’…

… or the final song. ‘A Piece of Sky’…

This is also a musical I have seen many times and it never grows old!


The 1990s – Cartoon musicals

There were musicals like Sister Act (from 1992, which was fun) and Evita (from 1996, just OK) but to me mostly the Disney cartoon musicals stand out in the 1990s, like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). The movie that sticks out most for me is The Lion King (1994). I thought I was all over cartoons by mid mid-20s until I saw The Lion King in the cinema (I only went because some friends wanted to see it). To my surprise, that movie made me cry in the first 15 minutes! For me it isn’t a musical masterpiece like some of the musicals I mentioned in earlier decades are, but I did love it! The ‘Hakuna Matata’ song was cute! At the time everyone also said ‘hakuna matata’ to each other, it was a bit of a hype.

Last year I went to London for a few days with my son and I promised him a stage show. He picked The Lion King, so we went to see that and very much enjoyed it!

20170421_191519_resized

I like that this musical is now linked to my son like that. 🙂


The 2000s – Fairytales & books

Not many musicals spring to mind in this era, but I did really enjoy Moulin Rouge (2001 about a writer and a cabaret star). That movie didn’t have many original songs but it did have great covers of great pop songs which made it a joyous watch. As a Jane Austen fan, I also really loved the Indian answer to Pride and Prejudice, called Bride and Prejudice (2004). In fact, I need to share one clip from that movie. The actor Naveen Andrews (he plays Balraj, the Bingley character, dressed in black), really reminds me of my youngest brother and I could actually picture my brother doing this dance act as well…

I love the way P&P translates to an Indian story and the joy that seeps through in all the songs and dances.

My fave 2000s musical, however, has got to be Enchanted (2007). A young maiden called Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in a land called Andalasia and is prepared to be wed to Prince Edward (James Marsden), is sent away to cynical New York City by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon), where she falls in love with lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). It’s a real princess story yet also a spoof on all (animated) Disney princess stories, with even a hint of The Sound of Music spoof thrown in. See if you can spot that reference in this joyous ‘That’s How You Know’ number…

It’s fun and funny for adults and there’s also serious princess stuff there for the little ones. I discovered Amy Adams through this; she plays the princess so brilliantly and is nicely offset by grumpy Patrick Dempsey who slowly thaws (and she learns how to be angry!).


The 2010s- The Hugh Jackman era

So, here we are – the musicals of this present decade! I probably should mention La La Land (2016) here, as it won so very many awards! I felt, however, that that movie was very over-hyped. It was nice enough but the quality of the main actors’ singing and dancing just couldn’t hold a candle to some of the musicals mentioned above. I was underwhelmed. For me, the best musicals of the past 7 odd years have starred Hugh Jackman, so to me this is the Hugh Jackman musical age!

First off, Les Miserables (2012). I have always loved Les Miserables. In the mid 1980s we had a tape at home with all the songs from the London stage musical. I knew all the songs before I even knew the story. I finally saw the musical live in the West End in London in the fall of 2013 which was a dream come true for me! About half a year before that, I saw the 2012 movie musical version with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the cinema. I know several people who didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved it!

Les Miserables is set in 19th century France. It’s the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has served 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks parole and after that is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russel Crowe). He agrees to take care of a factory worker’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Once grown, Cosette falls in love with revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), while Valjean wants to keep Cosette and himself out of the way of Javert.

Jackman was brilliant, as was Hathaway (she deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I felt) and Eddie Redmayne has this surprising angelic voice. Recently I already shared a clip of Hugh Jackman singing ‘Who am I’, let me share Eddie Redmayne singing ‘Empty Chairs’ here (makes me cry every time!)…

I can’t possibly begin to select songs here to post, I would have to post the whole movie! So, here’s a trailer that gives a nice sampling overview…

I can’t just pick one favourite for this decade, now that the latest Hugh Jackman musical installment is here: The Greatest Showman (2017). I thought it would be a mildly amusing movie to go see, I never expected to love it this much!

The Greatest Showman is a musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman). Barnum rises from nothing to create the “Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and circus, starring ‘oddities’ like the bearded lady and a dwarf. It is inspired by true events but must certainly not be taken as gospel! It’s basically the fairytale version of Barnum’s life, with a nice message of celebrating difference and inclusion.

I can’t find many clips from the actual movie on YouTube (although you can see the trailer), but I can share a clip of a live performance the cast did of one of the songs…

And the anthem about being OK with who you are and showing yourself as you are, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Song this year! Here is a clip from the movie, when the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) sings ‘This Is Me’…

Again, with this movie I love every single song! I have been playing the soundtrack in the car virtually non-stop for all my commutes to work these past few weeks. I’m secretly hoping for the sing-along version to also come to The Netherlands… 😉


So, there you have it, my Mach’ Was musicals through the decades list! I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of great musicals, so if there are any you feel should not be left unmentioned, feel free to do so in the comments. 🙂

Papa

For Father’s Day, a song that always reminded me of my own papa, even when he was still alive. It has been in my head all day…

Colin, Cannes and fine eyes

These pics are from last week but I’m just coming across them now… Colin was back in Cannes, as far as I could tell, to support his wife Livia’s ethical fashion campaign.

Colin & Livia Firth Cannes 2017

Doesn’t he look lovely in a grey suit? I like Livia’s outfit too, it’s a dress that used to be owned by her mother.  On a side note: the article in this previous link (and other news sources I have seen) also refers to Colin asking for Italian citizenship next to his British one (Livia is Italian). He is very opposed to Brexit, so it looks like this application has something to do with that. End of side note and back to Cannes: Colin and Livia looked dapper here as well, with Livia again wearing a dress that looks lovely…

Colin Livia Firth Cannes2 2017

In Cannes, Colin looked very pleased, adorable and somewhat goofy, almost fatherly, hugging a young lady…

Colin Firth hugs lady

But the shot I really loved was this one…

Colin Firth Salma Hayek Juliette Binoche Cannes 2017

Colin sandwiched between Salma Hayek and Juliette Binoche. That look on Colin’s face is so tender, amused and adorable…. sigh! I just saw Salma Hayek on the Graham Norton show last week, she is quite funny, I never really knew that about her! Colin seems to like her too. 🙂 Not that Colin is in love with Salma but the look on his face makes me think of this Barbra Streisand song from her movie Yentl

It looks like Colin and Mr Darcy still have an important thing in common: they can happily meditate on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow. 😉