The Book of Mormon (Play)

Repressed Sexuality = Extreme Acts of Violence & Comedy Hijinks !

I saw “Book of Mormon” over the weekend at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. My wife surprised me with tickets out of nowhere(Thank you again baby!) I heard so many good things about the play, but didn’t really know much about the plot/content. So, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was walking into. But, based upon sweeping the Tonys and the massive hype surrounding this show, my expectations were soaring. Trey Parker and Matt Stone previously produced other musicals I’d seen before with : “Cannibal! The Musical” and “South Park : Bigger, Longer, and Uncut”. Even though these were movies and not live theater, I was familiar with their general approach to comedy. No topic is off-limits, and being gross = big yucks. Sometimes, I think they get caught up in the shock humor a bit too much. And this is why I enjoyed both of their musical endeavors more than their TV show South Park – fewer poop jokes, more wit and content. Also, being that I detest organized religions and standard Broadway musicals, the prospect that BOM might take a stab at both at once had me salivating with anticipation.

The backdrop when we walked in was the only preview I got.

So, what usually happens when the bar is set so high? Well, you get a “War of The Worlds”(2005) scenario where I walk away severely disappointed with what could have been. But, these guys just hit it right out of the fucking park. From start to finish, I was captivated, entertained, and just generally laughing and happy. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, because a great deal of the comedy was further enhanced by the element of surprise, due to my lack of prior knowledge to its content.

The big laughs started when the elders landed in Uganda, and discovered how far life in Africa was from a version of “The Lion King”. Some other random highlights included : the quote “I’m wet with salvation” and the musical number “Turn it off”. Really fantastic stuff. They delivered on all fronts. They poked fun at cheesy, over the top Broadway numbers while simultaneously, completely eviscerating Mormonism in the process.

He’s about to do what we all wish we could do.

It was quite an achievement. As for the actors, they did an outstanding job. Great timing and delivery for all the jokes served to really make the writing come to life. The two leads, Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner had a nice rhythm together as Elders Price and Cunningham. But, Grey Henson stole the show with his portrayal of not-so-closet homosexual character Elder McKinley. One thing I couldn’t figure out though, was how the Latter-day “saints” actually advertised in the playbill for BOM. Or furthermore, how they didn’t protest the balls out of this production. Seriously, wtf am I missing here? If this isn’t a total dismantling of how ridiculous their faith is, I must have been watching some other musical. Maybe Mormons are just too naive and obtuse understand what they are watching. Come to think of it, that’s probably the answer right there.

This show totally ruled. Trey and Matt finally put it all together. Where South Park falls short for me, this came through.

You guys finally grew up. You are real men now.

Although, I can’t quite give this a perfect rating, due to going a little bit too far with some sophomoric references to blood in your stool that didn’t seem entirely necessary. Maybe I’m being a bit too sensitive in my old age. But, I have two kids now, so I have a license to be more crotchety, god damn it! Bottom line; I’d love to see this again someday – particularly with some religious people in my immediate vicinity. There’s no better method to get people to realize what fucktards they are for buying into organized religion, than with some crafty, well-written, relatable humor. And BOM is some potently funny stuff. So, “Bravo!” Matt and Trey. “Encore!” and… “Hasa Diga Eebowai!!!!”

Overall Rating : 9.9/10

– JA

There Will Be Blood (2007 film)

You just have to wait a bit….

This movie is superb on many levels. If it weren’t for “No Country for Old Men” being released at almost the same time, “There Will Be Blood” would have probably swept the Academy Awards. Daniel Day Lewis deservedly won best actor for his spellbinding performance as Daniel Plainview, and Robert Elswit also got a nod for best Cinematography. Johnny Greenwood should have won for best film score, but was disqualified from a nomination on a lame technicality. Speaking of the amazing score, here’s a fun exercise to try out at home(especially if you’ve never seen the movie). Watch the first ten minutes of the film on mute. Then go back at watch it with sound. There is absolutely no dialogue, just a staggeringly ominous score to set the mood. And the only sounds we hear are exactly the ones Plainview would have experienced. The barren solitude of an isolated man in the desert, and his burning passion for the acquisition of power and wealth at any cost. The opening scene is just fantastic filmmaking. It’s this up close and personal quiet time with characters, that has become a hallmark of Paul Thomas Anderson’s genius. Using no words, in one scene, PTA can give an audience more insight to a character than most filmmakers can muster in 2 and a half hours of blunt dialogue.

Fucking Religion.

Daniel Day Lewis reflects a character in such an intricately detailed and genuine manner, that it makes me question whether or not he’s entirely human. People are supposed to be fallible. His performance is flawless. One of the main values that movies provide is that they serve as an escape. When filmmakers and actors can make you accept what you are watching as reality, the illusion is complete, and real emotional responses from the viewer can occur. While this movie didn’t really provoke too much emotion from me, it did make me feel like I was watching late 19th century reality.

It is a compelling storyline driven by the metamorphosis of a complex and twisted character in Daniel Plainview. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Daniel definitively chooses running to save his oil rig over continuing to watch over his injured son. Spattered in oil, firelight beaming on his face, this catalyst moment is one that resonates with me whenever I think about TWBB.

Just like the American Psycho Leto axing scene, the symbolism is obvious, but well executed nonetheless.

Pretty much every scene Lewis shares with Paul Dano is thoroughly entertaining. Paul is intensely amazing as Paul/Eli Sunday. Their back and forth as personifications of the two things that bother me most in America(Greed and Religion) build to a crescendo, where the ending is a spectacular delivery or the title’s promise. There’s really not much more I can say that wouldn’t be simply reiterating how fantastic a film this is. So, I’ll just end with the words of Mr. Plainview : “I’m Finished”.

Overall Rating :  10/10

– JA