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Top Ten Things I’m Ashamed to Say I Enjoyed

On the art of sentimentality…

There is a sentimental streak that runs deep beneath the surface of my artistic soul and critical exterior shell.  I like to think of it as my tasty sweet caramel center.  This core value exerts itself in oddly strong reactions to commercials, especially those of Hallmark, sad situations in otherwise funny sitcoms and some very choice movies of my late childhood. So let’s dive into analysis, shall we?

I cannot even begin to express my love of the following three films: Beaches, Fried Green Tomatoes and the incredible Steel Magnolias.  These have become classics to me, benchmarks of fine cinema of a different art form.  I don’t hold them up like a Kubrick or Billy Wilder film, but that doesn’t mean they are of any less value in my DVD collection.  Yet, if asked at a cocktail party, I probably wont immediately name drop those three female empowerment films unless the conversation naturally goes there.  So what’s the deal?  We take these sentimental beautiful films to the heart, but somehow we can’t honor them the same way we honor works of high drama and high art?

That brings me to a book that I simply never put down.  In fact, it single-handedly stopped me from my morning run two weeks in a row by sitting on my bedside table and being too tempting to fit in a couple of chapters before heading to the office.  That book would be The Help.  I was transfixed by these characters, to the point that I’m actually disappointed that I have finished the book this past weekend.  This is a true page-turner, and unlike Dan Brown’s version of page turning, I turn the page because I care about the protagonists, not because I’m crossing my fingers that the villains might finally take out Robert Langdon once and for all.  But again, I heard myself over drinks this past week sheepishly admitting that I’m engrossed in the book (thankfully the person I said it to quickly turned to me exclaiming that he was about to start listening to the audio book himself).

I continued my path down the sentimental by taking in the somewhat bloated holiday Broadway-style spectacle White Christmas.  While I sat watching this pageant rush across the stage, I couldn’t help but be swayed by the epic listenability of Irving Berlin’s score, the bright colors and the so clichéd plot that still somehow delights.  And here comes another admission, I was bummed that I didn’t see this when it was originally and briefly on Broadway, thinking that I couldn’t sink so low as to actually sit through what was just a ploy to get tourists to Broadway during the holiday season.

I’d say it gets even darker in the music world, in which “edge” is valued far and above all else.  Yes I’m speaking to you Ke@^$#ha (I know one of those symbols is right but I can’t be bothered to research which one) and Katy Perry (whose music is endlessly addictive but still bothers me because if you’ve ever heard her live you know she truly cannot sing).  So then we come to a new release from Josh Groban, Illuminations, in which he stretches from overly earnest belter of known saccharine properties to songs that sound like saccharine tunes you should already know.  And guess what, I actually like the album.  Rick Rubin has done enough to strip back the production (bu-bye David Foster, how much we don’t miss you) and the songs are lyrical enough to keep me smiling.  But I can promise you that this stays primarily on my iPod earbuds, not for general consumption and certainly not spinning on my speakers during a dinner party.

And that brings us back to the movies in which modern day sentiment is still being attempted, just this past weekend with Morning Glory.  This isn’t a great film and it seems almost factory produced to hit the basic requirements of pleasing an audience, and yet, there I was, happily entertained for nearly two hours, forgetting all the things that make a truly great movie in favor of well, actually smiling.  Thank god for good actors in pieces like that, keeping the whole thing afloat.

So what’s with the secret love of all these items?  Guess it’s not much of a secret anymore, but I do wish that our critical culture could find a way to actually embrace these things as much as the general public does.  Sure, it’s great that critics champion things that most people wouldn’t dare see without a heavy push, but the amount of tearing down of these sentimental art pieces has always seemed unnecessary.

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TV The Walking Dead – this AMC show is surprisingly good given how much of a retread over zombie movie tropes it is.  Thanks to good writing and a commanding lead in the form of Andrew Lincoln, this is definitely must see TV… B+

BOOK By Nightfall – I’m a huge fan of Michael Cunningham’s previous work, and this is no different.  It’s insightful, human and fascinating.  A modern day Death in Venice and for anyone familiar with NYC and the gallery scene, an amazing critique of our daily lives… A

FOOD Lambs Club – Step back in time to this fun overdone old-Hollywood style bar and restaurant.  Beyond the surroundings, including a huge fireplace, the food is actually quite impressive with amazing fish dishes… A-

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