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Les Miserables will make you miserable! (But in a feel-good kind of way)

15 Jan

I wasn’t exactly sure of the plot of Les Miserables, but I understood what the title meant: “The Miserables.” So, one thing was certain; I wasn’t signing myself up for a family comedy.

Even so, I was convinced that I had to see it. After all, it’s a musical, and I haven’t yet met a musical that I haven’t liked.And I had always wanted to see the play. So, as the lights dimmed and the music drummed up, along with a surge of sea-sounds and booming baritone voices, I felt a thrilled chill dance along my vertebrae.That chill was only the start of what felt like an enveloping experience at the movie theaters.

If one has never seen Les Miserables, it is a mildly difficult thing to try to explain in mere words the emotional force that the music seems to contain. (But I will do what I can!) Les Miserables is a musical emotional force. It starts and ends with a heavy orchestral hand that leaves you slightly a-gape. Les Miserables is more like an opera than a musical, as there is little to no spoken dialogue and nearly all of the major plot is in song, which could have been a huge drawback if the singing wasn’t generally well done. (With an exception of Russell Crowe, who plays the chaotic good cop, Javert, who comes to an end that I believe should come to all poor singers.)

Each scene is loaded with a raw humanity: a prisoner who has hardened his heart, a priest who opens it again, a mother who does anything she can to support her child alone, a child abandoned and found again, a man rebuilt, learning to love, be loved and let go, a young man finding his place in the world and learning loss. Saying that this movie is heavy, hardly covers the plunge into problems that Les Miserables rockets its audience through. This film is not for the faint of heart. (I recommend stocking up on extra napkins at the concession stand if you don’t have tissues on hand.)

Les Miseables opens with the main character, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), working as a slave in a shipyard. The prisoners are waist deep in seawater as they struggle to bring a wounded ship to port. Manacled at the neck and hands, they sing a powerful baritone rendition of, “Look down”. Here the audience is also introduced to the main villain, Jevert (Russell Crowe) who seems to particularly loves to break Valjean. Valjean, having filled his prison sentence, is handed his papers to be free, but they mark his as a “dangerous man”. Once free of the prison, Valjean is still treated like a criminal and finds himself unable to find a job or shelter. Instead, he finds himself sleeping on a doorstep. Luckily, a kindly priest discovers him there and takes him in for the night. Desparate, Valjean steals away the Church’s silver in the night and runs off before they wake–but is immediately caught and brought back before the priest by the police. But the priest proclaims Valjean innocent and the police are forced to let him free. Valjean then makes a point to turn his life around and the movie follows his story.

There are of course multiple branches, time frames and points of views throughout the film. The character Fontaine (Ann Hathaway) is introduced next as a factory worker who is separate to support her child, and ends up selling her teeth, her hair and her body to male strangers. Her story is a tragic one, but her daughter Cosette(Amanda Seyfried) is more fortunate as Valjean takes her in as his own daughter and raises her under his new alias.

Yet, Javert soon discovers him and realizes that he is the former thief who skipped parole and seeks to recapture him. The story leads the audience through the brutal French revolution, introducing yet another character, Marius (Eddie Redmayne) who falls for the lovely Cosette.

Though the story is full of absolute misery, death, and despair–it has such a powerful beauty that though you might be a little boogery by the end you feel a sense of revitalization. Small flecks of humor lighten the otherwise heavy atmosphere throughout the film, and the tiny glimmers of love throughout the otherwise dark film seem large and luminous in comparison.

All and all, I would see this film again and found myself humming “I dream a dream” all the way out of the theater. Les Miserables brings humanity back to film and I give it four cupcakes out of five.

Les Miserables

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Nerd York City

20 Oct

Picture this if you will: cramped, but unperturbed you are riding  on a bus beside the one you love (who has long since fallen asleep on your shoulder and is softly snoring) and the sound of the road hissing by the window fills the cabin. Then, to your right, New York City comes into view on the midday skyline. The Empire State Building is a needle, proudly displayed as if in welcome to you and your fellow passengers just before you plunge into a tunnel into darkness.

Last weekend, I found myself in the Big City for New York Comic Con (NYCC).

I was eager to plunge into the nerd culture, and clutching  my Ann Rice novel and my luggage off we went from the bus stop through the city streets. It was well after noon when we finally arrived (after being lost for some time of course) at the hotel we would be staying in: The Paramount. I was proud of myself when I managed to get a room at The Paramount from the NYCC website. Yet, the hotel was nowhere near as close to the convention as it was advertised and the hotel wouldn’t let us check in until after 3 pm for reasons I couldn’t fathom. Still, we were not put off and we charged onward to our destination: Comic Con.
This was my first visit to New York Comic Con, and I was eager to see the many comic, literary, and entertainment stars that the convention had boasted. We were not disappointed. Day one was exhausting, filled with attempts to wade through the shoulder to shoulder crowds throughout the Javits center and tries at navigating and an overwhelming sense of amazing comic swag. Cosplayers were hard to pick from people loaded with bags of goodies bought at the floor upstairs. But my main event was to meet Ann Rice and have her sign my copy of Interview with a Vampire. Unfortunately, after lining up and waiting for over two hours–it was not to be. I was disheartened, but one day hope to get my chance. Both worn out from our day of travel, my boyfriend and I left for the hotel early, got dinner at a nearby Subway and spent the night discussing how to tackle our next day at the Con.
But a restful night, we soon found, would not be possible. The walls at the Paramount were paper thin–and at roughly midnight, an alarm began to sound on our floor. Having flashbacks to our last trip to New York, my boyfriend and I began to gather our things to leave just in case. But after calling the front desk, we found the alarm to be accidental and was assured we were safe. We woke the next morning around 7 to the sound of the Housekeeping staff knocking on doors. Check out isn’t until noon. I was furious and couldn’t manage to fall back to sleep–but after a shower and breakfast at a nearby deli that was absolutely delicious–I was in a better mood.

Shopping here was by far my favorite part of the Con–but also–meeting and getting the autograph of Adam West. (Batman from an older generation for those of you confused.) He signed my newly bought RC car 1966 Batmobile and essentially made that a memorable moment in my life. My boyfriend had a fanboy moment upon meeting the former Green Ranger.

While he was in line for the Power Ranger, I wandered the con solo, making short-term friends, and rotting my brain on video games. The most exciting game I got to demo is for Ghibli’s upcoming masterpiece, Ni No Kuni. What seems to be a gorgeous mix of Final Fantasy and Pokemon game play with Ghibli Movie style cut scenes–I have already reserved my copy for January.

 

That night, we headed for Times Square and had a somewhat romantic walk around Rockafeller Center. Trees strung with lights hung around the ice skating rink made the moment feel ethereal and surprisingly serene.

“Want to skate?” he asked me, am impish glitter in his eyes.

“You don’t know how.” I replied, watching a man below as if on cue slip onto his back.

“I would be willing to fall a few times for you.” He said, pulling me close. I smiled, knowing as corny as it was, that I had fallen for him long ago.

We didn’t skate, but made a promise to someday and together wandered back to the Hotel.

 

 

A Night to Remember at The Top of the Hub

15 May

If there will be nothing else I can recall, years later when I try to unearth old, pleasant memories–I pray that even if my mind is gone I’ll remember last night.

Dolled up (a rarity for me) in a little black number that tied around my neck and slim gladiator-like wedges, beside an equally well-dressed Mickey in a blue blazer, button up shirt and a black tie–we enjoyed a view of Cambridge that I can only compare to being in an airplane. High above the city, hidden (but not really) on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Building in Boston, the world below was a mass of glittering lights, and back-lit, misty, skyscrapers that seemed to curve around the edge of the Earth.

Around us, we could feel the eyes of the waitstaff as well as other diners. Younger than most of the other patrons of the Top of the Hub restaurant, we were acutely aware of the judgement that was happening around us. The worry in the staff members eyes that we were perhaps going to skip out on our bill, or under tip for our meal. Of course, they needn’t have worried. (Though on the way there, Mickey and I had a moment where we shared the fear of not having quite enough for such a lavish experience.) As for the other diners; I could only assume they disliked our youth and the  occasional boisterousness in which we enjoyed life, our meals and each other.

The Top of the Hub, is known for its high class dining experience, and we came prepared to pay easily over one hundred dollars on our evening. We had never been to a fine dining eatery prior to this; and there has always been a certain image or two in my mind as to what sort of an experience it would be.  High prices with small portions. Snooty waitstaff and hostesses. A certain, unbreakable law of how to use your silverware appropriately. Luckily, I found most of these situations to be untrue to The Top of the Hub.

After slipping past the security in the lobby, we took the elevators up to the 52nd floor. (Large silver lettering points the way as you head to the lifts.) As you step off the elevator, beware of a large floral display as you move toward the tall glass doors. (I nearly ran into it with all my grace and poise.)  Overwhelmed by the whole situation, I hardly got a look at the entrance way. From what I saw, the walls were lined with a well-polished mixture of dark and light woods. The hostess stand is immediately to your left as you enter, and a well-dressed, high-haired young woman greeted us cheerily asking if we would like to dine casually, or formally.  (As I hadn’t thought to bring a coat, I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my nice dress to keep warm in the drizzling weather. Mickey told me later that the hostess eyed me, almost unpleasantly when asking where we would prefer to dine.) She explained that the menu was the only real difference in the two options, and as we had planned for the real experience, we opted for formal.

A second hostess was instructed to take us to a table, and we quickly weaved toward the back of the establishment; passing walls of fine wines, partitions where groups chatted and celebrated someone’s birthday, round yellow almost old-fashioned looking lamps hung at even intervals across the floor shining dim romantic lighting across the tables. Our table was close to one of the multiple large glass windows overlooking the city below. I heard myself take a breath in sharply, amazed, and felt Mickey smiling with pride somewhere to my left. The hostess pulled my seat out for me, and upon sitting, daintily folded my napkin in my lap for me as well. Unused to such treatment, I felt slightly embarrassed but appreciated the gesture all the same. Mickey quickly pulled his napkin into his own lap to avoid such treatment. Our menus were presented to us and she left us to own own devices.

The tables were all carefully arranged with white table cloths (real linen), wine glasses (short and tall), napkins, utensils and one tiny plant for color. Our waiter was swift to approach and greet us, removing extra place settings from the table, as he explained the night’s specials. Knowledgeable, skilled and pleasant–I admired our servers work. Unlike other establishments, I noticed that our waiter at the Top of the Hub was attentive to all details and patient. After putting down our appetizers, a salad and the clam chowder, he realized before I did that after I had asked for the dressing on the side the kitchen had put dressing on the salad. He apologized and took it back to the kitchen without me even asking, returning moments later with a dressing-free salad. Once the food was on the table, he made a point to stand and wait at the table before we thanked and dismissed him–being sure that we needed nothing more at the moment.

Though the appetizers weren’t much to write home about–the entree will forever haunt my taste buds. Never again will I be able to enjoy Lamb anywhere else. They have made it impossible for me to ever hope to find a better prepared, more delicious meal. Portions are sizable, giving you what you ought to get for the prices. (which range from $25 to $70 a plate depending.) My lamb arrived as what seemed to be a whole leg, slowly cooked until the tender, dark meat fell from the bone without help from a knife. Spices and a tomato-based stock made the meat tender and moist–not dry. Paired with a fruit compote, whipped potatoes and asparagus–it was heavenly. Mickey’s eyes lit up as he took a bite of his Haddock, served with surprise steamers, mashed potatoes, and lightly dusted with cheese–he has rarely ever looked so contented during a meal.

If nothing else, I would go back just for the view. As we left, I stared longingly at the skyline once more and staff members that hadn’t even helped us bid us a good night, thanking us for coming as if we were royalty.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” Mickey said as we made our way home. “It was like blood to a shark. You’re spoiled now.” I smiled, knowing he was probably right.

It’s Always Warm Enough for Ice Cream

3 May

Only in New England, would you find a couple making a trip to the ocean to get an ice cream in 40 degree weather.

As my boyfriend’s mother’s  junk-heap jeep wound around the rotaries and misty streets toward Revere Beach,  I eagerly peered out the window taking in the vacant shoreline.  The weather had been fairly miserable all weekend, leaving a feint fog hovering over the streets, as if the grey clouds overhead were escaping into the roads. Mickey looked pleased with himself as he carefully edged into the next rotary; excited to share his favorite childhood ice cream shop with me.

I had been to Revere Beach before, in the summer last year. At the time, the beach was packed with sunbathers, and sandcastle artists and massive sand-sculptures for the eager passerby’s to eye.  Vendors lined the sidewalks from anything from art to hot dogs to shaved ice, shouting to the generally half-naked crowd to tempt them closer. The skies had seemed tall and open then–shimmering blue overhead, making the ocean glitter blindingly. Now, it felt like the clouds would crush us at any moment.

Yet, despite this, I was very much enjoying myself. Heck, I was even enjoying watching the storm overhead gather, whipping sand across the street in snaky tendrils. I was getting ice cream–and that was enough for me. I called out places I recognized as we drove, and he pointed out places I might know but never have seen from the road. We chatted, and as we made our way toward Kelly’s Kreme, he shared with me that when he was younger, his parents would take him there for ice cream and that he hadn’t been in years.

Kelly’s Creme sits right next to the Famed Kelly’s Roast Beef with a view of the Revere Beach. (Be it on purpose or ironic they are both Kelly’s, I am not sure.) A giant, stereotypical neon ice cream cone sits atop the little shack, which is really no bigger than your local Dairy Queen. So, what is it that made this place so special?  Two words: Portion size.

The ice cream sundaes at Kelly’s Creme are not for the weak of stomach. I gaped in horror at the hot fudge sundae I ordered as it arrived. The sundae comes in what appears to be a cup the size of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, is a soft-served flavor of your choice, drowning in two ladle-fulls of their hot fudge, a hefty squeeze of whipped cream and topped with a half of fresh strawberry.( I of course, wasted no time in devouring my strawberry.) Prices are fair for what they give you in portions, though a bit more expensive than other ice cream shops.  We shivered in front of the window, before finally deciding to eat our frozen treats in the safety of the Jeep. As we ate, I expressed my astonishment at the size of my ice cream, and Mickey confessed that he would eat until he felt he would be sick when he was smaller. I couldn’t bring myself to finish my sundae, but managed to eat most of the hot gooey fudge they gave me. Something my parents would have frowned on when I was small.

Next time we go, I will be sure to stick with a cone, so I can get every delicious bit into my belly.

 

Love is Delicious

15 Feb

“Valentine’s Day is so Cliche.” Twilight Sparkle claimed yesterday morning, along with multitudes of other negative Valentine’s Day things. “I think it should only be for little kids, that’s kind of cute. But it’s so cliche, all the lovey-mush on Valentine’s day.”

I sat quietly and listened to my inner monologue narrate how lonely her life is. Sure, Valentine’s Day is a giant Cheese-fest. I can agree with that much. I can also agree that it’s probably some huge scam by the chocolate companies, floral companies and card companies to suddenly generate some revenue in an otherwise Holiday-dead month. But, all I could think as she ranted all day long about how irritating the day was–was how cliche it is to hate Valentines Day. Yes, it’s cliche to love it too. So, I like to take the mainly middle road of passive indifference. (i.e. I can live with it–but I can also live without it.) Besides, how could you not smile a little bit at the idea of how that holiday even started up? I mean, some saint who is secretly marrying Christians when Christianity is forbidden gets beheaded and thousands of years later we’re all chasing our tails? (or some tail, depending.)

For the past few years, my idea of the ideal Valentine’s Day involved masses of delcious and savory foods, friends and zombie movies. (Eat your heart out) But once my boyfriend, Mickey, came into my life–things changed.

I have never been a romantic. In fact, I have a tendency to ruin moments that would otherwise be considered as such. I will admit, I almost sometimes go out of my way to ruin them because I get nervous. Not Mickey. Last year, he made every effort to create the ideal Valentines Day for us. It went horribly awry, and ended in tears–but I appreciated the effort all the same.

This year was different.

So, as I listened to Twilight Rant all day–truly just grinding her lonely, dateless existance into the very pores of our team–he was plotting. I practically sprinted out of the office yesterday, forgoing the elevator for stairs so I could burn off steam. As I pinged my card through to access he train and nervously barrelled down the stairs, Mickey was waiting for me.

Dressed in a long black coat, black slacks, dress shoes, a suit coat, a white button down shirt and the new black and silver bow-tie I had gotten him as a gift–he looked more ready for the Opera than just a casual night out. (When I told him this, he replied “I always do.” And he does.) Leaning against the wall nearest the stairs, he posed, extending a colorful bouquet of flowers toward me, and a cocky proud smile. (probably laughing at my surprise.) I could already feel my cheeks flushing as I took the flowers and pecked him on the lips. Even though we’ve been together for over two years, romance still makes me flustered. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change completely. I was also presented with a card, hand=designed with photos of us from last year and a heartfelt message within. (This gift I showed off to my whole team at work today, to Twilight’s great displeasure.)

Together, we took the red line toward Kendall. Until this moment, I had not been told where we would be heading. (Though I had tried to weasel the answer out of him from the moment he mentioned wanted to plan something.) Eagerly, I fidgeted in my seat before he finally told me that we would be having sushi that night.

As I know you don’t know my boyfriend like I do, reader, let me make something clear about Mickey. He is a picky eater. On a usual night, he won’t even eat chicken, let alone sushi. My brows raised when he made this declaration.

“What made you decide on sushi?” I asked him earnestly as we walked into the cool wind through East Kendall.

“Remember the other night, when you told me I should be more adventurous with my food?” He asked me back. I furrowed my brows, vaguely recalling something like that happening when we were out. I nodded my consent. “Well, I decided you were right. And when I tried something new last time we were out, you were so proud of me. I wanted to give this a shot.”  He makes me smile.

Fuji at Kendall, is not a far walk from Kendall station off of the red line. Located at 300 third street in Cambridge, a little Googleing after our visit pulls up the website immediately. The place even from the outside looks modern and organized. (Just as most of the buildings in this area) We were promptly greeted by the hostess once through the door, who quickly showed us to a table. I was pleasantly surprised to find that other than a handful of people at the sushi bar, we were the only patrons. The sound system pumped gooey but classic music through the open and airy space, but was not overpowering or unpleasant in any way. (In fact, I quite like Frank Sinatra.) Tables for two clustered across the right side of the restaurant, in an evenly and carefully placed in a way that almost felt overly planned. (but was also visually pleasant) Each table was neatly set with a fresh colorful orchid set in vases of water, along with carefully folded napkins, small white plates, and plastic chopsticks neatly awaiting use. Despite feeling slightly exposed due to the very clear windows surrounding us, the space felt bright, clean and open. Across from us was the bartop, decorated with liquor and thoughtfully arranged wooded boats. My boyfriend smiled as he watched me take in the space, knowing I was more than pleased with his choice.

We did not drink anything other than ginger ale yesterday, so I can’t review their drinks, but their food was beautiful. What I like most about Japanese food, or any Asian cuisine, really is the attention to visual detail that is paid of each dish. Our appetizers, steamed vegetable dumplings, and salt and pepper shrimp–came first. The dumplings popped from the plate in bright green hues against the stark whiteness of the plates, and were flavorful even without the spicy dipping sauce provided with them. The shrimp were cooked to a perfect-looking golden brown and flecked with bright reds and deep blacks of pepper.

Our sushi was not as visually impressive, but was some of the best that I have had, taste-wise. The Unagi Maki was sweet and slightly warm–which I enjoyed. The Boston Maki was cool and tangy, slightly chewy and the spicy tuna maki–well that was perhaps the only let down on my part. The spicy mayo included in bright orange, warning hues on top is nothing to laugh at. The spice was almost overpowering rather than enjoyable.

By far though. the dessert was the most wonderful to look at. We decided to each try Fuji’s fried dessert options. I decided on the safer, Fried Icecream, while Mickey opted for the Fried Cheesecake. Both came out with beautifully decorated plates and were both delicious in their own way. The fried cheese cake is not for the texturally sensitive though.

All and all, I would definitely return to Fuji at Kendall. The only major problem I had with the service was that our waitress felt very pushy and I felt overly rushed to finish my meal. For now, I will pass it off as the fear of the Valentines rush.

Though I may not be the romantic type, I’m glad I’ve finally found someone who is. Cheesy and mushy as it may sound–he brightens up my life each day, not just on Valentines Day. I hope everyone out there remembers to show those you love that you care each day–and treat each day like it’s a holiday. Love should always be celebrated, even if it’s not the romantic kind. Even if it’s a working relationship in the office, a group of close friends or your family–a little love each day, expressed in some little way might make all the Twilight Sparkle complainers out there–feel a little more tolerable toward the hopeless romantics.