Friday, October 26, 2012

Oran "Juice" Jones - "The Rain"

Here in my area, the last few days have been very rainy. The rain has inspired me to write an entry about the 1986 song "The Rain" by Oran "Juice” Jones.

The RainWhen I listen to music, the aspect of a song that I focus on the most is the sound of the music itself. The song’s lyrical content is secondary to me. I would say it's always been that way. That's probably why, as a child in the 80s, I was drawn to (and greatly enjoyed) the futuristic "electronic" sounds of synthpop music. And then later, in the mid 1990s, I forayed into Rave scene, being attracted to the lyric-less sounds of the electronic music of that subculture.

I think what it all boils down to, regarding the fact that I focus more on the sound of music than on lyrics, is that I have a very good sense of hearing. I even sometimes jokingly tell people that I have “supersonic hearing.” Seriously though, I feel that my sense of hearing is the best of my five senses. And therefore, that’s something that enables to really enjoy the sounds of a song whenever I'm listening to music.

But anyway, needless to say, what I love about this particular song is the way it sounds. And, I’ve always wondered if there’s an instrumental version to this song, as I think it would sound awesome with just the music and no lyrics. The lyrics deal with a man who discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him with another man. After the halfway point of the song, the singer switches from singing to just spoken words. I’ve always thought that the delivery of the words in that part of the song -- where the man confronts his girlfriend about her cheating -- is pretty silly. It's the only part of the song that I actually dislike. But otherwise, I love the song.

On a side note, the singer, Oran "Juice" Jones, looks like a cross between Eddie Murphy and the actor named Eric Lasalle. :)

Here's the song's video.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sophie’s Choice: The greatest performance ever by an actress?

Sophie's Choice movie poster (1982)

If one were to take a poll of “Who do you consider the greatest actress alive?” most respondents would likely choose Meryl Streep. In the same vein, if there is one female acting performance that is generally thought of as the best (or the greatest) of all time, it’s Streep’s performance in the 1982 movie Sophie’s Choice. The role itself is one of Streep’s best-known roles, and I’m sure most people who’ve seen the movie would say that Streep’s performance definitely ranks as one of the best ever by any actor or actress. Streep, being the queen of mastering foreign accents, takes on a Polish accent in this movie. She plays a Holocaust survivor from Poland who lives in a boarding house in Brooklyn, New York with an unstable, abusive boyfriend named Nathan (played by Kevin Kline). The couple befriends a new boarder at the house -- a novelist who’s known as Stingo (played by Peter MacNicol) who hails from the South.

Sophie's Choice houseStreep, Sophie's Choice
Kline, Streep, MacNicol, Sophie's ChoiceKline, Streep, MacNicol, Sophie's Choice

The movie, which takes place two years after the end of World War II, mainly focuses on the friendship of the trio as they go about their day-to-day lives in the boarding house and elsewhere. Sophie had been an inmate of the Auschwitz concentration camp during the war, and while there, she was chosen to work as a secretary for the camp’s Nazi commandant, due to her fluency in German. Once in the United States, and suffering from anemia, she was taken in and looked after by Nathan who works for a pharmaceutical company. As Stingo gets to know this couple better, he comes to discover that there’s more than meets the eye with them. Not only does Sophie have some skeletons in the closet, but it just so happens that Nathan harbors a shocking secret of his own.


The movie itself can be described as lukewarm at best. Directed by Alan J. Pakula, and having a runtime of 2 hours and 30 minutes, it's slow-paced and overlong for its subject matter (it’s primarily a story of friendship). Also, there aren't many scenes showing Sophie’s past, which is somewhat ironic, considering that the title of the movie refers to a choice she made during the war. The actual scene involving the revelation of Sophie’s “choice” is, for the most part, underwhelming.

Meryl Streep, Sophie's ChoiceMeryl Streep, Sophie's Choice

Nonetheless, Streep delivers a spellbinding performance, and she speaks three languages in the movie: English, Polish, and German -- rumor has it that she actually spoke German with a Polish accent. One particular scene, in which she delivers a lengthy monologue, is the best scene of the movie.

This performance remains Streep’s greatest performance ever, and nothing that she's done since has surpassed the caliber of it. Her performance in 1985’s Out of Africa is perhaps the only one that comes close. Streep rightfully won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Sophie’s Choice, and it’s bewildering that despite her multiple Oscar nominations since then, the Academy did not give her another Best Actress award until this year (for The Iron Lady, nearly 30 years after her win for Sophie‘s Choice).

When it comes to determining what’s the best performance ever given by an actor or actress, it’s all subjective. I’ve seen lots of films from several decades. To me, Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice is, without question, the best performance by any actress during the decade of the 80s. But the best performance ever? Sorry, Meryl, but that is an honor I can only reserve for someone else. As far as I’m concerned, THIS is the greatest female acting performance of all time:

And if you're wondering, the actress is Vanessa Redgrave, and the movie is Isadora (from 1968).

Monday, October 1, 2012

“Fantasy” by Debbie Deb: An example of Miami Freestyle

Fantasy by Debbie Deb

Freestyle is the name of a music genre that was developed during the 80s. New York City is where it originated. Freestyle was essentially a form of dance music, and it was particularly popular among Hispanics. In different parts of the United states, freestyle music branched off into specific regional variants of the genre. One of the most well-known forms of freestyle was the variant born out of the Miami music scene, which of course became known as “Miami Freestyle.” As a Latino growing up in Miami during the 80s, freestyle was one of the main genres of music that I was exposed to in my pre-teen and teen years. A great example of Miami freestyle is the song “Fantasy” by a singer named Debbie Deb, who was one of the quintessential artists of the Miami freestyle scene. The song dates from 1987, and it received a lot of radio airplay that year. Speaking of airplay, I was in 7th grade at the time, and my school bus driver was kind enough to always have the radio playing on the ride home each weekday afternoon -- set to the station that played many freestyle hits. This is one of the songs that I remember sometimes hearing on the bus that year.