Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #4

It’s almost 2015, bitches. Let’s do this.

Jenny Slate

“Guess why I smile? Uh, because it’s worth it.” – Marcel the Shell

Famous people:

  • “I have arms. I’m a pretty good fighter.” – Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard.
  • “You have to have Darth Vader, you can’t just have Obi-Wan Kenobi.” – Inherent Vice scene stealer Josh Brolin!
  • “I can’t look at myself in the mirror if [my] standup sucks; that’s like being a chef and cooking a fake cake or something.” – my longtime hero Jenny Slate, whose fantastic performance in Obvious Child would have my vote for Best Actress.
  • “He’s just a totally fucked-up mess for the rest of his life. But a strong one.” – Logan Lerman on his character in the WWII thriller Fury.
  • “Until I can find the emotional truth of the character, by sitting with people and hearing their experience—that’s the only way I can find how to emotionally connect.” – the faaabulous Michelle Monaghan (just Golden Globe-nominated for her work on True Detective) on her indie showcase Fort Bliss.

Industry pros:

  • Director JV Mercanti offered some useful advice I’d never heard before…
  • Eric Tucker of up-and-coming theater company Bedlam is making some truly tremendous theater to get himself and his friends on the map…
  • Micah Stock gets to share a stage with Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing every night in It’s Only a Play
  • Curious about how some of 2014’s best movies were cast? Check out The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Douglas Aibel, Pride‘s Fiona Weir, Interstellar‘s John Papsidera, A Most Violent Year‘s Tiffany Little Canfield, & Selma‘s Aisha Coley…
  • And most importantly, 33 pieces of advice from actors who chatted with Backstage this year!

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Emily Blunt Takes Us ‘Into the Woods’

For my second Backstage cover story, I sat down with Emily Blunt (at the Four Seasons New York, no less!) to chat about her work as the Baker’s Wife in the big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. It was truly one of the highlights of my 2014. In addition to the topics I was able to include in the article, we talked about how annoying it is that some high schools skip the musical’s second act, what project she’d like to tackle next – a Western! – and the embedded nerve she got from filming Edge of Tomorrow while wearing an 85-pound metal suit. She is every bit as charming and down-to-earth as you might imagine, and her performance in Into the Woods, as with all her other movies, is superb. Don’t miss it!

Emily Blunt on Backstage

Photo source: Matt Doyle

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Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #3

Bylines are not clickable on Backstage unfortunately, so these little updates are the best way to check out what I’ve been up to writing-wise. Do what I do when browsing a writer’s body of work: spend 4.3 seconds scanning for juicy buzzwords, and click what tickles your fancy. Here we go!

Michele Martin of NPR, Henry David Hwang, Lydia Diamond, Kristoffer Diaz

Photo source: Janice Yi/NPR

Smart Pick of the Day: T-Pain’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Wow.

I have long been a fan of the great T-Pain, king of auto-tune and creator of the best song no one’s ever heard of. But for some reason it never occurred to me that the guy could actually sing:

Yeah. All the hairs on my arm are sticking straight up too.

I guess I assumed – I’m sorry, T-Pain, truly I am – that the use of auto-tune has always been a bit of a crux. Now it seems auto-tune was just the guy’s thing, a branding method. This performance at NPR Music’s tiniest of desks was, from what I understand, completely unplanned. So T-Pain has accidentally set the internet on fire with the grand epiphany of his gorgeous, soulful voice, and must now face the question: why not try getting rid of the auto-tune altogether? What if T-Pain were to re-brand?? He could fill the hole in the pop music industry that douchebag Cee-Lo left behind!

Smart Pick of the Day: Paloma Faith’s ‘A Perfect Contradiction’

I don’t know what this world is comin’ to!

The fact that Paloma Faith has never been featured on this blog – which professes to love all things fabulous, divalicious and, well, British – is sacrilege! Released in March but soon to be presented as a repackaged version, A Perfect Contradiction is Faith’s newest album and the strongest declaration of her specific brand of pop artistry. Before now her sound has always resonated on a nostalgic level, drawing from the smoky jazz lounges of the 50s and irresistible Motown beats. “Upside Down” has been a longtime favorite of mine because it takes that vintage sound and, in its music video, gift-wraps it in the kind of candy-colored cheekiness I so adore.

A Perfect Contradiction firmly plants Faith in darker, weirder territory: Amy Winehouse’s trauma mixed with a Gaga-esque attention to striking imagery. Fabulous and haunting, the album echoes Faith’s greatest musical influences, retranslating those styles through her astonishingly capable voice. “Take Me” is pure Earth, Wind & Fire , while “Impossible Heart” channels Diana Ross and Cher. “Mouth to Mouth” is straight out of the 80s too – is that a cowbell I hear? And “Taste My Own Tears” is my second favorite (after “Can’t Rely On You,” of course) because it quasi-samples Sam Cooke and is just plain fun. But it doesn’t get much better than Faith’s emphasis-on-the-power power ballad, “Only Love Can Hurt Like This,” written by the great Dianne Warren. Treat yo self this lazy weekend to the song and video that is surely Miss Paloma at her peak:

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