Input/Output #1: Heaven, ships, a song-writing apostle and an invisible girl (9/12/2016 - 9/18/2016)
As an entertainment reporter who works full-time at a newspaper, I'm constantly seeing stuff and writing about stuff. Sometimes it's nice to pause on reflect a little, so this is the first of what will become a regular feature on this site, Input/Output. In this column, I take a moment to reflect on stuff I saw or heard last week, as well as stuff I made in that same period of time. My plan is to do this every Monday or so. Here's what my input and output looked like last week:
'The Other Side of Heaven' -- I caught up with the filmmaker and subject of this 2001 film in order to write a story about its 15th anniversary, and the conversation stirred up a desire to go rewatch the film, which is definitely one of the founding films of independent Mormon cinema. So, in honor of the film finally coming to iTunes, I purchased it and watched it over the weekend. Its novelty and quality stood out to me like new in a lot of ways, and I really enjoyed the experience of watching the movie again. Later, director Mitch Davis and fellow founding father of Mormon cinema Richard Dutcher chimed in for a discussion on one of my Facebook posts, where, notably, after I suggested a certain criticism of the film, Davis responded thoughtfully and poignantly.
'The Last Ship' -- Pioneer Theater Company in Salt Lake landed the post-Broadway debut of Sting's Broadway debut, which originally played on Broadway late 2014. The new production was very well done: The acting, choreography and singing all quite good, but the sets are truly amazing. Huge pieces move around fluidly throughout scenes to create an epic scale and smooth scene changes.
And I'm always partial to live orchestras wherever it is feasibly accomplished in musicals, so I was delighted to see a capable conductor and pit orchestra make magic happen.
Pioneer Theater remains one of my absolute favorite offerings Utah theater has (though I'll never forgive the tame version of "Spelling Bee" I saw a couple years ago because I didn't happen to make it to one of the few "original version" performances. Happy to report here that with "The Last Ship," the language has remained appropriately adult for the subject matter. And I'll always credit PTC for being one of the only companies willing to straddle a complex audience base by going for different kinds of shows.)
Oh, and speaking of Sting, I'm glad he was able to finally get to make a serious dramatic musical, after the epic Mayan Disney film he was hired for eventually became the (hilariously cartoony) "Emperor's New Groove." The never-released underground documentary about that experience, directed by Sting's wife, shows a fascinating history of behind-the-scenes Disney. See it if ever you can find it.
This American Life: 'Status Update' -- I'm a little behind on the This American Life playlist, but as I've been going through it, I found this gem of an episode. The whole hour is an hour of very diverse stories that are at turns entertaining and insightful.
RadioWest: 'Biblical Literalism' -- Can Christianity survive if you throw aside a literal belief in resurrection? What about walking on water? Or the very notion that humans are naturally inclined toward brokenness and need a Savior in the first place? Not only does Doug Fabrizio's guest, author John Shelby Spong, believe so, but he says in order for Christianity to survive it must expunge those beliefs and others. Spong is himself a retired Episcopal bishop, and I foud his insights were to be paradigm-shifting-ly provocative.
Radiolab: 'The Girl Who Doesn't Exist' -- This is a story about a girl who is born off the grid -- a classic Radiolab story in that it tackles huge, complex, messy questions, and it's told in a totally fresh and interesting way. Really enjoyed listening.
On Point: 'The Greatest American Television Shows, Ranked' -- A new book has come out ranking the greatest 100 American TV shows -- of course, a ridiculous idea, but one that makes for my favorite kind of engrossing pop culture conversation. And I cannot fault any such list, no matter how ridiculous, if it names "The Simpsons" as #1.
Colbert interviews 'Eleven' -- I'm largely unhappy with the creative direction of Stephen Colbert's CBS late night show (I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed), but it's nevertheless the only late night show that I make it a point to never miss (I even pay for the awkward CBS All Access to in order to do so). I often find it lacking the luster of Colbert's "old show," as he frequently (longingly?) refers to it, but even despite the thick layer of corporate cushioning, Colbert's biting political satire occasionally breaks through, and makes it all worth it. I'm basically running on pure FOMO at this point with that man, and I have no plans to stop watching. I wish he would entirely divorce himself from the Fallon-esque fun and games with pop culture people of the moment and just focus his energy on sending up U.S. politics. That said, the standout moment from me last week was his interview with "Stranger Things" breakout star Millie Bobby Brown. (Life is nothing but contradiction, and I embrace that.)
Apostolic songwriting -- My profile of composer Paul Cardall included the story of his collaboration with LDS apostle David A. Bednar, and the piece ended up being a reflection of uniquely Mormon motivation to create art, as well as the cultural place Mormon leaders have in the hearts of the faithful. I turned to an old article by Spencer W. Kimball to help set up the story, and the quotations could be material to spark a larger conversation as well as give context for this specific story.
Another side of 'Heaven'-- I got some fun behind-the-scenes stories about the making of "The Other Side of Heaven" from director Mitch Davis and subject John H. Groberg. I found them both to be genuine, insightful people motivated by pure earnestness in getting that particular story to a large audience. I wrote a feature that I think turned into a fun read.
That's it for this week! What have you been inputting and outputting?