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Meet Your Bloggers: Megan Clinard

12 Oct

Megan Clinard graduated with a Fiction Writing degree from Columbia College Chicago focusing her last semester on Screenwriting and Film. She worked for several years at Klasky Csupo Inc. Productions and as a writer for Performer Magazine reviewing West Coast and local Los Angeles bands. Her film and tv tastes lean towards the dorky and obscure with art house pretension never far behind. Though being a girl she is forced to embrace most romantic comedies and a good musical montage. Megan currently gave up the Hollywood dream to pursue a life of healthcare and missions, though her love for the arts still runs deep.

Give in to the Glee, by Megan Clinard

7 Sep

What you might have gathered thus far from my minimal reviews is that I have a strong passion for A) music and B) social outcasts. Though I promise to broaden my critical horizons in later blogs, there is a new series that I must geek out on. This fall, the creators of the whacked-out and sometimes intriguing “Nip / Tuck” have blended my two loves into the hour long comedy with a heart, “Glee.” Now, I know what you might be thinking. A show about teen drama mixed in with both showtunes and mainstream radio hits… it’s as if “High School Musical” vomited on the CW.

But the saving grace of “Glee” is the talent, the writing, and the pitch perfect satire. If “Glee” wasn’t in on the joke, it would be a painful, false gimmick in the vein of Disney’s 80s “Kids Inc.” (Though the six year old in me will defend that show till the day I die). Even as the bright vocal ingénue Rachel Berry, played by Leah Michele, snaps “There’s nothing ironic about show choir”, the words bleed with hilarity because the creators not only understand the ridiculousness of poppy songs with jazz hands, they milk the joke for all it’s worth.

Not even the “normal” kids are safe, as jock Finn Hudson says, “We’re all losers.” And the show takes every stereotype of high school and bedazzles it with sarcasm. Comedic talent like Stephen Tobolowsky, Jayma Mays, and Jane Lynch milk every laugh out from their roles, while the majority of the cast of newcomers are still trying to find the truth in the characters without letting the comedy slip by.

“Glee” will pass or fail depending on the heart of the show. And with music on their side and Broadway talents like “The Light in the Piazza’s” Matthew Morrison and “Spring Awakening’s” Leah Michele, you can get there in seconds. But both worlds must fit together, and in the first episode, they are still finding that mix. Michele can get to the soul of her character and why the audience should route for a bratty over achiever within three minutes of her Les Miserables audition song “On My Own”. Though when glee club instructor Will Schuester, played by Morrison, opens up about the happiest moment of his life being in show choir as the background plays “That’s the way I like it”, it feels more pitiful than hilarious. Yet, my hope- and I’m sure the hope of the Fox network- is that you’ll give these pathetic losers a chance. You will embrace the cheese and new takes on familiar tunes without the petty judgment of American Idol, but stories and feelings that can only be expressed in my favorite two languages: humor and melodies.

A Wake Up Call, by Megan Clinard

2 Sep

So what can you learn from a musical based on a banned play about sex, anarchy, and going against everything your parents and teachers say? A lot. 1890s Germany, where religion ruled and cultural philosophy was never questioned, sets the stage for a group of young adolescence coming into their own. In the opening scene, Wendla’s mother tells her that her elder sister has had another visit from the stork. When questioned how this truly works, her mother tries to avoid embarrassment by explaining that babies come from women loving their husbands with their whole… um… heart. This fear of discussing the improper foreshadows the unforeseen pain that the confused teens will face in a foreboding world that doesn’t know how to handle what every child will inevitably face.

There are shocking moments that some might say is too much for teens to see. But what makes “Spring Awakening” groundbreaking for this new generation is speaking honestly about that awkward and often painful in between stage of child to adult. There are few people my age or younger that I have met who haven’t been burned by parental idealism or the Christian church because they can often value the appearance of perfection at the cost of honesty or, more importantly, brokenness. The strict conservative background for the play magnifies this affront to a disheartening degree. Where even molestation and pregnancies are covered up to keep up appearances. When main characters Melchior decides to question what he has learned, or Moritz has no one to turn to when his faith and what is happening inside him seems to conflict, the timeless feeling of loss and escape become the appropriate answer when there is no one to instruct them. “Spring Awaking” cries out for guidance and truth. In “Mama Who Bore Me,” the cast of girls angrily plead for a mother with explanations. However, the play also does not let the teens off the hook for their actions. Tragedies befall them, and their own selfishness causes them equal grief. But even through all the suffering, “Spring Awakening” leaves you energized for life.

Teen angst belongs onstage and director Michael Mayer realizes this. It’s over dramatic, it’s a hundred different conflicting feelings at once and all that hormonal energy bursts through every single song. Instead of Broadway headsets and an orchestra pit, the actors are handed microphones to give it that concert feel. Also aiding to the energy is a full rock band and two sets of bleachers bookending the stage with audience members dropped into the center of the action. The cast’s excitement is contagious and it’s difficult for anyone watching to not at least tap their toes to the beat because you understand that feeling. “The Bitch of Living” is a prime example when the preparatory class of boys screams through their sexual confusion. Even when it’s silly, even when you know its not as heartbreaking as they think, the emotion of the songs are piercing and every single person in the audience no matter the age are transported back to how they felt at fifteen. Composer and former Billboard charter Duncan Sheik understood how to create a soundtrack that would bridge the gap between an iPod generation and theatrical entrepreneurs. Underneath the provocative songs and shocking behavior is an artistic tool for parents and children to find middle ground and start a dialogue. What “Spring Awakening” inevitably attempts to do is shake its audience in every way possible in order to make them realize how important a guiding hand is to a growing child. And how dangerous a life can turn without it or worse, when that hand abuses the power in any way. The children will ultimately pay the price and awake into adulthood unprepared.

Note: “Spring Awakening” is currently on tour nationwide.

Quirky Paradise, by Megan Clinard

31 Jul

AWAY WE GO (2009)
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Written by: Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida
Starring: John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney

There are specific ingredients that will make me fall in love with a movie. In Away We Go, its as if Sam Mendes read my diary in order to make for me that almost-too-good-to-be-true movie experience. I’m not saying it is a cinematic masterpiece. If you can manage to make it past the first purposefully-too-suggestive, too-awkward opening scene (unlike a sweet 60-yea-old man next to me who fled the theater), you may find yourself falling for this delightful dramedy.

So what’s the cinematic recipe to my heart? For starters, lovably flawed and lost people like the couple Burt and Verona, played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. Expecting a baby and faced with the fact that they just may be “F***ups” without a true place to call home, they endeavor on a journey in search of where they can belong and start their family. Road movies in general have made me giddy ever since I saw Vacation, where it made prefect sense to risk everything to get to a theme park. I later hoped to one day find the “Thelma” to my “Louis” and road trip around the country… or, more correctly, escape from the law. Road movies heighten the all or nothing search inside of us for that one true thing we are all looking for. And for Burt and Verona it is a place where they truly belong. From planes to trains to automobiles (another great road movie right there), the lovers meet up with past friends and family to see if Arizona, Colorado, Montreal or Florida could be the perfect fit. On their journey of self-discovery, the audience discovers that, behind Burt’s quirky Casey Casem impressions and unabashed cluelessness, and Verona’s tragic past, these two were truly fortunate in finding each other. Despite what they don’t know about themselves or their future, their love is not dysfunctional. That is a breath of fresh air for a relationship movie.

Once you’ve gotten the right ingredients, it is important to mix it with a good soundtrack. Even when I think a story is ridiculous or impossible, you can still make me weep like a baby or get my heart pounding when the right song plays. More and more studios are catching onto this fact and are happily manipulating me to cry on a regular basis. Sam Mendes chose unknown Alexi Murdoch to orchestrate the emotional feel of the film with his more subtle melodic tone. It gives the movie that extra road trip ambiance of travel with an indie quirk that blends with the main characters. I may not have fallen to my knees at every scene, but, by the end of the film, I realized that I had not only taken a journey with these people, but with Murdoch, who was singing us home.

But of course it can’t be all hugs and kisses. The movie would just be boring. Burt and Verona must, in fact, find the place they belong, and, as we all know from real life, it can be painful and heartbreaking. Each place they venture holds an ensemble of characters with impressive actors behind each one. Chris Messina and Melanie Lynskey beautifully play a happy couple with a secret. Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara have fun in the roles of Burt’s peculiar parents. Well-knowns Maggie Gyllennhaal and Allison Janney play characters that, though entertaining, seem too outrageous to be authentic. They become such foils to Burt and Verona that you don’t understand how they ever co-existed. These obstacles seem almost forced and you could probably guess right away where these two need to go. Yet I can’t fault Sam Mendes for not making Away We Go the soul mate of my movie love. He had losers, he had the open road, and he had heartstring melodies that made writers’ Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida’s well-versed screenplay come to life. And most importantly he had that connection you want with characters that at the end of the movie you feel you’ve traveled with them and I was sad to see Burt and Verona go. It’s true our heart wants what it wants and mine was happily filled in Away We Go but we also want that unexpected surprise not written in our diaries and Sam Mendes stuck more to the key I’ve seen in many indie films before.