Entertainment Weekly 100 All-Time Greatest Issue

Yeah, I know “All-Time Greatest” lists are a dime a dozen. But I like EW’s editorial style and (mostly) their critical slant. (No, Buffy isn’t that good.) So, I wondered how my personal tastes line up with theirs.

Stage — For this category, they picked the 50 greatest plays of the last 100 years. (Presumably, they knew they couldn’t stuff the last ten pages of their magazine with a medium that, like, 10% of the population care about.) Of these 50 plays, I’ve seen only one performed (“Death of a Salesman”), seen movie versions of two others (“Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Odd Couple”), read two (“Waiting for Godot” and “A Raisin in the Sun”) and actually performed in one (“Our Town”). My knowledge of great theater, it seems, is somewhat limited.

Music — I’m way out of touch on this one. I only have four of their album selections in my library. (“The White Album”, “Graceland”, “Abbey Road” and “Achtung Baby”)

Books — I’ve only read 17 of their 100 greatest books. This troubles me. You know, what with me being, like, a writer, and stuff.

TV — This one is tough to count up. I think I’ll count a show as “seen by me”, not if I’ve ever seen an episode (because it’s easy to accidentally catch shows you don’t really want to see), but if I made a concerted effort to either catch them in syndication, or watch the bulk of a season, either during its run or on home video. I won’t subject you to a list, since I count a full half of the shows as ones I’ve seen at least somewhat regularly. (Also, somehow, Fawlty Towers did not make this list. This is an oversight of staggering proportions.)

Movies — Well, I whonk on this blog more about movies than anything else. How many of the 100 greatest (as chosen by EW) have I seen? Only 45! Wow. I guess the fact that Transformers isn’t on there hurts my numbers. (Also, just for grins, I counted how many of these films I actually own. 20 of them. Actually, not bad.)

So, either I’m more of a TV buff than a movie buff, or I just synch up with EW’s TV critics more. Who knows?

Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark

ImageI was in NYC recently, and noticed that, amazingly, this show is still running. I had heard all the bad things about the previews (muddled narrative, boring music, actors getting injured), and then they retooled, and it opened… and I didn’t hear anything else about it. I assumed it tanked and went away. Nope. Spidey is still swinging.

So I ponied up for a cheap ticket (which was actually a great box seat) and settled in for a night of entertainment.

First, the good: Robert Cuccioli as Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn. He was awesome. In fact, I liked him better than Willem Dafoe from the first Raimi film. He was funny and had a better character arc. No one else in the cast was notable. So, there’s that.

The set design was a lot of fun. Everything was done in hand-drawn-style panels, with bright colors and forced perspectives, as if this were a comic book come to life. This was augmented with occasional crazy video sequences projected on ever-shifting scrims. Neat.

The costumes were fantastic. I mean, Spider-Man’s outfit is basically like the Raimi films. Nothing new there. But Osborn comes out pre-Goblin in this wild silver coat that I liked. Then, once he’s Goblinfied, he’s a walking, talking cartoon. Loved him. He creates this menagerie of villainous creatures (the Sinister Six), and they’re all fun as well.

Now the okay: The story was an amalgam of the first two Raimi films. Spidey’s webs are organic, not mechanically generated. Peter and Mary Jane get together by the end, with the requisite “Go get ’em, Tiger!” Osborn is a nice scientist who shifts into villain territory after his wife dies. (Also, no Harry. Interesting choice.) I kind of feel like the producers didn’t want to leave anything unused, since musicals don’t generally generate sequels. It was a little over-stuffed, but not annoyingly so. The inclusion of the Greek mythological character Arachne seemed pointless, but at least she had some cool costumes, too.

The problem was, I didn’t know why I was supposed to care about any of this. The story plays as a sillier, broader version of the film stories we know so well. The only thing it does that’s really new is the Arachne bit, and, as I said, not worth it.

Now, the bad: The music sucked. I was hoping that the U2 guys would bring the awesome. They brought the snores instead. There were only a couple of songs that I enjoyed in the moment, and none that I really remember at all.

As for the wire-work, I wasn’t sure whether to put this in the bad or the okay category, but I’m leaning toward bad, if only because my hopes were so high. After hearing about all the problems the production had in the preview phase, I expected to be really wowed by Spidey flying around the theater. I wasn’t. It was okay, I guess. Maybe I just don’t understand the level of difficulty this kind of thing has, but the only time I really felt like I was watching something exciting and new was when both Goblin and Spidey were flying around at the same time. That was the best part… but it still didn’t really excite me. And at no point was my belief suspended.

This is officially my least favorite Broadway experience. Disappointed.