A holiday media medley

By | 2005-11-24T09:00:00-04:00 November 24th, 2005|Guides|

Cher Extravaganza: Live At The Mirage (Red Distribution, Inc)
My goodness, did Cher have big hair in 1991! And thanks to the magic of DVD, you can truly turn back time and see it for yourself as she wows an audience of mostly middle-aged white people (watch for the guy getting super into “I Found Someone”). 1991 was a fashionably questionable time, and Cher reigned in strange, yet highly entertaining, fashion choices. “If you like clothing look really hard now, because this is as clothed as we ever get again in the whole show,” she tells the crowd after her opening number, “I’m No Angel,” in which she wears a pleated pair of white slacks and a sequined jacket. Sure enough, she does the next number in a lace body suit. “Extravaganza” is presented here as it was broadcast on CBS. Unfortunately, the concert is interrupted by what would have been commercial breaks on TV as well as spliced in footage that interrupts the live show’s flow. The editing is a little too attention-deficit-disorder, never allowing your eye to settle too long on anything. Still, it’s a good show brimming with bonus features, including rehearsal footage, extra performances, backstage videos and more.

Britney & Kevin: Chaotic (Zoomba)
When you care enough to send the very worst, you can’t do much better than “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic” on DVD. If you missed this tragedy on television, know that “Chaotic” is appropriately named. Filmed almost exclusively by Britney and Kevin themselves using handheld video cameras, the show has the appearance of really bad amateur porn without the sex or nudity. Britney smokes a lot of cigarettes and ruminates about love and commitment. Kevin, the determined suitor, mumbles about how he “knew how she felt about me deep down” and looks like a man who badly needs a shower and a GED. Over the course of five episodes and an additional hour of “extra” content, Britney and Kevin prove at last that they have a combined IQ of about 50, which means they cannot be legally executed in most states. Also included is a CD of three new Britney Spears songs, for whatever that’s worth these days.

I Had Brain Surgery, What’s Your Excuse By Suzy Becker (Workman Publishing)
Can a story about a brain tumor be funny? It can if Suzy Becker is at the helm. Becker, best known for her illustrated books “All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat” and “My Dog’s the World’s Best Dog,” mixes cartoon illustrations with the story of finding a mass in her brain, having surgery to remove it, and her journey to regain her speech and sense of humor – both of which went out the window with the tumor. Thankfully, “I Had Brain Surgery” proves that Becker didn’t lose either skill for good, and she uses both to paint a portrait of survival and recovery that is honest, funny and impossible to put down.

The Lemmies By Arnold and Karen Klein (First Page Publications)
The best children’s books appeal to all ages and subtlety teach an important lesson. Of course, gorgeous illustrations help. Arnold and Karen Klein, owners of a gallery in Royal Oak, combine these qualities in “The Lemmies.” The book was written by Arnold, a poet, and illustrated by Karen, a widely-shown artist. Six lemmies, “creatures of my own invention,” said Arnold, go on a search to find “a certain toad.” When they find him they are afraid to get too close, scared by his unusual and peculiar appearance. But when the toad tells the lemmies they’re the “worst looking creeps” he’s ever seen, the lemmies find themselves rethinking their assumptions. “It’s for all ages,” said Arnold. “It’s really a story about acceptance.” A note from the authors in the book reads, “This book contributes to the hope that people will one day treat one another with the patience, tolerance and understanding required to realize a more comfortable and happier world. No child is too young, no adult too old, to join in this optimistic endeavor.”

The Sanctity of Marriage Handbook by Bryan Harris (Tarcher/Penguin)
Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox isn’t the only politician to “defend” marriage from gays while not exactly living up to the standards of the very institution he claims to be protecting. In this tongue-in-cheek book, Bryan Harris profiles 33 marriage “defenders” like Newt “I served my wife with divorce papers while she was in the hospital getting cancer treatments” Gingrich, FMA co-sponsor Rep. Ed “I leave dirty messages on gay dating phone lines and resigned in disgrace” Shrock, and the infamous prostitute/White House press correspondent Jeff Gannon/James Guckert. Writes Harris, “Hourly rate, $200; weekend rate, $1,200. Endorsing Bush’s antigay legislation while sleeping with men for money: priceless.” Most of the hypocrites Harris profiles are retired, but this is still a good, and entertaining, book to have handy for debates with right-wing relatives.

Breakfast With Tiffany: An Uncle’s Memoir By Edwin John Wintle (Miramax Books)
Edwin John Wintle is a “single, successful, and somewhat obsessive gay man” living a bachelor’s life in Greenwich Village when he suddenly finds himself taking on the task of raising his 13-year-old niece. One day he’s the hip uncle who loves visiting but can always go home, the next he’s grappling with the wild mood swings of a teenage girl who now shares his address. Complete with outbursts of “I f–king hate you!” and “Therapy is retarded and I’m not going,” Wintle receives on-the-job training on how to raise a bright and articulate yet troubled teenager. Wintle’s memoir is candid and often funny, whether he’s describing his triumphs or failures. Ultimately, “Breakfast With Tiffany” is about an unconventional family and the love between parent and child: hard-won, sometimes painful, but worth everything.

Ultimate Collection/remastered catalog Eurythmics
Arista Records
Eurythmics fans take heed – all eight records by this 80s hit-parade duo have been remastered and re-released with bonus tracks. They’ve also just released “The Ultimate Collection,” which includes all of their hit singles plus two brand new songs: “I’ve Got A Life” and “Was It Just Another Love Affair?” As the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart made some of the most innovative and haunting pop music of the 80s. Songs like “Love Is A Stranger,” “Would I Lie To You,” “Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” are timeless, while some other Eurythmics tunes are actually illegal to listen to unless you’re wearing leg warmers. Still, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the most successful U.K. duo in pop history. Even if you already own all of these records on, well, record or CD, the remastering, overseen by Stewart himself, gives the songs new life. The reissues contain a total of 44 bonus tracks, 11 previously unreleased, culled from B-sides, live recordings, soundtrack contributions and dance remixes. A “Sweet Dream” Eurythmics fans don’t have to wake up from.

The Season Jane Monheit (Epic)
On jazz vocalist Jane Monheit’s first-ever Christmas recording, she pours her gorgeous voice over holiday classics like “Sleighride,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.” She also does a gorgeous version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” for which she uses some of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as an introduction. That combination, she said, was inspired by the Iraq war and the soldiers that will be separated from their families this holiday. “Being on tour this past year, being in airports and seeing soldiers coming home,” she says, “it really made me think about this sort of thing.” She also takes on more modern holiday fare like The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas Darling” and David Foster and Linda Thompson’s “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” “I’m one of those people who go just a little too crazy over Christmas,” Monheit says. The slow and sultry “Moonlight In Vermont” will warm you up for sure.

A Christmas Fantasy Anita Baker (Blue Note)
With a voice as smooth and sweet as a cup of hot cocoa, Anita Baker will warm up your holidays with “A Christmas Fantasy,” her first-ever Christmas CD. The album mixes traditional Christmas carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” with fun holiday classics like “Frosty’s Rag (Frosty the Snowman)” and Broadway tunes (“My Favorite Things”). There are also three new songs: “Moonlight Sleighride,” “Christmas Fantasy” and the uplifting tribute to family and acceptance “Family of Man.” “Each of our journeys is so unique but it leads us to a common place,” Baker sings. “I got you, I won’t drop you, hold my hand.” It’s a song many LGBT brothers, sisters, sons and daughters may want to play for their families this holiday season.

Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook (Columbia)
For “Bette Midler Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook,” Midler reunites with Barry Manilow, her original accompanist, musical director and the producer of Midler’s first two breakthrough albums in the early 70s, “Divine Ms. M” and “Bette Midler.” Manilow spins the same production magic he did on “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook” in 2003. Midler uses her trademark sass and brass vocals to pay tribute to jazz vocalist Peggy Lee. Included are Lee’s signature tunes like “Fever,” “Big Spender” and “Is That All There Is?” Midler’s duet with Manilow on “I Love Being Here With You” is especially fun. Avid fans will want to pick up the DualDisc edition, which includes a DVD with all ten tracks in enhanced PCM stereo as well as home movie and archival TV footage of Peggy Lee, an interview with Midler and more.

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