Finally saw Les Miserables on the West End

What a long strange trip its been to get to this point. Who would have thought going to see one play would take two and a half months, two trips to London, a dozen phone calls and three pairs of tickets.

Jenny surprised me with tickets to go see Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theater in London’s West End when I arrived in England. I was super excited as, surprisingly, Les Miserables is one of my favorites. She got the tickets well before I got to England, and we were all set to go the first week of January. She explained when she bought the tickets from Encore Tickets, she bought two, but when she paid there were four in her cart, and before realizing it she paid for four tickets. She called and emailed the company and was able to have them re-sell the tickets she didn’t mean to buy, so it seemed like everything was fine.

We headed off to London so Jenny could show me the sights as it was my first time there. We got a nice hotel near Hyde Park, and did all the basic London tourist stuff. The first day we walked around Hyde Park, saw Buckingham Palace, toured Westminster Abbey, walked around Big Ben and Parliament. We then took a train to see the Tower Bridge and walk around the Tower of London before heading back. The next day was the big day. We spent the afternoon at the British Museum before we left early to get ready for the show. We first went out fo a fancy steak dinner at one of the trendy restaurants near the theater. It was great and we went all the way with a couple steaks, a bottle of wine and some cheesecake to finish things off. We got to the theater, got our tickets from the box office and went to find our seats. Thats when we figured out that something was wrong…there were already people in our seats. After talking with them, and finding an usher we headed back to the box office to find out that Encore Tickets had actually sold all four of the original tickets that Jenny got, instead of just the two she didn’t want, therefore we had no tickets for our show. We were pretty pissed and headed back to our hotel to fume about the mix-up.

The next day we continued out trip with a visit to a museum. Jenny was on the phone with Encore most of the afternoon to try to recoup our losses and get new tickets after they messed up. After several days of negotiations (they offered to give us only %10 off our next ticket purchase) we finally got a deal that could get us two new tickets for Les Miserables. Las t we we finally got our tickets again and went back to London for attempt number two to see the show. This time we traded a steak dinner for a steak burrito at Chipotle, but we were excited to go. We got in the theater, found our seats and thankfully this time there was no one in them. When the show started and we could finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Encore didn’t screw us a second time.

As for the show, it was amazing. The show was everything we were hoping for when we got tickets originally.

The Set: A+ The set started out as nothing but a few probs and I was worried that that’s all it would be the whole time. Then it began to rotate as the actors walked across and blew my mind. Every time they needed to change the setting, the stage would rotate and spin the old set to the shadows and bring the new one out without any struggle. The barricade was insanely intricate. They were able to pull some stuff off that I didn’t think they’d be able to like Javert’s suicide and basically all the scenes at the barricade.

Acting: B+  The only downside from going on a Wednesday night was that we got the understudies for Jean Valjean and Marius. It worked out though because those two actors filled the roles and were great. The only problem I had with the acting was at some points the actors would choose to scream their lines as loud as possible instead of trying to convey a real emotion (mostly Javert) but other than that everything was right on point.

Singing: A  Everyone in the cast was an amazing singer. After being a big fan of the movie, but not Russell Crowe it was great to finally see what the character Javert would look like with an actor who can actually sing.

Seats: A-  We had technically what were supposed to be worse seats from our original seats the first time we were supposed to go. That being said I think I like where we were more. We were on the balcony instead of on the floor, and I think we could see a lot better than where we would have been. We had a birds eye view and I think that helped the set pop and we could see some things on stage that nobody else could see from their seats.

Overall finally seeing the show was a great experience and I can’t wait to go see another West End show. That being said we’ll have to find a different ticket office to work with since we will never use Encore after that experience.

Ranking the nine Best Picture nominees at this year’s Oscars

The 2018 Oscars are upon us and for the past couple of years now I’ve embarked on a mission to watch every movie that gets nominated for Best Picture. Usually that means Jenny is along for the ride, though I’m not sure if she always likes being apart of it just yet. My brother John is also in on it, though he lives on the other side of the planet, we always share our feelings about the movies we see and report our progress. Last year we began putting the name of every Best Picture nominee in a hat and drawing them out at random to choose our watching order. That has helped because in the past I would leave movies I was not interested in to watch near the end and almost always I would never get to them and not watch them. So here is my ranking of the nine Best Picture nominees this year.

  1. Dunkirk – The movie told a very important story from history, and made it come alive in a very real and gritty way. It almost made you feel like you were on the beach, much like Saving Private Ryan did in it’s opening scene. Christopher Nolan did a great job incorporating the element of time into the story. It was a bit confusing at first, but when I caught up it was a great addition to the movie.


2. Lady Bird – Lady Bird is probably the funniest movie I saw all year. Saoirse Ronan  may quietly be becoming one of the best actresses of her generation and she’s only 23. Directing, writing, costumes, acting and virtually every part of this movie is right on point, something I wasn’t really expecting going in.


3. The Shape of Water – One of the oddest movies of the year might be the most                      endearing. Sally Hawkins is great as the mute protagonist, and the supporting cast              helps bring this far-fetched tale to life. Guillermo del Toro masterfully directs the                entire thing and should take home Best Director.


4. Get Out – Director Jordan Peele hit the right note with Get Out. He made it scary yes,           but also managed to make an unbelievable plot (taking someone’s brain and                        putting it in another’s body) but made you feel like this type of bait and kidnapping            could really happen. Also the tone and tension of race is perfectly set for America’s            current political climate.


5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Here’s where I begin to draw the line              between movies I really liked to movies that were alright with some flaws.                            Everything in Three Billboards is powerful; the acting, story, even the sets. I do see            some major flaws in some sloppy storytelling, motivations of some characters, and            the redemption of Sam Rockwell’s racist cop. I think the director was going more for shock value with Woody Harrelson’s character’s suicide than actually the right choice for the story.


6. The Post – While a nice reminder of the importance of watchdog journalism in our             current political climate, it’s your run of the mill “hard-working reporters bring                 down shady government” movie. It just doesn’t have the same humanity as                           Spotlight, or urgency as All The President’s Men and takes a backseat to those two               movies in it’s genre. I think it was somewhat disappointing for a Steven Spielberg              movie starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and a great supporting cast. On paper this            should be a classic, but on screen it is just another movie.


7. Darkest Hour – Another take on the Dunkirk story, this follows the politics of the                  extraction rather than the soldiers on the beach as in Dunkirk. This movie is basically all about Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill. The performance is great, but that’s about all that stands out from the movie, which as a whole is pretty average.


8. Phantom Thread – This is where I draw the line between movies I liked and movies I        hated. I hated Phantom Thread. I get it was more about subtle character development and manipulation, and under the surface goings on.  I believe one of the main things a movie is supposed to be is entertaining, and Phantom Thread is one of the least entertaining movies I’ve ever watched. I know all the movie snobs out there will say “you just don’t get it”. Trust me, I got it, but bye the end I was so bored I just wanted her to murder/suicide him with the mushrooms and let it end.


9. Call Me By Your Name – I am not the audience that Call Me By Your Name was made          for and I knew that going in. That doesn’t stop be from being able to detest the                   movie. Like Phantom Thread I thought it was rather dull and boring, although more           interesting that the previous. I thought the Characters were fairly wooden and                     clashed, and their relationships were all forced, including the weird family dynamic.         Armie Hammer’s older Oliver is pretty clearly manipulating Timothee Chalamet’s               younger Elio’s feelings for him in not a very healthy way. Oliver seems to get what he         wants out of the trip, while leaving Elio to fend for himself at the end. It will                        probably go down for me as one of my least favorite movies of all-time.


Well there it is, I’m sure most people will argue that I have the rankings backwards or have no idea what I’m talking about. I’ll say that this is more of a list of my favorite nominees, not necessarily the best movies of the year. I’m no film critic and I’m not going to sit here trying to tell you that Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread are terrible movies, or that Dunkirk and Lady Bird are all-time masterpieces. I like what I like, and everyone else out there has a different opinion, which is great. I’ll just be rooting for Dunkirk, Lady Bird, and Shape of Water when the red carpet is rolled out.