Music, Movies, TV – An Insider’s Perspective

How was your holiday weekend?

I thoroughly enjoyed my Thanksgiving and I hope you enjoyed yours too. Thanks to those of you that sent messages about my holiday film suggestions. I was pleased to see that some of my favorites were a hit in several homes over Thanksgiving. Since I have seen my favorite films many times I decided to venture out to see a couple of new films over the holiday weekend. A few were available for streaming at home, and I caught up on some others through DeepDiscount.com.

I will provide links so you can easily find the films, music, or other things I mention.

My weekend was filled with the brilliant artistry and magic of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jonathan Larson. Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett

Lin-Manuel Miranda…

I fell in love with the creativity of Lin-Manuel Miranda after hearing and seeing Hamilton. I loved the music before even seeing the play. I now watch all movies, TV shows and interviews that include Lin-Manuel Miranda.

This weekend I was able to see two of his highly anticipated new films. On Thanksgiving day we watched “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” and “Disney’s Encanto”

Tick. Tick…Boom is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial feature film debut. And Encanto features infectious music that will have kids like my four-year-old granddaughter singing until Lin-Manuel pens the songs for his next BIG Disney Blockbuster.

At age 17, after seeing “Rent” on Broadway Lin-Manuel Miranda, knew exactly what he wanted to do…He wanted to write a musical.

As a sophomore in college Lin, wrote his first musical. It was called “In the Heights.” The musical that was set over the course of three days took eight years before it premiered Off-Broadway. Lin-Manuel had something in common with his hero Jonathan Larson who wrote “Rent.” He had to work hard and remain patient while he waited for his dream to come to fruition. Both Larson and Miranda used current and popular genres of music for their musicals. Larson used pop-rock music for “Rent” and Miranda used hip-hop, salsa and Latin sounds to bring “In the Heights” to life.

During the pandemic I desperately missed going to see a movie on the giant screen. After fourteen months it was a special screening of “In the Heights” that led me back to the theatre.

If you are a fan of musicals or Lin-Manuel Miranda, I recommend adding “In the Heights” to your movie collection. As a musical on Broadway “In the Heights” received thirteen Tony Award nominations. It also won four Tony Awards, to include “Best Musical.” The film adaptation of Lin’s musical is worth adding to your collection of films

IN THE HEIGHTS is available on DVD here

Without the genius of Jonathan Larson and “Rent” would we have Lin-Manuel Miranda and “In the Heights” “Hamilton” “Moana” or “Encanto”?

Before getting into the films that blew me away this past weekend, I must mention and pay homage to the “genius” writer that inspired Lin-Manuel to create, act, write, direct, compose, produce, and perform.

Jonathan Larson

Jonathan Larson shot to fame in 1996 when his hit musical “Rent” became an enormous hit on Broadway. Although it seemed as though “Rent” was an overnight sensation, it was not.

Jonathan worked for fifteen years to bring his works and his hit musical “Rent” to Broadway…and the world.

While writing a series of musicals that he hoped would lead to Broadway he lived in poverty with a meek income from waiting tables at a local diner. He drew from his own life and the lives of his friends who were struggling artists. The issues of poverty, sexual orientation, homophobia, HIV & Aids, homelessness, eviction, and addiction were heavy on Jonathan’s heart and mind while creating his musical masterpiece “Rent”.

After all the years of Jonathan’s arduous work, the Off-Broadway, New York Theatre Workshop gave Jonathan what he felt was his ‘big break.” The theater signed on to be the first to produce Rent. On that very day, Jonathan quit his job at the diner. Three weeks before the opening of “Rent” Jonathan started having unusual chest pains. During a rehearsal he collapsed at the theater. On two occasions he went to the emergency room where he was treated for the flu or exhaustion. The real reason for his chest pain and dizziness was due to his misdiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Jonathan was suffering from an extremely serious condition which caused an aortic aneurysm. And on the morning of January 25, 1996, Jonathan’s aneurysm burst, and he was found dead in the small apartment he shared with two others in New York. On January 25, 1996, it was supposed to be Jonathan’s proudest moment. The musical that celebrated his best and (now, final work) was scheduled to open for previews on the evening in which Jonathan died.

The cast of Rent decided to do what they felt Jonathan would want. While fighting to hold back tears they went on with the show. Jonathan’s family said, “the show must go on!” In an emotional tribute to Jonathan together they lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder across the stage to perform the songs he had written and composed. If you watch the film “Rent” or listen to the soundtrack you will see how these songs took on a deeper meaning to his own life and his tragic, sudden passing.

At the end of the “Rent” preview there was a short standing ovation, then the entire audience just sat down in their seats. The packed theater sat in complete silence for a long time until one lone voice said, “THANK YOU JONATHAN LARSON.” Many tears were shed as the audience solemnly left the theater.

Jonathan Larson left us far too soon. He did not live to see his fame, fortune, or the profound impact that his creation would have on the world.

He did not live to see it open and run for twelve years as a HIT BROADWAY MUSICAL PHENOMENON.

“Rent” proceeded to have National and International productions. It was a sold-out hit in every city, state, or country where it opened. In 1996 when there were many successful Broadway shows, Rent managed to receive ten Tony award nominations. It also received four wins to include, Best Musical and Best Original Score. The Pulitzer Prize for Drama was posthumously awarded to Jonathan Larson in 1996.

Now that you know a bit about Jonathan Larson and Lin-Manuel Miranda, I will share how they both made my Thanksgiving 2021 memorable.

Most of us including myself are usually busy over the holidays with family obligations, unfinished work, errands, or chores. I decided to do something that I “never” do. I did things that I wanted to do…just for me. If others wanted to join in my plans that was fine, but I was going to enjoy myself to the fullest with what I wanted to eat, drink, listen to, or see. I always put others first but this weekend I was putting “Violet first!” I was determined to catch up on my own enjoyment. Nothing makes me happier than our granddaughter, our dogs, good music, or a great film so all of these items appeared on my Thanksgiving weekend…Violet Brown told me…“what to do list”

The First film on my list was a new one…
Tick, Tick…BOOM!

Tick, Tick…BOOM is based on the true-life story of the late great American composer, lyricist and playwright, Jonathan Larson. Jonathan first introduced Tick, Tick…BOOM, as a one-man show of autobiographical monologues and songs he called Boho Days. It was about the long hours and challenging work that Jonathan put into writing a sci-fi musical called “Superbia” that was never produced. The one-man show was revised by David Auburn and premiered Off-Broadway as a three actor show in 2001.

It was clear that Jonathan was dealing with his thoughts of making the wrong career choice. Jonathan was feeling a lot of pressure from everyone and everything and it all came to a head in “Tick, Tick…BOOM!

When Lin-Manuel Miranda first saw Tick, Tick…BOOM in a small theater in New York he said it changed his life.

After seeing Tick, Tick..BOOM, it was clear to Lin that he wanted to write and compose for a living. But the play also pointed out the hard road he too might face in his twenties and trying to write and produce his musical. WAS IT WORTH IT?….. YES, IT WAS!!!!!!

In 2014, Lin-Manuel performed the role of Jonathan Larson in an encore revival of Tick, Tick…BOOM for New York City Centers Encores.

It has been no secret of the love and respect that Lin Miranda has for Jonathan Larson and his body of work. So, when Netflix chose to bring Larson’s Tick, Tick, BOOM to a bigger screen and audience they called on Lin-Manuel Miranda to direct the musical. Of course, Lin felt that he was the ONLY one that should direct the film. After seeing the exceptional care, passion and love that Lin poured into Tick, Tick…BOOM, I too believe, that Lin-Manuel Miranda was the ONLY one to bring the magic of this film to the masses.

Tick, Tick…BOOM, is filled with amazing and interesting cameos. I suppose it was easy to get celebrities and notable people on board when Lin-Manuel Miranda comes calling for cameos in a Jonathan Larson film.

If you are a Broadway enthusiast, a theater kid, a fan of the theatre or a person who knows their Broadway trivia, you may be able to spot and name all the cameo appearances in Tick, Tick…BOOM!

The cameos in Tick, Tick…BOOM, represent a “who’s-who” of Broadway theater…. But the most significant and thrilling cameo came from “American Theater Royalty”

Jonathan Larson and Lin-Manuel Miranda both idolized, Stephen Sondheim. In Tick, Tick…BOOM, we see Stephen Sondheim (played by Bradley Whitford) sneak into a presentation of Larson’s play “Superbia” that was for producers only. After the presentation Jonathan Larson (played by Andrew Garfield) received a voicemail from Stephen Sondheim that told him he enjoyed “Superbia,” and he encouraged Jonathan to follow his dreams of a writing career. When the real Stephen Sondheim was asked to review the voicemail message in the film, he said “I would not say that…I would never say you have a bright future. May I re-write it.” So, of course Lin told Sondheim he could re-write it. Then Sondheim said “if you cannot get Bradley to re-record it, I will record the voicemail. Lin immediately said,

“I can’t get him!”

And that was how the real “Titan of the American Musical,” Stephen Sondheim made his cameo appearance in the film. I was deeply saddened the day after seeing Tick, tick…BOOM when it was announced that the most influential composer and lyricist of American Musicals had died. Sondheim fans worldwide, went into mourning and tributes flooded into all media sources.

Many felt that Stephen Sondheim was the most gifted, revered, and popular composer-lyricist of all-time. Mr. Sondheim left us an amazing body of work that will inspire writers, composers, fans, and actors for eternity. I am excited to see that Sondheim’s “West Side Story” will be coming to theaters on December 10, of this year.

When Tick, Tick…BOOM ended, I immediately wanted to see it again but instead I decided to revisit Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece and Broadway phenomenon, “RENT”

My last Tick, Tick….THOUGHT….

I think Andrew Garfield should receive an Oscar for his portrayal of Jonathan Larson…just putting that thought into the universe.

Rent (film #2)

I am so happy that I chose to watch Rent even though I have seen it many times. I was fortunate enough to see it on Broadway and I have seen the film many times. I adore the entire cast, every song, the story, and messages throughout the production. As I have mentioned, Rent was written and composed by the late great Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Jonathan Larson. Rent was one of the longest running original musicals on Broadway. It won numerous awards and accolades. The play was a hit in every country in which it was performed. Several members of the original Broadway cast went on to become stars of TV and film. Some of the original cast is also in the film. If you want to see why this rock-musical was so important and beloved, I urge you to check it out and add it to your collection of films.

There are many ways to enjoy “Rent”

  • Get RENT: Filmed Live on Broadway on DVD here
  • The film “RENT” is available on DVD here and Blu-Ray here

The third film of my amazing weekend was……

Licorice Pizza (film #3)

We attended a special screening of this coming-of-age film that was set in California’s, San Fernando Valley in 1973. This is a wild story of growing up and finding that “first love.” Licorice Pizza is scheduled for wide release on Christmas day. It has an interesting cast that stars Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Haim (of the popular vocal group Haim). The film also added Alana Haim’s real family into the film. Her sisters and famed members of Haim and her real-life mom and dad. There are other cool cameos in this film too. The detail of the authentic cars, clothing, furniture, hair, and make-up is on-point.

My favorite scenes were at the “Teenage Fair.” The fair was an annual event “for teenagers only” held at the Palladium Theater in Hollywood, CA. This was like the Worlds Fair for teenagers. I remember seeing so many superstar bands and actors at the Teenage Fair. Some of the biggest acts to perform at the fair were Sonny & Cher, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, Blue Cheer, The Monkees, The Byrds,

Bradley Cooper plays Barbara Streisand’s infamous seventies “hairdresser” boyfriend Jon Peters. Tom Waits and Sean Penn also have prominent roles in Licorice Pizza.

The film features great music of the 70’s. If you are a child of the seventies or someone that loves this era, you can pre-order the “far-out” soundtrack now here.

DeepDiscount.com also carries several CDs that feature the biggest hits of the 70’s. Who needs a DJ for your next 70‘s party when you have deepdiscount.com and some of these “fun” seventies, CD’s?

House of Gucci (film #4)

I have been waiting for “House of Gucci” for a long time. I am a Lady Gaga fan (yes, a little monster). And, I have loved Adam Driver since I first discovered him on Lena Dunham’s popular TV show “Girls.”

I am a sucker for controversial and infamous true stories. Especially when they involve famous and wealthy people or families. I love a great dramatic crime story and “House of Gucci” delivered. The famed Director and Producer, Ridley Scott is no stranger to dysfunctional, wealthy families. He did a fabulous job with the Getty family in 2017 with his direction and production of “All the Money in the World”

“House of Gucci” brought Lady Gaga back to feature films. She gave a stunning performance in her first film, “A Star is Born” and she pulled off another beautiful and convincing performance in House of Gucci.

This true story had it all…greed, glamour, jealousy, deceit, and murder.

We witness the rise and fall of the original family that started the Italian fashion empire, “Gucci.” When Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) met and fell in love with Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) he had no idea he was falling in love with a black widow who would take down the Gucci family, their empire and eventually himself.

Patrizia was a smart, strong, independent, wealthy, Italian socialite who helped run her father’s successful trucking business. Lady Gaga is a smart, strong, independent, wealthy Italian superstar who runs her “Haus of Gaga” creative team and her cosmetic company “Haus Laboratories.” I feel safe in saying that Gaga and Patrizia had some similarities. In “A star is Born” she also had a lot in common with her lead character. Even though the casting is brilliantly perfect in both films there was a lot riding on Gaga’s ability to pull off a leading role in a major motion picture.

Lady Gaga delivered an outstanding performance in both of her films. In her first film, “A Star is Born” she received her first Oscar nomination. (not too shabby for her first film). After seeing “Gucci” I feel another nomination may be coming her way. Personally, I would love to see her win an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Gaga, attributes her believable performances to “method acting.” This means she lived her life in the character of Patrizia Gucci during the filming of House of Gucci, complete with an Italian accent.

Lady Gaga likes to fully immerse herself in everything she does. We also see and hear this in her music as she seamlessly takes us between her pop or jazz journey. There is always a genuine, realness and passion to everything Gaga sets her mind to do.

I also tuned in to watch Lady Gaga in her live and final performance with the legendary jazz great Tony Bennett. In August 2021, “One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga” was recorded live from Radio City Music Hall for a CBS special presentation.

Until “House of Gucci” is released to purchase, you can visit DeepDiscount.com to pick up Gaga’s debut film performance in “A Star is Born” and all her solo music and her award-winning jazz music with Tony Bennett.

Cheek to Cheek with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett is available on LP here.

A Star is Born is available on DVD here.

FUN FACT:

Frank Sinatra once said,

“For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business. He excites me when I watch him. He moves me. He’s the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more.

Encanto (film #5)

This was my final film of a long weekend of AMAZING ENTERTAINMENT.

Whenever there is a new Disney film released I typically find myself at the theatre with our granddaughter. She loves everything Disney. Of course, I wanted to see this one, since it features original, (new) music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin also wrote the music for my granddaughter’s other favorite movie “Moana.” It will be nice to hear her sing some new songs after seeing “Encanto.”

This is another film that is currently not available to purchase but you can still get the perfect gifts and stocking stuffers for those kids in your life that love Disney and are begging for Encanto toys, figures, or collectibles.

Whether your kid tells you or Santa to bring them “Encanto” stuff, Violet-Brown-Told-You to head on over to DeepDiscount.com for all your “Encanto…stuff-ers.”

HOT TIP…Stores will soon be SOLD-OUT of toys and collectibles for the BIG DAY on December 25. Save your gas money and spend it at DeepDiscount.com where you find deals and those items that will be sold-out everywhere else.

If you need “Squid Game” gifts, you can find them now but maybe not for long!

Browse the Fan Shop, Toys & Gifts, Apparel, Books, Electronics and of course our Movies, Music or Vinyl sections for ALL your holiday gifts…There is even a GREAT Disney tab for you to check out. Make sure to visit “Today’s Deals” too.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you and yours!

Violet Brown

I will leave you with 2 more of my favorite film recommendations…

  • A Star is Born” starring Barbara Streisand & Kris Kristofferson from 1976
  •  Disney’s “Coco” from 2018

2 Comments

  1. Mark Hudson

    Great blog Violet. Yes Tick Tick BOOM was superb. Will have to check out Licorice Pizza. Take care, Mark.

    • Violet Brown

      Thanks Mark…Don’t know how I missed this….
      I hope you and the fam are well.

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