Best version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah?

I have three ver­sions of Leonard Cohen’s Hal­lelu­jah in my iTunes library. The first is, of course, the orig­i­nal by Leonard Cohen. The ver­sion I have is off of one of his great­est hits albums, The Essen­tial Leonard Cohen, and includes a cho­rus, his usu­al lugubri­ous deliv­ery, and a some­what sev­en­ties-ish elec­tric ban­jo sound. Now, I have to say, I think leonard Cohen is a fan­tas­tic song­writer. I love his voice, too, but some of his best songs are com­plete­ly screwed up by ridicu­lous arrange­ments. This is one of them. When I first heard this song, bril­liant as it is, I prob­a­bly skipped to the next track. I doubt I lis­tened to it all the way through even once before dis­cov­er­ing it as sung by some­one else.

The sec­ond, and prob­a­bly best known ver­sion, is by Rufus Wain­wright, and appears on the sound­track to the movie Shrek. This is a good cov­er of the song, cer­tain­ly it treats the piece like poet­ry (unlike Cohen’s carnival/church ren­di­tion), and the piano is well played. But even Wain­wright cites Jeff Buck­ley as an influ­ence on his musi­cal career.

While watch­ing an episode of With­out a Trace on CBS, they played Jeff Buck­ley’s haunt­ing ver­sion from his album Grace, and I did­n’t rec­og­nize the song at all. I actu­al­ly had to go do a search on the Inter­net to dis­cov­er what the song was, and that I already had a copy. Do your­self a favor: go buy, down­load, or steal this song and have a lis­ten, stereo cranked up, lights down, cur­tains drawn, loved one snug­gled next to you. Buck­ley, who died in an accident/suicide in 1997, pours so much emo­tion into this song that you can’t pull your­self away. Lis­ten­ing to this, you can’t escape the unmis­tak­able pow­er of Leonard Cohen’s writ­ing. The poet just need­ed a dif­fer­ent mouth­piece.

Tiffany and I will stop what­ev­er we’re doing when this song scrolls around on the iPod. We only do that for a few songs, and while those few tend to change month to month, Jeff Buck­ley’s Hal­lelu­jah always makes us pause to lis­ten.

I keep look­ing for that sec­ond strike of light­ning, but have yet to find anoth­er Jeff Buck­ley song that I even like a lit­tle bit. I do want some­one to put togeth­er a disc of Leonard Cohen cov­ers, though.

I read Ill Wind, by Rachel Caine

cover-illwind.jpgUnlike the last book I read, this one took me about twen­ty-four hours to read. Yeah, it’s fluff, at best. But it was fun fluff. Book’s about a woman who is part of a world­wide secret soci­ety of folks who con­trol the weath­er. Or rather, they try to con­trol it. She gets in some trou­ble, she has some dan­ger­ous adven­tures, and it resolves itself nice­ly.

Book was okay. It has the feel of a first book, mean­ing that the char­ac­ters are all pret­ty pat, the bad guys fair­ly sim­plis­tic, the plot not over­ly com­pli­cat­ed. It’s like the author was try­ing so hard to just fin­ish the thing with­out screw­ing it up that she did just that, and man­aged to make it not ter­ri­bly mem­o­rable. I’m look­ing for­ward to the next book she’s writ­ing, because unlike some of the new genre authors out there, I think her writ­ing has promise.

Though I did get the sneaky feel­ing that she might be tee­ter­ing on the edge of roman­tic fan­ta­sy/s­ci-fi, which is a genre that makes me want to puke. Also, her sec­ond book seems to be com­ing out straight to paper­back, which can’t be good.

I finally finished Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

cover-lifeofpi.jpgI start­ed read­ing this book just after Christ­mas, and did not man­age to fin­ish it until last week. My moth­er gave it to me, say­ing she’d thought of me through­out, or at least at the begin­ning, when Pi talks about the Pondicher­ry Zoo quite a bit. You see, one of my for­mer lives was going to be work­ing in a zoo.

In any case, Tiffany had already read the book (in fact, we already had a copy) and had been try­ing to get me to read it for a while, because she want­ed to dis­cuss the end­ing with some­one.

And now I know why.

What comes next is a dis­cus­sion of the end of the book. If you have not read the book, don’t con­tin­ue, and go buy it. I think it is worth the effort. If you are cur­rent­ly read­ingthe book, you might as well fin­ish it first. If you have read the book, well, we would be inter­est­ed in your opin­ion.

Read on if you know the end­ing. Con­tin­ue read­ing I final­ly fin­ished Life of Pi, by Yann Mar­tel

Calendar Girls

It took us two nights, we were so sleepy, but we did man­age to watch Cal­en­dar Girls this week­end. It was pret­ty cute, though I have a soft spot for British film (or Amer­i­can film with British accents, I guess). There’s a lot of ama­teur T’ai Chi in it, and I kept think­ing that our old teacher would love the movie, but might hate the T’ai Chi… she used to go on so about those Cele­brex com­mer­cials. (Though what I found least believ­able about those com­mer­cials was the calm Bor­der Col­lie.)

Any­way, it was­n’t much of a movie, but sure­ly worth $3 to rent. Helen Mir­ren was fun, as was Julie Wal­ters (Mol­ly Weasley in the Har­ry Pot­ter movies, and the bal­let teacher in Bil­ly Elliot). Per­haps the best part was watch­ing the fea­turette on the real Cal­en­dar Girls (this was the DVD ver­sion). Watch it after the movie, so you know who every­one is.

love actually

This was the per­fect movie for the mood we’ve been in late­ly. Too much dra­ma on TV, too many shows about bad things hap­pen­ing to lit­tle chil­dren, not enough light­heart­ed feel-good stuff. There are no good sit­coms any­more.

Any­way, love actu­al­ly was delight­ful­ly British, touch­ing, and sig­nals the fur­ther reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Hugh Grant in my wife’s esti­ma­tion. The ensem­ble cast is excel­lent, the sto­ries inter­twine but not in that hip­per-than-thou Alt­man way, and not every­thing turns out with a pink bow. Some peo­ple actu­al­ly end up with heartache. It remind­ed me of Four Wed­dings and a Funer­al, except with­out the deplorable Andie Mac­Dow­ell, only not quite as snarky.

Like Trainspot­ting and Father of the Bride rolled into one. Well, more Father of the Bride.

If you liked Four Wed­dings, About a Boy, and Not­ting Hill, you’ll like this.


Since her per­for­mance on Wednes­day, Fan­tasi­a’s ren­di­tion of Sum­mer­time has got­ten a lot of notice. Three blog­gers I fre­quent admit­ted that they watch Amer­i­can Idol by way of prais­ing her. Now I’m look­ing for a video ver­sion of her per­for­mance. We’ll see if the Inter­net deliv­ers.

Give that girl a contract [updated]

First off, yes, I watch Amer­i­can Idol and like it. It is the quin­tes­sen­tial guilty plea­sure. But enough about me.

Last night, one of the con­tes­tants, Fan­ta­sia Bar­ri­no, sang Gersh­win’s Sum­mer­time and it was amaz­ing. After the show (after watch­ing her sing it twice, thanks to the won­ders of TiVo) we went down­stairs and lis­tened to our copy of Ella and Louis doing the same song. Also good, but Fan­tasi­a’s ver­sion was some­thing stel­lar.

Where Ella’s voice is but­tery and smooth, Fan­tasi­a’s was soul­ful and real. The Ella and Louis ver­sion evokes in me images of slow sum­mer, warm, lan­guid, with peo­ple in sun hats and Sun­day dress. Fan­tasi­a’s ver­sion made me think of Brook­lyn brown­stones and hot days, sum­mer with a lit­tle grit of sand and sweat. It was a fresh, orig­i­nal take on the song, and now that I have found it online, you can enjoy it, too.

Fan­ta­sia Bar­ri­no singing Sum­mer­time

Under the Tuscan Sun

A sur­pris­ing­ly delight­ful movie, Under the Tus­can Sun. I’ve had a thing for Diane Lane since see­ing her in Jack, on some air­plane trip. But then I saw half of her crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed per­for­mance in Unfaith­ful and could­n’t real­ly stand her. Not sure why. And it turned me off of her. I kept think­ing that I’d like to see her in some­thing, but I could­n’t quite shake her char­ac­ter from that movie. I need­ed to see her in some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

When Tus­can Sun came out, it seemed like a pif­fle of a movie (it is) with no good rea­son to be seen. Turns out it’s a delight­ful pif­fle, with a charm­ing­ly retro/on­ly-in-the-movies opin­ion of Italy mixed with a nineties gay-is-the-new-side­kick flair that works. And Diane Lane comes off as a some­what weary but win­ning, wis­er than she was, mod­ern Amer­i­can woman. Amidst gay side­kicks and retro/sexist Ital­ians.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it did­n’t bring me back the old Diane Lane, so much as show me a dif­fer­ent one. One I’m not so enam­ored of. She’s nice, and pret­ty, but still too stressed. I want to see her play­ing a Reese With­er­spoon role. Some­thing where her char­ac­ter only has to emote on the most sur­face of lev­els. I know, I know, I do her act­ing abil­i­ties a dis­ser­vice.

Any­way, the movie was bet­ter than I thought it would be.

Something’s Gotta Give

We rent­ed Some­thing’s Got­ta Give a cou­ple of weeks back, with very low expec­ta­tions. For some rea­son, all through Oscar Sea­son, nei­ther Tiffany nor I could get up the inter­est to watch it. Anoth­er Jack show. Diane Keaton nev­er has rung my bell. Aman­da Peet real­ly does­n’t do any­thing for me.

Sure, lots of folks were telling us it was good. The crit­i­cal acclaim was strong. But it took us a long time ot come around. And now we have.

The movie is cuter than we thought, with pret­ti­er peo­ple (wow, that house was some­thing else!), bet­ter guest stars (Frances McDor­mand, Jon Favreau, and Starsky!), a more inter­est­ing plot (they have sex pret­ty ear­ly on as these for­mu­las go), and on-screen instant mes­sag­ing that could actu­al­ly be real!

It may have been a lit­tle long, and the Paris thing was a bit over­much, but still, wor­thy of your time and mon­ey.