Thank you for the music

Hollywood is, at its very heart, an industry that exists to answer questions. For example, I’ve long wondered what it might look like if Cher and Andy García, resplendent in linen, marched toward each other at a snail’s pace singing ABBA’s classic hit “Fernando” as fireworks exploded around them. Now, with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel to everyone’s favorite 2008 jukebox musical, I have my answer—it looks magnificent. (David Sims @ The Atlantic: "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Is a Gleefully Pointless Sequel")

There are a few stretches of my life that stand out as "placid years"; that is, years when my memories of the good things outweigh the bad, years that felt calm and safe. Not that bad things did not occur within them (many very bad things did), but that my recollection of them is weighted toward the good. (I would call them "golden years," but I'm not 104.)

Samples include:

  • 1982–1988 (junior high & high school: yes, I was a happy nerd with a relatively carefree adolescence and teen-hood. Sorry!)
  • 2004–2005 (Chicago)
  • 2007–2010 (New York)

I won't detail for you all the events that made these years memorable, but I'm always happy to encounter artifacts from them. To wit: MAMMA MIA! (the musical), which I first saw at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with my dear friend CV in 2005*, in a perfect confluence of vacation + friendship + ABBA. That show was everything I needed it to be at that very specific moment in my life: sunshine and nonsense and Swedish-superstar pop songs grafted without much worry into something resembling a plot. I entered a snob, expecting nothing, and got much in return.

Consequently to this day, anything related to MAMMA MIA! gets an automatic pass from me, simply because it reminds me of that trip and that time, those placid years. This includes the terrible 2008 movie of the musical, which I love, because "love" and "terrible" are fine words to use in a sentence together. Many things in life can exist in two states at once. You may have different standards that force you to disagree, but this is your problem. I don't waste much energy looking for new ways to discount joy.

For several years, before the advent of Mr. Robot, the USA Network characterized its Royal Pains and Burn Notice era of prime-time programming with a term I actually find to be quite useful: “blue sky” programming. I like it because I almost instantly know when something is “blue sky” and when it is merely fluffy. To me, “blue sky” is something light and aspirational, sure; but there also has to be something vaguely inscrutable about it, something that feels as though it got garbled or mistranslated at some point in the investment/preproduction/promotion phase. That’s actually a large part of the relaxing effect: some kind of underlying assurance that none of this will actually make any kind of compelling or coherent sense, so you needn’t worry too much about trying to read it. The blue-sky mentality can extend to design and interiors as well — decorative jars of buttons or sea shells, wooden block letters that spell out “FAMILY” and “FAITH” or “LIFE’S A BEACH.” (Emily Yoshida @ Vulture: "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Is All Blue Skies")

We spent our days in Vegas lying under umbrellas next to the pool at the Mirage while being served piña coladas and guacamole and eating tacos, and our nights doing more eating and drinking and wandering around aimlessly in search of nothing. There was no point to any of it but having a good time: that's what vacation is! And that's what MAMMA MIA! is to me still.**

It just feels nice, right now, to watch something so forthcoming with its sentiment, steeped in both the wistfulness of the past and the boggling, impossible immediacy of the present. (Richard Lawson @ Vanity Fair: "You’re Gonna Love Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Whether You Like It or Not")

*Note to CV: was it 2004? Did we go to Vegas two years in a row?! What hedonists we were!
** I have not yet seen MAMMA MIA! 2, which doesn't open until Friday, but already I adore it.