;Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq
;debuts 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9
Everyone should see Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq James Gandolfini's exceptional and deeply upsetting series of interviews with Iraq war veterans. And I do mean everyone: those who abhor the war, so they can appreciate the immense courage and sacrifice of those who fight; those who advocated for the war and "the surge," so they can understand the horror they've supported; and even the terrorists, who should be forced to view this with their eyes pried open until they're willing to acknowledge that no God would allow anyone into heaven who would participate in such despicable acts.;
;Gandolfini spoke with 10 Iraq war veterans who came home with amputated limbs, brain injuries and horror stories to tell. Like Crystal Davis, who found her leg underneath the seat of the truck she was in when a bomb went off underneath, and Jay Wilkerson, who now struggles to remember his own son's name. Then there's Eddie Ryan, strapped into a wheelchair, whose mother has to tell his story because his brain was so severely injured.;
;The man who made his name playing Tony Soprano also shows us what it's like when a roadside bomb suddenly explodes underneath a moving vehicle. (The credit reads "insurgent-released video.") The flash, smoke and resulting fire is probably the first time many of us have so realistically witnessed what this war really looks and feels like. For most of us, Iraq has been an abstraction of numbers and policy debates. Between the explosions and the up-close looks at missing limbs, eyes and hunks of skin, this hour brings the fight home in a visceral way.;
;Alive Day Memories – the title refers to the day a soldier narrowly escapes death, and it's almost like a second birthday – is apolitical. George W. Bush isn't mentioned, and the politics are ignored. The interviews take place on the starkest of stages. You see Gandolfini's face only once or twice; he wanted to make sure this wasn't about him, and he succeeded. This documentary is strictly an outlet for the soldiers to tell their stories.
;; — Marc D. Allan;;
;VarieTEASE: The XXXtra Special Back to School Special
;8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12
;The Footlight Theater at the Parliament House
;$10; (407) 454-8478
For kids, the start of a new school year means old friends, new teachers and endless possibilities. But as an adult, the "thrill" of school-supplies shopping is a giant pain in the ass. BabyBlue has a potential cure for the end-of-summer blues in the VarieTEASE: XXXtra Special Back to School Special, which comes to a close this week.;
;;A pre-show of vintage videos, cleverly culled from YouTube by Jason Donnelly, sets the stage: If you're of the age at which the phrase "conjunction junction" prompts the immediate response, "What's your function?", then you'll feel right at home. That old-school '80s vibe permeates this stylized year in the life of the "VarieTEASE Performing Arts Academy." All of Blue's regulars are here, embodying expected academic archetypes: Willie, the photography-club geek; Lollie, the boy-magnet in poppin' lip gloss; Spikey Dykey, the greaser in T-Birds leather; Tymisha, the perky cheerleader. At the head of the class is Headmistress Blue, the personification of Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher." Forty-five minutes of lip-synched vignettes take us from classroom to cafeteria, with a smoke break in the boys' room and a pistol-packing homecoming along the way, culminating in a graduation straight out of Fame.
;;I'm an unabashed admirer of Blue's aptitude for elevating material above its drag-show origins, through seamless spectacle in the debut Carnivale and with sloppy silliness in the sophomore Shee Haw. Third production Back to School is VarieTEASE's slightest show so far; it's neither as breathtaking as the former nor as comic as the latter. Still, there are moments of awe, like an athletic dance set to a Björk song. ;If nothing else, the show's a good excuse to have a stiff drink while watching beautiful people enjoying themselves on stage.
;; — Seth Kubersky
;;Four-letter word: A-R-T-S;
;The Arts Connection
;8:30 p.m. Thursday
In between sweating and eating over the Labor Day weekend, flipping through a thousand channels on the TV led to one nice surprise: a Sunday replay of the Aug. 30 Arts Connection show, a recent addition to the WMFE-TV lineup and a complement to the long-running radio show of the same name hosted by Becky Morgan. (The radio component now airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.);
;;In particular, the segment on the upcoming debut of The Chocolate Nutcracker (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Carr Performing Arts Centre) was fun to watch. Engaging show host Secily Wilson visited a rehearsal for the African-American rendering of the classic created by dancer/choreographer LaVerne Reed, and the enlisted local kids were in constant movement, backed by drums.;
;In another segment, Morgan highlighted what she had covered in her last radio episode, which was a nice tie-in.;
; Currently, The Arts Connection TV show is broadcast at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, with a replay at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Come Oct. 4, though, it will move back to 8 p.m. and noon, respectively. For those who prefer not to be kept to a schedule, the WMFE website (www.wmfe.org) maintains a downloadable archive, so you can watch the shows whenever you like.;
;; — Lindy T. Shepherdarts@orlandoweekly.com