Check out my new post

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"American Hustle" - Don't be Conned, Don't Go

The film "American Hustle" is directed by David Russell (Silver Lining Playbook.)  Russell  reassembled his Oscar nom. "Lining" cast:  Bradley Cooper (FBI Agent Richie DiMaso) Jennifer Lawrence (Rosalyn Rosenfeld) Robert DeNiro along with Oscar nom. actors:  Christian Bale (Irving Rosenfeld) Amy Adams (Sydney Prosser) and Jeremy Renner (Mayor Carmine Polilo.)  Sounds like a sure thing for a winning picture.   But, there is no sure thing and this film is assuredly no winner winner chicken dinner.  Irving is a two bit con man from L.I.  I can't buy how Irving (Bale)  a grossly over weight schlub with a bad come over could be married to Rosalyn (Lawrence) and have Sydney (Adams) as his mistress & accomplice.  Bale gained a ton of weight in real life to play the role of this repulsive giffter convincingly.  But, it's incredulous the gorgeous Rosalyn or the sexy vixen, Sydney, would even look his way.  Sydney shows all cleavage all the time. I'm just perplexed by the mucky script.  DiMaso ensnares Sydney for fraud.  Then he pits Irving & Sydney against one another.  Next thing you know, they're all cohorts and out to fry bigger fish.  They succeed in bribing Mayor Polilo to grease the way for gambling casinos along the Jersey Shore.  Soon the Mafia wants in on the action.  Who is exploiting who becomes a colossal, convoluted jumble.  The movie is set in NYC during the drug infused disco craze.  This movie should go the way of disco.  The house wins if you put your $ down expecting a good time.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Anchor Man 2-Double Your Fun

Anchor Man II is the type of absurd & silly comedy that you can't help but love even as you cringe or puzzle over the humor.    Cut yourself slack & allow your self to laugh till you cry.  Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrel) &Veronica Corningstone (Christine Applegate) reprise their roles as newscasters now married with and parents to an adorable & precocious boy.  Life is bliss until Vernoica is offered the 1st female anchor spot on the news & Ron gets fired.   Having given Veronica an ultimatum to choose between her job or marriage, Ron finds himself out of both his job & their home.  Ron's dismal future gets boosted when he get's offered an anchor job in NYC with a news network, GNN, that will be the first to broadcast 24 hours of news.  Ron gets to hire reporters for his segment (2:00-5:00AM) and  assembles his old crew of friends: Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechuer; today's answer to the Marks Brothers.  Let the good times roll & the zaniness begin.  Set in the early 80's, the clothes, music and fads are revisited with a warm-hearted wink to the decade.   A love story of odd-balls perfect for each other, Carrell & Kristin Wig is hilarious.  Mix in a cornucopia of today's most talented comedians & actors and the laughs just keep on coming.  Anchor Man 2 is a comedy that doubles your pleasure, doubles your fun.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Alvin Ailey @ City Center - AMAZING as ALWAYS

 The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre presents the best in modern dance from exceptionally talented dancers & choreographers.  Astoundingly, Alvin Ailey Dance continues to exceed its own excellence in dance contemporary works.  Last night's program began with Chroma, a work of great intensity & pleasure.  The dazzling choreography by Wayne McGregor spotlights the artistry of the gifted dancers.  Alicia Graf Mack utilizes her regal limbs to accentuate every musical pulse.  Linda Celeste Sims brings an athletic sensuality that is captivating.  Bill T. Jones' "D-MAN IN THE WATERS (Part I) marked it's Ailey premiere.  "D-MAN" has a lot of acrobatic movements with a militaristic theme.  The gymnastic aesthetic does a disservice to its fluidity.  The final piece, "LIFT" is choreographed by Aszure Barton and adds to Ailey's foremost repertoire.  Here the power belonged to the men.  Their mounting frenzy was tangible.  Matthew Rushing continues to amaze with his versatility and magnetism.  Both Curtis Macdonald's music and the tribal costumes by Fritz Masten enhanced the pulsating, primal movements.   The energy emanating from Ailey dancers makes it virtually impossible to remain seated.  The curtain fell to uproarious applause.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye Suprise MoMA Patrons with Concert

A serendipitous concert & poetry reading was given @ the MoMA yesterday by Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye.  Smith said the concert was to honor the birthday of Jean Genet (b. France 12-19-1910) a reknowned writer, poet, playwright & political activist.  Smith dedicated their performance i/m/o Lou Reed, Peter O'Toole & Joan Fontaine.  Genet's life sentence in prison following his 10th conviction of theft, & other offenses was commuted as a result of petitions to the courts made on his behalf by Sarte Cocteau & Picasso.  Smith began with a peom "Prisoner of Love," followed by a lullaby i/h/o Genet's birth mother, Camille, who gave him up for adoption at 6 months.  The "theme for the day is son, with a little bit of swagger & a little bit of sorrow," said Smith.  She recited poetry with reading glasses in her clear & raspy voice.  She disarmed the audience saying that she never performs perfectly, if she did, it would be an impostor.  Her singing an acapella "Holy Night" which she found nerve wracking was perfectly imperfect.  She & Kaye also gave a rendition of "The Night Belongs to Lovers."  I love NY with its plethora of surprises.

Ileanna Sonnanbend Art Patron & Promoter @ MoMA

Ileanna Sonnabend:  Ambassador for the New is a new concept for an exhibition.  Sonnanbend (b. Romania 1914-2007) was a driving force behind new artists & art forms.  Her keen eye & support for artists was influential in bringing postwar art in N. Amer. & Europe to the forefront.  Sonnanbend is also credited with presenting Amer. Pop art & Minimalism to Euorpe and Italian Arte Povera to Amer.  This astonishing body of works from an int'l group of  30+ artists in multitudinous mediums, showcase numerous artists who first received exposure on both continents by Sonnanbend.  In addition,  Sonnanbend was an early pioneer who promulgated noncommercial works & performance based installations during the 70's. Early on she collected works by numerous artists such as Dines, Johns, Warhol, Merz & Baldessari.  Her ingenious eye filled her galleries in Paris & NYC with works by groundbreaking artists.  Rauschenberg's large Combine painting "Canyon" at the entrance to the gallery was a recent donation to the MoMA.  He was quoted "I never finished a painting without wondering what Ileanna would think of it." I was drawn to Morris' large felt melding sculpture & Merz's rigid metal dome.  And, I was deeply moved by the large scale photo display by Boltanski that suspends his family & friends in mundane poses prior to their demise in WWII.  It is the art of discovery that is being honored through the incredibly perceptive maverick art patron, Sonnanbend.  It is a skill that enhances wonder.  Yesterday we were given a surprise concert/poetry reading by Patti Smith.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The GLASS MENAGERIE, Needs Dusting

Tennessee Williams is one of America's most important playwrights of the 20thC.  Williams has won 2 Pulitzers for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof & for A Streetcar Named Desire."  The Glass Menagerie is also a brilliant play but that does not necessarily equate with being great on B'way.  The talented cast included Tony winning actress Cherry Jones & Zachary Quinto of "Star Trek" fame.  This play received a great deal of befuddled laughter throughout but this production did not resonate with the pathos of a life unfulfilled and diminished dreams.  Amanda (Cherry Jones) is the mother whose husband abandoned her, their son Tom (Zachary Quinto) and daughter Laura, their physically disabled & socially dysfunctional daughter.  Amanda plays a mother so deranged & manipulative she fails to evoke sympathy for her plight.  Instead, Amanda over plays the role like Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard;" totally immersed in her glory days & oblivious to realities' hardships.  Furthermore, Jones dialogue is difficult to decipher.  She sounded as if she had marbles in her mouth.  It didn't help that none of the actors maintained a similar or convincing southern accent.  The one redeeming actor was Jim, the gentleman caller (Brian Smith) who plays the role of a benign but misguided counselor with assertiveness.  The pantomines & dark set only belabored the drama.  Sorely missing from the play is the flirtatiousness between Amanda and Jim and the  emotional solitude of Laura.  Tom's torment in abandoning his sister does not registar as it was apparent he needed to escape from the clutches of his overbearing mother.  The GLAS MENAGERIE will sustain its significance amongst great literary works.  However, the sparkle reflecting off this GLASS was dim.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Melinda's Top Ten Theatre Wish List for 2014

The New Year brings new opportunities to take advantage of more wonderful theatre, art, music & events.  I have compiled a wish (to do) list of the top 10 plays on or off B'wy I'm hoping to see in the New Year.   In alphabetical order:

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder - Musical - B'wy
Beautiful - Musical - B'wy
Dinner with Friends - Drama - B'wy
First Date - Musical - B'wy
Intimacy - Drama - Off B'wy
King Richard the III - Drama - B'wy
Machinal - Drama - B'wy
No Man's Land -  Drama - B'wy
The Night Alive - Drama - Off B'wy
Twelfth Night - Drama - B'wy
What's it All About? Bacharach Reimbered - Off B'wy - Musical

I'm always wanting to put 26 hours in a 24 hours day & turn top 10 lists into 11.  I'll be overjoyed to receive tickets for any (or all of the above.)  Happy New Year!

Melinda's Top Ten Theatre Picks for 2013

The NYC theatre brings us the best there is in musicals & dramas.   Exceptional shows can be found off Broadway as well as on the Great White Way.  My list will combine & denote on/off Broadway as well as musical or drama in alphabetical order.  Hopefully there is still an opportunity for you to enjoy some of these remarkable shows.

After Midnight - Musical - B'wy
Forbidden B'wy - Musical - Off B'wy
I'll Eat You Last - 1 woman show about  talent agent Sue Mengers starring Bette Midler - B'wy
Love's Labours Lost - at the Shakespeare Theatre in Central Park
The Assembled Parties - Drama - B'wy
Motown - Musical - B'wy
The Last 5 Years - Musical - 2nd Stage
The Other Place - Drama - B'wy
Topdog/Underdog - Drama - Julliard School
Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike - Comedy - Lincoln Center
Water by the Spoonful - Drama - MTC

(ten or eleven or whatever)

Melinda's Top Movie Picks from 2013

There were a lot of great movies last year.  The good news with movies is that if you missed them in the theatre you can probably see them on video.  The year brought a lot of great films & documentaries.   The  top picks are separated into feature films and documentaries.

 10 Favorite Feature Films (in alphabetical order):

Blue is the Warmest Color - French Film
In a World
Fill the Void - Israeli Film
Fruitvale Station - based on the life of Oscar Grand (killed by an officer on the SF Bart)
It's About Time  - British Film
Short Term 12
The Angel's Share - Irish Film
The Highjacking - Norweigan Film
The Hunt - Danish Film
12 Years a Slave - British Director
Wadja - Saudi Arabian Film
(Did you count 11?)

Documentary Films (in alphabetical order):

American Promise
Black Fish
First Cousin Once Removed
Gideon's Army
Lenny Cooke
Marvin Hamlisch - What I Did for Love
The Crash Reel
The Summit - German Director
20 Feet from Stardom

Monday, December 16, 2013

PIPPIN Revival on Broadway Doesn't Rival the Original

The original broadway musical PIPPIN was created & directed by Bob Fosse with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.  The story is based on the Medieval King Charlamagne & his son Pippin with little credence to its historic value.  Pippin is on a quest for the meaning of life and sojourns "free to ramble" and "to live a little."  The Tony winning lead Patina Miller was played by her understudy which tarnished the show's luster.   A travelling troupe of entertainers move the storyline.  This Broadway musical was an electric combination of  Cirque de Soleil & "magic just for you."  However, the extraordinary circus performances deterred from the original  Schwartz/Fosse vision for a dramatic surreal show that was darkly disturbing.  The spectacular display of circus feats of awe prevailed but marred the integrity at its center.  Pippin's composer's & lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell) has earned 6 Tony nominations, 3 Grammy Awards & 3 Acad. Awards.  Bob Fosse, the legendary dancer, choreographer & director earned an unprecedented 8 Tonys for choreography & 1 for directing.  Not to say the combined genius of Schwartz/Fosse is sacrosanct, but sometimes, less is more.  PIPPIN is sure to please the vast theatre crowd for its bonanza of entertainment.  I too enjoyed the show but I was searching for the show's true artistic importance.  "Dance expresses joy better than anything else." (Fosse)  Maximizing the possibilities minimized the musical's impact.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dance in Prisons 92ndY MovementTalks

Dance in Prisons: Confinement vs. Freedom, What is It?  "Can Anything Good Come out of Prison?" The talk/performance @ the 92ndY last night was an emotionally powerful & indelible testament to the physical, emotional, spiritual & intellectual transformation art exudes as a catalyst for change.  Incarceration is the confinement of an individual away from society.  A prisoner retains the freedom of choice; to WANT to make changes in his life to reconnect with humanity.  Andre Noel, a former inmate, is the Dir. of Figures in Flight Released (FiFR), a dance company comprised of released prisoners.  Andre, raised in an inner city, single parent home, succumbed to the lifestyle of fast money from criminal activity.  Arrested at 17 and sentenced to 13 years, midway through his term, Noel chose to seek a means to break the cycle of criminal activity & recidivism.  He decided to enroll in Human  Service programs.  Andre also saw his 1st  ever dance performance.  The dance program is sponsored by Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA), taught by choreographer, Susan Slotnick and comprised of fellow inmates.  Andre was so moved by what he saw  he knew he had to become part of the group.  The dance "Figures in Flight #5" "mirrored my life," said Noel, "it gave me an outlet for my emotions."  Andre & a small company comprised of released dancers performaned with magnificent power & grace.  They maintained the freedom to express themselves through dance provided them opportunities for building life skills.  Being part of the dance group paved the way to integrate back with their family and society. "Susan taught us to be in the present, to pay attention" said Andre.  "To pay attention is to give love."  Andre, the dancers & the RTA Dir. had my attention, respect & admiration. Can anything good come out of prison?  Yes, RTA clearly attests to this.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

SUNSET BABY, a Powerful & Poetic Play @ Labyrinth Theatre

The play SUNSET BABY is being performed @ the Labyrinth Theatre, an intimate theatre tucked back on Bank Street in Chelsea.  Playwright Morisseau's SUNSET is a masterpiece melding poetry, music, choreography & suffering.  The 2 sided stage brings the audience to its edge (literally & emotionally.)  The set is a dingy, sparse apartment.  You enter listening to a mixture of rap, hip-hop, soul & jazz.  Music forms the backbone of the play, resonating philosophical, political & social issues plaguing black Americans for generations.   The 3 actors performed with intense, raw emotion and artistic majesty.  Only 2 actors were on stage at a time. The movements & dialogue reminded me of Muhamid Ali boxing with Mayou Angelou's poetry.  The lyrical, combative conversations highlight the dire cycle of repression.  The demise of the family, incarceration, drug addiction & violence glared throughout the drama.  The desire & failure to attain love is excruciatingly obvious.  Nina (named i/h/o Nina Simone) is at the heart of this ferocious play.  She recently lost her mother to drugs.  Nina struggles to survive, resorting to drug trafficking & armed robbery.  Her father, Kenyatta, had been incarcerated for "revolutionary activities."  He pays Nina an unwanted visit with hopes for redemption & access to letters written but never sent him by Nina's mother.  Damon, plays Nina's controlling, street-wise partner in life & crime.  He has a son with a contentious ex-girlfriend.  "Beauty & power comes with a price."  Nina's father struggled to give his daughter "beauty, sunsets & the world, not glass, bullets & dope." The pen is an omnipotent tool for revolution.   SUNSET BABY rings as a clarion bell for change & social justice.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Julliard Dance Prog. featuring Pina Bausch Work

Last night the Julliard dance students had a major coup in the world of dance.  The program featured 3 world premiers and the highly anticipated U.S premier of "Wind von West" by legendary German choreographer & Julliard alumnus, Pina Bausch.  The 3 eminent contemporary choreographers were: T. Ueyama of Japan, a Julliard alumnus & Paul Taylor Dancer, Brian Brooks,  who received the Guggenheim Fellowship '13 & NY City Ctr Fellowship '13 and Darrell Moultrie, recipient of a Princess Grace Fellowhsip and highly sought after American choreographer.   These 3 illustrious & talented choreographers premiered their works but they were overshadowed by the rare & coveted performance of Bausch's "Wind von West" (1975) which had its 1st debut in the U.S.  Ms. Bausch died in '09.  There is a resurgence of interest in her work with this year's 3-D film "Pina."   Considered among the world's most pivotal contemporary choreographers, her work has not had broad exposure in the States.  She was known for her reluctance to permit other companies from using her choreography as much as for her elegiac style & incorporation of dancer's improvisations.  "Wind von West" performed to Stravinsky's melancholy music & mystical dark set created a strong element for the elegance & pathos emoted by the dancers.   While the other 3 interchangeable dances got swept under the rug, "Wind von West" blew me away.  Do NOT miss the opportunity to see this powerful & elusive work.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lenny Cooke Doc., Life Choices Debacle

Lenny Cooke was once considered the best high school basketball player.  His peers, LeBron James, Tyson Chandler & Carmello Anthony were all playing ball in high school at the same time.  In a raw & rare footage, Cooke & James are on opposing teams when James made the winning basket in under 5 seconds.  A stunned Cooke can only look on bewildered as we catch an early glimpse of the world's greatest player today.  Never heard of Lenny Cooke? Me either, but, sadly this is an all too common story of wasted opportunities by rash & immature teens.  Cooke squandered his talent & bright future.  The camera follows Cooke from his glory days as a star athlete to an unrecognizable, overweight facsimile of his former self just 6 years later.  Young people all possess great potential.  Often there are obstacles in the way.  There were multiple factors that ruined Cooke's aspirations for playing in the NBA.  There were many stumbling blocks in Cooke's path, the 1st being himself.  He showed an immaturity, poor work ethic, and a bent for too much partying.  He fathered a child while in high school, failed to graduate and chose to cash in early. Perhaps, the camera following him around from an early year factored into his misperceived expectations.  It's a pity for Cooke and all teens who lack a selfless & sage mentor.  Cooke sought the '02 NBA draft after the  2001 draft where 3 of the top 4 NBA spots went to recent high school grads.  NBA drafting regulations have changed since; 1 year of college is required before eligibility.   The overall depressive tone of this doc. resonants with what might have been.  It does offer sobering life lessons.  Cooke says, "knowing what I know now, I would have done everything differently."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Doc. Marvin Hamlisch, What I did for Love, I LOVED This!

 This sensational doc. film about one singular man, is a loving tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.  With everything he did - he did with love.  According to Marvin's mother, she knew her son was a musical prodigy at 8 months; "he rocked in his crib in time with the music."  He was accepted into Julliard at the age of 6.  Julliard schooled Marvin with a classical discipline in music that allowed for infinite possibilities in his compositions.  He juxtaposed his musical training into a legacy of music which speaks to the heart.  Marvin maintained "all music is good and there is music in everything." The doc. scores a winning list of musical legends who pay tribute to his musical genius, integrity and his generosity when collaborating.  Marvin believed "It is not the result which is most important it is the process."  His creativity went straight from his head through his fingers to communicate great beauty, hope & joy that reaches across every line.  This doc. film is overflowing with the spirit of an exceptionally talented man with a great exuberance for life .  He was truly "the People's Composer." "So it is the laughter we will remember," for the way you were.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre A+ A+

The Alvin Ailey Amer. Dance Theatre opened its 3rd season under Artistic Director, Robert Battle.  Battle is only the 3rd Director following predecessors, Judith Jamison & founder, Alvin Ailey.   The opening night program commenced without fanfare as the curtain rose on Chroma, an Ailey premier.    Chroma was created by Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer for the Royal Ballet in '06 for its   company.   The other piece on the program was Ailey's mainstay & iconic Revelations choreographed by Mr. Ailey in 1960.  Chroma was a very contemporary dance that showcased the athletic & expressive prowess of Ailey's alluring dancers. Chroma encapsulated every articulation of the bold contemporary score by Talbot & White II of the popular rock group White Stripes.  The minimalist framed set & white  lighting intensified the sharp angles and robust lifts of the dancers donned in simple monochromatic colors.  The purity of the piece shined brightly blazing an exciting & evolving path to the future.  Chroma paired with Revelations paid homage to Ailey's legacy with an expectation for the unexpected.  With Battle at the helm, be assured of future works that will unleash the artistic talents of its dancers elevating  modern dance to new insurmountable heights.      

Knicks on a Winning Streak of 2

I was at the Knicks game last night after they just beat their cross town rival, the Brooklyn Nets.  The 2 worst teams in the league, the Knicks & the Nets, faced off.  The Knicks broke their long losing streak by beating the Nets by 30 points on their court.  Frankly, the Nets stank.   Last night @ the Garden I watched the Knicks dim the magic on Orlando by more than 30 points.  Hey, a win is a win.  Let's hope there will be more wins in store against stronger teams.  Chandler should be returning from the injured list soon.  Carmello & Smith had game.  After a slow 1st period, it was all Knicks.  But the frisbee jumping dogs got off their feet more times than Spike Lee or most of the fans at the game.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Isa Genzken: Retrosp. @ MoMA, Out of this World

Isa Genzken's  (b. Germany, 1948) body of work, spanning 4 decades up to the present, is an electrifying compilation of installations, sculptures, photos, paintings that is intended to shock & amuse.  Major new exhibits are usually featured on the 6th floor.  Spoiler alert:  note the installation on the ground floor with suspended astronauts & suitcases sprawled below.  It was only after viewing the show that I took in this central, stellar element of the exhibition.  I credit Genzken's pensive, irreverent & fanciful works for my epiphany.  The entrance to the show on the 6th floor is comprised of mannequins posed & dressed in various brighly colored clothing & iconic cultural objects; a prelude  for a jocular & engaging Retrospective.  Inside, her totemic sculptures, both free standing & prone are sleek & coated in jarring colors.  The way the objects respond to the space they inhabit is crucial for Genzken. "Music is in the space between the notes." (Debussy)  Look closely at the 112 gauche works on paper & observe the echo of forms with the wooden canoe shapes. The antennas on the block sculptures symbolize feelers that globalize our world.  There is a plethora of innovative assemblages hampering the monumental impact of the show in a single visit.  The exit gallery is a 9/11 Tribute that is incongruously mournful & celebratory.  Genzken has quasi-cultic recognition amongst young European artists, yet she has remained elusive in the U.S.  Outside, I was aware of the vivid orange fencing at construction sites; a material & design pervasive in many of her works. The show requires you to be vigilant.  Sorry for the buzz kill on the main floor.  However, you should take away an astute awareness of your surroundings and a feeling of exultation.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pinta S. Amer. Art Show-Modern & Contemp.

The modern & contemporary art show featuring works by leading Latin artists opened Thurs. night & will close Sun.  That's one hot art show that comes & goes in a NY minute.  I suggest you take the time to see works by emerging artists from countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuala, Peru, Brazil, Chile & Columbia.  Pinta filtered more than 100 galleries galleries wishing to be represented down to 60.  The works are both modern & contemporary including videos, paintings, scuptures, photos, etc. The central piece upon entering is a shopping cart strewn with garbage & detritus strewn around the cart.  There is a staggering video by Dani Marti's "Butterfly Man" '12 whose subject is a meth addict.  We observe his physical deterioration over 2 weeks.  Another video/sound installation "The Only Evil," is a live organism accompanied with deriding laughter. I was intrigued by the works of Carlos Diez Cruz of Venuzeula, a major leader of the kinetic movement.  Several of Cruz's pieces rotate, shifting elements; creating a constantly changing work.  His physichrom, mixed media pieces (1990) changed as the viewer moved creating colorful, illusionary forms that were magnificient.  I was also taken by Peruvian artist Jorge Eilson archeological pastiches comprised of fabrics & various materials.  You have through Sun. to see the Pinta show.  A rare & exciting exhibit of artists but for 2 people @ $50, 60 galleries is a heated entry fee.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

World Class SF Symphony @ Carnegie Hall

San Francisco Symphony (SFS) is heralded as one of the world's great orchestras.  Music Dir. & Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) has been with SF Symph since 1995.  He is one of the world's most highly honored working artists.  He's been awarded the Chevalier des Arts from France, elected to the Amer. Acad. of Arts & Science & awarded the Nat'l Medal of Arts by Pres. Obama.  Watching MTT conduct is similar to watching a ballet.  His elegant conducting of Beethoven's & Mozart's masterful compositions enhance an emotional connection to the music.  Beethoven's Leonore Overture #3 was the 1st piece on the program.  Beethoven wrote only 1 opera: Fidelio.  He labored greatly writing his opera, perhaps his encroaching deafness thwarted his ease with compositing for voice.  Beethoven wrote 3 overtures for his opera. He discerned these were too overpowering to serve as introductions. Leonore Overture # 3 is the most often performed composition discarded from his opera.  MTT is esteemed for performing the music of the classical giants as well as contemporary works.  Steven Mackey's "Eating Greens" was positioned between Beethoven & Mozart's Piano Concerto #25.  MTT is a great communicator.  He takes pleasure in bringing new works to audiences & sharing insights in a warm & engaging manner.  Composer, Steven Mackey (b. 1956) wrote his own notes for "Eating Greens." Mackey paid homage to jazz musician Monk & artist Matisse for their assemblage of innovative parts that combine to harmonize in surprising patterns.  There was a mixture of 40 different added "instruments" to the orchestration.   Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue shared similarites with its rushed urban atmospheric sounds.  Audiences are assured that SFS under MTT's direction of magnificient classical performances and a friendly nudge into today's most creative works.   An added bonus was Mackey joining MTT on stage to receive recognition.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Armory Show at 100, Modern Art & Revolution

This year marks the 100th Annv. of the Armory show in NYC organized by a small group of American artists which heralded in works by leading Amer. & European artists never before seen by the vast population.   Works by Impressionist, Fauvists & Cubist artists were assembled by Amer. artist J. Alden Weir; the 1st & last Pres. of the Assoc. of Amer. Painters (AAP)  Major European artists such as Picaasso, Duchamp, Van Gogh, Leger & Cezanne were presented for the viewing pleasure of the American public for the first time.  How wonderfully exciting - NOT!  The outcry by both the critics & public was one of shock & repugnance.  Weir was ignobly removed from his post & the AAP was disassembled after organizing this mass collection of some of the world's most revered artists.  Today it's incredulous to think the works were considered immoral, insane & anarchistic.  Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" was described by art critic, Julian Street as "an explosion in a shingle factory."  Then Pres. Teddy Roosevelt declared, "That's not art!" One hundred works of paintings & sculptures from the original exhibit are on view.  In addition to Duchamp's painting, look for Cezanne's "Hill of the Poor," the 1st piece of European art purchased by the MET.  Don't miss this Brigadoon opportunity to see this extraordinary collection of some of the world's most significant pieces of art and imagine how it was viewed as radical 100 years ago.    

Julliard's Percussion Pummel Us into the 21st C

Last night's performance by Julliard's Percussion Ensemble @ Alice Tully was a contemporary program that is breaking new ground for its instrumentation, sound & innovation.  Prague composer, Ondrej Adamek's "Fishbones" '07, building on the innovations of Amer. composer John Cage, used a number of instruments that were played while immersed in water:  pipes, plastic boxes & wooden slats.  Six musicians played large bows against the sides of cymbals creating a sound slightly less irritating than nails on a chalkboard.  However, this got my attention focused on the arrhythmic acoustics that blended into a broad pitched composition sumptuous in sound & tempo. I've never heard anything quite like it.  Whistles were used that augmented the surprising mixture of sounds for a an exotic & intense dynamic.  Another piece by French composer Philippe Manoury, "Le Livre des Claviers" 1988, was an exciting & powerful composition using gongs, marimbas & vibraphones.  Mallets in varying shapes were played on inventive accoustic instruments in addition to xylophones.  The intensities & techniques provided a layered viseral experience in percussive compositions that was extremely exciting. I've learned to expect from Julliard the unexpected & the cutting edge in contemporary music.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kill Your Darlings, Ginsberg's World on Fire

The stylish film, Kill Your Darlings, is the true story of Allen Ginsberg's friendship with Columbian classmate Lucien Carr.  Carr brought Ginsberg into the social circle with Jack Kerouac & William S. Burroughs.  During this time, Carr was also found guilty of killing David Kammerer a ubiquitous stalker in Carr's life. The sex & murder heightens the intrigue with the onset of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg, Kerouac & Burroughs constitute the 3 founding members.  It's fascinating to learn with whom artists form early relationships & what events at the time leads to a wide outpouring of creative genius.  It is common knowledge of the connection between AG, JK & WB but I was not familiar with the their involvement with Carr & his notorious murder.  It was Carr at the center of this circle of talented writers with their "new vision" marking an epoch of social & artistic change.  The wider story is this heinous act of Carr's which drew all 3 in as accomplices.  The entire cast is exceptional.  Radcliffe plays Ginsberg with ardent sexual awakening.  Ben Foster, one of the best actors today plays Burroughs with enigmatic flair.  Newcomer Dave DeHaan is Carr, convincing as the charismatic maverick that draws everyone to him.  The movie artfully captures the look & feel of NYC in the 40's with a nostalgia for the time.  This is a movie worth Howling about and seeing.      

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Wool's Work@Guggenh. "SELL THE KIDS" ah, NO

THE HARDER YOU LOOK THE HARDER YOU LOOK, one of Christopher Wool's contextual, black/white & grey painters for which he has gain notoriety as one of "the most important Amer. painters of his generation," (Schjeldah, New Yorker) is on view at the Guggenheim in Wool's 1st major retrospective.  His paintings consisting of large scale stencils of witticisms echo today's music & urban sprawl are not aesthetically pleasing.  They do, however, assert a compelling dialogue as you meander. The individual pieces, especially his photos & layered spiraled form paintings begin to piece together to express an aura of abandonment, isolation & power.  Still, I'm not convinced that Wool's work  constitutes a substantive artform that will bear the test of time.  "The harder they come, the harder they fall, one & all." (Marley)

After Midnight, One Amazing Act After Another

If you see one show this year or next, make it "After Midnight."  It is a Cotton Club Nightclub Revue; Harlem '1932.  There aren't sufficient superlatives to laud upon this Broadway magic.  Every aspect of this show from the costumes, to the staging to the performers was first-rate.  The orchestra, on stage for the entire performance, are from The Jazz @ Linc Ctr All Stars.   The musical numbers are composed  by the all-time greats: Ellington, Arlen, Calloway.  The incredible cast of singers were all extraordinary.  Fantasia Barrino, an American Idol winner, deserves to win this year's Tony Award. The multi-talented ensemble of dancers performed tap, swing, jazz & even break dancing that was jaw dropping, show stopping.  The performances were so hot the the stage was combustible.  Bravo to Dir./Choreographer Warren Carlyle for an evening of music, song & dance that flowed seamlessly from one fabulous number to the next.  I want to call out Julius "iGlide" Chisolm for his sinuous otherworldly dancing.  But, it would be an injustice not to say that all the dancers were less than spectacular.  The gospel truth, the singing & dancing was stunning.  Zaz Zuh Zaz, there is nothing I have to say that I didn't love about this show except when it was time to go.  The exuberance of "After Midnight" made me "Happy as the Day is Long."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NYPhil Rehearsal of the Masters: Bach, Handel & Mozart

This dreary, rainy day was made brighter by the music of 3 of the greatest classical composers.  The performance featured J.S. Bach's Cantata #51, a portion of Handel's oratorio from Samson and Mozart's Requiem.  The conductor was Bernard Labadie, a highly regarded specialist in Baroque & Classical repertoire.  He greeted all 3 assemblies with a very warm "Good Morning" and thanked them all after each piece.  His genial camaraderie was appreciated by both orchestra & audience alike.  Labadie is one of the few conductors I have had the ability to hear clearly his orchestral critiques.  While I am a lover of all 3 composers, I am not a fan operatic music.  I would not have sought out this program but I did take advantage the rehearsal deal on this inclement day & enjoyed a little sunshine indoors while broadening my horizons.

A Night with Janis Joplin, Must Make Amends

Come on! Come on!  You've go to be kidding me, the lead role of Joplin @ the Wed. matinee was performed by the understudy.  You're breaking my heart now baby.  My desire to see the show was because I saw a piece of Mary Bridget Davies' performance from the show.  Davies was Joplin reincarnated with that unique gravely sound.  Davies even resembled Joplin.  The understudy looked like Mayim Bialik and had no semblence of Joplin's enthralling pipes.  At times it was impossible to see the performers as the stage lights flashed blindingly into the audience.  The band's volume was also uncomfortably loud, perhaps to cover the disparity in the quality of the voices.  I am going to take this show apart piece by piece now baby.  Janis' own life story was uninteresting.  More time was spent paying tribute to the female blues singers whose music impacted her. Etta James, Bessie Smith and Aretha Franklin were a few she paid homage.  Unfortunately, Aretha Franklin in no way resembled or sounded like the famous singer.  It might have added some spark to this mess.  Even Franklin's microphone didn't work.  One of her backup singers had to switch mikes with her on stage.  Janis spouted spiritual dribble directly meant to empower but it all fell flat.  Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose…I want reparation for my $90 wasted.

Taking Care of Baby @ MTC, We Can't Handle the Truth!

"Taking Care of Baby" is a play by Dennis Kelly.  A mother is convicted of killing her infant son, shortly after her infant daughter died from SIDS.  It would seem a heinous subject with a macabre appeal.  However, this is a perceptive & thought provoking play that questions deciphering & dissemenating truthfulness.  An annoucement is made at the start "the words are taken from transcripts and correspondences."  Actors are 1st shown all seated on stage.  The production of "The Exonerated" '07 from the Innocence Project had actors reading court transcripts from cases of wrongly convicted individuals.  "Taking" is not a reading.  It is a play that blurs the boundaries between a factual case (where names are changed) and fiction.  The young mother, Donna, is released from prison after 14 months for the murder of her infant.  Her sentence is overturned due to insufficient evidence.  Donna moves back in with her mother, Lynn, who is running for congressional office.  Veracity is put on trial.   Did Donna kill her children?  Her husband believes she did.  Her mother tells her daughter she believes her innocent - but is the mother being honet?  Is there a disease that explains/excuses people's behaviors?  The play exposes:  the chicanery of politicians, self-promoting charlatan psychiatrists & journalists and the public's frenzy with tragedy as entertainment.  This absorbing play questions you to think how we  interpret what's presented.  "To set the record straight, people often don't know what to think, it's what people see that makes the difference."  "Taking Care of Baby," is the play to see.  Having seen it, you may judge things differently.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty-A Gothic Mess

Choreographer/Dir. Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake, Cinderella, Marry Poppins) is a multiple Olivier & Tony Award winner.  I've been a fan of these works and anticipated a creative & entertaining  production of "Sleeping Beauty, A Gothic Romance" @ City Center.  However, I wa let down by this bawdy production which barely held a trace of Bourne's brilliant choreographic talents so I split at intermission.  The 1st 20 min. was a silly puppet show of an infant crawling on stage & climbing the curtains.  The dark fairy Carabosse (Mallificient) appears as an enormous shadow conjuring up infant Aurora.  When Carabosse appears on stage she looked like a Gothic Drag Queen who merely dragged her feet & wagged her arms.  The recorded music of Tchaikovsky's beautiful music was pounding to distraction and the choreography lacked musicality with the score.   There was too much rolling on the stage & too little dancing.  The badmittion dance was bad & overdone.  I liked the dancing of the King of the Fairies.  Aurora's dancing was lovely but she did too little of it & too much silly running barefoot, flapping her arms.  Bourne's ballet has little to praise.  The campy production was so annoying it was  difficult to sleep through; that would have been preferable.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Commons of Pensacola, Too Familiar Ground

The Commons of Pensacola @ the Manhattan Theatre Club has 3 interesting draws:  Sarah Jessica Parker, Blythe Danner & actress Amanda Peete as playwright.  The Commons is a riff on the Bernie Madoff scandal.  The play takes up after the conviction of their husband/father and the wife and daughters are left with collateral damage.  The wife, Judith (Blythe Danner) has retreated to FL from NYC & is living in a tiny, squalid aptmt.  Judith is in failing health with early dementia.  The shambles of her life cause her to remark "I am the only one in FL who can't wait for alzheimer's."  Judith needs to borrow money from her daughter, Becca, (SJP) and her boyfriend, Gabe to pay her help's weekly salary.  Judith questions her what she's owed & demands receipts & the use of coupons.  Judith's extravagant lifestyle has been shattered.  Becca, 43, is a homeless, has-been TV actress who is dating Gabe, a 29 yr. old journalist.  Gabe uses Becca to get to Judith for an inside interview.  The real question is was Judith complicit in her husband's illicit activities.  I'm puzzled whether the play was intended as a serious drama or a spoof.  It was a droll melodrama with wearisome emotional rants. The skilled veteran actresses, Danner & Parker could not instill vigor in this all too familiar scenario.  Cate Blanchett played the relinquished socialite with perfection in Blue Jasmine.  And, Amanda Peet should not give up her day job.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Balthus Cats & Girls @ MET

Warning:  The exhibit Balthus Cats & Girls has a disclaimer at the entrance:  "Some paintings maybe disturbing to some audiences."  Okay, I'm interested, I've never seen that before on any museum exhibit, EVER!  Balthus, a French painter of the 20th C, is known for his oil paintings of young, prepubescent girls & cats.  Heaven only knows what was shocking about Balthus' paintings from 1930-50's.  The young clothed girls captured on canvas looked disconnected or melancholy.  But erotically suggestive - I say NOT.  The docents leading a coven of women through the galleries suggested otherwise.  One docent commented "the girl on the sofa has her head thrown back in erotic ecstasy.  I thought the girl asleep.  The docent also pointed out "all the tables were pointed towards the young girls' genitalia."  "Hey Ladies," did you buy this drivel?  I assume docent hecklers would be frowned upon in this establishment. I thought the paintings lovely.  Balthus received no formal art training.  Wounded early in WWII, he moved with his family to unoccupied France.  There is a discernable transition in colors & scenes from the 30-'40's to the 50's; from sombre interior scenes to brightly colored paintings of women looking out on serene landscapes.  There were also large paintings of women fully nude.  These didn't fluster the guides.  However, one commented Balthus was "deprived of originality as he stole from several artists."  Now I'm shocked.  Hey Lady Docent, who made you an authority?  Note the humorous, colorful painting of a large smiling cat who has fishes flying from the water onto his plate.  The exhibit did not live up to its salacious hype.  It is merely a timeless exhibit of beautiful paintings by Balthus.  

Silla Korea's Golden Kingdom @ MET

The MET is presenting 100 National Treasures from Korea dating back to the 4th C.  These should not be missed.  It's incredible to view these intricate artifacts preserved from ancient times.  The jewelry, pottery and armor were excavated from royal burial grounds.  The entrance to the exhibit is a  contemporary film of peaceful, mounded Korean landscapes.  These mounds typify the land above covered stone structures enshrining coffins.  The treasures recovered from these tombs revealed intricate, golden jewelry, armor and domesticated vessels.  It is beyond remarkable the skill and craftsmanship of these treasures.  Of particular interest are the funnel shaped containers that were formed using potters' wheels & kilns that reached temperatures of 1,000 C.  The recovery of the casks of a royal couple contained an impressive golden headress for the queen and a military headpiece with winga & a large sword/sheath for the king.  There is a magnificient cobalt blue necklace made from formed glass that is spectacular. The cultural belief in the afterlife is attributed to the found remnants.  In   the exhibit are bead works indigenous to India & Roman style glass vessels.  The nomadic travel & spice trade routes progressing into the 6th & 7th C shows EuroAsia influences.  My interest wanned as the influence of Buddhism became prevalent.  Although, there were large stone tiles indigenous made in the late 7th-8th C to keep out the former Chinese allies.  For the more ambitious, view the textile exhibit which elaborates on the EuroAsian globalization stemming from maritime travel.  The early treasures in this exhibit are priceless.

Snow Geese, Lays an Egg

The Snow Geese @ the Friedman Theatre is a new play by Sharr White (The Other Place.)  The Other Place presented last season was a contemporary play, very much of the moment.  The Snow Geese is set in 1917 at the Gaesling family lodge in upstate NY.  Elizabeth Gaesling, the matriarch, (Mary-Louise Parker) is recently widowed and mother of sons, Duncan & Arnold.  Rounding out the family saga is Elizabeth's sister, Clarissa Hohmann & her husband, Max (Danny Burstein) a German born, American citizen.  The household staff has been pared down solely to Austrian maid, Victorya.  The world is at war, Max's medical practise was destroyed by his anti-German neighbors and self-assured Duncan is about to leave for the front lines.  This leaves younger brother Arnie to manage the families' estate left in ruin.  Embittered Max left with nothing to do, reads aloud the daily casualties of WWI.  The play attempts to emulates the angst of a Chekovian family drama but fails dismally.  There are 2 factions dividing the family; the pragmatic Arnie & Aunt Clarrisa and delusional Duncan & his mother.  Arnie confronts his brother who chooses to live in denial in regards to their financial straits.  The talented Parker is miscast.  She is not convincing for this time period, nor does she appear older than her sons.  B'wy veteran Burstein plays Max entirely in one bombastic mode.  The actresses playing Clarissa and Victorya did capture the essence of their characters.  Victorya who lost her entire family in the war tells Arnie "they're many worse things than losing money." There are far worse plays but this is not the Geese who laid the golden egg.  The play barely takes flight.      

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color, Ooh Lah Lah

The French film, Blue is the Warmest Color is this year's winner of the Palme d'Or and has sent tongues wagging.  Dir./screenwriter, A. Kechiche has created a film that is sexually steamy & sensual on all burners.  The intimate lesbian lovemaking scenes are passionate, tender & explicit.  The viewer becomes a voyeur to the sexual awakenings of Adele (Adele Exarchop) a high school student who is drawn to (Emma) a slightly older art student involved in a relationship with another woman.  Adele is confused about her sexual orientation but when these women cross each other's path, their visceral attraction is immediate.  Both actresses' give tour de force performances.  When Adele's high school friends see her with Emma they turn on her, making her a social outcast.  When Emma rids her hair of blue dye, her eyes turn brown & her love turns cold.  However, the sensuality in this film is palatable.  The sex scenes are intense but so are the daily pleasures of eating, dancing, and savoring the outdoors.  The anguish of heartache is just as real and emotional.  This is movie making that transcends the screen and heightens the senses.  The cinema runs over 3 hours.  Blue is tres magnifique although I felt I forfeited 3 hours indoors when I should have been living my lift to its fullest.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In the Air @ Whitney, Intense Media Submersion

In the Air, an art installation @ the Whitney Museum by NYC-based artist, T.J. Wilcox is a circular video that suspends the viewer high above NYC.  The 360 degree, continous film captures the city as the sun & shadows shift casting you in a magical twilight.  The powerful, silent footage with subtitles grabs your attention, making it impossible to look away.  There is footage of zeppelin travel and the fatal crash that has been relentlessly replayed.  There is an interesting film of Gloria Vanderbilt following her life & the media frenzy surrounding the custody battle fought by her Aunt Gertrude Whitney.  Both films are harbingers of the public's infinite fascination with disaster & today's celebrities.  The most riveting and distressing footage is the interview of a "glorified super" who was an eye witness to horrors of 9/11 from the roof of his bulding.  His straightforward account of shock & then horror begins with the plane that moments before flew low over his building crashed into the side of the Twin Tower.  He ran to get his binoculars, which he deeply regrets as he watched in disbelief bodies falling from the building & the incredulous destruction.  The super then speaks of the young man who worked in the building for years with the ambition of becoming firefighter.  The young man achieved his dream just a month prior to the 9/11 attack in which he lost his life.  You cannot avert your eyes, nor should you.  In the Air is a visceral experience that invokes awe.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New High Line Develpmt & Art Installation

The High Line is under construction for an additional stretch along the Hudson.  Free tours are available of the site with Carol Bove's art installation, CATERPILLAR.  Tickets are free but advanced reservations are required.  The new construction will be compeleted in '14,.  Meanwhile, it is a work in progress amidst the self-seeded, native foliage thriving and decaying abandoned rail yards.  The view of the Hudson today was spectacular with a flurry of sailboats and a sweeping vantage of NYC & NJ across the river.  Bove, a Brooklyn based artist (b. Switzerland) has 7 modernist abstract sculptures of varying sizes and materials that reverberate the surrounding architecture.  "14" frames the views in all directions.  "Visible Things and Colors," resembles a building under construction rising from a concrete base.  "Celeste" & "Prudence" are curved powder coated steel whose tunnel like shapes register the the train cars parked in front of the the subway passages below.  Bove's installation will be on display through spring '14. Visit the site now while it is in transition and experience the metamorphosis in progress which possesses its own transformative beauty.

Friday, October 25, 2013

SF's Cinderella Ballet, A New Holiday Habit

The Nutcracker has long been a holiday family staple.  The unbeatable ballet with it's beautiful score by Tschaikovsky has finally been cracked.  Christopher Wheeldon's new ballet, Cinderella, set to composer Sergei Prokofiev's music is a magical ballet that provides a much broader appeal for children, adults & ballet lovers alike.  Cinderella is a beautiful tale of integrity & true love.  The story flows fluidly as does the dancing.  The choreography is elegant, the dancers are sublime and the sets are dazzling.  This Cinderella is engaging for all ages as the energy & with never letup.  The numerous lifts by the dancers are magnificent.  The Palace Ballroom scene is especially entertaining.  I enjoyed the  waltzing of the ensemble and the dancing by the foreign princess's vying for the prince's affection.  The lighting cast by the numerous chandeliers is stunning.  There is a humorous enebriated dance by the cruel stepmother that is delightful.  Wheeldon pays homage to the Nutcracker.  Nonetheless, Wheeldon's Cinderella provides an engaging ballet for old & young alike and another beautiful & lasting gift.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Works by Chagall-Ain't All Doves & Lovers

The Jewish Museum on 92th/5th is hosting a Marc Chagall exhibit of some of his more obscure works, 1930's-1948; during the rise of facism.  Chagall's best known works are colorful, mystical paintings that are dreamlike with floating brides, lovers & animals.  Many will not be familiar with his paintings from this era that are nightmarish and disturbing.  Born in Soviet Russia, 1887, Chagall fled the Bolsheviks with his beloved wife, Bella to France.  The more than 30 paintings & 20 drawings in the exhibition:  Love, War & Exile, are his reflections back on the horrors in Europe & Russia at this time.  Chagall is regarded as one of the foremost modernist painters of the 20th C.  He painted in the styles of surrealism & cubism.  His vibrantly colored paintings contain various symbols from folklore, Judaism & Christianity.  The exodus of Jews from their homelands is shown with torahs, menorahs, fiddlers on the roof & slaughtered animals.  He also painted numerous depictions of the Crucification of Christ. "Should I paint the earth, the sky my love?  Where should I run and fly to whom?"  There is a lovely portrait Chagall made of his wife in the style of Matisse on display.  However, the melancholy & sombre mood of this exhibition is of death, despair & displacement.

Monday, October 21, 2013

San Francisco Ballet Prog. of NYC Premiers

The San Francisco Ballet Co. is among the elite circle of the world's top ballet companies.  Arguably, it is above barre for its artistry, innovation & for their dazzling dancers.  The Company is currently performing @ Koch Theatre through Oct. 27th.  Friday night I saw the program consisting of 4 NYC Premiers:  From Foreign Lands, by Alexei Ratmansky, Classical Symphony, by Yuri Possokhov, Beaux by Mark Morris and Symphonic Dances by Edwaard Liang.  Artistic Dir. Helgi Tomasson has transformed a regional troupe into a world class company, revered on an int'l scale.  Tomasson, a former principal dancer with NYC Ballet had several ballets created expressly for him by Balanchine & Robbins.  It was Balanchine who encouraged Tomasson to do choreography.  Since, Tomasson has become a prolific & highly awarded choreographer & has compiled an int'l Co. of the world's finest dancers.  (Out of the 18 principal dancers, only 2 were born in the U.S.)  There will be another program of 3 NYC Premiers.  Tomasson encompasses choreography from the best contemporary artists: Ratmansky, McGregor, & Wheeldon to name a few.  In addition, Yuri Possokhov is Choreographer in Residence.  Possokhov's ballet Classical Symphony is reason alone to see SF BALLET now.  Classical Symphony is a consummate work of artistry and my personal favorite.  And, while the entire company is exceptional, my favorite dancer to watch is Pascal Molat.  Molat has been a principal dancer for SF for more than a decade.  I plan on seeing Wheeldon's NYC premier, full-length ballet, Cinderella this week.  Do NOT miss the opportunity to experience ballet at its finest.

Visited BAM for Dance, DAMN

The modern dance En Atendant by Anne De Keersmaeker, a Belgian choreographer at the forefront of modern dance took "a new step in exploration of the relationship between music and dance,"  according to the program notes.  This was  not my interpretation.  The performance began with a man walking on stage holding a flute for an extended period.  Very slowly he raised the flute towards his lips but did not directly BLOW into the instrument.  I thought the performance was pretentious and that it BLEW. The music was provided by a vocalist, fiddler & a different flutist who utilized the flute as an instrument.  The English translation to the incessant wailing of Middle Age Renaissance chanting read "I must suffer grievous pain and languishing."  My sentiments, exactly.  The stark dark set was lit overhead by harsh neon lights.  The dancers all dressed in black street clothes became obscure in the background.  In the foreground, movements consisteded of bodies piling on the ground in corpse like forms.  There were several group line formations.  One configuration had the dancers all raising their legs up in unison.  I felt my leg being pulled.  The stage was covered in a thin layer of dirt which raised clouds of dust; ashes to ashes - dust to dust.  I was parched & needed to quench my thirst after the performance which was not my cup of tea.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

American Promise-Keep on Dreaming

The engaging doc. film, The American Dream, follows 2 young black boys from Brooklyn who seem to have won the golden ticket, a free ride @ Dalton, on the UES, an elite & prestigious private school.  Seun & Idris at age 17 reflect back on their lives from K5 through H.S. while cameras captured their lives at school & home.  "I don't think much of it," says Idris who graduated from Dalton.  "Who cares?" asks Seune who left Dalton after 8th grade & entered a  Bklyn public H.S.  After watching this often humorous, and often arduous doc. (that ran too long,) I cared.  Seun & Idris are adorable, happy 5 yr. olds & best friends. Their families are elated that both will be attending Dalton.  "Doors will be opened for the rest after lives," according to Idris' parents, a bi-racial over bearing couple that micromanage "every hour of every day."  Seun's mother admits reluctance placing him @ Dalton "with a bunch of rich white kids where he might feel disconnected."  Sadly, her apprehension proves painfully true.  Early on both boys are happy, they "love their school."  Things unwind as the boys get older.  They realize they have a foot in 2 very different worlds and find it difficult fitting in either.  This prescient doc. is both charming & alarming.  The pressures placed on Seun & Idris are enormous.  I cared deeply for both these earnest, admirable young men.  Obama's election is converge with their teen years as does the Trayvon Martin murder.  NYC taxi drivers shamefully do not open their doors to them.  We must confront the doors still closed to people of color. What does it takes to allay these barriers. A girl from Seun's H.S. on a class trip to Africa asks, "Wouldn't it be better if we all said we were a product of Dyaspora." Yes - keep on dreaming.

12 Years a Slave, Our Eternal Shame

The movie 12 Years a Slave is filled with blood, sweat & tears.  The blood on our hands we can never rub out; nor should we.  Our nation, born on the ideal of equality was not self-evident.  The abolishment of slavery has not fully lifted the scourge of racial oppression.  Steve McQueen's movie is based on the book by Solomon Northrup, recounting his years of torment having been abducted as a "free man" in NY, shackled and sold into slavery.    Dir./screenwriter, Steve McQueen has made a movie that holds you in its noose.  It is meant to disturb, discust & forever brand us as the barbarians we were.  The atrocities & inhumanities are painful & shameful truths we should never forget or diminish.  This remarkable movie made me wretched as I saw through Northrup's eyes.  Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is stripped of every shred of dignity that keeps us humane.  I felt the sting of the lashes he bore & those he is coerced to inflict on Patsey (Lapita Nyong'o.)  Both actors give performances that are scorches into our souls.  Ejiofor emotes through his eyes alone:  fear, horror, disgust, guilt, sorrow, despair & hope.  I laud the incredible performances by all the actors & McQueen for creating a movie that is compelling & MUST be seen. 12 Years a Slave is a landmark of our nation's history that forever shames us but is not to be forgotten with the wind.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

NYPhil Orch. back in the U.S.S.R.

The NYPhilh. rehearsal featured a Russian program by 2 composers, back when the Soviet Union was known as the U.S.S.R.  Rachmanioff's Rahpsody on a Theme of Paganini for Piano & Shostakovich's Symphony #11.  Apropos, guest conductor Semyon Bychkov, a principal conductor of the St. Petersburg Philh., lead the orchestra.  Piano soloist, Kirill Gerstein, earned the Gilmore Artist Award ('10) & an Avery Fisher Grant ('10.)  I'm sorry I was not there to hear Gerstein perform Rachmanioff's piano composition.  Maestro Bychkov rehearsed Shostakovich's Symph. 11 in its entirety.  It's rare that a conductor doesn't to break for artistic adjustments during rehearsals.  Not until after the symphony was performed in its entirety, (over an hr.) did Bychkov have the orchestra return to various movements to critique & repeat.  The 1st 1/2 of the program ran over 1 1/2 hours.  It would have been interesting to compare the 2 Russian contemporaries.  Shostakovich, the younger artist resonated with the powerful percussive style of his predecessor.  However, Shostakovich symphony oscillated between soft & seductive adagios which blended seamlessly into majestic crescendos in the allegros.  The melancholy & elegaic adagios had a defiant answer for the softer movements creating a sense of gentle waves churning into powerful tempest.  I'm sorry I missed the rest.


The doc. film The Summit consists of incredible footage taken by several of the 25 climbers on K2 in '08 where 11 people died & 3 were seriously injured.  Despite being the worst  disaster in K2 climbing history, this is a majestic movie of great beauty and the insurmountable human spirit.  The climbers were assembled from 7 nations:  France, Norway, Pakistan, Serbia, Nepal, S. Korea & Ireland.  One fatality was the Norweigan husband whose wife was also on this climb.  Ideally, this was to be a group of united nations sharing the same goal of reaching the summit and one unified community, dedicated to each other's safety.  The movie is written by Acad. Award winning screenwriter, Mark Monroe (The Cove.)  Monroe sagaciously lets the footage & those involved do the talking. The film allows the audience to experience what's entailed in making this journey.  Nonetheless, there were 11 fatalities in this quest.  The movie let's the viewer discern for themselves what went wrong, where to attribute blame and who acted heroically.  Actual footage of the 4 Italians who were the 1st to reach K2's peak  (1954) is fascinating along with the recent interview of the surviving member of this team.  Why attempt this  dangerous feat?  "Every child loves climbing, it's human nature."  The reason to see THE SUMMIT is obvious, it's nature & humanity at its ultimate pinnacles.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Indefatigable

The movie's long title, speaks to the indefatigable spirit of 2 boys struggling to overcome insurmountable barriers.  Mister & Peter are 2 abandoned kids who endure by relying on each other.  Mister's (Skylan Brooks) & Pete's (Ethan Dizon) moms are addicts & pushers who work for the same drug dealer.  Gloria (Jennifer Hudson) Mister's mom is arrested for heroin use and taken into custody while 14 year old Mister & the younger Pete, hide so as not to be taken & placed in a state run home where "several boys have been killed."  Mister's defiant attitude & foul mouth work make him his own worst enemy.  But, we learn to sympathize when we see the pain & neglect he has to bear.  Mister believes his mother will return home in less than a week. Weeks turn to months and the boys are left to fend for themselves.  Mister becomes the care giver to the trusting Pete.  They scavange for food & struggle to protect themselves in a horrendous dog eat dog world. Mister perseveres with his plan to audtion for an acting job that will bring him (& Pete) to Beverly Hills. Skylan Brooks as Mister is an exceptionally talented actor who brings toughness & vulnerability to his role.  Ethan Dizon is too adorable which works against his character.  Casting Jennifer Hudson as Gloria was a bigger misstep.  Hudson looks every bit the glamorous star; not a desperate junkie.  However, Jeffery Wright is totally convincing & unrecognizable as the mendicant vet.  I'm recommending this movie as a thoughtful & penetrating portrait at life's harsh realities.  "Nobody can manage to do it alone."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nebraska, Bruce Dern's Turn for an Acad. Award

The melancholy, often humorous and visually stunning film, NEBRASKA, is the latest movie by Dir. & Screenwriter, Alexander Payne.  Payne (THE DESCENDANTS) which received an Acad. Award, should garner numerous nomination for this year's Awards. Bruce Dern should get a best actor nom. & best supporting actor should go to Will Forte.  The movie is shot in black & white and takes images that bring Diane Arbus' incredible photos to mind.  The desolate plains are filmed passing through lonely  towns & empty highways. Payne is known for his dark humor & penetrating look at contemporary American life.  Here, Payne focuses on struggling, small midwesterners; "salt of the earth people."  Although, every town has its share of devious individuals, there is an abundance of peculiar  people.  The casting of actors must have come from locals, straight from the heart of America.  Bruce Dern, (Woody) carries this film like Atlas.  Woody is an old alcoholic tottering on Alzheimers.  He is a determined curmudgeon who sets off on an improbable journey to claim his $1,000,000 publisher house prize he believes he's won.  His blatantly ribald & honest wife is played uproariously by June Squibb.  She enlists her younger, estranged son David (Will Forte) to "handle his father."  The relationship that develops between father & son is nothing short of miraculous.  You can home again.  You should go find NEBRASKA.  This gorgeous black/white film is a sure win for Oscar gold.

Julliard Drama SMASH, Slash & Trash

The Julliard Drama presented an adaption of George Bernard Shaw's novel: An Unsocial Socialist.  Ibsen, Shaw - seen it, done that, forget it.  The premise of this dated, farcical melodrama is the call for revolution.  The newlywed, aristocrat, Sidney, tells his befuddled bride, Henrietta, following their nuptials, he must leave "for socialism to take hold."  Sidney exhorts his convcitions that his wealth & love for her are impediments to his political callings and he must flee in order to serve the Socialist Revolution.  In Act II, set in an elitist all girls school, we find the rebellious young Agatha defying the fearsome head mistress, who is confined to a wheelchair.  Agatha on her bike & 2 roller-skating cohorts   are not the maleable young women the school demands.  Sidney turns up on the grounds in the guise of a menial workingman, Mangels (Marx/Engles.)  His talk of revolution for the classes & liberation of  women has captured both Agatha's alliance & affection.  Henrietta is related to Agatha & comes for a  visit at the school.  There she discovers who jilted lover, Sidney, rousing (& buying) converts to his cause.  Sadly, the drama students did not elevate the material.  The Headmistress played her role by rolling her eyes & blaring her nostrils.  The other actors were as fake as their wigs or their beards.  The saving grace came from Lars Berge who played Mr. Jansenius.  He brought humor & empathy to his role of the besotted & unrequited lover.  I left prior to Act III.  The students should protest against being given antiquated, droll material.

A Touch of SIN-Ripoff of TaranTINo

The Chinese film, A Touch of Sin, steals blatantly from the styles & subjects that originate with the talented Quentin Tarantino.  The Chinese speaking film, directed by Jia Zhangke, is a hodgepodge of pulp fiction, gore & interwoven story-lines.  Zhangke won for best screenplay at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  The cricket, Zhangke, has learned from the master story tellers, David Cronenberg for Crash, Alejandro Zonzales for Babel and Quentin Tarantino for his Kill Bill films.  However, little cricket has not surpassed these masters.  A Touch of Sin is graphically violent and despairing on the value of human life.  It is stylishly shot.  The scenes depict corroded, bleached landscapes and vibrant colors in striking contrast. Perhaps, Zhangke "borrowed" from Japanese filmmaker, Kurosawa.  The overall sense of the movie is that of a hopeless society where life holds little value.  Money is the driving force and corruption runs rampant.  Money bestows power.  Power entitles the affluent to treat others as property, particularily women.  The over populated masses are fully consumed with endless drudgery to sustain themselves.  Animals are beaten mercilessly.  "Did you know animals commit suicide?"  There is little kindness, warmth or civility to be found.  The distinctions between men & animals are indistinguishable.  This Chinese film is an imitation of America's Quentin Tarantino's movies.  Jia Zhangke, you inglorious bastard!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Julliard Jazz Orch. Performs Thad Jones Program

The Julliard Jazz Orchestra (JJO) delighted a packed Sharp Theatre last night with 10 compositions all by the late, trumpeter, arranger & composer, Thad Jones.  Jones was an original member of the Count Bassie Band performing on trumpet.  Jones went on to form a Grammy winning jazz orchestra with Mel Lewis.  Jones' compositions highlight the brass section.  Last night's performance featured 5 saxes, 4 tumpets & 4 tombones in addition to a jazz guitarist, pianist, drummer, bass player & for the 1st time in Julliard's history, a vibraphonist featured on the xylophone.  I want to call out Joseph Doubleday on xylophone & Martha Kato from Japan on piano for their remarkable musical talents.  The trumpet section played with tonal nuance & fervor. The JJO falls under the direction of James Burton, III.  Burton is highly regarded for both his musical mentoring & prof. trombone performing.  In addition, Burton has just been named lead trombonist & conductor for the Jazz @ Linc. Ctr. All Star Orch.  The Julliard Jazz Dept. continues to combine musical & academic scholastics while continously integrating the students into professional performance opportunities. The next concert is set for Nov. 5th featuring artists-in-reisdence, pianist Jason Moran.  I'm set to be on hand.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

REAL, Surreal Japanese Film by Kurosawa

Japanese Director/Screenwriter Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest feature, REAL, is a visually stunning & genre defying film. The cinematography has a neutral stark palette interspersed with vivid color that makes for a work of art.  The scenes are so intensely colorized & crystal clear that when the scene morphs into a dreamlike state you become transfixed. Koichi & his beautiful wife, Atsumi, are a loving, adoring couple.  The film moves future 1year to show Koichi @ a hospital where he wife has been in a long coma.  The Dr. explains to Koichi the procedure for "sensing" where he will be put to sleep & "wired" so that he & his wife can communicate through their brain waves. The notion that patients in a coma are able to perceive their surroundings has been debated.  The premise of a virtual reality plane for connecting & perhaps, reviving a comatose individual is an intriguing & exciting.  The "sensing sessions" are both comforting & horrifying.  The film is highly stylized amalgamation of science fiction, horror, mystery, intellectual abstraction & romance.  What is reality & what is hallucination becomes indistinguishable.  Scenes of decay & abandoned construction recur throughout the film adding to the  sense of isolation & despair.  The boundary between drama & comedy are also blurred. This unique film by one of the great contemporary film makers is eerie, macabre & remarkable.  However, the 2 1/2 hour length transforms this iridescent film into a laughable, anti-climatic ending.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's ABOUT TIME, I Loved Every Minute

There have been hundreds of movies made before about time travel, i.e. THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE starring Rachel McAdams.  There have been countless movies made before about love i.e. LOVE ACTUALLY, dir. by Richard Curtis & starring Bill Nighy.  However, ABOUT TIME directed by Curtis & starring McAdams & Nighy is the most heartwarming & life affirming movie you will ever have to take great pleasure in from watching. As you leave the theatre you will smell the coffee, seize the day & tell your loved ones, you love them.  Am I sounding trite?  Well, this thoroughly charming film is about a young man, Tim, (Domhall Gleeson) whose father, played by the irrepressible Bill Nighy, informs him the men in family have the ability to travel back in time upon turning 21. The movie will win you over & over.  Tim utilizes this unbelievable gift for do overs.  He travels back in time until he get's it right.  For Tim, "It was always going to be about love."  Ponder the possibilities if you had the power to go back & be with loved ones & experience life's happiest moments again.  Dir. Curits got this movie just right.  I wish I could see it again for the 1st time.  Meanwhile, live each day as if it were your last.  (Okay, now I'm sounding trite.)

Chelsea Galleries/Performance Art, FREE?

Chelsea provides the public a plethora of free art galleries, scenic walks on the High Line, art installations & performance art.  Yesterday, on the 24th/10th Ave. where an operating LukOil station operated until very recently, is an art installation/performance art for those who watched actual sod being laid & watered.  Wow, how often do you witness a gas station in NYC being transformed into a lushly landscaped, rolling vista complete with life size ceramic sheep sculptures by French artist F-X LaLanne (1927-08) complete with a white picket fence to ward off the public.  I was amused by the magical transformation of an urban filling station into an oasis amidst our city's dense sprawl.  Look up & notice the large scale painting of a stern looking woman, peering down with disdain on this faux bucolic setting.  She knows this art installation is a ruse for the high aptmt. building this real estate is to built before the end of the Oct.  The owner of the property, Michael Shvo, art collector, slash  & destroy, developer will be constructing a residential unit jettisoned against the High Line; demolishing the beauty of rare public space.  "Don't it always seem to know, you don't know what you've got til it's gone,"(Counting Crows) the green gettystation is going to become a tall, commercial lot.

Women or Nothing by Ethan Coen Off-Bwy is Nil

I learned a new term; gold star lesbian.  The term refers to a lesbian whose never had sexual intercouse with a man.  Laura (Susa Pourfar) asks Chuck (stand-in Zach Woods.)  Laura is in a lesbian partnership with Gretchen (Halley Feiffer.)  We learn they desire to have a baby & in the way nature intended. Another criteria is with a "proven superb gene specimen."  Gretchen is the most manipulative fictional female since Austen's Emma except Gretchen's motives are selflish & she maneuvers Laura & Chuck with heartless, military precision.  Honesty, dignity & control are bantered between Laura & Gretchen as the modus operandi is covert; seduce Chuck into sex with Laura.  Hopefully, the sexual rendezvous will produce a child by a man who will remain in the dark, living in the dull, sunny state of FL. Despite intelligence issues of human dignity are debated it is within the confines of incredulous & ridiculous circumstances.  Woods who was substituted in last night's performance brings gravis to his maleable character.  The other 3 actors struggle without success to maintain either humor or adeptness in their roles.  The fault lies with the playwright, Ethan Coen, whose bio in the program merely reads "with his brother, Joel, has made 16 movies."  This play does not earn a gold star.  Women or Nothing suggests Joel should stick with his brother or nothing.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

GRAVITY, Stands on its Legs

Have you ever wondered what it would be like in outerspace & view our Earth & galaxy as an astronaut?  GRAVITY provides a visceral experience that simulates (without nausea) what most of us can only imagine. This visually stunning film is directed by Mexican screenwriter, editor & producer, Alfonson Cuaron,  Cuaron has received 3 Acad. Award nominations.  He is well known for both Spanish & English films such as Y Tu Mama Tambien '01 & Harry Potter '04.  The plot here may be miniscule but the movie is galactic in scope.  Finally, 3D technology is utilized to enhance the magnitude of movie making.  The 2 astronauts are played by Sandra Bullock (Ryan) & George Clooney (Matt.)  Both Clooney & Bullock are convincing & likeable in their roles, but the movie belongs to Ms. Bullock.  We are inside her space helmut, gasping for air with her & brushed by her  tears floating from her beautiful brown eyes.  Ryan said she'd pray but "no one had taught her how to pray."  "Sometimes even to live is an act of courage" (Seneca.)  I wouldn't go so far as to call this movie a religious experience but it is definitely out of this world.  Go out of your way to see it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NYPhil. Open Rehearsal premier & Beethoven's 9th

Today's auditorium for the Philharmonic's open rehearsal conducted by Alan Gilbert was filled to capacity.  There was much to be excited for:  Beethoven's 9th Symph & the NY Phil.'s premier of Frieze, (2013) by contemporary composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage (b. 1960.)  What additional accolades can be bestowed on Beethoven's highly revered masterpiece?  "The Ninth' is sacred, and it was already sacred when I first heard it in 1897" (Stravinsky.)  "Nobody will ever write anything better than this symphony" (Rachmannioff.)  Perhaps not, but, Turnage was commissioned  to write an orchestra piece inspired by Beethoven's Ninth.  In Turnage's words, "I'd become re-obsessed with Beethoven, as I had been as a child."  Although Frieze is constructed in 4 movements, it is not a symphony.  "Frieze has little shadows cast from Beethoven" (Turnage.)  Whether or not Beethoven's 9th is the pinnacle of musical composition may be debated, the genius of Beethoven is indisputable.  I found the program fascinating having both compositions.  I did not discern Turnage's homage to Beethoven's work, but I would willing go back and listen to both again.  ENCORE!

Outdoor Installation @ Linc Ctr, a Melting Mess

The outdoor sculpture exhibit by Amer. artist Aaron Curry, "Melt to Earth" is scheduled to officially open on Oct. 7th.  If you happen to be out & about enjoying the beautiful weather & the lovely promenade at Lincoln Center, you will get a preview.  The show is comprised of 14 brightly colored sculptures of varying shapes/sizes.  All the sculptures share similarities.  They all appear drippy, all have circular openings, the hues have the same vivid intensity, they're childlike and I didn't care for them.  The slender statues surround the majestic central fountain.  In my opinion, the work takes away from the beauty of the space.  I can't, however, complain about the price since they're free for public viewing.  (Unless I want to quibble that it does get financed by our city taxes through the Public Art Fund.)  Besides, what do I know?  Mr. Curry has been awarded the Mundheim Fellowship in Visual Arts @ the Amer. Acad. (which I don't know.)  The artist's work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (which I do know) in a group exhibit:  Alexander Calder, Form, Balance & Joy.  The exhibit will be outside Lincoln Center through Jan. 6th.  The work is playful & I think it will bring joy to youngsters who will interact with the sculptures.  This, will bring me joy as did the witch who melted away in Oz.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Julliard's 25th Annv. Faculty Recital, Flute

Julliard concert's are back in full-swing; tickets are free on a 1st come basis 2 weeks prior (2 tickets per person.)  The type of musical performance is known in advance, but not the program or featured guest.  Julliard school performances are like a box of chocolate; you never know what you're gonna get.  Last night's program featured alum, Carol Wincenc.  Ms. Wincenc is one of the most acclaimed flutists performing today.  In 2011 she received the Nat'l Flute Assoc. Lifetime Achivement Award and will receive the Gold Medal for Lifetime Achivement in Music by the Nat'l Society of Arts & Letters in '14.  Ms. Wincenc selected the broad repertoire for the evening: German composer Hans Henze who passed away last year, Japanese composer Yuko Uebayashi b. 1975 & 19th C, French composer, Claude Debussy.  My favorite piece from the evening was by Russian composer, Alfred Schnittke (1934-98) Moz-Art a la Mozart for 8 flutes & harp; a U.S. premiere.  Moz-Art was whimsical, romantic and bold.  Ms. Wincenc said she made her selections "to bring a sense of wonderment, charm & serenity simultaneously."  Julliard brings together established artists, alums & students to celebrate music, mentor tomorrow's artists and entertain today's audience.  BRAVO.

Enough Said, Sadly Gandolfini's Last Words on Film

The quiet & unassuming film, "Enough Said," can be described as a middle-age, "coming of age, romance."  Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) & Albert (James Gandolfini,) both play divorced, single parents to daughters both heading off to college.  In other words, a movie that speaks to "empty nesters," baby boomers and the desires for companionship for singles who are 50 something.  This deceptively incisive film, speaks volumes regarding the power of words.  What we say, don't say (wish we had said) do matter.  Eva, a masseuse & Gandolfini, a T.V. archivist, both meet at a party where "they're not attracted to each other," and, where Gandolfini's ex,  Marianne, played by the auspicious Catherine Keener.  Eva dates Gandolfini despite her initial trepidations while simultaneously, becoming the masseuse & confidant of Marianne.  Marianne, a poet of some renown, gives more info than we care to know as to why her marriage to Gandolfini was a disaster.  It isn't long before the odd triangle is realized by Eva who fails to tell either Albert or Marianne.  Toni Collette adds her wining talents as a psychiatrist who listens to both Eva & her patients, but struggles to communicate at home.  It is a tragic irony that Gandolfini's last role is as television historian.  Gandolfini will be forever remembered on TV & film as an exceptional actor of our generation.  Sadly, this posthumous film will be the last record of Mr. Gandolfini's work.  Words alone cannot express the sorrow at the passing of Mr. Gandolfini.  "Enough Said," has a lot to be said for & regurgitated.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Magritte - For Real @ MoMA

The mystifying & beguiling Belgian Surrealist painter, Rene Magritte, has been given a delightful exhibit at the MoMA.  "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-38, is an assemblage of some of his most familiar & iconic works.  Then again, looks are deceiving; the point being, to really LOOK.  Magritte's work is both whimsical & macabre.  It is beautiful & repugnant.  It's disconcerting to have an eye looking back at you from a slice of ham on a plate.  The eyes whose corneas reflect celestial landscapes are haunting.  Take note of the painting of a young girl gouging her teeth into a bird. This evokes both pleasure and cruelty.  His paintings have a dreamlike quality and an eerie nightmarish pall.  Limbs and features morph into the bizarre.  Curtains both reveal & mask the unknown, captivating the viewer.  Matisse paints serene & bucolic landscapes and oceans & horizons on the verge of a tempest.   I'm enamored with his painting "The Lovers" where a couple are kissing between cloths covering their separate faces.  "The Human Condition" shows an easel with a landscape painting in front of a window which seems to fit into the outdoors like a piece in a puzzle.  This show is fun to experience & ponder.  Magritte demands we look at things we overlook and to really be observant.  Magritte's works are deceiving & magical.  Of course, what we perceive is ephemeral & forever changing.  I was bewitched, bothered & bewildered, for real.   I tip my bowler hat to Magritte.  My tip to you is not to miss this Surreal Show.

NYPhil. Open Rehearsal/Bronfman, Piano

Just as my 1st day at the ballpark augurs spring, my 1st attendance @ the NYPhil.'s open rehearsal portends fall.  Thursday, Conductor Gilbert led the NY Phil. in Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.  It doesn't getter any better or more representative of NYC, snap snap!  The grammy winning piano master, Yefim Bronfman performed Tchaikovsky's romantic & thrilling Piano Centerto #1 in B-flat minor.  It was a magnificient morning that was as glorious as the weather outside.  I did not stay to hear Ravel's Alborada del gracioso but I certainly got my money's worth ($18) for 2 hours of uplifting music.  I have already purchased my ticket for one of the rehearsals next week featuring Beethoven's Symphony #9 and a U.S. Premier of Mark-Anthony's Choral, Turnage.  The 2013 fall season has been heralded in for the Big Apple.  

50th Annv. March on Washgtn, John Lewis/Harry Belafonte

Wed. night @ 92ndY, there was a special evening to commemorate the historic Civil Rights March with 4 men who were key orchestrators:  John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Clarence Jones & Julian Bond.  I was excited to hear from John Lewis, the only living person to have spoken where Dr. MLK gave his "I Have Dream Speech."  It was a great disappointment to me & many in the audience when informed  Mr. Lewis would not be present; he was tied up with Congress in D.C.  Nevertheless, the 3 men present were integral to the civil rights movement and were present alongside  MLK.  Mr. Jones was the only one on the panel I was not acquainted.  Unfortunately, I did not benefit from his dominance in the discussion .  Those matters aside, the evening was monumentous, enlightening & awe inspiring.  Bond & Belafonte admitted 'they did not perceive the vast magnitude & powerful impact the March would achieve."  In fact, they felt a great deal of "anxiety as to the success & turnout of the gathering on D.C."  The trepidations of JFK & Hoover were astonishing.  Immense security & militia& undercover F.B.I. agents were aligned by JFK in anticipation of an outbreak of violence.  I was reminded that the historian & Civil Rights leader, W.E.B. Dubois passed away that morning.  What's note worthy in reflecting back on this iconic event is the honoring of those present & many thousands who sacrificed for the advancement & justice for African Americans. We cannot afford nonchalance and must continuously commit to the equal treatment of all Americans, regardless of race, religion or social orientation.  The Q&A's were earnest.  One stemmed from an 11th grader who questioned the panel's views on the Trayvon Martin verdict.  "It was the murder of young, black youth whose killer was protected under unlawful laws," J. Bonds.  A 4th grader asked "How does it feel to have made a difference?"  Brilliant question and one we all need to ask ourselves.  "Change requires patriotic treason." (J. Bond)

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Winslow Boy-"Fine Ole Rumpus"

The Winslow Boy @ American Airlines Theatre is a revival of one of the many successful Terrence Rattigan's plays.  The play is set in London, 1912.  A young disheartened boy enters his family home unexpectedly as he was to be @ boarding school.  The young lass, Ronnie, "That Winslow Boy," has been expelled from his prestigious military academy for stealing.   Despite his ignoble circumstances, he adamantly maintains his innocence for which he receives the unflagging support of his parents & siblings.  The play is period piece just prior to the breakout of WWI.  The older sister, Catherine, is a woman with modern ideas.  She is a staunch suffragette and advocate for female equality.  Catherine's ideals were somewhat ahead of her time but the play's timeless theme is "Let right be done."  The battle with achieving justice & the common good is weighed heavily against individual sacrifices.  Add, to the intriguing legal battle, familial bonds, unrequitted love and burgeoning romantic love.  "Facts are brutal."  The facts remain, the quest for great theatre is served in The Winslow Boy.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

C.O.G. is OMG Awful

The film, C.O.G. is based on a story by award winning author & humorist, David Sedaris, is a horrible mess.  The movie shifts and non to swiftly, from comedy to social commentary to Christian proselytizing.  The movie shares Jaden Smith's philosophy; you become more intelligent by dropping out of school.  Samuel, a.k.a. David (Jonathan Gruff) is traveling cross country by bus with everykind of everyman wacko in the world.  He is told by an ex-con that Christ & religion are the keys for redemption.  Samuel replies, "religions is for people who aren't smart enough to figure out how the world works."  Nothing in this movie works (except the humor on the bus ride from CT to OR.)  Wearing his Yale sweater & looking like a fresh faced preppy, Samuel seeks to take a break between getting his M.S. @ Yale & his Ph.D. by "getting his hands dirty."  So begins his unbelievable journey from aetheist to C.O.G.: Child of God.  Working manual labor he aspires to make himself fit in while maintaing a smug elitism.  He is pursued by a maniacal homosexual rapist and takes shelter with a crazed, born again, wounded vet who says "If you don't believe in anything what's left to believe in." Believe me, this movie is unbelievably terrible.

NYC Ballet's Swan Lake is to Die For

 The sheer beauty of Swan Lake is as alluring as always.  Somethings never loose their lustre.  This is  not my 1st or last time I will attend this ballet.  I was entirely enchanted by the music & dancing. I was  transported by the Company & charmed by the young dancers.  Tschaikovsky's score is timeless.  What?!?  Maestro Tschaikovsky's composition was not acceptable for the premier of Swan Lake in Moscow, 1877.  Incredulously, the conductor & lead ballerina were opposed to the great Maestro's glorious music and it was replaced for the performances.  This spurning of Tschaikovsky's music  shunned him from composing for ballet again until Sleeping Beauty, 1890 & The Nutcracker in 1892.  With the popularity of both & the death of Mr. Tschaikovsky in 1893, a resurgence of interest in his work prompted the production of Swan Lake with Tschaikovsky's original & most beloved score.  Swan Lake is a timeless work of great eminence. Such a pity the genius of Tschaikovsky composition for Swan Lake was not heralded in his lifetime.  The dancing of the dying swan moves me every time.

NYC Ballet Premiered 3 New Ballets

NYC premiered 3 ballets on Thursday along with Balanchine's Western Symphony, '54.  The theme of the evening was Fall for Fashion.  Each of the new ballet's were preceded by a short video showing the collaboration between choreographer & costume designer.  The videos spotlighted "fashion returns to New York City Ballet." I concur, costuming is a vital element in the culmutive art of ballet.  The choreographer needs to convey his vision to the costume designer and insure the costumes will not inhibit the dancers.  It appeared the choreographers directed the designers with too heavy a hand. Peck's ballet, Capricious Maneuvers, the costumes appeared raw & unfinished as did his ballet.   The ballet & the costumed were unpolished.  The dancing seemed was over before it began.  Benjamin Millepied's ballet, Neverwhere, I hope to see everywhere.  Millepied's brilliant ballets are at the forefront of the ballet world.  The dancing & musicality was spectacular; the highlight of the evening.  Unfortunately, the costumes were so extraordinary they were distracting.  The last premier, Spectral Evidence by Angelin Preljocaj, was out of this world.  The women were not on pointe which is hardly the point.  Preljocaj's staging/choreography was provocative, emotive & unique. While Capricious Maneuvers was too brief, Spectral Evidence would have benefitted from some editing.  The costumes by Oliver Theyskens for Spectral looked liked lame Halloween costumes on the women.  Balanchine's piece from '54 seemed a peculiar end to the contemporary program.  It is always exciting to view new works.  Definitely seek out Millipied's Neverwhere anywhere.   As to what the dancers wear, allow the designers to maintain center stage.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wadjda-Saudi Women's Empowerment

Tonight while many of you are hoping to win the big powerball, know that as a woman born outside of Saudi Arabia and many middle Eastern nations, you already won the birth lottery.  Wadjda is a film about a young girl in Saudi Arabia who yearns to own a bicycle and ride freely.  The movie depicts the countless & unimaginable restrictions placed on women in the 21st C living in Saudi Arabia.  There are so many regulations that rather than innumerating them, I'll acknowledge. women are lower than 2nd class citizens; they are insignificant. Furthermore, they are subject to harsh punishments for slight infractions and subjected to force marriages at very young ages. Wadjda our young, defiant heroine is forever being made aware of lack of relevance she has in society & in her own family tree.  Women must be kept under wraps (literally & figuratively) from males at all times.  However, this film is a major advance for Saudi women.  Wadjda is the 1st feature film made by a Saudi woman and focused on the lives of women.  The entire film is shot in Saudi Arabia, a town that is barren except for cement or crumbling structures.  Despite depicting the stultifying lives of Saudi women, there are inroads being towards breaking down barriers.  Don't bemoan not being the big winner in tonight's drawing.  Celebrate our liberties not bestowed to women everywhere and ponder the odds of helping to empower these women.

The Metamorphosis @ Joyce-Mind Altering

The Metamorphosis, a Royal Ballet Production made its New York premier @ the Joyce Theatre. Based on Kafka's nightmarish novella of the same name, The Royal Ballet created a mesmerizing dance/theatric production.  Kafka's novella is considered 1 of the seminal fictional works of the 20thC.  The story described the nightmarish morphing of a working, family man into a hideous insect.  A literal interpretation is horrific.  As a metaphor for being stricken from a healthy human into someone fully dependent upon others for care is a pitiful & life altering tragedy.  The ingenious staging brings to life Kafka's haunting & distubing work. The production is both captivating & ghoulish.  Edward Watson performance as Gregor Samsa, the man turned insect is so remarkable as to leave one breathless.  Watson's transformation is a miraculous tour de force.  The creative choreography & direction mark a triumphant testament to the impact of powerful art.  The Metamorphosis can also be described as repellant & unsettling.  It is a work you may not choose to experience a 2nd time, but experience it, you must.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pulitz Prize winner Alice McDermott @ Barnes/Nobel

Alice McDermott is an Amer. writer & winner of the Pulitzer & Natl's Book Award.  She has received 2 additional Pulitzer nominations.  McDermott is a writer of extraordinary talents.  She appeared @ the Barnes/Nobel on E 86th last Wed. to promote her latest book, SOMEONE.  SOMEONE is her 1st novel in 7 years since AFTER THIS.  I am an admirer of McDermott's work and was eager to hear her in person.  I'm also a bibliophile who bemoans the disappearance of bookstores.  A young pianist was playing as the crowd assembled.  McDermott was chatting amicably in the back & as she approached the speaker, stopped to kiss the piano man.  The piano man turned out to be her son.  Artistic talents obviously run in some families.  Having purchased SOMEONE, I was interested to learn what McDermott had to share with us.  She read aloud to us from her novel for more than a 1/2 hour.  After which did a short Q/A with the audience.  (Nabokov was the writer who most inspired her career.)  As much as I wish to support bookstores & current authors, this "someone" is literate and would prefer a dialogue with an author.  The few shallow, self-promoting audience questions were inane.  "After this," I'll refrain from attending author's book promotions and read to myself.