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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Frances Ha is Ho-hum

The film, Frances Ha, is directed & co-written by Noah Baumbach.  Greta Gerwig is the co-writer & star of the film.  Frances Ha is filmed in black/white & shot mainly in NYC.  It began as an homage to the old Woody Allen films where Manhattan becomes a key player in the movie.  The similarities end with enhancing cinematography.  Gerwig plays Frances who is her own worst enemy. Just a few years out of college, she is struggling to support herself in the dance world.  Her inappropriate behavior & comments are so extreme I cringed with shame & annoyance.  Her decision making demonstrates a serious behavior disorder. Frances is at constant odds with her best friend, Sophie.  Is this a lesbian love affair movie gone sour or is this a movie of a woman bent on self-destruction?  Frances describes herself as "undateable & unlikeable."  I agree.  When Frances does manage to choreograph a dance she states, "I like things that look like mistakes."  This movie is one big mistake.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NYC Ballet, Contemporary Composers

Last night the NYC Ballet Co. performed a program of Contemporary Composers @ the Koch Theater.  Two Hearts by Benjamin Millipied was commissioned by NYC Ballet last year - brilliant move, it is a great ballet.  Millipied is now the Artistic Dir. for the Paris Ballet.  NYC Ballet missed the opportunity to retain Millipied - BIG MISTAKE.  The music was by Nico Muhly with whom Millipied often collaborates.  The ballet is modern, exciting & transforming.  It is destined to be a classic.  The black/white costumes by Rodarte designers are exquisitite.  Hopefully, the Co. will utilize their talents in the future.  The dancing was just a little bit off in the movement which contained freeze frame moments.  Having seen the ballet last year, I was prepared for the macabre song that accompanies the last movement.  I would love to do away with it. Christopher Wheeldon's Soiree Musicale had its NYC Ballet Premiere this past week.  Wheeldon is also one of our best contemporary choreographers.  I can only hope he may once again become NYCs Resident Choreographer.  Soiree contains a Waltz, Scottische, Tango, Two-Step, Pas de Deux & a Finale with the entire cast.  Every style is striking on its own & together, the pieces make for a magnificient ballet.  (Unfortunately, one ballerina had a slip-up during the Waltz.)  A Place for Us by Wheeldon had its World Premiere earlier this week.  The music is by Leonard Bernstein & Andre' Previn. It is a new arrangement on the original piece from West Side Story made for a Pas de Deux. The couple, Pect & Fairchild danced with elegance extraordinaire.  The music was performed on stage by a pianist & clarnetist.  While the ballet was beautiful, it felt more like a tasty morsel yet not quite done.  The last piece on the program was Peter Martin's Hallelujah Junction, '01, and by then we were done & out of there; Hallelujah.

Don't miss the fun @ THE ASSEMBLED PARTIES

To say ASSEMBLED PARTIES deals with family dysfunction would belie the humor, love, clever writing & brilliant cast put together in this sparkling play.  Richard Greenberg is the Tony & Drama Desk winning playwright.  Here, Greenberg has honed his writing skills to bring to life an ensemble of characters that we would love to have mingled among our family gatherings for lack of boredom.  They are not always tolerable, but they're all indelible and hilarious.  A Jewish family gathers together for an Xmas dinner, '80, in an enormous brown stone on the UWS of NYC.  Jeff, a Harvard law student & friend to the family's older son, Scotty, is the only non-member of the tribe.  Jeff ingratiates himself into this family in an obsequious but likeable manner.  Act II is also on Xmas day, 20 years later, in the same brownstone.  The 20 years have wrought many changes in the family dynamics.  Still, Jeff is the same affable ubiquitous outsider who established a very fortuitous career as a litigator.  I didn't want this party to end.  The lofty humor elevated my spirits.  The ingenious, rotating sets gives the illusion of a spacious brownstone.  After all these years of theatre going…did I love this show?  Yes, and it's nice to know.  AMEN.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bragging Rights Hearing Sidney Poitier @ 92Y

When Sidney Poitier (or as I like to call him:  Mr. Tibbs) came onto the stage, he shuffled slowly to the podium.  He looked as dapper & charming as ever.  "Good evening everyone, you're probably thinking he looks a lot older than I thought."  A lady yelled out, "You're looking just fine to me!"  We all shared a laugh including Mr. Poitier.  At 86, he does look older than the handsome leading man who  has  portrayed countless dignified and righteous men throughout his barrier breaking career. Most recently, Poitier played Pres. Mandela on film.  His sonorous eloqution made clear we were in the presence of a living legend.  He shared his life with us from his birth we were  with him for the ride of a an incredible life.  His premature birth left his parents fearing the worst. His mother seeking solace, took him in her arms to a soothsayer who said, "You do not need to worry about him.  He will thrive & prosper.  He will journey all the corners of the world & walk among Kings."  Mr. Poitier gave us snippets of his auspicious life from its humble beginnings in the Bahamas to his trevails as an illiterate teen alone in  NYC with $3 to his name.  He spoke with admiration for the waiter where he worked as a dishwasher, selflessly spent months teaching him to read. He acknowledge remorse at not having found this man or his arresting officer (for vagrancy) who steered him to an orphanage,  to pay gratitude.  Philanthropy, strength of character, hard work & maintaining a curious mind were the keypoints of his talk.  Mr. Poitier - it was an honor to be in the audience.  You had me at good evening and you inspired me to be a  better human being.  

MET roof installation-toss it off the roof

Yesterday was the 1st day to view the latest installation atop the MET.  When you step on the roof & question where is the installation - look down.  Imran Qureshi, a Pakistani artist, painted a site-specific mural beneath your feet which brings into a melee of a blood-red painting.  You are standing directly on top of a vast carnage.  Should you delve further, you will notice foliage forming within the red-spattered painted with white brush strokes.  The MET's rooftop was 1st utilized as an outdoor gallery amidst the serenity & the beauty of Central Park in '98 by Ellsworth Kelly.  Kelly's large scale structures, up to 14', were intended to provide a new perspective on the landscape & skycrappers framing  Central Park.  Qureshi's red acrylic sprawling paint is intended to be disturbing.  Perhaps, the artist's intent is to emphasize of the ubiquitous & ruthless bloodshed that has become all too common place in our world?  Perhaps, the artist is showing rebirth from within destruction?  I thought the "installation" amidst the picture-postcard setting of serenity in Central Park was Bloody Crap.

Monday, May 13, 2013

William Eggleston's Photos @ MET are a Must See

Eggleston's photos from his 1st Portfolio of 14, was shown @ the MoMA '76, and is "credited" with establishing colour photography as a legitimate art form.  While a prof. of photography @ Harvard, Eggleston discovered the relatively new technique of dye-transfer painting.  He quickly infused this technique into his photos leading to a powerful aesthetic tranformation in his work.  The MET recently acquired the Portfolio of 14 along with other photos taken from the 60's-80's; currently on view.  Born in '39 in TN & raised in MS, Eggleston's focus is on the the mundane, that which has be seen so often as to become overlooked, becomes riveting.  The photos are both beautiful & menacing.  I felt a sinister aura lurking in many of the photos.  Note the photo of the white man in a business suit standing in front of a black man in a white service uniform.  Next to this photo is a woman with a shellacked hairdo & pristine dress poised on a yellow curb next to a chained post.  Also note the 3 friends holding hands at dusk.  None of the works are titled.  Their power speaks as vividly as the "blood red" colored ceiling photo.  The 1st photo in the gallery of a green building at sunset, lures you into the gallery with its mystical & mesmerizing colors.  The subject matter of American icons: diners, gas stations, parking lots, had been portrayed previously by photorealists painters such as Hopper.  Eggleston continues the  "war against the obvious."  Eggleston has been awarded the Royal Photographic Soc. Annv. Medal & earlier this year, the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award.  A visit into this subsidiary gallery is an imperative destination point.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cedar Lake Dance Co. @ the Joyce

Cedar Lake Co. has their own theatre in Chelsea.  The Companny was performing at the Joyce this week.  The program consisted of 3 dances from 3 different choreographers.  The oldest piece, INDIGO ROSE '98 was by Jiri Kylian; prolific choreographer for Nederlands Dand.  TEN DUETS ON A THEME OF RESCUE, '08 by Crystal Pite; an assoc. choreographer for Nederlands Dans.  HORIZONS '13 had its World Premier on Tues. was by Andonis Foniadakis, a native of Greece where he studied both classical ballet & contemp. dance.  It was enigmatic that Kylian's piece felt the most contemporary & problematic that all 3 seemed similar & repetitive in & of themselves.  The lightening designs were dark with sparse blinding spotlights.  INDIGO utilized a sheet that featured dancer's shadows providing a dynamic use of spatial relations.  TEN DUETS had a video of hands covering eyes, ears & mouths & female frontal nudity.  Meanwhile, the dancers on stage remained frozen in position.  I get:  see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil.  I didn't get the purpose of wasting talented dancers as mannequins.  HORIZONS wanted to end with a splash, literally.  Flash Dance Redux - a pas de deux that was interminable & exhausting.  I needed a shower afterwards.  All 3 dances were harried push-pull, offering & rebuff; more or less utilizing the same vernacular.  The dancers were all marvelous displaying great artistic strength & musicality.  INDIGO contained an adagio of serenity that rescued the program from an otherwise blurred horizon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

THE ICEMAN - a melting of Sopranos/Good Fellas

The chilling movie, THE ICEMAN,  is based on the convicted serial killer, Richard Kuklinski.  Kuklinski is played with stone cold precision by Acad. Award Nom. Michael Shannon.  Kuklinski was a mafia contract killer during the reign of terror in the NYC area during the 70's-80's. He served as an enforcer for crime boss Roy De Meo played by none other than Good Fella's Ray Liotta.  Ray playing Roy was not a stretch for the veteran actor best known for playing thugs.  The entire cast which included David Schwimmer, James Franco & convicted shoplifter, Winona Ryder, were all convincingly sleazy.  Kuklinski claims to have killed at least 200 people.  If he were alive today, I wouldn't argue the point with him.  He died in prison (having been convicted of 5 murders) in '06 under circumspect incidence just priot to testifying against a Gambino "family" member.  The movie works as a notorious psychopathic true story.  It also juxtaposes a ruthless killer with the doting husband & father  we found entertaining in the SOPRANOS.  Did we really think Eddie Falco didn't know what her husband did for a living?  Do we really believe the Boston Bomber's wife knew nothing of her husband's intent?  Believe this, should you go to see this captivating film, you will not be able to look away.  Where was a hitman when I needed him for the guy behind me with the huge bag of potato chips?

Frieze Art Fair on Randall's Island

My 1st trip to Randall's Island was for the 2nd incarnation of this Artistic Cultural & Culinary collective.  Too bad the destination, although a stone's throw from Tri-Borough, makes for a  maddenly freeze frame speed; coming & going.  There are 180 galleries represented in one huge airy tent.  There are audio presentations as well as daily talks with a motley mix of artists, writers, musicians and art critics.  The 1st gallery I visited was a performance "art."  While the concept was "clever" & the very young performer was captivating it was more precocious than profound.  The majority of galleries contained art I did not find arresting.  However, there were precious gems to be found.  Consider Frieze Art Fair to be a scavenger hunt.  Here are your clues from the map:  A1, B6, B18, C9 & C25.  I don't need to point out the Hirst Rx cabinet or McCarthy's Balloon Dog, those can't be missed along with the X rated Xmas kodachrome photos.  There is plenty of color & whimsy.  The are red/yellow/blue benches coincide with the art installation @ Madison Square Park.  Each bench has pithy statements to amuse those needing a respite.  The blue bench stood for "time wasted," which accounts for the time it takes getting there.  But once inside, there is gold to be found.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CALL ME KUCHU - The Doc. of Ugandan's LGBTI's Battles

To call the efforts of Ugandan's LGBTI's a battle is a gross understatement of the persecution and oppression the "homosexual" community experiences in their daily lives.  Their efforts to thwart legislation making homosexuality criminal; punishable by imprisonment or death are being fought in the name of religion.  Furthermore, individuals who do no report to the authorities, homosexuals known to them, are subject to imprisonment.  How did this great evil grow in the world?  How is religion used to support not only hatred but brutality against those who choose to live peacefully only with a different sexual orientation?  More importantly, how does such hatred thrive and fester?  CALL ME KUCHU is a riveting documentary of what is happening in Uganda to the gay community and the efforts of LGBTI activists and brave individuals to compat their country's anti-homosexuality bill and relentless brutality aimed at homosexuals.  This is a disturbing and moving documentary.  Do not shrug your shoulders and say but what are they to me?  As the true man of the cloth says, despite being shunned from his Christian Church, "we are all one."  At the very least, legislation in the U.S.A.  must be passed legalizing marriage of gays in every state.  Stand against prejudice and cruelty in our world.  This documentary is heart wrenching.  It is also life affirming.  There is goodness in the world.  Sadly, the seeds of animosity are deeply rooted & must be purged.

MET PUNK Chaos to Couture-Shock to Shock is Shlock

The Costume Institute exhibits draw on museum quality design or historically relevant "couture."  PUNK, stunk!  The legacy of punk, from its birth in the '70's is juxtaposed with its influence on today's fashion.  Hence, what was regarded as something shocking, heaven knows, today, anything goes.  I find it more offensive that Vivien Westwood credits herself for having given birth to punk than Mickey & Minnie procreating on a T-shirt.  (I mean really.)  Are spikes & bondage really avant-garde in today's fashion or are they mundane & tame?  I say the later.  Was the mohawk hairdo provacative or an imitation of Don King's unkempt coif? The unifying emblem in the show were the spikey wigs of varying colors on the mannequins. The audio-visuals of punk rock bands from the era were murky, the plastic debris walls; tawdry & the noise level deafening. I found it somewhat interesting when the haute couture houses such as Dior & Givenchy added their refined aesthetic to the PUNK look.  But a torn Channel suit - ho hum, it was dumb.  I was headed for a quick departure & the coup de grace was a mannequin giving me the finger. I thought the exhibition a waste of space & my time.  But, if you like it, Good For You!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Poetry on the Subway - Poetry in Motion

The search for something new under the sun can be found beneath our beautiful city in our subway cars & stations.  I know & commiserate our commuter fares are increasing.  But who knew, in lieu of only advertisements & graffiti there is eloquent poetry to be discovered.  MTA's Poetry in Motion Program sponsors this art.  Fragments of poetry have been made displayed for strap holders since '82, when a portion of Whitman's "Crossing Ferry" was mounted.  This was news to me.  It provided me a moment of quiet reflection in a frentic, constantly moving city.  There have been more than 200 poems/excerpts on display for more than 30 years.  Below are the 2 poems I spotted, "Grand Central" by Billy Collins:
The City orbits around eight million
centers of the universe
and turns around the golden clock
at the still point of this place.
Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling
under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.
Mary Ruefle's beautiful poem "Voyager:"
I have become an orchid
washed in on the salt white beach.
Memory,
what can I make of it now
that might please you -
this life, already wasted
and still strewn with miracles.
Perhaps you might come upon a poem while being jostled in a subway car that will give you respite in your day.  A fare decrease would be miraculous.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Richard Ford & James Salter @ 92ndY

Last night Richard Ford & James Salter, two of our finest American novelists did a joint reading/discussion at the 92ndY.  Both Ford & Salter have been recipients of the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ford has been awarded the Putlizer Prize & Salter has been inducted in the American Acad of Arts & Letters. They are both masters in their crafts and members of their own mutual admiration society.  The program Monday night was unique from all previous readings I've attend.  There were no formal introductions.  Ford came to the podium and said "tonight is going to be different, instead of having accolades said about what great writers we are, we're going to skip all that and get down to our writings."  Ford, a raconteur, gave us privy to his latest work, not yet publichsed.  He read as Benjamin, the central character from THE LAY of the LAND, now in 2013.  Salter read from his novel ALL THAT IS which has just been released.  Hearing the authors reading from their most recent works was a special event.  After their readings, the authors sat together on the stage; without a third party.  They  discussed the process of writing and critiqued each other's writings.  Perhaps, praised and compared their own styles would be more accurate.  Ford wished he could express himself with "less" and Salter wished he had Ford's "vocabulary" & "expansion." Listening to these 2 literary giants in a non-directed conversation was like listening to Picasso & Matisse in a private conversation; 2 genuises appreciating each other's gifts while garnering different insights.   Both authors agreed that what they write is never quite what they intended, "the ability to put on paper what my brain is saying is always difficult."