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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 10 Cultural Events for Jan '15

Here's my list of 10 events that I will be enjoying in NYC starting ofF the New Year in January:

Concert:  NYPhil. Open Rehearsal Rachmaninoff/Tchaikovsky w. pianist D. Trifonov

Movies:  2 Biopic Pictures, SELMA & MR. TURNER

Museum Exhibits:  Frick's El Greco paintings & Neue Gallery's Egon Schiele Portraits

Public Space:  A winter walk along the HIGH LINE

Sports:  NY Rangers - Go Rangers @ MSG

Theater:  BETWEEN RIVERSIDE & CRAZY, CONSTELLATION w. Jake Gyllenhaal, ON the TOWN w. principal dancers from NYC & ABT Ballet Co.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Holiday Movie Rental Reviews-Hot or Not?

Holiday times brings family members together. It might be a good idea to put on a movie to get people to shut up.  Some of the movies that you missed in the theaters (for good reason) now is the season to watch at home on TV.  Some are worth seeing, some are not.

THE MAZE RUNNER - NOT  Skip It!
This horrible mess rips off "Lord of the Flies," "Transformers" & The Lost Boys (one of which played Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time.) This is a wonder-less, star-less sci-fi flick except for Patricia Clarkson.  Clarkson, an always bankable actress has little on screen time, She must have dreamt of royalties for movies made for pimple face fans; dream on.  This movie gives Ms. Clarkson a blemish on her career.  I'd rather put up with family squabbles than sit through this shit.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU - WHY NOT, It's Fun!
Ironically, this film is about a family forced to be together for a week.  Jane Fonda plays the matriarch.  Her husband has just died and she insists her dysfunctional family, 3 sons (one played by the irresistible Justin Bateman) and one daughter (the irrepressible Tina Fey) sit shivah, mourn their father for a week under her roof.  The scene where the family goes to temple & the brothers get high in the synagogue is hilarious. The rabbi of their synagogue, their childhood friend, they still call Boner much to his chagrin.  Rose Byrne (the beautiful comedic actress) plays Bateman's zany, likable old flame.  Sparks fly after his marriage shatters when Bateman finds his wife in bed with his boss.  "That'll do it," says Bryne.  This movie is worth watching, especially if you're stuck inside with your mishuganah  family.        

LOCKE - See It!
LOCKE refers to Ivan Locke, the only actor we see in this well crafted British Drama.  The entire film is filmed inside Locke's car while driving to the hospital where a woman he had a 1 night stand with is about to give birth. This is an intense drama, heightened by the confined space & continuous calls. Locke's multiple conversations are with his family, work & the woman about to give birth to his child.  His life is unraveling at the seams.  He's fired for not being present at the site for a crucial cement pour. He confesses to his wife his affair & intent to do right by this child.  She hangs up without a good-bye.  Watching this film while locked in with your family makes claustrophobia more bearable.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Melinda's Top 10 Cultural Picks & Events in 2014

This is my top 10 list of cultural & special events in NYC from '2014 in alphabetical order:

Alvin Ailey Theater Dance Company - Still performing, don't miss The River & Bad Blood @ City Ctr

Banksy - Oct. brought a month of surprise works by the mysterious artist.

MoMA - Forever Now - Contemporary works from 2012-14 still on view.

Jewish Museum - Lee Krasner's & Norm Lewis' oil paintings.

Labyrinth Theater - A Sucker Emcee, autobiographical poetry rap.

New Museum - Paintings & sculptures by Chris Ofili still on view.

New York City Ballet - Sept. premiered Ratmansky's ballet "Pictures on Exhibition"

New York Philharmonic -Rouse's "Thunderstuck"

New York Yankees bid farewell to Derrick Jeter - Well deserved tribute & great way to end his career.

Shakesepeare in the Park - King Lear performed outdoors at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park.

Upright Comedy Brigade - Ronna & Beverly the funniest comedy duo, ever.

(okay 11)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Melinda's Top 10 Theater Picks in '2014

My 10 favorite theatrical events on & off Broadway in alphabetical order:

Beautiful - The Carol King Musical

City of Conversation - Politcal power play @ Lincoln Center

Father Comes Home from the War - Civil War play @ the Public by Pulitz. playwright S. Parks

Holler if Ya Hear Me - Musical based on Tupak Shakur's poems

Lady Day - Audra McDonald Tony winning performance as Billie Holiday

LBJ - Bryan Cranston as Pres. Johnson during the Civil Rights Movement & his run for election.

Mighty Real - Musical bio of disco star Sylvester who died of aids

Sex With Strangers - Anna Gunn as a writer trapped in a cabin with another writer.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime -Mystery solved by teen with Asperger's syndrome

The Elephant Man - Revival starring Bradley Cooper based on John Merrick






Melinda's Top 10 Movie Picks in 2014 are an Int'l Mix

This year my top 10 films that represent an international mix and ground breaking filmmaking.  In alphabetical order:

Belle - British film  True events in the mid 18th C that led to slavery being outlawed in the U.K.

Bethlehem - Israeli Film  A young Palestinian is torn between family & an Israeli intelligence officer.

Birdman - Michael Keaton gives a brilliant performance in an all star cast reviving a B'wy play.

Boyhood - Ground breaking movie that spans 12 years following the life a boy 6-18 yrs.

Honey - Italian film  Confronts the issues of euthanasia.

Keep on Keeping On - Doc. on the life of jazz trumpeter Terry Carter.

Land Ho - Icelandic film - Senior buddy road trip through the Iceland.

Le Passe - Iranian Dir. A. Farhadi's French film about a turbulent marriage.

The Lunchbox - A charming film from India that fortuitously connects people.

The Theory of Everything - British bio film on Stephen Hawking.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Alvin Ailey American Theater-All Ailey All Ellington, Alright Alright Alright!

Last night's Ailey program at City Center were pieces all choreographed by it's founder Alvin Ailey.  The music (albeit for Revelations) was by Duke Ellington.  Two geniuses whose works will remain  timeless and revered.  There simply are not enough accolades to describe the Ailey dancers.  They are without a doubt, the most talented, versatile, elegant & exciting dancers to watch.  Their performances will leave you astonished, inspired and wanting more.   On last night's program wasTHE RIVER, one of Mr. Ailey's pieces from the 1970's.  It is so luminescent & fresh it's amazing to consider how prescient it feels.  Mr. Ailey incorporates a lot of balletic moves in this stunning work.  The dancers  showcase their artistic skills & musicality merging both modern & classic styles.  The Ailey Co. is performing through the beginning of January with mixed programming of new works & iconic dances.  I strongly encourage everyone to see New York City's own world class Dance Theater Co.  My 10 favorite performances for 2014 will have Ailey atop the list.  

Chris Ofili is Back in a Big Way-NIGHT & DAY @ the New Museum

Back in 1999, then mayor Guiliani had time on his hands & his foot in his mouth.  Chris Ofili (b. Manchester 1968) a recent Turner prize recipient, had his sculpture, "The Holy Virgin Mary" at the Brooklyn Art Museum.   It was hailed as "disgusting and sick" by Guiliani.  Guiliani is entitled to his opinion & free speech but it was egregious for him to try (although unsuccessfully) to revoke $7 million in public funding to the Museum.  The mayor's vitriolic tirade precipitated the sculpture being desecrated and manure being splayed on the Art Museum.  Ofili's notoriety soared and his work became associated with implementing elephant dung and irreverent provocation.  Ofili vowed never to return to NY.  Thankfully, the New Museum is showing Ofili's strident & masterful works from the last 2 decades.  Do not be dismissive of this multi-talented painter, sculptor and current set & costume designer for the Royal Ballet.  The exhibit contains more than 30 of his strident paintings & arresting sculptures.  The 1st floor has Ofili's paintings with shlilacked mounds of excrement on the canvas & holding up the work.  Their titles appear on the dung requiring you to look down & closely at the work.  These paintings are magnificient, finely crafted and vexing.  These paintings cunningly appear like fine, shimmering beaded work.  The Blue Rider paintings are showcased in a dimly lit gallery and emit a magical, twilight affect.   Done in soulful blue tones, the haunting images quietly reveal themselves.  In 2001, Guiliani had to contend with the 9/11 tragedy.  Censorship of an artist's work seemed both minuscule & more meaningful, like day & night.    

Friday, December 12, 2014

Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World @ MoMA is Stellar

The FOREVER NOW: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World at MoMA are vibrant works brimming with jocularity.  None of the works pre-date 2012.  The contemporary by various artists share an explosive, uninhibited approach to art.  Before entering the exhibit, register the large glass panels stacked against the walls by Kerstin Bratsch (b. Germany.)  These dynamic pieces are kalaidescopes of  colors & forms.  Several of these works are compiled on top of one another.  This exhibit is a dazzling spectacle to immerse oneself.  Bratsch's large installation in the center gallery is a colossal assemblage of sculpture/painting, art assortment rendering itself accessible from umlimited vantages.  The philosophical, whimsical text reads "Did I do it myself - If so - Help me If not join me."  Her works defy classifications and imbues the observer as a participant in the work.  Oscar Murillo (b. Columbia) has several colorful collage/paintings plus a large painted canvas on the floor asking people to handle & fold into different arrangements.  The work becomes accessible and interactive.  Joe Bradley's collective figurative hieroglyphic paintings are the only subdued paintings.  However, they are simultaneously primitive & futuristic.  Most works are a pastiche of effervescent colors & materials.  Mary Weatherford (b. Amer.)  paintings are embedded with neon lights which represent the vibe of LA & NYC.   The last gallery with 3 large paintings by Michael Williams embrace color, new materials & technologies and asks, "Does it hurt to be crazy?'  FOREVER NOW are prescient feverish works that defy constraints & reflect what is happening at this moment in time.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Julliard DANCE presents 4 World Premiers

Last night was the opening dance program for the Julliard dance students.  Four new pieces made their world premiere by eminent contemporary choreographers.  Austin McCormick, Loni Landon, Kate Weare & Larry Kegwin.  All the choreographers worked directly with the students & were on hand to take a bow.  Both McCormick's work, "La Folia" and Loni Landon's "and then there was one," were accompanied by students in the Julliard music dept.  "And then there was one," was the one that I was most taken in with for its creativity & musicality.  The score for the string quartet was commissed by Jerome Begin.  Mr. Begin was present using a live electronic processing that resonated the score with a stirring melancholy.  Landon's collaborative choreography embraced a powerful sense of connection & isolation.  The dancers' eloquence & spatial relationships reverberated beautifully with every note.  In all the performances, the Julliard dance students danced with exuberance & a high degree of skill.  The program continues through Sunday and is NOT TO BE MISSED.    

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LOST LAKE by David Auburn starring John Hawkeshn

David Auburn is the Pulitize Prize, Tony Award winning playwright (PROOF '01)  LOST LAKE is a noteworthy 1 act 2 character play.  Veronica (Tracie Thoms) a no-nonesense negotiator contending for a summer rental in a "rustic" lake cabin not far from NYC.  Hogan (John Hawkes, Winter Bones & The Sessions) is broking the rental deal of his residence.  Hogan handles Veronica for more money but she's not buying his terms.  Hogan is an ingratiating and irritating "loser."  His interpretation of events & sense of boundaries are skewed.  Veronica's tolerance of his inappropriate comments & behaviors is enigmatic & problematic.   She calls him a freak & orders him out of the cabin she's now renting for a vacation with her son, daughter & daughter's friend.  Hogan confides his college age daughter with his ex has ex-communicated him and his brother & sister-in-law ordered him to stay away from his nieces. Still, he has unsolicited advise regarding Veronica's parenting skills.  Both actors spar, confide & commiserate with such skillful finness we become attached as they to form a connection.  Decency lies within each character.  Mistakes are made by both. Veronica strives to make amends & advises Hogan to try & correct his mistakes.  It would be a mistake to miss this engrossing & exceptionally well acted drama.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rangers March Penguins Out

The NY Rangers beat the Pittsburg Penguins in overtime @ MSG last night.  The Penguins had the only goal in the 1st period.  The Rangers came roaring back in the 2nd period to find the back of the Penguins' net.  The 3rd period the Rangers added a safety goal to make it 3-2.  It was a mch needed goal.  With less than 8 minutes to play, the Penguins scored 2 goals just minutes apart.  At the buzzer the score was tied 3-3.  Fearing the tides had turned towards the Penguins, the NY Rangers came out fighting to score the winning goal in a well played matchup.  Rangers came off the ice victorious & the Penguins waddled out.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

CUBISM-Lauder Collection @ MET-To Die For -Gifted upon Death?

Do NOT miss this jaw dropping Cubist exhibit consisting of more than 80 major works by the 4 preeminent artists whose artworks were key in the most influential art movement of the early 20th C.  Works by Picasso, Braque, Gris & Leger which have been held in the private Leonard Lauder.  This  collection is now on view to the public for the 1st time.  Don't even think about not seeing this remarkable, colossal, wonderment collection.   I did think about what is truly being gifted to the MET from the Lauder collection.  I noted several pieces that have been gifted this year to the MET but it's unclear whether the collection in its entirety has been promised to the MET.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.  Do see this rare exhibit of these master's works open til February.  We'll see what there is to see from this collection in the future.

The Babadook-Warning Do Not Look at the Book

The Babadook is a disturbing horror film that blurs the ghostly line between knock out terror and a  mental breakdown.  Australian dir/sreenwriter Jennifer Kent has made a bonafide nightmare that comes to life on screen & under your skin.  Widowed mother, Amelia, is stressed to the max working & caring for her deeply disturbed young son, Sam.  Both actors are completely convincing which makes this film incredibly unsettling.  Sam, a precocious unruly child, has been spurned by other children, teachers & relatives.  Every day is a struggle & every night there's a ritual of checking under the bed for monsters. Nevertheless, every night a terrorized Sam runs into his mother's bed.  What's a mother to do with a son  so completely out of control?  Sam appears to be dragging his mother down the rabbit hole & putting glass into her food.  This is a well crafted film that is uncomfortably treacherous.  Most disturbing is the mother's building terror & repulsion towards her son.  I left before the boogie man got me.  Not because I don't like a believable fright flick but because it makes me sick watching a parent lose her grip on reality & the love for her child.    

Cezanne's Portraits of His Wife-Defy Her Being the Love of His Life

Madame Cezanne is the subject of the Paul Cezanne (b. France 1839-1906) exhibit @ the MET.  Recognized for his landscape paintings, Cezanne produced a prolific body of still life paintings & portraits.  The greater number of Cezanne's portraits were of his wife, Hortense.  A picture may paint a thousand words, perhaps more than the amount of words exchanged between Cezanne & his estranged wife.  For more than 20 years, Cezanne used Hortense as his model.  After Hortense gave birth to  Cezanne's only child, Paul Jr. they were married.  Cezanne, being a devout Roman Catholic remained married to Cezanne although they lived apart.  Hortense was not embraced by Cezanne's family or friends.  Financial constraints and a shortage of available models availed Hortense to her husband's work.  The  24 oil paintings vary greatly with settings & painting styles but Hortense's rigid expression remained consistent.  Her expressions appear remote and unfriendly.  Her hair is pulled back in a severe style except for a very young portrait with her hair loose & one from '1892.  In 1902, Cezanne made Paul Jr. his sole benefactor.  Cezanne's exquisite paintings of his wife do not portray a model of happy life.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

ZERO @ Guggenheim, Transformative Works by Mack, Pienn & Uecker

ZERO is the art group founded by German artists Heinz Mack, Otto Piene & Gunther Uecker in the late 1950's-mid 60's.  The name was chosen as Piene explained to represent "a zone of silence and pure possibilities for a new beginning as the countdown when rockets take off." Together these artists experimented with paintings using fire, monochromatic color schemes and architectural forms on canvas & spatial relationships.  There are numerous works by Uecker.  His intriguing works entail hammered nails into canvases & structures producing an illusion of movement and strength.  Mack & Piene sculptures utilize both mechanical movement and reflective materials that create a kinetic sense & optical illusions.  The ingenious & arresting works by these three German artists maintain a contemporary aesthetic.  The exhibit represents works by 40 other artists from 10 other countries from the post WWII era.  The two other artists whose works stood out for me were, French artist Yves Klein's monochromatic blue paintings and Italian artist Enrico Castellani's architectual paintings.  The combined artwork from the group Zero exudes energy, strength & broached new frontiers.  

PUNK ROCK by British Playwright Simon Stephens

PUNK ROCK the play closing at the Lucille Lortel Theater on Sunday, is a frenetic mess.  The rebellious theme of sex, drugs & rock & roll has now become  bullying, mental illness & gun violence.  Tackling these pervasive & unsettling issues by award winning playwright Simon Stephens (Curious Incident of the Dog) in his latest drama, attempts to address these matters.  Unfortunately, the play's characters' bombastic & rapid fire dialogue deluge what might have proved a provocative, topical  performance.  The one act, one set play takes place in an abandoned room in a private high school commandeered by 6 students.  New student Lily is simultaneously welcomed & interrogated by William whose erratic line of questioning sets a manic tone.  Fellow classmates include: a sexually demonstrative couple, Bennett & Cissy, Chadwick, the focus of of Bennett's cruel bullying, Tanya, overweight & outging and handsome Nicholas.  Tanya admirably tells Bennett to stop tormenting Chadwick who responds by spitting in her face.  Bennett's svengali hold upon his classmates is vile & outrageous.  Scenes are broken up by fevered pitched interludes of loud music, strobing lights & grotesquely masked characters.  The unsettling actions masque the climatic violent rampage & fail to provide any insight.  I commend the explosive contemporary issues tackled, but, I do not recommend the play.  The play's shock values titillate but demean their seriousness.