Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Foul Play

I LOVED Foul Play when I was a kid. Seriously I thought it was BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS. Cannot emphasize enough how much I loved this movie.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about watching it again after all these years ("years"? -- who am I kidding? It's *decades*). But I wasn't sure exactly what I was in the mood for and I saw it was available on Watch Instantly, and I thought, "why not?"

So, while I didn't actually laugh out loud once (and I think it had me peeing in my pants when I was a kid), I was smiling the whole time and really appreciated all the quirky little charming moments. Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase are so young and so charismatic, and there is really delightful chemistry between them. The story may be ridiculous, but each scene (with the exception of the unending speed car thing) sparkled. Particularly memorable was Dudley Moore as an insecure pervy guy.

All in all, I think Foul Play holds up.

(Another favorite movie of mine from this era was Heaven Can Wait, which in addition to being BRILLIANT and HILARIOUS I also thought was DEEP)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New York Philharmonic

Last night was, I believe, my first time ever in Avery Fisher Hall. I've used the bathrooms there a couple of times, actually, but, to the best of my knowledge, have never been in the hall itself.

A friend had tickets to the New York Philharmonic, which I've only ever seen in Central and Prospect Park concerts.

The program was all Stravinsky: Jeu de cartes (Game of Cards); Symphony of Psalms (with the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theare); and L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird, complete). I very much enjoyed the music which was beautiful and exciting. As gorgeous and interesting as it was, I think I most enjoy classical music when it danced or sung to, as in ballet (or modern dance, even) and opera. But my musical tastes are definitely expanding and last night was a wonderful treat.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Meth Epidemic

Last night I watched PBS Frontline's The Meth Epidemic and I have to say it was a lurid, demonizing fear-mongering piece of sensationalized journalism. It may have provided some useful information on the spread of the use of the drug, its manufacturing, and the legal issues surrounding control of it, but it seemed like the main point was to show the devastation on human lives, and it did so in this way that completely demonized users and somehow seemed to play on stereotypes of "white trash". I thought it was pretty awful. Also, I'm really sick of that Frontline voice-over guy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jane Eyre

Last night I watched the 1996 version of Jane Eyre directed by Franco Zeffirelli and staring Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Hurt.

Maybe it's that the story is so familiar to me, but I wasn't that drawn into it. Actually, I think it's possible I saw this version when it came out in the theaters, but I'm not sure. It hit every note very well, I thought. And I was rather taken by the acting. Although, I found a Gainsbourg's Jane a little too remote and sedate. I love Charlotte Gainsbourg and thought it was an interesting portrayal of the character, but it wasn't quite a likeable portrayal.

All in all, I thought it was very good, but something was missing for me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Toast in the House of Friends

I don't know what to say about Akilah Oliver's A Toast in the House of Friends. It is a deeply personal, intellectually and emotionally evocative collection of poems that bring you into the heart, mind and body of woman alive, filled with acute sorrow; a thoughtful, desiring subject whose use of language is so sophisticated, so intimate, so controlled, and so utterly beautiful that I can only stand in awe.

So much of the work spoke to me, it seems impossible to quote any part that would adequately convey the mystery and beauty of each poem, or the perfection of the volume as a whole -- the poems work so wonderfully together; it is an exquisitely structured book.

But I'll give it a shot:

Fib #99

walking early this cold morning when I could no longer bear
the simple and sad gloom that laced my discontent, the sky
as grimace or some kind of anguish: similar to a woman's
face: in this case, entirely arbitrary woman's: woman as
totalizing term: the essential grimace: a falling away from
youth: a mirror cold recognition, slight panic, tubercular
temporal, the unconscious reaching for the breast, a
reassurance: sexy this intimacy of gesture = a kind of holding
one's own meaning. what if when it finally betrays me or I
it I am unready to let go. the most ordinary happenings
negotiate their own permanence: this I think I will
remember when I am there in it now.

From our good day:

... it looks like the hearts on a valentine's day card or one of those you made from construction paper in third grade when the teacher was nice to you and you wrote a story about you don't know what and she said it was good and you felt visible. the sadness is that shape.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last night I watched a 1981 opera movie of Rigoletto which was fabulous.

True there was a slight cheesy 80s quality, but other than that... I was pretty riveted and blown away.

The story concerns a bitter hunchback/jester who is mocked at the court of the Duke whom he serves. The Duke is a cad, a remorseless seducer of women, and Rigoletto has hidden his daughter from him. However the court learns that Rigoletto has a "mistress" and they begin to devise a plot to toy with him. In the meantime the Duke has actually met the daughter, Gilda, and they seem to have fallen in love. She at least has fallen madly in love with him. The men of the court abduct her to play a trick on Rigoletto, and it appears that she is ravished by the Duke. When Rigoletto finds out, he vows revenge, and goes to a local low life to set a trap to murder him. When Gilda discovers the trap, she places herself in its way and she ends up murdered. The opera ends with Rigoletto discovering her body.

It's all actually more intense than I have described. Rigoletto is not a completely sympathetic character. On one hand he suffers terribly and loves his daughter utterly. On the other he is bitter and vengeful and a bit maniacal.

In any event, the absolute most amazing part of this opera is the music. I fell in love right away. I think I might like Verdi more than, or at least as much as, Mozart. I really loved it. In fact I'm going to put the DVD in again now just to hear it while I bead.

In this production Ingvar Wixell sang Rigoletto and was marvelous. Edita Gruberova was fucking amazing as Gilda. She had an extraordinary voice. And Luciano Pavarotti was the Duke, and he was pretty fucking awesome as well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Julie and Julia

Watched Julie and Julia on Watch Instantly last night while I worked on beading two tape dispensers.

I know everyone -- I mean everyone -- has said that the Julie half of the movie is terribly annoying and the Julia half is just great. And I agree that the Julia Child part was fabulous. Meryl Streep disappeared into the role and you just fell totally in love with Julia Child. But I didn't find the Julie part that bad. Yes, she was whiny and kind of insipid, but I actually appreciated the way the two stories were juxtaposed, and I don't know that Julia part would have worked so much on its own, without the framing device of Julie's immersion in her work, her love of cooking and her discovery, late in life, of what she was truly good at.

In fact, what I liked the most about the movie was how deeply it took you into the love of cooking, and I know it's super-duper corny, but the overall message of how rewarding and important it is to find something you love to do and not let go. Of course, it apparently helps to have a wonderful, patient, supportive husband...

All in all I liked the movie as a whole and wasn't that bothered by the self-indulgent Julie character.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Group show at Figureworks

Tonight I went to a group show, "10 Years of Figureworks" celebrating the gallery's 10th birthday and featuring the work of ten artists who exhibit there regularly.

Works by Jorge Alvarez, Howard Eisman, Bonnie Faulkner, Fred Hatt, Meridith McNeal, Doug Meltzler, Arlene Morris, Audrey Rhoda, Jacquelyn Schiffman, and Mary Westring all reference the figure in some way, yet each of the works was very unique and personal. The show was expertly curated, and each piece was given enough space to be seen on its own at the same time that they all spoke to each other and worked well together.

Outstanding was Meridith McNeal's life-sized dress made from the score and libretto of Les Contes d'Hoffmann. The dress is titled "Giulietta" , after the courtesan who trifles with Hoffmann's affection in order to win a diamond. McNeal's dress, which allows the viewer to read parts of the score and libretto, is trimmed with deep red velvet ribbon and white lace, and is subtly ornamented with rhinestone jewels. It's simple, elegant, and truly stunning.

The Magic Flute

Last night, thanks to the wonderful generosity of a dear friend, I was able to see the Julie Taymor production of Mozart's Die Zauberflote at the Met.

As I've learned this year, I absolutely love Mozart. Le Nozze de Figaro had me hooked. The music in The Magic Flute was just as delightful.

The fantastical fairy story didn't draw me in as much as the more dramatic operas I've seen (ie, Der Rosenkavalier, Madama Butterfly, etc), but the costumes and staging were so wonderfully imaginative and magical. Between the quirky, clever, beautiful visuals, and the delightful, rich, virtuosity of the music, I was thoroughly transported. I felt so privileged to be there last night, and I was pleased to be able to bring my mom. Taymor's production was really very special, with delightful puppetry, such as bears made of giant sheets... I can't quite describe all the visual flourishes...

None of the names of the performers rung a bell for me. My favorites were the two sopranos (Julia Kleiter as Pamina, and Albina Shagimuratova who brought the house down with her Queen of the Night), and the bass (Hans-Peter Konig as Sarastro). The other players were Nathan Gunn as Papageno and Matthew Polenzani as Tamino. Adam Fischer conducted.

Oh, and most fantastic were the three boys who played the angels or spirits that guided Tamino and Papageno. They had the most angelic voices and were so poised and sweet. Their costumes were amazing as well. They were dressed in tidy-whities, with white paint all over their bodies, but with black symbols running up the sides of their legs and arms. Then wore these thin, very long white beards and had spiky white hair. They were truly ethereal..

Also, with Strauss' Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier under my belt, I can now say that I'm fully comfortable with opera sung in German!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Bruise

Magdalena Zurawski's novel The Bruise is so beautiful.

It's written in this soft unrelenting rhythm. The voice of the narrator focused on conveying the nuances of thought. It's intoxicating in its use of repetition, and it has a dreamy quality, at the same time that there is this solid substance there, which is about observing all the senses and trying to find the meaning in sensory experience. She so thoughtfully scrutinizes everything she encounters, every tree, every poem, every work of art. It is very much an existential coming of age story. And the prose is just stunning.

"My ghost followed me so closely that if for instance I moved my arm to grab an apple I had not only the feeling of the apple in my hand but also the feeling of watching someone's arm grab an apple so that I felt both that it was my arm grabbing the apple and not my arm grabbing the apple. Something that so clearly should have felt like my own experience seemed both to be my own experience and the experience of another person who I never was able to reach but always seemed able to watch."

"I could hear it now as if it were inside me and maybe it was. The hum echoing an emptiness as if my rib cage were a house made to hold nothing."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I had really wanted to see Fantastic Mr. Fox when it was in the theaters, but didn't get a chance to. I had been very excited about seeing how Wes Anderson would do a puppet-animated children's story, thinking it would whimsical and precious, but not in a bad way.

I just watched it at home, and it *was* whimsical and precious, and not in a bad way. Everything about it, the look, the tone, the pacing, the characters, was 100% Wes Anderson, and if you like his movies, there's no reason not to like this.

And I liked it. I really did. But I wasn't blown away by it, you know? I enjoyed every moment but kind of felt relieved when it was over. Somehow it never became more to me than a vehicle for Wes Anderson to be Wes Anderson, and I guess that ended up being a little bit of a problem for me.

I'm curious what children, who don't know the director's work, thought of it. I imagine kids would love it, because they wouldn't be experiencing the redundancy of his aesthetics, just enjoying the story...

I read with Chesley Hicks and Shelly Oria

Last night I read my own poetry at Barbes in a reading curated by Nelly Reifler and that included Chesley Hicks and Shelly Oria.

It's pretty weird to use this blog space to write about myself, but I'll just say, I was really pleased with how it went. I didn't have a nervous breakdown, I was confident in the work, and it seemed like it was well-received, so good for me!(I read three poems, one which was quite long).

Chesley Hicks is a memoirist who shared part of a larger work that concerns revisiting the circumstances surrounding her parents' death in a plane crash when she was a child. The section she read was riveting. It was written with a certain degree of emotional distance that somehow added to the intensity of what she was describing. I can't wait to read the whole memoir.

Shelly Oria read three short stories that were the kind of fiction I really love, somewhat experimental in form, but without letting it become *about* experimentation. The three pieces were savvy and sexy and smart, and I totally wanted to hear more!

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic reading, and I was honored to be part of it. Nelly Reifler does an amazing job putting people together whose work echoes each other in some ways. I thought all three of us wrote in voices that are on one hand vulnerable and confessional, and on the other hand distanced and "writerly" (meant in the best sense of the word). I thought it all worked very well together.

Also, I know it's weird to use a picture of myself in the post, but I didn't have a camera and a friend of mine took this one of me...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

EV Day

Earlier this evening I had a very special treat: I got to see the EV Day installation at the David H. Koch Theater.

Costumes from the New York City Opera were used as the basis for these suspended pieces, which Day describes as "exploding couture."

Thirteen gorgeous and ghostly works were hung between "hoops" at different levels throughout the theater's promenade. Unfortunately I could not get a decent image of any of these stunning pieces.

In her artist statement Day writes: "I make sculptures that transform familiar icons of women's empowerment and entrapment into new objects that confound conventional readings of these cliches, and constellate meaning in a range of emotions: anxiety, ecstasy, liberation, and release. When City Opera's General Manager and Artistic Director George Steel asked me if I'd be interested in making art using costumes from the archives, I was thrilled because recurring themes in my work -- explosion, velocity, spectacle -- have an energy that might be termed 'operatic.'"

I could completely feel the range of emotions she speaks of, particularly the anxiety and the release. My only criticism is that taken together, the shape of the pieces (suspended in tubular space between hoops) was a little redundant and almost limiting. Still, this is truly a special exhibition. I'm really pleased that I got to see it because this evening was the *only* time that it was open to the general public.

William Kentridge

Holy shit, I totally loved the William Kentridge exhibit at MOMA.

This shit is fucking gorgeous and depressing and layered and deeply human, deeply political, deeply, deeply sad.

The bleak, mournful images depict anguish and violence, but there is an unrelenting, inconsolable sense of sadness, loss and isolation. I found much of the films hard to watch; it was kind of hard to breathe, like being in someone else's nightmare. And yet there was so much beauty, so much delicacy to every moment, which bled right into the next.

I didn't read any of the exhibition copy, and am not that familiar with Kentridge. I would have appreciated the contextualization that the museum text would provide, but the exhibition was so crowded and I didn't feel patient. Also, because there were so many films -- many of which I didn't watch -- this show takes rather a long time to "see."

My favorite film was "History of the Main Complaint" and I was utterly transfixed, almost paralyzed by the installation of nine separate films shown at once titled "I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine," which was pounding and syncopated and overwhelming. I also liked the large scale pen and ink works titled "Walking Man" and "Telephone Lady."

Kentridge's work on opera was what drew me to the show, but I found the drawings related to The Magic Flute and The Nose were the least compelling parts (except The Nose pieces that were used in "I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine).