Saturday, May 29, 2010

Don Quixote, American Ballet Theatre

I was so thoroughly delighted by this afternoon's matinee performance of Don Quixote. The American Ballet Theatre production was joyous and exuberant. Utterly beautiful and transporting, despite the silliness of the plot.

The plot here is just basically an excuse for a dance, something that props up these gorgeous performances and provides a kind of overall structure (as well as a motif for the wonderful costumes). I didn't know there was such thing as comic ballet, but apparently there is. In any event, I ignored the comedy and was swept up with the stunning, charismatic dancers who were bursting with joy.

My favorite part was the extended dream sequence, which was such a beautiful example of classical ballet. Just perfect.

Choreographed by Petipa and Gorsky, music by Minkus. The principal dancers were fucking amazing. Ximoara Reyes as Kitri was incredibly charming, and Herman Cornejo as Basilio was incredible as well. David LaMarche conducted.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Synecdoche, New York

A few nights ago I watched Synecdoche, NY for the second time. I am not sure when I first saw this movie, but it took my breath away both times. There simply isn't anything as brilliant. Nothing as beautiful and imaginative and haunting and visceral. On both viewings I found it incredibly difficult to sit through because each scene is so intense and resonates so deeply in so many ways.

I'm trying to think of the moments that were most captivating and resonant. The early depictions of the marriage, the meanness and isolation of it. The way time flew by, the pacing was horrifying. The sadness between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Samantha Morton's characters, the inability to be lovers despite the deep and true connection. The horror of losing his daughter, reading her diary as she grew up, listening to her become strange and tattooed. The disturbing love affair between his German daughter and his wife's friend (although depicting lesbianism as sinister is a little problematic to me); the dead flowers flaking from her tattoo. Samantha Morton's burning house. The multiplicity of selves and realities, the confusions between versions of people and the people themselves. The pain of seeing a lost love find happiness. Diane Weist's voice narrating his descent to loneliness, his walk toward death...

The whole film, brilliant, breathtaking, beautiful and terrifying.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crazy Heart

Watched Crazy Heart. It's slow and sweet and has a very simple storyline. It's actually rather uninteresting, but what makes it work is Jeff Bridges. His performance is very tempered; he doesn't milk it. But it's still somehow quietly wonderful.

The movie is about an aging alcoholic country singer who falls in love with a young woman and the two have a brief relationship that he ends up fucking up. Unfortunately, there wasn't particularly strong chemistry between Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhall. They were kind of good together, I mean, I could totally see why it was a great casting decision. But somehow they didn't totally pull it off. I love both of them, but there just wasn't quite a dynamic spark. Still, they conveyed the strong connection, even if it wasn't that sexy or compelling. Sometimes it's incredibly poignant when two isolated people connect, no matter in what way, and that definitely came across...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Earlier this evening I watched Looking for Mr. Goodbar on Netflix Watch Instantly.

It was on my mind because the other night I tried to watch something called John & Mary, a 1969 movie staring Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman playing two young people who picked each other up at a singles bar. So old movies about the seedy singles scene were on my mind.

I know I had seen Looking for Mr. Goodbar at some point as a kid or teenager (in fact, I'm fairly certain I read the book in junior high), but I don't know how I would have seen it. Would they have shown it on TV back then?

Anyway, this is a kind of weird ass flick. On the surface it's a cautionary tale about single women pursuing their rights to sexual freedom. It's about a young woman who leaves home, teaches deaf children by day, and cruises bars for sex at night. She is very into her sexuality, but has no desire for a relationship of any kind. In her quest for sex she lets a lot of dangerous characters into her life and her apartment, and in the end she is murdered (by a self loathing violent gay man).

There are many cheesy scenes and awkward edits, but it's kind of an interesting movie nonetheless.

I found the main character, played by Diane Keaton, difficult to relate to. Her lack of interest in relationships (romantic or otherwise) just felt kind of perplexing to me, and I couldn't help reading her as highly defended and bizarrely stubborn. Perhaps it's just the old fashioned romantic in me that has to interpret anyone who rejects intimacy as therefore being incapable of it (and thus represents a character flaw). Or whatever.

The other sad commentary concerned the men, who were all idiots, crazies, and assholes. In a way the movie raises the question, what's a sexually liberated woman supposed to do if all the men out there are stupid narcissists?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars

Just watched Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel: Under the Stars, a DVD of their concerts in Wales. The disc has two separate concerts, one of Broadway hits and one of classical hits.

The Broadway is just AWFUL. They both look uncomfortable and their classical singing voices sound weird on the Gershwin and Sondheim. I was very disappointed.

The classical program, however, is amazing. They both look like they are having a blast. Terfel in particular can't seem to suppress a smile. None of the arias were familiar to me, but they were all gorgeous. And I'm now officially in love with Renee Fleming.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Little Children

I just finished reading Tom Perrotta's Little Children, which I gobbled up in a couple of days. I had seen the movie already, a few years ago I guess, and normally don't like to read books when I've seen the movie (although I love seeing movies when I've read the book). I guess because it relates to my research I felt like it would be good for me to check out the book.

The book is very, very much like the movie. The director and screenwriter clearly stuck very closely to the original. I had liked the movie a lot, and enjoyed the novel just as much. I felt very absorbed in the lives of these unhappy, immature suburban parents, and appreciated Perrotta's insights and observations. In spite of how riveted I was, though, now that I've finished reading it it feels vaguely nothingish, like the overall effect wasn't quite as good as the parts.

Perrotta apparently wrote Election, which was a movie I absolutely loved. There's something mean-spirited and cold in both Election and Little Children, each populated with not-quite likable self-absorbed and immature characters...


I saw Armida this afternoon at BAM (live in HD) with Meridita and Odetta.

As much as I love Renee Fleming, who stars in Armida, I have to say I had mixed feelings about this opera.

All the performances (six tenors and Fleming) were wonderful, and there were some stunningly beautiful moments (particularly at the end), but the story wasn't that interesting and the production (Mary Zimmerman) was rather weird and confusing. Something just seemed off to me about the costumes and the sets and the use of the chorus. For instance, the cat-like demons that the sorceress Armida commands seemed both creepy and comical at the same time. The wood nymphs, played by the chorus, had cheap little wings affixed to their backs that looked like they came off of bumble-bee costumes from Woolworth's.

There was a long and interesting ballet in the second act which I enjoyed a lot, but which didn't seem to fit in stylistically with the rest of the opera. It seemed to have a different tone than the rest of the piece. The ballet was interesting though, and I very much enjoyed watching it.

The lead tenor was sung by Lawrence Brownlee, and he was amazing. Other tenors included Barry Banks, who sang two roles, and who Meridita and I have seen in at least one other Met production this season.

The live HD screening included interviews with the performers that I enjoyed -- they give you a glimpse into the professionalism and artistry of the singers.

All in all, Armida is the weirdest opera I've seen yet.