Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris

Last night I saw I Love You Phillip Morris. It is a gay love story about two men who meet in prison, starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.

It is basically a romantic comedy, that has an odd edge to it's tone. Jim Carrey plays a compulsive con-man, and his performance is typically manic. Charming yet inaccessible. Which is perfect for his character. Ewan McGregor's character is sweeter, more vulnerable, but ultimately not very well developed.

I liked the movie overall. It was entertaining and pleasant, and it was great to see a gay male love story in a mainstream movie, and there were some great scenes. But basically there was no emotional core to it and I don't think it worked. There are a couple of scenes toward the end where, if the movie was hitting it's mark, I should have been crying. But it didn't hit me hard. I felt more like I was watching a narrative wind itself up (if that makes any sense).

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters is extraordinary!

The characters are all so wonderfully drawn; I fell in love with every one of them. I enjoyed reading this so much, and felt like these were all my friends.

I was particularly moved by the relationships between the family at Hamley Hall. The old cantankerous, moody, sentimental and conflicted squire totally captured my heart.

Each of the characters, from the charming and droll Lady Harriet, to the unpleasantly vain Mr Preston, the spoiled yet good Osborne, the concerned spinsters, etc... each of them was so endearing because they were all flawed. Mrs. Gibson, hysterically so, and Cynthia, poignantly so. In fact, Cynthia was so sympathetic to me, because it seemed her inner flaws would prevent her from ever being happy. True of her mother Mrs. Gibson as well, but it seemed that Cynthia had the insight to see what was missing, whereas Mrs. Gibson existed in a fog of self-absorption.

The most stalwartly good characters, Molly, Mr. Gibson, and Roger, were no less lovable for their perfection.

Gaskell died before she finished Wives and Daughters, and it was disappointing to read the rushed ending tacked on by the editor. But she had been very close to finishing, and it was easy to see how the ends would have been tied together. I loved this book and will miss keeping company with all the delightful people of Hollingford.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

True Grit

I LOVED True Grit, the Coen brothers movie I saw with my mom on Christmas day.

It's a remake of a western about a 14-year old girl seeking to avenge her father's death. She hires Jeff Bridges, a drunken and slurring and ruthless marshal to hunt down the killer. The two of them spar in dry clipped observations and character assassinations that are hysterical. Matt Damon plays a comic foil.

The dialogue in this movie is superb, and adds a wonderfully surprising bite to the violence and drama and adventure. I didn't expect to like True Grit at all, but I was tense and riveted and entertained for every moment of it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pelleas et Melisande

Last night I saw Pelleas et Melisande at the Met. This 1902 Debussy opera is stiflingly atmospheric, grim and ethereal.

The narrative, about an old prince, his young bride, and her romantic attachment to his brother, has an abstract symbolic quality to it that made it difficult to emotionally connect with.

The music was beautiful and complex, and there were many interesting moments where there were no vocals, just stretches of music where the performers froze in a tableau and the set moved in a circle, hauntingly slow, mesmerizing, aesthetically pleasing, (yet still somehow emotionally alienating).

A few scenes of note: this strange extended moment when Melisande leans awkwardly out a window so that her long, somewhat straggly hair can brush against Palleas and they can each fondle themselves.

Then there was another physically awkward and dramatically tense moment when Melisande's husband has his nine year old son on his shoulders peeking into Melisande's bedroom. The young boy, by the way, had a BEAUTIFUL voice, and his performance was the most captivating and satisfying to me.

Simon Rattle conducted, and Stéphane Degout, Magdalena Kožená, and Gerald Finley sang the leads.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rachel Maddow at the 92nd Street Y

Last night I went to a live taping of The Rachel Maddow Show at the 92nd Street Y.

It was so fun! I can't quite describe the mild thrill of participating in a live television event.

It was particularly cool because so much important news happened yesterday. Specifically, Obama signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The audience was super enthusiastic, and it was just a great a feeling.

Rachel Maddow is very poised and charismatic and brilliant and it was terrific being able to see her live.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Paul Thek at The Whitney

After seeing The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, I took the Madison Avenue bus up to The Whitney to see the Paul Thek retrospective.

I had never heard of this artist before, but a friend is a big fan and told me to check out the show.

I liked his work a lot, but was much, much more drawn to the sculptures and installations that I was to the drawings and paintings.

He is famous for a sculpture series called Meat Pieces, and these were my favorite. Shiny, wet and ultra real, these visceral sculptures of meat have a vivid, super alive presence to them. Icky, strange, confusing and gorgeously hideous.

His installations were made of pieces of hospital-like furniture, with pulleys and fixtures on them, slabs of meat, and dead birds. These works have a sense of decay and destruction, violence and loss to them.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes!

At 9 this morning I saw The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

Even though I knew it would be tacky as shit, I actually had high hopes for this show. I was looking forward to being swept up by the over-the-top spectacle. And, as spectacle, it was pretty damn good. The production was very state of the art, and they really do give a lot of bang for your buck.

But I have to say, even thought the dancing was great, the choreography was predictable and the music was pretty insipid. The Christmas theme was, obviously, hackneyed, and each number (excellent as they all were), just seemed like more of the same.

Okay, that sounds horribly negative, and I don't mean to be big ole Scrooge. I did in fact enjoy myself; it was good fun, and it was great to finally see what is basically a New York institution.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Black Swan

I am trying to figure out what I thought of Black Swan, which I saw last night. Directed by Darren Aranofsky, it stars Natalie Portman who is in every scene.

Black Swan is about a sweet, highly disciplined, but emotionally stunted ballet dancer, a soloist in (presumably) ABT who is performing in Swan Lake (which I hate to say I've never seen). It is an odd, haunting, and confusing psychological thriller that explores the dancer's coming of age and coming to artistry.

Interestingly, her repressed sexuality takes center stage, and her growth as an artist hinges on owning her sexuality -- a feat which also involves an intense struggle for autonomy with her domineering and creepy mother (played brilliantly and scarily by Barbara Hershey). These themes were drawn very broadly, and if it wasn't so interestingly and masterfully filmed it would have felt cartoonish.

Black Swan is also a horror film dealing with inner demons in a stunningly, frighteningly, visceral way. The dancer's body cannot be trusted -- hideousness lies beneath.

I was riveted by Natalie Portman's performance, but I also felt something was missing. Her delicate face registered a large handful of emotions, but I'm not sure there was a there there. On the other hand, that is kind of a crucial feature of the character -- she is so effaced by her own discipline and fear of power...

I guess I liked the movie; I feel kind of confused and unsure, though, of what I really thought. Part of me feels a need to be able to say what it is "about". I think that the heart of the story is about female competition and its viciousness; the price of victory: devastatingly high.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Last night I went to an opening night performance at Dixon Place of Let Them Eat Cake: A Gay Marriage in One Act with Confections, written by Miss Holly Hughes, Miss Megan Carney, and Miss Moe Angeloes.

This event was so much fun! It centers around a gay marriage (duh, right there in the subtitle) and the exuberant performers articulated all sides of the "issue" -- still it wasn't too "issue-y". It made you think, made you feel, made you laugh... (corny but true).

The piece is also very interactive; the audience is invited into the action which created a sense of collaboration and community which was actually rather moving, given the theme.