Sunday, June 24, 2012

Boshoi Ballet Live in HD at BAM

This morning I went to see The Bolshoi Ballet performing Raymonda in HD at BAM. The live screening from Russia was kind of exciting, as I had thought this would be a Met production.

However, the event unfortunately was kind of a sucky experience.

Seeing ballet up close in high definition is kind of intense, and maybe not always ideal. In this case, being able to see the dancers tremble and slightly miss their footing on lands made me tense, and it felt more like watching an athletic event than dancing. Part of this was also due to the fact that I was not at all moved by the music and I just wasn't responding to the ballet on an artistic level.

During the first intermission we headed out for a bite to eat a nearby cafe that was also sucky (terrible service, bones in my omelet, weak coffee). We returned late in the second act and during the next intermission we decided to bail. We had had our taste of High Definition Bolshoi Ballet, and didn't need to fill ourselves up on this particular piece of cultural fare.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Keb Mo and Natalia Zukerman

Last night I saw Keb Mo perform at Celebrate. It had been thunderstorming on and off all afternoon and evening, and it looked like it wouldn't be feasible, the outdoor concert.

Natalia Zukerman opened for him, and she was a great folk singer. But it started raining when he came on the stage. This was kind of bummer. He was great, though. Sang a lot of songs from the album I love, Just Like You. His voice has changed since then. More gravelly.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Year

Mike Leigh's Another Year is well done portrait of several characters. It is paced well, slowly but steadily, and lightly, but seriously, illuminates the misery of a few of them.

Another Year is about a happily married older couple who attract unhappy and rather hopeless single people. Their friend Mary is the center of the story, and her desperation, social and emotional incompetence, and self absorbed neediness are portrayed by Leigh with tremendous compassion.

In fact, I was left feeling more for the people orbiting the happily couple than for them themselves, as by the end their cool support and nonjudgmental noninterventionist stance made them, as a family, seem oblivious and impenetrable. In fact, towards the end, the woman, Gerri, says firmly to Mary, "This is my family; you have to understand that", calmly but sternly setting a boundary that leaves the lone and lonely just as they are.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Balkan Beat Box

I was excited to see Balkan Beat Box on the Celebrate Brooklyn schedule this year. I had heard this band as the score for Gallim Dance, at Fall for Dance two years ago. I liked them so much I bought one of their albums (Nu Med) which is now a listening staple.

So last night Balkan Beat Box performed in the park and they were FANTASTIC. Really exactly as I had imagined. The highest energy and joy and rage and wonderful, wonderful, complex ecstatic music.

Guess I have to get their new album.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Laura Marling and Michael Kiwanuka

Last night I went to a Laura Marling concert in Prospect Park. I hadn't heard of her, but the Celebrate brochure copy on her intrigued me, and I was hoping for a folksy Beth Orton type. She had a lovely voice and sweet, smart lyrics. But the overall effect was just okay for me, nothing special.

Marling was preceded by Michael Kiwanuka, who I had also never heard of, and who I thought was fantastic. Very soulful, searing singing style (sorry for the alliteration there). He had a wonderful presence and a great mix of roots, soul, folk, and rock. I will definitely keep an eye out for him in the future.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

127 Hours

I was prepared for the intensity of 127 Hours, the movie based on the experiences of the hiker who got his arm caught in a boulder and had to saw it off with a pocket knife to save himself.

The movie was very well filmed and executed. It sustained the tension and momentum, even though it had such a simple narrative arc, and even though you knew the ending.

I had major shpilkies throughout, and couldn't watch the part where he actually cuts off his arm. In spite of that, it wasn't quite as horrific as I expected (the hallucinations weren't exploited for horror effect, and the sense of starving and dying of thirst were not quite as intense as I thought it would be).

James Franco was excellent, and it's definitely a good flick.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The IHOP Papers

Ali Liebegott's The IHOP Papers is FANTASTIC.

I just finished reading it and I miss the narrator already.

A wry and amusing voice, very self aware. Great story about a terribly nervous/neurotic young lesbian in San Francisco back in the days where people left messages on each others answering machines.

Terrific read.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I was very disappointed in Snow White and the Huntsman, the new movie starring Charlize Theron (who I think is fabulous) and Kristen Stewart (who I know nothing about).

I suppose I should not have expected anything more than B flick schlock, but the reviews and the trailer deceived me, leading me to believe it might be intense and dramatic and scary and interesting.

Instead I felt like I was watching TV of the Xena and the Warrior Princess ilk, the likes of which I have never gotten into. Oh well.

Jasper de Beijer at Asya Geisberg Gallery

Wow, what a powerful show! The Jasper de Beijer exhibition, Marabunta, at Asya Geisberg Gallery is astounding.

de Beijer's photographs look like dramatically distorted collages, although they are constructed from an elaborate process of creating models in his studio out of paper and other materials.  There is a vibrant and vital sense of destruction and reconstruction in his work, an intense reflection on history and violence. The overall effect is breathtaking.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Yesterday afternoon I saw the New York City Ballet's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a two act ballet set to a Mendelsohn score.

The ballet was lovely and dreamlike. Intoxicating beauty. Although parts of the first act dragged a bit for me (I suspect I am not a fan of Mendelsohn), the second act completely popped. The set was gorgeously precious and each dance was masterful and exuberant.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cindy Sherman at MOMA

I've always been impressed with and enthralled by Cindy Sherman's portraits, and for a couple of decades have considered her among my favorite artists.  She exposes various facets of our social world, particularly gender and beauty ideals, in ways that make the viewer uncomfortable.

The retrospective at the MOMA is wonderful. It is large, but not overwhelming, providing a good sense of each of her important series.  I really enjoyed them all, but my favorites were the centerfold series and the masters series.

I accidentally showed up for their free Fridays, and it was so crowded. I thought about it, and at $25 admission, I'm pretty sure membership is the way to go.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom includes all that is wonderful in the director's other movies, and, in spite of the familiarity of his visual and narrative tropes, it is altogether special.

Wes Anderson is a truly unique American talent, and his bringing together of sweetly alienated flawed characters is always engaging. Sometimes there is too much woodenness and visual flair, overwhelming or blunting the emotional dimensions of the movies, but Moonrise Kingdom conveyed a deep, constant current of pathos. The characters all had stoic good cheer or at least reasonableness, covering up type of internal or existential suffering, and Anderson treated each of them with respect, sympathy, and dignity.

Moonrise Kingdom is about two 12 year old runaway lovers on an island. Precocious and alienated kids. Their being missing mobilizes the adults (and other children) around them, as several search parties cover the island to find them. The adults are no more or less together than the children, and the mixture of lost, inept, but fundamentally decent characters was wonderfully moving.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bel Canto

I started reading Ann Patchett's Bel Canto earlier in May, on a plane ride to SF from NYC. I became engrossed in it on the plane, but when I got back to SF I was so distracted by finishing the semester and moving that I hardly picked it up.

I returned to it last night and finished it this morning. It is a beautiful novel about a group of hostages and terrorists in a mansion in a South American country. The development of relationships between the characters is the heart of the story, and the richness of Patchett's description created a wonderful emotional texture.