Saturday, July 28, 2012

Metropolitan Opera Recital in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Last night, in 90 degree humidity, I made the awkward trek to the lovely and tucked away Brooklyn Bridge Park to hear a Metropolitan Opera recital.

The singers were Danielle de Niese, Dimitri Pittas, and John Del Carlo.  They were all wonderful! In addition to having beautiful voices, they were all charismatic light-hearted performers, with a very welcoming and friendly stage presence.

The program was very full, about two hours long, with an intermission. The first act featured several arias and duets from Don Pasquale, as well as selections from Le Nozze di Figaro and La Boheme, among others. The second act was fabulous, but they changed the program from what's listed, and I can't remember what they performed.

The view behind the stage was beautiful. Right on the East River, we were treated to a stunning New York skyline. This picture of us was snapped by Pittas and posted on facebook. Meridita, Rachel and I are in there somewhere!

Friday, July 27, 2012


Last night I watched Manhattan, a Woody Allen movie I had originally seen when it first came out, when I was a kid.

Manhattan is beautiful. Filmed in black and white, and an ode to the city, it is, like Annie Hall, a bittersweet and wistful love story. Allen's character has two love interests, a sweet and lovely 17 year old, played by Muriel Hemingway, and his best friend's neurotic mistress, played by Diane Keaton.

The movie focuses on the relationships of New York intellectuals, flawed, self-absorbed characters stumbling and fumbling forward. Like Annie Hall, this story isn't just humorously cerebral -- Manhattan also has real heart, and, also like Annie Hall, a very touching final scene.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Louis CK Chewed Up

The other night I watched Louis CK's Chewed Up on Watch Instantly.

I had seen some of his bits before, and recently there was some controversy about him, so I felt like checking him out.

He was very funny! The beginning routine about the "faggot" word was offensive to me, and totally oblivious to how hateful the word can be when used by certain people, and how homophobic it is even when it is used in more benign settings.

But after that segment I began to really like his work. Particularly the parts about being overweight and overeating!

Since watching this I've started watching episodes of his TV show (on Netflix), Louie, which is funny and also pretty dark and awkward.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Annie Hall

Last night I watched Annie Hall, and I LOVED it.  

All the things that sometimes bug me about Woody Allen -- his nervous skittishness, his self-absorption, etc. -- were there. But they weren't as overwhelming and they seemed less like a superficial form of shtick and more like a genuine, sincere, conflicted and struggling sensibility that I was capable of sympathizing with.

Annie Hall is a love story. It starts out with Allen's character trying to figure out what went wrong with his relationship with the quirky Annie, and the movie is a set of flashbacks that explore his childhood and other relationships while telling the story of how he they met, how they connected, and how their problems emerged.  There were a lot of cute devices, like people stepping out of the fourth wall and talking to the camera, etc, which I found effective and charming.

The last lines of the film were really poignant. After running into Annie at some point after their relationship has ended, he reflects: 

It was great seeing Annie again and I realized what a terrific person she was and how much fun it was just knowing her and I thought of that old joke, you know, the, this, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, uh, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken,' and uh, the doctor says, 'well why don't you turn him in?' And the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships. You know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and, but uh, I guess we keep going through it...because...most of us need the eggs.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Yesterday morning I streamed Sleeper from Netflix and was thoroughly delighted. What a fun, decadent way to spend the morning on a day off!

Sleeper is his 73 comedy about a man who was frozen and wakes up 200 years in the future. He is wanted as an "alien" and hilarity ensues as he poses as a robot, captures and later befriends a ditsy woman (Diane Keaton) and the two of them try to elude the evil but inept security agents.

It's really broad comedy, which I don't really like, but every word that came out of Woody Allen's mouth was clever and funny and endearing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Last night I watched the two part Woody Allen: A Documentary, available on Watch Instantly.

This film includes lots of wonderful footage from the early days of Allen's career, as well as interviews with him now and interviews with people who have worked with him, some who have worked with him his entire career.  Mostly it focused on his artistic process and development, and chronologically covered the majority of his films. It spent more time chronicling his creative transitions and choices in his early works, and moved more quickly through the 80s and after. It did a good job bringing out the unique strengths of some of these movies, and I am soon going to have to see again: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Match Point (some of my favorites, not to forget Love and Death, Zelig and Stardust Memories).

Some things that stood out was his constant engagement with new work and his devoted writing process. He has been using the same manual typewriter his entire career, and has stacks of notes that include sketches and ideas. Very old school. As for his obsession with death, he stated: "We all know the same truth, and our lives consist of how we distort it."

I would have liked the documentary to explore his personal life more, and the relationship between that and his creative live; particularly, of course, I wanted to hear what he had to say about the Soon Yi thing, but the short section devoted to that focused on his reaction to the publicity at the time the scandal broke.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Empire Falls

Last night I finished Russo's Empire Falls, a novel I have been meaning to read for about a decade.

I very much enjoyed the first half or two thirds of the book. It centers on the manager of a diner in an economically depressed small town in Maine. The cast of characters is richly developed, with both compassion and humor on the author's part, and the interior struggles of Miles, the protagonist, are touchingly rendered. This history of the once booming town based on one family's industry was also interesting.

But toward the end it sped up in a way that felt almost like a different book. Although I was deeply moved by the plot surrounding Miles' working through his relationship with his mother, I felt that most of the plot strands were hastily wrapped up or in some ways left unresolved.

Still, I was very engrossed in this, and particularly enjoyed the humor; so at some point I'll definitely read another of his books.

Oh, and I only JUST NOW got the quasi-pun in the title of the book, and the name of the town...(fallen empire...)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To Rome, with Love

Last night I saw To Rome, with Love, the latest Woody Allen movie.

It was pleasant to watch, but really kind of nothingish in the end. Four separate stories set in the city, centering on love, fame and folly. As always in his movies, there was an excellent cast, but unfortunately no performance really stood out, and no character was particularly interesting. Alec Baldwin was fun, as was Roberto Begnini. But the rest of the actors didn't seem to bring much to the fairly thin material they had to work with.

I guess I thought it had a rushed, unserious quality. Like I said, it was pleasant to watch, but there just wasn't much depth or anything really to respond to or think about. All surface..

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Keith Haring 1978-1982

I'm really glad I made it to the Keith Haring show at the Brooklyn Museum. This small, focused exhibition examined his work from 1978-1982, with an emphasis on his street and subway art.

His work is so bold and exuberant, so iconic, flamboyant, and immediately recognizable. Because of the focus on this period, and an entire room devoted to white chalked drawings on blackened subway poster areas, there was a lack of color to this show, and it did not fully capture the explosive energy of his work that a full retrospective might have.

One thing that I really enjoyed, this exhibition completely brought me back to NYC in the early 80s. I could FEEL the city, what it was like back then. It was a special time, a special creative moment, and in that way it made sense to focus on those four years of his work.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Are You My Mother?

Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? is a brilliant graphic novel exploring her relationship with her mother.

A follow up in some ways to her wonderful book about her father, Fun Home, Are You My Mother? incorporates Bechdel's reading of psychoanalytic theory (primarily Winnicott, as well as Klein and Lacan) in her attempts to understand the flawed bond between herself and her emotionally withholding mother. In addition to theory, Bechdel entwines her readings of Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to inform her understanding of her mother's artistic conflicts, as well as her own.

The chronology of Are You M Mother? is complex and layered, circling back on several different periods of her life, including different adult relationships and different therapists.

As much as I enjoyed this book, and as deeply impressed I was by the endeavor, I felt that something was missing, some real sense of who her mother was, or maybe more simply I just wanted a clearer more traditional narrative arc -- more of a story story.