Sunday, December 30, 2012


Silence! The Musical was really great. When it was over the first thing I said was, "That was perfect".

It's a musical parody of the horror movie Silence of the Lambs -- I wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe I was concerned it would be too kitschy, too odd, too strained. But, like I said, it was just perfect.

From the second the actors entered the stage till the end of the play, I was utterly entertained. The singing and dancing were terrific, and the humor, mocking the over-serious movie, was sustained throughout. I don't remember liking the film, and Silence! really exposes its absurdities. One of the standout musical numbers was "If I Could Smell Her Cunt", sung with deadpan serious longing. As one of my friends said, it offered a comedic corrective to some of the more problematic aspects (such as gender roles) of the original.

The cast seemed to be having a great time, and all the performances were excellent and spot on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables

For Christmas day I saw the movie Les Miserables, which just opened. The lines were crazy.

I actually liked it! Yes, it's over the top sentimental. Yes, it's drawn out melodrama. And yes, the singing dialogue could at times be a bit much (but I never found that embarrassing or awkward).

The fact is, the 157 minutes flew by. I was swept up in the story, and some of the songs were incredibly emotional. In particular, Anne Hathaway had me bawling during her wrenching "I Dreamed a Dream". The audience applauded enthusiastically. The male leads had weaker voices. Jackman had a beautiful song or too, but I thought his voice was kind of straining and thin for much of it. Russel Crowe as Javert was pretty lame. His singing I mean. Also, his acting wasn't particularly compelling, in a film where the caliber of the acting was pretty high all around. The woman playing Eponine was great too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Queen of Versailles

Yesterday I streamed The Queen of Versailles from Netflix. This documentary is about an extremely wealthy couple who are working on building the largest home in the US, modeled on Versailles. It follows their opulent and excessive lifestyle, with more focus on the wife, Jackie, who came from a modest upbringing and married the wealthy and 30 years older man after she won a Mrs. Florida competition (or was it Mrs. America?).

She comes across as good-natured but clueless, and utterly absorbed in consumerism. Her seven kids and niece are wondering around in the backdrop. The documentary also devotes time to the people who work for them, the nannies and the housekeeper, who almost always are wearing a grim humorless expression as they pick up after these nonchalantly, self-absorbed people.

The mood shifts after the 2008 economic crisis, when David loses all his credit. They have to stop work on Versailles and lay off many (I think they said thousands) of employees. Traveling to her hometown, Jackie is reduced to flying commercial and renting a car (at Hertz when they give her the keys she asks "What's my driver's name?" without a hint of irony). At this point David comes across as curmudgeonly and obsessed with work, and you sense deep discord in the Seigel family. In fact, I wonder if they remained married after the documentary ended.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Les Troyens

I saw Les Troyens at the Met last night! I had been rather intimidated by this five hour (and fifteen minutes) opera by Berlioz, but it turned out to be amazing.

The epic drama is basically two operas in one. The first two acts concern the end of the Trojan War and focus on Cassandra and her prophecies. The last three acts concern Aeneas and Dido in Carthage. The grand production included long segments of ballet that were gorgeous and interestingly choreographed (more like contemporary dance). And a very large chorus. The sets and lighting were wonderfully evocative.

I had tried to read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia, but found it impossible to follow, however, I had no trouble during the actual opera, with the help of course of the Met titles. It was thoroughly engrossing. The music was lush, and the singing, particularly Susan Graham as Dido, was amazing. Other performers included the mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill as Dido's sister, who had a lovely, deep voice, Deborah Voigt as Cassandra, who carried the whole first and second acts, Dwayne Croft who sang Coroebus, beautifully in the first and second acts, and Marcello Giordani (who I've now seen in a number of roles) as Aeneas. Most of his performance was pretty good but not really charismatic, but he had one aria that was incredible. As I said, the stand out performance was Susan Graham. Stunning.

This was a real treat. Thank you Met Varis Weekend Lottery!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Room with a View

Last night I watched the beautiful and surprisingly quirky A Room with a View.

I had seen this movie a long time ago, around when it first came out, and I had read and enjoyed the Forster novel. Watching it again, I found it charming and pleasant. The acting was terrific, and I particularly appreciated the young Helena Bonham Carter and Daniel Day Lewis.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I really hated Skyfall. I'm just not a Bond girl I guess. Hadn't seen one since I was a kid (The Spy Who Loved Me), and now I know I haven't been missing anything all these years.

Life of Pi

Last night I saw Life of Pi in 3D. I had read the book years ago and was tremendously moved my it.

The movie, directed by Ang Lee, is incredibly beautiful. Lush, vibrant colors and haunting images.

Although I feel that they did a good job, a very good job, at translating the book, somehow something was missing. In the book, the elements of survival and the intense loneliness of being a castaway are explored in great detail, and I felt intensely gripped by the story. In addition, the bond between the boy and the tiger, Richard Parker, was more complex and moving in the novel. Last night I left the theater dry-eyed, like I did in Anna K, and these are both stories that to be fully successful must hit you in the gut.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bad Santa

I just watched my favorite Christmas movie. In fact the only Christmas movie that I really care for. Bad Santa is fantastic.

Billy Bob Thorton plays an over-the top hostile drunk who works as Santa in department stores each year waiting to steal from the safe on Christmas Eve. He works with a sober dwarf who cases the store, and who constantly has to shove Santa into shape. The story involves the people that Santa meets on a particular heist in Arizona, which includes a relationship with a woman who has a Santa fetish, and a strange, deadpan, chubby boy. Santa's unapologetic bad cheer never wavers, and yet, of course, in the end it's a heartwarming movie with a sweetness that isn't at all gooey.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anna Karenina

Last night I saw Anna Karenina. This lush, highly stylized, beautifully and imaginatively rendered drama ultimately left me dry-eyed and unmoved.

The action was all set on an elaborate stage, which sounds hokey, but it really had an intense and surreal effect.

The acting was all very good, but I didn't feel any kind of emotional investment. When I read the novel, I remember being very drawn in and crying and having trouble putting it down. Perhaps the ultra stylized presentation, the artifice of the theater, was what created that distance. I think in particular the disintegration of the core love story and Anna's unraveling were somewhat glossed over, and this had been one of the most interesting parts of the book.