Friday, December 27, 2013

Blow Out

I watched Blow Out last night and thought it was pretty cheesy.

It takes place in a gritty 70s/80s Philadelphia and is about a sound man (John Travolta) who accidentally records a political murder. As he tries to solve the crime he his stalked by the hit man who apparently has gone rogue. The tension regarding solving the crime is all centered around minutia of film and sound, which I found interesting, but the plot with the hit man (John Lithgow) seemed stupid to me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looking back on 2013

I've never done this before with this blog, but I'm going to do an end of the year roundup of favorites.

Fiction: I didn't read as much fiction as I would have liked this year. My favorites are a tie between Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott and Elect H. Mouse State Judge by Nelly Reifler.

Non-Fiction: My favorite non-fiction book was hands down Alysia Abbott's Fairyland; followed closely by David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls.

Movies: I'm not going to look through all the movies I saw at home from Netflix, etc, but for those I saw in the theater it's a tie between Blue Jasmine and What Maisie Knew.

Documentaries: Really enjoyed Searching for Sugar Man.

Art: I saw a lot of great shows, such as the Magritte and the Balthus recently, but think for my favorite I have to say it was my whole experience at the Centre de Pompidou.

Theater: No question: Fun Home.

Live Music: The Maul Girls.

Opera: I saw a number of operas this year, and am going to say that Wagner's Die Walkure was my favorite, but it was hard to choose.

Dance: 2013 was the year of dance. I went to 14 dance events. I enjoyed them all, and don't really want to choose a favorite, but forcing myself I would say it was The New York City Ballet: All Robbins, because of the stunning final dance, "I'm Old Fashioned".

TV: I watched four series this year, and got really into all of them. Loved Enlightened, and a shout out to Orange is the New Black. But what really blew me away was the masterpiece The Sopranos.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I enjoyed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Through the first third I was resisting it, but eventually got into the spirit of the movie and by the end was won over, with a tear or two in my eyes.

It is loosely based on the short story, which I vaguely remember as having an unresolved, sad ending. More portrait than plot. This version, directed by Ben Stiller is all plot. He stars in the title role playing Mitty as an understated, quiet, unfulfilled but not resentful guy. His lapses into over-the-top daydreams contain excellent special effects, but I didn't find them as funny as they were supposed to be.

Once the plot gets rolling it is a fun ride. The secondary characters are all great, and Stiller's stalwart, focused, and slightly deadpan performance carries it away.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Last night I finished Veep -- two seasons. Loved this funny, fast-paced, cynical show! I can't wait for season 3!

Dearest Creature

I just finished Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler. This marvelous collection of poems is chock full of luscious secrets and surprises, amazing, tantalizing sentence structures and dazzling arrays of adjectives. The poems all demonstrate a similar mastery of word and image, but are written from different voices, different characters with different emotional temperaments. I really was captivated by this book.

Every line is deserving of quotes, as the writing is really astounding, left me awestruck. One of all the many that jumps out:

... aired molecules of your blue
sense of humor loosed into fickle April haze
like microscopic weather balloons to whom
did you leave your false eyelashes your work
ethic your taste for the stick-to-the-ribs foods
of your youth an abject gooseneck lamp
on your nightstand hangs its head and prays
the way mute objects do when left behind
strange it doesn't implode make some move
to accompany you but rather remains like 
the bust of some shamed alien conqueror
its long neck bent like a penitent swan's.

The last section of the collection, Elegy (these quote lines come from the end of the first poem in it), is devoted to the loss of a dear friend, and sadness as well as profound awe seep through the lines.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Elect H. Mouse State Judge

Elect H. Mouse State Judge by Nelly Reifler is an entertaining romp with a dark side. I thoroughly enjoyed the caper -- the daughters of a mouse are held hostage by the Sunshine Dolls family, and it's up to Barbie and Ken to find them.

Most of the characters are developed, with subtlety and nuance, and concise, sharp, elegant prose. Although they are all toys, and there's a playful tongue-in-cheek element to the novel, there are also haunting moments of insight. The last page or two really knocked me out.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Zodiac is a tense and interesting thriller about the Zodiac killer in the Bay area during the late 60s and early 70s. I had never known much about this serial killer, and the story of the investigation was taught and gripping.

It explores a theory of the killer (whose identity is still unknown) put forth by one of the protagonists of the movie.

I enjoyed it, and at 2 hours and 40 minutes I wasn't bored at all.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Room 237

Last night I watched two thirds of Room 237, a documentary about theories regarding the deeper meanings of the movie The Shining.

Because I recently read the book and saw the film, I was curious about this. However, it was just totally batshit crazy. The theories were so convoluted and out there, really over analyzing and reading all this irrelevant stuff into the most minor details. Very disappointing.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Side Effects

Last night I watched Side Effects, a thriller about a depressed woman taking a newly marketed anti-depressant. Jude Law plays her psychiatrist. It's a thriller, with plot twists, and there is something I was very confused about, but I can't post about it here because that would give too much away.

Noche Flamenca at the Joyce

I saw Soldedad Barrio and Noche Flamenca at the Joyce again yesterday. I had seen them perform before, last year at The Joyce, and once at Celebrate Brooklyn. They are an incredible flamenco company!

The performance was stunning, dramatic, and haunting. The dancers evocative and virile. I think my favorite part was the singers, whose wailing seems to come from some otherwordly place.

The performance went by very quickly and was in fact a bit short, about an hour and fifteen minutes. I wanted more!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Shining

I just watched The Shining. I've seen it a number of times but was curious to see it again after having read the book.

It's a great, fascinating movie. Of course, since I'm familiar with it, it wasn't as scary as other times I've seen it. But it's intense, visually and emotionally.

Watching it this time around I was most focused on the significant number of changes Kubrick made from King's book. Much less back story and much less character development in the film. There was even less back story to the hotel itself. In the book, the ghosts are all part of a past which Jack Torrence has researched from the "scrapbook". In the book Wendy gets seriously injured by Jack, and the fate of Halloran is changed in the film as well.

Some of the many things that make the movie so powerful are Jack Nicholson's acting, his deranged facial expressions and biting hostility. Shelley Duvall's annoyingness actually adds a lot of tension. And the visuals of the ghosts are striking and dramatic.

The core of the story remains the same, a family isolated in a huge haunted hotel with an angry father going mad and succumbing to its menacing hold, while the small child, Danny, struggles with his powers to see the past and future.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Isa Genzken

 After enjoying the Magritte exhibition, I took a look at the Isa Genzken retrospective at the MOMA. I had never heard of this important German artist.

Other then a number of concrete sculptures which captivated my imagination and appealed to me on some level, I really didn't care for this work. Some of it was too cold or too chaotic and messy for me.

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938 at the MOMA is wonderful experience. Of course many of Magritte's paintings are overly-familiar icons, but this show includes so many works I had never seen before that I felt I got a fresher, more in-depth work of this artist whose images I have always loved.

Most of his paintings feature the recurring motifs he is famous for: clouds, facelessness, eyes, windows, mirrors, and weird grey, wobbly, metallic shapes I can't describe. Many of the paintings were browner, darker, and muddier than I expected. I was also surprised by some bloody images: the woman eating the bleeding bird and one painting of about four bleeding birds.

Some of the most dramatic and appealing paintings were the sheeted heads embracing in "The Lovers", the startling ripped faces in "The Secret Double", the sequence of paintings of parts of a nude woman ("The Eternally Obvious"), "Love Disarmed" depicting a pair of women's shoes with brow hair spilling out of it, in front of a mirror, and the creepy and disturbing "The Red Model" -- a pair of feet/boots against a wooden wall.

The Departed

The other night I watched The Departed. What a gripping thriller! I had seen it before and loved it just as much as I did this second time around.

It stars Matt Damon, Leonardo Di Caprio, and Jack Nicholson. Damon and Di Caprio play parallel parts: one is involved with the Irish mob (run by Nicholson) and is working in the police department to help him run his operation. The other works for the police department and infiltrates Nicholson's team as an undercover agent.

The plot has lots of twists and turns as each is trying to find out the identity of the other, and as they each get closer to the truth the tension mounts. The acting was fantastic as was the pace of the storytelling. Truly one of my favorites.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Last night I saw Macbeth at Lincoln Center. Directed by Jack O'Brien it starred Ethan Hawke who's performance was mediocre. He strutted about the stage in an odd limp-wristed way, and screeched his lines hoarsely.

The other actors were stronger, particularly Daniel Sunjata as Macduff. What really made the show work for me was the dramatic staging, lighting, and set production. We were sitting in the far corner for the first part of the performance, which wasn't so great, but moved to the center during intermission and the effect was stunning.

There were many lines which I caught that I appreciated, but much of the language sort of soared over my head. Luckily I am familiar enough with the play that I was able to follow along.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Shining

I didn't enjoy Stephen King's The Shining. Although I read it quickly, I didn't find it particularly gripping. Part of this is that I'm so familiar with the movie. Also, I think it's possible I read it in high school. So there were no surprises.

I found the back story of the characters was clunky and in spite of all the information they still remained a bit two dimensional to me. Jack was the most complex, but I felt like I could see him being created, like I was watching the writing.

As for the plot and the climax, it was a bit plodding to me, I just wanted to get through it to the end. There was one thing I found scary and surprising, though.

Anyway, I'm going to watch the Kubrick movie again, to see the ways he kept to the novel and the ways he departed from it. Then I'm going to watch the documentary about the film. But I don't think I'm going to read King's newly released sequel to The Shining, Dr. Sleep.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 40 Part Motet

I was a bit underwhelmed by Janet Cardiff's sound installation, "The Forty Part Motet" on view at The Cloisters. The NY Times quoted viewers as saying the experience transported them and was so extraordinary. I just felt like I was listening to a choral concert played though many speakers. It was very nice. Nothing wrong with it at all. But it wasn't a particularly amazing experience.

Here's the description from the Times:

"Inside the ancient chapel was the first presentation of contemporary art ever at the Cloisters: “The Forty Part Motet,” an 11-minute immersion in a tapestry of voice, each thread as vivid as the whole fabric. A sacred composition of Renaissance England is rendered by the multimedia artist Janet Cardiff through 40 speakers — one for each voice in the Salisbury Cathedral Choir, which performed the piece in 2000. What started as one microphone per singer is now a choir of black high-fidelity speakers arrayed in an oval, eight groupings of soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Last night I saw Complexions at The Joyce. This exciting company performed three complex dances, all with so much intricate and quirky movement. The dances had numbers of performers on stage at one time, and often it was hard to take it all in.

The first, "Moon Over Jupiter" was set to Rachmaninov, and I found the music a little difficult. The dancing was intriguing and engaging, however. The second, "Recur", was set to all different music, and it was somber and moody. Also complex. My favorite part was the section pictured here, where two dancers in wide legged pants performed a duet with another dancer moving in silhouette behind them. The final piece featured the vibrant wonderful music of Stevie Wonder. The music itself was so exciting that it kind of over-powered the lively dancing. It was a fun up-beat, crowd-pleasing way to end the night.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Balthus at the Met

Today I went up to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Balthus exhibit, Cats and Girls: Paintings and Provocations.

This somber, intriguing collection of work captures girls in moments free of selfconsciousness. Reading, or sleeping, or looking in the mirror or out the window, these figures are quietly alone (except for the cats). There are a few paintings where the underpants of prepubescent girls can be seen, and because of this there is a warning at the beginning of the exhibition stating that some viewers might find the content disturbing. I didn't think these were exceptionally prurient but an uncomfortable eroticism does surround the images. And I think this discomfort adds to the richness of Balthus' work.

I enjoyed all the paintings, but the two that I remember most are, one of a reclining nude with a knife on the ground, and another, I think called "Patience" where a girl is standing over a table laid out with playing cards while a cat plays with a toy underneath. The girl is wearing pale green, and there is a softness to the palette that stood out for me.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I just watched Goodfellas and thought it was okay. I wasn't as crazy about as many people are. I enjoyed the way it was directed -- the shots, the music, the narration. But I didn't get drawn into any of the characters.

Mainly I enjoyed seeing ways in which David Chase borrowed from Goodfellas for The Sopranos. Although a TV show, The Sopranos has much more depth and complexity, and so many plot lines (spanning years, of course), that there are a lot of points of entry. Compared to the show, Goodfellas felt linear and basic. Still, a fine flick.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I don't usually do horror flicks (with a few exceptions) but was curious to see the remake of the 1976 classic, Carrie. I had heard negative things about it but still wanted to see it.

I was surprised by how into it I got. It stuck very closely, I think pretty much scene by scene, to the original. They updated a few things, like adding cell phones into the harassment of Carrie. The story, the revenge of the disturbed, picked on kid, still has power. And the crazy, abusive, religious fanatic mother, played by brilliantly by Julianne Moore, was creepy as hell.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Der Rosenkavalier

Last night we saw Der Rosenkavalier at the Met! I won the tickets through the drawing.

We had seen this in HD at BAM a few years ago and loved it. Seeing it live was a real treat, but our seats were so far back it was hard to see. This was unfortunate because in the filmed version I really appreciated the acting. Live, without seeing their faces, it was hard to get as much of a sense of it.

My favorite part of this Strauss opera is the character of the Marschallin, sung last night by Martina Serafin. I just love the depth and nuance of her mind, and her gracious actions. Serafin sang the role beautifully.

The buffoon Ochs was sung by Peter Rose and he was great. The most lovely singing was by last night's stand-in Erin Morley, playing Sophie. Her voice was just incredible.

The weakest link was Alice Coote as Octavian. She sang beautifully, particularly in the duets. But she just didn't communicate much.

Der Rosenkavalier is in three acts and the narrative is somewhat odd. It is part a deep love story, and part a farce. These elements didn't totally sync. At least not for me and not last night.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Sopranos

I just finished binge watching The Sopranos, which I started a few weeks ago. 6 and 1/2 seasons.

What a fantastic series. Well developed plots and characters, fantastic acting, lots of different themes. Sometimes the violence was too intense for me, but everything was incredibly well executed.

There were many deaths which devastated me as I became invested in a lot of the characters. The final scene knocked the wind out of me and I cried. I won't say more. No spoilers here.

Favorite characters: Tony, Carmella, Adriana, Christopher, Corrado. Least favorite: Melfi, Meadow, AJ.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Humming Towards the Sublime

I don't usually post about CDs, but I've been listening to Mark Ettinger's Humming Towards the Sublime and just had to write something about this wonderful album.

The ten bluesy songs are all suffused with a lovely sweetness of spirit, from the more uptempo ones to the softer more gentler songs. They all communicate the importance of taking joy in life and finding beauty in small moments.

The playful "I Don't Need Alcohol" is rich with fun lyrics expanding on a single metaphor. The dreamy "Mother" looks nostalgically at the past and wistfully at the future.

Throughout the lyrics merge idioms of both religious and romantic love, exploring earthly, meaningful, secularity. Can't stop listening to it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Yesterday I was delighted by Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance. Bourne relies on Tchaikovsky's original music -- which was glorious -- to retell the Sleeping Beauty story. The costumes and sets were beautiful, haunting. The dancing lovely. Particularly charming was the puppet baby Aurora. All in all an exciting and unique ballet.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fun Home, the musical

I wasn't sure what to expect from the musical Fun Home. Based on Alison Bechdel's amazing graphic novel (which I gobbled up five years ago), the play explores Alison's childhood and her time at college. Like the memoir, it is interspersed with the grown Alison working through the process of writing about and coming to terms with her past. It centers on the power her father had over her family, particularly the impact of his shame and repressed sexuality.

The play does a marvelous job of creating the sense that memory and the present are intertwined. It moves effortlessly back and forth through the different phases of her life, and from the opening scene to the closing it is heartfelt and deeply moving.

It took me a little bit of time to adjust to the musical aspect of Fun Home. I guess I was momentarily thrown. But once I relaxed with it I enjoyed the music and the way it moved the narrative. All of the actors were wonderful. I was particularly impressed with Beth Malone, as the adult Alison, and Sydney Lucas as the young Alison. She was an emotionally powerful child performer, with a voice as clear as a bell. Michael Cerveris was also fabulous as as her poignantly complex, difficult, and sad father.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This is 40

Ugh! This is 40 is such an annoying movie! I don't know why I watched the whole thing. To make matters worse, the video on HBO Go kept slowing down and not buffering while the audio moved on.

It's about an annoyingly neurotic couple who won't shut the fuck up. It's high-strung and not funny. Particularly irritating was Leslie Mann as the whiny wife.

Just a total waste of time.


Gravity is fascinating study of an astronaut who gets disengaged from the spacecraft she was working on and is floating in space with a coworker trying to save her. It is filmed in the dark orbit with a dizzying and scary perspective. The tininess of the people in contrast to vast universe makes their isolation intense.

It is a survival story where one impossible challenge after another faces them, and the Sandra Bullock character in particular is forced over and over again to overcome her profound fear and rise to the occasion. The fear was palpable, making this a very engaging, riveting movie. With only two actors it was focused and tight. But the dialogue in Gravity was glib and distracting, taking away from the suspense in a way I found unsuccessful. Also, by the end, I was a little like "oh come on".

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Big Chill

I was slightly disappointed with The Big Chill, an 80s movie I loved as a teenager. At the time I thought it was so intense and deep and complex.

A group of former college friends reunite 15 years later at the funeral of one of the group who had committed suicide, and they spend a weekend together reacquainting with each other, reminiscing, and coming to terms with the loss of their friend. In addition they explore where the various directions their lives have taken since college.

The Big Chill has an enjoyable light touch, even as it goes into darker places. It covers a lot of emotional terrain in an easy-going way, and all the characters are likable. I guess I just didn't feel it was as "deep" as I remembered it. But I still enjoyed it. And even cried at the end.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Final Fall for Dance 2013 program

Last night I saw my final Fall for Dance program at City Center. It was a fabulous evening.

The first company, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui/Sadler's Wells London performed a haunting, surreal duet. "Faun" featured beautiful lighting and two dancers entwining in slow acrobatic movements.

Lightening things up a bit was BODYTRAFFIC, who performed five different dance pieces all set to jazz. This was a fun and entertaining part of the evening.

Continuing with this upbeat energy was Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all male ballet company that gives a campy take to traditional ballets. They performed "Black Swan Pas de Deux" -- it was technically amazing, with the "famous sequence of 32 fouettes). The humor seemed to be based on the narrative of the ballet, which I am not familiar. But I still enjoyed the performance very much.

Finally, a rousing, energetic, and powerful dance by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "Home" was gorgeous and riveting.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Another Fall for Dance night!

Last night I took in another program at Fall for Dance at City Center.

The first dance was performed by American Ballet Theatre. They did "The Moor's Pavane: Variations on a Theme of Othello). I have to say I wasn't that thrilled with this one. The costumes were overly concealing: the women wore long gowns and one of the men wore some sort of big long robe. The ballet was nice, elegant, but I also found it slightly boring.

Colin Dunne performed "The Turn" with live musicians on the stage with him (two violins, a viola, and a cello). His Irish tapping was done in conversation with the music and was very interesting and masterful. At times, when the tempo picked up it was truly exciting.

Ballet Hispanico performed "Sombrerisimo", a work featuring six male dancers, all wearing hats and using the hats as part of the dance. Dressed in jeans and button down shirts, they conveyed a cool urban chic. There were two main parts to the dance. The first was slower and a bit jerky. The second part was sexier, sleeker, and, to me, more dynamic. I have wanted to see this company for some time, and will keep an eye out for when they are performing again.

The final company of the evening was my favorite. INTRODANS performed "Sinfonia India", with ten dancers filling the stage with exuberant, delightful, fun, and beautiful dance.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall for Dance 2013!

Last night was my first of three evenings at City Center's Fall for Dance Festival. My seat was great, fourth row, near center (okay, maybe just a wee too close).

The first company was Nrityagram, who performed a duet of two women in traditional Indian clothing. The dance was traditional Indian with live musicians. It was interesting and lovely, but not terribly exciting.

The second company was 605 Collective. The dancers were in jeans and t-shirts and the music or sound was thudding and strange. The movement included a lot of running, and the combination of sound and movement made me rather anxious. There was something almost hostile about the piece. Still, I appreciated its complexity and power.

The third piece was nothingish. HEADSPACEDANCE did a quirky, entertaining duet that was humorous and cute but basically forgettable.

The real hit of the evening was Dance Theater of Harlem! They performed a long dance made of six pieces to spiritual music by Francis Poulenc. The ballet was simply stunning.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gary Gulman In This Economy

Last night I enjoyed Gary Gulman's In This Economy, a standup act focusing on being broke (or middle class) in terms of the excessive wealth of billionaires. It was very funny and entertaining.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ordinary People

Continuing with 80s middle-brow melodrama, I just watched Ordinary People. Even though I found myself resisting it, I actually think it's an extraordinary movie.

It follows an upper class WASP family trying to recover from the death of one teenage son, and the suicide attempt of the surviving one, played by Timothy Hutton. Getting in the way of the family's recovery is the mother, Beth, played by Mary Tyler Moore. Her character is so tightly-wound, in deep denial, unable to express feelings, that she creates friction with her husband and son that is painful to watch. Mary Tyler Moore's performance was riveting and flawless. Also a stunning performance was Donald Sutherland as her well-meaning, awkward, sweet, and very scared husband.

Judd Hirsch plays Timothy Hutton's psychiatrist who helps him deal with his feelings toward his mother and his guilt about the accident which killed his brother.

Part of me kept thinking it was all too much, but the acting was amazing, and the intense focus on the family in crisis, although difficult to watch, was really masterfully executed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Terms of Endearment

The other night I watched Terms of Endearment. This 80s movies follows a mother-daughter relationship, played by Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine. The mother is difficult and overbearing. Interestingly, Debra Winger's character is very accepting and laid back about this, and they have a sweet, although bickery relationship.

Terms of Endearment follows their lives and their love interest over a period of years. Most affecting for me was the relationship between Debra Winger and her older son, about 11 years old. His sulkiness and her frustration with him were very tense. Another storyline that I enjoyed was between Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine. They had excellent chemistry.

I don't want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say I was crying like a baby for the entire last half hour.

One final comment: the score was HORRIBLE. Very dorky and cheesy and hitting the wrong notes.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mark Ettinger House Concert!

The other night I enjoyed a truly delightful evening of songs performed by Mark Ettinger.

Most of the music was from his upcoming album -- which I can't wait to be released. He played guitar and sang sweet, moving songs that all had nuance to the lyrics. He is a very clever songwriter, one who really makes you think.

His singing was wonderful, commanding soft numbers and more uptempo numbers. He was even accompanied in some parts by a small brass section that added a fun and dynamic element of triumphant umph.

I had a great time and am looking forward to more of his performances. And will be first on line for the new CD! (The picture here is of his first, also wonderful, album)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wishful Drinking

I just watched Carrie Fisher's one woman show, Wishful Drinking, on HBOGo.

She is a very engaging performer with a unique story to tell -- about her famous parents, her own fame and commodification, and her personal battles with addiction and mental illness.

She does it all with wry grace. I feel like I could listen to her for hours because she is so fascinating and down to earth.

The humor was okay. Not really laugh out loud funny, but engaging. With lots of great throwaway lines. For instance, on the demise of her relationship with Paul Simon: "Things were getting worse faster than we could lower our standards."

Ethan Frome

I loved the Edith Wharton novella, Ethan Frome, and was excited to watch this 1993 movie version with Liam Neeson, Patricia Arquette, and Joan Allen.

I thought it was done well. The movie captured a particular oppressive mood very well.

But the love story between Ethan and Mattie didn't come to life as much as it needed to. It kind of just seemed like they hooked up because it was convenient (don't mean to give anything away). There were moments that they tried to convey smoldering desire, but it wasn't enough. In order for the movie to work, the viewer needs to feel the significance and desperation of their love.

Liam Neeson and Joan Allen were wonderful. Patricia Arquette was bit stupid seeming as Mattie, giggling too much...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Frances Ha

I was charmed and moved by Greta Gerwig's performance in Frances Ha, a sweet, funny movie about a struggling 27 year old woman in New York City.

Filmed in black and white, Frances Ha chronicles Frances' slight unraveling as her relationship with her best friend begins to disintegrate. She and Sophie had an amazing connection that weakens once Sophie becomes more serious about her boyfriend and starts moving in other directions. Frances is left to fend for herself in a world where others are not as endeared by her quirky insecurities as her friend was.

It's a special movie. A real character study. Not a lot happens, but things manage to move forward. Very much like life at times.

Young Frankenstein

Watching Young Frankenstein last night brought back memories! I had loved this comedy as a kid, and remember it as having been a cultural sensation at the time. It was loaded with quotable jokes and really seemed quite brilliant.

I enjoyed watching it again, but it was a little too silly for my current taste. Still, I really enjoyed the performances. What a great cast! They must have had so much fun filming this. I don't know how they kept a straight face. Gene Wilder was excellent. And Terri Garr, she is always so great in everything. I wonder why she never became a bigger star?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Planet of the Apes

I'm not sure why exactly, but I just watched Planet of the Apes. The original 1968 movie.

I saw this on TV as a kid, as well as all the sequel movies and I think TV show. I remember finding it so scary and thrilling, and was into what a mind fuck it was -- thought it was very thought-provoking.

But boy oh boy is this cheesy movie. Charlton Heston overacts. The sets and everything look like they were made by high school kids. The whole thing is just very campy. Which I guess isn't a bad thing. I did enjoy myself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris' newest collection of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, is excellent. All of them are amusing, and each contains at least one or two laugh-out-loud moments. But it's the sustained quality of amusement that makes these essays at the least incredibly charming, and, at their best, singularly moving.

The essays touch Sedaris' travels, his relationship with his partner, Hugh, members of his family, and a colorful array of individuals he encounters. He is wonderfully adept at the turn of a phrase. These essays are all masterfully crafted. Perhaps his craftsmanship is what impressed me the most. Each essay has an internal structure with themes and anecdotes that seem to go in many directions but which all fall back on themselves with humor and ease.

I listened to Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls on my ipod (while walking in the park and at the gym), and Sedaris read all the pieces. I loved listening to his voice and his delivery added to the humor.

La Traviata

Last night I saw La Traviata screened in HD outside Lincoln Center.

Verdi's music and the singing were fantastic. Really beautiful. I even considered getting an album. The story was simple and very dramatic. What really made it work was the intense acting of the three leads, particularly Natalie Dessay as Violetta. I really felt the intensity of her love and desire. Her lover Alfredo was sung by Matthew Polanzani, and his father was Dmitri Hvorostovsky; both wonderful.

Less wonderful however was the avant-garde minimalist set. The stage was a grey dome featuring a clock to symbolize how little time Violetta has left. During one scene they used what looked like a bunch of Ikea couches. The stark and bleak contrasted with the lush music and powerful emotions. It looked hokey and was really a disappointment. I would have preferred more color and pomp.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Last night I watched Saved, a cute satire about a zealous born-again Christian community. The plot centers on a group of high school kids in a clique lead by the smarmiest and most aggressively devout girl, and the drama that ensues when one of the group becomes pregnant.

It has some funny moments, and in general is a watchable movie. But it was very broad and kind of lacking in nuance or in any particularly smart satirical bite.

Clear History

Clear History is the new Larry David movie for HBO. It stars David as a marketing whiz who has a fallout with his boss and loses his job right before the company's stock soars. He then changes his identity and lives an unassuming life on Martha's Vineyard. Until a decade later the boss shows up on the island.

It is sort of a madcap comedy, with David being relentlessly Larry David, all his belligerent neurosis are in play. Constantly. Which made the movie a little exhausting and a little redundant to anyone who has seen much of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also, Clear History had a rushed, sketch-like feel to it.

Still, the plot was engaging. David was funny at times. The other actors were all good, and narrative strands all tied up nicely.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Talented Mr. Ripley

I loved The Talented Mr. Ripley when it first came out in 1999. I watched it again last night, and boy does it hold up! This dark, very tense, psychological thriller is brilliantly executed from start to finish.

Matt Damon plays Ripley with such a complex mixture of awe, admiration, sexual desire, jealousy and frustration. These qualities humanize him and make him a very sympathetic "villain".

Jude Law is amazingly loathsome as Dickie Greenleaf, the rich trust fund brat. Ripley met his father in the states, and the patriarch offered him a lot of money to find Dickie in Italy and get him home. Ripley becomes enamored of Dickie and his lifestyle, and the sexual longing and tension, add an uneasy dimension to the drama. There is murder. There is identity theft. There are twists and turns of plot, all of which center on the taut Dickie/Ripley dyad.

Gwynyth Paltrow was terrific as Dickie's girlfriend, and the tense dynamics between the threesome were fascinating. Philip Seymour Hoffman stole the show with his icky, arrogant, meanness.

Great film.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Elysium is a sci-fi action adventure flick taking place in a dystopian future where earth is one giant poverty shanty, and the rich people live in a space habitat that they guard militarily from immigrants.

I didn't enjoy the movie. There was too much fighting and action and too thin a story. I guess I like sci-fi movies -- particularly dystopian future ones -- but not action-adventure...

Everyone overacted. Most appalling was Jodi Foster, who plays what is essentially the director of homeland security at Elysium, and she was cold, robotic, and awkward, doing a character of evil protecting capitalist interests.

The plot of Elysium centers around Matt Damon's characters quest to get to Elysium for medical attention -- everyone in the habitat has some kind of super-dooper tanning bed that in seconds cures all illness. The movie was essentially about the quest for universal (literally) health care. There is a sentimental subplot with his childhood friend and her daughter which was underdeveloped and distracting.