Friday, May 31, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

Last night I watched the HBO movie, Behind the Candelabra starring Micheal Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover.

I tend not to be crazy about biopics, and this one didn't over wow me. But I did think the close study of the relationship was very sensitively portrayed. Michael Douglas was terrific as the eccentric but warm and needy performer, who only had a few (significant) bursts of power plays over his kept lover, Scott. Matt Damon was good too. But the eventual demise of their relationship was all too predictable and un-nuanced. Ultimately unmoving.

I thought the portrayal of a gay relationship was handled candidly, honestly, and sensitively. But I thought the larger context of the culture's intolerance of homosexuality was missing. There were a few key moments where the closet was brought up, but basically the movie was too insular, depicting their relationship in a vacuum of acceptance and tolerance that doesn't speak to the homophobia of the times

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Smokey Hormel at Sunny's Backroom

Last night I had the good fortune to see Smokey Hormel perform in the backroom of Sunny's in Red Hook. The music was dynamic and exciting. Great musicians and singers, and people were dancing and having a great time. The piano playing of John Kirby was fantastic. It was a wonderful, fun evening of the most excellent country swing I have ever heard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Over the last two days I watched the entire two seasons of Enlightened, the HBO dramedy starring Laura Dern.

I LOVED it. It's about a woman who has an extreme nervous breakdown at work, goes to a new age healing center, and has to return to her old company, demoted from an executive position to data entry. The storyline is excellent, but what I was really drawn to was Dern's character. Such a combination of frustration, charm, awkwardness, bad judgment, good intentions... She was fascinating. The series was so well produced, with lovely touches throughout. Even though it's dark and cynical in a lot of ways, there was a lot of light that came through. I was immensely satisfied with it. Such a bummer that they didn't renew it for a third season!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Playing with Fire and Against the Grain at MAD

I had a lovely time at the Museum of Art and Design this afternoon. I saw two shows, Playing with Fire, which explored art and design featuring glass, and Against the Grain, which focused on wood. Both were wonderful exhibitions, very eclectic and tactile. Strange and haunting creations, many surprises.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NYC Ballet: All Martins

Last night I saw NYC Ballet perform an all Martins program. The dancing was fascinating, complex, and modern.

I confess I had some trouble with the music. It was 20th Century American composers, somewhat dissonant and sparse. But for every piece that started off challenging for me, I eventually found myself absorbed and enthralled.

The first piece was "Calcium Light Night" with music by Charles Ives. This featured two dancers, who did solos and a pas de deux. It was sparse and unusual.

Before the second piece, during the pause, the orchestra was elevated and the conductor took some time to introduce us to the music, having the orchestra play samples. The composer was Charles Wuorinen, and the ballet was called "River of Light". This featured three couples who danced with each other in mix and match pas de deux. Although again I found the music difficult, I was delighted with the magnificent dancing.

Then, "Barber Violin Concerto" with music by Samuel Barber. This featured two couples, one dancing classical ballet, the other modern dance. They eventually mixed with each other. There were many lovely moments, and I enjoyed the modern dance movements.

Finally, and most spectacularly, "Fearful Symmetries" with music by John Adams. This dance included many dancers, and it was fast paced and funky. Very dynamic and exciting. Unfortunately, by this point in the program I was rather sleepy and couldn't concentrate as much, so I didn't fully take it in. I would like to see it again.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What Maisie Knew

I was kind of blown away by What Maisie Knew, a wonderfully acted and brilliantly paced film I saw last night at Angelika.

It tells the story of a bitter divorce from the point of view of a young child. Divorce may not be that interesting a topic anymore, but the directors do such a great job of focusing on what some sociologists refer to as "microaggressions", the small, daily, covert meannesses that can occur in interaction. It is a very tightly focused film, and the little girl, who registers both comprehension and confusion, as well as dread and sadness, simultaneously and subtly, gave a wonderful, impressive, and painful performance.

What Maisie Knew zooms in on the narcissism of her two parents, who, while cloyingly cuddling her and proclaiming their love, abandon her over and over again. She seems so lost and so small in so many scenes. She is often left alone with strange adults, and her composure masks a haunting sense of sadness.

Added to the plot are the two new spouses of her parents, each who seem to see the way Maisie is neglected, and thankfully they provide some sense of safety for the little girl, which is some consolation.

I really felt affected by What Maisie Knew, and think it was a perfectly executed film.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New York City Ballet All Robbins

Tonight I saw a wonderful New York City Ballet performance of three dances choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

They were all marvelous. The first, "Interplay" was joyful and breezy and uplifting, to music of Morton Gould. The second ballet was "Fancy Free" to Leonard Bernstein music, and featuring a sailor motif. The dancing was terrific, although there were a few awkward moments: one dancer, when jumping over a chair accidentally knocked it over; another dancer had a band of frayed material trailing from her skirt in such a way that I was nervous she would trip.

But the greatest piece was "I'm Old Fashioned". This ballet blew me away. It was an homage to the music of Jerome Kern and the dancing of Fred Astaire. It began with a large screen projection of the entire dance Astaire and Rita Hayworth do in this clip (the dancing starts a little over two minutes in). Then NYCB performs a number of pieces to Morton Gould's take on the music; lovely, lovely waltzes, with duets and solos. Finally at the end, they bring back the projection of Astaire and Hayworth, and the dancers all perform the same thing. It was a stunning affect, truly moving, and a wonderful end to the evening.