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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

They Might Be Giants

Last night I saw They Might Be Giants perform at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park. The opening band was the electrifying Moon Hooch.

I wasn't that familiar with They Might Be Giants but over the years many friends had said I would like them. I got a good taste of their music last night -- fun, quirky, poppy, dynamic. But the sound system was off. The bass was too loud and we couldn't hear the lyrics. Because of the style of songwriting, it was sucky not to be able to hear the words, so we left about two thirds into the set.

I think I'll download some of their music to listen to at home...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Maul Girls at the Westin!

Last night I was treated to an amazing performance by the Maul Girls at the Westin Hotel. They are a super fun pop rock band, with great danceable funky songs.

Their gig was full of wonderful energy and the musicianship was excellent. The lead singer was charismatic and kept the dance floor hopping. I stayed for both sets.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top of the Lake

I forgot to post that over the weekend I watched the BBC miniseries Top of the Lake. This crime drama takes place in a small isolated town in New Zealand, amidst breathtakingly large uninhabited land.

The young female detective gets involved in the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year old girl. In the course of the investigation she interacts and gets involved with a number of strange, creepy, and unsavory characters.

Top of the Lake is dark and moody. Rich with unique performances. The crime investigation was probably the least interesting aspect of the miniseries.

Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra

Last night I saw the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra perform at Avery Fisher Hall.

The program included two Mozart pieces (Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro and Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major) as well as Beethoven's Symphony No. 1. Jeremie Rhorer conducted. The music was thrilling and delightful.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Last night I saw BalletX perform at The Joyce. They are a contemporary ballet company that does somewhat cutting edge dances. They performed three pieces, "Still@Life", "Silt", and "The Last Glass".

I enjoyed all the dances, which featured quirky, unusual movements. The second piece was moody and haunting. The last piece, set to the music of the band Beirut, was exuberant and exciting.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Last night I saw Pippin at the Music Box Theater. This show is pure entertainment. A little thin on plot, and not a a lot of narrative complexity. But it is fun, fun, fun.

The costumes, dancing, and acrobatics were all amazing, enthralling.

The songs, all of which I remembered from my youth, were wonderful.

Some standout moments include the 66 year old Andrea Martin as Pippin's grandmother. She sang a wonderful "No Time At All", inviting the audience to sing the chorus with her. But most astounding: she performed an elegant trapeze act! It was wonderful to see and she got a standing ovation.

The actor playing Pippin, Matthew James Thomas, was terrific, as was the dynamic and sexy "Leading Player" Patina Miller. I also very much enjoyed Pippin's father, and Catherine.

Really a wonderfully entertaining evening.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


The complex emotional power of Alysia Abbott's memoir, Fairyland, snuck up on me a little over half-way through. It is a moving story from the beginning -- a baby's mother dies in a car accident and the girl, an only child, is raised by her dad. Her father, Steven, is a young gay man, searching to find himself creatively as a poet. He is caught up in the emerging counter-culture of the era -- the political activism, the social idealism, and the drugs. As a parent he is loving and devoted, but his judgment is at times questionable -- leaving a young child alone in the apartment at night, letting her ride the MUNI by herself, etc.

What is fascinating about these early scenes is not only the unconventional childhood, but the glimpse of San Francisco in the 70s and 80s -- Abbot manages to chronicle these decades and the important shifts -- in gay life and politics, in the nation, and in her neighborhood, subtly and simply, from her unusual vantage point as the child of a poet in the emerging scene.

The relationship between Steven and Alysia comes across very powerfully. Their connection to each other, their interdependence is intense and special to their unique bond. Her father left copious letters, journals, poems, essays and publications that inform the memoir, and in the letters particularly we see how important each was to the other. The depth of this connection gains intensity as father begins to die of AIDS, and the very young woman, just entering her twenties, must care for him while beginning her own adult life. I was sobbing through the entire last third of the memoir.