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.