Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rat Bohemia

I just finished re-reading Rat Bohemia, a Sarah Schulman novel I first read when it came out in the mid-nineties. It's such an excellent, eloquent novel. It centers on three gay characters who have found community in lower Manhattan, in spite of gentrification and other changes in the city. The community is precarious, in many ways because of the devastation of AIDS. But the sad core of the book is about abandonment, not community, particularly abandonment by parents, although that is not the only kind.

Another theme of the novel is nostalgia, which struck me because I felt so nostalgic re-reading this nearly 20 years later. I remember specifically where I was when I first read it. Literally, I remember not only the location of the apartment I lived in (West 111th Street), but the way I had the furniture configured in my room at the time. I remember the comforter I had when I first curled up with Rat Bohemia.

Anyway, decades later it's still such a strong and subtle, wonderful novel, with three distinct voices and terrific writing.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method is kind of a difficult film to form an opinion about. It is definitely intriguing and engrossing, but there seemed to be something missing that made it perplexing as well.

A Dangerous Method is about the early years of psychoanalysis and it focuses on the relationship between Jung, a female patient of his, and Freud. Although most of the drama was between Jung and the woman.

Sabina was first introduced to Jung as a hysteric patient in a hospital. She had an intense, convulsive, jerky manner, with her eyes popping in horror and her chin jutting out in disturbing ways. Through the new talking cure, her sexual repression and desires came to the surface and she overcame her symptoms. She then decided to become a psychiatrist. She also became Jung's lover. Throughout, Jung and Freud discuss ideas and their intellectual differences strain the friendship.

It takes place over a period of years, and maybe these jumps account for the fact that something seemed missing. In addition, although it was fascinating, there didn't seem to be an emotional core to the movie.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

L'Elisir d'Amore

What a treat! Last night I saw the charming Donizetti opera L'Elisir d'Amore at the Met. With a fun and silly plot, it featured beautiful arias and duets.

Anna Netrebko has such a beautiful, strong, clear voice. She sang Adina and practically carried the whole show.

The tenor Ramon Vargas sang beautifully and sweetly, and his solos were phenomenal. When he was singing with the cast, however, his voice tended to get drowned out.

The real scene stealer was Erwin Schrott as the Doctor Dulcamara. He had very funny lyrics and sang deep and fast.

The whole evening was very entertaining.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Last night I went to see Hurray for the Riff Raff at the Highline Ballroom. The lead singer/songwriter is SO good. Sultry voice, teasing delivery, and fun, hopping alt-country music. They are based in New Orleans, and you can really hear that influence. I thought they were great and I'm definitely going to download their albums.

Hurray for the Riff Raff was opening for a singer called Yuna. Yuna had a lovely voice and she did interesting things with it, but the smooth listening pop style of the music didn't do anything for me.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Exorcist

Last night I watched The Exorcist. As with Rosemary's Baby I remembered this as more camp than serious. But, again, I was surprised by how good the movie actually was.

The gradual possession of the young girl is done very well, and by the time she is fully controlled by the devil it is utterly horrifying. What really gave the movie nuance for me was the character of the priest, Karras. He was so sad and dark, and his struggle added a complex emotional element without which the movie might really have just been camp.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby is so much better than I remembered it! I have seen it a number of times, so it wasn't as scary as it might have been. But I remember it being kind of cheesy and camp in a way. This time around it seemed very tight and focused, very uncomfortable throughout, very unsettling.

To me the story really centers on the husband's betrayal of Rosemary. She was annoyingly passive through most of the movie (which was oddly effective), and when she does take action, her desperation is painful to watch. The creepy satanist neighbors were all excellent.

I think it's the very ending which gave me the memory of it being campy -- the satanists surrounding the baby and ranting about the year One. The implication that the baby's hands and feet were cloven. And the Asian man taking pictures like a tourist...

Oh, and the dream/rape scene was intense! Very scary and memorable.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm is a dark, dry, haunting movie set in the 70s about two unhappy affluent families in Connecticut. It takes place in the week surrounding the Thanksgiving holidays, and focuses on the hollowness that seems to pervade each character. No one knows how to connect with each other, and their attempts, particularly those of the teens, are heartbreaking.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nutcracker Rouge

 OMG - WHAT A TREAT!!! Tonight I saw Nutcracker Rouge, performed by Company XIV. This burlesque take on the ballet was amazing -- so incredibly entertaining.

Very, very loosely following the original story, Company XIV takes Clara (now Marie Claire) on a festively erotic journey. Incorporating all sorts of music, from iconic parts of Tchaikovsky to jazz and even a rendition of Madonna's Material Girl, the show went from one incredible number to another. Wonderful dancing throughout.

Some of my favorites included the Licorice Boys -- doing an S&M dance to Tchaikovsky, the hoop/circus artist and Candy Cane girl, the androgynous Flamenco dancer, and, throughout, Shelly Watson as "Mrs. Drosselmeyer" MCing the show and singing amazingly -- she rocked Marlene Dietrich and Madonna, among others.

The costumes were glitter galore -- sparkling pasties and g-strings -- and very evocative, cool, and a bawdy. The set and costumes were designed by Zane Philstrom and were truly delicious.

(first image courtesy Meridita)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Alvin Ailey at City Center!

Last night I saw Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at City Center. The program was wonderful, although I liked the first and third dance more than the middle one.

The first dance, "Chroma" with music by Jack White and Joby Talbot (choreographed by Wayne McGregor) was set in a giant white light box, very stark and dramatic. The music was a little too intense for me at first, but once I got into it, I was blown away by the beautiful dancing.

Second was "D-Man in the Waters (Part I)", a Bill T. Jones piece. This was interesting but didn't grab me as much. I just had trouble connecting to it.

The third piece was also dramatic. It started with a lot of men with bare chests in a tribal type of movement thing that was rousing. The women joined and the parts of the dance varied from uptempo rhythmic to slower moments. Some of these slower parts were stunning. This dance, "Lift" was with music by Curtis MacDonald and choreographed by Aszure Barton.

Rain Man

The other night I watched Rain Man, a movie I had seen in the late 80s. I'm pretty sure I loved it when it first came out. This time around I liked it okay -- I thought Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman gave terrific performances. The story is about a high strung materialistic yuppie who discovers he has a brother with autism who has inherited their father's millions. To get the money he takes Raymond out of the institution and embarks on a road trip back to LA. Raymond is severely limited in his ability to cope with the change, which he doesn't understand, and is traumatized by the experience. However, Cruise's character begins to really care about another human being and is changed by the experience.

The portrayal of Raymond was very moving. He was unable to connect with others, but conveyed a sweet vulnerability that made me care about him.

Peripheral was his relationship with his girlfriend, which seemed tacked on and unnecessary. There was a weird scene with her and Raymond in an elevator in a hotel in Las Vegas that seemed out of sync with the movie. I think it would have been stronger if she had been cut out entirely.

Oh, and they make it seem like counting cards at Blackjack is illegal, but I found out that's a myth.