Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I just watched Sinister, a very scary movie starring Ethan Hawke. It's about a true crime writer who moves his family into a house where the previous family was murdered. Creepy stuff starts happening right away. He finds a box of Super 8 film reels that depict horrible family murders. All grainy and silent. They were the best part of the movie.

Sinister is kind of compelling, hard not to watch. Although it creeped me out so much I had to pause many times, so that I wouldn't get too uncomfortably scared. I think it did a very good job telling a pretty good horror tale. It actually kind of frightens me just looking at this image that I'm using in this post... Maybe I'll change it...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Paying Guests

I really enjoyed Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests. This engrossing story chronicles the course of a love affair that becomes entangled with a murder story. Set in 1922 London after the war, The Paying Guests' heroine is Frances, the 28 year old spinster living with her mother in a house they can no longer afford, and which carries the sad memories of two brothers who died in the war. They take in lodgers and from there the story develops.

Waters is amazing at details and nuances which create a vivid texture of emotional realism. Her work is almost always page-turning and compelling, and The Paying Guests is no different. However, the narrative is a bit more linear, with fewer twists and turns than some of her other work, such as Fingersmith, and as much as I like this novel, it seemed a less sophisticated accomplishment.

Tim's Vermeer

Tim's Vermeer is a wonderfully engaging documentary about Tim Jenison's quest to replicate a Vermeer painting, "The Music Lesson".

Jenison is a highly accomplished and successful inventor who became fascinated with understanding Vermeer's work. He developed a theory that he had to have been using a special kind of optical device to achieve such accuracy. He constructed such a device and began testing it. After consulting with art historians and writer's about Dutch master techniques, he became more certain that Vermeer used something very similar to his creation.

But he didn't stop there. He set about replicating the painting, and he did so with patient yet fanatic attention to detail. He recreated the room and costumes and props from "The Music Lesson". This was an enormous undertaking. Then he began the painstakingly slow and minute process of painting. The intricate details of the painting, such as the weft of the rug in the foreground, and the design on the surface of the instrument, were diligently rendered.

Tim's Vermeer is such a good documentary because Tim Jenison is such an obsessively dedicated man. It is a mesmerizing portrait of someone's intense fascination and dedication.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spinning Plates

I very much enjoyed Spinning Plates, a documentary following three restaurants in the US. One is elegant and challenging with exquisitely crafted contemporary concoctions. Another is a family owned establishment that has been a fixture of a small town in Iowa. The third is a struggling Mexican place in Arizona.

Spinning Plates offers an in-depth portrayal of the restaurants and the owners, who all have very different stories. The main theme is the personality and heart that goes into creating and maintaining a restaurant. Each owner has a different philosophy about food and dining experiences, and each has endured personal struggles that influenced the story of their restaurants. Achatz's cancer; Breitbach's fires; and the financial difficulties of the Mexican establishment's proprietors.

The documentary is pleasant and interesting. Inspiring and sad at the same time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

American Horror Story: Murder House

This past week I watched the first season of American Horror Story, Murder House. It's about a family that moves into a haunted house. The husband and wife are having marital problems, and the daughter is alienated and depressed. Throughout the 12-episode season they are terrorized by ghosts as well as a strange neighbor, Constance. The house becomes so cluttered with ghosts, and with complicated plots involving all the various characters, that I thought for a while it was going to fall apart. But it ended up being engrossing and worked through the various plot lines in satisfying ways.

The first three episodes were incredibly scary and I had nightmares. But then you get acclimated to it and it feels more like a melodrama than a horror story, even though it never abandons the creepy and scary techniques of the genre.

One thing that really made this show work was the quality of the acting. Jessica Lange was just fantastic. So was the actress who played the daughter. Unfortunately Dylan McDermott as the father contributed seriously awful acting that was difficult to endure. But, like the other forms of horror, I got used to it.

After it was over I found myself missing all the inhabitants.

Friday, September 19, 2014

AGAIN! Rococo Rouge, Company XIV

I can't get enough of an amazing thing! Tonight I saw Rococo Rouge for the second time, and it was just as stunning, if not more so, than last week.

We had more center seats tonight, which made a difference, as last time I had a pillar of some sort kind of obstructing my view. Tonight we saw the performance full frontal, and it was incredibly sexy, and dramatic, and beautiful.

Everything about Rococo Rouge hits the right note. The diverse and uniquely talented singers, the choreography, the mesmerizing acrobatics, the wondrous costumes, the decadence and high camp. All the performers were wonderful, but the host or emcee, Shelly Watson, with a powerful singing voice and fabulous regalia, stole the show for me.

I can't wait to see what Company XIV's next production is!

Monday, September 15, 2014

HOME at Corridor Gallery

Yesterday I went to the opening of HOME, a group art exhibition at Corridor Gallery, curated by Meridith McNeal.

What a truly fantastic show! There were so many different works all exploring aspects and meanings of "home". Each piece had much depth and nuance, and the way the works dialogued with each other added to the complexity.

Some standouts were the Deborah Simon's installation, "Roost" -- mixed media sculptures of a colony of bats, hung and lit in a way that created haunting shadows on the walls. Valerie Hegarty's sculptures of wounded crockery were wonderful to look at and very moving. Susan Hamburger's intricate ink drawings of stacked paper cups and kitchen plates were beautiful and intimate.

I was also very moved by Flavia Berdindoague's pieces that looked like mounted animal hides, but were made with institutional blankets used for the homeless, prisoners, and disaster victims.  One of the pieces featured a beautiful story created by Berindoague and inscribed on the blanket:

It was a frigid winter night
I was hungry
The streets were empty and dark
I was surprised to find an open door
There was bread on the table.  I fried eggs
I was attracted by the shine on the chandelier's crystals
The objects in the room were familiar images
The blue velvet of the curtains
The same blue of the chair seats that we used to have dinner my wife and I
A breeze of profound sadness filled the room
I felt lonely -- I felt Nude
I wrote a note -- I tore it
I understand I was a slave of fear
I turned off a light and left

Also on view were lovely works by Felix Plaza; beaded objects by Diana Rickard; a "micro-home" created by Greg Kloehn -- a temporary homeless shelter created out from discarded materials; a large multi-faceted photographic piece by Amanda Williams; bittersweet photograms by Rachel Rath; Catherine de Zagon's photograph of homes in Vietnam; Guiseppe Di Lelio's drawings exploring decay and regeneration; and a stunning photograph by Carrie Mae Weems.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Glenn Lieberman at Atlantic Gallery

The other evening I saw an excellent exhibition at Atlantic Gallery, Glenn Lieberman, Repossession: The Catskills. These arresting photographs captured a lovely decay and disrepair in this region that was once a thriving go-to summer destination. Many of the photographs are black and white, and these focused on images of homes and structures in their natural element. There was also a series of color photographs of the desolate and decayed interior of the famous Grossinger's Hotel. These were fascinating. The piles of disintegrating materials, and light bursts of color, such as the pink bathroom tiles under the rubble. A beautiful show.

Company XIV: Rococo Rouge!!!

I enjoyed stunning entertainment tonight! Company XIV is the most amazing performance troupe in the city! Rococo Rouge is a delicious confection of beautiful singing, sexy and commanding costumes, burlesque numbers, and acrobatics. There's nothing else like it. Utterly raunchy and masterful.

I had seen their luscious version of The Nutcracker earlier this year and was excited to see them perform again in an intimate venue on Lafayette Street. The performance space was loungy and elegant and decadent, the perfect place for this company.

I enjoyed every moment of Rococo Rouge, but I think my favorite tonight was the sultry blonde chanteuse.

(The second, better photo here is taken from the company's facebook page)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rachel Lee Hovnanian: Plastic Perfect

I very much enjoyed the Rachel Lee Hovnanian exhibition at Leila Heller Gallery. The work in Plastic Perfect explores the relationship between mass production and contemporary human experience. Many of the pieces focus on sugar and excess, such as an installation of Frosted Flakes boxes with white sugar streaming over the surface. Or the installation that featured a room covered in Cherios, with puddles of sugar, in which a hologram of a mouse munches on a treat.

Plastic Perfect had included the fascinating "Perfect Baby Showroom", part hospital nursery, part storefront. Viewers were invited to put on robes and sanitize their hands before holding the hyper-realistic babies in their arms. They were also invited to take a selfie of the experience.

I enjoyed the large photography in the exhibition, which depicted people in bed, darkly lit, each looking at their cell phones. These were haunting images of 21st century intimacy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Devil's Advocate

I had mixed feelings about Devil's Advocate, a late 90s movie about a lawyer who is enlisted by a demonic firm. On one hand it was thoroughly engaging, often creepy, and definitely entertaining. On the other hand there was something cheesy about it and much of the acting seemed overdone. I was particularly turned off by the cliched way the protagonist's (Keanu Reeves) wife emotionally disintegrated. It was just too over the top. But in spite of that, the morality tale struggle between good and evil, the demon-faced lawyers, and the courtroom histrionics were all good fun.

I also very much enjoyed Al Pacino's performance as the Satan figure. He seemed to have a blast with the role.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Again!

Last night I watched A Piece of Work for the second time. I had first seen it two years ago, and thought it was marvelous. I decided to watch it again after she died the other day and everyone was posting about her.

She was truly an amazing, driven woman. Sharp and talented. And caring, and strong. The documentary also captures her vulnerability. It's a great showcase of an exceptional professional and important icon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Flat

The Flat is a documentary filmed by an Israeli man who is trying to learn about his grandparents. It starts with his family cleaning out his grandmother's apartment soon after she dies. She and her husband had moved to Israel from Germany in the thirties. Going through her possessions, her grandson discovers a startling Nazi newspaper article about a Nazi visiting Palestine in the thirties, accompanied by his grandparents. He also finds a coin with the Star of David on one side and a swastika on the other. And pictures of his grandparents with the high level Nazi and his wife.

His mother doesn't recall her mother or father telling her anything about their life in Germany or the war years. One of the many interesting things about this documentary is the strange lack of curiosity the "2nd generation" had about their parents' experiences. This was true of the daughter of the Nazi in question as well, whom the filmmaker found and met with and interviewed at least twice. She was unaware of her father's activities during the war.

The Flat was a little slow, but the story being explored and the questions that it brings up are really very interesting and worthwhile.