November 24, 2009
November 20, 2009
Wallace Acton is fantastic as Richard. He resembles a rubber-faced Jude Law** and, in describing his performance, all I can think of are the cliches everyone uses when they describe a great Shakespearean actor: he made the language come alive and after a few minutes you didn't notice the Elizabethan dialect, blablabla etcetera etcetera. The play is pretty much a one-man show; Richard has all the best speeches and Acton wrings so much life out of them the other actors don't stand much of a chance. He lurches through the proceedings with so much wit and grace that - another cliche alert - you're rooting for him to get away with his plan (which is to murder everyone). It is a consummate physical performance; it was jarring seeing him walk without a limp or hunchback at the curtain call and his (spoiler alert) death scene was probably one of the best I've ever seen. Kevin Gudahl is especially good as Buckingham too, and the ghosts look amazing. So take advantage of its final weekend and in this season of thanks, pay homage to the fact that your glory days are now and see this great show cheaply.
Was ever woman in this humour won?
I'll have her, but I will not keep her long."
November 12, 2009
"A Touch of Class" Are you friends with Glenda Jackson, or are you anticipating being at a party with her in the near future? Maybe you've found yourself at a Labour Party meeting with nothing to say? If so, you might want to watch "A Touch of Class." Otherwise, avoid this terrible movie. It's a wacky romantic caper about a married jerk (George Segal) who has an affair with a tart-tongued divorcee (Jackson). Hilarity ensues, and by hilarity, I mean one hundred minutes.
"Blue Sky" In the late eighties, Sissy Spacek was having a sleepover with Kathleen Turner. It was late in the night and Kathleen dared Sissy to call Jessica Lange and tell her that she thought it would be an awesome idea for Jessica to play a mentally unstable Southern Belle, like Blanche Dubois but without the good writing, who is oversexed and nearly ruins her husband's military career. Jessica said she thought that was a good idea, and would it be okay if she added a heavy-handed message about the dangers of nuclear testing? Sissy nearly snotrocketed her Ginger Ale when she heard this, but she steadied her voice and said that yes, Jessica, that would be perfect. Then Tommy Lee Jones lost a bet with David Straithairn and had to appear as Jessica's cuckolded husband. And that is how "Blue Sky" came to be.
The original "Mean Girl"
In "Children of a Lesser God," William Hurt plays a man who wears oversized cableknit sweaters who falls in love with Marlee Matlin, a woman who wears very tight sweaters. Obviously society frowns upon their pairing. He doesn't see the problem, and is all "Why can't we be together? Sometimes I even play football in my oversized cableknit sweater!" and she is all, "You make me so mad that I have to dance seductively in my too tight sweater." They split up. Eventually, he jumps in a pool and learns what it is like not to wear an oversized cableknit sweater. She forgives him and they get back together.
All of Bill's sweaters were at the dry-cleaners the day this was shot so he had to make do with a sensible blazer
November 11, 2009
For anyone looking for new insights into the mind that was Michael Jackson, and the meticulous pop-science that was his process, forgo This is It and see if you can finds some clips of the good stuff on YouTube. This posthumously released "documentary (?)" does indeed document Michael and company rehearsing for his last concert, but outside of actually seeing some of your favorite hits played, This is It lacks any commentary, hell, any talking, that might give the impression of what it might be like to work with MJ, or how MJ worked. If this wasn't your reason for watching in the first place, don't get excited, there aren't any tantalizing train wrecks either. Just dancing. And singing. Rinse. Repeat. With the exception of various team members saying "He's a genius. And he knows what he wants," one never gets to hear Michael talk about what he wants, which, maybe, he never did. Luckily, 98% of all the substantive talking was used in the theatrical trailer, so that the 10 million (and counting) internet viewers might get the sense that a real documentary was made.
Though idly taping a rehearsal process does not a film make (I fully realize the intention was not for theatrical release) This is It is redeemed somewhat by the fact that MJ was the consummate performer, and therefore, interesting to watch. In the age of VH1 5 second teaser clips, the movie does allow extended viewing of the late great doing his thing, and still doing it well. You will get to see "Smooth Criminal", in its entirety, and then, "Billie Jean", all if it, and then, yep, "Man in the Mirror"...maybe even twice. And with these old standbys, totally new videos. And by new, I mean revamped. And by videos, I mean, heavy handed messages about saving the world. Though it isn't online, just take the time to watch the original "Earth Song" video, and replace MJ with a young girl of ubiquitous ethnicity being chased through her beloved woods by a bulldozer. Feel me? Now imagine that same bulldozer crashing onto stage and MJ stopping it just before it crushes him. I know, you're already on Fandango buying a ticket.
Perhaps the most unique, accidental, commentary is made when we see the bizarre, soft spoken, androgyne MJ, transform into his performer-self, and then back again. When he rehearsed, there was no fucking around. There was sweat flowing out of those oversized lamé coats and skinny pants, soaking into the white socks, and pooling in the black leather shoes. It was nice to see that even in the unseen working hours, MJ kept it MJ, and never resorted to Under Armor and Gatorade for rehearsal.
For those of us that grew up with some version of Michael, This is It provides a cathartic goodbye to one of the best. Or, then again, you could just watch this.
November 10, 2009
Dear "Open-Letter" Bit,
I'm sorry to be the one to have to break it to you, but you are played out and it's time you retired from comedy.
We have had some good times together, to be sure, but I see you all over the place these days and hereby humbly suggest that enough is enough. The heroin-like instant gratification that comes from Facebook and Twitter posts has created, in my view, a generation of junkies hooked on you. It is time for intervention. Let me be your Ken Seeley.
No offense is intended to anybody who has used you. (Don’t shoot the messenger!) Heck, LOTS of great people have used you. McSweeneys has been using you to great effect for ages. (Serious journalists/commentators have used you, too, but I am less concerned with the serious open letter than I am with you, you sweet, tempting, jokey open letter.) I want to make this perfectly clear: nobody individually is responsible for your overuse, and if someone has used you in the past they are not a hack by any means; this situation is on a much larger, out-of-control, zeitgeist-y scale.
You are funny, Open Letter Bit, that’s the problem. But just because you are funny that doesn’t mean every time someone wants to make a hilarious comment about someone they can’t contact directly (e.g. celebrities, giant corporations, amorphous concepts) they should use you. Things that are funny are, sadly, also subject to the law of diminishing returns. The person who leans too heavily on one comic trick or device is generally doomed to a brutal irrelevance, and I don’t want to see that happen to you. Perhaps you can still have a place in the world’s comedy toolkit – you just have to scale it way, way back.
I know I haven't contributed a new comedy bit to the pool of comedy bits to make up for the hopeful reduction in the use of you, the one individual bit that I'm hereby calling out. But as they say, those who can't DO, teach, and those who can't even TEACH, criticize.
Open Letter Bit, I hope you take this open letter in the good-hearted spirit in which it was intended, and I sincerely wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
November 6, 2009
The art, fellow art-lovers...well, what can one say about such art? It was all exceedingly artistic, and most of it was crafted with impressive artistry. Frankly, it was nothing this globe-trotting, high-flying, art aficionado hadn’t heard of before. There were your general bowl-y-type things, and your standard clay devices, with a healthy smattering of colorful trinkets in varying shapes and shades and sizes. All very expected and ordinary for frequent art-partygoers like yours truly.
Once I had drunk deeply enough of the art itself – swishing it around in my mouth, allowing that familiar art-flavor to once again wash over me, ultimately expectorating it classily into a Sculpture Object Functionally Designed for such purposes that I might stay art-sober with my art-judgement unimpaired – I turned my keen and critical eye toward the human population of the exposition. There was a lot to see.
It takes a lot to turn the head of such a devotee of the arts, and friend of all artists, as I. But a couple individuals really stuck out in the brightly-colored (not to say outré) crowd. The first, an older gentleman, whose blinding orange tie is tragically obscured in this on-the-go paparazzi print (you will please note the footwear):
The second, perhaps slightly too far away for close inspection in this ill-framed drive-by snapshot, features a lovely artistic person, hair dyed neon green, wearing a golden crown of deer head & antlers:
These are my people!
I did, however, make sure to take enough time to hang out in and around the Maria Elena Kravitz Gallery from Argentina at Booth 421, in town to represent (among others) Barbara Kobylinska, who was showing her colorful, human-size, clay bird sculptures, pictured here:
(Full disclosure: Barbara Kobylinska is, in fact, my mother in law. This doesn't change my perfectly objective assessment of the show, however. Far from it! But for more information on Ms. Kobylinska, you can follow her blog, or check out her personal website.) The birds displayed at SOFA would stand as beautiful sentinels outside (or inside) any true culture-loving abode. And she has many other pieces, small and large, whimsical and serious, available for sale to only the finest homes.
Fellow lovers-of-the-arts, please make sure to take some time out of your busy, culture-filled lives to venture to Navy Pier for this magnum opus of art- and people-watching. If you make it, keep your eye peeled for one of my favorite pieces of the show, entitled "The Gift," which was sadly purchased sometime on opening night, but still worth seeing: