Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year



May your new year be filled with love, flowers, wacky adventures, and the creative power to Live the Dream!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: THE FIGHTER


THE FIGHTER packs more of a wallop than THE TOWN or CONVICTION. It's yet another gritty true-tale of life in the big/little city of Boston. Lowell Mass, actually. Mark Wahlberg stars as boxer Micky Ward who floats to the top of the welterweight heap, but not before fighting off his family: his mother/manager Alice-- Melissa Leo in a knock-out performance, his tattooed bar-tending girlfriend Charlene played by Amy Adams who socks one of Micky's sistas in the kissa in between expletives, and his once promising fighter-turned-crack-addict brother Dicky: Christian Bale.

Bale is scary good as the older brother with inner demons to battle. Hollow-eyed and echoing the well worn tale of how he once knocked out Sugar Ray, he now coaches his kid brother. Taught him everything he knows. When Dicky lands in prison and sits down with the other inmates to watch the big screening of the documentary film that's been made about his life, he caves in as he sees onscreen what he has become: a drugged-out has been. The scene hits you right in the gut.

Wahlberg plays Micky like the calm center at the eye of a hurricane, his snarky, frizzy-haired sisters hovering on the outskirts of every grueling scene like a Greek/Irish chorus. Micky may be the guy in the ring, but he's the most appealing and least pugnacious member of this yelling, screaming tribe.

THE FIGHTER rolls to a predictable close, but not before making you catch your breath and root for these "charactas," duking it out for a little dough, a little dignity, and a swing at the big time.

6 GOLDEN GLOBE nominations-- watch for it at Oscar time!

Plus Ca Change...

Everything old is new again...here is an early New Year's gift to you! I may be late to this party, but she is one of the best new performers on the scene and made her network TV debut on Letterman in May: a cute little dynamo of a woman channeling James Brown. Cape and all-watch who brings it out.

Be sure to watch the whole clip! Here is JANELLE MONAE!

ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE

So I'm sitting in my kitchen and the phone rings. A quavering voice on the other end of the line hesitates then says,"This is Dorothy. I'd like a cup of soup."
I haven't made soup in years. I promptly inform Dorothy that she probably has the wrong number and where was she calling? She says, "I was calling downstairs." I assure her that she has reached a private residence, that she should re-dial, and wish her a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

I get to thinking. Dorothy probably lives in the retirement community up the street. So I call them and ask if they have a resident by that name-- I know the whole name because it showed up on my caller ID. They say they do indeed. So I tell them that Dorothy needs a cup of soup. I explain how I know. We immediately start laughing. I wish them a happy New Year, and they get busy on Dorothy's order.

Dorothy, there's no place like home-- but soup helps.

By the way--today's special?
Cream of Broccoli.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The BEST MOVIE of the year: THE KING'S SPEECH


The queen's English has nothing on THE KING'S SPEECH. This is quite simply the best film of the year, and I think this true story has gotten short shrift, despite its 7 Golden Globe nominations, which it deserves.

Colin Firth stars as the Duke of York("Bertie" to his family)and younger brother of King Edward VIII who scandalously left the English throne for the insufferably shallow divorcee from Baltimore, Wallis Simpson. No matter; Bertie was much the better man for the job and dad the King--George V played by Michael Gambon-- knew it, despite one small glitch: Bertie stammers. As conveyed here, it's a stammer of epic proportions,leaving stadiums full of people sweating uncomfortably on the edge of every cavernous pause. Enter Geoffrey Rush as eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue-- yes "Logue" ironically related to the Greek and Latin roots "logos"/"logus" for"speaking"! What follows is a beautifully shot and paced period piece featuring an astoundingly sympathetic,funny,subtle,and complex performance by Colin Firth as the man who would be King George VI.

But it's a larger tale of anyone finding his/her voice in the deepest sense of LOGOS. The movie is quietly moving, and heralds the importance of emerging technology to shape a persona and the world. The supporting cast is superb: Helena Bonham Carter as the warm and witty future Queen mum, Guy Pearce as the weak-willed abdicating Edward, and Rush as Bertie's quirky mentor. Only Timothy Spall overplays as the cigar-toting, speech impaired (yes!) Winston Churchill.

I have seen THE KING'S SPEECH twice, and enjoyed it twice as much the second time. It's the film to beat this season(no I haven't forgotten THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and Colin Firth is the actor who should have the last word.

Captain Beefheart R.I.P.


I miss Captain Beefheart who died this past Friday at 69.

A.K.A. Don Van Vliet, he was to me the quintessential experimental artist whose vision expressed in music and painting-- let everyone else see. He made his high school classmate Frank Zappa (with whom he had a love/hate relationship)seem mainstream. He made the first music video in the early '70's creating his own ingeniously complex brand of subversion. You gotta love a guy whose answer to "I wanna hold your hand" is "I wanna swallow you whole" from LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY.

Click here for an early 80's interview with Letterman.

Then read the following lyrics which my husband knows by heart and regales us with regularly. Hooray for Captain Beefheart.

“The Dust Blows Forward and the Dust Blows Back”
Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart)

"There's old Gray with her dove-winged hat_
There's old Green with her sewing machine_
Where's the bobbin at?_
Totin’ old grain in a printed sack_
The dust blows forward and the dust blows back
And the wind blows black thru the sky_
And the smokestack blows up in the sun’s eye_
What am I gonna die?_
A white flake riverboat just flew by_
Bubbles popped big_
And a lipstick Kleenex
hung on a pointed forked twig_
Reminds of the bobby girls_
Never was my hobby girls_
Hand full o’ worms and a pole fishin'_
Cork bobbin' like a hot red bulb_
And a blue jay squeaks_
His beak open an inch above a creek_
Gone fishin' for a week_
Well I put down my bush_
And I took off my pants and felt free_
The breeze blowin' up me
And up the canyon_
Far as I could see_
It's night now and the moon looks like a dandelion_
It's black now an the blackbird's feedin' on rice_
and his red wings look diamonds 'n lice_
I can hear the mice toes scamperin'_
Gophers rumblin'
in pile crater rock hole_
One red bean stuck in the bottom of a tin bowl_
Hot coffee from a crimped up can
Me and my girl named Bimbo
Limbo
Spam"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THEATER: THE BLUE FLOWER


Trailer:THE BLUE FLOWER
It just about broke my heart. THE BLUE FLOWER is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of sight and sound. It's the A.R.T.'s latest, a multimedia musical play with video, movement, song and dance, live band and a killer cast of seven juggling a new "language," and many achingly beautiful songs.
THE BLUE FLOWER is at once familiar and strange, funny and shattering. Creators Jim and Ruth Bauer have given us a narrative which flashes back through the memory of one man Max (Daniel Jenkins). From Belle Epoque Paris, through WWI, Weimar Germany, WWII, and its fall out.. three artists and a scientist (inspired by historical figures) struggle to make art, make love, and survive as the world falls apart around them. The score-described as Country Western by way of Kurt Weill- is deeply evocative and melodic, lyrical, angry, and bittersweet. This ardent cast delivered the goods: the four leads are a perfect ensemble, their voices seeped into my bones, as these war-wounded souls sang songs of pain and loss, and the haunting refrain that "things will never, will never be the same."
It's a long evening, and not for everybody-- but it was for me; I was deeply reminded that perfection is elusive and we must make our peace with that.
I left with tears running down my cheeks.
See it at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge through January 8.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BOSTON CRITICS VOTE!!!


We just concluded our year-end voting meeting of the BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS(BSFC) and THE SOCIAL NETWORK cleaned up:

Best Picture
Best Director-David Fincher,
Best Actor-Jesse Eisenberg,
Best Screenplay-Aaron Sorkin
Best Music-Trent Reznor

Here's the rest of the list:

Best Actress-Natalie Portman BLACK SWAN
Best Supporting Actor-Christian Bale THE FIGHTER
Best Supporting Actress-Juliette Lewis CONVICTION
Best Ensemble-THE FIGHTER
Best Cinematography-TRUE GRIT Roger Deakins
Best Animated Film- TOY STORY 3
Best Editing-BLACK SWAN
Best Documentary- MARWENCOL
Best new Filmmaker-Jeff Malmberg MARWENCOL
Best Foreign Language Film-MOTHER

We will officially announce these awards at a star studded ceremony on Sunday night January 30th at the Brattle Theatre!Stay tuned for more details!

***FINALLY--The BSFC issued the following statement urging better exhibition of films in our theatres:

"BOSTON — The Boston Society of Film Critics expresses concern over the regularly inconsistent quality of movie projection by the AMC and Regal Cinema chains. Problems include incorrectly maintained digital projectors that guarantee that 2D movies appear far darker than their makers intend. The BSFC urges AMC and Regal management to institute the improved projection policies paying customers should expect."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

MOVIE: BLACK SWAN


There's black Friday. The Black Death. Blackbeard. Now... BLACK SWAN!!! "I'm molting!I'm molting!!!!"

Part psychological thriller, part horror flick, part claptrap, it looks gorgeous, and dives right in--ballerinas on the edge competing for the big part, the prima dual role in SWAN LAKE. Natalie Portman wasted away to nothing, and dug out all her old ballet technique to fit the bill. Alas, real ballerinas will be screaming at her stiff arms, and slack carriage. The editing attempted to cover Portman's prancing, but I was thoroughly distracted by it. The images are nevertheless arresting, and the situation brutally captured by the overwrought Darren Aronofsky who never saw a plot he couldn't over-dramatize.

I've never seen such a visceral take on Tchaikovsky's ballet. To win the big part, Nina the ballerina must transcend her virginal self--Odette the white swan, and find the evil seductress within--Odile the black swan. This, of course, echoes her relationship with her mother- played by the now shrivelly-lipped Barbara Hershey who has infantilized AND cannibalized little Nina, redeeming her own failed career by feeding off her daughter's success-- AND failure. Wow this is getting deep. Nina must of course break free, leave her girlish ways behind, and grow the hell up. So she has sex with another aspiring prima ballerina played by Mila Kunis-- her girlfriend? her vampy nemesis? her alter ego? HERSELF??!!! All the while she's trying to please another master--her artistic director, played to the diabolical hilt by Vincent Cassel. So has Nina triumphed in the end?? Or what?

Look, BLACK SWAN has tarted up rather standard "coming of age" psychology in pretty fine feathers. Great make-up, costumes, great style. But it's still a bird in some pretty silly sheep's clothing. The ridiculously melodramatic staging of a scene where the past-her-prime prima ballerina (played by a bleary-eyed, maniacally mascara-ed Winona Ryder)publicly retires, had me in stitches. Who was the event planner-- Cruella De Vil? No. Darren Aronofsky.

Loved the cinematography; laughed myself silly over the dancing and denouement. Is it art? Is it garbage? You decide; I already have.
BLACK SWAN is one wild turkey.