Thursday, December 27, 2012
My facebook feed has been abuzz with the Miz the last couple days, but most of the comments seem to be framed by comparison to the various live productions of the play. I’ve never seen it. This film was my first experience with the show and the music.
Here are a few bullet-point impressions:
1. People randomly run into significant people from their pasts with alarming (and tiresome) frequency.
2. Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway. Okay, I was already in love with her going in, but I don’t even quite have words to describe what she was doing. I have the sense that her performance in this has set a new mark. I sat there slack-jawed the whole time she was on the screen. To me, it felt historical. The biggest flaw of this film is that her character dies 20 minutes into it. I suspected there’d be a ghost appearance, but I wish it had happened sooner.
3. The music is very affecting at times. I shed quite a few tears. But can I just say that it’s basically the same song over and over with slight varations. Being a verse-chorus man, I’m always amazed at how shows like this become so popular. Waiting and waiting for the song to land is eventually exhausting, to me.
3. The cinematography is a little claustrophobic. Love all that splotchy skin, but a big musical with an epic story and so much sweeping, soaring music, well, I want a few long shots.
4. Helena Bonham-Carter has made quite a career out of that hair, hasn’t she? Love her.
5. I’m a big fan of long books, long plays, long movies, so I hate to say it, but it was l-o-n-g.
6. Anne Hathaway.
7. Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway.
Friday, December 14, 2012
My favorite Christmas songs are the sad ones. That doesn’t necessarily mean much because my favorite songs of any kind are the sad ones. But there’s so much about Christmas that is sad: longing to be with distant loved ones, missing those who’ve died (and, statistically speaking, likely died at Christmastime), our fixation on the needy. Somehow the poor are more innocent this time of year.
And then I heard this song that a friend posted on facebook this morning – by Tracey Thorn, who for decades has been writing so beautifully and simply about our messy complicated adult emotional lives – and my thoughts crystalized in a way that a great song can make your thoughts crystalize (in fact, come to think of it, maybe that’s actually the whole purpose of a song, hm…).
Christmas doesn’t work without the sadness. Sadness is the background. The winter holiday (which, sorry, predates the perfectly illustrative and beautiful story of the birth of Christ) is a ritual of hope that joy survives sadness. And has no meaning without sadness. I guess everybody but me already knew this.
No matter how bad things may get, there’s a moment when it stops getting worse and starts to get better. The world turns.
Monday, December 10, 2012
|This is from when we used to get|
a real tree. (Click on the pictures
to make them bigger.)
|That's the fake one. Not a very|
good pic of the tree. But those pants!
|My dad's childhood tree.|
|See those slippers? I loved them. My mother|
made them with two sticks and a ball of yarn.
My mother is awesome.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
This morning in my regular blog reading, I came across this news that the owners of the trendy (again) restaurants, Indochine and Acme, are going to take over the space on First Avenue that housed Lucky Cheng's and, before that, the Club Baths. The history of this building is particularly fascinating in the way that it illustrates a certain history of the city as it intersects with LGBT history. You don't have to venture too far from the topics of AIDS and gentrification to cover most of what's happened in and to New York since the late 70s.
The old Club Baths was the first gay bathhouse I saw the inside of.
When I was 20 and a student at Parsons. I met a guy very late one night at the Ninth Circle on 10th St. (I lived on East 10th, and, when I had a few bucks to go out, I always went to the Ninth Circle. I hadn't yet discovered The Bar on 2nd Ave. and 4th St., which would be my haunt for the rest of the decade). We were both drunk and he was hungry, so we went to that gay restaurant on Christopher, the name of which escapes me. He tore through a steak and a bottle of wine, fell off his chair, yelled at the waiter. We were "asked" to leave, which at the time, for reasons I can't remember now, I found very sexy. I had a roommate and Jean, that was his name, lived on Staten Island, so he suggested we go to the baths.
Jean paid for a room and a locker. He left me to change in the locker room and meet him in his room. I took my clothes off and wrapped a towel around my waist, but I couldn't work up the nerve to venture into the hallway and find him. I knew I was in a strange land with a complex protocol of mostly unstated rules, and I was, as I am still 30 years later, too often terrified of doing something wrong and being humiliated. I'm working on it.
Eventually Jean came and got me.
Either because thinking about public gay sex while you're talking about eating out is gross or (more likely) because our collective memory of the East Village for the most part does not extend pre-Tompkins Square riots, when the NYPD rode in on horseback with riot shields and cleared that shit out to make the neighborhood safe for people who might think drag queens are a good laugh, but junkies passed out under your stairwell is taking local color a bit too far, this building always seems to be referred to as the former Lucky Cheng's, rather than the former Club Baths. (And what was it before it was a bathhouse? Just another New York Lower East Side tenement building, probably.)
So I did a little googling and found this post on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, a wonderful blog that I can only read occasionally because it has the same effect on me as actually visiting the East Village, which is that I end up feeling disoriented and sad about New York, my past, missed opportunities, and aging. It's a quagmire I try to avoid.
Anyway, Jeremiah's condensed history of the building takes you back pre-Lucky Cheng's with an evocative description of the baths, then through the late 80s when the yuppies came and ruined everything, and the late 90s when Sex and the City came along and ruined everything else.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Well, except for 3 shows: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, all revivals that seemed too important to miss, and we were able to get discounted tickets for 2 of the 3.
As expected, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was great, a sort of prosaic interpretation that was surprisingly more shocking because it wasn’t as big and loud as you expect from this play. It felt ordinary, real. I guess I’m talking mostly about Amy Morton’s low-key performance as Martha. Riveting.
Still, as gorgeous and powerful as this production was, I have to register a complaint – and this has become a pet peeve for me because it’s not by a long shot the first time it’s happened in the last couple years at a high-priced Broadway show: our seats were in the left-hand section of the orchestra, not extreme left, not cheap “obstructed view” seats, just a few seats off the aisle, yet about 25% of the playing space was not visible to us.
In fact, C couldn’t see the bar from his seat. The bar! In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?! I don’t know just what we missed, but I know that lots of stuff was going on the opposite side of the stage, the side we could see but clearly lots of people over there could not. I would guess all told there were several dozen seats from which large chunks of the stage were blocked from view.
It’s a shabby way to treat your audience. We didn’t pay $500 for premium center orchestra, but we did pay about 90 bucks for what should have been very good seats. I don’t know how else to see this as but a failure in directing and set design. Sightlines, for god’s sake. It’s theatre 101.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
But even on Tuesday I still didn’t want to watch it, and I realized why: it was the foreign policy debate and I didn’t want to watch Obama boast one more time about how he “took out” Bin Laden. I didn’t want to watch all the strutting and posturing about our strong military and how you don’t mess with Americans or you get your ass kicked.