Archive for the ‘Art and Artists’ Category

Marvel Movie

I fear some aspect of ageing has rendered me unable to appreciate worthy movies, so that I find myself watching the most desperately silly stuff. With handsome guys! Which reminds me of my older daughter explaining why football was great: large men in tight pants. The ridiculous comic book movies do indeed feature large men in tight pants. Which is, of course, very nice.
Though, one likes to think one appreciates, you know, the finer things.
And I do! Do I not subscribe to the ballet, to the opera? YES! Do I not read complicated and excellent books? YES! Well, mostly. There are the Vampire/Werewolf in Victorian London series. I’m not proud of my eager haste in reading all of those.
Come to think on it, perhaps I am losing brain power, dear friends.
See, I started watching Ladybird, which everyone agreed was a fine well made modern movie. Alas, alas, I just couldn’t keep watching it, despite the totally believable Saoirse Ronan–a splendid young actress, who was so fine in Brooklyn.
What, Hope, already missing the guys in tight pants?
And then, Netflix slyly offered me Thor: Ragnarok, one of those Marvel Comix productions. It’s jokey, violent, colorful, imaginative–in fact, fun to watch. Silly, unbelievable–but, fun to watch.
Jeff Goldblum makes a fabulous villain, effete and self involved, with a large unamused lady aide, who keeps him in line.

Together they rule over some kind of entertainment empire, and both Thor and Loki are somehow entrapped. And both are as beautiful as the day, so that really, there is no problem with just watching them. They have good lines, too.

AND, Anthony Hopkins plays their dad, Odin. And Cate Blanchette their sister, the, uh, GODDESS OF DEATH. She has a fabulous unfolding hat with antlers, REALLY effective. She is SO BAD.
They all seem to be having a ball. And of course, they are making millions of dollars, which can’t hurt. Hiddlestone and Blanchette have made serious movies, which, come to think on it, were also fun to watch.
So maybe it’s not old age, it’s just good sense that has me watching fun movies that are, after all, made to entertain.


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When I was a little girl, my family lived in Greece–such a paradise it was. My wonderful parents, my siblings, our dog–a life filled with brilliant happiness. Over 60 years ago now, but still I remember family picnics on beaches by the turquoise sea, biking in the leafy city, games, and dinners, and good times.
And the sound of old Greek music is the sound of happiness to me.
YES, yes, I know it often reminds one of the bleating of a discontented goat, and it does go on a bit.
BUT, to me the sound is wild and joyful, and of a piece with all human music: how BAD she treated me, how SAD I am, but let’s dance, let’s drink!

Those singers​ are all gone now, but their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, still sing these songs, still dance these dances.
Or at least, I like to think they do. ​

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​​Yesterday I joined my fellow antique citizens for a performance of Cosi fan Tutte (=EVERYONE does it) –a grand performance of Mozart’s fab opera as put on by the Met and delivered to our local movie theater, at a tiny fraction of the cost and vexation of seeing it in New York.
I don’t know why young people are not loving opera, but so it is. Perhaps opera will not end after my generation dies, but I must report that the audience at this event was nothing but whitehairs. And we staggered, clumped, and wheeled our way into the theater.
For this production, it was decided that Coney Island in the 1950’s would be a fun location for the action. Why? Well, opera producers get bored of those damn powdered wigs and gigantic petticoats, I suppose.
The music is completely beautiful–angelic harmonies, amazing singing, astonishing and miraculous. But I was somewhat shocked by the libretto–I am an old lady now, and not as forgiving as I was as a young woman.
The story is about 2 loving couples, under attack by an immoral older man, who persuades the 2 men to disguise themselves and tempt their beloved women to betray them, which they do, successfully. And thus, breaking their own hearts. I have seen reviews saying that Mozart was brilliantly confronting the limitations of the enlightenment, of a world based on reason. Here is what Despina, the star of the show, says:
What is love? Pleasure, convenience, taste, enjoyment, amusement, pastime, fun– it’s no longer love if it becomes a burden and instead of pleasure brings pain and torment.

But that is false, of course. Or at least, false for grown ups. Teenagers frantic for sex may so define love, but surely those more mature would not.
Love is more than sex.
Listening to that heavenly music, I thought, how could anyone believe such crap, despite the gorgeous singing, despite the elegant stage set, despite the charming freak show inhabitants–the snake charmer, the sword swallower, the dwarfs and giants, whose weary cynical faces figured so dramatically in each scene.

Yes, they said, the world is wicked, the world pays us to show how crazy it is—but, you know, the world is not completely crazy. And love is more than pleasure, convenience, taste, enjoyment, amusement, pastime, fun. And this was a mean spirited show, though the music is so wonderful, reminding us that music is how we honor god.

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Today I had tickets to the Mark Morris Dance company, at the Kennedy Center.
I am not a fan of Mark Morris, but I recognize that he has created some truly beautiful moves. I didn’t love his version of Nutcracker (“The Hard Nut”) but it always gets great reviews–other people love it.
This show, called Layla and Majnun, is based on an Azerbaijani opera that has roots in ancient Persian poetry– a sad tale of love lost.

This modern dance adaptation included the Silk Road musicians and famed Azerbaijani singers Alim Qasimov and his daughter Farghana Qasimova, performing on stage.
We heard the whole song cycle before the dancers came out. The music is impressive, dramatic and tragic, long held notes, quavers, odd chords.
Nice, but a little, well, LONG.
The translation was not inspiring:

“My soul is on fire because we are apart
I want to join my beloved…

Then more musicians and more singers came in, and the dancers.
The men wore long blue coats over loose white trousers, and the women wore singularly unattractive orange dresses. It happens that orange and blue is one of those combinations that I particularly dislike, but I earnestly strove to overcome this shaming prejudice.
The dancing is pleasingly symmetrical, with patterns emerging and repeated, handed back and forth between the men and women.

What was odd was how seldom a man and woman actually danced together–no duets here. Constantly, they would surge towards each other and then–pass by.
Morris explains:

“In Romeo and Juliet, the lovers have one night of fabulous teenage sex, and then they die, and that’s perfect. But this is beyond that. And that’s because God eludes them. In the end they drop their bodies and become pure spirit. It’s about infinity.”

Infinity is all very well, but I miss the duets. And, Romeo and Juliet (Macmillan’s choreography, to Prokofiev’s score) has the most beautiful duets in the world.

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In my laudable quest for suitable entertainment I have been sampling the wares of many fine European countries—Italy! Germany! Ireland! And recently, a handsome Swedish actor all dressed up in 18th century gear caught my eye—like a youthful Charles Dance, such a pretty lad.

He was playing a doctor in a show called Anno 1790, a decent chap recently arrived in Stockholm: gentlemen in powdered wigs! ladies in elaborate curls and swirling petticoats! Seemed a good bet.

MY, Stockholm was very dark back then—lit by a few dim streetlights. Very authentic of course, but sometimes hard to tell who it was striding through the streets. The good doctor saved an innocent man from being executed for murder, and managed to keep his hands off the adorable wife of his employer in the first episode. But there was some fairly horrid stuff and the third episode started in such a grisly fashion that I fled to…


Idiotic and yet very likeable animated film, brimming with all the tedious messages that such films always urge on us (Pursue Your Dream! Everyone is Above Average!) –it’s Let’s Put on a Show, in a city filled with humanoid animals. But actually, rather nice. I particularly liked Johnny the soulful Gorilla.

Idiotic as I said, but rather charming. And there were no children whipped to death which cannot alas be said of Anno 1790. See, that is the kind of plot device that tends to dismay the grannies.

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I am glad to see that Waterhouse’s charming painting of Hylas and the Nymphs has been returned to the Manchester Art Gallery!
After having been removed by stern feminists, who had vowed it would never return.
Heavens, what a bunch of kill-joys. No more cakes and ale! It turned out that the public was outraged, and made their views very clear to the city, which sulkily put it back.
Years and years ago, I wrote a thesis about the Pre Raphaelites–not a very learned one, this was art school after all. But how I loved those paintings, and what a thrill to see some of them on the wall at the Tate, years later.
Lovely things, if not perhaps number one in the taste department.

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The Alvin Ailey dance troupe has just finished its triumphant Washington tour, and I have just returned from watching the show. The theater was packed to the rafters, and many many black families had come to honor the dancers– a very different audience from that with which one normally shares the theater, much more enthusiastic. Cheering and clapping with great good humor at every piece–at every pause even. Not every piece deserved such accolades, but there, let us not be mulish about it.
The first piece (=”Stack-up”) was all bopping and jiving, really splendid stuff, all those dancers out on stage in brilliant colors, displaying such amazing athletic grace, such verve. The second piece (=”Victoria’) not QUITE so fine, the music was squalling away, and there were 3 large white– trees? Constructs? Sort of like the feet of the Eiffel tower. Underneath these edifices, the dancers writhed and moved in astonishing ways but not in ways that one loved so much. I somehow found myself napping a teensy bit. Then, they did a charming piece called Ella, which was simply 2 men moving to one of Ella Fitzgerald’s ridiculous scat singing pieces, silly stuff but very lovable. The audience ate it up. Lastly, they did their standard piece, Revelations, dances to a bunch of spirituals, which seemed to be what most of the audience had come for. Good enough stuff, deep pliés in long skirts sort of thing. But the LAST one was something else–Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham! Worth the price of admission right there. The ladies came on, all dressed in bright yellow dresses with matching hats and fans, holding stools in their hands. And they quivered the fans, and set down the stools and sat on them–and, wow, such moves! And then in came the men, all dressed up with pants and shirts and vests, and my, how they danced!

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