Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Revolutionary Road doesn't live up to the buzz. Of course, to do so, it would have to be the most amazing and brilliantest film ever made ever, as the buzz has been borderline ridiculous. "Kate and Leo! Back together! Will she finally get her Oscar? Will they both? OOooohhEeehOoohI'llNeverLetGoJackAaaaaah!" It's not a terrible movie, it's beautifully shot and clearly adapted from a great book, which I look forward to reading. The supporting cast is one of the finest I've ever seen, with sharp, nuanced performances from David Harbour, Future of American Theater Zoe Kazan, Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker, Jay O. Sanders, Richard Fucking Easton!, and Michael Shannon, who has to at least be nominated for Supporting Actor. Which brings me to...
Michael Shannon should be a household name by now. His performance here as a clinically insane but powerfully observant truth-teller should put a firm lock on his place amidst the great character actors of his generation. He's one of those actors whose committment to his role is so absolute, it makes you laugh out loud in wonder at how he does that. Why, why, why, isn't he more famous? He's a genius! Genius!! Anyway...
So yeah, the supporting cast is the best part. I'm afraid Kate and Leo's performances are less impressive. There's a lot of shouting, screaming, crying, and throwing of things, and not much else of substance that would help us see them as fully developed characters. Of course this isn't entirely their fault, the problem is inextricably linked to the fact that it's a thin adaptation of a book, filled with explosions but not enough background to let us get to know the characters. Because of this, you really feel like you're watching Kate and Leo, not April and Frank, which makes their uberstardom distracting. I suspect that the pair, along with director/Winslet-hubby Sam Mendes were so excited to work together, they sort of got in a room and started furiously acting in a way that's too overblown for film, especially a film about waspy types trapped in suburban ennui. I also think this isn't the best film for a husband to direct his wife in, as it's all about the complex interweavings of love and hate in a marriage, and I don't think he had a truly objective perspective on their performances in those conflicts.
Another problem: Mad Men just does it better. That must be annoying for Sam Mendes. They should have asked Matthew Weiner to do a rewrite of the screenplay.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Just before the holidays, a striking mix of industry heavyweights and notable alumni gathered in a studio at the Juilliard School to see a bare-bones workshop of Joe Kraemer's play Dangerous People. Since this was an unpublicized workshop, I won't give away the juicy details, but I can say that Kraemer's talent was abundantly clear to everyone in that room - the play is funny, surprising, and unflinchingly honest, and the response was extraordinary. It's not every day that I see a workshop and think Second Stage, Atlantic, or MCC could stage a full production right away, but that's how good we're talking here.
By the way, Joe Kraemer gets around. Not only is he the dramaturg and literary manager for the Juilliard Drama Division, he is also the administrator of the Playwrighting Fellowship, and doubtless played a considerable role in the development of talents like David Auburn, David Lindsey-Abaire, Adam Rapp, and so many more. Dude is seriously talented. Take note!
Friday, December 26, 2008
By the way, you might have noticed that Moxie's on twitter. If you're unfamiliar with the way twitter works, it's like your facebook status updates - you just post a short answer to the question "What are you doing?" You can find other people you know, and then "follow" them to see what they're up to. Everybody's doing it, Ars Nova tweets, as does fancy blogger Jason Kottke, and even Seth Rudetsky is there, so join the fun!
You can view my most recent tweets over on the right where it says "Twitter Updates," and if you're on twitter too, come say hello and be friendly-like, eh?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
It's no secret that these are bleak times for Broadway. With rising ticket prices and dwindling tourism during New York's coldest months, a handful of shows will close in the coming weeks, with more sure to follow. For artists, as for the rest of the country, the world looks uncertain and perhaps even a little unfriendly. It seems fitting then, that a musical about the value of art set amidst poverty, instability, and social strife would be inspiring passion and hope in seemingly everyone who sees it.
The story is simple. Boy discovers art. Boy's family shuns art, hopes boy isn't a pansy (or since we're in industrial 80's England here, a "poof".) Boy secretly continues making art, and family finally realizes his incredible talent just in time to help him achieve success. A cursory glance may lead one to believe that the message is clear: be yourself, work hard, follow your dreams, and things will work out.
Those neat little lessons are certainly present in Billy Elliot, but there is also something deeper at work. Billy's family isn't just poor - they are the working class on strike, a part of the brutal 1984 Coal Miner's Strike, and they are fighting every day with everything they have. There is a scene close to the end of the play in which much of the town is present at a meeting, at their ropes end trying to put food on their tables and care for their families. They are desperate and exhausted, with no end in sight, and finding a way to send Billy on the expensive journey to London to audition for ballet school seems impossible. Then something incredible happens. One by one, these people who have next to nothing step forward from both sides of the picket line, each offering what little money they can, intent on giving Billy that one chance at his dream. Even in their darkest of times, there is an awareness that this child, an artist, is someone to be protected, respected, and encouraged. He, and his art, are important.
This tribute to the dreams of a young artist is at the heart of Billy Elliot, and it elevates the show from a dance spectacular to a cathartic theatrical experience. There is no doubt that it will inspire legions of young people, not just dancers but dreamers of all sorts, which is what Billy really is. Because of this, I can't think of a better show to recommend to just about anybody.
Just one thing is irritating about Billy Elliot: the possibility of what it could have been with a better score. As the spirited ensemble battles to inject fire into Elton John's ho-hum melodies, I couldn't help but wistfully imagine a soaring and expressive score by composers like Ahrens and Flaherty, or Adam Guettel. Even with some of the most awe-inspiring choreography I've ever seen, it's still a *musical*, and a mediocre score keeps this one just a hair short of truly transcendent.
Photo of David Alvarez and Haydn Gwynne by David Scheinmann.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Gawker on Sherry Johnson's (mother of Levi, Bristol Palin's fiancee/baby daddy) recent arrest on charges of selling oxycontin:
This is a sad and not-at-all entertaining story of broke-ass bored trashy people in a miserable unhealthy little sprawling town using and selling drugs to briefly escape the dull pain of their shitty lives, and it would not be news that the mother of a high school dropout who's marrying some idiot girl he impregnated was arrested for using drugs except that at some point we were all instructed to admire these exalted Real Americans.Well said, Gawker!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Jeremy Piven, you so crazy! You come to Broadway all serious-actor-like, win rave reviews for your performance in Speed the Plow, and then one day you just stop showing up! And the only explanation you offer is something about having too much mercury in your blood!
A friend close to the production told me that Piven finally learned his lines *just* in time for press performances. Ugh, the hollywood factor makes things so predictable.
Seriously though, the best part is what David Mamet had to say:
“I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury,” Mamet said. “So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”Snap!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I recently checked out Nick Dujnic's play We All Fall Down, currently in the final week of it's run at the 45th Street Theatre. Dujnic's voice is original, fishing for meaning in a stormy sea of mischief and dark humor, violence and misogyny, not to mention blow jobs and prat falls. We All Fall Down takes place in the lobby of an ominous corporate office, and centers around a hapless young man charged with the job of uninformed and overpaid receptionist. Yes, yes, comparisons to Adam Bock's plays The Thugs and The Receptionist are inevitable, but while Bock suggests the threat behind the curtain, Dujnic takes it front and center, putting dangerous lunacy under a microscope and watching it shriek and squirm. A game cast each do terrific justice to their exaggerated, hyperbolic roles. Playing through Saturday.
at 7:38 PM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
With 1.2 million hits in it's first day online, I'm sure everyone has seen this 12 times already, but it's still brilliant and I'm posting it, so there!
Barack Obama’s ascension just had us all so giddy. We were thinking of how to film it, and I said, “Well, maybe that first section should be all of us on a hill, with poppies, and it snows and we’re put to sleep, and then the Proposition 8 people are looking through the crystal ball, like the Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’” Because that’s what happened. We stupidly allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of, everything’s fantastic now, look – everything’s changing. And this couldn’t possibly be voted into law. This is just like some little pesky thing that we’re swatting at, and it will go away immediately.
-Marc Shaiman, via NY Times