October 31, 2016

Halloween: The Anti-Cinderella

As a child I wanted nothing more than to be Cinderella for Halloween. I remember one year when I was a cowboy. Not a cowgirl - a cowboy. I remember being a scarecrow and a baseball player. But what I remember most is the year I was a wolf. The costume was a red onesie-type thing with a tail, and it had a red full-head wolf's mask complete with fangs and icky red fur.
Talk about anti-Cinderella.
The only good thing about that wolf costume was that Mrs. Williams, my third grade teacher, said she was going to give out a prize if she couldn't guess who you were and I thought, "How the fuck is she going to know who I am in this thing?"
Well, not in those exact words. I was 8, after all.
Mrs. Williams went up and down the rows and put her hand on each kid's head and said their name. Of course it was easy with the princesses and the cowboys and Indians, but there were a few of us with full-head masks and I was sure I was going to win. But when she got to me she never even hesitated, just said my name and moved on.
Sheila Bennett won that year. She was a black cat. She didn't even have a full-head mask. She wore black makeup and whiskers and a mask over her eyes. And she acted just like a cat; licking her paw and "washing" her head and sitting by Mrs. Williams' chair and meowing. Everybody knew it was Sheila. Except that ignorant (sucker) Mrs. Williams.
The thing is, I used to get my cousin Ken's Halloween hand-me-downs because he was one year older.
But he was a boy. I was not.
And my mother was too mean to buy me a Cinderella costume. Mean, just like that wicked stepmother. And she was apparently immune to my tears because I shed a lot of them over that wolf thing.
It scarred me for life.
I blame Ken. If only he'd wanted to be Cinderella.

October 29, 2016

Movie Review: Moonlight **

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune calls this film "extraordinary," because of "the film medium's secret weapons: restraint, quiet honesty, fluid imagery..."
His definition of 'restraint' must be 'excruciatingly slow.' By 'quiet honesty' he must be talking about all those many scenes where the camera lingers on someone who's not speaking, and by 'fluid imagery'...well, I can only imagine what that means.
I truly thought this film was going to be a gem, and was shocked when under an hour into it I was looking at my watch. Things move very slowly here.
In the first act Chiron is about eight and is befriended by (of all people) his mother's drug dealer, and the drug dealer's lady. But somewhere along the way (in the second act) the drug dealer is gone and we only know he died because Chiron's mother mentions a funeral.
There's one more scene with the drug dealer's lady, so you know she's still in his life, but than pfffft! she's gone. What happened to her? We never know.
So now, Chiron is about 15 or 16, and he's even more morose and silent than he was at eight. Which, believe me, is not engaging.
So then he gets beaten up (this happens regularly in his life) and retaliates and goes to Juvie.
And in the third act he's in his 20s and has moved to Atlanta with his drug addict mom and has turned into the drug dealer who befriended him - same car, same dashboard ornament, same necklace, and those gold teeth that shout "I'm a drug dealer!"
In the end (spoiler alert) he meets up with with his childhood friend who's now a cook in a restaurant in Miami (where they grew up), whom he's been in love with all these years.
Yes, there's a gay theme. Sort of.
He goes to the restaurant where this guy cooks and they reconnect. Kevin, the friend, wants to cook for him and asks him what he wants. "Or do you want the chef's special?" he asks. And a man in the audience says (loud), "Yeah, give it to him," which was very funny. Many people laughed, so you can see what the mood was.
I can't blame the actors for their performances, tho I want to. It's all about the directing. And the writing, but less so.
Two stars out of five for Moonlight.
(But I bet it'll be nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards.)

October 23, 2016

Movie Review: Aquarius **1/2

Aquarius never gives us a compelling reason for Clara's refusal to leave her apartment in the face of pressure all around her. And that's the entire plot of this film.
I wanted to be on her side, but what was her motivation? Sentiment? Stubbornness? Principle? We never know.
This is a very long movie - 2 hours 22 minutes - and there's a lot happening but most of it seems to have no purpose.
I wanted to care but unfortunately never found a reason to.
2-1/2 stars for Aquarius, but only that many because I love Sonia Braga.

October 11, 2016

Theatre Review: Hamilton *****

First question everyone asks: Does Hamilton live up to the hype?
The answer: Unequivocally,  yes. And beyond.
How did Lin Manuel-Miranda ever come up with the concept of doing a musical about Alexander Hamilton, who certainly was not our most famous president?
And then, once he thought of it, how did he come up with the idea of doing it in hip-hop?
And what made him choose all races and ethnicities to play these mostly-white parts?
How did he decide to add amazing choreography?
The answer: Who knows?
But it's genius.
This show a phenomenon. It's clever and smart with perfect direction and amazing actors who all have great voices and dancing abilities, and it brings to life a time in our history that we all need to remember.
There are a few current-day terms sprinkled in ("Awesome!" "Wassup!") that work in the context, but are surprising, and so funny.
And then there are the ditties sung in a sulky way by King George to his errant subjects in the new world. He's a hoot. Here's a sample from his first song, You'll Be Back:
You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
You’ll remember you belong to me
You’ll be back, time will tell
You’ll remember that I served you well
Oceans rise, empires fall
We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!
This show lives up to everything you expect in a Broadway smash.
Five of five stars for Hamilton.

October 8, 2016

Theatre Review: Scarcity at Redtiwst Theatre *

The only word that comes to mind when trying to describe the play Scarcity, now showing at the Redtwist Theatre, is ick.
Here's the premise: There's Martha, an enabling, trash-talking woman who's married to a jobless drunk who lusts after his own 12 year old daughter. This delightful couple also has another child,  Billy, 16, who's supposedly very bright and who's lusted after by his young teacher. White trash mom encourages this relationship so that sweet little Billy can get ahead.
Oh, and if that's not enough Martha's bad-cop cousin lusts after her, though of course he has his own wife, who's pretty disgusting herself, so no wonder he wants to get it on with Martha.
There's not a hint of likeability or vulnerability or any redeeming quality in any of these characters, so no reason to care about them.
There's nothing believable in the dialogue or the characters or the situation. The reliable Jacqueline Grandt is good as Martha (although sometimes she stares off into space while action is going on around her) but the other performances are pretty uneven. Some of them sound as if they're reading directly from the script. It's a wonder that this play by Lucy Thurber has ever gone into production.
One of five stars for Scarcity, which doesn't really even deserve that. One of the down sides of a very small theater is that you'd have to walk across the set to leave in the middle of the play, otherwise we would have done it. Thankfully, it's short.

October 1, 2016

Movie Review: Deepwater Horizon ***

Deepwater Horizon is a heart-wrenching film to watch, knowing that some semblance of it happened - possibly not in the way it's depicted on the screen, it's not a documentary after all, but surely equally horrific. We know what's going to happen going in - most of us were aware of it when it happened - but we didn't know the faces behind the story, and the families who loved them and feared for them.
There are a lot of explosions in this film, debris flying about, bodies being blasted from one end to the other, blood, fire, brimstone - a little too much for my taste.
The first hour is the set-up to the disaster, and BP officials' responsibility for the failure to follow safety measures. That's a little long for set-up.
The second act is the disaster, and I watched in horror and dread, but that act is a little too long as well, carnage that goes on and on and on.
And the final act is just about right, showing these guys trying to get off the rig, looking after each other, the rescue effort, and then some of the families reuniting with their loved ones.
Eleven men died, and their pictures are shown before the credits, and that's very poignant.
All in all, it could have been better but much of it was very gripping.
Three of five stars for Deepwater Horizon.