Friday, February 18, 2011

Gravelled Paradise

As I walked into work this morning, I passed the little plaza in front of our doors. It’s got these trees that grow out of little squares in the concrete. Most of the year the trees are surrounded by plantings of lily grass (I know this because they left one of those little sticks with the name on it in the bed, not because of any plant knowledge on my part). But in the spring, there are these amazing hyacinth’s that spring up overnight, and for about a week, there is this incredible, incredible, a million times incredible smell of sweetness as I leave the office in the evening. In an area that is usually significant in smell only for the smokers that are congregated there, for this little window of time, there is this, I’ll say it, magic. Tiny flowers with super powers to change the ordinary into something that is purely delight.

And I passed those beds this morning, thinking that it has been warm for a few days, and that usually means that you’ll see a few shoots peaking out, and soon, soon, the promise of soon.

And then I put it together that the gravel that they had filled those beds around the trees, which looks perfectly “nice” and serviceable and, I’m sure, quite economical, means no more hyacinths.

And today that makes me quite sad.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In spite of the backlash of being too Brit and too soft on Nazis, I’m going to bet that The King’s Speech will win for Best Picture at the Oscars. Personally, I thought it was rather bold (in a very polite, British way) in fingering Edward’s Nazis leanings, and in being a wanker, both literal and figurative. Plus, there’s no such thing as too Brit for me. I just damn well liked TKS all the way around. It wasn’t my favorite movie of 2010, which is going to go down as Winter’s Bone (also nominated, and less of a dark horse than a black hole horse) which was flawed but beautiful.

And that flawed thing is why The King’s Speech will win. It was virtually flawless as far as filmmaking. The story was solid. Perfectly, if leisurely, paced. No logical wholes that you had to be glossed over. The characters were uniformly strong. All recognizable as human beings, with small nuances for even the smallest speaking parts. The actors nailed it. Not one lazy portrayal. The technical aspects were all spot on: sound, photography, costuming, sets. Not one thing to take you out of the enjoyment of the story.

And it was an old fashioned story. Straight up, humble heroism. Loyalty. Overcoming adversity (even if you are a royal). People eat that shit up.

Overall, it was the only movie of the year where I didn’t walk out of the theater (twice, I saw it twice) thinking “If only”. Change this, tweak that. There are perfectly good movies out there that you enjoy, like, love, would recommend to a friend, but think one actor really stunk the place up, or the cinematography was boring (Winter’s Bone), or the story just punked out at the end, but they make up for it with a double-helix plot twist, or crazy creative art direction, or an inspired performance, or even just a damn good soundtrack. Beautiful but flawed. The King’s Speech had none of that. Classic moviemaking. And if the Academy of Motion Pictures has any integrity, they’ll hold it up as an example of the way to do it right.

And I just really want to see Helena Bonham Carter in the kiss-and-cry room.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sneaky little bastard

Okay, so I’m wandering towards the train this morning thinking about how I don’t have any idea what to do for Lent this year. Nothing really grabbing me. I’m about maxed out on my diet tinkering. Those are usually the easiest to do. Philosophically, I’m usually looking for something that may or may not be a permanent change, but that I would like to test out. The New Years resolutions are usually things that I’m sure about. Lent is more of a toe-in-the-water sort of thing. You can do just about anything for that length of time.

So, I’m thinking, “Something new. Something that I wouldn’t normally do. Something good for me. Like, oh, I don’t know, exercise or . . . oh, crap.” That’s exactly what I should do. Because I don’t want to. But I should. I despise exercise. Which is exactly why it is one of the bigger holes in my get healthy plan. The minute I thought “exercise” my whole body seized up with dread. So, of course. That’s it.


Just a pinch of "Arsenic"

Okay, so I booked 2 shows to usher for the weekend. The previously mentioned second dose of Arsenic and Old Lace and Romeo & Juliet at the Opera. I’ll start with R & J. First of all, yawn. And then . . . no actually, yawn will pretty much cover it. Three and a half hours, people! I nearly sprained a muscle with that much yawning. I coulda been catching flies.

On to AOL. As I suspected, things were much more shipshape on Friday. Nearly all the little rough patches were smoothed out. So what you were left with was like one of those little old-fashioned tin clockwork toys where individual bits whir and spin in (near) perfect timing, each charming in their own right and pretty much fascinating when moving in concert. Old-fashioned seems to be the right word altogether. Most of the performances could have been plucked right out of a 40s movie. It was refreshingly un-ironic, in a way that most theater companies seem to think of themselves as too much of the cool kids to do anymore.

To start with, the set is like a giant dollhouse, where you are looking at the exterior of this Victorian two-story, complete with gingerbread and slate shingles. And then it spins to the inside of the Brewster home. Enough tzotchkes to make a Jewish nana swoon. Stairs, hidden doors, the window seat (with dead bodies). Then the costumes were all spot-on. My guess would be that they were nearly all done for the show, or tailored for the actor. There was one of the cops who had an astonishing bubble butt that was very nearly disguised by a cleverly cut jacket and pair of pants. The Brewster sisters’ funeral outfits were simply gasp worthy. Jet beading. Lace. Devoré. Sigh. Modern clothing is such a bore.

Betty Buckley and Tovah Feldshuh as the sisters were just a scream. Sweetly tolerant of their nephews’ eccentricities – one thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, one has a sadly déclassé connection with the tawdry theater (tut tut), and one looks like Boris Karloff and likes to torture small animals, including his brother. They bear up admirably, and manage to still keep their little hobbies like donating toys to the needing, delivering beef broth to the sickly, and knocking off lonely, little old men, in the most benevolent manner possible, of course. These gals are dotty like a fox. And it’s kind of nice to see a pair of actresses having a great time just going balls to the wall with the crazy old aunt thing.

The one person I really had concerns about going in was the guy playing Mortimer. The movie version was one of the roles that Cary Grant was known for. And this guy is no Cary Grant. Who is? (Okay, maybe George Clooney on a good day. But that’s about it. And he doesn’t play Dallas all that often.) And, unfortunately, the person who takes up one of those iconic roles usually ends up standing in that giant Cary Grant shaped hole, trying to take up as much space as possible. What actually happened this time was that the actor rather pleasantly reminded me more of Jimmy Stewart (shout out to Philadelphia Story!). Totally worked.

Overall, the whole show is a kick in the pants. Top drawer. And if they got that spider picture shimmed on the second story landing so that it didn’t glare, I’d have been tempted to give it an A+. But points off for making me squint. Solid A, nonetheless.

TIME: Quotes of the Day