May 26, 2017

La La Land: Oscar-worthy

I finally had the opportunity to see La La Land this past week. In short, I was delighted from start to finish. Imagine my surprise when the two men who accompanied me to the cinema proclaimed this to be “a terrible movie” and “boring,” respectively.
Another friend disliked the opening sequence with a traffic jam resulting in people getting out of their cars and singing and dancing.
As for me, I loved the opening for quickly putting the viewer into the world of Hollywood where every other person seems to be grasping for a toe hold into the world of entertainment. Although they may get to sing, dance, act, write, direct or design for TV and movies, all of these people have to keep on scrambling to pay bills and keep their cars running. The scene also has the principal characters “meeting cute” with an angry flipped finger at one another.

The use of bright colors throughout the movie whether it be with clothing, furniture, signage or scenery absolutely delighted my eyes. The score was tuneful and lyrics well-crafted. The song “City of Stars” is still going through my head. The orchestration found so many different ways of presenting the simple but potent melodies. The script dialogue is reminiscent of the rapid bantering of 1930’s screwball comedies.

Now a word about the stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. She can actually sing pretty expressively. Gosling’s singing is serviceable, but I was really impressed with his ability to simulate playing the piano really well. He reportedly sang and played piano, guitar, bass and cello in a group in 2009 so he came to the film with some musical skills. His dancing is pretty impressive, too, especially since he is six feet tall and gracefully manages his long legs. Stone and Gosling were cast for their box office names and their acting chops, but their musical and dancing skills are most entertaining.

One of the men who dissed the movie did sheepishly note the large number of Oscar nominations for this “terrible movie.” Let me compare this to the political climate. We definitely see the world through our own filters, be it for movie-watching or political opinions. Some of us just have better taste!

Mana Contemporary Chicago, a Pilsen art center

I have often visited art galleries in River North, but my brother-in-law let me know about another Pilsen venue that seems to be attracting many creative types. Mana Contemporary at  2233 South Throop Street is an art center housed in a landmark building designed by Chicago architect George Nimmons, in a decidedly urban and industrial setting.

Mana Chicago features studios, offices and performing spaces where art is created, including painting, sculpture, photography, dance, film, sound and performance work.

We were fortunate enough to attend the Summer Open Studios on June 18 so we could browse dozens of artist work spaces on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of the complex. We also encountered a cafe serving light bites and beverages, a performance space that featured dance and a live art studio with two partially clothed women with parasols creating an ever-changing tableau.

Some of my favorite studios: Dana Major with her magical installations featuring wire, lenses, glass, mineral optics and LEDS; Ava Grey, a creative agency and production house that creates art using materials from urban American sub-culture, and Olea Nova, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia whose work includes painting, drawing, sound and video.

At times, the unusually-garbed artists and art viewers rivaled the art on the walls. The unobstructed views from the studio windows were breath-taking with stunning sunset hues and cityscape vistas.

There are two other Mana art centers, the Mana Wynwood in Miami and the Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ.

The Mana Contemporary Chicago web site indicates that tours are available during business hours. For more information, visit:
http://www.manacontemporarychicago.com/

Lawyers for the Creative Arts

I recently became better acquainted with Lawyers for the Creative Arts, an organization comprised of lawyers from the Chicagoland area who donate their time and expertise to help artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers with their legal problems. Creators have been given pro bono legal help with everything from copyrights to contracts to law suits.

Their recent benefit luncheon in the Palmer House’s Empire Room honored law firm Sidley Austin for their pro bono work, former board president William Frankel for his longtime service to LCA, Mark Howard, founder and choreographer of the Trinity Irish Dancers and Liz Carroll, the noted performer and composer of Irish fiddle music. The incoming Consul General of Ireland, the Hon. Orla McBreen introduced the program and popular cultural commentator Rick Kogan acted as master of ceremonies.

In the last twelve months, LCA lawyers have provided legal service to over 2000 people and organizations.  Founded 42 years ago, some of the earliest volunteer lawyers are still active in the organization. Beneficiaries of LCA’s legal advice have dubbed the organization “An Angel to the Arts.”

http://law-arts.org

Midsommarfest – 50th Anniversary in Andersonville

Every June, 50,000 people descend upon Andersonville for a weekend celebration of Midsommarfest featuring food, music, crafts and alcohol. This year, June 12, 13 and 14, the party will be even bigger since the festival is marking its 50th anniversary.

You will want to do some Clark Street window-shopping so you can see the vintage photos from the 1965 Midsommar Fest.  The retro car styles, hairdos and clothing will certainly give you a chuckle.

You don’t have to be resident to enjoy the festivities. Admittance is only $10 with kids under 12 and seniors being free. As added incentive, if you spend $30 at an Andersonville retail establishment or service provider and get a receipt, you are entitled to a free beer at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce booth. (Restaurants and bars are excluded.)

There will be five stages featuring live events and entertainment including a Chicago Hula Hoop Festival, the Bow Wow Lounge Pet Parade and yoga classes provided by Smarty Pants Yoga and Bikram Yoga Andersonville.   Some of the performing groups include Joel Hall and Gus Giordano Dance companies, the Windy City Cowboys, the Jazz Institute’s Jazz Links Youth Ensemble and dozens of  live music groups of the “party hearty” variety. There is even a Miss Andersonville pageant!

Kids can enjoy a climbing wall, a giant inflatable slide, face painting, theatre games and many other family activities.

If you feel like being an honorary Scandinavian, you can catch a traditional Maypole dance, a Swedish-American Children’s Choir, Nordic Folk Dancers, the Merula Choir or the Nordland Band. Skol!

Parking during this weekend can be a challenge. Buses that will get you to the vicinity include the 22 Clark, the 36 Broadway, and the 146 and 147 Express buses;  the red line elevated train with a stop at Berwyn is also a convenient choice. May the Norse gods bring good weather.

http://andersonville.org/events/midsommarfest

Opera Beat: Oscar Wilde production starring David Daniels


Would that I could hop on a plane Feb. 9-12 to see Opera Philadelphia’s production of “Oscar,” featuring opera star David Daniels as famous writer Wilde. A co-production and co-commission with Santa Fe Opera which premiered the new work in 2013 , the music is by composer Theodore Morrison and the libretto by Morrison and opera director John Cox. The opera focuses on Wilde’s trial and imprisonment with fellow poet and homosexual Walt Whitman acting as a Greek chorus of sorts. Cox and Morrison were inspired by Richard Ellman’s biography of Wilde, his letters, documents and quotes from his contemporaries. Oscar Wilde’s biological grandson, Merlin Holland also provided scholarly information on his famous forebear. (Oscar Wilde had two sons with wife Thelma Besant and has a male great-grandchild living in London.)

Counter tenor David Daniels, a former vocal student of composer Morrison’s, brings his world class voice to the role of Oscar Wilde. (As an interesting connection, the countertenor voice range is similar to a woman’s mezzo soprano voice. Writer Max Beerbohm, an acquaintance of Wilde’s, said that Oscar had a mezzo soprano singing range.) Reed Luplau dances the role of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, lending a visually lyrical quality to their relationship. Heidi Stober plays his loyal female friend, Ada Leverson. William Burden is cast as journalist and sexual roué Frank Harris who wrote a biography of Wilde.

Here is a fascinating brief interview with Oscar composer, Theodore Morrison:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZV9jWnEIgvQ

Opera Philadelphia has a wonderful series of clips of music from the opera and interviews with the performers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0mdxFJZ5XA

If any of you are lucky enough to catch this production in Philadelphia, please send me a brief review! For now, youtube will have to suffice for those of us not able to journey to Pennsylvania.

"Oscar" opera in Santa Fe

Dance crazy

My friend Francesca had me watch a great dance video from “So You Think You Can Dance” with Herb Alpert and Lani Hall performing the song “Puttin’ On the Ritz” and I was suddenly gaga for more choreography on-line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2adCe619cc

Another clip that slays me is “Let’s Dance” by the Killers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab9i0s4WEY0

Catch the amazing “Wrecking Crew Orchestral-El Squad” with it’s neon skeleton dancers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ydeY0tTtF4

This is addictive. Just one more…..

 

 

Thunder From Down Under In Chicago

I was part of a girlie foursome who decided to check out “Thunder From Down Under,” the Australian male strip tease show currently running at Joe’s Bar in Chicago with an 8 PM show on Friday and 7 and 10:30 PM shows on Saturday. This is guilty pleasure at its finest so opt for a more expensive table seat rather than the standing room option. If you like beautiful men who move really well, join the rest of the Bachelorette party attendees in hooting and hollering. Hey, splurge and get your picture taken with these dreamboats after the show. The Chicago run ends August 28 when you will then have to go to Las Vegas for your “hunk of burning love.”
Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed Street, Chicago. Call 847-288-9398 for reservations. Valet parking or lots in the vicinity.