February 29, 2020

Rocketman, a film inspired by the life of Sir Elton John

Released last year, Rocketman, the bio pic based on Elton John’s early life, has been currently available on selected streaming sites. In short, Taron Egerton is a wonder as Sir Elton. He justifiably won a Golden Globe as best actor for his performance, but was inexplicably left off the list of this year’s Oscar nominations.

Film credits go to director Dexter Fletcher and screenplay writer Lee Hall for choosing a dramatic arc in John’s life that has great emotional resonance. We see his difficult childhood, his precocity at the Royal Academy of Music in London and his search for a musical path. Enter lyricist, Bernie Taupin, played by actor Jamie Bell, who teams up with Elton to add words to his prolific compositions.

We see his meteoric rise as he conquers British and American music markets and becomes fabulously wealthy. Like a rocket, what goes up, must come down. Along the way, he tries to commit suicide and becomes addicted to alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, shopping and sex. The movie effectivelyly uses his participation in a rehab group as a device to tell the story.

Throughout the film, we hear those iconic hits and are bemused by his journey through ever more outrageous clothing and accessories. Those platform shoes! Those eyeglasses!

Elton John’s journey in this movie feels a little bit like that of Rocky Balboa’s in the Rocky franchise, but that is not a bad thing. We are rooting for him to turn his life around. Stay for the final credits where you get to read about “the rest of the story.”

If you love Elton John’s music, Rocketman is a must, but the film is inspiring enough for those who are less familiar with his work. Fashionistas will have a visual feast, producing both horror and delight.

Manet and Modern Beauty at the Art Institute of Chicago

You might think that yet another art show on a French Impressionist would be a missable event, but the Art Institute’s exhibit, Manet and Modern Beauty should change your mind.

It has been over 50 years since the AIC has done a solo show on Edouard Manet and the curators have wisely honed in on his later years. Ill health and less mobility may have caused him to turn to smaller canvases and more intimate subjects like feminine beauty with pastels and water colors joining his use of oils.

I loved a small transitional room featuring live plants, a lovely view of the green foliage outside of the museum and a wall of photos depicting Manet’s social network. Unbeknownst to me, female artist Berthe Morisot was his sister-in-law.

His letters on display are filled with delightful images of flowers, fruits and beautifully dressed women. We also get to see unfinished works that allow the viewer to get glimpses of his creative process. The exhibit is punctuated with his larger oil canvases as well. A final room of his flower paintings is like the dessert course to this satisfying artistic meal.

All children under 14 and Chicagoans under age 18 are admitted free. Illinois residents gain free admittance Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm when the museum is open later.

https://www.artic.edu/exhibitions/2822/manet-and-modern-beauty

Pose on FX and Netflix

Show creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals have an unusual hit on their hands, a dramatic tv series about African-American and Latino gay and gender-bending individuals who take part in the New York Ballroom scene of the 1980s.

Men, dressed as women, compete for trophies in club fashion and beauty contests. Actor Billy Porter has created an indelible character as the emcee of these pageants. Competitors band together in different “houses” with “mothers” who head the households. AIDS and discrimination are scourges of this community in Season 1.

The world of real estate, Trump and high finance of the era also figures into the story as a buttoned-up businessman consorts with Angel, (heartbreakingly played by India Moore), a prostitute she-male who participates in this competitive underworld.

There are some tv regulars in the cast like Kate Mara (House of Cards, American Horror Story), Christopher Meloni, Kathryn Erbe and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), plus Sandra Bernhard in Season 2, but it is the lesser known actors that bring real heart to the show.

MJ Rodriguez as Blanca, the mother of the House of Evangelista and Dominique Jackson as Elektra, the rival mother of the House of Abundance have a love/hate relationship that keeps the viewer riveted. Damon Richards, an aspiring dancer (played by Ryan Jamaal Swain), is a homeless kid who becomes the first member of the House of Evenaglista.

Even though these are characters you have never seen on tv before, the writers, actors and directors instantly bring you into this rarified scene, if you are open to it. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but I for one love the over-the-top clothing as well as the raw emotion and high production values. Critics and a host of awards second that opinion.

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Season 2 on Netflix

I am giving a guarded recommendation for the FX incepted true crime drama, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Season 2. My only reservation is the graphic images of violence that linger in the brain long after the nine episodes have been viewed,

The acting is outstanding with bravura performances by Glee-ful actor Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, Edgar Ramirez as Gianni Versace and Penelope Cruz as Gianni’s sister Donatella. Judith Light, Ricky Martin and Michael Nouri are some of the supporting actors that turn in solid performances.

The production team has opted to tell the story of Cunanan’s murder spree backwards with Versace’s demise in Episode 1. Going back in time, we see him gruesomely dispatch Chicago real estate mogul Lee Miglin and Minneapolis friends in Minnesota. We are introduced to his deceptive Filipino father, his overwhelmed mother and previous sugar daddies. By the time we reach his final chapter in the ninth episode, we have a fuller understanding of what created this monstrous personality.

The scriptwriting, cinematography and general production values are of the highest order. If you can handle the gruesome subject matter, The Assassination of Gianni Versace currently streaming on Netflix might be right up your back alley.

The Good Fight on CBS All Access

I finally signed up to see The Good Fight, an exclusive series shown only on CBS All Access. The network has chosen this Good Wife spin-off and a new Star Trek series to lure people to their subscription streaming service. And I bit!

The Good Fight carries on where The Good Wife left off, with many actors reprising their roles from the previous series. Margulies, Chris Noth and Alan Cumming are gone, but Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart is back, as is Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn. The show is peppered with local Chicago actors including Gary Cole as Diane Lockhart’s long distance husband.

Live theater is well represented with Audra McDonald as one of the attorneys at this predominantly black law firm, English actor and director Delroy Lindo as the lead name partner and Bernadette Peters as the wife of a Bernie Madoff-esque client.

Recurring and guest roles are filled by actors like Alan Alda, Louis Gossett Jr., Dylan Baker, Christine Lahti, Matthew Perry and Margo Martindale. Guest roles have included Bebe Neuwirth, Rob Reiner, Judith Light, Wallace Shawn, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Hilty, Christian Borle, Mamie Gummer and Denis O’Hare. Talk about a who’s who of stage, tv and film.

In fact, every episode seems to bring back characters from The Good Wife, created by Michelle and Robert King. The Kings are joined by Alden Robinson in creating this sequel that carries on the tradition of episodes that feature plot lines ripped from the current headlines.

I don’t know if The Good Fight rises to the same level as The Good Wife, but I was delighted to spend more time with these intriguing characters set in the City of Big Shoulders.

This is my girlie side showing, but I want many of the outfits worn by the law ladies of The Good Fight. Whoever chose the show’s wardrobe gets an A plus. The acting and writing are good, but those clothes…….

Dior Exhibit in Paris

If you are interested in fashion and happen to be in Paris before January 7, 2018, run, do not walk to the Dior exhibit at the Louvre’s side museum, Les Arts Décoratifs.

If you don’t buy a ticket in advance, bring an umbrella and a friend or a book because you will most likely wait up to an hour outdoors for admittance. Le tout Paris and female tourists of all ages are flocking to this fantastic homage to the fashion house of Dior.

Not only are the gowns and accessories breath-taking, but the presentation of the fashions is innovative. One large glass panel has a pointillist photo that disappears when the lights are raised to expose the elegant dresses inside the vitrine. Another gigantic glass showcase features a profusion of single-color items such as hats, miniature dresses, jewelry, shoes and other accessories. One follows groupings of red, pink, yellow, green, blue, silver and white items that absolutely delight the eye.

Another stunning display has a ceiling of white leaves that drape above the stunning Dior dresses.

There was another room across the lobby which I did not get to see. Flut alors! The guards are quite firm about leaving the museum at closing time.

Sorry to say that very few men can be seen attending this exhibit. Their loss because the ingenuity of Christian Dior and the subsequent house designers along with the breathtaking museum displays make this a uni-sex crowd-pleaser.

Designs by Raf Simons, John Galliano, Christian Dior and Marc Bohan in a chromatic display in the Dior exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs.

For more information and ticket purchase:
https://www.dior.com/couture/en_us/the-house-of-dior/exhibitions