October 14, 2019

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

The future of eyeglasses

While the big tech companies are perfecting Virtual Reality glasses, I have been keeping my eye on what’s happening in everyday vision ware.

Omnifocal Glasses by an Israeli company called Deep Optics promises to allow us to see whatever distance we focus on with the use of a layer of transparent liquid crystal and electrical current. The glasses will ultimately change your prescription instantaneously with the help of sensors that track your pupils and determine what distance they are looking at. The company has not succeeded in packing all of this technology into simple glasses yet, but liquid crystal lenses are literally around the corner. http://www.deepoptics.com/do_site/

You can now pre-order the amazing Shima glasses by Laforge for $590. Imagine glasses that can give you directions, tell you how far you’ve walked and play your favorite music through an app on your smart phone. And these glasses have stylish frames, not the futuristic and bulky VR glasses that Google and other companies are designing.

https://www.laforgeoptical.com

Don’t laugh but many people ascribe to the idea that looking through lenses of specific colors have the ability to improve one’s function and mood. Blue may promote relaxation and calmness; orange is supposed increase social confidence and cheerfulness along with cancelling out the blue light of electronic devices; yellow encourages concentration and mental clarity and may additionally help with night time driving.

After a brief internet search, I find no glasses that can electronically give you a rainbow of color options. Yes, there are glasses that go from clear to shaded sunglasses, but for other colors, one must buy a regular pair with only one color of lens. Here is a site that will sell you those single color glasses and explains more about color therapy.
If you know of an electronic pair that allows the wearer to change the color of lens, please let me know!

http://www.colorglasses.com/

I might wait until I can purchase a pair of electronic glasses that have all of the above features, but there will undoubtedly be a company that can implant a sophisticated electronic device directly into my eyes.
And soon.
Who is with me in entering this brave and slightly terrifying new world?