pretty good track record

I was right about Spotlight (best picture), and Mark Rylance (best supporting actor) and Leo DiCaprio (best actor).  Not too shabby given my lackluster attendance at nominated movies.

Gotta confess that I was at Opera Parallele‘s terrific performance of “The Champion” jazz opera in the City during most of the Oscars, and arrived home in time to watch the last (big) three awards.

I’m thinking that like the two party system, the Academy Awards might need some revolutionary shake-up. We’ll see.

Oscar Predix

Spotlight-Poster-1First off, let me admit that I haven’t seen all the films nominated this year. But that won’t stop me from making a few informed (and highly opinionated) predictions.

This was the year in which nominated films exhibited similar virtues—seamless ensemble acting. E.g. Spotlight and The Big Short. So superbly acted, directed, and edited were these films that they appear to have come together by a sort of magical internal collaboration. Still, having said that, I’m thinking that Spotlight should take both Best Picture and Best Director awards.

Bridge-Of-Spies-Mark-RylanceThe harder issues deal with individual acting awards. And as always, I have to deal with the Academy’s tradition of honoring actors for a body of work, e.g. Sly Stallone, or for their age, e.g. Charlotte Rampling. I haven’t seen Creed, but I’ll bet Stallone hits all the marks and wouldn’t mind one bit to see him take the Best Supporting Actor award. But my heart belongs to the uncanny Mark Rylance, who played the spy traded for Francis Gary Powers in Bridge of Spies, with a series of electrifyingly subtle gestures—an eyebrow here, the upturn of a wrist there. Mesmerizing.

And while we’re on the subject of Rampling, Continue reading “Oscar Predix”

Carol – an excuse to eat popcorn

carol.jpg

How could this many members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences be wrong? I wondered as I rummaged around in my purse for some dental floss.

Once found, the floss gave me the excuse I needed to stay in my seat during this turgid, self-absorbed exercise in shots of rain-splashed car windows and 1950s cloche hats.
Let me place my cards on the table: Cate Blanchett let her lipstick do the acting, while poor Rooney Mara was forced to simply stare, bug-eyed like an extra from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
This was a film without a director, without a point, and with precious little more than a centrally-located mink coat and ugly shoes.

At no time did I believe in any of the male actors, or in any of their dialogue. If there was once a well-written novel by Patricia Highsmith behind this exercise in faded Kodachrome, it could no longer be detected in the film.

Could it be that the reason why a few of my woman friends liked it was that it was about lesbian liberation? That it suggested that woman, even in the darkest 1950s, could find solace in each other’s arms? Yes, but it was a lackluster, boring film. Message or no message, it was unbearable.

Blanchett smoking cigarettes was one of the most self-conscious, studied, mannered acts I’ve ever seen in film. Tossing back martinis during the day does not make her a role model of feminist freedom. It wasn’t even believable. I simply failed to find the film in this commercial for tightly-coiffed hair and bourgeois interior decoration. But I did manage to consume a bag of popcorn and then floss afterwards.

Gorgeous Baroque Music

jephte.jpegUCSC’s notoriously ambitious Concert Choir—under the direction of Nathaniel Berman—works its way gracefully through some outstanding Baroque oratorios, works from the A-list of the 17th century—Scarlatti, Carissimi, Schütz and Charpentier—on Friday December 4th, 7:30pm at the Music Center Recital Hall.

A feast for the senses, the perfect opening act for all the holiday festivities to come.

Gabriella Cafe—exhibit of portrait paintings

palette.jpgSalon: Tuesday, Dec. 8 6-8pm.

My painting exhibit is currently showing at Gabriella Cafe & Gallery, in downtown Santa Cruz.

Come and check out this unexpected and colorful work, including many very recent pieces.

Even better, make plans to join me next Tuesday — December 8 — for dinner at 6, followed by a mesmerizing glimpse inside my painting process and some choice words about my upcoming book.

Hamlet – the HD simulcast experience

hamlet2.jpgAt the urging of my friend, veteran theater-goer Bruce Bratton, I reserved a ticket to a recent HD simulcast of the National Theater production of Hamlet. The one with Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet.

I had seen the production exactly one month ago, live, in London. (See my review in an earlier post.)
It was interesting to compare the two experiences. And so here’s a taste.

Cutting to the chase, I hugely enjoyed both experiences (although nothing can capture the excitement of the first time). And yet they played out differently in some important ways.

As if they’d read my thoughts, some supporting characters—notably Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius—were clearer, more nuanced in the performance that was filmed ten days after the performance I saw in London.

Or was it the camera?  Continue reading “Hamlet – the HD simulcast experience”

Soquel Vineyards’ Award-winning Pinot Noir

soqpinot.jpgThe winemakers of Soquel Vineyards joined some choice company when the 2015 Sunset International Wine Competition awards came out in the current (November) issue of Sunset Magazine.

From a field of 3000 entries, Soquel Vineyards joined a handful of New World Pinot Noirs to capture the Gold Medal award. Specifically, the wine is Soquel Vineyards 2013 Partners’ Reserve Library Selection Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains) I tasted this memorable wine early last summer at the winery. Remarkable, elegant, and loaded with terroir.

Sunset notes: “Opening freshly and elegantly with a hint of sage, this Pinot has well-ripened raspberry and cherry fruit on the midpalate and closes with sweet oak.”

The holidays beckon. $40.

Sampling England

bath_w000.jpgA recent two-week trip to England rewarded me with fine weather —in the 70s practically every day, with one day of drizzle—great countryside walking, and the denouement, a chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, live, at the Barbican.

My companion and I started off with five day in the captivating Georgian city of Bath, whose stately pale golden limestone buildings are set into graceful and incredibly green hills. A true feast for California eyes. So much green! We stayed at the wonderful Three Abbey Green B&B, located around the corner from the old Roman baths, and replete with amenities such as custom-cooked English breakfasts, comfortable beds, tons of towels and hot water. Many old myths about travel in Britain were quickly put to rest.

We had tons of hot water for showers—here in Bath, as well as at our flat in London. Another surprise: Continue reading “Sampling England”