Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Magnetic Fields: Andrew In Drag

Well, I'm feeling pretty well recovered now, finally. Last night I ate miso soup and avocado maki rolls with Jess, and this morning I woke up without sweating or nausea. So to celebrate I thought I'd share a chipper, catchy song that's been in my head for the last week, since I heard it on NPR's All Songs Considered, which, if you haven't discovered it, is an excellent podcast that every music fan should listen to regularly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last Minute Plans: The Wages of Fear

"When I was a kid, I used to see men go off on this kind of jobs and not come back. When they did, they were wrecks. Their hair had turned white and their hands were shaking like palsy! You don't know what fear is. But you'll see. It’s catching. It’s catching like smallpox. And once you get it, it’s for life."

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Feast: an intimate Tempest

Last night Jess and I took in The Feast: an intimate Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, a collaboration between the CST and Chicago's innovative Redmoon Theatre (the current site is a temporary stand-in for their new site, coming in March). There's also a hefty dose of Lookingglass Theatre, as two of the three actors onstage have appeared memorably in Lookingglass productions (Samuel Taylor, who plays Ariel, will forever in my mind appear dressed in white atop a unicycle).

I was excited for this production because I love both CST and Redmoon, and because the show's co-director and co-creator, Jessica Thebus, Associate Artist at Steppenwolf, has directed a few of my recent favorites, including last year's Stage Kiss at The Goodman. I suspected, however, that I should have brushed up on my knowledge of The Tempest before going in, and it turns out I was right. Whenever you head into a production that will deconstruct and reconstruct the source material with puppetry and acrobatics it's a good idea to make sure you know the original play or there's a chance you'll drift off for a moment attempting to recall who Alonso and Ariel and Antonio are, and where Ferdinand came from, and how everyone ended up on this crazy island. And in this brisk, dynamic, inspired adaptation, which runs a mere 75 minutes, you don't want to lose focus for a moment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

See This: PINA

“I'm not so interested in how people move as in what moves them.” ― Pina Bausch

Just returned from a screening Wim Wenders' extraordinary new film, Pina, a documentary of sorts about the influential dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Subtitled "Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost," Pina is not really a documentary so much as an appreciation, a love letter, to Bausch and her company, the Tanztheater Wuppertal, and to the art and language of dance.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Favorite Films of 2011

2012 was, to my mind, an excellent year for film, and an especially great year for film lovers: there were films that demonstrated the power of art to the alter lives (Marwencol, Poetry, The Woodmans), affect social change (Waste Land), and even shape history (Cinema Komunisto); films that celebrated the art of cinema and its ability to tell stories like no other media (The Tree of Life, Melancholia, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives); and, just as celluloid is dying and people have stopped going out to the movies, love letters to the cinema (Hugo, The Artist) that seem to have resonated with audiences. Hugo and Pina and Cave of Forgotten Dreams proved that 3D doesn't have to be a cheap gimmick. Rise of the Planet of the Apes proved that CGI can actually come to life. Looking back at the past year, I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Movies aren't quite dead yet. As any movie buff knows, there's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

The criteria for my Favorite Films list is simple: movies that opened in Chicago in 2011. Some of the films below could be considered 2010 releases because they played in New York and Los Angeles in 2010, but the films on my list did not open in Chicago until 2011. My movie year began with Night Catches Us, which opened at Facets on January 7, and ended with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on December 28. Here are my favorites of the 2011:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Welcome to My New Blog.

Hello and welcome to my new blog. I tried this last year with the name The Front Row Chicago, which I had based on Richard Brody's excellent blog for The New Yorker, The Front Row. I blogged for a couple months but eventually but the site on indefinite hiatus because I just couldn't keep up with it. I would be writing a post and suddenly realize that two hours had gone by and I could have been seeing a movie instead of writing about movies, and so I just got frustrated and put the whole endeavor aside. I still like the idea of having a place to share my thoughts about movies, besides Facebook, so I'm trying a new, more casual approach: Obis Orbis. The Latin orbis means orb or orbit or "the world," so this blog will just concern things that concern me, and I will attempt to regularly update it with short, informal posts and only occasionally post lengthier critiques. So, we'll see what happens. Happy 2012. I hope you'll return and read my posts and comment on them. Thanks for checking out my new blog!

A Tribute to Roger Ebert (repost)

This post originally appeared on my previous blog, The Front Row Chicago, on March 1, 2011. I'm posting it again here mainly to help me establish the layout for my new blog, but also because I still like the post (and the music) and I hope people will read it and add their own soundtrack selections in the comments section.

Last Friday night I attended the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's "A Tribute to Roger Ebert," part of the CSO's Friday Night at the Movies series. It was a lovely, jubilant tribute to Chicago's favorite film critic. The orchestra played Ebert's favorite theme, Anton Karas' bouncy "The Third Man Theme," for which they brought in a special zither player from Milwaukee; three selections from his favorite film composer (Nino Rota); themes from his favorite film (Citizen Kane), and themes from films featuring his favorite actor (Gregory Peck) and actress (Ingrid Bergman). There was Rota's gorgeous theme from Romeo and Juliet (the 1968 Franco Zefferelli film, my favorite film version), Henry Mancini's classic, jazzy Pink Panther music, and the epic horn music for Ben Hur's "Parade of the Charioteers" scene.