February 2nd: R. I. P. Philip Seymour Hoffman. The last movie I saw him in was A Late Quartet. He and the other wonderful actors created the impression that they were highly skilled musicians who had been playing together for years. Hoffman was buried from St Ignatious Loyola, another man who had his own terrors. Although there were many mourners present, not one carried the coffin. Instead, it was carried, I guess, by minimum wage employees of Frank Campbell.
While the rest of you were watching. agonizing over/ betting on/ Super Bowl, a friend and I went to Craft, Tom Colicchio’s laboratory, I mean, restaurant on 19th Street. The service was fine, the space was ample (we’re talking Manhattan) and the greens were gritty. Feb. 2 was the first time I’d been back in three years. Now, there’s music. Did a consultant suggest that that would make the restaurant more hospitable? I preferred the more formal atmosphere.
Highlights in Jazz celebrated its 41st anniversary on Feb. 6. Jack Kleinsinger, its creator, was in fine form. A woman approached him in Las Vegas and said, “I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but you look like Jack Kleinsinger.” Kenny Barron, the jazz pianist, was also in fine form.
Don’t tell me NYC isn’t a carny town. From my window I see the Empire State Building. During daylight hours it’s as staid as a banker. Once the sun goes down, it turns vibrant multicolors every few seconds, resembling a hypodermic needle crossed with a jukebox.
Sunday Chamber Music Society concerts are a treat. Held in Alice Tully Hall the acoustics are perfect and the lighting is just right. I have heard that Alice Tully was a tall woman who demanded that her auditorium, both the original one and this renovated beauty, have plenty of leg room. If only she had owned Delta Airlines. January 26’s concert featured Schubert, Spohr (Who he?) and Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat major for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn Violin, Cello and Bass.
Jazz Tuesday is held in John Birks Gillespie Auditorium. At the door there’s an inviting sign, Jazz Tonight. On Jan. 28 it was big band night, featuring the wonderful singers: Brianna Thomas, Charenee Wade and Charles Turner. There was a 40’s feel to the mellow, dynamic music. You can visit Jazz Tuesday’s website at www.jazzbeat.com.
Later in the week a friend and I went to the movie, Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey filled the screen. He’s morphed into being a character actor and chews the scenery with abandon. Jared Leto is currently walking on water. To quote my gay friend, he’s tired of the gay community always being represented by a transvestite. We then joined the crowds on Super Bowl Boulevard, Broadway to you. What a zoo! We were originally scheduled to go on the toboggan ride but it involved walking two blocks in sub zero weather to pick up our tickets and then retrace our steps to
stand in a long line. Secretly, I was relieved that we decided to forgo the pleasure and instead ate a delicious Chinese meal with not a vegetable in sight.
On Martin Luther King Day I went to MOMA. I’ve haunted that place since childhood and have always felt rejuvenated by its buzz. The video, Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema, follows the long, illustrious career of Dante Ferretti, the Italian production designer of sets and costumes. You’ve seen his work unless you just arrived from Mars. He’s worked with Pasolini, Fellini, Scorsese, Coppola and garnered slews of awards. He’s claustrophobic. He thinks it’s because of U. S. bombs hitting his house when he was about three. His mother searched among the rubble for days until she found him. In the garden/sculpture court stand two of Ferretti’s Archimboldo figures. They’re named after Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the 16th century Italian painter who painted weird portraits that consisted of fruits, vegetables, flowers.
Do you get installations? Me neither. As long as I don’t have to fund them or explain them, I can enjoy the experience for about ten minutes. Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves weaves traditional Chinese myths with a contemporary tragedy. It’s shown on nine double sided screens suspended from the ceiling of MOMA’s Marron Atrium. The spectators and yours truly sprawled on cushions and couches on the floor below. It would make a great pajama party.
Since I write crime procedurals, I’m always interested in new crime fiction. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are kicking up their heels playing Louisiana detectives in HBO’s True Detective. McConaughey plays the big cliche´– the loner who speaks the harsh truth, no family i.e. dead child, lives for his work and never, never smiles. Harrelson plays the old Southern boy who keeps a smiley face lid on everything. You know what? It works. These two actors are character actors and they are great together. Also, the script is witty. It helps that it’s set in Louisiana, reinforcing our northern suspicion that deeply southern states have lower standards of morality than we do. (Forget about bridge gate. HE didn’t know anything about it.)
“Seize the hilltops!” These words, encouraging settlers’ land grabs, were yelled by the late Ariel Sharon after the signing of the Oslo accords. As I listened to Joe Biden making one of his high school speeches larding praise on Arik, King of Israel, I wondered about the lack of coverage of the Palestinians’ reaction to the death of the Monster. Was he partially responsible for the massacre of civilians at Qibya in 1953, then at Sabra and Shatila in 1982? We’ll never know from American media.
I accompanied a gardener friend to the Arsenal in Central Park. It’s a brick building that predates the park and was built between 1847 and 1851. Originally, the Arsenal was an arms and ammunition storehouse for the New York State Militia. We attended a discussion about Russell Page’s The Education of a Gardener. Fascinating to enter a world about which I know nothing and to listen to people who dedicate their lives to preserving the Earth’s earth and the complexities that involves.
American Hustle is playing in a mall like movie house on 42nd Street, one block east of Port Authority. Was the movie house built during the Guliani cleanup? Was it supposed to make tourists feel more at home with its bland motel architecture and friendly funereal lighting? To me, it says forever New Jersey.
American Hustle centers around a 1970’s scam and sting. The F. B. I. works with a known felon to bring down corrupt officials. The wonderful actors wear deliciously tacky clothes and jewelry. Who can forget that clunky medallion gleaming on Bradley Cooper’s chest? Hair – hair – hair is a major player. For the gents: Comb overs, pompadours, tight curls; for the ladies: lots of it, curly, frizzy, wavy.
Proof that God has a sense of humor: I kept expecting Governor Chris Christie to make a cameo appearance (a la Alfred Hitchcock). After all, the Port Authority was only a block away and the American Hustle script could have been written by the Honorable Christie or by one of his fired aides.
W. H. Auden (1907-1973) moved to NYC, broke up with his boy friend, his mother died and WW II had begun. This is when he wrote For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio.
“The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
Rene´ Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian surreal artist whose mother killed herself. When her body was found, her dress was draped across her face. This image is repeated in several of Magritte’s works. MOMA has mounted a large exhibit of his works from 1926 to 1938. Going to an exhibit at MOMA on a Saturday afternoon means you love crowds. I’m glad I went because there was so much to see. Lovers with faces draped in cloth, the pipe that isn’t a pipe. Isn’t Magritte an illustrator rather than an artist?
The Metropolitan Opera’s Orchestra performs at Carnegie Hall throughout the year. The Sunday concerts I attend begin at 3 p.m. and end around 5:30. It’s a perfect afternoon, followed by early supper in one of the nearby restaurants. Peter Mattei, the great baritone, sang Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. This was followed by Mahler’s Symphony No. 7. Long, isn’t it? I was struck by how so many movie musical scores are indebted to this piece.
Christmas is like the Mahler symphony: long with bits of lovely melody. I had a delightful morning, sitting in bed and reading
Martha Gellhorn on Cuba, eating Pat’s delicious lemon bread and half listening to the BBC’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
Later, off to K & M’s for the annual Christmas party. It was especially mellow and loving this year. The large Christmas tree in the front parlor shines down on the Brooklyn street. Long may it do so.
Bad movie #2 in two weeks: The Invisible Woman. It was utterly predictable. Did all the actors phone in their parts? Dickens’s wife suffered but not as much as I did.
I love the Christmas season in New York City: the music, the festivities, the fervid air of exchanging and changing presents. The Metropolitan hosted the Salzburg Marionettes presentation of “Alice in Wonderland”. It’s the Theatre’s 100th birthday and the puppeteers did themselves proud, as did the many well behaved children in the audience. To lapse into cliches and mixed metaphors, we were rapt – from 9 to 90 – with the usual suspects, Alice, the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar who sang wonderfully off key, and the Cheshire Cat. Afterwards, we stood in front of the enormous Christmas tree with the Neopolitan figures. Bethlehem has been stolen by the Italian artists. Don’t most of us think of that city on the far east coast of the Mediterranean as Italian? We continued to the Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa Exhibit in the Lehman Wing.The inventive ways the glass were shaped and decorated are beautifully displayed. The lighting is dark and dramatic, like Venice at nighttime.
At BAM on Dec. 19 to see “The Nutcracker” music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky and choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak were wonderful, BUT the set of the party in the mansion looks as if the owners were in bankruptcy and the lighting was too dim. What happened, Jennifer Tipton? Before the performance we had dinner at Junior’s. Such fun. It’s the Brooklyn of the 1940 -1960 era. Photos of movie stars of a certain age decorate the walls. My chicken pot pie could have fed a family of four …. buffalo. My friend’s intention of ordering a salad morphed into a Reuben sandwich. Who can blame him?
It’s a giddy time of year, isn’t it? Christmas and its contenders crowd the calendar with parties, concerts, sing alongs and … traffic. I had reserved a car from 777 to take me from Manhattan to Brooklyn and it was canceled twenty minutes before I was due to leave. The reason given? No cars. “No problem,” said the 777 rep as she hung up. What a way to run a business.
“All that Glitters” is one of the lovely Christmas events. It’s held at Judson Memorial Church. Stanford White’s building is decked out in Victorian lights that suit its late nineteenth century architecture. The West Village Chorale, led by Michael Conley and Elena Belli, outdid themselves. They shifted effortlessly (after a mere one million hours of rehearsal) from traditional carols to fourteenth century Irish music, to Benjamin Britten’s lovely Ceremony of Carols and then on to Hollywood numbers such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Director Conley excused himself for not including Hanukkah music by pointing out that most
contemporary Christmas carols were written by New York Jews i.e. “The Christmas Song” and “White Christmas”.
It’s been a week filled with architecture, music, and art. On Sunday, I joined Francis Marrone’s Divorak in Love walk for the Municipal Art Society. Among the MAS regulars, Francis’s walks are fabled and usually sold out. He’s animated and infuses his talks with knowledge and delicious details. From 1892 to 1895, Divorak lived on East 17th Street. The house was demolished by Beth Israel, in spite of the fact that the New World Symphony was composed there and the late Czech prime minister Havel petitioned to preserve it.
Ruby Rims and Friends is an annual cabaret event held at Judson Memorial Church. I went to the first of two performances. Such fun! Ruby was in full regalia: slinky gown, a shedding boa and quite a hairdo. Some of the highlights were Ruby, of course; Lennie Watts belting out “Schadenfreude” from avenue q and Sidney Myer’s “Santa Bubba”. The
photo is in glorious/nauseating salmon pink.
I made the mistake of going to The Great Beauty this week. I have a weakness for all things Italian except Fellini. Aside from La Strada and I Vitelloni, I think his movies reek of superficial mystery and lots of pretentiousness. Hello, Paolo Sorrentino, the director of The Great Beauty. What a bore. It’s filled with all those elements that make Americans’ mouths water: bespoke clothing, Roman architecture, luscious apartments, an arrogant leading man, a long winded script about the meaning (zzzzz) of life. The only thing worse than Fellini is warmed over Fellini.
To the good stuff: Clover Vail’s studio. Clover is a wonderful artist who paints in watercolor and in acrylic and sculpts. Please, do not judge her work from my lousy photo.