Confederation Part I: Confederation and Riel (part of The History of the Village of Small Huts) Live at Soulpepper Tuesday July 11, 2017

Categories: 2017 and Theatre.

This is the second staging of a 1988 set of two 1-act plays which are part of the 21 1-act play cycle, The History of the Village of Small Huts, performed by Video Cabaret, a troupe that uses tableau and total darkness to give essentially soundbite snippets of Canadian history. I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. Read More

Casting By (2012, Tom Donahue)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This documentary starts off as a PSA or apologia for casting directors. However, it improves quickly when it narrows its focus to Marion Dougherty and one other director. There are lots of interviews with famous Hollywood stars and it’s interesting to know how some of these people got their first film roles. The film is very much a TV documentary and feels a little too much like an advocacy film for casting directors, but it’s reasonably informative and interesting and worth your time if you’re into Hollywood. 6/10 Read More

Billy Budd (2010, Francois Rousillon)

Categories: 1951, 2010, Music, and TV.

To some, Billy Budd was the greatest English-language opera ever written when it premiered, to a few its even the greatest English-language opera ever. (To those people I say, have you ever heard of John Adams? But anyway…) I did not love it when I first heard it, for any number of reasons, the biggest being that Britten’s music is entirely too conservative for me. I do like a few of his pieces but, for the most part, I prefer my 20th century music a little more interesting than Britten. But I will say this live production from 2010 (filmed Read More

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder live at the Princess of Wales Theatre June 15, 2016

Categories: 1907, 2012, and 2016.

Unbeknownst to me, this is based on the same novel as one of my favourite comedies of all time, Kind Hearts and Coronets. I have not seen that movie in sometime, though the plot (and the gimmick) was still quite familiar. This is a funny show. But it’s a safe show, especially for a show about a man who murders multiple relatives. I haven’t seen the film in a long, long time, but one of the things I loved about it at the time was its black comedy, utterly shocking for 1949. Though my memory of the film is hardly Read More

Being Julia (2004, István Szabó)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

I haven’t read the novel (I gather it’s one of Maugham’s lesser regarded works) but I feel like the edge that I have always felt in his writing is present here, which is no small accomplishment. Benning gives a bravura performance in the title role (though everybody’s good) and the production design is excellent. But it’s all a little All Above Eve. 7/10 Read More

The Band Wagon (1953, Vincente Minnelli)

Categories: 1953 and Movies.

This is an inventive, meta musical that’s entertaining enough to make me think I need to re-watch Singing in the Rain. But it still suffers from the usual Golden Age of Hollywood nonsense: mild, easy, humour, musical numbers that don’t really fit the plot, a relationship between two people completely the wrong age for each other and so forth. And it has a rather awful moral: the people want easy entertainment, not art, and they’re right. And can someone tell me why so many of these old musicals insist on portraying a stage show and then doing things in front Read More

Julie by Philippe Boesmans and Luc Bondy, Live at the St. Lawrence Centre, November 19, 2015

Categories: 1888, 2005, 2015, and Theatre.

This is a 2005 chamber opera based on the 1888 play Miss Julie by August Strindberg. I have never read Strindberg, and I don’t know if I’ve read much naturalist literature or drama, so this was a new experience for me. The staging and direction are fantastic – they’ve decided to stage the pay in some weird alternate reality where the time isn’t entirely clear (are they in 1888 Sweden or are they somewhere else entirely?) and there are odd things in the kitchen, such as a tire and a giant pipe. The storm in the middle of the opera Read More

The Physicists (1961) by Friedrich Durrenmatt, adapted by Michael Healy, live at the Tom Patterson Theatre, Stratford, July 25, 2015

Categories: 1961, 2015, and Theatre.

This is a play about the social responsibility of scientists posing as a murder mystery-cum comedy, set in an insane asylum. The play uses comedy and the teensiest bit of mystery to dilute it’s overwise very heavy-handed message. The play itself is so prescient (and so relevant to our time) that I am shocked I had never heard of it or its author and I’ve had to add him to my list as I suspect that he’s written more interesting stuff, even if this is his most famous work. The cast was excellent and the staging was particularly clever, using Read More

Birdman (2014, Alejandro Gonzalez Iinarritu)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I have never been a fan of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.I find his films self-important, over-plotted, over-long, ponderous and so forth. They all contain moments wonderful, profound, beautiful and hysterically funny, but those moments are always surrounded by so much unnecessary crap and, usually, two narrative arcs too many. I have long felt the man needed a creative partner (or, perhaps, better yet, some kind of supervisor) to tell him to cut the most of the intricate plotting and focus on his strong characters. Well, I don’t know what he got into, but has he ever changed. Birdman is such a Read More

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus (2013, Madeleine Sackler)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is an important and emotionally compelling film about theatre under repressive regimes. I knew nothing about the Belarus Free Theatre before seeing this film, but they seem to have found a compelling way to bring attention to the plight of the arts – and expression at large – in Belarus. Far more dangerous regimes do not get this kind of exposure perhaps only because they don’t have underground theatre troops. But regardless of the fact that there are indeed more brutal dictators than Lukashenko, he remains a dictator, and this film does an excellent job of painting him as Read More

The Entertainer (1960, Tony Richardson)

Categories: 1960 and Movies.

I have to say that I have been somewhat of an Olivier sceptic most of my film-viewing life. I feel like his Shakespeare performances are all very fine but pretty traditional and most of his work I am familiar with – from the tail end of his career – never really made me feel like he was a great actor. I feel like I was more into his direction of Henry V than I was of his performance. Anyway, this film changed my mind. This has to be one of the performances of the decade; his character is so foreign Read More

Man from Earth (2007, Richard Schenkman)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

Mild spoiler alert. This is certainly an interesting idea but I think the filmmakers would have been better served using the play as inspiration, rather than just strictly adapting the play as they did. First, the play: The play itself would probably work better in a live setting. Some of the dialogue came across as kind of unbelievable / unnatural (or maybe it was just the delivery) and the whole thing felt rather confined. But the biggest problem with the source material is the ending, which feels forced. This whole thing seems to be hinge on belief for the other Read More

Evil Dead: the Musical

Categories: 2007, Music, and Theatre.

It’s amazing. You should really see it if you live in TO. And you should sit in the splatter zone. And you should wear white (I didn’t…the blood looks purple on my blue shirt). I think I might have to buy the soundtrack. It is extremely cheesey, self-aware, satirical and all the finer things in life. Plus, there’s the whole blood thing. And, sitting in the front row, one of the actors took off my glasses and threatened to eat (?) me. My friends claimed it was a striptease… It was a lot of fun. Then we went out for Read More