Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

At last, my top ten list is out in today's Post! You can find it here. I've also started doing a brief list of some of my fave moments and performances. The first part, comedy, is here. I'll do the more somber stuff today, as well as a list of some of the worst stuff I saw all year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three Pianos

The year concludes with Three Pianos at NY Theatre Workshop (my review's here). A zany/loving whirlwind tour of Schubert's Winterreise song cycle, the piece seriously extends its welcome: It clocked in at nearly 2hrs 15 the night I saw it. Not a problem in itself, but one when the creators/cast run out of ideas.

Completely unrelated: watched Johnnie To's Vengeance last night. Glorious. The movie stars French-Belgian rocker Johnny Halliday (who's good), but actor-wise the big draw is Anthony Wong, whom HK-action fiends know from his turn in Infernal Affairs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Donny and Marie: A Broadway Christmas

Yes yes yes: I saw Donny and Marie Osmond at the Marquis and lived to tell the tale. A good time was had by all, and there were enough references to Dancing with the Stars to make me happy.

Let it also be said that until January 2, there's at least one place in New York where it's safe to wear your floor-length furs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Today's review is of Haunted, by Edna O'Brien. It stars Brenda Blethyn, who alone is well worth the trip to 59E59 Theaters.

Before going in, I let myself be tempted by a couple of macarons at a place across the street. They were tasty enough, but at $2.25 a pop — a small pop — you think twice about going back. I also wonder why American macaron stores feel they need to offer so many crazy flavors (there's a lot more than indicated on the online menu). I'd be happier with 5-6 impeccable ones.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Great Game: Afghanistan

This past Saturday, I attended yet another marathon play — it's really been the season for those events. This time around I started up at 11:30am and left just after 10pm. In between there was The Great Game: Afghanistan (my review here).

The best thing about seeing a show at the NYU Skirball Center is that the food options in the area are excellent. During the lunch break, I went to to François Payard's new bakery on W. Houston. Well worth it, even if the coffee tasted slightly burnt. Note to self: Clearly you don't go there for the coffee.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte

John Kelly brings back his 1980s piece about Egon Schiele, Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte. It's at La MaMa, and while I have mixed feelings about it, the show's certainly an interesting artifact — from downtown in the 1980s, if not Vienna in the 1910s.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

On French TV series

For many years — decades, even — French writers and directors thought of television as the ugly stepchild of cinema. There were few connections between the two fields: No filmmaker would consider working for the small screen. Which isn't to say that there weren't good shows, but even the best were considered inferior to movies. This is pretty crazy, as we had some good home-grown TV. I remember avidly watching miniseries like La Poupée sanglante , Les Rois maudits (the original, not the remake), and series like Les Nouvelles aventures de Vidocq (ah, the saucy Danièle Lebrun, my childhood crush), Arsène Lupin and Chéri-Bibi.

Things began to change in the early 1990s, when the French-German ARTE channel started drawing film directors to work on miniseries and films that often also played in cinemas at the same time as they were broadcast. André Téchiné's Wild Reeds, for instance, started off as a 60-minute made-for-ARTE movie.

But this was all pretty arty. The latest development has been the marked improvement of commercial French series — especially the ones produced by Canal Plus — and most of them influenced by HBO. Thanks to my family's busy DVR recorder, I've been able to watch quite a few. My favorites so far have been Engrenages, a great procedural that wrapped its third season in June, and Pigalle, entirely shot docu-style on location. Appeal to IFC: Show them in the US!

I had mixed feelings about Braquo, about a cop with ethical issues played by Jean-Hughes Anglade, but watched the whole first season anyway. And I haven't been very far with Mafiosa, even though it takes place in Corsica.

Right now I'm in the middle of Maison close, which takes place in a high-end Parisian brothel in 1871, right after the Commune. It's pretty good so far, even though some of the aesthetic choices are slightly cheesy. Playing George Jackson's "If I Could Open Up My Heart" while two prostitutes put on a sapphic show for a client's benefit was the equivalent of a runny brie. Still, there's good stuff in there. I even like the sour lesbian madame hopelessly in love with her star employee. It's a cliché character straight out of the 1950s, and nobody in the US would dare show someone like this now. That's something I regret, in a twisted way, as it only adds to the pulpy ambiance. Here's the start of the first episode.

Looking at Christmas

Today's review is of Steven Banks' new play Looking at Christmas, playing at the Flea.