Interview: Orlando Ballet Director Robert Hill’s quest to keep the passion going in Carmina Burana

This past week, we were given a second opportunity to interview Orlando Ballet director Robert Hill during a rehearsal for Dies, nox et omnia (Day, night, and everything), one of his dances for the upcoming Carmina Burana.

We sat in the relocated rehearsal space of Orlando Ballet (more about this exciting news below) and looked on as prima ballerina Kate-Lynn Robichaux learned her dance by 21st century means: watching her 2013-era self perform it on a video monitor. “I’m much more chill about this dance today than I was back then,” Robichaux said. “It’s probably because you just got married,” Mr. Hill responded, and Robichaux grinned as she raised her left hand to show off her ring.

Mr. Hill bounced between chatting with us and leaping up to help form the dance in front of us, explaining to the dancers that the theme of this piece was the male dancer’s exploration of his passion — his reaching within to find emotion, reaching back out to share it with the world. Robichaux performs the embodiment of his dream, allowing her body to be contorted and moved and carried in a complex series of lifts as she lives out the melancholy of male dancer’s imagination.

We pulled up the lyrics to this one while we watched, and Mr. Hill chuckled, explaining that some of the lyrics were impossible to interpret literally. But in this one, the male soloist sings themes that are timeless enough to still be top-40 fodder, and the dance seems to interpret the lyrics well: “Your fair face makes me weep a thousand times, but your heart is ice; to restore me, immediately would I return to life with one kiss.”

How to explain this ballet? Mr. Hill debuted it with Orlando Ballet in 2013, in collaboration with Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra conductor John Sinclair. They were looking for an interesting piece that could combine choral, orchestral, and dance elements to make a dynamic impact on audiences, and struck gold when they decided on Carmina Burana. The music, composed by Carl Orff in 1936, has a lot in common sound-wise with Igor Stravinsky, and is based on medieval yet surprisingly relevant poetry.

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Crazy Rich Asians and “Banana” culture: how disidentification was the point

I’ve resisted writing about the film Crazy Rich Asians because this thing hit me in layers, and peeling back those layers was hard. The issues I felt were deeply embedded in my identity, and it was super uncomfortable to admit to them. So here you go, one of the most personal film reviews I’ll probably ever write.

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In Theaters Now: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The audience came out of the theater. Some were pale, some had reddened eyes, some were crying openly, some hugged and held hands, some just stood looking dazed.

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Fred and Daniel Tiger

Currently, the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor is sitting at a solid 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. There you will find oodles of actual film reviews discussing the technical merits and competencies of the documentary, as well as emotional assessments of its efficacy. I don’t feel the need to belabor the point. See it. Or don’t! 

The documentary opened months ago in April at the Florida Film Festival, and I didn’t go. All the showings were sold out, but had I tried I could have gotten tickets.

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In Theaters Now: Boundaries

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Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga

Boundaries is a dramedy about single mother Laura (Vera Farmiga) taking her estranged father Jack (Christopher Plummer) and socially awkward son Henry (Lewis Macdougall) on an involuntary road trip. Jack is crotchety and wasn’t emotionally present for Laura’s childhood, Henry draws people naked (which everyone reacts to as if he is a budding serial killer) and gets expelled from school, and Laura hoards animals and doesn’t believe in herself.

As dysfunctional family comedies go, Boundaries presents nothing new in the trope, which would be fine if only it weren’t working so hard to tug at the heartstrings. With the exception of Plummer, a delightful appearance by Christopher Lloyd, and another by Kristen Schaal as Laura’s sister JoJo, there really aren’t enough likable characters to draw in the viewer.  Laura is at times shrill and self-centered when she is supposed to be sympathetic, Henry is sullen, and Jack is emotionally distant, offering arch commentary on Laura’s mistakes even as he strongarms his grandson into helping him sell weed. Yes, there is a weed angle.

You can probably guess how the film ends, but spoilers will still appear below the cut, as always.

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Ocean’s 8: Why having complicated women onscreen is a good thing

This morning I read a quote from Brie Larson, who was talking about reviews that panned A Wrinkle in Time:

There are a lot of reviews of Ocean’s 8 out there, and probably more than 80% of them are by men. I could let my own observations about the movie pass by, but the second I read Brie Larson’s quote about the disproportionate number of men who review movies, I realized that nowadays it’s a call to action. If you’re a woman and you like a movie, you should probably find time to write about why.

Reviews have been written about Ocean’s 8 and how director Gary Ross lacked the lightness of Steven Soderbergh’s touch, or the layer upon layer of seemingly incidental conversation that turns out to be central to each plot. But whatever, Ross (formerly of Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, and Pleasantville) did a fine job crafting a heist movie with a powerful and overt message: that you don’t actually have to like the women on screen for them to be viable characters.

There are many reviews that miss this point, but I am not here to parrot those. I’m here to tell you that this movie offers a rich and complex portrayal of women that is found very, very rarely in your average blockbuster (we’re not talking about indie films), and watching it is a revelation. It also might explain why men who like a certain kind of narrative about women are going to be unsettled enough to give the movie a poor review.

I’m going to hop straight into spoilers to show you why.

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