Orlando Ballet: Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast

Note: Normally, Late to the Theater’s resident Ballet Expert Achariya reviews performances. As she is on a well-earned family vacation, Jen attended the Saturday night performance of Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast and is writing up this review. 

Saturday night, I ventured downtown to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in order to attend Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast. 

ob_batb_dinner
The Dinner Scene – Courtesy of Michael Cairns and Orlando Ballet

Overall, the performance was an absolute delight and comes highly recommended. The choreography was playful and even cheeky while still doing honor to the balletic tradition, the costumes and sets were creative but still functional, and the story exciting and innovative while still recognizable to the audience as a well-known and loved fairy tale. I found myself wishing I’d known beforehand what an uplifting and charming evening I was in for so that I could spread the word to friends, family and coworkers looking for a more sophisticated kind of family night.

(Although Orlando Ballet originally presented this ballet in 2016, I am entirely unfamiliar with that performance and can only speak to the quality of this production and their previous piece, Romeo and Juliet. I will also assume the reader is already familiar with the Disney versions of Beauty and the Beast, from which the ballet is inspired.)

Continue reading “Orlando Ballet: Arcadian Broad’s Beauty and the Beast”

In Theaters Now – Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name is at once beautifully shot, perfectly acted, and possessed of some of the richest visuals I’ve ever seen. It is nominated for a slew of awards, and rightfully so.

It felt strange watching a peak arthouse movie (a bildungsroman about a young musical prodigy falling for an older grad student in 1980s Italy doesn’t get much arthouse-y-er) in a multiplex theater, especially when we already have an arthouse theater down the road that’s still playing The Shape of Water, but the times they are a-changing.

My co-blogger Achariya loved it, devoured the book, and has been looking forward to it since last summer, and although she watched a screener for her most excellent preview earlier this week, we wanted to get the full theater experience.

Achariya: At the end of the movie, I looked around and spotted no fewer than three gay couples (and a few more straight couples) wiping tears from their eyes due to a certain scene. It’s nice to see this at an AMC.

Jen: I know, it was so sweet!

Call Me By Your Name, as mentioned, is a coming of age romance about Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a 17-year-old Jewish musical prodigy summering with his family in their elegant Italian villa. His family are warm, cultured, and incredibly European as they all dine alfresco all the time, read each other 14th century sonnets, and smoke like burning tobacco warehouses.

Every summer the family takes in a grad student for six weeks who helps Elio’s father, an archaeology/antiquities professor, with his notes and projects. Enter Oliver, played by Armie Hammer. Almost from the start, Elio is captivated by the tall, blond, dashing Oliver, who wears his Star of David as easily and overtly as he wears his billowing blue shirt.

I would recommend CMBYN to anyone who loves a good romance amid beautiful settings. The sex scenes are carefully blocked to avoid any full frontal, per the actors’ contracts, but there’s still lots of male nudity on screen, which you would expect in a movie where men get it on. Do not take an elderly, conservative relative to see this film unless you are really hoping to broaden their horizons or kill them with a heart attack.

For a more in-depth discussion involving spoilers, journey under the cut. We are going to demarcate my reaction to the film from our chatter by putting our discussion in italics.

Continue reading “In Theaters Now – Call Me By Your Name”

Early to the Theater – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool Review

Recently Jen and Achariya have been fortunate enough to review films prior to wide release. We’re very excited about today’s entry, a screener that Jen received from Sony Pictures Classics. As always, the basic, spoiler-free review will appear above the cut, and more in-depth analysis below. And as always, Jen was not paid or compensated for this review in any way. 

filmstarsdont_poster

Based on a memoir of the same name, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a powerful, layered romance that is honestly quite difficult to sum up at a glance. Fading American film star Gloria Graham, weakened by illness, is looked after in her last few months by her former lover, a man thirty years younger, and his working-class Liverpool family in 1981. Through a series of flashbacks the audience discovers what brought the unlikely pair together and what ultimately tore them apart. I haven’t read the book so I’ve no idea how much it differs, if at all, from the film.

Annette Benning plays Graham in a knock-out performance. She has already been nominated for several critics’ awards and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her nominated for an Oscar, although the fact she’s not nominated for a Golden Globe seemed a crime. With masterful subtlety, Benning reveals Graham in layers as the story unfolds; she presents a breathy voiced and starry eyed ingenue to her public and the outside world, which is of course why Peter Turner, played by Jamie Bell, falls in love with her;  when stressed she becomes shrill and manic at times, such as when Turner mentions her age or crosses any of the invisible lines she’s drawn for him; and lastly, reserved and fragile when she finally accepts that her prognosis is terminal and weighing heavily on her loved ones.

filmstarsdont_1
I may be biased, because their first date is to see ALIEN. 

Although the May-December relationship premise of an older female film star and a young male lover is familiar, it would be disingenuous to compare this film to say, Sunset Boulevard. Obviously the relationship here was based on true events, and the story elements are so novel that they feel fresh. Before I realized it was a biography, I found myself wondering precisely that, since truth is stranger than fiction and the characters and settings felt so weirdly solid. Kenneth Cranham plays Peter’s father, delightful in sweater vests and owlish glasses.  Julie Walters (best known as the Weasley matriarch from the Harry Potter movies) puts in an amazing performance as Peter’s mother Bella, who helps him look after Gloria when the latter becomes bedridden. Vanessa Redgrave shines in a small but riveting role as Gloria’s mother.

As as aside before we get to the spoilers – I’m hoping the great Hollywood purge of sexist shitbags occurring right now will make room for more filmmakers and films like this one. In an early scene where Graham is warming up for her performance by blowing air through her lips, the camera lingers in close-up on her mouth every wrinkle and line is on display. It was a bold creative choice, the sort that wouldn’t have a place in a film-making atmosphere dominated by toxic masculinity. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool was directed by Paul McGuigan (who among other TV hits directed 2 episodes of Luke Cage!) and was produced by the legendary Barbara Broccoli.

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had a limited US release last year and seems to mostly be playing the film festivals. I hope it does well and receives a wide release.

Continue reading “Early to the Theater – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool Review”

Super Secret Swag Documents

In which Jennnanigans recounts the story of how she unexpectedly received some awesome promotional material from The Shape of Water, owing to a recent viewing and review. The material was not requested and was a total surprise upon arrival. Jennnanigans was not paid or compensated for this blog entry in any way. 

Good morning and happy Friday!

Last night while watching a video on bullet journaling, I heard a knock at my front door. Expecting a belated Xmas gift, I was surprised to find a long, rectangular package with a return address reading Fox Searchlight Pictures. I was further surprised to find the package was addressed to me, at this blog title.

Anyway, when I opened the package….

Continue reading “Super Secret Swag Documents”

Conversations: The Shape of Water

shape-water3

Good morning! This week my co-author Achariya and I were able to attend an advance screening of The Shape of Water. We loved it and we had thoughts. The following are those thoughts. The section here is spoiler-free, but spoilers do appear in the discussions below the cut. Enjoy, and feel free to chime in!

JEN: Let me get this right out of the way – I loved it, I want people to support it, but I also recognize it’s not for everyone. Also there were three movies that I couldn’t help but think about: Amelie, for the love story, Splash, also for the love story, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, mostly because of the Amphibian Man but also because that latter touched on concepts of loneliness.

shape-water1
Breathe water or breathe air – get you a man who can do both.

ACHARIYA: Last night when I left the theater, I called my dad, a cinephile from way back. I told him the bare outlines of the plot, and he said, “Oh, obviously Guillermo Del Toro is a student of film, and has also seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein — he’s likely well versed in the genre of the relatable monster.” And yes, I also loved it.

JEN: Also I can’t help but think of this as Del Toro thumbing his nose at Universal’s failed attempt to launch a Dark Universe franchise; I read that he was offered the Dark Universe and turned it down. Had he taken it on we would be seeing a Creature From the Black Lagoon remake very like this, along with all the other well-loved monsters. Here’s a man who can’t write an unsympathetic monster, who will always see layers to every villain but most of all to the ugly, unloved, and broken. It’s a damned shame we won’t see those from him.

ACHA: I would argue that the introductory lines of the movie pointed to the true monster — and Del Toro was absolutely able to write an unsympathetic villain. It just wasn’t the one that you’d think. (More about that in spoilers!)

JEN: One more thing before we get into the spoilers – I found the movie brilliant because of the complete removal of its universe from reality, while still managing to feel believable. All the questions I had stemmed from situations that were created within the movie – there was never a moment where I thought ‘Well that can’t happen because X.’ The story had my complete buy-in.

ACHA: And I’d posit that this is in part because the audience has been given a perfect character through which to react to and question the movie, the main character’s best friend, Zelda (played by Octavia Spencer). Her responses throughout were exactly what mine were: “What?” “You did what??” “I — what?” And then, her ultimate sympathy and acceptance for the main character: “Okay, whatever works for you.”

Continue reading “Conversations: The Shape of Water”