Saturday, July 04, 2020

Fourth of July, X (1986 Farm Aid)

2020 strikes again. We were go rafting in Hell's Canyon this coming week, but a rockslide closed the only direct road to it (from our direction). I've already been to Hell (Grand Caymans) and the Gates of Hell (Stanford campus), so I was looking forward to Hell's Canyon. Hopefully later this year.

On that note, I'll leave you with a song of independence that is a little different from most, but one of my favorites. The lineup has Dave Alvin on guitar and, if I remember correctly, Tony Gilkyson from Lone Justice (both replacing Billy Zoom). This is the lineup the second time I saw them. Which remind me, I have a quote from John Doe's follow-up to Under the Big Black Sun I want to share (and saw a reference to the other evening, strangely enough). One of these days I'll be able to get back to semi-full time blogging...

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Available to watch

On Amazon Prime I stumbled across a couple of films based on Bohumil Hrabal's writings that are available for free to Prime members. First was The Snowdrop Festival, directed by Jiří Menzel. As I mentioned in the post, it's a quirky, fun movie with a strong undertow of poignancy. Menzel doesn't capture the full complexity of Hrabal's writings, opting for a lighthearted capriciousness, but he gets the banality and quirkiness of these residents' lives. I enjoyed watching it a second time.
From my original post,
"Even though the movie provides many laughs and smiles, a sadness permeates the bucolic setting. Like the stories, alcohol provides a social lubricant as well as an escape. Just what people are trying to escape isn't quite clear, amplifying Hrabal's ambiguous messages, although you wouldn't be far off the mark if you simply answered "their lives." While some things give these characters joy, many things drive their desire to escape, including family, work, government, opportunity, and materialism."

Larks on a String, another Menzel film adaptation of Hrabal's stories. The movie came out in 1969, so the lack of delicacy around political issues feels even more pronounced today. From my original post:
“The screenplay of Larks on a String is based on a book of short stories. All the stories have the same location but different characters. What was important was to make a coherent screenplay based on all those different characters. Hrabal used to say, ‘We have to plait it all into one braid.’” When we were looking for a way to link the separate storylines, how to unite these various characters, I remembered an old political joke from the ‘50s: The workers are ordered to attend a meeting where a comrade gives a lecture explaining, ‘In the present, we have socialism, but in the future we will have communism.’ After the lecture, he asks the workers if they have any questions. One of the workers raises his hand and says, ‘It’s good that we have socialism and will soon have communism, but where is the bread, where is the milk, where is the butter?’ The comrade answers, ‘This is a rather complicated question. Ask me again at the next lecture.’ A week later, the workers are ordered to attend another meeting, and the same thing happens—the comrade extols the virtues of socialism and communism, and afterwards asks if anyone has any questions. Another worker raises his hand and says, ‘It’s good we have socialism and will soon have communism, but where is the bread, where is the milk, where is the butter, and where is the worker who asked about this last time?’ So this old political joke gave us the key to the whole structure of the screenplay."

There's a political feel that is a little too close to today's cancel culture for not towing the party line:

"You wanted to see where the production of steel starts. This is the place, the scrap heap. All that you can see here will be smelted down into high-grade steel. We'll make tractors out of this steel to plough our fields. We'll make more washing machines so you can wash your dirty overalls. [Looking at an idling worker] These are our voluntary workers. Mostly of bourgeois origin. We'll also smelt them down into a new kind of people."

There are several more Czech movies available to watch for no additional fees on Amazon Prime, such as Lemonade Joe, The Good Plumber, and My Sweet Little Village, among others. I don't know how long these movies will be free on Prime so watch them soon if you're interested.

And now for something different, but free online until July 1...
Folger Theatre's Macbeth. From Terry Teachout's review at The Wall Street Journal (no link since it's behind a paywall):

While I’d hesitate to say which of those 13 “Macbeths” I liked best, the one of which I have the most indelibly specific memories is the version co-directed by Aaron Posner and Teller (Penn’s silent partner) in 2008 for New Jersey’s Two River Theater Company and the Folger Theatre in Washington. Fortunately, a live performance from the Washington run was recorded and is now streaming on the Folger’s website. Viewing it has confirmed all my impressions of the show, which I saw twice, once in each city, the second time purely for my pleasure. It is a “Macbeth” of explosive dynamism, a high-speed production running for just over two hours (the text has been extensively but discreetly trimmed) that is both flamboyant and essentially serious. The directors call it “a supernatural horror thriller,” which is true enough but a bit misleading. Stage magic, stage violence, stage blood: All are here in copious quantities, yet all illuminate, rather than obscure, the play’s timeless truths about humankind’s flawed nature.

The above link has both parts of the performance as well as several special features. I'll embed one of the special feature videos once YouTube gives me the link.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Virtual Summer Classics at St. John's College in Santa Fe

I have mentioned the Summer Classics program at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico (most recently here), so I wanted to give an update in case you have been interested in the courses but were unable to travel to attend. This summer's program has been changed to virtual seminars, so you'll be able to attend from home. Check out their updated registration page.

A reduction in cost and not having to travel does have its appeal, although wanting to attend in person was what I had hoped to do. Regardless, if you want an in-depth dive into some great works, check it out. From their website:
A Summer Classics seminar is not a lecture, nor is it a book club. At St. John’s, seminars are lively, in-depth, highly participatory conversations on the reading at hand. Discussions begin with an opening question presented by a tutor, but can take on a myriad of dimensions. Everyone contributes in some way to the conversation, bringing ideas to the table (online this year) whether they have expertise in the topic or not. Listening is just as important as speaking.

Friday, May 08, 2020

National Theatre Live: Antony & Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo

National Theatre Live has been making some of their broadcasts available on their YouTube channel. This week's offering is Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Simon Godwin, starring Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in the title roles. The recording can be played for free until 7pm UK time on Thursday 14 May 2020. This is one I wanted to catch in the theaters but was never able to make it.

Keep checking in on their YouTube channel each week to view the next offering as long as they are able to do so.

Link for the current week: Antony & Cleopatra by the National Theatre.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Robert Harrison's online meetings about The Decameron

Cynthia Haven had posted on Robert Harrison's meetings on Boccacio's The Decameron, the book that seems to all be the rage given the situation now. Her posts can be found here and here. If, like me, you missed the meetings, you can listen to them at his Entitled Opinions website: For more from Harrison, check out Haven's post earlier this week that is an excerpt from his interview by Neue Zürcher Zeitung. An excerpt:
So Boccaccio was an incorrigible optimist because he shows how the worst person can make a story that inspires other contemporaries.

On the one hand, Boccaccio shows us how a bad cheater makes other people stronger in their belief–and on the other hand, he lifts the veil and lets us see how we indulge in fictions. But we need these fictions to outgrow ourselves in life. So for Boccaccio there are only stories that help us live better and stories that help us live worse. That is its form of radicalism.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

American Shaekspeare Center's online productions

Once again, many thanks to Terry Teachout for directing me to American Shakespeare Center's online productions. From his article:
To date I’ve watched “Much Ado About Nothing” and both installments of “Henry IV, ” all of which are part of ASC’s “Actors’ Renaissance” series, which takes Elizabethan-style authenticity a radical step further. These productions, as was the case in Shakespeare’s day, have no director: Instead, they’re staged by the actors themselves. The no-frills three-camera shoots, like the stagings, are wholly to the point, and while the results are all of a piece with ASC’s fast-moving house style, it’s still thrilling to see the (mostly) youthful, colorfully costumed casts do things their way. The productions are full of musical surprises—the first part of “Henry IV,” for instance, kicks off with a bluegrass-flavored acoustic version of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” an ingeniously apposite touch—and the acting, as always at ASC, is excitingly energetic.

For tickets, go to the above link. Tickets are available through April 19 and shows can be viewed for one week after purchase. This is the third in a series of online play productions Teachout has mentioned (that I've seen). I enjoyed Amadeus and plan on watching 1984 this weekend. These are great stay-at-home entertainment values!

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Houston's Alley Theatre: 1984 streaming through April 12

Many thanks once again for Terry Teachout's post on Houston Alley Theatre's production of 1984, available online through April 12. More information can be found at their website, and the playbill can be found on issuu.

I've found Terry's blog extremely informational and enjoyable. His posts in the last few months regarding the severity and difficulty of his wife's medical issues have been troubling on a level that's difficult to explain regarding someone you've never met. As others have noted on his wife's death, it's difficult to explain the sadness I feel over someone's passing that I never directly knew or had any interaction with. Much of that has to do with the excitement that comes through in Terry's posts, whether it be about growing up in Smalltown, about finding the love of your life, or about the joy found in the arts.

His writing about being with Hilary on her last good day, Joy in the Afternoon is a post I highly recommend. If you're not an organ donor, please follow the links on becoming one at the end of the post.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Get your Caligula movie action figures here!

Just when I think reality can't get any weirder, I find out it already did. Thanks to for their article The Oddly Inappropriate Spec TV Commercial for Never-Produced Caligula Action Figures. I think.

I've seen a lot of strange things, and I'm happy to say the 1980 movie Caligula directed by Penthouse owner/editor Bob Guccione is not one of them. Although that may change if Richard Metzger's source's story bears fruit. From Metzger's source:

I’m sure you know the general story: Bob Guccione took control of the production of Caligula, fired the director, and edited something with no sense of plot whatsoever. We have all 96 hours of original camera negative and all the location audio, and we are editing these to conform to Gore Vidal’s original script. This new version that we are titling Caligula MMXX will bear no resemblance to the 1980 version. The footage is brilliant; Helen Mirren and Malcolm McDowell actually made a good movie but no one’s ever seen it! (Malcolm has been saying this for 40 years in interviews.)

We are finding tons of odd rarities in the vaults: promotional items, interviews, and over 11,000 set photographs, nearly all of which have never been seen before. Mario Tursi took most of them, and we are compiling the best of them into a book. (One of the other photographers was Eddie Adams who took that award-winning photo of the Vietnamese guy getting shot in the head.)

There was even a proposed Caligula toy line(!!) if you can believe that. A company named Cinco Toys pitched Guccione, who never met a deal he didn’t like, on them getting a license to do a line of action figures. Star Wars action figures were making millions and apparently they pitched him pretty hard for this. Caligula‘s budget was twice that of Star Wars. They made a handful of prototypes for action figures. They even went so far as to make a spec TV commercial to woo Guccione to let them do this, which is extra insane. They made it like he (Guccione) would be (star) in the commercial himself and had someone do a VO as if they were Bob. And there it was on the shelf with the various drafts of the script. There was a 3/4” tape and a VHS of the same commercial with Cinco labels. They also wanted to do Caligula jigsaw puzzles.”

I have to check out that book, although I can't get over the description of "Eddie Adams who took that award-winning photo of the Vietnamese guy getting shot in the head." Anyway...
I have yet to fully check out the Caligula MMXX link, but I will. If nothing else, though, check out the YouTube video on the Caligula action figures. Who in the world thought this was going to be an idea that sells? I want whatever they were on...

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Amadeus by Syracuse Stage available on video: ticket sales ends today

Many thanks to Terry Teachout for the article on Syracuse Stage's video production of the stage play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. As Teachout notes,
Syracuse Stage’s revival of Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus,” directed by Robert Hupp, is a thrilling staging of one of the best English-language plays of the 20th century, and it comes across online with exhilarating clarity. You’ll have to move fast to see it: Online “tickets” are only available at through this coming Sunday [today]. Once you purchase a ticket, though, you can view “Amadeus” at any time during the next two weeks, so I suggest you buy your ticket now, then come back and finish reading this review.

I know this is last minute since the deadline for ordering is today, but I just saw this and wanted to pass it on to any readers and hope you'll pass on the information as well. From the Syracuse Stage site:

The production was recorded by our good friends at WCNY on our opening (and also our closing) night. Capturing the magic of live performance on tape is a tall order, but WCNY has done an excellent job. You’ll be drawn into the story just like we all were in the Archbold Theatre, and, as an added bonus, you’ll see the emotion of the actors up close and personal in ways we can’t always see in the theatre. ... Access to the recording is $35 and only on sale through Sunday, March 29. Once purchased, you will receive an email with instructions to access the video for any 48 hour period through April 12.

I've only seen the movie adaptation, so I'm looking forward to seeing the original play. For what it's worth, here are my ramblings on Pushkin's "play" Mozart and Salieri, the basis for Shaffer's work.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Archipelago's free e-books

I'm sure you've seen this elsewhere, but this is an offer I don't mind seeing as a repeat. Archipelago Books is offering 30 of its titles free as ebooks until April 2nd. The list of books can be found here. The books I've read from Archipelago have been of a consistently high quality, so even the titles I'm not familiar with I would recommend.

Books on the list I've read and recommend are Bacacay by Witold Gombrowicz, The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Wilma Stockenström, Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, and Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil.

Archipelago is a non-profit organization, so I'm sure that any donation or additional book orders will be appreciated. They're a great publisher and this is a generous offer on their part!