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Nov 06, 2014
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Nov 06, 2014
Arts & Culture News
NEW YORK (Reuters) - After a 20-year absence triple-Tony winner Glenn Close returned to Broadway in a revival of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize winning play, "A Delicate Balance," a production that elicited an uneven response from critics who found it both blistering and boring.
LONDON xx (Reuters) - Irish-American abstract artist Sean Scully counts Irish rocker Bono among his pals and collectors. He wouldn't be unhappy if some of China's 1.4 billion people also took a shine to his art being displayed at a retrospective in Shanghai later this month.
NUREMBERG, Germany, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A 1914 watercolor by Adolf Hitler to be auctioned on Saturday could fetch up to 50,000 euros ($62,685) given strong global interest, a German auction house chief said on Tuesday.
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A museum in Washington state plans to remove about a dozen borrowed firearms from a World War Two exhibit and return them to their owners to comply with a new gun law that requires background checks for all gun transfers, the institution said on Wednesday.
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg beat title favorite Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the decisive Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday as the dominant Mercedes team mates locked out the front row in qualifying.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy made double bogeys on successive holes in the third round of the $8 million DP World Tour Championship on Saturday, slipping four strokes behind joint-leaders Henrik Stenson and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Formula One's smaller teams felt at least a penny had dropped on Saturday after meeting the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and rights holders CVC to discuss demands for more money.
DUBAI (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia admitted he was weary after failing to make up any ground on the leaders at the DP World Tour Championship on Saturday, carding a third-round 69 that gives the Spaniard little hope of claiming second spot on the European money list.
LONDON (Reuters) - - A banking culture that implicitly puts financial gain above all else fuels greed and dishonesty and makes bankers more likely to cheat, according to the findings of a scientific study.
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Theories about how massive stars are born could be revised after astronomers in Chile found evidence that the dust and gas surrounding a young star could survive bombardment by the star's own radiation.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Tibetan Plateau, the harsh Asian domain known as the 'roof of the world,' would not seem an ideal place for people to call home thanks to its extreme altitude, frigid temperatures, relentless winds and low-oxygen conditions.
As districts are devastated above ground, other struggles rage underground. We’re not just talking Woody Harrelson’s straggly Games vet Haymitch Abernathy’s problems with “prohibition”, either. With her role beefed up from Suzanne Collins’ third and final Hunger Games novel, how can Elizabeth Banks’s future fashion grotesque Effie Trinket hope to look ab fab in a rebel hold-out with serious wardrobe issues?
Given Effie’s egregious situation, it’s a wonder she looks as presentable as she does. For Effie, read Mockingjay - Part 1. Even with the odds against him, returning director Francis Lawrence joins sturdy-handed writers Peter Craig (The Town) and Danny Strong (The Butler) to mount a rich, punchy, well-paced treatment of a tricky novel: an unlikely victory comparable to felling hoverplanes with arrows.
After all, the outcome was never certain. If Gary Ross’s first Hunger Games flick benefitted from lunging fast into the arena, Catching Fire repeated the trick and proved it stood repeating. Now that Katniss Everdeen’s revolt at Fire’s climax has pushed the future districts into a climate of unrest, countered by state oppression, there are no games to play but political ones. This time, it’s war? Yes, but for unwary viewers expecting the fun stuff of bonkers baboons terrorising teenagers it could just be a bore.
The issue of division is equally sticky. Tackling an already divisive novel with the divisive decision (see The Hobbit, Deathly Hallows) to divide it into two movies, the third and fourth Games films raise a question: how many divisions can a story take without collapsing?
But Part 1 holds up, mostly, with Jennifer Lawrence doing some proper heavy lifting. On the page Katniss initially lacks her old spark, a point flagged on screen by District 13 President turned rebel Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) when she tells rebel-leader Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “This is not the girl that you describe.” As Plutarch and Coin slowly coerce Katniss into becoming a symbol for revolt against the venomous President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) decadent Capitol, the plot rests less on scraps than strategy; less on action than debates about how to start the action; and less on Katniss than the absence of the girl on fire. With heavy doses of recap and semi-meta stuff about making propaganda movies stacked on top, the focus shift threatens to distance viewers.
But J-Law tugs us in to Katniss’ fraught humanity, invoking memories of Aliens’ harrowed Ripley as she wakes from troubled sleep in District 13’s rebel base. (And yes, the ginger cat is here.) These layers of trepidation firm up Katniss’ position as a reluctant hero we can engage with, not a superhero: qualities rare enough in some A fiction, let alone YA fiction.
Francis Lawrence pushes YA boundaries further as Katniss visits districts decimated by Snow’s army, where streets spill with skulls. When Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and a rag-tag propaganda film crew explore the devastated District 8, a makeshift hospital oozes with what censors like to call “injury detail”. If the reverence for Katniss among the wounded verges on cheesy, the rubble-strewn war-zone images and ear-bashing hoverplane attacks imbue Katniss’ subsequent big speech with a sense of high-stakes potency. As she “becomes” Katniss again here, Lawrence steers her fear and rage into air-punching “Get away from her, you bitch!” terrain.
If one particular District 8 atrocity seems torn from today’s headlines, the rebel debates about how to use the media as a weapon are equally, achingly of the now. But Mockingjay isn’t a course in Advanced Media Know-how: the two-part split provides the elbow room needed to flesh out a boosted character count. In his last bow, Hoffman invests Plutarch with weathered heft. Judiciously expanding the novel beyond Katniss’ perspective, added Coin-age benefits from Julianne Moore’s authoritative delivery. Good, no-nonsense ground-level support comes from Natalie Dormer’s Cressida, sort of Kate Adie with face tats.
Less successful is the decision to boost Effie’s role: like Derek Zoolander gate-crashing Fury to pimp a tank, she lightens the tone but draws sniggers. The vote’s still out (and probably out for good) on the narrative value of Gale’s charisma vacuum, though less is more for Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. Seen largely through ambiguous TV broadcasts, his arc ranges smartly from turn-coat interviews with Stanley Tucci’s Capitol creep Caesar to well-administered shocks.
Even with the pace-dampening burden of time spent on Katniss visiting old haunts, Francis Lawrence makes up for the arena’s absence with punch-packing action jolts. The rebel assault on a dam is Lord Of The Rings-sized. Later, a tense night-time raid on the Capitol successfully splices sprawling effects work with grounding war-movie grit.
These beefed-up action beats are well integrated with Katniss’ viewpoint, especially when the Capitol incursion runs parallel to a tense vid-screen stand-off between two key verbal combatants. That poised weighting holds until the climactic cliffhanger, a better-paced send-off than the sudden drop that closed The Desolation Of Smaug.
Francis Lawrence faces more trials tackling Collins’ rushed finale in Part 2, but the two-film split could give him vital air, assuming he doesn’t go all Return Of The King on us. “I’m optimistic,” shrugs Plutarch at one point, facing a new dread. On the strength of this gutsy, considered rewrite of the Games’ rules, there’s reason to be.
Stills of Tom Hardy pursing his lips at a puppy might have made Twitter melt, but The Drop did well to change its title from Animal Rescue. This is no cutesy romcom or inspirational adventure but rather a downbeat, character-driven crime drama set in a squalid neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Facial stubble and handguns are de rigueur, for this, as the opening voiceover goes, “is where all the things happen that you’re not allowed to see.” Running bar for his Uncle Marv (James Gandolfini in his final big-screen role), Bob Saginowski’s (Hardy) life turns upside down when he’s robbed at gunpoint. The money belongs to the Chechen mob – they were using Marv’s bar as the drop point for their bookmaking business – and Bob and Marv need to get their hands on $5K fast. Enter Twitter’s favourite pup, found by Bob in a trashcan on his way home. The bin belongs to Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and the dog, it transpires, was stuffed there by her headcase ex Eric (Matthias Schoenaerts). Bob takes it home and begins a tentative friendship with Nadia, his actions inevitably met by sinister visits from Eric and an escalating tension that promises violence. The US debut of Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (2011’s Bullhead), The Drop, based on Dennis Lehane’s short story, melds European sensibilities with the tropes of an American crime picture. The dilapidated setting and its hardscrabble inhabitants are observed with an outsider’s eye and an insider’s knowledge, while the narrative simmers rather than bubbles over like so many Hollywood thrillers. Gandolfini, in Nike tracksuit and leather jacket, is as tough and tender as ever, and a hesitant, slouching, mumbling Hardy evokes Stallone’s Rocky and Brando’s Terry Malloy – perhaps a little too consciously. Over-familiarity clings to The Drop, but it’s a crafted, admirable picture with a halo of hope around its melancholic heart – a melancholy deepened, of course, by Gandolfini’s passing.
With a title like The Imitation Game, you’d be forgiven for expecting a contemporary CIA thriller – rather than a carefully constructed character study of one of WW2’s largely unsung heroes. It’s centred on Alan Turing, the man responsible for cracking the Nazis’ Enigma cipher, thus helping end the war. Enemy dispatches, however, are not the only guarded secrets. Bletchley Park’s efforts to outthink the Germans’ most cunning device has been covered before in Michael Apted’s Enigma (2001), where Dougray Scott played a vague approximation of Turing. But this digs far deeper. Adapted by first-time screenwriter Graham Moore from the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, the story begins in 1952, several years after Turing’s moment of triumph, when the police (led by Rory Kinnear) investigate a suspicious break-in at his house. Benedict Cumberbatch swiftly and compellingly differentiates Turing from his other ‘genius’ roles – Stephen Hawking, Sherlock – though the latter flashes through when the narrative winds back to 1939, as Turing enters Bletchley for the first time. Arrogant and assured, he’s also uncompromising and unpopular, divorced from the Matthew Goode-led codebreaking team. When Turing demands to be put in charge, even petitioning PM Winston Churchill, it seems never in doubt that he’ll solve the riddle of the Enigma machine, a device that changes its settings every 24 hours to make detecting coding patterns nigh-on impossible. But this achievement, aided by Keira Knightley’s crossword-fanatic Joan Clarke and under the watchful eye of Mark Strong’s MI6 operative, is only part of The Imitation Game, which takes a darker turn with revelations that Turing is gay. The result is less a portrait of WW2 innovation than it is of a man drowning in secrets at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He even asks for Joan’s hand in marriage – but theirs was always more friendship than frisson. Given the frequent shots of Turing in training (he was also a marathon enthusiast), you’re left to wonder if he’s running from himself – or public censure. Director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), essays the same attention to detail that fellow Scandinavian Tomas Alfredson brought to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If The Imitation Game doesn’t emulate that film’s dazzling direction, it equally captures the texture of past British life and features a similarly exemplary Cumberbatch-inclusive ensemble. Only this time, he leads from the front, pouring body and soul into Turing. Cracking, you might say.
The world’s most influential film critic, the late Roger Ebert knew the importance of good direction. That Ebert chose Steve James to direct this exceptional documentary, based on his own memoir, says much about its subject’s character. Ebert always believed in cinema as a machine for generating empathy, citing James’ Hoop Dreams as a classic example. With full access to Ebert during the final months of his life, James brings the same insight here. Critical peers debate his legacy here: did Ebert’s famously populist, “thumbs up” approach to cinema dumb things down, or help to pioneer the internet’s renaissance in grassroots criticism? Meanwhile, directors like Martin Scorsese recount the double-edged sword of Ebert’s patronage: every good review a boost, every bad notice a blow. A truly rounded, complex character emerges, especially in the central relationship with TV show co-host Gene Siskel, Ebert’s equal and opposite. Yet, as the title suggests, there was more to Ebert than watching movies. James reveals parallel lives: the student editor who spoke out for civil rights; the rambunctious reporter nearly destroyed by alcoholism; the mischievous screenwriter behind Russ Meyer’s manic Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. James follows each facet thematically as much as chronologically; the mosaic resembles not only Ebert’s beloved Citizen Kane but also the treasured jigsaw puzzle that provides a stand-out moment. Latterly, of course, there was Ebert the cancer sufferer, robbed of his voice but reaching new readers via his blog. Ordered by Ebert to show “the full reality”, James achieves an unvarnished, desperately sad portrayal of this once towering figure reduced to frailty and discomfort. Ebert eventually becomes too ill even to reply to emails – yet the film’s power lies in its use of archive footage, voiceover and even Ebert’s computerised speech translator to keep the writer’s voice alive.
The feature debut of Irish director brothers Rob and Ronan Burke, Standby is a gentle, funny rom-com for which the term ‘heart-warming’ might have been coined. Alan (Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan) lives a dead-end life, manning the tourist-info desk at Dublin airport, when back into his life swims Alice (Mad Men’s Jessica Paré), with whom he shared a brief romance eight years ago in New York. Her NYC flight’s not till the next day, so he offers her a night on the town – strictly on a platonic basis, of course. Ok, you can guess how it’ll end – but getting there is a delight.
Milton Court, LondonA beautiful, dark-hued meditation marking the veteran composer John Woolrich’s 60th birthday
John Woolrich goes back a long way with the Britten Sinfonia – more than 15 years in fact. He used to be the orchestra’s composer-in-association and now he is one of its artistic advisers; a role in which his outstanding skills as a concert programmer must be invaluable. Woolrich had devised the programme that the Sinfonia, conducted by Duncan Ward, gave to celebrate his 60th birthday. This was the London premiere of one of his most substantial recent works, preceded by a series of his transcriptions and paraphrases of other composers, interwoven with pieces by Stravinsky and Mozart.
It was a typically self-effacing portrait, and a truthful one; some of Woolrich’s most rewarding and revealing works have refracted his own musical personality through those of his historical predecessors. Music by Purcell and Wolf began the concert – three of Purcell’s songs from Orpheus Britannicus, realised by Michael Tippett and then given string-orchestra arrangements by Woolrich, and seven numbers from Wolf’s Italian Lieder Book, turned into string miniatures, their vocal lines ambiguously absorbed into the textures. Ulysses Awakes, though, is a much less straightforward reworking. It’s part paraphrase, part fantasy for viola and strings from the first act of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses – a beautiful, dark-hued meditation, constantly haunted by shadows of the original vocal lines.Continue reading...
Shoved to the sidelines during Ian Curtis’s time with Joy Division, his widow Deborah casts valuable light on one of modern music’s darkest stories
The legend of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, who killed himself in May 1980 aged 23, is often drawn in stark lines, the crisp monochrome iconography of the doomed young genius. This 1995 memoir, written by his wife Deborah and reprinted with a new introduction by drummer Stephen Morris, scuffs and blurs the edges of the myth, depicting a messy, complicated and less than heroic individual. Possessive, controlling and dispiritingly cruel, Curtis does not emerge from this book covered in glory.
The tensions between the domestic and artistic worsen along with his epilepsy: not even his wife, who knew him as a death-obsessed teen, realises how savage his demons have become.Continue reading...
Every Friday we pledge to review whatever you’ve sent us over the past seven days, with absolutely no restrictions. We might not be nice about it, mind. SUBMIT YOUR OWN: post in the comments below or send them in via Twitter: @guideguardianContinue reading...
Philharmonic Hall, LiverpoolVasily Petrenko brought out the colour of Michael Torke’s new Concerto for Orchestra, while Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance was more muted
American composer Michael Torke is a synesthete who perceives the key of E major as green and D major as blue. It followed that his new Concerto for Orchestra should be marked by some astonishing splashes of colour, even if the thematic palette was somewhat restricted. The 20 minute, seven-movement piece was structured around a single, four-note motif, initially announced by the brass and passed round the ensemble in various permutations. Torke has a distinctly American orchestral accent: transparent, Philip Glass-like textures tussled with the infectious shimmy of Bernstein in mambo mode; while Walt Disney was the presiding influence of a syrupy largo in which the theme broke down and seemingly attempted to reconfigure itself as When You Wish Upon a Star.
Manchester audiences instantly succumbed to the tiny, blind Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii when he appeared with the BBC Philharmonic last year; the lower-voltage ovation that greeted his Liverpool debut, however, suggests his relationship with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic may be a more slow-burning affair. Tsujii is a phenomenally capable technician who claims to be able to communicate with the orchestra by listening to the conductor’s breathing. Even so, the busier aspects of his reading of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 3 sounded a little pre-determined. (There will be ample opportunity to deepen the bond when Tsujii joins the RLPO on its first tour of Japan in January next year.)Continue reading...
Barbican, LondonJoined by Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda, the Polish trumpeter showed just how deep his jazz roots go
Like music-lovers of all stripes, jazz listeners dream of moments when performers take them to unimagined worlds, but they also find an almost guilty pleasure in the earthbound appeal of virtuosity. The former happens when craft recedes and the music seems to be happening by itself, the latter, when virtuosos make the difficult look effortless. It’s rare for both to happen at the same jazz gig.
But Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko managed the first, and irrepressible Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and Brazilian bandolim maestro Hamilton de Holanda the second at the London jazz festival.Continue reading...
Top 5 at a Glance1. THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham2. WORTH DYING FOR, by Lee Child3. AMERICAN ASSASSIN, by Vince Flynn4. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson5. SIDE JOBS, by Jim Butcher
Top 5 at a Glance1. LIFE, by Keith Richards with James Fox2. BROKE, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe3. EARTH (THE BOOK), by Jon Stewart and others4. THE LAST BOY, by Jane Leavy5. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, VOL. 1, by Mark Twain
Top 5 at a Glance1. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson2. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson3. THE FINKLER QUESTION, by Howard Jacobson4. LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave5. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese
Top 5 at a Glance1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson3. THE RECKLESS BRIDE, by Stephanie Laurens4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson5. 61 HOURS, by Lee Child
Top 5 at a Glance1. EAT, PRAY, LOVE, by Elizabeth Gilbert2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz3. STONES INTO SCHOOLS, by Greg Mortenson4. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls5. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
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The Melting Pot
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Internationally Acclaimed Book of the True Story of Two Holocaust Survivors is Now Available in French
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All An Act celebrates its ten-year anniversary with a golden oldie. By Rob Kocur Ever have a friend you were so close to that you got the...
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