Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Heroes Return

      Joseph-Beth Booksellers, which expanded then compressed in number of stores over the past decade, has opened a new branch in the recently shuttered Borders at Crestview Hills Mall.  (The Borders/Joseph-Beth connection is very interesting in itself since it involves two generations of family members, marriage and divorce, but enough until later).  
      Joseph-Beth has stepped things up lately with some big name talent dropping by the Rookwood Pavilion store.  Gregory Maguire, renowned fantasy author, recently read, signed books, and acted as the emcee for the stars of the Broadway Series tour of Wicked.  Their singing was excellent, but the sound system was intermittently disastrous.  If only they’d put down the microphones and just sung since both the Elphaba and Galinda had strong voices.

Costumes from Wicked
Out of Oz is the fourth in the The Wicked Years tetralogy that chronicles Oz before and after the events of The Wizard of Oz.  So far, it’s running at the level
of Wicked: i.e. startlingly original and otherworldly.  (A Lion Among Men was a misstep in the series since it didn’t seem to go anywhere, though a close friend of mine enjoyed it).

Paul Simon at the Bank of Kentucky Center
      Paul Simon recently performed at the Bank of Kentucky Center at NKU.  It’s a beautiful, mid-sized arena, and home to two of the best basketball teams in the region that will, hopefully, move to Division I soon.  Paul Simon was pretty terrific.  He hit a sinuous groove from the first moment, backed by an extraordinary ten-member band (the saxophonist was a little loud, but that was my only quibble) and continued for two hours with one quick five-minute break.  His twenty plus song playlist included “Kodachrome,” “Late in the Evening,” “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes,” “Graceland”, and “Mother and Child Reunion.”  A couple of highlights were “Sounds of Silence” and George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun.”  The title track from his new album So Beautiful or So What is an instant classic.  The background screen projections were gorgeous throughout. 

      Mary J. Blige just released My Life II…The Journey Continues (Act 1).  It’s a long title and a generous album.  MJB is one fabulous babe because she always seems like she’s pinching herself, unable to believe that she is a star.  She’s always looking out for women’s issues, rather than mooning over some useless guy that’s about to or just dumped her, and she works her butt off by guest starring on every type of awards show going.  She earned my free ticket when she sang on the Nobel winners’ concert a few years back.  Anyhow, My Life II is an up-to-the-minute slice of the Hip-Hop Soul that she invented, though her look back to Rufus with Chaka Khan “Ain’t Nobody” is one of the best tracks.

Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover
      Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar is long, slow, and dark.  Out of the six of us that saw it on Thanksgiving, only two of us really liked it.  I found it fascinating, though the audience seemed bored to tears.  I think many of them were waiting for the bus to take them back to the retirement home.  The lighting and art direction is almost neo-classical in line, but dominated by a chiaroscuro that recalls Changeling and Bird.  Leonardo DiCaprio gives a technically accomplished performance, but he’s somewhat hobbled by the script and the character is not one that can be realized in the powerhouse star turns that Angelina Jolie and Forest Whitaker gave in those other films, respectively.  The story cuts back and forth constantly between the ‘20s and ‘30s as the FBI was created and gained in power and the ‘60s when that force was being undercut by the changes in American society, especially the civil rights and anti-war movements.  The problem is that there’s nothing from 1935 – 1960 when the FBI was a moral force and anything that could be exciting – the Lindbergh kidnapping, chasing down the Public Enemies, bugging Martin Luther King, Jr. – is truncated and doesn’t build dramatically.  The most interesting aspect of the plot is the relationship between Hoover and Clyde Tolson, played spectacularly by Armie Hammer even with awful make-up in the later sequences.  The best scene is when Hoover tries on his recently deceased mother’s dress, but it’s not because he’s a transvestite; rather, he’s trying to overturn the power she has over him.  

It's a busy time of year for Neil and Eric.  It's hunting season so I've been a little busy too!

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