Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Big Eyes

I can't stop thinking about this movie, 
but for all the wrong reasons

      I've been infatuated with Keane's paintings since they first appeared to me in the '70s.  I did a lot of pebble art in the early '60s and big eyed elves were a common subject matter for 
Pebble Art Elf
them.  I can't help but wonder if Margaret Keane wasn't influenced by them. Later on, the Keane paintings became a running gag on SNL. I don't recall any of the controversy over the paintings so when I saw the story on CBS This Morning, I was immediately sold on seeing the movie.  Unfortunately, the report focused on the movie's entire story and the film didn't bother to expound much beyond that. 

Margaret's Studio
      The best part of the movie for me was the flawless art direction by Chris August.  Candy coated pastels appeared throughout to emphasize the time period and innocence of the

Monday, December 29, 2014

Is the Movie Musical Back?

Annie and Into the Woods
are the tent poles for this Holiday Season

     TV ads have trumpeted Annie and Into the Woods and it’s a watershed moment when two big musicals are opening this close together.  The movie musical was declared dead back in the early ‘70s when a number of the monstrously expensive stage generated properties failed to perform and broke the 
Opening Scene of The Sound of Music
old time studios.  The three that work are The Sound of Music (1965) because of Julie Andrews, West Side Story (1961) because of the dancing and arguably the greatest Broadway

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sleeping Beauty at Ensemble Theatre

Thanks for an original version of a classic tale

     Sleeping Beauty by Joseph McDonough and David Kisor has been remounted by Lynn Meyers at Ensemble and it’s charming.  We saw it five years ago and it’s been modified in

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tacqueria Mercado

Lo que pasó con todos los elogios 
from a couple of years ago?

Tacqueria Mercado Sangria
      We stopped by their downtown version for dinner a few weeks ago.  Eric and I were looking forward to dining there as we had heard good reports shortly after its opening a few years ago.  Looking at the menu, I was inspired by seeing Goat Soup and Tripe Tacos.  I wasn't interested in ordering

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Theory of Everything

The reflection of the cosmos 
in a loving relationship

     The Theory of Everything will please those who like movies about English geniuses who develop frightening illnesses such as Hilary and Jackie (1998).   I don’t mean that as disparaging because they also end up in some intriguing, outré romantic entanglements.  In H & J, one sister shares her

Monday, November 17, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue or Ignorance)

A mash-up (or mix-up?)
or styles in a powerhouse comedy

     We saw Birdman two weeks ago and I’m still not certain how I feel about it.  For one thing, it’s two movies rolled into one.  There’s the tight paced, hyper-energetic backstage comedy that most reviewers have made a big deal about and then the more intriguing mid-life crisis fantasy that keeps cutting in and then finally takes over.  Actually, Michael Keaton is sixty-three, but he could pass for a decade younger.  This is his best work

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rachel Kushner: The Flamethrowers

A young woman comes of age on a motorcyle

1970s Art Scene in New York
     Italian Motorcycles, the downtown New York art scene of the 1970s, American youth revolts of the 1960s, Italian worker/consumer/student/kidnapper-you-name-it revolts of the 1970s, the Land Artists, May-August romances, artists whose persona/story reveals their art, a young woman of talent

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Banana Leaf Modern Thai

Destination dining for us that appeared
to be a neighborhood gem for others

Banana Leaf Modern Thai
     I doubt there are many of us that can remember the streetcar and bustling hotel on Main Street in Mason.  They're gone, but the private residence across the street has stood there since 1877.  Currently, it's been elegantly revamped with

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Miranda Lambert: Platinum

Yet again, Lambert delivers 
tough vulnerability with exquisite precision

     Miranda Lambert’s latest solo album Platinum was released five months ago, which was when I picked it up and I’ve played it about a dozen or so times since then.  It’s an easy collection to hear a number of times because it sums up the past of country and western music, while also placing Lambert in the forefront of where C & W may go next.  Along with Beck on Morning Phase (Alternative Rock/Rock) and Pharrell Williams on Girl (R&B/Pop), Lambert has taken stock of a musical genre and stated why it is and has been important to American culture.  For me, those are the three most significant albums released this year.

     Lambert wrote/co-wrote about half of the songs on this album and performed works by some other top C & W songwriters.  She comes across as Western because of the

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laverne Cox Shops at JCPenney

NKU establishes itself 
on the map for LGBTQ issues

Laverne Cox at NKU
     As one audience member said, it was a historical moment at NKU when Laverne Cox presented.  She's been an Emmy nominated member of the Orange is the New Black cast.  She's also been a spokesperson for the transgender

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meatball Kitchen

Simple Italian your way

The Simple Industrial Interior
     Dreary fall evenings call for comfort food so Eric and I dropped by Meatball Kitchen on Short Vine after a movie recently at the Esquire.  I'd been curious about this place since

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A mess of vivid characters 
trying to save and change their world

     The economic downturn, which hasn’t exactly turned up yet, resulting in “the new normal,” may be the right context for Americans to connect with Pride.  Yes, it follows in a particular subgenre of working class (mainly) men losing their livelihood and being reawakened by something completely incongruous.  Because of this, there’s both pathos and hilarity.  The British movies The Full Monty (1997)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Longhorn Steakhouse at Rookwood Pavilion

Think of it as a warm club, 
professionally run, with quality, affordable food

The Featured Steaks
     We don’t go to steakhouses very much and we usually avoid chain restaurants, but the Longhorn Steakhouse at Rookwood Pavilion changed our minds.  It was one of the first

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread

Exploring the south and her roots – 
a lovely record, but magisterial in concert

Our Seats at Clowes Hall
     We were in Indianapolis last month and Neil happened to see that Rosanne Cash was going to perform at Butler University’s Clowes Memorial Hall.  Since we were able to get seats that guaranteed no one would be standing in front of us,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Iliad at Ensemble


     For those that don’t have tickets yet for An Iliad, stop reading this review, and go online or call Ensemble Theatre immediately and purchase them.  For those that do, you have something to look forward to because this may prove to be the most memorable theatrical tour de force since Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, 2003) and feature the best local performance since Dale Hodges starred in Wit (1999) or Bruce Cromer played Prior Walter in

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Separate Peace & Snow

Two classics and both surprising

     One of my colleagues decided to teach John Knowles’ A Separate Peace this summer and I thought I’d read it as well.  Even though copies lay on various high school and college shelves, I’d never been assigned it and I sort of avoided it.  I developed a prejudice towards it for no good reason, i.e. I hadn’t read it.

     I always thought it was a prep school book and I thought, so what?  (It’s the same reason that I wasn’t as thrilled about Harry Potter as many others were.  It seemed like Enid Blyton filtered through Roald Dahl, though very well written, and a little reactionary since Hermione was the smartest character, but Harry always competed and won).  A Separate Peace, like The Go-Between, actually re-examines the past and how those who

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lindner Family Café at Taft Museum of Art

Artful dining with a theme and views

The Inside Café
     We've walked through the café several times on our way to the museum, pausing at the diner's fare and views into the gardens beyond. We actually tried to dine in the garden area for a free concert series once a couple of years ago. It turned into an awkward situation that we tossed aside to the time of

Friday, October 10, 2014

Paris Night & Day: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Rey…

to Neil.  Or so Eric says

     We wanted to see the Kehinde Wiley show at the Taft Museum of Art before it left.  It just so happened that there was a major exhibit of early 20th century photography in its premiere week there also.  Paris, during that time, has always been a fascination for me.  So much so that it was an influence

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Skeleton Twins

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader deliver 
great performances in a grim family comedy

     Thinking that The Skeleton Twins would be a comedy was a mistake.  From classic comedic structure, a new order progresses from one that is not a whole lot different. In this

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chrissie Hynde

A really good album  by an icon    

    Chrissie Hynde has been one of the coolest performers in popular music for over three decades.  She possesses an intriguing alto voice that wrings a subtle, supple sound from a limited range.  It can also forcibly attack such as on The

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gone Girl

Yes, it works

     As other reviewers have already attested, fans of the blockbuster book Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn can rest assured that the movie version does not reinterpret, expurgate, or otherwise screw up the source material.  Though Flynn has said that she deviated somewhat from the

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

Disabling prejudice

Edwidge Danticat 
     Edwidge Danticat, born in Haiti and raised in New York from the age of twelve, was an author to whom I’d paid little attention.  This was mainly because she was discovered young and promoted as part of Oprah’s Book Club.  Plus, she won or was nominated for a number of major literary awards.  At Meg’s yard sale a couple of years ago, I picked up an advance reader’s edition of The Dew Breaker (2004).  I let it sit around for

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The House of Redgrave

A gossipy, sometimes poisonous 
account of a complex acting family

     I saw The House of Redgrave:  The Lives of a Theatrical Dynasty by Tim Adler in an independent Canadian bookshop and I bought it because I doubted it would ever be released in the U.S.  The Redgraves are a big deal in England and Canada, but most Americans are probably aware more of Vanessa Redgrave and Liam Neeson than the rest of the family.  They’ve been actors for five generations and though it seemed like Adler would provide

Saturday, September 27, 2014


An American Take 
on European Methods and Asian Philosophy

     Richard Linklater’s Boyhood follows a boy in Texas from first grade until he enters college.  Filmed over a twelve-year period, usually for a week each year, Boyhood not only shows the development of Mason Evans, Jr., but also of his family, extended family, and friends.  What seems at first to be a

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Woody Allen’s and Lasse Hallström’s Latest

One’s mild, the other’s middlebrow

     After singing along with the ‘20s songs, ‘resting her eyes’ for quite a while, and actually watching the end, my Mother declared Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight as “mild.”  I have to agree.  Allen generally casts actors that have proven themselves for other directors.   He lately has focused on younger actresses such as Scarlett Johansson or Emma Stone here, though more experienced performers such as Cate Blanchett and

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Old Winery Restaurant

An Italian restaurant that’s a favorite of NOTL locals

The Main Dining Room
     While visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) a couple of months ago, we dined at a favorite of ours – the Old Winery Restaurant.  Originally recommended to us by Linda, the mother of Jolene our favorite bed and breakfast innkeeper, we liked it from the start.  This was during a period, right after the

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Lucy Desi Center for Comedy

A working museum honoring the couple
and poised for the future of comedy in Jamestown, NY

Desilu Studios
     I grew up watching I Love Lucy, as has every generation since mine. They were somewhat my pseudo parents and Little Ricky the brother I never had. When we picked Chautauqua Lake to be our "wedding destination", Lucy's

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Emmys

Yeah, TV may be experiencing 
a “Golden Age,” but so what?

     Seth Meyers told a joke about the 1976 Emmys, which was that four of the drama series that year were cop shows so the choice depended upon what hat the lead character wore.  It was cute, but I’d bet (and win) that a greater share of the TV

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mariner’s Pier Express

A lunch spot that’s a hot spot in Jamestown, NY

What to Order?
     While on the way to picking up a marriage license in Jamestown, New York, we ran into a local who graciously
Mariner's Pier Express
recommended a couple of restaurants for lunch.  Around the corner from the city building, we stopped at Mariner’s Pier Express at 122 East 3rd Street.  I use the address because it’s the sort of place that people might walk by and not think twice about.  This would be a shame because the food’s great and the back-story fascinates.

Chicken Strawberry Salad
Black and Bleu Burger

     Lisa ordered the Chicken Strawberry Salad, a special that day, which was generous and beautifully presented.  The chicken was

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Lucy" and "Begin Again"

Two female stars, one hit, one honorable miss

     Scarlett Johansson plays the smartest person in the world in Lucy, but this movie is neither a comedy nor a work of horror.  Instead, it’s an action movie with science fiction elements directed by Luc Besson.  It’s one of those plots where you don’t have much time to really think what might

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shaw Festival 2014

Ten show choices in the 
beautiful setting of Canada’s wine country

Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake
     We used to visit Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), Ontario, annually until a few years ago.  It’s in the middle of Canada’s wine country and features The Shaw Festival, one of North America’s finest professional theatre companies.  Imagine Napa Valley with the Guthrie or The Goodman smack up in

Sunday, July 20, 2014

AMC Sunday: Halt and Catch Fire

What’s a network to do 
when the great shows go?

     AMC (formerly American Movie Classics, though they mainly showed the second-rate) took off in 2007 with Mad Men.  It was their highly successful attempt to become a buzzed about cable network in the manner of FX and follow the premium cable networks HBO and Showtime, which had pioneered the magic formula a decade earlier.  The “open sesame” is an original series that few actually watch, but critics, bloggers, and loyal fans can’t stop talking about such as Oz, The Sopranos, Rescue Me, Six Feet Under, The Shield, Queer as Folk, etc.

Megan and Don at Howard Johnson
     Unlike those programs, Mad Men was a period piece and it seemed literary.  I always thought it was as if a John Cheever novel had been turned into television and, as it’s progressed chronologically, it feels like a John Updike novel.  From the

Saturday, July 19, 2014


An alternate take on a classic 
fairy tale would be unimaginable 
without Angelina Jolie

     We haven’t visited the cinema lately, mainly because we’re in superhero – i.e. fascist bullshit season for the simple-minded – and have been catching up on more intriguing

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Arnold’s Bar & Grill

A Cincinnati institution 
that keeps a-going and deserves attention

The Courtyard at Arnold's
     Katy and Denny just moved to a spacious, beautiful apartment downtown so we decided on Arnold’s for dinner a couple of weeks ago.  They’d visited earlier in the spring and

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Melissa McCarthy’s hilarious, 
but the script can’t deliver on expectations

      Yes, Melissa McCarthy emerged as a unique force of nature in the movies three years ago as a smart, foul-mouthed, gifted physical comic actress.  The previews for Tammy actually worked because they made us want to see it.  We went with Martha and Kaylee.  Bryce had heard it wasn’t

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Obvious Child

Let’s hear it for the Girls

     Writer-director Gillian Robespierre, producer Elisabeth Holm, and star Jenny Slate have collaborated on a romantic comedy-drama that’s probably the best one since The Kids Are All Right (2010).  I’ll state now that there is an early first

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tom Perrotta: The Leftovers

Perrotta’s books have 
transferred well to film, but will this?

     Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers (2011) tells of a small town three years after 2% of the world’s population suddenly vanishes in what some believe was the Rapture.  Though it explores a number of residents in that town during the span of

Monday, June 23, 2014

So Retro They’re Current

Echosmith, The Temples, 
Hamilton Leithauser

     Some of the recent bands sound like chestnuts of yesteryear, whether or not on purpose.  There’s pleasure in rehearing the sound of a favorite period or musical group in a new artist, though it begs the question of whether that artist can make the sound its own and whether they can maintain a long-term career in the mainstream.

Echosmith Siblings
      Echosmith is probably the least like an earlier sound in its instrumentation.  Formed by the Sierta siblings (Jamie, Sydney, Noah, and Graham) when were just out of the womb, Neil first heard them on WNKU being expounded as a band

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Private Lives at CSC

Excellent direction, good acting, a dreary set, 
and an opening night audience from Hades

     D. Lynn Meyers’ strongly directed and skillfully acted production of Noël Coward’s Private Lives opened last night at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.  Coward can be difficult to pull off because his works seem simply charming.  Actors that play the lines for laughs will be left in the dust because

Monday, June 2, 2014


Jon Favreau’s delightful family film

     Jon Favreau’s Chef (and it is his movie because he wrote, directed, and stars) will, I hope, be a sleeper hit.  It’s a sweet, family focused work with a salty tongue.  It’s playing at The Esquire, but with a cast including Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr., it feels like it

Monday, May 26, 2014


Tom Hardy in a car and it’s fascinating

     Locke takes place in real time (85 minutes) and shows a hot guy in a cool BMW driving really fast from the midlands to London, while making a ton of phone calls.  Fortunately, he uses hands-free technology (it’s a pricey BMW, after all) and because British motorways (the equivalent of our interstate highways) utilize extraordinary, almost constant lighting on the M6, the main and only seen character can check some important files as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Max Ophuls’ Lola Montès

A 1955 French cult classic that 
foretold contemporary celebrity degradation

     I’ve wanted to see Max Ophuls’ Lola Montès since high school, but it never played at my college film society or urban second run art house.  TCM ran it as part of their weekly foreign film series and I recorded it thinking, well, we’ll see if it lives up to its hype.  Ophuls’ mastery of camera movement is almost unparalleled, except for Welles, Visconti, Altman, and Scorsese.  He’s one of those directors where, if the volume is muted and the subtitles ignored, the long, elegant takes are a choreography that realize the underlying themes that always involve the relationships between women and men.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Laura Lippman: and when she was good

     Laura Lippman has been a fave for a while now and she delivers yet again in and when she was good (2012).  The novel focuses on a single suburban soccer mom, who’s an extremely accomplished madam.  It begins with a casual

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Le Week-End

Run, do not walk, from this movie

The Misleading Poster
 Roger Michell’s Le Week-End, written by Hanif Kureishi, starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan, and set in Paris, should have it all with that pedigree.  We’ve wanted to see it since it opened a few weeks ago at The Mariemont.  We

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Venus in Fur" at the Playhouse, "The Twentieth-Century Way" at Know

One must-see for now, one should’ve-seen that has closed

     David Ives’ Venus in Fur, directed by KJ Sanchez in a production that seems definitive to me, deals with levels of ‘acting’ and performance that are similar to Tom Jacobson’s The Twentieth-Century Way, directed intensely by Kimberly Faith Hickman.  The Playhouse has always rotated staff and guest directors for their productions and Know got smart under Eric Vosmeier’s recently concluded leadership by following a similar model.  Different directors bring