Weekly Adventure: Riverdance 20 at the Long Center

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The February/midterm duldrums have hit pretty bad. The weather (until today anyway) has been lovely, but I can’t seem to get myself to feel energized about school and work right now. But on Thursday of this past week, I got a lovely jolt of energy by taking my friends Karen and Jamie to see Riverdance at at the Long Center.

I first saw Riverdance, when I was little (like 8 or 9) and I completely fell in love with it. I think I saw it more than once, I definitely saw the knock off shows that toured after it (I especially remember something called The Spirit of the Dance that included a really badly thought out mashup of “Danny Boy” and an original tune, the lead dancer sang and well, she was a great dancer.) It also motivated me to start taking Irish step dance (because “riverdance” is not actually what the style is called) classes, I even competed in it for a bit.

So, needless to say I was excited when I saw that it was coming to town. But then I also got a little nervous. Could it possibly be as thrilling as I remembered? Would it just seem hokey and repetitive now?

Well, that was a dumb worry, because while there are strange interstitial musical numbers and the vaguest possible interpretation of Celtic myth/Irish history, the dancing is still so incredibly impressive and I was just as in awe of the performers as I had been as a kid.

Also, this sequence will always be one of my favorite pieces of choreography ever:

Five Star Book: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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I really thought that I knew what this book was. I thought it was a personal account of Vietnam, a memoir, a gritty rough, “you’ll feel like you were there,” aggressively macho read. And for the reason, I never read it. There’s nothing wrong with a book like that (well yes there are, but what I mean is books like that have every right to exist), but I wasn’t going to spend my time reading one. But then my anthropology professor assigned us the titular story from this collection, and by the time I was 5 pages in I was teary eyed and e-mailing my dad to request his copy.

It’s hard to classify, it’s stories, they’re fiction. But it’s also pretty clearly rooted in Tim O’Brien’s lived experience (both of Vietnam and life after), and it can be hard to tell where the blurry edge of fact and creation is. That’s by design, there are whole chapters in here that are just extended authorial tangents on the notion of truth and the importance of stories. How Truth, particularly about traumas like wars, is often untellable, but stories can help us understand. He’s able to say it much more eloquently than I can. You should just read the book. (Which apparently, most of you already have. I feel like the only American my age who wasn’t assigned it in high school. But I’m glad I read it now, being older than most of the boys actually made me feel more deeply the loss not just of the ones who died but also of the non-soldier lives of the others. Because as O’Brien’s career attests, that shit sticks with you.)

What I really loved was the emotional frankness. He doesn’t seem to give a shit anymore about maintaining the bravado that being a soldier required of him. He was scared and sad and also exhilarated and he lets us all know that. He sees the flaws in his actions, but he maintains an amazing level of compassion for why his younger self did what he did. It’s emotional and filled with sentiment, but somehow never succumbs to sentimentality. I’ll be thinking about it for a very long time.

Award Show Round Up: BAFTAs 2016

So, my livestream of BBC America was suuuper sketchy. Like my computer for sure has viruses now, and it kept cutting out. So, I had to sort of cobble together a picture of last night’s BAFTAs. (The internet tells me it was mostly about Rebel Wilson having questionable decorum, which like, that’s sort of her thing I don’t know why we’re shocked.)

Anyway, Stephen Fry returned as host once again. As always, I found him exceedingly charming, despite his casual anti-American attitude. (I’ll allow it during the British Academy Awards anyway…)

I’m so excited Brooklyn won Best British Film. It was maybe my favorite movie going experience of last year, and I’m glad it got some awards love. (Though the Irish-American girl in me thinks it’s hilarious that it won in the British category…)

The EE Rising Star Award is always really fun. And last night it included my love Jack O’Connell and the always winning John Boyega:

(Sorry about the weird interview footage, I couldn’t find a better clip of this.)

Although I think Alicia Vikander was robbed for Supporting Actress (she just wasn’t British enough I guess), but I love the Titanic reunion this awards season has become:

Side note: What’s with the dude next to Leo’s tie?

Brie won as well, because of course, but she’s apparently filming some gorilla movie in Australia, so the very charming Lenny Abramhamson accepted on her behalf:

Sidney Poitier makes accepting awards awkwardly in your living room look natural. He deserves every award ever:

It looks like we have a dead heat between Spotlight and The Revenant for Oscar Best Picture. I’m pulling for Spotlight, but if we have to split Writing/Picture then I’m OK with this split:

But not so OK that I’m going to link Inarritu’s speeches. Because I may like this one film, but he still bothers me. (I know this is irrational.)

It was not the best fashion night. In general I found the dresses either too simple or overly embellished (I know, I know I sound like Goldilocks), but there some standouts:

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Saoirse Ronan in Burberry (Photo Credit: CelebMafia)

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Julianne Moore in Armani Privé (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Kate Winslet in Antonio Berardi with Michael Fassbender (Photo Credit: Getty/Ivan Gavan)

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Isla Fisher in Stella McCartney (Photo Credit: Getty/David M. Benett)

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Luciana Barroso in Versace and Matt Damon (Photo Credit: PA)

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Bel Rowley in Gucci (Photo Credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 6

For some reason I thought I had a long list of nominees that I had seen but not blogged about yet. Mostly, I still have a long list of nominees that I haven’t seen (though I have seen most of the big ones. I’m still holding out on Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m not even sure if it’s worth attempting. I’ll probably just have to turn it off in the middle anyway because I am incredibly squeamish.) But I do have 3 to share with you today. (Including one I really think is great.)

Cartel Land

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First, I’ll admit I didn’t give this movie the attention it deserves. I had it playing on half of the screen, while I took notes on museum studies research for my Capstone. Or at least, I did until the scene where a very brave man yells at the absurdly named Mexican vigilante/probably cartel leader “Papa Smurf” that the people don’t need his protection. That what Mexicans want is peace and to get that that need to have faith in government institutions. It was chilling, and led to a much longer study break than I meant to take.

Even after watching the whole film, I’m not sure how naive that man was. I want to agree with him, because it’s what I want to yell at the American vigilantes also featured here. (Some of whom are just racist fuckheads, others who have a more nuanced, but in my opinion, still wrongheaded take on the situation.) But its so hard to know who is wrong and right when it comes to the criminal/government/drug dealer/addict/innocent bystander clusterfuck that has taken over much of Mexico. The director, Matthew Heineman, to his credit, doesn’t really take sides, but the rampant violence and almost gleeful torture he depicts (mostly non-graphically) left me longing for an unequivocal bad guy to hate. But, a lot of what’s causing the problem (from what I can tell) is the constant drawing of lines between “us” and “them,” “good” and “bad,” when it’s really a bunch of humans caught up in a system larger and more dangerous than they know (and I include the Americans buying the drugs in that too.) A tough watch, but one that puts faces to headlines for me in a really moving way.

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45 Years

 

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I love Weekend, director Andrew Haigh‘s last film (and first film ever reviewed on this blog, back when I didn’t know how to add images). I even like his, less universally praised, HBO show Looking (RIP). So, I was excited to see that he has a movie that was garnering awards buzz. But also worried, because what I love about his work is its scale. It’s small and personal and revealing. And those aren’t words often associated with Hollywood success, but there’s an undeniable power to Charlotte Rampling‘s performance that I’m glad caught the Academy’s attention.

Though this movie is focused on a different sort of person than Haigh’s usual milieu, aging middle class straight people instead of urban gay men, this still feels completely like his film. From the gray cinematography to the subtly brilliant sound design, to the almost respectful distance the camera keeps from the characters.

But, unlike Weekend, which, while powerful, feels almost sweet in the end,  45 Years is a gut punch. It tells the story of a couple grappling with revelations of things that happened before they met, but color everything when they come to light. What’s great is, this could easily have been a straightforward story of betrayal, but instead I could genuinely see both (heartbreaking) perspectives. And that’s down to the astonishingly full performances from Rampling and Tom Courtenay who are both just perfect as two people who are trying so hard to hold onto something. It made me think of Blue Valentine, it wasn’t quite the same level of hope-killing, but it resisted any east answers.

Side Note: Listen to the lyrics of your wedding song people, you don’t want to have to dance to this at your anniversary:

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Winter on Fire

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I knew, vaguely, about the protests in the Ukraine a couple of years ago. I don’t have cable so I don’t know exactly how it was portrayed on TV, but I’m sure it was nowhere near as personal as the depiction in this documentary (now on Netflix). It’s both inspiring to see the people all come together to stand up for their rights and heartbreaking to watch what their government did in response.

There’s a lot of really disturbing imagery of police/military brutality here. It was really hard to watch, and I can’t help but echo the words of one of the protesters about soldiers that fired live rounds into the crowd:

“I want to ask you, who gave birth to you? A mother or a wolf?”

Basically, this felt like a magical piece of journalism, the access was remarkable and the narrative unfurls well. It’s essentially the story of how a corrupt government took a protest and made a war. The old chant, “the whole world is watching,” needs to be more true.

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Weekly Adventure: Fabulous Februrary Weekend Edition

Hi everyone, I know that I’m behind on my nominations posts (one should be coming tomorrow, I meant to be writing it now, but I forgot my notebook and I’m at work and technology hates me today and I’m tired…)

OK, enough whining, especially because, although I am tired. It’s because I actually had a weekend this weekend. Actually, I had the equivalent of like three weekends for me. This was mostly possible, because I didn’t have to work on Saturday (thank you Austin Seminary’s strange academic calendar), and because I did almost none of the homework I meant to do. (Which has made the last two days really fun and not at all stressful.)

Anyway, the adventures started with a happy hour (because I’m in grad school), this one was hosted by the Association of Moving Image Archivists student chapter here at UT. I’m not really planning on being a film archivist, but I do really love movies (as I hope you can tell by now), so I tagged along because they were going to a screening of Paris, Texas hosted by the Austin Film Society.

I’ve been on the AFS e-mail list for a long time, but their theater is a little tough to get to without a car, and I didn’t know until AMIA let me know that I can get free tickets to their screenings as a student. (More info on there here.) Well, this was a great first screening to catch. I didn’t know anything about the movie going in (I have a lot of film geek blindspots to address), and I got totally swept away in its beauty and its heart. Harry Dean Stanton is magnificent both chilling and childlike and lovely and awful all at the same time. I’m not going to write a full review, but if you ever want to talk about this with me please let me know, because I have a lot of thoughts.

On Saturday I did get some work done, but I also, binge watched the entire first season of You’re The Worst.

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It’s strange and dark and delightful and funny. It’s a romantic comedy about just truly awful people, that have just enough self-awareness and charm to make them likable in a twisted way. Not for the easily offended, but well worth a watch.

That night I met a bunch of my favorite people out on Rainey Street. We started at Clive Bar and ended at our secret wine bar. It isn’t really a secret, but I’m still not going to tell you where it is. Every time I go there it feels warm and lovely. And I drink too much. Here are some pictures I took that I haven’t already shared on social media:

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This was like attempt 6, you can tell my face is tired from the look in my eyes. A much cuter version is now my profile pic on Facebook. I’m sharing this was mostly for the blurry-Taylor photobomb.

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As I’m sure you can judge from that last picture, the less said about I felt on Sunday morning the better.

But that afternoon I went to a Super Bowl party. Despite really loving football, I couldn’t bring myself to care at all about the outcome of this game, but I loved the halftime show. And, more importantly, the party was also a birthday party for a dog:

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Most of the dogs didn’t appreciate their hats. You can look at my Instagram for one who did. 

Miró and I ducked out after half time (and birthday cake), because we had tickets to an event. It was called Monkey Town 6, it is very hard to describe. The simplest way to try is to say that it’s an art show. Sort of. It’s a collection of video art pieces projected on a cube. Guests sit inside the cube and are fed gourmet food. There are also dancers. I’m making it sound strange. And it is, but it was also lovely.

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A view of the cube from the outside. Piece currently playing is “Central Park Quilts” by Theo Angell

I’ve never been a huge fan of video art. We were talking after the show that the only place you encounter it is tucked away in corners in contemporary art museums. I always try to give those pieces a shot, and a few times I’ve been rewarded with something interesting or beautiful. But it’s hard, you never know how far into the piece you’ve walked in at the right time or you can hear everyone around you in the gallery or you are just awkwardly hovering waiting for a chance to sit down.

What was great about this was that it forced me to forget all that. I was literally immersed in an environment where I had to just stop trying to figure out the pieces and sort of let them wash over me. Some of the pieces were wonderful, some weren’t for me, some I couldn’t process enough to decide if they were for me or not, but they were all interesting. And it helped me put a finger on what I had found frustrating about this genre in the past. I kept waiting for these to feel like movies or at least like art films I’m familiar with, but really they’re more like poems than anything more straightforward and narrative. And I love poems, so once I thought of these as visual poetry I was totally in.

Also, the food was great.

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Award Show Round Up: SAG Awards 2016

Sorry, this post is a little late. I was going to do it yesterday, but then I had a “man-mosa” at brunch at Banger’s (those things are no joke). So I had to focus on getting my writing for school done. (Oh, and I had to watch Grease Live!, which was unexpectedly awesome. You can read my reaction to that on Twitter.)

Anyway, the SAG Awards were on Saturday night (which is a weird time to have an award show…), and they were pretty awesome. There weren’t a whole lot of surprising winners, but there was a lot of diversity up on that stage. And I couldn’t help but feel like the younger union members were sending a big F-you to the Academy. Not that any of these people weren’t completely worthy on their own merits, that’s my point. There are excellent performances coming from all kinds of people/portraying all kinds of people. And the exposure that these kinds of awards can bring will hopefully help push more diverse stories through the production pipeline. OK, preaching over, here were my highlights:

Jeffrey Tambor is the classiest act going:

I don’t even watch Orange Is The New Black anymore, but I love watching this group of women win awards:

I was also very happy for my love Alicia Vikander, though her actual acceptance speech got a little rambly.

And I would gladly have let Idris Elba give every speech of the night:

(also Ted Sarandos from Netflix got thanked so many times that I didn’t even have to Google to confirm that that’s his name…)

(Also, Jacob Tremblay is fantastic.)

But, we would have to take a break for Queen Latifah:

Lifetime Achievement Awards can derail the rhythm of an awards show, except when the honoree is Carol Burnett and they get these 2 to present:

(I know this clip is long, and will probably be taken down due to copyright concerns, but every second of it was wonderful and affirming.

Viola breaks down the BS idea of “likability”:

I love how much SAG still loves Downton Abbey, and how surprised the cast always seems by that:

I just feel like Brie Larsen and I would be best friends:

If nothing else, this awards season is letting me fall (back) in love with Leonardo Dicaprio. (And despite Amy’s joke, he actually deserves this award, not just because he climbed inside of a horse, but because he managed to make me care about someone in an Iñárritu film, which I didn’t think was possible*). Also, he gives good acceptance speech:

*Side Note: I have not seen Biutiful, it’s possible Javier Bardem could have achieved this as well.

And, the correct cast won best ensemble:

It was a good night for fashion as well, lots of colors and risks, which is cool to see. Here were my faves:

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Alicia Vikander in Louis Vuitton (Photo Credit: fashion sizzle)

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Nicole Kidman in Gucci (Photo Credit: Getty Images) 

(Side note: I rewatched Practical Magic this weekend with some friends. 2 things: 1. It holds up. 2. I’m glad to see her return to her redhead roots.)

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Laverne Cox in Prabal Gurung (Photo Credit: Getty Images) 

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Kate Winslet in Armani (Photo Credit: Jason Shearer/Getty)

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Saoirse Ronan in Michael Kors (Photo Credit: FashnBerry)

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Rachel McAdams in Elie Saab (Photo Credit: Getty) 

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Katie Lowes in Christian Siriano (Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty) 

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Hannah Bagshawe and Eddie Redmayne in Dior (Photo Credit: WireImage)

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Hannah Murray (Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage)