Monday, March 28, 2005

The Drive Ins are Open! The Drive Ins are Open!!!

Winter is finally driven out starting this Friday @ 7:15 pm EDT! Thats when the mighty projector at the Tri Town Drive In (3 Youngs Rd Leominster-Lunenberg Ma 978-345-5062) fires up for the 2005 DI season!
Word is, they are showing:
"Are We There Yet" and "Hitch".
All decent citizens are advised to drop on by and help keep alive this national institution!

This is the venue in which to see "Revenge of the Sith"...Hell this is the place to see "Catwoman"!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Downfall (2004)

As Jon Haber once said "Every generation gets the Hitler it deserves". He was of course, speaking entirely in cinematic terms.
Which brings us to "The Downfall" a lavish German recreation of Adolf Hitler's last ten days in the fabled Fuhrer Bunker where suprisingly his entourage suddenly discovers they've been working for an anti-semite all these years.
Critics have been mulling over the consequences of a German Hitler after decades of Funny Hitlers, Dancing Hitlers, English Hitlers, Music Hall Hitlers, Singing Hitlers, American Hitlers, even a Jewish Hitler (Moe Howard of course). Alas though, this is nothing new, back in the 1950's in West Germany there was a brief vogue for World War Two pictures depicting high level Nazi politics, G.W. Pabst's last film "The Jackboot Mutiny" (U.S. Title) recounted von Stauffenberg's failed 1944 coup'd'etat against Hitler.
What is different is the obvious naturalism of Bruno Ganz' portrayal, he makes Hitler seem boring and bourgeois. This is itself a bit of a break with tradition as even the comics versions of Der Fuhrer kowtowed to his diabolical pre-eminence.
Then there is Traudl Junge (kewpie doll-ish Alexandra Maria Lara) Hitler's semi devoted secretary who forms the audience's perspective on the closing hystrionics of the Nazi Era. Alas its hard for American audiences to get behind Traudl good looks or not as her proximity to power and genocide gives her a Sergeant Schultz-like "I see Nothink" air. In other words is she dope or a collaborator.-who knows? Mostly she is there to reinforce the notion of there being german victims of Hitler's regime.
And at two and half hours the film gets wearisome as it is mostly set in Hitler's claustrophobic Fuhrer Bunker.
Still and all that the acting is tight but the story is too familiar to make this a worthwhile night at the movies. The film's most riveting sequence doesnt even involve Hitler at all. Rather it is Magda Goebbel's methodical slaughter of her own children, as she could not bear the notion of them living in a world without Nazism. Sadly the spirit of Magda Goebbels is with us today in all sorts of grim homicidal ways.
My advice, Wait for the DVD wherein no doubt even MORE footage will be included a'la "Das Boot".

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Dido, Queen of Carthage" Reviewed...

Brave Aeneas, last son of Troy washes up on the shores of Libya far from safety and wretched under the heavy disdain of Juno, the Trojan-hating Queen of the Gods. Ah but fortunately, Aeneas' Mother, Venus, casts a love spell on the local Queen, the widow Dido so that Aeneus will be properly taken care on his way to the founding of Rome and of course, glory. Ah but will the embraces of the fair Queen sway Aeneas from his heroic destiny or will he leave her in the lurch?
Such is the bare bones of Christopher Marlowe's seldom produced play and the A.R.T. gave this one there all last night. Was it A.R.T.-y? Yes with the usual incomprehensible flourishes including the whimsical choice of a bare stage for most of the show's action. Honestly I don't believe a word of the director's notes, I think the creative powers that be on Brattle Street simply flip a coin to determine if a classic is to be produced on bare stage or in a elaborate corn crib. Lets not forget the A.R.T.'s continuing fascination with transvestite chic, this time with Thomas Derrah's Juno swanning about like the late Harris Glen Milstead aka "Divine".
Ah but the acting was tight in every way, Colin Lane as Aeneas and Diane D'Aquila as Dido had the wit to let the script do its work without undue interference. I also think the selection of two middle aged actors as the leads was a interesting and suggestive idea. The easiest thing in the world would've been to cast some bimbo as Dido or some chorus boy lout as Aeneas and let that carry & distort the show but the A.R.T. made this a play by and for grown-ups-for that I am grateful.
The sex angle gets played up a lot whenever discussion turns to Dido, given the opening sequence wherein Jupiter declaims his love for Ganymede his gay cup-bearer. There is a lot of gay subtext and even over text to Marlowe's plays, but I think "Dido" is more a meditation on the perfidity and superficiality of the Gods who control everyone's fate in the play. Jupiter is an old gay lecher, Venus is a well-meaning mother in Aeneas who cannot bring herself to talk plainly with her son and whose love spell sets motion the play's core tragedy. Juno, alleged Queen of the Gids plots to murder Aeneas' son, truly Marlowe saw the Olympians as a trivial, superficial, inconstant lot.
Alas poor Marlowe, he is all but a forgotten man these days, his plays are rarely produced here in Boston. His best known work "Dr. Faustus" -a superior play in every respect has been revived a mere three times in twelve years, two of those performances were by college undergraduates. Its a shame because Kit had talent and was clearly major influence on Shakespeare. So the A.R.T. weird flourishes and all, has done us a favor, lets us hope they at least remember Marlowe.

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Was Shylock ever Funny?"

Finally broke my movie drought and went out to see Radford's adaptation of the "Merchant of Venice". And in truth it is a good film, Pacino's Shylock is pretty low key (Smilin' Al is known for his scenery chewing so this was a good thing I think), Lynn Collins did up Portia proud and Jeremy Irons moped around with the gay thing quite nicely.
However, Radford did play it entirely as a ethnic tragedy...Shylock mad with rage gets beat down by the goyim. This is pretty much the way everyone plays the "Merchant" and "The Taming of the Shrew" for that fact these days. Alas these are both comedies of a type that make fun of touchy contemporary subjects. I wonder if either can simply be played for laughs at all?
Complicating things is that "The Taming of the Shrew" has champion scenery shredder Katherina to liven things up, but "The Merchant of Venice" relies on a few ancillary clowns to make with the funny.
Maybe Shakespeare wasn't easy with Shylock's fate?
I've always had an ambiguous relationship with the "Merchant of Venice", it was the first Shakespeare play we read in High School and a perfect catastrophe all around...nobody could believe it was a comedy. And thats not hard to see why, its short on laughs even in professional hands. The nun who was our well-meaning freshman english teacher probably wanted to score some points off prejudice, but the matter ended in frustration and doubt. The whole experience put me off Shakespeare until I was well out of college. And then I waded through some four ghastly productions of the "Merchant of Venice" before the A.R.T. and Tina Packer's Shakespeare and Co delivered the good with their respective productions.
I think the "Merchant" is hard to stage or film, the ethnic angle bothers people. Still and all that it get revived locally quite that to Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus" or Jonson's "The Fall of Sejanus" they NEVER get revived!
Anyhow, Radford's "Merchant of Venice" is duly praised, just don't go looking for chuckles thats all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The National Center Jewish Film at

Brandeis University is currently trying to preserve/restore the 1939 Yiddish Film The Living Orphan. A mere one hundred dollar donation will restore about one hundred feet of film. Channel Zero has had many profitable dealings with the NCJF so we thought we'd shill for this fine project.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Pick(s) of the Week...

Radford's "The Merchant of Venice" is at the Arlington Capitol.
"Downfall" that West German Film about the last days of Adolph Hitler is opening at the Kendall Square.
"Raging Bull"- A film I've ALWAYS wanted to see on the big screen is at the Brattle this weekend.
And..."Dido Queen of Carthage" a rare revival of one of Christopher Marlowe's plays is at the ART.
Ach of course heavy snows are predicted this weekend now that I am back on the job and can afford movies at the retail price!!
I hate irony I truly do.
Well console yourselves with Lis Riba's review of "Dido" whilst you listen to the winds howl outside.
Apropos of nothing by the way but when is Mussolini gonna get his big budget film treatment? We've got dozens of Hitlers out there from Bob Watson and Moe Howard to Anthony Hopkins. Hell even the French did a big ass biopic on Marshal Petain of all people (Yes, Channel Zero does have this film on it's "find list" never fear!)but Il Duce gets bupkiss.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tina Packer is supposedly...

writing a graphic novel adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" for Scholastic Books!
Damn but Tina is ubiquitous, actor, director, classical theater company chairwoman, and now comic book writer. Her energy and talent remind me of Orson Welles back in his madcap days in the Federal Theater Project.

BTW, I start my new job tomorrow, wish me luck. The posts herein mught become even more infrequent for a while. However, this is a good thing, a job allows us to pull Channel Zero out of hiatus. Soon enough, Jon Haber and I hope to have definite plans put together for our tenth anniversary show.