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Friday, August 10, 2012

Marathon '33 and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson both take you on an original ride

There are many reasons we go to the theater, one of which is to see something like we've never seen before. There are two such examples taking place now in the Washington, D.C. area: Marathon '33 by the American Century Theater through Aug. 25 at the Gunston II in South Arlington; and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Studio Theatre through Aug. 26.
Marathon '33 puts you in the audience for one of those incredible dance marathons of the 1930s. It was written by child and adult star June Havoc - she was the sister of the famous Gypsy Rose Lee - who experienced these firsthand.  Julie Harris played the lead on Broadway in the 1960s.  It is not a great play but it is a showcase for many talented dancers, singers and musicians of American Century.  And they get the atmosphere right - or at least it feels like they do.  Newspaper clips from the 1930s posted outside the theater help put you in the right mood. Try to catch this.

Bloody Bloody was a hit off-Broadway and then tried to move to Broadway.  You can easily detect that a small venue works much better for this musical.  You need to feel the music and see the crazy looks on the characters' faces, and at Studio's second stage, this is accomplished.  Heath Calvert and Felicia Curry carry the show on their talented shoulders. I wouldn't say anything is great, but it's all good from the driving music to the Monty Python-esque American historical figures - you'll have to see for yourself - to the "interesting" history lessons we get. Again though, this is a show like no other and clocking in at an intermission-less 90 minutes, deserves to be seen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Excellent WASTE LAND plays Thursday at Meridian Centre

This is a wonderful, uplifting film.

Meridian International Center and ITVS

for the Global Perspectives Film Series featuring WASTE LAND followed by a discussion
Thursday, July 26
6:30 PM Film Screening
Meridian International Centre
1630 Crescent Place NW
Washington DC

Garbage Art (Literally!) A Brooklyn artist travels back to his Brazillian roots and the world's largest dump to create art. Find out more here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'Safety Not Guaranteed' Stands Out in the Summer Indie Battle

Welcome back. Let's get right into three independent films, two - Safety Not Guaranteed and Your Sister's Sister - with an unlikely leading man in Mark Duplass. The third film is Take This Waltz written and directed by Sarah Polley, whom I interviewed a couple years ago when she came out with Away With Her starring the great Julie Christie. (By the way, if you've never seen the late, great Canadian TV show Slings and Arrows, of which Polley starred in one season, please see it.) For me, Safety Not Guaranteed is the best film of these three. It's original, funny and totally stays in the world that it creates for itself. Also, Aubrey Plaza (of Parks and Recreation fame) establishes herself as someone who can carry a film. Your Sister's Sister also stays within its limits and knows when to finish. But it really doesn't reach too far. You almost get the feeling that it would have made a better play. Emily Blunt is as likeable as ever, though I think I liked her better in Salmon Fishing in Yemen. (She does dtay busy.) Take This Waltz starts out as the most sophisticated of these three films. Michelle Willliams looks like such a little thing here; hard to believe that she was so convincing as Marilyn Monroe in the underrated My Week With Marilyn. Polley sets up a very believable story here. Williams is married to the steady, nerdily funny but not exciting Seth Rogen - who really does well here in a more subdued role.  She meets the handsome neighbor across the street on a work trip setting up an interesting quandary. But Polley just doesn't know where to go with it, so she keeps on going. And going. It's still worth seeing - just a shame when good could have been great.  Nice to see three films, however, driven strongly by talented women. Your Sister's Sister was also written and directed by a woman - Lynn Shelton. Go see them and let me know what you think.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Embassy of Argentina opening tonight, a Folger lecture series, Jazz on the roof and Cape Spin

The beautiful and friendly Embassy of Argentina in Dupont Circle has an opening tonight from 6:30 to 8pm. Artist Rosana Azar was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and studied art with well known Argentinian artists; she had a successful career, exhibiting widely around the country, before moving to Washington, DC area 22 years ago.

I was at the Folger Monday night for the first in a series of three free talks/small receptions to coincide with their Open City London (1500-1700) exhibit. The third one, on Monday night, July 30, looks especially good. Actors from DC’s Taffety Punk Theatre Company will present a staged reading of excerpts of The Roaring Girl, a bold, brilliant play by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. The play was first produced in 1611 and was restaged famously in the 1980s by the Royal Shakespeare Company. You need to register to go - here's the link

Art Soiree impressed me with a huge night last week where local artists decorated the boarding around the Fountain at Washington Harbor in Georgetown with some incredible art (including our own Belen Boya). It will be up through this weekend if you get a chance to get down there. They will be also doing a series of Thursday night jazz for $10 on the rooftop at the Beacon Sky Bar.  

Our friend Josh Levin at the West End Cinema  has produced a new film called CAPE SPIN, which is opening in Washington, DC starting tonight at his theater. The film provides an excellent, funny and balanced look at the most controversial renewable energy proposal ever pursued in the United States -- the Cape Wind installation in Massachusetts. Here's a link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

$15 tickets for First You Dream

The Kennedy Center is offering tickets at the special price of $15.00 for performances of the First You Dream on June 19-22.  I really enjoye dthis show.

Tickets are regularly as high as $90.00.
You can click here and your discount will appear automatically. If you call or stop by the Box Office for the discount, be sure to mention Offer Number "142347."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bachelorette entertains at Studio and Constellations opens at Art Museum of the Americas

I saw Bachelorette last night at Studio Theater. It's a well-done, entertaining production that features 6 good younger actors which is nice to see.  It's not great though. The play is kind of Neil LaBute light - she goes for it a little bit - in terms of meanness - but not to the extent LaBute does.  Characters are also a bit one-dimensional which doesn't help.  It's nice to see one of the two guys there for easy sex beg off and show true concern. But one guy is wonderful and the other sleazy - kind of same for the women.  That all being said, you will not be bored over the play's fast-moving 90 minutes.

Constellations is the name of the new show at the Art Museum of the Americas and it's opening is Thursday, June 21. They have some of the nicest openings in DC, though a really hot day could work against sipping wine in their beautiful backyard.

201 18th St., NW (near Constitution Ave)
June 21 at 6 pm

Friday, June 15, 2012

Open City: London - Free Talk and Reception at Folger

Free Summer Talk!
Open City: London 1500-1700
This Monday, June 18 at 7pm in the theatre!

followed by a reception and viewing of the exhibition
John Schofield on St. Paul’s Cathedral Before Christopher Wren
St. Paul’s Cathedral was built to the design of English architect Sir Christopher Wren as part of a major rebuilding program following the 1666 Great Fire of London. However, Wren’s magnificent structure is only the most recent in a succession of Anglo-Saxon and medieval cathedrals on the site. Dr. John Schofield, the Cathedral Archaeologist for St. Paul’s Cathedral, will discuss how recent archaeological and historical research is now reconstructing the pre-Wren medieval cathedral. Reserve your seat here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Theresa Andersson at The Hamilton

Saturday night at the Hamilton Theater Theresa Andersson plays for just $17. She's wonderful. Here's the link to the site.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

First You Dream at Kennedy Center Rings OUR Bells

I guess I was about 12 when I first swooned over the music of Kander and Ebb. I'm not sure of the order, but let's say that I saw the Oscar-winning film Cabaret first with Liza Minnelli, and then the TV special Liza With a Z. For the film, Kander and Ebb needed a new song and wow, did they deliver with Maybe This Time. Then for the special, they needed something a little lighter for Liza and wrote Ring Them Bells.

It's interesting that in the new musical at the Kennedy Center called First You Dream: The Music of Kander and Ebb - I was lucky enough to see the initial performance last night - those two numbers deliver the highest impact. Ring Them Bells finishes a first act that introduces us to the six performers and goes through many of the musicals that this dynamic duo wrote. But like a strong surge that finishes a first half for a basketball team, Ring Them Bells sets up a powerhouse second act: Cabaret, the amazing Cell Block Tango from Chicago, New York, New York and, of course, Maybe This Time ("Everybody loves a winner..."). Patina Miller, fresh off of Sister Act on Broadway, will be a star, so you can say I saw her here first. Of the men, Matthew Scott tenors a very smooth Cabaret, and Alan H. Green gives us some funny moments.

There should be some discounht tickets available as the run proceeds. There's also a Yahoo Group from the Kennedy Center Ticket Office that gives out reduced and complimentary tickets. (Here's the link.)  That's where I got mine. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Opening Reception at Hemphill Friday

One of the best galleries in the city has an opening Friday.

1515 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
William Willis: Keeping It Alive
Steven Cushner: Works on Paper
Opening Reception:
Friday, June 8, 2012, 6:00pm—8:00pm

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Red Carpet Reception and New Film for $12!

This sounds pretty good.

Arrange to Settle
Red Carpet Screening June 7, 2012
Where: The Movies in Montgomery Mall
7101 Democracy Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20817
(Follow the signs for The Movies, parking garage under the food court)
When: 8:00pm on Thursday June 7, 2012
(Reception, press, pictures preceding the screening starting at 6pm.)
Buy your tickets here.
Arrange to Settle is a feature film about an Indian girl that decides to get an arranged marriage following a series of failed relationships. Even though her father gives her an “out” before the invitations go out, she commits to going through with it. After making this commitment, she meets, Justin, the man of her dreams.

The film focuses on the social scene of Washington D.C. and its surrounding areas to include the kickball culture, art galleries, and popular local restaurants. The film features a “must-have” soundtrack featuring the best local bands from Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Opening Reception - Confessional Comics by Jewish Women

The DCJCC's Ann Loeb Bronfman Gallery (at 16th and Q) Presents
Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women
Thursday, June 7
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Remarks at 7:00pm from:
Michael Kaminer, Co-curator
Sarah Lightman, Co-curator and Artist
Zachary Levine, Yeshiva University Museum Curator
RSVP here for the Opening:

Spotlighting the raw, revealing voices of Jewish women and their singular presence in graphic storytelling, the exhibition illuminates the intersection of experiences that make these diaristic comics so compelling. Funny, outrageous, poignant and embarrassingly intimate all at once, the works in "Graphic Details" reflect the artists' individual journeys, refracted through a distinctively Jewish lens in a pop-culture art form. Some bare their bodies. Some expose their psyches. All are fearless about sex, romance, politics, body functions, experiences, emotions and desires.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

RSVP now for Euro-Asia Shorts next week!

Here is the lineup for the always-wonderful Euro Asia Shorts that is coming up.  RSVP here now.

Monday, June 4, 6:30 pm
Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 Seventh St. NW

Tuesday, June 5, 6:30 pm
Japan- Spain
Japan Information and Culture Center, 1150 18th Street NW

Wednesday, June 6, 6:30 pm
Korean Embassy’s KORUS House, 2370 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Thursday, June 7, 6:30 pm
Letelier Theater, 3251 Prospect St. NW

Friday, June 8, 6:30 pm
All countries
Italian Embassy, 3000 Whitehaven St. NW
Followed by a party, I believe

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Hillyer Birthday Bash

The wonderful Hillyer Art Space in Dupont Circle is having an Auction and Birthday Bash on Thursday, June 7 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.  The occasion will celebrate six years of Hillyer Artists in a retrospective exhibition this June. The evening will include a live auction, champagne toast and dessert. All proceeds will help support International Arts & Artists and Hillyer Art Space in continuing to provide public programs, services and exhibitions to the community.  Whatever Hillyer does is always done with class and with a fun crowd.  Tickets are a reasonable $20.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Free Film at the House of Sweden

Always fun to see anything at the House of Sweden.
You're Invited to a
In House of Sweden on May 23, 2012
Film 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm, Doors open at 6:30 pm
Limited seating, reservation required by clicking here.

As part of the commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of Raoul Wallenbergs birthday, the embassy will host a screening of the Swedish movie “Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg”, 1990. The movie is about Swedish World War II diplomat who was instrumental in saving the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust. Raoul Wallenberg is played by Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd. English subtitles.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Two Top Gallery Openings on Friday, near each other

Two gallery openings on Friday very close to each other:

Come ot FotoDC FotoSpace this Friday, May 18th - for complimentary beer & wine and a preview of the featured artists and exhibits coming to the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia on June 7-9, 2012.

Where: FotoDC FotoSpace
1838 Columbia Rd. NW
Time: 6-8pm, featured projection at 7pm.

I went to that Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville last year and it was a blast. On Friday evening
they had a great outdoor photography show in the ampitheater off the main street in town.

Also on Friday...

Solo Exhibition of paintings by JULIA FERNANDEZ POL
Friday, May 18th 6 - 8 pm
Morton Fine Art

1781 Florida Ave NW (at 18th & U Sts)
Washington  DC

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Uocoming Events at Two Excellent Galleries

The Hemphill Gallery, next to Studio Theater, is one of the city's finest. This is a new foray for them.
Small Stones: Concert with Matt Sargent and the Crossfire Percussion Duo
Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 6:00pm
Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th Street NW, Washington DC

Here's a fun opening for Saturday night in the H Street area:

New Work
opening reception
Saturday, May 12th: 6-8pm.
1358 Florida Avenue, NE –Washington, DC 20002

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hirshhorn's Song 1 Extended - Party Friday

Good news to report from the Hirshhorn. Doug Aitken's "Song 1?," the 360-degree, ultra-cool projection, has been extended to May 20. It was originally set to end this weekend.  Also, here's the muci lineup for their Friday concert when the musical sountrack of "I Only Have Eyes for You" will be turned off:

- Geologist and the pair of Tim McAfee Lewis and Leo Gallo will perform along with High Places
- No Age
- Oneohtrix Point Never
- Nico Jaar.

Apparently, according to the City Paper, Geologist is the lone D.C.-residing member of Baltimore-bred experimental-pop favorites Animal Collective.
A Friday symposium inside the museum will include Aitken, David Allin, Aaron Betsky, Geeta Dayal, Sasha Frere-Jones, Dean Kuipers, and Zabet Patterson.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The treasures of the West End Cinema and the GI Film Festivall

The West End Cinema has turned into one of the city's gems, for showing the kind of films that even E Street doesn't show any more - or keeping good films around for more than a week. I saw Restless City yesterday, which is a rhythmic and soulful, 80-minute film about a painfully good Senegalese immigrant in New York and the life he's trying to build. It's not great but it shows promise. (I believe the director will be there on Friday.)  Also playing at the West End is Kid With a Bike which is definitely worth your time - one of the best foreign films of last year (French/Belgian) - and Margaret by playwright turned screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me). I haven't seen it yet but the Washington Post gave it 4 stars and the coming attractions look interesting.

The GI Film Festival is coming to town! See the website here.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Opening in Alexandria on Sunday

The Athenaeum at 201 Prince Street in Alexandria is a very cool place. They have an opening on Saunday afternoon.

Donald Depuydt / Lithographs and Etchings
May 3 through June 17, 2012
Artist's Reception: Sunday, May 6, 4 to 6 pm (free)
Fusions of lithographs, intaglios, and collagraphs, Donald Depuydt's works include haunting figurative and architectural references, rich textures, and mark making,both precise and spontaneous.

Music in Dupont Circle on Saturday

This looks like fun!

SATURDAY, MAY 5th- 3pm
Dupont Circle Park, WASHINGTON, DC
- The cast of WORKING
- A 'sneak peek' of the upcoming production of SPRING AWAKENING
- A special performance from the award winning cast of RENT
- KEEGAN company members playing Irish favorites from THE HOSTAGE

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fiesta Asia Comes to West End Thursday

For the 3rd consecutive year, Fiesta Asia is bringing unique, seldom seen before, diverse movies from around the world to Washington D.C. This year they are screening four fascinating films including a U.S. Premiere & a Washington D.C Premiere at one of my favorite places: West End Cinema on this Thursday, May 3rd.  I checked a couple reviews and Bear It sounds lovely and Nasi Lemak a bit wild (it's from Malaysia!). Check it out here.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The wonder of Monsieur Lazhar and a free Monday reception

I had the privilege of seeing Monsieur Lazhar yesterday. I think it resonates on many levels, primarily the idea that we all need or seek an outlet for emotions, our longings, our conversation. After a tragedy at the school, he is able to provide that outlet for the students, and, of course, suffers for it from parents and administrators. I was with a new friend the other night and the conversation was nice but it was on the perimeter of everything important.  I guess it takes time to develop but still I'm sure we all have good friends that we still don't delve into important matters with.  Communication. We need it and yet can hardly do it. The film is done with such a light and beautiful touch. It's ironic that I skipped the National Geographic's 5 Oscar-nominated foreign films this year - after last year's subpar group - and the 3 that I have now seen (A Separation, Footnote and Monsieur Lazhar) are all wonderful. The other two - Bullhead and In Darkness - I have heard great things about but are much rougher around the edges. Please try to get to see Lazhar.

This Monday, April 30, there will be a nice opening reception at the Inter American Development Bank, 1300 New York Ave., NW. It's for an Argentinian artist named Beatriz Luna and begins at 6 pm.

Today is the last day to see the Raoul Wallenberg exhibit at the House of Sweden on the Georgetown Waterfront. It's an excellent chance to be at this beautiful place on a nice afternoon - it's open til 5.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Chance to Dream of (and Toast) a Farmhouse in Italy

The Embassy of Italy is a beautiful place just off Massachusetts Ave. near where it hits Rock Creek Parkway. (The address is 3000 Whitehaven St., NW.) I just saw a new event posted for there.  Rizzoli New York and the Embassy of Italy cordially invite people to a cocktail reception to celebrate the publication of MASSERIA: THE ITALIAN FARMHOUSES OF PUGLIA by Mark Roskams, text by Diane Lewis. Project director, Cristina Rizzo. Tuesday, May 8th, 6:00-8:00pm.  You MUST RSVP by Friday, May 4th to  Books will be available for purchase at the event - cash only. The event is free.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Deal at Shakespeare Theatre and Latin New York in DC

The Shakespeare Theatre has an interesting deal going on this week.  For their 25th Anniversary and Shakespeare’s birthday week, they are giving everyone $25 off of a ticket! Though Sunday, April 29, current patrons that have an existing account as well as any new patrons that create an account will get a $25 credit to use toward any ticket purchase for a production this season or next. They have a bunch of good events to choose from - I've heard Strange Interlude is very good (and yes very long), and The Merry Wives of Windsor should be lots of fun in the summer.  Check it out here.

On Saturday, the Art Museum of the Americas will show the Latin Video Art Festival of New York. This is an under-visited gallery on 201 18th St., just off Constitution Ave.  It's free. I'll let you know when they schedule an art opening reception - those are a blast. They have a beautiful outdoor courtyard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Touchstone free Closing Reception This Thursday

On Thursday, April 26, Touchstone Gallery will have a free Closing Reception for its all-member show with Music by Vladimir Garmanik (electric violin) and Art by Bill Mould and Elena Tchernomazova. They are located at 901 New York Ave., NW, just across from the Convention Center. Touchstone has been one of my favorite galleries for a long time. We don't get over there as much now because it's not really part of any art walk, though they did try something last year with Longview, Civilian Arts Project and a couple others - and they probably should again. Touchstone's current space is beautiful, so if you can make it for a glass of wine after work, head on over.  Oh, they asked for you to RSVP at

Monday, April 23, 2012

Great actor at Arena Stage for just $10

There is a nice opportunity next weekend to see one of Washington's outstanding actors - Rick Foucheux - at the glittering still fairly new Arena Stage for a reasonable cost. Begotten: O’Neill and the Harbor of Masks will be performed Thursday to Sunday, April 26-29 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle at the Mead Center at Arena Stage. Tickets are just $10 and can be ordered here.  It's written by Georgetown University professor Derek Goldman to correspond with the Eugene O'Neill Festival now taking place.  Not sure what to expect, but Foucheux is the kind of guy who can read a phone book and be interesting. His performance in Dead Man's Cellphone at Woolly a few years ago still stays with me. He was also just wonderful in Arena's Ah WIlderness.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Norwegian Film, French arts, Latin videos and a Japanese evening

Chris has sent us an invitation for a free film tomorrow night at E Street called Headhunters. It is a Norwegian thriller - here is the link.  So I don't know how many "reservations" remain and even if you have reservation, you are not guaranteed a seat.  They overbook the same way a Meetup does - because people don't show. The film has received good reviews.

Our favorite First Friday gallery - Hillyer - will be having a Closing Night Party on Friday April 27 from 6-9 for their American Landscapes exhibit. This is a very good exhibit and anything they do gets a nice crowd.

There is a Latin Video Art Festival of New York Thursday through Saturday at the utterly wonderful but mostly unknown Art Museum of the Americas at 201 18th Street, NW in Washington. There are 3 90-minute looped sessions; the museum is open from 10am to 5pm.

On Tuesday the French Embassy starts a new French Women in the Arts series with the famous film, Lola Montes.  You need a reservation (click here), the cost of the film is $8 and there is a deal of 5 events for $20.

On Thursday, there is a Bento Box Office at The Textile Museum, sponsored by Pink Line Project - and I also saw that John Hanshaw's Washington Film Institute will have a group as well.  I think there is a picnic and then an outdoor film with a Japanese theme all around. Tickets are $15 with a drink included. Should be a nice crowd - though I am headed to the AMAZING Nellie McKay at the Birchmere.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Blog, New Emphasis!

Ronndezvous has become ArtHouse-DC so it can brand with my large Meetup group called The ArtHouse.  I will focus on listing events with occasional reviews and commentaries.  So come back soon!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

AU's Katzen always worth a visit

Universities in the area are probably the most underappreciated by arts patrons, and American University is at the top of the list. If you haven't been to the Katzen Center Museum, you should check it out. A new show opened Saturday with an incredible lecture at 5 pm about modernism, spirituality and religion in art. It was to introduce an exhibit by Anil Revri, sponsored by the Indian Embassy.  My group spent a great deal of time on the 3rd level where Raoul Middleman's big, colorful, impressionistic and a bit racy paintings hang. Funny, I think most of us liked his smaller paintings which were not racy. The photos here are from other artists in the exhibit. Middleman will speak on Feb. 11 about his work at 4 pm. The next art opening will be April 5. See the Katzen schedule here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Few Disappointments with Oscar Nominations

The Oscar nominations finally did come out yesterday with not many surprises. I had a few disappointments:
1) that Martin Sheen did not get nominated for The Way; instead, Demian Bichir got nominated for A Better Life. Who?
2) that Win Win did not receive a best picture nomination.  It just seems like a picture can not come out early in the year and expect any nominations. Tree of Life? Extremely Loud...? Please.
3) It would have been nice for Margin Call to get a best picture nomination, but one for original screenplay seemed acceptable.
4) that Bill Cunningham New York was not one of the five finalists for best documentary.
5) that A Separation did not receive a best picture nomination. It also got stuck in the Original Screenplay category.
I'm glad The Artist and Midnight in Paris got all those nominations. And I hope Michelle Williams wins best actress. Demian Bichir?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Separation Is Well-Deserving of Its Loud Oscar Buzz

A Separation opens brilliantly. A couple faces us arguing about a divorce before an arbitrator. She wants to leave the country for a better life. He wants to stay to take care of his father who has Alzheimers. The judge asks if he hits her or has cheated. No, he's a good and decent man, she says. Most movies leave you when you exit the theater; this one stays with you. Who was bad? Who was good? We see how their marriage has broken apart and get a glimpse into the lives of another couple of lower economic scale. Asghar Farhadi has made a beautiful film which really never ends. The credits roll as we're waiting for a verdict and a gulf continues between the two leads. Last night I spoke with Reza Bahar, the producer of the new German film Bastard, that played at Film Neu. He moved to Germany from Iran when he was 8 and says there now might be about 200,000 Iranians in Germany. He said that he loved the film - A Separation - but hopes that the director speaks out a bit more as he continues to win awards. (It's on the short list of 10 for an Oscar and is expected to win.) It must be hard for Farhadi who wants his films to be seen by people in his country so he must tread carefully. Of course, he has things to say about circumstances there, but his film says a lot of it. We see prisoners sitting awaiting their fate. We see wives who still must defer to their husbands. The justice we see actually isn't too bad. They are genuinely concerned about the lead chracter's guilt. There are scenes where all the adults complain and scream like the opening scene. One time, the two children exchange glances like get me out of here. The wife was smart enough to know that, but it will probably not happen. Make sure you see A Separation.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Film Neu Strikes Just the Right Chords - with younger folks at least

So to the guy last night who was upset that following the film, the credits were stopped for the interview with the lead actor, I have the perfect solution. Go see A Separation. Besides being a great movie - it will probably win the foreign film Oscar - its credits roll over the end of the story. No leading actor would dare stop it. In fact, it was a strange Q&A last night following Westwind, a lovely, coming-of-age, just before-the-Wall-falls-down story that opened the 20th Film Neu German Film Festival. The older people were upset that love triumphed and nobody died; that wasn't what it was like, they said. Emcee and renowned film buff Eddie Cockrell apologized later for his poor choice of words, though I think he was fine. Those people just wanted dark. It's one of my favorite festivals because you can really get up close and semi-personal with the actors and directors. We met lead actor Franz Dinda yesterday at the reception and he was a delight. He said he cherished this role because it was such a good script. Opportunities do not come every day in the German cinema world, so you take what you can get. When it's good, that's a privilege.
Our group - the ArtHouse - will be going again on Tuesday night to see a film titled  Black Brown White that has garnered excellent reviews on the festival circuit. Join us if you can or go Wednesday to see a Swiss horror film or Thursday's closing for the German version of Sex in the City party 2 from the male point of view. It's a German box office smash! Back tomorrow for a discussion of A Separation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Obamas Finally Join Me at One of my Events

President Obama and the First Lady finally caught on to one of my great events last night. I sort of had an idea that they would be attending the Kennedy Center's 10th Annual Let Freedom Ring Celebration when I got there around 2 pm (tickets were given out at 4) and police and security dogs surrounded the place. At Cupa Cupa across the street, they filled the tables. (Must have been break time.)  Sure enough, at 5:55 pm, an announcement in the Concert Hall said to please welcome the President of the United States and in they walked. The free performance featuring the truly incomparable Bobby McFerrin and the Let Freedom Ring Celebration Choir with Reverend Nolan Williams, Jr., musical director was amazing--from their opening original spiritual, "Buses Are A-comin'" to the finale, "Down by the Riverside." McFerrin I knew about. (If you ever get a chance to see him, go!) But the choir and Rev. Williams were revelations. They are supported by Georgetown University, which also gave out their Legacy of a Dream award to Clarence B. Jones, who served with Dr. King and has gone on to a legendary career of helping those who need help. Soloist Nova Nelson of St. Martin's Catholic Church nearly ran off with the show with her version of "My Country Tis of Thee." But McFerrin and his audience-involving medeys showed that he is still one of a kind.  Prior to Down by the Riverside, Rev. WIlliams said that they had rehearsed it, but given McFerrin's participation, who knows what will happen. Everyone including the President and the First Lady eventually stood and sang. An announcement said to stay seated and let the President leave; once Rev. WIlliams led the choir in another encore, it was easy to stay. Down by the Riverside indeed! And we'll study war no more!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Theater J's Time Stands Still and Studio's The Religion Thing Put Couples at the Forefront

Couples are on display this month in two of Washington's premier stages - what brings them together and what keeps them together.  (Kind of funny that my ArtHouse group just saw the film version of Waiting for Godot Sunday - another couple trying to stay together.)  The standout of these two is Time Stands Still by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies at Studio Theater, starring the excellent (and ubiquitous) Holly Twyford. Also thought-provoking, The Religion Thing at Theater J features top-notch local actors (Will Gartshore and Kimberly Gilbert) but is not as polished. It probably raises more questions, however, which is part of its problem. In Time Stands Still, a journalist couple returns from covering the war after she barely survived a road-side bombing. (As an usher, I was able to see Holly practicing her walk with crutches before the play.) It's the professional thrills that have defined their relationship, but now James (Greg McFadden) wants to give up the dangerous stuff and get officially married. (He didn't have any rights when Twyford's character was in the hospital.) But despite her injuries, she's not ready to give it up. In walks their middle-aged editor Dan Illian with his new girlfriend, the "hot" young Laura C. Harris and we see more of what makes a good couple tick. She's simpler and naive but is that a bad thing? Why can't Sarah go on without the live-and-die pyrotechnics?  Why can't these two highly intelligent and passionate people who seem to be in love figure it out? It's a stirring performance that I will try to see again.

I took a group to see The Religion Thing and then we stayed for the discussion after. People enjoyed the play; local playwright Renee Calarco has an ear for dialogue that rings true. But where Margulies has focused his themes, Calarco's are all over the place. Her two couples have numerous issues going on - what brought them together, did they settle the kids question, can they play with others, is Gartshore's character straight, can you be gay and then decide to change, does sex depend on this, and, as the title indicates (and her strongest theme), what role does religion play in all this. It's just too challenging a task that she's set out for herself. She then complicates it by giving us a sugarcoated first scene comedy sketch rather than trusting the play. (An equally dizzy "dream" scene occurs in the second act as well.)  I was fascinated by the Mo and Brian couple (played sympathetically and well by Liz Mamana and Chris Stezin) and the simple issue of do they belong together. She seems to want kids more than he does, but he later indicates how important Judaism is to him and perhaps her being Catholic has held him back. So communication certainly sits at the forefront here. It's all swirling and the gay issue probably gets the most focus; I would have preferred otherwise. But it is still worth seeing.

DC is again fortunate to have two such intelligent productions.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ronndezvous's Top Ten Films of 2011

The Top Ten lists are out for 2011 so I would like to add my three cents to the conversation.  Here in a pretty close order from bestest to best are my selections.  (Please comment and add some of yours.)
1. Margin Call - The rhythm of the conversation and the incredible actors delivering it made this perhaps the most riveting film of the year for me. Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto and Demi Moore wait for The Boss to come and fix the problem, so he better be good.  Jeremy Irons is. The scene of him eating quietly from a view perched in the clouds while Spacey approaches is memorable.
2. The Way - Under-seen and in my opinion under-appreciated, this beautifully photographed film made its protagonist feel alive again and me as well.  It reminded us that the thrills of travelling lie just as much in the people we meet as the places we go.  Emilio Estevez deserves much credit for this and father Martin Sheen deserves an Oscar nomination.
3. Win Win - We tend to forget films from earlier in the year but this feel-good one gave us a believable story with no easy answers.  Paul Giamatti was terrific as the father and wrestling coach, and it showed that the young star was a wrestler turned actor rather than the other way around.  Rent it if you haven't seen it.
4. Le Havre - What's wrong with a fable now and then?  We're so attuned to something going wrong, people being bad that it's hard to expect a nice film sometimes.  But this one will stay with you - especially the relationship between the old man and the young boy.
5. The Descendants - I liked that they made the young people the level-headed ones in this film.  Clooney's character is all over the place and yes, what was his wife doing with that nincompoop, but director Alexander Payne gets the setting right and the mood. Good cameo from Beau Bridges and nominations to come for father and daughter?
6. The Artist - What an incredibly inventive film!  A silent take on the silent-into-talkies era with modern themes. Wonderful chemistry between the two French leads make us root for them (okay the dog helps), and fun performances from John Goodman and James Cromwell.  Penelope Ann Miller where have you been?
7. Midnight in Paris - Thoroughly entertaining, it's Woody's best film in years.  The portrayals of Hemingway and Fitzgerald hit just the right marks, and the evocative mood of Paris made me want to jump on the next jumbo jet.  Marion Cotillard is exquisite - just saw A Good Year again with Russell Crowe and didn't even realize it was her.
8. Nostalgia for the Light - Hard to mix dramatic films and documentaries but I will include two of the latter. This film from Chile began with gorgeous shots of the Atacama Desert and the amazing astronomy taking place there. Then it drifts to interviews with some of the astronomers, one of whom lost her parents to the Pinochet regime - she was raised by her grandparents. The juxtaposition works perfectly and it becomes an incredibly moving film.
9. Bill Cunningham New York - Watching this 80 year-old or so photographer bike recklessly around Manhattan is a site to behold. And then watching him through the years just adds to the delight. Look at his editing, when they make him switch apartments, when he covers a gala.  It's all about the work. Is he gay? You'll have to watch for the best answer to that question that I've ever seen. It's a touching film.
10. (Tie) The Guard - Why not? Brendan Gleason has never been better and Don Cheadle plays it down enough to make it feel right. It's very very funny and works on many levels. Has a satisfying ending and makes me ready for a sequel where he gets to romance the beautiful foreign woman.
10. Hedgehog - It's such a beautiful and unseen film that I couldn't leave it off the list. Try to rent it if you can.
Other films I liked: Beginners, Kid With a Bike, My Week With Marilyn, Hugo, Moneyball, Of Gods and Men (why it couldn't it have been a half hour shorter?) and a French comedy I can't think the name of (older guy, younger woman).  And I still need to see The Illusionist and A Separation.