The World of Composer Richard Wagner and his operas. www.wagneroperas.com with frequent forays into the world of art, culture, and film.
- Name: Vincent Vargas
- Location: New York, New York, United States
Vincent Vargas is a foreign language teacher at a private school in New York City. He runs websites dedicated to Casablanca (www.vincasa.com) and Richard Wagner (www.wagneroperas.com).
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
I Miss Last Year's Wagner Celebrations
By far, one of the most interesting events to mark the 200 anniversary of Wagner's birth took placed in Munich. Spencer Tunick's art installation "The Ring" consisted of over 1000 nude volunteers, some painted red and others silver, who "recreated" various scenes from the Ring Cycle in the center of the city.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
20th Century Fox knows that it will take a few sequels to get us there, and this latest installment advances to a world where apes have begun to reason and talk, all led by Caesar, the smart chimpanzee that James Franco raised in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the previous film of this series.
Ten years have passed since the last film, and Caesar has developed into an ape leader, a kind of grassroots, simian revolutionary. He has gathered his clan, and made a community in the forests outside of San Francisco. Here in this primitive, secluded Utopia the apes have built a home where most are loyal to Caesar, who is the most advanced of his species as a result of his ability to speak. But all is not well in Ape Land. Caesar's leadership is constantly being challenged by the one-eyed, sinister Koba (Toby Kebbell), an ape character from the previous film who as a result of being caged and tortured has a big ax to grind against Man. Koba has evolved as much as Caesar, and is also able to speak, which makes him a prime candidate for ape leader, but a major threat to any possibility of peace between Ape and Man. Over on the other side, a handful of humans, led by Gary Oldman, are living in the ruins of San Francisco. When a small party of humans venture into the land of the apes searching for a hydroelectric station, that's when the conflicts begin.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Two Chords that Shook the World
Thursday, January 02, 2014
McKellen & Stewart in Waiting for Godot
I would welcome a production of Godot staged under a dilapidated circus tent or the crumbling marquee of an abandoned theater, and Stephen Brimson Lewis's brilliant stage design for this production, featuring the bare back wall of the Cort Theater, and faux empty boxes at either side of the stage, certainly alludes to this. The audiences seem to have abandoned poor Didi and Gogo (where these their stage names?), and their unseen agent Godot is definitely not returning their phone calls.
Sir Ian and Sir Patrick are having a ball embodying these roles. Their chemistry onstage is infectious, and audiences are eating it up. As the more sprite and optimistic Vladimir, Mr. Stewart is a natural at comedy (which he so seldom has been asked to do, especially in his current film career) whether it be curiously inspecting the inside of his itchy hat (lice?), or picking up his heels and doing a little song and dance that welcomes audiences to the second half of the show. Mr. McKellen as the more downtrodden Estragon is heartbreaking at portraying the pathos of a poor soul who claims he gets beaten every night, and who often needs a hug, or to be lulled to sleep by his woeful partner. In the secondary roles, Shuler Hensley plays the blowhard, dominant Pozzo with a Southern accent, turning the role into a tyrannical Kentucky colonel of the old order. His slave, Lucky, portrayed by Billy Crudup, complete with white face, is quite good, his long meandering monologue, a masterpiece of absurdity which is played with a great deal of physical comedy. Perhaps that's the best way to approach this moment in the play for modern audiences, because after many viewings and readings of the play, I still have no idea what he is talking about.
In recent interviews, Ian McKellen has hinted that this might be his swan song on the Great White Way. Therefore, you'd be crazy to miss his performance in this play, or his equally fine Spooner in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land, currently playing with the same cast in repertory. If this is the last time that Broadway will see this masterful actor, all I have to say is what a way to go!
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
From Director David O. Russell: American Hustle
Christian Bale, fifty pounds overweight and with a horrible comb-over, plays con-man Irving Rosenfeld who befriends ex-stripper, Cosmopolitan magazine employee Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Soon they become romantically entangled despite the fact that Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and the couple has a son. Into this unsettling triangle comes undercover F.B.I. agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who catches Irving and Sydney in a scam, and since he is attracted to Sydney, promises to set them both free if the couple helps him take down four other scam artists. Soon the plan develops into a complex, dangerous scheme involving the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), plans to bring gambling to Atlantic City, and the participation of Miami mafiosi headed by Meyer Lanski's under-boss Victor Tellegio (an uncredited Robert De Niro).
With its underworld characters and noirish ambiance, right from the initial scene, as we watch Christian Bale's Irving attempt to hide his baldness with a miserable-looking rug, the film successfully descends into a world of fabrication and counterfeit, setting the tone for the double and triple-crosses that are to follow. The performances by the principle actors are quite excellent, although Mr. Bale has revealed that most of his lines were improvised. The entire film, with its complex script by the director and Eric Warren Singer aims high when it comes to Oscar potential, although in interviews, director Russell also confessed to rewriting Mr. Singer's script extensively, and admitted that he was more interested in the performances and characterizations than in the plot.
American Hustle is a very entertaining film, with brilliant performances, some of which promise to be big winners in the upcoming award ceremonies.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street
This is how I feel about Leonardo DiCaprio's performance in Martin Scorsese's hyper-kinetic new film The Wolf of Wall Street. The actor has been led to the very heights of Oscar begging, with director Scorsese carefully crafting a ton of scenes, both poignant and comic, to show the actor's range, and to impress audiences, especially those members of the Academy. Actually, the entire three hour movie (written with a frantic sweep by Terence Winter) is geared towards the gold for DiCaprio. The thing is, that he is really good in it! The best, the most believable, and the most impressive he has been since he became Mr. Scorsese's muse. He had to resort to pulling a Daffy Duck, but he's still alive. He's exploded and he's hit the heights with this one. It's Oscar time, or else!
The structure of the film is the rags to riches story of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker in Wall Street who loses his job on Black Friday, but inspired by the life and business lessons of his mentor, senior stockbroker Mark Hanna (a memorable cameo by Matthew McConaughey), he re-invents himself, rapidly becoming the head-honcho of a small company on Long Island selling penny stocks to unsuspecting investors and receiving 50 percent commission. It doesn't take long for Jordan to break out on his own, along with neighbor Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), and form a new enterprise that rapidly becomes a billion-dollar company: a giant on Wall Street called Stratton Oakmont, complete with a hungry lion for a logo. Soon, the excesses of big money rear their ugly heads, and Jordan and his associates descend into a maelstrom of drug-fueled lavish parties and orgies, while their questionable business practices raise a red flag with the ever-watchful FBI.
More or less, this is the rags to riches story found in Mr. Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), and The Wolf of Wall Street arrives complete with many of the same stylistic touches found in the earlier film, including voice-over narration by the leading character, and the creation of a milieu of a life of crime where the participants are scum, but lovable, or at least interesting. In many ways, it is the same film, this time bigger, louder, longer, slicker, but morally empty, lacking the Catholic guilt harbored in the ethnic memories of the old neighborhood.
Aside from Mr. Hill and Mr. McConaughey, both of whom are sure to be nominated for the big awards for their fine performances, there is a very likable Jean Dujardin as a slick but sleazy Swiss banker, and newcomer Australian actress Margot Robbie as Naomi, the bombshell Jordan meets at his house in the Hamptons, and soon weds.
The Wolf of Wall Street may not be the most original Scorsese movie, but it does add the most interesting chapter in the on-going collaboration between director and leading man.