Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Plácido Domingo Accussed of Sexual Harrasment

The term "Latin Lover" assumes certain types of behavior that in today's #Me Too movement can quickly and easily turn into accusations of sexual harassment. Plácido Domingo, who for years came to prominence on the operatic stage as a virile tenor, oozing sexual charm, has now been accused of sexual harassment by a number of singers and a dancer. Mr. Domingo, who is now 78 and continues to conduct and sing opera, albeit as a baritone, has denied these accusations, some of them dating back more than thirty years.

The LA Opera, an institution that Domingo has served for over thirty years will engage outside counsel to investigate these allegations. However the San Francisco Opera has cancelled all of Domingo's upcoming performances in October citing these allegations. They went on to give a statement to CNN. "Though the alleged incidents reported did not take place at San Francisco Opera, the Company is unable to present the artist on the War Memorial Opera House stage. San Francisco Opera is committed to its strong anti-sexual harassment policy and requires all Company members to adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct. San Francisco Opera places a great priority on creating a safe and secure environment where everyone can focus on their work and art, and in which colleagues are treated with respect, dignity and collegiality." 

The Metropolitan Opera, the musical organization with which Domingo is perhaps best known for, has yet to comment on these accusations.

Mr. Domingo offered the following statement to CNN: "People who know me or who have worked with me know that I am not someone who would intentionally harm, offend, or embarrass anyone. However, I recognize that the rules and standards by which we are -- and should be -- measured against today are very different than they were in the past. I am blessed and privileged to have had a more than 50-year career in opera and will hold myself to the highest standards."

Friday, August 09, 2019

Life on the Moon (?)

The question as to whether or not there is life on the Moon may finally have a positive answer. A payload of tardigrades, micro animals that have shown to be the most resilient species on Earth, may have survived an Israeli spaceship that crash landed on the Moon back in April. The Beresheet spacecraft was carrying thousands of them.

Tardigrades, as you can see by the picture above, are pudgy little animals no longer than one millimeter long. They live in water or in the film of water on plants like lichen or moss, and can be found all over the world, in some of the most extreme environments, from icy mountains and polar regions to the balmy equator and the depths of the sea.

Along with the creatures, the ship also carried an archive of 30 million pages of information about planet Earth, as well as human DNA samples and a payload of the little creatures which had been dehydrated.

According to Nova Spivack, co-founder of the mission, "Best-case scenario is that the little library is fully intact, sitting on a nice sandy hillside on the Moon for a billion years. In the distant future it might be recovered by our descendants or by a future form of intelligent life that might evolve long after we're gone. From the DNA and the cells that we included, you could clone us and regenerate the human race and other plants and animals."

As far as the tardigrades are concerned, they will not be able to reproduce or move around in their dehydrated state, but if they survived the crash and are rehydrated they can come back to life years later.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Main Slate of the New York Film Festival

The Main Slate for the 2019 New York Film Festival has been announced.  Here are the films:

Opening Night The Irishman Dir. Martin Scorsese 

Centerpiece Marriage Story Dir. Noah Baumbach

Closing Night  Motherless Brooklyn Dir. Edward Norton

Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story Dir. Mati Diop

Bacurau Dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

Beanpole Dir. Kantemir Balagov

Fire Will Come Dir. Oliver Laxe

First Cow Dir. Kelly Reichardt

A Girl Missing Dir. Koji Fukada

I Was at Home, But… Dir. Angela Schanelec

Liberté Dir. Albert Serra

Martin Eden Dir. Pietro Marcello

The Moneychanger Dir. Federico Veiroj

Oh Mercy! Dir. Arnaud Desplechin

Pain and Glory Dir. Pedro Almodóvar

Parasite Dir. Bong Joon-ho

Film Comment Presents
Portrait of a Lady on Fire 
Dir. Céline Sciamma

Saturday Fiction
Dir. Lou Ye

Dir. Justine Triet

Dir. Nadav Lapid

To the Ends of the Earth
Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa

The Traitor
Dir. Marco Bellocchio

Varda by Agnès
Dir. Agnès Varda

Vitalina Varela
Dir. Pedro Costa

Wasp Network
Dir. Olivier Assayas

The Whistlers
Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu

The Wild Goose Lake
Dir. Diao Yinan

Young Ahmed
Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Zombi Child
Dir. Bertrand Bonello

Thursday, August 01, 2019

HAL PRINCE dies at 91

That picture above represents the way I will always remember Hal Prince, that giant of Broadway, who died yesterday in Iceland at the age of 91. White-bearded with a twinkle in the eye so highly visible because his glasses were always off, balanced on his bald head. I learned his name as either the director or producer of so many musicals I was too young to have seen, but knew well through the LP original cast albums in my collection. Scratching the surface of his prodigious output there was West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, and Damn Yankees. All of them hits, some classics of the American Musical Theater.

Those were the old musicals I knew. When I started going to Broadway shows during high school and college, I realized the man was active, and collaborating with Stephen Sondheim, the greatest living composer/lyricist. That's when I saw Sweeney Todd, my first Hal Prince musical. I saw the original cast three times. I went back to discover the previous Prince/Sondheim creations: A Funny Thing Happen on the Way to the Forum, Follies, Company, A Little Night Music (based on Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night), and Pacific Overtures, a masterpiece about the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry, that flopped on Broadway on its initial run: a condemnation of American imperialism in 1976, the American Bicentennial year. There were Tony Awards galore, and music that has become part of Broadway lore. It was the 1980's, the time when Broadway decided to revive many of these musicals with their original stars. To this day the revival of Fiddler, with Zero Mostel reprising his role of Tevye is one of my treasured memories of Broadway.

Hal Prince went on to work with the British invasion of Andrew Lloyd Webber. He directed The Phantom of the Opera in the West End and on Broadway. To this day the New York production of Phantom, now in its 31st year of continuous operation, regularly grosses over $1 million weekly. It is also still running in London, and around the world productions of this work has been seen by over 140 million people. The original cast recording has sold over 40 million copies.

He is the last of the great producers/directors, and Broadway will not see the likes of someone like him again. He will be remembered as one of the great talents to grace the Great White Way.

Monday, July 29, 2019

THE IRISHMAN will open the 2019 NY Film Festival

The New York Film Festival will open on September 27th with the world premiere of Martin Scorsese's latest film The Irishman, a biopic of Jimmy Hoffa based on the book I Hear you Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. The film stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joey Pesci, who came out of an unofficial retirement to do this project. It is the ninth collaboration between DeNiro and Scorsese, and their first since 1995's Casino.

With a budget reported to be $200 million dollars, the film is being distributed by Netflix, which hopes to outdo last year's Roma, a film by Alfonso Cuarón which won Oscars for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography, and which was the centerpiece offering at the NY Film Festival last year. A passion project for Scorsese, the movie also stars Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale and Anna Paquin.

Following the NY Film Festival showing and a short theatrical release, the film is set to stream digitally late in 2019.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Spanish Singer Makes Debut at Bayreuth

Jorge Rodríguez Norton, the tenor from Asturias, Spain made his debut at Bayreuth on Thursday's opening night gala of the new production of Tannhäuser, directed by Tobias Kratzer and conducted by Valery Gergiev. Mr. Rodríguez Norton, who sings the role of Heinrich der Schrieber, becomes only the third Spaniard to sing at the Green Hill after Victoria de los Ángeles and Plácido Domingo. Festspielchef Katharina Wagner personally communicated with the singer through Facebook after she heard him sing in a performance of Tristan und Isolde at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. At first, the singer thought that somebody was playing a prank on him. but soon enough he realized that Ms. Wagner was offering him an opportunity to sing at the festival. Since the production will be repeated next year, the tenor from Avilés says that he has already signed for the 2020 festival, and has attended the rehearsals of the rest of the offerings for this year.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood: new Tarantino film

With a title that evokes two of director Sergio Leone’s great films, as well as the world of fairy tales, which imply make believe and wish fulfillment, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood is a love letter to the film industry at a time when great sweeping changes were going on in cinema. A young generation had taken the reins, European new waves were challenging the very nature of film entertainment, the American studio system had crumbled, and dark foreboding clouds were gathering in the horizon. The summer of love was gone, and ahead, horrible events would occur behind the gated mansion of an up-and-coming movie star and her famous director husband. Or will they? The director riffs on the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Charles Manson family, an event triggered by the lyrics of an album from a British group that already was showing tears at its seams. Tarantino reinvents this era in a highly ambitious wide canvas that bears the gravitas of apocalyptic times.

Next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) lives Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor who specializes in World War II B pictures and TV westerns, and who now is on the downward slope of his career. His buddy Cliff Booth (an excellent Brad Pitt) is his stunt double, chauffeur and confidant. Cliff's shady past poses an obstacle for him to get work, as a matter of fact, it is only because of Rick that he gets any film work at all. And it shows, while Rick lives in the Hollywood hills in a beautiful house with a pool, Cliff lives in a derelict trailer with his pit bull next to a drive-in.

The film is an engrossing and kaleidoscopic recreation of a time that Tarantino did not personally know or yearn for in any kind of nostalgic way; after all he was a six year old child when the events of this film take place. As always the decade is brought to life through the world of cinema, which Tarantino knows better than any other director working today. Therefore, the film is highly detailed with homages and illusions to the famous spots in L.A. and the theater marquees announcing the films of the time. Some of these are well-known, but in the great tradition of film geekdom, at whose throne Tarantino sits, the majority are rare and forgotten. As far as the director is concerned, though, they are treasures to be discovered by a new contemporary audience.

Aside from the performances of DiCaprio and Pitt, both surely destined for Oscar nominations, there are wonderful moments from Margot Robbie, whose Sharon Tate is a free spirit radiant beauty who visits a Hollywood theater so she can see her own performance in the film The Wrecking Crew, alongside Dean Martin. Powerful also is Bruce Dern in a tiny cameo playing the blind, aged owner of a Western Ranch being rented by the Manson family.

Without a doubt, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood is Tarantino's most accomplished film, and one of the best movies of the year. Gone are the jerky rhythms of many of his past films, here replaced by a deliberately smooth glide when it comes to camera movement as well as story development. A new Tarantino? Not exactly. There's still a whole lot of the old Quentin that we all love, but this film shows signs of artist maturity, which is definitely not a bad thing.