Saturday, October 26, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
At the age of 71, Paul McCartney continues to build his legacy, never content to coast on the sizeable reputation he built as part of one of popular music's most significant groups. But as he goes forward, with a new album – called New – which John Corcelli will be reviewing in Critics at Large in a couple of weeks, it's curious how much McCartney draws from his past in order to move forward with a more contemporary sound. He performs as a man who knows full well that he can't out-jump his own shadow so by embracing it he casts his reflection forward. Yet just as he dabbles in keeping current, there is still a relentless quest in his music to get back, to seek a place of refuge while continually defining his musical future. (The latest album has four producers on it to help him do so.) Once was a way to get back homeward, he once sang confidently in 1969 on "Golden Slumbers." But for Paul McCartney, all his life, getting back homeward became an illusive task. As his career scaled musical heights not imagined, McCartney always looked to the past for some point of reference, or maybe for some profound meaning to make sense of how far he'd come as an artist. Who could blame him? With The Beatles, he not only was living out a dream, but the dream took on a life that made him feel larger than he truly was. His songs once had a power that they couldn't attain now that he was on his own. Writing in The Beatles was about more than just honing his craft. It fulfilled McCartney's ambitions and gave full shape to his creative impulses; it completed him. With the band gone after 1970, looking back could have seemed futile. But without a burning sense of the past, McCartney couldn't see a future in front of him.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
After Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow played at the Sundance Film Festival, it received a ton of adulatory press, most of it focused on the audacity of Moore’s stunt: he shot his film, about a man coming unglued during a family vacation to Disney World, at Disney World and Disneyland, using small cameras and digital recorders to surreptitiously shoot inside the parks without permission. Given how touchy Disney is about threats to its image, most of the people who raved about the movie in Colorado last January seem to have assumed that it would never get any kind of general release. (The idea that their readers would be unlikely to ever check out the movie for themselves must have made them feel free to really let fly in their praise of its outrageousness and richness.) One online writer, Erik Davis, reported that “many are calling [it] the ultimate guerrilla film.’” Maybe so, but it’s also one of the ultimate examples of a movie that’s more fun to fantasize about than it is to sit through.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
– P. D. James, Talking about Crime Fiction
Anyone primarily interested in a whodunit crime novel may not find it in the writer Sara Paretsky. In her long-standing series that made its debut in 1982 with Indemnity Only introducing the female protagonist V. I. Warshawski, dead bodies do appear regularly but the identity of the perpetrator is rarely the novels’ most compelling feature. When a murder does occur early, for example in Body Work (2010) and the accused is an Iraqi veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress after the rest of his unit was killed in a firefight, Warshawski is also hired by the young man’s parents to prove his innocence. The tough, sharp-tongued but compassionate private sleuth is frequently engaged by clients to investigate a person’s disappearance.
The impression from reading these novels is that the resolution of the mystery constitutes the most inner circle, one that is surrounded by a series of other circles including Warshawski’s personal life and her commitment to address social injustices. Finally, and, most interestingly, is the historical circle in which she connects the present to the past, which is found in a number of Paretsky’s later novels, especially her most recent, Critical Mass (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013). The historical arc, which provides greater depth and resonance, should not surprise since she has a PhD in history from the University of Chicago.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Pop icon David Bowie is the subject of the David Bowie is exhibit currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Three of our critics, Deirdre Kelly, John Corcelli and Kevin Courrier, attended the show and each of them contribute their thoughts to this review.
It was the summer of my 15th year and my mother, to get me out of the house, and perhaps also to make me realize there was a wonderful world waiting for me outside it, sent me to London, England, where she had some friends who would put me up for a few hot weeks. I already knew the British capital to be the crux of all things cool. I was a Beatles fan, and, well, pretty much a fan of everything else with an English accent. But The Beatles were long over by 1975, and I was on to the next big thing which, to my constantly changing teenage self, meant glitter rock in the form of Marc Bolan of T. Rex, David Essex, Elton John (before he became respectable), Queen and – of course – David Bowie. Bowie was the pin-up in my bedroom, and I choose the word deliberately because he was, at the beginning of his career, not a boy, not a girl, but a deliciously subversive blend of both.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Sunday, October 20, 2013
|Soulpepper's production of Farther West (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)|
John Murrell has a long-established and fully justified reputation as a playwright who creates good roles for women and places them in well constructed works based on historical Canadian subjects. So it makes perfect sense that he would create a play about Canadian prostitutes in the 19th century. Farther West, first produced in 1982 (directed by Robin Phillips and starring Martha Henry) and now running at Soulpepper’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts until Nov. 9, won Murrell a second Chalmers Award, the first coming for 1977’s Waiting for the Parade. It is the story of May Buchanan, a prostitute who worked her way from small-town Ontario westward across Canada in the 1870s and ’80s. She started at 14, on the advice of her father, who had just found her having sex with a much older neighbour: “You can’t carry on like that here, girl. You better move on. Better start moving, farther west.”
Director Diana Leblanc’s production is striking, starting even before the opening: a naked couple is entwined on-stage as the audience takes its seats. No question, nudity is powerful, and the tableau leads convincingly and appropriately into the play proper. Astrid Janson’s set, though simple – a painted scrim backdrop, a sloped platform – is made striking by Graeme Thomson’s lighting, and it should be noted that a river, or rather a creek, runs through it. Janson’s costumes are grittily realistic, nicely matching the tone of the first act, at least. The scenes in Vancouver switch to a sort of nasty melodrama that takes us into a somewhat over-the-top ending.