Friday, January 31, 2020

Close Encounters of the Enlightened Kind: Awakening My Heart

Tina Turner shared her own transformative heart experiences with Andrea Miller. (Photo: Nathan Beck).

I wish I had known about Awakening My Heart, this marvelous new book by Andrea Miller from Pottersfield Press, compiling her close encounters with multiple Buddhist luminaries, before I recently completed my new book on Tina Turner’s life and music. Though as a longtime practitioner myself, mostly of a mixture of Zen and Dzogchen, I was, of course, aware of Turner’s many-decades-long affiliation with Buddhist chanting and practice, Miller’s well-crafted conversations with celebrated seekers such as her would have greatly informed the portions of my book devoted to her philosophical pursuits.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Aloft: Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones in The Aeronauts.

 . . . [A]ll balloon flights are naturally three-act dramas. The First Act is the launch: the human drama of plans, hopes, expectations. The Second Act is the flight itself: the realities, the visions, the possible discoveries. The Final Act is the landing, the least predictable, most perilous part of any ascent, which may bring triumph or disaster or (quite often) farce.
– Richard Holmes, Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air
Amazon Studios put The Aeronauts, one of the best films of last year, in theaters for about two minutes, then relegated it to its Amazon Prime streaming service and ceased all marketing of it. (It’s a film made for the IMAX screen, but if you blinked, you missed your chance to see it there.) A grand romantic movie about a grand, romantic venture, the film is full of thrills, action, and magisterial beauty. Some of it is terrifying, some of it is comic, and all of it is satisfying. It reunites two great young actors, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, so entrancing together in the otherwise inane The Theory of Everything. It soars and it plummets, much like the particolored conveyance whose single voyage is the film’s focus. It’s breathtaking, often literally.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Forgettable and the Forgotten: We All Fall Down and Ivan Passer

Eleanor Reissa and Stephen Schnetzer in We All Fall Down. (Photo: Nile Hawver)

The Huntington Theatre Company’s commitment to producing new work is admirable, but is We All Fall Down, the Lila Rose Kaplan piece receiving its premiere at the Calderwood Pavilion, really the best script they could find? It’s a cutesy sitcom about an assimilated Jewish family holding its first Passover Seder in their Westchester home, and when, around the last third of the play, the broad jokiness more or less gives way and Kaplan finally reveals why the hell the matriarch, Linda (Eleanor Reissa), has gathered them and a couple of friends to honor a tradition she has never believed in, the tone simply shifts to melodrama. Yes, that’s right: this play is firmly in the I-laughed-I-cried genre. There isn’t a moment of authenticity in the entire ninety-five minutes.