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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Will the Oscars get it right this time?

Will wonders never cease? Or have the Oscars redressed their sometimes-dubious reputation by nominating an unheralded, gritty, independent war film of unlikely audience appeal—a film barely screened before being rushed to DVD and that grossed only $12 million? With nine nominations, The Hurt Locker has not only become the prestige favorite among reviewers...
Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010

Theater Review

The Seafarer takes its title from an ancient English poem hearkening to man’s spiritual struggle for peace and endurance. The Milwaukee Rep’s new production comes courtesy of talented Irish playwright Conor McPherson, whose early years of alcoholism are not lost in this Irish morality play. Card-playing men at a whiskey-besotted Christmas Eve celebration...
Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010

Schickel, Perry explore the mystique of a great star

Judging a book by its cover could not be more gratifying than with a quick glance at the imposing coffee-table book Bette Davis: Larger Than...
Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

Remembering a Hollywood class act

Claude Rains, this most patrician and elegant of screen actors, still sustains a fascination for the average filmgoer. And his life story is full of surprises: He spoke cockney and had been abused as a child. In Mr. Skeffington, he tells Bette Davis that his success is a rags-to-riches story. In David Skal’s Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice (University Press of Kentucky) that parallel is made...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

Is it still Puccini’s ‘shabby little shocker’?

The irony behind the early censure of Tosca (1900) as a “shabby little shocker,” unworthy of Puccini’s talents in the eyes of the then musical sophisticates, is that its current overwhelming popularity does not entirely discredit those initial criticisms. Based upon a trashy 1887 melodrama written by Victorien Sardou as a vehicle for the flamboyant, equally overripe Sarah Bernhardt, such critical reactions...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009

Milwaukee Symphony ventures into Bartok’s classic

The subterranean quality of Bartok’s ominous score for Bluebeard’s Castle, the dark harmonic undercurrent of his only opera, may seem surprisingly tame for those familiar with the shock waves of dissonant sound outbursts characterizing the Hungarian composer’s later works, where music spills boldly across a broad limitless tapestry like the splatter of a black-and-white Pollock canvas. Unlike Pollock, Bartok usually...
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009
The Mahler canon of great, sometimes unruly symphonies has increased its hold on music lovers with the passing years. The undeniably compulsive emotional power of these sublime works has long challenged the mastery and stamina of many great conductors...
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009

Theater Review

The Milwaukee Rep’s season opener, Nikolai Gogol’s classic satire The Government Inspector, turned out to be a much-needed winner on all counts. After an indifferent summer season, opening-night audiences were delighted with Jeffrey Hatcher’s hilariously spiky, refreshingly updated translation, demonstrating once again director Joseph Hanreddy’s knack at coordinating a talented cast of skillful players into an ensemble...
Monday, June 29, 2009

Molly Haskell examines the classic film

The beautiful black-and-white photo of Vivien Leigh on the cover of Molly Haskell's compelling new book, Frankly, My Dear:Gone With the Wind Revisited (Yale University Press), casts an eerie shadow on the dust cover. It's an ominous reminder of the exhausting two-year search for the right actress to portray Scarlett O'Hara and of Leigh's own mortality, but the haunting photo gives no hint at the brilliance...
A&E Feature
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A symphony of ambition

Of all the great composers from the past century, Mahler cannot be accused of reticence or lack of confidence. None of his work, however, has the overreaching ambition of the choral Eighth, often inaccurately referred to as the "symphony of a thousand," a slight exaggeration of its stupefying number of participants. Comprising eight soloists, double chorus, children's chorus and an orchestra of at least 120 players, and blessed with Mahler's own reverential benediction of creating a work that reaches out...