What if Siri were really good at what she does? What if she not only got your movie times right but got your moods as well? What if she cared for you, and what if that caring was so fine-tuned and predictive that it actually came to resemble love? That’s the premise, or one of the many interlocking premises, of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, a new play by Madeleine George that’s both marvelous and filled with marvels.
1. “Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1”
Curated by Phong Bui
I call birdbrained-bullshit on all those who snip that New York is a pure trading floor, one that’s lost its place as a nexus of artistic activity. Every inch of “Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1” organized by Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui — a show of 627 works by nearly 250 local artists in a spectacular setting — gives the lie to this idiotic swipe. With well-known names but mainly lesser-known local artists, this exhibition verified that New York is as alive and brilliant as ever. Maybe more so, with artists spread out into all the boroughs, living poor but with style. Which is one of the foundational conditions of any great indigenous art scene. Naysayers, get out into the fray or stay home and stay silly.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is planning to write the late Nora Ephron's biography — after receiving her family's blessing, according to the New York Post's "Page Six." The two originally met in Washington after she began dating his friend, her first husband Carl Bernstein. Per her request, Cohen was the first to speak at her funeral:
Nora Ephron and I started out as enemies. I had written something about her, something she didn’t like, and so when we met some time later, she turned on me with a cold fury and to a friend standing nearby spit out every one of my offending words — one after another, precisely as I had typed them. I was awestruck, also intimidated, and so some months later when she came to my door with her new boyfriend [Bernstein], she coyly said, 'This is going to be like the movies. We start as enemies and end as friends.' She extended her hand. I took it and never let it go.
When the title of a new theater work includes an accent aigu, and the advertising highlights the fact that the story has been adapted from Colette, perhaps it’s unnecessary to underline any further the Frenchiness of the proceedings. But Martha Clarke’s Chéri goes for the whole Camembert. Naturally, the Paris flat where the drama is set has French doors and casement windows; also a breakfast table dressed with croissants, coffee, strawberries, a pomegranate, and a neatly folded copy of Le Monde. We get it. And in case we somehow don’t, Tina Howe (who provided the brief, mortifying text) imprints every other sentence with a “quelle horreur” or a “ça suffit,” like Louis Vuitton logos on a valise.
Every week, Vulture faces the big, important questions in entertainment and comes to some creative conclusions. This week, we remembered Paul Walker, questioned whether Jennifer Lawrence wasn't just pulling a Katniss on us, and griped about MFA programs. You may have read some of these stories below, but you certainly didn’t read them all. We forgive you.
While you were not-so-patiently waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish writing The Winds of Winter, the still-gestating sixth book in his best-selling "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga, the author decided to throw fans a curveball with this week’s release of a novella set in the same world inhabited by Tyrion, Khaleesi, and the gang. The lengthy story is embedded in Dangerous Women, an anthology of fantasy writing co-edited by Martin, and along with its impressively long and GRRM-name-checking title — The Princess and the Queen, Or, The Blacks and the Greens: Being a History of the Causes, Origins, Battles, and Betrayals of the Most Tragic Bloodletting Known as the Dance of the Dragons, as set down by Archmaester Gyldayn of the Citadel of Oldtown ((here transcribed by George R.R. Martin)) — the novella is notable for featuring no fewer than 20 dragons, and not those cute baby ones, either. This uptick in the dragon population is possible because the new story takes place some 170 years before the action depicted in A Game of Thrones; it's set during the Targaryen Civil War, better known as — you guessed it — the Dance of the Dragons.
Ten years ago, a smarmy Burt Bacharach revue called The Look of Love icked its way to Broadway and closed amid much derision. Critics said that Bacharach deserved better than paint-by-numbers illustrations of the familiar standards, but I doubted he would ever get it. Though he was an incomparable pop hit-maker for 30 years, from the late fifties through the late eighties, the hits were odd both in and out of context. The context was partly the period in which they arose, the way they seemed to beat a sketchy path around the rock revolution. The context was also, unavoidably, Dionne Warwick, for whom so many of the songs were written. Warwick was a superb vocalist, making lovely sounds, but emotion was not her strength; while singing Bacharach’s discursive melodies, she always seemed to be thinking about her grocery list or wondering where she left her purse.
In her excellent essay, now out in Modern Painters, artist Coco Fusco pulls back the curtains on the risky business and chancy racket of the Master of Fine Arts degree. Fusco deftly addresses, among other things, how M.F.A. programs are "discursive battlefields." Whatever that means, she's right; I often have no idea what some teachers and students are talking about in group critiques. Her chief argument is financial: Fusco calls out skyrocketing tuition costs, massive student debt accrued — more than almost any artist will be able to repay in a lifetime — and shitty job prospects.
Think of the paintings of Lucy Dodd as very, very low-relief earthworks along the lines of Robert Smithson’s or Michael Heizer’s. By making massive material processes and natural phenomena almost one-dimensional, Dodd's work widens the senses, makes the cosmic thickening visible, and uncrumples something fundamental. Although just looking at (or sometimes smelling) her large begrimed art is exhilarating enough, I wanted to run my tongue on a couple of the paintings that the David Lewis Gallery checklist says contain leaf extract, wild walnut, yew berries, liquid smoke, and flower essence. Other works include nettles, black lichen, saliva, iron oxide, charcoal, and dog urine. Some have fermenting smells; one seems to be darkening before our eyes. In this way, Dodd's paintings become two-dimensional animals with inbuilt chemistries, going through secret artistic caramelizations and painterly photosynthesis, converting liquids and semisolids into bliss. Mircea Eliade defined shamanism as "techniques of ecstasy." I see these techniques in Dodd's work. And the spirits of chaos.
Every week, Vulture faces the big, important questions in entertainment and comes to some creative conclusions. This week, we evaluated the artistic merits of Kanye's new music video, translated some Ja'mie slang, and defended The Food Network (sort of). You may have read some of these stories below, but you certainly didn’t read them all. We forgive you.
Three previously unpublished J.D. Salinger short stories have found their way online, uploaded to a file-sharing site after an illegally printed collection was auctioned off on eBay. This is the first time that "Paula," "Birthday Boy," and "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls," which have all been available to researchers at libraries at Princeton and the University of Texas, are being seen by the general public. Reddit has posted links to scans of the three stories, and Buzzfeed contacted Salinger biographer Kenneth Slawenski, who says that "they look to be true transcripts of the originals and match my own copies."
Like the earlier plays in the Apple Family saga, Regular Singing begins with the rituals of three sisters — bossy Barbara, brittle Marian, and sane Jane — as they deal with food and tablecloths and flowers in a small house on Center Street in Rhinebeck, New York. For audiences who have revisited the Apples each fall since 2010, or watched all four plays in repertory this season, this is by now a ritual of a ritual. Also familiar will be the plays’ many motifs and obsessions: regional history, theatrical stories, gentrification, Kirsten Gillibrand.
Lou Reed got Kanye West's Yeezus absolutely right. "No one's near doing what he's doing,” Reed wrote in a review just a few weeks before he died. “It's not even the same planet ... He keeps unbalancing you." The unbalancing act went full-tilt last week, when West released the video for “Bound 2.” Instantaneously, the Internet did what the Internet does: hate. The video was ridiculed as clueless kitsch. But I dig it, and I think it represents a part of a collective cultural fracturing, via an idiom that I call the New Uncanny.
Not that the critically and commercially adored Catching Fire needs any more gold stars, but let us add one more: It is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the book. Whole scenes and chunks of dialogue are left unchanged; our heroine is not softened or made to love some boy she does not love. (If anything, the movie skimps a little on the love triangle, as if Katniss herself had written the script.) Still, as with any adaptation, there are definite changes, and so please now join Vulture for an obsessive analysis of how these tweaks affected the movie. Feel free to add anything we have missed.
Sutton Foster is teaming up with Amy Sherman-Palladino again. Three years after winning her second lead actress Tony, the Bunheads actress returns to Broadway to star in the 1997 musical Violet, playing a "facially disfigured North Carolina girl in the mid-1960s" who believes a televangelist can make her scar disappear. Bunheads creator Sherman-Palladino is set to produce. The show goes into previews March 28, so Sutton can go ahead and start shopping for her Tony Awards dress on the 29.
It’s sometimes said that great actors disappear in their roles, but I’m not sure that’s right. Watching Ian McKellen last Wednesday in a doubleheader of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land (at the matinee) and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (in the evening), I had the opposite feeling instead: that the roles were disappearing in him. He had absorbed the two characters, and now presented each, with complete fidelity and a brilliant burnish, through the medium of his voice and body. As Spooner (in No Man’s Land) he was insinuating, seedy, with the posture of a semicolon and the wormy carriage of a lifelong mooch. His hair, beneath a dirty brown cap, was greasily pulled back into a tiny pigtail; his voice strategically honeyed. And then, a few hours later, bearded and bowlered and barely able to walk, he reappeared as Estragon (in Godot): his face scrunched shut like some homeless people you see on the subway, his voice croaky and full of burrs as if it had been used too much in the past and not enough of late.
The Museum of Modern Art is the Himalayas of Modernism. The galleries brim with masterpieces, and then some. In fact, this overstuffed museum now hangs drop-dead works everywhere: in hallways, by the elevators, in the stairwells. The art you’re walking past on your way to the famous stuff is sometimes better than what you’ll see when you get there. These eight paintings are located smack-dab on MoMA’s psychic median strip. Avoid traffic while looking, and deploy elbows as needed.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark drops the curtain for good on January 4 (then splits for Las Vegas), leaving behind the biggest bill in Broadway history. Here, a breakdown.
Ian McKellen’s assistant, cook, and masseur, a lithe, bushy-bearded man named Steve Thomson, meets me at the entrance to a palatial Tribeca penthouse. “Sit wherever you like,” he says, gesturing into a vastness of blood-orange sectionals, accented with matching rugs and walls, chain chandeliers, and exposed timbers: a Moroccan bordello crossbred with a Dumbo loft.
Every week, Vulture faces the big, important questions in entertainment and comes to some creative conclusions. This week, we prepped you for the opening of Catching Fire, looked back on 1998, and made a case for why Taylor Swift is queen of pop. You may have read some of these stories below, but you certainly didn’t read them all. We forgive you.
- 1. Matt Zoller Seitz’s 10 Best TV Shows of 2013
- 2. David Edelstein’s 10 Best Movies of 2013
- 3. Where It Hurts: Steve McQueen on Why 12 Years a Slave Isn’t Just About Slavery
- 4. Jody Rosen’s 10 Best Pop Albums of 2013
- 5. Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the Present Tense: How the Actress Made Her Transformational Turn on Veep
- 6. Yes, Bryan Singer Will Direct X-Men: Apocalypse
- 7. Joe Jonas: My Life As a Jonas Brother
- 8. Watch Sesame Street Take On Lord of the Rings
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