“A trivial comedy for serious people” (Oscar Wilde on “…Earnest”)

“A trivial comedy for serious people” (Oscar Wilde on “…Earnest”)

As part of a valuable cultural service, Fathom Events presented Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy of manners,The Importance of Being Earnest at selected theaters in the U.S. for a one-night-only screening November 3, 2015.  The performance was a filmed live production on October 8th, 2015 at London’s Vaudeville Theatre in commemoration of the play’s 120th anniversary.

As an iconic “comedy of manners” and one of the funniest plays in the English language, “Earnest” exaggerates the absurd superficiality of upper-class Victorian society, emphasizing the “importance of being earnest,” with “earnestness” having the connotation of intense conviction, dependability, and unflappable honesty.  Being earnest was an integral part of the moral code of honor nominally practiced by upper-class Victorians.  However, in practice, Wilde reminds us, “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

The primary comic conceit in Wilde’s play deals with his clever use of the word earnest used both as an adjective in the afore mentioned sense, and Ernest as a noun…capitalized, minus the “a”, and being a proper man’s name.  The confusion and interchangeability of the names between the two main characters, Algernon and Jack, the latter professing to be “…Ernest in town and Jack in the country,”  forms the core of the play’s driving force of satire and duplicity, and an irony based on the characters’ violation of  the very essence of being earnest through their abiding dishonesty.  Jack is certainly not earnest when he pretends to be Earnest in the city but “Jack” in the country and the wit continues unabated throughout this Victorian romp.

Deftly directed by Adrian Noble (Amadeus, The King’s Speech) with a pitch-perfect cast featuring the incomparable David Suchet  (Agatha Christie’s Poirot), as the irrepressible, irascible Lady Bracknell, The Importance of Being Earnests  is rollicking high farce and wit at it’s very finest.  Algernon is in love with Cecily, Jack is smitten by Gwendolyn, and both are forced to adopt the names “Ernest” because the objects of their affections cannot tolerate a man with any name other than “Ernest.”

Ironically of course,  they forego the moral code of honesty associated with earnestness in order to satisfy their romantic interests.  However, all is resolved in the end and the two couples are joined to live happily ever after.

In the final scene of the play, Lady Bracknell comments to Jack, “My nephew, you seem to display signs of triviality,” to which Jack replies as he and Gwendolyn happily exit stage left arm-in-arm, “On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”

Curtain.

 

 

Review by Lidia Paulinska and Hugh McMahon

Rock my Soul

Rock my Soul

“Revelations,” Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s great masterpiece of modern American dance, was presented last evening along with three other spirited works for a one-night-only screening at selected cinema’s throughout the country, compliments of Fathom Events and Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance Series.

Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) founded AAADT in 1958 in New York City and it rightfully enjoys the distinction of being the first predominantly African-American modern dance company in the world.  Ailey once remarked that he believed America’s richest treasures are to be found in our African-American cultural heritage … “sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful,” and indeed nowhere else in the vast panoply of the American dance tradition is that assessment more profoundly expressed than in his magnificent “Revelations,” Ailey’s 1960 paean to the rich spiritual tradition of the African-American experience in the gospel South.

“Revelations” is at once ritualistically soulful and rhythmically complex, incorporating as it’s musical motive force an array of deeply moving and spirited African-American gospel music and holy sermon blues reflecting the Black experience in America.

Ailey once described “Revelations” as a visceral recollection of a childhood in rural Texas during the Great Depression.  It is a dance of deep human compassion, moving by turns from mournful oppression and sin (“Baked and I Been Beaten”) to redemption (“Fix Me Jesus”) and finally to ecstatic jubilation (“I Wanna Be Ready”), fostering a sense of reverent and rapturous community and inviting the audience to join in the redemptive celebration at evening’s end.  And it is perhaps this vital sense of community, the immediacy of the connection Ailey creates between performer and audience,that has contributed to the enduring success of this masterpiece for fifty-five years … and running.

Complimenting this thematic content, one will find in the very make-up of the ensemble a communal structure.  For example, what will not be found in Ailey’s troupe of highly trained performers is a prima ballerina or her male counterpart, a premier danseur, “star” principal dancers like those found in classical ballet companies such as the New York City Ballet or the Bolshoi, whose traditions and techniques date back to the 17th Century royal courts of Europe.

Another distinguishing feature of AAADT and modern dance in general which dramatically sets it apart from the classical tradition is not only a more “democratic” sense of ensemble, but also it’s musical sources (by contrast, the ballet typically utilizes works by such composers as Bach,Tchaikovsky, and others).  Most obviously however is Ailey’s basic movement techniques and patterns, emphasizing linear line, horizontal “grounded” movement, and intertwining body images as opposed to the two dominant values found in classical ballet: jumps and leaps or so-called ballon, creating the illusion of the dancers momentarily floating in the air, and the tradition of performing with “turned out” hips and legs with the full weight of the body concentrated on the tips of fully extended feet, creating an unmistakable vertical line.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s iconic “Revelations” has been best described by The New York Times as being one of the great works of the human spirit.”  It stands resolutely for what is good about America and humanity in general, and for this reason alone it’s immortality is assured.

 

Review by Lidia Paulinska and Hugh McMahon

 

 

Fathom Grease on the Big Screen

Fathom Grease on the Big Screen

Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies brought back to the big screen the most successful movie musical of all time- the story of the 1950’s – Grease. Ted Mankiewicz, host of the television program TCM, in his introduction to the Grease Sing-A-Long that went with the movie event, invited the audience to experience again the story of teenage sweethearts played by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. For those who ask for “Tell me more” and recognized the many hits songs in the movie, the fun in this out in public with a large group event, was the collective singing along in the theater. Grease boasted a world-famous soundtrack including “Greased Lightning’” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “Beauty School Drop Out” most of which the audience had a good memory for the lyrics to sing along.

But Grease is not a concert film based on hit songs, it is also a love story and is filled with the dancing modernized but paying respect to the classic musicals of the Black & White film era.  The film was an introduction to the world of singing and dancing for a new generation. As John Travolta explained in one of his interviews many years after the film was made, there was natural formula that actors in the 1950s that included singing and dancing. That is why he was able to quickly transition and continue to integrate acting, dancing and singing in his roles, in some memorable scenes as the batman dance with Uma Turner in Pulp Fiction.

It is interesting that Olivia Newton-John was an accomplished teenage singer prior to the film and that she first resisted to take a role in the movie. As she is an exceptionable singer who has her own show in Las Vegas, and until those days of filming the movie Grease, she was not that good of the dancer. The director who wanted her to play character of Sandy made things work. In the scene of vibrant, dynamic dance during the graduation event Sandy broke up with John for a moment and her side replaced some other female dancer.

Grease is fun to watch as the movie is like a glimpse of culture, fashion, hair style of 50s along with the singing-a-long with the stars.  It was a full audience participation and group event, and experience that you cannot obtain on VOD at home or on a mobile device – somethings are meant for the collective energy of a group to enjoy, and a fun, light music filled film is one of them.

The Grease Sing-A-Long Deluxe Edition will be available on Digital HD later this summer, invite some friends over and try to recreate the theater experience on a small scale.

Paul Weitz’s “Grandma”

Paul Weitz’s “Grandma”

Great cast, brilliant dialog and lively scenes fill the new Paul Weitz film “Grandma”. Grandma Elle (played by Lily Tomlin) and her granddaughter Sage (played by Julia Garner) spend the day trying to collect some money for helping resolve an unexpected incident that Sage got into. Unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets while they go about solving their situation.

Paul’s Weitz new movie proves that a cinema still can be attractive based on the compiling story and dialog instead of just special effects. The story deals with women and social issues with a lightness that makes the audience laugh sometimes while highlighting the issue at hand, but always leaves the audience waiting for the next scene. Lily Tomlin is wonderful in the seasoned role of grandma.  In complement is Julia Garner who is a raising star in her acting career, in the role of the granddaughter.

What I liked about the movie, is that it is taking you on the journey through the back door of the experience by telling you up front what is an issue but leading you through the unexpected alleys and uncovering the secrets of the human relationships that lead up to that experience.

The film opens August 28 at Century 9 and Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco; opens September 4 at Landmark Albany Twin in Albany, Century 16 in Pleasant Hill, Landmark Guild in Menlo Park, Cinema 7 in San Jose and Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

Fathom Events – Led Zeppelin concerts

Fathom Events – Led Zeppelin concerts

Occasionally in life we have a rare opportunity to re-live some of the more exciting and memorable cultural experience of our past. And so it was this week when we had the unique opportunity to enjoy an extraordinary big-screen showing of selected historic performances by the incomparable Led Zeppelin, one of the most creative and influential rock bands of all time. This one-night-only cinematic extravaganza spanned the band’s incredible career from 1970 to 1979. The film that featured several classic live performances was cleaned up, converted to digital and had the sound track remastered under the oversight of Fathom Events.

Viewers were treated to a larger-than-life concert experience featuring the band’s legendary performance from London’s Royal Albert Hall in January 1970, their historic dates at New York’s Madison Square garden in July 1973, their triumphant five-night run at London’s Earl’s Court in May 1975, and their record-breaking shows at England’s Knebworth Festival in August 1975.

The genius of singer-lyricist Robert Plant, the shrieking guitar brilliance of Jimmy page, the unrelenting power-drive of drummer John Bonham all combine in a synergistic amalgam to create what is probably the greatest rock and roll band has ever known…a seamlessly unified whole that was the sum of its genius parts. And although Led Zeppelin is known as one of the progenitors of heavy metal, the influences that shaped them are varied as their music: acoustic folk ballads, pop guitar, James Brown, country, Motown, traditional riffs, and what’s been called the trance-inducing element of blues repetition, all resulting in such varied works as “Whole Lotta Love” (’69), “Kashmir” (’75), “Rock & Roll” (’71), “All My Love” (’79), and “Stairway to Heaven” (’71).

But their time of personal glory was not to last. In September 1980, drummer John Bonham died suddenly of asphyxiation as a result of alcoholism and the tragedy of that loss marked the end of the magical synergy that was Led Zeppelin. A press release at the time read, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deepest sense of undivided harmony by ourselves … have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were. “ Signed simply “Led Zeppelin”. The “undivided harmony” was shattered forever and the music fell silent; the combined effect of all their creative geniuses was essential to sustain the whole and suddenly that unity was lost, but their extraordinary legacy was alive for us this week on the big screen, four decades and a lifetime after its inception, and for that we are very grateful indeed.

The latest Terry Gilman film

The latest Terry Gilman film

What is the reason for human existence? What brings us happiness? The latest Terry Gilliam film, “The Zero Theorem”, might not give us a definite answer, but searches for one with spectacular and remarkable visual images. Gilliam, as always, is funny, witty, provocative, smart and surprising.

In a futuristic London, Qohen Leth , a computer genius, works on a mysterious project. Qohen, who talks always as “we”, identifies himself as a non-separated part of collective in the world, where everything is controlled. Big Brother, here called “Management”, is watching every step and all activity.

Qohen lives in isolation, in a burnt-out chapel, but his solidarity is disturbed by visits of flirtatious Bainsley and Management’s son, Bob. Qoen is desperately searching for love and is anticipating a phone call that will provide him the definitive answer. The Zero Theorem was shot in Bucharest, and a few other places in Romania, and brings dark and wrecked Ceausescu dictatorship era memories.

Christoph Waltz, a two time Academy Award winner, gives another extraordinary performance. This time he plays, an eccentric programmer, Qohen Leth, who is consumed by existential fears and angst. The mysterious project that he has been frantically working on is delegated by Management (Matt Damon). The role of Qohen’s sexual desire, Bainsley, a young gorgeous seductress, is adoringly played by French actress Melanie Thierry, and the role of Bob is wonderfully acted by Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom) and reminds us of Michael J. Fox, from “Back to the Future”. The always superb Tilda Swinton also co-stars as Dr. Shrink-Rom, the computer psychologist.

The amazing thing about Terry Gilman is that he doesn’t need to search for well known actors to work for him. They want to work with him. He is a member of the Monty Python team, as well as co-director of their feature films , “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” (1975), “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979); and the sole director of “Jabberwocky” (1977). His post Monty Python films include “Brazil” (1985) which was given two Academy Awards nominations, and “The Adventure of Baron Munchausen” (1988), which was given four Academy Award nominations. Gilliam made his next three movies in the US: “The Fisher King” (1991), “Twelve Monkeys” (1995), and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998). In 2000, he went to Spain and shot “The Man Who Kill Don Quixote” (2002) and “The Brothers Grimm” (2005).