Dilettante's Diary

April 18/05

Who Do I Think I Am?
Index: Movies
Index: Writing
Index: Theatre
Index: Music
Index: Exhibitions
Artists' Blogs
Index: TV, Radio and Misc
NOVEMBER 3, 2023
Aug 2, 2023
July 4, 2023
Apr 21, 2023
Feb 10, 2023
Jan 24, 2023
Jan 11, 2023
Dec 2, 2022
July 26, 2022
July 4, 2022
June 2, 2022
March 25, 2022
March 11, 2022
Feb 14, 2022
Nov 19, 2021
Oct 2021
Sept 16, 2021
July 21, 2021
July 15, 2021
June 11, 2021
Apr 23, 2021
March 12, 2021
Feb 13, 2021
Jan 5, 2021
December 2020
Autumn Mysteries 2020
Aug 12/20
May 25/20
Apr 30/20
March 12/20
Dec 6/19
Jan 29/20
Nov 10/19
Oct 24/19
Sept 30/19
Aug 2/19
June 22/19
May 26/19
Apr 22/19
Feb 23/19
Jan 15/19
Dec 20/18
Dec 3/18
Oct 3/18
Sept 9/18
Aug 9/18
July 19/18
June 2/18
May 14/18
Apr 23/18
Feb 22/18
Dec 13/17
Nov 22/17
Nov 3/17
Oct 5/17
Sept 21/17
Aug 3/17
June 16/17
Mar 21/17
Feb 26/17
Feb 9/17
Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
Dec 11/16
Nov 20/16
Sept 17/2016
Aug 21/16
July 17/16
June 29/16
June 2/16
Apr 23/16
Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
Sept 16/15
Sept 4/15
July 29, 2015
July 1, 2015
June 7/15
Summer Reading 2015
May 19/15
Apr 30/15
Apr 19/15
Spring Reading 2015
March 23/15
March 11/15
Winter Reading 2015
Feb 20/15
Feb 8/15
Jan 29/15
Jan 20/15
Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
Dec 2/14
Nov 10/14
Oct 29/14
Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
Summer Reading 2014
Aug 22/14
Aug 8/14
July 11/14
June 16/14
May 28/14
Apr 30/14
Apr 16/14
Apr 2/14
March 21, 2014
March 13/14
Feb 11/14
Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

Reviewed here: Blood Brothers (Theatre); Botanical Artists of Canada (Art Exhibiton); Look At Me and Looking for Alexander (Movies)

Blood Brothers (Theatre) by Willy Russell, directed by Danny Harvey, A.C.T. Productions, Heritage Theatre, Brampton, Ont. (To April 24)

The main reason for our trekking to Brampton to see this show is that we are closely related to cast member Madeleine Donohue. Playing the love interest, she was "luvly", to use the Liverpool dialect in which the piece was played. But there were other reasons to see the show. All the cast members turned in highly polished, professional performances -- tons of energy and charisma. The music and dancing were great. It would be totally unfair to single out one actor from such a stellar group (apart from the aforementioned Ms. Donohue), but I can’t resist mentioning Patrick Cook, a very accomplished performer who is consistently interesting to watch. Clearly, he belongs on stage.

The critic in me must offer one note to the actors, though. When you're playing little kids, it isn't necessary to act goofy all the time. I have known small children in my time and, the way I remember it, they weren't always dorkey.

This outing expanded my horizons in more ways than one. It introduced me to the marvels of downtown Brampton, a town previously known to me only as the stomping grounds of Bill Davis, a former premier of Ontario. The evening was also my first exposure to a kind of theatre which has, I believe, become very popular. In fact, I found it hard to nail the genre: musical? play with music? rock opera?

In the old days, musicals (Oklahoma, My Fair Lady) were based on good, solid plays where you had characters working out problems. The emphasis was on conflict between the characters, how it was resolved, and what it revealed about them. This piece, however, presents the Dickensian-style tale of twin brothers who are separated just after birth and raised in different households. They become best friends without ever knowing their common origin and thereby lies a whole lotta trouble. So what you have is a story, progressing in a very linear way, with a narrator pulling it all together. Toss in some songs and you've got a show.

Even though I was enjoying the experience a lot, I kept wondering what the point was. The author seemed to want to hit us over the head with the lesson that you've got to pay later in life for your earlier mistakes. Somehow, that didn't really grab me. But the people of Brampton had no such reservations. They roared their approval with vociferous enthusiasm.


Botannical Artists of Canada, Aird Gallery, Toronto (to April 22)

My visiting this juried show was like a devout Catholic making a courtesy call on the Presbyterian Church down the street. As a member of the Toronto Watercolour Society, I profess an artistic faith that has a much in common with that of the Botannical Artists: a love of the beauty in the natural world and a wish to express our response in two dimensions on paper through colour and drawing. Members of both groups tend towards light, transparent renderings.

But there are big differences. The TWS is open to a much wider range in terms of style and approach. In a typical TWS show, the work may vary from the meticulously exact to the wild and free, with emphasis on the imaginative and expressive. The botanical artists, on the other hand, are noted for the scientific accuracy of their paintings.

Prepared as I was to be civilly polite and appreciative about the other denomination's work, I was expecting to find these botanical pictures a trifle dull. (One can't help but remember all those dusty botanical prints in great aunts' parlours.) What a shock: the paintings in this show are luminous and gorgeous. The overall quality of the show is very consistent; almost all the pictures are stunning. And the colours are exquisite. As one who takes a slap-dash approach to colour, I've always been skeptical about the many different hues that manufacturers peddle. But I can see how, for these botanical painters, such subtleties are the crux of the matter. For example, compare the various renderings of cyclamens in pictures by different artists.

To be specific about some of the work, if I were giving a first prize, it would go to Margaret Graeb for a picture of a hunk of rough bark with lichen on it. Not only is the subject unexpected, but the technique is mind-boggling. I can't imagine how the artist mastered such detail in the fiendishly difficult medium of watercolour. I was glad to see several beautiful pictures by Celia Godkin, who taught some drawing courses that I took at the ROM years ago. I believe she's an accomplished illustrator of children's books. Dawn Dougall, a fellow member of the TWS, has a charming little picture of a red onion and a shallot in the show.

While I'll probably continue to do my artistic worshipping in the church where the dress code and the rubrics are more relaxed, it was inspiring to see how two such different approaches to conveying natural beauty can each succeed so well in their respective ways.


Look At Me/Comme Une Image (Movie)

The opening scene says it all. A young woman in a taxi is listening on earphones to a recording of herself singing lieder. When she takes off the earphones to answer her cell phone, she can't hear the caller because of the din of pop music on the taxi driver's radio.

And so the movie goes, teeming with the cacophony and turmoil of contemporary Paris: arguing with a taxi driver, waiting in line to get into a club, a young drunk falling at your feet, cell phones going off all the time, crowded restaurants, chi-chi cocktail parties.

The best thing about this movie is the feeling of real life. That's also the movie's biggest drawback. Like life, it's messy and a bit incoherent. If you haven’t read reviews beforehand (which I never do), it can be hard to get a handle on all the goings-on. We have an overweight young woman who wants to be a singer. Her father, a wealthy novelist, may or may not be washed up. He has a young wife, plus a bratty new daughter about five years old. Then there's the older daughter's singing teacher. Her middle-aged husband is a novelist on the way up. Various publishers and agents come into the picture, not to mention a couple of putative boyfriends.

All these people look very real, nothing like movie stars (apart from a couple of gorgeous women). But it's hard to tell what exactly you're supposed to focus on. It's probably easier to go with the flow if your French is good enough that you can catch the dialogue on the fly. I was getting pretty nearly every sentence -- just a split second after the subtitle appeared.

The main thing that kept me in my seat was the fact that the young woman was rehearsing a concert with a group of friends. We got to hear snippets of Handel, Mozart, Monteverdi, et al. Her singing was not very promising, although she had dramatic presence on stage, but some of the ensemble singing was glorious. And I'll be eternally grateful for one of the final images of the movie: a fat young woman in a ball gown barrels through the night of the French countryside on a bicycle while Schubert's sublime An Die Musik soars in the background.

Rating: C (i.e."Certainly worth seeing")

Looking For Alexander/Mémoires Affectives (Movie)

I can never remember the name of the Canadian version of the Academy Awards. (Junos? Geminis? Pisces? Grammys?) Anyway, we watched the ceremony this year, a rare exception to my tv-watching policy, because Andrea Martin was hosting and we are great Andrea Martin fans. Back in the days when the tv was on more often, my son would call me to come running whenever Ms. Martin's "Edith Prickly" made an appearance.

While introducing Roy Dupuis at the awards ceremony, Ms. Martin made a great show of sticking her phone number to the microphone on a post-it note. Apparently, she liked his looks and wanted him to call her. At least, I think that’s what it was all about. It's a long time since I was involved in the dating scene; in my day a lady who wanted to send welcoming signals was more likely to drop a hankie or a glove.

Anyway, I put this movie on my must-see list, not so much because Mr. Dupuis won the best actor award, but because I figured any guy that got Edith Prickly’s creator going like that must be some big deal. For the first part of this movie, he's lying in bed, so we're looking up his nostrils, which are kind of crinkly. When he did eventually open his eyes, we got to see that they're sort of greyish and colourless but very clear. He has a great head of hair. On the whole, though, I didn't think he was so hot that it was worth $9.25 to watch him for nearly two hours.

It's not as if this movie offered much else of interest. Mr. Dupuis was playing an amnesiac recovering from a hit-and-run injury. You might think that the amnesia theme had been done to death; it now has. Of course, some mystery from his past was haunting him. There was some tantalizing business about borrowed or inherited memories but that never panned out.

At times you felt you had one foot in Atom Egoyan territory -- all very strange. Lots of views of the wintry Quebec hinterland: frozen lakes and snowy mountains. Apart from that, there wasn't much feel of Quebec. In fact, not much feel of  life as lived anywhere. The sets are very bare. An antiseptic looking hospital room without any clutter -- what planet are we on?

I suppose people have to make movies to try to express their culture. And they could do worse than this. I guess we should all get behind them. But, since you've already supported this one with your tax dollars through the various granting agencies, I don't think you need to feel obliged to pay up at the box office too.

Rating: E (as in "Eh?" i.e. iffy)

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com