RETRO REVIEW: You Can’t Help Falling in LOVE, CECIL, Opening July 27 at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Jul 27th, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

LOVE, CECIL (2018); Dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland; Narrated by Rupert Everett; Zeigeist Films/Kino Lorber; Opens Friday, July 27 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

“Be daring. Be different. Be impractical.” Such are the words of Cecil Beaton, famed photographer, designer, all-around renaissance man, and the subject of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s highly entertaining documentary LOVE, CECIL, opening Fri. July 27 at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema.

Through interviews with Beaton’s peers and admirers, narration drawn directly from personal diaries, and archive footage of the man himself, Immordino Vreeland, who also directed PEGGY GUGGENHEIM:ART ADDICT (2015; Retro Review here) crafts an intimate portrait of the visionary force that was Cecil Beaton. To document every photograph taken, every costume designed, or every diary entry written by Beaton would be a Herculean task, seeing as how his massive body of work spans from the early 1920s to the end of his life in the late 1970s, but Immordino Vreeland touches upon each era of Beaton’s work with such grace and brevity that the viewer feels as though they have accompanied Beaton on his artistic journey each step of the way.

Born in Hampstead, London in 1904, Cecil Beaton came into the world with less of a clear career goal and more of a broad artistic flair that manifested itself in every part of his life. Instead of attending classes at University and receiving what one would consider a “traditional” education, Beaton  spent his days creating theater clubs, performing as a female impersonator, and photographing his friends, many of whom were a part of the London socialite group known as the “Bright Young People.” Through this circle, Cecil became enamored with the aristocrat Stephen Tennant, and thus began a long pattern of Beaton finding himself infatuated with both men and women who did not necessarily return his affections. In one of the most commendable facets of the film, Immordino does not eschew Beaton’s sexuality, but chooses to highlight it, pulling direct quotes from Beaton’s diary where he explicitly states that he is attracted to men. This is not to say that Beaton did not have feelings for women as well however, as his long lasting obsession and possible affair with Greta Garbo is discussed in the film at length.

After his years as a Bright Young Person, Cecil moved to New York and was soon hired by Vogue, where he became a noted fashion photographer. Beaton’s career highlights are too numerous to list in full, but among his most notable achievements Immordino features are the portraits of the Queen Mother, Wallis Simpson, and the rest of the royal family, his wartime photographs taken during World War II (Beaton took over 7,000), and the costume and set design for films such as GIGI (1958) and MY FAIR LADY (1964), for which he won Academy Awards for both Art Direction and Costume Design on the latter.

No matter what the medium, Cecil was noted for being able to do more than just make something pretty; he was able to create an entire mood, and present the world as he wanted it to be seen as opposed to how it appears on the surface. His portraits of royalty, Hollywood starlets, and ordinary citizens and close friends all have a classic yet Modernist feel to them, an aesthetic that would carry over to his works on the big screen. While many artists who achieved fame in the pre-WWII era through the 1950s failed to keep up with the rapidly evolving youth culture, Beaton continued to mesh with whatever was fresh and innovative. He made art with the “Bright Young People” of this new generation, including Mick Jagger and Twiggy, and still maintained his classic sense of style and Jazz Age wit.

Cecil Beaton may not be a household name to many in 2018, but as LOVE, CECIL proves, the man had a sensibility to him that remains timeless, and his art continues to inspire those who seek to eschew the traditional in favor of the unique. Be sure to catch Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s charming new film to have a chance to fall in love with Cecil.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

RETRO REVIEW: Big Movies Come in Small Reels: This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Short Films Are All Winners at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2018: ANIMATION & LIVE ACTION (2017);  Opens Friday, February 9 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

With awards season in full swing, cinema-loving Atlantans may be wondering where they can have a more personal experience with this year’s nominees. While Atlanta is now rivaling Los Angeles in terms of film production, the bulk of movie premieres and award ceremonies continue to take place in Hollywood. If you’ve already bought your Oscar party decorations and filled out your personal ballot but you’re still wanting more Academy goodness, Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema has got you covered. Starting Friday February 9, OSCAR NOMINATED SHORT FILMS 2018: ANIMATION & LIVE ACTION will be screening there. With 10 shorts total (five live action and five animated) that range from heart-wrenching tragedies to whimsical reveries, there are sure to be some new favorites for everyone.

Dekalb Elementary

Many of the entries in this year’s short film categories are inspired by or direct retellings of true events. This is certainly the case with Reed Van Dyk’s Dekalb Elementary, which recounts an incident on August 20, 2013 in which an armed man holed himself in the front office of an Atlanta elementary school with violent intent. Tarra Riggs shines in her role as the secretary who has the fate of hundreds on her shoulders when she is forced to negotiate with the gunman. The film is filled with tense moments, none of which feel unrealistic or nerve-wracking for their own sake. While it is very easy to exploit real life trauma for cheap thrills, Dekalb Elementary does no such thing, and instead chooses to showcase the immense emotional capacity of the actors to convey the many nuances of such a terrifying situation.

The Silent Child

It is not uncommon to see young children struggle with the transition of leaving their mother at home to start school for the first time. For the protagonist of The Silent Child, that transition is made even more difficult due to her deafness. When Libby’s parents hire a sign language proficient nanny, played by Rachel Shenton, to aid her in communication, the child’s difficult situation starts to become less of a burden. But while Libby’s signing skills begin to improve and the bond between the two strengthens, outside forces begin to inhibit Libby’s opportunities for growth. The Silent Child raises many questions regarding how a parent should handle the education of a deaf child, and the consequences that can arise from those decisions.

The Eleven O’Clock

If the comedy in The Eleven o’Clock can be described in any one word, that word would be “maddening.” The film starts off innocently enough: a psychiatrist arrives at his office at the start of the work day, whereupon he finds out his regular secretary has been replaced by a temp for the day, who reminds him that his 11:00 AM client is soon to arrive. The client’s ailment? He thinks he is a psychiatrist—more specifically a psychiatrist that practices in the very same office, who also has an 11:00 appointment with a client who believes he is a psychiatrist. What follows is a “who’s on first” routine that manages to be both hilarious and unsettling. As the two men quarrel over who’s who, the audience begins to question their own identities and perceptions.

Mose (L.B. Wiliams) in “Emmett Till”

The tragic, short life of Emmett Till has been taught, or at the very least mentioned, in many schools when discussing the roots of the Civil Rights movement in America. But it is rare to have the chance to experience his story through a medium as immersive as cinema. Kevin Wilson Jr.’s My Nephew Emmett seeks to provide that immersion by following Till’s uncle, Mose, in his struggle to protect Emmett from the violent hate-mongers seeking mob justice over an altercation between Emmett and a white woman that is still disputed to this day. L.B. Williams’ portrayal of Mose is nuanced and heartbreaking, and stands out in a piece that breathe new life into a piece of history worth re-examining.

Watu Wote

News coverage of international conflicts, specifically disputes rooted in religious and/or ideological differences, often have a tendency to rely upon the violence and cruelty occurring between the disparaging groups, as opposed to the bond that can be found between common citizens swept up in the strife. Watu Wote (Katja Benrath) illuminates the power of this bond with the story of a Christian woman’s journey through Kenya during a particularly violent period in the county’s Muslim-Christian dispute. She is initially wary of her fellow travelers (Muslims), but comes to learn that human goodness can transcend animosity. Real life acts of heroism are not accompanied by fanfare, nor do they always have a strictly “happy” ending. This is a film that celebrates these oft-neglected heroes.

LOU (Pixar)

Try, for a moment, to imagine a piece of media created by Pixar that lacks charm. It’s harder than you would think. Their 19th original animated short, Lou, is no exception to this rule. The film opens on an elementary school playground, where the viewer meets LOU, an anthropomorphized pile of children’s belongings that have become separated from their owners and made their way into the lost and found the bin one way or another. A schoolyard bully finds new joy in keeping the lost belongings for himself, and LOU takes it upon itself to deal out justice (in the wholesome, whimsical Pixar style, of course).

Garden Party.

Animal lovers and those with a flair for the mysterious will get a kick out of Garden Party, Florian Babikian and Vincent Bayoux’s beautifully animated short that follows a gaggle of frogs and toads on an adventure through an elegant mansion with some cryptic secrets. There is no dialogue outside of the croaks of the amphibians, but the directors are able to create a setting so lush and compelling that it allows the audience to create their own narrative; one that can be fanciful, deadly, or even a mix of both.

Revolting Rhymes.

The works of British author Roald Dahl are no stranger to the big screen. Revolting Rhymes, directed by Ian Lachauer and Jakob Schuh, is another entry into this particular echelon. As a modern take on classic fairytales, Revolting Rhymes brings characters like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and all of their companions and foes together in one very meta story. In classic Dahl fashion, the innocence of a fairy tale is interlaced with dry wit and some fairly dark undertones, as well as some refreshingly self-sufficient heroines. This is a perfect short for the fanciful yet wry young one in your life.

Many parents have special rituals that they share with their children. This could be something as common as a tuck-in at bedtime, or, in the case of Negative Space, it can be something less common, like packing a suitcase. Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter craft breathtaking visuals that accompany the exploration of a relationship between a father and son, all centered around the process of packing one’s suitcase. Negative Space reminds us to appreciate even the most seemingly inconsequential moments in life, and explore the depth of when we are able to share these moments with others.

Dear Basketball.

One does not have to be a basketball fan, or even a sports fan period, to enjoy Dear Basketball. As Kobe Bryant professes his love of the game through his expressive narration, it is clear even to those who don’t or have never kept up with basketball to understand his reverence for it. Accompanied by magnificent pencil animation, Bryant recounts his childhood dreams of becoming a famous athlete, and the years of hard work that accompanied the fulfillment of that dream. The short has brief runtime, yet manages to capture years of passion and success. As Bryant’s professional career nears its conclusion, Dear Basketball feels like the perfect bookend to a long and fulfilling relationship between a man and his passion.

 

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tis The Season To Be Enchanted: Atlanta Ballet’s NUTCRACKER Still Magical in its 56th Year

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2015 By:
Claire Stallman and Jonah Hooper. Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Claire Stallman and Jonah Hooper. Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

THE NUTCRACKER by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky; Atlanta Ballet. Fox Theatre, Dec. 11-27, Tickets here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

One of the sad truths of 2015 is the fact that it has become more and more difficult to find Atlanta traditions that have been around for longer than 20 or so years. For a city with so many beloved institutions, a good number of them have shut their doors or faded into obscurity in recent years. This is certainly not the case for the Atlanta Ballet’s annual production of THE NUTCRACKER, which is entering its 56th year of performances. One may be likely to think that the many years behind this Christmas mainstay would lead it to be stale and outdated, but the opposite could not be more true. The Atlanta Ballet’s NUTCRACKER is just as fresh and exciting as it was 56 years ago, and is a performance that should not be missed by anyone who considers themselves a true Atlantan.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Opening night was nothing short of packed, with attendees ranging from toddlers to grandparents out in their finest Christmas garb. Simply sitting in the audience prior to showtime was an experience in and of itself: the painted backdrop hanging onstage is breathtaking in its intricacy, and the warm, intricate design of the Fox only adds to the serene atmosphere. The audience, buzzing with anticipation, began to cheer and whisper as Drosselmeyer took the stage.

Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s original score is brought to life with help from the Atlanta Ballet orchestra, and the story of a young girl and her enchanted nutcracker doll is given a slight update to help the familiar tale remain fresh and engaging. Artistic director John McFall made the choice to age up the protagonist from a pre-teen girl to a young woman, and she subsequently plays a more active role in the action surrounding her. (Many readers will recall how her defeat of the Rat King usually involves her throwing a slipper at his head. In 2015, she

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

wields a sword instead). The setting of this production, which is typically a generic European Christmas of centuries past, is now set firmly in 1850s Russia, and the beautiful, elaborate costumes of the party guests in the first act show how much time and research the set designers and costumers took in bringing McFall’s vision to life. As the story progresses, the stage is transformed into a Winter Wonderland, complete with snow for the audience, and only becomes more charming from that point on.

The performances of the dancers itself are so breathtaking that it is almost hard to put into words. Each performer, no matter how large or small the role, gives it their all, and there was not a weak link to be seen. Old favorites, such as the Trepak dancers and the Mother Matrushka, make appearances, much to the audience’s delight. The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, as performed by Rachel Van Buskirk and Christian Clark, might just be the greatest ballet performance this writer has ever witnessed in her life. Buying tickets for THE NUTCRACKER is worth it just to see this number alone. It is seriously that good.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Photo by C. McCullers. Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

An astounding cast, intricately beautiful sets and costumes, and a unique take on a classic tale all come together perfectly in Atlanta Ballet’s 2015 production of THE NUTCRACKER. If you’re looking to experience both a piece of Atlanta history and a ballet production unlike any other, be sure to get your tickets to THE NUTCRACKER sooner than later.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tis The Season To Be Naughty: Horizon Theatre Unwraps Another Saucy Season of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2015 By:
Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre5 - Crumpet Bear Rug

Crumpet (Harold M. Leaver) in Horizon Theatre’s production of THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

SANTALAND DIARIES by David Sedaris; adapted by Joe Mantello. Starring Harold M. Leaver, Lala Cochran, Enoch King. Horizon Theatre, Nov. 20-Dec. 31, Tickets here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

It goes without saying that Atlanta has no shortage of Christmas traditions, from ice skating at Centennial Park to taking a trip down to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. But for those looking for a little more “naughty” than “nice” in their festivities, look no further than Horizon Theatre’s annual production of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Adapted from Sedaris’ hilarious essay detailing his brief stint as one of Santa’s many elves in Macy’s Santaland, The Santaland Diaries serves to be a perfect mix of Christmas cheer and the biting wit that Sedaris has since become famous for. 

While Sedaris is known for many of his full-length essay collections, such as ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY and DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN COURDORY AND DENIM, his 1992 essay on his adventures in Santaland is what put him on the map in the first place. Sedaris, at the time a contributor for NPR, read the piece on the radio program THIS AMERICAN LIFE, and the absurd hilarity of Sedaris’ prose along with is dry, unique intonation brought the piece widespread popularity. A dramatized version for the stage was soon produced, and Atlanta’s own Horizon Theatre jumped at the chance to bring a new Christmas experience to the city. The theatre has since put on The Santaland Diaries every holiday season for the past 17 years, and shows no signs of stopping soon. 

Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre3f - Sleigh6

Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

One of the many reasons why The Santaland Diaries has maintained such popularity is Harold M. Leaver’s impeccable performance as Crumpet, Sedaris’ elfin alter ego. Leaver has been playing Crumpet throughout the entire run of the show so far, and it’s clear that he has enjoyed every second of it. His performance is an impeccable rendition of Sedaris’ own diction with Leaver’s own personal touch and style, which proves to be highly entertaining to witness. At one point, Crumpet selects a hapless audience member to join him in his antics, and even the shyest of volunteers is eventually won over by his wit and charisma. Leaver snarks and frolics in a manner which Sedaris would surely be proud. 

Along for the ride are Crumpet’s two “sidekicks,” played by Atlanta theatre vets Lala Cochran and Enoch King, who show no hesitation in being completely ridiculous and outrageous. Because the two play every character other than Crumpet himself, they are constantly running backstage for quick changes that are seemingly impossible given the time constraints, but Cochran and King pull it off without flaw. It’s a treat to watch the duo play whiny children one second and vulgar adults the next, and when alongside Leaver’s sassy yet sweet Crumpet, the laughs are near constant. 

Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre8 - Wise Guy

Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

The ambiance of the theatre itself is not to be overlooked, as the whole place is decked out in cozy Christmas cheer that invites you to relax and enjoy the eggnog-fueled frivolity that is The Santaland Diaries. The stage is a mini Winter Wonderland, and the intimate nature of the performance space lends itself to frequent audience interaction and participation (be prepared to shout and cheer along with your new elf friends). With reasonable tickets prices and a great location, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t make your way over to the Horizon this Christmas and treat yourself and a guest to a night with Crumpet and friends. You’ll never look at Lenox Square’s Santa the same way again, I can guarantee you that.

Category: Tis the Season To Be..., Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT: A Passionate Ode to a Remarkable Woman Who Changed the Face of Modern Art

Posted on: Nov 25th, 2015 By:

peggy_guggenheim_art_addictPEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT (2015); DIR. Lisa Immordino Vreeland; Documentary; Opens Wed. Nov. 27; Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema; Trailer here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

The name “Guggenheim” is synonymous with the art world. The ludicrously affluent Guggenheim family dominated the worlds of both industry and high society, and the influence they had on the early part of the 20th century will not likely be soon forgotten. They also had their fair share of family drama and quite a few “black sheep,” the most famous of whom is the subject of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s latest documentary, PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT. Vreeland maps Guggenheim’s colorful life from her beginnings as a flighty heiress embracing bohemia to her later years as a famed art collector desperate to relive her past. With insightful commentary from Guggenheim’s old friends and relatives, and even excerpts from the last interview featuring Guggenheim herself, this film is truly introspective and should not be missed.

Peggy was born in 1898 to Benjamin Guggenheim, the brother of American businessman/art collector/philanthropist Solomon Guggenheim, and Florette Seligman, the daughter of a lesser known high society family. She found herself surrounded by both oddity and tragedy at a young age. Many of her family members ranged from mildly eclectic to highly unstable, and Peggy absorbed it all. When her father died in the sinking of the Titanic, she felt isolated within her own family.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Peggy left for Paris in 1920 at the age of 22 and became enamored with the free-spirited nature of the bohemian community. She took many lovers, and became close with some of the most innovative artists of the time, including Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. She married her first husband and had two children in Paris, and quickly divorced once his infidelity came to light. Undeterred, Peggy had affairs with multiple married men and continued her avant-garde lifestyle. She moved to London and opened her first gallery, Guggenheim June, where she promoted the art of her colleagues, most of which were either Surrealist or abstract in nature. With Europe entering a time of unrest, Peggy packed up her collection and headed back to New York.

One of the most compelling portions of PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT is the narrative of her years in New York City. It became clear to Peggy that the artists she had come to love would be in imminent danger were they to stay in Europe. So she arranged to have both creator and creations moved to the states, and bought many of their works to feature in her new gallery. The museum, appropriately titled Art of This Century, was a haven for up-and-coming artistic movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, as well as one of the first well-known galleries to feature exhibits consisting solely of the works of female artists.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Peggy continued to discover new artists, including the then little-known Jackson Pollock, and promote them to mainstream success. She also continued her liberated lifestyle by sleeping with many of her peers, a habit she felt no shame over. She had wed one of the artists she had brought from Europe, the famed Max Ernst, but the marriage proved to be a failure and she divorced a second time. That separation proved to be a catalyst of change, and Guggenheim closed Art of This Century and headed back to Europe, this time making her place in a Venetian Palace.

This palace would soon become home to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of the most visited art museums in Europe. Peggy lived with her collection in Venice and entertained many guests, both artists and members of high society. Robert De Niro, being the son of artists Guggenheim had promoted, was one of Guggenheim’s many visitors. In the film, he recalls his time spent with the collector in her palace.

But while Peggy seemed to be socially thriving, her life was proving to be remarkably lonely. Her son, Sindbad Vail, who spent his childhood with her first husband, rejected the art world, and her daughter, Pegeen, was highly unstable. Pegeen lived with Peggy in Venice and was prone to “fits” that Peggy could not learn to control. She committed suicide in 1967, and Peggy was left alone in her massive palace with only her art and her dogs by her side.

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

Courtesy of the Peggy Gugggenheim Collection Archives, Venice

The film does a wonderful job of illustrating Peggy’s desire to return to the past, with bits from her last interview expressing the despair she felt as she aged. After spending her life promoting others, it seemed as if no one was left to promote her well-being when she needed it the most.

Guggenheim passed in 1979, leaving behind both a legacy of sordid tales and a massive collection of art. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection still attracts visitors from around the world and proves to be a testament of Peggy’s keen eye for art of the most fantastic and enduring nature. PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT proves to be a passionate ode to one of the most overlooked roles in the art world – that of the sponsor – and the vital role these individuals play in the beginning of a sensation. Peggy Guggenheim is the sponsor we should all look up to, and her legacy is lovingly brought to life in this fabulous documentary.

All images are for review purposes only and used with permission.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2019 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress