peteg's blog


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$11.50, 7.30pm, Landmark at 2828 Clark. Fassbender wears a permanent big fake head as a band/cult leader channelling Ian Curtis. I didn't find Maggie Gyllenhaal very convincing apart from the scene where she post-coitally reclines in the jacuzzi. Long on promise but ultimately tending toward the vacuous and awkwardly unsettling, without the Gervais intent.

Dana Stevens tells you all you need to know.

Modern Times

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I haven't seen much Chaplin. This is the highest-rated on IMDB. It's a moral fable. Paulette Goddard is an improbably gorgeous vagrant drawn to Chaplin's classic tramp in a clearly romantic way that is unfortunately sterilised by the times.

Churchill at the Greenhouse Theater Center

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$21, Goldstar, mediocre assigned seating (!). A one-horse show, adapted and performed by Ronald Keaton from the writings of Churchill, and about as self-aggrandizing as that might suggest. This was essentially a history lesson for an audience who in the majority were old enough to have experienced significant chunks of it first-hand. The guys sitting a bit up from me played (verbal) bingo with their favourite quotes. Gallipoli got a guernsey, mostly because the great man was held responsible in the home country. Singapore did not, and certainly not the evaporation of the Empire. I guess I got what I expected, and it was well-executed for what it was, but I have no idea why I ever thought it would be worth going to.

Kazuo Ishiguro: Nocturnes: Five stories of music and nightfall

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I picked this one up at the Chicago Public Library, West Town branch yesterday and chew threw it today (at home, at La Colombe on Randolph, at the park on the river). It's the funniest thing I've read from him, and thematically the shallowest; five short stories, loosely connected, all too cruisy, perhaps. I laughed the hardest at the aspirational, self-absorbed middle-class Londoner farce Come Rain or Shine; everyone talks past everyone else. Sure, not his most inventive outing, but it was kind of him to share the offcuts of Never Let Me Go.

Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology. ed. James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel

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Drecky. I think mrak warned me off this one a while back. One of too many copies at the Chicago Public Library.

The Silent Theatre Company: The Dueling Gentlemen

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$20, at the Silent Theatre Headquarters (1914 N. Milwaukee #3, near Western Blue CTA). Well, I know they're working on the Blue line tonight! The warehouse was right next to it. I bought a brown Leffe on the way past the by-donation bar. These boys are right into their vaudeville and are at times quite funny; their skill seems clear but the work itself is a piece of fluff. As always I was hoping for more social commentary, beyond the increasingly staple gay transgression. The repetition of the Ugly Blonde inside-show gets a bit wearing, and the tension between the two actors really only has one place to go.

Written by Marvin Quijada, with Dan Howard and Ian Paul Custer on the piano.

I got suckered by a review in the Chicago Reader. Afterwards I found this piece at Windy City Times.

Sin City: A Dame to Die For

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AMC River East, 4.45pm, $16, 3D. It would have been better in 2D. This is a pair of two humdrum revenge tales draped in noir. There is a lot for Eva Green completists who are hanging for that one final angle on her bod that they haven't found elsewhere. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was (sigh) better in Brick. Good to see Mickey Rourke in action again, though Marv is too much superman. I'd like to see Josh Brolin do more stuff. I don't recall Ray Liotta. Powers Boothe and Dennis Haysbert get right into hamming things up in ways the rest of the cast do not try to match.

... and just to remind myself, I watched the original Sin City later on the same evening. I can't believe it's rated #174 in the IMDB top-250. I prefer the aesthetic of the new one.

The Hypocrites: All Our Tragic at the Den Theatre

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11am-11pm-ish. I heard about this from a student I met at a gallery opening hosted by Kai's mate Oli a while back. I was always going to go, but hung out for a cheapie $45 ticket from Goldstar, knowing that I'd regret doing so. To make up for this and earlier transgressions I punted the Hypocrites a $50 donation after the show, which again, I was always going to do. Looking back, I probably should have paid full-fare and let some other cheapskate partake.

Yes, it was most of twelve hours. The premise was that Sean Graney spent quite a while and many forests mashing together the surviving Greek tragedies. I could imagine some maniac at the Cellar attempting this back in the day; I have some memories of The Frogs from the late 1990s. Like the coming David Bowie exhibition, I'm glad I'm in Chicago to experience the actual rather than the imagined. I spent the first half of the show sitting in the front row closest to the door amongst a bunch of incommunicative types, and the second up the back away from the door where I got chatting to Chicagoan Jason, who steered me to Gaper's Block, amongst other things.

The tragedies refracted through mashup are so far from anything canonically mythical that I'm not going to try to untangle it. The tales are linked by the "seven sisters" who are fated to die in order due to a curse on them by the Undertaker-channelling Eurystheus (Maximillian Lapine). The first quarter focusses on Herakles (Walter Briggs), who is somewhat familiar in being likened to a large dog, etc. Medea (Dana Omar) puts in an appearance, not entirely distinct from last week's. I got thinking that it is her passion coupled with her instability that really scares people: either by itself could be understood as harmless, great-man-of-history, psychotic killer, and so forth. The goatman Ægeus is played to a turn by Zeke Sulkes, who would make a brilliant Z-Man in a neo-Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Too bad Ebert's not here to get that going. The odd-job incidentals forming the Greek chorus pleasantly split up the stories. The Trojan war was rushed, frenetic and perhaps adds up to less than a jab at Michael Bay cinema.

This is post-Gen X culture, and they can dance without irony. The tattoos are omnipresent and significant. There was the odd nod back to previous cool, such as some mild continuity humour involving Walter Briggs (outsize star of the show, much of the time, at least when the ladies let him be). Being Americanised, I wondered how they'd square the Greek ethics and permissiveness with Christian thought; suffice it to say that Electra gets a mutilated Lord's Prayer to recite. No gods are invoked (is Zeus even mentioned?), with a bemused Prometheus (Geoff Button) standing in for them all in the first half. Moving to modern dynasties, Jokasta (Christine Stulik) is a sterling Hillary/Chelsea Clinton clone (a photocopy of a phony), and Agamemnon (Walter Briggs again) is perfect as a pitiless, humourless political ladder-climber: the Trojan war was his ticket to ascending to the Kingdom of Athens. Achilles (Luce Metrius) is both black and gay, loud and proud. I prefer Malouf's take on the recovery of Hector's body.

It flags towards the end, unsurprisingly, as the Greek stories themselves dry up on their way home from Troy. Orestes is always trying; the man is built for suffering, but as so keenly observed by Renton in Trainspotting apropos the newly-single Tommy, there is no need to inflict that on us.

The food is uniformly Mediterranean vegetarian. There are breaks every 80 minutes or so. I never queued for the outhouse.

In summary it's like a trip to Lake Wobegone, where all the blokes are erudite and/or ripped, the girls gorgeous, and the stories somewhat unhinged. Zac Thompson at the Chicago Reader. Random guys at Gaper's Block. Do it, just go.

Rick Perlstein in Conversation with Garry Wills: The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

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At the Chicago Public Library at 6pm. I sprinted down there after work, which turned out to be unnecessary as the auditorium only got half full. Garry Wills is elderly now but quite entertaining, often batting away Perlstein's attempts to corner him with brevity and perspicacity that the author was lacking. The audience was clearly liberal and perhaps for that reason the talking was long on assertion and short on empiricism. My present lack of consciousness precludes me from reading the book itself.

Pankaj Mishra uses the book to gesture at notions of freedom. It reminded me of the quotation he pulled from Tanpınar (intro, p xvii):

The privilege I most treasured as a child was that of freedom ... Today we use the word only in its political sense, and how unfortunate for us. For I fear that those who see freedom solely as a political concept will never fully grasp its meaning. The political pursuit of freedom can lead to its eradication on a grand scale — or rather it opens the door to countless curtailments.

Medea by Dream Theatre Company

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A variation on the Euripidean version of the myth, written by Jeremy Menekseoglu. I guess I'll see the original tragedy next weekend, at All Our Tragic. The production had its moments but generally failed to grip me; too much projection of modern American family dynamics, histrionics and lingo onto a tale that is difficult to draw conclusions from. (Medea is a strong woman who suffers at the hand of man, but is prepared to sacrifice her children to regain her husband, etc. Hera's intervention effectively cleanses her of her killings and would not past muster in a Hollywood script. Perhaps this parallels Ang's complaint about Twilight.) The theatre itself is called the Dream Laboratory and is a quite narrow shopfront near Lincoln Square. The Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Beer I got from the Book Cellar is not as tasty as their Urban Ale.

Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar: The Time Regulation Institute

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I got suckered by a review in the New York Times, and by the promise of an introduction by Pankaj Mishra. Also I guess by not having read any Turkish literature before, or knowing much about the place. It's long, at 400 pages, and takes its time getting places. Some of it is hilarious, such as a psychoanalysis meeting where everyone drops off to sleep; as my description might indicate, it's how he paints the picture and not the picture itself that might make this worth reading. Mishra weasels his way out of too strong an endorsement, though he is generally on board with this idea of modernism crashing into traditionalism and neither being the wiser. I think he's telling me to read Tagore. I don't have the stamina to slog through A Mind at Peace.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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At Regal Webster Place 11, $15.50. 3D, 9.50pm, opening weekend. The advertising worked: the short finally sold it to me. That and the lack of any other plausible release. I hate assigned seating: I got front-row A10 next to a bunch of giggling girls who laughed at the Dumber 2 trailer after showing signs of sapience. Maybe it's an American archetype: laughing at or with is fine, but cringing is not. In any case the seat was slightly too close to the screen. It had its moments though it was entirely derivative (see Dana Stevens and/or Manohla Dargis); upon reflection these erudite ladies missed the obvious A-Team plot antecedents. Zoe Saldana works hard to be more than Trinity, Vin Diesel + animation allows Groot to steal every scene he's in, Bradley Cooper voices Rocket perfectly, Dave Bautista is fine, and yeah: Chris Pratt is having a good year. Films Victoria did some animation, but the Melbourne skyline is not to be seen.