Sunday, March 12, 2017

Nightcap 3/12/17: New Directors New Films starts Wednesday, Adam Curtis is appearing in LA Friday, THe Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway

New Directors New Films is the annual collaboration between The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society at Lincoln Center. It is one of the most anticipated festivals in New York City. At the same time it is one of the most scattershot. The fact that the selections, while all over the place, are anticipated is due to the fact that every year the festival nails a couple of the best films of the year and brings them to last year. For example last year the festival ran WEINER, DEMON and UNDER THE SHADOW truly great films across the board. This year the festival is running WULU and THE LAST FAMILY which are likely to be on many best of the year lists including my own. THE GIANT and BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK are also running and are must sees for the adventurous film goer.

The films in the series that are not on the best of the year list more often than not are very arty films dripping with meaning. They are full of great looking images but the narrative isn’t always there. Some are going for something that means something to the director but will mean nothing to anyone else. The highest percentage of head scratchers come from the series. It’s the overly arty films that are responsible for many people’s mixed feeling for the festival. I love it when it hits but I hate having to sit through the dregs this festival has brought to the surface in past years.

Luckily this is one of the best years I’ve had covering the festival. While there are a bunch of films that didn’t work for me there was no films I’ve out right hated. There is nothing this year I would say to avoid at all costs.

Our coverage is going to stretch to about a baker's dozen or so films. Normally I wade in a bit more heavily to the festival however because of how I screened the films I ended up restricted to these titles. There is going some individual reviews starting tomorrow  each running close to their first play date plus later this week a larger collection of  capsule reviews.

For more information on the series, a list of the films and tickets go here.
Friday starts Los Angeles' The Cinefamily INTO THE ZONE: A WEEKEND WITH ADAM CURTIS. The weekend marks a screening of Curtis’s newest film HyperNormalization , a review of which I will be running in the next few days. The weekend will be full of Curtis’ talks around his own films as well as films that tie into the themes and ideas in HyperNormalization.

As long time readers know we at Unseen are huge fans of Curtis and his films (reviews of most of them can be found here) so we highly recommend you attending the weekend- if for no other reason than I would love to have you report back at how it all goes.

For tickets and more information go here
The Play That Goes Wrong has come into New York with high hopes. Word out of London was it was crushingly funny. It was so good JJ Abrams was part of the team to bring it to Broadway. While the play is certainly funny the show isn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. I can’t imagine it running for any length of ime at Broadway prices.

I know I should not be judging the show on the first New York preview but this is the cast from London. These are the guys and girls who created it so other than technical issues (which there were none) the play is as it is.

The play begins before the play with the cast mingling in the audience looking for a dog. The gag continues at intermission- and weakly pays off for the few who interact with the cast late in the second act. An audience member is brought on stage to help repair the set and other mayhem ensues. After a curtain speech by the director and lead actor the play occurs and completely collapses as lines are forgotten, cues missed and the set falls apart.

The cast is excellent. Managing almost never to break character -except when faced with people who have either seen the play in London or are trained improv comics (the cast wasn’t counting on the opening night audience before the show or at intermission to one up them).

The set is a destined to win a Tony for scenic design. Watching the set collapse brought huge screams of terror and laughter from the audience and by the time everyone is almost killed by the folding flats it provides stunning Buster Keaton moments.

The problem with the show is the script which is more goof or pantomime then real play. I sat literally stone faced glaring at the cast from the second act for half of the first act because it was so unfunny I wanted to get up and storm out. Yes there are sections that are brilliant where the madness builds but most of the show is a series of loosely connected gags (the picture of the dog on the wall has no reason to be there except it allows for a weak joke in Act 2). There are several jokes that seem to reference more information that we don’t have. I think part of it is that the – group uses the conceit of the bad acting trop to form their plays so they are being self-referential. They play with in the play also doesn’t make sense internally. Granted we are supposed to just be laughing but humor tied to a plot line is funnier. It also doesn’t help that any of the jokes are obvious or are repeated five times too many – the paint thinner joke.

The second act is better than the first and is the reason to see the play. The reason the second act is better is because of the set. As things go on the set breaks apart and collapses resulting in screams as we expect someone to die. The physical humor is truly on par with Buster Keaton and sitting in the second row I expected to be killed by debris. However at the same time I knew if I wasn’t being amazed at the set I wouldn’t have been as love with the show.

And I did find it funny I laughed through the second half of the first act and all of the second (even to the point of going light headed two or three times) but at the same time it didn’t make me a fan. I wasn’t satisfied when it was done. My one feeling when it was done was that I was glad I only paid 25 bucks to see it (there was a first day of sale special). Had I actually paid the 150 dollar top ticket price I’d have been pissed.

To be honest I was happier seeing Victor Garber and Andrea Martin in the lobby and that didn’t cost me anything.
A link from Randi
Curse of the Bahia Emerald

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