Patrick Stewart in "Macbeth"

This list of British New Year Honours has been published, and Yorkshireman Patrick Stewart has been awarded for his services to drama. Perhaps best known for his (fantastic) work on television’s Star Trek: the Next Generation, the subsequent movies that utilized this cast, and the X-Men series, Stewart is also an accomplished stage and voiceover actor. More recently, Stewart rejoined the Royal Shakespeare Company to perform alongside David Tenant (and his understudy, Edward Bennett) in Hamlet, playing both Old Hamlet and Claudius to rave reviews and an Olivier Award. [Apparently, this production was filmed and aired on the BBC on December 26th.] Sir Patrick can also be heard in four episodes of Family Guy and (amazingly) in the Gargoyles series that I so enjoyed as a child.

I saw Stewart in Hamlet at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2008. Previous to this, I also attended his lauded performance in Macbeth at New York’s Lyceum Theatre earlier that year, which was Tony Award nominated. And, while I admit that he has a commanding stage presence and a lovely deep voice, Stewart failed both times to impress this audience member. For being a 16 year member of the RSC during his younger days, I expected much more. He certainly is a fan of the thoughtful pause a la Pinter, and you can see that he really dissects what he is about to say. But, by god, it’s dull to watch. You feel as though he is reading lines from his script, never erring from his original interpretation, relying entirely on the built-in excitement of the audience for a big screen actor. The slow speeches all sound like “I’m Patrick Stewart. Yes, I am that good. Watch me do Shakespeare to prove it.” Nothing is developed.

But he deserves it. He has done well for the realm. But more so, 69 years old and can still pull 31 year olds, defending it with I can’t meet people my own age. That defense itself deserves a knighthood.

I must also offer congratulations to the great Nicholas Hytner, the highly successful artistic director of the National Theatre. His efforts have changed (and very much improved) British theatre these past several years.

Also the Commanders of the British Empire must be paid respect: Phyllida Lloyd (of Mamma Mia! fame, but preferably a Mary Stuart reputation) and Margaret Tyzack (who survived Phedre better than many of the other actors in my own review).

Tim Burton at MoMA…

December 30, 2009

New Yorkers, I require your attention. I implore you to skip out on the Rubin and the (overrated) New Museum this season and head uptown for your yearly cultural outing. MoMA is currently providing a most amazing opportunity to you. The 3rd floor’s Special Exhibitions Gallery, the Theatre 1 & Theatre 2 Galleries, and the lobby since November have housed a massive presentation of film and fine art dedicated entirely to works by filmmaker Tim Burton.

Tim Burton's original drawing of Edward Scissorhands

Better known as the director of films like Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman (& Returns), Beetlejuice & the much anticipated Alice in Wonderland remake, he is also an accomplished painter, photographer and sketch artist. Mr. (common law) Bonham-Carter is currently displaying 700+ works in various media from his personal collection, including items used to inspire his films’ creative teams.

I do love Tim Burton’s film work, and I must confess that I will likely not see this collection in-person. Much of the excitement I have for his fine art was generated by what I have found available online, all fantastic. [A good starting point, though there is more out there to see, is available here.] What I love about his work, aside from the pop culture relevance, is how successfully it captures the persona and reputation Burton has made for himself.

His art, which MoMA correctly labels pop surrealism, is stunning to see. It is perverse, but warm and understandable. Each piece feels like a story in the making: an isolated, lonely figure with some deformity, a physical one usually, that somehow manages to be comfortable in this setting. Burton, who worked for four years as an animator for Disney, seems to be stuck in his early teens. His work displays a (obstinate) innocence, never treading into real introspection as children rarely do. It feels raw and honest; what you see is what you get.

The style appeals to me in an odd way that I do not fully understand. My thoughts: wow that’s clever, who would think of that?, Salad Fingers on YouTube, technique is really developed, they look so sad. You will see what I mean (unless you’re the New York Times…bastards). Check out some of his work below.

The exhibition, oddly sponsored by SyFy and sure to be the highlight for most MoMA visitors, closes on April 26th. Please do grab the 6 train and walk over to 53rd & 5th. I promise you will not regret the trip.

Here is a Burton-made ad for the event.

Well Endowed by Tim Burton, which I absolutely adore.

Untitled (Picasso Woman) by Tim Burton, also gorgeous.

Untitled (Trick or Treat) by Tim Burton

Xena or Beyonce?

Xena or Beyonce?

I recently discovered this duet on YouTube, featuring Beyonce and (infamous) George Michael. In concert at London’s O2 Arena, Beyonce performs one of my favorite songs of hers, If I Were a Boy. I cannot really find a reason for George Michael to be present (considering he is male), but she seems to appreciate his presence…if eyes signify appreciation, that is. If only he could manage to use the correct lyrics and sing a bit louder to match Beyonce’s energy!

Oh, I forgot. Did I mention Beyonce had just arrived in London after her audition for a new television series, Xena: Bootylicious Princess? [Sorry, it needed to be said.]

Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle

What an exponential climb to celebrity Susan Boyle has made, becoming yet another facet of pop culture that will consistently be associated with 2009 and oh-remember-when moments of our histories. From relative obscurity, this Scottish singer appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and all over internet connections becoming an overnight sensation about the globe. Further, with an unconventional look, a story to tug at the heartstrings, and a little dramatic flair for exhaustion,  she followed the Britney-laid path: before her 15 minutes were up, she was already in the mental health hospital. Poor gal. I imagine that life under the world’s microscope could be overwhelming.

Ms. Boyle did sign herself up for the contest, though, and that is where my trouble with the whole situation begins. She did place herself in this situation no matter how improbable the resulting fame seemed at the time.  That makes things very difficult. Can we blame anyone for the endearing train wreck that her life in the spotlight has become? The media has blown it out of proportion, for sure, but such was she discovered.

What is our obsession with this woman? I am quite sure that I cannot point out the reason of her success. Can you?

I do not mean to imply that she lacks talent. She is really quite good: few nerves, decent breath support, and a vibrato many Broadway belters would be jealous of. I enjoy listening to her more each time I play one of her videos, and it is one of those inexplicable things that the reason for it eludes me.

And yet, I think I know why. As the judges have said, it is the juxtaposition of the voice and the package. It should not matter. And it does. Why does the dissonance between the two enthrall so much? It is not a beauty issue AT ALL. I think it is more about the whole idea of her, the entire package: older woman, no job, charitable, seems to have a little crazy in her, and possesses a gorgeous and previously undiscovered voice. That is what is amazing about her.

For the other side of things (said more plainly and more hilariously than my own words), here is a funny vid from Current TV. He is right: who will remember the real winners of the show in a year?

Personally, I am waiting for the “LEAVE SUSAN ALONE” video a la Chris Crocker. I hope she gets well and using that lovely voice before that needs to happen!

Leave Susan Alone!

Leave Susan Alone!