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Found 5 results

  1. With fresh articles about it in the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company, and having just returned from my third visit, I figured this would be a good time to talk about “Sleep No More”— quite likely the most fun thing I’ve ever paid money to do. For the kid in all of us, what is the most frustrating aspect of going to the theater? You watch a compelling story unfold in front of you, but you’re physically separated from it — trapped in a seat for several hours looking at a distant stage with well-defined boundaries. “Sleep No More,” an award-winning immersive experience in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, does away with that limitation and pays many more dividends. Notice I said “experience” and not “play” or “show.” Words like that don’t do justice to “Sleep No More,” which is in a class of its own. The technical term for what they’re doing is “site-specific promenade performance”; some might call it “choose-your-own-adventure theater.” There’s no proscenium. Everyone who attends creates his or her own individual journey. You go where you want. You see what you want. You touch what you want. Inside, it’s otherworldly and dreamlike. The story is based on “Macbeth” with numerous references to Hitchcock films, most notably “Rebecca.” You’ll encounter murder, madness, witchcraft, and more. Will it be in a ballroom, bedchamber, hospital ward, high street, forest, chapel, speakeasy, or techno rave? You’ll feel as if you’ve gotten lost in another reality, thanks to the talented performers and atmosphere created by the music, lighting, and elaborate detail of seemingly endless sets. The drama of “Sleep No More” unfolds within the fictitious McKittrick Hotel, which encompasses several multi-story buildings on West 27th Street. For three hours, you become a “guest” in the hotel, where you are free to explore about 100 rooms of various sizes spread out across 100,000 square feet on five or six floors. You can follow characters who will lead you to new scenes, or you can venture out on your own to find where the action is. Audience members wear white masks to set themselves apart from the actors — which also grants the gift of anonymity. We have British theater company Punchdrunk to thank for creating “Sleep No More,” and the New York incarnation (its third) is now six years old with no signs of slowing down. In 2012 and 2013, respectively, the McKittrick added Gallow Green, a verdant rooftop bar they convert to an enclosed space called The Lodge during winter months, and The Heath, a classy looking restaurant that doubles as an intimate music performance venue. Start your evening in either spot to build some momentum before you go to the main event, where the Manderley Bar, a cocktail lounge with live entertainment, is also available to help you acclimate. Admission prices vary depending on the day and time you go but average in the low $100s. It’s quite a bargain when you compare the bang-for-your-buck here to the exorbitant prices of Broadway shows. And speaking of Broadway — when Leslie Odom Jr. concluded his tenure as Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” how could he top that? He did a guest stint at “Sleep No More.” So have have many other celebrities, such as Neil Patrick Harris, who said that the first time he attended, he "was euphoric, literally buzzing on a molecular level." You never know who could be behind the masks of your fellow hotel guests. Due to increased popularity, the performances have tended to get more crowded over time — to the point of diminishing the experience. However, there are late shows on Friday nights that don’t usually sell out, which makes one’s visit much more personal and rewarding. As the articles linked in the first paragraph say, this type of entertainment is catching on. But for now, there’s nothing out there on the spectacular scale of “Sleep No More.” And nothing more addictive.
  2. Gosh I've seen Cloris Leachman a lot lately - it's so easy to become familiar with actors and actresses in older films, because there just weren't as many. Leachman is the very first thing you'll see in "Kiss Me Deadly," a genuine classic, independently made, archetypal example of film noir from 1955. (The lower-body shots are certainly a stunt-double (either that, or they were sped up), because I'd bet my bottom dollar that Cloris Leachman couldn't run that fast. Interestingly, that opening shot was the very first time Leachman ever appeared on camera - likewise Maxine Cooper, who plays Mike Hammer's secretary, Velda.) Mike Hammer, a stereotypical Mickey Spillane detective, is played by Ralph Meeker, who has a somewhat similar role in Season 1, Episode 1 of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" later in 1955 - I suspect playing Hammer is what got Meeker his part in HItchcock's excellent "Revenge" (which you should watch on Hulu, if you're a member). Just in case you hear the name Christina Rossetti, and don't know who she is. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Boy, what is it about 1955? There is a *very* disturbing, albeit non-graphic, scene towards the beginning of this movie - certainly more than enough to make you pity Cloris Leachman. Wow, about the car bombs: I *just* saw an episode of "The Saint" called "The Careful Terrorist" which used a "double-bomb" method, planting an obvious one, but also a second, non-obvious one that was supposed to be the *real* agent of death. That episode, shall we say, "borrowed" that sequence of events from this film - fortunately, the "good guy" in both cases was somewhat superhuman in his intuitive abilities, and had the wits to figure out the sinister plot. This may be the most violent movie I've ever seen from the 1950s; the difference is that none of the violence is graphic (which, to me, makes it scarier) - I'm surprised at just how far they're willing to go with this. "Thugs" is too gentle of a word for what these mobsters are. Hammer is led to Christina Bailey's (Cloris Leachman's) "roommate," Gabrielle (Lily Carver), and it's very hard to tell what to think of her - this is one of the main elements in Film Noir - it's the story line, not the character development, that drives things. We know nothing about *any* of these people - it's almost Photographic in a way, since we're capturing moments in time. This particular film, after all, had a major influence on the French New Wave movement. This film has allegory written all over it - this is *not* the finish you'll be expecting. What a fascinating movie this was - a perfect fusion of Film Noir and hard science fiction. Jean-Luc Godard, a seminal figure in French New Wave cinema, was apparently deeply influenced by "Kiss Me Deadly," and it's not hard to see why - who knew that *Mickey Spillane* would indirectly influence an entire movement in Europe?! In "The Usual Suspects," I mentioned how annoyed I am at at internet know-it-alls who try to sound smart by misusing the term Film Noir (which "Kiss Me Deadly" most certainly *is*). Now, I'm going to say that I'm equally annoyed by people who misuse the term MacGuffin (which the suitcase in "Kiss Me Deadly" most certainly *is not* - when the reveal is made, the viewer realizes they've just seen a film unlike anything else they've ever seen before - it was no fluke that those opening credits were rolling in reverse order). "Kiss Me Deadly" is available for free, with good quality, on oldmovietime.com (and there are no Czech subtitles - I'm not sure why it says there are).
  3. I decided to watch "Notorious," after reading that it is French director Francois Truffaut's favorite Hitchcock film. Truffaut calls Notorious the quintessential Hitchcock film in his wonderful book, Hitchcock, which I highly recommend for any fan of the master of suspense. Perhaps because of Truffaut's high praise I was expecting too much. I enjoyed the film, but I didn't love it. I am a huge Cary Grant fan, and Ingrid Bergman is a fine actress, so I thought I might agree with Truffaut's assessment that this film is the embodiment of the Hitchcock genre. Maybe my disappointment stemmed from watching a poor quality video on YouTube. There were many buffering issues that took away from my enjoyment of the film. There are some wonderful moments in the film, however. It is well-known for the two-and-a-half minute kiss. At the time, American film studios forbade kisses longer than three seconds. Hitchcock got around this rule by having his stars break away from their liplock for a few seconds, talk and walk a bit, while still embracing and nuzzling, and then resume smooching.
  4. It's incredible that I'd never before seen "The Maltese Falcon" (it's one of those films where you're not sure if you've seen or not, but I hadn't). Turner Classic Movies has embarked upon a project where they're slowly releasing classic films in dribs and drabs onto the big screen - one, maybe two, a month - and out here in San Francisco right now, "The Maltese Falcon" is playing only four times (two days this week, twice each day). I am *so* glad I saw this on the big screen. I really wasn't expecting all that I got from this film, but I thought it was wonderful. It was Humphrey Bogart's first leading role. It was Sydney Greenstreet's first role period (he was in his 60s, and made his Hollywood debut). It was the first major effort in the film noir genre, and I can't imagine anyone but Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade. It was a delightful hour and forty minutes, and I simply cannot compare this with Star Wars: The Force Awakens I saw two days before because I liked this infinitely more. Stepping out of the theater, I felt like I saw a *movie*; not rode a ride designed by computer-effects specialists at Walt Disney. You can call this film noir if you want, but it was also a character study, with virtually no character being portrayed in black-and-white terms. This was the films 75th anniversary, and oh, how Hollywood has fallen backwards in so very many ways. (I'm not saying in *all* ways; when I say "no character being portrayed in black and white terms," I could have also said "no black character portrayed" except maybe a bellhop.) At one point in the film, Humphrey Bogart burned a piece of paper in an ashtray, and we couldn't figure out what it was, or why he was burning it - has anyone seen this film recently? This film is based on Dashiell Hammett's 1929 novel of the same name, and was actually the *third* version of the film released by Hollywood (there was one in 1931, and one in 1936 (*) Bette Davis), but this is reportedly the best of the three by far. (*) To tie this post in with restaurants, I swear to you that the 1936 film, entitled "Satan Met A Lady," featured none other than Arthur Treacher. Yes, *that* Arthur Treacher.
  5. I think you claim too much for Bonnie and Clyde, although the violence in that film, enabled by newer technology, possibly outdid anything that came before in sheer graphic immediacy. But have you seen White Heat (1949)? Hard to say it isn't a violent gangster film, and also hard (for me) to say it isn't one of the best movies ever made. Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring James Cagney. I highly recommend it. Oh, and I loved Goodfellas and detested Pulp Fiction, so we're on the same page there.
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