Sunday, May 30, 2010

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer may not be the best documentary every made, but for jazz fans, it's a gold mine. What's most amazing to me is her longevity. She was a swing and jazz big band performer in the 40s, became a jazz solo act and toured the country and the world, all while being a heroin addict. Most of her contemporaries killed themselves at that time, but somehow she survived.

This movie covers her entire career, much of it with her music, and much of it with prior footage from film and television all over the world. But there's also a wealth of new interviews with major names. The movie gets better as it goes along. Early footage is a bit confusing. It's rare for me to say this, but more subtitles explaining time and place (and even people's names) would have helped set things up better. But it's worth wading through the tough part.

Highly recommended for jazz fans.

Of Time and the City

Of Time and the City is a 2008 art documentary about Liverpool. My wife wanted to watch it after reading about it in The Atlantic.

I have very mixed feelings about the film. On the basic level, it's the type of documentary I really hate: all voice-over and music with mostly stock footage. And the VO is read by a pompous windbag. Almost all of the VO is quoting famous poets and other writers.

However, once you are past the first ten minutes, you get used to the annoying VO and learn a little about the filmmaker and his relationship with the city. You also get better footage as you go along so by the end it becomes more interesting. And seeing the historical changes are worth watching.

The music is very mixed. Some of it is classical, some of it is pop, some is jazz. Most of the choices are extremely obvious (Liszt, then Mahler's Resurrection Symphony for the ending are typical examples). There is so little that is original about this film it's very hard for me to recommend it.

Film students will love it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rockies Beat Dodgers

The Rockies fought both a storm and the Dodgers tonight, finally pulling off a big win at home against Los Angeles, 11-3. Aaron Cook had 6.1 strong innings with only one earned run. Kuroda took the loss for LA, giving up 5 runs in 4 scant innings.

Offensively the Rockies looked good as well. CarGo hit a powerful homer in the second. Smith had three hits including a triple, and two RBI. Olivo also had three hits and two RBI and scored three times.

On the anniversary of Jim Tracy joining the Rockies, he celebrated his 100th win, along with 43,000 other happy fans.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Jeffrey Kahane will be leaving the Colorado Symphony after next week. This is a sad occasion for the orchestra and its fans. A large group turned out for tonight's concert. As always, it was a great program, albeit long.

The first piece was On The Transmigration of Souls, John Adams' elegy for 9/11. Almost nine years later, the piece is still very moving. John Adams is one of my favorite contemporary composers, and he was in the audience for the concert. It's difficult listening. The piece uses audio recordings of New York City pedestrians, as well as actors reading a list of the deceased (still referred to as "missing" in this piece), and text from the fliers posted by loved ones searching for their lost family members. It's really a brilliant piece in many ways. It is not minimalist, but not completely atonal either. To my ear much of it seemed bitonal, as though two keys were fighting each other throughout the piece. The piece also used both a children's and an adult chorus. I have no idea how the children learned such a difficult work, but it sounded great.

It was a necessity to follow such a dark and difficult work with something spiritually uplifting. Kahane chose another piece performed after the 9/11 attacks, the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven. This is one of those pieces that no matter how many times I hear it, it is a moving experience. Beethoven had quite a sense of humor, in the piece he frequently interrupts himself to quote earlier sections of the piece for no reason, then goes back to the theme at hand.

Kahane did a nice job with it, picking sprightly tempi for the most part, particularly in the scherzo. In fact it was a bit too fast for the horns. The trumpets had a few clams, and in the finale the soprano cracked her high note, but overall it was a fantastic performance. The fourth movement in particular was very moving. The celli and bass introduction of the "Ode to Joy" was as beautifully played as I have ever heard it. And the baritone soloists (aside from overacting a bit with his face) was, exhibiting a wide vocal range of emotion and projecting fully.

Next week we will say goodbye to him with the Mahler fifth. I look forward to the concert, but not to his departure.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The Rockies not only completed a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks today with an 8-2 win, they have won 5 in a row, and 6 of their last 7. They go into a three-game series with the Dodgers tomorrow only a game behind them.

It was a beautiful day for a game today, although the heat built up as the afternoon went on. Jason Hammel pitched a fine game, going 5.1 innings and giving up only 7 hits and 2 runs with 8 strikeouts. The bullpen did a great job getting out of his 6th inning, bases-loaded mess with Daley and Flores each getting an out and not allowing a hit. The Rockies were only up by a run at that point, it could have been disastrous.

The excitement at the plate was three homers in a row in the 7th inning from Smith, Gonzalez and Spilborghs. The lack of power at the plate had been disturbing for the team, but they now appear to be firing on all cylinders. The crowd for a weekday game was quite good, over 28,000 very vocal fans. It was a great game.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Ubaldo Jimenez pitched another gem at Coors Field tonight, going 8 innings and giving up a scant 6 hits and a walk, and with no runs, he lowered his ERA to an amazing 0.88! Raphael Bettancourt gave up 3 runs in the ninth to spoil the shutout. Tornado watches were unnecessary, although there was a bit of rain and hail in the first inning.

The offense looked good as well with two homers from Smith and Gonzalez. Olivo got 3 hits and Hawpe got 2 RBI. Tulo scored three times contributing to the team effort. Hopefully this signals the start of a good run for the Rockies, who were widely predicted to win the division if not the league.


AMERICAN IDOL as we know it is now over, with the vanilla, or as my wife put it, "acoustic mayonnaise" Lee DeWyze beating out the very talented Crystal Bowersox. Simon pointed out earlier that the audience were really the judges, which explains why the second place contestants are actually far more successful than the actual winner.

I have no idea how the show will survive without Simon, who was the main draw. Of the other three judges, only Randy occasionally offers actual criticism. I'm pretty sure I will never watch this show again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Well this year is a complete bust. Big Mike should have been in the top 2 but they sent him home a second time. Casey should have gone, and then Lee.

The whole show is really boring, what with Bowersox being the obvious winner.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Perhaps the worst songs ever associated with films were sung tonight on AI. And sung badly. The only solo that worked was Crystal Bowersox, with her duet being the next best thing on the show.

I really hope Lee goes home. He was WAY overstayed his welcome.

The other duet really pointed out how much better Michael is than Casey.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Jack Kevorkian is an American hero.

He has spent his life fighting for the rights of the terminally ill to enter the next life on their own terms. Having watched several people I know including family deal with terminal illnesses, I am convinced that leaving people with the only option being a removal from feeding tubes is not the humane way to treat the people you care about. Every person should have control over their right to end-of-life health care.

The HBO film YOU DON'T KNOW JACK tells the very interesting story of the man who made it his life's work to bring the topic of end-of-life care into the American media. The movie is very good. It's well written, with great performances by a number of actors including Al Pacino and Brenda Vaccaro. It's also very well shot.

I'm glad that this movie has brought this important topic back into discussion.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Frank Sinatra is rolling is in grave.

The only Idol who handled the music well was Michael Lynche. The others aren't even worth mentioning, except that the judges are really in love with Lee for reasons I will never understand.

Harry Connick was a nice addition, he was funny and a very good coach for the wannabees.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I really had no idea what to expect in the movie PRECIOUS (based on blah blah blah by blah blah). They did not send out industry screeners, which explains why it won few guild awards. So the only footage I ever saw from it was the clip they played on the Oscars showing a fat black woman stealing a bucket of fried chicken. From that, I expected a comedy about racial stereotypes.

The first third of the movie actually lived up to that to some extent. Characters appeared to be cliches, and I was distracted by production design that seemed like the wrong period for 1987, including elements from the 60s and 70s as well as a few anachronisms. In addition, the directorial style was all over the place and I was not sure what I was supposed to think about the characters.

Yet as the movie progresses it was almost impossible to avoid sympathy for the main character. The character may have been represented one-dimensionally for much of the movie, but as the movie develops, we learn more back-story that makes a caricature more deep and believable. The performances were pretty astounding, particularly from Mo'Nique, and even from an unrecognizable Mariah Carey.

The movie certainly could have been a lot better. It just ends, with no explanation as to what happened to the character, although I guess the audience of Oprah-watchers already knows what happened. But it was a very moving film nonetheless.