February 25th, 2005


On the 19th, we caught "Constantine" as a matinee. You don't realy have to know anything about the "Hellblazer" comics series it's based loosely on, since a) they give a pretty complete backstory, and b) it's very unlike the comic anyway.
In the comics, John Constantine is a very gritty Brit who became involved in the occult in his hippie Sixties days, and became somewhat of a reluctant demon-breaker/exorcist in self-defense after seen one too-many very bad things. Had I been casting John Constantine, I would have cast Sean Bean, or maybe Robert Carlyle, who even looks like the comic book character. Instead the movie is set in a very grim-looking Los Angeles, and Constantine is a California boy, played by Keneau Reeves. He was born with an ability to see angels, demons, and their "half-breed" manifesttions on the physical plane. This ability drives him to suicide, resulting in a brief 'death' which not only enhances his ability, but leaves him with the knowlege that there is a very real Hell. He becomes a freelance exorcist, (which he calls "deportation") trying to redeem his soul from damnation by driving demon kin out of the world. (The movie's major plot flaw is, if neither angels nor demons can physically manifest in this world, where do the "halfbreeds" come from?) Rachel Weisz ("The Mummy") appears as a detective whose vision-haunted sister is a casualty in a literally Hellish plot. The story and effects are not marvelous, but pretty good in my opinion. Of course, we are both fond of Tilda Swinton, who, as "Gabriel" steals the scenes she is in. No one can do a fey look like Swinton; she discusses doom and destruction with the same dotty glee she did 'poetry' in "Orlando." There is an able supporting cast representing Constantine's rag-tag network, and Gavin Rossdale very slimy as the demonic Balthazar. One reviewer aid it wasn't "dark" enough. Not sure what he means--the story was plenty dark for me. Good, for matinee prices.

Degas sculptures

There are only four complete collections of the bronze sculptures of Edouard Degas in the world. One is owned by the Museum of Sao Paoulo, Brazil, and it is touring, with a stop in Milwaukee at the Art Museum. The only one of Degas' sculptures that was cast during his lifetime was the "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen," which is familiar to most students of art. The others are all smaller studies, cast at his heirs' direction from wax figures found in Degas' studio. These figures are the three-dimensional equivalent of a sketchbook, and include horses, bathers, and many dancers, often with several variations of the same pose as the artist worked out the dynamics and statics of captured action. The figures are beautiful in form and proportion, although they are rough in finish with little fine detail. Georgie speculated it would be possible to retrieve Degas' fingerprints from the wax impressions. The show is subtly fascinating since it is rare to see such an exposition of the artist ar work in any medium, let alone in three dimensions.

The other featured exhibit at Milwaukee Art Museum is the work of the late Mark Lombardi. Called "Global Networks" Lombardi's pieces are intricate and beautiful graphical diagrams showing the multi-dimensional connections of influence in everything from the Chicago Mob of Capone's time to the present day, to the machinations involving George W. Bush's Harkin Energy. These are fascinating and enlightening presentations that make the web of international money flow instantly comprehensible. One wishes Lombardi were still around: the diagrams surrounding the Iraq war alone would be great works of art.

Sherlock Holmes!

Monday the 21st, West Allis Players had auditions for their next production, "The Hound of the Baskervilles". Of course I had to go and try out, hoping for Watson. I am a great fan of the Jeremy Brett/Edward Hardwicke Holmes/Watson oveure, and tried to put a dignified reading into Watson, although the script is more of a Rathbone/Bruce style of vehicle. Of course, I always like to read for the parts I haven't a particular hope of getting just for the fun of acting them out in front of people, and took the opportunity to read Holmes as well. I was intrigued that the director seemed to like my reading, but went home without any particular hope for any part at all, since there were people who seemed more favored for Watson and Barrymore, the sinister butler, and however well I read, on the second night there would surely be someone more the proper physical type for Holmes show up. Well--there didn't! I got cast--as SHERLOCK HOLMES! WOO! What fun! Even if the script ISN'T a deathless adaptation of Doyle's novel, there are few roles I'd rather play (Cyrano and Richard III come to mind, but--). Rehersals start next Tuesday, with the show to go on April 8,9, 15, and 16.