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By Arthur Smith   |   Tuesday, July 26, 2011
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For Colored Girls

By Kim McLarin   |   Friday, July 29, 2011
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Well, I saw it. Lots of reaction. Short version: not as terrible as I feared (and yes, I hate to admit that). But I walked out of the theater feeling as if I had been bludgeoned for two hours. What redeemed it was the astonishing language (Ntozake's) and the performances (which were terrific, almost-uniformly great). I was happy to pay my little 'leven-fifty to support so many beautiful black actresses on the screen. And Perry is definitely growing as a filmmaker, getting all fancy with his shots. Clearly he means well, and wants to celebrate black women (especially Janet Jackson. Can he get off his teenage crush already? The woman cannot act! What was with the Kabuki makeup? And why did Loretta's wig look so awful? Why did she look so bad in general? Poor Loretta ....)

Still I found myself wishing, wishing, wishing someone else had made it, someone who didn't seem to see black womanhood as one, long, joyless, relentless slog of bad choices and victimhood (self-inflicted, to be sure) and abuse. Someone who would not have missed the ultimate joy and affirmation in the original, nor completely denied the frank celebration of a black woman's sexual power in the original (in the movie, sex=death. Period). Someone who didn't think drama=melodrama. I mean, good Lord -- I really did feel beat up by the end. I kept thinking "She didn't mean for the audience to consider suicide, yo!" That was not the feeling I think the play left people with. At least not me.

I think the movie probably stands up better for those who don't know the original, which is legitimate. And, as the bookseller I saw the movie with said, this will drive people to the text (though probably not the folks in the audience howling at every word out of Whoopi's mouth). So, all in all, go on Tyler, with your bold self. Next time, though, please, let someone else write it while you direct?

Five Questions for F. Murray Abraham

By Arthur Smith   |   Monday, July 25, 2011
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Abraham comes to Boston as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, opening Tuesday, March 29 at Arts Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre as part of ArtsEmerson’s season.The Oscar-winner talks with WGBH ArtSceNE curator Kara Millerabout staying in shape, listening to Stravinsky, and eating lobster in Boston.
Q:This is an interesting time to be in a play about making loans and charging interest. Do you see The Merchant of Venicehaving particular resonance now?
A: Yes, I really do–on a couple of levels. I think that it examines the idea of justice, and it particularly speaks to our time, as there doesn't appear to be any regard for the other–which doesn't ever seem to change.
I feel very strongly about what has been happening–and helpless too. The political system feels geared towards the wealthy. In the play, Shylock represents something bigger than Jews in the world. He represents anyone who has been oppressed: blacks, Irish, Chinese, Palestinians, many groups.
Q: What is the challenge in engaging with art that is more than 400 years old?
A: That's what makes our production [from New York’s Theatre for a New Audience] so exciting. It's perfectly clear. I'm hoping people will drop down and see it because I think they'll be blown away. It was a big success in New York City and [England’s] Stratford-upon-Avon. Sold out in both venues. I can't wait to get to rehearsal– we're really rediscovering the piece.
When people see the show, I would like them to drop us a note or a line. The play might be life-changing. I really mean it.
Q: Do directors approach Shakespeare differently than they did when you first started acting?
A: I think so. The conceptual director has become very prominent. In some ways, that's unfortunate. They have sacrificed communication through the actor for a concept. Our director [Darko Tresnjak] is different. But I do think that some directors now think of actors as something to be moved around–I don't work with them again.
Q: When you're not acting, what kind of art do you indulge in? And what do you look forward to doing in Boston?
A: I really love art. My closest friend is a painter, and we visit museums at least once a week. Stravinsky is my favorite composer–I can't imagine a world without music. I'm also very defensive about Salieri and his music, and Mozart, who I listen to a lot, is a constant surprise. [Abraham won the Best Actor Oscar for portraying Salieri in the 1984 movie Amadeus.]
In Boston, I intend to take a look at some of the best places to get lobster. Also, I have friends in Cambridge. I did King Lear there one time, and it was the first place I encountered three 24-hour bookstores. I was really impressed. I will probably also teach a master class or two.
Q: How tough is it to do eight performances a week in a theatre production?
A: It's what I've been doing all my life. My work is to stay in shape–I am my instrument. I'm 71, and I don't think I've been in better shape. I thought I'd be dead at 60. I once did a show where I performed 16 times a week, but I don't think anyone in history has ever loved acting as much as I do. Maybe as much, but not more.

A New Movie: Starring You.

By Arthur Smith   |   Monday, July 25, 2011
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From our partners at NPR,

Director Kevin MacDonald embarked on a new project last year to capture a snapshot of everyday life all around the world.

YouTube users from over 192 countries uploaded more than 4,500 hours of video to his channel, all of it shot on a single day: July 24, 2010.

MacDonald and his team, which included directors Ridley and Tony Scott, took that footage and made it into a 90-minute documentary called, aptly, Life in A Day.

"We were looking for stories which resonated, or more than that, served as a metaphor for something bigger in life," McDonald told weekends on All Things Cohsidered host Guy Raz.

One of those resonant moments came from a Japanese father and son going through their morning routine. In between brushing his teeth and watching TV, the young boy says good morning to a shrine to his deceased mother.

"It's a masterful piece of filmmaking, maybe unintentionally," MacDonald tells Raz, "but it highlights what I'd call the aesthetic of amateurism. There's a beauty in the home-video style."

MacDonald says watching the film is a philosophical experience, and can change how one sees the world.

"It made me realize that cultural differences, which are the things we're mostly preoccupied by, those things are actually the superficialities of life," he says. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Argo is Another Success for Ben Affleck

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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October 10, 2012

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Jared Bowen interviewing Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck’s latest film foray as director and star opens in theaters tomorrow, and he recently confessed to me that he tends to find directing agonizing.
When it comes to directing, Ben Affleck is not a confident man. His new film Argo tells the madcap, real-life story of a mission to rescue six Americans during the 1979 seize of the US Embassy in Tehran.

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Sparkle: Whitney Houston's Last Role

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, August 29, 2012
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Jared Bowen reviews the film Sparkle on Greater Boston (WGBH).

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Part of the fan photo mosaic tribute to Houston on the Sparkle website.
This review aired on Greater Boston just before the August 16th premiere of the new film Sparkle, starring Jordin Sparks and featuring the late Whitney Houston.

Sparkle is about a group of girls growing up in 1960s Motown, trying to get together their own singing group and give the reigning Supremes a challenge. It's the last film that Whitney Houston completed before her tragic death. She plays the single mother trying to raise these three girls to walk along the straight and narrow.

Remaking the 1976 film Sparkle was Houston's vision, and a project that she had worked on for more than a decade. The disparate elements of the film don't come back to form a complete whole, but perhaps that's fitting, as the anchor to the film left a void as well.

Meanwhile, Jordin Sparks, winner of the 2007 American Idol competition at age 17, is coming into her own as an actress. She shines as the composer and leader of the trio who can't let go of the music. 

Still, it's seeing Houston as a healthy, maternal figure who delivers one number of her own, that finally gives the film its poignancy. Houston fans have already ensured that this film will get some buzz regardless of its flaws.

To recognize Houston's passing, the Sparkle website features a special tribute to Houston, inviting fans to add their own photos to an interactive mosaic, along with messages to the belated pop star and those who continue to miss her.

About the Authors
Arthur Smith Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith is the former editor of WGBHArts. Executive producer for digital education at WGBH, Arthur, an amateur pianist and singer, was previously a freelance classical music reviewer for the Washington Post for 9 years. He has also worked at an opera company, and ran the information service and publications programs for OPERA America, the national service organization for the art form.  Since 1991, he has been the program annotator for Vocal Arts DC, a classical song recital series based at Washington's Kennedy Center. 
Kim McLarin Kim McLarin
Kim McLarin is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Taming it Down, Meeting of the Waters and Jump at the Sun, all published by William Morrow. She is a former staff writer for The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Greensboro News & Record and the Associated Press. McLarin has also written for and
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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