Friday, June 22, 2007

Winged culture

I had the opportunity to check out the new Mississippi Museum of Art this week. WOW. The museum, which opened a scant two weeks ago, is located in the old Mississippi Arts Pavillion, where all those blockbuster foreign exhibits have been held for the past few years.

The old building has had a complete re-do, and it is GORGEOUS. The entrance is preceded by a lovely courtyard featuring fountains, plantings, and areas for small gatherings. The entrance itself is arresting, with an entire glass wall comprising the front of the building, flooding the high atrium with natural light. The large double doors are further emphasized with a high, prow-like cantilevered roof. Very impressive.

Inside, patrons will find the gift shop to the left, a small cafe to the right, and the Mississippi exhibits and permanent collection straight ahead. Down a hallway on the left, visitors can enjoy special traveling exhibits. Right now, "Between God and Man: Angels in Italian Art" is on display. At 150 works, the collection is large enough to be insightful and yet small enough to prevent angel fatigue. The exhibit was curated by the Director General of the Vatican Museums, Dr. Francesco Buranelli, for an exclusive showing at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The collection will be on display through December.

I particularly enjoyed viewing several interpretations of the same Biblical event by different artists working in different time periods. (For example, three treatments, displayed side-by-side, of the sacrifice of Isaac. Fascinating stuff.) In addition, little activity nooks tucked into corners throughout the exhibit encouraged interaction with the art and its themes. The entire display was obviously very carefully planned.

The accompanying audio tour, offering comments from Director Betsy Bradley, the exhibit curator, and a Millsaps College professor, was also helpful. But most of all, it was just nice to look at the variety of art in the exhibit and ponder/notice things for yourself.

I highly recommend checking it out! The museum is now located at 380 South Lamar Street in downtown Jackson. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6 for students, with children and MMA Members admitted FREE! (Just go ahead and join. It's definitely worth the money.) Group rates are also available. Call 690-1515 for more information!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Third time's not a charm for Spidey

I got the chance to see the third installment of the Spiderman trilogy over the weekend and, I have to say, after seeing the first two movies, I was a bit disappointed by Spiderman 3. A quick plot synopsis: Mary Jane is debuting on Broadway, New York is throwing a Spiderman love-fest, MJ and Peter Parker/Spiderman are deeply in love. Parker is, in fact, planning to propose. However, things begin to go horribly wrong. MJ is fired from her production. Spiderman has the utter stupidity to allow a re-creation of his "big kiss" with MJ in front of half the city of New York, and Harry Osborn decides to exact his revenge on Peter/Spidey for killing his father. In the meantime, the script develops two villans for us: Sandman (played by Thomas Hayden Church) and Venom (played by Topher Grace). On top of all that, Spidey must battle a strange, alien-like goo that makes him a darker version of himself.

Sounds like alot, doesn't it? Well, it is. Too much, I think. I thought that the main problem with this movie is that it tried to do too many things. There were too many villans, and because there were too many, none of them (save Harry) got developed very fully. It might have worked better had Venom not really been a part of this film. Rather, we could have seen the genesis of Venom, but saved his "face off" with Spidey for a later installment. Sandman could have been a compelling character, but was unfortuantely not given enough script/screen time to achieve much traction in the minds of audiences (although the special effects that made this character come to life were completely amazing).

Secondly, there were a few scenes where the moviemakers were trying to show us how the black goo that has infested Peter Parker is changing his personality. Peter dances down the street, making eyes at strange women. He buys a new suit. He takes an acquaintance to a bar where MJ is working and does a ridiculous dance sequence. These scenes were basically horrible and didn't make sense. The creators could have accomplished much the same thing with different scenes that actually carried meaning (i.e. During his fight with Harry, the "changed" Spiderman tells Harry that his father never loved him but, instead, despised him. OUCH. This was not something Peter would have ever said, which conveyed to the audience that Peter had changed. But it MEANT something because it tied into the rest of the storyline and the characters that we all know/love.) I thought it was lazy for them to take the easy way out on this.

Other than those two major gripes, I did enjoy the film. It's difficult, though. The creators of this trilogy have set the bar so high for themselves that it can be difficult to live up to with succesive films. Let's see if they come back for a fourth installment.

Music for the road

A week ago, some friends and I went to see Hank Williams: Lost Highway at New Stage Theatre. We really enjoyed it. The script follows the rise (and fall) of country music legend Hank Williams, dealing with his musical influences, relationships with his band and family, and eventual downward spiral into alcohol and drug abuse.

Randy Noojin was great as Hank Williams, and Bruce Lang, Tony Medlin, Steve Trismen, and Russ Wever were wonderful as the members of Hank's band. The guys all had an eaqsy camaraderie that I thought played very well. Jolyne Shirley was superb as Mama Lilly, stealing most of the scenes she was in.

The costumes (by MaryAnise) were a revelation, and they added SO much to the production. I was very impressed with several of the suits Hank wore, although all the cast members looked pretty perfect for their roles. The music was great, and I even noticed some die-hard Williams fans in the audience singing along!

A couple of notes - I absolutely loved Maurice Turner (Tee-Tot) and Jo Ann Robinson (Waitress) in their roles. Turner in particular was something of a force on stage. However, I was puzzled at the directoral decision to leave these two characters on stage during ALL of the action. It was a bit distracting as an audience member, and as a performer, I imagine it can be quite exhausting. I'm not familiar with whether this choice is stipulated in the script or if it was unique to this production, but I'm not sure I liked it.

Secondly, be aware if you attend this production that there is quite a bit of profanity in it (we are talking about Hank Williams, after all), and that there are several gun shots during the course of the show. Both of these caveats were noted in the program.

You have until June 17 to check it out! Don't miss it! Call 601-948-3533 for tickets!