Arts Review

Rich Hill: A story that “could be told in hundreds of towns”

By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2014

The documentary, directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, movingly chronicles the lives of three boys living in an impoverished, rural southwestern Missouri town.

New Met Opera contract sets precedent for further givebacks

By Fred Mazelis, 20 August 2014

An all-night bargaining session produced a four-year deal based on “equality of sacrifice.”

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood: American lives over the course of a dozen years

By David Walsh, 19 August 2014

Using the same cast, the writer-director filmed sequences once a year for twelve years, centering on a boy, his family and their surroundings in east and central Texas.

Lucy: A little knowledge is apparently a dangerous thing

By Hiram Lee, 16 August 2014

In Lucy, Scarlett Johansson is a super-powered intellect fighting to take down a Taiwanese drug cartel.

Lockout deadline at New York’s Metropolitan Opera extended

By Fred Mazelis, 14 August 2014

The third delay in the lockout threat points to the danger that concession agreements will be reached with the Met unions.

Get On Up: The James Brown story

By Joanne Laurier, 14 August 2014

Tate Taylor’s film biography attempts with considerable success to penetrate the James Brown phenomenon. As the famed American singer-performer, Chadwick Boseman is mesmerizing.

Comic actor and performer Robin Williams, dead at 63

By David Walsh, 13 August 2014

Williams was found dead on Monday at his home in Tiburon, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, having apparently commited suicide.

Delaware Art Museum sells masterworks to pay construction debts

By Andre Damon, 12 August 2014

Last week, the museum, home to a unique collection of English Pre-Raphaelite and American realist art, sold one of its signature pieces, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, by William Holman Hunt.

Bruce Weber’s Detroit: “Projection” as truth?

“I was really thinking just of my picture, instead of what life is really like”

By Seraphine Collins, 8 August 2014

The exhibition of the well-known fashion photographer’s work opened June 20 at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and will run through September 7.

Sage Francis’s Copper Gone: A critic, but frustrated

By Nick Barrickman, 6 August 2014

Francis is best known for his passionate vocal performances and thought-provoking lyrics that express understandable anger at the conditions of modern society.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, or Yawn of the Planet of the Apes

By Kevin Martinez, 4 August 2014

The original Planet of the Apes (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, was fairly silly, but it was not mean-spirited and had a certain humor to it.

Interview with Professor Ian Duncan on Sir Walter Scott: The novel “as a kind of total environment of human life”

By David Walsh, 31 July 2014

Ian Duncan is the author of an introduction to a Penguin Classics edition of Waverley and currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

Mad Men, season seven, first half: A step forward for US television?

By Charles Bogle, 30 July 2014

The AMC series, about an ad agency in the 1960s, has attracted a great deal of attention for its efforts to recreate the social atmosphere and circumstances of those years.

Lost for Life: Children locked away in America

By Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2014

The film’s web site reports the staggering, and scandalous, fact that more than “2,000 people in the US are serving life-without-parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.”

New York’s Metropolitan Opera threatens August 1 lockout

By Fred Mazelis, 26 July 2014

The board of trustees is demanding that musicians and other staff pay for the financial difficulties of the opera company.

The Passenger depicts the Holocaust and its aftermath in opera form

By Fred Mazelis, 25 July 2014

This “lost opera,” written in the late 1960s, deserves a permanent place in the repertoire.

Below the surface of Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: City of Dogs

By Charles Thorpe and Norisa Diaz, 23 July 2014

Theroux’s new three-part series provides glimpses of the social crisis in Los Angeles, but the documentarian’s approach prevents him from probing very deeply.

Cut in funding for English National Opera

By Margot Miller, 19 July 2014

As a proportion of total UK public spending, a miniscule 0.5 percent now goes to the arts.

Detroit Institute of Arts on track to become wholly owned corporate subsidiary

By David Walsh, 17 July 2014

The DIA has received pledges of another $26.8 million in donations from various major corporations and banks toward its goal of raising $100 million as part of the so-called “Grand Bargain.”

Prasanna Vithanage’s With You, Without You: The human impact of Sri Lanka’s communal war

By Wasantha Rupasinghe and Panini Wijesiriwardane, 14 July 2014

Vithanage’s film is a serious artistic effort and reveals how the decades-long communal war affected human relationships.

Interesting music in 2014 so far

By our reporters, 12 July 2014

World Socialist Web Site music reviewers pick some of the more interesting albums or songs released in the first half of 2014.

HBO’s Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr. and Ida

By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2014

The 40-minute documentary on the postwar American painter Robert De Niro, Sr. is a delicate and moving homage, in which his son, the actor Robert De Niro, figures prominently.

Two hundred years since the publication of Waverley

Sir Walter Scott and the drama of history

By David Walsh, 9 July 2014

Monday marked 200 years since the publication of Waverley, a novel by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), an event of genuine artistic and intellectual significance.

Veteran soul singer Bobby Womack dies, aged 70

By Richard Phillips, 8 July 2014

One of the few remaining old-school soul singers still working, Womack left behind a remarkable body of work in rhythm and blues.

The career of popular songwriter Gerry Goffin (1939-2014)

By Hiram Lee, 7 July 2014

Lyricist Gerry Goffin passed away in June at the age of 75. Together with composer Carole King, he wrote many of the better known pop hits of the 1960s.

… And Then You Shoot Your Cousin: The Roots satirize the hip hop world

By Nick Barrickman, 30 June 2014

Formed in 1987 in Philadelphia, The Roots have produced some of the more interesting and oppositional music in hip hop.

“Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum

By Clare Hurley, 28 June 2014

The work of the African American artist (born 1953) has been widely praised for its examination of race, gender and class. “Class” now comes in a distant third.

Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys: The story of The Four Seasons on screen

By Joanne Laurier, 27 June 2014

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort is a film version of the popular musical that premiered on Broadway in 2005 and revived interest in the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera demands major givebacks from thousands of employees

By Fred Mazelis, 27 June 2014

The ruling elite is demanding complete control over all aspects of cultural life.

Eli Wallach (1915-2014): Major character actor of stage, screen and television

By Fred Mazelis, 27 June 2014

The actor’s career spanned 65 years and intersected with the work of many leading figures in the film and theater worlds.

“Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York

By Clare Hurley, 25 June 2014

As an artistic movement, Futurism was not much more than an Italian variant of other European modernist trends.

Prolific composer and master jazz pianist Horace Silver dies at 85

By John Andrews, 24 June 2014

Horace Silver, the noted pianist and composer central to the hard bop school of jazz, has passed away, leaving a legacy of outstanding recordings made during the 1950s and 1960s.

Entre Nos (Between US) and Red Father: Aspects of US life and history

By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2014

Entre Nos dramatizes the plight of a Colombian immigrant and her two children in New York City. Red Father, a documentary, recounts the life and career of Bernard Ades, a lawyer and longtime member of the Communist Party.

The Metropolitan Opera’s censorship of The Death of Klinghoffer

By David Walsh, 21 June 2014

The opera company’s decision to cancel its global video and radio transmission of John Adams’ work is a scandalous and cowardly capitulation to right-wing forces.

At the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto

Making sense of human suffering: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore — Terror and Beauty

By Lee Parsons, 21 June 2014

Two of the most prominent British artists of the modern period—a rare and unlikely pairing—are brought together in this exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

A great Soviet film about World War II

No more war! The anti-war message of The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

By Dorota Niemitz, 19 June 2014

The film is a story about two young people, Boris and Veronica, who are in love and plan to get married. Their plans are postponed when the German army invades the USSR in 1941.

A further comment on The Cranes Are Flying

By Wolfgang Weber, 19 June 2014

The Cranes Are Flying was a great success in East and West Germany, as it was in the Soviet Union.

Classic jazz from Detroit’s Royal Garden Trio

By Hiram Lee, 16 June 2014

The Detroit-based Royal Garden Trio perform classic jazz and popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Their work deserves a larger audience.

Ruby Dee, American actress and activist, dead at 91

By David Walsh, 14 June 2014

Dee won Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk and Screen Actors Guild awards during her remarkable acting career, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for her role in American Gangster (2007).

Beyoncé, the new album

By Matthew Brennan, 14 June 2014

Though not a huge deviation, Beyoncé is musically a bit more experimental than her previous albums.

Satchmo at the Waldorf in New York: The life and times of jazz great Louis Armstrong

By Fred Mazelis, 12 June 2014

A one-man show in New York reveals something of the man behind the myth about an iconic figure in jazz history

So Bright is the View: A serious film from Romania

By David Walsh, 4 June 2014

Estera, a middle class Jewish girl in Bucharest, has to make a choice between pursuing a job in Atlanta, working for a nouveau riche thug, or joining her mother in Israel.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Film portrait of an American radical iconoclast

By Fred Mazelis, 2 June 2014

The newly released documentary on the life of writer and social critic Gore Vidal has much to recommend it.

Utopia: A confronting but politically flawed documentary

By Susan Allan, 31 May 2014

John Pilger presents a stark picture of Aboriginal disadvantage and oppression but blames racism, not capitalism.

Belle’s moving and enlightened story (and The Immigrant)

By Joanne Laurier, 30 May 2014

Amma Asante’s film recounts the remarkable 18th century story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race girl who ends up in the care of William Murray, England’s lord chief justice. James Gray’s The Immigrant is set in New York in 1921.

Sun Kil Moon’s Benji: Life and death (mostly death) in small-town Ohio

By Zac Corrigan, 27 May 2014

The latest album from Mark Kozelek, who records as Sun Kil Moon, concerns the often tragic lives of the singer’s friends and family members.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part four: Manos Sucias, Freedom Summer and others: Bitter social conflict present and past

By Joanne Laurier, 26 May 2014

A film about Colombia, a short conversation with its director, and a documentary about the civil rights movement in the 1960s, among other things.

Pharrell Williams’ Girl troubles

By Hiram Lee, 24 May 2014

Following last year’s successful collaboration with Daft Punk, producer and performer Pharrell Williams has returned with Girl, a hit album of his own.

Orson Welles: An “unfinished artist” in an unfinished century

Event marks 80 years since theater festival in Woodstock, Illinois

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 23 May 2014

Welles remains one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the cinema and theater in the 20th century.

Interviews with critics and film historians about Orson Welles

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 23 May 2014

During the recent celebration in Woodstock, Illinois, commemorating 80 years since the Todd Theatre Festival organized by Orson Welles, we had the opportunity to speak to a number of the presenters and participants.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part three: Bad Hair, School of Babel, South is Nothing: Struggling in a harsh reality

By David Walsh, 21 May 2014

It is difficult to conceive of a serious artistic treatment of life today that avoids the economic realities and pressures relentlessly bearing down on the overwhelming majority of humanity.

“We won’t let anybody fool us”: Tune-Yards’ Nikki Nack

By Hiram Lee, 17 May 2014

Indie-pop band Tune-Yards has returned with a strong follow-up to its 2011 release Whokill.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part two: Tamako in Moratorium, Standing Aside, Watching, Three Letters from China: Greater urgency from Japan, Greece and China

By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2014

Several films screened at the San Francisco film festival this year shed light on the dire physical and emotional impact of the global economic crisis on the lives of the general population.

Threat of closure held over heads of San Diego Opera musicians, workers

By Dorota Niemitz and Norisa Diaz, 14 May 2014

The closure threat is being used first and foremost as a means of transforming the company from a thriving cultural institution into an operation run on profit-making lines.

Vibrate: How good is the best of singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright?

By Hiram Lee, 13 May 2014

American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has returned with a new best-of collection.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part one: There is realism, and then there is realism

By David Walsh, 12 May 2014

The recent San Francisco International Film Festival, its 57th edition, screened some 168 films, including 100 or so fiction or documentary features.

British actor Bob Hoskins (1942-2014): “When you’ve got something to give, give it without hesitation”

By Paul Bond, 10 May 2014

Hoskins was a fine performer, never less than watchable, and able to combine vulnerability with explosive anger.

Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez: An uninspired film on farm workers’ leader

By Kevin Martinez, 10 May 2014

The film concerns the efforts of Chavez (Michael Pena) to unionize farm workers in California’s Central Valley during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Out Among the Stars, a “new” album from Johnny Cash

By Hiram Lee, 7 May 2014

Out Among the Stars collects material recorded by country music legend Johnny Cash in the early 1980s and never before released to the public.

The Long Way Home: Sydney Theatre Company signs up with the Australian military

By Richard Phillips, 26 April 2014

The play effects concern about the plight of psychologically and physically wounded soldiers, while whitewashing the Australian military and covering up the criminal nature of the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.

Bioshock Infinite and the video game phenomenon

By Theo McLean and David Walsh, 17 April 2014

The third in the Bioshock series of popular video games, Infinite follows thematically in the footsteps of its predecessors.

Captain America—The Winter Soldier: So much noise and action you almost fall asleep

By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2014

This is the latest film installment featuring Marvel Comics’ character Captain America, one of the most prominent and patriotic superheroes introduced in American comic books in the World War II era.

New York City radio drive collects 2,500 musical instruments for public school students

By Fred Mazelis, 14 April 2014

The used instruments were accumulated in a ten-day drive conducted by classical station WQXR that ended on April 7.

A concert of twentieth century masterworks by Britten, Bartók and Shostakovich

By Fred Mazelis, 11 April 2014

The program performed April 2 by the New York Philharmonic was a powerful demonstration of the heights reached by classical music in the first half of the last century.

Artistic resistance to the US-backed juntas

Losing the Human Form: A seismic image of the 1980s in Latin America

By Armando Cruz, 10 April 2014

The exhibition, presented in Madrid in 2012 and recently in Lima, Peru, is a fascinating compilation of works from the 1980s that voiced opposition to the militarized regimes in Latin America.

WSWS arts editor David Walsh speaks at The New School in New York City

By Our reporters, 9 April 2014

The lecture was a part of the tour to promote the new book, The Sky Between the Leaves, a selection of film reviews, interviews and essays on cinema and cultural issues.

A Permanent Member of the Family: Responses to trying and frustrating times—short stories by Russell Banks

By Sandy English, 9 April 2014

In recent years, novelist Russell Banks has shifted his focus to upstate New York, where he lives, making it the locale of many of the stories in this interesting new volume.

Mickey Rooney, popular film star of the 1930s and 1940s, dies

By David Walsh, 8 April 2014

Longtime film, television and stage actor Mickey Rooney died on Sunday at the age of 93. Rooney was one of the most popular American movie stars in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

More artworks discovered in Salzburg: Second Act in the Gurlitt case

By Verena Nees, 7 April 2014

The affair surrounding Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Nazi art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, has taken a new turn with the discovery of 238 more artworks hidden in Gurlitt’s Salzburg house.

San Diego Opera closure announcement meets with widespread opposition

By Dan Conway and Dorota Niemitz, 7 April 2014

The recent decision to shut down the San Diego Opera Company after 49 seasons has evoked widespread popular outrage, with more than 20,000 signatures gathered in opposition to the closure.

Beautification: An exhibition by Sri Lankan artist Chandraguptha Thenuwara

By Darshana Medis and Panini Wijesiriwardane, 4 April 2014

Thenuwara’s show partially revealed a post-war Sri Lanka reality that the government wants to hide.

Jason Bateman’s Bad Words: An inauspicious debut

By Joanne Laurier, 3 April 2014

Actor-director Jason Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a petulant, miserable 40-year-old who breaks into the spelling bee circuit by taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.

David Walsh continues book tour at Cornell University

By our correspondents, 1 April 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh discussed problems of art, culture, and cinema at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on March 27.

Finding Vivian Maier: A brief comment …

By David Walsh, 28 March 2014

The subject of this documentary is American photographer Vivian Maier (1926-2009), who made virtually no efforts to publish her remarkable photos during her lifetime.

Divergent: A different sort of dystopia

By Christine Schofelt, 27 March 2014

Divergent, billed as the “next Hunger Games,” offers greater depth.

The Grand Budapest Hotel from Wes Anderson

By Joanne Laurier, 25 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a stylish, fantastical film, sometimes comic and sometimes tragic in its re-imagining of the period between the two world wars and the emergence of fascistic forces in Europe.

Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush comes to Lexington, Kentucky

By Hiram Lee, 24 March 2014

On March 14, the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied a showing of Charlie Chaplin’s classic film The Gold Rush in Kentucky.

Moscow weighs the fate of historic Shukhov radio tower

By Tim Rivers, 19 March 2014

The Shukhov radio tower, a symbol of the revolutionary aspirations of the early Soviet Union and a technical marvel, is threatened by profit-hungry real estate speculators in central Moscow.

Australian government threatens arts funding following Sydney Biennale protest over refugees

By Richard Phillips, 17 March 2014

Attorney-General George Brandis demanded new arts funding protocols following the Biennale’s decision to end a funding deal with Transfield, a refugee camp contractor.

Drive-by Truckers release new album, English Oceans

By Eric London, 10 March 2014

The Southern alternative-country group has set high standards after 18 years of making music—but they have not outdone themselves on their newest release.

Tim’s Vermeer: Art and technology

By Joanne Laurier, 8 March 2014

The intriguing documentary centers on the attempt by Texas inventor Tim Jenison to explore the possibility that painter Johannes Vermeer used optical devices to help achieve his intricate interweaving of light, color and proportion.

64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 6

Art and commerce: Austrian documentary The Great Museum

By Bernd Reinhardt, 7 March 2014

Austrian director Johannes Holzhausen’s film is a fond, and at the same time scathing documentary about the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) in Vienna.

64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 5

Age of Cannibals and Amma and Appa: Two sides of globalisation

By Berndt Reinhardt, 5 March 2014

German films were well represented at this year’s Berlin film festival, with no less than four productions screened in the festival competition programme alone.

The Past from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi: Something of a disappointment

By David Walsh, 5 March 2014

The Past takes place in Paris. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Tehran to finalize a divorce from his French wife, Marie (Bérénice Bejo, The Artist ), after a four-year separation.

2014 Academy Awards: Life versus the film industry

By David Walsh, 4 March 2014

Sunday’s awards ceremony in Hollywood was undistinguished for the most part by excitement, urgency or social insight.

64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 4

Between faith and the striving for truth: German films in competition at the Berlinale

By Bernd Reinhardt, 28 February 2014

German films were well represented at this year’s Berlin film festival, with no less than four productions screened in the festival competition programme alone.

64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 3

We Come as Friends and Run Boy Run: Two more films that take a serious approach

By Stefan Steinberg, 26 February 2014

Hubert Sauper’s documentary examines the record of Western intervention in Africa, while Pepe Danquart’s fiction film recounts the experience of a fatherless Jewish boy in wartime Poland.

64th Berlin International Film Festival—Part 2

A serious approach to history: Non-Fiction Diary by South Korea’s Jung Yoon-suk

By Stefan Steinberg, 24 February 2014

A refreshingly serious approach to history is taken by South Korean filmmaker Jung Yoon-suk in his new documentary, Non-Fiction Diary, which deservedly won a prize at the 64th Berlinale.

House of Cards, season 2: The American politician as conspirator and murderer

By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2014

The second season of House of Cards, the series produced by Netflix, reveals more of the exploits of Frank Underwood, Democratic Party vice president and chief conspirator.

Spanish artist sued for insulting fascist dictator Franco

By Paul Mitchell, 17 February 2014

The World Socialist Web Site spoke to Spanish artist Eugenio Merino, who is being sued by the National Francisco Franco Foundation for offending the honour of the fascist dictator.

The Monuments Men: An establishment film, in almost every way

By Joanne Laurier, 11 February 2014

George Clooney’s new film is the story of a squad of art experts serving in the US and Allied military who, toward the end of World War II, attempt to rescue art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.

Portuguese government tries to auction 85 works by Joan Miró

By Sybille Fuchs, 8 February 2014

Portugal’s right-wing government is attempting to sell off works of art rightfully belonging to the Portuguese people.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman dead at 46

By Hiram Lee, 3 February 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman, the award-winning American film and stage actor, has died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 46.

Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski revisited: Camera Buff (1979)

By Dorota Niemitz, 3 February 2014

There are issues and problems associated with both periods—before and after Stalinism—of Kieślowski’s work. However, particularly in his earlier works one finds a sincere attempt to portray social reality.

The unknown women of Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)

By Hiram Lee, 1 February 2014

Actress Joan Fontaine, who passed away in December at the age of 96, contributed a number of remarkable performances to Hollywood films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Argentine poet Juan Gelman dies in Mexico City at 83

By Rafael Azul, 29 January 2014

Argentine poet Juan Gelman died in Mexico city on January 14. Gelman was considered one of the most important Spanish-language poets, as well as a fighter against the Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s.

Talk by WSWS arts editor David Walsh

The political and theoretical sources of The Sky Between the Leaves—Part 2

By David Walsh, 28 January 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh gave a talk in Detroit recently to SEP members and supporters to mark the publication of The Sky Between the Leaves. This is the second of two parts.

Talk by WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh

The political and theoretical sources of The Sky Between the Leaves—Part 1

By David Walsh, 27 January 2014

WSWS arts editor David Walsh gave a talk in Detroit recently to SEP members and supporters to mark the publication of The Sky Between the Leaves. This is the first of two parts.

August: Osage County and Lone Survivor: Sound and fury signifying not too much…and a celebration of the US military

By Joanne Laurier, 22 January 2014

John Wells’s film is a star-studded, “timeless” family drama set in rural Oklahoma; Peter Berg’s effort is a reprehensible tribute to American military death squads.

2014 Academy Award nominations: Very few bright spots

By David Walsh, 18 January 2014

The Academy Award nominations were announced January 16 at a press conference at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.