Well, May has nearly gone, and I’ve got only three posts to show for it, and I’m not happy about that, so here’s an explanation:
Momix at the Joyce Theater on Tuesday, May 11.
Someone once told me that prop comedy is the lowest forms of stand-up. That probably is one of those statements that sweeps a bit too much—though it was meant to denounce Carrot Top, and I have no objections there—but the essential idea is that props easily become gimmicks, and gimmicks are lazy. In any event, I found myself thinking of that comedy maxim as I watched Momix perform an anniversary program comprising works from the past dozen or so years. Certainly, the troupe rates far above Carrot Top (shudder), but even so, under the artistic direction of Moses Pendleton, Momix essentially performs prop choreography, which seems to have the same weakness as its comedic counterpart: it’s gimmicky. The troupe’s pieces can be imaginative and beautiful, but more often, they’re clever but shallow, and at their worst, they’re nothing but empty acrobatic show pieces, artistically inert and, frankly, dull.
Looking back on what I wrote about the first Iron Man, I feel a bit like a killjoy. Plenty of people whose opinions I respect greatly (Sean, for example) adored the movie, and although this might not always be apparent, I don’t enjoy stomping all over things that other people love, especially when I love those people.
I wouldn’t take a word back, though. For better or worse, that post honestly and accurately describes my experience with the blockbuster. Certain elements I enjoyed—Robert Downey Jr.’s performance chief among them—but other elements troubled me so much that the whole movie darkened with them. This is, no doubt, what my Uncle George would describe as my “overthinking things,” but I don’t concede the point. If something isn’t worth thinking about, why bother with it at all?
So here I am, sad but resolute, preparing to dive into Iron Man 2. Sean, I’m sorry. Uncle George, you may commence the eye-rolling.
By Hilary Mantel. Published in 2009.
Thomas Cromwell, one of the closest advisers of King Henry VIII, was not well liked by his peers, at least the powerful ones, those whose assessment has been passed down through history. He was unprincipled, we are told: grasping, devious, presumptuously ambitious; a bad man who got what was coming to him when Henry blamed him for the disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves and had him beheaded.
But why do we so readily accept the dubious views of Cromwell’s enemies? Novelist Hilary Mantel, drawing on the work of a number of scholars as well as contemporary sources, persuasively recasts the historical figure, her protagonist in Wolf Hall. Her Cromwell lacks not principles but zealotry—all too rare in an age wracked by religious wars. He is indeed ambitious but admirably so, rising from exceedingly humble beginnings to the king’s right hand by virtue of his broad education, financial acumen, and sound judgment. The nobles of the time might sneer at his roots, but why should we? Cromwell is the prototypical self-made man.
Mantel’s Cromwell is still recognizably Cromwell, but seen through new eyes. His alleged vices become virtues; a peek into his family life and background makes him less of a cipher; and in contrast to others of his time—most notably Thomas More—he is a man ahead of it. It’s a fascinating portrait.