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Archive for December, 2009

Top 10 Movies of the Decade: Emory faculty pick favorites


This tumultuous decade saw an international array of incredibly innovative and profound films about desperate lives, questionable, identities, hidden histories and the power of imagination and human resilience.  Here in alphabetical order is the Emory Department of Film Studies selection of best films of the decade. Faculty raters include Matthew H. Bernstein, chair of film studies, along with lecturers William Brown and Eddy Von Mueller.

AMOROS PERROS (2000) Roughly translated as “Love is a Bitch,” Alejandro González Iñárritu’s first feature follows characters from three social strata in the harsh cauldron of contemporary Mexico City. Their lives are connected (each involves a dog) and thrown into disarray by a random car accident. Iñárritu achieves a sometimes disturbing, but ultimately emotionally engaging, sense of realism by using documentary film techniques. We seem to swim in the world of characters as the hand held camera shakes and moves through an urban landscape …

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Best Movies of 2009: Emory film faculty pick their favorites



Tis the season to check out some of 2009’s best movies, as determined by the cinephiles in Emory’s Department of Film Studies. The diverse selections (minus a couple of major releases in mid-December) include a mix of blockbusters, documentaries, international works and smaller films that are definitely worth a look. Faculty raters include Matthew H. Bernstein, chair of film studies, along with Eddy Von Mueller.

“Given the structure of the annual film schedule, distributors with few exceptions hold back on releasing their often high-quality Oscar bait until late in the year, when the film studies faculty are busy grading student work,” says Bernstein. “Here follows a list of recommended films released through November 2009.  “Up in the Air” and “The Messenger” may be worth including, but we can get back to you on those in January. Happy viewing.”

Best Films of 2009

A SINGLE MAN Some may carp at fashion photographer Tom Ford’s “too perfect” visual style that in …

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Top 10 Classical Music Performances in 2009

ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles

ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles

By Pierre Ruhe

Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, Donald Runnicles conducting the Atlanta Symphony. The orchestra’s principal guest conductor, always interesting, has deepened into a profound interpreter, and the orchestra played for him with super-charged emotion. April.

Osvaldo Golijov’s “Azul,” a spectacularly cosmic and serene cello concerto performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. A new masterpiece. May.

From Bach to Haydn, music that spanned the 18th century performed by New Trinity Baroque, Atlanta’s risk-taking early-music troupe. September.

Hindustani classical music performed by sitar player Kakali Bandyopadhyay, an associate artist at Emory University, and table player Anjaneya Sastry. Charismatic performers restoring ancient sounds from India. Bliss. September.

“Rapido! A 14-day Composition Contest,” was a nifty idea from the Atlanta Chamber Players: a contest to write music on deadline for a cash award and a …

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Top 10 plays of 2009

Jon Ludwig and his cast rehearse for "Little Mermaid Pirate"

Jon Ludwig and his cast rehearse for "Little Mermaid Pirate"

“Come Fly With Me,” Alliance Theatre. Twyla Tharp captured the sex and melancholy of Frank Sinatra with her inventive choreography. The show is expected to play Broadway in the spring.

“The Little Pirate Mermaid,” Center for Puppetry Arts. Atlanta puppet genius Jon Ludwig did it again with this twist on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, which re-imagines the spunky little mermaid as a wannabe pirate.

“700 Sundays,”
Atlanta Broadway Series, Cobb Energy and Performing Arts Centre. Billy Crystal’s one-man memoir about his large and loving Jewish family was outrageously funny and deeply moving. A mensch from Hollywood — now that’s something.

“Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL,”
Alliance Theatre. By all accounts, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber was not all that smitten with this stylish gospel makeover of his rock music score. We thought it was kind of stunning, beautifully sung and wonderfully danced.

“Titus Andronicus,” Georgia …

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Top 5 Dance Events in 2009

A dancer in "Rapt." credit: Parish Kohanim

A dancer in "Rapt." credit: Parish Kohanim

By Pierre Ruhe

Atlanta’s dance scene is exploding — new talent, new audiences, a new ambition that the city is finally ready to be a national-quality hub for the art form. The recession has hampered expansion of the performing arts, yet dance accelerated in 2009, and this year dance fans came here to see what we’re up to. A top five of dance shows, chronologically, tells only part of the story.

“Don Quixote” by Atlanta Ballet.
Artistic director John McFall’s version of the Russian classic tapped the enormous yet disparate talent within his company and made it move with grandeur and finesse. May.

“Rapt” was a cultural watershed moment: The debut performance of dance maker Lauri Stallings’ hipster ballet company called gloATL, danced outdoors on the Woodruff Arts Center plaza, fusing classically modern dance with the funky groove of OutKast. It celebrated life in Atlanta. (Two subsequent shows by gloATL reinforced the troupe’s …

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Top 10 Exhibitions in 2009

Henry Moore's "Oval with Points 1968-70" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Henry Moore's "Oval with Points 1968-70" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

By Catherine Fox

“The Treasure of Ulysses Davis: Sculpture from a Savannah Barbershop.” High Museum of Art. This legacy-changing retrospective revealed that the self-taught artist was considerably more complex and sophisticated than he has been given credit for.

“Henry Moore in America.” Atlanta Botanical Garden. The largest exhibit ever mounted in the U.S. by a master of 20th-century sculpture demonstrated that the garden is a wonderful outdoor gallery and cemented its reputation as a venue for important art.

“Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture.”
Museum of Design Atlanta and the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library. A fascinating exhibit that analyzed and measured Breuer’s achievements and gave his Atlanta landmark, the Central Library, an illuminating historical and aesthetic context.

“Leonardo da Vinci: Hand of the Genius.”
High Museum of Art. The latest of the High’s excellent series of exhibits …

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8 Great Southern Books in 2009


By Gina Webb

“The Help” — Kathryn Stockett: During the tumultuous early years of civil rights, a group of black maids agree to speak out about the bigotry and prejudice of their white employers in this remarkable book set in Jackson, Miss. Stockett employs the poetry and rhythm of the maids’ dialect to reveal the rich inner thoughts — and wicked humor — of women who missed nothing, but survived by keeping quiet.

“Half Broke Horses”
— Jeannette Walls: Walls (“The Glass Castle”) recaptures the rambunctious voice of her frontier grandmother, Lily Casey, who grew up in a riverbank dugout, helped her father break wild horses, rode 500 miles at age 15 to get a job in a one-room schoolhouse, sold moonshine hidden under her baby’s crib — and still managed to make the best of each hardscrabble phase of her life.

“Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans” — Dan Baum: The real New Orleans comes to life through the intersecting stories of nine people — among them a transsexual, a …

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Billy Crystal’s ‘700 Sundays’ is outrageously funny, deeply affecting


“700 Sundays”
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 5 p.m. Sunday. Through Dec. 20. $30-$150. Presented by Atlanta Broadway Series, Cobb Energy Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 1-800-982-2787,
Grade: A

By Wendell Brock
Billy Crystal may not be the greatest comedian of our time, but with “700 Sundays,” he comes pretty close. A long, loving and impeccably crafted solo piece about his large, loving and indelibly funny Jewish family, “700 Sundays” straddles the thin line between hysteria and heartbreak to close the year on an exceptionally fine note.

The journey of a sweet, hapless, tap-dancing kid who caught the comedy bug at a Catskills nightclub and went on to conquer Hollywood, become a preferred Academy Awards host and tell about it all in this Tony Award-winning show, “700 Sundays” centers on Crystal’s worshipful relationship with his father, a jazz impresario who died when the performer was only 15. Six days a week, Jack Crystal commuted …

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Fred Chappell carries on the tradition of Appalachian fiction


Book review
“Ancestors and Others: New and Selected Stories”

By Fred Chappell. St. Martin’s Press; 320 pages; $27.99

By Gina Webb
In each of the 21 stories in “Ancestors and Others,” the creaking sound you hear is a door opening to Another World. It may start with a two-story-high dream that blocks traffic, a cabin in the woods that wasn’t there yesterday, a large box containing a “wonderfully woebegone” plant or a strange woman dressed in white on a bridge. It can happen in Cherry Cove, N.C., or halfway between Turkey Knob and Ember Forks. Everything starts off normal and fine, and the next thing you know, Fred Chappell opens that dadburned door.
This collection of the poet/writer’s previously published work and more recent pieces from literary magazines offers a lively retrospective of Chappell’s illustrious career, including everything from ghost stories to tall tales, allegory to historical fiction, fantasy to realistic tales of life in southern Appalachia.
A native of …

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Taxidermy meets photography in Todd Murphy’s new work

Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy

Todd Murphy’s work is on view at Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave., through Jan. 16.

By Catherine Fox
Walking through Todd Murphy’s cavernous studio feels a bit like Gulliver’s travels.
A life-size photo of a charging mastodon, to which Murphy has added sharp metal tusks, in one room is followed by a tiny, elaborate natural history museum full of Lilliputian skeletons, stuffed animals and other specimens in vitrines and dioramas.
Like Gulliver, the Atlanta artist is an adventurous sort. He moves among painting, sculpture and photography with the same agility that he works up and down the scale spectrum.
In fact, the mastodon is downright puny compared to his latest installation. The piece encompasses the elevator lobbies of 20 floors at Sovereign, a mixed-use complex in Buckhead. It consists of 5-by-10-foot photographs in light boxes, which together represent a tree, from roots to topmost branches.
Here’s the fillip: Each …

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