The Best Things About 2013Posted: January 2, 2014 Filed under: Art & architecture, Movies, Music, Theater, TV, radio | Tags: Bruce Springsteen, Chicago Dramatists, Gapers Block, Interrobang Theatre Project 2 Comments
Yes, there were some horrible things about 2013, mostly political, Congressional, in fact. But there were some great things about the year. Here’s are some of the things I want to remember about the last 12 months.
I’ve written about most of these things here, but I decided not to provide links because then the whole post would be links. If you want to follow up on a topic, check the Categories selections on the right. (Image courtesy PSD Graphics.)
- Retirement means I’m finally able to be a writer. Writing about the things I love. I was a business writer for 35 years, but it was never this much fun.
- Being “hired” to write for Gapers Block has been terrific. Thank you, Andrew and LaShawn. In just seven months, I’ve posted 71 articles, mostly theater and art reviews. All Gapers Block writers work as volunteers, but I do get free theater tickets and personal previews of art exhibits.
- Nancy Bishop’s Journal has been in business for 18 months and this year I wrote 65 new posts, as my WordPress Annual Report announced yesterday.
- An Iliad at Court Theatre was absolutely the best play of my year.
- The Seafarer at Seanachai Theatre, performed at The Den Theatre, was a close second. It’s been extended, so you can still see it until February 1.
- Homeland 1972 at Chicago Dramatists. How could I not love a play based on a Bruce Springsteen song? (“Highway Patrolman” from the 1982 album Nebraska.)
- Terminus performed by Interrobang Theatre Project at the Athenaeum.
- The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn by Strange Tree Theatre at Signal Ensemble Theatre. The time machine was worth the ticket price but the whole show was smart and funny.
- Remy Bumppo seems to do no wrong, at least this year. Both Northanger Abbey and An Inspector Calls were outstanding productions.
- Hypocrites is another company that does great work. Their production of the Chicago story titled Ivywild was wondrous.
- Trap Door Theatre’s production of The Balcony was outstanding, and so is most of this group’s work.
- There were many more excellent shows, many that I reviewed for Gapers Block. But I’ll stop at nine.
- Leonard Cohen at the Chicago Theatre. Leonard was his usual charming, sprightly self and left me cheering for a performer who knows how to present a great show. Both Leonard and I are approaching the age at which we might be called “super-agers” and I look forward to seeing how both of us do in our 80s.
- The farewell to Lou Reed, who died in October at 71, was a musical tribute played outside in a grove of trees near Lincoln Center. Watch this video to see friends and fans rocking out to his “Walk on the Wild Side.”
- The soundtrack from the film Inside Llewyn Davis, taking us back 50 years to relive the ‘60s in Greenwich Village, in the pre-Dylan era. The songs are all new arrangements of traditional folk songs, except for “Please Mr. Kennedy,” done in a hilarious performance by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver (providing the bass notes).
- “Dream Baby Dream,” the Springsteen song I couldn’t stop listening to
- Anticipation: A new Springsteen record, High Hopes, will be released January 14. We’re hoping that Bruce will finally come home to tour but so far the 2014 dates are only in South Africa and Australia.
Films (a few of my favorites, in random order)
- Inside Llewyn Davis, which I’ve seen twice and reviewed here last week.
- Russian Ark, a 2002 film by Aleksandr Sokurov, a technological and artistic masterpiece, despite being plotless. It’s a tour thru the Hermitage with a cast of thousands.
- Sound City, a documentary made by Dave Grohl about one of the last analog music production studios in Los Angeles.
- Anna Karenina, a gorgeous film innovatively staged—literally on a theater stage—with beautiful costumes, settings, cinematography and acting.
- Holy Motors, a bizarre masterwork directed by Leos Carax, starring Denis Lavant.
- Springsteen and I, in which his fans talk about how they came to be Springsteen fans and what his music means to them.
- 20 Feet from Stardom, a film about the background singers, mostly black and female, who make rock sound like the music we love.
- I didn’t see Spike Jonze’s Her until January 3, but it’s one of the top films of 2013. My review is coming up.
- The Story of Film: An Odyssey, written and produced by Mark Cousins, an Irish film critic. The fascinating 15-part series starts with the first barely moving pictures in the 19th century and ends with today’s filmmakers. TCM ran it on 15 consecutive Monday nights this fall and Netflix is streaming it.
- As always, a bow to the Gene Siskel Film Center and its dedication to excellent, rarely seen films
- House of Cards, the Netflix political drama available for binge-watching
- Treme, a somewhat flawed HBO series, centered on the eponymous New Orleans neighborhood, with great music; it ended this week after four seasons.
- Breaking Bad on AMC; it’s all over for Walter White. Looking forward to the final season of Mad Men, also to be shown in two parts. Will Don Draper finally become Dick Whitman?
- Stand Up for Heroes, the annual benefit concert for wounded warriors, on which Mr. Springsteen did a 20-minute set and told bad jokes.
- Palladia, the 24/7 rock music channel. What would I do without it?
Art and art venues
- The Art of Fashion X 3. The most underrated of the three exhibits–Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair—is at the Chicago History Museum until May 11. It’s a fabulous show; don’t miss it. The other two were Punk: Chaos to Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibit.
- Shutter to Think: The Rock & Roll Lens of Paul Natkin. This exhibit of the Chicago rock and roll photographer’s work for magazines, album covers and posters is excellent. It’s at the Chicago Cultural Center thru January 4, so you still have a minute to see it.
- Chicago’s Bauhaus Legacy, a superb exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art on West Grand Avenue. I wrote a feature about this excellent small museum for Gapers Block.
- The Work at Play exhibit of graphic design at the Chicago Design Museum in the Block 37 building, part of the Pop-Up Art Loop project. The exhibit honored the work of John Massey, a famous Chicago designer, and other important graphic designers
Books and book events
- I’ve written about short stories, my book group, ebooks on the CTA, and musical author book events: Richard Hell at the BookCellar and Peter Hook at the MCA
- Emile Zola, whose novels I binged on this year. Nana, The Ladies’ Paradise, The Joy of Life and Germinal are just the beginning.
- The 50th anniversary of the release of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
Miscellaneous but important
- The death of Roger Ebert left a huge gap in film criticism and the movie biz.
- Edward Snowden and the NSA. Snowden’s release of NSA files, whether legal or not, made us aware of how much the government is invading our privacy. My view is that Snowden is a patriot and should be given amnesty so he can come home. He should not be imprisoned and tortured as Bradley/Chelsea Manning was for similar acts. Today the New York Times published a powerful editorial agreeing with me.
- Oscar Libre. After 32 years, it’s time to release Oscar Lopez Rivera, the Puerto Rican independence activist. I wrote about him a few weeks ago.
- And now, it’s time for ….
Thanks for the memories… and best wishes for a wonderful 2014 with another “best things” journal that can be even longer!
I love your play recommendations! Inspector Calls was great and I’m going to see Seafarer due to your review.
I hated Holy Motors! I walked out of the movie.
I never do that.
Thanks for your reviews.