Wednesday, July 8, 2020


It may very well come under the heading of preaching to the choir, but in case you haven’t heard, Hamilton is wonderful. Just about everyone knows that, and almost as many folks know that the CD version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit also rates high on any scale of fabulous. Now you must add another notch to that belt.

If you have yet to pay the Disney folks their very modest asking price for a one- month subscription to Disney Plus, then stop reading this, go to your Smart device, and do so immediately.

It is there, on the “Disney channel,” that you will find the original cast of Hamilton, performing before a live Broadway audience the show that has transformed musical theatre and created a new bench-mark by which all theatre will be measured for the foreseeable future.

Why is it I come to this party so late? Because Hamilton has done it again. In fact, I am none too sure that it hasn’t OUT-done even itself. The video version that Disney is presenting is simply over the top spectacular. It is the new standard by which any other presentation of a stage production on tape must be judged.

This Hamilton is not simply one of those videos where someone put a camera on a tripod in the third row of the theatre and let it run. This is a very cinematic turn by the original director of the Broadway show, Thomas Kail. His work, and that of the editor, Jonah Moran, should be saluted at every award show where this production is eligible.

This is great stuff on so many levels, you simply must see it. There were excuses in the past for not doing so. There are none now. 

I was late to the party on the Netflix series Marcella. This too should be added to your must-see list. There are three short seasons to catch up with and Anna Friel, who plays the title role, will easily have you forgiving the writing contrivances in this very dark and violent series. The supporting cast is top-notch as well. I loved it.

I was also impressed with the Amazon Prime series Zero Zero Zero. Even more violent than Marcella, but all of that well integrated into the plot. Imaginative storytelling, delivered well by a very fine cast.

Finally caught up with The Morning Show on Apple TV. A very hip, contemporary drama with ten out of ten very good episodes, all starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, two of the most attractive and talented women in show business. Not quite Cagney & Lacey, but then…what is?

… And then there is Perry Mason on HBO. It is beautifully shot with a production design that is all but flawless. I am old enough to have been brought up with Hollywood’s film noir and its various homages to Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, and the seamy side of Los Angeles and the LAPD. All of that comes through in this production, but there is something…just a bit off.

Mathew Rhys is a very fine actor. Better than most. His role as the husband-spy in The Americans helped anchor that brilliant series. But Matthew Rhys is simply not a star…and a star is exactly what a film noir movie requires. Sorry, but Rhys ain’t no Humphrey Bogart. Not even a Robert Mitchum. As a result, the HBO series lacks something. Among the credits listing producers is the name Robert Downey Jr.… maybe he shoulda produced himself in the title role.

And then there is a note on a sign of the times: I found myself impatient with the inability to stream the series. I have become spoiled. I no longer want to wait a week between episodes, especially when there are plot intricacies that the audience should get a chance to see played out in something approaching real time. My counsel on this series would be to wait several weeks and then stream the beast on HBO-GO.

Finally, don’t be surprised if your live-at-home children just “don’t get it.” Film Noir is simply not in their movie vocabulary, ranking right up there with movies in black and white that they can barely sit through. Do I understand this? Not even a little bit.

Barney Rosenzweig

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