A couple weeks back, Mrs. Nat’s TV and I had our anniversary. We chose to celebrate by taking in a couple of entertainments. We bought two tickets for The Sunshine Boys starring Danny Devito and Judd Hirsch. Now, I hadn’t seen the stage version before, but had seen both of the filmed versions (the excellent Walter Matthau/George Burns theatrical release, and the better-forgotten Peter Falk/Woody Allen telefilm); the Mrs. had not experienced it in any way. We had sprung for front-row tickets, which may seem like an indulgence, but once you’re paying for a babysitter for an extended evening of getting into the city, dining, and a show, the total cost difference between being barely able to make out the figures on stage (as we had done from the last row on an earlier anniversary, going to see The Producers) and being able to count Devito’s nostril hairs if one wished (we didn’t) is small.
The play is good and sharp, and works fine as a period piece (which it now is and wasn’t when it was written; due to being grounded in vaudeville, one cannot slide it in time.) It was well performed, even though the very talented Mr. Devito is not optimal for the lead role. The first half of the first act in particular seems written for someone whose delivery is more down and inward, a certain sort of grump, while Devito, even when playing nasty characters, has always been more of an outward glow sort of person. He still managed to make that material work.
The play runs on a basic Simon formula: take two people who don’t want to be together, and put them together. That’s the Sunshine Boys, the Odd Couple, the Goodbye Girl, Seems Like Old Times, Max Dugan Returns, and so forth. I’ll have to play with that myself as a formula; it’s an obviously workable engine.
The next day, we snuck out for a mid-day showing of Gravity. It was obvious from the way this film was being discussed as an immersive experience that we wanted to see it in 3-D, but we thought we’d skip the IMAX fee. As it turns out, the showing we showed up for was in XD, which is a competing format for IMAX but the same idea… and it was probably worth the extra bucks. Even though one can find quibbles with anything, and this is no exception, the entire ride was tense and well worth it, an impressive piece of filmmaking and something to hold up as an example of What We Can Now Do, on a technical level. It’s an action effects film that, should it be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, there will be many people who will think it doesn’t deserve it, but no one will be surprised it’s there. Do go see it while it is still on the big screen, preferably a high-tech one. (I’ve felt for a while that there should be some effort to keep really IMAXy films available in that format; if I owned a multiplex in a resort area and had two IMAX screens, I’d be tempted to see if I could keep hold of some of the releases; if three years from now, I was still showing Gravity twice a week and The Dark Knight once, and other films in there as well, I bet I could make some bucks out of people who missed them the first time around or who want that experience again.