Get in the holiday spirit this season at Virgin Hotels New Orleans (read our full review here) with a special suite package that pays homage to everyone’s favorite classic holiday movie, 'A Christmas Story'. Fans of the movie will delight in the stay, which includes accommodation in Sir Richard’s Suite or the Penthouse Rooftop Suite, each featuring a real Christmas Tree from Forstall Interiorscapes complete with ornaments to decorate the tree yourselves.
There are also special amenities including signature 'A Christmas Story' bunny pajamas; a special Peking Duck dinner followed by freshly baked cookies and milk, prepared by Virgin Hotels’ executive chef Alex Harrell, and served in your suite, plus much more.
Once you get settled into your suite, you can slide into your bunny pajamas and head to your specially reserved 'fireside sofa' at The Pool Club which has been transformed for the holidays into 'A Very Tiki Christmas'. Decked out with heaters and fuzzy robes and throws, The Pool Club is the perfect venue to exchange fireside stories, enjoy some special 'A Very Tiki Holiday' cocktails and maybe play a game or two of triple dog dare.
- Complimentary valet parking for one vehicle
- Welcome holiday amenity
- Holiday décor throughout the suite
- Signature "A Christmas Story" Bunny pajamas for 2 guests to take home
- Fireside Sofa reservation at The Pool Club including 2 complimentary “A Very Tiki Holiday” cocktails
- Peking Duck dinner prepared by Chef Alex with cookies & milk as dessert served in-suite
- Advance courtesy call prior to arrival from YES! Agent to plan your stay
Rates start at $2,150 per night using code VIRGINVACAY. Virgin New Orleans website
Two-night minimum required for stays November 25 through December 31, 2022. Ralphie's Virgin Vacation package needs to be booked at least 7 days prior to check-in, and is subject to availability. Reservations will be made at time of booking and are also subject to availability. Advance reservation is required & blackout dates may apply. Offer valid for new bookings only and cannot be combined with any other offers. 1st night non-refundable deposit is required at time of booking.
Executive Chef Ryan Pearson invites guests to explore the flavors of black truffle through a five-course feast with thoughtfully crafted biodynamic, organic and natural wine pairings. Tickets to the evening are available for $200 (inclusive) and reservations are now open via Resy.
The dinner takes place on Thurs, Dec 15, 7:00 pm @ Couvant (317 Magazine Street, inside The Eliza Jane Hotel)
There's still time to enter the annual diorama contest at the Bywater Museum of Unnatural History. Make your weirdest and wonderful-est diorama and drop it off at the museum (921 Mandeville), during open hours or by appointment. The dealine is Saturday Dec 10th and thr museum will hold a judging party on Sunday Dec 11th. Read our review of the museum!
Friends were startled when I told them I’d never seen any version of The Lion King. What can I say? I’m just not really a Disney guy. The recent dead-eyed, soulless “live-action” remake hadn’t done anything to spark my curiosity, and so I was going in cold to this touring production of Broadway’s second-longest-running, and by far most lucrative show.
I gingerly entered the lion’s den, with little expectation. The rousing opening salvo by the baboon Rafiki (here reimagined as a shamanic priestess) in Swahili - “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! / (Here comes a lion, father!)” - coupled with the stampede of animals that it heralds, though, was like an electric jolt.
From the stage wings and from the back of the theater, a Noah’s Ark of wildlife arrives to welcome the new heir to the throne. Birds swoop, puma slink, giraffe saunter and a huge elephant marches through the audience to complete the crowd of animal onlookers. This is an immediately awe-inspiring introduction to the audience of the puppet-lead artistry that graces the entire production.
Six actors live inside that near life-size elephant, and the rest of the savannah is equally thrilling. I join the multi-generational audience in being nothing less than agog as the story begins. You’ll be familiar with the plot, which draws from Hamlet as a young prince navigates a perilous route to the throne, protected by a loving king father but beset by danger from a scheming uncle who feels overlooked.
The songs come thick and fast, and although Elton John and Tim Rice are the marquee names, the work and atmospherics provided by the African composer Lebo M. are the heart of the show, and are further brought to life by two live rhythm sections.
The ingenious animal costumes, employing puppetry that mixes simple light and shadow with the most elaborate exoskeletons, are a complete joy. Even when the actors are clearly visible, their commitment to movement and mimicry never detract from the aesthetic, and in fact it creates an even more dream-like visual.
The young Simba (Jaylen Lyndon Hunter) is a revelation, while scheming uncle Scar (Peter Hargrave) is played pitch-perfectly, bitter and sinister with a splash of camp. The entire ensemble is nothing but charismatic, with stand-outs for me being the comedy provided by avian consort to the king Zazou (Nick LaMedica), and the meerkat and warthog who befriend young Simba (Tony Freeman and John E. Brady as Timon and Pumba respectively. Gugwana Dlamini (Rafiki) steals every scene she’s in and Khalifa White’s Nala is a whirlwind of badassery.
In short, it’s a joyous extravaganza, and the presence of legions of children (who often hilariously react to onstage dialogue) reminded me of the pantomimes of my home country. The production levels, though, are ones that show a satisfying portion of the ticket price right up on that stage, and the visual logistics of the wildebeest stampede alone are worth the price of admission. Even Disney-sceptics such as this old warthog left blown away by the showmanship, delivered without a trace of cynicism, and with storytelling and truly inspiring spectacle to the fore. (PO)
Broadway in New Orleans continues at The Saenger Theater, with Six on November 29th
Being interviewed on stage as the movie opens, the life of classical conductor Lydia Tár looks to be resounding with symphonic levels of success. Through sheer talent and a singular drive, she has worked her way up to the heady heights of helming the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Her resume is longer than a CVS receipt, with a PhD from Harvard, years spent in remote jungles exploring music anthropology and even EGOT-ing (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) her way to fame beyond the concert halls.
Nowhere to go but down from here, right? An upcoming completion of recording her hero Mahler’s works is the backdrop to a nuanced and expertly-paced fall from grace, but director Todd Field isn’t in a hurry to get there. Settle in for a near-three hour psychological drama that both Field and lead Cate Blanchett deliver with a masterful touch.
At first, small actions hint at some of Tár’s more worrying idiosyncrasies: courting sexual attention from admirers, mild germaphobia, lying to her long-term partner (the orchestra’s first violinist, played by Nina Hoss) with whom she is raising a young child (Mila Bogojevic). She leads a bad-tempered tutorial at Juilliard, cowering a young conducting student into submission about the separation of art and artist when he suggests that Bach might not be a hero to everyone.
What follows is a compelling examination of Tár’s lifestyle of panoramic manipulation, balanced with her descent into utter derangement. Dissatisfied with her long-time, aging assistant conductor, she plots to have him removed but rigs it to make it look like his own choice. She elevates less qualified players in the orchestra so that she can seduce them, and she gaslights her long-term partner in sinister, controlling ways.
The death of a former protégé sparks increasingly frequent bouts of paranoia. As much as her life is dedicated to sound, Tár also suffers from misphonia - a condition where ambient noises trigger a flight-or-fight response - and she often wakes at night, startled by a buzzing refrigerator. Aural irritations add to the growing cracks of a mental breakdown, as her professional machinations and predatory behaviour begin to catch up with her, shaking her lofty perch.
It’s a performance that should have Blanchett in real-life Oscar contention come awards season. She is at once utterly controlling, intimidating and dynamic, but with weaknesses that lay her vulnerability bare. Sometimes impulsive, never satisfied (especially romantically), insecure and bullying. She’s a loving mother, though, and she lives for musical beauty, and so even as she deteriorates, sympathetic virtues underpin her worst excesses.
Tense lingering takes, the absence of a score beyond the music played on screen and a script that makes the audience calculate plot inferences for themselves instead of being spoon-fed: these are all daring choices by Field given the film’s length. However, it’s gripping from the start thanks to the subtle way that the rot sets in, as well as the engaging performances. Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant is excellent as Tár’s long-suffering assistant, as are ingénue cellist and temptress Sophie Kauer and classical old guards Mark Strong and Julian Glover.
It’s a thrilling character study, as well as one that addresses sexual morals in entertainment head on. The film’s movements are conducted expertly by Field and Blanchett, and in the end, it’s more of a requiem for a dream than a mighty opus. (PO)
Tár is playing at Prytania Canal Pace
There’s a heady echelon of artists who didn’t just excel at what they did, the very fact of their doing it changes the landscape of their craft. Louis Armstrong is, to borrow a phrase, in that number. From his first musical outings in ragtag bands at the Waif's Home for delinquents in New Orleans (where he became band leader at 13 years old) to a global presence that few musicians attain, Armstrong lead an extraordinary life.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, by director Sacha Jenkins, leans on a wealth of impressive source material (including the vast library of Armstrong’s uncensored home tapes) to create a structurally jazz-like film that paints an unflinching picture of a musical titan.
His somewhat known rise from poverty, playing in the red light district of New Orleans’ Storyville, is fleshed out with some remarkable tales and film footage. The stories of his influence come thick and fast - he created scatting, his pivotal innovations injecting African rhythms into Western music, his pioneering of improvisational techniques…what we’re describing is virtually the invention of a genre. To quote virtuoso saxophonist Artie Shaw, “I would say jazz almost stems from Louis Armstrong.”
Armstrong smashed through barriers as a force of nature. He was the first black artist to open a club, and a ballroom, and a radio station, and the the first black actor to have his name above the title in movie promotion. There are way too many anecdotes and insights to summarize here. The documentary packs them in, though, via talking heads, voiceovers by musical legends and extracts from Armstrongs’ letters and private archives.
If you’re reading this you likely have a relationship with New Orleans. Louis Armstrong had one too, and it was…complicated. He left the city as a young man, following his musical heroes to Chicago and then to New York as his star ascended. His returns here were a mix of joy and stark reminders of Southern prejudice.
We hear about his taking a private train to travel here, selling out a large theater, but the announcer of that theater refusing to bring him up on stage, using the most offensive slurs imaginable. The then mayor gave him the keys to the city, but in reality those keys could not unlock swathes of white-only spaces. White supremacy might performatively make token concessions, but it does not relent in its persecution.
Armstrong’s civil rights stances are, of course, examined. He was often mocked by other black artists for playing a submissive role in the media, but like Sammy Davis Jr, this was a stealth offensive. Decades before Hendricks at Woodstock, Louis Armstrong would play the Star Spangled Banner as a political statement, he was in rooms that many other black people could not dream of entering, he was working to survive and elevate others from his position.
There’s an incredible story by black actor Ossie Davis, who had “malice and ridicule” for Armstrong until he worked with him on a movie set and saw a steely melancholy in him. “Beneath that gravel voice and that shuffle,” he says, “Under all that mouth with more teeth than a piano had keys, was a horn that could kill a man.”
New Orleans’ own Wynton Marsalis is one of the main commentators. He too came from a position of cynicism about Armstrong. It was all “Dixie and shufflin’,” he says. “In my time I hated that with unbelievable passion.” When Marsalis moved away from New Orleans, his father sent him tapes of Armstrong and said, “Why don’t you learn one of these solos?” After trying and failing to match the sonic range, the power of the musical register and the sheer endurance of Armstrong’s trumpet playing, Marsalis conceded his genius.
Sacha Jenkins covers huge tracts of biographical ground. We get Armstrong the global megastar, playing to tribespeople in Ghana and in front of the pyramids in Egypt, Armstrong the marijuana and laxatives proponent, the avuncular chat show guest, the four wives, the uncompromising artist, the sweary rants at astonishing racism from low-level media personnel. Armstrong is criticized for not marching, but he buys coal for poor residents of cities he plays in, and he gives generously, working a different line of attack.
In a lot of the footage, though, he is just spreading industrial amounts of joy. That famous, infectious grin, as big as a sunrise. As one commentator remarks, “It was not a simple-minded happiness, it was a transcendent joy.” That transcendence - social, musical, cultural, - is the feeling that you walk away with. Welcome to Armstrong’s complex, but wonderful world. (PO)
Louis Armstrong's Black and Blues is playing at the Prytania Canal Place
Saba’s Lounge Dinner Series is coming up next week. These specially curated dinners will be like a classic salon meets lively dinner party—a family-style meal with all the hits from Saba paired with wine, spirits, and intimate conversation from some of the team’s favorite makers in the beverage world. Details on the lineup are below; all take place at Saba’s Lounge, the newly opened space that connects with Saba. Tickets can be found on Resy.
Milk & Honey Spirits | Wednesday, November 9, 6PM - 9PM
Milk & Honey is an urban distillery located in one of Tel Aviv’s up and coming neighborhoods. Among many other entrepreneurs, innovators, and makers, it is a part of the city’s fabric. M&H gin and whiskey will be featured.
Women in Wine | Thursday, December 15, 6PM - 9PM
Women are the word. Saba’s team has hand-picked pairings from their favorite women-owned wineries to accompany Saba’s salatim, and the fabulous winemakers will join to share stories and expertise.
Kimberley Jones Wine Selections | Thursday, January 19, 2023, 6PM - 9PM
Kimberley Jones is a leading California fine wine broker & distributor who will showcase a selection to accompany the evening’s five-course tasting menu.
‘Eat the rich’ is a common enough anti-capitalist slogan, and here’s a movie that prods at what that might actually look like in extreme circumstances, begging the further question of whether the rich would be as appetizing if you knew what they were marinated in. Excuse my grammar: if you knew in what they were marinated. Happy now? OK.
Director Ruben Östlund is a big cheese on the European film circuit, collecting his second Palm D’Or at Cannes last year for this satire. If you’ve seen his previous outings, Force Majeur (an avalanche-themed social comedy with beardy Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju) and The Square (a skewering of the modern art scene set in Stockholm), then some of the themes of the Triangle of Sadness will be familiar.
Östlund loves to dwell on the tensions between the middle/upper classes and those that serve them in luxurious surroundings, the wasteful, frivolous decadence of the rich, and the conflicting memories that two people might have about the same event. Those are all in evidence here, the former two being the main motif.
The title refers to the patch between a model’s eyebrows, the film opening with a pointed look at catwalk auditions, and introducing us to ernest himbo Carl (a chiseled but dour Harris Dickinson) and his semi-flighty influencer/model girlfriend, Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean Kriek). The first act is a precision dissection of modern sexual and economic morals in a personal, romantic sense, and one which leads to a free jolly on a luxury yacht.
Enter uptight steward Paula (played with perfect intensity by Vicki Berlin), corralling her starch-white uniformed staff to pamper their rich guests with the promise of huge cash tips, all the while the camera panning down to the Filipino cleaners and cooks, none of whom will see these bonuses. The captain seems to be drunk, though it’s hard to tell as he refuses to leave his cabin, but soon enough we’re in the middle of the ocean.
Secret Marxist Captain Thomas (an amusingly wasted Woody Harrelson) pulls it together for the Captain’s Dinner, welcoming a selection of oligarchs, tech billionaires, arms dealers and old money types, and it’s here that the tone shifts. What follows is a visceral and highly scatlogical literal shitstorm, the climax of which has Harrelson locked in his office with a Russian businessman, shouting communist epitaphs over the PA while everyone else swims in their own filth.
A hilariously ironic bout of piracy has the third act set on a deserted island, the few that survive thrown into a whole new society as a woman from ‘the staff’ (the excellent Dolly de Leon) emerges as the only one with the skills to hunt, make fire, or do anything of value. Looks and wealth mean nothing at first, though these things do have corrupting impacts as time passes, even in this apparent desolation.
Money, desirability, influence - these are all just ways to ease transactions of power, and this is laid bare. It’s a satire that’s perhaps more heavy-handed than Östlund’s other films, and the excesses of the rich could be painted in more subtly brutal terms. The director does have a nose for the minutiae of human behaviour, and how it shapes and is shaped by society. There are some laugh-out-loud set pieces, and a belligerent Woody Harrelson is always worth the price of admission. If you’re squeamish, though, you might have to look away for that shocking, mid-movie tidal wave. (PO)
The Triangle of Sadness is playing at the Prytania Theater Canal Place.
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