Culture Monster
All arts, all the time
From 'Big Eyes' to 'Mr. Turner': A look back at artist biopics

Whether traditional or radical in style, the artist biopic usually comes with an air of cinematic prestige. This awards season, moviegoers and awards voters have two ambitious but very different examples of the genre to ponder.

"Mr. Turner" is filmmaker Mike Leigh's in-depth exploration of the last 25 years of the life of artist J.M.W. Turner, and "Big Eyes," the new film by Tim Burton, delves into the life of painter Margaret Keane.

Both movies are to open in the U.S. in December and have already played at festivals. "Mr. Turner," which earned Timothy Spall a best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, takes a panoramic view of the artist's later years, moving back and forth between his work and private life. 

"Big Eyes" focuses on Keane's relationship with her husband, Walter, who claimed responsibility for her paintings. The movie, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, is Burton's first biopic since 1994's "Ed Wood."

The photo gallery above provides a look back at some notable...

Read more
Bradley Cooper already a popular box-office draw on Broadway

Bradley Cooper hasn't officially opened in the new revival of "The Elephant Man" on Broadway, but the Hollywood star has already proved himself to be a strong box-office draw in the play's preview period.

"The Elephant Man," a revival of the Bernard Pomerance drama, is playing to virtually sold-out crowds at the Booth Theatre in New York and has grossed more than $900,000 a week in the last two weeks of previews. Performances began Nov. 7 and the production is set to officially debut Dec. 7.

Last week, the production was the ninth-highest grossing show on Broadway, and was the only show in the top 10 that was still in previews.

Cooper plays the role of John Merrick, an Englishman who suffers from a deforming disease that has made him a social outcast. A sympathetic doctor (Alessandro Nivola) takes him under his care and Merrick gradually becomes a national figure whose admirers include a famous actress (Patricia Clarkson).

The revival, directed by Scott Ellis, was first seen at the...

Read more
Sting joining cast of his Broadway musical 'The Last Ship'

Will the physical presence of Sting on stage be enough to keep his musical "The Last Ship" from sinking?

Starting next month, Sting is to join the cast of the new Broadway show, which has seen tepid box-office sales and unenthusiastic reviews since opening in October. The English rock star, who composed the songs for the show but who previously has not acted in it, will play a supporting role and is scheduled to start performances on Dec. 9.

"The Last Ship" is loosely inspired by Sting's own youth (the singer was born Gordon Sumner) in a coastal English town. The musical, which had a tryout run in Chicago before transferring to Broadway, tells the story of a young man who returns home to find the town's shipyard workers in the midst of a labor dispute. 

Sting is to be taking on the role of Jackie White, a foreman in the shipyard, for what is expected to be a five-week period at the Neil Simon Theatre. The character is currently being played by actor Jimmy Nail. 

The rock star has been...

Read more
Cornelius Gurlitt art trove accepted by Swiss museum

A museum in Switzerland said on Monday that it will accept the art trove of the late German dealer Cornelius Gurlitt, who had named the institution as his beneficiary for the masterpieces that were hidden from the public for years.

But the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland said it won't accept works in the collection that were looted by Nazi forces during World War II. Gurlitt was the son of the late Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who worked with the Third Reich.

The museum said that looted art will be returned to its rightful owners by the German government. If no rightful owner has been identified, the art will be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins, so that rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims.

Many families have already made claims on works in the so-called "Schwabing Art Trove." Since the stash was revealed last year, German officials have begun the laborious task of authenticating the art, which includes works on paper and...

Read more
New book about El Sistema paints unflattering portrait

When Geoffrey Baker, a music professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, traveled to Venezuela to work on a book about El Sistema, he was expecting to write a predictably upbeat account of the country's much lauded classical-music education system.

"I thought I was doing a feel-good piece of academic research," he recalled in a recent interview. But he said what he discovered over the course of a year of research and interviews surprised him.

"Bit by bit, I got a picture that was very different from the one I expected. I certainly didn't go in there with the intention of writing the book that I wrote. Had I known how it would turn out, my jaw would be on the floor."

An in-depth study that draws provocative conclusions, "El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela's Youth" is bound to raise eyebrows for its often unflattering depiction of how the organization is run.

El Sistema was founded nearly four decades ago by Jose Antonio Abreu, and provides free music education to hundreds of...

Read more
'A Delicate Balance': A look back at the Katharine Hepburn movie version

"A Delicate Balance," Edward Albee's 1966 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about emotional repression in an upper-crust WASP family, is once again a hot ticket on Broadway thanks to the new, starry revival production with Glenn Close and John Lithgow.

Tickets for the new revival, which opened Thursday at the John Golden Theatre in New York, have sold for as much as $323 during the preview period. For those on a more limited budget and travel schedule, the DVD of the 1973 film adaptation may offer a more accessible alternative.

Starring Katharine Hepburn as Agnes, an icy matriarch who is scared of losing her mind, the screen version is word-for-word faithful to Albee's play. (It was made as part of the short-lived American Film Theatre series from producer Ely Landau.) The movie was directed by Tony Richardson and shot in Great Britain, substituting for a vaguely New England setting.

In an interview included on the DVD, Albee said that he originally wanted Ingmar Bergman to direct the movie,...

Read more