15 Outstanding Philly Arts Moments in 2015

Ticket arts writers weigh in on what they think are the most important local arts moments of 2015. 

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Lisette Oropesa’s in Opera Philly’s “Traviata”

Brava, Diva!

It’s been a banner year generally for Opera Philadelphia, but Lisette Oropesa’s Violetta in Traviata (her first performance of the role) was special. The beautiful young soprano met every vocal demand — fiendishly difficult as they may have been – and acted it superbly. Opera lovers around the world pay attention to debuting Violettas – the great ones are so rare. Here in Philly, we found one. —David Fox

Philadelphia Film Society Saves the Prince

The gorgeous Prince Theater seemed to be in quite a bit of limbo: The resident production company had vacated a number of years ago, and their presentations were random at best. With PFS purchasing the building, the theater has becoming a bustling hub not only for movies (it’s now the only mainstream movie theater in Center City) but performing arts, and their Razz Room is hosting some of the hottest NYC cabaret acts around. —Bryan Buttler

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5 Questions With Malvern-Raised Director Adam McKay

The economic meltdown of 2008 came from a number of factors, but the single most glaring one was the banks’ reliance on the subprime mortgage loan. Some years before the collapse, one group of canny investors bet big on the eventual housing market meltdown, a maneuver that ended up making them very, very rich. The Big Short, a fact-based drama based on the book by Michael Lewis, comes from Malvern-raised director Adam McKay, known primarily for his work with Will Farrell on comedies like Anchorman, and Talledega Nights. While the film is concerned with serious, mostly dry, material, the Temple alum infuses it with amusing asides, fourth-wall breakage, and other comic staples. Here, he talks about how he made high-finance approachable, the way DraftKings emulates Wall Street, and the one piece of advice he learned about playing the Market.

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Bradley Cooper Movies, Ranked

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Local boy Bradley Cooper’s latest film, Joy, opens Christmas Day. There’s Oscar talk floating around this David O. Russell flick that also features Jennifer Lawrence. At 40, Cooper is entering the prime of his acting career, and there’s a lot to love about this charismatic actor from Jenkintown who’s already been nominated for three Academy Awards. But, as with any actor with a robust career, there have been some misses, too.

We open up the film vault and give you a guide to the films that made us want to bro-five our seat neighbors at the end, and the ones where we wanted to barf our movie popcorn right back into the bag. We’ve got high hopes for Joy, but until its release here’s a roadmap to navigate the highs and lows of Coop’s film repertoire. Scroll down for our rankings, or click straight through the section that interests you most.

The Good | The Even Better | The Bad | The Ugly

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The Hateful Eight: Thoughts On the New Quentin Tarantino Movie

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I had a chance to screen The Hateful Eight this week, just before the new Quentin Tarantino movie opens in 70mm in select cities followed by a standard format-release one week later. So will it take over the world like Pulp Fiction or fade into oblivion like Death Proof? Read on for my thoughts on the film. Read more »

Some Hard Truths About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

GIVE HIM A HAND: John Boyega's Finn TK.

GIVE HIM A HAND: John Boyega is downright electric as stormtrooper-turned-Resistance-fighter Finn.

I make a lot of stupid predictions, yo. I thought both the Eagles and Sixers would be in playoff position this season, but hell no. I predicted that Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee; instead, he’s disappearing from time and space like Marty McFly. Man, I thought they were going to kill War Machine in the second Avengers flick and I was crazy wrong.

But I got something right. I predicted that John Boyega would make Star Wars: The Force Awakens; I told my friends that the magnetism and physicality that he showed in Attack the Block (British indie smash; Boyega as latchkey kid leader of British chavs in a surprise war on aliens; see immediately) would dovetail perfectly with the anticipated — and delivered — speed of the new space opera. And it did. My God, Boyega — starring as stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn — is downright electric, working perfectly with Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac, our two other main characters, who portray a force-sensitive metal scavenger and an ace Resistance pilot, respectively.

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Rocky, Star Wars Let Us Grow Old With Favorite Characters

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I went and saw Creed last weekend. Reader, I cried.

I cried when Rocky Balboa got sick.

I cried when Creed put on his papa’s boxing trunks.

And the waterworks absolutely flowed when — after being held in abeyance all movie — the horns of the original Rocky theme finally sounded at a critical moment in Creed’s climactic big fight.

It was all very macho.

This weekend, my wife and I took my 7-year-old son to see the new Star Wars movie. I got a little misty at getting to repeat a ritual that my parents and family shared when I was a child; and yes, there were key points in the movie — I’ll not spoil them at this early date — when my eyes were so wet I could barely see the screen.

I mention this not just because I am exceedingly vulnerable to cinematic manipulation and nostalgia — though that is surely true — but because the two movies together made me realize this: Forty years after the modern blockbuster franchise movie era was born, with Jaws and Rocky and Star Wars and a blaze of both special effects and Roman numerals, corrupt old youth-obsessed Hollywood has been forced to give us something it usually tries to avoid:

Meditations on aging, loss, and death. Read more »

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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When I was 4 years old, I waited in what seemed like an endless line with my mom one May afternoon. When we finally reached the destination — a now-shuttered movie theater in Lansing, Illinois called River Oaks — I went to my seat completely unaware that my whole life was about to change. When the lights went down, the familiar opening title crawl of Return of the Jedi scrolled before my young eyes. John Williams’s score blared. That sense of discovery and ignorance of what I was about to see was a luxury in 1983 movie houses — whether you were young or old. In 2015, when every pop culture second is analyzed and regurgitated online, nearly every cinematic experience is spoiled before you have a chance to buy a ticket.

J.J. Abrams and crew thoughtfully managed to rekindle that magic in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They kept us mostly in the dark up until last night’s premiere, releasing just enough footage to assure us the Star Wars franchise was back in good hands after a trio of uneven prequels. I saw it on opening night and let me tell you: the film delivers. It’s what you hoped it would be. It’s got the tightest script and character development of any Star Wars film. The Force Awakens is an overwhelming success.

Let me explain, but take heed: While I’ve tried my best to keep specific details mum, there are plot spoilers ahead.

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GIVEAWAY: See Carol Early and For Free Next Week at Ritz at the Bourse [CONTEST CLOSED]

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in a scene from "Carol."

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in a scene from “Carol.”

Folks were buzzing about Carol when it screened a few months ago at the Philadelphia Film Festival, but those of us who missed it have been champing at the bit for it to finally open in Philly theaters. Our wait comes to an end next Friday, when it opens at Ritz East.

Don’t want to wait that long? You’re in luck! We’ve been given 25 pairs of tickets for an early screening that’s taking place on Monday, December 21st at Ritz at the Bourse at 7:30 pm. To snag a pair, be one of the first 25 people to email me at jmiddleton@phillymag.com between now and Sunday, December 20th, with the subject line “Give me those Carol tickets!” I’ll respond with details on how to pick up your prize.

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Stormtroopers “Arrested” on South Street

Philly police are just like us: They can’t wait for the new Star Wars movie and they’ll go to any lengths to stop fools from spoiling the plot for those of us who haven’t seen it.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant Stephen Clark tweeted a photo of two stormtroopers lined up against his police cruiser on South Street. The Philly Police Department retweeted it, saying “No, posting #StarWarsForceAwakens spoilers is not a crime. Yes, it should be. We enforce the laws — we don’t make them.”

See all the shenanigans below:

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Photo: This Is What Star Wars Hysteria Looked Like in Philly in 1983

Movie fans line up on Philadelphia's Chestnut Street for the premiere of the Movie "Return of the Jedi" Wednesday May 23, 1983. Fans began lining up Tuesday night to see the Star Wars trilogy. (AP Photo/ George Widman)

Movie fans line up on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street for the premiere of the Movie “Return of the Jedi” Wednesday May 23, 1983. Fans began lining up Tuesday night to see the Star Wars trilogy. (AP Photo/ George Widman)

Check this out. A shot from May 23, 1983 shows what looks like hundreds of Philadelphians lined up on Chestnut Street to see the opening of George Lucas’s Return of the Jedi, the third and final installment of his Star Wars saga in the late-70s/early-80s. What you see there is the recently demolished Boyd Theatre in its heyday, offering 70mm, 6-track-stereo-sound showings of the film that had people excited because it was the first to use THX technology.

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