This past weekend, Mel Brooks was recognized (along with Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro, Grace Bumbry and Dave Brubeck) at the Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Here’s what President Obama had to say about the hilarious actor/director/comedian:
Many believe that Mel Brooks has majorly impacted the concept of Jewish film. In Moment’s feature on Great Jewish Films, several of the critics and scholars interviewed include his films in their picks of top five Jewish films.
The Israel Philharmonic must be the most relaxed symphony orchestra in the world. Really, some of these musicians literally lean back in their chairs while they play. Others sway, and I caught a trombone player whispering with the timpani guy at one point. (Those guys in the back have some really loooooong rests.) And the resulting sound? Gorgeous.
So in sync was the ensemble — performing Mendelssohn and Brahms for a packed house Tuesday night at Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — that they gave the impression of playing just for the joy of it in somebody’s (very large) living room. In the familiar “Italian” symphony by Mendelssohn, especially, it seemed the conductor could have walked off stage and the orchestra contentedly continued on their own.
That’s not to discount the influence of this very special conductor. Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel, 27, commanded the podium all evening (sans score) in his D.C. debut. Zippity Dudamel, whose new home base is the Los Angeles Philharmonic, lived up to his reputation for warmth and a certain kinetic genius on stage. So expressive are his body and his hands, so impish his smile and so floppy his wild ringlets, he could be the dark-haired reincarnation of Harpo Marx. His gestural repertoire was endless: He tiptoes; he lunges; he jumps, he practically waltzes with the orchestra. To draw out their amazing sound, he also performs the jumping-jack wave, the stagger, the upright shoulder-jerk, the scoop-and-shovel, and the curtain-draw. Then there’s the “We’re #1” finger poke, the toddler-tantrum stomp, the bear hug, the plunger and the leaning tower. Continue reading →