- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Think of your grandmother’s “blue-and-white” china that she laid out for special dinners or her Dutch “Delft” ware that she used for informal luncheons. Now you can see the how and why of their popularity in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s Iraq and China: Ceramics, Trade, and Innovation. The exhibit shows Iraq’s unique contributions to the making of ceramics in the ninth century with examples of the “blue-and-whites” and gleaming luster ware its artisans invented at the time. At the Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Avenue SW. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily through April 24. Free. 202/633-1000.

— Joanna Shaw-Eagle

Beyond the Sea, starring Kevin Spacey, invokes a song originally associated with France’s Charles Trenet as it recalls the singing career of Bobby Darin, whose upbeat style put a distinctive mark on several standards during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mr. Darin’s version of “Mack the Knife” has overshadowed all competitors. Mr. Spacey, who was born in 1959, has been obsessed with impersonating the singer for several years; this is the culmination, an inventive tour de force that is eccentrically impressive and corrects the hapless drift in his own career. With Brenda Blethyn as the singer’s mother, Caroline Aaron as his sister, Bob Hoskins as his brother-in-law, John Goodman as his agent and Kate Bosworth as the overwhelmed Sandra Dee. Mr. Spacey directed from a screenplay whose writing credits seem a bit hazy, but he must be a major contributor on that score. The singing is also his, in a style that closely resembles the original.

— Gary Arnold

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