omplete QPORIT: May 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

 

JESSICA CHASTAIN


JESSICA CHASTAIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman
 
FOR JESSICA AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS, CHECK OUT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2012/01/oscar-nominations.html



JESSICA CHASTAIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman



JESSICA CHASTAIN CHATTING WITH HARVEY WEINSTEIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman



JESSICA CHASTAIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman



JESSICA CHASTAIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman



JESSICA CHASTAIN
At HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman


Jessica Chastain is one of the stars in the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or prize-winning TREE OF LIFE. She plays Brad Pitt's wife and the mother of (the young) Sean Penn

I met her at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF 2010), where she was honored as one of the Rising Stars.  I've included some snapshots of her from the Hamptons Festival (above).  She also played Desdemona in a very interesting Public Theater/LAByrinth Theater production of Othello, with John Ortiz as Othello and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Iago. (Click on the production photo below to link to our story about this production.)

Jessica is currently in at least six (SIX!) other pictures that have not been released. She plays Salome alongside, and directed by Al Pacino in WILDE SALOME; she is in another Terrence Malick picture (untitled so far) with Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams that is currently being filmed, and she is in THE WETTEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. She is also in CORIOLANUS, directed by Ralph Feinnes, and two films scheduled for release this summer, THE FIELDS, a dark film about murder in Texas, and THE HELP, with Viola Davis and Emma Stone, about race relations in Mississippi.

According to Wikipedia and IMDB, after graduating from the Juilliard acting program, Jessica appeared in many theatrical productions of classical dramas (Shakespeare, Chekhov...) before her film career began taking off. She was born Jessica Howard, but took her mother's maiden name. She has been dancing since she was nine, and acting in Shakespeare since she was a teenager.

Jessica is  30 years old (Mar 29, 1981), is 5' 4", has long red hair, and -- in the Hamptons at least -- wears bright red lipstick.


HERE ARE SOME LINKS TO REFERENCES ON JESSICA CHASTAIN AND HER FILMS,
followed by some production photos, and another of my snapshots of Jessica from HIFF 2010.
(Click on the photos below for links to our stories in which Jessica appears.)

JESSICA CHASTAIN on IMDB & WIKIPEDIA
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1567113/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Chastain

THE TREE OF LIFE on IMDB & WIKIPEDIA
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478304/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tree_of_Life_(film)

WILDE SALOME
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795459/

UNTITLED TERRENCE MALICK PROJECT
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1595656/

WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1212450/



Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington & Marton Caokas
THE DEBT



John Ortiz as Othello, Jessica Chastain as Desdemona, and
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Iago in OTHELLO
Photo by Armin Bardel
 
 



Jessica Chastain
THE DEBT at HIFF 2010
Rising Star / Breakthrough Performer
Photo by Eric Roffman


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Saturday, May 28, 2011

 

ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL 2011 -- WRAP-UP

Cats in love... by moonlight
From LAND OF GENESIS


At the opening of the 2011 Israel Film Festival (IFF) in New York, a Cultural Representative from Israel spoke eloquently of the ability of the films in the Israel Film Festival to provide to the world a picture of every-day, vibrant, real life in Israel, and to help erase the inaccurate cliches and negative images with which people have viewed Israel and its people. 

Unfortunately, based on the selection of films, I would say this edition of the IFF has done the opposite.  It has reinforced old ideas about Israel, is mired in the past, and has not at all presented an attractive or interesting picture of a modern Israel.

Of fifteen feature films, at least ten dealt with war, the holocaust, the Israeli army, the formation of Israel, or the history of the Jews. (The others were two romances, one horror film, one comedy, and one working-class gritty drama.)

The worst offender that I saw was the Opening Night film, INTIMATE GRAMMAR, which reinforces every negative image one might have of an unhappy, dysfunctional Israeli population living in the past.  Although based on a celebrated story by celebrated Israeli author, David Grossman, described as a "sensitive" study of growing up, I found the film very insensitive.  Here in the US, recently, there has been a lot of attention focused on the problem of peer bullying; as filmed, directed, and acted, this movie is about parental (and spousal) bullying. Indeed the mother/wife is a horrible harridan, exhibiting a virulence rarely displayed in film.  Ironically, (and metaphorically), although one of the cliches the Cultural Representative railed against was the idea that inside Israeli homes it is empty, in this film, in a desperate attempt to find love secretly (by establishing a "cover story" under which they could meet), the husband is hired by his neighbor to demolish the inside of her house, leaving the inside an empty rubble.

Of two contemporary "romance" films, I saw only one, (variously called 2 AM, 2 NIGHT or TONIGHT, and it was boring, colorless, unimaginative, and shot with less production quality than some home movies on YouTube. (By contrast, making the same joke as 2AM, on The Good Wife, the other night, the two leading characters finally decide to get together. From a season of shows, we know both characters very well.  They both want it. Badly. But... First, the hotel has no rooms, and they have to arrange for a $7,000+ a night room; then the elevator makes every stop up to the top floor; then the room key does not work; then they finally get in. This sequence takes about 10 minutes.  In 2 AM, two characters sort of decide to get together.  Neither seems to want it very much. They can't find a parking place. They drive around looking for a parking place.  They have nothing much to talk about. We learn very little about them.  And the film takes 83 minutes.)

An interesting documentary, LAND OF GENESIS, does have some beautiful nature footage, but lacks an informative narrative, and pales visually and intellectually compared to recent nature documentaries like March of the Penguins, or even Disney's nature movies from long ago, or the TV series on the meerkats.

BROTHERS pits two brothers -- who represent the Orthodox religious view of Israel and the opposing secular view -- against each other.  The film gives both viewpoints a reasonably fair hearing, until it veers at the end into a very one-sided conclusion.   Many dubiously credible plot developments occur throughout the film, especially toward the end. This film seems to be determined by the points it wishes to make, rather than by the needs of a story. While not very credible as a story, the issues it confronts are interesting as a not-completely-one-sided though heavily-weighted polemic.

ZION AND HIS BROTHER -- This quite brutal and disturbing film seems to suggest that persistent heat and near poverty are driving all its characters to nastiness -- or outright evil. Not one of the characters in this film is anyone I wanted to spend 90 minutes with.  I would hate to know them in life.  The film is well acted, well written and well made.  The characters are offensive people, their behavior, evil.

GEI ONI -- This very nice looking film gives a fictional description of early settlers to Israel.  It describes a very, very hard life.  Here, the back-story is not the holocaust but the Russian pogroms around the turn of the 1900's.  The principal actors are good, but many other scenes seem staged and feel quite artificial. (My own grandparents all made it across Europe from Russia to the US to escape those same persecutions.)  I found it interesting that the film includes dialog in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Russian (and possibly some other East European languages, and Arabic and Turkish), suggesting the cosmopolitan up-bringing of these impoverished newcomers to a hostile land.

INFILTRATION -- This weird film about an army training camp for (mentally and physically challenged) recruits , contains behavior and events that simply made no sense to me at all.  I could not relate.  Now, possibly, it is my ignorance of Hebrew, army training camps, the Israeli army, or challenged recruits that prevented me from understanding, but frankly scene after scene described events and behavior that I did not recognize as recognizably Human or dramatically plausible.

LENIN IN OCTOBER  -- This amusing, simple TV film, cleverly describing a clear agenda, was well made and enjoyable.  It describes some earlier time in Israel when there were still Leninist communist romantics.  (It also describes a chef who has no success in Israel, but who could -- judging from the descriptions of his recipes -- have brought "new-Israeli" cuisine to the US and become a celebrity chef here.)

THE MATCHMAKER is a sophisticated and well-acted film about holocaust survivors on the days before the six-day war. (Reportedly, the producers asked for full reviews to be held until the film's commercial release...  OK.)

STRANGERS NO MORE -- This year's Oscar winning documentary short subject was made by American filmmakers in Israel. It's about a year in the life of an Israeli school which caters to immigrant/refugee school children.  It is a beautiful, inspirational film.  Because it is a short, it gets away with being totally one sided, with the teachers all "angels" and the students all triumphing over horrible events that brought them to Israel as refugees.  The students are from diverse nationalities, religions and races, and speak diverse languages.  They help each other, they try hard, and they are learning, succeeding, and thriving.  They are happy. (Note: The film barely touches on a problem that many of the students have: they are in Israel on temporary visas, and there is not a clear policy at this point that would allow them to stay, no matter how much they want to stay.) STRANGERS NO MORE was by far the most successful film I saw at this year's Israel Film Festival, and the one that came closest to realizing the stated objectives of the Israeli Cultural Representative.

While I did not see every film in the festival, my take is that the Israeli film industry -- as represented in the Israel Film Festival -- needs more resources to improve the production value of its films, needs to leave the past behind as a major theme, needs to leave behind the cliches of the wife/mother as harridan, the Jewish man as nebish, the Jewish woman as slightly aggressive before the fact, but frigid when time comes for physical love, needs to move into the present and the future, and needs to fulfill the vision of the Cultural Representative: to demonstrate the modern life of a modern Israel, intellectually vibrant, technologically advanced...  and it needs to make these films with more attention to the skills of story telling and with significant production values.

Perhaps the most successful event at the festival was the Opening Night Reception at which party-goers had the opportunity to mingle and talk, with good food and drink, and meet the incredible talents of actor Liev Schreiber,  director/choreographer Stanley Donen (Singing in the Rain & many more of Hollywood's finest classic musicals), and eminent Israeli producer/director Micha Shagrir.

The documentaries STRANGERS NO MORE and PRECIOUS LIFE (which was just shown on TV in the US) received Audience "doc" Awards. THE MATCHMAKER won the Panavision Audience Choice Award for best feature, and the box office for this festival was the highest in the history of the Israel Film Festival.


MORE ABOUT THE ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL 2011

SCHEDULE AND OPENING NIGHT
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/05/israeli-film-festival-ny-2011-schedule.html

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE FILMS
http://qporit.blogspot.com/2011/04/israeli-film-festival-2011.html

ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL HOME PAGE
http://www.israelfilmfestival.com/

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

 

SPIDER-MAN SMASHES IDOL


Bono & The Edge joined Reeve Carney and a flying Spider-man for a performance of Rise Above on the Finale of American Idol. It ROCKED. It smashed!

The song, "Rise Above,"from the Broadway show, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is a "Bono Song:" -- when it gets that extra energy, commitment and style that comes with Bono, it is a powerful, powerful anthem. Wouldn't it be great if Bono & The Edge came every once in a while to join the cast of Spider-Man onstage! 

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark may be a legendary smash and The Dark may stay forever off!

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is currently in previews on Broadway, after having been reworked, and it officially opens on June 14.

Myself, I can't wait to see the show!

OFFICIAL SPIDER-MAN SITE:
http://spidermanonbroadway.marvel.com/home

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

 

SNL -JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE & LADY GAGA - MAY 21, 2011


Here are some real time comments. From later to earlier.

See below for the video of the show from NBC.


SEASON FINALE!

It started out amusing, and got funnier as it went on. It was not the funniest show ever, but it had energy throughout and it was very very good! JT is an amazing talent. (He was in nearly every sketch, and singing stuff too, with impressions...) I enjoyed it.

BARRY GIBB TALK SHOW -- They got the sound right. (w/ Jimmy Fallon)

LADY GAGA -- Music / dance moving tableauxs -- Really interesting stuff!

AD -- Bank of America -- "You can transfer funds between accounts." Wow! (Is that a joke?) (Remember the International Bank of Exchange... Now THAT's impressive banking.)

SECRET WORD -- Another ... silly, funny sketch.

LOVE TUNNEL -- LOVEly sketch.

QUIZ -- A funny sketch. JT's a good sport. Lady Gaga's good.

AD -- THE PLAYBOY CLUB -- Another movie ad! --- A few days ago I saw a TV doc about Hef. He did some terrific things.

WEEKEND UPDATE -- Great jokes. "The CAGE" not so much.

AD -- Justin Timberlake is in both BAD TEACHER and FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.

LADY GAGA -- What an outfit. Does it matter what she sings?

AD -- FRIGHT NIGHT. SNL movie commercials are better and better.

YA MAMA SAYS HI... DIGITAL MUSIC VIDEO -- Follows up on last week's Jack Sparrow with more and more visual & singing energy. ("The New Three's Company".)

TV WXPD NEWS REPORT -- Silly. Funny.

AD - FUJI FILM -- Got it the first time. Got it the first time.

LADY GAGA / CHROME -- Looks great.

GRAND OPENING -- Tea vs beer. "Exsqueeze me teabagger." + wine...

AD - FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS sounds really promising. ZOOKEEPER has possibilities.

MONOLOGUE -- NEET 3 PEECE! He's not gonna sing tonight, sings he.

COLD OPEN -- Good advice on the international financial situation... in jail. Better analysis than you get from the cable commentattering experts. And the basic jail experience too.



Here's clips from the show, from NBC:







Here's the famous skipped/deleted/avoided/censored/restricted Mozart sketch from the dress rehearsal that never made it into the show. I can think of a few reasons why it might not have been aired.




And here's Lady Gaga BORN THIS WAY:



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THE PREAKNESS


From what I've heard, beer is the beverage of choice at the Preakness.  Not quite so interesting as a mint julep to my thinking.

Shackleford holds off Animal Kingdom (Kentucky Derby winner), who got a bad start.  So no Triple Crown again this year.

Here's the final results from the Preakness.  Numbers in parentheses are the final results from the Kentucky Derby.

  1. (4) Shackleford
  2. (1) Animal Kingdom
  3. Astrology
  4. (8) Dialed In
  5. Dance City
  6. (3) Mucho Macho Man
  7. King Congie
  8. Mr. Commons
  9. Isn't He Perfect
  10. Concealed Identity
  11. Norman Asbjornson
  12. Sway Away
  13. (16) Midnight Interlude
  14. Flashpoint
Replay from NBC, complete with commercial:


Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.


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    Thursday, May 19, 2011

     

    VIDEO - PRESIDENT OBAMA'S MAY 19 ADDRESS ON THE MIDDLE EAST



    Here is the video of President Obama's address on May 19, 2011 to the State Department on the Middle East:

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    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

     

    BRIAN MALOW ON PHILIP K DICK


    Here is an excellent review of Philip K Dick's work, and the movies that have been made from his novels and stories, by Brian Malow & TIME:





    Here are some of the films that have been made from stories by Philip K. Dick (K = Kindred, by the way), according to IMDB -- 
    (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001140/)

    2012 Total Recall -- now filming (short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale")
    2011 Blade Runner 60: Director's Cut -- short -- now in post-production (story)
    2011 Beyond the Door -- short (short story)
    2011 The Adjustment Bureau (short story "Adjustment Team")
    2010 Radio Free Albemuth (novel "Radio Free Albemuth")
    2009 Screamers: The Hunting -- video (original story)
    2007 Next (novel story "The Golden Man" / as Phillip K. Dick)
    2006 A Scanner Darkly (novel "A Scanner Darkly")
    2003 Paycheck (short story)
    2002 Minority Report (short story)
    2001 Impostor (short story "The Impostor")
    1999 Total Recall: The Series -- TV series
    Machine Dreams: Part 2 (1999) (short story)
    Machine Dreams: Part 1 (1999) (short story)
    1999 Total Recall 2070 -- TV movie (short story / as Phillip K. Dick)
    1997 Blade Runner -- Video Game (novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?")
    1995 Screamers (short story "Second Variety")
    1994 Drug-Taking and the Arts -- documentary (novel "A Scanner Darkly")
    1992 Barjo (novel)
    1990 Total Recall (short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" / inspiration / as Phillip K. Dick)
    1982 Blade Runner (based on the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?")

    Brian Malow:
    http://www.sciencecomedian.com/

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    Monday, May 16, 2011

     

    ENDEAVOUR LIFTOFF -- AWESOME


    Endeavour liftoff. The final mission (the 25th) for this Shuttle. Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at the commands.




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    Sunday, May 15, 2011

     

    SNL WITH ED HELMS & PAUL SIMON (OR VICE VERSA)



    Ed Helms is from Hangover I and II and earlier from The Daily Show (once upon a time). Paul Simon is from... Paul Simon. (Though the Elders remember Simon & Garfunkle).

    Tonight's show was one of the very best SNL's. The writing was funny and sophisticated. Sketches had a good ending. There was wit in the writing. And there was energy in the performances.

    Here's a list of some real-time reactions. From beginning to end:

    OPENING - Decent opening. Best line: Name change to: Guy-Who-Killed-bin-Ladin-Care.

    MONOLOGUE -- I liked the monologue it was funny in a sophisticated way.

    COMMERCIAL MESSAGE - Great commercial for corn sweeteners.

    WHAT UP WIT DAT - What up wit dat "what up wit dat?" ... Best What up wit dat ever. It even made sense.

    NOTE: SEASON FINALE: Justin Timberlake & Lady Gaga! MAY 21

    DIGITAL SHORT -- 3 cheers For Ambiguously Gay Duo. It worked from beginning to end. Cheers for Jon Hamm.

    SIMON -- Wow! Did he really make all those sounds on his own guitar? I liked the song. I liked it. For once, a mix on SNL when you can hear the quiet words.

    WEEKEND UPDATE -- Weekend update was terrific until Garth & Kat, which was better than usual, but still sucks.

    IT'S A WILD WORLD -- A dentist with prostate exams for his female patients. Others hilarious too. But enough ObL jokes already.

    ONE TAKE TONY -- Seemed dubious. They pulled it off!

    PAUL SIMON SEQUEL -- Could barely make out two words... “So what?”

    ANN-MARGRET -- Cute routine...  Wiig GREAT AS EVER. But I like Ann-Margret. She’s good; VERY GOOD. I recently saw TOMMY! She's very, very good!

    GOP commercial -- Nailed it.

    Great show tonight. The writing was sophisticated. The performances had energy. The show was funny. Went by real fast. Felt like barely 90 min. Fun to watch.



    Here's the WHOLE show, shared by NBC (with commercials!):

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    Friday, May 13, 2011

     

    CHEKHOV'S UNCLE VANYA - PRODUCED BY ANDREI KONCHALOVSKY


    Elena and Sonya
    UNCLE VANYA


    This weekend there is a rare opportunity to see Chekhov's great play,  Uncle Vanya, in Russian, with English translation, in a major production by Andrei Konchalovsky. 

    Moscow State Mossovet Theater presents
    UNCLE VANYA
    by Anton Chekhov
    Produced by Andrei Konchalovsky


    THREE PERFORMANCES ONLY

    Saturday, May 14 at 7 PM
    Sunday, May 15 at 2 PM & 7 PM
    $150, $125, $100, $85, $75, $65


    Tribeca Performing Arts Center
    199 Chambers Street, New York

    For tickets --
    Call: 212-220-1460
    Visit: http://www.tribecapac.org/theater.htm


    Note (5/14): Some tips and comments -- mixed up together -- after seeing the show...

    -- The production is visually sharp; the stage setting makes sense (a big compliment). The interpretation and staging is original. Everyone seems to be real, and really reacting to each other.

    -- Please leave enough time to get there. The nearest garage -- if you're driving -- is one long, long block north on Harrison Street. There's a long walk to the theater even from a cab in front. People were arriving late... even up to the intermission at the end of the second act. And other people were going to the bathrooms in the middle. Once you get there, stay put.

    -- Turn your cellphone off. Cell phones were going off throughout the performance.

    -- If you need translation, you must pick up a receiver near the snack bar in the theater. Check that it works! Mine did not!

    -- Careful on the stairs. The staggered stairs are easy to trip on.

    -- One strange feature of the production was videos of noisy cars on the back black curtain wall. You could hardly see them, they made a racket, and I have no idea why they were there.

    -- There is no free program. You have to buy a program for $5 $10 or $15 dollars.

    -- All in all, even though I understood at most 5% of the words -- I did understand the words, "Дядя Ваня," every time, and not a lot else -- I enjoyed the show, and I got a feeling for how the Russian actors interpreted the language of Chekhov.

    -- My least favorite casting was Vanya: he was cast and portrayed as sort of a flake from the beginning; but I see him as a rock that has disintegrated because of his situation.

    -- My favorite performance was Sonya (Julia Vysotskaya... who is actually, in fact, the producer's wife. Her performance was intelligent, emotional, and many-colored.)

    "Andrei Konchalovsky's production commemorates two important events in the world of literature: 150 years since the birth of Anton Chekhov and 105 since his death. «Uncle Vanya» is, without a doubt, one of Chekhov's most brilliant plays: elaborate and expressive, full of intertwining psychologies and explosive humor. Fruitless longings, infinite desperation and futile lives. In a highly detailed manner, the author uncovers the inner worlds of a group of characters in the 19th century, who spend a few days together in a secluded, lifeless estate."

    CAST:
    Maria
    -- Maria Vasilevna Voinitskaya, matriarch, mother, grandmother: Irina Kartasheva
    Uncle Vanya
    -- Ivan Petrovich Vointsky, Maria’s son: Pavel Derevyanko
    Sonya
    –- Vanya’s niece, Maria’s granddaughter: Julia Vysotskaya
    Serebryakov
    -- Alexander Vladimirovich Serebryakov, Sonya’s father, a retired professor: Alexander Filippenko
    Elena
    -- Elena Andreevna, his young, pretty second wife, Sonya’s stepmother: Natalia Vdovina
    Astrov
    -- Mikhail Lvovich Astrov, doctor: Alexander Domogarov
    Telegin
    -- Ilya Ilich Telegin, impoverished landowner: Alexander Bobrovsky
    Marina
    -- Nanny: Larisa Kuznetsova


    The Cast of Characters
    UNCLE VANYA


    Written by Anton Chekhov
    Producer Andrei Konchalovsky
    Stage-director Rustam Khamdamov
    Composer Eduard Artemiev

    Uncle Vanya is a gentle play with fierce emotions. It takes place over a few days (in Russia, around 1895) at the country home of Sonya and her uncle, Vanya, during a visit by Sonya’s father, the Professor Serebryakov, and his young and beautiful wife, Elena, a former student who married him after his first wife, Sonya’s mother, died.

    Sonya’s grandmother (also Vanya’s mother), Maria, idolizes her son-in-law Serebryakov.

    Astrov, an intelligent country doctor who is frustrated with his life, has a crush on Elena.

    Elena has a bit of a crush on Astrov (who is eligible, free, not old, intelligent...) but is tending diligently to her aging husband.

    Sonya, who believes she is plain, has a big crush on Astrov.

    Serebryakov is something of an invalid, something of a bully, and possibly either a great scholar (according to Maria) or a phony who has never achieved anything (according to Vanya).

    Vanya is deeply frustrated by his life; the estate is just barely getting by; he is spending all his time working and not enough doing anything he considers important; he regrets deeply never having made an attempt to woo Elena when she was young and available; and he is very jealous of Serebryakov.


    Astrov and Elena
    UNCLE VANYA



    Vanya and Serebryakov
    UNCLE VANYA


    The play is about each character’s desires and frustrations rubbing against all the other characters’ desires and frustrations in this small isolated location. The play comes to a head when Serebryakov proposes to sell the estate to raise money for his retirement.


    Anton Chekhov is widely considered one of the most important playwrights in history. In his plays (and there are only four or five major plays, with some other short, comic plays and early versions of other plays), Chekhov introduced the drama, often amusing, in which ordinary people are depicted living out their lives of love and frustration, with the inevitability of aging and the march of history and change forcing their lives.

    Chekhov’s first three major plays, Ivanov, The Seagull, and Uncle Vanya take place in a relatively static and rural world. Later plays, Three Sisters, in a town filled with military men, and The Cherry Orchard, in which we see the rise of a new rich class, and the appearance of disgruntled students, seem to herald the world of the 1900’s, with major changes coming to Russia just a decade or so after these plays were written.

    In Uncle Vanya, in the attempt by Serebryakov to acquire the wealth of the estate, we see the appearance of a major theme that becomes more assertive in The Three Sisters and in The Cherry Orchard, the acquisition by outsiders of power over the lives of the older, formerly stable, generation. Serebryakov does not succeed in taking over the estate. In The Three Sisters, the new wife grabs more and more power. And the wealthy outsider, of course, takes over the cherry orchard.

    Love, and how and where it is – or is not – requited, and ambition and how it usually is not fulfilled, is a major theme in all the plays.


    The power of great plays lies in their details, in the richness of the characters personalities, in the strength of the story, in the explicit language, in the subtext of the language, and in the behavior of the characters.

    To fully appreciate a great play, one should see it in its original language, with actors that understand the subtleties of the language and the behavior of the characters, rooted in their national identity.

    I appreciated the importance of seeing a play in its native language when I once saw a production of Three Sisters in Russian, and when I saw a production of Media in ancient Greek. Translations allowed me to follow the story, but the sound of the language carried additional meaning which translation could never convey, and which could be understood without translation.


    This weekend there is a rare opportunity to see Uncle Vanya in Russian, with English translation, in a major production by Andrei Konchalovsky. Konchalovsky is a very important Russian writer/director/producer, who has worked on films and theater in the US as well as Russia.

    "Andrei Konchalovsky is one of the few Russian directors who, along with such figures as Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alexander Sokurov and Nikita Mikhalkov (Konchalovsky’s younger brother), are well known in Europe and America.

    Konchalovsky began his career as a musician then, having graduated from the Institute of Cinematography, became a director and screenwriter – first as a co-author of scripts by Tarkovsky, later as the director of many of his own pictures.

    His films that were shot in the U.S.S.R. – “First Teacher,” “Uncle Vanya,” and “Sibiriade” – gained recognition at festivals in Venice, Cannes, San-Sebastian, Toronto and San-Francisco. Later he worked in America, where he made such famous films as “Runaway Train,” “Tango & Cash” and others.

    After the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Konchalovsky returned to a new Russia but continued working in the West. His TV miniseries of “The Odyssey” and “The Lion in Winter” received nominations and won prizes in the “Emmy” and “Golden Globe” competitions.

    In addition to the cinema Konchalovsky successfully works in theatre and opera. He has staged productions in Paris, Warsaw, Moscow – at the Grand-Opera, the Metropolitan, Covent-Garden, La Scala and the Mariinsky Theatre. His production of the opera “War and Peace” was nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Best Foreign Production.

    In the 1970s Konchalovsky turned to Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” for the first time and made a film that became a world classic among cinematic Chekhov adaptations. Woody Allen once called this picture the best film version he had seen in his life.

    When someone asks me why I chose “Uncle Vanya” or how Chekhov is relevant today,” says Konchalovsky, “I sorrowfully think that soon journalists will be asking Riccardo Muti how Mozart is relevant or why Gergiev has chosen to conduct Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony. Chekhov is a symphony. A symphony of life; Of a life without tragic events, vast achievements or heart-felt impulses, of a life void of Heroes. As Chekhov said himself, ‘a simple, dull, philistine life.’ Man is not able to stare at the moon waiting for it to set behind the horizon. Man is incapable of looking at a tree and noticing how it is slowly turning yellow. Neither are we capable of looking intently at life and seeing how it inevitable ends in death. Nevertheless we still know that the moon sets, that trees turn yellow and shed their leaves; that life eventually comes to an end. As an artist, Chekhov had the unique ability, like no other in the history of art, to look at life long and hard. Chekhov was, in fact, the creator of that same contemporary drama that replaced 19th-century Romantic tragedies. It's easy to love talented heroes that haven't been knocked down by tragedy or by life itself. But it's hard to love the regular average man, who is unable to perform heroic deeds. Yet these are exactly the kind of people Chekhov loves, because he knows that they too will die. He expressed his understanding of art in a very clear way: ‘While people eat their lunch and drink their tea on stage, their life is slowly crumbling around them.’”

    In the quote above, Konchalovsky's view of Chekhov & Uncle Vanya is quite a bit darker than mine. It will be interesting to see how that is expressed in this production


    CHEKHOV -- WIKIPEDIA
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Chekhov

    KONCHALOVSKY -- IMDB
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0464846/

    UNCLE VANYA IN ENGLISH -- FULL TEXT
    http://www.fullbooks.com/Uncle-Vanya.html

    Дядя Ваня - UNCLE VANYA IN RUSSIAN -- FULL TEXT
    http://ilibrary.ru/text/972/

    .

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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

     

    MS / SKYPE PRESS ONFERENCE LIVE



    THIS IS THE LIVE (AS OF 11 AM EASTERN MAY 10, 2011) PRESS CONFERENCE FROM MS & SKYPE WITH THE CEO'S OF BOTH COMPANIES: (Note -- Live conference ended at 11:48 AM and is expected to be available for re-viewing shortly after -- move the red cursor to 47:00 for the start of the re-broadcast program!!!) --



    Plans are

    1- Integrate with all MS products, including Lync, XBOX, Kinect, Hotmail
    2- Maintain Skype as an independent division
    3- Maintain Skype on non-MS hardware (iOS, Android, ...)
    4- New revenue streams, especially advertising & premium services
    5- Overseas cash  - Skype is a Luxembourg company -- accounting benefits
    6- Skype on PC's, now going to mobile phones, living room (now on 50M TV's)
    7- Connect all the platforms together
    8- Business & consumer applications
    9- Will work hard to develop relationships with carriers.

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    Sunday, May 08, 2011

     

    SNL - TINA FEY & ELLIE GOULDING FOR MOTHER'S DAY - MAY 7, 2011


    This was (disappointingly) one of the poorer SNL's. While nothing was especially terrible, there was little that was especially funny. I liked the Fetal Quartet during the monolog, some of the jokes on Weekend Update, Fey as Palin - briefly (see the GOP debate below), and the Natural Childbirth sketch. (See below!)

    Here are some real time comments (in reverse chronological order -- the first ones are at the bottom).

    - Bland, boring, waste of time. One of the poorer shows. "Natural Childbirth" the only sketch with any zing.

    - Mother Collection -- WTF???

    - Slightly Damaged Prom Wear Barn - Not funny & made no sense.

    - Pregnant in Heels on Bravo - The Celebrity in the ultrasound. -- The concept is a joke, but the execution... missing

    - Sleepover - Stupid premise. Boring.

    - Ads - B & N is promoting current Nook like mad, but a new one is to be announced very soon.

    - Natural childbirth - At last... some zenned out energy!

    - Weekend Update - Jokes funny; devil not so much; Gaddafi's friends quiet humor; Stefan I just don't get; At all;

    - 12:09 and so far it's been especially bland.

    - Klondike Bar Ad --- WTF???

    - Digital short - OK. So what?

    - Mermaid & Crabby - Very lame

    - Google Chrome Ad is way sentimental and doesn't make any sense.

    - GOP Debate - Fey/Palin is still the winner of any debate.

    - Opening Monolog - a fetal quartet

    - Opening Monolog - Tina Fey & Maya Rudolph with baby bumps bump babies

    - Opening - Kind of lame.

    Tina Fey host on SNL w/ Ellie Goulding. Now!

    Here's the GOP Debate with Tina Fey briefly as Sarah Palin (or maybe that really is the true, the essential Sarah Palin?)






    Here's the Childbirth Class:




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    Saturday, May 07, 2011

     

    KENTUCKY DERBY 2011 -- with the NBC VIDEO OF THE RACE!



    Here's the running of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, from NBC:





    Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.



    Animal Kingdom at (20-1) comes in first, ridden by John Velasquez (who had been  scheduled to ride the scratched favorite Uncle Mo ).



    FINAL ORDER OF FINISH:

     1 - Animal Kingdom - John Velasquez
     2 - Nehro
     3 - Mucho Macho Man
     4 - Shackleford
     5 - Master of Hounds 6 - Santiva 7 - Brilliant Speed 8 - Dialed In 9 - Pants on Fire10 - Twice the Appeal11 - Soldat12 - Stay Thirsty13 - Derby Kitten14 - Decisive Moment15 - Archarcharch16 - Midnight Interlude17 - Twinspired18 - Watch Me Go19 - Comma to the Top
    = 0 =

    The FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY is the running of the Kentucky Derby, the first of the TRIPLE CROWN races (The Preakness, and the Belmont are the next two). No horse has won all three races since 1978 when Affirmed won, ridden by jockey Steve Cauthen and trained by Laz Barrera. The other triple crown winners are listed below.

    The Kentucky Derby is also the start (and sometimes the end) of the Mint Julep season. See below for my recipe for a mint julep. Note that after drinking a mint julep it is recommended NOT to drive heavy machinery --- or a horse.

    Pre-pre-Race coverage was on VS.

    Pre-Race coverage began at 4:00 on NBC.

    5:27 PM - May 7, 2011 - Final countdown now to riders up; parade to the post; and running of the 2011 Kentucky Derby


    Here is the official site for the Kentucky Derby, and the official list of horses:

    OFFICIAL SITE
    http://www.kentuckyderby.com

    THE HORSES
    http://www.kentuckyderby.com/horses


    HERE'S A LIST OF THE HORSES:

     1- ARCHARCHARCH
     2- BRILLIANT SPEED
     3- TWICE THE APPEAL
     4- STAY THIRSTY
     5- DECISIVE MOMENT
     6- COMMA TO THE TOP
     7- PANTS ON FIRE
     8- DIALED IN
     9- DERBY KITCHEN
    10- TWINSPIRED
    11- MASTER OF HOUNDS
    12- SANTIVA
    13- MUCHO MACHO MAN
    14- SHACKEFORD
    15- MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE
    16- ANIMAL KINGDOM
    17- SOLDAT
    18- n/a
    19- NEHRO
    20- WATCH ME GO



    CURRENT FAVORITES at 4:30 PM -- The odds have shifted a bit since 2:00


    8 - DIALED IN 5-1
    Jockey - Julien Leparoux
    Trainer - Nick Zito

    7 - PANTS ON FIRE 7-1
    Jockey - Rosie Napravnik
    Trainer - Kelly Breen

    15 - MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE 8-1
    Jockey - Victor Espinoza
    Trainer - Bob Baffert

    13 - MUCHO MACHO MAN 9-1
    Jockey - Rajiv Maragh
    Trainer - Kathy Ritvo

    3 - TWICE THE APPEAL 10-1
    Jockey - Calvin Borel
    Trainer - Jeff Bonde

    19 - NEHRO 10-1
    Jockey - Corey Nakatani
    Trainer - Steve Asmussen



    CURRENT FAVORITES at 2:00 PM

    8 - DIALED IN 5-1
    Jockey - Julien Leparoux
    Trainer - Nick Zito

    3 - TWICE THE APPEAL 9-1
    Jockey - Calvin Borel
    Trainer - Jeff Bonde

    13 - MUCHO MACHO MAN 9-1
    Jockey - Rajiv Maragh
    Trainer - Kathy Ritvo

    15 - MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE 10-1
    Jockey - Victor Espinoza
    Trainer - Bob Baffert

    19 - NEHRO 10-1
    Jockey - Corey Nakatani
    Trainer - Steve Asmussen




    TRIPLE CROWN WINNERS (Year - Horse - Jockey):

    1919 - Sir Barton - Johnny Loftus
    1930 - Gallant Fox - Earl Sande
    1935 - Omaha - Willie Saunders
    1937 - War Admiral - Charley Kurtsinger
    1941 - Whirlaway - Eddie Arcaro
    1943 - Count Fleet - Johnny Longden
    1946 - Assault - Warren Mehrtens
    1948 - Citation - Eddie Arcaro
    1973 - Secretariat - Ron Turcotte
    1977 - Seattle Slew - Jean Cruguet
    1978 - Affirmed - Steve Cauthen


    MINT JULEP


    Here's how you make a wicked MJ. (Note: Don't drive or ride a horse or operate heavy machinery after this; don't ingest with anything that will exceed your tolerance for total number of chemicals in the body!) Boil a little bit of water and then put it in a cup with some washed and dried, torn up, fresh, nice looking mint leaves, to create a strong mint tea. (Note: Mint leaves are not always that easy to get, and when you get a bunch, many leaves are often wilted, or blackened. It's important to select the best leaves even if that is only a fraction of the bunch of mint in the package.)
     
    Add quite a bit of sugar. (Optionally -- ideally, in fact -- some sugar could be replaced with a half jigger of a sweet liqueur like Cointreau, Drambuie, or Grand Marnier.) Add about a half jigger of a good Kentucky Bourbon. (After trying quite I few, I found that my favorite is definitely Maker's Mark.) Add this mixture with some additional torn up, fresh, nice looking mint leaves to ice in a crusher.

    Crush the mixture of sweetened mint tea, and bourbon to make a tall glass worth of flavored crushed ice. Take a tall, chilled glass, add a long straw, fill the glass with the crushed ice, and then pour in a jigger more bourbon to fill up the cracks. Turn on the pre-race show, and enjoy it!

    It's matter of taste what you eat with the drink, if anything. My own preference is Greek or similar appetizers. In the New York area, Molyvos probably has the best selection of appetizers I know of. Near Carnegie Hall, they do provide food to go if that's how you want to enjoy the Derby.


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