Thursday, September 29, 2005
Fascination is a film noir. It is well done, but not superb. The mysteries and resolutions deepen as the characters get to know one another (rather than the formulaic detective model where clues lead to clues leading to clues and then some secret comes out they never told you about that solves the mystery). In other words, the story is more interesting than usual.
Still, clues are highlighted, so you keep being told this clue is either going to be important or a conspicuous red herring. Plot points are not subtle.
The relationship between the two young leads, Adam Garcia (Scott) and Alice Evans (Kelly), starts out intense with great chemistry between them.
As the movie proceeds, though there is a lot of steamy sex, and their relationship becomes more and more complex plot-wise, there is no corresponding growth in their emotional, visual, and chemical intensity together.
The setup is that Scott's father died in an unlikely swimming accident and his mother raced to marry just a few weeks later. For a little while I thought this might be one great movie giving a modern version of Hamlet with flesh and blood passionate relationships.
Unfortunately it does not quite get to that level. But it is an interesting noir, that moves reasonably quickly though not fast, with steamy relationships, believable performances, and a good story.
WINNERS -- GOTHAM CITY SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
The Best Film was Jacques by Christina Cingone, made at the School Of Visual Arts. Best Director was Phil Roc for Avenue X. Stephen James King was Best Actor for What Grownups Know, and Best Actress was Caroleen Khalil for Tahara.
The complete list of winners is on the Gotham City Short Film Festival web site.
Congratulations to the winners for their achievements, and to all the contestants -- actors and film makers -- and to the organizers for a very successful festival. I'm looking forward to following the future film projects from this talented bunch, and also to enjoying Next Year's Festival!
Oliver Stone's Alexander, is not a very good movie. It jumps around. Scenes are incoherent. The movie is incoherent.
Yet there is passion in the film, passion within scenes, and spectacular set pieces.
Watching his commentary suggests that the problem may be Stone's own passion for, and expert knowledge of the life of Alexander. He had too much to say for one two hour movie. (Watching the commentary is worth is the price of the DVD. It's better than the film.)
If only it had been made as a TV series -- with many hours in which to tell the story -- I suspect we could have had something very exciting, interesting, and completely coherent.
Indeed, if it were possible to salvage millions of the dollars spent on the movie and reconstitute it -- as I suggested in the post on Rome -- as material that could be used by students, that too would be a tremendously valuable disposition for so much of the energy that went into making this production
I do try to catch each episode of Rome on Sunday -- if not for the first HBO showing, then at least when it is re-broadcast on some other HBOx channel. (I'm not Tivo'd yet.)
Rome has been dramatically interesting -- acting's good, characters are good, plot is good. (Who thought this up? They really did all that?) I like the acting, although occasionally, just rarely, I have been conscious of the British-Classic-Actors-ness of the acting.
The show, so far at least, deals with Julius Caesar before the Ides of March that Shakespeare made famous in his version of Rome.
I've gotten the impression that serious effort went into making the environment -- costumes, characters, events, architecture, culture -- quite faithful to what is known about Rome. Millions of dollars went into that effort. That should be quite a resource for students of history. (What was it like to live in Rome?) There should be resources someplace to capture the accomplishments of the technical crew and convert it into forms that students can use. Why should all study have to come from books? Even if some plot events are fictionalized and some environmental elements are imaginary (graffiti in Rome probably was not animated), it should be possible to present the boundaries of knowledge quite clearly. Now, I'm not thinking of making some boring film strips, a static web site for students, or even a short film-for-students here, I'm thinking of making millions of dollars worth of reconstruction available to education.
I don't actually schedule my time to watch it, but every time I come across Weeds (usually late at night -- check the posting time), I thoroughly enjoy it.
The supporting cast is very good, but the show's center is Mary Louise Parker, who has the ability to project more intelligent thoughts and reckless emotions in a few seconds (including several at the same time) than any other actress I have ever seen. She was a force on West Wing, and she deserves an Emmy for her work in Weeds.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
ABC TUESDAY NIGHT
Earlier this evening ABC premiered one new show, Commander In Chief, and the first night of a returning show, Boston Legal.
Although it presents our first female President, and is mildly interesting, CiC was not so different from West Wing, except that the kinds of personal problems the CiC faced were the first ones one might guess a female President would face in a TV show. (EG. Her husband was asked what menus the White House chef should prepare, and her daughter refused -- for about three lines of dialog -- to attend the swearing in, because there were mother-daughter issues -- Mom is not conservative enough.) Similarly, the first international crisis the President was asked to deal with concerned a woman -- with a baby not her husband's -- being threatened with death by stoning in Nigeria. More serious than the choice of predictable plot-problems was that the writing and direction had no great innovative flair or excitement.
The contrast to the writing in Boston Legal could not be sharper. The dialog and acting here were very sharp and witty. The situations were a little goofy, but it held together with amusing surprises and the confidence of both characters and actors.
Both shows, unfortunately, were seriously marred by so many commercials, that popped up so often, and went on so long, that it was hard to get any momentum going, and it was irritating in the extreme.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Partying With John Coogan (l) and Darrell M. Smith (r)
The Gotham City Short Film Festival -- subject of our recent short post -- is having its final day of screenings on Sunday, Sept 25, from 2 to 6 PM, at Cooper Union's Great Hall in NYC.
Some of the films to look for are Subliminal, a very short (almost subliminal?) film by a young, interesting director, Regalia Thomas; The Reader, a drama with Tony Award winner Elizabeth Franz, by Duncan Rogers, a very serious and accomplished director; Night Shift (which is not related to a film shown earlier called Day Shift); and I Aim To Please, which seems to be a live action puppet movie.
Earlier, the festival showed Box of Buttons, a sophisticated foreign film directed by Natasha Mehler and produced by the team of Claudina Del Guidice and Matt Morrison, a pair that is developing a slate of edgy and interesting films. (Note: The web site linked to for Claudina and Matt is still in development as of 9/24/2005.) One More Chance is a film I did not see, but I did meet the impressive actor/director, Darrell M. Smith, and some of his team, and he is worth watching and following.
The festival is a competition, with a jury including Steven Haft (a producer), Greta Seacat and Jaid Barrymore (both well known dramatic coaches), and Tom Dolby (a writer). It was organized by John Coogan, President of Seventh Dimension Group Productions. He is an accomplished and ambitious producer, who managed, in a fairly short time, to pull together a quite large and complex festival.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
QUICK FLICK WORLD NEW YORK LAUNCH EVENT
Quick Flick World http://www.qfworld.tv/home.htm is a very interesting international organization which networks film makers, puts video on the web, and has live events. They are having their New York Launch Party on Sunday, Sept 18th.
The event is open to the public and is free.
I know almost nothing about this organization except for their intriguing web site. They were founded, I think, by a British independent film maker, Saint Smith, and have outposts in several cities around the world.
I first heard about them from a posting in Craig's List, from which I quote below.
"Come be inspired this Sunday night at PM Lounge (7 PM)
"A unique, eclectic and inspirational selection of 33 QuickFlicks
"Quick Flick World, the unique monthly global film festival, is launching in New York and invites you to enjoy the creative brilliance of filmmaking members the world over. Then we’ll announce this month’s theme for New York based filmmakers to join our global community in October!
"PM Lounge, 50 Gansevoort Street, ACE or L Train to 14th+ 8th Ave, Doors at 7pm, screening at 8pm. Beer and carparinha specials, DJ+VJs offering pre-show ear and eye candy.
"Can’t wait to see you there!"
Thursday, September 15, 2005
I was in a rush and in the neighborhood, so I decided to go to the unpromising looking restaurant just a short block away.
Turns out it's quite lovely inside and one of the best and most popular restaurants in New York.
Starting with the least important, the bread is absolutely amazing. The coffee, though not bad, is just OK and the only thing I had that was less than terrific.
I chose the Wiener Schnitzel, which was excellent. I usually like it with an egg on top, but they don't serve it that way. It comes with a delicious potato and cucumber salad, and with lingonberries. They recommended a light beer, and that was a perfect combination.
For desert I chose the Salzburger Nockerl over Huckleberries. They really mean "over": The huckleberies go in first and, until you dig in, are completely hidden by a light, sweet froth (made up mostly of stiffly beaten egg whites). It was great.
Portions are very large, and the bill is not small either.
I enjoyed my dinner. Service was fast, friendly and efficient. It worked out well!
The restaurant is Wallse (334 West 11th Street corner of Washington, a block from the Hudson river --212 352 2300).
Note: This is not a restaurant review (which would require more research), but rather an eating anecdote. If you decide to visit, and I hope you will, please share your experience by adding a comment, below.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Never Again (2001, DVD) is a delightful comedy of love in the 50's. Not the 1950'S but, rather, that midlife age. A 50+ year old couple, played by Jill Clayburgh and Jeffrey Tambor, struggle through re-commitment, sexual desire, and difficult histories. This is a real movie: that is, a story about real people; played by superb actors.
Jeffrey Tambor, though not often found on the cover of tabloids, should be well-known as the veteran of some 85 movies and 50 special appearances on TV. He projects a kind of goofy honesty.
Kind and tough, confused and certain, intelligent and helpless, conflicting emotions and ideas waft across Jill Clayburgh's face like ever-changing clouds moving across the sky.
Jill Clayburgh's daughter, Lily Rabe (nominated as 2005 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for her work in Steel Magnolias), also appears in the film.
The characters are raunchy. There's slapstick, far-out fantasy humor, and sharp dialog.
But there is one strange moment. Near the beginning of the film, Jill's character, Grace, begins talking to her husband's young wife as if she thinks the wife is her daughter going off to college. Now, I suppose this is cutting sarcasm on Grace's part. But (I'm sorry) this is so near the beginning of the film, when I did not know the characters, and it is played so straight, that for many minutes into the film I wondered whether Grace really didn't know her daughter because she was developing Alzheimer's Disease.
Although this is not a film about the fifties, it is a period piece, firmly rooted in the time when it was written -- (turn of the millennium). It is amazing how changing style and technology can date a movie. In this case, one pivotal plot point setting half the story off just would not occur today, in the age of Viagra. I think it is wonderful when a story is so specific that the details tell you surprising truths about a particular moment in time
Films tend to be made, as everyone knows, mostly for teen-age boys and their dates, because the non-teen age executives find they make the most money with teen-targeted comic-book-type fantasies and over-the-top spectacles. It would be great to develop a reliable audience for mature films like Never Again, that entertain with substance and sophisticated humor, with rich and subtly realized characters.
Jill Clayburgh is also currently in previews for A NAKED GIRL ON THE APPIAN WAY, probably the best promoted and most promising new play in New York. I'm really looking forward to seeing that!
Monday, September 12, 2005
A LOT LIKE LOVE
Ashton Kutcher is a very good film actor; it is easy to underrate the skill of his performances in movies because he makes it all seem so natural. But that's the point.
He stretched in The Butterfly Effect, and with some really exciting material, he may push the envelope.
Amanda Peet is quite a marvelous actress. Over the past ten years, she has amassed an amazing list of credits. And she looks incredibly different from role to role (even within a role, sometimes, from one situation to another). She will push the Oscar envelope when she gets the right material.
A Lot Like Love is very pleasant romantic entertainment, but not the role of a lifetime for either one.
It is amusing and fun, but not all that funny; it's also derivative. The DVD box says, "In the spirit of 'When Harry Met Sally.'" That's "spirit" in the sense of ghost. It also has elements of Before Sunset and Before Sunrise.
So don't watch it for it's contribution to film history (unless you are interested in its lead actors), just curl up, add some popcorn and enjoy it.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
9-11 / KATRINA
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
John Donne (1572—1631)
FLIPSIDE FASHION SHOW -- EMERGING TALENT
One of the more interesting events during Fashion Week is a show, open to the public, featuring emerging talent in the fashion industry.
It's today, Sunday, at 2:00 at Orchard St between Houston and Stanton.
The show, called "Fashion Flipside, Runway Fashion Show, Performances & Other Events," includes designers from FORWARD an organization set up to help designers, and simultaneously improve the business climate on the Lower East Side (LES).
Among the designers who will be showing are
-- Selma Karaca--Couture
-- SHILVY--Handbags, accessories and home decor
-- Milda Bublys--Clothing (cocktail, "after 5")
-- Maskara Coterie- Lingerie, sleep wear, casual
-- sQin--Leather earings
-- Harriets Alter Ego--Urban streetwear
Googling Selma Karaca suggests she is on the verge of breaking out as a real star.
We're planning personal previews of some of these emerging talents. Watch for them here.
Friday, September 09, 2005
FALL 4 NY 2005: FILM -- THE NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL
The New York Film Festival, now in its 43rd year, is always a major highlight of the year. They have the finest and most interesting films from around the world. And it is one of the most pleasant venues to see movies. It is a thrill every year to sit down for a festival film.
The film director and some cast members are very often on hand for the screening and will answer questions from the audience after the movie. These sessions can be extremely interesting.
The festival runs from September 23 - October 9, 2005 and begins with George Clooney's film Good Night, and Good Luck about the confrontation between Eugene McCarthy and Edward R Murrow (played by David Strathairn).
As always, the advance program describes the films in a cryptic manner that gives only a vague clue as to the nature of the film. To be fair, though, the current descriptions are transparent compared to the coded messages that passed for descriptions in the early years of the festival.
Many of the best films will be sold out before the public gets to buy films. Members of the Film Society get the first buying opportunities. It's important to go to the box office as early as possible to improve your chances for the best results. It's too late to join the Film Society in time to buy tickets for this year, but if you do not already belong and love the festival, you might want to join before it's too late for next year.
Some returned tickets are frequently available at the theater just before the show, so if you want to see a film you did not get advanced sale tickets for, go a little early to Lincoln Center and you may very well be able to get in.
NANO EXTENDS MEMORY > 200X WITH 3D VOLUMES
In a report from Imperial College, picked up by the Digital Media Wire, researchers from Imperial College London, Durham University and the University of Sheffield have used nanotechnology to create a 3D volume in which information can be stored. A storage vehicle like the surface of a disk is two dimentsional. By extending memory through a whole volume, you get the equivalent of many surfaces.
"The technology is based on the discovery by Professor Cowburn and colleagues that by using nanotechnology it is possible to reproduce the key functions of semiconductor electronics in microchips using only the 'spin' of electrons, which is responsible for magnetism, rather than the more conventional 'charge' that traditional microchips use."
"This has allowed them to construct a completely new architecture for electronics in three dimensions rather than the two dimensional flat structure of conventional microchips, an approach Professor Cowburn compares to using cupboards instead of table tops for storing goods."
They estimate it will take only a few years to bring this technology to market. However, of course, the actual time it takes depends on many factors beside technology, including (for example) the difficulty of manufacturing the technology cost effectively, and the time it takes to obtain marketing and licensing agreements.
They are concentrating on applications that can be used in phones to vastly extend their memory. This might, for example, enable phones to extend their video capture capabilities.
FALL 4 NY 2005: FILM -- GOTHAM SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
The 2005 Gotham City Short Film Festival will begin with a Festival Launch Party on September 15, featuring The Meters and Wyclef Jean, and befitting the Red Cross' Katrina Fund.
The festival itself runs from September 21 - 25 and includes many short films, several after- screening parties, How-To-Pitch and How-To-Get-Funding classes and a Pitch Fest.
Quite a few of the special events require the VIP Pass, which doesn't mean that you have to pass a velvet-rope VIP test, but simply that you need to buy this VIP Pass which automatically makes you a VIP.
The complete schedule for the festival includes several other Katrina benefit events.
FALL 4 NY 2005: THEATER CLASSES -- HB STUDIO
One of the best places in the city to learn acting and theater (and also one of the least expensive) is the HB Studio. It was founded by Herbert Berghof about 50 years ago, and has trained legions of distinguished actors. It has had, and does have, great teachers (many of them very well known actors, screen writers, comedians, and directors).
Among the favorite teachers I have studied with there are Sam Waterston, and Jerry Stiller (whose wife, Anne Meara, would substitute for him when he couldn't make it to class). Also, just recently, Jill Clayburgh, twice nominated for an Oscar, and soon to be seen in A NAKED GIRL ON THE APPIAN WAY, taught a great class there in Acting For Film.
They have both beginning and advanced students, both full time and "a la carte" students taking a single class, both foreign and American students, both day and night classes, both teen and adult classes, both scene study and technique classes.
They also have movement, writing, and directing classes.
Many classes do not have any requirement for admission, and are perfect for beginning and intermediate students. Other classes have either an interview or audition requirement and include many very fine, advanced actors. I have worked with actors while they were on Broadway, in major movies, and others developing important careers.
HB is just starting their Fall season, which is the best time to start a class. (Though it is often possible to join a class after it has begun if it is not full.)
FALL 4 NY 2005: THEATER -- TSI / PLAYTIME
TSI/PlayTime is a great venue for new theater works. They encourage new playwrights, directors and actors. It's perfect if you want to see new theater talent and new works or if you want to write, develop, act in and present new plays yourself.
To become involved in TSI/PlayTime as an actor, director, or playwright, just see their website for instructions and then send them an e-mail.
Similarly, the site will direct you to their current schedule of performances.
They are a very busy theater. They usually have three or four short plays in a show, and they often have shows (in some cases two or even three the same day) on Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun.
They will put on plays that are related to a specific theme, and plays unrelated to any theme. Here are some of the special festivals for the Fall:
SEP 16 - OCT 2, 2005 -- SEPTEMBER STORM AND STRESS
See five Eugene O'Neill "sea plays" up front:
Beyond the Horizon; Bound East for Cardiff; Ile; In the Zone; The Long Voyage Home
OCT 5 - NOV 30, 2005 -- NINTH ANNUAL BI-COASTAL PLAYWRIGHT'S FEST
Not the Least of the East meets the Crest of the West.
55 new, original playwrights from New York and California reveal a range of exposures.
OCT 14 - OCT 30, 2005 -- HEADHUNTERS AND HEARTBREAKERS
G.B. Shaw's socializing mania presents scenes and adaptations from:
Passion, Poison and Petrification; Mrs. Warren's Profession; Arms and the Man; Candida; Village Wooing
NOV 2 - NOV 20, 2005 -- SHAKESPEARE: LOVE AMONG FLAWED NATURES
Ambivalent love and violence in selections from five of his plays:
Taming of the Shrew; Richard III; Macbeth; Hamlet; Othello
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
FALL 4 NY 2005: FASHION WEEK
Fashion week is about to start. "Olympus Fashion Week" (OFY) to be precise.
The schedule, starting on September 9th and running through the 16th, includes many designers you know well, and perhaps many you don't.
The line-up (listed in UPPER CASE or not according to their own presentation on the OFY site) includes :
PERRY ELLIS MENSWEAR
ROSA CHA BY AMIR SLAMA
SASS & BIDE
Y & KEI
ASHISH N SONI
Diane Von Furstenberg
OSCAR DE LA RENTA
Maverick by Rebecca Romero
BCBG MAX AZRIA COLLECTION
Multi by Bree
Y - 3
Kate Spade & Jack Spade Collections
CARMEN MARC VALVO
MILLY BY MICHELLE SMITH
WUNDERKIND by WOLFGANG JOOP
CHADO RALPH RUCCI
Wow! That's a lot of clothes!
THE WEDDING DATE
There is a much more interesting film buried inside The Wedding Date (a little, pleasant romantic comedy) than ever appears on the screen. It is touched on, but not developed. In fact, sometimes the action on screen seems a little mysterious, and it turns out (watching the commentary and deleted scenes on the DVD) that there really was a lot going on but you never got to see it in the movie.
The more interesting story involves difficult relationships among five very complex people.
The movie itself, stripped of most of the detail of the relationships, is fun but way too predictable. (I could even mouth lines of dialog before they were spoken.)
Here's the setup -- A woman, jilted at the altar two years ago, hires an escort (a top escort with references) to pose as her boyfriend and accompany her to her sister's wedding (in England) where her ex-fiance is the best man.
Answer each of the following questions in the simplest way and you can write this movie:
1- Does she fall in love with her wedding date?
2- Does he fall in love with her?
3- Do they have to share a room with one bed?
4- Do they have some kind of sexual experience? 4b- Is it the first time they have a chance or later?
5- Does she start out timid and repressed and open up as the movie develops?
6- Does the ex turn out to be a heel?
7- What is the problem between the self-absorbed pretty blond little sister (who is getting married) and the less pretty but more solid older sister?
8- Is there a next-to-the-last-minute misunderstanding that sends someone to the airport? 8b- Followed by someone hurrying to the other for a reconciliation?
To be honest, there were a few surprises. But they were mostly kind of left over from the missing storylines.
The acting, by Debra Messing, Dermot Mulroney, and Amy Adams is really very good. They play their parts with the subtlety and richess that is in the movie that could have been.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
SUMMER (VACATION) ENDS. FALL SEASON BEGINS!
Ah! Labor Day! And the New Season! begins.
With a lot of travelling this summer, we took an extended hiatus from posting. But not from planning and preparing...
We have prepared many new initiatives with blogging, vlogging, podcasting, and live theatrical presentations. We are planning extensive coverage of the new fall season, centered in (but not limited to) New York. (Plus a slight change in type size.)
Some new features will show up in this blog, others in this blog's parent: the online and live presentation, HOW TO PREDICT THE FUTURE. Still others will appear in the website of our overall parent company, inteem! Corp (Future's parent, and this blog's grandparent).