Posts Tagged ‘woody allen’

Culture Vulture: LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, BLUE JASMINE, Amanda Palmer and Rosin Coven

August 11, 2013


The musical adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost in Central Park reassembles the major dudes responsible for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson – writer/director Alex Timbers (who adapted Shakespeare’s early comedy), songwriter Michael Friedman, choreographer Danny Mefford, and some key players (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and the hilarious Jeff Hiller). The show is even more fantastic than I could have dreamed it would be – a fast, funny, smart update of one of Shakespeare’s un-sacred texts. The four aristocrats renouncing pleasure are frat boys (they open the show ceremonially locking in a trunk a six-pack, a bong, and a string of condoms) who are as cute as a boy band. The four party girls who tease them out of their vows hit the stage like the cast of Bridesmaids crashing the set of Girls.

Love's Labour's Lost Public Theater/Delacorte Theater
The nutty secondary comic plot actually sizzles because of Caesar Samayoa’s brave and funny turn as Don Armado, with a lot of help from his Jacquenetta (Rebecca Naomi Jones, late of Murder Ballad) and the band (musical director Justin Levine jumps in and out of the action playing Moth). The cast is full of newly minted downtown stars – Daniel Breaker (Passing Strange), Colin Donnell (Anything Goes, the Encores! version of Merrily We Roll Along), Patti Murin (Lysistrata Jones), and, hello, Rachel Drach for good measure. I especially enjoyed Audrey Lynn Weston’s stoner-chick Katherine. Friedman’s songs are fiendishly witty (I think I heard the word “apothegms” fly by in one of the lyrics), and Timbers happily ladles in references to Hair, Passing Strange, and (for some reason) Einstein on the Beach. I would gladly see this show several more times. I can’t believe it’s not going to extend or move after its scheduled run in the park finishes next Sunday. It’s every bit as good as anything I’ve seen in Central Park.


I think I’d gotten a vague inkling that Woody Allen’s new movie Blue Jasmine somehow referenced A Streetcar Named Desire, but watching the movie I couldn’t believe how note-for-note the plot follows Tennessee Williams – one more instance of Woody Allen defying predictability. He’s been on a roll with his string of feel-good travelogue movies (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love), but Blue Jasmine breaks that cycle. Yes, it’s set in San Francisco (and the Hamptons) but it’s not a love letter to any location, and the story swerves dark. What makes the movie a must-see is Cate Blanchett, who has played Blanche DuBois onstage to rave reviews (wish I’d seen it) but here perfectly embodies Woody’s interpretation of Blanche (mixed in with Ruth Madoff) as a woman whose beauty allows her to deceive her way into powerful men’s hearts because her looks makes her vulnerability and desperation come across as strength. But the cast is full of yummy performances by terrific actors: Sally Hawkins in the Stella role, Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay (!) as two versions of Stanley Kowalski, Louis C.K. as Karl Malden, plus Peter Saarsgard, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Stuhlbarg.


Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra headlined Friday night’s show at Lincoln Center Out of Doors in a light drizzle. AFP (as her legion of hardcore fans, including Andy, refer to Amanda Fucking Palmer) did a modified version of the concert she gave last fall at Webster Hall on the launch tour for her album Theater Is Evil – a couple of the major numbers from that release (including the hit-single-that-shoulda-been, “Do It With a Rock Star”); guest appearance by her former cohort from the Dresden Dolls, Brian Viglione; plenty of time spent off the stage moshing around with the folks standing in front of the stage; a couple of plaintive, emotional, inspiring solo numbers on ukulele; the odd cover (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”); encore of “Leeds United.” I confess that I dug the Webster Hall show a bit more, partly because the stomping crowd during the encore made the floorboards bounce, an effect not quite possible in Damrosch Park. For me the gift of the night was getting to hear the opening act, a quirky outfit known as Rosin Coven: a flame-tressed singer fronting a string trio, a vibes player, two horns, and a drummer. Andy called it “mystic Goth jazz,” not a bad summary – smart, ambitious, nutty and intriguing arrangements putting me in mind of Boston’s genius band of the mid-70s Orchestra Luna, with traces of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks and Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.

Quote of the day: MARRIAGE

August 10, 2013


It’s been said about marriage “You have to know how to fight.” And I think there’s some wisdom to that. People who live together get into arguments. When you’re younger, those arguments tend to escalate, or there’s not any wisdom that overrides the argument to keep in perspective. It tends to get out of hand. When you’re older, you realize, “Well, this argument will pass. We don’t agree, but this is not the end of the world.” Experience comes into play.

— Woody Allen, “What I’ve Learned,” Esquire

woody allen by mark mann

Culture Vulture: Woody Allen, Scissor Sisters, Frank Langella, ACT UP documentary, Louis C.K.

July 8, 2012

TO ROME WITH LOVE– I’ve always been a big Woody Allen fan. When I first moved to New York, I would line up to see his movies on opening day. I treasured the many years when I got invited to advance press screenings, so I got to sit in the plush seats at the Broadway Screening Room (Manhattan’s finest) and see the movie before anyone knew anything about it. Somewhere in the early 21st century, that interest took a dip, as Woody’s movies got pretty thin and bad. I actually skipped eight of them, starting with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I only saw one of his London movies, Match Point. But his other European films have been a cut above the recent crap – Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris, and now To Rome with Love, in which Woody gives himself a huge canvas, a large cast, and a Fellini-esque freedom to wander back and forth between surrealism and living-room naturalism. The several stories don’t interlock, and they don’t even take place in the same time frame or the same language. One subplot rather wittily comments on reality TV and another is equally clever in reflecting the banal absurdism of shows like “American Idol” and the unlikely stardom of Susan Boyle. As a travelogue, it’s strictly lowest-common-denominator, but it’s fun to spy Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Venezia, etc. The one booboo I caught was when Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page stroll through a produce market handling the veggies themselves, which is just not done, as this sign from a Bologna vendor attests:

MAGIC HOUR – The new Scissor Sisters CD didn’t really kick in for me until I jacked into my super-fine bass-boosting Klipsch headphones. Now I’m so addicted to it I can’t get certain fun, trashy dance tracks out of my head – namely, “Shady Love,” “F*** Yeah,” and the instant gay classic “Let’s Have a Kiki,” with one of those Anna Matronic spoken-word raps that you can’t help memorizing and repeating until the people around you have to beg you to stop. The pop triumph of the summer so far.

DROPPED NAMES – Frank Langella’s memoir, subtitled “Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them,” is a fascinating mixture of humility and arrogance, compassion and snarkery, shrewd observation and self-protection, radical honesty and annoying coyness. There are 65 chapters, one per famous name, each one seen through the lens of Langella’s particular fixations: how theater and film colleagues view the acting profession, how showbiz celebs handle their drinking, how nimbly they stroke the author’s ego, and sex sex sex sex sex. Often adoring, often admiring from a distance, sometimes petty and competitive, Langella (above) writes only about dead people (with the exception of Bunny Mellon, who’s 102 and gave her blessing. I found myself annoyed a lot by Langella’s tone – he describes his two dates with Elizabeth Taylor in great detail, emphasizing that they never had sex; but then he’s very coy about Jackie Kennedy Onassis, implying that they had a sexual relationship without actually stating it. He never admits to any homosexual liaisons himself but lectures Dominick Dunne on his deathbed for not coming out to his children. Nevertheless, he reveals a lot about both himself and his subjects. I’m haunted by his description of Ida Lupino, fired after four days’ work on a film version of Tennessee Williams’ Eccentricities of a Nightingale because the director couldn’t answer her keenly intelligent questions, and his account of meeting Bette Davis very briefly in a hotel lobby, watching her tell her young female assistant “Get the car” in a tone of voice that implied “…or I’ll kill you.” I love that he chatted with Jessica Tandy about sex in Broadway dressing rooms and that he asked Brooke Astor how she lost her virginity. All in all, a quirky and artful (and compulsively readable) survey of a rich, full life.

UNITED IN ANGER – Jim Hubbard’s documentary film at the Quad Cinema culls 90 minutes from the vast archive that he and Sarah Schulman have created with the ACT UP Oral History project. The film distils the important story of how a grass-roots community activist movement changed the American medical establishment’s approach to AIDS forever and leaves it to viewers to extrapolate the rest – how that example has and hasn’t affected medical treatment, government policy, world health initiatives, and the perception of gay and lesbian people since then. For me, watching the film was deeply personal and unavoidably emotional – this was the story of my life from 1987, when I attended the first ACT UP demonstration on Wall Street, through 1992, when ACT UP responded to the first Gulf War by taking over Grand Central Station declaring a “Day of Desperation” and demanding “Money for AIDS, Not for War.” I took part in “Storm the NIH” and spent the night in jail in Albany as a footsoldier in ACT UP’s army of lovers, friends, sick and dying warriors. The story is told both through contemporary footage (shot by video activists, many of them very young lesbians) and talking heads – people like Ann Northrup, Jim Eigo, Ron Goldberg, Mark Harrington, Gregg Bordowitz. These people were the heroes of Monday night ACT UP meetings at the Center because of their intelligence, courage, passion, political savvy, and commitment to direct action, all of which the film conveys. Like the best AIDS documentation, it’s sad, infuriating, and inspiring. This film limits its ambition to telling the history of ACT UP – I would have been happy to watch an hour more, and for the sake of Andy or others of his younger generation I might have wanted some way of stepping back and placing ACT UP in the context of gay culture, its relationship to Gay Men’s Health Crisis (the world’s first community-based AIDS health organization) and spin-offs such as Queer Nation, Lesbian Avengers, and (you could say) Occupy Wall Street. Nevertheless, it’s a good honest piece of work. Go see it. It will eventually be available digitally and on DVD, but seeing it in the movie theater, as a community experience, is the best way.

LOUIE – I’m chewing my way through the second season of Louis C.K.’s astonishing comedy series on Netflix. It’s so weird, so strangely paced, so original, so nakedly honest about race and parenting and the horrendous awkwardness of middle-aged dating that I can’t help feeling like Pavlov’s dog: when one episode is over, the only think to do is click the button, continue to next episode….

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