Monday, September 26, 2011

MY NEW WEBSITE: JoycesChoices!!!


I am plunging ever deeper into cyberspace and this is for all my faithful blog followers! There is now a NEW and BETTER way to follow my postings, musings, rants & raves! Check out my NEW WEBSITE:!!

Subscribe for regular e-mail updates of my latest movie and theater reviews and more!
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I will leave this blog up to redirect people to my new site--I am still tweaking, but check it out!

And as always MANY THANKS FOR STICKING WITH ME-- I'm having a blast!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011


There is SO much happening this weekend, I think my head might explode!

First, there's my birthday. I've noticed there are many Virgos floating around-- I guess many people find themselves "in the mood" around the December holidays. I'm September 18. Me and Greta Garbo. But if you DON'T want to be alone this weekend, there is SO MUCH TO DO. See here:

****THE 27th ANNUAL BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL! SEPTEMBER 16-22!! Six world premiere movies and one U.S. premiere in this year’s lineup at the Stuart Street Playhouse in Boston! or call 617-523-8388.

**** FREE 24 HOUR CELEBRATION at MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS!! The opening of THE LINDE FAMILY WING for CONTEMPORARY ART! September 17 – 18 7 pm – 7 pm!!!

****SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY'S 21st Season kicks off Friday Sept. 16th with the New England premiere of the hit Broadway play NEXT FALL. Meet Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts at the theater! Sunday September 18 following the 3pm performance!

**** 8th ANNUAL REVELS RIVER SING! SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 18!! Join thousands of voices in song on the banks of the Charles River! 5PM by the Weeks footbridge in Cambridge! FREE!

****25th ANNUAL SOUTH END OPEN STUDIOS!! SEPTEMBER 18-19 11-6PM! The Event Showcases the works of more than 200 established and emerging artists! Among the participants: BCA artists in the Artists Studio Building! ERIC ANTONIOU PHOTO EXHIBIT! And Check out the groovy handbags at 59 Wareham Street ( 3rd Floor)!

**** WORLD PREMIERE of GORILLA OPERA'S LOOSE, WET, PERFORATED-- a morality play by Nicholas Vines! SEPTEMBER 16-25! Cambridge.

**** RARE VIEWING of HENRI MATISSE'S most ambitious work – JAZZ! Galerie d’Orsay, 33 Newbury Street, will feature this important and historic suite in their latest exhibition running through October 2nd!

****VOICES OF HOPE! Symphony Hall! Fundraising Gala September 17! Song, dance, and testimonials to benefit DANA-FARBER CANCER INSTITUTE!

****All the Journeying Ways A rare chance to see these two critically acclaimed performances in repertory-- two weeks only:
THE ODYSSEY & THE BACCHAE --CWT and Whistler in the Dark!
September 14 - 25!

Monday, September 12, 2011


I was there. Right in the middle of what up until now remains the defining moment of 21st century America. We had just taken off from Logan airport, 15 minutes ahead of the terrorists, some of whom had spent the night at the Days Inn-- right next door to WBZ-TV. They were probably there the night before when we left the building after wrapping the 11 o'clock news. Our anchorwoman Lisa Hughes and I were flying out together on an uncharacteristically "fun" assignment on that crystal clear Tuesday morning: we were headed to the big apple for an "official" fashion consultation.

We landed at Laguardia at just about 8:30 AM, and took a limo into the city because the taxi line was so long. As we sat in the backseat, me nursing a cup of coffee and feeling a bit sluggish--I am not, nor will I ever be, a morning person--Lisa, characteristically alert and with it, looked up and said, "Looks like there's a fire in the World Trade Center." I immediately looked out the windshield to see dark smoke billowing from one of the Towers. The two of us thought, "This looks like it might be a big story..." Lisa immediately dialed the assignment desk back in Boston and the reports were that a small plane had crashed into the building. This really was going to be a big story. We were on hold waiting for instructions to see whether Lisa would be diverted to cover; it wouldn't involve me, since as the arts and entertainment reporter, the only emergencies in progress I ever covered were those that happened onstage when an actor bombed at the theater. Suddenly, the assignment editor got back on the phone and started yelling--"another plane"-- while we were sitting there-- "hit the other tower!" We looked up-- both towers were engulfed. Lisa and I looked at each other and knew what everyone knew in that instant: this was no accident. This was terrorism. What we didn't know was that the course of Lisa's life was forever changed in those moments, as was the life of the man she had yet to meet, but would eventually marry. A man whose wife was on one of those planes .

We immediately instructed the driver to head for CBS; we were among the last few hundred cars to make it over the bridge before they shut the city down. The streets were almost instantly gridlocked. Phones were starting to jam. We got as far as Park Ave when we abandoned our vehicle-- it wasn't moving, and ran to the nearest hotel to get to a landline. While I was on the phone trying to make arrangements to stay-- we knew we were there for the duration-- our Boston assignment editor screamed, "They've hit the pentagon.... the pentagon has been hit!..."

I remember feeling almost dizzy. I looked out to see chaos in the streets, everyone in a state of shock and wondering what kind of an attack, from whom, and how big? There were now reports of other hi-jackings. Was it all going to end like this? Lisa and I ran out into the street and kept running until we arrived at the network, out of breath and not knowing the scope of what was engulfing us. We got to the CBS newsroom and dazed producers there said,"Thank god you're here-- we need all the help we can get." And then, there was little we could do. No communications, no transmissions, no one allowed near the site, network anchors narrating what they could figure out helter skelter; all we could do was tear wire copy, keep notes, watch feeds, and stand by for... for... what?

At 9:58 AM we watched the newsroom monitors as the first tower collapsed. There was a collective gasp; none of this could be real. When the second tower went down, I was almost numb. By this time I hadn't yet been able to reach my family-- no one knew where I was, or how I was. We made contact later in the day, and that night Lisa and I stood outside atop CBS, and filed our first live reports from NY to Boston. I will never forget New York City that night. It was dead quiet. Not a sound. No traffic, no wind, no birds. Nothing. The city was lit up behind us, but no one was visible on the streets below or anywhere. It looked like a painted set. And all the people were gone.

The next day Lisa and I along with a phalanx of stunned reporters made our way down West Street to report from the scene. We were given masks to wear and I would be on duty after all; I was a reporter, and there, and ready to tell what I saw. We were within a mile of ground zero. There was debris, and white dust everywhere, and lines of rescue workers, and medical trucks, and police, and food trucks streaming in; and doctors who had volunteered from all over the country, and made their way to the disaster; people applauded them in as they made their way down the highway. We heard that Robert Deniro was delivering food from his restaurant to relieve the fire fighters and rescue workers. And there were hundreds of people roaming the streets crying, holding pictures of loved ones, asking if we had seen them. We interviewed many of these people on camera, in the hopes that someone might recognize someone, and the lost would be found. One of the saddest things was the sickening realization that despite the thousands of people standing by ready to help, there would be very few people to rescue. For the most part, you either made it out, or you didn't.

Ten years to the day, it all came flooding back to me. I have been low all day. It is still there, several layers down. Though I have told the story many times, I have never written it down. I think of Lisa Hughes and her husband Mike Casey and their newly adopted baby boy and I am encouraged. I will call her, and thank God that we are still here.

Friday, September 9, 2011


CONTAGION begins with a mounting sense of dis-ease, which spreads like a virus through the all-star, "Oscar" infused cast as each one plays his or her part in what is about to become a pandemic! The tension mounts-- we see the whole globe engaged as the action proceeds smartly along on many levels. Director Steven Soderbergh balances simultaneous story lines the way jugglers spin plates at the end of poles; he gets them all going -- and then they just slow down and stop. The movie is smart, and informative, but is a lets us down dramatically.

It all begins with Gwyneth Paltrow's character who doesn't feel at all well-- and before it's over we see more of her than we could have imagined possible. It ain't pretty. Then there's her husband played by Matt Damon, looking puffy-- but somehow immune to the epidemic. These two are the lynchpins of the whole story -- and this story has a lot to do with THE ORIGINAL story, as in "Genesis," as in the first book of the bible. I took exception.

Soderbergh gradually introduces the members of the worldwide medical community hot on the trail of a cure before this virus kills millions of people around the globe. Enter Kate Winslet as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. And Laurence Fishburne, her boss and government official, and Jude Law a cynical maverick journalist who's pandering to paranoiac conspiracy theorists. He's rotten to the core and has the teeth to prove it. And Marion Cotillard is tracing the spread of the disease from Hong Kong to Chicago to London and Japan, from remote villages to the guy next door.

In typical Soderbergh fashion, the action is metastatic-- there are story lines upon story lines: The World Health Organization and the CDC--giant bureacracy unable to move quick enough, cynical media preying on people's fears, scientific method-- we learn that the virus is "philogencially pathonomonic" or something like that. We see the details of transmission and learn that we touch our faces 3 to 5 times every hour? every minute? The sense of "contagion" was so effectively communicated that when someone in the theater coughed--we all gasped!

I wish CONTAGION had figured out how to keep the drama alive--it's a smart film, but my final diagnosis? Operation a success, but the patient died.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


THE DEBT opens with an intriguing bang, and closes with an fatiguing clang. But its two leading ladies had me at hello: Dame Helen Mirren queen of the movies, and Jessica Chastain the Meryl Streep of her generation– with 3 big movies out this summer (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE HELP), and at least as many accents. The two of them do their best to keep this chronologically challenged script from flying out of control, and slipping into incredulity. The first two thirds of the film succeed; the last bit takes a turn for the ludicrous.

The action begins in the past as three Israeli secret agents (Chastain, Sam Worthington, Martin Csokas) attempt to abduct a Nazi war criminal and bring him to trial. Jessica Chastain plays the beautiful young agent Rachel Singer, while Helen Mirren plays Rachel the elder, haunted by the secrets of the past. Jesper Christensen plays Dieter Vogel, the so-called Nazi “Surgeon of Birkenau,” and he deserves a special Oscar for fleshcrawling creepiness. I was with this film as it flashed forward and back in time, suspense building, a love triangle simmering; it all makes sense, the characters cook up a terrific heat and tension….the whole thing building to a present day moral and logistical conundrum,then…

… one twist too many– and it all collapses. Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds do their best to hold up the back end of the film as the elder versions of their studly former selves. But it’s the script that lets us down into a farfetched maze of coincidences, contrivances, and close encounters of the slasher movie kind.
Unfortunately, though much of the film earns our attention, THE DEBT doesn’t quite pay off.

Friday, September 2, 2011


There will always be a few nights at the theater that I will remember my whole life, when I was swept up in something truly thrilling and sublimely beautiful. Last night was one of those nights. I sat transfixed at the A.R.T. as Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis sang us to Nirvana in the new adaptation of PORGY AND BESS, a once-daring new opera that put the largest entirely black cast on the American stage for the first time--Boston's Colonial Theater to be exact--in 1935. The work has been "in progress" ever since, and now a talented triumvirate -- Pulitzer Prize-winner Suzan-Lori Parks, Obie winning composer Dierdre L. Murray, and A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus-- have reinvigorated it yet again. They have given us a physically stripped down, but dramatically punched up powerhouse of a rendition which allows George and Ira Gershwin's and Dubose and Dorothy Heyward's groundbreaking masterpiece to breathe in a new way. The result is a production at once epic and intimate, modern and urgent, perfectly cast and beautifully lit and choreographed.

THE GERSHWIN'S PORGY AND BESS begins with the soaring,indolent lullaby SUMMERTIME sung alone onstage by Clara to her baby. And it's a REAL living breathing baby; yes--this production is alive in every sense of the word. The opening scene finds its apotheosis in the production's Pirandellian final image: Porgy heading out alone, upstage, into the darkness, the set falling away, as he seeks a new beginning with the elusive Bess. In between, lies the desperate love story of the beautiful, lonely, tormented Bess victimized by a jealous and murderous lover, Crown; she seeks refuge in the arms of the physically crippled but emotionally complete Porgy, who only wants his Bess, and wants her to be happy. In duet, their voices, curl achingly around each other-- she wrapt by his radiant goodness, he by her ardent sensuality, and even deeper longing for what only he can give her: a home. McDonald's Bess is perfection; she is a tremendously expressive actress and a wondrous singer, with flawless technique, every note and musical phrase shaped to express the nuances of Bess's yearning, fear, joy, and sexual hunger. As Porgy, Norm Lewis may be a less formally accomplished singer, but his purity of tone and emotional directness will stop you in your tracks; the transcendent humanity of this extraordinarily decent character brought the house down.  When Lewis sings "I Got Plenty of Nothing,'"  it blooms fresh onstage; he's the incarnation of the sheer joy of being alive. By contrast Phillip Boykin brings a threatening coarseness to his resounding baritone as the brutish Crown.  The dramatic tension embodied vocally by each character in this explosive triangle is part of what makes this production feel so rich and alive.

Gershwin's score introduced rough and ready jazz and blues to classic operatic form and the result was pure exhilaration. This production builds on that musical premise, further adapting its form to the musical stage. Some of it is spoken, some is sung, and the result is pulse-pounding immediacy. The versatile and cohesive ensemble--equally dazzling in quartet and trio--brings everything it's got to every number. "Leaving For The Promised Land" lifts them up in a jubilant prayer song culminating in the blinding white light of redemption. "It Ain't Necessarily So"  led by David Alan Grier's dazzling  Sporting Life is infused with broad, wry humor and rollicking choreography. The sparely naturalistic set further liberates the drama and keeps our focus on the internal momentum of these characters, as does the lighting which the actors themselves seem to emit.

I could go on. And on. And so did last night's audience-- on its feet and after 4 curtain calls, still cheering for more. I was elated, having been moved all night to tears and goosebumps. I am going again, and bringing my family. I urge you to do the same before the tickets run out and it heads to Broadway. The run ends Oct 2!
And if anyone's wondering if it's wrong to tamper with a masterpiece--it ain't necessarily so.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


This beautiful afternoon which I spent indoors, at the movies, seeing ONE DAY–was one day well-spent. Though flawed,the film based on the best-seller stars a charismatic twosome: the multitalented Anne Hathaway who here does a serviceable English accent, and the already English and mightily talented Jim Sturgess (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE). ONE DAY calls on them to age over the course of some 20 years in a series of “one days.” It’s a little bit “Same time Next Year,” a little bit– well, I won’t give that away.

The last day of college marks the commencement of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew’s relationship. They’re drunk on graduation day, flop into bed with each other and things promptly fall apart. He’s a handsome rich kid who expects life to be a breeze. She’s a gangly girl with a pessimistic streak, but an incisively funny quip for every occasion. Because we know what Hathaway can look like, her attempt at dowdiness barely squeaks by. I overlooked this because she delivers the wisecracks with dry aplomb.

I will venture to say that the trajectory of Emma and Dexter’s relationship is tumultuous and surprising. Her character makes less sense than his– why she’s stalled working in a Mexican restaurant and settles for a boring but well-meaning schlub is hard to comprehend. I also overlooked this. Why? Because it’s always clear her soul mate and ultimate destiny is the charming but lost DEXTER, and I couldn’t wait for them to get together; that pulled me along. While she functions as more of a muse, Dexter is a more fully developed character. The film shows us the ways in which he is lost, the ways he disappoints his family, and the ripple effect on all his relationships. In other words, the movie dares to show in a fairly nuanced way how a basically good guy can behave badly. Sturgess is utterly sympathetic and believeable in the part.

ONE DAY is not perfect, but it’s worth seeing for part of a day– maybe a rainy one.