Wednesday, December 30, 2009

movie review: NINE

I've been hearing that folks don't like NINE, and that they are pulling it from theatres because of tepid reviews, and weak box office. I am probably among the few who actually liked this film despite its flaws. The cast is an extraordinary one, and has been used in ways that appeal to me. Who wouldn't want to see Fergie heavily made up (she never looked better) in clothes falling off her, carousing in the surf before a gaggle of gawking pre-teen boys whose libidos are ready to burst?? No one ever straddled a chair more suggestively. She easily delivers the best musical number in the show, second only to Penelope Cruz's erotic turn on a rope and a swath of satin, in a bustier and stockings, with her adorable rump front and center and full-out retro-sexy spillage. She's scrumptious. Then in descending order of titillation is the adorable, sweet-sad Marion Cotillard (has anyone else mentioned her saucer-eyed resemblance to Fellini's actress/wife Giulietta Masina?) in a poignant striptease, a companion piece to Cruz's(she's The Wife to Cruz's Mistress) laying her body and her soul bare before a gaggle of overgrown boys(better known as lost middle-aged men) in a heart-breaking backroom tour de force. And let's not underestimate the giggly jiggly sixties number that Kate Hudson writhes to (inescapably channeling Goldie). But here things begin to fall apart;Kate is trying a tad too hard, and doesn't look effervescently fresh. She looks a bit puffy and under the weather, especially in the scene where she attempts to seduce THE FILMMAKER: played by Daniel Day-Lewis. He is marvelous in the role--perhaps more high strung than Marcello, without that Italian louche-ness. But he certainly captures the wit, and a cerebral sexuality that intellectual artists exude--he is after all hung up on a script that just won't take shape in his brain. (His scene at a news conference deftly cajoling a gang of rabid press made me embarassed to have ever been among them.) Perhaps all these muses can help him??? But certainly not the stiff -lipped Nicole Kidman, who continues to annoy me. She has sacrificed her flesh and blood (her sensuality) for a mannequin-like perfection. Her song is dreary. She's boring. I want her to stop getting botox and lip injections and just let it go!!!!! I remember interviewing her as a young girl with her turned up nose and freckelled white skin. Now she seems like someone escaped from the taxidermist, and it does not help her performance in this Italiano romp. As for Sophia Loren--I don't care what she does onscreen at this point. I'd watch her stare at the camera and just breathe, or read the phone book, as they say, or ride around in an open convertible with Daniel past the colosseum as she does here. The same goes for Dame Judi; she is flawless. She imbues the tiniest, most insignificant line with potent innuendo, giving it meaning far beyond what anyone else had a right to think it might mean. Her musical number is flat-out sexy, top hat (or was it a bowler?) and all.
OK. NINE might not be a ten or even an 8 1/2. It is not particularly emotionally engaging, and perhaps the musical sequences are overly-edited; maybe there's only one memorable tune:"Be Italian " which is stuck in my head, and maybe it's because I'm half Italian, but I loved watching this film, flaws and all, and I think you might too. Andiamo.

Ciao bellas!
--stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Movie reviews: AVATAR/CORALINE(even better)

Am having a movie orgy on vacation and just saw one that blows AVATAR out of the water-- CORALINE. If CORALINE was only half as brilliant as it is, it would still be 100 times more brilliant than AVATAR. I saw AVATAR a few weeks ago at a critics screening, and while I was initially blown away by the visuals, the 3-D began to look a little suspect: murky, ghosty, blurry action sequences. We were informed there was something technically amiss, and another screening was held wherein a special tech was sent to push the right buttons. I couldn't get to that screening, but some of my colleagues who did, thought the the film greatly improved. What I had noticed in the initial screening, however, was a moth-eaten plot laid bare. I was bored. As my colleague Janice Page of the Boston Globe remarked, it was DANCES WITH WOLVES all over again. She was absolutely right. I had seen DANCES and loved it once, set in the wild west with Kevin Costner speaking Lakota, but I didn't need to see it again. It seemed clear that James Cameron--a stickler for technical detail, mistakenly thought the familiar plot set in outer space, jazzed up with aquatic imagery left over from TITANIC, and laced with PC ethics and pseudo-religious overtones would hold an audience's interest. And maybe it does if the visuals are that astounding, but the bad screening revealed the fatal flaw, and the film on close inspection proves less than the sum of its parts--especially when some of the parts aren't working. It remains titanic at the box office --#1 again this week.

All of which leads me straight to the ravishing stop-action animated film CORALINE, the first ever to be shot in 3D. Like AVATAR, CORALINE also deals with a virtual world, but unlike James Cameron's one-dimensional inter-planetary adventure, director Henry Selick's (THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) journey is endlessly kaleidoscopic, the 3D truly in service of a multi-dimensional universe and an infinitely-layered story. CORALINE resonates far beyond the borders of the movie screen. The story is deceptively simple. An unhappy little girl with a name no one pronounces correctly,(!) has just moved into a new house and discovers a secret door to a world where everything is perfect. The images of her tumbling through what looks like a birth canal and popping up into a house where mom is making her favorite foods, and dad is singing songs while leading her through an astonishing garden of unearthly delights beggar the imagination. The visuals are eerily stunning, accompanied by music as dangerously seductive as siren-song to mythical voyagers. It's Carmina Burana and Enya with a backwards twist. The film packs the deep punch of fairy tales from Hansel and Gretel to Hamlet (which it references as well as Alice In Wonderland and her Cheshire cat, contemporary video games, Fellini's movies, and Jung's forays into the collective unconscious. In short, CORALINE must find herself by navigating the treacherous corridors of her worst fears, here played out in a tricky mirror world of her own desires. What more can I say? Plenty. But I'm starting to foam at the mouth. Let's just leave it at "holy shit--what a great film. " (What are the odds that quote will appear in the ads?)

More tomorrow.
--stay tuned!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

slouching toward 2010

As I sit here finishing up the last of the Christmas Eve sauerkraut and preparing to board a plane (perhaps that's not the best thing to be ingesting)I am contemplating the inanity of the recent incident that almost resulted in a plane blowing up in Detroit. I am dumbfounded that this guy's name appeared on a watch list of--ok-- 400,000 people--which would have seemed daunting years ago but, technologically challenged as I am, I believe there are computer programs that could have cross-checked him immediately. (For all I know there are apps on my daughter's I-phone that could have accomplished the task). Oh, and this guy's father had called and alerted the authorities ahead of time; he told them the kid was acting strange. So what more did they need in order to take a closer look? Did they need him to be wearing a sign? Maybe not. That would have required reading. To quote PDQ Bach, "Hats off, gentlemen," to the brave and savvy passenger who immediately sized up the situation and acted correctly without thinking. "Hats back on, gentlemen," to the idiots who let a potential killer through, unchecked.

Which leads me back to the security arrangements I'm sure to encounter at the airport today. We are packing food for the flight (1. we have many leftovers that couldn't be left; 2. there is nothing edible offered on an airplane.)We will be packing chicken sandwiches and potatoes. So are the potatoes a liquid or a gel? Will they be confiscated? Probably. I remember once they confiscated my eyelash curler. Who knows--maybe I would have curled someone to death. They can't be too careful. But that powder and syringe that Abdul was carrying? No problem. I feel safer already.

I love to end the year on a good rant.
More to come!
--stay tuned!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Someone sent this to me and I loved it so much I pass it along to you with all good wishes for a wonderful holiday!

Just cut and paste:

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good night!"
--and stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I spent the whole day baking cookies, decorating gingerbread, and getting in touch with MERYL STREEP about a very special event--which has a little something to do with things culinary. I will keep you posted so you can BE THERE!

But while we are on the subject of Streep--and who isn't these days, I will say--and I said it this summer as soon as I saw her performance in JULIE & JULIA--that she WILL win the Oscar for Best Actress this year. She's brilliantly funny in the part, and luminous in the about-to-be released IT'S COMPLICATED which I have seen and will review soon--along with NINE (yes) AVATAR (yes) A SINGLE MAN (yes).

I am also getting ready for our big traditional Polish Christmas Eve with Polish relatives (yes, "Kulhawik" is Polish and is actually pronounced "kool-HAH'-veek") arriving from Connecticut. We'll be sitting down to the whitest dinner west of Bialystok--no meat--just fried fish, herring, boiled potatoes, pierogies (like Polish ravioli), sauerkraut with mushrooms, and maybe some "oplatki" and white bean soup to kick things off; there'll be enough gastro-combustible foods at that table to blow a new tunnel through the big dig. I can't wait.

And before I go, here's another sneak peak at a trailer for SHREK FOREVER due out next May. I like the fat pussycat. I have one just like her. Go to

and stay tuned!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Hey everyone-- I know there are mass quantities of year-end "quality" movies coming out right now, but I just saw a trailer for some "quality" summer trash (and I mean that in the best way) due out next MAY. Check out this trailer starring Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle in IRON MAN 2. (I loved IRON MAN ) To see the trailer go to:

and stay tuned!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


As I write this, my girlfriend Cindy is flying out to the west coast for the holidays. She's quite a cook and decided to board the plane with a leg of lamb. I wonder what that looked like going through security. I told her I know they have meat on the west coast, but she's a real gourmande and lives in Vermont, home of fresh, organically raised, free-range everything. I'm sure this little critter was the most happy-go-lucky little lambkin ever, and probably even volunteered to be the main course out of sheer delight.

Cindy and I have sought out the best places to eat all over New England. One night we ended up in an amazing little restaurant someone had recommended up a side street in Brattleboro VT. We were on foot and were sure we were lost. We kept passing by this old (and we thought abandoned) railroad car on the side of the road, until we realized that it was our destination. We walked up two cement steps, opened the door, and there before us was a gorgeous dining car, all candlelight, silver, and white linen, and the chef in his open kitchen turning out exquisite French cuisine. Does anybody know if this restaurant is still there??? I don't remember what it's called.

If I know Cindy (and I have known Cindy since she walked into my religion class when we were 14 years old at the Academy of Our lady of Mercy, Lauralton Hall. As teenagers, we used to stay up past midnight, cook up a whole pound of spaghetti with butter and cheese, and consume every strand--while also devouring a movie.) that lamb she's preparing for the lucky friends with whom she is staying will be delicious.
HLWT (Have lamb. Will travel.)

and stay tuned!


I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR IT TO SNOW ALL NIGHT. I am a weather nut. I followed the blizzard of '78 like it was carnival that had come to town--except that it happened to be spiral bands of precipitation--like a hurricane, only it was snow--and it stalled on the coast, then hooked back in and hung around for a couple of days and several feet of snow. It was a transformative experience. I was delirious with excitement, on the phone with my brother all night, tracking this thing, imagining its power and enormity, having an inkling of its historic proportions. As kids growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut we were always thrilled by extremes of weather--I remember us sitting out in the back yard in aluminum lawn chairs holding umbrellas during a violent thunderstorm--my mother screaming at us to come in telling us we were going to be electrocuted.
In '78 I was an English teacher at Brookline High, and I remember being part of a telephone chain, calling teachers to say there'd be no school tomorrow. I remember thinking "tomorrow?" this thing is BIG!!! I was telling everyone "tomorrow" was just the beginning; make that three days--this thing is winding up and going nowhere, fast. Then it turned out to be A WEEK out of school--surpassing my wildest dreams.
It was insane. We saw the craziest things. People skiing down Mass Ave. Snow banks piled to second story windows. The guy next door --he was from Africa--he was trying to shovel his car out from under a six foot snowbank with a dust pan. Governor Mike Dukakis declaring a state of emergency while wearing a turtle neck sweater on TV--then we knew it was serious. Funny how years later, Mike in an army helmet atop a tank would make a different sort of sartorial impact.
So I'm waiting for it to snow. It's well after midnight. I think I just saw a few flakes. They're talking blizzard. I'll probably stay up and watch for awhile --Harvey is talking about a "wall of white." I've got that old feeling. Maybe I'll grab an aluminum chair and give my brother a call.

and stay tuned!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


OK. I've been busy with Christmas prep. (I MISS BLOGGING. I seriously can't believe how much I enjoy it--me a TV girl.) In fact, later today (Saturday) after I get some sleep after a delightful dinner up in Newburyport at 10 Center, I will be onstage at Symphony Hall with Keith Lockhart narrating "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" with The Boston Pops! Be there at 3pm--I'd love to say "hello"!

But this week one of my colleagues asked for a list of favorite movies from all of the Boston Film Critics--and tonight, after two glasses of wine, I dashed off a few of mine:
Fanny and Alexander, The Celebration, Local Hero, Flesh and the Devil, The Parallax View, The Year of Living Dangerously, Reds, Call Northside 777, The Whole Wide World ,The Dead Zone.
And of course no list of mine would be complete without THE GODFATHER (1 & 2). There are many others. I will name them eventually. Would love your reactions! Have you seen these????

and stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


GOOD NEWS: THE HURT LOCKER is back in selected theaters this weekend!
It will be playing at the following:

AMC Liberty Tree Mall – Danvers
AMC Harvard Square – Cambridge

The stars (or their publicists) are reacting to their good news! Here is a list of "official" statements from Fox Searchlight Golden Globe nominees:

Jeff Bridges, Actor, CRAZY HEART
“The Hollywood Foreign Press has been mighty fine to me over the past 30 years, and this year is especially sweet. I’m happy to share this nom with my buddies T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham for our CRAZY HEART theme song, and with our writer-director Scott Cooper and co-stars Maggie, Bob and Colin who helped make Bad Blake such a genuine character. I would like to dedicate this recognition to the memory of the late, great Stephen Bruton who brought his musical touch to every part of the picture.”

Music & Lyrics by: Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Ryan Bingham
"A year ago, I would have never imagined that I would be receiving such amazing news this morning – and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s already been such a remarkable experience being a part of this film, and working alongside such incredible talents as T Bone Burnett, Jeff Bridges, & Stephen Bruton. To be recognized today by the Hollywood Foreign Press for “The Weary Kind” – together with musical legend T Bone Burnett – is such an honor! What amazing company to be a part of."

T Bone Burnett
“Crazy Heart is a particularly meaningful and personal film to all of us who have worked on it from the very beginning. For the HFPA to recognize us with a nomination for “The Weary Kind” is a real honor, and to be included in the company of this incredible group of songwriters is truly gratifying.”

Robert Duvall, Actor/Producer, CRAZY HEART
“This is a film that certainly deserves any and all recognition that it gets, both the film and Jeff Bridges performance.”

Rob Carliner, Producer, CRAZY HEART
“We’re thrilled the HFPA has recognized an iconic American actor in an iconic American role.”

Mason Novick, Producer, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
“It’s an amazing honor to be included with all of these great films. Thank you to the HFPA for acknowledging our hard work and for recognizing everything that the cast and crew put into this film. I think it is very exciting that we can be a small, character driven film and still stand out and be recognized in a very competitive field. This was a year with a lot of big comedies and I’m glad that our movie stays with people.”

Jessica Tuchinsky, Producer, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
“We are so thrilled by this amazing acknowledgement and that people are responding to our little movie. I hope I can speak for everyone that worked on it--we truly love it and are proud to get this nomination . I am so grateful that the hard work of Marc Webb, Neustadter & Weber, Joseph and Zooey is being recognized.”

Steven Wolfe, Producer, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
“I’m so proud and excited that our film has received this nomination. What a great way to start the day! The making of “500 Days of Summer” has been an especially rewarding journey for me and I’m so thrilled to see the creative work by Mark Webb, Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber and the entire team has been embraced by so many”.

Marc Webb, Director, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
“It makes me humbled, honored, fidgety and warm that (500) has been acknowledged by the HFPA. Our team has a had a lot of fun so far - and we promise to drink a lot of vodka for the show.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
“These days it seems like the world's becoming one big international family and that's a good thing! That said, I'm particularly happy and grateful to be honored by The Hollywood Foreign Press, an association defined by it's international, or shall we say 'global' character. Movie making is so collaborative, the work I did in (500) DAYS OF SUMMER wouldn't even exist if not for the film's director Marc Webb, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber, and of course, my dear friend and sister-in-craft, Zooey Deschanel.”

Wes Anderson, Writer/Director/Producer, FANTASTIC MR. FOX
“I am very touched to have received a Golden Globe nomination. I have always enjoyed meeting with the members of the HFPA over the years, but this is my first nomination, and I am very pleased that they like Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is wonderful acknowledgement of the work of my many, many very skilled collaborators on this stop-motion film!”

Jason Schwartzman, Actor, FANTASTIC MR. FOX
“It’s such an honor for the film to be nominated especially considering the competition. I’m very proud for Wes and everyone who worked so hard to transform such a unique book into such a unique film.”

George Clooney, Actor, FANTASTIC MR. FOX
"Not a bad way to start a Tuesday."

and stay tuned!


Hi--Just a quick news flash--I am off to tape a segment on TODAY'S INSTALLMENT OF GREATER BOSTON hosted by Emily Rooney. Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr and I will discuss movies--the holiday ones, the Golden Globes, etc. with Emily and Jared Bowen, their crack arts reporter--the only person on TV currently covering that ALL-IMPORTANT segment of our city's life. (There is actually more than rape, robbery, and murder taking place around town-- though you wouldn't know it to watch the local evening newscasts.)

So watch tonight at 7PM on WGBH.

More later...
stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Golden Globe nominations were announced today, and they are generally a barometer of the Oscar nominations to come. The Globes are voted on by THE HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION (the joke is nobody really knows who they are) and they have their favorites. Again you will see CLINT EASTWOOD nominated as best director, though I found INVICTUS virtually unwatchable, except for the rugby scenes. Penelope Cruz (best supporting actress NINE)is also a darling as are Helen Mirren(best actress drama THE LAST STATION) and Marion Cotillard(best actress musical NINE).

Some of the surprises? INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS received 4 nominations, including best picture and director for Quentin Tarantino. I mean the film was a kick-- no one takes his time building up a scene, then slowly extracting every last ounce of dramatic tension from it better than Quentin. But here it's in service of an outlandish and juvenile wish-fulfillment fantasy.

And how about Sandra Bullock being nominated in two categories for Best Actress?--one for the drama THE BLIND SIDE, and the other for the underrated comedy THE PROPOSAL. She was actually quite believable in both.

LA STREEP was nominated for two best actress performances as well, both comedies--IT'S COMPLICATED, which I saw tonight, and in which she glows as a giddily romantic girl of a certain age, and JULIE & JULIA-- for which I am predicting she'll win, unless she cancels herself out.

UP IN THE AIR (with the most nominations-six) stars George Clooney in an enormously charismatic performance; he will win, I think. The movie may also win Best Picture: Drama. It's toughest competition is the Oprah and Tyler Perry-backed film PRECIOUS which has had a lot of buzz. THE HURT LOCKER --the best of the three--will most likely lose. But I do think comedian Mo'Nique in her first dramatic role may win best supporting actress as the abusive mother in PRECIOUS. As for the heartbreaking debut performance of Gabourey Sidibe as the eponymous "Precious"? She has only to beat Carey Mulligan as the knowing ingenue in AN EDUCATION.

I think NINE will take Best Picture: Comedy or Musical category, if for no other reason than Sophia Loren who is featured here singing, walking, breathing, and driving around Rome in an open convertible with Daniel Day-Louis. It is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who votes, after all.

Find out the results Sunday January 17, on "The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards" broadcast live coast to coast from the Beverly Hilton Hotel, 8-11PM (EST) on NBC!

and stay tuned!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Just a word about THE HURT LOCKER. The film is picking up momentum across the country as the film of the year. It was a rather strange year for films, almost a flatline of routine studio fare, with few exceptions. But this film is gently emerging as something of a phenomenon, despite being released earlier in the season, with disappointing results at the box office. However, anyone who has seen THE HURT LOCKER (and I have talked to many men and women of different generations) has been been powerfully affected by it.

I finally saw it myself, and was deeply moved by its truth. It is a perfectly calibrated drama directed by the gifted Kathryn Bigelow. She's crafted a silently explosive (forgive the pun) thriller about the impact of war on an elite American military unit in Iraq whose expertise is ferreting out hidden bombs, and delicately dismantling them-- before they are dismantled. The film is based on the observations of screenwriter Mark Boal, a journalist who was actually in the field observing this ultra-dangerous work. There is little dialogue, and much tension; it resonates long after the film has ended, and works its way into the psyches of these soldiers long after they've left the battlefield. I have never seen a movie that so clearly communicates the adrenaline rush of war and its attendant addictive nature, as well as the sense of alienation experienced by those who return home; they suddenly find themselves lost in the landscape of everyday life, now rendered absurd. The film is not marred by politics; rather, the screenplay very closely observes an extreme state of being, and shows us its devastating effects.
The title itself is multi-layered: what is "the hurt locker"? Is it merely the suit worn to protect against the blast? Is it the literal box where the sergeant keeps the souvenirs of his death- defying missions, as a reminder that he has survived? Is it a metaphorical refuge from fear and pain? Or is it the place of fear and pain where he is forever locked in?
The movie may be many things, but it is not marred by politics; instead, it chooses to look very closely and clearly at an extreme state of being, while letting us experience the fall-out. This is one of the great things that movies can do: they let us in on the truth of an experience we might never have access to any other way. Only then can we decide what to do with that knowledge.

Golden Globe nominations are out tomorrow--I can hardly wait to see what comes up!

Good night--
and stay tuned!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Hey cinemaphiles! Here are the results of the big meeting of the grand poobahs of Boston Film Criticism! 18 of us voted in a little room at the Boston Phoenix over coffee, donuts, and pizza...

But first--A NEWS FLASH--the stars are out tonight!!! A BIG METEOR SHOWER called the "Geminid" meteor shower (because they emerge from the sky near the constellation of Gemini) is visible from 9PM till dawn, but best around midnight EST!!!

Now here's the latest on our earthbound stars. The big winner to emerge today in Boston is the
gripping war drama about an American military bomb-disposal squad in Iraq,
THE HURT LOCKER (it got my vote)and picked up a total of FIVE awards:
BEST DIRECTOR--Kathryn Bigelow
BEST ACTOR--Jeremy Renner
BEST EDITING--Chris Innis and Bob Murawski
(THE HURT LOCKER was also named best picture by the L.A. Film Critics and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, as well as winning the 2008 Venice Film Festival's Grand Prize.)

BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep for her hilarious turn as the belovedly dotty French Chef Julia
Child in JULIE & JULIA.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: comedian Mo'Nique as the abusive mother of an obese teenage daughter and incest victim in PRECIOUS. PRECIOUS, in an odd turn of events, also tied for BEST ENSEMBLE CAST with a film a universe away in theme, style, and setting--STAR TREK!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz as the meanest Nazi on the planet in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS


BEST DOCUMENTARY: THE COVE a heartbreaking dirty secret about the routine slaughter of dolphins

BEST ANIMATED FILM :The sappy "UP" (did not get my vote)


BEST NEW FILMMAKER: Neill Blomkamp for DISTRICT 9 (this is worth a look)

That's it for tonight--Happy Hanukkah! I'm going out to look at the stars!

and stay tuned!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Tonight I re-discovered the coolest site--if you feel like shopping off the beaten path, say,online in Holland?!! Check this out--it has to be one of the cleverest ads I've ever seen.

It got me thinking about some of my favorite things, people, and serendipitous occurrences-- Dutch.
One of my absolute favorite painters?--Vermeer.
One of my favorite actresses? Meryl Streep.
Once upon a time I had a housekeeper, a young Dutch woman who was actually a painter--Katya Esser--and one of her paintings currently hangs in my kitchen.
I once ran into Susan Sontag in an elevator in Amsterdam while covering a story on Vincent Van Gogh.
And of course, Dutch cocoa.

But enough. Tonight I saw a kickin' gospel musical at the A.R.T. --BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, part of the Shakespeare Exploded series--directed by Diane Paulus their fabulous new artistic director. Imagine Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE (one of his more farfetched yarns) infused with R & B and rotating local gospel choirs! Grab the kids, grab granny-- and go! You WILL have a blast. It's a great story for a cold winter's night, about love and loss, death and redemption, all giving way to a glorious resurrection of the soul! And what soul--the voices will bring you to your feet--it's on at the Loeb Drama Center in Harvard Square until January 3!!!

Tomorrow I vote with the Boston Society of Film Critics and I will post our year end selections right here on this blog BEFORE YOUR CAN READ THEM IN THE PAPER!

Good night--
and stay tuned!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The OSCAR race is heating up, or rather the various critics groups around the country are heating up as they name their picks, and try to influence the final horse race in the Spring. The Boston Society of Film Critics votes its year-end awards this Sunday. We're talking a room full of critics (me among them) getting hot under the collar arguing about the best films and performances of the year. 

So far, the National Board of Review has weighed in with its best film of the year: UP IN THE AIR, but it won't get my vote. The film stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a professional hatchet man who wings his way around the country firing people; in other words, it's about a man with no roots-- uprooting folks all over the land. He also has a side gig on the lecture circuit extolling the virtues of traveling light. The film is like Milan Kundera's THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING for the 21st century-- except that Clooney makes it look almost bearable.  It's a part he was born to play, and it resonates with his real, off-camera, cool bachelor persona. He's suave and unruffled, even as men old enough to be his father break down in front of him upon learning they've lost their livelihoods. He has just enough heart to keep people from going over the edge.  He never has a word or a hair out of place.

 Bingham meets his feminine foil in transit-- Vera Farmiga is luminous, and languidly sexy in the part. The third leg of this triangle is Bingham's young protegee/replacement?--played by the permanently pursed-lipped Anna Kendrick, in a startlingly fresh performance. She's just popped out of school, thinks she has all the answers, and has worked out a system whereby Ryan Bingham's job could be done via computer--with nary a warm breath between terminator and terminated. The film has captured the zeitgeist: from the packaging of reality and the alienation it breeds, to the disposability of human emotion in an increasingly digitized world. The film is littered with the fake friendliness of flight attendants, and the hospitality suites Ryan calls home. Will Clooney's character crack? Will he feel something missing? Will he enjoy having his wings clipped?

 The film comes up with an answer, but the script takes the cheap way out. At a crucial moment, they cheat. You'll know it when you see it. I felt dirty-- like I'd been had.  It pulls me right out of the film. There's a clue early on, when Anna Kendrick's character arrives at the airport with her luggage wobbling along on those little nasty unworkable wheels. Ryan shows her how the professionals roll, buys her a new freewheeling suitcase and makes her repack. It's just such a lame piece of business--It's as though the girl just emerged from a cornfield. Wasn't there a subtler way to convey her naivete "on the road?" This might have been a Great film. Now it's just OK, with some excellent performances, and one gaping hole where better writing would have kept it aloft.

and stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So I wake up this morning to a photo that will haunt my dreams: LADY GAGA being presented to THE QUEEN. I can only imagine what's going through Her Majesty's head,"I don't remember making her a lady..."
 Which reminds me of a great story about Her Royal Highness which I heard from my friend who lives in London and has met HRH. Apparently someone was going through the receiving line and about to bow to The Queen, when suddenly his cell phone starts ringing. Without missing a beat, HER MAJESTY says, "Perhaps you'd better get that; it might be someone important." 
I'm now officially in love with The Queen.

I must run, but before I go, two things.
 First, I apologize for the photo not coming through in my little stocking stuffer blog. My staff will get to work on that.
Second, I promise to call a brief moratorium on the word "gorgeous." I noticed it pops up quite frequently in my blog. Shows you where my head is almost always at. I'm a beauty junky.

Goodbye for now--
and stay tuned!

Monday, December 7, 2009


 But wait till you hear-- all day yesterday-- Sunday- I was at the MGM GRAND HOTEL in CONNECTICUT judging the GRAND FINALS of the Emmy Award winning COMMUNITY AUDITIONS! We taped on the same stage where LIONEL RICHIE played to a sold out 5000-seat crowd the night before.  Joining me on the bench were AMERICAN IDOL finalist AYLA BROWN, comedian STEVE SWEENEY, TV pro and radio's "Says You" panelist BARRY NOLAN, BOSTON drummer SIB HASHIAN, FARRENHEIT'S CHARLIE FARREN, and MAGIC 106.7's Candy O'Terry. Our "stars of the day" (for those who remember the reference) were truly entertaining. I'm talking fabulous singers, all kinds: blues, soul, hip hop, country, pop, rock n' roll, gospel, jazz (earlier in the season we even had one contestant who sang opera!). 
I AM NOT ALLOWED TO TELL YOU WHO WON YET. But I can invite you to watch COMMUNITY AUDITIONS on WBZ Channel 4-- Saturdays at midnight, Sundays at 12:30, and TV 38 Friday nights at 9:30!
Hello Dave Maynard!!!

Now onto BROKEN EMBRACES. Penelope Cruz reunites with the Spanish director who nurtured the young beauty's talent--(LIVE FLESH, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER) Pedro Almodovar. The only director to get the same caliber work from Cruz was Woody Allen in last season's VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. Here Cruz is wildly manipulated by a complex script that ricochets back and forth in time, and thrusts Cruz into many roles: whore, actress,wife, mistress, in a tragic love knot peppered with melodrama and comedy. The plot involves a blind filmmaker and his muse, lover, leading lady--Lena (Cruz) who wears many wigs, and appears topless (there were audible gasps at her gorgeousness among the critics at the screening; I think I was one of them.)But the film is more cerebral than febrile; it left me a little cold. But it's fascinating. There's a character with a camera that is key to the denouement, and it put me in mind of CINEMA PARADISO. Suffice it to say that Almodovar seems more enamored of film than anything else here, and its power to reveal and heal--even when the director is blind--or maybe, because of it. Do see BROKEN EMBRACES and hug a movie today.

Finally, because I've left you three days blogless, here's a little stocking stuffer early.
and stay tuned!!


Friday, December 4, 2009


I love Matt Damon. I loved him in INVICTUS. I love Clint Eastwood, director. I did NOT love INVICTUS. It's one of the biggest disappointments of the "serious" movie season to date. The trailer and the premise promise a great, inspiring drama about Nelson Mandela's attempt to heal apartheid-riven South Africa by focusing efforts on the winning of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman plays Mandela(and apparently he's the first choice to play anyone who has godlike characteristics-- or even on occasion-- God himself). Damon plays the captain of South Africa's rugby team, whose fans are predominantly white; the blacks would root for anyone else, as a stance against the oppressor. Despite the complexity of the issues, and the real life "hook" of a sports team with its identity and soul on the line, the film is shockingly one-dimensional and emotionally dead. Sloganeering substitutes for dialogue ("This country is hungry for greatness.") while songs with lyrics like "I'm colorblind" play on the cloying soundtrack. Characters are either fuzzy (who is that brunette--his sister or his girlfriend? What was the pilot doing with that plane anyway??) The whole thing is as heavy-handed as the bone-crushing sport called rugby, played without protective gear, and featuring sudden gymnastic maneuvers to get the ball down the field, IF they survive the scrum! The sport itself was the biggest revelation here-- that and Matt Damon's ability to once again physically transform himself while nimbly managing a very convincing South African accent. He was absolutely authentic despite the constraints of a part that was grossly underwritten.

Tomorrow--Penelope Cruz in BROKEN EMBRACES!!!

and stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


 I saw an advance screening of THE YOUNG VICTORIA this afternoon, and absolutely luxuriated in this gorgeous-looking film about how England's longest reigning monarch came to power. Emily  Blunt gives a subtly vivacious performance as the young queen in waiting. She is unexpectedly adorable as the monarch whose name belongs to an era associated with overstuffed sofas and too many untensils.  The film is extraordinarily well-directed, scored, and wittily edited to convey the ponderousness of the times-- Victoria's stifling upbringing, political intrigue as thick as the drapery, the weight of all that history and encrusted ritual, and yet the lightness of this 18 year-old's spirit, as she tackles the schemers around her, even as she navigates her first romance with her great love Prince Albert (played by the beautiful Rupert Friend). They dance a waltz in front of the entire court on coronation day that is as smolderingly romantic as anything I've ever seen. 
And then it's all over- just as it's just beginning--only a 100 minutes and I wanted so much more. All the conflicts are too cleanly resolved, and the result is a drama which remains tepid rather than coming to a full-on boil. Blunt is enormously appealing here, and a very  FINE actress, with great range. She very well may be a nominee for best actress at Oscar time. 

Now check out this video.  It's a delightful response to the recent boneheaded government recommendation to hold off on mammograms.
Emily (MacInnes) Somers, created, directed and choreographed this in Portland last week for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness.  This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves.  I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it.
When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community.  Please check it out.  It's an easy and great way to donate to a wonderful cause, and who hasn't been touched by breast cancer? 
Just click on the link below.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good evening! 

Tonight I invite you to come to Symphony Hall this season for Christmas Pops with Keith Lockhart conducting! I will be narrating the Saturday December 19 concert at 3pm. I'd love to see you there!

And please check out the latest article on me in a fabulous magazine called IMAGINE.
Just cut and paste this address into your browser and flip to Page 18!

Tomorrow I will attend the press screening of THE YOUNG VICTORIA--starring Emily Blunt (DEVIL WEARS PRADA) as England's longest reigning monarch! I'll review the film in tomorrow's blog and let you know whether or not I think she's a contender in the Best Actress category. At this point, I am predicting Meryl Streep as Julia Child as a good bet--who wouldn't want to see Meryl get up there and accept the little gold man while chirping out "bon appetit" a la Julia!

Good evening--
and stay tuned!