Monday, August 30, 2010

THE FABULOUS FALLON

I can contain myself no longer. I've been thinking about him for months. He's virtually the last person I see before I close my eyes every night. I said virtually. He used to be jittery and made me jumpy. I had to look away his first weeks on the air. Then slowly I turned, and step by step, he relaxed into the best talk show host on late late night TV. He's an extraordinary mimic. A nimble singer and dancer. He makes every guest better, funnier, looser, livelier-- because HE's having such a good time.

The comedy bits are genius. The wet and wild "Competitive Spit Takes." The improbably good "Battle of the Instant Bands." The unpredictably effervescent "Dance Your Hat and Gloves Off." The hilariously kooky spaceshot chanting HUBBLE GOTCHU!!! And finally,the sublimely droll nightcap at the end of every week, with its wistful musical accompaniment: "Thank You Notes." Tears are rolling down my eyes as I think about this. And now I'm remembering "Robert(as in Pattinson) Is Bothered." And the dead-on "Lost" take-off called "Late." And "The Real Housewives of Late Night." Jimmy is the prettiest, except for maybe Renee.

And Did I mention the hippest band on TV today-- THE ROOTS led by ?uestlove who takes the wackiest soundbites of the week and proceeds to "Remix The Clips"?! And how about the most brilliant bit of all, executed with hilarious aplomb by NBC's cool on wry newsman Brian Williams: prepare to die laughing as he, The Roots, and yes, Jimmy Fallon groove on "Slow Jammin' The News."

Jimmy just hosted the best Emmy Awards in recent memory. Anyone who saw his opening number Sunday night has to agree: he's the guy to watch right now. Gotta go--he's on right now.
Good night!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MOVIE MUST SEES


WINTER'S BONE is one of the best films of the year. So many people have been saying there's nothing to see at the movies this summer. And if you're just patronizing your local mainstream multiplex, it's pretty bleak. But here's a quick run-down of better films you may have overlooked and you'll find them at what we used to call"art houses"--which are few and far between these days, but if you're in the Boston area, check out The West Newton Cinema, The Stuart Street Playhouse, and Kendall Square in Cambridge

Here goes:
--WINTER'S BONE is a chilling but ultimately inspiring coming of age tale starring Jennifer Lawrence as Ree, a teenage girl whose father has disappeared. It's up to Ree to rescue her nearly insane mother and destitute younger siblings from crushing poverty and the equally crushing rituals of tribal life in the Ozarks. Lawrence's performance will stir your soul, and what she must face will curdle your blood. The film sheds a terrifying light on a grim corner of American life. Extraordinary film.

--THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO & THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE are the film versions of the late Stieg Larsson's first two books in the best-selling Millennium Trilogy starring red-hot Noomi Rapace as Scandinavian ice queen, hacker slacker Lisbeth Salander at the heart of this murder and sex thriller. Rooney Mara (who can be seen in the upcoming Facebook biopic, THE SOCIAL NETWORK)will take over the role when Hollywood takes a crack at this material. For now see it in Swedish. The first two films are better than the books.

--PLEASE GIVE stars Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, and Rebecca Hall in a subtle and quirky slice of NY life. Keener's character buys and re-sells the belongings of the recently deceased; she lives next door to an elderly woman and her two granddaughters who squabble while waiting for grandma to die. Keener is also waiting--for the vacancy so she can then expand her apartment. This is not as harsh as it sounds. The characters wrestle with guilt and life and death in this inescapable generational roundelay, while director Nicole Holofcener gives us reasons to be kind to ourselves and each other, please.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: EAT PRAY LOVE


"Eat Pray Love" is the latest incarnation of the archetypal female journey. It's the trip every woman wants to take. Unlike Ulysses whose journey requires him to fight all manner of monsters and physical obstacles in order to literally get "home," author Liz Gilbert's journey- a woman fleeing an unhappy marriage on a year-long sojourn to Italy, India, and Bali-- requires her to turn inward; the demons she fights are spiritual, emotional, psychological,and the home she seeks is herself.

Whew. Are we clear? Women get this, seek this, crave this experience. And in the person of Julia Roberts the experience is a voluptuous escape. She is transparently alive in every moment. She suffers and seeks and rejoices in infinite ways. We feel her need to break free. That big grin of hers has become much more subtle over time, and we're in on the whole experience. She's glorious to watch, really.

Richard Jenkins as Liz's meditation mentor has an exquisite scene of barely contained emotional pain; it's almost unendurable to watch. Javier Bardem as Liz's new man is tender and earthy; Billy Crudup is pitch perfect as the husband who is just "off putting" enough. And the supremely appealing James Franco has never been more unappealing--a testament to his acting prowess.

The film delivers a rich sense of place-- and we are immersed in the unique light of these places-- and their pleasures. I tasted every luscious strand of spaghetti, felt the burnished heat of India, and breathed in Bali's lambent glow.

The movie has some difficulty maintaining forward momentum and flattens out some of the more unbelievable real life extrasensory and transcendent experiences; the ending drifts off. The book's last third has similar difficulty. But given the lay of the land Gilbert and the filmmakers have mapped out, I remained inspired; what a trip.

Friday, August 13, 2010

EAT PRAY LOVE: location location location!!!


In the upcoming movie Eat Pray Love, Julia Roberts plays Liz Gilbert, a woman who steps out of her comfort zone and risks everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for self-discovery. The film, which is based upon Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, inspired the filmmakers to enjoy their own gastronomical trek through Italy – including famous places and some off the beaten track – that put them on their own version of Gilberts “no carb left behind” tour.

L’Orso 80, a crowded restaurant near Piazza Navona famous for their antipasti, became a favorite spot for the production– not only did the cast and crew eat here, but it’s featured in the film, as a gathering spot to watch Rome take on Lazio in soccer. (However, L’Orso 80’s owners must have been mildly chagrined to see the 75 extras were decked out in Rome’s orange and burgundy – they are Lazio fans). More information about L’Orso 80 can be found at http://www.orso80.it/index.htm.

Another favorite Rome restaurant and filming location near Piazza Navona was Osteria Dell Antiquario. Located in a 16th-century stone stable, this out of the way place between the Piazza and St. Peter’s is just beginning to be discovered.

The production also shot at Antico Caffe Della Pace. Since the 18th Century, there’s been a restaurant on this spot, providing inspiration and libation to artists and writers. This enchanting location inspires anyone who manages to get a highly coveted table on the terrace. More information can be found online at http://www.caffedellapace.it/.

Moving on to Naples, the production filmed at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele – a simple place so highly regarded by the locals that the line for a pizza is often out the door and around the block. Founded in 1933, the pizzeria today makes 180 pizzas every hour – each pizza takes only 30 seconds to bake in the 800-degree oven. The pizza is sold in only two sizes (regular and large) and variety (marinara – dough and sauce – or marinara and mozzarella), but with basil and a little olive oil it becomes an unforgettable delicacy. The restaurant can be found at http://www.damichele.net/.

Susan Spungen was the production’s food stylist. After serving in a similar role on the hit film Julie & Julia, Spungen was responsible for cooking, prepping, and styling all of the food in the Italy sequence (except for the Naples pizzas, where the restaurant handled things – “no one does it better,” she says). She also cooked 20 turkeys and tracked down cranberry sauce – not an easy thing in Rome – for a Thanksgiving celebration scene.

To find images for the food and locations just mentioned go to ftp://sphoto01:spf0to29@speftp.spe.sony.com. To see the trailer and find more information about Eat Pray Love, please visit www.sonypicturespublicity.com.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS



"Schmuckin' funny" is the lead quote describing DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, the American remake of a French film called "LE DINER DE CONS" which in 1998 was loosely translated as THE DINNER GAME. But by 2010, the translation has devolved to the offensive DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS -"schmuck" being Yiddish for "penis." So I guess we know which way this thing is headed. It's a film that has descended from its French roots and washed up on our shores as a coarse and nauseatingly funny piece of flotsam in which Steve Carell is barely able to contain himself as Barry the "idiot" whom Tim (Paul Rudd)brings to dinner. It's blood sport for Tim's boss and his ring of corporate cronies who amuse themselves by seeing who can win the prize for bringing the biggest jerk. Though Rudd is a great straight man and Carell does lovable nerd better than anyone, I didn't believe in any of these characters.

Almost every scene goes on too long, i.e. the female stalker who busts up Paul's relationship and chic apartment; Jemaine Clement as a randy satyr with hooves; Barry helping Tim when Tim's back goes out. There is one unbelievably funny scene where Barry meets a rich Swiss client and tries to make friends. But then there's Barry's hobby which involves dressing up dead mice and staging them in poignant scenes from Barry's own pathetic life. As the movie strays into sentiment, it gets creepy--especially the climactic dinner scene where Barry is emotionally flayed and hung out to ridicule. If we're going to take that trip, we need a much surer hand at the helm. As it was I was too queasy to laugh.

Let's just call the whole thing "schmawkward."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: SALT



Back from the beach and into SALT starring Angelina Jolie as a secret agent or two or three-- who is she, Evelyn Salt? I really didn't care. All I cared about was seeing her in different clothes and wigs and eyecolors and hats--like my own giant cinematic Barbie. In big luscious close up. Those lips. Those eyes. Those cheek bones. Those legs. That gait. The way she leaps tall buildings in a single bound like superwoman, flying onto moving vehicles, fashioning impromptu explosives out of ketchup and chair legs, disabling mountains of men with a flick of her perfectly turned calves and a couple of guns rambo style. Make that "rimbaud" style. There is no more sensual killing machine in all of movies today. Step aside Iron Man, Bat Man, Spider Man, X-men, and Jason Bourne. Forgive me, but Angelina makes me proud to be a woman.

The movie is a trifle, big on marginally believable exposition and frenetically directed action. There's little texture in the way of character and drama. The great actor Liev Schreiber has little to do. And we know Angelina can act. Remember GIRL INTERRUPTED? Well one of these days she's going to make a movie that harnesses all of her visceral, physical impact, and enormous emotional clout-- and we'll be beside ourselves. But for right now, this summer, let's just say she's doing what all larger than life movie stars can do--act out a few fantasies to entertain us. So I've extended my week at the beach, the salt air, the salt water-- and now that I'm back: SALT.