Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MOVIE: THE HANGOVER PART II


Let me make this clear. I loved THE HANGOVER-- the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. "Part II" however is an act of comic desperation; I shall recap as a cautionary tale.

In the beginning "The Wolfpack" gathers at a diner, foul-mouthed and frantic for their dentist pal Stu to have yet another raunchy bachelor party before marriage number two; Bradley Cooper's baby looks on as his daddy swears at everyone within earshot. Soon they're off to Thailand-- repeatedly called "thigh-land" --in case we missed the joke. Oh and Zach Galifianakis' character is no longer fully human; he seems to have been genetically altered since the first film and now plays his chromosomally-challenged character with leaden gusto.

The "pack" awakens in a putrid room in Bangkok where they find Mr. Chow-- again hairy and naked, a cigarette smoking monkey, and an amputated finger-- later discovered to belong to the bride's little brother--a gifted 16 year old cellist and aspiring surgeon who thinks this mutilation is so funny he almost laughs his head off too! After the monkey is shot and the guys are splattered by pig blood, they continue to try to recap the hi-jinks of the night before which apparently involved anal sex with a transgendered hooker. Along the way, they stop for lunch, cocktails, play guitar on a boat, and eventually make their way back to the wedding where the bride is thrilled that her pack-man has returned, tattooed and greasy within minutes of the ceremony.

As an extra bonus, the outtakes feature a recreation of the iconic photo taken during the Viet Nam war of a man being executed in the street at point blank range. Pretty hilarious, huh?

I have never laughed so little, felt so bad, and prayed so hard that it would soon be over. I pray too, that this film is never shown on an airplane; people will still be tempted to walk out.
In any case, see it at your own risk.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A WORD ABOUT OPRAH


I am sad she has left her daily show, though I know we'll be seeing a lot of her. I know millions of people love her, I love her, and many can't stand her. Narcissist they say. Self-important. Phony. If that's true, all I can say is-- she's made the best use of narcissism I've ever seen. For 25 years the woman has literally helped millions of people in countless ways: she's shed light on tough, controversial subjects from drug addiction, sexual abuse, animal abuse, domestic violence, suicide, homosexuality, prejudice of all stripes. She's championed education by sending tens of thousands of people to college, built a school for young women in Africa, gotten people reading, shared her wealth and targeted the most under-served for her generosity; she has fostered a culture of philanthropy by seeking out the most giving among us, and encouraging everyone she's helped to pass it on. She's also given us loads of fun and entertainment. She's confronted her own demons publicly, faced her mistakes and controversy head on, has never been tainted by corruption or scandal, and did this on her own steam, coming up from virtually nothing as a poor, black, sexually abused female from a broken home in the rural south.

Excuse me, but what do you want from a person, Alex Beam?Grow up.

If Oprah wants to celebrate for 3 days or 3 weeks or 3 years, it's OK with me. She's earned it. A phony? No phony could do that much good in the world. I wanted her to celebrate-- because I felt like WE were celebrating-- all of us. She has used herself like a mirror; in her, many people found themselves, literally. Through her enormous intelligence, energy, resilience, flaws, and talent, through her relentless seeking and then finding the power to do whatever needed to be done, viewers have been reminded of their own power.

So when Alex Beam begins an article (Boston Globe May 24 "Say Goodnight, Oprah") about Oprah's farewell by actually calling her names in the first paragraph, he invalidates himself as a serious thinker and journalist. Oprah may be off-putting to some, but to ignore her monumental achievements and pack such vitriol into an irrational, juvenile diatribe smacks of the kind of ego-driven sensationalism Mr. Beam has accused Ms Winfrey of.

Oprah needs no defense, but Alex does. He's lost his head; not to panic-- he'll find it at his next colonoscopy.

Sorry Oprah, I know you wouldn't have said that, but I feel much better.
See you on OWN!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

THEATRE DOUBLE BILL: "DROWSY" & "PANSY"!!

Want to laugh your ass off this weekend? Forgive the frisky opening line, but be careful sitting down after you see the two shows I'm about to recommend--THE DROWSY CHAPERONE over at The SpeakEasy, and The Gold Dust Orphans' PETER PANSY over at the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts, or Machine!

DROWSY is the Tony Award-winning musical which has just been extended until June 19 and stars the brightest lights in Boston: Karen MacDonald, Tom Derrah, Will McGarrahan, Kerry Dowling who will be replaced by Leigh Barrett for the extension, and Alison McCartan who will take over from McCaela Donovan. Deliriously delightful, one and all-- especially McGarrahan, impishly funny as a closeted musical theater buff who's home alone with a turntable of musicals that spring to life in his living room. McGarrahan has never been better, seducing us with a wacky gleam in his eye, and the loony logic of a 1920's musical. It's a breezy 1 hour 40, no intermission, and you can grab a bite after at a nearby outdoor cafe on Tremont!
See THE DROWSY CHAPERONE at SpeakEasy Stage Company through June 19!

****AND****

You only have two more chances (Sat 5/28 at 8PM, Sun. 5/29 at 5PM) to see PETER PANSY before it moves to P-Town's Crown and Anchor next week: Ryan Landry's latest hysterical riff on the adventures of a gay young lad and his lost boys on the island of Provincetonia! The show takes off like a shot and never lets up! Landry's extravaganzas seem to have picked up speed and ingenuity over the years-- and this is one of his funniest and most deftly directed. Fairy dust is snorted, Tink (Olive Another) is a bitch, Wendy(Liza Lott) is a deep-voiced fag hag, and hot for the screamingly charismatic Peter: he won't grow up-- and he won't go straight either. The exuberantly adorable Michael Wood plays the part at full throttle, while this multi-talented cast sashays in and out of outrageous musical numbers staged on all sides: there's a bath with Captain Hook (a suggestively clad Ryan Landry), a sumptuously tailed singing mermaid, a giant and terrifying "vagisaurus," tiny little puppets, "Indians" who swing both ways, AND Ryan's dog Rhoda in a dual role as "nana" and the "Cock-O-Dial." (This dog has a killer deadpan.) The theater can barely contain the action, let alone Landry's imagination. I thought the place would explode-- maybe that was just me, laughing.
See PETER PANSY here at Machine--this weekend, or there -- this summer at the Crown & Anchor!

Have a GREAT MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND! It's going to be a BEAUTY!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LOVE LOVE LOVE "THE NORTIES"!!

Last night I emceed the 29th Annual Elliot Norton Awards at the Paramount and it reconfirmed how magnificent our theater community is and how much I love them. Such consistent and varied and unusual talent in a close-knit, thriving against-all-odds "let's-put-on-a-show" kind of way --that's who the greater Boston Theater Community is. The critics handed out 23 awards and one citation in categories large, medium, small, and fringe, visiting and local, from acting and directing, to writing and choreography.

Some of my favorite moments: presenter Karen MacDonald spontaneously pantomiming the list of nominees when the video crashed; sweet Alex Pollock humbly speechless and hugging everyone onstage after winning Outstanding Actor, Small Fringe for a sublimely freaked-out performance in Company One's THE ALIENS; Johnny Lee Davenport --Outstanding Actor in The Lyric Stage's BROKE-OLOGY-- riffing a heartfelt acceptance while the relentlessly talented Barry Rocklin improvised on piano...

Next year is our 30th Anniversary and we hope to really blow it out... so in the meantime, GET TO THE THEATER-- check out my calendar for where I'll be this week and I'll see you there!! And check out the complete list of awardees at http://www.nortonawardsboston.com.

Monday, May 16, 2011

MOVIE: BRIDESMAIDS


BRIDESMAIDS is so funny, so refreshing, so groundbreaking, I want to jump up on a table and warble like a coloratura. It absolutely takes us where we've never been before-- on an outrageously funny romp through the pre-nuptial rituals of a wedding, from the maid of honor's point of view. It's been called the female version of THE HANGOVER. I loved that movie.This is equally hilarious. And the good news is, it's not women doing "man" jokes -- it's women in comic situations that mine women's relationships for explosive laughs-- and this movie kills. The women have "empathy" wars: who is the nicest, the most thoughtful, who is closest to The Bride. (There is one wildly funny scene in a pristine, upscale bridal salon that will leave you howling. Producer Judd Apatow was apparently behind it—and it comes close to crossing the gender divide—but it absolutely works here.)


BRIDESMAIDS assembles a gaggle of disparate maids--some friends of the bride Lillian (Maya Rudolph), and some newcomers who spice up the mix-- like the groom's boss's too beautiful, too perfect trophy wife (Rose Byrne), and her polar opposite the groom's coarse, overweight and hysterically blunt sister (Melissa McCarthy-Jenny's cousin!). At the heart of it all is the bride's best friend and maid of honor Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig). Wiig (who co-wrote the screenplay)and Rudolph have palpable comedy chemistry that made me want to pajama party with them. They also create believable and endearing characters whom we immediately understand.


Like any good comedy that's based in reality, this one has universal appeal; my husband of 32 years and I laughed equally loud and hard at each handily crafted comic gem of a scene. We were totally in sync with the hapless Annie as she stumbled through the wreckage of her screwy life-- the failed cake business, the nutty British roommates, the stinkers she sleeps with. You gotta love a comedy about women that makes short work of the gorgeous Jon Hamm-- and he still looked happy to be there.


One sweet-sad note-- this was the late Jill Clayburgh's last movie, made while she was dying of leukemia. She plays Annie's bawdy and resilient mother. Clayburgh appears older but herself in some scenes, withered and barely recognizable in others, but absolutely funny and uniquely charming in all of them. No matter the lack of continuity in her physical appearance; the filmmakers clearly felt that if Ms. Clayburgh was game enough to play these scenes, they would show them. I embrace her and this film for that act of grace.


DON'T MISS BRIDESMAIDS! YOU'LL LAUGH YOURSELF SILLY! I'm going to see it again.



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

MOVIE: THOR


If I had a hammer, I'd hammer out a better script. This less than marvelous Marvel comic take on the Norse god of thunder, actually put me to sleep--somewhere between a dull piece of exposition and a lackluster bit of action. This is yet another (yawn) superhero romp through the cinematic cosmos and director Kenneth Branagh has failed to beef up an already beefy cast: the blond and brawny Chris Hemsworth as Thor, with a voice as thick as his thighs, and Natalie Portman fresh off her Oscar winning tip toes as Jane Foster, girl-scientist who of course falls for the out-of-this world hammer-wielding hunk. They generate no heat, let alone thunder and lightning. Then there's Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, and Rene Russo who barely exist as characters.

Neither epic nor intimate, THOR mimics the now over-familiar tropes and spare parts of the genre to tepid effect: the loud action set pieces, robots and amorphous monsters, incredulous screaming onlookers evading falling debris, the hero strutting about shirtless while quirky secondary characters crack wise. (Who are those guys in the suits anyway??) But the jokes have no zing because there's no tension to release here. The scenes on earth are oddly empty, so stagey as to seem unreal --like a set that's just there to be knocked down.

Branagh known for bringing Shakespeare to life on the big screen, tries to dredge up the deep primordial drama of fathers and competing sons, but instead renders something that feels more like a family feud that got out of hand. NONE of this, I repeat, NONE of this feels urgent, or involving. When it all ends, a sequel suggests itself dimly on the horizon;maybe they could call it:
THNOR-R-R-R.

Monday, May 9, 2011

REBEL WITH A CAUSE

Photo by Carla Osberg

I am suddenly militant, at age 58, at the state of women in the world. I am just becoming fully aware that women in THE YEAR 2011 remain UNDERSERVED, UNDERREPRESENTED, and UNDERPAID. This is absurd. Irritating. Enraging. Women remain largely absent from the upper echelons of power, even in professions where their numbers dominate. I thought we had pretty much arrived; we haven't.

My budding consciousness burst into full bloom this Spring, at the Simmons Leadership Conference widely recognized as the world's premiere conference for women. I found myself hanging out with Donna Karan-- world famous fashion designer and philanthropist who, in addition to running her worldwide fashion empire (half my closet is Donna Karan), is working on everything from pediatric aids, to ovarian cancer research, to an Urban Zen initiative now focused on Haiti to enhance wellness, preserve culture, and empower children. Donna is among the female powerful elite; she has a personality as magically enveloping as her clothes and was instantly accessible to the throngs who approached her after her closing address. She felt like my long lost girlfriend; I wanted to have her over for a pajama party and wear her clothes to bed. She assures me she's actually done this.

Then there was Judith Jamison, the awe-inspiring Alvin Ailey dancer, muse, choreographer, and now retiring artistic director of that world-renowned company-- which alas is not coming to Boston this year for the first time in 39 years. She lifted us all up, past her sky- high frame and flew us around the auditorium on her soaring spirit. A powerhouse of positive energy, Judith mesmerized the crowd with tales of her extraordinarily loving family, a formidable work ethic, and a talent for molding a company of highly-trained, dynamic individuals into a cohesive artistic unit: the extraordinary Alvin Ailey dancers who thrill audiences with their vitality and beauty. We hugged; I felt sanctified.

Finally I was lucky enough to interview Pat Mitchell the president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media, and previously the first woman president and CEO of PBS. Before that Pat was president of CNN. Pat also occupied the slot I did at WBZ-TV from 1971-77; she too majored in English Lit and taught same. Then, our two roads diverged -- and Pat took the one less traveled by women. We had not met until 20 minutes before her eloquent and shocking remarks on the state of women in media. After her remarks I interviewed her onstage before a rapt audience, then claimed her as my mentor. She has very kindly obliged.

I am thinking back to being a college student at Simmons in the '70's and hearing about "Women's Lib" for the first time and thinking, "Why do we need that? I can do anything I want already. Can't any woman?" I eventually discovered that not all women had working mothers and grandmothers to inspire them as I did, or fathers who were proud of same mothers. I never thought that in 2011 there would be such a disparity in power. Many women around the world remain prisoners in their own homes and homelands. Some women are forbidden to read, to even be seen; some are bartered like so many goods. It's seems clear that the barometer of a culture is the status of its women.
Yes. We have not arrived. I am recalibrating my itinerary and will keep you posted along the way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!

It's been a long time coming, but Spring has sprung with a bang!

Obama got Osama! Looks like the President finished what the cowboy couldn't, and he did so with extraordinary care, precision, no American losses, no civilian casualties, photographic and DNA confirmation of the terrorist's identity, and burial at sea within 24 hours in deference to Islamic law. Everyone who needed to be in the loop was discreetly notified BEFORE it was released to the press, and the Pakistanis have been hoist with their own duplicitous petar-- and forced to smile through it. Finally, the spontaneous rallying of Americans from DC to Ground Zero to the Hub was a much needed release from the tension of increasingly acrid partisan bickering.

Kate and Will got married! This has signaled what I hope is a sea change in style, a refreshing break from the current penchant for the pornographic bare-all emotionalism we call "reality." They were so composed and true, so dignified yet relaxed; they didn't feel the need to make some big narcissistic statement about doing it their way; they just did, and honored everyone else too, and did it on time, and with perfect aplomb, like adults, and even so their youth and freshness came shining through. What could be more modern than being honest and appropriate? It was all there in the details: the gown-- absolutely classic and lovely; the ceremony-- grand, yet simple and heartfelt; the hats--sartorial flights of fancy in delightful contrast to British reserve and the dignity and seriousness of the occasion. The kisses --discreet and brief; it was to the newlyweds' credit that they refused to act like zoo animals on display. The exception and perhaps only blight on an otherwise flawless day-- Fergie's two daughters who looked like they'd flown in on an ill wind. In their gaudy party dresses, too thick eyeliner, and hideously over-the-top toppers, they looked in desperate need of guidance.

Finally today, this scene from my window: house finches continued building nests in my awnings, a big brown bunny sat still under the weeping cherry, a fat gray squirrel attempted a raid on the bird feeder, while my cats eyed them all from the tall grass. Then I remembered--the Taliban had just launched its Spring Offensive. Eleven people died-- including one 12 year old boy sent to the slaughter as a suicide bomber. They must be so proud.