Here is my latest blog post on policymic.com
Here is my latest blog post on policymic.com
My new post on policymic.com
So true. Bye bye Empire State!
Pacino and Cannavale discuss their salesman prowess
I can’t honestly think of a better title for this post. It’s Sunday evening and I have just finished watching the second feature in my Al Pacino film marathon. Scent of a Woman is of course a classic (and don’t just take my word for it. Pacino got an Oscar for his role) and it has left me exhausted, with a bit of a headache really and absolutely amazed that last night I was 8 rows away from the great man himself.
An impromptu, reckless Broadway purchase yesterday morning, I spent a crazy sum of money for the privilege of sitting near to Johnny, not far away from Frank (Slade and Serpico), hey and of course in touching distance of Michael Corleone (if I nipped out the row and ran really quickly, and before anyone tackled me, to the stage that is!). Last night at 8.05pm, for those of you not following along well, there were 8 heads between me and Tony Montana! And now, as meringues bake in the oven, I am trying to piece together the surreal blur that was Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway.
[The meringues are a desperate attempt at consuming sugar, since my only source comes in the form of cane and with a dozen eggs in my fridge and not much else I have had to resort to Delia Smith meringues to get me through my movie run this evening.]
I was sat very snuggly between two large-ish men. One, I noticed after a few moments sat next to him, was quite clearly drunk (he fell asleep and mildly snored at points but luckily the prolific shouting on stage kept that to a minimum), and all around me, tourists. You know the type. Buying Broadway tickets for the main star! Cheeky so-and-sos. As the curtain was raised and that man sat in a makeshift Chinese restaurant, with a fellow actor, we heard a scream from the back of the orchestra,
“I love you Al Pacino!”
Tourists! By Jove it is hard work going to the theatre with all this rif raf!
Anyway what about his voice? It was all there. His intense eyes, his hair, his expressive mouth as he repeated his lines over and over. Mr Al Pacino is on stage people. STOP COUGHING!
The play was good (well it does have a Pulitzer). Mamet’s dialogue is excellent. It has a similar feel and frustration to Death of a Salesman and I was really impressed with the fast paced exchange between the actors. I had watched a preview online, in the few hours before the show, and some actors had commented on the musicality of the script. I saw that in action. Bobby Cannavale was wonderful. Playing Pacino’s Ricky Roma (from the 1992 movie–earning Pacino a Best Supporting nomination in the same year he won Best Actor for Scent of a Woman) he really made an impression on me. I also loved seeing Richard Schiff (The West Wing’s Toby Ziegler) in real life. A little behind on the series (by almost a decade) I have been religiously watching West Wing episodes, most nights now for the last few months, and feel very close to the cast. So seeing, possibly my favourite, only EIGHT heads away was divine.
My buddy Schiff (Tobes)
I really cannot say much else. The whole evening was like a dream. Al Pacino has been a staple legend in my household since I was a little girl (less Serpico, more Scent of a Woman before you blame my parents) and just like with Dustin Hoffman, and with Jane Fonda, I was all of a flutter.
Al Pacino, I may not entirely remember last night, but you were definitely worth every penny.
Now it is Sunday and the New Yorker Festival has been going on without me for two days. Well I cannot bear it anymore. I must attend at least something. A festival of Q&As is right up my alley and already I have let the likes of Ben Stiller, Viola Davis and Lena Dunham pass me by. But no more I tell you.
What will I choose?
Oh. I see there is a new film, directed by Dustin Hoffman (his directorial debut), supported in part by BBC Films and starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly. Seems utterly British. Just the way I like it then.
So, I add the final touches to an ongoing experiment and rush off to Midtown West and the Director’s Guild Theater to try my luck at getting rush tickets. This 4pm preview + Q&A session with Mr Hoffman will be highly popular, I fear. So I am prepared for a queue. As I bluster up to the stage door, I stutter something to the organisers. Something about a queue to get rush tickets for the Hoffman piece in a few hours time.
They point to a yellow stand reading “Line for non-ticket holders”. There is no one there. Not one soul. I AM the queue. Marvelous. So now I only have 2.5 hours to wait. And when did Autumn arrive I wonder? I have not transitioned to coat wearing yet as my mind and heart are still firmly lodged in summer. Oops. It seems I only have the legend Streisand to distract me from the now shivering state I find myself in. So that is a relief then.
At 3pm I successfully purchase the ticket and now I am in the home straight. It is only an hour more and Hoffman will be there, chatting to me. Can’t wait.
Soon enough I am taking my seat in the second row (strategically placed on the edge to minimise chances of tall or fat head issues) all the while taking this opportunity to regain feeling in my icy fingers. I am amused by my passage of luck this weekend and glance about the room taking in all the faces. But wait. Who’s face is that? Sitting only seconds away from little old me. Is that Billy Connolly of comedy fame? That Glaswegian funny man who regularly has my family in stitches at any and all family gatherings? Number two in the list of all time greatest welders (my father takes the top spot for the 29th year running)? It most certainly is. By Jove my luck just keeps a-coming.
Sat in the middle of the second row, Mr Connolly is ready for the film. And so am I.
Quartet is a gem. Set in a beautiful mansion somewhere in Fair Old England, this elderly residence houses aging musicians of all specialities. Opera singers, violinists, jazz trumpeters and singers in their 70s and beyond. A bunch of divas, their future in this magnificent setting is at risk. Charity funding is depleted and survival rides on the Annual Gala, where they all perform, so that monies raised can support them one year more. But they need a star to reach that target. Cue Maggie Smith. Arriving just in time to jostle her peers with her bristly manner. She of course refuses and the likes of an old flame Tom Courtenay, a wonderfully amusing Billy Connolly and a magnificent Pauline Collins displaying increasing signs of dementia throughout must convince Maggie Smith that she has to perform. For the sake of Beecham House, their home.
When Dustin Hoffman comes out on stage I am still wiping my eyes and wishing I was home in a field. With about 50 films to his name, one forgets how many classics this treat of a man has created. Kramer vs Kramer, as he learns to bring up his son in the day to day business of life. I just get goosebumps thinking about those kitchen scenes as he tries to make breakfast. A task he has never had to do until his wife (Meryl Streep) leaves them. And after a brief browse on Youtube I found this clip of Mr Hoffman winning the Oscar for Kramer vs Kramer. That voice!
Yesterday I sat in a room for nearly 2 hours listening to this man and his unbridled enthusiasm for life and art. His respect for opera singers, at one point, brought him to tears as he struggled to express their passion and “ferocity” in hitting those notes and hitting them again. He repeatedly punched the air as he tried to articulate the ambition and animal-like instincts to make those notes.
For Quartet he wanted his set to swim in an atmosphere of freedom and artistic openness (he didn’t say it exactly like that I promise). To achieve that, he (and his casting director) filled their beautiful mansion with real life retired musicians. Musicians who have not had a call to work for possibly decades and yet still have their abilities in abundance. Hoffman is moved as he describes their feeling of gratitude to work every day for sometimes 14 hour shifts on set creating the tone he was looking for.
One aspect of the film is the build up to the finale of the gala. Will Maggie Smith perform with her one time colleagues, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly in their famous quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto? In fact, the story was based on a mansion Verdi had built for himself in Milan. When he died he donated it to retiring opera singers. This place really existed! Take me there?
So what was Hoffman’s Rigoletto? Death of a Salesman, he says. He tells us that even meeting Arthur Miller was a dream come true. It was the first play he had ever read, he felt it was his life. He was Happy. His brother Biff, the successful one. His father a salesman. It was his life. He has the best stories. In preparing for the role he remembers Miller telling him how he wanted it done.
It is like jabbing. Miller told him. You jab the audience, making them laugh with Willy Loman’s contradictions. With his ridiculousness. And then when they are not expecting it. You knock them out. Make them laugh and then make them cry.
Hoffman absorbs this and exiting the stage after the first act, he asks Miller.
“How was it? Good wasn’t it?”
“You were 3 minutes over”
“But they were laughing? Everyone was laughing. I have to wait until it dies down a bit otherwise they will miss the dialogue”
“Let them miss it. Talk through it. I want my audience here (Hoffman perches on the edge of his seat, eagerly anticipating what is before him). I don’t want them there (Hoffman leans back, relaxed in his chair).”
Dustin Hoffman of Rain Man, Tootsie and Meet the Fockers fame (don’t tell me you didn’t love that cast) is telling me (OK us) about Arthur Miller’s directions. I am so happy to be here right now I might burst into a million pieces.
And I could have sat there all night. So too could Dustin it seemed. But apparently the stage people needed to tidy up. It was a Sunday night after all. As he wrapped up his never ending stream of brilliant stories of some of the most influential moments of film gold he brought Billy Connolly up on stage.
At the end the duo just didn’t want to leave. They had enough time for everyone in the room. In order to avoid stuttering something embarrassing to Dustin Hoffman about him being a legend I turned to Mr Connolly, hoping I would fare better here.
“Please can I shake your hand Mr Connolly? I have some of the best lifetime memories sitting in my living room in Newcastle laughing with my family at your stand up, and I want to thank you for that.” (my hands shaking as he grabbed them, happy with the compliment).
“Oh Newcastle. Newcastle is great. I was pinball champion in a pub opposite the railway station for many years.”
“I think we will get your DVD out at Christmas and have good giggle Mr Connolly” and with that I smiled and took my leave.
My sister does a magnificent impression of this Mr Connolly. Often without any warning.
It took me a whole hour, possibly more, to come back down to Earth. I did wash my hand though, which is progress in my obsession with “meeting” celebrities, at least.
I felt a bit icky on Sunday. I was not ill per say but I definitely think I was fighting something. I had been feeling nauseated (I just looked it up and nauseous is when you make other people feel sick and so I do try to be grammatically correct since coherent is not always an option) from about Friday night onwards. And so when I woke up on Sunday, with those muscle locking cramps in my right calf, I decided my body was trying to tell me something.
It was trying to tell me to rest up and watch the final 6 episodes of “The Newsroom” while positioned firmly on my sofa. My body is very specific. I had been recommended this show by my mother, and indirectly my father too, who I was informed was a keen observer of the show on his weekend trips home. I had managed to sneak in the first 4 episodes over the past two weeks and was now well positioned to complete the first season. Horizontal in fact.
To say that this show is realistic might be pushing it. To say it has bundled me into its clutches and run away with me is the absolute truth.
As a summary and to get you all up to speed, Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy, an anchor for a fictional nightly news show. The season begins with him losing his composure and manners at a female student who has posed the question, “What makes the United States the greatest country in the world?” He proceeds to rant about how this country is in fact not the greatest, all the while seemingly hallucinating that he has seen Emily Mortimer in the audience.
McAvoy is allowed/instructed to take a break. To recover from his meltdown and allow the fickle US public to forget his misdemeanour so that ratings do not tank any further. On his return to the office he is greeted by his “boss” and friend whose role I didn’t quite grasp but he seems to be running the network on some level. He is a big shot, but a really nice guy with incredibly honorable morals to boot. And a bow tie, which is just too cute. McAvoy is informed that his Executive Producer has been shifted to the 10pm show and he will be getting a new EP. Hello Emily Mortimer. Hello McAvoy’s romantic past.
So now we are in the thick of it. McAvoy hates Mortimer (MacKenzie), but we all know he doesn’t really, and he is helpless to stop her rolling in with her band of journalists and her new vision to “fix” McAvoy and the news. McAvoy is a genius, we are told, despite losing his way with his greed for viewers and adoration. He has succumbed to the trash that is Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian, anyone’s current and past weight change, anyone else’s relationships that last all but two minutes and the group of people who were not famous yesterday but suddenly find themselves so because of a Youtube clip that went “viral”. MacKenzie despises this culture. She wants to reform the news and she wants to set out new rules to achieve this. Rules where the world of Snooki/Kardashian go unreported and where global issues that affects mankind in a real way headline every night. Noble behaviour from the Brit. I for one want to be saved so let’s go.
The Newsroom is filled with a lot of gushy big statements about saving civilization as we know it and annoyingly wonderful love interests that just don’t quite get together even though everyone knows, including them, that it is inevitable. I managed to power through 6 hour long episodes of back to back Newsroom on Sunday and I was not even remotely pooped at the end of it. Although it was dark outside.
However, in hindsight I think watching 6 hour long episodes in one day is unhealthy. For one I am easily influenced by quick witted unrealistically intelligent repartee and two, I start to lose a grasp on my own reality as a result. For instance, on Monday morning I woke up thinking I worked in a newsroom and was an investigative reporter. I was so excited to go at the news and tackle the big stories that I nearly wandered over to Bryant Park to try to get in the offices (that don’t actually exist as it is Aaron Sorkin’s fiction).
It was very confusing to re-address my actual reality where I measure telomere length in double cord blood transplantation (we don’t talk about the “other” project).
Now it is Tuesday and I have slowly come down from my role as global educator and noble informer to the misguided masses. I certainly achieved a lot, in my dreams on Sunday night, and want to thank everyone who supported me and made this “World’s Greatest News Anchor/Investigative Journalist” award (fictional award) a reality. I want to thank my parents who taught me right from wrong. My sister who goes around saving the world on the front line and my teachers for versing me in the skills of thorough research and truth. I could not have got this far without every one of you. I hope to continue my role as Greatest Anchor ever known to man (or woman) for as long as you will have me, but a special mention must go out to my crew, because without them our show would just not be as award-winning as it clearly is. We just want to bring you the news people. The real life world news as it happens. And we will never rest until we do.
Thank you, and good night.
Picture the scene. A mysterious car sits in wait. The owner of the car is constantly changing. Sometimes this man is talking quietly on the phone, sometimes another lone watcher wanders around the car trying to appease his boredom.
I must walk past this 24 hour, 7 days a week stake out on my way to and from work. The only clues as to his purpose are the yellow traffic cones and police tape that surround the tree-d area. They seem to border an uninteresting plot of land with no clear ulterior motive. As I watch boys try to use the traffic cones as ramps for their skateboards, the guard of sorts shoos them away. He wants no one lingering there. He wants to be alone with his marked tree patch. But why? I have asked everyone I know who frequents this route. At 3am in the morning why do these trees or whatever deep purpose he serves need protecting? I suspect it has something to do with CIA. It reeks of Secret Service activity because my island is a constant hive of baffling happenings. Well it probably is. When I am asleep.
I have been performing my detective work non-stop for the last month now. However, I am considering stepping up my efforts in order to once and for all solve this puzzle. Let’s recap. Yellow traffic cones, 2 sets, joined with yellow police tape. One ring circles a plot of trees, the other “protects” a machine-like totem pole resembling a parking meter but altogether too tall for that and labelled with the sign “Alarm”. And so after careful consideration I have come up with the following scenarios:
1) Are we trying to attract our neighbours from outer space? Is this a convoluted way of saving money on the Space Program by using my island as a homing station for extraterrestrial beings? Likely.
2) Is there an underground tunnel only accessed via removal of this “parking meter” that allows for rapid and efficient CIA missions into and out of the city?
Whatever it may be I suspect it is exciting and terribly TOP SECRET. And so I will continue my quest for knowledge. I will (maybe) succeed. But all I can hope for is that I will triumph before the aliens land. I know we have a bit of extra space but seriously Obama there is probably not enough room for a whole race of non-human beings on Main Street!
It is 4am now. I am not asleep as I probably should be but I figure I won’t need to be much awake for the activities of the 1st May 2012. Dramatic? Me? Surely not.
At least the birds are awake. Best part of the day some say. Not usually me however and I think being asleep would be my preferable option right now. The orange glow of a cloudy Big Apple sky hovers over the city that never sleeps. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind an apple right now. Starving. Mainly because I was told no food after midnight. No I dont want an apple. If I had a choice I think I would have a cheese danish from Le Pain Quotidien. It is sort of breakfast time. I could definitely put away a full English fry up too. But alas it is not to be. Crunching on buttery toast will be have to be a hazy dream sequence for a few weeks. And then you’ll just have to hold me back. Crispy bacon. You don’t stand a chance.
In 2 hours or so it is OR time for me (fingers crossed for dishy George Clooney lookalike). Operating Room 3rd floor. Same Day Surgery.
I have not been nervous about this whole furore but now, slightly delirious with lack of sleep, I am imagining all the possible pitfalls my surgeons might face (Accidental pun. Check me out in the early hours!) Silly really. I should be thankful for the carpentry Dr B is going to perform ON MY FACE. And yet I am wondering whether this was totally necessary?
After all Bugs Bunny still made it?
Right. 4:21am. Maybe a little snack?