Category Archives: Film

The world of film can span ACTUAL films and/or celeb spotting

Hanks and I

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Last night, after months of New York City living, meeting many of my screen and stage heroes, I finally got to sit in a Broadway theater and watch my lifelong love Mr Tom Hanks.

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From Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle

For a hint to my emotional state, minutes before the curtains went up on Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, I refer you to an older blog post.

Tom Hanks’ Thumb

Well then. Now you can better picture the smile on my face when that familiar Tom Hanks voice hit me in real life. A smile that remained planted there for nearly 2 hours as I sat marveling at how close I was to someone so strangely valuable from my childhood memories.

The play itself was OK. Based on the true story of 1980s tabloid news journalist Mike McAlary, we were told the tales of his rise to fame and Pulitzer through the anecdotes of his peers. I quite enjoyed that format. The characters were strong, easy with the swearing and played by well established and professional actors (Courtney Vance– brilliant, Christopher McDonald– amused). However, I am not sure I was able to sway from the inherent decency we associate with Hanks, to accept him whole-heartedly into this role of an ambitious, arrogant and at-any-cost tabloid hack.

I wanted to believe him because he plays a good part as always, but a tiny (but oddly loud) voice inside of me screeched,

“NO NO NO. Tom Hanks is a lovely guy. A lucky AND a lovely guy. I will not believe all this swearing business. And I certainly will not believe he is not absolutely dedicated to his marriage and family life. I WILL NOT”

But then I found myself smiling again as his silky voice wins me over. And the giggling scene. Oh how that made me happy.

Thanks Tom. That’s another bucket list tick for me.

The End

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I find it is almost always best to write a blog post with a splitting headache, very puffy red eyes and tear stained cheeks. It adds an element of the ridiculous and you’ll probably agree, when you hear why I find myself in this state this Sunday evening as the Oscars play on TV from California State.

3 minutes ago I closed a window on my laptop rolling the credits to the last episode of the seventh and final season of The West Wing.

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Is it my blurry vision or is this image a little misty?

Slow off the mark, I began my adventure with the Bartlett Administration only a few months ago. It has taken me much less time than the American public (it took them 7 years of course) and I cannot possibly imagine the personal strain such an investment would have had on the general public: the avid, passionate viewers of this drama series that is.

I have laughed at the sparky speedy wit of my favourites: President Bartlett, Toby, CJ and Joshua Lyman to name a few. I have gasped at the twists and turns, the shocks and surprise attacks, the near deaths, the possible frauds, the loves lost and finally realised. I have cried. Well a lot, so the list would be less blog post, more government legislative document. And I have gradually increased my consumption of episodes to a whopping 7 or 8 a night as I powered through to the end, a bittersweet undertaking that had me hungry for more and clear that at some point there would be none. I don’t want to reveal anything specific, because well that is unfair, but let me say this. In the final episode that just had me heaving and rosy cheeked, I felt like my heart was being stripped out of my chest, as President Jed Bartlett strode the halls of his West Wing one final time. Mr Aaron Sorkin has a lot to answer for. I know most of my friends will be relieved to know it is finally over, and for them too. It is not right to talk of these fictional characters as if they were real and living. But I couldn’t help it and for that I apologise. My sort of family will be greatly missed and I must take a few days to breathe deeply and take a step back from this overblown intensity and hope that I can go on with life as normal, without my President and his impressive team.

Too much? Possibly. But did I mention that I am an emotional dribble on my sofa right now? So a little bit of dramatic rambling should be expected.

I also think a lesson should be learned here. If I discover a quality drama series has finished long ago and so offers all episodes to me back-to-back, then I should slowly step away. Resist any urge or well-intentioned advice, and go for a run instead. Yes. Good idea me.

Al Pacino

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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.

The Greatest Fool

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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.

Michael Moore talks to Susan Sarandon at the Tribeca Film Festival 2012

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When your daughter is scared of a monster hiding in the closet, what do you do to make her feel safe and no longer afraid?

You open the closet. Show her there are no monsters inside (you might still have to leave the light on)

When people are ignorant about something they are afraid. When they have information they no longer have fear. We need to have the information to understand what is going on and what the correct choices are. (Michael Moore, Director)

Yesterday was my second round of Tribeca Film Festival events. Last year I was gripped by the 10th anniversary of the festival that coincided with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This year, I began my 2012 film festival itinerary with a delightful conversation between Michael Moore and the Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise). Both sit on the committee for the documentary film competition and so the discussion was centred around documentaries; what works, what are the big questions we need to address and how documentaries can improve their digestibility in the film viewing world.

Michael Moore began. He has to stay “true to the art”, he says. It is a film first and foremost. An entertainment piece that acts as a vehicle to put out his opinions, political and other. As they discussed a recent Tribeca luncheon, where the likes of Robert De Niro were hanging out, they giggled as they admitted to their introverted natures. The two shy kids sat at the back of the room keeping to themselves. That being said then, does he get scared before busting in on a likely hostile target?

“Yes” he admits, “every time”

Documentaries find it notoriously difficult to make it on the commercial stage. The likes of Moore and Spurlock, for example, do very well but on a level below, struggling documentary makers battle to be seen and heard. The Academy Awards recently recently altered their rules in order to make the voting for documentaries fair and equal to their fictional counterparts. Spearheaded by Moore, the Academy now allows everyone in the documentary branch to vote for the nominees, whereas before only a handful of committee members ever had any say. It seems the tides may be turning. Documentaries may get the recognition and the respect they deserve? Moore is a self-proclaimed optimist. Despite the often frustrating revelations in his films, he remains confident that the world will be a better place. After all he never dreamt that the US could elect a Black President. He asks the audience, “are our kids bigots and homophobes? No they are a good group. The next generation will fix what we, the baby boomers, tried to destroy and the world will be a better place.”

How? Well he wants us to consider a few things. He wants media literacy to be compulsory in schools, “so that our children will understand propaganda and how to critically analyse what we hear everyday and from every media source around us”. He wants us all to join “Occupy Wall Street” and that doesn’t mean sitting in a tent in a park downtown. He wants us to stop waiting for someone else to fix things. WE have to do it. “Politics has a smaller and smaller gene pool. We are seeing copies of copies. We need to get money out of politics and we need to make ourselves heard. Run for office. Make a movie about something you care about. The technology is there. And if you want it to go viral? Well, put a cat in it.”

Moore and Sarandon were a pleasure to overhear in conversation. They were passionate about knowledge and activism, Sarandon on her take on how we could contribute to an alternative, less controversial Kony 2012 movement Hope North, and Moore on how people should be empowered to make change happen for themselves.

Good point Michael. Good point Susan.