a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for June, 2013

Helen Hanft (1934-2013) A Great Actress Passes. She was my Muse.

It is with great grief and shock that I am saddened to report the passing of one of America’s great actresses, Helen Hanft. She was 79 and it was very sudden.

I had the great good fortune to have had known and worked with Helen for nearly 40 years. She was the greatest of inspirations to me as a playwright and actor and director, too.

I wrote nearly a dozen plays for Helen including “Reety in Hell”(1973) at the WPA , “The Kitty Glitter Story” (1974) at La Mama E.T. C., “Stoop” and “London Loo” two one-woman one-acts which she performed together as a one woman show (1977) at the Van Dam Theater, “The Blonde Leading the Blonde” at the Theater for the New City(1982) and “Bambi Levine, Please Shut Up!” in 1996 also at La Mama. Among others.

Renowned for her great comedic sense, I was always trying challenge her as a dramatic actress as well. She had the chops.

She was always acting from an early age, having attended the Performing Arts High School where classmates included Dom DeLuise, Rita Gam, and the artist Shelley Estrin, whom she remained friends with through the years.

Helen always remembered Sidney Lumet spending more time on Dom De Luise. Although both clearly future comedians, Lumet called Helen “too happy-go-lucky.”

She and I met in early 1973 when we appeared together as actors at the WPA Theater in a production of Sardou’s original play of “Tosca” on which the Opera was based. The play differs from the Opera in that there is an entire Second Act that Pucinni deleted when he musicalized it. And Helen and I played characters that do not appear in the opera. She was Marie, Queen of Naples. And I was the Marquis D’attavanti.

A little nervous upon meeting her I said, “Are you the legend Helen Hanft?” and she rolled her eyes delightedly and said “Yes….” drawing out the word for dramatic emphasis as only Helen could.

Many people are surprised to find that Helen and I were married by the Rev. Al Carmines at the Judson Church, where he also lived. It was circa 1975 and Sweet William Edgar, with whom she was appearing Off Broadway at the time in “Women Behind Bars” was one of the two witnesses.

Al Carmines, a legend himself, said to us, at the time, ” This is a religious service. I am a clergyman but you have to go down to City Hall and get the license and the blood tests.” Helen and I never did.

And Al said, “But this a spiritual marriage. In the eyes of God, you are forever united.” And it was true.

She was my Muse.

“Before Midnight” Put Me to Sleep…zzzz

Never having seen the previous two movies in this Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy written and co-starring trilogy vehicle directed by the great Richard Linklater, I was not prepared really, I guess to see “Before Midnight.”

IOW I had no back story with these two characters. I think you really have to have that to appreciate this one.

Not having that reference point, although I read all the reviews, goodness knows, and they all were positive, I wasn’t ready to be put into the deep, deep sleep that “Before Midnight” put me into. It was scary how bored I eventually got with these two talky, upper middle class, privileged white characters.

Oh, and of course, it’s mainly about heterosexuals and how great they are.

I was soooo bored.

“Before Midnight” is endlessly self-referential and if you haven’t seen the two previous movies which they cite endlessly, you are shit out of luck, following all the *ahem* subtle twists and turns*cough*cough* that these bland WASPs go through.

The film starts with an ENDLESSSSSS two-shot of Delpy and Hawke in the front seat of a car driving to some vacation spot in Europe. I think it was Greece.

It went on for sooooo long, I wanted to scream “Cut”. The camera never moved once. What was Richard Linklater thinking? Well, I guess he wanted to convey the claustrophobia and confining suffocation that marriage can bring. Stultifying, it sure was. Was that shot twenty minutes long? Forty? It seemed like an hour. This prolonnnnnged car shot was preceded by the only dramatic moments this film possessed. Ethan Hawke’s wrangling his divorced son, who excliams, “MOM, HATES YOU!” Well, that outburst I believed.It was all down hill from there.

But if you want an audience who hasn’t seen these two oh-so-in-love-with-themselves rich people before, to identify with them, it was a very dicey way to introduce these two.

The filmmakers just ASSUME you’ll like them, if not love them already. 

And well, I didn’t.

I think I lost them and consciousness completely towards the latter part of the film, when they eventually ended up bickering in a hotel room in France somewhere, or it could have been Greece. 

“Before Midnight” is currently a critics’ darling, but I just don’t get the love. I guess I have to go back and watch their first two movies. But I’m afraid they’ll send me off to Dreamland again, if I do.

My rating: zzzzzzzz…..

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