Everything is so up at the NYFF 55, it makes my heart sing! Not the least of which is their big tribute to the tiniest of French Grande Dames du Cinema, Agnes Varda. My latest review at Awardsdaily.com on the great French icon. I called it “Hot at 89” And it was published within minutes! Beautiful lay-out by Sasha Stone and her gifted editor Ryan Adams! Merci a tous, as Agnes would say.
Posts tagged ‘documentary’
I really did enjoy the recently opened “Hands on a Hard Body” the surprising, innovative musical hit that just opened on Broadway starring one of my favorite Bway actor/singers Hunter Foster. Yes, THAT Hunter Foster, who is the very, very talented older brother of the much more famous Sutton Foster, she who has now two Tonys and Hunter doesn’t even have one!
Hunter does however have a Tony nomination for “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Perhaps the super-duper “Hands on a Hard Body” will change all that. Certainly, it COULD. Hunter has the role of his career here playing the much-older-than-he-is, bad-ass, red-neck lead Benny Perkins.
Based on a much-respected but little-seen real-life documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hard Body” traces the journeys of its’ dozen or so working class Texan characters, who have accepted the daunting challenge of standing with their hands on the hard body of a brand spanking new, gleaming, red as rose Nissan pick-up truck. Whoever can last the longest, in this rather unbelievable, but true competition wins the truck. And hopefully a bigger piece of the American pie, than all of them presently have.
Yes, a cast of have-nots, singing their Country and Western hearts out, to the tune of our sluggish economy and the stagnant social mobility that used be the American Dream.
Contempo, yes, to the max. But I liked that. And I REALLY liked all these characters, and their elucidation musically by Trey Anatasio (of “Phish”) and Amanda Green. And literarily by Pultizer-Prize winning librettist Doug Wright. Who wrote “I Am My Own Wife”. I liked this MUCH better than “Wife”, and was so pleased that there were relatable characters of all ages, sizes and genders singing their hillbilly hearts out.
The way the Musical Numbers are listed in the maddening program, without the names of the characters or actors who are singing them, it’s hard to single out just who sang what. But I found much to my delight(and hopefully yours, too) that every song was a winner.
Hunter Foster really dominates here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did receive a Tony and/or Drama Desk nomination for his memorable meanie, whose big number was certainly “Hunt with the Big Dogs”, which ended the first act with a BANG! But he also sang many other terrific tunes, too.
Top-tapping music and amazingly interesting choreography by Sergio Trujillo kept “Hard Body” (and the red truck, too!) moving so much that you never noticed its’ seemingly static premise. Kudos are due, too, to its’ sharp director Neil Pepe.
Particularly so during Hawaiian belter Keala Settle’s roof-rasing “Joy of the Lord” which had the larger than life Ms. Settle pounding away on the truck until it turned it into a percussive instrument! Tony/Drama Desk and more nominations are CERTAINLY headed her way for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Giving her a run for her awards’ money in that category will be Dale Soules, whose Texas rasp, made me feel like she had just wandered in from the Grand Ole Opry, instead of an extensive career in theater.Her big number was “It’s a Fix!”
Also registering powerfully were Jon Rua as born-in-the-USA hispanic kid with a dream who wants to win the truck, so he can sell it and he can go to school and be a veterinarian. His soulful “Born in Loredo” is marvelously moving and mesmerizing. As is the Iraq war vet with PTSS, David Larsen,in his “Alone with Me” solo that also brings down the house. As do they all.
I love that a Broadway musical takes risks like “Hands on a Hard-Body” does. And reaches and fulfills them. I hope audiences find it as enjoyable and moving as I did!
A Montreal 2012 Memory via Roman TV! Thank you Mariangiola Castrovilli! Who also happens to be a regular on my show for years and years! She got me in Montreal, but we missed each other in Toronto 2012!
And the name of the director I was mis-remembering was Dheeraj Akolkar, and this is his first film! And it’s also being shown in the upcoming New York Film Festival!
WOWOWOW! Martin Scorcese’s monumental four-hour documentary on the late Beatle George Harrison flew by and exploded like a shower of stars at the New York Film Festival today!
I saw it at a press screening after which there was a press conference via Skype (no, I’m not kidding) with the great director, Harrison’s widow Olivia, his film editor, David Tedeschi and two of his producers. They were in a hotel room in London, getting ready for the film’s premiere, where it is sure to cause a sensation.
It IS sensational! It’s a joy and a wonder and absolutely a definitive account of the life of the late Beatle. I found it rapturous. And for those of you with HBO, it’s going to be shown on the cable channel very, very soon. So every one can enjoy the wonder of basking in the glow and the revelation that is “George Harrison:Living in the Material World.” I really do think this ranks among Scorcese’s greatest works. It certainly is the most enjoyable. And revisiting the Beatles music in the brand new theater at Lincoln Center is just going to be a sublime experience for all who are lucky enough to get tickets to the New York Film Festival.
We all think we know all there is to know about the Beatles, but Scorcese is here to tell us with this wonderful documentary, that no, we really don’t.
In Part One(there was an intermission), we see George and Ringo constantly being shuffled off to the side in the heady Beatle craze of their first great success, which never really ended. John Lennon and especially Paul McCartney, were the favored ones. They wrote the songs, after all, that made the whole world sing and that as Scorcese says formed the soundtrack to our lives.
George was “The shy Beatle”, the “third Beatle”, but he was with the group since the beginning. A childhood friend of John and Paul’s from Liverpool, who was only 17 when the fame that never ended burst upon them.
What we didn’t know was that as time wore on, George was the one who was more and more discontented with his place in the Fa Four. And the film shows him as leaving the group. And that is was he, not Yoko Ono, who affected broke up the Beatles. He just couldn’t stand it any more being under Paul (and John’s) thumbs.
Harrison is also there on many many film clips & interviews to assert his own point of view and testify on his own behalf, in his own words, which is wonderful. And he did have very strong views, even revolutionary ones, for the time.
He felt that what the fame and the wealth that the Beatles achieved wasn’t enough. It left him empty, unfulfilled, and so he famously sought the Meaning of Life in the Eastern mysticism that brought the great sitar player, Ravi Shankar, and the various yogis into his life, the other Beatles’ lives and through them and the different kind of music they started making really changed the perception of just what pop music could achieve and the messages, some quite profound, that it could convey.
Harrison calls himself at one point “the Beatle who changed the most” and it certainly seemed like he did. He’s almost unrecognizable in the second half of the film which is post-Beatles. As a Beatle, he seemed just a cute, but rude kid.
Scorsese also brings out the fact that Harrison was a Roman Catholic and that the influence of his childhood religion, like upon Scorsese himself, was profound, and I think may have led to him constantly seeking what solace he could find in all the Eastern religions and cultures he involved himself with.
But what was he seeking solace from? His fame? His success? He seemed also the film reveals surprisingly in its’ second half that he had a long-term, happy marriage to his second wife Olivia and a son whom he loved and who loved him. So he had a reasonably stable and happy family life. This too comes as a surprise to all who think they might have George Harrison all figured out.
And Olivia Harrison becomes a very strong narrative presence in the films’ second half. And she is one of the main instigators of this film coming into being. She sought out Scorsese, arguably among the world’s greatest directors, to tell George’s and her own story, in its mind-boggling complexity. And Scorsese more than made her wish come true.
The audience of press that I saw the film with this afternoon was all of an age certain, as the French say, which surprised me, because usually the New York Film Festival press corps skews quite young. But this also underlined to me the importance of this film and its’ bringing to a new generation who did not know the Beatles as I and most of the rest of my generation knew him, the essence of this great, sometimes underappreciated and overshadowed talent, to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. And it is in this that “George Harrison:Living in the Material World” succeeds greatly. He was a great star, a great dedicated musician and composer and a great spirit.
Scorsese related via Skype from London that the first footage he was presented with of George, was just this seemingly endless shot of a bed of tulips. Finally, Harrison emerges for within the tulips, and just smiles for a while.Like the proverbial garden gnome. And that is the way this film now begins. It’s just us, with George, smiling.
I really was quite enchanted with the lovely, new documentary film “Hey, Boo!” about the reclusive Southern authoress Harper Lee. She wrote the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, won the Pulitzer Prize, then never wrote anything again and disappeared from sight. This very well done doc by Emmy-winning documentarian Mary McDonagh Murphy explains why.
I had no clear picture of this elusive author, except what one could glean from, of all things, the TWO films about Truman Capote that came out one right after the other in a two year period. “Capote” won Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar, and got Catherine Keener a supporting actress nomination. It was her second, and she was playing a lesbian in both films, “Capote” and “Being John Malkovich.”
Sandra Bullock, in her best performance ever, and pre-“The Blind Side”, played an even butcher Harper Lee in the 2nd (and I thought superior) Capote film, “Infamous.” These two films made sure that Truman Capote was back in the public’s eye, even though he’s been dead for a number of years…But no Oscars or nominations were coming the way of “Infamous.” It sucks to be second in this kind of close filmic race. But Truman would’ve loved all this posthumous attention. Harper Lee, no.
However, there Harper Lee was depicted on screen in two movies, helping, traveling and being the all around best pal to Truman Capote, as he traveled to Kansas by train to investigate the horrific deaths of the Clutter family. Massacred en masse by two gay drifters, one of whom Capote fell madly in love with Perry Smith, and who he pretty much immortalized in his greatest work “In Cold Blood.” And Smith is depicted in all THREE films.
Harper Lee doesn’t appear in “In Cold Blood.” And Capote did not win a Pulitzer Prize, fairly or un-fairly, for his greatest work. And he never forgave his former best friend since childhood, Harper Lee, for this. She had a Pulitzer. He didn’t. And this revelation, among many others, sort of forms the climax of “Hey, Boo!”
“Hey, Boo!” performs the magic trick/tap dance of not having the central character Harper Lee anywhere in it. Yet it still remains compelling. No mean feat. Kudos to filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murpphy who is also the author of the New York Times Best-Seller “Scout, Atticus & Boo: Fifty Years of to Kill a Mockingbird.” This film is so complete, Oprah Winfrey is even in it, telling how much this small, succinct book impacted her young life. To this day, “To Kill a Mockingbird” still sells a million copies a year!
We see pictures of her, and hear her heavily Southern-inflected voice on a radio broadcast from the early ’60s, but that’s about it.
Nell Harper Lee, for that is her full name, and all her friends who are interviewed in the movie call her, Nell, was Capote’s next door neighbor in the small Southern town of Munroeville, Alabama. That these two children would both become considered America’s great writers of that time is a fateful historic co-incidence.
And the film reveals many things we did not know about Nell. She was, when she came to New York in the ’50s an airline reservation ticket counter clerk for a quite a long time before some well-meaning friends, who are interviewed extensively in the movie, generously gave her money to take a year off to write “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And it wasn’t a breeze doing so for Nell, even with this generous support.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was rejected by many publishers before Nell Harper hit pay dirt and got a sympathetic editor…and the rest as they say is history.
She always reminded me more than a bit of Margaret Mitchell, that other Southern female writer, who wrote one great, best-selling novel, “Gone With the Wind” then was never heard from again, literaray-il-ly speaking.
And “Hey, Boo!” lays out why. Suddenly famous, then also suddenly weary of all the non-stop press attention she was getting, she just says simply to someone, “I have given enough. I don’t want to give any more.”
And I guess, she, being a woman of carefully chosen words, meant was she said.
In this Internet age, one wonders if one book, and a novel at that, could ever make such a stir these days. But in its’ day “To Kill a Mockingbird” coupled with the great Black and White film that won three Oscars, one for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the heroic lawyer, patterned to a T on Harper Lee’s own father, and one for Horton Foote’s screenplay and one for Haskell Wexler’s cinematography.
It’s also a question if the book without the film’s monumental impact would have achieved the legendary, classic status both the novel and the film enjoy to this day.
But “To Kill a Mockingbird” endures and endures, and this great, thought-provoking documentary explains why.