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Posts tagged ‘Drama’

Oscar Winner “A Separation” Out on Blu-Ray& DVD Aug.21!

“A Separation” the incredibly powerful Iranian winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film deserves all the awards that were thrown its’ way this past year. And its’ brilliant director Ashgar Farhadi was named One the Year’s 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine, and it plays RRRREALLLY well on DVD, and now it’s coming out on Aug. 21 on Blu-Ray AND DVD.  It’s essential viewing. It’s not to be missed.

The subject, as the title says, is a divorce. Or what starts out really as a trial separation between a secular, middle-class couple soon escalates into something much bigger, a tragedy that is universal as well as thoroughly specific to its’ locale, which is modern-day Iran.

It is simple in the extreme, shot entirely on one camera, as unbelievable as that sounds. And the Special Features feature a commentary with the director/writer which is insightful as well as informative, and enhances the riveting experience of “A Separation” in ways I never expected it to.

Farhadi, for all his talent, has a very monotonal delivery, and I fell asleep at least several times trying to get through the dense translation. And although one of the striking things about the movie is its’ seeming refusal to take sides between the husband Nader(Peyman Mjadi) and his beautiful, Ava Garner-esque, Western-looking wife, Simin, a real screen beauty Leila Hatami, in the director’s commentary Farhadi is clearly blaming the woman in this situation and siding firmly with the hard-working suddenly single father of a teenage daughter, who his commentary reveals to be the character closest to his heart. Although his real life daughter Sarina Farhadi is playing the daughter in question here, her semi-flat portrayal hinders the film from really siding with her in this domestic conflict, that is unraveling her life, as well as that of her parents.

Termah(as enacted by Sarina Farhadi) is kind of a teenaged lump, barely reacting to her explosive family situation. I wonder if that was intentional.,or accidental. That she is supposed to be so numbed and unresponsive for a reason. The world that she suddenly finds herself in, following her mother’s exit from her life, is frightening and paralyzing in the extreme. But Termah is just non-reactive.

To make it worse, her father is taking care of HIS Alzheimer-ridden father in their own home. And he is a devoted son.  So when Simin exits, he hires a maid who turns out to be pregnant, and also an extremely religious, working class woman, brilliantly played by Sareh Byant, who is the real emotional core of this complex family drama. She is accused pretty quickly of stealing, and a miscarriage and a vituperative court case result, locking the two families from two different classes in a war that could turn violent and deadly at any minute.

The court, that all these fiery issues are disputed in is also a shocker, a bare, sweaty room, roiling, teaming with life, simple chairs and no lawyers present. Or juries, or court rooms, as we know it,as the two families have at each other in a savage, unrelenting fashion. You don’t want to see this. You don’t want to be involved. But Farhadi’s skill as a filmmaker, draws you in and you can’t look away.

Farhadi, who has a theater background, we find out in the illuminating Special features, brings the drama of a very skilled playwright to bear in this gut-wrenching movie. And of course, it’s an intimate view into a world we, here in the West, never see. Women in chandors. A religion that does not permit a man to touch a woman unless they are married. Women who must keep their hair covered at all times, it’s shocking but enlightening, in that it’s a world we should know more about, but don’t. And the most shocking thing is how familiar it all seems. We are all one, Farhadi is saying.

Time Magazine noted in its’ estimation of Farhadi’s great work, that he, in the illuminating, persuasive way “A Separation” has engaged audiences internationally, is really a great ambassador for World Peace.

Its’ use of intense close-ups and two or three person scenes in cramped stiflying locations just compells and educates at the same time, and on a DVD viewing, all this is enhanced, not diminished. I’ve watched “A Separation” twice now, and want to watch it again. It just grows and grows in your mind. I’ll tell you one thing, you’ll never forget it.

The Ghost of Heath Ledger Stalks the Earth

Poor late Heath Ledger. He challenged the gods, if there are any, with his iconic performances in “The Dark Knight” and in “Brokeback Mountain.” We all hoped he could rest in peace, but it seems that is not to be.

The horror that unfolded Thursday night in Colorado, just miles from where the Columbine tragic shooting occurred, was ignited by Heath’s indelible, but deeply disturbing performance of the Joker in TDK. He then died himself not long after. I often thought that that performance killed him. It made him go to a place so dark, he couldn’t come back. He went over the edge, and it was all captured on screen. And made millions and it killed him.

He was shockingly young, as were most of the victims of BOTH Colorado shootings. He was too young to die. His great talent wasted. Drugs were to blame. A lethal concoction of either prescription or illegal substances. We’ll never know. There was a 20-30 min. delay in reporting his death, wherein one presumes, the Tribecca Loft he died in was cleaned up of anything incriminating. But in any case, poor Heath was dead.

But he lives on, especially in those two classic film performances. As Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback” and as the Joker in TDK.

And now this homicidal maniac in Aurora ,Colorado told the police calmly when they came to arrest him, waiting for them casually,  in the Parking Lot of the megaplex where he had just killed a dozen people and injured dozens more, some critically, he told them HE was “The Joker.”

He died his hair orange. However, the Joker’s hair was green. And only red when he wore a red wig in drag with a nurse’s uniform.  The Joker set booby traps as the killer seems to have done in his apartment.

A Ph.d graduate student in neuroscience, it seems he booby-trapped his door and left it unlocked, so that presumably anybody could get blown up, too, if they entered it unknowingly. One woman, a neighbor, disturbed by loud “techno-music” blaring exactly at midnight, as the killer was set to begin his rampage at the movie theater, this woman unknowingly nearly did. But something told her not to try to go in, so she didn’t. And thus saved her own life.

And it’s not just an accident that it was THIS movie that he chose to kill at. There have been big blockbusters all summer long. “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spiderman” etc. etc. but no. He chose this one. He had been planning this for months, starting to buy guns, legally, it seems, in Colorado, in May as he died his hair orange and began to drop out of school.

We don’t know what made his Phi Beta Kappa mind snap. But snap it did. We may never know.

But he seems obsessed, deathly obsessed with the Batman trilogy, and of course, the Joker in particular. The Joker was the embodiment of evil in a way that perhaps was never depicted on screen before.

How horrible, I kept thinking, for Michelle Williams and also Anne Hathaway, who stars in this film TDKR, which is now going to be linked in the publics’ mind forever with this horrible horrible tragedy.

Michelle has a beautiful little daughter by Heath, the now six-year-old Matilda, who looks EXACTLY like her late father. And Anne Hathaway knew Heath, too, from “Brokeback.” It’s soooo ironic that SHE, of all people, should be the star of this movie. I worry about them all, and my heartfelt best wishes and concern goes out to them.

And the families of the victims who are still identifying the dead.

Marshall Fine, the critic, who received death threats just last week when he wrote the first negative review of TDKR to appear on Rotten Tomatoes, had his website crash and caused Rotten Tomatoes to close their comment section on TDKR, the emails were so heinous, threatening violence. And we can be sure that this avalanche of hatred directed at Fine and Rotten Tomatoes did NOT come from one lone gunman in Colorado. What is going on here???

It’s SOMEthing about this movie that his driving all these people over the edge of sanity. Just like it did poor Heath.

What is it?

I wasn’t wildly a fan of TDK, but I LOVED Heath’s  towering, unforgettable, frightening performance. Filmed during the break-up of his relationship with Michelle Williams, his Joker seemed beyond description. Someone who was totally out of his mind. He was a nightmare come to life. Scary is a way that no other Hollywood villain has ever been. And in a movie based on a comic-book yet.

And hence the Colorado gunman’s identification with the Joker. He has doing in his mind only what the Joker did, I’m sure he thought. And in doing so he would become as famous as the Joker, as famous as Heath Ledger. And unfortunately, he has.

And now 12 people are dead and countless lives maimed or destroyed by this one madman’s two-minute shooting spree, which movie goers all thought was part of the movie.

Until they saw people dying in the seats next to them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever see this movie now.

But anyone who does is not going to be able to shrik the horrible reality of what happened in Aurora, Colorado.

They are all haunted by the Ghost of Heath Ledger, who does not lie quiet in his grave.

I Go to See a Bway show “Lombardi” in A BLIZZZZZAARD!

I can’t believe I did it, but I did it! It’s the middle of the worst, wildest snow weather and blizzard with SNOW THUNDER! I HEARD IT! Evidently there was lightening, too, but I didn’t see it because the snow was falling so thickly and fastly( Is that even a word????) and the wind was nearly knocking me over! WHY WAS I GOING OUT IN THIS?!?

Well, I just had to see my next guest on my TV show the brilliant Bill Dawes in “Lombardi”! At the Circle in the Square downstairs of “Wicked” and guess what? The audience showed up!!

I saw Bill afterwards and he commented that the audience was “so quiet”.

“Well,” I said, “They’re all exhausted getting here.” But they were really enjoying it!

I mean with 30-40mph winds, and the thickest, heaviest snow I’d ever seen in my life, it was a miracle that we all made it there in this Blizzard of 2010.

I mean, they always talk about the blizzard of 1888 as being THE WORST in recorded history. I think that occured in March of that year….And NO I wasn’t around for it. But this is certainly going to be in the record books. I’ve never seen anything like it.

It does transform the city. But in a scary not pretty way. It was like a hurricane, but with snow.

And how was the play? MARVAHLOUS, DAHLING! This is my second time seeing it, and I hate football and know nothing about it. But “Lombardi” has got me to thinking about it and liking it, well, just a little bit.

It’s interesting how well and simply done this play is and that even if you don’t know anything about football, it pulls you in and you enjoy it. It’s also interesting to note that this play is reaching an audience that doesn’t usually come to Broadway, football fans.

And football fans are used to braving bad weather to see The Game. But this blizzard phenomenon shows you how dedicated this audience was. To get there. And the actors, too! I heard people saying “Well, the show must go on.” And interestingly there was a day-after-Christmas Sunday MATINEE, too! As well as a 7pm Sunday night performance. They had Christmas Eve off, then they had a show Christmas Day night, which was a Saturday, and then two on Sunday. So since they performed earlier that day, the actors, including stars Dan Luria and Judith Light were presumably right near by or actually still in the theater itself. That’s what dressing rooms are for!

And every show on Broadway played last night during the Blizzard! Amazing!

The play which I practically risked my life to see ~ is about the life of Vince Lombardi, the famous Notre Dame football coach. And it’s a damn good play. I saw it first in late October right after it opened. And since it’s been such a long time between then and now(I’ve seen enough movies and plays to last most people a lifetime. Between the Drama Desk possiblities and the Oscar seekers. PHEW! But it’s been wonderful, too, of course. Or only as good as the movies and the plays you’re seeing.)it’s been such a long time I just HAD to see it again.

And I’m sooo glad I did! How often do you see a Broadway play, stars intact, in a BLIZZARD?!? I’d never done THAT before!

And the entire cast just gave it their all!

And I knew, I just knew that “Lombardi” was here for the long haul on the Great White Way, which really IS white right now!

It’s a solid endearing portrait of a good, Catholic marriage. Lombardi is brought to memorably vivid life by veteran character actor Dan Luria, who looks just like Lombardi, and  who, if this play keeps running and running as it is, he may be nominated for the Tony for Best Actor. And certainly the Drama Desk will remember his strong, endearing performance come awards time which is at the end of April. “Lombardi” is the only play that opened this fall, and Broadway had the healthiest, most robust fall season that I can ever remember, that is continuing to run into the New Year and beyond! “Driving Miss Daisy” it’s been announced is also continuing through the Spring. It could be Dan Luria vs. James Earl Jones for the Best Actor Tony Award.

 And Judith Light as Lombardi’s conflicted but devoted wife is a revelation and utterly wonderful and award-ready herself.

This play is really about the transition of an Englewood, New Jersey couple to the rural mid-west. Mrs. Lombardi (Light) gets an Atlas, when she knows that she and her husband are going to be perhaps re-locating and exclaims “I can’t even FIND Green Bay!”

Lombardi “It’s in Wisconsin.”

And my upcoming guest the superhumanly handsome Bill Dawes, plays the always-in-trouble blond heart-throb(every football play has to have one) real life football hero Paul Hornug, in a performance that is just as strong as the leads. He’s also a red-hot stand-up comedian, too! But more on that later! He’s on his way to a BIIIIIG career in either as a serious actor OR a comedian but probably both!

I’ll let you know what Superstar-of-the-future Bill Dawes is going to be on my show! Coming up soon, too are Ryan Gosling, Michelle Willaims and Ben Barnes!!! You’ll be able to see them soon on my You Tube Channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

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