a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘East End’

Carey Mulligan Luminous in “Skylight” on Bway

Carey Mulligan 1I come from a long line of school-teachers. My mother was a school teacher. My British grand-mother was a school teacher, but I have never heard an aria, really, an ode to teaching and what it means to be a teacher so beautifully and eloquently expressed and rapturously enacted by Carey Mulligan in the revival of David Hare’s British play from the ’90’s “Skylight.”

I just thought it was an amazing monologue, and Carey Mulligan almost always amazes. I’ve been a fan of Mulligan’s going back to her Oscar nominated performance in “An Education.” And here she is nearly a decade later, clearly a young-looking 30-something named Kyra Hollis, who has left her rather posh bourgeois background to live in the far reaches of North London, and in a council flat(a British housing project) no less, where she commutes to her low-paying job as a teacher of the uber underprivileged in East Ham in the East End.

She admits that her LONNNNG commute to work on Public Transportation is the high-point of her day.

And then in comes Bill Nighy, her ex-lover, Tom Sergeant, an aging Jack-the-Lad, a successful restauranteur, to dynamite her life. For one long, cold night only in her flat that he describes as “Siberia.”

I am so not a fan of Older Man-Younger Woman scenarios on the screen or on the stage. We’ve seen so many of them. It’s trite. To the max. And the un-even writing career of playwright David Hare leaves me with a feeling of trepidation every time I go to see one of his many plays. Will I love it? Or will I hate it, too? And let me tell you the rather interminable mixed match set of Tom and Kyra in the first act left me as cold as their cold-water flat. I nearly left.

But I stayed, and then in the second act, suddenly Kyra shifts into high gear and unleashes on Tom just WHY she has chose to live the way she lives and where she lives and her unforgettable monologue about teaching occurs, and suddenly I felt “Skylight”, reaching as it does for the stars, finally MEANT something. Other than a will-they, won’t-they two-hander.

Oh, and there’s a third character Edward, Jim’s son, played engagingly and comically, by Matthew Beard, doing a very good impersonation of Billy Nighy as a teen-ager. He even looks like him, the same height, the same gestures, everything. He’s the most sympathetic, and also funniest of the three.

But the plays dismal cold council flat setting by the great Bob Crowley is spot-on, and there’s a fully functioning stove and sink(Yes, this is a classic kitchen sink working class British genre drama.) Mulligan prepares a spaghetti diner for Nighy for the entire length of the deadly first act. The tomato sauce and onion aroma wafting into the audience kept my olfactory senses alive, even as the leaden prose deadened my mind.The first act of “Skylight” smells good, then in Act II Carey Mulligan’s barefoot, East End, mother earth goddess takes off into the stratosphere into that sequence about teaching that has already burned itself into my memory and Mulligan into my heart.

Now I understood why my mother and grandmother were teachers.

 

The Year’s 10 Best – Analysis of “I Love You, Phillip Morris” & the Enduring Influence of Paul Corrigan

Phew! Now I have the time to go into a little bit more deeply the whys and the wherefores and the WTF element(to some, perhaps) of my selection of the Year’s Ten Best Films.

As someone who sees films ALL THE TIME, Day in and Day Out, nearly every day of my waking life…Films that really last and really stay with you, films that are a total, immersive cinematic experience that affects one so deeply that it becomes part of your life as well as part of the year’s discussion of Best Films…well, that’s why they are all here…And why we are all here…Because we love film…

Yes, I do have a propensity for foreign films and independent films. I stay away from the big studio blockbusters and franchises, if I can help it. Unless I CAN’T help it. Like as you all know, I reluctantly found myself at “Harry Pooter 7 1/2” and I’m glad that I did~ ONLY to see Helena Bonham-Carter’s THIRD terrific performance of the year, as a witch with the name that I just can’t stop saying “Bellatrix La Strange”. A scary ten-minute turn that could help her get her long overdue Oscar…The other two films are “Alice in Wonderland” and of course, “The King’s Speech.”

But I digress…

Number Ten ALMOST was “Fish Tank” a film I loved tremendously. A British Indie. Gritty, grimy, grinding poverty depicted in a council flat setting in London’s East End where I, as you all know, lived for quite a number of years in the ’70s& ’80s. Andrea Arnold, the writer/director, and Michael Fassbender, the rising star of stars, acting alongside a completely inexperienced non-actress, Katie Jarvis, was really a wild, unexpected ride. I couldn’t believe Jarvis was NOT a pro, so profoundly compelling was her portrayal of teenage Cockney torment, when her mom brings a new boyfriend (Fassbender) home. You’ll remember Fassbender from “Inglorious Basterds” as the British officer in that wacky, unforgettable card game.

I guess that would be my number 11, if I was going to extend this arbitrary listing slightly, but I just wanted to give the stunning “Fish Tank” an honorable mention.

I made “I Love You, Phillip Morris” my number  ten, because I found myself laughing out loud and also crying inside and totally immersed in the preposterous, gay yarn, that is evidently ALL TRUE, about a homosexual con man extraordinaire(Jim Carrey is his best EVAH) and his finding true love, in jail, natch, with a sweet blond gay guy, Phillip Morris. Yes, that’s his real name…played to a touching fare-thee-well by the unrecognizable Ewan McGregor. I was told not to review it at the time, but I guess I’m raving about it now. It’s in theaters and playing very robustly AND it was raved about by my critical colleagues! Good! Great!

And I do have to mention that as much as I was enjoying the film, when the end credits rolled, I was blown away all over again, by the film’s dedication to my late friend Paul Corrigan, who evidently was the impactful teacher of these young filmmakers, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, both straight. At Pratt. In Brooklyn. Paul died tragically of AIDS a number of years ago.

And I thought the book was closed forever on his life. But no! His great gay spirit keeps jumping up from beyond to assert Paul’s powerful, playful personality once again. It was uncanny how much I thought the Jim Carrey character did, and still does remind me of Paul.

I wrote an Obit for him at the time that I wrote for “Lesbian and Gay New York.” It was all too brief, and didn’t give at all a taste of what Paul was really like. There was very little space. He went to Sarah Lawrence where he was a classmate of Bob Plunket, Susan Haskins(of “Theater Talk”) and Amy Robinson, producer-extraordinaire and also Harvey Keitel’s girl-friend in “Mean Streets.”

I remember Paul first play, his first New York production of two one-acts called “Tan My Hide” and “Nancy’s Tragic Period.” At La Mama E.T.C. and they starred if memory serves Bob and Amy as Santa’s Elves, who were having to make leather gear for Santa, or something like that.

I remember Bob had the immortal(to my mind) lines, “Have you ever seen a dwarf come?”

“Little drizzle droplets.” 

 And I think Susan was Nancy in “Nancy’s Tragic Period” where she was a girl whose record player(yes, her RECORD PLAYER. That’s how long ago this was.) whose record player keeps telling her how to live her life and acting like a Greek Chorus…I could go on and on.

But I remember to this day the freshness of the writing and the humor and the direction, which I think Paul essayed himself.

But he did not continue with his playwriting.  I wish he had.

Years later I encountered him on a Manhattan street and he told me he was teaching Film at Pratt University, a school in Brooklyn that at the time was not known as a cinema studies center, by any means…

And I thought he was being disingenuous.

Then I met Susan Haskins, who was also a fellow teacher at Pratt. And she assured me that yes, Paul was teaching a very special cinema class.

And all these years later, “I Love You, Phillip Morris” bares testimony to the enduring quality of his teaching and his impact on his pupils.

More on numbers 9 to 1 of my Top Ten later…

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