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Posts tagged ‘Funny’

Sensational, New Agatha Christie Bio by Laura Thompson, Pt.2


But I digress…Nobody EVAH writes about the wonderfully witty Ariadne Oliver character in Agatha Christie’s  oeuvre, so I thought I’d just fill you all in on how I felt. I loved that character. And Poirot and Miss Marple, too! And we’ve never seen a picture of an apple-munching Dame Agatha.

No. By no means is Laura Thompson’s meticulously researched and thoughtful book about  dotty, apple-munching Ariadne Oliver. It is securely focused on the elusive Dame Agatha Christie herself.

No one can explain how she was THAT prolific. She just seemed to never stop writing. And as she got older, she used to DICTATE her books into  a Dictaphone. Writing mysteries was essential to her as breathing. And as seemingly effortless.

Though as a single Mom after her divorce, she was forced to support herself. J. K. Rowling another prolific female British author, she, of the Harry Potter books comes to mind. Though Christie always had servants and was never on welfare as Rowling famously was.

Laura Thompson was allowed access by the Christie family to many notebooks and papers that have never before seen the light of day. It’s a treat for Christie lovers, and a triumph of a biography for Thompson. I can’t imagine anything being more thorough. “Agatha Christie: A mysterious Life” is exhaustively complete. And thoroughly researched, with end notes and footnotes galore.

Thompson interweaves episodes from the very secretive Christie’s life, as they appear, quite baldly in her prose. She never got over the break-up of her first marriage to the very handsome fighter pilot Archie Christie before WWI broke out.

Needing a Crying Wall, Christie seems to have poured her heart out in her Mary Westmacott books. Under a pseudonym, she could tell the truth. But actually I find the Westmacott books inferior reads to her bounty of mysteries. She needed the focus of a murder. She had a mind like a serial killer. And she just couldn’t stop writing. All her books Thompson reveals, are one way or another thinly disguised re-tellings of her break-up with the dashing rogue, Archie. Thompson posits that he is the barely cloaked villain in many, many of the stories. And all the violence she felt towards him, she took out on the page. Much to the delight of millions of readers.

Her difficult relationship with her only daughter Rosalind is gone into in great detail. Christie was an atrocious, absentee mother, and her daughter looked and sounded like her father. She didn’t take after her mother at all. Hard-headed, she became the businesswoman her flighty mother never was. And was in large part,  the  reluctant caretaker of her literary empire.

But it is Thompson’s tendresse and insight that spell-binds. She especially excels by slipping into the first person as Agatha herself recounts her doings during her infamous ten-day disappearance, which ended her first marriage, even though she didn’t want it to.

Hiding out under the guise of a “Mrs. Neale” at a Harrowgate Spa in 1926, the entire U.K. was out searching for the lost, “poor Mrs. Christie,” sure that Archie had done her in. Thompson reveals a never-before mentioned letter that Agatha wrote to Archie’s brother Campbell, telling them all where she was, but the letter seems to have gone astray and caused the ten-day ruckus that made her famous and made every book she subsequently wrote a best-seller.

It also ended her private life. Now forever a controversial public figure, by many who considered it a publicity stunt, Rosalind said “She ruined my father’s life.” The family all the while covered it as amnesia. 

And Thompson feels that this lingering bad taste of her “mysterious” disappearance may account for her lack of respect by many critics, while Thompson considers it a result of “Christie’s simple writing style.”

And a fan looking for a new Poirot or a new Miss Marple (her other great detective, an old lady who knits, no less) are more than going to find them popping up like real life figures as Christie goes through her trials and tribulations. For in Thompson’s skilled tellings, they WERE like real figures to her. And to us, her devoted, beguiled readers. “Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life” is a treasure to be bought and savored.

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Oscar Chances of Casey Affleck,”Manchester by the Sea” Boosted by Early Critics Awards

Well, the first critics awards of the season have come rollin’ in, and the Big Winner so far is Casey Affleck, who has just racked up Best Actor from the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review. Right behind him is his beautiful film “Manchester by the Sea” and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of this fierce little Indie’s overcoming all the studio behemoths to reap these much-deserved rewards.

“Manchester by the Sea” also was just named Best Picture of the Year by the National Board of Review. It landed in its’ top Ten Films and Lucas Hedges as Affleck’s truculent but funny nephew got Best Breakthrough Performer also for “Manchester.”manchester-by-the-sea-5

It’s such a good film. And its’ filmmaker, playwright/director Kenneth Lonergan is one of the best talents we have working today. “Manchester” is a film that grows in the memory. It lasts. It stays with you, as all great films do. It’s a comedy that contains its’ characters going from one funeral after the other.

To reveal more of the plot is to spoil it, so I’ll stop here and say that Casey Affleck’s performance of the grief-stricken Boston janitor certainly deserves these accolades and I’m sure he’s got more on the way. No more “Ben’s little Brother” fleck really comes into his own in “Manchester.”Such a searing portrait of grief, I don’t think we’ve ever seen on the screen quite so indelibly.

Also gaining some surprising and much needed traction from these early awards is “Moonlight”s Naomie Harris, who I’ve been mentioning over and over in previous Oscar blogs as the crack addicted mother of the central character.

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Also rollin’ in to the National Board of Review is Jeff Bridges’ nominated for his crusty, West Texas retiree lawmaker in “Hell or Highwater” for Best Supporting Actor. hell-or-high-water-5The Independent Spirits nominated Ben Foster also from “Hell” in this same slot, but not Bridges. And as previously stated the entire ensemble of “Moonlight”s actors received a special award for excellence at the Gothams.

“Moonlight” was also the Big Winner at the Gothams last night with four awards. It’s Out Gay writer/director Barry Jenkins scoring in both categories.

It’s also interesting to note that neither of the millennial actresses who are considered front-runners Emma Stone for “La La Land” and Natalie Portman for “Jackie” won in this busy past 24 hours. French actress Isabelle Huppert triumphed for “Elle” at the Gothams and six-time Oscar loser Amy Adams won the NBR Best Actress Award for “Arrival.” Could this FINALLY be her year?arrival-1

For a list of all Gotham Award Winners and the National Board of Review’s, too, go to http://www.awardsdaily.com.

#Casey Affleck

#Oscars

#Manchester by the Sea

#Lucas Hedges

#Naomie Harris

 

Better Watch “Better Call Saul”! It’s So Great, It’s Bad! As in “Breaking Bad”!

Saul 1“Better Call Saul” has done the seemingly impossible. It’s just as good as its’ fabled predecessor “Breaking Bad,” and who knows? As it goes along its’ merry way, it could get better, and even better. For those of you out there who have been missing “Breaking Bad” on some kind of level of bereavement ( I know, because I have), “Better Call Saul” as unlikely as it first sounded, really does more than fill the bill.

It’s a prequel, of all things, six years back in time, and the most unlikeliest of central characters, Saul Goodman, the loudly dressed, strip-mall  lawyer, who winds up defending Walter White(Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman(Aaron Paul)played masterfully here by series regular Bob Odenkirk.

Odenkirk, a former stand-up comedian, here proves himself to be ridiculously adept as a three-demensional dramatic actor, giving us an Everyman, who reminded me of Willy Loman of “Death of a Salesman”, of all characters. He has a potato-like face that’s sometimes mashed and sometimes fried.

True, Walter White started out as wildly relatable, too. The meek chemistry professor who was dying of cancer and who kept getting the s__t kicked out of him on a daily basis, with part-time jobs he had to take because his teaching job just didn’t make him enough money to support his family. And he had a disabled teenaged son with cerebral palsy, and a new baby on the way.

So he began to think of other ways of making money…like, well, using his chemistry skills to make Crystal Meth at the behest of his wayward student Jesse Pinkman. And a Myth of Television, one of its’ greatest shows ever, was born.

We, as an audience, know where “Better Call Saul” is going. We are going to follow, this now incredibly sympathetic character of Saul, as he becomes a criminal.

But we have six years to delight in his descent. We know that’s coming. And we know where he ends up. He didn’t die at the end of “Breaking Bad” but ran off into the sunset prophesying that he’d “end up as a manager of a Cinnabon in a mall in Omaha” which is precisely where “Better Call Saul” starts.In Black and White!

So in grainy chirascuro, we see the now nearly unrecognizable Saul with a Deputy Dawg moustache, and ten-to-twenty-pounds heavier, laying on the cinnamon and sugar creme in a soul-less Cinnabon, a repetitive, drab, living hell. Product placement anyone? You’ll never be able to eat or look at a Cinnabon again without thinking of Saul’s fate worse than fat.

He then goes home to his drab, single dwelling to watch a VHS tape that he has hidden on his sink in a shoe-box, as the snow begins to fall on Nebraksa,and the winter wind is howling, and we see him enjoying, or trying to, TV commercial advertisements of his days in colorful, bygone Albuquerque. These commericals are only heard, but not shown, as the reaction on Saul’s mashed potato face says it all.

And yes, boom! We are now back in Saul’s Oz, and everything shifts into color and we see the still-worn down Saul, back when he was even a different person, Jimmy McGill. And oh what a delight it is to be back in Albuquerque, N.M.! I felt like I was coming home! I couldn’t believe how much I missed it!

Never has the plight of a Legal Aid Defense Lawyer, been painted, or even observed (EVAH?) in such heart-wrenching, soul-squashing clarity. Nothing seems to ever go right for Saul, or rather Jimmy. And as fate deals him, blow after humiliating blow, we are with him every step of the way on his road to lawyerly hell.

And also, because Odenkirk, is a superb comic actor, “Better Call Saul” is much funnier than the bleak “Breaking Bad.” So it’s humor quotient, as well, as the dramatic, is sky-high. God is In the Details. Like the fact, that Saul/Jimmy’s pathetic law “Office” is in the back room of a Korean nail parlor.(see above picture ^)

To reveal anymore, would be to spoil, and I don’t do that. I’ve said too much already. “Better Call Saul” is a Must Watch TV event. It’s third episode is coming next week, so DON’T MISS IT!

Oscar Chances of “Birdman” Yes? No?Maybe?

Dear Readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, I don’t know quite what to say about “Birdman”. I liked it. It’s shot in my hood, the theater district in Manhattan. It’s all about the theater, But somehow it also seems quite critical of the theater. Not that the Academy would mind that at all. It’s also extremely critical of Hwood, too. “The Artist” is this not.

This was the film that got the most Oscar buzz and internet chatter going at the New York Film Festival so far this year.

Filmed almost entirely(it seems) at the St. James theater, which I overlook, I can’t believe it missed all this just going on right downstairs.

But the Academy will probably like this a lot. Especially the dominant Actor’s Branch. While it is critical of the theater, it revels in the Art of the Actor. And they will go for that hook, line and sinker. Or will they?

I think Michael Keaton is going to get nominated for Best Actor for sure. Having finally seen his performance, I can say that. But will he win? It’s a) a comedy and b) he’s got the stiffest competition imaginable this year in that category c) he’s playing a likable/unlikeable self-centered asshole.

The most likely winner out of the many nominations this film would seem to be heading towards is Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor. His no-holes-barred, over-the-top(almost) hysterical depiction of a narcissistic theatre(with an re) actor may be the big award that “Birdman” gets. It may get nominated for Best Picture, and probably will. But it seems about nothing more(nor less) of the inside of his aging actor’s head. Keaton, I mean. The ego that eats everyone around it alive. It’s fun, but also not fun to see this. One moment I was screaming with upexpected laughter, the next I was gagging at its’ excesses…Call it stedicam nausea.

Emma Stone is also proably assured of her first Oscar nomination for playing Keaton’s smart, sexy,mouthy teenage daughter.Compare this to her tepid performance in Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” where she seemed completely at sea. Innaritu really directed the hell out of his actors in this, and in a very good way.

But this film is filmed annoyingly in steadicam. It makes you dizzy, and it’s also a fantasy. And the ending is, well, equivocal, to put it spoiler-free.

I can see it losing to a film with more social relevance. Like for instance “The Theory of Everything” and I think it’s a battle for Best Actor between Eddie Redmayne’s superb Stephen Hawkings and Keaton’s aging asshole.. Redmaybe is young. That’s the only thing standing in his way.”Everything” is a triumphant movie in a big way. It’s uplifting. “Birdman” is icky. But it’s still fun…but…

“The Theory of Everything” is probably going to “My Left Foot” its’ way all the way to the Oscars. I thought that when I saw it at TIFF as they crowd went wild. And it’s NOT the terribly disjointed, depressing, but also socially relevant film that “Imitation Game” is. The Academy doesn’t vote Best Picture to gay films, which is what “Imitation Game” is. But Benedict Cumberbatch will be nominated. AND Keira Knightley, who will join Emma Stone in Best Supporting Actress. Which they will both lose to Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.”

But I found”Birdman”  enjoyable  almost in spite of myself. It’s my kinda film.I love films about the theater. And I couldn’t identify more with the character’s quest to do great Art on Broadway.  But is it the Academy’s taste? Theater? Theatre? Does it justify all this awards hype? Well, yes,no and maybe.

Comedy can win, and often does, in Best Supporting Actor. So Edward Norton get your acceptance speech ready. Michael Keaton, um, not so fast.Birdman 1 Birdman 1

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Carson Elrod & Dave Quay Explode like Supernovas in Hilarious “Heir Apparent”!

What an uproarious delight is awaiting theater-goers at the CSC on E.13th Street! You must see two young, incredibly talented and gifted actors become stars in David Yves uproarious new comedy “Heir Apparent”. Carson Elrod explodes and Dave Quay shines in one of the most expertly executed comic duets since Laurel and Hardy had us in stitches! This kind of delight and excitement is so, so rare in theater or in film, or anywhere. It’s a unique and festive romp that will leave you rolling,if not dancing, in the aisles! Send in the clowns! Don’t bother, they’re here! At the CSC!

Carson Elrod, remember that name! You are going to be hearing it a lot this season, is a veteran, and quirky, comic actor whose work I have been following ever since he graduated from NYU’s prestigious Grad Acting program a few years back. His is a unique talent that has finally gotten the role of his career in “Heir Apparent”, as Crispin, the wily servant straight out of Commedia dell’Arte via the inventive playwright David Ives’ wildy comic take on a centuries old French farce by Jean-Francois Regnard”Le Legataire Universel”(1708).

If all of this sounds a little stuffy and pretentious, “The Heir Apparent” is none of that. It’s simply the funniest show in New York! And Carson Elrod’s comic genius of timing and impersonations is finally allowed to explode like the Supernova he’s going to be.

Director John Rando (“Urinetown”) has given Carson Elrod his comic head and unleashed the stupendously funny volcano inside. Elrod explodes and explodes, topping himself in scene after scene, where he, the wiliest of servile servants, is called upon to assume one outrageous disguise after another, trying to bilk the dying Miser character of Geronte (the always perfect Paxton Whitehead), out of his considerable fortune.

He is matched beat for beat by the stunning Dave Quay(pictured above^), who only JUST graduated NYU’s grad acting program this past June, and who here makes an incredibly impressive New York debut in what perhaps is the more difficult role of Eraste, the ardent young lover, who is Crispin/Elrod’s master, and the Heir Apparent of the title role.

Quay has to play straight man to Elrod’s wackness-to-the-max-ness and it’s a comic duet by two young actors the likes of which I’ve never seen in all my play-going life!

Quay has to be touching, ardent, relatable, impetuous romantic and sexy, too, and he manages to do all that and not miss a comic trick, complementing and completing Elrod’s tour-de-force, Quay does this without missing a beat, or a laugh.

Elrod’s character describes himself at one point as a “one man Comedie Francaise”.

I’d say it was two!

Playing the straight, leading man to Elrod’s whirling dervish is no easy task for an actor. But Quay’s meets the challenges and surpasses expectations ~ for handsome love interests are not USUALLY this funny. But he is!

You have to CARE about Dave Quay’s blond, blue-eyed, sincere heir with the Rock-Star hair, and you do. You have to want him to inherit the earth and the considerable fortune that is at stake here.

“The Heir Apparent”is like discovering a new play by Moliere! Yes! It’s THAT funny!

The fact that both Elrod and Quay trained in clown work at NYU makes them a perfectly matched pair of comical technical wonders. They can handle the slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am physical comedy as well as Ives’ scintillating wit.

And did I mention the play is entirely in RHYME!?! What a joy! To hear language this highfalutin (and hilarious) handled with such magical mastery by Elrod, Quay, and past British masters Paxton Whitehead and Suzanne Bertish who set an expert pace here.

If Carson Elrod is a volcano, Dave Quay is simply a star, and does what stars do. He just shines, shines, shines!

And I can’t forget to mention the gigantic comic performance of the world’s tiniest lawyer Scruple, played on his knees, with tiny little pads for feet by the redoubtable David Pittu. He doesn’t make his entrance til Act Two but you’re going to never stop laughing at the world’s littlest lawyer with a wig(by Paul Huntley) that is bigger than he is!Pittu is the comic cherry on top of this delicious French pastry of a play!

Don’t miss “The Heir Apparent” before it moves to Broadway! Or somewhere more expensive, like David Yves’ last hit “Venus in Furs” did which made another NYU Alum Nina Arianda famous. (WHAT magical elixir do they have in the water down there?!?)

I think “The Heir Apparent” will do the same for Carson Elrod and Dave Quay! Don’t MISS iT at the CSC, a theater that is barely large enough to contain the laughter!

They throw gold coins at the audience at the end, and I’ll treasure mine for ever and ever, like you will the golden, mirthful memories “The Heir Apparent” will leave you with. You’ll exit happy!

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