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Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

FEMALE FILM PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2010 at 3:51 am

Jeon Do-yeon won the best actress award this year at the Cannes Film Festival for Lee Chang-dong’s SECRET SUNSHINE and it was never more deserved. Do not miss this film, which unlike so many pieces of Hollywood studio and indie piffle shoved down our throats, especially at this time of year, takes you on a real, ever-surprising, exhillarating, harrowing and hopeful journey which is exactly what cinema should be but so rarely is.


Cannes’ Best Actress winner

To read my review of it in FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL, click here

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DEATH OF AN ANGEL

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Teena Marie (nee Mary Christine Brockert) has, sadly, left the earth, but, if there really is such a thing as a heavenly choir, you can bet that she is up there, shaking things up with her unforgettably searing voice and elemental funk.

I interviewed her in 2009, ironically around the same time that Michael Jackson died, and she was as down-to-earth real and lovely as you can imagine. I could kick myself for missing her last gig here at B.B. King Blues Club, but still have every one of her albums, which I plan to wear out today, recalling one Easter Sunday years ago at the Paradise Garage when Larry Levan played “I Need Your Lovin'” and the entire club seemingly levitated with pure, unadulterated joy, a roiling, youthful chaos of ecstasy. And was that club EVER sexier than when Larry put on “Behind the Groove”? To recall that, click here.

Her song, “Square Biz,” which we used to chill to on the now totally transformed Christopher Street pier, included that fabulous rap which listed all of her inspirations – Bach, Shakespeare, Sarah Vaughan, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni – and I can think of no better life list to recommend to any youngster in search of his soul.

R.I.P. Lady Tee.

for the interview in GAY CITY NEWS, click here

and to hear what she sounded like the first time I ever heard her (with the immortal Rick James), when THAT VOICE stopped me dead in my tracks, click here

Her versatility knew no bounds – she was Pure Music – listen to her reinvention of “Sucker for Love” here

and, if there is any lingering doubt in ANYONE’S mind that hers was one of the great voices of our time, listen to her definitive version of the ultimate classic club ballad, “Wishing on a Star.” Click here

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2010

BAD ACTING BY BIG NAMES

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 1:53 am


Mark Rylance

The news that Broadway’s LA BETE was closing early on January 9, 2011, a month prior to its originally announced farewell of February 12, came as no big surprise. Despite generally favorable reviews by clueless critics, there was no fooling the public this time around. The show was an unmitigated, pretentious, overreaching bore, really nothing more than a fancy frame for the single most repulsive performance I have ever seen on any stage, that given by Mark Rylance.

Rylance was the longtime director of London’s Globe Theater, and an often inspired Shakespearean performer, but, in 2008 he came to Broadway in BOEING BOEING with a performance that was so over-the-top and self-indulgent, it made the most infuriatingly scenery chewing moments of Jerry Lewis and Tim Conway combined seem like models of understatement. People unacountably succumbed to his hamminess and went apeshit over him, leading to his winning the Tony Award for best male performance of the year.

This acclaim has doubtlessly encouraged Rylance to continue in this questionable vein and top the extremism of BOEING BOEING with auidence-grabbing tricks in LA BETE, starting with his excruciating 25-minute opening monologue that you pray will end and never ever does. One can only feel for his fellow actors – David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley and Stephen Ouimette – who have to stand by like the most hapless straight men, having to endure this night after night. Hideously outfitted with false buck teeth that make him resemble James Franco’s cretin older brother, he shamelessly plays to the audience every second, spits food out at his castmates, and even, at one point, defecates onstage.

Charming. I have never wanted so badly to throw something at an actor onstage in my life, so loathesome did I find his unbridled cavortings, and fully realized how any tradition of rotten tomatoes could have started.

And then there’s the legendary Vanessa Redgrave in DRIVING MISS DAISY. Growing up in the 1960s, Redgrave was a mesmerizingly goddess-y figure for me on the screen and, from her sexily screwball performance in 1967’s MORGAN! and enigmatic Garbo-esque slinking about in BLOW-UP, her every appearance became an event to anticipate. There was her sensual, witty Guinevere in CAMELOT; her soaringly lyrical Nina in THE SEAGULL; full-scale biographical portrait of ISADORA (Duncan); tremulous (too weak, I thought) MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS; breathtaking, heart-stopping Andromache in THE TROJAN WOMEN; inspired political fanaticism in JULIA; her boldly eccentric Agatha Christie in AGATHA; her wrenching work as a concentration camp victim in PLAYING FOR TIME, and her literary sexiness in PRICK UP YOUR EARS.


Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

I caught her onstage, as well, and she was stunningly luminous in Ibsen’s rather trite THE LADY FROM THE SEA. She made initially rare and then increasingly frequent New York theater appearances after that, and it was in these, that I began to detect definite chinks in her “greatest living actress” armor. In ORPHEUS DESCENDING, she tried to outdo the memory of Anna Magnani in the part of Lady, by being so buffa Italiano that it hurt (and, incidentally, proved again that, when saddled with any foreign accent, she always tended to woefully overdo it). She did little else but pose glamorously in VITA AND VIRGINIA, as Vita Sackville-West, while Eileen Atkins did most of the actor’s heavy lifting as Virginia Woolf.

Redgrave’s Queen of the Nile in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA was a strangely self-conscious and bloodless characterization in that tiresomely post-modern Public Theater production. You began to think by now that the lady had REALLY begun to believe her own press clippings and, as Euripides’ HECUBA at Brooklyn Academy of Music, she was nothing more than a self-indulgent bore. This feeling about her was only exacerbated by her Mary Tyrone in LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, an appallingly misconceived performance, full of narcissistic tricks in the place of real emotion, although it was said that she gave a completely different performance every night. (I couldn’t waste another four hours of my life revisiting this production to see if that was true.) Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING managed to rein in a lot of her excesses, she looked terrific (superbly accoutered by Ann Roth in models of what every woman over 50 should wear), but, be honest, weren’t any of us who saw it just glad to get through its marathon audience demands without too much pain?

And here she is now in DRIVING MISS DAISY and I can’t think of a role that could posibly be less suited to her, although obviously surefire from the viewpoint of craven commercial considerations (the sell-out play has just been extended). There was absolutely no reason to revive this middle-brow, bourgeoisie-pandering, self-congratulatory tripe, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize (and only proved once more how utterly worthless that dramatic award is). But what other play could provide a suitable vehicle for those two giant names – Redgrave and James Earl Jones – who’d consented to return to the Great (and in this case very) White Way?

I recently caught Metropolitan Theater’s estimable revival of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN, with its tearful glorification of the “Good Negro,” Uncle Tom, whose name alone became a shameful epithet of obsequiousness for generations. It only made me realize how, in some cases, stereotypes never go away, with Stowe’s then-radical and sincere, if rather saintly, conception of a completely decent black man, acceptable in the context of its time (1852) making an entirely unwelcome reappearance in Uhry’s 1988 work. It’s the kind of play that makes top-price paying Broadway theater-goers remember to treat their minority domestic help better (say, an extra $20 at holiday time), not all that removed from the effect of more so-called radical works like David Mamet’s stomach-turningly trite and calculated RACE, which goes out of its way to make viewers feel bad about their more “privileged” white selves for a couple of hours, watching all the racist invective being hurled around the stage, before going to dinner at Orso and then returning to the Upper East Side and Westchester.

James Earl Jones did what he could with the material, bringing his welcome, inescapable dignity and authority to the part, but I couldn’t help feeling that this unbelievably ultra-subservient role was so beneath him. Redgrave, on the other hand, was false from her very first onstage moments, standing with her great height and moving with queenly authority, as if she were playing Joan of Arc and not some Jewish Southern middle-class matron. Her Southern accent was, again, pretty dire – a strictly come-and-go affair – and, during the play’s more shattering moments, she had minimal vulnerability. And, then, at her character’s lowest ebb, her final, increasingly decrepit years, Redgrave did something so insanely, brazenly amateurish that all I could think of was the woeful state of affairs when a famous leading lady is given her total directorial head by cowed toadies surrounding her on a production.

To show Miss Daisy’s climactic decline into old age, Redgrave actually drew both of her lips over her teeth in a pathetic pantomime of toothlessness, like any precocious six-year-old imitating Grandma, and continued to act away, with all the resultant inauthenticity and risiblity that you’d expect such an aesthetic choice would engender.

Absolutely unbelievable, as were those tumultuous standing ovations at the curtain call.

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2010

STEFANIE’S POWER

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 6:54 am


Stefanie Powers

Hollywood recently invaded Feinstein’s at the Regency here in New York with the simultaneous cabaret debuts there of Joan Collins and Stefanie Powers. Collins didn’t sing a note, but instead recounted her tumultuously glitzy life and times, accompanied by slide images and film clips. She was one game girl, but, perhaps due to nerves or insufficient rehearsal, it was a rather hectic affair with some clumsily handled and quite unnecessary business featuring an erratically ringing telephone (perhaps injected to add theatricality to what was, in essence a lecture of reminiscence). She did come across with a raft of juicy anecdotes, however, delivered with her trademark cut-crystal (Carrington) diction, and was agreeably self-deprecating throughout.

She looked marvelous in her show’s first half, with signature windblown brunette bob in very 1970s high disco black sequinned capris and slinky dolman sleeved top, which flattered her figure and showed off those slender stems which nearly every lasting star has possessed throughout showbiz history. However, her costume change was a definite mistake: what appeared to be a Bob Mackie bespangled and befeathered gown that had seen better days and whose skin-tight, unforgiving gold fabric was decidedly less – shall we say – alluringly camouflaging.

Stefanie Powers, who largely eschewed any autobiographical chatter in her act, quite blew me away with her musical props, something she was never allowed to really display in her screen career. In her youth, as one of the final big studio contractees, and before that, she received serious training and was almost cast, as a teenager, in the original stage production of WEST SIDE STORY. This training was evident in the graceful assurance with which she took the stage and moved around on it, her gestures were immaculately on point and her voice was a remarkably big, blooming affair, filled with colors, redolent of the unabashed big, sincere sound of an earlier era that perfectly served her choice of strictly Rodgers & Hart songs.

She looked, if anything, uncannily better than ever before: that perky All-American cuteness of her youth has matured into a striking handsomeness, her ramrod-postured body is a dream of enviable svelteness and then, there was ALL that hair she has long been famous for. She was sartorially impeccable in a mid-calf length, black, floaty cocktail affair with very wise sheer netting for sleeves and over her decolletage.

After the show, I asked her who designed her gown and she just tossed it off with, “Oh, I bought it off the rack somewhere. I’m not a fashion person!” But the perfection of her choice bespoke the innate good taste and elegance no doubt honed from her studio experience with the likes of Edith Head, and, unlike all the stars today, she’s one naturally chic lady who doesn’t need a raft of stylists hovering about her, dressing her impersonally like their own personal Barbie doll.

Powers’ down-to-earth honesty made her one of the most appealingly warm interviewees I’ve ever had. When I met her at Simon & Schuster in Manhattan, to discuss her terrific new memoir ONE FROM THE HEART, it was an icy, rainy day. She noticed how cold my hand was when she shook it and immediately made me go to the bathroom and wash it with warm water (“You’ll feel so much better”). She was a thorough, surprisingly erudite delight throughout and even told me one hilariously unprintable story about Jean-Claude Von Damme. Continuing in this slightly kinky vein, I told her that when, years ago, I worked for Paula Klaw, infamous Bettie Page photographer and proprietor of the archive MOVIE STAR NEWS, our top-selling movie still was the one of her bound and gagged in DIE, DIE MY DARLING, which definitely appealed to a strong segment of our clientele who collected only such shots. She reacted to this news with appropriate shock, awe and amusement.

And, when she signed my copy of her book, she did something no one else ever has. She asked me what my partner’s name was, so she could sign it to him as well.

Now THAT’S Hollywood Royalty.

To read my interviews with both ladies, in GAY CITY NEWS, click here

STEF THROUGH THE YEARS


THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E.


with Jerry Van Dyke in MCLINTOCK!


with fellow animal lover, Betty White, and a slinky friend


with Troy Donahue


Work that wedge!


with Robert Wagner, her HART TO HART co-star, who lost Natalie Wood at exactly the same time Stefanie lost her great love, William Holden


with Helen Hayes and Ken Berry in HERBIE RIDES AGAIN


as Beryl Markham, her favorite role, in SHADOW ON THE SUN


with Tallulah Bankhead in DIE, DIE, MY DARLING, which she writes about in juicy detail in her book. This experience undoubtedly helped her prepare for


as Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD, which she will be playing at the Ogunquit Theater, Maine

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2010

FOR THOSE WHO LOVE WORDS, DARLING, FOR THOSE WHO LOVE WORDS

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 6:03 am


Brenda Blethyn and Niall Buggy give unforgettable performances in Edna O’Brien’s HAUNTED (Keenan/AP)

That is what Noel Coward rapturously declared after watching the opening night performance of Enid Bagnold’s lingual feast, THE CHALK GARDEN in 1955, and that is how I fely after seeing Edna O’Brien’s HAUNTED playing at 59E59 Theaters until January 2. Do yourself a favor and catch this rare, captivating theatrical treat, brilliantly acted by Brenda Blethyn, Niall Buggy and Beth Cook.

Especially after seeing something like the far more critically understood but seriously overrated THREE PIANOS, which is so very much of this particular typically slacker-ish, ironically removed and verbally impoverished time, HAUNTED has, indeed, continued to haunt me in the days since experiencing it, for the opulent wonder of its words and ecstatically unabashed romantic passion.

I had the great joy of recently spending an hour chatting with playwright and principals, an hour which, in its refulgent shared affection and riveting cultural discourse, felt as warm as if we’d all been sitting before the most welcomingly cosy and brilliant hearth, although, in truth, the interview was conducted at a stark white 59E59 table beneath even starker fluorescent lights.

Read it in GAY CITY NEWS here

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2011

SWAN LACKS (or should straight men direct ballet movies?)

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 5:31 am

When I suffered through a New York press screening of BLACK SWAN, with actress/radio journalist Donna Hanover, who, at one point, overcome by the over-the-top gratuitous ugly violence on the screen, actually cried out in anguish, little did I know that this sadistically misogynistic, sexist cinematic piece of absolute garbage and sheer anti-art could ever be a critical success.

But then I seriously overrated the intelligence and taste level of the majority of working film critics these days, who are so abjectly inured to pulp (read: basic crap engendered by the now ubiquitous horror/action genres which comprise 80% of contemporary film fare) that they actually have taken this Darren Aronofsky atrocity seriously, when not admitting its – for them – guilty pleasure allure, deeming it “trashy fun.”

BLACK SWAN ain’t even that, and I am personally rather apalled that a critic like the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis and other female journalists haven’t expressed serious objections to the aforementioned misogyny and sexism of a work that is nothing more than the most base hetero male fantasy calculatedly outfitted in the trappings of a high art which Aronofsky has zero perception of. The critical embrace of this – and other abysmal films – is beginning to make me feel that you CAN fool all of the people all of the time, Honest Abe aside.

For my review of BLACK SWAN in FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL, click here