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Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Met’s New “La-Swatch-iata”

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2011 at 6:17 am

The Metropolitan Opera’s Peter Gelb administration continues apace, replacing familiar, traditional productions of its warhorse repertory offerings with “edgy” new visions by (mostly) theater directors bent on clearing that vast stage of all extraneous decor, in many cases meaning nearly everything.

No one has gone further in this direction than Willy Dekker, whose 2003 Salzburg production which made stars of Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon makes its debut here this season. The set design is a pale grey semicircular wall against a stark white background, with a large round clockface – representing the dying heroine Violetta’s losing race against time – its most salient (and tiresomely overworked) detail. All I could think upon seeing this was, “It looks like a gigantic Swatch!”

I actually saw the video of the original Salzburg production and remember thinking that the design, maybe because of its simplicity, was rather effective, at least on film. However, experiencing it live on stage for three hours was another story. I certainly don’t miss the often vulgar Franco Zeffirelli production this replaced, which was an unnecessary, lesser revision of the over-the-top Second Empire plushiness of his mid-1980s conception which that one replaced. But, God knows, something more is needed than that damned clock, say, a bed, for Violetta to finally succumb to consumption in.

At what point I mused watching the Dekker, does a production officially announce itself as Eurotrash? For me, that moment came early on in the first act, when the universally tuxedo-clad chorus rushed onstage for Violetta’s party. “Oh, they’ve done without the female chorus,” I initially thought, and then, “What a lot of short, stout men! It’s as if Violetta landed in Munchkinland.” And then I realized that half of the singers were comprised of the Met female chorus in male drag, making it look like like a stage full of Lea DeLarias.

They lunged and raised champagne glasses in toasts and carried their Violetta (Marina Poplavskaya) around on a red couch and were, in a word, inane. Poplavskaya, who rather looks like Beverly D’Angelo, entered fully into the manic, foolish spirit of things, repeatedly donning and then taking off her high-heeled pumps until you wanted to stage a Shoe Intervention.

There’s no denying her vocal proficiency – this was a completely sung rendition of this perilously rangy role, with full value given to every note, from middle voice to coloratura stratosphere. But never once did she move me, as her performance lacked an essential vulnerability. The soprano has been quoted as saying, “There’s no weakness in Violetta, no weakness,” something she obviously believes, for she played her more like Brunnhilde, a fearless warrior woman taking on all male comers with a spirited defiance, wholly lacking in nuance or softer shadings.

The whole evening must be designated a lost opportunity, what with the casting-to-strength of Poplavskaya, the ardent Matthew Polenzani as her lover, Alfredo, and the strikingly exciting Andrzej Dobber as his disapproving father, Giorgio Germont. It’s rare in any LA TRAVIATA to find all three of these key roles so efficaciously filled, and Gianandrea Noseda’s hyper-sensitive conducting elicited wonderfully immediate colors from the familiar score. But Poplavskaya’s too-forcefully strong histrionic choice made it, to a great degree, emotionally null. One truly wonders what, in more perceptive directorial hands, her performance could be. Dobber, dignified, attractive and real, was particularly impressive, actually humanizing the infuriatingly upright Giorgio, without resorting to that cliched gambit of making him hypocritically lust for Violetta. I have always found this character’s second act domination of the opera a pain to sit through (maybe I never really recovered from Lionel Barrymore’s codgery hamminess in the role in Garbo’s film CAMILLE), but, for once, I was really involved in the situation and didn’t even want to kill him when he condescendingly sings to Violetta “Piangi, piangi.” (I’ve always felt like saying here, “Oh, YOU cry, motherfucker!”)

Polenzani possesses one of the most attractive tenor instruments in opera today, and he did a nice, moving job with his aria “De’ miei bollenti spiriti,” even though he had to perform it wearing boxer shorts (in Dekker’s wacky idea of what Alfredo would wear in the country) and, at the aria’s conclusion, barely made it off the stage with the trouble he had finding the catch to open that gray wristband, I mean wall. However, throughout, there was little real romantic chemistry between him and Poplavskaya, something I also ascribe to her unvariedly astringent performance.

The one scene that did work was the second act encounter between the younger and older Germont. Dekker’s “modern” attack here actually worked, as Polenzani did frustrated, slightly spoiled brat unwillingly listening to Daddy’s seasoned counsel, so distraught is he at the thought of Violetta leaving him (unbeknownst to him, at Daddy’s request). Polenzani’s stubborn instransigence – even covering his ears at one point – and Dobber’s unrelenting sagacity finally erupting into a bitch slap for sonny boy, brought rare, freshly observed vitality to a scene which usually plays out as so much tired melodrama.

The staging of the casino scene was just laughable. There were all those tuxedoed munchkins again, this time, wearing “Violetta” masks to taunt poor, forsaken Alfredo. Ridiculously, though, the masks looked left over from the Netrebeko production, and so were even more ridiculously wrong. Couldn’t the Met afford some simple Xeroxes of Poplavskaya’s face in an attempt to make this work? At any rate, the ugly masks didn’t resemble Netrebko so much as veteran soprano Licia Albanese, and how I dearly wished she had been there to boo this production as lustily as she did a 1990s Met updating of MADAME BUTTERFLY as she so famously did.

The idiotic choreographed cavortings of a bald, muscled “hunk” who dons the red dress that is Violetta’s only real costume change almost made me yearn for those prancing cows from the last Zeffirelly production (which were soon done away with, so risible were they). The whole act ended with Violetta and Alfredo clumsily posed on that blasted clock as he struggled to throw bank notes at her from a severely raked position.

Violetta’s protracted third act death scene really showed up this production for the insensitive gimmick that it is. With no bed to sink wearily upon, Poplavskaya just kept walking around and around the stage while singing about how weak she was, rendering that usually (literally) killer aria “Addio del passato” more of a niftily staged, melodramatic recital piece than a final, devastating cry of the heart. She didn’t even appear to be sick in the least, with her sturdy frame and luxuriant veil of blonde hair. Her final onstage moments, still pacing around as the life leaves her bones, suffered from a total aesthetic impoverishment that was not only a betrayal of Verdi but an insult to the audience’s credibility and intelligence.

And I haven’t even mentioned the omnipresent Doctor Grenvil (Luigi Roni) who keeps popping up in scenes in which he has no business, in Dekker’s addled mind’s eye, a constant reminder Of Violetta’s mortality. Of all Dekker’s absolutely stinking, appallingly facile ideas – really too many to enumerate – this, perhaps, was the most odiferous.

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2011

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GOLDEN GLOBS 2011 AKA “90210 SURGEON WATCH”

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm


Olivia Wilde

NEWS FROM LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET ON E

So…Rodarte didn’t receive official screen credit for BLACK SWAN’s Natalie Portman costumes? Wonder why –if it was a 2011 continuation of the bad old days when “officially named designer” (i.e. costume department heads like Paramount’s Edith Head or Fox’s Charles LeMaire HAD to receive screen credit for every movie released by their studios, regardless if some little upstart like say Hubert de Givenchy hapened to whip up a few – unforgettably influential – looks for Audrey Hepburn in SABRINA. La Head was more than happy to receive her Oscar for this film totally sans mention of Givenchy in her acceptance speech.)


This gown won an Oscar for Edith Head, not Givenchy who designed it in 1954

Amy Westcott gets screen credit for BLACK SWAN’S costumes, but is Rodarte’s omission really that big a deal? Although many are crowing about this horrendously overrated film’s so-called fashion influence, I found its drag pretty blah and, in some instances, like with the balletic tutus, borderline risible.

for real ballet movie glamour, give me Adrian’s White Swan effort for Vivien Leigh in WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940)

Ryan Seacrest identifies HOUSE’S beautiful, beautifully styled Olivia Wilde’s beautiful encrusted gown as a Marchesa – you GO, girl! and has completely fallen under fashion’s all-powerful sway. The Globs are a worthless award, really, (I mean BURLESQUE is nominated???) so its position as a major fashion parade really makes so much more sense. Wilde is also working the perfect gold Louboutin shoe with her dress and, with her sexy easy California girl hair in lovely counterpoint to her major frock, will be hard to beat style-wise tonight.

Kaley Cuoco’s Catherine Kidd elaborate, very wedding nude froth of a gown is a little pale for her blonde coloring (with lazy-looking mare’s tail cascading down the back) but, after Wilde’s ballroom moment, this also hits a note of major, major high glam look tonight which will no doubt continue, hopefully, giving us all something to sigh and/or sneer at wholeheartedly. BANISH BLANDNESS!

The E hosts – Giuliana Rancic, Kelly Osborne, et al – are discussing the pregnant Portman’s baby bump, as well as other expectant actresses and how they’ll be draping their protuberances. Yawn! I frankly don’t care if they do skintight and expose everything or go demurely caftan. I don’t expect these women to go into hiding until they drop like in Victorian days, but, unless they outrageously work, say, an avant-garde Rei Kawakubo puffy humped look, which I dearly wish some expectant diva will do some day, for me, their condition, however blessed, renders them sartorially null.

Enduringly bland and demure in public Jennifer Love Hewitt, a prettier Sarah Jessica Parker, in an uninspired Ramona Cabeza dress and old lady up-do, looks very mother-of-the-bride who hates her for overdressing and stealing her thunder. How lucky is this aging eternal ingenue still to be working I can’t help thinking, not to mention being nominated for something or other tonight.

Seacrest just told Alec Baldwin he didn’t mean “queen” when he called him a “diva,” after Baldwin made a big deal (in fun, OF COURSE) about the exact connotation of being called that. Baldwin is sooo reliably old school, from that Sinatra-esque time, when even a suspicion of faggotry, however subtle, was cause for a certain nervous mirthmaking.

God, Scott Caan is short. But what do they say about good thngs + small packages? “Casey,” his girlfriend, just showed up and, in that great undying chauvinistic Hollywood tradition of bimbology, is not vouchsafed a surname by anyone present. To see a moment in which Caan showed off his “Hawaii 5-0” (and then some) click <a href="“>here

Elizabeth Moss doing CHILDREN’S HOUR witrh Keira Knightley in London she says – someone tell Aronofsky – more hot girl on girl action in the name of “Art”! Her Donna Karan emerald green “Gilda” dress feels a little after-thought-ish.

‘Marchesa, one of my favorites!” newbie fashionista Seacrest tells Ricky Gervais’ date with all the sincerity of the Sarah Palin “What, me advocating violence against political opponents?” demurrals we’ve been hearing all week.

Natalie Portman – the evening’s assured darling – in French twist and strapless something with a big red flower over Da Bump. Looks sweet and safe so far, from afar.

Strenuously populist Jimmy Fallon is shaking all the fans in the stands’ hands. Am I alone in finding him – ever since Saturday Night Live – desperately unfunny, a career solely built on cuteness and that demographically essential youth?

Jesse Tyler Ferguson tres elegant in Etro. Ryan didn’t know – he says – that Ferguson’s MODERN FAMILY partner Eric Stone is straight. “He’s such a good actor!” ( Remember when they said that about gays playing straight – and it didn’t even take that much talent – see Rock Hudson?)

Helena Bonham Carter upholding Brit eccentricity in what has to be Vivienne Westwood and mermaid hair – is Sarah Brightman moonlighting as her stylist these days?

Well, Portman managed to pull off a lovely and quite interesting pregger-look after all. Perfect blush pink luscious satin draped in front with that fun big old scarlet rose on the bodice. And a chic diamond collier and simple earrings. It’s Viktor and Rolf – maybe the simplest look I’ve ever seen from them, and so pitch perfect. I guess it helps that she isn’t showing all that much – she’s like “modern opera star” shape and weight now, which is still on the slim side.

Jason Segal carrying on with Fallon – singing a cheesy old rock anthem – and both of them not as funny as they think they are. How long is the exact shelf life of the frat boy thing?

“Oscar made my dress! Lea Michele admits (brand new big-ass divas can refer to de la Renta by his first name alone of course). A tan might have worked with that pale pink color. The dress is very Millie the Model and with all its bows and gathers a bit overpowering for her height.

Jake Gyllenhaal wonders how he can follow up Segal and Fallon – easy, bro! He’s bearded. Why??? And of course Ryan asks him about the nudity in his film with Anne Hathaway.

Emma Stone in a peach Calvin Klein ostentatiously simple column and Van Cleef clutch- again the pale coloring in the pale dress – definite trend of the evening.

Eva Longoria in Zac POsen – you NEED lipstick with a dress that starkly simple.

and yes Bonham Carter is in Westwood with two different color shoes (green and red – yeccch!) and looks determined to grab worst-dressed of the night, which she assuredly will.

I’ve never used the phrase ‘exquisitely handsome’ but think I will, for SOCIAL NETWORK’s Armie Hammer who played the Winklevi.


Hammer with Elizabeth Chambers

Sporting another pale on pale look, a blandly unadorned one shoulder goddess gown, Nicole Kidman’s blank canvas face has now completely lost its expressiveness.

Justin Bieber pops up and his smooth-faced prettiness suddenly makes me wonder if Kidman didn’t bring his photo to her face doc.

Jane Krakowski shows off her baby bump in a Badgeley Mishka that’s much more the dull expected expectant look we anticipated – and what a freakin’ drab color!

Jane Lynch makes her annual appearance – in a black Nahimi that suits her – if only to prove once again how diminutive Seacrest is, with her Amazon height.


Lynch with partner Lara Embry

Ryan Gosling with his huge head has by now attained a John Barrymore handsomeness. He was terrific, inventive and authentically blue collar , in BLUE VALENTINE, an otherwise negligible underwritten soap opera of a film, and even better as that cross-dressing accused murderer Douglas Durst in ALL GOOD THINGS this year, which, unaccountably has gone completely overlooked in favor of his other, decidedly inferior film. As for his now gal pal, Michelle Williams, in BLUE VALENTINE -meh! Her character is a cold bitch – it’s just that simple, somehow more complex (although nothing is really specified) than Gosling’s character, and wholly undeserving of her husband’s simple, genuine affection, and Williams isunable to overcome the uninviting, sketchy conception of her role.

Catherine Zeta in Lullier emerald green and diamond shoulder dusters looks like she stepped out of an Ingres portrait. Michael Douglas, a real survivor in Canali, looks great.

Mila Kunis simply styled in another emerald green dress and the same do as BLACK SWAN co-star Portman. The dress is quite lovely with a lot of backless interest going on in the rear.

Angelina Jolie ALSO in green -definite trend – Versace. It’s beaded but boring – in that covered up square shouldered silhouette Jolie traditionally favors. How this girl could work a Galliano if she’d only let herself! Is she still shilling for – God help us – St. John these days?

“Do you ever make up the doctor’s language on HOUSE” is Ryan’s particularly idiotic Hugh Laurie question. How much does he make??

Robert Downey Jr. looks more conservative banker in gray suit and red tie – Prada – than I’ve ever seen him.

Cory Monteith is single? hmmmmm….a bit too big for the white bowtie tuxedo look which needs to be buttoned and which has a dorky whiff here.

Claire Danes in simple elegant, backless pink Calvin Klein but too-butch office manager hair.

Tina Fey in classically elegant black L’Wren Scott. Girlfriend’s getting hipper by the second.

Halle Berry -remember her? – in black Nina Ricci and literally heavy-handed diamond handcuffs. Seacrest says Aretha Franklin wanted Berry to play her – something she addresses by saying she cannot sing. Halle as ReeRee? Words simply fail….

Anne Hathaway wearing a sparkly Armani that makes me think somehow of that drunken queen who shrieked at a Broadway opening, “Betsy Palmer’s here in the beaded dress she wore to the 1984 Daytime Emmys!”

Megan Scott in a beautifully slashed blush Armani Prive with lucky boyf. Brian Austin Green also in Armani.

Jennifer Lopez’s ass looks frankly HUGE in white draped chiffon, something the beaded curtain she wears over her shoulders cannot hide.

Christina Aguilera, channeling Mae West (though she’s probably going for Marilyn), in black beaded lace and insanely processed platinum hair. What’s that I hear? Oh, her roots shrieking for mercy.

Scarlett Johanssen in yet another ghostly palette, very Ophelia before the Big Dunk.

Ok, Ryan, now you accuse Mark Wahlberg and his producer of being each other’s dates- after the Baldwin episode, the Fallon-Segal romance jokes etc etc. Swing open that closet door, honeychile!

Tilda Swinton in a forcefully eccentric look – man’s shirt and shiny parachute skirt which must rank as one of her arty missteps.

Helen Mirren who looks to be fully embracing her fully matured doyenne status in a look Marie Dressler might have coveted.


Marie Dressler admiring Jean Harlow’s 1933 red carpet look by Adrian in DINNER AT EIGHT

January Jones in an outrageously revealing red Versace fringed confection which we call “Remember Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin? Well, FORGET her!”

THE 68th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBS begin

Ricky Gervais hilariously addresses THE TOURIST being unacccountably nominated for a Glob (can anyone say “lavish press junket?”) – as Johnny Depp smiles.

Did anyone see supporting actor in a movie winner Christian Bale on Charlie Rose ridiculously still using that Boston accent from THE FIGHTER to answer questions? Thank God he’s reverted to being a Brit. (It sounds so much better when you dementedly shriek at your film crews.)

Katy Sagal, wearing Howard Johnson drapes, looks eerily ageless. Is that a good thing? I’m sure there will be quite a few more glimpses of the Undead tonight.

Julianne Moore is completely overpowered by a one-sleeved rose satin Lanvin THING. They call her a fashion icon. For us, the jury’s still out.

Critics I know loved the many-houred original version of CARLOS, not least for its hunky star, Edgar Ramirez, who I heard got fully naked. Seven hours of my life is a lot to ask to see some junk, however hot. To save time click here

I don’t know. Leighton Meester – most annoying name ever?

Chris Colfer from GLEE wins and looks genuinely shocked for this well deserved award, which has doubtlessly helped a whole generation of budding queers. Lea Michele gives a Golden Glob-worthy performance watching him. He gives a truly inspirational, moving because genuinely moved, speech.

Remember when Michelle Pfeiffer was one of the most special, distinctive beauties on the screen? Honestly, can you now tell her apart from any twelve Hollywood blondes these days of indeterminate age?

This placidly defiant Golden Glob rep, Philip Berk, actually has a mea culpa for Geravis’ comments about the lousy nominees (THE TOURIST, BURLESQUE, ALIVE IN WONDERLAND) which basically says, “You may think we nominate crap for suspicious reasons year after year, but look how popular SHOWGIRLS is now.” (And Glob winner Pia Zadora, of course, is enshrined in the ultimate pantheon of divas.)

(UPDATE: the day after the awards show has Gervais suffering major fall-out for his hilarious snarkiness, with all of these industry types and bloggers behaving like shocked modern-day Louella O. Parsons and Hedda Hoppers (those two great Hollywood hypocrites) that any upstart Brit comedian would dare to make fun of gay closeted, formerly drug-addicted, abusively alcoholic multimillionaires who foist crap movies on a lemming-like public with decidedly LCD cinematic taste, all too willing to be ripped off at the box office. Now comes word that he is banned for life from hosting the Globs ever again. Oh, boohoo for these poor, poor celebs whose fame and entitlement somehow hasn’t afforded them thicker skins at a time when the averg\age American is struggling to just put food on the table. Sorry, stars, but you’re our entertainment during this Depression, in maybe not all the ways you or your PR armies can easily control. Piers Morgan rightly, sensibly observed on THE VIEW that it was like inviting a shark and then expecting him not to attack. So, maybe next year, Ryan Seacrest will host the entire evening, red carpet, awards, the whole shebang with the “proper” toadying bland innocuousness.

By the way, I am totally looking forward to Morgan taking over Larry King’s spot, especially as he said that, unlike King, he will actually research his interview subjects before the show. King’s success in a field in which he was so completely inept – not to mention outlandishly UNcamera-friendly – something which only grew to grotesque lengths year after year – made his show totally unwatchable and a complete indictment of American “culture.”)

Angelina fixes the tie of Dorian Gray – oops I mean Brad Pitt – and all the world thrills to this public moment of intimate “little helpful woman” domesticity.

Mila Jovovich in a silver mermaid look is slightly reminiscent of Rita Hayworth – but only slightly.

Always great to see good guy Steve Buscemi of BOARDWALK EMPIRE win anything – although he is told to wrap it up seconds after reaching the podium although Bale was allowed to blather on and on.

Andrew Garfield’s neck is even longer than Audrey Hepburn’s, an amazing male objet d’art, especially in the oh-so creepy NEVER LET ME GO, and he was a great dancer in THE SOCIAL NETWORK at that Jewish frat mixer..

I’d dearly love to send new Judge Jennifer Lopez to diction school.

Sorry, that Diane Warren dirge – I mean song – Cher had to try to make magic of in BURLESQUE (and failed), SUCKED.

Trent Reznor will win every music score award this year – the perfect storm of rock cred, generational appeal, hipper than thou film debut, etc., etc. He deserves it, too, incidentally.

Will Justin Bieber grow any more you think? Oh, well, Mickey Rooney was once voted King of the Movies, you know.]

Ah, that closeup of Angelina, all snuggled up against Brad, still working her enjoyment of being one half of the most popular couple in the eternal high school that is Hollywood.

Michelle Williams’ cutesy Marrimeko print gown, with her pixie do, all too cutesy. I mean, what the hell is Carey Mulligan gonna do?

Annette Bening just went for Serious Actress, All in Black, with Bed Hair and glasses. I mean, what the hell is Meryl Streep gonna do?

Al Pacino recommended Bening’s hair stylist…to Mark Rufalo, as well.

OMG. Sylvester Stallone’s face. It just looks like it hurts.


“The Salesman and the Laundress” starring Geoffrey Rush and Tilda Swinton.
He wears the hat because he shaved his head for a role in Nikolai Gogol’s play DIARY OF A MADMAN opening next month at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Helen Mirren introduces the clip from THE KING’S SPEECH, which, honestly, underwhelmed me. I have my definite Anglophile moments but it takes more than an expensive mounting of the past married to welling muzak and explorations of the inner pain of the most entitled (titled) folk in the world who pay no taxes to make me shed an obsequiously royalist tear. God, how Americans have always fallen for this blarney dating back to and beyond the days when lucky Yanks Irene Dunne, Helen Hayes and Bette Davis played Queens Victoria and Liz I. THE KING’S SPEECH treats monarch George’s stammer as if it were the direst form of multiple sclerosis, at the very least, and we the humble audience, the lower orders, are supposed to be so thrilled with the privilege of being allowed into these intimate palace moments.

Colin Firth is competent, but I never find him, no matter what the role, very much more than that, whether as a rather torturously essayed, grimly serious homosexual in A SINGLE MAN (where was the fun, the knowing camp of the 1960s?), or, here, as a torturously stuttering royal. He lacks elemental passion, as well as the compelling charisma of a real star which could galvanize sketchy (A DIFFERENT MAN) or pompously cliched (THE KING’S SPEECH) material into something truly moving, the way a Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole or Albert Finney could. A KING’S SPEECH is also filled with annoying little casting wish-fulfillments and infelicities, like the two utterly perfect beauties who play Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (neither of whom were ever real swans) or Timothy Spall’s completely ridiculous blowfish caricature of Winston Churchill.

Presenter Vanessa Williams looks frankly…tacky. The hair is too flat and lifeless, the eyes too darkly made up, the sequin Norell-esque gown dull with that bit of unnecessary beaded embroidery (and can we put an embargo already on one-shoulder), and those too-much blingy earrings.

What the hell is Jane Fonda – never known for great fashion sense – wearing?

It’s great that Melissa Leo won for THE FIGHTER, as she so deserved every award imaginable for FROZEN RIVER.

Brown-nosing Matt Damon declaring Robert DeNiro, Cecil B. DeMille award winner, “greatest actor alive”? PLEAAASE! Is the “Fokkers” franchise included in that assessment? Yes, indeed, as Damon says, “let’s take a look at one of the greatest careers” and you will see that what started out excitingly – BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY, MEAN STREETS, GODFATHER II, TAXI DRIVER, NEW YORK, NEW YORK – after the hideously overrated piece of pulp RAGING BULL (quite possibly the most overrated film of all time), all too soon became calcified into your choice of exactly two flavors. There was Psycho Bob (with that contemptuously downturned, ugly mouth and predictably “dangerous” mania in GOOD FELLAS, FRANKENSTEIN, CAPE FEAR, CASINO, et al.) and there was Wimpy Bob (STANLEY AND IRIS, THE AWAKENINGS, MARVIN’S ROOM, et al., in which he was, invariably, numbingly bland) with utterly no shading in between these two black and white extremes. In last year’s EVERYBODY’S FINE, which NOBODY SAW, however, he evinced something of his old talent and did some of the most subtle, affectingly strong work he’s done in years.

Then there’s his incredibly annoying – what is it -shyness, or a mere entitled arrogance born of success and some kind of 1960s-70s concept of “cool” which makes him such a selfishly ungiving, guarded presence offscreen, especially in the very interview situations which he is sometimes called upon to do to promote his $20 million per projects? Being a journalist myself, perhaps, makes me all the more sensitive to the discomfiting hell this kind of personal choice results in, and, while I never felt I could feel sorry for either David Letterman or Dustin Hoffman, who are pretty eminent in their respective smugness, as well, I certainly did when the three recently shared a stage on Letterman’s show. DeNiro was so infuriatingly non-forthcoming that even Hoffman, who has no problem being publicly voluble, seemed embarassed as it seemed as if, in the face of DeNiro’s non-presence that night, it almost could be read that his gabbiness amounted to hogging the show.

Even his acceptance speech, which could have been an opportunity to express gratitude to anyone from his father, Expressionist painter, Robert DeNiro, Sr., to acting teacher Stella Adler, he turned into a lame comedy routine. It’s odd, the moments when he chooses to open up – like after 9/11 when he exhorted everyone not to give up on downtown Manhattan and started the Tribeca Film Festival. One couldn’t help but notice that a certain personal interest also came into play here, what with the pricey restaurants and real estate he has long-owned in the vicinity.

Getting back to the awards, David Fincher deserved best director.

Alicia Keyes’ one-shouldered orange tent – unflattering.

Incredibly likable Paul Giammatti – who, already in his career, has shown more range than DeNiro’s decades of work – charmingly confesses to eating five boxes of Godiva chocolates and being “a little jacked up.”

The awards juggernaut begins this weekend for Natalie Portman what with the Critics award Friday night and tonight’s Golden Globes. Looks like fulfilling Darren Aronofsky’s personal fantasies, i.e., getting naked, masturbating, having lesbian sex and one-note suffering in his garish garbage paid off!

Hey Angelina! The camera was on you watching Portman and you forgot to nuzzle Brad!

Ouch! The nominees for Best Comedy/Musical…why didn’t they just automatically give it to THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT? Which was all right, if a little too pat and self-congratulatory for my taste. Plus, I’m never crazy about seeing how incredibly, often unbelievably, mutable queer sexuality can be in films, whether it’s the baby-making gays of THE WEDDING BANQUET or the lesbian (Julianne Moore) in KIDS who – lucky everything girl! – also lands Mark Rufalo with all his natural hunkiness, vintage wines and chic restaurant, too boot.

Sandra Bullock – is that you under Cher’s old hair? Come out, come out, even if you’re in ANOTHER one-shoulder dress.

The juggernaut also begins for Critics/Globe winner Colin Firth, as well. Ho – the fuck – hum.

Michael Douglas presents best dramatic film to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and you just realize simply how, despite the almost universal obnoxious odiousness of the characters, very much smarter it was than nearly everything else this year (and others, as well).

BTW, Seal and Heidi Klum were, by far, the most striking, colorful couple of the night

but overall best-dressed still goes to sexy sexy Olivia Wilde, first one on the red carpet tonight who set an impossibly high bar for all the other divas, with Natalie Portman, surprisingly, taking second place.

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2011

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS DISCOVERY

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2011 at 8:14 am


Adam Couperthwaite in GREEN EYES (Karl Giant)

The true mission of drama is to take you on a full, unexpected journey, something ever more rare in these artistically bereft times when crap like BLACK SWAN gets taken seriously and unendurable screechfests like NEXT TO NORMAL win the Pulitzer Prize. How happy, then, am I to report that such a journey is in store for you with the New York premiere of Tennessee Williams’ unknown 1970 one act play, GREEN EYES, at the Hudson Hotel.

The entire evening proves to be a delightful, if slightly scary, adventure, from the half-price cocktails your ticket entitles you to in the hotel’s terminally chic, tenebrous bars to being personally escorted in groups of 14 by the show’s terrific director, Travis Chamberlain, to one of the hotel’s smallest rooms, floozied up like some raffish New Orleans econolodge, where you sit in perilously close proximity to the performers.


Erin Markey (Karl Giant)

And what performers! From the second the electrifying Erin Markey makes her lingeried entrance, crooning a Bessie Smith blues, covered with mysterious bruises and slinking into the room like a tigress in heat, as newlywed Mrs. Claude Dunphy, all set for her honeymoon night, you know you are in the presence of histrionic fearlessness. She is more than matched by Adam Couperthwaite as Claude, a rattled Vietnam vet, alternately ravening for her and repulsed by her plans for his Army paycheck, which, like any good ole boy, he plans on sending home to Mama. One could almost imagine the wedding night of Stanley and Stella Kowalski being like this one. The blonde, buff Couperthwaite is a simple feast for the eyes (one can just sense Tennessee smiling down from Thespis’ heaven) and brings a dangerous sexual power and searing vulnerability to Claude which evoke no less than that ultimate Williams conduit, Marlon Brando, in his devastating youth. This guy is a star in the making, believe it!

The most intensely erotic power games ensue in what must be Williams’ rawest play, rife as it is with misogyny; blatant talk of sexual desire, used condoms in the toilet and black male endowment, and incendiary usage of the N-word (especially now, with that mindlessly p.c. re-edit of Mark Tawin’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN). These things, undoubtedly shocking in 1970, remain so today, although ahead-of-his-time Tennessee, who almost single-handedly ushered in sexual frankness into American theater with A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, simply prefigured what constitutes so much of modern dramaturgy, not to mention reality TV. And, what with so many shattered vets returning from the Middle East these days, as well as the eternally provocative play-out of male-female struggle for control within relationships, this work is incredibly fresh and timely.


(Ves Pitts)

At a wonderful panel on January 15 at the Museum of of Arts and Design, directors Chamberlain, David Herskovitz, Elizabeth LeCompte and Moises Kaufman spoke trenchantly about their experiences tackling Williams’ later, “problematic” works like VIEUX CARRE, CAMINO REAL, GREEN EYES and, in Kaufman’s case, an adaptation of Williams’ short story ONE ARM, about a single-limbed male hustler. LeCompte’s Wooster Group production of VIEUX CARRE opens at the Baryshnikov Arts Center/Jerome Robbins Theater on February 2, and she entertainingly described her recent interactions with Sylvia Miles, the redoubtable star of the original 1977 London production. LeCompte used the film imagery of Warhol director Paul Morrissey for inspiration, especially HEAT, not realizing that its star, Miles, had also appeared in VIEUX CARRE. She said Miles had been replaced when the show came to Broadway (and failed after 6 performances), by another fierce Sylvia, the dragon-like Sidney (ask anybody who ever met her), and has never gotten over it. When Miles heard some of LeCompte’s plans for the production, including the use of homoerotic video and a dildo, she shrieked “You can’t! You can’t!’ But this shrieking was as nothing compared to her reaction when she learned that she was not going to be asked to reprise the role for LeCompte. “Her dream is to win an Oscar for it, and when she learned that, she screamed at me for a full half hour,” LeCompte confessed.


Sylvia Miles

Erin Markey was also at the panel, and I asked her about Charles Isherwood’s cluelessly dismissive review of GREEN EYES in that morning’s New York Times. She admitted that, while the night he attended may not have been their best preview performance, she couldn’t help but noticing him practically hugging the walls of the intimate theater space-cum-hotel room in what looked like agony, so intimidated was he by the up-close-and-personal performance proximity. Most of the other reviews have, happily and accurately, been positive, and we joked about starting a campaign to rid the Times of this critic who all too often infuriatingly seems to get it wrong, dissing good work while lauding the lousy.

There’s a final free panel installment in this series, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGENESS, which Chamberlain organized, next Saturday at the museum at 3 PM, entitled I’VE COVERED THE WATERFRONT: TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ QUEER REPRESENTATIONS OF SEX AND GENDER (2 Columbus Circle). Scheduled to appear are Williams scholars David Kaplan, Thomas Keith, Annette J. Sadik, David Savran and Markey, herself, moderated by Joe E. Jeffreys.

You can read my in-depth GREEN EYES interview with Chamberlain, Markey and Couperthwaite in GAY CITY NEWS out this Wednesday, January 19. (www.gaycitynews.com)

For full info about GREEN EYES click here


(Karl Giant)

and, for you die-hard Sylvia Miles fans, an intriguing interview with her re VIEUX CARRE appears here

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2011

FABULOUS FORGOTTEN DIVA

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

If you want to immerse yourself in true, early 20th century glamour, I hereby introduce you to one of the most gorgeous women who ever lived, the largely uncelebrated Lili Damita, three of whose films are being shown on Turner Classic Movies this Sunday, January 9, starting at 8 pm (eastern).

None of the films – THIS IS THE NIGHT (1932), THE MATCH KING (1932) and FRIENDS AND LOVERS (1931) – are any great shakes, but Damita is a strikingly sexy, charismatic presence in all of them, superbly gowned by, respectively, Travis Banton, Orry-Kelly (especially) and Max Ree. Possessed of a perfect, petite figure, leonine mane of astonishingly versatile hair (quite possibly the best in all cinema), and a smoulderingly exotic face, with smoky, tilted eyes, intriguingly cleft chin and a sensuously generous mouth whose smile could be literally blinding, she was the perfect pre-Code temptress, born to appear deshabille, combining the outrage of Dietrich with the statuesque poise of Garbo and her own impishly Gallic flavor. She moved magnificently, like the literal panther in seductive moments and, in farce, with a sprightly, bouncy elan. She had something of the unbridled quality of Lupe Velez, too, but more than a tad more refined.

Born Liliane Marie-Madeleine Carré in Blaye, France, on July 10, 1904, she had an international education in convents and ballet schools – France, Spain and Portugal – and got an early professional start. At 14, she danced at the Opera de Paris, and followed this with music hall work which led her to the Revue at the Casino de Paris. Calling herself Lilly Deslys (to capitalize on the popularity of legendary French revue star Gaby Deslys), she made her film debut in 1922, in LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT.


in her “Deslys” period

In 1925, she starred in the German production, DAS SPIELZEUG VON PARIS, directed by Michael Curtiz, whom she was married to for a year, and who ironically went on a decade later to direct her second – and most famous – husband, Errol Flynn in CAPTAIN BLOOD, the film which made him a star. She also worked with prominent directors Robert Wiene (DIE GROSSE ABENTEUERIN, 1927), G.W. Pabst (MAN APIELT NICHT MIT DER LIEBE, 1926) and Max Ophuls (ON A VOLE UN HOMME, aka MAN STOLEN, 1934).


Hollywood arrival: with Vilma Banky, Walter Byron, Samuel Goldwyn and Ronald Colman on the set of her first U.S. film

Producer Sam Goldwyn – always enamored of Euro/Slavic beauties like Vilma Banky, Anna Sten, and Merle Oberon – invited her to Hollywood in 1928, where she made THE RESCUE for him in 1929 with Ronald Colman. After this rather inauspicious American debut, she was loaned out to various studios. Goldwyn supposedly didn’t care for her describing all her millionaire lovers to the press or mentioning the fact that her contract forbade marriage. Her name was linked with Prince Louis Ferdinand, the son of the Crown Prince of Germany, and their relationship, acording to writer David Shipman, was the basis of the Edward G. Robinson-Kay Francis film, I LOVED A WOMAN (1933).

Her successes included THE COCKEYED WORLD, Maxwell Anderson’s follow-up to his smash success of a soldiers’ story, WHAT PRICE GLORY? (1929) and MGM’s THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY (1929), adapted from Thornton Wilder’s book.


with Victor McLaglen, THE COCK-EYED WORLD


Dressed by Adrian for THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY (1929)

She made the transition to sound, acting in English, while appearing in French versions of films like LET US BE GAY (1930), done in English by Norma Shearer, whom she sometimes resembled, and ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932), in the husband-stealing role Genevieve Tobin made so delectable. But it was not long before it became obvious that she – like so many other exotic imports (Tala Birell, Gwili Andre, Lillian Harvey, and, later, her countrywomen, Danielle Darrieux, Simone Simon and Michele Morgan) was not going to prove a box office bonanza on the order of Garbo or Dietrich.


with Errol Flynn on their wedding day

It was at this point that her offscreen life began to take precedence over her on-, with her 1935 meeting of Errol Flynn (on a transatlantic liner) and subsequent marriage. They were undoubtedly Hollywood’s most beautiful, sexy couple, regular fan magazine features but the marriage was so stormy that he took to calling her “Tiger Lil.” Damita officially retired from the screen in 1937 with the French film, L’ESCADRILLE DE LA CHANCE, and she and Flynn continued to battle it out, constantly reconciling in the bedroom, with her bearing him a son, Sean, in 1941, but eventually divorcing in 1942.


Halcyon Days: on the set of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD


Near the end

She memorably took Flynn to the cleaners (half his property and $1,500/month) and moved to Palm Springs to raise their son, who grew up into a handsome, adventurous replicant of his wild Dad. After Flynn’s death in 1959, she would marry – in 1962 – and divorce one final time, to retired Iowa businessman Allen Loomis. He owned a dairy, and while they were married, Damita spent part of the year in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sean Flynn made some films, including, shamelessly, SON OF CAPTAIN BLOOD (1962), but became a daredvile photojournalist, which would end tragically when, covering the Vietnam War for TIME magazine, he disappeared forever in Cambodia n 1970. A devastated Damita ran through her money trying to find him for the rest of her life. 1984, the year that he was declared legally dead was also the year she died of Alzheimer’s disease. She was buried at Oakland Cemetary in Fort Dodge, undoubtedly its most glamorous occupant.


Errol and Sean Flynn


Sean

An ultimately sad, stormy life to be sure, but I prefer to remember Damita, a Cancer like me, as the breathtakingly vibrant presence she was in her 1920s-30s heyday. She was strikingly photogenic, and rarely looks the same in any picture, a favored subject of all the greatest photogaphers of her day, from Steichen to Hurrell to Hoyningen-Huene to Horst.


Hurrell


all in day’s work: with Gilbert Roland, Flynn and Cesar Romero

Mesmerizing candid shots reveal the allure and sense of fun which must have fascinated all who came her way. For a while, in the mid-1930s, she was an integral part of Hollywood’s so-called Sapphic Sewing Circle, forming part of an intriguing triangle with the equally sexually ambiguous Marlene Dietrich and Dolores Del Rio who, in their day, were something like the infamous supermodel “trinity” of Linda Evangelista-Naomi Campbell-Christy Turlington in the 1990s. All three of these women were absolute exemplars of sartorial chic, as well, having utterly no need of pesky stylists to tell them what to wear. The very idea of anyone controlling their look would have undoubtedly made them laugh out loud and they were sought after as both inspiration and informed collaborators by the greatest couturiers of their day – Schiaparelli, Alix Gres, Lanvin, Patou, Molyneux, et al. In Hollywood, all three women were big, early supporters of the great designer, Irene, but it was Damita who first discovered her, in a little shop she was operating in 1932. Their public appearances during this time remain absolutely unmatched for sheer, timeless elegance: you know things came to a complete halt whenever these three entered a room.

Feast your eyes and return to the ultimate glory that was Old Hollywood (and here’s a cool game
for you sharp-eyed, informed fashionistas out there, try to identify who designed her outfits and message me):


with Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard and Flynn at Lombard’s famous Venice Pier party, 1935


BFFS, Dietrich and Del Rio, who attended Basil Rathbone’s 1937 Bride and Groom masquerade party as, yes, bride and groom


here they are again, both dressed by Irene, again sans Damita, but with Del Rio’s husband Cedric Gibbons, MGM Art Director, and John Gilbert, Dietrich’s then lover, who would die shortly after this photo was rraken at the Countess DiFrasso’s party in 1936


with Del Rio’s lover, Orson Welles, and Ann Warner, 1940


with Dolores Del Rio, Gary Cooper and Basil Rathbone – Damita was one of the first proponents of upswept hairdo, c. 1938


with Ann Warner, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Warner and Flynn


Joan of Arc was a role she dreamed of playing. She never got to, but retained the pageboy hairdo, which she was also the first to wear offscreen in 1935.


with Gary Cooper and Flynn, wearing Irene’s draped bugle-beaded ensemble, which Dietrich would also sport in the film THE LADY IS WILLING (1941), c. 1939


with Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Flynn, Mrs. Gary Cooper aka “Rocky” (a favorite member of the “Sewing Circle”) and Robert Taylor


with Flynn at El Morocco


Dressed by Orry-Kelly for THE MATCH KING

working the peekaboo bang way before Veronica Lake, dressed by Orry-Kelly for THE MATCH KING


another Orry-Kelly look

THE GARLAND GENE

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 6:13 am


(Matthew Eisman)

It is definitely alive and fully throbbing in the voice of her middle child, Lorna Luft, who wraps up her engagement, SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME, at Feinstein’s at the Regency this Sunday, January 9.

For all true Garland devotees, this one hour show, compressed from a two-hour Judy orgy created by Luft with her husband/music director, Colin Freeman, which she has seemingly been performing everywhere BUT NYC, is simply a must. One, of course, had trepidations about the whole thing – mainly, could she carry it off? – and Goddamn if she doesn’t!

From the opening moments featuring film footage of Garland’s TV show episode wherein, singing directly to her then little girl, she introduces the song, “Lorna,” especially written for her by legendary music director Mort Lindsey and no less than lyricist Johnny Mercer, you are primed for an absolute, delicious Judy wallow. I, personally, never thought big sister Liza Minnelli ever sounded like “Mama,” but there is utterly no denying that Lorna surely does, especially in the middle voice range and belted high notes, with those same dark, pulsating colors which simultaneously bring chills down your spine and tears to your eyes. It’s every old cliche come to life, once and for all, as you think, “When I close my eyes, I could swear …”

In the show, Luft quotes Garland as always saying “Lorna likes the loud ones,” and she certainly proved this, by doing full, open-throated justice to show-stoppers like “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” and “The Joint is Really Jumping Down at Carnegie Hall.” Even without the uncanny vocalism, you get an awesome charge just by hearing Luft’s 11-piece band playing those classic Garland arrangements at full throttle, never more so than when she attempts and triumphs in that most Holy Grail of a song, “The Man That Got Away,” which alone is worth the steep Feinstein’s admission price. It’s like hearing this greatest of torch songs for the first time, simply because you are hearing it AGAIN for the first time, performed with a whole lotta matchless DNA.


There’s no way to top this, but Luft barrels onward after this, with another STAR IS BORN tour-de-force: a recreation of Garland’s “Born in a Trunk” medley, which tells the real story of Judy Garland, not Esther Blodgett. Luft’s jaw-dropping energy, volleying belted thrills galore hit you right in the gut, suddenly inspiring a near identical kind of screaming, frenzied fever of which her mother was mistress. (Listen to that audience on her Carnegie hall album to hear what I mean.) And, for those who NEED to know, this segment was the only time she referred to Liza, mentioning her birth in the chronology of her “Mom” (for Luft, it’s never “Mama”). It’s a thrillingly comprehensive, exhausting work-out, so complete that you hardly need Luft’s wrap-up of her singing the ballad, “Shining Star,” in tandem with Garland’s recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

At the celebratory champagne toast afterwards – at which Liza, it must be reported, was not present, although she showed up the following night – I enthused to Luft about her miraculous energy, saying, “I bet you could do it all over again.”

“No way!” she cried, visibly moved, shaken and proud.

But I would bet anything that she could.


after the show, with husband Colin Freeman (photo by Linda Lenzi)

For my interview with her in GAY CITY NEWS, click here