Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Couple of Things

Off today to New York City to see Judith Ivey's THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS and then to meet with Judith about my play, THE PORCH. Always pleased when a respected actor reads my stuff, gets it, and expresses interest in it. Doesn't happen all the time. Almost never happens with Artistic Directors, Literary Managers, or Dramaturgs. Anyway, we'll see what we shall see.

Netflix delivered the remake of THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3 yesterday. Good flick. Especially worth watching for John Travolta's lunatic villain--not a big challenge, showy role, but he pulls it off quite well--and, most especially, for Denzel Washington's mild-mannered, schlumpy, ferociously honest exec-turned-subway train dispatcher. I've never thought a lot about what Denzel brings to the table as an actor, but he never disappoints. Always seems to bring his A-game and, in this case, sacrifices leading man good looks and charisma for sincerity and accommodation of the story, making the movie, perhaps, a little better than it really is. There's a lot of action and things blowing up, of course. It is a Tony Scott film, after all. But Denzel's character--and John Turturro's hostage negotiator as well--ground the story in reality, and make the film worth watching.

That's all I have today. Must begin checking every faucet and electrical outlet in preparation for my three days away from here.

It's exhausting, being me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When I was a yoot (thank you, Joe Pesci), traveling to New York City was THE big thing for me. I did it annually, thanks to the Sacred Heart Band, which marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade every year for about 20 years. And I would continue to visit at least once a year throughout my time in high school. Back then, it was possible to see a Broadway show for a price that insanity had not yet overcome. (I don't know if that sentence makes sense, but I'm going with it, regardless.) I believe I saw CABARET for six bucks, mainly because I purchased a last-minute, half price ticket. So the ticket was twelve bucks. Or maybe it was 24 and I paid 12. Whateveh! It was cheap. I remember that Anita Gillette played Sally Bowles and she was terrific. I saw both Ginger Rogers and Pearl Bailey play "Dolly," in different productions, of course. Pearl's "Vandergelder" was Cab Calloway. One doesn't think about the iconic position these people would take when one is 15. I saw Robert Goulet, much maligned as a lounge lizard in his later career, in his wonderful, Tony-winning performance in THE HAPPY TIME, a lesser-regarded but beautifully written musical by Kander and Ebb. I saw Ruby Keeler in NO, NO NANETTE, along with Jack Gilford and Helen Gallagher. Irene Ryan doing her show-stopping number in PIPPIN. Ben Vereen, too, of course. (I think so, anyway. Not sure if he was still in the show when I saw it, but since Ryan was, I assume he was as well.) Jerry Orbach in PROMISES, PROMISES. Jack Albertson and Sam Levene as the original SUNSHINE BOYS. Later, when I was a grad student, I saw Robert Duvall in AMERICAN BUFFALO. Suffice it to say, I've seen some good theatre in New York.

I'm going back tomorrow, for the first time in maybe six or seven years, to meet with the actress Judith Ivey, to talk about her interest in my play, THE PORCH. I will meet with her carrying no expectations, because expectations in my business, at least with me, often lead to black holes. But the fact that she's interested, and seeing me, in the midst of the run of her one-woman show about Ann Landers, makes the trip well worthwhile.

And I may see a Broadway show. But it'll cost me $125.

It was better when I was a yoot.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Remake of CAPE FEAR, or What Was Scorcese Smoking?

Because of the proliferation of Blu-Ray discs, many standard DVDs are sold inexpensively these days, so I've been piling up films I think I'd like to see one or two more times in my life, or films that look somewhat interesting, or films by great directors. With this notion in mind, I picked up Martin Scorcese's remake of J. Lee Thompson's 1962 thriller, CAPE FEAR, which I believe was based on a John D. McDonald novel. I had seen the remake on a date, as I recall, so I probably wasn't paying much attention the first time around.

Scorcese has made some great films (RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, and, yes, even his Oscar-winning THE DEPARTED), and some not-so-great films with compelling moments in them (THE AVIATOR, GANGS OF NEW YORK). But this one. I don't know what the hell was going through his mind with this one. it was as if Marty said, "Okay, that original? Good flick. Subtle. Sexually charged. Dynamite. Great. Let's just up the tempo a bit, see what happens."

What happens is loud and broad and ACTED within an inch of its life. Robert DeNiro, surely one of the great actors of our generation, got it into his head that he could play a trashy southerner with a trashy southern dialect. Sorry. There's too much Tribeca in him for that. Every drawled vowel sounded like it was italicized in a bad dialect manual. Nick Nolte, as DeNiro's target throughout the film, somehow managed to keep every strand of his slicked-down hair in place as he squinted and scrunched his eyebrows trying to determine how to get DeNiro off his back. (The first thing I would have done is report DeNiro's Max Cady to the fashion police. What was he wearing in this thing?) Jessica Lang seemed to try, frame-by-frame, to out-eyebrow Nolte, and when she couldn't, she yelled. And cried. And screamed. And yelled again.

Somebody thought it was a good idea to use an update of Bernard Hermann's original soundtrack. Not so sure it was that good an idea. In the early nineties, we had reached the stage where we didn't need all that music telling us how to feel. Worked in PSYCHO. The original, that is. Not so much here.

The only moments that worked were SOME moments with the very young Juliette Lewis, who withstood one of the smarmiest scenes in movie history, when DeNiro seduces her character in a school theater, and at least showed us that some thinking was going on in her head, unlike the heads of everybody else in the movie.

Scorcese hired Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck from the original, and gave them kinda juicy parts, probably to keep them off his back when they saw the remake.

And here's the thing--I'm not saying this movie is unwatchable. It is scary at times and certainly entertaining on a number of levels.

But Scorcese?

I don't think so.