Archive for January, 2010

44 Inch Chest—Movie

January 31, 2010

When a movie opens with the song Can’t Live Without You and then zooms in on a man sprawled out on the floor, dead…unconscious…we’re not sure… and  the room in which he lies is in complete disarray after what appears to have been a battle royal, you know something is up and that this isn’t just any old movie. Part drama, part comedy, 44 Inch Chest features the best male soliloquies since Shakespeare. Ok. I’m exaggerating slightly, but only slightly. Written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto (Sexy Beast) and directed by Malcolm Venville, the film centers around Colin, fabulously played by Ray Winstone (who seems to be in every other movie in the 2009-10 year) and his group of thuggish friends, angry Old Man Peanut (John Hurt), proudly gay Meredith (Ian McShane), mama’s boy Archie (Tom Wilkinson) and loser Mal (Stephen Dillane).  Dumped by his wife, Liz (Joanne Whalley), after 21 years of marriage, Colin reaches out to this ragtag bunch for assistance in taking revenge and saving face. 44 Inch Chest features very little action, but you don’t even realize it until the credits roll. That’s because the performance of every actor is sheer perfection. Each one is given his chance to shine and boy, do they ever.

3 nuggets out of 4

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Come Again?—Comedic Nugget

January 31, 2010

The local weather expert said “no worries” about the predicted snow storm for DC. The snow would be so light and fluffy that we’d just need a broom to clean off the sidewalks and driveways. He forgot one small detail…we would need an INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH BROOM. The snow was so bad they had to cut short the farewell DC/hello China party for Tai Shan. Poor thing will have a hard time adjusting to fresh bamboo after a steady diet of bamboozicles.

The Last Cargo Cult—Theatre

January 29, 2010

Imagine settling down in one’s seat in a darkened theatre and listening to the rants of a comedic Orson Welles. Such was my experience at Mike Daisey’s,The Last Cargo Cult, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Mike Daisey, creator and performer, is pure genius…bitingly funny, actor extraordinaire…without ever getting out of his chair…and did I say, bitingly funny? Oh, I did. But I can’t say it enough. (And he does bear a strong resemblance to Orson Welles in stature and performance.)

Daisey comes to the set, which is wonderfully decorated in all kinds shipping packages, dressed in black pants and shirt, shoes and socks. He seats his short, heavy-set body behind a desk which with notes in hand (to which he never refers) and a glass of water. He’s yet to speak and he’s already sweating. He puts his notes on the desk and takes out his black handkerchief to mop his face (it’s his only other prop) and the storytelling begins.

Last Cargo Cult is about the power of money…about its raw power…about its liquid power. Daisey starts with the idea that “culture is built around awesome shit” and it’s all downhill from there. So begins our strange tour, accompanying him from Maine to college…to NYC…to the Hamptons…to the South Pacific.

Daisey is mad, angry and concerned about the future. And if we weren’t before, we are, too, by the time we leave the theatre.

Because his show is unscripted, it’s never the same every night and it’s possible the mood and response of the audience can have some affect. Whatever the affect, The Last Cargo Cult will have you laughing and thinking at the same time and that’s the best thing about a night at the theatre.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Men, You’ve Come a Long Way—Comedic Nugget

January 29, 2010

We women like to think that when it comes to multi-tasking we lord it over the opposite sex. Yes, we do the carpools, take care of the kids, prepare meals, do the laundry, clean the house and often have full-time jobs outside the home. BUT given recent events, these tasks seem really mundane…chump change when compared to the kind of multi-tasking in which our male counterparts  are partaking. How do we stack up against the likes of Mark Sanford, Elliott Spitzer, John Edwards and Tiger Woods? What these men did was mind-boggling. And the juggling? It’s hard to fathom. Researching a new path to the Appalachian Trail via Argentina while governing AND finding time to meet one’s soul mate…Fighting crime, running a state AND booking one’s own escorts and rooms (add a few points for saving time finding local talent, instead relying upon tried and true resources from one’s own home town)…Finding the best hair stylists on the planet FOR YOURSELF while running for president, hiring and scheduling time for film makers, storytelling  on Nightline, making videos, running two households AND bonus points for not wasting time with condoms…And finally we come to the mother of, or should I say father of, all multi-taskers…Becoming one of the best athletes of all time, earning bajillions in endorsements, developing and living several identities without anyone noticing, having ready “partners” in every part of the U.S.  (living one’s own Big Love without the complexities of living together) AND adding precious minutes to the day by not erasing text messages or talking to police. We women are pikers!! Where is Oprah when we need her?Merely running a media empire. You can do more! Hillary…Mom, wife, lawyer, First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State…puhlease…how much effort does that really take? Come on ladies…get it together…there is work to be done!!

The People’s “John”—Restroom

January 22, 2010

You’re in the vicinity of the Watergate (New Hampshire and Virginia Avenues, NW) or in the lower portion of Foggy Bottom and have an “emergency.”  Fear not, a restroom is close at hand and a classy one at that. Try using the restrooms at the Kennedy Center. Recently I was in Foggy Bottom and had to use the ladies’ room. I didn’t know what to do. Then it hit me…I’m close to the Kennedy Center and isn’t this the “people’ s center” anyway? I walked right in like I belonged and headed to the restroom on the Terrace level. Once there I was lost. But a friendly KC employee asked if she could help me and then pointed me toward the restrooms. I walked through a large hall and then down a corridor and there they were. I opened the door and wow! Be still  my heart–a makeup area with seats and further inside a large area with sinks and stalls (about eight). Very clean, well-lit and very well stocked with paper towels. (Perhaps paper towels are not  environmentally friendly, but if I was attending a concert and reasonably well-attired, the last thing I’d want is water dripping on my clothes because the dryers weren’t powerful enough.)

The Kennedy Center has many restrooms from which to choose, so don’t’ worry. Take your pick and then be on your way.

Mind Your Own Business—Comedic Nugget

January 21, 2010

 

So, I’ve been trying to lose a few pounds. My friends and family give me the standard, “you look fine. You were too skinny before.” Yeah, right.  People close to you might not be able to tell you the truth, but sometimes truth comes from unexpected places…your food. The other morning I reached for a banana from the bunch sitting on top of my refrigerator and what did I find…a label on that one banana saying, “lose weight.”  Excuse me…Lose weight? Do you think I’d be eating bananas if I was trying to pack on the pounds? Why not put this label on the gallon of  Häagen-Dazs sitting in my freezer?  What’s next, a “stay sober” button on my bottle of Jack Daniels …a “read a book” bulletin from my TV? I just ask.

Invictus—Movie Review

January 18, 2010

Invictus is based on the book, Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela And The Game That Changed a Nation, by John Carlin. Directed by Clint Eastwood (screenplay by Anthony Peckham), Invictus was recommended to me as a must-see movie. So, based on that recommendation and Clint Eastwood’s track record as a filmmaker, I decided to see it. I was expecting some treacle, ” kumbayah” film, but I was very wrong and thankfully so. Invictus has a compelling story to tell, is well-acted, and the rugby games are absolutely great!

As recently elected President Mandela, Morgan Freeman literally embodies the role. Early in his first-term, against the advice of his closest advisors, Mandela decides to use the South African rugby team, the Springboks, and the 1995 Rugby World Cup as something around which the entire country can unite, regardless of race. He enlists the assistance of team captain,  François Pienaar (well-played by Matt Damon), who helps motivate his underdog South African team.

I admit that I know nothing about rugby, so I don’t know how well-cast the actors are, but the games are extremely entertaining and have a new fan in me. Far more exciting than soccer, it’s more like American football but without the padding, helmets or even long pants.

Invictus is not ground-breaking filmmaking, but its actors tell the little-know story well.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus —Movie Review

January 18, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is weird, colorful and truly imaginative. Written by Charles McKeown and Terry Gilliam and directed by Gilliam, Imaginarium is not for everyone, but if you have an open mind for the odd, you’ll enjoy it.

Imaginarium is the story of traveling carnival–like psychic, Dr. Parnassus, played beautifully by Christopher Plummer and his relationships with daughter Valentina (Lily Cole), confidante Percy (Verne Troyer) and magician Anton (Andrew Garfield). Parnassus plays mind/mirror games with people which enables them to actually visit their imagination. Now Dr. Parnassus faces a problem. Centuries ago (yes, he’s that old) he made a deal with the Devil in the form of Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) involving his daughter and the Devil has come to collect. While traveling from one town to another and trying to figure out how to outwit the Devil, his company saves the life of hanging -by -his -neck, Tony (Heath Ledger). What follows is complicated to explain but fascinating to follow.

During the making of the movie, Heath Ledger died. Rather than recast and reshoot the entire film or scratch the film entirely, Gilliam decided to cast other actors in the role of Tony, each one having their own go with someone’s imagination. Somehow this works and it works seamlessly as played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. All actors are very strong, but Depp is the first new Tony we meet and at first one doesn’t even realize the change has been made, he’s that terrific. He’s not trying to be Heath Ledger, but he’s so good, it’s hard to remember that Ledger was in the film to begin with.

If you have a taste for something very unique and a desire to see special effects put to fascinating use, you’ll want to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Book of El—Movie

January 18, 2010

An other day, another post-apocalyptic movie. Now it’s Denzel Washington’s turn. The Book of Eli, written by Gary Whitta and directed by brothers Allen and Albert Hughes, stars Denzel Washington as Eli, a survivor of a war which has destroyed most of planet Earth, making his way…guess where…west, yet again. In his travels Eli outwits, out maneuvers and destroys most of the bad folk he meets along the way….until he crosses paths with Carnegie, played waaaaay over the top by Gary Oldman. (Oldman is so over the top I thought at one point he was going to scream to his henchmen the Al Pacino line, “I want Dick Tracy dead!”). Carnegie and his thugs run a very small town with an iron fist. Directly under his thumb and doing his bidding are Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis, playing an interesting blind mother and daughter duo. It’s when Eli “escapes” the town that the movie finally shifts into high gear and is supremely entertaining and worth your time. Denzel Washington, slumming a bit, does make a convincing thinking man’s action hero. And the Twilight Zone turn would make Rod Serling proud and is what you’ll remember when you leave the theater.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Filene’s Basement—Shush!—Restroom

January 17, 2010

The Connecticut Avenue Filene’s is about a block or two from K Street NW and is a great place for a restroom when you need a quick makeup fix or whatever before an interview in that part of town. But the restrooms are a well-guarded secret. You go to the elevator on the main floor which is located in the back toward the left, near the men’s wear. The elevator arrives and when you  step inside, you realize you are in the largest elevator in all DC. Get out on the second floor, bear right and follow the signs. When you open the door to the restroom, you’ll find a huge area to fix your hair and makeup. Further inside are the actual stalls and sinks. The area is clean and well-stocked and the stall doors lock. But remember…shush…it’s a secret.

1133 Connecticut Avenue Northwest

 


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