Posts Tagged ‘Alec Baldwin’

Elaine Stritch—Shoot Me: A True Treasure—Documentary

March 17, 2014

Elaine Stritch—what an utterly fascinating, talented force of nature she is. Frankly, I want to be her when I finally grow up. If you love the performing arts and its artists, then the documentary, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” is a must see for an inside, no-holds barred, vanity-free look at this hard-working performer.ela-poster-v2

Director Chiemi Karasawa appears to have been given unfettered access to Stritch, whether it is in rehearsal for “30 Rock,” preparation for one of her one-woman shows, or even a stint in the hospital. It’s a decidedly unglamorous view, but one in which you come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the woman and what it means to be a “Broadway Baby.”

The documentary opens with one of Stritch’s regular walks on the Manhattan streets and the first of her many quips, “I wish I could f**king drive. Then I’d really be a menace.” Thankfully she doesn’t drive, because not being able to watch her navigate the NYC landscape with her hulk-like stride, dressed in her fur coat, hat, black stockings and shirt, would deprive New Yorkers of quite the sight. How she has managed not to get hit by a car is a mystery and blessing in and of itself, but somehow she hasn’t. It’s wonderful to watch NYC natives and tourists stop her to say “hello” and just chat in general, and you can see that she derives a great deal of pleasure from it as well.

As the documentary notes, Stritch has many film and television credits to her name and certainly has guest-starred in many television shows, even winning Emmys along the way, but she is best known for her work on Broadway…as either part of an ensemble or for her one-woman shows.  “Shoot Me” takes us behind the scenes as she prepares what is probably her last show, “Elaine Stritch: Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time.” Stritch is no Bernadette Peters, but in her own way she is the perfect person to sing his music.  When she sings…belts is more like it… she tells a story and makes the song her own. Poignant and funny, her rendition of “I Feel Pretty” gives new meaning to the song. The only problem…her memory is failing and she’s not always able to remember the lyrics. Watching her work with her longtime musical director, Rob Bowman, melts your heart…he is so patient with her. And when she forgets the words in concert, it matters not. She’s such a performer that she makes it work.

Alec Baldwin, who played her son on “30 Rock,” is one of the film’s producers, and in interviews, their love for one another is evident. When he’s late to rehearsal she starts calling him Joan Crawford. It’s probably only something Stritch could get away with. Among many, there are other conversations with John Turturro, Nathan Lane,  Cherry Jones, Tina Fey and most poignantly, James Gandolfini, to whom the film is dedicated. All simply admire and adore her.

Stritch is a recovering alcoholic. She makes no excuses, saying she just enjoys drinking. Now she has one drink a day and says that if she was on a desert island and could have just one item, it would be a stocked bar. She’s also diabetic and is constantly monitoring herself. The most dramatic part of the documentary is when we see her experience a hypoglycemic attack and watch her being taken to the hospital.

Residing for years in NYC’s Carlyle Hotel, Stritch was 86 when filming the documentary began. At that time she was contemplating a move back to her Detroit hometown where her family resides, and taking life a little easier.  After completion of the film, as her eyesight worsened and her memory continued to fail, she did make the transition.

But somehow it seems wrong to say she’s done with NYC and all that it’s meant to her. As the documentary and Stritch point out, she’s faced debilitating diabetes, alcoholism and dare one say it, old age, and “she’s still here.” Praise the Lord.

4 nuggets out of 4

Blue Jasmine: A Beautiful Flower in a Summer Full of Weeds—Movie

August 2, 2013

“Have you ever gotten high on nitrous oxide?”That may be one of the worse pickup lines in the history of pickup lines, but it’s just one of the gems from Woody Allen’s latest, “Blue Jasmine.”

I don’t know how it’s possible, but Woody Allen just gets better with age. “Blue Jasmine” is unlike anything he’s done before and it’s just plain wonderful. The film is like watching a master-class in acting, writing and directing—all in one sitting. Even the selection of the music is spot-on.bluejasmine-poster

“Blue Jasmine” is the bittersweet story of upscale, sophisticated Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who moves from New York City to San Francisco to live with her lower middle-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her two young sons.

Allen tells Jasmine’s back-story in bits and pieces. We learn that she was happily married…or so she thought…to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), living the good life of dinner parties, high society and excess. When that world crashes down around her, she has a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she makes her way to San Francisco to reinvent herself.

While Jasmine’s head is up in the clouds, Ginger is more practical. Jasmine is not content with who or what she is. Ginger, on the other hand, comes to realize that “good enough” can actually be great.

Allen has given actresses some of their most memorable roles, and with Jasmine he has done so again. Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Her Jasmine is at times so delicate, that you really worry for her survival. Her character has a number of facets—self-confidence, eccentricity, fragility, creativity and even mental toughness. Blanchett plays them all to perfection.

Sally Hawkins, not as well-known to American audiences as Blanchett, matches her step for step in a less showy role. She’s completely believable as the hard-luck sister, looking for her prince. Her scenes with Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili) and Louis C.K (Al)…husband, fiancé and suitor respectively…are brilliant. Each relationship is slightly different and extremely genuine. The actors are also very good, particularly Cannavale. His role is not especially likable, but his fine acting wins you over in the end.

Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) has a small, but important part as Jasmine’s new-found love interest. We’re not sure if he’s too good to be true, and in a weird way, his relationship with Jasmine ends up mirroring that of Ginger and Al.

Alec Baldwin is impeccably cast as Jasmine’s husband, Hal. It would have been easy to make his character just one color, but Allen and Baldwin give him layers. We find out about his true nature early on in the film, but surprises are still in store.

The film’s conclusion is a bit jarring, but like everything else about “Blue Jasmine,” is utterly perfect. To be true to the character and the film, it couldn’t end any other way.

Woody Allen will always be identified with New York, but his most recent films have been done overseas and in this case, California. This shift seems to have given him a new lease on life and movies. It seemed that “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“and “Midnight in Paris” would be hard to beat, but with “Blue Jasmine” Allen has done something completely different and topped them both.

4 nuggets out of 4

It’s Complicated—Movie

January 6, 2010

It’s Complicated, written and directed by Nancy Meyers, stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and the most fabulous kitchen in the history of moviedom. Bottom line—this movie is very good, very funny and has much more depth to it than I expected. Streep plays bakery owner extraordinaire Jane Adler, amicably divorced for about 10 years from lawyer Jake (Alec Baldwin). Steve Martin (Adam) is the architect designing Jane’s new kitchen. The film is basically the story of a woman in her mid-to-late fifties (Streep) who suddenly finds herself pursued by and attracted to two very different men…her ex-husband with whom she had three children and who left her for a much younger woman and is still married to her, albeit not happily… and her soft spoken architect. The leads are great and have terrific chemistry, particularly that of Streep and Baldwin. Pig that his character might be, Baldwin plays him with such relish, fearlessness and good-will that you can’t help but root for him despite his flaws.

The past year had many attempts at romantic comedies and only two of them worked…500 Days of Summer and now It’s Complicated.

3 1/2 nuggets out of 4


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