Friday, May 20, 2011

Woody Allen makes Paris look as Magical as his Manhattan
by Janet Lawler

Nobody makes movies like Woody Allen.

From the moment the credits roll, we know we're in for something quite different, something made on a shoe-string budget but with mega talent.

Allen's latest film is Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams -- both are terrific as the mismatched young couple about to have their lives transformed while in Paris.

Owen Wilson, as Gil, does a great job as a Hollywood "hack writer" who longs to live the literary life and finish his first novel. He's a true romantic. While visiting Paris with McAdams (his unromantic fiancee) and her well-to-do parents, Wilson wanders the streets of The City of Lights alone... only to be whisked away and magically taken back in time.

I won't give away the delightful moments of this movie -- but let's just say Wilson gets to pal around with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (and booze-guzzling Zelda) and have his novel critiqued by Gertrude Stein.

The dialogue is witty (naturally, written by Woody Allen). The cinematography stunning and the music a joy, drifting us back to the days of Cole Porter and the 1920s.

The movie asks the questions -- why do we so often long for the past? Is nostalgia just a cop out from the present? What are we running from and doesn't every new generation think the previous one was the "Golden Age" of something?

The cast of Midnight in Paris is top shelf -- from Kathy Bates, to Michael Sheen, to Marion Cotillard, to Carla Bruni and Adrien Brody playing Salvador Dali.

I loved every frame of Midnight in Paris. If you're a writer, know one, or aspire to follow your literary heart, you'll appreciate this sweet tale.

The movie comes out May 20th by Sony Pictures Classics. Fresh from the Cannes Film Festival.

If you enjoy this blog and like reading on your Kindle, The NY Screenwriting Life is now available through Amazon for only .99 cents a month.

Until next time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Broadway and the Fight Against AIDS Continues...
by Janet Lawler

Larry Kramer's revival play on Broadway
Don't miss The Normal Heart now playing on Broadway. 

What an incredibly powerful play!  It's about the AIDS epidemic that struck the New York gay community in the 1980s... and how medical officials, a NYC mayor, a United States president, the medical community and even some in the gay community itself turned its back on the disease and on those dying from it.  

Back then, there were a few brave individuals who raised their voices over the hot button political issue, the homophobia, the bigotry and demanded attention and research be paid to fight AIDS.  Those individuals saved lives.

There is still no cure for AIDS.  It remains a global plague (although never officially labeled one).

Actress Ellen Barkin plays one of these courageous souls -- a NYC doctor -- who screamed from the top of her lungs to fight AIDS while her young, male patients died in droves at her hospital.  Barkin has one major scene toward the end of Act II, where she confronts a government medical panel dragging its feet on giving her funding to fight the disease.  Barkin delivers some of the best lines of the play and leaves the audience stunned and cheering when the scene ends. 

Gosh, I hope Ellen Barkin wins the Tony Award in June.  She's phenomenal.  Go see the play if you're in New York.

35 million people have died from AIDS worldwide.  35 million people.

This weekend in Central Park (May 15th) is the Annual AIDS Walk.  I'll be taking part with a group of my friends.   Sign up online, put on your sneakers and join in.  The fight is not over.

After seeing The Normal Heart last Friday night, some of the actors came outside to take pictures and sign autographs.  They were all gracious and enjoyed mingling with theatergoers.

Photos by Carolina Correa.
Actor Jim Parsons
Actor Joe Mantello
Ellen Barkin
John Benjamin Hickey

Right next door another play That Championship Season was just letting out.  That cast includes Christopher Noth, Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric (his late father, Jason Miller, wrote the play) and others.  The crowd of theatergoers along W. 45th Street went ballistic -- screaming and running to see the actors at the stage door.  Noth and Patric laughed and worked the lines smiling, taking photos with fans and signing Playbills.
Chris Noth greets fans at stage door
Chris Noth & Jason Patric sign autographs

Fun night on Broadway!  Go see this play soon -- it ends May 29th!

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The 2011 Tony Award Nominations

by Janet Lawler

Attention theater geeks and theater lovers! The nominations for the 2011 Tony Awards are out. I'm sure some of your favorite actors and actresses made the list -- Edie Falco, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Al Pacino, Vanessa Redgrave and more.

For some folks, the Tony Awards is the closest they'll come to seeing a Broadway show. Before I moved to New York, I would see maybe one or two shows a year (if I was lucky)-- it was always a special day coming into the city on a Wednesday for a matinee show.

I love seeing plays, but usually everyone else I know wants to see a musical. They say "It's Times Square... it's Broadway... we want singing, dancing, costumes and jazz-hands." Fine, I've seen plenty of big Broadway musicals, but I still like to sit in cramped theater and listen to a well-written, acted play with snappy dialogue... with riveting characters, few costumes, minimal sets... and, unless it's Cabaret or Chicago, please, no jazz hands.

In 1988, I remember convincing my mother to come with me to see Madonna on Broadway. It was Madonna's debut. Madge was starring in David Mamet's play "Speed the Plow". It was a big deal at the time. My mother didn't particularly care for Madonna (the whole Catholic thing) -- and she really didn't care for Mamet (the whole profanity thing on stage) -- but she sat through the play, for me.

However, the next time we came to Broadway we saw Miss Saigon. No more plays, she insisted. "They're long and boring." My mother loved BIG musicals (Tommy Tune and more). She felt she got her money's worth seeing a musical (who could argue -- they landed a helicopter on stage in Miss Saigon.)

Don't forget Mother's Day is this weekend (May 8th). Take your Mom to see a show -- but do yourself a favor and let her choose which one. I bet she picks a musical.

Now more about the Tonys, I'm particularly excited by the list for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play this year.

Ellen BarkinThe Normal Heart

Edie FalcoThe House of Blue Leaves

Judith LightLombardi

Joanna LumleyLa BĂȘte

Elizabeth RodriguezThe Motherf**ker with the Hat

The NY Times review of Ellen Barkin's performance in The Normal Heart said she makes a "slam-dunk Broadway debut".
Ellen Barkin has long been one of my faves. I loved her in the movie Sea of Love (1989) starring Al Pacino. Barkin stole scenes from Pacino in that cop thriller -- no easy task. She also starred in The Big Easy. Barkin is multi-talented, smart and a former Bronx girl. What's not to love?

Al Pacino
(a former Bronx boy) is also nominated for a Tony for the The Merchant of Venice.

I'm seeing The Normal Heart this weekend. It's a powerful play written by Larry Kramer, the AIDS activist and playwright. It tells the history of the AIDS pandemic and how it touched everyone's lives in the '80s from nurses to doctors to politicians to the gay community. AIDS is still claiming lives around the world. This play remains relevant.

The Normal Heart promises to be what theater, for me, is truly all about -- conflict, emotion, and the human spirit presented on stage. Here is the play's website

So come visit NYC -- see a musical or drama, or whatever theater your heart desires (Blue Man Group, anyone?). Or just watch The Tonys and sample a little of everything from Column A and Column B. Jazz hands and all.

The Tonys air on CBS, Sunday, June 12th. Here is the official link for the 2011 Tony Award Nominees

Happy Mother's Day.