Friday, November 21, 2014
At the time I was dating Claude Picasso, Pablo’s son, who had moved into my apartment on our first date. He was going through a divorce and so was I. One day he announced he was going to Paris to do an article on Chagall, and would be staying with his wealthy Grandmother Gilot in Neuilly. “Cherie, I won’t be long. Hold the fort,” he said as he tapped me on the bum.
I was miffed. He did not invite me, and I was not running a hotel. A top model at the time, recently photographed for the covers of Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, I was enjoying life in the fast lane. At a party, I met Buck Henry, who introduced me to Mike Nichols. Claude’s stay in Paris seemed like an eternity, and I had no word from him; meanwhile Mike had invited me to lunch at the Russian Tea Room and to several dinners. Over dinner one night, Mike said, “Would you like to come with me to a party Jackie Onassis is giving for Ari at El Morocco?”
“Of course,” I said. Mike picked me up in his limousine and off we went. I wore a floor-length black gown from Norma Kamali with a Mongolian lamb coat draped over my shoulders. Press lined the entrance and Life magazine snapped our photo. As a cover girl, I was used to being photographed, but not by paparazzi. “They’ll all be here,” Mike said in his slightly edgy tone.
I was nervous. Mike had a calm about him and a presence that reassured me and reassured all who came into his life. He was always most cordial to the waiters, the maître d’, the cab drivers, etc. They all treated him with utmost respect. His wit was his greatest gift, along with his astute observation of life and sense of irony illustrated by his films. My favorite was Charlie Wilson’s War, written by Aaron Sorkin, a 2007 drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan. Mike chose material that was important. Had value. Had a message. Even if sometimes that message was only to laugh, which he accomplished with The Graduate.
When I was with him at dinner, he made me feel special, beautiful, and intelligent, not like an object. Given my line of work, many people looked at me and through me, but did not listen to me. Mike Nichols listened to me and made me feel he cared and that I, indeed, had something to say. Mike was the essence of respect. And he was great fun.
When we met Jackie O in the long receiving line, she curtsied and reminded me of a giant swan. When she shook my hand, she looked into my eyes with a laser-beam-like focus that made me feel she cared, though we had never met, and that I was the only one in the room. It was apparent that she was a woman who knew what she wanted and could confront with a calm and a poise that stopped traffic. You did not mess with Jackie O. Or Mike Nichols for that matter. But why would one want to?
After the dinner, Mike invited me to his apartment in the Beresford, where we met Jack Nicholson for a drink. Laughs were shared and a good time was had by all. When I returned to my apartment at 333 East 69th Street, I was happy Claude had stayed in Paris so long, but when he returned, I was also happy to be with him and we became engaged in 1973. He never left me alone in New York again. So much for how to train a Picasso.
Gallery: Mike Nichols’s Life in Photos
Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth as Gale does not ignite the screen. His kiss with Katniss is less than passionate as is his performance. The dynamic actors have too small parts and the weight of the film rests on Ms. Lawrence and at times it seems to fall off of her shoulders. Donald Sutherland is such a powerful, mesmerizing and sinister character as President Snow, but, alas, his presence is all too brief.
The costumes and sets are inventive, but, again, bleak and lacking in any color. And while, granted, this is not a remake of The Sound of Music, I longed for relief from the extended suffering. We get that this is a grim situation, but we do not get that we have to sit through a muddied palette of beige, brown, and grey for the entire film. When the Capitol was shown on the screen and broadcast to the throngs, this was the moment and the time to show the contrast of the colorful, repugnant in its opulence Capitol to the severe, poverty-stricken Panem. But this did not happen. Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) has a few brief appearances, but he does not have the terrifying impact of previous Hunger Games films. Perhaps I am just getting used to the 'No Exit' Camus-like endings in this series.
We have Katniss's sister's cat for some comic relief, but not much else. And when Katniss is warned that she may die if she tries to be the Mockingjay, the symbol of rebellion intent on saving Peeta from the Capitol, she is asked how she would feel about this harsh reality. With her courageous sense of irony, she replies, "Well, get it on film." How long can this fight against the evil Capitol continue? Katniss Everdeen's nerves are shot and so are mine. Enough already!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
This film is about revenge. And after John Wick, who is a retired hit man, witnesses his dog killed by some sod, you just want him to get all of those cruel, sadistic S.O. B.s. His wife is murdered in the opening and she has sent him a dog to remember her by. Well, who knows who sends the dog, but a note from her accompanies the dog even though she is dead.
Now if you think written apologies are the solution for vengeance, this is not your film. John Wick is a wild west, let's put guns, knives, bullet proof vests on our bodies and get the creeps who 'done us wrong' John Wick's motto. He has tried the world in which violence is swept under the anger and does not agree with forgiveness. No. He is going to get 'em. At all costs. And a new dog, too.
And you will root for John Wick who has been trying to lead a clean, normal life after apparently being a premiere world renowned hit man. This is an action, adventure film with a limited plot, but creative visual effects that make the action vivid and visceral.
Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the rest of the cast stars Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen and Willem Dafoe who is always menacing, but not always in such a small part. John Wick needed more Dafoe. Derek Kolstad wrote the thinnest story line ever, but hip dialogue. Adrianne Palicki plays hitwoman Ms. Perkins with real gusto and John Leugiziamo and Ian Shane again are in too brief roles as their acting is top notch. Clearly this is a Keanu Reeves vehicle and no other star is going to get in his way. Or else! Basta. End of him, them and the film. If blood, guns, violence is not for you, It is no surprise that John Wick will be a playable character for the game Payday 2, complete with his own perk tree, notably giving the ability to dual wield gun. This film is pure merchandising. So buy the game and skip the film, if knitting is more to your liking. Or a good book.
It is the end of the war and the Allies are making a final push into the European Theatre, the blood and guts of Germany resplendent with Nazi's hidden in an otherwise idyllic countryside. Director /writer David Ayer chose Hertfordshire, England as his set. While the film's crew was rehearsing scenes, Brad Pitt was spotted by neighbors in the preparations driving a tank in the English countryside.
A team of five soldiers command the Fury, a Sherman Tank like no other . The film featured Tiger 131, the last surviving operational Tiger I. The tank belongs to Bovington Tank Museum. This is the first time a real Tiger tank -- and not a prop version -- has been used in a film.
Various battles scenes show these soldiers grow in their relationships to each other. A touching scene takes place an hour into the film when we are presented with our first and only women. Two German frauleins, Alicia Von Rottberg and Anmaria Marinca, are captured by Wardaddy and Norman. They end up friends, voluntary lovers and dining companions when in barge three soldiers who mock the beauties who only speak German. Wardaddy almost creates WWIII to instill in these soldiers dinner etiquette and respect for women. A good scene which shows how diverse the characters are and yet how close they become when in battle.
This scene is the touching meat and potatoes of Fury. Men overcome their chauvinism, their angers, and their diversity to defend our nation against a common, hideous enemy. Norman cried when Wardaddy held a gun in his hand as he forced Norman to learn to kill a Nazi. The audience applauded when Norman finally and enthusiastically killed Nazis. Give Fury a chance and while it is not a fun fest, it is a triumph of ensemble acting and how America's brave soldiers and their heroic choices beat the sadistic Nazis. Who likes to watch war? Director David Ayer helps you to care and to understand our soldiers who fought for our freedom and this is why Fury is an important film
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Suicide? How could he pull the trigger twice after he had shot himself once in the brain? Did he expose too powerful forces to go on living? He exposed corruption so decisively that the sources he exposed blocked his ever being able to write again. Webb needed to write to live. Writing was in his blood. Writing the truth, not what some editor wants him to write. Not what the public wants to read, but what he deemed important revelation. Silencing him murdered his spirit.
Kill the Messenger shows the behind the scenes working of newspapers and how they inspire, but can also destroy writers. The San Jose Mercury News destroyed Webb after the jealous bigger papers--the LA Times and Washington Post--became Webb's enemies because he exposed a scandal they should have uncovered . They set out to destroy his article. His writings. His character. His credibility. His discovery of the truth that drug smuggling was funding the Contra War and the CIA was aware of this but looked the other way. His discovery that the CIA created cheap crack cocaine to sell on the streets in the ghettos of Los Angeles. His discovery that the CIA created a drug infested epidemic which destroyed African Americans squatting in ghettos. Though Webb had been awarded the Pulitzer, because of pressure put on his own paper, The San Jose Mercury, and by the media as to Webb's credibility, The San Jose Mercury began to investigate the veracity of his series of articles titled Dark Alliance (1996). When he is told this, he quits, never to earn a living as a writer again. The Chicago Tribune and The L.A. Times eventually vindicate him, but the vicious smear to his character had been done.
According to Wikipedia which published, Gary Webb's following statement, "I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress ..."
Mike Cuesta's direction of this no frills thriller has your heart aching as you root for Gary Webb and for the poor being manipulated in ghettos by being made dependent on crack cocaine. This film's screenplay is written by Peter Landesman while it is based on Gary Webb's book Dark Alliance and Nick Schou's book Kill The Messenger. Nick Shou was a reporter for the LA Weekly reporter.
The cast is made up of stars in small, meaningful parts. These stars, one would suspect, accepted these roles because of the importance of this film. Andy Garcia, Rosemary De Witt as Gary Webb's wife, Martin Sheen, Ray Liotta, Oliver Platt, Barry Pepper, are a few of the familiar faces who appear throughout Kill the Messenger. And Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb shines over all in a tour de force performance.
Here you have history at the movies which is a joy amidst the mindless onslaught of animated films. Grab Kill the Messinger for a Golden Oldie style of storytelling...that is one with meaning and purpose.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
In this bestselling mystery written by Lawrence Block , Neeson plays a retired NYPD detective Scudder haunted by demons who has been manipulated in solving the kidnapping of drug king pin Kenny Kristo's (Dan Stevens) wife. This heroin dealer is played by Dan Stevens straight from Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley. With his weight loss and hair dyed blonde to brunette, he is barely recognizable. But his fine acting in A Walk Among the Tombstones is.
In a library, Scudder meets a young punk, TJ (Brian Astro Bradley) who tears up the screen every time he appears. Bradley is helped by having some of the best dialogue. While this film's dialogue is not the problem, the script by Scott Frank, who wrote the sceenplay and directed this turkey, is. A good pace in the form of a cat and mouse caper is created and moves swiftly, mysteriously through the film.
But in the end as Frank felt a need to accent the character change in Scudder who is a recovering alcoholic, a voice over recites the Twelve Steps of AA Recovery. This distracting, silly voice over ruins the plot like a sledgehammer. This voice over was not needed.
It just blocked the natural flow of this film and its forward movement. We have scenes of Scudder in an AA meeting sharing his story and scenes at an AA meeting with Howie (Eric Nelson), a fellow addict, who introduces Scudder to drug dealer Kristo. These are effective and establish character, but enough already with the AA preaching the Twelve Steps and trying to use as part of the plot. Shame on Scott Frank for ruining a good film.
Also A Walk Among the Tombstones would certainly have been a better film if there were meaningful roles for women. Oh, we have photos of the dead wife Leila Alvarez (Laura Birn) as she is murdered used in the credits and another victim who is kidnapped Marielle Heller. Then again a nurse, Natia Dune, but creating women's roles intrinsic to a plot are an anathema to Lawrence Block and Scott Frank.
Oh where o' where are the women's roles in Hollywood and women directors who would welcome them? The kidnappers are played by David Harbor, who is always convincing, and Adam David. Their gruesome way of killing their victims is by cutting up the bodies and stuffing them in plastic bags. The ending is predictable, but all could have been forgiven if Scott Frank gotten off of his AA pulpit and gotten in front of the lens and looked more closely at what he had created and let it have its own life on the screen.
Much drama is attached to Amy Dunne's disappearance, and in the end this film is like a soufflé gone bad. The plot is made of sharp, manipulative turns. Assumptions are made, then you discover you were wrong as you witness a savage indictment of marriage.
Shades of Presumed Innocent hover over this best seller as does a portrait of mental illness.
Neil Patrick Harris is miscast as a love interest. He is supposed to be in love or in lust with Amy Dunne, but instead of sparks flying in the bedroom, they fizzle on the wall to wall. Rosamund Pike is the girl who has gone or is gone. Her face is perfection. It has a frozen, almost chiseled, look much like sculptured faces with too much surgery, but she has had none. Her looks possess a coldness that is essential for Amy Dunne. Ms. Pike ironically or not so ironically was cast while doing a film in Scotland over Skype. She communicated with director Fincher over cell. Problem was the only cell tower in her area of Scotland was on the top of a hill. Her casting was dependent on cold weather and rare, impersonal technology which director Fincher used to his advantage to cast a cold heartless Amy Dunne.
But it is Tyler Perry who plays lawyer, Tanner Bolt, hired by Nick Dunne who holds this film together. Mr. Perry has a smooth wit and sense of truth that make his scenes flow with humor.
I was disappointed with the conclusion of Gone Girl which makes it appear that writer, Gillian Flynn, ran out of ideas. I ran out of the theater in disbelief of the praise heaped on this humdinger of hot air.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
On 9/11 after the towers fell, I was driving to a meeting to be with my sober family when my cell phone rang. "Carole, sorry to hear about Berry," my friend Heather Mac Rae said. "She was on the American Airlines Flight II when it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center."
"What? Where are you?"
"Get out of there. Gotta go," I said as I hung up. I can still remember where I was -- the intersection of Township and Suede Road in Norristown, Pa. It was as though Berry was buried here. At this red light.
I remembered the love Berry gave to me, to everyone. She nursed her husband, Tony Perkins, who lost his battle to AIDS on September 12, 1992. She raised their two sons Osgood and Elvis. She didn't care about public opinion. She was brave. I wondered if she were in the front of the plane or the back. I hoped the back. From my stewardess days with Pan Am I could visualize the interior of a jet. If she were in the tail, she probably would not have been tortured. I suspected the first class passengers were brutalized in front of everyone to use terror to keep control.
I want to remember the good times. When I met Berry. We were acting students with Wynn Handman the director of the American Place Theatre in New York. It was the late sixties. I was a model and Berry was a talented photographer and married to Tony Perkins. Wynn assigned me to study Streetcar Named Desire. I was to play Blanche and Berry was Stella. Wynn wanted us to work together. When we changed outfits in the dressing room, I said to Berry, "I've never touched a pregnant woman's belly. Could I touch yours?" She giggled her infectious laugh. "Of course," and there I was feeling a future infant. A moment one does not forget. Her tummy was so hard.
Then Berry and I went on stage as Tony Perkins and our class watched us do our scene. Tony was directing as Wynn was away. Some of the class members were: Richard Gere (An Officer and a Gentleman), Brad Davis (Midnight Express), Philippe Anglem (Elephant Man), Heather Mac Rae (Hair), Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon), Penny Milford (Coming Home), Robert Moresco (Oscar winner for Crash which he co-wrote), and Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away). After class sometimes Berry and I would have a bite.
In 1974, I filmed Stepford Wives and then moved to Paris as I had become the fiancée of Claude Picasso, Pablo's son. Irritated that I had portrayed a Stepford Wife, in 1975, Claude jilted me. When I returned to New York three-quarters of a basket case, Berry and Tony would invite me to their townhouse in the village to play card games. Tony loved games. They became a kind of family and always made me laugh. They didn't drink so I would bring my own wine in a brown paper bag. I just had to have wine with every meal. After all, I was chic. (I became sober in 1980.)
Berry's sister was model/actress Marisa Berenson while shocking pink designer Elsa Schiaparelli was their grandmother. Regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dali and Giacometti. Her clients included Mae West.
Berry's mother was a Countess named Gogo, married to a shipping executive, but despite Berry's heritage, she was down to earth and did not choose her friends depending on their status. While she knew the rich and famous, her idea of a good time was sitting on their terrace of their village townhouse watching the sun go down while playing with her tots, Osgood and Elvis. Today Oz Perkins is an actor and Elvis Perkins, a musician.
One day Berry said to me, "You know when we were kids and Marisa and I would play, she was Queen and I was in her Court." Then Berry laughed her infectious laugh. I would have been in Berry's Court any day. Marisa had it, "Half ass backwards," as my Pa. Deustch mother would have said.
In 1988, when S&S published my novel Flash about a female flasher, Berry invited me to lunch. "I loved Flash and the way you laugh about sex. It's so healthy. Can you recommend any books for my boys to read?" I was flattered and recommended Updike, Anais Nin, Nabokov, Terry Southern. Shortly after this lunch Berry and Tony gave me a dinner party for Flash and invited his agent Sue Mengers.
When Tony was diagnosed with AIDS, in 1992, Berry gave him a party in New York knowing he did not have long. Photos were taken and autograph books were signed and everyone laughed and appeared to be happy yet resigned to his impending death. Little did everyone know nine years later Berry would abruptly join him.