September 30, 2011

Little Fish

I've seen Little Fish before but just lately popped the dvd back in the player and just again realized why I'm fascinated with this movie. Most films dealing with addiction talk much about hitting rock bottom or the rocky road of rehab but there's not much about the recovery process or how you pick yourself up after and rebuild your life. Little Fish is a little known Australian Indie film that precisely deals with this. It's very real and gripping but at the same time, somehow shows some hope.

Set in Cabramatta, a suburb of Sydney which has the largest Vietnamese community in Australia, it follows Tracy Heart (Cate Blanchett), a former heroin junkie who almost lost her life. When the film opens, we learn that she's 4 years into her recovery and is trying to desperately re-establish her life. At 32, she's moved back in with her mother, Janelle (Noni Hazlehurst). She manages a video store and takes the edge off with her daily swim in a community pool. Tracy is trying to secure a bank loan so she can go into partnership with her boss who owns the video shop. She soon finds out that she can never really escape her past when her loans are constantly denied due to her past record. Furthermore, the three men in her life just seem to keep tugging her back into her former world. Her brother Ray (Martin Henderson), a small time heroin dealer, arranges exchanges to be dropped at the video store. The only father figure in her life, ex-rugby star Lionel Dawson (Hugo Weaving) is himself a heroin addict and is actually the one who turned her into a user. Her ex-boyfriend Jonny (Dustin Nguyen, yes of 21 Jump Street!), once a junkie himself, suddenly comes back from a family imposed exile in Vancouver. With his return, Tracy is unnerved and begins to feel that the controls she has set in her life the past 4 years are slowly coming apart.

It's not an easy movie to sit through but it is riveting and a well scripted story of someone who is trying to live a clean life but now has to live up to the consequences of her past choices. It's a very astute observation of the human condition by scriptwriter Jacqueline Perske and executed skillfully with great realism by Rowan Woods. Aside from the recovery theme of the film, Ms. Perske also managed to discuss themes of immigrant (Vietnamese) life in Australia, a mother's love for her adult children who still depend on her and the temptation of the last score all very effectively in one movie. Furthermore, the details of the relationships and the back story between Tracy, Lionel, Janelle, Ray and Jonny are relayed in bits and pieces meticulously like a puzzle that you never know exactly where the movie was taking you (I loved that!).

This, I think, is Cate Blanchett's best movie (acting wise). It is so diverse from her more grandiose roles in The Aviator and Elizabeth but she is very compelling as a woman constantly trying to claw her way from slipping back. A master of accents, she has very thick and less refined Aussie accent here. Her physicality as Tracy is incredible that even her walk suggests some sadness. It is a very raw and visibly broken performance that as you watch it, you become so fearful for her. But it's not only her that's great in this movie for this is such an ensemble film. Hugo Weaving is devastating as a man who just can't get it together. Lionel and Tracy's bond as step-father and step-daughter is so strong that it's endearing and at the same time heartbreaking. Noni Hazlehurst is moving as a mom who's desperately trying to keep her daughter from slipping. Martin Henderson and Dustin Nguyen were also both effective. Sam Neil plays Lionel's supplier, Brad.

Oh, you may wonder about the title, well, it refers to those plastic fish containers that usually contain soy sauce but in this film it's used for drugs. It's a shame this movie didn't get a huge buzz here in the US although it did get great reviews from critics (see here). Little Fish however, won 5 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Actor (Hugo Weaving), Best Supporting Actress (Noni Hazlehurst) plus Best Sound and Editing. I just have to add this because it's amusing, but below is Cate Blanchett's acceptance speech from the Inside Film Awards for Little Fish. She gets a little help from George Clooney:

September 29, 2011

Cue The Green Goblin

Meet Spiderman Turn off the Dark's villain, Patrick Page.

Dance Moves

I re-watched my favorite routines from this past season's So You Think You Can Dance (yes I saved the highlights on a dvd!). So far these two numbers are my favorites. Above is by Melanie and Marko, a lyrical hip hop to I Got You choreographed by Tabitha and Napoleon. Check out the crispness and precision of the choreography that's executed so well! While the one below is by Tadd and Lauren, a jazz number to Another One Bites The Dust choreographed by Mandy Moore. Just watch the cool swagger!

September 28, 2011

American Theatre Wing Gala

This year's American Theatre Wing Gala on 26 September honored Sir Howard Stringer. Watch theatre legends Angela Lansbury and Elaine Page talk about this venerable organization.

Laura Benanti is In The Mood

I have to admit, I watched the first 2 episodes of The Playboy Club just for Laura Benanti. I am glad she gets to sing in this series. Here she is singing In The Mood from this past Monday's episode.
September 27, 2011

Book of Mormon on 60 Minutes

The cast and creators of The Book of Mormon was featured on 60 Minutes Sunday night. Have a look!
September 26, 2011

Jennifer Ehle Back on the Small Screen

(photo from The Daily Beast)

The new series A Gifted Man on CBS premiered last Friday night. It's nice to see the leading lady Jennifer Ehle who plays Anna Paul on the small screen again. Recently she had an interview with The Daily Beast where she talks about her decisions on doing the tv series, leaving The Game of Thrones, tweeting and of course, P&P and Colin Firth.

Here's an excerpt:

You’re perhaps best known for playing Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Are you still recognized by fans for that role even without the wig?

Ehle: I really never get recognized at all for anything. I’m a little concerned that’s going to change with [A Gifted Man]. If we go to a second season, I think Anna will wear a wig, and I will bleach my hair and cut it to two inches long because I’m not sure what that will be like. It’s not something that I’ve envied in the people I know that it happens to. I went to my local library where we live in upstate New York and I was taking my son to story hour for a couple of years, before I walked into the library one day and the librarian who I knew well just suddenly stopped and her mouth fell open. I didn’t know her well, but I had seen her for years. She just said, “Oh my God, you look like Jennifer Ehle.” I said, “I am.” They all know me as Jennifer Ryan. It’s very rare that it happens. It will be interesting.

Of your romantic relationship with Colin Firth, with whom you were together for almost a year, you said, “It was a blessing that our relationship ended before the show was aired.”

Ehle: It was so unexpected to people that the show took on a life of its own the way it did. I was unaware. I was just at the [Royal Shakespeare Company] and I can’t imagine what it would have been to have been defined as a couple as Elizabeth and Darcy. I can’t imagine that either one of us would have been comfortable with that.

Full interview: here

The G Club

Sesame Street's spoof of Glee. Season 42 premieres today.

September 24, 2011

Lost Love

It's been 7 years since Lost premiered. Here's a trailer made by a fan as a tribute to one of the most original and innovative shows on television.

Double Take

cate blanchett - coffee and cigarettes (cousins) from jimithekewl on Vimeo.

One of the best scenes from avant-garde film Coffees and Cigarettes by Jim Jarmusch. Cate Blanchett plays both herself (the actress) as well as her cousin Shelly in this very fascinating segment aptly entitled "Cousins". It's pretty impressive how she can play two distinctly different characters juxtaposed in this short vignette. Just watch!Link

September 23, 2011

The Heaviest Catch

The 42nd season of Sesame Street begins 26 September. Here's a spoof of Deadliest Catch.

September 22, 2011

How to Help The Trevor Project

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 's October 6 performance will be fund-raiser for The Trevor Project. There will be an exclusive talk-back with Daniel Radcliffe and other cast members after the show.

Click here to get tickets.


Last summer there was a buzz around Chicago that Steven Soderbergh was filming his latest film around the city and that it would involve a cast of notable stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard. Yeah, mostly Oscar winners but what piqued my interest in this film is the mention that Jennifer Ehle was also involved in it. I suppose the thought of her in a more mainstream movie was exciting. And Michael Clayton doesn't really count since her scenes with George Clooney were deleted from the movie. So I really wanted to see this film even though I had reservations as to whether it might trigger the germophobe in me.

Contagion starts on day 2 very ominously with a blank screen and just a sound of a cough. Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is sitting at a bar at the airport eating peanuts from a bowl. She's on a lay-over in Chicago from a business trip in Hong Kong. Clearly, we recognize she's coming down with something. The next scene is a close up of what she touches, the peanut container, her drink and the credit card that she hands to the bartender who in turn punches the buttons of the register. It's a very powerful series of images that plays with your mind as an audience member and you start to become paranoid (yes, and I was eating popcorn!).

Coming home to Minneapolis to her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and their family, she goes into a seizure and is taken to the ER where she quickly dies. A model in London is also shown at a casting call then dies in her hotel room bathroom. A man on the bus in Hong Kong is shown next coughing. Then a full blown pandemic occurs with it's origins yet unknown. Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne), head of the CDC sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to Minneapolis to quickly assess and contain the situation. At the same time, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) begins to try to replicate the virus to eventually try to develop a vaccine. She is assisted by Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) who manages to grow the virus in the lab for testing. In the meantime, in Switzerland, Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) leaves for China to track the origin of the virus.

While all of these are happening, one sees the pandemonium of the pandemic. Mitch soon finds out that he is immune and now has to focus on protecting his daughter from the virus. Alan Krumweide (Jude Law) is an opportunistic blogger who further creates havoc when he suggests conspiracy theories and possible antidotes. In this world of social media and immediacy which the internet provides, people's panic are quickly amplified. It's a well observed phenomena by the scriptwriter Scott Z. Burns.

The movie is so close to reality that makes it so scary. All assumptions are very plausible. Mr. Soderbergh also seems to use handicams and natural lighting for the movie so you feel you're in it. It's unnerving. I also appreciate the fact he only decides to show day 1 at the end of the movie. I thought that was genius.

It's an ensemble movie and everyone was really great. However, I do have to mention that Jude Law as Alan Krumweide is the sleaziest character in this film. I was also SO distracted by his horrible teeth, it's so easy to disliked him. Jude Law played him so well and it's so diametrically opposed to his leading men roles. As Ally Hextall, Jennifer Ehle is so believable as a scientist that has the task of explaining the mechanism of the virus. She plays a very pivotal role that causes her to make a fearless and self-less decision in the film. She is so credible that you'd believe that Ally Hextall would really do that. I found myself asking what I would do in her situation and.........I still don't know.

Below is an interview with Jennifer Ehle talking about doing research for her role and learning to put on the level 4 suit. Incidentally, some of the CDC scenes were shot it Telllabs in Naperville (it's actually close to our satellite clinic in Naperville and at that time, we did keep an eye out for some star sightings).

September 21, 2011

Daily Heroes

Givenik Ambassador Reeve Carney from Spiderman Turn Off the Dark announces the Heroes Initiative.

September 20, 2011

The Force of Good is Strong with this One

Go to Stand up to Cancer to donate.

Pal Joey

An epic theatrical experience is currently playing at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln center. As the 2011 Tony Award for Best Play, War Horse is based on the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo and has been adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford. It is an engaging story about Albert Narracott and his bond with his horse named Joey.

During the outbreak of The Great War (WWI), Albert's father sells his horse, Joey to the cavalry and is later shipped to France. Joey then serves the British Army but later with the tides of the war turning, serves the German Army. He also befriends another army horse named Tophorn and both are taken into an odyssey through enemy lines, cross fires and later No Man's Land (a land between two enemy trenches filled barb wires). Distraught at the loss of Joey, Albert, although still too young, conscripts with the British Army and sets out to find Joey in France.

It's an astounding production that came from the National Theatre of London and directed by Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris. Both won the 2011 Tony for best direction of a play. It is a pretty straight forward war/coming of age story but what makes this production impressive is it's use of horse puppetry (made by the Handspring Puppet Company). Each horse is controlled by three handlers two underneath the horse and one controlling the head and neck. When the play started, I found myself trying to watch how the puppeteers were controlling the horse but after a while they just disappear and one starts to see just the horse, alive onstage. The horse movements are so nuanced (thanks to Toby Sedgwick who developed the "horse choreography") it's uncanny.

The war scenes are incredibly stage on the Beaumont's thrust stage that you feel so involved in the action unfolding in front of you. It feels sweeping and epic. There's this one scene when during the course of the play Tophorn dies and keels over. The puppeteers then slowly crawls backwards in sync into the wings as if the soul of the creature has left it. It gave me goose bumps and it still does as I write this. I know for sure this post won't do it justice so maybe a snippet of the play would give you a feel for it so click on the video above.

Drawing of the horses

The Vivian Beaumont Theatre
September 19, 2011

There and Back Again

Peter Jackson's first video blog post on the making of The Hobbit.

September 18, 2011

Late Night Bromance

September 17, 2011

Pig With A Froggy Tattoo

Well, it started with this reference to the Green Lantern movie when the genius behind The Muppet series released the trailer Being Green for their upcoming movie coming out this Thanksgiving called The Muppets.

So now with the release of this trailer from David Fincher's Girl With A Dragon Tattoo (yes, not in Swedish but the English version) staring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara:

They've managed to reference the trailer of David Fincher's film into this trailer called Pig With A Froggy Tattoo.

Seth Obsessed! with Andrea Burns

September 16, 2011

Broadway Actor In A TV Commercial: Cate Blanchett

Well, technically she hasn't appeared on Broadway but she's definitely a theatre actress. Although she's appeared on NY stage (Hedda Gabbler, A Streetcar Named Desire) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it's not considered "Broadway". She however, has also presented an award at the 2010 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Revival of a Play. I suppose, she is as much a Broadway actress as any other.

Here's Cate Blanchett in a Tim Tam commercial in her native Australia back in the mid '90s. Now, I want a Tim Tam!

The Big Fat Greek Musical

Here's the TV commercial for Lysistrata Jones, coming to Broadway this fall. Previews start 12 November.

September 15, 2011

Kristin's View

Here's Kristin Chenoweth's performance of "Fathers and Daughters" from her new CD Some Lessons Learned. She announced on The View that she will be reviving 'On the Twentieth Century' on Broadway. Ms. Chenoweth is also returning to television on GCB (Good Christian Belles) on ABC.

September 14, 2011

It's Delightful, It's Delovely

It's close to impossible for one not to enjoy themselves in Anything Goes. Light story, happy ending, lots of dancing, great songs by Cole Porter oh and dancing sailors!

Anything Goes
is set on the SS America sailing from NY to London. Billy Crocker (the dreamy Colin Donnel) is a stowaway in love with the debutante, Hope Harcourt (Laura Osnes). She in turn is engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Adam Godley). Reno Sweeney (Sutton Foster), a nightclub singer and once in love with Billy, helps Billy win Hope with the aid of mobster Moonface Martin (Joel Grey). What follows is sort of a comedy of errors and mistaken identities towards the quest for true love.

The cast is uber talented. Sutton Foster is again impressive with her song and dance numbers. She proves why she is the current darling of musical theatre. How she can sing (without sounding winded) after that long complicated dance break during Anything Goes is mind boggling. Colin Donnel is just dreamy as the leading man and his chemistry with Laura Osnes is compelling specially in their dance for De-lovely. They are as close to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gliding onstage. Joel Grey is amusing as a trigger happy mobster in this show. Kelly Bishop plays Hope's mother and it is quite a privilege to see her onstage after a long absence (well, since A Chorus Line).

It is a pleasure to see this kind of musical where they have these long elaborate dance numbers involving the whole ensemble (all with great talent) in Anything Goes and Blow Gabriel Blow. An ode to the old musicals. To be fair though, as a student of tap, I am partial to the Anything Goes number and it's tapping. And once seen in the theatre in full choreography, it is a celebration of dance. Though some of the steps where not as complicated as it looks, it is the smoothness of the transitions that is very impressive and the very tuned syncopation that I love. Plus those flaps and times steps are even more resonant when one hears it live on stage, it just makes you smile. Made me so gungho to go to my Thursday night tap classes!

The Sondheim Theatre Stagedoor

Colin Donnel

Andrew Cao (Luke)

Laura Osnes
September 12, 2011

Miss Saigon on Miss Universe

Singer and stage star Lea Salonga has been named one of the judges for this year's Miss Universe pageant. It will be telecast on NBC at 9 PM tonight, 12 September live from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This year, you can vote online for your favorite to become a semifinalist.
Good luck to Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup!

Pure Nostalgia

I'm familiar with some of the songs and the basic story line of Follies but last Saturday (9/3) matinee was my first time to see a production of it. Follies takes place when former Weismann Follies (based on the Zeigfeld Follies) girls come together for a reunion. They all meet up at their former theatre before it's to be demolished into a parking lot and re-live the glory days as performers one last time.

It also centers mostly on two couples, Buddy/Sally Durant Plummer (Danny Burnstein/Bernadette Peters) and Benjamin/Phyllis Rogers Stone (Ron Raines/Jan Maxwell). Sally and Phyllis are both former Follies girls and are in an unhappy marriage with their respective partners. Buddy, a traveling salesman has an affair with a younger mistress while Sally is still in love with Benjamin after all these years. Meanwhile, Benjamin is successful but still is as self absorbed as when he was younger while Phyllis feels abandoned and neglected. All these feelings and revelations get unearthed at the reunion making a compelling story.

The principals are all tremendously talented. I am moved by both Bernadette Peters and Jan Maxwell's performance. The great Elaine Paige plays Carlotta, the one among the girls who becomes a successful movie actress. She eventually relays to the guests how her dramatic number gets cut from the revue because the audience found it humorous and proceeds to sing "I'm Still Here" which oddly enough, fits in the present moment. It is such a pleasure to hear her sing this song in a brassy belty number!

The rest of the ensemble of women comprising of Rosalind Elias, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Jayne Houdyshell (she's hilarious!), Florence Lacey, Mary Beth Peil, Susan Watson and Terri White are a delight to see and they too get to perform solos where they show off their musical gifts. They all exude elegance and grace rarely seen nowadays.

What made me really love Follies is how the production is staged. As one enters the theatre, you immediately observe the tattered curtains that drape the whole theatre with the dilapidated floor boards of the stage and crumbling proscenium. Right there, it transports you into a different time. With the lavish costumes and big dance numbers, it is pure nostalgia. Another great staging device was when characters perform their number, a younger version of themselves wearing the Follies costume, mirror their performance and they are so in sync with their present self that it's enthralling. As if ghosts of their former self come to life onstage. In addition, during the reunion or book scenes, director Eric Shaeffer had some girls in full Follies costume and head gear walk as background action on the different catwalks onstage thereby adding to the "ghostliness" of the production. It is haunting. It brought me back to a bygone era......the glory days of theatre and I am always willing to go there anytime.

At the stagedoor after the show, we were told that Ms. Peters, Ms. Paige and Ms. Maxwell will not come out between shows. That was understandable. Below, Terri White (who by the way did some great hoofing) came out to sign and have photos taken.

September 11, 2011

Never Forgotten, Forever Grateful

Spike Lee's tribute to the New York Fire Department. Thank you for the greatest rescue effort in the nation's history. Let's hear it for New York's Bravest. And to all other policemen, firefighters, first responders, EMS workers, and soldiers who serve their country.

You can download the song from iTunes to donate to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Or you can visit Denis Leary's Firefighter Foundation.

10 Years Later

Lord, take me where
you want me to go;
Let me meet who
you want me to meet;
Tell me what
... you want me to say, and
Keep me out of your way.
~ Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M.
Chaplain, New York Fire Department

Here's a beautiful Broadway tribute ad that aired after the 9-11 attacks.

We remember and pray for the innocent victims, the ones who lived through the tragedy, and the ones living with loss.
September 10, 2011

Joel Grey Looks Back on 9-11

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors, victims, and families of those who perished in the 9-11 attacks.

Here's the 09 September 2011 version of Broadway stars singing New York, New York.

Oh Hello Ms. Ehle!

When I opened my email this afternoon, I was surprised to see Jennifer Ehle as a trending search on yahoo (click on photo above). Succeeding twitter searches revealed that "Jennifer Ehle" was actually # 1 on yahoo searches. Can it be that the world finally gets to discover her?

Some twitter posts when you do an Ehle search include:
  • Contagion:Assured and efficient combo of 28 Days Later + Soderbergh's Traffic- love the casting and tone-Jennifer Ehle is the standout...
  • Want see Contagion, Soderbegh + bio-apocalyptic thriller= sounds so good. That and Jennifer Ehle is one of the best actresses you don't know
  • SAlso, not exactly sure what I know Jennifer Ehle from, but she steals CONTAGION from the entire lofty cast.
  • Jennifer Ehle is the #3 top search on Yahoo right now and it's NOT because they are making a sequel to BBC's Pride & Prejudice?
  • If you want one reason to see CONTAGION, it is Jennifer Ehle. Film is crowded with good actors, and she impresses more than any.
Luckily, I was one of those people glued to their TV's back in 1995 when A&E/BBC broadcasted Pride and Prejudice (affectionately known as P&P to it's fans) with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. After that, I've followed her career. I've seen all of her TV work and films (I even saw Michael Clayton only to be disappointed that her scenes were cut) and was fortunate enough to see her on stage in The Real Thing (where she won her first Tony), The Philadelphia Story in London and Macbeth (at Shakespeare in the Park). So she is much loved by P&P fans and avid theatre fans but I guess now, the mainstream is just getting to recognize her.

A lot of it is due to Steven Soderbergh's new film Contagion where she plays Dr. Ally Hextall. Much has been said in the press about the numerous Oscar winners in this cast but most of the buzz coming from people who have seen the movie is about Jennifer Ehle standing out. Little does the world know that the actress playing Dr. Ally Hextall is a two time Tony Award winner for Best Actress in The Real Thing (2000) and The Coast of Utopia (2007) as well as a BAFTA winner for playing Lizzie Bennet! So thank you Mr. Soderbergh it's about time that she gets a plum role such as this!

Here's her interview about Contagion:

Soon though, she might be back as a trending topic when her TV series with Patrick Wilson called A Gifted Man premiers this fall. Better and Better!

September 9, 2011

Broadway Stars sing New York, New York 2011

The Broadway League presented Broadway Unites 9-11 Day of Service and Remembrance at Duffy Square today. Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, and Brian Stokes Mitchell joined cast members of current Broadway shows as they reprised New York, New York on the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
You can join the 9-11 tribute movement,

Massachusetts Remembers 9-11

If you're in the Bay State, the Boston Pops Brass Ensemble will be performing at the Hatch Shell at 3 PM on the 10 year anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy. Beyond the 11th is sponsoring the Beyond the Bike ride, starting from Ground Zero and ending in Boston. The commemorative bike ride will culminate at the free tribute concert entitled Massachusetts Remembers.

Click HERE for more information.

Who Needs a Group Hug?

This past Labor Day weekend, we stumbled upon a movie set near Grand Central Terminal. The fake working title is "Group Hug". When we looked it up online, we found out it's The Avengers movie, written and directed by the one and only Joss Whedon.
Here are the scenes of destruction and mayhem.

September 8, 2011

It's News to Me

Here's a sneak peek at Newsies, the stage version of Alan Menken and Jack Feldman's 1992 Disney movie musical. Harvey Fierstein penned the script. Coming soon to the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.

Postcards from the US Open

Great weather on Sept. 2!

The Arthur Ashe Stadium straight ahead

Our first match at the Grand Stand
Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Junquierra

Del Potro's interview after winning the match

The Honey Deuce - official drink of the US Open......very refreshing!

Stanislas Wawrinka in action on Court 17

Andujar and Gimeno-Traver doubles match

Our view from our seats at the Louis Armstrong Stadium

John Isner serving. This was a match against Robby Ginepri

Isner signing (I guess this is their version of a stage door ha ha!)

Robin Haase walks on court

Robin Haase vs. Andy Murray

Andy Murray

merchandize at the Open

the boards

Screen showing the Sharapova match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium
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