Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Academy Award

John Hurt – An Actor for All Seasons


Legendary British thespian John Hurt passed away on January 27th, 2017 at the age of 77 years old. Born in a small coal mining town in Derbyshire, England to former actress Phyllis Massey and Anglican Minister and Mathematician Arnould Hurt. An apathetic student, he would later find his true passion was acting. He was admitted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and would make his stage debut in 1962. He only really began to rise to prominence though, with his performance as the conniving Richard Rich in A Man For all Seasons in 1966.

From then on he worked pretty much constantly. Indeed his career which spanned over six decades would include over 120 film roles not to mention dozens of television appearances. Here are a few highlights. In 1976 his performance as English heroin addict Max in Midnight Express for which he won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  In 1979, he played Kane in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien and was nominated for another BAFTA. In 1980, he played the titular character in The Elephant Man and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and also won—another BAFTA.  In 1984 he played Winston Smith in 1984, which won Best British Film of the Year at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. In 1997, he starred as crusty old civil engineer Chuck Langer in the award winning The Climb. He was creepy wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter franchise, kindly, wise, old Professor Broom in Hellboy, totalitarian fascist leader Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta, and ancient vampire Christopher Marlowe in Only Lovers Left Alive.  

One of his most recent appearances was that of rebel leader and mysterious mentor figure Gilliam in 2013’s Snowpiercer. The last film he was featured in before his death was Jackie alongside Natalie Portman as Father Richard McSorley. But fans will still have another chance to see him as Neville Chamberlain in the upcoming British war drama Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) opposite Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn.

God speed John Hurt. You truly were an Actor for All Seasons.

Top photo from Bigstock: John Hurt attends The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festival on May 25, 2013 in Cannes, France.

Five Flicks For the Olympics


USA!  USA!  Starting August 5th, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games commence in Rio. Sadly, this year’s athletic spectacles are likely to be overshadowed by the Zika virus that is ravaging Brazilian society at the moment and indeed many competitors might not participate this year for fear of infection. In fact 150 doctors signed a letter to the World Health Organization asking that the games be canceled or at least postponed this year for exactly that reason. Other issues dogging the games include pollution, problems constructing the necessary infrastructure, the notoriously high crime rate in Rio, ongoing doping scandals, etc. Still, those supporting Team USA will still want to watch our amazing athletes compete. To get into the mood, why not watch a film about the Olympic games?

Tokyo Olympiad (1965)  This documentary directed by Kon Ichikawa (47 Ronin) about the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was considered a milestone in documentary making, being very much a cinematic and artistic recording of the events more concerned with the atmosphere of the games and the athletes themselves than simply recording the winners and losers.  That turned out though, to be the exact opposite of what the Japanese government (who’d financed the film) wanted and they made Ichikawa significantly edit it to get the 93 minute version they wanted rather than his 170 minute version.  The latter version though is considered to be one of the best films about the Olympics AND one of the best sports documentaries of all time.

Chariots of Fire (1981)  Written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, Chariots tells the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) a devout Scotsman who runs for the glory of god, and Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) who runs to overcome British anti-Semitism. Considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever filmed it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Score.

Cool Runnings (1993)  Directed by Jon Turtletaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure) this tells the story of the debut of the Jamaican National Bobsled’s team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics – despite the fact that the team members had never even experienced winter before. Funny and surprisingly touching with the late, great John Candy in one of his final roles, it was an unexpected box office hit making over $150 million on a $14 million budget.

Miracle (2004)  Directed by Gavin O’ Conner, it recounts the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. hockey team in a startling upset defeated the Soviet team and won the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. Kurt Russell (Escape From New York, Tequila Sunrise) is the lead as coach Herb Brooks, Patricia Clarkson plays his wife, and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Cellular,) as Brooks’ assistant general manager this one has an over 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Top Spin (2014) This feature length documentary was directed by Mina T. Son and Sara Newens follows three American table top tennis players: Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers, and Lily Zhang, on their journey to the 2012 Olympics. The film premiered at NYC DOC 2014 where it received and audience award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2015 CAAMFest. It currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Top photo: Bigstock

45 Years: Can You Ever Really Know Someone?


No, I think I was enough for you.  I’m just not sure you do.

45 Years written and directed by Andrew Haigh (he directed Weekend and was part of the editing crew for such films as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down) is one of the most devastatingly intimate domestic dramas ever put to screen.  On the surface Geoff (Tom Courtenay of Doctor Zhivago, Gambit, and Quartet) and Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling of I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, The Duchess, and Melancholia) are on rock solid ground. They’re comfortably well off, have a lovely home filled with books and a piano, great friends, a beautiful German Shepherd, and seem quite comfortable about their childlessness.  They are even about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary and what can be stronger than so many years of marriage?

But it turns out there’s been a ghost haunting the Mercer marriage all these years; Geoff Mercer’s first love Katya, who died in a tragic climbing accident over fifty years before. Her body has now been found and with that revelation minute cracks begin to form in the Mercer marriage. It soon becomes clear that Geoff (a tremendous performance by Courtenay who can make his character sympathetic while subtly demonstrating his flaws) has never entirely gotten over Katya. As more and more secrets about Katya are revealed, Kate is left reeling from the realization that none of what she believed about her marriage may have been real. 45 Years doesn’t do big melodramatic scenes or speeches but rather lets the tension unfold through quieter moments where repressed feelings seethe to the surface.

Charlotte Rampling was (deservedly) nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here. Her insensitive (and frankly dumb) comments on the Oscar Diversity controversy probably cost her the Gold Statue, but that doesn’t diminish what she accomplishes as an actress here. Rampling as Kate can convey more with a subtle twist of her mouth and a flash of her eyes than most performers can with 10 minute monologues and her expressions in her final scene, dancing with Geoff to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” are quite simply haunting.