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.

Alec Baldwin

Tribeca – Paris Can Wait


When I heard about this film, I couldn’t wait to see it.  I imagined a delightful romp through the French countryside, full of beautiful scenery, great food and wine, and fantastic acting. Unfortunately, very little of that came to fruition in this movie.

The screenplay was full of utterly unoriginal and predictable dialogue. [You know a film is in trouble when the audience can answer a character’s question from the back of the theater, sort of like you do with a bad sitcom]  Worse yet were the stereotypes. I think they used every one in the book: The chain smoking but charming Frenchman with a girl in every port; the pretty but ignored wife who accedes to her husband’s every need, from pairing his socks to finding his pills; the 60’s music playing languorously in the background as their car speeds by lush lavender fields. If this film had been released in the 60’s, it might have had a chance. It might even have evoked a certain “je ne sais quoi.” But as a modern day look at life among the middle-aged bourgeoisie, it fell flat.

The lovely Diane Lane is a waste here as the not quite over-the-hill mother of an 18 year old daughter – with her flat shoes and slept-in hair – who blooms once she puts on a nice dress, drinks a glass of wine, and is smothered in attention by, what the French call, a “mec.”  And really, who would believe that she had flown all over the world in private planes yet did not know a good Chateauneuf du Pap; or that she would be revolted by escargots? And how many times is Alec Baldwin going to play the role of the foppish chubby husband with a “demi-heart.” Even scenes of the glorious countryside and the mouthwatering dinners couldn’t save this film, especially after they were repeated ad nauseum.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Eleanor Coppola for having the guts and grit to make her narrative film directing debut at the age of 81.  And I love the fact that the story is based loosely on her own experiences. But having read her 1979 memoir, Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now; and having seen Hearts of Darkness, which she co-directed and for which she won an Emmy, I can only wonder, what went wrong here? And where were the other members of her talented family during the process?

If I sound somewhat annoyed and disappointed, I am. I love France and have been going there since the age of eight. I love snails and smelly cheeses, crunchy French bread, rich red wines, and the endless lavender fields of Provence. This film didn’t do justice to any of those things. It simply felt worn, forced, and utterly out of touch.  And if you don’t believe me, feel free to ask the man sitting next to me at the screening.  Oh yeh, he snored through most of it!!

For more in the Tribeca Film Festival, go to the website.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The Woodstock Film Festival – Celebrating 17 Years in the Hudson Valley


Woodstock, New York is always buzzing, but at this time of year, the buzz is escalated. Sidewalks are filled with film fanatics and film makers for three and half days of movies, movies, movies. And, if the attendees aren’t seeing a film, they are listening to movie makers talk about making movies. This year, the popular film festival celebrates its 17th year. Can it be? But its co-founder and Executive Director, Meira Blaustein, in her welcoming statement writes on how the festival has always been “driven by the genuine love of the art of film…” and that 17 years later, it “still maintains its true, fiercely independent nature.”

Two of the movies shown at the Woodstock Playhouse on opening day were spirited and certainly “fiercely independent” stories emphasizing the “ability” part in the word, “disability.” In My Feral Heart, we meet Luke, a 34-year-old man with Down’s Syndrome who with care and compassion is the sole caretaker of his aged mother. Filmed in southeast England, we see Luke making an English breakfast of toast and tea, bringing the tray to her bedside, bathing her – covering his eyes like the gentleman he is when she steps out of the tub. He shops, does the wash, and in one scene puts on the record player and invites mum to a slow spin around the living room. It’s an endearing portrait.

When mom doesn’t wake up one morning, Luke is devastated, and the social service department informs him that he can’t stay in the home, that he can’t take care of himself. He’s brought to a residence for adults with disabilities and tries to make sense of this new life, and the new people he comes upon. Just as Luke spent all of his life taking care of his mother, he now has to become the one cared for, but in his new friends, he is able to accept their help.

Blind, with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, has its world premiere at the festival. Directed by Michael Mailer, son of Norman Mailer, we meet Bill Oakland, English professor, left broken after losing his wife in a car accident which left him visually impaired.  Through a volunteer program, Oakland has his students’ papers read to him, and in walks Demi Moore, as Suzanne Dutchman, privileged, rich, and sentenced to community service for her part in her husband’s illegal activities. Oakland and Dutchman make an unlikely couple given her sense of outrage, and his cantankerous personality.  Soon, anger turns to understanding, which turns to romance.


Duncan Paveling and Meira Blaustein introduce the My Feral Heart.

In both films, we are reminded that those with physical challenges aren’t sentenced to a life of “gloom and doom.”  Duncan Paveling, the producer of My Feral Heart, noted after the movie that their disabilities are another kind of ability.

Luke was performed by first timer, Steven Brandon, who does have Down’s Syndrome, and who, according to Paveling, was an instant professional, being “the first on the set, and the last to leave.” Baldwin explained at the Q & A session that he and Moore spent a lot of time at the Lighthouse Guild in New York City “at length,” asking how the blind communicate when they’re in love, how do they date.  “There’s a new sense that takes,” says Baldwin. “Sound means more, even walking on different surfaces like sand or gravel.”  One of the last audience comments came from a festival volunteer whose husband is blind. “You captured it perfectly,” she said to Baldwin.

The Festival’s big night was Saturday, October 15, and the presentation of a variety of awards including the Trailblazer Award given to David Linde, whose production company Participant Media won the 2016 Oscar for the film, Spotlight, which was presented by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, winner of the last two best director Oscars (The Revenant, 2016 and Birdman, 2015).

Though the three-and-a-half-day Woodstock Film Festival is certainly the highlight of the year, the WFF works the other 362 and a half days promoting and celebrating independent film, video and media productions.

Photos by MJ Hanley-Goff
Top Photo: Alec Baldwin arrives at premiere of Blind.


Five Films Told From the Point of View of Man’s Best Friend


The Secret Life of Pets, currently playing in theaters, takes as its conceit the answer to the eternal question, what does your cat/dog/iguana do all day when you’re at work? Wiener-Dog coming out shortly chronicles a dachshund’s adventures among the mysterious homo-sapiens it cohabits with. These are just the latest in a series of cinematic efforts to get inside the minds of four legged friends.

Lady and the Tramp (1955) This beloved animated classic romance where an uptown girl meets a streetwise downtown guy has one of the most iconic scenes in movies where eating spaghetti becomes an accidental kiss for the leads. The fact that the romantic leads in question are a cocker spaniel and an alley mutt in no way diminishes the beauty of the moment or the sweetness of their star crossed love. Unfortunately, it must be said that the movie has some unfortunate stereotyping in its depiction of the infamous Siamese Cats; many found it offensive to Asians, and others found it unfair (though not unnecessarily untrue) in its depiction of cats.

One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961)  This classic animated adventure tale (based on the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith) of how two brave Dalmation parents Pongo and Perdita use the canine gossip line to save their puppies from Cruella DeVille (one of the most memorable and infamous villains ever depicted on screen), was an immediate box office sensation that made over 200 million against its four million dollar budget.

The Fox and the Hound (1981) This beloved buddy drama by Disney was inspired by the novel of the same name by Daniel Mannix.  Cooper a young hound dog puppy befriends Tod and orphaned red fox adopted by the family next door.  They vow to be best friends forever, but this is soon put to the test by their warring instincts and the social pressures that demand they be enemies.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)  This remake of the 1963 film The Incredible Journey (which was itself based on a novel) added dialogue and access to the thoughts of its main animal protagonists. American bulldog Chance (Michael J. Fox), golden Retriever Shadow (Don Ameche) and Himalayan Cat Sassy (Sally Field) are left at a ranch.  Fearing their owners have abandoned them they make a 250 mile long journey to San Francisco heading through the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Needless to say many perils and adventures await them as their frantic owners are searching for them as well.

Cats & Dogs (2001) This family friendly action comedy imagines a top secret high tech Cold War taking place between Cats and Dogs which the silly humans are utterly unaware of. Tobey Maguire voices Lou the beagle and main protagonist, Alec Baldwin as his mentor figure the older dog Butch, and Sean Hayes is delightful as the villainous Persian Mr. Tinkles. Alas, though, this is another Disney movie that takes an extremely biased viewpoint toward felines and draws on the most vicious of anti-cat stereotypes.

Winnefred Ann Frolik is writing a book about her experiences as a dog walker.

Top photo: Bigstock