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.
“There’s something I have to tell you… You know how people have different sides to their personality… Sometimes, a, uh… a person will have to actually lead a different life… (pause, sighs)…That was me at 18 doing my impression of Michael Keaton doing his impression of Bruce Wayne in the movie Batman, and I’ve been doing that, in some form or another, for approximately 27 years.”
To author/actor Jason O’Connell, Batman was the ne plus ultra of champions, the unheralded philosopher of our times, his unwitting guru, a father replacement. Unlike super heroes, the character has no powers. Batman, he proffers, could be anybody, albeit with millions of dollars. First an outsider because of his obsession, O’Connell later found attractive women ?! who appreciated the caped crusader, naming each of his girlfriends for a character in successive films.
O’Connell is a good storyteller and an adroit writer. He looks us right in the eyes generating connection and sympathy. With this first one man show, the artist deftly intertwines tales about his career, accounts of relationships, and life lessons with specific views on the Batman franchise. To varying degrees of success, he conjures Michael Keaton (really well), George Clooney, Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson (mostly facial), Danny DeVito (physically), Arnold Schwarzenegger (ably)…as life coaches. (Only one unintelligible character is unidentifiable and might easily be expunged.) Casting, script attitudes, and directors are wryly critiqued.
It helps to have some familiarity with the films and actors, but this is not an analysis. With candor, sweetly self denigrating humor, and cultural perception, O’Connell is telling us the story of one boy’s growth and coping mechanisms in contemporary times and pop context.
Integration of Shakespeare (obsession with another man in tights) through theatrical training draws clever parallels. An utterly charming anecdote features O’Connell’s observing a boy’s ballet class with such appreciation of unexpected beauty, he begins to recite What a piece of work is man…. Talk of a beloved grandfather is also affecting.
My single caveat is O’Connell’s schizophrenic, multi-impersonation denouement, one character loudly arguing with the other in an unnecessary cacophony of people occupying his head. It’s nigh impossible to get that many distinct portrayals right with rapidity, an onslaught, and unnecessary to the show. The quiet ending will work fine omitting this.
Director Tony Speciale has done a seamless job. Gestures work. Pacing is pitch perfect.
Alas, no one’s been given credit for sound which adds immeasurably.
A unique and entertaining evening.
Dork: a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair…Merriam Webster Dictionary
Photos by Ben Strothmann
Abingdon Theatre Company presents The Dork Knight Written and Performed by Jerry O’Connell Directed by Tony Speciale Through January 29, 2017 Dorothy Strelsin Theatre 312 West 36th Street
Aloha! Disney’s next big animated epic Moana (featuring Dwayne Johnson as the famed Hawaiian God Maui himself) comes out November 23. Clever timing not only to release a family friendly movie around the holiday season, but also now that the weather’s getting darker and chillier to beguile audiences with one of the world’s dreamiest tropical location shots. In fact Hawaii has long been the setting for a wide variety of movies including the following.
From Here to Eternity(1953) Fred Zinneman (Oklahoma! High Noon, A Man For All Seasons) directed this adaption of the James Jones novel. The film follows the personal issues of three U.S soldiers stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor. The all-star cast sported Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra as the three men while Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed played the women in the their lives. The supporting cast included Ernest Borgnine, George Reeves, and Claude Akins, among others. Small wonder it was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight including Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Supporting Actress (Donna Reed). It’s also now considered one of the best films ever made and the scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach is a cultural icon.
Blue Hawaii(1961) First and foremost among Elvis’s legendary Hawaiian films is this musical comedy. Chadwick Gates (Elvis) is a returning veteran whose mother Sarah Lee (Angela Lansbury) wants him to take over the family fruit company. Chad instead goes to work as a tour guide at his girlfriend Maile’s (Joan Blackman) travel agency. Reviews were mixed but the healthy box office receipts inspired the studio to send Elvis back to the Big Island for two more films Girls! Girls! Girls! and Paradise Hawaiian Style. Meanwhile the movie’s soundtrack spent twenty weeks at #1 on the Billboard Pop Album charts and was nominated for a Grammy as well.
The North Shore (1987) Rick Kane (Matt Adler of Flight of the Navigator and White Water Summer) is a teenage kid from Arizona who uses his winnings from a wave tank surfing contest to fly out to Hawaii in hopes of becoming a surfing pro. He quickly learns the real ocean is a lot different than a wave tank and he’s got a lot to learn. Fortunately he comes under the tutelage of legendary soul surfer Chandler (Gregory Harrison). The film has gone on to become a cult hit for its awesome surfing sequences and use of real life professional surfers like Corky Carroll, Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton, among many more.
Picture Bride(1995) Kayo Hatta directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Picture Bride with Mari Hatta. It follows a young woman named Riyo (Youki Kodho) who arrives in Hawaii as a “Picture Bride” for a man she’s never met before. To Riyo’s disappointment her intended Matsuji (Akira Takayama) turns out to be considerably older than she anticipated. Meanwhile, racial tensions and labor disputes are rife on the sugar plantation where Riyo and Matsuji work. Critically acclaimed with an over 80% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, it also won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Descendants (2011) Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, Nebraska) directed this comedy-drama starring George Clooney and adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Land Baron Matt King (Clooney) is considering selling a land trust of 25,000 pristine acres his family owns on Kaui. While this is going on his wife Elizabeth is now in a coma because of a tragic boating accident and Matt is shocked to learn from his eldest daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley in the role that launched her career) that his wife was having an affair. It won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and two Golden Globe awards for Best Picture and Best Actor for Clooney.
“The Hannah boat is skippered by a Colby College grad named Linda Greenlaw. Not only is Greenlaw one of the only women in the business, she’s one of the best captains period on the entire East Coast; year after year, trip after trip, she makes more money than anyone. When the Hannah Boden unloads her catch in Gloucester, swordfish prices plummet halfway around the world.” The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger
Linda Greenlaw is fond of saying that she worked as a commercial swordfish fisherman to pay her way through college. “Fishing for tuition,” she says with a laugh. After graduating from college with a major in English, Linda surprised her parents by announcing that she was going back to commercial fishing.
“My parents were not happy,” she says. “I heard `fishing is no place for an educated young person; you’re wasting your education.’”
Linda, however, fell in love with commercial swordfish fishing when she was a child and knew by age 19 that she would spend her life on boats. Yet, along the way, Linda’s life on the sea led her in some unexpected directions. She has now penned nine books, many of them landing on the New York Times bestsellers list, and appeared in a TV show on the Discovery Channel, Swords: Life on the Line. On August 21, a luncheon was held at The Hamilton, part of the Clyde’s group of restaurants, to showcase Linda Greenlaw’s branded swordfish being marketed in partnership with Great Oceans and now a permanent menu offering at Clyde’s restaurants. (The version presented at the luncheon, prepared by Clyde’s chefs, was served on a bed of spicy succotash and did Linda’s swordfish proud.)
“I had come to know it’s impossible to waste your education,” she says. “I like to think that I use my education every single day, fishing or writing, book touring, or just sitting around with my friends.” Certainly good news to all those recent graduates paying back loans and wondering if they made a bad investment.
Linda’s rise to fame was a combination of skill and luck. In 1991 she was captain of the Hannah Boden and the last person to speak with the captain of a companion boat, the Andrea Gail, whose tragic loss was the centerpiece of Sebastian Junger’s bestseller and a subsequent film starting George Clooney as the Andrea Gail’s captain, Billy Tyne Jr. Not only was Linda praised for her expertise in Junger’s book, she was portrayed in the film by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (above).
With Junger’s book dominating the bestseller lists, Linda began to receive calls from publishers asking her to write her own book. “To have this opportunity land in my lap, I was very fortunate,” she says. “I wrote my first book, The Hungry Ocean, thinking that it would be a one shot deal. No one was more surprised than I was when that book ended up on the New York Times bestsellers list. I’m still pinching myself because I never expected to write anything. My life has taken some strange turns.”
One book led to another and Linda has just returned from a nationwide tour to promote her latest book, Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother. Unlike her previous books that dealt with fishing, Linda’s new book is about her becoming the legal guardian of a troubled 15 year-old girl. “It’s a horror story with a happy ending,” she says. Isle au Haut, a small island off the coast of Maine where Linda lives, has 50 year round residents. “This is an abused kid who had been on the island since the age of ten with someone that we thought was her uncle,” Linda explains. “Unbeknownst to us, everything is not fine. Her former guardian is currently in federal prison which is a good place for him.”
Not only has Linda become a parent later in life, last September she got married. “I used to say that my lifestyle, being away for 30 days, being on a boat is not conducive to finding a guy—thanks for dinner see you in 30 days,” she says with a laugh. “I delivered a boat to his boatyard to have some work done. I put the boat on a mooring and he road me to shore. I can’t say it was love at first sight but it was definitely infatuation at first sight and we started to see a lot of each other. It happened very quickly. When I told my family that I was getting married, they said, isn’t this kind of sudden? And I’m like, I’m 51! How long do you want me to wait?”
While Linda’s life these days seems charmed, she has certainly paid her dues. “I worked very hard, I got very good at it, and, as luck would have it, I’ve been acknowledged,” she says.
Linda worked as a consultant during the filming of The Perfect Storm. “I was thrilled because I thought they are really trying to get it right,” she says. “I had the opportunity to read a draft of the script and make comments with a letter that went through my literary agent to Warner Brothers, Wolfgang Petersen (the film’s director) actually.” Although the film was a commercial and critical success, the disclaimer that it was “based on a true story” did little to answer critics who seized on factual errors. Linda herself admits that the romance between Clooney’s and Mastrantonio’s characters shown in the film, never happened in real life. Still, the film managed to capture the thrills and hazards of commercial fishing.
Linda knows those dangers well. “It’s 1,000 miles to the fishing grounds and so we take trips and we unload in Newfoundland,” she says. Being such a long distance from shore means that when bad weather happens, help is rarely on the way quickly.
How bad was the perfect storm, also known as the Halloween Nor’easter of 1991? “It was not the worst weather I’ve seen in my life; people are usually a little disappointed with my answer,” says Linda. “While the film shows George Clooney and [Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio] yelling back and forth, screaming over the radio, that never happened. No one was aware that the Andrea Gail was in any kind of trouble until we couldn’t get them on the radio.”
Linda says she did have the last conversation with Tyne when he asked her about the weather, but there was no indication that the Andrea Gail was in trouble. The following day, conversations about bad weather dominated the radio waves. “These are guys I have fished around all my life who are really accustomed to riding out storms,” she says. “They didn’t say they were scared, but I could tell from their voices, from the things they were saying, that they were frightened.”
After the storm passed, no one had spoken to the Andrea Gail. “That was more scary than the storm,” she says. Without a mayday call, Linda says, the U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t start searching for a boat until it’s five days overdue. “If these guys are really in trouble, what are the chances that they could last eight days?” During the storm, 100-foot seas were recorded. “With a 70-foot boat, whatever happened to the Andrea Gail happened very quickly,” she says. “They went down without a trace.”
Junger’s book and Petersen’s film launched what would become a widespread fascination with commercial fishing and the seas. For three years, Linda appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Swords: Life on the Line. “It’s nice that people are taking an interest in commercial fishing that for years nobody cared about,” she says, singling out the popularity of another Discovery Channel show, The Deadliest Catch. “The Perfect Storm started all that. It snowballed.” And the term, “the perfect storm,” has entered our vocabulary as a way of describing the coming together of circumstances to produce an unexpected result.
Linda keeps a busy speaking schedule talking to young children, high school and college students, as well as adults. “Little kids always want to know what’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught,” says Linda. For the record: a 635 lb. swordfish. “They want to know about sharks and about storms. They want the drama.” While men inquire about the technical side of fishing, women often ask about being a female working in a male dominated environment. “Gender has not been an issue in my life; I haven’t made it one,” she says.
She often fields questions about the sustainability of swordfish and other species. “Customers want to know where the fish comes from; they want to feel good about what they’re eating,” she says. Circle hooks, used by nearly all the boats Linda’s group is sourcing fish from, have been a valuable tool for keeping fisheries healthy. Circle hooks are rarely swallowed, decreasing the mortality rate. Fish are more likely to ingest a J-hook and come up on the line dead. “There’s nothing you can do with a small fish that’s dead,” Linda explains. “You’re not allowed to have it on the boat. You throw it back and it does nothing for sustainability.”
Being at sea is like “balancing on a giant medicine ball for 30 days,” she says. “I’d be sitting at my mother’s kitchen table for dinner and I’d hold my drink and I would cradle my plate in my arm and shovel the food in,” she says with a laugh. “My mother would say, `let go of the plate; it’s not going to land on the deck. You can have more than five seconds to eat this meal.’” While Linda says she’s not a chef, she enjoys food and cooking. She and her mother, Martha Greenlaw, have collaborated on two cookbooks, most recently, The Maine Summers Cookbook: Recipes for Delicious Sun-Filled Days.
Another habit that sticks with Linda when she hits dry land? Walking down the street, she expects people to pass her on the left. “The rule of the road at sea is that you pass port to port. It really bothers me when people want to pass me on my right side. I will go out in the middle of the street to try to force someone to my port side. It’s habit.”
Father’s Day is coming up, and besides the obligatory gifts of ties, coffee mugs, and socks consider watching one of the following movies with dear old dad.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) The film adaption of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning work starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as his daughter Scout in what is possibly the most adorable father-daughter pairing ever on screen. It also features Robert Duvall in a legendary turn as Boo Radley. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with fatherhood, race, prejudice, the limits of the legal system, and more. It won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Peck, was nominated for eight more including Best Picture and is nearly universally considered one of the best films of all time.
Paper Moon(1973) This American comedy-drama directed by Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) starred real life father-daughter pair Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as Moze and Addie. Moze is a shady grafter who takes on the nine year old Addie (who may or may not be his biological daughter) as his mascot/sidekick/protégé on a madcap road trip through plains country during the Great Depression. Filmed in black and white it was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay and Tatum O’Neal won for Best Supporting Actress making her the youngest performer to ever win an competitive Oscar.
Field of Dreams (1989) Phil Alden wrote and directed this fantasy drama starring Kevin Costner as novice farmer Ray who becomes convinced that he’s supposed to turn his corn fields into a baseball diamond. The movies ostensible focus is on letting Shoeless Joe Jackson (among others) play ball again but the not so hidden underlying theme is Ray repairing his relationship with his own now deceased father. Co-starring Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta, Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards and “If You Build It, He Will Come,” is now part of the cultural lexicon.
Finding Nemo (2003) The Pixar Blockbuster about how Marlin (Al Brooks) the clownfish sets off on a voyage through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to find his lost son Nemo encountering Dory (Ellen Degeneres) a regal blue-tang who suffers from short term memory loss, sharks trying to kick the fish eating habit, and surfer dude turtles was an instant classic that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated in three other categories including Best Original Screenplay. It also inspired a long-gestating sequel Finding Dory that opened on June 17, 2016.
The Descendants (2011) Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska) directed this film adaption of the novel by the same name. George Clooney stars as land baron Matt King whose wife Elizabeth is in a coma and then learns from his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley in her breakout role) that Elizabeth had an affair. Matt’s emotional journey is momentous and important decisions are made but the movie’s ultimate focus is on Matt’s struggle to form a stronger bond with his daughters. The Descendants won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as two Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture-Drama and Best Actor-Drama for Clooney.
Neither George Clooney nor Julia Roberts has had a box office winner in the past few years. Their latest, Money Monster, won’t be one, either. The film, directed by Jodie Foster, is a strange hybrid – part comedy, part thriller, part farce. Still, anyone hoping to avoid superhero films this season could do worse than spending 90-plus minutes watching two seasoned actors take on Wall Street.
Clooney plays Lee Gates, an over-the-top version of CNBC’s Jim Cramer, doling out stock tips while wearing a silver vest emblazoned with dollar signs and kicking up his heels with a pair of dancers dressed in gold. No one sees what he does as serious business reporting, including the show’s producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts), who is on her way out, having accepted a job at another news outlet.
The stuff hits the fan when a disgruntled viewer, Kyle Bidwell (Jack O’Connell, doing an acceptable Queens accent), shows up on the set with a gun and forces Gates to put on a vest loaded with explosives. Kyle, a minimum wage delivery person, got caught up in Gates’s enthusiasm for Ibis Clear Capital and lost his entire savings, $60,000, when the company’s stock tanked virtually overnight. Ibis’s CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West), is blaming the loss on a computer glitch, leaving it to his communications director, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), to face the press. Before Gates can interview Lester, he’s taken hostage. Kyle wants answers and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to hold someone accountable.
While the NYPD closes in, Gates slowly comes over to Kyle’s side. And when Fenn, aided by the show’s other reporters, begins to turn up evidence that Camby is covering up what really happened at Ibis, Gates risks his life to do what he’s rarely done – get the real story.
While Clooney certainly has a sense of comic timing, that quality doesn’t come through here. He’s better during the film’s serious moments. Roberts is the heart of the film, directing the action on the set, feeding questions to Gates, and defying the police by staying in the studio after the evacuation.
Money Monster is a soft jab at Wall Street, certainly not in the same league as The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street. Yet it hits screens at a perfect time, with voters like Kyle still asking questions about the haves versus the have-nots.
Responsible for such modern classics as Fargoand The Big Lebowski, Joel and Ethan Coen need little introduction. With a handful of Oscars and over a dozen highly-praised works behind them, the Coen brothers are well-versed in crafting thoughtful, multi-layered entertainment. Sure to please Coen fans and film buffs alike is their latest endeavor, Hail, Caesar!, which premieres this weekend.
Opening in a confessional booth, Hail, Caesar!follows movie studio fixer, Eddie Mannix, over the course of a day as he navigates through problems on-set and off. On this specific day, Mannix finds himself preoccupied with tracking down film star Baird Whitlock, who has been kidnapped by a group called The Future. Mannix must round up the $100,000 ransom demanded from Whitlock’s kidnappers, all the while keeping tabloid journalists at bay, appeasing irksome actors and directors, and struggling to hide his smoking habit from his wife.
Mannix is played by the versatile Josh Brolin, who shines here as the well-intentioned studio exec with too much on his plate. Most of the film is dominated by Brolin, who pulls off his character with aplomb. Playing the rather daft Baird Whitlock is George Clooney, who spends much of the movie in wide-eyed bewilderment. Despite Clooney’s decent acting chops, it’s grating to see so much screen time devoted to one of Hollywood’s most overexposed actors.
It would have been far more gratifying to see more of the sweetly charming Hobie Doyle, played by Beautiful Creatures actor Alden Ehrenreich, or the hilarious director Laurence Laurentz, played by the affable Ralph Fiennes. Channing Tatum—who can’t seem to abandon his dancing roots, even here—is perfect as Burt Gurney, as is Tilda Swinton, who plays twin columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker. Other notable, but brief, appearances include Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, and Jonah Hill.
In addition to an excellent cast, Hail, Caesar! features stellar cinematography. With much humor and flair, Hail, Caesar! pays homage to Hollywood’s golden era, relying on the movie-within-a-movie format to recall the glitz and glamour of yesteryear. Indeed, the movie touches on film noir, and has many tightly choreographed, colorful scenes that are reminiscent of classic musicals. Though the movie-within-a-movie adds a lot of visual impact and interest, it does feel like the overall plotline gets a bit muddled as a result, which isn’t helped by the multiple storylines happening throughout the film.
An amalgamation of quirk and slapstick, Hail, Caesar! also feels like esoteric comedy at times. There are plenty of laughs to be had, yet some audiences might find themselves alienated from the humor. Though the Coen brothers manage to pull it off, some of the plotlines are also admittedly absurd. Though ambitious, the movie veers away from the mainstream perhaps too much to be embraced by broader audiences. Ultimately, however, Hail, Caesar! offers mild, light-hearted entertainment that is a refreshing reprieve from the perfunctory noise and excess offered by standard big-budget pictures currently in cinemas.
Hail, Caesar! opens nationwide on Friday, February 5, 2016.