Archive for September, 2009

THE LEGENDARY BARBRA STREISAND: ON PERFORMANCE & HER NEW CD

Posted in Music on September 29, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

When BARBRA STREISAND was a 19 year old ingenue, she never had a problem performing in front of small crowds. It was her livelihood.

The BROOKLYN girl could only get gigs in clubs that had room for a few dozen people.

As she got more famous she abandoned tiny clubs for grand stages. After a while, it got to the point where she couldn’t perform for a small crowd, even if was an intimate gathering of friends and family.

“I can’t get up and sing when I see faces. I just don’t know how to react. I need blackness to go into my own kind of world,” the legendary singer/actor/director commented.

“It’s disturbing to see people, because if they’re not totally enthralled I’m heartbroken and I get sad and I go, ‘Oh God, what am I doing wrong?“‘

Ms. Streisand didn’t have to worry about that kind of reaction during a weekend performance at the famed VILLAGE VANGUARD, a tiny but historic jazz club in MANHATTAN’S GREENWICH VILLAGE (and where she tried, unsuccessfully, to perform nearly four decades ago).

She wowed a crowd that represented a fraction of her regular audiences, as about 90 fans, including VIPs like former President Bill Clinton, crammed the club.

But Ms. Streisand admitted she was a bit nervous in the days leading up to the event. So why do it?

“It’s an adventure – and yet it’s nostalgic, isn’t it? It’s going back to where I began.”

The same can be said for her new CD LOVE IS THE ANSWER, which was released Tuesday. The album features Ms. Streisand singing classics like IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING and SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES.

But while the material may have been familiar to her, the recording process was not.

For the first time, she worked with jazz artist DIANA KRALL as producer – and did it DIANA’S way. She performed with DIANA’S quartet of musicians first, then added orchestration later, instead of her usual practice of performing with an orchestra at the outset.

(The deluxe edition of the CD features both the quartet performances and the orchestra versions.)

But even though DIANA was the producer, Ms. Streisand – the album’s executive producer – was clear about what she wanted.

“She’s the director. She’s Barbra Streisand,” DIANA stated in an interview earlier this year.

“She knows what she wants and it’s been really fun to see her work with the band that I’ve worked with.”

The album is Ms. Streisand’s first studio production since 2005’S ONE VOICE with BARRY GIBB. She worried that her vocal chords might have been strained. Construction on a house left her hoarse as she shouted over the din of the noise.

“When I tried to sing I just couldn’t make any of the notes. But for some reason all of a sudden I had a voice. What was exciting was that my voice was there.”

Though Ms. Streisand recently toured Europe and famously returned to the stage for a tour in 2006 after a 12 year hiatus, she has no plans to tour for her new CD. She recalled a recent dinner with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, where the rock singer told her his group tour their records for two years.

Ms. Streisand said she couldn’t imagine doing that: “I get bored singing the same songs.”

In fact, if she had her way, she wouldn’t do much to promote her latest CD. She has only done a handful of interviews. This one took place not at her record label but at the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual event started by the former president that focuses on solving problems including climate change, poverty, health and education.

Yet Ms. Streisand took special satisfaction in her VANGUARD gig. Despite some reports, she said that she had never officially performed there decades ago but only auditioned briefly for the club’s then owner, Max Gordon, when her good friend Rick Edelstein asked him to listen to her (and got Miles Davis’ band to stand in as backup).

When Max Gordon told Rick Edelstein that she was “too undisciplined” to hire, he replied: “But she’s gonna really be big some day. You’re gonna have to pay her big money.”

Max Gordon’s reply? “What do you know? You’re a waiter.”

The story still brings a smile to Ms. Streisand’s face nearly 40 years later.

“At least I did audition there and didn’t get the job.”

“Now I got the job.”

SNL’S SHORT TERM STARS

Posted in Television on September 29, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

This particular EW slideshow was a real education for me. I’ve watched a fair amount of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE over the years.

But considering that the show is quite a bit older than me, I guess I’ve missed a lot.

There are a lot of well known performers that joined the cast roster for short periods of time. As in too brief to ever be identified with the program.

Of the 16 featured, here are a few interesting names…

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL (1985 – 1986)

LAURIE METCALF (1980 – 1981)

CHRISTOPHER GUEST (1984 – 1985)

SARAH SILVERMAN (1993 – 1994)

To get the gallery, please go here

PAUL NEWMAN’S DAUGHTER NELL: HE LOVED BEING ON NIXON’S ENEMIES LIST

Posted in Entertainment News, Paul Newman on September 29, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Very hard to believe that it’s been a whole year since PAUL NEWMAN left us. Time goes by so quickly…

I miss him for many reasons: his electric blue eyes, his fabulous talent, his grace and decency as a human being and his tremendous compassion.

PAUL NEWMAN wasn’t only a great star. He was a beautiful man – inside and out.

I loved what his daughter NELL said about him in this interview. He sounds like quite the character.

PAUL NEWMAN was one of a kind. He can never be replaced.

PAUL NEWMAN liked to joke about his trademark blue eyes, musing that if they turned brown his career might be in jeopardy.

He was also delighted to learn he was on Richard Nixon’s enemies list, the ACADEMY AWARD winning actor’s daughter said Monday.

NELL NEWMAN, whose father died a year ago at age 83, gave a rare glimpse into the actor’s life. She was meeting with reporters in Connecticut as part of an effort by her company, NEWMAN’S OWN ORGANICS, to highlight its partnership with McDONALD’S CORPORATION. The fast food chain sells NEWMAN’S OWN coffee at some of its restaurants in the Northeast.

She said her father considered himself exceptionally fortunate and wanted to give back, leading to his passion for philanthropy.

“He always used to joke if his eyes turned brown – what would happen to his career. He always felt he was really lucky.”

The HOLLYWOOD star won one OSCAR and took home two honorary ones. He had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, THE HUSTLER, BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, THE STING, THE VERDICT, THE COLOR OF MONEY, ROAD TO PERDITION and NOBODY’S FOOL.

Despite his international grand scale success, PAUL NEWMAN preferred the company of race car mechanics to the BEVERLY HILLS jet set. He and his family were most comfortable in Westport, the southwestern Connecticut town where they fished and roamed the land with their five dogs, including her dad’s Irish wolfhound. The family also had six cats and a pet skunk.

NELL said her father enjoyed cooking and often took her to a farm stand in Westport and taught her how to pick the perfect corn and other vegetables and fruits.

She said he relished playing practical jokes. When a friend took his bottle of gin, PAUL went into the friend’s office with a chain saw and cut his desk in half.

The actor also saved a document that showed he had turned up on President Nixon’s enemies list.

“He was tickled pink and framed it.”

Mr. Newman and writer A.E. HOTCHNER started NEWMAN’S OWN in 1982 to market PAUL’S original oil and vinegar dressing.

The business grew – and it and NEWMAN’S OWN ORGANICS have given $250 million to charities. The actor left behind a private independent foundation to carry on the work after his death.

PAUL believed in supporting small organizations that did not have wealthy connections. NELL said her father was especially fond of his HOLE IN THE WALL GANG camps for sick children. The camps have served 130,000 kids since 1988.

“He liked quiet philanthropy. He didn’t want his name on any buildings.”

THE INFORMANT! ***

Posted in Film Reviews on September 28, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

These factual events were based on KURT EICHENWALD’S book of the same name. MARK WHITACRE (MATT DAMON) was employed by agricultural conglomerate ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND.

In November of 1992, he admitted to FBI agent BRIAN SHEPARD (SCOTT BAKULA) that ADM executives had met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, a food additive.

Under pressure from the feds, Mark Whitacre recorded hours of audio and videotape. He went undercover for approximately three years. The VP was the highest ranking individual to ever turn whistleblower in American history.

And while he was an informant for the FBI, Mark Whitacre embezzled millions of dollars from the company he worked for.

This bizarre but highly entertaining narrative could have translated into an intense, hardhitting drama like TRAFFIC. But MARK WHITACRE is certainly no ERIN BROCKOVICH. Consequently, THE INFORMANT! is a sharply satirical wacky off the wall comedy. If anyone can make something substantial out of this highly improbable mix, it’s STEVEN SODERBERGH.

He does not disappoint…

Mark is exceptionally intelligent. He’s a biochemist with a PhD from an ivy league school. But he’s also bipolar. Mark is a compulsive liar, has delusions of grandeur and suffers from supremely erratic judgment.

He actually believed that once the dust settled and ADM became aware of his role in their takedown, that they would ask him to be the CEO.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this film is Mark’s voice over, which is a constant stream of consciousness that makes no sense whatsoever. It could have been creepy, disturbing or offensive. But due to Matt Damon’s superlative delivery, it’s completely hilarious.

Mark is actually delighted to be a secret agent. He refers to himself as 0014 because he’s “twice as smart as James Bond.” It’s a line borrowed from – of all places – Giligan’s Island.

Mark thinks that he’s crazy like a fox. But he’s really just crazy. It’s inevitable – and necessary – that his world will come crashing down around him at some point. But it’s great fun to watch until it happens.

Screenwriter SCOTT Z. BURNS creates hysterical dialogue and some terrific scenes for the characters to interact in.

MARVIN HAMLISCH’S fabulous score is a takeoff on those campy 60s spy flicks. His music is evocative and extraordinarily stylish.

Most people aren’t aware of what an incredible character actor MATT DAMON is. (Though anyone who’s seen GOOD WILL HUNTING or THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY probably has some idea.) Here, with glasses, 30 extra pounds on his wiry frame, a moustache that looks like bad porn and one of the worst toupees ever seen on the silver screen, he’s barely recognizable.

He works miracles as MARK WHITACRE. This is easily some of the best acting he’s ever done.

He receives superior support from the excellent MELANIE LYNSKEY as his long suffering childhood sweetheart and spouse GINGER WHITACRE. You can tell that she often has no clue who he really is or what in the hell he’s doing.

But Ginger has the patience of a saint. She sticks by him regardless.

STEVEN SODERBERGH shot this film under his pseudonym PETER ANDREWS. The cinematography is more utilitarian than anything else. But it fits. This is certainly not a tale about glamorous people living the high life – their aspirations notwithstanding.

As a director, Mr. Soderbergh has always been a genius with actors and a sharp, savvy commentator on human behaviour. That tradition continues. He is a master at the height of his powers.

The moral of this story is…

Everything you do comes back to haunt you eventually. You can run but you can’t hide.

And karma, as we’re all very much aware, is a bitch…

CATWOMAN’S REVENGE: MY FRIDAY NIGHT WITH BATMAN

Posted in Film on September 27, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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The original BATMAN is a touchstone of my childhood.

It is my favourite BATMAN movie by a wide margin. I saw it several times during its first run release when I was only a tiny lass.

It was one of the very first motion pictures that I ever viewed in a cinema that wasn’t animated.

It left a life long impression on me.

Last night I saw BATMAN in the theatre for the first time since I was in elementary school. It was the ultimate experience. Precisely what I had hoped for.

Yes, I am fully cognizant of the fact that CATWOMAN does not appear in this film.

But as much as I adore BATMAN, CATWOMAN has always been the character that I identified with most.

BATMAN has a dark, poetic soul. His tragic childhood has left a mark that will never disappear.

But CATWOMAN is dangerous…

She’s one of the most memorable villains in popular culture. She’s also a savagely untamed goddess of magnificent proportions.

CATWOMAN is flamboyant, wicked, ruthless. She’s glamorous as hell and possesses an extraordinarily lethal feline grace.

Mortal men don’t stand a chance against her allure.

She must have her way. Resistance is futile.

CATWOMAN knows what she wants. She’s also aware of exactly how to get it.

There must be endless amounts of little girls who dreamed of growing up to be a woman like that. If you take the time to extract the evil from the equation, I was fortunate enough to make that cut.

My whole life I’ve wanted to play her. I know I’m not an actor with a recognizable name at this particular juncture. But I understand this character like no one else on this planet…and I could give a perfornance that would leave people in awe.

I know CHRISTOPHER NOLAN said that he wasn’t going to include CATWOMAN in any of the upcoming films.

If he ever changes his mind, I can be reached at the site. I’ll read for it any time. Anywhere.

But I digress…

Though it has been two decades, BATMAN has lost none of its iconic appeal. It’s a modern miracle.

ANTON FURST’S sets are absolutely amazing. DANNY ELFMAN produced a classic score along with PRINCE’S provocative songs.

I dig CHRISTIAN BALE as BATMAN. But MICHAEL KEATON tops them all. I love his brooding black Irish melancholy. He’s far from an obvious choice. But his subtle underplaying provides a perfect counterpoint to JACK NICHOLSON’S bold, incendiary, blackly humorous JOKER.

JACK is crazed and unpredictable. But he never goes off the rails. In a long, legendary career filled with incredible performances, this one is at the very top of the list.

My girl KIM BASINGER is an exceptional VICKI VALE. She’s a gorgeous, intrepid photojournalist whose work has taken her to every corner of the globe.

She’s had to weather some serious situations. But she never counted on falling for BRUCE WAYNE.

And, if I may say so, her wardrobe in this flick is beyond compare. She has all of these fabulous clothes – especially the gracefully flowing pure white coat and dress that she wears to her Batcave excursion.

My only complaint has nothing to do with KIM’S stellar acting. But the screenwriters should have made VICKI a little tougher. I would’ve kicked the JOKER’S ass in the bell tower and made him beg for mercy.

BATMAN could have taken over from there…

But it was really fantastic to see this movie with two hundred other patrons who adore it just as much as I do.

Screams all over the theatre at the first glimpse of the Batmobile. People obviously waiting for their favourite scenes and lines of dialogue. Lots of clapping and good natured shout outs along with tons of applause and cheering at the end.

It was immensely cool. So that was my Friday evening until about 10 PM.

The rest of the night…? Well, you’ll just have to use your precious little imaginations.

I’ll take the fifth.

THE FASHION OF COCO BEFORE CHANEL

Posted in Film, Glamour on September 27, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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IN STYLE has a very extravagant slideshow entirely devoted to ANNE FONTANE’S COCO BEFORE CHANEL.

It opened yesterday in NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES.

Costume designer CATHERINE LETERRIER talked to the magazine about how she approached the task of dressing the character of GABRIELLE CHANEL before she became the renowned international icon that we know today.

She said that Ms. Chanel’s love for black (when all the other women were wearing pale pastels) was almost scandalous for that particular era.

Well, that explains my wardrobe…

To find the gallery, please go here

AS WE SLIP ELEGANTLY INTO FALL…

Posted in Hot Video on September 25, 2009 by Miranda Wilding

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So this is my final post for the day.

Our musical interlude this Friday is LONG COOL WOMAN (IN A BLACK DRESS) by THE HOLLIES.

Why did I choose this particular song…?

*shakes blonde mane*

Think very carefully. Take all the time you need.

And if the sky doesn’t fall, I should be back here tomorrow.

Time to blow this popsicle stand. It’s nearly 80 degrees outside and the sunshine is relentlessly seductive.

So be careful or go a little overboard. Can’t do both. The choice is yours.

Just remember: regrets are meaningless.