Category Archives: Film


(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the guardian, 3/13; Photo: A necessary affront … Aliaksei Naranovich and Raman Shytsko in Dogs of Europe. Photograph: Linda Nylind/the Guardian.)

Barbican, London
Fairytale imagery is mixed with absurdist humour in this prescient political thriller in which Russia has become a dictatorial superstate

Given the political history of the Belarus Free Theatre and its overt references to the war in Ukraine in this production, Dogs of Europe cannot be seen as theatre alone. It is art, activism and theatrical disruption, at once.

Having been performed clandestinely in garages and warehouses in Minsk, it feels released on this large-scale stage. Like a genie escaping from a bottle, there is a magnificent eruption of sound and spectacle. Big, haunting, discordant songs and music by Mark and Marichka Marczyk of Balaklava Blues expand to fill the auditorium. Maria Sazonova’s choreography is arresting in its acrobatic drama, with movements like orchestrated military exercises or assaults, and containing a fierce, fulminating physicality. A back screen for projections (with video design by Richard Williamson) begins as a roving camera from a computer game, which gives the show an unstable, lurching quality and seems designed to discombobulate its audience.

Every member of the ensemble has spent time in jail and their orchestrated movements play out street protests, battles, rape and murder. Inert bodies are dragged off stage, time and again. Deliberately cartoonish violence shows characters shot at point-blank range and bouncing back up.

(Read more)


(Scott Tobias’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/14/2022; Photo: Michael York and Liza Minnelli in Cabaret: seductive, witty, delightful – and utterly bone-chilling. Photograph: ABC/Allied Artists/Allstar.)

 Liza Minnelli gives a towering performance in a loose adaptation of the stage musical that broaches tough subject matter with deft ease

Cabaret opens with a Nazi getting kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub, a Berlin nightspot catering to the prurient whims of a well-heeled audience in 1931. It ends with the entire club populated by Nazis, as if it were under occupation. In between, the show goes on with minor changes to accommodate a different clientele, and the country, too, slips inexorably into darkness, engulfing characters who are powerless to stop it, even if they’re inclined to do so. It is an utterly bone-chilling movie musical, yet seductive, witty and delightful – an unbearable lightness of being.

The contradictory tensions of Cabaret are managed with such deftness by director Bob Fosse that it remains, 50 years later, a rare film that feels like only one person could have pulled it off. How people continue to live their lives in the face of encroaching authoritarianism and violence is an endlessly renewable and relevant subject for movies, but Fosse choreographs the foreground and background of historic change with as much care as he brings to the song-and-dance at the Kit Kat Klub. “Leave your troubles outside,” beckons Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies to the audience in the opening number. Easier said than done.

Cherry-picking from multiple sources – chiefly Kander and Ebb’s 1966 Broadway musical and the semi-autobiographical novel on which it was based, Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories – Fosse heightens the contrast between the libertine spirit of his main characters and the nationalist, antisemitic fervor that was sweeping through Germany at the time. In an all-time great performance, Liza Minnelli is both winning ingenue and devastating tragedienne as Sally Bowles, an American performer at the Kit Kat Klub. Fosse cleverly introduces Minnelli as a background dancer first, suggesting her willingness to conform, to literally fall in line with the crowd.

But of course she doesn’t conform or shrink in the spotlight. She’s Liza Minnelli. Sally chooses to live her life moment to moment, with a spontaneous pleasure-seeking instinct that allows her to keep the blinders on. When Sally is off the stage, Minnelli’s performance recalls the vintage work of a young Shirley MacLaine, the star of Fosse’s debut feature, Sweet Charity. Jokes are made constantly about the number of men who have passed through Sally’s bedroom, but she has a bubbly naivety that suggests a born-yesterday innocence. She simply isn’t going to turn her thoughts toward the politics of the country that’s hosting her. Her world is the Kit Kat Klub, a disheveled room at a boarding house and wherever the latest party takes her.

Splitting the difference between Isherwood’s gay surrogate and the heterosexual in the Broadway musical, Michael York plays Brian, a bisexual British academic who moves into the room across the hall from Sally, where he intends to teach English for money while working on his doctorate. He doesn’t have a minute to settle in before Sally ropes him into a “prairie oyster” hangover concoction (an egg with Worcestershire sauce) and works quickly and effectively to make him the closest friend she has in town. His sexuality is an obstacle that she’s able to clear – unlike his last three girlfriends – but when the two meet Max (Helmut Griem), a rich baron who likes to play the field, it leads to a bizarre love triangle that complicates their relationship.

Inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks – both in her sharply cut bangs and her air of mystery – Minnelli commands the screen at all times, but shows tremendous versatility in a range of situations: as the featured performer of Mein Herr; as a Golden Age romcom flibbertigibbet; as a sexual adventurer; and, finally, as a woman who has developed the kind of hangover that can’t be washed away by a prairie oyster. Grey is similarly inspired as the Master of Ceremonies, acting as a kind of bellwether for the changes happening in the country, which has the effect of turning him from silly to sinister as the Kit Kat Klub starts serving a new audience. York can only seem temperamentally stodgy by comparison, but his performance accommodates Minnelli’s while giving the film a crucial moral footing in reality.

(Read more)


(Jon Blistein’s article appeared in Rolling Stone, 1/6;  Photo: American director and screenwriter Peter Bogdanovich, UK, 20th February 1973. He directed the film ‘Paper Moon’ that year. Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

The celebrated filmmaker broke-out with his 1968 thriller Targets and also scored a box office smash with the 1972 screwball classic, What’s Up, Doc?

Peter Bogdanovich, the celebrated, Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind classics like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, as well as a frequent actor, died Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 82.

Bogdanovich’s daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich, confirmed his death, saying the director died of natural causes. 

Bogdanovich actually began his career as a film critic and reporter before meeting the producer Roger Corman, who’d been so impressed with some of his work that he enlisted him to help out on some of his films. Despite this ostensibly unconventional path into the film industry, success came quickly for Bogdanovich: He earned praise for his first film, the 1968 thriller Targets, and his follow-up, 1971’s The Last Picture Show, earned eight Oscar nominations (including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay) and arguably remains his signature film.

The filmmaker’s stellar opening run continued the next year with What’s Up, Doc?, a wildly succesful screwball romcom starring Barbra Streisand — in a character so molded after Bugs Bunny she’s eating a carrot in her first scene — and Ryan O’Neal. O’Neal starred Bogdanovich’s next film as well, the Depression-era dramedy, Paper Moon, in which he and his real-life daughter, Tatum O’Neall, played a father-daughter grifting duo (Tatum O’Neal famously won an Oscar for her performance at the age of 10).

But the rest of Bogdanovich’s career would be tumultuous, marred by major flops, financial troubles and personal tragedy. In 1980, Dorothy Stratten — an actress and Playboy Playmate Bogdanovich had begun an affair with while directing her in the romcom They All Laughed — was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself. While Bogdanovich managed to self-release They All Laughed in 1981, it performed poorly. Three years later, he published the book,The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which was deeply critical of Playboy and Hugh Hefner, and effectively blamed both for Stratten’s death.

“I destroyed him,” Bogdanovich said of Hefner in a 2019 Vulture interview. “I destroyed the whole Playboy myth — which, by the way, was a myth. The so-called sexual revolution of the late ’50s and ’60s was just another way of making it easier for guys to get laid. They weren’t feminists. It was just another way of getting laid faster.”

Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York in 1939 and fell in love with movie at an early age. As a teenager, he studied acting, but eventually decided he’d rather direct. His earliest work was in the theater, but Bogdanovich’s maintained his love of movies in the reviews and features he wrote for Esquire in the late Fifties and early Sixties. After moving to Hollywood and meeting Corman, the producer tapped him to help on the 1966 Peter Fonda biker movie, The Wild Angels; Bogdanovich rewrote the script and directed the end of the movie, which became one of Corman’s biggest box office hits at the time. 

Targets — which was inspired by the Charles Whitman’s 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas in August 1966 — followed in 1968 (that same year Bogdanovich directed another movie, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, under the pseudonym Derek Thomas). With the film’s success and Corman’s backing, Bogdanovich could have easily made a career in such genre flicks, but as he explained to The Dissolve in 2013: “As it turned out, I never made another film like it, really. I thought I would make a series of films like it, because it did well enough that I thought it would be the sort of film I would make. But then I read Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show, and I fell in love with the idea of making that as a film, mainly because I didn’t know how to do it. I’m always challenged when I don’t know how to do something. I figure, ‘There must be a way.’ And Last Picture Show made my career.”

While the early Seventies were arguably Bogdanovich’s heyday, his fortunes changed halfway through the decade with a string of duds like Daisy MillerAt Long Last Love and Nickelodeon. After a few years away, he returned with the 1979 crime comedy Saint Jack, which earned high praise, but failed to perform at the box office. Around the same time, Bogdanovich’s long relationship with Cybill Shepherd — which began when he directed her in The Last Picture Show — ended too, and Stratten’s tragic death followed shortly after. 

After publishing The Killing of the Unicorn, Bogdanovich returned to filmmaking with the 1985 Cher-starring drama, Mask. In 1990, he released a Last Picture Show sequel, Texasville, though the film wasn’t nearly as succesful as the first. Following 1993’s The Thing Called Love, Bogdanovich took another long break from filmmaking before returning in 2001 with The Cat’s Meow; the last scripted feature he directed was 2014’s She’s Funny That Way. After making a documentary about the director John Ford early in his career, Bogdanovich returned to the form later in life, directing the 2007 Tom Petty doc Runnin’ Down a Dream, and a 2018 film about Buster Keaton, The Great Buster: A Celebration.

(Read more)




Released On: 30 Dec 2021

Available for over a year

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian-born film director Fritz Lang (1890-1976), who was one of the most celebrated film-makers of the 20th century. He worked first in Weimar Germany, creating a range of films including the startling and subversive Mabuse the Gambler and the iconic but ruinously expensive Metropolis before arguably his masterpiece, M, with both the police and the underworld hunting for a child killer in Berlin, his first film with sound. The rise of the Nazis prompted Lang’s move to Hollywood where he developed some of his Weimar themes in memorable and disturbing films such as Fury and The Big Heat.

With Stella Bruzzi Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Joe McElhaney Professor of Film Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York

And Iris Luppa Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the Division of Film and Media at London South Bank University Producer: Simon Tillotson 



(Odie Henderson’s article appeared on Roger 12/23; via Pam Green; photo: Roger

My high school senior year English teacher, Mr. Kilinski would be proud that I remembered every single stanza and line from Macbeth he made his students memorize. As Denzel WashingtonFrances McDormand, and others worked through the Bard’s words as adapted by director Joel Coen, I felt myself lip-syncing under my mask. I covered the greatest hits, and lines I didn’t even realize I knew. Keep in mind that I learned these words 35 years ago, yet they were as fresh in my mind as if I’d committed them to memory that morning. The Scottish Play holds a special place in my heart, because it forced me to do a complete 180 on William Shakespeare. After my freshman year run-in with Romeo and Juliet and my sophomore year’s Julius Caesar, I was through with this dude and his fancy writing about topics that put my adolescent self to sleep.

Macbeth made me reconsider. Back then, I couldn’t put my finger on why it spoke to me so powerfully that it made me want to read more Shakespeare. But, as an adult, I understood. This play is like a film noir and I was a budding noirista as a teen. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” visually leans into my noirish interpretation. It’s shot in silvery, at times gothic black and white by Bruno Delbonnel, has a moody score by the great Carter Burwell, and takes place on incredible (and obviously fake) sets designed by Stefan Dechant. It also has more fog than San Francisco, the setting for so many great noirs. This makes sense, as Coen and his brother Ethan visited neo-noir’s genre neighborhood more traditionally in their 2001 film, “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” One might consider their debut, “Blood Simple” a neo-noir as well.

Like those films, this one also features McDormand as a shady lady, namely Lady Macbeth. She’s married to Washington’s Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis. As the casting indicates, this couple is older than the one the Bard envisioned, which changes one’s perception of their motivations. Youthful ambition has given way to something else; perhaps the couple is way too conscious of all those yesterdays that “lighted fools/The way to dusty death.” At the Q&A after the free IMAX screening of this film, McDormand mentioned that she wanted to portray the Macbeths as a couple who chose not to have children early on, and were fine with the choice. This detail makes the murder of Macduff’s (Corey Hawkins) son all the more heartless and brutal, an act Coen treats with restraint but does not shy away from depicting.

Since The Scottish Play was first performed 415 years ago, all spoiler warnings have expired. Besides, you should know the plot already. Banquo (Bertie Carvel) and the Thane of Glamis meet three witches (all played by theater vet Kathryn Hunter) on his way back from battle. They prophesize that Macbeth will eventually be King of Scotland. But first, he’ll become the Thane of Cawdor. When that part of the prediction becomes true, Macbeth thinks these medieval Miss Cleos might be onto something. Though he believes chance will crown him without his stir, Lady Macbeth goads him to intervene. As is typical of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the stage will be littered with dead bodies by the final curtain, each of whom will have screamed out “I am slain!” or “I am dead!” before expiring. Coen leaves that feature out of the movie, as you can see quite graphically how dead the bodies get on the screen.

King Duncan’s murder is especially rough. Washington and Brendan Gleeson play it as a macabre dance, framed so tightly that we feel the intimacy of how close one must be to stab another. It’s almost sexual. Both actors give off a regal air in their other scenes, though Washington’s is buoyed by that patented Den-ZELLL swagger. He even does the Denzel vocal tic, that “huh” he’s famous for, in some of his speeches, making me giddy enough to jump out of my skin with joy. Gleeson brings the Old Vic to his brief performance; every line and every moment feels like he’s communing with the ghosts of the famous actors who graced that hallowed London stage.

(Read more)


(Peter Bradshaw’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/9; Photo: Mordant and subversive … Lina Wertmüller. Photograph: Camilla Morandi/AGF/REX/Shutterstock.)

Lina Wertmüller dies aged 93

The director was a film-maker with mordant and subversive things to say about the postwar Italian soul, particularly in Seven Beauties

I last saw Lina Wertmüller on the stage of the Buñuel auditorium at the Cannes film festival in 2019, surrounded by cheering fans: a tiny, fiercely alert and beaming figure in her early 90s. She was there because Pasqualino Settebellezze, or Seven Beauties (1975), her strange, serio-comic masterpiece was being shown; this famously made her the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as best director.

Seven Beauties is an absurdist anti-war satire, starring her favourite leading man Giancarlo Giannini – a roguishly handsome but unsettling presence who was to her movies, perhaps, what Marcello Mastroianni was to Federico Fellini, and Wertmüller started out as assistant to Fellini. Fellini was her mentor and friend, and she, in turn, was his lifelong passionate admirer as a creative life force – and yet it was arguably Wertmüller who had more mordant and subversive things to say about the postwar Italian soul.

Seven Beauties, for which she wrote the original screenplay, is something to be compared to Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum. Giannini plays Pasqualino Frafuso, a fool – though not an innocent or a holy one – who is to reveal himself as an egotist, a coward and even a rapist as he careens across the strife-torn landscape of the second world war, motivated by a pompous macho concern for protecting the supposed honour of his seven sisters, who are far from bellezze in any sense. Pasqualino gets sent to an insane asylum for killing the pimp with whom one sister has taken up (and dismembering the body and despatching the portions all over Italy in suitcases) but is finally released to serve in the army – in which capacity he is sent to a Nazi concentration camp where he grotesquely attempts to seduce the female commandant and is made to undergo horrifying ordeals which resemble a bad-taste horror panto version of Sophie’s Choice. When he finally returns home to Naples, he naturally finds that all seven of his sisters and his mother have succumbed to exactly that dishonour which horrified him in the first place.

(Read more )


(Ryan Lattanzio’s and Chris Lindahl’s article appeareded on IndieWire, 11/29; via Drudge Report; photo 20th Century Studios.)

Steven Spielberg’s musical has finally screened, and ecstatic first reactions are pouring in: “Everyone is at the top of their game.”

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the beloved musical “West Side Story” finally began to screen for awards voters over the weekend ahead of its Christmas Day release. First reactions are pouring out as the film’s official premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles gets underway. Early reactions are offering praise for Spielberg’s direction and high marks for Rachel Zegler as Maria in her film debut.

The musical premiered mere days after the death of Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics for the original production, with a book by Arthur Laurents and score by Leonard Bernstein) at the age of 91. Highest praise for the new film version came from the composer himself, who back in September dropped by “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to talk about the most recent stage production of “Company” and, of course, Spielberg’s movie.

“It’s really terrific,” Sondheim said of the film. “Everybody go. You’ll really have a good time. And for those of you who know the show, there’s going to be some real surprises.”

Sondheim said that’s because of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, who has received two screenplay Oscar nominations for adapting the Spielberg films “Munich” and “Lincoln.”

Sondheim said Kushner “has done some really imaginative and surprising things with the way the songs are used in the story, and the whole thing has real sparkle to it and real energy, and it feels fresh. It’s really first-grade, and movie musicals are hard to do and this one, Spielberg and Kushner really, really nailed it.”

In addition to Zegler, this new version stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Rita Moreno, Best Supporting Actess Oscar winner for the original Best Picture-winning film, also makes a cameo appearance as Valentina.

WEST SIDE STORY is *phenomenal.* Steven Spielberg has been talking about making a musical for almost his entire career, and this was worth the wait. This is top-tier Spielberg.

— Chris Evangelista (@cevangelista413) November 30, 2021

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story 2.0 is an ecstatic act of ancestor-worship: a vividly dreamed, cunningly modified, visually staggering revival, passionately conservative but brilliant. No-one but Spielberg could have brought it off – review later

— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) November 30, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY: If it’s not quite essential, it’s still tremendously entertaining. Vivid, beautiful work from our greatest living American moviemaker. Invigorating choice to have subtitle-less Spanish comprise ~40% of dialogue. David Alvarez is the breakout, but everyone’s aces.

— Barry Hertz (@HertzBarry) November 30, 2021

Embargo lifted: I saw West Side Story tonight and I’m happy to report that musical theater will show up at the Oscars for impeccable visuals, Ariana DeBose is A DAMN STAR and it’s only the beginning for Rachel Zegler. I love this for us.

— Ayanna P. (@AyannaPrescod) November 30, 2021

More on WEST SIDE STORY on the whole in a bit, but first … HOLY MOLY, Mike Faist as Riff. One of those performances that grabs you by the collar, stops your pulse, and demands attention. That exceedingly rare pleasure of feeling like a star is forming before your eyes. A thrill.

— Marshall Shaffer (@media_marshall) November 30, 2021

Hot damn. So, yes, as it turns out, Steven Spielberg knows how to make a WEST SIDE STORY movie

— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) November 30, 2021


Steven Spielberg directs the hell out of a mediocre script. What an eye-roll inducing story.

Anything related to The Jets is insufferable, hell most of The Sharks are as well. The ladies do the heavy-lifting. This is Zegler, DeBose, and Moreno’s movie

— EJ Moreno (@EJKhryst) November 30, 2021

Spielberg’s West Side Story does understand that the best thing that can happen on film is a bunch of people strutting toward the camera singing in harmony

— Jackson McHenry (@McHenryJD) November 30, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY has rocked my world.

(Read more)


(Charles Bramesco’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/18; via Pam Green; Photo:  Charlie Chaplin was ‘chameleonic in the way he reflected back to people what they wanted’. Photograph: Footage File, LLC/Courtesy of Showtime.)

In a definitive new documentary, a deeper look at the much-loved movie star provides more insight into ‘one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever told’

When a normal person ascends to the firmament of fame, their sense of identity is split in two. The self-perception they’ve developed over their life up to that point – the “true” self, allowed to emerge in intimate moments – must contend with an outward-facing image over which they can exert unsettlingly minimal control. The more canny-minded celebrities seize the reins of their own PR by cultivating a persona they can get out in front of, caricaturing themselves before someone else gets the chance.

Charlie Chaplin, perhaps the first A-lister to contend with this existential quandary of exposure, went one step further by inventing a character he could plaster over himself. The Real Charlie Chaplin, a new documentary in cinemas this week, posits his Little Tramp alter ego as a shield and veil. If audiences were looking at the bowler hat, toothbrush moustache, and rubbery cane, they’d never see the man wearing them.

“I remember, even as a child, having an image of Charlie Chaplin in my head,” co-director James Spinney tells the Guardian. “Like most people, the costume was known to me. We saw these films with lots of preconceptions; he’s emblematic of an early, cartoonish style of cinema comedy, slapstick, films played at the wrong speed. As an adult revisiting these, I was struck by how modern they felt, how subversive, how there’s no sense of the antiquated whatsoever. Everyone has an idea about Charlie Chaplin. But people who knew him best felt that he was hard to create a connection with, that they didn’t really know him, that he was always performing.”

The top-to-bottom bio-doc examines Chaplin as a once-in-a-generation funnyman, while recognizing that as only one of the many roles he played in his eventful life: the Dickensian child laborer, the innovative vaudevillian, the big-hearted humanist, the vindictive lover, the Tinseltown captain of industry, the witch-hunted commie, the reclusive Swiss expat. In what Spinney describes as “one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever told”, the only connecting thread through the many ups and downs is the tension between Chaplin’s private and public lives. He prized his hordes of fans and loathed interviews, subsisting on the admiration while contending with the anxiety of being known and yet not-known.

For Spinney and co-director Peter Middleton, the prospect of gaining fresh insight into the aspects of himself Chaplin took pains to conceal was too intriguing to pass up. “One thing we knew very early on was that there was no single, solid, stable version of Charlie Chaplin,” Spinney says. “We’re not trying to link them all up, because there are too many of them, and they don’t always add up. He was chameleonic in the way he reflected back to people what they wanted.”

Their producer, Ben Limberg, had negotiated with Chaplin’s estate and the British Film Institute for a master list of materials they’d be permitted to access, the most obscure of which caught the directors’ eyes. In particular, they fixated on an “enigmatic” tape containing raw audio from a three-day profile sit-down for Life Magazine, conducted by Richard Meryman in 1966 at Chaplin’s twilight-years home on Lake Geneva. “We realized that we’d arrived at an opportune moment in history, where an archival source such as that can be restored,” Middleton says. “We started breaking that down and though it feels like there are 700 books written about Chaplin, we thought that could be our way in to something new.”

Secured after one full year of negotiations, the soundbites provide a condensed memoir with a candid running commentary as Chaplin recalled his early days of tribulation and hardship. His parents’ severe debts resulted in him being sent to Lambeth Workhouse at the tender age of seven, a plight he escaped through his natural inclination for the stage. From dance troupes and small plays to a breakout gig under vaudeville mainstay Fred Karno, an undeniable showmanship carried him out of abject poverty and across the Atlantic for a shot in the nascent movie business. It was there that he debuted the Little Tramp, whose penniless misfortunes mirrored his own background at the Central London District school for paupers.

(Read more)


(Brent Lang’s article appeared in Variety 9/26; Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy.)

‘Slave Play’ Shut Out Despite Record Number of Nominations.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a stage adaptation of the poplar movie, dominated an unorthodox and highly emotional 74th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, winning ten prizes, including the statue for best musical (full winner’s list here). Matthew Lopez’s “The Inheritance,” a sprawling epic about the AIDS crisis, won four statues and was honored as best play, while Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play,” a murder mystery that unspools during segregation, was named the best revival of a play.

In a stunning upset, Jeremy O. Harris’ “Slave Play,” a provocative look at racism, gender and sexuality that was embraced by critics and received 12 nominations, a record for a non-musical, was entirely shut out. Among the other major awards-winners, “A Christmas Carol” earned five prizes, all of them in technical categories.

The four-hour event unspooled on both broadcast television and the Paramount Plus streaming platform. It served as both a commemoration of the best of Broadway and a salute to the return of live theater after 18 months of COVID-19 shutdowns. In fact, many of the shows that were nominated closed more than a year ago. “Slave Play,” for instance, played its final performance on January 19, 2020 at a time when much of the world was just waking up to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

The second part of the evening, the one that unspooled on CBS, was billed as “The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back!” and featured performances from the likes of “Freestyle Love Supreme,” “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “Jagged Little Pill.” Leslie Odom, Jr. hosted the concert portion of the night while Audra McDonald emceed the earlier ceremony, a marathon affair in which more than 20 statues were handed out, along with performances by the likes of Jennifer Holliday, belting “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from “Dreamgirls” and Matthew Morrison and Marissa Jaret Winokur singing “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from “Hairspray.”

“You can’t stop the beat of Broadway, the heart of New York City,” McDonald said in her introductory remarks. “I’ve always thought of the Tonys as Broadway’s prom, but tonight it feels like a homecoming.”

The idea that “Broadway’s Back!” might be more wishful than factual. Certain shows have reopened, such as “Hamilton” and “The Lion King,” and other major productions such as “Six” and “The Lehman Trilogy” will welcome audiences in the coming weeks, but the tourism industry, which provides the bulk of ticket sales, is still sluggish. Many producers and insiders believe the recovery will be a gradual one, particularly if Delta and other variants continue to delay the U.S.’s economic rebound. Throughout the evening there were nods to the new pandemic reality, with audience members remaining masked throughout the broadcast.

One winner was virtually assured of victory before the final votes were tallied. “Moulin Rouge’s” Aaron Tveit was the only nominee in the best leading actor in a musical category and managed to triumph over the complete lack of other nominees. There were plenty of surprises and upsets, however. Mary Louise Parker nabbed best leading actress in a play for “The Sound Inside,” besting the heavily favored Joaquina Kalukango (“Slave Play”) and Laura Linney (“My Name Is Lucy Barton”). “The Inheritance’s” Stephen Daldry also nabbed a best director prize, his third, over fierce competition from the likes of Kenny Leon (“A Soldier’s Play”) and Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”). While Andrew Burnap, who starred as a callous playwright in “The Inheritance,” beat out such major stars as Jake Gyllenhaal (“Sea Wall/A Life”), Tom Hiddleston (“Betrayal”) and Blair Underwood (“A Soldier’s Play”) to win best leading actor in a play. As expected, Adrienne Warren nabbed the best leading actress in a musical prize for her chameleonic performance in the title role of “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.”

“Moulin Rouge!” earned honors for its director Alex Timbers, as well as for its scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, and orchestrations. “Jagged Little Pill,” which is inspired by Alanis Morissette’s mega-selling album of the same name, earned two prizes, for Diablo Cody’s book and for Lauren Patten’s supporting performance. The show has been embroiled in a controversy in recent days after two former cast members accused the show’s producers of inflicting harm “to the trans and non-binary community” and alleged that stage management and key creatives were not receptive to concerns about their healthcare.

Patten appeared to acknowledge the furor in her speech. “I believe that the future for the change we need to see on Broadway comes from these kinds of conversations that are full of honesty and empathy and respect for our shared humanity,” she said. “And I am so excited to see the action that comes from them, and to see where that leads our future as theater artists.”

(Read more)


(Ryan Parker’s article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, 9/15;  

The 20th Century film is due in theaters Dec. 10.

West Side Story dropped its official trailer Wednesday, and the Steven Spielberg remake looks as epic as the Oscar-winning original musical.

A little more than two minutes in length, the preview outlines the classic story of forbidden love between Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) and the hatred the rival Jets and Sharks gangs have for one another.

Although a remake of the 1961 film, Spielberg’s version is not a shot-for-shot copy, as can be seen in the bold, stylish trailer, which has new scenes and different dialogue.

West Side Story also stars Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Josh Andrés Rivera, Corey Stoll and Brian d’Arcy James. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her performance in the original film, also appears in the remake.

The 20th Century film wrapped in October 2019 but has been awaiting release after being delayed a few times due to the pandemic.

(Read more)