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The Glorious Corner

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G. H. Harding

JOKER — First off, the publicity surrounding this picture, manufactured for sure, is totally deserving. Second, Joaquin Phoenix delivers a performance of a lifetime. He is disturbingly brilliant.

Joker poster

For me, a self-confessed comic geek, and, yes, I did visit Comic Con in NYC this weekend, this Todd Phillips film, even though about a DC Comic book character, did not have the usual DC-logo at the front-end of the film; as Wonder Woman and Aquaman did. The movie borrows heavily from the Batman/Joker canon – it even teases that just maybe Joker is the son of Thomas Wayne; father of you know who.

During the end of the movie, it even shows the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne that was the flashpoint for young Bruce to become you-know-who. You get the distinct feeling that director Phillips wants to do the next Batman.

Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck, is nothing short of astonishing. Even when he dances; and he dances quite a bit, is between the line of elegance and psychotic rage.

Robert DeNiro gives a rather surreal performance as Murray Franklin; a talk show maven in the best tradition of Johnny Carson. He taunts young Fleck, then has his as a guest, which leads to a rather disastrous end.

The storyline has been telegraphed enough in the trailers and ads; young Fleck toils as a clown during the day and little-by-little, is so disenchanted with life that he finally shoots three young thugs (who work for Wayne Enterprises) and becomes something of an underground hero. Gotham City is in tatters and finally, there’s a hero, perhaps, to root for.

Phoenix, who was so good in Walk The Line, is totally mesmerizing here. He’s practically in every scene and the effect is galvanizing. Oscar-caliber for sure.  DeNiro is good and does echo his performance in Martin Scorsese’ legendary movie King Of Comedy. Frances Conroy as Fleck’s mother is terrific as well.

Phillips, who did the three Hangover movies (and, is working on an untitled Hulk Hogan-bio pic), here does an outstanding job. Showing the run down Gotham City, he’s just masterful

A 93 1/2 million dollar opening. Again, just brilliant.

BAKER PASSES — Cream drummer Ginger Baker died at the age of 80 on Oct. 6, his family confirmed.

 Ginger Baker

He’d been struggling with failing health for some time and had been hospitalized after falling “critically ill” last month.

“We are very sad to say that Ginger has passed away peacefully this morning,” a brief statement on his Facebook page announced. “Thank you to everyone for your kind words to us all over the past weeks.”

He was born Peter Baker on Aug. 19, 1939, in Lewisham, England. His dad died four years later during World War II. As a youth, he was more interested in sports than music, but at age 15 he started playing drums, and by the early 60’s he was taking lessons from one of England’s most respected jazz players, Phil Seamen. His love of jazz music would influence his playing throughout his career.

Soon, he was in his first professional band, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, where he replaced Charlie Watts (who left to join the Rolling Stones) and met bassist Jack Bruce, with whom he’d play in the Graham Bond Organisation and then form Cream in 1966. From almost the start, their relationship was a tumultuous one, with the mercurial Baker often lashing out at his bass-playing band-mate.

But there was no denying the musical chemistry between Baker and Bruce. Once Eric Clapton was added to the mix in Cream, the group set on a brief but fiery path that helped steer the future of heavy, blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll for years to come. They made four albums together – 1966’s Fresh Cream, 1967’s Disraeli Gears, 1968’s Wheels of Fire and 1969’s Goodbye – before Baker and Bruce’s constant fights prompted Clapton’s departure in 1968.

Baker made some of his greatest music during this era, helping to propel classic songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” to the top of the singles chart and to make Cream one of the period’s biggest bands. His self-penned instrumental “Toad,” which was on the group’s debut album and credited as one of the first rock drum solos on record, became a concert centerpiece, often stretching to 20 minutes.

Clapton and Baker would work again on their next project together, Blind Faith, a short-lived supergroup that also included Steve Winwood and bassist Ric Grech. They released one self-titled album, which hit No. 1, before disbanding.

From there, Baker formed Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a fusion group that spotlighted his jazz training and chops, and then spent much of the ’70s in Nigeria, where he made some of his most innovative tracks with Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti. He took a break from world music to record three hard-rock LPs with the Baker Gurvitz Army during the decade, but his love of African rhythms influenced his work from here on out. He eventually moved to South Africa. RIP Ginger.

Debbie Gibson with New Kids On The Block

SHORT TAKES — Debbie Gibson’s new show on Nickelodeon, America’s Most Musical Family, debuts  November 1 on Nickelodeon. She’s one of the judges and after a momentous summer tour with New Kids On The Block (The Mixtape Tour), it’ll be great to see her back on TV … Donnie Kehr’s Rockers On Broadway; its 26th edition, is prepping for their November 11 date at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC’s Village. Kehr promises some unbilled bold-faced names as performers. Stay tuned … Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam is at NYC’s The Groove, Friday, October 18 … Celebrity-author Mark Bego (his Supreme Glamour tome with Mary Wilson is still at the top of the Amazon book charts) guested on the new Zach Martin Big Fat American Podcast.

Celebrity-author Mark Bego and Zach Martin

Here it here: https://www.spreaker.com/user/bigfatamerican/mark-bego-with-zach-martin_1?fbclid=IwAR0G-vvwIgxGtcoNbXaiLqy_APdVxGTaBZ816aD5LwT9yPttTreE-hoo2d4 … Kent Kotal’s Forgotten Hits had a great review on the Fifty Years Ago tour with Micky Dolenz; Todd Rundgren; Christopher Cross; Jason Scheff and Joey Molland. Read it here: http://forgottenhits60s.blogspot.com/. We’re going to their three area shows this week. Details to follow … PR-macher Randy Alexander called to say that Friday’s concert with Foreigner was superb! They were at the Hard Rock at Mohegan Sun. No Lou Gramm due to illness, but, says Alexander, “Ian MacDonald who joined them and Mick Jones were simply outstanding.” I’ve followed this group since the days of their late-great manager Bud Prager. Fantastic band …

Mick Jones

This Friday starts the 27th edition of the Hamptons International Film Festival. We’ll be on hand and report back. We went to very first one and it’s been terrific ever since … RIP Diahann Carroll … This is the column’s first appearance in Times Square Chronicles and its third entertainment blog overall. Things and people come and go … but, the support I’ve received over the years never wavers. Thanks to everyone who made it happen; you know who you are. Bravo!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Magda Katz; Jeff Smith; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Geoff Pearson; Cori Gardner; Wayne Avers; Billy Jaymes; James Edstrom; MA Cassata; Mark Bego; Eric Gardner; Curtis Urbina; Cory Robbins; Tracey Miller; Joe Lynch; and, ZIGGY.

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

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Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Maury Yeston and Victoria Clark Postponed

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Due to circumstances beyond our controlled Wednesday’s show is postponed. Rescheduled date to be announced tomorrow, as well as next week’s guest. The show will resume on March 6th.

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Off Broadway

Public Theater Brings “The Ally” Forward for an Intense Debate

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So here’s the pickle. This play, The Ally, clocking in at a far too long two hours and forty minutes, throws controversy at you in numerous long-winded speeches one after the other, filling your brain with details and complexities that clash and do battle with each other from beginning to end. The structuring is intelligent, as the Public Theater‘s new play, The Ally, written by Itamar Moses (Outrage; The Band’s Visit) and directed with precision by Lila Neugebauer (Second Stage’s Appropriate), strides forward into dangerous territory with determination against all odds. Wickedly smart and articulate, the play, in general, overwhelms the intellectual senses. It’s factual and intricate, somewhat off-balanced and attacking, delivering detailed positions with fiery accuracy, which only made me question whether I wanted to sit this one out. Or step more in.

It’s unsafe and determined, placing the action (or inaction, if you really want to get into it) inside a college campus, and attempting to engage in deep-level conversations and arguments with the complicated issues of the world. These are exactly the debates worth having, says basically one character to another, in the tradition of arguing. Because banning free speech is “weird on a college campus.” These conundrums and conflicts are core to passionate dialogue, and just the idea of having them is meeting with fierce debate at universities and colleges across the country. The complexities and the tipping points are layered and real, swimming in a sea of questions about what free speech really truly means, and how differing points of view, civil dialogue, and the stark polarization contrasts collide and enflame. And how, in discussion, defensiveness and aggressive emotional stances are taken on and used against one another like weapons; bullets, and missiles. I even feel a bit worried that taking this stance of wanting to back away might be taken as ‘part of the problem’.

Ben Rosenfield and Josh Radnor in The Ally at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The program notes that “the theatre is a safe space in the most literal sense of that term: no one is going to be physically harmed during this performance in the Anspacher. But it is most decidedly not a safe space if by that term we mean a space where everyone will feel comfortable and no one will feel angry, saddened, or offended. It can’t be that kind of space. The theater depends on conflict – the form itself refuses the idea of a single truth. It’s why I [Oskar Eustis; Artistic Director of The Public Theater] believe that theater is the ultimate democratic art form – just like citizens in democracy, the theater demands that we listen to and share opposing viewpoints, and that from that conflict, a greater truth will emerge.” And I couldn’t agree more with that.

Yet, even with such heightened emotions on stage, delivered full throttle by the excellent cast that includes Cherise Boothe (Signature’s Fabulation,) as Nakia; Elijah Jones (Signature’s Confederates) as Baron; Michael Khalid Karadsheh (Target Margin’s The Most Oppressed by All) as Farid; Joy Osmanski (“Stargirl“) as Gwen; Josh Radnor (LCT’s The Babylon Line) as Asaf; Ben Rosenfield (RTC’s Love, Love, Love) as Reuven; and Madeline Weinstein (BAM’s Medea) as Rachel, who each try to make it sound more authentic than the writing really allows, the play suffers from how deep of a dive the writing goes. But not without a solid attempt by this cast, bringing qualities and characteristics to the forefront whenever they are given the chance. But a lot of the time, like their main focus, Radnor’s Asaf, they must stand and listen to whoever has the microphone at that one particular speechified moment. And wait, just like us, for the next round. And viewpoint.

Madeline Weinstein, Michael Khalid Karadsheh, and Elijah Jones in Ally at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Playwright Itamar has certainly dived fully into some of the most difficult topics of our time and asks us to patiently listen to all sides, even when the dialogue doesn’t really resemble discussion but more like informed lectures or one-framed speeches. On the plainest of sets, designed by Lael Jellinek (Public/Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life), with costuming by Sarita Fellows (Broadway’s Death of a Salesman), lighting by Reza Behjat (ATC’s English) and sound design by Bray Poor (Broadway’s Take Me Out), The Public‘s The Ally, uncovers some emotional space within the manifestos presented. Itamar states in the note section: It “wasn’t that i had nothing to say,” he carefully explains, like the main character who has to stand back and take on the full force and brunt of the argument. “Rather, I didn’t know where to begin because what I had to say was too confused, too contradictory, too raw.” And if that was the complicated stance he was trying to unpack, the playwright succeeded tremendously well.

But does that make The Ally, at The Public Theater, especially this long-winded one, worth sitting through? I’d say yes, and I’d say no. I couldn’t wait to leave that debate hall, but I was also impressed and intrigued by the arguments presented and discussed, even if ‘debate’ would not exactly be the word I would use for the ideas thrown around at one another with brutal force. One of the later statements said to Radnor’s Asaf by his ex-girlfriend, Nakia (Boothe) at maybe one of the few truly emotional moments of actual human souls speaking their truth, sums up my stance. “The thing you need, may not be words.” I won’t argue with that.

For more information and tickets, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Broadway

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

THE NEW OUTLAWS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Willie Nelson has announced the lineup and dates for his 2024 Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

In addition to headlining sets by the 90-year-old country legend and recent Rock & roll Hall of Fame inductee, this year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour will include performances by Bob Dylan each day throughout its 25-date run.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will also play on select dates, alternating appearances with John Mellencamp.

Nelson’s Outlaw Tour debuted in 2016 and has since featured Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and ZZ Top.

“This year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour promises to be the biggest and best yet with this lineup of legendary artists,” Nelson said in a press statement announcing the shows. “I am thrilled to get back on the road again with my family and friends playing the music we love for the fans we love.”

Brittney Spencer, Celisse and Southern Avenue will also perform at this year’s Outlaw Music Tour Festival. Billy Strings will join the tour for one concert at Washington’s The Gorge. You can see the tour’s complete run dates and lineups below.

General public ticket sales start on March 1 at 10 a.m. local time. Citi card members have access to presale tickets starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time until Thursday at 10 p.m. local time. More information can be found at the tour’s website.

SHORT TAKES — Boy, that Andy Cohen news sure disappeared quickly. I guess Brandi Glanville’s lawyers were right when they said NBC/COMCAST was making too much money from Cohen, to dismiss him. Sure, Andy apologized, but that was it …

Joe Manganiello is hosting the new Deal Or No Deal Island. With one of the worst haircuts, I’ve ever seen, he was on Monday’s Today Show -3rd hour- with Jenna and Hoda assisting him. There were so many rules in the intro, I was immediately thrown. All these game shows seem to be the thing these days – cheap to produce; easy to write; and B and C actors are certainly available …

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd – sister to Patti and married twice to Mick Fleetwood – has a new autobiography out, Jennifer Juniper. Here’s a great piece from Spin on it: https://www.spin.com/2024/02/60s-muse-turned-psychologist-jenny-boyd-explores-rocks-greatest-icons/

Patti Boyd-Harrison

Not to be outdone, sister Patti Boyd-Harrison has an exhibit with Christie’s in London. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHBWT_HKDJ8 … Markos Papadatos has a great new interview with John Oates in Digital Journal, but strangely, nothing about his ongoing dispute with Daryl Hall. Methinks it was more of a PR-move to quickly extinguish any and all reference to it, as it just dragged their legacy (Hall & Oates) down … way down. Take a read: https://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/john-oates-talks-about-his-new-music-and-his-tour/article?fbclid=IwAR0T42cxA0lJtXRJZ0db1D0mNakjsjVUJYmerGNzTMXdPNotaHrmuPoPmFI … One more trailer for Kevin Costner’s epic Horizon. Pundit Roger Friedman quipped the Indians don’t look too happy in this one. To be honest, I see much of Yellowstone in the trailer. And, Danny Huston who was in the series is in the movie too. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYsReoZMj1k … As of this writing, subway crime in NYC up 22% from this time last year! Reminds me of the 70’s here these days … Big, big layoffs at both Atlantic and Warner’s. The later about 600 employees. To me, they got rid of all the people who knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Sad for sure … SIGHTINGS: PR-pasha David Salidor at Brooklyn’s Table 87

Mike Scott

And, one of the greatest forgotten about bands is Mike Scott and The Waterboys. Just tremendous and timeless music. Check this article out from The Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/27/how-we-made-waterboys-the-whole-of-the-moon-mike-scott… RIP McCanna “Mac” Anthony Sinise.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Gene Cornish; Steve Walter; Jane Blunkell; Markos Papadatos; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Anthony Pomes; Kent & Laura Denmark; James Edstrom; Alec Baldwin; Lee Jeske; Andrew Tobin; Jewel Smithee; David and Delia Jones; and ZIGGY!

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Cabaret

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 

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photo credit Conor Weiss

Who comes to mind when you see that phrase—Catherine Zeta-Jones, perhaps, or certainly Grace Kelly?  Most would concede the title belongs to one glorious, gracious and violet-eyed lady – Elizabeth Taylor.   

Elizabeth (ET from hereon in) was known for her films, jewelry and various husbands, but there was much more to that woman. The perfect person to let us in on the side we never saw is Ann Talman, who played her daughter in The Little Foxes on Broadway. Chosen for her uncanny resemblance to ET as a young girl, they remained close friends until ET’s death in 2011. Through song and story, Ann paints a portrait we never would have imagined—the prankster, surrogate mother, the fashion advisor funny-face maker and more. When consulting with her about what to wear to an awards gala, ET arranged for a private fashion show at Saks and then added “Do you want to borrow any of my jewelry?”.  Now that’s a friend to have! 

The evening began with Ann singing “The Shadow of your Smile” from The Sandpiper, a film that starred ET and Richard Burton against a backdrop of ET holding a sandpiper. In the film, the bird is a metaphor for broken-winged people, and Ann shyly admits that she had been a sandpiper. Ann was 22 when they met, and she explained how ET took on the surrogate mother role and gave her the support and counsel she needed. When Ann talks about pajama parties and drinking Soave Bollo, one imagines two sisters sharing secrets and giggling. (I can’t imagine ET in PJs, can you?)  Nevertheless … 

As if the offer of shared baubles was not indication enough of ET’s generous nature, Ann gave a brief history of ET’s involvement with AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) as well as her own foundation.  

This show was powerful, yet delicate, informative without being gossipy, funny while evoking a tear or two. It was lovingly put together with superb direction by Lina Koutrakos with Alex Rybeck as music director. The songs flowed so naturally that it might have been easy to not recognize the skill that went into their selection.   

Ann’s ability to mimic ET’s breathy voice as well as her sincerity, added to the charm and verisimilitude of the event. It was such a loving tribute, with little touches, like purple Mardi Gras beads, a printed program and cupcakes with lavender frosting for all in celebration ET’s birthday this week.   

The evening ended with a reprise of the first song. Thank you, Ann, for giving us a clearer picture of the shadow behind that most alluring smile. 

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Film

Best 5 American Film Schools

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In the pulsating world of cinema, aspiring filmmakers seek education and mentorship to carve their path in an industry that thrives on creativity and innovation. Choosing the right film school is pivotal in this journey, as it can provide the necessary skills, network, and knowledge to navigate the dynamic landscape of filmmaking. In this article, we will explore five distinguished American film schools renowned for their exceptional programs, state-of-the-art facilities, and contributions to the film industry. From the bustling streets of Los Angeles to the vibrant culture of New York, each institution on this list has played a significant role in shaping the next generation of cinematic storytellers. As students embark on this transformative educational journey, seeking additional support, such as the option to buy a coursework, can provide valuable assistance in managing academic responsibilities alongside their creative pursuits.

  1. University of Southern California (USC) – School of Cinematic Arts: Located in the Heart of Hollywood

The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts stands as an iconic institution synonymous with excellence in film education. With its prime location in the heart of Hollywood, USC offers aspiring filmmakers unparalleled access to industry professionals, studios, and the vibrant filmmaking community. The school boasts an impressive roster of alumni who have left an indelible mark on the industry, from George Lucas to Steven Spielberg. USC’s programs cover various aspects of filmmaking, including production, screenwriting, and animation. The hands-on approach, coupled with cutting-edge technology and world-class faculty, ensures students receive a comprehensive education that prepares them for the multifaceted challenges of the film industry.

  1. New York University (NYU) – Tisch School of the Arts: East Coast Hub of Creativity

Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts stands as a beacon for aspiring filmmakers on the East Coast. Renowned for its diverse programs in film and television, Tisch provides students with a dynamic and creative environment. The faculty comprises industry professionals and accomplished filmmakers who guide students through an immersive curriculum covering every aspect of film production. The school’s location offers students unique opportunities to engage with the vibrant arts and culture scene of New York City. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is not only a training ground for technical skills but also a hub that fosters creativity and encourages students to find their unique voice in the world of cinema. For those seeking guidance in the academic aspects of their film studies, you can find valuable resources here.  This site can offer valuable insights into crafting well-researched and articulate essays, complementing the practical skills gained in a creative filmmaking environment.

  1. American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory: Crafting Masters of the Cinematic Craft

The American Film Institute Conservatory, located in Los Angeles, is renowned for its commitment to cultivating masters of the cinematic craft. AFI’s Conservatory program focuses on hands-on learning, providing students with the opportunity to work on real film sets and collaborate with industry professionals. The program’s intensity ensures that graduates emerge not only with technical proficiency but also a deep understanding of storytelling and the filmmaking process. AFI has consistently produced award-winning filmmakers, and its emphasis on crafting auteurs has earned it a distinguished place among the top film schools in the United States.

  1. UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television: Bridging Tradition and Innovation

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television stands as a testament to the marriage of tradition and innovation. Situated in the vibrant city of Los Angeles, the school offers comprehensive programs in film, television, and digital media. UCLA’s film school emphasizes both the art and business of filmmaking, ensuring that students are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. The faculty comprises seasoned professionals who bring a wealth of industry experience to the classroom. UCLA’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment further enhances the educational experience, preparing students for success in the global landscape of film and television.

  1. Columbia University School of the Arts – Film Program: Where Intellectual Rigor Meets Artistic Exploration

Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film Program distinguishes itself as a place where intellectual rigor meets artistic exploration. Situated in the cultural melting pot of New York City, the program encourages students to engage deeply with the theoretical and historical aspects of film in addition to honing their practical skills. Columbia’s approach is interdisciplinary, allowing students to draw inspiration from various artistic disciplines. The program’s emphasis on critical thinking and creative expression sets it apart, producing graduates who not only excel in their technical proficiency but also contribute thoughtfully to the intellectual discourse within the world of cinema.

Choosing the right film school is a crucial step in a filmmaker’s journey, shaping not only their technical abilities but also their creative voice and industry connections. The American film schools mentioned above stand as pillars of excellence, each offering a unique blend of resources, faculty, and opportunities. Whether on the West Coast or East Coast, these institutions provide a fertile ground for aspiring filmmakers to cultivate their skills and emerge ready to make a meaningful impact in the dynamic and competitive world of cinema.

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