THE CARDBOARD BOX SITTING ON A SHELF in my basement said it was some coffee brand; I do not drink coffee. When I took the box down, I could see a layer of dust that almost looked like gauze fabric was covering the lid. Placing it on the floor, I opened the box and saw crumpled newspaper packed inside. This told me whatever was in this box had come from somewhere else. I began pulling the clumps of newspaper out, but not before looking for a date listed on the paper. The paper was decades old which explained its yellowish hue and fragile state of decomposition. Something deep down in the box reflected a spark of reflected light coming from the bare lightbulb that was hanging down from the ceiling above me. I reached inside, dug my way down, and touched something that was cold and smooth. What in the world had been residing in my basement all these years I wondered? My hand was able to engulf nearly all of the object, but something attached to the surface was blocking my thumb and finger from touching each other. As I pulled this thing out of the box, bunches of crumpled newspaper tumbled to the basement floor like expired carnations. Lifting it up to my face, to be bathed in the glow of the single lightbulb, I held in my hand a silver creamer. MEMORIES INSIDE OF ME AWAKENED FROM their long slumber. This silver creamer with the black Bakelite handle was from the Art Deco era and I remember it only being used when guests were in the house. I put the creamer down on the ground and returned my hand back into the box because I knew the creamer always had a companion. And sure enough, I found the sugar container that was identical to the creamer except it had 2 handles. The times were so different when this set was sitting out on the dining room table. It was a different era where married couples formed couples club; a once a month get together, where the men played cards and the woman played games using small ceramic tiles. The term “coffee and” was popular; it meant coffee and some kind of dessert item(s) would be served during the evening. The tablecloth was set out; the coffee was brewed and stored in a big fancy percolator; platters of cookies, doughnuts or sweet rolls were placed around the table; and the required frosted cake presided over all the desserts from its lofty pedestal cake stand. There were even ashtrays available that were always accompanied by a book of matches. It was a different era and time, just like it was in this dramatic Academy Award winning film. DIRECTOR BERNIE DODD, PLAYED BY WILLIAM Holden (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17), had always admired the work of Frank Elgin, played by Bing Crosby (High Society, Going My Way). Bernie was determined to get Frank to star in his play, but he would have to contend with Frank’s protective wife. With Grace Kelly (Rear Window, To Catch a Thief) as Georgie Elgin, Anthony Ross (The Gunfighter, Suspense-TV) as Philip Cook and Gene Reynolds (Boys Town, Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary) as Larry; this film festival winner came out of a different film era. Personally, I loved the feeling of traveling back in time to experience a Hollywood classic with its famous actors and abundant musical soundtrack. The acting was excellent but did come over a bit outdated or maybe I should say with over the top expressions with little subtlety. I did not mind this over dramatic flair because it was so fascinating watching the actors tell the story that threw the viewer a couple of curveballs. Images of old Hollywood with actors who were bigger than life; I felt as if I had visited a bygone era by watching this memorable movie.
3 ½ stars
I wonder what the results would be if I posed a question on this movie site’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, asking people if they feel they can be themselves at their place of work. Every time I walk up to a teller at my bank I am always told I qualify for some promotion and debit card. After declining their offer several times I finally had to firmly ask them not to ask me anymore, to have it pop up on their computer screen that I do not want a debit card. Do you wonder if they did not have to stay professional what they might have said to me instead? I know with my job I have to endure customers cursing and bad mouthing my company; yet, I have to remain calm without going off on them. Trust me there have been times where I just wanted to tell the person they were acting like a rectum’s orifice (fill in any curse word); however, I contain myself. Even when there was that one customer who threatened to come to my office to beat me up because I would not release their order until they paid us for their past due invoices, I still remained calm. This explains why I teach fitness and yoga after work; it is my way of getting rid of the day’s negativity. Though there have been times where I have seen a member in class being disrespectful to someone and the real me just wants to tell them to knock it off. The persona I wear at the club doesn’t allow such language so I have to adjust what I say. Unlike the star of this documentary who only acts one way, her way. TONY and Emmy award winning actress Elaine Stritch (Monster-in-Law, Autumn in New York), holds nothing back in this intimate and close-up documentary directed by Chiemi Karasawa (Meet the Midtown Men). I knew only a little about Elaine and her reputation, but watching this film festival winning movie was a real treat for a variety of reasons. Being a big fan of live theater, I enjoyed seeing the backstage doings as well as seeing at her age how she still could command an audience. The attraction for me regarding Elaine is I found her to be authentic. She tells it like it is; which is an attribute that sits high in my plus column for describing a person. Speaking of pluses I found the archival footage used in this movie to be a real bonus in telling Elaine’s story. I do not think one needs to be a fan of Broadway to appreciate the dedication and drive Elaine has inside of her. This documentary also included footage of other actors such as Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) and James Gandolfini (The Drop, The Sopranos-TV) which added to the portrait being painted of Elaine in this picture. Considering her age during the filming some viewers may look at her as being a character; I have seen that type of description used when an older person has dropped their filters. For me I felt I was watching a person who was just being herself at home and at work.
3 ½ stars — DVD
There is something magical when the lights dim and the audience settles into momentary silence. The heavy curtain purrs as it takes flight and there standing before you is a scene that wakens into life. I love the experience of live theater (such an odd term that suggests there is dead theater) with actors claiming their parcels of stage land. My close friend, who was a theater major, has the most fascinating stories about theater life; I love listening to them whenever the subject comes up. Finding this treasure of a film was sweet, since I backed away from it when I saw Zac Efron’s (The Lucky One, 17 Again) name attached to it. But gratefully the story captured my attention by combining two of my favorite things: movies and theater. Zac played Richard Samuels, a boy who skipped a school day to venture into the heart of New York City and the lights of Broadway. As a 17 year old Mr. Efron was okay for this role, even with his somewhat thin acting abilities. I will cut him some slack here; since he, along with the majority of the cast, had to go up against a tour de force performance by Christian McKay (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mr. Nice) as Orson Welles. I was riveted to my flat screen by Mr. McKay’s performance. The movie was set in the 1930’s when young Orson was opening up his Mercury Theater, with a modern version of Julius Caesar. There are thousands of stories about Mr. Welles’ ego and character; they all got played out with Christian’s amazing acting. He dominated every scene, every line, every actor; he even looked like the real Orson. Everyone was a pawn to this bombastic man, even Zac’s character who was hired on the spot to be in the opening night production. I will say Claire Danes (Stardust, Temple Grandin) did an admirable job playing Orson’s ambitious assistant, Sonja Jones. This was an excellent movie to watch; that combined my love of theater and movies into one decent production.
2 3/4 stars — DVD