Last night, I screened a DVD version of the hard-to-classify comedy, “Freezer Burn,” that is receiving its local premiere tomorrow night at 8 at the Community Theatre in Fairfield.
The movie is the work of former Southport resident Charles Hood who has been living and working in Los Angeles since he graduated from USC three years ago.
Hood shot the film here in the fall of 2005 and spent the subsequent two years editing and scoring it.
While it is an impressive piece of work, it is easy to see why Hood has had a hard time finding a distributor after screening the film at 11 festivals. “Freezer Burn” spans several different genres — science-fiction, romantic comedy and domestic drama among them — and it doesn’t have any stars.
It’s unfortunate that so many indie films with B-list actors or has-beens have an easier time finding a theatrical life than a finely acted ensemble piece with promising young unknowns.
Hood has melded elements of the Woody Allen comedy “Sleeper” with a few scenes reminiscent of “Re-Animator” to come up with an entertaining tale of a scientist experimenting on freezing human organs who decides to freeze himself for more than a decade so that his unrequited love for an underage girl will become possible (and appropriate).
Robert Harriell (above, left) plays the slightly mad scentist Virgil Stamp and his partner in crime is Michael Consigilio (above, right) in the role of the wheelchair-bound wise guy, Rex Turner.
The screenplay is smart — how many other movies have you seen where two people talk about their love of the Michael Connelly character Harry Bosch? — and while the story could move a bit faster, Hood keeps the twists and surprises coming after Stamp spends 11 years on ice.
“Freezer Burn” has an unusual melancholy tinge to its comic take on time displacement — Virgil finds himself alone and disoriented when he comes out of the freezer.
Hood will be on hand to answer questions after tomorrow night’s screening, which is free.
(The Community Theatre is at 1424 Post Road in Fairfield Center.)
Last night, I screened a DVD version of the hard-to-classify comedy, “Freezer Burn,” that is receiving its local premiere tomorrow night at 8 at the Community Theatre in Fairfield.
Listening to each year’s new “Carols for a Cure” album has become one of my favorite holiday season traditions.
For the past ten years, members of the casts of every musical on Broadway have recorded holiday music for an annual CD release that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Each year, producer Lynn Pinto faces the challenge of booking studios during the summer and planning recording time around the incredibly hectic eight-show-a-week lifestyle of Broadway performers (she also plans sessions for shows that are still in rehearsal but will be running on Broadway by the time “Carols for a Cure” is released).
The CDs are wonderful in and of themselves, but as the years have passed, they have become unique souvenirs of musicals that came and went quickly, such as “Five Guys Named Moe” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” In some cases, the shows never received original cast recordings, so the “Carols for a Cure” CDs are the only audio record of the shows and their performers.
The two-CD “Carols for a Cure, Vol. 10” was released in late October and has been sold at Broadway and off-Broadway theaters for the past month-and-a-half. (You can also order the $20 set directly from BC/EFA at 212-840-0770 or online at broadwaycares.org).
The new “Carols for a Cure” features 26 selections from current Broadway shows (as well as the prematurely closed “Xanadu” and “A Tale of Two Cities”).
To mark the 10th anniversary, Pinto has included 10 of the best tracks from past “Carols for a Cure.” The historical value of this project is dramatically demonstrated by the 2003 recording of “Los Peces En El Rio” featuring Antonio Banderas from that year’s hit revival of “Nine” and a 2002 “Joy to the World” with current teen idol Nick Jonas who was then featured in the Disney production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Other long-closed shows highlighted on the bonus tracks are “Bombay Dreams” (2004) and “The Wedding Singer” (2006). Bernadette Peters contributes a beautiful rendition of “White Christmas” that she recorded while starring in the 1999 revival of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
The combination of a great cause and a terrific recording makes “Carols for a Cure, Vol. 10” a perfect holiday gift. Since the project began a decade ago it has raised more than $2.5 million for BC/EFA.
The current cast of “Wicked” will be promoting the holiday CD release with a rendition of “The First Noel” on FOX’s “The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet” tomorrow at 10 a.m.
Two years after he made the great political thriller/satire, “The Manchurian Candidate,” director John Frankenheimer made another film in a similar vein, “Seven Days in May,” that isn’t nearly as well known these days.
The 1964 thriller doesn’t have the wild comic elements that Frankenheimer included in “Manchurian Candidate” (courtesy of the 1959 novel by Richard Condon) but “Seven Days” is, in many ways, an even better made suspense film, with a slightly more plausible plot — an attempted military coup by a faction of right-wing generals in the Pentagon.
Tonight at 7 I’m hosting a free screening of the Frankenheimer picture as part of the “Martini and a Movie” series at the Fairfield Theatre Company.
The movie is the third and final selection in a fall mini-festival devoted to Hollywood’s treatment of politics, in honor of the recent presidential election. We began with the Frank Capra drama “State of the Union” in October and then moved on to the Elia Kazan/Budd Schulberg film, “A Face in the Crowd” last month.
“Seven Days” is the most sheerly entertaining movie of the trio — a tense thriller powered by a strong Rod Serling script (drawn from a long-forgotten novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II) and a great ensemble that includes Burt Lancaster as the general behind the plot and Kirk Douglas as the military whistle blower. Fredric March (above, with Frankenheimer) plays the president whose push for global disarmanent triggers the takeover plot.
March’s performance is especially impressive. In an interview with Charles Champlin in 1995, Frankenheimer called March “the best actor I’ve ever worked with and the greatest gentleman.” Nine years later, the director and star reteamed for a magnificent film version of “The Iceman Cometh” in which March ended his career in high style (the actor died two years later).
Frankenheimer’s interest in political corruption and paranoia anticipated the wave of post-Watergate thrillers such as “Three Days of the Condor” (1975) and “The Parallax View” (1974) that covered much of the same ground. But in his 1960s movies, Frankenheimer still operated from the position that positive forces in the government would somehow manage to vanquish the evildoers. A decade later, the revelations of Nixon’s “dirty tricks” and covert CIA assassination plots would result in a much bleaker sort of conspiracy thriller.
(Doors will open for the screening at 7 p.m. and the movie will start at 8 p.m. The Fairfield Theatre Company is at 70 Sanford St. For more information, go to www.fairfieldtheatre.org.)
“Year of the Dog” (Soho Crime) is only Henry Chang’s second novel, but he already writes like a master of crime fiction.
The book follows a Chinese-American cop working in New York City — Jack Yu — but what makes it so engrossing and so rich is the way that Chang widens his scope to write chapters from several other points of view, including bookies, gangsters, and a 40ish Chinese woman who is working as a modern-day indentured servant in a barber shop/massage parlor.
It’s no wonder that Richard Price called Chang’s first novel, “Chinatown Beat,” a “classic noir (that) brings something new to the table, a loving specificity of a people and a place, the multicultures of New York’s Chinatown, that has rarely if ever been encountered in fiction before.”
Reading Chang’s tight but wide-ranging “Year of the Dog” I was often reminded of the way that Richard Price captured a nearby slice of downtown Manhattan in his fantastic “Lush Life” published earlier this year.
Price‘s book was an epic-sized account of the killing of a hip young waiter on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the subsequent police investigation.
“Year of the Dog” is a breathless 231-page study of a group of Chinatown folk who have an unexpected connection to NYPD officer Yu. Reading the book, we get the feeling of having an insider’s tour of Chinatown, going places that tourists never see as they stroll along Canal St. or dine at one of the restaurants catering to non-Chinese.
Chang shows us how Chinatown in New York is a city within a city that has more in common with the other Chinatowns scattered around the United States than it does with the rest of Manhattan.
We also get to see the direct lines that extend from downtown New York to China and the way that legitimate businesses in Chinatown often serve as covers for drug trafficking, credit card fraud and prostitution.
The book is a very dark noir — the material about a young Chinese man who disappears while delivering a food order is especially disturbing — but Chang never sensationalizes violence or sex. In another link to “Lush Life,” Chang’s work feels like reporting from the front lines of New York City crime and punishment; he knows the material is so strong that it doesn’t need to be embellished for “fictional” purposes.
I can’t wait to pick up the first book in this major new series.
Hollywood actresses are expected to look and act “girlish” well into their 40s, but their male counterparts are allowed to switch off the boyish charm that first won over audiences.
(They also are able to let themselves go physically in ways that are denied to female movie stars but that’s another story!)
Looking at the 44-year-old Keanu Reeves in the sci-fi stinker opening today — “The Day the Earth Stood Still” — you would never guess that this is the same person who was so lively and so funny in the “Bill & Ted” movies back in the 1980s and such other long-forgotten comedies as “I Love You to Death” (1990).
Reeves is all too convincing as Klaatu, a bizarrely emotionless alien who takes human form on a visit to Earth.
Jeff Bridges had fun with a very similar role in “Starman” 24 years ago — indeed, he found so much humor in an alien’s attempt to make sense of life on Earth that he earned an Oscar nomination (a mean feat for an actor in a sci-fi movie).
Wouldn’t an alien trying to pass himself off as a human male favor us with a smile every now and then?
Keanu maintains the same stone face that has been a feature of most of his performances since the first “Matrix” movie in 1999 made him into an action-movie superstar.
Would it kill him to do a comedy?
The early Keanu was a sexy doofus similar to Ashton Kutcher — he didn’t seem to take himself too seriously and was more than willing to go over-the-top for a laugh.
Perhaps because of the ribbing he took in some quarters for playing spacey surfer-type roles — especially Johnny Utah in the camp classic “Point Break” (1991) — Reeves has spent the last few years desperately trying to shake us of our Bill & Ted memories.
There was an unintentionally hilarious cover story on Reeves in last month’s Details magazine that pushed the actor as a closet intellectual primarily because he asked his interviewer to meet him at a bookstore.
The dour Reeves is apparently perfect for today’s international action movie market — where American humor and lightness of spirit might not translate to subliterate global audiences — but I miss the spirited Keanu of the 20th century.
I’ve been poring over one of the best recent arguments for the survival of print — the new issue of the terrific, twice-a-year journal n + 1.
Issue Seven features the same mix of good reporting, serious criticism and amusing social commentary that has made the Brooklyn-based organ must-reading for the past four years.
Keith Gessen (left) and Mark Greif are the editors. They founded the journal with Marco Roth and Benjamin Kunkel who are now editors-at-large.
Among other goodies in the new issue is a long piece called “Jessica Biel’s Hand” by my new favorite film critic, A.S. Hamrah, who takes a look at a bunch of the Hollywood films that have tried to deal with the war in Iraq and the “war on terror” in the wake of the terrorist attract of 9/11.
The title of the piece is derived from a dreadful 2006 Irwin Winkler film, “Home of the Brave,” in which glamour girl Biel played a vet who lost a hand in Iraq.
Hamrah’s piece includes stinging assessments of fictional features such as “The Kingdom” and “In the Valley of Elah” as well as a bunch of widely seen documentaries, including “Standard Operating Procedure.”
“These are the tropes of War-on-Terror movies,” Hamrah writes. “Fake Middle Eastern music, constant TV news and radio commentary, scenes of combat shot in Morocco instead of Iraq, actors we don’t recognize speaking Arabic with subtitles, videos of men in ski masks proclaiming in Arabic while they hold a Westerner hostage, American soldiers accidentally killing an Iraqi woman or child, vets losing their s— in their hometowns, a constant resort to cell phones, a scorpion fight, titles identifying every location change, a cut to black to avoid showing something horrible, a precredits wrap-up crawl that tells us what happened later, blonde wives back home. It’s amazing how everyone has a blonde wife back home. You’d think al Qaeda made these movies.”
The real centerpiece of Issue Seven, however, is an extended series of interviews with an anonymous hedge fund trader just before and during the current financial crisis.
n + 1 talked with the hedge fund manager in Oct. 2007, March 2008 and Sept. 2008; the result is the scariest and most lucid account I’ve read of what happened in the wake of the subprime mortgage meltdown during the summer of 2007 and the collapse of Bear Stearns in early 2008.
We are given an education in such hedge fund horrors as “stat arb,” “zombie banks” and “black box trading” (the latter is a computer system that sends out orders and makes trades faster than any human being).
“People call it ‘black box trading’ because sometimes you don’t even know why the black box is doing what it’s doing, because the whole idea is that if you could, you should be doing it yourself,” the fund manager tells n + 1.
“But it’s something that is done on such a big scale that a human brain can’t do it in real time,” he adds.
In August of 2007, “you had an avalanche where everyone’s black box was being shut off, causing incredibly bizarre behavior in the market…we had a loss over the course of like three days that was a ten-sigma event, meaning it should never happen based on the statistical models that underlie it. Why? Because the model doesn’t assume that everybody else is trading the same model as you are. So that’s sort of a meta-model factor. The model doesn’t know that there are other black boxes out there.”
And what’s a “ten-sigma” event?
“…It’s ten standard deviations from the mean…Meaning it’s basically impossible, you know?”
n + 1 operates an excellent Website with special material added each Monday — nplusonemag.com — but the elegant 220-page print version of the journal is essential reading and a steal at $11.95
Jan Brogan’s new crime novel, “Teaser” (St. Martin’s Minotaur), made the hours race by during an Amtrak trip to Philadelphia last weekend.
The third in a series of novels about Providence journalist Hallie Ahearn, “Teaser” is a terrific thriller about Internet pornography and rising tensions in the newspaper industry over online competition.
Hallie is researching a story about teens and chat rooms when she stumbles on a video clip that appears to be a come-on for “live” sexual services involving under-age girls.
With so many teens willing to post their own provocative pictures and videos on Facebook and myspace pages, Hallie isn’t sure at first if the anonymous girls are simply bragging or if they are the victims of some sort of child porn/prostitution ring operating in Rhode Island.
The story coincides with financial turbulence at Hallie’s newspaper — the Chronicle — which is losing advertising and young readers to a Website called R.I. Buzz.
Our journalist heroine first gets a strong go-ahead to pursue an investigative piece that might embarrass a competitor, but the assignment becomes much more complex (and potentially job-threatening) when there are rumors that the Chronicle’s parent company might be about to purchase the local Web operation.
Brogan is a 20-year veteran of the newspaper business who knows what a crazy/scary time this is for what once seemed to be an unshakeable American institution. “Teaser” shows Hallie’s office politics to be almost as treacherous as the dangers she might face exposing illegal Internet sex.
Hallie is a seriously flawed young woman — a recovering gambling addict who is trying to build a strong relationship with a man whose job often leaves both of them vulnerable to conflict-of-interest charges. Hallie also is trying to cope with the loss of a beloved brother to drug addiction.
Brogan juggles her gripping Internet porn plot with Hallie’s personal problems without ever compromising either of the narrative threads. The personal touches deepen our involvement with Brogan’s wonderful protagonist.
I can’t wait for book four.
Controversy has swirled around “The Boys in the Band” ever since the film opened in 1970.
First viewed with alarm for its blunt R-rated language and unapologetic presentation of a gay birthday party, “Boys” would go on to be attacked by homosexual activists and critics as a demeaning portrait of self-hating gays.
The treament of minorities in mainstream movies has always been a contentious issue.
Barrier breakers like Sidney Poitier — who in his peak years had to work within the limits imposed on black actors in Hollywood in the 1960s — would later be attacked for presenting a sanitized image of the African-American experience.
The new DVD of “The Boys in the Band” (CBS DVD) includes three terrific mini-documentaries that put the original 1968 Mart Crowley play and the subsequent 1970 film back into the context in which they were created — a time long before more “balanced” views of gay life such as “Will & Grace” and “Angels in America” and films like the current “Milk.”
Inspired in part by Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” — in which a boozy late night gathering of two academic couples turned into a vicious verbal slugfest — Crowley focused his story on an alcohol-fueled birthday gathering of eight 30ish gay men in Manhattan.
The writer increased the tension by having an old straight friend of the host’s arrive unexpectedly in the middle of the party, ramping up the verbal and emotional conflict to an almost hysterical level.
The anxiety and doubts (and, yes, self-hatred) of some of the characters in the story are a reflection of the fact that when “The Boys in the Band” opened homosexuality was still viewed as a mental illness by many psychiatrists. Men like the characters in the play were subject to arrest in the covert gay bars of that time. The historic riot that erupted outside the Stonewall bar in Greenwich Village — after cops busted some of the patrons on “vice” charges — took place a year after Crowley’s play opened off-Broadway.
Of course, the play and film have “dated” with the passage of so much time, but director William Friedkin (who would go on to “The French Connection” the following year) did a terrific job of adjusting the stage performances to the new medium and making a real movie out of the material without sacrificing much of Crowley’s juicy text.
“The Boys in the Band” is one of the very few films of a stage play in which the entire original cast was allowed to repeat their roles on film. Crowley points out in one of the DVD documentaries that he made this a condition of selling the play to Hollywood. Of the ensemble cast, only Laurence Luckinbill, Cliff Gorman and Leonard Frey would go on to other significant movie work, but it is the high-energy acting of everyone on screen that continues to give the movie such a feeling of immediacy despite all of the social changes of the past four decades.