Saturday, August 23, 2014

In her delicious screen debut - THE CRUSH - flash-in-the-pan Alicia Silverstone proves that as an actress she was always 'Clueless.'

The Crush a 1993 gigglefest about a teen psycho-nymphet who makes life a living hell for the twice-her-age writer who's renting out her parents' guest house, is a fabulous Bad Movie gem. Alicia Silverstone plays this Lolita-ish minx -- think Poison Ivy in a Wonderbra -- who one second is displaying herself nude to renter Cary Elwes and the next is trying to murder his photographer girlfriend, Jennifer Rubin, by shoving swarms of buzzing wasps into a darkroom's ventilation system. We'd guess that Silverstone, who rapidly exhausts her repertoire of three expressions (coy, steamy, wacko), honed her acting licks studying the oeuvre of Cybill Shepherd. When she chirps lines at Rubin like, "Don"t worry, Amy, some guys really like girls with small breasts," we can only hope for Silverstone's sake that some guys like girls with teensy talent. And we'd guess that Elwes, who rapidly exhausts his repertoire of one expression (self-enchanted), honed his acting licks by studying the oeuvre of Ryan O'Neal. Just like O'Neal in What's Up, Doc? -- but that movie was intended as a comedy -- Elwes hopes to pass himself off as an intellectual by donning specs. Indeed, when Silverstone finds him chomping on a cigar while writing, he explains, preposterously, "Helps me think."

But it's in its crackpot plotting and kamikaze ripoffs of other moviemakers that The Crush attains Bad Movie nirvana. When Elwes can't hack a Pique magazine assignment about a Michael Milkenesque arbitrager, 14-year-old Silverstone secretly rewrites his story so brilliantly that it becomes a career-maker for him. Later, explaining her actions, Silverstone -- who sounds to us like she's learned every word of her dialogue phonetically--says, "Your split infinitives put such stress on the adverbs."

For plot reasons, Elwes's character just up and becomes stupid, which the actor does manage to convey. Long after Silverstone has etched "c-cksucker" onto the hood of his car, made a room into a candle-lit shrine to him and phoned him to say, "Guess what? Got my period. Definitely not pregnant," you'll be screaming aloud, "Ever think of moving, Cary?" Of course, if he did, we wouldn't get to savor such prize moments as Silverstone cooing, "Ever do a virgin?" Or the scene in which the heroine's rich daddy, wielding a pair of pliers, tells Elwes what he plans to do to the horny guys his little girl will soon attract: "Some friggin' kid'll be standin' there with his hard-on stickin' out of his pants," he says. "Hope I don't go breakin' it off!" By the time Silverstone gets around to the most implausible plot twist of all--she accuses Elwes of raping her and people actually believe her -- you'll be breaking in half with hilarity.

With two stars incapable of having a crush on anyone but their mirrors, we're afraid that writer-director Alan Shapiro's crush on Alfred Hitchcock is the only crush on display: Silverstone freaks out in full riding gear, like Tippi Hedren in Marnie; when Rubin fights off those wasps, it's shot like the finale of The Birds; then, falling, she grabs a curtain, like Janet Leigh in the Psycho shower. In the absurd climax, Elwes fights for his life on a twirling carousel straight out of Strangers on a Train, only this one's in an attic (don't ask).
Our favorite moment, though, is an original. Elwes, disturbed from his sleep by chopping noises and angry screams, investigates to find a sweaty, crazily wide-eyed Silverstone hacking away at lemons. He asks what she's doing and she hisses, "Making lemonade. Want some?"

Take it from your Auntie Helen, when you're ready for a long cool drink of laughter, catch The Crush.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ABC's new fall series GALAVANT is coming soon - Here's a link to a delicious video preview from Playbill

It has been called (by some people) a cross between Mel Brooks' ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS and Fox's GLEE. (Oh dear, God, let's hope not!) We are crossing our fingers and praying for humor more subtle with a slight nod to Monty Python (THE PRINCESS BRIDE perhaps) and of course the usual fine musical work from Alan (The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast) Menken. With all of that in mind - here is a link to ABC's extended video preview of the upcoming fall series GALAVANT:


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

DELICIOUS remembers Hollywood and Broadway Legend LAUREN BACALL (1924 - 2014)

Lauren Bacall Dies at 89; in a Bygone Hollywood, She Purred Every Word

Lauren Bacall, the actress whose provocative glamour elevated her to stardom in Hollywood’s golden age and whose lasting mystique put her on a plateau in American culture that few stars reach, died on Tuesday in New York. She was 89.
Her death was confirmed by her son Stephen Bogart. “Her life speaks for itself,” Mr. Bogart said. “She lived a wonderful life, a magical life.”
With an insinuating pose and a seductive, throaty voice — her simplest remark sounded like a jungle mating call, one critic said — Ms. Bacall shot to fame in 1944 with her first movie, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel “To Have and Have Not,” playing opposite Humphrey Bogart, who became her lover on the set and later her husband.
It was a smashing debut sealed with a handful of lines now engraved in Hollywood history.
“You know you don’t have to act with me, Steve,” her character says to Bogart’s in the movie’s most memorable scene. “You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”
The film was the first of more than 40 for Ms. Bacall, among them “The Big Sleep” and “Key Largo” with Bogart, “How to Marry a Millionaire” with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, “Designing Woman” with Gregory Peck, the all-star “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974) and, later in her career, Lars von Trier’s “Dogville” (2003) and “Manderlay” (2005) and Robert Altman’s “Prêt-à-Porter” (1994).
But few if any of her movies had the impact of her first — or of that one scene. Indeed, her film career was a story of ups, downs and long periods of inactivity. Though she received an honorary Academy Award in 2009 “in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures,” she was not nominated for an Oscar until 1997.
The theater was kinder to her. She won Tonys for her starring roles in two musicals adapted from classic films: “Applause” (1970), based on “All About Eve,” and “Woman of the Year” (1981), based on the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn movie of the same name. Earlier she starred on Broadway in the comedies “Goodbye, Charlie” (1959) and “Cactus Flower” (1965).
She also won a National Book Award in 1980 for the first of her two autobiographies, “Lauren Bacall: By Myself.”
Though often called a legend, she did not care for the word. “It’s a title and category I am less than fond of,” she wrote in 1994 in “Now,” her second autobiography. “Aren’t legends dead?”
Forever Tied to Bogart
She also expressed impatience, especially in her later years, with the public’s continuing fascination with her romance with Bogart, even though she frequently said that their 12-year marriage was the happiest period of her life.
“I think I’ve damn well earned the right to be judged on my own,” she said in a 1970 interview with The New York Times. “It’s time I was allowed a life of my own, to be judged and thought of as a person, as me.”
Years later, however, she seemed resigned to being forever tied to Bogart and expressed annoyance that her later marriage to another leading actor, Jason Robards Jr., was often overlooked.
“My obit is going to be full of Bogart, I’m sure,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in a profile of her in March 2011, adding: “I’ll never know if that’s true. If that’s the way, that’s the way it is.”
Ms. Bacall was an 18-year-old model in New York when her face on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar caught the eye of Slim Hawks, Howard Hawks’s wife. Brought to Hollywood and taken under the Hawkses’ wing, she won the role in “To Have and Have Not,” loosely based on the novel of the same name.
She played Marie Browning, known as Slim, an American femme fatale who becomes romantically involved with Bogart’s jaded fishing-boat captain, Harry Morgan, known as Steve, in wartime Martinique. Her deep voice and the seductive way she looked at Bogart in the film attracted attention.
Their on-screen chemistry hadn’t come naturally, however. In one of the first scenes she filmed, she asked if anyone had a match. Bogart threw her a box of matches; she lit her cigarette and then threw the box back to him.
“My hand was shaking, my head was shaking, the cigarette was shaking, I was mortified,” she wrote in “By Myself.” “The harder I tried to stop, the more I shook. ... I realized that one way to hold my trembling head still was to keep it down, chin low, almost to my chest, and eyes up at Bogart. It worked and turned out to be the beginning of The Look.”
Ms. Bacall’s naturally low voice was further deepened in her early months in Hollywood. Hawks wanted her voice to remain low even during emotional scenes and suggested she find some quiet spot and read aloud. She drove to Mulholland Drive and began reading “The Robe,” making her voice lower and louder than usual.
“Who sat on mountaintops in cars reading books aloud to the canyons?” she later wrote. “I did.”
During her romance with Bogart, she asked him if it mattered to him that she was Jewish. His answer, she later wrote, was “Hell, no — what mattered to him was me, how I thought, how I felt, what kind of person I was, not my religion, he couldn’t care less — why did I even ask?”
An Impulsive Kiss
Ms. Bacall’s love affair with Bogart began with an impulsive kiss. While filming “To Have and Have Not,” he had stopped at her trailer to say good night when he suddenly leaned over, lifted her chin and kissed her. He was 25 years her senior and married at the time to Mayo Methot, his third wife, but to Ms. Bacall, “he was the man who meant everything in the world to me; I couldn’t believe my luck.”
As her fame grew in the ensuing months — she attracted wide publicity in February 1945 when she was photographed on top of a piano, legs draped over the side, with Vice President Harry S. Truman at the keyboard — so did the romance, particularly as she and Bogart filmed “The Big Sleep,” based on a Raymond Chandler whodunit.
But her happiness alternated with despair. Bogart returned to his wife several times before he accepted that the marriage could not be saved. He and Ms. Bacall were married on May 21, 1945, at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio, the home of Bogart’s close friend the writer Louis Bromfield. Bogart was 45; Ms. Bacall was 20.
Returning to work, she soon suffered a setback, when the critics savaged her performance in “Confidential Agent,” a 1945 thriller with Charles Boyer set during the Spanish Civil War. The director was Herman Shumlin, who, unlike Hawks and Bogart on her first two movies, offered her no guidance. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” she recalled. “I was a novice.”
“After ‘Confidential Agent,’ it took me years to prove that I was capable of doing anything at all worthwhile,” she wrote. “I would never reach the ‘To Have and Have Not’ heights again — on film, anyway — and it would take much clawing and scratching to pull myself even halfway back up that damn ladder.”
“Dark Passage,” her third movie with Bogart, came after several years of concentrating on her marriage. Had she not married Bogart, she told The Times in 1996, her career would probably have flourished, but she did not regret the marriage.
“I would not have had a better life, but a better career,” she said. “Howard Hawks was like a Svengali; he was molding me the way he wanted. I was his creation, and I would have had a great career had he been in control of it. But the minute Bogie was around, Hawks knew he couldn’t control me, so he sold my contract to Warner Bros. And that was the end.”
She was eventually suspended 12 times by the studio for rejecting scripts.
‘And We Made a Noise’
In 1947, as the House Un-American Activities Committee investigated Americans suspected of Communism, Ms. Bacall and Bogart were among 500 Hollywood personalities to sign a petition protesting what they called the committee’s attempt “to smear the motion picture industry.” Investigating individual political beliefs, the petition said, violated the basic principles of American democracy.

The couple flew to Washington as part of a group known as the Committee for the First Amendment, which also included Danny Kaye, John Garfield, Gene Kelly, John Huston, Ira Gershwin and Jane Wyatt. “I am an outraged and angry citizen who feels that my basic civil liberties are being taken away from me,” Bogart said in a statement.
Three decades later, Ms. Bacall would express doubts about “whether the trip to Washington ultimately helped anyone.” But, she added: “It helped those of us at the time who wanted to fight for what we thought was right and against what we knew was wrong. And we made a noise — in Hollywood, a community which should be courageous but which is surprisingly timid and easily intimidated.”
Nevertheless, bowing to studio pressure, Bogart later said publicly he believed the trip to Washington was “ill advised,” and Ms. Bacall went along with him.
A year after that trip she had what she termed “one of my happiest movie experiences” starring with Bogart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor in John Huston’s thriller “Key Largo.” It was Bogart’s and Ms. Bacall’s last film together. “Young Man With a Horn” (1950), with Kirk Douglas and Doris Day, in which she played a student married to a jazz trumpeter, was less successful.
Ms. Bacall’s first son, Stephen H. Bogart (named after Bogart’s character in “To Have and Have Not”), was born in 1949. A daughter, Leslie Bogart (named after the actor Leslie Howard), was born in 1952. In a 1995 memoir, Stephen wrote, “My mother was a lapsed Jew, and my father was a lapsed Episcopalian,” adding that he and his sister, Leslie, were raised Episcopalian “because my mother felt that would make life easier for Leslie and me during those post-World War II years.”
Rat Pack Den Mother
Ms. Bacall, however, wrote that she felt “totally Jewish and always would” and that it was Bogart who thought the children should be christened in an Episcopal church because “with discrimination still rampant in the world, it would give them one less hurdle to jump in life’s Olympics.”
She was, she said, happy being a wife and mother. She was also “den mother” to the so-called Hollywood Rat Pack, whose members included Bogart, Frank Sinatra, David Niven, Judy Garland and others. (It would evolve into the better-known Rat Pack whose members included Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.)
In 1952 she campaigned for Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for president, and persuaded Bogart, who had originally supported the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, to join her. The two accompanied Stevenson on motorcades and flew east to help in the final lap of his campaign in New York and Chicago.
Her film career at this point appeared to be going nowhere, but she had no intention of allowing Lauren Bacall the actress to slide into oblivion. In 1953 her fortunes revived with what she called “the best part I’d had in years,” in “How to Marry a Millionaire,” playing alongside Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable as New York models with sights set on finding rich husbands.
In the early 1950s the Bogarts dabbled in radio and the growing medium of television. They starred in the radio adventure series “Bold Venture” and, with Henry Fonda, in a live television version of “The Petrified Forest,” the 1936 film that starred Bogart, Bette Davis and Leslie Howard. In 1956 Ms. Bacall appeared in a television production of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” in which Coward himself also starred. She would occasionally return to the small screen for the rest of her career, making guest appearances on shows like “The Rockford Files” and “Chicago Hope” and starring in TV movies.
Bogart was found to have cancer of the esophagus in 1956. Although an operation was successful — his esophagus and two lymph nodes were removed — after some months the cancer returned. He died in January 1957 at the age of 57.
Romance With Sinatra
Shortly after Bogart’s death, Ms. Bacall, by then 32, had a widely publicized but brief romance with Sinatra, who had been a close friend of the Bogarts. She moved to New York in 1958 and, three years later, married Mr. Robards, settling in a spacious apartment in the Dakota, on Central Park West, where she continued to live until her death. They had a son, the actor Sam Robards, and were divorced in 1969. She is survived by her sons, Stephen Bogart and Sam Robards; her daughter, Leslie Bogart; and six grandchildren.
Lauren Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske in Brooklyn on Sept. 16, 1924, the daughter of William and Natalie Perske, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Romania. Her parents were divorced when she was 6 years old, and her mother moved to Manhattan and adopted the second half of her maiden name, Weinstein-Bacal.
“I didn’t really have any love in my growing-up life, except for my mother and grandmother,” Ms. Bacall said in the Vanity Fair interview. Her father, she said, “did not treat my mother well.”
From then until her move to Hollywood, Ms. Bacall was known as Betty Bacal; she added an “l” to her name because, she said, the single “l” caused “too much irregularity of pronunciation.” The name Lauren was given her by Howard Hawks before the release of her first film, but family and old friends called her Betty throughout her life, and to Bogart she was always Baby.
Although finances were a problem as she was growing up — “Nothing came easy, everything was worked for” — her mother’s family was close-knit, and through an uncle’s generosity she attended the Highland Manor school for girls in Tarrytown, N.Y., where she graduated from grade school at 11. She went on to Julia Richman High School in Manhattan and also studied acting at the New York School of the Theater and ballet with Mikhail Mordkin, who had on occasion been Pavlova’s partner.
After graduation in 1940, Ms. Bacall became a full-time student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts but left after the first year; her family could no longer subsidize her, and the academy at the time did not offer scholarships to women.
So she turned to modeling, and in 1941, at 16, she landed jobs with David Crystal, a Seventh Avenue dress manufacturer, and Sam Friedlander, who made evening gowns. During lunch hours she would stand outside Sardi’s selling copies of Actor’s Cue, a casting tip sheet, hoping to catch the attention of producers. She also became an usher at Broadway theaters and a hostess at the newly opened Stage Door Canteen.
Her first theater role was a walk-on in a Broadway play called “Johnny 2 x 4.” It paid $15 a week and closed in eight weeks, but she looked back on the experience as “magical.” Another stab at modeling, with the Walter Thornton agency, proved disappointing, but her morale soared in July 1942, with a sentence by George Jean Nathan in Esquire: “The prettiest theater usher — the tall slender blonde in the St. James Theater right aisle, during the Gilbert & Sullivan engagement — by general rapt agreement among the critics, but the bums are too dignified to admit it.”
Watching ‘Casablanca’
Later that year she was cast by the producer Max Gordon in “Franklin Street,” a comedy directed by George S. Kaufman, which closed out of town. It was her last time onstage for 17 years.
It was about this time that she saw Bogart in “Casablanca.” She later recalled that she could not understand the reaction of a friend who was “mad” about him. “So much for my judgment at that time,” she said.
In 1942, she met Nicolas de Gunzburg, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, who took her to meet Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor. After a thorough inspection, Vreeland asked her to return the next day to meet the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Test shots were taken, and a few days later she was called.
A full-page color picture of her standing in front of a window with the words “American Red Cross Blood Donor Service” on it led to inquiries from David O. Selznick, Howard Hughes and Howard Hawks, among others. The Hawks offer was accepted, and Betty Bacall, 18 years old, left for the West Coast by train with her mother. She returned to New York less than two years later as Lauren Bacall, star.
In her 70s, Ms. Bacall began lending her distinctive voice to television commercials and cartoons, and her movie career again picked up steam. Between 1995 and 2012 she was featured in more than a dozen pictures, most notably “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996), in which she played Barbra Streisand’s monstrous, vain mother.
The role brought her an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actress; the smart money was on her to win. But the Oscar went to Juliette Binoche for her part in “The English Patient,” to the astonishment of almost everyone, including Ms. Binoche.
Ms. Bacall — who received a consolation prize of sorts when she was named a Kennedy Center Honors winner a few months later — was perhaps prepared for the Oscar rebuff. Shortly before the Academy Awards ceremony, she told an interviewer that she hadn’t been happy for years. “Contented, yes; pleased and proud, yes. But happy, no.”
Still, she said, she had been lucky: “I had one great marriage, I have three great children and four grandchildren. I am still alive. I still can function. I still can work.”
As she said in 1996: “You just learn to cope with whatever you have to cope with. I spent my childhood in New York, riding on subways and buses. And you know what you learn if you’re a New Yorker? The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014





Friday, August 8, 2014

Deliciously inept in almost everyway, SWIMFAN - a water-logged 'Fatal Attraction' junior for collectors of the unintentionally bad - makes one yearn for the subtle nuances of 'The Crush.'

Ripped from the pages of the See 'Dick Run, See Jane Stalk Him' handbook, SWIMFAN is as Deliciously dumb as it gets. At the center is Erika Christensen – who caught movie-goers’ attention with her riveting performance in Traffic – generating (at least) half of the unintentional laughs in this aquatic would-be thriller.

Swimfan is the story of high school good-guy Jesse Bradford. who has cleaned up his act following trouble with drugs and break-ins (since when did doctors’ teen sons get sent off to ‘juvy’ for six months after problems like that, anyway?). He’s a competitive swimmer with lots of friends, the perfect girlfriend, and the attentions of seriously psychotic new girl in school Christensen. Following a highly unlikely tryst, Bradford soon finds himself the object of his fellow flinger’s ongoing affections and before you can say ‘Haven’t I seen this jilted psycho movie a thousand times before?" Bradford’s competitive swimming dreams are on the rocks and his friends are dropping like flies.

In case anyone wishes to suggest that we oldsters may have missed the appeal of this teenpic epic, I need to point out that my girlfriend Sylvia and I watched Swimfan with an audience filled with its target demographic (her two teen girls along with my oldest son Thad and his new boyfriend Enrique), and they were all laughing hysterically at Christenson’s supposedly menacing glare from various windows as her carnage unfolded below. It's like going to a house party and watching the host defend himself against a frothing ex-girlfriend. You don't want to call the cops. You want to call Domino's.

Some of the more ludicrous touches in this junior version of Fatal Attraction include a hospital where part-time teen-aged orderlies hand out medication to the patients (we don’t think we’ll be checking in there any time soon); where intensive care wards are entirely without staff (we’ve heard of health care cutbacks, but this is ridiculous); and where teen-aged volunteers wander the halls at night with stethoscopes hanging around their necks and scalpels in their hands (are the volunteers doing surgery now?). And Swimfan, just like Fatal Attraction, eventually goes overboard with a loony melodramatic denouement in which a high school swimming pool substitutes for a bathtub.

Maybe the script is responsible for the lack of character development (we’ve already described everything we learn about Bradford, and Christensen is nothing more than a girl from elsewhere who’s in town because her parents are away), and possibly the film’s modest budget may be responsible for supporting player Dan Hedaya’s embarrassingly bad hair, but we’re certainly not going to blame editor Sarah Flack entirely for the sloppy-looking and sometimes disjointed mess that we’re left with (particularly the atrocious ending of the film, which looks like it was literally picked up off the cutting room floor and taped into place). With this film (and with his follow-up effort HIDE AND SEEK) on his resume, perhaps it would be wise for director John Polson to return to his undistinguished acting career; there’s no hint that he knows how to direct.


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