Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Midnight in Paris

/Title:  Midnight in Paris
Theatrical Release Date: 05/20/2011
Director(s): Woody Allen
Distributor(s): Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated for some sexual references and smoking.
Genre(s): Comedy

This past weekend, I took myself off to the Cineplex along with my friend Mala to see Woody Allen's new film Midnight in Paris. Now I can't remember the last time I actually spent money to see a Woody Allen film, maybe way back when Match Point came out. Truthfully, I have not found his most recent oeuvre, apart from Vicky, Christina Barcelona to be either funny or interesting for that matter (Don't even get me started on the dreck he directed starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell). Despite my mixed feelings about Mr. Allen, I decided to give this film a shot for two reasons; it stars Owen Wilson and it's set in Paris. And not just Paris, but Paris in the 1920's, a period of history that I have been reading alot about lately, first during my research for SCANDALOUS WOMEN (Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald) but also in Paula MacLean's THE PARIS WIFE.  I'm a huge 1920's buff so I had to see this film. If nothing else, I could look at the scenery for two hours. And indeed the first minute or so of the film is like a Valentine to Paris.

Well, I'm happy to report that Midnight in Paris was delightful. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful screenwriter, who is dissatisfied with both his professional career and (as we later see) his personal life.  He's on a trip to Paris, with his fiancee Inez (played by Rachel McAdam) and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) who are celebrating a business deal. While Inez is more concerned with materialistic things, Gil is full of nostalgia.  See, he once lived in Paris after college and has regretted leaving ever since. He dreams of renting a little garret and writing the great American novel. Inez, of course, things the whole idea is ridiculous. How can you get a great table at the Ivy, if you are a starving artist.

One night, after Inez and two of her friends Paul (played to perfection by Michael Sheen) go off dancing, Gil decides to walk back to their hotel (the Hotel Bristol). He gets lost and while he's trying to figure out which direction to go, an antique car pulls up and F. Scott Fitgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Allison Pill) invite him to a party. At first Gil thinks he's stumbled into some elaborate costume party (Cole Porter is even playing the piano) but it turns out to be all too real. He even meets his ideal Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll who almost steals the movie) who tells Gil that he should have Gertrude Stein read his novel.  Gil can't believe his luck. Gil is giddy at the idea that he gets to experience a time in Paris that he's only read about and has always wanted to experience. In his mind, Paris in the 1920's is the ultimate.

Instead of just telling Inez what happened, Gil decides to show her, but she gives up before the car shows up. Gil not only gets to meet Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) but he also meets a young model Adriana (played by the beautiful Marion Cotillard) who is having an affair with Picasso. There is an attraction between the two of them, but of course, Picasso (and Hemingway) not to mention Inez in the present complicate matters. Gil slowly starts to realize how dissatisfying his life really is, and how much he wants to seize the dream of writing in Paris.

Gil's novel features a protagonist who owns a nostalgia shop, a place where people can buy relics of the past (how this different from an antique shop I have no idea). Inez, of course, thinks the whole idea is whooey, she's firmly rooted in the present. Gil dreams of staying in the 1920's, hanging out with Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), but Adriana dreams of living in the Belle Epoque. Soon Gil realizes that this yearning is just a symptom of his dissatisfaction, not a cure.

Midnight in Paris is not just about a love affair with a woman (although Gil is spoiled for choices with not just one but three love interests), or a city, but also another time. How many of us read novels set in another time period, or watch Masterpiece Theatre (Downtown Abbey) and wax nostalgic about how much better life was back then. We see the beautiful costumes, and the gorgeous houses, but we rarely think about what life was really like, if you weren't rich. I know that I've often thought about what it would be like to live in New York in the 1920's. Prohibitons, Mobsters, Vogue Magazine, Chanel, Gershwin, Cole Porter, the Stork Club. Of course, the reality is far different than the way that I picture it in my head. Clubs were segregated, mobsters carry guns, and bathtub gin could kill you.

The past seems so much more vivid to Gil and Adrienne, so much more vivid and vibrant in our imaginations, and then it evaporates when we think of the reality of what it would really be like. We ignore the reality of it, that there was no novocaine, women had few rights, if you were diagnosed with cancer it was pretty much a death sentence. The past is so seductive because we weren't there, we don't know what it was really like. I know that growing up whenever my parents used wax nostalgic about what New York used to be like, I would feel pangs of longing that I never got experience seeing the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field or having an egg cream. “Midnight in Paris,”  is wonderfully romantic film, even though it acknowledges the disappointment that goes inevitably goes along with being a romantic.

My only quibble with the film is that the women seem to be underwritten.  Gil's fiancee Inez is a castrating shrew, I had a hard time understanding why Gil fell in love with her and proposed, Adriana is pretty much a cipher, and Carla Bruni is pretty bland as the tour guide.  The only vibrant women are Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald but that has less to do with Woody Allen's writing and more to do with who these women were in real-life.

Gotham Gal gives it four shiny red apples

Do you, like Gil, suffer from nostalgia for a time period or a place that you wish that you could have lived in. If you could go back in time, would you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Open Letter to Garin Wolf

Dear Garin,

Congrats on your new job as head writer of General Hospital. It's no doubt well deserved, given the years that you have toiled in the trenches underneath Bob Guza.  I'm taking your promotion as a sign that ABC has high hopes for GH now that they've tossed the mighty legacy of Agnes Nixon (All My Children and One Life to Live) on the trash heap.

I know it's going to be awhile before you stories air, but might I make a few suggestions as to how you can save this show from suffering the same fate as its sisters? First of all, forget market research, and listen to what the fans want.  It's not hard to do. I suggest that you read what Mallory has been writing about GH over at Serial Drama for the past few years, and I'm sure that Jamie Giddens over at Daytime Confidential could help out as well. Don't forget Carolyn Hinsey at Soap Opera Digest who hit the nail on the head when she said that viewers don't want stories driven by arbitrary events that might boost ratings for 5 seconds but have no lasting effect.  We want character driven stories, not plot driven stories. Of course to make this work, some deadwood has to be trimmed from the cast.  Lisa Niles, Matt Hunter, Spinelli, Clare Walsh, Siobhan (also known as irritating Irish chick who serves no purpose), Abby, Brenda (whose return was totally botched by your predecessor), Johnny and Anthony Zacchara all need to hit the road in the next few months.

Recently my friend Mala and I sat down over the weekend and played Head Writer. Here are just some of the ideas that I came up with (you can read Mala's ideas here). I totally agree with her about a Lucky/Maxie/Liz triangle, it plays to the character's history and it makes sense that Lucky would turn to Maxie, especially if he's contemplating doing drugs again. Siobhan can't compete with that kind of history and frankly she's been written as nothing more than just feisty since she's been on the canvas.

1) Bring back Bobbie from under whatever rock she's been hiding under over the past several years. Carly needs her, as do Luke, Lucky and Lulu.  Find out why she's missed every significant moment in her daughter's life over the past few years, and why she wasn't there for Luke's intervention. Have her help Carly deal with yet another failed marriage. Also give her a job as Head OR nurse or head of the nursing program in general at GH. She finds herself falling for her old love Scott Baldwin who has returned to town with his daughter Serena, who immediately makes a bee-line for Michael Corinthos. Seems she likes to take a walk on the wild side of life.

2) Mala mentioned having Jason Morgan recover his memories.  Bring back either Lainey or Tom Hardy Jr. as head of psychiatry to help Jason deal with the fact that he's killed people for the past 16 years.  Tracy would now feel threatened, wanting Ned and Dillon to come back into the fold at ELQ. Perhaps, if they don't want to come back, she reaches out to JR Chandler and a merger between Chandler Electronics and ELQ which would bring JR and little Adam to Port Charles. JR finds himself drawn to Sam McCall even though she's engaged to Jason Morgan Quartermaine. This would bring the Quartermaines back to the forefront which is what fans have been clamoring for. Perhaps add a little corporate espionage to the mix. While you are at it, why not have Edward start courting Leslie Webber, finding love again in his twilight years. Take a look at the fan reaction to Victor Kiriakis and Maggie Horton over at DOL. Fans are open to love amongst all ages.

3) Now that Jason has taken his rightful place as the Quartermaine heir, where does that leave Sam? How does a con artist/detective/mob moll fit in to his new high sociey world? Especially when Kelly Cramer comes to town to take over the Port Charles newspaper. Sam breaks up with Jason and decided to find out who her father is which sends both Helena Cassadine and Alexis into a tizzy. Valentine Cassadine arrives in Port Charles and immediately moves into Windermere along with his new wife Holly Sutton. Is he Sam's father or is the truth even darker than she realizes? While Helena Cassadine tries to neutralize Sam finding out who her real father is, she also finds time to try and romance both Dr. David Hayward and Edward Quartermaine.

4) Dr. David Hayward arrives in Port Charles and takes over as head of cardiac surgery which puts him into conflict with Dr. Monica Quartermaine who is not ready to be put out to pasture. The two butt heads over surgeries and procedures. He immediately makes an ally of Carly Roberts Quartermaine Corinthos Jax who now has a seat on the hospital board thanks to her divorce from Jax.  Of course they hit the sheets, becoming Port Charles's new power couple. Hayward also clashes with Patrick Drake over who has the bigger cojones as a doctor. Despite the fact that he was once Robin's stepfather when he was married to her mother Anna, Hayward and Robin also clash over her research. Remember David Hayward loves to mess with drugs (Libidizone anyone?).  Who knows what he could create and release into the punch bowl at say the nurse's ball?

5) If Robin didn't have enough of a headache with her former stepfather back in town, her uncle deciding to quit the police force, Bianca Montgomery comes to town and reveals exactly what Robin was doing all those years in Paris.  Bianca comes to town to make a business deal with Jasper Jax. Fusion needs a serious influx of cash and Jax is one of the few venture capitalists who has money to invest. Sonny also wants to invest so that he can launder some cash in a desperate attemp to go clean to try and get Brenda back. While in town, Bianca connects with her old friend Robin. It turns out that the women were more than friends for awhile until Robin decided that she really prefers men, but seeing Bianca again stirs up old feelings which causes Patrick to once again feel insecure and to have problems controlling his jealously.

6) Mac decides to retire as police commissioner, disallusioned by the force's inability to end organized crime in the city. He takes a job as head of security at the MetroCourt where Max and Milo now work since Sonny has decided to go straight. Frisco Jones, after years of working for the WSB, finally comes back to town, on a mission to find out what Helena and Valentine Cassadine are up to. He also needs to deal with one angry daughter, Maxie Jones, who tears into him for his years of neglect, and for not even coming back for her sister Georgie's funeral. Maxie finally deals with her daddy issues. While working at the Metrocourt he runs into Kate Howard, who decides to make Mac her new pet project.

7) Lucas Jones comes back to town and gets a job at General Hospital as a physical therapist. He reconnects with his cousin Maxie, commiserating over the death of Georgie. He also connects with his big sister Carly. When Milo needs physical therapy to cope with an older injury, he finds himself attracted to a guy for the first time in his life. But Milo is not the only one in town who has is eye on the handsome new employee at GH.

8) Ethan and Kristina impulsively get married after he receives his cut of the Quartermaine money but he finds himself feeling left out when Kristina starts attending Port Charles University, along side Dillon Quartermaine who has returned to Port Charles. He keenly feels his lack of education compared to Kristina but doesn't know what to do about it.  Kristina assures him that she loves him exactly the way that he is, but he worries that he can't compete with the Taylor's and Dillon's of the world. The only way he thinks he can compete is by having money. He gets involved in a series of underground high stakes poker games. Initially he wins several but then he gets into deep.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: Royal Housewife

Now that the wedding is over, and the top of the wedding cake has been frozen to be eaten on their first anniversary (do the Brits even follow that custom?) what is next for the royal couple? After a brief weekend break, Prince William went back to work today as a search and rescue pilot with the RAF. The couple are not set to take their honeymoon for a few weeks, hopefully somewhere warm (There is speculation that the royal honeymoon was canceled because of what went down this weekend with Osama). While the Duke is pursuing his career in the RAF, Kate is set to return to normality as a housewife. Word on the street is that she has decided not to become a full-time working royal for the next two years, instead she wants to enjoy life for as long as she can as an ‘ordinary RAF wife’ in the rented farmhouse that they share on the island of Anglesey in North Wales . “Catherine wants to enjoy her time with William as an RAF wife,” said a friend. “It’s so rare that someone in her position gets the chance to live as a normal wife and she intends to make the most of it.”

Kate’s life will be somewhat reminiscent of the Queen’s life when she first married the Duke of Edinburgh who was still an active officer in the Royal Navy. Some of the happiest times of their lives were when they were first married and the Duke was posted to Malta. Between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta (then a British Protectorate) as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of GwardamanÄ¡ia, at the Villa GwardamanÄ¡ia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children, Anne and Charles however remained in Britain.

The Duchess has been invited to join the wives' club at RAF Valley. Support from other women in a similar situation will be important. Only they really understand the difficulties of having a spouse in a high-pressure job such as search and rescue. Other wives may also provide a social network for Kate if she goes through a lengthy separation from William. It has been reported that he may be posted to the Falkland Islands to serve for two and a half months as part of his training. In the meantime, Kate will only conduct public engagements with William. According to the Daily Mail, Kate wants to model herself on Camilla, who insisted on a 'supporting role' only after her marriage to Prince Charles in 2005.

This decision is as much William’s as it is Kate’s doing, as he has asked aides to keep her commitments to a minimum. Accordingly, there are only a few events penciled into her diary for the upcoming months. The only definite dates include events like Trooping the Color (aka the Queen’s official birthday), a couple of polo matches and the Duke of Edinburgh's 90th birthday. There will also be Zara Phillip’s wedding to Mike Tindall in Scotland at the end of July. Meanwhile, in Canada excitement is building as Kate will accompany William on a two-week tour in July. Rumor has it that the royal couple may be bringing some glitz and glamor to Tinsletown itself at the end of the tour although that hasn’t been confirmed (at least according to Andrew Morton on his new site The Morton Report). Word is that they will also be taking on a significant role next year for the Olympics, not to mention the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne.

Seriously though, one has to wonder, won’t she get bored just sitting around the cottage waiting for William to come home? Before she, at least, had her job at Party Pieces to occupy her when she wasn’t with William. Aides to the Prince however insist that Kate ‘will not be idle’ and that while William is on duty, she will be ‘pursuing other interests.’ Hmm, Kate once expressed an interest in photography, I wonder if she might take that up again. There’s also the possibility eventually of the pitter-patter of tiny royal feet.

Soon, however, Kate will have to take on some royal engagements on her own. It is important that she be seen to be earning her keep as it were. During the years that she was dating Prince William, she was criticized for being ‘work-shy.’ Apart from working for her parents at Party Pieces, the only job she had was as a part-time Accessories buyer for the High-Street chain Jigsaw. Last year, the Queen who is 85 conducted 444 royal engagements, while Prince Charles carried out 585! William on the other hand performed 73. Of course, he also has a full-time job in the RAF so he can be forgiven for not undertaking more. Kate, however, does not have that excuse.

While it is understandable that Prince William does not want Kate to be thrown into the deep end the way is mother was, Kate seems to be a pretty tough cookie. She’s already proven that she has a natural confidence about her in the few royal engagements that she performed before the wedding. I have a feeling that she would be fine if she undertook a few solo engagements at carefully selected charities that have some personal meaning to her. However, according to the Daily Mail, she wants to explore the fields that interest her before committing to her own charities.

It appears that Kate has the blessing of the Queen, who no doubt remembers what it was like in the few short years that she had as a newlywed before her father’s untimely death which thrust her into the duties of the monarchy. You have to applaud Kate’s chutzpah at bucking royal tradition.