Friday, July 30, 2010

The Extra Man (Magnolia Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

The word quirky might have been invented for this curious comedy about Louis Ives, the young man played by Paul Dano who, after caught in a compromising pose with a woman’s brassiere, is fired from his Princeton prep school teacher job.

He comes to Manhattan where he shares an apartment with eccentric, composition professor and once-promising playwright Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), an overly refined man with a prudish and fastidious manner who makes much of his professed Catholicism (“somewhere to the right of the Pope,” he boasts) and supplements his income as an “extra man” (i.e., escort) for wealthy widows.

Kline has one of his most colorful screen roles as this autocratic, larger-than-life mentor who shows Louis the ropes on such niceties of how to sneak into the opera. (New Yorkers, note the chosen venue is the City Center, not the Met.)

Dano – so good in “There Will Be Blood” -- is equally fine as his shy, befuddled occasional cross-dressing young protégé through whose eyes we observe the events of the story.

An extremely hirsute red-headed John C. Reilly plays Henry’s oddball friend Gerson speaking disconcertingly in a high-pitched falsetto. At one point, Louis, Henry, and Gershon drive to the beach with the esoteric Henry warbling the title tune of all things, the operetta “Pas Sur La Bouche” (filmed by Alain Resnais a few years ago), and once at the shore, Reilly drops the falsetto and belts out “Somewhere My Love.”

John Pankow is Louis’ boss at the environmental magazine where Louis works in a sales job, Katie Holmes is a bright, likable presence as his vegan office-mate who becomes his unattainable love interest, and this year’s Tony winner Marian Seldes is outstanding as Henry’s most imposing client. A sequence at the Russian Tea Room is a standout.

The plot takes some rather off-putting turns that tests an audience’s tolerance for the offbeat, as when the wide-eyed Tim goes to a dominatrix for spanking.

Co-adapted by Jonathan Ames from his semi-autobiographical novel, originally set in the 1990s, and directed with fable-like aura by Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman (who both shared script duties), capturing something of the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald of whom Louis is so enamored. The Gatsby-like sepia credit sequence starts the film off to a charming and promising start.

Still, while the film has its amusing moments, and by the time of the bittersweet wrap-up, manages to tug at the heart, ultimately it never completely captivates, even with its interesting cast which also includes Celia Weston, Patti D’Arbanville, Lynn Cohen, Dan Hedaya, and Jason Butler Harner.

(Rated R by the MPAA for some sexual content.)

Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

Though Francis Veber’s delightful stage play and 1998 French film – the winner of three Cesar Awards – has been greatly altered, and in many respects, cheapened, the winning performances of Paul Rudd and the ever-amazing Steve Carell make it worth your time.

Director Jay Roach has only used the original property as a springboard for a considerably different sort of affair, utilizing many of the elements in different ways. And the dinner itself, never dramatized in the original, has now become the literal climax.

The setting has been transplanted to Los Angeles. Rudd is Tim Conrad, an up-and-coming financial analyst who’s been invited by his boss (Bruce Greenwood) to attend a dinner in which all the guests must invite the most idiotic person they can find, all for cruel amusement.

Driving through Westwood, Tim nearly runs down Barry (Carell) – an I.R.S. nerd and taxidermist who makes dioramas out of dead mice (don’t worry, they’re cute) – Tim thinks he’s found his perfect candidate to win the prize and make a promotion-deserving impression at the following night’s affair.

Barry mistakes the night of the dinner, however, and shows up at Tim’s house that very evening, thereby proceeding to wreak well-intentioned havoc on Tim’s business affairs and love-life, alienating Tim's girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak).

The mouse element – it was matchstick constructions originally -- is one of the more pleasing additions in this version. The “mouseterpiece” tableaux (everything from the Wright Brothers to Evel Knievel) are really quite charming, and exemplify the sweeter side of the film. David Guion and Michael Handelman’s script has a good number of funny bits, but some of the other permutations on the original’s themes are less felicitous.

Carell at times seems to be channeling Jerry Lewis (speaking of things French); he’s both lovable and irritating in equal measure and Rudd is a winning straight man throughout, his struggle with his better nature nicely portrayed.

So, too, there’s amusing work from Jemaine Clement as an outlandish womanizing artist for whom curator Julie works. He brings something of the roguish spirit of Russell Brand’s character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Perhaps in homage to the property’s roots, French actress Stephanie Szostak has been cast as Tim’s disapproving girlfriend, and she’s most appealing and “real.” Zach Galifianakis has some funny bits as a mind-controlling I.R.S. man. And David Walliams and Lucy Davenport are funny and characterful as a German munitions factory owner and his wife whom Tim sets out to impress.

The cruelty of the central premise – albeit finally portrayed as just that – is more disturbing than it was in the original, and somehow, despite Carell’s inspired antics and some amusing gags along the way, manages overall to be far less funny than its source material, never quite hitting its stride. (I saw the play in London several years ago, and found it simply hilarious, played as originally written).

Rated PG-13 by MPAA for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language.

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

Kids may enjoy the formulaic slapstick and high octane shenanigans, but adults are likely to find this sequel to 2001’s “Cats & Dogs” something of a noisy bore.

This live action, computer animation and puppetry amalgam is, at least, reasonably well executed, though the 3D effects add little. (The continuing popularity of the gimmicky process continues to perplex me.)

The eponymous villainess, a former agent for the spy organization MEOWS -- voiced by a game Bette Midler -- is intent on world domination. Determined to stop her are Diggs (James Marsden), an overly impulsive German Shepherd, formerly of the S.F.P.D., and now with MEOWS’ canine counterpart DOG; an older Anatolian Shepherd Butch (Nick Nolte); and MEOWS operative Catherine (Christina Applegate), a rare case of canine/feline comradeship (and maybe something more).

The voices for the canine and feline characters are a reasonably starry bunch. Besides those mentioned, there’s also Michael Clarke Duncan, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Joe Pantoliano, Katt Williams, and even (in homage to James Bond) Roger Moore. Chris O’Donnell plays Diggs’ human detective partner on the police force.

But Ron J. Friedman and Steve Bencich’s script is serviceable, and mildly amusing, no more. Brad Peyton’s direction is merely competent. The explosions, fights and chases grow wearying, as does the conceit of live animals who can talk, accomplished through the wizardry of CGI.

About three quarters of the way through, the little girl behind me politely informed her adult companion she’d like to leave, demonstrating that even small kids can be remarkably discerning.

(Rated PG by the MPAA for animal action and humor.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Salt (Columbia Pictures)

By Harry Forbes

Angelina Jolie confirms her status as supreme female action star in this enormously exciting espionage thriller, “Salt.” In fact, forget the gender qualifier. Whether leaping from bridges onto moving trucks, navigating the precariously narrow ledge of an apartment building, bailing from a helicopter, she does it all as deftly as her male counterparts, and most convincingly at that.

She plays CIA agent Evelyn Salt who, in the film’s tense opening seconds, is being tortured by the North Koreans, insisting all the while that she’s not a spy. Before long, bruised and battered, she’s being swapped for another spy, due to the intense intercession of her devoted researcher boyfriend Michael (August Diehl).

Two years later, she’s in Washington, ready to celebrate her wedding anniversary, and poised to give up these dangerous assignments for a desk job, though her boss Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) predicts she’ll be bored.

Before she can get home to her hubby and dog, she and Winter are summoned to interrogate a Russian defector (Daniel Olbrychski).

Winter and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the agency’s counter-intelligence man
dispatch Salt to the interrogation room, where the grizzled Russian spins an incredible tale about his countrymen training orphaned children to infiltrate America as sleeper agents (Lee Harvey Oswald is cited as one such), in anticipation of Day X where they will spring into action against the United States, seizing control of the country’s atomic weapons.

He reveals that an agent is now poised to kill the Russian president when the latter attends the impending funeral of the U.S. vice president. Salt scoffs at the preposterous story, but as she’s leaving the interrogation room, he stuns both her and the CIA men behind the glass window by naming her as one such operative.

Despite the supportive Winter’s protestations. Peabody has no choice but to detain her. Salt adamantly proclaims her innocence, but fears the Russians will try to target her husband, and determines to him get to him before the Russians at any cost. She ingeniously breaks loose and becomes a fugitive from the Feds as she endeavors to save her husband and clear her name.

As there are many twists and turns, it would be wrong to give away more of the plot, but suffice to say the breathless car and motorcycle chases, daredevil escapes, and ingenious subterfuges never stop.

Throughout all of this, Jolie is fascinating to watch and despite the ambiguity of her character, makes Salt a character for whom you instinctively root, even when the plot threatens to strain credulity. She handles the hardware with the greatest of aplomb, and allegedly does much of her own stunt work. As a blonde, brunette, and even, at one point, audaciously as a man, she captivates.

And with Russian spies currently extremely au courant all over again, the picture’s release could not be timelier.

Director Phillip Noyce whips up a tremendous lather of excitement, and the pace never lags. “Salt” outdoes the Bourne movies for nail-biting excitement. Don’t expect realism, but writer Kurt Wimmer has concocted a hugely enjoyable yarn, grounding his script just enough, all the while keeping you guessing about the motives of the enigmatic Salt character.

The huge funeral sequence – set at St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue – rivals the climactic Royal Albert Hall assassination attempt of Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Scott Chambliss’ production design and all the location work – mostly in New York and Washington, D.C. – are first rate.

And all the excitement is considerably enhanced by James Newton Howard’s poundingly propulsive score.

(The film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of violence and action.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Despicable Me (Universal)

Leonardo DiCaprio's "Inception" came in, predictably, at number one this weekend, but the family-friendly "Despicable Me" -- with Steve Carell voicing the comic villain Gru whose grandiose hopes of stealing the moon are complicated when he adopts three orphaned girls -- is hanging on to the number two slot, bringing in $32,734,000.

You can read my take on it at America magazine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Winter’s Tale/The Merchant of Venice (The Public Theater Presents Shakespeare in the Park)

By Harry Forbes

“The Merchant of Venice” – and Al Pacino’s electrifying if idiosyncratic turn as Shylock – may be getting the buzz, but “The Winter’s Tale,” with which it is running in repertory through August 1, is just as fine, and in some respects, perhaps superior.

I don’t quite understand why some critics have been so dismissive of Michael Greif’s very lovely production of the latter, many strangely having the audacity to criticize the play, too. For all its fable-like structure and fanciful elements, “The Winter’s Tale” stands high in Shakespeare’s canon.

In “Merchant,” Daniel Sullivan – faced, like all contemporary directors – with the “Shylock problem” – has added a brutal, enforced baptism for the Jewish moneylender at the end, which seems to me a bit heavy-handed, but he’s also come up with many other felicitous bits of business, like the delightful staging of the casket scenes with Portia’s suitors.

Pacino and Lily Rabe’s playful (and in the courtroom scene, relentless) Portia are indeed excellent, though I found the latter not quite on the level of Lynn Collins in Pacino’s 2004 film, though perhaps that’s an unfair comparison.

But for me, the standout performances at the Delacorte this summer are Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Linda Emond as Paulina and her queen Hermione in “Tale” who are truly splendid.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s unreasonably jealous king Leontes who suspects his dutiful wife Hermione of adultery with his best friend Polixenes (Jesse L. Martin) disappoints in the early scenes. Improbable and irrational though Leontes’ suspicion may be – and Shakespeare supplied scant motivation for it in the text – Santiago-Hudson does little to fill in the blanks. But once he realizes his terrible error – his young son and queen both presumably dead – he plays the requisite sorrow and penitence exceedingly well, speaking the text beautifully, too.

And in that last respect, Jean-Baptiste and Emond really shine, the former imploring the wrathful Leontes to accept the infant he refuses to accept as his own, and later Emond passionately declaring her innocence in a fire-lit trial scene.

Most of the supporting cast members double in both plays to impressive effect: Jean-Baptiste, for instance, makes a lovely Nerissa in “Merchant”; Byron Jennings doubles as Camillo and Antonio, Bill Heck as a Sicilian Lord and Lorenzo, Heather Lind as Perdita and Jessica, Max Wright as the Bohemian shepherd who adopts the abandoned Perdita and as the Prince of Aragon

Hamish Linklater – Portia’s ardent suitor Bassanio in “Merchant” – makes a funny, intentionally obnoxious Autolycus, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Launcelot Gobbo in “Merchant," is most amusing as Clown, the chief victim of Autolycus’s conning. The two of them enliven the often tedious low comedy scenes.

The climactic scene wherein the grieving Leontes is shown a lifelike statue of his late wife, and it comes to life as if by magic is deeply affecting. The characters have moved through the proverbial fire and the return of Hermione to her husband and now grown daughter has, by this point, been truly earned and Greif’s staging and the sensitive playing of all play this beautiful scene to the hilt.

I missed the well-regarded mounting of that play at BAM last year from the Bridge Project, but I’ve seem my share of “Winter’s Tales” here and in London, and none surpassed Greif’s traditional but stylish staging.

In short, both productions are superior Public Theater offerings, but don’t pass up “The Winter’s Tale,” which is every bit as rewarding as its more ballyhooed companion piece.

(Delacorte Theater, Central Park, or 212-539-8750)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Predators (20th Century Fox)

By Harry Forbes

All in all, this is an effective science fiction-action-thriller in which a group of trained killers suddenly find themselves prey to unknown forces on a hostile planet. As the mercenary played by Adrien Brody puts it, at one point, the planet is a “game preserve and we’re the game.”

He and his cohorts, who have all parachuted from the sky into the distinctly unfriendly jungle terrain, have no recollection of how they got there from their respective locations where they lived as convicts, death squad members, army sniper and the like. (The odd man out is the jittery doctor character played by Topher Grace.)

I had not seen the earlier incarnations beginning with 1987’s “Predator” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but this latest from Robert Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios, though flawed, has a lot going for it.

The early parts of the film are the best. During those scenes, Brody and the others, played by Alice Braga, Grace, Danny Trejo, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and Louis Ozawa Changchien, are menaced by unseen forces, and director Nimrod Antal builds up a terrific lather of suspense, starting with Brody’s very nerve-wracking free-fall which opens the film.

Before long, the motley band confronts booby-traps, various projectiles, poisonous plants, and ferocious boar-like creatures. So far, so good.

Once the warriors realize what it is they’re dealing with – dreadlocked humanoids with infra-red vision, extraordinary strength, and creepy appendages -- the film becomes much too literal, and loses suspense.

The film is well anchored by Brody who – as in his last genre film, “Splice” – gives a solid, believable performance, his distinctively resonant voice adding gravitas to the more spurious lines of dialogue. Braga is also particularly good and the others are well cast.

Midway through, Laurence Fishburne makes a surprise appearance as a hardened survivor of the planet, and makes the most of his limited screen time.

The script had its genesis in an unproduced screenplay Rodriguez penned in 1994, but Alex Litvak & Michael Finch were brought in to update it. It’s generally well constructed and there are some good lines, though it’s often cheapened by the use of far too many expletives.

The film calls to mind the classic Richard Connell story “The Most Dangerous Game” (oft-filmed), where the hunter becomes the hunted. Of course, we’ve seen this sort of survivor story time and again in other guises, too, and it’s often obvious who the next victim will be. When one character says he can’t wait to do lots of cocaine and “rape some fine bitches,” well you know it’s just a matter of time before he gets his.

Fans of the “Predator” franchise and action films in general should like this best, but others will find it atmospheric and suspenseful, the aforementioned caveats notwithstanding.

(The film has been rated R by the MPAA for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language.)

The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features)

By Harry Forbes

This is one complicated family. Yet, though a far cry from traditional, the emotional dynamic between the spouses – both women, as it happens -- and their children, a college bound daughter (Mia Wasikowka), and 15-year-old son (Josh Hutcherson), are remarkably consistent with any family unit when you come right down to it.

And it says a lot about the impeccable performances here that we can so easily accept such high profile actresses as Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as a long-time lesbian couple, with Bening as Nic, a doctor and the breadwinner of the family; and Moore as Jules an aspiring landscape artist.

As daughter Joni has just turned 18, kid brother Laser, who’s grown up without a male influence, implores her to look up their biological father -- the sperm donor for both of them -- as she is now of age to do so, Their dad turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a scruffy, laid back restaurateur and organic farmer who readily grants permission for the kids to get in touch, particularly as he’s kept himself free of any serious emotional ties, and is flattered by the prospect of two ready-made offspring.

After some initial awkwardness, their meeting is a success, and they part with a resolve to continue the relationship. Later, when “the moms,” as they are called, discover what’s happened, they insist on meeting Paul themselves.

Nic is especially wary, but the encounter is cordial, and lunch ends with Paul offering Jules the job of redesigning his property. Predictably if not quite plausibly (but then we wouldn’t have a story), Paul and Jules spark, leading to a situation that could well undermine the family.

Besides the fine work of the two women, Wasikowska is spot-on as the budding young woman, and Hutcherson is extremely likable as the introverted, sensitive son. The talented actors use every trick in their considerable arsenals to play as naturalistically as possible. Even when the generally sensitive script (by Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg) gets into some squishy areas – it’s established, for instance, that Nic and Jules spice up their sex life by watching male porn – the actors almost make you accept the premise.

The highpoint of the film is a wonderfully acted set piece, wherein Nic – who has been resentful of the others for spending so much time with Paul – agrees to come to dinner at his place and surprisingly, bonds with him over their mutual admiration of Joni Mitchell. But when she retires to the bathroom, she discovers the evidence of Jules’ betrayal. It’s a riveting sequence.

Lisa Cholodenko (who co-wrote the script with Stuart Blumberg) directs in a very unaffected style that marks all the other elements of this distinctive film.

(Rated R by the MPAA for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Music Box Films)

By Harry Forbes

As dark and brooding and ugly as sin as its predecessor, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the film version of the late Stieg Larsson’s so-called Millennium Trilogy – tautly directed by Daniel Alfredson this time, makes an equally absorbing thriller.

Noomi Rapace is back as computer hacker Lisbeth Salender whose diminutive stature, punk outfits, and sullen demeanor belie a sharp, analytical mind, fearless resolve, and extraordinary resilience. Michael Nyqvist again plays Mikael Blomkvist, editor of the investigative Millennium magazine.

His publication is about to move forward with a major series on sex trafficking which will reveal involvement by higher-ups in the police force.

Lisbeth is living in seclusion after her actions (which we won’t reveal here) at the conclusion of the first story, and has allowed her gal-pal (and sometime lover) Miriam (Yasmine Garbi) to use her old apartment.

When Dag, the author of the upcoming sex trafficking piece and his girlfriend are found murdered, Lisbeth becomes the prime suspect. Mikael knows she’s innocent, but as she’s not in direct contact, he must use ingenious ways to help her from afar, all the while helping throw the police, headed by Jan Bublanski (Johan Kylen) off her trail.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth’s blackmail of her guardian Nils Bjurman (Peter Adersson) -- who so viciously abused her in the first story – takes another turn when he falls behind in his payments to her.

The bad guys, including a seemingly invincible blond hulk (Mikael Spreitz), in this installment are out of get Lisbeth (and anyone who stands in their way as they pursue her).

As with the first story, twists and revelations abound, including more hair-raising facts about Lisbeth’s background.

Rapace is superb at conveying her character’s neuroses and shrewd determination. As her searching eyes take in the results of her computer scans, she pulls in the viewer to every discovery. Nykqvist projects mature compassion and a dogged if hangdog tenaciousness. The acting is uniformly superb, and much more “real” than standard Hollywood fare.

Jacob Groth’s mood-setting music is as somber and compelling as before. Jonas Frykberg’s script – like Alfredson‘s direction -- is very much consistent with the first film which used a different director and writer.

Something akin to TV’s “Prime Suspect” with Helen Mirren in its unflinching look at the seamy underside, with some strong sexual elements and violence – neither of them gratuitous however -- mixing with a compelling narrative. For American viewers, this is certainly a side of Sweden we rarely see, which adds to its fascination.

“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the film adaptation of the third book, is due to be released in October. And there are English-language remakes of all three in the works as well. But it’s unlikely they’ll top the impact of these authentic adaptations.

In Swedish with English subtitles.

Rated R by the MPAA for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Grand Manner (Lincoln Center Theater)

By Harry Forbes

A.R. Gurney’s fanciful valentine to the theater – an expansion of his brief teenage backstage encounter with the celebrated actress Katharine Cornell – provides a most enjoyable showcase for its four players.

The actual encounter – young Pete (Gurney’s nickname) gaining entry to the green room (lovely set by John Arnone), procuring the actress’s autograph after a performance of “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Martin Beck, and sharing a few words with the actress about their mutual hometown of Buffalo – serves as a prologue.

The imaginary version – as in, what if he had lingered longer? – continues with the starry-eyed young man having revelatory conversations with Gertrude Macy, Cornell’s general manager and, as “Time” discreetly put it back then, “her great good friend”; Cornell herself; and finally, Cornell’s husband, the noted director Guthrie McClintic, gay as a proverbial goose who, in one of the funniest scenes, subtly tries to put the moves on the very straight Pete.

Throughout the evening, Cornell frets that she’s not good enough as the Queen of the Nile, that her “grand manner” – so attractive to the older members of the audience – has gotten in the way of her genuine connection with her roles. Director Elia Kazan had told her that she was “too grand” to play Tennessee Williams, an observation that stung.

The versatile Gaines doesn’t play with effeminacy, but goes to town most enjoyably with the theatrical flamboyance of the producer-director. Brenda Wehle is wonderfully tart and likable as the no-nonsense “Gert,” the sort of role in which Eve Arden would have excelled.

Bobby Steggert follows his gay military neophyte role in “Yank!” as another novice – this time to the world of the theater – again framing the play with his narration, more fluidly constructed here.

In fact, Gurney jams a tremendous amount of exposition into his dialogue so we learn of virtually all Cornell’s triumphs such as “The Barretts of Wimpole Street,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Candida,” “Saint Joan,” and Maugham’s “The Constant Wife.”

That last named happened to be one of Kate Burton’s great stage successes, so here she is playing the lady herself. Apart from Cornell’s TV work including “Barretts,” and her touching cameo in “Stage Door Canteen,” where she recited a few of her Juliet lines to a stage-struck soldier, there’s precious little of her work preserved, so it’s difficult to judge just how accurate is Burton’s portrayal.

Still, the warmth of the “Canteen” scene certainly carries over to Burton’s performance, and she treats Pete in much the same kindly manner. Overall, she gives a charming, vivacious performance (looking wonderful in Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes), her soft, very feminine voice here a special pleasure.

And, in the play’s final moments, when she does a scene from “Antony & Cleopatra” she does seem to summon up the “luminous” quality described so often by critics in Cornell’s day.

Adding to the power of the scene, of course, is Russell H. Champa’s mood-setting lighting, and Mark Lamos’s well judged direction which strikes just the right tone throughout.

Allow me to remark how remarkable it is that Burton has, much like Marion Seldes, after years of toiling as a respected, solidly reliable actress become a truly effervescent one.

We’ll allow Gurney his dramatic license, but surely in 1948 even a tempestuous man of the theater like McClintic would not use the f-word – and other expletives -- as freely as he does here in the presence of ladies, and the truth of the Cornell-McClintic marriage would never be spoken of openly, much less to a kid like Pete. This isn’t David Mamet, such language being merely sporadic, but it is anachronistic.

Cornell, McClintic and Macy are, in fact, lovingly and flatteringly portrayed in this very sweet play, and theater buffs will relish all the references to the era, and marvel at a production which could include Eli Wallach, Maureen Stapleton, and Charlton Heston at the start of their careers.

(Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, 150 West 65th Street, 212-239-6200 or

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Footnotes: A Fan’s Dedication to Judy & Liza Lives On

When Scott Schechter – the author and producer of several important books and CD’s involving Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli* -- died suddenly of a heart attack in May of last year, he left behind a choice collection of Garland and Minnelli memorabilia which, thanks to the persistence of his friends, has been acquired by the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts collection at Lincoln Center.

Once the material is processed and cataloged, it will be made available for public viewing, but there was an intimate event a couple of weeks ago at the Library announcing the acquisition.

Minnelli’s PR rep, Scott Gorenstein, spoke movingly of Schechter and his astonishment at first seeing the immense scope of Schechter’s collection when he finally made it to Schechter’s home in Asbury Park, later persuading the library that this was a collection worth acquiring.

Two display cases – one of Garland memorabilia, another of Minnelli treasures – provided a tantalizing glimpse of items that will eventually be available to researchers.

*the CDs “Liza Minnelli: The Complete Capitol Collection,” “Classic Judy Garland: The Capitol Years 1955-1965,” “The Judy Garland Show: The Show That Got Away” and “Liza Minnelli: Ultimate Collection,” and the comprehensive book on Minnelli's career, “The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook.”