Wednesday, June 18, 2008



You don't realize how much women's stories are missing from the screen 'til you actually sit through a few and think, "Oh wow, we're actually getting representation here." Especially in the case of all three films ("Sex & The City," "Bonneville" and "Baby Mama") where the perspectives are all late 30's to late 50's.

I know it's probably out of the theaters already, but I really loved "Baby Mama." Sure Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are great, but what really made me laugh out loud was Sigourney Weaver showing up the owner of a Surrogacy clinic who has no problem popping out babies even with her advancing age. A great cameo appearance.

I'm sure no one reading this has heard of "Bonneville" despite the movie starring three of the most amazing actresses on the planet - Jessica Lange, Joan Allen, and Kathy Bates - because this film had zero promotion. Sure I could quibble with little bits of the script but I don't care - three intelligent, mature women on a road trip through the southwest Utah on their way to Santa Barbara in a vintage Pontiac Bonneville convertible - this movie had all the elements I like. As a huge Jessica Lange fan, it was amazing to see a film with her in literally every scene!

And speaking of an intelligent woman who makes me laugh my ass off - I just watched Kathy Griffin host Bravo's A List Awards and she's just getting better and better. I think she's really come into her own this year. The absolutely funniest bit in the entire show was a memorial clip reel not of celebs that have died during the year, but of celebs that Kathy explained, "Are dead to me." PURE F*CKIN' GENIUS! Between her numerous costume changes (including one quick change down to her undies seen on camera), her singing intro, her satirical runway walk, and her quick quips, Kathy OWNED that stage, plus she looked incredible doing it. If you're a fan, definitely look for a rerun. And the awards were super fun - very tongue in cheek and irreverent. If you're a fan of Bravo reality shows (I'm personally addicted to most of them), the show is a must see.

Kathy working the A-List runway

With all this talk of fantastic gals, I must mention the passing of dance legend and silver screen star Cyd Charisse. She was just so timeless and elegant that her death just really took me by shock. When I think of old fogies, I never think of Cyd Charisse, yet how could it be that I read on Tuesday that she was dead at age 86? Cyd Charisse is forever long and lithe and sexy in my mind. Approximately 20 years ago, I went to an AFI tribute to Cyd at the now defunct Plitt Century Plaza Cinemas. My memories of seeing her there are burned into my mind. What a legend!

This month I accidentally stumbled upon Tommy O'Haver's newest film "An American Crime" on cable. It's based on the true story of the most grisly case of child abuse in Indiana in the mid 1960's. Catherine Keener (another one of our finest actresses) plays Gertrude Baniszewski, a poor mother of something like 6 or 7 kids who temporarily takes in two teenage sisters as boarders while their parents work the carnival circuit. The older sister Sylvia Likens (played by Ellen Page of "Juno" fame) ends up becoming the victim of Gertrude's punishments - and each time the punishments turn more vicious and twisted. Eventually Gertrude's children and neighbor kids are abusing Sylvia for their pure amusement. O'Haver leaves a lot of the gruesomeness off-screen, but you get the full idea of the torture Sylvia endured. It's a fascinating case and I found the film both riveting and heartbreaking.

Also, finally caught some popular comedies on my free Video on Demand channels that were surprisingly good and fresh:

I expected "Knocked Up" to be a gross out comedy or something lame and it actually turned out to be a thoughtful meditation on the differences between the sexes, and of course very funny too. I thought it would be completely predictable and it wasn't. Paul Rudd has a very funny supporting role as a p-whipped husband who just wants a little alone time.

And last night, I watched "Blades of Glory" and really enjoyed it too. Of course Will Farrell was great as usual, but Jon Heder (from "Napolean Dynamite") was hilarious as a very femmy ice skating champion. If you don't know the plot, the two guys eventually become the first all male figure skating pair - and their choreographed number is a show stopper. Amy Poehler and Will Arnet play a brother/sister pair who are Farrell and Heder's competition. Their ice skating routine set to Marky Mark and the Funky's Bunch's "Good Vibrations" was my favorite comedic moment in the film.

Perhaps you've heard there's a new documentary on cable about Roman Polanski and his infamous rape trial called "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired." The first professional interview I ever did was Roman Polanski! It was December 1994, I was just 24 years old, and I was at the junket for his film "Death and The Maiden," an excellent film version of the Broadway show starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley and I HIGHLY recommend it. My experience was like trial by fire and the only time I've had an experience like it. All the factors were things I hadn't trained for: the interview was to be done via Satellite with Polanski speaking from France; I had to plug into equipment I'd never used or been trained on; there was a time delay with asking questions and getting answers because of the Satellite hookup; and when it was my turn to ask a question, I introduced myself and said, "I'm Lydia Marcus from the Interview Factory" and Polanski laughed and made some joke about the name of the outlet I was working for but I didn't hear exactly what he said because of the time delay so all I know is that everyone assembled there for the junket (tons of press and pr people) are all laughing right after my introduction! Once I got past that hiccup and realized that they weren't laughing AT me, I continued on with my questions. I was really amazed at how open and honest Polanski was with me and all the other journalists. He really seemed like an open book.

I know that for a lot of people in the U.S., Polanski is considered both a pariah and a pedophile. I knew that he was known for having sex with younger women (including Natasha Kinski), but I also knew that he was European (and with that goes different social morays) and that he had been through the trauma of both the Holocaust and the murder of his wife and unborn child by the Manson Family. So I knew that whatever transpired in that rape case and in his jumping bail and leaving permanently to Europe, there were no easy answers or conclusions to be made. But watching "Wanted and Desired" I now realize there's so much of the story that I didn't know. I always was under the impression that Polanski immediately skipped bail and left for Europe but that's not the case at all. He actually went through the entire trial and some jail time (which was labeled as something like psychological observation but was actually jail time). As far as the documentary goes, I think the filmmakers did a shoddy job in telling the story with bad editing that doesn't tell the story very linearly and they completely omit the details of his wife's murder by the Manson gang and the fact that his unborn baby was cut out of his wife's womb! But, what they do get across, is that the Judge in the trial was so caught up in his own publicity and ego that he really gave Polanski and BOTH the prosecution and defense attorneys a raw deal. Even the girl (now an adult woman) that Polanski allegedly raped is interviewed in the doc. "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" definitely sheds a lot of new light on both the case and Polanski. What the documentary does do well is show how so much of the public's perception of Polanski came not through the actual trial but through the press' (both legitimate and tabloid) representation of the trial and Polanski. It's amazing how even in the late 1970's, the tabloid press in the United States was really out of control. In the end, Polanski didn't really have a trial by Judge but a trial by tabloid.

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