The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc.(TCOF) and The Kay Bourne Arts Report (KBAR) wish you and yours a very happy and safe holiday season.
Thank you for your support during the year. Kay Bourne and all the KBAR contributing writers and reviewers enjoy providing note-worthy information about the arts and arts events created by and affecting our community. We look forward to bringing you more commentary and programming in 2007.
SPIRITUALITY OF THE SEASON
by Kay Bourne
(Pictured: Ilanga and company in The Urban Nutcracker)
Are there moments in the holiday bustle that you suppose the meaning has been lost in the wrapping paper? Don’t miss out on the wonders of the season.
Sit in a darkened room to look at your tree, lit so magnificently. Breathe in a whiff of that pine odor from the wreath on your door. Centuries ago, people in Germany regarded trees that stayed green all year as symbolizing eternal life. Is this why we put up a tree to celebrate Christmas?
“Winterlight: Stars and Symbols of the Winter Solstice” at the Museum of Science‘s Charles Hayden Planetarium through January 1, considers holiday traditions and rituals. The winter sky and its stars is as awesome today as when the Magi were guided to Bethlehem. For information about the time of shows, you can phone 617-723-2500 . Tickets are $9, $8 for seniors, $7 for children.
The perfectly staged precision dancing of the Rockettes in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” at the Citi Performing Arts Center (formerly known as the Wang Center) was exciting and fun. This writer, however, was most thrilled before the curtain even went up. For opening night only, our governor- elect, Deval Patrick came on stage where he settled into a chair and read “The Night Before Christmas” to several children seated around him. He seemed to be having a wonderful time. The entertaining Christmas special continues performances through December 31, complete with a manger scene with live camels and sheep.
The dancing was terrific in BalletRox production of Tony Williams’ “The Urban Nutcracker,” which performed for two weekends at Back Bay Events Center (formerly John Hancock Hall). Their sheer joy and community spirit spread throughout the audience as we enjoyed dancing styles from doo-wop to tap, flamenco, hip hop, ballet, jazz, step, robotic moves, and ballroom dancing. This sparkling show rightfully has become a Roxbury and Greater Boston tradition in only six seasons.
HOME OF THE BRAVE SALUTES HOMETOWN STAR
by Josiah Crowley
(click image to visit Rowell’s non-profit’s website)
On December 10, at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, New England native and Emmy-nominated actress Victoria Rowell (The Young and The Restless, Diagnosis: Murder) introduced the Golden Globe-nominated HOME OF THE BRAVE, a film starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Brian Presley, Curtis Jackson, and Victoria Rowell, which concerns soldiers returning from the Iraq War and their difficulties acclimating back into civilian life. The screening was followed by Q & A.
Known locally as much for being an activist as an artist, her charity, Rowell Foster Children Positive Plan gives scholarships to dance students who are also in Massachusetts foster care. Rowell has great affection for Boston and Maine, where she was raised in foster care for the first eighteen years of her life. And the affection is lovingly returned, as anyone at the recent MFA screening would agree. Even one of her foster mothers, Barbara Sterling, was present that evening, introduced, and thanked, by Rowell.
Unlike some celebrities, who are all about themselves, or even more common, lend their name or image to a cause, but are involved in name only, Rowell gets back to Boston regularly and is very hands-on in her charity.
At the Q&A, Rowell discussed her upcoming memoir, THE WOMEN WHO RAISED ME, about her years in foster care and “the affect of positive women on a child”, to be published by Harper Collins on April 9 (not in February, Rowell pointed out, as has been noted in other publications). Rowell also discussed other films, among them, her hilarious cameo as Samuel L. Jackson‘s very amorous patient in EVE’S BAYOU, directed by Newton, MA native Kasi Lemmons, and promised to “see you this spring”, when she’ll be back in town to promote her book.
After the show, an elderly man approached Rowell, his wife by his side. Referring to the harrowing HOME OF THE BRAVE, the man went on to describe his son’s death in Vietnam. He broke down crying. Rowell, who, in the previous 24 hours, had travelled from LA to Portland, Maine where she had screened the movie the night before and then rushed over to the MFA after a dinner at The Ritz-Carlton with several local dignitaries, including former Mayor Kevin White, placed her hand on his back. Clearly, with that schedule, Rowell must have been exhausted. But as the eighty-something year old man continued to cry, she warmly rubbed his back and hugged him. There were no cameras to record these moments. The actress had no idea any media was present.
No wonder people love her. I’m looking forward to her memoir, and another local appearance, by Victoria Rowell this spring. In the meantime, HOME OF THE BRAVE will open in theaters after the new year. Her producers have started a campaign to get her a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
BURSTYN’S “LESSONS” TELLS OF JOURNEY
by Josiah Crowley
CALIFORNIA, 1970: A woman is raped by her husband, after which he kept his hands around her throat all night, telling her that he would kill her if she moved. When her husband finally left the house, the woman called the police. The policeman responds: “We don’t mix in domestic matters.” That is when the woman learned that in 1970′s America, it was not a crime for a man to rape his wife.This information was yet another tough life lesson for that woman, who was unemployed and had no idea how she was going to pay the rent or support herself and her son.
SPRING, 1975: That same woman, Ellen Burstyn, would be one of the few performers to win both the Tony Award (Same Time, Next Year) and an Oscar (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) in the same year.
Ellen Burstyn’s autobiography “LESSONS IN BECOMING MYSELF” on Riverhead Books details the journey of a working-class Irish kid from Detroit named Edna Rae Gilloolly. Raised by her mother to believe she was “worthless,” she transforms into Ellen Burstyn, one of the most respected actresses of her generation. With six Oscar nominations, from 1971′s classic The Last Picture Show to 2000′s mesmerizing Requim For a Dream and, at 74, when most of her peers have long faded, Burstyn is still very much employed, currently in The Fountain, opposite Hugh Jackman. Burstyn is also about to begin work on a movie based on an old Tennessee Williams screenplay that was recently discovered, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, with Lindsey Lohan.
Her memoir is inspiring, but be warned, it is filled with some tough material including attempted incest by her father. In 1950, Edna Rae had a botched “back alley” abortion that left the 18-year-old unable to give birth. Physical abuse from the hands of her mother and stepfather. The above-mentioned husband (one of three) stalked the actress for ten years after their divorce, until his suicide.
Young Edna Rae was a kid who always rebelled against the “truths” her family & society laid out for her. In her book, the actress demonstrates how that rebelliousness, along with Burstyn’s spiritual journey in her quest for alternative “truths” – saved her life.
Burstyn’s story is, in many ways, a paradox: She is a high school dropout who became the artistic director of The Actors Studio and the first female President of Actors Equity. A woman who was told she would never have children, but has had a wonderful relationship with her adopted son for 45 years.
Burstyn’s book paints a showbiz route that is very much of its era. Born in 1932, Burstyn started out modelling, first in a Dallas dress shop. Later, in New York, she graced the covers of many “dime store” novels. She danced in nightclubs in Toronto. Was a “Gleason Girl” on The Jackie Gleason Show. Worked in summer stock, on a soap, on Broadway, TV guest shots on everything from Perry Mason to The Big Valley. It took twenty years of hard work before she became established. She portrays her profession as equally difficult, unfair and rewarding.
Burstyn credits her study of “The Method” under Lee Strasberg as her breakthrough in her acting. And she spends equal time describing her spiritual journey from lapsed Catholic to someone who receives spiritual fulfillment in her practice of Sufi.
A gracious, down-to-earth person, Burstyn’s personality comes across succinctly in her book. A woman who spent two decades struggling in her profession, she has helped many others along the way: She hired Martin Scorsese for his first studio picture in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. She cast acclaimed stage veteran Eva La Gallienne as her mother in Resurrection (both actresses received Oscar nominations). She has taught acting for over three decades.
Of all the lessons she discusses: learning to forgive her abusive mother, husband and incestuous father; learning how to forgive herself, make amends and take responsiblity for herself; perhaps Burstyn’s greatest lesson has been two-fold.
She has never forgotten where she came from. She recalls clearly being that abused woman in California, with no legal recourse against her abusive husband. In turn, she has fought for women’s rights for the past 30 years.
And Burstyn has seemingly long been able to put a positive spin on even the most destructive “lessons” life gave her. Example: Edna Rae was a little girl in 1930′s & 1940′s America, her mother told her it was imperative that a woman knew how to “keep a clean house”. Clearly, this is a lesson Burstyn has learned well.
DARE TO DREAM
by Lisa Simmons
(pictured: Jennifer Hudson at the Cambridgeside Galleria)
It’s 1960 and there is a new singing group sensation to hit the airwaves, the Dreamettes, from Detroit Michigan. They are wonderful, fabulous, entertaining and joyous, they are DREAMGIRLS.
From Broadway to Hollywood, this film does not miss a beat and stays true to its humble beginnings. We will never forget how Jennifer Holiday made us cry when she sang her heart out on stage and we will never forget how Jennifer Hudson fills this screen with her voice and her personality. Two different woman, one role, one amazing opportunity and once again an amazing piece of work.
DREAMGIRLS, the film version, is peppered with so much star power you might think it a little to hot, but it is so well paced, well balanced and well cast that at times you forget who is behind the character they are playing. With Eddie Murphy as the hot singing sensation James “Thunder” Early, Jamie Foxx as the sly Curtis Taylor, Jr., Beyonce Knowles as the beautiful new cross over talent Deena Jones, Danny Glover as Marty Madison a good natured agent (really, it can happen), Anika Noni Rose who plays the ever effervescent Lorrell Robinson, and newcomer Jennifer Hudson who plays the jilted songstress and lover Effie Melody White, you will be entertained from opening credits all the way through closing credits.
With numerous Golden Globe and Oscar buzz for a number of cast members, this film is on it’s way to movie history, I can assure you. Director Bill Condon brings this stage version to the silver screen making it accessible to everyone and giving audiences everywhere a chance to be immersed in the beauty of this music and its story. Not only that but you will be witness to a star being born, right in front of your eyes. I am not sure what American Idol viewers didn’t see in Jennifer Hudson, but it is clear that whatever it was, it can be seen and heard loud and clear in this picture.
“MARSHALL” PULLS AT HEARTS
(pictured: Anthony Mackie)
First of all, did you even know that there was a Marshall University in West Virginia? If you did, did you know what happened to their football team in 1970? Probably one of the worst disasters in sports history when the Marshall University Football team, its coaches and a group of supporters were killed in a plane crash on their way home from a game.
We see on opening credits: This is a True Story. Now I have to say, I am a big fan of these kinds of movies, sports films with a conscience and a heart that tell a story about actual events that the average person might not know anything about without the movie, so I might be a little biased. Yes, it is filled with sports clichÃ©s, makes you weepy, but it works and it was great to see Anthony Mackie (Brother to Brother, Freedomland, Half Nelson) in a leading role as one of the heroes, Nate Ruffin, one of only three players left to round out the Marshall Football team. His leadership and dedication to his teammates is what brings back the football season the following year.
Matthew McConaughey (Sahara, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) plays the replacement coach Jack Lengyel who leads the team back on the field after the fateful crash and David Strathairn (Memphis Belle, Goodnight and Goodluck) is the constantly conflicted college president who is torn between his players,the town and the school’s board. Matthew Fox (Party of Five, Lost) plays Red Dawson, the grief stricken Assistant Coach to McConaughey because he could not bear to take on the coaching position after his team perished in the crash, since he gave his seat on the plane to someone else and decided to drive back that fateful night.
Fox was in Boston a few weeks ago to talk about his first major film role. We talked about how his work has found him taking on characters with conflicted souls like the oldest child in Party of Five whose parents died in a car crash that left him to take care of his siblings, to Lost where he is the conflicted Dr. Jack wrestling with his own demons while trying to keep order and calm on “the island” to now as the grief stricken coach who tries so hard to keep his emotions together for the sake of the team. Fox hadn’t realized this pattern in his work.
“It is perhaps easier for someone who is looking at it from the outside to draw the parallels,” he said, but for him, he is just drawn to these kinds of roles. Lucky for us he is, because he is perfectly cast in this role.
Fox’s career is taking off and he is far way from his very small ranching community in Crowheart, Wyoming. “I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going right now. It’s a really exciting time, and Lost has been the thing for me. Suddenly “Bam” I am getting big studio offers and get to meet directors who I have admired for a long time.”
Fox says he has been in this business long enough to know that he won’t take anything for granted, things happen quickly and careers rise and fall over a single movie. But right now he is riding high, with a new movie Vantage Point in post-production, a contemporary action thriller about a kidnapping attempt on the president of the US. The whole movie takes place over a twenty minute period and is told from seven different perspectives. The movie also features Forrest Whittaker and is due out in 2007.
SMITH’S HAPPYNESS GIVES HOPE
by Lisa Simmons
(pictured: Will Smith and Jaden Smith)
photo credit: Sony Pictures
If you haven’t had the chance to see the new Will Smith movie, treat yourself during the holidays. It is a heartwarming tale of patience and determination and the fact that Will Smith has cast his son Jaden Smith to play opposite him makes it all the more rich.
Based on a true story, PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS follows the story of Chris Gardner who is down on his luck after investing his life savings on bone scanner machines. His relationship with his wife (Thandie Newton) deteriorates, he looses his apartment then his motel room all while caring for and protecting his son. His determination to succeed, to make money, to take care of his son is what makes this movie so touching: the fact that the human spirit is capable of so much when pushed to its limits.
Both Will Smith and Jaden work well in bringing across this man’s agony, perseverance and pride. After seeing this film you realize that anything is possible if you work hard enough to get it, believe that you can achieve it, and don’t give up on it, because, you will find your dream, your happiness.
CHILDREN OF MEN opens Christmas day. A great science fiction film about the world in 2027 where the hope of a new generation lies in the birth of an African woman’s child. Well acted, directed and shot, CHILDREN OF MEN raises many questions and issues that are present in today’s society, from immigration to fertility to quality of life. Director Alfonso Cuaron thought through every frame with such conscience, making sure that the story he was telling, the social message he wanted to convey, was done in a provocative manner, in order to make people leave the theater talking about this film. This film does not end, it begins.