In Tune with June!

We can learn a lot from a movie – that is if we see the right ones. I’m pleased to report that I saw two good ones recently; one gave me a history lesson (but, hold on – it was not boring) and the second film made me more aware of a different culture. We are led to believe that the average man wants movies about sports, shoot-em-ups, sex, car chases and crashes. Not the men I know! As for the ladies, we’re told that we prefer films about couples and sex, couples who talk about sex, then have sex and talk about it to their friends. Not the women I know!That said, please let me share two good adult films that have little sex, no violence – but they are vibrant, upbeat, eloquent and they each tell a good story that is virtually unknown here. “Amazing Grace” is a stimulating historical epic about the ending of the slave trade in the British Empire. Did you ever hear the name William Wilberforce? I never did. Wilberforce was the pioneer who in the 1800s changed much of the world by ending the British slave trade. When I think of abolition, I automatically think of Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln had many forerunners, and not just in this country. By the way, the act banning the slave trade was passed 200 years ago. If you wonder about the film’s title, you probably know the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” It was written by a former slave-ship captain who, mortified by his career as a sinner, wrote the lyrics in the 1760s. Hey, that’s news to me! See what one can learn from a movie! It can entertain and educate at the same time.

Well, I promised two films okay! Here it goes. “The Namesake” is a wonderfully fulfilling movie about the journey of a couple from Bengali to America. Directed by the Indian-born Mira Nair, she appears to be somewhat obsessed with immigrants and their children. Where is home? What is family? How do you forge a new cultural identity? Ultimately, Director Nair feels you must understand where you came from. Otherwise you’re lost. “The Namesake” is a beautiful, profoundly moving film. The story moves from an arranged marriage in Calcutta to their life in the New York suburbs, where their improbably named son, Gogol (hence the title, “The Namesake”), grows to become the most contemporary and American of young men. The film is never judgmental or simplistic about characters tied to the old country or about those who choose to leave it behind. The story is universal, with universal emotions and one that cuts across all cultures. Its themes of family and the search for one’s self are indeed universal. Notice that neither of the two films were made in Hollywood. Hopefully, Hollywood will pay attention and make more positive and moving movies like “Amazing Grace” and “The Namesake.” And I’m hoping that the South Cove/Frank’s Family Theatre will bring them to Bayonne. P.S. – How about some sing-and-dance à la Ginger and Fred? Personally I would love that!

It seems that if a television situation comedy was once enjoyable, it continues to be enjoyable in reruns. A good example is “All in the Family,” still good and relevant today. I still enjoy the “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Seinfeld” repeats. The ensemble acting in that latter is incredible, but what is surprising is that only one of the leading characters has succeeded in a completely new program. It’s been called the “Seinfeld curse.” Nobody from that hit could ever rise up from the ashes of success and do anything else – except “Elaine” – Julia Louis-Dreyfus – in “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” I always enjoyed watching Elaine on “Seinfeld,” and I enjoy watching Christine with all of her selfish, frazzled, divorced-parent neuroses. I thought her new sit-com had an awkward title until I understood it. Christine’s ex is now with a new girlfriend, also named Christine. Thus, Dreyfus’ character is now the old Christine. In “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” the jokes are funny thanks to good writing. Watching the single mom struggle through life finds recognizable human relationships. The wacky mishaps of Christine as the divorced mother who tries to move on after her ex finds romance has many belly laughs. It appears that CBS has found a hit comedy – thanks to Julia Louis-Dreyfus even though she, too, has a somewhat awkward name.

Are you a theatre buff, or simply curious and interested in the theatre? If your answer is yes, then get yourself to Lincoln Center and step into the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. There you’ll be treated to a remarkable calendar of events, including musical performances, dances, readings from plays and special exhibitions. Admission is free. Yes, that’s not a typo! I just happened into a birthday celebration. Whose? Seventy-five years of collecting theatre, entitled Stars and Treasures: 75 Years of Collection Theatre. It’s an amazing display. The theatre collection has acquired more than 9 million – yes, million – items from countless donors around the world. I gazed at clippings, photographs, magazines, biographies, pamphlets and posters. One oversized poster was used to promote a lavish musical version of “The Wizard of Oz” in the 1800s (before Judy Garland). Are you old enough (don’t answer that!) to know who Gypsy Rose Lee was? Funny. In her day, she was considered so-o daring. Now, she appears to be more tease than strip. I guess it was her style and finesse that allowed her to become the first mainstream celebrity stripper. At this exhibition, some items are unique and of uncustomary beauty. Other items are perhaps neither unique nor beautiful, but they document milestones in the history of theatre. What constitutes a treasure? Well, many of today’s brightest stars lent for this show items that they hold particularly dear – items, which, as it were, they treasure. It was enjoyable to watch videotapes of live performances on Broadway, and even off-Broadway and off-off Broadway. The free public programs are available but tickets are some times required. For further info, call (212) 642-0142.


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group