September Roundup

Finally Frank’s movie theater brought a star-studded historical Oscar-worthy drama to Bayonne. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” although not a masterpiece, is worth sitting through. A star-spangled film, it strives to make a serious statement about race, class, and politics. “The Butler” is inspired by true stories about the civil rights movement. Actor Forest Whitaker does a fine job playing Cecil Gaines, the butler, who is taught that to survive in a white-dominated world he must have two faces. His character walks the line between dignity and civility as he serves seven presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan. And here’s a surprise casting: Cecil’s wife is played by Oprah Winfrey, and she proves to be a wonderful actress. The movie’s story highlights the difficult generational relationship between Cecil and his older son, Louis. “The Butler” includes strong language and violent scenes since it is the story of a violent time in our history. Big stars appear in bad makeup doing cameos as American presidents. Yikes! Oh, I should mention that it came as a surprise to spot Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan! Now, that’s a real laugh! “The Butler” is an historical drama worth your time. If you can, see it.
Ever since my two granddaughters, Rachel and Melissa, were born (and that was 21 years ago) I’ve been partial to twins. So, when I met the handsome, talented Peter and Will Anderson I would find out where they were appearing. More important than being twins (of course I enjoy that fact!), they are virtuosos on clarinet and saxophone. Recently, my search took me to 54 Below, a recent addition to the New York City cabaret scene. Well-known performers, many of them from Broadway, perform there. 54 Below provides an intimate setting for listening and enjoying. The room is a sophisticated and welcoming one. It seats about 150 and there’s not a bad one in the house. The cost can add up, the food is OK, but I wasn’t focused on eating (unusual for me). I never am when good music is available. Hint: if you plan to dine, go as early as possible because you won’t want to be eating once the music starts. The Anderson boys did a fine job, as they consistently do, making wonderful music. In addition, I continue to enjoy looking at them as much as listening to them. They play with a passion. 54 Below has a hint of the old Studio 54 but it has been transformed into a beautiful, comfortable, classy cabaret nightclub. It’s perfect for an occasional splurge.
I shook hands with Woody Allen! It happened many years ago but, please, don’t doubt the veracity of my memory. The memorable, anyway memorable for me, event took place at Michael’s Pub, a now-defunct New York City restaurant. Woody Allen traditionally played clarinet there on Monday evenings. Currently, the gloriously talented and complicated screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician has moved with his clarinet to the posh Café Carlyle. Known for quirky comedies, touching love stories, and multi-dimensional fashionable leading ladies, Allen continues to garner big applause. Cate Blanchette’s Chanel-clad Jasmine joins his set of style setters, from Diane Keaton’s menswear tailoring in “Annie Hall” and the eclectic style of Maria Elena in “Vicky Christina Barcelona” to Carla Bruni’s effortless Parisienne style in “Midnight in Paris.” “Blue Jasmine” is Allen’s 43rd film as writer/director. It’s a special treat to watch the powerhouse return of Cate Blanchette. But, to get back to my handshake experience, I also remember that when his set was finished the genius (yes, he is just that) would walk off in an indescribable dispassionate way to thunderous applause, and the same is happening at the Carlyle. Since he started in 1973 at Michael’s Pub this marks the fortieth anniversary of his musical career. One can easily recognize that jazz plays a big part in Woody Allen’s films. I’ve been told that his Monday night show at Café Carlyle sells out, so, if you have a loaded wallet, get in fast. Otherwise Google “Woody Allen” and you can see snippets of his playing there with the Eddie Davis New Orleans Jazz Band. You’ll notice that Allen still concentrates without smiling on his clarinet playing. I have no problem recognizing all the songs he plays, and, if you enjoy the Bayonne Senior Orchestra, you will, too. And, to quote the critics, his latest film, ‘Blue Jasmine,’ is not to be missed.” It’s another Oscar contender.
Are you interested in seeing a Broadway show but hesitate, especially these days, because of the high prices? Well, if you’ve never gone to one of the city’s TKTS booths, you are in for a new experience. There’s a newly refurbished location in Times Square. If you plan to give it a try, I suggest you take a bottle of water to sip while standing in line. You’ll find that most of the other standees are very pleasant. They enjoy talking about the theater and what they know about the shows. Of course, several shows are never on the TKTS board simply because they can sell all their tickets at full price. However, sometimes you can get shows in preview before they become runaway hits. That’s if you have a nose for what might be one. The booth in the theater district reminds me of a town square. Many folks are first-time Broadway attendees from out of town and it becomes live theater simply talking to them. There’s an urban fellowship about the experience. So, if you’re seeking last-minute reduced-price seats and you have time, you might score for an evening performance. It’s best to get there after 5 p.m. because that’s when the lines are shortest. Some tickets get sent over at that time. Good luck!
Many of my extracurricular activities when I was a young adult involved going to the jazz clubs that existed in New York City. Frequently, I was offered a drink, but my drink was Perrier. Most of my adult life included music but no alcoholic beverages. Once I was thrust into a single life I wasn’t sure what to drink socially, so I turned to my son, Andy, who advised me to order a white wine spritzer with lemon. For many years that was my drink until I met a former Bayonneite who enjoyed his wine. I learned from him and switched to Pinot Noir, especially impressed by the fact that red wine is supposed to have health benefits. Recently I experienced a “flight” of three reds which included a Rosé, a Cabernet, and a Beaujolais. Included in my wine education was what I was accustomed to calling an intermezzo to cleanse the palate between drinks. Now I know to ask for an amuse-bouche and discovered that most knowledgeable waiters understood what I was requesting (in spite of my poor French accent). No matter what age there’s always something new to learn. Cheers!
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