With Woody Allen back on his game, and having
scored yet again last month with the release of Blue Jasmine,
I thought about the women of his cinematic life. Some of whom
of course, have also intertwined with his personal life.
I thought of this because the performance
by Cate Blanchett in this latest film, is stunning; alternately
dancing between comedy and tragedy without once ever missing
Although an actor of renown, she is new to
his world. She is the new face on his screen. And in regard
to intertwining, she has done exactly that. Not with Woody
of course, but with her fictional character built upon Tennessee
Williams’ archetypical tragic heroine. The result is
that “Cate Blanche Blanchett Dubois” has turned
in an Academy Award worthy performance.
knows Blanche well. She played her like a violin, while earning
a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a production
that played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2009. But
for all the talent an actor can bring to a role—even
one as gifted as Blanchett— it needs the foundation
of a well written character and a nurturing director. And
that’s where Woody excels. Particularly, and ironically,
in writing parts for women.
Ten nominations and six Academy Awards have
been garnered by women in his films. These include Diane Keaton’s
Best Actress nod for Annie Hall, and Dianne Wiest’s
two Best Supporting Actress Oscars for Bullets Over Broadway
(which is being made into a Broadway musical next year), and
Hannah and Her Sisters.
Contrast this to just five Oscar nominations
for male actors in his films (including one for himself in
Annie Hall), with only Michael Caine taking home
the trophy for Best Supporting Actor in “Hannah.”
As Woody may seem befuddled by men and where
they are coming from—most especially himself (once saying
rather dismissively in the midst of the whole Soon-Yi brouhaha,
“The heart wants what the heart wants”)—
that may account for why he has not written many great in-depth
roles for his gender. But that has not been the case with
women. He gives them lots to chew on. Granted, not all audiences
and critics have agreed with his treatment of women—either
on and off the screen— to say the least.
He has married some and had long term relationships
with others. And some as we know, became part of his “reel
life” as well. Mia Farrow appeared in thirteen of his
films in featured roles—a record that will never be
broken. Woody turns 78 this December, and one can’t
imagine any other film maker using a featured actor that many
times in the course of a career.
Still others who have known him, and not in
the biblical sense, have given bravura performances under
his astute direction. Theater legends such as Geraldine Page
and Maureen Stapleton, both received Oscar nominations for
their work in Interiors—Best Actress and Best
Supporting Actress respectively—in that very underrated
Bergman-influenced film. But of course, whenever he delves
into something “serious,” there are always the
dissenting voices such as that of a Martian from his film
Stardust Memories: “…you're a comedian.
You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”
Then there’s Scarlett Johansson, still
a relatively fresh face at the time, when he cast her in a
critical role in Match Point, generally considered
to be his “comeback film.” The New York Times
said of her then “…some of the best acting seen
in a Woody Allen movie in a long time.” She was not
too shabby in Vicky Cristina Barcelona either.
A cousin who has appeared in small roles in
four of Woody’s films, tells me that he gives actors
a great deal of leeway in letting them make their own discoveries
in fleshing out a scene. He doesn’t dictate exactly
how he wants it played, and is open to interpretations that
may run counter to what he initially had in mind. That too
is the mark of a good director: knowing when to get out of
With an ersatz “nebbishy” persona,
and still scorned by some for his affair with the adopted
daughter of Mia Farrow and Andre Previn, (though he and Soon-Yi
have been together for over two decades and married since
‘97), Mr. Allen goes about his business undaunted. And
that business has been about cranking out a movie a year for
over four decades. And in regard to women, he cranks well.
Of a Certain Age
about time. It’s always about time.
That snail that inches along at the speed of light.
tortoise that beats the hare
but by infinity;
the outcome set as it is in amber.
pending free fall of Harold Lloyd.
did I take so long? What’s the hurry?
it only yesterday when
Moses descended from the mount
toting two tablets?
goest the time
when thou art sinning?
White lies/ blue balls/ I Am Curious (Yellow).
the wet dreams/the dry realities/
I love you/ I hate you/ we enjoined/we parted.
The dogs had their day.
In dog years.
then there’s the flies
whom time really—
I won’t say it.
one of the Wright brothers really die in my lifetime?
God damn you Orville.
the time when…
was it you? Me? Him? Her? They?
Coxey’s Army? (GOOGLE it).
used to do this and that
putting it all off until tomorrow.
Today is tomorrow.
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old—
the fastest fucking
six days you never saw.
Running With the Bullshit of Pamplona
As if we don’t have enough bad behavior
born of our own history and culture, we have now sanctioned
the importation of that time honored foreign form of lunacy:
running with the bulls. Because, of course, how can one resist
the thrill of taunting a potentially lethal animal for sport?
How “Hemingwayesque!” Bulls and balls: it’s
a guy thing.
In case you might not have heard, as this
one seemed to have slipped under the radar for many people,
or at least in the circles in which I run (with the bibliophiles)…
Pamplona-inspired Great Bull Run will begin an eight-state
tour after a wild, man-vs.-beast event at a drag-racing
strip just south of Richmond, Va., on Aug. 24…
5,000 people have already signed up for the inaugural
bull run, despite the high risk for injury or death.
bull runs are planned for cities in Georgia, Texas, Florida,
California, Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania.”
York Daily News, August 8, 2013)
pushes through a crowd of runners during the Running of the
Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain.
While we’re at it, why don’t we
expand the concept of interspecies interfacing, with say,
swimming with the sharks, pulling on the pythons, beckoning
the bengals—in fact while we’re at it, why don’t
we go back to the good ole Roman Empire days of “lions
vs. Christians.” What fun.
Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Yes, it’s a guy thing. It’s always
a guy thing. Leaving one to ask “Y.”
You don’t expect to start off in a place
just south of Richmond Virginia, and wind up in “Chromosomeville,”
but here we are.
One runs out of where else to look in the
face of such repeated gender disparity in brutal behavior
at its worst, and bad behavior at its best. Which could lead
us to Anthony Weiner, but we won’t go there. Running
with the bullshit is enough for one day.
As you would expect, animal activists are
events are a shameful example of cruelty for the sake
of nothing more than entertainment and profit,”
Ann Chynoweth, senior director of The Humane Society of
the United States’ End Animal Fighting & Cruelty
Campaign, told the AP.”
Good luck with that, given that a simple law
requiring a background check in the selling of a gun, could
not be passed though 90% of Americans were in favor it. It’s
a guy thing Ann. It’s a guy thing.
the LA river
and the Mayor
As the Democratic candidates gear up for the
New York City mayoral primary this month, there have been
some rather extensive retrospectives—notably in The
New York Times and The New Yorker—on the
twelve year run of Michael Bloomberg which will end in December.
At the core of any discussions on Bloomberg’s
performance and who might possibly succeed him, lies the issue
of the ever growing income disparity among New Yorkers. This
on top of the fact that they live in a city with a cost of
living, that is one and a half times as great as the national
average. The middle class is feeling the squeeze…the
lower socio-economic groups? Fuggedaboutit.
Not being a political pundit nor financial
wiz, and having been a resident of this city once again for
only the past two and a half years, I can’t tell you
whether this is Bloomberg’s fault, and whether or not
he has been a good mayor. Come to think of it, you didn’t
ask. But what I can say, is that this is not the New York
I left over 30 years ago, nor the New York of my misspent
youth. It has a far different landscape which in turn has
produced a far different culture. And that, all told, has
been for the better.
Landscape, unlike political rhetoric or the
“Potato Syndrome” (i.e. if a Republican says “potato,”
a Democrat says “po-tah-to…” and
vice versa), is tangible. There are those green and blue painted
bicycle and pedestrian zones that I find beneath my feet …
the tables and chairs in the middle of a street… the
bicycles going every which way— which nearly run me
over— as I jaywalk with a muscle memory attuned only
to the patterns of motor vehicles … the buildings where
once there was only space (and behind the Pepsi-Cola
sign in Queens?)…the transformed riverfronts…
the plethora of pleasing parks. And you can’t help but
wonder: “Where did all this come from?”
The short answer? Pun most intended—
A politician cut from a different cloth —when
you have that much money you make your own cloth— he
has managed to piss off both parties, more or less equally,
throughout his tenure. And when it concludes, it will place
him with Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Wagner and Ed Koch, as
the only mayors in the 108 year history of New York City,
to have held the office for three terms.
Beyond the reach of a mayoral office, with
all its inherent grass roots challenges, Bloomberg has been
very vocal on national issues as well. He did after all once
have his eye on the presidential prize. And he has championed
causes, that in turn have caused the courts to have to reel
him in. Yes, Michael Bloomberg does have a giant soda of an
One recent and highly spoofed example being,
his view on the role government ought to play in mandating
a healthy lifestyle. Can one imagine any other politician
going anywhere near something like seeking a ban on soft drinks
of 16 ounces or more? Earning him in some circles, the sobriquet
of the “Mommy Mayor.” Yet he still enjoys relatively
high job approval ratings, as his administration is winding
But back to the turf.
is now a place, that through his vision— and the creativity
of Amanda Burden who heads up the Department of City Planning—
has opened its arms wide, to encourage people to step outside
into the fresh air (another cause he is passionate about),
to look up, to take it all in, to have a seat and smell the
coffee, to enjoy the feeling of being alive. Yes, that far
sweeping. Or just poetic fantasy?
But the prose is equally thrilling, especially
when read in the context of the trending statistics that reflect
the new face of this city. In particular, the inverse relationship
between tourism and crime. A record fifty million tourists
annually… up 56% from a year ago; 414 yearly murders…
down 36% from a year ago—an all time low. (But then
again, there are some who want to murder all these tourists).
In 1990, the annual homicide rate had peaked at 2,605.
New York is now among the safest big cities
in the country. A recent ranking list compiled on FBI statistics,
illustrates this point.
Certainly this is not the doing of the Bloomberg
administration alone, as these numbers have been trending
in this direction for many years now. And certainly Rudy Giuliani
must get credit for initiating that development. And certainly
low crime rates are due to a multiple series of factors. But
the creation of an aesthetically pleasing upbeat environment,
contributes to a better citizenry and quality of life. Which
then also has a potential financial upside. Though it’s
not about money. And it doesn’t cost a dime to sit on
one of the newly developed piers looking out at the sunset
over the Hudson River.
1; August 2013 photo by Ron Vazzano©
So the legacy of Bloomberg just might lie
in what might be called the “landscape math.”
Here are a few fascinating numbers culled from various media
sources that have been generated on Bloomberg’s 12-year
• 40,000 new buildings—including
• 40% of the city rezoned
• 450 miles of bike lanes
• 6,000 bikes in a bike share program
• 750,000 new trees planted
• 800 acres of city parkland—including the High
And it all adds up perhaps, to something along
in a wonderful mood,
joking, taking walks through the still streets
that the single reporter allowed inside has described
with reminders of the old city’s
but giving off some blue perfume from the early years
New York, New York
from Actual Air © 1999
Like him or not, Bloomberg has changed the
local culture. Thereby demonstrating, that even in the Potato
Syndrome world of politics, such things are possible. And
to paraphrase the words of that “New York, New York”
anthem: “If change can be made there/change can be made,
Quote of the Month
taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition
of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste.”
Castle by Matthew Long in Lower Manhattan: August 2013; photo
by Ron Vazzano©