Movie filmed in Jackson Heights: “7 to the Palace”

The Colombian community of Jackson Heights, Queens had the wonderful character-propelled drama Maria Full of Grace.  Now desis (like me!) have this new film, coming out next year- 7 to the Palace. 

Naseeruddin Shah


This movie stars some FABULOUS desi actors, including: Aasif Mandvi (a prolific TV/theater/indie film actor), Naseeruddin Shah (a huge star in India; the father from Monsoon Wedding), Ajay Naidu (Office Space and many bit parts), and Madhur Jaffrey (acting in the US since the 1970s; also a cookbook writer).  At the end of August, Aasif Mandvi will ALSO be visting the SAYA! (where I work/volunteer).  You may have seen him as the ER doctor in the first season of CSI or on The Colbert Report.  He had a major part in the romantic comedy American Chai (a film shot in NYC and NJ).  He had the role of Ali Hakim (the Persian salesman) in Oklahoma! on Broadway.  I saw him a few times at a small Upper West Side cafe; I used to student-teach in that neighborhood. He lived VERY close to 72nd St and Broadway.  BTW, both Aasif and Ajay are natives of Chicago.     

Aasif MandviAjay Naidu


As for non-desis… Dean Winters (from the gritty prison drama Oz and the police drama Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit) will have a role, too.  Wow!!!  I loved his character on Oz, and can’t wait to see how he looks/acts in this movie!  He is a VERY charming/engaging actor.  He can play a boyish, manipulative criminal (Ryan O’Reilly on Oz) or an earnest, green cop (Det. Brian Cassidy on SVU).  Some ladies may know him best from SATC where he played Carrie’s friend with benefits.  Dean is actually Irish (like Ryan), BUT also Italian; he grew up in NYC and Arizona.  It’s ALWAYS a pleasure to see ANY actor from Oz IMHO!  

Chris Meloni & Dean Winters


There were people set up at the corner of 75th Street and 37th Avenue last week.  There was a little tent and table with snacks and drinks.  No one seemed to be taking notice of the (mostly young and white) group of production assistants milling about.  (But this is the type of stuff that catches my eye, and I was coming from the Starbucks over at the corner of 78th.)  One of the restaurants looked different because the film crew had changed the awning (it read Tandoori Palace; I’m pretty sure that wasn’t so before).  

One day, there was a sign on the corner looking for extras; I was TOO shy to go!  Darn!!!  Maybe I will get a second chance for 5 minutes of fame…

Movie Review: “Persuasion” (BBC: 1995)

Persuasion is perhaps one of Jane Austen’s most personal novels.  The central idea for the story, loving someone even when hope is gone, comes from a terrible incidence in her older sister Cassandra’s life.  The young naval officer she was engaged to marry died at sea.  He wanted to seek his fortune before settling down.  Cassandra retired from society after this loss, vowing to never marry.  For many years, Cassandra kept house for Jane, while the more famous sis wrote.  Perhaps this book was a way to give her big sis a happy ending!    

Eight years ago, Anne (Amanda Root), daughter of a nobleman, Sir Walter Elliot (Corin Redgrave), fell deeply in love with Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), brother of the local curate (preacher; pastor).  Wentworth was in the navy, and not too much older than Anne (who was just 19).  He was not from a distinguished family, and had yet to prove his merit (meaning: get rich).  Lady Russell, Anne’s neighbor (acting in lieu of her deceased mother), persuaded her to refuse Frederick’s hand.  “He had nothing but himself to recommend him,” Lady Russell comments.   

At the start of the film, Anne is 27, and considered an “old maid.”  Her father pays little attention to her, probably seeing her as another burden.  (Sir Walter spends more than is prudent.)  Though her superficial, older sister (Elizabeth) is 29, it is hinted (in the book) that she’s waiting around for a super-rich beau.  The younger sis, Mary (Sophie Thompson, sister of Emma Thompson), is a mother of two sons, and settled comfortably with a gentleman farmer, Charles Musgrove

Things get so bad financially, that Sir Walter’s lawyer suggests the Elliot family “retrench” to Bath, a resort town where they can still live respectably.  They can rent out their house (on a big estate, Kellynch Hall) to Admiral Croft, a very gentleman-like naval officer and his wife.  Anne is (visibly) upset when she hears this- Mrs. Croft is the elder sister of Frederick!  Lady Russell remembers the “disappointment,” but has no regret about it.  However, Anne is still in love with her first love.

Captain Wentworth comes to Uppercross (where Anne is staying for a time); he is introduced to all the Musgroves.  Both of the unmarried Musgrove girls, Louisa and Henrietta, seek his attention.  At a dinner, Wentworth comments to someone that Anne “was so altered that he’d hardly have known her.”  What will happen now that the tables are reversed?  Anne’s family has its good name, but very little money.  Wentworth has made a considerable fortune at sea, and is therefore a great catch for any single gal.  Anne looks weighed down by life; Wentworth is social and upbeat in all types of company.  Have his feelings changed?  How will they ever get together?

You have to remember that in Austen’s time, single people (usually) did not have long courtships or engagements.  They were often in company, so had little chance to talk alone about crucial matters (how they really feel about each other and so forth).  People usually hung out with their neighbors, cousins, and others in their social rank (when they were on vacation or in London).  It wasn’t polite to go blabbing your (true) opinions in public.  But, people did write letters- this is crucial in Persuasion.                   

The lead actors are very good at conveying their emotions, however subtle, in this film.  A lot has to be said without words, or the movie would not be true to the book or its time period.  Sophie Thompson, as Mary, is also very good (as she is in Emma).  She has some subtle comedic moments; Mary likes to create little dramas (she’s a typical bored housewife).  Another small, but notable character, is Mrs. Croft (Fiona Shaw).  Anne is drawn to her warm personality.  She is a very kind, energetic, and well-traveled older woman.  The Crofts, though they have no children, are a very loving/compatible couple (both in the book and film).  In one dinner scene she says that “we [women] none of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”  Very true!        

Jane Austen said that the character of Anne was “almost too good to be true.”  Anne is described as capable (she nurses her injured nephew) and down-to-earth (she visits an old, sick school friend instead of visiting a high-ranking relation).  Like many Austen heroines, she likes reading, long walks, and intelligent conversations.  She is not obsessed with rank, unlike the rest of her family.  She is unbowed by the flattery of her cousin, Mr. Elliot, who heaps attention on her in Bath.  So, she’s a gal you can root for!     

The look of this film is very authentic, in my opinion.  The actors are not overly glamorous, nor do they over-act (like in some tongue-in-cheek adaptations of Jane Austen).  Yes, there are a few moments of humor, but the issue at hand is serious.  Love (and life) may pass these characters by if they don’t communicate and take some action to hook up!  Check this film out if you’re looking for an adaptation that is intelligent.  I’ve seen it several times, and consider it the best adaptation of Austen on film (aside from the Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle).  This film gives modern audiences a view into Austen’s characters’ minds.


Emma at MoMA

Hey readers (are there MANY out there?)  If you are reading, please put in comments!

I went to MoMA this evening with two of my (younger) gal pals; I also met a few other (very sweet) college folks.  Most of these college undergrads/recent grads had gone to Stuyvesant High School.  Currently, I’m teaching a SHSAT prep class at South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!).  The students (7th-8th graders) are hoping to get a high score on the SHSAT, so they can attend Stuy, Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, or another specialized high school here in NYC. 

The museum was abuzz with languages (not unusual); the Dali exhibit was especially popular.  It was COOL to see many young people interested in art; some were not yet in college!  I noticed that several were artists (sketch pads in their bags) and photographers (with nifty cameras).  There were many tourists from Spain also.  I REALLY liked a some of Dali’s stuff, especially the paintings where he used (shades of) blue and red in abundance.  Not everything he did was disturbing, as I discovered.  Many people said the work was “curious” though.  A lady (most likely a tourist from out of state) was frustrated when she couldn’t figure out the painting the book turning into a nude woman.  “Where is the woman?” she asked her husband, then some other people around us.  “I don’t see it.  I see a book.  It’s supposed to be in there, but I don’t see it!”  LOL- My friend and I had to laugh!  I liked the painting “Narcissus” (maybe because I like Greek mythology).  On one side, you see the figure of the young man, then the flower on the opposite side.  The colors were cool, too.    

I found out a few NEW things from this exhibit. Dali collaborated not only with the famed Spanish director, Luis Bunel, but with Alfred Hitchcock!  Hitchcock chose Dali to create the dream sequences seen in Spellbound (starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman).  I told my mom about this, and she thought it was very cool (she LOVES 1940s films, especially Spellbound).  The producer, David O. Selznick, thought that Dali’s ideas were TOO extreme, but Hitchcock thought the artist would bring something out of the ordinary to this 1945 picture. 

Dali was friends with Luis Bunel, Frederico Garcia Lorca, the Marx Brothers, and Andy Warhol.  I recall some stuff about Garcia Lorca because my final project in an advanced Spanish class (WAAAAY back in undergrad) was to research his life and work, then give an oral presentation.  The teacher and few other students said I did a REALLY good job!  A surprising thing about Garcia Lorca: he didn’t live “in the closet;” he was “out” and open about his life as a gay man (when it wasn’t the norm).  This reminded me of Oscar Wilde who lived part of his life as an “out” man (with the support of his mother, no less)!

Okay, I’m going off-topic too much.  You should check out the Dali exhibit when you have a chance.  Fridays are FREE (so there are MANY people there).  The line moves FAST after 6pm, one friend said.  It was quick today around 4pm.   It was CRAZY hot and humid today, so it was good to be doing something INSIDE!