Not just a pretty face…

Wow, what a smile!  Sigh...
Actor Blair Underwood- wow, what a smile! Sigh...
Last Thursday, actor Blair Underwood was in Washington, DC to open a new health clinic, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Blair Underwood Clinic (on K Street near George Washington University Hospital).  Local people can come in and get tested for HIV/AIDS for free, Underwood explained on CNN.  He has been involved with fighting HIV/AIDS for about 20 yrs.  The actor told CNN’s Don Lemon that his life has been directly touched by AIDS.  Two members of his wife’s family died of AIDS, one “after a blood transfusion” and another “as a result of lifestyle choices.” 
 
Blair Underwood as Alex on HBO's "In Treatment"
Underwood as Alex on HBO's "In Treatment"
Recently, Underwood received critical acclaim portraying Alex, one of the patients of Paul (Gabriel Byrne) on Season 1 of HBO’s In Treatment.  Underneath Alex’s muscular/macho/perfectionist exterior is a man riddled with guilt (about a bombing mission that killed a school full of children) and uncertainty (about his marriage).
    
Blair squares off against Gabriel Byrne
Squaring off against his analyst, Gabriel Byrne

 

Alex challenges Paul b/c he refuses to reveal much about himself for the first 2 sesssions.  The ex-pilot wants answers from his shrink, but doesn’t want to put himself in a vulnerable position.  Alex is a control freak; he even buys an expensive coffee machine for Paul’s office b/c he wants things just so.  Later on in the season, Alex becomes involved with another one of Paul’s patients, the volatile doctor- Laura (Melissa George).      

 

 

With the wife & kids- awww....
With the wife & kids- awww....
 

Underwood appeared as a sports doctor and one of Miranda’s boyfriends on SATC.  The actor made his TV debut at age 23 as the ambitious/charming litigator Jonathan Rollins on the courtroom drama LA Law.  Underwood impressed producers with his charisma and maturity.  (And 23 is not even old enough to be a lawyer!) 

 

The cast of "LA Law" (1986)
The cast of "LA Law" (1986)
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Emma on recent news

Murder at Yale
 
There have been some very disturbing issues in the news lately.  The item that seems topmost in people’s minds is the brutal killing (which may’ve been premeditated) of Yale grad student, Annie Le. One of my younger (female) cousins also attends an Ivy and performs work similar to that of the deceased young woman.  I also have two acquaintances (from my NYC days) w/ connections to Yale.  One of them attended Yale for undergrad; another is currently in the MBA program.  Yale looks like an unlikely place for such a heinous murder.  Many people are wondering why it occurred.  Was the accused, Raymond Clark III, jealous of Le’s superior intellect and workplace success?  They were the same age and worked in the same lab, though Le was in a higher position.  Or did he just lose control, and kill her without intent?  (I highly doubt this!)     
 
 
Annie Le was a promising young scientist; she was also petite, pretty, and exuded happiness in photographs released to the media.  Her parents were described as quiet, hardworking people by neighbors in Le’s rural California hometown.  She was engaged to be married to a bright young man, her long-time boyfriend, attending Columbia.  Tragically, her body was discovered by New Haven police on her proposed wedding day.  One of her mentors, Dr. Rocky Tuan, appeared on Larry King Live; he said she was “one of the most intelligent and motivated students” he’d ever met.  Le interned at the NIH during summers under Dr. Tuan’s supervision.  Wow, writing this is choking me up a bit! 
 
 
What can we do on a day-to-day basis to decrease violence, especially violence against women?  I know several people involved in non-profits that aid women and children.  But you don’t need to be an expert on this topic to better the situation.  If you have some money handy, why not attend a social event where some of the proceeds go to charity?  If you are a parent/guardian, teach your children (both genders) that sexist talk in not appropriate in any situation.  Teach by example from a young age. There are situations where girls should be treated more gently than boys, as my aunts and older friends often say. 
 
If you are a teenage boy/young man, don’t ignore nasty comments, jokes, and stories your buddies say about females.  Call them on it- you could change their minds.  What if they make fun of you?  Being considerate to girls will get you further than your buddies in the long run.  As for the girls, you can make a difference by being more observant.  Are any of your friends being treated unkindly by their boyfriends?  Look for clues, both verbal and physical.  Don’t stay silent; acting subservient won’t attract the right kind of man.                    
 
 
 
President’s health care plan
 
Another news item being discussed is the opposition to President Obama’s health care plan.  First, one of South Carolina’s state reps, Republican Joe Wilson, yelled “You lie!” during Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress.  Some people outside cheered; in no time Wilson was flooded with campaign contributions and new adoring right-wing fans.  Secondly, Former president Jimmy Carter said that racism is the cause of such vehement opposition to Obama’s plans.  Now, we should respect Carter for the positive things he’s done after leaving office (as my Dad said); he has written many books as well.  It is a well known fact that he grew up in rural Georgia during segregation, and his mother worked as a nurse with African-American patients.   
 
 
I’m pretty sure all of the “tea party” protestors I saw last SAT on the DC metro were white; most of them were over 40. There were a few families with kids, too.  But an attractive young couple, who didn’t fit the typical Republican image, stood out in my mind.  Are these people concerned about the state of their health insurance?  Yes.  They feel that if we give coverage to more people, their coverage will do down the tubes.  But they have no proof that yet!  These are middle-class types worried about taxes, not just illegal (or “undocumented” as some prefer) immigrants.  What documents did their (white) ancestors have when they left Europe for America, I wonder?  Are all these people racist?  Of course not!
 
 
President’s speech on education
 
Why were parents/school districts freaking out even before Obama spoke?  What’s wrong with addressing youth, many of whom admire the attractive/cool/youthful president?  I didn’t listen to all of this speech, but read/heard sections.  Pres Obama basically said the same things one of my old friends believed; she works as a money manager in SoCal.  Though she was from a very wealthy/well-connected family, she studied long hours and worked hard to prove herself in college and in the workplace.  Having successful parents motivated her more than many others her age, not less!  Being from a Hindu Indian family made her feel proud, not different; she didn’t believe in peer pressure.  This young lady believed that it was mainly up to her to get the best grades, no matter what the subject was or who the teacher was of the course.  Things didn’t come easy to her (she switched majors twice and settled for her second favorite career), so she had to put in the hours.  The only time she took off was Friday afternoon and evening.  Obama must’ve been like her as a student, I imagine.     

Merchant Ivory’s final film… & more!

Movie Review: Before the Rains (2007)
 

BtR_dvd

Tagline: Passion has its price.

My mom saw this movie last month… and LOVED it!  This is the last film produced by both James Ivory (deceased) and Ismail Merchant (his business/life partner).  It is hands-down one of the most (visually) stunning movies out there!  The director, Santosh Sivan, is also a highly respected cinematographer in his native India.  The only other movie that compares (with regard to beauty) is Alfonso Arau’s A Walk in the Clouds.  The natural beauty of southrn India, top actors of Tamil cinema, and the authentic music add flavor to an interesting central story.

TK (Rahul Bose) and Moores (Linus Roache)
TK (Rahul Bose) & Moores (Linus Roache)

British gentleman/planter/family man Henry Moores (Linus Roache, who can currently be seen on Law & Order) has started an ambitious road expansion project in a small village within Kerala in southern India.  He has requested extra funds from the bank, and hopes that the road will hold (after the monsoons).  Moores, a well-liked and generous white man, is aided by his native land manager/”right hand man” TK Neelan (Rahul Bose, one of India’s finest indie actors).   TK is the most interesting person in the film, a bridge between his home village and the British rulers.  Though TK works for Moores, they have a close, friendly relationship. (TK is surprised/delighted when Moores presents him with an English pistol.)

Kerala is a character in the film, too!
Kerala is a character in the film, too!

There are rumors in the village about a couple seen in the woods.  TK realizes that Moores is (dangerously) close to his beautiful/strong-willed housekeeper Sajani (Nandita Das, star of Deepa Mehta’s Earth and Fire; one of India’s finest indie actresses).  Is it love?  Is it mutual? 

Sajani (Nandita Das) w/ Laura Moores (Jennifer Ehle) and son
The Moores' housekeeper Sajani (Nandita Das) tells Laura Moores (Jennifer Ehle) and son a story.

Like Moores, Sajani is married, and a friend of TK’s (since childhood).  But Laura Moores (Jennifer Ehle of Pride and Prejudice fame; an American actress who studied in Britain) doesn’t suspect anything when she returns from London with their young son.  The Moores’ son adores TK and Sajani and is enthralled by their stories.

All smiles at a screening
All smiles on 2 of my fave actors!

TK is VERY engaging, though his face shows subtle expressions and he speaks simply /honestly.  The role of TK is a departure for Bose, Sivan says on the commentary track, because he usually portrays sophisticated/urbane characters (as in Mr & Mrs Iyer and 15 Park Avenue).  Roache does a fine job of  keeping the restraint of an Englishman, but his conflicting emotions come out of his eyes.  The Brit comments that though he has visited India several times, he considers Kerala to be “the most beautiful place in the world.”

Recent iTunes downloads:

Dallas Wayne:  He’s an old-school rockabilly country artist with a sense of fun AND tradition in his songs.  The instrumentals are GREAT!  

3:30 In the Afternoon

I’ll Take the Fifth

If That’s Country: VERY funny criticism of  the modern country scene; some lyrics below…

You can make a star of a teenage girl
But one million dollars won’t make her Merle
Laser beams, navel rings, and a pretty face might be something

But you can kiss my Ozark ass, if that’s country

Now I ain’t denyin’ them suburban moms their fun

But don’t you try to tell me it’s the way Hank wanted it done
You  better keep your money-grubbin’ hands off the poor man’s song

 And make sure Chris Gaines stays the hell offa my front lawn

 

http://www.dallaswayne.com/default.htm

 

Mac McAnally:  He’s a singer/songwriter who has been influenced by MANY genres, not just country.  His songs have been decribed as “a piece of Americana.”  The voice is clear, honest, and VERY pure!

If You Hang Around Long Enough

(Nothing Like A) Sunny Day

Until Then

 

http://www.macmcanally.com/

 

I HAVE A JOB!!!

Hi readers,

Well, I FINALLY got a job this past week- YAAAY!!!  I’m a technical writer w/ a subcontracting firm (focusing on IT) working w/ the federal government.  I’m going to find out the specifics on TUES.  I’m VERY relieved; I can become a contributing member of society again- LOL!  I’m STILL a little upset that I couldn’t do English teaching full-time.  Oh well…   

Thanks for reading,

EMMA.          

 

Recently watched movies:

Julie and Julia (now playing in theaters)

Paul (Stanley Tucci) and Julia Child (Meryl Streep)
Paul (Stanley Tucci) & Julia Child (Meryl Streep)

I saw this movie w/ my mom; she said “I expected more.”  The Julia sections are light and bubbly, but the Julie sections just fall flat.  Meryl Streep did a  nice job, as usual, especially in the few sensitive scenes.  The accent was spot on; I know b/c I’ve seen some eps of Cooking w/ Julia Child on PBS.  I REALLY enjoyed Stanley Tucci’s sweet/understated performance as Julia’s hubby, Paul.  Tucci is one of the finest American character actors working today!      

 

Julie (Amy Adams) cooks in her tiny LIC kitchen.
Julie (Amy Adams) cooks in her tiny LIC kitchen.

Julie’s hubby (played by Chris Messina) was more interesting than her!  He was such a regular (yet VERY cute) and supportive partner!  And it’s ALWAYS nice to see NYC in the movies, b/c I still miss it.   

 

Runaway Jury (2003)

Dustin Hoffman & Gene Hackman act together!
Hoffman & Hackman act together for 1st time!

Wendell Rohr (Dustin Hoffman) is a liberal New Orleans torts lawyer taking on the gun lobby.  Rankin Fitch (Gene Hackman) is the big/bad/out-of-town jury consultant for the defendant (a gun company), and between them the battle is for the hearts and minds of the jury (a motley crew of New Orleanians).  But there is someone on the inside.  Nicholas Easter (John Cusack) is a juror with a girlfriend, Marlee (Rachel Weisz), on the outside.  They have a past… and their own agenda!  -IMDB summary

 jury

The premise of this movie is VERY interesting.  I REALLY liked the confrontation scene btwn Hoffman and Hackman; it was written in after the crew learned that they’d never shared a scene before!  However, they’ve been friends for a LONG time.  Weisz did the tough/action scenes VERY convincingly.  John Cusack was understated and convincing, as his part needed.  (I haven’t seen many of his films, but I LOVE to watch anything w/ his big sis Joan.) 

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

This film was nominated for 7 Oscars!
This film was nominated for 7 Oscars!
Two powerful German guns control the seas past the Greek island of Navarone making the evacuation of endangered British troops on a neighboring island impossible. Air attack is useless so a team of six Allied and Greek soldiers is put ashore to meet up with partisans to try and dynamite the guns. The mission is perilous enough anyway but are the Germans on the island getting further help, too?  -IMDB summary
 
  
Irene Papas plays a Greek resistance fighter
Irene Papas plays a Greek resistance fighter
This famous war film isn’t based on a REAL event, BUT it has several interesting  characters (including two women).  It cost $6 million- a huge budget for its time.  After the first 20 mins, it holds your attention.  You almost don’t mind that Peck isn’t using an English accent and this team of men are TOO OLD to be on a mission like this! 
David Niven and Gregory Peck
        
David Niven has some GREAT lines in this film; it was actually mean to be ANTI-WAR.  But the actor who makes the biggest impact in this film is Anthony Quinn (one of Hollywood’s MOST versatile character actors); he plays a hard-nosed officer from Crete.  As the film progresses, he softens (a bit) and reveals more about himself.  Did you know that Quinn was the first Mexican to win an Oscar?  (Though many thought he was Italian or Greek, his father was Irish and his mother was Mexican.)       

Quinn, Anthony 

It doesn’t make a difference as long as I’m a person in the world.

Quinn said when asked about his ethnicity

Recent iTunes downloads:

Down the Road – Kenny Chesney (w/ Mac McAnally)

I just heard this song last week, and it stuck in my mind.  This is reminiscent of classic country: timeless, touching, and just 3 mins long.  Mac McAnally is a singer/songwriter w/ a very pure/clear voice. 

If I Know Me – George Strait 

A classic from a classic singer

The Walk – Sawyer Brown

Another timeless song about the stages in a man’s life 

Two GREAT Mamet films

The Spanish Prisoner (1997)

SP_DVD

This film has an air of mystery and tension throughout.  Pay attention to the little moments and the props to figure out all that’s going on!  Joe Ross (Campbell Scott, son of renowed actors Colleen Dewhurst & George C. Scott) is a plain-spoken, well-mannered company man who’s flown down to a (fictional) Caribbean island called St. Estephe.  Why?  Because it’s his reward for  inventing a formula (inside a red leathbound ledger).  This secret formula, his boss Mr. Klein (Ben Gazzara) says, must be safeguarded from the wrong hands.  Joe is glad to have a little vacation (along w/ spending money and posh clothes), but anxious about the promotion/money he has yet to receive for his hard work.

SP 1

In St. Estephe, Joe and his friend/co-worker, a lawyer named George Lang (Ricky Jay), meet a young, pretty and chatty secretary named Susan Ricci (Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet’s wife and a singer).  Susan has been working on the island (also w/ Mr. Klein’s company) for a month.  Susan is pleasantly surprised by Joe’s gentlemanly ways; she develops a crush on him.

SP 3

Joe also meets a mysterious, suave older man named Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin).  Joe is impressed by Jimmy’s stories, and a promise of friendship when he returns to NYC.  (We sense that Joe has a streak of ambition underneath his unassuming demeanor.)  Jimmy is either a millionaire businessman or a master con man.  Watch to find out!

 

SP 4

David Mamet’s dialogue will sound unnatural if you’re not used to it; his work is meant for the stage.  He’s very good at showing how men talk to and relate to other men.  (Another director who does this well is Barry Levinson.)  The actors Mamet uses are top-notch, even when scenes are a bit too stagey.

 

The Winslow Boy (1999)

TWB_poster

This terrific film (inspired by real events in early 1900s England) reveals deep meaning by being subtle and gentle.  It’s a character-driven family drama with a hint of romance.  It takes us back to a time when a man’s word was taken as truth, even if the man was a young boy (like title character Ronald Winslow).

 

TWB_toast

The Winslows are a comfortable middle-class family in London; they’ve all gathered together before Christmas.  Aging patriarch/banker Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne) presides over the family with a gentle voice and easygoing nature.  Grace (Jemma Jones) is the sensitive , yet strong, matriarch.

TWB_Cate

Oldest child Catherine (close to 30) is a whip smart, independant-minded suffragette.   She’s supported in her cause by the family (unusual for that time).  Cate’s engaged at the start of the film.

TWB_support

The baby of the family, 13 y.o. Ronnie (Guy Edwards), attends a prestigious boarding school- the Royal Naval Academy.  But he’s hastily expelled for (supposedly) stealing a postal order.   His father believes him when Ronnie declares he’s innocent, and a historic legal battle ensues.

TWB_Sir Robert

The Winslow case is discussed on the street and in the press; public support for the boy is strong.  But the court case goes badly until the family expend their influence/money to hire Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam), the noted lawyer/member of the House of Commons.  He and Cate are attracted to each other from their first meeting, but their politics may keep them apart.  (Sir Robert is a staunch conservative.)

TWB_interest

Sir Robert, a restrained man from a high sphere of society, grows to admire the ordinary family.  Mr. Winslow won’t give up the case, even when his health worsens.  Cate regularly comes to court (the Ladies’ Gallery) to watch the proceedings.  What sacrifices will the Winslows make to support Ronnie?  Will he be found innocent?

NOTE: The DVD I bought has a commentary track w/ Mamet, Pidgeon, Hawthorne, and Northam.  It’s informative and fun!

 

Related Links:

About writer/director/ David Mamet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Mamet

About Campbell Scott (currently on USA’s Royal Pains)

The Campbell Scott Compendium: a fan site

http://cscompanion.tripod.com/

Rebecca Pidgeon’s Official Web Site

 http://www.rebeccapidgeon.com/