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02/22/2014

Movies: Elaine Stritch is Still Here in the Must-See 'Shoot Me'

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Stritch gets ready for another show... and then another... and then another

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in the last days of 2001 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods. You might then justifiably say that I am predisposed to love the hell out of the new documentary ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME and you’d be right. But I can still tell a peak performance from a Wednesday matinee and the last doc I saw on Stritch, which shared its title with “At Liberty” was significantly less stellar. Shoot Me is a must-see, even if you only know this Broadway legend from her hilarious guest appearances as Jack Donaghy’s impossible mother on 30 Rock.

We don’t feel enough sacred reverence for stage actors in our culture. Beyond of course the self-flogging of parting with $100+ for tickets. What they do is harder than what movie and television actors do and they do it 8 times a week. And in today’s reality-tv soaked culture, when people regularly get famous for merely subjecting themselves to cameras, the stage performer’s old school work ethic is almost unimaginably titanic.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Stritch-baldwinIn this respect Elaine Stritch is an extraordinary set of training wheels for learning to respect showbiz history while having a great time and hardly noticing that you’re being schooled. She’s dabbled in TV (she was almost one of “The Golden Girls” ) and film (former co-stars include Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow) between her stage triumphs so her celebrity anecdotes regularly include household names, legends and other stage stars (Woody Allen, Stephen Sondheim, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, James Gandolfini, and more come up in or appear in the documentary). What’s more, Stritch’s personality is so big that even if she had no talent whatsoever, a scenario that’s admittedly difficult to imagine, she’d be totally well suited for gargantuan fame on a reality TV show.

All of which is to say that the director Chiemi Karasawa has a lot to work with in the form of TV, stage and film clips as well as a wealth of contemporary footage as she trains her cameras on this irrepressible old trouper from February 2011 through July 2012 as she storms through the streets of New York in her furs, swears like a sailor, tells great showbiz stories, sings to cabaret audiences, and gets opinionated on the set of 30 Rock (at one point she refers to her co-star as “Alec Joan Crawford Baldwin” and I died laughing. I am no longer alive).

What’s most impressive is how Karasawa and her editors manage to squeeze all of that into a fleet 80 minutes without it feeling rushed or unfocused. And that’s just the funny bits. The documentary also stares non-judgmentally, right in the face of Stritch’s alcoholism (her relationship to vodka stingers being previously immortalized in Sondheim’s Company “Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch”) and into the ravages of old age and Stritch’s ambivalent much-delayed retirement. This is no mere comic hagiography but a three dimensional portrait of an incredibly gifted, ornery, funny, self-doubting icon. Nor is it a sentimental premature obituary, though Stritch is too confrontationally honest a life force to pretend death isn’t coming. Instead Shoot Me is the best kind of “I’m Still Here” scrapbook, a collection of indelible past images, reconsidered memories, and revealing fresh moments.

Stritch-rehearsal

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 1:30 PM EST by in Alec Baldwin, Elaine Stritch, Film, Nathaniel Rogers | Permalink | Comments (3)


Owners Of Arizona Pizzeria Flex Their Rights

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Via Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tuscon, comes an inventive way to protest the hateful discrimination bill approved by the House on Thursday.

Owner Anthony Rocco DiGrazia on why he put up the sign: "The response has been overwhelming and almost all positive from across the globe. I just want to serve dinner and own and work in a place I'm proud of. Opening the door to government-sanctioned discrimination, regardless of why, is a huge step in the wrong direction."

Related, The LA Times reports that, should the bill be signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, many businesses plan to become vocal in their support of the LGBT community.

Some Arizona business owners, still smarting from boycotts launched after the state passed a sweeping anti-illegal-immigration law, are trying to fend off a possible backlash from a new piece of legislation that has the gay community and its supporters in an uproar.

Some businesses have taken to social media, saying that even if the bill does become law, they will welcome LGBT customers.

Brewer has said that she will decide on the bill by February 28.

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 12:32 PM EST by in Arizona, Discrimination, Jan Brewer | Permalink | Comments (17)


Ukrainian President Flees Kiev, Presidential Palace Seized

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Major developments this morning in Ukraine, where opposition leaders have taken control of the presidential palace and parliament has voted to remove president Viktor F. Yanukovych from his post.

The New York Times reports:

Opposition leaders took control of the presidential palace outside Kiev on Saturday, as Ukraine’s president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, fled the capital and Parliament, beginning to chart what appeared to be a new course for the former Soviet republic, called for elections to replace him.

Members of an opposition group from Lviv called the 31st Hundred — carrying clubs and some of them wearing masks — were in control of the entryways to the palace Saturday morning. They watched as thousands of citizens strolled through the grounds during the day, gazing in wonder at the mansions, zoo, golf course, enclosure for rare pheasants and other luxuries, set in a birch forest on a bluff soaring above the Dnepr River.

“This commences a new life for Ukraine,” said Roman Dakus, a protester-turned-guard, who was wearing a ski helmet and carrying a length of pipe as he blocked a doorway. “This is only a start,” he added. “We need now to make a new structure and a new system, a foundation for our future, with rights for everybody, and we need to investigate who ordered the violence.”

Yanukovych, who has fled to the city of Kharkiv, stressed that he has not resigned and has called his ouster a coup.

According to the BBC, jailed former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has apparently been freed.

A BBC correspondent saw Tymoshenko driven away in a car after leaving the hospital. MPs had voted to pave the way for her release on Friday. She was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for abuse of power.

Her supporters have always maintained this was simply Mr Yanukovych taking out his most prominent opponent, and her release has always been a key demand of the protest movement.

A spokesperson says Yanukovych intends to deliver a televised address later today.

Watch video of protesters swarm through the presidential palace, AFTER THE JUMP

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 11:57 AM EST by | Permalink | Comments (14)


Police Arrest 32 LGBT Activists At Idaho State Capitol

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Thirty-two people demanding Idaho lawmakers add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to that state's anti-discrimination laws were arrested at the state Capitol on Thursday.

The Associated Press reports:

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he respects protesters’ right to assemble, but not if they interrupt Capitol business.

Hill said lawmakers from both parties have been meeting over possible ways address demonstrators’ concerns, but worries pressing the issue, including by being arrested, may alienate potential allies and destroy any fragile agreement that might be reached.

“We’re trying to come up with ways to protect gay rights and religious freedoms,” Hill said. “If this is forced into a hearing and a vote, you’ll lock some lawmakers into a vote before a solution can be found.”

As they did during a similar demonstration earlier this month, protesters wore 'Add the Words IDAHO' t-shirts and covered their mouths with their hands.

Idaho's first openly gay lawmaker, former State Senator Nicole LeFavour participated in the protest, though she was not one of those jailed. She says that the protests will continue.

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 10:58 AM EST by in Discrimination, Idaho, News | Permalink | Comments (2)


Jack Antonoff Of fun. Announces New Project 'Bleachers': VIDEO

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Jack Antonoff of the band fun. announced in an interview with Radio.com that he's been working on a new project called "Bleachers" and has collaborated with some pretty big names to get it done: Vince Clark from Depeche Mode and Yaz, and John Hill from Phantogram, Santigold, and M.I.A. Said Antonoff in the interview:

There’s something nostalgic and ’80s and John Hughes about some of the stuff I do, but I never wanted to make anything that was in any way retro,. So I thought let’s get the guy who inspires me to write music in the first place, Vince and his aesthetic, on the album and then let’s get the guy, John Hill, whose mind only works in pushing things forward.

You can listen to "I Want To Get Better", the first single from "Bleachers" below and watch the interview AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 10:15 AM EST by in fun, Jack Antonoff, Music, Video | Permalink | Comments (9)


Dear Abby to Bigot: Gay People Are 'Born That Way'

History repeats itself, and as the saying goes, those who don't learn from it are doomed to repeat it.

PhilipsEchoing the famous 1979 letter in which Abby told a writer who took issue with the same-sex "weirdos" in their neighborhood that they "could move," a couple in Tampa, Florida moved into a new neighborhood and took issue with the two same-sex couples in the local social circle.

Despite being welcomed by everyone, when it was time for the new couple to host a gathering they deliberately excluded the same-sex couples, citing not wanting to compromise their "values" (of which "love thy neighbor as thyself" is evidently not one), and are now perplexed by the sudden shunning they are experiencing from the rest of the community. 

Abby took the time to set them straight, so to speak, starting with the direct statement, 

[R]egardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.

While never being cruel, Abby takes them to task and lets them know that they have a golden opportunity here and not to blow it.

Posted Feb. 22,2014 at 9:32 AM EST by in Dear Abby, Florida | Permalink | Comments (29)



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