In “Moneyball,” Brad Pitt is still the charming and handsome movie star. However, its inside baseball story confused me since I am sports-illiterate. Lucky for me, my granddaughter, Rachel, is a sports writer for her college paper at Syracuse, and her reports have appeared in “Dime Magazine” (a basketball publication). A “help-me” call to her cleared up my confusion. She told me all I needed to know about the Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane. Then “Moneyball” made sense to me. And Pitt? He’s dazzlingly good, so if anyone asks I’d say the movie is, at its least, enjoyable.
As for that other male dreamboat, George Clooney, all he has to do is smile and he has my vote. (How shallow can I get?) In his latest movie, “The Ides of March,” which he directed and co-wrote, he appears in a supporting role. The star is disarmingly fluid at enunciating the ideas I’d love to hear from an actual candidate. That smile! That toasty voice! He’s got my vote. I did like the fact that “The Ides of March” makes braininess sexy. When interviewed about being an actual candidate, Clooney said, “Look at my life and look at life in politics. Why would I ever want to do that? I’m having a very good time.” His movie is entertaining, and the plus is that one does get to admire the elegant and charming star. The rest of the cast is outstanding and perfect in their roles. “The Ides of March” includes sex, bad language, and dirty politics. In his film, director George Clooney informs us that politics drags down even good people. So what else is new?
Jimmy, my wonderful physical therapist, straightened me out (in more ways than one). When I told him that I had seen the Broadway play, “Man and Boy” starring Frank Langella, he gave me facts I didn’t know about the versatile actor. Guess what? Frank Langella was born and lived in Bayonne through high school and before going to Syracuse University. Jimmy even imparted a bit of gossip. Langella’s partner from 1996 to 2001 was, surprise, Whoopi Goldberg (I’m one of her many fans as a result of television’s “The View”).
Frank Langella, all six-foot-two of him, has a rich, flawless voice. I suppose it helped sitting in the fourth row orchestra. The Terrence Rattigan play written in 1953 has a subject so timely one would think it was taken from today’s newspapers. The play takes place in the 1930s. The set is the crummy Greenwich Village basement apartment of his son and girlfriend. The anti-hero is in the world of international high finance, and he is an evil wheeler-dealer who is more than willing to throw his loved ones under the bus to stay on top. He gets so low as to pawn his son off as a homosexual lure to his financial arch-enemy, a closeted gay man. The fascinating story has obvious ties to Madoff and his son’s suicide. Fifty years after it was written, you just have to look at recent headlines to see its modern resonance. Frank Langella has a memoir coming out next spring. Wonder if he’ll mention Bayonne!
Have you been watching HBO’s mob period drama “Boardwalk Empire?” Personally, the show has an undeniable appeal for me because that wonderful musician, Vince Giordano, is involved in the background music. Appropriately, he and his Nighthawks specialize in the music of the Prohibition Era. Admittedly, I’m partial to those old-timey songs. “Boardwalk Empire” is an ambitious series with a uniformly excellent cast, written by Terrence Winter from “The Sopranos.” Some of its episodes are directed by Martin Scorsese. However, this period drama somehow feels like “a beautifully tailored empty suit.” I can only watch a limited amount of throat slashings. Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, is an undisputed ruler of Atlantic City – equal part politician and gangster.
This season’s episodes have his inner circle shrinking. There’s a rise of a new generation of gangsters with recognizable names such as the icy real-life Arnold Rothstein. One character in “Boardwalk Empire” gave me nightmares – G-Man Nelson van Alden. His desire to blot out sin reflected his own monstrous appetite. Between tense meals with his pious wife, Nelson indulged in liquor, self-flagellation, and, in a twist at the end of last season, murder by baptism. Actor Michael Shannon’s grim intensity kept his character a lesson in hypocrisy when he came on the screen. I was actually scared wondering what the script was going to call for him to do next. “Boardwalk Empire” is a lacquered, ambitious series. I’ll keep watching it even though I’m almost afraid of what is going to happen next.
The Stephen Sondheim 1971 musical revival “Follies” is being given a love parade from critics – but I’m letting that parade pass me by. Having strongly looked forward to seeing it, I felt let down. This current revival is lavish. Past and present, dreams and reality collide for one night. Former members reunite on the eve of the theater’s demolition. Two unhappily married couples remember their younger glorious past and face the harsher reality of the present as their younger selves dance.
“Follies” is the sixth Sondheim role for Bernadette Peters. One song that she belts out, “Losing My Mind,” is a torch song to end all torch songs. She performs it with a rich brokenness. Otherwise Miss Peters’ performance was not the highlight I expected. Two other songs were show stoppers: “Broadway Baby” and “I’m Still Here” (me, too!). Throughout the performance, ghosts of chorus girls beautifully costumed walk in a wisp-like fashion looking as if they didn’t quite know why they were there – nor did I. Normally, the first notes you hear in a musical have a bouncing beat to them, but at this revival the first sound you hear is a mournfully sustained one. In spite of Stephen Sondheim’s hauntingly beautiful score, I found myself wondering why “Follies” has had a number of revivals, but obviously I’m alone in wondering that. For me, this show has an aura of deep sorrow over it. I left the Marquis Theater feeling slightly depressed and let down – but obviously one of the few who feel that way.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.