Whenever I hear that there’s a new Woody Allen movie, I make every attempt to see it. Well, not knowing that his latest would be shown so soon in New Jersey, I made the trek to the Angelika Film Center on the corner of Houston and Mercer Streets in Manhattan. The Angelika is unusual in itself and worth the visit. After you purchase your ticket, you walk into a sort of lounge-café where you can wait, relax, dine, or meet friends before or after the movie. The films shown there are generally top-rated, but I digress. Woody Allen, who saw a career resurgence with his wonderful “Midnight in Paris,” an Oscar-winner, continues his travels through Europe with “To Rome with Love.” But alas, this latest is one of his least. A series of vignettes, it’s a lightweight anthology about assorted Americans and Italians who converge in Rome and have affairs and other misadventures. I’m happy to report that there’s no violence and as for sex, it could be the mildest R-rated film of the summer. “To Rome with Love” is touched with bits of fantasy and fairy tales. The all-star cast is mostly under-used, especially the usually enchanting Penelope Cruz as a fiery call girl (somehow her fires in this one appear to be reduced). My favorite, Alec Baldwin, crazy as he appears to be in real life, has fun as a jaded architect who mentors the Jesse Eisenberg character. To sum up this film, it’s a frothy lightweight romp. Oh, by the way, did you ever wonder about Woody Allen’s only biological son, Ronan Farrow (momma is Mia)? I hope it didn’t keep you up at night, but just for your information, he graduated college at 15, studied law at Yale, and is now a prominent human rights attorney. Last December, he was named a Rhodes Scholar. Now aren’t you glad you read this column?
My sports journalist granddaughter Rachel proudly told me that Aaron Sorkin graduated from the S.I. Newshouse School at Syracuse University, where Rachel is starting her senior year. At first I wasn’t sure who Aaron Sorkin was. Then I learned that he was the talent behind one of my favorite programs, “The West Wing,” and the hit movie “The Social Network.” Wow! That’s impressive. Considered one of the auteurs of modern television, an innovator and an original voice, his work is compelling even when it’s kind of a hot mess. Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” is a dramatic series on HBO. It’s a cool mess but hard to look away from. The series dissects and analyzes a fictional cable TV news channel. An irascible Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy delivers a stream of declamatory news analysis. Usually Will has survived in the news business by avoiding controversy but once he speaks up, but he doesn’t shut up (and frequently I wished he would). The catalyst for his change is the reappearance of his former lover MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer). I welcome seeing Sam Waterson back on TV as the news division head. There are silly cliché-ridden comic subplots involving the romantic lives of the newsroom staff. Several cast members deliver superb performances, beginning with Daniels. “The Newsroom” is filled with Wagnerian rants, palms slammed on desks, and so on. It’s full of yelling and self-righteousness but it’s got energy. I found myself wondering, “Do more words equal smarter?” Sorkin appears to love longer words and worldlier topics. One suspects that he is driven by passion and purpose. But for me, “The Newsroom” somehow doesn’t completely work as a credible human drama.
Do you ever get the feeling that you want to get away from your usual environment, a change of place? I find it a good thing to do, especially since it’s always refreshing to get back home. What works for me is the neighborhood of the ever-rising Ground Zero in New York City. Before it became Ground Zero, I would go there and meet friends. I let some years go by after 9/11 so it came as a shock to me on a recent visit. How did all this happen? My gorgeous Winter Garden, with its retailers, restaurants, specialty shops, and wonderful views of the Hudson River, had changed radically. Of course it still has its gardens, beautiful parks, and a five-mile-long Hudson River esplanade. However, bounded by Vesey and Murray Streets, right next to the Winter Garden, there’s a new Goldman world – that’s Goldman Sachs, the financial giant. Evidently, wanting a neighborhood in its own image, they created on (deep pockets certainly help!). The locals call the place Goldman Alley. Now I was rewarded with a completely new scene: a cluster of stylish shops and restaurants next to Goldman’s $3.1 billion steel and glass headquarters. Goldman went so far as to buy a hotel, a parking garage, and two ferry boats for its out-of-town employees. That last was to enable them to get, guess where? The Goldman Building in Jersey City! I wish they had come to Bayonne. Those of you who are regular readers of “In Tune…” know that I am always interested in eating no matter where I go. Goldman Alley has every kind of dining opportunity from high-end to my taste. There are many choices: Shake Shack, Pick a Bagel, and Beans and Greens (that last, of course, is my favorite). Walking into Vintry Fine Wines, I discovered some bottles for over $10,000, but was told that most sales include $15 to $40 bottles. Have you been looking recently for handmade eyeglass frames? Those are available too. The 11-screen Regal Theater is still in its place, but you have to hunt for it as there’s no longer a large marquee. The major appeal of Goldman Alley for me is that everything is brand new. Also the area is crowded with Goldman’s 8,000 mostly young employees. They keep all the shops bustling (Shake Shack seems to be a favorite). So if you want to see the newest in the area of the World Financial Center and don’t want to drive (the parking garage is pricey), take the buss or the Light Rail to the PATH and the last stop will place you in an exciting, ever-changing, vibrant world. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the old place, I was happy to experience the new.
You can email June Sturz at email@example.com.