Sunday, June 18, 2006

A quick thought here about Scarlett Johansen: I saw the trailer for her new Woody Allen movie last night and it appears her director is turning her into Mia Farrow. She sports short blonde bangs and wire-frames, and with a few inches off her tits she could be Rosemary herself. Allen's too old to be much of a Svengali I guess, but he always seems to have that sort of relationship with his actresses.

Also saw the trailer for the new Pirates of the Caribbean, which stars Winona Ryder, or as she is now known, Keira Knightley.

The main feature was Prairie Home Companion, which was superb; the latest production from Robert Altman, in the Grandmaster phase of his career. When I see a new Altman picture I'm reminded of something John Huston said not long before he died, that he feels he's getting better and better at making movies. Well, the films may not have been better, given his career, but his final ones were certainly as assured as anything he had ever done: the work of someone who knew where he was going and how to get there. The same goes for Lean and Bunuel, and it goes for Altman, too. He knows his own mind, his style, his instinct, and the whole show moves with such a fine fluid grace. It's the kind of movie, also, that he has always done so very well: a large cast, a kind of loose, rambling story, a camera that drifts in and out of a lot of stories.

Altman loves the stage, that's another aspect. He love performers and he has I think a special interest in what it takes to be one, maybe because he's one himself. This is the kind of movie that suited that aspect of him, too, since Garrison Keillor's script is a broad, goofy fantasy of sorts about the demise of his own weekly radio show, which is performed live on stage, where most of the film takes place. The idea behind the script is that the radio show itself is an act of spontaneity, that what makes it work is that anything can happen -- performers can drop dead back stage, new performers can become sudden stars -- and that each show takes on a kind of life of its own. Of course, these were themes he similarly explored in Nashville.

In fact, Meryl Streep, who plays one half of a singing sister act with Lily Tomlin, reminded me a little of Ronee Blakely in Nashville (as did Tomlin, of course). Streep's character is a little like Blakely's -- a little off, a little unstable, a woman who feels a little too much and as a result is only truly comfortable on stage, where she can let fly with all of her emotional force. (Streep is a fantastic singer, by the way.)

My Father's Day boodle: Bruce Springsteen's The Seeger Sessions and Neil Young's Living With War, both of which are pretty obviously up my alley. The Springsteen is a selection of old folk tunes popularized by Pete Seeger, although a number of them are new to me. Best so far: "Mrs. McGrady," a powerful tune about the 1918 Irish Rebellion that made me think of Roddy Doyle's great novel A Star Called Henry.

I may have mentioned in the past that I heard Young's CD when he released it on-line. It's a work very much of the moment, so it's hard to say if it will last, but it certainly works in the moment.

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