Tag Archive | "alec baldwin"

Benefit for Performance Space in Honor of Spalding Gray

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Spalding Gray_Photo Courtesy of Kathie RussoThe late Spalding Gray with his son, Forrest. Photo courtesy of Kathie Russo.

By Genevieve Kotz

The life of the late playwright and performer Spalding Gray will be celebrated at a cocktail party to benefit the contemporary performance hub, Performance Space 122, on Saturday, June 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Sag Harbor.

The event, which will be hosted by Jonathan Ames, Alec Baldwin, Mike Daisey, Mercedes Ruehl, and Katherine Russo, will raise funds for the Give Performance Space campaign in honor of Mr. Gray.

The celebration will include the reading of one of Mr. Gray’s monologues by the Academy-Award winning actress Ms. Ruehl as well as a chance to win a dinner at the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, courtesy of award-winning chef Tom Colicchio. Cocktails and hors d’ouevres will be served throughout the evening. It will be held in the home of Ms. Russo, Mr. Gray’s widow.

Mr. Gray was an American actor and writer, known for his autobiographical monologues. He was an influential member of the Wooster Group, a New York avant-garde theatre company. He appeared in 50 movies, including “Swimming to Cambodia,” which was based on one of his monologues. He took his own life in 2004.

“Spalding’s unfailing ability to ignite universal emotions and laughter in all of us while gloriously wallowing in his own exquisite uniqueness will remain forever one of the great joys of American performance and literature.” Jonathan Demme, who directed the movie, “Swimming to Cambodia,” said.

PS122 is a performance space in the East Village, dedicated to giving artists a place to challenge the boundaries of live performance. The building is currently being renovated to better serve the artists and audiences of New York City.

Tickets for the cocktail event are $122. For more information, visit www.ps122.org/GPS.

SummerDocs Series Returns to Guild Hall

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“Life Itself”, a documentary about film critic Roger Ebert (left), kicks off the Hamptons Internation Film Festival’s SummerDocs season this weekend. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures. Photo credit Kevin Horan.

By Mara Certic

Since its inception in 2009, the Hamptons Film Festival’s SummerDocs series has screened dozens of documentaries—four of which have gone on to win Academy Awards.

Curated by artistic director David Nugent and board member Alec Baldwin, the series screens four new documentaries over the summer, each one followed by a Q&A hosted by Mr. Baldwin with either the director or a subject of the film.

“He and David Nugent watched them all and made the determination,” said Anne Chaisson, executive director of the HIFF. “It’s really about finding the best that’s out there.”

The series kicks off at Guild Hall on Saturday, June 21, with “Life Itself,” based on the memoir of the same name written by highly regarded film critic Roger Ebert. The film has a slew of executive producers, including Martin Scorcese, and was directed by Steve James, who rose to fame in the early ‘90s when his film “Hoop Dreams” was named “best movie of 1994” and given “two thumbs up” by none other than Siskel and Ebert.

The film chronicles the life of the writer and critic: From his accidental entry into journalism to revolutionizing the business of film criticism and winning a Pulitzer Prize, “Life Itself” also shows a glimpse into Mr. Ebert’s battle with cancer.

In 2002, Mr. Ebert was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, which resulted in the removal of his lower jaw and his inability to speak for the last seven years of his life.

“He’s a soldier of cinema who cannot even speak anymore, and he plows on and that touches my heart very deeply,” filmmaker Werner Herzog says of Mr. Ebert in the film.

“Life Itself” received rave reviews after its world and European premieres at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. “Very moved by Steve James’s “Life Itself“ Roger Ebert doc at Sundance” tweeted Kenneth Turan, Film critic for the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio.

This Saturday’s screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Mr. Ebert’s widow, trial attorney Chaz Ebert. The film will be released on July 4 in the United States and distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

The second film in the series will be shown on Friday, July 25. “Keep on Keepin’ on” is the directorial debut of Australian Al Hicks; it documents the unlikely and meaningful relationship between Justin Kaulflin, a 23-year-old blind piano prodigy, and his mentor, jazz-legend and trumpeting great Clark Terry, “CT,” whose past pupils have included Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.

The combination of Mr. Terry’s failing health and Mr. Kaulflin’s debilitating nerves invoke a nostalgic poignancy throughout the film, critics have said. During one scene, Mr. Terry lies in bed using an oxygen tube on as he critiques Mr. Kaulflin, who plays next to him. Mr. Terry laughs as Mr. Kaulflin masters a fast-paced ditty, and adds “Thank God for you,” as he looks at his mentee.

The emotional tale premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and won several awards, including the Best New Documentary Director award for Mr. Hicks. The Australian director will be at Guild Hall for a Q&A after his film’s July 25 screening.

“We’re so happy that we have this program and we have this traction,” Ms. Chaisson said in a phone interview last week. “And the festival is well known in the industry. It’s pretty great.” Two other documentaries that have yet to be announced will complete the SummerDocs series in the month of August.

Aspiring directors will get another chance to create their first masterpieces this summer in the HIFF’s Student Filmmaking classes, which will run both from Guild Hall and the Southampton Arts Center.

The board of the HIFF will keep cinephiles entertained all summer with weekly outdoor screenings of retrospective blockbusters at the Southampton Arts Center from June 27 until the weekend before Labor Day. The weekend of August 22 to 24 will see HIFF’s first Family Film Festival, which will screen approximately seven films, Ms. Chaisson said.

The tickets for the SummerDocs series cost $21 for members, $23 general admission. The films begin at 8 p.m. and each is followed by a Q&A hosted by Alec Baldwin. Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information visit guildhall.org or call 324-0806.



Alec Baldwin to Host “Vertigo” Screening at Guild Hall

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Courtesy of Guild Hall.

Courtesy of Guild Hall.

By Tessa Raebeck

Presented by the Hamptons International Film Festival in cooperation with Guild Hall, Alec Baldwin will host a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo” Saturday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall.

The timing is in honor of “Vertigo” usurping “Citizen Kane” for the top spot on the British Film Institute’s ranking of “The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time,” released every ten years in its film journal, Sight & Sound.

With the most survey participants yet, the 2013 list was dictated by the votes of 846 critics, programmers, academics and film distributors. Since 1962, “Citizen Kane,” Orson Welles’ debut 1941 film that is widely recognized as one of – if not the – most influential films ever, has reigned supreme at the top of the list. This year, “Vertigo” seized the top spot with 191 votes, ending the 50-year reign of “Citizen Kane” by 34 votes.

The 45th film by suspense legend Alfred Hitchcock, “Vertigo” stars Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in a mysterious look at romance, paranoia and obsession set in San Francisco. Released in 1958, the twists, turns and recurrent Hitchcock themes continue to resonate with film critics and novice audiences alike 56 years later.

Alec Baldwin will present the film and host the evening. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 324.0806.

Forgive Us Our Daily Read

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By Christine Bellini

It may have been the Matt Lauer cover story in Hampton’s Magazine’s season opener, uncovering his penchant for cleaning up debris from neighborhood back roads, a garbage bag in his rubber glove clad hand and pre-teen daughter in tow, that tipped the scales for me.

Kudos to Lauer for his civic duty and sense of place. He’s spent his summers in Amagansett for the better part of his life and has lived in Sag Harbor full time long enough now to garner headlines for normalcy – suffering a separated shoulder from a bicycling accident (2009) to recently winding his way through planning board approval — albeit for a 40-acre horse farm off Deerfield Road in Water Mill.

Is the celebrity news cycle so under nourished that a Huffington Post headline, flashing a ‘scruffy’ Matt attends a recent Hamptons bash, is actually newsworthy? News flash: On the ‘weekend’ Matt Lauer actually likes to unbutton his collar and, drum roll please, chillax a bit. Hurry, ink up the presses.

It’s the Johnny-come-lately celebrity reporter that does us all a huge disservice by making news out of ordinary life witnessed in arm’s reach of ordinary folk. Why, I saw Edie Falco choosing lamps and placemats at Sylvester and Co. but you don’t see me running home to post. We can’t expect her to eat by candlelight forever.

Coming of age in The Hamptons, you get to witness a great many ordinary moments of extraordinary personalities. Truman Capote and Jim Jones in rousing debate at the old Bobby Van’s; DeNiro sitting quietly on a bench outside of Book Hampton Southampton on a late fall afternoon (circa 1975), Bill Bradlee (post Pentagon Papers) parking his car in the Reutershan lot in East Hampton Village on his way to the liquor store; Fran Lebowitz exiting a Woody Allen movie (circa 1980); Craig Claiborne picking up his order from the butcher counter at Dreesen’s  — ordinary moments nobody wrote about at a time when you were recognized for your talents and achievements, not your ability to be like the rest of us.

These days it’ll wind up on more than one celebrity page if Billy Joel parks his BSA motorcycle outside The American Hotel while stopping in for lunch. Alec Baldwin makes headlines going to yoga class with Lorne Michaels and Paul McCartney in Amagansett. If Kelly Ripa takes her kids to Bay Burger the blogosphere lights up in awe.

However, it gives me great pleasure to find John C. White, of the resolute Bridgehampton farm family, on Hamptons Magazine’s “Power List: The Hamptons 100” — the only native to make the grade, commended for doing what his family has done for generations, farm an oceanfront plot of land in Bridgehampton. Though, the heart saddens when it is for having to defend his rights to ownership in court — a genuine newsworthy battle was provocatively reported in the July 2011 issue Vanity Fair, in an installment of “Letters From The Hamptons” by Michael Shnayerson, titled “Betting the Farm.”

I think it was Russell Baker’s coining of ‘the white wine and Volvo set’ in his New York TimesObserver” column (circa 1978) which first fueled my appetite for a keen essay treatment which shines a light on our very human vulnerabilities. His was a wry and satirical grace, having the effect of walking you into a room and introducing you to the dinner guests, winking from the corner of his eye as he sits you down beside the social climber who inadvertently offers up delightfully quotable faux pas right on through cocktail hour.

It is not that The Hamptons, this year’s Fab 100, and the rest of us simple folk are not up to something newsworthy — it’s the competitive laziness of glossy page editors and reporters who serve up thinly drawn snippets of the mundane. With such a rich and fertile landscape of personality, intrigue and creativity afoot from The Crow’s Nest to Red Bar, the Montauk Bluffs to Conscience Point, this is our daily read?

Oh — did I fail to mention that I saw Jon Stewart at the dump, Angelica Houston ordering tacos at La Fondita, Jerry Seinfeld watching a Whaler’s baseball game, Donald Sultan drinking coffee and Jason Epstein out walking his dog?

A former news editor, essay writer Christine Bellini is an editorial consultant who spends a good deal of her time pondering the cultural curiosities of The Hamptons from her Sag Harbor tree house.

Oliver Twist and the Art of Adaptation

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By Claire Walla

Everyone knows the story of Oliver Twist, the little orphan who takes to the streets of London and learns to live as a pick-pocket after being punished for asking, “please sir,” for more food.

But, not everyone knows the same version of the Dickensian tale.

The original novel was penned by Charles Dickens in 1838, and since then several adaptations of the original text have made it onto stage and screen. This notion — adaptation — will be the focal point of an event this weekend, Saturday, February 25, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

After a 7:30 p.m. screening of the 1948 film version of “Oliver Twist” — it is, after all, the 200-year anniversary of the birth of London’s most feted chronicler of lowly street urchins and portly rich folk — actor Alec Baldwin will lead a Q&A with writer Jon Robin Baitz, during which another veritable Dickensian writer will come to the forefront of their discussion: David Lean, the man who adapted the book for the silver screen.

“[Adaptation] is particularly difficult with Dickens,” Baitz said in an interview this week.

A celebrated writer in his own right, Baitz’s play, “Other Desert Cities,” is currently running at the Lincoln Center Theatre in New York where it has received rave review. Baitz, who lives in Sag Harbor, knows a thing or two about adaptation, having rendered Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” for a theatre production in 1999 (which ran at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor in 2000). Baitz has also adapted novels and plays for the screen, including an as yet unproduced version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “Tender is the Night,” as well as his own play “The Substance of Fire,” which was released theatrically in 1996.

“Oliver Twist,” like much of Dickens’ work, was originally written as a serial and published in monthly installments over time. Like all serials, Baitz explained, it relies on plot, and “Dickens is also great at digression.”

The resulting novel is a long-winded, sometimes meandering storyline, rich with details and diversions and peppered with more plot points than can possibly fit into a single, two-hour film. In that sense, Baitz continued, the art of adaptation comes down to one word: compression.

“You have to impose a sort of censorious logic on [film] adaptations,” he added, because in no other way can you reduce a several-hundred-page text to a tightly bound screenplay that accurately reflects the essence of the original story.

Compression is different from condensation, he cautioned. Rather than completely eliminating story elements, a skilled adaptation will reveal details in shorter, more subtle ways.

“’Oliver Twist’ is interesting because it is beautifully compressed,” Baitz said. Part of the film’s success, he speculated, is probably due to the fact that Lean worked as a film editor before becoming a writer. Even though “Oliver Twist” is a scant 105 minutes (or about 100 pages), compared to the almost-500-page novel, Baitz added, “it doesn’t lose the sense of the book.”

“I think people don’t understand how much craft there is to all this,” Baitz continued. “Movies are magic and alchemy. Knowing what to put where, and when… it’s all very difficult to pull off.”

Baitz added that the adaptation process for him is in fact very tactile.

“I sort of tear the book apart. Literally. I paste it up on a wall and put red pencil through different parts — that’s what I do with my plays,” said Baitz who is currently working on an adaptation of “Other Desert Cities.”

“Then, after the initial act of compression,” Baitz said, “I sort of create a wall with big empty spaces to fill.”

Compression is difficult, he added, because knowing what to put in where is just as important as knowing what to leave out.

“I think it becomes more difficult [to adapt a novel for film] when there’s a degree of psychological complexity that’s entirely internal,” he said..

Baitz pointed to his adaptation of “Tender is the Night,” for example. Not only were two different versions of the book published in England and the United States; but the story is weighted in emotion.

“It’s a book about madness, and dedication, and devotion, and self-sacrifice, and the cost of all those things,” Baitz continued.

To capture this on film, Baitz said he wrote a screenplay that “concentrates on what the engine of the story is.” In other words, he focused on plot and characters’ actions rather than thoughts.

The case was similar with his own play, “The Substance of Fire,” which Baitz also wrote the screenplay for.

“The play had left sort of vast areas of blank space where you [the viewer] were asked to supply your own narrative,” he explained. “I just made it a straight, conventional narrative [for the screenplay] and it worked very well.”

Again, Baitz was careful to make a distinction between compression and condensation, because adaptation — while reducing a narrative — does not necessarily cut the story to make it fit.

“Compression means that you keep the energy, what I call the temperature,” he explained. “It’s like, when you’re cooking a whole meal, knowing what to take out when. It’s all about synchronicity.”

Tickets for “Oliver Twist” and the discussion at Guild Hall (158 Main Street, East Hampton) are $17 ($15 for members) and can be purchased by calling 324-0806.