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doorsixteen_bluejasmine

Two movie posts in a row?! I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before. It’s Saturday morning and I can’t stop thinking about the movie I saw last night, Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen makes a lot of movies — this is his 41st as writer/director. I go to see them all because I believe they’re all worth seeing at least once. If I don’t think one of them is great, I probably won’t see it again and I’ll just forget about it. The ones that are great, though, I will watch over and over and over again, year after year. It doesn’t bother me that Woody Allen’s movies are “uneven” in terms of their success, and if you’ve seen the excellent American Masters documentary about him, you know that doesn’t bother Woody, either. He’s already on to the next project by then, anyway. (If you’re a Woody fan, you need to see that documentary. PBS has it online.)

The laziest reviews of Woody Allen’s movies usually contain a sentence that starts out with, “In what may perhaps be Allen’s best film since _________,” but I think it’s a mistake to review one of his movies by comparing it to another. It’s not possible to rank his movies in that way. How can you quantify the greatness of movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors (I could continue, but I’ll stop there)? He’s doing very different things in each of those movies. He didn’t set out to accomplish the same thing in each one, and forcing them to compete with each other is pointless.

But anyway, back to Blue Jasmine. In what may perhaps be Allen’s best film since…just kidding. I’m a lazy reviewer, but at least I know I’m lazy. Here’s a quick punch-list of general notes:

▶ It’s set primarily in San Francisco, with flashbacks that take place in New York City.
▶ CATE BLANCHETT. She plays what must have been a very, very difficult role, and she is phenomenal in it. I cannot stop thinking about her performance.
▶ Who else writes roles like this for women? (There was a great article in the Times last week about Woody Allen’s female protagonists. All hail Diane Keaton for showing Woody the way.)
▶ Andrew Dice Clay? Seriously? Yeah, and he was great, proving once again that Woody gets the best performances out of every actor he works with.
▶ There’s a creepy dentist in the movie named Dr. Flicker, a nod to the smoking pediatrician in Annie Hall. I had a deep Woody-nerd moment in the theater last night over that one.
▶ I love Bobby Cannavale. (Third Watch fans unite.)
▶ Yes, this really is the best movie Woody Allen has made in a long time.

Here’s the plot synopsis: “After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.” I have to laugh at the word “modest” describing Ginger’s apartment because I know San Francisco ain’t cheap, but it’s functioning as a stand-in for Brooklyn, where Jasmine had previously stooped to living (that got a big laugh in the theater!) after losing her Manhattan life of luxury and excess. The point is that Jasmine used to be very, very, very wealthy, and Ginger is an average woman leading an average life. There are allusions to A Streetcar Named Desire, yes, but it’s not a retelling of that story — nor is it Ruth Madoff’s story, those are just the references you have going into the theater. By the time you’re done with it, though, all of that seems incidental. This is Jasmine’s story, or at least part of it, and it doesn’t have an end. I left the theater feeling pretty raw. I also felt like I wanted to go back to my seat and watch the late showing, too. You’re seeing everything through Jasmine’s hyper-judgmental, snobbish eyes while also watching her have a true mental breakdown, and the effect is incredibly disturbing. Woody Allen is of course the master of introducing just enough lightness and comedic into very dark, emotionally heavy moments, and he does it perfectly in this movie. In that way (and only in that way) I was reminded of Hannah and Her Sisters — another “serious” Woody movie with a lot of hilarious moments.

GO SEE IT!! If you’re in Brooklyn, it’s showing at the BAM Harvey Theater on the enormous new Steinberg screen. I saw The Godfather there last week, too, and it’s a pretty majestic space. I love seeing movies in theaters that feel special.

My first apartment — rented when I moved off-campus after my sophomore year of college — was not in New York City. It was in Yonkers, a city often (wrongly) assumed to be part of NYC, probably because of Neil Simon. It is true that if I walked out of my apartment on McLean Avenue and crossed the street, I’d officially be in the Bronx, but my heart knew I was technically in Westchester County. It wasn’t until I finished school a couple of years later that I finally got myself to Brooklyn. My dad, who lived on the Upper East Side and on Staten Island when I was a kid, had moved back to Manhattan by then. Aside from Coney Island, Brooklyn was still mostly uncharted territory for me. A couple of my brothers were living in Cobble Hill, and I’d visited each of their apartments exactly once before deciding I wanted to live in the same neighborhood. If I’m being honest, there was one particular thing about the house on Henry Street I wound up moving into that really got me excited: It was a block and a half away from Cammareri Bros., the bakery for which Nicolas Cage and Danny Aiello’s characters in Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck (Ronny and Johnny Cammareri, of course) are named and in the basement oven-room of which Cher first meets her “wolf without a foot.”

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(“Now” photo via Google Earth)

Yes, Cammareri Bros. was a real bakery! It closed down soon after I moved to the neighborhood and later reopened in a different location, and the space (along with its next door neighbor, formerly the Little Chatter Box Beauty Salon) has since been occupied by a series of cafés, currently Maybelle’s, who, it’s worth mentioning, make a mean tofu scramble and an even meaner iced coffee. Both the interior and exterior are still pretty much the same as in the Cammareri days, and a portion of the old bakery sign is displayed inside. If you go, make sure you look at the floor when you first walk in — an inlay of the letters “NC” (for Nicolo Cammareri, who opened the bakery in 1921) remain in the old terrazzo floor.

EDIT: While checking on the spelling of his name, I came across Nicolo Cammareri’s 1940 US Census record. Pretty neat, right? 206 Sackett is the address of the side entrance, which leads to the apartments above. Also interesting that he had a daughter named Grace — there was an elderly Italian woman on my block named Grace. She used to sign for packages for me when I was at work, and she had a Frank Sinatra shrine in her apartment. She passed away around 2000. If she was born in 1915 like the census record indicates, that would have put her in her mid-80s when I lived there. I wonder if she was Nicolo Cammareri’s daughter! Further investigation needed…

The first time I saw Moonstruck was 25 years ago, with my mother, in a movie theater in Kingston. I was 12 years old. I remember loving it, naturally, but I mostly remember the specifics of the night because my mother’s car got a flat tire when we were driving back to Rhinebeck after the movie. Another thing that sticks in my mind from that first viewing is the breakfast Olympia Dukakis prepared:

moonstruck_eggs

I had never seen anything like that before, but it looked so delicious. I asked my mother to recreate the dish at home, and up until I stopped eating eggs a few years ago, it remained a breakfast favorite for me. For all these years I’d assumed it was an Italian dish, but Googling tells me it’s usually either called “eggs in a hole” or “eggs in a basket,” and everyone everywhere knows what it is — except for Swedes and Jews, apparently, because I’m quite sure it would never have been a part of my life without that scene in Moonstruck. (As an aside, I see that V.K.Rees has come up with a recipe for vegan-friendly eggless eggs in a basket, which I will definitely have to try out ASAP.)

In the years since that first viewing, I’d guess I’ve seen Moonstruck at least 30 times in part or full. Beyond its Brooklyn-ness, it’s just a fantastic movie. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that, though, because pretty much every human alive has seen it. (And if for some crazy reason you haven’t, it’s on HBO GO right now. You can also rent it from Amazon Instant. It’s not on Netflix, of course, because nothing you want to watch is ever on Netflix.) Aside from Cher’s old face and Nicolas Cage’s old hairline, I’ve always had this fixation with the kitchen in the Castorini family house — which, if you ever want to take a Moonstruck walking tour, is located at 19 Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, about a mile from formerly-Cammareri’s. For years I’ve carried around a mental picture of its soft green hues, vintage subway tiles and the overall feeling of a family gathering place. Today I decided to watch the movie again specifically for the kitchen, and to finally take some screen captures.

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Two things I noticed for the first time when I was taking the screen captures were the painted-over cabinet hardware and the laminate countertops, neither of which are hallmarks of gorgeous vintage kitchens, but are indicative of the fact that this movie was filmed in an actual family home, and not on a set built for a movie. The same goes for that flocked vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table. I guess I just overlooked that stuff the first 29 times I watched the movie! Regardless, the kitchen is beautiful, and it’s full of life. And that tile!! Ahhh, the tile. It doesn’t come through in the captures, but it’s covered with cracks and crazing. 19 Cranberry was built in 1829 so it’s not original to the house (tiled kitchens didn’t become standard until the Victorian era), but it’s clearly very old. The house sold in 2008 for nearly $4 million, and thankfully the listing photos don’t show the kitchen — I don’t think I could bear to find out if it had been gutted.

(Or you know, to discover the whole thing was actually shot on a soundstage in Toronto. Shhhhhh.)

Meanwhile, back at Cammareri Bros.…

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In the movie, Ronny’s apartment is above the bakery. The entrance was on the Sackett Street side of the building, to the right of the stairs that led to the basement ovens. I’m almost positive that’s where the apartment interior was actually filmed. I have a distant memory of a friend who used to live in the neighborhood telling me so. Judging by the position of the windows and the color of the façades visible across the street, I’m guessing it’s on the second floor of the building, with the living room facing Henry Street. In any case, this is pretty much exactly what a classic pre-war Brooklyn apartment has always looked like in my mind. Ironically, the closest I’ve ever come to finding a rental apartment in this kind of vintage condition was my first place in Yonkers! I love the beadboard, the pressed-tin in the kitchen and the moldings on the walls. And that old refrigerator with its non-safety handle, just waiting to trap small children inside when it gets put out for trash…sigh. Also, I don’t know if this is intentional, but I love that the color of the Vespa (used for storing books!) is the same as the cabinets in the Castorini kitchen.

I wonder who lives in this apartment now, and if it still looks like this. I hope so. Yesterday I stood outside the entrance for a little while, waiting to see if anyone would come out. Not that I would’ve said anything to them, but you know…just to see. Now that I live in the neighborhood again, I can do all the Moonstruck-stalking I want.

Oh, just some weekend Instagram snaps I’ve been meaning to share here! Top to bottom, left to right…

✖ How cool is this black West Elm skull candle? I pretty much only buy stuff at West Elm when it’s on clearance, and I got this nearly-life-sized guy for $7 (!) at the DUMBO location. They only had one left, or else I would’ve bought a bunch. The best thing about Halloween being around the corner is SKULLS EVERYWHERE.

✖ I couldn’t resist this SHOPLIFTERS tote bag that was for sale at the merch counter at the Morrissey shows. I guess I’ll have to turn it around if I’m shopping in a store with employees who might not get the reference (or who might not have a sense of humor), but otherwise I shall carry it with pride.

✖ Evan and Bruno enjoying their morning coffee. Aren’t they handsome? This photo reminds me that I really need to take more photos of the new apartment before it stops being “new.”

✖ I had nothing to do with this—Fritz tucks himself in all the time. I’m told that the smarter dog breeds like Chihuahuas all do this. Bruno is only half Chihuahua (the other half is Bichon Frisé, a breed high in sweetness but not known for intelligence), which explains why he can’t really even figure out how to crawl under a blanket most of the time while Fritz is off basically building forts and growing opposable thumbs.

✖ I’ve been wearing my fake glasses (they’re the “Thatcher” style in Revolver Black from Warby Parker) every now and then, and I’ve gotta be honest—they make me feel great. Wearing glasses gives me enough confidence to wear my hair back in a ponytail, something I NEVER do unless I’m at home. I am wayyyyy to self-conscious to leave the house with my face completely exposed, so it either has to be hair or glasses that I hide behind, and it’s fun to have this option. I feel like a different person when I wear them. It’s like a disguise. And hey, I figure my vision is probably going to tank within the next few years anyway, so at least I’ll be comfortable wearing glasses when the time comes!

✖ This VOTE LEFT mug was another cheapie West Elm clearance item. Unfortunately they’re sold out online, but stores probably still have them. And yeah, I know it’s not really possible to truly vote left in this country, but I can dream. For now, I’ll vote as far left as I possibly can.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema is on my old street (Henry Street pride!!), and I miss going there to see movies—it’s a great little theater. It’s actually not too far of a walk from DUMBO, though, so I should make the effort to walk up now and then. It’s near a great little natural-food restaurant called Siggy’s Good Food that does an amazing vegan brunch. Highly recommended!

✖ This is the original herringbone tile in the lobby of Daniel’s building. Tile like this is the reason I like hands-off landlords who don’t want to pay to renovate. Isn’t it pretty?

I don’t have a corresponding photo, but prior to taking that picture of the tile, Daniel and Max and I went to go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower at BAM. It was so, so, so great. Really. It’s based on what I consider to be one of the best books of the past 20 years, and certainly one of the greatest books ever written for young adults. The movie was directed and the screenplay was written by the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, and he did a perfect job with the conversion. The trailer is pretty terrible, but don’t worry—it’s not a good representation of the actual movie (funny how that happens sometimes). I was pretty much either in tears or holding back tears for the duration, just like when I read the book the first time. The actors are all wonderful, the soundtrack is exactly as it should be, and it felt great to watch a movie that actually feels like teenage—and human—reality. Read the book. See the movie. Hold onto your Kleenex.

I’m a big fan of symmetry when it comes to designing book covers and taking pictures. If we’ve ever watched a Kubrick movie together, you know it’s not unusual for me to pause the action mid-scene (no matter how dramatic a moment, sorry!) just so I can freak out about the awesome (yet imperfect) symmetry. Kubrick was the master of one-point perspective, and when combined with that slightly-off, not-quite-right imbalanced symmetry he loved so much (think of the Grady twins in The Shining—almost the same, but not quite), you have a forward-moving, focused TENSION that just won’t quit. I love it.

This video compiles some of Kubrick’s best one-point perspective shots into just under two minutes. Fun to watch…


Kubrick // One Point Perspective / edited by kogonada

✚ via Quarrygirl

I grew up in a very small town with an incredible independent movie theater, and as a result I went to see a lot of cool stuff back then that I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. There wasn’t a whole lot for a teenager to do in Rhinebeck other than walk to Upstate Films to see whatever was playing, and thankfully they never checked me or my friends for proof of age. In the summer of 1990 they were showing Wild At Heart, and I went to see it without knowing anything about it other than that it was directed by the guy responsible for Twin Peaks, the new TV show I’d been slowly growing obsessed with over the previous few months.

I loved Wild At Heart, and it got me curious about other movies David Lynch had made. I remember renting Blue Velvet with my friend Paul and just being totally entranced. It immediately became one of my favorite movies, and 22 years later, it still is. I’ve seen it so many times, and it never gets old. Like every David Lynch movie, the casting is absolutely perfect. This was my first real exposure to Isabella Rossellini outside of the context of being cover model (yes, she was in Wild At Heart, but her role in that film is very different and far less direct/personal—the affectations and appearance of the character are more compelling than the actor, if that makes sense), and her performance had an enormous effect on me. She has remained a constant source of inspiration in my life, and it all stems from the way that she portrayed Dorothy Vallens.

About ten years ago, I finally got to see Blue Velvet on a big screen. BAM did a special showing, and Isabella Rossellini was there to watch with us and to answer questions from the audience after. That was a wonderful experience.

Anyway, there is actually a point to this post! From Dangerous Minds:

Blue Velvet’s original shooting script is reputed to have been over four hours long. The theatrical release came in at 120 minutes. An additional hour of deleted footage was thought to have been lost when the producer of the film, Dino De Laurentis, sold his company. Fortunately, the footage was located and was released as an extra on the Blu-ray edition of Blue Velvet.

Nearly a full hour (!!!) of unreleased footage from Blue Velvet—an amazing thing to think about, right? It’s out of context and sequence (and without a full score), of course, and I’m hoping that another Lynch-obsessed person out there will take the time to do a fan edit of the movie with the deleted scenes replaced. In the mean time, it’s very, very cool to add an extra layer of fascination to a movie I’ve loved for so long and seen so many times. The dimension this footage adds to the character of Jeffrey Beaumont in particular is kind of mind-blowing. I almost feel like I didn’t really know who he was until now! I’ll leave my reactions beyond that out of this post, but if you’d like to discuss it further in the comments, I’m game.

(This probably goes without saying if you’ve seen Blue Velvet, but some parts of this video may be NSFW—depending on where you work, of course.)

Spike Lee, The Dolly Shot / Montage by Richard Cruz / Music “Bra” by Cymande

I love this video essay that Richard Cruz put together assembling some of Spike Lee’s best dolly shot moments. Spike is definitely one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and I’m one of those people who gets really excited when he busts out the dolly shots. I know he gets some criticism for overusing them, but I think that mainly comes from people within the film industry who have an awareness of how these shots are achieved technically. As a non-film industry moviegoer, however, I love the surreal, dreamy feeling these shots impart on his movies—and this montage makes me want to have a Spike Lee film festival in my living room this weekend.