Orson Welles: Political Artist

By P.H.I.Berroll ORSON WELLES WAS A GREAT STORYTELLER – not only on film, but in life. One of his greatest creations was his public persona: a visionary artist martyred by philistines too crass and ignorant to appreciate his genius. This image took hold in the imagination of critics and the public, and was for the most part unchallenged until his death. In the three decades since, a more nuanced portrait of Welles has emerged, as a man who for all his incomparable talents could often be his Read more [...]

An American Thug in the Far North

Of the many striking scenes in Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo, two are especially memorable. One is the opening sequence, where the credits roll over a landscape of utter blankness – a snow-covered highway in rural North Dakota – interrupted by a single car, towing another vehicle. It’s reminiscent of the first scene of Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and equally disturbing; it suggests both purity and terrifying isolation. The other occurs about 15 minutes later: a housewife is sitting in her living room, watching a perky local morning show, when two men wearing black ski masks show up at her back door. The incongruity is almost comical... until one of the men pulls out a crowbar and starts smashing the door glass. Read more [...]

John Garfield: The Absolute Outsider

"What are you gonna do, kill me?" says John Garfield, as boxer Charlie Davis, to the mobster for whom he refuses to throw a fight. "Everybody dies!" The line is typical Garfield: defiant, but with an underlying sense of his own mortality. It's from the classic boxing drama Body and Soul (1947) – a highlight of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series, “Running All The Way: The Films of John Garfield,” which runs for three weeks starting August 9. This retrospective is long overdue for an actor who despite a substantial body of work – more than 30 films, some legitimate classics – has never quite earned the iconic status of some of his contemporaries in the decades since his untimely death. Read more [...]

Oliver Stone’s Nixon: The Politics of Resentment

When Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, I was a college sophomore. His years in office overlapped most of my adolescence. Perhaps that was the reason -- beyond his conduct while in the White House -- that I hated him as I have not hated any other President, even Ronald Reagan, before or since. Most teenagers have a degree of hostility toward their fathers, and the President is the ultimate patriarch, Big Daddy to the nation. Certainly Nixon himself embraced that concept when he declared in 1972 that "the average American is like the child in the family." Read more [...]

‘Nothing’ Doing

Sitting in his neatly furnished Upper West Side apartment, Gary Winick does not seem like a man whom one would expect to find in the sleazy, violent world of crack addicts and their suppliers. But for several years, he was immersed in that world. Read more [...]

Music Completes the Picture

Diane Cypkin’s Brighton Beach apartment is awash in memories, from the Yiddish and English playbills on her walls to her carefully maintained albums of photos and documents. Over the years, Cypkin has given a good deal of time and energy to the preservation of the past – that of her family, and of her people – and to bringing it alive for newer generations. Read more [...]

Laughter (Or Not) in the Dark

THERE ISN'T MUCH TO DISTINGUISH THE COMIC STRIP FROM THE other shops, bars, and restaurants on the block, Second Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A long maroon canopy bearing the club's name protrudes onto the sidewalk; that's it. Look into the small, dark window and you can make out the end of a bar, no different from a dozen others in the neighborhood. Just another cramped watering hole, you assume, for the local yuppie contingent. That is, unless you've noticed a sandwich-board sign under the canopy – in the shape of a figure resembling Alfred E. Neuman, with tinted glasses –announcing that this is "NEW YORK'S TOP COMEDY CLUB." Read more [...]

From Solo to Duet

"We do seem to be, for lack of a better term, strange bedfellows," says Benjamin (Rusty) Magee. Mr. Magee is talking about his collaboration with Charles Busch on a new musical, The Green Heart, which opens April 1 at the Variety Arts Theatre under the auspices of Manhattan Theatre Club. Theirs is, indeed, an unlikely partnership. Read more [...]