Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Playmaster - a new film by Charlie Hedley


Starring Paul Kelly and Chris Maxwell

A four minute short inspired by the tennis scene from School for Scoundrels, the 1960 British comedy film, directed by Robert Hamer, starring Ian Carmichael and Terry-Thomas.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jacques Tati - The School for Postmen


Timing is everything: why Tati's The School for Postmen delivers

Peter Bradshaw
the guardian.com
Wednesday 6 August

Jacques Tati's short comedy about a bumbling postman on a bike is exclusively available on the Guardian Film website – watch it to see why the French director ranks up with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the world's great film-makers

Jacques Tati's 16-minute short film from 1947, L'École des Facteurs, or The School for Postmen, is all about a wacky postman on a bike, and it's sort of a prototype. In some ways, The School for Postmen is Jour de Fête with the training wheels on. This is Tati taking his brilliant sight gags and routines for a spin before he developed them into the famous full-length movie that came two years later. But it's a terrific film nonetheless, a silent movie with words — presented at a length that the great early masters like Chaplin and Keaton would have understood. It delivers the essence of Tati.

He plays a rural postman who, along with two comrades, is evidently under instruction from a snappy-voiced martinet of a supervisor who raps out his demands at an absurdly high pitch. The postmen have to cut down the time it takes them to complete their round — a round that, entirely preposterously, ends with delivering mail to an aeroplane for deliveries overseas. They have to reduce the delivery from two hours and 50 minutes to two hours and 25. It is exactly the kind of pseudo-scientific rational efficiency that Tati's anarchic behaviour is going to undermine.

All three have to work out on a special cycling treadmill, then they are despatched out into the field. Tati himself is of course instantly recognisable: tall, gawky, maladroit, with worn trousers, an ill-fitting jacket whose sleeves are too short, and a cap whose peak is tugged down in the same direction as his drooping moustache. He looks like a schoolboy who has outgrown his uniform.

His mailbag is slung bandolier-style across his shoulders, and when he shoves it to one side, it swings all the way around and hits his supervisor in the face, just as he is leaving: a neat bit of timing, which Tati makes look easy, like everything else.

Many of the setups and routines will be familiar from Jour de Fête — and one may even be familiar from Robert Zemeckis's 1985 film Back to the Future. Way before Marty McFly hitched a ride on his skateboard on automobile rear bumpers, Jacques Tati on his bicycle would insouciantly grab on to the back of a flatbed truck, and by jamming his elbows down on the woodwork, he could even get a little paperwork done.

He contrives a non-CGI surrealism in the way he sends his riderless bike careering off by itself, and a sequence of edits makes it look as if the bicycle is making a long, unbroken journey with a mind of its own. Solemnly concentrating on speed, or rather haste, Tati tries to climb over a rail safety barrier with his bike, a transparently ridiculous type of pseudo-athleticism that winds up with the bike getting hooked to the gate and hoisted into the air, wasting time, while a young woman who had been calmly waiting whooshes on ahead of him.

There are more bizarre mishaps as Tati attempts to deliver mail to someone while his fingers are sticky with glue, or while the recipients are busy ringing bells or chopping meat.

And yet with great resourcefulness and athleticism, his zany postman faces his final challenge – getting the overseas mail up, up and away. However rustic and ridiculous he may look on his silly retrograde old pushbike, Tati is to launch himself, after his own crazy fashion, into the future. It's a very enjoyable film.

• The Essential Jacques Tati Collection on Blu-ray is available now

http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2014/aug/06/jacques-tati-short-film-1947-the-school-for-postmen


The official Tati website: http://www.tativille.com/

Monday, 18 August 2014

Tim Wallace - Scenes from a 'Ghost Town'


Amazing photographs of Death Valley 'ghost town' go on show in North East
County Durham photographer gives unique insight into ghost town he stumbled across in Nevada’s Death Valley

Barbara Hodgson
16 August 2014

Caught in an eerie time warp, this is the ghost town a North photographer discovered in the middle of America’s Death Valley.

Tim Wallace, from Hamsterley Forest in Durham, had stopped for just a moment on his drive through one of the most dangerous environments in the world when a sudden sparkle of light off glass offered a clue to the whereabouts of a Nevada desert mystery: the rarely-seen town of Darwin whose residents deserted it in the mid-sixties, leaving cars in the drive, milk in the fridge and clothes in the closets.

“I’d heard about this mystical place Darwin a few times,” says Tim but, like many, he hadn’t been able to locate it.

Now fascinating black and white images he took there, capturing eerie scenes such as an abandoned pick-up truck and roads empty except for ‘Keep Out’ signs, are on show in Newcastle - a first ever exhibition for the renowned award-winning photographer who is better known for his commercial photography.

Tim, 45, whose work takes him across the world, has teamed up with Digitalab 8, a photo lab and custom-built gallery space in Stepney Bank, to stage the six-week show of 30 photographs he took while alone in Darwin.

Describing how he stumbled across it, he says: “Death Valley is vast, about the size of France. You can drive across it and there’s nothing there: no cars, no people; in 96 degree heat even bacteria doesn’t grow there.

“If you pull over from the road it’s really difficult because there’s just sand and there are warning signs saying if you get stuck you will die. You have to have 10 litres of water if you break down.”

But Tim had to stop to fix a loose lead and says: “I saw a glint in the distance miles and miles away and I thought ‘it can’t be Darwin’.

“I went down very, very carefully and I came across a ragged American flag.”

And he found himself alone in a town frozen in time.

“The place is amazing,” he says.

“You’ve heard the term ‘deafening silence’ - the thought of that were in my head when I was there. There is no atmosphere, no animals, no noise.”

Without wind or rain “Darwin is perfectly preserved”.

“And the strange thing is that when these people left - and nobody knows why they left - everybody left at once. The houses are intact, there are cars on the drive, newspapers on the kitchen table, clothes in the cupboards and drinks in the fridge.”

The photographs he took capture a time capsule covered in a layer of dust.

He wandered around the houses and, because it felt as though people should still be living there, he found himself first knocking on doors.

He spotted an advert in the window of a dance hall inviting people to an open night of Elvis records and saw a filling station with the old-style glass dome-top petrol pumps.

“The Post Office is the only place boarded up,” he says.

He was even more unsettled when he noticed all the mechanical clocks had stopped at 4.20pm. To add to the mystery he found a US military truck with a bullet hole in the windscreen.

There are ‘Keep Out’ signs around Darwin which initially sprang up as a silver mining town and swelled with 3,000-5,000 residents. Riddled by tunnelling, it’s surrounded by cordoned-off mine shafts but Tim did want to explore further than the centre, pointing our that if he’d fallen into a hole he’d never be found.

He does not intend to reveal where the town is but is confident he could find it again and may even revisit it at some point, with a few others, to explore further.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/amazing-photographs-death-valley-ghost-7602874

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Whitley Bay Film Festival 2014

Whitley Bay Fim Festival creator Ema (correct) Lea at the Grand Hotel in Tynemouth














Whitley Bay Fim Festival creator Ema Lea at the Grand Hotel in Tynemouth
Whitley Bay Film Festival kicks off in North Tyneside for fifth year
Whitley Bay Film Festival launched on Tuesday night and will run until August 25

Sarah Scott
12 August 2014

Celebrating film and art in unique spots across Tyneside, an award-winning festival is back for its fifth run.

The Whitley Bay Film Festival kicked off tonight at the Grand Hotel in Tynemouth and is set to run until August 25 with a host diverse activities on the programme.

Using different locations around North Tyneside, the festival takes place in August every year with screenings of classic features, independent films, local films and artist’s moving image installations.

It launched with a short ceremony at the hotel with the Mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn, and was followed with screenings of Laurel and Hardy’s Music Box with scenes from Tom Haddaway’s play Laurel and Hardy.

This year, venues for festival screenings also include St Mary’s Lighthouse and The Rendezvous Cafe, with one of the highlights being a large open air screening of Grease in front of The Spanish City Dome on August 25, and another the showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Spellbound’ at the landmark lighthouse.

Ema Lea, co-director of the film festival said: “This years festival has taken on a bit of a life of it’s own.

“I think this year’s programme features some of our best and most imaginative event ideas ever.”

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/film-news/whitley-bay-film-festival-kicks-7603097

For more details, see http://whitleybayfilmfestival.co.uk/

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Last night's set list

At The Habit, York: -

I'm Just A Loser
I Don't Want It All (new song)
Laurel Canyon Home
Love Art Blues
Long May You Run

In Ron Elderly's absence this was a solo set on a relatively quiet evening. Host Mark Wynn kicked off with a lively Too Much Monkey Business and followed up with an excellent set of his own social commentary/comic songs.

The new song was well received as was the evergreen Long May You Run. A lass sang Dolly's Jolene accompanied by her dad on guitar. He went on to include John Mayall's Crawling Up A Hill and the surprise of the night, Steely Dan's Cousin Dupree! Had to leave after the Completely Bananas' set to catch the train back to the Toon.

Thomas Berger RIP

Thomas Berger, ‘Little Big Man’ Author, Is Dead at 89

By Christopher Lehmann-Haupt and William McDonald
21 July 2014

Thomas Berger, the reclusive and bitingly satirical novelist who explored the myths of the American West in “Little Big Man” and the mores of 20th-century middle-class society in a shelf of other well-received books, died on July 13 in Nyack, N.Y. He was 89.

His agent, Cristina Concepcion, said she learned of his death, at Nyack Hospital, on Monday. Mr. Berger lived in Grand View, a village in Rockland County, N.Y., where he had remained fiercely protective of his privacy.

Mr. Berger fell into that category of novelists whose work is admired by critics, devoured by devoted readers and even assigned in modern American literature classes but who owe much of their popularity to Hollywood. “Little Big Man,” published in 1964, is widely known for Arthur Penn’s film adaptation, released in 1970, starring Dustin Hoffman as the protagonist, Jack Crabb.

The novel, told in Crabb’s voice at the age of 111, recounts his life on the Great Plains as an adopted Cheyenne and makes the claim that he was the only white survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But Mr. Berger’s body of work was far broader than that, and it earned him a reputation as an American original, if an underrecognized one. The author and scholar Thomas R. Edwards, writing in The New York Times Book Review in 1980, called him “one of our most intelligent, witty and independent-minded writers.” “Our failure to read and discuss him,” Mr. Edwards added, “is a national disgrace.”

To many critics, “Little Big Man” was Mr. Berger’s best novel and a worthy addition to the American canon. (The Dial Press plans a 50th-anniversary trade paperback edition this year.) “Few creative works of post-Civil War America have had as much fiber and blood of the national experience in them,” the historian and novelist Frederick Turner wrote in The Nation in 1977.

Brooks Landon, Mr. Berger’s biographer, placed “Little Big Man” in a tradition of American frontier literature begun by James Fenimore Cooper. Henry Miller heard echoes of Mark Twain in it.

Historical fiction was just one genre that the restless Mr. Berger embraced. He took on the horror novel in “Killing Time” (1967) and the pulp detective story in “Who Is Teddy Villanova?” (1977). He ventured into science fiction (and Middle American sexual fantasy) with “Adventures of the Artificial Woman” (2004); utopian fiction with “Regiment of Women” (1973), in which men have surrendered their grip on the world; and the survival saga in “Robert Crews” (1994), an updating of “Robinson Crusoe.” He revisited the western, and his best-known character, in “The Return of Little Big Man” (1999).

The classics were also fodder. He dipped into the Camelot myth in “Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel” (1978) and Greek tragedy in “Orrie’s Story” (1990), a replay of the Oresteian trilogy. At other times, he reworked popular fantasies: “Being Invisible” (1987), in which the protagonist has the power to disappear from sight at will, and “Changing the Past” (1989), in which a man gets to go back in time to the forks in his road and take the other path.

If Mr. Berger had a literary mission, it was to mine the anarchic paranoia that he found underlying American middle-class life. “Sneaky People,” from 1975, chronicles three hectic days in the life of a used-car salesman, a “family man” who keeps a mistress and hires a car washer to kill his phlegmatic wife. “Neighbors” (1980) records a nightmarish day in suburbia that parodies the rituals of neighborliness, among them competitiveness, bonhomie (false and otherwise) and a striving for civility in the face of a creeping conviction that the people across the street are barbarians. (“Neighbors” was made into a 1981 movie starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, one of four film adaptations of Berger books.)

In these and other novels — “The Houseguest” (1988), “Meeting Evil” (1992), “Suspects” (1996) and “Best Friends” (2003) — everyday social encounters quickly disintegrate into Kafkaesque comic horrors.

“It was Kafka who taught me that at any moment banality might turn sinister, for existence was not meant to be unfailingly genial,” Mr. Berger told the critic Richard Schickel in a rare interview in 1980, published in The New York Times. He gave expression to that view in “The Feud” (1983), which he set in the American Midwest in the 1930s. In this tale, a misunderstanding over the fire hazard posed by an unlit cigar devolves into a slapstick battle between two communities that somehow manages to convey a convincing portrait of the mean Depression years.

“The Feud” was the top recommendation of the fiction jury for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, but it was passed over by the Pulitzer board in favor of William Kennedy’s Depression-era novel “Ironweed,” which had also been cited by the jury.

Before then, Mr. Berger’s focus had mainly been on contemporary American life, in all its sprawling disorder, in a series of books that trace the growth of a woebegone character (and perhaps alter ego) named Carl, né Carlo, Reinhart. The books — “Crazy in Berlin” (1958), “Reinhart in Love” (1962), “Vital Parts” (1970) and “Reinhart’s Women” (1981) — follow Reinhart from his bewildered youth as a soldier in Berlin to his mellower middle age as a serious cook.

Reinhart is “representative of the unrepresented,” the cultural critic Benjamin DeMott wrote in The Times in 1981. “We’re talking screw-ups, frankly,” he continued. “Chaps who, while seldom dropped from the lineup, continually whiff, in all senses, in the game of life.”

But Reinhart’s existence is not without meaning. “Possibly the simple secret of Reinhart’s value is just this: The fellow has hunkered down here in the U.S. of A.,” Mr. DeMott went on. “He’s stuck it. He is a man of no standing growing up stunted, naturally, blowing it in a thousand helpless ways, dreaming on into late middle age of the coup that will turn him overnight into Somebody, knowing it’s not in the cards, knowing (in totally unsystematic fashion) that They, the Managers, have more or less stolen his humanity, yet working hard to avoid being needlessly cruel to anyone.”

Of all Mr. Berger’s characters, none is as indelible as the Indian scout and adopted Cheyenne Jack Crabb. His homespun but shrewd colloquial voice drives the narrative of “Little Big Man.”

In his early years, Crabb is indoctrinated into the ways of Indians, including their diet.

“The antelope chunks weren’t too well done,” he says. “Indians don’t have a prejudice against grease, on the one hand; and on the other, they weren’t given in those days to using salt. Along with the meat was some chokecherries all cooked to a mush, and a root or two that didn’t have a taste until you swallowed it and it fell all the way to your belly and gave off the aftereffect of choking on sand.”

But he befriends his captors. “In later years I grew greatly fond of Old Lodge Skins,” he says of one. “He had more bad luck than any human being I have ever known, red or white, and you can’t beat that for making a man likable.”

Thomas Louis Berger was born in Cincinnati on July 20, 1924, the son of Thomas Charles Berger, the business manager of a public school system near Cincinnati, and the former Mildred Bubbe. Both parents loved to read, and Thomas’s mother encouraged him to adopt the habit.

After graduating from Lockland High School in Cincinnati in 1942, he enrolled at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and found he did not like it. So he enlisted in the Army, which put him in the Medical Corps and sent him to England and Germany as World War II raged.

After the war, he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, earned his baccalaureate degree there with honors in 1948 and pursued graduate work in English at Columbia University until 1951, when he abandoned work on his thesis, on George Orwell. In the meantime he married. His wife, Jeanne Redpath Berger, a painter, is his only immediate survivor.

After Columbia, he held jobs as a librarian at the Tamiment Institute and Library (formerly the Rand School for Social Science) in New York and as a summary writer for The New York Times Index.

In the early 1950s, Mr. Berger moved from New York City to Rockland County, where he scraped by as a freelance copy editor and worked on his first novel, “Crazy in Berlin.” Writing the book took four years, in part because he had discarded the original manuscript after two and a half years and begun again.

For a time, Mr. Berger thrived on literary sociability. Writers, editors and publishers frequently gathered around the dinner table at his home. But he became reclusive, Mr. Schickel wrote in his 1980 article in The Times, to an extent that not even his publisher or his literary agent knew how to get in touch with him.

Mr. Schickel sustained his friendship with Mr. Berger by mail and was sworn to secrecy about his whereabouts. In his interview with Mr. Schickel, Mr. Berger unburdened himself of his disdain for the New York literary scene and his weariness of everyday living, saying, “Real life is unbearable to me unless I can escape from it into fiction.”

He was more sanguine about his craft:

“Why does one write? Because it isn’t there! Unlike Everest and other celebrated eminences. Beginners sometime ask me how a novel is written, the answer to which is: Any way at all. One knows only when it is finished, and then if one is at all serious, he will never do it the same way again.”

He concluded: “I should like the reader to be aware that a book of mine is written in the English language, which I love with all my heart and write to the best of my ability and with the most honorable of intentions — which is to say, I am peddling no quackery, masking no intent to tyrannize, and asking nobody’s pity. (I suspect that I am trying to save my own soul, but that’s nobody else’s business.)”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/books/thomas-berger-little-big-man-author-is-dead-at-89.html?_r=0

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lauren Bacall RIP

Lauren Bacall obituary
Actor who broke into movies with To Have and Have Not was married to Humphrey Bogart, performed on Broadway and received honorary Oscar during her 60-year career

Veronica Horwell
theguardian.com
Wednesday 13 August 2014

She was a nice Jewish girl brought up right by mother in two rooms on the wrong side of the tracks in Manhattan, her father long fled from their lives. She was so nervous in her first film role, at all of 19 years old, that her head shook; so she tilted her chin down to steady herself, and had to look up from under at the camera. She stood at the bedroom door of "a hotel in Martinique in the French West Indies" – the Warner Bros lot in Hollywood – looked up, and asked Humphrey Bogart for a match. And defined her life.

At that incendiary moment in 1944, Lauren Bacall, who has died aged 89, was still Betty Bacall, and had been recently Betty Perske; a stagestruck teenager whose poor family finances bought her a bare year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (fellow pupil and first crush, Kirk Douglas), and whose fought-for debut parts were in flops. She had to pay her way as an usherette and model, an unglam garment trade live dummy, until her photogenic potential was spotted by Diana Vreeland, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar. Vreeland had an instinct for the face of the times, for a movie in a single still; and the shot that begat Bacall was a Bazaar cover, Betty besuited before a Red Cross office door. It's lit noirishly, and she is acting independent – a frank, clever gal caught up in the war effort.

It was seen in Hollywood by David O Selznick, and Columbia pictures; both inquired after her. But the real connection was made by Nancy "Slim" Hawks, wife to director Howard Hawks, who seems to have recognised in Betty's stance a style much like her own, plus the physical substance of her husband's dreams. She alerted Hawks, and Bacall was invited to entrain across America on the 20th Century Limited to be screen-tested; Hawks offered her a personal contract. Bacall treated him as a surrogate father, and understood only later that he always wanted to be Svengali, making over a kid from nowhere into his desirable girl. His fantasy woman was sexually experienced and insolent; Hawks had hung out with Ernest Hemingway and co, who (as Slim complained after the marriage was over) wanted females who did not wimp out or whinge about the big game hunting, the hard drinking and harder bullshitting – but who were young enough not to be equals, so that they were never a threat.

Bacall sweated out months in Hollywood, showing off on demand as a protege at parties or sitting in her first car up a canyon bawling The Robe aloud by the hour to lower her voice – Hawks disliked women screeching; she bottomed out close in tone to a trombone. Two packs of cigarettes a day helped the baritone. At last Hawks developed a character for her, a near-tramp named 'Slim', in an approximate adaptation of Hemingway's To Have and Have Not, starring Jack Warner's alpha male, Bogart. The film was a wittier riff on Bogart's previous smasheroo, Casablanca, and it was a hell of a way for a girl to sashay into movies.

Hawks's creation became the fantasy of a generation when she growled at Bogart that he need do nothing but whistle – "You know how to whistle, don't you? ... You just put your lips together and blow." If the lines had been delivered by a savvy contemporary of Bogart (say his Maltese Falcon co-star Mary Astor), and not a naive girl acting worldly, most men in the audience would have hid under the seat for a week. Critic James Agee thought Bacall provocative and preposterous, both a wolfwhistle and a belly laugh. He was wrong about her "stonecrushing confidence" (she had none and acquired little), but he did understand that she was a construct.

What had not been invented, though, what made the film hot, was the reactive chemistry between Bacall (renamed "Lauren", a Hawks attempt at swank) and Bogart, then 44 and on his third marriage to the drunk, slugging actor Mayo Methot. B & B called each other by their characters' names, Steve and Slim, they joshed, they lit each other's cigarettes in instinctive rapport, they fell in love, although whether with the reality of each other or with the parts they were playing no one will ever know. Long after, even she couldn't say.

Hawks was jealous. He warned Bacall not to risk ending her career just as it began: the film was a big pop success. Since in Hollywood no therm of sexual heat can be wasted, he then cast Bacall and Bogart in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep (1946). The edgy ruefulness of that movie probably derived from their relationship during the shooting; Bogart wanted to marry his fresh start and also to behave like a gent towards Mayo; Bacall was obsessed with her adoring hero. They shared a private humour in their scripted exchanges – Bacall's part bumped up on the suggestion of the sharp talent agent, Charlie Feldman – and their innuendo was wicked; no onscreen shag could show what Bacall suggested just by scratching her stockinged thigh. Yet you sense that nothing is sure between them. Bogart missed days on set, drunk, depressed: then he made up his mind. As his divorce crawled through, he sent her a wire "Please fence me in Baby – the world's too big out here and I don't like it without you." They married in 1945. Bacall walked willingly into his world – the pals of his generation, his continuing affair with his toupee-maker, his liquor consumption (high, but controlled), his refuge of a yacht, the Santana – as if her wedding vows had been those of the biblical Ruth: "Thy people shall be my people, and thy land" – well-staffed houses in the Hollywood Hills above Sunset Strip – "my land".

Hawks had been spot on about her career, as was the playwright Moss Hart, who told her: "You realise from here you have nowhere to go but down." Those two films were the best she did; without Bogart, in The Confidential Agent (1945), she seemed cold not cool, minus the zap of her Hawksian dames. She was cast with Bogart again in Dark Passage, and in John Huston's 1948 Key Largo, but in both she was sombre and self-effacing, having by degrees dwindled into wifely respectability. Bogart didn't want her to be actor first and wife second – his own King Kong-like fantasy of a woman was that she should fit into a man's pocket, to be displayed on the palm of his hand, expanded to full-size when desired – and contracted back on command.

She wanted to make him happy, to be Bogart's Baby and to have Bogart's babies. In 1947, she went to Washington with a well-intentioned but politically innocent group, including Bogart and John Huston, to protest against the anti-leftwing bullying of the House Un-American Activities Committee; five years later she campaigned for the unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, another father mentor. She bore Bogart's children, Steve and Leslie; supplied antibiotics to sick location crews on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The African Queen, learned to sip Jack Daniel's through a long evening. When the Hollywood rat pack (qualifications: nonconformity, drinking, laughing) was first formed in a private room at Romanoff's, she was voted Den Mother, never out of humour.

Bacall was playing for real a high-grade version of the postwar homemaker bride, but she was not in many movies. Hawks sold her contract to Jack Warner, who suspended her 12 times for refusing crap roles; 50s models of women were rolling off a new production line. Class now meant the aloofness of Grace Kelly; sass meant the vulnerable trashiness of Marilyn Monroe. None of them were sensual as Bacall had been, or as direct, straight-talking and brave. What happened to the image of women post-1945 is summed up in the difference between Bacall unfazed by Bogart's drunk sidekick in To Have and Have Not (who grudgingly admits "Lady, you're all right") and Bacall unamused as the mink-pursuer in How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953. And that was considered a good part. She bought out her contract, but all that expensive gesture purchased was a soapy role in Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind (1956) through which, you hope hopelessly, she will take tormented Robert Stack out for a belt of bourbon; and another refrigerated career girl in Designing Woman (1957).

Warner Bros was planning in 1956 to team Bogart and Bacall again, in the love story of a military man and a journalist. Just perfect, only it never got made, because that was the year Bacall watched Bogart die from cancer of the oesophagus at the age of 57. In her 1978 autobiography, By Myself, she described his dissolution with the unflinching candour he would have expected of her: the odour of decay on his kiss, the old robe from Dark Passage she wore the night he died in the bed they had long shared, the sack in which his body was taken away to Forest Lawn crematorium.

She displayed a model of the Santana at the funeral – a spirit ship indeed – and sold the real boat. The role of the Widow Bogart, relict of a myth, was not the lifetime part she wanted, although the relative honour of his Hollywood meant more to her as decades passed. His death was the beginning of the bad times. Her comforting but uncomfortable affair with Frank Sinatra froze over: her second marriage to actor Jason Robards produced her third child, Sam, but foundered because of his drinking, and maybe because she was growing into the maturity she had always implied.

The heroine she could have been onscreen was seen for the last time in an unpretentious British adventure, North West Frontier, 1959: her governess, boarding a trainload of corpses to retrieve a live baby, has a warmth and strength still not often allowed women in the movies. And certainly not Bacall thereafter. "Film is not a woman's medium," she wrote: "If you weren't the hottest kid in town, men stayed away from you." She was a mere 42 when she took a cameo as a jaded California invalid in the noir-lite Harper (1966), and most of her subsequent film turns exhibited her as a matron – sometimes amiable (James Caan's literary agent in Misery, 1990, John Wayne's landlady in The Shootist, 1976), more often monstrous – a tragedienne disguised as a parvenu in Death On the Orient Express (1974), Barbra Streisand's mother – less of a dinosaur than the daughter – in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996), for which she won a Golden Globe as best supporting actress. She needed the money; Bogart had bequeathed her custodianship of the legend but not megabucks, as the studio system never generated millions for its stars.

Real work satisfaction came more from her long-delayed Broadway career. George Axelrod constructed his 1959 comedy Goodbye Charlie around her; then she starred in Cactus Flower, 1965, in the theatre where she had once ushered in white cuffs – although Ingrid Bergman stole her part in the movie. In 1970, she grabbed the Bette Davis role as an ageing diva of the Martini in Applause, a musical adaptation of All About Eve. It wasn't much of a musical, but who gave a damn; she got the chance to be the Bacall she had always wanted to be – as Alistair Cooke wrote, as "fragile as a moose". Her leading man, Len Cariou, was her lover for a while; she picked up a Tony award; a Life magazine cover showed a sexy woman laughing, arm flung up in triumph. The earned success was transient, although she won another Tony in an update of Katharine Hepburn's journalist role in a musical of the film Woman of the Year, 1981.

Bacall kept on working, admitting that every job, especially on stage, reverted her to youthful nervousness. Harold Pinter directed her in the first London production of Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth, 1985, and Terry Hands less successfully in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit at Chichester in 1995. As age broadened that 24-inch waist and chiselled face, she decisively restyled herself, with help from a trainer and the make-up artist Kevyn Aucoin, as a lioness in winter, her wavy mane tamed, the better to emphasis the graphic eyebrows, always her most distinctive feature, and gruff voice. A late magnificence was visible in Robert Altman's Prêt-à-porter, 1995, and in her awesome matriarchs in Lars von Trier's Dogville 2003 and Manderlay, 2005, and Jonathan Glaser's Birth, 2004. The most accurate casting was her turn as a Washington social grandee in Paul Schrader's 2007 neo-noir The Walker, demolishing Woody Harrelson's gay escort with the line: "Memory is a very unreliable organ: it's right up there with the penis."

She herself went unescorted in age, unbothered about it, and was proprietorial about the definition of a movie "legend" after over 60 years in gainful employment: less than a couple of decades of stardom, she said, and you were just a beginner. (She received an Honorary Oscar in 2009).Lunching with her was an audience with the last empress of Byzantium, imperiousness interspersed with a really dirty laugh, perhaps the sound of her true self. Every online search sends you back to a picture of her at 19 giving The Look, the one in which her eyes (as David Thomson wrote) suggested blow jobs: "You know, Steve, you don't have to say anything. You don't have to do anything. You just have to whistle."

She is survived by Steve, Leslie, and Sam.

Lauren Bacall (Betty Joan Perske), actor, born 16 September, 1924; died 12 August, 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/13/lauren-bacall-obituary

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robin Williams RIP


Robin Williams found dead in California home
Local sheriff’s office says death is suspected suicide

Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Ben Quinn in London
theguardian.com
Tuesday 12 August 2014

The Oscar-winning actor and stand-up comedian Robin Williams, whose range extended from manic mimicry to understated character portrayals, was found dead in his California home on Monday.

In a statement, the local sheriff’s office said that it was treating the death of the 63-year-old star as a suspected suicide.

His wife, Susan Schneider, confirmed the news in a statement released through the actor’s publicist. “This morning I lost my husband and best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” she said.

Williams was last seen alive at the house that he shared with Schneider in Tiburon, north of San Francisco, at about 10pm on Sunday night, the Marin County sheriff’s office said.

His representative, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that he had lately been “battling severe depression” and added: “This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

Williams, who was born in Chicago, brought a hyper-kinetic energy to screen roles and stand-up comedy. He rose to fame in the television series Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982, in which he played an alien who arrived on earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft, sent from the planet Ork to observe human life.

He experienced a string of film successes, with Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987, Dead Poets Society in 1989, Awakenings in 1990, and the Fisher King and Hook in 1991. The nearly unbroken line of success continued with Aladdin in 1992 and Mrs Doubtfire, a 1993 comedy about a divorced father who impersonates a Scottish nanny to be closer to his children.

He won a best supporting actor Oscar for Good Will Hunting in 1998.

A sequel to Mrs Doubtfire had been announced and it was rumoured that filming would begin this year.

In her statement, Schneider said: “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

The White House released a statement by Barack Obama, who said: “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

Officers from the Marin county sheriff’s department responded to a 911 call received from Williams’s home at about 11.55am local time. “The sheriff’s office, as well as the Tiburon fire department and southern Marin fire protection district were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at 12pm,” the department said. “The male subject, pronounced deceased at 12.02 pm has been identified as Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63-year-old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, California.”

The statement said the coroner suspected the death to be a “suicide due to asphyxia” and that a comprehensive investigation would be completed before a final determination was made. “A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.”

Williams had openly talked about his battles with alcohol and cocaine in the early 1980s, his years of sobriety, and relapse in 2006. He appeared to have recovered but last month he returned to rehab – the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Lindstrom, Minnesota.

His representative played down the news at the time, telling TMZ: “After working back-to-back projects, Robin is simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

In a Guardian interview in 2010, he spoke about a relapse into alcoholism, his rehabilitation and his open-heart surgery.

“Oh, God, you find yourself getting emotional. It breaks through your barrier, you’ve literally cracked the armour. And you’ve got no choice, it literally breaks you open. And you feel really mortal,” he said.

Asked if he felt happier, Williams replied: “I think so. And not afraid to be unhappy. That’s OK too. And then you can be like, all is good. And that is the thing, that is the gift.”

Williams’ extraordinary acting range, as well as his activities outside of the entertainment industry, were remembered in tributes from fellow performers and film industry figures.

Steven Spielberg, who directed Hook, told Entertainment Weekly: “Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Fellow comic Steve Martin said on Twitter: “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul”.

The British actor and stand-up star, Eddie Izzard, tweeted: “Robin Williams has died and I am very sad. From every comedian here at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we salute him & we say goodbye.”

Mara Wilson, who acted with Williams in Mrs Doubtfire, and who has become a prolific writer and user of social media, wrote: “Very sad, very upset, very glad I did not have to hear about this though Twitter. Probably going to be taking some time off it for a while.”

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/11/robin-williams-found-dead-suicide

Robin Williams remembered: a big heart and a staggering talent
The news of the death of this mercurial performer has come as a shock – but his brilliance was always tinged with sadness

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Tuesday 12 August 2014

Robin Williams was a superb, mercurial standup comic with a staggering talent for improv and verbal riffing, though his movie career finally evolved into an intriguing split – sugary sentimentality or an ambiguous, menacing darkness. Something similar happened with Steve Martin and Jerry Lewis. The "Mr Hyde" in Robin Williams's movie persona was well known.

So the news of his death, and the indication he has taken his own life, is deeply shocking. He clearly suffered from depression – these were symptoms hiding in plain sight – and his brilliance assumes a deeply sad aspect.


Williams could suspend his merciless, crazy irony almost entirely for glutinous family movies like Patch Adams, in which he played a doctor who treated sick kids using his irrepressible sense of humour, or the solemn fantasies like Bicentennial Man, or even his second world war drama Jakob the Liar. Or he could be chilling and sinister, as he was in One Hour Photo, a disturbing drama from 2002 in which he played the drugstore photo lab employee (in the days before digital cameras) who becomes obsessed with the pictures he develops showing a suburban family. Then there was his performance in the ice-cold, ultra-black comedy World's Greatest Dad, in 2009, in which he plays another creepy yet tragic character, a high-school teacher whose son dies in a grisly accident, and who then concocts a bogus suicide note and rides a wave of celebrity and sympathy.

Williams had a big-hearted side, a love of broad comedy and a muscular, intensely physical talent for it, which he showed off in his smash-hit drag act Mrs Doubtfire from 1993. He played a divorced guy who disguises himself as a housekeeper with a bizarre Scottish accent, employed by his unsuspecting ex-wife, so that he can keep an eye on the children. It was a role that showed off Williams's talents – the zaniness, the dressing up, the bizarrely transparent absurdity, combined with his big-hearted, faintly lachrymose vulnerability and sentimental concern for children.

For me, his best movie was Good Morning Vietnam from 1987. It was hardly the first time I had seen him – that of course was in his legendary 70s TV comedy Mork and Mindy, which introduced Britain and the world to his madcap clowning. But Barry Levinson's film was perhaps the nearest a feature film came to representing his standup style and his subversion. He was Adrian Cronauer, the anarchic, motormouth DJ on Armed Forces Radio who lets rip at the microphone, disses the pompous world of the military, and rips everything to hilarious shreds. The soldiers love him; the top brass are deeply irritated and it's clear that an awful collision is approaching, especially as Cronauer himself is beginning to let the horror of war get him down. Williams improvised a lot of his speeches himself; only he could have given that full-throttle intensity.

What a remarkable performer. This is a brutal shock.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-mercurial-talent-tinged-with-sadness



Robin Williams, an Improvisational Genius, Forever Present in the Moment

By A. O. Scott
11 August 2014

Some years ago, at a party at the Cannes Film Festival, I was leaning against a rail watching a fireworks display when I heard a familiar voice behind me. Or rather, at least a dozen voices, punctuating the offshore explosions with jokes, non sequiturs and off-the-wall pop-cultural, sexual and political references.

There was no need to turn around: The voices were not talking directly to me and they could not have belonged to anyone other than Robin Williams, who was extemporizing a monologue at least as pyrotechnically amazing as what was unfolding against the Mediterranean sky. I’m unable to recall the details now, but you can probably imagine the rapid-fire succession of accents and pitches — macho basso, squeaky girly, French, Spanish, African-American, human, animal and alien — entangling with curlicues of self-conscious commentary about the sheer ridiculousness of anyone trying to narrate explosions of colored gunpowder in real time.
Very few people would try to upstage fireworks, and probably only Robin Williams could have succeeded. I doubt anyone asked him for his play-by-play, an impromptu performance for a small, captive group, and I can’t say if it arose from inspiration or compulsion. Maybe there’s not really a difference. Whether or not anyone expected him to be, and maybe whether or not he entirely wanted to be, he was on.
Part of the shock of his death on Monday came from the fact that he had been on — ubiquitous, self-reinventing, insistently present — for so long. On Twitter, mourners dated themselves with memories of the first time they had noticed him. For some it was the movie “Aladdin.” For others “Dead Poets Society” or “Mrs. Doubtfire.” I go back even further, to the “Mork and Mindy” television show and an album called “Reality — What a Concept” that blew my eighth-grade mind.

Back then, it was clear that Mr. Williams was one of the most explosively, exhaustingly, prodigiously verbal comedians who ever lived. The only thing faster than his mouth was his mind, which was capable of breathtaking leaps of free-associative absurdity. Janet Maslin, reviewing his standup act in 1979, cataloged a tumble of riffs that ranged from an impression of Jacques Cousteau to “an evangelist at the Disco Temple of Comedy,” to Truman Capote Jr. at “the Kindergarten of the Stars” (whatever that was). “He acts out the Reader’s Digest condensed version of ‘Roots,’ ” Ms. Maslin wrote, “which lasts 15 seconds in its entirety. He improvises a Shakespearean-sounding epic about the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, playing all the parts himself, including Einstein’s ghost.” (That, or something like it, was a role he would reprise more than 20 years later in Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.”)

Onstage, Mr. Williams’s speed allowed him to test audience responses and to edit and change direction on the fly. He simultaneously explained and acted out this process in “Come Inside My Mind,” a two-and-a-half-minute tour de force of manic meta — “I’m doing great! I’m improvising like crazy! No you’re not, you fool! You’re just doing pee-pee-ca-ca, no substance!” But if Mr. Williams was often self-aware, commenting on what he was doing as he was doing it, he was rarely arch or insincere. He could, as an actor, succumb to treacliness sometimes — maybe more than sometimes — but his essential persona as an entertainer combined neediness and generosity, intelligence and kindness, in ways that were charming and often unexpectedly moving as well.

In his periodic post-“Mork and Mindy” television appearances (on “The Larry Sanders Show” and more recently on “Louie”), he often played sly, sad or surprising versions of himself, the Robin Williams some of us had known and loved since childhood, which means an entertainer we sometimes took for granted or allowed ourselves to tire of. Many of his memorable big-screen performances were variations on that persona — madcap, motor-mouthed, shape-shifting jokers like the genie in “Aladdin,” the anti-authoritarian D.J. in “Good Morning Vietnam,” Parry in “The Fisher King”and even the redoubtable Mrs. Doubtfire herself.

That was a role within a role, of course, and Mr. Williams’s best serious movie characters — or maybe we should say the non-silly ones, since an element of playfulness was always there — had a similar doubleness. Watching him acting in earnest, you could not help but be aware of the exuberance, the mischief, that was being held in check, and you couldn’t help but wonder when, how or if it would burst out. That you knew what he was capable of made his feats of self-control all the more exciting. You sometimes felt that he was aware of this, and that he enjoyed the sheer improbability of appearing as the straight man, the heavy, the voice of reason.

He was very good at playing it cool or quiet or restrained as other actors in his movies — Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage,” Robert DeNiro in“Awakenings,” Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting” — brought the heat, the noise or the wildness. He was an excellent and disciplined character actor, even as he was also an irrepressible, indelible character, a voice — or voices — that many of us have been hearing for as long as we can remember.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/12/movies/robin-williams-an-improvisational-genius-forever-present-in-the-moment.html?action=click&contentCollection=Movies&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

Monday, 11 August 2014

Rufus, Martha and Loudon Wainwright


Meet the Wainwrights

Nina Myskow talks to Rufus and Martha Wainwright, acclaimed singer songwriters, children of folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle.

Rufus is the Grammy-nominated creator of pop songs, described by Elton John as the greatest songwriter of our generation. Martha has carved her own quirky musical niche. Both have followed the family tradition - rejection, hurt, betrayal, all laid bare in confessional songs about each other. For all of them, the very personal is material to be translated into song.

Over the course of a month, Nina Myskov sat down with Rufus in London, with Loudon in uptown New York, and with Martha in Brooklyn - to try to understand this generational conversation expressed through song.

Love, sadness, bitterness and loss revealed to public scrutiny. How cathartic is the writing process? Were songs written out of revenge? Looking back, now that the dust has settled, do any of them regret writing such revelatory barbs about their close family?


And if you want more with extra added Loudon:


Family Ties, Knotted Up in the Lyrics
The Wainwright family - from left, Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright lll, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Rufus Wainwright and Suzzy Roche.

David Carr
11 May 2012

When most families fight, as most families do, you might hear about it over the back fence or see a stray post on Facebook. When the Wainwrights get into it, the spat often shows up in a full-blown song, which begets other songs. That kind of thing will happen when one of America’s most bracing folk writers, Loudon Wainwright III, marries another folk luminary, Kate McGarrigle of the McGarrigle Sisters, and they have two musically gifted children, Rufus and Martha. Factor in a serious relationship, which has long ended, with another member of the folk pantheon — with Suzzy Roche of the Roches, that produced yet another musical offspring, Lucy Wainwright Roche — and cue decades of songs, many of them about a complicated life in a family of musical royalty. Some of those songs have titles that don’t scan well in a family newspaper, including Loudon’s ditty about a fight for position at the breast of Rufus’s mother and Martha’s profane rocket aimed at her father’s shortcomings. Back and forth it goes, with Rufus’s “Dinner at Eight” revealing that supper at the Wainwrights was sometimes more dark indie movie than sitcom.

But as a clan they never let a song get in the way of firmer, more durable ties. On Friday many members of the family will gather at Town Hall to mark the recent release of Loudon Wainwright’s album “Older Than My Old Man Now” (2nd Story Sound Records), a bracing look back that includes references to — and performances by — various Wainwrights, Roches and McGarrigles. Even the departed are represented, with a spoken recitation of a meditation on family written by Loudon’s father, a columnist for Life magazine, along with the only song Loudon Wainwright ever wrote with McGarrigle, who died in 2010.

“Older” is a hilarious and self-lacerating take on both the bonds and bondage of family, full of duets and subtexts that would take a family therapist years to untangle. What emerges is common familial strife rendered in uncommon ways. As Loudon sings on the affecting “In C,” “And if families didn’t break apart, I suppose there’d be no need for art.”

Part of the family — Loudon, 65; Rufus, 38; Martha, 36; Ms. Roche, 55; and Lucy Wainwright Roche, 30 — recently assembled at Dixon Place on the Lower East Side, with exes, wives, grandchildren and friends milling about, to talk to David Carr about what it’s like to hear your life in song and then chime in on the chorus. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Q. Most extended families couldn’t even paint a room as a group, but you guys have played together for years. How do you decide on a set list?

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT That depends on whose show it is.

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT I’m the boss for Town Hall. Since everybody’s on the record, we’re going to do what we do on the record, but everyone is also going to get a chance to step out a little bit and do one of their own songs or whatever they want.

RUFUS This isn’t a new venture in terms of our careers. I remember when we were kids, Suzzy used to do Christmas shows, and I used to sing with my dad and mom when I was prepubescent, so it’s been this kind of ongoing theme that has been very successful.

SUZZY ROCHE There is something just physically enjoyable about singing together when you have that family thing. It is kind of a physical thing.

Q. Does it feel odd to sing a song by your dad that is about you?

RUFUS It’s very intense and weird. But that’s why I love it. For me personally I’m a big opera fan, I’m a big theater fan. I always gravitated toward that which is explosive and full of danger. And nothing is bigger than that, nothing gets more imbued with that, than family.

Q. Do you ever hear a song by a family member and think: That never happened?

MARTHA WAINWRIGHT I don’t think that a three-minute song can tell the whole story about anything. I think you can have a line and an element and a moment, and that can start the concept of a song but won’t tell the whole story.

Q. Rufus, on your new record, “Out of the Game” [Decca], you’re already talking to your baby daughter on “Montauk,” so the tradition continues.

RUFUS This really started with Loudon’s dad, who had the column in Life magazine where he would reference the family and his dog and his life. I’m the third generation of having one’s life being exposed.

Q. Suzzy, did you ever think to yourself: Maybe we should have a dentist in here or a lawyer?

LUCY WAINWRIGHT ROCHE [Turning toward her mother] You were hoping I would be a lawyer.

SUZZY It is what it is. I feel like we’ve all seemed to be hooked on this kind of life. Once you start down that path, it’s very hard to stop. It’s like Loudon’s song “In C.” That pretty much says it all. It’s beautiful and sad, acknowledging that the choices that we made when we were young had a huge effect on the children.

Q. Do the songs serve as a way of healing wounds?

LOUDON I’m always asked if the songs that I write are therapeutic, and my answer is a quick no. In fact, it could be argued that they exacerbate my neurosis. But then people come up to me at the CD table and say, “That song meant so much to me.”

Q. So they can help everyone but you.

RUFUS One of the people who’s missing from this table is our mother, Kate, who is an amazing songwriter, and listening to her songs is an incredible kind of gift she left behind.

Q. Loudon, it’s interesting that the song you wrote with Kate, “Over the Hill,” not only is on the record but also fits in so well with the theme.

LOUDON The inclusion of Kate and the inclusion of my father, for me, are really big parts of this record. When a parent dies, the whole house of cards comes down. The siblings, everything gets blown away, and you do have to kind of reconstruct because they’re the giants.

Q. You foreshadow your own death a lot on this record even though you are only 65.

LOUDON I’ve been playing a death card for years.

Q. And still you do not die.

LOUDON I have always thought about it pretty much every day, but I also know that it’s dramatic. It’s theatrical.

MARTHA Not every song can be about a family member or sex and drugs.

Q. What about feelings of sibling or artistic rivalry?

RUFUS I had them intensely for Martha when we first started years ago. I did. I was very threatened. I think it has to do with the fact that our mother wanted us to be a duo like she had been with her sister. I was working really hard at music for 10 years and was very open about it, and I did my first show, and then Martha said the next week, “Can I sing one song on your show?” I’m like, “Fine.” Then everybody was blown away by her, and the next week she was on her way.

I remember being conscious of it and making a very, very solid decision at a certain point to say: I’ve got to get over this, I love my sister, and I think she’s incredibly talented. I honestly can tell you that I probably wish more for Martha’s success and Lucy’s success than my own in the end.

MARTHA You’re in a place where both Lucy and I hope to arrive. So he’s in a place where he can feel that way. I appreciate that he really showed me how hard you do have to work to succeed.

Q. Do you all have the kind of relationship where you can be honest about one another’s artistic choices?

MARTHA I don’t think it would make any difference at all to what Rufus was going to do. Of course not.

RUFUS Both Loudon and Kate weren’t nuts about the Judy Garland project at all. They didn’t get it.

Q. You performed Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall.

RUFUS They were very honest. It was like, “I don’t think you should do this.”

MARTHA I think that Rufus was able to prove everyone wrong. You have to take chances. There are things that Rufus does that I don’t care for, and I’m sure he feels the same way about me. Sometimes you tell him what you think, and sometimes you don’t.

LUCY I don’t want to know what anybody in my family thinks about anything. My survival and ability to write or perform is dependent upon me being able to block out the fact that my family is paying attention.

Q. Loudon, the family is famous, but the problems you write about are fairly universal.

LOUDON There’s nothing unusual about the events. There’s been a couple wild things, but the lives are pretty mundane actually.

RUFUS Speak for yourself.

LOUDON It’s people living with the people that they’re trying to love, people trying to deal with their appetites, people not getting along with each other, the excitement of children and the sadness of that also. That’s what I mean by mundane. It’s not astronauts going to the Moon. I mean, who are the big people in your life? Your family.

RUFUS But we are different. Loudon has mastered the mundane. He will write about these little elements of life. I write very different songs. “Martha” is about calling her up when my mother is in the hospital, or “Dinner at Eight” was about this horrible fight that we had.

LOUDON That’s mundane. That happens to everybody. Mundane is not a bad word.

RUFUS I think the thing you’re saying, we’re just like everybody else, is a lot of [expletive]. It hasn’t been just like everybody else, and that’s why I love it.

Q. Loudon, are you proud of what your kids have done in this business?

LOUDON The best thing is the three kids that are sitting here are really talented. Think how embarrassing and awkward it would be if they weren’t. And the fourth kid who’s not here, Lexi, who’s still in college, is ridiculously talented, so I thank God every day for that, that they’re all amazing and doing great things and [expletive] me off every day.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/arts/music/the-wainwrights-play-town-hall.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0