Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-08-21
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Knight Movies: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me; Grand Piano
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2014-03-05

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


It's rather appropriate that Chiemi Karasawa's glorious documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me begins with the legendary "Stritchie" performing a portion of Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" on the soundtrack. The legendary song—with its acerbic, world-weary tone ( written for Follies in 1971 ) and inspired by the long career of Joan Crawford—is the perfect match for Stritch's inestimable talents. Famously contrarian, profane, foghorn-loud and gloriously funny in her brutally frank assessments that take no prisoners ( including herself ), the diva, now 89, is nothing less than the walking, talking embodiment of Sondheim's theatrical classic.

Good times and bum times—she, indeed, has seen 'em all. Throughout Karasawa's movie we look back with her ( via archival photos and vintage footage ) as she contemplates a lifelong performer's version of retirement ( fewer gigs and a move out of town ), rehearses for those shows with her patient ( really patient ) musical director Rob Bowman, tapes an episode of 30 Rock, and examines, without a trace of sentimentality, her own mortality. "Gettin' old ain't for sissies," she quotes Bette Davis as she deals with diabetes, memory issues and various other senior-related infirmities that increasingly work against her body and test her resolve.

However, nothing keeps Stritch down for long or from keeping her professional commitments. ( Only Mother Nature—in the form of a hurricane—seems to have the power to do that. ) The candid observations from this sometime holy terror about her lifelong battle with the bottle, stage nerves ( though she is never less than commanding once the lights come up ) and the occasional vulnerability are augmented by tributes from a host of familiar faces, including Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, James Galdofini, Paul Iacono and Nathan Lane.

As this feisty old broad of Broadway with the showgirl legs that won't quit goes about the business of opening a cabaret revue of all Sondheim songs with the challenge inherent in his brain-teaser lyrics ( which she often forgets ) at the Cafe Carlyle to a roomful of adoring acolytes; takes a peek at a rehearsal space being dedicated in her honor ( hence the review of all the old photos and clippings, gathered together by her assistant ); and strolls around Manhattan, accepting ( as her due ) the nonstop greetings from fans, Stritch is in her element. She also knows that for her—after decades of career triumphs mixed with plenty of setbacks—the party's over and the time has come to "go home" to Michigan more than 50 years after arriving in her adopted New York City. You can bet she doesn't go quietly.

Through richly revealing anecdotes and many of the artfully constructed songs she made her own ( "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Company the most famous ), Stritch provided a telling overview of her remarkable career and sometimes tempestuous offstage life in her fantastic 2001 Tony-winning one-woman show Elaine Stritch: At Liberty. Karasawa's sensationally entertaining movie—which, at times, seems a kindred spirit to Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg's warts-and-all Joan Rivers documentary—updates Stritch's story, and the ensuing years can't help but add a layer of poignancy. The film, which debuted here last fall at the Chicago International Film Festival ( at a memorable screening that Stritch attended ), is in theaters this Friday and available now On Demand. http://elainestritchshootme.com/

Also On Demand—for a few more days at any rate—is a nifty little thriller in the Hitchcock or DePalma mode from Spanish director Eugenio Mira called Grand Piano. Elijah Wood stars as Tom Selznick, a classical superstar whose concert pianist career was cut short by a bad case of stage fright. Now, thanks to the support of his movie star wife Emma ( played by Kerry Bishe ), he's attempting a comeback via a performance in Chicago ( one presumes at Symphony Center—though the faÞade of the Civic Opera House takes its place ).

Tom is set to play the specially made grand piano ( a Boesendorfer ) of his former mentor, a musical genius who has just died in what are hinted at were mysterious circumstances. As Tom takes to the stage and begins to play, flipping open a page in his piano score, he discovers a note that tells him if he hits one wrong note he will be assassinated—and so will his wife, who is sitting prominently in a box seat just above the stage.

As the orchestra thunders away, Tom's fingers effortlessly skitter up and down the keyboard, while he just as frantically tries to figure out if this is a joke and how to make it stop. During a break in the music, he follows instructions and races offstage, finds an earpiece and gets back to the keyboard just in time to continue. ( The audience, naturally, think he's wrestling with a return of the stage fright. )

Now he has the malevolent voice of his would-be assassin Clem ( John Cusack, in high dungeon archvillain mode ) issuing ever-more terse "or else" instructions to accompany his tempo crazed playing. As the concert draws to a close, Mira, working from a script by Damien Chazelle, ratchets up the tension as Tom becomes increasingly desperate, trying to figure out the assassin's real agenda—which involves the one-of-a-kind piano that is outfitted with extra keys.

The plot of Grand Piano is admittedly over-the-top, but Mira's swooping camera, endless dolly shots and other visual tricks keep it aloft ( at times we even see the inner workings of the piano ). There's also the committed performance of Wood, whose edginess never lets up. ( His hysteria is nearly palpable and there are moments he convinces you he's playing the tricky classical pieces. ) Naturally, Victor Reyes' piano-based score—which has equal parts menace and florid flourishes—needs to be singled out as well ( as it reminds one, in a good way ,of Bernard Herrmann's "Concerto Macabre" from Hangover Square ).

Grand Piano is grand fun—stylish, highly entertaining hokum in the old-fashioned way of other "sophisticated" concert pianist thrillers like the high-faultin' 1946 Bette Davis-Claude Rains-Paul Henreid programmer Deception, the aforementioned masterful Victorian set classic Hangover Square ( with gay actor Laird Cregar's final performance in the lead as the mad pianist ) and a little-known but terrifying episode of Boris Karloff's 1961 TV program Thriller called "Terror in Teakwood." http://www.magnetreleasing.com/grandpiano/

Film note:

—Cinema Q IV, the fourth annual LGBT-themed movie series, kicks off tonight with Rodney Evans' 2004 film Brother to Brother, which gave Anthony Mackie his breakthrough performance. The series continues each Wednesday in March at 6:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington St.

Emily Blunt's debut starring role in the lesbian romance My Summer of Love plays March 12; the sexy, sports-themed German teen coming-of-age dramedy Summer Storm ( sponsored by the Goethe-Institut ) shows March 19; and Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd star in the musical biopic De-Lovely, about gay composer Cole Porter, on March 26.

The Queer Film Society ( of which I'm president ), the Legacy Project, Reeling Film Festival and Affinity Community Services are presenting the series in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Windy City Times, ChicagoPride and the Reader are media sponsors. The four movies in this year's Cinema QIV line-up are celebrating their 10th anniversary. The screenings are free. www.queerfilmsociety.org .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Reports: Wachowski back in the Matrix 2019-08-21 - Transgender filmmaker and Chicago native Lana Wachowski announced Aug. 20 that she would be directing a fourth Matrix film, according to Variety. Wachowski ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Tituss Burgess, IMDb, Halsey, Stephen Colbert, 'Queer As Folk' 2019-08-21 - Quibi has greenlit Dishmantled—described as "a high-octane cooking competition that will literally blow your socks off," with Tituss Burgess ( Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; ...


Gay News

10 Questions with Vic Featuring Xabiani Ponce de Leon 2019-08-15 - It's hard to stand out as an actor during a film festival such as Outfest where over 150 films are screened within nine ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Elm Street,' 'Crime Story,' Tab Hunter, Lady Gaga 2019-08-14 - Gay actor Marc Patton is returning to the big screen, as himself, with the documentary Scream, Queen: My Nightmare On Elm Street, The ...


Gay News

Reeling LGBTQ film festival announces film line up 2019-08-12 - ( August 12, 2019 - Chicago, IL ) Reeling, the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the world and a beloved Chicago cultural institution ...


Gay News

UPDATE: Travolta to attend Wizard World Comic Con 2019-08-12 - This year's Wizard World Comic Con Chicago will take place Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 22-25, at Rosemont's Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River ...


Gay News

FILM Fawzia Mirza, Kathy Griffin and much more at Outfest 2019-08-06 - Founded by UCLA students in 1982, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit film festival Outfest celebrated 37 years of bringing LGBTQ stories to the screen. ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Comic-book heroes, Cara and Ashley, Chris Pine, Pride Summit 2019-08-06 - The animated character Aquaman was confirmed to be LGBT+ on the latest episode of Young Justice: Outsiders—the DC Universe's animated show about teenage ...


Gay News

Gene Siskel Film Center to present Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am Aug. 23-29 2019-08-06 - As a venue that celebrates all art forms and a public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Gene ...


Gay News

Pride Films and Plays to produce A Man of No Importance 2019-08-02 - Chicago, IL - Pride Films and Plays will stage the first Chicago production in more than a decade of A MAN OF NO ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.