Woody Allen may have his biggest hit since his spectacular run from the late '70s and early '80s.
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — featuring a raved-about performance by Penelope Cruz, two lesbian kisses between Cruz and Scarlett Johansson and a sly Javier Bardem slithering around Spain — is a hit.
In five days, “VCB” has taken in just about $4.4 million. It took Allen’s flawless drama “Match Point” 11 days to do the same thing after it opened on Dec. 28, 2005.
“Match Point” went on to make $23 million in the U.S.. a high mark for Woody in what I call his post-scandal period. That began with “Husbands and Wives,” in 1992, after news broke that he was having an affair with his longtime girlfriend’s (Mia Farrow's) adopted daughter.
Prior to that, Woody had enjoyed a great run with the public. According to boxofficemojo.com, classics like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Hannah and Her Sisters” raked in relative dough with lifetime takes of almost $40 million.
Post-scandal, though, the audience walked. The better of those films — like “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Deconstructing Harry” — just could not seem to break through even with Oscar nominations galore. Only “Small Time Crooks,” in 2000, was a real hit at the box office, with an $18 million total.
But time does heal all wounds. For one thing, Woody wound up not only staying with Soon-Yi Previn but marrying her. They now have two small children. The scandal that outraged die-hard Woody Allen fans is fuzzy in memory.
One thing that seems to have helped was Woody’s decision to take his production abroad. “Match Point,” filmed in London with Scarlett and an all-Brit cast, made $23.5 million in the U.S. and $85.3 million worldwide. “Scoop,” a second, lesser U.K. film featuring Scarlett, took in $10 million here, and $39 million total in the world.
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” looks like it will be the breakout of the post-scandal pack, though. Right now it’s only playing in 692 theaters, which is probably a wise idea. Keeping it exclusive will make curious fans want to see it even more.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s also a terrific movie. Penelope doesn’t arrive on the scene until the middle of the film, but by then the story and the main players — Bardem, Scarlett and Rebecca Hall —have been mesmerizing enough to hold your attention. And it’s funny. Not shticky Woody Allen funny of the “Sleeper” era, but sophisticated and contemporary.
And hold on: Penelope should get an Oscar nomination, as should Woody for original screenplay. Barcelona looks so magnificent that Javier Aguirresarobe, who also worked on this fall’s much anticipated film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” could be in the mix.
For Penelope, a win in Best Supporting Actress wouldn’t be such a bad consolation prize after losing Best Actress two years ago — to Helen Mirren — for her work in “Volver.”
Tuesday night at “Hair” at Shakespeare in the Park: Bob and Lynne Balaban with their two daughters, designer Nicole Mille, and a load of media types. Turns out, the earlier in the week, the better the audience scanning is for “Hair.”
But the show is what it’s all about. Last night, Christopher J. Hanke made his debut as Claude, replacing Jonathan Groff. He couldn’t have been better, fitting in with the rest of the cast seamlessly.
“Hair” doesn’t have a huge or complicated plot, but it does have several central themes. It’s a heavier anti-war statement than I remembered. It’s hard not to draw parallels between what’s going on on stage and what’s happening right now.
But it’s really about the music. “Rent” and “Spring Awakening” have their zealous fans, but no rock musical ever spawned hits like the “Hair” theme song, “Easy to Be Hard,” “Good Morning Starshine” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.” The latter was actually a construct for the Fifth Dimension, since they married two different songs from the show into one piece.
The Public Theater just announced that they’ve put extensions in “Hair” through Sept. 14. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to bring it indoors this winter. The production is so ebullient, joyous and triumphant that it’s like a beam of warm sunshine. And yes, the audience gets to jump on stage and dance on stage at the end, a real live “be-in.”
It’s been a bad time for soul music. First Isaac Hayes, then Jerry Wexler. Now comes news that Pervis Jackson, the deep-throated founding member of The Spinners, has passed at age 70. His was the memorable “twelve-forty five” voice you hear on the group’s great “Games People Play” hit. The Spinners, from Detroit, were originally a Motown group. “It’s a Shame,” was their signature hit during that period.
In 1972, they moved to Atlantic and migrated their sound to Philadelphia. The late Phillippe Wynne sang lead on records like “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “I’ll Be Around” and “Then Came You” with Dionne Warwick, but Jackson, along with other founders Henry Fambrough and Bobbie Smith, were there before and after.
The great era of R&B groups is fast waning, although The Chi Lites, the Stylistics, the Dells, Kool & the Gang and a few others are still out there. If they come through your town, don’t miss ‘em. Nothing compares to those shiny harmonies, slick dance steps and coordinated costumes, not to mention true musicianship. ...