Re-Views, Unsolicited Solicitations

How “A Streetcar Named Desire” Took “Blue Jasmine” to the Oscars

I know, I know my darlings, you might get quite bored with me constantly talking about Tennessee Williams and Cate Blanchett, I know, but you know what they say, keep repeating that one thing and you will become a master at it. And darlings, who wouldn’t want to write plays like Tennessee and act like Cate, who? So here comes my next rant which involves another colleague of mine, my dear Woody Allen.

I have had quite a few woodies in my life and there might be some Allens involved with them, but this entry is not about them, even though I wish it would be, because that might have given me a happy ending, but I digress, no really, I do digress not having a happy ending for this entry.

During my breakfast break suddenly I… Well this has happened not so “suddenly” but the use of word “suddenly” reminded me about some writer I read recently who suggested that good writers should remove “suddenly” from all of their writings. His suggestion sounded quite strange because, first of all, who said that I want to be a good writer (this one I believe is a lie) and second of all, just imagine Tennessee Williams, yes, Tennessee Williams himself, removing “suddenly” from the name of his play “Suddenly Last Summer.” It would leave us only with “Last Summer” which would be just sad, because “suddenly” gives that needed kick in the balls and defines the pain which happened that last summer. This entry is not about “Suddenly” and not about “Last Summer” but it has something to do with removing some things and loosing the others because of that change.

While eating my breakfast I was arranging another “Temperamental “T” Battle.” Somewhere in between devouring a leaky egg yolk and a large piece of salt crystal I realized that I have way too much to say about Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” alone. Before I ate that egg I thought that I would compare two films, a great classic “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a new Oscar nominee “Blue Jasmine,” but, after finishing that poor egg I realized that that battle was won way before it even started. Who can compete with Tennessee Williams’ written characters, who? He is one of the best when it comes to it. When somebody wants to rewrite a gorgeous play written by him, it better be good, because whoever attempts to do so unsuccessfully might get a taste of Plastikoff’s testicles on their face. Your big movie name won’t help to avoid this from happening. You should be already aware that Plastikoff knows more than you do, so you must listen to him, otherwise you might get that uneaten egg yolk thrown at you and later smeared on your face by his, above mentioned, testicles. This time Woody Allen is under my radar or, should I say, under my hanging bangers. It is going to be hard (pun intended) to be Woody.

I love you Woody, I truly do. And how could I not love a director and writer who gave me one of my favorite comedy films “Bullets Over Broadway,” how? This will be tough for me to write, because you, my dear Woody, showed me with your “Bullets…” that you know and love theater very much.

The Oscars are literally a few hours away. This year’s nominations are quite forgettable. I don’t think any of the films which are nominated this year will be remembered after thirty years, but since I, ze Plastikoff himself, am living today, I thought I would give another piece of my mind (god, I am so generous, giving my brains and stuff away to ze people) and write another review of a film that has something to do with the Awards. If you haven’t read my take on “her,” you can read it here. This time I am going to go for “Blue Jasmine.”

It’s not a secret anymore that the film industry is going down the drain. There is almost nothing exciting coming out in the past few years and it’s getting worse. When movie theaters are concentrating more on the sale of popcorn and soda, you know you are popped.

This blentry (no, this is not a misspelled word, no, if you know a little Russian you know what “blet” means) is a character and play study where I discuss good versus bad adaptations of very known plays. I am going to concentrate my brain cells that are still left in my head on “A Streetcar Named Desire” and what happened to it when Woody Allen rewrote it into “Blue Jasmine.”

First of all one must be blind not to see that “Blue Jasmine” is “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It is and it is all the things it should not be.

I was quite shocked and taken aback by the fact that there was no mentioning of Tennessee Williams in any way in the credits of “Blue Jasmine.” What I saw was that this script was “originally” written by Woody Allen.

Oy Woody, Woody, yes, of course you gave your own twist to my bellowed play, but to be so blunt and not even say that your script was at least somehow inspired by “…Desire” was a sneaky way to go. You are definitely not winning any points from me on that. Thinking that putting Blanche (Jasmine in your film) in today’s environment would distract me from recognizing the play is a huge miscalculation.

First of all putting a play or adapting a play for today’s environment is nothing new, you know that, Woody. Almost every play has gotten that treatment in theater. Directors take old plays and adapt them constantly. Theater directors (usually) acknowledge original writers leaving their names in credits even though there might be nothing “original” left in their productions.

I recognized that Stella’s home from “A Streetcar Named Desire” is Jasmine sister’s home in San Francisco in your film, my dear Woody. Jasmine from “Blue Jasmine” is broke as it is the original Blanche from “A Streetcar…” when she comes to live with her sister. My dear Woody, you haven’t even escaped saying that Jasmine has a French background, and oh yeah, you think I would not catch where Jasmine’s name originated from? Blanche in “…Desire” mentions her perfume “Jasmine” which is hated by Stanley Kowalski. Is this where the name Jasmine came from in your film? There are many recognizable details as this in your film, Woody, but let me dissect first how “A Streetcar Named Desire’s” characters became “Blue Jasmine’s” characters.

As you know, my dear darlings, I love the fact that I find certain things hidden in films. If you read this review, you know what I am talking about. So here it goes, characters from “Blue Jasmine” and which characters from “A Streetcar Named Desire” I think “inspired” them:

Jasmine is Blanche DuBois
Ginger is Stella
Chili, Augie and Dr. Flicker are Stanley Kowalski
Dwight is Mitch
Hal, Jasmine’s husband, is the boy who killed himself in “…Desire”

I am going to start from Stanley Kowalski. Stanley was broken into three characters in “Blue Jasmine.” This was a very poor decision from you my dear Woody. And this is why.

You lost all the drama that surrounded Blanche by breaking the events and characteristics of Kowalski. All of these men in “Blue Jasmine” became very plain and didn’t contribute to Jasmine’s mind f*ck as Kowalski did in “…Desire.” What was this mess that represented Stanley in your film, Mr. Allen? You flattened Stanley from ”…Desire” so much that I was just plain sorry for the guys who were playing representations of what was once the greatest character in the history of theater.

Augie, played by Andrew Dice Clay, became Stanley whom Blanche met for the first time after arrival to her sister’s home in “A Streetcar…”
The sexy, full of passion and temperament Stanley from “…Desire” became Chili, played by Bobby Cannavale.
The “raping scene Stanley” became Dr. Flicker played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

The three characters created from one became disjointed and without depth. It was very disappointing to watch that happen.

In “A Streetcar…” Blanche’s character remembers a boy she fell in love with, who later on she realized was gay. In your version, Woody, this boy became Jasmine’s husband, Hal, played by Alec Baldwin, who cheated on her and killed himself in jail because of… well I didn’t quite get why did Jasmine’s husband killed himself in jail.

The boy from “…Desire” killed himself because he was a homosexual. Blanche revealed that secret. Jasmine’s husband, on the other hand, killed himself because Jasmine called the FBI and told them about the shady business her husband had been doing. Jasmine was emotionally distressed after finding out about Hal’s cheating. Hal got jailed because of Jasmine. I am not going to tell you in every detail how that happened but if you know “A Streetcar…,” Jasmine as well as Blanche had something to do with the suicides of their husbands.

While I totally understood Blanche’s boy’s suicide, I was not buying Jasmine’s husband’s suicide at all. The story leading to the event was flat and just too weak to be convincing. The way you wrote Hal’s character, my dear Woody, gave me an opposite impression. I couldn’t believe that a man like Hal was able to kill himself this easily.

I understand that you, my dear, wanted to portray these rich, lying people in your “Blue Jasmine,” but you failed it. You rewrote the sensitive boy’s character from “A Streetcar…” who represented Blanche’s feelings into this manipulative, cheating husband of Jasmine’s. Of course I could find some kind of connection there and say that Jasmine’s husband Hal represented Jasmine’s wish to live richly without doing any work to earn any money. That is true, that could be your idea of why Jasmine had her nervous breakdown. But with the decision of writing Hal the way you did you completely removed Jasmine’s fragility. Later on you went to explore that quality of Jasmine’s in other scenes of your film where she’s meeting Dwight, but it was too late.  You already made a cold Jasmine. You removed from her the greatest value, her fragility which was so beautifully developed by Tennessee Williams in Blanche.

My writing of this review is as messy as your film my darling Woody. See what you have done to me?

Yes, you tried to return to the original Blanche with your Jasmine being dependent on rich men. I was waiting for “I depend on the kindness of strangers” come out of Jasmine’s lips the whole film but it never happened. This beautiful quote turned into some mumbling jumble coming out of Jasmine’s lips at the end of the film which was just plainly very disappointing to me. I wanted to kick you in the balls my dear Woody. You had Cate Blanchett saying those meaningless words at the end of your film which actually hurt Cate’s as an actress’ image. She was put in a situation where she was asked to do a very cliché thing, talk into nothing with her lips slightly shivering and leaking through her eye sockets, what appeared to be some kind of liquid called tears. I found myself concentrating on Cate Blanchett’s face without make up rather than “feeling” what she was going through in that particular scene.

Funny, how you, my dear, were not able to escape shower scenes in your film. The shower scenes in “…Desire” were essential. After every one of them something happened to Blanche. Not so much happened to Jasmine in your film, my dear Woody. In “A Streetcar…” Blanche wanted to wash off something that could not be washed off. What you washed off in “Blue Jasmine,” my dear, was Cate Blanchett’s make up and that was it. Yes, with that you revealed how old Jasmine is, but it added almost nothing to the character. Cate Blanchett went quite disheveled and with the runny make up throughout the whole film. You decided to “add” to Blanche’s from “…Desire” character, an oily skin shine and sweaty armpits. This was strange to see happening knowing that the action takes place in San Francisco where the weather is cool. New Orleans’ weather is thick with sweaty armpits and oily skin. That is more appropriate for Tennessee Williams’ play, but I guess you can sweat in any weather if you drink this much alcohol as Jasmine did in your film.

The difference with Stella, Ginger in “Blue Jasmine,” is less obvious. In “Blue Jasmine” Ginger has two children while in “A Streetcar…” Stella is pregnant with her first one. Ginger’s character in “Blue Jasmine” got Blanche’s sexual freedom. Jasmine’s character became even flatter because having Ginger this sexually active removed another great layer beautifully written by Tennessee Williams for Blanche.

Jasmine’s sister, Ginger, goes around sleeping with men. She divorced her first husband for no apparent reason. There was not even a hint why she did it. Then she almost ditched a better looking and more passionate boyfriend/fiancé after she met a balding man, Al, played by Louis C.K., at a party. Ginger’s new interest was apparently cheating with her on his wife. After a phone call to Al’s house and talking with his wife, Ginger, almost instantly, dropped the passionate love for Al and returned to her hot fiancé Chili as if nothing has happened. Ginger switched back to the hotty in literally a second after she learned about Al’s wife. Ugh.

And what was that mess of a scene with Jasmine and Dr. Flicker when he was sexually abusing her in the office? I went, what the duck just happened? This came from nowhere and was so painful to watch that I lost it. This scene was so fake that I think I believed more in drag queen’s fake boobs than Dr. Flicker’s arousal towards Jasmine in that scene.

I am going to end my rant with another quite strange detail about “Blue Jasmine.” The young salesman who came by Stella’s house in “A Streetcar…” and met Blanche there became Jasmine’s son. Weird decision I’d say. With that you, my dear Woody, stripped away from Jasmine her sexual gravitation to younger men which was so crucial in Tennessee Williams’ play. With that you not only said that Jasmine is not sexually attractive, because she has a son, but you also didn’t even suggest that Jasmine could like any of her sister’s lovers.

And here comes the ending punch. The way the character of Mitch from “A Streetcar…” was written in “Blue Jasmine” was so outlandish that you, my dear Woody, didn’t know yourself what to do with him. Dwight, played by Peter Sarsgaard, appears from nowhere like a rich prince on a white horse. He almost instantly proposed to Jasmine, then he dropped her as a plastic bottle in the middle of nowhere after learning that Jasmine was divorced and had a child. It was quite convenient, I should say, to be dropped next to a place where Jasmine’s estranged son was working. Okay, I think I got it, this scene was needed because it was vital for Cate to get a little of California’s sun on her pale skin while walking those few frames, I got it.

The decision for Jasmine and Dwight to get married and break up came so forced and fast in “Blue Jasmine” that one could miss it. Turn your attention for a few moments from the screen and you won’t even know that the proposal even happened.

The dialog between characters were flat and choppy. I was constantly hearing Woody Allen’s voice which was weird because Jasmine is hardly Woody (pun intended). It was painful to listen.

After writing all of this long ass wordy diarrhea I came to a realization that you, my dear Woody, most likely decided to play a game with us. You took “A Streetcar Named Desire” written by Tennessee Williams and decided to rewrite it creating opposite characters to those written by Tennessee Williams. Hmmm, I think you didn’t have enough Port to do that my dear Woody. But I guess it worked out somehow for you, because you got quite a few nominations for the film.

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Theater Farts

My Confession to Cate Blanchett’s Uncle

Okay, My Dear Darlings, today I am going to reveal something about Plastikoff, that is to say, about myself. I don’t know how many of you want to know anything about me, but the reason for my openness is not what you think it is.

I usually say something about my drinking and s**t like that at the beginning of my blog but not today. Today I want to put a Freudian hat and dissect my bitterness and itch to be inappropriate (sometimes) in public.

I should say that a part of this entry was written last summer, but I decided to release it today. I think the time is right and besides I am ready to open another bottle of Port right now (smiley face).

Cate Blanchett, Anton Chekhov and My Confession

I am sure that not so many of you were able to catch a production of “Uncle Vanya” with Cate Blanchett at City Center last summer. It ran only for a few days and, of course, the ticket prices were way too, but somehow understandably, steep for any theater lover to be able to afford it. I was one of the lucky ones who got a ticket because of my theater loving friends who let themselves splurge on theater time after time. I barely can afford to buy a chicken wing at some fried food place, so to spend more than twenty dollars on anything was just too utopian considering my today’s salary. I am actually quite annoyed that only some “privileged” people can see theater in the city nowadays. Art is an escape and art is needed for all the people. Well, but that is quite a different topic to talk about and maybe I will return to it in another entry which, most likely, will be alcohol induced… okay, okay I will not go there today, so let me go straight to describing those feelings I had when I was watching the production of the Sydney Theater Company at City Center.

Yesterday, it happened so, I sent my supporting materials for a residency in a theater. Yes, that’s right, Plastikoff sometimes sends things out like that. (Beats his fists to his chest) I am an artist who needs somebody’s approval too. You know, I can’t survive on one chicken wing a month. I need some potatoes with it. Well, okay I will cut my spending on alcohol, but (he beats his fists even greater) I need it for my creative juices to flow and who the duck are you telling me what I should and what I shouldn’t do? (Gets himself together) Ups, sorry, I got a little carried away. I hope you’ll understand.

As always, as it is with me, everything was coming down to the last minute. This whole mad rush made my concentration work to the fullest. This last minute business always feels like the last day before a show is released. It is stressful but when it’s done, it feels like I have accomplished something. I thought I did well (Update: no, I didn’t get the residency (sad face)). Of course there is always place for improvement. I also understand that my understanding of what is good not always coincides with other people’s understanding of the same. That is okay, because at the end of the day I am the one who is going to judge my work from my point of view and my point of view might be very different from your point of view, so in Plastikoff’s head Plastikoff is always right (smiley face).

So let me go deeper into that ducklingly ducked Plasikoff’s mind and see how, for example, I found myself critiquing THE “Uncle Vanya” with THE Cate Blanchett on the same day I was refused the residency.

Okay, here it is, my confession:

I don’t know what got into me, but I found myself hating the production of “Uncle Vanya” last summer. After I was awarded with a ticket, which cost close to two hundred dollars, I was farting cranberries in my seat while watching it. What “bothered” me was not the production but the fact that I was sitting in the audience watching “Uncle Vanya” while my whole body screamed how badly I wanted to be involved with the show or be the one who wrote the play. Well, “Uncle Vanya” is not my favorite Chekov’s play. Why the heck it gets produced so many times, I have no idea? I was farting pancakes and believe me nobody should be in the same room when I do that. You would understand me if you wore my shoes but since I can’t afford to buy them I’ll leave you here with what went through my mind after the show.

There were a few elements that “bothered” me when I was watching the production. I know it feels weird when I say this this way but I like dissecting myself and see who I really am when I talk about somebody else’s work. We all see imperfections in others because we have the same weak points ourselves. We discuss and hate the very thing we dislike in our work and in… well, you got the poin. I am not a saint (pffff, sorry that was Port talking) I have many problems and flaws.

Now, when I say that “Uncle Vanya” is still not my favorite Chekov’s play what I am really saying is this: “Damn, this Chekov’s thing is being produced all over the world nonstop for more than a hundred years. Why can’t I achieve this kind of greatness; instead I am sitting in the audience and watching this play which was written by some dead Russian in the nineteenth century. Are people still finding this works amazing? Just think about it, there were three productions of “Uncle Vanya” in New York City alone last year. Why? Why can’t I be the one who gets produced at the City Center? Why?”

Chekov is a case to envy about. He is a writer that every playwright dreams to become during their lifetime. I am not alone in thinking how the duck did he do it?

This was my first realization of why I was feeling angry about the production and Chekov.

Of course, the production was great, there is no question about it, but there was apparently something that blew my mind. The thing that hit me the most was the fact that I was still to achieve the greatness of Chekov (it is funny that I am already thinking about my “greatness” while I have done none of my writings I should’ve had done).

Another part of my “dissatisfaction” with the show was that I “have” or “had” problems with Cate Blanchett’s performance. Bullocks, I had no problems with her performance whatsoever. I think she is one of the greatest actresses. What bothered my psyche in this case was the fact that Cate Blanchett has already achieved a real star status with her work on film and on stage. I want to be where she is right now and that was what my eyes caught first when I saw her on the stage. My inner voice was screaming: “Why not me, why I am not Yelena?” (ups, sorry.)

While watching somebody perform on the stage, you realize that this is a real person, right now, performing in front of you. I was looking for imperfections in Blanchett’s works as if saying to myself: “See, she is not perfect too.” I was demeaning her in a certain way that satisfied my status at that moment.

There was another discovery that came to me that night. I think this one was harder to catch since it involved a great director and his production of “Uncle Vanya” I saw back at my home country while being a theater student. Eimuntas Nekrošius’s production of “Uncle Vanya” I saw a very long time ago left a deep dent in me. He was one of the first directors who put a Chekhov’s play not the way everybody used to see it. Nekrošius put his own twist on it and Director’s Theater was born. The Naturalistic Theater died and nobody showed up for the funeral. There is no way to see the production again, but if anything directed by E. Nekrošius comes to your town, go see it. There are a few clips on Youtube for you to get a taste of his genius. Go and find them!

I want to be where Eimuntas Nekrošius and Cate Blanchett are. Yes, there, I said it. That night I was watching and comparing things that were not comparable. E. Nekrošius’s production and the production with Cate Blanchett were very different but both were professionally staged. They both had amazing actors in it and none of them was me. I was ripping those productions apart as a hungry coyote in winter because they reminded me of who I want to be and what I want to achieve. Phew, that might be a little too much, but thank god I am drunk right now to fully understand it.

I applaud Cate Blanchett. She keeps herself grounded and goes to do theater while money wise she could be better doing film. I don’t believe that she is not getting at least ten scripts a day from various writers, directors, producers who want to work with her and who appreciate her talent. (Update: go and see Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” (film by Woody Allen). Blanche = Blanchett (“Streetcar Named Desire”) – you will get the reference after the film! Terrific!)

I guess my confession is quite clear here. I am glad that I am able to say these things openly. One thing I know for sure, I don’t want to be one of those people that moan about other people’s successes while sitting and doing nothing. I like that this discovery energizes me to keep doing what I love doing, work in theater, in film and just create. So, I should say, thank you Cate and Anton for giving me the opportunity to discover something about myself.

Ah so nice, must be the Port talking (smiley face).

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