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By Michael S. Goldberger
Arts and Entertainment Arts and Entertainment Arts and Entertainment Arts and Entertainment Arts and Entertainment
Summer of Sam
Spike’s Mean Streets 3 popcorns
Overwhelmed by their passions and ruled by their prejudices, the bulk of director Spike Lee’s characters in Summer Of Sam
are humorously clueless, sadly thickheaded and dangerously provincial. They have hardly a complete brain among them.
Yet they are oddly entrancing, an entertaining source of both amazement and curiosity. And how no great harm has befallen them to this point is an enigma? But the question is, will they survive the summer of 1977?
They are the dis’n dat, dems-and-deesenunciating denizens of New York that director John Badham first popularized in
Saturday Night Fever (1977), but viewed here with a caustic edge and a jaundiced eye.
Rampant with gossipy opinion and steeped in superstition, the Italian-American enclave in the Bronx that these troubled souls occupy is already a powder keg this hot summer; throw in the factor of a crazed killer on the loose and who knows what shocking psychoses (individually and en masse) will be unleashed.
Bold, brash and unapologetic, Mr. Lee’s steamrollering diatribe enjoys the chutzpah of Do The Right Thing (1989) and the historical savvy of Malcolm X (1992).
But while the director’s latest foray into the valley of politically incorrect moviemaking ventures is an artistically valid recounting of David Berkowitz’s reign of terror, studying the real-life serial killer of the title is not the film auteur’s primary goal.
Rather, Spike introduces the Son of Sam to his racially seething neighborhood as a massive jolt of electroshock therapy, using the frightening wraith to dramatically unravel several of the fictional stereotypes he created with co-authors Victor Colicchio and Michael Imperioli.
Heading the stellar cast is John Leguizamo as Vinny, the self-styled disco big shot who agonizes over his infidelity to his wife of but two years. Too sexually naïve to fathom his seemingly unappeasable libido, the narcissistic hairdresser interprets the Son of Sam hysteria as an evil portent specifically intended to punish him.
Several of Vinny’s street-corner cronies also subscribe to the theory of a personally involved demon; of course, that most of these egocentric fools imbibe a steady diet of discotheque era drugs helps explain their paranoid view of the homicidal maniac.
The social delirium is skillfully punctuated with scenes of the tortured lunatic (Michael Badalucco) cursing at the dog that torments him, looking at news clippings of his past accomplishments and venturing out into the night for new conquests. In cars parked on dark streets or in lovers’ lanes, blood spurts onto the windshield of ill-fated spoonies and a chubby monster waddles away. We are painfully reminded of this terrible episode in our collective past.
Wily wonder that he is, Mr. Lee satirizes the public reaction to this horror, really stepping up the lampoon when depicting how the media handles the ensuing panic. And in a witty ploy but with a questionable casting choice, he plays John Jeffries, a black news announcer amalgam who can’t pass up the opportunity to ask several African-Americans their reaction to news that the killer is white.
Spike now joins fellow Knickerbockers Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen to form a triptych of New York’s most celebrated chroniclers.
If racial enmity is the director’s primary concern in this kaleidoscopic giambotta of hot topics, sexual confusion is a very close second. And key to exploring the recurring theme of homophobic panic among Sum
mer Of Sam’s sexually inarticulate crowd is Adrien Brody as Ritchie, a thoughtful, spikehaired musician. The film’s oddly salient choice for a moral center, he is Lee’s most sympathetic and least Neanderthal-like male.
Dabbling in what will come to be known as punk rock, he also leads a secret life, a notion which the director upgrades to a universal theorem and then applies to several members of the cast. Ritchie, whose homo-erotic alter ego supports his music career by secretly performing at a gay strip joint, tries to explain this duality to Vinny when the apparently insecure beauty operator confides in his lifelong friend. But Vinny will have none of it. So there’s no sense even going into the tramp/goddess syndrome that dominates his sex life without him knowing it.
Suffering as a result of this stupid machismo is a very pretty Mira Sorvino as his wife, Dionna, the dutiful waitress who works in dad’s Italian restaurant. A sweetheart plopped down in the midst of some very explicit scenes peppered with a steady onslaught of vulgarity, this splendidly acted angel gets a tad tarnished and thickens the plot when she and Vinny accidentally land, as a sordid sign of the times, at Plato’s Retreat.
Ignorance rules. Even though Ritchie has been one of the guys since childhood, his Bohemian leanings frighten the old crowd; failure to stay within the prescribed lines of parochial behavior makes him a suspect.
You see, the young toughs are keeping a list of Son of Sam possibles. And so is Luigi (Ben Gazzara), the comically deluded Mafia don unofficially enlisted by the police to help hunt the killer.
Building on his fascination with personal dualism, director Lee also continues his affinity for larger dichotomies like the Yin and Yang differences between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. he was so fond of proffering in most of his earlier works. But while Mr. Lee’s black and white simplicity this far along in his career has us clamoring for him to spend more time exploring the gray, the good vs. evil style still works well enough to ferry the plot’s multifarious angles.
Other familiar style mechanisms held over from his previous filmic outings include grainy footage to suggest a personal acquaintance with the subject and a zoomin, zoom-out for exclamatory purposes that has now outworn its welcome.
Interestingly, while Lee chooses ItalianAmericans for his update on group dynamics, the ruminations are not too unlike the mass hysteria director Arthur Penn depicts in The Chase (1966) when the local bad boy (Robert Redford) escapes from jail and his imminent return stirs all manner of latent fears among the assortment of smalltown Babbitts.
In that example, the social delineation is between rich and poor. In Spike Lee’s mean streets, an intolerant ethos dictates the division.
What’s difficult to discern, though, in this, his most controversial and artistically satisfying film to date, is when Mr. Lee the social critic is speaking and when Spike the provocative instigator and scrappy talk show guest is having his say.
Evidenced in Summer Of Sam, it is apparent that Spike Lee the philosophical filmmaker has his own intriguing dualism to reconcile. It’ll be fun to watch him sort it out.
* * * * * Summer Of Sam, rated R, is a Buena Vista Pictures release directed by Spike Lee and stars John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody. Running time: 146 minutes.
COME TO THE CABARET... Jody Karin Applebaum and MarcAndré Hamelin will present an evening of cabaret music on Friday, July 16, at 8 p. m. in the Nicholas Music Center, George Street, Douglass Campus in New Brunswick. Tickets are $24. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call the Rutgers Art Center ticket office at (732) 9327511.
‘Singular Sensation’ Slated ‘Singular Sensation’ Slated ‘Singular Sensation’ Slated ‘Singular Sensation’ Slated ‘Singular Sensation’ Slated At Paper Mill Playhouse At Paper Mill Playhouse At Paper Mill Playhouse At Paper Mill Playhouse At Paper Mill Playhouse
MILLBURN – Single theatergoers are invited to attend a presentation of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Thursday, July 22, at 8 p. m.
A speciallypriced ticket will include the performance as well as a postshow reception.
The reception will be held in the Renee Foosaner Art Gallery at Paper Mill immediately following the performance.
A complimentary twoweek pass to Bally Sports Club in Short Hills will be given to all singles night theatergoers in addition to a sampling of various food and drink.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical that retells the Biblical story of Joseph and the coat that his father, Jacob, presents to his favorite son, inspiring the wrath of his jealous brothers.
The production stars Deborah Gibson as The Narrator, Patrick Cassidy as Jo seph and four members of the Osmonds2nd
Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will run through Sunday, July 25, at Paper Mill. For ticket information, please call (973) 3764343.
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Special A&E Notice: Special A&E Notice: Special A&E Notice: Special A&E Notice: Special A&E Notice:
If you are especially talented in art, music, dance, theater or any other form of art and entertainment, we would like to feature your talent in our section. You must be a resident of Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood or Mountainside. For more information, please call Michelle H. LePoidevin at (908) 232-4407.
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Highest Possible Rating: 4 chef hats
LA GRIGLIA RESTAURANT 740 Boulevard, Kenilworth, (908) 241-0031
By DR. JOSEPH P. DE ALESSANDRO
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
If it swims, you’ll find it at LaGriglia! A great seafood gem in the middle of Union County, the menu boasts of more than 12 seafood entrees. The restaurant is owned by brothers Chris and John Tocci, aged 31 and 34 respectively. John is the executive chef.
The partners started LaGriglia two and a half years ago and have made it a roaring success. They previously owned Toscana Restaurant in Upper Montclair, which was also a great success.
LaGriglia is a very quaint establishment with three dining rooms, a main dining room on the right, a bar dining area on the left and a large room in the rear. White tablecloths are in place with fine stemware and a bottle of Colavita Olive Oil ready for the excellent bread that arrives shortly.
As a departure from my normal review, I would like to first announce a most extraordinary dessert – Marsciponi Cheesecake. I have to mention it first because if you are dining at LaGriglia, reserve your piece of cheesecake in advance. This cheesecake is without a doubt the most delicious I have ever tasted. It is firm, yet velvety smooth and flavored to perfection – something that one should not miss at this restaurant.
Onto the regular menu. The restaurant offers several choices at their raw bar, including Oysters on the Half Shell, Marinated Seafood Salad, Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce, Little Neck Clams and an intriguing Raw Bar Sampler for two. The clams and oysters are chilled, fresh and of top grade quality. You don’t see this too often in New Jersey.
The appetizer list offers Crab Cake, which I think is the premier dish. This very ample portion features the best crab meat, marinated with butter and just enough bread crumbs on the outside to make it a cake. It was a great tempting dish that could be an entree.
One of the signature dishes of La Griglia is the Cajun Calamari – the famous fried calamari with balsamic vinegar, garlic, shallots and Cajun spices topped with diced tomatoes. This dish is known widely throughout New Jersey.
La Griglia offers Grilled Portabella Mushrooms with virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, garlic and parmesan cheese. Excellent! Grilled Jumbo Shrimp, which is served over Red and White Tuscan Bean Salad with roasted peppers, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and fresh thyme, is truly a salivating dish. The appetizer menu also includes Garlic Shrimp and Hot Antipasto.
Under the salad menu, they serve a Caesar Salad, which is ample enough for two or three people and done in the classic style with excellent parmesan cheese and toasted garlic croutons. They also serve a House Salad and Mesculin Salad. All salads are beautifully presented and are extra large.
The premier soup, and again a signature dish of this restaurant, is Pasta Fagioli. It is served in a large, impressive dish with hearty tomato broth, red and white beans and pasta. The beans are tender and not mushy. The pasta is firm and in tact. The broth is what Mama used to make. I like mine with a couple of slices of raw onion. Yum! Yum!
The entrees outdo each other. I enjoyed the Zuppa Di Pesce which included lobster, shrimp, filet, mussels, clams and calamari in a light seafood broth with fresh tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. The dish is extremely ample and was really enough for me to eat for dinner. It was exquisite and I highly recommend it.
The Grilled Swordfish, a beautiful fresh filet, is served over roasted pepper salad with calamata olives, raisins and balsamic vinegar. An excellent dish.
Some of the other entrees offered are Grilled Red Snapper with grilled zucchini, eggplant and portabella mushrooms topped with a tomato basil vinaigrette. A Grilled Salmon, which is served with red and white Tuscan beans and roasted peppers, virgin olive oil, lemon and fresh thyme, is also notable.
The meat menu offers a Grilled Veal Chop, New York Strip Steak, Grilled Filet Mignon and Pork Chops. A medley of vegetables are available – broccoli, wild mushrooms, escarole and fagioli, broccoli rabe and roasted tomatoes. An ambitious menu and the chef fulfills the promise.
La Griglia offers 10 various pasta dishes including Fussili Puttanesca, Capellini Toscana, Rigatoni Filleto Pomodoro and Linguini with Clam Sauce. Truly, the quality of the size of the pasta portions are not to be outdone.
The balance of the menu includes
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Barnes & Noble in Springfield will hold a Discussion/ Signing by coauthor of “Thunderhead,” Lincoln Child on Thursday, July 15, at 7: 30 p. m. The book was also written by Douglas Preston. Poetry Out Loud, a forum for up and coming poets, will be held on Sunday, July 18, at 7: 30 p. m. A SciFi
Shirley Alston Reeves, original lead singer of The Shirelles, will perform with Who’s Johnny on Wednesday, July 21, at 7: 30 p. m. at Echo Lake Park. The Vivian Panham Quintet will hold a classical concert on Wednesday, July 21, at 7: 30 p. m. at Memorial Park in Berkeley Heights. Big Band Music will be featured on Tuesday, July 20, at 7: 15 p. m. at the Gazebo in Cranford on Springfield and North Union Avenues.
Andy the Clown will offer a children’s show and reggae band, Verdict, will perform on Thursday, July 15. Saturday Night Fever, a disco band, will hold a concert on Thursday, July 22. Both events will be held at 7: 30 p. m. on the Municipal Grounds in Scotch Plains. The Music Studio Wind Ensemble & Jazz Band of The New Jersey Workshop for the Arts will perform on Thursday, July 22, at 8 p. m. in Mindowaskin Park.
The Crossroads in Garwood will welcome Mordechai Dov Adaptor, Spastic Colon, 8 Ohm Driver on Thursday, July 15; The Voodudes on Friday, July 16; The Rocking Horse on Saturday, July 17 and Cup of Joe and One Eyed Jack on Thursday, July 22.
Children’s Mini Art CampCycle 2 will be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, July 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29 from 10 a. m. to 3: 15 p. m. at The Watchung Arts Center. Drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, watercolor, pastels, multimedia art, indoor and outdoor activities will all be featured.
American Folk Craft Day will be held at Waterloo Village in Stanhope on Sunday, July 18, from 11 a. m. to 5 p. m. The event is free. Folk craft demonstrations, puppet shows, magic, mountains music and Early American games will be featured. For more information, please call (973) 3470900. Fantasy Discussion Group will convene
on Thursday, July 22, at 7: 30 p. m. to discus fantasy novel, “Ship of Magic,” by Robin Hobb.
Barnes & Noble in Clark will host a Cooking Demonstration and Tasting with cookbook authors Marvin and Walter Rosen of “Welcome to Juniors” on Thursday, July 15, at 7: 30 p. m. Teresa of Spiritual Communications will host a workshop on Angels, Dreams and Intuition on Tuesday, July 20, at 7: 30 p. m. The Westfield Summer Workshop will perform “Rock the Jukebox” on Thursday, July 22, at 10: 30 a. m. RATING:
chicken and veal, headed up with Chicken Arrabiata (which means angry chicken), boneless breast of chicken sauteed with garlic, fresh oregano and balsamic vinegar with a touch of demiglace; Chicken Giambotta, breast of chicken with sausage, onions, vinegar,
peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and potatoes. Just thinking of these dishes makes one long to return to this fine restaurant.
The prices are moderate, far below the quality and care that these dishes would call for. The seafood entrees range from $15 to $16.50; steaks and chops are up to $21; appetizers from $6 to $7.50 and soups at $3. Extremely moderate prices for the great feast available.
There is a shortage in this country of extremely fine seafood restaurants and, I repeat, LaGriglia is probably the best kept secret. On an offnight at 7: 30 p. m., the restaurant was filled to capacity with a waiting line outside.
The wait staff were courteous and knowledgeable of the menu and the various dishes. Service was prompt and I am proud to say that there were no errors. I truly recommend that you visit this restaurant and I guarantee you will be a regular.
Park Middle School Pupils Write and Rehearse Plays SCOTCH PLAINS — For three months this spring, 32 seventh graders from Park Middle School in Scotch Plains were busy before and after school hours writing and rehearsing original plays for elementary school audiences in the district.
The plays were produced by the Park thespians, who are known as the “Park Players”, for several hundred children at School One Elementary, Brunner Elementary and Evergreen Elementary Schools.
The project has now become a tradition in which students of all academic levels practice their cooperative skills along with creative writing and dramatics. Frequent video taping and memorization of lines is also included.
According to teachers, Gail Will
YOUNG THESPIANS… For three months this spring, 32 seventh graders from Park Middle School in Scotch Plains wrote and rehearsed original plays during, before and after school hours to perform for elementary school audiences in the district. Pictured above are the students from the theater group, known as the “Park Players.”
SCOTCH PLAINS – Sarah Mugavero, a student at Union Catholic High School (UCHS) in Scotch Plains, was recently recognized at the 1999 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards with the best Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
Sarah appeared in the UCHS annual spring musical, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, as Smitty. The show was also nominated for Outstanding Overall Production of A Musical. She was also featured in
Coffeebreak, which was performed on the awards night at Paper Mill Playhouse.
Sarah appeared in last year’s UCHS musical, Bye Bye Birdie
and with the Westfield Young Artists’ Cooperative Theatre (WYACT) productions of Merrily We Roll Along and A Christmas Carol, which was performed at the Cranford Dramatic Club. She was also featured in Carousel at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center last summer.
She has studied voice for five years and has been acting for two years with Cynthia Meryl, the director and founder of WYACT. She also takes dance lessons in all disciplines with the Westfield School of Dance.
JAZZ PERFORMANCES IN DOWNTOWN WESTFIELD TUESDAY, JULY 20
7 TO 9 PM
iams, Peggy Brown and Lauren Rogalin, they hope to involve even more seventh graders next year and to present the student plays in every district elementary school.
This year’s student actors included Lauren McVey, Jessie Montllor, Jaci Protopapas, Mariella Lemus, Charles Bachi, Meaghan Roberts, Jennifer Marionni, Vicki Shelus, Eileen Cole, Judy Brown, Aleza Zimmerman, Victoria Sale, Robert Kuchinski, Nick Bruno, Christina Rosa, Jeannie Jacob, Monique Franklin, Calvarina Okarter, Roseann Ghabour, Kendra EvansWilliams, Katie Bantz, Jamie Kaye, Ashley Brownstein, Nicole D’Auria, Jack Meade, Lauren Fox, Allison DiFiore, Nicky Barratucci, Chris Denker, Kerolos Bernaba, Josh Miller and Christina Benito.