Oscars, Suburbarazzi-style: Local nominees and recent winners

oscar2.jpgThis Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST, Ted Mann and I will join TV reporter Karen DePodwin for a live RNN segment about Sunday’s Academy Awards. I’ll be wearing my tux for only the third time since my senior year in college, so the comedic value of that alone might be worth the tune-in. Here’s a preview of one of the topics slated for discussion.

Stars with a connection to the Lower Hudson Valley have done very well for themselves at the Oscars over the years, and 2008 is no exception.

Eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken, a New Rochelle native and North Salem resident, has been nominated three times for his songs from the Disney movie “Enchanted.” He took home his first two trophies for Best Song and Best Score for “The Little Mermaid,â€? and his most recent ones were in the same categories for songs from “Pocahontas.â€? In total, he’s been nominated for a whopping 18 Oscars, but hasn’t won one since 1996.

First-time nominee and sentimental favorite Ruby Dee, a New Rochelle resident, is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her part in “American Gangster,” starring Mount Vernon native Denzel Washington and former Nyack dweller Russell Crowe — both of whom are Oscar-winners themselves.

LoHud also has at least two representatives in the Best Documentary/Short Subject category, including Ossining High School alumnus Francisco Bello (for “Salim Baba”) and former Croton-on-Hudson resident Cynthia Wade (for “Freeheld”).

After the break, check out a list of some other prominent current and former residents of the Lower Hudson Valley who have won or have been nominated for an Oscar in the last 30 years. Continue reading

Bill Irwin joins LoHud-tastic ‘Dancing with Shiva’ cast

tjndc5-5b4h37x89yw1i9anunb6_layout.jpgWith Nyack resident and Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme as well as former Irvington resident Debra Winger both attached to the upcoming comedy “Dancing with Shiva,” I didn’t thing the film could pack any more of Lower Hudson Vally punch. I was wrong.

Now word is out that another Nyacker, actor Bill Irwin (right) — aka Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street — has also signed on to star. And, slightly off the LoHud grid (but still on our radar), according to Cinematical, the movie is supposed to start filming next month in Connecticut. It’s being billed as a romantic comedy, but it’s clearly also got a downright wacky mix of talent — the director of “Silence of the Lambs,” a recluse actress who hasn’t been in a mainstream movie since God knows when, the star of “The Devil Wears Prada” (Anne Hathaway), and Elmo’s comic foil.

But the real question isn’t, how did all these random people come to work on the same project? No, it’s how on earth did CT become the filming mecca of the tri-state region? Seriously, I’ve counted no fewer than 10 movies set to start filming there in the next few months. What’s a NY suburb got to do to get some of that Hollywood lovin’?

(AP Photo/Carol Rosegg)

Jonathan Demme and Debra Winger team up for ‘Dancing with Sheba’


It doesn’t look likely that Trump-O’Donnell “Apprentice” dream team will come together, but fortunately there’s another trans-Hudson partnership forming: Nyack director Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia,” that PBS documentary about Katrina that I totally meant to watch in full) has cast Irvington’s Debra Winger in his new film, “Dancing with Sheba.”

I’m not sure which is more happy making — Demme’s return to the land of fictional movie-making or Winger’s return from the land of the dead. Her IMDB page says she’s starred in a few films in recent years (“Radio,” “Eulogy” anyone?), but I’m pretty sure the first movie on that filmography that anyone has even the faintest memory of is 1995’s “Forget Paris,” which, ironically, I can’t see to forget. The new Demme film will be about an ex-model getting out of rehab to attend her sister’s wedding. Anne Hathaway is the druggie model, Winger has a supporting role as her mother. The weirdest part of all, according to Cinematical: It’s all supposed to be a dark comedy.

Debra Winger drops out of “Pod Project,” leaving antisocial ski lift theater world stunned


Sadness. After much hype, Irvington resident and reclusive actress Debra Winger has decided to drop out of “The Pod Project,” the experimental theater experience where audience members get a one-on-one performance with actors in small opaque plastic pods.

The prospect of being sequestered into an 8×8-foot pod with “The Officer” (as I and Richard Gere affectionately refer to her) was bizarrely appealing. But then the NY Times goes and reports that Winger opted out. Total bummer. But now, having read the Times’ description of how the Pods actually work, I’m still kinda enticed. With or without Winger, I’d still like to head into the city to partake in this total wackiness, which runs through Sunday.


Each pod contains a unique world. Some are realistic, like the kitchen in which an elderly Jewish man welcomes his guest to Sabbath dinner. Others, like the snow globe featuring a waitress who plays Wagner on the rims of wine glasses while wearing antlers and speaking German, are less so. Ms. Bannon — whose husband, the Tony-winning lighting designer Brian MacDevitt, is her primary collaborator on the project — said some pods would not make sense until patrons interact with performers.

“Because it’s a performance and there’s this charged atmosphere, everybody’s paying attention and finding meaning,� Ms. Bannon said. Referring to workshop performances, she continued, “People come out and tell me, ‘I saw she was blinking, and I think that she meant that for me.’ �

At a recent rehearsal I sat next to a man wearing a ski suit who completely ignored me during what was supposed to be a ride up a mountain on a ski lift. I became acutely aware of his movements so that every scratch of his face or rustle of his pants seemed to convey some hidden meaning.</div></blockquote>

“The Pod Project” [NY Times]

That’s Art! What would you say to Debra Winger if you were on an elevator alone with her?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? I do at least four or five times a day, which is why I can’t wait for the Irvington actress’s new theater piece to open January 31st at 20 Green Gallery in Manhattan. Called “The Pod Project,� the production is inspired by “elevator rides�—seriously—and will allow audience members to take part in private conversations with Winger and the other actors while they are alone in pod-like structures representing elevators.

Unless we’re being punk’d, the production is set to last two weeks.


You’ve got to love Urban Cowboy!

New Year’s Resolution Roundup

Alan Ruck (Piermont): I will not star in “Drive,” that dopey sounding Fox series about underground car racing, after all. [Reuters]

Debra Winger (Irvington): I will prove to fans that I’m not dead — just a little loopy — by returning the theater for an experimental, interactive show that uses cylindrical pods and elevator rides. Yes, I’ll totally blow their minds! [Playbill]

Bob Woodruff (Rye): I will play “tennis with that little ball that won’t do too much damage if it hits you in the head.” [Broadcasting and Cable]

Rosie O’Donnell (South Nyack): I will become the next Bob Barker. [Defamer]

Aaron Sorkin (Scarsdale): I will stop portraying my girlfriend, Kristin Chenoweth, as an intolerant homophobe on “Studio 60” — if only to stop her from whining about it to newspapers. [Newsday]

Rob Thomas (Bedford): I will reunite with Matchbox Twenty … only to turn around and break up with them a week later because, hey, it’s just so crazy fun to toy with their fragile emotions. [Contact Music]

Stephen Baldwin (Upper Grandview): I will sue the pants off anyone who tries to take a picture of me with my three heathen brothers. [The Showbuzz]