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    Arlene Dahl, Movie Star Turned Entrepreneur, Is Dead at 96

    She had already started branching out when her film career was at its height, writing a syndicated column and launching a fashion and cosmetics business.Arlene Dahl, who parlayed success as a movie actress in the 1940s and ’50s into an even more successful career as an author, beauty expert, astrologist, and fashion and cosmetics entrepreneur, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 96.The death was confirmed by her husband, Marc Rosen.Strikingly beautiful, Ms. Dahl was a model before becoming an actress — “considered one of the world’s loveliest gals,” The Daily News of New York wrote in a profile in 1959, using the parlance of the day.With her fiery red hair, she was a natural for Technicolor; she notably played the seductive sister of another famous redhead, Rhonda Fleming, in the 1956 crime drama “Slightly Scarlet.” But though she demonstrated her range in everything from westerns, like “The Outriders” (1950), to the Red Skelton comedies “A Southern Yankee” (1948) and “Watch the Birdie” (1950), critics tended to focus on her looks more than her acting.“Arlene Dahl is displayed to wondrous advantage,” declared one review of the 1953 adventure “Diamond Queen.”The industry did the same.“Arlene Dahl was another classic case — like Jane Greer and Evelyn Keyes — of a smart, fiercely funny woman being pigeonholed by her beauty,” Eddie Muller, who organizes an annual film noir festival in San Francisco, said in an interview in 2009, when Ms. Dahl was the event’s guest of honor. “It was hard for her to break out of the ‘redheaded bombshell’ mold.“The great thing about Arlene,” he continued, “is that she didn’t let it bother her. She moved easily into other businesses and always seemed to be enjoying herself.”Ms. Dahl in the 1956 crime drama movie “Slightly Scarlet.” With her fiery red hair, she was a natural for Technicolor.RKO, via PhotofestMs. Dahl had already started branching out when her film career was at its height.In 1951, she began writing a beauty column, titled “Let’s Be Beautiful,” for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, which she would continue for 20 years. She had personally been recruited by Robert R. McCormick, the publisher of The Tribune, who, she said, “had an idea that if a girl like me would tell women how to be beautiful, they’d believe it.”She soon founded a cosmetics and lingerie company, Arlene Dahl Enterprises, and would later write a syndicated astrology column as well as numerous books on both astrology and beauty.These ventures kept her in the public eye long after she had left Hollywood and settled on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And though acting was no longer her focus after the early 1960s, she was seen into the 1990s on television shows like “The Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “Renegade.” She also appeared on Broadway in 1972, when she took over the lead role in “Applause,” the hit musical based on the 1950 movie “All About Eve.”Ms. Dahl wrote numerous books on astrology and beauty, including this one, which combined them.Arlene Carol Dahl was born on Aug. 11, 1925, in Minneapolis. Her father, Rudolph Dahl, was a car dealer. Her mother, Idelle (Swan) Dahl, died when Arlene was a teenager. With her father’s blessing, she then moved to Chicago, where she modeled for the Marshall Field’s department store, before relocating again, this time to New York City, where she continued to work as a model while pursuing acting.In 1945, she landed a small part in a short-lived Broadway musical, “Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston.” The next year, while appearing in Philadelphia in “Questionable Ladies,” a play that would close before making it to Broadway, she was spotted by the movie mogul Jack Warner, who invited her to Hollywood for a screen test. Ms. Dahl began her movie career with Warner Bros., but soon moved to MGM, the leading studio of the day, where she first attracted notice with supporting roles in movies like “The Bride Goes Wild” (1948) and “Scene of the Crime” (1949). She became a regular presence in the Hollywood gossip columns as well; after dating, among many other men, the young John F. Kennedy, she had two well-publicized marriages to fellow actors.She and Lex Barker, who played Tarzan in the late 1940s and early ’50s — and who, she told People magazine, was the “most handsome man I’d ever seen” — divorced in 1952 after a year and a half of marriage. Two years later, she married the Argentine actor Fernando Lamas.That marriage was tempestuous. The two had many public spats and several reconciliations meant to preserve the union — for the sake, Ms. Dahl said at the time, of their son, Lorenzo Lamas, who would go on to have a successful acting career of his own — but they ended in failure.Ms. Dahl with her son, the actor Lorenzo Lamas, and his wife, Shauna Sand, in 1997. Albert Ortega/Getty ImagesMs. Dahl and Mr. Lamas divorced in 1960. She would marry four more times. She married Mr. Rosen, a perfume bottle designer, in 1984. In addition to him, she is survived by Lorenzo Lamas; a daughter, Carole Delouvrier, from her third marriage, to Chris Holmes; another son, Stephen Schaum, from her fifth marriage, to Rounsville Schaum; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.Many of Ms. Dahl’s ideas about beauty seem quaint at best today, but they were the key to her initial success as a writer. “Women are fast losing femininity, their proudest possession,” she said in a 1963 interview, “and I think it is important to tell them what men think so they will not lose what is most desired.”She had comparable success later when she started writing about astrology.While she was passionate about the subject — one interviewer wrote that she wanted to know his sign before she would agree to sit down with him — Ms. Dahl stopped short of claiming that astrology could predict the future.“I liken astrology to a weatherman who forecasts the weather,” she said in a 2001 CNN interview. “If the weatherman says it’s going to rain tomorrow, you get up in the morning and you look out, and you see that it’s cloudy and it’s likely to rain, so you take an umbrella if you don’t want to get wet. Well, it’s the same thing with astrology.”Alex Traub contributed reporting. More

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    ‘Encanto’ Reaches No. 1, but Moviegoers Are Tough to Lure Back

    No simultaneous streaming: “Encanto” or “House of Gucci” could only be seen in theaters this weekend. Even still, some viewers stayed home.Hollywood has stopped running from the pandemic: For the first time since March 2020, movie theaters had a wide array of new films for exclusive screening over the holiday weekend. And studios did not hedge their bets by offering simultaneous streaming options. To see the gloriously reviewed “Encanto,” the campy crime drama “House of Gucci” or the latest installment in the “Resident Evil” science-fiction action franchise, you had to leave the sofa, just like in the old days.But some moviegoers are proving very difficult to lure back.“Encanto,” an original Disney animated musical about a gifted family in Colombia, took in $40.3 million at 3,980 theaters in North America between Wednesday and Sunday. That total, which was enough for No. 1, equated to about 3.7 million patrons, or about 35 percent of the available seats, according to Steve Buck, the chief strategy officer for EntTelligence, a research firm. Ticket buyers gave the film an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls.In wide release outside the United States, with the notable exceptions of China and Australia, “Encanto” collected an additional $29.3 million. “It may take some time for people to discover ‘Encanto’ through word of mouth and reviews,” Disney said in a results email on Sunday, referring to audiences overseas, where the weekend was not a holiday. News of the Omicron variant may have dented European turnout, box office analysts said.Disney had hoped that the family audience was finally ready to return to theaters on a vast scale for “Encanto.” DisneyDisney, which spent roughly $175 million to make “Encanto,” not including tens of millions in marketing costs, had hoped that the family audience was finally ready to return to theaters on a vast scale. Children as young as five became eligible for coronavirus vaccinations in the United States on Nov. 2. For the first time this year, Disney did not send reporters a prerelease advisory about poor market conditions.“This is a fair opening by pandemic standards, and a weak opening by Disney historical standards,” David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email on Sunday.“Encanto” features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose music helped Disney’s animated “Moana” sell $82.1 million in tickets during the five-day Thanksgiving period in 2016. In part because studios have routed animated films away from theaters and toward streaming services — Pixar’s “Luca” played exclusively on Disney+ in the United States over the summer — the genre accounts for one of the bigger pieces of the box office that has been lost during the pandemic. In 2019, animated wide releases collected $4.6 billion worldwide. Mr. Gross estimated that animation will finish this year with about $1.65 billion in ticket sales, a decline of about 64 percent.Lady Gaga in the crime thriller “House of Gucci.”Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United ArtistsDomestic ticket sales for “Encanto” nonetheless set a pandemic-era record for an animated film. That glory is somewhat hollow, given that every other major animated film since March 2020 has been released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services. (They have included “The Boss Baby: Family Business” from Universal and “Paw Patrol: The Movie” from Paramount.) “Encanto” is scheduled to arrive on Disney+ on Dec. 24.The ultimate performance of “Encanto,” both in theaters and on Disney+, is likely to inform Disney’s release plans for animated films well into the coming year. “Most of the franchises that we’ve had at the Walt Disney Company have been built through the theatrical exhibition channel of distribution,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, told analysts on an earnings-related conference call on Nov. 10. “At the same time, we’re watching very, very carefully different types of movies to see how the different components of the demographics of that market come back.”Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie?

    When “The Humans” and other new dramas use jump scares and other genre staples, it’s a fair question to ask.A few days before Halloween, the @NetflixFilm Twitter account put out a call: “What movie isn’t technically a horror movie but feels like a horror movie to you?” Included was a photo of a freaky-eyed Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”Twitter being Twitter, some of the responses were flip, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Cats.” But there were also heavy hitters like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Parasite.” Children’s films, including “Pinocchio” and “Bambi,” made the cut. It just goes to show, horror is what scares you, not me.Horror has always been an elastic and regenerative genre. It lifts from and melds with just about every type of cinema: comedy, sci-fi, action, romance, fantasy, documentary. Its flexibility extends as far back as the monstrous love story in “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and as current as the blood-drenched melodrama of “Malignant.”But how do you know if you’re watching a horror movie when there’s no killer or monster, exorcism or blood? It’s a decades-old question that’s being asked about new films that blur the line between a movie with horror and a horror movie.Among them are “The Humans,” Stephen Karam’s darkly comic family drama set during a Thanksgiving dinner; “The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal’s forthcoming eerie character study of a college professor at a Greek resort who becomes obsessed with a fellow vacationer and her daughter; and perhaps unexpectedly, “Spencer,” Pablo Larraín’s speculative, dream-logic psychodrama about Princess Diana.The film follows an unsettled Princess of Wales (Kristen Stewart) as she spends a Christmas holiday on the precipice of a madness that may not be real. In his review for The New York Times, A.O. Scott called it a Christmas movie, psychological thriller, romance and “a horror movie about a fragile woman held captive in a spooky mansion, tormented by sadistic monsters and their treacherous minions.”Read reviews and these films sound like Shudder originals. In the Times, the critic Jeannette Catsoulis used the words “monstrous,” “despairing,” “eerie,” “sinister” to describe “The Humans,” concluding that the family was stuck in a haunted house. IndieWire said the drama “blurs the line between Chekhov and Polanski — Broadway and Blumhouse,” and is “the first real horror movie about 9/11.” (Two of the family members were at ground zero that morning.) The Guardian said “The Lost Daughter” tells the story of a woman who “haunts the resort like a ghost while other ghosts are haunting her.”For some directors, positioning the word “horror” anywhere near a film they don’t consider a horror movie would be erroneous or provocation. Not Karam. He was riveted by horror movies as a child in Scranton, Pa.; his gateway drug was the Disney ghost story “The Watcher in the Woods” (1980), with Bette Davis as the owner of an English mansion who’s mourning her missing daughter.Now 42, Karam remains a devout horror fan, citing Kubrick and Polanski as inspirations for “The Humans,” which he directed and adapted for the screen from his 2016 Tony-winning play. Karam takes pride in the film’s horror elements because they help viewers visualize “how people are conquering or coping with their fears in a story that’s scary.”“It’s important for me to think of a film or a play or any story I’m telling as having a strong, confident personality,” Karam said in a video interview. “I don’t get bogged down by whether it’s a horror film or family drama because the definitions can upset people who take ownership of what a horror film is.”“The Humans” takes place in a seen-better-days duplex newly occupied by Brigid (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend, Richard (Steven Yeun). Visiting from Scranton are Brigid’s working-class parents, Erik and Deirdre (Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell); and Momo, Erik’s mother (June Squibb), who has dementia. Also joining is Brigid’s sister, Aimee (Amy Schumer), who lives in Philadelphia and is fresh off a breakup with her girlfriend.At the family table there’s turkey and good-natured ribbing, but also difficult conversations about work, love and depression. This is a family filled with love, but also resentment and heartache. Typical Thanksgiving drama stuff.But from the start, there’s an uneasy feeling, as if something terrible is on its way. Parts of the walls ooze and bubble with pustules like growths on a David Cronenberg mutant. There are eerie portraits of spooky people, like the art from a possessed castle in a Hammer Film. Jump scares, loud sounds, darkness, stillness: They’re all heart-pounding. Horror movie stuff.So what is a horror movie? It comes down to intent, said Wickham Clayton, a film scholar and the editor of “Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film.” Horror movies, he said, are about audiences “being uncomfortable, unsettled and disturbed.”Sometimes all it takes is a terrifying antagonist or mood, not an entire movie. Think of Robert Mitchum as a scoundrel preacher in the nightmare fairy tale “The Night of the Hunter” (1955); Faye Dunaway as a toxic Joan Crawford in the darkly camp “Mommie Dearest” (1981); or Robert De Niro as the time-bomb Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” (1976).Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    Wakefield Poole, Pioneer in Gay Pornography, Dies at 85

    He gave up a dance career to create a crossover, and now classic, hit film in 1971 that had both gay and straight audiences, and celebrities, lining up to see it.One New York night in the early 1970s, a dancer and budding filmmaker named Wakefield Poole went to see a gay porn flick called “Highway Hustler” at a run-down theater in Times Square with his friends. As he settled into a tattered seat, he prepared to spend the next 45 minutes or so enjoyably aroused.But as the film rolled, he experienced nothing of the kind. He thought that the movie was sleazy, that its sex scenes were unnecessarily degrading. He started laughing out loud, and one of his companions fell asleep.“I said to my friend, ‘This is the worst, ugliest movie I’ve ever seen!’” Mr. Poole, who died on Oct. 27 at 85, recalled in 2002. “Somebody ought to be able to do something better.”The Stonewall uprising in Greenwich Village had occurred two years earlier, and Mr. Poole, like countless gay men of his generation, was empowered in its aftermath. What he had witnessed onscreen that night didn’t resemble the sexual liberation he was experiencing as a proud gay man in New York.Thus, armed with a 16-millimeter Bolex camera, Mr. Poole decided to do something about it. He headed to Fire Island Pines, the secluded summer Eden for gay men just off Long Island, and there began filming experimental movies with his friends, capturing them making love on beaches and in shady groves.And he did so with an auteur’s touch, as if he were some horny version of D.A. Pennebaker, striving to portray artful realism in the male intimacy he was documenting.The adult film star Casey Donovan in a scene from “Boys in the Sand,” which was shot in the beach community of Fire Island Pines, off Long Island.Wakefield PooleMr. Poole soon made a feature-length, surrealistic movie called “Boys in the Sand” (the title a spoof on “The Boys in the Band,” the groundbreaking 1968 play and 1970 film adaptation about gay men in New York), and its release in 1971 proved revelatory. He was hailed as a pioneer of gay porn, and the film became a crossover hit that changed attitudes about pornography among both the gay and straight audiences that lined up to see it.The movie, with the adult film star Casey Donovan, was composed of three steamy vignettes: First, Mr. Donovan materializes from the ocean Venus-like to ravage a young man lying on the sand; then, at a beach house, he tosses a dissolving magic pill into a swimming pool, causing a hunk to emerge from the water; lastly, he pleasures himself while admiring a telephone line repairman working outside his window.When “Boys in the Sand” opened at the now gone 55th Street Playhouse in Manhattan, it became the talk of the town. The sex it portrayed between Adonic men frolicking in the Pines came across to viewers as blissful and guilt-free. Soon, celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Rudolf Nureyev and Halston were also lining up to see it.“I wanted a film,” Mr. Poole said at the time, “that gay people could look at and say, ‘I don’t mind being gay — it’s beautiful to see those people do what they’re doing.’”In a memoir, “Dirty Poole,” published in 2000, he related how, during the film’s release, its producer sneakily bought an ad for the film in The New York Times, leading Mr. Poole to speculate that the paper’s advertising department may not have looked at it too closely. Variety reviewed the movie, a rare instance of critical coverage of hard-core gay pornography by a mainstream publication (though it took a dim view of the movie). Even the film’s marquee billing challenged precedent: It displayed Mr. Poole’s real name.Mr. Poole in the early 1970s. He said of “Boys in the Sand,” “I wanted a film that gay people could look at and say, ‘I don’t mind being gay — it’s beautiful to see those people do what they’re doing.’”via Jim TushiskiWhile “Boys in the Sand” marked Mr. Poole’s official debut as a filmmaker (he had made some experimental short films earlier), his first passion was dance: He had led an impressive career performing in the New York-based company Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and helping with the choreography of Broadway shows involving the likes of Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim and Noël Coward.“There weren’t a lot of people who were out,” Mr. Poole told South Florida Gay News in 2014. “Just seeing my name above the title on a theater made its impact. Hundreds of people saw ‘Boys in the Sand’ and came out after seeing the film.”The year after “Boys” appeared, the landmark film “Deep Throat” was released, commencing a golden age of American pornography. “Wakefield was determined to elevate the gay porn genre,” Michael Musto, the longtime Village Voice writer, said in a phone interview. “This was a time when you had to leave your home to see pornography. It was a communal experience by necessity, and you had to be seen in your seat. He removed the shame of it.”Mr. Poole’s next hit, “Bijou,” followed a construction worker who stumbles on an invitation to a private club, where he joins a psychedelic bathhouse-style orgy. Then came “Wakefield Poole’s Bible!,” a creatively ambitious soft-porn movie that reimagined tales from the Old Testament, but it flopped.Frustrated with its failure, Mr. Poole started afresh in San Francisco, which had become an epicenter of the gay rights movement, although his troubles only worsened there: He broke up with his longtime partner, and he became addicted to freebasing cocaine.He soon directed a documentary-like film, “Take One,” in which he interviewed men about their carnal fantasies and had them act them out on camera, in one notorious moment engaging two brothers.Mr. Poole eventually moved back to New York, holing himself up in a cold-water flat in Chelsea to break his cocaine addiction. Trying for a comeback, he released “Boys in the Sand II” in 1984, but it didn’t make a splash.The AIDS crisis had begun, and the carefree gay paradise depicted in his original movie suddenly felt a world away.“The reason I stopped making films was the AIDS situation,” Mr. Poole told an interviewer. “I lost my fan base to AIDS. I saw them all die. It’s a miracle I’m not dead. Cocaine saved my life. I did so much coke, I couldn’t have sex.”Mr. Poole in an undated photo. “The reason I stopped making films was the AIDS situation,” he said. “I lost my fan base to AIDS. I saw them all die.”via Jim TushinskiWalter Wakefield Poole III was born on Feb. 24, 1936, in Salisbury, N.C. His father was a police officer and later a car salesman. His mother, Hazel (Melton) Poole, was a homemaker.Growing up, Walter fell in love with a boyhood friend, and they would crawl through each other’s window to be together. But their romance ended when Walter’s family moved to Florida, settling in Jacksonville. Years later, he said, after his friend had married a woman and started a family, they rekindled their passion one night.Walter caught the dance bug in Jacksonville and started studying ballet seriously. When he was 18, he headed to New York to pursue dance further and joined the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo when he was 21.He turned to moviemaking in the 1960s, captivated by the experimental films of Andy Warhol.As he pulled away from pornography in the mid-1980s, Mr. Poole needed to find a new way to make a paycheck in New York, so he studied at the French Culinary Institute and later landed a job in food services for Calvin Klein.He retired in his 60s and moved back to Jacksonville, where he died in a nursing home, a niece, Terry Waters, said. He left no immediate survivors.As Mr. Poole grew older, enthusiasts of gay history and vintage pornography collectors began revisiting his work. A documentary, “I Always Said Yes: The Many Lives of Wakefield Poole,” directed by Jim Tushinski, came out in 2016. New York art house theaters like Metrograph and Quad Cinema screened “Boys in the Sand.”In 2010, Mr. Poole, then 74, was invited to the Pines for a screening of his classic, although some gay residents there weren’t thrilled about it.A local film festival, responding to their complaints about the X-rated content, had declined to show the movie, so an opposing faction of residents organized their own event. Their group included a man who lived in a summer house that had been used in the film.That night, Mr. Poole was introduced to a packed auditorium as an unsung hero who had helped transform the Pines into an international destination. (“Boys in the Sand” was seen widely overseas.) He took the stage to applause.“What has happened here with the controversy is why I made this film,” he told the crowd. “It’s the ultimate of what I wanted this film to do, and that’s to not only make controversy, but to overcome controversy.”He added: “When I first came to Fire Island, I felt free for the first time in my life. I didn’t feel like a minority and I wanted everybody to suddenly feel that. So I said, ‘I can make a movie that no one will be ashamed to watch.’” More

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    Stream These 7 Productions That Celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s Work

    Here’s a guide to films, documentaries and other productions that provide insight into the composer-lyricist’s sly wit and melodic acumen.Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist who died on Friday at age 91, had an unparalleled influence on contemporary theater. Revivals of two of his shows are currently onstage in New York — the gender-swapped version of “Company” on Broadway and the starry production of “Assassins” Off Broadway at the Classic Stage Company — and Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of “West Side Story” will be released on Dec. 10.But there are a few dozen ways to encounter Sondheim’s sly wit, melodic acumen and astonishing moral complexity from the comfort of your sofa. Not that he ever lets you get too comfortable. Unlike many of his peers, Sondheim has been served fairly well by film and video. Here are some of the best ways to watch the work of the man who gave us more to see.‘Original Cast Album: Company’Sondheim’s penetrating study of modern love and even more modern ambivalence is a classic. For a rich encounter with the material, try D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 documentary, which details the contentious attempts to record the original cast album at the Church, a Columbia Records studio in Midtown Manhattan. A pleasure throughout and a useful insight into a communal creative process, the movie turns electric when the camera captures Elaine Stritch trying and failing to lay down the devastating track “The Ladies Who Lunch.”Stream it on the Criterion Channel.‘Gypsy’Though dinged at the time for casting Rosalind Russell as the stage monster Mama Rose — rather than Ethel Merman, who had created the role — Mervyn LeRoy’s 1962 movie offers a backstage pass to bygone forms of American entertainment: vaudeville and burlesque. Moving nimbly among moods and styles, Sondheim’s lyrics range from utterly innocent (“Little Lamb”) to tastily racy (“You Gotta Get a Gimmick”), with at least one number, “Rose’s Turn,” that suggests the radical revision of the musical that he would later attempt.Stream it on HBO Max; rent it on Vudu, YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.‘Into the Woods’Bernadette Peters rehearsing with Sondheim in 1987 during the original cast recording of the Broadway musical “Into the Woods.”Oliver Morris/Getty ImagesEnjoy, if you must, Rob Marshall’s overblown 2014 adaptation of this fairy tale concatenation. But the 1987 version, recorded for PBS’s “American Playhouse” and available on Apple TV, is a superb example of pre-“Hamilton” performance capture, preserving the indelible performances of Bernadette Peters, Joanna Gleeson and Chip Zien. Children will listen, so watch it with yours. The first act, anyway. Or for a more modern take, try the 2010 version, recorded live in London’s Regent’s Park and streamable on Broadway HD, with Hannah Waddingham, of “Ted Lasso,” as the witch.Rent the 1987 version from Apple TV and Amazon Prime.Stream the 2010 version from Broadway HD.‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’A work of impeccable silliness and absolute froth, the 1966 film version of this meringue-like musical, stitched together from a handful of Plautus comedies, stars Zero Mostel as a scheming servant and Jack Gilford as a gentler one, with the future Phantom Michael Crawford as the love-struck master. It’s available on several platforms. The songs are flimsy when compared with Sondheim’s later work, but they delight — from the assertiveness of “Comedy Tonight” to the cheekiness of “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” and the breezy whimsy of “Lovely.”Stream it on Pluto TV and Tubi; rent it on YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu.‘Sunday in the Park With George’An incomparable study of the profit and cost of artistic creation, this 1984 musical, loosely based on the life of Georges Seurat, was captured in 1986 with Mandy Patinkin as the pointillist painter and Peters as his muse, Dot. The filmic shades are muddied — a shame for an artist so obsessed with color and light. But Sondheim’s rigor and originality sound clear in songs like “Finishing the Hat,” “Children and Art” and “Move On.”Stream it on Apple TV.‘Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration’Audra McDonald, Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski celebrating Sondheim’s 90th birthday in April 2020.Broadway.comIf your preferred form of tribute involves a generous pour, a good cry and an invitation to sing along, lift your voice to this online offering, assembled last year and available in full on YouTube. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, its quality is uneven, a consequence of first-wave Zoom theater. But it still moves deftly across and through his six-decade career and offers performances by unmatched interpreters, including Patinkin (“Lesson #8” from “Sunday in the Park With George”), Donna Murphy (“Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music”), Patti LuPone (“Anyone Can Whistle”), Bernadette Peters (“No One Is Alone” from “Into the Woods”) and the peerless triad of Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski and Meryl Streep (“The Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company”). Everybody rise? Why not?Stream it on YouTube. More

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    Stephen Sondheim Reflected on 'Company' and 'West Side Story' in Final Interview

    In an interview on Sunday, the revered composer and lyricist, 91, contentedly discussed his shows running on Broadway and off, as well as a new movie about to be released.ROXBURY, Conn. — Stephen Sondheim stood by the gleaming piano in his study, surrounded by posters of international productions of his many famous musicals, and smiled as he inquired whether a visitor might be interested in hearing songs from a show he had been working on for years, but hadn’t finished yet.“And now would you like to hear the score?” he asked. Of course, the answer was yes. “You got some time?” he asked, before laughing, loudly, with a sense of mischief: “It’s from a show called ‘Fat Chance’!”That was Sunday afternoon, five days ago, when Mr. Sondheim, 91, had welcomed me to his longtime country house for a 90-minute interview with him and the theater director Marianne Elliott about a revival of “Company” that is now in previews on Broadway. It would turn out to be his final major interview.There was little indication that Mr. Sondheim, one of the greatest songwriters in the history of musical theater, was unwell. He was engaged and lucid, with strong opinions and playfully pugnacious, as with the tease about his long-gestating, unfinished final musical. At one moment he complained that his memory wasn’t as strong as it had been, but he was also telling anecdotes from a half-century earlier with ease.He was having a little trouble getting around — using a cane, seeking assistance to get in and out of chairs, and in obvious pain when walking — which he attributed to an injury. Asked about the state of his health, he answered by knocking on a wood table and saying, “Outside of my sprained ankle, OK.”Mr. Sondheim was applauded earlier this month at the first preview of a Broadway revival of his musical “Company,” at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater.Jeenah Moon for The New York TimesHe was busy right until the end. On Nov. 14 he attended the opening of an Off Broadway revival of his musical “Assassins,” directed by John Doyle at Classic Stage Company. The next night he went to the first post-shutdown preview for the Broadway revival of “Company” — a reimagined production, opening Dec. 9, in which the protagonist, who has traditionally been played by a man, is now played by a woman. And just this week, two days before he died, he did a doubleheader, seeing a Wednesday matinee of “Is This a Room” and an evening performance of “Dana H.,” two short documentary plays on Broadway.“I can’t wait,” he said as he anticipated seeing those shows. “I can smell both of those and how much I’m going to love them.”He was not inclined to make any grand pronouncements on the state of Broadway. “I don’t take overviews — I never have taken overviews,” he said. “Whither Broadway? I don’t answer the question. Who knows. I don’t really care. That’s the future. Whatever happens will happen.”One thing he was hoping would happen: one more musical. For years he had been collaborating with the playwright David Ives and the director Joe Mantello on a new musical, most recently titled “Square One,” adapted from two movies directed by Luis Buñuel.“The first act is based on ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie,’ and the second act is based on ‘The Exterminating Angel,’ ” he explained during the interview. “I don’t know if I should give the so-called plot away, but the first act is a group of people trying to find a place to have dinner, and they run into all kinds of strange and surreal things, and in the second act, they find a place to have dinner, but they can’t get out.”Asked if he had any sense when it might be finished, Mr. Sondheim said, “No.”Why did he hope to keep working when he could just bask in appreciation?“What else am I going to do?” he asked. “I’m too old now to do a lot of traveling, I’m sorry to say. What else would I do with my time but write?”And did he write daily in his final weeks? “No, I’m a procrastinator,” he said. “I need a collaborator who pushes me, who gets impatient.”When it was pointed out that he had been a procrastinator throughout his career, and that it had seemed to work for him, he said, “Yes, I have. Yeah, I think forever. Not when I was a hungry teenager — when I wanted so much to have a show done, I don’t think I was a procrastinator then. But once I had a show done, I think part of me got lazy.”But with his shows running on Broadway and off, and a major film adaptation of “West Side Story” about to be released, Mr. Sondheim was clearly feeling good about the current reception of his work.In the new production of “Company,” the protagonist, who has traditionally been played by a man, is played by a woman, Katrina Lenk, center. Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesHe confirmed his longstanding lack of interest in movie musicals, saying, “Growing up, I was a huge fan of movies, and the only genre that I wasn’t a fan of was musicals — I loved the songs, but not the musicals.”But he was obviously delighted about the Steven Spielberg-directed film adaptation of “West Side Story,” a musical for which Mr. Sondheim wrote the lyrics, that is scheduled to be released next month. “I think it’s just great,” he said. He added, “The great thing about it is people who think they know the musical are going to have surprises.”He was looking forward to even more in the months to come: a new production of “Into the Woods,” for which Mr. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics, is scheduled to be staged by the Encores! program at New York City Center next May. Also, Mr. Sondheim revealed, New York Theater Workshop is hoping to stage an Off Broadway revival of “Merrily We Roll Along,” for which he wrote the music and lyrics, directed by Maria Friedman, who has previously directed well received productions in London and Boston.Asked which of his shows he’d most like to see revived next, he appeared stumped. “What would I like to see again that I haven’t seen in a while? I’d have to think about it, because an awful lot of the shows I’ve been a writer of have been done in the last few years.” He added, “I’ve been lucky. I’ve had good revivals of the shows that I like.” More

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    Five Child Stars of 'King Richard,' 'Belfast' and More

    Five children winning acclaim for their roles in “Belfast,” “King Richard,” “C’mon C’mon” and “The Tender Bar” talk us through their starring turns.Jude Hill, clad in a white button-up shirt with a cheeky grin, is just as charming in real life as he is in “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s new autobiographical film about an Irish boy growing up amid the Troubles in the title city in the 1960s.“I had the time of my life doing this film,” the 11-year-old actor from Northern Ireland, who stars as Buddy, the young Branagh stand-in, said in a recent video call from Los Angeles.He’s one of several youngsters winning praise for their starring turns in prestige dramas this season. They include Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, who play Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard” opposite Will Smith as their father; Woody Norman, who tag-teams with Joaquin Phoenix in “C’mon C’mon”; and Daniel Ranieri as a boy learning about life from a bar-owning uncle (Ben Affleck) in the George Clooney-directed drama “The Tender Bar” (due Dec. 17).In phone and video calls this month — Hill, Norman, Sidney and Singleton from Los Angeles, and Ranieri from Brooklyn — the five actors shared what it was like working with stars of the screen and court, behind-the-scenes stories and how they reacted to seeing their faces on posters for the first time. These are edited excerpts from the conversations.Jude HillThe 11-year-old plays 9-year-old Buddy in “Belfast.”Jude Hill in a sunny moment in “Belfast.”Rob Youngson/Focus FeaturesOne morning I woke up for a normal school day, and my mum showed me an email. I only read about two words of it before I started running around the house screaming that I got the role, and I was going to get to work with all these amazing people — Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds, Judi Dench.Me and Buddy aren’t that different — we both love football [soccer] and films and have the same personality. Every second the cameras weren’t rolling, I was playing football with the other actors.Judi Dench is very, very funny, and sometimes very inappropriate. To have her play my grandma is insane. We bet two pounds to see who could guess the number of times it would take to film a scene, and I ended up winning. I’m keeping that money in my memory box forever.I’m definitely not a ladies’ man. All the scenes with that girl [whom Buddy has a crush on] were very, very awkward!The first time I saw my face on a poster I thought, “That’s not real.” I’m still just a normal kid, and this is my first film, but I think if you work hard, then you can achieve anything.I learned so many things, but the biggest was to have fun with acting. My little sister, Georgia, who’s 9, has also started acting. Maybe she’ll become an actor, too.I cried the first time I watched the film. And I still get really emotional every time I see it.I’d love to play one of the Avengers in a Marvel film. It’s between Thor and Iron Man. That’s No. 1 on my bucket list.Demi SingletonThe 14-year-old plays a young Serena Williams in her formative years in “King Richard.”Demi Singleton as Serena Williams, left, and Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams in “King Richard.”Warner Bros. I came to L.A. from New York City, and once I got here, Saniyya came over, we hung out and we’ve been friends ever since. We recently went to Halloween Horror Nights together, and while we were filming, we’d go to The Grove [an outdoor mall] every other weekend.Venus and Serena surprised us with a visit to the set. We spoke about everything except tennis. It was great to see their sisterly bond firsthand and really helped me and Saniyya as actresses.The tennis training was intense. I was expecting it to be so easy because I’ve been dancing for my entire life and thought it’d be much more similar to choreography. The hardest thing to master was the serve. You can be great at every other shot, but if you don’t know how to serve, you’re unlikely to win.Mr. Will was hard to take seriously in those short shorts! We would make fun of him, but we also really admire him — he’s so kind, so humble and was always teaching us something. One thing he told Saniyya and me was to be very selective about the roles we choose because they can define who you are for the rest of your career.Aunjanue [Ellis, who plays Venus and Serena’s mother] taught me how to speak up for myself and my character. There were one or two scenes where I read it and didn’t feel like Serena would react that way, and you feel like you’re so young and aren’t supposed to say much, but she showed me it was OK to talk to the director and come up with different ways to do things.Any role that highlights how powerful women can be is a role I want to be in. I also really want to do an action movie like “Wonder Woman” or “Black Widow,” because that’s been my dream ever since I was a little girl.Saniyya SidneyThe 15-year-old plays Venus Williams as she’s first winning tournaments in “King Richard.”When Venus and Serena came to set, what I took away was how close the family was. They told us, “Yeah, we all shared rooms and did talent shows together; we were so close that there was never a day we weren’t together.”When you create a character from someone else’s imagination, you have the freedom to create emotions and traits, but with a real-life person, you want to make sure you’re portraying them the best you can. I spent lots of time studying videos of Venus and Serena when they were younger.The tennis training was quite intense. The way Venus and Serena play is so unique, and I worked on Venus’s serve every day. My coach, Mr. Eric [Taino], and I were both so proud the day I got the serve down. I’m left-handed, but I had to learn to play right-handed for the movie.Mr. Will is the funniest person ever. It was amazing to watch him create Richard. He inspired me to push myself because he would come to work each day better than yesterday.My family is like, “Oh my goodness, we know you as Saniyya, and now we’re going around town and seeing you on a billboard — that’s kind of crazy, girl!” They’re so proud.I hope families all go see this movie and feel like they’re represented. I also want young girls who may be seeing themselves onscreen to know that it’s important to stay humble and keep your head up. Make sure to take care of yourself.I’d love to do an action film. A Marvel movie star that plays tennis would be hilariously cool.Daniel RanieriThe 10-year-old plays the writer J.R. Moehringer as a boy in “The Tender Bar.”Daniel Ranieri in a scene from “The Tender Bar.”Claire Folger/Amazon StudiosMy mom filmed me cursing about the lockdown, and a couple of months later it went viral. Jimmy Kimmel wanted me on his show, and right after we got done with the interview, George Clooney’s casting director contacted my mom and said George wanted me to be in his next movie. I was like, “Wait, what?!”Ben was so nice to me — me and him have a connection now. The last day of filming, he got me like 10 PlayStation games, with a headset. I keep asking him, “When are you coming to New York?”Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    In 'Flee,' Jonas Poher Rasmussen Animates His Friend's Story

    COPENHAGEN — Midway through Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s latest documentary, a decrepit boat crowded with Afghans fleeing violence crosses paths with a gleaming Norwegian cruise ship somewhere in the Baltic Sea.The passage for the migrants so far has been harrowing, and most of them greet the ocean liner with joyous relief, convinced their salvation has arrived. But the film’s protagonist, Amin, takes in the well-groomed passengers on the ship’s deck, snapping photographs of the refugees below and only feels “embarrassed and ashamed at our situation.”“Flee” tells, in animated form, the true story of how Amin, Rasmussen’s close friend since high school, fled Kabul as a child in the ’80s with his family, before heading to the Soviet Union and trying to reach asylum in Scandinavia. For the subsequent 20 years, Amin kept the specifics of this perilous five-year journey a secret, and in this emotionally nuanced documentary, we discover the story’s twists and turns much as Rasmussen did.When Amin told him about the cruise ship incident, the director was initially surprised by the weight and impact of his friend’s shame. “And then, I had to say, ‘but, you know, I’m the cruise ship now,’” Rasmussen said in an interview at his home in Copenhagen. “I’m the one standing up there looking at your story.’”Rasmussen, whose other documentaries include 2012’s “Searching for Bill,” is acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with telling another person’s story. Amin is not his protagonist’s real name; at his friend’s request, “Flee” keeps Amin’s true identity hidden, even as the film tells a deeply intimate story in arresting detail.Over the last year, the documentary has garnered a slew of awards, including at Sundance Film Festival, and now looks like it might be an Oscar contender. Opening in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 3, the film has had so much positive attention in its native Denmark — a European country that has taken a comparatively hard line on refugees in recent years — that there are hopes that it may change the debate on migration.Rasmussen, now 40, has known he wanted to tell the story of Amin’s flight from Afghanistan for nearly two decades, even though he only vaguely knew what his friend went through. The two met when they were both 15, and Rasmussen noticed Amin on the train to school. As he recounts in the film, Rasmussen was drawn to the Afghan’s stylish clothing (“In rural Denmark,” he said, “people did not commit to fashion,”) and from there the two struck up a friendship..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}One of Rasmussen’s grandmothers was the daughter of Russian-Jewish refugees and had to flee Nazi Germany, which may also explain why the two 15-year-olds recognized something in each other.When they were both in their 20s, Rasmussen asked Amin if he could make an audio documentary about his story, but the latter said he wasn’t ready. By 2014, he was. Even then, their arrangement was tentative, and they explored whether Amin felt safe recounting his history for the first time and, if so, whether Rasmussen could find an effective way of telling it. To start, he drew upon a technique he had learned in radio, asking Amin, with his eyes closed, to recount a story in the present tense.“You’re asking them to paint an image for you,” he said. “What does the house look like? What are the colors on the wall? That gives you a lot of information that we could use in the animation, but it also brings him back, so he kind of relives things instead of just retelling them. It’s really about making the past come back to life.”Amin is not the protagonist’s real name; at his friend’s request, Rasmussen keeps Amin’s true identity hidden in “Flee.”Final Cut for RealThis became the structure for the film’s interviews, which took place over four years, at the same time as the refugee crisis erupted in Europe. With a center-right government newly in power, Denmark took a much harder line than other Northern European countries, drastically limiting the number of asylum seekers it accepted and the benefits they received, as well as passing legislation that required them to hand over valuables. Although the crisis heightened the project’s relevancy, it also pushed Rasmussen to make the film feel even more personal.“In the beginning, of course I wanted to tell my friend’s story, but there was a political aspect to it,” Rasmussen said of his determination to remind his fellow Danes of the human beings behind the label of “refugee.” “That became less so because the debate here was so harsh and so polarized,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a part of that.”That polarization continues in Denmark, with school lunches as well as laws around the processing of asylum seekers becoming cultural flash points. The stridency of the debate makes “Flee,” with its intimate tone and complex lead character, stand out all the more.“A lot of Danish documentary filmmakers have made films on refugee topics,” said Kim Skotte, the film editor for the Danish newspaper Politiken. “Those show the suffering of thousands of people, but after a point you kind of block it out. This is a much easier film to watch in some ways because you’re drawn into one person’s story.”Animating the documentary, with actors voicing the dialogue Amin remembered, helped emphasize this focus on one individual’s story, while the anonymity made it easier for Amin to recount his past. “This is life trauma, and it’s not easy for him to talk about,” Rasmussen said, who hadn’t worked with animation before “Flee.” The fact that Amin isn’t now a public figure, “that he wouldn’t meet people who would know his intimate secrets and traumas, was key for him to feel safe.”Rasmussen was also drawn to the creative possibilities that animation offers. While he conducted the interviews, the director noticed changes in Amin’s voice. “When he came to things it was difficult for him to talk about, you could feel that he was in another place. I thought we should see that visually,” he said.Understand the Taliban Takeover in AfghanistanCard 1 of 6Who are the Taliban? More