In the basement of a five-star hotel in London, just before Christmas, Rebecca Hall — one of the stars of the latest Woody Allen film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona — is holding court before an audience of the British film industry’s biggest cheeses. The people in the room are captivated by the 26-year-old, who is seen as one of the brightest lights coming through in cinema, until an excited whisper comes from the back of the room: “Penelope’s coming, Penelope’s coming.” From that moment, Hall might as well only be on stage to fill the water jugs. She is ignored as flashbulbs go off and necks strain towards the door. Penelope Cruz has entered the building.
There is something about Cruz that makes people forget their manners. When I ask ordinarily sensible friends what I should ask the 34-year-old Spaniard when I meet her, a month later, to talk about her Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, they all fail to offer a question, and instead swoon over her extraordinary beauty.
And she is stunning; in the flesh she almost looks like a character from a Japanese manga cartoon, with her disproportionately big brown eyes peering out from her tiny little face. Even wearing ripped jeans, a sober black shirt and jacket, and wearing thick makeup that fails to disguise a few reassuring spots, there is something terribly sexy about her — particularly the thicket of dark, messy hair that looks as though it has been roughed up on a pillow all afternoon. Then you have the accent. It’s still audible — she struggles sometimes with the “d” in “Woody,” so that it sounds like “woolly” — but it has certainly mellowed since the days when she first went to Hollywood and had to learn her lines for The Hi-Lo Country phonetically, never really understanding a word she was saying.
Cruz’s sensuality was what got her noticed, aged 17, in the very raunchy Spanish film Jamon, Jamon, in which she rolled around alongside Javier Bardem (now her real-life boyfriend), and it plays a crucial role in her latest film, too. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Cruz plays the manic and murderous ex-wife of Juan Antonio Gonzalo, played by Bardem; she returns to the marital home to taunt his new lovers, American tourists played by Hall and Scarlett Johansson.
For the film to work, you have to believe that a man really would risk messing things up with the pouting, gorgeous Johansson by sleeping with his unhinged ex, an artist who had tried to kill him on numerous occasions. But when you see Cruz as Maria Elena, wearing the skimpiest of playsuits (of all things), and painting like a woman possessed, suddenly Allen’s implausible plot doesn’t seem so ludicrous after all.
Cruz doesn’t enter the film until halfway through and can’t have more than about 15 minutes of screen time. But her tremendous performance — plus the much-talked-about kiss with Johansson (currently being perved over by thousands of horny teenagers on YouTube) — steals the show. Without her, the film would just be another one of the sad ageing-male fantasies in which Allen increasingly specializes.
Not that Cruz will hear a word said against the 73-year-old director. Doesn’t it make her feel uncomfortable, I ask, how he latches on to stunning young actresses such as herself and Johansson, and makes lascivious remarks about them as he drapes himself around them for photos? Absolutely not, she insists. “He is so ... he is so charming and so funny and so respectful and so smart, too smart for that,” she says, adding that he only makes pervy comments to make people laugh. “On set he would say something completely wild and I would say, ‘I can’t believe those words came out of your mouth!’” Allen, she says, is “very peculiar — but I love him.”
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African-American entertainer Dooley appeared on local television show Super Entourage (小明星大跟班) a few weeks ago and was told by the crew that they wanted to do a skit in blackface. Dooley, whose real name is Matthew Candler, tells the Taipei Times that Super Entourage wanted to perform a rendition of the wildly popular “Ghana Coffin Dance,” a meme that has taken the world by storm. Instead, he showed them videos about the racist origins of blackface and slavery in America, and they agreed to drop the makeup. “[I told them] about the history [behind blackface] and [said] you decide
June 1 to June 7 In February 1988, Robert Wu (吳清友) set aside NT$17.5 million to purchase two Henry Moore sculptures from London’s Marlborough Gallery. He never bought the pieces. Feeling slighted that the gallery manager initially looked down on him as a Taiwanese, he decided that night to use the money to open his own art space back home. “Without selling any art, that money could support the gallery for four years. If I feature one artist per month, that provides a stage for at least 100 artists,” Wu said in the book Eslite Time (誠品時光) by Lin Ching-yi (林靜宜).
With listicles of local attractions including Costco and numerous children’s playgrounds, I was not expecting much. Opened on Jan. 31, the Taipei MRT’s Circular Line, or Yellow Line, made life in the nation’s capital even more convenient. But judging from Internet search results, it hasn’t opened up many new tourism opportunities, unsurprising as the route mostly crosses densely populated areas and industrial parks. Places like a sports stadium with rainbow colored bleachers perfect for Instagram selfies wouldn’t do it for me either, and it’s pointless to list attractions at the connecting stops that have existed for years. As a history nerd, there
The morning after the ride, my hands ached in a way I’d never before experienced, and my palms looked slightly bruised. Flexing my fingers as I waited for my coffee to cool down, I knew exactly which part of the previous day’s excursion had done this to me. As the go-to-work rush hour ebbed, I’d set off inland on my 125cc scooter. I took Provincial Highway 20 as far as Tainan City’s Yujing District (玉井). From there, I took Provincial Highway 3 into Nansi District (楠西). The route I’d planned would take me past the eastern side of Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫)