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On Oct. 2, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History, a book by Hollywood comedy couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, is being released—and three days later, the hilarious duo will kick off the second season of the Palm Springs Speaks series.

The speakers’ series is a joint effort by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Library. Ron Willison, the president of the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees, helped organize the series—which is bringing some huge names to the valley in the coming months.

“We are trying to bring in interesting speakers,” he said. “We want to promote literacy, and we add different speakers for each year to make it interesting. Last year, we had Deepak Chopra talk about wellness. Dan Savage talked about LBGT issues, and Al Gore (was here) in association with the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival.

“This year, to start off, we will have Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, and they will be speaking on their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History. Palm Springs Speaks is actually one of only six stops they are doing for their book.”

The actors/writers/comedians have been married for 15 years, which virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry. In the book, they explain how their relationship has survived and thrived.

While the entire Palm Springs Speaks series this season has yet to be announced—the complete slate will be announced on Oct. 5—Willison did spill the beans on some of the other scheduled speakers.

“This year, we are also having Janet Mock,” Willison said. “She is a trans activist and director of the series Pose.”

Willison said organizers make a concerted effort to keep ticket costs down; admission to Mullally and Offerman’s talk starts at just $30—and all tickets to Palm Springs Speaks events include books.

“We try to make tickets more affordable to people within different communities, like the trans community,” he said. “We hope people can afford to come and hear somebody from their own community speak (like Janet Mock). We know how important that is.

“We are also having Jane Fonda as a part of this series. We always want community involvement whenever we can. For example, when Jane Fonda comes here, tickets will be donated to high schools because of her work with teen pregnancy in Atlanta.

“Our goal is to eventually take the Palm Springs Speaks series and have it become as large as the Desert Town Hall, which has 1,900 people and is actually the No. 1 speaker series in the country,” Willison said, referring to the series that takes place each year January through March in Indian Wells.

Organizers of Palm Springs Speaks have various goals in mind.

“The level of awareness is important for Palm Springs Speaks. It costs over $100,000 a year to put this on, and luckily last year, we made a little bit of money,” Willison said. “The monies go to two very important organizations, so the more money we raise, the more money they receive. Palm Springs Speaks is presented in the west end of the valley by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Public Library. Proceeds go to support the Cultural Center and the Friends of the Library equally. The Palm Springs Library uses the money for buying books or helping with new furniture or renovations.

“We are hopeful that in a couple of years, Palm Springs Speaks will be at a level of recognition where it should become profitable for everybody involved. It is our goal to make Palm Springs Speaks something that the city is proud of and the valley is proud of—and to make this series a destination event for people to travel here from Los Angeles or Phoenix for a nice weekend getaway that has a positive reflection on our town.”

Palm Springs Speaks presents Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School, 2248 E. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30 to $60. For tickets or more information, visit www.palmspringsspeaks.org.

Published in Literature

Oh, those marketing people can be so deceiving.

From the previews, Youth looks like Cocoon minus the glowing aliens—a goofy-old-coot movie with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel leering at ladies in the swimming pool and complaining about their prostates.

Actually, Youth is far from being anything like Cocoon, and with the exception of some darkly humorous laughs—and, yes, a couple of prostate jokes—it’s not something I would classify as a comedy.

Writer-director Paolo Sorrentino isn’t interested in pleasantries or pulling punches. His movie is a brutal, almost dangerously honest take on artists growing old. It’s also a little bit crazy at times—to the point where I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if crazy aliens sprang up from the bottom of the swimming pool.

Caine, in one of the best and most quietly understated performances of his career, plays retired composer Fred Ballinger. Fred is on holiday at a dreamy Switzerland resort with his daughter and assistant, Lena (Rachel Weisz, delivering the goods), and his film-director friend, Mick Boyle (Keitel, reminding you that he is still awesome).

Lena’s husband dumps her for a vacuous pop star who performs miracles in bed, sending her into a tailspin and giving Fred something else to worry about besides the miniscule level of pee traveling through his urethra. Mick, working on a film that doesn’t yet have an ending, remains a positive force for Fred, even though he’s become forgetful.

Representing the younger side of the artistic trade would be Jimmy Tree (the great Paul Dano), a popular actor preparing for a big role. Jimmy has done his share of art films, but most people remember him for his role as a robot—something about which people remind him during nearly every instance of human contact.

I used the word “brutal” up above, and I’m going to use the word again: This movie is bru-tal. When Fred finally lets an emissary for the queen know what he really thinks about her offer of knighthood, it’s one nasty exchange. When Lena gives her dad the what-for during a mud bath, the world stops. When Jimmy meets Miss Universe, and she brings up that damned robot, watch out. As far all-time screamers, the revelation of the role for which Jimmy is preparing is quite the shocker.

The beauty of Sorrentino’s film is that these brutal moments are handled in nuanced, subdued fashion. His script is eloquent, intelligent and often heartbreaking. Many of these characters will not have happy endings.

As an aging actress who has a caustic message for Mick, Jane Fonda shows up late in the movie and delivers one of the greatest scenes of her career. Fonda and Keitel sparring is as scary and punishing as anything in Creed.

Adding to the wonderful dialogue is the score by David Lang that is every ounce as beautiful as the stunning camerawork by Luca Bigazzi. Sorrentino is apparently a big Fellini fan, something evident in the film’s finale.

Paolo Sorrentino is only 45 years old. This meditation on aging seems to be coming from somebody who has logged at least 75 years on the planet—but he’s not even 50. That makes his achievement all the more impressive—although there are many 75-year-olds who might tell Sorrentino to cheer up a little bit, and that getting older isn’t always as dour as this film makes it out to be.

As for the finale, Youth finishes with either a crowning moment for Fred, or his worst nightmare, depending upon how you choose to take it in. The final look in Caine’s eyes says it all for me.

Youth is now playing at the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews