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Granger at the Movies: ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Outpost,’ ‘Perry Mason’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

Five years ago, theatergoers and critics were dazzled by the vivacious, culturally significant musical “Hamilton” about the nation’s first Treasury secretary, political mastermind Alexander Hamilton. Now you can see the thrilling, live-capture, the 161-minute film version with the original principal Broadway cast.

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Utilizing a racially/ethnically diverse cast singing exhilarating R&B, jazz, pop and hip-hop music, writer/composer/performer Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of a poor immigrant kid who was born in 1775 on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis.

Cocky, energetic and verbally blessed, Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) became known as George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) favorite strategist — until he was killed in a duel by his perennial frenemy, manipulative Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.).

Based on Ron Chernow’s exhaustive, insightful biography (2004), it not only reveals Hamilton’s relentless ambition but also his romantic entanglements. Even after marrying Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo), he maintains a relationship with her sister Angelica (Renee Elise Goldsberry), his intellectual soul mate, while indulging in an adulterous affair with Maria Reynolds, the nation’s first sex scandal.

Most of the humor emanates from England’s arrogant King George III (Jonathan Graff), who is clueless about why the rebellious colonists demanded their independence.

And Hamilton’s clever duet with France’s Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) delivers a timely tweak, slyly asserting: “Immigrants — we get the job done.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda reunited with his 2008 Tony-winning “In the Heights” collaborators: director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music director/orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Using multiple cameras, cinematographer Declan Quinn filmed 13 key songs separately, enabling revelatory close-ups of the performers, deftly edited by Jonah Moran.

“So much of what ‘Hamilton’ is about is how history remembers and how that changes over time,” observes Miranda, noting it’s particularly relevant during our country’s coronavirus pandemic, along with Black Lives Matter, amid the bitterly divided political landscape.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hamilton” is an innovative 10, a cultural phenomenon now available anytime, ad-free on Disney Plus for $6.99 a month — cancelable at any time.

Recent revelations about Russians paying bounties to Taliban fighters for killing American soldiers makes the powerful war drama “The Outpost” as relevant as today’s headlines.

Based on the true story of Afghanistan’s bloodiest engagement, the 2009 Battle Kamdesh revolves around 53 brave U.S. soldiers in a remote Outpost, tucked deep in a valley at the base of three mountains near the Pakistani border.

In charge is First Lt. Benjamin Keating (Orlando Bloom), whose mission of ‘counterinsurgency’ involves bartering with local village elders for their cooperation since the vulnerable Outpost is surrounded by hundreds of Taliban militants.

The Army is actually planning to abandon the Outpost but no one has informed the troops. Instead, they’re ordered to move a huge truck up a narrow road with tight, treacherous switchbacks so it can be used elsewhere.

Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment includes Clint Romesha (Scott Eastwood, Clint’s son), Ty Carter (Celeb Landry Jones), Robert Yllescas (Milo Gibson, Mel’s son), Justin T. Gallegos (Jacob Scipio), Daniel Rodriguez (as himself), plus James Jagger (Mick’s son), Scott Alda Coffey (Alan Alda’s grandson) and Will Attenborough (Sir Richard’s grandson). This film is a tribute to their real-life heroism.

Based on CNN journalist Jake Tapper’s “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor” (2012), the visceral action thriller was adapted by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson and adroitly helmed by former film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie (“The Contender,” “Nothing But the Truth”), a 1984 West Point alum.

Additional kudos to intrepid cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore, production designer Erik Carlson and editor Michael Duthie for creating ferocious authenticity.

Scott Eastwood delivers a memorable performance. When he voices the line — “No, not today” — his vocal tone/delivery is exactly like Clint’s — and it’s eerie that his real-life character is named Clint.

NOTE: since theaters are closed, try to view this in a darkened room on as big a TV screen as possible. Do not try to watch on an iPhone or laptop because it’s not as effective.

On the Granger Gauge, “The Outpost” is an intense, indelible, immersive 8, commemorating courage at its highest level- streaming VOD.

Originally in Earle Stanley Gardner’s pulpy detective novels (1933-1973), “Perry Mason” was a Los Angeles-based lawyer. Burly actor Raymond Burr embodied Perry in a formulaic CBS-TV series (1957-1966), portraying him as a criminal defense attorney, with Barbara Hale as loyal Della Street.

This edgier, re-imagined HBO version is set during the Great Depression in the early 1930s, and Perry Mason has become a seedy, boozy, cynical private detective, played by wiry Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”).

“He lives and dies by: ‘There’s what’s legal and there’s what’s right,’” says Rhys. “The one thing that elevates him is his sense of justice. He was once dealt a huge blow by a betrayal of justice. It kind of becomes his North Star. So regardless of his means, ultimately, if what he does is right, it’s warranted.”

Created by Rolin Jones & Ron Fitzgerald, it’s directed by Tim Van Patten & Deniz Gamze Erguven. Unlike most episodic mysteries, they’ve latched onto a particularly violent murder case for the eight-episodes, evoking memories of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and revivalist preacher Aimee Semple McPherson.

Suspicions surround both parents (Nate Corddry, Gayle Rankin) and their ties to the Radiant Assembly of God, run by inscrutable Sister Alice (Tatiana Maslany) and her mother, Birdy (Lili Taylor).

Supporting characters include defense attorney E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow); conflicted Paul Drake (Chris Chalk), one of the few African American officers in the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department; Perry’s Latina lover, the aviator Lupe (Veronica Falcon); and diligent Della Street (Juliet Rylance), who yearns for more than just secretarial work.

What most impressive are John Goldsmith’s period-perfect settings and Emma Potter’s impeccable costumes. Disheveled Perry Mason has a perpetual five-o’clock-shadow and sports a signature fedora.

On the Granger Gauge, “Perry Mason” is a grim, gruesome, gritty 4. On HBO, take it or leave it.


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

Danielle L. Murrugarra, 73

Danielle L. Murrugarra,  former wife of Manuel T. Murrugarra of Westport, died July 6 at Norwalk Hospital. She was 73.

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Danielle Murrugarra: Peru native Contributed photo

Born July 29, 1945 and raised in Lima, Peru, Danielle was part of the first class of female police officers in Lima.

Though enrolled to study medicine, Danielle immigrated to the United States in 1965, where she married Manuel T. Murrugarra, having met in their adolescent years back in Peru.

Of strong character and work ethic, Danielle was a self-employed housekeeper and became a mother to two sons, Richard and Peter.

A strong character continued to define Danielle’s later years, as she battled against Huntington’s Disease (HD) and complications as a result of HD.

Though reaching a point of not being able to care for herself anymore, she continued to try to the best of her abilities, often hiding her struggles, so that her children could flourish.

Danielle is survived by her former spouse Manuel and sons Richard and Peter of Westport, her siblings Manuel, Melchor and Angelica of Lima, Peru, Gricelda of New Jersey, and a thriving group of loving nieces and nephews. Danielle is predeceased by her brother Moises Navarro of Lima, Peru.

There will be a funeral home visitation Thursday, July 9, 4 to 8 p.m. at Collins Funeral Home, 92 East Ave., Norwalk. Call 203-866-0747,203-866-0747, and a mass Friday, July 10 at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Assumption. 98 Riverside Ave., with burial to follow at Assumption Cemetery, Greens Farms Road.

Donations in Danielle’s memory, may be made to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). Flowers are also appreciated:

Comings & Goings: Compo Barber Shop on the Move

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Compo Barber Shop, a mainstay in the Compo Shopping Center for decades, has moved down the block where it will share space with Westport Hair & Co. A sign aleted customers all the familiar barbers have made the move, too. The shop was owned by almost 60-year proprietor Tommy Ghianuly, who died in January 2019 and his customers were a Who’s Who of Westporters. The new owner is Uzbekistan-born Rami Pirov, (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

CT Reports No New COVID-19 Deaths

Connecticut reported no new coronavirus-related deaths today.

It is the first time in almost four months the state has not added to the virus’ death toll during its daily reporting.

Gov. Ned Lamont attributed the achievement to residents’ discipline with public health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

Also today, Connecticut reported 14 additional COVID-19 hospitalizations, marking the first double-digit increase since early May.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has also been mostly dropping since late April, although there have been a number of individual days that saw increases.

Lamont said the day’s increase in hospitalizations — which brought the state’s total to 83 — did not concern him.

He said that hospital admissions have remained steady, but discharges dipped in the last 24 hours, leading to the increase in total hospitalizations.

“I would’ve been really worried if the admissions were beginning to spike. That’s not what happened,” Lamont said.

“The admissions are flat. But not as many people got discharged. That’s going to happen a lot. I’m not that concerned about that number.”

Sunrise Rotary Supports Gillespie Center

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The Gillespie Center, Jesup Road, was the scene today for the Sunrise Rotary Club presentation of financial support for Homes with Hope (HwH) COVID-19 Disaster Relief program. According to Club President George Masumian, who presented a check to food caterer Alison Milwe Grace, owner of Wilton-based AMG Catering, today is the inaugural delivery of individually packaged microwave-ready servings of frozen meals for HwH residents prepared by AMG. Masumian said, “The funds provide for delivery of 100 meals every two weeks for a total of 400 individual meal servings.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Town Announces ‘Zero Food Waste Challenge’

With the goal of reducing residential food waste by 25% over the next year, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced today the opening of a food scraps, recycling drop-off area at the Westport Transfer Station.

According to the announcement, food waste is one of the heaviest, wettest and most expensive waste streams for the town to process, “and nearly one out of every four bags of groceries end up in the trash.”

Dubbed the Zero Food Waste Challenge and orchestrated in cooperation with Sustainable Westport, the effort promotes three ways residents can participate.

In addition to the food scraps drop-off center, residents can pay a licensed food waste hauler to have scraps picked up curbside, or they can use the food waste for home composting.

Two area licensed food waste haulers that officials recommended are Action Containers (https://www.actioncontainerservice.com/) and Curbside Compost (https://www.curbcompost.org/)

“Residents are encouraged to evaluate the food they throw away, and then make important changes in the way they shop, prepare and even store food,” the announcement says.

“Sustainable Westport reminds residents that food scraps are not trash, and can become a valuable resource when turned into compost. Recycling food scraps into compost captures nutrients and energy and returns them to the environment while reducing the amount of trash in our waste stream.”

“I am proud that Westport is one of the first towns in Fairfield County to provide a food waste recycling program for its residents,” Marpe said about the drop-off area that opened Monday. “This program will enable all to play a role in decreasing food waste, which not only helps with solid waste disposal costs and our taxes, but is good for the environment.”

Marpe credited Pippa Bell Ader of the Green Task Force and Sustainable Westport for leading the initiative.

Peter Boyd, chairman of Sustainable Westport, said the initiative is integral to the town’s Net Zero goal by 2020.

“These next few years are crucial as we turn our creation of energy and waste and use of water in the right direction,” Boyd said. “Getting involved in the Zero Food Waste Challenge is something we can all do at home to help.”

CT Expands Quarantine State List

The governors of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey today expanded a joint travel advisory to include 19 states.

Implemented on June 24, people traveling into those states from states with a high spread of COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days.

As of today, the states included in the advisory were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Farmers Market to Open for Day-of-Shopping

After careful consideration and due diligence through state and local officials, the Westport Farmers’ Market said today it will open Thursday, July 9 for day-of shopping.  Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue Parking Lot.

WFM said it will take the following actions to ensure safe shopping for all:  require masks to be worn at all times, single direction traffic while shopping (one way in and one way out), hand sanitizer stations, social distancing and lots of fresh air.

During WFM’s day-of shopping, the air will fill with tunes from local musicians and the Friend of the Market bag plus WFM swag can be purchased throughout the day, an announcement said.

For those that feel safer in its pre-order touch-free selected time slot pick-up model, it will still be available. Details can be found at http://www.westportfarmersmarket.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Westport Town Offices, Schools, Senior Center, & Library are closed.
7:30 p.m. – Electronically – Representative Town Meeting: live streamed on http://www.westportct.gov, Optimum ch. 79, Frontier ch. 6020. Email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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