a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Duck Bacon BLTSummer is here and all the best new restaurants have new summery items on their menus, and the Marshal, one of my favorite spots, didn’t disappoint with an amazing Duck Bacon Sandwich! DUCK BACON!?! Yes, Duck Bacon. What will they think up next?And it was delicious! Now I’m spoiled! I’ll never be able to eat a regular BLT again!

The smokey duck flavor mixed fabulously with the baby spinach and baby arugula and the remoulade dressing. It was served with duck fat potato chips! It was an all-duck late lunch, in the perfectly comfortable surroundings of the Marshal, where they pride themselves with service AND food! All locally sourced, which I find amazing.

I also tasted their  cold gazpacho, which was cucumber based with perfectly done tomatoes and flavored with dill with a dollop of sour cream on top. I ate a large dish of it so fast I made my own head spin! Where did it go? I couldn’t believe how good it was and how perfect it was for a super hot summer New York day.

And for desert, a Port Poached Apple and Sour Cherry crumble with honey sweetened hand made ricotta with toasted walnuts on top!

That’s right. The apples were poached IN PORT! Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm! The Ricotta was made at Tonjes Farm. The apples were from the Prospect Hill Orchards, and the cherries were from Phillips Farm all from areas surrounding and nearby NYC, which I think is absolutely fabulous.

And I can’t wait for my next foodie adventure at the Marshal, which is conveniently located near the theater district at 628 10th Avenue between W.44th and 45th St.

Phone number: (212) 582-6300. Reservations are a must. The Marshal is compact, but oh the wonderful food you’ll experience there! And they change the menu EVERY day! Unbelievable!

I finished it all off with a Brooklyn Soda Creme Soda. From Brooklyn, of course! Isn’t New York the greatest city in the world or what? I love it and I love the Marshal and SO WILL YOU!

Foxcatcher 1Julianne Moore 1TIFF logo 1Imitation Game 1It’s a starry line-up as always as TIFF today announced its’ upcoming slate of Galas, which always take place at the Roy Thomson Hall, and formal dress is required, and Special Presentations, which almost always happen at the classic Elgin(pronounced “El Gin” with a hard “g”) theatre.

Three of the films I’m most looking forward to seeing are David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” which netted Julianne Moore the Best Actress award at Cannes,

Bennett Miller’s follow-up to “Moneyball” “Foxcatcher” which is about wrestling, not baseball, and the British WWII spy film “Imitation Game” with Benedict Cumberbatch( PBS’ Sherlock Holmes to many) as the lead character who is a closeted homosexual.

There are many, many films more that were announced today. Go to Sasha Stone’s invaluable Oscar site http://www.awardsdaily.com for more info. Toronto always has soooo many films, you can’t see them all.

One movie I’ve already seen, today as a matter of fact, was the Dame Maggie Smith, Kristen Scott Thomas & Kevin Kline starrer “Me and My Old Lady” with Dame Maggic pulling out all the stops in yet ANOTHER tour-de-force performance that is soooo good I’m glad they are including it at TIFF. She deserves it.

And so now, the Oscar Race officially begins! Could Dame Maggie surprise and make it into the Best Actress race? She certainly deserves it. She’s plays a 92-year-old English woman living in France.  And I’m SOOOO glad I saw it today!

 

 

 

VervbrechenCrime Stories 1“Verbrechen” is German for “Crime Stories”. Famous lawyer turned author Ferdinand von Shirach has penned the short stories of the real life crime cases he was prosecuted to great acclaim in Germany and now they exist as a hit TV series. And a six-episode DVD set of three discs by MHz.

You have to be in a really blood-thirsty mood to enjoy these six grisly, but good episodes, which vary wildly in quality.

Josef Bierbichler plays Friedrich Lionhardt with a stoicism that makes his French counterpart Inspector Maigret seem absolutely flamboyant in comparison. Bierbichler is a focused mountain of a man best known in the US for his role as the sadistic Steward in Michael Hanneke’s frightening thriller “The White Ribbon.” With a voice like thunder, when roused, his intelligent, omniscient eyes see through all comers.

I was really gripped by Episode 1, wherein a mild-mannered husband Friedrich (everybody seems to be named Friedrich in this series)Fahner finally turns on his vicious wife Ingrid played with memorable relish by Annette Paulman, and murders her with his gardening tools. Based on, as I noted, a true story, you totally root for Friedrich to get off.

This is a neat reversal of the battered wife story, and in this case,it’s the long-suffering husband who is constantly brow-beaten, insulted and humiliated by his overbearing, vulgar wife. They are first shown as a deliriously in love young couple. As newlyweds, there seems nary a cloud on the horizon, and Ingrid is charming and sexy as a young girl.

But over the years, she has turned into a harridan he hardly recognizes, and can barely stand. Now 60, Friedrich maintains he has married her. He’s her husband and feels he cannot violate his marriage vows to her. So he kills her. German logic.

And Friedrich Leonhardt( Von Shirach’s alter ego) enters the scene as Friedrich Fahner’s defense lawyer determined to get him off. For as he states over and over, “a lawyer does not always want to know what really happened.” It is his job to get his clients freed and he pursues this goal with a single-minded intensity that powers each 44 minutes episode. It’s not a whodunit at all, but the suspense is always “Will Leonhardt prevail and get his client off?” which is an interesting twist in this overworked genre. A character describes Leonhardt as “the brakes on the carts on justice.”

Leonhardt doesn’t feel he has to like or even understand his clients, which are as varied as Germany is today.

Ripped from the headlines, “Crime Stories” when it works is riveting. I also particularly liked Episode 3 where Phillip Von Nordicke, a young student played with a burning intensity by Vladimir Burlakov, kills, blinds, and dismembers sheep. Stabbing each “victim” 18 times in a signature way that the local Polizei immediately know it’s him. But can you imprison someone for simply killing sheep argues Leonhardt. Then a young girl goes missing and of course, the young Phillip is the lost likely suspect. So in jail he stays, until Leonhardt enters the scene.

Some episodes don’t work at all and are merely confusing like Episode 2 “Tanaka’s Bowl.” But when it works, it really really works and loving crime stories and murder mysteries and film noir as you know I do, these German ones are a dark treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I want MAGIC” screams Blanche du Bois in Tennessee Williams classic “Streetcar Named Desire”. And I was screaming “I want magic, too!” As Woody Allen’s latest “Magic in the Moonlight” unspooled before me and I didn’t laugh once.

It LOOKS Magical. The cinematography of Darius Khondji is simply swoon-worthy. The Riviera never looked so lovely! Truly! But aside from a very, very strong performance by Colin Firth, it’s not much fun. Although Eileen Atkins as his sensible aunt (they’re both British of course) is also very good. But this film that looks like it should be a comedy, is simply not funny at all.

Firth has the challenge of getting up in yellow-face and being a stage magician  named Wei Ling-Soo, who makes elephants disappear and saws ladies in half, and is an extremely pessimistic curmudgeon. He spews venom constantly throughout the film in all directions, which is arresting, but not funny. Unlike the other recent magician in an Allen film, the great Splendini, in “Scoop” who Allen played himself. “Scoop” was set in London with Scarlett Johansonn in the female lead, a role Emma Stone essays so poorly here. “Scoop” was funny and good-natured as “Magic in the Moonlight” is bitter and grim. Good qualities in a drama, like “Blue Jasmine” but not is a half-baked pseudo-farce.

How can this much heightened sarcasm be not funny in a Woody Allen film? Well, for one thing his character seems an utter realist, if not a downright atheistic. Yes, that’s right. This is a film that is about atheism. Or a comedy about atheism. WTF? It’s seems like it should be by Ayn Rand and black and white and set in the ’40s.

Not the glamorous 1920s, a period Allen returns to again and again. And he’s done it better. I just watched “Midnight in Paris” for the umpteenth time last night and it delighted and chilled me all over again. I actually got goose bumps from it and from Mlle. Marion Cotillard’s superb performance.

And there were actually French people in it. And they spoke French! Imagine that! In “Magic in the Moonlight” we have the beautiful French countryside, but no French people are in it. At All.

And Emma Stone is very, very weak in this. As a supposed psychic, she’s a little spacey, a little kookie. Her red-hair flies beautifully in the wind. She has lovely large eyes, but Woody seems to have a problem with her overly large forehead which is covered up throughout much of the movie by her own bangs, which is fine and series of tam o’shanters, head-bands and hats with extremely low brows, which would look fine on Marion Cotillard, but on Stone they make her look odd. She is photographed soooo well in fact, she looked liked she’s acting, but she isn’t. The cinematography and costumes were acting FOR her.

I didn’t ever think I would miss Scarlett Johansonn, but in this film, I did. Stone is really out of her depth here, and she shouldn’t be.

I just attended a press conference for this film with Emma Stone notably absent. And Colin Firth when asked about working with her, just skipped the question entirely. “My Best Day?” he was asked, ” I guess the scene in the planetarium at night. I was wet. And I felt wet, so that was good.”

Unfortunately, it’s (no) “Magic in the Moonlight” that is all wet. Sadly.

Every OTHER film of Woody’s recently has been terrific. “Midnight in Paris” was a masterpiece. “To Rome, with Love” was a dud. “Blue Jasmine” won Cate Blanchett an Oscar for Best Actress, and so we were due for another disappointment, and unfortunately, we got it.

I can’t wait for the next one, however. That’ll be good again.

Woody did a press conference in New York today. He NEVER does that. I sensed Flop Sweat and I was right. But Colin saved the day, and Jacqui Weaver was buoyant, too.

Woody said “Life is meaningless.” And he meant it. And then added “Now that I’ve depressed you thoroughly, have a nice weekend.”Magic in the Moonlight 1Magic in the Moonlight 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elaine StritchI regret to say that I never got to have the late Elaine Stritch as a guest on my TV program, though I actually did meet her once. And had a little bit of conversation with her. It was in some theatrical eaterie on W.46th St. Joe Allen’s or Orso’s or some place like that.

I was going out and she was coming in and I raved and raved to her about her performance in Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” on Broadway. Her rare foray into a serious role, and she was of course, terrific.  She didn’t care about my blandishments. She waved them off and kept saying “But do you think it’s a good play?” and I said I did and she kept at me “But Is it a GOOD PLAY??”

This exchange got repeated several times, and I don’t think I convinced her of my position and I

wondered why she would be so stuck on that question.

I also of course, saw her onstage, probably more than once in her iconic stage performance of “Company” when she screeched out “The Ladies Who Lunch” with nary a voice at all. But it didn’t matter.

And I saw her “Elaine Stritch:At Liberty” on Broadway which was wonderful, just wonderful, and she was a mere slip of a girl at 79 at the time.

I remember her copping to being a diabetic. In fact, she had to leave the stage at one point, presumably because she had had a diabetic “low” and returned literally moments later with a glass of orange juice in her hand. I could relate.

Jeff Wells at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com has just penned a lovely tribute to her, and he has her entire “At Liberty” you tube video posted there. I wish I could figure out how to post it here.

Elaine Stritch also famously didn’t have a bigger career because of her drinking, which went on for years and years. And then I guess because of her diabetic condition, she stopped.

She was 89. Perhaps if she hadn’t been such a boozer and for so  long, she would’ve lived longer and had been much, much more famous.

But you could never forget her.

R.I.P. Elaine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patricia Clarkson 1

Honoree Patricia Clarkson Exclaims “I’ve Never Been Kissed By So Many Guys!” as Provincetown Film Festival 2014 Wraps Up

Every year one of the unique things the Provincetown International Film Festival does is honor two or three film notables with career achievement awards. This year they were Patricia Clarkson for Excellence in Acting, Debra Winger for the Faith Hubley Career Achievement Award and David Cronenberg for Filmmaker On the Edge.
When I asked her how she liked Provincetown, Clarkson exclaimed “I’ve never been kissed by so many guys!” She told me “No matter how many times you are honored  like this, it’s STILL an honor. I’m thrilled!”
She gave a moving speech to the packed audience at Town Hall,which included her doing an impromptu imitation of Woody Allen directing. Which was hilarious. Allen directed her in two films “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Whatever Works” in which Clarkson shined playing an alcoholic Southern belle, a large role that Allen had clearly written for her. Two of her other films, career highlights both,were shown including “High Art” and “Pieces of April.” The festival opened with her latest film “Last Weekend” in which she gave a moving performance of a mother trying to hold her crumbling family together.
 David Cronenberg was clearly the King of PIFF this year,as in his “Conversation With…” director John Waters, he was able to show an extended clip from his much-anticipated new movie “Maps to the Stars” which was a controversial hit at Cannes. PIFF audiences thrilled to see Cannes Best Actress winner Julianne Moore in a long scene from “Maps” where she is literally freaking out over getting a film role once enacted by her mother as a young girl.
Her mother is appearing to her as a hallucinatory vision as a naked teenaged girl in a bath-tub, who is constantly mocking her. Cronenberg revealed that the film will be shown in its’ scandalous entirety at the Toronto Film Festival in Sept. If Julianne Moore’s performance is as powerful as this clip indicated, she is well on her way to an Oscar Nomination.
Cronenberg responded well to John Waters’ probing, incisive and funny questions. Waters opened with “We’re both obsessed with assholes.” Cronenberg agreed and revealed that he thought “Rehearsals” with the actors for film scenes “were unnecessary.” And when Waters pressed him as to how he has been able to make so many films over his long and varied career that spans decades, Cronenberg said simply “Canada” and credited his native country’s strong and historic government backing of filmmakers, emerging or established.
Debra Winger was evasive and a bit defensive with interviewer B. Ruby Rich. Her answers to questions weren’t satisfying or direct. Though her choice of being a mother to her three sons seemed to take precedence over all else, explaining why her filmography in recent years is so scant. Winger confounded many journos by not consenting to any on camera interviews, only print, though she still looked dazzling at 60.
John Waters, who is the unofficial Mayor of Provincetown, having lived there for over 4 decades, was having a career high of his own, with the success of his latest book “Car Sick” about hitch-hiking across the U.S. from Baltimore to San Francisco. He told me it was Number 8 on the NY Times Bestseller list. He was happier than I’ve ever seen him to be, claiming yet another metier as his own. And his book-signing had lines down the block.
I was thrilled to see the Beatles’ classic “A Hard Day’s Night” in a beautiful, newly re-mastered print with its’ monaural soundtrack and its’ scintillating black and white cinematography making it seem and sound like new. Pre-dating MTV & music videos, it captures the pure joy and craziness of Beatlemania. It was a great joy to see it again on the big screen.
Also in black and white(and color, too) was Nancy Gates’ definitive documentary “Regarding Susan Sontag”. A complete, revealing and intelligent chronicle of this important woman’s ground-breaking life. as an intellectual, writer, mother and lesbian. Sontag, a 20th century figure that I thought I knew, was a much more complex and challenging figure as “Regarding Susan Sontag” brought home.
On the Narrative feature side, I loved “One Chance” the fictional re-telling of tubby Wales cell-phone salesman Paul Potts’ life-transforming moment on “Britain’s Got Talent” when he sang Puccini “Nessum Dorma” and wowed Simon Callow and the judges, and became a house-word name and an opera star literally over-night.
Potts,was a life-long sad-sack with extremely bad luck, as the film details and “History Boys” James Corden enacts him brilliantly. Corden is the overweight British comedian who won the Tony for “One Man, Two Guv’nors” beating Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s “Death of a Salesman” two years ago on Broadway.
I also enjoyed “A Trip to Italy” British Comedian Steve Coogan’s follow-up to “The Trip.” It’s basically an improvised road-tour crossed with reality TV in which Coogan and fellow Brit Comic Rob Brydon, playing wry versions of themselves, riff, joke and eat their way from Piedmont in the north of Italy all the way down the Italian Riviera along the incredibly scenic Amalfi coast.
The mouth-watering Italian food they eat at the sumptuous restaurants and hotels they stop at are their splendiferous co-stars, and, as they say, hilarity ensues.
There were two French films I found disappointing in different measures Roman Polanski’s “Venus In Furs” and “Yves St. Laurent.”  A hit on Broadway “Venus” won a Best Actress Tony  and made a star out of actress Nina Arianda, and she is sorely missed in this French language(for no apparent reason)translation. It’s a two-character, one-set piece and as the uptight director Matthieu Amalric is sensational and Polanski mis-casts his real-life wife Emmanuelle Seigner who is clearly in her 40s as the twenty-something aspiring actress. Both “Yves” and “Venus” were far too slowly paced,tedious and annoying at turns.
Also disappointing was “Love Is Strange,” a Sundance hit. A gay film with a very strong premise and a lot to say about gay marriage, it had a very good start and a solid cast (John Lithgow and Albert Molina as the couple and Marisa Tomei as Lithgow’s put-upon caregiver), and its’ heart was clearly in the right place, but it all fell apart with a unsatisfying and confusing ending.
Probably the best film on every level was “I Origins” a sci-fi/romance, er, well, sort of, but thrillingly original and creative and absolutely surprising and confounding and profound, too, in all the right ways. Michael Pitt and Brit Marling give exemplary performances as a team of young scientists in NYC trying to unlock the genetic mysteries of the human eye. And Astrid Berges-Frisby, the monumental mermaid in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has the most unforgettable cinematic eyes ever. This will launch the Spanish/French beauty into the stratosphere. The direction by Mike Cahill, outstanding.
But Provincetown itself is its’ own greatest character. The village, at the far-most tip of Cape Cod, never fails to disappoint with its’ colorful , intoxicating atmosphere and a town-full of delightfully eccentric artists. Chelsea Handler said it was “gayer than San Francisco” and she should know.

Only one week left Stephen Holt Show fans! Dear readers, dear cineastes! We need YOUR help to get to the Toronto Film Festival this year! 2014 is shaping up to be a very exciting year with great films galore at Toronto! Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” as I mention in the video clip, and David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” among them.

I can’t tell you how crucial the Toronto International Film Festival is to my continuing coverage of all the stars that I get on the level that I get them. And the hotels adjacent to the Film Festival have raised their prices accordingly. Which is what has put me in this Kickstarter mode.

And right now, if you’re reading on this far, I can tell you that so far we have received $0.00 which is just a devastating figure to have to deal with.

I know you are out there, friends, Facebook-ers and fans! PLEASE HELP! Only one week left before Facebook turns off the lights!

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