a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Dear Readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, I don’t know quite what to say about “Birdman”. I liked it. It’s shot in my hood, the theater district in Manhattan. It’s all about the theater, But somehow it also seems quite critical of the theater. Not the the Academy would mind that at all.

Filmed almost entirely(it seems) at the St. James theater, which I overlook, I can’t believe it missed all this just going on right downstairs.

But the Academy will probably like this a lot. Especially the dominant Actor’s Branch. While it is critical of the theater, it revels in the Art of the Actor. And they will go for that hook, line and sinker. Or will they?

I think Michael Keaton is going to get nominated for Best Actor for sure. Having finally seen his performance, I can say that. But will he win? It’s a) a comedy and b) he’s got the stiffest competition imaginable this year in that category c) he’s playing a likable/unlikeable self-centered asshole.

The most likely winner out of the many nominations this film would seem to be heading towards is Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor. His no-holes-barred, over-the-top(almost) hysterical depiction of a narcissistic theatre(with an re) actor may be the big award that “Birdman” gets. It may get nominated for Best Picture, and probably will. But it seems about nothing more(nor less) of the inside of his aging actor’s head. Keaton, I mean. The ego that eats everyone around it alive. It’s fun, but also not fun to see this. One moment I was screaming with upexpected laughter, the next I was gagging at its’ excesses…Call it stedicam nausea.

Emma Stone is also proably assured of her first Oscar nomination for playing Keaton’s smart, sexy,mouthy teenage daughter.Compare this to her tepid performance in Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” where she seemed completely at sea. Innaritu really directed the hell out of his actors in this, and in a very good way.

But this film is filmed annoyingly in steadicam. It makes you dizzy, and it’s also a fantasy. And the ending is, well, equivocal, to put it spoiler-free.

I can see it losing to a film with more social relevance. Like for instance “The Theory of Everything” and I think it’s a battle for Best Actor between Eddie Redmayne’s superb Stephen Hawkings and Keaton’s aging asshole.. Redmaybe is young. That’s the only thing standing in his way.”Everything” is a triumphant movie in a big way. It’s uplifting. “Birdman” is icky. But it’s still fun…but…

“The Theory of Everything” is probably going to “My Left Foot” its’ way all the way to the Oscars. I thought that when I saw it at TIFF as they crowd went wild. And it’s NOT the terribly disjointed, depressing, but also socially relevant film that “Imitation Game” is. The Academy doesn’t vote Best Picture to gay films, which is what “Imitation Game” is. But Benedict Cumberbatch will be nominated. AND Keira Knightley, who will join Emma Stone in Best Supporting Actress. Which they will both lose to Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.”

But I found”Birdman”  enjoyable  almost in spite of myself. It’s my kinda film.I love films about the theater. And I couldn’t identify more with the character’s quest to do great Art on Broadway.  But is it the Academy’s taste? Theater? Theatre? Does it justify all this awards hype? Well, yes,no and maybe.

Comedy can win, and often does, in Best Supporting Actor. So Edward Norton get your acceptance speech ready. Michael Keaton, um, not so fast.Birdman 1 Birdman 1

 

 

Thanks to Awardsdaily.com for the list! The Gotham Awards which are the only major competitive awards, ceremony and all, are the only ones handed out on the East Coast. Honoring majorly independent American films. While it’s true that the National Board of Review is based here, they just ANNOUNCE their winners. There’s no public nomination process like this.

“Boyhood” natch, got the most nominations here, five. But the surprise was the lack of showing for “Foxcatcher”. Yes, Bennett Miller, the director is getting a career tribute, but he was not nominated for Best Director. And the films’ three leads, Stever Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, were bunched together, again, in a special tribute side-bar. Which I thought was odd all the way around. Is this an Oscar foreshadowing that will effect it later on in the season? Everything else was pretty pro forma anticipating its’ rival Indie Spirit Awards on the West Coast.

But also MIA, was Reese Witherspoon and any mention at all of “Wild.” Strange, but true.Not a great sign for her one-woman(practically) movie.

Being handed out in New York on December 1, I wonder how much the Gothams effect the Oscars at all. But still it’s nice to know that they are there. Or rather here in NYC.

Best Feature

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Boyhood – Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, producers (IFC Films)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Love Is Strange – Ira Sachs, director; Lucas Joaquin, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer, director; Nick Wechsler, James Wilson, producers (A24 Films)

Best Documentary

  • Actress – Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Robert Greene, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • CITIZENFOUR – Laura Poitras, director; Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky, producers (RADiUS, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films)
  • Life Itself – Steve James, director; Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, producers (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films)
  • Manakamana – Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, directors; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, producers (The Cinema Guild)
  • Point and Shoot – Marshall Curry, director; Marshall Curry, Elizabeth Martin, Matthew Van Dyke, producers (The Orchard and American Documentary / POV)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

  • Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber)
  • James Ward Byrkit for Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
  • Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Eliza Hittman for It Felt Like Love (Variance Films)
  • Justin Simien for Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Best Actor*

  • Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
  • Ethan Hawke in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year (A24 Films)
  • Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Miles Teller in Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

* The 2014 Best Actor nominating panel also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award jointly to Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum for their ensemble performance in Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics).

Best Actress

  • Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)
  • Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24 Films)
  • Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)

Breakthrough Actor

  • Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)
  • Macon Blair in Blue Ruin (RADiUS)
  • Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (IFC Films)
  • Joey King in Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)
  • Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (A24 Films)
  • Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Oscar HeadlessJust where do I think everything is today as the end of October, always a crucial month for Oscar, is less than two weeks away.

I have a lot of questions and there are some clear answers.

Both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories are all but sewn up at the moment. The winner, I mean, or the Front-Runner, always a deadly term, especially in the Best Picture category. Best Actor or Actress and especially in Supporting don’t suffer the fate the leader of the pack in Best Picture does. Different rules apply.

Julianne Moore for “Still Alice” and Patricia Arquette for “Boyhood” seem to have locked down their Oscars already.

There was a lot of category shifting, a few weeks back(when I didn’t have Internet access to comment more swiftly on it) for the wonderful, under-appreciated Arquette. She could’ve been in Best Actress, but, and this is another thing that has changed this year, methinks, GoldDerby.com and its’ experts(Tom O, why O why am I not one?) decided that Supporting was where Patricia dominated their charts, and so IFC, the distributor of “Boyhood”, dutifully put Arquette in the lesser race. Why? Because Gold Derby said so! A few weeks back.

Now, this IS a change. Tom O’Neil’s http://www.goldderby.com has always been exhaustively covering the Oscars. But never, before, I think, EVER (and people will remind me if this isn’t so) NEVER have they LED the race so clearly as they have with placing Patricia Arquette in Supporting Actress for “Boyhood”. And whatever I thought of the movie(too long, couldn’t relate to the kid) I LOVED Arquette’s soulful 12 year journey as the Boy in questions mother. The good Mom, always an Academy favorite.The Earth Mother, who’s trying her best to do her best.

And I think that’s the biggest award “Boyhood” is going to get from the Academy. MAYbe Original screenplay. But not a lot else. More nominations for sure. Like Ethan Hawke also in Supporting for his best-ever turn as the deadbeat-dad-with-a-heart-of-gold.

But I don’t think Gold Derby is really deciding the other races, but its’ putting Arquette where she is for sure now going to land, is a first, I think. Making Gold Derby essential reading. The other categories there are all not so clear at all. Take a look. They’re confused and confusing. Up and down. In and Out. Well, Tom styles it as a horse race, a derby, and he’s right. That’s exactly what the Oscar Race, which he always calls “the Derby” is, when you boil it all down.

A lot is still up in the air. Although they have got Julianne Moore in their #1 spot, and I think that’s right. Right now anyway. Until Harvey Weinstein potentially dynamites J-Moo’s rock-solid position for “Still Alice,” which I truly loved BTW with his Amy Adams starrer “Big Eyes,” which opens in late December.Is that going to be too late now that the deserving Julianne has gotten so strong? Perhaps. Maybe Harvey will move the Opening of “Big Eyes” up. If he does, watch out!

I thought Julianne wouldn’t have a prayer after I saw “Maps to the Stars” deflate right in front of my eyes at the Toronto Film Festival. In that she plays a VERY unsympathetic, aging actress, and the film is pretty much a mess. But SHE’S great! And she won Best Actress at Cannes.

But “Still Alice” is a lovely,searing film about an important issue, early on-set Alzheimer’s, and Moore is simply astounding as she goes through every startling, debilitating change of the disease. From A to Z and back again. Moore’s work in “Still Alice” makes Julie Christie’s a few years back on a similar topic in “Away From Her” look like a doodle. A mere sketch. Marion Cotillard won that year for her tour-de-force as Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”.

And though there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, hence no requisite happy ending,  it’s a supremely graceful film, and the ending is appropriately in tune with the serious subject matter. And you have to applaud the filmmakers Wash Westmoreland and his partner Richard Glatzer for telling this difficult story right. They’ve even gotten Alec Baldwn to be sympathetic, too, as the do-the-right-thing hubby. Alec Baldwin warm and fuzzy? Will wonders never since?!?. Kristen Stewart shines, too, in a change of pace role for her as Moore’s quarrelsome actress daughter.

I thought, as you know, Rosamund Pike, was a category leader in Best Actress for my immensely liked “Gone Girl”, but then I saw Moore seal the deal in “Still Alice”. She’s admitting to being 50 and she soars. And this performance,plus her challenging, all -out vain-to-the-max actress in “Maps to the Stars” and her Cannes win, all add up to Oscar in my book, and I think the Academy’s, too.

While others are rushing to judgment, I personally feel the other categories, Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor are all over the place right now, and the rest of the remaining unseen films need to be seen. They may figure heavily this year. Especially in Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. I don’t think we’ve seen the winners there yet. But it’s vague, to me, for sure.There’s a lot of variables and a lot of bloody contests to be fought still. And it’s only OCTOBER! Wait til November when the Oscar combatants’ gloves REALLY come off. And oh yes, “The Theory of Everything” finally opens!

But I guess what I’m trying to say is, Gold Derby has now become more important than ever this year . So go there and enjoy the podcasts and predictions and videos. I do. And I think Academy members and for sure the films’ publicists do,too.

Louise PennyI haven’t yet read all ten of Quebecquois author Louise Penny’s ten novels, but I know that soon I will! I just can’t put them down! She’s amazing! IT’S amazing and she’s been around now for quite some time and I’m coming late to the Louise Penny party, but I’ve just subscribed to her chatty newsletter and I recommend you all, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of literature and the theatre, so check out http://www.louisepenny.com and you can friend her on Facebook!

What a lovely writer! And how unusual is it for novels that routinely debut at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List (hardcover and paperback) to be set in Montreal?!?! And mostly the tiny little village of Three Pines. It boasts a bar and a bistro and all the characters have French names, but Louise Penny writes so beautifully about them, in English.

Her descriptions of the seasonal changes in her(and my) beloved Montreal and Quebec are just magical. They make you want to be there all year ’round! And I’ve neglected to say just what these novels are all about. Well, believe it or not, they’re mysteries!

Whodunits! Not since Agatha Christie have I’ve found myself so obsessed! Her leading man is the beguiling Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete. The Montreal police. And Penny doesn’t just stop there. She’s created a GALLERY of adorable characters around him, Clara Morrow, the painter, Myrna, the black Used Bookshop keeper, Olivier and Gabri, a delightful gay couple who run the Bistro and most memorably for me, the foul-mouthed nonogenarian poet (and drunk) Ruth Zardo, who has a pet duck, Rosa! A pet duck! I love that!

And Three Pines is off the grid! Inspector Gamache and his hearty side-kick Jean-Guy Beauvoir are constantly frustrated because there’s no Internet there! I love that!

I love Ruth and Rosa, and I immediately wanted to move to Three Pines, but of course, anyone who does so does so at his peril. Because delightfully hidden getaway to end all getaways, you could very well end up murdered. As many of its’ tiny citizenry do. On a regular basis.

My favorite? So far “Fatal Grace” which is set in Three Pines at Christmas time.

Penny, a former CBC broadcaster, miraculously turned her life and career around, at the midway mark, and began to produce these ASTOUNDINGLY successful, delicately written thriller-dillers. “Fatal Grace” kept me up until 3AM a few nights ago! I couldn’t put it down!

And Penny wrings changes on the tried and true mystery form, which she seems quite frankly at once in love with but also tired of. She does this by continuing her characters exploits and their stories from novel to novel. One saga involving Olivier goes on for two books!

And she develops her characters lovingly as she deepens their stories from book to book to book!

I don’t know which Louise Perry novel I’m going to read next! But I can’t wait!

My advice, start with the first one “Still Life” and then the second “Fatal Grace” and continue reading them in succession. You’ll be glad you did!

Logo 2 I just want to thank from the bottom of my heart, all the wonderful actors who made the first public reading of my new play “A Hyacinth Coat and a Charteuse Hat’ so very memorable and moving! They are Dave Quay, Tiffany Morgan Baker, Donald Arrington, Judith Roberts, Darrie Lawrence and Richard Currie! Hopefully this is only the beginning!

I wish everyone everywhere could’ve seen how brilliant you all were!

Just a quick post to let all of my dear readers, my dear cineastes and lovers of literature and theatre that my Internet connection as well as my phone line has been fixed! Yay! It only took TWO WHOLE MONTHS!?!?! People may have wondered why I wasn’t constantly blogging my brains out as usual, but now you know!

Has this ever happened to you?

What finally were the magic words that got the repair people(who couldn’t’ve been nicer, btw) over here and working after TWO WHOLE MONTHS?!? Well, I just calmly stated that I was switching to another company because I was so frustrated with their lack of response to my predicament. That’s how you do it.

I


CATHERINE WALKER

TO TAKE OVER THE ROLE OF

PHOEBE D’YSQUITH

IN THE 2014 TONY AWARD®-WINNING BEST MUSICAL

“ A   G E N T L E M A N ’ S   G U I D E   T O   L O V E    A N D    M U R D E R ”
BEGINNING OCTOBER 28, 2014

 

LAUREN WORSHAM

TO PLAY HER FINAL PERFORMANCE ON

OCTOBER 26

 

New York, NY (September 29, 2014) – It was announced today that Catherine Walker will take over the role of ‘Phoebe D’Ysquith’ in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the 2014 Tony Award® for Best Musical, beginning Tuesday, October 28.  Ms. Walker is part of the original cast of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as ‘Miss Barley’, as well as understudy for the role she is about to assume.  Sandra DeNise will be joining the company to take over Ms. Walker’s current role. Lauren Worsham will play her final performance as ‘Phoebe’ on Sunday, October 26.

 

Ms. Walker is an original cast member of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.  She made her Broadway debut with the original cast of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s hit musical Mary Poppins, understudying the title role, and became Broadway’s second ‘Mary,’ flying over the heads of Broadway audiences for over 100 performances. She left that production to join the original cast of the highly acclaimed Broadway revival of Ragtime. She returned to her hometown in Lancaster County as ‘Maria’ in The Sound of Music at The Fulton Theatre during the 2011 holiday season. She has appeared on the stage of The Maltz-Jupiter Theater in Florida as ‘Hope’ inAnything Goes as well as reprising her turn as ‘Maria’ in The Sound of Music , for which she received the prestigious Carbonell Award for Best Actress in a musical in 2011. She also played the title role in the musical, Gypsy, the premiere production of the new North Shore Music Theatre. Ms. Walker has appeared in leading roles in productions of Maury Yeston’s Phantom (‘Christine’), Carousel (‘Julie Jordan’), Show Boat (‘Magnolia’) and Brigadoon (‘Fiona’). She appeared with major symphony orchestras in tributes to Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz and has performed on the 2007 “Tony Awards,” “The Today Show,” “The View,” “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and “The Tonight Show” starring Jimmy Fallon. Catherine received her BFA in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University.

 

Ms. DeNise comes to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder directly from the Original Broadway cast of another Tony Award® winning Best Musical, Kinky Boots.  She was also an original member of the 1st National Equity tours of Jersey Boys, Hairspray (‘Penny’), Shrek, Parade, and Saturday Night Fever.

 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by—you guessed it—eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way (each played by Tony winner Jefferson Mays in what The New York Times calls “the year’s greatest musical theater performance”). All the while, Monty has to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance… and be done in time for tea. The Hollywood Reporter raves, “Gentleman’s Guide restores our faith in musical comedy” and The New York Times cheers, “It will lift the hearts of all those who’ve been pining for what sometimes seems a lost art form.”

 

Tickets, priced from $42-$152, are on sale via telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200 / (800) 447-7400. Tickets are also available for purchase in person at the Walter Kerr Box Office (219 W. 48th Street).

 

The performance schedule for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is as follows: Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 PM, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM, with 2:00 PM matinees on Wednesday and Saturda

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