a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Can Jake Gyllenhaal’s uber-creepy “Nightcrawler” slither its’ (and his) way into the Oscar race for Best Actor? The wonderful Jake is doing the best work of his stellar career in “Nightcrawler”. “Nightcrawler” debuting at TIFF, of course, this week, really caused a stir. And with good reason, it’s terrific and Jake is unbelievably good, playing against type at the Bad Guy, whom you’d rather not want to meet on a darkened street, or in a back alley, the setting and hang-out for his creepazoid loner, Lou Bloom. Bloom is a local news addict, who wants to break his way into the big time of tabloid television, by filming as many car crashes and shooting sites as he can.

His character really inhabits the twilight zone of L.A. Noir, a genre all its’ own, and Jake totally owns this revolting character in a way we’ve never seen before. He lost a massive amount of weight so he doesn’t look well. He looks hungry. Hungry for everything the dark side of the L. A. Night has to offer. His large eyes become enormous and glassy here as he inhabits this truly horrible character of a blood-thirsty ambulance chasing videographer from the inside out.

Lou Bloom will stop at nothing to get the worst, most bloody shot imaginable. He’ll even go so far as seducing a much-older-than-him TV station manager Rene Russo. Russo has never been better and one hopes they BOTH get nominated in their respective categories. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

But will they? The Best Actor race is REALLY crowded this year, one again, whereas, as always, the Best Supporting Actress race has room for Russo.

Is this supremely ugly portrait of a tabloid-obsessed guy something the Academy will embrace with an Best Actor Oscar nomination? Or is it just too raw. too close to the bone, for the warm and cuddly Academy voters? His Bloom recalls DeNiro’s great Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver”, and DiNiro did get nominated for that but didn’t win. But immortalized the lines “You talkin’ to me?” forever in the Hollywood pantheon of one liners that define a character, and a performance. They might be DiNiro’s most famous sound-bite. Will  Jake the Great make it in to the Final Five at Oscar time? I personally would love to see it.

And I think audiences are going to enjoy skinny, creepy Jake and reward “Nightcrawler” at the box-office. But will the Academy follow suit? That’s the 64 Thousand Dollar question.I’ve always felt Jake was the perennial good guy in a f-ked up situation, like for instance in “Zodiac”, but here’s he’s definitely the bad guy, who is making you like him ANYway. A very difficult thing to do. And he does it superbly, masterfully. I love this direction that Jake is pushing his career into. It’s not a comfort zone by any means, but it’s something a great actor does. Challenging himself again and again. And this time succeeding mightily.

I can’t wait to see “Nightcrawler” and be creeped out all over again!

 

So it’s come down to three Brits in Biopics, ruling the Best Actor Race at TIFF. That would be Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”, Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game” and finally Timothy Spall in “Mr. Turner.” I think one of them is the ultimate winner in this very crowded Oscar season. Well, Best Actor is very crowded. Best Actress sadly is not. It’s like tumbleweeds are blowing through that under populated category.

I think Eddie Redmayne, 32 years old and freckled everywhere is truly the one to beat. He does an ASTOUNDING job enacting all of genius Stephen Hawkings many, many levels of disabilities. It’s a seamless portrayal which Redmayne totally disappears into utterly. It’s transformative in that it will transform his career forever.

The skill and the adeptness (Did I just create a new word?) with which he essays this seemingly impossible role is simply breath-taking. And mind-boggling. How DID he do it? One keeps thinking. And if we want to hark back to the old Academy acting adage “The Degree of Difficulty” is ENORMOUS! It’s off-the-charts. And you LIKE him. Which counts for a lot with Oscar voters.

Cumberbatch is super-nova hot right now with his British TV series “Sherlock Holmes” garnering an unexpected SEVEN Emmy Awards last week. But he’s got a more difficult task in “Imitation Game” His character of ANOTHER British genius is terribly UNLIKEABLE. And difficult. And cold. And complicated mentally as Redmayne’s Hawkings is challenged physically. Alan Turing was not a likeable guy. Troubled, distant, stand-offish, to say the least, and gay. And finally persecuted for being a homosexual in the 1940s and ’50s in England, he ultimately kills himself. It’s kind of a terrible story. A tragedy really. But it is a story that certainly deserves to me told.

It’s a brainy, intellectual film that challenges the audience to keep up with it. Which is a good thing in my book. How many films today even ATTEMPT to do something like this? Virtually none. Except unfortunately for Cumberbatch’s Oscar chances “The Theory of Everything.” But “The Imitation Game” has something that “Everything” doesn’t. Which is the backing of Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. SOOOO adept, historically, of winning Oscars and certainly gaining nominations for all and sundry.

This is particularly good news, I think, I hope, for Keira Knightley, who delivers a career-best performance as Cumberbatch’s female counter-part and sometime partner. She’s a match for him intellectually and mathematically and supplies “The Imitation Game” with a much-needed beating heart. She’s extraordinarily good here, and you know how effective Harvey is in getting Best Supporting Actress nominations. And I do think Cumberbatch will be nominated, too.

If you crunch the numbers on biopic nominees in recent years, as my colleague Scott Feinberg is sure to do, maybe even as you’re reading this. (He’s at the Hollywood Reporter) , you’ll find that real life characters and their portrayers are almost always rewarded. By the Academy.

Timothy Spall is a suberb British character actor, and will probably be counted “Lucky To Be Nominated” for the epic British biopic “Mr. Turner” about the great British painter, J. M. W. Turner. This film is also going to pop up very soon at the New York Film Festival. And we’ll see how it does there. It was also at Cannes, where it was acclaimed.

But just judging by the heat-on-the-ground at TIFF, it’s going to be a battle ROYAL between Redmayne and Cumberbatch. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a VEDDY British Oscar season, I predict.

 

 

 

Finally! I am so excited I can barely type this! A true Oscar champion has emerged at TIFF’14! FINALLY! I was about to give up hope!

But  young British actor Eddie Redmayne has emerged as a sure fire Oscar Nominee for Best Actor for the heart-rending “The Theory of Everything.”

It is a biopic of the excruciatingly painful life of the brilliant best-selling author Stephen Hawking, who spent most of his life battling the debilitating

motor-neuron disease that stripped him of all his faculties, walking, holding anything in his hands, and finally talking. And yes, he triumphs over all of these multiple disablities and is still alive today at age 72, so the film notes at the end.

Redmayne is just incredible in this.  He wowed all and sundry last year in “Les Miserables” as Marius. And now he’ll break your heart several times over as Hawking, and he’ll make you weep at the end. Oscar is gonna love this! I PREDICT! It’s mindful of the career-making performance of Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot” which won DDL his first Oscar quite awhile ago.

And I haven’t seen a performance of this kind of extreme disability combined with extreme skill and heart since then.

Eddie Redmayne WTF!!!

And right beside him is the equally young and gifted Felicity Jones as his devoted wife Jane, who is an incredible in her own right as Redmayne is in his. I predict she’ll get nominated for Best Supporting Actress, too. The long-suffering wife is an academy staple. And it’ll be nominated for Best Picture, too. And Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s based on Jane Hawking’s memoir. And she is the personification of the word valiant.

“The Theory of Everything” is a love story and a very powerful one. Bring all the handkerchiefs you can find.

You’ll cry your eyes out, but you’ll leave the theater happy. As this hardened press and industry audience at TIFF collectively melted in Redmayne’s and Jones’ expert hands and their were audible sobs heard everywhere, and thunderous applause at the Princess of Wales theater in Toronto at the end of the film. Then again, when Eddie Redmayne’s name came up. I haven’t experienced that anywhere this year at TIFF’14. If TIFF is an Oscar launch-pad then consider Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and “The Theory of Everything” launched into the stratosphere!

It’s experiences and films like this that make TIFF unforgettable! Once again!

OMG! Is it hot here today in Toronto! The weather, I mean, and of course, the Toronto International Film Festival, too! I was just interviewing a series of very talented young people, on a tiny patio, in the sun, outside. Which started out OK as I talked to a young Iranian actor Omar Headey about his role as a cockroach – obsessed (they are his pets) young Canadian in the short film “The Underground.” It was temperate, at that time. It was pleasant. The weather I mean. I never thought I’d ever live to see the day when I was interviewing some one about cockroaches, but I was. And I was enjoying it! It was a good short film.

Then the Icelandic beauty Hera Hilmer came out and we were wearing matching blue outfits. She’s so young and so beautiful that she takes people’s breath away. Mine especially. She’s in the new Icelandic film here “Life in a Fishbowl.” She lives in London and speaks English with a charming accent and was outfitted all in blue. I was feeling the temperature begin to rise.

I ran back inside the air-conditioned, but small publicist’s office, and then had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Thor(valdor David) Christianson, and then the Movie Godz turned the heat WAY up, and Thor, as he’s known and myself really began to roast. He was squinting and my head began to spin, as the sun beat down on us, like we were in Monument Valley in a John Ford western.

But we’re in TORONTO! In September!

We had to stop, sadly, but soon you’ll be able to see all of this Icelandic glory on You Tube. He’s in the same film as the beautiful Hera. They are both incredibly sweet and charming and charismatic. But I still don’t know what that film was all about. But I intend to see it again.

You’ll be seeing both of them. A lot. In the future, I’m so sure. Thor went to Juilliard. I’m not making this up. And he said “It was the happiest time of my life.” And Hera went to LAMDA in London, where she new lives, and is in great demand there in film after film.

I’m still feeling the heat. From their star-power. And from TIFF, of course!

More soon, dear readers, dear cineastes!

 

 

 

 

 

Well, “Maps to the Stars” which I saw yesterday at TIFF was hyped as an Oscar possibility. Best Picture and down the line, but after seeing it yesterday at a P&I screening I have to say, it’s over.

“Maps to the Stars” by the King of Canada David Cronenberg has gone out of his way to insult Hollywood at every twist and turn of this dark, dark comedy thriller. And who am I to say that Hollywood  doesn’t deserve this harsh satirical treatment? It certainly does. But poor Julianne Moore who degraded in every way imaginable certainly doesn’t. She’s a great actress, playing a neurotic, aging, delusional one. And she takes into her home a very creepy Mia Wasakowska(sp?) as a personal assistant from hell. Carrie Fisher herself, in a very funny cameo, foistsAgatha on Moore,

But the denouement, which I won’t reveal here, is something the Academy just won’t stand for, and may not even nominate poor Moore for. Even in Supporting…But is the Academy going to nominate a performance by a poor actress who has a scene on the toilet where she has to pee and fart at the same time? I think not.

But Moore is magnetic and ultimately tragic, and she did win the Best Actress Award at Cannes this year…but…peeing and farting…? WTF? When there are people to nominate in Supporting like Patricia Arquette and Dame Maggie Smith, I think not.

There is also a Justin Bieber-like character in this, but really, his character and plot-like are pointless…All I can say is David Cronenberg has done “it” again.

And again, I’m typing this from the unbelievably quiet press room, where the only sound is typing. And the television broadcasting “The Judge”s press conference behind me on a large screen, but I’m not watching it.

More soon, I am so sure.

Live, more or less, from Toronto.

 

 

Well, here I am ladies and gentle-persons, in the just opened TIFF media lounge, reserved exclusively for the accredited TIFF media and press. 

HUGE computer screens to type to you all on. 

VERY quiet in here. Most people ran out to see a rescheduled Press and Industry screening of “The Judge” with Robert Downey Jr. I did not.

Just wanted to make sure you all know I am still on this planet.

Montreal was delightful, except I ran out of insulin there. THAT was awful, but I finished there.(Yes, I’m a diabetic) and got here to TIFF two days early, which I always ponder the wisdom of. 

TODAY is the day that it really starts and I’m on to see some movies and go to some parties!

Ciao, publico, as my friend Margiangiola Castrovillii always says.(I was on her TV show in Rome. AGAIN!)

 

 

Montreal 1Every year about this time, I’m in a packing mode. My wanderlust descends upon me and yes, I’m off! I WILL be going to the wonderful Festival des Films du Monde AND the overwhelming Toronto Film Festival. TIFF! Again! For sixteen years and counting! And I’m very proud of it. It is an all but super-human achievement to get from here to there. As close as it may seem to New York.

But I have to acknowledge the great Beatles song “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.” Or I couldn’t do this. And no, Kickstarter failed me again this year. :( But I then had to become my own Kickstarter and voila! I AM going!

So thank you to those who’ve helped me accomplish this goal of goals. You know who you are. And who I asked but didn’t. It’s been rough.

And as there begins to settle in a slight autumn chill in the night air in New York, I know it’s time to go to Canada. Where, frankly, I’ve had some of the best times of my life.

People even THANK IAM Canadian. I’m not. But I like their mistake. And there will be so many wonderful films coming my way. And yours, because I’ll be talking about them alllll year, I’m sure. Toronto has the Oscar-bait-y ones. And Montreal will be hosting, as usual, films from all over the world. They are both treats in their own unique way. One VERY French, and one kind of British(that would be Toronto.) But I’m not gone yet! I hate this last week of waiting before I go. Don’t you?

 

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