a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

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?

 

CapoteI didn’t know Robin Williams. I never had him as a guest on my show. But the seismic impact of his death put me all too much in mind of another shocking seemingly self-inflicted tragedy.

That of the OD of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Phillip, I knew. We looked so much alike, as I have noted before, and I interviewed him more than once and talked to him many times at press events. He always seemed to be nearby.

And the world, and especially, the Show Biz world. My world? Reacted very profoundly to Williams’ horrible manner of passing. It seemed incomprehensible because everything you read about him, and certainly his many, many performances over many decades, seemed to convey joy. And of course, laughter. And well, his exit is not funny, by any means.

And now comes the news of his having Parkinson’s disease, which makes this tragedy a bit more comprehensible. He knew what he was doing. His wife says he was sober. This suicide was a conscious decision on his part, something he had to do. And no one can stop a determined suicide victim. He HAS to go. So he goes…and clearly Williams didn’t care the last image of himself that is now stamped invariably on all his comic antics. It’s so sad. But it was what he wanted to do. And he did it.

Everybody has been asking me about him and his death as if I KNEW him. I’ll say again, I only knew his work. Which I loved.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the more I think about it, must’ve been so out of his mind on smack that he may not have known exactly when he crossed that line of death. I don’t think he has trying to kill himself. Not in the way Williams just did.

I’ve been very troubled and haunted by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. But somehow, Williams’ end has put Phillip’s departure in a kind of perspective I didn’t expect, but needed.  Yes, you still feel awful for the children. They both had three kids. And the wives.

I was drawn to watch “Capote” arguably Phillip’s greatest performance and the one he won the Oscar for. I hadn’t seen it since I first saw it at the Toronto Film Festival, where I am heading once again in a week.

I was totally gripped by “Capote.” I was spellbound all over again. His artistry was operating at its’ highest level in that performance. And the massive achievement it was for him. AND director Bennett Miller, who is still with us and has a new TIFF film “Foxcatcher” that I’m looking so forward to seeing in Toronto.

Phillip is gone. But “Capote” will last forever. I felt incredibly comforted by his harrowing and ultimately heartbreaking performance of the  ultimate user and abuser that  Truman Capote certainly was.

And as I listened to the Special Features Audio Commentary with Phillip and Bennett Miller, who were the closest of friends, at one point Phillip says “Alcoholism was the subplot. Alcohol was always around. Especially towards the end of the film.” Or words to that effect. And alcohol was one of the things that ultimately drove Phillip over the edge at the end also.

Then I picked up an old newspaper(I’m frantically cleaning and simultaneously packing for my big Canadian Trip of trips), the NY post that I was about to discard headlined Phillip on the front page saying “I Am a Heroin Addict.” And of course that made me sad. Momentarily. But then I just kept listening to the Special Features on “Capote” which is like watching the film for two and three times more, I was again comforted by the nuanced, great subtle performance of a lifetime that he gave playing what could have been a huge gay stereotype of a man, but wasn’t at all.

“Capote” was making me happy. Of all films. And at this terrible time, when every magazine and newspaper, and internet site, is blaring out “ROBIN WILLIAMS 1951-2014″ at me.( I don’t have a working television right now. But that’s ANOTHER story.) And eventually, the pain and shock of Robin’s violet death will pass, too. And we will be left with the great gift of his talent, and his staggering number of great performances. He made us laugh. Now he’s making us cry. But time will bring a perspective on him, as it has with Phillip.

And we’ll just be happy hopefully, and grateful for the great work they did give us in their lifetimes.

 

I have to confess that I am coming late to the Wallander party. Wallander, the character, the novels, the many, many TV films in Swedish and also in BBC English with Kenneth Branagh, no less, is more than a cottage industry. It’s pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  After the early, tragic death of Swedish author Steig Larsson of the Millennium Trilogy, another Swedish crime novel author has emerged on the Swedish crime stage and  has survived and thrived to 66 . He is Henning Mankell and he has written a mountainous number of books, on Wallander and many other topics,  and is more than taking his place, in Sweden and in the world.

The super-quaint,  little medieval town of Ystaad, where Wallander is set and shot, has become a tourist destination! And Kurt Wallander, his world-weary, potato-like, sad sack of a Swedish detective, is underplayed in this series quite brilliantly by Krister Hendrickson,  and is almost as famous as a Swedish fictional character as Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” anti-heroine to end all anti-heroines.

Wallander (pronouced Val’-en-da) couldn’t be more different. He’s so every day, so every man, so ordinary, he’s almost invisible. But he has also taken hold of the world’s imagination, and its’ thirst for all things Swedish. That gloomy morose desire to suffer in the cold and ice was mightily filled in his lifetime by legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

To my dismay, the younger generation does not take to Bergman or even know his work. If they know anything of Swedish note today, besides Ikea, it is Lisbeth Salander, and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And also, right behind her is Kurt Wallander.

Larson was said to have devoured Swedish crime novels and one of the authors he was most influenced by was the prolific Henning Mankell. Who wrote more Wallander books and many other books, than Larsson ever did in his brief life-time.

Larsson, and the “Girl’ movies and books have whetted the public’s appetite seemingly for Swedish noir crime. In fact, I was shocked when I went to the main library in Manhattan and found out the nothing of Wallander, DVD, film or novel was in. All were checked out, but one, which I hungrily grabbed.

The female librarian said to me “Wallander is VERY popular.” The Vox Populi! The people have spoken.

In Mankell’s “The Man Who Laughed,” there is this passage that jumped out at me.

A solitary man, presumably Wallander himself, is driving down a lonely Swedish road at night, and feels a bump. He has hit a rabbit.

“He stopped and got out. The hare was lying on the road, its’ back legs kicking. But its’ eyes stared at him….He had never forgotten those eyes and the wildly kicking legs. The memory kept coming back again and again , usually at the most unexpected times…”

That’s a very good metaphor indeed. With a kind of awful poetry that Steig Larsson’s “just the facts” Milleninum writings eschews.

I think it’s this richness of the source material, Mankell’s writing, that lifts Wallander out of the realm of the ordinary procedural, though police crime drama is what it is.

The Swedish TV series, now available in the US on MHz DVDS,  is produced by the same company that produced the “Dragon Tattoo” movies. And it shows. Those films and the Wallander TV series echo each other, not just in their topics, human trafficking, arson, pedophilia, and of course, drugs, but in their doomy Swedish atmospheres.

Wallander is the essence of the plodding policeman, who doesn’t always get it write, in the opening episode, he gets so drunk, he leaves his police gun at a bar, and is suspended, until the Ystad police find out they can’t solve a crime without him.

The terrific Krister Hendrickson makes him so endearing a chap, I can’t imagine anyone else playing him. Especially not Kenneth ham-is-my-middle-name Branagh. But we’ll see.

And sometimes this season hits it right out of the ballpark in terms of impact. One episode “The Arsonist” particularly got to me. So well done and well acted and well shot by all parties. It was gripping and the ending chilling. Bravo to Episode 5! Wallander’s pen-ultimate case.

And you better enjoy Hendrickson’s Wallander while you can, because in the last episode,  #6 in this series, “A Troubled Man,” he gets Alzheimer’s. What American series would risk that? The central figure losing it to a disease that no one ever seems to suffer from on American series television. Hendrickson becomes increasingly forgetful and lost. He gets suspended (Again!) by the Ystaad crime unit.

His daughter, Linda, a cop herself, and also a devoted mother, with a small daughter who Wallander dotes on, is marvelously played with degrees and shadings of sympathy and strength and frustrated horror by Carlotta Johnson, as she begins to notice that Kurt, her father, is getting absent-minded and gradually slipping away.

As early as episode one, “The Troubled Man”(like for instance the forgetting the gun in the bar) and culminates with him wandering the streets of picturesque small town Ystaad with his shoes untied, not knowing where he is, in “The Man Who Wept,” who is ironically is the melancholy Wallander himself. And yes, in a climatic moment, Wallander cries. The series has built so carefully to this, it’s shattering.

Shakespeare  explored this same disease in “King Lear,” which I found myself seeing right in the middle of my Wallander binge-watching.

Dementia has always been with us as a disease and a topic and continues to be the unnerving presence that turns into an absence as we watch the sun sadly set on Kurt Wallender.

Don’t miss this Swedish series! You’ll find it hard to forget, and you’ll be hooked on all of Henning Mankell’s work, too! Just like Steig Larsson was, and half the world it seems is!

 

“ F U N  H O M E ”

THE MOST CELEBRATED MUSICAL OF 2014

FINDS ITS HOME ON BROADWAY THIS SEASON

 

CRITICALLY LAUDED MUSICAL

WITH MUSIC BY JEANINE TESORI AND

BOOK AND LYRICS BY LISA KRON

TO BEGIN PERFORMANCES AT

CIRCLE IN THE SQUARE ON APRIL 4, 2015

 

OPENING NIGHT SET FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 2015

 

New York, NY – Producers Fox Theatricals (Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson) and Barbara Whitman announced today that The Public Theater’s production of the Award-winning American musical Fun Home, following its sold-out, critically acclaimed world premiere, will receive a much-anticipated Broadway premiere this spring.  With music by four-time Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori, a book and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Lisa Kron and direction by Drama Desk nominee Sam Gold, Fun Home begins performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre (1633 Broadway, NYC) on Saturday, April 4th, with an official opening night set for Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

 

Fun Home opened to rave reviews at The Public Theater in October 2013, and was quickly extended four times due to popular demand. It was named Best Musical by the New York Drama Critics Circle, and received the OBIE, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Off Broadway Alliance Awards in the 2013-2014 season; the musical was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

 

Pronounced “a beautiful, heartbreaker of a musical” by the New York Times, Fun Home is a fresh, bold and original musical based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical, best-selling graphic novel. After her father dies unexpectedly, Alison dives deep into her past to tell the story of the volatile, brilliant, one-of-a-kind man whose temperament and secrets defined her family and her life. Moving between past and present, Alison relives her unique childhood playing at the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home, her growing understanding of her own sexuality, and the looming, unanswerable questions about her father’s hidden desires.  Named “Best Musical of the Year” by the New York Times, New York Magazine, Daily News and more, Fun Home is a daring and innovative work about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.

The creative team also includes Danny Mefford (Choreography), David Zinn (Set and Costume Design), Ben Stanton (Lighting Design), Kai Harada (Sound Design) and Chris Fenwick (Music Direction).

 

Fun Home will be produced on Broadway by Fox Theatricals and Barbara Whitman, along with Carole Shorenstein Hays, Tom Casserly, Paula Marie Black, Latitude Link, Terry Schnuck/Jack Lane, Nathan Vernon, Elizabeth Armstrong, JAM Theatricals and Scott M. Delman.

 

The Original Cast Recording of Fun Home is available on PS Classics.

 

 

 

THE CRITICS PRAISE “FUN HOME”

 

Critics’ Pick!

“A beautiful heartbreaker of a musical.  Fun Home finds a shining clarity that lights up the night!

The New York Times

 

“A miracle! Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about growing up gay with a closeted dad underwent the most unlikely genre translation imaginable to become the year’s best new musical, both hilarious and crushing.”

– New York Magazine

 

“5 Stars! “Achingly beautiful!  Uncompromising in its intelligence and emotionality, Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron have made something special.”

New York Daily News
“Warm, Funny, Heartbreaking!”
Variety

 

“Four Stars! Lisa Kron’s poignant libretto and Jeanine Tesori’s expressive, multifarious music make lesbian identity legible onstage.”
Time Out New York

 

“Deeply affecting, even heartbreaking. Fun Home is a triumph!”

New York Observer

 

“A collaboration to cherish! Lisa Kron knows precisely how to mix the demands of a musical and the brilliance of Bechdel’s memoir. Jeanine Tesori finds just the right voices.”

Newsday

 

 

After the incredible reviews for “Boyhood”, I had my expectations high. Higher perhaps than they should’ve been. I was expecting to see The Second Coming.

At three hours, it was waaaay toooo long. I couldn’t wait for him to graduate high school and get the hell out of the house!  And then, set in Houston, it seemed we were going to be dragged through college with him (the University of Texas is a backdrop) as well.”Oh no!” I thought.

I was unfortunately feeling that sinking feeling of when is this going to be over???

The non-actor playing the central character Mason was OK in the child hood scenes where all he had to do was be a kid. But he was constantly being upstaged by his precocious and obnoxious older sister,Samantha, who turns out to be director Linklater’s daughter Lorelei! Who btw doesn’t look like either of her biological parents, who are played to the hilt,  and then some, by the more-remarkable-than- she’s=ever-been Patricia Arquette, in the role of her career, as Mason’s patient, loving mom, and Ethan Hawke, who holds his own, too, as Mason’s dead-beat dad.

The thing that astounded me throughout the film, however, was not simply the fact that everyone in it was really aging as they would in real life, but the incredible 12 year long dedication of Arquette and Hawke and all involved to director/writer Richard Linklater. This is his second time-lapse, if you will film. The other also with Hawke was the “Sunrise” trilogy, of which I only saw the last film, and was underwhelmed by that one, also. Of his recent films, I liked “Bernie” better.

I guess you had to see the other two first. I felt when I saw it that it would get no Oscar action. And it didn’t. The Gotham Awards and the Indie Spirits are where this film will clean up. As its’ doing at the box-office.

But Oscar, I don’t think so. It’s not a Best Picture picture. It’s more of simply a film stunt. And Ellar Coltrane as Mason is more of an absence than a presence, but I guess that’s what the director intended. As we SLOOOOWLY procede to Mason’s adolescence and his interest in photography grows and grows, we see something of the young filmmaker Linklater merging with the character. I would’ve liked to have seen more of that. It’s a film of tiny, small moments. I would’ve liked more substance.

Most successful is the painful portrait it paints of a dysfunctional single mother (Arquette) who is constantly drawn to drunken, abusive men. She drags her two children through three horrible marriages, and while accurate, paints a very bleak, bleak picture of American married life today.

As the daughter, Samantha bemoans the fact “that we have to move AGAIN!” every time one of Arquette’s marriages break up.

I found it depressing and disturbing rather than enlightening. And bourgeois beyond belief.

Oh well! On to the next Oscar front-runner that going to sink from over praise.

Linklater might get a Best Director nod, and perhaps win. And Patricia Arquette’s is the best written part. And she plays it wonderfully with warmth and intelligence and makes you realize this talented actress has been underestimated and under-utilized her entire career. Until now. She is so good she could be nominated in either category. Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress. But if she’s in Supporting she’ll be up against the likes of Dame Maggie Smith for “My Old Lady.”

She’s so good and is the performance that really stays with you, as she ages from cute-as-can-be hippie Mom, to a matronly, committed Psychology professor single mom with a degree, who is something like 15 pounds heavier. You  root for her all the way. And she gets the big Summing Up Scene at the end.

So while “Boyhood” like in real life has its joys, it is also something I couldn’t wait to get out of.

And as I was leaving this public showing of the film, I heard people with puzzled expressions on their faces saying “It was three hours!” and “It’s so ordinary.” That about says it all. Don’t believe the reviews. It’s a critics darling, clearly, but Oscar? I don’t think so.BOYHOOD 1But it might get SOMEthing big. Like Arquette winning Best Actress. Or even Linklater winning Best Direcot or Best Original Screenplay. I don’t think he’s ever won an Oscar before, so this clearly is his year. And every body likes him and Arquette, is very popular in Hollywood. They’ll get nominated. But Best Picture? No. It will go to a much bigger studio film. But Linklater could finally win Best Screenplay. He’s been nominated in that category before.

The childhood references  it revels in are going to be lost on the aged Academy members. this childhood wasn’t their childhoods. Harry Potter any one?

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!

 

 

 

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 801 other followers

%d bloggers like this: