a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

NYFF 2016 About to Open!

nyff-1Opening on Friday night, with Ava DuVernay’s new doc “The 13th” is the 54th edition of the New York Film Festival. I’m proud and happy to say that I’ll be covering it this year for Awardsdaily.com, with whom I’ve shared a working relationship as a contributing writer on film for over 10 years! More! I was there when it was Oscarwatch.

The great Sasha Stone is still doing the yeoman(or yeowoman) heavy lifting there, and now as the Oscar race begins to gear up big time. Or festival time, it DOES get heavy. Ably abetted and assisted by Ryan Adams. I’m thrilled to pieces to be doing this work for them, and hope I live up to their standards. They’ve set the bar so high!

It’s a pleasure and a privilege, absolutely!

Here’s a link to my first article http://bit.ly/2dsJmoA

Check it out!

And also “Brillo Box (3 cents off)” a great and funny doc about Andy Warhol & his creations is going to be seen in Feb., I think on HBO, if you miss it at the NYFF itself. As they say in Franch, Bon Cinema!

E.T.A. Ok so that link didn’t work. Trying this one.

54th NYFF Opening Friday: French Films and Racial Themes Dominate

This one works! Yay!

 

 

Live From NY: I’m OK

new-york-skyline-1Dear Readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, I was home last night at the time the explosions took place, quite aways away from the 23rd Street blast.

I’m fine. I’ve been calling friends all day to make sure they’re OK. They all are. But thanks for your concern, and my heart goes out to those who were so unfortunately injured.

West 23rd Street is in the heart of Chelsea, a major resedential  and GLBTQ community area. The bomb went off in a dumpster near the 200 unit building that houses the blind.

 

 

la-la-land-1“La La Land” is proving to be the People’s Choice. It was just won that award, considered very important by all Oscarologists at the Toronto Film Festival. I haven’t seen it yet, but it seems everybody loves it. So this surely pushes it squarely into the Oscar nomination category for Best Picture, as well as many other nominations in many other categories. It looks luscious. I can’t wait to see it!

Pundits from Sasha Stone http://www.awardsdaily.com to Tom O’Neil at Gold Derby have placed it at #1. In fact, for a complete list of TIFF winners check out awardsdaily.

“Queen of Katwe” with Lupita Nyong’o placed second. And “Lion” a Weinstein film with Dev Patel came in third. Lupita, people say, is looking at another Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Katwe.”Lupita 2016And Emma Stone is the front-runner now in the Best Actress category.

“La La” is directed by Damien Chazelle who directed the great “Whiplash” last year and won an Oscar for Supporting Actor for J.T. Simmons.

#TIFF # Oscars # La La Land # Emma Stone

Edward Albee Dies at 88

In trying to  figure out the best way to  sum up the great American playwright Edward Albee, I am showing you, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, a  portion of an interview I did with two women who REALLY knew him.

Leila Robbins and Catherine Curtin were in his “Lady from Dubuque” at the Signature Theater about four years ago, and they share some absolutely charming memories of working with him.

I knew him as someone who was always standing very erect in a corner, glowering at everyone and everything. And yes, he never said much, and I was too afraid of his intense stare to talk to him. He was an intimidating character. And I’m so glad Leila and Cathy shared happy memories and moments of him here. R.I.P. Edward Albee.

little-murders-1I continue my Hercule Poirot/Agatha Christie obsession with Mhz’ new series of five French TV shows, “Les Petites Muertres d’Agatha Christie” or “The Little Murders of Agatha Christie.” They may be “inspired” by Agatha Christie, but they are not Christie at all. Well, maybe glancingly. But they become their own delightful devertisement nonetheless.

Focusing yet again on the renowned fictional creation of Christie’s Hercule Poirot, one of the most famous Belgians ever, “Little Murders” starts by making Poirot as French as French can be. He’s totally transmorgrofied here. Christie’s solitary, probably celibate Poirot,in the French version here is the typically randy rogue, with a roving eye, and he turns out to have a daughter,too! Mille tonneres! It’s a shock to see him portrayed this way. And his Hastings stand-in is Gay! So, of course, I was delighted!

And also the very strong and funny performances by Antoine Dulery as LaRosiere, the Poirot character, and Marius Colucci as the piquant, red-headed Lampion, do enthrall and involve you in their own right.

They pull you into a world that is not Christie, but Christie-esque.. The period is the same the 1920s-30s . I kept thinking of Sophie Hannah and her two marvelous Poirot continuation novels, “The Monogram Murders” and “Closed Casket” the new one that has just come out and  is climbing the best-seller charts as we speak.CLOSED cASKET 1

Hannah’s Poirot is meticulously the Poirot we know and love. And is, yes, always being mistaken for being French, and he’s always snapping out “I’m Belgian!”david-shuchet-1

And he certainly doesn’t have any children, or former wives. He’s a solitary figure, and fussy as hell. He’s really OCD, I think And we love him for being such a nit-picking perfectionist. I can’t recommend “Closet Casket” highly enough and you’ll see how British Christie/Hannah’s Poirot really is. And PS, he hates the British! I always wondered why he has stayed in England throughout all his adventures.

Closed casket 2In “Little Murders”, Poirot still loves to eat. But La Rosiere will eat ANYthing! He’s a glutton. He’s not picky, like Christie/Hannah’s Poirot certainly is.

The five 90 minute segments that Mhz has so marvelously packaged for our delectation state-side really are VERY watchable and as convoluted as Christie’s brain-teasers should be. But you’ll only catch Christie, if you really are a devotee (as I am) because the plots are quite buried if not thrown away altogether by the French creators. I wonder what Christie or for that matter Sophie Hannah would think of this saucy, mistake-prone Poirot. And Lampion is always yelling at his boss! Poirot would never allow ANYone to raise their voices to him! Especially not his side-kick!

He’s also always mistaken for being gay, because Lampion is gay. There’s one episode where they end up in the same bed! I loved it!

little-murders-2My favorite  episode  was “Knife in the Neck” which is based on “Lord Edgware Dies.” I don’t want to spoil it, but in the French version there are TWO murder plots a foot, where Christie only had one, and this is one where Poirot’s comely teenaged daughter Juliette (Alice Isaaz) turns up.

Poirot has been an absentee father and Juliette reproaches him for leaving her alone to grow up with her (unseen) mother . I can’t even imagine what Madame Poirot might look or be like. In any case, Poirot doesn’t want anything to do with her, or their lovely daughter. But Juliette won’t leave her father alone.

She and the droll gay character Assistant Detective Lampion both fall for the same handsome actor, Julien Sobel. Played marvelously by Julien Allugette. There’s even a fantasy sequence where Lampion imagines Sobel doing a strip tease for him!

This is not your mother’s Agatha Christie, as you can see by the clip below.And I have to mention the fatalist  of femme fatales, Sarah Morlant, a great diva actress, who is based on the Lady Edgware character, but again only slightly. Maruschka Demets does a fantastic, sultry job, huskily purring every line she says, with blood red fingernails, like talons. There’s also several brief scenes of Racine’s “Phedra” thrown in. I loved that.  Antoine Dulery and M. Demets were more than up to this classical challenge.

“Little Murders of Agatha Christie” is not what I expected, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

cats-2Much to my great surprise, I really enjoyed the hearty  new revival of “Cats” that opened at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway. I can’t be THIS moved by this pile of furry kitsch which has been disdained through the ages, can I? Well, I was particularly by the first act. And it was the MUSIC. Yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber just did me in with his sweeping, weeping synthesizer-based, semi-operatic score, which has held up remarkably well, and is being beautifully played and sung here.

What “Cats” has got that I hadn’t counted on was memory. And not just the song “Memory” which I saw for the first time in 1996 with an old boyfriend, who was then new, and both of us had never seen it before. And we were both more swept away than I remembered, but especially by Liz Callaway’s heart-rending rendition of “Memory.” Which you can see  at the top of this page. We were sitting in the nearly the front row of the Winter Garden, and Callaway looked me right in the eyes and held my gaze as she sang it. It was earth-shattering. Like she was saying, “I know what this song means to you.” And she was right.

And watching that very complete performance on Vimeo, yes, she did it to me again. With a full orchestra yet.

I was moved to tears in 1996, and my friend had to comfort me as Grizabella went to the Heavy Side Layer. So romantic. I could barely speak. And this time “Cats” did it to me again. But it was from the instant I heard those iconic bars of music at the beginning of the first act overture. They had me at “hello”. Or “meow”. And I don’t like cats as a species.

cats-3

Leona Lewis, who won a talent contest in England and has sold millions of records, just didn’t have the acting chops that Liz Callaway, and probably Betty Buckley, who I never saw do it, or Elaine Page, the original Grizabella in England more than 20 years ago, did. She can sing it, but she can’t act it. Grizabella, the tattered glamour cat needs both. She’s tragic.

But the first act! Before Leona Lewis “hesitated towards you” and threw “Memory” away, before THAT, I found “Cats” Act I absolutely delightful and moving.

You see, you have to toss all preconceptions of what a musical should be. It still doesn’t have a plot. But this time I thought, it didn’t need one. The first time I saw it in 1996, I missed the plot. There is no plot. There is just a string of poems by T.S. Eliot of all people set to music, and Act One is a series of reviews, vaudeville turns really, and this talented cast was up to it in spades.

The dancing this time is just terrific. “Hamilton”s Tony winner for Best Choreography Andy Blankenbuehler was outdone himself re-doing each number in his own very striking, stirring, purring way.

(A hilarious theatrical foot-note. My tap teacher from when I was a struggling young actor/playwright/char-woman in London in the, ahem, er, ’70s, ended being the original choreographer for “Cats.” And she’s now a dame. Dame Gillian Lynne.)

Blankenbuehler attacks “Cats” like he attacked the dancing in “Hamilton” and also “In the Heights.” He approached as if it were a new script entirely, so his take on the many Cats and their movement, is very fresh and strong.

Original director Trevor Nunn is still on board, so there is a sense of tradition in “Cats” too. But its’ just jammed with stunning new talent. Main among them is Andy Huntington Jones, who you can see at the top of the page as Munkustrap, who acts as the narrator. Not an easy job in this fur-filled ensemble. You’re also going to remember Christopher Gurr as Bustofer Jones in Act I “The St. James St. cat” and also Asparagus, the ancient theater cat in Act II. They touch you in ways that Leona Lewis can’t. I hear she’s leaving the show soon anyway. It seemed like she was half out the door already.cats-4

But a favorite among favorites was the tangled twosome of Munjojerrie and Rumpleteazer. Who are really Jess LeProtto and Shonica Gooden.

Tyler Hanes really rocked the place as Rum Tum Tugger, the Mick Jagger of cats.cats-5And Ricky Ubeda dazzled as the magical Mr. Mistoffelees, jumping,  summersaulting and pirouetting his way into the hearts of all. He seemed to be turning into a rainbow of colors to match his electrified suit.cats-7

And Quentin Earl Darrington as Old Deuteronomy, the oldest cat alive, was appropriately moving. Spoiler Alert! Especially as he as Grizebella, ascended to the Heavy Side Layer, and Leona Lewis woke up and finally started to act with him.

So yes, I teared up all over again. I’ve always felt that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a much better theater composer than anyone has ever given him credit for. Except the audiences who pack into his shows. “Cats” ran for 16 years the first time. “School of Rock” is at the Winter Garden, where “Cats” was originally and “Phantom of the Opera” is still running, too. With an astonishing three shows currently on Broadway, he’s obviously doing something right.

#Cats, #Andrew Lloyd Webber, #Broadway #Stephen Holt Show

#Leona Lewis, #Betty Buckley, # Liz Calloway, # Elaine Page

# Musicals

la-la-emma-1The beauteous red-head Emma Stone just won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival! This is big win for Emma, and really turns the Best Actress Oscar Race upside down.

I thought it was going to be a slam-dunk for the unawarded genius of Viola Davis in “Fences” repeating her Tony triumph, but holt on! It may not be that easy with Emma Stone, radiant, young, and a  past nominee, too,for a film that won Best Picture , “Birdman”  is now in a very strong position. Much stronger than I thought she’d be this early on.

Viola’s reps may have to think about her going Supporting for “Fences.” And she’d surely win in that category.

Sasha Stone has it all and all the other winners at http://www.awardsdaily.com of the Venice Film Fest. This is bad news for Viola. “Fences” is opening later this year, outside of the Festival circuits. And Sasha believes that a film has to open right around NOW, in order to build Oscar consensus. As “Spotlight” did last year. Playing TIFF. And now we have “La La Land” being everyone’s new favorite movie and the new front-runner.

I’m seeing it next week and I’ll let you know what I think of it then, for sure. But this is bad news for Viola, who I think is on her was to another Emmy for “Getting Away with Murder” her TV show.viola-davis-fences-1

I really did enjoy Emma’s performance in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man” two years ago. And felt that “Cafe Society” was really written for her, not the tough-er cookie Kristen Stewart, who seemed overall uncomfortable in that sweeter-than-sweet ingenue role. whereas Emma would’ve been just right.

I hope this is not going to go down this way, but Denzel (who’s currently finishing the editing of “Fences” ) better hurry  up. He’s on everyone’s mind with “The Magnificent Seven” opening in Toronto. Yes, he stars in that, too.

I saw Viola onstage in “Fences” and she and Denzel BOTH won Tonys for their portrayal of an African-American couple in the ’50, who are finally able to buy their own house. And they were both beyond brilliant.

But Emma Stone…she could win for “La La Land” if the older Academy doesn’t feel comfortable with what seems a younger/skewing movie. Anne Thompson said this on her podcast this week. But historically, the SWARM(Straight White Old Rich Men) who have always dominated the Oscar voting have ALWAYS gone for the cute, young girl of the moment. Which right now is Emma Stone.

Sasha thinks that “La La Land” is going to win Best Picture. She saw it at Telluride, so she should know.la-la-land-1

 

 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: