a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

lion-1dev-as-lion-1And while we’re on the subject, “Lion” is nominated for Best Picture, too. Yes, and unbelievably there are those in the Academy who do not want to give 14 or 12 or 10 or any nominations to “La La Land,” something as frivolous as can be. In this year of great political upheaval and discontent, many,  besides Meryl Streep, as we witnessed at SAG, want to make a statement. Especially about diversity and inclusiveness, and “Lion” is just the film to do that. And as I said in the last post, which is now positioned on the top of the home page. (I hit the wrong button 😦 again!)

Plus they like giving Oscars to actors who are playing characters based on real people. And neither Emma Stone, Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali  OR Viola Davis are playing real people. They are playing characters. And Dev Patel isn’t. Another strong point in his favor. It ‘s an Academy only quirk. Like holding past Oscar wins against you. See Natalie Portman and Octavia Spencer this year. And Tom Hanks and the list goes on and on. And I’m looking at YOU, Denzel. Your two past Oscars aren’t going to help you win any favors this year.

lion-2And wouldn’t Harvey Weinstein love this turn of events? And if anyone can make it happen, it’s Oscar Master Harvey. So there IS suspense now to this year’s Oscar race which we all thought to be one and done by “La La Land.” Well, maybe things aren’t as cut and dried as we think. And that little orphan boy wandering through the slums and train yards of India? Who can resist THAT? AND Nicole Kidman as Mom and Rooney Mara, yes, she’s in this film, too. Finally playing a role that is just right for her, and endearing to boot, the devoted heterosexual girlfriend.dev-patel-and-rooney

AND it’s got a DGA nomination. It didn’t win, but….well there’s more to this story that meets the eye.

And everyone is crying at the end.

 

The AMPAS voters are voting now.

 

So stay tuned.nicole-and-child

sunset-boulevard-1Glenn Close is better than ever! Triumphantly returning to Broadway in the vehicle that won her a Tony 22 years ago ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard.”

This time with a set of ugly steel girders and a magnificent forty piece orchestra onstage behind her. Gone is the marvelously rococo, out-size set of John Napier’s representation of her decaying Hollywood mansion with the infamous gigantic diagonal staircase with a balustrade so high, you often couldn’t see the leading lady, if she was tiny ( Elaine Page) descending it. Patti LuPone the original Norma in London in the ’90s was fired from it for being too short, so the story goes. And so we have Glenn Close stepping in for the American premiere 22 years ago. And she was glorious.

Close always known as an actress, not necessarily as a singer, achieved iconic status the first time around, stopping the show in the MIDDLE of her songs. She does this again, especially with the Act Two stunner “As if I Never Said Goodbye.”  In fact, she’s so powerful, she stops the show with the BEGINNING of the song, before she even sings, with just the sound of that lush, lovely music and Hog-Eye, the lighting guy’s, stunning light cue. A spotlight shone on her directly, stabbing the ordinariness and  utterly transforming her before our stunned eyes, into a glittering star.sunset-boulevard-2I just couldn’t believe it! The audience was loving her so much they applauded the hell out of that moment before the classic song even started! (Lighting by Mark Henderson.) And was she once again stopped the show in the MIDDLE of the song! You could feel the ghost of Judy Garland, coming back to haunt her. Because this time “Sunset Boulevard” is playing the Palace, the historic home of Judy’s return triumphs. “I’ve come home at last!” she sings and as she throws out her arms to embrace the audience, the audience jumped to its’ feet to embrace her back(well, some of them did) and I witnessed the same phenomenon happen 22 years ago. And it’s as thrilling now as it was then.

And how rare it is to witness a mature actress getting to act the living daylights out of a great, great role, on Broadway, at 69! sunset-boulevard-3

“Sunset Boulevard” was always about age. And 22 years ago, Ms. Close was deemed to young to play Norma Desmond, who admitted to 50. And whoever believed her? But now she is just right, as she approaches 70. There are those great. mountain of stairs to climb at least three times that are even higher than before. How she accomplishes THAT amazing  feat eight times a week and twice on Wednesday and Saturdays, is in itself a miracle. But you notice how she’s grasping the hand-rail more tightly and also more gingerly. But nevertheless her descent into the life of failing screenwriter Joe Gillis is as majestic as ever.glenn-close-michael-xavier-1And Gillis himself, as embodied by the tall, dark, and studly British actor, Michael Xavier, is captivating as he turns into well, a stud. A kept beach boy, a gigolo, who can’t stand being Norma’s boy toy, or can he?michael-xavier

In his self-loathing solo in Act Two (“Sunset Boulevard”), he is now dripping wet and nearly naked,  having emerged from Norma’s swimming pool with a body that shows us why Norma is so smitten. In the briefest of sky blue speedo/underpants, you only half-believe that he hates this luxurious life, he has been encaptured by. Or is it enraptured? He then puts on a bathrobe, and onstage slips his speedos off. and we all wish he wasn’t wearing that damn bathrobe as he’s doing it!..

As for the rest of the actually very small leading cast, Fred Johanson is positively operatic and wonderful as Max, her intimidatingly creepy chauffeur. And Siobhan Dillon as the brainy blonde ingénue makes a boring part MORE boring.

In this production, you can see WHY Joe wants Norma. As embodied to the Nth degree by Close, she is dazzling. In gowns that this time must stand in for the missing set, she glitters, shimmers and shines. (Costumes by Tracy Christensen)”I’m rich!” she proclaims several times, reminding us of how Hollywood stars lived large, before personal income tax toned down their opulence.

And with that ugly, but functional set by James Noone, Christensen’s stupendous costumes now have to make up for the glamour-that-was-Norma. And they do.

And 69 year old diva Glenn Close is “now back where I belong! I’ve come home, AT LAST” she sings. And the crowd goes wild!sunset-boulevard-4

With one look, as her greatest song says, she can break your heart.

YOU MUST NOT MISS THIS!

 

615One of the greatest pleasures of being a film critic is stumbling upon a work of pure cinematic art that will  rock your world and stay with you forever. I just had that experience with the Danish Oscar Nominated film “Land of Mine” which I feel is one of the best films I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE. And it was totally unexpected, so it had tremendous shock value. Including suspense that didn’t let up, once it started. And I LOVE suspense. It’s so hard to create a real thriller diller, and I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of World War II movies. But “Land of Mine” blew all those preconceptions about war movies totally out of my head. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was on the edge of my seat, to the point where I felt like was STANDING, perched mid-air agog at all the atrocities of war crimes that were being perpetrated on this group of young German POWs, aged 15-18.

The premise is staggering, and it’s also true. That the Germans planted something like two million land mines on the beaches of Denmark, where they thought the alllied forces were going to land first. They never did, thank god! Or they would’ve been blown to smithereens, as many of these hapless young boys, and others, are during the course of this brutal, but brilliant film.

The Danish director/writer Martin  Zandvliet is new to me, but his talent is up there with the greats. And so is his great co-collaborator Camilla Hjelm Knudsen, DFF, who is his wife and cinematographer. “Land of Mine is filmed on a beautiful, pristine beach, where there is no civilization in evidence to spoil the view, except the roiling blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

Danish actor Roland Moller is superbly frightening as one of the most sadistic villains the screen has ever seen.He is constantly yelling at his captives in both guttural Danish and German. Telling the boy soldiers that this fate is just what they deserve, being Germans. He never lets up and he never feeds them.

Zandvliet is smart enough, as a screenwriter, however, to give him multiple dimensions. His Captain Rasmussen is simply a solider doing this dreadful duty as part of his job. And while he loves being a soldier.  we come to see he hates the horrifying assignment he is tasked with.

He has to make these teenage German P.O.W.s (This is right after WWII. ends), clear the nearly two million land-mines that are on that beautiful, wind-blown beach. And the boys, of course, do not know how to do this at all. They have no training whatsoever, and are completely lost in every imaginable way possible. Some of them are crying for their mothers

And yes, many of them are blown to bits. The lucky ones die. And Rusmussen keeps cruelly telling them, that whenan they clear the beaches of these deadly land mines, they will be sent home. They are more apt to be sent to heaven.

But Zandvliet plays his cards very close to his vest, and never lets us, the audience, know WHEN it’s coming, though we know WHAT’s coming. And he surprises us at every turn.And of course, it’s more horrifying than you could possibly imagine.

The boys start off as faceless, pale, ghostly figures, seemingly dead already, but as they film goes on several of them begins to emerge as three-dimensional characters as Rasmussen does. There are two twin brothers who are heartbreakingly protective and dependent on each other.They are both astonishingly first time actors, Emil and Oskar Belton.

A very complex wise-guy who looks almost Jewish is played grippingly by Joel Basman. There is one compelling scene where he is constantly being slapped in the face. And astonishingly he starts off laughing, and he keeps being hit and hit and hit again, until well, he is crying. Reduced to tears by the brutality of this violent assault. And dirty and foul-mouthed and repulsive as his behavior is, Basman just kills you, If this was an American film, he’d be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

Fiskebranchen

One of the two doomed twins.Stillfoto fra filmen Under Sandet/Land of Mines. Foto: Henrik Petit

It’s wonderful that this horrifically violent but beautiful film has managed with very little fan-fanfare to land an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in a very crowded, competitive year, it is hardly being talked up at all. It’s up to audiences to discover it and I’m sure they will. They never will be able to forget it. “Land of Mine” is one of the greats.

#Land of Mine, #German, #Best Foreign Film Nominee, #War Film, # Boy Soldiers, #Martin Zandvliet,# Twins

As I predicted Dev Patel, the British Indian star of “Lion” won Best Supporting Actor just now at the BAFTAS in London. Upsetting many who were predicting Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight.” Patel, who was also the star the Oscar Juggernaut of its’ year, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a very big star internationally. And while everything else in the major categories was almost rote, “La La Land”, Emma Stone, Casey Affleck, and yes, Viola Davis for “Fences”, it’s interesting to note that the little touted “Lion” got two major awards, Best Supporting Actor for Patel and also Best Adapted Screenplay for Luke Davis. Best Original Screenplay went (thank god!) to Kenneth Lonergan.

casey-kennethLonergan is such a great talent. I can’t praise him highly enough. He’s the real deal. An award-winning playwright/director in the theater here in New York, he’s a great guy, all heart, and just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. When I met him, years ago, I felt like I was meeting Shakespeare. Or as close as we are going to get to him in our time.

His dedication to his craft and his love of actors results in the multi-layered portrait Casey Affleck is rightly winning all these awards for Best Actor.manchester-by-the-sea-10I hope they both continue their way to the gold on Oscar night in their categories, Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

Strangely, “Moonlight” went home with nothing. As did “Nocturnal Animals.”

Casey Affleck gave a very touching speech about how his mother would take him and his brother Ben to Al-Anon meetings for children of alcoholics. The alcoholic would have been the father, who was also an actor in Boston, where they grew up best friends with producer of “Manchester” Matt Damon, who was also brought up by a single mom in similar circumstances.

“This is an honor I’ll never forget,” said Affleck. “The reason I act is when I was a young kid my mom took me to Al-Anon meetings for children of alcoholics. It was therapy but it was acting and acting has sort of been that for me ever since.”

This was a touch of genius on Affleck’s part, getting up close and personal for the first time in the many, many speeches he’s had to give at every award ceremony you think of this year, UNTIL the SAGs, when Denzel Washington unexpectedly won for his blow-hard performance in “Fences.” That wasn’t acting. It was screaming.

And Dev Patel’s surprise win is no surprise to me. I predicted it as you can see in the last post before this. Last year, Mark Rylance went on to win the BAFTA and then the Oscar. Which I also predicted would happen last year. I knew Academy members hated Stallone, esp. the NY Actor’s Branch, though they nominated him would never let him win. Again.

This could happen this time, too. I keep telling people that the Academy is as homophobic as they were in the “Brokeback” era. And “Moonlight” is  a VERY gay film. Even though it’s made by straight people, and I could see this same result happening at the Oscars.

It’s also interesting to note that “La La Land” won only five awards out of its’ overwhelming 11 nominations. That may be something that is also repeated at the Oscars.

I keep hearing that if any film could upset “La La Land” it’s “Lion” not “Hidden Figures.”

But even though, Ali is straight himself, and he’s playing a straight character “Moonlight” is so gay, I could see the Academy turning up their blue noses at it, the way that the Brits just did.

Emma Stone for Best Actress and Viola Davis in Supporting for “Fences” just nailed their Oscars tonight with wins at the BAFTAS. But Best Supporting Actor is now up in the air, and you KNOW, the Weinsteins will work that advantage to the max. And “Lion” I keep hearing is beloved and this is one category where AMPAS voters can show their love for it. And Patel is an actor of color, too. So there’s no shade thrown here, as they say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sad BaftaBAFTAS 2016 1What will be the BAFTAS effect on Oscar this year? It may be more than ever. The nominations for BAFTA(the British Academy Awards equivalent) are fewer, only five, in the Best Picture race. And though the British themselves are trying to align their awards with ours, more and more each year, the EFFECT they have on wavering Oscar voters stateside is monumental….Sometimes…And sometimes it’s the undecided votes  that determine the winner, especially in a close year like this in the acting categories.

Of COURSE, “La La Land” is going to win Best Picture. It’s as popular there as here. So let’s table that discussion right now, shall we? The other nominees are the British film “I, Daniel Blake”(no), and the American films “Manchester by the Sea”, “Arrival” and “Moonlight” and I don’t see any of those upsetting LLL, as it’s known on the Interwebs.

oscars-2017-3There IS a overlap from BAFTAs membership to AMPAS, estimated at a voting block of about 600. This becomes a crucial indicator when there is a close-as-close-can-be race. Like this year’s Best Actor. Casey Affleck will win this. And what you say? Denzel Washington isn’t even nominated! Yes, that’s right. And so isn’t “Fences” whose sole nominee is Viola Davis in Supporting. And you heard it here first folks, remember that. VIOLA MAY NOT WIN HERE!naomie-harris-1

It may be Brit star Naomi Harris, who was so strong and touching as the drug-addicted mother in “Moonlight.” Brits win here. It’s their awards after all. And the same goes for “Moonlight”s Mahershala Ali, who is most definitely going to win the Oscar in the Supporting Category, but also, not necessarily in Britian. It may very well be British Indian actor Dev Patel who is nominated for the Weinstein Co.’s “Lion.”lion-2I still think that USA favorites Ali and Davis will prevail in Supporting states-side. But just watch what happens if wins for Naomi Harris and Dev Patel occur in London on Sunday. And Casey Affleck wins Best Actor there. As will Emma Stone in Best Actress(They love “La La”).

The complete absence of “Fences” at the BAFTAs (esp. if Viola Davis Loses!) may mess with the perceived momentum of that movie.

So with POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT-than-the-SAG winners, Harris and Patel and no Viola, and Denzel not even nominated, it just MAY, I say, MAY insure that the brilliant portrayal of Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” continues on to win his BIG ONE as pre-ordained by the NYFCC, the National Board of Review, The Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes and every other critics’ group awards across the country.

Denzel was brilliant on Broadway, but in the screen version, he directed himself, and that was his big mistake. The movie seemed LONNGGGER than the stage version. Why? Because he kept pausing and dragging out EVERY SINGLE SYLLABLE til yes, indeed Viola Davis’ Rose DID seem like a Supporting performance. Every line was had an exclamation point at the end of it. A nd every close-up of himself was just held too long. That’s what makes a picture extend itself in time and wears out its’ welcome.

So enjoy your trip to the London stage, Casey. You gave the better performance, the Best Performance of the year. BY A MILE. As a lonely alcoholic janitor, who is tortured by his tragic past, his Lee Chandler is indelible, unforgettable.

casey-affleck-ad

And once upon a time, he appeared in a Kenneth Lonergan play in London to great acclaim, so they love him already in Blighty.

And most important of all, after the BAFTAS occur on Sunday, on Monday, (at last!) the Oscar voting OPENS! And most people send in their ballots IMMEDIATELY, especially now that they can do it electronically.

#Casey Affleck, #BAFTA, #Manchester by the Sea, #Predictions # Denzel Washington # Fences # Viola Davis # Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dolly Parton gives a very funny, enthusiastic introduction to the Life-Time Achievement Award for Lili Tomlin, her memorable co-star in “Nine to Five”, in a glittering, glistening skin-tight golden gown. And Lili tops it with a suitably dry, wry very funny speech. I wish I could just re-print it in its’ entirety. I’m sure it’ll be on You Tube later tonight, probably before this awards show is over. Continuing the political bent of tonight’s speech she said,
“What should I write on my placard?”

Everyone giving politically themed speeches tonight as they should.sag-awards-2emma-stone-sagEmma Stone continues Hollywood’s love affair with “La La Land” by voting her Best Actress.It was the only place they COULD vote for it tonite, and Emma did such a good, giggly, jiggly job accepting the award. Absolutely endearing.

In black and flesh colored peek-a-boo floor length  Alexander McQueen gown, Emma gives a nervous, ditzy, adorable speech, punctuated with “Oh God”s and upset that she was constantly being told to “Wrap it up!” And she didn’t! She  thankfully, adorably went on and on, and told Gosling.”Ryan. You’re the Best. That’s the truth. It just is.” And she also addressed the political situation, saying she was proud to be part of a group of people that “stood for something.” Looking every inch the glamourous movie star, she was endearingly spontaneous.

But she wasn’t letting the political ball drop. though. She said,” Everything is terribly inexcusable right now and scary and needs action.

Then a shocker of shocks! Denzel Washington won Best Actor for his hammy-to-the-max performance in “Fences”!  Though there was a lot of talk about him never having won a SAG Award before, like ever, despite his two Oscars, he now has one and gave a totally surprised speech. He said, “I was sure I was going to loose to that young boy.(Casey Affleck who is in his 40’s, btw.) I’m not prepared. I AM prepared.” Then gave a very emotional and funny speech admitting he was “Famous” (misTAKE!) and thanking everyone by name who put “Fences” together. Especially his co-star Viola Davis, who won earlier in the evening and just seemed so happy, she practically burst out of her tight-form fitting gown.

Then, suddenly, ANOTHER surprise, (But not to me) “Hidden Figures” won Best Cast or Ensemble(or picture) as I predicted it would.

But Holt on! It’s not over yet, folks. Next is the BAFTAs and Denzel isn’t even nominated for that award, and neither is the Picture or his direction. Just Viola.

Which means Casey Affleck could win again there. And the list of people who’ve won a SAG award but didn’t win Oscars, too, is quite long. So Denzel don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. I always bet on BAFTA. Like when Marion Cotillard won there.

This means my favorite film “Manchester by the Sea” was completely shut out. Watch the Oscars to correct that. It is a great movie. Far better than “Fences” which is all Viola, IMHO.

 

 

 

sag-awards-logoWell, here we are at Zero Hour. The Screen Actors Guild Awards known as SAG are about to begin, and I’m here doing this live-blogging once again for all of you dear readers, dear cineastes and I guess the big question is which film is going to win the Best Ensemble Award. Which is SAG equivalent to Best Picture. You see “La La Land” the juggernaut to end all awards juggernauts is not singing and dancing it’s way to the podium tonight, because it is not even nominated in that category. Sasha Stone at Awardsdaily.com is saying this is significant because it shows there is a flaw in the so far flawless march to the podium that “La La Land” has initiated this awards season.

“La La Land” won a historic Seven Golden Globe Awards and garnered also an equally historic 14 Oscar nominations, putting in it a class with such classics as”All About Eve” and “Titantic.” And now comes SAG and the Screen Actors shut it out completely of their Best Ensemble category. However there are only really two actors in “La La Land” which technically does not make it an ensemble. It’s a glorious two-hander and both hands DID get nominated. Emma Stone as Best Actress and Ryan Gosling as Best Actor. They could both win tonight. la-la-land-9Or not.

The first category will be one of the Supporting Actors right off the bat. Viola Davis is such a lock for the win in that category for “Fences”, they will probably give out that accolade first. There is some suspense, but not much, because front-runner Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” did not win at the Globes in the Supporting Actor category.

It’s a role that only occurs in the first third of this movie, that is also nominated for Best Ensemble. So that will be the first surprise of the night…Or not…If not Ali, then I think it might go to Dev Patel of “Lion” as the only other actor of color in that category. I think that #Oscarssowhite controversy is still on every one’s mind. Every SAG voter that is. So we shall soon see.

Did I say there a lot of TV shows honored? That’s the bulk of the show. There are only five awards for film, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress. And as I said, Best Ensemble.

Best Supporting Actor as I said is announced first. And it’s Viola Davis. Big surprise. In a beautiful, white silk, floor-length gown. Viola thanks the late August Wilson over and over again. Very emotional. Beautiful. Moving. “Putting the ordinary man of color’s story in the center of the narrative.”

mahershala-ali-1mahershala-ali-2Mahershala Ali blows the roof off the place when he wins Best Supporting Actor for his compassionate drug dealer, who he describes as “a gentleman who sees a young man folding into himself.” And seals his Oscar for sure proclaiming himself a Muslim. You could hear a pin drop. He was in a white tuxedo. And that was a magnificent speech.

 

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