a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

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One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen on Broadway totally surprised me with its’ non-stop hilarity. It’s “Oh Hello” and there’s only two people in it! But they are the super superb sketch comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, who appear as their 70-something alter egos Gil Faison and George St. Geegland. Whether they are a gay couple or not is open to interpretation. The show was described as “very gay” to me, and it is, and it isn’t.

This is simply the story of two old men, who have lived together for over forty years in the same rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side ,”the coffee breathe of New York”, they call it. And they get an eviction notice in Act One. Except there is no intermission so there is no act one.

So much for the plot.

Their apartment, their domaine, as it were is high-ceilinged and so vast that they have spent a lifetime salvaging the sets of closed shows. Main among them the hair dressing salon of “Steel Magnolias”, and the staircase from “some Au-goost Williams” play that they can’t remember the name of. There is a front stoop from “The Cosby Show” on the opposite side of the stage. “We got that oh-hello-2because they were throwing it away and nobody wanted it.” Serena Williams and Tennessee Williams were brother and sister. And so it goes…

They are united in their love of theater and theater trivia. Gil claims to be a “multi-Tony Award viewer.” And tries, still, at his advanced age to be an actor, and go out on auditions, even though he has(we find out later in the play) an incontinence problem. They also are wearing white wigs to represent hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in decades. Nor have their clothes. They are always waxing nostalgic for “That Great Decade, the 70s,.”which everything in their apparel and their apartment dates from(great design by the great Scott Pask, costume consultant Emily Rebholz.)

George sports wide wale corduroys that look like they were once brown, but are now sort of purplish with a shine. There’s no shine on his shoes because he is wearing sandals with not-so-white socks. They both look like they need a good bath, but there is no indoor plumbing visible or referred to. You can almost smell them from the front of house.

George is still trying to get his plays done. Largely to no avail, and he wouldn’t appear so preposterous a character, if he didn’t resemble Florence Foster Jenkins’ real life husband/companion in the recent Meryl Streep movie “Florence Foster Jenkins.” That foppish St. Clair Bayfield was played by Hugh Grant in the movie. A  real-life failed 1920s actor, he married money. But George St. Geegland and St.Clair Bayfield, they are cut from the same fading  theatrical cloth.

Except that George has no money and Gil has even less. You wonder how they manage at all at their advanced ages to pay their $75 a month rent. So the eviction notice heralds disaster .But they ARE spry, and as embodied by the 30-something comic geniuses of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, you love them to pieces.

There is not one comic beat that is missed. Their malapropisms are monumental. Broadway is pronounced “Brid-way,” a phone call is a “finn-call” and an homage is a “Home-page.” But they try and try to get into show business, still, and their constant rejection is our comic bonanza.

Their big “Brid-way”  break is just around the corner, and Nathan Lane is off-stage waiting to come on, they assure us. They have a favorite diner on the Upper West Side, but can’t remember its’ name, but they do remember that their menu has “fourteen plastic pages” and that one of the dishes is lobster.

“I was going to order that,” says Gil, “Just to see what would come out.” Mainly they venture outside to get throw aways from “Brid-way bombs. There’s so much to choose from.” The entire scrim from “Fiddler on the Roof”(which is still running BTW. How did they get it?) comes down, and they have to act through its’ gauziness towards the end of what would’ve been Act Two.

And their other culinary obsession is tuna. There seems to be Tuna everywhere on this set, but unlike Big and Little Edie Beale (of “Grey Gardens”fame), there are no visible cats. It’s like they’re the Collyer Brothers, with no piles of newspapers, but a trap-door from “The Diary of Anne Frank.”oh-hello-3

They also seem to have or have had a public access TV show called “All That Tuna.” And if this isn  ‘t enough to convince you to run right out and see it, every night, they pull an “unsuspecting” celebrity out of the audience, and make him sit down with them to a gigantic tower of tuna sandwich, delivered from the heavens with attached angel’s wings, which they assure us is from “Angels in America.”

Adam Driver (of “Star Wars:The Force Awakens”) was the celebrity guest the night I was there and I’m still shaking with laughter.  The theater was suddenly filled with screaming teenage girls in the second and  third balcony, and they wouldn’t stop shreiking as George, Gil and Adam sat down at their checkered red and white diner dining table for an interview. It got so bad, Gil just yelled at them “SHAD-DUP!” And they did.oh-hello-4Only slated at the moment to run through January, catch them now, while you can. It’s the perfect New York holiday show for misanthropes.

 

 

Well, as you can see, there’s plenty o’nominations for the Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. The BFCA, which came out two days ago. VERY early for them. They are trying something new here. Trying to get a jump on everyone else and colliding with them instead. Trying to be more “relevant” to the Oscars, more predictive. But I think this pile o’ nods is just adding to the mess. For one thing they have MANY,MANY more categories and slots within those categories.  It’s seems like they’ve excluded NO ONE. As the DoDo in “Alice in Wonderland” (The Book, Not the cartoon movie or any of the other Alice movies) “Everyone has won! And all shall have prizes!”

The only thing that seems missing is Martin Scorsese’s just now screening pic “Silence.” Maybe all of the 250 members didn’t get to see it in time. “Hacksaw Ridge” is kind of a surprise. So is Andrew Garfield’s inclusion as Best Actor for that movie. Since he’s also playing the lead in “Silence.” We can assume, since they only can nominated him for one film, that they all got to see “Hacksaw Ridge” and were impressed by the amount of suffering this poor young actor has had to endure in less than a year. And with Mel Gibson as the director, roo! (Of “Hacksaw Ridge”) And Gibson was nominated for Best Director, too! Sheesh! They’ll nominate ANY ONE this year!hacksaw-ridge-1Then we have SIX count’em, SIX Best Actresses, and one of them is going to have her heart broken when Oscar Nomination morn comes around. It’s not until AFTER the holidays, in January but still…

And then we have the anomaly of BOTH Jeff Bridges AND Ben Foster getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor, clearly canceling each other out for the excellent “Hell of High Water.”hell-or-high-water-7hell-or-high-water-1

Therefore,leaving the field clear for Mahershala Ali of “Moonlight” to sweep it and become the first Black Muslim to ever win an Oscar.

They liked “Moonlight” A LOT, nominating it wherever they could and that includes the wonderful Naomie Harris as Best Supporting Actress, as I’ve been saying ever since I wrote about the film at the NYFF.

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that in this historic Black Gay Breakthrough film both nominees here are playing straight characters.

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Then we have the wonderful Greta Gerwig, FINALLY breaking through into the daylight, for playing a character with Purple Hair in “20th Century Women.”

greta-gerwig-anette-beningAnd Annette Bening got nominated, too, (See above left) for the same movie but in the Best Actress category.

If you ask me, it’s all too much of a much-ness, everything piling on in the space of a few days.

The Complete list is at http://www.awardsdaily.com

BEST PICTURE Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Lion
Loving
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
Sully
BEST ACTOR Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Joel Edgerton – Loving
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Tom Hanks – Sully
Denzel Washington – Fences
BEST ACTRESS Amy Adams – Arrival
Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Janelle Monáe – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Alex R. Hibbert – Moonlight
Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Sunny Pawar – Lion
Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE 20th Century Women
Fences
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight
BEST DIRECTOR Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Denzel Washington – Fencescritics-choice-logocritics-choice-logo

michelle-williams-1The New York Film Critics finished their annual announcement of winners with “La La Land” named as Best Picture and Isabelle Hupert as Best Actress for “Elle”& “The Things to Come.” Michelle Williams was cited as Best Supporting Actress for “Manchester by the Sea” and also her role as a bemused house-wife in one part of the three-part “Certain Women.”la-la-land-1isabelle-hupert-1By honoring both “Elle” and “The Things to Come”, the NYFCA is really acknowledging Huppert’s towering career in French films, where she is an icon. Both films are in French. This definitely gives her a leg up in the very competitive Best Actress race at the Oscars.

She’s also among the nominees for Best Actress for the Broadcast Films Critics. I’ll get to them later today. It’s an avalanche of nominees. But off the top of my head, Best Actress of course is Emma Stone for “La La Land”, Natalie Portman for “Jackie”, Amy Adams for “Arrival” and Annette Bening for “20th Century Women.” The BFCA had six slots to accommodate all these talented ladies, but the Oscars only have five so one of them will be left out.

I can also quickly note that once again “La La Land” lead the field with 12 nominations. Meaning this year is going to be a very “Slumdog Millionaire” year where one film just walks all over everything else, and never misses a beat on its’ road to the Oscar for Best Picture. More later.

Got to see a Broadway show tonight. “Oh Hello.” Until then Oh, good-bye!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

manchester-by-the-sea-5Casey Affleck is once again the big winner so far as the prestigious New York Film Critics begin to SLOWLY announce their choices for this years Best Films. Affleck is again honored for his tormented portrayal of a ne’er-d0-well Boston janitor who is tormented by recent tragedies in his past in “Manchester by the Sea”. Mahersala Ali was named Best Supporting Actor for his helpful father figure-cum-crack dealer in the much awarded (so far) Indie film “Moonlight”, which was also cited for Best Cinematography.

Kenneth Lonergan was named Best Screenwriter for “Manchester by the Sea.” “Maria Erdman” was named for Best Foreign Language film. More awards-winner will be announced as the afternoon’s voting wears on.

Well, the first critics awards of the season have come rollin’ in, and the Big Winner so far is Casey Affleck, who has just racked up Best Actor from the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review. Right behind him is his beautiful film “Manchester by the Sea” and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of this fierce little Indie’s overcoming all the studio behemoths to reap these much-deserved rewards.

“Manchester by the Sea” also was just named Best Picture of the Year by the National Board of Review. It landed in its’ top Ten Films and Lucas Hedges as Affleck’s truculent but funny nephew got Best Breakthrough Performer also for “Manchester.”manchester-by-the-sea-5

It’s such a good film. And its’ filmmaker, playwright/director Kenneth Lonergan is one of the best talents we have working today. “Manchester” is a film that grows in the memory. It lasts. It stays with you, as all great films do. It’s a comedy that contains its’ characters going from one funeral after the other.

To reveal more of the plot is to spoil it, so I’ll stop here and say that Casey Affleck’s performance of the grief-stricken Boston janitor certainly deserves these accolades and I’m sure he’s got more on the way. No more “Ben’s little Brother” fleck really comes into his own in “Manchester.”Such a searing portrait of grief, I don’t think we’ve ever seen on the screen quite so indelibly.

Also gaining some surprising and much needed traction from these early awards is “Moonlight”s Naomie Harris, who I’ve been mentioning over and over in previous Oscar blogs as the crack addicted mother of the central character.

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Also rollin’ in to the National Board of Review is Jeff Bridges’ nominated for his crusty, West Texas retiree lawmaker in “Hell or Highwater” for Best Supporting Actor. hell-or-high-water-5The Independent Spirits nominated Ben Foster also from “Hell” in this same slot, but not Bridges. And as previously stated the entire ensemble of “Moonlight”s actors received a special award for excellence at the Gothams.

“Moonlight” was also the Big Winner at the Gothams last night with four awards. It’s Out Gay writer/director Barry Jenkins scoring in both categories.

It’s also interesting to note that neither of the millennial actresses who are considered front-runners Emma Stone for “La La Land” and Natalie Portman for “Jackie” won in this busy past 24 hours. French actress Isabelle Huppert triumphed for “Elle” at the Gothams and six-time Oscar loser Amy Adams won the NBR Best Actress Award for “Arrival.” Could this FINALLY be her year?arrival-1

For a list of all Gotham Award Winners and the National Board of Review’s, too, go to http://www.awardsdaily.com.

#Casey Affleck

#Oscars

#Manchester by the Sea

#Lucas Hedges

#Naomie Harris

 

hell-or-high-water-1I have to admit to resisting “Hell or High Water” since it’s arrival this summer.  This surprisingly  much praised Indie hit has gone on to make over $30 million and now it’s being talked of all the time as an Oscar contender and all of that is true. Now that I’ve figured out how to use the VOD function on my cable TV, there is no excuse. And now I have to bow down and start raving like the fan it made me. It IS one of the Best Films of the Year and will definitely be on my Top Ten list.

hell-or-high-water-3hell-or-high-water-2And the Oscar talk is totally justified! Ben Foster whose star is rising and rising here comes into his own as the bad boy brother, Tanner, of the two Texas brothers that this film is about. He just got a totally deserving nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Indie Spirit awards, and I hope that nomination goes on to further his chances of repeating this at the Oscars.

Chris Pine, who usually plays mighty leading men of the “Star Trek” kind, here astonishes, too as the film’s lead, as the good brother Toby of these two young Robin Hood bank robbers that you can’t help but root for as they rob one Texas Midlands Bank after another. Their motives are totally noble. They want to pay off the reverse mortgage on their late mother’s land in West Texas. And yes, Texas Midlands bank is who is going to fore close and take the suddenly oil rich piece of property for its’ greedy self.

hell-or-high-water-4 hell-or-high-water-5Most of the Oscar talk has centered around Jeff Bridges, who is channeling Tommy Lee Jones’ retiring, tired lawman in “No Country for Old Men.” But note, it is mad man Foster who got the Indie nomination! Of course, Bridges is very, very good, too, especially in the climatic scenes. Pine, Foster and he should ALL be nominated!

And David MacKenzie is the director, a talent I’ve been following for years, since his involvement with Tilda Swinton’s Scottish project “Young Adam” in 2003 with Ewan  McGregor. It’s steamy love story set on a Scottish barge, another unlikely setting. It’s no surprise to me how well this is directed and how strongly audiences and critics all over the world are responding to this suspenseful tale that had me on the edge of my seat, I’m telling you.young-adam-1

Why did I resist this film for so long? I don’t like Westerns. And anything that calls itself a “neo-Western” gets my critics’ suspicions up to a very high level of genre busting, But “Hell or High Water” does just that. It sets out to do something that has never been done before and it fulfills all its’ promises. It’s something new, and something timely too in this era of the 99% who feel abandoned, impoverished and alone against a corrupt system. In this case, the Banks.hell-or-high-water-6
The screenplay is terrific, too, in its’ freshness and nuance. Written by Taylor Sheridan who wrote the much favored “Sicario” of last year.hell-or-high-water-7But I feel Foster has the most difficult job of holding the whole film together with his indelible outlaw portrait of Texas insanity. And yes this film resembles “No Country for Old Men” A LOT. But just remember who won the Oscar from that excellent cast. It was Javier Bardem as Anton Cigurh, as the truly terrifying villain, which is the part Foster is assuming here. Although Foster’s hot head is out of control violence-wise, but also funny and in a strange way endearing.

And here he is from an interview I did with him on my show a few years back for the also excellent “The Messenger” in a completely different kind of role.

# Hell or High Water

#Oscars

# Jeff Bridges

# Ben Foster

#Chris Pine

# Tilda Swinton

thanksgiving-2016Happy Thanksgiving to all my dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre!

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