a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"


I have long admired the acting force that is British Actress Emily Blunt. She’s been on my TV show twice, once for “The Jane Austen Book Club.”where I interview her by satellite. She was in London where she said, “It was pissing down with rain.” Now that’s not something Mary Poppins would never, NEVER say. This is without a doubt the iconic role that is going to make her very, very famous and will define her career for the rest of her days. And maybe even win her a Best Actress Oscar.

She was just nominated for her”practically perfect in every way” British nanny that descends from the fog-covered skies over London to save the Banks children once again. But this time they are all grown up and played remarkably sympathetically by Ben Whishaw and the divinely demure Emily Mortimer. It is 1930 and they still live in the charming house on Cherry Tree Lane, but here’s where director Rob Marshall had a master stoke of genius. They are on the verge of being evicted.

So beneath the flaming Technicolor flim-flammery, there is a great core of sadness underlying “Mary Poppins Returns.” Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins senses that there is  real trouble brewing here and that only she can fix it. This gives the always startlingly original actress a role that she can really sink her teeth into, and probably will play for ever. If she wanted to. There is a real sense of pain and a core of sadness that is motivating her Poppins to do what she does best – Cheer every one up.

Lyn-Manuel Miranda is on hand, too, in the Dick Van Dyke role, as  twere, here transmorgrofied in into a lamplighter. He seems wildly miscast here, but his British accent is better than Van Dyke’s (who is in THIS movie, too!)


Also on hand is a new character, Mary’s Blatvian cousin Topsy who tells them all she is “Turning Turtle” a show-stopper that allows Streep to out-camp her Florence Foster Jenkins.

The composer/lyricists are straight from Broadway. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are so endlessly tuneful and prolific. My favorite has to be “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “There’s No Where to Go But Up!” sung by Angela Lansbury. Yes, she’s in it, too. Even the background music is quite enchanting. And every now and then they slip a little touch of the original Sherman brothers classic score. Just a few notes, mind you, but it is enough to send up flying down memory lane, in the best possible way.

It’s a delight. It’s an epic and I think it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture and many, many below the line categories. Sandy Duncan’s costumes are heaven-on-earth, right down to Mary’s red shoe laces. And of course, the extraordinary Emily Blunt will be nominated for Best Actress. And she could win, too! This is a film that will melt the hearts of every hardened cynic in Hollywood.

“Mary Poppins” is not just a sequel. It’s a classic.

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I always felt that Emily Blunt was one of our best, most versatile leading lady screen stars that we have out there today, and this morning the Screen Actors Ensemble Guild secondly resounded my emotion by naming Blunt both actress for “Mary Poppin Returns” and Supporting Actress for the heroine of her husband John Grazinski’s horror film in “The Quiet Place.”She’s up against formidable competition in the form of Lady Gaga in “A Bore is Starred”, seven time nominee Glenn Close in “The Wife,”Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and fellow first time nominee Olivia Coleman in “The Favourite.”

Does being nominated for both performances in both categories for two different movies give Blunt the edge in this most hotly contended of categories? It just might.

A veteran of British stage, screen and TV(She even appeared in a Miss Marple once as one of the murder victims!), she scored States-side in a big way with her memorable turn as Meryl Streep’s assistant in “The Devil Wear’s Prada” and though she’s been working consistently since then. she never had THEE role that would indelibly lift her from working actress to star, but she’s got TWO this year.

She’ll never be obscure again, For the list of the other nominees and nominated films go to http://www.awardsdaily.com


“Roma” the Mexican film in Black and White and widescreen by Alfonso Cuaron has won Best Picture Awards from film critics groups across the nation, and in Toronto, too!

It’s almost a clean sweep from the Mexican masterpiece “Roma” as Critics group in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, Denver, San Diego as well as Toronto, Ontario, Canada are all unanimous in their acclaim for this intensely personal epic  tale of life in an upper middle class Doctor’s family in Mexico City in 1970. Told from the point of view of its nanny and maid, Cleo, as played unforgettably by Mexican first time actress, Yalitza Apericio.

Cuaron has gathered Best Director awards across the board, too. To accompany his first Best Directing Oscar for “Gravity.” “Roma” also just garnered nominations for Cuaron in writing and directing as well as Best foreign Film at the Golden Globes.

For a complete listing of other awards in other categories, check out http://www.awardsdaily.com

 


This year’s Golden Globes Nominations have just been announced. And they seem to be earlier than ever. The LA Film Critics haven’t even announced yet! So here they are. And for a complete list go to http://www.awardsdaily.com. I’m just over the moon that my #1 film of the year was remembered twice. The incredible Lucas Hedges got nominated in Best Actor, Drama for “Boy, Erased.” It also got nommed for Best Song.

This is what Lucas had to say about this,

“I honestly didn’t expect this and am completely thrilled. Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press for this incredible nomination. I loved playing Marlo, so this is a real honor.”

The 21-year-old phenom is currently on Broadway in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery” and so he can’t do the usual glad-handing and campaigning that has become an inevitable, and necessary, component of this Awards’ race.

No stranger to the Golden Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who give them out, Lucas was up two years ago in Supporting for “Manchester by the Sea,” also by the superb author/director Kenneth Lonergan.

It should also be noted that the HFPA nominated both gay characters in “Can You Ever Forgive Me” played by Melissa McCarthy (Lead actress) and Richard E. Grant (Supporting). as well as all three lesbian characters in “The Favourite” played by Olivia Coleman(Lead) and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz(supporting.)

The Golden Globes become more and more important every year and this year they seem more on point than ever. And they certainly are a hoot and half to watch. And they very often are extremely predictive of the Oscars. Academy voters use the Golden Globe lists as a cheat sheet. Their inclusion on this list will mean the films will be watched and discussed. And in the case of “Boy, Erased,” which is about the heinous practice of gay conversion therapy, which is still legal in over thirty states, it is IMPORTANT and timely.

Post-script: the other Masterpiece that’s out there this year, “Roma” was nominated for Best Foreign Film, because it’s in Spanish. Alfonso Cuaron was nominated as Best Director and  Best Screenplay. And if there was an award for Best Cinematography, he’d be nominated for that, too,  for the stunning Black and White footage that he shot entirely himself!

Alfonso Cauron’s masterpiece just won Best Picture and Best Director at the New York Film Critics this afternoon. His scintillating Black and White cinematography won that award, too. Ethan Hawke won Best Actor for “First Reformed” and Paul Schrader won for his screenplay. “First Reformed” also scored in these categories at the Gotham Awards.

For  a full list of the winners go to

http://www.awardsdaily.com

One of my favorite films of the year “Green Book” just has been named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, the first organization to announce its’ awards this year  Here’s a list of all the other winners, some surprising, some not.

Bradley Cooper wins Best Director for that abominable “A Star is Born” and Lady Gaga(Gag Me!) wins Best Actress for that same mess of a film. Hollywood veteran Sam Elliott wins in Supporting Actor playing Cooper’s older brother in the same movie, which they should’ve called “A Bore Is Starred’ and Regina Hill continues her march towards the Oscars by winning Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

This helps all four actor winners towards  nominations but not necessarily to wins. The National Board of Review is one of the oldest critics groups and is nothing if not idiosyncratic, to put it mildly.

I have to add that I admired Elliot’s performance in “ASIB” and I applaud “RBG” winning Best Documentary. A rip-roaring take on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The next critics group to announce is going to be the New York Film Critics and I’m betting you, it’s not going to look anything like this list.

The Gothams which came out only last night were COMPLETELY different. You can go to http://www.awardsdaily.com, to see just how different both these lists are. The race is on!

Best Film:  GREEN BOOK

Best Director:  Bradley Cooper, A STAR IS BORN
Best Actor:  Viggo Mortensen, GREEN BOOK
Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A STAR IS BORN
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Elliott, A STAR IS BORN
Best Supporting Actress:  Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Best Original Screenplay:  Paul Schrader, FIRST REFORMED
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Best Animated Feature:  INCREDIBLES 2
Breakthrough Performance: Thomasin McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
Best Directorial Debut:  Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Best Foreign Language Film:  COLD WAR
Best Documentary:  RBG
Best Ensemble:  CRAZY RICH ASIANS
William K. Everson Film History Award: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND and THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD

 

This year I saw one of the best films I’ll ever see, bar none, and it was the NYFF centerpiece film “Roma.” Mexican Oscar-winning(director for “Gravity)Alfonso Cuaron has done the seemingly impossible follow-up to that intergalactic magisterial feature. He has turned the camera inward and backward. To his childhood in Mexico City. And he’s done it in Black and White! And it is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and one of the best films I’ll ever see. Ever.
The most unlikely of subjects, the inner(and outer) life of a maid, the brilliant Yalitza Aparicio. She has never acted before and she just takes your breath away as Cleo. The put-upon, multliple-dutied nanny, housekeeper, laundress and mother of the earth. She really is the glue that is holding this upper-middle class doctor’s family together as they seem to be falling apart. 
Her story is galvanic, epic and heart-breaking and Aparicio embodies everything that is noble and good in 1970 Mexico, which is a scene of almost constant class conflict and wars. You know Cleo is more than capable of the humble, quotidian of chores she is tasked to do, but where else can she go? She clings to her menial job as if it were a pair of well-worn rosary beads. She prays for her hired family and we pray for her to transcend their problems, as they treat her and mistreat her, as all servants are treated. You know if she loses this job, with this her adopted family, she will lose her life.

Yalitza Aparicio could and should get nominated for Best Actress, as Cuaron certainly will be for Best Director. He also wrote the screenplay. He also shot it. He also co-produced it and co-edited it. And every gorgeous black and white shot should be framed as a work of art, even though he is photographing the most ordinary things.

Cuaron had a nanny Lebo, and that’s who Cleo is based on. And when he showed the completed film to her, she burst into tears, as I did watching it. This film is a love poem to her. And to all mothers and unselfish care-givers. To tell you any more of the plot, of what happens to Cleo, as it all rings so true, it hurts. It would spoil it.  It will break your heart. “Roma,” the name of the area of Mexico City the film is set in, in simply the best film he’s ever done, and a masterpiece.

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