a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2010

TONY CURTIS R.I.P.

I had the great and rather unbelievable(to me anyway) privelege of interviewing the late, legendary Hollywood star Tony Curtis, who just passed away of a heart-attack at 85. Jeffrey Wells has a great piece on him on his site www.hollywood-elsewhere.com He puts so much up there, I think now you have to scroll down a bit.

I had the chance to catch him at a press conference in Montreal, and actually get a good ten minute interview with him, accompanied by his wife, Jill. They were both there because Tony was being honored for his work and he had a new doc about him and his wife and their efforts at horse-rescuing at their ranch outside Las Vegas…

He did say some remarkable things. Like discussing his relationship, an affair, with Marilyn Monroe early in their respective careers. Very early. And also admitting to me that he did think his daughter  actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, did look like him in drag! As he so memorably was in “Some Like It Hot.”

“Some Like It Hot” ranks as one of my all-time favorite movies as I’m sure it is for many of you dear readers, dear cineastes.

Tony was from the Bronx, as am I. And we shared the same accent. He was from an area that was very, very poor, and he got out. I can understand why.

He was in a wheel chair in Montreal, with this HUGE white 10 (or rather 20!) gallon Texas cowboy hat. And completely bald. And absolutely REVELING in the attention and applause he was getting from Les Montrealais.

I think he had that fear of being forgotten…But in Montreal, he certainly wasn’t.

I was so overwhelmed meeting him! I couldn’t believe it! I suppose he was one of my idols growing up seeing movies at the Palace Theater in the Bronx(no longer there). I don’t remember seeking out his films. I wasn’t obsessed with him. But I certainly saw “Some Like It Hot” when it first came out , more than once, if I remember correctly. And of course, I have it on DVD today.

And he touched my forearm and hand. He grasped it and held it, and I remember being slightly shocked about how cold his hands were and how tiny. He had bird-like hands. Delicate.

And of course, I did hate him for all the homophobic remarks he made about “Brokeback Mountain,” that probably caused it to lose the Oscar as Jeffrey Wells points out in his piece. So I didn’t know HOW I could possibly interview this man who I had felt such hostility towards as a gay adult, but whom I had worshipped as a great Hollywood star as a child.

But he was so fragile in person and more than a bit forgetful. And the wheel-chair shocked me. And he was so delightfully warm in person and so grateful and glad for all the attention he was getting in Montreal that all those hurt “Brokeback”  feelings just melted away. I had them, still, in the back of my mind, but I could tell if I brought them up he would’ve terminated the interview immediately. Or his wife Jill would. She was watching over him like a hawk.

She was certainly in dutiful attendance upon him and so he would’ve certainly been well-taken-care-of up to the end…So in the last years of his life, he was happily married. Finally.

And I didn’t know until afterwards that he and his daughter Jamie Lee were estranged.  And THAT could’ve almost ended the interview, but didn’t. He said some very interesting things about her, too…”She’s successful, but she’s not happy” and he went on.

It was thrilling  to have seen that little slice of Old Hollywood in person…

And you can see my interaction with him and Jill on my You Tube site. www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Just type “Tony Curtis” into my search box. There were two parts…And I’ll put him in the Main Frame later today.

I interviewed Christian Science Monitor Film Critic Peter Rainer about him at Montreal and Peter said he was happy to see Tony being honored and that he was very underrated as an actor.

Tony never won an Oscar….and wasn’t even nominated for “Some Like It Hot”, though Jack Lemmon was…I think that hurt.

R.I.P. Tony C. (real name Bernie Schwartz) Your fans will never forget you.

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TIFF Flashback:Pitch This! “Kill Shakespeare!”

As I await Dame Helen Mirren’s sure-to-be-dazzling two and a half hours of Julie Taymor’s NYFF Centerpiece “The Tempest,” which has its’ Press and Industry screening tomorrow…I am happily reminded of my encounter with the Bard, yes, he was at TIFF, too, 2010 in the personification of Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery, two avid Canadian bardolators and aspiring filmmakers, who won the “Pitch This” contest this year at TIFF with the call to arms(not really) To “Kill Shaksepeare!” Turns out Anthony and Conor are the most ardent of Stratford-ites. They see nearly everything there that they can, and they’re former business students, now shot-out-of-the-TIFF-cannon and BANG! ZAP! Rising cineastes!

I literally stumbled into this. I think it was the first experience I had actually watching something in the Just Opened Bell Lightbox. And it wasn’t a movie! It was a series of “pitches” or six minute, rapid-fire enactments of film projects that the Pitchers, all Canadians, hope to get made into a movie and the prize was $10,000 Canadian smackeroos. See how the Canadian govt helps its’ young filmmakers! Wish America would!

I noticed in the New Bell Lightbox the seating was very, very comfortable, expansive and roomy, unlike so many newly refurbished Broadway houses, where you feel like you’re flying Coach on Jet Blue. And your legs are so cramped, as well as the rest of you, that you come out hurting and nearly crippled….I should make a list of the theaters that do this to you….but know which ones I’m talking about…

But I digress…

But the Bell Lightbox is not like that. It’s seating design is pure pleasure. Jungle red is the seating color. I can’t praise these comforting, wonderful chairs enough. It really enhances the viewers’ pleasure a hundred-fold, and if you’re going to spend the next great part of your life sitting in them and watching all these wonderful movies, it’s stupendous news that you’re going to be very comfortable doing it!

Both films I saw there I just loved, and I’m sure are on to the Oscars in many categories “127 Hours” and “Black Swan” but preceeding them was the “Pitch This” contest, which was mercifully brief. Only made longer by the various droning hosts and an annoying Canadian comedian explaining just what this was that we were witnessing.

THEN after the pitches, there was a break for lunch! And as I frantically chomped on whatever h’ors d’oevrers were sparsely available…MORE poutine….I’m still not sure about that diet choice…There was QUITE a crowd! Whilst we awaited the judges decisions. While the jury was out deliberating the fate of these six bunches of filmmakers, I saw them grouped above me in a sort of defensive/friendly huddle…

And I saw Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery standing near above me on a walk-way(The Bell Lightbox has that kind of up-and-down skewed interior design where everything is lines and angles) and I exclaimed to them in my Best Oscarologists’ voice “You’re going to win! And  I want you to be on my American TV show!” and of course, they said “YES!”

They seemed astonished by my prediction, and equally astonished by my invitation, and guess what? They won!?!

Can I predict or can’t I?

And “Kill Shakespeare” is a project that is VERY far along in its’ “development” as they call it in the Film Biz. It’s already a series of comic books! And soon to be a Graphic Novel! So ALREADY “Kill Shakespeare” is a franchise! And all I can say is you better run out and buy those comic books ASAP, if you can find them. They’re instant collector’s items! “Kill Shakespeare” already has it own internet presence at www.killshakespeare.com and a Facebook page, too, to boot! Where you can be kept up to date on Conor(a fellow redhead) and Anthony’s progress, and yes, of course, they want to turn it into a major feature film coming soon to a theater near YOU! And with that $10,000 prize, “Kill Shakespeare” is already well on its’ way.

I mean, I noticed that “Pitch This!” and its’ winners had a MUCH higher profille than ever before and suddenly Conor and Anthony seemed to be everywhere! Everyone wanted to talk to them, including me!

And COMING SOON, maybe even later today, “Kill Shakspeare”s Conor and Anthony will be seen on my YouTube channel in a VERY lively, funny, totally entertaining, totally Shakespearean interview which you can see at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and within the coming weeks on my New York TV show.

Later today, or by the latest tomorrow.

This is sort of a “Coming Attractions,” and I have to also describe my meeting AGAIN with Anthony and Conor as I was sitting down to watch “The Black Swan” also at the Bell Lightbox, the next day! Yikes! Fate, or what? How did that happen??? 

This was after they won, but before I interviewed them, and who should sit down right next to me, but Anthony Del Col himself!

I nearly fainted!

 THEN HE nearly fainted when I told him I wrote for Awardsdaily.com! He started jumping up and down in his seat, (well sort of) practically vibrating, with the pleasure/excitement of suddenly his favorite internet site becoming real, and in person, with me seated next to him! It was a delightful moment for the both of us as I explained about the Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone and her struggles to keep her now-very-successful site going, the Academy’s suing her and making her change its’ name from Oscarwatch.com to Awardsdaily.com, etc. etc.

I explained that I was lucky enough to contribute occasional pieces like my Provincetown Film Festival Wrap-Up and also the same one I had just done on Montreal which had gone up a few days prior. And he had read them both! He was thrilled, and I was thrilled! If all my readers are as smart and sharp and funny and dashing as Anthony, I want to meet all of them in person!

Anyway, he couldn’t stop talking about the Oscars and Awardsdaily and how he sometimes “checks it” like three times a day(and so do I! “But for different reasons,” I told him) and I told him it was all going to be about “The King’s Speech” this year.

Which eventually went on to win “The People’s Choice” Award. The only award that TIFF gives out which the TIFF audiences vote on themselves. It’s the Vox Populi. It’s the People speaking and last year it was “Precious” and the year before “Slumdog Millionaire” And then Conor arrived, and we were all bonding like crazy. Three Bardolators talking as fast as we possibly could before the lights went out and we then settled down to watch Natalie Portman win HER Oscar, or certainly TRY to, in the “Black Swan” which I think we all three loved equally.

Then we walked across the street,like the new Three Musketeers,and to the interview site and continued this happiest of conversations about – of all things – SHAKESPEARE! as you will see soon on YouTube and also on my TV show in NYC.

Back from “Tamara Drewe”

The films of TIFF do tend to follow one throughout the year. “Tamara Drewe” being one of them and the first to rear its’ pretty head in New York.

Gemma Arterton IS one of the most beautiful women in the world, absolutely, and I’m here to tell you that she’s even prettier in person! Or MORE beautiful in person.

And she really took a shine to me, because I mentioned RADA, the legendary British drama school where she went, and where I was rejected from(though I didn’t go into that with her)….She said she played all kinds of roles that you would never think she’d play. Men. Old women, etc. etc.

And I said, “They did that to deliberately stretch you. It was part of your educational experience.” And she just lit up like a Christmas tree. A BEAUTIFUL, buxom, brunette Christmas tree, to be sure, and she also liked the fact that I pointed out how good she was in the scenes where her character has “a great hooter”, which is British for “a big nose” in certain flashback scenes of the film.

She loved that I picked up on how that informed her character of a VERY ravishing seductress, Tamara Drewe. And neither of us wanted the precious four minutes of it to end. But that’s all you get at these TV press junkets. Sometimes you get lucky as I famously did with Marion Cotillard and got ten, when I expected three.

I got five with director Stephen Frears and it was nice to renew old acquaintances with him. I reminded him that the last time I interviewed him was “Mrs. Henderson Presents” which was 2005, with the great Dame Judi Dench in the other junket room…

He sighed. I guess he thought that was a long time ago. I didn’t since I watch Dame Judi and I over and over again on You Tube(and you can, too.)  At www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow. Just type “Dame Judi Dench” into the search box.

And then there was the uber-hilarious Dominic Cooper! Who was toooo funny for words, so I won’t write any on him, just tell you all to be patient til you see my shenanigans with the great Mr. C. on YouTube. As they say “Coming Soon.”

Off to “Tamara Drewe” land!

Off to the TV junket for the British film “Tamara Drewe”! Based on the graphic novel, which I actually read last night and liked! A gentle, pastoral comedy by Stephen Frears, it stars Brit beauty Gemma Aterton and my ole “History Boys” pal, Dominic Cooper, who I think I’ve interviewed more times than any one else on my show!

Oscar-wise, I think “The Social Network” is getting WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY to much hype, too early. And all these comparisons with “Citizen Kane” are not going to sit well with the Academy. And it’s clearly a race right now between TSN and “The King’s Speech” and you know whose side I’m on!

“The Social Network” lost…Jesse Irritatingberg, anyone?

I really was greatly disappointed by “The Social Network”

which I saw yesterday AM at the NYFF. I just hated it. And everything it stood for. YUCK! And I wrote a

LONNNNG negative review, which just disappeared when I hit “Publish” Where did it go? Let’s see if this

 works.

Hmmm….it seems to be working…but I’m afraid if I go on and on — and I was really seething about it last night it’ll be toooo long for WordPress to absorb or something.

I don’t think this is a film that the Academy will embrace. Especially with Jesse Eisenberg’s stilted , irritating

vocal choices. He speaks faster than anyone else ever has in a movie…I felt like I was watching a hyped up versioin of “West Wing.” “West Wing” with teeny boppers.

And people staring at screens? Giving depositions in a room? This is not cinema…It’s not “Citizen Kane” though it wants badly to be that. Its’ template is “Citizen Kane”. But Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg starts out as an asshole and ends the same way….No growth. No change. No depth. And we’re supposed to be SORRY for him at the end??

He starts out as an asshole and ends up a lonely asshole….

I didn’t care…Shallow, callow, ugh!

And I just kept thinking of how Hugh Dancy or Andrew Garfield(who should’ve been playing the lead) or even Emile Hirsch…would’ve added depth and some kind of insight into this vile, dreadful kid. OK. He has no social skills and the irony, o so deep, is that HE can’t connect though he’s connected everybody else in the world, seemingly.

The REAL Zuckerberg’s giving out a $100 million dollars to Newark’s  school system is admirable, but I didn’t catch Oprah.And Oprah has nothing to do with this movie. That was last year and it was called “Precious.” This is not “Precious.”

And it’s Very, VERY wordy. This is NOT the kind of movie that teens or fanboys are going to go crazy for. “Algorythmns” is not something that gets butts in seats. So a movie about a kid genius(supposedly) is simply too smart for  its own good.

And Sorkin’s script seems just WAAAY over Eisenberg’s curly head. It’s like casting Michael Cera in a drama. It’s something you just wouldn’t do. And director David Fincher can be blamed for the casting…He’s got this thing about turning all his leading men into robots. Like Brad Pitt in “Benjamin Button,” which I hated for similar reasons. I couldn’t relate to the leading actor’s performance. Ditto”The Fight Club.”

And this film is all Eisenberg, all the time. I hate to think of all the sensitive young actors who will be discouraged about going into acting when a flat, empty, annoying performance like this is hailed.

And some are indeed hailing it. Which is even more sickening.

I liked Fincher’s “Zodiac.” The leading performances were fantastic. Jake Gyllenhaal at his best. Robert Downey Jr. Great atmosphere…AND suspense. And the Academy come awards time didn’t care. Fincher’s is not a defulate Academy favorite.

This is not an Academy movie. None of the performances are good enough to be nominated IMHO. Oscarologist that I am….But the Academy are sometimes like sheep if the critics rave enough, and there’s a Wall of Sound yelling “This is a great film!” they may follow suit with nominations just so as not to look stupid.

AND then the was the President of the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press magnet who was seemingly FORCED to sit in the audience with the rest of us ink-stained wretches at the Press Conferendce and complained loudly from his seat that either Fincer or Sorkin or the cast or all of them, refused to pose with him for a picture. And as incredible as that soundss it something you MUST do  or you won’t get a Golden Glob nomination..

So it looks like “The Social Network” isn’t gettin’ any. Except for Justin Timberlake. They’d nominate him for Best Supporting Actor just to sell tables at their Big Do.

So tonight I went out to see a play for the first time since the summer when I enjoyed Al Pacino ‘s “Merchant of Venice” in Central Park.

I saw “Brief Encounter”, the suped-up version of the beloved Brit War movie by Noel Coward – here just trashed to death by a bunch of kitcshie Brits making fools of themselves. Skilled as comics, musicians and ventriloquists though this ensemble seemed to be, it is not something that can be sent up, like Alfred Hitchcok’s “39 Steps” so successfully was…It’s in THAT fashion. UGH!

But not as painful to sit through as “The Social Network” Jesse Irritatingberg’s voice was like nails of  chalk on a blackboard. EEK! I got SUCH a headache from that voice AND this movie and it’s upsetting me still.

Oscars? Well, maybe in a field of ten, if “The Blind Side” can get a Best Picture Nomination then so could “The Social Network.” Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay will certainly be nominated, I think. As badly delivered as t mostly was. The Writers branch will feel “Oh! At last a film where the screenplay dominated!” and they’ll nominate him for Best Adapted Screenplay. All these rave reviews….I just don’t get it….Except that critics today obviously spend too much time online…

A movie about Facebook? WHO CARES!?!?

Martin Scorcese Heart Elia Kazan

 Great filmmaker Martin Scorcese has a blind spot, and he tellingly reveals it in his new 60 min. film “Leter to Elia” Also a doc, as is “Lennon NYC” and also like “LennonNYC” produced by American Masters and soon to be seen on PBS. I saw them one right after the other at the NYFF’10.

“Letter to Elia” ‘s big blind spot is Scorcese’s unqualfied adoration of Kazan. This is devoted acoltye Martin Scorcese’s apologia for everything Kazan did wrong in his life, and I’m not buying it, much as I did enjoy this trip down Scorcese’s Little Italy Memory Lane….which is what “Letter to Elia” really is, when it is at its’ best.

Kazan named names before Congress of colleages of his from the Group Theater and the Actor’s Studio who were members of the Communist Party. He was a traitor and his actions during the ’50s McCarthy-era  Red witch hunt led to  the people he named being black-listed in Hollywood, and in at least one case that I know of,a premature death.

No matter how talented the man was and he was supreme director, he’s still a contemporary villain and deserves all the villification and ostratization he got back then. Lives were ruined by him.

And yes, he also made some of the greatest films of all time. And Scorcese traces his adolescence quite touchingly in “Letter to Elia” as he feels Kazan’s films, esp. “On the Waterfront” and “East of Eden” helped form his aesthetic as a young asthamtic kid growing up on the Mean Streets of Little Italy.

That part of the film, the first 2/3s more or less I really did enjoy. I wish he had spent more time on “Streetcar Names Desire” an undoubtedly seminal work on film AND in the theater, but he skips over it.  And Kazan’s very important relationship with Tennessee Williams.

Kazan has a lot to say about directing and all of it is interesting. And the many, many evocative clips of the discussed films are beautifully edited to say the least by Scorcese’s Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker….I could’ve watched that part of the film over and over forever…

And in a way, Scorcese points out that we ALLLL are watching those films over and over forever. Timeless classics. And they resonate no matter how many times one sees them.

I was living at the movies, too, growing up in the Bronx, not Little Italy, and yes, it’s very apt, when he compares movie-going to his Catholic church-going. “It was my escape,” he says.  My escape films were more like “Les Girls” which I seem to remember going to over and over and over in the brief period of its’ release…not knowing why I was so captivated…Well, it was Vincente Minelli and Gene Kelly and Kay Kendall and Mitzi Gaynor….all good reasons to see a film over and over and over again….But I didn’t figure that out til years later…

Scorcese makes the point that we all do this. Revisit our favorites, and we do, dear cineastes, we do.

This film is very reminscent of his other trip down memory lane, but this time IN ITALY with “Mia Viaggio en Italia”( or something like that) also edited by Schoonmaker and narrated and directed by Scorcese and also shown at the NYFF a number of years ago…And that doc was longer MUCH longer, like four hours or so, and was about how Italian cinema of the ’40s and ’50s impacted his life and art.

Putting these films together, it seems like he was NEVER outside of a movie theater as a kid, or an adolescent. His film going was staggering. As his films themselves continue to be today.

But sticking up for Kazan’s deadly betrayal, leaves one with a bad taste in one’s mouth about this film. I was shocked that American Masters funded it.

I know people who were black-listed. And it’s just something one can’t get out of one’s mind, or heart, no matter how much the first part of “Letter to Elia” tries to make you forget and forgive this flawed, deadly man…

“How Could Anyone Kill an Artist!?!” Yoko Ono

Yoko says it all when she exclaims plaintively and rather unforgettably “John was an artist! How could anyone kill an artist?!?”

Indeed John’s tragic death at the hands of a deranged fan, looms over the film, and gives “LennonNYC” a terrifc poignancy. Although his death is not dealt with in the kind of substantive terms the rest of his life is portrayed in “LennonNYC.”

Noted blogger Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood-Elsewhere challenged the filmmaker/director/documentarian about this in the press conference chaired by Scott Foundas that followed the screening, and Michael Epstein made it clear that he “did not want to Lennon’s insane assasin any more publicity since that is precisely what it seemed his killer was seeking when he shot John Lennon like a dog in the street…

The film goes into his immigration struggles, which were directly a result of his political activism and anti-Viet Nam war stance during the Nixon Administration. When Nixon is ousted via Watergate, Lennon eventually got everything cleared up visa-wise…by some in the judicial systerm who claimes he was “a Beatles fan.”

The dark side of Lennon’s ’70s life in America is gone into in detail. Especially his excessive drinking…I had heard that there was also heroin involved, but again Epstein pooh-poohed this is the Press Conference when asked about this addiction rumor.

He said, “That happened BEFORE the time-line of the documentary starts. And he and Yoko SMOKED heroin. They didn’t inject it.” And evidently, they didn’t use it much, according to Epstein.

It was gallons of Vodka consumed at recording sessions that are referred to over and over.

And he couldn’t seem to live or function without Yoko Ono. When she throws him out for sleeping with another woman, while she was on the premises(was this at the Dakota? Where she still lives today…) he really seems to go off the deep end…She also sets him up with a younger Asian woman Mae Pang, who is also interviewed extensively, and it is she who goes with Lennon to L.A. where all his extreme excesses occured.

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