a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010, Scary stuff on the Great WHITE Way!

And how did I a native New Yorker cope? Well, as you all know, who’ve read the previous post I went to see a Broadway show! “Lombardi” and amazingly the audience turned up, all Football fans, seemingly, as I described previously, and also amazingly the stars turned up too!

All the lights were ON on Broadway last night and today now that the heaviest snowfall I’ve ever been trapped in is over, the shows that are scheduled for Monday night performances will all go on as planned. All the stars must live within walking distance is all I can say.

It was snowing so heavily and the wind was so high I was literally blown down into the subway when I was first attempting to go out to see “Lombardi” last night. I staggered up to the nearest bus stop with a scarf wrapped around my head, but there was NO BUS or any traffic at all for that matter in sight, so I continued staggering this way and that, nearly being blown down by the gale force wind, and into the nice warm subway.

I have never felt the subways were so welcoming IN MY LIFE. But first I had to negotiate the snow-ladden steps.

There was a subway worker below me,  shoveling the steps like crazy, but this particular station had three flights going down. I guess most do now that I am counting subway flights and I could see the two lower flights, enclosed as they were by the subway station itself, were pretty clear.

I was going so slowly taking only one step at a time that a man offered to help me.  And he said, “Do you need help getting down, sir?”

I was astonished that I looked so shaky that I needed help, but also was surprised that he said “Sir” and not “Ma’am” as that’s what I usually get when I’m all bundled up and with a scarf wrapped around my head!

The subway came right away and it was pleasantly, if not almost tropically warm. It was jammed though and I couldn’t get a seat. People must have been waiting a long time for this one. But since it came almost right away, I didn’t mind.

Getting off, getting out and getting UP the subway steps was much easier and faster and now I could see above me that the storm had increased ferociously even though I had been underground for a very short time.

I left the house at 6pm for a 7pm curtain and boy, was I glad I did! Since the subway had come so quickly, I got there in a very timely fashion. It was hell crossing the street to the Circle in the Square theater and I wondered if indeed there was going to be a performance that night. I didn’t call ahead to check.

But the TV news shows said that all the shows on Broadway were open tonight, so I assumed “Lombardi” was, too.

And indeed it was. The lobby was not exactly packed, but it was quite full and I managed to find a seat on a lobby radiator to sit down on before the house opened. It seemed like everyone who had bought  a ticket before this monster storm happened had indeed turned up.

Then once ensconced inside, it was all business as usual, except for the rather stunned, credulous expressions on most audience members’ faces. Like they were as surprised as I was that we had all gotten out in a BLIZZARD to see a Broadway show! But we did!

And the show did go on with the entire star-studded cast intact and performing their hearts out!

See previous post~

Ah! The delights and dangers of being a dedicated New York theater-goer! Ah, Broadway! Ah, Wilderness!

I Go to See a Bway show “Lombardi” in A BLIZZZZZAARD!

I can’t believe I did it, but I did it! It’s the middle of the worst, wildest snow weather and blizzard with SNOW THUNDER! I HEARD IT! Evidently there was lightening, too, but I didn’t see it because the snow was falling so thickly and fastly( Is that even a word????) and the wind was nearly knocking me over! WHY WAS I GOING OUT IN THIS?!?

Well, I just had to see my next guest on my TV show the brilliant Bill Dawes in “Lombardi”! At the Circle in the Square downstairs of “Wicked” and guess what? The audience showed up!!

I saw Bill afterwards and he commented that the audience was “so quiet”.

“Well,” I said, “They’re all exhausted getting here.” But they were really enjoying it!

I mean with 30-40mph winds, and the thickest, heaviest snow I’d ever seen in my life, it was a miracle that we all made it there in this Blizzard of 2010.

I mean, they always talk about the blizzard of 1888 as being THE WORST in recorded history. I think that occured in March of that year….And NO I wasn’t around for it. But this is certainly going to be in the record books. I’ve never seen anything like it.

It does transform the city. But in a scary not pretty way. It was like a hurricane, but with snow.

And how was the play? MARVAHLOUS, DAHLING! This is my second time seeing it, and I hate football and know nothing about it. But “Lombardi” has got me to thinking about it and liking it, well, just a little bit.

It’s interesting how well and simply done this play is and that even if you don’t know anything about football, it pulls you in and you enjoy it. It’s also interesting to note that this play is reaching an audience that doesn’t usually come to Broadway, football fans.

And football fans are used to braving bad weather to see The Game. But this blizzard phenomenon shows you how dedicated this audience was. To get there. And the actors, too! I heard people saying “Well, the show must go on.” And interestingly there was a day-after-Christmas Sunday MATINEE, too! As well as a 7pm Sunday night performance. They had Christmas Eve off, then they had a show Christmas Day night, which was a Saturday, and then two on Sunday. So since they performed earlier that day, the actors, including stars Dan Luria and Judith Light were presumably right near by or actually still in the theater itself. That’s what dressing rooms are for!

And every show on Broadway played last night during the Blizzard! Amazing!

The play which I practically risked my life to see ~ is about the life of Vince Lombardi, the famous Notre Dame football coach. And it’s a damn good play. I saw it first in late October right after it opened. And since it’s been such a long time between then and now(I’ve seen enough movies and plays to last most people a lifetime. Between the Drama Desk possiblities and the Oscar seekers. PHEW! But it’s been wonderful, too, of course. Or only as good as the movies and the plays you’re seeing.)it’s been such a long time I just HAD to see it again.

And I’m sooo glad I did! How often do you see a Broadway play, stars intact, in a BLIZZARD?!? I’d never done THAT before!

And the entire cast just gave it their all!

And I knew, I just knew that “Lombardi” was here for the long haul on the Great White Way, which really IS white right now!

It’s a solid endearing portrait of a good, Catholic marriage. Lombardi is brought to memorably vivid life by veteran character actor Dan Luria, who looks just like Lombardi, and  who, if this play keeps running and running as it is, he may be nominated for the Tony for Best Actor. And certainly the Drama Desk will remember his strong, endearing performance come awards time which is at the end of April. “Lombardi” is the only play that opened this fall, and Broadway had the healthiest, most robust fall season that I can ever remember, that is continuing to run into the New Year and beyond! “Driving Miss Daisy” it’s been announced is also continuing through the Spring. It could be Dan Luria vs. James Earl Jones for the Best Actor Tony Award.

 And Judith Light as Lombardi’s conflicted but devoted wife is a revelation and utterly wonderful and award-ready herself.

This play is really about the transition of an Englewood, New Jersey couple to the rural mid-west. Mrs. Lombardi (Light) gets an Atlas, when she knows that she and her husband are going to be perhaps re-locating and exclaims “I can’t even FIND Green Bay!”

Lombardi “It’s in Wisconsin.”

And my upcoming guest the superhumanly handsome Bill Dawes, plays the always-in-trouble blond heart-throb(every football play has to have one) real life football hero Paul Hornug, in a performance that is just as strong as the leads. He’s also a red-hot stand-up comedian, too! But more on that later! He’s on his way to a BIIIIIG career in either as a serious actor OR a comedian but probably both!

I’ll let you know what Superstar-of-the-future Bill Dawes is going to be on my show! Coming up soon, too are Ryan Gosling, Michelle Willaims and Ben Barnes!!! You’ll be able to see them soon on my You Tube Channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!

Merry Christmas dear readers! Dear cineastes! Dear theater-lovers!

Thank you for reading my blog!

“Somewhere” is NOWHERE!

Uh! The amount of FILMS I have to watch at this time of year is positively numbing! My eyes! My eyes! And so, I can’t stop watching them, but with Sofia Coppolla’s latest sleeping pill “Somewhere” I guarantee you you won’t find this interesting.

I could’ve interview them, but I passed them up. Scandal! But if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t go to their junket! You’re only supposed to be wildly enthusiastic at junkets. But THIS film…

I couldn’t believe how BORING it was! There was NOTHING there! But maybe that’s what this film is supposed to be about NOTHING. Beckett, existentialist ennui, the absolute EMPTINESS of Hollywood. Well, OK, I’m down with all that, but boredom has to be presented, if that is your topic, in a VERY interesting way.

And Sofia C. did this subject MUCH better in “Lost in Translation” which she was VERY fortunate to have Bill Murray in, giving the greatest performance of his career. Otherwise….imagine that film WITHout him! You can’t, can you? It’s UNimaginable. And I really do feel that “Somewhere” reaveals what I have been feeling for a long time about Miss C., that there is no there there.

NOTHING! NADA! ZILCH!

And to top it off, Stephen Dorff brings NOTHING to this film. If you had a charismatic actor in that role MAYBE you would’ve had a movie. But then, maybe that’s what this film is supposed to be about. Someone who is simply KINDA good-looking, sorta semi-sexy, but not really. Somebody who isn’t talented, but is simply celebrated…Which is interesting as a premise…but…VERY difficult to pull off…If she had someone like Ryan Gosling in that role, the film MIGHT have been interesting.  Because Gosling just IS, well, interesting…but Dorff…

And Elle Fanning perks things up A BIT, as the wise child. But…not enough….

Her entrance is way too late in the film to save it.

She’s naturally and interesting and charming but that’s not enough.

A similar bad-father/good daughter film is on its’ way. “Janey Jones” which starred Alessandro Nivola and Abigail Breslin and it was just WONDERFUL!  I saw it at TIFF and I guess they have held up its’ release since they didn’t want to clash or be compared with “Somewhere.” Well, “Janey Jones” and co. there’s nothing to fear from “Somewhere.”

Focus Features has yet ANOTHER dud on their holidays hands. Skip it.

Nicolle Kidman’s great “Rabbit Hole”

I saw “Rabbit Hole” on Broadway as a voting member of the Drama Desk right before it closed, and was totally blown away by it. Cynthia Nixon played the lead, the central part that Nicolle Kidman is essaying so brilliantly in the movie of the same name. Heading for the Oscars? Yes, I think so.

That central part of the mother of a dead child is a stunning turn, if it is done right. I am not a big Cynthia Nixon fan, and yet, I was sooo taken with her searing portrayal of a seemingly unending, unbearable grief  at the Biltmore on Broadway, under the auspices of the Manhattan Theater Club, I VOTED for her for Best Actress when the Drama Desk Awards came up later that season. And she won! Tyne Daly also was nominated I think for her memorable turn as the grandmother of the dead child. I remember her very vividly.

So I was surprised at how wishy-washy the great Dianne Wiest is in the part in the movie that has just opened this week. Wiest is dressed down and is underplaying it like crazy. No make-up. Strange choices. Tyne Daily was a powerhouse in that role. However, wishy-washy Nicolle Kidman is not. She really is going to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for this. And she deserves it.

In a less competitive year, she could’ve won. But with Natalie Portman’s screama ballerina in play for “Black Swan.” And Annette Bening dyking it up to a fare-thee-well in “The Kids Are All Right.” I do not think Nicolle’s “Rabbit Hole” Mama is going to top either of them. But she’ll give them a run for their money.

And I think Nicolle is IN. Like the veritable Flint. However, she also HAS an Oscar and therefore, will unlikely be given one again so soon. She won not too long ago for “The Hours” playing the suicidal British author Virginia Woolf. And here again, the role that is going to take her back to the Kodak is a part dealing with death. I’ve never seen a film that deals so directly with DEATH and the grieving process as “Rabbit Hole.”

Aaron Eckhardt is also marvelous as her equally grief-stricken, but considerably more upbeat husband. But Kidman has the flashier, rangier, more surprising role. One is astonished at how well she does this. She goes to all the necessary dark places. One forgets what a good actress she really is.

Onstage, the power of David Lindsay-Abaire’s drama was overwhelming. And it won the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony AND the Drama Desk Award that year.

Transferring it to film, although it is still powerful and not at all talky, it loses some of that power. But is effective none-the-less. Choosing an extremely understated, naturalistic tone for “Rabbit Hole” the movie, director John Cameron-Mitchell has done an excellent job in what is for him, probably, a career-changer. I mean that in the best possible sense, in that “Rabbit Hole” the film shows him to have a very impressive, serious dramatic range that his other two previous films “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus” only hinted at.

So except for the under-achieving Dianne Weist, “Rabbit Hole” scores a “A” all ’round.

I Finally See “True Grit” A Wordy Woodpecker of a Western

Well, I guess Paramount did hear my blog screams and they sent me quite unexpectedly a DVD screener of “True Grit.” FINALLY!

“True Grit” is the latest oeuvre from the redoubtable Coen Brothers, and it’s…Ok…sort of…I mean, it’s good. Although some parts of it strain credulity. Especially the overwrought, arch script, which Jeff Bridges manages quite, quite well. And Matt Damon, too. But poor 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Stanfield has the most demanding role, verbally, that perhaps has ever been written for a tween actress.

It is to her credit that she ALMOST pulls it off. But I was always aware that it was DIALOGUE being written and spoken, and not the character’s own voice speaking.

Her child/woman dichotomy is also, paradoxically, the most unusual part of this western. Yes, the Coen’s are doing a Western. A real traditional attempt at the genre in the classic John Ford manner. And Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography is up the task at hand. And so is Bridges. But Ms. Stanfield…well, I’m of two minds about her “performance.”

Either it’s one of the most impressive screen debuts of an ingenue ever in a very challenging role that has already netted her a SAG nomination for Best Supporting Actress, though she is ostensibly the lead. OR it’s a career ender. It’s the beginning AND the end for her. Which one is it?

Like her or not, and I’m not totally sure that I do, you can’t get away from her in this film that is mostly, as the British would say, a  three-hander. That is a three person play. And again, the script does seem overly theatrical, for a Western. The three hands being Bridges, Matt Damon and Ms. Stanfield.

We’ve never seen or heard any Oater where people talked in such highfalutin rhetorical terms. Sheesh! They could’ve almost been in a Restoration Comedy some scenes are soooo over-written. Especially at the beginning of the film. Which is very slow getting started and a lot of that is due to the clusters of almost unspeakable, and certainly almost unpronounceable verbiage  the  Coens have saddled their three leading actors with. Or in Ms. Stanfield’s case, crippled with. I know we’re supposed to believe that SHE has “True Grit.” But talk about overkill!

With the surprise SAG nomination for Stanfield, her fellow actors are obviously Haillee-ing her arrival, big time. You do feel sorry for her in that she has scene after scene after scene where her voice is Woody Woodpeckering the screen, with its’ rat-a-tat ryhmns. And you feel like I always felt like with Woody Woodpecker that I need to watch his cartoons like a need a hole in the head.

Let’s face it, the Coens are not known for their work with child actors.

But they have to take pains at the beginning of the film, to established her hard-headed, stubborn as a mule character, so that we believe and care about her all the way through the film. It’s her journey. And the coda at the end of the film, which I won’t give a away as it’s a semi-spoiler, but the film visual images are striking. And rather unforgettable.

And then there is the unvarnished delight of Roger Deakins’ breath-taking scenic vistas of the wild west. Between this film and “Meek’s Cut-Off” I feel like I’ve actually BEEN there and back this filmic fall season.

Matt Damon is very funny as a Texas Ranger named Le Bouef, but which they all pronounce “Le Beef” as in meathead. He’s the comic relief. And Bridges’ scenes with Mr. LeBeef are just terrific stuff.

I don’t know WHAT the John Wayne version of this was like. I’m sure this is a thousand times better and Rooster Cogburn won Wayne his only Oscar and it is to Bridges’ everlasting credit that he really does excel in this part, as well.

It’s sooo close to his Oscar-winning turn as Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” A has-been boozing singer v. this time a has-been boozing gunman. That Bridges’ makes the Coens stick-in-the-mouth dialogue that HE has to say look and sound effortless as a horses’ snorting. Well, that’s the sign of a consummate actor at the top his craft.

Is it almost tongue-twistingly unprounceable? Well, Bridges attacks each line like his eating a mouthful of steak. Chewing the scenery has never been such a sumptuous meal. And if Oscar remembers “True Grit” for anything, it’s bound to be Bridge’s excellent crowing Rooster of a performance.

If SAG, the Screen Actor’s Guild, hadn’t voted l’il Miss Woodpecker a Supporting Actress nomination, I would say she didn’t have a chance. She knocked out Jackie Weaver of the dreadful Australian “thriller” “Animal Kingdom.” But since the 2ooo plus members of the SAG nominating committee hadn’t included her, I would say she didn’t have a chance in hell of getting in. She’s no Sairose (sp?) Ronan.

But they do like nominating under-age actresses, esp. in this category and especially lately. Think Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine.” as well as the aforementioned Ronan.

I think Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography is the strongest  award element here as well as Jeff Bridges stellar performance. Deakins could actually win in this category and I’m also sure that “True Grit” as mixed as my reactions were to it, is going to be nominated for one of the Ten Best Picture slots.

No, though, to Best Director chances of the Coens, for this Western mishmash. But if they can get nominated for “A Serious Man” last year, then they could get nominated for this — in a field of Ten, sure. Why not?

Hollywood, unbelievably, has come to love the Coens. But you can’t help compare this too well-spoken Western to their other trip West which was “No Country for Old Men.” Now, THAT was a masterpiece and won the Oscar…But “True Grit” is not NCFOM. Not by a mile there, pard’ner.

Best Supporting Actor~ChristianBale, Mark Ruffalo & Sam Rockwell

I have always seen Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo and Sam Rockwell as a sort of trio, worthy lord knows, and veterans now of how many movies? And leads in movies? But never, ever close enough to Oscar to get even a nomination.

Yes, believe it or not, dear readers, dear cineastes, neither of those three extremely talented actors have ever gotten in Oscars door, but goodness knows, at least they’ve been knocking on it, year in and year out. And this year all three might get in.

Christian Bale is purported by many to be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor for his wacked out portrayal of drug-addled Dickie Ekland in the increasingly popular “The Fighter.”  It’s not as though we haven’t seen a crack-wack-head portrayed on screen before, but never before has a portrayal like that made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated! See www.scottfeinberg.com for the great graphic.

It should be just a pictorial of central character Mark Wahlberg “The Fighter”‘ himself.But there is Bale pushing his head into the shot and onto the cover!

But Hollywood and all the critical masses seem to be lining up behind giving Christian Bale his first ever Oscar nomination. He just got a Golden Globe AND a SAG nom in less than a week! Can Oscar finally be opening the door to the Dark Knight himself? I think so.

But is he well-liked enough to win? His bad boy rantings were recorded and published all over the Internet when he went off on that poor techie, and he also was said to have assaulted his own mother and sister, but they dropped the charges…So…Were they true? Well, something about this scenario must be…but…Is Hollywood going to forgive Bad Boy Bale, a grown up child actor? Or are they going to think him too young to win and give it to Geoffrey Rush, who is his biggest competition, for a career-capping performance as the wacky, but not wacked out Australian Speech teacher to Colin Firth’s sure-to-win stuttering King in “The King’s Speech” ?Aye, that is the question….

Then there are the place-holders…the category-filler-outers…which is where Mark Ruffalo may get in despite his Golden Golbe snub. Ah! But then he rallied at the SAG nods and got one for Best Supporting Actor, his first, like Bale, for “The Kid’s Are All Right.”  Though it opened in the spring, this lesbian-marriage comedy has stayed the course and just did VERY well at the New York Film Critics Awards, netting its’ writer Lisa Cholodenko, who also directed it, the win for Best Screenplay over Aaron Sorkin for The Film That I Will Not Name…Yikes! No  one saw that coming! Could happen at the Oscars too BTW…but that’s another column…

Ruffalo’s performance in “Kids”? Well, as the title says, it’s All Right.

 But not great.

Not really Oscar nomination worthy, though certainly Ruffalo has given many, many performances in the past that could have been nominated, but weren’t. But this time his Only Straight Guy In a Lesbian Movie turn may be the right place at the right time. N0t his greatest work, by any means, and NOT the greatest performance in “The Kids.” But  I guess his heterosexual male presence, and he IS sexy, may assauge the SWORM to nominate him. Oh, and women like him, too. So he may get his first Oscar nomination but he certainly isn’t going to win. Not with Bale and Rush in the category.

And there there’s poor Sam Rockwell! He’s also never been nominated and just missed BOTH the SAG and the Golden Globe nominations he should’ve gotten this week for his superb turn as another difficult, jailed brother in ANOTHER  Masschusetts jail in”Conviction.”

He’s playing true-life character(as Bale and Rush are co-incidentally) Kenny Waters who spends 18 years of his life in a New England jail until he’s freed by this crusading, devoted sister played Betty Ann by Hilary Swank. And SHE just got a surprise nomination from the SAGS! She who has already won two Best Actress Oscars, is obviously more of an actor-favorite than anybody imagined, and her performance is damned-good, too.e

I just caught up with “Convinction” at a screening two DAYS ago, and I was shocked at how much I liked it.

So Hilary Swank popped up unexpectedly in Best Actress and knocked out presumed (and Golden Globe nominee) Michelle Williams. Will Swank prevail at the Oscars in another surprise win? Or will it be the equally  worthy Williams, who though nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005, has never been nominated in the main slot. Ah! But this time she’s gotten Oscar stealth weapon Harvey Weinstein behind her!…

I personally think that Sam Rockwell may be the one from “Conviction” to surprise, not Swank. Fox Searchlight is campaigning hard for “Conviction” even though it was a box-office flop….But they are getting the screeners into the Academy’s hands and/or getting the Academy’s asses to their screenings…of “Conviction.” So will Sam Rockwell pop up? Will he be the Oscar surprise? Heaven knows he’s worthy enough, but don’t be surprised, because you heard it here first!

Stay tuned!

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