a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for May, 2011

Oscar Campaign for Christopher Plummer Begins With “Beginners”!

Is too soon to talk about Oscar races? Not if you ask Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone over at Awardsdaily, OR if you ask anyone at Focus. Focus Features has gotten VERY savvy about how to turn indie Oscar seekers’ hopes into Academy reality, esp.with Gay-themed features. Like last year’s unlikely Best Picture Nominee~ “The Kids Are All Right.” And now timed just right, for Gay Pride month a beautiful, sweet film “Beginners” just may WIN Christopher Plummer his first Oscar! At age 80-something!

Hale, hearty and handsome, and happy to be being interviewed by the likes of gay ole me, Plummer admitted to me this morning at the Waldorf Astoria that I was much gayer than the character he plays in “Beginners”!

Mike Mills, who directed “Thumbsuckers” another Indie with our mutual love goddess Tilda Swinton as one of its’ many stars, (It also included Keanu Reeves and Benjamin Bratt), has done a lovely job of creating a sweet memory piece about his father. This is a true story. Plummer plays Dad. And Ewan MacGregor plays his startled, but VERY understanding and patient grown son, Mill’s stand-in. Melanie Laurent, the beauteous French actress, who burnt down the house with her incendiary performance in Quentin Tarentino’s “Inglourious Basterds” a couple of seasons back, is MacGregor’s love interest.

And Melanie told me in her beautiful French accent(she had a translator present just in case) that “If we save one life from this film, that shows that homosexuality can be accepted as part of life, then we’ll have done something good.”

And this film is so touchingly, achingly beautiful, and meaningful, I think “Beginners” will go on to do just that. And hopefully win Christopher Plummer his first Oscar for his role of the 75-year-old Out and Proud Gay Dad. He also gets to die in this film of Stage Four Cancer. Oscar likes death scenes, too.

And since Focus is so wisely putting him in Supporting this year, a category he COULD prevail in, well, I just think he will.

Christopher Plummer is a great stage and screen actor whose career spans over 50 years. “The Sound of Music” another Oscar winner for Best Picture, back in the day, was his first wide-screen success back in the ’60s.

He was nominated the year before last for his ferocious Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.” Helen Mirren was, too. As his over-the-top wife. And I asked him if he thought she was Too OTT as the flamboyant Russian countess and he said, “No. I thought she was restrained. She could have done so much more.”

Which if you have seen “The Last Station” is a very funny comment indeed.

And “Beginners” also resonates because it’s the first film to really deal with gays in their ’70s. Judging by Christopher Plummer’s vibrant Mel, we can all look forward to a rollicking good time!

Bobby Cannavale Trimuphs at Drama Desk Awards!

I’m very happy this morning to report that that great underestimated(but not by me) actor Bobby Cannavale won the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Play for “The Motherfucker with a Hat.” It was richly deserved. Congratulations, Bobby!

And now on to the Tonys!

Also winning big was “Book of Mormon” with five wins, but none of them in the acting categories.

And now on to the Tonys!

Are the Drama Desks a bellweather for the Tonys? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I think this does help Norbert Leo Butz who won for “Catch Me If You Can” as the beleaguered good guy FBI agent Hanratty. Tom Hanks played him in the movie. This was the only award that “Catch Me” got…

Will the Tonys follow suit? Perhaps. But the fabulous Butz already has WON a Tony and recently for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Do the Tony voters take that into consideration? I think they do. But this does help him.

Another head-scratcher was the lovely Laura Benanti who won in the VERY competitive Best Featured Actress in a Musical category for the long-closed “Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.”

I saw it and reviewed it, not favorably. It was a mess. But Laura was very, very good as the MOST nervous of all the Nervous women. The Drama Desk notably does not care if a show is closed or not. Laura is nominated for a Tony, too. Along the Patti LuPone from “Nervous.”

The Tonys DON’T usually give one of their most-prized awards(since they are seen on National television) to a show that’s closed. And Laura has also won, and recently, for “Gypsy.”  Tammy Blanchard, who was not nominated for a Drama Desk (for “How to Succeed…”) and Nikki M. James(“Book of Mormon”) was nominated for BOTH are all competing in that red hot category.

The patchy “Anything Goes” got five Drama Desk Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Choreography for director Kathleen Marshall.

More on all hoopla this later. I have to dash to the Waldorf to interview Christopher Plummer for HIS new movie “Beginners” which Focus is going to push hard for to get Plummer another nomination, and maybe his long-over due Oscar. We’ll see what category they put him in. A beautiful performance as a man coming out of the closet at 75, he could win in Supporting. We’ll see…

Woody Allen’s Masterpiece “Midnight in Paris” Sublime! Sublime! Sublime!

I cannot remember dear cineastes, dear readers, dear theater lovers of literature, when I have been so completely, so  madly, so deliciously transported by a new film. And that film is the much hyped Cannes opener “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen, 77 and now at the absolute height of his immense creative powers. “Midnight in Paris” left me gasping with delight. It’s his latest masterpiece and may simply be the best film he’s ever made.

It’s so delicious, so delightful, so funny, so superbly acted, and brilliantly written and directed. It’s the first film that I’ve seen since “The King’s Speech” that transports you to an absolute height of cinematic euphoria. And Oscar’s gonna go there, too.

I am so sure that the little Golden Guy is going to be happily boarding that magic carpet ride in the form of a 1920’s roadster that whisks our hapless hero, a frustrated screenwriter and Woody stand-in(natch), Owen Wilson, who turns out to be at the height of HIS career as an actor,  in this film, too. Oscar will clamour aboard that flying flivver and happily take it right to the Kodak Pavillion next February, which is where this film is surely going to end up.

With nominations galore. A comedy winning anything from the Academy is always going to be a fight.

However, the Academy has always loved Woody and they’re going to REALLLLY love “Midnight in Paris”. Woody is such Oscar catnip, it’s almost ridiculous.Oscar considers Woody in a class by himself, so many of his films have been nominated and won! Well, no, that’s not true. I think the only time he won Best Picture was for “Annie Hall” decades ago.

But his actors have continued to wrack up Oscar after Oscar, most notably and most recently Penelope Cruz, in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” which this film resembles. “Midnight in Paris” is shot entirely and beautifully in Paris in the daytime and at night, and France and specifically Paris has seemed to have had the same wondrous effect on Allen’s creativity that Barcelona and Spain did with “Vicky Cristina”

“Midnight in Paris” is just suffused with the golden glow of romance that is true love  (in this case, the love of France and all things French) that is so palpable, it seems like it was shot through a lens covered with honey. And written in a Proustian fever dream. But a reverie only of all things light and sweet.

It’s such a charming  love poem to the City of Lights, it’s irresistible. It sends you into a Rapture.

And what a cast! And How many Oscar winners are there in this one film! ? It’s like the word went out and Allen got the dream cast of his career!

Oscar winner Marion Cotillard has never been lovelier or sexier or more captivating. She plays the love object, the muse of Picasso, Modigliani and nearly every other artist of the past two hundred years, and Mlle. Cotillard, so so sensual and intriguing,completely vulnerable, effortlessly enchanting, but so mysterious, you can see that, yes, she could easily have inspired all these great artists that the film claims she has.

Her incredible character named Adriana is one of Allen’s greatest creations. And in writing a love poem to Paris, he’s embodied that romance in one woman, Adrianna, and Cotillard is so delightful, and endearing and sublime, you just can’t wait til her character comes back onscreen and into the story once again.

It’s one of the most challenging roles that Allen has ever written for a woman and the most complex, and Cotillard meets every challenge stupendously. She has to, for the romance of the film to work. She is Paris. Paris is love. So therefore the glowing Cotillard is Paris personified.

She is WOMAN. All the women who have inspired the greatest of artists, and Cotillard shows you quite simply and quite beautifully that yes, she is all that. She’s certainly inspired Allen to heights he’s never really hit before. A great film maker meets the great screen actress in the best role he’s ever written for a woman. Will Oscar take note? I think so. I hope so.

You come out of the film raving about Cotillard as if she were the essence of all the best in French art and culture, and in this film, she is!

Her only petite problem is that she’s won so recently for “La Vie En Rose” playing an indelible Edith Piaf.

Acting in her own language, it seemed impossible that she, an unknown French actress, would win the Oscar for Best Actress. But I predicted she would. Could her Adriana do the magic hat trick of another win? Depends upon whom she’s up against, but I would be shocked if she wasn’t in the running, dismissed as simply a great beauty playing a great beauty.

Wilson, too.

Owen Wilson is so good in this film that you can’t believe it’s Owen Wilson.

But he is and he’s just terrific, and perfectly cast as a WASP neurotic from Pasadena. Wilson’s West Coast-ness takes away any of the memories of the many previous iterations Allen has wrung upon the character of the hung-up writer. This time a dissatisfied, but commercially successful screenwriter, with an even blonder fiancee, who’s a bit of an hysterical bitch, played by of all people, Rachel MacAdams, also at the top of HER game. She, too, is a revelation.

Oh, and did I forget to mention how funny all these characters are? And yes, they are. Very, very funny. You’ll be quoting the laugh lines for the rest of the season.

Academy Award Winner Adrian Brody does this best work since “The Pianist” as of all people Salvatore Dali! In a very brief cameo, he keeps repeating. “Dali! I’m Dali!” and when Wilson’s Gil explains his time-traveling problems, Brody as Dali quips, “It’s perfectly normal. You are from another century, yet you live in this century.” And Luis Bunuel, who’s sitting with them, mais oui, says to Dali, “Of course you think it’s normal, you’re a Surrealist!”

And Marion’s Adrianna is restless, perpetually bored with Paris in the 1920’s. “There are too many Americans here!” or exasperated with Pablo, “Picasso is impossible! He will never have a successful relationship with a woman!”

Hallucinating Wilson keeps having his big blue eyes popping out of his head, like some great silent screen comedian, as he channels, Chaplin, Oliver Hardy, Harold Lloyd…amazingly…yes, it’s the VERY unlikely Owen Wilson, making us laugh and moving us so magically. He’s playing straight man as it were to Cotillard’s muse, MacAdams’ bitchy fiancee and a supporting cast of unparalleled splendor.

Main among them, as I’ve noted in a previous post, newcomer Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, who just about walks off with the film, and probably an Oscar nomination. And so to may Kathy Bates as a marvelously sensible, warm-hearted Gertrude Stein. “Our house is open to every artist! All are welcome here!” she intones with such bonhommie, you want to move right in to 23 Rue de Fleurus and never leave, which clearly Allen wants to do.

Who but Woody Allen would make Gertrude Stein the most reasonable and warm center of a filmic masterpiece. Which is what “Midnight in Paris” is.

I see Nominations for Best Picture. In a field of ten, a sure bet. Best Director, possibly, for Allen. FOR SURE a Best Original Screenplay and this is it’s almost sure WIN. Yes, I’m saying it now.

They’ll nominate the living daylights out of this magnificent cinematic achievement. Starting with Darius Khondji’s marvelously seductive, luminous cinemtography of the City of Lights, the stunning production design by Annie Seibel that is literally out of this world (and several others) and the sumptuous costumes by Sonia Grande, who makes Mlle. Cotillard comme il faut tous le temps, but it’s the hilarious, moving, beautifully written screenplay that really does leave you gasping with astonishment and delight. Woody Allen redeems himself mightily in “Midnight in Paris” and the many, many Oscars it will get nominated for, this astoundingly simple, but complicated and FUNNY screenplay is the most likely place it will be rewarded.

Also both Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard might be nominated for Best Actor and Actress. It depends on who they are up against. And if they are not dismissed ~ for being in a comedy.

And as I said previously the one with the most buzz out of  the Cannes Film Festival, which it opened, was Corey Stall as Hemingway. That would be in Supporting. And previous Oscar winner Kathy Bates could score ANOTHER Supp. Actress nomination for her lovable lesbian Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude Stein, lovable? Only in Woody Allen’s wild world!

Mesdames and monsieurs, les envelopes, s’il vous plait!

Scott Siegel works his Bway By the Year Magic yet again! The year is 1982!

Scott Siegel’s monumental Broadway by the Year series continues to delight and surprise at Town Hall, a venue that Scott and his lovely wife Barbara have practically re-invented and made it certainly a Must – See one night only event. For eleven years now,  the Siegels have been making Town Hall relevant.

1982 was The Year this year, and I thought at first it was kind of  a risky choice. 1982 is the closest year in time that Siegel has chosen to depict so far in this staggeringly researched, but refreshingly presented series.

The evening started with Liz Callaway bringing down the house with “Cats”s “Memory.” Stunning, stunning, stunning. Callaway had played Grizabella the Glamour Cat for five years on Broadway during “Cats” marathon 18 year run. She showed all present just how electrifying Broadway can be. Callaway for the record was not the original “Grizabella”. Bette Buckley was. So Callaway’s interpretation was even more heart-breaking. Is it recorded any where? It was as evanescent as, well, a Memory, as Theater itself is.

And Siegel, who came out as the Host, AFTER this astonishing rendition, quipped “Most shows would END with that number. But at Broadway by the Year we open the show with it!”

And he proved that 1982 had much more to it than one would think. And he also pointed out aptly “This series  is about ‘Memory.” Then brought the lights up to ask how many audience members had seen the Original “Cats” on Broadway. It was an almost unanimous show of hands! “So you’re all dedicated theater-goers! That’s wonderful!” And the audience tonight was particularly warm in its’ response to just about everything this evening.

Every performer got called back for an extra bow by Siegel.

He also debuted a new(to me) dance company the Mark Stuart Dance Theater who perked up “Blues in the Night” a review on Broadway in 1982 which included the standard “Taking a Chance on Love,” which is NOT from 1982. But it’s inclusion in that ill-fated review  justified it’s presence here. In 1982.

I always thought of Broadway By Year as time-traveling. And now that Siegel is moving closer to our own real time, it was beginning to have an additional impact on me that the older years, most out-side of my lifetime,  did not have. It made you think of what YOU were doing in 1982! And with a shock Siegel announced that “It was 28 years ago.”!?! Is that possible? It seems like yesterday that I was getting together my  gay rock-pop vocal group “Stephen Holt and the Boys” and mounting one of my greatest Off Off Broadway successes “The Blonde Leading the Blonde” at the Theater for the New City. I had not yet even BEGUN my career on TV!

So Broadway by the Year 1982 really WAS about Memory! Siegel was right!

But back to “Blues in the Night”

I had the misfortune to actually have to sit through “Blues in the Night”,which Forbidden Broadway(which also debuted in ’82!) parodied as “Boos in the Night.”  This was equally justified.  Lesley Anne Warren sang it in that orginal productions  as if  it was something beyond her musical comprehension, and “Forbidden Broadway”s Gerard Alessandrini was right on target with that zinger! Come back “Forbidden Broadway”! We really miss you!

Some of these wonderful one-night “Years” have been recorded on CDs and I hope 1982 is! It was Scott Siegel at his delightful best. And Liz Callaway singing “Memory” so luminously MUST be memorialized! Memory! Broadway by the Year 1982 was all about Memory, in all its’ meanings!

Let the Memory Live Again!

Oscar’s Eyes glimmering and gleaming at Cannes at Corey Stall & Tilda Swinton!

The new Oscar season starts at Cannes. Yes. It does. It’s earlier every year, but this year Cannes seems particularly poised to kick off a few, or more than a few Oscar hopefuls, LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG race, or stroll, I guess at this distance, to the 2012 podium.

First off, I’m starting with the film that opened Cannes to such tumultuous acclaim, Woody Allen’s new film, yes, ANOTHER one, set and shot entirely in Paris, called, of course “Midnight in Paris.” And Woody, who avoids all such hype, usually, in the US, does turn up in personi and walks the red carpet in Cannes whenever he’s got a film in competition.

And the French are going crazy for “Midnight in Paris” picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics already and on its way to a theater NEAR YOU! Maybe as soon as next week in major cities.

Now I haven’t seen it yet, but people are acclaiming it as one of his best. Although some bloggers like David Poland of www.moviecitynews.com thought it was just “Okay.” Which is it?

Well, one thing is ALWAYS true of a Woody Allen film…it’s a VERY Oscar friendly cinematic situation, especially in the Supporting categories. And the ONE person coming out of Cannes with a bucketful of kudos is unknown Corey Stall, who plays Ernest Hemingway. EVERY review singled him out. And so did Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone, who, yes, is there in person, covering every thing on and off La Croisette in fine form at www.awardsdaily.com and also at Steve Pond’s www.thewrap.com

I’m not surprised because I know Corey from his days at NYU Grad Acting, where I saw him ace a WIDE variety of roles, including Big Daddy in a memorable “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. He must’ve been 24 or 25, and he’s not fat. Maybe he was in a fat suit, but he shaved his head and was virtually unrecognizable to me as one of Tennessee Williams most indelibe characters, and Corey made it HIS OWN.  He was transformative, mature-for-his-age and memorable. I can still see him to this day, grumbling out that key word to Big Daddy’s character “MENDACITY!” And you could swear that it was a man in his ’50s or ’60s doing it! And it was young Corey Stall! No wonder his Ernest Hemingway as a young man in “Midnight in Paris” is resonating so strongly with critics at Cannes. It sounds like a perfect meeting of actor and character to me.

C0rey may not win, but he is the one who is being singled out in a star-studded cast that includes Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard, and that usually means OSCAR NOMINATION! I’m calling it now!

There may be many more nominations coming this scrumptious-sounding film’s way, and I’ll let you know when I see it ASAP.

And then there’s Tilda Swinton, evidently, by all reports, doing her career best in a film called “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin.” Actually, we’ve got to talk about Tilda…Who just doesn’t stop topping herself. I can’t wait to see this film, too.

And coming up at Cannes, or winding up to the Big Finish,  the Grand Finale is Pedro Almodovar’s new film, “El Piel Que Habito” (The Skin I Live In) which is the Closing Night Film. His first film in ages without Penelope Cruz ,but WITH his first break-out International Star, Antonio Banderas.

Lots of Oscar potential here.

But will they go the distance or fade, unfortunately, as the year wears on, like Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” did last year and “Bright Star” did the year before?

But it seems like Woody and Tilda have started their Oscar ball rolling in fine French fettle. Let the games begin!

So much has happened! So busy! Esp. w/the Drama Desk!

While you may have missed me, dear cineastes, dear readers, dear theater-lovers, there’s a very easy way to catch up with what I’ve been doing.

This busy awards season. No, not the Oscars! Though there already twinkles in Oscar’s eyes whose gaze is directed at Cannes…which is happening right now.

But I’m still here in NYC, having to see literally a play a night, in order to vote this week on my beloved Drama Desk Awards.

So here’s the way to catch up with me, if you don’t see new posts here ~ Go to You Tube!

www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

And you’ll see QUITE a batch of Drama Desk nominees, and some of whom, got nominated for a Tony, too!

It all sounds quite perverse and unreasonable, why some are nominated for Drama Desk Awards and then not the Tonys, too. But realize dear readers that these groups are two entirely different groups of people. While there is SOME overlap, mostly they are thinking about different things.

The Tonys threw out almost all of New York’s theater-going press (the revered first night list-ers, the A-list of theater critics and journos) last year, the Drama Desk is ALLLLL press, and supposedly, therefore, more objective.

But there are WTFs?! Like why Tammy Blanchard’s luminous, funny, sexy, moving turn in “How to Succeed…” as the supposedly dumb bimbo(who really isn’t) got a Tony nomination for her dazzling turn as Hedy La Rue, and yet the Drama Desk(DD from here on in) and the Outer Critics Circle ignored her completely. Does that means she doesn’t have the requisite support to win a Tony? No. Not at all.

Her never-having-won a Tony before, and her snagging a Tony nod for the never-before-nominated character of Hedy(there were two other Broadway manifestations of H2S) and her being an Emmy Winner ~ for playing the young Judy Garland, no less, on TV, and her also being a previous Tony nominee for playing the title role in Bernadette Peters’ ill-received Gypsy, AND a Theater World award-winning for that role, too, all give Tammy the sufficient awards gravitas to perhaps get her a win. She’s “due”. She’s a Broadway vet now, and playing the beloved whore -with-a-heart-of-gold character, always a Voter favorite….

Or will she be beaten by the steam-roller that seems to “Book of Mormon” and it’s teenage African virgin, Nabalungi, played so movingly by Nikki M. James(think Anika Noni Rose). That’s her main competition.

In the category of Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It’s Tammy v. Nikki in that race, I’m so sure.

Meanwhile, the NYTimes theater critics think the lovely Laura Benanti will win for her dipsy, daffodil Candela in the long-closed “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” But I think they’re wrong.

You see, dear readers, one thing the Tony Voters take into serious consideration, is a criteria that the Oscar voters don’t have to ~ Is the Show still running? If it isn’t. Like “Breakdown” they are much more likely 90% more likely, I’d say to give it to an actress in a show that’s a success and that’s still running, like “How to Succeed…” and “Book of Mormon.”

Also the beauteous Laura has only recently won a Tony, for playing Gypsy in “Gypsy” opposite Patti LuPone’s Mama Rose, who also won for that category a few seasons back. So in that they ARE like the Oscar Voters. Previous wins will be held against you.

And you can see BOTH Tammy(pts.1 and pts.2) and Nikki on my You Tube channel again ~ www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

More theater awards soon! And reviews! And news! I promise!

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