a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for July, 2011

The heat continues…

It’s not in the triple digits now. Just “hovering around 90” as the weather gal just put it…Your body begins to get used to these rotten temperatures. Me, I try to stay inside and hide in the air-conditioning. Being a film critic this is easy for me to do and motivates me to go to more screenings. Some of my colleagues see movies non-stop. Me. I have to stop. I have to take breaks.

At film festivals, like the two Canadian biggies coming up, Montreal and Toronto, you DO have to see many, many movies. As many as possible.

And then you look forward to the breaks in between films.

And Canada, well, Canada beckons at this time of year. It’s got to be cooler up there, right?

Although last year, I left a sweltering New York and arrived in a VERY hot Montreal. I was shocked. Everybody was hiding in the air-conditioning up there, too.

But the air was dryer. Not humid, like it usually is in New York.


Heat Wave in New York continues. Dangerous to even go outside!

The stiflingly hot record heat wave continues to suffocate New York City, and most of the rest of the country, making it too hot to even go outside. Just stuck therefore INSIDE, where the air-conditioning is.

I can’t ever remember it being so hot that going outdoors was dangerous. It must’ve been over 110 degrees in the part of town I live it. The last time I was able to go out, and live to talk about it was several days ago when it was ONLY in the 90s.

The air was like breathing poison. The pollution of a thickness it was almost liquid. You could smell it and taste it. Awful.

Have had to cancel nearly all appointments.

I did however see TWO movies at Press Screenings on Thursday, the last time I ventured out. “The Whistleblower” and “Gun Hill Road” both of which I thankfully liked. So it was worth the trek through the crowded mid-town streets.

But yesterday, Friday, and now today, Saturday, it’s just frighteningly hot. Even crossing the street seems impossible.

The power grid, as they keep referring to it on the TV, is pushed to the max. The TV weather says it’s “ONLY” in the 90s today. Ugh! I’m a prisoner of Zenda, as the old saying goes.

I’m reading David McCollough’s entrancing “The Greater Journey” about the Americans who traveled to Paris in 1830-1900 and the immense impact Paris had on their lives. LOVE IT!

And am preparing via email and phone for my own great annual journey to the Montreal Film Festival in about a month or less. It’s earlier this year, which means I’ll be going to Montreal and then coming back to New York. Then having a break from I head to the Toronto Film Festival in September.

I keep projecting forward, thinking of those wonderful COOLER places in Canada, where I’ve gone now for 12 straight years. CAN NOT WAIT! Wish I was in Canada NOW! It’s got to be cooler up there, right?

This heat seems never-ending.

Oscar Race so far~ It’s Harry vs. Woody, Voldemort vs. Snapes

The Oscar Race of 2012, which began this year very heavily in Cannes, (see Sasha Stone’s excellent coverage at Awardsdaily) is all Woody, Woody, and more Woody with Harry Potter now giving the Woodsman a run for his money.

“Midnight in Paris” is now way past the $42 million mark making it the most successful Woody Allen film of all time. And Sony Pictures Classics is determined to run this pony all the way through the summer. Let’s face it. It’s a GREAT summer movie.  And by the end of August and then labor day, too, thrown in it could even surpass Sony’s highest ever grosser “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. NEVER understood the wide appeal of that film. Fan boys, I guess.

But fan boys are NOT powering the tremendous success of “Midnight in Paris.” I’ve seen it SIX TIMES! And can’t wait to see it again! Especially with these 100 plus temperatures blanketing New York, making it dangerous to go anywhere, except to the movies!

And then “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2” opened and blew everything up in the air. Or did it? Is the Academy going to reward a kid movie? Even if the kids who watched it are young adults now. Are the Academy Members? Who are more apt to be their grandparents or great grandparents, lets face it.

I think it will get nominated all over the place, especially the technicals, as the British call it, but acting nods? Wellll….

If there are any acting nominations in “HPATDHP2”  it’s Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort. Fiennes has been nominated for an Oscar at least twice previously in Supporting for “Schindler’s List” and in lead, I think, for “The English Patient.” He’s overdue, and he’s never won. His work is consistantly excellent throughout the years and many, many different roles in a wide variety of films. So the Academy knows him and loves him, obviously, and he’s a helluva nice guy. You never hear any bad stories about Ralph.

But yapping at his heels is the super-slimy Snapes of Alan Rickman, who has been in many, if not all of the seven (or is it eight?) Potter movies playing the same character. He’s never been nominated. He’s hard to like, on many levels, and is not the GIGANTIC film star that Ralph Fiennes is…

But Rickman’s reviews have been very, very strong. Equal to Fiennes’ to my great shock. And I, Oscar prognosticator that I am, would say that indicates to me, BOTH will get nominated, and cancel each other out.

And NOBODY’S going to be Christopher Plummer in “Beginners.” Fiennes and Rickman are both approx. the same age, in their 50s, but that doesn’t trump Plummer’s 80 PLUS in the Academy’s eyes, and both are playing unsympathetic characters, to put it mildly.

Sony’s got an Oscar campaign planned for “Midnight in Paris” in all the major categories, Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay(where it will probably most likely win) And yes, even Best Actor for Owen Wilson. And it’s got three possible Best Supporting Actresses in Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams and Cathy Bates and one in Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway.

I don’t really see “Tree of Life” really figuring in this. But they’ve nominated Terence Malick before for many, many things he didn’t deserve, so…

But to me it’s a Harry vs. Woody smack down all the way. At least this summer it is.

The Toronto Film Festival as it always does will change all this. Or not.

Harry Potter FINALLY is Oscar-worthy! It’s an Oscar juggernaut! Watch Out!

What a shock to me, a Harry Potter under-whelm-ist, to find myself LOVING “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Pt.2”! I went to the final All Media Press screening expecting only good air-conditioning. (It was 105 in NYC ).)Imagine my shock and awe to find a magical screen classic that Oscar is gonna love all over the place!

You could hear a pin drop during the serious scenes. I’m not kidding. And grown men crying at the end. OSCAR BINGO!

I saw it in 2D. The Imax-3D screening was all booked out and I’m not a big 3D fan anyway. Those glasses make me sick. But the good Oscar news for “HP7” as it’s being called or HPATDHP2, is that it works JUST FINE in 2D! And that’s the Academy friendly level of perception, let’s face it.

That also means that the STORY is working. HP7 is like Harry Potter On Steroids. The action is WAY ramped out from the Opening Minutes til the end. And also Daniel Radcliffe has really grown as an actor, too, and he’s got to carry this mega-monster and HE DOES! Yes, I’m saying it, even HE could get a Best Actor nomination, teen-ager that he was when he made this a couple of years ago. Those special FX take a long time to sync in. And they are more elaborate and eye-popping than anything I’ve ever seen in this CGI world we all now live in.

And he’s got a great screen villain in Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort to play off of here. And Fiennes’ his face all but totally obscured by CGI AND massive make-up out-acts or acts OVER the face mask to perhaps give what is the best performance in the film and very likely get an another Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He’s so genuinely scary that he recalls his Nazi Concentration Camp commandant in “Schindler’s List.”

THAT was his break-out role and I always thought he played BAD very powerfully, and he does so here, too.

It’s funny that he may be up against the sweet’n’sour turn of Christopher Plummer in “Beginners” but that’s what may shape up as The Race.

And Costume Design, Cinematography, Special Effects, Film Editing,  Sound Editing, Art Direction, it’s gonna score in all the below-the-line categories, as they are called here Stateside. The Brits call them The Technicals.

And what a roll call of British acting talent is on display in even the SMALLEST of supporting role. Main among them, Dame Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagle (sp?) and the aforementioned fabulous Fiennes, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, John Hurt, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Ciaran Hinds~ the list goes on and on.

I think the SURPRISE of its’ finally being as good as it should be is in its’ Oscar favor, too. Plus its the final adventure in the most successful film franchise of all time. And it’s beloved by the masses, who have taught their children to read by reading them the books until they were all on their way to college, where I’m sure Harry fans continued to read them.

My only disappointment was that once again the brilliant Helena Bonham-Carter had next to nothing to do. She’s got even less time as the Witch of Witches, Bellatrix La Strange than see did in the super-boring “Deathly Hollows, Part 1”.

I was not a Harry/Hogwarts fan, but “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Pt.2” is a grand entertainment in the old-fashioned Hollywood style, believe it or not. And yes, there’s a war in it, too. As there was in that other fantasy franchise that Oscar FINALLY embraced in its’ final installment, “Lord of the Rings:Return of the King.” So there’s a precedent for this one.

But ALLLLL the LOTRs installments were uniformly excellent, but Harry only got to hit a home run with this one. It’s an Oscar juggernaut in the Grand Manner. I kept being reminded of “Gone With the Wind” and we all know how many Oscars THAT won!

Go Harry!

“Spiderman” Turn Off the Musak! Act One Sucks, Act Two Works

Ok, so FINALLY I saw it tonight…”Spiderman:Turn Off the Dark” or as I like to call it “Gag Me!” Although that isn’t exactly accurate since there is not ONE JOKE in the entire Two Hour and 45 minute spectacle. And the music is REALLY, REALLY bad! Shame on Bono and The Edge! They didn’t deserve this mega-gig. I wish Elton John had written the score THEN you might really have had something to sing about. The Sets, yes, AMAAAAZING sets by sure-fire Tony Winner for Best Scenic design next season, George Typsin. But sets do not a great musical make. It’s the music, stupid, and the music is stupid. What a shame! 70 million dollars spent on this drivel!

I loved comic books as a kid. I even wrote them. But Spidey was not one of my faves. I never understood his/its’ appeal. But there it is smack dab on Broadway, in the biggest house, now called the Foxwoods that Broadway has got. Last thing I saw in there was “Young Frankenstein” another unsatisfying near-mess.

If only “Spiderman” could live up to its INCREDIBLE sets!

So this is Julie Taymor’s great vision??? Sad. Well, I still loved the “Lion King” which is still running. Another cartoon, but she had a great book, a great story(OK, it’s Hamlet, but…) underneath and the great Peter Schneider reigning her in while he reigned at Disney.

Here…well, she was out of control. So they fired her and all her offending inserts like the now-gone Geek Chorus and the almost-gone and unnecessary Arachne(an OK T.V. Carpio) have been ironed out…Arachne could have gone completely and no one would’ve missed her. Most of the audience seemed mystified by her and just what she was doing there.

“Spiderman”begins with a lecture on the history of Greek goddesses and their myths. It starts wrong because it’s all about Arachne and not about Peter Parker, Spiderrman’s secret identity, whom the focus should’ve been upon since the lights went up.

I like Tobey Maguire, but his presence was never enough to motivate me to see the “Spiderman” movies. And did I say this puppy is WAAAAAY overlong? They could’ve cut all the Arachne nonsense and saved at least half and hour.

The shorter a show like this is, the better. Cut to the spectacle. Cut to the flying. But they didn’t. More is not more in a muchness like this.

In Act One the aerial manoeuvres are minimal, if not measly, and the book, the dull, embarrassing,  plodding book is the focus. Julie Taymor, Glen Berger & even Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa(an out Gay playwright, who has real comic books in his resume, too) are too blame for boring us to death in Act One. Nothing is funny. Everything is flat. I kept longing for Douglas Carter Beane or a Charles Bussh to liven up this swampy scenario.

Jennifer Damiano, the world’s oldest, tiredest ingenue, as Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s love interest doesn’t help one bit. And Reeve Carney as Spiderman sorts of schemiel’s his way through Act One, too. It’s hard to work up any feeling for him.

Patrick Page as the science professor who is up to no good makes a stand on the side of “This show is a hit, goddamnit! And I’m going to play it to the hilt! This is my greatest role! My time to shine!” so he offers hope for the Second Act, when we know he’s going to go through a transformation of his own. He becomes the ghouls of ghouls the Green Goblin

And transform he does! His Green Goblin in Act Two really aces it, and kicks the whole show, and Reeve Carney’s Peter Parker, up a notch. Reeve now has something strong to play off of and the show becomes all about the scariest villain to terrorize New York vs. Our Hero Spiderman and guess what Act Two flies!

As well it should! As it must! And Act Two begins and SUDDENLY with the Green Goblin as now the central character, it actually picks up and has momentum that Act One sorely lacked. But it has to get over the hour and a half of a dry hump that was Act One. It takes time, too. But eventually everything this bloated, over-produced show should be kicks in. And it does become the Spectacle to end all Spectacles. Wish I guess is what it set out to be in the first place.

And then they bring on the much more successful special effects and all the aerial stunts that they’ve been saving for the big finale. And I’m surprised to say it works. The sets start working too! And doing stunts in forced perspective that I have never seen theatrical sets do. And there’s TONS of visual effects in Act Two, and all this combines to give Reeve Carney something to respond to. And he wakes up as an actor in Act Two and really begins to make you root for him, and want his whiny Spidey to succeed.

And his performance keeps rising and oh  yes, he and the aerialists who play the flying Spidey, really do indeed rise to the occasion. By the end of the show, Reeve’s Spidey is really kicking as his now invigorated Peter Parker does becomes the triumphant hero this show needs him to be.

And the audience was going wild. Haven’t they seen aerial effects before? Did they see “Mary Poppins” who flies, umbrella in hand, over the audience? Or Mary Martin in “Peter Pan”?

Or Idina Menzel in “Wicked”? Well, in any case, the Second Act brings the goods the audience wants to see, culminating in an in-air fight with Spiderman and the Green Goblin(or rather the aerialist who play them when they’re Up In The Air).

Reeve Carney really wakes up in Act Two and in the end makes you cheer for him. Especially when he himself does the flying stunts without the head-covering mask, but still in his Spidey suit. The audience was going wild at the curtain call especially for him and Page(the GG).

Carney does in the end save the show. You FINALLY feel he’s someone you can identify with and root for. It’s certainly isn’t the book, or the music. He and the Green Goblin seem equally matched foes and equally matched actors.

With the paltry number of new musicals coming in next season, “Spiderman” believe it or not, might also triumph at the Tonys, and certainly Reeve Carney and Patrick Page are going to get nominated, in the leading actor and supporting actor in a Musical categories. Ditto the stupefyingly magnificent sets of  George Typsin. Lighting(and lightening) designer, Donald Holder and the masterful/scary monstrosities of Academy Award winning costume desginer Eiko Ishioka.

And with the audience cheering the way it was last night, it may just make it’s 70 million dollars back.

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