a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2011

New York Film Festival begins! I run into Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy!

The New York Film Festival, my home town film festival begins before it starts with crack-of-dawn press screenings, just like in Toronto. And although I’ve seen “The Artist”, as you all know, and loved it in Montreal, I’m surprised and happy to say that “The Artist” is also on the bill here at the NYFF. So it debuted at Cannes, was at Telluride, Montreal, and Toronto and now New York! Support keeps building for this very unusual, but beautiful film, in Black and White and SILENT!

Will it go all the way to the Oscars? As the French say, “Pourquoi Pas?” Why not?

AND it’s got the Weinstein Company behind it. So as they say “Voila!” But will it win? THAT remains to be seen, but people keep loving it.

I think it’s paving the way, not necessarily for its’ own win, but for ANOTHER French-themed film Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and THAT could be the winner. It’s still hanging in there in theaters. Up to $54 million made so far…for Sony Pictures Classics…and Woody…

And I just bumped into, on the street, one of its’ stars, Nina Arianda! She plays Michael Sheen’s malapropping American wife, in the present sections of the film, who falls victim to “a bad oyster” at one part.

She and her dashing co-star”Venus in Furs”s Hugh Dancy both ran right into me on Broadway! I’m sure on their way to a rehearsal of “Venus in Furs” Nina’s Off-Broadway triumph that I never saw. And always felt awful that I missed, because it DID make her a star.

I know Nina from NYU Grad Acting where I saw here in many, many plays there and always thought so highly of her work. And even then she had that great comic sense that has served her so well in her Tony nominated turn in “Born Yesterday” on Broadway this past season. And also, of course, in Woody Allen’s triumph which I’ve seen now EIGHT times!

She and co-star Dancy, who is one of the finest young actors working on-screen, or stage, today, both looked very happy and startled to see me right in their path. They were crossing 8th Avenue so they couldn’t avoid me. And we exchanged “Hellos” and I congratulated Nina on her INCREDIBLE year.

Which will probably get even MORE incredible if “Venus in Furs” becomes the hit I think it’s going to be ON Broadway.

You just never know who you’re going to run into on the Rialto!

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Noomi v. Rooney ~ The Dragon Tattoo Battle begins!

With the release of an unusually long trailer for the upcoming American re-make of Steig Larsson’s great “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” various sites on the web have started REVIEWING it AS IT WERE THE WHOLE NEW MOVIE. So I will, too.

You can see it at www.awardsdaily.com It’s on the first page now, but in a very short while it will be page two.

And there was also another “teaser trailer” released(or was it pirated? Or both?) a while back. And that’s somewhere on Awardsdaily, too.

The first trailer was very quick and had a definite throbbing pace and was scored to excite and provoke interest as early as this past summer. It ended with the tags of  “The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas” and “She’s Back” and showed virtually NOTHING of the unknown Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander, one of the greatest female fictional characters ever created.

I’ve read all the books as you dear readers, dear cineastes know. And reviewed them all here in this blog. And even got to have a fantastic interview with Noomi Rapace herself, which is still up on my channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I loved the movies and the books and was overwhelmed and thrilled with Noomi Rapace’s great performance as Lisbeth.

But now comes the American re-make of it. Produced by Sony and directed by David Fincher, who brought you that bummer of a non-movie about the Internet & Facebook, who I still can only refer to as “The Joy of Typing.”

Don’t get me wrong I don’t totally HATE David Fincher, but I did HATE that movie. I really did like his “Zodiac” I saw it twice. And also enjoyed “se7en” quite a few years ago.

And yes, he does seem the right “fit” as a director for this dark crime novel. But the question is – WHY REMAKE IT AT ALL????? Answer – Money.

Noomi Rapace’s performance is an astounding screen performance. And I certainly didn’t think it could be duplicated or surpassed.

And the long-ish, just released trailer just confirms this to me. Rooney Mara’s interpretation of Lisbeth, as it is revealed in this trailer (and yes, it’s JUST  a trailer) was very disappointing to me. She plays Lisbeth as a Swedish accented recalcitrant lesbian. Yes, she’s very, very dyke-like in this trailer.

And Noomi Rapace always exhibited a kind of glamour and sex-appeal despite her outlandish hairstyles and outre garments. And she seemed tough, for sure. But never simply a lesbian.

NOT that I have anything against lesbians! I LOVE THEM! Some of my best friends are. And as I gay man, an out gay man, I am very sensitive to these issues.

And this is going to be one of the big ones come Christmas.

Does Rooney Mara’s interpretation(which is Fincher’s direction all the way) justify or carry a big movie like this one certainly seems to be shaping up as?

Steig Larsson’s millennium Trilogy is an astounding successful literary phenomenon. And the movies were beautiful, haunting. And Noomi was sensational, unforgettable as Lisbeth.

This trailer, which astoundingly gives away A LOT of the movie’s plot, shows her in a very bad light, I feel. She looks anorexic, and while Noomi’s multiple piercings made her look sexy, Rooney’s in the nose, eye-brow and lip make her grotesque, and difficult to watch. And she’s SUCH a dyke that it seems impossible that she is going to be believable in the heterosexual section of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” What they’re left with here, then, is a BIG GAY MOVIE. Which is great. We can’t have enough of them. But I don’t think they realize that’s what they’ve got here. And more importantly I don’t think that’s what the late Stieg Larsson meant.

BUT thank goodness! The plot thickens with the news that Music Box, the original trilogy’s distributors, are going to put out a boxed set of the original Swedish films, PLUS something like two hours of unseen footage. Just in time for Christmas! So we’ll be able to see and own all of those beautiful Swedish movies and see what was cut. You can read all about it at www.indiewire.com in Anne Thompson’s Thompson on Hollywood section.

Noomi evidently has the female lead in the sequel to the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes actioner. Also out around Christmas. So she’s employed.

And don’t tell me her not getting cast in the American remake as the role she made world-famous, Lisbeth Salander, didn’t break her heart. Because I think it did.

But if Rooney Mara’s performance is as weak and enervated and mannish as it seems in the trailer, well, Noomi Rapace may have the last laugh if the film tanks. It looks like it’s going to make money, but is it going to be an Oscar favorite? Judging by this trailer, I don’t think so.

But of course a trailer is not an entire film. We have to wait and see. But since everybody and his brother is reviewing this spoiler-filled trailer as if it WERE the movie, then I just HAD to tell my readers what I thought of it which was…not much.

Magnificent Revival of “Follies” is a triumph for Bernadette Peters!

“Follies” is some kind of masterpiece. It haunts you, even as its’ many, youthful glamorous ghosts haunt all the now middle-aged showgirl characters, and their husbands. I saw the original something like eight times. In 1971, and its’ flaws and delights along with every line of every song was ingrained on my young mind like some kind of Show Biz acid. The acidity being the brilliantly brittle, as well as exultant, Stephen Sondheim songs and lyrics. Has he ever been better? And all these years later they hold up magnificently. I wish I could say the same for the book.

Based on the rather flimsy idea of a Ziegfeld (here called Weisman) girl reunion in an about-to-be-torn down theater, it is a an original musical with a rather glaringly bad libretto by John Goldman, that unfortunately hasn’t gotten any better with time.

The splendiferous musical numbers still alternate with the aggravating clunky book. Those  four squabbling heterosexuals with two disintegrating marriages between them, always annoyed the living daylights out of me, and made it impossible to really relate to or care about these cheesy characters, and their half-baked problems.

That is,until now. And the whole holy mess is now made sense of by the incredible central performance of the Broadway legend herself, Bernadette Peters. Peters tackles this main problem I’ve been discussing about the abominable book and makes it well, bominable.

She’s a consummate actress as well as one of the greatest of living Broadway singers and a great interpreter of Sondheim. Her Dot in “Sunday in the Park with George” was definitve. And she’s cast here in the pivotal leading role of Sally Durant Plummer. Originally played by the TV singer Dorothy Collins of “Your Hit Parade”, Collins was such a shock to see onstage in a Broadway musical acting, as well as singing that she impressed simply by getting through it. And her climatic song “Losing My Mind” was and is one of the best songs Sondheim ever wrote. And Collins sang the living daylights out of it,  barely moving and losing it, night after night after night, unforgettably, breathtakingly.

Sally Durant is a Phoenix housewife now and Peters plays her as a manic-depressive, delusional hot mess, which suddenly makes that irritating book make sense. It’s Sally’s delusion/illusion that the successful Benjamin Stone, the husband of her salad days friend, Phyllis, who is also at this ill-fated reunion, is still in love with her, as she still is with him. Sally had an affair with Ben way back in the day, and she’s never gotten over it and thinks that she can re-kindle that old flame, when we all know of course that she can’t.

But Peters pulls us all in to Sally’s dementia, and makes us care about her pathetic impulses, so that when in the fantastic finale Loveland, when she gets to simply dress up in a glittering off-the-shoulder  night club gown, and sing “Losing My Mind” it is a kind of heroic triumph as she breaks down crying. Peters sings through her tears. And we know that yes, she is crazy. But she is facing up to it. At last. As the rose-bedecked turns blood red behind her, we the audience is behind her, too.  In her struggle to survive love and the loss of love and most importantly, the loss of illusion.

“The sun comes up. I think about you.

The coffee cup. I think about you.

I want you so. It’s like I’m losing my mind.”

Unknown film wins big at Toronto. “Where Do We Go Now?” Yeah, really.

A first in my time. An unknown film from Lebanon that I had never heard of nor even heard  discussed won the big People’s Choice Award at Toronto “Where Do We Go Now” I had to google it to find out what it was.

Second place and third place also obscure films “A Separation” and “Starbuck”.

So what does this mean?

I think it perfectly elucidates what I was feeling at TIFF. There’s was no clear winner. No clear favorite. No groundswell. No one film to win it all.

I thought this would happen around “The Artist.” But it didn’t and is reflected in the awards. Ditto “The Descendants” or “The Ides of March” or “Moneyball” or “Shame” or “A Serious Method” – all which people thought would be THE ONE. But were THE WASN’Ts

What does this mean in terms of Oscar? I think it means that all the TIFF films have a LOT of work to do to get that little golden guy. AND that the final ultimate winner hasn’t even opened yet. Upcoming films now all are in better positions. “War Horse”, the Tom Hanks/Stephen Daldry 9/11 movie with Sandra Bullock, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” with the never-been-nominated Gary Oldman, Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult” which deliberately skipped the festival(s) OR it will be a movie that HAS opened already and is out there for all to see. “Midnight in Paris” (I saw it eight times) and even “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2” gain by this, I think.

It’s almost like we can take all the Toronto titles out of serious contention. Nominations, sure, but the ultimate WIN?

I think this helps Woody and Harry P. A LOT.

Who will win the Audience Choice Award at TIFF?

Well, it’s an important Oscar question and somebody HAD to ask it. Who will win the Audience Award at TIFF? Last year, the award went to, and I knew it would, “The King’s Speech” which had a groundswell of opinion and support at last year’s TIFF. It was on everyone’s list. And at the top at that and beloved, even then.

So when it eventually went on to win the Oscar, I wasn’t surprised.

Of course, this was an award granted by English Canada, to an English film.

This year, I felt none of that consensus. So predicting this award is virtually impossible. Or is it? Well, I’m going to do it any way or at least list some films it MIGHT be.

“The Artist” I thought, after seeing the tumultuous, joyous reception it got at Montreal and that I heard that it got at Cannes,  I thought this would be a slam dunk. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone loved it. And I did too. The black and white and SILENT hat trick is a truly marvelous cinematic achievement. A French film about the Silent Film Era AND in black and white! How can this film overcome all that to win people’s hearts? But it does. This is what I thought going in to TIFF.

But—

I didn’t feel “The King’s Speech” groundswell/consensus at TIFF. It should’ve been there. But it wasn’t. This surprised me. Maybe it has something to do with this being a French film….and well, y’know, there is still much antipathy to the French speakers in the OTHER big Canadian province, sad to say. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. And this may explain the lack of amour for the marvelous “Artist.” I don’t think Toronto audiences ever have rewarded a French film in this category. The only one they award!

Maybe it will eventually triumph with the Audiences of Toronto. But there’s also the George Clooney movie “The Descendants” which unfortunately I haven’t seen, but will catch up with soon at the New York Film Festival, which is already upon us.

Many people liked this Alexander Payne film. His “Sideways” had that same TIFF launch, also, many years back, and that also went on to win the Audience Choice award. “Sideways”  went on to win many, many Oscar nominations but only won one, for Alexander Payne for Original Screenplay. But I think Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” has that one sewn up. They loved George. I did sense I was in the middle of Clooney-mania…but…was it his performance more than the film? Or will Alexander Payne after a long absence from center stage be back in the spotlight, and an Oscar front-runner, if “The Descendants” wins this important award, from the people of Toronto, remember. NOT the press. No critics were involved. TIFF doesn’t hand out prizes like Cannes, and Montreal, and many other festivals do. It’s the people’s choice.. And Torontonians are such committed, avid film buffs all. They literally have to suffer and go through hell to see these movies, the demand is soooo great. They sell every seat. Yes, they do.

Then there’s also “Machine Gun Preacher” which was the best film I saw. Will socially conscious Toronto audiences respond to its’ challenging subject matter? The genocide in Sudan and Darfur. A subject that has never been treated by a mainstream award-worthy film? Like “Slumdog Millioniare” a film I didn’t take seriously til it won here. And then I was like, “Whoa! Have I missed something?” And “Slumdog Millionaire” as improbable as it sounded at the time, WAS the film you were hearing about constantly.

I didn’t see “Shame” or “Ides of March” but the reaction to both was mixed . I would be SHOCKED, SHOCKED! if it was Toronto home boy David Cronenberg’s latest misfire “A Dangerous Method.” Toronto audiences…do they have a habit of embracing their own? Not so much….but…

Well, it may be one of these films. There. I’ve narrowed down the list and lessened the unbearable suspense.

On Sunday, we’ll know.

TIFF ’11 Lists, Best, Worst, Couldn’t Get In To See, etc.

So, in short form,(I hope) some TIFF lists ~

Best Film – Machine Gun Preacher

Runner-Up- The Artist, Drive, The Skin I Live In, Coriolanus

Best Actor – Gerard Butler in “Machine Gun Preacher”

Runner-ups- Ryan Gosling “Drive,” Ralph Fiennes in “Coriolanus”, Jean Dujardin “The Artist”

Best Actress – Elena Anaya “The Skin I Live In” (Pedro Almodovar’s hot new film)

Runner-Up- Tilda Swinton “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin,; Rachel Weisz “The Deep Blue Sea”

Best Supporting Actor- Gerard Butler “Coriolanus”

Runner-Up – Tom Hiddleston & Simon Russell Beale in “Deep Blue Sea”, that adorable  little dog in “The Artist”

Best Supporting Actress- Vanessa Redgrave “Coriolanus”

Runner-Ups – Marisa Peredes in “The Skin I Live In”, Tammy Blanchard in “Union Square,” Berenice Bejos “The Artist”

Worst TIFF “Rendition”-like Bomb (It died in one TIFF screening) – “A Dangerous Method”

Films I Tried to See, But Couldn’t – “Shame”, “Descendants”, “Albert Nobbs”

Hoping to See Soon – “The Ides of March”

Couldn’t Care Less About Seeing – “Moneyball”

Oscar Mix-Up of the Morning! And I’m on “Machine Gun Preacher”s Fan Page!

This is suddenly turning into a very “The Artist”-centric morning.

I’m so tech-tarded. You all know that. And I’ve only been doing this Blog a year and I’ve only been on Facebook not even a year yet. I think I started in October ’10. Or later.

And THIS morning, I made the mistake of thinking that a TOPIC, or a HEADER on Facebook, is the same thing as a thread discussion. WHICH CHANGES.

Facebook just shows you the last two posts in a thread, so when this morning Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone was writing about how her favorite #1 movie of the year so far was “Shame” I typed in a response that I was shut out of seeing it at a Press and Industry screening of it at TIFF. It was full by the time that I got there. Often happens. Should’ve gotten there earlier….

And then Sasha thought that what I was referring to was – “The Artist”!!!!! Which is what the topic of the thread had CHANGED to. Not “Shame”.

No. I had seen “The Artist” at the MONTREAL Film Festival and written about it, for www.Awardsdaily.com called “The “Artist” Delights!….”

I just should’ve checked the HUGE amount of responses and comments Sasha gets on Facebook before I ever reply or comment on her threads again.

And in other Facebook news, I was SHOCKED! SHOCKED! To see my Oscar Messenger interview with Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan up on the “Machine Gun Preacher”s fan page! Now THAT’s never happened to me, before, like EVAH!

And then, I check my “News” section and guess what? The Hollywood Reporter” also referenced it on a thread of theirs about TIFF! And also referenced this humble BLOG! I couldn’t believe it! I guess I mean they linked to it.

Now I can’t find it! But it WAS there earlier! I swear!

Meanwhile, Sasha’s comment made me think that I hadn’t mentioned how I felt “The Artist” was received at TIFF. And it was liked, but NOT overwhelmingly so. I thought that it would be but it wasn’t. It wasn’t this year’s “King Speech” groundswell-on-everyone’s-lips type of reaction. So THAT kind of surprised me. I thought that it would be.

But y’know what that’s actually GOOD I think for TWC.(The Weinstein Co.) who OF COURSE don’t want their Best Picture possible contender to peak too early. Like “Up In the Air” did…(not their film, but just saying…)

So I think it will be VERY interesting to see what wins the TIFF Audience Choice Award. Which is the only award TIFF gives out, really. And the smart audiences at Toronto, really do have their fingers on the pulse. For instance, “The King’s Speech” won last year.

And “The Artist’ could win that award this year. OR it could be “The Descendants”. OR even “Machine Gun Preacher.”

So keep your eyes peeled for that announcement, dear cineastes, dear readers. With no clear favorite, to me at least, this year, THAT award will be a REALLY interesting and perhaps important choice and Oscar indicator.So don’t miss it!

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