a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2011

Back in New York, it’s freeeezing! TIFF is just about over, but the Oscar race is just beginning!

I’m back in New York from the increasingly chilly weather of Toronto, and I hate to leave TIFF, as always. It’s like the circus is packing up and all the excitement is dying down…til next year…OR til the New York Film Festival starts, which is Monday! The press screenings I mean.

Which like TIFF, in some kind of weird film festival tradition are almost always held at ridiculous hours of the morning!

But I digress! I come back to find that while my own personal TIFF is now done, the Oscar race is only just beginning! But you all knew that already!

Jeff Wells of www.hollywood-elsewhere.com is still there, blogging his brains out. And having a completely different perspective on the race than I do. And that goes for Oscar goddess Sasha Stone of www.awardsdaily.com

who is comfy and warm in sunshine-y L.A….

Sasha has a particularly interesting take on the Best Actor race. As does Jeff. But both of them leave out Gerard Butler and his career-changing performance in “Machine Gun Preacher” completely! I beg to differ.

The night I left I was delighted to see ET Canada do a whole segment on Gerard and his Oscar chances. And the films’ too!

And I also have to beg to differ about Brad Pitt and “Moneyball.”

“Moneyball”? REALLY? A baseball movie? I mean, they DO like to keep nominating him for the star-power he brings to things…but if he’s going to be nominated this year for anything it’s Terence Malick’s “A Tree of Life”…which is serious, and pretentious enough for the Academy.

Or maybe in  this case, toooo pretentious. I predict that first 45 mins. of primordial ooze is something that is NOT going to keep those “Tree of Life” screeners from being ejected from Academy voters’ DVD players…

However Sasha and Jeff ARE right about George the Clooney being everywhere and charming everyone and everything in sight. I didn’t get to see EITHER of his two TIFF movies “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” which everyone says is the better of the two.

But I don’t personally think that David Cronenberg’s TIFF bomb “A Serious Judgement” is going to get any serious Oscar consideration whatsoever. And that neither of its’ leading men, Viggo Mortensen or Michael Fassbender are going to be nominated for Best Actor or ANYthing for this film.

Anthony Del Col, and also Critic of Critics Thelma Adams join me at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

for some VERY spirited Oscar buzz talk from TIFF. Thank you Anthony! Thank you Thelma!

Thelma’s segment is not up yet, but stop-the-presses Anthony is! And it’s great! Take a look as we try to parse Tilda Swinton’s Oscar chances for “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin.”

It was Anthony’s idea to sit-in with me for a running Oscar commentary at TIFF. This is Anthony Del Col of “Kill Shakespeare” fame and he’s VERY good at this!

As he is at everything! We taped two complete episodes which equals something like six videos in You Tube time and I can’t WAIT for you to see them all!

I also have to point out that “The Ides of March” was underwhelming everyone I spoke to. Especially Anthony and Thelma, as you’ll see. I don’t think “Ides” is an Oscar slam-dunk by any means, though Oscar god Dave Karger says so.

If the TIFF tea leaves are being read right by me & co., it’s “The Descendants” all the way. Which means also if Ryan Gosling is nominated for anything, or more accurately for any of the two of his films that are out now, it’s going to be “Drive” that drives up people’s (and Oscar voters) temperatures and not “Ides.”

When you’ve got two films in Oscar play at a place like TIFF, one is usually going to eclipse the other, and I think that’s what happening with “Ides” and “Descendants” and “Drive.” The two “D”(entitled) movies are faring better on the TIFF buzz circuit, I would say.

But it WAS interesting in that there was no clear front-runner AT ALL. Not like “The King’s Speech” was last year and others like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men” were in other years’ at TIFF.

So I’m back, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear theatre-lovers of literature, and tomorrow night the BROADWAY season starts with a revival of “Follies” one of Stephen Sondheim’s greatest, so when the autumn breeze starts freezing the trees, I feel like TIFF’s warmth was one big fever dream!

TIFF winding down…Mira Sorvino & Nancy Savoca delight in “Union Square”

As the temperature begins to drop up here in Toronto, we ARE in Canada, as festive and glamourous as TIFF always makes it seem like it’s Hollywood  But as the wind blows off Lake Ontario, the season begins to change here in a  mouse-click. Yes, the leaves are beginning to turn red here and there. The famous Canadian Maple Leaf insignia is everywhere, and always symbolizes Fall, and it’s starting to feel like it here in the shade. The bright Canadian sunshine makes the sunny side of the street still feel like summer, but uh oh, on the other side….it’s autumn!

And I had the toasty warm delight this chilly morning of interviewing the lovely “Union Square”s star Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino and her equally warm and delightful director Nancy Savoca.  “Union Square” is a femme-centic film starring Mira and this year’s Tony Nominee for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”s Tammy Blanchard. I had the great privilege of having Tammy as a guest earlier this year and she is almost totally unrecognizable as Mira’s austere, repressed sister Jenny. Lucy (Mira) is basically having a nervous breakdown on her cell phone in Union Square and turns up on her estranged WASP-y sister’s Jenny’s, doorstep, also in Union Square and suffice it to say, your perception of good ole Union Square will never be the same again.

The super wonderful Savoca, who is at the top of the list of today’s female filmmakers, hits it out of the Ball Park again with this heartwarming(but not at all treacle-y) story of two young women who just can’t get along, but have to. Being sisters.

To give any more away would be to spoil, “Union Square”s delights, but I will reveal that these fighting feisty girls mother is played in a surprise cameo by Patti Lu Pone(!) Whom I whole-heartedly adore.

So I’ll leave the rest of “Union Square” unrevealed until it plays in a theatre NEAR YOU. Hopefully very soon. You’ll love it. I did.

TIFF on Tuesday

It’s Tuesday morning at TIFF, and this is the day the Toronto International Film Festivals really changes. It’s the day all the Americans leave and basically turn the Festival back over to the Canadians. It’s so quiet in the TIFF Bell Lightbox this morning. The lobby looked deserted. Tumbleweeds could be rolling through it. It’s really scary, in the sense that, why am I still here?

Well, in the first place, you just don’t want TIFF to end, ever. And the atmosphere once it starts rolling is intoxicating. I’ve been here over a week now. And I still love it.

The first weekend is craziness personified. And yes, Brad and Angelina were here. That was for “Moneyball.” Hardly an Oscar movie it seems and if you don’t like baseball, which I DON’T, you won’t like this movie, so I’m told. Then Saturday seemed to be George Clooney day. I did see him from the Media Lounge’s TV screen. Almost a movie screen, it’s so big. But then it’s TIFF where everything is a movie screen let’s face it. Including the walls, the interior walls of the lobby.

Images are being projected everywhere. It’s trippyy, and delightful. But it is something akin to sensory overload. But again, I like it.

They used to have a 24-hour TV channel here in Toronto that just broadcast festival news for the entire length of TIFF, and before. Heaven! But they don’t have it any more. So all I can really check on my TV now is the weather, which every day is predicted to rain and the sunshine is dazzling. THANK GOODNESS!

I’m dressed for summer! I never want this lovely warm weather  to end! But it’s Canada, and last year about this time there was suddenly a cold snap, and BOY, did it get chilly! FAST! And I wasn’t dressed for that.

But even though it’s TIFF Blue Tuesday, there’s still PLENTY to do.

With George Clooney having two movies here, he certainly was a presence, even though I only saw him on the screen in the media lounge, as I said. People STILL love him and I tried to catch his “Descendants” movie this morning at 9AM(!?! I HATE those early screenings!) but I missed it.

So here I am talking to YOU.

And I’ll just have to catch up with “Descendants” at the New York Film Festival.

The Weinstein Co. is having a quiet festival, which is odd. Oh, except for Madonna. Who was walking the Red Carpet yesterday for “W.E.” which is the film she directed. And yes, I didn’t see that one either.

I have a lot to catch up on.

There is no one film that has a glorious, uproarious, across the board consensus. Like “The King’s Speech,” “Slumdog Millionaire”, and “No Country for Old Men” did in previous TIFFs all of whom went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

So that means, well, that we’re going to an actual race, with many contenders, or that simply The Big One, the eventual Best Picture winner is simply not here, and will open later this year.

My favourite is still “Machine Gun Preacher.”

And now I have to go watch this year’s “Pitch This” which this year, Anthony Del Col of last year’s winner “Kill Shakespeare” which you all are now VERY familiar with who read this blog and watch my show, Anthony is coaching TWO hopefuls, and afterwards we’re interviewing everyone in sight. Including Anthony, again, and Mariangiola Castrovilli, the red-headed Italian Zsa Zsa Gabor.

So there’s PLENTY to do. Even if I missed George’s BIG Oscar movie, which is the “Descendants” everybody here seems to think and NOT “The Ides of March.” Which seems to have disappointed  every one who’s seen it.

“Deep Blue Sea” at TIFF with Rachel Weisz, deeply moving & beautiful British film

One of my favourite directors, Liverpudlian Terence Davies has made what is probably going to be his most accessible film ever, “The Deep Blue Sea.” A “classic” British play by Terence Rattigan from the ’40s, Davies has photographed and cinematized it to a fare thee well.

Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz is just heaven as the conflicted heroine, a Lady, who goes by the name Mrs. Page,  who is having an extramarital affair and who has left her Lordship, her husband for a hot young British army guy, Tom Huddleston. And at the time and place, London during the Blitz, this is something that is just not done. She is caught therefore between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. And Weisz contributes yet again another indelible performance. Along with her “Whistleblower” earlier this year; she is an actress who enchants and can play virtually any role, any emotion. She’s one of the great ones and is a pleasure to watch on-screen, always.

The film starts with her character turning on the gas fire and trying to commit suicide a la Sylvia Plath and we see her life flash before her in a  confused non-linear series of brief memory segments that one eventually realizes is her life troubled life. She lives for love, and her portly upper class lawyer husband, her lord-ship cannot satisfy is beautiful, young bride in any way except financially, so she turns to the first RAF pilot that makes a pass at her, (Huddleston) and as they say, drama ensues.

Davies tells the story totally from Weisz’ character’s point of view and it is totally, legitimately feminine and Weisz illuminates every scene she’s in.

I would say this is one of the great female performances of the year.  IF this film gets distributed and seen, and it’s so mesmeric and powerful and literate, I certainly hope that it does.

At TIFF the hits keep coming! Whit Stillman makes a marvellous comeback comedy “Damsels in Distress”!

One just HAS to love filmmaker Whit Stillman’s unique oeuvre. “Metropolitan” introduced me to him and to international audiences and won him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. His films “Barcelona” and “Last Days of Disco” kept his standards of wit and style as high and polished as a Fred Astaire B&W dance floor. And now he’s back, thankfully, and at last with a delightful new comedy “Damsels in Distress.”

The pink  back drop to the Sony Pictures Classics logo followed by pink titles of”The Damsels” and then the female cast’s names, and “Their Distress” and then the male actors’ names.

And the great Greta Gerwig! What a revelation! As Violet, the extremely original character is well, I don’t have the time and the space to go into it right now. Gotta dash! But let me just say “Damsels” is HI- larious!

Gerard Butler’s “Machine Gun Preacher” mows down the Oscar competition at TIFF!

Is it only Day Three? I feel like I’ve been here, at TIFF, my entire life! You enter into a Festival Time Warp (when a film festival is really working right and you’re out-of-town, especially) It’s a Film Festival Bubble that in some major ways you never want to burst. And return to reality but TIFF’s magic is in  full swing now. I think in the real world, it’s Saturday evening,and I’ve got to head out momentarily to the tres swank Unifrance party. Always a high point.

But ANOTHER high-point for sure was interviewing the great Gerard Butler today and telling him that ( I hope) he’s going to be going to the Oscars come February for the unforgettable “Machine Gun Preacher” which also is going to get a boatload of Oscar considerations in all categories.

You heard it here, first, folks. “Machine Gun Preacher” is one of the best film of the year, and Oscar may very well agree.

I predict that the Academy will not be able to resist the emotional powerhouse that is”Machine Gun Preacher.” And they certainly are not going to be able to resist the idea that Gerard Butler comes into his own as a magnificent screen actor whose acting chops match any one this or any Oscar season.

Playing a Real Life Action Hero and Savior of hundreds of lives in the war torn worst areas of Africa, Butler totally comes into his own and scares you to death in the first part of the film, where he plays a for-real criminal, and then morphs throughout the film into one of the most heroic men you’ll ever know of.

And I got to meet and interview the real life Lee Childers, who is a former career criminal and Pennsylvania red-neck and now is beyond reproach as someone is fighting the incredible fight in Africa. I can’t stop thinking about this movie! And you won’t either!

And neither will the Academy!

I got to tell Lee Childers, the screenwriter, director Marc Forster and Gerard Butler this news myself.
In person. This morning. At the Toronto International Film Festival.

I never thought I could realistically top my telling Colin Firth and director Tom Hooper of the “King’s Speech” that they were going to be winning Oscars that coming winter, only last year. This was also in the first days of the Toronto Film Festival. They were flabbergasted at the news. But yes, I was right. It was true. They did win.

And you can see me telling them this at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

And very soon next week or sooner, I hope you’ll be able to see me work the same Oscar Messenger magic with “Machine Gun Preacher” on my You Tube Channel as well, with all these interviews I am so happy to be describing.

Let’s face it. George Clooney has already GOT an Oscar. And he’s got TWO movies here at TIFF vying for Oscar’s attention. “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” They could easily cancel each other out. Tom Hanks, being directed by Stephen Daldry in the upcoming 9/11 drama, has already got TWO Oscars and these two along with Jean DuJardin of “The Artist” are so far Gerard Butler’s competition for Best Actor nods. Oh, yes, and Ryan Gosling too for “Drive” OR “The Ides of March.”

George was campaigning madly at Telluride evidently earlier this month, but…

Gerard Butler has not been nominated ever and he’s the right age and at the right point in his career to receive this honor. and recognition. I hope he gets it.

“Machine Gun Preacher” is going to be a film that this year, the Academy won’t be able to ignore.

Oscar Buzz continues at TIFF for Gerard Butler & “Machine-Gun Preacher”! And Tilda Swinton, too!

Now as one  film’s career rises and another falls, it’s fascinating to watch the ups and downs that one screening can lead to at TIFF. It’s like a thumbs up and/or a thumbs down from the Romans in the Colosseum.

And TIFF is giving a definite big THUMBS UP to both “Machine Gun Preacher,” which shocked and surprised me in all the right ways and “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin ”  “Preacher”‘s got HEAVY Oscar potential. Gerard Butler is in a career-redefining role as the title character. And it seems very much like this year’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

It’s a thoroughly griping action-er as well as being an amazing true story of this former alcoholic/drug addict/jail-bird (Butler) who totally gets his life under-control through the help of his devoted Christian wife(Michele Monaghan of “Trucker”) and ends up, like “Book of Mormon”s hapless elders in Uganda. And a very different Uganda from the one that’s selling out on Broadway.

It’s a desolate, lawless, hell-on-earth, where children routinely are dismembered and forced to kill their family members. And director Marc Forster(” Finding Neverland”) keeps the adrenaline pumping and the danger level high as the reformed Butler barrels through the African wilderness like a born-again Rambo, trying to save all the children, and there seem to miliions…who are desparately in need of medicine, schools, orphanages. And Butler tries to build and re-build all of them. AND HE DOES!

The incredible arc his character goes through addiction, jail, murder, reformation, then heroics in the African wild are catnip to Oscar. And Butler hits all the right notes, and is utterly believable all the way through and back again. His scenes with the children will make audiences world-wide cry and stand up and cheer. He and this powerful film and its’ timely topic are definitely going to be part of the Oscar conversation.

Another to be hotly debated Oscar topic is going to be Tilda Swinton’s career best performance in “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin”, an extremely disturbing and powerful look at another difficult and timely theme. What is it like to be the mother of a school shooter? A la Columbine. Swinton is magnificent but will audiences and Oscar voters be able to turn out to watch this? As great as it is, that’s the Oscar topic that is Tilda’s stumbling block here.

The handling of both these films by their campaigners and distributors will determine whether or not “Machine Gun Preacher” and “….Kevin” will be in the forefront of voters minds and DVD piles come this Christmas. They certainly SHOULD be, IMHO.

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