a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for October, 2011

After the Hallowe’en Blizzard, it’s STILL Hallowe’en!

A beautiful bright, sunny, warm day follows the raging gale of yesterday’s pre-Hallowe’en Blizzard of ’11. Every where I went every one was saying “What WAS that?” And nobody had an answer.

But I do.

Global Warming.

All this freak weather, all over the world…Winter coming early, in October, to New York and then going away and fall is back. Like a crisp Maine apple.

I went to walk on the Hi-Line, that brand new, heavenly park that was created out of an abandoned railway line left over from sometime waaay in the last century, and it was closed. Today, because of ice! And tomorrow, it’s closed for Hallowe’en.Because they don’t want all the revelers up there, high on the Hi-line ruining the vegetation they’ve planted and tended so carefully.

And parents were out with little kids with little bags and barely any costumes, just a bag for candy, because who knows? It might snow again at any minute.

And meanwhile, both Oscar bloggers Jeffrey Wells and Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone at the Savannah Film Festival, where it’s actually WARM!

Jeff was taken some marvelous shots which you can see on his site www.hollywood-elsewhere.com Sasha hasn’t posted anything yet, last time I checked. But Savannah,  a film festival that was barely a blip on the Festival radar….has got both of them, and flown them both in, it seems. Jeff writes about it so well, I wish I was there, too! And I thought I was festivaled out! After Provincetown, Montreal, Toronto and then New York!

Jeffrey saw “The Artist” the film that they opened with. He’d seen it before and felt it really didn’t hold up. But there it is, as unlikely an Oscar contender as is imaginable, smack dab right in the middle of the Oscar race.

If Jeff continues to knock the Weinstein co.’s work like he does, he shouldn’t be surprised at being left off certain lists of certain TWC events in L.A.

God, I’m glad I don’t live there! I don’t drive. How could I?

“The Greater Journey” ~ A Great Achievement & Great Read

Pulitzer Prize winning biographer David McCullough has created a biography to end all biographies. He has attempted the stupefying feat of tracing the journey, the Greater Journey of the title, of several generations of American art students, medical students, politicians and others from 1830-1900 to Paris, which at that time was the undisputed cultural capital of all the arts and sciences. Or so McCullough maintains in “The Greater Journey.”

The problem with this tremendously readable, lavishly illustrated book, is that it really is too much of a muchness. There are too many biographies attempted in too small a space. a mere 456 pages. But it is a great attempt. And a great story. And in the end a great book. One to treasure and to re-read. Once, in this case, is not enough.

There’s just soooo much to it!

It’s a biography like no other, tracing the seemingly evanescent, but actually earth-shaking impact of one highly developed culture on another completely under-developed one.

But the problem with “The Greater Journey” is that so many biographies are thrown at one so quickly that it takes quite a  time to sort out just who is who and what is what, but the one thing that unites them all is their unstoppable need to make this Greater Journey, the journey to Paris. Their thirst, their need for a great gulp of a great culture is unquenchable, and once there, most never leave, or do so reluctantly, and always wish they were back there…

And for certainly most Americans at the time, Paris and indeed France itself was the most enlightened,most enriching place to be. America, still young, did not have the tradition in the arts or in medicine that Paris did and McCullough floats the interesting hypothesis that withOUT these virtually uncountable Parisian trips, by impressionable, but talented young Americans, this country would not have prospered and flourished as it did, during this time and in the century that followed.

And Paris seemed affordable then, believe it or not. And what “The Greater Journey” affords is a marvelously concise entertaining bird’s-eye view of all these cultural astonishments.

In 1900, when the book ends, the Eiffel Tower is built for the Great Paris Exposition of that year, and it’s a fitting symbol and emblem of what all the lives detailed in “The Greater Journey” have been building towards for the whole of the 19th century.

The Statue of Liberty itself is being built and looming large over the Parisian rooftops as the book ends. It seems perfectly fitting that it does so, for McCullough posits, this is symbolic of how French culture has affected Americans.

One forgets that it was a gift from the French.

There are sooo many amazing and untold American stories that McCullough tells for the first time here, that is impossible to list them all.

One sees McCullough in his exhaustive research for his greatest book “John Adams” coming across the many, many American stories of unsung heroes in war and in peace, in science and in art, and McCullough attempts to sing their praises here.

I guess the strongest figure to emerge from “The Greater Journey” for me was the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who really is the father of American classical sculpture. His massive figures of Civil War heroes Farragut and Sherman adorning parks that one passes through in NY on a daily basis. These statues are a part of all our lives here, even if we don’t really pay attention to them or notice them. They are part of New York’s cultural landscape, and after reading about Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the compelling, almost breathtakingly urgent way that McCullough writes about his building these behemoths, you’ll never pass them by again.

The construction of the Farragut statue, which resides to this day in Madison Square Park between W.23 and W.26th St at the juncture of Fifth and Madison is given a whole chapter in this crowded book. And it is by far the best.

The red-headed, obsessed son of French shoemaker and an Irish mother, I became very interested in Augustus Saint-Gaudens because of this book and actually watched an excellent PBS documentary on him, whilst I was in the midst of reading it. It enriched my understanding of Saint-Gaudens, and also the audaucity of McCullough’s “Greater Journey” achievement immensely, Both Saint-Gaudens and McCullough are attempting monuments and both succeed magnificently, one complementing the other.

“The Greater Journey” makes you hungry for a more complete picture of those pivotal, historical figures that  we only catch glimpses of here.

Like Harriet Beecher Stowe, who fled to Paris to escape the acclaim that her incendiary book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” caused. A case can be made that it actually caused the Civil War. No wonder she wanted to escape to Paris.

Henry James, the most formidable American expatriate writer of the time the book deals with(1830-1900) is only dealt with glancingly here. I guess McCullough chose to just mention the most known and dwell on the little-known or forgotten like Saint-Gaudens or the only woman Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.

She and Saint-Gaudens really do stay in one’s mind as the book ends with them, and their passings. Ditto the painter John Singer Sargent, who is the only personage  here whom McCullough HINTS might be gay. But he concludes that it is something unknowable. I wish we knew more.

But there are many, many more wonderful American and French characters to be encountered in “The Greater Journey, ” an invaluable and original book for all it attempts to be and for the many Americans who emerge as brand new heroes and heroines in their chosen fields here.

Read it now! And then re-read it! It’s the perfect Christmas gift for all Francophiles! Of which I admit I am one.

Freak Blizzard on Hallowe’en Freaks the Freaks

Thousands of out-of-towners pour into New York City to participate in the weekend long festivities that lead up to Hallowe’en, this year falling on a Monday. They were expecting one,long party,leading up to the Greenwich Village Annual Hallowe’en Parade and instead got what amounted to a blizzard yesterday. Yikes!

Weary, would-be party-goers were still visible on the subways, soaking wet, in their costumes and with a dazed look on their faces that said not only “I don’t believe I’m actually IN New York” but also “I don’t believe I’m in this soaking wet costume,” and mostly “I don’t believe it’s snowing like this on Hallowe’en.”

Today is cloudless. A bright, bright blue only seen in movies. And the sun is shining, shining down on New York and of course there’s barely a trace of snow anywhere. At least looking down from the safety of my skyscraper window.

Due to the subways underneath Manhattan’s street, the sidewalks are always extra warm, and rarely hold on to the snow.

And yes, ancient Viking that I must be, I was out in it.

Gale force winds nearly knocking me down every time I turned a street corner. And since it was a mixture of snow AND rain, you had to have an umbrella, and fortunately, for a change I did.

I had to keep battling the wind and it kept turning, the wind kept turning and turning and swirling and swirling. My best, good, strong, big umbrella, and I were in a constant battle with the elements as they tried to turn it, and me, inside out and blow us both to smithereens.

The TV said like 50 mph winds were blowing and in Central Park tree limbs with leaves still on them caught more snow than they ever had to hold before and broke. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them.

But the electric lights never go out in Manhattan.

And fortunately, too, the heat was on.

The best place to go and get warm quickly, the subways. Which never stopped running, packed as they were with bedraggled, costumed freaks, looking for a party that they never would find, on a night like this…There was a very large Mrs. Potatohead, with doo-dads stuck all over her capacious, brown self. She had a little purse as if she had planned to go shopping, not trick or treating, and was now completely wet, everywhere. Not a festive look.

Today, it’s so calm and quiet here in Noisy Town, you’d never know anything happened. It’s like a for-real Sunday morning. In some small town somewhere.

It’s like you could hear a pin drop. THANK GOODNESS! All is quiet on the Eastern seaboard.

And the temperature is going up, up. I guess all the costumed tourists will have their Hallowe’en Parade in the Village after all.

Oscar Chart by David Poland now up @ Movie City News

Yes, David Poland finally put his first, big Oscar chart of the season up at www.moviecitynews.com

And I felt a bit of relaxation to see that David and I were mostly on the same page. He’s got Woody Allen’s masterpiece “Midnight in Paris” in the #1 position for Best Picture. He’s got Michelle Williams for Best Actress for “My Week With Marilyn”. He’s got BOTH Jean DuJardin and Berenice Bejos in the top spots for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress in “The Artist” and he’s got Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor. However not for “Beginners” but for the still unseen “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

But quixotically, he’s combined Plummer, also with Stellan Skarsgard for “Tattoo”, too. Plummer is playing the smallish, exposition-filled role of Herman Vanger, the old multi-millionaire who hires Mikael Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance and possible murder of the beloved neice Harriet Vanger, 14 years previously. And Skarsgard, who is also a great, great actor, plays his oldest son.

Don’t think any of THIS is going to happen, and Plummer will be awarded for “Beginners” as we’ve known from, well, the beginning of the season. May, actually.

But the others are intriguingly in sync with my P.O.V.

He doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed with Clooney in “The Descendants”. “Nothing new here” he notes.

I love David’s pithy descriptions of each persons chances! And now in Best Supp. Actress, he AND Scott Feinberg have got Berenice Bejos on top, which is really covering the waterfront in terms of two predictors from opposite ends of the Hollywood spectrum. Scott Feinberg is now at The Hollywood Reporter. But his previous web address was www.scottfeinberg.com And he was the first person to link to this humble blog. I think he still is.

I THOUGHT when I first saw “The Artist” in Montreal that Harvey Weinstein would push both Dujardin AND Bejos through for his film that really is perhaps the most lovable winner imaginable this year. Well, nominee, anyway.

Anne Thompson keeps saying at www.indiewire.com that Dujardin can’t speak English well enough to succeed on the pre-awards interview circuit. And Anne never makes this judgements lightly. I wonder if Berenice Bejos speaks it better?

I know one of the reasons that Marion Cotillard who won so famously and deservedly for “La Vie En Rose” (besides her being on my show!) was that she assiduously STUDIED English very hard during the pre-Oscar months, when she literally MOVED to L.A. and camped out there and went to every party imaginable and that dear readers, dear cineastes is what you have to do.

Poland also thinks Ryan Gosling’s chances are as dead as a doornail this year for “Drive” and for “Ides of March” which everyone is now discounting. And I think that’s right, too…

Berenice Bejos really COULD win. The other most talked about lady in waiting in the Supporting Category is Octavia Spenser for “The Help.” And as David points out regarding “The Bridesmaids” Melissa McCarthy that Oscar does not reward you for shitting in a sink, which evidently she does in this movie. That same maxim can be applied to Spenser, who although she doesn’t do it in the sink, she famously does it somewhere else, which I’m not going to spoil here. But let’s just say, you don’t get an Oscar for doing the brazen, outrageous act that makes her character of the outspoken Minny in “The Help” so memorable. I rest my Octavia Spenser case…

And Poland gives no traction whatsoever to Jeff Wells crusade for “Tyrannosaur” which, BTW, he barely mentions it, except in his Comments section where someone does bring Olivia Coleman’s name up. And Poland quickly brings it down.

And I just finally made myself watch the trailer for “War Horse”. Yes, no one seen it, but EVERYONE has seen the play and the trailer nearly made me cry. My heart just went out to that poor horse! And it’s a gorgeous horse, too! It’s acting its’ heart out. No really. It has Oscar Winner written all over that one.

And a strong supporting cast of un-Oscar-ed British actors, including the great Emily Watson in the pivotal role of the mother. And also Tom Hiddleston, a guest on my TV show, as the noble British captain who buys The Horse. You can see me interview Tom about this in a rather splendid chat we had at TIFF’11 that is now up on my channel at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow He talks about “War Horse” in Pt.2.

Only problem I see on the horizon for “War Horse” is that it may be too sentimental, but y’know, that’s never stopped any one from winning an Oscar!

Oscar’s Worst Disease ~ Category Confusion! It can kill a career!

What, I ask myself at this time of year with Hallowe’en fast approaching, is the worst, scariest thing that could possibly happen to an Oscar seeker? The answer is plain, simple and deadly ~ Category Confusion! It’s what happened to the wonderful Leslie Manville in “Another Year” last year. Leslie who? Well, Sony Pictures Classics whom I ADORE really messed up on that one. How? They ran her in Leading Actress. When clearly there were many who thought she was Supporting. Like BAFTA. That’s where they put her. And she lost there. Poor Leslie. Poor, poor Leslie. Category confusion. It’s Oscar’s most deadly disease. And this year, it’s back and seems to be infecting several prominent nominees. ALREADY.

The National Board of Review gave Leslie Manville BEST ACTRESS, and that seemed to be the way to go for her…I guess…but then she turned up…NOWHERE. EVER. AGAIN. And it was a stunning performance. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I wrote about it on this blog over and over and you can go back and check. I loved her lost, sad, mad Mary. A suburban singleton of un age certain who was desperate to get married before it was too late. So desperate for any kind of human contact whatsoever she permanently attached herself to her friendly married couple. And they put up with it. To a point.

Mike Leigh at his surprising best. Torturing a full length film out of such an unlikely topic. Single adults and their happily married friends…”Another Year” Catch it on DVD if you can.

Well, poor brilliant Leslie’s career state-side was not launched. Lost is more the word.

And this could happen again this year with a couple of very notable actresses. For some reason, it doesn’t infect male actors as easily as it does female. They are more fragile at Oscar time, and Awards season which is upon us, whether you know it or not, it’s particularly contagious.

And this year both Viola Davis of “The Help” may catch it. Is she lead? Or is she supporting? And so may Jeffrey Well’s crusade du jour unknown, middle-aged British actress Olivia Coleman in “Tyrannosaur” may also succumb, long shot though she is. I haven’t seen “Tyrannosaur”  yet. Not many people have, but most have liked it, like Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone of www.awardsdaily.com And you can read about Jeffrey’s latest crusade(s) at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

And the Chicago Film Festival critics who gave Olivia Coleman Best Actress.

But some who have seen it have felt she was Supporting in “Tyrannosaur” and therefore should be campaigned in that category. Uh-oh! Here we go again! Leslie Manville-time! And she also has a supporting role in Meryl Streep’s “The Iron Lady” as Margaret Thatcher’s daughter. Confused?

You see the Academy who gives out the Oscars can place actors, on a written ballot, in any category they see fit.

They are supposedly GUIDED by the “For Your Consideration” Campaigns that the various studios and distributors put out, at great expense.  But other organizations like the Golden Globes or the BFCA (Broadcast Film Critics) ARE guided by the studios in category placement. The leading critics groups, not so much. They follow their own whims and wisdoms.

I just hope Disney or Dreamworks or whoever is watching over “The Help” sticks to its’ Viola Davis as Lead campaign. And Davis as brilliant as she is, may not be the leading character. The lead is clearly the Emma Stone character. BUT if they put Viola in lead she may lose there to a younger actress, specifically Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.”

And all my fellow Oscarologists are keeping Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in the still unseen “Iron Lady” as their Numero Uno Belle of the Ball.

If Viola Davis is put into Supporting, she would surely win that  still kind of wide open category. But in that category ALREADY ARE possibly TWO other cast-mates from “The Help” Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. No one has ever won an Oscar when THREE people from the same movie are all in the same category. Vis a vis “On the Waterfront”, neither Rod Steiger, Karl Malden or that other guy won. They all cancelled each other out. As did the three Supporting Dames in “Tom Jones”, leaving another Brit darling, Dame Margaret Rutherford to triumph that year for “The V.I.P.s”

So it’s in Viola’s best interest to be put – where? In Best Actress where she may not win? Or Best Supporting Actress, possibly knocking out one of her presumed nominee cast-mates?

Is a puzzlement. To quote Yul Brynner in “The King and I’

OR a disease. Look what happened to Leslie Manville! Category Confusion! AND IT KILLED HER!

And also the same can be said, BTW, about Julianne Moore last year. She was campaigned in lead for “The Kids Are All Right,” and if Focus Features had put her more firmly in Supporting,(they didn’t) she too, like Leslie Manville was  shut out completely. At the Oscars. At the Globes. At the Broadcast Film Critics. Everywhere.

How can this happen, you say? Well, it’s vote-splitting, is what it is. These two actresses specifically Manville and Moore, and just last year, both split their own vote and ended up sitting at home on Oscar night. And watching Melissa Leo say “f**king” and generally lower the level of the Awards forever. A case can be made that either Manville or certainly Moore would have won over the little-known Leo. But Melissa Leo did win. And she did it HER way. But it was always clear WHAT category she was in. She was always Supporting and Natalie Portman was always lead and they both won.

Viola Davis’ performance in “The Help” is a towering achievement. But neither she nor any one I feel is going to topple the beauteous young Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.  Nobody is confused as to what category Williams as Marilyn is supposed to be in. She’s like Natalie Portman in “The Black Swan” last year. Unstoppable. So it does make some sense to put Viola Davis in Supporting.

And then there’s Fox Seachlight’s cock-eyed attempt to campaign Brad Pitt as Supporting for “Tree of Life,” when he’s CLEARLY the lead in that mixed-up muddle of a movie. But what that may do is take votes away from his lead campaign in his career-best performance as Baseball manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball.”

Academy Members of their Acting Branch get confused soooo easily. But they got it absolutely RIGHT a couple of years back when they put Kate Winslet stunning performance as Hannah Schmidt, an illiterate Concentration Camp guard, into lead, when she was being campaigned as Supporting for “The Reader.”

They did absolutely the right thing then. And Winslet won! And made the cover of Time Magazine, BTW.

What will they do this year? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

George Clooney’s TWO BIG Oscar movies…

So now I’ve finally seen BOTH of George Clooney’s TWO BIG Oscar seeking movies, and it’s a lot of George to take in. I mean, it’s overwhelming. And what will the Academy think? The most important question. I wonder, I really do.

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone always says that Frontrunner is a difficult position to be in. And that’s EXACTLY where George Clooney finds himself as a Best Actor, on the Gurus o’ Gold chart, and also the great Movieline.com Oscar Index. He’s at the top of both for
“The Descendants.” Not for “Ides of March” his other equally dark film that is out now currently playing in theaters near you, to OK. business. But not a block-buster by any means.

FINALLY getting to see it, I found myself actually liking it much better than I thought I was. Guy Lodge of Incontention (which is now been absorbed by HitFix) famously said, after seeing it in Venice at the Film Festival there, that is was “good, but not great” and that term has stuck.

BTW, before this article gets too long here are the links www.hitfix.com www.movieline.com

(for the Oscar Index) and www.moviecitynews.com for the Gurus o’ Gold.

The Gurus had the still unseen “War Horse” at #1, that is, until the poster came out, which looked somewhat like “National Velvet”. A boy and his horse love story. Which of course is what it is. But set during World War I, and still packing them in as a play on both sides of the Atlantic.

So then collectively, the Gurus went for “The Descendants” as best film last time out. And “War Horse” is now #2, but still Numero Uno on Stu Van Airsdale’s Oscar Index. (That bobble-head pic of the Horse itself, still cracks me up!)

So let’s just say “The Descendants” is the frontrunner for Best Picture and George for Best Actor.

I liked “The Descendants” it’s a very well done film about DEATH and comas AND DEATH and hospitals and DEATH. And yes, it’s depressing.

I also heard that in some quarters now that it’s being shown some people also are finding it a downer.

And George is just great in this as a beleaguered father and cuckold, as it were. His dying wife cheated on him and he only finds this out after the boating accident that puts her in a non-reversible coma. And it’s his teenage daughter, Shailene Woodley, a probable Oscar nominee herself, who tells him this.

And here I am talking about “The Descendants” all the time, and I meant this to be about “Ides of March.” I guess I liked it. But I didn’t LOVE it. Will it get a Best Picture nod? Possibly. This is the old-fashioned kind of movie about “Politics is a dirty business” which, d’oh, we already know.

It didn’t enthrall me THAT MUCH. But you do admire the Supporting Performances. George is REALLLLY good as the asshole who’s running for President. No likeability factor here. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman has what is probably the only slam dunk Oscar nomination here, in Supporting, as George campaign manager. He’s evenly matched by the wonderful Paul Giamatti, but his part is smaller and less rangey, than Hoffman’s.

Ryan Gosling, I’m sad to say, disappointed me in the leading role. He’s supposed to be this wide-eyed eager naive media consultant. And you know from the beginning he’s not. And then when he ends up where he ends up in this movie that is really HIS story, not George’s, well,  it seems like he barely went from A to B. More like A to A. A as in asshole.

Am I giving something away? He’s a brilliant actor and he was great in “Drive.” A MUCH better performance. But I don’t think he’ll get nominated for that film that’s got such an Indie vibe going for it that the Academy may just overlook.

I don’t think Ryan gets nominated any where this year. George will. But will he win? It’s the foregone conclusion. He wrote, directed and PRODUCED “Ides of March.” He’s everywhere, as I’ve noted before, but is a second Oscar within his grasp?

After finally seeing “The Ides of March”, I’m now not so sure that it is. Somebody or something may come along and knock him out of the winning spot. Most likely something we haven’t seen yet.

If “The Descendants” which is now opening the same fateful day in late November that “My Week with Marilyn”, and “The Artist” AND “Hugo” are all opening, too. Will it get lost in the shuffle?

Oscar Blogger Jeffrey Wells makes $ for “Tyrannosaur”!?!*faints*

I’m utterly astonished! And also very glad. For Jeffrey. Talk about hair-brained schemes! But this one had hair on it, obviously, and it worked! It worked! See, my Oscar blogging colleague Jeffrey Wells of the must-read website www.hollywood-elsewhere.com had this idea that since a film he and Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone loved a lot, but which I haven’t seen yet, called “Tyrannosaur”, was not getting screened in a timely fashion for Oscar consideration, he was going to try to raise $2000 via pay pal on his site. AND HE DID!!!

Unbelievable!

Sasha wrote that the last chunka change that was needed was gifted by an anonymous donor, but anyway, Jeffrey has now done the thing he’ll be famous for for the rest of his online life, one way or the other, he did the impossible.

It’s a little complicated to convey the ins and the outs quickly and briefly, but “Tyrranosuar” was this same, low-budget indie about a battered wife in the slums of Northern England. An unknown middle-aged actress named Olivia Coleman is the object of all this hullabaloo, and she did just win the Best Actress award from the Chicago film critics.

Sasha is thrilled for Jeffrey who is her podcast partner now at www.awardsdaily.com but she’s just commenting all this, and is not the anonymous donor. Neither she nor I could afford it. Screening rooms in L.A. for the cognoscenti are expensive, especially at this time of year, and Jeffrey hopes that this valiant (some would say foolhardy)act of well, press agentry, is unheard of.

Trying to influence Oscar voters? Are they going to come to this? AMPAS voters I mean. Are they main stream critics gonna cover this? The ones that count? Well,yes, this is big news in the blogosphere and you can be sure it’s going to get Jeffrey a lot of internet hits for his site, and maybe the most he’s ever gotten in this LIFE! But come on. The SERIOUS Academy members? The VERY serious Academy members? Maybe actresses of un age certain who are SAG members, but this doesn’t sound like a movie that the males in the mix, who dominate are going to rush out to see.

And as Sasha points out Best Actress is practically a locked up category at the moment ALREADY. I mean, you have the always-reserved, sight-unseen, obligatory Meryl Streep slot for “Iron Lady” which is a Weinstein film. You have the one I think is the probable winner Michelle Williams’ stunning “My Week with Marilyn” You have Viola Davis in “The Help” IF she is put in this category and not Supporting and you have sez Sasha Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”, playing a man, and you have a fifth slot with Sasha thinks Tilda Swinton in “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin” which the formidable Cynthia Swartz is now repping.

You’ve also got on the outside, Rooney Mara in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, the American remake of the highly acclaimed Swedish film, and there’s rising star 21-year-old Olsen Twins younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”

And Jeffrey’s going to get a totally unknown, middle-aged British actress Olivia Coleman into THIS group?????

I don’t think so.

As Sasha pointed out, SOMEBODY has to go. And with Glenn Close being repped by Falco Ink in NYC and they’re also the press agents for “Tyrannosaur”…..they’re in a pretty prickly situation with this unheard of feat of Jeffrey’s.

But good on him for doing the impossible. Win, lose or nominate. You have to say about Jeffrey Wells, who resides in L.A., as does Sasha, and most of the movie business, he’s doing it HIS WAY.

Excellent “Oscar Index” at Movieline asks “Is it February yet?” Lol…

Do I love that Oscar Index, penned by the redoubtable Stu Van Airsdale over at the increasingly necessary www.movieline.com ? Yes! I do! I highly recommend it for its’ humor is as good as anything in the New Yorker. Yes, I have now mentioned the words “Oscar” and “The New Yorker” in the same sentence! I admit it!

I have no ads. So I can say anything. And I do. On my blog. On my TV show.

And Stu’s Oscar Index constantly surprises me! Like for instance the major surprise this week was French actress Berenice Bejos, who I just ADORED in “The Artist,” and was always championing since I saw the movie in Montreal- well, Berenice has now bounced right into the center of the Oscar Index’ Best Supporting Actress chart! And fittingly enough, she’s pictured as a Black and White bobble-head, and like the film, she’s not in color.

“The Artist” won the Hamptons Film Festival Audience choice award this past week, so Harvey W. is once again, a happy Hamptons-goer. Last year, “The King’s Speech” won this award.

Besides the Toronto Film Festival audience award, it was the only other award it won on its’ surprising Oscar journey. “The King’s Speech” I mean. Last year, it didn’t start its’ OSCAR winning streak til that famous night at the PGA awards in Hollywood where it won, unexpectedly. Not unexpected by me, though.

But whether it’s “The Artist” or “My Week with Marilyn” the Oscar this year also seems to have Harvey’s name on it. Just like last year. Will the Academy become sick of his dominance? No. I don’t think so. They LOVE it! It’s a throw back to the days of the REAL Old Time Hollywood mogols of yore. Louis B. Mayer, David O. Selznick. Daryl Zanack. Sam Goldwyn, etc. etc. etc.

It’s a Weinstein world and we just live in it! I guess you could replace that noun with George Clooney and you’d be equally right.

Every where I turn in New York right now, George Clooney is coming at me. Off billboards, off BUS ADS, and this is just for “The Ides of March”! Which is sinking link a stone according to Oscar Index,  but is maintaining a low watt Box-Office, but holding steady. The upcoming “The Descendants” is the one who will win George his second Oscar this year. If he is to win it for anything.

And then, on that momentous day at the end of November, “The Descendants,” “My Week with Marilyn,” “The Artist,” and “Hugo” ALLLLL OPEN ON THE SAME DAY! I still can’t get over that confluence of circumstances! And release dates!

And Stu has the brilliant Viola Davis in second place this week. And he drops Michelle Williams down to third, for “The Help” and “My Weekend with Marilyn” respectively.

Now my main prob with Viola Davis is where EXACTLY Disney is gonna place her. In lead? Or Supporting? If she’s in Supporting, she’s a slam dunk. If she’s in lead, it’s iffy. And Category Confusion could lead her to end up where the equally brilliant Lesley Manville ended up last year for “Another Year.”Which is NOWHERE. It COULD happen.

Note to Disney/Dreamworks – MAKE VIOLA’S CATEGORY CRYSTAL CLEAR or else it’s Lesley Manville time…again.*sound of crickets chripping*

Oscar Index still has Meryl Streep’s unseen “Iron Lady” at No. 1 And Gorgeous George is STILL topping Best Actor, naturally. For “The Descendants” which I agree with.

But Meryl? Still? As Margaret Thatcher? One of the most unsympathetic female figures of our times? And rumored to be about her at the end of her life as an Alzheimer’s patient? Didn’t we see this movie before? With Judi Dench? And it was called “Iris”? And James Broadbent was playing her understanding care-giver of a husband? And he won a Supporting Actor Oscar for it? And isn’t James Broadbent playing that same role in “The Iron Lady”? And isn’t it directed by the woman who directed “Mamma Mia”?(which I LOVED by the way.) But the “Iron Lady” doesn’t sound like a light-hearted musical frolic. At least not on paper. Nobody’s seen it, so nobody knows. Yet Oscar Index AND the Gurus o’ Gold are putting Meryl on top of their lists. Me. I’ll wait to see it.

And yes, that’s Harvey’s movie, too…

Just to make everything even more confusing, for us. Never mind him or the entire staff of the Weinstein Co. Who are TOTALLY ready for this challenge of challenges by the way. They can handle anything. Including multiple Oscar campaigns.

Which some people, like Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu, doesn’t seem to be able to do. At least not according to Jeffrey Wells, the untamed blogger extraordinaire who has now fallen so hard for low-budget, British Indie “Tyrannosaur” that he’s starting to try to raise money through his website www.hollywood-elsewhere.com for Olivia Colman’s lead performance.

Not having seen it, I haven’t a clue how misguided or guided this latest scream of a scheme Jeffrey, an Internet legend to put it mildly, has come up with. You can follow this critic-takes-on-the-role-of-press-agent-to-the-Oscars story blow by hilarious blow at Hollywood-Elsewhere.

It sounds just nuts. Jeffrey thinks his readers will contribute to HIS pay pal account to fund this $2000 evening screening in Hollywood. That’s what it costs, evidently per very nice screening room in L.A. Who knew?

And then, suppose he raises it? Does that mean anyone will come to the screening? First rank critics? AMPAS members? Suppose no one comes? Suppose this rash and unprecedented action turns off more Academy Members than it turns on? To “Tyrannosaur”? To Olivia Coleman? An unknown middle-aged British actress playing an abused wife in a council flat somewhere in Northern England?

I think this is all because Jeffrey was unable to switch his flight back to L.A. from NYC when the NYFF switched the press screening of “My Weekend with Marilyn” to a week ago Sunday. Causing Jeff to miss it completely. On both coasts. If he had seen it, he wouldn’t be going off the deep end like this, I can assure you. Over Olivia Coleman? Really?

Seems he doesn’t like the screenings in L.A. Strand Releasing is (not) setting up for “Tyrannosaur.” What next? And I didn’t know Jeffrey was SUCH an Anglo-phile.

Bottom line, he’s getting a lot of attention(read hits, read Internet traffic) for this. And is this helping Olivia Coleman? And her teeny tiny distributor Strand? I’ve admired Strand for years, but it’s no secret that they don’t have the big bucks. And Oscar campaigns cost MONEY. Maybe you didn’t know that, but now you do.

Is Jeffrey hurting more than he’s helping? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, enjoy Oscar Index at Movieline. THAT’S on the money.

NYFF ends…with a Sneak Peak at Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”

Yes, it’s finally over! The Best-It’s-Ever-Been 49th Edition of the New York Film Festival! The high points were really high – Centerpiece “My Week with Marilyn” totally blew me away & is probably going to net star Michelle Williams her first Oscar &  Closing Night’s Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” is probably going to get George Clooney his second. They are both launched, in any case. Ditto “The Artist” also playing here. And Pedro Almodovar’s super superb “The Skin I Live In.”

Yes, if you’re looking to see Oscar fare FIRST from the comfort of your NY-adjacent home, then the NYFF is your cup of tea. And apart from Oscar seekers, there are also films that you get to see in the exciting, glamorous, cinema-loving situation that seem just that more special because you’re viewing them in this unique setting on a big screen, my favorite way to see films. Period.

Like for instance, you could see TWO brand new films, in two entirely different genres, by one grand master of cinema, Martin Scorsese’s 4 hour documentary on George Harrison “Living in the Material World” which is one of the best films he’s ever made. Totally joyous, celebratory, informative, transportive.It’s length not a problem, and coming soon to HBO., where it will be seen in two parts, Beatles and post-Beatles.

Also, there was the thrill of seeing a sneak peek of his new full length feature film “Hugo” which is in 3-D. We, the press, were warned it was still a “work in progress” and not for review. So I will say no more at this point, but that is was very exciting to be allowed to be there. And Scorsese was there himself, in person, to introduce the film.

Sometimes this Business of Show makes me feel outside of things, sometimes, but that night I felt as “In”as In could be, and thank you for including me, NYFF.

I, a Native New Yorker, finally felt like I was being given the keys to the city, albeit for just one brief night.

And the addition,  the two brand spanking shiny new smaller screens across the street from the Walter Reader Theater, the Beale and the Bunin, and the intimate new restaurant between them all, provided  much-needed new spaces that were just a delight to eat in, to watch films in or to just hang out with other festival-goers.

And then there’s the amazing things that happen at the NYFF  – apart from the films, if you can imagine such a thing. Like for instance, “My Weekend with Marilyn” being so tumultuously received that its’ distributor the Weinstein Co. MOVED its’ opening date back three weeks to THE SAME DAY in late November as its’ other Oscar-bait-y film “The Artist”!?!? Now, THAT was stunning development. And not only that. It’s the same day in November that “The Descendants” and also “Hugo” are opening!!?!?!! OMG!

What does all that mean????? Yikes!

Well, it will be a very busy day for the newspapers, the few newspapers, that are left to cover the movies in their movie sections. That are losing readers and advertising EVERY DAY in the Internet. But as you may have noticed not to this particular section of the Internet “The Stephen Holt Show”s blog, which is still AD FREE.

And It’s going to make for a  very, VERY interesting weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, BTW, at the box-office! Yikes!

But “The My Week with Marilyn” reaction was so overwhelming and so positive, this move gives The Weinstein Co. three more weeks to mount a MAJOR Oscar campaign in all categories, something it may or may not have been planning before. IOW, not only for Michelle Williams, brilliant as ever, but also for Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier(a slam-dunk, methinks), Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike and Eddie Redmayne as the beguiling “My” of the title. Ditto the director Simon Curtis, the screenwriter Adrian Hodges, the cinematographer Ben Smithard, production designer Donal Woods, the costume designer Jill Taylor, the score(Conrad Pope & Alexandre  Desplat) and everything else you, and Harvey Weinstein can think of.

Last up at the NYFF, “The Descendants” George Clooney’s 2nd Oscar?

Dear Readers, Dear Cineastes FINALLY caught up with George Clooney in “The Descendants”, the closing night film at this-year’s-better-than-ever the 39th edition of the New York Film Festival. Missed “The Descendants” at TIFF, where it also played, and people have been acclaiming it all along its’ chequered way.

Stu Van Airsdale at www.movieline.com has George at the top of his Oscar Index for Best Actor and I think that’s right. It’s the performance of his career, so far. He does more and different and varied things than we’ve ever seen him do. And this plus “Ides of March” which he co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in may help him, or not… I haven’t seen it yet and I’m not running to it. Yet.

The reviews for “Ides” have been tepid and the box-office just OK.  All the reviews have been exactly THE SAME for “Ides” which is out now in theaters and now playing just about everywhere. I don’t usually read other critics’ reviews, but since I was not invited to see this at a Press Screening by Sony, I DO read them, deciding whether it’s worth seeing it or not at the local neighborhood theater or should I say theaters? Because it seems to be everywhere. And they all said the same things, good, but not great.

“The Descendants” is much, much better than that. But what they aren’t talking about, as well done as it is, is that it’s a movie by Alexander Payne(of “Sideways”) it’s a movie about death.

Clooney’s wife is in a boating accident at the beginning of the movie and then goes into a coma, where she remains for the rest of the movie. Clooney a successful businessman in of all places, Hawaii has to deal with this tragic situation and also his two handfuls of daughters, one a kid and the other a rebellious teenager, played by Shaileen Woodley, who may very well be looking at an Oscar nomination, too, herself.

Hawaii is the most glamourous co-star of this movie and its’ radiance permenates every frame. These people are rich, priveleged and living in paradise, but yet they’re all miserable, just like the rest of humanity, Payne seems to be saying.

It IS the role of George Clooney’s career. And he’s just terrific in it and very relatable as a grieving but responsible and caring father who is constantly challenged by his daughters at every step of “The Descendants” dolorous way. And yes, on top of everything else, it’s a comedy!

Sometimes that works and sometimes that doesn’t. Sometimes it undermines a very serious moment in the film and sometimes it helps relieve the tragedy.

It’s also a very sad, sad film and I found it ultimately very depressing, which I wasn’t expecting from Clooney OR Alexander Payne.

And Oscar? Well, Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Alexander Payne will all be nominated in their respective categories as well as the picture.

But will it win? The Academy USUALLY goes for an epic of some sort, not a family drama, like this is, or a dramedy. Or perhaps even a tragedy, which is what Clooney’s character and family are ultimately left with…It didn’t win the People’s Choice Award at Toronto…

Sight unseen, people are still betting “War Horse” which is Spielberg and a Tony winning play and AN EPIC. And also a war film…But “The Descendants” is right behind it. But me, personally, I think that “My Week with Marilyn” has jumped over this and of course, there’s “The Artist” too. I think “The Descendants” is now at #3 on the Movie Index but George is in the #1 spot for Best Actor. His main competition if his good friend Brad Pitt! For “Moneyball”!

But a film about death vs. a film about Baseball? Clooney v. Pitt? I have to say that in this struggle death is going to beat baseball.

But we haven’t seen Leonardo’s J. Edgar Hoover yet…but so far, I think for Best Actor it’s Clooney all the way.

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