a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for October, 2011

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.

“Marilyn” turns Oscar race upside down in ONE DAYat the NYFF!

Yes, the Oscar race CAN change on a dime!And it did just that this Sunday when in the morning at the Press screening and in the evening at the public screening as the NYFF’s Centerpiece, “My Week With Marilyn” WOWED everyone and surpassed expectations all over the place.

And it’s just not me being blinded by the light of Michelle Williams’ iconic performance OF an icon, check out Stu Van Airsdale’s great Oscar Index at www.movieline.com

His writing about all this craziness we call Oscar is insightful, funny,elegant, and also makes one think that yeah, Stu has the goods about what’s going down in The Race.

His index’s (or is it indices?) are charts that contain the six main races with bobble-heads of The Contenders each of which has his or her own colored line to follow throughout the season. This edition appeared today, so I guess Wednesdays are the days to check back and see what’s new.

And Stu agrees with me that “My Week With Marilyn” has changed well, everything.

In addition to Michelle Williams being off the charts, though he decorously has her at #2, behind Meryl Streep, in the as yet unseen “Iron Lady,”  Stu points out that people who saw those two screenings, and there was one on the Left Coast,too, evidently , were so enthusiastically what’s the word? I’d say Oscar-ish in their response that Harvey Weinstein himself has UNPRECEDENTEDLY moved “Marilyn” s release date BACK three weeks right into the end of November, and right into the heat of the Awards season, which I don’t care what anybody says, is now upon us. UNHEARD.OF.

Especially since Harvey W. or the Weinstein Co. also has Meryl Streep’s movie “The Iron Lady”. Pretty much everything has now been seen except that and “War Horse” oh, and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”(or something like that). Oh, yes, and J. Edgar, too.

But Stu’s even got “My Week with Marilyn” now on his chart for Best Picture! Yes, Michelle’s blonde MM bobble-head is there! And the point is it was nowheresville LAST week.

And yes, the remark I heard over and over again was that it was “like the King’s Speech.” Well, it’s a Weinstein Co. production and it’s a cast of British A-listers who also can rack up nominations, like for instance Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike.

Zoe Wanamaker is a hilarious harridan as Paula Strasberg, Marilyn’s Method Acting Coach, who accompanies her to England. She could get a nomination, too. It’s the best part she’s ever had and the film is filled with many other great British cameos.

And oh yes, Eddie Redmayne as the object of Marilyn’s affection and the “My” of the title is pretty nominatable, too.

The director, the adapted screenplay, the cinematography, the costumes, the score, you name it, it’s gonna get nominated.

I thought this was all going to happen to “The Artist” also Harvey’s film, but Marilyn Monroe’s ghost just won’t rest easy. And with Michelle Williams giving the performance of her career…well…MWWM as it’s easier to type, is here to stay. ALLLLL the way through Oscar season.

Michelle Williams Breaks Your Heart & Will Win Her First Best Actress Oscar for “My Week with Marilyn”!

I’m just rushing back from a packed, packed, packed Press Screening at the New York Film Festival this morning to rave and rave about how wonderful “My Week with Marilyn” turned out to be! Michelle Williams has just won the Oscar for Best Actress!!! She is HEARTBREAKING! And there’s so much NEW Marilyn info here. We think we know MMs story, but “My Week…” meticulously shows us that, we do not. There is more to be told And Michelle Williams! OMG! She is beautiful beyond belief, sexy, and she rips your heart out, too! It’s an Academy Award performance FOR SURE! Close the category! Nobody can top her!

And director Simon Curtis could be on his way to the Oscars,too, with this film.  It’s so good in all its’ aspects it could win Best Picture. And so could Kenneth Branagh, who’s definitely got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his future playing the egotistical, blue meany Sir Laurence Olivier, and so may Dame Judi Dench as a hilarious Dame Sybil Thorndyke, the only person on the film set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” who seems to be kind to Marilyn and sees and understands the torments she’s going  through. Dame Judi shows you that Olivier did not HAVE to behave the way he did to Marilyn. She tells him to “stop bullying her!” but of course, he does n0t and therein lies the conflict and the plot of this  spectacularly surprising, fantastically good movie.

And you just HATE Zoe Wanamaker asthe black-clad, matronly Paula Strasberg, who is Marilyn’s Method Acting coach. Paula accompanies her to England to film (true story) Olivier’s production of this Terrence Ratigan play that was a hit for him in the West End, where he played opposite his real life wife at the time Vivian Leigh. Played here by Julia Ormond, in a kind of throw away part. Wanamaker, as Strasberg, maddeningly interferes in every aspect of the production she can. Actually making things worse for the hapless Marilyn. And this is a true story, too.

IRL as he does in the film, Olivier REPLACES Leigh in the “Showgirl” role for the movie with Marilyn, hoping that she would renew him “make him feel young,” but instead Marilyn’s constant latenesses to the set and difficulty with Olivier in nearly every aspect of making this troubled , true Hollywood story , is making him feel very, very old. And draining him of every ounce of vitality he hoped he would have making this , his dream project of a movie.

And this is all true, and the fact that it is will resonate heavily with the Academy and Michelle Williams’ magnificent performance just breaks your heart, in ways that you wouldn’t think a film like this, a Hollywood biopic, could. It really is a profound story that goes beyond everything you might expect. And it’s a love story, too.

Williams and director Curtis take you SLOWLY inside Marilyn’s torment and insecurity. At the start of the film she is singing(and Williams uses her own voice to sing) one of her signature songs and we see Eddie Redmayne’s character of the Young Boy that is Colin Clark, watching her with a huge, freckled-faced smile,looking up adoringly at her in a darkened 1950s British movie house.

Then we see Clark, and his upper class family, who is shocked, SHOCKED that he wants to get a job at all, and in MOVIES. No less, and we see him worm his way into Shepperton Studios and become the third assistant director on “The Prince and the Showgirl.” This starts the movie.

Olivier is portrayed as a martinet, to say the least. And he is trying to find a way to work with Marilyn, who has no training whatsoever, but who as just discovered and embraced Method Acting and the Actor’s Studio in New York, hence her connection with Paula Strasberg, who ran it with her husband the legendary Lee Strasberg.

And the film is all about great acting, and great actors and how Olivier and Monroe are both united in their desire to do great work, but separated by the ocean of cultural differences and acting techniques.

And Olivier in the end admits that Monroe “had the greatest of instincts but no training whatsoever” and the film says that he is a great stage actor trying to be a film star and that Monroe was a great movie star trying to be a great actress. And clashes ensue.

Situated between her just-married status to playwright Arthur Miller, and before her greatest success of all time in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot”, the film’s screenplay by Adrian Hodges is witty, insightful, and doesn’t pull its’ punches when it comes time to get to the crux of the matter…Marilyn’s brief, week-long love affair with Colin Clark(Redmayne), and the heartbreak Arthur Miller AND Colin Clark are in for with Marilyn.

And Michelle Williams goes beyond herself. In the role of her career, she totally rises to the occasion and does the best work she’s ever done, in a role that on paper at least may seem impossible to play. But play it she does! She gave me goose bumps. Chills. She made me cry. In fact, she did everything that a great actress is supposed to do in a great role.

And I can’t help but feel that Marilyn herself would LOVE this intrepretation of her oft-told story.

And the Academy? Well, this wonderful film should make them all feel as guilty as hell about what happened to Marilyn in her short lifetime. AND she was never nominated for an Oscar, as Michelle Williams will surely be. The pitch perfect Branaugh and wryly hilarious and touching Dame Judi are other very possible nominations here, too, in Supporting. In a wide open category of Supporting Actress, Dench could score again in a part that is longer than the one she won for in “Shakespeare in Love”, Queen Elizabeth I. THAT part was so tiny that maybe Oscar will feel guilty about THAT, too, and Dame Judi could win over Vanessa Redgrave…who is beyond awesome in “Coriolanus.”

And Harvey?

Well, he’s got his hands full of Oscar possibilites this year. With the sure-fire “The Artist” and now this marvelous “Marilyn” and the still unseen Meryl Streep/Margaret Thatcher vehicle “The Iron Lady”, the Weinstein’s Oscar cup is running over this Awards season, which is now ON.

Just look at the Suppporting Actress possiblities he’s got. Dame Judi, Vanessa Redgrave and Berenice Bejos for “The Artist.” Will a non-Weinstein actress even have a chance?

But I do think Michelle Williams is the front-runner now. CLOSE THAT CATEGORY! All the S.W.O.R.M. that make up the Academy, the Straight White Old Rich Men will all vote for her.

This movie is sooo good it’s like a new movie starring Marilyn Monroe herself. And as always the public cannot get enough of her.

“The Envelope, Please!’

Elizabeth Olsen gets an ovation at NYFF for “Martha Marcy May Marlene”!

And who got her that rousing out-of-nowhere round of applause and enthusiastic cheers? Well, l’il ole me, of course.

It was during the Q & A during the Press Conference after the Press Screening of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” a title I am STILL struggling with. This was at the New York Film Festival, of course.

And I made a statement. I congratulated the beauteous 21-year-old actress who makes such a stunning screening debut that she’s just blown that category, Best Actress, wide open.

I told her that I wanted to congratulate her for giving what was surely one of the best performances of the year, by an actress, and the crowd went wild, roaring and clapping in agreement.

She was startled, the moderater was startled. The director Sean Durkin looked, well, in agreeance, pleased. And then I exclaimed “That’s the New York Film Critics speaking! This never happens! You got it, baby!”

And I was totally chagrined that I had called Elizabeth Olsen “baby” or “babe” in front of hundreds of people, well, press/people, but still…

And then I asked the director Sean Durkin “Who was Marlene?” and suddenly I felt all the air go out of his(and my tires).

He mumbled something like “It’s there.”

And I still don’t know what he meant.

The title is the biggest stumbling block this very good indie film has on its’ way to the Oscar. Will people (that is Academy members) be able to pronounce it? And if they can’t pronounce it, will they watch it? Will they even vote for a film whose title they can’t say?And is as confusing as the young heroine, whose names form the complicated title, becomes through her involvement with a strange cult in Upstate New York?

But the film is very, very good. A gripping thriller/psychological drama about this young girl’s entrapment by these Manson-esque modern-day hippies, led by the always-threatening John Hawkes. Hawkes received an Academy Award nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” Which was much more confusing than this film.

Another Indie to emerge out of Sundance. And it has the low-budget, Sundancy feel to it. And every year for the past several years, a Best Actress nominee has emerged out of Sundance. Last year it was Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”, then before her Gabourey Sidibe for “Precious” The list goes on and on and this year it could be Elizabeth Olsen.

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the famous Olsen Twins, is sublime in a very difficult, complex role and very very clear in her portrayal of a confused, lost young woman who falls in with the worst people she could possibly ever be associated with. Her struggles to make sense of what has happened and is still happening to her form the crux of this gripping, exciting movie.

With a deceased mother and an antipathetic grandmother(who we never see) Martha is on the run and gets picked up by this cult who live on a farm in a remote area of upstate New York. Hawkes, the ringleader, immediately changes her name to Marcy May. And then her programming and reprogramming and deprograming and inculcation into this cult begins. It’s eerie, accurate and frightening in its’ details. So simple and yet so scary.

The film shifts back and forth in time between present day Martha who has run away and sought refuge in the real world again with a barely tolerant older sister, Lucy(Sara Paulson) and her brother-in-law Hugh Dancy. Yes! There he is again! Twice in the same week! Giving yet another nuanced, excellent performance as a straight-arrow, British businessman who is losing his patience with his bizarre foundling of a sister-in-law.

And who’s Marlene in the end? I was told by many critics afterwards it was a name they, the cult, used when talking about all the cute, young girls, when they are dealing with outside people. I.E., the world. “Cousin Marlene” is what they are ALL called. Just to keep everything even more confusing.

Apart from that nearly unprounceable title “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of this year’s best films. And should have no problem getting Elizabeth Olsen and perhaps John Hawkes, too, back in the Oscar race this year. This is Elizabeth Olsen’s feature film debut and it’s stunning, stunning, stunning.

Oscar Homerun for Brad Pitts’ “Moneyball”! It made even ME like baseball!

I just LOVED Brad Pitts’ “Moneyball”! And his winning, rousing, surprisingly moving performance in the great movie star tradition may garner him his third Oscar nomination, and maybe he’ll finally win Best Actor, for his terrific tour-de-force turn as real-life Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane. Who evidently made history by turning his losing team around and through his statistical micro-managing, his Beane-counting, if you will,  got his under – financed, underdog  Oakland As to break a historic American League baseball record of winning streaks.

Now I know I must be sounding like I’m a baseball fan or statistician. But I’m not. I’m definitely not. As a gay man, I was stereotypically not good at sports, and not into them at all. But there were many times in my life as a gay (or certainly gender confused) child growing up in the Bronx, where I wondered just what all the fuss was going on on the other side of my hometown borough.

Recently I have seen two Oscar-seeking movies a bit late in their Oscar life. And I have been astonished to find that I liked both of them A LOT.  A lot more than I ever thought I would, given their misleading advertising and pre-open trailer campaigns, if they can even be called “Campaigns.” And “Moneyball” is certainly one of them. The other being the tremendous “The Help.” But more on that surprising, haunting film later.

“Moneyball” was one of the big Gala openers at Toronto this year, and though one could not ignore the fact that it was there, and  that Brad and Angelina were in town, I chose to skip it. It was a sports movie. A baseball movie, at that. I never liked either genre, or sub-genre. I severely doubted that I could relate. Given my sports-deprived background.

And for the first half hour or so, I didn’t know WHAT was going on with it. The baseball inside talk was so thick.  What WERE they talking about? And it seemed to be statistics, statistics, nothing but baseball statistics, which is actually what the film turns out to be all about.

The Oakland As are losing and Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, their now-legendary general manager, tries to figure out how to change that and break their losing streak. Baseball these days its seems, is all about money. Hence the “”Moneyball” title.

Now Brad Pitt is also not one of my favorite actors. He phones it in all too often for me to label him an actor’s actor, say like his almost unregonizable co-star Phillip Seymour Hoffman who plays the Oakland As official coach certainly is. But Pitt goes beyond himself here and really soars into great acting territory with “Moneyball.”

He’s not phoning anything in, and “Capote” director Bennett Miller and also co-star Hoffman as the Oakland A’s frustrated and angry coach, keep Pitt as real as real can be.

I’ve also never given a thought to what a baseball team’s general manager does, but by the time you finish watching “Moneyball” you’ll know that, and just about everything else about baseball these days, upside down, inside out and backwards.

And you’ll know that for sure Brad Pitt is once again on his way to the Oscars, and maybe this time he’ll win! He redefines himself in a way that I thought he never could, but here, in the role of his career, he does!

The only thing I was disappointed with was Jonah Hill’s rather monotonal performance as Pitt’s nerdy acounting assistant. He gets better as the film goes on, but I thought he was the only flaw in an otherwise flawless film.

“Moneyball” did the impossible, made ME like, and get into baseball. So much so that I was cheering for Pitt and his underdog Oakland As and you will be, too. Now, will Oscar follow suit? Pitt will be in the running for sure. And with his other rather mold-breaking performance this year in Terence Malik’s “Tree of Life” as the stern disciplinarian ’50s dad…well, you just can’t avoid Brad Pitt’s emergence as a powerful, fascinating, Grade A actor with a Capital A.

Go see “Moneyball”! You’ll love it! Even I did…

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