a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for August, 2012

“Bourne Legacy” I Go Back Into a Movie House.

Yes, yes, I finally am conquering my fears of being in a big ole movie house and I returned to the cinema, AMC’s Lincoln Square, the one of the biggest movie complexes in NYC and I saw, much to my great surprise, “The Bourne Legacy” and even more surprising, I liked it!

I have been resisting the impulse to return to a public movie house since the tragedy in Colorado. ANOTHER one….And yes, for a while, a short while to some, but not to a film critic, I overcame my fear, and returned. And yes, things have changed.

Two policemen next to the press desk. Burly body-guard types checking bags more thoroughly, it seemed, than before. Taking people’s cell phones. But this was an all media screening, and except for the policemen, it was usual procedure.

Not having a cell phone, I just breezed on through and got an aisle seat. But I found myself checking the emergency exits as I sat there and waited and waited for the film to begin. And when it finally DID begin, I actually enjoyed it!

“The Bourne Legacy” was not my cup of tea, but I came out really quite thrilled and was totally engrossed in this terrific, highly paced, very well done actioner, starring Jeremy Renner now as Aaron Cross. No Matt Damon. He’s referred to obliquely, but not seen, except in passport file photos. And the stupendous Rachel Weisz, proves she’s just as much an action hero as her husband James Bond, Daniel Craig, of course. This film reveals that the duo have more in common than I ever imagined.

You can totally see them kicking ass together and foiling arch-villains in their future in tandem. And I was enjoying it so much, it took me totally by surprise, that I forgot whatever fears had kept me away from seeing anything in the past few weeks.

I love movies. I still love movies, and I am still capable of having them overwhelm me and absorb me, and RELAX me, in the most unexpected ways. “Bourne Legacy” really has it all, and Jeremy Renner, whom I’ve interviewed really comes through, once again, as simply somebody you care about. He brings to the “Bourne” franchise the same relatability that he brought to “The Hurt Locker.” He involves you. He’s not the handsomest movie star ever, but boy can those huge baby blue eyes pull you in. And Rachel Weisz! She kicks ass and karate chops and runs like a demon with the best of them. And the two of them together! POWERHOUSE! A new screen POWER COUPLE! And they rocked and owned “The Bourne Legacy” totally.
And I was very glad they did.

Pioneering Film Critic Judith Crist, 90, Passes, Always a Gracious, Gracious Lady

Judith Crist, who without my realizing it until perhaps today, the day of her passing at age 90, had more of an influence on my life than I ever imagined.

I only met her once, when I interviewed her, back when I was in college, for the school newspaper. I don’t have a copy of it, I don’t think. I had interviewed Estelle Parsons, famously, the night before she won the Oscar for “Bonnie and Clyde.” BUT THATS ANOTHER STORY! Suffice it to say, it was a success and made the headlines of the University of Rhode Island’s “Beacon.”

I know how I got backstage to interview Estelle. I just asked. At the stage door. And they let me in!

But how I ever got to Judith Crist, I absolutely don’t know. I knew, I, a budding celebrity journalist, even then, I had to do something to top the Estelle Parsons interview. It made the headline of my paper, and I don’t know how I made the jump from her to Judith Crist, but it seemed logical at the time.

Judith Crist was at the height of her fame then. I had grown up avidly reading her every word every day in the New York Herald Tribune, which is the long-gone and much-missed newspaper that my parents bought every day. She was their film critic, and she was also on TV too on the Today Show. Where she did stick out like a sore thumb amongst the ditto-heads and the polished types. Polished, she wasn’t.

But she spoke her mind clearly, succinctly, and you remembered what she said. She loved foreign films, I remember that. I think I asked her about that when I finally did get to meet my (unacknowledged) idol. I wish I could remember more of exactly what she said, but alas I don’t. And not being a really trained journalist I don’t think I even took notes.

But I remember her very, very well. I couldn’t believe I was really in her house. The one she lived in all her life on Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson river. It was one of those very old, grand apartments that went on it seemed forever, rooms upon rooms. High ceilings, too. Not like the shoeboxes of today. And it was very dimly lit, I remember. Just some lamps here or there. And there was no doorman. I think her name “Crist” was on a list outside the door, and you just pushed a button, and she let you in. Or maybe you just went right in. Very heavy, ornate iron door, I remember. Typical New York wrought iron decoration over glass. The door was as open as she turned out to be. You just went right in.

She was dressed in earth tones, too. Nothing showy. Like the apartment. She wasn’t ever trying to impress with her sense of style or her looks, god knows. On TV she looked like anomaly, because she looked like A REAL PERSON.

And every morning, before I went off to school, I had grown up watching her review movies on the Today show. My mother always said, “I like what she says. I think she’s right.” Didn’t matter that my mother hadn’t seen the movie. You just trusted Judith Crist’s taste.

And she didn’t much like Hollywood movies. Yes, they were still churning out the same amount of dreck that they do today, believe it or not. Read her Obit in the NYTimes. You can she how she never minced words. I guess I was a little afraid she was going to be that way with me. But she wasn’t at all. She was surprisingly friendly.

And I asked Mrs. Crist about her seeming championing of small, foreign films all the time, films not even in English, with god help us, SUB-TITLES. Why did she like foreign films more than American movies?

“Well, they’re just better! ” she snapped. I don’t remember her really snapping at me, like she seemed to be doing all the time on TV, except in that brief moment of fire.

She was incredibly nice to me, as was Estelle Parsons. I think Judith Crist might even have been in the phone book. And I just called her up and asked for an interview for my school paper, and unbelievably, she said “Yes” Immediately.

She liked the brashness I must’ve exhibited, I guess. Cold-calling her like that. She identified with it. I was a critic, too, for my school newspaper and was minoring in Journalism, and I think she felt a kindred spirit. And of course, we both loved movies.

I told her I wasn’t majoring in journalism. I was majoring in Acting. “I want to be an actor, a writer and a director, ” I declared. I can’t believe I told her that.

And she said, “You’re a real Renaissance man. You’re like Robert Shaw. I just interviewed him. He does everything, too.”

And she totally accepted that I was going to do and be all the things I said I was going to do. She didn’t belittle or demean my aspirations. She accepted them. She respected me. I remember being shocked actually by that. And well, she was right! I did go on to do all that. And I think she knew I would. She was the first person in her position in the industry to accept me as what I was and what I wanted to be. She was encouraging.

I guess she felt anyone who began their career interviewing  a future Academy Award winner the night before she won the Oscar had something on the ball. I was the Oscar Messenger even then. I told Estelle Parsons she was going to win. Then the next night, she did!

I’ll always have a very warm spot in my heart for Judith Crist. She was a gracious and accepting lady. No pretense about her whatsoever. She was real. She was who she was. And she knew what she knew. No nonsense.

I never saw her again, but always followed her reviews and her career with interest. When she was dropped from the Today show, my mother said “She was too good for them.” And she was right.

And I couldn’t believe that as a fledgling cub reporter, my second great interview was with TV star  Judith Crist! And she had been incredibly kind and supportive to me. I think she saw my burning ambition to be an actor was going to over-ride my instincts as a journalist. But she saw I had them.

I remember opening with her, your opening line with a celebrity is everything, I instinctively knew that, by telling her my father had put himself through Columbia School of Engineering during the Depression, at night. And she was very impressed by that.

And I knew she’d gone to Columbia, too. Maybe she thought I’d wake up from my Acting Reverie and go to Columbia School of Journalism. She probably would’ve helped me. But the thought never entered my mind. Until now.

I remember asking her about being famous and she said, “I guess the Today Show put me on the map. If the Map is what I’m on.” And she left it at that.

Judith Crist, you re-wrote the Map!

“Vertigo” One of Hitchcock’s Best & Now Best Film of All Time

I just HAVE to write more about “Vertigo”s great ascendance to being named “The Best Film of All Time” by the British film mag “Sight and Sound.”

I first saw “Vertigo” in college. At a special stand-alone screening. That was introduced by a film “expert,” a professorial type, who made sure everyone got “notes.” It was like he was TEACHING this film. This I thought was ludicrous. Since when did they TEACH movies? Movies were just something you went to and enjoyed or not enjoyed. That was it.

Yes, that shows you how long ago this was. Back, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back before the dawn of film schools. It was my first film lecture. And I was eager to go, because it was a Hitchcock film that was new to me, that I had never even heard of.

And this eager older gentlemen seemed so earnest in his presentation, I remember. It was like we HAD to understand “Vertigo” HIS way.It was a “Very special film” and it “was not received well by critics when it first opened.”

And I remember he laid special emphasis on the scene in the bookshop where James Stewart and Barbara Bel Geddes went to find out about the history of Carlotta  Valdez, the mystery woman from the past, whose portrait Kim Novak’s character, Madelyn, keeps returning to gaze at, at a museum.

This guest lecturer, who was brought in from elsewhere, and who was NOT a teacher at my school, wanted us to particularly note how increasingly DARK that scene became, as the bookstore-keeper who reveled in San Fransisco history, kept talking and talking about just how tragic Carlotta Valdez’ life was. And the darkening room lighting, when it was not dark at all outside,( It was the middle of the afternoon. Out the window you could see bright sunshine),was Hitchcock’s way of ominously emphasizing how dark the film was going to get. And of course, it did.

He wanted us also to notice how Midge, the Bel Geddes character, was always surrounded by light. indicating mental and physical health and common sense. This meant(I can’t believe I remember all this!) that she, Midge, was the one we were supposed to listen to.  And Stewart and Novak, of course, were not, and they were often enveloped in fog.

I think it was unequivocally both Stewart’s and Novak’s career-best performances.

I remember that lecture situation to this day.It was such an anomaly back then. To see a film, as a subject for a lecture. It was treated as a Special Event, and it was shown at night. It was not part of my theater curriculum.

I guess it made a lasting impression, remembering it all these years later. I guess I was a cinephile even then. I didn’t know that but I knew I always loved Alfred Hitchcock’s scary movies.

And I remember that it was the first time I had ever seen “Vertigo.” And so when the climatic turn of events began to unfurl, and the TWO dives off the Spanish mission, San Juan Bautista’s bell tower occurred. I was utterly shocked and screamed bloody murder. Especially at the end. For those two of you who have never seen it, I’m not going to reveal it here.

But I guess suffice it to say, that that incredible short scene that ends the film is like being scared to death by nuns.

In one of the interviews which I started to look up last night on You Tube on Hitchcock, it was revealed that Hitchcock was taught by Jesuits. So he must have been Catholic. Something I did not know, and something that is barely mentioned in the immense amount of scholarly film criticism that has been heaped upon him and his ouevre and rightly so, since then.

And since I came to that first screening of “Vertigo” back at URI, the University of Rhode Island, where I had the misfortune to be an undergraduate in THEATRE(but that’s ANOTHER story) I remember how profoundly moved and shaken and absolutely scared to death I was by that double-twist ending.

I remember feeling just awful for Kim Novak’s character, Judy. And for James Stewart, too.

In his famous interviews with Francois Truffaut, of which there are podcasts available online somewhere…or there WERE…I remember Hitchcock not wanting to talk about “Vertigo.” I think he said something like “Mistake! Mistake! The film didn’t work!” and Truffaut asked in French through the translator “Why?” and Hitchcock said “The man was too old.” Meaning James Stewart, the policeman who had to retire because he had vertigo. Hence the title.

How wrong Hitchcock was!

“The Master” Sneaked Last Night in Santa Monica. Massive Tweet/Reviews Result.

Ok, Ok, I missed this one completely ~til this evening in NYC. Last night the world stood still in shocked silence as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Weinstein Company Oscar Seeker “The Master” sneak-screened last night to a surprised audience of cinephiles in Santa Monica!

However, it seems Anne Thompson was there…She liked it. You can read about it over at http://www.indiewire.com in her Thompson on Hollywood section. It’s not really a sneak screening for the public if ANNE THOMPSON was actually there and reviewing it. Read her early review.

When that happens, the critic is almost FORCED into a writing a positive response but St. Anne does say she thinks the film is going to be “devisive,” which is her way of saying, “not everyone is going to agree with ME!”

Nor does she expect them to.

But then also at this screening was a frequent poster at http://www.awardsdaily.com and http://www.hollywood-eleswhere.com named Jessie Crall, and he had an even-handed response. Everybody else was, like as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone put it ,”hyperbole on toast.” More like Fanboys Gone Wild!

But here is my reactions to their reactions, esp. Jessie’s, which made me believe him.

I wrote this at Awardsdaily.com just now in their comment section on “The Shining” and “The Master.”

“ONLY Jessie Crall who posts frequently here and at Hollywood-Elsewhere seemed to have his head screwed on right.

I guess I should just refer you all to the other thread (at http://www.awardsdaily.com)and what Jessie said.

Essentially, good ,but not great. Great to see in 70mm.(What isn’t?) and Amy Adams has nothing to do. Nominations for all. but no wins. PSH in Supp. not lead. Joaquim Phoenix is drawing universal raves, but already all are saying “Can he beat Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln? ALREADY this is THEE question!” And at this early a date!

Not having seen either film I can’t say, but I don’t like that Sept.15 release date and all the tweet/reviews don’t mention Scientology AT ALL. Like it’s not the topic of this film.

Seems to be about Alcoholism if anything.

No religious overtones, or undertones, or references WHATSOEVER.

B+ not A, I’m sensing. Which is in line with that TOOOOO early Sept.15 release date.

HW wouldn’t be releasing the film in a rush like that if he didn’t have to, methinks.”

However, nobody makes Harvey do what he doesn’t WANT to do. Harvey knows best is TWC’s mantra, and who can argue with that? He’s a SUPERB distributor of his films, and I can’t think of ONCE in all the years I’ve been covering him, which is now 24 on my TV show, has he ever done wrong Oscar-wise, or distirbution-wise with a film of his. So we shall see…

Guess I should start figuring out which theater in NYC can project in 70mm?

I Always liked “Vertigo”Best! Now Named #1 Film, beating “Citizen Kane!”

I always liked “Vertigo”. I always liked it better than “Citizen Kane.” I never liked “Citizen Kane” THAT much. I saw it first in London at the National Film Theater around 1970, or so. I had stayed on in England, trying to get into the Drama Schools there, and become a British Actor, which is what I always thought was the best kind of actor you could possibly be.

And I was rejected by every single one.

Although I did get a call-back to the  Bristol Old Vic, and spent a lovely weekend, or at least an over-night in Bristol…and then was rejected by them, too.

I was always unimpressed, unmoved by “Citizen Kane.” It was named, at that time “The #1 Film of All Time” and I thought I was really going to see something when I saw it at the National Film Theater. But it left me sort of cold.

I loved and related to the Susan Alexander character, his second wife, who he tries to turn into an Opera Singer. But Kane? No. A bully. A blusterer. A millionaire. Who cared? Orson Welles was good. But when you’re supposed to care about him when Susan Alexander walks out on him, and he tears up her room, I just didn’t care ~ that much.

I was glad she left him.

And “Rosebud”? I thought that was always a very contrived device. One word to sum up a whole man’s life? Nonsense!

And Orson Welles. Well, there was “Citizen Kane” and that was about it.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock was always my main movie idol, in terms of a filmmaker, whom I constantly revere, engage with, and watch and re-watch, on an almost daily basis.

I always thought “Vertigo” was very, very good. And it was grown in my estimation of it, as I have seen and re-seen it over the years. And “Citizen Kane” no matter how many times I have tried to watch it, and tried to love it, as “The Greatest Film of All Time,” I still can’t really warm to it.

I admire Gregg Toland’s amazing camera work. And the Bernard Herrman score. He wrote the “Vertigo” score, too. The one thing the two films now battling it out at the top of the Sight and Sound Best of All Time List, have in common. I have always loved Dorothy Cummingore’s bitter drunken Susan Alexander.

And as I became familiar with Orson Welles’ back-story, you can’t help but feel for him. And the talent stopped and wasted by his ostracism from the Hollywood community.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock who made “Vertigo” so beautifully, made many, many, many films. In many eras spanning the silent films all the way up to the 1970s.

He was the ultimate craftsman. And I have mused for years on how someone so obsessed with the technique side of films could have made so many movies that have moved me so deeply, and not just scared me to death. His characters are really quite unforgettable, too.

I mean, Norman Bates in “Psycho”? An iconic name, too. And the Bates motel? That has passed from being a movie set into common parlance. Janet Leigh’s performance as Marion Crane earned her her only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress(She didn’t win)

And no matter what, Alfred Hitchcock kept making and making movie after movie after movie. He was NOT outside the studio system. Never. Like Welles became so quickly after William Randolph Hearst’s powerful press machine, the mightiest, it was said, at the time, decided to virtually halt his career in America…

Hitchcock never did anything like that. He NEVER challenged the studio heads. He worked with them, and bent them to his will.

And it’s so strange to me that “Vertigo” was never until rather recently considered the great film that it is now acknowledged to be.

That LONNNNNNG car driving scene through the streets and up and down the hills of 1950s San Francisco, with the Bernard Herrman score pulsing underneath it as James Stewart  wordlessly follows Kim Novak’s car, the essence of “pure cinema” as Hitchcock himself would call it.

And since this “Vertigo” annointment, I’ve gone back to You Tube to search for just what people thought of it then. Interviewers like Tom Snyder never mentioned it. Never asked about it. Dick Cavett at least lists it…

What can you attribute the rise of “Vertigo” to? Well, for one thing, Francois Truffaut, and the Cahiers du Cinema, who recognized it and touted it long before others did.

More about this endlessly fascinating topic of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, who I just called The Master soon.

And you know, he never won an Oscar?

The Impatient Traveler ~Trips Begin Before They Start 2012 version

And  once again, as I madly prepare to depart New York for the Great White North’s two great film festivals, I felt today, like I was leaving tomorrow.

And I’m not!

I’ve still got twenty-five MORE days til I’m officially outta here, and I can’t wait! J’attends avec impatience!

I’m going to the Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals for the 14th year in a row, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! But this year has been more difficult, it seems than any other.

Trips aren’t easy. You can quote me.

And getting an entire television show On The Road, well, it’s never just like one’s going off by oneself somewhere remote. Something I never do.

Lately I prefer to just stay put, although I love to travel, but hey, if I can be being FILMED while I travel, well, that’s what I can now say I like. THAT makes it fun for me now.

And with all these wonderful film festivals with their wonderful films alllll interested in l’il ole me, well, I just love it!

Yes, you’re working/traveling, but I like that. And I LOVE film festivals! And I love film. And I love movie stars. And I love talking to them. As I will be doing A LOT, I hope, coming up at TIFF and Montreal.

I changed all my money into Canadian already and what a shock the exchange rate is now for Americans! Yikes! Canada is doing very, very well financially, and let’s face it, as I had to at the bank this morning, the U.S. is just NOT.

But it’s sooo funny, and rewarding, and thrilling, to see all your money suddenly in pinks and purples, instead of GREEN! I wonder if I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I think I do. Well, certainly through gay-colored glasses whatever color that may be. Rainbow?

And I do wear glasses.

So of course, my spirit is flying north, and my body just irresolutely stays put. Here. Where it was feeling like 100 degrees on the white-hot pavements.

I got my train tickets. Yes, I’m traveling by train again this year to Canada. Amtrak all the way. And it was very exciting to actually have them in my hands. More so this year than most. A concrete affirmation that yes, I am going at such and such a time and that I’ll be on this train and arriving at this approximation. (Trains always surprise one one way or the other.) And I’ll be taking the Adirondack which is considered one of the most beautiful, scenic train routes there is, going from New York’s Penn Station, which was like an oven today. And arriving ten hours later in the endlessly dazzling city of Montreal.

Montreal ~~~

I could go on and on for hours and hours about how much I love that city. And well, I have been doing that on my TV show, FOR FOURTEEN YEARS. I never miss it. It’s so thoroughly French. You travel for ten hours and then SUDDENLY you’re in France!

I can’t wait! J’attends avec impatience!

But I’ve still got three and a half weeks to go….:(

Video

Think Pink at Scott Cakes! Ptown’s Sweetest!So Nice I Had to Show It Twice!

On a considerably lighter note, let’s THINK PINK! And you cannot help but me struck pink at Scott Cakes’ all-pink, all-the time because Scott Cunningham is always and ONLY baking Pink Cupcakes! At Angel’s Landing, opposite the newly refurbishing library, Scott tells us all about the new musical based on his life! Yes! And it’s called “Cupcake”! What else! More pinkness follows…

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