a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2012

Alma Hitchcock in “Hitchcock” as Played by Dame Helen Mirren, she’s the “woman behind the man” no more!

One of the main reasons, it is rumored that Fox Searchlight changed up the Oscar race, at this late date in the awards season’s already cast-in-iron schedule (with the announcement of their opening “Hitchcock” on Thanksgiving Day), is Dame Helen Mirren’s leading role portrayal of Mrs. Hitchcock. Or more correctly Lady Hitchcock.

Alma Reville Hitchcock will be the “little woman behind the man” no more. And when Academy Award Winner Dame Helen meets a role that could please Mr. Oscar ~ LOOK OUT!  AWARDS FIREWORKS AHEAD!

Portraying her husband of some 40 years, is no less than another Academy Award Winner, Sir Anthony Hopkins. He, who did so well, with Hannibal Lecter. He had the briefest Best Actor screen time in all of Hwood history! Yes, he did!  And he’s sure to make a meal of the delectably juicy Sir Alfred’s plumminess.

AND there’s the added bonus of the never-before-nominated Scarlett Johanson portraying Academy-Award Nominee Janet Leigh. She was the  naked-girl-in-the-shower-scene, perhaps the most famous scene Hitchcock ever shot.

The film was purported to detail the behind-the-scenes story of “Psycho,” but it seems now from rumors out of La-La Land, it is the marriage of Alfred & Alma that is taking center stage in the story instead.

And it’s  a great Hollywood love story that never has been told.

One way to catch up on it quick, if you can’t wait til November, and who can? Is to read their daughter Patricia’s recent biography of her mother “Alma Hitchock -The Woman Behind the Man.” It’s a delightful read and really fills in rather completely just who Alma Reville was.

A tiny British beauty, she was involved with movies even before her husband was. She was a film editor. And before that briefly an actress. And she and Hitch met when they were both making silent films. He was designing sets and writing the inter-titles for the Silents. It’s so interesting to me that both their careers spanned the entire history of movies!

Alma Reville wrote many of the scripts for her husband’s movies, though she did not always get screen credit for them. For instance on “The Lady Vanishes” she gets top billing, but it says “Continuity by Alma Reville.”

And her expert editing eye was involved in almost every artistic decision the Master made. This according to the man himself. Her roles in his life and work were many and varied, and she was a good cook, too! Her recipes are included in the back of Patricia Hitchcock’s loving memoir.

Every script would be run by Alma first, and if she thought it would make a good movie, Hitch then acted upon it. If Alma said “no!” it was a dead project. And Alma did much, much more of the writing and re-writing on many of his films that she was never credited with. Pat Hitchcock’s book, and now “Hitchcock” the movie seem intent on redressing this imbalance.

The Master of Suspense was not joking when he said, “The only critic I fear is my wife.”

Their dutiful daughter Pat was also an actress herself and her most memorable role was of the mystery-obsessed younger sister to Ruth Roman in one of Hitchcock’s many masterpieces “Strangers on a Train”

She’s quite petite and probably is more a mirror of her mother’s pleasant-minded-ness and orderliness, than her father’s famed dark side. Pat Hitchcock appears on the special features on nearly every DVD of her father’s work.

Alfred Hitchock always gave Alma all the credit for everything he did, if he was asked.

“I’m nothing without your mother,” he would say over and over again to his daughter, and any journalist who would listen, and I bet Fox Searchlight’s rushing “Hitchcock” into an awards season release is going to show us just HOW much Alma meant to him. And to his work, that everyone loves so much. And the eternal debt filmdom owes to her for everything that she did do behind the scenes.

Pat Hitchcock says, “Nobody ever gave my mother credit for anything. And she didn’t take the credit herself.” Though, as I said, her husband certainly did when asked.

I can’t wait for this movie! And I bet Patricia Hitchock herself is probably DEEE-lighted by this turn of events where at long last her mother is going to go “toe-to-toe” as Oscar Blogger Extraordinaire Scott Feinberg says in “The Hollywood Reporter.”

It will be a “Good Evening” at the movies indeed!

And then there’s “The Girl” ANOTHER movie on Sir Alfred, this time about “The Birds” and his tormented relationship with its’ star Tippi Hedren. That will be on HBO very soon, and tells, evidently ANOTHER story completely. There’s a book by Donald Spoto out on this topic, which this film is based on, and it’s hair-raising. And I believe, true.

Advertisements

“Liv Og Ingmar” Moving New Doc at Festival Des Film Du Monde in Montreal! And soon to be at NYFF, too!

“LIV  & INGMAR” Moving, New Doc Dominates Montreal!

Being at the wonderful Festival des Films du Monde, now for my 14th consecutive year, is like being encased in a delightful, glamorous bubble of film, where all the languages of the world are swirling around you, but mainly French, mais oui, bien sur! Montreal always had that certain je sais quoi, and still does, I’m happy to report. It’s intoxicating atmosphere is something that you never want to end.
This year found the 36th Montreal World Film Festival, which wrapped last night, more multi-cultural than ever, if that’s possible.Over 400 films from over 80 countries!
So many films from all over the world, and so many of them that you won’t ever get to see in America,it’s staggering. And it’s sad that we have such a limited, narrow view of world cinema, with foreign film distribution, being what it is in the States. But wonderful films from all over are all here and all being celebrated, which continues to be a miraculous thing for cineastes in Montreal and cinephiles everywhere.
I thought nothing would top seeing “The Artist” here for the first time last year, with a packed Montrealais audience, who had fought to get tickets to the sold-out screenings. But this year something unexpectedly did!
It was a doc, no less, from Norway, named “Liv Og Ingmar,” about the tumultous love life and relationship of Ingmar Bergman, the late legendary Swedish filmmaker, and Liv Ullman, his great Norwegian actress, who  he starred in a dozen of his films and who had a child by him. They were together for five years,mostly on his isolated island of Faro, and were friends and working partners and collaborators for most of their lives, a 42 year relationship of star-crossed lovers and artists, which is heart-breaking in the extreme. It’s unexpected force and poignancy reduced me to tears.
Dheeraj Akolar, a 20-something Indian director, is making his feature film debut in spectacular fashion with “Liv Og Ingmar.” He was allowed unprecedented access to not only Bergman’s and Ullman’s great films, but also excerpts from his private love letters to her, which are heard here for the first time. The film also quotes extensively from Ullman’s moving memoir “Changing,” which Ullman reads herself.  Ullman more or less narrates the film. It is entirely from her point of view, which is enlightening and refreshing, and not only that, she was here in Montreal to talk about it herself!
According to Akolar, she had no editorial say in the film final, but its utterly unique and persuasive perspective is undeniably hers. In person, Liv Ullman is the loveliest of women, now in her 70s but still absolutely lovely and vital, always verging on the poetic in every question she was asked at the press conference.
Down to earth, practical, a woman of infinite good Norwegian horse sense, she still finds it astonishing that she was involved with and the beloved of the genius Swedish auteur, who seems the direct polar opposite to her in every way imaginable. Nothing about this relationship was easy or politically correct. It was painful in the extreme as the film amply shows. But it was love. And that is what makes the film so universal and so incredibly moving.
When asked if Max Von Sydow and Erland Josephsson knew that they were playing stand-ins for Bergman himself, Ullman exclaimed, “The person who was always playing Ingmar was ME!” and she thumped her chest.
Ulmman also kept emphasizing that she continues to act and direct plays and films herself in Norway and Sweden, and that she has had and continues to have a very healthy and productive creative life away from the late Bergman, including a career in Hollywood that landed her on the covers of Time magazine and Newsweek and garnered her two Oscar nominations.
Though she’s never won one herself, “Liv Og Ingmar” is such an astouding, moving experience for a doc, that it could very well be nominated, and even win in that category, as the forgetful Academy might well wish to finally honor her in this way, while she is still very much with us. And we all now how the Academy likes movies that make them cry, and this film  sure will.
Another film that I found exciting was “B.A.Pass” ANOTHER debut feature by ANOTHER Indian filmmaker making his feature film debut, Ajay Bahl. Before this gripping film, Bahl was a full-time working director of photography in India, where they make over 2,000 films a year, Bahl estimated. He read a short story named “The Railway Auntie” by Mohan Sikka in “The Delhi Noir” collection and decided to make this film himself, also financing it completely.
“B.A. Pass’ is about Mukesh, a 19-year-old boy who loses both his parents in a car crash at the beginning of the film. He has two young sisters that he has to take care of, and is sent to Delhi to live with relatives. “B.A. Pass” is the lowest form of degree one can get in an Indian college, like a liberal arts degree and it qualifies him for nothing, leaving Mukesh to drift aimlessly into the arms of a genuine femme fatale, Sarika. As played by the Bollywood star Shilpa Shukla, she dazzles him, and us, as she seduces him into a life of male prostitution, sharing him with all her rich, female friends.
All the taboos one usually associates with Indian filmmaking are blown out of the water here by director Bahl, as the lovers do more than just look at each other intensely, as is usual in Bollywood. There is no dancing or musical numbers here to lift Mukesh out of the desperate circumstances he begins to slide into. “B.A.Pass” reminded me a lot of “Midnight Cowboy’ as he becomes a gigolo, eventually going with men, as well as women. Newcomer Rajesh Sharma plays Mukesh marvelously in his first leading screen role.
Another film that stunned and surprised me was the Finnish World War II film “Hiljaisuus” or “The Silence.” Masterfully directed by veteran filmmaker Sakari Kirjavainen, it depicts the heroic, heartbreaking Finnish custom of retrieving its’ dead soldiers’ bodies from the battlefields and preparing their remains by thawing, tidying and dressing them for return to their families. A poetic, grim ritual,unique to Finland, that is a morbid and well as a dangerous custom, as soldiers have to retrieve dead bodies that have been sometimes lying in a no-man’s land between Finland and Russia for weeks if not months, most frozen solid by the harsh Finnish winter.
Set in an evacuation camp, “The Silence” compels as it repels, and Joonas Saartamo is riveting and yes, even sometimes funny, as the young soldier Eino, who has to do these difficult heart-renching rescues, even at his own peril.
“Buzhashi Boys”, a cours metrage, or short film, from Afghanistan, also was shockingly indelible. Made by one of the few Americans to actually call Kabul home, director Sam French compellingly told the tale of two very young street kids, one a blacksmith’s son, one a beggar, who are friends and hope one day to become the titular Buzkashi horsemen of title, which is a sport that I will skip describing, except to say that it is played with great gusto and ferocity on horseback. The Kabul that we see is so abjectly poor, with bullet-holes in every ruined building that the two boys innocently play in, that “Buzhashi Boys”  in its’ brevity and toughness, lets us see a glimpse of another ghastly, but human world that we would probably never get to see except at a film festival like Montreal.
Post-script “Liv Og Ingmar” is going to be screening soon in the upcoming New York Film Festival, with Liv Ullman herself in attendance! Not to be missed!

“Lincoln” is Boring Tweet Clarification

So, is it a Tempest-in-a-Teapot that was? Or was it the real deal? Super Critic Thelma Adams picked up my Tweet Delete story and confronted Lou Lumenick of the NYPost about it. on Facebook. Thelma, full disclosure, used to be one of the New York Posts film critics herself.

This is all regarding an article in the NY Post about a New Jersey viewer stumbling into a sneak peek preview of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-seeking “Lincoln” which doesn’t open for another 7 weeks or so.

The viewer was incensed that it was so BOR-ING.

And Lou told Thelma, on Facebook, that yes, the story was up, and yes, the story went down, along with the rest of the New York Post yesterday, eividently and now, this morning his story, tweet and all are back up and readable at www.nypost.com  And no, DreamworksDisney did not make him do it. He has heard nothing from them he claimed.

Technical glitches do happen of course, even to major newspapers.

Jeffrey Wells was suspicious, nonetheless, and you can read his version of things at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

I believe the film goer. A congressional procedural movie on the passing of a bill, however important, can be VERY dull to watch as politicians drone on and on…I get it. That IS dull. And if that is what the film is mainly about…well, it sounds like a history LECTURE, rather than a film. A MOVIE. It should MOVE.

According to this disgruntled film-goer it’s just dull, dull, dull.

Well, the trailer is dull, too.

The positive note that this viewer struck was the appreciation of Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln, and Tommy Lee Jones and Hal Holbrook’s performances, too. Sally Field, as I reported, was roundly dissed as “mis-cast.”

And there you have it. That’s the story, folks. Read Jeff Wells. Read Thelma Adams. Read Lou Lumenick of the NYPost and you can make up your own minds about this.

NY Post Takes Down “Lincoln is boring” tweet!

Per Jeff Wells at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com Lou Lumenick has now had to take down the “Lincoln” is boring!” tweet! Uh oh! And Jeff linked to it, but I can’t find it anywhere!

Jeff has advertising from Dreamworks. I, you may notice, have absolutely no ads, whatsoever. I’ve heard nothing. But no ads=not important enough to bother with.

But believe me, this was THERE! And now, it’s not!

“Lincoln” Sneaks in NJ, Viewer Tweets NY Post “It’s Boring”!!

NY Post’s film critic Lou Lumenick received an outraged twitter review & email from a film goer who saw the sneak preview of “Lincoln” in NJ yesterday and complained that the film was “boring.” As Lumenick parsed it “take it with a grain of salt.” But the way he presents it in his article www.nypost.com ,it DOES sound as dry as dust.
It evidently keeps most of its’ action in the Congressional rooms and hallways, eschewing the more dramatic CIVIL WAR ITSELF that was raging outside. Nevermind the horrors of slavery. It’s all about LEGISLATION. I knew it. I just knew it. Screenwriter Tony Kushner is  very academic, almost pedantic sometimes. And it looks like  this time is one of THOSE times. AND it’s nearly three hours!

Given this info, plus the rather strange and deadly trailer of “Lincoln” that popped up last week, I think Dreamworks may have a real historic Oscar dud on its’ hands. If Hollywood hands Oscar a lemon, Oscar doesn’t make lemonade. He just nominates SOMEBODY ELSE.

This enraged viewer wrote to Lumenick that “It WILL NOT be nominated for Best Picture”! But thought Daniel Day-Lewis would. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln was “miscast”. I believe that, too. And this news also makes sense of Fox Searchlight’s rushing “Hitchcock” into release on Thanksgiving weekend. Making it eligible for this year’s Oscars, not next and putting Sir Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Alfred Hitchcock right in the, er, thick of things.

Best Actor seems so crowded this year. With DDL, Joaquin Phoenix(“The Master”), Hugh Jackman{“Les Miserables”) and John Hawkes in Searchlight’s other contender “The Sessions” all but locked down. Means that “Life of Pi” and “Flight” coming up fast at the New York Film Festival and which I’m doomed, er, destined  to see very soon, might not be All That.

And then there’s the volatile, still-open-for-business Best Actress category, which Dame Helen as Lady Alma Hitchcock, who is evidently at the center of the story of this movie, and yes, it’s a mature love story, could slip right in there. Knocking out another slippery Dame. Judi. For Fox Searchlight’s “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and/or Fox 2.0 ‘s OTHER Best Actress filly in the race, 8-year-old Qu’venzhane Wallis.  For “Beasts of the -Southern Wild.” I personally don’t think Fox Searchlight is acting SURE about either of their ladies-in-question.

Nevertheless,  Searchlight saw a place and decided to fill it with the formidable weight-y, Oscar-baity  Sir Alfred.

Hollywood loves Hollywood more and more each day.

See last year’s, Best Picture “The Artist” which won four other Oscars, too, including Best Actor for Jean Dujardin and “Hugo” also about early filmmaking, though in France. “Hugo” got four technical Oscars, but they are Oscars nonetheless.

Shot VERY quickly by documentarian Sasha Gervase, whose only other previous helming was the hilarious doc “Anvil:The Story of Anvil” and it seems he got every thing right!

Doc makers know how to make that first take work. That’s all you’ve got in documentaries. You have no choice. You have to GET THAT SHOT, or else, it’s gone forever. It’s called Run and Gun and I like working that way myself on my TV show http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow.

And “Anvil” was that rarest of docs. One with a sense of humor!

So, back to “Lincoln”, even though I’m sure the feelings of the film-goer that contacted Lumenick were genuine, Stephen Spielberg’s films, even the weakest, like “Munich”, or misguided like “War Horse”, they STILL get a Best Picture nomination regardless, but in a field of ten possibles, I’m still sure “Lincoln” is IN.

But look at Sir Alfred go! His corpse is dancing! Maybe all the way to the Oscars! And in his lifetime, let it be noted Hitch never won a Best Director Oscar himself. Maybe he’ll be getting one posthumously.

He was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. THEE greatest in MY book.

“Oscar Talk” Indiewire/Hitfix ESSENTIAL listening!

I don’t think I’ve ever been able to emphasize how really ESSENTIAL and marvelously entertaining the just-returned weekly podcast “Oscar Talk” is. Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood at www.indiewire.com and Kris Tapley once of In Contention but now of www.hitfix.com really do lay it down each week with gusto, comraderie and wildly divergent generational and gender-wise and yet respectful points of view. It’s the best two-critic mana a mano chemistry I’ve seen since it was Siskel v. Ebert every week. How I miss them both!

TV has just dumbed down its’ movie coverage soooo badly in the intervening decades, and for those of you who miss “At the Movies” as much as I do, “Oscar Talk” is the next best thing. But it’s only a podcast AT THE MOMENT. But for Oscar followers like I know you all are who read this on a daily basis(and check back to see if I’m posting or not posting) “Oscar Talk” can’t be highly enough recommended.

This week, Kris was in a car accident, and hasn’t made it to NYC yet, where he, now married, is going to be for a year. So he has not seen some films that Anne was raving about like “End of Watch” the stunning cop drama with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena that is the best work of both of their careers to date. Anne wonders if they could even be part of the awards conversation this year and I vehemently say “YES! PLEASE!”

Best Actor(for Jake) is a jammed-to-the-gills category. Michael Pena might have more luck with the less jammed Supporting Actor round-up.

And talk about jammed! Both Anne and Kris were musing about the newly arrived avoirdupois of Sir Anthony Hopkins’ “Hitchcock” being jammed into the race at the last-minute by Fox Searchlight. It MUST be about Hopkins’ leading performance, that has caused the wiley Oscar Foxes’ at Fox Searchlight to go for this Leading Actor kind of gold.

They did this with Jeff Bridges and “Crazy Heart” three years ago. Another last-minute entry and HE WON! So…perhaps they feel they can do it again. Also, Anne Thompson posited that Dame Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville would be a Best Actress contender and that Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh would be Supporting.

Anne also noted that the other actresses In Contention(the name of Kris’ prior Oscar blog) “are not happy about this.” Which could mean that not only is Sir Anthony’s Sir Alfred but also Dame Helen’s Lady Hitchcock and Johansson’s Janet (Shower scene)Leigh also good enough to be nomination-worthy.

And Anne added that “Hitchcock’s relation, his love story with his wife, is a story we haven’t been told.” And this version is reverential evidently, whereas the HBO flick “The Girl” about his predatory relationship with actress Tippi Hedren is the exact opposite.

In any case, this is quickly become a MUCH more interesting season to write about with all these new developments cropping up every other minute. But if you listen to “Oscar Talk” every Friday (it pops up around 12:45pm EST) you’ll feel VERY on top of things. As Anne and Kris are.

It’s like being there! I love it!

In other news, I’ve started attending the New York Film Festival and I’ll get to that in a minute. Two films I saw already are outstanding “Casting By” a doc by Tom Donahue who did “Guest of Cindy Sherman” and “Beyond the Hills” the Roumanian nun/exorcism/lesbian movie that won its’ two unknown student leading actresses a double Best Actress Award at Cannes, beating out Marion Cotillard for “Of Rust and Bone.” I recommend both highly.

Looking forward to “Amour” coming up, and skeptical about “Life of Pi” and “Flight” the Opening and Closing Films at the NYFF. We shall see.

“Hitchcock” biopic moved into heat of Oscar Race! Fox Searchlight nervous about “Beasts”?”Sessions”?”Marigold”?

Alfred Hitchcock is back from the dead in a big way. He’s always been my Numero Uno Cinema hero since Forever, and now Fox Searchlight has startlingly announced that they are opening their biopic on Hitch on Nov.23! Right in the middle of the Awards Race and nearly right on top of “Silver Linings Playbook!”

This is a very bold, last-minute move on the part of Fox S. And I’m sensing it had to do with a perceived weakness in some of its’ own entrants. Which are “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, “The Sessions” and most importantly “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

In the Gold Derby podcast I mentioned a few days back, Tom O’ Neil and Pete Hammond really dug into the Oscar season so far in a substantive way. And particularly the tough, no-nonsense Pete Hammond. This is at http://www.goldderby.com

He announced at the start of his convo that “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, a critical favorite, was not going to play so well with the Academy, in his opinion. And while Tom O. was quite enthusiastic, he was also shocked by Pete’s rather stubborn insistence that “Beasts” wasn’t going to fly. Neither he nor Tom O. could pronounce Qu’venzhane Wallis’s name. Not a good sign. And they made a joke out of it calling her “Miss Unpronounceable”.

I’m sure Hammond’s podcast didn’t cause Fox Jr. to throw the over large corpse of “Hitchcock” into the ring. Or did it? Or was Hammond sensing what Fox 2.0 had already known for a while?

And Dame Judi Dench’s Best Actress campaign for “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” doesn’t seem to be catching on. And Miss Upronounceable Wallis may also be seen as a non-starter. I mean, she’s only six years old(when the film was shot). Hammond said flatly, “These are ACTORS voting.They are going to see a performance by a child THAT young as a manipulated one by the director.” Uh-oh. He may be right about that.

Fox-Searchlight also did something strange with “The Sessions,”  a film which I personally was very moved by. The story of a man in an iron lung for life and his desire to have sex with a surrogate may not have been playing as well as they hoped.

Purporting to have a full-on press junket in NYC next week, they now are not. And only junketing in LA! There’s a press DAY in NY, but that’s a much smaller, less expensive deal. Basically it means they are cancelling the A&B camera crews, and just doing print, wherein the journos come equipped with their own tape recorders…Cheap. For a Film they are supposedly campaigning for in all the categories possible, including Best Picture. John Hawkes is a slam-dunk for a Best Actor nomination, but now they are putting Helen Hunt in Supporting, as I said last week from TIFF.

A big come down. And this also paves the way for them spending more money on “Hitchcock” This is also their way of trying to draw the helium out of the “Silver Linings Playbook” balloon, since “Hitchcock” is also supposed to be a love story like SLP is. But Hitch and his wife Alma, played most likely quite wonderfully by Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren, is also a love story, it now turns out. And not just about the making of “Psycho.”

I think this move busts the whole race wide open again. Jeff Wells was saying in HIS podcast over at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com that he was suddenly feeling “trapped” by the “Silver Linings Playbook” s sudden ascension to front-runner as Best Picture and Best Actress and Best Director.

I’m sure he feels trapped no more.

This is also, I think, in response, to the rather weak reception the much heralded trailer of “Lincoln” got. Really quite tepid all ’round. Fox Searchlight saw this as a major new HOLE in the season, and they’ve run to plug it with Alfred Hitchcock’s huge self.

Directed by a documentary filmmaker, “Hitchcock” is his first feature. So I’m not seeing “Hitchock” as a Best Picture contender, but Anthony Hopkins could very well be. And on the weaker, constantly changing distaff side we now have Dame Helen’s Alma Hitchcock and also Scarlett Johansson’s Janet Leigh to figure out(which category we should put them in.)

It’s sounding more and more like “My Week with Marilyn”. Which was my #1 film of last year. Of course it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, but Michelle Williams sure did as Best Actress. And Kenneth Branagh as Best Supporting Actor for his hilarious spot-on Sir Laurence Olivier.

To quote Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone on this hot topic “I can’t wait”!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: