a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2012

Oscar Maxims of Harvey Weinstein, Advice Taken and Not Taken

How dull would the Awards season be, that is now going full-throttle, well, at least the publicists are, during the holidays this year( more like Holidaze) because of the ridiculously truncated Oscar nomination voting period? How dull would it be withOUT OscarMeister Harvey Weinstein to continually spice things up?

Harvey has a couple of Oscar rules, I’ve gleaned over the years, more like Maxims, really. Words to the wise (if anyone’s really listening, and I know the Oscar strategists are, AND Scott Feinberg (*waves* to Scott) 1) The picture that is seen LAST has the most impact. And 2) Only one nominee(from the Weinstein Co.) in each category.

He certainly seems to have applied Maxim 1) to “Django Unchained” opening as it did strangely on Christmas Day, but the box-office and critical accolades seem to bear out Harvey’s wisdom in this case. I beg to differ on this one, but the Golden Globes nominated it all over the place. Though the SAGs did not get their screeners for “Django” in time, it is said. So no SAG nominations.

Started reading Liz Smith’s “diary” i.e., blog, i.e., column in the http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com and she says about the Hollywood Foreign Press something to the effect that “Who are these people? Nobody you’d ever know, except that once a year the come together to get everyone’s attention.”(I’m paraphrasing) i.e. the Golden Globe Awards.

And Harvey plays the HFPA like a symphony. So, of COURSE, they are going to award his “Django” with a Best Picture, Best Director(Quentin Tarantino), and two Best Supporting Actor noms(Christophe Waltz AND Leonardo DiCaprio). Leo and Christophe may cancel each other out. And THEN who would win? Tommy Lee Jones for “Lincoln”? Jones does seem ahead at the moment. His main competition, “The Master”s Phillip Seymour Hoffman is slipping every day. And NOT because of Hoffman’s stupendous performance. And “The Master” is ALSO a Harvey film. So he has THREE in this category! Which probably means that Jones does get it, because the THREE Weinsteins, may be just way too many nominees.

But right there in this past paragraph you can see that Harvey just contradicted himself big time. So while Maxim1 worked for “Django” with the Globes and at the Box-Office, Maxim 2 got him THREE nominees in the SAME category, something he  always says he wants to avoid. Some may call it an embarassment of riches, but Leo and Waltz and Hoffman could cancel each other out.

It seems HIGHLY unlikely to me that the Academy is going to embrace “Django” on any level. It’s just toooo bloody. One of the most violent films I’ve ever seen in the Oscar race. AND director Quentin Tarantno isn’t due.

The Golden Globes are really not a good indicator of anything anymore, except trouble. THEY are the main reasons for this shortened voting period. AMPAS wants to get the Oscar nominations out FIRST, BEFORE the Golden Globes are held. Which they will be doing, effectively trumping the GGs from having ANY influence on the Oscar nominations themselves, which are announced on Tues. Jan.10 this year. Sooooo early. The earliest ever. And making voters jam all their holidaze with viewing screeners.

There is said to have been more Oscar-oriented parties in L.A. this year than ever. I don’t know. I’m not there. I’m only reporting. In New York, it’s been more or less status quo, as far as that’s concerned, as far as I can see.

But this shortened voting period means the over-burdened Oscar voters have LESS time to see everything they have to see. So what do they do? They choose to see The BIG Must-Sees like probably “Les Miserables”, “Lincoln”, “Argo”, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Life of Pi” and maybe even “Django” too. Others, like the suddenly on the cusp(and yes, it’s a Harvey film, too) “Silver Linings Playbook” and on down the line-up, may get seen less. Simply because there’s less time.

And speaking of “Silver Linings Playbook” I think it will win Jennifer Lawrence Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for the Globes. But in the Best Director category, SLP’s director David O. Russell got knocked out by – wait for it! Quentin Tarantino!!! So yes, that Maxim #2 really is something to go by.

Will O. Russell get Oscar nominated, like he was just a couple of years back for “The Fighter”?

I’m thinking not. And we don’t have any DGAs to guide us, as in previous years, because yes, they, too, won’t announce their five ALL IMPORTANT nominees til, yes, that’s right, AFTER the Oscar nominations are announced on the 10th.

Speaking of the 10th. if I were in L.A. and covering the nominations, they occur there at 5:30AM( here, EST, it’s at 8:30AM on the morning news shows) then THAT NIGHT there are the BFCA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards which are USUALLY the most predictive of the Oscar race. That is ONE long day for all the nominees and everyone else involved. Phew!

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“Les Miz” in IMAX! My Third Time! Bliss to the Max!!

“Les Miserables,” which is my #1 film of the year, can also be seen now in IMAX, which I didn’t know about until director Tom Hooper mentioned it in an interview. And so I HAD to see it for a THIRD time in a Whirlwind month of “Miz.”

There’s so much to say, and so little time…before I see “Les Miz” AGAIN! Yes! It’s THAT good! And THAT addictive!

FINALLY! Tickets were available for purchase by ordinary movie-goers. It has been sold out in NYC, since its’ opening Christmas Day, when it broke B.O. records, and it’s taking off to be a record-breaking hit all over the world! It may even go over $100 million internationally by the end of this weekend!

And they said musicals weren’t popular with the masses any more!

Well, “Les Miz” is bringing out a certain type of movie-goer those who’ve been STARVED for a great movie musical.

Since I was a kid, it was always the movie musicals that got me into movies in the first place. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” being run over and over and over again on Million Dollar Movie on televisioni on Ch.9. Every single day, maybe even twice a day, when I was a bespectacled, red-headed kid growing up in the Bronx. Then came “Les Girls” and that little boy thought all movies were SUPPOSED to sing.

So it’s grand, just grand that “Les Miserables” returns movies to its’ rightful place, right near OPERA. Opera used to be mass entertainment in its’ time, and I just love that “Les Miz” onscreen is totally sung through. And what wonderful,stirring, powerful music it is!

From those first three thrilling chords of “Look Down” “Ah-huh!” Klang! “Ah-huh” Klang! And the spectacular wreck of a ship hulk that gets hauled into view by literally hundreds of dirty, grimy slaves of the state, Jean Valjean main among them. Well, it shakes you and just takes your breath away at the same time!

Audiences for “Les Miz” come PRIMED now to applaud, it seems to me. At an invited (non-critics) screening I saw(my second time)(many Academy members in attendance) there was applause at least four times and cheering and standing and MORE applause at the end. And this was without any of the talent present, which ups the applause meter even more. Hugh Jackman’s name onscreen got applause at the end as did Anne Hathaway’s and Eddie Redmayne’s and strangely Helena Bonham-Carter’s.

Well, last night this paying, weekday night audience applauded at least EIGHT times!

Of course, Anne Hathaway’s brilliant, blistering, unforgettable solo “I Dreamed a Dream” got applause. And she’ll probably get an Oscar, too.

And then they didn’t really applaud again til “On My Own”, which had not gotten applause at the previous two screenings I attended. That’s Eponine’s rain-soaked solo essayed here by Samantha Barks.

Then, of course, after that, “One Day More” got a rousing hand, and it continued virtually unabated five times more til the magnificent ending! I was losing count in the glory of it all as the suspense mounted, and of course, the wonderful Eddie Redmayne got his hand in “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables,” and the Thernadiers (a super oily Sasha Baron Cohen and the equally slimy Helena Bonham-Carter) even got applauded when they got thrown out of Marius and Cosette’s wedding.! Cheers, too! Amazing!

The involvement of the audience was like at  Broadway show. But no Broadway show gets stopped with applause EIGHT times! At least! But this being a high-paced film, “Les Miserables” never paused for a moment. I don’t think the stage version ever got this much applause. Maybe the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts did. But they were EVENTS. This is just a blockbuster musical. Incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life as a film critic.

“Les Miserables” never fails to disappoint. But I have to say that IMAX isn’t really necessary to see it in. Everything gets magnified and since the film is shot in extreme close-ups most of the time, it really is excessively CLOSE in Imax.Dizzying. I was counting the warts on Russell Crowe’s face. And then the hairs on the warts. I REALLY didn’t need to be THAT CLOSE. Too much information.

But his Javert is meant to scare. And he does. He’s the villain, and his strange, thunderous, bellowed singing is the film’s one discordant note, but it works, because he’s the one who’s out of sync with the melodious singing of the rest of the cast, as his character is out of sync, at war, with the rest of the world.

Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean wows me every time! The demands that are placed on him are literally Herculean, and utterly Oscar-bait-y and Oscar – worthy. And then he has to drag the wounded, half-dead, Eddie Redmayne through the sewers of Paris! Saving his life, in  yet another one of Victor Hugo’s novel’s great set-pieces, that is rendered impossibly odious and odoriferous in these tremendous close-ups. Oh yes, Jackman’s “Bring Him Home” sung to the sleeping Redmayne got a spontaneous round of applause, too.

“Les Miserables” is setting audiences free in a wonderful way. They seem FREE to applaud. And VERY free to cry. At the end, with the incredibly moving climatic scenes, there’s not a dry eye in the house. My eyeglasses were salted up with tears. But I was happy. The Greeks has a word for this effect. They called it “Catharsis.” I call it Oscar.

Merry Christmas to ALL My Readers!

I See “Hitchcock” for the THIRD Time! Helen Mirren for Best Actress!

Seeing the wonderful “Hitchcock” again for the THIRD time, in light of the recent Golden Globe & SAG nominations, where Dame Helen Mirren as Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s late unsung wife, delighted me once again, and in ways I didn’t expect.

The Sat.nite NYC audience was very appreciative and laughed more than at the other two very packed press screenings I saw it at previously. And THIS time it also again got applause at the end! And this from the paying public!?

Something really good is going on here that maybe most critics have overlooked. It PLEASES  audiences, just as Hitchcock’s films did. The audience was always in the fore-front of Hitchcock’s mind.

I was enchanted all over again and was more impressed than ever with Helen Mirren’s marvelously layered, intelligent portrayal as Hitchcock’s real life wife, who was his greatest and until now unknown collaborator. Editor, writer, wife, critic, she gave Hitchcock her all and never asked for any credit and “didn’t want any” to quote director Sascha Gervasi.

You can see my interview with him lower in this blog, and also at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow bien sur.

Mirren really dominated the film tonight in a way I hadn’t noticed her doing before. Before it had seem like a balanced duet between these two great actors. But tonight it struck me for the first time as Alma’s film. She seems the dominant one in the relationship, oddly, and not him. At home, he seems if not hen-pecked, then strangely passive, or submissive, next to Mirren’s fiery red-headed Alma.

Also since I saw “Hitchcock” last I read the Steve Rubello book it’s based on “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Pyscho.” And interestingly, there’s one, whole chapter on Ed Gein, the opening chapter of the book. And not ONE on Alma! Director Gervasi and his screenwriter really did take it upon themselves to make this Alma’s story, Her Time To Shine, since even Rubello dismisses or overlooks her in his book. Just as she always has been heretofore.

And seeing it tonight with a paying audience of civilian movie-goers, I came away more sure than ever that Dame Helen Mirren was going to get yet ANOTHER Oscar nomination for playing Alma Hitchcock. And the Golden Globes and the SAGs agree with me.

Also in Mirren’s favor is that fact that she is playing a REAL PERSON. A woman, who, historically, has been sinfully overlooked. And so not only is Mirren delivering a powerhouse performance on all levels and looking fabulous at nearly 70 and often in a bathing suit, doing so,she is reclaiming this lost woman’s story, and it’s a great and important one, for the ages. And what an original screen female character Alma Reville Hitchcock is!

Hitchock complains on the imaginary psychiatirist couch to his evil angel, the ghost of Mass Murderer Ed Gein, that he never got an Oscar, and well, I think this year the Academy is going to correct that by giving his smart, stylish, unheralded wife an Oscar nomination. A posthumous recognition, but recognition still.

Helen Mirren also has the advantage in that Alma Reville Hitchcock is a totally unknown personality to us. We know she had a posh British accent, but we don’t know how she walked, talked or “used her hands” as Dame Helen put it in an interview. So Mirren was free to create this most original character of this most original woman out of whole cloth. And we accept and applaud the authority and precision with which she protrays her.

And you know the Oscars, they’ve got to have a Dame somewhere at the Oscars. And Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench are also in the mix. But of the three Dame Heleln’s is the most vivid performance.

But strangely, Sir Anthony Hopkins, however, was left out of both the important precursor nominations the GG and the SAGS. What to make of that? Well, it’s a very crowded Best Actor race this year. But his performance is so touching and multi-faceted,acting under what looks like MOUNTAINS of latex make-up and the fattest of fat suits, that the Academy may reward him, too, with a nomination.

The Best Actress race is wide open, still, with Naomi Watts perhaps muddying the waters with “The Impossible.” Keira Knightley’s nomination should be called the Impossible, which is a shame. For the controversial, deconstructed “Anna Karenina.”

The only locks are still the $400 million dollar girl Jennifer Lawrence who has the “Hunger Games” in her favor, although it is the “Silver Linings Playbook” that she is likely to be nominated for, and Jessica Chastain for her stoic CIA operative in “Zero Dark Thirty”. Marion Cotillard is looking pretty solid, still, as I’ve said all along since I saw at TIFF ’12, her marvelous, miraculous performances as double amputee in “Rust and Bone” and then there’s Rachel Weisz, coming up on the outside in a small British Indie “Deep Blue Sea,” which I saw at TIFF’11.

Weisz already has an Oscar (For “The Constant Gardener”), and so do Cotillard and Mirren, for “La Vie En Rose” and “The Queen” respectively. But I think it’s now ~

1. Jennifer Lawrence

2. Jessica Chastain

3. Marion Cotillard

4. Helen Mirren

5. Rachel Weisz

“The Impossible” is not doing well in this, its’ Opening Weekend, and if that continues, poor Naomi Watts will be a wash as well, in this suddenly contentious category.

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A Christmas Message from Marlo Thomas(and me)!

In this time of terrible national tragedy, it’s wonderful to think that St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is still continuing to do its’ great work.Marlo Thomas dropped in to my TV show and spoke movingly about its’ work and hers.

MY TOP TEN FILMS OF 2012

1. Les Mierables

2. Anna Karenina

3. Compliance

4. Hitchcock

5. Rust and Bone

6. Invisible War

7. End of Watch

8. Argo

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild

10. Deep Blue Sea

 

Ann Dowd’s Valiant One-Woman Oscar Campaign

It’s confusing, I know, trying to make sense out of what just happened in the past ten days with the slew of awards and nominations announced by the Indie Spirit Awards, the New York Film Critics, the L.A. Film Critics, The National Board of Review,the Broadcast Film Critics, the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Golden Globes. Which is most important? Well, they all mean SOMEthing,especially to the people whose “Awards profile” they helped . Especially some one like Ann Dowd of “Compliance” who was a virtual unknown, outside of the industry before all this started happening this year. Really just in the past three weeks!

A veteran character actress who has spent three decades working on stage, screen and TV, “Compliance” was arguably the largest role Ms. Dowd ever had, and she went the distance on it, and ended up with a National Board of Review WIN, for Best Supporting Actress, and also nominations in that category from the Broadcast Film Critics and the Independent Spirit Awards.

But she didn’t get nominated by SAG, or the Golden Globes.

One of the most important things you have to remember is that the Academy contains NO CRITICS. It’s all working professionals who have a completely different take on all things Oscar.
There are 6,000 members of the Academy entire and approx. 1,600 in the Actor’s Branch. The Actors Branch are the ones who nominated the Acting Award nominees, and it’s very likely, good news for Dowd, that they have been awarding “working actors” as opposed to stars quite heavily in the past few years.

Daniel Jenkins, Melissa Leo and Demian Bichir are examples of the rank-and-file being honored with nominations and Ms. Leo with a win, in Supp. for “The Fighter” two years ago.

Ann Dowd is trying valiantly to mount a one-woman campaign of her own with virtually no help from the film company that should be helping her, Magnolia. She has had to send out DVD screeners herself to all the SAG nominating committee members. 2000 to be exact. And this brave act did not yield a nomination Unfortunately, but she ALSO sent out 1600 MORE screeners to the members of the Actors Branch of the Academy.

The ballots for nominations go out on Monday to the Academy’s voting members, but it’s only the Actor’s Branch voters who are important to Dowd’s cause. And believe me, they’ll be able to identify with her Do-It-Yourself or the DIY approach.

It’s working somewhat so far. The NBR WIN, and the two nominations from the Indie Spirits and the BCFA add up to a significant and high Awards profile for Ann Dowd, who really was not known before this. But all this has pushed her into a prominence she has not had before, and that in itself is a wonderful thing.

The press really does control the Phase One of the Oscar campaign, because they are the ones who can bring someone like Ann Dowd to a level of visibility that she has never had before. The press is also keeping the home fires burning on “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” A film that got shut out of BOTH the Golden Globes AND the SAGs (where it was deemed ineligible.)

“Compliance” and “Beasts” are indies and this new truncated Phase One, where the nominations have to be in earlier than EVER BEFORE in Oscar history, Jan.3rd, are the ones who are more hurt than the higher profile studio films, who you KNOW they are all going to watch, like for instance “Les Miserables.”

Ann Dowd has done ASTOUNDING things so far, being that she is on her own in all this Oscar competitive madness.

And I think she’ll do even more. At the very least, you all now know who she is, right?

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