a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2013

Video

A Jewel Glows in Brooklyn! “Until Next Time” Clown show = Brilliant!

I almost never venture out of Manhattan to see theater, especially to parts of Brooklyn I’ve never been to, trendy though they now may be. Such is Billyburg, or Williamsburg. I went there to see of all things a Clown Show. In a Clown Festival, at the tiny Brick Theater at 579 Metropolitan Avenue. A bright red door led you into a tiny, black-box theater, with yes, the requisite exposed brick walls.

And there I saw one of the best, most moving pieces of theater I have seen in a long, long time. “Until Next Time” was the multi-talented David Quay’s completely wordless story of a young man(Quay himself, who also sharply directed) suffering the loss of his beloved (Tiffany Baker) in a car crash.

Completely pantomimed with a lush musical score underneath, Quay acted out the heart-break, love and loss, he felt about the comatose pretty girl in the hospital bed. We all know she may never recover, but Quay refuses to let her go. And his memories come to vivid life as the Sleeping Beauty (Baker) arises from the bed and re-enacts their life together.

The hospital setting is bleak as any, as Quay sees all the medical personal as his adversaries and at one point he even battles the doctor and nurse, who come to symbolize death itself. And we all want him to win this tug of war and bring the beautiful Baker back to life.

Quay’s masterful, incredibly skillful clowning recalls all the great mimes, Marcel Marceau, Chaplin, Buster Keaton and reminds you of how sad the world of wordless clowns can be, and how heart-breaking.

There are no words when you are fighting with your feelings of the death of a loved one.

I must’ve cried three times.

The final images are shattering.

I wish “Until the Next Time” were playing longer, but alas, its’ run at the Brick Theater is done, but such a superb, original work surely will be seen again.

That’s the way we all feel when someone we love passes. Until Next Time.

“12 Years a Slave” wins the People’s Choice Award at TIFF’13!

“12 Years a Slave” has just won the People’s Choice Award as final act of TIFF’13. It begins now it’s long, or maybe not so long, march “Slumdog Millionaire”-like march to the Oscars, which this year are now in yes, March.

I can’t seeing any other film toppling this lacerating, traumatic masterpiece. Critics groups will fall in line and award it left, right and center in the coming months. Nothing can stop it. It’s like finally the truth is being told about this awful topic, slavery. Even with a black president, Americans feel they have put slavery behind them, and this great film is so revelatory, so shocking, it clearly shows that it hasn’t.

The depths of horror,inhumanity and mutilation this film reveals are the only things standing in the way of its’ being showered with Oscars. Will audiences stay away or flock to it? How often does a genuine masterpiece come along at TIFF? The last time I experienced this at TIFF was when “Brokeback Mountain” broke there and changed the world.

“12 Years a Slave” had that impact that set Toronto reeling, too. And Brad Pitt, who produced this, comes on at the end as a Canadian(!?) and sets the abolitionist wheels in motion in the final act of the film. Solomon Northup is so beaten down at the end when he meets Pitt, that he is almost afraid to mention that he knows where Canada is and has been there, too. And Pitt’s character is astonished to find “a no-account, illiterate darkie” can speak, read and write. And travel. And Pitt will win his first Academy Award as the Producer of this stupendous film.

Chiwetal Ejiofer should win Best Actor for the hell he makes real in this movie. And Steve McQueen should be the first Black man (no, he’s not an African-American. He’s British!) to win an Oscar for Best Director and it’s about time, too!

There will be many, many awards in this great films’ future. The most difficult thing will be convincing audiences to endure the brutality of it’s two and half hour plus length. There is a happy ending as the title implies. And there will be a really happy ending for all involved with this film.

Coming in second is “Philomena” which is great good news for The Weinstein Co., showing them which really of their many, many movies this Oscar season is the real crowd-pleaser. I saw it, too, at TIFF, and loved it. Dame Judi Dench as the immensely sympathetic title character will no doubt garner another Best Actress nomination. Could she win? Well, Harvey had her over here to the Oscar rodeo before with “Mrs. Henderson Presents” and “Iris” but his magic got her a nomination but not a win. She won previously for her 12 minutes as Queen(Elizabeth I) in “Shakespeare in Love.”

And “Prisoners” which I am seeing Tuesday night back here in NYC came in third. I always wish I could stay at TIFF til this moment when they have a luncheon that announces this. but as usual I am back now in NYC. Oh! And the New York Film Festival starts TOMORROW!

” August:Osage..” What Went Right? What Went Wrong?

Now, with the announcement that Meryl Streep will be in the lead category and Julia Roberts is now in Supporting(over her dead body!) and that the ending may be changed as well for the former Oscar front-runner “August:Osage County” WHAT is going on over there, there being the Weinstein Co., with that movie?

Stage to page, difficult transition, for this Pulitzer-Prize winner that I adored so much I saw it three times onstage and was delighted that my stay in Toronto for TIFF was just long enough to cram this in. I was even there the first one on line for the Press and Industry screening, as I predicted I would be, dear readers, dear cineastes, but I wasn’t prepared for the mess I saw unspooling before me on the screen.

It starts off fine with Sam Shepherd doing a great turn as Beverly, the doomed patriarch of the Westin family, hiring the only surviving member of the original Bway cast Missie Upton, as the taciturn Indian girl Janaa, he is hiring as a housekeeper for his pill-crazed wife, Violet(Meryl Streep).

It’s a great, showy role, god knows, and Streep eats every piece of scenery in sight, and pretty much chokes on it, which is the problem. She seems not addicted to pills as she claims but to over-acting. I haven’t seen her show-boating a role like this since the remake of “Manchurian Candidate,” which all but ended director Jonathan Demme’s career.

Doing the Oklahoma accent so accurately, and playing an addicted person, pretty much guarantees her a nomination, but no win, in the Best Actress category, where she so rightly belongs.

But since it’s Streep, she doesn’t so much disappear into the character as much as she keeps popping out and waving a white flag, saying “It’s still me! It’s Meryl! I’m not really this evil witch of a character I’m playing! It’s only acting, folks! Don’t be scared.” But this is the problem, it’s also the problem I experienced when I saw Estelle Parsons take over from Deanna Dunagan as Violet Westin on Broadway. Estelle played her warm and cuddly, too, as Meryl does. When Dunagan was just a clear and simple horror. You hated her. You were afraid of her. You couldn’t believe she was doing and saying the things she was doing to all her assembled family. But Dunagan had the hidden plus of being an actress unknown to us. Meryl is hardly that. She’s still adorable, warm and cuddly Meryl under the bad wig and the age make-up.

So you never are really afraid of her. She’s not a dark force, but an amusing one. She doesn’t miss a laugh line. Her comic timing is impeccable. So yes, she will very likely get ANOTHER Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the most nominated actress in Academy history.She’s not the MOM-FROM-HELL you want to escape from, but the wise-cracking fun-loving observant Mom you want to stay with.

But her likability robs the film of its’ dramatic fulcrum. There’s now no antagonist there. And also it reveals “August:Osage County” to have no plot.

And cutting it’s over three hour length onstage(there’s nearly an hour missing) really hurts it, too. Margo Martindale is fine as the plumb sister but her part is virtually gone. On Broadway, Rondi Reed, another Chicagoan actress like Deanna Dunagan, won a Tony as did Dunagan. The part has been so reduced here on film, I doubt that Martindale will get an Oscar nomination.

Violet’s sister is supposed to be the warm and cuddly one, not Violet, so again the play becomes unbalanced. So what, really is going on here? It’s simply a series of humiliation scenes as one by one Violet verbally attacks every single member of her family and alienates them, perhaps forever. But as Streep plays it, she seems to be giving each member of her clan the dose of truth-telling they so sorely need, and you think, yes, she’s right. Her children are all ungrateful, self-absorbed brats.And yes, the deserve a dressing down. At the very least.

And yes, one by one, they leave her. And we all see this coming a mile away in the movie. And the supporting roles of which there are almost too many to list her are all so cut down, it’s hard to feel anything for them, as Violet knocks off each and every one of them almost systemically. Too systemically for a supposed drug addict…

And totally missing to is the part of Janaa, the Indian girl, who in the play presides and oversees the goings on of the crazy white people below, from her attic room in the see-through skeleton of a house that was the brilliant setting of the play onstage. We were always mindful of Janaa watching, watching, watching…and as it turns out, waiting.

And in the climatic scene, which is now gone completely from the movie, we see Violet, pathetically abandoned and alone, crawling up the stairs of the three story house, screaming “Janaa! Janaa!” That is a shattering image I still can’t get out of my mind.

And much is made during the course of the play about the land that the house is on, in fact all of  Osage county, originally belonging to the Indians, and in the end, it is indeed the Indian girl Janaa who is left stoically standing as the whites below massacre, lacerate and abandon each other.

You totally understand why all of them want to get away from Violet. As did her suicided husband Beverly(Sam Shepherd) at the beginning of the play. They flee with reason.

The great, grand surprise of the movie is how good Julia Roberts is as the angry, reasonable daughter, who stands up to her mother. This is now the main conflict of the movie. Almost nothing of Roberts’ role has been cut out for the truncated screen version, and so she has a LOT to play and Roberts to her credit, gives the performance of her career as the daughter who stands up to her mother, but even she can’t take it in the end.

My question is ~ who in the film version would ever leave cuddly, jocular, joke-filled Mamma Mia Meryl Streep? The hour that is lost makes the children now seem like ingrates and Meryl’s Violet is the unjustly abandoned one.

Which is not right. And NOT why I saw this play three times and why it won deservedly the Pulitzer Prize.

Video

Feeling Royal at the Royal York at TIFF’13!

Was it all it’s cracked up to be? YES! A dream come true! I hated to leave, but I know I’ll be back…someday…

Oscars at TIFF~ “12 Years a Slave” & “Gravity” Both will win major awards!

Overwhelmed by all the great movies I saw at TIFF’13 this week, but two stood out as already dominating the Oscar conversation. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity.” Is it too early to say the race for Best Picture and Best Director is over? No. It’s not. The Academy can not deny “12 Years a Slave” one of the best films I’ve ever seen, or will ever see, one of the greatest films of all time, will win Best Picture and its’ director Steve McQueen, will become the first ever black man to win an Oscar in that category. Thus breaking the age-old tradition of awarding only white men(Exceptions – Kathryn Bigelow & Ang Lee {twice}).

It will be given a run for its’ money by “Gravity” Alphonse Cuaron’s dazzling 3D epic of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney lost in Space. It will win every technical award it’s nominated for but I think the real surprise here is Sandra Bullock, who is basically the ONLY character in the entire movie. It’s a one-woman show, and she’s giving the performance of her life, and will certainly be nominated for this breath-taking solo achievement that no one, including myself, ever thought she was capable of. She will definitely be nominated for Best Actress and I will go one step further. If ANYONE can upset Cate Blanchett’s Oscar chances in that category, it’s Sandra Bullock.

Are they really going to give an Oscar to an actress playing RUTH MADOFF?!? Blanchett’s triumph is that she makes this extremely unlikable, maybe even vile, woman sympathetic, but is she THAT sympathetic? I mean, you’re left at the end with an utterly unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Whereas when Sandra Bullock(SPOILER ALERT!) kisses the earth in “Gravity” and stands up and proudly walks on that beach, I thought “OMG! She’s going to win another Oscar!” And in a year that is shaping up as having ONLY former winners nominated(Blanchett, maybe Streep, maybe Julia Roberts, maybe Judi Dench and maybe Kate Winslet), Bullock STILL America’s sweetheart pulls off a cinematic achievement in that except for the very brief George Clooney, she’s the ONLY  PERSON IN THE ENTIRE PICTURE. SHE HAS TO CARRY THE WHOLE THING, and YOU LOVE HER! She’s utterly sympathetic and Cate Blanchett’s triumph is that she’s NOT, but Bullock’s Dr. Ryan, you just love and want to get back to earth, and I think the actors branch as well as the below-the-line voting members are going to acknowledge that unique one-woman achievement.

Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman passed on this role. And I think they are going to regret it when Sandra Bullock wins her SECOND (unbelievable!) Best Actress Oscar, a sentence I never thought I’d be typing!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: