a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for October, 2013

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Jonathan Groff of “Glee” in Disney’s “Frozen”

The delightful Jonathan Groff of “Glee” is now voicing and singing one of the leads in Disney’s new animated holiday film “Frozen.” He plays the Norwegian Ice Man, Kristoff and also his reindeer Sven.
Jonathan is also starring in a new HBO series “Looking” debuting in January.

Editing ~ Kevin Teller

I See “12 Years A Slave” for the 2nd Time! Still spellbound!

Seeing “12 Years a Slave” for the second time was quite an intense experience. It really held up. And seeing it with a paying New York  inter-racial audience was very interesting. They were spellbound to put it mildly and so was I.

It was very interesting that the audience was so mixed, which shows that it’s reaching different demographics. Which is great.  And people did gasp at some of the most horrific scenes. And they applauded wildly when for one brief intense moment Solomon Northrup breaks out of his slave role and beats the living daylights out of the horrid white overseer played by Paul Dano.

Dano is really excelling in these creepazoid, slimy roles this year, having also just been seen in “Prisoners” as a pervy offender. He’s truly hateful in “12 Years a Slave”, one of the worst characters in it.

I was so overwhelmed by Chiwetel Ejiafor as Solomon Northup, the title character, and also by Michael Fassbender’s tremendous turn as Master Epps, Solomon’s final owner, that I didn’t mention how terrific Paul Giamatti is as another noxious slave dealer who sells Solomon, who he re-names “Platt” to his first owner in the movie, the benevolent(but not so) Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is also the scene where the naked slaves are  casually displayed like livestock in Giamatti’s home. Giamatti, whom we all know as usually a genial boob, here is completely hateful as the pragmatic slave dealer, who slaps Northrup across the face so hard, you, the audience, feels it, too.

He also sells Eliza, the mother (Adepero Oduye)of two young children to Cumberbatch and splits up her family, selling her son to one person and keeping her mulatto daughter for himself. It’s horrifying.

I also never mentioned how frightening Sarah Paulson is as Mistress Epps. No Scarlett O’ Hara, she,  no fragile Southern Belle. The White women in this film as all just chillingly, matter-of-factly evil,,just as bad as their husbands, if not worse.

She is insanely jealous of her husband (Fassbender)’s seeming obsession with the beautiful Patsie, the slave, who picks so much cotton, Epps calls his “Queen of the fields”. Mistress Epps violently scratches and scars Patsie (Lupito Nyong’o)’s face in one midnite scene where a restless and bored Epps awakens his drowsy slaves in the middle of the night and has them dance for him.

The love triangle between the two Epps and Patsie was clearer to me the second time around and both Michael Fassbender and Lupito Nyong’o’s performances grew in grace and stature. Fassbender underplays Epps for most the film I realized this time. He only raises his voice and his fists and his whip when he is truly angry. And he does obsess in a very sick S&M way over Patsie. And yes, he does violently and repeatedly rape her, too.

Patsie seeks comfort and support from Mistress Shaw, a former slave who married her white plantation owner, and now is the mistress of her own domain, and has her own slaves as servants, at a very charming tea party. You also see Patsie looking at her as a role model. Could it be in the back of her mind that she might supplant Mistress Epps? Alfre Woodard is a treat in his too small role.

So much horror is piled upon horror in the masterful film directed by Steve McQueen, that the first time you see it you are so swamped by the constant brutality, the smaller incidents just get blurred into one stupefying whole. Images like Solomon screaming “help!” from his basement jail, as the camera objectively pans up to a tranquil matte shot of Washington, D.C. in 1854.One notes that the capitol dome was still under construction then. And nobody hears Solomon scream.

And when an unrecognizable Brad Pitt turns up as the scraggly bearded, white Canadian house builder Samuel Bass, you cheer his arrival. An incipient Abolitionist, he’s the cavalry riding in a the last-minute. And yes, as the title implies, there is a happy ending. And it’s Pitt. He’s also the producer of this film, which, according to director McQueen, would never have been made without him.

It also becomes clear that Fassbender and Nyong’o are going to sail to Oscar victory in their Supporting Categories. NOBODY is going to be able to touch them. Their performances are staggering, unforgettable, as is Ejiafor’s. But his Northrup is so powerful that you really do need to see it again to get all the nuances McQueen has built into their performances and into the film. Pitt and McQueen are also Oscar-bound as producer and director of this unforgettable film.

And the audience? There was a lot of audible sobbing at the end, but then when the titles coming up, thunderous applause. And this is something you never see happening with the general paying public. But applaud they did!

I’ll say it again, it’s a masterpiece of our times that you CAN NOT miss.

Video

Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones” & “Hunger Games” talks about her new film “The Counselor”

Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones” and also the upcoming “Hunger Games” talks about her new role in “The Counselor” which opened yesterday co-starring Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz & Michael Fassbender! She’s sitting on top of the world as one of the hottest young stars of today and she couldn’t be lovelier!

Gotham Awards Nominations Announced this AM. “12 Years a Slave…” leads

So now it’s officially started. Awards season I mean, with the announcement this morning of the Gotham Awards.

The Gothams are New York’s answer to the Indie Spirit Awards which are held and given out in LA. They don’t often match up, but they DO help, as they’re supposed to, small indie films reach some kind of early recognition before they get clobbered in the main races by The Majors.

As Guy Lodge says this morning at  http://www.hitfix.com “To the surprise of no one ’12 Years a Slave’ leads the pack with three nominations,” Best Picture, Best Breakthrough Actor for the stunning newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, while the  brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor is mentioned in the newly created Best Actor category.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/12-years-a-slave-before-midnight-in-line-for-gold-at-gotham-awards#HTAAOvGJKl8aTC4X.99

I look forward every year to the Gothams. For a few brief, shining moments, New York feels like a film capital. It’s only one night though. Most of the film biz is in L.A. as I”m sure you all know, dear readers, dear cineastes. And with Focus Features closing it’s New York offices, things are looking bleaker than ever for indie films in in the Big Apple. But the Gothams soldier on. You can read all about the other categories and contenders and Guy’s astute analysis at Hit Fix, as it says above.

Video

The Delightful Louisa Krause at Provincetown, the Film Festival That Never Ends!

Meet the truly delightful young actress Louisa Krause who had two new independent films at the Provincetown International Film Festival this summer. “King Kelly” and “Bluebird” and who was also in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Young Adult.” A star on the rise, to be sure!

Shirley Herz Memorial

Shirley Herz was one of the great theatrical press agents and one of the first, if not THEE first PR people to let me in to see shows back in the day, when I was just starting out to review theater and interview people on “The Coca Crystal Show” back in the ’80s.

She was also one of the first guests, along with Diane Judge, on “The Stephen Holt Show” in, I think 1989. It was at the Italian restaurant Delsomma. Long gone now. In the theater district. I remember her saying to Diane. “I love it. We can just sit here and name all our clients!” And they did! It was very entertaining.

That show exists on out-of-date tape formats now. 3/4″ and also VHS. I’ll have to get it transferred to DVD and put on You Tube. And of course, on my show. 

Shirley, we’ll miss you. 

And below is a press release sent out about her Memorial.

SHIRLEY HERZ CELEBRATION
Tony-Award Winning Theatrical Publicist
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4 at 1:30 pm at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre
 
There will be a Celebration of legendary theatrical press agent Shirley Herz, on Monday, November 4th at 1:30 pm at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, NYC. Some of the participants are Jeffrey Alper, Sam Altman, Barry Brown, Jan Buttram, Robert Callely, Tyne Daly, Jane Friedman, Diane Judge, Angela Lansbury, “Charlotte Moore, Tom Rhoads, Liz Smith, Iris Williams and La Cage aux Folles” Original cast members: Betsy Craig, Dan Grady, Cady Huffman, David Jackson, Eric Lamp, Tom Sesma & Jennifer Smith.  Musical accompaniment by Mark Hummel and Don Pippin.
Ms. Herz died on Sunday, August 11, 2013 at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The cause was complications from a stroke that she suffered on July 18, stated Sam Altman, a longtime friend.  
During her nearly 65 years of working in the world of theater, Shirley Herz received numerous honors: In 2009, the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League awarded a special Tony Award for “Excellence in Theatre,” given to “individuals that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theater but are not eligible in any of the established Tony categories.” A year later, she received the Theatre Hall of Fame Founders Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Theatre. In 2008, the Manhattan Theatre Club named the lobby of its Broadway home – The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – the “Shirley Herz and Bob Ullman Lobby.”  Mr. Ullman was a longtime colleague.
Shirley Herz was born December 30, 1925 in Philadelphia. She dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and headed to New York with one aim in life: to have a career in the theater.  After six months of temporary jobs, she landed a publicity job and never looked back. 
She worked on nearly 100 original Broadway plays, revivals, and musicals, including “Do Re Me,” “3 Penny Opera,” “Jerry’s Girls,” “Perfectly Frank,” “Legs Diamond,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “Gypsy” starring Tyne Daly,  “The Royal Family,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “On Golden Pond,” “Oh! Calcutta!” and “Dancing at Lughnasa.”
Ms. Herz became Rosalind Russell’s personal press representative after their long tour of “Bell, Book and Candle,” and a Broadway run of “Wonderful Town” (1953). “I learned more about the theater from her, than anyone else, before or since,” she later recalled in an interview. 
In 1971, she launched her own agency, Shirley Herz Associates. As a longtime member of the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM), she served on its Board of Governors for decades.  She was a member of The Broadway League and also served on the board of the nonprofit Dorothy Strelsin Foundation.
Her circle of friends include longtime clients Tyne Daly and producer Barry Brown and other friends/clients: Angela Lansbury, Zoe Caldwell, Colleen Dewhurst, Arthur Laurents, June Havoc, Fritz Holt, Jane Friedman, Rosemary Harris, Samuel J Friedman, Ellis Rabb, Julie Harris, Bob Callely, Eva Le Gallienne, Peter Allen, Enid Nemy, Gwin Chin, Tallulah Bankhead, and so many more. Her survivors include Beth and Jeff Alper, Herbert Boley and many other cousins from Philadelphia, including: Jeanette Aschenbrand, Joel Aschenbrand, Deborah Keller, and Dr. James and Gay Alper.
Some of the many playwrights whose productions Ms. Herz publicized included Edward Albee, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman.
Among Off-Broadway companies, she represented The Irish Repertory Theatre, Abingdon Theatre Company, The Living Theatre and Theater Breaking Through Barriers; in 1984, she opened Charles Busch’s “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” his first hit show. 
Her vast resume contained numerous productions that performed all over the country: dance companies as varied as the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Vail, CO., The Feld, San Francisco Ballet, and others, as well as many companies at The Joyce Theater. She publicized the first U.S. engagement of the Moscow Circus, as well as World’s Fairs, films, television, books, nightclubs, restaurants and many other projects.
Ms. Herz served on the American Theatre Wing’s Advisory Committee for more than 25 years.  Through the decades, she donated her services for numerous AIDS benefits, including “Best of the Best” at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1985; “Angela Lansbury – A Celebration;” GMHC’s “Mack and Mabel” concert; “Mr. Words – Ira Gershwin;” “Nothing Like a Dame;” and the historic reading of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring Uta Hagen. 

“Monuments Men” postponed! Getting out of Oscars’ Way of “12 Years…”

And so it continues. More and more Oscar drop-outs. Meaning they’re all getting out of the Awards season upcoming onslaught of “12 Years a Slave”! And who can blame them? The latest casualty of this brutal Oscar race is George Clooney’s “Monuments Men”. Opening it “in early 2014” is equivalent to meaning it doesn’t have an Oscar prayer.

And the premise, getting Art out-of-the-way or back from or something like that from the Nazis. Meh. Gorgeous George is writing, directing and  starring in it. This just doesn’t sound good. January and February are like movie grave-yards. The good stuff opens NOW. In October, Nov., Dec.

And “The Wolf of Wall Street” has also moved its’ purported opening from this fall. Which is now. Until Christmas. MAYbe. Maybe not. “Wolf” is the Martin Scorcese’s latest for Leo DiCaprio. 

As I said when I saw it in Toronto, nothing can beat “12 Years a Slave” for Best Picture and maybe many, many other categories, too. http://www.goldderby.com is now reporting Lupita Nyong’o the beautiful Yale School of Drama grad, who steals the show at “12 Years a Slave” as the  tragic slave, Patsie, has now passed Oprah Winfrey in the Supporting Actress category.

Which I was saying at TIFF. THAT role! The things that happen to Patsie are the worst, the most horrific abuses in that filled-with-horror movie. Lupita cried as she won the New Hollywood Award at the Hollywood Awards last night. The first of her probably many accolades this year and Oprah was nowhere in sight!

Tom O’Neil’s experts now have Michael Fassbender tied with Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” Leto, who plays a draq queen in “Dallas Buyer’s Club” also just got a Hollywood Breakout Performance Award  last night from the Hollywood Awards. Which nobody takes seriously. Although E! just called it “The Official Beginning of the Awards Season.” Really? I thought that was the Toronto Film Festival. And Steve McQueen of “12 Years...” won for the Hollywood Breakout Director Award,

Gold Derby has “12 Years” winning Best Picture by a mile and also Chiwetel Ejiafor as Best Actor.

They’ve also got Cate Blanchett(“Blue Jasmine”) way out in front of Sandra Bullock for “Gravity”. Whose box-office, as every one knows, is in the stratosphere. For Best Actress. I think “Gravity” has become so big that the Academy is going to want to give it something big, besides all the technical awards it will surely win, and that will be Best Actress for the beloved Bullock. Bullock won the Hollywood Best Actress award last night, too. And wowed the crowd.

And Then…He Didn’t Like it…Jeff Wells, that is, and “Saving Mr.Banks”

I feel very sorry for Jeff Wells right now. He flew half-way around the world to post his review of “Saving Mr. Banks” and he was well, disappointed by it. That’s really a bummer. To spend all that money and sit for ten hours in coach, to see a movie that you thought you were going to love, then didn’t…

Well, you can read Jeff’s reaction here at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

But the ones who benefit by this are we, his readers, who are delighted by these dramatic,colorful postings. So thank you, Jeff, for doing this for us.

Long story short he didn’t like the movie. AND he didn’t like Emma Thompson‘s performance as P.L. Travers, one-note and irritating. Grating, I think was the word.

But all the others who’ve seen it and there are PLENTY of reviews all over the internet now, seem to LOVELOVELOVE Emma Thompson’s tart take on Travers. the Australian/British authoress of “Mary Poppins.

The praise for her is unanimous except for Jeff Wells. Most feel the film though isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and are up-and-down on Tom Hanks’ Disney.

Gregory Ellwood of www.hitfix.com feels, however, that Hanks will win his third Oscar for playing Walt Disney. His “Capt. Phillips” is a huge hit, and he’ll probably get a nomination for that, too.

But will T.Hanks be able to knock out Michael Fascintating Fassbender in that category?

Jared Leto, who is in drag for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is the other name that keeps cropping up in that category’s conversation. But the Academy is queasy about giving Oscars to drag queens. Remember Jaye Davidson in “The Crying Game”?

I was soooo sure that he’d win, but OF COURSE, they gave it to Gene Hackman that year for the “Unforgiven.”

Fascinating Fassbender, however….that’s a TITANIC unforgettably frightening performance! If you’re scared during “12 Years a Slave“, it’s Fassbender’s evil Epps that you’re scared of…Just saying…

They DO reward scary villains in this category. Javier Bardem  as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men“? Remember who frightening he was in that Dutch Boy haircut?

And Fassbender is playing a real-life character, too. There was a scary slaveholder named Epps. There was. Versus an amiable Walt Disney? Crazy stuff…

Our Man in London~ Jeff Wells flies to see “Saving Mr. Banks” FIRST!

I really do get a kick out of the ever-intrepid Jeff Wells’ exploits, and his terrific writing. I don’t always agree with him, but I think it’s really kinda neat that he’s flown over to London from L.A., a ten hour flight, in COACH! to be the first Oscarologist to see Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and the London Film Festival which is happening right now in Blightey.

I used to live in London. For years. And jeff’s candid shots and vids made me nostalgic. I don’t hold out the highest hopes for “Saving Mr. Banks”s ability to shake up the Oscar race as anything but a “Gravity” v. “12 Years a Slave” scenario. The previews of it on line are mere piffle. But I know I’ll enjoy Jeff’s lively take on Merrie Olde.

You can catch up with Jeff’s exploits abroad, of course, at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com.

The man is unstoppable! GO JEFF!

Michael Fassbender’s Non-Campaign for Oscar for “12 Years A Slave”

Michael Fassbender’s declaration in the current GQ mag that he’s not going to campaign for an Oscar for his Supporting Role(really a lead) In the monumental “12 Years A Slave” is just a tiny bit disingenuous to me for voila! There  he is on the cover! Looking great, I might add, and very much a winner already.

At Toronto, he seemed to me to be cramming every minute with press time. I sat through a press conference with him and the director Steve McQueen and the rest of the brilliant cast. And he was of course, fascinating. http://www.FascinatingFassbender.com is a website that is worth checking for all things up to the minute on Fassbender.

But at that press conference, he talked openly and freely and feeling about the character of the slave-owner Epps that he embodies so magnificently and so frighteningly in “12 Years a Slave.”

“I don’t see him as evil or a villain. I see him as a person. A businessman who is protecting his property.” I wasn’t taking exact notes, but it was words to that effect that sort of stunned people there when he said it. Because he seems to be the absolute embodiment of evil.

But an actor, a really good actor, and Fascinating Fassbender is a brilliant actor, ALWAYS has to humanize a character for himself and see the world through that character’s eyes, as he has so memorably done.

He was on Charlie Rose, too, with Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiafor(I think you can watch that on You Tube on http://www.youtube.com/CharlieRoseShow.) So he did A LOT of publicity, and he did it early and now has gone off to New Zealand to film “Macbeth” and HE’s playing yes, Macbeth.

He did a lot of press already and now he feels he’s done enough. After “Shame” everybody in Hollywood now knows who he is, and then when he didn’t even get nominated(I knew he wouldn’t. And said so. All that nudity and urinating on camera! i mean, it was riveting, but the SWORM, the Straight White Old Rich Men, who form the bulk of the Academy were shocked.) And he was devastated when he didn’t get nominated, and now in GQ he says he wants no part of the process, which he found humiliating and this time is going to sit out Phase I of the Oscar season, which is now upon us.

October, November and early December is when you build buzz and the Oscar campaign machinery begins to shift into full gear. Then the nominating ballots are sent out around the holidays and the nominations themselves are announced in January, which is the start of Phase II.

But after the nominations come out in January and he starts winning awards(how can he not? I mean, they ALWAYS award the white guy, even a villain, in a black movie, like they did just last year for “Django Unchained”s Christophe Waltz) and he’ll come back to pick up his trophies the same time Mo’nique did in Phase II.

And this year the Oscars aren’t being handed out til MARCH! Because of the Olympics, so it’s a super-long Phase II.

Like The Terminator, he’ll be back.

I predict these things.

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