a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2013

Oscar Ballots Go Out~ So where are we now?

The 2013 Oscar ballots went out in the mail and became available online yesterday. So RIGHT AT THIS EXACT MOMENT, they provide a snapshot, if you will, of the Academy’s deepest(or most superficial) feelings.

That a silly little film like “American Hustle” could be at the top of everyone’s minds right now is really irksome to me. But I would be re-miss if I didn’t say that I think that’s the case. That’s awful, but I think that’s what’s really happening.

“12 Years a Slave”, the masterpiece that’s out there, that I’ve seen THREE times now, is on everyone’s minds, too. I just hope they (the Academy) are watching it. And appreciating it the way I and Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone do. Check out her latest readings of the Oscar tea leaves at http://www.Awardsdaily.com. It’s horrid that this maybe happening, but I’m protecting myself from getting another “Brokeback” heart on Oscar night, by getting ready for the worst.

The water cooler movie that everyone is talking about right now is “Wolf of Wall Street,” but I don’t think the Academy is going to dig it. I don’t think either M. Scorsese or Leonardo DiCaprio and especially Jonah Hill are going to get nominated for what is in essence a three-hour orgy supporting and glamorizing what it purports to condemn. Which is the excessive greed on Wall St.in the 1980s and early ’90s. They could’ve called it “Crack Hoes on Parade,” but then they would be admitting it to be the porn film it almost is.

I think Cate Blanchett is sitting pretty, VERY pretty and very high up in everyone’s esteem right now, to get her Second Oscar for her unforgettable turn as a socialite in free-fall in “Blue Jasmine.” Actually, “Blue Jasmine” is also about what “The Wolf of Wall Street” is about economics crashing and burning, but “Blue Jasmine” and Woody Allen who wrote it, SHOW you the downside and what the victims of this powerful abuse of  money, one of whom is Jasmine herself, suffered.

Allen pointedly depicts the people who got hurt, as WOWS never does. Those who invested their money and lost everything by trusting Jasmine and her Bernie Madoff-esque husband (Alec Baldwin in one of the best performances of his career)

One after other after the other, the visible victims  unload on the now pathetic Jasmine, whose son won’t even speak to her. The most memorable scene being between her and her brother-in-law(Andrew Dice Clay) who lets her know just exactly how many lives she and her husband have ruined.

It’s devastating.

Woody Allen got it right. Which may be why you might find him turning up nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. And don’t be surprised if Blanchett’s centrifugal force pulls her sunny sister Sally Hawkins into the Supporting Actress category, too. Hawkins is wonderful as the only person left on earth who is on Jasmine’s side.

And don’t be shocked if Robert Redford is going to find out that REALLY All IS Lost when he or his film doesn’t end up anywhere on Nomination Morning, Tuesday, Jan. 14. He was not nominated for a SAG Best Actor award and NOBODY has ever won Best Actor without a SAG nomination. NOBODY.

And we all know that Oscar stalwart Harvey Weinstein is campaigning heavily behind the scenes for all FOUR of his Oscar hopefuls, “Philomena”, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and ” August: Osage County.” And finally, “Long Walk to Freedom.”

He could be making sure that  AT LEAST ONE of his Best Actors candidates, Forest Whitaker, the Butler himself or Idris Elba(Nelson Mandella)could take the slot that Redford was supposed to.

I think Tom Hanks is also in danger of splitting his vote. He’s got “Saving Mr. Banks” in Supporting as Walt Disney and also he’s got his leading performance of “Captain Phillips.” His Disney so far has garnered no precursor awards. And “Banks” seems to be stumbling everywhere except for leading lady Emma Thompson who seems destined to get a Best Actress nomination for her prickly pair of a performance as “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers.

If I had to pick one, I’d say his “Captain Phillips” turn is the more likely of the two.

And now to Harvey and his other “fillies” as Tom O’Neil http://www.goldderby.com would dub them. Meryl Streep just got the worst reviews of her career for “August:Osage County” and they all came out YESTERDAY, and the NYTimes’ A.O.Scott was particularly,unusually brutal. But I agreed with him.

Julia Roberts in Supporting(at the moment) is getting universally better reviews that Streep, if you can believe it. Streep described it in a Q&A this week in Hwood as “Streep Fatigue”. And she herself even admitted that the Academy’s Actors Branch might be suffering from that. It looked as though she was too. It seems like she doesn’t like the role of Violet she was playing, quite frankly. So why did she do it???

So who takes her place? Julia Roberts? Or is it Amy Adams who has been nominated FOUR times in Supporting in the past eight years, but never won. This would be part of the “American Hustle” effect. Which could also see Christian Bale pop up in Best Actor and Bradley Cooper in Supporting. Don’t gasp. It could happen.

Though Adams is the LEAST effective performance in “AH.” Weak is the word. She’s just not believable as the Whore of Babylon. Opposite Jennifer Lawrence, who certainly IS playing that part. But as a housewife in Queens. Or is it New Jersey? And Lawrence will FOR SURE get nominated.

How much do people like this already over-awarded very minor comedy?

I’m unfortunately guessing a lot right now. And Bale, Cooper and ugh, even Adams could get pulled along by “AH”s coat-tail effect. I HATE to even type this. But all four of them have been nominated for a Golden Globe, but in the Musical/Comedy category. Or rather Bale and Adams have for their leading performances.

It could happen.

And what of the wonderful actors of “12 Years a Slave”? I think they all will be nominated. Chiwetel Ejiofor in lead, and Michael Fassbender in Supporting Actor and Lupita Nyong’O in Supp. actress. They all could win, too.

Out of the three Nyong’O has the least competition in her category. And there’s a healthy history of Black Actresses winning in Supporting. And the part! I mean, her character “Queen of the Fields” Patsie gets raped, whipped, and a glass decanter is thrown in her face. She wants Solomon Northrup to kill her. She even offers him money to drown her….From the part ALONE, I would think this is Lupita’s to lose. How can anyone else compare? And this is ALL TRUE!!! Patsie was a real slave who actually lived, too.

And there’s thoughts being floated that “12 Years a Slave” might not win Best Picture, losing to either “American Hustle” or “Gravity.” But that Chiwetel Ejiofor will win Best Actor. I certainly hope they all do. And that Right, and a masterpiece, will triumph.

And as for the landslide of precursor awards that is consuming Jared Leto for his portrayal of a sweet transvestite named Rayon in “Dallas Buyer’s Club”…well, the Academy has been historically quirky about awarding cross-dressing performances, though Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry” and William Hurt in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” would belie that rule. Maybe the ground has been broken, but I do feel Michael Fassbender’s horrifying villain of a slave owner Master Epps is the greater performance.

You can’t just put on a dress and expect them to give you an Oscar. Just ask Jaye What-his-came from “The Crying Game.”

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Merry Christmas 2013 to Everyone!

Merry Christmas 2013 to Everyone!

Merry Christmas to all my dear readers, and dear cineastes! Have a fabulous!

Year’s Ten Best 2013

Here’s my list of the Ten Best Films of 2013!

1. 12 Years a Slave

2. Simon Killer

3. Dallas Buyer’s Club

4. Inside Llewyn Davis

5. Gravity

6. Philomena

7. Lovelace

8. Labor Day

9.Prisoners

10. Captain Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscars for “Wolf of Wall Street”? Dicey

Having just sat through the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too long “Wolf of Wall Street”I really wonder about its’ Oscar chances. It’s a three-hour movie that is self-indulgent and repetitive to the max. It’s budget is upwards of $100 million and it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Martin Scorsese, but I wonder…

Simply on paper alone it looks REALLY appealing to the mostly male, mostly older Academy demographic. There’s a great deal of the Voting Membership that will relish this over-the-top Old Man’s Fantasy of a young man’s wild, drug-fueled life.  So yes, on all those counts it does get in. There’s more tits and ass(including Leo’s) to float it to a nomination from that sector alone. Or maybe not.

EVERYBODY in every branch of  the Academy gets to vote or rather at this stage NOMINATE 10 films for Best Picture, so I think on that alone in a field of ten, and taking into account the “Meat Eaters” Anne Thompson is always referring to from the many tech branches, it will get in.

But only actors can nominate actors. And only five of them. Are you following me on this distinction?

And when you turn to the Actor’s Branch, who is the largest and most critical, some would say snobbish section of the Academy, I dunno. They consider themselves, and perhaps rightly so, as the guardians of the High Art (in the case of “Wolf” that is literally) in the Temple of Acting.

These are the people who will nominate Leo or Jonah Hill…Or not…

And I can tell you right now, the women in the Actor’s Branch are going to be highly offended by the extreme sexism of this Wall St. romp.

And they don’t like Leo, who is still only 39, that much any way. They’ve not given him  an Oscar ~ YET, though he has received three nominations.

He’s giving it all he’s got, and there are some brilliantly funny set pieces, like the soon-to-be infamous “Quaalude” or “Lemon” scene, where Leo takes soooo many “Old” pills of this type, he and Jonah Hill don’t have a reaction til 45 minutes later. Trust me, it’s hilarious, and Leo exhibits a highly developed skill for physical comedy that he has never shown before….but then there’s a climatic scene that is border-line pornographic…well, I don’t see that wowing the sometimes staid Actor’s Branch.

Jonah Hill executes all that he is given to do expertly, but as of yet, he has been shown NO critical love in the crucial precursor awards, and they’ve been MANY of them at this point. He’s playing a truly repulsive character, repulsively.

Leo has turned up on some nomination lists. Like the Golden Globes ~ Best Actor Comedy, most notably, and he could win there.

Although Bruce Dern is in that category, too, for “Nebraska.” Uh-oh.

Leo really HAS to win there, but the Best Actor race has been so tightly locked up with THE FIVE = Dern, Redford, Hanks, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Matthew McConaughey(who is also in “Wolf” for one terrific scene ONLY). This race has been tied up and locked down for so long, I don’t really know if he’s going to break into it.

So we could see “Wolf of Wall Street” winding up with a Best Picture nomination in a field of ten. But not much else. Certainly not costumes, since in so much of the film, much of the cast, especially the women, aren’t wearing ANYTHING! I’ve never seen $100 million studio release that has had so much blatant onscreen nudity and sex.

“Wolf of Wall Street” is infuriating in that it’s this colossal missed opportunity. With all the talent involved, it operates between scenes of great social satire, alternated with scenes of repetitive boredom. And it’s all on Leo. It’s his movie. He’s in nearly every scene. And when he’s good he’s very, very good, and when he’s  bad, he’s just SHOUTING,And  it’s boring.

And there’s at least FIVE looonnnng monologue scenes of Leo at the mike exhorting his troops, of office workers. to sell MORE, MORE, MORE! Ugh, I wanted to yank the mike out of his hand.

And awards-wise its’ timing, so late in the season, and opening right after “American Hustle” which deals with the same subject on a much smaller canvas and with only two hours running time. With an astounding comic turn from Jennifer Lawrence, it’s a comedy about greed and con artists that is actually quite funny, in the part of the movie that Lawrence is in.

I kept thinking “Has Martin Scorcese lost his mind?” He’s never made such a lewd, nude, orgy-filled film, which of course is probably an accurate representation of the abuses of power on Wall St. which is the point of the film. But there’s too much enjoyment in the excesses and the crime and punishment of said misdoings seems not much at all. Although no one is killed, he is getting away with murder. With gleeful merriment trumping the “It’s illegal” side of the story.

And I can’t believe I’m typing these words, because I wasn’t that wowed by “American Hustle” to say the least, but “Hustle” just did this story, and better, and funnier.

Jean DuJardin pops up as a very funny Swiss bank exec. And is really marvelously comic and venal. And McConaughey’s one scene is also very  funny but pointed and BRIEF.

Martin Scorcese is known for serious films about violence and crime.This film too is about crime and the examination of a criminal mind. There’s no blood this time, just lots and lots of nudity and sex.

Didn’t anybody ever tell these people that brevity is the soul of wit? You can’t have a THREE HOUR COMEDY.

Paramount rushed Scorcese and his legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker to finish this picture in time for this year’s Oscar Race. It WAS four hours. FOUR HOURS! And now it’s only three. And it’s run right smack dab into the awards karma of “American Hustle.” And it doesn’t gain by comparison.

Oscar Best Picture Race~Is It Really Down to Three?

New York’s just had its’ first major snowfall, Christmas is around the corner, and can the Oscar race for Best Picture be just down to three films already?

To judge by the major Oscar websites, it already seems a done deal. With “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity” and unbelievably “American Hustle” being judged the only three that could. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has another great “State of the Race” piece and she sees it this way at http://www.Awardsdaily.com and so does Tom O’Neil at http://www.goldderby.com

But interestingly though they came to the same conclusions about THE THREE. Sasha has “12 Years a Slave” is on top, and Tom O. is sticking to “Gravity.” Me? I’m on Sasha’s side. And I hope that’s the way it plays out.

I saw “12 Years a Slave” for the THIRD time last night, and was bowled over by it all over again. It’s beauty.It’s musical score by Hans Zimmer. The cinematography, director Steve McQueen’s expert use of his large cast. There’s not a weak one among the vast ensemble. And the writing is so good! And it’s a true story!John Ridley is the screenwriting, based of course on the now best-selling book by Soloman Northrup. First published in 1856.

And Lupito Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejiafor broke my heart all over again.

I can’t even imagine sitting through “American Hustle” Three times. Maybe to figure out its’ dense con artist plot within a plot within a plot. But not even Jennifer Lawrence’s hilarious mob wife would get me back a second time. There’s not enough hours left in my life.

“American Hustle” benefits greatly from being the new kid on the block as it were. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” have been going strong since Toronto Film Festival, which is where I saw the both of them. And that’s a problem, too. Keeping the momentum going this long. Both Fox Searchlight and also Warner’s have that as a task they must fulfill.

I just  got a press release that it’s going to be re-released, though I just saw it for the third time, as I’ve said, last night. It’s made $35 million, which is no small amount of Oscar change. And the nominations are only now about to be mailed out to the membership.And of course, those all important DVD screeners.

Seeing movies on the big screen is the only way, really, to see these important films, IMHO. I saw “Her” tonight. Cute. With a small “c”. But with so many films these days being so dark and so tragic, “Her” is really a sweet, sweet love story…about a man(Joaquim Phoenix) who falls in love with his Ciri-like Operating System, voiced magnificently by the totally unseen Scarlett Johansson. It gains by comparison. It aims to be GENTLE. And it refreshingly is.

It’s a futuristic love story, but that’s all it is. Filmed in Beijing, it looks like it really HAS been shot in the future, too.

In any other year, Joaquim Phoenix’s kindly, lost, dweeb Twombly would be in the best actor race. Most of the film is ONLY shots of his face. I didn’t know if it would sustain, if he’d be that riveting, but newsflash, he is. TOTALLY different from his disturbed loner Freddie Quell from last year’s “The Master” which, yes, indeed he WAS nominated for Best Actor for. But this year Best Actor is so crowded, he hasn’t a chance to get in.

He hasn’t turned up in any of the precursor critics awards. And neither, strangely has Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks”. His Disney on Disney performance is not going down or turning up anywhere.  At least not yet.. NOBODY nominated him for this Supporting turn, whereas they ALLLLL nominated him for “Captain Phillips” as Best Lead Actor and they’ve nominated Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi in all three major races, too. For Best Supporting Actor.

He and Daniel Bruhl  of “Rush”as well have been nominated for the SAG Award, the Golden Globe award and also the Critics choice awards, something NOBODY could have seen coming, but yet, there they are. They made the golden trifecta that you NEED to get to be nominated for an Oscar.

Oprah was left out of the Golden Globes in Best Supp. Actress for “The Butler”. So does that make her vulnerable? Or just simply unpopular with the Hollywood Foreign Press?

And Robert Redford not being nominated for a SAG award for Best Actor for “All Is Lost” is still the most shocking snub. And it WAS nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble, which is really crazy weird because HE IS the Ensemble, in this one person movie.

That, yes, can be seen as merely stunt work.And it IS incredible stunt work. For a 77-year-old man to be doing all that running (around his sinking yacht), climbing the mast, swimming with sharks…well, he’s certainly in good shape for his age. And his agility is amazing. But is that great acting? Well…

It’s also  almost totally silent.

He says one word and one word only “FUCK!!!!!” when he begins to finally sense the utter desolation of his desperate situation. IF ONLY THAT WEREN’T HIS ONLY WORD…And I thought, “Well, he’s lost the Oscar. Right there.”

In this tough field, he’ll be lucky to be nominated. And he’s not actively campaigning as the other 77-year-old in the race for Best Actor is, Bruce Dern, for “Nebraska”. He’s everywhere. In L.A. Guess he’ll be showing up in New York to pick up his National Board of Review award for Best Actor. He won that, Bruce did. And he also triumphed at the L.A. Film Critics.
But neither of them are going to win against “12 Years a Slave”s majestic powerhouse Chiwetel Ejiafor.

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Oscar Isaac ~ Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor Comedy/Musical for “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Meet Oscar Isaac, the breakthrough performance of the year in the Coen Bros. unique, haunting “Inside Llewyn Davis” which is also nominated for Best Film Comedy or Musical and Best Music by T-Bone Burnett. A Juilliard Graduate, he’s had a considerable stage and film career before he got this Big Break  as Llewyn Davis, the loser folksinger who just can’t catch a break.

A.O.Scott of the New York Times named it “The Best Picture of the Year.”

Oscar was named Best Actor by the Toronto Film Critics and “Inside Llewyn Davis” was named Best Picture. Also the Village Voice and Film Comment magazine named “Llewyn” Best Picture. And it won Best Picture at the Gotham Awards and Oscar accepted the Award in a very thrilling acceptance speech on behalf of the Coens who weren’t there.

“American Hustle” by David O. Russel~Hustle & Bustle without much Muscle

As Shakespeare said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” That about sums up my reaction to the late-opening “American Hustle” by  David O. Russell, which hustles and bustles without much muscle. It’s ANOTHER Mob movie. ANOTHER one that is trying to out-Scorsese Scorsese, and THANK GOD they’ve got Jennifer Lawrence in this!

In a spectacularly showy Supporting role as one of the dumbest blondes of all time, she absolutely steals the picture. THANK GOODNESS! Or otherwise it would be a very dull sit indeed. It would have been unwatchable, but Jennifer Lawrence makes it a very, funny charming experience. She very much reminded me of that other great dumb blonde Oscar winner Judy Holliday in this.

Lawrence is so appealing as Christian Bale‘s old-fashioned housewife- with-a-kid, who is obsessed with her finger-nail polish. She lights up the screen like a bonfire, never missing one laugh line, or funny moment, and every time she’s absent, you can’t wait for her to come back on again. And writer/director O.Russell uses her sparingly, so you never get tired of her. But you do get tired of the other characters, I’m sorry to say. Real tired.

Having just suffered through “Out of the Furnace” with Bale again in the lead, I was expecting the worst. But at least in this one, he was playing a comic character, a Jewish con-man with pretensions. He owns dry cleaning stores but he wants to own the world. And Lawrence is his trophy wife, who blows up microwaves and enacts her comic role like a poodle in heat.

I didn’t buy Bale’s Yiddish-ness. And he’s pitted against Bradley Cooper who has his hair tightly curled here. Why? To look more Jewish? And  he is seen in curlers A LOT, as are all the leading characters, as a matter of fact, except Bale, who has an elaborate comb-over and who put on quite a bit of  weight of this role. We see a close-up of his bulging stomach, shirtless, just to prove that yes, he’s not in a fat suit. We see him painstakingly creating his comb-over, which takes up the entire first scene of the movie, finishing it off with hair-spray, like he was a super-model…

But to what avail? Con man movies. Mob movies. I just am kind sick of that done-to-death genre, and this involves ABSCAM and a faux-Arab. A FBI plant played stoically by Michael Pena. Robert De Niro pops up, too, as what else? A Mafia chieftain. And Amy Adams, poor thing, who has the female lead, Bale’s con partner and “whore” except next to Jennifer Lawrence, who is just blooming with youth(22) and vital sexuality here, Adams looks old and cold. Worn out. And she should look and seem more alluring than Lawrence. And she doesn’t. She the most miscast she’s ever been. I kept seeing her as the young nun in “Doubt” in my mind.

Mothers or nuns or even intrepid girl reporters like Lois Lane. She was better in the recent  “Superman” re-boot, than she is in this. Sad to say. She deserved better.

But this is what O.Russell hands her.

And I can’t understand the New York Film Critics giving this Best Picture over “12 Years a Slave” It’s criminal. Yes, they did. Unbelievably,. It’s a funny little movie. But Best Picture? New York Film Critics seriously disgraced themselves this year. And Best Screenplay, too??? Seriously??? They gave Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Lawrence, and I would nominate her for an Oscar, were I voting, but I wouldn’t nominate this semi-funny movie for anything else. Except maybe the zippy ’70s hairstyles. You can skip it and live.

Give me the real thing. Give me Scorsese. Or better yet, “Born Yesterday” with Lawrence as Billie Dawn. Directed by Scorsese.

I can’t wait to see the last opening film of the year “Wolf of Wall Street” by Martin Scorsese.

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