a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for February, 2014

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My Surprising Best Actor Pic, Or is it?

My Surprising Best Actor Pic, Or is it?

Just take a look at that picture. Can you imagine anyone voting for anything else if they have seen or suffered through that horrendous moment of moments in “12 Years a Slave”? where Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character of Solomon Northrup is hung by the neck until he’s NEARLY dead? And it’s an INTERMINABLE time. It’s goes on and on and on and director Steve McQueen’s camera just holds that horrifying shot. And it comes near the beginning of the film, too.

Northup revolts against Paul Dano’s thoroughly evil twerp of an over-seer and whups the living daylights out of him,and the audience bursts into cheers! Always. But are horrified to see Dano’s character come back with reinforcements, and they string Solomon up and just leave him there for what seems like hours. AND NO ONE CUTS HIM DOWN!!! AND HE’S STILL ALIVE!!! As the other slaves in the background of the above scene just go about their work, and COMPLETELY IGNORE his hanging there before them!

Northup’s feet barely touch the ground and keep trying to find footing or balance as he hangs by his neck until….well, I don’t want to spoil THAT much of the movie But the utter horror of Ejiofor’s Northrup hanging there, and hanging there and hanging there….well, it’s like watching a REAL hanging in real-time.

It’s excruciating and unbelievable but TRUE! Everything in “12 Years a Slave” is directly from that book that Solomon Northrup wrote that is only now beginning to be taught in schools in America….

But for this scene, as Ejiofor as Northrup struggles to free himself, to balance himself, to just keep breathing is well, breathtaking, and is a scene the Academy, if they’ve seen it, will surely reward with a Best Actor Oscar for Ejiofor.

Although the operative word in that sentence is IF THEY’VE SEEN IT. Peggy Seigel, the great Oscar party thrower, said at the Vanity Fair Oscar Chat that Sasha Stone writes so feelingly about at http://www.awardsdaily.com , that many, MANY Academy voters were just NOT WATCHING “12 Years a Slave” AT ALL.

And Sasha keeps trumpeting and advocating for it until the last-minute, and so, this year am I.

She has expressed doubts about it winning Best Picture and thinks that it might be “Gravity.” I hope not. But she’s also said that she thinks, worse case scenario that it might just get ONE big award. And after BAFTA, which Brit Ejiofor won, that THAT would be the Award. “The Big One” that “Slave” gets, if it shockingly doesn’t get anything else.

But I for one think it will get Best Picture. You ask everyone in New York(and I do) on my cinematic travels and everyone HERE says in unison “12 Years a Slave”. Maybe in L.A. you’re hearing something different. But with the BAFTA Best Picture and Best Actor win, I think the Academy may just do the right thing and check both boxes.

Lupita Nyong’o, who may very well be the OTHER “Big One” that “Slave” wins didn’t win at the BAFTAs. She lost to last year’s It Girl, Jennifer Lawrence for “American Hustle.”

So it could be BP, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. But I would also hope Lupita wins. Both the Gurus o’ Gold at http://www.moviecitynews.com and also Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby at http://www.goldderby.com have Lupita out in front. But Chiwetel isn’t even LISTED in either place.

If “American Hustle” is going to win anything, and the Academy may want to give it SOMEthing, they can award the indefatigable director David O. Russell in “Original Screenplay” which he also wrote and I think that’s where the “American Hustle” voting energy will go. And voila! They’ve honored it and FINALLY David O gets an Oscar.

What else could “Slave” win? It could turn up in some of the below the line categories, like Production Design or even Costume Design. If it wins Best Editing early in the evening, look out, a sweep for “Slave” is coming. But if that early award goes to “Gravity” as well it might, we can look for “Gravity” to take the many, many technical awards it’s predicted for.

But if it’s “Captain Phillips” in editing, there really could be a shake-up and spread amongst the categories, with even an upset like Somali first time actor Barkhad Abdi winning for Best Supporting as he did at BAFTA. Is the Academy so broadened in its’ thinking post-“Brokeback” that giving BOTH its’ Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards to TWO gay AIDS victims, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto?

Still smarting from “Brokeback”s loss to homophobia in AMPAS, I’m hedging my bets that both McConaughey and Leto won’t win. ONE of them may. And this could be where Chiwetel Ejiofor is the surprise of the night who triumphs. But no surprise to me, or to you, dear readers, dear cineastes.

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Oscar Bloggers Anne Thompson & I Predict the Oscars in SEPT. Not Much Has Changed…

How very little has changed since TIFF! The Toronto International Film Festival sets the stage and runs the table for Oscar starting and some would say ending in September! If you’re not screened at Toronto, it’s becoming increasingly harder to catch up. I’m looking at YOU “American Hustle”, “Wolf of Wall Street”, “All is Lost” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” to name just a few.

Anne and I were BOTH not even mentioned in the New York Magazine Oscar Blogger article which just came out in this week’s New York Magazine. Where my wonderful Sasha Stone and the great Jeff Wells were the centerpieces of said supposed last word on Oscar Blogging.

Anne, classy lady that she is, probably declined to be interviewed for this piece, I’m just guessing. HitFix was also left out completely. Go figure. Next year, Boris, CALL ME!!!!

E.T.A. The only big change since taping this scene is that we now both know how to pronounce AND SPELL Lupita Nyong’o!!! And so does the world!!!!

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Oscar Blogger Articles Hits (Home)

Oscar Blogger Articles Hits

A controversial(perhaps) but more likely simply a must-read article on Oscar Bloggers, of which I am supposedly one, just hit the stands in the new bi-weekly New York Magazine. Jeff Wells is majorly featured in it and goes into great detail over at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere

I consider myself an Oscar blogger. It is just one of the many things I do, like run a weekly television on cable in NYC for over 26 years now. With NO budget whatsoever. I’ve been doing this blog for four years and started “The Stephen Holt Show” as a web-series on You Tube in Oct.2007. AS WELL AS the continuing TV show, and contributing to Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone’s http://www.awardsdaily.com.

But it’s an LA centric article and even though the magazine is called “New York” New York City figures in to it not at all. Anne Thompson is completely left out. And the article focuses mainly on Jeff, Tom O’Neil, Sasha and Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter. Pete Hammond of Deadline is held up as the gold standard.

Tom and Sasha are considered the parents or grandparents of Oscar blogging, which amuses me because though they’ve been doing this for 15 years, my TV show has been for ten years longer.

http://www.goldderby.com is considered a “commerical enterprise” and that they all make in the low six figures. I make in the NO six figures. They all have many ads and I have none. So I guess that makes me unworthy to be included in this supposedly important piece.

Getting 3 to 2,000 hits a day on You Tube during Oscar high season, which is now, obviously, doesn’t count even though it’s on the Internet but it’s another medium, a by-product of television. But I get no ads, so I guess I don’t count. I don’t live or go to LA, so I guess I don’t count. I don’t drive or own a car OR a cellphone. So I guess I don’t count.

But YOU’RE reading me, so I guess I do count. TO YOU. So thank you, my dear readers, dear cineastes…

And I am a Voting Member of the Drama Desk, and also a playwright and a director. But none of this counts in “For Their Consideration.” And Anne Thompson is left out, too. David Poland is mentioned but not much. He was my former boss at http:www.moviecitynews.com
which I once wrote for quite a bit, because Sasha introduced us. And I was a Guru O’Gold for a couple of years, post “Brokeback”. But I’m not now, so I don’t count.

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Oscar Race Nearly Over- Voting Closes at 5pm Tues.

Oscar Race Nearly Over- Voting Closes at 5pm Tues.

So…it’s nearly done. A long, and well run, and yes, exhausting Oscar campaign is FINALLY drawing to a close tomorrow when the AMPAS voting closes at 5pm. The ever more boring than ever Winter Olympics are FINALLY over and we can return to what makes us all excited and happy once again ~ OSCARS! I never thought I’d ever type this sentence, but I’m glad it’s almost done.

It really does feel like 12 Years since the Toronto Film Festival when “12 Years…” and “Gravity” started duking it out and it’s stayed that way ALLLLLL these months since. I never thought “12 Years” would have had to run the gauntlet it has had do this long year, but it did.

I was one who agreed with Kyle Buchanan of New York Magazine’s Vulture, who declared the Oscar race was over in Toronto and “12 Years” had already won. Which as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone over at the ever wonderful http://www.awardsdaily.com said that that immediately painted a target on its’ back ever since. And Solomon Northup as pictured in the poster is running, and “12 Years…” has had to keep running like the poster picture all the way. And it’s still running…as the clock runs out…Director Steve McQueen is going to speak at the U.N. on Wednesday! And “12 Years” is going to be shown there! And there is going to be a forum on international slavery and human trafficking that still goes on today in far flung parts of the world.

What “12 Years” has to say is still relevant today. In every way. America was founded on a flaw, slavery, and ever since 1776, history has been trying to right that wrong.

And hopefully, the Oscars will continue and validate that fight that is so brilliantly and yes, horrifyingly portrayed in “12 Years…” a masterpiece in my book. And I’m predicting it to win over that hugely successful popcorn movie “Gravity”. I can’t belIEVE that it was given “12 Years” so much trouble.

They split the vote at the PGA, usually the most reliable of indicators, or the precursor awards. It was an historic tie.

But I do think that it wlll triumph in the end. I think the Academy will be awfully embarrassed if it doesn’t win. It also won Best Picture at the Globes and at the BAFTAs, most recently. But the brilliant Steve McQueen kept losing Best Director to Alphonso Cuaron of “Gravity.” Except for the New York Film Critics who gave McQueen a Best Director win at the beginning of season, Cuaron has won all the other precursor awards.

It’s really not fair, or right. But that’s the way it’s probably going to go on Oscar night, too. Since Cuaron has done what Cate Blanchett did in her category Best Actress and Jared Leto did in his Best Supporting Actor for “Blue Jasmine” and “Dallas Buyer’s Club” respectively.

And as far as Best Supporting Actress is concerned Lupita Nyong’o has my vote. “12 Years” has certainly made her a star. She is the “It” Girl of Vogue. Jennifer Lawrence was the “It” girl last year. And she won last year for “Silver Linings Playbook” and I don’t think the Academy is going to give this comic actress two Oscars in a row when she’s still only 23.

And Lupita’s performance is searing, indelible. It is SHE who becomes the embodiment of all of the horrors of slavery. She’s raped, whipped, and submitted to every degradation imaginable. I don’t see how the Academy can deny her.

But ah! Then there’s the Best Actor category! Which is the one where I think an upset is likely to happen. Stay tuned. More on this later. And keep your eye of New York Magazine this week for a very lively article called “For Their Consideration.” About all my fellow Oscar bloggers and bosses, Sasha Stone and David Poland main among them. Alec Baldwin is on the cover looking angry. As usual.

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Utterly Charming Real Philomena Lee of “Philomena”!

It was an absolute delight! Talking to the real Philomena Lee, the real life person the Oscar nominated film “Philomena” is based on. Her daughter Jane Libberton is with her in London via satellite talking about the making of “Philomena” and their recent historic audience with the Pope. Such charming delightful, eloquent people.

“Philomena” is nominated for four Oscars. Best Picture, Best Actress Dame Judi Dench, Best Adapted Screenplay Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and also best score by Alexander Desplat, where I think it has the best chance of winning in an upset.

Editing~ Kevin Teller

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She’s Everywhere! Lupita and I

She's Everywhere! Lupita and I

I sat down to have a coffee in a favorite, unprepossessing coffee shop thinking about the Oscar Race this year. When am I ever thinking about anything else as Oscar Day grows closer and closer? Next Sunday, March 2 is the Awards themselves. Tuesday at 5pm the AMPAS voting closes. FINALLY! Has this been the longest Oscar year ever or what?

Well, it’s still the same two movies battling it out til the end, “12 Years a Slave” vs. “Gravity”. It’s been like this since TIFF’13.

Exactly like this, with a little “American Hustle” thrown in.

And as I sat there sipping my excellent cup of non-starbucks coffee, I glanced up, and there she was again! Lupita Nyong’o!!!! On ANOTHER cover! This time the theatrical newspaper Backstage! She’s everywhere!

She’s on the cover this week of EW, also New York Magazine, also Vanity Fair. I can’t keep up with it all.

She is extraordinarily photogenic. The camera loves her.

In reality, she’s tiny. So she’s always looking up at you with those big, dark soulful eyes.

I’ve met her twice. Once when she finished doing her “Leagues” or actor’s “Scene Night” or “The Actor’s Presentations” with her graduating class of the Yale School of Drama less than two years ago this past May.

She had an incredibly talented class, BTW. Michael Place being the actor who jumped out at me, but there were QUITE a few others, Fisher Neal, William DeMerritt. And of course Lupita herself.

We spoke briefly after it was over and she’s was polite and poised and I asked her to send me a picture and resume and she did, with a charming hand-written note, thanking me, which I still have. Her penmanship BTW was perfect. She charmed me instantly.

Then again we met at the Toronto Film Festival this past September, where “12 Years a Slave” was making a tumulutous debut, after she held what was to be the first of many, many press conferences that were to come her way this Awards Season.

She seemed overwhelmed. And most of her castmates and director Steve McQueen did all of the talking. I asked him about Lupita’s audition. And I believe he said, “It was like a dream walking into the room” or “My dream walked into the room” or something like that. “And there she was. I knew immediately, it was her.”

After the press conference was over, I got to talk to her again VERY briefly and I’m sure she remembered me from the post-Yale audition, and I complimented her profusely.
Telling her performance was “beyond words” and “Lupita,I’m known as the Oscar Messenger and I’m here to tell you that you are going to the win the Oscar and beat Oprah” Well, it’s true so far. Oprah wasn’t even nominated.

And Lupita’s response? She just giggled!

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Downton Finale Tomorrow~Over So Quickly!

Downton Finale Tomorrow~Over So Quickly!

I guess it speaks to the excellence of its’ continued supremacy, ratings-wise and otherwise-wise. In every respect, “Downton Abbey” has continued its’ amazing level of suspenseful perfection all through its’ sublime Season Four. Yes! It’s almost over! It just flew by! It can’t be! Say it isn’t so! But tomorrow we experience a luscious, super-duper, two-hour(probably) finale! Centering around Lady Rose’s Coming Out as a debutante Ball and accompanying festivities.

What’s going to happen? What’s next? Well, for someone who watches every episode at least four times over, there are some hidden spoilers.

The finale will jump ahead a year. We know this because that’s what Lady Grantham revealed about her brassy American mother (Shirley MacLaine) and neer-do-well brother (Paul Giamatti)s returning to Downton for Rose’s Coming Out Ball, which also seems to be taking place at Buckingham Palace!

So a year from where we left off feeling awful about poor Edith’s pregnancy, she and Aunt Rosamund will have been long back from Switzerland, and presumably Edith’s sad unwanted unwed mother crisis will be long over. Aunt Rosamond( Samantha Bond) and the Dowager Countess of Grantham(Maggie Smith)’s scheme will have been successful in hiding poor Edith(the excellent Laura Carmichael)s shame. And I predict poor Edith will be sadder than ever.How much more bad luck can one person take?

The main question being will the vanished Mr.Michael Gregson ever turn up? He just may. But at the very last second and we’ll all have to wait til SEASON FIVE to see how this cliff-hanger turns out.

Bravo to Samantha Bond’s continuing development of Lady Rosamund Painsswick. Maybe next year she’ll even be listed in the show’s opening credit! And in her previous film life, in her youth, she used to be a James Bond girl!

It’ll be a year, too, that has gone by for the beleaguered Bates and Anna. And though the villainous valet Green will be long gone, the mystery of how he fell into the traffic on Picadilly, may be revealed. Or maybe that will be left til next season, too.

But be sure about it, Julian Fellowes will see that SOMEthing major happens to Anna and Bates, who now have replaced Matthew and Mary as the series unlikely but main love interest.

Penelope Wilton’s Cousin Isobel instead of being shunted aside and neglected after her only son Matthew’s tragic death seems to have become a more important character than ever. And in her own right. And she seems to have two prospective suitors in the good village Doctor Clarkson and also Mary’s godfather, Lord Whathisname, who sent her flowers on the last episode.

Wilton is a marvelous foil for the ever brilliant Maggie Smith. Watching the two of them constantly duel with each other, verbally, is a delicious delight of this and all the other seasons.

My fave Thomas (Rob James-Collier) has not had a lot to do this season so far. He’s not had another gay love interest, at least not yet. Jimmy(Ed Speelers) is still there, but nothing at all has happened between them and since the dastardly O’Brien’s abrupt departure, he’s not really had an ally downstairs. The new ladies maid Baxter seems taken up with Mr. Mosely now, of all people. It’s a touching twosome that Thomas doesn’t like for one second. He’ll be sure they don’t last.

If anybody seems poised to stir up more trouble for Bates and Anna, it’s him. With his insatiable curiosity about what’s happening in Downton, he won’t stop til he gets to the bottom of, well, everything. And ANYthing. He knows something has happened, but he doesn’t know what. But dollars to donuts he’ll find out in this episode.

And the great Shirley MacLaine’s proclamation that she now has no ladies maid may usher in Baxter’s quick exit a la O’Brien last season. Julian Fellowes doesn’t drop these juicy plot hints for nothing. And is Lady Susan, Rose’s hated mother going to return for her Coming Out? And O’Brien with her? Will Shrimpy, her father attend? I think that some of them might turn up. My money’s on Shrimpy.

And what will happen to Mary and her many beaux? My prediction. Nothing. Love Mary’s ascendance to be a take- charge, no-nonsense business woman in the running of the estate.It totally fits with her bossy personality. I don’t see either Lord Gillingham or either for the other two making any impact on Mary’s now-frozen assets. She’s turning into an Ice Queen, but it suits her.

It’s funny to note how Dan Stevens’ departure(and Matthew Crawley’s violent sudden death in a car crash at the end of Season Three) has not really slowed down Downton’s plot or appeal whatsoever. There are, after all, nearly 20 other characters to pick up the slack, and they are all excellent actors.

Bates and Anna, I feel, and their rather incredibly dark storyline this season, involving Anna’s rape, has certainly carried and dominated and propelled the season and provided Anna (Joanne Frogett) and Mrs. Hughes(Phyllis Logan) with many tremendously juicy scenes to play. And of course, Brendan Coyle as Bates is marvelous suggesting menace of all sorts. He’s almost turning in to a kind of Bill Sykes figure.

Bill Sykes was the terrifying villain in Dickens “Oliver Twist”. But we love Bates, er, don’t we?

Stay tuned. To be continued FOR SURE. I think they’ve already started shooting Season Five in London!

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