a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Patricia Clarkson 1

Honoree Patricia Clarkson Exclaims “I’ve Never Been Kissed By So Many Guys!” as Provincetown Film Festival 2014 Wraps Up

Every year one of the unique things the Provincetown International Film Festival does is honor two or three film notables with career achievement awards. This year they were Patricia Clarkson for Excellence in Acting, Debra Winger for the Faith Hubley Career Achievement Award and David Cronenberg for Filmmaker On the Edge.
When I asked her how she liked Provincetown, Clarkson exclaimed “I’ve never been kissed by so many guys!” She told me “No matter how many times you are honored  like this, it’s STILL an honor. I’m thrilled!”
She gave a moving speech to the packed audience at Town Hall,which included her doing an impromptu imitation of Woody Allen directing. Which was hilarious. Allen directed her in two films “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Whatever Works” in which Clarkson shined playing an alcoholic Southern belle, a large role that Allen had clearly written for her. Two of her other films, career highlights both,were shown including “High Art” and “Pieces of April.” The festival opened with her latest film “Last Weekend” in which she gave a moving performance of a mother trying to hold her crumbling family together.
 David Cronenberg was clearly the King of PIFF this year,as in his “Conversation With…” director John Waters, he was able to show an extended clip from his much-anticipated new movie “Maps to the Stars” which was a controversial hit at Cannes. PIFF audiences thrilled to see Cannes Best Actress winner Julianne Moore in a long scene from “Maps” where she is literally freaking out over getting a film role once enacted by her mother as a young girl.
Her mother is appearing to her as a hallucinatory vision as a naked teenaged girl in a bath-tub, who is constantly mocking her. Cronenberg revealed that the film will be shown in its’ scandalous entirety at the Toronto Film Festival in Sept. If Julianne Moore’s performance is as powerful as this clip indicated, she is well on her way to an Oscar Nomination.
Cronenberg responded well to John Waters’ probing, incisive and funny questions. Waters opened with “We’re both obsessed with assholes.” Cronenberg agreed and revealed that he thought “Rehearsals” with the actors for film scenes “were unnecessary.” And when Waters pressed him as to how he has been able to make so many films over his long and varied career that spans decades, Cronenberg said simply “Canada” and credited his native country’s strong and historic government backing of filmmakers, emerging or established.
Debra Winger was evasive and a bit defensive with interviewer B. Ruby Rich. Her answers to questions weren’t satisfying or direct. Though her choice of being a mother to her three sons seemed to take precedence over all else, explaining why her filmography in recent years is so scant. Winger confounded many journos by not consenting to any on camera interviews, only print, though she still looked dazzling at 60.
John Waters, who is the unofficial Mayor of Provincetown, having lived there for over 4 decades, was having a career high of his own, with the success of his latest book “Car Sick” about hitch-hiking across the U.S. from Baltimore to San Francisco. He told me it was Number 8 on the NY Times Bestseller list. He was happier than I’ve ever seen him to be, claiming yet another metier as his own. And his book-signing had lines down the block.
I was thrilled to see the Beatles’ classic “A Hard Day’s Night” in a beautiful, newly re-mastered print with its’ monaural soundtrack and its’ scintillating black and white cinematography making it seem and sound like new. Pre-dating MTV & music videos, it captures the pure joy and craziness of Beatlemania. It was a great joy to see it again on the big screen.
Also in black and white(and color, too) was Nancy Gates’ definitive documentary “Regarding Susan Sontag”. A complete, revealing and intelligent chronicle of this important woman’s ground-breaking life. as an intellectual, writer, mother and lesbian. Sontag, a 20th century figure that I thought I knew, was a much more complex and challenging figure as “Regarding Susan Sontag” brought home.
On the Narrative feature side, I loved “One Chance” the fictional re-telling of tubby Wales cell-phone salesman Paul Potts’ life-transforming moment on “Britain’s Got Talent” when he sang Puccini “Nessum Dorma” and wowed Simon Callow and the judges, and became a house-word name and an opera star literally over-night.
Potts,was a life-long sad-sack with extremely bad luck, as the film details and “History Boys” James Corden enacts him brilliantly. Corden is the overweight British comedian who won the Tony for “One Man, Two Guv’nors” beating Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s “Death of a Salesman” two years ago on Broadway.
I also enjoyed “A Trip to Italy” British Comedian Steve Coogan’s follow-up to “The Trip.” It’s basically an improvised road-tour crossed with reality TV in which Coogan and fellow Brit Comic Rob Brydon, playing wry versions of themselves, riff, joke and eat their way from Piedmont in the north of Italy all the way down the Italian Riviera along the incredibly scenic Amalfi coast.
The mouth-watering Italian food they eat at the sumptuous restaurants and hotels they stop at are their splendiferous co-stars, and, as they say, hilarity ensues.
There were two French films I found disappointing in different measures Roman Polanski’s “Venus In Furs” and “Yves St. Laurent.”  A hit on Broadway “Venus” won a Best Actress Tony  and made a star out of actress Nina Arianda, and she is sorely missed in this French language(for no apparent reason)translation. It’s a two-character, one-set piece and as the uptight director Matthieu Amalric is sensational and Polanski mis-casts his real-life wife Emmanuelle Seigner who is clearly in her 40s as the twenty-something aspiring actress. Both “Yves” and “Venus” were far too slowly paced,tedious and annoying at turns.
Also disappointing was “Love Is Strange,” a Sundance hit. A gay film with a very strong premise and a lot to say about gay marriage, it had a very good start and a solid cast (John Lithgow and Albert Molina as the couple and Marisa Tomei as Lithgow’s put-upon caregiver), and its’ heart was clearly in the right place, but it all fell apart with a unsatisfying and confusing ending.
Probably the best film on every level was “I Origins” a sci-fi/romance, er, well, sort of, but thrillingly original and creative and absolutely surprising and confounding and profound, too, in all the right ways. Michael Pitt and Brit Marling give exemplary performances as a team of young scientists in NYC trying to unlock the genetic mysteries of the human eye. And Astrid Berges-Frisby, the monumental mermaid in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” has the most unforgettable cinematic eyes ever. This will launch the Spanish/French beauty into the stratosphere. The direction by Mike Cahill, outstanding.
But Provincetown itself is its’ own greatest character. The village, at the far-most tip of Cape Cod, never fails to disappoint with its’ colorful , intoxicating atmosphere and a town-full of delightfully eccentric artists. Chelsea Handler said it was “gayer than San Francisco” and she should know.

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