a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2014

“Gone Girl” Goes Good! Rosamund Pike Now the Lead in Best Actress Oscar Race!

“Gone Girl” is just grand! A super-duper thriller the likes of which we haven’t seen since Hitchcock! And Rosamund Pike, the well-regarded British Actress, playing the Girl of the Title is now on her way to an Oscar Nomination, and maybe the win, too. I saw this at the NYFF, the New York Film Festival, mais oui!

It’s a very weak field for Best Actress this year, as is so often the case, but the beautiful Rosamund and her riveting, star-making performance vaults her to the head of the Best Actress class.

How to describe this wonderful work as Amazing Amy, who disappears, and whose vanishing becomes a National Hysteria in “Gone Girl”? The best-selling novel by Gyllian Flynn, who wrote a screenplay so terrific, that she, too, is on her way  to the Dolby Pavillion in February for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.

So, too, is the great American director David Fincher, who absolutely excels in this dark noir thriller genre.(See “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”) THAT netted Rooney Mara her first nomination for Best Actress and I think that this will also for sure happen to Rosamund Pike.  The role is incredible, and is told mostly through flash-backs for the first half, where her Amy, is the essence of sweet AND sexy.

Ms. Pike is British and she’s playing American, and that helps her in the Oscar race, too. Her American accent is totally believable and some people are going to be very shocked to find out that she is indeed a Brit and you know how much Oscar likes giving himself to the British.

Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch are also leading the Best Actor Oscar race, too, for “The Theory of Everything” and “Imitation Game.”

David Fincher’s casting of this film is amazing in that he chose a relatively unknown actress of the mysterious Amy. Rosamund Pike has made many, many British films, and is also an incredible beauty. So reminiscent of Grace Kelly, it just screams “Hitchcock” heroine!

Fincher is at his absolute level best here and I think the Academy is going to enjoy this old-fashioned thrill ride so much that the will shower “Gone Girl” with nomination in every category possible.

It’s Ben Affleck’s best work, but somehow I don’t feel he’ll make the Academy cut. But the unknown actress playing his twin sister Carrie Coon might get in in Supporting. And so might, unbelievably; Tyler Perry playing a very high powered defense lawyer, and even Neil Patrick Harris in a very cast against type rich guy role.

I don’t want to spoil this great movie in any way, so I’ll just stop here and tell you all to rush out and see it, before you know what’s going to be coming at you in what is perhaps going to be one of the greatest thrillers of all time! Yes! It’s that good! RUSH to see it.Gone Girl 1

Can Jake Gyllenhaal’s Masterful “Nightcrawler” Creep into the Best Actor Oscar Race?

Can Jake Gyllenhaal’s uber-creepy “Nightcrawler” slither its’ (and his) way into the Oscar race for Best Actor? The wonderful Jake is doing the best work of his stellar career in “Nightcrawler”. “Nightcrawler” debuting at TIFF, of course, this week, really caused a stir. And with good reason, it’s terrific and Jake is unbelievably good, playing against type at the Bad Guy, whom you’d rather not want to meet on a darkened street, or in a back alley, the setting and hang-out for his creepazoid loner, Louis Bloom. Bloom is a local news addict, who wants to break his way into the big time of tabloid television, by filming as many car crashes and shooting sites as he can.

His character really inhabits the twilight zone of L.A. Noir, a genre all its’ own, and Jake totally owns this revolting character in a way we’ve never seen him do before. He lost a massive amount of weight, so he doesn’t look well. He looks hungry. Hungry for everything the dark side of the La-La Night has to offer. His large eyes become enormous and glassy here as he inhabits this truly horrible character of a blood-thirsty ambulance-chasing videographer from the inside out.

Lou Bloom will stop at nothing to get the worst, most bloody shot imaginable. He’ll even go so far as seducing a much-older-than-him TV station manager,played by Rene Russo. Russo has never been better and one hopes they BOTH get nominated in their respective categories. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

But will they? The Best Actor race is REALLY crowded this year, one again, whereas, as always, the Best Supporting Actress race has room for Russo.

Is this supremely ugly portrait of a tabloid-obsessed guy something the Academy will embrace with a Best Actor Oscar nomination? Or is it just too raw. too close to the bone, for the warm-and-cuddly Academy voters? His  Louis Bloom recalls DeNiro’s great Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver”, and DiNiro did get nominated for that, but didn’t win. But he immortalized the lines “You talkin’ to me?” forever in the Hollywood pantheon of one liners that define a character, and a performance and an era. They might be DiNiro’s most famous sound-bite. Will  Jake the Great make it in to the Final Five at Oscar time? I personally would love to see it.

And I think audiences are going to enjoy skinny, creepy Jake and reward “Nightcrawler” at the box-office. But will the Academy follow suit? That’s the 64 Thousand Dollar question.I’ve always felt Jake was the perennial good guy in a f-ked up situation, like for instance in “Zodiac”, but here’s he’s definitely the bad guy, who is making you like him ANYway. A very difficult thing to do. And he does it superbly, masterfully. I love this direction that Jake is pushing his career into. It’s not a comfort zone by any means, but it’s something a great actor does. Challenging himself again and again. And this time succeeding mightily.

I can’t wait to re-see “Nightcrawler” and be creeped out all over again!


Three Brits in Biopics Dominate Oscar Race at TIFF

So it’s come down to three Brits in Biopics, ruling the Best Actor Race at TIFF. That would be Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”, Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game,” and finally Timothy Spall in “Mr. Turner.” I think one of them is the ultimate winner in this very crowded Oscar season. Well, the Best Actor race is very crowded. Best Actress sadly is not. It’s like tumbleweeds are blowing through that under-populated category.

I think Eddie Redmayne, 32-years-old and freckled everywhere is truly the one to beat. He does an ASTOUNDING job enacting all of genius Stephen Hawkings many, many levels of disabilities. It’s a seamless portrayal which Redmayne totally disappears into utterly. It’s transformative in that it will transform his career forever as a major actor, British or otherwise.

The skill and the adeptness (Did I just create a new word?) with which he essays this seemingly impossible role is simply breath-taking. And mind-boggling. How DID he do it? One keeps thinking. And if we want to hark back to the old Academy acting branch adage “The Degree of Difficulty” is ENORMOUS! It’s off-the-charts. And you LIKE him. Which counts for a lot with Oscar voters.

Cumberbatch is super-nova hot right now with his British TV series “Sherlock Holmes” garnering an unexpected SEVEN Emmy Awards last week. But he’s got a more difficult task in “Imitation Game” His character of ANOTHER British genius is terribly UNLIKEABLE. And difficult. And cold. And complicated mentally as Redmayne’s Hawkings is challenged physically. Alan Turing was not a likeable guy. Troubled, distant, stand-offish, to say the least, and gay. And finally persecuted for being a homosexual in the 1940s and ’50s in England, he ultimately kills himself. It’s kind of a terrible story. A tragedy really. But it is a story that certainly deserves to be told.

It’s a brainy, intellectual film that challenges the audience to keep up with it. Which is a good thing in my book. How many films today even ATTEMPT to do something like this? Virtually none. Except unfortunately for Cumberbatch’s Oscar chances “The Theory of Everything.” But “The Imitation Game” has something that “Everything” doesn’t. Which is the backing of Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Co. SOOOO adept, historically, at winning Oscars and certainly gaining nominations for all and sundry.

This is particularly good news, I think, I hope, for Keira Knightley, who delivers a career-best performance as Cumberbatch’s female counter-part and sometime partner. She’s a match for him intellectually and mathematically and supplies “The Imitation Game” with a much-needed beating heart. She’s extraordinarily good here, and you know how effective Harvey is in getting Best Supporting Actress nominations. And I do think Cumberbatch will be nominated, too.

If you crunch the numbers on biopic nominees in recent years, as my colleague Scott Feinberg is sure to do, maybe even as you’re reading this. (He’s at the Hollywood Reporter) , you’ll find that real life characters and their portrayals are almost always rewarded. By the Academy.

Timothy Spall is a suberb British character actor, and will probably be counted “Lucky To Be Nominated” for the epic British biopic “Mr. Turner” about the great British painter, J. M. W. Turner. This film is also going to pop up very soon at the New York Film Festival. And we’ll see how it does there. It was also at Cannes, where it was acclaimed. And where Spall won a surprising Best Actor award.

But just judging by the heat-on-the-ground at TIFF, it’s going to be a battle ROYAL between Redmayne and Cumberbatch. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a VEDDY British Oscar season, I predict.




Oscar Champion Emerges at TIFF! Eddie Redmayne, brilliant as Stephen Hawking!

Finally! I am so excited I can barely type this! A true Oscar champion has emerged at TIFF’14! FINALLY! I was about to give up hope!

But  young British actor Eddie Redmayne has emerged as a sure-fire Oscar Nominee for Best Actor for the heart-rending “The Theory of Everything.”

It is a biopic of the excruciatingly painful life of the brilliant best-selling author Stephen Hawking, who spent most of his life battling the debilitating

motor-neuron disease that stripped him of all his faculties, walking, holding anything in his hands, and finally talking. And yes, he triumphs over all of these multiple disabilities and is still alive today at age 72, so the film notes at the end.

Redmayne is just incredible in this.  He wowed all and sundry last year in “Les Miserables” as Marius. And now he’ll break your heart several times over as Hawking, and he’ll make you weep at the end. Oscar is gonna love this! I PREDICT! It’s mindful of the career-making performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot” which won DDL his first Oscar quite awhile ago.

And I haven’t seen a performance of this kind of extreme disability combined with extreme skill and heart since then.

Eddie Redmayne WTF!!!

And right beside him is the equally young and gifted Felicity Jones as his devoted wife Jane, who is as incredible in her own right as Redmayne is in his. I predict she’ll get nominated  for Best Actress, too. The long-suffering wife is an academy staple. And it’ll be nominated for Best Picture, also. And Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s based on Jane Hawking’s memoir. And she is the personification of the word valiant.Oscar nods for everyone!

“The Theory of Everything” is a love story and a very powerful one. Bring all the handkerchiefs you can find.

You’ll cry your eyes out, but you’ll leave the theater happy. As this hardened press and industry audience at TIFF collectively melted in Redmayne’s and Jones’ expert hands and there were audible sobs heard everywhere, and thunderous applause at the Princess of Wales theater in Toronto at the end of the film. Then again, when Eddie Redmayne’s name came up. I haven’t experienced that anywhere this year at TIFF’14. If TIFF is an Oscar launch-pad then consider Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and “The Theory of Everything” launched into the stratosphere!

It’s experiences and films like this that make TIFF unforgettable! Once again!

TIFF is burning up! The temperature, I mean!

OMG! Is it hot here today in Toronto! The weather, I mean, and of course, the Toronto International Film Festival, too! I was just interviewing a series of very talented young people, on a tiny patio, in the sun, outside. Which started out OK as I talked to a young Iranian actor Omar Hedey about his role as a cockroach – obsessed (they are his pets) young Canadian in the short film “The Underground.” It was temperate, at that time. It was pleasant. The weather I mean. I never thought I’d ever live to see the day when I was interviewing some one about cockroaches, but I was. And I was enjoying it! It was a good short film.

Then the Icelandic beauty Hera Hilmer came out and we were wearing matching blue outfits. She’s so young and so beautiful that she takes peoples’ breath away. Mine especially. She’s in the new Icelandic film here “Life in a Fishbowl.” She lives in London and speaks English with a charming  Icelandic/British accent and was outfitted all in blue. I was feeling the temperature begin to rise.

I ran back inside the air-conditioned, but small publicist’s office, and then had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Thor (valdor David) Christianson, and then the Movie Godz turned the heat WAY up! The temperature hit 100 degrees Farenheit, and Thor, as he’s known and myself really began to roast. He was squinting and we were both sweating and my head began to spin, as the sun beat down on us, like we were in Monument Valley in a John Ford western.

But we’re in TORONTO! In September!

We had to stop, sadly, but soon you’ll be able to see all of this Icelandic glory on You Tube. He’s in the same film as the beautiful Hera. They are both incredibly sweet and charming and charismatic. But I still don’t know what that film was all about. But I intend to see it again.

You’ll be seeing both of them. A lot. In the future, I’m so sure. Thor went to Juilliard. I’m not making this up. And he said “It was the happiest time of my life.” And Hera went to LAMDA in London, where she new lives, and is in great demand there in film after film.

I’m still feeling the heat. From their star-power. And from TIFF, of course!

More soon, dear readers, dear cineastes!






Another Oscar Hopeful Bites(the Dust) at TIFF “Maps to the Stars” Won’t Fly with the Academy

Well, “Maps to the Stars” which I saw yesterday at TIFF was hyped as an Oscar possibility. Best Picture and down the line, but after seeing it yesterday at a P&I screening I have to say, it’s over.

“Maps to the Stars” by the King of Canada, David Cronenberg has gone out of his way to insult Hollywood at every twist and turn of this dark, dark comedy thriller. And who am I to say that Hollywood  doesn’t deserve this harsh satirical treatment? It certainly does. But poor beautiful Julianne Moore, who is degraded in every way imaginable, certainly doesn’t. She’s a great actress, playing a neurotic, aging, delusional one. And she takes into her home a very creepy Mia Wasakowska(sp?) as a personal assistant from hell. Carrie Fisher herself, in a very funny cameo, foists Agatha on Moore,

But the denouement, which I won’t reveal here, is something the Academy just won’t stand for, and may not even nominate poor Moore,even in Supporting… Is the Academy going to nominate a performance by a poor actress who has a scene on the toilet where she has to pee and fart at the same time? I think not.

But Moore is magnetic and ultimately tragic, and she did win the Best Actress Award at Cannes this year for this abortion…but…peeing and farting…? WTF? When there are people to nominate in Supporting, like Patricia Arquette and Dame Maggie Smith, I think not.

There is also a Justin Bieber-like character in this, but really, his character and plot-like are pointless…All I can say is David Cronenberg has done “it” again.

And again, I’m typing this from the unbelievably quiet press room, where the only sound is typing. And the television broadcasting “The Judge”s press conference behind me on a large screen, but I’m not watching it.

More soon, I am so sure.

Live, more or less, from Toronto.



At TIFF Waiting for the Excitement to Start!

Well, here I am ladies and gentle-persons, in the just opened TIFF media lounge, reserved exclusively for the accredited TIFF media and press. 

HUGE computer screens to type to you all on. 

VERY quiet in here. Most people ran out to see a rescheduled Press and Industry screening of “The Judge” with Robert Downey Jr. I did not.

Just wanted to make sure you all know I am still on this planet.

Montreal was delightful, except I ran out of insulin there. THAT was awful, but I finished there.(Yes, I’m a diabetic) and got here to TIFF two days early, which I always ponder the wisdom of. 

TODAY is the day that it really starts and I’m on to see some movies and go to some parties!

Ciao, publico, as my friend Margiangiola Castrovillii always says.(I was on her TV show in Rome. AGAIN!)



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