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Archive for November, 2014

Wonderful Christmas Treat! “Bing Rediscovered” on PBS

Bing 1http://http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/bing-crosby/bing-crosby-rediscovered-about-the-film/3448/

You have a wonderful Christmas treat coming at you, dear readers, dear cineastes, PBS’ American Masters is going to be presenting to you in honor of the 60th anniversary of the film “White Christmas”, a terrific, charming, delightful, and also a bit frightening, “Bing Crosby Rediscovered.” It will air on Tuesday night December 2, and be repeated the day after Christmas, Dec.26. Check your local listings.

I’ve watched it twice now and it’s the perfect holiday movie, reminding us of how much a part of all our early lives Bing Crosby was. “He was like family,” one of his biographers says. Narrated by the great Stanley Tucci, it’s a no-holes-barred look at a very complicated, and some could say troubled man.

Alcoholism ruled and nearly ruined his entire life. It led to a troubled marriage. The early death of his beloved wife Dixie, at 44 from ovarian cancer. How much his and her drinking led to this, we’ll never know, and then we find all of his four sons by that marriage died one right after the other, young, too, and two of them suicides.

He got it right though with his amazing second marriage to Kathryn, who appears in the film with her three happy surviving children, one of them, Mary Crosby, became a well-known actress herself. She shot JR, if you remember on “Dallas.”

And none of his family nor any of the interview subjects including Michael Feinstein, hold back or mince words. And oh that beautiful music!

“Bing Crosby Rediscovered” is filled with marvelous, archival footage going all the way back to his early days in vaudeville!

The late Bob Hope, of course, his great on-screen comic partner, for all those “Road” movies in the ’40s is heard in voice-over. Rosemary Clooney’s  melodious singing and speaking voice is also heard commenting on how much Bing meant to her. She starred opposite him in “White Christmas.”

I remember so well the day my mother brought that red vinyl Decca 45 RPM record home from Macy’s in the Bronx. It was an event in my childhood. And how we nearly wore out the groves on it, as we listening endlessly entranced by just the THOUGHT of a white Christmas in the Bronx! It seemed an impossible, beautiful dream.  I don’t think we ever had one.

But you’ll have wonderful Christmas memories and many more delights awaiting you in “Bing Crosby Rediscovered.” It’s essential viewing for the Holiday Season. Click on the link above to see a sneak preview and don’t miss it!

Oscar Front-runner Eddie Redmayne~Three Years Ago

Oscar front-runner Eddie Redmayne for “The Theory of Everything” in  a chat with me a mere three years ago for “My Week with Marilyn”. Part One.

Thomas Sadowski Shines in Quirky Rom-Com “Take Care”

Thomas SadowskyThomas Sadowski, a rising young leading man, a star if ever there was one, shines in the quirky, dark rom-com “Take Care.” It’s written and directed by Liz Tuccillo, a writer on “Sex and the City”, and the marvelously titled “She’s Just Not That Into You.” It’s a genre piece to say the least. But it’s fighting to get out of the Rom Com box.

And it does this by focusing the film on of all things ~ extreme physical disability after a car crash. The heroine, or should I say, protagonist? Frannie is played by former Elite model and Oprah discovery of the ’80s, Leslie Bibb.

She has a very difficult role to pull off  as the super-selfish, vain crash victim. Who has chosen the daunting, if nigh impossible task of caring for herself, ON HER OWN, in a fifth floor walk-up apartment in NYC, when one arm and one leg are, if not in plaster, then incapacitated by slings and pins, etc. They will all come out, of course, because this is not a tragedy, but it veers that way when we are forced to examine Frannie’s extreme crisis situation.

And “Take Care” functions that way best, actually, by making the audience confront the actual examples of day-to-day dealing with extreme disability.

Of course, Frannie will not take the easy course nor  will Ms. Truccillo, which would have her recover from her injuries in the comfortable, caring home of her sister in New Jersey. And of course, that wouldn’t be interesting, would it? Where is the drama? Why watch THAT?

So instead we’re posited with the difficult equation of believing that narcissistic Frannie is going to coax her “Devil” of an ex-boy-friend to come over to aid her in her hour of need. Though he patently can’t stand her.

And neither can the audience, until Devon the Devil in the form of the winning Thomas Sadowski turns up, and the film really starts to happen.

She has cared for him when he was recovering from colon cancer, and now wants him to return the favor. And we can certainly see why he does NOT want to take on this screaming mimi of a difficult patient.

The film fails in the casting of Ms. Bibb in the pivotal role of Frannie. It really requires some actress/comedian like Jessica Chastain or Scarlett Johansson to be in that role. As it is Ms. Bibb wears out our patience until the adorable, reluctant Devon, acquiesces to her demands, and thereby hangs a rom-com. Devon is involved with ANOTHER super-neurotic girl-friend, a blonde this time. Frannie is a brunette. And we all know where this plot is headed LONNNNG before it gets there. But Thomas Sadowski is so perfectly believable in this far-fetched role, that he makes this difficult film enjoyable.

Where is the Carole Lombard when you really need her? Oh right, she died in a plane crash in WWII.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall 1Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers-of-theater and to all my Facebook friends, fans and readers!

Tom O’Neil at Gold Derby Now Thinks “Theory of Everything” is Going to Win Everything! And I Agree

Theory 1Oscar Pundit Extraordinaire Tom O’Neil makes me feel like he’s reading my mind! Once again! And I totally agree with him! He’s written a very stirring piece about “The Theory of Everything” being the “Dark Horse Best Picture winner” as well as Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking winning Best Actor! And he’s right!

Tom is so passionate about the Oscars, as am I, and you can read his wonderful article right here ~ http://www.goldderby.com/news/7736/theory-of-everything-eddie-redmayne-oscars-entertainment-13579086-story.html

Tom O. puts it all right out there. On the line. And already this season, he(and Gold Derby) actually influenced the race by placing Patricia Arquette in Supporting Actress, and then IFC obediently followed suit and campaigned for her there. He’s doing it again with “The Theory of Everything” and I think he’s right on.

I felt the same electric thrill when I saw it for the first time at TIFF at the first press screening. It was pure cinematic magic. Everyone in that room felt it.

Then the biggest tip-off of all was, as I was leaving the theater, I saw Rex Reed and Roger Friedman involved in a very spirited, absorbing discussion. “The Theory of Everything” had just blown their sharp Oscar-watching minds, too.

 

Independent Spirit Awards Announced, No “Imitation Game,”No “Wild”, No Reese

Tilda 2Marion Oscar1Birdman 1The Independent Spirit Awards were announced this morning in L.A. No surprise that “Birdman” & “Boyhood” did very well, but “Selma” which STILL is in post-production broke through in several categories. However, the TWC’s big awards player “The Imitation Game” was nowhere to be seen!

Some faves of mine did pop up. Tilda Swinton, who is being honored at the Gothams here in NYC on Monday and Marion Cotillard. Both were nominated for Best Actress for “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “The Immigrant.” Would that Mlle. Marion could crack the OSCAR best actress race for ANOTHER incredible performance in the Belgian film “Two Days, One Night” which was another of her incredible performances in French. C’est la Vie! C’est la Guerre!

However, I was NOT surprised to see that neither “Wild” nor its’ leading lady, Reese Witherspoon turned up. It was a VERY tedious film. I watched the whole damn thing and STILL didn’t know why she was doing all that hiking. No Laura Dern in Supporting either for “Wild.” So not only was “Imitiation Game” shut out, “Wild” was, too!

Shut in, IOW, nominated also in as many categories as “Boyhood” was Jake Gyllenhaal’s marvelously creepy “Nightcrawler.” Yay!

THx to Hitfix for the list!

See the full list of nominations below:

Best Feature
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“Boyhood”
“Love is Strange”
“Selma”
“Whiplash”

Best Director
Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”
Ava DuVernay, “Selma”
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
David Zellner, “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”

Best Screenplay
Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, “Big Eyes”
J.C. Chandor, “A Most Violent Year”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Jim Jarmusch, “Only Lovers Left Alive”
Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, “Love is Strange”

Best First Feature
Ana Lily Amirpour, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Justin Simien, “Dear White People”
Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Gillian Robespierre, “Obvious Child”
Anja Marquardt, “She’s Lost Control”

Best First Screenplay
Desiree Akhavan, “Appropriate Behavior”
Sara Colangelo, “Little Accidents”
Justin Lader, “The One I Love”
Anja Marquardt, “She’s Lost Control”
Justin Simien, “Dear White People”

John Cassavetes Award
Jeremy Saulnier, “Blue Ruin”
Eliza Hittman, “It Felt Like Love”
Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens, “Land Ho!”
Dave Boyle, “Man From Reno”
Chris Mason Johnson, “Test”

Best Female Lead
Marion Cotillard, “The Immigrant”
Rinko Kikuchi, “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
Jenny Slate, “Obvious Child”
Tilda Swinton, “Only Lovers Left Alive”

Best Male Lead
André Benjamin, “Jimi: All Is By My Side”
Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”
Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
John Lithgow, “Love is Strange”
David Oyelowo, “Selma”

Best Supporting Female
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Jessica Chastain, “A Most Violent Year”
Carmen Ejogo, “Selma”
Andrea Suarez Paz, “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors”
Emma Stone, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Best Supporting Male
Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Alfred Molina, “Love is Strange”
Edward Norton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

Best Cinematography
Darius Khondji, “The Immigrant”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Sean Porter, “It Felt Like Love”
Lyle Vincent, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Bradford Young, “Selma”

Best Editing  
Sandra Adair, “Boyhood”
Tom Cross, “Whiplash”
John Gilroy, “Nightcrawler”
Ron Patane, “A Most Violent Year”
Adam Wingard, “The Guest”

Best Documentary
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, “20,000 Days on Earth”
Laura Poitras, “CITIZENFOUR”
Debra Granik, “Stray Dog”
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders, “The Salt of the Earth”
Orlando von Einsiedel, “Virunga”

Best International Film
Ruben Östlund, “Force Majeure”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”
Andrey Zvyagintsev, “Leviathan”
Xavier Dolan, “Mommy”
Lav Diaz, “Norte, the End of History”
Jonathan Glazer, “Under the Skin”

Robert Altman Award
“Inherent Vice”

Special Distinction Award
“Foxcatcher”

Piaget Producers Award
Chad Burris
Elisabeth Holm
Chris Ohlson

Someone to Watch Award
Ana Lily Amirpour, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia  , “H.”
Chris Eska, “The Retrieval”

Truer Than Fiction Award
Amanda Rose Wilder, “Approaching the Elephant”
Darius Clark Monroe, “Evolution of a Criminal”
Dan Krauss, The Kill Team”
Sara Dosa, “The Last Season”
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/birdman-boyhood-selma-lead-the-2015-independent-spirit-awards-nominations#v4s51biGLUv5lUet.99

“Finding Neverland” on GMA Thanksgiving Morning

MMorisson 1MMorisson 1“ F I N D I N G   N E V E R L A N D ”

TO PERFORM ON ABC’S “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”

ON THANKSGIVING MORNING

 

STAR LAURA MICHELLE KELLY AND COMPOSER GARY BARLOW

KICK OFF MULTI-PART “GMA” SERIES

FOLLOWING THE BROADWAY-BOUND MUSICAL

UP TO OPENING NIGHT

 

TICKETS ON SALE TO THE GENERAL PUBIC TODAY!

New York (November 24, 2014) – Producer Harvey Weinstein announced this morning that ABC’s “Good Morning America” will host a special, behind-the-scenes musical performance from his Broadway-bound musical, Finding Neverland,  on Thanksgiving morning, at approximately 8:30 a.m.  The performance will kick-off a multi-part “GMA” series that will follow the highly anticipated musical to its Opening Night on Broadway next spring.  As previously announced, Finding Neverland, starring Matthew Morrison, Kelsey Grammer, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Carolee Carmello, will begin previews on Sunday, March 15, 2015 at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 West 46th Street), and will open on Wednesday, April 15.

 

Finding Neverland co-star and Olivier Award-winning actress, Laura Michelle Kelly, and the show’s composer and multi-platinum, multi-award-winning singer/songwriter, Gary Barlow, will perform a selection from the musical on the top-rated national morning television show live from Times Square.

 

Mr. Weinstein commented, “We are excited to be bringing a taste of this magical musical to homes on Thanksgiving morning, and we look forward to sharing more from the show with ‘GMA’ audiences as we get ready for our Broadway opening.”

 

Oscar Apple Cart Upset by Late-Breaking “Into The Woods?

Into the Woods 1Stephen Sondheim and movies of his work have never really clicked with the public. See Elizabeth Taylor in “A Little Night Music”, and of course, more recently “Sweeney Todd” with Johnny Depp. But Musicals are catnip to the Academy.

Depp is back again as the Big Bad Wolf whose  nemesis is Little Red Riding Hood, a very lethal Little Red Riding Hood. But the word from the screenings yesterday is that Meryl Streep is once again going to be back at the Dolby Pavillion for something like her 20th nomination. But which category will she be in? Could she win? She’s got three Oscars already.

The always excellent Emily Blunt has the Baker’s Wife role in the film and that’s the part that has historically won awards. Joanna Gleeson on Broadway won a Tony for Best Actress.  And pert, pretty Anna Kendrick is getting good  W.O.M.(word of mouth) as Cinderella. A former Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for “Up In The Air” could she also be up again of her sparkling Cinderella?

And where does that put Meryl’s Wicked Witch? The Academy put her in lead last year for “August:Osage County” when many thought she’d be Supporting and Julia Roberts would be lead, but the categories were reversed.

That could happen to Emily Blunt, too. And she and Anna Kendrick could be up against the here-to-fore unstoppable Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.” Would they knock her out of the leading contender spot? In Supporting.

Meryl’s Witch certainly could. The plot sickens.

 

Eddie Redmayne Now #1 on Gurus o’ Gold chart!

Theory 3Theory 1I’m happy to say that Eddie Redmayne is now #1 on the Gurus o’ Gold pre-Thanksgiving chart! For Best Actor for “Theory of Everything”!Guess that’s my Thanksgiving Day present.

Here’s the rest over at Movie City News ~

http://moviecitynews.com/2014/11/gurus-o-gold-a-week-from-thanksgiving-aka-screener-time/#comment-1136242

They strangely didn’t do Best Supporting Actor, but now that I’ve seen and loved “Whiplash” J.K. Simmons has got that all locked up. Unless someone from the late opening movies “Into the Woods” and “Unbroken” knocks him out, but nobody in the Supporting Male Category for “Into the Woods” seems to be making an impression. NObody’s raving about Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf.

They ARE however raving about many femmes from that movie which just starting screening yesterday for press et alia. Meryl Streep’s Witch, Emily Blunt’s Baker’s Wife and Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella are all now in play seems to me. But NOT on the Gurus radar yet.

Can’t wait to see it. There’s an embargo on writing about it, I understand, but since I haven’t seen it, doesn’t apply to me. At least not yet. I hopeit’s as good as I hope it to be. We’ll see.

It’s Only a Play is Very Funny and VERY Long

Tony 1It's Only 1“It’s Only a Play” is very funny and VERY long. Why this piece of fluff, of absolutely delicious whimsy had to be two hours AND  FORTY MINUTES, I had no idea! When I checked the time leaving the theater it was just before ten! And it had started at 7! However, I did have a good time. It’s breezy, bouncy and cheesy. But cheese of the most delicious, aromatic type.It’s a witchy, bitchy brew.

You’ll enjoy it, too, if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. It’s totally sold out it’s limited engagement! Limited! Only until January 4! It’s the biggest hit on Broadway! With all the star-power involved, you’d think they’d have more courage to just have it open-ended and sweep up every Tony in sight come June.

But no, it was only supposed to run til the beginning of January, and Nathan Lane’s leaving, and Martin Short’s coming in(see press release a few posts back) and the good news is it’s running now until March. And Nathan hasn’t been this good since “The Producers.” He’s really, really funny in this and actually I don’t think that Broadway has seen a show with this much fun and bounce SINCE “The Producers”!

I always think  of the great Terrence McNally who wrote(and re-wrote and re-wrote) “It’s Only a Play” since the ’70s, as a very genial sort.He’s no longer Mr. Nice Guy now!. The gloves are definitely off in “It’s Only a Play” so much so that it reminded me of wonderful Gerard Alessandrini’s much missed “Forbidden Broadway.” Everybody who’s anybody gets it in the teeth here. Liza Minelli is called a cunt. I’m not kidding. And Lane bemoans the Kardashians starring in “Three Sisters”. Here McNally has become an equal opportunity insulter. And the play is all the more timely and fun because of it.

And the worst review that Lane’s character gets is being compared(unfavorably) to Harvey Fierstein. Over and over and over. It’s funny. His exasperation and horror are truly hilarious as he keeps repeating “Harvey Fierstein!”

And every body in the stellar cast is very, very funny, with the exception of the somnambulist Matthew Broderick. Who has never got this theatrical mojo back since “The Producers.” He walks through this like a dead fish. Shame. Lots of jokes about Stockard Channing’s diva/actress character and her penchant for drugs. Specifically Valium.

Broderick’s performance is like that. Dead-eyed and dead-in-the-water,and he’s supposed to be the impassioned playwright,  but it matters not, because every body else has brought their A-Game.

It’s wonderful to see Lane at his level best. And he has joke after joke after joke, and actually never once leaves the stage, THANK GOD!

Lane states, “I don’t work with children, dogs or Frank Langella.”(!?!)

Channing has never been better as the leading actress Virginia Noyes(pronounced Noise) and she sports a cane because she’s got a police detector, an ankle bracelet on her ankle, which keeps going off at the most hilarious moments. She snorts coke and has to  report in to her parole officer every three hours. She’s described as a “female impersonator searching for a female to impersonate.”(!?!)

Her auburn hair is styled like Susan Hayward at her most flaming in the ’50s. Recalling her in “The Jane Froman Story,” and she makes the most of every comic line McNally has given her. She and Lane are a joy. But I bet it is Channing who gets the Tony come awards time. She, unlike Lane, is staying in the show.

The newly thin-esque Megan Mullaney, looks completely un-like her former TV self and is sporting a Southern drawl to go with her newly svelte figure. I didn’t even recognize her! She’s the play’s energetic and naive and very rich producer, Julia Budder. And she, too keeps the comic balls bouncing.

At one point, somebody throws a snow-ball through her town house(where the play is set, stunningly designed by Scott Pask), through her town house window, and she looks outside to see who did and she says “It’s the Cast of ‘Matilda’! And I can’t understand a word they’re saying!”

Also surprisingly expert at their comic chops are Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint, as a snotty British director, who HATES getting nothing but good reviews(and is a secret kleptomaniac) and F. Murray Abraham(also unrecognizable here, initially) as that dreaded creature THE THEATER CRITIC.

Stealing the show out from everyone in a brand new part which has just gone through a sex-change(the character as written originally was some one called Emma) is newcomer Micah Stock as the lanky/hunky, gay cater-waiter, Gus P. Head, who’s just gotten into town, in cowboy boots, no less, and who keeps wanting to sing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” and eventually does so, to hilarious effect.

“They’re going to eat you alive!” Lane notes. Stock is so good audiences and critics are indeed eating him up. With delight.

“It’s Only a Play” is so good and so funny that you wonder why more rip-roaring comedies aren’t written like this and are on Broadway delighting millions. Well, when I read its’ history,  since THE SEVENTIES, which I’ll post below,  well, you’ll see what a long and tortuous road “It’s Only A Play” had on its’ way to Broadway, where quite frankly, it belongs, and I hope it runs for a million years!

History here below thanks to Wikipedia ~

It’s Only a Play is a play byTerrence McNally. The play ranOff-Off-Broadway in 1982, Off-Broadway in 1986, and Broadway in 2014. The producer, playwright, director, actors and friends eagerly wait for the opening night reviews of their Broadway play.

Productions

The play was revised from its 1978 version and produced off-off-Broadway by Manhattan Punch Line at the Actors and Directors Theatre, opening in November 1982.[1][2] Paul Benedict directed, with a cast that included Francis Cuka as Julia Budder, Richard Leighton as James Wicker, Paul Guilfoyle as Frank Finger, Ken Kliban as Ira Drew and Harriet Rogers as Emma.[3]

The play was produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club at its New York City Center Stage 1, running from December 17, 1985 (previews), officially January 11, 1986 to January 26, 1986. Directed by John Tillinger, the cast featured Christine Baranski (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Mark Blum (Peter Austin), James Coco (James Wicker), David Garrison (Frank Finger), Joanna Gleason (Virginia Noyes) and Florence Stanley(Emma).[4] John Tillinger was nominated for the 1986 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play.[5]

A revised version was produced by the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson at the Doolittle Theatre, Los Angeles, California in April 1992. John Tillinger directed, with a cast that featured Eileen Brennan (Virginia Noyes), Sean O’Bryan (Gus, a waiter), Charles Nelson Reilly (James Wicker), David Hyde Pierce (Frank Finger), Dana Ivey (Julia Budder), Paul Benedict (Ira Drew),Zeljko Ivanek (Peter Austin) and Doris Roberts (Emma).[4][6]

The play began its Broadway premiere at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on August 28, 2014 (in previews) and officially on October 9, 2014. It was originally scheduled for a limited 18-week engagement, through January 4, 2015. Jack O’Brien directs, with a cast that stars Nathan Lane as James Wicker and Matthew Broderick as Peter Austin. Also featured in the cast areMegan Mullally as Julia Budder, Stockard Channing as Virginia Noyes, F. Murray Abraham as Ira Drew, Rupert Grint as Frank Finger, and Micah Stock as Gus.[7][8][9] In November 2014, it was announced that the play would extend its run, through January 18, 2015 at the Schoenfeld, and will then transfer to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in a run from January 23, 2015 to March 29, 2015. Martin Short will replace Lane in the role of “James Wicker” as of January 7, 2015.[10]

McNally has said that he has rewritten the play to bring it up-to-date.[1][11]

Background

The play was originally called Broadway, Broadway and had closed during tryouts in Philadelphia in 1978.[12] Geraldine Page and James Coco were in the Philadelphia cast, and the play was set to open on Broadway at theEugene O’Neill Theatre. However, the Philadelphia reviews were negative and the Broadway opening was cancelled.[13] In 1984, McNally said that afterBroadway, Broadway closed he was no longer confident, but finally realized that having a show close is not the worst thing that could happen.[14]

 

 

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