a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2015

Bryce Pinkham Back on Bway in “Gentleman’s Guide” Pt.1

Here’s my great interview with Broadway’s great leading man Bryce Pinkham, returning to “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” This is part one of a three part interview. Bryce was just great as you can see. He talked about returning to the hit Tony winning show that made him a star. And his recent stint in Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Heidi Chronicles.” Broadway just loves him!

This was filmed at the Marshal restaurant in the theater district during a heat wave late in August. Right before I headed north for nearly three weeks for the Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals.

Camera – Phil Sokoloff

Editing ~ Kevin TellerBryce Pinkham

Oscar-bound Masterpiece “Son of Saul” at TIFF

son of saulOne of the two undisputed masterpieces I saw at this year’s TIFF ’15. The first was “The Danish Girl” as I’ve already written, and the second is the Hungarian “Son of Saul.” “Son of Saul” is certainly one of the greatest, grimmest films ever done on the Holocaust, and may be considered one of the greatest films ever made. And it’s heading straight to the Oscars. If Sony Pictures Classics has anything to do with it. And as unlikely a Best Picture winner ever, it just may contend there, it’s greatness and power is not to be denied.

Best Foreign Film is the category where it most likely would dominate and is certainly eligible there. Hungary is submitting this as its’ official Oscar entry. But “Son of Saul” is so overwhelming a cinematic achievement that it may compete in many, many categories. Including Best Director for first time filmmaker Lazslo Nemes.

When the first public screening unspooled at TIFF, it was shown in the very large(and with a balcony) TIFF Bell Lightbox 1. The buzz was so strong and the lines were so long (It had already won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes) that the lines circled back and back on itself. And everything was running twenty to thirty minutes behind schedule that day at TIFF. And as I stood there scrunched in with the hundreds of festival goers jammed into this seemingly endless line, curling back and back on itself and hardly being contained in two floors, and it extended like a snake outside the building ,too. I thought I’d never get in. The wait was excruciating and I thought this was strangely an odd premonition of what I was going to experience in seeing in “Son of Saul.”

The expectations were quite high and “Son of Saul” lived up to and surpassed all of them.

When you are in the presence of a great film, it just grabs you by the collar, throws you on the floor and doesn’t let go til the final horrific, inevitable denouement.

It’s set in the Auschwitz-Birkeneau concentration camp. And at the beginning of the film, it seemed that the screen was totally out of focus. There seemed to be people running through a wood, and just when you thought you should yell “Focus!”, into a very sharp focus indeed came the face of Saul, and the hand-held camera was to stay tightly focus on actor Gaza Rohrig for the rest of this unrelenting film.

And everything behind him is indeed a blur as shown in the picture above.^

It’s as though everything Saul is seeing and experiencing is so horrible, so unspeakable, he can’t say anything. He can just blankly stare ahead of him, as he gets pushed from one disgusting concentration camp duty the next. And at break-neck speed too. For Saul is one of the Jewish Sodocommandant as they were so grandly labeled. Large, muscular men whose lives were spared, so that they could do the unspeakable acts of cleaning, and piling “the pieces” and digging mass graves and well, the story of what Saul sees out of the corners of his eyes is very well known by now. But “Son of Saul” makes it all new and is in vivid color, bringing home the horror of the bloody bodies and smoke that makes “Schindler’s List” look pallid and cerebral by comparison.

“Son of Saul” is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen and New Yorkers will have the opportunity to see it soon to. It’s playing at the NYFF. Don’t miss it. You can’t miss it.

Oscar Buzz at TIFF ~ Eddie Redmayne Out Front by a “Danish Girl” mile

So what’s the Oscar Buzz at TIFF? All the world really wants to know is this. Who’s on top at TIFF? TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, as it’s come to be abbreviated world-wide, is without a doubt the single most important launch pad for Oscar hopefuls and wannabes. Much emerged. Top of the list going in was “The Danish Girl” and coming out it was Eddie Redmayne’s trans-gender pioneer Lili Elbe by a mile. It could also be up for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costumes(for sure), Best Adapted Screenplay(it’s a true story) and the very strong likelihood that Alicia Vikander as Lili’s staunch, strong spouse, Gerde, may land not just in the Supporting Actress race(where she would have a VERY strong chance of winning) and also, Vikander may end up as Lead Actress.

Like her counterpart in “The Theory of Everything” Felicity Jones, who was also playing a similar part. Redmayne’s staunch, strong wife. And some years Jones may have been put in Supporting, but not last year. Swedish actress Vikander who is quickly becoming this year’s IT girl, may very well end up in lead, for her tremendous turn as Gerde, the audience’s surrogate. We see “The Danish Girl” through Gerde’s loving but dismayed eyes, as her husband turns from a man to a woman.

Less sure a front-runner was Johnny Depp in “Black Mass” as the frightening true-life gangster Whitey Bulger. For some reason, Depp was rumored to be cancelling interviews and press events left right and center. I heard that he was hitting the bottle quite strongly. I hope that’s not the case. I never heard before that he was an alcoholic.  But alienating those who might have potentially helped Depp get a nomination for this less- than-par gangster film.

He may doing a “Monique” and blowing off the dog and pony show run-up to the Oscars, something that rival Redmaybe excels at. And Depp may be saying “Screw all this folderol and just vote for me based on my performance.” It may land him a nomination anyway.

On the Best Actress side of things I saw two very good films with two outstanding lead performances by women. Both such strong contenders that they will not be overlooked come nomination time. There was the luscious, dewey-eyed, now all grown-up Irish beauty Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn”. She is a young Irish lass who moves to America in the 1950s to find a better life for herself. And she does. But then a family tragedy drags her back to Ireland and into a Will She Stay or Will She Go dilemma. Her heart being caught between the love of a super-cute, super-hunky Italian kid (Emory Cohen) and the more traditionally suitable, wealthy. Irish man Domnall Gleeson. It’s a film in a minor key with soap opera bubbles all over it. But it’s well done. Tremendously Army of OscarsEddie Liliold-fashioned and super-sentimental, “Brooklyn” may just be the Academy’s Cup of Irish Tea come awards’ time.

Also there’s the ever-present, redoubtable octogenarian Dame Maggie Smith giving yet another career-best performance as a bag lady(!) who takes up residence in author Alan Bennett’s front drive-way in “Lady in a Van.” Dame Maggie played this role for nine months at the National Theater in London, to great acclaim, and under the same director Nicolas Hytner. Stats like those and a performance for the ages, are things the Academy is likely to take strong note of. And Dame Maggie is swinging from the rafters with his one. As dirty and smelly and ornery  as  her real-life character Mary Shepherd is meant to be, you love her any way. I really can’t wait to see this rather joyous  take on the homeless AGAIN. I liked it that much..

But it’s “The Danish Girl” that really was the masterpiece out of all those discussed.  Oh, and I here Sony Pictures Classics is going to run the OTHER Masterpiece I saw, holocaust drama, “The Son of Saul” for Best Picture, and the Academy might just go for it. A Hungarian film of tremendous power, it’s an amazing piece of filmmaking. But more about “The Son of Saul” later.

Isn’t this enough Oscar news for one morning?

At TIFF, Eddie Redmayne Will Win Second Oscar in a Row with the Heartbreaking Masterpiece “A Danish Girl”

Eddie LiliI’m devastated. I’m in tears writing this. “The Danish Girl” is a masterpiece, so moving, so profoundly important and brilliantly acted and directed, it will win Eddie Redmayne his second Oscar in a row for this heart-wrenching performance as first transgender Lili Elbe.  It has its’ slow patches, but once it gets going “The Danish Girl” is so powerful, so engaging, so beautiful, its’ ending, which I won’t reveal here, will absolutely crush you. And Eddie Redmayne is catapulted once again to the head of the Oscar race for Best Actor. As extraordinary as that sounds, it’s true.

His performance is beyond anything we’ve ever seen onscreen before. Never has this subject, transgender-ism, if there is such a word, been treated in this depth, and with such respect, and love. It’s a great love story. And not only Redmayne will be back at the top of everyone’s lists, director Tom Hooper, already an Oscar winner for “The King’s Speech”, will probably be up for every award in the book, for his sensitive, deft, beautifully handled helming of this tragic love story.

And Alicia Vikander, who has been edging towards stardom, with every role she’s essayed, since she first came to global attention with “Anna Karenina”, as the blonde, sweet ingenue to Keira Knightley’s dark, tormented Anna, Alicia Vikander will for sure be nominated, perhaps as Best Actress even, but certainly as Best Supporting, for her astounding turn as Gerda Wegener, the devoted, confounded artist wife, whose husband, Einar is transitioning right before her confused, but compassionate eyes into Lili Elbe.(“Elbe, like the River” at one point Einar/Lili clarifies)

Einar and Gerde Wegener are a happily married couple at the start of “The Danish Girl” in 1920s Copenhagen. Both are artists, and there seems to be no clouds on their sunny, loving horizons. The begins to gradually change when one day, Gerde asks Einar to try on some ballerina attire of a model who has not shown up for her posing session. He obligingly does so, and the feelings of a woman’s stockings and shoes begin to arouse something deep-seated in him.

So begins Einar’s(Redmayne’s ) journey into what today is known as “transitioning.” We see this today in the person of Caitlyn Jenner, who used to be Bruce. Like it or not, Jenner has made this topic extremely relevant and the timing is just right for “The Danish Girl”s Oscar chances. Perfect, in fact.Eddie & Oscar 2

Redmayne’s Lili is a much more delicate, fragile creature than Caitlyn Jenner, needless to say. Redmayne gives her an ephemeral otherworldy quality. And he sensitively inhabits  her every single stage of her transformation. And makes clear what drives Lili  into emerging and totally obliterating Einar.

I did not know the shattered ending of this important, historic movie and I was totally enraptured, then horrified as “The Danish Girl” headed to its’ inexorable, tragic conclusion.

And Eddie Redmayne steps wholly and completely into screen history with this beyond magnificent portrayal. Another Oscar for Mr. Redmayne, please.

TIFF ~ Weather and Trolleys

TIFF logo 1It seems sometimes like the entire city of Toronto is completely disrupted by having TIFF here. But of course, in a good way. The public is jubilant about it, even if the entire “Festival Village” is now closed to traffic AND trolleys.

This morning there was huge orange balls all over what was formerly a couple of blocks of King St.

And I mean HUGE!

I guess Orange is the official color of TIFF and it’s my favourite color. Always brightens a room, or a wardrobe…

And the weather? It’s been unseasonably hot here in Canada. Especially during the Montreal Film Festival which was last week. This week it’s been cooling down A LITTLE. Today was really quite balmy walking here through all those gigantic balls to the TIFF Bell Light-box. But Global TV’s Morning Show keeps forecasting rain. I don’t ever remember it raining THAT heavily during the Film Festival.

I went to bed at 9:30pm last night! I have to get used to getting up early for the next two days, especially. Tomorrow is the HUGE first press and industry screening for “The Danish Girl” starring Eddie Redmayne, directed by Tom Hooper and aimed and timed EXACTLY as “The King’s Speech” was several years ago, aimed right at OSCAR!

Nobody here believes Donald Trump will be President. In fact, he’s not on TV here at all! Can you believe it?

I now have to head up to the Scotiabank building a couple of blocks north to stand in line to see my darling Saorise Ronan in HER Oscar bid this year “Brooklyn.” It starts unspooling at 11:45 AM. Am I late? Rush, rush, rush.

Beautiful, Heart-rending “Rainbow Kid” at TIFF

I’m not usually deeply affected by movies….well, lately, but this new film “The Rainbow Kid” which is at TIFF, just blew me away completely. It’s topic is a bit off-putting, seemingly. It’s about a plucky kid with Down’s Syndrome and the actor Dylan Harmon, really does have Down’s Syndrome. But he’s a very good actor, and his affecting journey to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a heart-breaker.

It’s an amazing first feature by young Canadian film-maker Kire Paputts. (That’s pronounced Kir-RAY). I first encountered him at the now essential Eye on TIFF that Telefilm Canada holds every year in New(and now, also in LA) for about a dozen or so Canadian cinematic new-comers. Although veteran Patricia Rozema (“I Can Hear the Mermaids Singing”) was also there.

And I met Kire and he sent me a link pre-TIFF, when I’m not as crazy/busy as I am at TIFF, where time, every minute, every moment is precious.

Anyway, back to “Rainbow Kid” it’s difficult subject matter is challenging to say the least, but Dylan Harmon, is incredibly charismatic and engaging. And director Paputts really brings you inside Dylan’s character’s head and keeps you there for the entire length of the film.

To say that this film re-creates a genre, i.e., the disease film, is an understatement and is not fair to the great achievement of film and heart that “The Rainbow Kid” is. I can’t praise it highly enough.

Inspired by a children’s cartoon book that he is reading at the beginning of the film which I think was called “Meatball and Raindrop”, Dylan is convinced beyond a doubt that there is truly a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And after tragic events force him on this heart-breaking solo road trip through the wilds of southern Ontario to find that pot of gold, because he sees rainbows every where. And he wants to be as he puts it “Independent” and feels that the police are following him and are about to lock him up somewhere at any moment. And they are.

SH Rainbow 1I’ll never think the same way about Down’s Syndrome people again. “The Rainbow Kid” is deeply effecting, genuinely moving and Dylan’s performance is haunting.

I hope it gets distribution in the States and everyone can see what a beautiful film it is. It’s a great achievement by Kire Paputts, who is definitely a director to watch.

Oscar Mystery ~ Why Isn’t “Carol” at TIFF?

Oscar questions answered and unanswered at TIFF. Like why isn’t the Cannes lesbian sensation “Carol” playing TIFF? It’s conspicuous by its’Cate Carol 1 absence, seems to me. A natural fit for TIFF, you’d THINK. But no “Carol” here. It’ll be seen next month at the NYFF, but not here. Are they, the savvy Weinstein Co., hiding it? There are over 1000 journalists at TIFF. And Oscar hopefuls “The Danish Girl” and “Brooklyn” and “Black Mass” are all playing here. But no “Carol”…. And “Carol” which WILL show up at the NYFF is not in the coveted Opening Night or Closing Night or Centrepiece slots.

Is what seemed a sure-fire Oscar front-runner now suffering Awards fatigue already? Me, I’m DYING to see it.

And there’s the sticky situation of “Carol” having TWO leading ladies. Two time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett in the title role, and Rooney Mara. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is now the girl with a Cannes award for Best Actress. And the Weinsteins are campaigning Cate Blanchett for Leading Actress and putting Rooney Mara, who is said to have the larger and better part(and the Best Actress Cannes award) is being put in Supporting.

I wonder what they Academy will think of that distinction? They may do a “Kate Winslet” and put Rooney AND Cate in lead. Where they could possibly cancel each other out? As many have done before, unfortunately.

But there’s no question that the Weinstein Co. is low-balling Cannes favourite “Carol.” Something’s up.

OR something’s not up. With “Carol.” Hmmmm……

At Last! At TIFF!!! And so happy to be here!

TIFF logo 1Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, I MADE IT! I am here in Toronto at TIFF!!! At Last! I’m so happy typing this! It’s a miracle I got here with all the many, seemingly insurmountable obstacles I was facing this year particularly. But luck and pluck won the day and I’m HERE!!!!! Last night was a particularly happy time checking in to a wonderful hotel experience, I didn’t dare to expect. Large room. Larger than my NYC “apt.”, a VIEW! And new, too! But I was so wiped out from the train trip via VIA rail from Montreal that I just spent the night crashing and enjoying the space and the newness of having A ROOM WITH A VIEW!!!

So handy. Like this morning, I could look out the window and actually see smartly dressed  Torontonians rushing to work with umbrellas. By the time I got set to go out, though, I could see from my window that all the umbrellas were put away and people were just rushing to work. (I’m downtown in the business district.)

I’m not far from the Festival Village, which is what that part of downtown Toronto is now called. The part that directly adjoins the super TIFF Bell Light-box, from where I am typing this, (Is that a grammatically correct sentence?) A lot of things fly out the window when you get to TIFF. Like cares and woes. And grammar.

Now I just have to book movies and interviews like crazy.

I have one set for this afternoon already. It’s Wednesday, so it’s VERY early and not a lot of people are here yet. In the press room, they had a continental breakfast waiting for the few, the mighty few journalists that are here this early in the week and this early in the day.

After 17 years(!) at TIFF, you learn a few things, like GET UP VERY EARLY! As the festival wears on, and the big films you want to see all screen at ungodly hours, AND you have to line up for them, too. Like for instance, the hot ticket here “The Danish Girl” on Saturday at the Princess of Wales theater. A legit house usually, but the Festival has commandeered it again this year. It’s where last year I saw Eddie Redmayne’s career explode with “The Theory of Everything.” That was the most exciting thing last year. To see that beautiful film’s ascendancy happen all around you.

And now this year, Eddie is back with ANOTHER top, hot, Oscar ticket “The Danish Girl”. Can’t wait till Saturday! But meanwhile, back to my emails to see who else has chimed in.

TIFF is definitely MY Christmas!

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