a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for November, 2015

“Steve Jobs” is a Mess, Except for Kate Winslet, Who Will Get Its’ Sole Oscar Nomination

Kate Winselt Stave J. 1Ok. So I finally did it. I went to see “Steve Jobs,” a film I have been resisting since TIFF. And I have to say, that except for Kate Winslet’s surprising, dowdy turn as  Jobs’ dogged, dedicated,  Slavic Gal Friday, I really pretty much hated it. It was the mess I thought it would be, and if it hadn’t been for Winslet, I would’ve walked out.

How many times in the first third of this epic landslide of verbiage did I fall asleep? At least, three, and I woke up only to find them STILL TALKING!!! And they talk and they talk and they walk and they walk. I thought I was watching a re-run of “West Wing.” This was so flat, and so dull, and so confusing, it made me nostalgic for “The Joy of Typing.” (Look it up) I never thought I would type this sentence, but I missed David Fincher.

At least, HE made a film about the Internet look interesting. This is just flat, flat, flat. And poor Kate Winslet has to hold the whole film together, by running on every five minutes and saying “We’ve got FIVE MINUTES!”

You see, her boss Steve Jobs is always running late, and it’s her job as his right arm to keep things moving and Brave Kate does so, and nearly saves this cod-fish of a movie.

It’s everything I thought it would be. And less.

And poor Michael Fassbender is just mis-cast in this career-ending role. I predict he will NOT get a Best Actor nomination for playing this majorly unsympathetic asshole geek.Nor will this film break into the Best Picture race. Aaron Snoreking, I mean Sorkin, has given Fassbender REAMS of dialogue, or should I say monologue? to just endlessly spout in a monotone so deadly, I couldn’t believe it was the same actor I’ve esteemed so much in so many other movies.Like “12 Years a Slave,” “Shame,””Hunger” and many, many others.

You can’t make an interesting movie about the Internet! It’s impossible.

And as far as the Academy is concerned, they hate the internet, and resist it in every form it takes as an intrusion and distortion of their lives. Some the Voting Members don’t even HAVE a computer, but are too embarrassed to admit it.

And the first third of the movie, when Steve Jobs was young, well, young-ish, is so convoluted and abstruse, that I can’t imagine the AMPAS-ers watching much more than fifteen minutes of it, if that.

That’s unfortunate, because it does get better, a little. And Kate W. does get her big Oscar-y breakdown scene, but it’s past the half-way mark, when she finally tells Steve Jobs what she really thinks of him. Winslet loses it in grand style, and who doesn’t like a scene where the secretary FINALLY tells her boss to go to jump in a lake.(I’m understating it.)

This “Steve Jobs”  is flopping majorly at the box-office and being yanked off screens right, left and center. There was ALREADY ANOTHER Steve Jobs movie called just “Jobs” starring Ashton Kucher, and that bombed, too.

Who was the genius who thought that two bombs are better than one?

But Kate is great as she always is. And she’ll be the token nomination that this mistake of a film gets.

Why did I pay to see it when I knew going in it might be as bad as it was(I was warned), well, I’m an Oscarologist and like it or not this film has been talked and talked and bandied about as an Oscar contender. It’s been part of the Oscar conversation since TIFF. But the talk stops right here.



Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Thanksgiving Day ParadeHappy Thanksgiving Day to all my dear readers and cineastes and lovers of theatre!

Indie Spirit Noms, “Carol” 6, “Spotlight”5, Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara BOTH Best Actress Noms

Roonwy MARA 2Carol Blanchett 1The most interesting thing to me about the just-announced Indie Spirit Award Nominations is that BOTH Cate Blanchett AND Rooney Mara landed in the Best Actress race. Probably effectively canceling each other out. Both here and at the Oscars.

The Golden Globes have said that Mara is a lead. And she is. Blanchett and she are equal co-leads. And now that the Indie Spirits have followed the GGs placements, I think Blanchett and Mara will repeat this and both land in the Best Actress category at the Oscars come January.

Also, poor “Room.” If ever there was an Indie Spirit film, it was “Room.” It needed to get more than just Brie Larson in Best Actress, which she totally deserves. She’ll win it, and Blanchett and Mara, will, as I said, split the “Carol” vote.

Indie Spirit Awards are for VERY low-budget films that are financed in America. So, like for instance “The Danish Girl” and “Brooklyn” among others were not eligible here. While the shot on an iPhone “Tangerine” about drag queens in LA WAS. And its’ two trans stars WERE nominated, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez is up against Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara and Brie Larson, which I think is some kind of wonderful. Mya Taylor also of “Tangerine” also trans landed in Best Supporting Actress!

Unfortunately, both blonde Supp. Actress wannabees, Elizabeth Banks for “Love and Mercy” and Rachel McAdams for “Spotlight” did not get in, but McAdams of course was included in the Ensemble Award that “Spotlight” was handed just out right. Too bad they don’t have a Best Ensemble Oscar.

However, the SAG(Screen Actors Guild) does, and “Spotlight” will most likely win that award that night. “Spotlight” is generally considered the Oscar front-runner, but “Carol” beat it here. Hmmm…

Below are the list of all the nominees.

“Beasts of No Nation”

Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation”
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, “Anomalisa”
David Robert Mitchell, “It Follows”
Sean Baker, “Tangerine”
Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”

Abraham Attah, “Beasts of No Nation”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Mississippi Grind”
Christopher Abbott, “James White”
Jason Segel, “The End of the Tour”
Kudos Seihon, “Mediterranea”

Bel Powley, “Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, “Tangerine”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”

Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”
Kevin Corrigan, “Results”
Michael Shannon, “99 Homes”
Paul Dano, “Love & Mercy”
Richard Jenkins, “Bone Tomahawk”


Cynthia Nixon, “James White”
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “Anomalisa”
Marin Ireland, “Glass Chin”
Mya Taylor, “Tangerine”

Robin Bartlett, “H.”

Charlie Kaufman, “Anomalisa”
Donald Marguiles, “The End of the Tour”
Phyllis Nagy, “Carol”
S. Craig Zahler, “Bone Tomahawk”
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, “Spotlight”

Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation”
Ed Lachman, “Carol”
Joshua James Richards, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
Michael Gioulakis, “It Follows”
Reed Morano, “Meadowland”

Ronald Bronstein and Benny Safdie, “Heaven Knows What”
Julio C. Perez IV, “It Follows”
Kristan Sprague, “Manos Sucias”
Nathan Nugent, “Room”
Tom McArdle, “Spotlight”

“Best of Enemies”
“Heart of a Dog”
“The Look of Silence”
“The Russian Woodpecker”

Indie Spirits Awards nominations:
‘Carol’ leads with 6, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ at 5, ‘Spotlight’ has 4

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Son of Saul”

“James White”
“Manos Sucias”
“Songs My Brothers Taught Me”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Emma Donoghue, “Room”
Jesse Andrews, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, and Myna Joseph, “The Mend”
Jonas Carpignano, “Mediterranea”
Marielle Heller, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (best feature made for under $500,000)
“Christmas, Again”
“Heaven Knows What”
“Out of My Mind”

Perfect Antidote to Winter! Hot Nights@a Cool Shul!

Jerry Lewis1Sometimes a critic’s life is a delightful and even hilarious one. And one such night a couple of weeks back, I got a very pleasant surprise when I stumbled in to the first presentation of Hot Nights @ a Cool Shul at the Actor’s Temple on W. 47th Street. I didn’t know what to expect, but I went.

Imagine my surprise to be treated (and educated!) to a first rate documentary on a subject dear to everyone’s heart, Great Comedy!

It was a screening of “When Comedy Went to School” and it was FUN-KNEE! I mean hysterical! And the place was packed and the audience came primed to laugh until they split their britches and I think some did!

It was an uproarious history of the great Jewish comics, who so dominated American humor in the middle of the last century, and who all got their training in the Catskills in the 1940s and ’50s at legendary hotels like Grossingers.  The big hotels there were filled with the top comics, who then went on to keep so much of America entertained on television when I was growing up in the Bronx.

Ed Sullivan, who was not Jewish,  booked all these great entertainers from Sophie Tucker to Jerry Lewis and brought them all into our homes every Sunday night in the ’60s and ’70s, making America laugh. Sid Caesar, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Totie Fields, the list was endless, and they are all there in this sharp, funny film.

And “When Comedy Went to School” kept you laughing non-stop with all the top comics doing their best bits. I roared til I plotzed! Every headliner is represented in this terrific film, which if it pops up again at a theater near you, you must run out and see it! You won’t be disappointed.

The moment that stayed with me the most, was when a very sympathetic and toned down Jerry Lewis who told in an interview(see above picture) that he used to make $7o0 a night as a busboy! He was so funny, he kept dropping things and doing schtick, he said, that customers just kept shoving tips at him. He was told not to tell the waiters because they’d get jealous!

Laughter as they say is the best medicine, and it was being served that night in large doses of mirth at the Actor’s Temple, a historic landmark right in the heart of the theater district.

It has quite an incredible history, and has had a historic commitment to serving Jewish theater artists and the greater NYC arts community. The list of the greats who worshiped there is just jaw-dropping, Shelley Winters, Edward G. Robinson,Sophie Tucker (as I said), Jack Benny and yes, even the Three Stooges!

The event was followed by a panel discussion which featured the drier-than-dry Jackie Hoffman and comedy legend Marilyn Michaels, who kept asking “What am I doing here???”

This first night in a series of evenings that all begin at the Temple at 7:30pm was produced by the redoubtable, indefatigable and GLAMOROUS, Carol Ostrow, who is sort of a legend herself in New York Theater circles.

Next in their Hot Nights @ a Cool Shul series is the Epichorus, a Judeo-Arabic music group. I think the word is Klezmer band and that is on Monday, December 14.

Shul, by the way, is the Yiddish word for “school” and I did feel I was learning A LOT about where great comedy comes from that night.When Comedy...1

You can find out more info and about tickets at their website http://www.theactorstemple.org/events or call (212)245-6975.


Best Supporting Actress, Wide Open or Not?

sarah PaulsonRoonwy MARA 2Is this year’s Supporting Actress race wide open or not? I think the HFPA(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) who give out the Golden Globs, er, I mean, GLOBES, dynamited both the Best Actress race and the Best Supporting Actress races, by insisting that Rooney Mara for “Carol” and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” MUST be considered in lead.aLICIA vIKANDER1

And they are 100% right! Both are leading roles. However, after seeing how dismal Rooney Mara’s “Carol” turn is, and how GREAT Cate (the Great) Blanchett’s is in the title role, I think voters are going to have no trouble nominating Blanchett, and overlooking the sub-par Mara for “Carol.”

I would never have thought that yesterday. I had to see it to believe it. I mean, Mara did win Best Actress in Cannes, which I guess in this day and race really means nothing.

And since Best Actress is incredibly jammed already, there just may not be room for Mara AND Blanchett, and/or for Mara and Vikander, who gives a truly transcendent performance as the conflicted wife of a transitioning transgender man-to-woman in “The Danish Girl,” played brilliantly by probable nominee for Best Actor, and last year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne.

Brie Larson in “Room” and Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn” SEEM locked and loaded as they say. And then there’s Blanchett in “Carol” and Vikander. With only one slot left for Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette” with Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma” and Charlotte Rampling’s “45 years” nipping at her heels. Never mind Dame Maggie Smith coming up fast on the outside for her glorious, smelly, homeless woman “Lady in the Van.”

So who is going to fill up the now empty Best Supporting Actress race?

Well, as I said before, I would love it if Sarah Paulson (above top picture) got nominated for “Carol.” Since the HFPA’s Edict of Nantes, they CAN’T nominate Rooney,in Supporting, they might just go far Paulson’s steely Best Friend and ex-lover of Carol. That would be great and people WILL get to see “Carol”. And see Paulson in it and how good she is.

Paulson was pretty stellar in “Twelve Years a Slave” wherein she horrified voters as the vicious slave-owners wife, who throws a glass decanter in future Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo’s face, scarring her for life.

And then there’s room for probable nominee screen legend Jane Fonda getting in for a five minute scene in “Youth.” I bet they are going to nominate her sight unseen because she is well, Jane Fonda.Jane Fonda Youth 1

I keep banging the drums for Parker Posey in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man,” but no one seems to be listening to me. Posey has another juicy role coming up next year in Woody’s next opus. Maybe the Academy will wait for that role before they get on the Parker-Posey-is-now-legit(to us)-train.Itrational Man 2

I’ve mentioned before two look-alike blondes Elizabeth Banks and Rachel McAdams in, respectively, “Love and Mercy” and “Spotlight,” the front-runner at the moment for Best Picture. Both blonde beauties may have been pushed further inside the race than they ever might have been otherwise by the HFPA’s ruling on Mara and Vikander.Elizabeth Banks1Rachel McAdams1And let’s not overlook the wonderful Oscar perennial Laura Linney, who really holds Ian McKellan’s house and home(and picture) together as the put-upon drudge of a housekeeper in “Mr. Holmes.” If the voters view “Mr. H.” to see Sir Ian’s great nonogenarian detective, they’ll see how beautiful Linney’s work is opposite him. I thought people would forget this charming film and McKellan’s and Linney’s lovely work in it, but it seems they’re not.Laura Holmes 1And last but not least, you can never count out Dame Helen Mirren’s campier-than-thou take on the late real life gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in “Trumbo,.” who underneath her elaborate headgear was a ruthless red=baiter.Helen Mirren Trumbo

There’s nothing like a Dame as the ole saying goes. A rubric that AMPAS lives by. They’ve always have got to get a “sir” or a “dame” in there somewhere to give the evening class.

Have I left anyone out? Probably. But I’ll catch you up on these magnificent ladies on the flip side.

Laurie Metcalf & Bruce Willis Burn Up the Stage in Suspenseful new “Misery” on Bway

MiseryThe hardest thing in the world is to write a suspenseful thriller for the stage. And octogenarian Hollywood veteran William Goldman has done just that. In translating his great 1990 screenplay of “Misery” into a play that keeps you at the edge of your seat, he has solved all the writing problems, all the possible screen-to-stage glitches are not present, and scared me to death in the process. I bit all my nails off!

Based on the book by Stephen King, it is set in a remote, lonely, snow-bound house in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Nobody goes near ex-nurse Annie Wilkes and you can soon see why. As embodied by the terrific Laurie Metcalf, I can see a Tony Award in her future. Just as an Oscar win was in the future of Kathy Bates in the film version of “Misery.” Sure, she chews up the scenery and nearly eats Bruce Willis’ bed-bound novelist Paul Sheldon for dinner SEVERAL times,but that’s the part! And what a part it is!

Metcalf has to summon the horrors of Hannibal Lechter, Cruella de Ville, Ursula the Sea Witch, and others,to horrible to mention,  and she does, brilliantly.

It’s only 90 minutes with no intermission. So that is claustrophobic in and of itself. An intermission would let the audience get up, walk around and breathe, and escape the horrible catastrophic confinement that Willis’ successful,rich, globe-trotting novelist finds himself in. He’s being held prisoner, you see, by his “#1 fan” Ms. Wilkes.

Both his legs have been broken in a car crash in a blizzard in the mountains and he was “saved” by god-fearing, good nurse Annie, who was following him in her car. OR DID SHE FORCE HIS CAR OFF THE ROAD???

This mystery hovers over the maniacal Annie, a nightmare if ever there was one. Who may turn homicidal at any moment. And Spoiler Alert, does…

In the previous iterations of “Misery”, it is implied that Annie has had a background as a serial-killing nurse, who murdered double-digits worth of her patients. Not so here, but Metcalf is so truly frightening in her dowdy, down-trodden way, she becomes everyone’s worst church lady nightmare.

And Willis? Well, he just has to lie there and be Bruce Willis. And he does, very believably, and audiences will pack in to see him suffer the torments of the damned. And enjoy it! But he’s no slouch in the acting department. He, though bed and wheel-chair bound, for most of the play, is keeping up with the oh-so-mad Metcalf beat for beat, as they execute the fatal pad-de-deux of a best-selling author, and his Number One Fan.

It’s set in the 1980s, which makes the whole cut-off-from-the-world-by- a-phone-line-being-down-in-a-blizzard plot point, believable. Imagine if it was set today with all the social media available to someone like Willis’ Paul Sheldon? It wouldn’t be the same play.

But it is a perfect Grand Guignol period piece, and the round table set by David Korin, keeps Annie’s bizarre house of horrors spinning. And the lighting by David Weiner, the sound design by Darron L. West and the original music by Michael Friedman are all spookily perfect in their way.

But it’s the script by two time Academy Award winner William Goldman that is the real surprise for me. He known as the author of the famous quote about Show Business “Nobody Knows Anything.”

Well, Mr. Goldman certainly knows plenty.The author of the screenplays for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”,he’s showing a dazzling range with “Misery.” He’s written a perfect stage thriller that could run for years. And probably will.

I wondered how a stage version of “Misery” would play, and it does, like gang-busters.

There’s Something Missing from “Carol” & I Think It’s Rooney Mara

Carol Blanchett 1I was disappointed in my response to “Carol” the highly touted lesbian love story derived from one of my favorite lesbian authors Patricia Highsmith. I felt not swept away by the film as a whole, which I should’ve been. Being out and gay myself all my life, THIS seemed to be a movie meant for me, it’s target audience.

But yet…

It didn’t play at Toronto, which tipped me off that something was up.And the Weinstein Co. kept me, a major Oscarologist, away from this Oscar-seeking film.

Rooney Mara won Best Actress at Cannes.

Something was obviously wrong.

What was missing? I think it was Rooney Mara’s performance. Playing a young, innocent (?)”from another planet” as Carol describes her, she seems cold, asexual. The Sapphic sensibility is just not there.The film was directed by a man. Maybe that’s the problem.

sarah Paulson

But it IS there in the performance of Sarah Paulson (ab0ve) as Carol’s ex-lover. You get an astounding sense of past history and love lost between the two women, that you never get from Cate the Great and Mara.

And Cate IS great in this movie! She’s just magnificence personified. 1950s movie star to the max, she seems to just REEK of sexuality and sensuousness and glamour. It is a stunning performance, maybe Blanchett’s best. She just floored me.

And Rooney Mara just well, didn’t.

The great Ed Lachmann’s amazing cinematography swept me away, in a way the Mara’s Therese Belivant, didn’t. Filmed in, of all things, 16 mm. and in CINCINATTI(!) the period style is exactly right down to the tiniest detail, and Blanchett’s costumes by the great Sandy Powell, and  her golden, perfectly coiffed hair and  make-up are swoon-worthy. She just radiates a heat that makes men AND women fall in love with her. She’s beyond brilliant in this film.

And she’s the one in dire trouble. She’s married, you see, and it’s 1952 and her husband wants to take her beloved little daughter away from her because she’s “abnormal.” So that part of the film is totally believable and fine. And disturbing. And true.

But don’t get me wrong. I loved Rooney Mara before. She was very exciting in both “Social Network” and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” for which she rightly garnered an Oscar nomination.

So I was rooting for Rooney, and god knows, I was rooting for “Carol” to be a lesbian “Brokeback Mountain.” But it isn’t. And I’m not a gay woman so perhaps I can’t say that. But I am.

Expectations were so high for this film, and the raves out of Cannes where so great, I guess I was bound to be disappointed. A “Brokeback Mountain,” it’s not. “Carol” is just strangely hollow. Cate is great, the cinematograpy, set design and costumes are off the charts. But the LOVE is missing.They have no heat, no chemistry.

It’s not even gay, particularly, except when the superb Sarah Paulson shows up. SHE should get nominated for Best Supporting Actress. THERE I’ve said it.

But the Tom Toms are beating for Rooney, and probably both she and Blanchett will end up in the Best Actress races that are upon us.

Cate Blanchett is just a genius of an actress.

But Rooney Mara is well, just OK. And in something as sumptuous and important a gay film, as “Carol”, well, she should-be better.

The picture at the top of this article says it all, I think.(see above} Cate as Carol is front and center and Rooney Mara, well, we see the back of her head. Which in “Carol” is as expressive as the front of her head.

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