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Archive for December, 2015

Another Great Oscar Think Piece @ Awardsdaily by Sasha Stone. This time on Supporting Actor

Mark Ruffalo 1Once again, I have to give great credit and applause to the tireless, wondrous Sasha Stone @awardsdaily.com. She’s just put up, on After -Christmas  Sunday,a lengthy think piece on the race for Best Supporting Actor. Read it at http://www.awardsdaily.com

It provoked many thoughts on my part and I was just on the verge of writing about myself, so I’m linking you to it and to Sasha who does this sort of thing, with charts and stats, much better than I could ever do.

And Supporting Actor is a sprawling mess o’ candidates, but Sasha makes some very salient, telling points. Main among them that you need that SAG or Golden Globe nomination first to move forward to an Oscar nomination, though not always. My main man to win it all this year is “Spotlight”s lead investigative reporter played by Mark Ruffalo. He has all the emotional scenes in the movie that is considered to be the front-runner all season long so far.That”Spotlight” will win Best Picture is an Oscar given. Or is it?

They’re (the Academy) is going to think that it has to give “Spotlight” SOMEthing. And Ruffalo’s the most likely candidate, IF he even gets nominated. He’s likely to pop up here because he’s a previous two-time nominee,  in Supporting for “The Kids Are All Right” a few years back. And just last year for “Foxcatcher.”

The other Mark in the conversation, Mark Rylance, for all his Tony wins, is an Oscar newcomer.He’s nominated for his complicated Russian spy in “Bridge of Spies.” Rylance has both a Globe and a SAG nod, which means he IS going to be Oscar nominated.

“Spotlight” is an easy film to like and respect, but not an easy film to love, as Sasha herself has pointed out numerous times. And she’s right, again.

It’s WORTHY. It’s about a topic that everyone can agree is heinous. Child Abuse by Catholic priests and the cover-up that this small group of reporters at the Boston Globe who called themselves Spotlight uncovered in the ’80s. It’s a cold film, a cerebral procedural. But is that the type of film that wins “Best Picture”? Its’ heart is in the right place, but when does a thinking man’s film about journalism win Best Picture?

However,”Spotlight,” the film was not acknowledged for any of its’ players, who all decided to go Supporting. And canceled each other out of the Golden Globes and the SAG nominations by doing so. Only Rachel McAdams, in Best Supporting Actress. got “Spotlight”s sole SAG nomination.She was also the only woman on the Spotlight team of ace reporters.

Yes, of course, “Spotlight” did get nominated for Best Ensemble, too, and everyone thinks it’s going to win there. Everyone, except me. I think “Trumbo” might upset in both “Best Ensemble” and “Best Actor” Bryan Cranston.

Meanwhile, back to Best Supporting Actor. And here’s what I posted more or less in Awardsdaily’s comment section.

Best Supp. Actor Post 1Or in larger type…Still haven’t figured out how to blog properly, obviously, but here’s what I posted a few minutes ago.

“After the OscarsSoWhite Debacle of last year’s Acting Nominees, they have GOT to nominate SOMEONE of color and Idris Elba is the only player seriously in the mix, or they’ll be in the same trouble all over again.

With so many films to watch, films that are high on the Academy’s radar (and SAGs) will be watched first. Therefore someone like Mark Rylance could get in, because they’ll all be watching the “Bridge of Spies” screener, because it’s Spielberg. They all have stacks of DVD screeners, the Oscar voters, and they have to make choices.

Will they get around to watching Michael Shannon’s small indie film? “99 Homes”? Will they watch it just for Shannon’s acclaimed  supporting performance? Or will they skip it thinking “He’s already been nominated. He doesn’t need another nomination”? I hate to think that they think like that, but you know something? They do. And there’s very little time. And Academy voters are very busy people.Michael Shannon 1

They’ll all be watching “Room” which is good for the extraordinary Jacob Tremblay’s chances. It’s 50/50 whether they’ll watch the divisive “Love and Mercy.” I don’t think it was much of a performance by Paul Dano, who got nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supp. Actor. But no corresponding SAG nod Uh-oh.

And you’ve got BOTH Michael Keaton AND Mark Ruffalo floating around the edges. If Ruffalo gets nominated he could win this.

As respected as Mark Rylance is, I’ve seen all his Tony-winning performances on Bway, and as good and revered as he is, he is known for getting up and reciting an obscure poem, instead of doing a traditional acceptance speech.Mark Rylance 1

The Tony voters don’t care and have awarded him multiple times. But if he does that again at the Globes, should he win there, I don’t think many Academy voters will like that. And Rylance’s is a skilled, underplayed Mark Rylance 1performance. Subtle. The Academy doesn’t usually go for that in this category, especially. 

They are also NOT going to give Christian Bale a second Oscar so soon after his win for “The Fighter” in this category.His film is “The Big Short.”

But they will feel they HAVE to give “Spotlight” something, besides Best Picture, which could help whoever might get nominated in this category, if ANYbody even does. Neither was nommed by the GGs or SAG.

And everybody knows Sylvester Stallone, which is a knife that cuts both ways. He is staging a Rocky Balboa come-back in the B.O. hit, boxing film “Creed.’IMHO, he mumbled his way through too many scenes. And again, we get back to the degree of difficulty. Is Mumbling Acting? I know the Actor’s Studio Method types still think so. But Stallone was never part of that stable. He’s just mumbling”

And I don’t wax nostalgic for Rocky movies or for  Rocky himself. Stallone got his Oscars back in the day. For Best Picture and Best Screenplay and I think the Academy will feel that’s enough. And that they don’t owe Stallone anything.

 

“Revenant” Is Vomitous, Extreme Violence to Animals, Leo Won’t Get an Oscar for Stunt Work

Revenant 2Some people will do anything to get an Oscar. And I mean, ANYthing. Like, for instance, Leonardo DiCaprio in the nauseating “Revenant.” The gratuitous violence against animals just made me sick. Never mind the violence to humans. The first half-hour, 20 minutes or so, is soooo bad that the woman behind me left. Walked right out.

I had turned to her at an Academy-ish screening and warned her “This film is supposed to be really violent, you know.” And she said “Oh, I can take violence. When it’s used properly. Like Quentin Tarantino. I loved ‘Reservoir Dogs.” But she couldn’t take it. She was gone in 20 mins. That’s how disgusting “The Reveanant” is.

And even more appauling were the reviews that were praising it to the skies. Leaving one open, of course. to  being mightily disappointed. Which I was, very.

And after this hyper-violent beginning, we are then treated to two more solid hours of Leonardo doing stunt work. Stunt, after stunt, after stunt. And there’s virtually no dialogue in the film. Yes it’s like a silent movie.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like silent movies. I LOVED “The Artist.” And Jean DuJardin won a Best Actor Oscar and so did its’ director Michel Hazanavicius. Both were completely unknown at the time, and America, and the Academy fell in love with them.

But “The Revenant” is not that. Its’ star has baggage. Four Oscar nominations, and he’ll probably get another for this. But he won’t win.He never does. And stunt work is not ACTING.

I think the Academy is going to prefer actors who are speaking LINES. Like Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” or more probably Bryan Cranston in “Trumbo.”

“The Revenant” is beautifully photographed however in natural winter light by two time Academy Award Winner for Cinematography, Emmanuel Lubezski. His lensing is the award-worthy work here. One keeps gasping at the magnificent, snowy vistas. And glad that one is inside and warm.

But after two and a hours even the most stunning of scenic shots grows thin. And that ultra-violent beginning! Yes, Leo gets attacked by a bear. And yes,, as Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report has headlined, it does look like “Leo Gets Fucked by a Bear.”

The bear fight is one of the most unnecessarily violent animal attacks I’ve ever seen on film. Yes, he’s being mauled and nearly eaten, or as Drudge says, fucked. But then you see that there are bear cubs in the background and you realize this is a momma bear, defending her cubs, and wait for it,she’s the only female in the movie.

I really couldn’t stand “Birdman” and I just HATED “The Revenant.” There was no reason for the excessivness of the first, bloody thirty minutes of the movie.

Innaritu, the director, who won an Oscar for Best Director last year, for “The Birdman” is certainly not going to win another one for this. Though he and Leo could both get nominations. And Lubezski, too. , At a budget of $137 million, they will feel overwhelmed at the sheer audacity of the attempt and they will feel they HAVE to give it SOMEthing. Like the bear, it’s too big to ignore.

But for what? After the bear attack, we are then treated to two solid hours of solo stunt work from Leo as he DRAGS himself by his elbows through snow, snow and more snow.  He skins the bear and wears the coat as his fur for the rest of the movie. And we’re shown the WHOLE process. UGH! And he takes the bear’s claws and using it throughout the rest of the film as alternatively a shovel and a weapon and other things. I felt sorry for the bear.

RevenantHe digs holes for himself in snow and ice with the bear claws. He catches fish with his bare hands. His son is killed after he’s buried alive and left for dead by his party of dastardly deed doers. And I just didn’t care. His throat is scarred, too, so that when he DOES finally utter a few lines later in the movie, he sounds just like Harvey Fierstein. And Harvey Fierstein has never won an Oscar.

“The Revenant” is utterly uninvolving. I just didn’t care if he lived or died. And I was always aware that it was LEONARDO DICAPRIO doing all this. For all the facial hair, dirt, grime and lack of speaking, he STILL looks like a kid.

And Innaritu is clearly into audience torture. To make audiences sit for this long and watch all this stupendously photographed STUNTS…and then when he finally gets his hands on a beautiful dappled horse, he slits its’ throat and DISEMBOWELS it! And we see every single bit of innards and intestine that Leo removes. Then he takes off all his clothes! Yes, there’s a nude scene! And  he climbs INSIDE the dead horse for warmth. I understand the warmth part. But he reveals his beautifully toned, young, gym body as well as his still breathtaking ass, and well, THAT threw me out of his character of this trapper, he was trying to create, and into a porno movie scene.

I don’t think the Academy will get through the first 30 minutes of this film, where it’s so violent, it causes walk outs and well, I felt like I myself was going to vomit. No. With a “Saving Private Ryan”like super-gory first few scenes, that’s when the Academy members, who are all older than water, will tune out. They will turn off their screeners at that point just like they did with “Saving Private Ryan”s bloody recreation of the landing of D-Day.

But at least “Pvt. Ryan” was proving a historical and political point. It had some gravitas. But all “The Revenant” has is gore, gore and more gore and snow. And well, I was bored, Leo’s charming nude scene notwithstanding. This is NOT an Oscar performance. It’s stunt work.A blatant attempt at Oscar bait. But I don’t think the Academy is going to rise to it.

A Little More Christmas in Iceland ~ with Pall Oskar Pt.2

For those of you who can’t get enough of the sensational young Icelandic pop star Pall Oskar here is the rest of our VERY gay conversation at a family restaurant The Three Frekkars in  Reykjavik in 1998.

Camera ~ British Guzman

Editing ~ William Hohauser

“King Charles III” Triumphs on Broadway!

King Charles IIII have always felt a great connection to Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales, since childhood. He was of my generation, and so when I was in school in England, I met many Oxford students who were his classmates, and to a one they adored him, and felt he would make a great king, when his mother, the still and present queen passed on into history.

And when I was a struggling actor/playwright in London in the late ’70s-early ’80s, I heard over and over again from all and sundry that “Prince Charles will be a great and popular king.” Then I returned to the States to resume my American theatrical career. I still was an avid royalist and always watched the Royal Family’s story play out as an international drama.

Enter Princess Diana and her storybook wedding to Charles. Everything seemed glorious, until it didn’t. Diana had supplanted Charles in the country’s minds and hearts. She was dubbed “The People’s Princess” and they meant it.

Then came the divorce.

Then came her horrid death at the hands of the paparazzi. And then, well,  Elizabeth was still Queen and Charles carried on as the Prince of Wales, waiting and waiting and waiting for his mother to die.  And still she reigns. On and on. In very good health. In her 80s, with no signs of slowing down, or stepping down. Her mother, the Queen Mother lived til she was over 100. It looks like she will, t00. And abdication is not an option.

So as the long Dies Irae that begins “King Charles III,” the best new play on Broadway, you are left wondering just what has happened and who has died?

And then after the funeral procession ends, the dialogue begins…

Enter Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and King Charles III

Cam.

My wond’rous Charles you looked composed throughout

You did her proud, for as she would have liked

You never showed your pain, but stood instead

A virtuous man of dignity and grace.

Immovable, inscrutable as stone.

Cha.

Please don’t. It’s simply what I had to do.

We’ll find no dignity in cov’ring up

The way we feel. What son should, standing

Waiting at his mother’s grave, stop his tears?

Cam.

Are you alright?

Cha.

My whole existence has like most of us

Been built upon the ones who gave me birth.

And now they’re gone. That’s it. First Dad.

Now mum. The only truth: I am alone.

Cam.

Except for me.

Cha

It’s not the same, Camilla. The love, with us,

It’s all my life, but never can replace

Parental word, a mother’s hand to hold.

Yes, it is Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession that we are shockingly witnessing. And playwright Mike Bartlett’s words are (gasp!) in iambic pentameter! And we see the Now King Charles really quaking in his boots at the prospect of finally, in his 7os, becoming the new King. And as you can see by the above interchange that opens the play. Camilla isn’t much help.

Living in England as long as I did, you feel like you are living with the Royal Family. They are ever-present as a topic of conversation and the people still love them and want them. But there are others, England’s left-wing and a lot of the Labor Party, that do not want the House of Windsor to still rule, but they do. Improbably so. Which is what playwright Bartlett’s “King Charles III” brilliantly elucidates as his magnificent “historical fantasy” unfolds. And in iambic pentameter, too!

We don’t need an introduction to the House of Windsor’s characters. Charles, Camilla, his two sons, William and red-headed Harry, and the ambitious daughter-in-law, William’s wife, the beauteous Kate Middleton. We know them as well as any movie stars. But here Bartlett has re-cast them in his own molds. Charles is frighteningly ineffectual and dithering. Kate Middleton is the new Lady Macbeth, pushing her handsome blond husband William forward at every turn. And red-head, hot head Harry seems very much like Prince Hal, straight out of the History Plays

And so Bartlett stages and re-imagines the world apres-Queen Elizabeth. As Kate Middleton says “I never thought she’d die.”

And her death sets up a series of catastrophic events that call to mind Shakespeare’s other ineffectual monarch “Richard II.” I thought for sure I was going to hear “Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad tales of the death of Kings….For in this hollow ground, keeps death his court…”

But no, we hear ECHOES of “Richard II”…and “Hamlet” too, as Mike Bartlett spins out the new history play he has to tell, in his own remarkable words, and his own thrilling plot. With a cast that  all seem to be Royal Shakepeareans to a one, as they speak his words, o so trippingly on the tongue.

Tim Piggot-Smith is pitch-perfect as the baffled, weak, but still princely,  but not, kingly  Charles. Margot Leicester is a maternal, grey-haired Camilla. Oliver Chris is by turns dashing, then ghastly as Prince William, Charles’ oldest, very tall and kingly son..His is a startling performance, as the play builds to its’ outrageous, but inevitable climax. Chris also scored in “One Man, Two Guv’nors” against the ultimate unexpected Tony win of James Corden, now of late night.

There’s also Sally Scott as the ghost of Princess Diana, haunting them all, and still  scaring them all to death and turning their lives upside-down, every time she appears. Richard Goulding is a terrific comic foil as the stumble-bum playboy Harry. Who takes a Cockney art student as his lover and is astounded by Kabobs  and Burger Kings. He even compares  the British Empire to a kabob, that thick slab of meat that keeps getting pieces sliced off of it.

.And Lydia Wilson all but steals the show as the seemingly plastic, but deadly Kate. She makes”King Charles III” a duel to the death…but well I won’t reveal anymore of the fabulous, fictional, but all-too-plausible plot that Mike Bartlett has created. Spun out of inspired gold it is.

I’m sure “King Charles III” is going to win every award possible this spring. But wait, it’s CLOSING, after its limited run on Jan. 31! So run, don’t walk to buy tickets, while there’s still time.

I’m sure the Royal Family weren’t happy with this play. It won the Olivier award last year for Best Play in London. But they never react or respond to anything like this. They are trained from birth not to.

But the acting and the writing are sublime!”King Charles III” is catnip to Bardolators like myself, and like you, dear readers, dear lovers of theatre!

So go! You’ll enjoy it! You’ll be glad you did! How often is it that we get a new Shakespearean play?King Charles III 2

 

 

 

Merry Christmas From New York, New York 2015!!!

Christmas New York 2015Christmas New York 2015Merry Merry Happy Happy, dear Cineastes, dear readers, dear lovers of theater, from NY, NY!!!

Christmas in Iceland with Pall Oskar Part One

An Icelandic Christmas memory…with the wonderful teen pop star Pall Oskar, who was just coming off hosting the Eurovision song contest, the campiest spectacle ever on European television. Here we enjoy Pall opening the show with a VERY campy rendition of an Icelandic Christmas carol.And that campy/sincere chorus backing him up! Hilarious. And charming.

Christmas ’98 was a great time to be in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capitol, for the first time. The weather wasn’t that cold at all. Not what you’d expect for an island country in the middle of the North Atlantic kissing the Artic Circle. But there was only TWO hours of daylight! The sun rose, weakly, at 11 AM and set around 1pm! In the summer however the sun never sets!

We were put into a very homey classic Icelandic restaurant called the Three Frekkars, which is the Icelandic name for Frenchmen! Frekkar is also the Icelandic word for long rain coat, or trench coat. So it is assumed that that’s what the Frenchmen were wearing when the first arrived in Reykavik by ship centuries ago.Icelanders had never seen any one dressed like that before, i was told.

And they eat whale! And puffin, too! As you’ll see…

Happy Holidays! Enjoy! I wish I could remember the word for Merry Christmas in Icelandic. It was something like Happy Yule, but that’s not it, exactly.Very difficult language that is spoken nowhere in else in the world. It’s the genuine Viking tongue. No other Scandinavians speak it. Or understand it.Icelalnd 1

Oscar/SAG upset! Watch out for “Trumbo” and Bryan Cranston!

Trumbo 3I’m expecting a bombshell at the SAG awards. I think “Trumbo” is poised to upset many Oscar apple-carts. It’s got everything. A true Hollywood scandal with a real life hero Dalton Trumbo, and a magnificent career-best performance by the beloved-by-his-fellow-actors Bryan Cranston.

It’s a story that’s never been told. And there are many still alive today, like Kirk Douglas, who is depicted in the film, who were effected by the terrible Blacklist of a group of writers, who became known as the Hollywood Ten. Why? Because the admitted to being members of the Communist Party back in the days, the ’50s, when McCarthy witch-hunts were ruling the land.

And it has its own Cruella De Ville villainess that you can feel free to hiss, and boo, Dame Helen Mirren as the red-baiting, but powerful Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Mirren seems to slither through this movie like a silken snake. It’s a role that has garnered Mirren already a SAG nomination as well as a Golden Globe.Trumbo 1

And  Bryan Cranston is  just sensational! He gets to pull our heart-strings as one of the most courageous Hollywood screenwriters has ever seen,who kept on writing for the movies, even after the US govt. forbade him to. He was bankrupted. He was even sent to jail!

And then when he came out of jail, he was reduced to writing schlock screenplays for the schlockmeiester-to-end-all-schlockmeisters, played by John Goodman, who adds a JOLT to any film he’s in. He essayed a similar role in “The Artist” and THAT small, unexpected film won the Oscar, lest we forget, and after “Birdman”s win last year, it shows us that Hollywood will never get over its’ love affair with itself. “Trumbo” may find itself nominated for many things, besides Cranston and Mirren. It could  get nominated for Best Picture,too! Wouldn’t THAT be a surprise!”Spotlight” LOOK OUT!

“Trumbo”s got a star-studded cast who really deliver and who all have been nominated for Best Ensemble for the SAG award. To the great surprise of everyone in the blogosphere and out of it. They didn’t expect that, and they also didn’t expect Cranston and Mirren to land both Globe&SAG nods. It might even win Best Ensemble which is SAG’s equivalent of best picture. This award may be where “Trumbo” triumphs, too, and not the presumed front-runner “Spotlight.”

It’s a Hollywood story through and through with a genuine hero, who suffered and nearly died, at Hwood’s bad hands. I know of one man who killed himself due to this, and this tragic story has never fully been told, until now. But it’s an inspiring film too, because Trumbo triumphs in the end when “Spartacus” has his name on the title credits “Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo.” It’s a golden moment that’s a very satisfying climax to the appauling story of prejudice and discrimination that has gone before.

You love Cranston in this, as you loved him in “Breaking Bad” as the iconic Walter White. And we have to remember that AFTRA the TV actors union has now merged with SAG, making it no crime at all to succeed on the small screen as well as the big one..

Cranston is one of the great actors we have today and he totally aces the role of  the grumpy, mustachioed, eccentric-but-principled Dalton Trumbo. He is immensely respected as an actors’ actor and he gives one of the best performances of the year. And he’s in his 40’s when he starts and then he ages! Something that always catnip to the Academy. AND he gets strip searched nude in prison, and has to endure a shocking anal cavity search. But he never gives up or gives in.

And he has one hilarious scene with an Oscar on a table before him, an Oscar which he won writing “Roman Holiday” under one of his enforced aliases, and he keeps saying “I don’t want it” to the writer sitting across from him, played by Alan Tudkyk.

I think that Cranston had better clear a place on his already over-crowded mantle-piece. He won so many Emmys for “Breaking Bad” and a Tony, too, for his LBJ in “All the Way” on Broadway last year.

People just keep throwing awards at him, and awards magnet that he is, he’s going to get the SAG and then the Oscar, too.

Leo for doing stunt work in the odious, repellant “The Revenant” doesn’t stand a chance against America’s answer to Daniel Day-Lewis, Bryan Cranston.

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