a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2015

There’s a Great Mike Nichols Doc Just Around the Corner on American Masters

Mike Nichols 1I know. I know. It’s barely a week left to Christmas, and everyone’s counting down the Shopping Days. But there’s a post-holiday surprise coming that will reward and enlighten you for years and years to come. It’s going to be a cultural touchstone. And it’s directed by the great Elaine May.

And it’s a documentary about her late, great early career comic partner Mike Nichols, probably one of the greatest talents this country has ever seen. And he wasn’t American! He was German!

This insightful and also immensely profound and FAIR assessment of Mike Nichols overwhelming career that spanned decades and crisscrossed media with the speed of lightning, making film and theater and comic history as he went.

Elaine May is the perfect person to document and analyze all this within the confines of an American Masters special. It’s not on the air until January, but check you local listings and DON’T MISS IT!

From an unusual childhood background of escaping the Nazis, Nichols grew up on New York’s Upper West Side, the son of a successful doctor. He sits for a feature-length interview and reveals much that we have never been privy to before.

It’s like he was leaving his legacy to his early partner in comic improv and equally early success, Elaine May. Their break-up always stupefied me. But here they both are decades later setting the record straight and settling a few scores along the way.

May gets Nichols to reveal the downs as well as the ups of his astonishing career first as a comic sketch artist par excellence with his legendary duo of Him and Elaine May. Nichols and May. I grew up hearing about them, and glimpsing them occasionally on television in the sixties, when they were hotter than hot.Nichols and MayLater on in High School or college, I think I even bought one of their great comedy albums.

May allows a few laughs here, of course, but they are sprinkled very parsimoniously throughout this great doc. The tone is serious, as well it should be. He was a great artist. She even gets him to burst into tears when discussing Meryl Streep.

“I can’t talk about Meryl,” he reveals while fighting back sobs. What would he have told us, if he hadn’t broken down. He directed Streep in one of her Oscar nominated performances “Silkwood.”

There are gem-like moments as friends from Show Business pile on the praise and the details. And nobody is harder on Nichols than he himself. And he denotes that he feels he failed as much as he succeeded.

Interesting to note that his surviving wife Diane Sawyer, is nowhere mentioned. But Nichols’ life was so chock-full of incidents that I guess she wasn’t needed. It’s quite a complete portrait of an Artist in Full. And what a great Christmas present to know that it is coming soon!

A Happy Pink Summer Memory at Scott Cakes!

A Happy Summer Memory from Provincetown for all my dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theater! May all your holidays be as pink as the cupcakes of Scott Cakes!

Camera ~ Phil Sokoloff

Editing ~ Kevin Teller

Broadcast Film Critics Announce Nominations

Danish Girl DuoThe Broadcast Film Critics announced their nominations this morning. My fave “The Danish Girl” got five. Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor, Alicia Vikander for Best Supporting Actress, Best Production, Best Costume Design, and Best Hair and Make-up. I think it will repeat at the Oscars, though Alicia Vikander may be in the Best Lead Actress category.

The most nominations went to “Mad Max:Fury Road” but that’s only because there are many separate Action Awards categories.

I am not a member of this group so I feel safe to point out that not ONE actor or actress of color was nominated in the Best Lead or Best Supporting categories.

Most welcome surprise ~ Mark Ruffalo FINALLY appeared in Best Supporting Actor for “Spotlight”

Most unwelcome surprise that Paul Dano did.

Here’s the complete list of their film nominations. They are considered the most predictive in terms of Oscar, but they hedge their bets a little by having six slots in the acting categories not five.

Also note that Bryan Cranston and Dame Helen Mirren continue their march to the Dolby pavillion with nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress for “Trumbo”.

FILM

Best Picture
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Sicario”
“Spotlight”

Best Director
Todd Haynes, “Carol”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Ridley Scott, “The Martian”
Steven Spielberg, “Bridge of Spies”

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Johnny Depp, “Black Mass”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Supporting Actor
Paul Dano, “Love and Mercy”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Michael Shannon, “99 Homes”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Helen Mirren, “Trumbo”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Best Original Screenplay
“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“The Martian”
“Room”
“Steve Jobs”

Best Animated Feature
“Anomalisa”
“The Good Dinosaur”
“Inside Out”
“The Peanuts Movie”
“Shaun the Sheep”

Best Foreign Language Film
“The Assassin”
“Goodnight Mommy”
“Mustang”
“The Second Mother”
“Son of Saul”

Best Documentary Feature
“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”
“He Named Me Malala”
“The Look of Silence”
“Where to Invade Next”

Best Cinematography
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”

Best Costume Design
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Film Editing
“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”

Best Hair & Makeup
“Black Mass”
“Carol”
“The Danish Girl”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

Best Production Design
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”

Best Song
“Fifty Shades of Grey” – “Love Me Like You Do”
“Furious 7” – “See You Again”
“The Hunting Ground” – “Til it Happens to You”
“Love and Mercy” – “One Kind of Love”
“Spectre” – “Writing’s on the Wall”
“Youth” – “Simple Song #3”

Best Score
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Spotlight”

Best Visual Effects
“Ex Machina”
“Jurassic World”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“The Walk”

Best Ensemble
“The Big Short”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”
“Trumbo”

Best Young Actor/Actress
Abraham Attah, “Beasts of No Nation”
R.J. Cyler, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
Shameik Moore, “Dope”
Milo Parker, “Mr. Holmes”
Jacob Tremblay, “Room”

Best Action Movie
“Furious 7”
“Jurassic World”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”
“Sicario”

Best Actor in an Action Movie
Daniel Craig, “Spectre”
Tom Cruise, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”
Tom Hardy, “Mad Max: Fury Road”
Chris Pratt, “Jurassic Park”
Paul Rudd, “Ant-Man”

Best Actress in an Action Movie
Emily Blunt, “Sicario”
Rebecca Ferguson, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”
Bryce Dallas Howard, “Jurassic World”
Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2”
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Comedy
“The Big Short”
“Inside Out”
“Joy”
“Sisters”
“Spy”
“Trainwreck”

Best Actor in a Comedy
Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Steve Carell, “The Big Short”
Robert De Niro, “The Intern”
Bill Hader, “Trainwreck”
Jason Statham, “Spy”

Best Actress in a Comedy
Tina Fey, “Sisters”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Melissa McCarthy, “Spy”
Amy Schumer, “Trainwreck”
Lily Tomlin, “Grandma”

Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie
“Ex Machina”
“It Follows”
“Jurassic World”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”

 

 

“Son of Saul”s Geza Rohrig Talks Oscar

Son of Saul 3

Unknown Hungarian actor and poet Geza Rohrig has found himself catapulted by the Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, the excoriating, unforgettable “Son of Saul” into the middle of the Oscar race.
“It’s all very nice,” he says modestly,” But I cannot make these things happen.” But they ARE happening, as Sony Pictures Classics begins to propel “Son of Saul” into all categories including Best Picture, not just Best Foreign Film, and Rohrig into Best Actor.
Part of that propulsion is the unaffected, unassuming Rohrig giving interviews on just that topic and “Son of Saul” in general, in New York’s Sony Building, gayly decorated for Christmas. And guarded like Fort Knox.
The security getting into the upper reaches of the Phillip Johnson designed skyscraper was intense. I had to even show my passport, which they photographed!
But at the top of a winding staircase, festooned with evergreen and red and white Christmas balls sat Geza Rohrig, in a large corporate conference room. He was casually dressed  in a gray T-shirt and jeans, wearing that flattened black cap, he is most often photographed in these days and a several day growth of actor’s stubble. Looking the absolute scruffy antithesis of the corporate Christmas milieu surrounding him.
He seems stunned but pleased and a little overwhelmed by all the awards talk revolving around him.
“But it is very good for the film. I hope it allows more people see it.”
I point out that Hollywood has a recent history, almost a tradition, of awarding previously unknown foreign actors, who give extraordinary performances, with an Oscar. Marion Cotillard with “La Vie En Rose,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” and Jean Dujardin in “The Artist.” Last year, Marion Cotillard popped up again in Best Actress for a Belgian film in French “One Day, Two Nights.”
Rohrig smiled when I told him this. It was something I hadn’t seen before. He doesn’t smile much in “Son of Saul.”
There’s no doubt about it. Geza Rohrig has one of the great screen faces. His face, ravaged, sullen, dirty, frightening is front and center in the middle of the screen in a very, very tight close-up for almost every shot in the film. Set in Auschwitz itself, the most notorious and horrifying Nazi death camp of all, we only see what is happening in the edges of the screen.
Except for Rohrig’s astoundingly expressive face, which is IN focus, the periphery is out of focus. It’s as if his character, the Sodocommandant Saul is seeing only what it is necessary for him to see, only what he can glancingly observe, as he is made to do the dirtiest of the Nazi’s dirty work.
At one point, a Nazi commandant complains in German, “We are getting 10,000 more tonight!”
Rohrig estimates that 20,000 Jews were killed per day. “And one in three were Hungarian Jews.”
Rohrig is a Jew himself. He describes himself as “Modern Orthodox,” and Laszlo Nemes, the gifted young Hungarian director is Jewish and this is his first film. Nemes claims it took him a very long time to get “Son of Saul” made.
Says Rohrig, “It was very hard to get the money to make this film. People did not want to give money to the story of a Sodocommandant. It was too controversial. They were the lowest of the low. They were Jews who killed Jews. People did not want to see this. They did not want this story to be told. Sodocommants were just as much victims as the other Jews. They were going to be killed, too. But they were lied to, and told them that this is what they would have to do if they wanted to survive. Of course, every four months they then were killed, too.”
Sodocommandants were the burly, muscular Jews who were kidnapped by the Germans, but saved to do the hard, horrifying labor at the concentration camps, herding the thousands into the gas chambers, locking the doors on the victims, and then taking out the “pieces” as the Nazi described the dead bodies, and putting them in the blazing furnaces.They then had to shovel out the ashes of the dead and dump the ashes in the nearby river.
All of this we see Rohrig’s Saul do, doggedly punched, pushed and pulled literally every step of the way.
But of course, it didn’t save them.
“They were liquidated every four months. I think that we see Saul in his second month there. He is in deep  trauma. He can’t react. He is like a robot.”
It is to Rohrig’s everlasting credit that Saul Auslander (literally Saul the outsider) paints such an indelible portrait of a Sodocommandant, who is still sentient and who is trying desperately to hold on to his sanity as the world around him becomes more and more insane.
He even believes a dying boy from the gas chambers is his son, and goes on a missiion to save the boy’s dead body and give him a proper Jewish burial. He searches the hundreds of daily, new arrivals to see if one of them might be a rabbi.
“He is in hell,” says Rohrig simply.
Rohrig has had a lifetime fascination with Auschwitz. As a young student of 19, at a Hungarian Arts School, he traveled there to see it and then returned to rent a room near Auschwitz and stayed there for a month.
” I went to Auschwitz every day and stayed there all day long. I had to see it. I had to absorb it. It was the end of my childhood. It was the end of my innocence. I learned just what the world was. I saw a pile of children’s shoes…”his voice trailing off. As if unable to explain the impact of the death camp on him as a young man.
It has stayed with him to this day, and it is probably that profound knowledge and the sensibility that drew director Nemes to him for this demanding role of Saul.
Rohrig gives Nemes all the credit. “It is not me. It is him. It is his vision.”
Rohrig read the script and auditioned and was cast in the part, and what changed as they worked on it and tried to raise the money to shoot it, was the radical placement of the camera.
“It was RIGHT HERE,” he says gesturing,”30 inches away from my face. It was THIS close all the time. It was very heavy, all that equipment.It was always following me.”
Nemes’ camerawork captures every glance, every tiny movement of  every muscle in Rohrig’s ravaged face. Sometimes we see it with the back of his head in the shot. Even the back of Rohrig’s head and his hunched hairy shoulders are expressive. And on the back of his dirty clothes is sewn a gigantic yellow Jewish star.
“We have to try to understand how human beings could to this to other human beings. But it is not just the Jews. There are genocides that are happening today. Darfur.Rwanda. It hasn’t changed. I am very pessimistic. There is still evil in the world.”
,
This was the day of the San Bernardino shootings.
“But it is my job, Laszlo and me, to stand up and tell this story over and over and over again. So people don’t forget. But we wanted to tell it differently. From one person’s perspective. It is one day in his life. We just wanted the audience to see what he sees. It is the great thing Laszlo has done with this film. He wanted to put the viewer THERE.”
And Rohrig and Nemes have succeeded mightily. Just that week it won the New York Film Critics Best First Film and the National Board of Review named it the Best Foreign Film. And Oscar is knocking on their door.
“Well, we will see. I go to L.A. soon.(Rohrig currently lives in the Bronx) They should give something to the cinematographer and the sound, too, ” he says perspicaciously. And I agree. For while, you don’t SEE everything, you HEAR it. The sound design and mixing are incredible on “Son of Saul.”
It’s one of the best films of the year. And one of the best holocaust movies every made, and one of the greatest films of all time.

 

Oscar Game Changer = “Trumbo”s Bryan Cranston. Could He Take Down Leo?.

Trumbo Poster 1Well, well, well. What a difference a day in the Oscar Race makes! Especially this volatile year. And lo and behold a new contender has arisen because of the SAG award nominations and the Golden Globe nominations being announced within a day of each other.

And who and what is shaking up the race? A film that was on NO ONE’S Oscar Radar prior to Wed./Thurs. “Trumbo.” It received a SAG ensemble award nomination, as did the presumed front-runner “Spotlight.” And it’s star the great Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame, who is a beloved veteran, won nods from both SAG and the Golden Globers for his role of the eccentric, legendary, black-listed writer Dalton Trumbo.

As I said yesterday, One(SAG nom)+One(Golden Globe) nom = an Oscar nomination for Cranston. His first one. And we all know what an awards magnet he is. And he has become iconic for the TV series that passed into legend “Breaking Bad.”

He could challenge Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenent” which everyone thought was a slam dunk for Leo to win his first Oscar this year. But now Walter White in the person of Dalton Trumbo as played by Bryan Cranston is emerging from this confused year as a VERY strong challenger for the Academy’s top honor. And maybe Best Picture, too? Perhaps…

And it is necessary to note that “Spotlight” did not get any of its’ actors, except Rachel McAdams, (in SAG for Supp. Actress) in any of its’ other possible categories. Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, what happened? They cancelled each other out. And turned up with a goose egg for both their very fine performances in “Spotlight.”

This is vs. the late breaking “Trumbo”s Best Actor AND Supporting Actress nods for Cranston and Dame Helen Mirren, who are BOTH getting in the Oscar race, I’m so sure.

“Trumbo” is a film about Hollywood, like “The Artist” was. And you can never underestimate Hollywood’s love affair — with itself.

Oscar Question ~ Golden Globes & SAG ~ What do they mean for Supporting Actress?

Golden Globes 2015Coming within nearly 24 hours of each other today and yesterday, the Golden Globes and the SAG awards announced their prestigious list of nominees but just what do they mean for Oscar?

I mean, congratulations to all the nominees. And of course, the Awards themselves are very nice to have on your shelf, but how do you compute their actual worth in terms of Oscar gold?

Well, simply put, one Globe nom + one SAG nom = one Oscar nomination, usually.

One nomination without the other usually means there’s still rough weather ahead for the nominee. And no nomination at all means, er, fawdegabowdit. Although not always. It’s maddening. But let’s try to make some sense out of these nods, that were more scrambled eggs than poached.

Let’s start with the Supporting Categories, which are usually the LEAST predictive and more open to change. Although since the Globes have a Musical/Comedy category that is separate from Drama, they only make that distinction for the lead actors. Supporting gets just one category from the Globes. IOW, five nominees. And ditto, only five nominees for Best Actor and Actress for SAG.

As I noted earlier today, Dame Helen Mirren’s double nods for “Trumbo” means she’s PROBABLY heading straight for an Oscar nom, too. The same can be said for Kate Winslet of “Steve Jobs.” But they’re the only two that you can take to the bank in this category.

Jane Fonda for “Youth,” Jennifer Jason Leigh “Hateful Eight” and Alicia Vikander for “Ex Machina” did not appear YESTERDAY when the SAG awards were announced. Though Vikander scored a Best Actress nod from the Globes but for “The Danish Girl.”

SAG saw fit to only nominate Rachel McAdams out of all the ensemble in “Spotlight.” And Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander(yes, her again) were nominated for “Carol” and “The Danish Girl.” SAG put both these ladies in Lead Actress, not Supporting.

Never has the category of Best Supporting Actress been this confusing, I have to say. In all my years of doing this, since I was a child(no, really. I used to compile Oscar lists for my little brother.) never have I seen such a mess, so much category confusion. My brain hurts thinking about it.

So who will get in and who will be left out? Neither Vikander for “The Danish Girl”nor Mara for “Carol” belong in Supporting. They’re leads.

And SAG is sending a message regarding Jane Fonda’s five minutes of screentime in “Youth.” They didn’t nominate her and I think she’ll get left out of the Academy top five, too. And Vikander won’t get in for “Ex Machina.”

Mara, I feel will end up in lead, or nowhere at all. And Vikander for “The Danish Girl” though she could be named for lead, is more likely to end up in Supporting. So then we have McAdams, Leigh, Mirren, Winslet and Vikander appearing here.

Rachel McAdams and Jennifer Jason Leigh are the only two Americans it is interesting to note. But those five make a very good case for being nominated. And I would say that should Vikander become lead, then Fonda or maybe Elizabeth Banks for “Love and Mercy” might complete the five.

“Love and Mercy” isn’t doing very well though with only Paul Dano turning up for the Globes, but not SAG. And it also got one song nomination.

I’ll try to wrap my head around the other categories, which are less complicated. Or are they? This is one crazy mixed up Oscar year -ALREADY! And we’re only in early December!

Golden Globe Nominations Full List

Danish Eddie 1Here’s the complete list of Golden Globe nominations that were announced today. Above is Best Actor Nominee Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.”

Best Picture (Drama)

  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight

Best Picture (Musical or Comedy)

  • The Big Short
  • Joy
  • The Martian
  • Spy
  • Trainwreck

Best Director – Motion Picture

  • Todd Haynes – Carol
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu – The Revenant
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott – The Martian
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Best Actor (Drama)

  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
  • Will Smith – Concussion

Best Actress (Drama)

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy)

  • Christian Bale – The Big Short
  • Steve Carell – The Big Short
  • Matt Damon – The Martian
  • Al Pacino – Danny Collins
  • Mark Ruffalo – Infinitely Polar Bear

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy)

  • Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
  • Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
  • Melissa McCarthy – Spy
  • Maggie Smith – The Lady in the Van
  • Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

  • Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

  • Jane Fonda – Youth
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
  • Helen Mirren – Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Best Screenplay

  • Room – Emma Donaghue
  • Spotlight – Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
  • The Big Short – Adam McKay
  • Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin
  • The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino

Best Original Score

  • The Revenant – Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • The Hateful Eight  – Ennio Morricone
  • Steve Jobs – Daniel Pemberton
  • Carol  – Carter Burwell
  • The Danish Girl – Alexandre Desplat

 

Best Original Song

  • Fifty Shades of Grey – “Love Me Like You Do”
  • Love & Mercy – “One Kind of Love”
  • Furious 7 – “See You Again”
  • Youth – “Simple Song #3”
  • Spectre – “Writings on the Wall”

Best Foreign Language Film

  • The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
  • The Club (Chile)
  • The Fencer (Finland)
  • Mustang (France)
  • Son of Saul (Hungary)

Best Animated Feature

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun the Sheep

 

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