a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2016

Debbie Reynolds Dies One Day After Carrie Fisher “Brights Lights” both


Hollywood’s heart is surely broken forever with the devastating news of Legend Debbie Reynolds death the day after her beloved daughter Carrie Fisher’s death. I’m sad. I’m reeling. I just saw them featured quite marvelously in “Bright Lights” a doc on their tangled lives at the NYFF. And the thing that struck me so much about “Bright Lights” by Fisher Stevens, was how much they loved each other. How much fun they had and what a joy and a treat this documentary was.

It’s supposed to air on HBO, now probably sooner rather than later, but don’t miss it. It now has an air of tragedy hanging about it, that both Fisher and Reynolds dispel completely by their constantly being “On.” And entertaining us mightily and forever. It’s a fitting tribute to them, as they always say.

And they don’t hold back. It’s like they just couldn’t. But they loved each other and clearly couldn’t live without each other as events have sadly born out.

When I heard Carrie had died, I just KNEW in my heart that her death would kill Debbie, too, and it did. Their houses adjoined each other more or less “up a steep hill” as Carrie put it in Hollywood. They collected endless memorabilia from the Golden Days, and now Debbie herself, one of the biggest symbols of Hollywood’s hey day that there ever was is gone.

I can scarcely stand it. Debbie Reynolds played such a large role in my life, always the smiling, dancing teenager from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tammy” that song that never leaves your mind. And she was even nominated for an Oscar once for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Carrie had “Star Wars” a bigger hit financially than any of her mother’s films ever were. And her now iconic Princess Leia never really bowled me over. But her millions of fans disagree.

I loved her acerbic wit, which the film “Bright Lights” capitalizes on by starting with Carrie calling Debbie “tsu-Mommy,” but not to her face. When she enters the room with Debbie in it, it’s always “Mommy.” And the sweetness is not faked for the cameras.

With all her addictions and bipolar disorders, I always thought of Carrie as crashingly normal despite her upbringing and her surroundings. And so did she.

Debbie once said of Carrie “She’s genuine.” And she was. They both were.

We, the fans, are with them forever and are happy that they are together again in Hollywood Heaven. And we do have this great upcoming doc “Bright Lights” to watch over and over again as soon as it starts airing.

No Mommie Dearest relationship here. They truly loved each other. Don’t miss “Bright Lights.” Their bright lights will never go out.

#Debbie Reynolds Death

# Bright Lights doc

# Carrie Fisher Death

My Year’s Ten Best Films

natalie-portman1. Jackie

manchester-by-the-sea-32. Manchester by the Sea

la-la-land-73. La La Land

4.Florence Foster Jenkinsflorence-foster-jenkins5.Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walkbilly-lynn-16. 13thangela-davis-1

7. Hell or High Water

8. Personal Shopperpersonal-shopper-1

9. Lovingloving-1



Oscar Disappointment Big Time! “Fences” is long, talky and boring. But Viola will win Best Sup.Actress

fences-8Majorly disappointed by “Fences.” I was shocked. It was lonnnng, talky and boring. I loved it onstage, where it seemed superfast, compelling and poetic. And I saw Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in it and they were electrifying. Here it’s more like Dumbzell, just taking extreme close-ups of himself and talking, talking, talking until he became absolutely tiresome. He’s directed it, too, so it’s Dumbzell taking pictures of himself over and over and over again.fences-1

Thank god for Viola Davis! She makes this gabfest interesting and when the focus shifts to her, the film seems to be directed by a different director, with a whole different directorial technique. Why? Because Dumbzell reverts to Denzel and is objective about her, her incredible talent and her amazing character of Rose, and she WILL win Best Supporting Actress for sure. No wholes barred. Hands down.

She’s stunning in this. Riveting. And Mr. Washington is not.

I was wondering why he wasn’t winning more Best Actor awards and not stopping Casey Affleck in his tracks.  I was wondering why he wasn’t turning up on Best Directors lists and now I know. He can’t direct himself as well as he directs other people.

We get much too much of Denzel the movie star with the gleaming, perfect smile and yes, movie star teeth. I really could strangle him for what he’s done to this wonderful, important play. He’s made it dull. And only Viola will go on to Oscar nomination and win. She’s superb, and overcomes his plodding focus.

Because she’s simply a great actress who you can’t take your eyes off of. Whereas as he’s so methodical and plodding, he shows himself to be nothing more than a good-looking movie star who glides through everything on his charisma as he’s been doing for decades. He already has two Oscars. He certainly doesn’t need a third. Not after directing this great American play as if it were a Selfie.

A+ personality. C+ actor -ing.  And “Fences” is not going to upset any body’s Oscar apple cart. Except poor Michelle Williams, who would be winning Best Supporting Actress for “Manchester by the Sea” if Viola hadn’t made the VERY wise decision to go Supporting, where she’s winning everything so far as Mahershal Ali is for “Moonlight.”

The director of “Moonlight” Barry Jenkins doesn’t bore you. Denzel does, I’m shocked to report. fences-9

I saw this at a public screening with a 95% African-American/Hispanic/Ethnic audience. They talked all the way through the film.

As the film wore on, his character Troy Maxson becomes more and more unlikeable to put it mildly. We discover he’s an asshole and yes, the only good thing he ever did in his life was to marry his wife, Rose. Or in the case of Washington, casting Viola Davis who recreates her stage triumph and saves the film.

Casey Affleck is playing a problematic loser in “Manchester by the Sea,” but director/writer Lonergan and Affleck SOLVE all the character’s many problems by the end of the film, which is why it is so uplifting, despite the depressing subject matter(death) and is why Casey Affleck keeps winning all those accolades, and will continue to do so.viola-davis-fences-1

And so will Viola Davis for reasaons explained above ^

Merry Christmas 2016!

merry-christmas-2016-1Merry Christmas dear readers, dear cineastes, dear Lovers of Theatre!

A Chanukah Jewel! Monica Piper Shines in “Not That Jewish”

monica-piper-1There is no better way to celebrate Chanukah that I can think of than to treat yourself to a marvelously funny and warm antidote to NYC’s cold winter nights than to spend it in the company of the redoubtable Monica Piper, whose one-woman show, “Not That Jewish” is a unparalled delight.

Off-Broadway at the below ground Urban Stages, “Not That Jewish” is one of those remarkable joys that only New York Theater can bring. You go in not know what to expect then stumble upon a play and in this case an amazing woman that totally surprises you and blows you away at the same time.

I mean you have to love a woman who named herself after the Santa Monica Pier.(She dropped the “Santa” and added a couple of letters one wild and wooly night in Los Angeles.) And though I had never heard of her before, she has had quite an outstanding career in Comedy all over the country doing stand-up for over four decades.

Not young, the impish Piper will steal your heart with her hilarity and her incredibly fit, compact body and Yiddishe soul. She’s an Emmy award- winning comedy writer for “Rugrats” and also was picked personally by Roseanne to write for “Roseanne” in its’ hey-day, and “Not That Jewish” shows you why. I kept marveling at how incredibly well written it was.monica-piper-2But Ms. Piper is not just going for the laugh-a-minute kind of slam-bang show like the current “Oh Hello” is. Hers is a much more subtle mission. She wants you to love her life story and  to love her. And you do.

She’s a twice married(I lost count) single Mom, and though it’s the story of finding her own comic voice in the Man’s world of stand-up, not an easy thing to do in the days she was coming up in the clubs, it’s really in the end the story of her adoption of a Christian son, and trying to bring him up Jewish.
“I was a stay-at-hotel Mom,” she brusquely quips. And it is her heart-ache and joy bringing up Jake that  really clobbers you in the end. I, who don’t have any children  and am not Jewish, didn’t want to have kids, but by the end she totally converted me to both causes, declaring that Jake had turned out to be, after much strum und drang, “a mensch.” It’s a truly beautiful moment when she says that world. Magical simple heart-felt.

Monica Piper is only warming up our stages until January 29. I recommend “Not That Jewish” as the perfect Christmas show, too. Disgruntled  Grinch-y gentiles will rejoice in Monica’s warm Yiddishe mama of a show.


Marion Cotillard in “Allied” Is Oscar Worthy. But Will She Get In?

allied-4The beauteous Marion Cotillard is mesmerizing, as always, in”Allied” in a juicy role in a movie that in any other year would for sure net her yet another Oscar nomination. This year’s Best Actress race is so crowded with career-best performances by as many as eight other actresses, as unbelievable as it sounds, there may just be no room at the inn for the sumptuous, subtle French beauty, who is surely one of the great screen talents walking among us today. But I loved “Allied” anyway. A sweeping war-time romance that will sweep you away. How can it not?marion-cotillard-allied-1Marion is Marianne Beausejour, a resistance fighter behind enemy lines, the movie finds her stranded in Casblanca, summoning up all kinds of romantic illusions of great films past. And he leading man is the stalwart Brad Pitt. She can’t resist him, and neither can we. Their chemistry is quite beautiful and dangerous. She may be an agent provocateur, a German spy working American Pitt’s straight arrow hero for all he is worth.allied-1

She even gives him a child, a beautiful little girl, who is born during a horrendous, fiery raid. And Marion gives us, the viewers, ANOTHER great performance to relish for ever and ever. In some ways she has never been more beguiling, more of a screen temptress, as she seems to always urging Brad to kiss her and make mad, passionate desert love.allied-3allied-7

Marion’s stunning period costumes designed by Joanna Johnston, are ripped from her voluptuous body at regular intervals and

Pitt, believing in equality of the sexes, flashes his beautiful blonde ass at us every time they do jump in the sack. Particularly memorably during a desert sand storm, where our hero & heroine are going it at like there’s no tomorrow.

The heat and the suspense ramps up as Pitt is told that the Allied forces believe his beautiful young wife is a German spy. He has 72 hours to root out the truth, and if it is true, kill her, or he will be killed for treason himself.

I won’t spoil any more of the plot, but all concerned are just marvelously suspicious  of each other, or are they just one of the most beautiful husband and wife teams to ever grace the screen and are simply, madly in love. Or both?

I wish “Allied” looked more assured as an Oscar contender. Only the bewitching costumes of Joanna Johnston may actually make the Academy cut. But it’s a grand ole swoon-worthy time at the cinema and 0ne of the Best Films of the Year in my book.

And Marion Cotillard is a screen legend. Period. Full Stop. And Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt, who could ask for anything more?

SAG Nom Shocker! No “La La Land”! “Manchester by the Sea” Gets Most with 4

A bunch of surprises in Santa’s bag of SAG nominations this morning! No “La La Land” ! Not completely skunked though.Ryan Gosling got nominated for Best Actor and Emma Stone for Best Actress.  Instead we see the surprise appearance of “Captain Fantastic.” Viggo Mortensen in Best Actor, likely replacing Joel Edgerton from “Loving” which did get completely left out. As did “20th Century Women” and “Silence.”captain-fantastic-1

And also “Captain Fantastic” is Best Ensemble. A nearly forgotten Indie film from the Fall, it is joined by the strong showing of late breaker “Hidden Figures” which also scored in Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer.

The strongest showing was made by Oscar  front-runner #2, the excellent “Manchester by the Sea” with, as expected, Casey Affleck, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Michelle Williams, Best Supporting Actor Lucas Hedges and Best Ensemble. Hedges nomination, which didn’t repeat at Golden Globes puts “Manchester by the Sea” in the lead here with four nominations.manchwarwe-by-the-sea-6

Not surprisingly “Moonlight” rated Best Ensemble, Best Supporting Actress, Naomie Harris and Best Supporting Actor(and probable winner in this category) Mashershala Ali.

“Jackie” once again only had one nominee, Natalie Portman in Best Actress, and for the first time Emily Blunt pops up in Best Actress for “Girl on the Train.” And also, Meryl Streep AND Hugh Jackman, in Lead and Supporting, respectively for “Florence Foster Jenkins.”florence-foster-jenkins

“Fences” got Best Ensemble, Best Actor Denzel Washington and still staying in Supporting Viola Davis, who will probably win in this category, as she will at the Golden Globes.

With Affleck, Portman, Ali and Davis all probable wins, only the award for Best Ensemble, their award for Best Picture, really, is the only one in contention. But if I had to hazard a guess this nomination morning, I would say “Manchester by the Sea” with four nominations wins here.


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
CASEY AFFLECK / Lee Chandler – “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” (Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)
ANDREW GARFIELD / Desmond Doss – “HACKSAW RIDGE” (Lionsgate)
RYAN GOSLING / Sebastian –“LA LA LAND” (Lionsgate)
DENZEL WASHINGTON / Troy Maxson – “FENCES” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
AMY ADAMS / Louise Banks – “ARRIVAL” (Paramount Pictures)
EMILY BLUNT / Rachel – “THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN” (Universal Pictures)
NATALIE PORTMAN / Jackie Kennedy – “JACKIE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
EMMA STONE / Mia – “LA LA LAND” (Lionsgate)
MERYL STREEP / Florence Foster Jenkins – “FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS” (Paramount Pictures)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
JEFF BRIDGES / Marcus Hamilton – “HELL OR HIGH WATER” (CBS Films)
HUGH GRANT / St Clair Bayfield – “FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS” (Paramount Pictures)
LUCAS HEDGES / Patrick Chandler – “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” (Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)
DEV PATEL / Saroo Brierley – “LION” (The Weinstein Company)
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
VIOLA DAVIS / Rose Maxson – “FENCES” (Paramount Pictures)
NICOLE KIDMAN / Sue Brierley – “LION” (The Weinstein Company)
OCTAVIA SPENCER / Dorothy Vaughan – “HIDDEN FIGURES” (20th Century Fox)
MICHELLE WILLIAMS / Randi Chandler – “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” (Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

ANN DOWD / Abigail

FENCES (Paramount Pictures)
VIOLA DAVIS / Rose Maxson

HIDDEN FIGURES (20th Century Fox)
MAHERSHALA ALI / Col. Jim Johnson
KIRSTEN DUNST / Vivian Mitchell
TARAJI P. HENSON / Katherine G. Johnson
ALDIS HODGE / Levi Jackson
JANELLE MONÁE / Mary Jackson
JIM PARSONS / Paul Stafford
GLEN POWELL / John Glenn
OCTAVIA SPENCER / Dorothy Vaughan

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions)
CASEY AFFLECK / Lee Chandler
KYLE CHANDLER / Joe Chandler
LUCAS HEDGES / Patrick Chandler


La La Land Most Golden Globe Noms Seven!

la-la-land-8The Nomination announcement of the Golden Globe Awards always seems to me to be more important to The Race than the actual awards presentation themselves. THIS is the day when all the barriers are broken and all the gloves come off and the speculation just HAS to stop. Because well, we’re faced~ AT LAST~ with the actual participants in this Oscar saga. Or Awards saga, or what have you. NOW we know. With a historic SEVEN nominations for “La La Land” it is what has been rumored all along and I heartily concur, a great big fat solid award-winning hit!golden-globe-1

I loved it as I said the day before yesterday and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves it, too. And I’m so glad they did.

Sure, I feel sorry for the runner-up, the VERY deserving beautiful “Manchester by the Sea.” Of course, there’s a bias there, too. I love New England. Manchester by the Sea seems like a Cape Cod town not unlike Provincetown, with all the gay people removed. And in winter.

And yes, if that sounds depressing, it is. But it’s WONDERFULLY depressing. It’s THAT good a film. It may even be a great one, a classic. It’s GOOD depressing. It makes you think. It’s screenplay and director, both the great Kenneth Lonergan got nominated, and that’s very important.manchwarwe-by-the-sea-6

And it got nominated for Best Actor Casey Affleck, yes, him again. And Best Supporting Actress Michelle Williams, who will sadly lose in that category, if Viola Davis stays in that category.manchester-by-the-sea

Everything seems set in stone(though it’s not) once the Golden Globe nods are announced. THESE are the contenders, the people all the Oscarologists and Oscar strategists will have to bob and weave around. Yes, and SAG, too.

The Broadcast Film Critics moved their CEREMONY to last night and no one even knew it was on! So even though there was the strange upset of Emma Stone for Best Actress by Natalie Portman’s “Jackie,” it barely registered with the general public, which in this case means the Academy voters.jackie-tourBut it WAS noticeable because it was the only upset.

It will register with them the way that Isabelle Huppert’s three wins for Best Actress from the New York Film Critics, the LA Critics and the National Board of Review. As hardly a blip on the radar.

This season is going to now be all about “La La Land”s winning everything and whether or not that means Emma Stone loses to Natalie Portman. Emma will, of course, win in Best Actress Comedy or Musical and Portman will win in Best Actress Drama. Then what happens at the Oscars is anyone’s guess.

I know you’re all dying to know who actually WAS nominated for Best Actress, Drama, well, besides Portman it was Huppert, Amy Adams for “Arrival”, Jessica Chastain for “Miss Sloane” and the wonderful Ruth Negga for “Loving.” But the battle royal is shaping up between Emma Stone and Portman.

“Jackie” a film I loved personally and thought “How could the Academy deny this films’ greatness?” got only Portman as a main nominee. No screenplay. No director. No Best Picture. It WILL do much better at the Oscars. But compare the Golden Globe nods. “La La Land”s 7 to “Jackie”s 1.

Then of course, there’s the always unpredictable Supporting categories that suddenly seem to be the most predictable of all. Mahershala Ali wins for “Moonlight” and Viola Davis for “Fences.”

There was a serious lack of support for “Fences” too. Like “Jackie” it was surprisingly snubbed for Best Picture Drama, Best Director Denzel and Best Screenplay (by the late August Wilson). However, yes, Denzel did get ANOTHER Best Actor nod. But he and Viola were the only two from “Fences” which shocked me.

That will change come the Oscars, too. But it doesn’t have the myriad possibilities of nominations in the below-the-line categories that “La La Land” and also, unbelievably “Jackie” does.

And then what if the Academy decides, as it did so recently with Kate Winslet, to put Viola Davis not in Supporting, but lead for “Fences”?!?!? And why do I think they may just do that and who would get bumped out?fences-1

Taraji B. Henson already saw all the air go out of her tires this morning and only Octavia Spencer from “Hidden Figures” got in.

And it seems pre-ordained now that Mahersala and Viola will just march in lock step to the Oscars and Supporting duo winners(not from the same film) seem to keep doing. As recently as Lupita Nyongo and Jared Leto only three years ago,

If Viola had to break up the Natalie v. Emma log jam, I think she would win. Then Michelle Williams would win in Supporting for HER incredible performance in “Manchester by the Sea.”

We shall see…

For a list of the complete Golden Globe nominees go of course to http://www.awardsdaily.com

“La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.


Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

“La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

“La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

“La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

Meet the Diva!Coco Smith sings at Dianne Elizabeth w/Pedro Copetti & Scott Siegel


Meet superlative Diva Coco Smith, who sings a couple of sizzling solos, a capella, YES! A capella, at the about-t0-open new Hell’s Kitchen eaterie Dianne Elizabeth. Coco was one of Scott Siegel’s Broadway’s Rising Stars last year and she came back this year to participate as well. She is now in Australia with “Book of Mormon” in which she was appearing this past year since the Rising Stars concert.

She’s is joined in a joyful finale of “Greatest City in the World” by host Siegel and also one of this year’s Rising Stars Pedro Copetti, who just graduated from AMDA.(Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts).

Camera and editing by Slava Rusakov






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