a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for December, 2017

Happy New Year 2018!

Happy New Year 2018! To all my Facebook Friends, Fans and Twitter Followers!

 

 

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NYGASP “Pinafore” a New Year’s Treat

NYGASP (or the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players) are currently presenting their best-to-date production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic “H.M.S Pinafore” through Sunday, which can best be described as a New Year’s Eve treat. This classic comedy almost never disappoints. Every song is a hit. Or rather every other song. And the hilarity goes on and on in every direction.

The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on E.68th St. seems just the right sized stage & orchestra for this epic of tom-foolery on the high C’s. This saucy ship’s a beauty. And it was “grand-parents matinee,” the day I attended and after the show, you could write a character’s name on a piece of paper, and be given a back-stage tour by that member of the cast, an utterly delightful ne plus ultra. Accompanied by a grand-child, of course.

 

Go to www.nygasp.org for complete info to this delightful show and the stalwart company itself. Which I admire for their tenacity and dedication of bringing every single one of G&S great or near-great comic operas to life. It’s particularly interesting to me to see the never (well, hardly ever) done, lesser known works like “The Sorcerer.”

Try this link for a delightful, brief music video of “Pinafore.”

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https://nygasp.org/hms-pinafore

It’s almost like being there! Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!

My Year’s Ten Best 2017!

1. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME ~ One of the Best Films Ever Made. Period. The Gay Movie, we, as gays, have been waiting for all our lives. Timothee Chalamet has won BOTH the New York Film Critics and the L.A. Film Critics Best Actor awards. Armie Hammer is his magnificent love interest and co-star.

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2. WONDER WHEEL ~ Woody Allen’s latest and Kate Winslet’s tear-stained performance is one of her best.

3. THE SHAPE OF WATER ~ Guillermo Del Toro’s Best Film. Sally Hawkins amazing as a Spanish Deaf Mute Janitress who falls in love with something akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But it isn’t ridiculous. It’s beautiful and moving beyond words. She won Best Actress from the L.A. Film Critics. This film will make you cry.

4. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI– Irish Playwright Martin McDonagh’s magnificent morphing into a great American crime filmmaker. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell burn up the screen, literally. This film will make you angry. For all the right reasons.

5.  THE FLORIDA PROJECT ~Unbelievably, an epic film set in the make-shift budget motels across from  DisneyWorld, which was first called “The Florida Project,” as it was being built. Willem Dafoe is the sympathetic, sad sack motel manager and six year old mischief maker Brooklynn Prince rock each other’s and our world. Public access legend Sandy Kane makes a cameo appearance. She told me, “If you blink, you’ll miss me. It’s Tats over tits.”

6.ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD ~ Director Ridley Scott is back Big Time, as he directs Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer in a tense, spine-tingling thriller about the ’70s kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, who, yes, gets his ear cut off and sent to his mother (Williams.) But you can’t turn away.

7.LADY BIRD ~ Genius Greta Gerwig channels her boring, restless teenage years in  middle-class Sacramento into a box office bonanza that Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe as her befuddled, well-meaning mother from Hell, make herstory and could all win Oscars. Best Film of the Year from the New York Film Critics. Will it win the Oscar, too, for Best Picture? It might.

9. DUNKIRK ~ Christopher Nolan’s truly epic epic that makes all WWII war movies look like tiddly winks and utitlizes Oscar Winners  Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and a cast of 100os to re-vitalize history in a seat-of-your-pants thriller diller. And rock star Harry Styles is in it, too. And he’s good!

10.  FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON ~ Marion Cotillard’s mesmeric performance once again lights up the skies in this unusual French love story.

“Three Billboards…” Superlative, explosive, knockout, lots of Nominations, but Sam Rockwell may be its only winner.



“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” is one of the best films of this rich year. For once, the awards hype is justified. It’s a thrill ride through the unimaginable violence that plagues the small town of Ebbing, Missouri after a young girl is raped, as she is murdered, then set on fire. “Three Billboards…” is going to set the Awards season on fire, too. It will get many,many nominations.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are giving the performances of their careers, but I feel it’s Rockwell who’s going to carry home the gold. He’s been put in the category of Best Supporting Actor, though he’s arguably the co-lead. And he’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award. As has Frances, as has McDonagh.

I’ve been following Sam’s career since he was an Off Broadway actor, and he’s certainly a veteran now and has a role that is thrilling in its range and demands. As a small town cop, he has to be funny. He has to be a bit of a stooge and a stumblebum. And when the film turns dark, he has to go there, too,Oscar Winner Frances McDormand ( For “Fargo”) deserves the accolades that have been accruing to her powerful Mildred Hayes, the mother of the murdered girl. In a totally vanity-free performance, she dominates the screen so powerfully that you’ll never forget that clenched teeth, firmly set jaw, that uncompromised stare as she tries to find out who killed her teenaged daughter.

She astonishes in this film as a woman who can’t smile. She puts up these three billboards in a part of town where her daughter was killed accusing the police of doing nothing to find her the killer. And grief is making her look like a death’s head herself.Everyone in this town seems cut from the cloth of the Confederacy to put it mildly. And any of them could have done it. Especially a member of the Police Force.

Woody Harrelson is once again on hand to provide a firm grounding in ominous white cracker-dom at the outset. His battle with terminal cancer forms the second plot line that I won’t spoil here. But he’s great, too. Both he and his co-hort Rockwell, are both headed to the Oscars, and so is McDormand.But I wonder if the totally de-glammed McDormand is going to be any match for the younger and more comely superstars like Soirse Ronan. Sally Jenkins of “The Shape of Water” is more sympathetic and she’s mute. So Frances has some fierce competition in that category. She’s uncompromising. She’s great. But she has an Oscar already and Saoirse and Sally and even Michelle Williams or Annette Bening are all Oscar free…so far…Three Bill Boards 10

But ah! There is that Oscar golden moment for Frances when she encounters a free-ranging doe when she is tending a flowerbox she has placed near her dead daughter’s billboards. The look they share, eye to eye, female to female animal, is one of the few moments we see Mildred smile in this corrosive movie, you will NOT be able to stop thinking about.

Also the thrilling depths and layers that McDonagh has given Rockwell to play. He starts out as a crispy-crème, donut-chomping bigot. But he CHANGES. I can’t say how, but in the creation of Dixon, a co-lead to McDormand’s angry Mildred, he matches her beat for beat in VERY unexpected and powerful ways. He lives at home with his mother, who is always drunk. The Dear Readers of this blog can infer more…But what a complicated, stupendous role he’s written for Rockwell, who has never had a part this good since he debuted to much acclaim in “Box of Moonlight” in 1996. Unbelievably this prince of American actors has never even been nominated for an Oscar. Yet.

Even writer-director Martin McDonagh has an Oscar for a short he did. He’s certainly going to get a double nomination for both directing and original screenplay, and he’s going to up against Girl-Of-the-Hour Greta Gerwig in both categories for “Lady Bird.”

It’s going to be a very suspenseful Oscar night indeed. But I feel “Three Billboards” is such an IMPORTANT film, that they are going to give it Something Big, and that Something may very well be Sam Rockwell. as the irascible, temperamental, complicated drunk of a cop. That’s just him in the FIRST half of “Three Billboards…” The twists are UNBELIEVABLE, and it’s Sam’s character who gets to play all that juicy jazz as the plot and his character’s place in it unravel. He’s all but unbeatable. What a range McDonagh has allowed him to show!

The ubiquitous and wonderful Lucas Hedges, Oscar nominee of “Manchester by the Sea” is here, too, as McDormand’s bewildered, but compassionate son. In a moment of peak at the breakfast table, she lobs Fruit Loops at him.

He’s in “Lady Bird,” too as Saoirse Ronan’s high school boyfriend. And Peter Dinklage perks up the last third of the film as the town’s only human, a small person who is not small inside,   a midget, who befriends and helps McDormand in her fight against the lacksadaisical,  if  not downright indifferent, police “force.”

 

Their dinner date is a superb piece of comic timing. Yes,”Three Billboards” is darkly funny, too. This tragic tale of loss and corruption has an excellent sense of humor, too. In fact, it made me feel like I was watching a new Coen Brothers movie. The resemblance to their black humor and influence is definitely wonderfully there.

Irish playwright par excellence McDonagh, has fully made the unbelievable transition to American crime filmmaker. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” thrilled me to my core with its wit, drama and intense originality.

Merry Christmas 2017!

Merry Oscar Christmas to all my Facebook Friends and Fans!

Twitter followers, too!

Dear Readers, dear cineastes and lovers of theater! Thank you all!

Oscar Xmas Shocker!”All the Money In the World” Is One of The Best Films of the Year!

Never expecting the (nearly) last film to screen before Christmas Day would turn out to be one of the Best Films of the Year, I was totally blown away by “All the Money in the World”! Color me surprised! I should’ve known.  Master Filmmaker Ripley Scott, 80 and Oscarless still, has directed a rip-roaring’, edge of your seat, snatched from the headlines thriller. With two Oscar- seeking performances by three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams and Octogenarian Oscar Winner 88-year-old Christopher Plummer. Based on the true story from the ’70s of J. Paul Getty’s grandson’s kidnapping, it’s  a white-knuckle thriller that holds you in its death-defying grip and squeezes you and squeezes you,barely letting you breathe for its over two-hour plus length. It was fantastic. It’s as dizzying as standing on the top of Mt. Everest.

At times, Scott’s dare-devil-pacing has your mind racing like a speed-demon at the Annapolis 500, a steeple chase that is going to straight to hell in a handbasket. A handbasket that contains Getty’s captive grandson’s severed ear. And yes, Scott does show you that horrific scene in all its Grand Guignol glory. He doesn’t shy away from it.

It’s sort of the point of this horrible morality tale, where the real villain is money. Getty is not just the richest man in the world. He’s the richest man who ever lived.And his J. Paul Getty is one of Plummer’s greatest performances and is currently nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.  As is Michelle Williams for her brave, fearless,angry,defiant daughter-in-law, Abigail Harris, whose son is the one the Mafia captures.Miche;lle WIlliams 3

Assuming it’ll be an easy-peasy few million from the old man, it turns out to be a night-mare beyond all imagining for her. Williams gives a towering performance and matches her nemesis beat-for-beat. Her nemesis is not The Mob, but her greedy, parsimonious father-in-law, who doesn’t give a fig for his godson’s life or his ear. Even though the teenager is named John Paul Getty III.

I hope Williams amazing performance is not lost on audiences,who are most likely to know “All the Money in the World” as the film that recently disgraced Kevin Spacey was replaced in. The nine DAY re-shoot was accomplished at the same pace “All the Money in the World” itself maintains. Feverish and seamless. You’d never know that this kind of major revision was done, and done so well, and Plummer just shines, shines, shines. Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg as the Getty henchman, flew back to reshoot the “new” scenes AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE. and both of them hold their own, and more, with the astounding Plummer.I saw his “King Lear” on Bway. His Getty is just as good if  not better.

It is photographed, at first, at the fountains of Trevi in Rome, in a dolce vita black and white that gradually changes into a de-saturated, greenish pallette, that is – the color of money. Plummer as Getty, at the end of the film, seems so green and thin, he’s almost turned into a dollar bill himself. The events in “All the Money In the World” are at times sickening, grotesque and frightening. It painstakingly shows the toll that all that money takes. On everyone and everything it touches.

Only Michelle Williams’ valiant Abigail Harris makes you care what happens to her hapless long-haired stoner of a son( played as a marvelous, but resourceful blank by a young actor named Charlie Plummer, strangely no relation to his well-known grand-father). The mother here is wonderful. The kidnapped grandson is nothing. Nobody cares about what happens to him. Only his heroic mother.

“All the Money In the World ” is unquestionably one of the best fims of the year, and is going right into my Year’s Top Ten.

 

 

Too Many Great Actresses, Vying for Only 5 Best Actress Slots

Too many great actresses this year vying for the unchanged forever five Best Actress Oscar slots. I mean, it’s wonderful and ridiculous and also a shame that this incredibly abundant year may show, people like Annette Bening, and Kate Winslet, not even getting nominated. She wasn’t named for either the Golden Globes or the SAG Awards. Her wonderful new film about the unusual life of the late Gloria Graham, “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool,” didn’t register ANYwhere this week of weeks. When all the awards and nominations get dumped on us Oscarologists so fast, we’re cross-eyed keeping up with them.This is a prelude of course the precursor awards leading up to the Big Night of Oscar which this year because of the Olympics has been pushed back to March.

The New York Film Critics Circle picked Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird”. The L. A. Film Critics picked Sally Hawkins In “The Shape of Water” and the National Board of review picked Meryl Streep for “The Post” which is just now being seen. I’m not kidding. This is a year where she might not even get nominated. Meryl Streep not nominated!?! By either the Golden Globes or by SAG. Yikes! What kind of year is this???Meryl Streep the Post 2

There’s still the Broadcast Film Critics (I should be a member, but I’m not) coming up, but so far the board has been set. And each of these groups of critics have different tastes, and how. Or slightly different tastes, enough to make it really confusing to the public and to those of us, like me, who hang obsessively on to every detail.

So who did get in? Two women I never thought would make it this year.

Jessica Chastain and Dame Judi Dench. And don’t get me wrong. I adore all of these wonderful, talented women and admire them all tremendously, but their films and their Oscar chances this crowded year…0y…

Jessica is coming at us guns blazing for “Molly’s Room, which is about high stakes gambling. I, who doesn’t like card games or any kind of gambling, was just at a loss, trying to figure out just what the hell these people were talking about. And Aaron Sorkin directed this himself (he shouldn’t’ve). It was wordy and static and WAAAAAY too long. You could lose a half an hour out of this gabfest with cards, and you wouldn’t miss it. So be warned! If your bailiwick isn’t Vegas gaming tables, fawgeddahbowtit!

Dame Judi Dench is now appearing in probably the worst film of her life, I’m sorry to say, “Victoria and Abdul.” Dame Judi is returning to a role that brought her great success, AND an Oscar nomination for Best Actress “Mrs. Brown.” Or as she’s commonly known Queen Victoria. And as delightful as she was in the first one, she’s really just too much of a muchness in the second. We’ve SEEN her do this before, and better. But guess what? She got a Screen Actor’s Guild, or SAG nomination. And Jessica Chastain got a Golden Globe nom. Annette Bening got nothing.

The same zero was gotten by Kate Winslet for the wonderful “Wonder Wheel”.Woody Allen’s newest film, and I think one of his best.” “Wonder Wheel” got nothing.Who did get into the winner circle, or should I say, nominations, circle?

I guess we have to seriously give it up for Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water”, Saiorse Ronan in the beloved box-office bombshell “Lady Bird”And Frances McDormand’s powerful “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.”

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I would say that Sally, Saoirse and Frances are locks. But the rest? Stayed Tuned. And my best wishes to poor, all but forgotten and certainly overlooked Annette Bening.

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