a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for January, 2018

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“Get Out” Not an Oscar Film, but Nominated Four Times.

To be completely honest, I was ambivalent about “Get Out”. The horror movie/comedy/racially-themed film was just the blend of too many genres for me. As a horror film, it barely scared me. It INTERESTED me, and I watched it from beginning to end without stopping, but it’s cerebral rather than scary.Get Out 1Daniel Kaluuya’s central performance though was engaging, if not downright endearing, as the victim of most of the horror that is to follow. The plot revolves around him marrying into what appears to be the perfect Connecticut WASP family of a VERY badly cast, plastic fantastic white chick Allison Williams. I didn’t buy this crucial conceit of this film, which was this couple’s endearing love for each other.

Bradley Whitford and Katherine Keener are the girl’s parents, who quickly turn from Obama voters into some kind of Satanists. Set today, it seemed like they were all in a stock company of “The Crucible.” Oscar nominated debut director Jordon Peele just laid all his cards right out on the table from the get-out, so the “surprises” weren’t surprising at all, being telegraphed by the rather clunky script a mile off.

There was a mildly metaphoric chair scene as Kaluuya suddenly sinks into the floor. It’s a big, comfy psychiatrist’s chair and the psychiatrist is Catherine Keener, who has made a career in the Indies comparable to Parker Posey’s.

And I adore Keener. She’s one of my favorite actresses, but here, where she’s supposed to be sadistically mean, I had a hard time imaging her as evil personified. I just didn’t buy it.

Does she look frightening to you as she’s pictured above in the first of many tea-cup stirring scenes? She looks the embodiment of hearth and home, which I guess is the point Peele is making by casting Everybody’s Mom/Sis/Girlfriend. She’s evil.

But this is the scene the “chair scene” which is what you come away from the film remembering. Keener is a good enough of an actress to pull this difficult hat trick off. She’s good and evil and the same time.

The above picture is Kaluuya’s frightened reaction that his prospective Mother-in-Law (Keener) is a witch.

Or something of that kind. And while I admired the ingenuity of the film’s premise(Life in White America is a Horror for Black people) it didn’t hold me or move me.

But there was that chair scene….Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, I don’t think it’s going to win any of them.

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Timothee Chalamet Wins Best Actor from London Film Critics Circle!

In an absolute earth-quake of an upset EXTREMELY young Timothee Chalamet of “Call Me By Your Name” won Best Actor over favorite front-running London legend, Gary Owens. Of “a Darkest Hour”. Both films were nominated for Best Picture. Owens played Winston Churchill to a fare-thee-well, and is probably the actors’ yard-stick by which all future Churchills will be measured. Owens totally transformed himself with a grueling four hour day IN THE MAKE-UP chair before he could step on set as the garrulous prime minister, who saved the world from Hitler. He is pictured above in his “War Room” with the beauteous Lily James (Rose, the flapper, of “Downtown Abbey,”) as his secretary.

Whereas Timothee Chalamet an American native of Hell’s Kitchen and a graduate of LaGuardia High School of the Arts was all of 19 when he essayed the now legendary role of Elio.

Chalamet speaks French but he doesn’t have to in “Call Me By Your Name.”

He speaks a little Italian in the film, but mostly he has to carry this entire lovely movie in which he has to come to terms with his nascent homosexuality in a gorgeous villa in Crema, Italy. He has to embody love struck youth, usually not wearing many clothes. He has to totally seduce the audience as well as Armie Hammer as his love interest and he does.

The London Film Critics Circle is a group of VERY serious critics and they obviously fell under Chalamet’s extraordinary love affair with the camera.

Is this the start of a competitive race for the Best Actor Oscar? Winston Churchill vs. the hottest teen ever on screen. We shall see. At the moment Timothee(who was one of Tilda Swinton’s discoveries) says he’s “Living the Dream.”

London Film Critics Circle name “Three Billboards” Film of the Year!

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” just won big tonight in the U.K.  at the London Critics Circle. Awards were handed out at the Mayfair Hotel and they should put up three billboards for the awards they won tonight. Best Film of the Year. Best Actress Frances McDormand and Best Screenplay for Martin McDonaugh.

Timothee Chalamet upset Gary Oldman’s Oscar apple-cart by winning Best Actor for his portrait of teenage love in “Call Me By Your Name.” Chalamet thanked his “tongue-wrestling partner” Armie Hammer, who plays his lover in the film. Hammer was not named in Blighty for Best Supporting Actor, but Hugh Grant was for “Paddington 2”! Which is not in the running here because it hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. Sam Rockwell didn’t score here. though it’s interesting to note that BOTH Woody Harrelson AND Michael Sthulbarg were all three nominated in that category of Best Supp. Actor. And neither Rockwell  nor McDormand were there, though of course Irish/Brit McDonagh was.

 

London Film Critics Circle Award Leslie Manville! Just as I just predicted!

Just as the ink was drying on my last post about the heated Oscars Best Supp. Actress race, then BANG! I get the news that over in Blighty, the lovely O.B.E. Leslie Manville was winning Best Supporting Actress for “The Phantom Thread.” She’s also the ex-wife of Best Actor hopeful Gary Oldman, who was having a very bad night as HE lost to Timothee Chalamet for “Call Me By Your Name”!?! This was certainly an upset. But both Manville and Chalamet will probably go on to win the BAFTA award, too, in London, don’t be surprised! In their various categories. I bet Timothee was surprised!Also Best Film went to “Three Billboards!”

As I just said in the previous post, if Entertainment Weekly had just waited a few more MINUTES Frances McDormand and Martin McDonagh would’ve been their front cover for “Three Billboards.”

Sally Hawkins was named Best British/Irish actress for three films for “Shape of Water”, “Maudie” and “Paddington 2”.

Daniel Kaluuya won Best British/Irish actor for “Get Out.”

The London Critics Circle is not to be confused with the BAFTA awards. The first are press awards and the second industry.

 

ACE Eddie Inches Allison Janney forward towards Oscar

How important is Film Editing? Well, over the years I’ve come to recognize that Film Editors are among the most important and hardest working artists/technicians in our business. I don’t know what we’d do without them. I really can’t praise their industry and expertise and devotion to their work highly enough. People in the business know how incredibly vital their are. And after helming my own TV show “The Stephen Holt Show” for over 30 years, I do, too. God bless the film editors, and so when they chime in, in the name of their united Guild, the A.C.E. Eddie Awards, attention by AMPAS voters is paid. Seriously.

So when they gave their big award this week to the Best Edited Dramatic Film, in this case “I, Tonya,” it gave that raunchy tabloid of a film that much more of a serious contender boost. And in this case the largest recipient of the Film Editors collective good will and approval would by extention go to Allison Janney, who plays the wild-cat mother of alley-cat Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.” This is “I, Tonya” biggest Awards bid, Best Supporting Actress. Which is turning into a mud-wrestling final between Janney and Laurie Metcalf, formerly of “Roseanne,” and this season as the Good Mom in “Lady Bird.”

“I, Tonya” was an Indie that opened late in the awards season without much fanfare, whose importance has grown by the day, as more and more people see it. So much so that Allisson Janney’s Mom From Hell is inching ever forward in her death-match struggle against Laurie Metcalf’s much more likeable Mom in “Lady Bird.” And the Ace Eddie Award just continues to add to Janney & Tonya’s steaming forward.

You see, Best Supporting Actress has become basically a two woman race between Janney and Metcalf in the Battle of the Moms. And until the Golden Globe Awards two weeks ago, Metcalf’s gold was considered in the Oscar tank.

Then a strange thing began to happen. That race just turned around and Metcalf’s main Mom competitor Allison Janney started winning every single major award going forward, the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice Award and finally the SAG Award(pictured above ^). The A.C.E. just adds to “I, Tonya’s prestige and by extension, Allison Janney’s.

Tonya Harding was not considered a prestige player in real life. So it’s ironic in the extreme that the film about her “I, Tonya” is now considered a prestige, must-see-it Oscar film contender more and more by the day.Janney is majorly known for the nearly-decade run in “The West Wing,” amassing many Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series Emmys along the way.Allison Janney 3
An excellent actress no matter what the role, her gargoyle, LaVona Harding is just another example that she can play just about ANY type of role and make audiences like it and remember it and award it.

The race between her and Metcalf is razor thin, so we must take careful note of it, this Oscar season. Even if Metcalf just ended up on the cover of EW with “Lady Bird”s star, Saoirse Ronan and creator Greta Gerwig.Sometimes Entertainment Weekly just jumps the shark and lays out their mag and covers, goes to print too early. I think this is the case here. This is a VERY volatile Oscar race this year and if they’d waited a minute or not, and saw that their supposed front-runner “Lady Bird” had not one ONE AWARD AT THE SAGS, they never would’ve run this cover. It’s premature inauguration. A few more hours and it may have been Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell on the cover. Or Sally Hawkins and her magical Fish.

But you see just how close this supporting actress race and every category, as a matter of fact, this year is. And Brit Great Lesley Manville, an O.B. E. has been added to the mix, both here in the America Oscar Nominations and abroad at the BAFTAS in London. So do stay tuned for more mud-wrestling.

I See “Three Billboards” for the 2nd Time! A Modern Masterpiece!

Even though today’s Oscar Nominations are carrying the elegiac headline “Martin McDonagh Snubbed for Directing Three Billboards,” I saw it again before all this happened, and had such an rapturous experience I had just had to write about it. AGAIN.You really DO have to see this film twice, at least,to get what is really going on in this incredibly rich, dense screenplay that McDonagh has graced us with. I found it soooo moving all over again. And perhaps this time, it was because I was looking at it from the perspective, that yes, this is a gay story. Or is it?

Finally, there was confirmation in the voice over that today’s Oscar Nominee for Best Supporting Actor, Woody Harrelson, writes in a letter to  Officer Dixon, at a very dramatic point in the story, which I won’t spoil here, except to say that Harrelson, as Officer Willoughby is saying that he knows that the angry, violent Dixon has spent time in jail, in his past and that the other prisoners are going to think at first that he’s “homophobic and will they be surprised!”

So McDonagh slips this rather crucial piece of information into the plot in a VERY understated way,  stealth to the max, and if you’ve missed it, you’ve missed it, and missed perhaps the most important point of the story. That this is not the story of a simple bigot. It’s the story of most of the red-neck south, and particulary of a confused, violent young man, who lives at home with his ancient alcoholic mother, who’s almost embalmed in gin, and he doesn’t like it one bit. He flirts with her in a jarring, but again, understated way, tousling her hair like he would another teenagers,

He’s totally confused and his youthful energy and rage knows no outlets, except beating up his prisoners, and he seems so randomly violent, at times you think that HE’s the killer of McDormand’s teenage daughter. You think that about Harrelson, too. Everyone is under suspicion in “Three Billboards.” And I didn’t notice the resemblance between McDormand and his mother’s character, with the close-cropped, dyed, blonde hair (pictured below). The actress who plays his mother so well is Riya May Atwood.

I found that last scene so incredibly moving. And it’s so, so simple. How can I explain it without spoiling the main dynamic of the film? Except to say that everything takes another amazing twist. And you really have to be ready for it. Dixon needs to find SOMEone to talk to, someone who understands his violent rages. And she does.

Seeing it twice, I was captivated. Are they villains? Are they murderers? Or could they be? And the acting by McDormand and Rockwell is mesmerizing and fine in the extreme. It’s a master class of understatement. They hypnotize you, as each hypnotize each other. Their acting is very, very rare indeed. It is off the charts.

She’s so bereft cannot cry. Her grief is ineffable. And her rage! Which fuels the movie with explosions literally and figuratively, that take the same form as Rockwell’s incomparable, terrifying outbursts, and I can’t wait to see it again!

May they all continue to be showered with Oscars!

Oscar Noms Out! 3 Billboards Gets Seven, but no Director for Martin McDonagh

I   awoke early and caught this annual ritual of early morning angst. .. Only time I watch GMA or get up this early. Dee-lighted to report that “Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri” got the lion’s share of nominations! Frances McDormand(above at the SAGs) was Best Actress, Sam Jackson AND Woody Harrelson both got nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Martin McDonagh got nominated for two of the all three major categories, Best Picture as Producer, Best Original screenplay, and but not Best Director. Paul Thomas Anderson got nominated stead for super soppy “Phantom Thread!” Glack!! “Three Billboards” also got Best Score and Best Editing. That’s all! That’s Seven!I’m going back to bed! More soon! Thrilled for all! Except PTA.Congratulations!

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