a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for September, 2018

“Bernhardt/Hamlet” She’s great. The play is not.


A theater goddess walks among us. Clearly, British actress Janet McTeer is one of the greats. Anyone who saw her “Doll’s House” back in the day can attest to this. Anyone who sees Theresa Rebeck’s half-baked “Bernhardt/Hamlet” will wonder why this acting colossus is attempting this pygmy play.

And of course, the answer is “There are no great parts for women.” Or few great parts as the play makes abundantly clear. Over and over and over again. Pedantic, didactic and I agree with playwright Rebeck’s conclusion. And frustration. But the means she uses to execute her thesis, and this is a thesis play. Collegiate. If she were in college, and she wrote this at the time she was in college, say roughly the 1970s, it may have seemed like something sparkling and new, but as “Bernhardt/Hamlet” as presented on Broadway by the redoubtable Roundabout, it is trite, trite, trite.

However the sublime Janet McTeer makes you almost forget all these things. Almost. If  Hamlet was a vivacious housewife who just solved her servant problem.And she is surrounded by some of the best young actors working today. Dylan Baker, Matt Saldivar, Nick Westrate and main among them, Jason Butler Harner. And they are all defeated by this mediocre material that the Roundabout is trying to foist on us as a silk purse, when it’s really the sow’s ear. Or in this case, the entire sow.

McTeer is a gargantuan presence. She is six-foot five at least, with the deepest and most resonant of voices. She has played many, many male roles herself, recently a remarkable Petruchio, in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park’s all female “Shrew” a few seasons back. And on-screen she was the transvestite lover of Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs.” So she is no stranger to cross-dressing. Nor, evidently, was the diminutive  Bernhardt, who was barely five feet.

Considered to this day, the greatest actress of the 19th century, she was a dyed-in-the-wool eccentric. She slept in a coffin. She had a leopard for a pet, and wore a hat made out of bats’ wings. The only way we non-time-traveling mortals can experience her greatness today is by reading about her in the many, many books and biographies of “La Divina” as she was known. And the contemporary reviews of her critics. Don’t forget the critics! George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde both adored her and wanted her in their plays.

None of this is in “Bernhardt/Hamlet.” Rebeck the writer makes her seem smaller than life and seems to have tailored this play as simply as a vehicle for the dynamic McTeer. Who deserves to have plays written for her. Just not this one.

She seems like a socialite, a gad-fly, someone who likes to have a beer and pal around with the guys, rather than sleep with them. She had many, many lovers and yes, McTeer kisses Butler Harner (As Edmund Rostand) again and again and again. As if to prove some kind of heterosexual point.

The great French playwright wrote “Cyrano de Bergerac” for her, but the part of Roxanne is hardly what you remember Cyrano for. And she chastises him, but he doesn’t make the part any better, and she still continues her affair with him. And yes, they kiss and they kiss and they kiss at every opportunity. Rebeck even presents us with Rostand’s wife,(Ito Aghayere) who in a very bizarre scene, seems to condone the affair, but that’s about as eccentric as this earth-bound Berhhardt is allowed to get.

Rebeck  has made the great Bernhardt seem very everyday as an actress. She seems remarkably superficial, constantly complaining the Shakespeare’s greatest play had too many words  in it. And constantly going “up” (forgetting her lines) in rehearsals, which this Bernhardt seems to treat as a schlog and a joke.

Ah! But then McTeer is allowed to do “Hamlet” straight on, it is just wonderful. And a great gift to those who witness it. There are only TWO niggardly moments that Rebeck allows her to play Hamlet at full throttle..

At the beginning of Act Two, she gets to do the entire “What a piece of work is man” scene with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And she and Dylan Baker play the Ghost scene as if it were a love scene and it works. (pictured above^)How it works! These two moments really are worth the price of admission. I just which we had a chance to see the great Janet McTeer do ALL of the real Hamlet and not just this shoddy imitation.

And would that the witty and wonderful late playwright Wendy Wasserstein was still with us. SHE would’ve made Bernhardt scintillating, rather the mundane feminist Rebeck leaves us with.

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“Downtown Abbey” Movie Coming Next Sept.

Focus Features will release the DOWNTON ABBEY movie on Friday, September 20, 2019 in North America and Universal Pictures International will release it on Friday, September 13, 2019 internationally. 

 

“Since the series ended, fans of Downton have long been waiting for the Crawley family’s next chapter,” commented Focus chairman Peter Kujawski.  “We’re thrilled to join this incredible group of filmmakers, actors and craftspeople, led by Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, in bringing back the world of Downton to the big screen next September.”  

 

 

About the DOWNTON ABBEY movie

 

The television series Downton Abbey followed the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who worked for them at the turn of the 20th century in an Edwardian English country house.  Over its 6 seasons, the series garnered 3 Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmy Awards, 69 Emmy nominations in total, making Downton Abbey the most nominated non-US television show in the history of the Emmys – even earning a Special BAFTA award and a Guinness World Record for the highest critically rated TV show along the way. 

 

The Downton Abbey movie will star the original principal cast, including Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol, Penelope Wilton, and Academy-Award® winner Maggie Smith, as well as new cast members Academy-Award® nominee Imelda Staunton, Geraldine James, Simon Jones, David Haig, Tuppence Middleton, Kate Phillips and Stephen Campbell Moore. 

 

Academy-Award® winner Julian Fellowes who created Downton Abbey and wrote the film’s screenplay will produce alongside Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge. Michael Engler returns to direct. Brian Percival, who directed the series’ pilot, will executive produce the movie alongside Nigel Marchant.

 

The Downton Abbey movie is produced by Carnival Films, and will be released by Focus Features and Universal Pictures International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John Glowacki Does “Brokeback” Scene

I saw the annual NYU Grad Acting Actors Presentations and John was one of the fine actors they were presenting with a song(not usually) and two scenes,one of which he also wrote(!) and the other this searing, powerful scene from “Brokeback Mountain.” John is unforgettable in it truly. It’s haunting. AND heartbreaking. His future seems so bright. And I’m happy and proud to bring him to you today on “The Stephen Holt Show.” There’s Part One also where he sings and Part Three where I do a brief interview with him.  You can also see this on my You Tube channel. http://www.youtube.com/Stephenholtshow

Could Mahershala Ali become the first African-American actor, after Denzel, to win TWO Oscars?


Could Mahershala Ali, who won the Best Supporting Actor a mere two years ago for Best Picture Winner “Moonlight”, win a SECOND Oscar in the same category for “Green Book”?

If so, he would be the first African American actor to win TWO Academy Awards, never mind two nearly in a row, after Denzel Washington won two.

In “The Green Book,” he plays a real life character, a jazz pianist sensation of the 1950s. The film is set in the rural South in 1963, when it was very dangerous for a successful Black man to have a white driver from the Bronx, played by Viggo Mortensen.

Both actors received very strong, positive notices out of Toronto, where it became a surprise hit, and won the prestigious, and predictive Grolsch People’s Choice Award, voted on by the public, vaulting all involved into the middle of the Oscar race.

The film was directed by Peter Farrelly of “Dumb and Dumberer” film.

Should this happen and Ali get nominated and win again, he would make Oscar history. No Black actor has ever won twice.

Unheralded”Green Book” Wins People’s Choice Award at TIFF


“Green Book” an unlikely, buddy-buddy, road trip film flew under the radar to win the Audience Choice Award at this year’s just closed Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award Winner Mershersala Ali, Universal’s low budget  surprise, directed by Peter Farrelly, now must be considered to be  in the running for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. Yes. the People’s Choice Award is THAT predictive.

And Mortensen himself may very find that he is among the year’s top competitors for Best Actor. Ali could compete in Supporting Actor, a category he won two year’s ago for “Moonlight.”

Set in the recent past, “Green Book” details  the unlikely “Driving Miss Daisy”- type of friendship that develops between a white limo driver (Mortensen) and an African-American concert pianist (Ali) as they drive on a concert tour through the Deep South.Green Room 3It is 1963, right as the Civil Rights’ Movement was beginning to shake things up forever in the South.

“Green Book’s win of this prestigious award from the filmgoers of Toronto themselves unexpectedly vaults this film into the center of this year’s Oscar race. It opens November 17.

Mortensen, an industry and audience favorite, has been nominated twice for Best Actor and never won. Could this at last be his big year? He has to compete against another overdue veteran Willem Dafoe for his searing portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh in the New York Film Festival’s closing night feature “At Eternity’s Gate” directed by Julian Schnabel.


John Glowacki, Pt. One, introducing Rebecca Levy

“Roma,” Willem Dafoe Win Big at Venice Film Festival

Alfonse Cuaron’s “Roma” won big at the Venice Film Festival yesterday. It won the much-prized Golden Lion, their top film prize. It’s in Black and White, and set in Mexico in the 1970s and is in Spanish, but has been acclaimed every- where it’s been shown.

Willem Dafoe won Best Actor for his portrayal of the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh, under the direction of Julian Schnabel, in “At Eternity’s Gate.”

British actress Olivia Coleman won Best Actress for “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos controversial period drama.

All three films will be at Toronto and I will see them all VERY soon when I begin to cover the New York Film Festival for Awardsdaily.com. The press screenings start the week after next.

Also expect all three of these acclaimed films to figure majorly in this year’s Oscar race. Though Coleman may find herself competing as Supporting Actress. She co-stars in “The Favourite” with two Academy Award winners, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. All are competing for the gold, it is said.

Oh, and the Academy has dropped its idea of starting a “Most Popular Film” category after much push-back, and I’m glad they did.

The Best Film will remain the Best Film. Period. End of Discussion.

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