a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for November, 2018

“Roma” Wins Big at New York Film Critics; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography

Alfonso Cauron’s masterpiece just won Best Picture and Best Director at the New York Film Critics this afternoon. His scintillating Black and White cinematography won that award, too. Ethan Hawke won Best Actor for “First Reformed” and Paul Schrader won for his screenplay. “First Reformed” also scored in these categories at the Gotham Awards.

For  a full list of the winners go to


“Green Book” Best Picture National Board of Review

One of my favorite films of the year “Green Book” just has been named Best Picture by the National Board of Review, the first organization to announce its’ awards this year  Here’s a list of all the other winners, some surprising, some not.

Bradley Cooper wins Best Director for that abominable “A Star is Born” and Lady Gaga(Gag Me!) wins Best Actress for that same mess of a film. Hollywood veteran Sam Elliott wins in Supporting Actor playing Cooper’s older brother in the same movie, which they should’ve called “A Bore Is Starred’ and Regina Hill continues her march towards the Oscars by winning Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

This helps all four actor winners towards  nominations but not necessarily to wins. The National Board of Review is one of the oldest critics groups and is nothing if not idiosyncratic, to put it mildly.

I have to add that I admired Elliot’s performance in “ASIB” and I applaud “RBG” winning Best Documentary. A rip-roaring take on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The next critics group to announce is going to be the New York Film Critics and I’m betting you, it’s not going to look anything like this list.

The Gothams which came out only last night were COMPLETELY different. You can go to http://www.awardsdaily.com, to see just how different both these lists are. The race is on!

Best Film:  GREEN BOOK

Best Director:  Bradley Cooper, A STAR IS BORN
Best Actor:  Viggo Mortensen, GREEN BOOK
Best Actress: Lady Gaga, A STAR IS BORN
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Elliott, A STAR IS BORN
Best Supporting Actress:  Regina King, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Best Original Screenplay:  Paul Schrader, FIRST REFORMED
Best Adapted Screenplay:  Barry Jenkins, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Best Animated Feature:  INCREDIBLES 2
Breakthrough Performance: Thomasin McKenzie, LEAVE NO TRACE
Best Directorial Debut:  Bo Burnham, EIGHTH GRADE
Best Foreign Language Film:  COLD WAR
Best Documentary:  RBG
William K. Everson Film History Award: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND and THEY’LL LOVE ME WHEN I’M DEAD


“Roma” One the Best Films You’ll Ever See

This year I saw one of the best films I’ll ever see, bar none, and it was the NYFF centerpiece film “Roma.” Mexican Oscar-winning(director for “Gravity)Alfonso Cuaron has done the seemingly impossible follow-up to that intergalactic magisterial feature. He has turned the camera inward and backward. To his childhood in Mexico City. And he’s done it in Black and White! And it is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and one of the best films I’ll ever see. Ever.
The most unlikely of subjects, the inner(and outer) life of a maid, the brilliant Yalitza Aparicio. She has never acted before and she just takes your breath away as Cleo. The put-upon, multliple-dutied nanny, housekeeper, laundress and mother of the earth. She really is the glue that is holding this upper-middle class doctor’s family together as they seem to be falling apart. 
Her story is galvanic, epic and heart-breaking and Aparicio embodies everything that is noble and good in 1970 Mexico, which is a scene of almost constant class conflict and wars. You know Cleo is more than capable of the humble, quotidian of chores she is tasked to do, but where else can she go? She clings to her menial job as if it were a pair of well-worn rosary beads. She prays for her hired family and we pray for her to transcend their problems, as they treat her and mistreat her, as all servants are treated. You know if she loses this job, with this her adopted family, she will lose her life.

Yalitza Aparicio could and should get nominated for Best Actress, as Cuaron certainly will be for Best Director. He also wrote the screenplay. He also shot it. He also co-produced it and co-edited it. And every gorgeous black and white shot should be framed as a work of art, even though he is photographing the most ordinary things.

Cuaron had a nanny Lebo, and that’s who Cleo is based on. And when he showed the completed film to her, she burst into tears, as I did watching it. This film is a love poem to her. And to all mothers and unselfish care-givers. To tell you any more of the plot, of what happens to Cleo, as it all rings so true, it hurts. It would spoil it.  It will break your heart. “Roma,” the name of the area of Mexico City the film is set in, in simply the best film he’s ever done, and a masterpiece.

Happy Thanksgiving 2018!

Happy Thanksgiving 2018 to all my readers! Dear cineastes and lovers of the theatre all! And to all my Facebook friends and fans and Twitter followers!

Indie Spirit Nominations Topped by “You Were Never Really Here” w/4!

Joaquin Phoenix and Lynn Ramsay


The Indie Spirits just announced their nominations, and there were some real surprises! One of my year’s Best “You Were Never Really Here” got the most of any film with FOUR nominations! Best Picture, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Best Director (Lynne Ramsay) and Best Editing! However there was no “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” anywhere, except in Best Supporting Actor.

You Were Never Really Here

 No love for Melissa McCarthy anywhere. This is very bad for her chances going forward.But it conveniently makes room for newcomer Jalitza Apericio for “Roma.”

Created to honor films with budgets under $20 million dollars, large studio films like “A Star Is Born” and “First Man” were not eligible. But art house Indies like one of my favorite films for this year “You Were Never Really Here” grabbed FOUR of the top nominations. Best Picture, Best Actor(Joaquin Phoenix)Best Director Lynne Ramsey as well as Best Editing.

I’m so happy this little seen but incredibly powerful film is being highlighted here. I felt this was really Joaquin Phoenix’s best work ever and lest we forget, he did win Best Actor in Cannes the year before last.

This definitely puts this terrific film right in the middle of the Oscar conversation, right where it should be. I really do think Phoenix is better than any of the other leading males under consideration.

I just wish they had nominated the great Judith Roberts for Best Supporting Actress as his dysfunctional mother.(See picture above ^). Phoenix plays a Bounty Hunter who is hired to kill the kidnappers and re-capture the victims of child abductions. His casual, frightening, single-minded pursuit of  the perpetrators is chilling. And thrilling. This is no walk in the park, by any means. Tough stuff, but worthy, Necessary. You want to look away as he plies his trade with a ball peen hammer, but you can’t. “You Were Never Really Here” COMPELLS you to watch it, every single minute.

For a complete list and explanation of this year’s nominees go to ~


The Delightful, Delectable “Bump” I Was Laughing So Much, I Thought I Would Float Away!

One of the great delights of a film critic’s life is to suddenly fall down an artistic rabbit hole one rainy wind-swept night in the West Village and be absolutely delighted by the talent that he finds there. Such was the case of the short film “The Bump,” a cute-meet romantic comedy that is the rarest of rava avis these days. A delight. Who does delightful any more? Why this uber talented crew of NYU Grad Acting and Juilliard grads, that’s who. It was playing at the Village Cinema as part of their Short Film Festival.

The wonderful combo of Jeff Biehl and Diane Davis were unforgettable. Under the super expert direction of Michael Izquierdo, working from an original script also by Ms. Davis. I keep coming back to that word delight, and “The Bump” just filled me with helium, as only really funny, intelligent comedies can. I laughed so much I thought I would float away!

Biehl and David meet cute in a coffee shop(above) in Brooklyn(?) Queens(?) Wherever. It is a social media hook-up and they’ve never met before. Quips Biehl, “Not to be superficial or anything, but thank you for looking like your profile picture .”

Davis, “I know. The last guy on Tinder had a picture from 1984”

Biehl replies “I bet you were pretty rad 20 years ago.”

Davis says “I did rock a pretty awesome bull cut.”

Biehl, “I had hair!”

Red-headed, red-bearded, bald Biehl I always felt was one of America’s finest young actors, and he has certainly had a versatile career thus far that proves it. I remember him vividly from Juilliard when he was “Sir Patient Fancy.”Here he exhibits that tremendously apt comic skill that  Davis matches him for beat for beat. And she wrote this snappy script, too!

I won’t reveal the twist, er, the “Bump” in their road, but suffice it to say, this unique comic cupcake of a film left me hungry for more. The two of them are a match made in comedy heaven.

And Diane Davis, now that Woody Allen has gone down in flames, we need you to step up to the plate and take over the world, as I’m sure you will! Bravo to all!


“Boy, Erased” One of the Best Films of the Year. Oscar Take Notice!

“Boy, Erased” is one of the most important, powerful films of the Year. Will Oscar take notice?

It is one of the greatest most important Gay films ever made. And undoubtedly one of the best.

21 year-old Lucas Hedges, an Oscar Nominee already for the year before last’s “Manchester by the Sea” should really be nominated for Best Actor this year for his sympathetic, searing, unforgetable portrayal of the 18 year old Garrard Conley on whose life story and  book this is based.

An Australian-American co-production, “Boy, Erased” is amazingly top heavy with Australian talent. Nicole Kidman is Mrs. Conley and Russell Crowe is the Baptist Minister dad. Neither want their son to turn out to be gay. In this day and age, it seems shocking for parents to feel that way, but this is all a true story. They send him to a sort prison/jail like half-way house to get “de-gayed” an appauling process that, of course, does not work.

Garrard has these feelings of attraction for men of his own sex. He is even raped one night In his college dorm. And so, OF COURSE, his worried, Baptist parents send him away to get conversion therapy as soon as they can. Another awesome Aussie, Joel Edgerton. wrote, directed, produced and stars in “Boy, Erased” as the villain, who runs this horrifying institution.

People have expressed astonishment to me over and over again that such places as depicted in this film actually exist. But THEY DO. It’s legal in over 33 States.

Edgeton’s direction is very spare and toned down, totally concentrating on the simplicity of the great performances his three great lead actors are giving him.

Nicole Kidman has never been better as is almost assured of getting an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In the work of her career, she brings us inside the point of view of a concerned Southern preacher’s wife, who undergoes her own conversion arc when she realizes what torturous things are being done to her son. She could win her second Oscar here. She has the audience cheering at one point toward the end of the film. I never knew Nicole Kidman could be this good, but she IS. She’s now become an outspoken spokesperson for GLBTQ rights. Brava Nicole!

And of course, you just hate Russell Crowe’s bible-thumping Baptist preacher, but Crowe is such a great actor, he makes you understand, and yes, even care for his confused character, as he tries to make sense out of his young son’s gay choices.

It’s a difficult film to watch, but you have to. It’s a masterpiece, and SO important. Bringing these horrid practices to light. “Boy Erased” could change lives. It can save lives. You must see it.



Mahershala Ali at NYU Grad Acting 2000

Oscar Winner Mahershala Ali is now being picked by a majority of my pundit colleagues as the probable winner of Best Supporting Actor for “The Green Book.” I know it’s early still, but his closest competitor is Timothee Chalament for “Beautiful Boy.” And Timothee is still very young ,and Mahershala is in the Oscar Honeymoon period, where it is still quite possible that he could get Oscar number Two for his tremendous portrayal of a real life person, pianist Don Shirley. This would tie him with Denzel Washington, for being the only two African-American actors, who have two Oscars.

AND it’s a gay role. AND it’s a lead. Or co-lead. And yes, he shouldn’t be in the Supporting Category at all, but that’s what his film company is doing. They are running him in Supporting because as we’ve seen he could win there, and if he and fellow co-star Viggo Mortensen were BOTH in the Leading Actor category (as they should be), they would probably cancel each other out and neither would win.

Green Book 1


Mahershala when he was a student at NYU’s very much lauded Graduate Acting Program went by the name, Mahershala Karim Ali. I saw him in many student productions there, and as I said, he was always a stand-out and always accomplished.

When he was graduating in 2000, I saw his Actor Presentation night. This is when the entire graduating class does a series of three minute scenes for the assembled masses of New York’s agents, managers and casting directors.

I was privileged to have seen Mahershala do scenes from “Cowboy Mouth” by Sam Shepherd,”Angels in America: Part One, Millenium Approaches” by Tony Kushner, where he was partnered with the great Carson Elrod, and played the part of Belize, the sassy, smart male nurse, which kind of foreshadowed how well he was going to do with “Green Book”s demanding, commanding homosexual pianist. Don Shirley.

Lastly he did a scene from August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars.”

Obviously, he totally aced that important night, which is something of a trial by fire and also a litmus test of the career that’s going to be awaiting all these talented students upon their graduation a few weeks hence. Clearly, he passed with flying colors.

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