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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 ~

http://www.indiewire.com.

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Oscars Major Changes, 3 Hr. Running Time, New Category

AMPAS has just announced major changes. The ratings were abysmally low (to the people who make these decisions) “The Shape of Water” winning, a beautiful film that not a lot of people saw with the love interest a monster/fish may be what sunk all this. 

It will be cut down to three hours, which can only help. All those technical awards, Best Short, Best Short Feature, Best Animated Short, Best Doc Short, all will be relegated like the Sound, Hair and Make-Up, Best Cinematography and Best Costumes to a pre-show, like with the Tonys, or during commercial breaks.

Haven’t we ALLLL longed for a shorter show? Four hours plus was always excessive…But adding a new category “Most Popular Film” makes room for action movies, etc. the likes of which I really cringe about seeing these days. That’s an unfortunate dumb-ing down…And moving the date up TOO? To Feb.8???

Well, I guess we can say Oscar season is upon us now that it’s AUGUST. It’s not too early to start prognosticating anymore, Oscar fans, now is it? And what I would like to know is what happened to the two films that are probably going to dominate the awards this year ANY way? Well, in my book…

“Boy Erased” starring Lucas Hedges as a young gay teen forced into conversion therapy by his parents Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. It hasn’t even been announced yet as being in a major festival. Although, yes, it is opening in November. From Focus Features.

And it will be competing with, and being confused with the other “Boy” movie, “Beautiful Boy” starring Timothy Chalamet about a drug addicted teen. 

Both Hedges and Chalamet previous Oscar nominees are bound to be heading back to the Dolby Pavilion again this year. Both films are opening within weeks of each other in the now more-vital-than-ever-month of November. Now that the Awards date has been moved up to early February. Confused?

Imagine how the Academy Members are feeling right now….

The NEW Oscars is not going to be like any Oscars we’ve known before…

And “Black Panther” with its billion dollar box-office is going to be going up against “Mama Mia 2” I am making this prediction already.

“Gianni Versace” American Crime Story ~ 3 Spellbinding Episodes,# 4 Stumbles

FX’a American Crime Story “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is Must-See TV, whether you like it or not. I veer between awe that something this gay is on TV at all, and then sometimes I’m totally revolted by the horror of all those gruesome murders committed in the ’90s by one Andrew Cunanan. Who was Andrew Cunanan?

He was a hunky male hustler of very rich, usually very old gay men, culminating in his shooting Gianni Versace on the steps of his palatial mansion in South Beach. The violence is graphic beyond belief, for television, and the subject so horrible that it is amazing that it is so well done, that it glamorizes and turns everyone in it into some kind of stars.

Judith Light particularly shines as the wife of murder victim #4, Marilyn Miglin, the Home Shopping Network’s “Queen of Perfume.” She is in complete denial that her real estate mogul husband Lee, was gay. In fact, nearly all the victim’s families refuse to admit their murdered son or husband or father was in any way connected to Andrew Cunanan and the irony is their silence = death, and totally impedes the cross-country police investigation. Andrew Cunanan is the one whose life story is told here, and he is glamorized to the max, just like the life he always wanted to live, like his gay idol fashion designer Gianni Versace, whom he ultimately shot dead at point blank range. He’s like the Talented Mr. Ripley but without the talent. Darren Criss 2

Episodes I and 2 were kind of astounding, majorly helped by the presences of stars Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin and Edgar Ramirez as Versace himself.Cruz magnetizes as Donatella Versace, his sister, who went on to run the fashion empire, but never learned English clearly. She doesn’t show up until a stupendously photographed entrance at the Miami airport, to crowds of paparazzi. Flash bulbs exploding and shooting at her like guns. She embodies the luxe jet set world we are going to be plunged into for Ep.1 & 2.

Judith Light carries the day and will probably win an Emmy for her brittle Home Shopping Network icon in Episode 3. She carries the glamour if not the Versaces with her, as the series shifts to a completely differently local, the Gold Coast of Chicago, where we are compelled to watch the unfolding horror of her super-rich, 72-year-old husband, being bound and gagged and bludgeoned to death by Cunanan,in a scene in their large garage that is stomach churning, and disturbing in its S&M implications.

Darren Criss is unforgettable as Cunanan himself, formerly of “Glee” where he had no challenges other than to sing and be cute. The cuteness factor is still there, but he spellbinds as the handsome gay boy toy who could kill you. Criss astounds with the length and breadth and depth of his range as he grasps every one of Cunanan’s multiple personalities, most of them evil, but at the same time commonplace.

Many have said that the “Why” of these deaths is not explained, but the answer is simple homophobia and the closet. And since it’s a NINE part series, we still have five more episodes to get into the “Why” Having just read Maureen Orth’s page-turner of a book on which this is based, I know what’s coming in the five remaining scenarios. If you want to know all read the book “Vulgar Flavors.” Ricky Martin, who is openly gay himself, plays Versace’s stricken lover, and is utterly refreshing in his candor(and his nudity) as he is the only one of the major characters who is NOT denying that he is gay.

Where I felt the series stumbled a bit was last night’s Episode 4, “The House by the Lake” where the scene again shifts, this time to Minneapolis, and a time when Andrew had people of his own age to relate to, to fall in love with and kill.

David Madson, “the great love of my love” is shown as a very weak soul. An award-winning young architect from a small town in the mid-west, Cunanan kills David Trail, their mutual friend, with a ball-peen hammer right in front of Madson(Cody Fern). Who he then semi-kidnaps for the rest of the week, then kills him when he tries to escape.
The motives are so murky here, and the writing, and Fern’s performance is no match for the star-studded cavalcade that we have seen heretofore.

But there are five more hour-plus episodes to work this all out. Next week, for instance, in Episode 5, we will be focusing on Victim #1 David Trail (Finn Wintrock).Finn Wintrock 1

Set in the ’90’s and brilliantly going backwards in time, it depicts the closeted forbidden loves and lusts of the gay world as it was then. Before gay marriage or any of the rights that we know today.

The police keep dismissing the deaths. as they find them. as merely “gay killings” and therefore of no importance. Until he kills Versace, and that is totally accurate in its’ mundane prejudice and horror.

If all these people only admitted to the homosexuality of the victims, the body count would never have risen so high and the clumsy devil that was  Andrew Cunanan, would’ve been caught right at the beginning.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace” has five remaining episodes that can be seen every week on Wednesdays on the FX channel.

French Oscar Contender “BPM”Blistering, Powerful AIDS Drama About Act-UP

French Oscar Contender Blistering, Magnificent AIDS Drama”BPM” Scorches the Screen @NYFF
The blistering, magnificent “BPM” or Beats Per Minute is like enduring a two and half hour atomic blast. It’s a movie that blew my head off and shook me to my core, and evidently had the same impact at Cannes where it was given the prestigious Grand Prix and was officially named as the French Oscar Entry for Best Foreign Film.  An angry, militant look at the early 1990s ACT-UP in France, it was shocking to me on so many levels. That it is almost a documentary, but it’s not. It’s a scripted firebrand of a drama. And it’s almost an exact replica of what we were all going through in the United States. Except for the language, French, its’ the same frightening story.

Of government and corporate indifference to the plight of people who were sick and dying of this disease that nearly wiped out my entire generation of gay men. Almost everyone I knew is gone. I wrote the first full-length play about AIDS in Sept.1984, when people didn’t believe that this sickness even existed.  People thought it was some temporary illness that the gays were blowing out of proportion.It was difficult at the time to get actors to play the roles of people with AIDS. It was called “Fever of Unknown Origin” and nobody wanted to hear about it. I was one of the first “Buddies” who were trained to help the sick and dying. The Gay Men’s Health Crisis consisted then of folding chairs in an empty room. My friends were dying all around me, as in a war.BPM 2

“BPM” brought all the anger and revolutionary fervor back to me with a shock. In 1990s Paris ten years later, when the fiery, superb “BPM” is set, the world knows by then that it was a world wide epidemic, but it was still falling to the militant homosexuals, in this case the members Parisian ACT-UP to keep fighting and picketing and yes, dying, to get the word out, and change things. The indifference of the French drug companies were equivalent to the lack of interest of the Koch administration in NYC. They throw false blood into board rooms and disrupt in any and every way they can. Pamphlets, fog horns, picketing, parading and screaming at the top of the lungs that “Silence=Death.”

In Robin Campillo’s “BPM,” the scene keeps shifting between the turbulent ACT-UP meetings, held in a college class room, and the tender love affair that develops between the angriest little queen you’ve ever seen Argentinean actor  Nanuel  Perez Biscayart and a newcomer to the movement handsome, studly, sensitive Arnaud Valois. Their relationship is between someone who is dying of AIDS right before our eyes(Biscayart) and a HIV-Negative political innocent Valois, who comes to love and care for the diminutive Biscayart, no matter what stage of the disease is ravaging his tiny body.

There are multiple and plenty of gay sex scenes, even as Biscayart lies dying in the hospital. Valois inserts his hand into his lovers pajama pants and brings him to orgasm in a scene that you’ll never forget.

BPM 3

Campillo shies away from nothing in “BPM.” When Biscayart’s character inevitably passes, he wishes his ashes to be thrown into the faces of the suits of the drug company that has neglected getting him the proper medication. “BPM” is shattering as that is exactly what his angry ACT-UP compatriots do as they disrupt a swanky banquet in the last scene of the movie.

“BPM” reminds us that AIDS is still very much with us. It has not gone away. While there is better medication, there is still no cure. You must see “BPM.” It’s a tribute to those who fought and died and those still fighting.

 

“Sweat” a Pulitzer Prize- Winning Play That Lives Up to Its’ Title

Sweat 4

Sweat” is this year’s Pulitzer-prize winning play. It more than earns that great accolade, as well as its daring title. “Sweat” dares you to take into account the sweat of most of its main characters’ smaller-than-life lives. Sweat could be a synonym here for “work,” and that is what most of its squashed denizens of Reading, Pennsylvania, actually do. It’s more like slavery. They are slaves to the steel mill, so much so that the entire town’s economy, and the citizens’ lives, are attached at the hip to the Mill.

Sweat 1

It’s morning, noon and night, until they die. It’s brutal. It’s tough stuff. Now two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage is no stranger to horror. Witness her other, superb, previous Pulitzer-winner “Ruined” about the unspeakable terrors of African warfare and its ruinous effect on women.

Sweat” tackles horrors you can speak of. Over-work and under-pay, being the two main topics of nearly every conversation, its hard-scrabble characters carry on at the local bar, which is almost womb-like in its superb setting by John Lee Beatty. It is so familial and familiar, you feel like you’ve been hanging out there for years, as the plays’ bedraggled characters have.

If this bar, and its Christ-like bartender (a superb James Colby) seem right out of “The Iceman Cometh,” you’re not far wrong. Nottage is really plowing Eugene O’Neill’s lower depths, as well as her own. And like O’Neill, they are all being crushed and cursed by alcohol. Being that it’s 2017, other addictions apply. They pile up on the beleaguered characters of “Sweat,” as the actions to close down the Mill roll over all their lives in a relentless juggernaut of corporate greed and union-busting that leads, of course, to catastrophe.

Sweat” is terrifyingly prescient. This is the first play I’ve seen that explains why “You Know Who,” to quote Whoopi Goldberg of “The View,” got elected. This is a Rust-Belt play with all the Rust in full view.

Sweat 2

Sweat” begins its road to hell-in-a-hand-basket with two matched monologues of two young men, barely out of their teens, childhood friends’ it turns out, one black, one white, who have been imprisoned there for some unspeakable, violent act. We don’t find out just what, until the frightening ending, but suffice it to say, that Khris and Jacob’s predicament hangs over the play like the doomed fog that has shrouded all these characters’ lives, white and black. Eugene O’Neill’s characters have gone from Pipe Dreams to Rust.

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The cast is uniformly excellent but I do have to single out the German descent White-Supremicist-in-the-making of Will Pullen, who has totally nailed the seemingly sweet, but really brutal Jason, a totally exact product of rural Pennsylvania and his factory working Mom, the Tony nominated Johanna Day.

The two of them enact a scene of horror that rivals any horror film, when he finally gets out of jail and comes home to borrow $5 from her, only to find that she is now completely unemployed and a hopeless pill-head. Without that pollution-spilling Steel Mill, they’re both reduced to hopeless addicts, and their lives and hopes destroyed.

Sweat 5

No, “Sweat” isn’t for the faint-of-heart, but it’s god-damned powerful. And Lynn Nottage capturing their pain and frustration so winningly is a compelling sign of hope.


#Lynn Nottage #Pulitzer Prize, #Sweat, #Broadway, #Will Pullen # Johanna Day, #Reading Pennsylvania # Stell MillsSweat 4

Casey Affleck Wins Best Actor!!! Isabelle Huppert Wins Best Actress!!! Another Upset!

capturemanchester-art-directionCasey Affleck, as expected just won Best Actor Drama, from the Golden Globes tonight, for “Manchester by the Sea”. So happy. So richly deserved. He gave a nice speech and thanked filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan. “This film is all him. I love you, man.” Thanked his wife and children. Perfectly acceptable speech on the road to the Oscars. “Michelle Williams, you’re just perfect.”

Then Upset of Upsets Isabelle Huppert wins Best Actress for “Elle”!!! She was REALLY shocked!

Then “Moonlight” wins Best Picture in another Upset! It didn’t win anything else all night. And there it is an all African-American cast winning Best Picture Drama. This year it’s definitely NOT #Oscarssowhite  any more! And it’s a totally gay film! I can’t believe it! I never thought I’d ever live to see this.

What does this all mean? All these surprises!

Well, this means that Isabelle Huppert will probably definitely get an Oscar nomination. I doubt she’ll win up against Emma Stone. And this is really bad for Natalie Portman for “Jackie.” She was supposed to win this. She needed to win this. But the Hollywood FOREIGN Press does sometimes loves its’ own, in this case, the French language film “Elle” and French icon Isabelle Huppert.

This also seals Emma Stone’s Best Actress Oscar. Her speech was lovely, but she better get a better dress.  Casey was touching and he thanked everyone he could in the little time he had, but I don’t think he thanked his big brother, Ben. But he did take time to thank Matt Damon, one of the producer, who stepped away from this role of lonely, alcoholic janitor Lee, and told them to use Casey. And it turns out to be the role that is making Casey’s career. But he did profusely thank him. He said it in an understated, comic way that made the audience laugh. Casey shook his head over and over like he couldn’t believe it. And also he gave an extended thanks go Denzel Washington, who was his main competition.

manchester-by-the-sea-7This evening clarifies Best Actress which will be Emma Stone, Best Actor which will be Casey Affleck, and Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress. If she stays in that category….. The Academy puts actors where they FEEL like putting them. In lead, if they feel they don’t belong in Supporting. Remember Kate Winslet?

“La La Land”s  7 awards sweep will probably mean it will do the same at the Oscars, I’m betting. I really don’t see the homophobic Academy giving an All Gay All the Way film, “Moonlight” Best Picture. They probably feel it’s throwing its’ main award away if it doesn’t give it to something heterosexual.

But this is Casey’s Big Night, and Emma’s, and of course, Meryl Streep’s and Viola Davis’s.

Denzel looked REALLY depressed when they cut to him during Casey Affleck’s speech. He already has two Oscars.

What a night! But who’s going to win Best Supporting Actor? I doubt the Academy is going to honor Aaron Taylor-Johnson for “Nocturnal Animals.”

I do think this is one of the best Golden Globes ever, and Fallon wisely got out of the way, and just let it happen.

#Manchester by the Sea

#Casey Affleck

#Best Actor Drama

# Isabelle Huppert

#French

#Elle

 

#Matt Damon

# Kenneth Lonergan

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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