a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Sensational, New Agatha Christie Bio by Laura Thompson, Pt.2


But I digress…Nobody EVAH writes about the wonderfully witty Ariadne Oliver character in Agatha Christie’s  oeuvre, so I thought I’d just fill you all in on how I felt. I loved that character. And Poirot and Miss Marple, too! And we’ve never seen a picture of an apple-munching Dame Agatha.

No. By no means is Laura Thompson’s meticulously researched and thoughtful book about  dotty, apple-munching Ariadne Oliver. It is securely focused on the elusive Dame Agatha Christie herself.

No one can explain how she was THAT prolific. She just seemed to never stop writing. And as she got older, she used to DICTATE her books into  a Dictaphone. Writing mysteries was essential to her as breathing. And as seemingly effortless.

Though as a single Mom after her divorce, she was forced to support herself. J. K. Rowling another prolific female British author, she, of the Harry Potter books comes to mind. Though Christie always had servants and was never on welfare as Rowling famously was.

Laura Thompson was allowed access by the Christie family to many notebooks and papers that have never before seen the light of day. It’s a treat for Christie lovers, and a triumph of a biography for Thompson. I can’t imagine anything being more thorough. “Agatha Christie: A mysterious Life” is exhaustively complete. And thoroughly researched, with end notes and footnotes galore.

Thompson interweaves episodes from the very secretive Christie’s life, as they appear, quite baldly in her prose. She never got over the break-up of her first marriage to the very handsome fighter pilot Archie Christie before WWI broke out.

Needing a Crying Wall, Christie seems to have poured her heart out in her Mary Westmacott books. Under a pseudonym, she could tell the truth. But actually I find the Westmacott books inferior reads to her bounty of mysteries. She needed the focus of a murder. She had a mind like a serial killer. And she just couldn’t stop writing. All her books Thompson reveals, are one way or another thinly disguised re-tellings of her break-up with the dashing rogue, Archie. Thompson posits that he is the barely cloaked villain in many, many of the stories. And all the violence she felt towards him, she took out on the page. Much to the delight of millions of readers.

Her difficult relationship with her only daughter Rosalind is gone into in great detail. Christie was an atrocious, absentee mother, and her daughter looked and sounded like her father. She didn’t take after her mother at all. Hard-headed, she became the businesswoman her flighty mother never was. And was in large part,  the  reluctant caretaker of her literary empire.

But it is Thompson’s tendresse and insight that spell-binds. She especially excels by slipping into the first person as Agatha herself recounts her doings during her infamous ten-day disappearance, which ended her first marriage, even though she didn’t want it to.

Hiding out under the guise of a “Mrs. Neale” at a Harrowgate Spa in 1926, the entire U.K. was out searching for the lost, “poor Mrs. Christie,” sure that Archie had done her in. Thompson reveals a never-before mentioned letter that Agatha wrote to Archie’s brother Campbell, telling them all where she was, but the letter seems to have gone astray and caused the ten-day ruckus that made her famous and made every book she subsequently wrote a best-seller.

It also ended her private life. Now forever a controversial public figure, by many who considered it a publicity stunt, Rosalind said “She ruined my father’s life.” The family all the while covered it as amnesia. 

And Thompson feels that this lingering bad taste of her “mysterious” disappearance may account for her lack of respect by many critics, while Thompson considers it a result of “Christie’s simple writing style.”

And a fan looking for a new Poirot or a new Miss Marple (her other great detective, an old lady who knits, no less) are more than going to find them popping up like real life figures as Christie goes through her trials and tribulations. For in Thompson’s skilled tellings, they WERE like real figures to her. And to us, her devoted, beguiled readers. “Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life” is a treasure to be bought and savored.

Advertisements

“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.

Critics Choice Give “Lady Bird” NOTHING!?!? “Shape of Water” wins Best Picture

I guess the members of the Broadcast Film Critics did NOT like Anything about supposed Oscar front-runner “Lady Bird .” It got NOTHING from their award show which went out tonight on the CW. It only took two hours. They didn’t announce many of their silly, superfluous categories on air. But they still were there. As you can see by the list below. Thanks to http://www.awardsdaily.com

Next up, the SAG Awards on Sunday night. I’ll be Live-Blogging those awards, too, which are considered more seriously as they actually voted on by members of a for-real industry guild, the Screen Actors Guild.

WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

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.

—————————————————————————————————–

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 is flat-out 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 the street 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.

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.

 

 

Annette Bening’s Greatest Performance Yet in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

Annette Bening, one of our most enduring film stars, is better than she’s ever been  in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” and in any other year the Oscar-less also ran would be awarded the Best Actress trophy for her astonishing portrayal of dying film star Glorida Graham.

Graham was a handful by all contemporary accounts, and was as tempestuous in real life as the characters she played in the movies. And she drank. She wasn’t Marilyn Monroe, a rival, but she did have her own Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “The Bad and the Beautiful.”What Annette Bening does here in this straightforward biopic is to bring us into Graham’s vulnerability as well as her thwarted talent, as the chain smoking she has been doing all her life begins to take its awful toll.

It’s in her last years that she begins to take on a May-December flirtation with this young, YOUNG man, the now-hunky and all grown-up “Billy Elliot” star Jamie Bell.

The setting is Liverpool, where my father and grandparents were from, and Annette as Gloria gets more and more involved with Bell to the point where he invites her home to his humble Liverpudlian abode where he introduces her to his caring, no-nonsense parents. His mother is played by the tremendous Julie Walter, who played the ballet teacher so memorably in “Billy Elliot.”

She and Gloria develop quite a warm friendship and Graham’s twenty year plus age difference doesn’t bother either of them, as it doesn’t matter to Bell.And this is all a true story! Based on the book by the actual young actor himself. Very “My Week with Marilyn,”

And then Gloria gets lung cancer and the film turns dark. And very moving as events build to their tragic inevitable climax.

Bening is convincing in every aspect of the doomed Graham’s life. It is her greatest performance, and in any other year, she would be finally awarded the Best Actress Oscar that has eluded her all her life. She’s been nominated four times!

This year, however, has seen a plethora of brilliant actresses storming the gates of AMPAS and there’s only five slots. Which seem destined to be taken by Sairose Ronan( Lady Bird),  Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and Meryl Streep (The Post).

There’s that elusive fifth slot that Bening USUALLY would slide inevitably into but this year there are great performances like Kate Winslet’s in “Wonder Wheel” that might not make it. Margot Robbie of “I, Tonya” is supposed to be the fifth nominee, but I wonder…

Manola Dargis of “The New York Times” slammed her five ways to Sunday just today, so there MAY be room for Bening if Kate Winslet doesn’t slip into Fifth Position..

But if Annette Bening does get in here, her performance as Gloria Grahame, in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” is her best ever, she COULD win. There’s a great positive sentiment surrounding Bening. She’s made a success of her long-term marriage to Warren Beatty. That ALONE is worthy of a major award. AND she’s now President of the Academy itself. That could cut both ways. But Annette completely won me over. You’ll never be able to look at a Gloria Grahame film again without bursting into tears. As I did.

 

AFI Announces Its TOP TEN Films of 2017

AFI (American Film Institute)s Ten Best Films just announced its Ten Best Films of 2017. And they are in no particular order, except maybe alphabetical ~ Call Me By Your Name

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Big Sick

The Florida Project

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Bill Boards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Wonder Woman

The only real shocker here, for me, is the inclusion of the GRRRRREAAT “Florida Project”, so edgy…and also of course, “Wonder Woman.” “The Darkest Hour” didn’t qualify because it was a majorly British financed production. Also MIA is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Phantom Thread,” starring Daniel Day Lewis is what HE says his Goodbye to Acting.

Farewell Performance? I don’t think so.

The Best Picture Oscar List will be a little different but not much. The AMPAS voters are allowed to choose from 5-10 Best Picture candidates. Actually, though their ballots only contain five spots. Thereby hangs the mystery…It usually rounds out to seven or eight.

Keep tuning in as things clear up a bit as the Awards Season ploughs on.

But I’ll take a wild guess and say that as many as three and maybe four of these films won’t make it. I hope they all do, but…

 

 

 

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: