a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Oscar Supporting Actress Possibilties Are Piling Up!

It’s mid-October and although New York has been enjoying an unseasonably mild fall, Mother Nature is trying to deceive us that Oscar season is not fully upon us BUT IT IS! And even the said-to-be-sparse Supporting Actress category is beginning to be piled up with potential nominees. All of them brilliant I’m happy to say.

I know one thing for sure. There are three actresses whose shots are better than others. First I’m going to start off with the least known of them. The beauteous British actress Juno Temple, who is playing full-tilt Brooklyn bombshell, Carolina, in Woody Allen’s new wonderful “Wonder Wheel” which I just saw as the closing night feature at the New York Film Festival.

Always one of honor his actresses of choice with great roles that become them, I say Temple gets in, because of the same thing happened to another little known Britisher Sally Hawkins. When she co-starred in “Blue Jasmine” with the soon-to-be Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, every Academy member WATCHED THAT SCREENER and saw how marvelous Hawkins was as Jasmine’s working class, comforting sister. The same thing will happen to Juno Temple, too.

Whatever they think of the film, Temple is getting Oscar-buzzed praise.

So is recent Tony winner for Best Actress Laurie Metcalf. Super superb as Saoirse Ronan’s put upon Mom in Great Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” Metcalf is having a banner year with the Tony win for “Doll’s House, Part Two” on Broadway and now actually having a juicy sympathetic screen role as the frantic nurse practitioner mother of wayward teenage, Lady Bird.

Because Metcalf is such a beloved industry figure, having won multiple Emmys as Roseanne’s sister on “Roseanne,” she really has the edge here. And her role as Lady Bird’s Mom has got Oscar written all over it. The kind of part that Metcalf has never really had before on film. AND she’s never even been nominated before! Believe it or not.

I would say she has the edge. And it’s definitely

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Louise Penny’s New #13 Gamache ~ “Glass Houses”

I wonder what’s going to happen to Louise Penny’s latest novel, hot off the presses, “Glass Houses”? It’s her 13th in a row Inspector Gamache novel. And USUALLY she hits it out of the ball park every time, but this time…Well, she’s a crime/mystery writer the world has fallen in love with, even though she’s an Anglo-Canadian writing about our beloved Montreal and the province of Quebec, where she lives.

“Glass Houses” was written very fast. It seems like the last one “A Great Reckoning” only came out last week, but actually it was last year. But still, a new book, EVERY year! I mean, that’s an incredible achievement by any definition and she’s been called “the new Agatha Christie”, which is also an incredible accolade. (She’s won Agatha Award six times!) And she sells! She tends to debut at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

And it’s really difficult to write about her Chief Inspector Gamache books, because you don’t want to spoil anything. But I will say this. This is my least favorite novel of hers, so far. And I’ve read them all!

Don’t worry die-hard Gamache fans he’s very much front and center here, and Penny has created a great character in him, her lead detective. He’s retired now and living in Three Pines, the wonderful, mythical Quebec township town she’s created. It’s not real, but it’s setting is continuously beguiling and I really want to eat at the Bistro of Gabri and Olivier, right now!

Food is mentioned often, but not as much in “Glass Houses” but the Bistro Gamache fans NEED to know is where most of the action, and the eating, mais oui, happens. And Kudos to Penny for putting two very original gay Bistro/B&B owners front and center in her books. Gamache has a gaggle of sorts. What’s the French word for “Posse”? Maybe it’s posse, too, and they are all on hand, and there’s so many of them now that the ensemble tends to push the new characters almost out of the book completely.

It must sound divine to Penny fans, but — this time…
“Glass Houses” I found confusing. There. I said it. You need to know that it switches back and forth in time and seasons and locales. It’s hard to follow, until you realize that the trial that takes up half the book, is set in Montreal in the summer. Just WHAT and WHO is on trial for WHAT is also confusing. It’s made clear at the end but by then my patience with Gamache & co. was more than a little frazzled.

Then her masterpiece Ruth Zardo the crazy, foul-mouthed Octogenarian poet whose pet duck Rosa comes on. And then Gamache’s PERFECT wife Reine-Marie starts exerting her charm, and they all dine at the beautiful, homey bistro and you realize that Louise Penny is really above criticism at this point.

Especially, considering she wrote this big 400 page tome as her beloved husband, Michael, in real life, was dying.

Which kind of exemplifies the dark, threatening figure that keeps appearing on the Village Green one cold, rainy November day…Wait! How did we get to be in November? I thought it was July! Well, “Glass Houses” keeps switching back and forth, yes, confusingly.

Penny really returns to form(she really is an exquisite writer) in of all places the Author’s Note, which is at the end of the entire book. She writes feelingly about her husband’s death and ends with the lovely thought “The final thanks is to you, my friend. For your company.The world is brighter for your presence.
All shall be well.”

MICHAEL AR0NOV wins Best Featured Actor at the Tonys!

My former guest Michael Aronov just won his first Tony for “Oslo”. A total surprise! But my god, does he deserve it! And he used to live in my building! *faints* Very moving speech about this parents and his one-room apartment which if he entered by the door, he was “in danger of flying out the window.” TRUE STORY! Nobody predicted Michael but I want to link to my interview with him eight years ago where I said, “He was one of the great actors of his generation.” And now everybody knows I was right! http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I think this means “Oslo” now a lock to win Best Play.

Kevin Spacey sang AND danced an electric opening number spoofing all the nominated Best Musicals. Hysterical! The TONYS 2017 off to a good start! I’m amazed!

Laura Linney, Cynthia Nixon BOTH Win Outer Critics! Bette Midler, Andy Karl, Kevin Kline, Danny DeVito, too!

Present Laughter 3LIttle Foxes 16As I predicted only yesterday, BOTH Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon won awards for their unforgettable roles in the double-cast “Little Foxes.” It was the Outer Critics Circle, who first declared this double victory, which I think will be repeated at both the Drama Desk Awards AND the Tonys, if history is any indicator.

But of course, this is an historic first, the double-casting of female leads in one terrific show. Men have done this before, historically, but not women. Linney won for Best Actress for her Regina-with-a-heart, and Cynthia for the Supporting role of the sad Aunt Birdy. But the actresses both switch parts at alternating performances, so they really were BOTH being honored for BOTH parts, too. As well they should be!Bette Midler and “Hello Dolly” also won. Who could stop her? As did Andy Karl for “Groundhog Day.” “Come from Away” the Canadian Musical about 9/11 won for Best Musical. Jenn Collella, the only character with a song to herself in “Come From Away,” got Best Featured Actress in a musical for her feisty pilot, and Gavin Creel got Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his high-stepping Cornelius Hackl in “Hello, Dolly!”Andy Karl Ground Hog Day 1 as I predicted he would.

The Outer Critics Circle made up from critics who write for newspapers and websites outside the Tri-State area. Their reviews are read outside New York City and all over the world. This redoubtable, historic group, the O.C.C., are always the first to announce their awards, and often predict how the following  theater awards, the Drama Desks, the Tonys, will go, especially in the Actors’ categories. Oh! And Danny DeVito, in his Broadway debut, as the kibbutzing  furniture appraiser in “The Price” won for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and Kevin Klein for “Present Laughter” as Best Actor in a Play.

The Outer Critics have a long history of awarding Off Broadway plays in their separate categories. The winners this year were “If I Forget” for Best New Off Broadway Play and “The Band’s’ Visit,” which is moving to Broadway next season, won Best New Off-Broadway Musical. Kudos to all!

For a complete List of winners go to OuterCritics.org.

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So Sorry to Report That “Significant Other” Is Closing

So sorry to report that my favorite new drama of the year so far, “Significant Other” is closing this weekend. I loved it. I thought it was powerful. I thought it was original. I thought it was disturbing.

I also knew that it was a hard sell to Broadway audiences, who were perceiving as a light comedy about Millennials and their penchant for elaborate Bachelorette parties and expensive bridal showers. While those events did occur in “Significant Other,” they were not being celebrated, they were being depicted as nails in the coffin of a semi-immature gay man, whose marriages of his three best girl friends were seen by him as a betrayal of his friendships with them.

“Significant Other” explored that heretofore untouched delusion that only a VERY young gay man could have about his heterosexual girl friends. It showed that these women as superficial and self-centered as they were, were going to be better friends to him, long term, than the gay male alternatives Gideon Glick’s character was being presented with.

He was bound to be left terribly lonely and THAT was what “Significant Other” was about. It was a drama that addressed a topic I had never seen explored before in a gay play. Just what IS friendship? And is friendship with heterosexual women a walk in the park for a gay man? In this case certainly not.

And Gideon Glick suffers mightily for the short-sightedness of his silly, youthful choice. Yup. A life of loneliness lies ahead. But I applaud producer Jeffrey Richards and director Trip Culllman for bringing this thorny play by Joshua Harmon to Broadway. It was a brave thing to do under any circumstances. I still say “Bravo.”

I wonder if it will get any of the Tony Awards or certainly nominations that had it run longer it might have. It certainly deserved to.

Also “In Transit” one of the worst musicals I’ve ever seen, a capella or not, is closing, and good riddance.

A Canadian Feel-Good Musical About 9/11? “Come From Away” Says “Yes”!

Having spent a large part of the past 17 years traveling to Canada and reporting very positively on Canadian culture, once again, I was not surprised by the fact that one of the hottest tickets on Bway right now is, of all things, a feel-good musical about 9/11! No, I’m not kidding. Only Canadians could have written this foot-stomping and even funny look at a tragedy, that I who was also stuck in Canada while it was happening can verify. I was trapped at the Toronto Film Festival with my camera crew of three. We were lucky. We had TRAIN tickets so we could get out of there as scheduled. But no planes were flying. FOR DAYS!

Which is what “Come From Away” is dealing with. It’s the rather arcane story(on paper) of some 7000 passengers getting diverted to Newfoundland, a small island in the far eastern part of this very large and large-hearted nation. “Come From Away” is the most positive take on Newfoundland I’ve ever seen and so enjoyable it makes the case very well for Americans, who are restive and restless in this particularly troubling time in our history to just get on a plane, boat or train as soon as possible and move there, lock, stock and barrel. Which is what “Come From Away” tries to depict. And the openness, do-good-ed-ness, politeness and warmth many American will find a tad unbelievable. But it’s true. Yes, they ARE like that. Meryl Streep recently called them “the nicest people in the world,” and I think she’s right.

Newfoundland, particularly, as strange as it may seem, is the butt of endless Canadian jokes, akin to our own misguided Polish jokes. As in “How many Newfis does it take to screw in a light-bulb?” etc.

But not the Newfoundland in “Come From Away”. The husband-and-wife writing team of Irene Sankien and David Hein, Torontonians  both, have done their homeland proud here. The strangest thing that their Newfis offer to the “plane people” is their tradition of kissing a fish(pictured above and also below),And yes, that’s Drama Desk nominee and Broadway stalwart Chad Kimball as the put-upon gay fish kisser, Kevin I. Yes, there’s a gay couple on the stranded plane, too, who are both named Kevin. “It was cute at first, but then it got old” says one Kevin.

Kimball is also called upon to play President George W. Bush, and he does it with raising nary a snicker. The Other Kevin, the amazingly versatile Cesar Samayoa also plays a Muslim, and many other dizzying roles. The whole singing cast of twelve is made to seem like a cast of thousands in that respect as they flash instantly from one role, and one accent and nationality, at the speed of light.

In such a strong ensemble, it seems unfair to single out individual actors, but I have to mention another Broadway bright light Jenn Collela, as the pilot of one of the grounded planes. She gets almost the only complete solo in “Come From Away” as  she sings about her girlhood dream of becoming a pilot in the on-point “Me and the Sky.”Come From Away 4

I wish some of the other characters were more developed. Kimball ALMOST gets a solo in “Prayer” but then others join in. It’s hard to sit for an intermission-less 90 minutes, and try in identify with an amassed crowd, as opposed to single characters. But I’m old-fashioned that way. I like characters. In plays. In musicals. On film. And this is the flaw in “Come From Away” and leads to many of its’ distressing lulls.

It’s got a rousing opening number “Welcome to the Rock” that the entire cast sings and I wish there were more songs like this. The great Christopher Ashley as director whips them into a frenzy, as much as he can. It’s hard to whip a singing throng.

This is currently being talked up as a possible Best Musical of the Year. But against “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” which is just across the street, I wonder….I play the music for “Natasha, Pierre…” morning, noon, and night, and I’m talking about the ORIGINAL circus tent Off Broadway cast album which stars Phillipa Soo. And now, FINALLY, they’ve recorded Josh Groban and the Original BROADWAY cast singing it, which is due in stores any minute now….

“Come From Away” is a musical that is incredibly timely in that it’s not too early and not too late in the cultural conversation to be embraced and enjoyed for its’ light-hearted look at a national tragedy.

It’s recency cuts both ways.

Oscar Nom Voting Closes Today + More Aaron Taylor-Johnson

OscarsYep, it’s Friday the 13th and the Oscar Nomination ballots are do in today as the sun sets in the West. 5pm PST specifically. This ends, almost, the Phase I of this year’s Oscar campaign(s). Now all that has to be done is the counting. Which I image for Price, Waterhouse, their accounting house since the dawn of time, is intense. And the nominations themselves will be announced on Nomination Morning eleven days hence.

The nominations had to be filled out during this very active Awards period of the Golden Globes and their multiple shockeroos and the announcement of the 10 PGA contenders and the five DGA nominees.

Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if “La La Land,” which swept the Golden Globes with a historic seven wins, and just landed 11 BAFTA nominations on the other side of the Pond, making sure we all know that “La La Land”s appeal is truly international. I think “La La Land” is poised to garner a historic number of nominations, perhaps rivaling even “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic”!

And Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s surprise win at the Globes and then the surprise BAFTA nomination for “Nocturnal Animals” in Best Supporting pretty much assures he will be nominated for an Oscar, too, in that category. Whoever wins at the Globes is assured an Oscar nomination, history says.

And below you’ll find my interview with Aaron at TIFF for “Anna Karenina” a few years back, for those who just can’t get enough of the studly star.

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