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Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

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.

Ryan Gosling Wins Best Actor/Musical Comedy for “La La Land”!!!!

la-la-land-6ryan-gosling-1Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor Musical/Comedy for “La La Land”!!! As Expected. He wore a white tux. Very dignified speech, thanking his wife. And now “La La Land” wins Best Screenplay!!! Whoa! Damien Chazelle wins this instead of Best Director probably. That makes FOUR Golden Gloves, as Sophia Vigara called them. Chazelle looks very, very young. To young almost to have done this. Very thin and  very nervous. Seems genuinely astonished to have won Best Screenplay.

 

“La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.

Hard.la-la-land-2

Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

“La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

“La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

“La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

“La La Land” Wins People’s Choice Award at Toronto

la-la-land-1“La La Land” is proving to be the People’s Choice. It was just won that award, considered very important by all Oscarologists at the Toronto Film Festival. I haven’t seen it yet, but it seems everybody loves it. So this surely pushes it squarely into the Oscar nomination category for Best Picture, as well as many other nominations in many other categories. It looks luscious. I can’t wait to see it!

Pundits from Sasha Stone http://www.awardsdaily.com to Tom O’Neil at Gold Derby have placed it at #1. In fact, for a complete list of TIFF winners check out awardsdaily.

“Queen of Katwe” with Lupita Nyong’o placed second. And “Lion” a Weinstein film with Dev Patel came in third. Lupita, people say, is looking at another Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Katwe.”Lupita 2016And Emma Stone is the front-runner now in the Best Actress category.

“La La” is directed by Damien Chazelle who directed the great “Whiplash” last year and won an Oscar for Supporting Actor for J.T. Simmons.

#TIFF # Oscars # La La Land # Emma Stone

Emma Stone Wins Best Actress in Venice Film Fest for “La La Land”

la-la-emma-1The beauteous red-head Emma Stone just won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival! This is big win for Emma, and really turns the Best Actress Oscar Race upside down.

I thought it was going to be a slam-dunk for the unawarded genius of Viola Davis in “Fences” repeating her Tony triumph, but holt on! It may not be that easy with Emma Stone, radiant, young, and a  past nominee, too,for a film that won Best Picture , “Birdman”  is now in a very strong position. Much stronger than I thought she’d be this early on.

Viola’s reps may have to think about her going Supporting for “Fences.” And she’d surely win in that category.

Sasha Stone has it all and all the other winners at http://www.awardsdaily.com of the Venice Film Fest. This is bad news for Viola. “Fences” is opening later this year, outside of the Festival circuits. And Sasha believes that a film has to open right around NOW, in order to build Oscar consensus. As “Spotlight” did last year. Playing TIFF. And now we have “La La Land” being everyone’s new favorite movie and the new front-runner.

I’m seeing it next week and I’ll let you know what I think of it then, for sure. But this is bad news for Viola, who I think is on her was to another Emmy for “Getting Away with Murder” her TV show.viola-davis-fences-1

I really did enjoy Emma’s performance in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man” two years ago. And felt that “Cafe Society” was really written for her, not the tough-er cookie Kristen Stewart, who seemed overall uncomfortable in that sweeter-than-sweet ingenue role. whereas Emma would’ve been just right.

I hope this is not going to go down this way, but Denzel (who’s currently finishing the editing of “Fences” ) better hurry  up. He’s on everyone’s mind with “The Magnificent Seven” opening in Toronto. Yes, he stars in that, too.

I saw Viola onstage in “Fences” and she and Denzel BOTH won Tonys for their portrayal of an African-American couple in the ’50, who are finally able to buy their own house. And they were both beyond brilliant.

But Emma Stone…she could win for “La La Land” if the older Academy doesn’t feel comfortable with what seems a younger/skewing movie. Anne Thompson said this on her podcast this week. But historically, the SWARM(Straight White Old Rich Men) who have always dominated the Oscar voting have ALWAYS gone for the cute, young girl of the moment. Which right now is Emma Stone.

Sasha thinks that “La La Land” is going to win Best Picture. She saw it at Telluride, so she should know.la-la-land-1

 

 

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