a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for the ‘Comic books’ Category

“Into the Woods” is 4D. Drab, Disappointing, Depressing & Disneyfied

Woods PrincesInto the Woods 1Yes, that’s right “Into the Woods” is in 4D. Not 3D. The D’s being Drab, Disappointing,  Depressing, and yes, Disneyfied. What a great waste of a Great What-Might-Have-Been. A golden opportunity squandered and cheapened like the Golden Egg that the Giant’s Golden Goose lays (off-screen in Giantland) and that Jack (of Beanstalk fame) steals. It looks more like a giant basketball, than an egg. But it serves as a metaphor to represent what the makers of this mess have turned a great musical into. A Golden Basketball. Or something that the whole family can use and bounce around, hurting or offending no one.

Except perhaps those of us who saw the ORIGINAL Broadway production in the ’80s. I can barely describe the power it had in that first incarnation.

The niftiness( and shiftiness) of combining all those great Grimm fairy-tales of childhood lore into one complicated Jungian mash-up.

And then, and THEN, because all these presumptuous fairy tale characters, Jack main among them, have caused the death of the giant, his wife, a giantess, descends to stalk the land and squishes half of the cast to death.

Believe it or not, this was a musical that I always felt was Stephen Sondheim’s reflection of the AIDS crisis, which was at its’ fever peak, at the time of the original Broadway production. Suddenly, for almost no reason, half the characters we had come to like, some of them a lot, like the Baker’s Wife, just DIED.

And this was a metaphor for the AIDS crisis. Half or more of all the people I knew, mostly gay, although some not, phfft, were gone never to return.

So in that sense the original ’80s “Woods” was heart-breaking, soul-searing and profound and when Cinderella, beautiful beyond description, sang “No One Is Alone” to the survivors of the Giantess’ wrathful apocalypse, it was utterly moving and I remember it to this day, a jewel-like, ineffable Broadway musical moment. It was cathartic.

I was waiting to feel SOMEthing like that in this facockta movie version. But no. I didn’t get it. Although they had the super, sharp Anna Kendrick sing it. Not a traditional beauty with her hawk-like, aquiline features, she radiates intelligence, which is all to the good and she sings beautifully, but THEY KEPT CUTTING AWAY FROM HER!?! Which in this case ruined the impact of the iconic song and the film’s climatic moment utterly diluted and lost.

This is just one small example I can pull from MANY in this film, trying to illustrate just how watered-down, and MILD. Nearly pure pablum this disappointing Disneyfication is.

What a shame!

The death of one of the central characters was absolutely pivotal to the original and her death by gigantic squashing was traumatic in the original because she was the one really decent character (spoiler alert!) the Baker’s Wife, who you really cared about. The role was considered a lead and won Johanna Gleeson a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, no mean feat, in any year.

Here played by Emily Blunt, the part seems curtailed, and well, blunt-er. And certainly her death is. She sort of falls out of frame, slowly, like she was simply, well, falling. A little girl in the row where I sat said “Mommy, what’s happened to her?” In fact, the child kept voicing simply confusions all the way through the movie.

Emily Blunt’s part has been curtailed in its’ impact to feature more of her co-star Meryl Streep as the Wicked Witch. And thank goodness they have Meryl in this movie! SHE’S terrific in it. She sings and screams and cackles up a storm, and casts spells with the help of perfectly executed special effects. Her performance seems larger than life and it is! It should be. And she’ll get her 19th Oscar nomination and then lose to Patricia Arquette for “Boyhood.”

But as good as she is when she’s all made up in horror garb and face-to-give-you-nightmares, when she transforms into the beauty she once was about half-way through the film (and of course, loses all her magical powers), she plays it as a blue-and-green version of Kim Kardashian, which makes her not at all the heroine she turns into in the stage version. She’s a reality show joke. So the film loses its’ moral compass there, too.

British comedian James Corden is mis-used too as the Baker. He seems ten years too young to be Blunt’s hubby, and he just over does or over-bakes all that he has to do. He’s too much of a muchness. Whereas Blunt in what should be the leading role, is just not enough.

There are high-points, though. Main among, the surprisingly comic duet of the two Princes, Cinderella’s Prince, and Rupunzel’s Prince, wailing about “Agony” on the rocky outcroppings of a stream. Chris Pine, as the really sleazy Prince Charming, shows you just why Cinderella keeps running away from him, couldn’t be better in this scene. And Broadway’s Billy Magnusson matches him beat for bare-bresting bro beat, as they keep trying to out do, or out-complain or out-splash each other, as each claims to have the greater “Agony”, and they both end up soaking wet! Hilarious. Billy for those who don’t know was Spike in Christopher Durang’s Tony-Winning play “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike.”

And then the film settles down to its’ gobbledygook of a book. And the tedium layer in this lonnnng film gets higher and higher.

Broken thankfully, by Meryl, chewing as much scenery as she can fit in her green mouth, as she knocks both “The Last Midnight” and “Children Will Listen”(the other great Sondheim song) out of the ball-park, hitting high-notes you never thought were in her register. Such a shame that she never got to do “Evita” when she was the right age for it. And MADONNA got to do the screen version! What a sad story that turned out to be!

And yes, a lot of the Sondheim score is present and accounted for, but a lot also seems to be missing, replaced by even inane-er dialogue by James Lapine, who simply should be shot at dawn for participating in the tragic abortion of a film musical.

And they think THIS is going to appeal to a family audience?!?! It’s going to give little children nightmares. Like Lilla Crawford’s performance as Little Red Riding Hood will surely do for the rest of my life. For all the wrong reasons.

Johnny Depp is great in a VERY small part of the Big Bad Wolf. In this case, I WANTED him to devour Lilla Crawford completely. But no such luck, she is saved, and alas we have to endure looking at her and listening to her sing(flat) for the rest of this overlong, un-fulfilling movie.

So the dueling, vain Princes, and Meryl’s Witch-for-the-Ages, make the unbearable bearable.On my Top Ten List, it’s not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie Redmayne Now #1 on Gurus o’ Gold chart!

Theory 3Theory 1I’m happy to say that Eddie Redmayne is now #1 on the Gurus o’ Gold pre-Thanksgiving chart! For Best Actor for “Theory of Everything”!Guess that’s my Thanksgiving Day present.

Here’s the rest over at Movie City News ~

http://moviecitynews.com/2014/11/gurus-o-gold-a-week-from-thanksgiving-aka-screener-time/#comment-1136242

They strangely didn’t do Best Supporting Actor, but now that I’ve seen and loved “Whiplash” J.K. Simmons has got that all locked up. Unless someone from the late opening movies “Into the Woods” and “Unbroken” knocks him out, but nobody in the Supporting Male Category for “Into the Woods” seems to be making an impression. NObody’s raving about Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf.

They ARE however raving about many femmes from that movie which just starting screening yesterday for press et alia. Meryl Streep’s Witch, Emily Blunt’s Baker’s Wife and Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella are all now in play seems to me. But NOT on the Gurus radar yet.

Can’t wait to see it. There’s an embargo on writing about it, I understand, but since I haven’t seen it, doesn’t apply to me. At least not yet. I hopeit’s as good as I hope it to be. We’ll see.

Cate Blanchett May Win Her Second Oscar for Woody Allen’s Superb “Blue Jasmine”!!!

Sound the trumpets! Ring the bells! Beat the drums! Huzzah! Huzzah! Woody Allen has done it again with “Blue Jasmine”! He’s completely surprised us! And gone in a whole new challenging direction and written the most complex dramatic role he’s ever written for a woman. It’s the title role in “Blue Jasmine” and Cate Blanchett gives the performance of her career as Jasmine, who is indeed quite blue. Blue in the sense of sad, if not tragic. But also beautiful.

For there’s is no such thing in nature as a blue jasmine, making Blanchett’s Jasmine as unique a cinematic flower as there ever was.

At a time when it seems women in leading roles were basically being banished from our movie screens, replaced by the endless parade of testosterone-filled, comic book/explosion-fueled films for teenaged boys,”Blue Jasmine” is a breathtaking antidote.It’s the real thing. A great actress in a great screen role.

Cate Blanchett is immediately iconic. Everything she’s done before or since will be compared to this.

“Blue Jasmine” is delightful and uplifting, though Jasmine’s story itself is really quite tragic, Blanchett’s towering performance and Allen’s best-ever writing, make “Blue Jasmine” soar.

Allen challenges us as an audience, and challenges Blanchett as an actress. And she meets every challenge, every single one of them, and surpasses and surprises expectations through her sheer force of her artistry.

Blanchett’s had a career of great performances, but nothing really touches her Blue Jasmine. It’s like the role she’s been waiting to play all her cinematic life. She has one Oscar already for playing Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s great bio-pic on Howard Hughes “The Aviator.”But that was for supporting. Jasmine is a triumphant lead. She could win her second Oscar here. And she’s certainly going to be nominated for Best Actress.

Oh, yes, and “Blue Jasmine” is NOT a comedy. In fact it’s pretty grim. It reminded me most of Allen’s 1980’s family drama “Interiors” which is where Allen showed us he could go to the dark side as well as any filmmaker. And surprisingly, he returns to that dark, inner landscape in “Blue Jasmine.”

Although it doesn’t look that way when it starts. So it’s a total surprise in that sense, confounding expectations, once again, Allen turns in something fresh and also real.

“Blue Jasmine” is filmed in sunny San Francisco, a location where Allen has never shot before. And it alternates with an equally sunny New York City, which seems bright and happy and beautiful,too, as you can feel Allen’s joy in returning to work in his own home town, a place he hasn’t shot in in years! But look out, dear readers, dear cineastes, all that Californian sunshine is going to get quite dark as the film goes on.

Allen wants to paint a portrait of a conflicted, complex woman. Almost Tennessee Williams-esque. It’s like he wanted to go a round or two with a Williams-like heroine at his story’s center, instead of a nebbishy male Allen stand-in, like Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” and many others playing Allen’s familiar neurotic tics and tacks. And Jasmine makes all the other heroines in his films, well, seem superficial or well, trivial. But of course they were all comedies. I’m thinking of YOU “Annie Hall” which won Best Picture and got Diane Keaton HER one and only Oscar. “Jasmine” is different in that it’s all Cate Blanchett’s show. And it isn’t really funny.

In fact, it’s downright slimy at times because Jasmine(real name Jeannette) is not an easy character to like, or even warm up to. She’s clearly patterned not only on William’s Blanche du Bois, but also Ruth Madoff!

Now I never really considered Ruth Madoff as tragic heroine. But Allen evidently does, as it seems he’s ripped this story right from the headlines. Jasmine’s ponzy schemer husband,Alec Baldwin hits exactly the right skeezy huckster note. You KNOW he’s the villain, but you see Jasmine is totally, blissfully unaware that her whole Park Avenue/Hamptons jet-setting life-style is going to come crashing down, but that’s exactly what happens.

HOW that happens would be spoiling the film, I feel, but I can say, she ends up taking refugee with her completely opposite plain-jane sister, Ginger, a wonderful Sally Hawkins, who lives modestly as a super-market bagger in San Francisco, which is what brings Jasmine to the Golden Gate City in the depths of her despair.

Allen, being Woody Allen, after all, does have quite of lot of comic fun,at first, with Jasmine’s plight, as she tries desperately to fit in with lower middle class society, even being reduced to being a receptionist for a horny dentist(a hilarious Michael Stuhlbarg) and popping Xanax like they were candy corn.

Hawkins’s Ginger has a lot to do here, comically and tragically, and she does it all in fine style. Shockingly she’s never been nominated for an Oscar yet. But “Blue Jasmine” could also do it for her, as it surely will for Cate Blanchett’s unforgettable Jasmine.

You have to struggle to like the difficult Jasmine. She’s not an easy woman to warm to as she makes mistake after mistake. But in that struggle lies the greatness of the film. Allen brings up complex, difficult questions about our consumerist society and the last shot of Cate Blanchett will haunt your dreams.

 

 

Producers Guild Award Nominees A DAY EARLY!

With the Oscars themselves experiencing technical difficulties with their new on-line voting system, the Producers Guild, or the PGA, decided to one-up them and announced their nominees a DAY EARLY! Everyone wants to be first!

Thanks to Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone at http://www.awardsdaily.com for this comprehensive list ~
PRODUCERS GUILD NOMINATIONS

Argo” (Warner Bros.)
Producers: Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn

“Django Unchained” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone, Stacey Sher

“Les Misérables”
(Universal Pictures)
Producers: Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi” (Fox 2000 Pictures)
Producers: Ang Lee, Gil Netter, David Womark

“Lincoln” (Touchstone Pictures)
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

“Moonrise Kingdom” (Focus Features)
Producers: Wes Anderson & Scott Rudin, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales

Silver Linings Playbook” (The Weinstein Company)
Producers: Bruce Cohen, Donna Gigliotti, Jonathan Gordon

“Skyfall” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson

Zero Dark Thirty” (Columbia Pictures)
Producers: Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Megan Ellison

Not really shocked by any of these nominations except to note the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” got in (YAY!) and “Moonrise Kingdom” did, too! (Boo)

However “Skyfall” too was a bit of surprise. But I knew that “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The Avengers” and “The Master” as well as “Amour” were NEVER going to make it in.”Fllght” not getting in was also a surprise. And this could also indicate the Denzel Washington, the star of “Flight” could also be left at the Oscar altar this year.

“Amour” is NOT liked as much by the Industry types, as I’ve been saying for MONTHS, as opposed to critics who are putting it at the top of their lists. AND it’s in French. AND it’s a downer about D.E.A.T.H. It MAY get nominated for Best Foreign Film from Austria, but it could even get shut out there. It’s on the short list.

“The Master”s not making this list is no surprise to me. The movie is NOT LIKED. AND it didn’t make any money. This also may eliminate two if not all three of its’ major actors. Which would mean no Joaquim(Dirty Carrot) Phoenix, Amy(she’s been nominated enough already, 3x in this category, and they know she won’t win this year either)Adams for a pallid perfomance as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s strange, always-pregnant wife. And yes, even maybe the great PSH himself might miss out on a nod for Best Supp. Actor. He’s the only one who’s still got a little life in his Oscar dance now, I think.

This helps ALLLLL the other films. And yes, with this early move the PGA IS trying to influence Oscar voters, who still haven’t voted.

And it especially helps, on the cusp of being eliminated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” YAY!

Video

Early Oscar Predictions! Anthony Del Col & Stephen Holt

The latest Oscar news! Canadian Kulture Vulture of Rogers TV, the ultra-sharp Anthony Del Col, the co-creator of “Kill Shakespeare,” was in town for Comic Con ’12 and we got to talking about “Argo,” “The Master,””Les Misearbles,” the mysterious Snuggles4 at www.goldderby.com and many other Oscar dillys, dallys & doozies!! Enjoy!

Police Presence at AMC 34th St. Lines down the block

On my way home last night, I bumped into a policewoman who was on a dinner break, it seemed, and I asked her what is on everyone’s mind i.e. TDKR and she said “There’s a lot of policeman at 34th St.(The AMC W.34th St. in Manhattan) A LOT.”

I thought it would be more likely the AMC at Times Square and she said “No.34th St.” And sure enough as I passed by there on the way home there were many police cars lined up in front of the theater. And also a considerable line of movie goers stretching half way down the block…

And sure enough, at the AMC on Times Sq. I did not see any police cars.

But clearly people are still going to the movies.

Warner Bros. is not releasing the $ totals til tomorrow, but judging by what I could see, there were more people going to see this movie, than well, since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2” when I also witnessed lines down the block…

Warner Bros. is keeping the totals quiet, I think, because it may have made an obscene amount of money this weekend.

And BTW, nothing happened at any of these theaters I chanced by. But for the looks of it at W.34th St. the police THOUGHT something might happen there. But it didn’t. Thank god.

I think the U.S. is still reeling from this tragedy, which gets more heart-breaking as the details of the victims come to light. And there’s still all those people in the hospital in trauma centers and ICUs. And that little six-year-old girl who died…

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson, who I find to be very reliable in these situations tweeted yesterday that she didn’t think it was going to get ANY Oscar nominations “Just the technicals” tweeted Anne. Which is exactly what I thought when this happened. The Academy is going to try to distance itself as much as possible from this tragedy. Not honor it.

The Ghost of Heath Ledger Stalks the Earth

Poor late Heath Ledger. He challenged the gods, if there are any, with his iconic performances in “The Dark Knight” and in “Brokeback Mountain.” We all hoped he could rest in peace, but it seems that is not to be.

The horror that unfolded Thursday night in Colorado, just miles from where the Columbine tragic shooting occurred, was ignited by Heath’s indelible, but deeply disturbing performance of the Joker in TDK. He then died himself not long after. I often thought that that performance killed him. It made him go to a place so dark, he couldn’t come back. He went over the edge, and it was all captured on screen. And made millions and it killed him.

He was shockingly young, as were most of the victims of BOTH Colorado shootings. He was too young to die. His great talent wasted. Drugs were to blame. A lethal concoction of either prescription or illegal substances. We’ll never know. There was a 20-30 min. delay in reporting his death, wherein one presumes, the Tribecca Loft he died in was cleaned up of anything incriminating. But in any case, poor Heath was dead.

But he lives on, especially in those two classic film performances. As Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback” and as the Joker in TDK.

And now this homicidal maniac in Aurora ,Colorado told the police calmly when they came to arrest him, waiting for them casually,  in the Parking Lot of the megaplex where he had just killed a dozen people and injured dozens more, some critically, he told them HE was “The Joker.”

He died his hair orange. However, the Joker’s hair was green. And only red when he wore a red wig in drag with a nurse’s uniform.  The Joker set booby traps as the killer seems to have done in his apartment.

A Ph.d graduate student in neuroscience, it seems he booby-trapped his door and left it unlocked, so that presumably anybody could get blown up, too, if they entered it unknowingly. One woman, a neighbor, disturbed by loud “techno-music” blaring exactly at midnight, as the killer was set to begin his rampage at the movie theater, this woman unknowingly nearly did. But something told her not to try to go in, so she didn’t. And thus saved her own life.

And it’s not just an accident that it was THIS movie that he chose to kill at. There have been big blockbusters all summer long. “The Avengers”, “The Amazing Spiderman” etc. etc. but no. He chose this one. He had been planning this for months, starting to buy guns, legally, it seems, in Colorado, in May as he died his hair orange and began to drop out of school.

We don’t know what made his Phi Beta Kappa mind snap. But snap it did. We may never know.

But he seems obsessed, deathly obsessed with the Batman trilogy, and of course, the Joker in particular. The Joker was the embodiment of evil in a way that perhaps was never depicted on screen before.

How horrible, I kept thinking, for Michelle Williams and also Anne Hathaway, who stars in this film TDKR, which is now going to be linked in the publics’ mind forever with this horrible horrible tragedy.

Michelle has a beautiful little daughter by Heath, the now six-year-old Matilda, who looks EXACTLY like her late father. And Anne Hathaway knew Heath, too, from “Brokeback.” It’s soooo ironic that SHE, of all people, should be the star of this movie. I worry about them all, and my heartfelt best wishes and concern goes out to them.

And the families of the victims who are still identifying the dead.

Marshall Fine, the critic, who received death threats just last week when he wrote the first negative review of TDKR to appear on Rotten Tomatoes, had his website crash and caused Rotten Tomatoes to close their comment section on TDKR, the emails were so heinous, threatening violence. And we can be sure that this avalanche of hatred directed at Fine and Rotten Tomatoes did NOT come from one lone gunman in Colorado. What is going on here???

It’s SOMEthing about this movie that his driving all these people over the edge of sanity. Just like it did poor Heath.

What is it?

I wasn’t wildly a fan of TDK, but I LOVED Heath’s  towering, unforgettable, frightening performance. Filmed during the break-up of his relationship with Michelle Williams, his Joker seemed beyond description. Someone who was totally out of his mind. He was a nightmare come to life. Scary is a way that no other Hollywood villain has ever been. And in a movie based on a comic-book yet.

And hence the Colorado gunman’s identification with the Joker. He has doing in his mind only what the Joker did, I’m sure he thought. And in doing so he would become as famous as the Joker, as famous as Heath Ledger. And unfortunately, he has.

And now 12 people are dead and countless lives maimed or destroyed by this one madman’s two-minute shooting spree, which movie goers all thought was part of the movie.

Until they saw people dying in the seats next to them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever see this movie now.

But anyone who does is not going to be able to shrik the horrible reality of what happened in Aurora, Colorado.

They are all haunted by the Ghost of Heath Ledger, who does not lie quiet in his grave.

Tag Cloud