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“Dunkirk” Lives Up to It’s Oscar Hype! Mark Rylance Will Get His 2nd Oscar nom!

I just LOVED “Dunkirk”! Not a fan of war movies as a rule, the cinemaster Christopher Nolan has re-written the book on this genre as well as re-inventing it with this spectacular achievement . It’s a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, white knuckle thriller as well as an eye-popping, frightening and ultimately triumphant Best Picture of the Year. Well, so far, anyway.

It’s hard to imagine anything that will top it in terms of its’ size and scope, and story, too. Christopher Nolan is the screen-writer as well as director, and also, a producer.

I found myself moved from the first frames of “Dunkirk,” with its’ magnificent Hans Zimmer score thumping and pounding and shaking the earth, which in the first shots are a picturesque rendering of the French seaside town of Dunkirk as it was then, in June of 1940 .  Nazi leaflets are dropping like autumn leaves on the young British soldiers below, who all are about to be slaughtered outright by the unseen enemies machine gun bullets.

The most unlikely, scrawny, leading young man is newcomer Fionn Whitehead, (See above and at top of page) who we are going to follow through his epic journey of struggling to survive the evacuation of 400,000 British and allied troops, who are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Bullets are ripping, searing and whizzing everywhere as Nazi planes pound the helpless soldiers, exposed, vulnerable and innumerable on the Dunkirk beach. They are just sitting ducks. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel” one officer proclaims.

How will they EVER get out of there? And that is the drama that director Nolan is portraying so incredibly accurately, and in such a breath-taking and wholly cinematic detail. Nolan’s exacting directorial eye gives verisimilitude a new meaning.Mark Rylance with Oscar 1

Oscar winner Mark Rylance (for Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies”)  is the truly heroic, mild-mannered, stiff-upper-lipped British captain. owner of his own medium-sized,  pleasure yacht, hardly a warship. It is one of the many civilian small craft that are commandeered by Churchill to set sail across the churning English Channel and rescue all those stranded soldiers. Rylance’s no-nonsense, utterly focused, amateur seaman/citizen is a masterpiece of restraint, understatement and terse John Bull heroism.

Dunkirk 2

And he’s symbolic of one of hundreds of small boats that turned the tide of this terrible war, WWII. They did the impossible, because they had to. How they were called upon and how all they just stepped up to this incredible, daunting challenge  and how in doing so  served their country and saved the free world. Churchill’s thrilling call to arms “We will fight on the beaches!” echoes throughout the film, and as a first generation Brit myself, I was immensely proud of all of them. magnificently depicted here in this their finest John Bull hour of courage.

It’s a David v. Goliath feat, and it’s all true. This really did happen. And Nolan re-creates it down to the smallest, scarifying detail. Not even pop star Harry Styles,who acquits himself quite admirably as the gnarliest of the small group of British soldiers, teenagers, really,  can fall out of line. If you weren’t looking for him, he would blend in totally with the other young, struggling, dirty, frightened, brave soldiers.

“Dunkirk” explodes with many, many understated and marvelously compelling performances. Irish actor Cillian Murphy(below)is totally unrecognizable as a survivor of a downed plane that Rylance and his crew of two lads rescue from the sea. Is he a German? Is he a deserter?

Rylance’s scenes of struggle between him and Murphy will. I’m pretty sure,  net the Oscar winner another nomination. He’s got the biggest part. The Academy likes to nominate those they’ve awarded and nominated before. But Murphy, Whitehead, Styles and Sir Kenneth Branagh (as the British troop leader,who has the most moving single line in the film, which I won’t reveal here) are all  exemplary.


That Harry Styles in his film debut holds his own with these Knights of the Realm is as much a tribute to Nolan’s laconic, terse direction of the actors as well as the many, many ships at sea and the planes in the air. And to shoot this all on water! How did he get those incredible, aquatic shots?

Hoyte Van Hoytena, the superb cinematographer of the awe-inspiring, acrobatic camera work is surely on his way to an Oscar for his astounding work here of filming the unfilmable on land and on sea .There’s not a lot of blood in “Dunkirk” but there is an awful lot of water!  Lee Smith’s phenomenal, fast-paced film editing is going to be acknowledged, too, at awards-time, I’m so sure. “Dunkirk” is incredibly only 90 minutes! And it’s shot on film. Nothing is digital.Tom Hardy Dunkirk 1

A special note most also be taken of previous Oscar nominee Tom Hardy (for Best Supporting Actor for “The Revenant”)’s ability to act throughout the film almost entirely in a pilot’s gas mask, with only his eyes and his voice for expression.(See above) He’s got to carry nearly a third of the film in tight close-up in his fighter pilot’s cockpit. He’s as moving and as effective of those fighting to survive below, who we see in full.Dunkirk 4

This picture was made for Oscar, and it will get nominated all over the place, and deservedly so. It’s a great movie. And a great movie movie. And Number One at the box-office for the past two weeks to boot. Don’t miss “Dunkirk”!

#Dunkirk, #Mark Rylance, #Christopher Nolan, #Harry Styles, #WWII #Tom Hardy, #War Movie, #Oscars, #Best Supporting Actor, #Best Picture

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Hollywood Reporter Says That Casting Conflab May Cause “Natasha, Pierre…” to Close

The esteemed Hollywood Reporter has now weighed in on the “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” casting controversy. As I feared in the last post, the Hollywood Reporter says “Casting Controversy May Cause ‘The Great Comet’ to Close Early.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/will-casting-controversy-hasten-closing-broadways-great-comet-1025196?utm_source=twitter

I was really afraid of this. Tragic. I feel terrible for all involved.

Casting Brouhaha Embroils “Natasha, Pierre…”

Much to my surprise there was a tweet in my in-box this morning from Josh Groban! I have to say that all his fans got this tweet, too, and it was all about “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812”, the great show that he just departed on July 2. I read the whole twitter feed before I could get a handle on what happened. It’s very confusing. I’ve read Playbill.com now and Theatermania.com and you can, too, of course, and track this complicated story.

Seems that his replacement the actor whose nick name is Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan” of “Hamilton” was going to be replacing him in the role, but I did notice an ad touting Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin’s taking it over for three weeks in August. And now it seems, he’s not. He’s backed out of it. There was “a social media uproar,” which I didn’t hear anything about until I got that frantic email from Josh himself. What was going on? Josh said, and you can read this on Twitter “It was handled poorly.”

Which I guess means that they, the producers, didn’t tell “Oak” that Patinkin was replacing him! And so soon.

And he took it rather badly, and announced, also on Twitter that he is now only performing the role of Pierre til the date Patinkin was supposed to take over. Except he’s not, Patinkin decided. Anyway, he’s leaving. “Oak” that is. In the meantime, composer David Malloy, who is perfectly adequate as Pierre, has been stepping in when needed, as has the perfectly acceptable understudy. They’re fine, but neither of them is Josh.

Long story short, I guess he wasn’t told about Patinkin’s coming in. And so soon. Makes me think that Groban leaving this expensive, huge, lavish show has been reflected at the box-office, so the producer’s thought “We need a star.”

Well, now this has caused such a Broadway brouhaha, I wonder if they’ll ever find ANYONE to step into Oak’s place. Nobody wants to  replace in a mess like this. I knew that there would be trouble when recording mega-star Groban left the show. But I didn’t think it would reach these proportions. This saddens me all ’round. And clearly Josh is sad about this, too  Josh was in the show for nearly a year. He fulfilled his contract. He won a Tony nomination for Best Actor and now he’s moving on. He’s never gotten any negative publicity like this before, to my knowledge.

Natasha, Pierre 20It’s my favorite show on Broadway. I’ve seen it four times. I hope it continues despite all this.

Appy Fourt of July! Computer STILL Broken!

Appy 4t of July! I broke my keyboard of my computer! But don’t worry! Will be fixed tomorrow! I ope

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.

“The Play That Goes Wrong” Explodes with Hilarity, on Bway!

“The Play That Goes Wrong” gets everything hilariously right on Broadway. This latest Brit import will keep you laughing long after it’s over. And watch out! It’s so stupendously funny it may run forever!

Right now it’s cracking up audiences at the Lyceum and everything about it is top drawer as the British say. Low comedy, high comedy, physical comedy, double and triple entendres, malapropisms, vaudevillian spit-takes… Every comic stop is pulled out and it’s a joy to watch the Cornley University Dramatic Society explode with inept hilarity as they try to stage a dreadful 1930’s style thriller “The Murder at Havisham Manor” well. And of course, they can’t. It’s seemingly impossible for them to do anything right.

A direct cousin of that other great Brit backstage farce “Noises Off”, ” The Play that Goes Wrong” is set entirely ON the stage, during a particularly horrendous performance of this Whodunit that has hoary, horrific dialogue and no suspense whatsoever. Think Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” as if written by the Mouse.

Yes, it’s snowing outside(scraps of large white pieces of paper thrown at the window from stage right) and the assembled have gathered for the engagement party of a lord, who, of course, is found dead (well, almost) as the curtain rises. Actually the incredibly lithe Greg Tannahill is found creeping into place as the dead man, as the curtain precipitously goes up. He’s the most hilariously active corpse I’ve ever seen in a play on Broadway, or anywhere, as everyone WILL keep stepping on his extended hand causing him to jump in pain as he tries to lie stock still . And all and sundry keep sitting on his prone figure sprawled on the chaise longue stage center.

I was quite taken particularly with Dave Hearn’s upper class twit and brother to the (almost) dead man. New to the stage, he keeps snickering to himself as he finds the audience applauding or laughing at his antics, and then starts bowing to them and applauding himself, as every other cast member keeps slapping his hands down to get him to stop. This is an ancient theatrical device known as the “Klaptrap”. No, I’m not kidding, and this is what actors in the 19th century up to and including Tallulah Bankhead would do to acknowledge the audience’s approval. Hence, the word “clap-trap.” And yes, there’s a lot of claptrap in “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Thank god! And I loved every minute of it!Also a particularly agile physical comedian, he doesn’t let one set-piece (or way ward prop) go by without tripping over it or slapping him in the face. He seems also always to be in danger of injuring himself, so much of his comedy is death-dying in its’ oafish, but perfectly-timed  hilarity.

It’s written by a comic trio sent from heaven to make us all split our sides in a way I didn’t think possible in this dark time. Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields have my undying admiration and gratitude for keeping us all bouncing in our seats til we think we can bounce no more. But we can! I was still bouncing in Act Two!

Lewis I thought was wearing a fat suit. Well, he either is or isn’t, and the fat jokes abound, particularly when he is caught on a collapsing second floor balcony. I didn’t think a person of his great size could move at that rate of speed. But he does.

Pint-sized Jonathan Sayer is paired with Lewis in most scenes as the malaproping, ancient butler who at first I thought was named Florence. He has all his multi-syllable words written on his hands and STILL he gets them wrong as he pronounces “façade,” as “fuck-aid.” Lewis is always seeming to be about to sit on him or squash him in various iterations.

Lastly, there is the John Cleese, stiff-upper-lip chap  Henry Shields as “The Inspector,” who is being played in hilarious dead pan by the Cornley Society’s Director, Chris Bean, who gets the proceedings rolling (or is it roiling?) by announcing that at the outset that he is making his “de-boo” and that the Cornley Dramatic Society has now increased its’ funding to the point where they don’t have to do “Roald Dahl’s James and the Peach” or “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cat.”

They are the new Monty Python-like comedy-theater group, who all as one seem to be claiming British drama school LAMDA as their alma mater. And this type of finely honed, precisely timed physical comic mayhem has not been seen in New York since the late Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous.

Calling themselves, appropriately, the Mischief Theatre, I feel that they are going to be around forever, so precious and unique is their gift of inspired laughter. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is STILL running in London and won this year’s Olivier award for Best New Comedy.The Play That Goes Wrong marquix

Massive, Historic Oscar Mess-up/Mix-up!?! WTF!?!

oscar-mix-up-1oscar-mix-up-2WTF just happened?!? Warren Beatty, who must be 😯 at least, and Faye Dunaway, who actually read out “La La Land” surely needed their reading glasses. But the card said “Best Actress Emma Stone La La Land.”

But Emma herself has been claiming that she herself has the Best Actress card with her name on it, as well as, of course, her Oscar and showed it on ABC’s post-show which is airing now.

So somebody handed Warren Beatty a DUPLICATE Best Actress card?!? How is that massive a mess-up even possible?!? Chaos! And it was incredibly gracious of the producer of “La La Land” the tall bald guy, whose name I will add in later, (Jordan Horowitz) showed the card that said “Best Picture Moonlight” and the three producers’ names.

This mess-up is all that anyone is talking about instead of about “Moonlight” a historic GAY black film. That cost about as much as the Sunday Times. Perhaps less. That historic moment is totally being buried. In fact, I didn’t hear the word “Gay” mentioned ONCE in the entire program or this ridiculous after-show were the two co-hosts, Lara Spencer and someone who is clearly really drunk. And the whole thing is cringe-worthy and whatisname Anthony Andrews(?) is saying it’s “a conspiracy” and just all of them so awkward and embarrassed that it’s a GAY film that won.

Part of me feels that Warren B. did this on purpose. Or Jimmy Kimmel was playing yet another prank. But whatever and whoever did this someone’s being fired tomorrow, if not sooner. It was so embarrassing and took away completely from “Moonlight”s winning.

I did think that something like this would happen though. Because I kept hearing how so many people didn’t like “La La Land” and it went home with the most Oscars anyway. Six.

Emma Stone’s dress was the best. The first winner wearing Givenchy since Audrey Hepburn in the 50s. It took 17 days to make. Shimmering gold, with beaded fringe. Gorgeous. Pure gold. She looked like the Oscar she won, but a little paler. Almost a rose-hued gold.emma-stone-oscar-dressAnd “Manchester by the Sea” won two. Two big ones. Best Actor for Casey Affleck and Best Original Screenplay for the brilliant Kenneth Lonergan.viola-casey-emma

Kevin O’Connell won after 21 times as an nominee for Sound! This mess-up really leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And “Moonlight” has barely made $20 million. The lowest take ever by a winner I think.

It won three awards. Mahershala Ali, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Cra-zee, KRAY KRAY KRAY zee night but so happy for Casey Affleck and Emma Stone. And Damien Chazelle won Best Director for “La La Land.” It won Best Actress, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and the two musical awards.

But it’s a crying shame that this mishap is overshadowing the history that was made tonight. A GAY FILM JUST WON BEST PICTURE!!! How historic is that?!?

Sasha Stone at Awardsdaily is the only one who had an inkling of his, but it was more than a wish, a hope, and yes, Sasha, it happened. An all-black cast in a black directed and written film. That’s history, too. Or should I say African American? I was told you don’t have to use the term African American anymore by a black female reporter at the New York Film Festival this year.

But it’s an achievement. And Sasha was right!

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