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Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

“Indecent” Glorious Lesbian/Jewish Musical Play


“Indecent” is Pulitzer Prize Winning Lesbian playwright Paula Vogel’s masterpiece. This great American playwright has finally found her voice at age 68 and her greatest triumph. “Indecent” is now at the Cort Theater on Broadway and long may it run. As long as “Fiddler on the Roof,” which it strangely resembles, though it is really a straight play with a lot, and I mean a lot, of  joyous songs and dances  in Yiddish . Perfectly, flawlessly executed under director/collaborator Rebecca Taichman’s masterful hand.Paula Vogel & Rebecca Taischman

At this point in my LONNNNG, career as also a gay playwright, actor, director and critic, I thought I knew every gay and lesbian play backwards and forwards and inside out, four ways to Sunday and back again. But “Indecent” shocked me, not by its’ touching, almost reticent depiction of Lesbian-Jewish love at the turn of the last century. (1907 to be exact), but by the fact that “Indecent” is a play-within-a-play-within-in play and that play was the first successful lesbian play just about ever.

And it was written by a newly married heterosexual Jewish playwright Sholem Asch and called “Got fun Nekome” or “God of Vengeance.” “Indecent” is a celebration and almost a complete re-staging of this incredibly important, seminal, nearly lost GLBT play. We see scenes from it acted out and re-acted endlessly.Indecent 3

It’s certainly one of the best plays of the year, and the most pertinent in this era of incipient terror that is upon us. “Indecent” couldn’t be more timely, or more beautiful. And it’s simple, so simple, and yet utterly complex. So complex, it has sub-titles or super-titles above the action telling us what, when and in what language, the present scene is taking place. It’s a very nifty device, and the shifting Yiddish/English text is glorious in its’ magnificent execution.

Imdecent 1It’s ensemble cast of seven, plus three on-stage actor/musicans,  is flawless. And the story and history of “God of Vengeance” is unbelievably dramatic and true.

Of course it was banned and the cast jailed when they LAST tried to do it on Broadway in 1923. By that time “God of Vengenance” had been a hit all over Europe and also in the Yiddish theater here in New York. But they hit the proverbial wall uptown when they were declared “Obscene, indecent, immoral and impure” and shut down immediately.

It’s ninety minutes and a harrowing delight. Let me add that the final song “Wiegala” heard near the play’s conclusion, was written by Ilse Klein, a nurse at the children’s hospital in Theresienstadt, one of the most notorious concentration camps. She sang this song as a lullaby for the children in the wards there before they were to be transported. It is said she sang this song in line to the gas chambers.Indecent 8Are you crying yet? I was. Yes, “Indecent” will move you to tears and to dance and sing and celebrate Paula Vogel’s breath-taking triumph of a life time.

Debbie Reynolds Dies One Day After Carrie Fisher “Brights Lights” both

carroe-fisher-debbie-reynolds

Hollywood’s heart is surely broken forever with the devastating news of Legend Debbie Reynolds death the day after her beloved daughter Carrie Fisher’s death. I’m sad. I’m reeling. I just saw them featured quite marvelously in “Bright Lights” a doc on their tangled lives at the NYFF. And the thing that struck me so much about “Bright Lights” by Fisher Stevens, was how much they loved each other. How much fun they had and what a joy and a treat this documentary was.

It’s supposed to air on HBO, now probably sooner rather than later, but don’t miss it. It now has an air of tragedy hanging about it, that both Fisher and Reynolds dispel completely by their constantly being “On.” And entertaining us mightily and forever. It’s a fitting tribute to them, as they always say.

And they don’t hold back. It’s like they just couldn’t. But they loved each other and clearly couldn’t live without each other as events have sadly born out.

When I heard Carrie had died, I just KNEW in my heart that her death would kill Debbie, too, and it did. Their houses adjoined each other more or less “up a steep hill” as Carrie put it in Hollywood. They collected endless memorabilia from the Golden Days, and now Debbie herself, one of the biggest symbols of Hollywood’s hey day that there ever was is gone.

I can scarcely stand it. Debbie Reynolds played such a large role in my life, always the smiling, dancing teenager from “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tammy” that song that never leaves your mind. And she was even nominated for an Oscar once for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Carrie had “Star Wars” a bigger hit financially than any of her mother’s films ever were. And her now iconic Princess Leia never really bowled me over. But her millions of fans disagree.

I loved her acerbic wit, which the film “Bright Lights” capitalizes on by starting with Carrie calling Debbie “tsu-Mommy,” but not to her face. When she enters the room with Debbie in it, it’s always “Mommy.” And the sweetness is not faked for the cameras.

With all her addictions and bipolar disorders, I always thought of Carrie as crashingly normal despite her upbringing and her surroundings. And so did she.

Debbie once said of Carrie “She’s genuine.” And she was. They both were.

We, the fans, are with them forever and are happy that they are together again in Hollywood Heaven. And we do have this great upcoming doc “Bright Lights” to watch over and over again as soon as it starts airing.

No Mommie Dearest relationship here. They truly loved each other. Don’t miss “Bright Lights.” Their bright lights will never go out.

#Debbie Reynolds Death

# Bright Lights doc

# Carrie Fisher Death

NYFF Opens with “The 13th” by Ava DuVernay

angela-davis-1My review of the Opening of the 54th New York Film Festival with Ava DuVernay’s incredible doc, “The 13th” a veritable history of racism and descrimination in our country.

Here’s the link to the article at http://www.awardsdaily.com

http://bit.ly/2djnDC1

“The Royal Road” Must See Lesbian Doc

Vertigo 4Royal Road 4There’s something about intelligent lesbian lovelorn conversation that irrevocably holds me in its sway. And coming out very soon on DVD & VOD on Sept. 6, “The Royal Road” an unusual, innovative documentary is a must-see for every lesbian and gay and everyone else, who is reading this. It’s kind of a jewel, in its’ own unique, stubborn way.

Filmmaker Jenni Olson debuted “The Royal Road” to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but I’m just catching up to its’  challenging  beautys now. “The Royal Road” doesn’t make things easy for the viewer. Its’ esthetic is extreme. The 16 mm. camera NEVER moves and there is not one human being in the frame.Nor will there ever be.Royal Road 1 But there is an incredibly revealing and engaging voice-over by the filmmaker herself. It’s not a lesbian conversation. It’s a lesbian monologue, perhaps the longest one ever, as Olson confronts us with the daunting, relentless shot-after-shot of California’s decaying once pristine Royal Road or the Camino Real.

Once a uninterrupted trail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the road itself is part of California’s repulsive urban sprawl and not romantic at all. While it is nothing to look at, Olson MAKES us look at it, and at the same time, because the images she’s chosen don’t move, you HAVE to listen to her. And you do. And it becomes mesmeric.Royal Road 3

As a native New Yorker, who has still yet to visit the LGBT capital of the world, the City by the Bay, it was all news to me, as Olson wants to show us HER lesbian San Francisco and tell her own woman’s story of how she left her heart there.Golden Gate Bridge 1

And a large part of her story is wrapped up in Alfred Hitchcock’s Number One critically proclaimed film “Vertigo.” By the time, she gets to this part of “The Royal Road” I was completely hooked. I’d only re-watched “Vertigo” earlier this week!On Monday night! It’s a film that never leaves you. It’s its’ own obsession.

Olson  hooked me into her narrative, just as the hypnotic spell of Kim Novak’s Madeline Elster bewitches James Stewart’s stalwart, but vertically challenged policeman Scotty Ferguson in this classic movie of Obsession. And of secondarily, obsession with San Francisco.

Vertigo 1She explains as she reads from an unheard, cut speech from the original “Vertigo” screenplay that Gavin Elster explains that his wife, Madeline(Novak) has fallen under the spell of old San Francisco and that it has driven her mad.Vertigo 2So intense is her desire to find ole San Fran that she roams the city in search of it and stops whenever a piece of it jumps out at her.

Royal Road 5

Olson involves the viewer mightily with this ingenious piece of historical/cinematic   dialogue that I’d never heard spoken before. As research, it’s a find. It’s  breathtaking  and I’m not going to do “The Royal Road” the injustice of a complete speech quotation here. That would be tantamount to spoiling it,  but suffice it to say that it makes “The Royal Road” and also “Vertigo” at last make sense.

So I have to say thank you, Jenni Olsen, for finally elucidating this. She also audaciously makes Hitchcock a character in her monologue as she is trying to explain and examine HIS obsession with San Francisco and “Vertigo” and her own. For the first time, she claims “Vertigo” as an important lesbian movie in terms of the impact that the quest for character of Madeline, mirrored her own.

So she answers a couple of important, unresolved questions about “Vertigo,” including the fact that the quixotic name of the mysterious Madeline was probably  inspired by Proust! And of course, it’s Proust’s tasting a madeline cookie that sends him on HIS historic literary quest in “Remembrance of Things Past.” Just as Olson has taken us on a “Royal Road” into her own history, in her own unique. original way.

Vertigo 4

I loved this lovely little film and I hope you do, too!

#Vertigo # Royal Road # Lesbian# San Francisco # Documentary # Hitchcock # Royal Road

Provincetown Award Winners 2016

Ptown 2016 1With great regret and sadness, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend this year’s Provincetown International Film Restival. Though I was enthusiastically invited. Things that I don’t want to bore you all with stopped me, but suffice it to say, I look forward to attending NEXT year and going to to the Montreal and Toronto Film Festivals in August and September. It just killed me to miss two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee. who I adore /and whom I have so much to talk about with His”Brokeback Mountain” changed my life, as I always say. He was the guest of honor as this year’s “Fimmaker on the Edge.”

But anywho, here’s a list of the award winners that were announced last night.

NOW ANNOUNCING OUR FESTIVAL WINNERS
HBO AUDIENCE AWARDS
JOHN SCHLESINGER AWARDS
BEST SHORTS
FESTIVAL SPECIAL MENTIONS
2016 PROVINCETOWN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS ANNOUNCED
HBO Audience Award/Best Narrative Feature: 
THE INNOCENTS directed by Anne Fontaine
HBO Audience Award/Best Documentary Feature (tie):
THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO-YO MA AND THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE 
directed by Morgan Neville
POLITICAL ANIMALS directed by Jonah Markowitz and Tracy Wares
HBO Short Documentary Award:

TERRITORY directed by Eleanor Mortimer

The John Schlesinger Award, presented to a first time feature filmmaker (narrative): 
BLOOD STRIPE directed by Remy Auberjonois
The John Schlesinger Award, presented to a first time feature filmmaker (documentary): 
OFF THE RAILS directed by Adam Irving
Here Media Award – Best Queer Short Film: 

ONE LAST NIGHT directed by Kerem Blumberg

Best Narrative Short Film:

THUNDER ROAD directed by Jim Cummings

Best Animated Short Film: 

GLOVE directed by Alexa Haas and Bernardo Britto

Best New England Short Film: 

BLACK CANARIES directed by Jesse Kreitzer

Best Student Short Film:

THE MINK CATCHER directed by Samantha Buck

Special Mention:

¡MAIS DURO! directed by Camila Saldarriaga

Congratulations to all our winners and to all the hardworking artists and filmmakers on the edge who attended this year’s 
18th Annual Provincetown International Film Festival!
The Short Film Jury consisted of Ian Samuels (filmmaker, MYRNA THE MONSTER), Lisanne Skyler (filmmaker, BRILLO BOX (3¢ OFF)) and Kim Yutani (Senior Programmer, Sundance Film Festival).
Save the date and join us for next year’s festival!
June 14-18, 2017
Making Provincetown the Global Destination for Creative Exploration In Film!
The Provincetown Film Festival| 508.487.3456| info@ptownfilm.org |www.ptownfilmfest.org/

New “Germans & Jews” Doc, trenchant, affecting look at Post-War Germany

Germans and Jews doc 1The opening line of a harrowing new doc “Germans and Jews” is a very respectable looking young man saying “We were taught to believe that there were two kinds of people in the world, Jews and Nazis” and the film goes on to elucidate this. “Germans and Jews” just opened yesterday and deals with this enormous topic in trenchant, arresting ways.

This sharp, quickly paced documentary is a must-see for anyone contemplating the Holocaust on any level, and especially what came after. While there have been many, many films chronicling the atrocities committed under the Third Reich against Jews, homosexuals, gypsies and other minorities, “Germans and Jews” concerns itself with what happened to Germans, Germany and the Jews, AFTER the war was declared over.

“The National Trauma” as it is called here seems never-ending, for both sides of the equation. Yes, many thousands of Jews emigrated to the US and to the newly-forming state of Israel, the film also reveals that many Jews returned to German and that Berlin is noted to have the fastest growing Jewish population.

German today is NOT the Germany of Hitler, the filmmakers are careful to point out, and is considered quite the democratic, desirable country of choice decades later.

There’s also the question of denial, which evidently a large portion of the German population is holding to, even to this day. “It never happened.” “We don’t talk about it.” “It is never spoken of.” “We didn’t know.” We hear this from the non-Jewish Germans again and again as startling and shocking as these statements seem. All sides are represented of this very complicated question and “Germans and Jews” is essential viewing if only to see how clueless, even today, many ordinary Germans are.Or say they are.

 

Great New Mike Nichols Doc is FInally HERE!

 

Reprinted from before Xmas! Don’t miss it!Mike Nichols 1

I know. I know. It’s barely a week left to Christmas, and everyone’s counting down the Shopping Days. But there’s a post-holiday surprise coming that will reward and enlighten you for years and years to come. It’s going to be a cultural touchstone. And it’s directed by the great Elaine May.

And it’s a documentary about her late, great early career comic partner Mike Nichols, probably one of the greatest talents this country has ever seen. And he wasn’t American! He was German!

This insightful and also immensely profound and FAIR assessment of Mike Nichols overwhelming career that spanned decades and crisscrossed media with the speed of lightning, making film and theater and comic history as he went.

Elaine May is the perfect person to document and analyze all this within the confines of an American Masters special. It’s not on the air until January, but check you local listings and DON’T MISS IT!

From an unusual childhood background of escaping the Nazis, Nichols grew up on New York’s Upper West Side, the son of a successful doctor. He sits for a feature-length interview and reveals much that we have never been privy to before.

It’s like he was leaving his legacy to his early partner in comic improv and equally early success, Elaine May. Their break-up always stupefied me. But here they both are decades later setting the record straight and settling a few scores along the way.

May gets Nichols to reveal the downs as well as the ups of his astonishing career first as a comic sketch artist par excellence with his legendary duo of Him and Elaine May. Nichols and May. I grew up hearing about them, and glimpsing them occasionally on television in the sixties, when they were hotter than hot.Nichols and MayLater on in High School or college, I think I even bought one of their great comedy albums.

May allows a few laughs here, of course, but they are sprinkled very parsimoniously throughout this great doc. The tone is serious, as well it should be. He was a great artist. She even gets him to burst into tears when discussing Meryl Streep.

“I can’t talk about Meryl,” he reveals while fighting back sobs. What would he have told us, if he hadn’t broken down. He directed Streep in one of her Oscar nominated performances “Silkwood.”

There are gem-like moments as friends from Show Business pile on the praise and the details. And nobody is harder on Nichols than he himself. And he denotes that he feels he failed as much as he succeeded.

Interesting to note that his surviving wife Diane Sawyer, is nowhere mentioned. But Nichols’ life was so chock-full of incidents that I guess she wasn’t needed. It’s quite a complete portrait of an Artist in Full. And what a great Christmas present to know that it is coming soon!

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