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Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

“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

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.

CASEY AFFLECK WINS BEST ACTOR!!! Emma Stone, Best Actress and then OMG!

casey-affleck-backstage-at-oscarscasey-on-boat-2CASEY AFFLECK WINS BEST ACTOR FOR “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA”!!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

He looked completely shocked. Dumbfounded. And inarticulate as always. He didn’t make a very good speech. Oh Well…The Best Man won. Denzel did not look happy…

And now, we’re on to Best Actress, with Leonardo DiCaprio presenting. EMMA STONE!!!! Another standing O!!! I predicted her, too. Only got Mahershala wrong.

Emma gives a touching, very good speech. Emotional. You just love her. Wish Casey could have given a speech like he made at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday. Oh well…he won. And certainly deserved it. And so did she. That moment when she switches from talking to singing at the beginning of the Big Song at the end of the movie just reduced me to tears. So simple, so moving….”So here’s to the fools who dream. Crazy as they may seem.”

emma-stone-smiling“La La Land” wins Best Picture! Oh no! Now they are saying it was a mistake and that “Moon light” won Best Picture! COLOSSAL FUCK UP BY WARREN BEATTY! How humiliating! But “Moonlight” has just won Best Picture! All is confusion up there. It was “Moonlight” a tiny little gay film.

WHO WOULDA THUNK IT?!?! Sasha Stone, that’s who! Bravo Sasha! You rule! OMG!

Kimmel “It’s all my fault. I knew I would screw this up. I’ll never be back.”

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!?!? They finally let a gay film win Best Picture. 12 Years after “Brokeback Mountain” lost….I’m in shock! The world is moving on….and very good that it has, too….

“La La Land” Wins Both Music Awards, “Manchester” wins Best Original Screenplay

city-of-stars“La La Land” wins two more making four so far. Best Song “City of Stars” and Best Score. And now Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are presenting Best Original Screenplay. I hope it’s “Manchester by the Sea”!

And It is!!!!!

casey-lucasTHRILLING!!!!

And “Moonlight” wins Best Adapted Screenplay.  Lots of Applause. A very popular choice. And it’s a Gay Movie. Who woulda thunk it?

It’s won two. The same as “Hacksaw Ridge”. Now the big awards are upon us.

Halle Berry, looking younger than ever, but with an awful Afro, giving out Best Director.

Damien Chazelle, the youngest Best Director in Oscar history, just won Best Director. So that’s five so far. It’s only going to win two more, if I’m right Actress and Picture.

First time an American director has won in YEARS, believe it or not.

 

 

Justin Timberlake Starts the Oscars Off with a Great Number & a Standing O! Mahershala Wins!

justin-timberlake-1Justin Timberlake starts off the Oscars just right with a rompin’, stompin’ raise-the-roof  with his own Oscar nominated song And it was great! From “Trolls.” He got a standing, dancing ovation! Great start! Then of course, Jimmy Kimmel  comes on and gets as he puts it, “Oh great, a sitting ovation”….

He then makes the audience give Meryl Streep a standing O.

And now, Best Supporting Actor! And here comes the lovely Alicia Vikander. She’s got a VERY deep tan.  Trying to look as un-Swedish as possible.

Mahershala Ali wins! I was wrong about Dev Patel…Another standing ovation…

A nice moving speech. His wife just had a baby and firstly he thanks his teachers, whom I know/knew the late Zelda Fischhandler and Ron Van Lieu from NYU Grad Acting. They were the first ones he thanked which was very classy of him. I saw him in many plays there and he was always as good as he was in mahershala-ali“Moonlight.” Lots of warmth in the room for “Moonlight” as Sasha Stone predicted at http://www.awardsdaily.com. And I didn’t…

His part in “Moonlight” was very small, but truly supporting. But he didn’t mention that he was a Muslim, which I wish he would’ve done.

 

 

 

Live Blogging the Oscars! First up, Lucas Hedges!

lucas-hedges-oscarlucas-hedges-shaved-headlucas-hedges-manchesterLive Blogging the Oscars has begun! I never start this early! It’s barely 6pm EST, but Supporting Nominee Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” just gave the first speech of the evening to Sandy Kenyon of ABC.

Lucas was in full head-shaved mode for his hit Off Broadway play “Yen.” His trade-mark red-hair was completely gone. He was rocking an out-sized but chic, black bow-tie and traditional tux and he told Kenyon straight off “I don’t think I’m going to win.” But quickly added “The Nomination is the Win.” And compared it to riding on a roller-coaster and that his car had to go through three security/bomb searches on this way it. “They were all dressed up”(the Security men) like they were in Robo-Cop. It’s crazy.” And Kenyon wanted to know how it felt to be nominated for the Oscar at age 20. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Newsflash! Not! Natalie Portman of “Jackie, up for Best Actress, isn’t coming tonight, “because of her pregnancy.” Which didn’t stop her from coming six years ago, when she was also pregnant, and nominated for “Black Swan” which she won. She probably knew she wasn’t going to win this time. Nothing’s going to stop Emma Stone in “La La Land.” So Portman didn’t want to show up,  pregnant, and lose.

She got to the Golden Globes alright. But she did look very large.natalie-portman-pregnant#Oscar Red Carpet

#Lucas Hedges

#Natalie Portman

Can Meryl Parlay Her Golden Globes Speech Into Oscar #4?

meryl-streep-oscarHer Unforgettable Speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday was fiery, brilliant And she reminded us all that she is the greatest there ever was and certainly deserved her Lifetime Achievement Award. I certainly agreed with every word she said, but was she doing something more? Was she going for the Gold? Was she consciously or unconsciously trying to secure her Oscar Number Four? This time it would be for “Florence Foster Jenkins” which she is currently nominated for both SAG and BAFTA?

It could happen.

She effectively upstaged every one and everything that night at the Globes and ended up on the front page of every newspaper and magazine world-wide, looking like she had just one something BIG. Like an Oscar. The nominations are going to be announced on Tuesday morning, Jan. 24, albeit in a new format. They are going to be  shown as a live feed to all and sundry, not a live announcement in front of an audience of press at 5am PST as always before. So it can be shown as part of GMAmerica. We’ll see how this gambit works out.

But Meryl will be nominated again, you can take it to the bank, for her astonishing star turn as the worst opera singer who ever lived Florence Foster Jenkins in the hilarious, touching movie of the same name.florence-foster-jenkins-2-jpg

And in a tumultuous year where she was one of the bravest possible making the political statement that she did, SAG may decide to reward her courage first, when it holds its’ ceremony this week. And that may set the stage for her to win her fourth Oscar, too, tying her with all time winner Katherine Hepburn. Although Young Emma Stone seems a slam dunk at SAG. Best Actress is the only place SAG members can vote for the” La La Land” juggernaut.

The 67 year young veteran has some stiff competition this year.Perhaps her stiffest ever, as she is looking at her 20the Oscar Nomination! 20th! That’s already a record breaking honor.meryl-streep-2

The Best Actress race is the tightest in Oscar history. We have front-runner and Golden Globe winner Emma Stone, closely followed by BFCA winner Natalie Portman as Jackie, and now French icon Isabel Huppert, who just won ANOTHER Best Actress trophy at the Palm Springs Film Festival for the French language film “Elle.” Huppert also just won the New York AND LA film critics, so she’s on a major role. Meryl could upstage them all. Once Again. The power and anger and eloquence behind her Globes speech is something SAG, then the Academy might want repeated on their stages, too. It made headlines.

Supposedly going to be the lowest rated Oscar broadcast in years, industry voters may just want La Streep to put it back on top. and needless to say, her Florence was a fine, fine award-caliber performance. She’s got stiff competition with Stone and Portman and Huppert, but they’ve got stiff competition, too. And with Taraji P. Henson’s “Hidden Figures” suddenly trouncing “Star War: Rogue Nation” at the box-office this MLK long weekend. It’s going to be quite a jam-packed category. Stay tuned.florence-foster-jenkins-3#Meryl Streep

#Oscar Number Four

#Florence Foster Jenkins

#Meryl Streep

#Hugh Grant

#Best Actress Oscar

#Acceptance Speech at Golden Globes

#Golden Globes

#Natalie Portman

#Emma Stone

#Isabelle Huppert

#La La Land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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