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Archive for the ‘Film Festivals’ Category

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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