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“Tempest” in DC Delights, Ariel Soars & Dave Quay Clowns Up a Storm

Tempest 1Taking Amtrak down to Washington DC from New York(and back) is really a delightful way to spend a holiday day away from Mad Manhattan. Even though I was on the Northeast Regional NOT the super-fast Acela, the trip seemed to fly and it was a canny, apt prediction of the delightful flights of fancy Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” I was to witness when I got there.

At Washington’s Harmon Theater, right in the heart of their Chinatown, the Shakespeare Theater Company is now presenting a very creditable, and sometimes absolutely delightful production of Shakespeare’s late comedy “The Tempest.” Often thought of as Shakespeare’s retirement play, it revolves, of course, around the famous character of Prospero, an aging magician and former and now deposed Duke of Milan, who has been exiled to this tropical, semi -Caribbean isle, where he has taught himself all of the black arts of mystery and enchantment and magic.

Talented young director Ethan McSweeney does bring the magic to his production of “The Tempest,” especially in Act Two when he has interpolated the role of “The Voice” for the beautiful, talented Broadway vet Nancy Anderson to sing as larger than life (and almost this stage) iridescent puppets of the goddesses of Juno, Ceres, etc. who seem to dwarf and devour the island. Designed and coached by James Ortiz, this triumvirate parade of monumental myths is proceeded in Act II by Sofia Jean Gomez’ Ariel descending from the heights all in black as an ominous Lady Gaga/Spiderwoman figure with huge black, drapery wings.

In fact, this is the only production of “The Tempest” I have ever seen where Ariel, Prospero’s imprisoned sprite, dominates the story. As performed by Ms. Gomez, this Ariel is CONSTANTLY in flight, literally and figuratively, under the astounding flight direction of Stu Cox, and the flying effects of ZFX, Inc. Sometimes butch as can be, sometimes as light as air, Ms. Gomez’ memorable fairy nymph flies into our hearts and memories.

Part punk-rocker, part gymnast, and part Tinkerbell and all girl, Gomez has an especially strong moment at the end, when her master Prospero frees her and the golden rope she has been suspended from falls to the ground with a thud, as her white, silk robe transforms from something athletic and imprisoning into something feminine, stately and beautiful, and she turns on her former master and doesn’t even look back or say good-bye. Not even a glance backward, she is no one’s slave now. And brava to Ms. Gomez, I say.

In fact, it is the supporting players  and the dazzling Special Effects and Jenny Giering’s ethereal just-right music, that seize this “Tempest” and makes it as magical as magic can be.

Main among the delights is the great young actor Dave Quay’s hilarious turn as the drunken butler Stephano, a role I have never remembered from any previous “Tempest.” In fact, the play barely has a pulse until he arrives stumbling and bumbling and bellowing to great comic effect to wake up the audience towards the end of Act One.

Quay doesn’t miss a beat or a laugh, and he put me in mind of the great Oliver Hardy of the early screen duo of Laurel and Hardy, though he is not stout in the least. He was comically paired with Liam Craig as Trinculo, the also ship-wrecked and also drunk Jester, who was bedecked in jingle-bells so you always knew when they were coming, or leaving, or moving, or anything.(Costumes designed by Jennifer Moeller). It had a very Christmas-y effect.

Less unfortunate is the casting of the central figure of Prospero, the Welsh actor and Stratford Festival regular Geraint Wyn Davies, who was simply too young and too robust for the part of the aging, about-to-retire wizard. I had seen and admired greatly Davies’ performance as the bastard in “King Lear” supporting Christopher Plummer’s great Lear at Lincoln Center a few seasons back.

And this Tempest put me in mind of the problems always associated with casting King Lear, the other great End-of-Life character in Shakespeare. If you have someone who is the right age for Lear, he invariably may be too old or too frail to do it.

There needs to be at least SOME of that frailty in Prospero. In Wyn Davies’, extremely healthy, hearty and hale performance, there was no hint of “The End.” And there should’ve been.

But around him is this great frame of a set by Lee Savage, a great ship-wreck scene that starts the play with a vertiable tempest at sea, and the best use I have ever seen of a chorus of spirits, and I’m going to mention them all! Ross Destiche, Freddie Bennett, Asia Kate Dillon, Ben Henderson, Dan Jones, Matthew Pauli, Stephanie Schmalzle, Kendren Spencer, Jessica Thorne, and Katherine Renee Turner, under the  spirited direction of choreographer Matthew Gardiner. These are the noble, able-bodied and adept souls animating those gigantic puppets under the direction of Puppetry Captain Dan Jones.

 

18 Hours of “Dragon Tattoo”! “The Girl Who Played With Fire” on Audio Books

If you’re REALLY into Steig Larson, and who, if you’re reading this blog, ISN’T, I guess I do have to recommend the 18 hour marathon I just experienced with the Audio Books version of “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” It’s the second book in his monumental Millenium Trilogy. A world-wide publishing success with film versions in Swedish and in English, and more on the way. We HOPE.

But in the meantime there’s this massive, and I mean MASSIVE 18 hour immersion into Larson and Sweden and most of all Lisbeth Salander available on Audio Books, read by one man and one man alone, the vocally versatile(he has to be) Simon Vance.He voices something like 100 different characters in the modern Swedish noir “War and Peace.”

Vance, a British actor who clearly speaks Swedish, pronounces the many, many location names in Larson’s fictional Sweden very lovingly. He’s British, so he choses to give Lisbeth Salander, a Cockney accent. Mikael Blomkvist,Larson’s hero,the intrepid, indefatigable Vance choose to speak with a British voice closer to his own.

His the Cockney Salander really floored me. Then I grew to like her, which is crucial for staying tuned for the full 18 hour version, which I unbelievably did.

It’s begun to be another frighteningly hot summer in New York and I have to think twice, if not three times about venturing out in this heat. It was better today, but by that time I’d finished the whole damn thing. It IS an endurance test for the reader, to be sure. It’s a dense book, and it’s an intense listen.

Noomi Rapace’s indelible Salander is impossible to put out of your mind when listening to this. She, of course, starred in of all three films of the Swedish cinema trilogy-to-end-all-trilogies, launching an international career in the process. Thank god! I was worried that she was going to get stuck with Lisbeth for the rest of her life, but she seems to have successfully dodged that bullet. She did get a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress, for the last of the three films, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” But she didn’t win.

Rooney Mara got an Oscar nomination to prove that she was just as good if not better in David Fincher’s film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” two years ago.But she didn’t win either. So the Americans not having filmed the second book, one still pictures Noomi Rapace going through Lisbeth’s harrowing paces in listening to “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

But a lot of the book is very different from the movie, and this is the book that is the best of the three, IMHO. Because Salander is in it the most. In fact, she’s front and center in the story of “The Girl Who Played with Fire.’

Listening to the bare bones of it, just as an audio experience, I was very conscious of parts of the book that I didn’t remember. In fact, the whole opening section in the Caribbean, where we find Lisbeth hiding out for chapters and chapters, ending in a climatic hurricane/tornado named Matilda, is not in the film at all.

Enough time had gone by so that I didn’t remember it clearly.But it’s there, and it grips you. Then there is a whole chapter section given almost entirely over to Furman’s theory of algebra, which I also didn’t remember, and clearly must’ve skipped over, as I had skipped over it on the disc.

But it does begin to build and it keeps you listening through all the dull police procedural details, and there are many. Mostly of course, as always, you care about Salander and want her to vanquish her various dastardly villains, like lawyer Nils Bjurman, who she was famously rapes and tattoos in Book One.

Well, he’s back, but not for long. Larsson had a real, solid, slimy villain in Advocat Bjurrman, the ultimate repulsive civil servant, who is really, as Salander tattoos on his quivering abdomen in Book,” I Am a Sadistic Pig and a Rapist.”

“The Girl Who Played with Fire”is concerned with an expose of the Russian sex/slave trade in young Slavic girls. Some of it is so sickening in its’ details that you do just want to turn off the DVD player. But I didn’t. And I had no intention of writing about it, but here I am telling all this to you.

It picks up tremendously in the second part. And of course the semi-tiresome Erika Berger, Salander’s rival for Blomkvist’s affections, and the editor of Millennium magazine, has so much more to do in book, it’s ridiculous.

In the American film, she was played by Robin Wright, and in the Swedish version by the great Lena Endre. Her flirtation with another publishing job in the middle of the whole Salander case remains a weird sub-plot.

It’s Larson straining to make that character of Erika Berger interesting, I suspect.

But she isn’t, much. Lisbeth Salander just towers over all the other characters. And try as he might, Larson couldn’t stop writing about her, and writing about her SO WELL that she jumps off the discs, as she jumped off the page and the films, into history.

I bet Larson, when he was writing the first book, did not expect or plan, for Lisbeth to so engulf him, and all his writing. She seems like a character that just took on a life of her own. She overwhelmed him, and us, and there was nothing he could do to stop her fascination to the reader and so he just went with it. Mikael Blomkvist was clearly meant to be the central character when the first book “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” started, but that soon changed. And the world is so glad it did. Mikael Blomkvist is a bit of a bore.

And I had forgotten details like her interest in micro-wave pizzas. And did not remember McDonald’s popping up so frequently in Stockholm.

And Blomkvist’s not having a car and relying on public transportation in Stockholm and in Sweden in general is an endearing trait.

And Larson’s having to introduce EVERY SINGLE ONE of Millenia magazine’s staff AND Dragan Armansky’s office staff, as well as all the police investigators is almost Tolstoyian in its’ mound of character details. But not many of them pop out as clearly defined.

The reader, the amazing Simon Vance, does very well with Dragan Armansky, Lisbeth’s loyal employer and also Office Bubble, or Bublansky, the Jewish cop who is heading the police here. Though admittedly they do sound similar. And when he gets to the aged Palmer Holgren, the former guardian of Salander, who is now in a nursing home and a recovering stroke victim, Vance really outdoes himself. Having to be intelligible and unintelligible at the same time.

My unexpected favorite scene in the Audio Book, was the fight between “The Blond Giant” Ronald Neiderman, the Brazilian celebrity/prize-fighter Paulo Roberto(who is evidently a real person!) and Miriam Wu, Salander’s half-Asian girl friend, who gets drawn into the police web, and ends up being kidnapped and mistaken for Salander. That chapter(or disc, in this case) seemed to me to contain Larson’s best, most gripping non-stop writing. I was frozen in place as I listened to it, and to Simon Vance’s terrific vocal acting out of all the parts.

It’s quite a time intensive endeavor. And I think the 18 hours I spent on listening to all 15 of the discs is longer than it took me to read the book in the first place. But it’s worth it.

It’s staying with me. And I can recommend to all you Steig/Salander-o-philes out there. Make the time and you’ll be surprised how intense and compelling it is all over again.

Packing!

Packing, unpacking, re-packing, still packing, procrastinating packing. It’s still packing. And no, I’m STILL not finished. I hate packing. Why am I writing this!?! I should still be packing!

Is it going to be cold? Is it going to be hot? Is it going to be raining? Is it another hurricane? I should be PACKING!

Hurry hurry hurry and trying to be a complete and thorough as possible. AND YOU STILL FORGET THINGS!

Tickets, keys, passport, and on and on and on. No end in sight. But there IS an end! Tomorrow morning there’s just enough time to get up, get some breakfast, get cleaned up, and pack everything that you HAVE to leave til the last-minute, because you  have to use it in the morning!

And get to that train ON TIME! OR ELSE!

See you in Provincetown!

Cape Cod here I come!

Meanwhile, I’m still packing!

 

Qu’venzhane’s Best Actress Oscar Upset?

The one thing NOBODY is taking in to consideration in the now very competitive Best Actress Oscar race is the fact that NOBODY in that category has yet to compete against its’ youngest ever nominee, the now 9-year-old dynamo that is Qu’venzhane Wallis.

As my Oscar Idol Tom O’Neil keeps saying over at http://www.goldderby.com and I quote “Oscar likes Little Girls.” And historically, he’s right. Patti Duke? Tatum O’Neal?Anna Pacquin? Anyone? But they all won in Supporting. If Qu’venzhane was in Supporting, she just might win. But the Academy wisely nominated her in lead Actress which is where her astonishing performance belongs. A six-year-old carrying this entire movie? It was astounding! I’ve never seen a better performance by a child actor, or actress. She was unforgettable.

But she’s not gone up against the other ladies ANYwhere. So there’s no telling what havoc she might wreck. Jennifer Lawrence is the presumed front-runner for “Silver Linings Playbook.” But just this Sunday she showed surprising weakness at the BAFTAS in London when she lost to 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva for “Amour.” But Qu’venzhane was not nominated for a BAFTA.

In fact, the Academy Award is the first serious Best Actress race she has competed in, against these women.

Well, yes, she did win Best Young Actor(or Actress) from the Broadcast Film Critics. I think she got Best Breakthrough Actress from the National Board of Review. And she won something similar from the Hollywood Film Awards.

And she’s charmed EVERYONE with her acceptance speeches. She irresistible. And Oscar likes to SURPRISE. And this would be a surprise!

It’s so boring that we all know “Argo” is going to win Best Picture(but deserving), and especially boring that Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln” and Anne Hathaway for “Les Miserables” (who deserves it) are going to continue their march to the podium.

Jennifer Lawrence is also very young, 22, but Qu’venzhane is 9, and she did “Beasts of the Southern Wild” when she was six.

Exhibit A for Qu’venzhane ~ Everybody now pronounces her name correctly.
And Exhibit B – They also have learned to SPELL it correctly.

Tom O’Neil and Pete Hammond of http://www.deadline.com joked about her name in many early podcasts, but they are not laughing now. Calling her Miss Unpronounceable. They are NOT saying that anymore. In fact, BOTH have learned to say her name correcly, and say it with respect.

Exhibit C – The Academy liked “Beasts of the Southern Wild” enough to nominate it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenply.

Benh Zeitlin has just turned 30 and he ALSO ranks as one of the youngest directors to ever be nominated, too, btw.

Some people feel a child that young’s performance is not an acting performance, it’s a manipulation of the child by the director. Hence Zeitlin’s wonderful, surprising nom.

Best Director is really the most up-in-the-air category of any of the Oscars this year. Since Ben Affleck was snubbed famously for “Argo.” We know he’s not winning? But who is? Zeitlin?

And I have this really strong suspicion that, well, a certainty, really, as an Oscarologist of LONNNNNNNG standing…that “Beasts” is going to win something big. It could be Zeitlin. It could be Qu’venzhane Wallis.

Jennifer Lawrence has her youth, her beauty, TWO multi-million dollar franchises “The Hunger Games” and “X-Men” behind her AND she’s got Harvey Weinstein and his super-effective TWC publicity machine behind her. They got surprisingly THREE BAFTAS in places that weren’t expected. Christopher Waltz for Supporting Actor for “Django Unchained” and Quentin Tarantino for Original Screenplay. QT could repeat that feat at the Oscars, since he also was snubbed for Best Director along with Affleck, Tom Hooper and Kathryn Bigelow.

AND he also got David O.Russell Best Adapted Screenplay for “Silver Linings Playbook” at the BAFTAS which nobody expected either.

Of those three wins, I think Tarantino is most likely to score at the Oscars. Mainly because Harvey is pushing Robert De Niro like CRA-ZEE here in the States for the sympathetic Italian father in “Silver Linings.” It’s been DECADES since De Niro won his last Oscar for “Raging Bull.” So I think he’ll score this VERY competitive race for Best Supporting Actor.

And “Silver Linings Playbook” is being advertised to death on TV and all the players, all four of the leads are nominated in all four acting categories and have been omnipresent on your and my TVs.

Qu’venzhane, well, she’s been around, but she’s also in school, and her responsible family wants to keep her there as long as 4th grade is in session.Or is it third?

Also, Jennifer Lawrence SHOULD have won in London. Harvey was working his magic, as I said, but the Weinsteining only went so far. It didn’t stop “Argo” Awards march and Jennifer Lawrence lost to Emmanuelle Riva.

Emmanuelle Riva is beyond brilliant and totally memorable in “Amour,” but I keep hearing that Academy members can’t watcn it on their DVDs. It’s about Octogenarians coping with death, basically, and it’s just too much, too depressing for many.

But they’ve all watched “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Oscar likes to do something that not everybody else has done in terms of a winner, and Qu’venzhane would certainly be that. She’d make history, too, as the youngest ever Best Actress Oscar winner and also as only the second African-American winner in that category EVER.

As Tom O’Neil is constantly saying “It’s which one is not like the other ones. It’s the Apple in a bag of Oranges.” And Qu’venzhane fits THAT description to a “T”

Last week she was one of the covers of Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar issue and she’s also on Vanity Fair’s Oscar cover banging away on a set of drums!

The Academy is constantly being accused of racism, especially after Viola Davis’s loss to Meryl Streep last year. That was Harvey at work, yet again. I think there’s a verb now. I’ll call it Weinsteining if anybody else hasn’t already.

And Oscar likes little girls.

And they like “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

And y’know something else? Everyone is underestimating her. But any time any one says her name on TV now, or anywhere, they SMILE.

If I was voting this year, she’s the one I’d vote for.

Emmanuelle Riva is frail and didn’t make it to the BAFTAS and is even now using a walker and may not be able to make that lonnnnng flight to LA. So there’s the fear of a no-show.

Qu’venzhane Wallis will make the MOST adorable speech ever.

You can see me interviewing her this past June when she was 8 on my You Tube Channel http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and I ask her about the Oscars and you can see her charming response. She didn’t know what an Oscar was, BTW.

Last time I saw Qu’venzhane was at the Gotham Awards. It was outside at night, as I was leaving and she was SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS! To a bunch of screaming fans! Her mother Qu’lendrea was there and I noted to her that Qu’venzhane had gotten quite tall, since I had seen her last in June. She shooting up fast. And I said to her Mom, “Is she all right?” And she said, “Yes,” and I said “How is she taking all this?” And she said “She’s fine.”

Then she tapped Qu’venzhane firmly on the shoulder and pointed to me. Qu’venzhane remembered me! And smiled and curtsied to me.

I would vote for HER.

Maybe the all-too-serious actor’s branch of AMPAS wouldn’t. But the REST of the 4,500 membership, the infamous all male “steak-eaters” as Anne Thompson calls them just might.I call them the “SWORM”, the straight white old rich men, who are the majority of the Academy. Yeah, I can see THEM voting for Qu’venzhane.

Oscar Nominee Ang Li “Life of Pi” gets in touch with us!

 

From Ang Lee himself, getting in touch about his gratitude for his being nominated for Best Director and Best Picture for “Life of Pi.” It got many techical nominations, too! ELEVEN Nominations total! ONE behind leader “Lincoln’s TWELVE!And lest we not forget I have to mention that this film OPENED the New York Film Festival 2012! GO NYFF!

“I am deeply honored and frankly a little overwhelmed by all of the nominations that ‘Life of Pi’ has received this morning. So many talented people gave everything they had to this film, both in front of and behind the camera, and to see all of them receive this kind of recognition is something I am incredibly grateful for.”

 

Some fun facts about LIFE OF PI:

 

  • Film is approaching $400 million worldwide gross
  • Film is approaching $100 million domestic gross and Ang Lee’s highest-grossing film to date
  • LIFE OF PI is Ang’s most Oscar nominated film of his career
  • Ang Lee is the only director in the race this year to receive nominations from the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globes, DGA and the Broadcast Film Critics.
  • While many have assumed that the film can’t win because it has no well-known actors, including an experienced lead actor, the film has made a sweep of key factions including DGA, PGA, WGA, BAFTA, ASC, VES, AFI, ADG, HFPA
  • Previous films including BRAVEHEART, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING And believe it or not NONE of these films had acting nominations!No, reallY!

– LIFE OF PI fits with the precedent of films that win Best Picture with no acting noms for the following reasons:

  • Large technical achievement (BRAVEHEART and LOTR: ROTK)
  • No big star in the cast (SLUMDOG)
  • Predominantly cast featuring people of color (SLUMDOG)
  • Considered a great directorial achievement (All of them)
  • Non-American stories (All of them)
  • Ang is being recognized for his achievement with this film by VES (Visionary Award), MPSE (Filmmaker of the Year), and the International 3D Society (Harold Lloyd Award). He was also recognized this year as VARIETY’s “International Filmmaker of the Year” at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and he received a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres insignia.
  • Film is not a story specific to one country or region – it’s a world wide story
  • Film based on best-selling book that is now back near the top of the NEW YORK TIMES Best-Seller list
  • Film is Ang’s first foray into the world of 3D
  • Famous quote from W.C. Fields about never working with animals or children, but LIFE OF PI has both animals, a young lead actor, and water – and the film successfully uses all three
  • Film crew was comprised of over 3,000 members from all over the world, including members for 21countries worldwide.

 

Not All Subways Back, My Library Didn’t Have Heat, but the Oscar Race does!

After a week of recovery that is starting to remind me of The Reconstruction half of “Gone With The Wind”, I’m happy to report that the some of the subways are working just fine. But some are not running at all. And nobody seems to know which trains are on and which are off.

Unless you go down there yourself and find out the hard way. Which I did.

The “L” was not running this afternoon, and I had to take a cross-town bus, which was running fine and not crowded to get across 14th from West to East.  The 3rd Avenue bus just zipped uptown, again, not crowded, though it was the Hour of Rush(not Limbaugh). And the N train was running just fine, but still only going to 34th Street.

And the R train is not running at all. Yet.

Still confusion reigns and you have to leave an hour or at least 30 additional minutes to get where you’re going, just in case, you run into one of these inevitable SNAFUS.

14th Street as the bus sailed Crosstown looked absolutely normal, I’m happy to report. If 14th EVER looks normal. Lots of young people literally bopping and bouncing about their business in a jaunty step that said “Wheeee! I’m Freee! I can get out of the house and also,  get back, too!”

And it’s gotten COLDER. The temperature’s now in the 30s! In hasn’t been this cold in New York since two years previous. Last year there was no winter at all. And I missed it. Now that it’s THIS cold, I just want it to go away!

And there’s supposed to be another storm coming on Wednesday!!!

Meanwhile, Anne Thompson is “digging into Anthony Breznican’s EW Oscar Predictions” at www.indiewire.com

I guess St. Anne got a copy of the not-on-the-stands-yet Entertainment Weekly Holiday Edition. And I agree with Anne almost completely I have to say. Breznican, who replaced Oscar God Dave Karger, who was well-nigh infallilble has moved on to Fandango (to do what? Write? I didn’t know Fandango was a magazine or site. I thought they just sold tickets.)

Anne is right, I think, in saying that he, Breznican, the newbie, is going “too indie” and she’s right. In this year, with the Academy facing more and much, much better studios movies than they’ve had in DECADES, the indies are going to get all but shunted to the side.

That means YOU “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Jeffrey Wells in HIS weekly podcast was witness to a roomful of Academy types NOT in love with Joaquim Phoenix AT ALL in a screening/party he went to in the Hollywood Hills. Sounds glamorous. But Jeff in his podcast this week, DID dig deep into the Supporting Actress category and fortunately mentioned the great Ann Dowd of “Compliance”(though she’s the lead) and also, surprisingly Breznican had her, too. In Entertainment Weekly, which everyone reads, esp. their Oscar Nomination prediction issue(Everything is SOOOOO early this year.) so that was important for Dowd’s chances. She COULD be the Demian Bichir of this year. The Academy just has to keep being REMINDED, since it seems IFC the distributor is not spending a dime on this one.

I knew Linda Hunt, who WON Best Supporting Actress back in the ’70s for playing an Asian MAN in a movie that I can’t remember the name of. And SHE, Ms. Hunt Didn’t do ANYTHING in terms of campaigning or ads, but in those days you didn’t have to.

And there’s two camps on upcoming “Hitchcock”. Love it. Or hate it. Variety didn’t love it and I think Jeff didn’t either. Ditto Sasha Stone AND Anne Thompson. Oscar Goddess Stone was facing a dilemma about whether she was going to write about it or not. “The Two Faces of Alfred” I’m sure a genius like Hitchcock MORE than just two faces. That’s not the name of Sasha’s article. That’s a metaphor.

Et voila!

I SUDDENLY I get invited to see it here in NYC tomorrow! So it’s a double-header! “Silver Linings Playbook” and then “Hitchcock.” I hope I can stand it. But fortunately they are both short movies. So things are picking up.

I think Joaquim Phoenix is just OUT of the jammed Actor category, which is what Jeffrey Wells saw displayed before him in Hollywood last night. There’s two or three too many Best Actor performances. And SOMEbody’s gonna get left out.

And I think it’s JP.

So I see Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson’s performances TOMORROW! Talk About an Old Time Double Featurel!

Oscar Buzz High on “Hitchcock”

As NY struggles to recover from the devastation of “Hurricane Sandy”, I struggle to keep up with the Oscar race, such as it is, now that half of Showbiz, the NY half is basically turned off.

The big event of the Oscar week was “Hitchcock”s premiere at the AFI fest in LA. It seems the reception was rapturous, and Pete Hammond of http://www.deadline.com and Tom O’Neil of http://www.goldderby.com both were there as was Anne Thompson of http://www.indiewire.com. Pete and Tom O. both agreed in their reactions. Both thought that BOTH Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren will receive Oscar nods for playing Sir Alfred Hitchcock and his feisty, smart collaborator/wife Alma Reville.

Hitchcock himself in his lifetime never won an Oscar, believe it or not, though his first film “Rebecca” won Best Picture in 1941.He was nominated five times for Best Director, but never won. And evidently there is a scene in “Hitchcock” where he complains about this while lying on a psychiatrist’s couch. Lolol…Can’t wait!

This OTT reaction of Hammond/O’Neil was matched by In Contention’s Kris Tapley. In Contention, his smart, savvy Oscar site has been absorbed into HitFix.com for those of you keeping track of these things.

As I’ve said before both Anne Thompson and he do a terrific weekly podcast called Oscar Talk, which airs after noon EST, even this week, with Tapley in New York. He said he was the only member of HitFix’s team that still had power. So there he was sounding loud and clear on Oscar Talk with Anne.

Anne Thompson did NOT like “Hitchcock” AT ALL. And she and Kris practically came to blows over it. In the end the gallant Mr. Tapley smoothed things over by a bet. He bet her that BOTH Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren will get nominated by the Academy for Best Actor and Best Actress. And Anne bet him a dinner with a bottle of wine that NEITHER would “get in.”!!!!

Now they RARELY differ to this extent. I have to say that I have not had the privilege of seeing “Hitchcock” myself yet. But Anne Thompson, as I do, feels Hitchcock is her “cinema idol” and she, unlike myself, does not want to see his reputation “tarnished” by these two recent depictions of him on film. “Hitchcock” and HBO’s “The Girl.”

So we have Pete Hammond, Tom O’Neil and Kris Tapley all saying “Yea” and only Anne Thompson saying “Nay.” These are died-in-wool Oscarologists and except for Tapley all are in my age group. I tend to think that they are right, the guys. Let’s face it, the Academy is all men.

And I think, at least in the Best Actress race, Dame Helen Mirren, already an Oscar winner for “The Queen” six years ago, is VERY likely to replace either Emmanuelle Riva or Qu’venzhane Wallis, who are both more than shaky in their slots.

The Best Actor race is the one that is soooo jammed with contenders. I think Daniel Day-Lewis will get nominated for sure for “Lincoln” which I saw, but am embargoes not to write about fully until Nov.7(!) So you’ll have to wait for my take on this heavily in contention film .

There’s also the upcoming Hugh Jackman in “Les Miz” (still unseen) and then John Hawkes in “The Sessions” is another certainty. And Denzel Washington in “Flight” just entered that race, with strong reviews. I really wonder about Joaquim Phoenix now.

After his remarked upon remarks about the Oscar being “utter bullshit” and a “bad tasting, dirty carrot” that he “didn’t want to taste” or “eat”, that and the failure of “The Master” on all fronts and its’ divisive  reaction critically may very well squeeze him out of this tight category. Especially with Sir Anthony and Hugh Jackman coming on strong.

I guess I feel more normal today. This is the first time that I have written about the Oscars since the storm hit.

And for the record, no, I did not see “Silver Linings Playbook” which is one of the many screenings that got cancelled because of the storm.

Also, Tom O. did not mention Scarlett Johansson as a contender for Best Supporting Actress for “Hitchcock” for playing the late Janet Leigh. I think Kris Tapley did and so did Pete Hammond.

Pete Hammond, since http://www.Deadline.com has merged with Variety is now probably the most important Oscar prognosticator in the biz.

Jeff Wells wrote a very weird review where he doesn’t mention the Oscar chances of either Hopkins or Mirren. You can read it at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

And Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone of http://www.awardsdaily.com was there, too,  but hasn’t posted her review yet. It doesn’t officially open til Thanksgiving Day.

Oh, and Oscar God Dave Karger, tweeted after seeing “Hitchcock” that he thought BOTH Hopkins and Mirren had “decent shots.”

Some Lights Go Back on, but the subways STILL are not all back.

Life in NYC post-Sandy is symbolized to me by that dangling, dislodged crane over W.57th St. It seems like everything here is dangling by a thread now. Nothing is certain anymore. You keep waiting for the next shoe, or crane, to drop. And there’s another storm coming this week!

The buses and subways are now back to charging fares. They are no longer free. I found that out the hard way when I went to return some items to the library today. Ouch! They should keep it free until ALLLLL of the subways are back! And a lot are not.

I would say it’s like 3/5s there. Lower Manhattan is still a frightening dead zone, though lights have come back on. But not the subways. Buses go down there at night, I understand, but I wouldn’t venture there. New York like this is scary enough in the daytime, nevermind at night.

But you do go stir crazy if you stay in too much. But going out with the weather turning colder than its’ been in a long time in NY,(we barely had a winter last year), if you’re not bundled up like an Eskimo, the chill winds can kill you.

Today the temperature kept dropping, and I had to go out, and go to the library cross town, as I said, then back uptown to the TV station to drop off this week’s “Stephen Holt Show” and that’s a long, cold walk, let me tell you.

And with W.57th STILL a danger zone, buses were being re-routed over to 9th Ave. from Fifth and Sixth and 7th…well, you get the picture.

Then they continue on back on their regular routes once they get past The Dangling Crane.
And who do I meet on the bus going back home, after dark, from the TV station? Well, one of my favorite British character actresses of all time Miriam Margoyles!

She was a particular favorite of mine from the many,many film and TV roles I saw here in when I lived in London in the 70s and now that I live here, I kept following her work.

She’s in town she told me “safe and warm on the Upper West Side” to do a two performance only stint of her one-woman show “Dickens Women” at the Morgan Library. It sounds delicious! And particularly with Madame Margoyles playing Dickens perfect-for-her eccentric characters.

Her voice is so deep and warm and resonant, the chill New York night didn’t seem so cold anymore. She told me she was on her way to see “The Heiress” starring Jessica Chastain on Broadway. And I told her I was also seeing it later this week.

I also took a wild guess and thought that she and Dame Helen Mirren might be very good friends. Same age. British. Acting royalty. AND THEY ARE!

I told Miriam that Dame Helen had just had great success the night before at the AFI film festival with “Hitchcock” which she didn’t know anything about.

“Oh, I love Helen! Don’t you? She’s a wonderful person!” and I concurred saying that I had interviewed her many times.

“And Sir Anthony Hopkins is playing Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Dame Helen is playing his wife,” I told her and she continued to enthuse.

“I’ve worked many times with both of them. They are both lovely people!”

I told her that people are thinking that they BOTH could get Oscar nominations.

And I told her is was worried about her play because the Morgan Library is in the “Dark” zone…er, I think…

And she said, “The Lights will be on by then!”

Actors! They keep this city buzzing!

New York After Sandy ~ A City Broken in Two

New York City is broken. Hurricane Sandy broke it in two. There are now two parts to my beloved city, the Light and the Dark. The Light is virtually untouched by the tragedy of the disaster.  The electricity and power are ON. And now even the subways are running.

But south of 30th Street on the West Side and 40th Street on the East is “The Dark.” There is no power at all. No light. No heat and in many high rises no water! The street lights are out. There are patrol men and women in uniforms directing traffic. Oh, and the buses and subways are free.

In the daytime there have been soooo many buses, more than I’ve ever seen in my life, and yesterday the subways started running again but only to midtown. Queens travelers I think are fine. And the Bronx, where I am from, is totally AOK.

I have not been able to replace my lost remote, so my TV remains dark, and the only news I get is from the Internet and most importantly from what my friends tell me. Or people on the buses I ride tell me.

I was always a huge bus-rider and it’s now like 9/11 here AGAIN where people are all turning to total strangers that they are sitting/standing next to and talking about The Conversation, the Catastrophe. Just like 9/11 when the notoriously rude New Yorkers all of a sudden WEREN’T. They became instantly friendly, concerned.

The people downtown, the Village, Lower Manhattan even Chelsea, are all looking like refugees from some war-torn country. Evacuation is the what they all should have done and many have, but many people can’t leave their cold, dark apartments. And in the skyscrapers downtown there is also of course no elevator service.

People are literally trapped as the weather turns ever colder in the high rises.

When I lived in London in the ’70s, I was always surprised when I saw and heard the British and especially the Cockney disdain for living way above the ground. Now it seems wise.

Me? I’ve got heat, light, and water. My internet is working. And so are the elevators. But when I had to venture out to 23rd Street on Wed. it turned into a really harrowing ordeal. Going downtown the bus was as jam-packed as the subway at rush hour and I was checking on my storage room downtown, where all my playwriting and past TV shows are stored, and while my floor was OK, the basement was flooded and everybody who had anything stored there lost everything.

There are still no lights downtown. Block after block as far as the eye could see, not one light on in ANY buildings.

And no subways at all in the lower part of Manhattan.  It’s frightening. It’s shocking. It’s sad. It’s terrible.

Meanwhile, uptown the party that is New York goes on. Everybody in the “Light” area seems almost universally giddy, upbeat, rushing to the next Broadway show or movie.

And yes, the movie houses are now open as of yesterday, I think.

I went to see a screening of the upcoming “Lincoln” and went uptown on a bus(which was free)to the suddenly appropriately named Lincoln Square.

On the way up there was this terrible traffic snarl. Why? Well, there was this crane dangling over W.57th street, which is closed off for blocks. It took a long time, but we got there. And coming back, we got a subway (also free) I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear the rumble of the always noisy subway for the first time in days!

There weren’t a lot of people on it. But every body who was on it was in a good mood, because they were riding on it and it was going. Just down to W.34th Street. But it was going. And it was bright and warm. And everybody was happy to be on it. THIS is a New York first, too. Smiles all ’round on a subway!

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