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Archive for the ‘Scandinavian’ Category

Viggo Mortensen is Fantastic in “Captain Fantastic”

captain-fantastic-1As the votes become due for the Oscar Nominations and the voting officially closed Friday, the 13th, the one name that kept appearing on lists of the Top Five Best Actor predictions was unexpectedly Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen. Then he got nominated for the SAG Best Actor and his film “Captain Fantastic” became unexpectedly nominated for Best Ensemble. Which is the SAG equivalent of best film. For Best Actor he knocked out(probably) Tom Hanks in “Sully” and in Ensemble it replaced shockingly “La La Land.”

Yes, juggernaut “La La Land” did not make the cut with SAG, but “Captain Fantastic” astoundingly did. So I had to check it out. Better late than never. I do admit I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to watch it, but guess what? I totally loved it! And Viggo is at a career-high with this VERY atypical role.

He plays a man who has retreated totally from society as we know it, with his six underage children and lives in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest in and around a battered green bus. Very hippy dippy. Yeah, that’s what I thought before I gave it a chance and it turns out the film is very sweet and Viggo is as warm as a roaring fireplace (that’s refreshing in this chilly, dour year)and it’s all about fatherhood.captain-fantastic-2

This is a side we’ve never seen of Viggo before, his sweetness. And he’s got a lot to share. He excels in the scenes with his children, who are totally dependent on him, yet he wants them to be as independent and anti-social as he is.

Known primarily as a swash-buckler, swaggering his way through centuries, his trademark role is probably Aragorn, the heroic knight of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and is arguably one of the prime reasons for its’ success as a series of well, swash-buckling epics. He’s every Hobbits best friend.

He can go to the Dark Side,  too, as we saw in his Russian gangster, with perfect Russian accent, and multiple tattoos in David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises.” His nude fight in a British sauna with thugs who are trying to kill him has been described by the late Roger Ebert as “a benchmark.”

For those who MUST know, he’s also totally nude, briefly, in this film, too. His line is “It’s just a penis.” Every time he takes off all his clothes, it seems he gets Oscar consideration.

But he does more than just strip in “Captain Fantastic.” He lets his soft side show and is just the most admirable pater familias possible. To see the tough-as-nails Mortensen, drop the sword play and guns and,  replace them with hugs and concerned tears, is just, well, kind of Fantastic, as the title says. He does live up to his name.

To say that it’s a change of pace roll in Mortensen’s career is an understatement. It’s more like a total earthquake-like revelation.captain-fantastic-3And he’s surrounded, SAG is right, by an admirable ensemble. Notably the towering rage of Frank Langella as his straight-arrow father-in-law, and nobody less than the redoubtable Anne Dowd as his ultra-maternal mother-in-law. In a few brief scenes that she has the magnificent Dowd shows that there is indeed love to be found in this strangest of family situations.captain-fantastic-4

George MacKay as Bo and Nicholas Hamilton as Rellian, his two oldest sons also stand up to him and challenge him in ways that no ordinary children would. But Captain Fantastic has fashioned nothing that is ordinary. Everything is original and also deeply touching. This is a sweet-natured gem of a film and I’m glad it’s getting the awards attention it deserves.

If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to grow up in a commune, “Captain Fantastic” answers all those complicated life questions. And there are no simple answers.

#Captain Fantastic

# Viggo Mortensen

#fatherhood

# SAG Ensemble Award Nominee

#SAG Best Actor Nominee

# Oscar Nominee

#Eastern Promises

#Male Nude Fight Scene

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Chances of Casey Affleck,”Manchester by the Sea” Boosted by Early Critics Awards

Well, the first critics awards of the season have come rollin’ in, and the Big Winner so far is Casey Affleck, who has just racked up Best Actor from the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review. Right behind him is his beautiful film “Manchester by the Sea” and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of this fierce little Indie’s overcoming all the studio behemoths to reap these much-deserved rewards.

“Manchester by the Sea” also was just named Best Picture of the Year by the National Board of Review. It landed in its’ top Ten Films and Lucas Hedges as Affleck’s truculent but funny nephew got Best Breakthrough Performer also for “Manchester.”manchester-by-the-sea-5

It’s such a good film. And its’ filmmaker, playwright/director Kenneth Lonergan is one of the best talents we have working today. “Manchester” is a film that grows in the memory. It lasts. It stays with you, as all great films do. It’s a comedy that contains its’ characters going from one funeral after the other.

To reveal more of the plot is to spoil it, so I’ll stop here and say that Casey Affleck’s performance of the grief-stricken Boston janitor certainly deserves these accolades and I’m sure he’s got more on the way. No more “Ben’s little Brother” fleck really comes into his own in “Manchester.”Such a searing portrait of grief, I don’t think we’ve ever seen on the screen quite so indelibly.

Also gaining some surprising and much needed traction from these early awards is “Moonlight”s Naomie Harris, who I’ve been mentioning over and over in previous Oscar blogs as the crack addicted mother of the central character.

naomie-harris-1

Also rollin’ in to the National Board of Review is Jeff Bridges’ nominated for his crusty, West Texas retiree lawmaker in “Hell or Highwater” for Best Supporting Actor. hell-or-high-water-5The Independent Spirits nominated Ben Foster also from “Hell” in this same slot, but not Bridges. And as previously stated the entire ensemble of “Moonlight”s actors received a special award for excellence at the Gothams.

“Moonlight” was also the Big Winner at the Gothams last night with four awards. It’s Out Gay writer/director Barry Jenkins scoring in both categories.

It’s also interesting to note that neither of the millennial actresses who are considered front-runners Emma Stone for “La La Land” and Natalie Portman for “Jackie” won in this busy past 24 hours. French actress Isabelle Huppert triumphed for “Elle” at the Gothams and six-time Oscar loser Amy Adams won the NBR Best Actress Award for “Arrival.” Could this FINALLY be her year?arrival-1

For a list of all Gotham Award Winners and the National Board of Review’s, too, go to http://www.awardsdaily.com.

#Casey Affleck

#Oscars

#Manchester by the Sea

#Lucas Hedges

#Naomie Harris

 

Bewitching Janet Mc Teer in London-to-Bway “Les Liasions Dangereuses”

les-liaisons-dangereuses-1A great actress is bestriding Broadway at the moment. Janet McTeer walks among us, and we all must pay homage to this great, great stage actress in her latest triumph “Les Liasions Dangereuses” And bestride the stage she does, for she is exceedingly tall and inevitably dominates every other actor and every minute she appears before us ands burns up the stage she is standing on..She’s a one-woman conflagration.

Seen just this summer as of all characters Shakespeare’s Petruchio, in the all-female “Taming of the Shrew” in the Park this July, she was totally convincing as a lascivious man. Playing him as a drugged-out Stephen Tyler-type rock star manqué, in blue jeans and leather, I totally forgot she was a woman. A better female-to-male drag performance I have never seen.

And now, in “Les Laision Dangereues” she is all woman and totally dangereuses. And we must herald her being here on Broadway so soon and in such a different swoon-worthy role. While her Petruchio was a total roue, her Marquise de Merteuil is the embodiment of pure. perfect feminine evil. She smiles as she kills.les-liaisons-dangereuses-3

She is the bored aristocrat at the center of Choderlos de Laclos’ constantly revived French classic play from the early 1780s, depicting in extremis the debaucherie of the ancien regime. And explaining fully just what was leading up to the French revolution in which it is quite probable that the duplicitous Marquise would have been the first to lose her lovely head.

But then again, perhaps not. She’s far to smart for that. A fashionable widow who may have killed her first and only husband, she wants nothing to do with re-marriage, because marriage she proclaims “is being told what to do.” And instead of sex, she revels in playing games with the men(and it is implied) the women around her. The Marquise will do anything for what she terms “the game.”les-liaisons-dangereuses-2She entices her former lover the Vicomte de Valmont into a bet, which is really a dance of death, of who can seduce who, and faster, of the hapless country dupes that surround them. And she wants written proof, too, in the form of a tear-stained letter!

Janet McTeer’s main problem apart from being so overwhelming tall is that she is such a powerful actress she tends to  blow everyone else right off the stage. And in “Les Liasions…” she does so again.

Unfortunately I have to report that one of America’s foremost young actors Liev Schreiber is a mere nothing here. Uncomfortable in heels and 18th century wigs, frills, and hose, he is a virtual blank against the astounding, fiery Ms. McTeer’s blazing Marquise.

The two destructive seducers at the center of this viler than vile behavior need to be evenly matched, and they surprisingly are not. The six foot four Schrieber matches McTeer in height, but little else.

Though I have admired him since his days at the Yale School of Drama, he is totally at a loss here, and not convincing at all as the dissolute lothario he is meant to be. His usual charisma is dulled and he seems ill at ease and actually miscast as the supposed equally maleficent Valmont. He’s not sexy in the least. Worse, he seems to be phoning the Vicomte in. He is plodding as McTeer is magisterial. And on fire.

McTeer swoops and dives across her victims on the stage as Schreiber bores them all to death.

Only the Danish actress, Brigitte Hjort Sorensen holds her own against them in the supporting role of the doomed, puritanical Madame de Tourvel.

But any chance to catch the bewitching McTeer onstage live is well worth the price of admission and she is giving one of her greatest performances ever as the epitome of French perversion, all the while smiling, and simpering and dithering and consoling those she is destroying in the most aristocratic of British accents. Her Marquise de Merteuil is the greatest interpretation of this often revived role that you’ll ever see. McTeer is absolutely top drawer as she opens the drawer, withdraws the stiletto within and stabs you through the heart. She’s chilling and beguiling and not to be missed.

Oscar Winner “Danish Girl” now on DVD & It’s Glorious!

The Danish Girl 1My Number One Film of the Year “The Danish Girl” is now out on  DVD & Blu-Ray and it’s glorious! Its’ sumptuous, heart-breaking love story maintains all its’ lush simplicity on the small screen, making it even a more intimate yet stupendous experience as it relates the star-crossed story of two Danish painters Einar and Gerde Vegener in the 1920s in Copenhagen & Paris. Eddie Redmayne got an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor for playing Einar, who transitions into Lili Elbe, one of the first known transgendered male-to-females.

And I’m so happy that the luminous Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her tour-de-force as Gerde, his stalwart, beloved wife. Who encourages her husband to start cross-dressing as a lark, then begins to turn into something deadly serious, which confounds and confuses her as much as it does him.Alicia & Oscar 1

As Redmayne changes into Lili, every beat, every heart beat is beautifully rendered by director Tom Hooper, and matched in heartbreak, confusion and love by Vikander’s superb performance.

The story, in case you haven’t heard, has a tragic, heart-stopping ending. It’s no walk in the park. The pain and suffering of both leading characters’ true story has echoed down the ages. A transgendered tale such as this has never been translated into a major feature film and with such delicacy and respect. And with such magnificence and splendor by Production Designer Eve Stewart and costume designer Paco Delgado, who both also got Oscar nominations.Danish Girl Duo

Danny Cohen is the genius cinematographer, who captures all the various lights and colors of both early 20th century Copenhagen and the demimonde of Paris art salons with breathtaking accuracy. His camera just PUTS you there, and enthralls as vibrantly as the two leading players.

And I think it’s a crime that Hair and Make-Up Designer Jan Sewell did not get an Oscar Nomination for her transformative styling of Eddie Redmayne, turning him from a man into a woman, and all the stages in between with the utmost believability and subtlety. Sewell is also responsible for turning the dark-haired, olive-skinned Vikander into a pale Danish blonde.The Danish Girl 2

I also want to mention Ben Whishaw’s charmingly quiet and touching performance as Henrik,  the gay artist in Copenhagen, who is the first male to fall for Lili at an Artists’ Ball that serves as her coming out into public for her first nervous appearance as the shy country cousin of Einar’s.The Danish Girl 3

Whishaw and Redmayne’s first kiss, and indeed all their subsequent ones made the ground quake and the earth shake as they both don’t quite know what is happening between them. And of course, Vikander as Gerde sees this tryst. And her character goes through as many transitions and changes as Redmayne’s Lili, as she tries to understand and adjust to this cataclysmic situation the husband she loves has put himself, and HER into.Alicia 8

“The Danish Girl” moved me beyond tears as it did when I first saw it in Toronto. I’m so glad the Academy embraced Alicia Vikander and made her a star. And if Eddie Redmayne hadn’t won the Oscar last year for “The Theory of Everything,” he would have certainly won Best Actor for his beautiful “Danish Girl.”Alicia Oscar 1

 

Just What Is Embroidered on Alicia’s Oscar Dress?

Alicia Oscar 1Alicia's Oscar DressAlicia & Oscar 1I love this yellow princess dress with the puffed waist that Alicia Vikander won her Oscar in for “The Danish Girl,” but just WHAT are the silver designs embroidered into it? They seem  to shimmer like diamonds? Are they? Or is it just bright silver thread?

And WHAT are those intriguing patterns? Leaves? sheaves of wheat? Leaves of grass? Palm leaves? Symbols of peace? I guess we’ll never know. It’s Louis Vuitton, so perhaps somebody out there, dear readers, dear cineastes, might know what it is? Or it’s supposed to be?

Some Swedish symbol? Palm fronds, anticipating Easter? It’s mysterious and only adds to Alicia’s allure.

Any guesses?

 

It’s Moments Like This….

Alicia & Oscar 1

It’s moments like these that make it all worth it…

Above, Alicia Vikander who just won Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl” Not necessarily a sure bet. And below the COMPLETELY unexpected win by most, (but not me, I PREDICTED it!) Mark Rylance winning Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies.” And then “Spotlight” winning Best Picture! Sublime justice!

Mark Rylance & Oscar 1

“Spotlight” wins Best Picture! I predicted this! AND Mark Rylance!

Finally! Best Director is announced by J.J. Abrams, director of “Star Wars” ~ Alejandro G. Inarritu! Who also won the DGA, the Director’s Guild Award. He’s making history again. He won these awards LAST year. Only two other directors have won two-in-a-row. This is for “The Revenant.” So it’s not a sweep. It’s only won one other award, Best cinematography.  This $64,000 question, as they used to say back in the day, is whether “The Revenant” which will win Best Actor for Leo in a few minutes, is whether or not Brie Larson 4will win four with Best Picture.

And of COURSE, Brie Larson won Best Actress! As she has won everything else and deservedly so. She starts off with “Oh Wow!” and then then thanks the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals!!!!!!!!!!!Unheard of! “For giving us such a great platform to start our film.”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And yup, Leonardo Di Caprio just won his first Oscar. He gave a rather wonderful speech…”I do not take this for granted.”He got a standing ovation, too.

And FINALLY “Spotlight” wins BEST PICTURE!!!!!!!!!!!! Just as I predicted! It’s over! The Good Guys won!Spotlight 6

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