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Why Casey Affleck Will Win Best Actor Oscar.

If I was an AMPAS voter, I think it’s just between my two favorite movies (alas, not “Jackie” evidently..sadly…)”La La Land”casey-affleck-adand “Manchester by the Sea”. Initiallly, if I were a voter, I would’ve just said “Yes!” to La Land’s bounce and bouyancy all the way, but now that I’ve had time to mull it over, if I were an Academy member, I might put down “Manchester by the Sea”as my #1 film, because it has gravitas. “La La Land” doesn’t. Not really.

And Casey Affleck’s incredible performance! Imagine how different that film would be if Matt Damon, the originally intended lead, did indeed do it. I don’t think I could ever imagine Sunny Matt as a Hot Mess. And Casey Affleck plays the conflicted male loser so believably…I mean, he really puts you in the mindset of someone who’s killed, accidentally, but I mean, I’m not going to spoil it any further… The unfathomable despair of those deaths…. It’s almost unbearable. It’s unthinkable. BUT HE BEARS IT. He survives the unimaginable, which is the point of the whole film I think,manchester-art-direction

And Kenneth Lonergan, the filmmaker, is a great under-sung America playwright, has done just that. Put the unthinkable on screen and says “Here. This is what life is about. Multiple losses. Deal with it.” And the audience and Affleck’s character, in fact, the whole of New England village Manchester itself is still grappling with the ramifications of what he did. “Manchester” is a movie that ABOUT something. It’s profound. But it’s also profoundly, unexpectedly funny, but that is its’ genius.

Surviving something you thought you’d never be able to survive. Like this past election….And still having a battered, but intact sense of humor and decency. He’s still alive. He struggles, but he goes on living. As Beckett said in “Waiting for Godot”, “I can’t go on….I go on.”

Affleck is playing one of the most original characters ever written for the screen, in that sense. And he’s won over 30 acting awards already! He’ll win BAFTA in a walk. The Brits go for the serious, the heavy(see “Hamlet”) and if he wins SAG, too! Bob’s your uncle, as the Cockneys say.manchester-by-the-sea-8

I did not like Denzel Washington, over-acting in “Fences,” is his only credible competition in the Best Actor category, but Washington did not get nominated for a BAFTA either as director or actor.  Another big snub. And he lost the Golden Globe to Affleck. And he wasn’t named as one of the five directors in the DGA.

Both, though, will get nominations on Jan.24. The next big test will be at SAG. If Affleck wins that, the game is over.

#Casey Affleck

# Best Actor Oscar

#Manchester by the Sea

# Kenneth Lonergan

  • [This article was originally  a post in the comments section of http://www.awardsdaily.com, but I thought it was too good not to reprint (and re-write it) here. Thanks as always to Awardsdaily.]
  • Producers Guild Announces Their Nominations

    manchester-by-the-sea-8The Producers Guild has just announced its’ all-important ten nominations. They are listed below alphabetically. And it’s interesting to note that “Silence,” “Nocturnal Animals” and “Jackie” are completely left out. But a super-hero film like “Deadpool” is left IN.

    The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

     

    • Arrival

    Producers: Dan Levine, Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, David Linde

     

    • Deadpool

    Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Shuler Donner

     

    • Fences

    Producers: Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Todd Black

     

    • Hacksaw Ridge

    Producers: Bill Mechanic, David Permut

     

    • Hell or High Water

    Producers: Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn

     

    • Hidden Figures

    Producers: Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Theodore Melfi

     

    • La La Land

    Producers: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt

     

    • Lion

    Producers: Emile Sherman & Iain Canning, Angie Fielder

     

    • Manchester By the Sea

    Producers: Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin Walsh

     

    • Moonlight

    Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner

     

    Ryan Gosling Wins Best Actor/Musical Comedy for “La La Land”!!!!

    la-la-land-6ryan-gosling-1Ryan Gosling wins Best Actor Musical/Comedy for “La La Land”!!! As Expected. He wore a white tux. Very dignified speech, thanking his wife. And now “La La Land” wins Best Screenplay!!! Whoa! Damien Chazelle wins this instead of Best Director probably. That makes FOUR Golden Gloves, as Sophia Vigara called them. Chazelle looks very, very young. To young almost to have done this. Very thin and  very nervous. Seems genuinely astonished to have won Best Screenplay.

     

    Josh Groban Makes Musical Theater History on Bway in Spectactular “Natasha, Pierre…”

    Can you believe that schlump is  handsome rock star Josh Groban???

    natasha-pierre-1How to describe what is certainly one of the best musical theater experiences I’ll ever have in my life? There are no words. Only superlatives, and they can’t even begin to do justice to the transformative, shocking, heart-breaking, bravura performance Josh Groban gives in the pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comic of 1812” now on Broadway at the Imperial Theater. Former home to “Les Miserables” which ran there for decades and I’m predicting this will, too.

    And win Josh Groban Best Actor in a Musical and every other Tony in the book. Move over “Hamilton” there’s a new masterpiece in town! (And it’s right next door to “Hamilton” too!)”Natasha, Pierre…” is a tiny sliver of Leo Tolstoy’s 1000 page epic Russian novel “War and Peace” and is as unlikely a musical comedy blockbuster as “Hamilton.” The War that’s “breaking out somewhere out there” is the Napoleonic War against Russia. But in Moscow, the decadent aristocracy is partying like it’s 2016.

    They sing “Chandeliers and caviar! The war can’t touch us here!” But of course, it is, led by Napoleon. And  as it gets closer and closer the  aristocrats & the party crowd are becoming more and more frantic.

     

    natasha-pierre-5Those who’ve been following the career of pop star Josh Groban will be stunned by the absolute 360 he’s done with “Natasha, Pierre…” which is as innovative and spectacular a musical, and risky, too, as the astounding performance Groban gives in it. You see, “Natasha, Pierre…” is not your ordinary musical comedy. It’s hardly a comedy at all, though you do feel like you’ve been in the midst of a drunken Russian party that turned into a wild, thumping troika ride.

    As a handsome young man, who is now unbelievably only 35, one did wonder what Groban, a brilliant musician, lyricist and composer as well as a platinum selling recording artist with four world tours and seven albums under his belt, and millions of fans to boot. Sexy, and angelic at the same time, one wondered what he was going to do when his teenaged good looks and youth appeal began to wear off. Not that it has, but Groban was open-minded and daring enough to take on the completely incongruous and daunting role of Pierre Bezukov, Tolstoy’s depressive, over-weight, bespectacled alter-ego in “War and Peace.” It’s proving to be the role of his career.natasha-pierre-4

    At first entrance, on to the stage, flanked by a blinding bank of rock star lighting (by Mimi Lien, whose contribution  is inestimable) Groban enters as Pierre with an accordion, then makes his way almost lumbering to center stage, down several stair cases (director Rachel Chavkin has carved up the Imperial into a brand-new, almost intimate cabaret-like space and puts the audience onstage, too!) and you think that middle-aged, almost-fat man CAN’T be Josh Groban, but it is! josh-groban

    Heavily bearded with long-grown out, almost greasy, dark, curly locks, he looks nothing like any iteration we’ve seen of Josh Groban  before. He’s almost unrecognizable!  He’s totally transmogrified himself into this hulking Russian bear of a character, but that’s exactly what Tolstoy wrote his hero as. He’s the symbol of pre-Napoleonic Russian aristocracy.

    He’s depressive. He’s unattractive and he drinks and drinks and drinks.

    “I drink and read and drink and read and drink,” he sings in a confused clarion of voice that is less than happy about this inactive plight.

    He’s married to a completely inappropriate wife, the witchily attractive Helene, who is referred to in the opening number simply as “Helene’s a slut.” Amber Gray plays Helene with exactly the right blend of nastiness, sexuality and charm. as she sashays  her way through the night seductively telling our heroine, the virginal Natasha (Denee Benton) that she is “Charmante, Charmante.”amber-greyHer brother, who turns out to be a dastard of the first water, Anatole, is portrayed with a devil-ish  blend of blond good looks, rock star pompadour hair, and VERY tight military pants by Lucas Steele. “Anatole’s hot” the opening chorus sings. And who are we to disagree?natasha-pierre-2He’s out to elope, or basically kidnap, Natasha. He’s already married and clearly an irresistible and untrustworthy slime-ball. Anatole’s seduction of Natasha, who thinks he’s going to marry her, forms the plot that is as wildly complicated as the novel itself. But don’t be scared of Tolstoy. You can follow him.natasha-pierre-6

     

    Dave Malloy, who I saw play Pierre originally three years ago, wrote the music, lyrics and adaptation. It is all sung-through, so yes, it is indeed an opera, but it’s only a tiny sliver of Tolstoy. Volume 2, Part 5, to be exact. I saw it first in a circus tent in the Meat Packing District of the West Village, where they served a Russian meal to you while seated at cabaret tables(see above.) It was dazzling, even then.

    Phillipa Soo was astounding as Natasha, and went on to become a Broadway star as Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton.” But Denee Benton, who plays Natasha now, just glows and glows and grows on you, too, the absolute picture of willful innocence and stubbornness as she falls in love with, then insists on her ill-advised elopement with bad boy Anatole.

    A core of miraculously agile, vocally and physically, actors continued with the show from the tent  they called Kazino to Broadway, including Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford and Grace McLean. In that cast I first saw, Josh Canfield of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” fame, was equally charismatic as Anatole.

    But it’s Groban that kicks this show upstairs and into theatrical history with his astonishing performance and perfect voice. To hear someone who has been called a choir boy for years with his perfect pitch and miraculous tenor, tear into the gutsy, difficult, challenging, sometimes discordant vocals of “Natasha, Pierre…” is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Drunken, depressed, over-weight, near-sighted and scruffy though his Pierre convincingly is, his golden tones ring out in the night(and twice weekly at matinees.) His respect for the other actors is evident as he also blends seamlessly into their tight ensemble.

    Josh Groban, genius that he is, has perspicaciously plunged himself into the midst of an equally amazing group of fellow-artists, who are geniuses, too, in their own ways. Did I mention Mimi Lien’s lighting? She’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant. So it’s official. And of course, there’s a killer solo that composer Malloy newly wrote just for Groban that they call “Dust and Ashes”, but I would call “This is how I die?” as Pierre berates himself for his intellectual inaction as “there’s a war going on out there somewhere.”

    I’ve seen “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” three times now and I can’t wait to see it again!

    Groban has committed an entire year to staying in this historic production and helping it thrive. It’s been making a million dollars a week.

    #Josh Groban

    # Broadway musicals

    #Natasha, Pierre…

    #Tony Awards

    # Broadway

     

     

    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

     

    Bryce Pinkham Heaven~Sent in Earth Bound “Holiday Inn”

    holiday-inn-3The superlative Bryce Pinkham is the heart and soul of “Holiday Inn” on Broadway. He’s one of the great singing/acting talents we have today. They do not exactly abound on Broadway in 2016. And in this new revival of a “New Irving Berlin musical” “Holiday Inn” at Studio 54 he makes what should be as light as air seem to be floating through the night, whereas in reality it is really extremely earth-bound, if not stuck in cement.

    It’s kind of a ridiculous show to revive anyway or try to resuscitate with a less than adept reshuffling of Irving Berlin standards. The songs of course, no matter how out-of-order they are, are divine. They’re classics and so is Bryce Pinkham who is more than up to the task of erasing Bing Crosby in the 1940’s movie version which Crosby teamed with Fred Astaire.

    In a kind of “How dare they?” situation, only Pinkham is up to the challenge. He shines, shines, shines and sings like there is no tomorrow. It is a great pleasure to here his plangent tenor ring out with not only the inevitable “White Christmas”, but “Blue Skies”, “It’s a Lovely Day Today”, “Happy Holiday”, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”, “Easter Parade” and on and on and on. It was pleasure personified. I wanted to close my eyes and just listen to that wonderful, melodic voice of his sing all night. Which I more or less did.

    Because when I opened my eyes, I could see with horror just what a mediocre bus and truck version of “Holiday Inn” brilliant Bryce is stuck in. It’s about an Inn in Connecticut that makes its, hay(Literally) by doing festive numbers on the holidays. In the movie Crosby and Astaire could make this hoary premise fly, but here, if not for Pinkham’s great presence, it crashes.

    Corbin Bleu is no Fred Astaire and the ingenues were all so forgettable and interchangeable, I’ve forgotten them. It’s like seeing a Grade C Summer Stock company actually DO summer stock, right on Broadway. The nerve! But then of course it’s the Roundabout who almost always gets it wrong, but at least they put Bryce Pinkham in a starring role where his magical voice and charm get to soar through the night sky.

    Pinkham has had a very unusual Broadway career being known mainly for playing villanous roles, like he did in “Ghost” or murderous ones like he did in his Tony-nominated “Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” which I saw four times! He’s very good at being bad, and he’s very, very funny.

    So hooray for him, for landing his first major matinée idol role, where he’s not killing anyone. I cannot praise him highly enough. And it’s Pinkham’s high spirits that carry “Holiday Inn” as far as its’ stunted, cow-like legs will allow him to  carry them. It’s like he’s acting for 36 people, none of them worth watching.

    But Bryce! Ah! Bryce! See it for his heavenly performing and singing, if nothing else. And those great Berlin tunes! I guess that’s a recommendation. His “White Christmas” in a horizontally striped robin’s egg blue sweater was worth the price of admission. It was simple and sumptuous at the same time. Bing Crosby, eat your heart out! Give that boy a decent show!

    #Bryce Pinkham

    #Holiday Inn

    #White Christmas

    #Bing Crosby

    #Broadwayholiday-inn-2

    At NYFF, Kenneth Lonergan’s Masterful “Manchester by the Sea”

    manchester-by-the-sea-3At NYFF, Kenneth Lonergan’s Masterful “Manchester by the Sea”

     
    This year’s New York Film Festival continues its’ winning streak with the debut of Kenneth Longergan’s masterful “Manhchester by the Sea,” one of the best pictures of this or any year.
     
    Kenneth Lonergan has always been one of my favorite playwright/directors and I adored his first film “You Can Count on Me” which brought Laura Linney her first Oscar nomination and established Mark Ruffalo as a screen star. Mr. Lonergan is very concerned with  responsibility in sibling relationships. In “You Can Count on Me” it is a sister(Ms. Linney) and a brother(Ruffalo).
     
    And in “Manchester by the Sea”, its’ core revolves around two brothers, one of them alive(Casey Affleck) and one of them dead. The ne’er do well younger brother Lee’s world is rocked when his older brother, who lives in the small seaside town of Manchester by the Sea, suddenly drops dead.of a heart attack.
     
    Unlike most people in that situation, the late brother has written a very complete will and has a lawyer in place, so that his estate and his recalcitrant, teen-age son (Lucas Hedges) can be adequately provided for.
     
    There is a house and a boat, and the house, boat and boy are all left in the questionable care of hot-head janitor brother Lee. 
     
    Casey Affleck gets the role of his career here, as the reluctant Boston plumber/superintendent, who can’t resist drinking too much and getting into fights in bars. Recovering from a tragedy of his own, which I won’t spoil here, and the break-up of his marriage to the beautiful Michelle Williams, Affleck’s surly loner Lee is hardly the person to be landed with a complicated familial situation and responsibilities. It seems insane that his steady brother has left all this mess to him, and the mother, his sister-in-law, a hopeless alcoholic is not even in the picture. So it all goes to reluctant Lee.
     
    He initially wants no part of it, and he especially doesn’t want to take care of his surly nephew, Patrick, played by red-headed Lucas Hodges. who makes an astoundingly accomplished debut here.
     
    manchester-by-the-sea-5I’ve never warmed particularly to Casey Affleck as a performer, but here he shines  his way in this complicated part to a possible Oscar nomination as Best Actor, winning over our hearts as he tries to win over his nephew’s, who also wants nothing to do with him. As the audience, for most the the film doesn’t either. That is one of the great triumphs of Longergan’s that we have this great conflict with the character of Lee, almost as much as Lee has with himself.
     
    Affleck has the complex job of making us hate his bad boy behavior and then love him for the innate good man that is buried deep inside his rowdy, hostile facade. And this is a great triumph that could win him the Oscar.
     
    Hedges matches him beat for beat as they banter and bicker their way to some kind of understanding against the frozen wintery landscape of Manchester. A seaside town in winter is one of the bleakest back-drops imaginable, but it perfectly suits and embodies the desolate mood of this picture which seems to be going from one funeral to another.
     
    And Michelle Williams is a sure-fire Best Supporting Actress nominee as Lee’s ex-wife Randi, whose role in  a very few, but powerful scenes, has an unimaginably, heart-breaking dramatic range.
     
    But it’s not all doom and gloom in “Manchester by the Sea”, Lonergan has done the seemingly impossible and written a very humorous screenplay that is as funny as it is genuinely moving. 
     
    In the Q &A that followed the press screening, Lonergan was asked just how he had also directed those actors to give such great, profound performances. He said, “When you have actors like that, that are that good, you just get out of their way.” What is the most important thing you have to do as a director? “You listen.

     

     

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