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Archive for the ‘Summer movie’ Category

It’s Over 100 Degrees in NYC. Perfect Antidote Mhz’s “Antartica:In the Footsteps of the Emperor”


New York is melting in over 100 degree temperatures. It’s brutal out there. So why not stay inside In the air-conditioning and watch the latest from Mhz? “Antarctica: In the Footsteps of the Emporor”

This is a very different offering from Mhz who usually specializes in heavy duty European television crime dramas. A favorite of mine “Maigret,” but their new “Antarctica:In the Footsteps of the Emperor.” is something else entirely. It’s a delightful French documentary on the sub-Artic continent, by Luc Jaquet, who brought us the equally delightful “March of the Penguins” in 2016.

And once again, those penguins steal the show. This documentary focuses on the filmmaker/photographers themselves. An intrepid band of French Antarctic enthusiasts, who just HAVE to  photograph every single aspect of the frozen continent. Their journey is compelling because they feel that climate change has even affected this least approachable of land masses. It’s melting fast. And they show it.

They have found traces of human waste and pollution in the water and also in what the birds and other mammals are eating…And the penguins! How can one not love the most humanoid of birds, who all resemble Alfred Hitchcock? To me any way. And we are engaged in their struggle to survive the brutal arctic conditions. They upstage the filmmakers at every turn, but we form concerns, too, about this intrepid band of Frenchmen, who are so obsessed with Antarctica, they even want to photograph and record what’s BENEATH it. Have you ever seen the UNDERside of an iceberg? Well, you will here in this terrific doc.

Your heart is in your mouth as these daredevil deep-sea divers go  beyond the beyond. To depths of the oceans bottom that were unimaginable heretofore. Laurent Ballest and Vincent Munier and their crew attempt, and succeed where to bravely go where no man has gone before.

“It’s like walking on the moon!” They exclaim, in French, over and over. And you’ll feel like you’ve taken a really cool and cooling escape from the heat of planet earth, when you watch Mhz’s enchanting and thrilling “Antartica:In the Footsteps of the Emperor.” Emperor Penguin, of course. It’s the perfect summertime movie!

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Cher Saves “Mamma Mia 2,” but It’s Hard to Resist


When Cher, yes, CHER, enters in the Final Act of “Mamma Mia 2,” she saves the film, and yes, kicks it upstairs into Gay Heaven, or at any rate, Camp Heaven with a good, swift  stilletto-heeled sureness, only a stage and screen legend like Cher could provide. Pow! All the dullness and wishy-washiness of her young co-stars vanished, and NOW we were in the midst of a glorious fun-filled summer musical romp. She was so good, I immediately re-wrote my mind’s middling review and began raving like a teenaged fan-girl. Which let’s face it, is a cheery place to be in these troubled times. I guess I ended up loving it, and wanting to see it again. No, really.
In spite of all good sense, I found myself totally abandoning myself to its epic silliness. And why not? I always loved ABBA as a guilty pleasure. Those original, now classic, tunes got me through some very dark times when I was a house-cleaner in London in the ’80s. I was trying to get my plays done and become a right, proper British actor in the grand tradition. And it was tough. But ABBA was so uplifting, it made me forget all the charring.

I was a “Super Trooper”, and now Cher is a Super Trooper, too. In fact, she climaxes this barely organized mish-mash with that song, as well as her much heralded “Fernando” duet. As she and Andy Garcia(yes, ANDY GARCIA!) tango and sing their hearts out, both Senior Citizens now, as fire-works explode behind them, like it was 1968. Or ’86. Or one of those years, or decades that Cher’s career spans and she’s still singing! She’s a goddess for the ages. And FINALLY makes up for Meryl Streep not being in this movie except as a ghost.

You see, “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again” does not really have a center to it, until Cher appears at the end like the Deus Ex Machina that she is. “Here We Go Again” flips back and forth in time between two stories, both starring lovely young blondes, Amanda Seyfried and Downtown Abbey’s Lily James. They both have to carry half the film each.

It seems Meryl’s character has died a year before “Mamma Mia 2” starts and her cinematic daughter Sophie (Seyfried) has to carry on without her, trying to re-build her mother’s dream of a turning their Greek island into a perfect Aegean guest house. Meanwhile, the film flashes back in time to the ’70s, when Donna (Lily James) was a wild young thing cavorting all over the continent, shagging everybody in sight.

Thus explaining (or trying to) how three different men could have potentially been the father of the single Mom Meryl’s child. As played by a trio of young hunks, notably “War Horse”s Jeremy Irvine (who grows up to be Pierce Brosnan). They make the case quite clearly how and why the young Donna/Meryl couldn’t keep her hands off all of them, one after the other, in rapid succession.

I would say Josh Dylan, who is making his big screen debut here as the young yachtsman that one day would become Stellan Skarsgard, has the best chiseled bod. British actor Hugh Skinner, who plays the young Colin Firth, doesn’t really get enough foreshadowing that his character is in later life going to be gay. An interesting opportunity missed.

Though Firth does camp up a storm in his own reserved way as his grown up self, and Christine Baranski (and Julie Waters) are back supplying even more camp (as if this film needed it).Which goes to prove something I’ve always felt. There can never be too much of a muchness. Or too much camp. Camp makes you happy. And so will “Mamma Mia 2.”

And last but not least, the young British hunk of hunks Dominic Cooper is back again as Sky, Sophie (Seyfried)’s hotter than hot love interest, and absentee husband. Dominic was one of the many stars of my year’s Best Film of that year “My Week with Marilyn” playing Milton Green, Marilyn Monroe’s ex-lover and now exasperated agent. He was also one of the original “History Boys” on Broadway and in film, and has been on “The Stephen Holt Show” more times than just about any one else (in this movie).And he used to date Cher! He just told Stephen Colbert. So it must be true!

A Comedy About Prostate “Milking” & Testicular Cancer?

An Indie comedy about Testicular Cancer? Immediately you want to barf. And “Funeral Day” does kind of make you feel that way until the third act, as they say, of the movie. It’s short 79 mins. but it feels like forever, until it finally gets going at the end. Jon Weinberg is the writer/producer/director/ star and his self-absorption as the hypochondriacal Scott is staggering. He makes everyone around him suffer, especially the audience. The film gets its “quirky” title from the sad fact that this loser we’re supposed to identify with won’t even attend a late friend’s funeral. So he spends the five hours, he calculates, that it would take to attend this event, by running around Hollywood trying to”find himself.” Have you thrown up yet? I can’t believe I kept watching this thing.

“Funeral Day” moves fast, as fast as our hapless protagonist, runs around L.A. From quaint/dull location to location, he sprints, but is never out of breath, because he has no car. This is supposed to make us like him? Not very much. And Weinberg isn’t cute enough or charismatic enough to pull this ridiculously unsympathetic loser of a character off, if anybody even could.

Oh! And if ever a film was in the closet, it’s “Funeral Day.” The plot really gets going in the last third of the film, when he has a friend examine his scrotal area. He thinks he has cancer. He feels a lump. And he asks his stoner friend “Feel my nuts.” This is followed by a verbal description, (no visuals, please!) were his “cock-toid area”(is that even a medical phrase?)is described ad nauseum, and well as his pubic “forest.” I began to think that this film was going to be about coming out, but no. Our hero stays in the closet.

I can’t think of another film where the words “cock,” “nuts” and “balls” is more frequently used. And not in a sexy way. And then the penultimate scene involves him encountering a hetero couple in a park, who immediately diagnose his problem as “You need your prostrate milked.” (?!?) And they do.That this scene is the high-point of the movie, and actually was funny, redeemed “Funeral Day” from being, er, a complete, real funeral.

We don’t see anything, except that yes, Our Hero is pretty summarily in bed at home with the couple (a very game Jed Rees and Kristin Carey, pictured above). His ass is in the air(but demurely covered by the bed clothes and the camera angles) and yes, Rees inserts three fingers into Weinberg’s anus, while  he fondles Ms. Carey’s large breasts. And yes, they do bring him off. And if that isn’t gay, what is?

Turns out that the obliging couple are both doctors, and insist that he see another doctor(presumably a “real” doctor immediately. And in the end, well, I guess I shouldn’t spoil the tiny little surprise that comes at the finale and tries to subvert all the bad writing and acting that has gone before. But it’s not enough. Prostate milking ends up being sold as something everyone should experience. And most gays do on a daily basis. Please. If author/director/producer/star Jon Weinberg wants so badly to be anally penetrated, will somebody please give him directions to the next gay bar?? If “Funeral Day” was a gay film, made by gays, about discovering the joys of anal sex, it might have been a riot. But as it’s made by dull straights…well…it just stays dully in the closet.

 

Indie Spirit Award Noms Clarify Oscar Race for “Call Me By Your Name” & “Lady Bird”

Call Me By your Name 2“Call Me By Your Name” tops this year’s announcement of the Indie Spirit Awards nominations with six nods. For Best Picture, Best Director ~ Luca Guadagnino, Best Actor~ Timothee Chalamet, Best Supporting Actor ~ Armie Hammer, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. Expect all six nominees to be also called out by their own names on Oscar morning. I can’t stop raving about this superb film. It’s my Best of the Year, so far, and is opening after its boffo turn at the New York Film Festival. This Thanksgiving, it’s a film so beautiful that one must truly be thankful  for.

Also, congratulations are in order for the fabulous debut directing film of the remarkable, multi-talented Greta Gerwig. It was honored with four nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress ~Saoirse Ronan, Best Supporting Actress ~ Laurie Metcalfe and Best Screenplay for Gerwig.

Her first film as a solo director, I can’t understand how Gerwig didn’t also score here for her delightful directing. She’s so pretty, brainy, and beautifully original. Must be jealousy. Yes, it exists. Even at the Indie Spirit Awards. Nothing else explains it. And I thought she’d break through to the Oscars in directing. Always considered an all male domain. Not getting a nomination here at the Indies is troubling. And maybe hurts her chances at the Oscars.

Lady Bird 1Also MIA was the wonderful Willem Dafoe for his outstanding turn as a slum motel landlord in “The Florida Project.” It is certainly a career-capping performance for Dafoe in this terrific Indie film which scored two nominations, Best Picture and Best Director for Sean Baker. Baker who broke into prominence last year with “Tangerine,” a film shot entirely on an iPhone.Willem Dafoe 1You can read my complete review of “The Florida Project” under the title, “The Underside of the Rainbow” at http://www.awardsdaily.comFlorida Project 1

The Spirits are given out the day before the Oscars in March this year. They are supposed to honor films made for less than $20,000.

For a complete list of all the nominees in all the many categories go to http://www.gold derby.com

 

Luminous, Lucent, Transcendant Kate Winslet Could Win Her 2nd Oscar for “Wonder Wheel”

Wonder Wheel 3

Lustrous, luminous, transcendent Kate Winslet is the wonder of Woody Allen’s new “Wonder Wheel.”
Is there any American filmmaker alive today who writes  such great roles for women? No. There simply isn’t. And as photographed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet seems to be a cinematic miracle of color and light, majesty and emotion,

You simply can’t take your eyes off her. Storaro and Allen have combined to give her a cinematic beauty that makes you gasp, in a multi-faceted role that makes you applaud. She is playing Ginny, a Brooklyn waitress, who works in a Coney Island Clam House. I have known SOOOO many Ginnys in my lifetime, and British though she is, Winslet absolutely nails her Ginny to the Coney Island boardwalk. And it’s  stirring performance in the grand tradition. She’s every woman. And every woman I’ve known, from Brooklyn, trying to make a better life for herself and her family. And trying to find love at the same time, having given up her dreams of being an actress earlier in her life.

Winslet’s Ginny seems the simplest of creatures.. But Allen’s writing and her bravura performance proves that every woman is as complex as a whirlwind. Or a rollercoaster. Or a Wonder Wheel at  Coney Island, to use this film’s great metaphor. Winslet has never seemed so bedeviled and so bewitching at the same time. She’s a housewife in waitress’ outfit that she wears like a queen, as she goes about her frantic daily work of cooking and cleaning for the whole of Brooklyn it seems.

Allen and Storaro capture the ordinary woman’s extraordinariness. She is married to a lout (James Belushi) and having a torrid affair with Justin Timberlake, the local lifeguard. Timberlake’s string-bean-ness seems out of place as a life guard, but he, too, has movie star charisma in buckets instead of muscles, that make all the women in the film falling for him make sense.Justin Timberlake Wonder Wheel He and Belushi have both never been better.Kate Winslet 1

She is playing Ginny, a common-as-they-come Brooklyn waitress, who is as uncommon, as she is earth-bound. Winslet’s a fiery red-head this time. And in Storaro’s use of orange and amber light, she seems so on fire, she is burning up the screen. It is no surprise then that her red-headed son is an arsonist, setting  a fire every time he’s left alone. The fires remind him of his mother.

And Juno Temple is Belushi’s neglected daughter, who turns up as a “Marked” woman, being chased by the mob, because she married a gansta, and became a “canary” who sang on her husband, making her a woman on the run for her life. She hides  out in Winslet’s and Belushi’s  humble household underneath the ever-present Wonder Wheel. Young, blonde Temple has the role of her career here, too, and is doomed from the first seconds we see her taking her first tentative steps under the Wonder Wheel.

In a simple car ride in a romantic rain storm with Timberlake, she becomes, as he says “as beautiful as the rain light.”Storaro has lit her in golds and blues to emphasize her beauty as well as her melancholy. She, too, is magnificent in this film.

Storaro  and set designer Santo Loquasto make more magic by making Coney Island in the ’50s look like the Riviera.

Winslet’s performance is so heart-breaking and towering it immediately recalls the great screen performances of screen queens past. Joan Crawford in particular. The shop girl who was not a shop girl.  The waitress who was not a waitress. And reminds you that not since the ’40s have actresses consistently seen parts like this. Winslet’s Ginny is the  working class version of Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine in Allen’s recent Oscar winner “Blue Jasmine.” “Wonder Wheel” is his best film since “Midnight in Paris” and is now one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. It’s right up there with the best. It reminds me why I love Brooklyn. And New York City.

“Wonder Wheel” is a movie movie about romance and melodrama and great actresses playing great roles. And it ends this year’s superlative NYFF with a BANG!

“Dunkirk” Lives Up to It’s Oscar Hype! Mark Rylance Will Get His 2nd Oscar nom!

I just LOVED “Dunkirk”! Not a fan of war movies as a rule, the cinemaster Christopher Nolan has re-written the book on this genre as well as re-inventing it with this spectacular achievement . It’s a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, white knuckle thriller as well as an eye-popping, frightening and ultimately triumphant Best Picture of the Year. Well, so far, anyway.

It’s hard to imagine anything that will top it in terms of its’ size and scope, and story, too. Christopher Nolan is the screen-writer as well as director, and also, a producer.

I found myself moved from the first frames of “Dunkirk,” with its’ magnificent Hans Zimmer score thumping and pounding and shaking the earth, which in the first shots are a picturesque rendering of the French seaside town of Dunkirk as it was then, in June of 1940 .  Nazi leaflets are dropping like autumn leaves on the young British soldiers below, who all are about to be slaughtered outright by the unseen enemies machine gun bullets.

The most unlikely, scrawny, leading young man is newcomer Fionn Whitehead, (See above and at top of page) who we are going to follow through his epic journey of struggling to survive the evacuation of 400,000 British and allied troops, who are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Bullets are ripping, searing and whizzing everywhere as Nazi planes pound the helpless soldiers, exposed, vulnerable and innumerable on the Dunkirk beach. They are just sitting ducks. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel” one officer proclaims.

How will they EVER get out of there? And that is the drama that director Nolan is portraying so incredibly accurately, and in such a breath-taking and wholly cinematic detail. Nolan’s exacting directorial eye gives verisimilitude a new meaning.Mark Rylance with Oscar 1

Oscar winner Mark Rylance (for Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies”)  is the truly heroic, mild-mannered, stiff-upper-lipped British captain. owner of his own medium-sized,  pleasure yacht, hardly a warship. It is one of the many civilian small craft that are commandeered by Churchill to set sail across the churning English Channel and rescue all those stranded soldiers. Rylance’s no-nonsense, utterly focused, amateur seaman/citizen is a masterpiece of restraint, understatement and terse John Bull heroism.

Dunkirk 2

And he’s symbolic of one of hundreds of small boats that turned the tide of this terrible war, WWII. They did the impossible, because they had to. How they were called upon and how all they just stepped up to this incredible, daunting challenge  and how in doing so  served their country and saved the free world. Churchill’s thrilling call to arms “We will fight on the beaches!” echoes throughout the film, and as a first generation Brit myself, I was immensely proud of all of them. magnificently depicted here in this their finest John Bull hour of courage.

It’s a David v. Goliath feat, and it’s all true. This really did happen. And Nolan re-creates it down to the smallest, scarifying detail. Not even pop star Harry Styles,who acquits himself quite admirably as the gnarliest of the small group of British soldiers, teenagers, really,  can fall out of line. If you weren’t looking for him, he would blend in totally with the other young, struggling, dirty, frightened, brave soldiers.

“Dunkirk” explodes with many, many understated and marvelously compelling performances. Irish actor Cillian Murphy(below)is totally unrecognizable as a survivor of a downed plane that Rylance and his crew of two lads rescue from the sea. Is he a German? Is he a deserter?

Rylance’s scenes of struggle between him and Murphy will. I’m pretty sure,  net the Oscar winner another nomination. He’s got the biggest part. The Academy likes to nominate those they’ve awarded and nominated before. But Murphy, Whitehead, Styles and Sir Kenneth Branagh (as the British troop leader,who has the most moving single line in the film, which I won’t reveal here) are all  exemplary.


That Harry Styles in his film debut holds his own with these Knights of the Realm is as much a tribute to Nolan’s laconic, terse direction of the actors as well as the many, many ships at sea and the planes in the air. And to shoot this all on water! How did he get those incredible, aquatic shots?

Hoyte Van Hoytena, the superb cinematographer of the awe-inspiring, acrobatic camera work is surely on his way to an Oscar for his astounding work here of filming the unfilmable on land and on sea .There’s not a lot of blood in “Dunkirk” but there is an awful lot of water!  Lee Smith’s phenomenal, fast-paced film editing is going to be acknowledged, too, at awards-time, I’m so sure. “Dunkirk” is incredibly only 90 minutes! And it’s shot on film. Nothing is digital.Tom Hardy Dunkirk 1

A special note most also be taken of previous Oscar nominee Tom Hardy (for Best Supporting Actor for “The Revenant”)’s ability to act throughout the film almost entirely in a pilot’s gas mask, with only his eyes and his voice for expression.(See above) He’s got to carry nearly a third of the film in tight close-up in his fighter pilot’s cockpit. He’s as moving and as effective of those fighting to survive below, who we see in full.Dunkirk 4

This picture was made for Oscar, and it will get nominated all over the place, and deservedly so. It’s a great movie. And a great movie movie. And Number One at the box-office for the past two weeks to boot. Don’t miss “Dunkirk”!

#Dunkirk, #Mark Rylance, #Christopher Nolan, #Harry Styles, #WWII #Tom Hardy, #War Movie, #Oscars, #Best Supporting Actor, #Best Picture

Edgar Ramirez & Ana de Armas “Hands of Stone”

Edgar Remirez and And de Armas two of the hottest, rising stars of the Hispanic world, or any world, chat about how proud they are of their new movie “Hands of Stone”. Just out from the Weinstein co, the film is a biopic of the life of legendary Panamanian boxer Roberto Aranas. Filmed completely in Panama and co-starring Robert De Niro as his trainer and rock star Usher doing his first serious boxing, and acting role as Sugar Ray Leonard.

Editing by Kevin Teller

#Edgar Ramirez #Hands of Stone # Ana de Armas # Roberto Aranas

#Panama #Boxing # Boxing Movie # Robert de Niro # Usher

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