a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Archive for the ‘Summer movie’ Category

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

 

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

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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.

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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

“The Royal Road” Must See Lesbian Doc

Vertigo 4Royal Road 4There’s something about intelligent lesbian lovelorn conversation that irrevocably holds me in its sway. And coming out very soon on DVD & VOD on Sept. 6, “The Royal Road” an unusual, innovative documentary is a must-see for every lesbian and gay and everyone else, who is reading this. It’s kind of a jewel, in its’ own unique, stubborn way.

Filmmaker Jenni Olson debuted “The Royal Road” to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival last year, but I’m just catching up to its’  challenging  beautys now. “The Royal Road” doesn’t make things easy for the viewer. Its’ esthetic is extreme. The 16 mm. camera NEVER moves and there is not one human being in the frame.Nor will there ever be.Royal Road 1 But there is an incredibly revealing and engaging voice-over by the filmmaker herself. It’s not a lesbian conversation. It’s a lesbian monologue, perhaps the longest one ever, as Olson confronts us with the daunting, relentless shot-after-shot of California’s decaying once pristine Royal Road or the Camino Real.

Once a uninterrupted trail from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the road itself is part of California’s repulsive urban sprawl and not romantic at all. While it is nothing to look at, Olson MAKES us look at it, and at the same time, because the images she’s chosen don’t move, you HAVE to listen to her. And you do. And it becomes mesmeric.Royal Road 3

As a native New Yorker, who has still yet to visit the LGBT capital of the world, the City by the Bay, it was all news to me, as Olson wants to show us HER lesbian San Francisco and tell her own woman’s story of how she left her heart there.Golden Gate Bridge 1

And a large part of her story is wrapped up in Alfred Hitchcock’s Number One critically proclaimed film “Vertigo.” By the time, she gets to this part of “The Royal Road” I was completely hooked. I’d only re-watched “Vertigo” earlier this week!On Monday night! It’s a film that never leaves you. It’s its’ own obsession.

Olson  hooked me into her narrative, just as the hypnotic spell of Kim Novak’s Madeline Elster bewitches James Stewart’s stalwart, but vertically challenged policeman Scotty Ferguson in this classic movie of Obsession. And of secondarily, obsession with San Francisco.

Vertigo 1She explains as she reads from an unheard, cut speech from the original “Vertigo” screenplay that Gavin Elster explains that his wife, Madeline(Novak) has fallen under the spell of old San Francisco and that it has driven her mad.Vertigo 2So intense is her desire to find ole San Fran that she roams the city in search of it and stops whenever a piece of it jumps out at her.

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Olson involves the viewer mightily with this ingenious piece of historical/cinematic   dialogue that I’d never heard spoken before. As research, it’s a find. It’s  breathtaking  and I’m not going to do “The Royal Road” the injustice of a complete speech quotation here. That would be tantamount to spoiling it,  but suffice it to say that it makes “The Royal Road” and also “Vertigo” at last make sense.

So I have to say thank you, Jenni Olsen, for finally elucidating this. She also audaciously makes Hitchcock a character in her monologue as she is trying to explain and examine HIS obsession with San Francisco and “Vertigo” and her own. For the first time, she claims “Vertigo” as an important lesbian movie in terms of the impact that the quest for character of Madeline, mirrored her own.

So she answers a couple of important, unresolved questions about “Vertigo,” including the fact that the quixotic name of the mysterious Madeline was probably  inspired by Proust! And of course, it’s Proust’s tasting a madeline cookie that sends him on HIS historic literary quest in “Remembrance of Things Past.” Just as Olson has taken us on a “Royal Road” into her own history, in her own unique. original way.

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I loved this lovely little film and I hope you do, too!

#Vertigo # Royal Road # Lesbian# San Francisco # Documentary # Hitchcock # Royal Road

“Cafe Society” Worst Woody Allen Ever? S.O.S. Same Old Story

Kristen Stewart 1As you can see by this ultra glamourous pic above ^ of Kristen Stewart, Woody Allen has cast her against type, as a nice little goodie two-shoes,compleat with bows in her hair and ankle socks, in “Cafe Society”. Her character, Vonnie, has to appear so beautiful that the men in the movie fall madly in love with her. The men being Steve Carell as well as his nephew Jesse Eisenberg. And they’re all very good in this magnificently shot and styled paean to old Hollywood in the ’30s.

But this is perhaps the worst movie he’s ever done.It’s soooo boring. It’s that we’ve seen it all before. Over and over and over and over again. We expect more from the man who gave us “Midnight in Paris”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Blue Jasmine”, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and his Oscar winner “Annie Hall.” But this is not that. Not by a long shot.

At least his other recent sub-par look at the glamourous life circa 1920 “Magic in the Moonlight” had a very strong performance by Colin Firth. And it’s always the younger woman/older man scenario, but at least focusing as much of this film on the young Jesse Eisenberg, the edge is slightly off that scenario, but only slightly. But it doesn’t last for long. Before it’s back to the Carell/Kristen plot-line. Ho-hum.Or rather ho-humbug.

Eisenberg, an actor I’ve always had trouble liking, is appealing in this, and more amourously aggressive than I can ever remember him being.

Kristen & Jesse 1

But try as they might, he, Carell and Stewart and all of the rest of this capable cast, just can’t rise above this bland, bland script.

I felt like I knew what lines the characters were going to say before they spoke them. Parker Posey, here a bubbly, throw-away blonde, is pretty much just window dressing. Corey Stoll is snidely effective as Eisenberg’s gangster brother.Blake Lively is, well, lively.

The only one who really broke through for me was Sari Lennick of the Coen Bros. “A Serious Man.” As Eisenberg’s hyserical, kvetchy sister-in-law and Stoll’s wife.

The biggest,.most consistent laughs in the film, and there are some, not much, but not enough, the most laughs come when Stoll’s character has killed some hapless or irritating sap, and throws the bodies into a ditch as a cement mixer pours cement on them in clearly a New Jersey setting.

Santa Loquasto has designed “Cafe Society” to a fare-thee-well and legendary lenser Victorio Storaro has shot it magnificently. It couldn’t look more glamourous, or be so empty. What a shame!

Do something NEW Woody!!! Surprise us!!! Don’t bore us…All our lives are too short for drivel like this.

#Woody Allen #Cafe Society #Kristen Stewart #comedy #Hollywood

Oscar Winner Mark Rylance Tour de Forces as Spielberg’s “The BFG”! Brilliant, Funny & Glorious!

Mark Rylance & Oscar 3The main joy of Steven Spielberg’s newest “The BFG” is the glorious performance of recent Oscar Winner Mark Rylance as the title character, the BFG, or  Big Friendly Giant. It’s almost a one-man movie as Rylance is transmorgrified by millions of dollars worth of special effects make-up and animatronics into the skinny, big-eared, receding jaw-lined Giant named Runt.

And the wonder to watch is that Rylance is such a superb actor, he out-acts his make-up, or acts through this perhaps ponderous obstacle to give a truly glowing, heartfelt performance. His Runt is wondrous in every way possible. He acts with his warm, brown,unanimated human eyes, and treats Roald Dahl’s gibberish language as if it were Shakespeare. It was music to my ears.

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You see, giants usually eat children. But not the BFG. He’s a vegetarian thriving on grostesque, green snozzcumbers, but not his fellow giants, who are bigger and grosser than he is. With names like Gizzargulper, Childchewer, Maidmashser, Bloodbottler, Manhugger(well, that’s not so grotesque), Fleshlumpeater, Meatdripper, Butcherboy and Bonechruncher.Bullies all, and Runt really IS a runt compared to their, well, gigantic-ness. An unrecognizably- voiced Bill Hader is main among them, and they sniff out little Sophie’s presence(Rose Barnhill) and are ravenous to eat her. Sophie has had the misfortune (or fortune) to be kidnapped by Runt and whisked off to Giant Land. BFG 2

Runt, of course hides Sophie, in every nook and cranny imaginable in his phantasmagoric cottage, and that is basically the plot. Runt is a dream-catcher and dream-shaper by profession, and though I felt being sent off to dream-land myself at times, the conclusion of the film, with Runt and Sophie seeking out the Queen of England, circa 1982, to help them provides a hilarious conclusion. Penelope Wilton, Cousin Isabel of “Downtown Abbey” is also just grand as Her Majesty.Penelope Wilton 1

It’s not top-draw Disney(the script is overlong and meanders in the middle) but it’s one of the best outings Steven Spieberg has had in a long time.

And the wonderful Mark Rylance! Could he get an Oscar nomination, again, even though he’s almost over-loaded with CGIs? If anybody could,  he could. In any case, it’s a delight.

#BFG #Mark Rylance #Oscar #BIG FRIENDLY GIANT #Penelope Wilton # Special Effects

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