a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

FX’a American Crime Story “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is Must-See TV, whether you like it or not. I veer between awe that something this gay is on TV at all, and then sometimes I’m totally revolted by the horror of all those gruesome murders committed in the ’90s by one Andrew Cunanan. Who was Andrew Cunanan?

He was a hunky male hustler of very rich, usually very old gay men, culminating in his shooting Gianni Versace on the steps of his palatial mansion in South Beach. The violence is graphic beyond belief, for television, and the subject so horrible that it is amazing that it is so well done, that it glamorizes and turns everyone in it into some kind of stars.

Judith Light particularly shines as the wife of murder victim #4, Marilyn Miglin, the Home Shopping Network’s “Queen of Perfume.” She is in complete denial that her real estate mogul husband Lee, was gay. In fact, nearly all the victim’s families refuse to admit their murdered son or husband or father was in any way connected to Andrew Cunanan and the irony is their silence = death, and totally impedes the cross-country police investigation. Andrew Cunanan is the one whose life story is told here, and he is glamorized to the max, just like the life he always wanted to live, like his gay idol fashion designer Gianni Versace, whom he ultimately shot dead at point blank range. He’s like the Talented Mr. Ripley but without the talent. Darren Criss 2

Episodes I and 2 were kind of astounding, majorly helped by the presences of stars Penelope Cruz, Ricky Martin and Edgar Ramirez as Versace himself.Cruz magnetizes as Donatella Versace, his sister, who went on to run the fashion empire, but never learned English clearly. She doesn’t show up until a stupendously photographed entrance at the Miami airport, to crowds of paparazzi. Flash bulbs exploding and shooting at her like guns. She embodies the luxe jet set world we are going to be plunged into for Ep.1 & 2.

Judith Light carries the day and will probably win an Emmy for her brittle Home Shopping Network icon in Episode 3. She carries the glamour if not the Versaces with her, as the series shifts to a completely differently local, the Gold Coast of Chicago, where we are compelled to watch the unfolding horror of her super-rich, 72-year-old husband, being bound and gagged and bludgeoned to death by Cunanan,in a scene in their large garage that is stomach churning, and disturbing in its S&M implications.

Darren Criss is unforgettable as Cunanan himself, formerly of “Glee” where he had no challenges other than to sing and be cute. The cuteness factor is still there, but he spellbinds as the handsome gay boy toy who could kill you. Criss astounds with the length and breadth and depth of his range as he grasps every one of Cunanan’s multiple personalities, most of them evil, but at the same time commonplace.

Many have said that the “Why” of these deaths is not explained, but the answer is simple homophobia and the closet. And since it’s a NINE part series, we still have five more episodes to get into the “Why” Having just read Maureen Orth’s page-turner of a book on which this is based, I know what’s coming in the five remaining scenarios. If you want to know all read the book “Vulgar Flavors.” Ricky Martin, who is openly gay himself, plays Versace’s stricken lover, and is utterly refreshing in his candor(and his nudity) as he is the only one of the major characters who is NOT denying that he is gay.

Where I felt the series stumbled a bit was last night’s Episode 4, “The House by the Lake” where the scene again shifts, this time to Minneapolis, and a time when Andrew had people of his own age to relate to, to fall in love with and kill.

David Madson, “the great love of my love” is shown as a very weak soul. An award-winning young architect from a small town in the mid-west, Cunanan kills David Trail, their mutual friend, with a ball-peen hammer right in front of Madson(Cody Fern). Who he then semi-kidnaps for the rest of the week, then kills him when he tries to escape.
The motives are so murky here, and the writing, and Fern’s performance is no match for the star-studded cavalcade that we have seen heretofore.

But there are five more hour-plus episodes to work this all out. Next week, for instance, in Episode 5, we will be focusing on Victim #1 David Trail (Finn Wintrock).Finn Wintrock 1

Set in the ’90’s and brilliantly going backwards in time, it depicts the closeted forbidden loves and lusts of the gay world as it was then. Before gay marriage or any of the rights that we know today.

The police keep dismissing the deaths. as they find them. as merely “gay killings” and therefore of no importance. Until he kills Versace, and that is totally accurate in its’ mundane prejudice and horror.

If all these people only admitted to the homosexuality of the victims, the body count would never have risen so high and the clumsy devil that was  Andrew Cunanan, would’ve been caught right at the beginning.

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace” has five remaining episodes that can be seen every week on Wednesdays on the FX channel.

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Could Laurie Metcalf of “Lady Bird” upset Allison Janney for Best Supporting Actress? Producer Scott Rudin, a man who knows a thing or three about such things has just started taking out TV ads that are running in NYC proclaiming “Come see Laurie Metcalf, one of the greatest actresses of our times in Edward Albee’s greatest plays ‘Three Tall Women!'” It opens soon on Broadway. I’m not sure if it’s Albee’s best play. That would be “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” without a doubt. But “Three Tall Women” which she co-stars in with the Oscar-winning Glenda Jackson IS a very, very good play. And Academy voters, especially here in New York, take note of hyperbolic statements like this.

And less we forget Rudin just won, or helped win Metcalf a much-coveted Tony Award this June for “A Doll’s House, Part Two.” She did look shocked on the night.

And the Academy are such snobs. Who are they going to give their prized Best Supporting Actress Award to, the award-winning theater actress, Metcalf? Or “that television actress” which would be Allison Janney for “I, Tanya.”

And then there’s Leslie Manville in “The Phantom Thread” who is also competing in this category. Who is the ex-wife of Best Actor frontrunner and probable winner Gary Oldman for “The Darkest Hour”.

All three actresses are up for the BAFTA in the same category. Who wins there may very win here.

Besides Best Picture, this is place where “Lady Bird” could legitimately win. And they want to give it “Something.” Or do they?

Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro just won the  DGA award as Best Director.  of the Year for the lovely “Shape of Water” which is winning hearts and minds and awards all along the Road to Oscar. His charming fable has 13 nominations more than any other film, and that usually means it will win Best Picture, going by previously certain prognosticators. I say previously because this year is different from any other in memory because it has not had one definite frontrunner since the fall, when the Awards Season dash to Oscar begins. Usually.But Oscar does not usually favor Science Fiction which is what “Shape of Water” certainly is as Sally Hawkins mute janitress falls impossibly, improbably in love with a sea creature.He’s the hunkiest sea monster you’ve ever seen however. His nearest screen relation would be the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But for a fish, he’s majorly buff, and the actor playing this difficult role gets no credit whatsoever. For the record his name is Doug Stone and he’s listed as “Amphibian Man.”

British actress Sally Hawkins is also nominated for Best Actress and is getting kudos every where. But I thought I’d mention Doug Stone here, and give credit where credit is due. He’s not all just costume and CGI and special effects, those all those elements add up to make Amphibian Man rather unforgettable, too.

Hawkins will steal your heart away forever, if she hasn’t already in Mike Leigh films like “Happy Go Lucky.” But it looks like she is going to lose the Oscar race in her category to Frances McDormand for her powerful, angry mother in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.However, I don’t think there can be any doubt at this point that “The Shape of Water” del Toro’s is going to win the Oscar for Best Director and he will be the third of the “Three Amigos” do to so. The other two being already Oscared Alphonse Cauron (“Gravity”) and Alejandro Innarritu (“The Revenant”), the trio being Film Schools chums. Motto of that story, stay friends with your classmates.

Jordon Peele of “Get Out” also won tonight was Best First Time Filmmaker, leaving Greta Gerwig of “Lady Bird” with another big goose egg to sadly add to her other list of recent misses at the Big Awards, like SAG and the Critics Choice. And now this.

But Guillermo’s got this category sewn up, though he could still lose Best Picture and split it with another heavily rated contender like “Billboards” or “Get Out” or yes, even “Lady Bird.” Next stop, the BAFTAs.

To be completely honest, I was ambivalent about “Get Out”. The horror movie/comedy/racially-themed film was just the blend of too many genres for me. As a horror film, it barely scared me. It INTERESTED me, and I watched it from beginning to end without stopping, but it’s cerebral rather than scary.Get Out 1Daniel Kaluuya’s central performance though was engaging, if not downright endearing, as the victim of most of the horror that is to follow. The plot revolves around him marrying into what appears to be the perfect Connecticut WASP family of a VERY badly cast, plastic fantastic white chick Allison Williams. I didn’t buy this crucial conceit of this film, which was this couple’s endearing love for each other.

Bradley Whitford and Katherine Keener are the girl’s parents, who quickly turn from Obama voters into some kind of Satanists. Set today, it seemed like they were all in a stock company of “The Crucible.” Oscar nominated debut director Jordon Peele just laid all his cards right out on the table from the get-out, so the “surprises” weren’t surprising at all, being telegraphed by the rather clunky script a mile off.

There was a mildly metaphoric chair scene as Kaluuya suddenly sinks into the floor. It’s a big, comfy psychiatrist’s chair and the psychiatrist is Catherine Keener, who has made a career in the Indies comparable to Parker Posey’s.

And I adore Keener. She’s one of my favorite actresses, but here, where she’s supposed to be sadistically mean, I had a hard time imaging her as evil personified. I just didn’t buy it.

Does she look frightening to you as she’s pictured above in the first of many tea-cup stirring scenes? She looks the embodiment of hearth and home, which I guess is the point Peele is making by casting Everybody’s Mom/Sis/Girlfriend. She’s evil.

But this is the scene the “chair scene” which is what you come away from the film remembering. Keener is a good enough of an actress to pull this difficult hat trick off. She’s good and evil and the same time.

The above picture is Kaluuya’s frightened reaction that his prospective Mother-in-Law (Keener) is a witch.

Or something of that kind. And while I admired the ingenuity of the film’s premise(Life in White America is a Horror for Black people) it didn’t hold me or move me.

But there was that chair scene….Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, I don’t think it’s going to win any of them.

In an absolute earth-quake of an upset EXTREMELY young Timothee Chalamet of “Call Me By Your Name” won Best Actor over favorite front-running London legend, Gary Owens. Of “a Darkest Hour”. Both films were nominated for Best Picture. Owens played Winston Churchill to a fare-thee-well, and is probably the actors’ yard-stick by which all future Churchills will be measured. Owens totally transformed himself with a grueling four hour day IN THE MAKE-UP chair before he could step on set as the garrulous prime minister, who saved the world from Hitler. He is pictured above in his “War Room” with the beauteous Lily James (Rose, the flapper, of “Downtown Abbey,”) as his secretary.

Whereas Timothee Chalamet an American native of Hell’s Kitchen and a graduate of LaGuardia High School of the Arts was all of 19 when he essayed the now legendary role of Elio.

Chalamet speaks French but he doesn’t have to in “Call Me By Your Name.”

He speaks a little Italian in the film, but mostly he has to carry this entire lovely movie in which he has to come to terms with his nascent homosexuality in a gorgeous villa in Crema, Italy. He has to embody love struck youth, usually not wearing many clothes. He has to totally seduce the audience as well as Armie Hammer as his love interest and he does.

The London Film Critics Circle is a group of VERY serious critics and they obviously fell under Chalamet’s extraordinary love affair with the camera.

Is this the start of a competitive race for the Best Actor Oscar? Winston Churchill vs. the hottest teen ever on screen. We shall see. At the moment Timothee(who was one of Tilda Swinton’s discoveries) says he’s “Living the Dream.”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” just won big tonight in the U.K.  at the London Critics Circle. Awards were handed out at the Mayfair Hotel and they should put up three billboards for the awards they won tonight. Best Film of the Year. Best Actress Frances McDormand and Best Screenplay for Martin McDonaugh.

Timothee Chalamet upset Gary Oldman’s Oscar apple-cart by winning Best Actor for his portrait of teenage love in “Call Me By Your Name.” Chalamet thanked his “tongue-wrestling partner” Armie Hammer, who plays his lover in the film. Hammer was not named in Blighty for Best Supporting Actor, but Hugh Grant was for “Paddington 2”! Which is not in the running here because it hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. Sam Rockwell didn’t score here. though it’s interesting to note that BOTH Woody Harrelson AND Michael Sthulbarg were all three nominated in that category of Best Supp. Actor. And neither Rockwell  nor McDormand were there, though of course Irish/Brit McDonagh was.

 

Just as the ink was drying on my last post about the heated Oscars Best Supp. Actress race, then BANG! I get the news that over in Blighty, the lovely O.B.E. Leslie Manville was winning Best Supporting Actress for “The Phantom Thread.” She’s also the ex-wife of Best Actor hopeful Gary Oldman, who was having a very bad night as HE lost to Timothee Chalamet for “Call Me By Your Name”!?! This was certainly an upset. But both Manville and Chalamet will probably go on to win the BAFTA award, too, in London, don’t be surprised! In their various categories. I bet Timothee was surprised!Also Best Film went to “Three Billboards!”

As I just said in the previous post, if Entertainment Weekly had just waited a few more MINUTES Frances McDormand and Martin McDonagh would’ve been their front cover for “Three Billboards.”

Sally Hawkins was named Best British/Irish actress for three films for “Shape of Water”, “Maudie” and “Paddington 2”.

Daniel Kaluuya won Best British/Irish actor for “Get Out.”

The London Critics Circle is not to be confused with the BAFTA awards. The first are press awards and the second industry.

 

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