a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

lucas-hedges-oscarlucas-hedges-shaved-headlucas-hedges-manchesterLive Blogging the Oscars has begun! I never start this early! It’s barely 6pm EST, but Supporting Nominee Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” just gave the first speech of the evening to Sandy Kenyon of ABC.

Lucas was in full head-shaved mode for his hit Off Broadway play “Yen.” His trade-mark red-hair was completely gone. He was rocking an out-sized but chic, black bow-tie and traditional tux and he told Kenyon straight off “I don’t think I’m going to win.” But quickly added “The Nomination is the Win.” And compared it to riding on a roller-coaster and that his car had to go through three security/bomb searches on this way it. “They were all dressed up”(the Security men) like they were in Robo-Cop. It’s crazy.” And Kenyon wanted to know how it felt to be nominated for the Oscar at age 20. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m here.”

Newsflash! Not! Natalie Portman of “Jackie, up for Best Actress, isn’t coming tonight, “because of her pregnancy.” Which didn’t stop her from coming six years ago, when she was also pregnant, and nominated for “Black Swan” which she won. She probably knew she wasn’t going to win this time. Nothing’s going to stop Emma Stone in “La La Land.” So Portman didn’t want to show up,  pregnant, and lose.

She got to the Golden Globes alright. But she did look very large.natalie-portman-pregnant#Oscar Red Carpet

#Lucas Hedges

#Natalie Portman

Casey Affleck won yet another Best Actor Award for “Manchester by the Sea” at the Independent Spirit Awards this afternoon.

This was Affleck at his most relaxed and personable. Funny, even. He joked about this show’s hosts joking about how his character in “Manchester by the Sea” was “living in his big brother’s shadow.” And that he was “sad and morose.” “I’m not sad and morose. I’m very happy to get this award.” And said, “Thank you, guys” over and over, like  this particular audience really meant something to him. He said, “I’ve been making independent films for over ten years. I’ve only been making independent films.” The crowd roared.

Good luck, tonight at the Oscars, Casey! You’ve won enough awards, over forty this year, to last a lifetime.

Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress for “Elle.” And Ben Foster who has been on my TV show several times won Best Supporting Actor for “Hell or High Water.” Molly Shannon won Best Supporting Actress for “Some People.” And “Moonlight” was awarded a Best Ensemble performance, so the whole cast was awarded  as one. “Moonlight” led the awards totals with six, including Best Picture and Best Director.

For a complete list of winners go to http://Awardsdaily.com  The Oscars are on tonight at 8pm on ABC.casey-independent-spirit-awards

The Winners?

la-la-land-seine

bafta-winner-2017Are these tomorrow night’s winners? I think so.

And I WILL be live-blogging the Oscars once again, after all.

Check back.

 

yen-2It’s so rare to see an Off-Broadway play explode on every artistic level, as the strangely titled “Yen” does at the Lucille Lortel on Christopher St. Meant as a vehicle for rising star and Oscar nominee (in Supp. Actor) Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea,” it surprises and surpasses on every level possible. Main among them the revelatory fact that young (20 yr.old) Lucas Hedges is no flash in the pan. He fulfills every expectation and surpasses them. He is simply on his way to being one of the greatest young actors of his generation.casey-lucasHe’s shaved his mop top of solid red hair and goes completely bald as British skin head, Hench, in Anna Jordan’s electric new play “Yen,” being given a superb American debut production by director Trip Cullman, whose career I have admired and followed for many years now. Cullman has a way of getting career performances out of his actors and he’s done that here with Ari Graynor, Stefania LaVie Owen and Justice Smith. “Yen” which is a nick-name of Owen’s character Jen, is no walk in the park, and is not for the faint of heart. It’s a total gut punch. I felt, like Hedges’ character does in the play’s bloody climax, like I was banging my head into a wall over and over and over again. But in the best sense of the word. It was exhilarating. And enlightening. It was like being caught in a lightening storm at sea. Columns of lightening bolts shooting all around you. You see them blazing everywhere . At any moment , you might be hit.yen-1 yen-3

It starts with Hedges nude to the waist and barefoot picking his nose and watching pornography with a dead-eyed expression, while his younger brother Bobbie, also shirtless and barefoot, is jumping around the dirty bed-sit stage like a Mexican jumping bean on speed. Or meth. He’s on something. Because he doesn’t stop imitating the sound of their German Shepherd Taliban who is cooped up off-stage (we hear him, but we never see him)growling and snarling and roaring through this play, like a bat or a German Shepherd out of hell.

Juvenile delinquents- to-be, they rob stores in order to eat, and they only own one dirty T- shirt between them. And seem to have had no parenting whateversoever.yen7

Taliban is caged and so are these two teenaged boys. And we soon find out why as they drag their comatose, drug-addicted, passed-out-drunk mother in through the doorway of their rancid council flat. Ari Graynor is magnificence personified as this young actress tackles these multiple addictions and her two equally addicted, pubescent teenage sons, executing just how twisted her under-class life has made her, in a Cockney accent that is totally spot on. As is Hedges’ and is Justice Smith’s. Smith performs the disturbed Bobbie at a decibel and enery-level that is superhuman. You don’t know what dangerous thing he and/or Hench might do that prefigures the violence that occurs as the play progresses.yen-4

But the violence is not telegraphed. It’s just THERE. A part of these lower-class have-nots life. I’d say this play was a continuation of John Osborne’s Angry Young Man, working class anti-hero from the ’50s. It’s a kitchen sink drama, except these people are so poor they don’t even HAVE a kitchen sink.

As the play spirals downward, the only glimmer of hope is represented by the entrance of Jennifer or Jen. “Yen” to her family. A sweet Welsh girl who has just moved into the neighborhood and is clearly attracted to the hunky Hench (Hedges)who spends most of the play in his underpants. yen-5Stefania LaVie Owen totally nails this difficult accent, too. As well embodying Yen’s warmth and gritty/slutty attraction. She is miraculously making her stage debut in this difficult role in this difficult play.

But they are all orbiting around Lucas Hedges’ miraculous sun. His talent is out-size and blazing and he more than fulfills the high expectations his complex Oscar-nominated performance as the troubled, recalcitrant nephew in “Manchester by the Sea,” has set. And “Manchester” has set that bar HIGH.

Hench is a much more difficult role. He has to carry the entire, angry play, barefoot and half-naked, and make you hate him, but love him, and fear him and fear FOR him at the same time. It’s astonishing. HE’S astonishing.

“Yeh” is closing in March, so you better move fast and see it before it vanishes into theatrical lore as Lucas Hedges’ blazing theatrical debut.

#Yen

#Lucas Hedges

#Trip Cullman

#Off Broadway

#Oscar Nominee Best Supporting Actor

#Manchester by the Sea

emma-stoneThese are my final FINAL Oscar Predicitons in the major categories. It’s still “La La Land” and I know it bares repeating or maybe it doesn’t. It’s been as David Poland told Sasha Stone “an open and shut season.” It’s been “LLL” ever seen it was first seen at Telluride and Toronto. It’s seems only the extremely popular “Hidden Figures” could upset, if anything. But “La La” is going to win A LOT of awards come Sunday night. I might be live blogging it, but then again I might not. We’ll see.

But Emma Stone seems unstoppable as of course does Viola Davis. And if anyone is going to upset it’s Mashershala Ali of “Moonlight”, it’s the  surging Dev Patel of “Lion.” He won BAFTA. He could easily win here.

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Damien Chazelle will win Best Director for “La La Land.” Like Viola Davis, he’s won everything else.

The real nail biter is going to be Best Actor between Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the  Sea” and Denzel Washington for “Fences.” It could go either way. Denzel won the Tony for this when he did it onstage on Broadway and also with Viola who won a Tony, too.

But he has two Oscars already. Are they ready to admit DW to the three time winners club which only has four people in it. Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Katherine Hepburn? I wonder.

I hope it’s Casey Affleck essaying a much more difficult and indelible part in “Manchester by the Sea.” He’s won 40 Best Actor Awards and has just won the BAFTA,  as did Emma, Viola and Dev. BAFTA is very influential. I’d vote for Casey, as I’ve said a million times this season.casey-on-boat-2

#Final Oscar Predictions

#Casey Affleck

#Dev Patel

#Emma Stone

#La La Land

#Manchester by the Sea

#Fences

#Dev Patel

#Lion

lion-1dev-as-lion-1And while we’re on the subject, “Lion” is nominated for Best Picture, too. Yes, and unbelievably there are those in the Academy who do not want to give 14 or 12 or 10 or any nominations to “La La Land,” something as frivolous as can be. In this year of great political upheaval and discontent, many,  besides Meryl Streep, as we witnessed at SAG, want to make a statement. Especially about diversity and inclusiveness, and “Lion” is just the film to do that. And as I said in the last post, which is now positioned on the top of the home page. (I hit the wrong button 😦 again!)

Plus they like giving Oscars to actors who are playing characters based on real people. And neither Emma Stone, Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali  OR Viola Davis are playing real people. They are playing characters. And Dev Patel isn’t. Another strong point in his favor. It ‘s an Academy only quirk. Like holding past Oscar wins against you. See Natalie Portman and Octavia Spencer this year. And Tom Hanks and the list goes on and on. And I’m looking at YOU, Denzel. Your two past Oscars aren’t going to help you win any favors this year.

lion-2And wouldn’t Harvey Weinstein love this turn of events? And if anyone can make it happen, it’s Oscar Master Harvey. So there IS suspense now to this year’s Oscar race which we all thought to be one and done by “La La Land.” Well, maybe things aren’t as cut and dried as we think. And that little orphan boy wandering through the slums and train yards of India? Who can resist THAT? AND Nicole Kidman as Mom and Rooney Mara, yes, she’s in this film, too. Finally playing a role that is just right for her, and endearing to boot, the devoted heterosexual girlfriend.dev-patel-and-rooney

AND it’s got a DGA nomination. It didn’t win, but….well there’s more to this story that meets the eye.

And everyone is crying at the end.

 

The AMPAS voters are voting now.

 

So stay tuned.nicole-and-child

sunset-boulevard-1Glenn Close is better than ever! Triumphantly returning to Broadway in the vehicle that won her a Tony 22 years ago ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard.”

This time with a set of ugly steel girders and a magnificent forty piece orchestra onstage behind her. Gone is the marvelously rococo, out-size set of John Napier’s representation of her decaying Hollywood mansion with the infamous gigantic diagonal staircase with a balustrade so high, you often couldn’t see the leading lady, if she was tiny ( Elaine Page) descending it. Patti LuPone the original Norma in London in the ’90s was fired from it for being too short, so the story goes. And so we have Glenn Close stepping in for the American premiere 22 years ago. And she was glorious.

Close always known as an actress, not necessarily as a singer, achieved iconic status the first time around, stopping the show in the MIDDLE of her songs. She does this again, especially with the Act Two stunner “As if I Never Said Goodbye.”  In fact, she’s so powerful, she stops the show with the BEGINNING of the song, before she even sings, with just the sound of that lush, lovely music and Hog-Eye, the lighting guy’s, stunning light cue. A spotlight shone on her directly, stabbing the ordinariness and  utterly transforming her before our stunned eyes, into a glittering star.sunset-boulevard-2I just couldn’t believe it! The audience was loving her so much they applauded the hell out of that moment before the classic song even started! (Lighting by Mark Henderson.) And was she once again stopped the show in the MIDDLE of the song! You could feel the ghost of Judy Garland, coming back to haunt her. Because this time “Sunset Boulevard” is playing the Palace, the historic home of Judy’s return triumphs. “I’ve come home at last!” she sings and as she throws out her arms to embrace the audience, the audience jumped to its’ feet to embrace her back(well, some of them did) and I witnessed the same phenomenon happen 22 years ago. And it’s as thrilling now as it was then.

And how rare it is to witness a mature actress getting to act the living daylights out of a great, great role, on Broadway, at 69! sunset-boulevard-3

“Sunset Boulevard” was always about age. And 22 years ago, Ms. Close was deemed to young to play Norma Desmond, who admitted to 50. And whoever believed her? But now she is just right, as she approaches 70. There are those great. mountain of stairs to climb at least three times that are even higher than before. How she accomplishes THAT amazing  feat eight times a week and twice on Wednesday and Saturdays, is in itself a miracle. But you notice how she’s grasping the hand-rail more tightly and also more gingerly. But nevertheless her descent into the life of failing screenwriter Joe Gillis is as majestic as ever.glenn-close-michael-xavier-1And Gillis himself, as embodied by the tall, dark, and studly British actor, Michael Xavier, is captivating as he turns into well, a stud. A kept beach boy, a gigolo, who can’t stand being Norma’s boy toy, or can he?michael-xavier

In his self-loathing solo in Act Two (“Sunset Boulevard”), he is now dripping wet and nearly naked,  having emerged from Norma’s swimming pool with a body that shows us why Norma is so smitten. In the briefest of sky blue speedo/underpants, you only half-believe that he hates this luxurious life, he has been encaptured by. Or is it enraptured? He then puts on a bathrobe, and onstage slips his speedos off. and we all wish he wasn’t wearing that damn bathrobe as he’s doing it!..

As for the rest of the actually very small leading cast, Fred Johanson is positively operatic and wonderful as Max, her intimidatingly creepy chauffeur. And Siobhan Dillon as the brainy blonde ingénue makes a boring part MORE boring.

In this production, you can see WHY Joe wants Norma. As embodied to the Nth degree by Close, she is dazzling. In gowns that this time must stand in for the missing set, she glitters, shimmers and shines. (Costumes by Tracy Christensen)”I’m rich!” she proclaims several times, reminding us of how Hollywood stars lived large, before personal income tax toned down their opulence.

And with that ugly, but functional set by James Noone, Christensen’s stupendous costumes now have to make up for the glamour-that-was-Norma. And they do.

And 69 year old diva Glenn Close is “now back where I belong! I’ve come home, AT LAST” she sings. And the crowd goes wild!sunset-boulevard-4

With one look, as her greatest song says, she can break your heart.

YOU MUST NOT MISS THIS!

 

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