a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"


Could Mahershala Ali, who won the Best Supporting Actor a mere two years ago for Best Picture Winner “Moonlight”, win a SECOND Oscar in the same category for “Green Book”?

If so, he would be the first African American actor to win TWO Academy Awards, never mind two nearly in a row, after Denzel Washington won two.

In “The Green Book,” he plays a real life character, a jazz pianist sensation of the 1950s. The film is set in the rural South in 1963, when it was very dangerous for a successful Black man to have a white driver from the Bronx, played by Viggo Mortensen.

Both actors received very strong, positive notices out of Toronto, where it became a surprise hit, and won the prestigious, and predictive Grolsch People’s Choice Award, voted on by the public, vaulting all involved into the middle of the Oscar race.

The film was directed by Peter Farrelly of “Dumb and Dumberer” film.

Should this happen and Ali get nominated and win again, he would make Oscar history. No Black actor has ever won twice.

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“Green Book” an unlikely, buddy-buddy, road trip film flew under the radar to win the Audience Choice Award at this year’s just closed Toronto International Film Festival. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award Winner Mershersala Ali, Universal’s low budget  surprise, directed by Peter Farrelly, now must be considered to be  in the running for this year’s Best Picture Oscar. Yes. the People’s Choice Award is THAT predictive.

And Mortensen himself may very find that he is among the year’s top competitors for Best Actor. Ali could compete in Supporting Actor, a category he won two year’s ago for “Moonlight.”

Set in the recent past, “Green Book” details  the unlikely “Driving Miss Daisy”- type of friendship that develops between a white limo driver (Mortensen) and an African-American concert pianist (Ali) as they drive on a concert tour through the Deep South.Green Room 3It is 1963, right as the Civil Rights’ Movement was beginning to shake things up forever in the South.

“Green Book’s win of this prestigious award from the filmgoers of Toronto themselves unexpectedly vaults this film into the center of this year’s Oscar race. It opens November 17.

Mortensen, an industry and audience favorite, has been nominated twice for Best Actor and never won. Could this at last be his big year? He has to compete against another overdue veteran Willem Dafoe for his searing portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh in the New York Film Festival’s closing night feature “At Eternity’s Gate” directed by Julian Schnabel.


Alfonse Cuaron’s “Roma” won big at the Venice Film Festival yesterday. It won the much-prized Golden Lion, their top film prize. It’s in Black and White, and set in Mexico in the 1970s and is in Spanish, but has been acclaimed every- where it’s been shown.

Willem Dafoe won Best Actor for his portrayal of the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh, under the direction of Julian Schnabel, in “At Eternity’s Gate.”

British actress Olivia Coleman won Best Actress for “The Favourite,” Yorgos Lanthimos controversial period drama.

All three films will be at Toronto and I will see them all VERY soon when I begin to cover the New York Film Festival for Awardsdaily.com. The press screenings start the week after next.

Also expect all three of these acclaimed films to figure majorly in this year’s Oscar race. Though Coleman may find herself competing as Supporting Actress. She co-stars in “The Favourite” with two Academy Award winners, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. All are competing for the gold, it is said.

Oh, and the Academy has dropped its idea of starting a “Most Popular Film” category after much push-back, and I’m glad they did.

The Best Film will remain the Best Film. Period. End of Discussion.


It’s official! Downton Abbey fans! Rejoice! For the movie version of the blockbuster Masterpiece TV series is beginning to shoot in England. At where else? HIghclere Castle!

As the original cast is returning, it will feel like visiting with old friends. Including Dame Maggie Smith, Michele Dockery, Hugh Bonneville and Joanne Frogatt. Things have changed in that now the nefarious footman Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is now the head butler.

Mr. Carson is unwell, the character, not the great actor, James Carter, but his real life wife, Olivier-winning actress Imelda Staunton, the odious teacher Frances Umbrage of Harry Potter fame, will be joining the cast as Dame Maggie’s cousin.

Julian Fellowes wrote this at a brisk clip. It must have been like a walk in the country for him after writing EVERY SINGLE EPISODE of the six year series.

Others being added to the already starry cast are:-

Geraldine James (Anne with an E, Beast), Simon Jones (The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Brideshead Revisited), David Haig (Killing Eve, Penny Dreadful), Tuppence Middleton (War and Peace, The Imitation Game), Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders, The Crown) and Stephen Campbell Moore (History Boys, Lark Rise to Candleford), amongst others.

It’s a packed house already! And will undoubtedly be packing movie theaters all over the world upon its’ release next year. Once again, I can’t wait!

One little spoiler that Lily James revealed in her “Mama Mia 2” press interviews is that her character, the vivacious, flirtatious, former flapper Rose, won’t be featured as much, because she said “The focus is on the family.” And Rose, if you remember, married a rich Jewish young man, and they both moved to New York.

Domage!

 


Lucas Hedges will no doubt start his Oscar journey again this year as his new highly anticipated film “Boy Erased” is premiering at Telluride this weekend.

The Telluride Film Festival is small, quick, and up in the mountains and is the bona fide beginning of the Oscar season. It has debuted almost every single film that has won best picture in the past decade. And I have no doubt that “Boy Erased” will continue in this noted trajectory.

It is about gay conversion therapy. Hedges, the boy of the title, is sent to a camp where this is abominable treatment is practiced.

“Boy Erased” stands out among all the other titles announced today. You can see them all at http://www.awardsdaily.com.

“Boy Erased” will also be shown at TIFF. As will “Beautiful Boy,” the Timothee Chalamet/Steve Carrell starrer about drug addiction, which is also heavily Oscar buzzed.

I myself will be covering the New York Film Festival come September…which actually is beginning REAL soon.

Exciting titles abound. I can’t wait!


Neil Simon Theater 2
Neil Simon, long considered America’s most successful and certainly most prolific playwright dies at 91. It’s fitting that the Neil Simon Theater still exists on Broadway.at 250 West 52nd Street.  I hope it always stays “The Neil Simon Theater.”

I did not know Neil Simon personally. But growing up in the theater in the decades where he dominated the Great White Way, his work was overwhelming to a young playwright, me. At one time, he seemed to have every play on Broadway.

The Christmas after my mother died, I was feeling particularly bereft and found myself observing a great Broadway tradition.I went to Chicago. By train. To see the out-of-town try-outs for a musical version, of a movie  he wrote “The Goodbye Girl.” Seeing that only half-successful work in the middle of the cold Chicago winter made me realize that yes, all your idols have feet of clay. IOW, everyone makes mistakes. The Goodbye Girl was a musical with a book by Neil Simon, lyrics by David Zippel, and music by Marvin Hamlisch, based on Simon’s original screenplay for the 1977 film of the same name.

I was also at a rehearsal of “The Goodbye Girl” when it limped to New York, and in the rehearsal room were the star Bernadette Peters and yes, Neil Simon himself.

He seemed so un-prepossessing in person. He was wearing a robin’s egg blue sweater and  kibitzed around with the various actors….But it was his eyes that got me. The intensity of his stare. Nothing was being missed. He saw it warts and all and I’m sure was thinking “How can I fix this? How can I help?” He reminded me of a very warm and friendly rabbi. His vast knowledge of the theater seemed to match those of a rabbinical scholar. He seemed immediately nice. But also intimidating. I mean, he was NEIL SIMON! But he didn’t carry himself like a star as Ms. Peters certainly did.

I guess I was so intimidated by him, I didn’t even have the chutzpah to talk to him. But what could I have said?  “I saw your play in Chicago and really liked it.” God! I hope didn’t say THAT! Which would have been a complete lie.  I don’t think I did.

I never saw him again. And, the show flopped. I thought nothing he wrote could ever flop, but some did.

He strangely isn’t revived much of late, but the Neil Simon Theater is still there. A permanent and fitting monument to a man that made Broadway history over and over again. He will be missed by all in the theater community. It was his great love.

Neil Simon R.I.P.

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