a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Africa’

Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o Continues to Astonish in Searing “Eclipsed”

Eclipsed 1Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o continues to astonish us. “Eclipsed” a searing play by Danai Gurira is the strongest new play on Broadway right now, and Ms. Nyong’o is giving an absolutely astounding performance, as a character simply known as “Girl.”She enters from inside an overturned metal bath tub, pictured above ^ and if you are expecting to recognize her from her glamorous red carpet turns and from the Oscars, you won’t.Lupita Oscar ThreeThe audience I saw it with, didn’t. And I didn’t recognize her at all til half-way through the first act, so deeply is she submerged in her character, a 16 year-old refugee in the middle of the Liberian war who has been hiding in the bush. She finds some kind of solace in being hidden(and sleeping under) this suffocating iron tub from which she emerges drenched in sweat and fear.

The women who are sheltering her feel she will be raped, if found, and turned into another “wife” like they are. Really just sex slaves for the “C.O.” the commanding officer of the army, whom we never see. Except as a shadow. They all jump to attention and line-up when this large, dark shadow falls on them, and wait to be picked, for the night.

They have no names of their own only “Wife #1” or “Wife #3”. They can barely remember before the War which has raged on for 15 years, and have forgotten their real names their “mother gave them.”

It’s sort of the plot of “Eclipsed” that these women fight to save some kind of dignity and humanity that will allow them to remember who they once were as little girls in their mothers’ care. Before the civil war took everything from them.

They are now in sort of a bunker/hovel, but at least they are inside and not outside in “the bush” or jungle. “Eclipsed” is an astounding play, bringing us all into a world which we would expect to see perhaps onscreen. “Beasts of No Nation” springs to mind as an all male example of the ravages of  civil war in Africa, and how mere children are turned into boy-soldiers or in the case of “Eclipsed” girl soldiers.

I don’t know which is more frightening. They both are. And while there is no gratuitous violence  The audience is as trapped by Ms. Gurira’s gripping, horrifying play as the characters are in the hovel of their lives.

I cannot praise “Eclipsed” highly enough. Danai Gurira, whose work I have been following since her NYU Grad Acting days, both as a powerful actress and an equally powerful writer, here fulfills her promise with the masterpiece of “Eclipsed.” I thought “The Humans” was the Best New Play on Broadway this year, but it has now been eclipsed by”Eclipsed.”

And I expect the magnificent Lupita Nyong’O to blaze her way through even more awards this season. In the theater,this time. What she is called upon to do in this horrendous,difficult,powerful role of The Girl, is something so complex and dark, and at the same time innocent and, yes, even hopeful, that awards will be continued to be strewn at her like bouquets.Eclipsed 3

The rest of the five person, all female, all Black cast is remarkable, too. Pascale Armand,  Saycon Sengbloh, Zainab Jah and Akosua Busia. When have we ever seen an all African-American, all female final bow on Broadway?Eclipsed 2

When have we ever seen a multiplicity of roles for Black actresses like this? I’ll tell you when. Never. Once again, as she did with “12 Years a Slave”, Lupita Nyong’o continues to make racial, and in this case, theatrical history.

Gerard Butler’s “Machine Gun Preacher” mows down the Oscar competition at TIFF!

Is it only Day Three? I feel like I’ve been here, at TIFF, my entire life! You enter into a Festival Time Warp (when a film festival is really working right and you’re out-of-town, especially) It’s a Film Festival Bubble that in some major ways you never want to burst. And return to reality but TIFF’s magic is in  full swing now. I think in the real world, it’s Saturday evening,and I’ve got to head out momentarily to the tres swank Unifrance party. Always a high point.

But ANOTHER high-point for sure was interviewing the great Gerard Butler today and telling him that ( I hope) he’s going to be going to the Oscars come February for the unforgettable “Machine Gun Preacher” which also is going to get a boatload of Oscar considerations in all categories.

You heard it here, first, folks. “Machine Gun Preacher” is one of the best film of the year, and Oscar may very well agree.

I predict that the Academy will not be able to resist the emotional powerhouse that is”Machine Gun Preacher.” And they certainly are not going to be able to resist the idea that Gerard Butler comes into his own as a magnificent screen actor whose acting chops match any one this or any Oscar season.

Playing a Real Life Action Hero and Savior of hundreds of lives in the war torn worst areas of Africa, Butler totally comes into his own and scares you to death in the first part of the film, where he plays a for-real criminal, and then morphs throughout the film into one of the most heroic men you’ll ever know of.

And I got to meet and interview the real life Lee Childers, who is a former career criminal and Pennsylvania red-neck and now is beyond reproach as someone is fighting the incredible fight in Africa. I can’t stop thinking about this movie! And you won’t either!

And neither will the Academy!

I got to tell Lee Childers, the screenwriter, director Marc Forster and Gerard Butler this news myself.
In person. This morning. At the Toronto International Film Festival.

I never thought I could realistically top my telling Colin Firth and director Tom Hooper of the “King’s Speech” that they were going to be winning Oscars that coming winter, only last year. This was also in the first days of the Toronto Film Festival. They were flabbergasted at the news. But yes, I was right. It was true. They did win.

And you can see me telling them this at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

And very soon next week or sooner, I hope you’ll be able to see me work the same Oscar Messenger magic with “Machine Gun Preacher” on my You Tube Channel as well, with all these interviews I am so happy to be describing.

Let’s face it. George Clooney has already GOT an Oscar. And he’s got TWO movies here at TIFF vying for Oscar’s attention. “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” They could easily cancel each other out. Tom Hanks, being directed by Stephen Daldry in the upcoming 9/11 drama, has already got TWO Oscars and these two along with Jean DuJardin of “The Artist” are so far Gerard Butler’s competition for Best Actor nods. Oh, yes, and Ryan Gosling too for “Drive” OR “The Ides of March.”

George was campaigning madly at Telluride evidently earlier this month, but…

Gerard Butler has not been nominated ever and he’s the right age and at the right point in his career to receive this honor. and recognition. I hope he gets it.

“Machine Gun Preacher” is going to be a film that this year, the Academy won’t be able to ignore.

Oscar Buzz continues at TIFF for Gerard Butler & “Machine-Gun Preacher”! And Tilda Swinton, too!

Now as one  film’s career rises and another falls, it’s fascinating to watch the ups and downs that one screening can lead to at TIFF. It’s like a thumbs up and/or a thumbs down from the Romans in the Colosseum.

And TIFF is giving a definite big THUMBS UP to both “Machine Gun Preacher,” which shocked and surprised me in all the right ways and “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin ”  “Preacher”‘s got HEAVY Oscar potential. Gerard Butler is in a career-redefining role as the title character. And it seems very much like this year’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

It’s a thoroughly griping action-er as well as being an amazing true story of this former alcoholic/drug addict/jail-bird (Butler) who totally gets his life under-control through the help of his devoted Christian wife(Michele Monaghan of “Trucker”) and ends up, like “Book of Mormon”s hapless elders in Uganda. And a very different Uganda from the one that’s selling out on Broadway.

It’s a desolate, lawless, hell-on-earth, where children routinely are dismembered and forced to kill their family members. And director Marc Forster(” Finding Neverland”) keeps the adrenaline pumping and the danger level high as the reformed Butler barrels through the African wilderness like a born-again Rambo, trying to save all the children, and there seem to miliions…who are desparately in need of medicine, schools, orphanages. And Butler tries to build and re-build all of them. AND HE DOES!

The incredible arc his character goes through addiction, jail, murder, reformation, then heroics in the African wild are catnip to Oscar. And Butler hits all the right notes, and is utterly believable all the way through and back again. His scenes with the children will make audiences world-wide cry and stand up and cheer. He and this powerful film and its’ timely topic are definitely going to be part of the Oscar conversation.

Another to be hotly debated Oscar topic is going to be Tilda Swinton’s career best performance in “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin”, an extremely disturbing and powerful look at another difficult and timely theme. What is it like to be the mother of a school shooter? A la Columbine. Swinton is magnificent but will audiences and Oscar voters be able to turn out to watch this? As great as it is, that’s the Oscar topic that is Tilda’s stumbling block here.

The handling of both these films by their campaigners and distributors will determine whether or not “Machine Gun Preacher” and “….Kevin” will be in the forefront of voters minds and DVD piles come this Christmas. They certainly SHOULD be, IMHO.

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