a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Alzheimer’s’

“Wallander 3” World-Weary & Wonderful on MHz

I have to confess that I am coming late to the Wallander party. Wallander, the character, the novels, the many, many TV films in Swedish and also in BBC English with Kenneth Branagh, no less, is more than a cottage industry. It’s pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  After the early, tragic death of Swedish author Steig Larsson of the Millennium Trilogy, another Swedish crime novel author has emerged on the Swedish crime stage and  has survived and thrived to 66 . He is Henning Mankell and he has written a mountainous number of books, on Wallander and many other topics,  and is more than taking his place, in Sweden and in the world.

The super-quaint,  little medieval town of Ystaad, where Wallander is set and shot, has become a tourist destination! And Kurt Wallander, his world-weary, potato-like, sad sack of a Swedish detective, is underplayed in this series quite brilliantly by Krister Hendrickson,  and is almost as famous as a Swedish fictional character as Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” anti-heroine to end all anti-heroines.

Wallander (pronouced Val’-en-da) couldn’t be more different. He’s so every day, so every man, so ordinary, he’s almost invisible. But he has also taken hold of the world’s imagination, and its’ thirst for all things Swedish. That gloomy morose desire to suffer in the cold and ice was mightily filled in his lifetime by legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

To my dismay, the younger generation does not take to Bergman or even know his work. If they know anything of Swedish note today, besides Ikea, it is Lisbeth Salander, and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And also, right behind her is Kurt Wallander.

Larson was said to have devoured Swedish crime novels and one of the authors he was most influenced by was the prolific Henning Mankell. Who wrote more Wallander books and many other books, than Larsson ever did in his brief life-time.

Larsson, and the “Girl’ movies and books have whetted the public’s appetite seemingly for Swedish noir crime. In fact, I was shocked when I went to the main library in Manhattan and found out the nothing of Wallander, DVD, film or novel was in. All were checked out, but one, which I hungrily grabbed.

The female librarian said to me “Wallander is VERY popular.” The Vox Populi! The people have spoken.

In Mankell’s “The Man Who Laughed,” there is this passage that jumped out at me.

A solitary man, presumably Wallander himself, is driving down a lonely Swedish road at night, and feels a bump. He has hit a rabbit.

“He stopped and got out. The hare was lying on the road, its’ back legs kicking. But its’ eyes stared at him….He had never forgotten those eyes and the wildly kicking legs. The memory kept coming back again and again , usually at the most unexpected times…”

That’s a very good metaphor indeed. With a kind of awful poetry that Steig Larsson’s “just the facts” Milleninum writings eschews.

I think it’s this richness of the source material, Mankell’s writing, that lifts Wallander out of the realm of the ordinary procedural, though police crime drama is what it is.

The Swedish TV series, now available in the US on MHz DVDS,  is produced by the same company that produced the “Dragon Tattoo” movies. And it shows. Those films and the Wallander TV series echo each other, not just in their topics, human trafficking, arson, pedophilia, and of course, drugs, but in their doomy Swedish atmospheres.

Wallander is the essence of the plodding policeman, who doesn’t always get it write, in the opening episode, he gets so drunk, he leaves his police gun at a bar, and is suspended, until the Ystad police find out they can’t solve a crime without him.

The terrific Krister Hendrickson makes him so endearing a chap, I can’t imagine anyone else playing him. Especially not Kenneth ham-is-my-middle-name Branagh. But we’ll see.

And sometimes this season hits it right out of the ballpark in terms of impact. One episode “The Arsonist” particularly got to me. So well done and well acted and well shot by all parties. It was gripping and the ending chilling. Bravo to Episode 5! Wallander’s pen-ultimate case.

And you better enjoy Hendrickson’s Wallander while you can, because in the last episode,  #6 in this series, “A Troubled Man,” he gets Alzheimer’s. What American series would risk that? The central figure losing it to a disease that no one ever seems to suffer from on American series television. Hendrickson becomes increasingly forgetful and lost. He gets suspended (Again!) by the Ystaad crime unit.

His daughter, Linda, a cop herself, and also a devoted mother, with a small daughter who Wallander dotes on, is marvelously played with degrees and shadings of sympathy and strength and frustrated horror by Carlotta Johnson, as she begins to notice that Kurt, her father, is getting absent-minded and gradually slipping away.

As early as episode one, “The Troubled Man”(like for instance the forgetting the gun in the bar) and culminates with him wandering the streets of picturesque small town Ystaad with his shoes untied, not knowing where he is, in “The Man Who Wept,” who is ironically is the melancholy Wallander himself. And yes, in a climatic moment, Wallander cries. The series has built so carefully to this, it’s shattering.

Shakespeare  explored this same disease in “King Lear,” which I found myself seeing right in the middle of my Wallander binge-watching.

Dementia has always been with us as a disease and a topic and continues to be the unnerving presence that turns into an absence as we watch the sun sadly set on Kurt Wallender.

Don’t miss this Swedish series! You’ll find it hard to forget, and you’ll be hooked on all of Henning Mankell’s work, too! Just like Steig Larsson was, and half the world it seems is!

 

A GRRRReat Day for “The Artist”! Bad day for George Clooney…

So Super Tuesday of the Awards Season has come and gone and the faster-than-they’ve ever been, the Speedy Alkaselzters of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle named “The Artist” Best Picture and its’ unknown-in-America director Michel Hazanaviscius, Best Director! Yay! But what does this alll MEAN?

Sasha Stone at www.awardsdaily.com and Tom O’Neil, the guy who started all this Oscar madness, at www.goldderby.com both point out that only five times in the past 20 years have the Oscars and the New York Film Critics agreed.

But it must be a VERY happy day over at the Weinstein Company! And at chez Hazanaviscius! The champagne corks must be popping! I mean, not only is this bon-bon of a movie in BLACK and WHITE, it’s also SILENT! And FRENCH! Or French made! And I can NOT name a French movie that has gotten THIS close to Oscar before.

So it’s unprecedented and unbelievable, but not by Sasha and I who called it as soon as we saw it. She, in Cannes, and I, in Montreal! At the Montreal Film Festival! What a beautiful moment that was!

And I described earlier how exciting the NY Press junket was. In this blog, just a little while back, I said that I felt Oscar’s presence in that room. Or rather suite of many rooms. Everyone was just so happy that day! But there was the little(or not so little, really) golden guy’s overwhelming presence in the air!

I knew I was surrounded by winners but the alllll knew it too. It was a nonpareil feeling, vraiment! Bien sur!

And since this is the first announced major award of the season, it may have more impact than any other NYFCC’s awarding has ever had before.

Famously the NYFCC moved up its date to be BEFORE the National Board of Review which is set to announce on Thursday. Will they rubber stamp the NYFCC? Or will they differ? Well, they may choose a different Best Actress than Meryl Streep. They could choose Michelle Williams’ wonderful Marilyn. But their choice of La Streep shows that yes, indeed, she is the front-runner in that category and NOT Viola Davis. Also, strangely, it’s a movie that hasn’t even opened yet and won’t for a couple of more weeks.

Oh, and not so strangely, “The Iron Lady” is ANOTHER Weinstein opus. I mean, it’s just incredible!

Also incredible is that David Fincher’s American re-make of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” got NO-THING from the NYFCC. And this is the movie that made them move their date YET AGAIN to accommodate seeing this just-finished film.

Also everyone and his blogging brother was saying it was  a war between “The Descendants” and “The Artist” and now…”The Descendants” lost big time all over the place. It got NO-THING from the NYFCC and also George Clooney did not get a Best Actor Nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. Yes, THEY were announced today, too, and Sasha has all of them over at www.awardsdaily.com And her take on what all this means.

I think, personally it means nominations for all these winners. It REALLY helps Albert Brooks who got Best Supporting Actor for “Drive”. And “Drive” which I liked immensely seemed to be slipping off the pundit-o-sphere. But Albert’s back and I think IN. And yes, he WAS really scarey in that movie! He was playing a gansta. No, I’m not kiddin’! He really was! People forget what a good, solid actor is underneath the rest of his many talents, but the NYFCC with this award has reminded everyone.

This is not necessarily the case for the lovely Jessica Chastain who wins for THREE movies. But which of these three “The Tree of Life”, “The Help”, and “Take Shelter” is the Academy(and the Globes and SAG, etc. etc) going to choose to rally behind as THE ONE. The Academy only allows for one film per nomination.

Like for instance, the National Board of Review can give Jessica the same Supporting Actress award for all those movies, too.

But the Oscars have to pick just one. It seems like “The Tree of Life” is the one with the most life in it. It tied the Gotham Awards last night for Best Picture with “Beginners” Yay! For Mike Mills! And for Christopher Plummer! “Beginners” also got Best Ensemble at the Gothams! And “The Descendants” AGAIN got nothing.

I tell you as well made as I felt “The Descendants” was it was ultimately extremely depressing.
So we can almost write “The Descendants” off our lists. And it seems Brad Pitt is now the movie star to beat for Best Actor, since he won here for “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life”(yup, there it is again!) As I wrote earlier in the Comments Section of Awardsdaily tonight, I REALLY DON’T WANT TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT “TREE OF LIFE” but it seems I have, too.

People keep bringing it up, primordial ooze, dinosaurs and all. RIDICULOUS film! But Brad Pitt’s and Jessica Chastain’s ’50 Texas husband and wife WERE lovely. I’m just surprised to find people remember them and remember them so strongly.

So now it’s Brad Pitt v. Jean Dujardin with George Clooney running on the sidelines, huffing and puffing, like he does so memorably, in his Mad Dash scene in “The Descendants”…trying to keep up.

Well, we’ll see what the National Board of Review does. They, too, may pick “The Artist” but I’m betting Best Actor, Actress and Supporting will be different. But Jessica Chastain may score again with them because she’s got those multiple movies. Seven I think, behind her this year.

But congratulations to all these winners, and let me do a final shout out to winner of the Breakthrough Director Award Dee Rees for “Pariah” and also to Adepero Oduye who received an Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for “Pariah” Both were my guests at TIFF this year.

And you can see them and ALLLL “The Artist”s on my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

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