a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Best Actress Oscar’

“Shape of Water” One of the most beautiful, though improbable, love stories ever! Sally Hawkins is Magic!

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Michelle Williams Breaks Your Heart & Will Win Her First Best Actress Oscar for “My Week with Marilyn”!

I’m just rushing back from a packed, packed, packed Press Screening at the New York Film Festival this morning to rave and rave about how wonderful “My Week with Marilyn” turned out to be! Michelle Williams has just won the Oscar for Best Actress!!! She is HEARTBREAKING! And there’s so much NEW Marilyn info here. We think we know MMs story, but “My Week…” meticulously shows us that, we do not. There is more to be told And Michelle Williams! OMG! She is beautiful beyond belief, sexy, and she rips your heart out, too! It’s an Academy Award performance FOR SURE! Close the category! Nobody can top her!

And director Simon Curtis could be on his way to the Oscars,too, with this film.  It’s so good in all its’ aspects it could win Best Picture. And so could Kenneth Branagh, who’s definitely got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his future playing the egotistical, blue meany Sir Laurence Olivier, and so may Dame Judi Dench as a hilarious Dame Sybil Thorndyke, the only person on the film set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” who seems to be kind to Marilyn and sees and understands the torments she’s going  through. Dame Judi shows you that Olivier did not HAVE to behave the way he did to Marilyn. She tells him to “stop bullying her!” but of course, he does n0t and therein lies the conflict and the plot of this  spectacularly surprising, fantastically good movie.

And you just HATE Zoe Wanamaker asthe black-clad, matronly Paula Strasberg, who is Marilyn’s Method Acting coach. Paula accompanies her to England to film (true story) Olivier’s production of this Terrence Ratigan play that was a hit for him in the West End, where he played opposite his real life wife at the time Vivian Leigh. Played here by Julia Ormond, in a kind of throw away part. Wanamaker, as Strasberg, maddeningly interferes in every aspect of the production she can. Actually making things worse for the hapless Marilyn. And this is a true story, too.

IRL as he does in the film, Olivier REPLACES Leigh in the “Showgirl” role for the movie with Marilyn, hoping that she would renew him “make him feel young,” but instead Marilyn’s constant latenesses to the set and difficulty with Olivier in nearly every aspect of making this troubled , true Hollywood story , is making him feel very, very old. And draining him of every ounce of vitality he hoped he would have making this , his dream project of a movie.

And this is all true, and the fact that it is will resonate heavily with the Academy and Michelle Williams’ magnificent performance just breaks your heart, in ways that you wouldn’t think a film like this, a Hollywood biopic, could. It really is a profound story that goes beyond everything you might expect. And it’s a love story, too.

Williams and director Curtis take you SLOWLY inside Marilyn’s torment and insecurity. At the start of the film she is singing(and Williams uses her own voice to sing) one of her signature songs and we see Eddie Redmayne’s character of the Young Boy that is Colin Clark, watching her with a huge, freckled-faced smile,looking up adoringly at her in a darkened 1950s British movie house.

Then we see Clark, and his upper class family, who is shocked, SHOCKED that he wants to get a job at all, and in MOVIES. No less, and we see him worm his way into Shepperton Studios and become the third assistant director on “The Prince and the Showgirl.” This starts the movie.

Olivier is portrayed as a martinet, to say the least. And he is trying to find a way to work with Marilyn, who has no training whatsoever, but who as just discovered and embraced Method Acting and the Actor’s Studio in New York, hence her connection with Paula Strasberg, who ran it with her husband the legendary Lee Strasberg.

And the film is all about great acting, and great actors and how Olivier and Monroe are both united in their desire to do great work, but separated by the ocean of cultural differences and acting techniques.

And Olivier in the end admits that Monroe “had the greatest of instincts but no training whatsoever” and the film says that he is a great stage actor trying to be a film star and that Monroe was a great movie star trying to be a great actress. And clashes ensue.

Situated between her just-married status to playwright Arthur Miller, and before her greatest success of all time in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot”, the film’s screenplay by Adrian Hodges is witty, insightful, and doesn’t pull its’ punches when it comes time to get to the crux of the matter…Marilyn’s brief, week-long love affair with Colin Clark(Redmayne), and the heartbreak Arthur Miller AND Colin Clark are in for with Marilyn.

And Michelle Williams goes beyond herself. In the role of her career, she totally rises to the occasion and does the best work she’s ever done, in a role that on paper at least may seem impossible to play. But play it she does! She gave me goose bumps. Chills. She made me cry. In fact, she did everything that a great actress is supposed to do in a great role.

And I can’t help but feel that Marilyn herself would LOVE this intrepretation of her oft-told story.

And the Academy? Well, this wonderful film should make them all feel as guilty as hell about what happened to Marilyn in her short lifetime. AND she was never nominated for an Oscar, as Michelle Williams will surely be. The pitch perfect Branaugh and wryly hilarious and touching Dame Judi are other very possible nominations here, too, in Supporting. In a wide open category of Supporting Actress, Dench could score again in a part that is longer than the one she won for in “Shakespeare in Love”, Queen Elizabeth I. THAT part was so tiny that maybe Oscar will feel guilty about THAT, too, and Dame Judi could win over Vanessa Redgrave…who is beyond awesome in “Coriolanus.”

And Harvey?

Well, he’s got his hands full of Oscar possibilites this year. With the sure-fire “The Artist” and now this marvelous “Marilyn” and the still unseen Meryl Streep/Margaret Thatcher vehicle “The Iron Lady”, the Weinstein’s Oscar cup is running over this Awards season, which is now ON.

Just look at the Suppporting Actress possiblities he’s got. Dame Judi, Vanessa Redgrave and Berenice Bejos for “The Artist.” Will a non-Weinstein actress even have a chance?

But I do think Michelle Williams is the front-runner now. CLOSE THAT CATEGORY! All the S.W.O.R.M. that make up the Academy, the Straight White Old Rich Men will all vote for her.

This movie is sooo good it’s like a new movie starring Marilyn Monroe herself. And as always the public cannot get enough of her.

“The Envelope, Please!’

Was this year’s Oscar race over by TIFF?

It seems to me after seeing David Letterman go berserk over Natalie Portman and “The White Swan” that this year’s major Oscar races were over by TIFF. The Toronto International Film Festival 2010 gave its’ People’s Choice Award to “The King’s Speech.” The first two press screenings were for, at the same time of day, 9AM(!) “The King’s Speech” and “The White Swan.” And I’m happy to say I was the first one in line for “The King’s Speech,” having gotten up at 6 AM to get there to line up at 8:15 for the screening at 9.

When everyone saw “The King’s Speech” and “The White Swan” it was clear that Colin Firth was going to win Best Actor and that for “The White Swan” Natalie Portman was going to win Best Actress. And also that “The King’s Speech” was going to also be a very strong contender for Best Picture.

I remember saying to Anne Thompson, of Thompson on Hollywood at www.Indiewire.com , and it was the first time I had ever met her, posing the question “Is it just going to come down to ‘The King’s Speech’ for Best Picture versus ‘The Social Network.'” And y’know, that’s STILL the case three months later…

And what did the wise Anne T say in response?

 “I want to see ‘True Grit’.” And we’re all still waiting on that one! Too!

So, nothing has changed since TIFF and Natalie Portman and Colin Firth had already won their Oscars that first morning. TIFF is more important than ever as a launching pad.

And if Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush also win for Supporting!?!? Well, then the ENTIRE RACE was decided that cool morning at TIFF!

Vanessa Redgrave & James Earl Jones Magnificent “Daisy”!

Just when you think this terrific, multitudinous Broadway season couldn’t get any more bountiful – Suddenly! There are two of the greatest actors of our time the hitting never-dreamed-of theatrical heights in “Driving Miss Daisy.” That would be Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in what is surely going to be considered one of the highpoints of their already legendary careers.

This is great acting of the highest order. The likes of which we rarely if ever see on Broadway. And how do they accomplish this amazing, but not wholly unexpected feat? Well, Vanessa Redgrave does it by utterly underplaying the sour, snippy, uppity, totally self-righteous Miss Daisy, who is a spritely 72 when the play starts in 1948.

Miss Daisy has crashed her car into her neighbors’ garage and now is no longer allowed to drive. And her doting son, Boolie (Boyd Gaines, who is just serviceable here) insists that she get a “colored” chauffeur to make sure she gets from point A to point B without catastrophe. And thereby hangs quite a tale and a play that proves itself here to be a durable American classic.

Miss Daisy  Wertham is Jewish and rich, but she’s the type who can pinch a penny until it screams. She comes from an impoverished background herself, and climbed to freedom and respectabilty through education,  becoming a school teacher  and eventually marrying her rich (now late) husband, the father of Mr.Gaines’ character.

“We had NOTHING!” Redgrave’s voice rises for one of the few times in the Alfred Uhry’s 1987 Pulitizer Prize-Winning play, “NOTHING!” But she does it all with a control and a simplicity that is startling, in that it renders this very familiar play, fresh as…well, a daisy!

Miss Redgrave only lets the gestures fly or her voice ring when she’s onstage with her son Boolie( Mr. Gaines), as his less-than-doting mother. Miss Daisy’s maternal instincts run to the nasty, the snide put-downs of her ever-helpful, ernestly do-gooding son. She’s quite insufferable as a mother.

HOWEVER,  when James Earl Jones finally enters the play (it seemed like it took forever to get them into their famous car-ride together) Redgrave hands the play totally over to him. On a veritable silver platter of well-seasoned acting chops. She gets very, very simple and true, and just let’s James Earl Jones rip the roof off the Golden Theater.

Jones, when we first see him is a shockingly-aged figure. White hair, he’s almost bent over double, with what one hopes is a character choice and not osteoporosis. He seems eager to make some extra money, desperate almost for a job. Especially driving a white lady of “means.” As if to make double-sure, he shuffles and “Yes’M”s and “No,’M”s drip from his lips, shockingly often, and in Jones’ sonorous voice, here controlled like I’ve never seen him before, they sound like honey, and fall throughout the play as naturally as Southern rain. The naturalness of their frequency locks Hoke into his subservient role, like a vise.

And when the Two Greats get together, the sparks fly. And how do they soar so? By absolutely, completely disappearing into their characters in this play that has NEVER,  ever been done on Broadway. Ever. After this magnificent revival, it will be done all the time now.

This theatrical power couple par excellence banish thoughts of the great 1989 cinematic version, which won the Oscar for Best Picture that year and Jessica Tandy was named Best Actress. Making her the oldest Best Actress recipient ever. Morgan Freeman, who also originated the role in the stage play, Off-Broadway, was nominated, but didn’t win.Though he did eventually garner a Supporting Actor Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby.”

Jones, who’s never won an Oscar, but has Two Tonys to his credit for “The Great White Hope” and “Fences,” just takes the part of Hoke and runs with it. Or drives with it, right into the theatrical firmament. And our hearts. And memories.

It’s one of his greatest performances, and hers, too. Taking his cue from her, Jones is also totally without frills and simple, simple, simple.  And as the times change (“Miss Daisy” starts in 1948 and goes on through the tumultous civil right area and into the ’70s) the power shifts from the back seat to the front seat. And when Miss Daisy’s synagogue is bombed, Jones’ Hoke is all protection and help for the distraught, disbelieving Miss Daisy.

You know he knows just how ugly Southern racism of that time can be. Whether it’s directed at Jews or at Blacks, it’s all the same thing, the playwright is saying.

When Hoke describes the lynching of a relative he witnessed as a young boy to the thunderstruck Miss Daisy, Jones is simplicity and quiet, heart-rending eloquence itself. He is also echoing a similarly, frighteningly effecting scene in the “Scottsboro Boys.” The Kander & Ebb musical, playing two blocks away, on the other side of Broadway and it chronicles the horrors and  the injustices 1920s & 30s South. And in the South of Miss Daisy’s 1940s & 50s world it is alive still. Hoke can’t eat at the restaurants Miss Daisy does. And he has to go in, always, by the back door.

Playwright Alfred Uhry, who never again reached the theatrical heights with anything else he ever wrote for the stage (though I did enjoy his “Last Night at Ballyhoo.”) surprises here, too. Because instead of being lost in a big, Broadway house, his “Driving Miss Daisy” OWNS it and fills the space,  and now in Vanessa Redgrave’s and James Earl Jones’ caring hands, we see that his characters are immortal.

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