a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Best Director’

Oscars at the Moment, Before the Election

jackie-1Oscars in early November. Things are getting clearer. Could the National Election itself have an impact on Oscar? We’ll see, but now, if it did, it would be the political movie of the year “Jackie” that gets carried forward. It’s a reminder of how decent and moral the people running the country were in the time of Camelot. The Kennedy Years seem light years away from the partisan horror of this current chilly November moment.

“Jackie” has the gravitas that “La La Land” simply does not. And they’re hiding “La La Land” from the East Coast critics. I STILL haven’t seen it. There’s been no big deal press screenings scheduled. Is it because they think the New York establishment isn’t going to like a musical film, a love story, yet, that glorifies LOS ANGELES? I can think of no other reason for “La La Land”s distributors holding it back like this. It wasn’t at the NYFF, if that means anything. But I do think it’s a little suspicious.

Certainly the curators of the NYFF COULD have chosen it to play if they wanted to. There was certainly room. And I’ve heard that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can’t sing. Or can’t sing well enough to carry a movie musical.la-la-land-1 I hope of course that they can, and I look forward to, musical comedy queen that I am, to enjoying its’ delights immensely. viola-davis-fences-1Also still unseen is “Fences” the late August Wilson’s adaptation of his own screenplay with Denzel Washington directing himself  in his Tony-winning role and co-starring of course, the great Viola Davis, reprising HER Tony winning role. Davis has now won herself an Oscar for sure, by putting herself in the Supporting category. But how good is the film? Is it as great on film as it was onstage? Or is it going to seem long, and talky and “stagey”?

August Wilson,esteemed to such an extent that he has a New York Broadway theater named after him, never lived to see any of his many plays translated successfully into film. I hope Denzel has worked his directorial as well as his actor’s magic. Will he also be up for a Best Actor Oscar? His third. Or will it go to now the supposed front-runner Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” If “Manchester” is going to win something big, and it’s so good, it should, then maybe it’s Casey Affleck who’s the beneficiary and not the film.

manchester-by-the-sea-5When we see “Fences” we will know, but right now Casey Affleck is at number one in the estimation of the Gold Derby-ites AND the Gurus o’ Gold, of which I was a member. Once upon a time. In a galaxy, far, far away…

Best Supporting Actor is much harder to parse right now, so I won’t, but don’t expect small, gay, indie “Moonlight” to score. If the Academy is going to go for a small, racially charged indie, I think it’s going to be “Loving.” It’s a superb little film that grows in the mind and lingers like a haunting refrain.  Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as I’ve posited earlier are both going to get nominated for Best Actress and Actor, respectively, and I think even its’ terrific young director Jeff Nichols will too. Replacing “Moonlight.” In both Best Picture and Best Director.loving-1

If this year it’s going to be OscarsSoBlack, in reaction to last year’s OscarSoWhite, it’s straight “Loving” and “Fences” that will both be nominated for Best Picture. After the rave of raves “Loving” got from Manola Dargis in today’s New York Times, I think THAT’S the indie darling to watch. Not “Moonlight”. If the critically adored “Carol” couldn’t crack it last year then “Moonlight” is certainly a much longer shot at Best Picture or Director.

Only Mahershala Ali in a very small role might get nominated from “Moonlight” in the major categories. That would be as Supporting Actor. But enough Academy members Iin the Actor’s Branch have to see “Moonlight” to nominate him. Will they? And then there’s the terrific Naomie Harris as the drug-addicted mom-from-hell….It worked for Mo’nique in “Precious” and she did no campaigning but she won! Could British actress Harris who so dazzled as Winnie Mandela a few years back in “A Long Walk Home” get nominated, too? That would really be something for this tiny film. And perhaps we might see Black Actors nominated in every category! Wouldn’t that be something new? Something wonderful.

#Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Society of Film Critics Names “Spotlight” Best Film

Spotlight 4The National Society of Film Critics perhaps the most esoteric of the awards-giving critics groups have named “Spotlight” the Best Film of the Year. It also won Best Screenplay. Already way out ahead of every other film this year, “Spotlight” just solidifies its’ lead and is making this year’s Best Picture race seem more like the year “Slumdog Millionaire” trounced everything in its’ path and won every award heading up the ultimate, the Oscars.

Surprisingly, the overlooked Michael P. Jordan won Best Actor for “Creed”.Michael P. Jordon 1

It’s also interesting to note that Geza Rohrig came in second place for “The Son of Saul.” I still think he’s going to get nominated by the Academy for Best Actor. Only Leonardo Di Caprio and Eddie Redmayne are the locks in that category. Anything can happen. Especially with the critical and box-office strength “The Big Short” is showing. Although the National Society didn’t give it anything. Although it came in third for Screenplay behind the winner “Spotlight” and the stop-action animated film by Charlie Kaufman.

Best Actress went to Charlotte Rampling who really needed this boost for “45 Years.”Charlotte Rampling 1 Best Supporting Actress  Kristen Stewart for “The Clouds of Sils Maria.” Second place went to Alicia Vikander for “Ex Machina” solidifying her march to TWO possible nominations as I’ve noted in the previous post.Ex Machina 2 Supporting for “Ex Machina” sexy, manipulative robot Eva and in Lead for “The Danish Girl.” The Awards Coronation of Vikander is well underway.

And Best Supporting Actor is once again Mark Rylance for “The Bridge of Spies” for his comical/sad/shifty Russian spy, who also doubles as a painter. Rylance a four-time Tony Award winner is beginning to be the assumed front-runner for the Steven Spielberg Cold War spy thriller.

Best Director was also surprisingly Todd Haynes for “Carol.” It also won Best Cinematography for the great Ed Lachman beautiful 16 mm. lensing of this Patricia Highsmith lesbian love story.Carol 3

“Son of Saul”s Geza Rohrig Talks Oscar

Son of Saul 3

Unknown Hungarian actor and poet Geza Rohrig has found himself catapulted by the Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, the excoriating, unforgettable “Son of Saul” into the middle of the Oscar race.
“It’s all very nice,” he says modestly,” But I cannot make these things happen.” But they ARE happening, as Sony Pictures Classics begins to propel “Son of Saul” into all categories including Best Picture, not just Best Foreign Film, and Rohrig into Best Actor.
Part of that propulsion is the unaffected, unassuming Rohrig giving interviews on just that topic and “Son of Saul” in general, in New York’s Sony Building, gayly decorated for Christmas. And guarded like Fort Knox.
The security getting into the upper reaches of the Phillip Johnson designed skyscraper was intense. I had to even show my passport, which they photographed!
But at the top of a winding staircase, festooned with evergreen and red and white Christmas balls sat Geza Rohrig, in a large corporate conference room. He was casually dressed  in a gray T-shirt and jeans, wearing that flattened black cap, he is most often photographed in these days and a several day growth of actor’s stubble. Looking the absolute scruffy antithesis of the corporate Christmas milieu surrounding him.
He seems stunned but pleased and a little overwhelmed by all the awards talk revolving around him.
“But it is very good for the film. I hope it allows more people see it.”
I point out that Hollywood has a recent history, almost a tradition, of awarding previously unknown foreign actors, who give extraordinary performances, with an Oscar. Marion Cotillard with “La Vie En Rose,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” and Jean Dujardin in “The Artist.” Last year, Marion Cotillard popped up again in Best Actress for a Belgian film in French “One Day, Two Nights.”
Rohrig smiled when I told him this. It was something I hadn’t seen before. He doesn’t smile much in “Son of Saul.”
There’s no doubt about it. Geza Rohrig has one of the great screen faces. His face, ravaged, sullen, dirty, frightening is front and center in the middle of the screen in a very, very tight close-up for almost every shot in the film. Set in Auschwitz itself, the most notorious and horrifying Nazi death camp of all, we only see what is happening in the edges of the screen.
Except for Rohrig’s astoundingly expressive face, which is IN focus, the periphery is out of focus. It’s as if his character, the Sodocommandant Saul is seeing only what it is necessary for him to see, only what he can glancingly observe, as he is made to do the dirtiest of the Nazi’s dirty work.
At one point, a Nazi commandant complains in German, “We are getting 10,000 more tonight!”
Rohrig estimates that 20,000 Jews were killed per day. “And one in three were Hungarian Jews.”
Rohrig is a Jew himself. He describes himself as “Modern Orthodox,” and Laszlo Nemes, the gifted young Hungarian director is Jewish and this is his first film. Nemes claims it took him a very long time to get “Son of Saul” made.
Says Rohrig, “It was very hard to get the money to make this film. People did not want to give money to the story of a Sodocommandant. It was too controversial. They were the lowest of the low. They were Jews who killed Jews. People did not want to see this. They did not want this story to be told. Sodocommants were just as much victims as the other Jews. They were going to be killed, too. But they were lied to, and told them that this is what they would have to do if they wanted to survive. Of course, every four months they then were killed, too.”
Sodocommandants were the burly, muscular Jews who were kidnapped by the Germans, but saved to do the hard, horrifying labor at the concentration camps, herding the thousands into the gas chambers, locking the doors on the victims, and then taking out the “pieces” as the Nazi described the dead bodies, and putting them in the blazing furnaces.They then had to shovel out the ashes of the dead and dump the ashes in the nearby river.
All of this we see Rohrig’s Saul do, doggedly punched, pushed and pulled literally every step of the way.
But of course, it didn’t save them.
“They were liquidated every four months. I think that we see Saul in his second month there. He is in deep  trauma. He can’t react. He is like a robot.”
It is to Rohrig’s everlasting credit that Saul Auslander (literally Saul the outsider) paints such an indelible portrait of a Sodocommandant, who is still sentient and who is trying desperately to hold on to his sanity as the world around him becomes more and more insane.
He even believes a dying boy from the gas chambers is his son, and goes on a missiion to save the boy’s dead body and give him a proper Jewish burial. He searches the hundreds of daily, new arrivals to see if one of them might be a rabbi.
“He is in hell,” says Rohrig simply.
Rohrig has had a lifetime fascination with Auschwitz. As a young student of 19, at a Hungarian Arts School, he traveled there to see it and then returned to rent a room near Auschwitz and stayed there for a month.
” I went to Auschwitz every day and stayed there all day long. I had to see it. I had to absorb it. It was the end of my childhood. It was the end of my innocence. I learned just what the world was. I saw a pile of children’s shoes…”his voice trailing off. As if unable to explain the impact of the death camp on him as a young man.
It has stayed with him to this day, and it is probably that profound knowledge and the sensibility that drew director Nemes to him for this demanding role of Saul.
Rohrig gives Nemes all the credit. “It is not me. It is him. It is his vision.”
Rohrig read the script and auditioned and was cast in the part, and what changed as they worked on it and tried to raise the money to shoot it, was the radical placement of the camera.
“It was RIGHT HERE,” he says gesturing,”30 inches away from my face. It was THIS close all the time. It was very heavy, all that equipment.It was always following me.”
Nemes’ camerawork captures every glance, every tiny movement of  every muscle in Rohrig’s ravaged face. Sometimes we see it with the back of his head in the shot. Even the back of Rohrig’s head and his hunched hairy shoulders are expressive. And on the back of his dirty clothes is sewn a gigantic yellow Jewish star.
“We have to try to understand how human beings could to this to other human beings. But it is not just the Jews. There are genocides that are happening today. Darfur.Rwanda. It hasn’t changed. I am very pessimistic. There is still evil in the world.”
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This was the day of the San Bernardino shootings.
“But it is my job, Laszlo and me, to stand up and tell this story over and over and over again. So people don’t forget. But we wanted to tell it differently. From one person’s perspective. It is one day in his life. We just wanted the audience to see what he sees. It is the great thing Laszlo has done with this film. He wanted to put the viewer THERE.”
And Rohrig and Nemes have succeeded mightily. Just that week it won the New York Film Critics Best First Film and the National Board of Review named it the Best Foreign Film. And Oscar is knocking on their door.
“Well, we will see. I go to L.A. soon.(Rohrig currently lives in the Bronx) They should give something to the cinematographer and the sound, too, ” he says perspicaciously. And I agree. For while, you don’t SEE everything, you HEAR it. The sound design and mixing are incredible on “Son of Saul.”
It’s one of the best films of the year. And one of the best holocaust movies every made, and one of the greatest films of all time.

 

Oscar, Oscar, Who’s Got the Oscar(Buzz)? Geza Rohrig, anyone? Don’t laugh! It could happen!

son of saulArmy of OscarsI can’t remember a year when Oscar was so upside down and backwards. And maybe that’s a good thing. Since when has Best Actor been skimpy and Best Actress so jammed?!? I can’t remember when, if ever, this hMatt Damon 1as not happened before. Simply. Something new under the Hollywood sun and how rare is that?

What the Tom Toms are beating is that Michael Fassbender and “Steve Jobs” are currently dying the Oscar death, being yanked mid-run from so many theaters across the country that it’s almost uncountable. Just go and and try to find that movie tonight at a theater near you. Nobody’s going. Where are they? They’re all having a grand ole time at “The Martian” which even in Imax and 3-D is still playing everywhere, and Matt Damon is going to be nominated for Best Actor and director Ridley Scott could win Best Director.

Matt has never won Best Actor, although he did win way back when he was a mere slip of a lad for co-writing the Best Screenplay with best bud Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting.”

But Matt has some stiff competition from Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” which is just about to explode into cinemas as “Steve Jobs” hastily departs. Also Michael Fassbender will NOT campaign. And Matt Damon and Eddie Redmayne are EVERYWHERE. Or soon will be. At every Hwood party and gathering that they can possibly get into, charming everyone, everywhere.Eddieandlilli

And then there’s the darkest of dark horses in one of the Best Films of All Time, never mind this year.It’s Geza Rohrig, the unknown Hungarian actor. who is playing the title role in the just-about-to-be-released masterpiece “The Son of Saul.” Don’t laugh! It COULD happen!

The Academy has a thing about nominating unknown foreigners. Hell, they even sometimes WIN, like Jean DuJardin in “The Artist.” Or Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” way back when. It’s an Academy tradition.

I’ve heard that Sony Pictures Classics, who has the magnificent, smart honor of releasing “Son of Saul,” is going to throw everything including the kitchen sink at it, Rohrig, Best Picture and Best Director, too for Laszlo Nemes. It’s his first feature. He’s got a great story to tell, and so do his cinematographer Matyas Erdely and particularly his sound editor and sound mixing team. It was in post-production for something like five years!.

And this is also Rohrig’s first film. He’s a 39-year-old poet, of all things, who lives in Manhattan.

Did I say it’s set in the middle of the Halocaust at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp? Since this incredibly tight close-up is ALWAYS (or almost always) focused on Rohrig’s desperate face, he’s front and center EVERY second of this darkest of dark films. It may be considered the best film ever made on the Holocaust.And Rohrig carries it.

Rohrig’s painful, gut-wrenching performance will be hard for Academy members to ignore. His ravaged. savaged face IS the whole fllm. And since we never see much outside of his peripheral vision, we HEAR it! And it’s blood-curdling. As he, Saul, a Sodocammadant, a Jew, who has to do all the dirty work that no one else will do. He has to herd the Jewish victims to their deaths, slamming the gas chambers doors on them,listening to their screams, then quickly taking all “the pieces” as they call the bodies out, and scrubbing the floors clean so the next group won’t see any of their blood.

It’s going to score in soooo many categories its’ going to make pundits heads spin, who’ve left him, and it, off most of their current lists. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, the Vulcan award for sound design, the Francois Chalais prize, and the Fipresci. How can the Academy ignore these distinctions?

Watch out of “Son of Saul” is all I can say. To ignore it’s profound achievement is to ignore what is going to soon be considered an un-disputed masterpiece.

I’m the Oscar Messenger. I’m telling you the Oscar Message. I’ve read it already and this year it was written in Hungarian and said “Son of Saul”

Joanna Froggatt “Downtown” Classiest Winner Golden Globes, J.K. Simmon & Patricia Arquette also triumph

Joanna Frogatt“Downtown Abbey”s very own Joanna Froggatt, who played the rape victim Anna won in her TV category( Supporting Actress TV/mini-series) and gave tonight’s classiest acceptance so far. Claiming that she hopes she was able to give a voice to similarly affected women everywhere. J. K. Simmons also won as expected for his sadistic/funny/frightening/enlightening music-teacher-from-hell in the great “Whiplash”. Huge, thunderous applause for him. And also for Patricia Arquette who also marched to her expected win for “Boyhood” as the Mom of Moms. Both gave perfectly poised speeches that will probably ensure that they will give MANY, MANY more & similar speeches on their way to their inevitable Oscar wins in a month and a half.

Out-of-the-blue winner so far(it’s still going on) was Amy Adams for “Big Eyes.” She also won last year at the Globes for “American Hustle” in the same category. Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. She looked depressed and sad on the Red Carpet. No longer. She’s fine. But probably won’t get an Oscar nomination for “Big Eyes” which is perceived as a flop.

Chalk this one up to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s wanting to give Harvey(Weinstein) SOMEthing. May means his other films won’t win tonight. That measn YOU “Imitation Game.”

Best Screenplay went, inexplicably, to “Birdman.”

Best Score went to “Theory of Everything.”

And Richard Linklater, whose a helluva nice guy, one of the nicest film directors I’ve ever interviewed, won, of course, for “Boyhood.”  Probably signaling “Boyhood” will win Best Picture.

They’ve saved the BIG awards, in film, for the last 45 minutes.

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Who gets Most Oscar Help from BAFTAS? Chiwetel Ejiofor, that’s who!

Who gets Most Oscar Help from BAFTAS? Chiwetel Ejiofor, that's who!

It certainly looks like “12 Years a Slave” is going to win Best Picture and Alfonso Cuaron is going to win Best Director if you judge by tonight’s BAFTA Awards in London. But we knew that already going in.

Who is helped the most in the top categories? It for sure is British Black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor who had his first win tonight for “12 Years a Slave” and his magnificent performance in it.

Leo DiCaprio was there. And he looked pretty pissed in the cut-away shots they showed of him. Just like George Clooney looked in the year he ALMOST, but not quite, had the BAFTA Best Actor in his grasp for “The Descendants” only to see French heartthrob Jean Dujardin win for “The Artist.” And Dujardin went on to win the Oscar, too..

Chiwetel could upset Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar apple-cart, that’s for damn sure.Leo is now oficically out. “Wolf of Wall Street” was shut out completely by the Brits tonight. And “Dallas Buyer’s Club”s two front-running(supposedly) stars McConaughey and Jared Leto were not even nominated in Bligthy. So they couldn’t compete here.

This gave Chiwetel a chance to give a beautiful, moving speech, which he did. So Matthew “Awright, Awright, Awright” McC. you better watch out!

But Jared Leto, you’re OK. They are not going to give the Oscar to first time actor Barkhad Abdi for “Capt. Phillips” who surprisingly won the BAFTA over Irish actor Michael Fassbender for “12 Years”. Leto looks set to continue his march to the Dolby, as does Cate Blanchett in Best Actress for “Blue Jasmine.” Who was pure class in her acceptance speech, not even mentioning Woody Allen, but instead dedicating her award to her late friend, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

And what to make of Jennifer Lawrence WHO WASN”T EVEN THERE to accept her also surprising Best Supporting Actress win over favorite, the beautiful, brilliant Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years.”?

Well, JLaw was snubbed last year for Best Actress by BAFTA who awarded Emmanuel Riva for “Amour” instead. JLaw was memorably filmed looking awfully embarassed as she was there to win, but stayed in her seat. So I think the BAFTA membership was making up for last year’s no-show. But Lawrence not wanting to repeat that awful faux pas. Didn’t even come. And she won.And she didn’t even BOTHER to come.

JLaw doesn’t have the momentum this year that the lovely Lupita does. And the Academy here is NOT going to give Lawrence ANOTHER Oscar when she got one last year. “She already won!” is what everyone is saying about JLaw’s skilled comic performance in “American Hustle.” So I think Lupita,, Vogue magazine’s “It” Girl, should be just FINE.

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And the Oscar Goes to…

And the Oscar Goes to...

Well, it’s a little premature to say that but that indeed is the name of the marvelous documentary by Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein that was commissioned by TCM, Turner Classic Movie, for this marvelous month they have every year entitled ’30 days of Oscar.”

It started airing tonight and its essential viewing for all you Oscarologists out there. glamorous, gorgeous, sumptuous, moving, extremely well-costumed and all the adjectives in between “And the Oscar Goes to…” delights for its’ nearly two-hour length.

New to me, the fact that the Academy used to hand out its’ list of winners to the press BEFOREHAND until in 1940, the L.A. Times really jumped the gun and published that year’s information WAY too soon. Henceforth, AMPAS turned its’ tabulations over to Price, Waterhouse, now Price, Waterhouse, Cooper, the accounting firm that has kept the Oscars honest(and top secret) to this day.

Having an awards show without suspense is a rather dreary prospect, and since those days suspense has been an important ingredient in the Oscar season. VERY important. Who’s going to win? Is the big question that is on my mind and Sasha Stone’s mind, and Tom O’Neill’s mind, and David Poland’s mind all year long. And on Harvey Weinstein’s, too, I daresay.

So as we await the Writer’s Guild winners tonight, I can breathlessly say that yes, even mighty http://www.goldderby.com has changed its’ collective mind over what’s going to win Best Picture. Tom O’Neil agrees with Tariq Khan in one of their entertaining podcasts that they both think that “12 Years a Slave” is now going to win Best Picture. Which is what I’ve been saying ever since I saw it in Toronto.

Nothing is going to upset Cate Blanchett’s continuing March of Triumph to Best Actress. UNLESS something shocking happens at the BAFTAS in two weeks. Dame Judi Dench could upset there as the incredibly sympathetic “Philomena”. In fact, the BAFTAS could throw a monkey wrench into a LOT of Oscar campaigns. Like for instance, if Chiwetel Ejiafor wins there, and as a highly regarded British actor, he probably will for his historic portrayal of Solomon Northup, the black man who was kidnapped and spent “12 Years a Slave” prior to the Civil War.

Mathew McConaughey, and also front-runner in Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto, both Oscar nominated for their tremendous work in “Dallas Buyers’ Club” are not even nominated AT ALL for the BAFTAS, so neither can win. And if Ejiofor makes the Speech of Speeches which I think he will…look out, Matthew McConaughey!…

And Michael Fassbender could do the same thing, since he’s nominated,for Best Supporting Actor, and Jared Leto isn’t. Fassbender, of course, plays the evil slave owner Epps. And I’m just betting that the BAFTAS could turn the Oscar race upside own.

And Britisher Steve McQueen will probably win there as Best Director and not Alphonso Cuaron, who won the DGA award for directing “Gravity.” All three of these astoundingly talented men could win and probably will win at the BAFTAS.

So Oscar LOOK OUT!

And as everyone seems to be picking up on Lupita Nyong’O’s star continues to rise and rise in Best Supporting Actress.There’s nothing that can stop her. And I predict she’s a slam dunk for the BAFTAS, too.

So in this quiet period before the BAFTAS happen in London, treat yourself to “30 Days of Oscar” on TCM and don’t miss “And the Oscar Goes to…” Check out the full schedule at http://www.tcm.com

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“Gravity”s Cuaron wins DGA

I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it did.Alphonso Cuaron, the director of “Gravity,” won the very important DGA award last night in Hollywood. Over Steve McQueen’s greater achievement IMHO “12 Years a Slave.” Usually that means a lot but in this split, competitive Year of Years, it may mean that the effects-laden Sci Fi thriller MAY win best director at the Oscars, more than a month away in March. But still not win Best Picture, which would go to “12 Years a Slave.” I have to note that these two titans of filmdom have been duking it out since Toronto, which I find ironic. It’s like if you don’t open at TIFF, fawgedabawdit. And that’s also where I first saw the both of them, in unforgettable screenings at TIFF’13.

Those are five VERY long weeks from now, and the ballots don’t go out to the AMPAS voters for quite a while yet, in Oscar terms, that’s dog years away. And it gives the Academy time to THINK. No. It really does. There’s no impulse, knee-jerk voting going to happen this year, with the Sochi Olympics taking up more TV time than ever. Between this last big gasp from the Industry’s usually all-important guilds, and the receiving of their ballots in the mail and now online, too around President’s Day Weekend. That’s a long, cold Oscar March until March when the Awards are actually handed out.

Now granted “Gravity” is an astounding technical feat, and will probably win all the technical awards, maybe even as many as seven from the below-the-line categories. But maybe it won’t. And instead of rewarding the one woman in this astounding visual tour-de-force, Sandra Bullock, award after award has been going to the amiable Mexican director Cuaron. And now this.

That’s a lot of Oscars right there. But not one for Sandra it seems. Best Actress is going to Cate Blanchett who is the lock of locks in that category for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

So even if Cuaron DOES win Best Director, voters may feel that “Gravity” has had enough already and give the top prize to “12 Years a Slave.” So there’s that SPLIT again. Which certainly looks like it could happen.

It happened at the Golden Globes where “12 YAS” won Best Picture and “Gravity” got Best Director. Ditto the Broadcast Film Critics awards. Then the TIE vote from the usually authoritative PGA, the Producer’s Guild, between “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave.”

But “Gravity” for all it’s technical wonders is an actors nightmare. If this is the future, “Gravity” shows them that there is only ONE actor in it.

Huge epic blockbusters may get close, but they don’t usually win. See “E.T.” v “Gandhi” back in the day. I was always plunking for “Gandhi” even then.(Yes, I’ve been doing Oscar prognosticating THAT long!) or more recently the tiny “Hurt Locker” defeating the huge mega-millions jackpot that was “Avatar” although “THL” won Best Director AND Best Film, for the first time ever woman director winner Kathryn Bigelow over her big bully of an ex, who nobody liked anyway, James Cameron.

This year, I’m still betting that this proLONGed break between now and the voting gives people time to think “Which is REALLY the more important film?” which is in their parlance “An Academy film?” And you’ve got to admit, “Gravity has NO gravitas.

But “12 Years a Slave” does, in spades. Serious social history writ large, taking on the most challenging issue in American history, race, in terms of the worst atrocity Americans have ever perpetuated on other Americans = slavery. And doing it brilliantly on every level.

And oh yes, BAFTA happens in the middle of this prolonged Month of Oscar Silence, where, I predict “12 Years” will win EVERYTHING it’s nominated for, including Best Director, Steve McQueen, whom we must not forget is British.

And a respected fine artist there in the U.K. before he turned into a master film-maker.

Also, nominated there are Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor and Michael Fassbender for Best Supporting Actor, and last but not least, Lupita Nyong’O who is now the front-runner for Best Supporting Actress.

So basically my take is the “Gravity”s Big Win is not going to change things much at all. In the end.

“American Hustle” by David O. Russel~Hustle & Bustle without much Muscle

As Shakespeare said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” That about sums up my reaction to the late-opening “American Hustle” by  David O. Russell, which hustles and bustles without much muscle. It’s ANOTHER Mob movie. ANOTHER one that is trying to out-Scorsese Scorsese, and THANK GOD they’ve got Jennifer Lawrence in this!

In a spectacularly showy Supporting role as one of the dumbest blondes of all time, she absolutely steals the picture. THANK GOODNESS! Or otherwise it would be a very dull sit indeed. It would have been unwatchable, but Jennifer Lawrence makes it a very, funny charming experience. She very much reminded me of that other great dumb blonde Oscar winner Judy Holliday in this.

Lawrence is so appealing as Christian Bale‘s old-fashioned housewife- with-a-kid, who is obsessed with her finger-nail polish. She lights up the screen like a bonfire, never missing one laugh line, or funny moment, and every time she’s absent, you can’t wait for her to come back on again. And writer/director O.Russell uses her sparingly, so you never get tired of her. But you do get tired of the other characters, I’m sorry to say. Real tired.

Having just suffered through “Out of the Furnace” with Bale again in the lead, I was expecting the worst. But at least in this one, he was playing a comic character, a Jewish con-man with pretensions. He owns dry cleaning stores but he wants to own the world. And Lawrence is his trophy wife, who blows up microwaves and enacts her comic role like a poodle in heat.

I didn’t buy Bale’s Yiddish-ness. And he’s pitted against Bradley Cooper who has his hair tightly curled here. Why? To look more Jewish? And  he is seen in curlers A LOT, as are all the leading characters, as a matter of fact, except Bale, who has an elaborate comb-over and who put on quite a bit of  weight of this role. We see a close-up of his bulging stomach, shirtless, just to prove that yes, he’s not in a fat suit. We see him painstakingly creating his comb-over, which takes up the entire first scene of the movie, finishing it off with hair-spray, like he was a super-model…

But to what avail? Con man movies. Mob movies. I just am kind sick of that done-to-death genre, and this involves ABSCAM and a faux-Arab. A FBI plant played stoically by Michael Pena. Robert De Niro pops up, too, as what else? A Mafia chieftain. And Amy Adams, poor thing, who has the female lead, Bale’s con partner and “whore” except next to Jennifer Lawrence, who is just blooming with youth(22) and vital sexuality here, Adams looks old and cold. Worn out. And she should look and seem more alluring than Lawrence. And she doesn’t. She the most miscast she’s ever been. I kept seeing her as the young nun in “Doubt” in my mind.

Mothers or nuns or even intrepid girl reporters like Lois Lane. She was better in the recent  “Superman” re-boot, than she is in this. Sad to say. She deserved better.

But this is what O.Russell hands her.

And I can’t understand the New York Film Critics giving this Best Picture over “12 Years a Slave” It’s criminal. Yes, they did. Unbelievably,. It’s a funny little movie. But Best Picture? New York Film Critics seriously disgraced themselves this year. And Best Screenplay, too??? Seriously??? They gave Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Lawrence, and I would nominate her for an Oscar, were I voting, but I wouldn’t nominate this semi-funny movie for anything else. Except maybe the zippy ’70s hairstyles. You can skip it and live.

Give me the real thing. Give me Scorsese. Or better yet, “Born Yesterday” with Lawrence as Billie Dawn. Directed by Scorsese.

I can’t wait to see the last opening film of the year “Wolf of Wall Street” by Martin Scorsese.

Racist NY Film Critics Ignore “12 Years a Slave” Well, almost

Black director Steve McQueen won Best Director from the New York Film Critics, but otherwise “12 Years a Slave” a masterpiece IMHO was ignored by the NYFCC, the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review. It’s official. There’s a “12 Years a Slave” racist backlash in full swing. And it makes me very angry.

The beneficiaries of this most racist slate of awards voting I’ve ever seen in my adult life of covering entertainment are strangely( but good for them), Ryan Coogler and the actors of “Fruitvale Station”. “Fruitvale Station” is goodness knows about racism and its tragic effects and I’m the first one to cheer for Octavia Spenser, Melonie Diaz and Michael B.Jordan. Coogler scored with all three critics groups, much to his astonishment as I described in the previous post.

If you were handicapping the Oscars (Like Tom O’Neil does on http://www.goldderby.com), you’d have to take note that young Coogler has scored ACROSS THE BOARD.

And the lacerating “12 Years a Slave” did not. “12 Years a Slave” has the disadvantage of being the early front-runner, which as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone says historically is the worst place any deserving film can be. http://www.awardsdaily.com And unfortunately, she’s absolutely right. A pushback, a take-down seemed impossible. But three days of dealing with this VERY bad news for “12YAS” it now seems inevitable.

So word got out that “12 Years a Slave” was a difficult sit. It’s challenging, frightening, electrifying and horribly historically accurate. Which is what makes it great. And I’m ashamed that these cowardly critics turned their faces away from the reality of slavery depicted in this majestic movie. Sasha had a feeling this was going to happen, but I thought if it happened at all it would be in insular L.A. not knowledgeable New York. DISGRACE!

Steve McQueen getting Best Director from the NYFCC is to be applauded of course, but it almost seems like a boobie prize when Best Actor goes to Robert Redford for “All’s in the Wash” And the brilliant, painful performance of Chiwetel Ejiafor is left out!?!? REALLY, New York Film Critics!?!? REALLLLLY?!?!?

And the searing supporting performance of Lupita Nyong’o is ignored by them in favor JENNIFER LAWRENCE?!?!? This is for “American Hustle” the David O. Russell film which I haven’t seen yet. I’m sure she’s fine. But REALLY, New York Film Critics?!?!? Really?!?! For SHAME!!!! A BIMBO over an abused slave?!?!? And to ad insult to injury, they named “American Hustle” best picture!?!??!?

And while Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere has a source that says voting for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress were THAT CLOSE. I mean, Michael Fassbender’s choice to go film in New Zealand and ignore the whole thing seems a wise one.

I thought we lived in an enlightened age. But I guess not, Chiwetel and Lupita losing to TWO BLONDS?!? Robert Redford and Jennifer Lawrence is just unconscionable.

I protest!

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