a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Black and White’

“Roma” One the Best Films You’ll Ever See

This year I saw one of the best films I’ll ever see, bar none, and it was the NYFF centerpiece film “Roma.” Mexican Oscar-winning(director for “Gravity)Alfonso Cuaron has done the seemingly impossible follow-up to that intergalactic magisterial feature. He has turned the camera inward and backward. To his childhood in Mexico City. And he’s done it in Black and White! And it is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and one of the best films I’ll ever see. Ever.
The most unlikely of subjects, the inner(and outer) life of a maid, the brilliant Yalitza Aparicio. She has never acted before and she just takes your breath away as Cleo. The put-upon, multliple-dutied nanny, housekeeper, laundress and mother of the earth. She really is the glue that is holding this upper-middle class doctor’s family together as they seem to be falling apart. 
Her story is galvanic, epic and heart-breaking and Aparicio embodies everything that is noble and good in 1970 Mexico, which is a scene of almost constant class conflict and wars. You know Cleo is more than capable of the humble, quotidian of chores she is tasked to do, but where else can she go? She clings to her menial job as if it were a pair of well-worn rosary beads. She prays for her hired family and we pray for her to transcend their problems, as they treat her and mistreat her, as all servants are treated. You know if she loses this job, with this her adopted family, she will lose her life.

Yalitza Aparicio could and should get nominated for Best Actress, as Cuaron certainly will be for Best Director. He also wrote the screenplay. He also shot it. He also co-produced it and co-edited it. And every gorgeous black and white shot should be framed as a work of art, even though he is photographing the most ordinary things.

Cuaron had a nanny Lebo, and that’s who Cleo is based on. And when he showed the completed film to her, she burst into tears, as I did watching it. This film is a love poem to her. And to all mothers and unselfish care-givers. To tell you any more of the plot, of what happens to Cleo, as it all rings so true, it hurts. It would spoil it.  It will break your heart. “Roma,” the name of the area of Mexico City the film is set in, in simply the best film he’s ever done, and a masterpiece.

“The Artist” Wins Best Picture & Director at BFCA! Also Best SCORE & Costumes!!

I have to say that watching the Broadcast Film Critics Awards tonight was like reading a RRREALLY long book that you wanted to put down, but some how couldn’t, then SUDDENLY a surprise happy ending! And you just LOVE the way things turned out, but you still wish you didn’t have to read the whole book.

At the VERY end of the evening, Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director! Then, he did and made an utterly charming, funny speech, I knew “The Artist” was going to win Best Picture! And then it did! And as Michel called his entire table up on to the stage, the show ended.:( But “The Artist” did win more awards than any other film tonight four. BP, Director, Best SCORE(Take THAT! Kim Novak!) and Best Costumes!

I wish Jean Dujardin had won Best Actor instead of George Clooney, who seemed incredibly smug and entitled. He tried to out-do Viola Davis in terms of a hardscrabble background “I-Come-From-A-Sharecropping-Grandfather” & even more embarrassing “My-mother-used-to-make-my-clothes. “Ick.

It was the only award “The Descendants” won. Shailene Woodley lost TWICE. Once for Best Young Actor/Actress and then also for Supporting Actress, bad news for her Oscar nom. chance. The award for Best Young Actor  went to Thomas Horn, that little boy from “Extremely…” who called it by the Internet abbrev. of its’ initials ELAIC. ” E=Lake” or something like that. This was one of the few real surprises of the night.

I swear they all must’ve known Clooney was going to win because they seemed to keep cutting to him all evening. And he presented their humanitarian award to Sean Penn, who actually was IN Haiti. They spoke via satellite, and again Penn and Haiti completely upstaged and outclassed him.

George was acting like he had won already and was hosting a night club act somewhere.

And I’m a FAN! He’s been on my show! But no, George this was not your finest hour.

Doing really well earlier in the evening was Christopher Plummer who won as we alllll knew he would for “Beginners.” Every other joke he said was funny. But given that he’s 82, we all should look so good. And he seemed like he was in his 60s. Not his age at all.

They kept showing Michelle Williams in shadow. Uh-oh. Not good, I thought. And Meryl and Harvey Weinstein were seen smiling and joking. Meryl was enjoying herself more than I’d ever seen her do at one of these events in YEARS

“The Help” won BIG with three awards, behind “The Artist” which had four who besides Best Picture and Director won Best Costumes& Best Score. Those last two awards were given out BEFORE air-time.

“The Help” won Best Supp. Actress, Best Actress and Best Ensemble. Which allowed Octavia Spenser to make TWO speeches! So she had a “do-over” she called it. Which was funny.

She had the most strange look on her face when she won. It wasn’t happy. More chagrined. Like “Oh no! NOW what do I do?”  She totally didn’t expect, and neither did I. contrary to what Stu Vanairsdale was saying week after week on his Oscar Index. He always had Octavia at #1 all season long. Ditto Christopher Plummer for “Beginners.” But he had “The Artist” & Michel Hazanaviscius all season, too. So kudos to Stu! 4 1/2 out of 6 isn’t bad.

But he was wrong about Jean Dujardin winning 😦 It was annoying GEORGE.

And also only this week did Stu, on his great Oscar Index at www.movieline.com , have Meryl and Viola TYING for “Best Actress.”

And in a very, very red dress, Viola Davis DID give a very affecting speech. And she looked very shocked when she won.

But it wasn’t a tie. And let’s face, “The Help” is a film that the BFCA loved, they really loved. And “Iron Lady” is a critical disaster except for Meryl’s performance….But Meryl immediately stood up when Viola won. And applauded her enthusiastically. Classy. Something it seemed the rest of the room, except “The Help”s table, was not doing.

But nightmare of nightmares that EW cover of last week came true tonight! But will it continue? George & Viola. Will it continue? I wonder….

“Hugo” got nothing. But Martin Scorcese did recieve a quasi life-time achievement award called, strangely, “Film + Music.” I guess that’s the consolation prize of the evening.

“Bridesmaid” won for Best Comedy, then, an entire troup of MEN, ascended the stage and this was supposed to be the big break-through FEMALE movie and it was all men! Embarassing Embarrassing. And Judd Apatow, who was the producer, accepting and every other word had to be bleeped. Which I guess was funny, kinda.

And then he had to be reminded to thank the two female writers…Kristen Wiig and her writing partner. HE NEARLY FORGOT TO MENTION THEM! Was he more embarrassing than George Clooney? No, Clooney was more.

And they had two dreadful comic hosting this always-tacky, subpar presentation. Where is Ricky Gervais when you really need him?

Well, he’ll be there on Sunday, hosting the Golden Globes who I HOPE do not just repeat the four winners we had tonight. Clooney, Davis, Plummer & Spenser in a quartet lock-step, which is what has happened for the past two years.

So in a sense, we’ve already seen this year’s winners(I hope not) and so now the excitement goes out of the Oscar Balloon, and we’ll all be bored to death by the time the Oscars roll around.

Oh Golden Globes! I hope you do something different on Sunday and not just award the same four people!

Well, there’s the musical/comedy category which Jean Dujardin for Best Actor for “The Artist” should triumph in. And Michelle Williams will win Best Actress in a Musical or a Comedy. For sure. Harvey W. hasn’t finished working his magic yet.

Oscar, a palpable presence at “The Artist” junket NYC!

Yes, I felt Oscar IN THE ROOM! There was a presence that I could really, really feel today at “The Artist”s press junket in NYC and I’ve come to the conclusion that I felt Oscar him/itself there. Everyone was sooo happy! I’ve never seen this before! EVAH! And for a comedy???

Well, Woody Allen never does press things like this. Or not much.

He did subject himself to a print media only press conference last year for “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” and I did meet him there. He’s wonderful. What can you say? He’s Woody. And I’ve just seen “Midnight in Paris” EIGHT TIMES!

Well, it’s gonna be a very French year at the Oscars, I predict. Between “Midnight…” and “The Artist”s charming French stars and director…I really do think it’s between the two of these light-as-air Gallic breezes of up-beat comedies for Best Picture this year.

The biggest difference? Well, let’s say DIALOGUE. “The Artist” is a silent film. And also color. “The Artist” is in Black and White. No I’m not kidding. It really IS.

What was one of Alice’s tasks in “Through the Looking Glass”? Trying to imagine eight impossible things before breakfast?

Well, you can count the improbable, but very palpable rise of “The Artist” as at least two or maybe three or maybe FOUR of those impossible things.

1) It’s in Black and White

2) It’s Silent

3) It’s French. And a French film, made by French people has never won the Oscar

4) It’s a comedy

5) It’s star Jean DuJardin as very likely a Best Actor nominee(and he may WIN. See below..)

6)It’s comely leading lady, French actress Berenice Bejos will probably be nominated for Best Supporting Actress

Oh, well, that’s SIX impossible things right there.

That this small, short(100 mins.) black and white silent film just continues like Alice herself to just rise and rise and rise ~ all the way to the Oscars…probably. Well, it’s “most improbable” is most probably what Alice would say.

There was something in the air this morning. An elan. A delightful sparkle. Something had happened to alllll those present. And I do think it was that Oscar had announced himself to all and sundry that yes, they were all going to go to the Kodak Pavillion come February.

And they ALL knew it. And all were smiling, smiling, smiling…

When I said something to this effect to Berenice Bejos, the winsome Peppy Miller, the ingenue who charlestons her way into our hearts AND the heart of “The Artist” himself, Jean Valentin, (DuJardin) this morning she said “That’s what everyone keeps telling us.” And I really did believe that everyone, and not just me, was saying this to Mlle. Bejos.

And this time it wasn’t just me (or someone like Hollywood-Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells, at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com who went off on a supportive spree for this low-budget indie “Tyrannosaur” hosting three screenings in L.A. There were only TWO in NYC, and I couldn’t make either of them.) it wasn’t just me, or Jeff, going off and on about falling in love with a movie. This time “The Artist” was a movie EVERYONE had already fallen in love with. HARD .There wasn’t a cynical smirk in the room.

And I, Oscarologist that I am, really DO feel it’s going to win something. And win something BIG like “Best Picture” or Best Actor for Jean DuJardin or maybe BOTH!

It will certainly get nominated for everything under the sun, the Hollywood sun, because yes, this satire and loving tribute to silent films, was actually made and shot in Hollywood employing many below the line technical people in L.A. where the verisimilitude of making Old Hollywood movies, really never has gone far from where it all started.

And authentic “The Artist” certainly seems to be. Except that it’s made by French people. The director the almost unpronounceable Michel(pronounced like “Michelle” as in “Michelle Williams”) wait for it. Hazanavicius. Which is pronounced like the words “Hosannah!” as it “Yippee!” andvis-e-use, as only the French can pronounce that last syllable like is “ooze.” Or “Yoose”

And it’s two out-of-ballpark charming French stars Jean DuJardin and the aforementioned Mlle. Bejos( pronounced like Bay-Jo, with a hard “j”) who is the director, M. Hazanavicius’ wife IRL.

And of course, the unseen star, Harvey Weinstein,  the canny producer who bought this French bon-bon (Tom O’Neil’s descriptive word for “The Artist” and he’s right. Read his classic Oscar site www.goldderby.com for MORE on The Race) at Cannes, mais oui, in all its’ black and white gorgeousness and Harvey, the Oscar Whisperer (as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone calls him at www.awardsdaily.com ) is VERY effective at these improbable Oscar feats. Like perhaps grabbing an Oscar win in Best Picture for a BLACK AND WHITE film with NO DIALOGUE at all, and perhaps more likely, an Oscar for Best Actor for Jean Dujardin.

Hey, I know it sounds crazy, but he’s done this before with a foreign film actor, the Italian comedian Roberto Benigni. Yes, he DID win Best Actor. For “Life Is Beautiful” I know it sounds impossible, but this is absolutely TRUE!

So Harvey and the Academy have been down this road before. But yet, have they? I mean, this is a film that yes, is made by and stars French actors, but it’s SILENT!

Harvey is going to argue in the coming months that Jean DuJardin has had the hardest (read “degree of difficulty) role in that he has to make everyone enjoy themselves WITHOUT SAYING A WORD! Now, that’s hard!

And Best Actor is shaping up to be a smack-down(Tom O’Neil’s word again) between three very successful actors, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. All incredible handsome, RICH, and very well established stars. Knocking each other out of competition, or it seems to me, this morning, cancelling each other out….Nothing the Academy hates more than rewarding RICH, GOOD LOOKING guys. OK, GREAT looking guys.  Yeah, it’s true. Just as they LOVE rewarding beautiful young girls, like this year’s Michelle Williams. Who is beyond-belief sexy and fetching as hell, as Marilyn Monroe….The Academy is nothing if not predictable.

And I thought earlier last week(which now seems like LAST YEAR in Oscar-time) that it was going to be Leo as “J.Edgar”, but I was not prepared for the critical drubbing the film got. Homophobia pure and simple, if you ask me, but still there it was landing a low-ball and way-out-side on Rotten Tomatoes. www.rottentomatoes.com And although Leo was praised for his performance…

I think that unexpectedly harsh reception (unexpected by me, I must emphasize) has knocked him down a few pegs and you can see this reflected in Stu Van Airsdale’s Oscar Index where now Jean Dujardin sits right below George Clooney on Stu’s Oscar Index this week. www.movieline.com.

And the Gurus o’ Gold, as I said, have ONLY ONE VOTE separating “The Descendants” and “The Artist.”  ONE VOTE.

And watch what happens next week when BOTH “My Week with Marilyn”‘ AND “The Artist” open ON THE SAME DAY!

Methinks Harvey W. has done it AGAIN!

And you can see my interviews with allllll these wonderful, talented people coming soon to my YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Excellent “Oscar Index” at Movieline asks “Is it February yet?” Lol…

Do I love that Oscar Index, penned by the redoubtable Stu Van Airsdale over at the increasingly necessary www.movieline.com ? Yes! I do! I highly recommend it for its’ humor is as good as anything in the New Yorker. Yes, I have now mentioned the words “Oscar” and “The New Yorker” in the same sentence! I admit it!

I have no ads. So I can say anything. And I do. On my blog. On my TV show.

And Stu’s Oscar Index constantly surprises me! Like for instance the major surprise this week was French actress Berenice Bejos, who I just ADORED in “The Artist,” and was always championing since I saw the movie in Montreal- well, Berenice has now bounced right into the center of the Oscar Index’ Best Supporting Actress chart! And fittingly enough, she’s pictured as a Black and White bobble-head, and like the film, she’s not in color.

“The Artist” won the Hamptons Film Festival Audience choice award this past week, so Harvey W. is once again, a happy Hamptons-goer. Last year, “The King’s Speech” won this award.

Besides the Toronto Film Festival audience award, it was the only other award it won on its’ surprising Oscar journey. “The King’s Speech” I mean. Last year, it didn’t start its’ OSCAR winning streak til that famous night at the PGA awards in Hollywood where it won, unexpectedly. Not unexpected by me, though.

But whether it’s “The Artist” or “My Week with Marilyn” the Oscar this year also seems to have Harvey’s name on it. Just like last year. Will the Academy become sick of his dominance? No. I don’t think so. They LOVE it! It’s a throw back to the days of the REAL Old Time Hollywood mogols of yore. Louis B. Mayer, David O. Selznick. Daryl Zanack. Sam Goldwyn, etc. etc. etc.

It’s a Weinstein world and we just live in it! I guess you could replace that noun with George Clooney and you’d be equally right.

Every where I turn in New York right now, George Clooney is coming at me. Off billboards, off BUS ADS, and this is just for “The Ides of March”! Which is sinking link a stone according to Oscar Index,  but is maintaining a low watt Box-Office, but holding steady. The upcoming “The Descendants” is the one who will win George his second Oscar this year. If he is to win it for anything.

And then, on that momentous day at the end of November, “The Descendants,” “My Week with Marilyn,” “The Artist,” and “Hugo” ALLLLL OPEN ON THE SAME DAY! I still can’t get over that confluence of circumstances! And release dates!

And Stu has the brilliant Viola Davis in second place this week. And he drops Michelle Williams down to third, for “The Help” and “My Weekend with Marilyn” respectively.

Now my main prob with Viola Davis is where EXACTLY Disney is gonna place her. In lead? Or Supporting? If she’s in Supporting, she’s a slam dunk. If she’s in lead, it’s iffy. And Category Confusion could lead her to end up where the equally brilliant Lesley Manville ended up last year for “Another Year.”Which is NOWHERE. It COULD happen.

Note to Disney/Dreamworks – MAKE VIOLA’S CATEGORY CRYSTAL CLEAR or else it’s Lesley Manville time…again.*sound of crickets chripping*

Oscar Index still has Meryl Streep’s unseen “Iron Lady” at No. 1 And Gorgeous George is STILL topping Best Actor, naturally. For “The Descendants” which I agree with.

But Meryl? Still? As Margaret Thatcher? One of the most unsympathetic female figures of our times? And rumored to be about her at the end of her life as an Alzheimer’s patient? Didn’t we see this movie before? With Judi Dench? And it was called “Iris”? And James Broadbent was playing her understanding care-giver of a husband? And he won a Supporting Actor Oscar for it? And isn’t James Broadbent playing that same role in “The Iron Lady”? And isn’t it directed by the woman who directed “Mamma Mia”?(which I LOVED by the way.) But the “Iron Lady” doesn’t sound like a light-hearted musical frolic. At least not on paper. Nobody’s seen it, so nobody knows. Yet Oscar Index AND the Gurus o’ Gold are putting Meryl on top of their lists. Me. I’ll wait to see it.

And yes, that’s Harvey’s movie, too…

Just to make everything even more confusing, for us. Never mind him or the entire staff of the Weinstein Co. Who are TOTALLY ready for this challenge of challenges by the way. They can handle anything. Including multiple Oscar campaigns.

Which some people, like Strand Releasing’s Marcus Hu, doesn’t seem to be able to do. At least not according to Jeffrey Wells, the untamed blogger extraordinaire who has now fallen so hard for low-budget, British Indie “Tyrannosaur” that he’s starting to try to raise money through his website www.hollywood-elsewhere.com for Olivia Colman’s lead performance.

Not having seen it, I haven’t a clue how misguided or guided this latest scream of a scheme Jeffrey, an Internet legend to put it mildly, has come up with. You can follow this critic-takes-on-the-role-of-press-agent-to-the-Oscars story blow by hilarious blow at Hollywood-Elsewhere.

It sounds just nuts. Jeffrey thinks his readers will contribute to HIS pay pal account to fund this $2000 evening screening in Hollywood. That’s what it costs, evidently per very nice screening room in L.A. Who knew?

And then, suppose he raises it? Does that mean anyone will come to the screening? First rank critics? AMPAS members? Suppose no one comes? Suppose this rash and unprecedented action turns off more Academy Members than it turns on? To “Tyrannosaur”? To Olivia Coleman? An unknown middle-aged British actress playing an abused wife in a council flat somewhere in Northern England?

I think this is all because Jeffrey was unable to switch his flight back to L.A. from NYC when the NYFF switched the press screening of “My Weekend with Marilyn” to a week ago Sunday. Causing Jeff to miss it completely. On both coasts. If he had seen it, he wouldn’t be going off the deep end like this, I can assure you. Over Olivia Coleman? Really?

Seems he doesn’t like the screenings in L.A. Strand Releasing is (not) setting up for “Tyrannosaur.” What next? And I didn’t know Jeffrey was SUCH an Anglo-phile.

Bottom line, he’s getting a lot of attention(read hits, read Internet traffic) for this. And is this helping Olivia Coleman? And her teeny tiny distributor Strand? I’ve admired Strand for years, but it’s no secret that they don’t have the big bucks. And Oscar campaigns cost MONEY. Maybe you didn’t know that, but now you do.

Is Jeffrey hurting more than he’s helping? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, enjoy Oscar Index at Movieline. THAT’S on the money.

New York Film Festival begins! I run into Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy!

The New York Film Festival, my home town film festival begins before it starts with crack-of-dawn press screenings, just like in Toronto. And although I’ve seen “The Artist”, as you all know, and loved it in Montreal, I’m surprised and happy to say that “The Artist” is also on the bill here at the NYFF. So it debuted at Cannes, was at Telluride, Montreal, and Toronto and now New York! Support keeps building for this very unusual, but beautiful film, in Black and White and SILENT!

Will it go all the way to the Oscars? As the French say, “Pourquoi Pas?” Why not?

AND it’s got the Weinstein Company behind it. So as they say “Voila!” But will it win? THAT remains to be seen, but people keep loving it.

I think it’s paving the way, not necessarily for its’ own win, but for ANOTHER French-themed film Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and THAT could be the winner. It’s still hanging in there in theaters. Up to $54 million made so far…for Sony Pictures Classics…and Woody…

And I just bumped into, on the street, one of its’ stars, Nina Arianda! She plays Michael Sheen’s malapropping American wife, in the present sections of the film, who falls victim to “a bad oyster” at one part.

She and her dashing co-star”Venus in Furs”s Hugh Dancy both ran right into me on Broadway! I’m sure on their way to a rehearsal of “Venus in Furs” Nina’s Off-Broadway triumph that I never saw. And always felt awful that I missed, because it DID make her a star.

I know Nina from NYU Grad Acting where I saw here in many, many plays there and always thought so highly of her work. And even then she had that great comic sense that has served her so well in her Tony nominated turn in “Born Yesterday” on Broadway this past season. And also, of course, in Woody Allen’s triumph which I’ve seen now EIGHT times!

She and co-star Dancy, who is one of the finest young actors working on-screen, or stage, today, both looked very happy and startled to see me right in their path. They were crossing 8th Avenue so they couldn’t avoid me. And we exchanged “Hellos” and I congratulated Nina on her INCREDIBLE year.

Which will probably get even MORE incredible if “Venus in Furs” becomes the hit I think it’s going to be ON Broadway.

You just never know who you’re going to run into on the Rialto!

TIFF ’11 Begins! And the Oscar Race is ON!

Just a quick HALLO from Toronto! Yes! I’m at TIFF 11 my 13th consecutive year here and I always have the time of my life at the Toronto International Film Festival.  You just NEVER know what magic can happen here! And it always does in one way or the other.

VERY hard to top getting Colin Firth and Tom Hooper BANG right out of the box for “The King’s Speech” ON THE VERY FIRST DAY last year! And then having Tom Hooper naming me “The Oscar Messenger!” Hard to surpass that…but there’s lots of buzz on the ground level, particularly surrounding the great Glenn Close for her performances AS A MAN in “Albert Nobbs”! Yes! And as improbable as that sounds, people who have already seen it have responded very enthusiastically. And don’t forget that Hilary Swank WON the first of her two Oscars for playing a cross-dressing man in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Which also started its’ Oscar career here in Toronto, and THAT was deemed REALLY improbable. I’m seeing it “Albert Nobbs” shortly.

I interviewed Glenn, and I’m not making this up, about her WIGS when she was on Broadway a while back(Seems like a lifetime  ago) for the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section. Yes, I did! I was in Beauty School at the time. YES! I was! And I liked her tremendously. So here we are once again on a collision course. With me do to interview her in New York closer to the opening of the film around Thanksgiving. Just so it’s FRESH in Oscar voters movie-filled mine.

“Albert Nobbs” is set in Ireland, so here, in English Canada, which is Ontario, which is where Toronto is, it’s BOUND to have a good, strong reaction.

Check out Oscar Goddess’ Sasha Stones great posts from Telluride’s Film Festival! She saw it there and loved it. And BOY did she love Telluride and wrote very strongly and movingly about it. http://www.awardsdaily.com  She went there with Jeff Well’s who blogs his brains out on a daily basis at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

So that’s TWO views on Telluride that actually differ wildly on the films they both saw.

Another film that was there, and also in Montreal, and is now here, too is the fantabulous French film “The Artist” which I wrote about at awards daily . It’s the B&W silent movie that I think the Academy is going to fall madly in love with.

It’s ABOUT them. Hollywood in  ’20s.

And I’m looking forward to talking about a things Oscar with Anthony Del Col of http://www.killshakespeare.com

Yes, he’s going to be on my show and on my You Tube Channel, too. And of course, you can see MUCH MORE of the Montreal Film Festival at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Skies are gray today in TO. But nothing like the wild rain predicted. Not even drizzling. Ooops! Just looked out the window! Yes, it IS raining! Torrential downpour in NYC as I flew out of Newark. THAT was scary! BUT I’M HERE! And TIFF ’11 begins! I always feel like it’s a miracle!

Yes, I do. But it’s real!

“Hey, Boo!” intriguing new doc on the mysterious Harper Lee

I really was quite enchanted with the lovely, new documentary film “Hey, Boo!” about the reclusive Southern authoress Harper Lee. She wrote the  classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, won the Pulitzer Prize, then never wrote anything again and disappeared from sight. This very well done doc by Emmy-winning documentarian Mary McDonagh Murphy explains why.

I had no clear picture of this elusive author, except what one could glean from, of all things, the TWO films about Truman Capote that came out one right after the other in a two year period. “Capote” won Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar, and got Catherine Keener a supporting actress nomination. It was her second, and she was playing a lesbian in both films, “Capote” and “Being John Malkovich.” 

Sandra Bullock, in her best performance ever, and pre-“The Blind Side”, played an even butcher Harper Lee in the 2nd (and I thought superior) Capote film, “Infamous.” These two films made sure that Truman Capote was back in the public’s eye, even though he’s been dead for a number of years…But no Oscars or nominations were coming the way of “Infamous.” It sucks to be second in this kind of close filmic race. But Truman would’ve loved all this posthumous attention. Harper Lee, no.

However, there Harper Lee was depicted on screen in two movies, helping, traveling and being the all around best pal to Truman Capote, as he traveled to Kansas  by train to investigate the horrific deaths of the Clutter family. Massacred en masse by two gay drifters, one of whom Capote fell madly in love with Perry Smith, and who he pretty much immortalized in his greatest work “In Cold Blood.” And Smith is depicted in all THREE films.

Harper Lee doesn’t appear in “In Cold Blood.” And Capote did not win a Pulitzer Prize, fairly or un-fairly, for his greatest work. And he never forgave his former best friend since childhood, Harper Lee, for this. She had a Pulitzer. He didn’t. And this revelation, among many others, sort of forms the climax of “Hey, Boo!”

“Hey, Boo!” performs the magic trick/tap dance of not having the central character Harper Lee anywhere in it. Yet it still remains compelling. No mean feat. Kudos to filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murpphy who is also the author of the New York Times Best-Seller “Scout, Atticus & Boo: Fifty Years of to Kill a Mockingbird.” This film is so complete, Oprah Winfrey is even in it, telling how much this small, succinct book impacted her young life. To this day, “To Kill a Mockingbird” still sells a million copies a year!

We see pictures of her, and hear her heavily Southern-inflected voice on a radio broadcast from the early ’60s, but that’s about it.

Nell Harper Lee, for that is her full name, and all her friends who are interviewed in the movie call her, Nell, was Capote’s next door neighbor in the small Southern town of Munroeville, Alabama. That these two children would both become considered America’s great writers of that time is a fateful historic co-incidence.

And the film reveals many things we did not know about Nell. She was, when she came to New York in the ’50s an airline reservation ticket counter clerk for a quite a long time before some well-meaning friends, who are interviewed extensively in the movie, generously gave her money to take a year off to write “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And it wasn’t a breeze doing so for Nell, even with this generous support.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was rejected by many publishers before Nell Harper hit pay dirt and got a sympathetic editor…and the rest as they say is history.

She always reminded me more than a bit of Margaret Mitchell, that other Southern female writer, who wrote one great, best-selling novel, “Gone With the Wind” then was never heard from again, literaray-il-ly speaking.

And “Hey, Boo!” lays out why. Suddenly famous, then also suddenly weary of all the non-stop press attention she was getting, she just says simply to someone, “I have given enough. I don’t want to give any more.”

And I guess, she, being a woman of carefully chosen words, meant was she said.

In this Internet age, one wonders if one book, and a novel at that, could ever make such a stir these days. But in its’ day “To Kill a Mockingbird” coupled with the great Black and White film that won three Oscars, one for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the heroic lawyer, patterned to a T on Harper Lee’s own father, and one for Horton Foote’s screenplay and one for Haskell Wexler’s cinematography.

It’s also a question if the book without the film’s monumental impact would have achieved the legendary, classic status both the novel and the film enjoy to this day.

But “To Kill a Mockingbird” endures and endures, and this great, thought-provoking documentary explains why.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: