a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘blockbuster’

“Matilda” Blindingly Brilliant British Bway Blockbuster!

“Matilda”! What a beautiful name! I thought, exiting the blindingly brilliant British blockbuster of the same name that just hit the heights on Broadway. A generation of little girls will now be named after its’ stalwart, brainy, pint-sized heroine.

At a purported five years old, Matilda is speaking, but not talking down, to the conflicted little girl in all of us, and rafts of little ones are in for the treat of their lives, and their parents, too, when they see “Matilda: The Musical” And they will see it in hoardes. “Matilda” is something they will never forget.

It’s so thoroughly original. I felt like I had never seen anything like it in the theater and on Broadway, yet.Is Bway known for originality these days? No.

But this empowering, powerhouse of positivity just sends you out of the theater practically jumping for joy!

A hit show espousing, literacy! Reading! Books! Librarians! Libraries! Incredible!

I just realized that the closest thing I can compare it to is the brilliant film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, last year’s indie film hit of hits that ended up with five Oscar nominations. “Matilda” is like “Beasts” in that they both so completely project a little girl’s eye view of the world.And it’s not always a pretty-in-pink world that they see. Scary, weird, frightening, horrifying is the world Matilda is confronted with.

Five year old Matilda Wormword is even younger than Qu’venzhane Wallis’ six year old Hushpuppy. A survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Matilda is a survivor of HER AWFUL PARENTS. And the cold, cruel adult world that is constantly threatening to destroy her. And take away her sole refuge, her books, and her love of reading…

Another writer that this Roald Dahl based, super-smart musical( book by Dennis Kelly, Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin) reminded me of was Charles Dickens. But not “Oliver” the musical version of Oliver Twist, which seems treacly sweet compared to the dark creepiness of “Matilda.” Dickens found his greatest inspiration in the lives and point of view of orphans. David Copperfield’s opening sentence and proclamation “I am born”, is echoed in “Matilda”s first number “Miracle”. Which is about child-birth and most parents’ ecstatic reaction to their off-springs’ arrivals in this not-inviting world.

Matilda’s parents’ HATE her. Actively, passionately HATE her, and refuse to acknowledge their incredibly smart daughter’s amazing mind. Or even her gender. Her stupid, oafish father keeps calling her “son” but Matilda keeps insisting “I’m a girl!” This horrible trope keeps get repeated all night long, wearing poor Matilda down to a nub.

Her peroxided harridan of a Cockney-Mother-From-Hell, over-played to the hilt by Lesli Margherita, is shocking in her screechy “Looks! Not Books!” mantras of superficiality. Her solo is, of course, “Loud!” She is matched by the slightly more sympathetic(but really pathetic) sleazy, used-car salesman husband, Gabriel Ebert. The duo torment poor little Matilda to the point of child abuse. She torments her father back by dying his hair green and gluing his hat to his head.

Matilda’s only refuge from them is local public library and an earthy, interested librarian, the marvelously daffy but dignified Mrs. Phleps. Karen Aldredge should’ve had a big number herself. She would’ve brought down the house.

Instead, we get a bit too much of a focus on the super-sweet Miss Honey, who is one of the more, shakily drawn characters, in that she has toooo many musical numbers. Lauren Ward’s interpretation of the helpful, but timid school-teacher, who sees Matilda’s brilliance and wants it to develop, was so cloying, irritatingly sweet, I felt my diabetes acting up. She pretty much wore out her welcome in the first act, but did redeem herself in the second, where it’s touchingly revealed how poor she is in the number “My House.” She lives in a shack.

The dull, clanking sound you hear just when you think “Matilda” is just hopelessly child-centric is the entrance of the scary, villainess to end all villanesses, Miss Trunchbull. And that resounding clanking is also the sound of the endless awards that British comic Bertie Carvel,( yes, he’s a man, playing Miss Truchbull in bad, frightening, brown drag) hitting the stage at Mr. Carvel’s feet, as all the awards-giving bodies rise as one and just HURL Tonys, Drama Desks, and every other award in the theater world at him.

And he deserves them. With his hair in a tight-brown bun, a huge brown mole on his upper lip, his grotesquely large breasts, and his brown/grey skirt hiked quite high on his hairy legs (in sensible brown shoes), Mr. Carvel never lets you for a moment forget that he’s a man, playing a monster. And then humanizes the monstrous Ms. Trunchbull, too. Wow.

Carvel is not a one-note horror, he’s a layered delight. And his brown brogues kick “Matilda” upstairs, literally, as his astounding re-interpretation of the age-old British pantomime staple, the drag queen Dame, becomes in Carvel’s hands something bold, original, hilarious and in the number “A World Without Children” suddenly surprisingly touching, too. The British Gold Medal champion women’s hammer-thrower yearns for his/her glory days and at one point early in the proceedings hurls a hapless pig-tailed girl into the air. A coup-de-theatre followed by many, many more.

Main among them, the burping Bruce Bogtrotter, of the bold Jack Broderick, who it seems wants to devour all the chocolate cake in the world, and who is then made my Miss Truchbull to do so in the hilarious/scary “Bruce.” Broderick then gets to belt out the climatic anthem “Revolting Children.”

And Matilda herself? Well, there are four little girls who alternate in this super-demanding role of roles for a child actress, but I saw Milly Shapiro. Who had the face and power of a young Charles Laughton(I’m not kidding). As she forcefully puts her hand on her hip to face a threatening, creepy, lying, hostile universe AND HER PARENTS, you KNOW that this tiny Matilda is truly a genius and a warrior who will take on the whole world. And win!

“Matilda” may be the biggest Tony Award winner since “The Producers” and is settling into the Schubert for a long, long run.

Matilda! You GO, girl!

“Les Miz” in IMAX! My Third Time! Bliss to the Max!!

“Les Miserables,” which is my #1 film of the year, can also be seen now in IMAX, which I didn’t know about until director Tom Hooper mentioned it in an interview. And so I HAD to see it for a THIRD time in a Whirlwind month of “Miz.”

There’s so much to say, and so little time…before I see “Les Miz” AGAIN! Yes! It’s THAT good! And THAT addictive!

FINALLY! Tickets were available for purchase by ordinary movie-goers. It has been sold out in NYC, since its’ opening Christmas Day, when it broke B.O. records, and it’s taking off to be a record-breaking hit all over the world! It may even go over $100 million internationally by the end of this weekend!

And they said musicals weren’t popular with the masses any more!

Well, “Les Miz” is bringing out a certain type of movie-goer those who’ve been STARVED for a great movie musical.

Since I was a kid, it was always the movie musicals that got me into movies in the first place. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” being run over and over and over again on Million Dollar Movie on televisioni on Ch.9. Every single day, maybe even twice a day, when I was a bespectacled, red-headed kid growing up in the Bronx. Then came “Les Girls” and that little boy thought all movies were SUPPOSED to sing.

So it’s grand, just grand that “Les Miserables” returns movies to its’ rightful place, right near OPERA. Opera used to be mass entertainment in its’ time, and I just love that “Les Miz” onscreen is totally sung through. And what wonderful,stirring, powerful music it is!

From those first three thrilling chords of “Look Down” “Ah-huh!” Klang! “Ah-huh” Klang! And the spectacular wreck of a ship hulk that gets hauled into view by literally hundreds of dirty, grimy slaves of the state, Jean Valjean main among them. Well, it shakes you and just takes your breath away at the same time!

Audiences for “Les Miz” come PRIMED now to applaud, it seems to me. At an invited (non-critics) screening I saw(my second time)(many Academy members in attendance) there was applause at least four times and cheering and standing and MORE applause at the end. And this was without any of the talent present, which ups the applause meter even more. Hugh Jackman’s name onscreen got applause at the end as did Anne Hathaway’s and Eddie Redmayne’s and strangely Helena Bonham-Carter’s.

Well, last night this paying, weekday night audience applauded at least EIGHT times!

Of course, Anne Hathaway’s brilliant, blistering, unforgettable solo “I Dreamed a Dream” got applause. And she’ll probably get an Oscar, too.

And then they didn’t really applaud again til “On My Own”, which had not gotten applause at the previous two screenings I attended. That’s Eponine’s rain-soaked solo essayed here by Samantha Barks.

Then, of course, after that, “One Day More” got a rousing hand, and it continued virtually unabated five times more til the magnificent ending! I was losing count in the glory of it all as the suspense mounted, and of course, the wonderful Eddie Redmayne got his hand in “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables,” and the Thernadiers (a super oily Sasha Baron Cohen and the equally slimy Helena Bonham-Carter) even got applauded when they got thrown out of Marius and Cosette’s wedding.! Cheers, too! Amazing!

The involvement of the audience was like at  Broadway show. But no Broadway show gets stopped with applause EIGHT times! At least! But this being a high-paced film, “Les Miserables” never paused for a moment. I don’t think the stage version ever got this much applause. Maybe the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts did. But they were EVENTS. This is just a blockbuster musical. Incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life as a film critic.

“Les Miserables” never fails to disappoint. But I have to say that IMAX isn’t really necessary to see it in. Everything gets magnified and since the film is shot in extreme close-ups most of the time, it really is excessively CLOSE in Imax.Dizzying. I was counting the warts on Russell Crowe’s face. And then the hairs on the warts. I REALLY didn’t need to be THAT CLOSE. Too much information.

But his Javert is meant to scare. And he does. He’s the villain, and his strange, thunderous, bellowed singing is the film’s one discordant note, but it works, because he’s the one who’s out of sync with the melodious singing of the rest of the cast, as his character is out of sync, at war, with the rest of the world.

Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean wows me every time! The demands that are placed on him are literally Herculean, and utterly Oscar-bait-y and Oscar – worthy. And then he has to drag the wounded, half-dead, Eddie Redmayne through the sewers of Paris! Saving his life, in  yet another one of Victor Hugo’s novel’s great set-pieces, that is rendered impossibly odious and odoriferous in these tremendous close-ups. Oh yes, Jackman’s “Bring Him Home” sung to the sleeping Redmayne got a spontaneous round of applause, too.

“Les Miserables” is setting audiences free in a wonderful way. They seem FREE to applaud. And VERY free to cry. At the end, with the incredibly moving climatic scenes, there’s not a dry eye in the house. My eyeglasses were salted up with tears. But I was happy. The Greeks has a word for this effect. They called it “Catharsis.” I call it Oscar.

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