a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Boxing’

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“Rocky: The Musical” A Knock-Out!

I ended up really liking the musicalized version of “Rocky” even though for three-fourths of it I was scratching my head, thinking “Why are these people singing?”

But then its’ climatic boxing finale is a startling smasheroo if ever there was one, which really knocked my socks off and just about everything else off, too. “Rocky” will rock your world.

In a very pallid, uneven act and a half, I really wondered how in the world “Rocky: The Musical” could have displaced “Mamma Mia” out of the gigantic Winter Garden theater, one of Broadway’s biggest musical houses that has been held captive, by captivating its’ boomer audience for lo these many moons.

“Mamma Mia” fans, don’t worry. It’s been re-located to the smaller Broadhurst Theater on W.44th St. But “Rocky: The Musical” is gonna to settle in for another substantial VERY long run at the Winter Garden, and is going to make oodles of money and please sportsfans and boxing devotees for years.

Whether it pleases the critics or wins any awards is besides the point with “Rocky” which garnered a surprise Best Picture Oscar back in the day. This time it’s not going to need those awards, like the Tonys,etc. to keep running.

I liked the 1970’s grainy John Alvidson-directed indie movie that made Sylvester Stallone a star. And put the phrase “Yo Adrian” into the pop culture vernacular. Philadelphia’s mean streets then became a legitimate cinematic background, competing with the New York of Sidney Lumet & Martin Scorsese, etc. as a gritty urban backdrop.

And Stallone’s final victory lap up and down the massive staircase of the Philadelphia Art Museum was against all reason, truly inspiring.

“Rocky:The Musical” tries to stay as faithful to the film as it possibly can. But it has as its’ director the current wunderkind Alex Timbers, who has always surprised with his cutting edge innovative stagings of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”, “Peter and the Starcatcher” and many, many more theatrical delights of recent years. And he was disappointing me mightily this time, until the last twenty minutes and then he, as they say, brought the ship home.

I’ve never been to a boxing match and hope never to go to one in what’s left of my lifetime. I am NOT a sports fan. But “Rocky” (and I should’ve expected this) brought the Boxing Rink to me and deposited it (almost) right into my lap. And it was sensationally staged, catching every single moment of that sports’ gory excitement and thrill, whether I wanted it to see it THAT up-close and personal or not.

One can’t help but admire the sheer vocal and physical stamina of star Andy Karl as Rocky Balboa himself. The Italian Stallion lives! In Karl’s adept, buffed to the max performance that requires him to sing his heart out for two acts, down a glass of three raw eggs, and then pull off one of the most astounding coup de theatre’s I’ve ever seen in that climatic boxing number, which you’ll never forget. And sends you out of the theater humming. Well, if not the music, the boxing.But Kudos to Karl, for performing what seems on-paper, impossible! Maxima Kudos!

Of course, such a rough. tough, no-holes barred, physical fight that pits Rocky against the world champeen Apollo Creed (Terence Archee) has to be staged and choreographed within an inch of its’ life. And Kudos to fight director/choreographer Steven Hoggett. Now HE’ll win the Tony for his frighteningly life-like recreation of that most violent of sports.

I’ve never seen anything like it on a stage. On screen, yes. There have been great boxing movies like “Raging Bull”, “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, and “Rocky” itself and its’ many, many sequels. The list goes on and on. But never onstage.

And this is what director Alex Timbers has done to beat the band. You might forget the rest of “Rocky:The Musical”. I’ve already forgotten the music by the usually dependable Broadway veterans Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Only one tune “My Nose Ain’t Broken Yet” stands out.

That comes at the beginning of the show and is reprised endlessly. Ingenue Margo Siebert makes a minimally impressive Broadway debut as Adrian, the plain pet-shop worker who is Rocky’s bizarre love interest. (She sold him his pet turtles, which he loves. Go figure.)

Played memorably by Talia Shire in all the movies and its’ sequels, in the greatest performance of her career, she grounded the borderline obnoxious character of Rocky, an aging, hard-luck amateur boxer and small-time thug.

Adrian is a famous character, as is the Italian Stallion himself, and Andy Karl, a theatrical vet, and she are a credible couple. Though their chemistry is passable. Nothing like the fireworks Shire and Stallone illicted onscreen.

Karl is NOT 29, as his character states, but he makes time stand still when he takes off his shirt and starts to box. TO THE DEATH.

Dakin Matthews has some nice moments and a nice song, too,”In The Ring”, as Rocky’s aged manager Mickey.

I can guarantee you’re gonna LOVE “Rocky:The Musical” but you won’t remember the hour and a half that precedes that unforgettable ending. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And “Rocky” finishes BIG!

Best Supporting Actor~ChristianBale, Mark Ruffalo & Sam Rockwell

I have always seen Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo and Sam Rockwell as a sort of trio, worthy lord knows, and veterans now of how many movies? And leads in movies? But never, ever close enough to Oscar to get even a nomination.

Yes, believe it or not, dear readers, dear cineastes, neither of those three extremely talented actors have ever gotten in Oscars door, but goodness knows, at least they’ve been knocking on it, year in and year out. And this year all three might get in.

Christian Bale is purported by many to be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor for his wacked out portrayal of drug-addled Dickie Ekland in the increasingly popular “The Fighter.”  It’s not as though we haven’t seen a crack-wack-head portrayed on screen before, but never before has a portrayal like that made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated! See www.scottfeinberg.com for the great graphic.

It should be just a pictorial of central character Mark Wahlberg “The Fighter”‘ himself.But there is Bale pushing his head into the shot and onto the cover!

But Hollywood and all the critical masses seem to be lining up behind giving Christian Bale his first ever Oscar nomination. He just got a Golden Globe AND a SAG nom in less than a week! Can Oscar finally be opening the door to the Dark Knight himself? I think so.

But is he well-liked enough to win? His bad boy rantings were recorded and published all over the Internet when he went off on that poor techie, and he also was said to have assaulted his own mother and sister, but they dropped the charges…So…Were they true? Well, something about this scenario must be…but…Is Hollywood going to forgive Bad Boy Bale, a grown up child actor? Or are they going to think him too young to win and give it to Geoffrey Rush, who is his biggest competition, for a career-capping performance as the wacky, but not wacked out Australian Speech teacher to Colin Firth’s sure-to-win stuttering King in “The King’s Speech” ?Aye, that is the question….

Then there are the place-holders…the category-filler-outers…which is where Mark Ruffalo may get in despite his Golden Golbe snub. Ah! But then he rallied at the SAG nods and got one for Best Supporting Actor, his first, like Bale, for “The Kid’s Are All Right.”  Though it opened in the spring, this lesbian-marriage comedy has stayed the course and just did VERY well at the New York Film Critics Awards, netting its’ writer Lisa Cholodenko, who also directed it, the win for Best Screenplay over Aaron Sorkin for The Film That I Will Not Name…Yikes! No  one saw that coming! Could happen at the Oscars too BTW…but that’s another column…

Ruffalo’s performance in “Kids”? Well, as the title says, it’s All Right.

 But not great.

Not really Oscar nomination worthy, though certainly Ruffalo has given many, many performances in the past that could have been nominated, but weren’t. But this time his Only Straight Guy In a Lesbian Movie turn may be the right place at the right time. N0t his greatest work, by any means, and NOT the greatest performance in “The Kids.” But  I guess his heterosexual male presence, and he IS sexy, may assauge the SWORM to nominate him. Oh, and women like him, too. So he may get his first Oscar nomination but he certainly isn’t going to win. Not with Bale and Rush in the category.

And there there’s poor Sam Rockwell! He’s also never been nominated and just missed BOTH the SAG and the Golden Globe nominations he should’ve gotten this week for his superb turn as another difficult, jailed brother in ANOTHER  Masschusetts jail in”Conviction.”

He’s playing true-life character(as Bale and Rush are co-incidentally) Kenny Waters who spends 18 years of his life in a New England jail until he’s freed by this crusading, devoted sister played Betty Ann by Hilary Swank. And SHE just got a surprise nomination from the SAGS! She who has already won two Best Actress Oscars, is obviously more of an actor-favorite than anybody imagined, and her performance is damned-good, too.e

I just caught up with “Convinction” at a screening two DAYS ago, and I was shocked at how much I liked it.

So Hilary Swank popped up unexpectedly in Best Actress and knocked out presumed (and Golden Globe nominee) Michelle Williams. Will Swank prevail at the Oscars in another surprise win? Or will it be the equally  worthy Williams, who though nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005, has never been nominated in the main slot. Ah! But this time she’s gotten Oscar stealth weapon Harvey Weinstein behind her!…

I personally think that Sam Rockwell may be the one from “Conviction” to surprise, not Swank. Fox Searchlight is campaigning hard for “Conviction” even though it was a box-office flop….But they are getting the screeners into the Academy’s hands and/or getting the Academy’s asses to their screenings…of “Conviction.” So will Sam Rockwell pop up? Will he be the Oscar surprise? Heaven knows he’s worthy enough, but don’t be surprised, because you heard it here first!

Stay tuned!

“The Fighter” An Oscar Knock-Out!+ Other Awards News

I have to say, having just returned from an Academy-ish screening(it was mixed with guilds and obviously, actual press, too. I mean,was there!) and yes, it’s got Oscar nomination chances galore!

The audience at this screening seemed to love it, as I was tipped that the Academy would and they audibly did. That was born out by all the laughs and gasps and cheers throughout, though there was no final applause at the end. Every one left with smiles on their faces. ALWAYS a good sign for Oscar!

Mark Wahlberg’s passion project of many years has come to ripe fruition with him wisely surrounding himself with the some of the Best Actors in the business, like Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, all of whom I think are assured Oscar nominations in Supporting for this.

So it’s a holiday feast of blue-collar, but blue-ribbon actors all trying to out-do each other in what is a veritable Oscar smack-down and SUCCEEDING mightily. Each landing punch after thespic (acting) punch in this knock-out of a movie!

Although this is a boxing saga, it’s really more of a family drama, being played out against a boxing background. This Lowell Massachusetts hard-scrabble setting, replete with Boston accents, gives Leo, Adams and especially Bale, career-capping chances to really go to town in an award-winning, Oscar-baity way. Are they chewing the scenery for Thanksgiving? Gobble Gobble. Well, Leo and Bale are anyway…but the Academy LOVES these showy turns.

Wahlberg OTOH plays it down, very understated, almost dour and lets the wildness of the colorful characters around him shine. And shine, they do!

Bale is unfogettable as his crack-headed brother who is also his f**ked up trainer. Leo is  their horrible Mother-From-Hell  who is also his money-grubbing manager, and Adams gets to play against them as the good girl who he hooks up with, and who has to stand up to his insane family AND SHE DOES! You are totally rooting for her to take down the dastardly, deadly duo of Mom Leo and Brother Bale. This movie is one juicy fight scene from beginning to end! Whether it’s in the ring, or in the living room, or on the front porch, EVERY one is fighting!

As Wahlberg is also the producer here (and Bob and Harvey Weinstein are also listed as producers, too(!) with Paramount the main distributor) he’s going to get nominated for  getting this made & helming this irresistible (to the Academy and I think to audiences, too) combo of heart, guts and BOXING.

Boxing films have traditionally been catnip to the Academy and this one, though the formulaic trailers have been misleading-by-a-mile, “The Fighter” will be no exception. So in a field of ten possible nominees for Best Picture, I say the “The Fighter” is going to score one of those ten best slots.

With Wahlberg so monotone himself, I don’t think he’s got a chance at an Acting nomination. But as a producer of “The Fighter”, yes!

It’s going to be a Golden Glove( and Golden Globe) bout between Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech,” and Bale for this in Supporting Actor  and THAT match-up is going to cause all the major Oscar attention for this film.  And those two performances are so different and also so  juicy, well, it’s a delicious prospect!

And Melissa Leo and Amy Adams are BOTH so good that they are BOTH going to be nominated most likely. Canceling each other out, and leaving the win to Helena Bonham-Carter for “The King’s Speech.” 

When two actresses from the same film get nominated in Supporting it’s historically someone else, who wins. The last time I remember this happening was in 2001 for “Gosford Park” when it was both Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Maggie Smith going head-to-head in Supporting…and somebody else won. Jennifer Connelly in a year that there was “A Beautiful Mind” sweep.

Bale v. Geoffrey Rush, who is brilliant, but already HAS an Oscar would be literally duking it out til the last minute in Supporting. Rush, as the hilarious, genial ,but tough speech therapist Lionel Logue, who is the Australian Henry Higgins teaching Colin Firth(the King) how to speak, is going to be a Battle Royal(pardon the pun) with Bale’s junkie, who, though everyone forgets it, as also a Brit. Yes, he is. He really is. Remember him as the kid in Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun”? Yes, that was little Christian. A child actor who has endured and ended up as “The Dark Knight.” Yes, that was him, the last time in the hood and cape. But all people remember from that film is the astounding Joker of the late Heath Ledger. R.I.P. Heath.

Bale, however, ALMOST overdoes it in the OTT category,but how can you play a character who is always tweaking, and not seem OTT, as well as ADD? Bale has lost a ton of weight for the part and as a  junkie who jumps out of windows to escape his harridan, chain-smoking mother (Leo), I do think he’s in contention.

It’s just that how much do they like Christian Bale? I mean, really? With that Internet rant to that poor stage hand being something that still lurks in people’s mind when they think of him? They may just make him wait, and give Rush a second Oscar for what is clearly the performance of the year.

But Bale’s never been nominated before and Rush has won before.  Me, I’d vote for Rush…but…it’s gonna be a fight to the photo finish at the Kodak between the two of them.

It’s also just a question of HOW many Oscars are they going to give to “The King’s Speech”? Colin Frith and Helena Bonham-Carter are both way out in front in Best Actor and now, Best Supporting Actress, too. Is “The King’s Speech” going to sweep?

I heard people discussing how there was one movie where there were lines around the block about ten days ago.  It was for a SAG screening and that was for “The King’s Speech.” “The Fighter” was well attended, but not full, by any means. And no applause at the end, though a consistently involved chorus of laughs and gasps, means they were involved. But  not as enthralled as “The King’s Speech” audiences are.

Bale has the best Oscar shot of the bunch of them. He gets to OD, and then go cold turkey in a jail cell! Now that’s what I call a PART! So Christian Bale will finally get his first Oscar nomination…

But will he win?

And in terms of other films…I heard when the New York Film Critics get together to vote soon, very soon. (“True Grit” FINALLY starts screening next week for all and sundry) that at the moment it’s still going to be a pitched battle between “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” So, what else is new? That’s the way it’s been since Toronto!

Except that today, “The King’s Speech” just got 100% from the Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes! How can ANYone argue with those stats? Especially the Academy!

Harvey Weinstein must be having a very happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Coupled with women, who are just flat out refusing to see “127 Hours” because of the gore, and the arm-thing…

People, again it was women I was talking to, are not digging “Black Swan.” ‘It ruins ‘Swan Lake'” one balletomane told me. But ballet lovers are going to be in the minority of AMPAS.

But then, of course, WOMEN are not the majority of the AMPAS voters. The SWORM are. Single White Old Rich Men…

And EVERYbody is digging Michael Douglas’ performance in “Solitary Man.”

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