a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘British’

Poirot’s Back! Sophie Hannah Works Her Sly Magic Again in “Mystery of Three Quarters”


Well, “Mille Tonnerres!” As Hercule Poirot is wont to say, “Sacre Bleu!” but Madame Sophie Hannah has worked her sly magic once again in the continuation novel “The Mystery of Three Quarters,” out and at bookstores on August 28th.

Of course, reviewing mystery novels is always a problem for the reviewer because you can not give any of the plot away. “You CAN NOT!” I am again using Hercule Poirot’s unique voice and intonation here.

But I can say that is the literary legerdemain that Ms. Hannah practices so well. And the Christie Estate was so astute in choosing HER as the inheritor and author of now THREE delicious Christie continuation novels. “The Monogram Murders,” “Closed Casket” and now “The Mystery of Three Quarters.”

The first quarter of “Three Quarters” is undiluted joy for Christie fans because it is all Poirot, all the time. He is front and center as his usually adept self in handling the perplexing question of who is sending these poison pen letters to various random people and signing his name, accusing them all of the murder of Barnabus Pandy. (LOVE that name!) Hannah is wicked good with her choice of her characters’ names.

The first character to accuse Poirot of this outrageous slander by snail mail (It is set in 1929. No emails here. Can you imagine Poirot sending an email? Or even going online! ) is the aptly named Sylvia Rule. And  a more vivid, angry introduct-ress to a murder mystery you cannot imagine. And Poirot cannot imagine it either!! He, Hercule Poirot, the greatest detective of all time (he calls himself, modestly) accusing others of a crime and signing his name to letters he did not write.”It is an outrage!” he tells the implacable  Sylvia Rule, and the other characters who turn up, in rapid succession, with identical letters. In various stages of discomfiture with Poirot..

This all happens in front of and inside his historic flat in Whitehaven Mansions. Hannah has preserved that from the Christie originals. New is the favorite place of Poirot’s to retire to, and figure out what to do with this perplexing situation with his “little grey cells”(Yes, they are here, too.)And that place is a pleasant café called Pleasant Café and run by Euphemia Spring. Who everyone calls “Fee.” (Once again Hannah’s marvelous choice of character names.) And Fee Spring has a large part to play.

She has graduated from “the waitress with the fly-away hair” in “Monogram Murders” to a full-blown character, the proprietress of the Pleasant Café,now also returning as Poirot’s favorite Hannah-named haunt. George, his always perfect valet is on hand here, too. And of course, Poirot, the ultimate foodie, is always eating. And it is Fee Spring, who  first raises the title of “Three Quarters,” through one of her delectable dishes, a cake that is shaped like a stained glass church window. The church window pane cake plays a major, major role in solving the mystery and the fact that Poirot keeps devouring all of its quarters so quickly made me think of how sweet and delicious this tasty treat must be. Just like this book.

This novel will make you hungry, I’m telling you. That I can reveal. And not just Window Pane Cake.

The Mystery of Three Quarters 4

And I also can tell you that you will not be able to PUT IT DOWN! It will possess you like you’re on a runaway train, maybe The Orient Express. Or a cake you can’t stop eating late at night.   The train metaphors and the food metaphors continue to abound in Hannah’s delicious tale of malice and murder. She’s so expert at this, the seemingly impossible task of recreating Agatha Christie’s unique, rotund Belgian detective with the great moustaches. Poirot is the only fictional character to ever get an Obit on the front page of the New York Times when he passed away in “Curtain.”

I never realized how deeply in love with this character I was until he rose from the dead so brilliantly at Sophie Hannah’s command in “Monogram Murders.” It was like encountering a long-lost friend! And you’ll feel the same way and be able to continue your own rapturous re-union with Hercule Poirot in “The Mystery of Three Quarters.”

 

 

 

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Cher Saves “Mamma Mia 2,” but It’s Hard to Resist


When Cher, yes, CHER, enters in the Final Act of “Mamma Mia 2,” she saves the film, and yes, kicks it upstairs into Gay Heaven, or at any rate, Camp Heaven with a good, swift  stilletto-heeled sureness, only a stage and screen legend like Cher could provide. Pow! All the dullness and wishy-washiness of her young co-stars vanished, and NOW we were in the midst of a glorious fun-filled summer musical romp. She was so good, I immediately re-wrote my mind’s middling review and began raving like a teenaged fan-girl. Which let’s face it, is a cheery place to be in these troubled times. I guess I ended up loving it, and wanting to see it again. No, really.
In spite of all good sense, I found myself totally abandoning myself to its epic silliness. And why not? I always loved ABBA as a guilty pleasure. Those original, now classic, tunes got me through some very dark times when I was a house-cleaner in London in the ’80s. I was trying to get my plays done and become a right, proper British actor in the grand tradition. And it was tough. But ABBA was so uplifting, it made me forget all the charring.

I was a “Super Trooper”, and now Cher is a Super Trooper, too. In fact, she climaxes this barely organized mish-mash with that song, as well as her much heralded “Fernando” duet. As she and Andy Garcia(yes, ANDY GARCIA!) tango and sing their hearts out, both Senior Citizens now, as fire-works explode behind them, like it was 1968. Or ’86. Or one of those years, or decades that Cher’s career spans and she’s still singing! She’s a goddess for the ages. And FINALLY makes up for Meryl Streep not being in this movie except as a ghost.

You see, “Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again” does not really have a center to it, until Cher appears at the end like the Deus Ex Machina that she is. “Here We Go Again” flips back and forth in time between two stories, both starring lovely young blondes, Amanda Seyfried and Downtown Abbey’s Lily James. They both have to carry half the film each.

It seems Meryl’s character has died a year before “Mamma Mia 2” starts and her cinematic daughter Sophie (Seyfried) has to carry on without her, trying to re-build her mother’s dream of a turning their Greek island into a perfect Aegean guest house. Meanwhile, the film flashes back in time to the ’70s, when Donna (Lily James) was a wild young thing cavorting all over the continent, shagging everybody in sight.

Thus explaining (or trying to) how three different men could have potentially been the father of the single Mom Meryl’s child. As played by a trio of young hunks, notably “War Horse”s Jeremy Irvine (who grows up to be Pierce Brosnan). They make the case quite clearly how and why the young Donna/Meryl couldn’t keep her hands off all of them, one after the other, in rapid succession.

I would say Josh Dylan, who is making his big screen debut here as the young yachtsman that one day would become Stellan Skarsgard, has the best chiseled bod. British actor Hugh Skinner, who plays the young Colin Firth, doesn’t really get enough foreshadowing that his character is in later life going to be gay. An interesting opportunity missed.

Though Firth does camp up a storm in his own reserved way as his grown up self, and Christine Baranski (and Julie Waters) are back supplying even more camp (as if this film needed it).Which goes to prove something I’ve always felt. There can never be too much of a muchness. Or too much camp. Camp makes you happy. And so will “Mamma Mia 2.”

And last but not least, the young British hunk of hunks Dominic Cooper is back again as Sky, Sophie (Seyfried)’s hotter than hot love interest, and absentee husband. Dominic was one of the many stars of my year’s Best Film of that year “My Week with Marilyn” playing Milton Green, Marilyn Monroe’s ex-lover and now exasperated agent. He was also one of the original “History Boys” on Broadway and in film, and has been on “The Stephen Holt Show” more times than just about any one else (in this movie).And he used to date Cher! He just told Stephen Colbert. So it must be true!

ACE Eddie Inches Allison Janney forward towards Oscar

How important is Film Editing? Well, over the years I’ve come to recognize that Film Editors are among the most important and hardest working artists/technicians in our business. I don’t know what we’d do without them. I really can’t praise their industry and expertise and devotion to their work highly enough. People in the business know how incredibly vital their are. And after helming my own TV show “The Stephen Holt Show” for over 30 years, I do, too. God bless the film editors, and so when they chime in, in the name of their united Guild, the A.C.E. Eddie Awards, attention by AMPAS voters is paid. Seriously.

So when they gave their big award this week to the Best Edited Dramatic Film, in this case “I, Tonya,” it gave that raunchy tabloid of a film that much more of a serious contender boost. And in this case the largest recipient of the Film Editors collective good will and approval would by extention go to Allison Janney, who plays the wild-cat mother of alley-cat Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.” This is “I, Tonya” biggest Awards bid, Best Supporting Actress. Which is turning into a mud-wrestling final between Janney and Laurie Metcalf, formerly of “Roseanne,” and this season as the Good Mom in “Lady Bird.”

“I, Tonya” was an Indie that opened late in the awards season without much fanfare, whose importance has grown by the day, as more and more people see it. So much so that Allisson Janney’s Mom From Hell is inching ever forward in her death-match struggle against Laurie Metcalf’s much more likeable Mom in “Lady Bird.” And the Ace Eddie Award just continues to add to Janney & Tonya’s steaming forward.

You see, Best Supporting Actress has become basically a two woman race between Janney and Metcalf in the Battle of the Moms. And until the Golden Globe Awards two weeks ago, Metcalf’s gold was considered in the Oscar tank.

Then a strange thing began to happen. That race just turned around and Metcalf’s main Mom competitor Allison Janney started winning every single major award going forward, the Golden Globe, the Critics Choice Award and finally the SAG Award(pictured above ^). The A.C.E. just adds to “I, Tonya’s prestige and by extension, Allison Janney’s.

Tonya Harding was not considered a prestige player in real life. So it’s ironic in the extreme that the film about her “I, Tonya” is now considered a prestige, must-see-it Oscar film contender more and more by the day.Janney is majorly known for the nearly-decade run in “The West Wing,” amassing many Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series Emmys along the way.Allison Janney 3
An excellent actress no matter what the role, her gargoyle, LaVona Harding is just another example that she can play just about ANY type of role and make audiences like it and remember it and award it.

The race between her and Metcalf is razor thin, so we must take careful note of it, this Oscar season. Even if Metcalf just ended up on the cover of EW with “Lady Bird”s star, Saoirse Ronan and creator Greta Gerwig.Sometimes Entertainment Weekly just jumps the shark and lays out their mag and covers, goes to print too early. I think this is the case here. This is a VERY volatile Oscar race this year and if they’d waited a minute or not, and saw that their supposed front-runner “Lady Bird” had not one ONE AWARD AT THE SAGS, they never would’ve run this cover. It’s premature inauguration. A few more hours and it may have been Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell on the cover. Or Sally Hawkins and her magical Fish.

But you see just how close this supporting actress race and every category, as a matter of fact, this year is. And Brit Great Lesley Manville, an O.B. E. has been added to the mix, both here in the America Oscar Nominations and abroad at the BAFTAS in London. So do stay tuned for more mud-wrestling.

My SAG 2018 Predictions

After much consideration, and I’m trying to be as simple as I can be, I think the key to this year’s SAG Awards predictions is as plain as the nose on my face. Or as plain as the nose on anyone’s face in Ebbing,Missouri. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is going to sweep and win all four of the categories it’s nominated for. The overwhelming performance of an angry, but not tear-stained, grieving mother Mildred will win Frances McDormand her second SAG award. The fierceness of her unforgiving fury will translate into universal acclaim  as she has already received., at 60, the Golden Globe for Best Actress Drama and the same at the Critics’ Choice Awards.And her co-star Sam Rockwell, as the confused small-town policeman, Deputy Dixon, who tries to help her solve the  seemingly unsolvable mystery of her daughter’s violent rape and death, will precede McDormand to the podium and win Best Supporting Actor. Both of them bumping into each other on their way to the Oscars.

And two of the a-fore-seen winners of the other two awards,  Gary Oldman as the definitive Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour” (Best Actor) and Allison Janney as Tonya Harding’s frightening mother in the surging “I, Tonya.” (Best Supporting Actress), both will win again.

The SAGS only give out few awards to film. Mostly, it’s television that is being awarded. And usually at the start of the show BANG! They announce one of the two  Supporting Awards. So tune in on time at 8pm tomorrow night at TNT and TBS (Check your local listings.) Or you might miss Sam winning! Hopefully, I’ll survive the suspense until Sunday night when once again, I will be live-blogging.

Their fourth nomination being the supposedly predictive Best Ensemble award. That’s the only one of “Three Billboards” four nominations that I’m a little bit shaky about. But I think it’s their night. They might not win the Oscar, but they’ll win this. It’s an actor’s actor movie. And the SAGs, lest me forget, are actors voting on actors. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing” is co–starring some of the greatest actors of our time. Woody Harrleson, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges are among the long list of its’ sterling ensemble.

“The Shape of Water” can’t win because it wasn’t nominated.

It could easily go to one of the other films. I would automatically say “Lady Bird,” but that got shut out surprisingly at the Critics last week! What? What? But I’ll put my pen down for the night, and just wish all of them good luck on Sunday!

Critics Choice Give “Lady Bird” NOTHING!?!? “Shape of Water” wins Best Picture

I guess the members of the Broadcast Film Critics did NOT like Anything about supposed Oscar front-runner “Lady Bird .” It got NOTHING from their award show which went out tonight on the CW. It only took two hours. They didn’t announce many of their silly, superfluous categories on air. But they still were there. As you can see by the list below. Thanks to http://www.awardsdaily.com

Next up, the SAG Awards on Sunday night. I’ll be Live-Blogging those awards, too, which are considered more seriously as they actually voted on by members of a for-real industry guild, the Screen Actors Guild.

WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”WINNERS OF THE 23RD ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “The Shape of Water”

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory, “Call Me By Your Name”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin, “The Shape of Water”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Paul Machliss, Jonathan Amos, “Baby Driver”

BEST EDITING (TIE) – Lee Smith, “Dunkirk”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Mark Bridges, “Phantom Thread”

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP – “Darkest Hour”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “War for the Planet of the Apes”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Coco”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Wonder Woman”

BEST COMEDY – “The Big Sick”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE – “Get Out”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In The Fade”

BEST SONG – “Remember Me” from “Coco”

BEST SCORE – Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

What Does Producers Guild List of 11 Mean?

Three Bill Boards 10Harry Styles Dunkirk 3Call Me Upside DownLady Bird 12What does the odd, never before seen, ELEVEN choices of the Producers Guild mean? Well, to the films seen above jockeying for position to get Oscar nominations it means a lot. The  five pictured above  means that they are all in like flint. They are, counting down, “The Shape of Water”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”, “Dunkirk”, “Call Me By Your Name” and “Lady Bird.” They all can relax and take it easy for at least 48 hours, til the Golden Globes are announced Sunday.

Not that anyone campaigning for the Oscars EVER gets to take it easy at this time of year. Impossible! The mode now is almost always PANIC. But especially if you’ve been left out, like “Darkest Hour” and most importantly, “The Florida Project”.

All Academy Members, especially the Actor’s Branch, at this crucial point, are looking at this list. This means that poor little, brilliant, tear-jerker “Florida” may get left off the Academy’s list which always averages to something like nine. It has to duke it out with the films above and also “Wonder Woman”(can’t believe it’ll be nominated for Best Picture”), “Get Out”((ditto)) and “I, Tonya”(((Triple Ditto))) and “The Post”(yes, probably.)

“The Florida Project”s Oscar chances was mainly riding on the coattails of its Best Supporting Actor hopeful Willem Dafoe, who plays the patient, likable, motel manager. He has VERY strong competition from Sam Rockwell in “Three Billboards” and the inclusion of “Billboards” pretty much knocks Dafoe’s chances down a peg or two. Or three. Proves that people like Hollywood Producers Guild members don’t like films about people on welfare that star people on welfare. (Except for Willem Dafoe, of course.)

Rockwell’s star continues to rise and rise, and he’s even hosting SNL tomorrow night! If you compare the two, as I’m sure the Actor’s Branch members are doing right now, as they begin to vote for their nominations, Rockwell, though I can’t spoil exactly how, where and why, has the truly transformational character. He has to go through many, many amazing permutations, and his film “Three BillBoards…” is a Big Indie, almost a full-on feature film. And “The Florida Project” is not. It’s as small as small can be, and isn’t liked as much as the much admired “Billboards.”

The leaving off “The Darkest Hour” is also not good news for Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. 19 year old(when he shot it) Timothee Chalamat (“Call Me By Your Own Name”) is really giving the veteran British character actor a run for his money, too. He’s 23 now, but would they really shaft the veteran? Timothee’s low-key charisma is charm without end…but…same with Saoirse Ronan’s lost-in-high-school Lady Bird. Two coming of age stories…Are they going to award BOTH teenagers-in-question?

I would say that those four men, Oldman, Chalamet, Dafoe and Rockwell  are the ones in serious awards contention here. They’ll all be nominated, but who will win?

“I, Tonya”s emergence out of the mire that was Tonya Harding’s life and the inclusion of it on this List of Lists really means that it has to be taken much more seriously than anyone had expected. And that not only the respected vet Allison Janney, but the emergent Australian actress Margot Robbie, is no longer merely a sex-bomb, but also quite possibly a Best Actress nominee. As unbelievable as that may have sounded even last week.

I don’t think this helps or hurts Allison Janney, as her mother-from-hell, because if “Lady Bird” is going to win anything, it’s Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s mother from Purgatory in Best Supporting Actress.

So what will “Lady Bird,” which seems to be leading  the momentum. Wwhat will that mean for its lovely Irish star Saoirse Ronan and its brilliant writer-director Greta Gerwig? I’d say the jury is still out on that one, and that it’s going to be a battle to the end or a fight to the finish either way for both of them.

My Year’s Ten Best 2017!

1. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME ~ One of the Best Films Ever Made. Period. The Gay Movie, we, as gays, have been waiting for all our lives. Timothee Chalamet has won BOTH the New York Film Critics and the L.A. Film Critics Best Actor awards. Armie Hammer is his magnificent love interest and co-star.

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2. WONDER WHEEL ~ Woody Allen’s latest and Kate Winslet’s tear-stained performance is one of her best.

3. THE SHAPE OF WATER ~ Guillermo Del Toro’s Best Film. Sally Hawkins is flat-out amazing as a Spanish Deaf Mute Janitress, who falls in love with something akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But it isn’t ridiculous. It’s beautiful, and moving beyond words. She won Best Actress from the L.A. Film Critics. This film will make you cry.

4. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI– Irish Playwright Martin McDonagh’s magnificent morphing into a great American crime filmmaker. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell burn up the screen, literally. This film will make you angry. For all the right reasons.

5.  THE FLORIDA PROJECT ~Unbelievably, an epic film set in the make-shift budget motels across the street from  DisneyWorld, which was first called “The Florida Project,” as it was being built. Willem Dafoe is the sympathetic, sad-sack motel manager and six-year-old mischief maker Brooklynn Prince rock each other’s, and our world. Public access legend Sandy Kane makes a cameo appearance. She told me, “If you blink, you’ll miss me. It’s Tats over tits.”

6.ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD ~ Director Ridley Scott is back Big Time, as he directs Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer in a tense, spine-tingling thriller about the ’70s kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, who, yes, gets his ear cut off and sent to his mother (Williams.) But you can’t turn away.

7.LADY BIRD ~ Genius Greta Gerwig channels her boring, restless teenage years in  middle-class Sacramento into a box office bonanza that Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe as her befuddled, well-meaning mother from Hell, make herstory and could all win Oscars. Best Film of the Year from the New York Film Critics. Will it win the Oscar, too, for Best Picture? It might.

9. DUNKIRK ~ Christopher Nolan’s truly epic epic that makes all WWII war movies look like tiddly winks and utitlizes Oscar Winners  Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and a cast of 100os to re-vitalize history in a seat-of-your-pants thriller diller. And rock star Harry Styles is in it, too. And he’s good!

10.  FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON ~ Marion Cotillard’s mesmeric performance once again lights up the skies in this unusual French love story.

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