a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Brooklyn’

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” Wonderful New Musical Off-Bway!

FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” is the most wildly inventive musical of the Off-Bway season. And if anyone would have told me I’d be raining superlatives over a two-person love story that’s set simultaneously in Brooklyn and Antartica (!) I wouldn’t’ve believed them! But it’s true! It’s all true! And 19th Century Arctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton has come back to life(Through a date searching app on the Internet) to make wild, theatrical magic love to a single 45-year-old Mom with a baby named Zach in an unheated apartment “far out” in Brooklyn, well, it just sounds preposterous.

But the theater exists to make the unbelievable, believable.And “Ernest Shackleton” amazingly does just that .Our heroineKat (the extraordinary singer/actress/musician Val Vigoda) is an experimental music composer, whose living room is filled with every kind of electronic musical device imaginable, including a red, heart-shaped electric violin, which she barely puts down and a set of amplified drums that she beats all her many frustrations out on. This assemblage of electronicaErnest Shackleton 2 is backed by a gigantic computer screen, behind the stage, on which we see her many, many wild fantasies play out on.

The frigidity of her (very) cold water flat and the stress of her life as an artist. “I gave my life to art!” she plaintively sings, sends her over the edge and into the imaginary arms of studly Arctic hero, Ernest Shackleton, who calls out to her romantically through the Internet dating site, “Katherine! Katherine!..”and then enters her own version of Antarctica, through (where else?) her refrigerator.

Wade McCollum and Val Vigoda are the star-crossed lovers linked by the heroic struggles both are going through. He, to reach his high-flown Arctic goals, and she, well, just to survive her life. Her baby never stops crying, her computer’s keyboard keeps re-looping the word “Alone,” and they spend “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” finding each other in the highly unromantic ice and snow, which the dauntless duo here turn into a winter wonderland.

The fiery Ms. Vigoda has also written the equally red-hot, heartfelt lyrics to go with Brendan Milburn’s Irish-inflected score.

There are a lot of sea shanties mixed in with the hard-rock and the love songs and the rock-solid book is by Joe DiPietro of “Memphis” fame, who really knows his way around a musical.  And underground there is massive musical amplification on  every kind of instrument imaginable by Sound Designer Rob Kaplowitz and Orchestrators Ryan O’Connell and Glen Milburn. And the super-skillful director Lisa Peterson makes the duo seem like a cast of thousands.

At no time do Kat and Shackleton strain our credulity, as the metaphor of his ice-bound ship, the Endurance, freezes over and sinks, stranding them and a crew of 22. This is based on a true story, which I won’t spoil here.(You can look it up. It’s a recorded fact.)And they had a videographer with them, too! As newsreel footage of Shackleton’s impossible dreams becomes all of our dreams of achievement, love and survival against all odds.“Ernest Shackleton’s motto was “Optimism is a form of moral courage.”
I left “Ernest Shackleton” filled with more optimism, and hope, yes, hope for the innovative American Musical than I’ve felt since well, since “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”
He sings “FOR MY LOVE, IT IS TIMELESS AND VAST AS THE SKIES
IT IS STRONG AS THE TIDE AND THE WAVES WHEN THEY RISE
IT IS I, ERNEST SHACKLETON, HERE IN COMMAND
AND I PROMISE MY DARLING WE’RE GONNA FIND LAND!”

#Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, # Ernest Shackleton, #Val Vigoda,#Wade McCollum,#Antartica, #Artic Explorer, #Endurance, # Electric Violin, # Single Mom

The All Important Producers Guild Announces Nominations

Alicia Vikander 3Mark Ruffalo 1Mark Rylance 1The All Important Producers Guild just announced seconds ago its’ list of the Top Ten Films of 2015. Why is the PGA as it’s abbreviated sooo important? Well, apart from SAG, it is the first solid indication of just who’s in and who’s,out the (most likely) to be nominated films for Best Picture and there’s quite a few surprises. This is the industry speaking now, not critics’ groups or press.

And there are more than many snubs. A lot of people’s Oscar dreams are ending right here.

The theatrical motion picture nominees are:

 

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

Ø  The Big Short

Producers: Brad Pitt & Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner

Ø  Bridge of Spies

Producers: Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger

Ø  Brooklyn

Producers: Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey

Ø  Ex Machina

This film is in the process of being vetted for producer eligibility

Ø  Mad Max: Fury Road

Producers: Doug Mitchell & George Miller

Ø  The Martian

Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Mark Huffam

Ø  The Revenant

Producers: Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon

Ø  Sicario

Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Edward L. McDonnell, Molly Smith

Ø  Spotlight

Producers: Michael Sugar & Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagon Faust

Ø  Straight Outta Compton

Producers: Ice Cube & Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Dr. Dre, Scott Bernstein

The Indies, “Brooklyn,” and esp. “Ex Machina” are really shocking as is the inclusion of “Straight Outta Compton.” This is REALLY good news of Saorise Ronan who single-handedly makes this slight film a delight, and gives an equally delightful performance. And Soarise is pronounced SHEER-sha, btw, for those who still don’t know how to say this tremendously charming twenty-year-old’s name. The EXCLUSION of “Room” makes Soarise a real threat to win Best Actress over “Room”s Brie Larson, I’m afraid. But it’s a real duel between the two young ladies now.

This announcement also helps, as I predicted earlier this week, the ever-ascending Alicia Vikander who is the robotic fulcrum of “Ex Machina.” I guess you could say Alicia is playing the title role! This makes her even more likely to land in Supporting for “Ex Machina.” and hopefully in lead, too, for “The Danish Girl.”aLICIA vIKANDER1

Good news also for “Spotlight” since it needs to recover from yesterday’s exclusion for the also-important Ace Eddie Nominations.

Baad news for the Weinstein Co. since neither “Carol” nor “The Hateful Eight” appeared here.

And even though “Star Wars:The Force Awakens” is killing it at the box-office, to put it mildly, it did not land on the Producers’ list. You’d think that any film that making the millions and billions that “Star Wars” is and is becoming a cultural phenomenon to boot, would’ve landed on this list.

Two other extravaganzas “The Martian” and “Mad Max:Fury Road” DID land.Martian 3

And adding in “Ex Machina” that makes it three sci-fi films in contention.

And it makes me think they like, they really like the sexy robot Ava of Alicia Vikander. She WILL win an Oscar ~ Category still to be determined!

 

Oscar Hallowe’en!BOO! It’s Scary Out There for a Contender

Joy1EddieandlilliIt’s Oscar Hallowe’en! Boo! Did I scare you? Not as much as some of the box-office news is scary for some of the Oscar Wannabee Contenders. “Steve Jobs” has just about died at the Box-Office. Michael Fassbender in the title role might not even get nominated! As I said before about “The Joy of Typing”(my title for “The Social Network”) who in the Academy wants to see a movie about the Internet? NO ONE.

Some Academy members don’t even HAVE a computer. You have to call them on the antiquated machine known as the telephone. Or worse, WRITE THEM A LETTER. Some don’t even have email.

They hate the Internet with a vengeance. It’s changed their world in too many ways, none of which they understand, or like (Don’t believe me? Look back at few years at “The Joy of Typing”)

Also sinking like a stone at the B.O. is, sadly, “Suffragette.” Women will love this movie. Men will hate it and the Academy as I’ve always said is made up of the SWORM. The Straight White Old Rich Men, who dominate Hollywood(and the Oscars) since the dawn of time. They’re gonna hate it, since there is NOT ONE sympathetic male in the entire movie.

And “Suffragette”s lack of relatability (to men) will sink it at the Oscars and Carrie Mulligan’s very good performance, too. Perhaps…Sad for Carrie. But good news for Saoirse Ronan in “Brooklyn.” “Suffragette’s lose, may be the charming, small period film’s gain. “Brooklyn” I mean. As Brit Carrie goes down with her ship, Irish Saorise will rise with hers as the token femme Celt.

A film that is also going to scare all the other contenders is the upcoming “Joy”. With Jennifer Lawrence once again being up for Best Actress for her role as a house-wife who turns into a mega-businesswoman. A single mom, at that. And if you can find it(it’s not hard. It’s everywhere now.)on the Internet, the trailer REALLY looks great for Jennifer to perhaps do it again and win a SECOND Best Actress Oscar.  She’s a star. She’s under 25. She’s box-office. It’s David O. Russell-directed(again) and it’s going to be her v. Brie Larson in “Room.” You mark my words.And strangely Brie Larson’s character is ALSO named Joy. So it’ll be Joy v. Joy at the Oscars this year in the first time in AGES since we’ve really had a race going on in that category.And that IS a joy!

Cate Blanchett’s excellent “Truth” is also tanking at the box-office so she’ll probably be nominated for her other upcoming film “Carol.” But having won so recently for “Blue Jasmine,” I don’t think they’ll give her a third Oscar this year, though Jennifer Lawrence very well may be looking at her second.

Also looking straight at a second Oscar is Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl”. Based on a true story(see above^) and featured magnificently in VOGUE with Lupita N’yongo on the cover with a spread that shows his remarkable transition. Lili Elbe one of the first, if not THEE first transgender pioneer, is such a tragic figure. It may also tug at the Academy’s hard heart. I think it will. Eddie makes a beautiful girl. His performance as Lili is nothing short of incredible. He’s even better than he was in “The Theory of Everything” which he won Best Actor for last year.

NOT scaring anyone is Johnny Depp’s “Black Mass” another mis-fire. People admire his performance as Whitey Bulger, a mob informant/killer (Haven’t we seen him in this role before?Wasn’t it called “Donny Brasco”?) Critics like HIM, but not the movie and It’s not scaring up much $ either. Though “The Martian” is! And that could be our Best Picture winner, BTW. And could garner Matt Damon a nomination as Best Actor.THAT is the red elephant in the room.

Also, everyone is afraid that it just may be Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar year FINALLY. But “The Revenant” is still to be seen. I didn’t think it would be ready in time, but it looks like it is. Will the public embrace it more than “The Martian”? Hard to say. And Ridley Scott, “The Martian”s director has never won an Oscar, though his film “Gladiator” did.

So BOO! And Happy Hallowe’en, dear readers, dear cineastes! I’m BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!

Image

Michael Place talks Lupita at Yale

Michael Place talks Lupita at Yale

Michael Place is a wonderful, talented, inspiring young actor just like his classmate from Yale Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o. He just went on NPR radio and talked about her soooo eloquently that I just felt I had to share what he had to say about his best friend and her ASTOUNDING Oscar journey.

I met Michael the night I met Lupita in May 2012, and his description of her school days and the naming of their class as “The Wilsons” is goofy and historical at the same time.

His heartfelt description of her beauty and her talent and just how she made the transition from her native Nairobi to where she is now with so much grace, poise and intelligence and yes, ease, is just wonderful, and wonderfully insightful and detailed. And take it from me, his acting is just as good as his interview(s).

You have to wade through the NPR show about geneologies and Google glass before you get to Michael on Lupita at about 25:00, but it’s worth the wade.

Michael says and I quote:

“When your friend wins an Oscar people ask you questions about them on the radio: http://wnpr.org/post/scramble-are-aj-jacobs-lupita-nyongo-and-john-rowland-related starts at 25:00 #teamlupita #TheWilsons

Image

“A Little Night Music” in Brooklyn

Judith Roberts

I find myself lately wandering more and more out to Brooklyn, which to this Native New Yorker, a Manhattan-dweller, is equivalent these days of traveling to a foreign country. And I always get lost. The weather was with me, but the subways weren’t.

This time the trains weren’t helping. The “F” subway line was on a weekend schedule where it skipped the stops that I had to take to see the Gallery Players production of “A Little Night Music.” So I ended up getting out at an earlier stop (before the skips started) and ended wandering around a deserted, desolate, rather intimidating moon-scape of storehouses and warehouses, all shuttered for the weekend. It went on and on. For blocks upon blocks. Pot holes everywhere. Thank goodness the sun was up!

New York has been suffering through one of the worst winters on record but this day, a Sunday, was unseasonably warm and bright, so I took the chance for going alllll the way out to Brooklyn to see the Gallery Players for the first time. It was a Matinee Day and the sun was up or I would’ve been REALLY daunted.

Now the Gallery Players’ mandate is to serve its’ community in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. “Broadway in Brooklyn” its’ ads proudly proclaim, and I’m sure the residents nearby its’ location delight in the idea of attending an enterprising theatrical mainstay that is in walking distance.

The Gallery Players are a sort of semi-professional group. An Actor’s Equity Showcase, it boasted an afternoon of excellent singing actors, some giving stand-out, blazing Broadway-style turns, like Judith Roberts as Madame Armfeldt, whom I’ll get to in a minute, and then others who were embarrassingly amateurish. They could sing, but they couldn’t act. But it was lovely hearing that great score once again. It always enchants.

Nevertheless “Little Night Music” was a wildly uneven, seemingly under-rehearsed production. And any production of one of Stephen Sondheim’s best-ever musicals has to compete in my mind with memories of the blazing Broadway original, directed by Harold Prince. Both he and Sondheim were at the heights of the respective careers when “A Little Night Music” exploded on to Broadway in the 1970s.

I remember Glynis Johns, who could barely sing a note, being just wonderful as Desiree Armfeldt. She was so vivid, so sensual, so charismatic as the Swedish actress, all these men keep chasing after madly in Stockholm at the turn of the last century. Based on an Ingmar Bergman movie “Smiles of a Summer Night,” to which it is, in my mind, far, far superior, Sondheim wrote “A Little Night Music” completely in waltz time. It’s one of his best scores, if not THEE best.

I remember so well the shock of the five-person quintet of aristocrats bursting into the semi-operatic “Remember? Remember?” at the beginning of the show.

Then having it settle down to this opulent, melodic score that just soared, although the two central female characters played by Glynis Johns, and, as her mother, Hermione Gingold, couldn’t sing a note.

Rita Rehn, as the vixen/actress Desiree Armfeldt, here was bouncy and charming and really wow-ed me with her unexpectedly poignant rendition of “Send in the Clowns”, the song that some consider Sondheim’s best. And certainly the most popular.

As I heard it for the first time on Broadway, I knew it was an instant classic, but it was ironically(or perhaps cynically) being croaked by an actress Glynis Johns who could barely hit the one of two notes required for it. But here in Park Slope, Rita Rehn moved me quite unexpectedly by her “Send in the Clowns.”

And it couldn’t have come soon enough. The pace of this production was REALLY slow.

But the other saving grace of “A Little Night Music” was Judith Roberts towering turn as Desiree’s sensible courtesan mother, the wheel-chair bound Madame Armfeldt, who bemoans the present state of amour in “Liasons”. Ms. Roberts is giving what can only be described as a legendary interpretation of this terrific role and ranks right up there with Gingold and Elaine Stritch and all the other great ladies who have played this iconic role.”Fire opal pedants!” being one of my all-time favorite lyrics. M. Armfeldt exclaims this mid-song describing one of the great gifts, a long-ago lover bestoyed upon her.

She, unlike the others I’ve seen. chose to sing “Liasons” standing up, and not in a wheel chair, which added to her and its’ power as a show-stopper immeasurably. She brought down the house. And I would venture to say that her performance alone is worth the trip out to Brooklyn to see the Gallery Players before the run of this production ends on Feb. 16. Her Madame is right up there with Gingold and Stritch, who played the part previously.

I would be remiss if I didn’t cite others in this large cast who are also doing yeoman jobs that are worth seeing. Main among them, Ron Langeder, as Count Karl Magnuss, the bristling, jealous dragoon lover of Desiree,Emily Stokes, as Anne, the inguenue, who here is a quite montrous still-a-virgin very young wife of the lawyer Egerman and
Scott Vicari, showing in the small role of Frid, a servant, Stanislavski’s great maxim, there is no such thing as a small part, only small actors. And Vicari shows that he is not a small actor by any means. He glows like a jewel in the background with focused intelligence and the presence of a star, whether he is pushing Madame Armfeldt’s wheel-chair, or seducing the servant girl in “I Will Marry the Miller’s Son.”

So in conclusion “A Little Night Music” by the Gallery Players is a mixed-bag of baubles indeed, but one you should definitely look in to. You might find a diamond, like Judith Roberts.

The Gallery Players are located at ~
199 14th St, #2, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Cross Streets: Between 5th Ave and 4th Ave
Neighborhoods: South Slope, Brooklyn
(718) 832-0617
galleryplayers.com

The Year’s 10 Best – Analysis of “I Love You, Phillip Morris” & the Enduring Influence of Paul Corrigan

Phew! Now I have the time to go into a little bit more deeply the whys and the wherefores and the WTF element(to some, perhaps) of my selection of the Year’s Ten Best Films.

As someone who sees films ALL THE TIME, Day in and Day Out, nearly every day of my waking life…Films that really last and really stay with you, films that are a total, immersive cinematic experience that affects one so deeply that it becomes part of your life as well as part of the year’s discussion of Best Films…well, that’s why they are all here…And why we are all here…Because we love film…

Yes, I do have a propensity for foreign films and independent films. I stay away from the big studio blockbusters and franchises, if I can help it. Unless I CAN’T help it. Like as you all know, I reluctantly found myself at “Harry Pooter 7 1/2” and I’m glad that I did~ ONLY to see Helena Bonham-Carter’s THIRD terrific performance of the year, as a witch with the name that I just can’t stop saying “Bellatrix La Strange”. A scary ten-minute turn that could help her get her long overdue Oscar…The other two films are “Alice in Wonderland” and of course, “The King’s Speech.”

But I digress…

Number Ten ALMOST was “Fish Tank” a film I loved tremendously. A British Indie. Gritty, grimy, grinding poverty depicted in a council flat setting in London’s East End where I, as you all know, lived for quite a number of years in the ’70s& ’80s. Andrea Arnold, the writer/director, and Michael Fassbender, the rising star of stars, acting alongside a completely inexperienced non-actress, Katie Jarvis, was really a wild, unexpected ride. I couldn’t believe Jarvis was NOT a pro, so profoundly compelling was her portrayal of teenage Cockney torment, when her mom brings a new boyfriend (Fassbender) home. You’ll remember Fassbender from “Inglorious Basterds” as the British officer in that wacky, unforgettable card game.

I guess that would be my number 11, if I was going to extend this arbitrary listing slightly, but I just wanted to give the stunning “Fish Tank” an honorable mention.

I made “I Love You, Phillip Morris” my number  ten, because I found myself laughing out loud and also crying inside and totally immersed in the preposterous, gay yarn, that is evidently ALL TRUE, about a homosexual con man extraordinaire(Jim Carrey is his best EVAH) and his finding true love, in jail, natch, with a sweet blond gay guy, Phillip Morris. Yes, that’s his real name…played to a touching fare-thee-well by the unrecognizable Ewan McGregor. I was told not to review it at the time, but I guess I’m raving about it now. It’s in theaters and playing very robustly AND it was raved about by my critical colleagues! Good! Great!

And I do have to mention that as much as I was enjoying the film, when the end credits rolled, I was blown away all over again, by the film’s dedication to my late friend Paul Corrigan, who evidently was the impactful teacher of these young filmmakers, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, both straight. At Pratt. In Brooklyn. Paul died tragically of AIDS a number of years ago.

And I thought the book was closed forever on his life. But no! His great gay spirit keeps jumping up from beyond to assert Paul’s powerful, playful personality once again. It was uncanny how much I thought the Jim Carrey character did, and still does remind me of Paul.

I wrote an Obit for him at the time that I wrote for “Lesbian and Gay New York.” It was all too brief, and didn’t give at all a taste of what Paul was really like. There was very little space. He went to Sarah Lawrence where he was a classmate of Bob Plunket, Susan Haskins(of “Theater Talk”) and Amy Robinson, producer-extraordinaire and also Harvey Keitel’s girl-friend in “Mean Streets.”

I remember Paul first play, his first New York production of two one-acts called “Tan My Hide” and “Nancy’s Tragic Period.” At La Mama E.T.C. and they starred if memory serves Bob and Amy as Santa’s Elves, who were having to make leather gear for Santa, or something like that.

I remember Bob had the immortal(to my mind) lines, “Have you ever seen a dwarf come?”

“Little drizzle droplets.” 

 And I think Susan was Nancy in “Nancy’s Tragic Period” where she was a girl whose record player(yes, her RECORD PLAYER. That’s how long ago this was.) whose record player keeps telling her how to live her life and acting like a Greek Chorus…I could go on and on.

But I remember to this day the freshness of the writing and the humor and the direction, which I think Paul essayed himself.

But he did not continue with his playwriting.  I wish he had.

Years later I encountered him on a Manhattan street and he told me he was teaching Film at Pratt University, a school in Brooklyn that at the time was not known as a cinema studies center, by any means…

And I thought he was being disingenuous.

Then I met Susan Haskins, who was also a fellow teacher at Pratt. And she assured me that yes, Paul was teaching a very special cinema class.

And all these years later, “I Love You, Phillip Morris” bares testimony to the enduring quality of his teaching and his impact on his pupils.

More on numbers 9 to 1 of my Top Ten later…

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: