a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Wonderful Christmas Treat! “Bing Rediscovered” on PBS

Bing 1http://http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/bing-crosby/bing-crosby-rediscovered-about-the-film/3448/

You have a wonderful Christmas treat coming at you, dear readers, dear cineastes, PBS’ American Masters is going to be presenting to you in honor of the 60th anniversary of the film “White Christmas”, a terrific, charming, delightful, and also a bit frightening, “Bing Crosby Rediscovered.” It will air on Tuesday night December 2, and be repeated the day after Christmas, Dec.26. Check your local listings.

I’ve watched it twice now and it’s the perfect holiday movie, reminding us of how much a part of all our early lives Bing Crosby was. “He was like family,” one of his biographers says. Narrated by the great Stanley Tucci, it’s a no-holes-barred look at a very complicated, and some could say troubled man.

Alcoholism ruled and nearly ruined his entire life. It led to a troubled marriage. The early death of his beloved wife Dixie, at 44 from ovarian cancer. How much his and her drinking led to this, we’ll never know, and then we find all of his four sons by that marriage died one right after the other, young, too, and two of them suicides.

He got it right though with his amazing second marriage to Kathryn, who appears in the film with her three happy surviving children, one of them, Mary Crosby, became a well-known actress herself. She shot JR, if you remember on “Dallas.”

And none of his family nor any of the interview subjects including Michael Feinstein, hold back or mince words. And oh that beautiful music!

“Bing Crosby Rediscovered” is filled with marvelous, archival footage going all the way back to his early days in vaudeville!

The late Bob Hope, of course, his great on-screen comic partner, for all those “Road” movies in the ’40s is heard in voice-over. Rosemary Clooney’s  melodious singing and speaking voice is also heard commenting on how much Bing meant to her. She starred opposite him in “White Christmas.”

I remember so well the day my mother brought that red vinyl Decca 45 RPM record home from Macy’s in the Bronx. It was an event in my childhood. And how we nearly wore out the groves on it, as we listening endlessly entranced by just the THOUGHT of a white Christmas in the Bronx! It seemed an impossible, beautiful dream.  I don’t think we ever had one.

But you’ll have wonderful Christmas memories and many more delights awaiting you in “Bing Crosby Rediscovered.” It’s essential viewing for the Holiday Season. Click on the link above to see a sneak preview and don’t miss it!

Christmas in New York~Rockefeller Center Tree Goes Up

Christmas 1You know it’s Christmas in New York when you stumble into Rockefeller Center and you see THE TREE going up. I had never seen it in this incarnation before, covered with box-like scaffolding on all sizes. This year’s tree is shorter and squatter I noticed. Wider. Not the usual tall, majestic, overwhelming Spruce of days and years gone by.

I stumbled upon it when I decided to go underground in Rockefeller Center as the day got suddenly colder and winter was indeed comin’ in. Everyone kept giving me directions and of course they were all contradictory and wrong, and I went around and around corners, all marble seemingly, and passed the place where you can see the ice-skaters skating like mad around the Rockefeller Ice rink.

As I tried to find my way out of this  golden marble, Art Deco maze, I was reminded that it was here on “The Howdy Doody Show” at about age 6 that I made my television debut as a member of the Peanut Gallery. I still get chills. So much of my life was inrevocably STAMPED by destiny that day. My little brother John was on the show, too.

And downstairs, in a Schraft’s that is no longer there, after the show, my beloved British grandmother, who lived with us, remonstrated me for trying to eat peas with a knife. I couldn’t very well manage it. They kept falling off! And we could see the skaters skating by outside even then.
Schraft’s is gone, but the skaters go on skating. “The Howdy Doody Show” is gone, but Rockefeller Center remains almost completely unchanged. And I’m still in Show Business. For richer, for poorer (mostly poorer).

My parents did NOT want me to go in to Show Business, but what were they thinking putting me and John on “Howdy Doody” at such an impressionable age. I was in kindergarten and he, a year younger than me, was not even in school yet.

And as I accidentally emerged (I was still looking for the subway), I ran smack-dab into the giant Christmas Tree and all its’ scaffolding. Announcing to all that the holiday season had already begun in New York. The stores were all decked out with their Christmas displays everywhere you looked. And I hadn’t dressed warmly enough.

Just wandering around underground in Rockefeller Center is like time traveling. A New York landmark, encased in the same golden marble it was when I was on “Howdy Doody.”

Did I ever find that elusive subway? No. Since I was above ground and a bus immediately came, I took the bus. Native New Yorkers like myself know you have to KEEP MOVING.

 

 

Oscar Best Picture Race~Is It Really Down to Three?

New York’s just had its’ first major snowfall, Christmas is around the corner, and can the Oscar race for Best Picture be just down to three films already?

To judge by the major Oscar websites, it already seems a done deal. With “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity” and unbelievably “American Hustle” being judged the only three that could. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has another great “State of the Race” piece and she sees it this way at http://www.Awardsdaily.com and so does Tom O’Neil at http://www.goldderby.com

But interestingly though they came to the same conclusions about THE THREE. Sasha has “12 Years a Slave” is on top, and Tom O. is sticking to “Gravity.” Me? I’m on Sasha’s side. And I hope that’s the way it plays out.

I saw “12 Years a Slave” for the THIRD time last night, and was bowled over by it all over again. It’s beauty.It’s musical score by Hans Zimmer. The cinematography, director Steve McQueen’s expert use of his large cast. There’s not a weak one among the vast ensemble. And the writing is so good! And it’s a true story!John Ridley is the screenwriting, based of course on the now best-selling book by Soloman Northrup. First published in 1856.

And Lupito Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejiafor broke my heart all over again.

I can’t even imagine sitting through “American Hustle” Three times. Maybe to figure out its’ dense con artist plot within a plot within a plot. But not even Jennifer Lawrence’s hilarious mob wife would get me back a second time. There’s not enough hours left in my life.

“American Hustle” benefits greatly from being the new kid on the block as it were. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” have been going strong since Toronto Film Festival, which is where I saw the both of them. And that’s a problem, too. Keeping the momentum going this long. Both Fox Searchlight and also Warner’s have that as a task they must fulfill.

I just  got a press release that it’s going to be re-released, though I just saw it for the third time, as I’ve said, last night. It’s made $35 million, which is no small amount of Oscar change. And the nominations are only now about to be mailed out to the membership.And of course, those all important DVD screeners.

Seeing movies on the big screen is the only way, really, to see these important films, IMHO. I saw “Her” tonight. Cute. With a small “c”. But with so many films these days being so dark and so tragic, “Her” is really a sweet, sweet love story…about a man(Joaquim Phoenix) who falls in love with his Ciri-like Operating System, voiced magnificently by the totally unseen Scarlett Johansson. It gains by comparison. It aims to be GENTLE. And it refreshingly is.

It’s a futuristic love story, but that’s all it is. Filmed in Beijing, it looks like it really HAS been shot in the future, too.

In any other year, Joaquim Phoenix’s kindly, lost, dweeb Twombly would be in the best actor race. Most of the film is ONLY shots of his face. I didn’t know if it would sustain, if he’d be that riveting, but newsflash, he is. TOTALLY different from his disturbed loner Freddie Quell from last year’s “The Master” which, yes, indeed he WAS nominated for Best Actor for. But this year Best Actor is so crowded, he hasn’t a chance to get in.

He hasn’t turned up in any of the precursor critics awards. And neither, strangely has Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks”. His Disney on Disney performance is not going down or turning up anywhere.  At least not yet.. NOBODY nominated him for this Supporting turn, whereas they ALLLLL nominated him for “Captain Phillips” as Best Lead Actor and they’ve nominated Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi in all three major races, too. For Best Supporting Actor.

He and Daniel Bruhl  of “Rush”as well have been nominated for the SAG Award, the Golden Globe award and also the Critics choice awards, something NOBODY could have seen coming, but yet, there they are. They made the golden trifecta that you NEED to get to be nominated for an Oscar.

Oprah was left out of the Golden Globes in Best Supp. Actress for “The Butler”. So does that make her vulnerable? Or just simply unpopular with the Hollywood Foreign Press?

And Robert Redford not being nominated for a SAG award for Best Actor for “All Is Lost” is still the most shocking snub. And it WAS nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble, which is really crazy weird because HE IS the Ensemble, in this one person movie.

That, yes, can be seen as merely stunt work.And it IS incredible stunt work. For a 77-year-old man to be doing all that running (around his sinking yacht), climbing the mast, swimming with sharks…well, he’s certainly in good shape for his age. And his agility is amazing. But is that great acting? Well…

It’s also  almost totally silent.

He says one word and one word only “FUCK!!!!!” when he begins to finally sense the utter desolation of his desperate situation. IF ONLY THAT WEREN’T HIS ONLY WORD…And I thought, “Well, he’s lost the Oscar. Right there.”

In this tough field, he’ll be lucky to be nominated. And he’s not actively campaigning as the other 77-year-old in the race for Best Actor is, Bruce Dern, for “Nebraska”. He’s everywhere. In L.A. Guess he’ll be showing up in New York to pick up his National Board of Review award for Best Actor. He won that, Bruce did. And he also triumphed at the L.A. Film Critics.
But neither of them are going to win against “12 Years a Slave”s majestic powerhouse Chiwetel Ejiafor.

Mesmerzing”Maigret” French TV series now out on MHz DVDs!

Rarely, have I ever stumbled upon a new fictional detective that has totally mesmerized me. Full disclosure, I’m sort of obsessed by Agatha Christie and her great detectives Hercule Poirot and esp. Miss Marple. At last I’ve found some one new, who is quite  obsession-worthy  It is the late great French writer(Belgian born) Georges Simenon and his legendary police commissaire detective Jules Maigret. New to me, but well-known to millions of readers and viewers, esp. in Europe.’

Out now in a marvelously entertaining DVD set released by MHz videos, it features “Maigret” as played by the late great French actor Bruno Cremer, who is well into his 70s when he shot this wonderful series that ran for more than a decade on French TV. And how lucky the French are to have such a high quality TV series running regularly! Most American Network TV is a vulgar joke by comparison.(I’m not counting the excellent work now done on Cable. Like for instance, “Breaking Bad.” But it’s Cable and I don’t get AMC!! )

The Maigret novels have been filmed many, many times  in Europe on TV and in film, but I can’t imagine any of these incarnations beating Cremer’s Commissaire and this flawlessly executed, beautifully filmed TV series.

Subtitled, mais oui, it is always a brain teaser, and very atmospheric, as it takes you back in time to 1950s Paris, where Maigret, a very dogged police inspector, who does everything by the book ( if he can ) plies his trade, pursuing criminals of all social strata and bringing them to justice. As boring as this methodology seems, “Maigret” is never dull pour une instante!

Oui, he’s a for-real policeman, le vrai chose, and Simenon celebrates the French gendarmes at every turn. His Maigret is not a private detective like Poirot or Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe or Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade or an amateur sleuth like Miss Marple. Maigret is actually a commissaire or commissioner of the Paris “Brigade Criminelle.” There are no flatfoots or bumbling gum shoes here, as there always are in Agatha Christie. Policemen are shown to be intelligent, hard-working, admirable and relentless in the pursuit of crime. Simenon shows them as objects of great respect and not derision.

And Maigret, who simply smokes a pipe throughout almost every episode, is the most intelligent and sterling of them all. Like the also pipe-smoking Sherlock Holmes, like all classical detectives, he’s observant and diligent to a fault. Nothing and no one escapes his seemingly casual glances. So you have to be truly as on your toes when you watch it, as he is, watching and listening carefully to everything. And what a Gallic joy that is!

Seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories about Maigret were published between 1931 and 1972. Georges Simenon wrote over a hundred novels and is considered one of France’s greatest and certainly most prolific writers of the last century, but Inspector Maigret was by far his most famous and widely beloved creation. There is a statue to George Simenon, mais oui, bien sur, in France, and also a statue to Maigret in Belgium! Are there any statues to Hercule Poirot lurking about the English countryside? Not that I know of.

Like Christie, each mystery is its’ own perfect stand-alone box of tantalizing puzzles. And one of the delights of this TV incarnation is its’ setting in ’50’s Paris. In  Parisian environs we don’t usually see in French films, so it all feels wonderfully classic and also refreshingly new at the same time.

Each episode of “Maigret” is like its’ own little movie, and the mysteries are almost always impenetrable to all but Commissaire Maigret.

Bruno Cremer’s height and girth and his low, rumbling, grumbling voice are perfectly suited to Maigret. He lumbers when he walks, has a police office that is notoriously untidy and has a distinct dislike of stairs. All traits I found impossibly endearing. His Maigret like all iconic roles in a great, perfectly cast performer’s hands is mesmerizing and you keep wanting to go back to him and see MORE. And MORE!

And with this new series of DVDs from MHz Networks you can! There is also now an MHz TV station in many cities. Check your local listings.

I’ve watched many of the MHz” Maigret”episodes twice. Indeed, the stories are so complex and the characters so deftly drawn,marvelously performed  and thoroughly French that you can’t wait to go back to them as see them re-watch again.  And warning, they’re addictive. They’ll grow on you.

All the actors were new to me (and I watch a lot of French movies!) very talented, and perfectly cast. One in particular whose intriguing name was Remi Martin, was notably good in “Seven Little Crosses”, as a distraught father of a missing child.

As Maigret and the entire Parisian police force, track the little boy as he runs about Paris breaking the glass on police call boxes, another peculiarly French anachronism, the sound of a person running and breathing heavily, is then slowly followed upon by shots only of the school boy’s feet running, running…Classy, eerie, as is the marvelous sound track by  Laurent Petitgirard.

It is a sweltering August Bank Holiday in pre-air-conditioned Paris. And is Maigret on vacation? Non! And he makes sure his entire staff is out sweating and tracking the murderer of old ladies who live alone. Who seems to be a prototypical serial killer.

Another episode that I enjoyed was “Maigret at L’Etoile du Nord” a hotel near the Gare du Nord train station. This time it’s Christmas and it’s snowing. And Maigret isn’t taking off for une Joyeux Noel. As he says, “Murderers don’t take off for the holidays.”

Another favorite quote, Maigret grumbles “I hate solving murders in hotels. You never know where to start!”

And he’s invariably calling the always unseen Madame Maigret, his wife, and apologizing for missing his train.

But don’t miss this delightful series of classic French thrillers!

And newsflash! “Maigret” and many other international crime-soliving TV series can be found on http://www.mhznetworks.org! Stay tuned, dear readers, dear cineastes, for the latest updates on these marvelous European TV series that I like and you might, too!

Noomi v. Rooney ~ The Dragon Tattoo Battle begins!

With the release of an unusually long trailer for the upcoming American re-make of Steig Larsson’s great “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” various sites on the web have started REVIEWING it AS IT WERE THE WHOLE NEW MOVIE. So I will, too.

You can see it at www.awardsdaily.com It’s on the first page now, but in a very short while it will be page two.

And there was also another “teaser trailer” released(or was it pirated? Or both?) a while back. And that’s somewhere on Awardsdaily, too.

The first trailer was very quick and had a definite throbbing pace and was scored to excite and provoke interest as early as this past summer. It ended with the tags of  “The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas” and “She’s Back” and showed virtually NOTHING of the unknown Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander, one of the greatest female fictional characters ever created.

I’ve read all the books as you dear readers, dear cineastes know. And reviewed them all here in this blog. And even got to have a fantastic interview with Noomi Rapace herself, which is still up on my channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I loved the movies and the books and was overwhelmed and thrilled with Noomi Rapace’s great performance as Lisbeth.

But now comes the American re-make of it. Produced by Sony and directed by David Fincher, who brought you that bummer of a non-movie about the Internet & Facebook, who I still can only refer to as “The Joy of Typing.”

Don’t get me wrong I don’t totally HATE David Fincher, but I did HATE that movie. I really did like his “Zodiac” I saw it twice. And also enjoyed “se7en” quite a few years ago.

And yes, he does seem the right “fit” as a director for this dark crime novel. But the question is – WHY REMAKE IT AT ALL????? Answer – Money.

Noomi Rapace’s performance is an astounding screen performance. And I certainly didn’t think it could be duplicated or surpassed.

And the long-ish, just released trailer just confirms this to me. Rooney Mara’s interpretation of Lisbeth, as it is revealed in this trailer (and yes, it’s JUST  a trailer) was very disappointing to me. She plays Lisbeth as a Swedish accented recalcitrant lesbian. Yes, she’s very, very dyke-like in this trailer.

And Noomi Rapace always exhibited a kind of glamour and sex-appeal despite her outlandish hairstyles and outre garments. And she seemed tough, for sure. But never simply a lesbian.

NOT that I have anything against lesbians! I LOVE THEM! Some of my best friends are. And as I gay man, an out gay man, I am very sensitive to these issues.

And this is going to be one of the big ones come Christmas.

Does Rooney Mara’s interpretation(which is Fincher’s direction all the way) justify or carry a big movie like this one certainly seems to be shaping up as?

Steig Larsson’s millennium Trilogy is an astounding successful literary phenomenon. And the movies were beautiful, haunting. And Noomi was sensational, unforgettable as Lisbeth.

This trailer, which astoundingly gives away A LOT of the movie’s plot, shows her in a very bad light, I feel. She looks anorexic, and while Noomi’s multiple piercings made her look sexy, Rooney’s in the nose, eye-brow and lip make her grotesque, and difficult to watch. And she’s SUCH a dyke that it seems impossible that she is going to be believable in the heterosexual section of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” What they’re left with here, then, is a BIG GAY MOVIE. Which is great. We can’t have enough of them. But I don’t think they realize that’s what they’ve got here. And more importantly I don’t think that’s what the late Stieg Larsson meant.

BUT thank goodness! The plot thickens with the news that Music Box, the original trilogy’s distributors, are going to put out a boxed set of the original Swedish films, PLUS something like two hours of unseen footage. Just in time for Christmas! So we’ll be able to see and own all of those beautiful Swedish movies and see what was cut. You can read all about it at www.indiewire.com in Anne Thompson’s Thompson on Hollywood section.

Noomi evidently has the female lead in the sequel to the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes actioner. Also out around Christmas. So she’s employed.

And don’t tell me her not getting cast in the American remake as the role she made world-famous, Lisbeth Salander, didn’t break her heart. Because I think it did.

But if Rooney Mara’s performance is as weak and enervated and mannish as it seems in the trailer, well, Noomi Rapace may have the last laugh if the film tanks. It looks like it’s going to make money, but is it going to be an Oscar favorite? Judging by this trailer, I don’t think so.

But of course a trailer is not an entire film. We have to wait and see. But since everybody and his brother is reviewing this spoiler-filled trailer as if it WERE the movie, then I just HAD to tell my readers what I thought of it which was…not much.

Upcoming! Me & Noomi! And a FOURTH volume of Steig for Xmas!

Newsflash! I’m going to be interviewing the great Swedish actress Noomi Rapace(still don’t know how to pronounce her name, but on Wed. I’ll find out!) who has played the ASTOUNDING, maybe the most ASTOUNDING and original female character, well, perhaps EVAH in the noir genre. She’s captured world-wide attention in the three Steig Larson crime novels, “The Girl With the Snake Tattoo”, “The Girl who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” A.K.A. The Millenial Trilogy.

And as you know, dear readers, dear cineastes, I just saw the “Hornet’s Nest” movie a few weeks ago and was TOTALLY blown away by it! It was my first Lisbeth Salander/Noomi Rapace/Steig Larson encounter, and it’s not going to be my last!

I now am starting at the beginning of the Trilogy with the first book and am totally gripped by it. Lisbeth and the Swedish setting are all so new for a Whodunit, which the first book is turning out to be…In this volume, she’s sort of a sullen coffee girl at a Private Investigator’s office, who quickly works her way up to a Private Eye herself. From seeing the third movie FIRST, who knew? In the third movie, she’s a criminal herself! So it starts with her in a hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen…How she got from here to there is quite the thrillerdillerchiller ~It’s now becoming clearer and just who and what her relationship is with this writer Mikael and his magazine that she gets herself involved with is!…You do need to read all three books to get the depths and the layers of the plots and the characters he’s laying out…

Starting at the end, I was indeed very confused by the back story, and it really is an epic . A Nordic saga. Sort of a Swedish War and Peace. And there’s plenty more characters that need explication, like for instance the ubiquitous co-lead Michael Blomkvist, who is going to be played in the movie by the great Daniel Craig, and he really is a terrific actor, when challenged -that David Fincher is now currently shooting with Craig and Rooney Mara (“The Social Network”s only woman to make an impact, and she’s TERRIFIC in it!) So Fincher and Rooney are going at it again and how good will these American films be? 

Well, she’s very talented and intense and Fincher’s great with creeped-out atmopherics(“Zodiac”, “Se7en”) but how good will the script be is my question? It always comes down to that.

But at any rate, you will have the REAL Swedish DEAL to relish very, very soon “With the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” AND!

Coming out in time for Christmas, Knopf is issuing a FOURTH volume!

YES! A boxed set containing Essays and Memories and his EMAILS (yes, it’s come to that, friends) with his publishers…Plus the three hardcover novels! What a Christmas present! I’m already reading the manuscript of that fourth volume now. And it’s necessary. Essential reading.

And his untimely death JUST before the books began to be published is one of the most tragic backstories in recent literary history…And makes the whole series even more eerie, scary, disturbing, poignant…As Lisbeth Salander herself is…

More soon on this ongoing literary phenomenon! And why are they re-making it soooo quickly as an American version? Simple answer. It’s a license to print money….

And he never lived to see any of it…It IS a Swedish War and Peace! And fulfills that crazy unsatiated craving for a dark Swedish delight to that left us when Ingmar Bergman died…And now Steig Larson is gone, too! But Lizbeth Salander LIVES!

And could Noomi Rapace be nominated for a Best Actress in a very crowded field. I say, GO FOR IT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMI!

Update! Up til 2 in the morning, not able to put “The Girl with the Snake Tattoo” down! And still trying to figure out how to work with Brave New World called WordPress! The trackback “Noomi Rapace’s Blog” excellent little bio and pic! And my goodness gracious, does she look differnt in the picture!

And she’s worked with R. Gunlaugsson, who is supposed to be one of the most difficult directors in Icelandic film! I know! Cuz I was there doing my show TWICE in the winter of ’99 for Christmas, then again the following June of 2000! Loved it there! So this makes her the most famous female to come out of Iceland since Byork!

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