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Posts tagged ‘Cinematography’

Luminous, Lucent, Transcendant Kate Winslet Could Win Her 2nd Oscar for “Wonder Wheel”

Wonder Wheel 3

Lustrous, luminous, transcendent Kate Winslet is the wonder of Woody Allen’s new “Wonder Wheel.”
Is there any American filmmaker alive today who writes  such great roles for women? No. There simply isn’t. And as photographed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet seems to be a cinematic miracle of color and light, majesty and emotion,

You simply can’t take your eyes off her. Storaro and Allen have combined to give her a cinematic beauty that makes you gasp, in a multi-faceted role that makes you applaud. She is playing Ginny, a Brooklyn waitress, who works in a Coney Island Clam House. I have known SOOOO many Ginnys in my lifetime, and British though she is, Winslet absolutely nails her Ginny to the Coney Island boardwalk. And it’s  stirring performance in the grand tradition. She’s every woman. And every woman I’ve known, from Brooklyn, trying to make a better life for herself and her family. And trying to find love at the same time, having given up her dreams of being an actress earlier in her life.

Winslet’s Ginny seems the simplest of creatures.. But Allen’s writing and her bravura performance proves that every woman is as complex as a whirlwind. Or a rollercoaster. Or a Wonder Wheel at  Coney Island, to use this film’s great metaphor. Winslet has never seemed so bedeviled and so bewitching at the same time. She’s a housewife in waitress’ outfit that she wears like a queen, as she goes about her frantic daily work of cooking and cleaning for the whole of Brooklyn it seems.

Allen and Storaro capture the ordinary woman’s extraordinariness. She is married to a lout (James Belushi) and having a torrid affair with Justin Timberlake, the local lifeguard. Timberlake’s string-bean-ness seems out of place as a life guard, but he, too, has movie star charisma in buckets instead of muscles, that make all the women in the film falling for him make sense.Justin Timberlake Wonder Wheel He and Belushi have both never been better.Kate Winslet 1

She is playing Ginny, a common-as-they-come Brooklyn waitress, who is as uncommon, as she is earth-bound. Winslet’s a fiery red-head this time. And in Storaro’s use of orange and amber light, she seems so on fire, she is burning up the screen. It is no surprise then that her red-headed son is an arsonist, setting  a fire every time he’s left alone. The fires remind him of his mother.

And Juno Temple is Belushi’s neglected daughter, who turns up as a “Marked” woman, being chased by the mob, because she married a gansta, and became a “canary” who sang on her husband, making her a woman on the run for her life. She hides  out in Winslet’s and Belushi’s  humble household underneath the ever-present Wonder Wheel. Young, blonde Temple has the role of her career here, too, and is doomed from the first seconds we see her taking her first tentative steps under the Wonder Wheel.

In a simple car ride in a romantic rain storm with Timberlake, she becomes, as he says “as beautiful as the rain light.”Storaro has lit her in golds and blues to emphasize her beauty as well as her melancholy. She, too, is magnificent in this film.

Storaro  and set designer Santo Loquasto make more magic by making Coney Island in the ’50s look like the Riviera.

Winslet’s performance is so heart-breaking and towering it immediately recalls the great screen performances of screen queens past. Joan Crawford in particular. The shop girl who was not a shop girl.  The waitress who was not a waitress. And reminds you that not since the ’40s have actresses consistently seen parts like this. Winslet’s Ginny is the  working class version of Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine in Allen’s recent Oscar winner “Blue Jasmine.” “Wonder Wheel” is his best film since “Midnight in Paris” and is now one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. It’s right up there with the best. It reminds me why I love Brooklyn. And New York City.

“Wonder Wheel” is a movie movie about romance and melodrama and great actresses playing great roles. And it ends this year’s superlative NYFF with a BANG!

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Oscar Winner “Danish Girl” now on DVD & It’s Glorious!

The Danish Girl 1My Number One Film of the Year “The Danish Girl” is now out on  DVD & Blu-Ray and it’s glorious! Its’ sumptuous, heart-breaking love story maintains all its’ lush simplicity on the small screen, making it even a more intimate yet stupendous experience as it relates the star-crossed story of two Danish painters Einar and Gerde Vegener in the 1920s in Copenhagen & Paris. Eddie Redmayne got an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor for playing Einar, who transitions into Lili Elbe, one of the first known transgendered male-to-females.

And I’m so happy that the luminous Swedish actress Alicia Vikander won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her tour-de-force as Gerde, his stalwart, beloved wife. Who encourages her husband to start cross-dressing as a lark, then begins to turn into something deadly serious, which confounds and confuses her as much as it does him.Alicia & Oscar 1

As Redmayne changes into Lili, every beat, every heart beat is beautifully rendered by director Tom Hooper, and matched in heartbreak, confusion and love by Vikander’s superb performance.

The story, in case you haven’t heard, has a tragic, heart-stopping ending. It’s no walk in the park. The pain and suffering of both leading characters’ true story has echoed down the ages. A transgendered tale such as this has never been translated into a major feature film and with such delicacy and respect. And with such magnificence and splendor by Production Designer Eve Stewart and costume designer Paco Delgado, who both also got Oscar nominations.Danish Girl Duo

Danny Cohen is the genius cinematographer, who captures all the various lights and colors of both early 20th century Copenhagen and the demimonde of Paris art salons with breathtaking accuracy. His camera just PUTS you there, and enthralls as vibrantly as the two leading players.

And I think it’s a crime that Hair and Make-Up Designer Jan Sewell did not get an Oscar Nomination for her transformative styling of Eddie Redmayne, turning him from a man into a woman, and all the stages in between with the utmost believability and subtlety. Sewell is also responsible for turning the dark-haired, olive-skinned Vikander into a pale Danish blonde.The Danish Girl 2

I also want to mention Ben Whishaw’s charmingly quiet and touching performance as Henrik,  the gay artist in Copenhagen, who is the first male to fall for Lili at an Artists’ Ball that serves as her coming out into public for her first nervous appearance as the shy country cousin of Einar’s.The Danish Girl 3

Whishaw and Redmayne’s first kiss, and indeed all their subsequent ones made the ground quake and the earth shake as they both don’t quite know what is happening between them. And of course, Vikander as Gerde sees this tryst. And her character goes through as many transitions and changes as Redmayne’s Lili, as she tries to understand and adjust to this cataclysmic situation the husband she loves has put himself, and HER into.Alicia 8

“The Danish Girl” moved me beyond tears as it did when I first saw it in Toronto. I’m so glad the Academy embraced Alicia Vikander and made her a star. And if Eddie Redmayne hadn’t won the Oscar last year for “The Theory of Everything,” he would have certainly won Best Actor for his beautiful “Danish Girl.”Alicia Oscar 1

 

Woody Allen Back on Top with “Irrational Man”! Oscar Nomination for Parker Posey!

Irrational Man 3Itrational Man 2Irrational Man 1I have to say, I just LOVED “Irrational Man”! Woody Allen’s latest just sent me out of the theater with wings on my heels! Woody has done it again! And not only that, it’s not just an older man/younger woman (Joaquim Phoenix/Emma Stone)love story, but something much more, well, Hitchcockian, and he’s written a humdinger of a juicy part for Queen of the Indies, Parker Posey that very well may net her her first Oscar Nomination.

This is after the literally HUNDREDS of Indie films she’s starred in, always gracing them with her funny/perceptive presence. Here she goes to town with the role of the drunken Rita, a college chemistry professor who is literally the campus tramp. throwing herself with nutty abandon at every new man on the faculty. Jill does this with Joaquim’s EXTREMELY depressed guest Philosophy  prof Abe Lucas. He is only in town( Newport, Rhode Island never looked more beautiful! Cinematography by ace Darius Khondji.)for the summer, so Jill wastes no time in snaring him. Abe resists her at first, but it’s no use. Who can resist Parker Posey when she’s in full throttle vamp mode?

She forms the unusual (for Allen) third point of a quirky love triangle. This time being an age-appropriate love object for Phoenix’s suicidal professor, who plays Russian roulette for real, and thinks nothing of it.

The students, main among them Emma Stone’s Jill, is horrified and of course attracted to him. Sparks fly and I must say both Stone and Phoenix and also Posey, have never been better.

But the story is much more than that. It’s also, to my mystery-obsessed mind a whodunit. Or suspense thriller, when Stone and Phoenix overhear a random terrible conversation in a Newport diner (pictured above ^), it prompts Phoenix to go off the deep end in a way I’m not going to spoil here. But it’s very Patricia Highsmith (yes, her again! She’s everywhere this summer!) and begins to resemble her Hitchcock movie “Strangers on a Train” as well as Hitchcock’s favorite film “Shadow of a Doubt” with a little of Highsmith’s masterpiece “The Talented Mr. Ripley” thrown in! No, I’m not kidding!

Of course, it’s also awfully funny and his three stars are all at the top of their various, varied games! And all I have to say is, don’t let anyone spoil the twists and turns of Woody’s delicious plot. It’s his best film since “Midnight in Paris” and I think will be just as successful because it’s genuinely entertaining.

After another major mis-fire “Magic in the Moonlight” and the disappointing dud”To Rome, With Love”, “Irrational Man” really is a tremendous comeback, a relief. And a joy. There’s nothing like a good Woody Allen film! When he’s good, he’s very, very good, and when he’s bad Cate Blanchett wins an Oscar..

This is all very good news for Parker Posey, and maybe Joaquim Phoneix and Emma Stone, too.

The Academy tends to nominate and award actors in this films. Especially in the Supporting Actress category. So kudos to Parker Posey and everyone else connected with this daffy, dark delight!

“Birdman” Wins Best Cinematography at Indies

Indie LogoAnd the Indie Awards keep coming! “Birdman” wins for Best Cinematography as it did also at the BAFTAS. Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezski won the Oscar last year for his camera work on “Gravity.” And he’s nominated for an Oscar in this category Best Cinematography this year. So should I say tomorrow night?

If any other film wins in this category, that will be a sign that “Birdman” is in trouble later on in the night.

Justin Simien won Best First Screenplay for “Dear White People” which is nominated for no Oscars whatsoever. This was one of the Sundance hits from the past year that just kept on going and going. Remember “Boyhood” AND “Whiplash” BOTH debuted there a year ago last month.

“Ida” won Best International Film which is the Indies’ equivalent of Best Foreign Film. Looks VERY good for this Black and White Polish film to also repeat tomorrow night at the Oscars.

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