a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Cockney’

Timothy Spall Wins Best Actor for “Mr. Turner” from NY Critics!

Timothy Spall 1In a totally surprising move, British actor Timothy Spall has just won Best Actor for “Mr. Turner” at the New York Film Critics Circle!

And I just had the great honor and privilege of interviewing him myself this morning for “The Stephen Holt Show”! I’m thrilled! He’s a great natural story-teller, and we both shared a common Cockney background. He’s a real one. I LIVED in London’s East End for years back in my salad days when I was struggling to be a playwright and an actor, and supporting myself by being a char. (a house-cleaner) No. Really! It’s true. If any one experience in my life made me tough, it was that. Being a house-cleaner in a foreign country for over three years. It was one of the formative phases of my youth.

Other New York Film Critics winners are : Best Cinematography:”The Immigrant” & Best Original Screenplay “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Timothy Spall won Best Actor at Cannes this year. I congratulated him at the start of my interview with him and he said, “Nobody was more surprised than me!”

This historic interview will be on-line shortly.

 

Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”

While we await with baited (Oscar bait-ed) breath to see who will win tonight at the DGA Awards out in LA-LA land, I’ve been catching up on a few DVDs that have been coming my way in the snail mail.

While I attended Woody Allen’s press conference at TIFF for “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”( look it up back in Sept. ’10), I hadn’t seen the movie until just now.

The DVD is coming out soon, and if you’re a die-hard Woody fan, like I am, I guess, EVERY Woody Allen is a must-see. Even his not-so-good ones, like this.

I thought he sounded a tad desperate with that personal TIFF appearance, and I had heard that YWMATDS, was not one of his best. And everyone was right, but there is still SOMEthing about Woody, even at his worst, that grabs you in the end if you stay with it. The press conference was much more entertaining than this film.

No Scarlett Johansson in this one. And I sort of missed her. Again, it is set in London, and more than ever, it seems like he wishes he was shooting it in New York. You can almost hear him sigh with nostaligia…but all his financing is coming from Europe, so in Europe he stays. He’s shot one coming up in Paris, and another London romp, and also a return to Spain where he did seem inspried with the marvelous “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” that won Penelope Cruz her Oscar three years ago…

I don’t think Woody likes the British very much. He doesn’t really GET them, like he gets New Yawkers. He loves New York. He seems to miss it, and so this film’s characters are very superficially observed. And they all seem like neurotic New Yorkers ANYway.

Naomi Watts is Sally in the ScarJo role, I think. But a little older, a little wiser, and much more serious. In fact, this film is hardly funny at all. I barely laughed at all. But I did find myself LISTENING. This is his most serious film since “Interiors”, but I THINK he meant it to  be a comedy…

The title “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” comes from what a Cockney fortune teller named Cristal (the always wonderful Pauline Collins) is constantly telling the hapless Helena, Gemma Jones, who is SORT OF the central character, or one of the main characters…A HUGE star in England, ever since she was a beautiful young blonde in the ’60s. Now, Gemma is IN her 60s and playing a daffy, tipsomaniac, an abandoned wife, who is seeking help from the beyond through this soothsayer, who is patently a phony, who mainly serves tea and biscuits and acts as a cheaper psycho-therapist to Jones.

Naomi Watts is her daughter, who is having marital problems, with her blocked novelist of an American husband, Rory, Josh Brolin. EVERY body is cheating on every body else here, per usual in Woody land.

Sir Anthony Hopkins as the desperately exercising ex-husband Alfie of the dumped Gemma Jones, and Naomi Watt’s father, begins by being very pale and wan,a milquetoast ghost of his former robust self, but Hopkins grows in power and force as the film progresses.

I really thought it was VERY bottom draw Woody, but even at that level, Woody grabs you, as you become more and more involved, first with Brolin’s desperate writer, then Hopkins’ desperate older exec. He, OF COURSE, chases after and ultimately bags a hooker, ANOTHER favorite Woody plot, who is decades younger than him, and totally his social inferior…And THEN he marries her…Judy Punch punches it up here as the hooker with a heart of lead.

And the press conference, Punch was there as was Hopkins, Brolin, Jones and Frieda Pinto, who is just sort of generally playing Brolin’s newest muse. Not much depth to this character.

And well, you see where this is going from here…

You can almost predict this film. It’s so by-the-numbers Woody, but then, he hits you with a confounding ending a la the Coen Brothers and suddenly…well, once again, you have to re-think your preceptions about Woody Allen. He DOES get you finally, even if he’s dealing from the bottom of his deck.

I guess I’d rather watch  any mediocre Woody movie than most the other films I, as a critic, am forced to watch throughout the year…Even grade C Woody is still something to see. I’m still a fan. After all these yeas and all these movies. He makes too many movies, and sometimes he seems to be just going through the motions, but…one does cherish those motions…

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…

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