a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Colin Firth’

Emily Blunt Becomes Legend in “Mary Poppins Returns”! Give That Girl an Oscar!


I have long admired the acting force that is British Actress Emily Blunt. She’s been on my TV show twice, once for “The Jane Austen Book Club.”where I interview her by satellite. She was in London where she said, “It was pissing down with rain.” Now that’s not something Mary Poppins would never EVER say. This is without a doubt the iconic role that is going to make her very, very famous and will define her career for the rest of her days. And maybe even win her a Best Actress Oscar.

She was just nominated for her”practically perfect in every way” British nanny that descends from the lovely, fog-covered London skies  to save the Banks children once again. But this time they are all grown up and played remarkably sympathetically by the brilliant Ben Whishaw and the divinely demure Emily Mortimer. It is 1930 and they still live in the charming house on Cherry Tree Lane, but here’s where director Rob Marshall had a master stoke of genius. They are on the verge of being evicted.

So beneath the flaming Technicolor flim-flammery, there is a great core of sadness underlying “Mary Poppins Returns.” Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins senses that there is  real trouble brewing here and that only she can fix it. This gives the always startlingly original actress a role that she can really sink her teeth into, and probably will play for ever. If she wanted to. There is a real sense of pain and a core of sadness that is motivating her Poppins to do what she does best – Cheer every one up. She’s like a supernatural social worker.

Blunt plays her with a tinge of something akin to regret. She knows in her heart of hearts that she really CAN’T help the Banks’ in any practical way. Her magic only goes so far. Or does it? And Nannys DO have to leave, eventually. That’s where her sadness comes from. As much as she loves the Banks’, she inevitably knows there will be a moment to go to say “It’s time.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda is on hand, too, in the Dick Van Dyke role, as  twere,  as Mary’s comical side-kick. Here transmorgrofied in into a lamplighter. He seems wildly miscast here, but his British accent is better than Van Dyke’s (who is in THIS movie, too!)so I’ll give him a pass for bounce-ability.


Also on hand is a new character, Mary’s Blatvian cousin Topsy who tells them all she is “Turning Turtle” a show-stopper number that allows Streep to out-camp her Florence Foster Jenkins role .That’s camp for you. The greatest of all addictions. Once you touch even your little left toe into it, you can never get out of it.

If you can imagine such a thing. She does more bumps and grinds per minute than any one in film history. And if it was anyone but Meryl Streep doing it you would say “STOP!” “Too much!” With Meryl you say, “You just keep twerking it, girl..”

The charming composer/lyricists are straight from Broadway. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are so endlessly tuneful and prolific, it’s simply amazing. My favorite has to be “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “There’s No Where to Go But Up!” sung by Angela Lansbury. Yes, she’s in it, too. Even the background music is quite enchanting. And every now and then they slip a little touch of the original Sherman brothers classic score. Just a few notes, mind you, but it is enough to send one flying up and down memory lane, in the best possible way.

It’s a delight. It’s an epic and I think it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture and many, many below the line categories. Sandy Duncan’s costumes are heaven-on-earth, right down to Mary’s red shoe laces. And of course, the extraordinary Emily Blunt will be nominated for Best Actress. And she could win, too! This is a film that will melt the hearts of every hardened cynic in Hollywood. And you’ll end concluding that we all need a Mary Poppins in our lives.

“Mary Poppins” is not just a sequel. It’s a classic.

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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!

Past Best Picture Oscar Winners I Adore (& Own & Re-Watch)

Oscars Now that’s it all over but the shouting (on Oscar night, this coming Sunday, Feb.28), I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic about other films that have one Best Picture in the past and really won my heart. Some I’ve watched over and over and over again. Some I own. I love them so much I always want them to be with me or near at hand anyway to play at any time.

  1. Gone With the WindGone With the Wind
  2. All About EveAll About Eve
  3. Tom JonesTom Jones 1
  4. The King’s SpeechThe King's Speech
  5. The ArtistThe Artist
  6. Lord of the Rings Part 3, Return of the KingSam & Frodo
  7. Twelve Years a Slave12 Years a Slave 2
  8. RebeccaRebecca 1
  9. Midnight CowboyMidnight Cowboy
  10. No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men 1

Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne to Next Play Transgender

Eddie Oscar 1Eddie & Oscar 2Brand-new Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne hurried right back to London after his Best Actor win on Sunday night to continue rehearsals for his new British film called “The Danish Girl.” And guess what? He’s playing the title role! Yes!

Directed by his ole pal and the man who named me “The Oscar Messenger” Tom Hooper, I can tell you from personal knowledge that Hooper is as dazzled by the Little Golden Guy and his army of Oscars as well say Harvey Weinstein. And me, too, of course. And now, Eddie, who also seems to have captured the Oscar Buzz Bug.

Lili Elbe, who Eddie is playing in “The Danish Girl” was the first ever male-to-female transgender person in 1930. Talk about transformative roles! Eddie is making a career of this. But if ever there was a role that “ticks all the boxes” as Colin Firth said to me when I told him HE was going to win the Oscar for “The King’s Speech.”(And he DID!) It’s Lile Elbe.

And Eddie is trying to lose a massive amount of weight, three stone, which is like 36 pounds to play Lile. That ticks another Oscar box right there.

And Tom Hooper, check (he always has his bar set Oscar-high). British, check. True Life story, check. Period (1930), check. Transformative performance, check.

And Eddie Redmayne, check. Hollywood’s new Golden Boy is going to be transforming himself into a Golden Girl, and guess what, I’m so sure he’s going to be back at the Oscars again next year. Or the year after that with “The Danish Girl.” And if Harvey Weinstein,who is the producer, check. He’s the Oscar Grandmaster, picks this one up, Eddie will be on his way to Oscar Number Two! You heard it here first! He’s the new Daniel Day Lewis! So I see multiple Oscars on his horizon. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer, more down-to-earth guy.

He was so surprised when Cate Blanchett announced his name, I’m sure he thought Michael Keaton or Bradley Cooper was going to win.He won’t be THAT surprised next time around.

You’re the King of the World, Eddie! And he’s also expecting his first child. When straight actors play gay(or transgender) they win. William Hurt, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, anyone? Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote”, anyone?  Sean Penn as Harvey Milk in “MIlk”….

The precedent is set and the list goes on! Go, Eddie!

Brit Jack O’Connell Triumphs Over Miscasting in “Unbroken”

Unbroken 1The young British actor Jack O’Connell’s biggest triumph over adversity in the torture porn epic “Unbroken” is making the audience believe he is an Italian American. Director Angelina Jolie WHAT were you thinking? I ask you. Does the above ^ picture look even remotely like an Italian? He looks Irish, if anything, and it turns out he is a through and through Brit.

So the audience has to suspend their disbelief for quite a large chunk of the early part of the movie that is receiving mixed critical reaction, and I think I know why. It’s the casting. Don’t tell me that Jolie couldn’t’ve had her pick of any of the young Italian stallions that abound States-side. But no, she has to go to England to cast this super-hot, young, working-class Brit with washboard abs. Angie, he’s CUTE, but not Italian at all! And to add insult to injury the SECOND lead in this film about WWII is played by Domhnall Gleeson, Brendan Gleeson’s son, who is IRISH!

So we’re supposed to believe that these two dive bombers who get stuck in a life-boat for 47 days, after their airplane gets shot out of the sky by the Japanese, are AMERICANS?!?

There seems to be something, well, broken about “Unbroken”, and I think it’s this. Both leads are NOT  UNBELIEVABLY Americans!

As this overlong film wears on and on and on (are they NEVER to be rescued from that lifeboat?) I had to admit O’Connell, as he was beginning to suffer and starve, began to get to me.

And by the time the INCREDIBLY over-extended, over-done, over-heated second half of the film takes place in the several  horrific Japanese prison camps that Louie Zamperini (yes, that’s his real name, and he was an Olympian track hero, and a real person, and 100% I.T.), O’Connell is suffering and suffering and getting punched in the face and hit and caned and starving, and being kicked and well, just about everything you can think of, and yes, it’s all true,  you do begin to feel for O’Connell as an actor and how in the world did he ever endure all this, AS AN ACTOR?

This is the main problem with “Unbroken” I feel. It’s the casting and as good as O’Connell gets towards the end of the picture, you are always aware that it’s a PERFORMANCE. He doesn’t draw you in. You observe him. You admire his acting chops. When you should be feeling the tortures of the damned. Well, actually, you DO feel like you’re being tortured. I left with a headache, there was so much audience-torture going on. Who’s gonna sit through this? Masochists? Is there that big an audience for plain, unrelenting torture? In the end, he does survive, of course, to tell this tale of horror, but YOU, the viewer barely do. I left craving an Ibuprofen.

I don’t think the Academy is going to sit still for this at all, as they watch their screeners, (or should I say screamers?) of this  true horror epic over the holidays.

Jolie’s work is really the great Roger Deakins’ work. The cinematography is picturesque in the classic Hollywood way, and it’s extremely beautiful. Even the torture scenes are perfectly lit and shot.

But Angelina Jolie in her sophomore directing stint, hired the cutest, hottest, masochistic young actor she could find. And he IS CUTE! Blue eyes, cheek bones, incredible physique. Jack O’Connell is clearly going to survive this debacle of a debut and go on to quite a healthy career, despite the pain and agony he has to endure in “Unbroken.”

The ones who are suffering the most are the poor audiences.There’s so much torture and so little uplift at the end, it’s really a cheat. Angelina just got fixated on the S&M of it all as Louie draws the sadistic attentions of the Japanese Prison Camp guard whom they call “The Bird”(rock singer Miyavi) hits him again and again and again.

Last year’s “The Railway Man” starring Colin Firth and an incredible Jeremy Irvine as the older and younger believably British Brit P.O.W.s in yet ANOTHER Japanese prisoner camp, were MUCH more effective, and the torture scenes were there, and were harrowing, (Irvine gets waterboarded!) Because they were a resonable length.

In “Unbroken,” the same scenes don’t work as well,because they go on for sooooo lonnnng. Same with “Bridge Over the River Kwai” the classic ’50s David Lean film this tries to emulate. Lean, who was a film editor, before he became a great director, knew when to yell “Cut!” Angelina Jolie does not.

So rent either “The Railway Man” and/or “River Kwai”, and you’ll have a much better time. “Unbroken” could break you.

 

Colin Firth Strong, Emma Stone Weak in Woody’s (NO) “Magic in the Moonlight”

“I want MAGIC” screams Blanche du Bois in Tennessee Williams classic “Streetcar Named Desire”. And I was screaming “I want magic, too!” As Woody Allen’s latest “Magic in the Moonlight” unspooled before me and I didn’t laugh once.

It LOOKS Magical. The cinematography of Darius Khondji is simply swoon-worthy. The Riviera never looked so lovely! Truly! But aside from a very, very strong performance by Colin Firth, it’s not much fun. Although Eileen Atkins as his sensible aunt (they’re both British of course) is also very good. But this film that looks like it should be a comedy, is simply not funny at all.

Firth has the challenge of getting up in yellow-face and being a stage magician  named Wei Ling-Soo, who makes elephants disappear and saws ladies in half, and is an extremely pessimistic curmudgeon. He spews venom constantly throughout the film in all directions, which is arresting, but not funny. Unlike the other recent magician in an Allen film, the great Splendini, in “Scoop” who Allen played himself. “Scoop” was set in London with Scarlett Johansonn in the female lead, a role Emma Stone essays so poorly here. “Scoop” was funny and good-natured as “Magic in the Moonlight” is bitter and grim. Good qualities in a drama, like “Blue Jasmine” but not is a half-baked pseudo-farce.

How can this much heightened sarcasm be not funny in a Woody Allen film? Well, for one thing his character seems an utter realist, if not a downright atheistic. Yes, that’s right. This is a film that is about atheism. Or a comedy about atheism. WTF? It’s seems like it should be by Ayn Rand and black and white and set in the ’40s.

Not the glamorous 1920s, a period Allen returns to again and again. And he’s done it better. I just watched “Midnight in Paris” for the umpteenth time last night and it delighted and chilled me all over again. I actually got goose bumps from it and from Mlle. Marion Cotillard’s superb performance.

And there were actually French people in it. And they spoke French! Imagine that! In “Magic in the Moonlight” we have the beautiful French countryside, but no French people are in it. At All.

And Emma Stone is very, very weak in this. As a supposed psychic, she’s a little spacey, a little kookie. Her red-hair flies beautifully in the wind. She has lovely large eyes, but Woody seems to have a problem with her overly large forehead which is covered up throughout much of the movie by her own bangs, which is fine and series of tam o’shanters, head-bands and hats with extremely low brows, which would look fine on Marion Cotillard, but on Stone they make her look odd. She is photographed soooo well in fact, she looked liked she’s acting, but she isn’t. The cinematography and costumes were acting FOR her.

I didn’t ever think I would miss Scarlett Johansonn, but in this film, I did. Stone is really out of her depth here, and she shouldn’t be.

I just attended a press conference for this film with Emma Stone notably absent. And Colin Firth when asked about working with her, just skipped the question entirely. “My Best Day?” he was asked, ” I guess the scene in the planetarium at night. I was wet. And I felt wet, so that was good.”

Unfortunately, it’s (no) “Magic in the Moonlight” that is all wet. Sadly.

Every OTHER film of Woody’s recently has been terrific. “Midnight in Paris” was a masterpiece. “To Rome, with Love” was a dud. “Blue Jasmine” won Cate Blanchett an Oscar for Best Actress, and so we were due for another disappointment, and unfortunately, we got it.

I can’t wait for the next one, however. That’ll be good again.

Woody did a press conference in New York today. He NEVER does that. I sensed Flop Sweat and I was right. But Colin saved the day, and Jacqui Weaver was buoyant, too.

Woody said “Life is meaningless.” And he meant it. And then added “Now that I’ve depressed you thoroughly, have a nice weekend.”Magic in the Moonlight 1Magic in the Moonlight 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video

Jeremy Irvine via Satellite for “The Railway Man”

Stephen Holt talks to Jeremy Irvine about his co-starring role in the new film “Railway Man.” Jeremy, you may remember as the young boy whose horse is “The War Horse” in Steven Spielberg’s film, which was his film debut. Jeremy also discusses his life-long struggle with Diabetes and also the torture involved in enacting the torture scenes in “Railway Man” where he was waterboarded. They also discuss his moving enactment of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic speech in “The Dictator” which you can see on You Tube.

Editing by Kevin Teller

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