a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Colin Firth’

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!

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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

Oscar Thoughts Pre-TIFF ~”August:Osage County” Out in Front

For those of you who MUST know what’s going on Oscarwise Pre-TIFF, it’s pretty clear to me. TIFF is absolutely essential to next year’s Oscar Winner. It is THEEE premiere Oscar launch pad, no question.

Last year, I remember being told there were TWO films I absolutely could not get into if I missed their Press & Industry or P&I screenings, which I
did. Those are the screenings, I, as an accredited journalist, are SUPPOSED to legitmately attend, and didn’t. I missed them both. They were “Argo” and “The Master” and of course, “Argo” won the Oscar.

That’s a pretty good indicator to me. And in recent years past, “The Artist” started there. And the year before that “The King’s Speech” which ended up winning the Audience Award there. That’s a pretty damn good average…and it continues to hold, I’m thinking.

All the major Oscar contenders are heading there “August:Osage County” main among them. And yes, it’s the Weinstein Co.AGAIN. It’s being shown there and only there before Thanksgiving screenings begin around its’ release date.

This is the classic pattern that both Weinstein winners TKS and TA followed exactly. To a “T” Why fix something that isn’t broken, thinks Harvey Weinstein, I’m so sure.

Sasha Stone posits at the always excellent www.awardsdaily.com that Telluride figures into this, too, but never having been there, I can’t say as surely as she can, who goes there every year now.

But she’s right in that even “The King’s Speech” started there. Not Toronto. It only preceeded it by a few days, but still. 

I’ll never forget future Oscar winning director Tom Hooper telling me the excitement he, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush all felt sitting together in the dark at Telluride and they’re sensing the audience’s excitement. By Toronto, it was totally clear to me that it had already won the race. And it did.

New York has had the dubious distinction of recent years in invariably opening the film that comes in SECOND.
“The Life of Pi”, “The Social Network”, “Lincoln”, “Hugo” and with Tom Hanks’ new vehcile “Capt. Phillips,” it looks like that my happen again. In fact, I think you can count on it.

The Industry Poo-Bahs have all decided that Toronto and TIFF are IT as far as Oscar is concerned and I bet every Oscar strategist out there will agree. Of course, Toronto is very risky. It can also sink a  film’s chances, too. It’s a risk you run, and it’s a brutal, competitive, bloody race, this Oscar dash to the finish line.

Which this year isn’t until MARCH btw. So it’s a long race this year too.

Having seen “August:Osage County” on the Broadway stage THREE times, I would place my bet on this pony, as Tom O’Neil, my idol, at www.goldderby.com would say.

I can tell you with surety though, that Harvey Weinstein will schedule an 8:45am press & industry screening at Toronto and that I will line up an hour early to get in. For “The King’s Speech” I remember getting up at 5:30AM to get to the inconveniently located theater on time. AND I was FIRST ON LINE! And the first one in  It was thrilling. And I’m betting I do it all over again for “August:Osage County.”

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