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Posts tagged ‘French’

“La La Land” Sweeps Oscar Off His Feet. Emma Stone Will Win Best Actress!

la-la-land-1I must say, I resisted “La La Land” for the longest time imaginable. I, a musical comedy queen par excellence, just did not believe the hype, that this small scale musical(seems like there’s only two people in it) couldn’t with one fell swoop bring Musicals back to the movies? And go on to win Every Single Critics Best Picture Award in the book? And have a real shot at winning the Best Picture Oscar, too? And a singing and dancing Emma Stone was going to waltz her way to the Dobly Pavillion and dance off with her own Best Actress Oscar, too? Well, that’s exactly what happened. To this film with the ridiculous title. It’s winning everything.

And I finally saw it and I fell in love with it.

Hard.la-la-land-2

Starring two of the most beautiful people in the world, the aforementioned Emma Stone and the dazzlingly handsome Ryan Gosling, they not only sing their way into your heart, they dance there, too! And Ryan Gosling turns out to be an ace jazz piano player, and plays all the film’s musical numbers himself. Yes! With his own real hands! Brilliant 32- year- old director, a Hollywood wunderkind, if ever there was one. Damien Chazelle might be dancing with more than one Oscar in his hands come Awards Night.

He’s done the impossible. He’s single=handedly brought musicals back to the movies, and he did it last year, too, with the astounding debut film “Whiplash.”

la-la-land-3Which, for all its’ dramatics, was really a musical too. About Jazz, again. And both films are going to go down in Hollywood history as will Stone, Gosling, and Mandy Moore the brilliant choreographer. And yes, there is a third part in this film, too, J.T. Simmons, the sadist drum-teacher of “Whiplash,” which won him an Oscar last year. Here he’s a uber-nasty manager of the nightclub of sorts that our Hero Sebastian, (Gosling) has been reduced to playing Christmas ditties in.

“La La Land” is the perfect film. For this year. It’s total escapism, and that’s what we all need right now. It just seems impossibly wonderful and harks back to all the great Movie Musicals of the 1930 through ’50s.

Being a song and dance man myself (I’ve also written MANY musicals myself, way back when, and an opera, too), I know what Seb (as she calls Gosling) and Mia(Stone) are going through. And it’s total rejection almost all the time. That’s Show Biz. And that’s particularly LA, where I lived for one year, and wondered how the dreams were manufactured that got me there.

“La La Land” is a love poem to LA. And I have never seen it look so gorgeous. The cinematography is candy coated and Ms. Stone wears bold, single colored costumes. After a particularly brutal audition experience, she walks sadly down pinkish Hollywood streets in a royal  blue dress. She later wears a solid yellow. Redheads are NEVER supposed to wear yellow, but Stone does, and she’s forever going to be associated with the “little yellow dress” that she’s seen dancing with Gosling as he falls in love with her.la-la-land-4 la-la-land-5

Oh yes, Stone is playing the ultimate Aspiring LA Actress. She’s so frustrated, she starts writing her own play, a one woman show for herself. I can related. I’ve done that, too. And she doubles her despair by becoming a playwright/actress.

And she doesn’t understand or “get” jazz. So. of course, she’s at cross-purposes with Seb, because he’s the ultimate jazz aficionado, who wants to own his own jazz club some day. She wants to be a star. And somehow, through the magic of movies, they find each other and fall predictably in love, but not toooo predictably.la-la-land-6

“La La Land” starts with a massive traffic jam on a highway(some things never change. I hate cars. I hate smog. And I hated LA until I saw this lovely picture.) The entire stalled group of honking horns and frustrated drivers then inexplicably burst into song and dance. “Another Day of Sun,” which I found a bit much. Seb and Mia don’t sing and dance here. He honks his horn at her. She gives him the finger, and drives off. This I could relate to.la-la-land-7

But “La La Land” is a slow burn. It’s takes it’s time getting to where it wants to go, but boy, oh boy, when it gets there, it just KILLS you. I just couldn’t stop the tears. And in this last part of the movie, Emma Stone goes from being just Emma Stone, who we’ve now seen for years, the almost garden variety movie ingenue doing almost the same raspy-voiced, big-eyed schtick, suddenly transforms into the great Screen Goddess we all hoped she would be, and she turns into an actress of such unexpected depth and poignancy, as well as beauty, that glows like uranium, or more accurately Oscar gold.

She’s Hollywood’s new Princess. The envelope, please.la-la-land-8

E.T.A. “La La Land” just led the pack with SEVEN Golden Globe nominations! More on this later.

Will Drama Desk Winners Repeat at the TONYs?

Jessica & Cynthia 1Will Drama Desk Winners repeat their triumphs at the TONYS? Probably. This year, especially. I think so. Above are pictured the two Best Actress winners. Jessica Lange for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and British newcomer Cynthia Erivo who is starring in “The Color People.” Lange won for Best Actress in a play and Erivo won for Best Actress in a Musical. I think these two ladies are Won and Done. At the Tonys.

Also poised to repeat at the TONYs are their two male counterparts in Drama Desk triumph Danny Burstein in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Frank Langella in the French play about an Alzheimer’s victim “The Father.”

I think all four of these powerhouse thespians can rest assured the Tony Voters will like them, really like them,too. The Tony Voters  do look increasingly to the Drama Desk winners to narrow their playing field, as it were.

This year, though, the theatrical phenom “Hamilton” is nominated for more TONYs than any other production in Broadway history. But in these four leading categories I don’t think it will register as it is likely to do in others. “Hamilton” won nearly every award in the book LAST year when it was eligible for the Drama Desks(and also the Outer Critics Circle and the Obies) because it played Off Broadway first at its’ historic run at the Public that launched it to Broadway.

And although two of its’ leading men author/actor Lin Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odon are both nominated for Best Actor in a Musical, I think they will cancel each other out, leaving the way for the popular veteran Danny Burstein to triumph for his joyous Tevye in “Fiddler.”

In other news, I think juggernaut “Hamilton” may find itself stopped at the TONYS. Although it was nominated for a historic 16 awards, I think it’s going to register much, much less than that.

The only acting award I think is a surefire win for “Hamilton” is the charming young African-American actress Renee Elise Goldsberry, who won the Drama Desk last year for Best Featured(or Supporting) Actress in a Musical.Renee Rlise Goldsberry 1

And on the Drama side, the powerful performance of veteran Jayne Howdeyshell from the Best Play Drama Desk winner “The Humans” could score in Supporting, which is where the TONYS put her and co-star Reed Birney, although they are both leads. “The Humans” also won for Best Ensemble at the Drama Desks, a special category that the DDs always give, but the TONYs do not.Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1

“Hamilton” will win Best Musical for sure. But the TONY voters are notorious for spreading the wealth around, and I think they will do that this year, too, in spite of “Hamilton” perceived dominance.

#Drama Desk Awards, # Hamilton, # Tonys, #Jessica Lange, #Cynthia Arivo, #A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, #Color Purple, #Best Actress in a Leading Role, #Danny Burstein, #Frank Langella, #Fiddler on the Roof, #The Father, #Lyn-Manuel Miranda, #Renee Elise Goldsberry,#Jayne HowdyShell #The Humans

“Le Village Francais” Is a Mixed Bag. French TV Series on WWII now on MhZ

French VillageMuch as I admire its’ audacity and ambitious reach of subject, the entire history of World War II, as encaptured in the life of a “French Village,” I hate to say it but this hit European TV series is very hit and miss.

It sounds good on paper. Each season of the TV series will focus on a different year in the occupation of France by the Germans during WWII.  And it starts off with a bang, as a group of school children go out to play on a field trip on a sun-dappled day in the tiny town of Villeneuve, a fictional subprefecture in the Jura region of France.

German planes suddenly are seen over head and begin shooting up everything in sight, including the children. A horrifying beginning, to be sure. But then we are slowly introduced to the characters and I have to say I had no great feelings for any of them.

Sure, the SITUATION they are is in riveting, but only up to a point. And the actors all look so similar it’s very hard to keep them and their plot-lines straight. The exception is Robin Renucci, a doctor who is co-erced into becoming the town’s reluctant Mayor.

Robin Renucci 1And he is forced to do many things that he does not want to do within the course of the 10 episode series. Each episode a little under the hour in length. He is actually by his acceptance of the Mayoral position, an unwitting symbol of the Vichy government. His bourgeois family continues to live well as all around him begin to starve due to ration restrictions.

The actors all being dark-haired and dark-eyed and average-looking, it took me a long time to sort out their different characters and predicaments. However, the incredible attention to war-time detail does fascinate. Some one can be jailed for just booing Hitler in a newsreel in a movie theater, for instance.

Then there’s the leftists who want to insert resistance pamphlets in all the daily newspapers. And do. But the characters doing this are all sadly two dimensional.

The Jewish question, and there a lot of Jews in this small town, is pretty much a non-issue until the latter part of Season One. Our understanding of WWII is so much based on the plight of the Jews that that part of the series suddenly springs to life as the Season ends.

It’s a great record of the period, though and I particularly loved the Special Features wherein the actual townspeople these characters are often based on get to speak, in French, of their own real-life stories and they are all hair-raising.

Being set so far out in the country the full impact of the War hits them only gradually, in stages. And it is truly harrowing, as one by one their liberties and freedoms and businesses and lives are all taken over by the  occupying Germans.

I am looking forward to Season Two. Maybe this time they’ll have more relatable characters.

Oscar Voting Closes. Has Anything Changed?

Oscars 2015

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, Oscar voting has finally closed. As of today. And on Sunday it’s the Big “O” day and all the world( or some of it anyway) will be watching ABC at 8pm EST. And has anything changed in the last few minutes as it went down the wire? Well, Jeff Wells at http:www.Hollywood-Elsewhere.com says he was worried that he kept hearing that Best Picture may be stolen at the last minute by “Spotlight.” Which is something I’ve been hearing, too.

You see, I figure it like this. NOBODY takes into consideration that the AMPAS voters who live in New York, like I do, vote oftentimes as a block. Like the supposedly 600 members of BAFTA supposedly do.

But I think the number in New York is MORE much, much more. And I HEARD that yes, “Spotlight” is going to surprise. I also heard that NOBODY here in the East is voting for Sylvester Stallone.

Then who? The obscure British actor Mark Rylance for his nuanced Russian spy, someone who you think you’d hate, but you end up liking him immensely in “Bridge of Spies.” He just won the BAFTA. And he has won the hearts of NY theatergoers with his THREE TONY winning performances. He’s a Theater God. And all NYC AMPAS voters will have also seen his many incarnations on stage, and they all may be TONY voters as well. They who vote for Broadway every year.

They look down on Stallone. A bogus star, who has made so many bad movies, squandering his “Rocky” cachet. and barely an actor at all and celebrate Mark Rylance as a true actor’s actor. “Mark Rylance is a genius.” You hear that over and over again. And a vote for Rylance is a vote for Steven Spielberg, after all, who’s “Bridge of Spies” received a Best Picture nomination. “Creed” or Rocky VI got only Stallone.

NOBODY respects Stallone as an actor. He didn’t win an acting Oscar for “Rocky I” but the picture did. And so the thinking goes, he’s already been awarded. Some would save over-rewarded for Rocky Balboa.

The Academy is not feeling nostalgic in this era. He’s about to get Lauren Bacall’ed. She who did not win for Best Supporting Actress a number of years ago for the Barbra Streisand directed “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”. Losing it astonishingly to the prestige choice, French actress Juliet Binoche in the Best Picture Winner “The English Patient” in 1996.

Hey! It COULD happen. That would be the biggest upset of the night. If the Brits and the Big Apple AMPAS voters vote for Rylance, he’s got it.And then there’s the possiblity that “Spotlight” might upset, too. Wouldn’t that be a great ending to a night that so full of locks? Leo, Brie, “Inside Out” etc.Juliet Binoche 1Mark Rylance 3Oscars

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

And now, here come the BAFTAS! What will they tell us?

BAFTAS 2016 1And now, this Sunday night in London, here comes what I feel is the most predictive awards show of all the BAFTAs. The British Oscars. And what do they have to do with OUR own Oscars, coming up on Feb.28? Well, I think they are the most influential accolade of all. Especially in the Acting Races. Where, if there’s a five way, undecided sort-of year, which this isn’t really, in the Acting Awards, they can tip the scales in one actor’s or actress’s favor.

As they did famously in the year that Tilda Swinton won for “Michael Clayton”, surprising many, but not me. Tilda won the BAFTA then she went right on to win her first Oscar. Interesting piece of Oscar trivia, Tilda, who could just not bear to have all these awards around her house, gave her British Oscar, her BAFTA to her British agent and her American Oscar to her American agent Brian Swardstrom. I bet they were glad to get them. NOTHING like that ever happens to actors’ agents, No wonder Tilda has never stopped working since!

You win the Oscar and you never stop working, so the story goes…True or not, it’s a nice thing to look forward to. For a moment. Tilda Swinton Oscar 2That year marked another BAFTA/Oscar milestone when the unknown French actress Marion Cotillard who was playing Edith Piaf to beat the band in “La Vie En Rose” went on to trounce Brit Julie Christie for Best Actress.Marion Oscar 1Mlle. Marion was acting in her own language, you see, and it was considered IMPOSSIBLE for a foreign actress to win. But I knew she would, her perfomance as Edith Piaf at all different ages was so incredible.

And so did Daniel Day-Lewis, who got up and made a speech when he won  at the BAFTAs extolling Marion’s superlative performance. He  won the BAFTA that year, too,  for “There Will Be Blood.”. People, or rather Oscar voters, listened. I think the word he used was” transcendant.”

And this year? Well it seems almost all the Acting categories are locked. But wait a tic! There could be surprises. Leonardo Di Caprio in “The Revenant” has been winning EVERYTHING in sight this year and could win the Oscar. But will he win the BAFTA for Best Actor?Danish Eddie 1

Don’t be surprised, Leo, if BAFTA does what it usually does and award a deserving, beloved Brit, Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.” And also watch out Brie Larson! She, who likewise is winning everything imaginable for “Room”.At BAFTA, she’s up against the It Girl of the Hour, Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl” who is  up for Best Actress. Whereas at the Oscars, Alicia’s up for Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl.” Her role as Gerde Vegener, who is a Danish painter married to a man who is going through the first known transgender transition is indelible, powerful.

Alicia 8

Alicia could win the Best Actress BAFTA  as “The Danish Girl” is a British Film and also Alicia, though Swedish, speaks English with a British accent. OR it could be Saoirse Ronan, who is Irish as Irish can be in “Brooklyn” an Irish film. And Brie Larson’s “Room” isn’t as popular over there as it has been here. It only has only other nomination Best Adapted Screenplay.Danish Girl Duo

And the astonishing Alicia Vikander is having such a big year, that she’s nominated also in BAFTA in Supporting Actress for “Ex Machina.” Yes, Alicia winning either of these awards, would almost certainly assure her an Oscar win over Rooney Mara, the girl who wasn’t there, in “Carol”, her nearest competitor for Supporting Actress at the Oscars. Rooney is running as a Supporting Actress at BAFTA, as she is at the Oscars, but this time, she’s up against Alicia as the sexiest robot of all time in “Ex Machina.”  Could Rooney win here and split the Vikander vote? “Carol” got a slew of nominations here, including Best Picture, although it didn’t in the US.Alicia Vikander 3Alicia could win in both categories. That’s right! She could win TWO BAFTAs! OR of course, she could lose twice, too.Roonwy MARA 2

As far as Best Supporting Actor at BAFTA, it will most likely go to one of the nominated Brits. Idris Elba, yeah, him again, for “Beasts of No Nation,” I think he has this over fellow Brit and UK stage legend Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies.” He hasn’t been campaigning and has even skipped the BFCC and the SAG. Christian Bale is British, too, although he hardly ever mentions it. And he’s nominated for “The Big Short.” Watch this early-announced award. Who it goes to will tell us pretty clearly what will win Best Picture.Christian Bale 1

,And finally there’s the Best Picture race itself which pits people think “Spotlight” v. “The Revenant” v. “The Big Short”. And many, including myself, think that whatever film wins Best Film here could also go on to win the Oscar, too. Although wait another tic! Last year, the Brits picked “Boyhood” and Richard Linklater, and not “Birdman” and Alexander Gonzalez Inarittu who won the Oscars.

So there is a divide. What do I think is going to win Best Picture? Bet on the Brits voting for Brits, which could lead to “Carol” or “The Bridge of Spies”  being a surprise win here, although “Spotlight” set in Boston and involving Irish Catholic pedophile priests might be something they could relate to over the Wall St. story “The Big Short” or the Western “The Revenant”. Have the EVER given a BAFTA  to a Western? I think not. (more…)

Elizabeth Williamson, new Associate Artistic Director, Hartford Stage

It is my great pleasure, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre to introduce you to the very exciting and dynamic Elizabeth Williamson, the newly appointed associate artistic director of the Hartford Stage. Elizabeth has studied in London under Mark Wing-Davey, who is now the Head of NYU’s great Grad Acting program, and also at L’Ecole Jacques le Coq theatre in Paris, as well as being the Dramaturg at the Hartford Stage under the direction of Darko Tresnjak.

Elizabeth was the dramaturg and very involved with the development of Matthew Lopez’ new play “Reverberation” which I liked so much when I saw it in Hartford earlier this year. Her parents were both poets and she has a very bright future in the American Theater in front of her.

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