a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Gay’

Oscars at the Moment, Before the Election

jackie-1Oscars in early November. Things are getting clearer. Could the National Election itself have an impact on Oscar? We’ll see, but now, if it did, it would be the political movie of the year “Jackie” that gets carried forward. It’s a reminder of how decent and moral the people running the country were in the time of Camelot. The Kennedy Years seem light years away from the partisan horror of this current chilly November moment.

“Jackie” has the gravitas that “La La Land” simply does not. And they’re hiding “La La Land” from the East Coast critics. I STILL haven’t seen it. There’s been no big deal press screenings scheduled. Is it because they think the New York establishment isn’t going to like a musical film, a love story, yet, that glorifies LOS ANGELES? I can think of no other reason for “La La Land”s distributors holding it back like this. It wasn’t at the NYFF, if that means anything. But I do think it’s a little suspicious.

Certainly the curators of the NYFF COULD have chosen it to play if they wanted to. There was certainly room. And I’ve heard that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can’t sing. Or can’t sing well enough to carry a movie musical.la-la-land-1 I hope of course that they can, and I look forward to, musical comedy queen that I am, to enjoying its’ delights immensely. viola-davis-fences-1Also still unseen is “Fences” the late August Wilson’s adaptation of his own screenplay with Denzel Washington directing himself  in his Tony-winning role and co-starring of course, the great Viola Davis, reprising HER Tony winning role. Davis has now won herself an Oscar for sure, by putting herself in the Supporting category. But how good is the film? Is it as great on film as it was onstage? Or is it going to seem long, and talky and “stagey”?

August Wilson,esteemed to such an extent that he has a New York Broadway theater named after him, never lived to see any of his many plays translated successfully into film. I hope Denzel has worked his directorial as well as his actor’s magic. Will he also be up for a Best Actor Oscar? His third. Or will it go to now the supposed front-runner Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” If “Manchester” is going to win something big, and it’s so good, it should, then maybe it’s Casey Affleck who’s the beneficiary and not the film.

manchester-by-the-sea-5When we see “Fences” we will know, but right now Casey Affleck is at number one in the estimation of the Gold Derby-ites AND the Gurus o’ Gold, of which I was a member. Once upon a time. In a galaxy, far, far away…

Best Supporting Actor is much harder to parse right now, so I won’t, but don’t expect small, gay, indie “Moonlight” to score. If the Academy is going to go for a small, racially charged indie, I think it’s going to be “Loving.” It’s a superb little film that grows in the mind and lingers like a haunting refrain.  Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as I’ve posited earlier are both going to get nominated for Best Actress and Actor, respectively, and I think even its’ terrific young director Jeff Nichols will too. Replacing “Moonlight.” In both Best Picture and Best Director.loving-1

If this year it’s going to be OscarsSoBlack, in reaction to last year’s OscarSoWhite, it’s straight “Loving” and “Fences” that will both be nominated for Best Picture. After the rave of raves “Loving” got from Manola Dargis in today’s New York Times, I think THAT’S the indie darling to watch. Not “Moonlight”. If the critically adored “Carol” couldn’t crack it last year then “Moonlight” is certainly a much longer shot at Best Picture or Director.

Only Mahershala Ali in a very small role might get nominated from “Moonlight” in the major categories. That would be as Supporting Actor. But enough Academy members Iin the Actor’s Branch have to see “Moonlight” to nominate him. Will they? And then there’s the terrific Naomie Harris as the drug-addicted mom-from-hell….It worked for Mo’nique in “Precious” and she did no campaigning but she won! Could British actress Harris who so dazzled as Winnie Mandela a few years back in “A Long Walk Home” get nominated, too? That would really be something for this tiny film. And perhaps we might see Black Actors nominated in every category! Wouldn’t that be something new? Something wonderful.

#Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newcomer Andrew Burnap’s Astonishing Debut in “Troilus & Cressida”

Troilus and Cressida 1Andrew Burnap 1“Troilus and Cressida” is considered one of  Shakespeare’s Problem Plays. It’s hardly ever done. It’s wildly uneven, and it’s always nigh to impossible to tell the Greeks from the Trojans. It’s clear that there’s a war on, but who’s who and which is which is always mightily confusing.

Director Dan Sullivan has perhaps rectified all that with his testosterone fueled-production in Central Park this summer. He’s cast one of the strongest male casts I’ve ever seen containing some of the best young Shakespearean actors around today. Main among them is newcomer Andrew Burnap in the usually forgettable title role. But Burnap burns up the stage as he holds his own against as formidable a male cast as I’ve ever seen in Shakespeare in the Park, New York’s annual, pastoral summer ritual. Founded by the late Joe Papp to be free to all New Yorkers, the Park never disappoints, though most times the productions certainly do. But not this time.Shakespeara in the Park 1

I’m happy to say that “Troilus and Cressida” is one of the best Shakespeare’s I’ve ever seen in the Park.

But back to Andrew Burnap. A recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama, he’s stepped right out of school and right into stardom, following in the footsteps of former Yale-ees Meryl Streep and Lupita Nyong’o who just soared immediately upon graduation. His beautiful, brave, heart-broken, angry, and eventually murderous Troilus is everything a dream role for a young actor should be. And blond, blue-eyed, dashing Burnap is living the dream. In a part, I’ve never really even noticed before, he makes it seem a greater role than it’s ever been.

Troilus and Cressida are sort of Romeo and Juliet gone wrong.  The Trojan War  breaks them apart early and nearly kills them.

I saw Helen Mirren as a young girl, maybe even a teenager, make her debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the ’60s as Cressida.Helen Mirren Young Her debut, her first scene, she got rolled out of a Persian carpet completely nude. And thus began her great career. She was utterly heart-breaking in the scene where she emerges ravaged from the rival army’s camp where she has been raped repeatedly. She was shattered, bruised, barely able to speak, unforgettable. The actress here, Ismenia Mendes, just can’t cut it. You barely can tell she’s been gang-raped, and you don’t care much either.

But you do care about Andrew Burnap/Troilus’s reaction to his love being so defiled. He goes madly to war against his enemies, main among them the superb young Shakespearean actor Zach Appelman, as Diomedes, another part no one ever remembers. Appelman, you may remember, was the diamond brilliant Hamlet in Hartford, just this past winter for Darko Tresnjak.

Troilus and Cressida 3In the first act, Diomedes has very little to do, except to flex his muscles and show his six-pack lifting barbells and strutting shirtless (as do many others of this studly, sweating, stunning cast) in the 100 degree heat New York is now experiencing. But in Act 2, he gets to come into his own, as he battles Burnap. Appelman is a Yale graduate, too, btw.  As pictured above and below, you can see how intense their final confrontation is.Troilus and Cressida 4

I also must mention the tremendously strong ensemble feel that this T & C production had and I wasn’t surprised when I checked my program later that there were 10 (!) count’em TEN graduates of the equally superb NYU Grad Acting program! Which boasts its’ own  terrific, classically trained actors, main among them Corey Stoll. Stoll was so memorable as Ernest Heminngway in Woody Allen’s ” Midnight in Paris.” Here the completely bald Stoll is oiliness personified as the only man in a suit in this play, the slippery, Ulysseus, whom Stoll plays as   a corrupt ad exec, who arranges Cressida’s gang rape and many other nefarious things.Corey Stoll 1

I also had the privilege of seeing Understudy Keilyn Durrell Jones go on as the muscle-bound Achilles. He was just so loopily love-struck by his male amour Patroclus (Tom Pecinka), he licks his face like a huge puppy dog.Keilyn The Millionaire Jones

Yes, this is also the gay-est play Shakespeare ever wrote and director Sullivan does not hesitate to show the mighty Achilles, gathering his beloved up in his hugely muscled arms and whisking the giggling Patroclus off to their love-tent.

A male cast this awesome, and striking, who speak the Bard’s lines as magnificently as they make love AND war, makes one re-consider “Troilus and Cressida” as a much better play than it ever seemed before.

#Troilus and Cressida # Shakespeare # Trojan War #Andrew Burnap #Zach Appelman #Shakespeare in the Park #Corey Stoll #Achilles #Helen Mirren # Royal Shakespeare Company #Helen Mirren nude #Ulysses #Dan Sullivan # Problem Play # Central Park #Hamlet # Hartford Stage Company # Darko Tresnjak # Keilyn The Billionaire Jones#Achilles

 

For Those of You Who’ve Never Seen A Complete Episode…

For those of you who’ve never been able to see a complete episode of “The Stephen Holt Show”, only You Tube segments, here’s a complete, unabridged version of what is aired on TV. Enjoy!

Camera ~ Jack Siberine

Editing ~ Kevin Teller

Theme Music, the Overture from “Kareer Suicide” by Donald Arrington

Gay Filmmaker Richard Glatzer Passes at 63 from ALS

The great filmmaker Richard Glatzer has passed from the crippling disease ALS. He was 63. He and his partner Wash Westmoreland, who does most of the talking in this interview, was by his side for the past 20 years.

This interview takes place on the steps of the Courthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, where their break-through film “Quincenara” was the Opening Night sensation in the summer of 2005.

As in most small festivals, you end up hanging out with the friendliest face and that for sure was Richard.

Unbelievably, he developed ALS, the same disease that struck Stephen Hawking, and that Eddie Redmayne just won an Oscar for portraying a few weeks back. And even more poignantly, neither Richard nor Wash could attend the Oscars, seeing Julianne Moore win for their film “Still Alice.”

Moore had been saying that Richard was effected also by early on-set Alzheimer’s, which was what the movie was about, but in her final Oscar acceptance speech, she admitted, at last, it was ALS. And unlike Stephen Hawking who is still alive and vital today in his ’70s, Richard’s disease progressed extremely rapidly.

He was a talented, genial spirit, a fellow native New Yorker. It’s a great loss to the independent film community, to the gay community and to the world.

R.I.P. Richard.

Jake Gyllenhaal Just Grows and Grows!

Nightcrawler 2

With his new #1 box-office smash “Nightcrawler”, Jake Gyllenhaal shows anew that he is willing to take on the riskiest of roles and stretch his range, and the public’s perception of him as a screen actor and a leading man. Never comfortable with simply the role of a movie star/action hero, “Nightcrawler” shows us that he is becoming a very fine actor indeed. An actor’s actor.One of the best. His name stands for quality.

Playing the slimiest of slime-balls, I don’t think we’ve ever seen so compelling a portrait of a bottom-feeder. His Louis Bloom is an ambulance chaser at best and simply a common thief, when we first see him in “Nightcrawler”. At the beginning of the film, which I saw at TIFF, he is seen stealing copper cables. He moves up the food chain from there, when he witnesses a car crash and sees TV video crews mercilessly filming the dying, bloody victims. He’s got a video camera, too, and thinks, “I can do that!” and does.

And of course, as he pursues his new calling, things just get worse and worse. Rather his deeds do. And the chilling thing about “Nightcrawler” is that it is more or less absolutely true. This is how those tabloid news shows get their scammy footage. So this great LA noir just reverberates with TRUTH. Sadly.

And Gyllenhaal’s massive weight loss for this character, mirrors the hungriness Bloom feels inside and out. And with the box-office bonanza this is turning out to be, the Academy can’t ignore Gyllenhaal’s frightening apt portrayal. People die and he keeps filming them. And selling his shocking, bloody footage to Renee Russo, who has never been better than she is here. As a local TV news manager, she is buying what Gyllenhaal is selling. She could reap her first Oscar nomination for this, too. In Supporting Actress, always a category, that this year more than ever is wide open.

In his last several films, Gyllenhaal has shown an impressive range and daring. Even in the sci-fi mis-fire, “Enemy”, he took on TWO roles. An academic and an actor in Toronto. In “End of Watch”, he was a good cop whose good values and heart shown through every violent scene.

“Nightcrawler” is just as violent as “End of Watch”, but is even more horrific because it shows, accurately, the ruthlessness of those profiting by exploiting that violence.

Jake the Great is turning out to be one of the best actors of his generation. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his unforgettable, doomed cowboy in “Brokeback Mountain.” and his 360 degree turn into the despicable “Nightcrawler” could very well bring him back into the Awards race again. I certainly hope it does. He deserves to be there.

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Great New Doc on Gore Vidal. 20th Century’s Oscar Wilde

Great New Doc on Gore Vidal. 20th Century's Oscar Wilde

I always wondered what it would be like to meet or see Oscar Wilde if he were alive in my time. Well, the closest we’re ever going to come, I think, is to regard the life of Gore Vidal, who is marvelously, completely depicted in a great new doc “Gore Vidal:The United States of Amnesia” just opening today in NY & LA.

Gore Vidal had a tremendous hauteur and great and constant wit. The quotes fly by at a dazzling pace. And it reminds me of what the late great stately homo of England Quentin Crisp once told me when I asked him how I could succeed as a writer.

And in his tiny, smelly bed-sit in London in the ’70s he told me, “To be great to be truly great you must transcend EVERYthing, even your work. How much better to be Wilde than to be “Lady Windemere’s Fan”? How much better to be Coward than to be one of his plays?”

Words I’ve never forgotten, and they certainly can be applied to Gore Vidal. Who was also as gay as all of the men I’ve been discussing.

Crisp was talking, of course, about the cult of personality, and Gore Vidal certainly embodied that. The only books of his I’ve read and own are “Myra Breckenridge” and “Myron.” Both about transexualism. And homosexuality. And Hollywood.

Truman Capote, his contemporary and sometime friend, but most rival, opined, “Poor Gore. He never found his own voice as a writer. Except in ‘Myra Breckenridge’ and by then it was too late.”

“Myra Breckenridge” is mentioned but never really discussed in this film. But Vidal’s homosexuality is. Dashingly handsome as a youth, from a very privileged, political background(Al Gore was a distant cousin),it seems he was born looking down on the world from his lofty,almost patrician perspective. And he didn’t like what he saw.

Hence the title “The United States of Amnesia” which is a quote of his. The documentary is full of Gore’s TV talk show appearances, and it almost seemed that this was his great metier.

“I never miss an opportunity to have sex or appear on television,” is a quote that pretty nearly defined him. He seems at time like a wit machine spewing forth an endless stream of bon mots. The sound-bite was him.

His personality, as Quentin Crisp framed it, was his greatest lasting contribution to humanity, and this documentary certainly exalts in it.

He lived for many years with a male companion, who predeceased him by eight years. They shared a mansion overlooking the Mediterranean in Ravello, Italy, but Vidal claims they never had sex, and were “just friends.” Sad.

He was a great defender of homosexual promiscuity, and of course, gay rights. He wrote the first major best-selling novel about it called “The City and the Pillar” and he also wrote I play I greatly admired “The Best Man” which is revived and revived, and the screenplay for the classic movie “Ben-Hur.”

I’ve not read his political novels. Maybe someday I will. People say “Burr” was the best of them.

But I don’t know that any of them can hold a candle to this great documentary which truly throws as complete light on a great, great gay man. I’ve watched it four times! And will probably watch it some more!

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“Mothers & Sons” Best Play of the Year! Tyne Daly Best Actress!

The great Terrence McNally’s “Mothers and Sons” is the best new play of the year and the best new play on Broadway. And Tyne Daly as the mother is giving ANOTHER one of her greatest performances and in surely on her way to a Best Actress in a Play Tony nomination, if not a win. She won her first and only Tony(so far) for “Gypsy.”

“Mothers and Sons” is the kind of new play we should be seeing regularly on Broadway, but never do. It’s powerful. Immense, in its’ concentration on only four characters, or five, if you count the off-stage character of the late Andre Gerard, who is the real center of the play, and its’ uniting figure.

Andre is the handsome, sexy, 20-something young actor who dies twenty years before the play actually begins of AIDS.And by the way, we never see him. Except on a theater regional theater poster of him playing a rage-filled Hamlet.

It’s now two decades on and grief and time have brought his angry Republican mother, Katherine (Tyne Daly) and his surviving lover Cal (Frederick Weller) together in his semi-sumptuous Upper West Side apartment that overlooks Central Park.

She has come in her black, bulky fur coat and jewels to return her late son Andre’s diary to Cal. She can’t read it. And neither can he. She’s a dragon, breathing fire at Cal.

Yes, it’s another AIDS play. (I wrote one of the first one’s myself “Fever of Unknown Origin” in 1984, but that’s another story.) “Mothers and Sons” is set decidedly today. In a time when gay marriage is legal, and Cal has indeed moved on since the beloved Andre’s death to marry Will (Bobby Steggert) and they have a son Bud. This arrangement is seen as the highest point of gay achievement, and yes, perhaps it is. It certainly is a profound political and societal change.

Gay Marriage as well as AIDS is also front and center here because that too is what the play is addressing. Since the wonderful privilege of marriage for gay men was not even a serious thought or consideration when Andre died. But now it’s an inspiring fact of gay life.

And Bobby Steggert’s heart-warming, handsome young Wil can’t even imagine a time when it wasn’t this way. The rest of us all do. Wil is the younger generation who has missed the plague years, where literally someone I knew was dropping dead every day. It was like a war zone. It was a holocaust. It was ghastly. It was horrible beyond belief. Nearly everyone I knew died.

Frederick Weller’s Cal has lived through all of that era and nursed Andre through the horrible final stages of that illness that changed all our lives forever.

Weller has never been better and he has the daunting task of standing up to Tyne Daly’s formidable, homophobic monster of a mother. And he does.

Daly is a theatrical miracle in a career-topping performance. I saw her as Momma Rose in “Gypsy.” She was great. I saw her as Maria Callas in “Master Class” She was astonishing. And now her Katharine Gerard is an unforgettable portrait of a right-wing, Texas Republican mother who has all her anger and all her self-righteous conservative prejudices and confusion intact. And is still mourning the loss of her only son.

A seemingly impregnable, immovable slab of Mount Rushmore granite at the start of the play, she removes her black widow mink, to reveal a bright red dress that symbolizes her slow melt. And melt she inevitably does, and it is to Tyne Daly’s unending credit that she makes us like and UNDERSTAND this hostile harridan’s point of view.

And credit too to the great playwright McNally, who has always been one of my favorite American writers. He strips Katharine down to the bone as he has her reveal layer by layer, monologue by searing monologue, the depths of this woman’s despair and loneliness and sense of abandonment. Her husband, whom she didn’t love, has passed away, too, two weeks ago. And though she couldn’t stand him, his passing has sent her reeling into Cal’s CPW apartment to try to find….something….Something she doesn’t even understand she’s looking for.

And we find it with her, and what a journey it is! I can’t stop praising this great, new play and recommend it to one and all everywhere. It’s a great, great theatrical triumph.

Bravo and definitely BRAVA!

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