a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Geoffrey Rush’

Oscars, Critics awards get closer

Well, it’s still pretty early but no sooner than next week, both the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review will announce, one day after the other.

I think both these organizations, who are vastly influential, will go for “12 Years a Slave” as Best Picture. Both organizations are here in NYC, natch. And think they are both going to go also for Chiwetal Ejiafor for Best Actor for “Twelve Years a Slave” and Cate Blanchett for Best Actress for Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.” Let’s face it, Woody Allen is the essence of New York, so I think they won’t be swayed by the Hollywood Star Power that the Golden Globes represent.

I don’t see any of the Hwood centric films scoring here…No All Is Wet. I mean “All is Lost” for Robert Redford, or the ship-wreck(and train wreck of lawsuits)of “Captain Phillips”. Maybe the National Board of Review will go for Bruce Dern’s space cadet in “Nebraska.” That would be a table for Paramount, and one for Sony Pictures Classics for “Blue Jasmine” and several table for Fox Searchlight.

And they are announcing so early, both groups may not see AT ALL, the late breaking “American Hustle” or the even later breaking “Wolf of Wall Street.” So don’t expect either of those films to show up UNLESS they get seen. The NBR has a Top Ten list that “Hustle” could crack IF it’s all that.

Also expect the overwhelmingly Jewish National Board to give something to “The Book Thief.” Even if it’s just a mention on its’ Top Ten List.

And they always give something to George Clooney so he shows up, which this year the only thing would be “August:Osage County” as a producer.

Think back two years ago when “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” wasn’t seen by either of these groups in time, but did end up snagging one of the Oscar ten slots for Best Picture….

Supporting I also think is going to go “12 Years” way. Although the NBR is famous for spreading its’ wealth(so it can sell as many tables at its’ event as it can) so there may be other films represented by them, that aren’t represented at the New York Film Critics.

So they won’t match exactly, but I think Best Picture will be the same for both groups. They know the world is watching.

Also look for the National Board to include a Weinstein co. actor or actress in its’ largesse. Most likely Oprah Winfrey. For Best Supporting Actress. For “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

Michael Fassbender is someone who the NYFCC will honor, but who might the NBR give it to? Is this were the ubiquitous Tom Hanks’ scores this year for Disney, playing Disney, in “Saving Mr. Banks”? Think of all those tables they have to sell.

The NBR has also awards for Best Male and Female Newcomer and expect Lupita Nyong’O to end up there. And perhaps Michael B.Jordan from “Fruitvale Station”? Although he’s not THAT new. But being as this is the Year of Years for African-American performers and films, you just might find Jordan showing up here.

Last year, if anyone remembers, this is where the disgracefully under-rewarded Ann Dowd of “Compliance” got Best Supporting Actress.

But they won’t give Lupita TWO major awards (though she deserves them) so PERHAPS this is where they become the HFPA and give Best Supporting Actress to Oprah! That will sell a lot of tables. And turn them from an also-ran, announcing ONE DAY after the NYFCC, into an EVENT!

“The Book Thief” Definitely Oscar Worthy!

Just saw a truly wonderful late entry into the Oscar Race, Fox 2000’s “The Book Thief”, a small “little” film that is anything but. “The Book Thief” creeps up and steals your heart away and leaves you devastated.  Oscar, are you watching?

It’s World War II and an unseen narrator eerily sets the scene.  Who this narrator is slowly to be revealed is one of the main mysteries of “The Book Thief.” Is it Geoffrey Rush? The film’s leading man. Or just who is it?

Of course, this immediately sets up the greatest of film dynamics which is  the audience wanting to know “What’s going to happen next?” And with “The Book Thief” that suspense is maintained literally til the last frame. Which is really an achievement.

We’re in a familiar setting, Germany during WW II. In fact, it seems to resemble very closely another German back-dropped war drama “The Reader” which won Kate Winslet one Oscar and two Golden Globes.

“The Book Thief”could land a slew of Oscar nods, too. Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush) and Best Supporting Actress (Emily Watson) Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe more.

It depends on just how wily Fox 2000, sometimes referred to as Big Fox, plays its’ Oscar campaign from here on out. Fox Searchlight, of course, has a sweeping winner with “12 Years a Slave”. But “The Book Thief” should gets its’ due also.

IF enough Academy members get to see it in time to nominate it.

Geoffrey Rush gives one of his most beguiling and sweetly sympathetic performances as the adoptive father of the titular heroine, the child Leisl played by newcomer Sophie Nelisse, who is the Book Thief.

And Emily Watson gives hands down one of the best performances of her career as Leisl’s turbulent adoptive mother who is practising tough love with the child for most of the movie.

So familiar is this setting,i half-expected Kate Winslet to bicycle around the corner in braids any second. The aqua hue of the light is almost the same color of the lighting in “The Reader.”

The Nazi book burning that really sets the film in motion is frightening, and Leisl, who loves books so passionately that she begins to steal them, is traumatized by this event that she witnesses as a choir member of the Hitler Youth singing “Deustcheland Uber Alles.”

She even is so bold to steal one of the still smoldering books from the embers of the pile in one of the film’s pivotal moments. It’s still burning and as her kindly doting adoptive father Geoffrey Rush hurries her home, she starts coughing from the smoke that is coming from the still burning book hidden under her coat.

Rush takes the book from her then hides it under his coat. And more I cannot reveal, because the plot involves and tricks you with its’ many twists and turns that are its’ strengths. As well as the superb performances of Sophie Nelisse, Rush and Watson.

Don’t read any reviews that might spoil the delight of experiencing “The Book Thief” for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen. Just know that it COULD be nominated for Best Picture, though nobody is predicting it for the moment. BUT I AM.

Germany, the Halocaust, the Nazis, WWII, Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush, an adorable little girl heroine, it’s catkip to Oscar Voters, and to me as well. See it!

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.”

Trips Begin Before They Start

John Steinbeck wrote in his last book “My Travels With Charlie” which was about abandoning life as he knew it and just randomly driving across country in a mobile home with his beloved dog Charlie.

Steinbeck wrote “Trips Begin Before They Start and End Before They’re Over.” The capitalizations are mine. And I have found this to really hold true.

Today, as I was taking a bus, a very nice commuter bus,  that went over the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island. That view from the bridge is just spectacular of New York Harbor which was busier today and looking more beautiful than I had ever remembered it, and I realized that I had already left mentally for my Great Annual Trek North to the great Canadian Film Festivals. Montreal and Toronto. And yes, they don’t start for a while yet, but mentally I’m already there. Though my body is still in New York.

Trips, or planning to go on them, takes a tremendous amount of  detailing, scheduling, planning, no matter whether you’re filming a television and web series as I am, or just going on vacation. And though this is the thirteenth year I’ll be doing this great global cinematic trek, it still surprises me.

You get to a point where you realize that yes, the trip is taking over your life and you just have to give yourself up to it and enjoy.

And true, I was just traveling to Staten Island, but yes, I was already in motion. Or wanting to be in motion, constantly.

I love trains. I love buses. Planes less so…

But I just realized this afternoon with still more than a real-time week to go, that actually there is nothing left of my life now, except PLANNING EVERYTHING TO GO.

And I always forget something.

I’m sure every one does.

You’ve got to cross all the “i”s and dot all the “t”s. No wait. That’s backwards. You see, it’s happening already.

You’re mind going to ~ What about this? Did I take care of that? What am I forgetting? What is it that I have to do TODAY? Before I go…Did I make all the phone calls I had to? Did I send all the emails?

And it was almost exactly a year ago, while not quite yet, but soon, that I wrote my first ever blog entry! And look! A year later and I’m still doing it!

Oh and there many, many things, and many days to do them in but like, for instance, I’m stopping seeing any plays or movies before I go. I have to keep my head clear to think of the mind-numbing numbers of films I’m going to have to see starting very, very soon, and really they ARE the most important films of the year.

Last year, at Toronto, for all of you who read my blog and watch my television show, you know how important Toronto was for me, and how crucially right it was for me to get up at 6AM that first Friday and get to the 9AM “King’s Speech” first press screening and then run up town in the VERY hot TO. heat to make it to the un-air-conditioned hallways outside the rooms where Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Tom Hooper were giving their FIRST press interviews and colliding with me, who Tom Hooper named “The Oscar messenger.” And how that began to change everything for me.

I ONLY do films now that I think are Oscar worthy. Doesn’t mean that they’ll be nominated, but they’re being BUZZED. Which means they MIGHT be. Which means they’ll be part of the Oscar Conversation that is going to go on for the next nearly six months straight. And Toronto REALLY started it last year.

For those who follow my dear Sasha’s great site www.awardsdaily.com (and if you don’t, you should!) will know that this year the drums starting beating extra early in Cannes, where Sasha went with her little daughter Emma Stone(no. Not THAT one.) with the Opening of Cannes with Woody Allen’s masterpiece “Midnight in Paris” which I have now seen SEVEN times!

And yes, that film is gonna be around when the nominations come out. It’s made more money than any film of Woody’s EVAH! And I NEVER see a film THAT many times! GLACK! What kind of hold does this film have on me? And others, too, obviously, by the box-office we know this to be true and people are going back and back and back to see it more than once.

The film is dense with cultural references, and it’s like a subplot trying to unravel all of them. Or ANOTHER movie in and of itself. It exists in two worlds as does its’ hapless hero Gil Pender….Owen Wilson becomes the new Cary Grant in this movie. No. I’m not kidding….

And oh yes, there were other films that unspooled at Cannes that Sasha wrote about so marvelously at Awardsdaily. “The Tree of Life” being another that has opened and has played well, despite its’ esoterica, and is still playing. Like “Midnight in Paris.”

And many Cannes faves are coming up at Toronto. TIFF is just loaded with them.

The first one that I’m going to be seeing is “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling, who I like, I really like, and whose director won the Best Director Award and well, Ryan’s performance is being buzzed, as he always is, when he’s got something that looks even remotely bait-y.

We shall see…

And then there’s Madonna, the new reborn directutrix of “W.E.” which I hear is “beautiful” and has Harvey Weinstein producing it! AND it’s about Wallis Simpson! The woman who set the plot of “The King’s Speech” in motion, lest me forget, last year. And you know where that ended up! AT THE KODAK! “Best Picture of the Year” “Best Actor” “Best Director” “Best Screenplay”!!!

And no, Harvey would NOT be risking the comparison of having “W.E.” be an also-ran to his last year’s Toronto Filly. So I’m betting that HW knows EXACTLY how good this film must be.

If he DIDN’T think it was THAT good, Oscar good, you can bet he wouldn’t be bringing a hot tamale like Madonna’s directing debut up to TIFF, NOR BTW would TIFF have ACCEPTED IT. They have very, very good taste, too, in these things. They are known as an Oscar launch pad, and they have a reputation to live up to,too.

Maybe this is HW’s strongest Oscar bet this year. He is certainly leading with his trump card. He’s got Meryl’s “Iron Lady” and Michelle Williams “My Week with Marilyn” coming up to. That’s Meryl as Margaret Thatcher, and Michelle as MM…those two films already scream BEST ACTRESS PERFORMANCES at me, and not BEST FILM. So with the “W.E.” placement at TIFF as a GALA…Well…

As John Steinbeck said “Trips Being Before They Start.”

And I can’t WAIT!

I’m Going to Live Blog the Tonys tonight!

I’m going to live Blog the Tonys tonight! I’ve never done this before! We’ll see how this works! Stay tuned! It starts at 8pm on CBS.

7:42pm ~ Waiting for the Tonys to start, CBS’ “60 Minutes” is re-running its’ excellent piece on “The King’s Speech” with a new intro saying that yes, The Picture, Colin Firth, Director Tom Hooper and Screenwriter David Seidler all did indeed go on to win Oscars!

What a lovely surprise!

7:52pm – The exit line is now Colin Firth and the film with its’ Oscar win “has reclaimed History.” Bravo!

7:54pm – Daniel Patrick Harris promo “You have the best in the house.No. *wink*smile* No, this is the best seat!” And he pats his ass! How gay is this going to be?

8:03pm-Answer ~ VERY GAY! Opening number Neil Patrick Harris “Broadway is not for Gays anymore!”

8:07 pm – Alex Baldwin announces the first award of the evening. Best Featured Actress in a Play. Ellen Barkin wins! Great performance! Well deserved! Her Broadway debut! Great that it starts off with the awards so quickly! Nice black dress. She thanks Larry Kramer! A bit overlong, but impassioned. She got the “Wrap it up sign.”

8:13pm- First number of the nominated Best Musicals “How to Succeed in Business…” with Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette, “The Brotherhood of Man.” It looks smushed on this small(er)stage. Did they bump into each other? The crowd goes wild, anyway.

8:30pm- John Benjamin Hickey wins for Best Featured Actor in a Play! Awesome moment! I met him in 1984 when he was a waiter! This is before he went to Juilliard, even. And now he thanks his partner on National TV! Congratulations John! I always knew you would win! His performance, and Ellen Barkin’s too, were unforgettably powerful in “Normal Heart.” He got short shrift with his speech. Ellen Barkin was sooo long it’s cut into the others’ running time! Yikes!

8:34pm ~ Norbert Leo Butz’ is leading “Catch Me If you Can”s chorus in a semi-rousing “Break the Rules” number. Again the stage looks small, too small for this. Why did they take it out of Radio City Music Hall where it FIT!?!

John Leguizamo’s excerpt from his one man show “Ghetto Clown” worked the best so far because, well, it was just HIM. Being funny.  This stage, the Beacon, is NEVER used for this sort of thing. So, a one-person show works the best so far…

8:42 – During the commercial breaks, they are giving out awards. Like Best Orchestras which went to “Book of Mormon” and Kathleen Marshall for “Anything Goes” Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker win Best Director for “Book of Morman”!!! South Park Rules! Scott Rudin is shown laughing and smiling when thanked. Trey thanks “South Park fans!”

“War Horse” wins Best Direction of a Play. Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris. This probably means that “War Horse” is going to win Best Play. Oh well…It’s not a good play…It’s a great spectacle. A great production…but the writing…ugh…

Marianne Elliot gets played off….Droopy purple dress…

8:50pm-Don Cheadle introduces the long ago-closed, but worthy “The Scottsboro Boys,” which is also looking awkward and the sound…it’s not good…echoey…The audio even went off during Norbert’s number from “Catch Me…” for a bit! Yes, it did! Very SHORT number. Did not represent that really admirable musical very well at all.

The Musicals are allll looking bad.

Winner so far of Best Overall Presence and Presentation ~ John Leguizamo.

Oscar Voting Closes;Massive “King’s Speech” Landslide Coming Soon!

Well, it’s alllllmost over! One of the longest Oscar races in history. Although actually it isn’t. Last year had the Olympics to make it two to three weeks longer.

But the reality of The Race is that I personally feel (and this feeling is shared by NEARLY everybody) that The Race ended at Toronto at the VERY FIRST PRESS SCREENING of the Festival. TIFF started and so did the Oscar race with the BANG! of the first unspooling of “The King’s Speech.”

I realized as I sat there with the stunned audience of hardened TIFF-goers that we had seen the Best Film Of the Year. ALREADY! BANG! right out of the gate. It was like a cinematic miracle had occurred. People were crying, and laughing, in all the right places and critics sat frozen watching the end credits roll ALL THE WAY THROUGH. And then there was applause.

There’s always applause at the end of “The King’s Speech.”

Having seen a rather OK BBC version of this same story with James Wilby, who was perfectly fine as the stuttering King, but he didn’t break your heart the way Colin Firth does, and did. Over and over. Throughout this whole movie. The pain. The silences. And fright that man experiences.

A king is a terrible thing to be, is the movie’s motto, I guess. When you don’t want it. And feel you can’t do it…His wife believes in him. And I believe the Academy voters believe in her, too. The most beloved historical figure England produced in the 20th century. The Queen Mum. Who STAYED IN LONDON DURING THE BLITZ!!!!!!!!

People still talk of that courageous act, today. As the Queen Mum is always shown in newsreel footage of WWII tip-toeing gingerly through the rubble of the East End with the King following behind her.

Aw, “The King’s Speech” is going to win everything.! The question is HOW MANY?!? 12? It’s nominated for 12. And I just think the Academy is on a mission this year. They want to send a message to the world loud and clear. WE LIKE MOVIES LIKE THIS ONE! And we want to make more movies like this! Inspirational, moving, unforgettable. I think it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen or will ever likely see.

And so I’m predicting it will win everything it’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor(Geoffrey Rush) Best Supporting Actress(Helena Bonham Carter), Best Director Tom Hooper, Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler), Best Score(Alexander Desplat), Best Costumes(Jenny Beaven) and on and on and on.

Oh, and in Best Actress…It’s still Natalie Portman.

Last minute heebie -jeebies in this category are not going to unseat the beautiful young girl who gives the performance of her lifetime in “Black Swan” that is the very pregnant Miss Portman.

She didn’t make it across the Pond in her heightened state to receive her BAFTA win, but she did win it over Annette, who’s a lovely lady…but Natalie, there’s no stopping Natalie, and it’s the only win Fox Searchlight may get with that film. But it’s a big one.

So them’s my predictions pard’ner, and I’m sticking to ’em.

Fun fact: Since the BAFTAs moved their date forward to precede Oscar, the category that has matched Oscars 80% of the time is, you guessed, that hard to define, always mettlesome, Best Supporting Actress.

Oh, and Stu Van Airsdale has a FAAAAABulous summation of his Movieline graphs at www.movieline.com

And yes, “The King’s Speech” was filmed (in part) on a gay porno set. It’s been confirmed. WHO CARES?! That would be Lionel Logue’s offices, the one’s with the mottled, decaying, unmistakable backdrop. Makes me like it even more! This is just been revealed TODAY! And watch it wins Best Set Design!

Geoffrey Rush’s Master Class @ the DGA in NYC

I was absolutely delighted to be invited to attend a very special evening with  Academy Award Nominee Geoffrey Rush this past week.

It was held at the DGA theater and it was PACKED!  The lines were around the block and I think they turned over 300 people away! I didn’t know Geoffrey Rush was so popular.

This event was made even more exciting because  hours before in Blighty, Geoffrey Rush had just beaten Christian Bale to win the BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actor for “The King’s Speech.” And here he was spending the night talking Acting with us. That’s Acting with a very Capital A.

 Taking a break on his off night from his play “Diary of a Madman” which is now playing at BAM, Rush held the crowd in the absolute palm of his hand for nearly two hours as he proved himself a master speaker on the Art of Acting as well as a Master Actor himself. It was a Master Class indeed.

Rush’s biggest obstacle to winning his second Oscar this year for “The King’s Speech” for Best Supporting Actor is his own previous Oscar win for playing Australian pianist David Helfgott in “Shine.” 

Another obstacle is the immensely popular and impressive performance of Christian Bale, also nominated in the same category for “The Fighter.”

Ah! But Geoffrey has the best film of the year “The King’s Speech” as the wind billowing beneath his sails, blowing him steadily towards Oscar for the Second Time. He also has the Oscar Legend himself, Harvey Weinstein tirelessly trying to help him bring home the gold. Rush has had four Oscar nominations including this one and has the unique honor of being of the few, the very few to have won an Oscar, an Emmy AND a Tony!

If Rush WERE to win a Second Oscar it would be the first time in Oscar history that an Australian actor won a second Oscar, both times playing Australians. And Geoffrey Rush is very, very proud of this.

Geoffrey Rush is nothing if not a national spokesperson for the Australian acting community. He makes a point at the beginning of the evening that he was the first Australian to ever win an Oscar. And that Cate, Nicole and Russell Crowe were all following in his footsteps, and he admitted to being hurt when the press neglects to mention this fact, which to him is a matter of great personal, as well as national, pride.

“The King’s Speech” continues that strain of nationalism, by finding Rush once again playing an Australian, a historical figure that actually did exist~ Lionel Logue, who, it can be said, may have single-handedly saved the monarchy.

Logue, a rather controversial and at the same time little known speech therapist, was sought out by the Duchess of York, superbly embodied by Helena Bonham Carter, in the multi-Oscar nominated film, which has made over $100 million at the box-office, and is expected to sweep the Oscars a week from tomorrow on Sunday, Feb.27.

“The King’s Speech” has cast a very bright light on what was heretofore a deep, dark Royal secret that the eventual King George VI needed the help, the almost constant help of this Australian speech therapist to get over his crippling stammer and effectively lead his country and the free world during World War II.

It’s an heartfelt, moving story, magnificently told and Rush is as unforgettable as Lionel Logue as Colin Firth is as the stuttering King. It’s an acting feast for the ages to see these two great actors go toe to toe in a stunning double tour-de-force.

And Rush is very proud of this film and here he was on his off night from “Diary of a Madman” doing his best to KEEP “The King’s Speech” front and center in every actor in New York’s mind. Also, this great film would not have existed without him. He is also the executive producer.

How was he doing this? Well, this was an absolute joy to him. And his zeal for his country and its’ artists was as great as his love of his art. The event was co-sponsored by the Actor’s Studio, a place where there are many Academy voters concentrated and also many acting students from Pace University in Lower Manhattan, with which the Studio is affiliated. And they were there in force.

It was a splendid evening which began with Rush getting a standing ovation for just mounting the stage from the audience. Rush is currently sporting a shaved-bald head for “Mad Man” and he was wearing what looked like a golfing cap.

Geoffrey Rush is very much a man of the people and he gave fully of himself in this overwhelming two-hour event  celebrating his long career in films.

He started by pointing out that he had nearly 20 years or more as an Australian stage actor under his belt before he got his “big break” in “Shine” in 1996 at age 46. “Shine” catapulted him an unknown Australian character actor to international stardom and a Best Actor Oscar. And a film career that has never stopped and a stage career that he continues because he loves acting in front of a live audience.

He kept emphasizing how improbable his road to film stardom was and how even now he is humbled and more or less astounded by the staggering amount and the wide variety of films he has made since “Shine.”

Rush just received the Montecito Award at the Santa Barbara film festival a few weeks back, and the stunning montage of clips that began the evening were being shown in New York, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The festival was also responsible for assembling the wide variety of clips from Rush’s staggering number of films, many of which were new to me.

Rush kept referring to this series of clips, as did the moderater from the New York Daily News. And  one of the reasons for his incredible sang froid and energy propelling the evening forward was that basically he was re-enacting what was pretty much the same questions and anecdotes that he had recounted at Santa Barbara, but to his New York audience it was all incredible acting catnip. They ate him up with a spoon and applauded and laughed  and cheered rather constantly.

It was QUITE a celebration! And the clips of the many, many films he has done showed his incredible range very, very completely. I was actually stunned by much of the footage, a lot of it new to me and never once did Rush seem to duplicate a performance or repeat himself. I could have listened to him all night. He is an indelible original and a great, great actor.

When they finally got around to “The King’s Speech,” which ended the evening, Rush was even more passionate and eloquent than he had been all throughout this great presentation.

What had working with Colin Firth in his now legendary performance of the challenged King taught him? Rush was asked.

And he said, “The Silences. His greatest acting was in the silences as he struggled to get out whatever words he was trying to say.”

“I knew that acting was all about listening,” Rush said, “but he made me REALLY listen. I went from acting-listening, to REALLY listening. That’s why the dynamic is so great between us.”

And those painful silences as Firth struggles heartbreakingly to speak even the simplest sentences, took my breath away once again when I saw “The King’s Speech” again yesterday for the second time, but this time with a real honest-to-goodness audience of paying customers in New York. And they were as spell-bound as I was. You could hear a pin drop. And they, just an average New York movie-going audience applauded at the end. This was in a MULTI-PLEX! This NEVER happens! I think the Academy is going to throw every award its got at “The King’s Speech.”

But I digress…

Back to Colin Firth…and his performance of a life-time.

Firth made them listen the way he made Rush listen. I’ll never forget it. I’m getting chills just thinking about the magnificence of Firth and Rush’s and also Bonham Carter’s and director Tom Hooper’s great cinematic achievement.

It’s a masterpiece of a film and Geoffrey Rush is a Master Actor. How lucky we all were to be present at this great historic event. Who knows? There may have even been enough Academy voters present to tip the scales in this tightest of Oscar races between Rush and Bale.

Gentlemen, the envelope, please!

On seeing “King’s Speech” again, Helena & Colin totally rule the screen

It’s suddenly spring in New York City, after a horribly snowy winter, which probably isn’t completely over yet, SUDDENLY we’re having a day in the mid-50s temperature-wise! You don’t even need a coat today!

Well, spring was certainly in my step when I decided to see a 10:25AM screening of “The King’s Speech” which I hadn’t seen since that first early 9AM screening. The first press screening on the first day of TIFF’10, this past September. I knew it was probably going to be very, very good. I mean, it had Harvey Weinstein behind it, and that star-studded British cast.

I just wasn’t ready to have my mind totally blown by the quiet brilliance of this masterful film. Which I  instinctually knew was an instant classic. And that Colin Firth’s performance was one of the greatest ones I would ever seen on-screen. His stuttering, reluctant King George VI is one of the great screen performances, and has been hailed as such with Firth winning every single Best Actor award on his way to the Oscar podium.

I had the privilege of being of being the first one to broach the Big O news to Colin Firth himself, AND Geoffrey Rush AND director Tom Hooper, that beastly hot September morn in Toronto. And you can see their more than startled reactions at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltSHow

On seeing it a second time so early in the morning, I wanted to make sure that I saw it with an attentive, quiet audience. Who laughed at the appropriate moments, and were crying at the end. Just like they did in Toronto. And this half-full, respectful audience applauded at the end, just like they did in Toronto. I stayed spell-bound, just like I had in Toronto, all through the end credits and the lovely Alexander Desplat piano melodies. I remember that TIFF audience of hardened critics were all spell-bound, too. It’s like they were rooted in their chairs, totally blown away by the simplicity and beauty of what they had just seen. Nobody left at TIFF, til the end credits were finished. Then there was thunderous applause. We had seen the best film of this year or any year. We had seen a mastepiece.

All great films are their own miracles. And I have to say that if you want to really enjoy evenings in this month TMC’s “31 Days of Oscar” is just one wonderful night of cinema after the other. I’ve seen “The Heiress,” “Mrs. Miniver”, “Forrest Gump”, “Marty”, “Gone With the Wind” and “Twelve Angry Men” in just the past 10 days! Magnificent films, all.

And “The King’s Speech” is right up there with them. Seeing Colin Firth’s utterly brilliant performance again, this time I was even more astounded at the levels of pain he reached. Every time that poor man had to open his mouth and say something,  the inner torment, the hell that man expressed each time he had to utter even the most mundane and simple of declarative sentences was shattering.

His George VI is coming unglued in nearly every scene. And Tom Hooper’s direction is equally masterful. Always capturing the era(the 1930s) as if it was a doc happening right before your eyes today.

When Colin Firth ended our career-high interview(for me anyway…He kept saying “I don’t want you to leave. I just don’t want you to leave.” But alas I had to…) he stood up to shake my hand and I was astonished that he was a strapping 6’3″.

You see Tom Hooper and his excellent cinematographer always framed Colin to look short and small, which the real King George VI was, and Colin Firth, the man, isn’t at all.

This time I saw how he was always seated in ill-fitting chairs. The wide-angle lens Hooper uses makes this handsome man as plain and ungainly and painful to look at as possible.He is always shot looking out of place. Even in the most comfortable of surroundings, he is uncomfortable. He is always framed alone in very large, empty,slightly distorted spaces. He is trapped in the royal fish bowl, and he can’t get out of it. And only Helena Bonham Carter’s sweet supportive Queen Elizabeth penetrates those spaces.

Bonham Carter’s performance as the Queen just totally jumped off the screen at me this time. I was able to gauge her silences and the painful look in her large dark saucer eyes much more carefully. This is a portrait of a happy marriage made painful only by circumstance and the husband’s disability. The love between the two is palpable, and magnificently rendered by Bonham Carter.

The first section of the film is entirely hers, as she strikes out on her own, to find just the right Speech Therapist, for her beleaguered husband, then only the Duke of York. And simply a royal prince, who was never brought up to be the king.

Bonham Carter’s opening scenes are just a delight as she proceeds to a part of London she never in a million years felt that she would ever find herself in. Even her struggles with a lift(British elevator)’s caged door gates becomes a moment of hilarious business, and then it doesn’t go up. It descends to the basement. Which is where Logue’s apartments are. Or the scene as when she passes her husband off  to Logue as “Mr. Johnson,” a banker who has to give public speeches.

The second viewing just made me gasp at how strong her performance really is and how she does stand up in her own quiet way to the demands of the role of the ultimate supportive wife. And certainly the category of Best Supporting Actress is made for this sort of  classic turn.

She does not chew the scenery. She does not overact or over-react. Her calibration, guided by Hooper’s gentle, subtle directorial hand, is superb. And very, very moving. The last scene when the King actually has to do “The Speech” of the title of the movie, keeps cutting back to her, with her young daughter Elizabeth at her side, listening, her wide-dark eyes, pools of concern, and love and pain, and finally she is subtlely moved to tears,or  more accurately a single, beautiful tear as her husband rallies his country to war against the Nazis.

Her one tear reduces all the audience to tears, too.

And Kings and Queens, especially such sympathetic, heroic ones as these two, win our hearts and usually Oscars, too.

And Geoffrey Rush? He deserves his own separate piece – coming soon.

“Helena Bonham-Carter could win Oscar!” sez Anne Thompson

Anne Thompson, the sharp, astute, objective observer of all things Oscar, is at Indiewire these days, with her own blog, that is really a site in-and-of-itself. Always even-keeled and balanced in the coverage of Oscar subjects ~ I’m jumping for joy over Anne  (sometimes I call her St. Anne, well, because…she is…In Oscarland  terms, anyway) just having written a HUGE piece on “Helena Bonham-Carter Could Win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress” on http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/

CHECK IT OUT IMMEDIATELY!

And the reason I’m doing cartwheels, is because Even Anne does NOT make pronouncements like this lightly. Being a crack journalist as well as a keen Oscar observer, she WAS backing Hailee Steinfeld, last time I checked, but has JUST switched to HRH HBC because of, you guessed it, the BAFTAS! Which as you know Helena just won on Sunday. And I’ve been predicted this since the beginning! SWEEP!

And to top it all off, Anne had compiled a DELICIOUS series of video clips that really show off Helena in MAHvelous ways, darling! You’ve GOT to watch each and every one!

It’s been an uphill battle for Helena, as I said early on, because her performance is UNDERSTATED, sophisticated and subtle. Something Oscar doesn’t usually go for. She is chewing NO scenery here. Nope. Just tea and crumpets, though she DOES seem to be munching all the way through this brilliant movie. Yes, she overeats, and gets plumber and plumber as the films goes on, to where at the end, she is clearly wearing a fat suit! Yes, she is! And she’s ADORABLE in it!

 And she’s playing, lest we forget, the role Oscar LOVESLOVESLOVES to award in this category, the supportive wife! “The King’s Speech” makes it clear that King George VI could NOT have overcome his stutter without his wonderful, devoted wife who is the one who FINDS Lionel Logue(Geoffrey Rush) in the movie in the first place.

Jenny Beavan is the brilliant British costume designer, who is also up for an Oscar (again) this year for “The King’s Speech”s marvelous pastel-perfect period finery. Jenny has been costuming Helena since her Merchant-Ivory days. And Anne Thompson lays this all out in judicious, delicious clip after clip.

I’d do it myself, but I’m too tech-tarded, as you know….someday I’ll figure out the visuals…but right now just run on over to Indiewire and Thompson on Hollywood and see why I’m particularly thrilled with Anne’s great piece, predicting Helena’s win!

Yes, the “King’s Speech” has coattails, white tie and tails, probably, and Helena and Jenny Beaven and Geoffrey Rush and many others may be riding them all the way to OSCAR the Sunday after next! Coattails is another word for SWEEP!

There’s also a marvelous clip of HBC as HRH The Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland.” interogating frog footmen, one of whom stole her tarts! “Off with his head!” she exclaims.

Helena Bonham-Carter! How do I love thee? I’ll let Anne Thompson count the ways!

The BAFTAS predict the Oscars quite often lately

Last night the BAFTAS pretty much accurately predicted who’s going to win what in the Best Picture and Actors categories.

Before I go further, let me once again, explain that the BAFTAs voting procedures are different from the Oscars in that EVERYone, every member, votes on the categories of Best Picture and all four acting categories.

HOWEVER, the British Guilds vote for each of the other categories, like Best Director. And they gave it to David Fincher for “The Joy of Typing” and not home boy Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech.” THAT was probably the most shocking event of the evening, as “The King” ruled over seven categories! Taking home the most BAFTAS of any film, seven, including Best Picture, Best British Picture, Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay and Best Score.

I bring up the directing statistic as an example of how the Brits don’t necessarily honor their own. As for instance, Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient”) and Sam Menzies(“American Beauty”) were dissed in Limey, losing in their own country, but winning the Oscar for Best Director,when Push came to SHOW!

Since Tom Hooper has already won the DGA for “The King’s Speech”. Since the Queen of England AND Andy Rooney (just yesterday, this Sunday on 60 Minutes) both endorsed TKS, I think he’s got that in the bag too.

As well as fellow “King”sters Colin (of course) Firth and Geoffrey Rush and FINALLY my fave Helena Bonham-Carter.

Rush winning over Brit bad boy Christian Bale is particularly significant, since Rush is ostentatiously Australian.

I had the pleasure last night of attending an event in his honor last night at the DGA where Rush got multiple ovations, some of them standing, but more about that later.

I have always maintained that the BAFTAs help make up undecided minds in the Academy. If AMPAS voters wait to see what the Brits do at the BAFTAS…especially in the top Acting Categories.

Had Annette Bening upset Natalie Portman(who didn’t even show up) in Best Actress, for instance, it would indicate that their was an undercurrent surging for Annette. No such luck. Natalie’s got it, as they say, locked up. And Colin(of course) Firth does, too.  No contest in either of those two categories. The same can also be applied to David Seidler, the real stutterer who penned “King’s Speech” from his heart and who won Best Original Screenplay.

I’m willing to concede (FINALLY) that Aaron Soreking will win Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Joy of Typing.” Even his constant comparing himself to Shakespeare didn’t put off the Brits, so yes, the Academy will follow suit and this may be the only award “Typing” wins at the Oscars…You heard it here first!

And Geoffrey and Helena!

Well, the category of Supporting Actress for those of you who have been following the story (and you wouldn’t be reading THIS if you weren’t) know how badly former front-runner Melissa Leo stumbled at the last yard and basically handed the award to yes, Helena Bonham-Carter!

Best Supporting Actress is a category like none other. And these year, to me, resembles the year, a few back, when it was a five-way horse race, and at the last possible minute, Tilda Swinton was anointed at the BAFTAs for “Michael Clayton” and then surprised everyone, but me, at the Oscars ten or so days later.

This year Best Supp. Actress is all over the place with two actresses both from the fighter, Leo, who wasn’t nominated by the BAFTAs AT ALL, and Amy Adams, who was. Only Amy and Helena B-C found approval from the BAFTAs and of course, she won, and gave a wacky, rambling, memorable and moving speech just as I foretold she would.

She wore a black Vivienne Westwood. And looked less bizarre than she did at the BFCA or was it the SAGs or was it the Golden Globes, when she wore two different colored shoes? It’s all starting to blur on me. And if I’M getting a bit blurry, imagine the Awards-circuit fatigue the average viewer is going through?!?

But the Oscars are STILL the Gold Standard(pardon the pun) and I really do think Helena aced this topsy-turvy category with her BAFTA win.

Geoffrey on the other hand, really has his hands full trumping Christian Bale in “The Fighter.” As good as Bale is in this popular film( I even liked it), he lost on his home turf,(yes, he IS British, too) to Rush’s supreme, stately, magnificent Speech Therapist Lionel Logue.

Rush has got his previous Oscar win in Best Actor for “Shine” and Bale is a first-time nominee.

But Rush now has the BAFTA as well as Sasha Stone www.awardsdaily.com predicting him now. And I’ve ALWAYS been predicting him. And Helena, too.

Helena’s competition is much less intense as what Rush has to contend with in Bale’s…but…

I think the BAFTAS have spoken. Last year, it was only the Supporting Categories that matched. No Bullock, no Bridges, but Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique won BAFTAs as well as Oscars. The year previous Mickey Rourke won, over Sean Penn. But then Mr. Rourke got up and made a really crude F=== this and F=== that acceptance speech, and pretty much handed the award to Penn with that embarrassing, graceless moment.

But in the two years previous, BAFTA was four for four with the Oscar actors.

This year, well, don’t be surprised by “The King’s Speech” being the sweep of sweeps.

And one more thing, I’d like to point out. In CONCLUSION, Academy voters in ALLLLL disciplines and branches get to vote on all the awards (except Foreign Film, Documentaries, and Shorts, where you have to sign in and actually ATTEND those screenings to vote in those categories.) So the Academy Voting Ballot is something you can go, check, check, check and TICK ALL THE BOXES, as Colin and Geoffrey are both wont to say. And just vote “The King’s Speech” ticket for everything!

And not to be outdone by the Brits, I also predict that even though “The King’s Speech” won SEVEN awards, the Oscar vote count will be higher, much higher, maybe even historic. The Oscar ballot is designed for sweeps, since in the below the line categories, the technicians are listed by their names and their films are not even listed! A lot of cross-checking has to be done filling out the AMPAS ballot to vote-split. It’s easier to just look at the “For You Consideration” screener of your favorite film and just go, tick, tick, BOOM from there. And I think most do.

Harvey Weinstein is probably fuming about the seven BAFTAS his “King” didn’t win. But not me! I’m thrilled with all the events happening around this beautiful, beautiful film!

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