a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Hispanic’

Final Oscar Predictions ~ A Week Away from The Big Day

Well, dear readers, dear cineastes,  it’s almost over. Last week I was really beginning to feel Oscar burn-out as opposed to Oscar fever. And really since TIFF, which was now nearly six months ago, we Oscarologists, or Oscar Ninnys as the late lamented David Carr called us, have been writing over and over again about the same small group of films.”Oscar Island,” Sasha Stone calls it. And it gets smaller and smaller and also more crowded every year, and it’s not because of Global Warming.

With the FINAL three guild societies weighing in over the week, Sound, Hair and Make-Up and the Writers Guild, I think, we have to pause and note that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” won in all three races. That really says something. I think that “Grand Budapest” is going to be, astonishingly, the film that wins the most Oscars next Sunday night. It’s not a blockbuster sci-fi film with a lot of explosions and special effects, but it’s going to sweep I think all the below-the-line categories.

The outstanding group of artists and artisans that idiosyncratic filmmaker Wes Anderson assembled to create this uber-charming town (really Goerlitz Germany) will all be following each other, one right after the other, to the Dolby podium, to accept their golden statuettes.Oscar & tiles Now as to my main predictions, I think it’s pretty clear that Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette are all locked down, signed sealed and delivered for the categories of Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for respectively “Still Alice”, “Whiplash” and “Boyhood.”

I think Golden Boy Eddie Redmayne is going to get a l’il golden guy of his own for his extraordinary, heart-wrenching portrayal of Stephen Hawkings in “The Theory of Everything.”Theory 6The main, brain-teasing question is what is going to win Best Picture and Best Director, and this year has been so close and so crazy that I’m predicting a split between the two supposed front-runners “Boyhood” and “Birdman.” And that one will win Best Director and the other Best Picture.

True I didn’t really LOVE either film, but I think it’s going to be “Boyhood” for Best Picture, simply because as Sasha Stone says “The heart wants what it wants” and the Best Director award will go to Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu for “Birdman.”

One of the three Mexican directors known as the Three Amigos, Innaritu saw his fellow countryman Alphonse Cuaron win Best Director last year for “Gravity.”

I think it’s going to break down this way because the Academy has been so stung this year by accusations of racism for not nominating Ava DuVernay or David Oyelowo as Best Director and Best Actor for “Selma.” So by giving the Best Director award to ANOTHER minority director, Innaritu, who is Hispanic, that particular accusation can be quelled. Somewhat.

But Oscar always brings a surprise or two along. Although this year has been so over-analyzed and yes, even over-covered, that will probably be nothing new to us Oscar Ninnys that follow all this. Except that. Except that. “Grand Budapest Hotel” which has been quietly picking up award after award in the third place position (it also just won Best Screenplay at the BAFTAs, and Best Original Screenplay last night at the WGA) could surprise and cancel out the two battling competitors. It’s true. It could happen.

Tilda GrandOscar I love it when you surprise!

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Melonie Diaz Sizzles in Super-Hot Oscar Contender “Fruitvale Station’

The lovely and charming Melonie Diaz of the much Oscar-buzzed “Fruitvale Station” a Sundance and Cannes sensation that couldn’t be more timely. Melonie reveals that she studied directing at NYU Film School! And discusses her relationship with Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer who plays her mother-in-law in the ripped-from-the-headlines movie.

“Hands on a Hard Body” a Warm-hearted Musical Hits Home

I really did enjoy the recently opened “Hands on a Hard Body” the surprising, innovative musical hit that just opened on Broadway starring one of my favorite Bway actor/singers Hunter Foster. Yes, THAT Hunter Foster, who is the very, very talented older brother of the much more famous Sutton Foster, she who has now two Tonys and Hunter doesn’t even have one!

Hunter does however have a Tony nomination for “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Perhaps the super-duper “Hands on a Hard Body” will change all that. Certainly, it COULD. Hunter has the role of his career here playing the much-older-than-he-is, bad-ass, red-neck lead Benny Perkins.

Based on a much-respected but little-seen real-life documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hard Body” traces the journeys of its’ dozen or so working class Texan characters, who have accepted the daunting challenge of standing with their hands on the hard body of a brand spanking new, gleaming, red as rose Nissan pick-up truck. Whoever can last the longest, in this rather unbelievable, but true competition wins the truck. And hopefully a bigger piece of the American pie, than all of them presently have.

Yes, a cast of have-nots, singing their Country and Western hearts out, to the tune of our sluggish economy and the stagnant social mobility that used be the American Dream.

Contempo, yes, to the max. But I liked that. And I REALLY liked all these characters, and their elucidation musically by Trey Anatasio (of “Phish”) and Amanda Green. And literarily by Pultizer-Prize winning librettist Doug Wright. Who wrote “I Am My Own Wife”. I liked this MUCH better than “Wife”, and was so pleased that there were relatable characters of all ages, sizes and genders singing their hillbilly hearts out.

The way the Musical Numbers are listed in the maddening program, without the names of the characters or actors who are singing them, it’s hard to single out just who sang what. But I found much to my delight(and hopefully yours, too) that every song was a winner.

Hunter Foster really dominates here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did receive a Tony and/or Drama Desk nomination for his memorable meanie, whose big number was certainly “Hunt with the Big Dogs”, which ended the first act with a BANG! But he also sang many other terrific tunes, too.

Top-tapping music and amazingly interesting choreography by Sergio Trujillo kept “Hard Body” (and the red truck, too!) moving so much that you never noticed its’ seemingly static premise. Kudos are due, too, to its’ sharp director Neil Pepe.

Particularly so during Hawaiian belter Keala Settle’s roof-rasing “Joy of the Lord” which had the larger than life Ms. Settle pounding away on the truck until it turned it into a percussive instrument! Tony/Drama Desk and more nominations are CERTAINLY headed her way for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Giving her a run for her awards’ money in that category will be Dale Soules, whose Texas rasp, made me feel like she had just wandered in from the Grand Ole Opry, instead of an extensive career in theater.Her big number was “It’s a Fix!”

Also registering powerfully were Jon Rua as born-in-the-USA hispanic kid with a dream who wants to win the truck, so he can sell it and he can go to school and be a veterinarian. His soulful “Born in Loredo” is marvelously moving and mesmerizing. As is the Iraq war vet with PTSS, David Larsen,in his “Alone with Me” solo that also brings down the house. As do they all.

I love that a Broadway musical takes risks like “Hands on a Hard-Body” does. And reaches and fulfills them. I hope audiences find it as enjoyable and moving as I did!

5 SAG men and 5 SAG women poised to score Oscar noms

At this juncture, the first post of the New Year 2012, I’m beginning to think of the Oscar landscape as sort of a roiling seascape. It’s most fascinating aspect is the tides, their ever-changing ebb and flow. And it does change, this Oscar race, we are all so avidly following. And if you’re not, why are you reading this???

So what’s changed since yesterday? Well, certain box office numbers came in, and came in lower than expected. Like for instance, the holiday numbers of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which are OK, but not the blockbuster figures Sony was hoping for with a $100 million budget. This hurts Rooney Mara’s nascent Oscar campaign, I’m afraid. Right at the time the voters have received their ballots in their homes.

Most send them RIGHT BACK, making sure that they are counted. You can check out the stats at www.boxofficemojo.com And “The Iron Lady” opened strong, but not THAT strong. Everybody these days feels that the first weekend is everything, and especially in the middle of the Oscar campaigns, that is not necessarily the case.

But “Dragon Tattoo” is not measuring up, and I think that dooms Rooney Mara’s chance to crack that locked and loaded Five SAG women, who are nominated for Best Actress. I think that on Oscar morning, we’ll find out that Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Michelle Williams and yes, Tilda Swinton, are going to repeat their SAG nomination victories. If you consider the SAG nominations a victory. And they are of sorts.

Of course, it’s an honor. It is after all your peers voting for you here. And it’s the first glimpse we get into what the all important Hollywood guilds are actually thinking and feeling right about now. And the above ladies are who they are feeling for.

Rooney Mara is the newbie, the upstart outsider trying to get in, but…with those numbers at the B.O. I’m afraid “Dragon Tattoo” is not going to make  it into that very locked-up-for-ages category.

You always wish they could expand the category just a LEEETLE bit, but, of course, they never do. It’s against the rules.

Then there’s the Five SAG men. And last night I finally got a chance to watch Demian Bichir’s out-of-the-blue nominated performance in the leeetle-seen Indie “A Better Life.” It starts slow, but then BANG! It blew me out of the water and Bechir held me in the grip of his powerful, moving performance as a Mexican father, an illegal immigrant in today’s L.A., who is working as a gardener and trying to make “A Better Life” for his son. He was heroic. No anti-hero here. And troubles galore do ensue, as he is always trying to do the right, moral thing in the immoral, or amoral world of the hispanic underclass.

It’s a terrific film and a great performance by Bichir. Summit Entertainment, the film’s distributor, did the smart & impossible that usually is associated with Sony Pictures Classics or Lionsgate,  by sending out the DVD screeners of this film to the entire SAG membership, and most especially the 2100 members of their nominating committee EARLY. REALLY EARLY. Like SPC did last year with “Animal Kingdom” that just as unseen-in-theaters film that got Australian actress Jackie Weaver an Oscar nomination in Supporting Actress last year. She didn’t win, but in her very unlikely case, it was a honor just to be nominated. And like Lionsgate did so famously with “Crash” upsetting “Brokeback Mountain.” That was in 2005. And the strategy still works.

Oh! Those September screeners! Those first out-of-the-box DVDs to arrive at a time when the voters have time to watch them. Like in the REALLY early fall. Like Labor Day. And it seemed EVERYone in SAG watched “A Better Life” and were equally wowed, as I was, by Bichir’s heart-wrenching performance.

He didn’t repeat this at the Golden Globe awards. He was replaced there by Michael Fassbender for “Shame” And much as I adore Michael F. and his constant full frontal nudity didn’t faze me in the least, I think it WILL faze the S.W.O.R.M, The Straight White Old Rich Men, who make up the Academy. Yes, as I’m always pointing out, THEY are the majority. Like it or not, that’s what we’re dealing with here. ALWAYS.

And sadly, the double standard is still in effect. The naked young girl, like for instance, last year’s Natalie Portman, almost always wins over the older actresses who are also nominated. I think, as I’ve said many times, this “Babe Rule” is going to apply once again this year in a close race for Best Actress between Michelle Williams and her older cohorts.

But oh no! MEN can’t be seen naked in Hollywood films! Especially not from the front! And especially when shown urinating! And yes, you don’t just HEAR it happening! You see the actual, physical process taking place RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! Michael Fassbender is facing upstage(and totally naked, again, natch) but you get the picture.

But the Academy won’t get this picture. They are nothing, if not closet prudes and homophobes as we know (See “Brokeback Mountain” NOT winning in 2005) So no, to Michael Fassbender, and yes, to Demien Bichir. As the SAGS have already said.

Also, “Shame”s box-office is not registering with movie-goers despite the constant sex scenes and the as-noted nudity. See BoxOfficeMojo, again. Which is, well, a shame.

What is doing WELL at the Box Office surprisingly is “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which is a British film that boasts a terrifically understated performance by the great actor Gary Oldman, who has never ONCE been nominated. He could sneak in here and replace Bichir, if the large British voting bloc within the Academy votes for him and not Mexican  Bichir. But George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” I think are as equally locked and loaded in their category of Best Actor, as the five aforementioned ladies are in their category.

The Supporting races, especially Best Supporting Actress, are usually not SAG matches and are usually all over the place. So much so that I will discuss them separately. But the SAG 5 & 5 rule!

“Gun Hill Road” terrific new transexual indie!

I predict that the critics will be throwing their collective hats into the collective air above them in hailing the arrival of “Gun Hill Road,” a terrific new Indie about of all things, a Bronx teenage transsexual! And that one of those hats may just land squarely on the very pretty Hispanic head of Harmony Santana, the Latino/Latina actor/actress who gives one of the greatest debut performances I’ve ever seen. Is Oscar listening?

Harmony reminds you a LOT of Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game” who ended up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1992 for playing a tranny who was passing who hooks up with the IRA. He lost to Gene Hackman in “The Unforgiven” but that startling nomination is there forever. I thought in one of the first years I was predicting the Oscars on my TV show that he would win. Scott Siegel(yes, he’s been on my show THAT long) said it was gonna be Hackman. I should’ve listened.

The New York Times is hailing Harmony, too, in a full-blown, star-is-born feature article pointing the way to a future career for Harmony and also to PERHAPS major awards kudos at the end of the year. If Jaye Davidson can pull of this Oscar hat trick, Harmony Santana can, too!

And yes, as the New York Times so delicately points out, she IS a transsexual playing a transsexual which is a rarity indeed in features.

Out of Sundance via NYU Film School, it is, believe it or not, the “Thesis Films” of its’ VERY talented young director/writer, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who I knew as a wonderful young African-American acting student at NYU’s famed Grad Acting Dept. He was a memorable, sexy, wounded Brick in a production there of Tennessee Williams’ classsic “Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.” And his classmate Corey Stall played Big Daddy. And Corey is lighting up the screen this year in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”  and he may be Oscar nomination bound, too! I’ve now seen “Midnight in Paris” SEVEN TIMES! An all time record for me!

But back to Rashaad Ernest Green and his wonderful new film “Gun Hill Road”!

Upon graduation, Rashaad had to face the “pounding the pavements” reality of an actors’ life in New York City and this drove him quick smart back to the haloed halls of NYU Film School, this time, to get yet ANOTHER Master’s Degree this time in film.

And boy has he struck pay dirt with “Gun Hill Road”! It’s gone from Sundance to major distribution where it is going to be opening at the Angelika as well as the AMC 42nd St.  this Friday!

If you can’t wait, you can see me interviewing him and Harmony and soon Esai Morales, too, as the jail-house dad, on my You Tube Channel here ~ at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

They’re all going to be famous tomorrow. Or thereabouts.

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