a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Hugh Dancy’

Emily Blunt Becomes Legend in “Mary Poppins Returns”! Give That Girl an Oscar!


I have long admired the acting force that is British Actress Emily Blunt. She’s been on my TV show twice, once for “The Jane Austen Book Club.”where I interview her by satellite. She was in London where she said, “It was pissing down with rain.” Now that’s not something Mary Poppins would never EVER say. This is without a doubt the iconic role that is going to make her very, very famous and will define her career for the rest of her days. And maybe even win her a Best Actress Oscar.

She was just nominated for her”practically perfect in every way” British nanny that descends from the lovely, fog-covered London skies  to save the Banks children once again. But this time they are all grown up and played remarkably sympathetically by the brilliant Ben Whishaw and the divinely demure Emily Mortimer. It is 1930 and they still live in the charming house on Cherry Tree Lane, but here’s where director Rob Marshall had a master stoke of genius. They are on the verge of being evicted.

So beneath the flaming Technicolor flim-flammery, there is a great core of sadness underlying “Mary Poppins Returns.” Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins senses that there is  real trouble brewing here and that only she can fix it. This gives the always startlingly original actress a role that she can really sink her teeth into, and probably will play for ever. If she wanted to. There is a real sense of pain and a core of sadness that is motivating her Poppins to do what she does best – Cheer every one up. She’s like a supernatural social worker.

Blunt plays her with a tinge of something akin to regret. She knows in her heart of hearts that she really CAN’T help the Banks’ in any practical way. Her magic only goes so far. Or does it? And Nannys DO have to leave, eventually. That’s where her sadness comes from. As much as she loves the Banks’, she inevitably knows there will be a moment to go to say “It’s time.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda is on hand, too, in the Dick Van Dyke role, as  twere,  as Mary’s comical side-kick. Here transmorgrofied in into a lamplighter. He seems wildly miscast here, but his British accent is better than Van Dyke’s (who is in THIS movie, too!)so I’ll give him a pass for bounce-ability.


Also on hand is a new character, Mary’s Blatvian cousin Topsy who tells them all she is “Turning Turtle” a show-stopper number that allows Streep to out-camp her Florence Foster Jenkins role .That’s camp for you. The greatest of all addictions. Once you touch even your little left toe into it, you can never get out of it.

If you can imagine such a thing. She does more bumps and grinds per minute than any one in film history. And if it was anyone but Meryl Streep doing it you would say “STOP!” “Too much!” With Meryl you say, “You just keep twerking it, girl..”

The charming composer/lyricists are straight from Broadway. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are so endlessly tuneful and prolific, it’s simply amazing. My favorite has to be “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “There’s No Where to Go But Up!” sung by Angela Lansbury. Yes, she’s in it, too. Even the background music is quite enchanting. And every now and then they slip a little touch of the original Sherman brothers classic score. Just a few notes, mind you, but it is enough to send one flying up and down memory lane, in the best possible way.

It’s a delight. It’s an epic and I think it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture and many, many below the line categories. Sandy Duncan’s costumes are heaven-on-earth, right down to Mary’s red shoe laces. And of course, the extraordinary Emily Blunt will be nominated for Best Actress. And she could win, too! This is a film that will melt the hearts of every hardened cynic in Hollywood. And you’ll end concluding that we all need a Mary Poppins in our lives.

“Mary Poppins” is not just a sequel. It’s a classic.

Elizabeth Olsen gets an ovation at NYFF for “Martha Marcy May Marlene”!

And who got her that rousing out-of-nowhere round of applause and enthusiastic cheers? Well, l’il ole me, of course.

It was during the Q & A during the Press Conference after the Press Screening of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” a title I am STILL struggling with. This was at the New York Film Festival, of course.

And I made a statement. I congratulated the beauteous 21-year-old actress who makes such a stunning screening debut that she’s just blown that category, Best Actress, wide open.

I told her that I wanted to congratulate her for giving what was surely one of the best performances of the year, by an actress, and the crowd went wild, roaring and clapping in agreement.

She was startled, the moderater was startled. The director Sean Durkin looked, well, in agreeance, pleased. And then I exclaimed “That’s the New York Film Critics speaking! This never happens! You got it, baby!”

And I was totally chagrined that I had called Elizabeth Olsen “baby” or “babe” in front of hundreds of people, well, press/people, but still…

And then I asked the director Sean Durkin “Who was Marlene?” and suddenly I felt all the air go out of his(and my tires).

He mumbled something like “It’s there.”

And I still don’t know what he meant.

The title is the biggest stumbling block this very good indie film has on its’ way to the Oscar. Will people (that is Academy members) be able to pronounce it? And if they can’t pronounce it, will they watch it? Will they even vote for a film whose title they can’t say?And is as confusing as the young heroine, whose names form the complicated title, becomes through her involvement with a strange cult in Upstate New York?

But the film is very, very good. A gripping thriller/psychological drama about this young girl’s entrapment by these Manson-esque modern-day hippies, led by the always-threatening John Hawkes. Hawkes received an Academy Award nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” Which was much more confusing than this film.

Another Indie to emerge out of Sundance. And it has the low-budget, Sundancy feel to it. And every year for the past several years, a Best Actress nominee has emerged out of Sundance. Last year it was Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”, then before her Gabourey Sidibe for “Precious” The list goes on and on and this year it could be Elizabeth Olsen.

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the famous Olsen Twins, is sublime in a very difficult, complex role and very very clear in her portrayal of a confused, lost young woman who falls in with the worst people she could possibly ever be associated with. Her struggles to make sense of what has happened and is still happening to her form the crux of this gripping, exciting movie.

With a deceased mother and an antipathetic grandmother(who we never see) Martha is on the run and gets picked up by this cult who live on a farm in a remote area of upstate New York. Hawkes, the ringleader, immediately changes her name to Marcy May. And then her programming and reprogramming and deprograming and inculcation into this cult begins. It’s eerie, accurate and frightening in its’ details. So simple and yet so scary.

The film shifts back and forth in time between present day Martha who has run away and sought refuge in the real world again with a barely tolerant older sister, Lucy(Sara Paulson) and her brother-in-law Hugh Dancy. Yes! There he is again! Twice in the same week! Giving yet another nuanced, excellent performance as a straight-arrow, British businessman who is losing his patience with his bizarre foundling of a sister-in-law.

And who’s Marlene in the end? I was told by many critics afterwards it was a name they, the cult, used when talking about all the cute, young girls, when they are dealing with outside people. I.E., the world. “Cousin Marlene” is what they are ALL called. Just to keep everything even more confusing.

Apart from that nearly unprounceable title “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of this year’s best films. And should have no problem getting Elizabeth Olsen and perhaps John Hawkes, too, back in the Oscar race this year. This is Elizabeth Olsen’s feature film debut and it’s stunning, stunning, stunning.

New York Film Festival begins! I run into Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy!

The New York Film Festival, my home town film festival begins before it starts with crack-of-dawn press screenings, just like in Toronto. And although I’ve seen “The Artist”, as you all know, and loved it in Montreal, I’m surprised and happy to say that “The Artist” is also on the bill here at the NYFF. So it debuted at Cannes, was at Telluride, Montreal, and Toronto and now New York! Support keeps building for this very unusual, but beautiful film, in Black and White and SILENT!

Will it go all the way to the Oscars? As the French say, “Pourquoi Pas?” Why not?

AND it’s got the Weinstein Company behind it. So as they say “Voila!” But will it win? THAT remains to be seen, but people keep loving it.

I think it’s paving the way, not necessarily for its’ own win, but for ANOTHER French-themed film Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and THAT could be the winner. It’s still hanging in there in theaters. Up to $54 million made so far…for Sony Pictures Classics…and Woody…

And I just bumped into, on the street, one of its’ stars, Nina Arianda! She plays Michael Sheen’s malapropping American wife, in the present sections of the film, who falls victim to “a bad oyster” at one part.

She and her dashing co-star”Venus in Furs”s Hugh Dancy both ran right into me on Broadway! I’m sure on their way to a rehearsal of “Venus in Furs” Nina’s Off-Broadway triumph that I never saw. And always felt awful that I missed, because it DID make her a star.

I know Nina from NYU Grad Acting where I saw here in many, many plays there and always thought so highly of her work. And even then she had that great comic sense that has served her so well in her Tony nominated turn in “Born Yesterday” on Broadway this past season. And also, of course, in Woody Allen’s triumph which I’ve seen now EIGHT times!

She and co-star Dancy, who is one of the finest young actors working on-screen, or stage, today, both looked very happy and startled to see me right in their path. They were crossing 8th Avenue so they couldn’t avoid me. And we exchanged “Hellos” and I congratulated Nina on her INCREDIBLE year.

Which will probably get even MORE incredible if “Venus in Furs” becomes the hit I think it’s going to be ON Broadway.

You just never know who you’re going to run into on the Rialto!

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