a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Ian McKellen’

Best Supporting Actress, Wide Open or Not?

sarah PaulsonRoonwy MARA 2Is this year’s Supporting Actress race wide open or not? I think the HFPA(Hollywood Foreign Press Association) who give out the Golden Globs, er, I mean, GLOBES, dynamited both the Best Actress race and the Best Supporting Actress races, by insisting that Rooney Mara for “Carol” and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl” MUST be considered in lead.aLICIA vIKANDER1

And they are 100% right! Both are leading roles. However, after seeing how dismal Rooney Mara’s “Carol” turn is, and how GREAT Cate (the Great) Blanchett’s is in the title role, I think voters are going to have no trouble nominating Blanchett, and overlooking the sub-par Mara for “Carol.”

I would never have thought that yesterday. I had to see it to believe it. I mean, Mara did win Best Actress in Cannes, which I guess in this day and race really means nothing.

And since Best Actress is incredibly jammed already, there just may not be room for Mara AND Blanchett, and/or for Mara and Vikander, who gives a truly transcendent performance as the conflicted wife of a transitioning transgender man-to-woman in “The Danish Girl,” played brilliantly by probable nominee for Best Actor, and last year’s winner, Eddie Redmayne.

Brie Larson in “Room” and Saorise Ronan in “Brooklyn” SEEM locked and loaded as they say. And then there’s Blanchett in “Carol” and Vikander. With only one slot left for Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette” with Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma” and Charlotte Rampling’s “45 years” nipping at her heels. Never mind Dame Maggie Smith coming up fast on the outside for her glorious, smelly, homeless woman “Lady in the Van.”

So who is going to fill up the now empty Best Supporting Actress race?

Well, as I said before, I would love it if Sarah Paulson (above top picture) got nominated for “Carol.” Since the HFPA’s Edict of Nantes, they CAN’T nominate Rooney,in Supporting, they might just go far Paulson’s steely Best Friend and ex-lover of Carol. That would be great and people WILL get to see “Carol”. And see Paulson in it and how good she is.

Paulson was pretty stellar in “Twelve Years a Slave” wherein she horrified voters as the vicious slave-owners wife, who throws a glass decanter in future Oscar winner Lupita N’yongo’s face, scarring her for life.

And then there’s room for probable nominee screen legend Jane Fonda getting in for a five minute scene in “Youth.” I bet they are going to nominate her sight unseen because she is well, Jane Fonda.Jane Fonda Youth 1

I keep banging the drums for Parker Posey in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man,” but no one seems to be listening to me. Posey has another juicy role coming up next year in Woody’s next opus. Maybe the Academy will wait for that role before they get on the Parker-Posey-is-now-legit(to us)-train.Itrational Man 2

I’ve mentioned before two look-alike blondes Elizabeth Banks and Rachel McAdams in, respectively, “Love and Mercy” and “Spotlight,” the front-runner at the moment for Best Picture. Both blonde beauties may have been pushed further inside the race than they ever might have been otherwise by the HFPA’s ruling on Mara and Vikander.Elizabeth Banks1Rachel McAdams1And let’s not overlook the wonderful Oscar perennial Laura Linney, who really holds Ian McKellan’s house and home(and picture) together as the put-upon drudge of a housekeeper in “Mr. Holmes.” If the voters view “Mr. H.” to see Sir Ian’s great nonogenarian detective, they’ll see how beautiful Linney’s work is opposite him. I thought people would forget this charming film and McKellan’s and Linney’s lovely work in it, but it seems they’re not.Laura Holmes 1And last but not least, you can never count out Dame Helen Mirren’s campier-than-thou take on the late real life gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in “Trumbo,.” who underneath her elaborate headgear was a ruthless red=baiter.Helen Mirren Trumbo

There’s nothing like a Dame as the ole saying goes. A rubric that AMPAS lives by. They’ve always have got to get a “sir” or a “dame” in there somewhere to give the evening class.

Have I left anyone out? Probably. But I’ll catch you up on these magnificent ladies on the flip side.

Roger Rees, a Great Actor & a Great, Out Gay Man Passes

Roger Rees 1I’m shocked and saddened to report the passing of the great British actor, Roger Rees. He was also a great out gay man. MAY 5, 1944 – JULY 10, 2015

I just saw him only recently on Broadway in “The Visit” and he was playing the man Chita Rivera’s Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world had come back to their hometown in the German/Swiss Alps to kill. The plot is she buys the townspeople’s co-operation to kill him, because he rejected her years ago when they were both young and in love.

Rees made that role believable and you felt for his plight. Grizzled and worn, he was nowhere near the young, handsome Nicholas Nickleby, which is where I first saw him on Broadway)see above^). You worried about his frail character’s health in “The Visit” He seemed like a ghost already. So I was not surprised when I heard that he had left the show even before its’ precipitous closing right after the Tonys. And now, he’s suddenly gone.

He was dazzling as the young Nickleby, the absolute paragon of a Dickens hero.

I remember so well, Ian McKellen, now Sir Ian, telling me in the cafe of  the Circle, a Fringe Theater stronghold in  London’s South bank area, in the ’70s. He said, “I’ve just seen one of the most wonderful plays I’ve ever seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company!” I asked him what it was. And he said “Nicholas Nickleby!” and I could hardly believe him. An unwieldy, secondary Dickens novel turned successfully into a stage play? I didn’t see it, although the critics and the crowds were raving.I didn’t see it until it came to Broadway and I myself has also moved back to America, but yes, it was true.

“Nicholas Nickleby” with a bare stage and only the costumed actors playing everything, including a stage-coach, was absolutely what McKellen said it was. And Roger was its’ handsome star. Rees had a very rich, varied career ever since that memorable launch.

I’ve followed his career with interest ever since. And was very proud of him when he came out as a gay man.

My sincere condolences to his surviving partner, friends and family.

 

Superb “Waiting for Godot” w/Ian McKellan & Patrick Stewart Blazes on Bway

Don’t miss the superb current revival of Samuel Beckett’s  “Waiting for Godot” starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart at the Cort Theater on Broadway. It is in rotating rep with a play by Harold Pinter “No Man’s Land” which seems tepid by comparison. The quartet of players, McKellan, Stewart and American actors Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley, soar into theatrical heaven with “Godot,” a play I’ve never liked or understood. Until now.

In a blasted post-apocalyptic landscape, two hobos( or today’s parlance would dub them homeless people) we find Estragon (McKellan) utterly bedraggled and sometimes bootless and his companion, the ever-so-slightly more dapper Vladimir (Stewart) waiting for Godot. Who is some one or some thing they don’t know and never find out about. But they keep hoping they do. And they keep waiting and waiting and waiting. And that’s the plot.

McKellan and Stewart are at their absolute zenith of their combined talents, as they entertain us and each other mightily, while waiting for SOMEthing to happen. They have each other. And a tree with no leaves, and the tattered clothes on their backs, rags, really. Dusty, crusty. They’re frightening to look upon.

But you end up just loving them. Because they make you laugh. At the utter absurdity of everything.

That’s something that I never thought of “Godot” as, being a supremely entertaining comedy. It was just one laugh after the other, surprising and delighting the audience. As Vladimir and Estragon keep entertaining each other, as they wait and wait and quarrel and make up again and consider suicide and reject it and wait.

Finally something DOES happen in the scarifying persona of the outsized blow-hard Pozzo (Hensley) and his hideous, pathetic captive scarecrow Lucky( a nearly unrecognizable Crudup).

Vladimir and Estragon think that this ovewhelming personage MUST be Godot. But then decide he isn’t. He doesn’t know who they are and they don’t know who he is.

And Hensley is so revolting and despicable and hugely fat as Pozzo that the two bums become almost attractive by comparison.

And in the second Act things do change, but to reveal just how magnificently they’re embodied by this quartet of great actors, all four at the peak of their powers, in both plays would be to spoil a lot of the fun for the 1% of you that aren’t already familiar with “Godot.”

I now see for the first time ever through the combined artistry of these Four Horseman of the Apocalyptic(Theater) just WHY Samuel Beckett’s difficult, dense, infuriating play is the existential classic that it has always been considered. And it’s an anthem, a subtle anthem to hope.

“No Man’s Land” by Harold Pinter seems almost picayune by comparison.

A rich man Hirst (Stewart) encounters a less squalid ne’er-do-well, Spooner (McKellan) Less squalid as his Bum of Bums, Estragon in “Godot” on Hampstead Heath, a notorious gay pick-up ground. Was that what Pinter was implying by starting the play with this unexplained meeting? I wonder? In any case, Hirst brings Spooner home to his grand mansion of a house and it turns out that Spooner is a poet and then also so is Hirst, and that they actually knew each other at university. But Spooner didn’t like Hirst…and so it goes…a rather pallid reflection of “Godot” in certain thematic senses.

Crudup and Hensley are consigned to supporting enigmatic servant/thugs in “No Man’s Land” and we never quite find out why. Or who they really are.

At the end of “Godot” the entire audience was standing and cheering loudly with many curtain calls and “Bravos!” filling the air. That didn’t happen with “No Man’s Land.” So if you have to choose between the two choose “Godot.” It’s worth the wait.

“X-Men:First Class” is exactly that! Michael Fassbender is a Magnetic Magneto!

Topping the box-office charts this weekend and packing the fanboys and everyone else in  is the “X-Men” pre-quel, now called “X-Men:First Class” and it really is a first class entertainment. An Action Hero flick with pyrotechnics galore. But it’s Irish actor Michael Fassbender as the most magnetic Magneto imaginable that powers this flick into the stratosphere. An actor I’ve admired greatly in many smart Indie films like “Hunger”, which was on my year’s 10 Best List that year,”Fish Tank” and many, many more. He makes smart choices and smart directors seek him out.

And here he is in the role he was born to play. I never thought of him as an action hero. I just thought of him as a very, very talented, but underappreciated actor. Although he works constantly, his really good work in a big film of two years ago “Inglorious Basterds” went pretty much unnoticed. He was also doing sword and sandal duty in “300” in a Supporting Role.

Supporting roles will no longer be something you see him in because he’s the real break-out star of this very well done popcorn movie. It’s NOT in 3D thank goodness. I hate those glasses. They sometimes make me quite sick.

And the lead in this film is James McAvoy as Xavier, and he and Fassbender really make the chemistry, the human, acting kind of chemistry, not just the CGI- kind these super-heroes are constantly capable of producing really work. There are ACTORS here! And the best of the younger generation I might add, and attention must be paid.

I will go see every sequel to this prequel from now on because their dynamic duo dynamism is dynamite.

Less successful, but I don’t rate her much as an actress anyway, YET is the least deserving Academy Award Nominee of All Time Jennifer Lawrence, who certainly nails the babe-licious part of this character, who when she turns blue and scaly, often sheds all her clothing at the same time. Since I don’t think she has much range ALREADY, the blue make-up, with the yellow CGI cat’s eyes, made her look like she was acting more than she actually was.

There was a certain poignancy that she exhibited as Mystique and she’s certainly easy on the eyes. And VERY TALL. That they kept pairing her with the much shorter James MacAvoy (she’s his adopted sister, or something like that), I kept wondering how many boxes he was standing on or how many holes she was standing in, to make them look equal in height. But they do! That’s one of the neatest special effects of all in this special effects laden movie.

I couldn’t keep who did which effect and who has what super power straight, there are so many mutants in this movie.

Oliver Platt plays the small part of one of the only humans in this mutant-filled movies, but his only super power seemed to be that he was simply fat. But at least he WAS a human.

Kevin Bacon seems to be having the time of his life as the villain of villains here. You really need a score card to keep all the Super Heroes straight in this movie. I’m not an X-Man addict, so I can’t parse them all and who they all turn into later. Although I do remember vividly Ian McKellen’s gleeful, older Magneto. An Action Hero At Last! At age 60 something!

And one of the indelible moments I have with Sir Ian, was when I was interviewing him in his dressing room on Broadway back in 2001 and he had a Gandalf figurine and a Magneto one, too, and he made them fight with each other! Hilarious! He was on Broadway with Dame Helen Mirren having a gay old time screaming at each other in one of Strindberg’s more strident pieces “The Ghost Sonata.”

And my favorite Michael Fassbender moment was when I was interviewing him for “Fish Tank” and I was the one who broke the news to him about the death of a mutual friend, the great Irish movie critic, Michael Dwyer, and how he nearly burst into tears, when he realized he was here in NYC and was missing the funeral that was taking place in Dublin.

Michael has a great, sensitive soul and will make a great, great movie star.

Unfortunately, both these interviews were for print, so I never got either of them on camera, for my TV show, but I look forward to many, many more with these two terrific stars,James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender acting their hearts out in and giving class to “X-Men:First Class.”

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