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Posts tagged ‘Indie film’

Oscar hopefuls? Brie Larsen in “Room,” Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” emerge to much Oscar Buzz post-TIFF

The WalkBeastsRoomIt’s that time of year again. Cinemas are currently just about exploding with Oscar-seeking pictures, and Oscar hopefuls among the actors’ performances abound.

Of course, there’s the “Throw-Up Movie” (otherwise known as “The Walk”) which we can just about discount. Though it opened the New York Film Festival recently, NEWS programs have been devoting SEGMENTS, ENTIRE SEGMENTS on how this movie is making people run to the Men’s Room(or the ladies’) and vomit, it’s so violently vertiginous. It’s about Phillippe Petit’s tight-rope walk between the World Trade Center Towers pre-9/11. The special effects are so graphically believable and intense that it’s making movie-goers violently ill.

And as Maurice DuBois the host of CBS Evening News in New York said on the air yesterday, “Why bother going?” (to a movie that makes you sick.)

So that automatically “x-es” out “The Walk” Oscar chances. Academy voters aren’t going to risk blowing their cookies.

Meanwhile, two other films that are very powerful and compelling are starting to screen post-TIFF, and are opening VERY soon. Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” and Cary Fukanaga’s “Beasts of No Nation.” Both are very, very good films, but they have in common two things. One, they are both tough sits. And two, they are dominated and propelled by Award-caliber performances by their two leads. Actress Brie Larson in “Room” and the powerhouse Idris Elba in “Beasts.”

I heard a lot about these movies at TIFF, but I didn’t see either there. And the Oscar buzz has been building and building, especially around Brie Larson, and deservedly so.

But just saw these great, gut-wrenching films  last night and the night before, and both can be described as harrowing. Certainly the ordeals that their lead characters  go through are horrifying in the extreme. And also, both boast superb performances by the juvenile actors in them, who also carry their pictures. Newcomers Jacob Tremblay in “Room” and Abraham Atta in “Beasts.” Will the academy nominate all FOUR of these stupendous performances? They might.

Brie Larson really jumps into the mainstream here with an extremely moving performance that the Academy will find hard to deny. It’s a role with a range unlike any other. It is a story ripped from the headlines. A young girl is kidnapped and imprisoned by a violent rapist. She is locked up in a “Room” (actually a garden shed) and repeatedly raped . This horrifying event has happened seven years before the movie starts and it is not for the weak-hearted by any means. The child Jack she has had by her captor who impregnated her, is now five years old and as played by Tremblay, is a beguiling, smart, inquisitive child. He’s the narrator and beating heart of this frightening movie.

The first half of the film is extremely claustrophobic as it takes place entirely in the “Room” and we begin to feel as trapped as the characters, Joy and Jack. How they ever survive this ordeal is truly incredible. And of course it makes you think of all the horrific, unthinkable real-life cases where this has happened. And it is interesting to note that this particular horror story has not been portrayed on-screen before.

And Brie Larson, an Indie actress new to me, did win me over with her intensely  gripping portrayal of a mother ironically named Joy. Her life force just won’t let her quit no matter how dire and unforgiving the situation. She never gives up hope that she will escape her captor and her devotion to her child is so strong and complete and her creativity in keeping her young son happy, occupied and well, despite their grimmer-than-grim circumstances is edifying, enlightening and awe-inspiring.Understated, brunette this time and with no make-up whatsoever, Larson’s is a completely vanity free performance. Kudos to Larson who is currently leading the list of Best Actress hopefuls all over the Internet and Oscarology. If you see this film, you will see why. She may be unstoppable.

Jacob Tremblay as the five-year old Jack, whose point of view the picture is told from, is equally award-worthy.What, at such a young age, he is required to do  is staggering. He is an innocent that has no concept that there is a world outside “Room” no matter how many times his mother imaginatively tells him tales about it. The Academy could nominate him in Supporting, if it really stops to think about the power and difficulty of this challenging role, especially for such a young child, in this disturbing, unforgettable indie movie. It’s bleak, but it’s power can’t be denied. I’m still thinking about it.

A completely different race is going to be run by Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation” as he battles his way to a Best Actor nomination as the terrifying, brutal war lord in “Beasts of No Nation.” The Academy caveat is this. Will they watch it?

“Beasts” is just as powerful as “Room,” as it depicts an un-named African civil war. It is  also told from the bewildered perspective of a child. Agu, the incredible Abraham Atta, is also kidnapped as Joy and by extension Jack are in “Room.” This time the abduction is by an entire band of renegade African “soldiers”. Butchers, really. Who have killed Agu’s father and brother right  in front of him and have destroyed his entire town.

“Beasts” is over-long and one of the most bloody, violent films to ever be in the Oscar conversation. It is elevated to Academy heights, by Elba’s towering performance. As his reign of terror begins to come to an end and his world falls apart around him towards the end of “Beasts”, Elba does have the requisite number of Academy-friendly acting moments as he begins to worry “Was it worth it?”

And after last year’s debacle of them NOT nominating  African-Americans Ava DeVernay and David Oyelowo for directing and starring in “Selma” respectively, they MUST nominated a person of color this year. And it could be the magnificent British black actor Idris Elba who benefits from this terrible, seemingly racist oversight.

An African war-lord in the Best Actor race? Well, didn’t Forrest Whittaker WIN a Best Actor Oscar a number of years back for playing Idi Amin?

Will Brie Larson be in the Best Actress conversation? For sure. Will Idris Elba FINALLY got an Oscar nomination? I hope so.

“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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