a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Jessica Chastain’

“Zero Dark Thirty” Moved into January! Oops! There goes Oscar!

When a major film studio, in this case, Sony, or Big Sony, as some call it, moves a release date, OUT of the Oscar season, in this case “Zero Dark Thirty”, and plans to open it in JANUARY! What does this tell us about this as yet unseen movie? Well,by implication the news isn’t good.

I think it means the studio does not have the faith in this major Oscar contender that it should.
It’s about the search and destroy mission that finally ended the life of Osama Bin Laden. And the trailers for it, are well, let’s say they look astonishingly like ANOTHER Oscar seeking movie, “Argo” that is currently Number One at the Box-Office. Uh-Oh!

Both, too, have the same Film Editor, working with the Oscar-winning Katherine Bigelow, and her screenwriter Marc Boal of Best Picture winner of 2009 “The Hurt Locker.” Both are regarding Middle Eastern terrorists subjects. One is just KILLING at the box-office, a crowd-pleaser that is pleasing crowds everywhere, and the other is still shrouded in deepest secrecy. Like for instance we didn’t know until this week, when Sony announced it, that the wonderful Jessica Chastain is playing the leading role, and is going to be campaigned in lead! For Best Actress!

Is this too little too late? Maybe. Maybe not. The brilliant Chastain could read the Canadian Yellow Pages and make them riveting, but, again, in the trailers, she utters NOT ONE WORD! Why?

Is there something wrong with her voice? Or with the vocal choices she has made under Katherine Bigelow’s usually astute directon?.Is she off a bit? This reminds me of the way “Lincoln”s trailer where they were showing Daniel Day-Lewis, and not letting us hear him for quite a while…

This smacks of cover-up to me.

If you’ve got a great performance, you ADVERTISE it, not hide it. Like say, Universal is doing with their great trailer of “Les Miserables” with Anne Hathaway nailing “I Dreamed a Dream.” They’ve practically guaranteed Annie an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress by this smart campaign move.

Oh, sure, Academy folks will be able to see it, EVENTUALLY. “Zero Dark Thirty” I’m talking about. But what about the critical critics groups that announce FIRST? The New York Film Critics Circle, the L.A. Film Critics, the National Board of Review. Will THEY be able to see it by their voting deadlines in late November?

One thing’s for sure, November is going to be one wild and crazy Oscar month! Phase One of the Oscar Season, as it is now being called.

As the French say, J’attends avec impatience!

Oscar Nomination Predictions 2011

Best Picture

The Artist

The Descendants

Midnight in Paris

Hugo

The Help

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Moneyball

My Week With Marilyn

In a year where there could be as little as five and as many as 10 Best Pictures, I’m going to split the difference and say 8.

Best Actor

JEAN DU JARDIN “The Artist”

GEORGE CLOONEY “The Descendants”

BRAD PITT “Moneyball”

LEONARDO DI CAPRIO “J.Edgar”

DAMIAN BECHIR “A Better Life”

I think the S.W.O.R.M. the Straight White Old Rich Men who are let’s face it, the majority of the AMPAS voters are not gonna be OK with Michael Fassbender’s full frontal EXTENSIVE nudity through “Shame”, but WILL be OK with Mexican actor Damien Bichir’s heart-wrenching portryal of a good father/gardener working in the Palm Trees of L.A.

Best Actress

MICHELLE WILLIAMS “My Week With Marilyn”

MERYL STREEP “The Iron Lady”

GLENN CLOSE “Albert Nobbs”

VIOLA DAVIS “The Help”

ROONEY MARA “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

I think that late opener “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” which is nearing the $100 million mark domestic is going to be on a lot of voters’ minds. And this will be a kind of pay back to David Fincher & crew for NOT winning last year and the biggest beneficiary of this will be leading actress Rooney Mara, for her bravura turn as Lisbeth Salander. And the person she’ll knock out is not the revered Glenn Close, who has been struggling to get “Albert Nobbs” made for over 20 years, or more, but Tilda Swinton, who HAS an Oscar already.

Best Suporting Actor

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER “Beginners”

KENNETH BRANAGH “My Week with Marilyn”

ARMIE HAMMER “J.Edgar”

COREY STOLL “Midnight in Paris”

JONAH HILL “Moneyball”

This is the hardest category to predict this year with the prospective nominees jumping all over the place, like Mexican Jumping Beans throughout the precursor awards. And no, Damien Bichir is NOT in this category. I think SAG nominee Armie Hammer will pop up here as he did in SAG, and knock out Albert Brooks who was snubbed by SAG AND BAFTA. And also they’re going to nominate SOMEBODY from “Midnight in Paris” besides Woody and Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway made the strongest impression in that gigantic ensemble.

I hate to say it, but I’m putting Jonah Hill in because he was in the movie, “Moneyball” that the most voters will probably have seen and because by the same token they WON’T have watched Nick Nolte in “Warriors.”

Best Supporting Actress

VANESSA REDGRAVE “Coriolanus”

OCTAVIA SPENCER “The Help”

JESSICA CHASTAIN “The Help”

BERENICE BEJO “The Artist”

JANET McTEER “Albert Nobbs”

I think Vanessa Redgrave’s towering performance in “Coriolanus” will FINALLY turn up here, as it hasn’t so far anywhere else. The Harvey factor is in play here and yes, it’s a Weinstein Co. movie. As is “The Artist” as is “The Iron Lady” as is “My Week with Marilyn.”

Best Director

Michel Hazanaviscius “The Artist”

Alexander Payne “The Descendants”

Martin Scorcese “Hugo”

Woody Allen “Midnight in Paris”

David Fincher “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”

I think this will match the DGA nominees(the Directors’ Guild) five for five.

And on Tuesday morning we’ll see. I predict the steamroller of “The Artist” will continue with its’ getting the most nominations of any other film. And for a 90 min. Black and White SILENT film made for only $12million, it’s a phenomenal run that is STILL just getting started!

Oscar Smear Campaigns ALWAYS backfire!

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, S.T.Vanairsdale over at www.movieline.com has done it again on his Oscar Index, which just dropped tonight. Weekly, S.T. or Stu, is Dorothy Parker-witty and, of course, apt. Called this week “They Shoot Horses….Don’t They?” I was ROTFLMAO! As they say on the Internet.

And I think one  reason all this Oscar Talk has grown and grown in recent years, to something nearing a fever pitch, a fever that lasts all Oscar season, and right now is on the very verge of the Broadcast Film Critics(tonight) and the Golden Globes (Sunday), its’ noise is deafening.

As well it should be, really…

I think it’s GREAT that so many people and Oscar bloggers, like myself, can generate so much interest in the year’s best movies that they TALK ABOUT IT ALL DAY EVERY DAY!

And Stu is noting the demise of “War Horse”. Who isn’t? And he posits that AN ENEMY of “The Artist”s front-runner status PUT KIM NOVAK up to placing that Full Page “I was raped” Ad in Variety yesterday. Which is what I immediately thought, as I posted here. Where does she, a recluse, who hasn’t made a movie since 1991, get the money for that? Stu points a direct finger. Go to www.movieline.com and see who he thinks is the culprit.

I think, as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone www.awardsdaily.com has posited, in a different context, that when these SMEAR CAMPAIGNS, which is what Roger Friedman calls it, happen, they actual strengthen the Academy’s feelings for the victim of the smear. And no, NOT Kim Novak. “The Artist.”

Similar tactics have been used in the past against the film “A Beautiful Mind”. It won anyway. And also recently against “The Hurt Locker” which also won Best Picture…

These things always backfire.

It’s going to make me look at “Vertigo” the next time I see it with new eyes. Yes, she IS really nuts in that movie, her character…The Ghost of Carlotta Valdez rises yet again.

Meanwhile, Stu V. also FINALLY notes another conclusion that I had reached WEEKS ago on this blog, but of course, doesn’t credit me. That Octavia Spenser’s front runner status is gonna run out with Jessica Chastain’s probable Supporting nod, also for “The Help.” Two actresses from one film cancel each other out. Usually.

And the winner is – Berenice Bejo! Something I’ve been saying for AGES! She, from “The Artist.” Unless SUDDENLY Vanessa Redgrave gets nominated and blows the whole category out of the water! THAT could happen!

And Corey Stoll has been everywhere, EVERYWHERE, this past week. Don’t rule him out for popping up in the Supporting Actor category. “Midnight in Paris” is gaining in strength every day.

Talking about ties. Stu has Meryl and Viola Davis TIED for First Place for Best Actress on his Oscar Index, which is hilarious! And you know what happens to ties? They’re broken. Allowing Michelle Williams to win for “My Week with Marilyn.”

Tom O’Neill of www.goldderby.com has been with me on this Michelle watch since we both fell in love with that movie. And he thinks, as I have been saying for a lonnnnng time, that Michelle will win the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, and will KNOCK IT OUT OF THE BALL PARK with a memorable acceptance speech, just like she just did at the Palm Springs Film Festival this week, wowing the AMPAS-packed crowd. At least, we sincerely HOPE she will.

Jamie Fox did that a couple of years back with his acceptance speech at the Globes for “Ray” and he’s never hit the emotional height that he hit that night ever since. But boy did he nail it to the floor that night! And that was the speech that won him his Oscar. The speech he gave at the Globes.

Stu still has “The Artist” on top of Best Picture Index and Michel H. for Best Director and Jean Dujardin for Best Actor. And Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor.

He has a LOT of compelling and amusing things to say this week too. He doesn’t disappoint with his Oscar Index. Unlike so many of the late breaking films have this year!

And now it’s on to the Broadcast Film Critics! And let’s see who wins there!

“Oscar Race” EW Cover w/Clooney & Viola Davis. Controversial? Accurate? Embarrassing?

I really wonder if the venerable Entertainment Weekly has jumped the shark this week with its’ “Inside the Oscar Race” cover prematurely, I think, showing George Clooney in a tux (nothing new), but at his side,, resplendent in a white ball gown, is Viola Davis! THIS is new! And the cover states “Front-runners George Clooney (The Descendants) and Viola Davis (The Help).” WHAT???

I thought Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams were the two heavyweights for Best Actress! But the usually reliable Oscar God David Karger is plunking his two cents down (and EW is presumably totally backing these choices), and inside we see V.D. depicted holding what looks like an award, or a Golden Globe, or SOMEthing, when on closer look it is seen to be a hand mirror. A bejeweled one, but a HAND MIRROR!

This is the kind of thing that INFURIATES Academy Voters, who are voting or rather nominating, right now as you read this. Many of them perhaps have not even sent their ballots in yet or filled them out, and here is EW acting like IT’S ALL OVER! BAD MOVE, EW!

I would be OK with this if it was a year where this was TRUE, but George is fighting for his life in Best Actor, (He’s got one already and “The Descendants” is depressing.) against his BFF Brad Pitt, who, BTW, just won Best Actor from the prestigious National Society of Film Critics. Take THAT, EW! They seem to be saying. And the Best Actress race is all over the place, between those three ladies. Williams, Streep & Davis.

And Viola Davis, as talented as she is, has not yet won ONE major award yet for “The Help”! A cover like this and a lay-out and an interview like that, may infuriate Academy types into NOT voting for her, when the time comes. And it IS a Supporting Performance in most peoples’ books…including mine.

But to photograph her looking so RADIANT and BEAUTIFUL and AIR-BRUSHED to death, well, we’ve never seen her like this before. And acting like she’s already won! But she hasn’t!

I fear this cover is going to make AMPAS voters feel like “Wait a minute! Don’t tell US who’s won!” or who to vote for. MISTAKE! This is what the Board of Governors was actually warning people about this year.  See Scott Feinberg’s excellent analysis of this at www.hollywoodreporter.com where Scott now is writing “The Race.”

And Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” is the one who most Oscar experts are picking for Best Actor. But not to EW.

I totally agree with Dave Karger with his choice that “The Artist” has already won Best Picture and is waaay out in front in that category. He’s right about that. But I would not be a very good Oscarologist myself, if I didn’t feel it incumbent on me to say “WAIT A MINUTE! Hold your (War) horses, EW!”

What they are doing is championing or campaigning for Clooney/Davis with this glossy cover and the even glossier interview inside. Acting like it’s a done deal. That is SOOOO BAD in Oscar campaigning terms.

And I know Dave Karger is familiar with Oscar 101.

I’ve NEVER seen EW so blatantly Up a Duo from two different films, yet, who may not be pictured together ever again this awards season. How embarrassing! But EW is nothing if not BOLD.

However, their first Oscar cover of the season isn’t a NEWS issue. It never is.

Didn’t they depict “Finding Neverland” once upon a time? Oy vay.

And there was once an Oscar issue like this with three actresses shown. I think it was Jennifer Connelly and Nicole Kidman and somebody else. And that third lady did not get nominated. I can’t even remember who she was. How embarrassing was that for her? And presumably for the magazine. But guess not, cuz they’re doing it again!

But some of you will remind me who that third gal was, who didn’t get nominated.

And even though Michelle Williams is splattered all over the INSIDE of the magazine in their for real predictions section on who’s going to be nominated…that story/interview on George ‘n’ Viola’s friendship was a little grating and self-serving. And yes, both of them are acting like they’ve ALREADY WON! NO! They haven’t!

THIS IS A HUGE OSCAR “No!NO!”

George has picked up a couple of critics awards, but Viola has gotten none, separately, herself, for Best Actress. Though “The Help” has gotten kudo-ed for Ensemble in several places.

This is the kind of cover that could de-rail a campaign. SERIOUSLY. Dave, what were you thinking? Well, obviously, he thinks he’s right.

I beg to differ.

And inside, though, his predictions themselves, were pretty spot-on for who was going to be nominated for Best Picture, Actor and Actress, though he’s got Michael Fassbender in there, and I think it’s Demian Bichir. Although Demian DOES receive a cute consolation prize, a “For Your Consideration” box.

But his supporting picks were all over the place, especially in Supporting Actress.

I was shocked at how wobbly his Supporting predictions were and yes, the Supp. Actress category is historically the hardest to predict. He’s got Berenice  Bejo (yes, she’s nominated for a BFCA, Golden Globe and a SAG) Ditto Octavia Spenser. He’s got Janet McTeer pictured, and I think that’s right. And Jessica Chastain for “The Help” which seems to be what she’s inevitably nominated for, though, it’s the least of her EIGHT performances this season! And then he has Melissa McCarthy, who EW just had on another of their covers recently as “The Queen of Comedy”. This would be for the gross-out “Bridesmaids.”

He doesn’t mention Vanessa Redgrave AT ALL. NOWHERE. And I think she WILL TURN UP here. Especially after being snubbed by BAFTA!!! Can you believe it?

I’m sure it’s the ghost of her earlier-in-life, extreme left-wing policies from the ’60s still haunting her. But if the Academy, Anglophile Lefties all, (well, the majority anyway) will over look Redgrave’s policy and put her in where she belongs and she could win this for her ASTOUNDING performance in “Coriolanus.”

Karger also gives Carey Mulligan from “Shame” a “For Your Consideration” box. And that is valid. She was great, if not greater, than Michael Fassbender in “Shame.”

We all know Christopher Plummer is going to win his career award in Supp. for “Beginners” and Dave Karger duly notes this. The other nominees, in this category, though, except for Kenneth Branagh are all up in the air. ESPECIALLY, his pick of Max Von Sydow for “Extremely Late and Incredibly Distasteful”! I don’t think so.

He’s got Jonah Hill and Albert Brooks in there but they were overlooked by SAG, and Nick Nolte and Armie Hammer WERE SAG-nominated, which he notes, but doesn’t see them getting in.

Who could pop up here, unexpectedly, is Corey Stoll for his finely etched portrait of Ernest Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris.”

And Kathy Bates and/or Marion Cotillard could be two last-minute  pop-ups from “Midnight in Paris.” They both just were named on the BAFTA long list…So they’ve been noted there.

Oh, and that BAFTA long list!…well, let’s just say it’s TOO LONG to even bother with at this point. But as always you can check out www.awardsdaily.com for a much closer look at that ENDLESS list, on which nearly everybody who made a film this year, is on. Wait for the BAFTA nominations themselves. But Beth Stevens, at Awardsdaily does a really good job at parsing them, especially in the comment section.

Oscar’s Pesky Supporting Categories. Mucho loco.

Oh, those pesky Oscar Supporting Categories! They are sooo hard to pin down, always, but this year’s there’s so much movement it makes the potential nominees look like Mexican jumping beans!

And no SAG didn’t match the Golden Globes, and they both didn’t match the  (Broadcast Film Critics Assoc.) But look who these groups REALLY represent. Look closely. And the first thing you may notice is that the Broadcast Film Critics, is made up, of mostly, well, film critics.

And there are NO film critics in the Academy. Repeat after me. THERE ARE NO FILM CRITICS IN THE ACADEMY.

And Stu Vanairsdale’s www.movieline.com excellent depiction of the Hollywood Foreign Press as “swag monkeys” is sooo apposite I want to adopt it just for my own, but yes, that defines them. ABSOLUTELY. And also, they are PRESS. And yes, repeat after me…no don’t bother. There’s no press in the Academy either….

So the fact that Michael Fassbender didn’t get a SAG nom is much more significant than it may at first seem. AND he’s urinating on-screen. Literally pissing his nomination away. And that’s how Demian Bichir got HIS SAG nom, playing a heroic Hispanic gardener. Yeah, this category this year . It’s a pisser.

But also not nominated for SAG was Albert Brooks from “Drive” and that make me wonder. He was nominated for Supporting Actor by both the BFCA and the GG, but to be left out of SAG may be fatal.

Why was Brooks not nominated for “Drive”? Maybe because THEY DIDN’T WATCH “DRIVE.” SAG gave nothing to “Drive” whereas the BFCA nominated it A LOT.

Who was nominated in Brooks’ place? Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar!” Stupendous in “The Joy of Typing” as BOTH Winklevoss twins, he’s riding a crest of good will. And Academy members keep exclaiming “I loved J.Edgar!” Which is something obviously Stu V. isn’t hearing.

And Hammer benefits by being in Leo DiCaprio’s shadow. He gets to kiss him, after all (Degree of difficulty!) And even though “J. Edgar” was left off the PGA list, it made MY Ten Best, and I STILL think it’s another Clint Eastwood masterpiece. THAT could be a surprise BP pop-up on Oscar Nomination Day, which is Tuesday Jan.24.

AMPAS members are voting right now on their choices of nominations. Yes, they are. And so what’s on their minds? Well, “The Artist” for one, which is going to get more nominations than any other film this year. And Berenice Bejo is on her way to a for sure Best Supporting Actress nomination and possibly even a win, in my book.

The Argentinian/French beauty carries as much of the film as the stalwart Jean Dujardin, who did win the Best Actor prize in Cannes this year. And she got a BFCA, a SAG nod, and also a Golden Globe nomination. So she was the triple crown of nods as it were.

And she also just won BEST ACTRESS in the Rome Film Festival which just wrapped last week.

So she’s definitely on a roll, and she’s also married IRL to “The Artist” s front-runner for Best Director Michel Hazanaviscius. And HE’S probably going to win Best Director across the board, and if she won, too, that would be the first time in Oscar history that a husband and wife team won double Oscars, a quaint touch that the Academy may very likely find too charming to resist, too. Just like their movie!

They’re French, and SOOOO in love! And so happy!

Berenice’s main competition is Octavia Spenser for “The Help.” Spencer, an unknown up until this season, also was a recipient of a SAG, BFCA & a GG nod. So she’s almost assured of a nomination. But she’s an Academy newbie. Her memorable performance as the foul-mouthed Minnie is the kind of role that gets nominated but doesn’t necessarily WIN awards.

And there was that shitting in the pie scene. Unlike Michael Fassbender, we don’t SEE her doing it, thank god, but she does do it, and then serves it to Bryce Dallas Howard, RON HOWARD’S daughter! in real life, who plays the villainess Hilly so well here in “The Help.”

Stu V. and Tom O’Neil at www.GoldDerby.com and many others have her as a frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but I wonder….

I do NOT think the Academy is open-minded enough to award TWO African-American actresses in ONE year. One of them, maybe, but not both. And Viola Davis is pictured and named as “The Frontrunner” on this week’s Entertainment Weekly annual Oscar issue. She’s pictured with George Clooney, which actually could be the kiss of death. They could BOTH not win.

And the two “Help” women, may split the “Help” vote. And neither wins.

It’s a very interesting year in that the actress categories are so up-in-the-air.

And it just goes to show that Meryl Streep’s reviews for “The Iron Lady” were sooooo bad that they vaulted Viola Davis on to the cover of EW!

And Shailene Woodley of “The Descendants” was not nominated for a SAG award either.  Too young, merely a teenager. But Janet McTeer of “Albert Nobbs” was…and Stu V. has Glenn Close of “Albert” slipping out of the locked five in Best Actress, being replaced by Rooney Mara. I don’t see that happening. But Janet McTeer has ALSO scored the trifecta of BFCA, SAG & GG.

And then there’s Jessica Chastain & her 5000 films she was in this year’s problem. What to nominate her for? Well, if it’s for “The Help” (a good perf, but not great) she’d also be splitting the “Help” vote with Spencer and then…and then…Berenice Bejo wins!

And Vanessa Redgrave could win in this category, but she’s been nominated nowhere so far and it seems like NO body is watching “Coriolanus.”

And then there’s sweet Carrie Mulligan who shows HER nether regions in “Shame.” But oh yes, since she’s a young girl, that could help her…but so far…No nominations…which is a REAL shame.

And Christopher Plummer? He won this race, Supporting Actor, the minute his marvelous film “Beginners” opened in May. The question that plagues us Oscar-ers and Oscar-ettes, is who’s going to be nominated in that category and lose to him. Plummer has never seen so, well, plummy. And he’s experiencing the most attention and love he’s perhaps ever gotten in his long and very chequered career. He’s very grand, too, as Herbert Wanger in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s his year. He’s everywhere!

Oscar’s Worst Disease ~ Category Confusion! It can kill a career!

What, I ask myself at this time of year with Hallowe’en fast approaching, is the worst, scariest thing that could possibly happen to an Oscar seeker? The answer is plain, simple and deadly ~ Category Confusion! It’s what happened to the wonderful Leslie Manville in “Another Year” last year. Leslie who? Well, Sony Pictures Classics whom I ADORE really messed up on that one. How? They ran her in Leading Actress. When clearly there were many who thought she was Supporting. Like BAFTA. That’s where they put her. And she lost there. Poor Leslie. Poor, poor Leslie. Category confusion. It’s Oscar’s most deadly disease. And this year, it’s back and seems to be infecting several prominent nominees. ALREADY.

The National Board of Review gave Leslie Manville BEST ACTRESS, and that seemed to be the way to go for her…I guess…but then she turned up…NOWHERE. EVER. AGAIN. And it was a stunning performance. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I wrote about it on this blog over and over and you can go back and check. I loved her lost, sad, mad Mary. A suburban singleton of un age certain who was desperate to get married before it was too late. So desperate for any kind of human contact whatsoever she permanently attached herself to her friendly married couple. And they put up with it. To a point.

Mike Leigh at his surprising best. Torturing a full length film out of such an unlikely topic. Single adults and their happily married friends…”Another Year” Catch it on DVD if you can.

Well, poor brilliant Leslie’s career state-side was not launched. Lost is more the word.

And this could happen again this year with a couple of very notable actresses. For some reason, it doesn’t infect male actors as easily as it does female. They are more fragile at Oscar time, and Awards season which is upon us, whether you know it or not, it’s particularly contagious.

And this year both Viola Davis of “The Help” may catch it. Is she lead? Or is she supporting? And so may Jeffrey Well’s crusade du jour unknown, middle-aged British actress Olivia Coleman in “Tyrannosaur” may also succumb, long shot though she is. I haven’t seen “Tyrannosaur”  yet. Not many people have, but most have liked it, like Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone of www.awardsdaily.com And you can read about Jeffrey’s latest crusade(s) at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

And the Chicago Film Festival critics who gave Olivia Coleman Best Actress.

But some who have seen it have felt she was Supporting in “Tyrannosaur” and therefore should be campaigned in that category. Uh-oh! Here we go again! Leslie Manville-time! And she also has a supporting role in Meryl Streep’s “The Iron Lady” as Margaret Thatcher’s daughter. Confused?

You see the Academy who gives out the Oscars can place actors, on a written ballot, in any category they see fit.

They are supposedly GUIDED by the “For Your Consideration” Campaigns that the various studios and distributors put out, at great expense.  But other organizations like the Golden Globes or the BFCA (Broadcast Film Critics) ARE guided by the studios in category placement. The leading critics groups, not so much. They follow their own whims and wisdoms.

I just hope Disney or Dreamworks or whoever is watching over “The Help” sticks to its’ Viola Davis as Lead campaign. And Davis as brilliant as she is, may not be the leading character. The lead is clearly the Emma Stone character. BUT if they put Viola in lead she may lose there to a younger actress, specifically Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.”

And all my fellow Oscarologists are keeping Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in the still unseen “Iron Lady” as their Numero Uno Belle of the Ball.

If Viola Davis is put into Supporting, she would surely win that  still kind of wide open category. But in that category ALREADY ARE possibly TWO other cast-mates from “The Help” Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. No one has ever won an Oscar when THREE people from the same movie are all in the same category. Vis a vis “On the Waterfront”, neither Rod Steiger, Karl Malden or that other guy won. They all cancelled each other out. As did the three Supporting Dames in “Tom Jones”, leaving another Brit darling, Dame Margaret Rutherford to triumph that year for “The V.I.P.s”

So it’s in Viola’s best interest to be put – where? In Best Actress where she may not win? Or Best Supporting Actress, possibly knocking out one of her presumed nominee cast-mates?

Is a puzzlement. To quote Yul Brynner in “The King and I’

OR a disease. Look what happened to Leslie Manville! Category Confusion! AND IT KILLED HER!

And also the same can be said, BTW, about Julianne Moore last year. She was campaigned in lead for “The Kids Are All Right,” and if Focus Features had put her more firmly in Supporting,(they didn’t) she too, like Leslie Manville was  shut out completely. At the Oscars. At the Globes. At the Broadcast Film Critics. Everywhere.

How can this happen, you say? Well, it’s vote-splitting, is what it is. These two actresses specifically Manville and Moore, and just last year, both split their own vote and ended up sitting at home on Oscar night. And watching Melissa Leo say “f**king” and generally lower the level of the Awards forever. A case can be made that either Manville or certainly Moore would have won over the little-known Leo. But Melissa Leo did win. And she did it HER way. But it was always clear WHAT category she was in. She was always Supporting and Natalie Portman was always lead and they both won.

Viola Davis’ performance in “The Help” is a towering achievement. But neither she nor any one I feel is going to topple the beauteous young Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.  Nobody is confused as to what category Williams as Marilyn is supposed to be in. She’s like Natalie Portman in “The Black Swan” last year. Unstoppable. So it does make some sense to put Viola Davis in Supporting.

And then there’s Fox Seachlight’s cock-eyed attempt to campaign Brad Pitt as Supporting for “Tree of Life,” when he’s CLEARLY the lead in that mixed-up muddle of a movie. But what that may do is take votes away from his lead campaign in his career-best performance as Baseball manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball.”

Academy Members of their Acting Branch get confused soooo easily. But they got it absolutely RIGHT a couple of years back when they put Kate Winslet stunning performance as Hannah Schmidt, an illiterate Concentration Camp guard, into lead, when she was being campaigned as Supporting for “The Reader.”

They did absolutely the right thing then. And Winslet won! And made the cover of Time Magazine, BTW.

What will they do this year? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.

TIFF begins before it starts. Coriolanus’ Ralph Fiennes Masterpiece

As I quoted John Steinbeck earlier, before I left for Montreal, “Trips begin before they start.” And now TIFF has begun with a BANG! as I got to see a pre-TIFF screening of “Coriolanus,” which is the great Ralph Fiennes directorial debut as well as perhaps the best he’s ever been as an actor, which is saying A LOT .

As Coriolanus, himself, one of Shakespeare’s most troublesome heroes or anti-heroes or a character who heretofore has been virtually un-classifiable as well as over-looked. In doing all this re-imagining so magnificently, Fiennes has created his own masterpiece. It’s the absolute pinnacle of his career as an actor, and he’s the pretty damn good first time director, too!

Shakespeare’s great leading men were all supposed to be characters who had ONE tragic flaw, and Coriolanus’ was that he was supposedly “too proud.” And that has been the long and the short of it for centuries. Until now.

Ralph Fiennes has brilliantly re-thought and re-configured this tragedy and made it something very, very modern and timely and something that is definitive and totally his own. It’s an overwhelming Shakespearean as well as cinematic achievement.

In setting it in some kind of war-torn Eastern Europe setting -Bosnia? Serbia? and loading the first half hour up with almost unbearably unwatchable bloodshed, explosion, bombs, etc., he effectively illustrates that THIS is what Coriolanus can do. Make war. Kill people. Destroy every thing in his path. He’s the ultimate adrenaline junkie, like Jeremy Renner’s indelible soldier/killer character in “The Hurt Locker.”

And after that bloody initial first section of the film, which I thought was a tad overdone and overlong and not Shakespearean at all, and goes on forever, “Coriolanus” settles down to become what I have always believed it to be, Shakespeare’s only play about MOM.

Whether this is a veiled portrait of his own mother, Mary Arden, who was a staunch Catholic, in the Elizabethan days, when that meant death, Volumnia, always a good part, to my mind, here in the hands of the great Vanessa Redgrave, becomes one of Shakespeare’s most frightening and powerful villianesses. She practically tops Lady Macbeth here in that she’s Coriolanus’ MOM. The all-powerful, passive-aggressive military MOM, she  is as blood-thirsty and dangerous as any she-wolf-hound and as any of Shakespeare’s great bad gals.

Redgrave’s chilling performance vaults Volumnia into the ranks of one of the best characters that Shakespeare ever wrote, simply and forever.

And as she utters the foulest and most outrageous of Shakespeare’s dialogue, she is ever-so elegant and o so charming and as sweet as apple crumble  pie. She’s utterly, completely reasonable. Every inch a lady. She’s never a shrew, and she’s FRIGHTENING!

Shakespeare never really wrote about the topic of MOM so completely before or after. And Coriolanus, as Ralph Fiennes’ plays him so persuasively, is one sick puppy. A military one-man killing machine, he cannot deal with people or politics and gets ousted as consul by the people of Rome in mere hours or days after he is elected, because he simply can’t speak to them. He refuses to show them his wounds, literally, and the Roman rabble turns on him, in a split second and he is ousted from his home, his family, his country and labeled a traitor, simply because in modern terms, he has no social skills whatsoever.

He’s a great soldier, a great general, but all he can do is fight, fight, fight. He’s not humble about anything. And when the battle is over, he can’t stop fighting, with everyone around him, until the only person he has left to fight with is himself. As Fiennes’ character begins to lose it you realize that he is playing a self-destructive, mentally ill man. A paranoid, certainly. A schizophrenic, yes, perhaps.

But Fiennes’ in his interpretation, places all the blame for Fiennes’ descent into hell, squarely on the broad shoulders of  MOM, Vanessa. And Ms. Redgrave, now well into her later years, shows time does not stop for genius, as she lays her great actress’ s hands on Volumnia and shakes her and inflates her, until she grows and grows in to this GIANTESS of all-devouring, but socially sweet matron/dragon. She scares even as she charms, and her ultimate scene, the scene where outside the walls of Rome, she pleads for her city and for her vengeful, bat-shit crazy, beautiful son to come back to her. Come back to Rome! and Shakespeare and Fiennes has her kneeling over and over again pleading, cajoling, manipulating, begging, and that scene alone, says Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

Redgrave also speaks Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter as if it were conversational speech. Another achievement. And since Volumnia’s lines and character are not as well-known as, say Lady Macbeth, every word she utters, every moment she has, seems absolutely FRESH.

I think one of the greatnesses of this instant classic of film, is that it redefines both Coriolanus and Volumnia as two of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, though until now they never appeared as such. The over-possesive mother and the wounded, crazy child.

Coriolanus’ problem was not that he was “too Proud”. It was his mother!

And Redgrave may very certainly be looking at another Oscar here. It’s going to be hard for any of the other ladies, who may be nominated as Best Supporting Actress(though in this film, she’s really the co-lead) to come up to ,or top this towering actress’  career-capping achievement in “Coriolanus.”

So what Fiennes has done is make this not a play about a patrician soldier, a play, or rather, a film about a play about a man at war with himself, and actually, a film about a man at war with his mother.

A mother who completely mis-reads and over-pushes and over-dominates her war-talented son. Fiennes and Redgrave do a memorable pas-de-deux here on Shakespeare’s only really stab at motherhood, literally. And stab at it, he does.

And with Harvey Weinstein as producer, you can be pretty sure both Fiennes and Redgrave are going to the Oscar dance this year. And Redgrave is certainly now the front-runner in her category. And how! And I hope she staggering achievement as Volumnia doesn’t overwhelm Fiennes’ Oscar chances as Best Actor. Or Best Director. Or both. It could. And it might. And his expert Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt.2” may hurt him here. Or help him. It certianly could be confusing to Oscar voters. Maybe he’ll be nominated for BOTH performances!

Jessica Chastain as Coriolanus’ weepy, weak wife has virtually nothing to do except cry. And Gerard Butler is OK, but not Oscar worthy as Coriolanus arch-enemy, the king of the Volscians. (sp?)

More complex as more aptly a possible Supporting Actor nominee is British actor Brian Cox, who FINALLY gets a part he get sink his teeth into, as Coriolanus’ mediator, explicator and finally tragic go-between.

But the film is Fiennes’ and certainly Redgrave’s. Vanessa is the one to beat. But Fiennes is fine, fine, fine, too. The envelope, please…

Redgrave’s only Oscar blockage is her previous win decades ago for Julia, and her politics, but the Academy may overlook all this because her Volumnia is  so stupendous, charismatic overwhelming and frightening. She LOVES war more than any of the men in the film, and she has brought up her only son to be a killing machine, but she has not been able to make him a man.

And in Shakespeare’s play about a war against MOM, who do you think wins?

“Tree of Life” Brad Pitt’s very good & Jessica Chastain makes a spectacular debut, but THOSE DINOSAURS!

What a self-indulgent, beautifully photographed and  very well acted mess “The Tree of Life” is! I’d say it wasn’t worth the price of admission. I left feeling queasy, like I had just seen a 3D movie, but it wasn’t in 3D!  And at the public screening I attended tonight two women were talking very loudly about getting their money back.

Brad Pitt is probably the best he’s ever been in this as the grown Sean Penn’s memory of a stern, but ultimately loving father…But is it enough to win him his long sought-after Oscar?

I wonder…

You have to weigh, or rather wade through, a good half hour or more of primordial ooze and yes, even what looks like Velosoraptors, who seem to have wandered in from “Jurassic Park”! No. I’m not kidding!DINOSAURS! Before you get to the sometimes gripping family drama, that seems more like a memory piece, than a crafted film. If you even call “Tree of Life” that.

I could follow it, but judging by the comments I was hearing, when it was over, from fellow audience members, most couldn’t. Or they got it wrong. “Which son died?” I heard that over and over again.

I THINK it’s the story of an adult male in an urban city (could be Texas. We don’t ever really know) who is played with great stress by Sean Penn, doing a much as he can with virtually no dialogue whatsoever.

Ditto the glorious screen debut of the stupendous, beautiful redheaded young actress Jessica Chastain, who is going to be coming at us in so many movies this year, it’s unbelievable. She’s going to have a very, very BIG screen career. And “The Tree of Life” for all it’s flaws, launches her into the cinematic stratosphere here. At one point, Malick even has her flying through the air, as the embodiment of motherly beauty. And that moment was charming.

But again ,like Penn, she has virtually no dialogue whatsoever, and that she registers at all playing the essence of young feminine beauty and motherly love, in what is basically a silent film debut is very, very impressive.

I saw much of Jessica’s work at Julliard when she was an undergrad there, and I must say I predicted all this would happen to her. She’s dazzling. Amazing. A great young, scintillatingly beautiful actress, with a tremendous range. She can play anything. Classic or modern and she here is made to make one reminiscent of Cate Blanchett, who also had a nearly wordless role opposite Brad Pitt as his wounded-by-a-sniper wife in “Babel.”

Which reminds me of how really, really good Pitt was in that film as a distraught husband. He’s really, really fine here, too, as again, the nearly wordless father. Though he does have MOST of the dialogue of the film, what little there is of it.

I would say a nomination probably, and with a smart Oscar distributor like Fox Searchlight is known to be, behind this monumentally difficult of a sell, he just may score another Best Actor nod. And yes, it’s been selling out. The house, despite the walk-outs was packed.

But it’s an uphill battle with this part of the tough, disciplinarian Dad to get Pitt to the podium for the win. But if anybody can do it, Fox Searchlight can.

The film, if you keep paying attention, and cutting it monumental slack, which I’m actually doing here, is about letting go of your own past. In this case, I THINK it was the guilt the grown Penn feels towards his difficult relationship with his dad, Brad Pitt, and also the death of his younger brother.

Or I THINK it was the younger brother who dies. The sullen main child was meant to be the kid version of Penn. But many audience members weren’t sure. The recalcitrant child is played very well . I think he may actually have the most lines in the film, after Pitt. We see most of this film from his sullen, angry eyes. But many in the audience were confused. And WHAT will the Academy make of this confounding film, with no clear plot line?

All this happens to this typical Waco, Texas WASP church-going middle class family. And the recalcitrant child spends the rest of his life coming to terms with it as he turns into Sean Penn. Right? Or maybe I’m not right. It’s genuinely confounding.

Or something like that.

The cinematography, especially of all of the planets and the protozoa and the lava and whatever else it was we were witnessing at the LONNNNNG, slow, agonizing start of this film, is indeed breathtaking. And the images, hold you, even though it’s very difficult to puzzle out just what the truly frustrating iconic director Terence Malick is up to. And the answer is, well, EVERYTHING. He’s trying to get everything that ever happened in the entire history of the universe into this one film. No wonder it’s running time is over two and a half hours!

It’s Malick, being Malick, so I knew there would be a lot of photographs of leaves and esp. leaves of grass and there are. But it’s a shame that Fox Searchlight or whomever didn’t reign in Malick’s incredibly self-indulgent impulses. It’s very long, arduous experience. It’s work. Not fun. And certainly not entertainment, but Malick probably never intended it to be anything else but portentous. I was going to say PREtentious. But it is that, too. IN SPADES.

But there is a moment in the end where things are getting wrapped up that the film does redeem itself. But by then, as good as he is Brad Pitt may have lost his Oscar.

It’s a restrained, understated, subtle performance and I liked it. But Oscar doesn’t do subtle…usually…

It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. But here, most people were heading for the door.

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