a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Joel Edgerton’

Oscars at the Moment, Before the Election

jackie-1Oscars in early November. Things are getting clearer. Could the National Election itself have an impact on Oscar? We’ll see, but now, if it did, it would be the political movie of the year “Jackie” that gets carried forward. It’s a reminder of how decent and moral the people running the country were in the time of Camelot. The Kennedy Years seem light years away from the partisan horror of this current chilly November moment.

“Jackie” has the gravitas that “La La Land” simply does not. And they’re hiding “La La Land” from the East Coast critics. I STILL haven’t seen it. There’s been no big deal press screenings scheduled. Is it because they think the New York establishment isn’t going to like a musical film, a love story, yet, that glorifies LOS ANGELES? I can think of no other reason for “La La Land”s distributors holding it back like this. It wasn’t at the NYFF, if that means anything. But I do think it’s a little suspicious.

Certainly the curators of the NYFF COULD have chosen it to play if they wanted to. There was certainly room. And I’ve heard that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can’t sing. Or can’t sing well enough to carry a movie musical.la-la-land-1 I hope of course that they can, and I look forward to, musical comedy queen that I am, to enjoying its’ delights immensely. viola-davis-fences-1Also still unseen is “Fences” the late August Wilson’s adaptation of his own screenplay with Denzel Washington directing himself  in his Tony-winning role and co-starring of course, the great Viola Davis, reprising HER Tony winning role. Davis has now won herself an Oscar for sure, by putting herself in the Supporting category. But how good is the film? Is it as great on film as it was onstage? Or is it going to seem long, and talky and “stagey”?

August Wilson,esteemed to such an extent that he has a New York Broadway theater named after him, never lived to see any of his many plays translated successfully into film. I hope Denzel has worked his directorial as well as his actor’s magic. Will he also be up for a Best Actor Oscar? His third. Or will it go to now the supposed front-runner Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea.” If “Manchester” is going to win something big, and it’s so good, it should, then maybe it’s Casey Affleck who’s the beneficiary and not the film.

manchester-by-the-sea-5When we see “Fences” we will know, but right now Casey Affleck is at number one in the estimation of the Gold Derby-ites AND the Gurus o’ Gold, of which I was a member. Once upon a time. In a galaxy, far, far away…

Best Supporting Actor is much harder to parse right now, so I won’t, but don’t expect small, gay, indie “Moonlight” to score. If the Academy is going to go for a small, racially charged indie, I think it’s going to be “Loving.” It’s a superb little film that grows in the mind and lingers like a haunting refrain.  Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as I’ve posited earlier are both going to get nominated for Best Actress and Actor, respectively, and I think even its’ terrific young director Jeff Nichols will too. Replacing “Moonlight.” In both Best Picture and Best Director.loving-1

If this year it’s going to be OscarsSoBlack, in reaction to last year’s OscarSoWhite, it’s straight “Loving” and “Fences” that will both be nominated for Best Picture. After the rave of raves “Loving” got from Manola Dargis in today’s New York Times, I think THAT’S the indie darling to watch. Not “Moonlight”. If the critically adored “Carol” couldn’t crack it last year then “Moonlight” is certainly a much longer shot at Best Picture or Director.

Only Mahershala Ali in a very small role might get nominated from “Moonlight” in the major categories. That would be as Supporting Actor. But enough Academy members Iin the Actor’s Branch have to see “Moonlight” to nominate him. Will they? And then there’s the terrific Naomie Harris as the drug-addicted mom-from-hell….It worked for Mo’nique in “Precious” and she did no campaigning but she won! Could British actress Harris who so dazzled as Winnie Mandela a few years back in “A Long Walk Home” get nominated, too? That would really be something for this tiny film. And perhaps we might see Black Actors nominated in every category! Wouldn’t that be something new? Something wonderful.

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Oscar Noms f’sure for Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton for “Loving”!

loving-1Oscar nominations and many other accolades are coming f’sure at the beautiful Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton’s loving couple in “Loving.” Jeff Nichols’ amazing film is one of the quietest, almost unassuming Oscar-seeking films I’ve ever seen. Nichols is definitely in the Kelly Reichardt wheelhouse of less is more. Much, much less. The film is almost without dramatic dialogue or large movie moments. The brilliant Nichols is taking pains to emphasize the ordinariness, the reality, almost the hum-drumness of his characters’ simple lives.

Except that Mildred and Bill Loving are anything but hum-drum. They’re historic. They are the first interracial couple to break the miscegenation laws that were on the books as the law of the land until they and the ACLU  decided to contest them. Married in Washington, D.C. in 1958.because a white man and a black woman couldn’t get married in their home state of Virginia,( the Lovings hailed from the not-far-away, rural outskirts in Virginia).Racially mixed couples could not be married or live together in VA, so they had to settle on Washington, D.C. where it was Ok and legal, but Mildred didn’t like living in the city of D.C., and who could blame her?

She wanted her children to grow up in the countryside she knew and loved so well. Bill was a bricklayer. He was white and she was black, and that’s the only really unusual thing about this very usual couple.loving-2Their love for each other is unabashed, simple and direct, and lasting. And except for the racial difference,they would have gone along on a very straight-as-an-arrow road, until Southern society wouldn’t let them just be.

Mildred is drug out of bed in the middle of the night and jailed while pregnant. They are forced to leave town. And years later in Washington, D.C., where they are forced to re-locate to sympathetic relatives’ homes, Mildred decides to write a hand-written letter to Robert F. Kennedy as she watches the ’60s unfold on black and white television. A female relation says, “You better get you some civil rights,” and she does.

Kennedy forwards her letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, and thus their saga goes national and into the history books. The Lovings made history.

And newcomer Ruth Negga’s and Joel Edgerton’s performances are so perfect and so moving that they both will be nominated for the Oscars, even though “Loving” is as small and simple and unadorned as any film could be. Negga. wordless for most of the beginning of the film, says everything with her large, dark, sad eyes. She’s surprisingly an Irish actress and Joel Edgerton, who has an even harder job, the character of Bill is so taciturn, turns out to be Australian! I would never have known it! Their Southern American accents are impeccable. Their intensity riveting and their devotion divine. You can’t see one without the other they are so perfectly matched.

All credit to young director Jeff Nichols who also wrote the original screenplay and is bound to get his own first Oscar nomination, for his original, heart-rending script.loving-3I was lucky enough to spend a week or so in 2007 at the Newport Film Festival with Jeff Nichols and the star of his first film Michael Shannon. “Shotgun Stories” was such an impressive debut that I knew I just knew that Jeff and Michael were going to be big stars, as has come to pass.

Both were completely unknown at the time, and I remember asking Jeff since we got to hang out A LOT at thisjeff-nichols, at the time, small, underpopulated film festival. just what he wanted to do with his life, and he said, “I want to make films about where I’m from Arkansas. Nobody’s done that yet. It’s a completely new terrain.” And with “Loving” though it’s set in rural Virginia, he’s done just that.

He told me that Michael Shannon was going to become one of America’s most famous actors, and he has. And that he planned to use him in every film he made.

And he’s done just that, too. With this time Shannon playing a small role as a Life magazine photographer. Bravo to all of them! “Loving” is a magnificent achievement, and one of the best films of the year.

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