a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Masterpiece’

“Roma” One the Best Films You’ll Ever See

This year I saw one of the best films I’ll ever see, bar none, and it was the NYFF centerpiece film “Roma.” Mexican Oscar-winning(director for “Gravity)Alfonso Cuaron has done the seemingly impossible follow-up to that intergalactic magisterial feature. He has turned the camera inward and backward. To his childhood in Mexico City. And he’s done it in Black and White! And it is without a doubt one of the best films of the year and one of the best films I’ll ever see. Ever.
The most unlikely of subjects, the inner(and outer) life of a maid, the brilliant Yalitza Aparicio. She has never acted before and she just takes your breath away as Cleo. The put-upon, multliple-dutied nanny, housekeeper, laundress and mother of the earth. She really is the glue that is holding this upper-middle class doctor’s family together as they seem to be falling apart. 
Her story is galvanic, epic and heart-breaking and Aparicio embodies everything that is noble and good in 1970 Mexico, which is a scene of almost constant class conflict and wars. You know Cleo is more than capable of the humble, quotidian of chores she is tasked to do, but where else can she go? She clings to her menial job as if it were a pair of well-worn rosary beads. She prays for her hired family and we pray for her to transcend their problems, as they treat her and mistreat her, as all servants are treated. You know if she loses this job, with this her adopted family, she will lose her life.

Yalitza Aparicio could and should get nominated for Best Actress, as Cuaron certainly will be for Best Director. He also wrote the screenplay. He also shot it. He also co-produced it and co-edited it. And every gorgeous black and white shot should be framed as a work of art, even though he is photographing the most ordinary things.

Cuaron had a nanny Lebo, and that’s who Cleo is based on. And when he showed the completed film to her, she burst into tears, as I did watching it. This film is a love poem to her. And to all mothers and unselfish care-givers. To tell you any more of the plot, of what happens to Cleo, as it all rings so true, it hurts. It would spoil it.  It will break your heart. “Roma,” the name of the area of Mexico City the film is set in, in simply the best film he’s ever done, and a masterpiece.

New York Film Festival 2013 ~ So far, so good

The New York Film Festival 2013, which is now unfurling at Lincoln Center and environs, seems to be packed with more frenzied activity (and press) than ever before. The NYFF prides itself on NOT being as big a film festival as, say, Toronto. And this week it was really brought home to me why. They just don’t have the space and the number of cinemas that Toronto has to use for its’ great festival. TIFF takes over the entire city, near and far. New York does not. It stays comfortably ensconced where it’s always been for its ’51 years of existence :Lincoln Center. The Press Screenings are all held in the medium-sized Walter Reade Cinema, pleasant, charming but certainly not the biggest theater in New York. And in NY, they only show a FRACTION of the films that TIFF does.

Today I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” one of the largest theaters in the AMC Lincoln Square multiplex on W.68th and Bway. And it was packed to the rafters, but a film like this with multiple, elaborate fantasy sequences needs a much larger screen than the Walter Reade. It fit there just fine. It’s very unusual for the Film Society to bond with AMC, but I guess for this charming, funny centerpiece film, it was a very good fit for all.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” turns out to be a thoroughly enjoyable family film that will be pleased by all at Christmas time, but hardly on Oscar-seeker as it was buzzed to be. But it’s good, solid old-fashioned boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl entertainment, and should make a lot of money around the holidays. It’s fizzy family fun. With a lot of adventure thrown in. A very unusual Centerpiece for the New York Film Festival, which usually goes for much more serious fare.

Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, who plays the title role, it is loosely based on the famous James Thurber short story of the same name that ran in the New Yorker magazine in 1939. Walter Mitty, in this version, is someone who daydreams and wishes for a colordul life far-removed from the mundane black and white one he feels he’s stuck with.

True to Thurber,  Walter keeps “zoning” in and out of fantasy sequences, that escalate as the film’s action ramps up, precipitated by his blossoming romance with single mother/accountant, Kristin Wiig, in an uncharacteristic ingenue role. But she’s an age-appropriate love interest for Stiller, and has a skate-boarding son who Stiller bonds with.

His fantasies include chasing his idol Sean Penn, a world traveling Life magazine photographer, to the wilds of Greenland(never before seen in a feature film!) and also, of course, the neighboring island country of Iceland. Olafur Darri Olafson nearly steals the film as the drunken, gargantuan Icelandic helicopter pilot, he encounters in a Greenland bar drinking beer out of gigantic “boot glasses” .Yes, they’re shaped like boots. Walter Mitty, characteristically orders “a small boot.”

It’s long, but it held my interest. As did the also overlong “Gloria” a Chilean film about a still attractive, middle-aged working woman, who is trying to enjoy her change of life years in urban Santiago. She has children, but she sees them infrequently. It’s almost as though she’s childless.

A hairless stray cat keeps interrupting her “quiet life” as does her encounter and subsequent relationship with a middle-aged businessman Rodolpho (Sergio Hernandez). The film is much more interesting than it’s plotless plot  sounds. God is in the details in this well-observed film about the minutiae of female ageing in the post-menopausal years. It serves mainly as a vehicle for an iconic Chilean actress Paulina Garcia, who is quite marvelous and holds the screen throughout the 2 1/2 hour running time.

If there is any Oscar bait to be found at the NYFF, I would certainly say Senora Garcia deserves consideration for her unstinting tour-de-force performance in the title role. The director Sebastian Lilio said he created the film for her and she was involved with it even before it was written. “You have to fall in love with Paulina to do something like this.” And I have to say, I did. She’s irresistible. Alas an unknown actress in a small foreign film has no chance at breaking in to the Oscar race, where this year, it seems every actress involved already has an Oscar or two or three. But they are going to do a campaign for “Gloria” as Best Foreign Film. And Chile has submitted it as their Official Submission to that race in the Oscars. AND “Gloria” has a US distributor. Which is all wonderful news.

Another film that I mightily enjoyed and was truly fascinated by was the comedy team of Penn and Teller’s venture into serious documentary film making “Tim’s Vermeer.” This riveting doc is heading straight for an Oscar nomination and it may very well get there. In the “Applied Science” section of the NYFF, its central character,  an eccentric San Antonio millionaire named Tim Kenison ,gets his art geek on by telling his friend Penn one night in conversation that he’d “always wanted to paint a Vermeer.” And this film shows painstakingly how he does it.

Painstaking is the operative word here. Every single detail of how Tim does indeed paint his Vermeer is on the screen, but surprisingly, it is never dull. Tim had a theory, which he proves using the work of the 17th century Dutch master, that the photographically detailed paintings, which are ravishing in and of themselves on the big screen, were painted using”a small mirror on a stick” and the physics of Camera Obscura. I know this sounds deadly, but like “Gloria”, it is a great work of (documentary) film making that needs to be seen to be enjoyed.

I never would have thought of Penn and Teller as Oscar contenders, but as I type these unbelievable words, I think they very well may be. And “Tim’s Vermeer” is certainly THEIR surprising masterpiece.

New York Heat Wave Continues. No End in Sight. “Double Indemnity” never fails.

I went out early, and it was OK. Like 9-10am. But by one-two, it was already unbearably oppressive. One DOES have to go out to the store, sometimes. But it’s best advised to all and sundry. STAY IN.

Did not notice that I had worn white athletic socks, which actually, though the right color for a heat wave of this type, white, they were really tooooo thick to be comfortable. AT ALL.

I returned to remove them as quickly as possible and I noticed just how hot my feet felt! Like OVENS! Wearing a lighter sock would do the trick, I think, and the color isn’t important. It’s the weight of the sock.

Your feet actually sort of dictate your body heat I’ve noticed over the years. And walking one long NYC block in this heat wave is dangerous.

But then cabin fever sets in, as there is really no alternative on a Sunday.

How many times this week have I watched “Double Indemnity”??? It’s a great film, a masterpiece, and I love it, but now I’ve even RE-listened to the Special Features TWICE and they are very interesting and well done by Richard Schickel and then a second one by Len Dobbs and a Mr. Redmayne who very well may be Eddie Redmayne’s posh film expert father. He sounded a bit like Eddie…

And of course, the film is a masterpiece. And if one is going to watch something over and over again in these trapped situations, it might as well be a masterpiece.

And Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck are all at their career best, directed by Billy Wilder.

E.T.A. It was the first of what we now call the Film Noir genre, which I love. It didn’t even have a name then. All those Venetian blinds throwing those shadows over everyone and every thing, and you just can’t believe that Barbara Stanwyck could be that Fatal – But SHE IS! The Fatelest of Femme Fatales! It’s a masterpiece. I could watch it forever. And probably will.

Golden Globe Predictions! OF COURSE! ANGELINA & MADONNA!

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone over at www.awardsdaily.com

brings up the interesting question regarding Angelina Jolie’s nomination for Best Foreign Film for “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” Are they going to want to see her on that stage with a Golden Globe award in her hotness’ hands? OF COURSE THEY ARE! That picture will be on magazine covers all over the world, as will Madonna’s when she wins for “Best Song” for HER DIRECTORIAL DEBUT W/E. The song is called “Masterpiece.” The irony is gettin’ a little heavy in here.

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” is also Angelina’s directorial feature film  debut, and though not eligible for Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination, she could win here. Her film has been very well reviewed believe it or not.

And the rest? Sasha says it’s “like Tiger Woods playing minature golf.” Which is the B.E.S.T. description I’ve ever heard of the Globs…

The rest, since they’ve nominated Gorgeous George(Clooney) for FOUR Globs, they are certainly going to give him AT LEAST one. Which is mostly like for Best Actor, Drama, for “Descendants.” GLACK. I’d rather see Brad Pitt win for “Moneyball” in that category. And if he DOES, it’s because they’re thinking “How nice would it be for BOTH Brad and Angie to win Double Globs?” If they really are thinking in terms of Photo Ops (and when are they not?) then Brad will win. If Angie with a Glob is enough, then he won’t. And it’ll be George.

Best Picture Drama? Most likely “The Descendants”. Best Dramatic Actress? If Meryl wins here, and she might, they LIKE giving her gobs of Globs. I think she’s already won SIX, at the very least. And recently for “Adaptation,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Julie and Julia.”Then Meryl may very well win this and make this a real race.

If however, Viola Davis wins here, she’s gonna be VERY hard to beat for the Oscar for Best Actress. In this scenario, I find myself actually ROOTING for Meryl!

“The Help” is like a see-saw. If Viola wins, then perhaps Octavia won’t. Since, I’m told, the HFPA votes in the end with a “select blue ribbon committee,” which is a FEW a VERY FEW people, maybe only the President (this year a woman) making the decision. A woman would very likely give Streep the Best Actress award since “The Iron Lady” is a solid feminist film.

And since it’s the Hollywood FOREIGN Press, guess what they are going to pick for Best Picture Comedy/Musical ?OF COURSE, it’s “The Artist” and Jean Dujardin for Best Actor and Michelle Williams for Best Actress Comedy/Musical. This is what  prompted Sasha to say that it was like “Tiger Woods playing Minature Golf”!!! ROTLMAO!

Christopher Plummer will win Best Supporting Actor. We all KNOW this. Hope he varies his acceptance speeches.

It’s Supporting Actress where the real, and perhaps only surprise of the evening may come as this may be Berenice Bejo, who is Argentinian/French, for “The Artist.” And she could join her husband Michel Hazanaviscius as he is proably going to win Best Director for “The Artist.” THAT would be a great Photo Op! And that’s the way they roll.

Octavia Spencer won at the BFCA Thursday…but…her speech was less than stellar. And this is the very first award of the evening,unless it’s The Plummer Award.( Yes, it’s got his name on it.)

Woody Allen will get Best Original Screenplay, but since they and we all know he won’t show up (He NEVER does) I don’t think he’s EVER been to a Golden Globe, that will be all that “Midnight in Paris” ever gets. Which is too bad. But that’s how Woody rolls. Historically.

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