a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Michael Stuhlbarg’

“Shape of Water” One of the most beautiful, though improbable, love stories ever! Sally Hawkins is Magic!

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Cate Blanchett May Win Her Second Oscar for Woody Allen’s Superb “Blue Jasmine”!!!

Sound the trumpets! Ring the bells! Beat the drums! Huzzah! Huzzah! Woody Allen has done it again with “Blue Jasmine”! He’s completely surprised us! And gone in a whole new challenging direction and written the most complex dramatic role he’s ever written for a woman. It’s the title role in “Blue Jasmine” and Cate Blanchett gives the performance of her career as Jasmine, who is indeed quite blue. Blue in the sense of sad, if not tragic. But also beautiful.

For there’s is no such thing in nature as a blue jasmine, making Blanchett’s Jasmine as unique a cinematic flower as there ever was.

At a time when it seems women in leading roles were basically being banished from our movie screens, replaced by the endless parade of testosterone-filled, comic book/explosion-fueled films for teenaged boys,”Blue Jasmine” is a breathtaking antidote.It’s the real thing. A great actress in a great screen role.

Cate Blanchett is immediately iconic. Everything she’s done before or since will be compared to this.

“Blue Jasmine” is delightful and uplifting, though Jasmine’s story itself is really quite tragic, Blanchett’s towering performance and Allen’s best-ever writing, make “Blue Jasmine” soar.

Allen challenges us as an audience, and challenges Blanchett as an actress. And she meets every challenge, every single one of them, and surpasses and surprises expectations through her sheer force of her artistry.

Blanchett’s had a career of great performances, but nothing really touches her Blue Jasmine. It’s like the role she’s been waiting to play all her cinematic life. She has one Oscar already for playing Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s great bio-pic on Howard Hughes “The Aviator.”But that was for supporting. Jasmine is a triumphant lead. She could win her second Oscar here. And she’s certainly going to be nominated for Best Actress.

Oh, yes, and “Blue Jasmine” is NOT a comedy. In fact it’s pretty grim. It reminded me most of Allen’s 1980’s family drama “Interiors” which is where Allen showed us he could go to the dark side as well as any filmmaker. And surprisingly, he returns to that dark, inner landscape in “Blue Jasmine.”

Although it doesn’t look that way when it starts. So it’s a total surprise in that sense, confounding expectations, once again, Allen turns in something fresh and also real.

“Blue Jasmine” is filmed in sunny San Francisco, a location where Allen has never shot before. And it alternates with an equally sunny New York City, which seems bright and happy and beautiful,too, as you can feel Allen’s joy in returning to work in his own home town, a place he hasn’t shot in in years! But look out, dear readers, dear cineastes, all that Californian sunshine is going to get quite dark as the film goes on.

Allen wants to paint a portrait of a conflicted, complex woman. Almost Tennessee Williams-esque. It’s like he wanted to go a round or two with a Williams-like heroine at his story’s center, instead of a nebbishy male Allen stand-in, like Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” and many others playing Allen’s familiar neurotic tics and tacks. And Jasmine makes all the other heroines in his films, well, seem superficial or well, trivial. But of course they were all comedies. I’m thinking of YOU “Annie Hall” which won Best Picture and got Diane Keaton HER one and only Oscar. “Jasmine” is different in that it’s all Cate Blanchett’s show. And it isn’t really funny.

In fact, it’s downright slimy at times because Jasmine(real name Jeannette) is not an easy character to like, or even warm up to. She’s clearly patterned not only on William’s Blanche du Bois, but also Ruth Madoff!

Now I never really considered Ruth Madoff as tragic heroine. But Allen evidently does, as it seems he’s ripped this story right from the headlines. Jasmine’s ponzy schemer husband,Alec Baldwin hits exactly the right skeezy huckster note. You KNOW he’s the villain, but you see Jasmine is totally, blissfully unaware that her whole Park Avenue/Hamptons jet-setting life-style is going to come crashing down, but that’s exactly what happens.

HOW that happens would be spoiling the film, I feel, but I can say, she ends up taking refugee with her completely opposite plain-jane sister, Ginger, a wonderful Sally Hawkins, who lives modestly as a super-market bagger in San Francisco, which is what brings Jasmine to the Golden Gate City in the depths of her despair.

Allen, being Woody Allen, after all, does have quite of lot of comic fun,at first, with Jasmine’s plight, as she tries desperately to fit in with lower middle class society, even being reduced to being a receptionist for a horny dentist(a hilarious Michael Stuhlbarg) and popping Xanax like they were candy corn.

Hawkins’s Ginger has a lot to do here, comically and tragically, and she does it all in fine style. Shockingly she’s never been nominated for an Oscar yet. But “Blue Jasmine” could also do it for her, as it surely will for Cate Blanchett’s unforgettable Jasmine.

You have to struggle to like the difficult Jasmine. She’s not an easy woman to warm to as she makes mistake after mistake. But in that struggle lies the greatness of the film. Allen brings up complex, difficult questions about our consumerist society and the last shot of Cate Blanchett will haunt your dreams.

 

 

“Hitchcock” Rules the Oscar Race He Never Won in Lifetime! And Helen Mirren as His Unsung Wife Alma WOWOWOW!

I have to declare that “Hitchcock” which I saw last night is now a leading contender in the Oscar Race! Cra-zee about it!

I haven’t enjoyed a movie so much in YEARS! LOVED LOVED LOVED IT! And Dame Helen Mirren could really win herself a second Oscar for playing Alma Reville Hitchcock, a woman whose little-known story, has fascinated me  for YEARS, as much as Hitchcock himself

I watch at least ONE Hitchcock movie a week! I HAVE to! I just watched, then re-watched with commentary “Vertigo” this weekend! In “Hitchock” Sir Anthony Hopkins was a joy to behold and absolutely indelible as the Master Himself.

I was ENTHRALLED by the great Hitch and Alma’s life-long  love story and by the actors’ great tennis game of playing off each other so magnificently. Acting Royalty showing the reason why they were knighted and damed, respectively. I’m on SUCH a high from this delightful, droll movie and “Hitchcock” totally establishes Alma Reville as a historic film presence in her own right. AT LAST! I thought this was a wonderful tribute to a woman whose contribution to world cinema as been overlooked. Until NOW. WOWOWOW!

Alma Reville,, in her lifetime, also was a woman who has beloved by all who met her. Everybody behind-the-scenes, in “the biz” knew who she was and the contribution she made to all her husband’s films. And they had nothing but respect and admiration for her. Read her daughter Pat’s “Alma Hitchcock, The Woman Behind the Man.”

Arguably, Hitch couldn’t have done what he did without her. And this film delightfully, but firmly shows that. It plants Alma firmly in the Cinema Pantheon of Greats, great editor, great screen-writer, great co-producer. great force of nature, and Dame Helen Mirren embodies all that intelligence and quiet power, and sex appeal, too, in a role that will surely get her nominated for Best Actress and may even win her her second Oscar. Her first was for “The Queen” a few years back.

Mirren embodies all those small moments of caring and support and chagrin, as well as the big ones of fury and resentment. And there’s definitely an Oscar Night excerpt scene.  The “fight” scene, which got applause tonight, in an audience of (usually)unresponsive critics! Where Alma unbottles and throttles Hitchcock within an inch of his rotond  life.

And Sir Anthony Hopkins was perfection, too! I think they will both be nominated and the Academy is going to Love,Love, Love this movie and maybe give the Hitchcocks their belated Oscar due. I’m serious! What a great holiday treat from Fox Searchlight! And how thankful am I as a movie goer and critic and Oscarologist that Searchlight DID plunk it right in the middle of the Oscar race! RIGHT WHERE IT DESERVES TO BE! This was the surprise last-minute entry into the “Derby” as Tom O’Neil calls it. Or rather the Oscar season, to be more precise. Tom’s at www.goldderby.com, of course.

I can’t wait to shout it from the housetops!  And I’m shouting it now! I LOVED THIS MOVIE! And Scarlett Johansson! She’s JUST like Janet Leigh herself! I thought I WAS watching Janet Leigh, the pro’s pro, interact with all of the above. Problem with that role is that J.Leigh was a evidently a very circumspect, tight-lipped lady in person, evidently, so this undemonstrative role doesn’t really allow ScarJo to cut loose except in the infamous shower scene, which is re-acted quite vividly and frighteningly here.

And “Hitchcock” is very, very funny too. Hitchcock on John Gavin, “Psycho” s leading man, “He’s as expressive as piece of plywood.”  And “Just call me Hitch. And hold the cock.”

And there’s many, many more droll Hollywood quotes that were zinging by so fast, I can barely remember them. Let alone recount them all here.

And up-and-coming British actor James D’Arcy is great, too as Anthony Perkins. Who of course plays Norman Bates in “Psycho.”

He, who recently played umpteen roles in “Cloud Atlas” and was the Duke of Windsor in  Madonna’s “W/E,” just nails Perkins into the gound and so does Raplh Macchio, who has all of three minutes, or less to make an impression of “Psycho” screen-writer Joseph Stefano.

Jessica Biel has the easier role of resentful Hitchcock cast-off Vera Miles. She, who got pregnant, just at the start of “Vertigo”, and was famously replaced by Kim Novak And the rest is history. Hitchcock never get over that snub. As he never got over Ingrid Bergman forsaking him for Europe  and Roberto Rossilini and Grace Kelly for becoming HRH Princess Grace of Monaco.

“Vertigo” is now considered the Number One film of all time. Beating “Citizen Kane” this year in “Sight and Sound”s tally of the Greatest Film of All Time. Clearyly Kim Novak was the right choice for that role and gave the greatest performance of her career in it.

Hitchcock won again, but he was still bitter.

Someone notes that the role of Janet Leigh’s sister (Vera Miles) in “Psycho” is a “thankless” one, and Hitchcock retorts, “A thankless role for a thankless girl.”

Buried under what seems like literally tons of make-up and a sixty-pound fat suit, Sir Anthony Hopkins acts through the layers of latex and padding and it just seems to become HIM. Hitchcock.

Based on Stephen Rabello’s book “Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho'”, the classic film is here a back-drop to Hitch’s love affair with his, until now, unknown wife. Hitch is 60. And so is Alma.

And he’s longing for a “return” to his former creative powers that he has begun to feel are dimming with time. He wants to do a low-budget slasher film, which is what “Psycho” was first perceived as, and nobody wants to fund it, so he has to do it himself.

He mortgages his house and pool, without even consulting Alma. Something I don’t think Hitch would ever have done IRL. True, he did have to mortage his house. And bascially financed “Psycho” himself. But he would, in real life, have asked Alma first. And she clearly said “Yes. Do it.” He never did anything without her say-so.

Lew Wasserman (his agent) here portrayed quite cannily by the great stage actor & Tony Winner Michael Stuhlbarg(who is also in “Lincoln.” I’ll review that in two days)gets him a great deal and the happy ending is in real life “Psycho” made millions. And garnered Janet Leigh a supporting actress nomination and Hitchcock another best director nod. But neither won.

How ironic it would be if Dame Helen Mirren won an Oscar for playing his wife or that Sir Anthony Hopkins did for playing Hitch himself. The Academy is going to love this film. It could even get into Best Picture!

Meanwhile, the only suspense YOU’LL feel, is “When am I going to see this great, fun movie?” It opens Thansgiving Day! It was SUCH a luxuriant experience I can’t wait to see it again!

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