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Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

It’s soooo difficult to write about the tragic passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because I looked so much like him & was mistaken for him almost constantly.

Especially when he played Truman Capote and won an Oscar for it. Then didn’t acknowledge the real person whom he was portraying so memorably. I got very angry about that more than once, especially at the National Board of Review awards that year when he didn’t even mention Truman or that he was playing a gay character. Nothing. Zip. In that acceptance speech that night or when he went on to win every award in the world that year for “Capote” culminating in the Oscar.And it was the year of “Brokeback Mountain”, too. The Year of the Queer, if ever there was one.

Contrast these acceptance speeches to what Jared Leto, who keeps winning and winning for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” has been criticized for, which is leaving out People with AIDS He’s corrected that.

Phillip never did. He didn’t think it was appropriate, at that time. 2006 which seems like 100 years ago in gay life.

Phillip saw the resemblance between us, too. I remember sitting in the front row of a press conference at the NYFF, can’t remember the name of the film, but he played yet ANOTHER gay part, this time a drag queen named Rusty. And he REALLY looked like me, when I lived in drag in the early ’70s. And he kept turning to look at me in the audience and was clearly disconcerted by the resemblance as I always was.

But for a straight man with a family and children, he played many, many gay parts both before and after Capote. He looked so much like me in some films especially “Boogie Nights” where he heartbreakingly played a young, long-haired P.A. who had a crush on Dirk Diggler. That part was an enactment of me in the ’70s, friends commented to me. It was unnerving. But of course I appreciated the intelligence and the power that went into that characterization.

We came officially face-to-face in the interview for “When the Devil Knows You’re Dead” which I posted in the previous piece here on my blog. And he was as uneasy about the striking resemblance as I was. It was uncanny sometimes. He was a blond. I was a redhead. But my god, it was an unusual similarity. Too close for comfort, and as you can see in the interview, Phillip is strangely scratching himself throughout. It was weird.

I met him many, many times at press events and junkets after this interview, and he always acknowledged me with respect. He played soooo many gay characters, and there I was the living embodiment of the roles he always claimed were “very difficult” for him. Esp. Capote.

He was one of the greatest actors of our time, or any time. He made 50 movies. He was excellent in all of them.

From the Tod Solendz film “Happiness” where he played a creepy telephone stalker that broke him open to a wider recognition. To his last final great role of Willy Loman on stage live in “Death of a Salesman.” It was a great privilege to have seen him onstage in that iconic role. He was clearly too young for it, but there was a desperation about a forty-something man playing someone who was supposed to be twenty years older. And at the end of his life. And as the title says, it was about “Death”. Willy Loman kills himself at the end of the play. It was oddly prescient like Phillip KNEW something.

There was a tremendous rough, urgency to his performance. Like he had to do that part, and he had to do it NOW. Like he knew there was no time left. And it turned out, there wasn’t.

He had played the part in High School, too, according to published reports. He was kind of obsessed with it. Willy Loman is certainly one of the great roles in one of the great plays of American Theater.

And for the record, in all my encounters with him over the many years I was covering him as a critic and entertainment journalist, I never saw or even THOUGHT of anything drug related in reference to him.

He won the Oscar the year of “Brokeback Mountain” when many said that Heath Ledger should’ve won it. And then Heath died in an equally tragic way in similar circumstances.

I wonder if that bothered him. It bothered me.

And then he went on to play even MORE gay roles…Guilt over “Brokeback” and Heath not winning? Who can say?

But the point is he played them all brilliantly, and with a range that we have almost never seen in an American actor.

His agent, whom I mention in the interview, Sarah Fargo “found” Phillip right as he was graduating from NYU UNDERgrad it should be noted. And not their illustrious Graduate Acting Program.

And it was Sarah, who became one of his life-long friends, who jump- started his career by getting him seen and into roles and projects where someone who looked like him would normally not have been seen and seen so quickly. He was a character actor, not a leading man, and I think he always saw himself that way.

He always gave himself 200% to any part. And EVERY part. How different was he in “Boogie Nights” and as the baseball manager in the baseball movie, whose name escapes me at the moment? ETA: “Moneyball”

Or in the indelible preppy monster/alcoholic Freddie that Matt Damon dispatches so abruptly in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”? Or the creepazoid/charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in “The Master”?

And now that I think back on it the role that he was only moderately effective in was perhaps the role that was closest to him in real life as events have shown,the alcoholic Jamie Tyrone, in the incredible revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Starring Vanessa Redgrave as the tornado/virago of a drug-addicted mother who terrorized her hapless family, she blew on to the stage with hurricane force and pretty much stayed at that unbelievable level of performance throughout the plays three acts.

She was like a demon unleashed and she frightened the wits out of her family and CHANGED THE BLOCKING every night, though not the lines, which I could hear with crystal-clear clarity even sitting in the rear of the orchestra. Phillip shrank from her as his character was supposed to. And she throttled the living daylights out of Robert Sean Leonard every night, but you never knew WHEN she was going to attack him. I saw it twice. I’ll never forget it.

Phillip’s untimely death is such a shock and an incalculable loss to American film and American theater. Maybe leaving us soon so was his way of saying “I’m done now. I’ve nothing more to give. I’ve said what I had to say.” And now he’s gone. In the most lurid way possible. With a needle in his arm.

That small detail will haunt all of us who knew him, and the many millions who knew him through his work. But to know him that way or any way was to love him.

His great, hungry spirit will always be with us. Our hearts go out to his surviving family and friends.

That he will be missed is an underestimate.

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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.

“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!

National Board of Review gives “Moneyball” & Brad Pitt NO-thing!

So now the National Board of Review announces. Sadly (to them) in #2 after the New York Critics Circle announced FIRST on Tuesday. And as I predicted this is group who would be so incensed that they were not the FIRST out of the gate, as they always have been historically, they would pick NO BIG WINNERS who already won earlier this week. “The Artist” did hang on to a spot in their Top Ten(They have a very odd line-up of awards, always).

But picture went to “Hugo” which I despised, and Best Director was Martin Scorcese for said non-children children’s film. BORED ME TO TEARS for the first hour! With the worst child actor EVAH in a leading role. EX-CRUUUU-CIATING.

This leviathantian epic is PROBABLY NOT going to get nominated for Best Picture. Even. It’s not gonna look good in 2D on a screener which is the way most AMPAS voters, and SAG, too, for that matter, will inevitably view it.

Best Actor is their beloved George Clooney, who is SUDDENLY back in the race again, after being left out pretty completely on Tuesday by the NYFCC. And Shailene Woodley, his mouthy teenaged daughter-from-hell probably does cement her Supporting Actress nomination with this win. (And also an Indie Spirit nom in this category, when Clooney got NO-thing from the Indie Spirits.) And “The Descendants” won big here with three major wins. George, Shailene and Alexander Payne for Adapted Screenplay…But they award George almost every year no matter what.

But who and what this hurts(if it hurts at all) is “Moneyball” and Brad Pitt and everyone involved with it , who did not even score in the NBR’s Top Ten. OUCH!!!

So it is Brad v. George for Best Actor? I think they effectively cancel each other out and hand it to Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” which at least scored in their “Top Ten”. Oh! I’m repeating myself!

So, I will repeat myself some more and once again reference “The Artist”s artists with moi on my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

The only award that duplicated the NBR win last year at the Oscars was Christian Bale in “The Fighter.” So this bodes well for Christopher Plummer who won here for “Beginners.” And doesn’t bode so well for George or Shailene, who will probably get nominations from AMPAS, though.

The NBR also has a very bad history with Actress winner, so the stunningly brilliant, yet horrifying turn by the great Tilda Swinton for “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin” who is the winner here as Best Actress…is basically winning what can now be called the Lesley Manville award, since that brilliant Brit won here for the amazing “Another Year”, and then went on to win nothing else.

I don’t think Tilda’s tremendous, bloody turn will sit well with the Academy. Though certainly it needs to be…if there is any justice in Oscarland, and we know of course, that there isn’t.

So other than Rooney Mara getting a Breakthrough Performance Award and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” landing in the Top Ten, this is the only recognition this film that made the NYFCC WAIT got. Rooney Mara is playing Lisbeth Salander here in David Fincher’s American re-make..

So what does this all mean? I think it means CLEARLY less than the NYFCC. It means that Gorgeous George is down but by no means out. And that “The Descendants” is still in the game. And that Brad Pitt and his “Moneyball” makers better look to their PR campaigns for Oscar, like NOW!

But it is pretty much of a sharp slam to Pitt & co.

And “The Help” got Best Ensemble, FWIW and nothing else…

So the only one who this wacky award clearly helps is Christopher Plummer. But then we knew he’d win for Best Supporting Actor way back in June!

And “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two” made it into the Top Ten and got a special award for the franchise as a whole. OR hole, whichever way you want to parse it.

For a complete list of the NBR(also-rans)winners see Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone’s www.awardsdaily.com

 

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.

Oscar Homerun for Brad Pitts’ “Moneyball”! It made even ME like baseball!

I just LOVED Brad Pitts’ “Moneyball”! And his winning, rousing, surprisingly moving performance in the great movie star tradition may garner him his third Oscar nomination, and maybe he’ll finally win Best Actor, for his terrific tour-de-force turn as real-life Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane. Who evidently made history by turning his losing team around and through his statistical micro-managing, his Beane-counting, if you will,  got his under – financed, underdog  Oakland As to break a historic American League baseball record of winning streaks.

Now I know I must be sounding like I’m a baseball fan or statistician. But I’m not. I’m definitely not. As a gay man, I was stereotypically not good at sports, and not into them at all. But there were many times in my life as a gay (or certainly gender confused) child growing up in the Bronx, where I wondered just what all the fuss was going on on the other side of my hometown borough.

Recently I have seen two Oscar-seeking movies a bit late in their Oscar life. And I have been astonished to find that I liked both of them A LOT.  A lot more than I ever thought I would, given their misleading advertising and pre-open trailer campaigns, if they can even be called “Campaigns.” And “Moneyball” is certainly one of them. The other being the tremendous “The Help.” But more on that surprising, haunting film later.

“Moneyball” was one of the big Gala openers at Toronto this year, and though one could not ignore the fact that it was there, and  that Brad and Angelina were in town, I chose to skip it. It was a sports movie. A baseball movie, at that. I never liked either genre, or sub-genre. I severely doubted that I could relate. Given my sports-deprived background.

And for the first half hour or so, I didn’t know WHAT was going on with it. The baseball inside talk was so thick.  What WERE they talking about? And it seemed to be statistics, statistics, nothing but baseball statistics, which is actually what the film turns out to be all about.

The Oakland As are losing and Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, their now-legendary general manager, tries to figure out how to change that and break their losing streak. Baseball these days its seems, is all about money. Hence the “”Moneyball” title.

Now Brad Pitt is also not one of my favorite actors. He phones it in all too often for me to label him an actor’s actor, say like his almost unregonizable co-star Phillip Seymour Hoffman who plays the Oakland As official coach certainly is. But Pitt goes beyond himself here and really soars into great acting territory with “Moneyball.”

He’s not phoning anything in, and “Capote” director Bennett Miller and also co-star Hoffman as the Oakland A’s frustrated and angry coach, keep Pitt as real as real can be.

I’ve also never given a thought to what a baseball team’s general manager does, but by the time you finish watching “Moneyball” you’ll know that, and just about everything else about baseball these days, upside down, inside out and backwards.

And you’ll know that for sure Brad Pitt is once again on his way to the Oscars, and maybe this time he’ll win! He redefines himself in a way that I thought he never could, but here, in the role of his career, he does!

The only thing I was disappointed with was Jonah Hill’s rather monotonal performance as Pitt’s nerdy acounting assistant. He gets better as the film goes on, but I thought he was the only flaw in an otherwise flawless film.

“Moneyball” did the impossible, made ME like, and get into baseball. So much so that I was cheering for Pitt and his underdog Oakland As and you will be, too. Now, will Oscar follow suit? Pitt will be in the running for sure. And with his other rather mold-breaking performance this year in Terence Malik’s “Tree of Life” as the stern disciplinarian ’50s dad…well, you just can’t avoid Brad Pitt’s emergence as a powerful, fascinating, Grade A actor with a Capital A.

Go see “Moneyball”! You’ll love it! Even I did…

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