a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Music’

Justin Timberlake Starts the Oscars Off with a Great Number & a Standing O! Mahershala Wins!

justin-timberlake-1Justin Timberlake starts off the Oscars just right with a rompin’, stompin’ raise-the-roof  with his own Oscar nominated song And it was great! From “Trolls.” He got a standing, dancing ovation! Great start! Then of course, Jimmy Kimmel  comes on and gets as he puts it, “Oh great, a sitting ovation”….

He then makes the audience give Meryl Streep a standing O.

And now, Best Supporting Actor! And here comes the lovely Alicia Vikander. She’s got a VERY deep tan.  Trying to look as un-Swedish as possible.

Mahershala Ali wins! I was wrong about Dev Patel…Another standing ovation…

A nice moving speech. His wife just had a baby and firstly he thanks his teachers, whom I know/knew the late Zelda Fischhandler and Ron Van Lieu from NYU Grad Acting. They were the first ones he thanked which was very classy of him. I saw him in many plays there and he was always as good as he was in mahershala-ali“Moonlight.” Lots of warmth in the room for “Moonlight” as Sasha Stone predicted at http://www.awardsdaily.com. And I didn’t…

His part in “Moonlight” was very small, but truly supporting. But he didn’t mention that he was a Muslim, which I wish he would’ve done.

 

 

 

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Audra McDonald Soars In the Sublime “Lady Day”

Audra McDonald, who has won more Tonys than any other actress, five at last count, is looking seriously at her sixth, for her superb rendition of the doomed & dying Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille.” McDonald, always masterful, here touches the sublime in a superb interpretation the late, jazz great Holiday.

Watching, and hearing, this silken voice soar over the rainbow, is beyond the beyond. And watching a great singer and a great actress at the absolute peak of her vocal and dramatic prowess is a great, great privilege and a pleasure second to none. McDonald has captured lightning in a bottle.

The legendary MacDonald has an operatic range and Julliard training and was simply magnificent as Bess in “Porgy and Bess”, in what was, up til then, the performance of her career.

Now, she’s done the impossible and topped herself, with her heart-rending, scintillating, melodious “Lady Day.”

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” is named that for a very specific reason. We here see Billie Holiday right near the end of her drug-addicted and booze-fueled life. She was dead at 44. And Emerson’s Bar and Grille was one of the only places she could play after being imprisoned in New York City for drugs. And it’s in Philadelphia, a town she hates.

“I don’t care if I go to heaven or to hell, as long as it’s not Philadelphia” she says.

She lost her license to perform in New York City clubs because of her prison time. Even though she could and did sing at Carnegie Hall, she couldn’t practice her art in nightclubs.

Her sad, sad life is enlivened and elevated, of course, when she sings. And MacDonald has captured the exact timbre and tone and the tremendous pain behind all of Holiday’s singing. And also the singer’s utter joy in her music.

McDonald has won Five Tonys and is celebrated and lauded wherever she goes. starring on Broadway and in concerts. And she restricts her vocal stylings to exactly match Holiday’s very limited range. But her voice flies up to rapturous emotional heights as Holiday’s did. I felt like I was watching a moonbeam sing.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” is a very strange cocktail of a play and a musical. It’s really both, and it calls upon McDonald to go places onstage that she’s never been asked to go before. But go there, she does. As she continues to sing and interact with the admiring throng, she is also going to pieces right in front of us.

She literally staggers on to the Circle in the Square stage, from the back room of Emerson’s Bar and Grille, where she was clearly soused to the gills as the play opens, and McDonald weaves her way through the assembled cocktail tables where much of the audience is seated, as if it were a for-real nightclub. She staggers and needs help mounting the stage and sings a couple of upbeat numbers, before she halts her act, to inform the audience of her tragic back story. Her cleaning the steps of a Baltimore whorehouse, and actually working in some herself before she started singing.

She keeps cursing the man in her life who got her hooked on drugs, and now she’s helplessly in the death throes of her addiction, and there’s nothing she can do about it.It isn’t pretty, but Audra McDonald makes it beautiful beyond belief.

She even staggers back through the audience to leave the stage completely to her confused and dismayed musical trio, who vamp until she returns, having clearly shot up in the back room of Emerson’s Bar and Grille.

She wears long white gloves to cover the track marks, and one of them is dangerously slipping and MacDonald returns to the stage glistening with sweat all over, as junkies do. Her bare shoulders slightly soaked and beautiful face sweaty & screwed up into that all-too-familiar, self-satisfied smile of inner glee that junkies have immediately after they get high.This moment was so accurately portrayed, it was chilling.

McDonald builds her definitive portrait of this damaged artist detail by detail, describing one shocking racial incident after the other, so that by the time she sings her signature song, “Strange Fruit” she becomes an unforgettable mixture of pain and beauty.

The song, of course, describes a lynching she has witnessed in the South.

But the joy in this great spirit is incandescent. And a performance of this caliber is so high and so rare, don’t by any means miss it. You’ll never forget it.

Scorsese’s Monumental 4-hour Doc on Beatle George Harrison at NYFF!

WOWOWOW! Martin Scorcese’s monumental four-hour documentary on the late Beatle George Harrison flew by and exploded like a shower of stars at the New York Film Festival today!

I saw it at a press screening after which there was a press conference via Skype (no, I’m not kidding) with the great director, Harrison’s widow Olivia, his film editor, David Tedeschi and two of his producers. They were in a hotel room in London, getting ready for the film’s premiere, where it is sure to cause a sensation.

It IS sensational! It’s a joy and a wonder and absolutely a definitive account of the life of the late Beatle.  I found it rapturous. And for those of you with HBO, it’s going to be shown on the cable channel very, very soon.  So every one can enjoy the wonder of basking in the glow and the revelation that is “George Harrison:Living in the Material World.” I really do think this ranks among Scorcese’s greatest works. It certainly is the most enjoyable. And revisiting the Beatles music in the brand new theater at Lincoln Center is just going to be a sublime experience for all who are lucky enough to get tickets to the New York Film Festival.

We all think we know all there is to know about the Beatles, but Scorcese is here to tell us with this wonderful documentary, that no, we really don’t.

In Part One(there was an intermission), we see George and Ringo constantly being shuffled off to the side in the heady Beatle craze of their first great success, which never really ended. John Lennon and especially Paul McCartney, were the favored ones. They wrote the songs, after all, that made the whole world sing and that as Scorcese says formed the soundtrack to our lives.

George was “The shy Beatle”, the “third Beatle”, but he was with the group since the beginning. A childhood friend of John and Paul’s from Liverpool, who was only 17 when the fame that never ended burst upon them.

What we didn’t know was that as time wore on, George was the one who was more and more discontented with his place in the Fa Four. And the film shows him as leaving the group. And that is was he, not Yoko Ono, who affected broke up the Beatles. He just couldn’t stand it any more being under Paul (and John’s) thumbs.

Harrison is also there on many many film clips & interviews to assert his own point of view and testify on his own behalf, in his own words, which is wonderful. And he did have very strong views, even revolutionary ones, for the time.

He felt that what the fame and the wealth that the Beatles achieved wasn’t enough. It left him empty, unfulfilled, and so he famously sought the Meaning of Life in the Eastern mysticism that brought the great sitar player, Ravi Shankar, and the various yogis into his life, the other Beatles’ lives and through them and the different kind of music they started making really changed the perception of just what pop music could achieve and the messages, some quite profound, that it could convey.

Harrison calls himself at one point “the Beatle who changed the most” and it certainly seemed like he did. He’s almost unrecognizable in the second half of the film which is post-Beatles. As a Beatle, he seemed just a cute, but rude kid.

Scorsese also brings out the fact that Harrison was a Roman Catholic and that the influence of his childhood religion, like upon Scorsese himself, was profound, and I think may have led to him constantly seeking what solace he could find in all the Eastern religions and cultures he involved himself with.

But what was he seeking solace from? His fame? His success? He seemed also the film reveals surprisingly in its’ second half that he had a long-term, happy marriage to his second wife Olivia and a son whom he loved and who loved him. So he had a reasonably stable and happy family life. This too comes as a surprise to all who think they might have George Harrison all figured out.

And Olivia Harrison becomes a very strong narrative presence in the films’ second half. And she is one of the main instigators of this film coming into being. She sought out Scorsese, arguably among the world’s greatest directors, to tell George’s and her own story, in its mind-boggling complexity. And Scorsese more than made her wish come true.

The audience of press that I saw the film with this afternoon was all of an age certain, as the French say, which surprised me, because usually the New York Film Festival press corps skews quite young. But this also underlined to me the importance of this film and its’ bringing to a new generation who did not know the Beatles as I and most of the rest of my generation knew him, the essence of this great, sometimes underappreciated and overshadowed talent, to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. And it is in this that “George Harrison:Living in the Material World” succeeds greatly. He was a great star, a great dedicated musician and composer and a great spirit.

Scorsese related via Skype from London that the first footage he was presented with of George, was just this seemingly endless shot of a bed of tulips. Finally, Harrison emerges for within the tulips, and just smiles for a while.Like the proverbial garden gnome. And that is the way this film now begins. It’s just us, with George, smiling.

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