a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Oscar campaign’

Provincetown Film Festival ’13 Wrap Up!

PROVINCETOWN FILM FESTIVAL 15th ANNIVERSARY Wrap-Up

Epstein/Friedman Triumph TWICE with Double Whammy of “Lovelace” &”The Battle of AMFAR” ~ Almodovar, “Fruitvale” and Divine also score

Oscar-winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman did the seemingly impossible at the 15th Anniversary of the Provincetown International Film Festival, which just wrapped. They opened this smart, exciting, essential & growing film festival with their first narrative feature film “Lovelace” about the ’70’s porn star Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” fame and followed it up with a terrific doc about the AIDS organization “The Battle of AMFAR.” Both were superb.

“Lovelace” was my favorite film of PIFF, boasting a surprising trio of Oscar-worthy performances from Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miz,””Mama Mia”) as Linda Lovelace herself,and Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”) is incredibly believable in his tough-to-take role as Lovelace’s porn producer/husband Chuck Traynor. The triumvirate of great star turns is completed by an unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace’s hard-nosed Catholic mother. I never thought Seyfried had the dramatic chops, and I, like Harvey Weinstein I was told, did not realize that it was Sharon Stone as the mother, until the end credits rolled, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

Stone has been nominated once before for “Casino”, but didn’t win, and now I think she will have another strong shot for sure, as Seyfried and Sarsgaard will, too, be up for Oscar consideration again. And this time, as a Best Supporting Actress, she could actually win. And neither Seyfried nor the worthy-as-hell, overdue Sarsgaard has ever been nominated either. Also, Radius the new Weinstein Co. off-shoot is repping this terrific film.

A biopic of a porn star? I didn’t think I’d like it, but “Lovelace” and Seyfried and Sarsgaard and filmmakers Epstein and Friedman draw you in utterly and make you CARE. And it’s funny, too, when it needs to be, and tragic as Lovelace’s story gets darker and darker. And with Harvey Weinstein in the mix behind them, look out!

“The Battle of AMFAR” is about the founders, the unlikely duo of research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim and superstar-turned-activist Elizabeth Taylor. who joined forces to bring about a critical change in the perception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1985. This terrific doc that sped by at a lightening pace was ALSO directed by Epstein and Friedman, who also directed “Lovelace”! Is there anything these two titans of cinema can’t do? It was definitely their time to shine at this year’s charming sea-side Festival.

The Weinstein Co. was also behind the laceratingly powerful racial drama “Fruitvale Station”, a true story about an innocent African American youth, 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who is wrongly slain by police on New Year’s Eve 2008. Unknown actor Michael B. Jordan has to carry virtually every scene of the film, and he does, but it is Oscar Winner Octavia Spenser(“The Help”) who outdoes herself here as Grant’s mother.

Grant is no plaster saint and his mother knows it. We are shown flashback scenes of Grant in prison, when his mother comes to visit and tells him she won’t be coming to see him anymore and refuses to hug him. We see her try to control her wild, pothead son, when he gets out, and she tries to keep him on the straight and narrow, and most monumentally, we see her grieving when he is shot-to-death by police. Octavia Spenser meets every challenge of this bravura, heart-breaking role that pulls out all the stops, and then some.

Having won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at 2013’s Sundance Film Festival, “Fruitvale Station”, the subway station where the tragedy occurs, seems primed to compete across the categories as last year’s Sundance favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” did. And with Harvey as its’ producer, you know it will be a significant player this awards season.

An enchanting Film Festival by the sea, picturesque Provincetown is surrounded on three sides by water, and boasted a particularly strong slate of docs this year, with “Casting By” about the late, great, legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. Who at one time, as Tom Donahue’s film amply illustrates, seemed to be running the film industry in the ’70s. Dougherty speaks for herself fortunately in many insightful interviews, where it is revealed that she single-handedly talked directors Peter Friedkin into casting Gene Hackman in “The French Connection” and also persuaded John Schlesinger to cast Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy”! Try to imagine those two films without those two great performances, both of which won Best Actor & Best Film. Dougherty became so powerful that she turned Casting which was a male-dominated field, into the female-centric one it is today, as she constantly hired women as her assistants. But Casting Director don’t get Oscars. They don’t even have their own category, even as Dougherty and others fought for accreditation. The all-powerful DGA wants to make sure the power stays with The Director and not The CASTING Director. If the public only knew! And “Casting By” at least shines a bright, benevolent light on this tricky situation.

Another doc that knocked my socks off was “I Am Divine” about the late drag performer and cult icon of John Waters’ films “Pink Flamingos”, “Female Trouble” and “Hairspray” among many others. Filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz emphasizes what a good actor Divine was underneath all the make-up and gowns and that he was poised to have a substantial character as a male character actor when he died of a massive heart attack at age 40. Too young. Too soon. And like with the unlikely heroine of “Lovelace”, Schwarz makes you care about his too-chubby protagonist, who just couldn’t stop eating. Or acting. Or acting out.

Waters was there to speak about the film and his late star. Noting that when people said that they often saw Divine walking around Provincetown in kaftans back in the Day, Waters said, “That’s a lie! Divine took cabs!”

And last but not least there is Pedro Almodovar’s HILARIOUS new comedy “I’m So Excited!” which is already one of my favorite Almodovar films. The hottest ticket in one of the smallest theaters (The Art House 2), I had to line up in a Rush Line for AN HOUR before the film started! But I got in! And what a delight it was!

I don’t remember Almodovar doing such an out-and-out comedy since “Woman on the Verge…” or “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down”. Pedro, always a scamp as well as a camp, lets the bobby pins fall where they may as he lets his hair down in the wildest situation imaginable. A plane is stalled flying over Toledo, where it circles and circle and circles. The three tres gay male flight attendants have drugged all the passengers in coach and are left to entertain the first class passengers with campy numbers like “I’m So Excited”, which is a music video-like gem. Pedro could direct musicals, too, if he wanted. I couldn’t stop laughing!

Penelope Cruz and Antonia Banderas make hilarious brief cameo appearances at the beginning of the film. And I was particularly fond of returning Almodovar regular Lola Duenas, “Sole” Penelope’s illegal hair-dresser sister in “Volver”, as a wacky psychic who predicts that she’ll lose her virginity on this flight. What do you think? Hilarity ensues! Don’t miss it!

Oscar Thinking and Re-Thinking About Ann Dowd

I guess any of you who have been following my blog and my web-series, never mind my TV series, know that this particular Oscar season I was more involved than I ever was in my whole Oscar-obsessed life.

True, I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. Basically since I could write.

And also true, I started doing this the minute I got my own TV show 25 years ago. I had another expert and myself and it was a dialogue.

Then sometime in the early 00’s I connected with Oscarwatch.com and Sasha Stone. And I guess the rest, as they say, is Herstory.

But of course, I had to get even closer, didn’t I? And so this year when I was approached by the great Indie and stage actress Ann Dowd to help her with her very own, self-funded Oscar campaign for “Compliance” I did.

And it was a real education for the both of us, I can tell you.

Sasha at http://www.awardsdaily.com which is what Oscarwatch.com is called now has written, once again, as she invariably does on a staggering, daily basis, about NEXT year’s upcoming Oscar season. And this one is barely done.

But as Sasha so expertly lays it out, it’s pretty clear what’s coming our way, and “Monuments Men” seems to already be the front-runner, just straight out of the Gate.

It’s George Clooney v. the Nazis and he wrote, directed, produced and stars in this one. George is super hot again after the “Argo” win, so since this film hasn’t even begun to shoot yet, I won’t rain on anybody’s parade. Yet. But it does seem like a front-runner already.

And as Sasha always says, you know what happens to front-runners…

But back to Ann Dowd, what Sasha did point out in her astute, austere assessment of THIS year’s race was that no nominee was not backed up by an ace publicist. And a campaign.

And what does that mean? Lots and lots of money.

Poor Ann Dowd spent $16,000 or so of her own money to send screeners of “Compliance” to all the Voting Members of the Academy and also the nominating committee of the Screen Actors Guild. And she didn’t get a nomination from either voting body. Which is awful. But if you do Sasha’s math, it makes perfect sense.

You need to spend even MORE money than Ann did. You need to take out ads and have parties thrown for you. Parties go on all the time in L.A. before Oscars Phase I & also Phase II, and you need to be attending all those parties, especially if you are new to they, them, the Academy.

The AMPAS members are all too happy to meet new, talented faces, so its’ not their faults. It’s getting IN TO those parties. And that’s no mean feat.

But you have to go to a party EVERY DAY sometimes three times a day as Marion Cotillard did the first year she was nominated and won for “La Vie En Rose.” Acting in French, a complete unknown, she taught herself English by day, and networked like cra-zee at night, and she charmed all who met her, and she won.

And PS. her brilliant performance certainly deserved it. BUT SO DID ANN DOWD’S!

Let me quickly add that she did get nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress and also WON the National Board of Review award for that same category.

So she did receive accolades and the Santa Barbara Film Festival honored her as a Virtuoso. So Ann’s been flying back and forth between both coasts for months now, it seems.

IF ONLY she had received that elusive nomination! But it went to Jackie Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Which was a film all these people, all these voters saw. Evidently, they didn’t watch the screeners Ann sent them.Or worse. they didn’t like “Compliance.”

But the moral of the story is ~ if you don’t have a Cyntha Swartz, or a Michele Robinson or a Tony Angelotti behind you to start with. You’re not going to get an Academy Award nomination.

It’s like Hollywood is a closed shop. But we knew that, didn’t we? How naive can I be?

Who Will Harvey Pick? He’s Got THREE Best Supp. Actors

It’s raining/sleeting/snowing in NYC, but to continue with my train of thought since the last post… Who will Harvey Weinstein pick of his threesome of Best Supporting Actors to push, push, push to Oscar gold?

I guess it was noticed that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was MIA to pick up, or even show up, for the Awards shows this past week. I think he’s rather furious that he’s been relegated to Supporting Actor, for what clearly was a co-lead in the flop “The Master.” So he’s not being super-co-operative. Or PSH is seeing the handwriting on the wall and it’s not spelling HIS name.

I think it’s spelling Robert Deniro’s. Yes, for the audience-friendly “Silver Linings Playbook,” which is only now going wide.The box-office for “SLP” has not being overwhelming to say the least. It’s a difficult, quirky comedy. Or dramedy. And it’s a small, domestic-arguement kind of film. It doesn’t have the range or scope of the epics of this year, “Les Miserables”, or “Argo” or “Zero Dark Thirty” or “Lincoln.”

The “Lincoln” camp is quaking in their boots. Getting “Hilary Clinton’s husband,”to quote the super sharp Amy Poehler, the evening’s resoundingly successful co-host (along with Tina Fey), to introduce the “Lincoln” clip was the act of a desperate group of people. In this case, Disney. They NEVER have run a successful Oscar campaign. Look at how they botched “The Help” last year.

Their sledge-hammer approach cost Viola Davis her Oscar bid last year. They got Best Supporting Actress for “The Help”s Octavia Spenser, but Best Supp. ANYthing is always considered by the Academy as a consolation prize. It’s just not as important as Best ACTOR and Best ACTRESS and now, this year, Best Director.

Liked Anne Hathaway’s seeming slam-dunk lock for “Les Miserables” That category is effectively closed. Give it up, Sally Field.

But back to Harvey. HE KNOWS how to run an Oscar campaign, and he’s relentless in its’ pursuit. Only this year’s ponies, as my idol Tom O’Neil would say over at http://www.goldderby.com, are not the thoroughbreds he was pushing in the past two historic years when he had “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.” “SLP” is just NOT as good a film as the two recent Oscar winners, who were both Weinstein Co. productions.

Personally, I think he’s going to go after “Silver Linings Playbook” anyway for the win. Or as many wins as he can get for it. Main among them, Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. She already just won Best Actress Comedy at the Globes, but that was ALLLL “SLP” won, no matter how hard Harvey & Co. were campaigning for it. Next up, the SAG Awards, for which Robert Deniro IS nominated, in Supp.

And that means the twice-Oscared, but never SAGed DeNiro could be looking at HIS third Oscar and HE’S campaigning! Something he NEVER does.IOW, he’s co-operating with Harvey’s Oscar vision for “SLP”.

HW COULD prevail for DeNiro, who, let’s face it is a bona fide Oscar legend, and we’ll just see who out of the current Weinstein Co. stable DOES win Best Supporting Actor.

The co-operative Christophe Waltz won his second Golden Globe in two years, thanks to Harvey, for “Django Unchained.” And who gives the Best Performance out of Hoffman, DeNiro and Waltz. I’d say it was Waltz. And that may happen at the Oscars, too. He may duplicate his win as will, I think Quentin Tarantino in Best Original Screenplay.

Harvey Weinstein KNOWS how to run an Oscar campaign. Disney does not. And Neither does Fox, who has “Life of Pi” and also neither does Universal, who has “Les Miserables” which SHOULD be the winner IMHO. But alllll these majors, the studios, just aren’t USED to winning Oscars anymore. It’s like they were all born yesterday and only Harvey and the Weinstein Co. know what they are doing….And that’s just the way it is this year, ladies and gente-persons, dear readers, dear cineastes.

Except for the fly in the ointment, “Argo”.

You can’t have TWO Davids v. one Goliath. Like “SLP” AND “Argo” v. Goliath “Lincoln.” So which of “Argo” and “SLP” is the “Little Film That Could”? The Oscar question of the morning.

Down to the Wire! Best Actress Predictions!

Tomorrow morning it will all be over, but the shouting. Yes,dear readers, dear cineastes, tomorrow at the crack of dawn in L.A. and at 8:30pm EST, the Oscar Nominations for 2012 will be announced and all will be revealed and Phase One, as it’s known of the Oscar Campaign will be over.

This has been my busiest Oscar season ever with helping Ann Dowd’s campaign as much as I have been able. Culminating last night in her win for Best Supporting Actress at the National Board of Review Awards ceremony. More, I’m sure, on that later.

But now on to what has become the thorniest category ever this year ~ Best Actress.

To echo all and sundry, there are two locks ~ Vanity Fair cover girl Jennifer Lawrence for the manic-depressive comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” and Jessica Chastain for the taut,controversial Osama Bin Laden hunt-thriller “Zero Dark Thirty.”

In the past two days, the lovely Jessica has received her first, major, best actress award from the New York Critics Circle on Monday night, then last night she got her National Board of Review Award.

Both those awards are announced beforehand and handed out at the aforementioned ceremonies. No nominees at either. Just winners. Plane and simple.

Now, the OTHER three slots for Best Actress are really fraught with possible suprises and booby traps. (Pun) Like for instance, WILL they REALLY nominate a six-year- old? I don’t think so.

So Qu’venshane Wallis is not showing up here, as charming and disarming as she is in person and on-screen in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

As I’ve been saying all along, as much as I love French culture and everything French, I don’t think the Academy is going to nominate TWO French actresses for Acting in their own language!

That would be Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone,” and 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour.” I think, to be brutally honest, that the young, cute one, Marion, gets in. And Emmanuelle Riva, who faces death in the most devastating screen portrayal, perhaps ever, will not.

I’m hearing that Academy types just aren’t watching “Amour”, and don’t like it when they see it. It’s a critics darling to be sure, but since the Academy is all about the same age as the two characters depicted in this film, I don’t think they are going to watch OR nominate it. They’ll leave it to the Foreign Language Committee to determine whether this Austrian/French co-production is in, or more likely out. No matter how much critical accolades it has won. One has to keep repeating the mantra ~”There are NO CRITICS in the Academy!” And it’s true. Nary a one.

So now we have three beauties, Jennifer, Jessica and Marion. So who are the other two? I’m thinking Helen Mirren, who got a SAG nod as well as just landing a BAFTA nomination,too this morning for her rousing, bracing portrayal of a real life Hollywood icon Lady Alma Hitchcock, Sir Alfred’s uber-talented wife, in “Hitchcock”, is going to get in. And of course, she’s a former winner, too, for Best Actress, for “The Queen.” But then so is Marion! For “La Vie En Rose.”

And the last place is a toss-up I feel between two talented ladies in films that might not have been seen much yet. Naomi Watts, in the tsunami horror film “The Impossible” and Rachel Weisz for the British drama “The Deep Blue Sea.”

I’m going to plunk for Rachel, since although she really already has an Oscar,like both Helen Mirren AND Maid Marion, they like her, they really like her.And the Oscars are nothing if not repetivive and clannish in their thinking and awarding. Or re-rewarding.

But Rachel IS extraordinary in “Deep Blue Sea.”

And Naomi, poor thing,is an Australia, and is someone who gets overlooked over and over, time and time again. And the same thing may happen this year.

And some of the snobby Actor’s Branch may feel that her portrait of a mother lost and injured by the tsunami that hit the beaches of Southeast Asia a few years back, is more screaming and stunt work, than a performance.

Whereas Rachel, who BEGINS “Deep Blue Sea”in classic Oscar fashion,by trying to kill herself via a gas heater, right after WWII, is more typically, the Academy’s cup of British Tea. And also, though Naomi got overlooked by the BAFTAs today.
So did Rachel, so it’s a toss up. But I’m picking Rachel, thinking that the BAFTA membership now is circling about 300 members of the Academy, too.

Also, Rachel, like fellow Nominee Jennifer Lawrence who raked in over $600 million dollars for “The Hunger Games” this year, Rachel showed her action heroine chops for real in the hit “The Bourne Legacy.” Anne Hathaway scored this double whammy too, this year with the blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as cornering what looks like a sure win for Best Supp. Actress with “Les Miserables.” The Academy seems to be going for gals who can act, but also kick butt.And rake in millions at the Box-Office.

And in conclusion, It could also shock of shocks be the forgotten Keira Knightley in devisive masterpiece “Anna Karenina.”

So dear readers, dear cineastes, I see ~

Jennifer Lawrence
Jessica Chastain
Marion Cotillard
Helen Mirren
Rachel Weisz

We’ll know VERY soon, won’t we? And it will all look very, very different, won’t it?
Phase Two is NOT the same thing as Phase one.

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone Stands Up & Cheers for Ann Dowd in “Compliance”! Best Actress Race Changes!

I really think that the terrific piece Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone just wrote about the incredible Ann Dowd’s Oscar chances in “Compliance’ really will be effective in changing the Best Actress Race this year and will help the amaaaaazing Ms. Dowd along her lonnnnng way to the Dolby Pavillion in February. Read it at http://www.awardsdaily.com.

Sasha out-does herself once again with the power of her great, impassioned writing. And this time, I can but totally agree. Sasha has been very effective helping Indie actresses move ahead to nominations, if not wins. She really went all out for Melissa Leo back in the days of “Frozen River” which was really going out on a ledge at a time, when Melissa Leo was a virtual Oscar unknown, and voila! She WAS nominated for Best Actress, much to my great surprise….That is, until i saw the film, which was after the nominations came out and I saw how brrrrrilllliant Leo was in that edgy flick.

But  it was a long shot, for sure. Not so much of a long shot was Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” And that year the picture got nominated, too! AND John Hawkes for Best Supporting Actor. He may be up again for Best Actor in three shakes of a lamb’s tail, as my mother used to say, or was it my British grandmother? for “Sessions” coming up at TIFF in about two weeks, or less…

And now Sasha’s raving about Ann Dowd’s astounding performance in “Compliance.” It counts for a lot. And I’ll tell you how. Sasha’s Oscar advocacy of certain people, like the aforementioned above ^ makes OTHER Oscar bloggers take note and start writing about the wonderful Ann Dowd, too.

I want you to know however, that I said it here, first. But be that as it may, Ann Dowd’s great work is not to be ignored, and now it isn’t being shunted to the sidelines of the Oscar Race , with great pieces like this being written about her by Oscar Bloggers that count! This is how it begins, folks. I case you didn’t know.

Support by Sasha will make the PUBLICITY TEAM at IFC the distributor, HOPEFULLY mount a full on Oscar campaign for the magnificent Dowd. As of the opening night a few days ago, I really don’t think that they had. And I don’t know if it was even on the cards. Until, maybe I told them to!

“Are you doing an Oscar campaign for her?” I pointedly asked an exec with Ms. Dowd and her agent, Gary Gersh standing right next to us.

“Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered.”

But I did wonder. Ann Dowd’s expression told me even she wasn’t sure herself.

You see, mounting an Oscar campaign for a certain actress, especially an unknown middle-aged character actress is a VERY costly venture for an Indie distributor. It helps that “Compliance” has gotten something like a 91% Fresh Tomato rating on Rotten Tomatoes http://www.rottentomatoes.com

Making “Compliance” one of the Best Reviewed Films of the year. And what do “Frozen River”, “Winter’s Bone” and “Compliance” all have in common? They all came out of Sundance, I believe, and please correct me if I am wrong. I know you will….

And this changes the Best Actress race, too, because it makes Ann Dowd a contender to be reckoned with.

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Owen Wilson is rising…

Every now and then I just HAVE to take a break and be away from El Interneto. But then of course, one HAS to return! So here I am, baaaack to blogging and what’s new? What’s  been happening? As far as I’m concerned the big news is STILL Woody Allen’s lovely-beyond-words “Midnight in Paris” has now gone wider(means into more theaters) than any of his films ever have and of course, it’s making more money than any other of his films ever has. And will make more. And more.

And Oscar listens to that Ka-Ching.

And everyone is rising with the movie. Owen Wilson was on Jimmy Kimmel last night and was as charming and personable and FUNNY as ever. He’s also in “Cars 2” and that was proabably mainly WHY he was on Jimmy K.

Jimmy says he only got “65% of the in-jokes” meaning the literary and film references. Oh well…

But Jimmy even mentioned the “O” word(not Oprah) to Owen…Hey, it looked like the beginning of a campaign to moi…Just saying.

“Tree of Life” Brad Pitt’s very good & Jessica Chastain makes a spectacular debut, but THOSE DINOSAURS!

What a self-indulgent, beautifully photographed and  very well acted mess “The Tree of Life” is! I’d say it wasn’t worth the price of admission. I left feeling queasy, like I had just seen a 3D movie, but it wasn’t in 3D!  And at the public screening I attended tonight two women were talking very loudly about getting their money back.

Brad Pitt is probably the best he’s ever been in this as the grown Sean Penn’s memory of a stern, but ultimately loving father…But is it enough to win him his long sought-after Oscar?

I wonder…

You have to weigh, or rather wade through, a good half hour or more of primordial ooze and yes, even what looks like Velosoraptors, who seem to have wandered in from “Jurassic Park”! No. I’m not kidding!DINOSAURS! Before you get to the sometimes gripping family drama, that seems more like a memory piece, than a crafted film. If you even call “Tree of Life” that.

I could follow it, but judging by the comments I was hearing, when it was over, from fellow audience members, most couldn’t. Or they got it wrong. “Which son died?” I heard that over and over again.

I THINK it’s the story of an adult male in an urban city (could be Texas. We don’t ever really know) who is played with great stress by Sean Penn, doing a much as he can with virtually no dialogue whatsoever.

Ditto the glorious screen debut of the stupendous, beautiful redheaded young actress Jessica Chastain, who is going to be coming at us in so many movies this year, it’s unbelievable. She’s going to have a very, very BIG screen career. And “The Tree of Life” for all it’s flaws, launches her into the cinematic stratosphere here. At one point, Malick even has her flying through the air, as the embodiment of motherly beauty. And that moment was charming.

But again ,like Penn, she has virtually no dialogue whatsoever, and that she registers at all playing the essence of young feminine beauty and motherly love, in what is basically a silent film debut is very, very impressive.

I saw much of Jessica’s work at Julliard when she was an undergrad there, and I must say I predicted all this would happen to her. She’s dazzling. Amazing. A great young, scintillatingly beautiful actress, with a tremendous range. She can play anything. Classic or modern and she here is made to make one reminiscent of Cate Blanchett, who also had a nearly wordless role opposite Brad Pitt as his wounded-by-a-sniper wife in “Babel.”

Which reminds me of how really, really good Pitt was in that film as a distraught husband. He’s really, really fine here, too, as again, the nearly wordless father. Though he does have MOST of the dialogue of the film, what little there is of it.

I would say a nomination probably, and with a smart Oscar distributor like Fox Searchlight is known to be, behind this monumentally difficult of a sell, he just may score another Best Actor nod. And yes, it’s been selling out. The house, despite the walk-outs was packed.

But it’s an uphill battle with this part of the tough, disciplinarian Dad to get Pitt to the podium for the win. But if anybody can do it, Fox Searchlight can.

The film, if you keep paying attention, and cutting it monumental slack, which I’m actually doing here, is about letting go of your own past. In this case, I THINK it was the guilt the grown Penn feels towards his difficult relationship with his dad, Brad Pitt, and also the death of his younger brother.

Or I THINK it was the younger brother who dies. The sullen main child was meant to be the kid version of Penn. But many audience members weren’t sure. The recalcitrant child is played very well . I think he may actually have the most lines in the film, after Pitt. We see most of this film from his sullen, angry eyes. But many in the audience were confused. And WHAT will the Academy make of this confounding film, with no clear plot line?

All this happens to this typical Waco, Texas WASP church-going middle class family. And the recalcitrant child spends the rest of his life coming to terms with it as he turns into Sean Penn. Right? Or maybe I’m not right. It’s genuinely confounding.

Or something like that.

The cinematography, especially of all of the planets and the protozoa and the lava and whatever else it was we were witnessing at the LONNNNNG, slow, agonizing start of this film, is indeed breathtaking. And the images, hold you, even though it’s very difficult to puzzle out just what the truly frustrating iconic director Terence Malick is up to. And the answer is, well, EVERYTHING. He’s trying to get everything that ever happened in the entire history of the universe into this one film. No wonder it’s running time is over two and a half hours!

It’s Malick, being Malick, so I knew there would be a lot of photographs of leaves and esp. leaves of grass and there are. But it’s a shame that Fox Searchlight or whomever didn’t reign in Malick’s incredibly self-indulgent impulses. It’s very long, arduous experience. It’s work. Not fun. And certainly not entertainment, but Malick probably never intended it to be anything else but portentous. I was going to say PREtentious. But it is that, too. IN SPADES.

But there is a moment in the end where things are getting wrapped up that the film does redeem itself. But by then, as good as he is Brad Pitt may have lost his Oscar.

It’s a restrained, understated, subtle performance and I liked it. But Oscar doesn’t do subtle…usually…

It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. But here, most people were heading for the door.

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