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Of Two “New” French Musicals on Bway, “Gigi” Bubbles to the Top

Gigi 1Of the two “brand new” French musicals on Broadway, “Gigi” is by far my favorite of the two. If I had to pick. And I do. This being theater awards season and all.

I just loved “Gigi” more than I did “An American in Paris”. Both opening inexplicably within days of each other on the Great White Way. And both based on the Oscar-winning movie musicals, both set in Paris, both directed by the great Vincente Minnelli, and both films starring the ever-soignee Leslie Caron.

I was utterly captivated by this “new” “Gigi” now starring the tiny little Disney starlet perky Vanessa Hudgens. I was really ready to not like what this revival of “Gigi”, one of my favorite films of all time, portended. A French “High School Musical” which is Ms. Hudgens’ prior claim to fame.

But it completely captivated me.  Why? Well, it was almost like discovering a new Lerner and Loewe musical from when they were in their prime.

“Gigi” was based originally on a novella by the great French writer Collette, which was then turned into a play(without music) starring the young and then-unknown Audrey Hepburn. It was a hit in 1951 and launched Hepburn’s career..

Then Vincente Minnelli and Lerner and Loewe decided to musicalize it  this time as a movie, and voila! It won NINE Academy Awards including Best Picture, and was an international hit movie(as was “An American in Paris” also a superb film, but more on that later.)

THEN, in a little-known side-bar to American Musical Comedy history, it was made into a Broadway musical adding in more music in the early ’70s with Alfred Drake and Agnes Moorehead and it flopped. Taking with it some wonderful songs “Paris is Paris Again”. “A Toujours”, “I Never Want to Go Home Again” and more.

Not to be heard again, until now. This current “Gigi” has got a lot of very good things just right. It’s got a je ne sais quoi adaptation  by Heidi Thomas, who has captured the great elan this souffle MUST have. She has retained all the famous numbers, but er, re-arranged them all over the place.

Giving songs that were sung by Maurice Chevalier, for instance, “Thank Heavens for Little Girls” to the non-pareil Tony Winner Victoria Clark. Clark is having ANOTHER great Broadway moment as Mamita, the role made famous in the movie by legendary British comedianne Hermione Gingold. Clark, also scores with a solo that was formerly Gigi’s, “Say a Prayer.” Her role as Gigi’s gran-mere is emphasized here and her golden soprano used to perfection. This version of “Gigi” seems to be being told from the grandmother’s very sympathetic point of view.

Of course, you really have to squint in the  delightfully dark Belle Époque settings of Derek McLane ( atmospherically lit to perfection by Natasha Katz, who also has lit “An American in Paris”!) to see that “Gigi” is the story of a young girl being raised by her grandmother and aunt to be a high-class prostitute. The Disney-i-facation is apparent here, because it’s so subtle, so INFERRED. A tween Hudgens fan, might rightly assume the Gigi’s gran-mere is overly concerned with getting Gigi a very nice apartment.

Victoria Clark is mightily aided in this dramatic re-interpretation by the delicious Dee Hoty as Gigi’s Aunt Alicia, and Clark’s sister-in-crime. In fact, they BOTH sing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” the first time we hear it. And we hear it a lot. It is to their vast credit that “Gigi” is as witty and insouciant this time around. The duo never cease to delight and surprise.

Keeping up the male end of things is the incredibly agile, incredibly young and incredibly short Gaston of Corey Cott. Ms. Hudgens, as I said, is quite tiny, too, so they seem made for each other. Playing a world-weary bon-vivant is a bit of a stretch for youngster Cott ( a 40-something Louis Jourdan played him so memorably in the movie), but Cott is just right here in joining in the joie de vivre of Mamita and Gigi as they (and then all of Paris) celebrate “The Night They Invented Champagne.”

Cott also hits a dramatic high-point, this time on a moonlit park bench, with the title song “Gigi.”

Far less successful is the unfortunate Howard McGillin, who has to fill Chevalier’s huge Gallic shoes. His & Mamita’s “Yes I Remember It Well” is sung with an umbrella in a rain shower. It was all wet. He seems to be apologizing for his performance every time he steps onstage.

But McLane’s setting, Katz’ ever-versatile lighting and Catherine Zuber’s exuberant costumes carry along youngsters Cott and Hudgens til, yes, we watch them grow up right before our eyes, as they become the stage stars they have to be to make this “Gigi” work. That’s not the original Collette’s plot, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

I love Old Fashioned Book Musicals, with characters rather than concepts,and heavenly music that bubbles you out the door, and if you do, too, “Gigi” is the new-old musical for you.

Focus Propels Meryl Streep(again!)& Carey Mulligan into Oscar Race with “Suffragette”

Meryl Suffra !Focus Features who did SOOOOO right by Eddie Redmayne in this year’s Oscar Race, winning him Best Actor for their wonderful Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything”, is certainly not letting the grass grow under their feet with their announcement BELOW of “Suffragette” starring 19-time nominee and three-time Oscar Winner Meryl Streep opposite one-time nominee Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette.”

This is IN ADDITION to it’s aiming Eddie Redmayne’s next tour-de-force-to-be “The Danish Girl” which features the young Oscar Winner as one of the world’s first transgenders, Lili Elbe. It’s aiming it right at Oscar with its’ Nov. 27 release date.Eddie Lili

So IOW Focus has got it hands full already of potential Oscar nominees. The fact “The Danish Girl” has Oscar Winner Tom Hooper directing it is another AMPAS  A-plus-plus.

Here’s what Focus had to say today. Cleary these are both important films.

FOCUS FEATURES ACQUIRES NORTH AMERICAN RIGHTS TOSUFFRAGETTE,

STARRING CAREY MULLIGAN, HELENA BONHAM CARTER AND MERYL STREEP

 

SANTA MONICA, CA, March 17th, 2015 – Focus Features has acquired North American distribution rights from Pathé to the drama Suffragette, directed by BAFTA Award winner Sarah Gavron from a script written by Emmy Award winner Abi Morgan, for a Fall 2015 domestic release. The cast of the U.K. film includes Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, BAFTA Award winner Ben Whishaw, British Independent Film Award winner Anne-Marie Duff, Golden Globe Award nominee Brendan Gleeson, and three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Focus has also acquired the distribution rights for Latin America, India, South Korea, and most of Eastern Europe including Russia; Universal Pictures International will release the film in those territories. Focus CEO Peter Schlessel made the announcement today.

 

Ruby Films’ Alison Owen, an Academy Award nominee as producer of Elizabeth, and Faye Ward are the producers of Suffragette, which is directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) from a screenplay by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady). The film’s executive producers are Cameron McCracken, Tessa Ross, Rose Garnett, Nik Bower, James Schamus, and Teresa Moneo.

 

Suffragette is a Ruby Films production for Focus Features, Pathé, Film4, and the BFI in association with Ingenious Media and with the participation of Canal+ and Cine-Cinema.

 

Suffragette is a moving drama that will empower all who are striving for equal rights in our own day and age. The stirring story, inspired by the early-20th-century campaign by the suffragettes for the right of women to vote, centers on Maud (played by Carey Mulligan), a working wife and mother who comes to realize that she must fight for her dignity both at home and in her workplace. Realizing that she is not alone, she becomes an activist alongside other brave women from all walks of life. The early efforts at resistance were passive but as the women faced increasingly aggressive police action, the suffragettes become galvanized – risking their very lives to ensure that women’s rights would be recognized and respected.

 

Peter Schlessel, CEO of Focus Features, said, “Suffragette is a story that will resonate with men and women across the generations; it is about parents and children, courage and dedication, and making hard choices. Sarah, Abi, Alison and Faye are women who represent an amazing convergence of filmmaking talent. We’re proud to partner with Pathé to bring this powerful drama to audiences worldwide.”

 

The deal was negotiated by Focus Features’ Beth Lemberger, Executive Vice President, Business Affairs, and Lia Buman, President of Acquisitions, with Cameron McCracken, Managing Director, Pathé Productions, and Muriel Sauzay, Head of Sales, Pathé International.

 

ABOUT FOCUS FEATURES

Focus Features (www.focusfeatures.com) makes, acquires, and releases movies from rising and established talent and filmmakers.

 

In addition to Suffragette, upcoming releases from Focus include Leigh Whannell’s Insidious: Chapter 3, the newest chapter in the terrifying horror series; Tarsem Singh’s Self/less, starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley; Sinister 2, directed by Ciaran Foy; London Has Fallen, the sequel to the worldwide smash hitOlympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler and directed by Babak Najafi; Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Einar and Gerda Wegener (Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander); Kubo and the Two Strings, the new family event movie from animation studio LAIKA, directed by Travis Knight with a voice cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Brenda Vaccaro, and Art Parkinson; Stephen Hopkins’ Race, starring Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis, and Stephan James as the legendary athletic superstar Jesse Owens; and Juan Antonio Bayona’s visually spectacular drama A Monster Calls, starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, and Liam Neeson.

 

Focus Features is part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

 

ABOUT PATHÉ

Pathé operates as a fully integrated studio and has a presence in France, the UK, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It is involved in all aspects of filmmaking, from development and production through to international sales, distribution, and exhibition.

 

 

Gay Filmmaker Richard Glatzer Passes at 63 from ALS

The great filmmaker Richard Glatzer has passed from the crippling disease ALS. He was 63. He and his partner Wash Westmoreland, who does most of the talking in this interview, was by his side for the past 20 years.

This interview takes place on the steps of the Courthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, where their break-through film “Quincenara” was the Opening Night sensation in the summer of 2005.

As in most small festivals, you end up hanging out with the friendliest face and that for sure was Richard.

Unbelievably, he developed ALS, the same disease that struck Stephen Hawking, and that Eddie Redmayne just won an Oscar for portraying a few weeks back. And even more poignantly, neither Richard nor Wash could attend the Oscars, seeing Julianne Moore win for their film “Still Alice.”

Moore had been saying that Richard was effected also by early on-set Alzheimer’s, which was what the movie was about, but in her final Oscar acceptance speech, she admitted, at last, it was ALS. And unlike Stephen Hawking who is still alive and vital today in his ’70s, Richard’s disease progressed extremely rapidly.

He was a talented, genial spirit, a fellow native New Yorker. It’s a great loss to the independent film community, to the gay community and to the world.

R.I.P. Richard.

Eddie Redmayne as Transgender Lili Elbe

Eddie LiliThe first photo of Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne as Danish transexual Lili Elbe. The long in development film titled “The Danish Girl” is now in production and shooting in London. The hot, new, Best Actor Winner under the direction of the great Tom Hooper,also an Oscar Winner, may now be heading BACK to the Dolby again as the film is going to be finished and released by the end of this calendar year in time for consideration for Oscars 2016

I gasped when I saw this! Stunning!My heart skipped a beat!

And people have won back-to-back Oscars. Tom Hanks in “Forest Gump” and “Philadelphia”, anyone? And Hanks’s win is another example of a straight actor playing a GLBT character, AND WINNING!

This picture shows Redheads can be devastatingly beautiful/handsome, too! I am starting Eddie for Oscar 2016! The campaign starts NOW!

My hair was/is/has been that color sometimes.

Oscar Whisperings

Oscars 2Sometimes I hear things, Oscar-wise I mean. And I try to talk to as many members of the Academy that will speak to me about this.

So here’s the skinny. Whether I wanted to hear it or not. “Boyhood,” a film I frankly didn’t like, is WAAAAAAAAAAY out in front. So this is as an objective opinion as you’re gonna hear on this blog. I hoped this wouldn’t be true, wouldn’t be the case. But it seems it is. Despite IFC(the distributor)’s notorious lack of experience in landing an Oscar winner, “Boyhood”, like the film itself is out- lasting everything else so far.

And another funny thing. Patricia Arquette’s performance as the mother of the boy in question is the one female acting performance that is being discussed. She STILL could end up in the Best Actress category, not Supporting, if the Academy voters write her name down in that, the leading spot.

But it’s early days still.”Still Alice” and others have yet to hit the Academy’s radar, which always gets things LAST.The Academy has its’ own screenings for these films, remember.

“The Theory of Everything”, “Imitation Game”, and many many others have not really landed, as they say, yet.Same can be said of “Foxcatcher” and certainly, the other later entries still to come.Including the Big Musical “Into the Woods.”

And reviews count for a lot. And box-office for even more. If a film that is open and out in the world already isn’t really doing all that well, like for instance, “Whiplash”, it hurts its’ Oscar chances. Which in the Supporting Actor category, is its’ J.K.Simmons. All the acclaim means a nomination but not necessarily a win. More likely so far, as I’ve already noted is Edward Norton’s flamboyant turn in “Birdman,” but what happens if it, too, disappoints or flops, as it goes wide?

But I’m betting it doesn’t go wide til after the nominations are announced, which is January…

However, they WANT to give Michael Keaton an Oscar, no matter how many reservations this quirky film has with voters.It’s very negatory of big blockbuster films and LURVS the theater and New York, New York. Hwood isn’t a theater town.IT’s where they MAKE block-buster, comic-book hero films. Those people could be insulted or maybe not. They may think “Birdman” is dead on.

However, it’s insular quirkiness could lead to box-office falling off(A friend reported seeing it in a theater that only contained 12 audience members)could let Eddie Redmayne take the prize. He’s constantly being compared to Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot” and look what happened with that small British film!

“Instellar” has gotten trashed by the very critics whose support it needed stateside, but in the U.K. they loved it. But the U.K. isn’t where most Academy voters live. It’s here. And particularly in Los Angeles.

“American Hustle” by David O. Russel~Hustle & Bustle without much Muscle

As Shakespeare said, “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” That about sums up my reaction to the late-opening “American Hustle” by  David O. Russell, which hustles and bustles without much muscle. It’s ANOTHER Mob movie. ANOTHER one that is trying to out-Scorsese Scorsese, and THANK GOD they’ve got Jennifer Lawrence in this!

In a spectacularly showy Supporting role as one of the dumbest blondes of all time, she absolutely steals the picture. THANK GOODNESS! Or otherwise it would be a very dull sit indeed. It would have been unwatchable, but Jennifer Lawrence makes it a very, funny charming experience. She very much reminded me of that other great dumb blonde Oscar winner Judy Holliday in this.

Lawrence is so appealing as Christian Bale‘s old-fashioned housewife- with-a-kid, who is obsessed with her finger-nail polish. She lights up the screen like a bonfire, never missing one laugh line, or funny moment, and every time she’s absent, you can’t wait for her to come back on again. And writer/director O.Russell uses her sparingly, so you never get tired of her. But you do get tired of the other characters, I’m sorry to say. Real tired.

Having just suffered through “Out of the Furnace” with Bale again in the lead, I was expecting the worst. But at least in this one, he was playing a comic character, a Jewish con-man with pretensions. He owns dry cleaning stores but he wants to own the world. And Lawrence is his trophy wife, who blows up microwaves and enacts her comic role like a poodle in heat.

I didn’t buy Bale’s Yiddish-ness. And he’s pitted against Bradley Cooper who has his hair tightly curled here. Why? To look more Jewish? And  he is seen in curlers A LOT, as are all the leading characters, as a matter of fact, except Bale, who has an elaborate comb-over and who put on quite a bit of  weight of this role. We see a close-up of his bulging stomach, shirtless, just to prove that yes, he’s not in a fat suit. We see him painstakingly creating his comb-over, which takes up the entire first scene of the movie, finishing it off with hair-spray, like he was a super-model…

But to what avail? Con man movies. Mob movies. I just am kind sick of that done-to-death genre, and this involves ABSCAM and a faux-Arab. A FBI plant played stoically by Michael Pena. Robert De Niro pops up, too, as what else? A Mafia chieftain. And Amy Adams, poor thing, who has the female lead, Bale’s con partner and “whore” except next to Jennifer Lawrence, who is just blooming with youth(22) and vital sexuality here, Adams looks old and cold. Worn out. And she should look and seem more alluring than Lawrence. And she doesn’t. She the most miscast she’s ever been. I kept seeing her as the young nun in “Doubt” in my mind.

Mothers or nuns or even intrepid girl reporters like Lois Lane. She was better in the recent  “Superman” re-boot, than she is in this. Sad to say. She deserved better.

But this is what O.Russell hands her.

And I can’t understand the New York Film Critics giving this Best Picture over “12 Years a Slave” It’s criminal. Yes, they did. Unbelievably,. It’s a funny little movie. But Best Picture? New York Film Critics seriously disgraced themselves this year. And Best Screenplay, too??? Seriously??? They gave Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Lawrence, and I would nominate her for an Oscar, were I voting, but I wouldn’t nominate this semi-funny movie for anything else. Except maybe the zippy ’70s hairstyles. You can skip it and live.

Give me the real thing. Give me Scorsese. Or better yet, “Born Yesterday” with Lawrence as Billie Dawn. Directed by Scorsese.

I can’t wait to see the last opening film of the year “Wolf of Wall Street” by Martin Scorsese.

Oscar’s Thanksgiving Wishes for Michelle’s Marilyn Pour In!

A Happy, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my dear readers, dear cineastes! And on this Thanksgiving Day I have one great big movie movie to be Thankful for, which is, you guessed it, you who have been reading this humble blog since Day One, it’s Michelle Williams and all the rest of the wonderful cast in the Best Film of the Year, “My Week with Marilyn.”

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has compiled a list of wonderful rave reviews from the likes of Rex Reed to David Denby of the “New Yorker” to Roger Ebert. You can read them all at www.awardsdaily.com

Add to them Stephanie Zacharek at www.movieline.com as well as Oscar, the Grouch Jeff Wells at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com and yes, by George it’s a consensus! Jeff saved his review until today. Wild. But I’m happy it’s at last there.

Only it’s not a race between Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady” and Michelle’s Marilyn.

I don’t think Meryl stands a ghost of a chance with the Academy. She will no doubt get a 17th Oscar nomination, which is PHENOMENAL, record-breaking and an award in itself. I don’t think the Academy will ever give her a third Oscar. She already has two.

And yes, they were earned at the beginning of her career a LONNNNNG time ago. And I really doubt that her Margaret Thatcher turn(I haven’t seen it yet. But soon, I hope) will melt the Academy’s icy heart.

Why? Well, she’s got, well, too much. She’s rich. She’s happily married for over 20 years or more actually. She has four happy and healthy children, two of them, Mamie and Grace are also actresses, and her son Hank is a musician.

No discernible tragedy in her life. Just success, success, success and more money.

Oscar? Well, lately his eye has been on the young’uns in the Best Actress category. Last year’s match between Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” and Annette Bening in “The Kid’s Are All Right” I think is going to be indicative of what happens again this year. The young, cute, NAKED girl wins! And Michelle is pretty nude, pretty often in “Marilyn.” It’s a very sexy performance.

One that turns on every male who sees it and many of the women, too. Like Zacharek and also Claudia Puig in USA Today. And on and on…Not however Manola Dargis in the NYTimes…

If the Nominees turn out to be Meryl, Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”, Williams, Tilda Swinton(or Charlize Theron) both of whom have Oscars already, and Viola Davis….I see only Viola Davis as perhaps Williams’ competition. For “The Help”.

But with stellar, glittering reviews like Michelle is getting most of the time…I don’t think she can be beat.

Harvey Weinstein HIMSELF is even doing a Satellite Interview Tour – ON BEHALF OF “MARILYN”. This is unprecedented! And I’m guessing he’s going the whole nine yards on behalf of this beautiful, sexy, lovely, funny, moving movie movie because he thinks it has a shot at a Best Picture nomination, too. As well as the obvious nominations of Michelle and Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier.

And I think he’s right.

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