a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

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My SAG 2018 Predictions

After much consideration, and I’m trying to be as simple as I can be, I think the key to this year’s SAG Awards predictions is as plain as the nose on my face. Or as plain as the nose on anyone’s face in Ebbing,Missouri. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is going to sweep and win all four of the categories it’s nominated for. The overwhelming performance of an angry, but not tear-stained, grieving mother Mildred will win Frances McDormand her second SAG award. The fierceness of her unforgiving fury will translate into universal acclaim  as she has already received., at 60, the Golden Globe for Best Actress Drama and the same at the Critics’ Choice Awards.And her co-star Sam Rockwell, as the confused small-town policeman, Deputy Dixon, who tries to help her solve the  seemingly unsolvable mystery of her daughter’s violent rape and death, will precede McDormand to the podium and win Best Supporting Actor. Both of them bumping into each other on their way to the Oscars.

And two of the a-fore-seen winners of the other two awards,  Gary Oldman as the definitive Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour” (Best Actor) and Allison Janney as Tonya Harding’s frightening mother in the surging “I, Tonya.” (Best Supporting Actress), both will win again.

The SAGS only give out few awards to film. Mostly, it’s television that is being awarded. And usually at the start of the show BANG! They announce one of the two  Supporting Awards. So tune in on time at 8pm tomorrow night at TNT and TBS (Check your local listings.) Or you might miss Sam winning! Hopefully, I’ll survive the suspense until Sunday night when once again, I will be live-blogging.

Their fourth nomination being the supposedly predictive Best Ensemble award. That’s the only one of “Three Billboards” four nominations that I’m a little bit shaky about. But I think it’s their night. They might not win the Oscar, but they’ll win this. It’s an actor’s actor movie. And the SAGs, lest me forget, are actors voting on actors. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing” is co–starring some of the greatest actors of our time. Woody Harrleson, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges are among the long list of its’ sterling ensemble.

“The Shape of Water” can’t win because it wasn’t nominated.

It could easily go to one of the other films. I would automatically say “Lady Bird,” but that got shut out surprisingly at the Critics last week! What? What? But I’ll put my pen down for the night, and just wish all of them good luck on Sunday!

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“I, Tonya” Margot Robbie & Allison Janney Are Wonderful. The Film is a Crock

“I, Tonya” is Australian actress Margot Robbie’s attempt at going for the gold, and trying to win an Oscar. She may have succeeded in getting herself a nomination the week after this on January 23. But who she’s more seriously pulled into Awards contention and the quite possibly the win, is her co-star Allison Janney, everyone’s favorite go-to actress, as her hateful mother LaVona.

And Janney has just astoundingly won TWO major awards, the Golden Globe and also the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress for her horrifying turn as the Wicked Witch of the Ice Rink with a parakeet on her shoulder.

Up until this past week, Laurie Metcalf had been predicted to be winning those awards, and suddenly the Golden Globes just turned this particular race, Best Supporting Actress upside-down. Just as Sam Rockwell did with Best Supporting Actor.

I found “I, Tonya” such a distasteful croc of lies, that I’ll concentrate on Ms. Janney’s chances, shall I?

Remembering all too vividly the events this loathsome episode that will forever cloud the history of figure skating, I just was not ready to listen to Tonya Harding’s side of the story. She had some foul person attack champion Nancy Kerrigan by hitting her in the shin with a mettle rod, thus effectively side-lining her and allowing the rabbity Harding to shine abd get onto the Olympic ice skating team. It was a horrifying incident and you just hated Harding for it.

Well, there’s more to the story, as it turns out. Or sort of turns out. If Harding is to be believed, which I for one, can’t. Seems that her husband/ ex-husband/ boyfriend/ whatever executed this hateful scheme .Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gilhooley is wonderfully scummy, but I didn’t believe a word out of his mouth. Both he and Robbie play the untruths they have to spout believably, which must be considered a great feat of acting on both their parts. But Robbie will be the one who wins  a nomination for producing this nauseating sea of lies. Which brings me to Allison Janney and why she keeps winning Best Supporting Actress Awards this season.

She’s got her own TV series, which she stars in every week on CBS, “Mom”. She won many, many Emmys for her yeoman multi-season run on “West Wing.” And so she is extremely familiar to viewers, and voters, who know she is NOTHING like LaVona , the very worst mother ever seen depicted as a character, reel or unreal on screen.

Laurie Metcalf’s compassionate, though beleaguered Mom on “Lady Bird” is VERY believable. She does not physically abuse her wayward daughter. But Lavona constantly smacks Tonya around and even throws a knife at her, which penetrates Tonya’s upper arm. So LoVona’ s bad behavior, makes “I, Tonya” believable and sympathetic, but only somewhat. This is a sports movie about child abuse. It’s going to seem very timely with the winter Olympics coming up.

Janney’s physical transformation is key here. She uglies up to the nth degree, and many think that’s acting, but  I don’t. However, Janney is so skilled an actress, you buy it. She’s also a comic, though horrible, relief from the incessant whining and bitch-slapping of her irritating daughter.

And I think voters are going to feel that Janney is the one to vote for, and surprisingly they say “I, Tonya” is surging right now. She’s a comfortable way in. It’s clearly a performance of someone we don’t like, by someone we do like.

And there is ONE scene in a diner, where else? Where LaVona tries to plead HER case as a mother to her destructive daughter, who hates her. And still does to this day. Janney as LaVona says that she went out and worked and gave everything to her daughter. “I didn’t stay home as bake brown betties all day.” Janney had me at that moment. And clearly she had the voters , too. So far.

My Year’s Ten Best 2017!

1. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME ~ One of the Best Films Ever Made. Period. The Gay Movie, we, as gays, have been waiting for all our lives. Timothee Chalamet has won BOTH the New York Film Critics and the L.A. Film Critics Best Actor awards. Armie Hammer is his magnificent love interest and co-star.

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2. WONDER WHEEL ~ Woody Allen’s latest and Kate Winslet’s tear-stained performance is one of her best.

3. THE SHAPE OF WATER ~ Guillermo Del Toro’s Best Film. Sally Hawkins amazing as a Spanish Deaf Mute Janitress who falls in love with something akin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But it isn’t ridiculous. It’s beautiful and moving beyond words. She won Best Actress from the L.A. Film Critics. This film will make you cry.

4. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI– Irish Playwright Martin McDonagh’s magnificent morphing into a great American crime filmmaker. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell burn up the screen, literally. This film will make you angry. For all the right reasons.

5.  THE FLORIDA PROJECT ~Unbelievably, an epic film set in the make-shift budget motels across from  DisneyWorld, which was first called “The Florida Project,” as it was being built. Willem Dafoe is the sympathetic, sad sack motel manager and six year old mischief maker Brooklynn Prince rock each other’s and our world. Public access legend Sandy Kane makes a cameo appearance. She told me, “If you blink, you’ll miss me. It’s Tats over tits.”

6.ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD ~ Director Ridley Scott is back Big Time, as he directs Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer in a tense, spine-tingling thriller about the ’70s kidnapping of J. Paul Getty’s grandson, who, yes, gets his ear cut off and sent to his mother (Williams.) But you can’t turn away.

7.LADY BIRD ~ Genius Greta Gerwig channels her boring, restless teenage years in  middle-class Sacramento into a box office bonanza that Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe as her befuddled, well-meaning mother from Hell, make herstory and could all win Oscars. Best Film of the Year from the New York Film Critics. Will it win the Oscar, too, for Best Picture? It might.

9. DUNKIRK ~ Christopher Nolan’s truly epic epic that makes all WWII war movies look like tiddly winks and utitlizes Oscar Winners  Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and a cast of 100os to re-vitalize history in a seat-of-your-pants thriller diller. And rock star Harry Styles is in it, too. And he’s good!

10.  FROM THE LAND OF THE MOON ~ Marion Cotillard’s mesmeric performance once again lights up the skies in this unusual French love story.

“Three Billboards…” Superlative, explosive, knockout, lots of Nominations, but Sam Rockwell may be its only winner.



“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” is one of the best films of this rich year. For once, the awards hype is justified. It’s a thrill ride through the unimaginable violence that plagues the small town of Ebbing, Missouri after a young girl is raped, as she is murdered, then set on fire. “Three Billboards…” is going to set the Awards season on fire, too. It will get many,many nominations.

Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are giving the performances of their careers, but I feel it’s Rockwell who’s going to carry home the gold. He’s been put in the category of Best Supporting Actor, though he’s arguably the co-lead. And he’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a SAG award. As has Frances, as has McDonagh.

I’ve been following Sam’s career since he was an Off Broadway actor, and he’s certainly a veteran now and has a role that is thrilling in its range and demands. As a small town cop, he has to be funny. He has to be a bit of a stooge and a stumblebum. And when the film turns dark, he has to go there, too,Oscar Winner Frances McDormand ( For “Fargo”) deserves the accolades that have been accruing to her powerful Mildred Hayes, the mother of the murdered girl. In a totally vanity-free performance, she dominates the screen so powerfully that you’ll never forget that clenched teeth, firmly set jaw, that uncompromised stare as she tries to find out who killed her teenaged daughter.

She astonishes in this film as a woman who can’t smile. She puts up these three billboards in a part of town where her daughter was killed accusing the police of doing nothing to find her the killer. And grief is making her look like a death’s head herself.Everyone in this town seems cut from the cloth of the Confederacy to put it mildly. And any of them could have done it. Especially a member of the Police Force.

Woody Harrelson is once again on hand to provide a firm grounding in ominous white cracker-dom at the outset. His battle with terminal cancer forms the second plot line that I won’t spoil here. But he’s great, too. Both he and his co-hort Rockwell, are both headed to the Oscars, and so is McDormand.But I wonder if the totally de-glammed McDormand is going to be any match for the younger and more comely superstars like Soirse Ronan. Sally Jenkins of “The Shape of Water” is more sympathetic and she’s mute. So Frances has some fierce competition in that category. She’s uncompromising. She’s great. But she has an Oscar already and Saoirse and Sally and even Michelle Williams or Annette Bening are all Oscar free…so far…Three Bill Boards 10

But ah! There is that Oscar golden moment for Frances when she encounters a free-ranging doe when she is tending a flowerbox she has placed near her dead daughter’s billboards. The look they share, eye to eye, female to female animal, is one of the few moments we see Mildred smile in this corrosive movie, you will NOT be able to stop thinking about.

Also the thrilling depths and layers that McDonagh has given Rockwell to play. He starts out as a crispy-crème, donut-chomping bigot. But he CHANGES. I can’t say how, but in the creation of Dixon, a co-lead to McDormand’s angry Mildred, he matches her beat for beat in VERY unexpected and powerful ways. He lives at home with his mother, who is always drunk. The Dear Readers of this blog can infer more…But what a complicated, stupendous role he’s written for Rockwell, who has never had a part this good since he debuted to much acclaim in “Box of Moonlight” in 1996. Unbelievably this prince of American actors has never even been nominated for an Oscar. Yet.

Even writer-director Martin McDonagh has an Oscar for a short he did. He’s certainly going to get a double nomination for both directing and original screenplay, and he’s going to up against Girl-Of-the-Hour Greta Gerwig in both categories for “Lady Bird.”

It’s going to be a very suspenseful Oscar night indeed. But I feel “Three Billboards” is such an IMPORTANT film, that they are going to give it Something Big, and that Something may very well be Sam Rockwell. as the irascible, temperamental, complicated drunk of a cop. That’s just him in the FIRST half of “Three Billboards…” The twists are UNBELIEVABLE, and it’s Sam’s character who gets to play all that juicy jazz as the plot and his character’s place in it unravel. He’s all but unbeatable. What a range McDonagh has allowed him to show!

The ubiquitous and wonderful Lucas Hedges, Oscar nominee of “Manchester by the Sea” is here, too, as McDormand’s bewildered, but compassionate son. In a moment of peak at the breakfast table, she lobs Fruit Loops at him.

He’s in “Lady Bird,” too as Saoirse Ronan’s high school boyfriend. And Peter Dinklage perks up the last third of the film as the town’s only human, a small person who is not small inside,   a midget, who befriends and helps McDormand in her fight against the lacksadaisical,  if  not downright indifferent, police “force.”

 

Their dinner date is a superb piece of comic timing. Yes,”Three Billboards” is darkly funny, too. This tragic tale of loss and corruption has an excellent sense of humor, too. In fact, it made me feel like I was watching a new Coen Brothers movie. The resemblance to their black humor and influence is definitely wonderfully there.

Irish playwright par excellence McDonagh, has fully made the unbelievable transition to American crime filmmaker. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” thrilled me to my core with its wit, drama and intense originality.

Greta Gerwig is a genius! Her first film “Lady Bird” Is Brilliant! Will be nominated for many Oscars!

Greta Gerwig is a genius! There are no ifs and or buts about it, she just IS! Her new film “Lady Bird” is so brilliant, you can’t believe it. And she wrote it and directed it, too! Superbly! We’ve all known her as an actress. She emerged in her early 20s to become the Queen of Mumblecore. But she’s the Queen of Mumblecore no more! In her 2O’s, she seemed to be in every single Indie film that was happening during “The Mumblecore Period”. I never thought she was mumbling. Her light as a quirkily original young actress, always outshone most of her films. One notable exception was Whit Stillman’s witty,wicked take on college sororities,”Damsels in Distress.” Stillman and Gerwig seemed a perfect match. Later she began to turn up in more adult roles, like Mike Mills’ “20th Century Woman” and last year’s “Jackie.”

Indeed her style and wit seems the most similar to Stillman’s fizzy blend of champagne and real pain.

“Lady Bird”s big shocker and also its redemption is that is based in HIGH SCHOOL! Yes, it’s a coming of age story. That old trope which seems as ancient as time immemorial. A young teenage age girl struggles to find herself and to come to terms with her harassed embarrassment of a nagging mother. How cliché is that? But in Gerwig’s amazing young hands she turns this time-worn epic into something quite wonderful and new. In that alone, it’s amazing. It transcends genre, time and place.

She seems to have invented teen-ager-dum, or rather re-invented it. Set in the mid-1980s, we see Lady Bird fighting with her frazzled Mom. Sairose Ronan plays Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf her Mom, and BOTH are going to the Oscars this year  with a ton of other nominations. Including, yes, Gerwig herself, breaking in to the male-only best directing category as well for sure the Best Original Screenplay category.And young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who plays Lady Bird so convincingly at the same time, she seems to be channeling Gerwig herself. As is we’re seeing a halo-gram projection of Gerwig’s inner life. As she desperately tries to escape her ho-hum life in Sacramento “the mid-west of California” and go to a college in the East where it seems everything is “more exciting in a place like, y’know, Connecticut.’

In the first amazing scene in the film, we see her fighting with her mother about this who is adamant that she go to a Community College in Sacramento. Lady Bird screams and jumps out of the moving vehicle. And that’s just the first scene of the movie!

We’re with Lady Bird every step of the way, as she continues her fight in every aspect of her life in Sacramento. Especially the hide-bound Catholic school she attends where all the students have to wear the traditional uniform of the blue  plaid skirt and ugly, flat-chested navy blue jumper.

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How did Gerwig pull off this amazing double hat trick of writing & directing a major motion picture? At the press conference at the NYFF last month, she told a room of spell-bound press (pictured above ^) that being ”a film director is what I always wanted to be” And that as a much-employed actress, she was always studying just how all the great directors she was working with were doing it. An apt student, very much like Lady Bird herself, she clearly didn’t miss a trick.

And it has to be said that young(21) Saiorse Ronan is something of a genius herself. She plays the title role so that you love her AND hate her. She’s died her hair nearly every color of the rainbow, but it’s not becoming.

Lady Bird 11And she’s the first potential Best Actress nominee that has every played the leading role in a film with a full face of realistic teenaged acne. Ronan at her early age has been nominated TWICE already. For Best Actress just last year in “Brooklyn,” and for playing the villainous child Bryony Tallis in “Atonement.” And she’s really quite a good-looking young lady. Ingenue! Oscar can’t resist that word. Ingenue! She might be the one that takes the Oscar home this year. AND she’s Irish playing a convincing Californian….

And now that the film “Lady Bird” itself is such a success on every level, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of Gerwig herself in front of the camera. She’s going to continue on with writing and directing and I hope she never stops! Her talent seems unfathomable and endless. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Luminous, Lucent, Transcendant Kate Winslet Could Win Her 2nd Oscar for “Wonder Wheel”

Wonder Wheel 3

Lustrous, luminous, transcendent Kate Winslet is the wonder of Woody Allen’s new “Wonder Wheel.”
Is there any American filmmaker alive today who writes  such great roles for women? No. There simply isn’t. And as photographed by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Kate Winslet seems to be a cinematic miracle of color and light, majesty and emotion,

You simply can’t take your eyes off her. Storaro and Allen have combined to give her a cinematic beauty that makes you gasp, in a multi-faceted role that makes you applaud. She is playing Ginny, a Brooklyn waitress, who works in a Coney Island Clam House. I have known SOOOO many Ginnys in my lifetime, and British though she is, Winslet absolutely nails her Ginny to the Coney Island boardwalk. And it’s  stirring performance in the grand tradition. She’s every woman. And every woman I’ve known, from Brooklyn, trying to make a better life for herself and her family. And trying to find love at the same time, having given up her dreams of being an actress earlier in her life.

Winslet’s Ginny seems the simplest of creatures.. But Allen’s writing and her bravura performance proves that every woman is as complex as a whirlwind. Or a rollercoaster. Or a Wonder Wheel at  Coney Island, to use this film’s great metaphor. Winslet has never seemed so bedeviled and so bewitching at the same time. She’s a housewife in waitress’ outfit that she wears like a queen, as she goes about her frantic daily work of cooking and cleaning for the whole of Brooklyn it seems.

Allen and Storaro capture the ordinary woman’s extraordinariness. She is married to a lout (James Belushi) and having a torrid affair with Justin Timberlake, the local lifeguard. Timberlake’s string-bean-ness seems out of place as a life guard, but he, too, has movie star charisma in buckets instead of muscles, that make all the women in the film falling for him make sense.Justin Timberlake Wonder Wheel He and Belushi have both never been better.Kate Winslet 1

She is playing Ginny, a common-as-they-come Brooklyn waitress, who is as uncommon, as she is earth-bound. Winslet’s a fiery red-head this time. And in Storaro’s use of orange and amber light, she seems so on fire, she is burning up the screen. It is no surprise then that her red-headed son is an arsonist, setting  a fire every time he’s left alone. The fires remind him of his mother.

And Juno Temple is Belushi’s neglected daughter, who turns up as a “Marked” woman, being chased by the mob, because she married a gansta, and became a “canary” who sang on her husband, making her a woman on the run for her life. She hides  out in Winslet’s and Belushi’s  humble household underneath the ever-present Wonder Wheel. Young, blonde Temple has the role of her career here, too, and is doomed from the first seconds we see her taking her first tentative steps under the Wonder Wheel.

In a simple car ride in a romantic rain storm with Timberlake, she becomes, as he says “as beautiful as the rain light.”Storaro has lit her in golds and blues to emphasize her beauty as well as her melancholy. She, too, is magnificent in this film.

Storaro  and set designer Santo Loquasto make more magic by making Coney Island in the ’50s look like the Riviera.

Winslet’s performance is so heart-breaking and towering it immediately recalls the great screen performances of screen queens past. Joan Crawford in particular. The shop girl who was not a shop girl.  The waitress who was not a waitress. And reminds you that not since the ’40s have actresses consistently seen parts like this. Winslet’s Ginny is the  working class version of Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine in Allen’s recent Oscar winner “Blue Jasmine.” “Wonder Wheel” is his best film since “Midnight in Paris” and is now one of my favorite Woody Allen movies. It’s right up there with the best. It reminds me why I love Brooklyn. And New York City.

“Wonder Wheel” is a movie movie about romance and melodrama and great actresses playing great roles. And it ends this year’s superlative NYFF with a BANG!

“La La Land” Wins Both Music Awards, “Manchester” wins Best Original Screenplay

city-of-stars“La La Land” wins two more making four so far. Best Song “City of Stars” and Best Score. And now Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are presenting Best Original Screenplay. I hope it’s “Manchester by the Sea”!

And It is!!!!!

casey-lucasTHRILLING!!!!

And “Moonlight” wins Best Adapted Screenplay.  Lots of Applause. A very popular choice. And it’s a Gay Movie. Who woulda thunk it?

It’s won two. The same as “Hacksaw Ridge”. Now the big awards are upon us.

Halle Berry, looking younger than ever, but with an awful Afro, giving out Best Director.

Damien Chazelle, the youngest Best Director in Oscar history, just won Best Director. So that’s five so far. It’s only going to win two more, if I’m right Actress and Picture.

First time an American director has won in YEARS, believe it or not.

 

 

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