a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Paul Giamatti’

I See “12 Years A Slave” for the 2nd Time! Still spellbound!

Seeing “12 Years a Slave” for the second time was quite an intense experience. It really held up. And seeing it with a paying New York  inter-racial audience was very interesting. They were spellbound to put it mildly and so was I.

It was very interesting that the audience was so mixed, which shows that it’s reaching different demographics. Which is great.  And people did gasp at some of the most horrific scenes. And they applauded wildly when for one brief intense moment Solomon Northrup breaks out of his slave role and beats the living daylights out of the horrid white overseer played by Paul Dano.

Dano is really excelling in these creepazoid, slimy roles this year, having also just been seen in “Prisoners” as a pervy offender. He’s truly hateful in “12 Years a Slave”, one of the worst characters in it.

I was so overwhelmed by Chiwetel Ejiafor as Solomon Northup, the title character, and also by Michael Fassbender’s tremendous turn as Master Epps, Solomon’s final owner, that I didn’t mention how terrific Paul Giamatti is as another noxious slave dealer who sells Solomon, who he re-names “Platt” to his first owner in the movie, the benevolent(but not so) Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is also the scene where the naked slaves are  casually displayed like livestock in Giamatti’s home. Giamatti, whom we all know as usually a genial boob, here is completely hateful as the pragmatic slave dealer, who slaps Northrup across the face so hard, you, the audience, feels it, too.

He also sells Eliza, the mother (Adepero Oduye)of two young children to Cumberbatch and splits up her family, selling her son to one person and keeping her mulatto daughter for himself. It’s horrifying.

I also never mentioned how frightening Sarah Paulson is as Mistress Epps. No Scarlett O’ Hara, she,  no fragile Southern Belle. The White women in this film as all just chillingly, matter-of-factly evil,,just as bad as their husbands, if not worse.

She is insanely jealous of her husband (Fassbender)’s seeming obsession with the beautiful Patsie, the slave, who picks so much cotton, Epps calls his “Queen of the fields”. Mistress Epps violently scratches and scars Patsie (Lupito Nyong’o)’s face in one midnite scene where a restless and bored Epps awakens his drowsy slaves in the middle of the night and has them dance for him.

The love triangle between the two Epps and Patsie was clearer to me the second time around and both Michael Fassbender and Lupito Nyong’o’s performances grew in grace and stature. Fassbender underplays Epps for most the film I realized this time. He only raises his voice and his fists and his whip when he is truly angry. And he does obsess in a very sick S&M way over Patsie. And yes, he does violently and repeatedly rape her, too.

Patsie seeks comfort and support from Mistress Shaw, a former slave who married her white plantation owner, and now is the mistress of her own domain, and has her own slaves as servants, at a very charming tea party. You also see Patsie looking at her as a role model. Could it be in the back of her mind that she might supplant Mistress Epps? Alfre Woodard is a treat in his too small role.

So much horror is piled upon horror in the masterful film directed by Steve McQueen, that the first time you see it you are so swamped by the constant brutality, the smaller incidents just get blurred into one stupefying whole. Images like Solomon screaming “help!” from his basement jail, as the camera objectively pans up to a tranquil matte shot of Washington, D.C. in 1854.One notes that the capitol dome was still under construction then. And nobody hears Solomon scream.

And when an unrecognizable Brad Pitt turns up as the scraggly bearded, white Canadian house builder Samuel Bass, you cheer his arrival. An incipient Abolitionist, he’s the cavalry riding in a the last-minute. And yes, as the title implies, there is a happy ending. And it’s Pitt. He’s also the producer of this film, which, according to director McQueen, would never have been made without him.

It also becomes clear that Fassbender and Nyong’o are going to sail to Oscar victory in their Supporting Categories. NOBODY is going to be able to touch them. Their performances are staggering, unforgettable, as is Ejiafor’s. But his Northrup is so powerful that you really do need to see it again to get all the nuances McQueen has built into their performances and into the film. Pitt and McQueen are also Oscar-bound as producer and director of this unforgettable film.

And the audience? There was a lot of audible sobbing at the end, but then when the titles coming up, thunderous applause. And this is something you never see happening with the general paying public. But applaud they did!

I’ll say it again, it’s a masterpiece of our times that you CAN NOT miss.

Best Supporting Actress- Pre-Festivals, Pre-TIFF

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS 2012 -Pre-TIFF

This category was ceded by many, months ago, to Anne Hathaway’s heartbreaking, shattering performance in the trailer of “Les Miserables.” I have never seen a trailer to have such an impact on the Oscar Race, and so EARLY! Back in June. Or May even…And the film doesn’t come out til Christmas!

“The Dream Lives,” the trailer ends with these titles “This Christmas.” Well, I for one can hardly wait!

Why was Universal releasing this so early?

Well, it was superbly done, brilliantly edited, and plaintively sung by Hathaway. It contains the song “I Dreamed A Dream,” which is arguably one of the most famous songs from “Les Miz” that always pulls heart-strings, if it’s done right.

This is the song that made Susan Boyle an over-night sensation on “Britain’s Got Talent” a few years back. And Musical Comedys are NOT at all a sure-fire, can’t-miss genre these days. No matter how well they may be done. They released this that early to build buzz. And it has succeeded in that respect. And Anne Hathaway also scored as Catwoman in TDKR, too, this year.

Oscar Winner for Best Director for “The King’s Speech” is back again with “Les Miz” and he directs period pieces soooo well…just check out the Multi-Emmy-Award Winning TV series “John Adams.” That was one of the greatest TV series I’ve ever seen, and it could have been as dry as dust, instead it was riveting. And it won its two leads Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney Best Actor and Best Actress Emmys, too. As John and Abigail Adams respectively.

And Laura is back in the Best Actress hunt again this year. Her FOURTH nomination, if she gets one for “Hyde Park on the Hudson” which I already discussed in the previous post just below this one.

Which is to say that Hooper’s actors win awards, see Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.”

Anne Hathaway’s part in “Les Miz” is the doomed prostitute Fantine, which also won Patti LuPone an Olivier Award, when she played that part in the original London production. So it’s an awards-magnet role. And Hathaway totally aces it in the trailer’s Oscar-y moment par excellence when she, sobbing and dirty, gets all her real hair cut off.  It’s a horrifying, but award-worthy moment. The song is MUCH longer than that,too And there is much more to her role in “Les Miz” although she does die early on.  But who’s to say if they might run her as Best Actress instead of Supporting?

They might. But then again the Academy’s Actor’s Branch voters are the ones who ultimately decide which category an actress, or an actor, is going to be in. The Studios and distributors can campaign all they want…but it’s Hathaway’s peers who will decide where to put her.

The many For Your Consideration ads are run by the Studios as a means of clue-ing the Actor’s Branch especially for who goes where.  They decided for instance that Kate Winslet should be considered for Best Actress for “The Reader” when no less an Oscar personage than Harvey Weinstein was running her as Supporting for that film. Which she did eventually win a Golden Globe for. And also, for Best Actress that year for “Revolutionary Road.” Her “I got TWO!” picture with a Golden Globe in each hand, flashed around the world.

I think this instance shows that the Academy doesn’t ALWAYS do as Harvey tells them.Or suggests to them, I should say.

Opposite Hathaway, it’s looking like Harvey’s main gal this season is going to be Amy Adams for “The Master”, but evidently some already say the part is too small, only three scenes.

Will Qu’venzhane Wallis the 8 year old in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”  get run in Supporting, instead of lead, where she belongs? However, the Academy is notoriously not partial to putting child actors in the lead category. Look what they did with that girl with the braids from “True Grit.” She ended up in Supporting, though she arguably, also had the lead female role in the Coen Bros. western. What was her name anyway? I’ve completely forgotten! Hallie something? That nomination was the beginning and end of her career.

There’s also the great female Brits in the runaway smash of the Indies this year “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” It boasts THREE great performances, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. Again Dame Judi is the lead here, but again, Fox Searchlight has got her down for Supporting, where she really shouldn’t be. The Academy could put her in lead, if they so deem fit…As I said in the last post, Best Actress is once again Back Up For Grabs this year…

Fox Searchlight has its’ hands full this year! Should Judi Dench go lead? Should Qu’venszhane? Decisions! Decisions!

And then there’s Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Won’t Back Down”, another Indie. But who is lead and who is Supporting? I don’t think that film is even at Toronto. Which says something.

And though after last year’s debacle with Davis predicted to win all over the place, she lost to Meryl Streep. The Academy was again accused of racism. And it is. Although they did give the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to Octavia Spenser for the controversial “The Help.” Could they try to make it up to her with ANOTHER nomination? If they did, she would then be the first African-American actress to get the most Oscar nominations ever. A total of three.

Or is “Don’t Back Down” even Oscar worthy? We don’t know yet. But its lack of Festival presence says something, I think.

To go back to “Hyde Park on Hudson” there are two British Olivias in Supporting roles. Olivia Williams as Eleanor Rossevelt and Olivia Coleman as the Queen of England, who is visiting the Roosevelts at Hyde Park, with her husband the stuttering King Edward VII.

AND there’s the Oscar perennial Bridesmaid multiple-timed nominee, Annette Bening playing against type as a gambling-obsessed Mom of Kristen Wiig in “Imogene.”  You can never count Bening out.

But judging by the competition she’s up against, IMHO, this category is Anne Hathaway’s to lose.

George Clooney’s TWO BIG Oscar movies…

So now I’ve finally seen BOTH of George Clooney’s TWO BIG Oscar seeking movies, and it’s a lot of George to take in. I mean, it’s overwhelming. And what will the Academy think? The most important question. I wonder, I really do.

Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone always says that Frontrunner is a difficult position to be in. And that’s EXACTLY where George Clooney finds himself as a Best Actor, on the Gurus o’ Gold chart, and also the great Movieline.com Oscar Index. He’s at the top of both for
“The Descendants.” Not for “Ides of March” his other equally dark film that is out now currently playing in theaters near you, to OK. business. But not a block-buster by any means.

FINALLY getting to see it, I found myself actually liking it much better than I thought I was. Guy Lodge of Incontention (which is now been absorbed by HitFix) famously said, after seeing it in Venice at the Film Festival there, that is was “good, but not great” and that term has stuck.

BTW, before this article gets too long here are the links www.hitfix.com www.movieline.com

(for the Oscar Index) and www.moviecitynews.com for the Gurus o’ Gold.

The Gurus had the still unseen “War Horse” at #1, that is, until the poster came out, which looked somewhat like “National Velvet”. A boy and his horse love story. Which of course is what it is. But set during World War I, and still packing them in as a play on both sides of the Atlantic.

So then collectively, the Gurus went for “The Descendants” as best film last time out. And “War Horse” is now #2, but still Numero Uno on Stu Van Airsdale’s Oscar Index. (That bobble-head pic of the Horse itself, still cracks me up!)

So let’s just say “The Descendants” is the frontrunner for Best Picture and George for Best Actor.

I liked “The Descendants” it’s a very well done film about DEATH and comas AND DEATH and hospitals and DEATH. And yes, it’s depressing.

I also heard that in some quarters now that it’s being shown some people also are finding it a downer.

And George is just great in this as a beleaguered father and cuckold, as it were. His dying wife cheated on him and he only finds this out after the boating accident that puts her in a non-reversible coma. And it’s his teenage daughter, Shailene Woodley, a probable Oscar nominee herself, who tells him this.

And here I am talking about “The Descendants” all the time, and I meant this to be about “Ides of March.” I guess I liked it. But I didn’t LOVE it. Will it get a Best Picture nod? Possibly. This is the old-fashioned kind of movie about “Politics is a dirty business” which, d’oh, we already know.

It didn’t enthrall me THAT MUCH. But you do admire the Supporting Performances. George is REALLLLY good as the asshole who’s running for President. No likeability factor here. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman has what is probably the only slam dunk Oscar nomination here, in Supporting, as George campaign manager. He’s evenly matched by the wonderful Paul Giamatti, but his part is smaller and less rangey, than Hoffman’s.

Ryan Gosling, I’m sad to say, disappointed me in the leading role. He’s supposed to be this wide-eyed eager naive media consultant. And you know from the beginning he’s not. And then when he ends up where he ends up in this movie that is really HIS story, not George’s, well,  it seems like he barely went from A to B. More like A to A. A as in asshole.

Am I giving something away? He’s a brilliant actor and he was great in “Drive.” A MUCH better performance. But I don’t think he’ll get nominated for that film that’s got such an Indie vibe going for it that the Academy may just overlook.

I don’t think Ryan gets nominated any where this year. George will. But will he win? It’s the foregone conclusion. He wrote, directed and PRODUCED “Ides of March.” He’s everywhere, as I’ve noted before, but is a second Oscar within his grasp?

After finally seeing “The Ides of March”, I’m now not so sure that it is. Somebody or something may come along and knock him out of the winning spot. Most likely something we haven’t seen yet.

If “The Descendants” which is now opening the same fateful day in late November that “My Week with Marilyn”, and “The Artist” AND “Hugo” are all opening, too. Will it get lost in the shuffle?

The Globe Globs.*wretches*

I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything about the Golden Glob(e)s with Ellen Stewart’s passing so much on my mind yesterday.

I attended her closed casket wake yesterday afternoon in Greenwich Village.

And then I had the Golden Globes to cheer me up last night. NOT. It made me feel like running back to the funeral home to cheer me up.

I was just devastated that though they nominated my fave “The King’s Speech” SEVEN TIMES, the most of any other film, it only won ONE Award! And that, of course, was the great Colin Firth’s being acclaimed the Best Actor that he certainly is this year, for his unforgettable portrait of the stuttering King George VI.

Every one seemed drunker than ever before at the Globes. I’ve never seen so many celebrities so drunk. They serve the jam-packed room endlessly flowing champagne and virtually no food, except Godiva chocolates, according to Paul Giamatti,  who described the scene, when I interviewed him for his new film “Barney’s Version” last week for my TV show. www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Hold on. He’s Coming Soooon. As well as the beauteous Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver and the super studly Scott Speedman. LOVED that movie, and I’m sooo glad that Paul won Best Actor/Comedy or Musical. Colin won for Best Actor, Drama, of course. The Globes in their infinite wisdom have always divided the main three categories, Picture, Actor and Actress into Drama(five or more) and Musical or Comedy(also five or more).Doubling the number of the top nominees who they can sell table to at this big drunken bash.

So Paul won, and so did Colin. Congratulations.

And as Paul was saying to me “Everybody is pretty much hammered.”

How does this affect the Oscars? Virtually not at all in terms of getting nominations because the Academy Members had to get their nominee votes into the accountants, Price, Waterhouse, Coopers’ hot little hands by Friday, this PAST Friday afternoon. So no, the deed as far as the Academy’s nominating process is concerned, is done.

What this effects is PERCEPTION. And just how good or bad the winners’ acceptance speeches were. Colin and Paul and Natalie Portman and Annette Bening all passed with flying colors.

Christian Bale’s extended, VERY extended speech kept going even as they tried to play him off the stage and they actually had to go to a commercial to end him. NOT GOOD.

Michael Douglas’ entrance as a presenter at the end of the show got a GRAND Standing Ovation. He looked thin. Totally silver-haired, and the LOVE for that man in that room was palpable. Now THAT’s the kind of moment the Academy may very well want to duplicate in its’ Oscar ceremonies next month.

Ah! But first Michael Douglas has to get nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Wall St.2:Money Never Sleeps” in which he is reprising his most famous role as Gorden Gekko for which YES, he won his first Best Actor Oscar for the original “Wall St.”

I think the not-really-liked and too-young-to-for-the-Academy Bale may have really hurt himself by acting so out of control last night.

Colin Firth and Natalie Portman both duplicating their BFCA wins on Friday night, bascially gave their same speeches but just a little tipsier that they gave before.

That’s what makes all these pile-ups of Awards shows…if they keep giving the same four people the same four awards, it’s BORING! So watch out Christian Bale and you, too, Melissa Leo.

The Supporting Cateogies are where there is always the most movement. And one hopes, that there will be SOME signs of life at the Oscars this year. I’d rather have another triumphing-over-cancer moment with Michael Douglas than listening to one of Christian Bale’s rambling rants…

Ricky Gervais was the runaway, absolute star of the evening, being actually OUT-Rageous in his comments. As has been recorded endlessly elsewhere. Will they have him back next year?

Well, if the ratings went up. Yes.

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