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Posts tagged ‘Pedro Almodovar’

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Great Spanish Actress Carme Elias on Almodovar, Venezuela

I had the great privilege and pleasure at the Montreal World Film Festival this past summer to chat with the great Spanish actress Carme Elias, who is just stupendous in the Venezuelan film “La Distancia Mas Larga” or “The Longest Distance”. She also spoke very interestingly about her work with Pedro Almodovar on the film “Flower of My Secret,” one of my all time faves.

Carme played the mistress in the film of Marisa Paredes’ husband.

And in “La Distancia…” she plays an ailing, but determined and very modern grandmother, who goes to the mountains above the Amazon, seeking…she doesn’t quite know what…And Carme plays this end-of-life character with great force and great restraint. She’s utterly beguiling in it. And I hope American audiences soon get to see it. Venezuelan actor Alec Whaite, who co-stars in the film, directed by Claudia Pinto, translates here.

Camera ~ Federico Foa Fuentes
Editing ~ Kevin Teller

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!

TIFF ’11 Lists, Best, Worst, Couldn’t Get In To See, etc.

So, in short form,(I hope) some TIFF lists ~

Best Film – Machine Gun Preacher

Runner-Up- The Artist, Drive, The Skin I Live In, Coriolanus

Best Actor – Gerard Butler in “Machine Gun Preacher”

Runner-ups- Ryan Gosling “Drive,” Ralph Fiennes in “Coriolanus”, Jean Dujardin “The Artist”

Best Actress – Elena Anaya “The Skin I Live In” (Pedro Almodovar’s hot new film)

Runner-Up- Tilda Swinton “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin,; Rachel Weisz “The Deep Blue Sea”

Best Supporting Actor- Gerard Butler “Coriolanus”

Runner-Up – Tom Hiddleston & Simon Russell Beale in “Deep Blue Sea”, that adorable  little dog in “The Artist”

Best Supporting Actress- Vanessa Redgrave “Coriolanus”

Runner-Ups – Marisa Peredes in “The Skin I Live In”, Tammy Blanchard in “Union Square,” Berenice Bejos “The Artist”

Worst TIFF “Rendition”-like Bomb (It died in one TIFF screening) – “A Dangerous Method”

Films I Tried to See, But Couldn’t – “Shame”, “Descendants”, “Albert Nobbs”

Hoping to See Soon – “The Ides of March”

Couldn’t Care Less About Seeing – “Moneyball”

Oscar’s Eyes glimmering and gleaming at Cannes at Corey Stall & Tilda Swinton!

The new Oscar season starts at Cannes. Yes. It does. It’s earlier every year, but this year Cannes seems particularly poised to kick off a few, or more than a few Oscar hopefuls, LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG race, or stroll, I guess at this distance, to the 2012 podium.

First off, I’m starting with the film that opened Cannes to such tumultuous acclaim, Woody Allen’s new film, yes, ANOTHER one, set and shot entirely in Paris, called, of course “Midnight in Paris.” And Woody, who avoids all such hype, usually, in the US, does turn up in personi and walks the red carpet in Cannes whenever he’s got a film in competition.

And the French are going crazy for “Midnight in Paris” picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics already and on its way to a theater NEAR YOU! Maybe as soon as next week in major cities.

Now I haven’t seen it yet, but people are acclaiming it as one of his best. Although some bloggers like David Poland of www.moviecitynews.com thought it was just “Okay.” Which is it?

Well, one thing is ALWAYS true of a Woody Allen film…it’s a VERY Oscar friendly cinematic situation, especially in the Supporting categories. And the ONE person coming out of Cannes with a bucketful of kudos is unknown Corey Stall, who plays Ernest Hemingway. EVERY review singled him out. And so did Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone, who, yes, is there in person, covering every thing on and off La Croisette in fine form at www.awardsdaily.com and also at Steve Pond’s www.thewrap.com

I’m not surprised because I know Corey from his days at NYU Grad Acting, where I saw him ace a WIDE variety of roles, including Big Daddy in a memorable “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”. He must’ve been 24 or 25, and he’s not fat. Maybe he was in a fat suit, but he shaved his head and was virtually unrecognizable to me as one of Tennessee Williams most indelibe characters, and Corey made it HIS OWN.  He was transformative, mature-for-his-age and memorable. I can still see him to this day, grumbling out that key word to Big Daddy’s character “MENDACITY!” And you could swear that it was a man in his ’50s or ’60s doing it! And it was young Corey Stall! No wonder his Ernest Hemingway as a young man in “Midnight in Paris” is resonating so strongly with critics at Cannes. It sounds like a perfect meeting of actor and character to me.

C0rey may not win, but he is the one who is being singled out in a star-studded cast that includes Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard, and that usually means OSCAR NOMINATION! I’m calling it now!

There may be many more nominations coming this scrumptious-sounding film’s way, and I’ll let you know when I see it ASAP.

And then there’s Tilda Swinton, evidently, by all reports, doing her career best in a film called “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin.” Actually, we’ve got to talk about Tilda…Who just doesn’t stop topping herself. I can’t wait to see this film, too.

And coming up at Cannes, or winding up to the Big Finish,  the Grand Finale is Pedro Almodovar’s new film, “El Piel Que Habito” (The Skin I Live In) which is the Closing Night Film. His first film in ages without Penelope Cruz ,but WITH his first break-out International Star, Antonio Banderas.

Lots of Oscar potential here.

But will they go the distance or fade, unfortunately, as the year wears on, like Mike Leigh’s “Another Year” did last year and “Bright Star” did the year before?

But it seems like Woody and Tilda have started their Oscar ball rolling in fine French fettle. Let the games begin!

Camp Classic Suffers Nervous Breakdown on Bway

I have heard the WORST buzz on any show this season on “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” the musical version of Pedro Almodovar’s Camp Classic, with two Capital Cs. This is an important even seminal work in the worldwide gay ouevre. And Pedro Almodovar is my personal gay god.

It was Almodovar’s breakthough film internationally. But here, in this version, at the Belasco, well, if you want to see a show having a nervous breakdown right in front of you. and all these talented people with it, run, don’t walk to the Belasco, because I fear it’s not going to be around for very long.

How could you take this hilarious movie and make a musical that is NOT FUNNY?!? There is no wit visisble in “Women on the Verge…”Every line seemed to land with a thud. And, and it’s just not well, gay, enough. I’ll be surprised if it’s still open by the time I finish typing this sentence.

But gays are the audience for this, if indeed there is any audience at all. And you have some of the best musical comedy actresses of our time, including Patti LuPone, Laura Benanti and Sherrie Rene Scott and make them ALLLL not funny? Well, director Bartlett Sher and composer David Yazbeck have done just that.And Jeffrey Lane the book writer has to take a lot of the blame, too. For this brightly-hued mess.

At one point, towards the end of the painful first act, all these uber-talented women were STARING at each other, with “What the hell are we doing here?” looks on their faces. And I’m sure much of the audience was thinking the same thing.

It sure is colorful enough. In fact, director Sher seems to have spent all his time and energy on the extremely overwhelming, but colorful projected backdrops, that display more excitement than the actors do. Which is a shame.

 In fact, the never-for-a-moment-still projections by Sven Ortel, overwhelm most of the actors, and you watch them instead of the mere mortals trying valiantly to hold up their ends of the bargain. Sher obviously wants to direct a movie. But this isn’t A MOVIE! It’s a Broadway musical! Now, he did just fine with “Light in the Piazza” but that had a magnificently lush and romantic score by Adam Guettel. Here the score is just thumpingly serviceable. The music should make it fly, not give you a nervous breakdown.

Wasn’t this the show that was a hit in London and that’s why they brought it here? Can’t be the same production. It’s certainly not a British cast, for a change.

There’s been soooo many British shows and British actors on Broadway this year I thought I had moved to England.

What’s missing is the light-hearted , De-LIGHT-ful light touch that camp needs to succeed. It needed a homosexual writing the score, I’m afraid, and David Yazbeck who is talented and has succeeded on Bway with shows based on movies like “The Full Monty” and “Dirty Rotten Soundrels” has come a cropper with “Breakdown.” His score is thumpingly straight and frankly too serious for a delicate, camp subject like this.

He and Sher, both heterosexuals, married with children, just don’t get it. And they’ve ruined what should have been a sublimely frothy show into something shrill and almost unbearable. Y’know, like A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. It made me want to watch the movie again. But not this musical. Life is too short.

And what a shame it is to see the great Patti LuPone wasted like this!

However she and Danny Burstein, are the only two performaners here who seems to hit just the right high notes as a crazy Madrid cab-driver with peroxided blond hair. They are the shows bright spots. And it does have them. And Burstein has the entire opening number to himself called “Madrid Is My Mother” and I thought, Wow! This really might be something! And to hell with all the bad buzz, then as the show wore on and on and only brightened when La LuPone crossed the stage in a parade of outrageous ’60s hats and costumes, or when she sang, did it sputter to life. She has one solo number called “Invisible” and she stops the show. And it needed stopping.

The shows creators never seem to find the CHARM and the warmth of Almodovar’s world, except when Patti or Burstein were center stage.

And a lot of this also has to be laid at the doors of Sherrie Rene Scott, who is the leading lady here, in her first serious acting role. And she was never known for her serious acting. She has to anchor the whole show. Not BE an anchor. It’s like she’s this dead-weight the musical has to keep dragging back on stage. She seems to be playing depressed. And it’s depressing as opposed to comical.

 And Laura Benanti, who won a Tony for her performance as Gypsy in “Gypsy,” is simply strident and hysterical, but not funny- hysterical, just hysterical- hysterical. Like as in annoying.

Carmen Maura, if memory serves, was just instantly lovable as Pepa, the lead in the movie version. You were instantly on her side. You wanted her to succeed in all the crazy attempts she makes to NOT have a nervous breakdown. She had warmth. She had charm. She had style. She had class. She had humor. It was the greatest FUN to watch her try NOT to have a nervous breakdown. Whereas poor Sherie Rene Scott seems to actually be clinically depressed.

And the subtitles in the movie were funnier than the lines in this play. Maybe it should’ve been all in Spanish with subtitles. So sad, so sad.

Luis Salgado who was in the chorus of “In the Heights” here gets an actual memorable role as the non-speaking Malik  the terrorist who is the amour of Laura Benanti’s character. He gets to be nude upstage of Benanti getting out of bed, and then dresses and comes back later clad only in a towel. Now THAT’S Almodovarian! And I’m sure Pedro would agree.

O Dios Mio! Oh! And Brian Stokes Mitchell is in this too as the man all the women are obsessing over. And that makes some kind of sense. But since he’s wasted with mediocre songs and lines, too. He barely registers.

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