a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Press Screening’

Elizabeth Olsen gets an ovation at NYFF for “Martha Marcy May Marlene”!

And who got her that rousing out-of-nowhere round of applause and enthusiastic cheers? Well, l’il ole me, of course.

It was during the Q & A during the Press Conference after the Press Screening of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” a title I am STILL struggling with. This was at the New York Film Festival, of course.

And I made a statement. I congratulated the beauteous 21-year-old actress who makes such a stunning screening debut that she’s just blown that category, Best Actress, wide open.

I told her that I wanted to congratulate her for giving what was surely one of the best performances of the year, by an actress, and the crowd went wild, roaring and clapping in agreement.

She was startled, the moderater was startled. The director Sean Durkin looked, well, in agreeance, pleased. And then I exclaimed “That’s the New York Film Critics speaking! This never happens! You got it, baby!”

And I was totally chagrined that I had called Elizabeth Olsen “baby” or “babe” in front of hundreds of people, well, press/people, but still…

And then I asked the director Sean Durkin “Who was Marlene?” and suddenly I felt all the air go out of his(and my tires).

He mumbled something like “It’s there.”

And I still don’t know what he meant.

The title is the biggest stumbling block this very good indie film has on its’ way to the Oscar. Will people (that is Academy members) be able to pronounce it? And if they can’t pronounce it, will they watch it? Will they even vote for a film whose title they can’t say?And is as confusing as the young heroine, whose names form the complicated title, becomes through her involvement with a strange cult in Upstate New York?

But the film is very, very good. A gripping thriller/psychological drama about this young girl’s entrapment by these Manson-esque modern-day hippies, led by the always-threatening John Hawkes. Hawkes received an Academy Award nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” Which was much more confusing than this film.

Another Indie to emerge out of Sundance. And it has the low-budget, Sundancy feel to it. And every year for the past several years, a Best Actress nominee has emerged out of Sundance. Last year it was Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”, then before her Gabourey Sidibe for “Precious” The list goes on and on and this year it could be Elizabeth Olsen.

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the famous Olsen Twins, is sublime in a very difficult, complex role and very very clear in her portrayal of a confused, lost young woman who falls in with the worst people she could possibly ever be associated with. Her struggles to make sense of what has happened and is still happening to her form the crux of this gripping, exciting movie.

With a deceased mother and an antipathetic grandmother(who we never see) Martha is on the run and gets picked up by this cult who live on a farm in a remote area of upstate New York. Hawkes, the ringleader, immediately changes her name to Marcy May. And then her programming and reprogramming and deprograming and inculcation into this cult begins. It’s eerie, accurate and frightening in its’ details. So simple and yet so scary.

The film shifts back and forth in time between present day Martha who has run away and sought refuge in the real world again with a barely tolerant older sister, Lucy(Sara Paulson) and her brother-in-law Hugh Dancy. Yes! There he is again! Twice in the same week! Giving yet another nuanced, excellent performance as a straight-arrow, British businessman who is losing his patience with his bizarre foundling of a sister-in-law.

And who’s Marlene in the end? I was told by many critics afterwards it was a name they, the cult, used when talking about all the cute, young girls, when they are dealing with outside people. I.E., the world. “Cousin Marlene” is what they are ALL called. Just to keep everything even more confusing.

Apart from that nearly unprounceable title “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is one of this year’s best films. And should have no problem getting Elizabeth Olsen and perhaps John Hawkes, too, back in the Oscar race this year. This is Elizabeth Olsen’s feature film debut and it’s stunning, stunning, stunning.

Scorsese’s Monumental 4-hour Doc on Beatle George Harrison at NYFF!

WOWOWOW! Martin Scorcese’s monumental four-hour documentary on the late Beatle George Harrison flew by and exploded like a shower of stars at the New York Film Festival today!

I saw it at a press screening after which there was a press conference via Skype (no, I’m not kidding) with the great director, Harrison’s widow Olivia, his film editor, David Tedeschi and two of his producers. They were in a hotel room in London, getting ready for the film’s premiere, where it is sure to cause a sensation.

It IS sensational! It’s a joy and a wonder and absolutely a definitive account of the life of the late Beatle.  I found it rapturous. And for those of you with HBO, it’s going to be shown on the cable channel very, very soon.  So every one can enjoy the wonder of basking in the glow and the revelation that is “George Harrison:Living in the Material World.” I really do think this ranks among Scorcese’s greatest works. It certainly is the most enjoyable. And revisiting the Beatles music in the brand new theater at Lincoln Center is just going to be a sublime experience for all who are lucky enough to get tickets to the New York Film Festival.

We all think we know all there is to know about the Beatles, but Scorcese is here to tell us with this wonderful documentary, that no, we really don’t.

In Part One(there was an intermission), we see George and Ringo constantly being shuffled off to the side in the heady Beatle craze of their first great success, which never really ended. John Lennon and especially Paul McCartney, were the favored ones. They wrote the songs, after all, that made the whole world sing and that as Scorcese says formed the soundtrack to our lives.

George was “The shy Beatle”, the “third Beatle”, but he was with the group since the beginning. A childhood friend of John and Paul’s from Liverpool, who was only 17 when the fame that never ended burst upon them.

What we didn’t know was that as time wore on, George was the one who was more and more discontented with his place in the Fa Four. And the film shows him as leaving the group. And that is was he, not Yoko Ono, who affected broke up the Beatles. He just couldn’t stand it any more being under Paul (and John’s) thumbs.

Harrison is also there on many many film clips & interviews to assert his own point of view and testify on his own behalf, in his own words, which is wonderful. And he did have very strong views, even revolutionary ones, for the time.

He felt that what the fame and the wealth that the Beatles achieved wasn’t enough. It left him empty, unfulfilled, and so he famously sought the Meaning of Life in the Eastern mysticism that brought the great sitar player, Ravi Shankar, and the various yogis into his life, the other Beatles’ lives and through them and the different kind of music they started making really changed the perception of just what pop music could achieve and the messages, some quite profound, that it could convey.

Harrison calls himself at one point “the Beatle who changed the most” and it certainly seemed like he did. He’s almost unrecognizable in the second half of the film which is post-Beatles. As a Beatle, he seemed just a cute, but rude kid.

Scorsese also brings out the fact that Harrison was a Roman Catholic and that the influence of his childhood religion, like upon Scorsese himself, was profound, and I think may have led to him constantly seeking what solace he could find in all the Eastern religions and cultures he involved himself with.

But what was he seeking solace from? His fame? His success? He seemed also the film reveals surprisingly in its’ second half that he had a long-term, happy marriage to his second wife Olivia and a son whom he loved and who loved him. So he had a reasonably stable and happy family life. This too comes as a surprise to all who think they might have George Harrison all figured out.

And Olivia Harrison becomes a very strong narrative presence in the films’ second half. And she is one of the main instigators of this film coming into being. She sought out Scorsese, arguably among the world’s greatest directors, to tell George’s and her own story, in its mind-boggling complexity. And Scorsese more than made her wish come true.

The audience of press that I saw the film with this afternoon was all of an age certain, as the French say, which surprised me, because usually the New York Film Festival press corps skews quite young. But this also underlined to me the importance of this film and its’ bringing to a new generation who did not know the Beatles as I and most of the rest of my generation knew him, the essence of this great, sometimes underappreciated and overshadowed talent, to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. And it is in this that “George Harrison:Living in the Material World” succeeds greatly. He was a great star, a great dedicated musician and composer and a great spirit.

Scorsese related via Skype from London that the first footage he was presented with of George, was just this seemingly endless shot of a bed of tulips. Finally, Harrison emerges for within the tulips, and just smiles for a while.Like the proverbial garden gnome. And that is the way this film now begins. It’s just us, with George, smiling.

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