a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Rooney Mara’

BAFTA Backlash ~ Alicia Vikander v.Kate Winslet

Alicia 9The most shocking upset of the BAFTA night was Alicia Vikander losing Best Supporting Actress to Kate Winslet! Of all people! It was thought that Alicia’s main competition was Rooney Mara in “Carol”, but lo and behold, it’s turning out to be Kate Winslet for playing what amounts to a Slavic doormat-to-end-all-doormats from the flop “Steve Jobs.” Her role was based on a real person,  Joanna Hoffman, marketing executive for Apple and NeXT and Jobs’ confidant in the film. It’s one of those ugly-up roles that actors and actresses use to show their range, as the wonderful Winslet certainly did in this awful film.

Winslet has now won TWO major awards for this slovenly lady. A Golden Globe and now a BAFTA. So her Oscar chances must now be taken seriously. Or do they?
Kate Winslet steve jobs 3It is interesting as I noted yesterday that both these awards for Winslet were from foreign press and industry, the Golden Globes and now the BAFTAs. And she was playing a Polish woman succeeding in America, a woman who was known as the only one who could stand up to Steve Jobs.

However in neither of those awards races was she up against Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl.” In both the Golden Globes and the BAFTA, Vikander was competing in the leading actress race. And Vikander’s role as the long-suffering painter wife of a man Einer Vegener, who was going through a sex change, was in the lead in those races.

Vikander WON over Winslet at the SAG awards, when they were both in the Supporting Actress category and again at the Broadcast Film Critics. Both those wins were for “The Danish Girl” in Supporting Actress as she is nominated at the Oscars. As is Winslet for “Steve Jobs.”

At the BAFTAs last night, Winslet was competing with Alicia in Supporting, but it was for Alicia’s role as the Eva the robot in “Ex Machina.”

“Ex Machina” won nothing last night at the BAFTAs. Neither did “Carol.” Nothing. Nada. Zip.

As happy as I am to watch Winslet career trajectory move heavily forward as she progresses in age, I do have to point out that she has already WON an Oscar. For “The Reader, ” in which she was brilliant, and again doing a German accent. Her German accent was better than her Polish, which kept slipping in “Steve Jobs.”

It’s also interesting to note that both Winslet and Vikander were playing parts that are based on real people, something Oscar always loves, and Rooney Mara was playing a fictional character from the Patricia Highsmith lesbian love story, the ’50s  novel “The Price of Salt” on which “Carol” is based.

So don’t worry, Dear Readers, Dear Cineastes, my conclusion is this. As she did at SAG and the BCFCA, Alicia Vikander will win her first Oscar for her shattering portrayal in “The Danish Girl.”, in the Supporting Actress category, whether she’s a lead or not.

More on the Preferential Ballot, shortly.

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And now, here come the BAFTAS! What will they tell us?

BAFTAS 2016 1And now, this Sunday night in London, here comes what I feel is the most predictive awards show of all the BAFTAs. The British Oscars. And what do they have to do with OUR own Oscars, coming up on Feb.28? Well, I think they are the most influential accolade of all. Especially in the Acting Races. Where, if there’s a five way, undecided sort-of year, which this isn’t really, in the Acting Awards, they can tip the scales in one actor’s or actress’s favor.

As they did famously in the year that Tilda Swinton won for “Michael Clayton”, surprising many, but not me. Tilda won the BAFTA then she went right on to win her first Oscar. Interesting piece of Oscar trivia, Tilda, who could just not bear to have all these awards around her house, gave her British Oscar, her BAFTA to her British agent and her American Oscar to her American agent Brian Swardstrom. I bet they were glad to get them. NOTHING like that ever happens to actors’ agents, No wonder Tilda has never stopped working since!

You win the Oscar and you never stop working, so the story goes…True or not, it’s a nice thing to look forward to. For a moment. Tilda Swinton Oscar 2That year marked another BAFTA/Oscar milestone when the unknown French actress Marion Cotillard who was playing Edith Piaf to beat the band in “La Vie En Rose” went on to trounce Brit Julie Christie for Best Actress.Marion Oscar 1Mlle. Marion was acting in her own language, you see, and it was considered IMPOSSIBLE for a foreign actress to win. But I knew she would, her perfomance as Edith Piaf at all different ages was so incredible.

And so did Daniel Day-Lewis, who got up and made a speech when he won  at the BAFTAs extolling Marion’s superlative performance. He  won the BAFTA that year, too,  for “There Will Be Blood.”. People, or rather Oscar voters, listened. I think the word he used was” transcendant.”

And this year? Well it seems almost all the Acting categories are locked. But wait a tic! There could be surprises. Leonardo Di Caprio in “The Revenant” has been winning EVERYTHING in sight this year and could win the Oscar. But will he win the BAFTA for Best Actor?Danish Eddie 1

Don’t be surprised, Leo, if BAFTA does what it usually does and award a deserving, beloved Brit, Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl.” And also watch out Brie Larson! She, who likewise is winning everything imaginable for “Room”.At BAFTA, she’s up against the It Girl of the Hour, Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl” who is  up for Best Actress. Whereas at the Oscars, Alicia’s up for Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl.” Her role as Gerde Vegener, who is a Danish painter married to a man who is going through the first known transgender transition is indelible, powerful.

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Alicia could win the Best Actress BAFTA  as “The Danish Girl” is a British Film and also Alicia, though Swedish, speaks English with a British accent. OR it could be Saoirse Ronan, who is Irish as Irish can be in “Brooklyn” an Irish film. And Brie Larson’s “Room” isn’t as popular over there as it has been here. It only has only other nomination Best Adapted Screenplay.Danish Girl Duo

And the astonishing Alicia Vikander is having such a big year, that she’s nominated also in BAFTA in Supporting Actress for “Ex Machina.” Yes, Alicia winning either of these awards, would almost certainly assure her an Oscar win over Rooney Mara, the girl who wasn’t there, in “Carol”, her nearest competitor for Supporting Actress at the Oscars. Rooney is running as a Supporting Actress at BAFTA, as she is at the Oscars, but this time, she’s up against Alicia as the sexiest robot of all time in “Ex Machina.”  Could Rooney win here and split the Vikander vote? “Carol” got a slew of nominations here, including Best Picture, although it didn’t in the US.Alicia Vikander 3Alicia could win in both categories. That’s right! She could win TWO BAFTAs! OR of course, she could lose twice, too.Roonwy MARA 2

As far as Best Supporting Actor at BAFTA, it will most likely go to one of the nominated Brits. Idris Elba, yeah, him again, for “Beasts of No Nation,” I think he has this over fellow Brit and UK stage legend Mark Rylance for “Bridge of Spies.” He hasn’t been campaigning and has even skipped the BFCC and the SAG. Christian Bale is British, too, although he hardly ever mentions it. And he’s nominated for “The Big Short.” Watch this early-announced award. Who it goes to will tell us pretty clearly what will win Best Picture.Christian Bale 1

,And finally there’s the Best Picture race itself which pits people think “Spotlight” v. “The Revenant” v. “The Big Short”. And many, including myself, think that whatever film wins Best Film here could also go on to win the Oscar, too. Although wait another tic! Last year, the Brits picked “Boyhood” and Richard Linklater, and not “Birdman” and Alexander Gonzalez Inarittu who won the Oscars.

So there is a divide. What do I think is going to win Best Picture? Bet on the Brits voting for Brits, which could lead to “Carol” or “The Bridge of Spies”  being a surprise win here, although “Spotlight” set in Boston and involving Irish Catholic pedophile priests might be something they could relate to over the Wall St. story “The Big Short” or the Western “The Revenant”. Have the EVER given a BAFTA  to a Western? I think not. (more…)

Oscars ~ Where Are We Now?

OscarsWith so much controversy flying every which way this year, where exactly are we? Well, the safest best bet is to watch for the Producers Guild to announce their winner this weekend. And I’m guessing it will be “Spotlight.” Low wattage, reserved, and quietly, subtlely powerful as it is, its’ distinction, like “12 Years a Slave”s before it, can’t be denied.

They’re sweeping changes a foot. Everybody is discussing Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ VERY controversial announcement in a form of a press release. I’ll leave it to others who have more time than I do, busy Oscarologist that I am at this time of year, to parse just what all this means. But suffice it to say, for this year, it means NOTHING!

The Oscars 2016 will roll along exactly as they were previous to this two years of #Oscarssowhite maelstrom. Nothing at all is going to change any time soon.

But if it WERE to effect this year’s race, you might see Idris Elba win a deserved supporting actor trophy two weeks from Sunday for “Beasts of No Nation.” I hope he does. This is for a SAG award, which they call, “The Actor”, NOT the Oscar. Beasts

It really riles me that he was excluded and seemingly replaced by Sylvester Stallone, whose performance in “Creed” is nothing but a stream of unintelligible shrugs and mumbles. Stallone is not nominated for the SAG award. The Actors of SAG did the right thing in nominating Elba. So if you want to look for who to blame for this #Oscarssowhite trouble, look below the line. Anne Thompson’s infamous “steakeaters.”

It seems pre-ordained now that Leonardo Di Caprio is going to win Best Actor for the revolting “Revenant.” But if he DOESN’T win the SAG Award for Best Actor two weeks from Sunday and it’s Bryan Cranston, or even Eddie Redmayne, LOOK OUT! Things are not as clear in the blogospheres’ crystal balls as they seem to be.

Brie Larson, a relative unknown, is about to be crowned Oscar’s new Queen,and deservedly so, for “Room.” Brie golden Globe 1Such a powerful, complex, intelligent performance by an actress we almost never see on screen.. Operating against her is “Room”s teeny, tiny distributor A24, who has never been THIS near an Oscar campaign for a  performance before.Alicia

And Alicia Vikander seems to be rising and rising. She SEEMS to have the momentum in Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl” even though it’s hardly a supporting performance at all. Again the SAGS will tell the tale and also the BAFTAs. She’s also in film after film after film. All big studios. And that means Hollywood already has a steak(stake?) in her future. Her moving, eloquent speech at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards on Sunday helped her immensely too. She was instantly unforgettable.

What happened to “Carol”? That’s the 64 Dollar question. *sigh* I guess it just wasn’t good enough. And WHY wasn’t it good enough? I’d say it was the Big Zero of a performance at its’ center from Rooney Mara. Don’t get me wrong. I liked her playing the bisexual Lisbeth Salander in “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” which I’ve seen multiple times, liking her more and more each time. But she was a void at the center Carol 3of”Carol” to me. It was like Cate Blanchett was acting all by herself in that film.

Whereas in “The Danish Girl” Alicia Vikander is VERY much present in her interactions, her love of her husband, even as he turns into a woman, even encouraging him as painful as it is for her, in his transition. And she’s playing a real woman, artist Gerde Wegener. , Whereas Mara is playing fictional character who is a blank, at best. Therese Belivet, the character’s name is intriguing, but the part and the performance were not. I’ve known a lot of lesbians in my gay life, and one thing they are not, is boring. “Carol” was boring.

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There’s Something Missing from “Carol” & I Think It’s Rooney Mara

Carol Blanchett 1I was disappointed in my response to “Carol” the highly touted lesbian love story derived from one of my favorite lesbian authors Patricia Highsmith. I felt not swept away by the film as a whole, which I should’ve been. Being out and gay myself all my life, THIS seemed to be a movie meant for me, it’s target audience.

But yet…

It didn’t play at Toronto, which tipped me off that something was up.And the Weinstein Co. kept me, a major Oscarologist, away from this Oscar-seeking film.

Rooney Mara won Best Actress at Cannes.

Something was obviously wrong.

What was missing? I think it was Rooney Mara’s performance. Playing a young, innocent (?)”from another planet” as Carol describes her, she seems cold, asexual. The Sapphic sensibility is just not there.The film was directed by a man. Maybe that’s the problem.

sarah Paulson

But it IS there in the performance of Sarah Paulson (ab0ve) as Carol’s ex-lover. You get an astounding sense of past history and love lost between the two women, that you never get from Cate the Great and Mara.

And Cate IS great in this movie! She’s just magnificence personified. 1950s movie star to the max, she seems to just REEK of sexuality and sensuousness and glamour. It is a stunning performance, maybe Blanchett’s best. She just floored me.

And Rooney Mara just well, didn’t.

The great Ed Lachmann’s amazing cinematography swept me away, in a way the Mara’s Therese Belivant, didn’t. Filmed in, of all things, 16 mm. and in CINCINATTI(!) the period style is exactly right down to the tiniest detail, and Blanchett’s costumes by the great Sandy Powell, and  her golden, perfectly coiffed hair and  make-up are swoon-worthy. She just radiates a heat that makes men AND women fall in love with her. She’s beyond brilliant in this film.

And she’s the one in dire trouble. She’s married, you see, and it’s 1952 and her husband wants to take her beloved little daughter away from her because she’s “abnormal.” So that part of the film is totally believable and fine. And disturbing. And true.

But don’t get me wrong. I loved Rooney Mara before. She was very exciting in both “Social Network” and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” for which she rightly garnered an Oscar nomination.

So I was rooting for Rooney, and god knows, I was rooting for “Carol” to be a lesbian “Brokeback Mountain.” But it isn’t. And I’m not a gay woman so perhaps I can’t say that. But I am.

Expectations were so high for this film, and the raves out of Cannes where so great, I guess I was bound to be disappointed. A “Brokeback Mountain,” it’s not. “Carol” is just strangely hollow. Cate is great, the cinematograpy, set design and costumes are off the charts. But the LOVE is missing.They have no heat, no chemistry.

It’s not even gay, particularly, except when the superb Sarah Paulson shows up. SHE should get nominated for Best Supporting Actress. THERE I’ve said it.

But the Tom Toms are beating for Rooney, and probably both she and Blanchett will end up in the Best Actress races that are upon us.

Cate Blanchett is just a genius of an actress.

But Rooney Mara is well, just OK. And in something as sumptuous and important a gay film, as “Carol”, well, she should-be better.

The picture at the top of this article says it all, I think.(see above} Cate as Carol is front and center and Rooney Mara, well, we see the back of her head. Which in “Carol” is as expressive as the front of her head.

Oscar Mystery ~ Why Isn’t “Carol” at TIFF?

Oscar questions answered and unanswered at TIFF. Like why isn’t the Cannes lesbian sensation “Carol” playing TIFF? It’s conspicuous by its’Cate Carol 1 absence, seems to me. A natural fit for TIFF, you’d THINK. But no “Carol” here. It’ll be seen next month at the NYFF, but not here. Are they, the savvy Weinstein Co., hiding it? There are over 1000 journalists at TIFF. And Oscar hopefuls “The Danish Girl” and “Brooklyn” and “Black Mass” are all playing here. But no “Carol”…. And “Carol” which WILL show up at the NYFF is not in the coveted Opening Night or Closing Night or Centrepiece slots.

Is what seemed a sure-fire Oscar front-runner now suffering Awards fatigue already? Me, I’m DYING to see it.

And there’s the sticky situation of “Carol” having TWO leading ladies. Two time Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett in the title role, and Rooney Mara. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is now the girl with a Cannes award for Best Actress. And the Weinsteins are campaigning Cate Blanchett for Leading Actress and putting Rooney Mara, who is said to have the larger and better part(and the Best Actress Cannes award) is being put in Supporting.

I wonder what they Academy will think of that distinction? They may do a “Kate Winslet” and put Rooney AND Cate in lead. Where they could possibly cancel each other out? As many have done before, unfortunately.

But there’s no question that the Weinstein Co. is low-balling Cannes favourite “Carol.” Something’s up.

OR something’s not up. With “Carol.” Hmmmm……

Oscars on the Horizon,Rooney & Cate, “Carol” & Cannes

Rooney & Cate 1So a few days ago, I posited that Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara would split the Best Actress Award at Cannes. That didn’t happen. Rooney won and split it with an obscure French actress that no one has ever heard of (nor probably will again), but Cate the great got nothing! Well, nothing but career-best reviews, as the title role and heroine of Todd Haynes’ lesbian love story “Carol.”

Based on the late Patricia Highsmith’s story “The Price of Salt”, it is set in the 1950’s and according to all reports magnificently photographed by Haynes’ great cinematographer Ed Lachman.

Cate can NOT and WILL not be ignored by the Academy if you want to know. Both she and Rooney Mara WILL be nominated for what evidently is being considered a tour-de-force by all and sundry.

But who will go in which category? And does it really matter? Especially at this (very) early point in the Oscar race? I’m assuming “Carol” will go the tried and true Festival route.  Telluride in August, Toronto in Sept. with New York’s Film Fest immediately following.

And who’s deciding all this? Why its’ legendary Oscar Whisperer Producer Harvey Weinstein that’s who. And he’s slated the opening for Dec.18. So “Carol” and Cate and Rooney and Harvey, too, have a long row to hoe before “Carol” opens, and as we all know, some Cannes’ favorites can run out of steam by the time the actual Oscars role around. Witness last year’s “Foxcatcher” barely making it to the Big Night and coming up with No Wins.

Guessing I would say that Rooney will be in the Supporting category and she could very well win there. Even if she is a co-lead with Cate.

Witness Patricia Arquette’s co-lead(she was the Mom) in “Boyhood” and won in Supporting though she could’ve been campaigned in lead. But her immediate switch to Supporting got her the gold, though the film won nothing else.

I think the same will be true for Rooney Mara in “Carol.” Harvey is NOT putting Cate Blanchett in the Supporting category if he ever wants to work with her again. Blanchett I don’t think would stand for it. And neither would Academy voters.

And what does the Cannes Best Actress Award and the Oscars have to do with each other anyway? Well, last year Julianne Moore won for “Maps to the Stars” in Cannes, but on Oscar night it was in “Still Alice” that gave Moore the gold, finally, after four tries.

Cate has two Oscars, Rooney has none, and the Academy is Rooney-friendly, nominating her for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” a few years back.

And Harvey, as usual, has another Best Actress contender in the 19-year-old Saoirse Ronan for “Brooklyn”, also coming up this fall. And putting all three Weinstein women in Best Actress would be a big much of a much-ness. Wouldn’t it?

“Wallander 3” World-Weary & Wonderful on MHz

I have to confess that I am coming late to the Wallander party. Wallander, the character, the novels, the many, many TV films in Swedish and also in BBC English with Kenneth Branagh, no less, is more than a cottage industry. It’s pretty much a world-wide phenomenon.  After the early, tragic death of Swedish author Steig Larsson of the Millennium Trilogy, another Swedish crime novel author has emerged on the Swedish crime stage and  has survived and thrived to 66 . He is Henning Mankell and he has written a mountainous number of books, on Wallander and many other topics,  and is more than taking his place, in Sweden and in the world.

The super-quaint,  little medieval town of Ystaad, where Wallander is set and shot, has become a tourist destination! And Kurt Wallander, his world-weary, potato-like, sad sack of a Swedish detective, is underplayed in this series quite brilliantly by Krister Hendrickson,  and is almost as famous as a Swedish fictional character as Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” anti-heroine to end all anti-heroines.

Wallander (pronouced Val’-en-da) couldn’t be more different. He’s so every day, so every man, so ordinary, he’s almost invisible. But he has also taken hold of the world’s imagination, and its’ thirst for all things Swedish. That gloomy morose desire to suffer in the cold and ice was mightily filled in his lifetime by legendary Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

To my dismay, the younger generation does not take to Bergman or even know his work. If they know anything of Swedish note today, besides Ikea, it is Lisbeth Salander, and the American version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” And also, right behind her is Kurt Wallander.

Larson was said to have devoured Swedish crime novels and one of the authors he was most influenced by was the prolific Henning Mankell. Who wrote more Wallander books and many other books, than Larsson ever did in his brief life-time.

Larsson, and the “Girl’ movies and books have whetted the public’s appetite seemingly for Swedish noir crime. In fact, I was shocked when I went to the main library in Manhattan and found out the nothing of Wallander, DVD, film or novel was in. All were checked out, but one, which I hungrily grabbed.

The female librarian said to me “Wallander is VERY popular.” The Vox Populi! The people have spoken.

In Mankell’s “The Man Who Laughed,” there is this passage that jumped out at me.

A solitary man, presumably Wallander himself, is driving down a lonely Swedish road at night, and feels a bump. He has hit a rabbit.

“He stopped and got out. The hare was lying on the road, its’ back legs kicking. But its’ eyes stared at him….He had never forgotten those eyes and the wildly kicking legs. The memory kept coming back again and again , usually at the most unexpected times…”

That’s a very good metaphor indeed. With a kind of awful poetry that Steig Larsson’s “just the facts” Milleninum writings eschews.

I think it’s this richness of the source material, Mankell’s writing, that lifts Wallander out of the realm of the ordinary procedural, though police crime drama is what it is.

The Swedish TV series, now available in the US on MHz DVDS,  is produced by the same company that produced the “Dragon Tattoo” movies. And it shows. Those films and the Wallander TV series echo each other, not just in their topics, human trafficking, arson, pedophilia, and of course, drugs, but in their doomy Swedish atmospheres.

Wallander is the essence of the plodding policeman, who doesn’t always get it write, in the opening episode, he gets so drunk, he leaves his police gun at a bar, and is suspended, until the Ystad police find out they can’t solve a crime without him.

The terrific Krister Hendrickson makes him so endearing a chap, I can’t imagine anyone else playing him. Especially not Kenneth ham-is-my-middle-name Branagh. But we’ll see.

And sometimes this season hits it right out of the ballpark in terms of impact. One episode “The Arsonist” particularly got to me. So well done and well acted and well shot by all parties. It was gripping and the ending chilling. Bravo to Episode 5! Wallander’s pen-ultimate case.

And you better enjoy Hendrickson’s Wallander while you can, because in the last episode,  #6 in this series, “A Troubled Man,” he gets Alzheimer’s. What American series would risk that? The central figure losing it to a disease that no one ever seems to suffer from on American series television. Hendrickson becomes increasingly forgetful and lost. He gets suspended (Again!) by the Ystaad crime unit.

His daughter, Linda, a cop herself, and also a devoted mother, with a small daughter who Wallander dotes on, is marvelously played with degrees and shadings of sympathy and strength and frustrated horror by Carlotta Johnson, as she begins to notice that Kurt, her father, is getting absent-minded and gradually slipping away.

As early as episode one, “The Troubled Man”(like for instance the forgetting the gun in the bar) and culminates with him wandering the streets of picturesque small town Ystaad with his shoes untied, not knowing where he is, in “The Man Who Wept,” who is ironically is the melancholy Wallander himself. And yes, in a climatic moment, Wallander cries. The series has built so carefully to this, it’s shattering.

Shakespeare  explored this same disease in “King Lear,” which I found myself seeing right in the middle of my Wallander binge-watching.

Dementia has always been with us as a disease and a topic and continues to be the unnerving presence that turns into an absence as we watch the sun sadly set on Kurt Wallender.

Don’t miss this Swedish series! You’ll find it hard to forget, and you’ll be hooked on all of Henning Mankell’s work, too! Just like Steig Larsson was, and half the world it seems is!

 

18 Hours of “Dragon Tattoo”! “The Girl Who Played With Fire” on Audio Books

If you’re REALLY into Steig Larson, and who, if you’re reading this blog, ISN’T, I guess I do have to recommend the 18 hour marathon I just experienced with the Audio Books version of “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” It’s the second book in his monumental Millenium Trilogy. A world-wide publishing success with film versions in Swedish and in English, and more on the way. We HOPE.

But in the meantime there’s this massive, and I mean MASSIVE 18 hour immersion into Larson and Sweden and most of all Lisbeth Salander available on Audio Books, read by one man and one man alone, the vocally versatile(he has to be) Simon Vance.He voices something like 100 different characters in the modern Swedish noir “War and Peace.”

Vance, a British actor who clearly speaks Swedish, pronounces the many, many location names in Larson’s fictional Sweden very lovingly. He’s British, so he choses to give Lisbeth Salander, a Cockney accent. Mikael Blomkvist,Larson’s hero,the intrepid, indefatigable Vance choose to speak with a British voice closer to his own.

His the Cockney Salander really floored me. Then I grew to like her, which is crucial for staying tuned for the full 18 hour version, which I unbelievably did.

It’s begun to be another frighteningly hot summer in New York and I have to think twice, if not three times about venturing out in this heat. It was better today, but by that time I’d finished the whole damn thing. It IS an endurance test for the reader, to be sure. It’s a dense book, and it’s an intense listen.

Noomi Rapace’s indelible Salander is impossible to put out of your mind when listening to this. She, of course, starred in of all three films of the Swedish cinema trilogy-to-end-all-trilogies, launching an international career in the process. Thank god! I was worried that she was going to get stuck with Lisbeth for the rest of her life, but she seems to have successfully dodged that bullet. She did get a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress, for the last of the three films, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” But she didn’t win.

Rooney Mara got an Oscar nomination to prove that she was just as good if not better in David Fincher’s film version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” two years ago.But she didn’t win either. So the Americans not having filmed the second book, one still pictures Noomi Rapace going through Lisbeth’s harrowing paces in listening to “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

But a lot of the book is very different from the movie, and this is the book that is the best of the three, IMHO. Because Salander is in it the most. In fact, she’s front and center in the story of “The Girl Who Played with Fire.’

Listening to the bare bones of it, just as an audio experience, I was very conscious of parts of the book that I didn’t remember. In fact, the whole opening section in the Caribbean, where we find Lisbeth hiding out for chapters and chapters, ending in a climatic hurricane/tornado named Matilda, is not in the film at all.

Enough time had gone by so that I didn’t remember it clearly.But it’s there, and it grips you. Then there is a whole chapter section given almost entirely over to Furman’s theory of algebra, which I also didn’t remember, and clearly must’ve skipped over, as I had skipped over it on the disc.

But it does begin to build and it keeps you listening through all the dull police procedural details, and there are many. Mostly of course, as always, you care about Salander and want her to vanquish her various dastardly villains, like lawyer Nils Bjurman, who she was famously rapes and tattoos in Book One.

Well, he’s back, but not for long. Larsson had a real, solid, slimy villain in Advocat Bjurrman, the ultimate repulsive civil servant, who is really, as Salander tattoos on his quivering abdomen in Book,” I Am a Sadistic Pig and a Rapist.”

“The Girl Who Played with Fire”is concerned with an expose of the Russian sex/slave trade in young Slavic girls. Some of it is so sickening in its’ details that you do just want to turn off the DVD player. But I didn’t. And I had no intention of writing about it, but here I am telling all this to you.

It picks up tremendously in the second part. And of course the semi-tiresome Erika Berger, Salander’s rival for Blomkvist’s affections, and the editor of Millennium magazine, has so much more to do in book, it’s ridiculous.

In the American film, she was played by Robin Wright, and in the Swedish version by the great Lena Endre. Her flirtation with another publishing job in the middle of the whole Salander case remains a weird sub-plot.

It’s Larson straining to make that character of Erika Berger interesting, I suspect.

But she isn’t, much. Lisbeth Salander just towers over all the other characters. And try as he might, Larson couldn’t stop writing about her, and writing about her SO WELL that she jumps off the discs, as she jumped off the page and the films, into history.

I bet Larson, when he was writing the first book, did not expect or plan, for Lisbeth to so engulf him, and all his writing. She seems like a character that just took on a life of her own. She overwhelmed him, and us, and there was nothing he could do to stop her fascination to the reader and so he just went with it. Mikael Blomkvist was clearly meant to be the central character when the first book “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” started, but that soon changed. And the world is so glad it did. Mikael Blomkvist is a bit of a bore.

And I had forgotten details like her interest in micro-wave pizzas. And did not remember McDonald’s popping up so frequently in Stockholm.

And Blomkvist’s not having a car and relying on public transportation in Stockholm and in Sweden in general is an endearing trait.

And Larson’s having to introduce EVERY SINGLE ONE of Millenia magazine’s staff AND Dragan Armansky’s office staff, as well as all the police investigators is almost Tolstoyian in its’ mound of character details. But not many of them pop out as clearly defined.

The reader, the amazing Simon Vance, does very well with Dragan Armansky, Lisbeth’s loyal employer and also Office Bubble, or Bublansky, the Jewish cop who is heading the police here. Though admittedly they do sound similar. And when he gets to the aged Palmer Holgren, the former guardian of Salander, who is now in a nursing home and a recovering stroke victim, Vance really outdoes himself. Having to be intelligible and unintelligible at the same time.

My unexpected favorite scene in the Audio Book, was the fight between “The Blond Giant” Ronald Neiderman, the Brazilian celebrity/prize-fighter Paulo Roberto(who is evidently a real person!) and Miriam Wu, Salander’s half-Asian girl friend, who gets drawn into the police web, and ends up being kidnapped and mistaken for Salander. That chapter(or disc, in this case) seemed to me to contain Larson’s best, most gripping non-stop writing. I was frozen in place as I listened to it, and to Simon Vance’s terrific vocal acting out of all the parts.

It’s quite a time intensive endeavor. And I think the 18 hours I spent on listening to all 15 of the discs is longer than it took me to read the book in the first place. But it’s worth it.

It’s staying with me. And I can recommend to all you Steig/Salander-o-philes out there. Make the time and you’ll be surprised how intense and compelling it is all over again.

Oscar Nominations FINALLY Announced! Quick Reactions!

So there they are, surprising one, surprising all, even me. That’s right, dear readers, dear cineastes, the Oscar Nominations for 2011 have finally been announced, and yes, I did wake up VERY early to get the news! And the shocks! The delightful shocks, like for instance, predicting Best Actress completely accurately. Meryl, Michelle, Viola, Glenn, and ROONEY MARA!

She “knocked out” Tilda Swinton, who was one of the SAG five nominees for Best Actress this year. Her film”We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin” is something the Academy clearly DIDN’T want to talk about. The mother of a school shooter is clearly now outside their “wheelhouse.”

As is Michael Fassbender full frontal onslaught and yes, his urinating, while nude, onscreen in “Shame.” I KNEW that they would not like to nominate THAT! But yes, they DID nominate Damien Bichir, which I am happy to say, I predicted.

The noble Mexican illegal immigrant/gardener is definately a heroic figure to the Academy, as Bichir, a great actor in any language, tries his best to save his teenage son from gang-life in today’s L.A.

I’m also happy to report that Gary Oldman also POPPED UP with no American precursors WHATSOVER in Best Actor for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and it’s about time this great British Actor FINALLY got his first nomination!

This is probably attributable to the supposedly large British voting bloc within the Academy. TTSS got the most BAFTA nods of any film this year over across The Pond. And Oldman certainly richly deserves this for his astounding decades-long body of work. And you can see my interview with him over at my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Who he “knocked out” of the Best Actor face, one of the SAG Five men, was Leonardo Di Caprio for “J.Edgar” which I just totally attribute to homophobia on the part of the Academy which not so long ago denied Best Picture to “Brokeback Mountain” and gave it instead to the OK “Crash.” The worst moment in Oscar history. For me, anyway.

So out of the ten possible choices in my Oscar Nomination Predictions, Leo was the only one I got wrong. To leave out such a big star as Leo is in a Clint Eastwood-directed movie, I find shocking, SHOCKING! But Gary Oldman is a more than worthy choice, and so is Damien Bichir. Congratulations to them both!

However, I underestimataed the Academy’s enthusiasm for their #1 voting change. Because I thought it would be eight and NINE got in. Again, I got one wrong. “My Week with Marilyn” which is STILL MY OWN PERSONAL #1 movie of the year, although it did get Acting nods for the extraordinary performances of Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Kenneth Branagh in Supporting Actor, for his terrific turn as Sir Laurence Olivier.

You can see alllll the nominations listed at www.awardsdaily.com

“Hugo” to MY great shock bested “The Artist” in the number of nominations it got. 11 to “The Artist”s ten. Both got nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, which would be Martin Scorcese for “Hugo” and Michel Hazanaviscius for “The Artist”.

It was Jennifer Lawrence’s finest acting moment when she pronounced Michel H.s name correctly. Hah-zana-VIZ-use, phonetically. Accent on the VIZ.

“The Artist” also was nominated for Best Actor, Jean Dujardin, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress – Berenice Bejo, Best Score – Ludovic Bource who was won at the BFCA AND the Golden Globes, Best Cinematography, Best Costumes, Best Editing and Best Art Direction.

“Hugo” scored mainly in the technical categories or “below-the-line” as they’re called in industry parlance, but no acting categories whatsoever, and may be the first Best Picture nominee with the most votes to ever not have ANY actors nominated at all. Not a good sign.

Historically, the film with the most nominations USUALLY wins, but not always. But “The Artist” is the clear favorite here.

Steven Spielberg saw his “War Horse” surprise in Best Picture, but also saw no actors from his film get in, and he himself didn’t either for Best Director.

Best Director including Scorcese and Hazanviscius as I said, and also Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris” and Alexander Payne for “The Descendants.” The surprise Best Director in the Fifth slot was Terence Malick for the controversial “Tree of Life” which also got nominated for Best Picture!

Best Actor nominee for “Moneyball” Brad Pitt is in “Tree of Life” too, don’t forget, and so is The Girl of The Year Jessica Chastain. Both arguably giving better performances than they did with what they were nominated for “Moneyball” and Chastain in “The Help”, OK, but not great.

I think “The Artist” is still way out front for Best Picture. And I still think BOTH Jean Dujardin and Michelle Williams could upset.

“The Iron Lady” only got two nominations. For Meryl’s great lead performance and for Best Make-Up, which it probably will win.

Glenn Close’s passion project of 30 years “Albert Nobbs” got three nods. For Close, Supporting Actress Janet McTeer and again, Best Make-Up.

And the biggest surprise of all is the Ninth BP nominee, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close!” And Max Von Sydow for Best Supporting Actor in a wordless mute role in the 9/11 drama.

Oscar’s Pesky Supporting Categories. Mucho loco.

Oh, those pesky Oscar Supporting Categories! They are sooo hard to pin down, always, but this year’s there’s so much movement it makes the potential nominees look like Mexican jumping beans!

And no SAG didn’t match the Golden Globes, and they both didn’t match the  (Broadcast Film Critics Assoc.) But look who these groups REALLY represent. Look closely. And the first thing you may notice is that the Broadcast Film Critics, is made up, of mostly, well, film critics.

And there are NO film critics in the Academy. Repeat after me. THERE ARE NO FILM CRITICS IN THE ACADEMY.

And Stu Vanairsdale’s www.movieline.com excellent depiction of the Hollywood Foreign Press as “swag monkeys” is sooo apposite I want to adopt it just for my own, but yes, that defines them. ABSOLUTELY. And also, they are PRESS. And yes, repeat after me…no don’t bother. There’s no press in the Academy either….

So the fact that Michael Fassbender didn’t get a SAG nom is much more significant than it may at first seem. AND he’s urinating on-screen. Literally pissing his nomination away. And that’s how Demian Bichir got HIS SAG nom, playing a heroic Hispanic gardener. Yeah, this category this year . It’s a pisser.

But also not nominated for SAG was Albert Brooks from “Drive” and that make me wonder. He was nominated for Supporting Actor by both the BFCA and the GG, but to be left out of SAG may be fatal.

Why was Brooks not nominated for “Drive”? Maybe because THEY DIDN’T WATCH “DRIVE.” SAG gave nothing to “Drive” whereas the BFCA nominated it A LOT.

Who was nominated in Brooks’ place? Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar!” Stupendous in “The Joy of Typing” as BOTH Winklevoss twins, he’s riding a crest of good will. And Academy members keep exclaiming “I loved J.Edgar!” Which is something obviously Stu V. isn’t hearing.

And Hammer benefits by being in Leo DiCaprio’s shadow. He gets to kiss him, after all (Degree of difficulty!) And even though “J. Edgar” was left off the PGA list, it made MY Ten Best, and I STILL think it’s another Clint Eastwood masterpiece. THAT could be a surprise BP pop-up on Oscar Nomination Day, which is Tuesday Jan.24.

AMPAS members are voting right now on their choices of nominations. Yes, they are. And so what’s on their minds? Well, “The Artist” for one, which is going to get more nominations than any other film this year. And Berenice Bejo is on her way to a for sure Best Supporting Actress nomination and possibly even a win, in my book.

The Argentinian/French beauty carries as much of the film as the stalwart Jean Dujardin, who did win the Best Actor prize in Cannes this year. And she got a BFCA, a SAG nod, and also a Golden Globe nomination. So she was the triple crown of nods as it were.

And she also just won BEST ACTRESS in the Rome Film Festival which just wrapped last week.

So she’s definitely on a roll, and she’s also married IRL to “The Artist” s front-runner for Best Director Michel Hazanaviscius. And HE’S probably going to win Best Director across the board, and if she won, too, that would be the first time in Oscar history that a husband and wife team won double Oscars, a quaint touch that the Academy may very likely find too charming to resist, too. Just like their movie!

They’re French, and SOOOO in love! And so happy!

Berenice’s main competition is Octavia Spenser for “The Help.” Spencer, an unknown up until this season, also was a recipient of a SAG, BFCA & a GG nod. So she’s almost assured of a nomination. But she’s an Academy newbie. Her memorable performance as the foul-mouthed Minnie is the kind of role that gets nominated but doesn’t necessarily WIN awards.

And there was that shitting in the pie scene. Unlike Michael Fassbender, we don’t SEE her doing it, thank god, but she does do it, and then serves it to Bryce Dallas Howard, RON HOWARD’S daughter! in real life, who plays the villainess Hilly so well here in “The Help.”

Stu V. and Tom O’Neil at www.GoldDerby.com and many others have her as a frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but I wonder….

I do NOT think the Academy is open-minded enough to award TWO African-American actresses in ONE year. One of them, maybe, but not both. And Viola Davis is pictured and named as “The Frontrunner” on this week’s Entertainment Weekly annual Oscar issue. She’s pictured with George Clooney, which actually could be the kiss of death. They could BOTH not win.

And the two “Help” women, may split the “Help” vote. And neither wins.

It’s a very interesting year in that the actress categories are so up-in-the-air.

And it just goes to show that Meryl Streep’s reviews for “The Iron Lady” were sooooo bad that they vaulted Viola Davis on to the cover of EW!

And Shailene Woodley of “The Descendants” was not nominated for a SAG award either.  Too young, merely a teenager. But Janet McTeer of “Albert Nobbs” was…and Stu V. has Glenn Close of “Albert” slipping out of the locked five in Best Actress, being replaced by Rooney Mara. I don’t see that happening. But Janet McTeer has ALSO scored the trifecta of BFCA, SAG & GG.

And then there’s Jessica Chastain & her 5000 films she was in this year’s problem. What to nominate her for? Well, if it’s for “The Help” (a good perf, but not great) she’d also be splitting the “Help” vote with Spencer and then…and then…Berenice Bejo wins!

And Vanessa Redgrave could win in this category, but she’s been nominated nowhere so far and it seems like NO body is watching “Coriolanus.”

And then there’s sweet Carrie Mulligan who shows HER nether regions in “Shame.” But oh yes, since she’s a young girl, that could help her…but so far…No nominations…which is a REAL shame.

And Christopher Plummer? He won this race, Supporting Actor, the minute his marvelous film “Beginners” opened in May. The question that plagues us Oscar-ers and Oscar-ettes, is who’s going to be nominated in that category and lose to him. Plummer has never seen so, well, plummy. And he’s experiencing the most attention and love he’s perhaps ever gotten in his long and very chequered career. He’s very grand, too, as Herbert Wanger in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s his year. He’s everywhere!

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