a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Ryan Coogler’

Racist NY Film Critics Ignore “12 Years a Slave” Well, almost

Black director Steve McQueen won Best Director from the New York Film Critics, but otherwise “12 Years a Slave” a masterpiece IMHO was ignored by the NYFCC, the Gotham Awards and the National Board of Review. It’s official. There’s a “12 Years a Slave” racist backlash in full swing. And it makes me very angry.

The beneficiaries of this most racist slate of awards voting I’ve ever seen in my adult life of covering entertainment are strangely( but good for them), Ryan Coogler and the actors of “Fruitvale Station”. “Fruitvale Station” is goodness knows about racism and its tragic effects and I’m the first one to cheer for Octavia Spenser, Melonie Diaz and Michael B.Jordan. Coogler scored with all three critics groups, much to his astonishment as I described in the previous post.

If you were handicapping the Oscars (Like Tom O’Neil does on http://www.goldderby.com), you’d have to take note that young Coogler has scored ACROSS THE BOARD.

And the lacerating “12 Years a Slave” did not. “12 Years a Slave” has the disadvantage of being the early front-runner, which as Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone says historically is the worst place any deserving film can be. http://www.awardsdaily.com And unfortunately, she’s absolutely right. A pushback, a take-down seemed impossible. But three days of dealing with this VERY bad news for “12YAS” it now seems inevitable.

So word got out that “12 Years a Slave” was a difficult sit. It’s challenging, frightening, electrifying and horribly historically accurate. Which is what makes it great. And I’m ashamed that these cowardly critics turned their faces away from the reality of slavery depicted in this majestic movie. Sasha had a feeling this was going to happen, but I thought if it happened at all it would be in insular L.A. not knowledgeable New York. DISGRACE!

Steve McQueen getting Best Director from the NYFCC is to be applauded of course, but it almost seems like a boobie prize when Best Actor goes to Robert Redford for “All’s in the Wash” And the brilliant, painful performance of Chiwetel Ejiafor is left out!?!? REALLY, New York Film Critics!?!? REALLLLLY?!?!?

And the searing supporting performance of Lupita Nyong’o is ignored by them in favor JENNIFER LAWRENCE?!?!? This is for “American Hustle” the David O. Russell film which I haven’t seen yet. I’m sure she’s fine. But REALLY, New York Film Critics?!?!? Really?!?! For SHAME!!!! A BIMBO over an abused slave?!?!? And to ad insult to injury, they named “American Hustle” best picture!?!??!?

And while Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere has a source that says voting for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress were THAT CLOSE. I mean, Michael Fassbender’s choice to go film in New Zealand and ignore the whole thing seems a wise one.

I thought we lived in an enlightened age. But I guess not, Chiwetel and Lupita losing to TWO BLONDS?!? Robert Redford and Jennifer Lawrence is just unconscionable.

I protest!

Gotham Awards ~ Fruitvale Station wins Big, but NOTHING for “12 Years a Slave”!?!

I went to the Gotham Awards totally thinking that my fave, and critical darling, “12 Years a Slave” was going to win big tonight, but it got NOthing! NOTHING! However, 2013 continues to be a big year for African-Americans and the films they’ve made. “Fruitvale Station” got the most accolades with two wins. Nothing got more than that.

Ryan Coogler won the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for “Fruitvale Station” and I got to chat with him a bit afterwards in the delightfully less crowded than usual Press/Green Room, far removed from the noisy fray of the banquet hall below at swank Cipriani’s on Wall St.. Where jammed packed Indie stars and industry types kept talking to each other and not listening to the speakers who kept trying to make them pay attention to THEM. Evidently a losing battle.

However in the Press Room, everyone seemed totally absorbed with what all were saying, and I still feel that out of everybody I talked to tonight, Ryan Coogler, the brilliant young African-American director of “Fruitvale” is the only person who may surprise at the Oscar nominations next month in a category that last year was spread among eight.

If you want to parse it more exactly Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone does it more expertly than I at http://www.awardsdaily.com.

The Director’s Branch of academy is not going to know what the formerly influential DGA (Directors Guild of America) is going to choose before it votes on the directors. Or vice versa. Sasha will explain it.

I tried to explain it to Ryan Coogler and he was dumbfounded at the news. And I had to explain to him, that I, the Oscar Messenger was telling Behn Zeitlin, the exact same thing  last year at the Gothams, standing in the exact same spot in the exact same room that we were both now in, that he was going to get an Oscar nomination, and he didn’t believe me either. And look what happened! I was right! Zeitlin DID get nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” In fact, he won the exact same award as Coogler. And in fact, “Beasts” also won two Gotham Awards last year.

Coogler said he just flat-out couldn’t believe me. “It’s all on my cast, man, and Forest.” Forest Whitaker produced “Frutivale Station,” and was also an honoree tonight.

And Coogler said, “Man, haven’t we met before? I know you.” And I demurred saying that “No. It’s the first time, but I loved your movie.” and that “Melonie(Diaz) was on my show.”

The other award “Fruitvale” won was for Michael B. Jordan for Best Breakthrough Actor. 

He was pounced on my all the media in the press room, and since I feel he ISN’T going to repeat this win at the Oscars(or even get a nomination. Best Actor is soooo jammed this year.) I didn’t press my luck with the surging hoards.

Nor did I try to talk to Brie Larson who surprised all in the room by winning Best Actress for “Short Term 12.” She smartly said as she began at the mike, “This is the only acceptance speech I am going to be making this year.” And she’s right. She hasn’t got a shot of cracking the very tightly locked Famous Five, all former winners, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Dame Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock and Emma Thompson.

Again there was a surge towards her in the press room, and I just thought, “She’s not being nominated” So it wasn’t worth the chance of being trampled in the rush. But I did hear her above the muted din, I did hear her stress how genuinely surprised she was. She looked very, very pale, like a woman in shock should look.

A very funny moment occurred when Jared Leto (who probably IS going to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club”) accepted the award for Best Actor on behalf of Matthew McConaughey, who wasn’t there. Leto held his cell phone up to the micro-phone and tried to get the audience to hear what Matthew was saying. He opened with “Alright! Alright! Alright!” in an accented twang, and ended with saying “Matthew says ‘I Love New York!”

And last but not least, “Inside Llewyn Davis” surprised by winning Best Picture(!?!) And Llewyn himself said he was so happy and honored to be accepting this award for the Coen Brothers(who weren’t there), and to be in a “New York film about New York with New York actors.” That speech got the biggest round of applause, I think. Him, I made a bee-line for in the Press Room, and talked about how I had met him at Juilliard many years ago. And we were supposed to do a satellite interview tomorrow, but stay tuned Stephen Holt Show fans, it’s being rescheduled for next week.

To sum up, I think this will help McConaughey keep his spot in the deadly Best Actor debacle which seemed tightly locked between himself, Chiwetal Ejiafor, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Bruce Dern, until this weekend when everyone who saw the advance guild and press screenings of “Wolf of Wall Street” went batshit crazy over Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance.

So I have to give a concluding shout out to my three friends and former guests on my show, who I had the pleasure of sitting through this whole shebang with. Brian Brooks, Nigel Smith and Peter Knegt. All from http://www.Indiewire.com  ,although Brian has now moved on to http://www.deadline.com

And I asked  the Oscar-wise Peter who he thought was going to get bumped by Leo out of the Best Actor five and he said, “It’s either Redford or Hanks.” And I think he’s right.

The Gothams, the Awards from Independent Films FOR Independent Films, really went truly indie tonight by giving awards to people and films that are going to be swamped by “12 Years A Slave” come tomorrow when the Critics Groups start announcing. Let the Hunger Games Begin!

Video

CONGRATULATIONS MELONIE DIAZ! BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS NOMINEE! INDIE SPIRIT AWARDS!

Congratulations to my charming talented guest Melonie Diaz for her first Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for “Fruitvale Station! And here I am, the Oscar Messenger, telling her this would happen! And she didn’t believe me!

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!

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