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Melonie Diaz Sizzles in Super-Hot Oscar Contender “Fruitvale Station’

The lovely and charming Melonie Diaz of the much Oscar-buzzed “Fruitvale Station” a Sundance and Cannes sensation that couldn’t be more timely. Melonie reveals that she studied directing at NYU Film School! And discusses her relationship with Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer who plays her mother-in-law in the ripped-from-the-headlines movie.

Cate Blanchett May Win Her Second Oscar for Woody Allen’s Superb “Blue Jasmine”!!!

Sound the trumpets! Ring the bells! Beat the drums! Huzzah! Huzzah! Woody Allen has done it again with “Blue Jasmine”! He’s completely surprised us! And gone in a whole new challenging direction and written the most complex dramatic role he’s ever written for a woman. It’s the title role in “Blue Jasmine” and Cate Blanchett gives the performance of her career as Jasmine, who is indeed quite blue. Blue in the sense of sad, if not tragic. But also beautiful.

For there’s is no such thing in nature as a blue jasmine, making Blanchett’s Jasmine as unique a cinematic flower as there ever was.

At a time when it seems women in leading roles were basically being banished from our movie screens, replaced by the endless parade of testosterone-filled, comic book/explosion-fueled films for teenaged boys,”Blue Jasmine” is a breathtaking antidote.It’s the real thing. A great actress in a great screen role.

Cate Blanchett is immediately iconic. Everything she’s done before or since will be compared to this.

“Blue Jasmine” is delightful and uplifting, though Jasmine’s story itself is really quite tragic, Blanchett’s towering performance and Allen’s best-ever writing, make “Blue Jasmine” soar.

Allen challenges us as an audience, and challenges Blanchett as an actress. And she meets every challenge, every single one of them, and surpasses and surprises expectations through her sheer force of her artistry.

Blanchett’s had a career of great performances, but nothing really touches her Blue Jasmine. It’s like the role she’s been waiting to play all her cinematic life. She has one Oscar already for playing Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s great bio-pic on Howard Hughes “The Aviator.”But that was for supporting. Jasmine is a triumphant lead. She could win her second Oscar here. And she’s certainly going to be nominated for Best Actress.

Oh, yes, and “Blue Jasmine” is NOT a comedy. In fact it’s pretty grim. It reminded me most of Allen’s 1980’s family drama “Interiors” which is where Allen showed us he could go to the dark side as well as any filmmaker. And surprisingly, he returns to that dark, inner landscape in “Blue Jasmine.”

Although it doesn’t look that way when it starts. So it’s a total surprise in that sense, confounding expectations, once again, Allen turns in something fresh and also real.

“Blue Jasmine” is filmed in sunny San Francisco, a location where Allen has never shot before. And it alternates with an equally sunny New York City, which seems bright and happy and beautiful,too, as you can feel Allen’s joy in returning to work in his own home town, a place he hasn’t shot in in years! But look out, dear readers, dear cineastes, all that Californian sunshine is going to get quite dark as the film goes on.

Allen wants to paint a portrait of a conflicted, complex woman. Almost Tennessee Williams-esque. It’s like he wanted to go a round or two with a Williams-like heroine at his story’s center, instead of a nebbishy male Allen stand-in, like Owen Wilson’s character in “Midnight in Paris” and many others playing Allen’s familiar neurotic tics and tacks. And Jasmine makes all the other heroines in his films, well, seem superficial or well, trivial. But of course they were all comedies. I’m thinking of YOU “Annie Hall” which won Best Picture and got Diane Keaton HER one and only Oscar. “Jasmine” is different in that it’s all Cate Blanchett’s show. And it isn’t really funny.

In fact, it’s downright slimy at times because Jasmine(real name Jeannette) is not an easy character to like, or even warm up to. She’s clearly patterned not only on William’s Blanche du Bois, but also Ruth Madoff!

Now I never really considered Ruth Madoff as tragic heroine. But Allen evidently does, as it seems he’s ripped this story right from the headlines. Jasmine’s ponzy schemer husband,Alec Baldwin hits exactly the right skeezy huckster note. You KNOW he’s the villain, but you see Jasmine is totally, blissfully unaware that her whole Park Avenue/Hamptons jet-setting life-style is going to come crashing down, but that’s exactly what happens.

HOW that happens would be spoiling the film, I feel, but I can say, she ends up taking refugee with her completely opposite plain-jane sister, Ginger, a wonderful Sally Hawkins, who lives modestly as a super-market bagger in San Francisco, which is what brings Jasmine to the Golden Gate City in the depths of her despair.

Allen, being Woody Allen, after all, does have quite of lot of comic fun,at first, with Jasmine’s plight, as she tries desperately to fit in with lower middle class society, even being reduced to being a receptionist for a horny dentist(a hilarious Michael Stuhlbarg) and popping Xanax like they were candy corn.

Hawkins’s Ginger has a lot to do here, comically and tragically, and she does it all in fine style. Shockingly she’s never been nominated for an Oscar yet. But “Blue Jasmine” could also do it for her, as it surely will for Cate Blanchett’s unforgettable Jasmine.

You have to struggle to like the difficult Jasmine. She’s not an easy woman to warm to as she makes mistake after mistake. But in that struggle lies the greatness of the film. Allen brings up complex, difficult questions about our consumerist society and the last shot of Cate Blanchett will haunt your dreams.

 

 

I Always liked “Vertigo”Best! Now Named #1 Film, beating “Citizen Kane!”

I always liked “Vertigo”. I always liked it better than “Citizen Kane.” I never liked “Citizen Kane” THAT much. I saw it first in London at the National Film Theater around 1970, or so. I had stayed on in England, trying to get into the Drama Schools there, and become a British Actor, which is what I always thought was the best kind of actor you could possibly be.

And I was rejected by every single one.

Although I did get a call-back to the¬† Bristol Old Vic, and spent a lovely weekend, or at least an over-night in Bristol…and then was rejected by them, too.

I was always unimpressed, unmoved by “Citizen Kane.” It was named, at that time “The #1 Film of All Time” and I thought I was really going to see something when I saw it at the National Film Theater. But it left me sort of cold.

I loved and related to the Susan Alexander character, his second wife, who he tries to turn into an Opera Singer. But Kane? No. A bully. A blusterer. A millionaire. Who cared? Orson Welles was good. But when you’re supposed to care about him when Susan Alexander walks out on him, and he tears up her room, I just didn’t care ~ that much.

I was glad she left him.

And “Rosebud”? I thought that was always a very contrived device. One word to sum up a whole man’s life? Nonsense!

And Orson Welles. Well, there was “Citizen Kane” and that was about it.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock was always my main movie idol, in terms of a filmmaker, whom I constantly revere, engage with, and watch and re-watch, on an almost daily basis.

I always thought “Vertigo” was very, very good. And it was grown in my estimation of it, as I have seen and re-seen it over the years. And “Citizen Kane” no matter how many times I have tried to watch it, and tried to love it, as “The Greatest Film of All Time,” I still can’t really warm to it.

I admire Gregg Toland’s amazing camera work. And the Bernard Herrman score. He wrote the “Vertigo” score, too. The one thing the two films now battling it out at the top of the Sight and Sound Best of All Time List, have in common. I have always loved Dorothy Cummingore’s bitter drunken Susan Alexander.

And as I became familiar with Orson Welles’ back-story, you can’t help but feel for him. And the talent stopped and wasted by his ostracism from the Hollywood community.

Whereas Alfred Hitchcock who made “Vertigo” so beautifully, made many, many, many films. In many eras spanning the silent films all the way up to the 1970s.

He was the ultimate craftsman. And I have mused for years on how someone so obsessed with the technique side of films could have made so many movies that have moved me so deeply, and not just scared me to death. His characters are really quite unforgettable, too.

I mean, Norman Bates in “Psycho”? An iconic name, too. And the Bates motel? That has passed from being a movie set into common parlance. Janet Leigh’s performance as Marion Crane earned her her only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress(She didn’t win)

And no matter what, Alfred Hitchcock kept making and making movie after movie after movie. He was NOT outside the studio system. Never. Like Welles became so quickly after William Randolph Hearst’s powerful press machine, the mightiest, it was said, at the time, decided to virtually halt his career in America…

Hitchcock never did anything like that. He NEVER challenged the studio heads. He worked with them, and bent them to his will.

And it’s so strange to me that “Vertigo” was never until rather recently considered the great film that it is now acknowledged to be.

That LONNNNNNG car driving scene through the streets and up and down the hills of 1950s San Francisco, with the Bernard Herrman score pulsing underneath it as James Stewart¬† wordlessly follows Kim Novak’s car, the essence of “pure cinema” as Hitchcock himself would call it.

And since this “Vertigo” annointment, I’ve gone back to You Tube to search for just what people thought of it then. Interviewers like Tom Snyder never mentioned it. Never asked about it. Dick Cavett at least lists it…

What can you attribute the rise of “Vertigo” to? Well, for one thing, Francois Truffaut, and the Cahiers du Cinema, who recognized it and touted it long before others did.

More about this endlessly fascinating topic of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, who I just called The Master soon.

And you know, he never won an Oscar?

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