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Posts tagged ‘Slavery’

SAG Awards Nominations ~ Tricky or True?

So FINALLY after months and months of hot & bothered, heated & cool Awards speculation, the Screen Actors Guild Awards announced their 2013 nominations. In film, that’s five categories only, Best Actor, Actress, Supp. Actor & Supporting Actress, and Best Ensemble, which is their euphemism for Best Picture.

Since these are card-carrying actors and actresses voting for their own, and since their membership overlaps(albeit only slightly)with the Academy Voters, this is the first GUILD, and a very important and large one, to announce. And the surprises were few and far between.
Everything went almost by rote. The Best Actresses were The Locked Five everyone and his mother has been saying it would be. Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Streep and Emma Thompson in “Blue Jasmine”, “Gravity, “Philomena”, “August:Osage County”, and “Saving Mr. Banks” respectively.

SHOCK OF THE MORNING! Robert Redford being left out for “All is Lost”! This is very important. The actors, if anyone, should’ve revered Redford, their suppossed idol, but no, their Idol has feet of clay, it turns out. There is no good way to parse this. Even though he is ASSURED a nomination tomorrow morning, when the Golden Globes announce. This weakens his possibility (even if he DOES got an Oscar nomination) of WINNING an Oscar highly unlikely, if he doesn’t have the SAG voters behind him. He really in effect lost the Oscar this morning with this announcement. I’m not kidding. It’s THAT important. Who SAG leaves out(even more than who they honor) is what is important, esp. this highly contested, congrested year.

The Hollywood Foreign Press(HFPA) however, is a different kettle of fish entirely. These are the 90 or so Foreign “Journalists” who give out the Golden Globes. Star struck to the max, to put it kindly, they will want Redford in that audience.(They announce tomorrow)

But the Screen Actor’s guild clearly doesn’t.

Maybe they just didn’t like that one-man film thing.

But they nominated Sandra Bullock for what is essentially a one-woman film thing, too, in “Gravity.” Which has made millions, whereas “All is Lost” has made nothing.

Zilch.

Another surprise was how poorly “Saving Mr. Banks” did. No Ensemble nomination and no Tom Hanks as Disney in Supporting. Instead in Supporting Actor we find the late James Gandolfini for “Nuff Said” and surprise(!) Daniel Bruhl of the Ron Howard racing film. for playing Hans Landa.

The Supporting Actor nominations were expected for Jared Leto and Michael Fassbender. The first time, let it be noted, that Fascinating Fassbender has been nominated by this august group. And finally, another delightful surprise Barkhad Abdi, the frightening Somali pirate in “Capt. Phillips.”

The fact that both Hanks as Philips himself and Abdi as his scary adversary bodes well for “Capt. Phillips” at the Oscars. The SAGS are notoriously American-centric so the inclusion of the German actor Bruhl and the Somali actor Abdi and the Irishman Fassbender is significant I think.

Supporting Actress was as expected Lupita, Oprah, June Squibb and JLaw and the inclusion of Julia Roberts(For August:Osage County), who knocked out Octavia Spenser, the winner of the Supp. Actress award by the National Board of Review. Confusing isn’t it?

Four nominations were the most and they were for my favorite film of the year “12 Years a Slave” Best Ensemble, Best Actor -Chiwetel Ejiafor, Best Supp. Actor ~ Fassbender, and Best Supp. Actress Lupita Nyong’O.

For a complete list go to http://www.hitfix.com

I See “12 Years A Slave” for the 2nd Time! Still spellbound!

Seeing “12 Years a Slave” for the second time was quite an intense experience. It really held up. And seeing it with a paying New York  inter-racial audience was very interesting. They were spellbound to put it mildly and so was I.

It was very interesting that the audience was so mixed, which shows that it’s reaching different demographics. Which is great.  And people did gasp at some of the most horrific scenes. And they applauded wildly when for one brief intense moment Solomon Northrup breaks out of his slave role and beats the living daylights out of the horrid white overseer played by Paul Dano.

Dano is really excelling in these creepazoid, slimy roles this year, having also just been seen in “Prisoners” as a pervy offender. He’s truly hateful in “12 Years a Slave”, one of the worst characters in it.

I was so overwhelmed by Chiwetel Ejiafor as Solomon Northup, the title character, and also by Michael Fassbender’s tremendous turn as Master Epps, Solomon’s final owner, that I didn’t mention how terrific Paul Giamatti is as another noxious slave dealer who sells Solomon, who he re-names “Platt” to his first owner in the movie, the benevolent(but not so) Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is also the scene where the naked slaves are  casually displayed like livestock in Giamatti’s home. Giamatti, whom we all know as usually a genial boob, here is completely hateful as the pragmatic slave dealer, who slaps Northrup across the face so hard, you, the audience, feels it, too.

He also sells Eliza, the mother (Adepero Oduye)of two young children to Cumberbatch and splits up her family, selling her son to one person and keeping her mulatto daughter for himself. It’s horrifying.

I also never mentioned how frightening Sarah Paulson is as Mistress Epps. No Scarlett O’ Hara, she,  no fragile Southern Belle. The White women in this film as all just chillingly, matter-of-factly evil,,just as bad as their husbands, if not worse.

She is insanely jealous of her husband (Fassbender)’s seeming obsession with the beautiful Patsie, the slave, who picks so much cotton, Epps calls his “Queen of the fields”. Mistress Epps violently scratches and scars Patsie (Lupito Nyong’o)’s face in one midnite scene where a restless and bored Epps awakens his drowsy slaves in the middle of the night and has them dance for him.

The love triangle between the two Epps and Patsie was clearer to me the second time around and both Michael Fassbender and Lupito Nyong’o’s performances grew in grace and stature. Fassbender underplays Epps for most the film I realized this time. He only raises his voice and his fists and his whip when he is truly angry. And he does obsess in a very sick S&M way over Patsie. And yes, he does violently and repeatedly rape her, too.

Patsie seeks comfort and support from Mistress Shaw, a former slave who married her white plantation owner, and now is the mistress of her own domain, and has her own slaves as servants, at a very charming tea party. You also see Patsie looking at her as a role model. Could it be in the back of her mind that she might supplant Mistress Epps? Alfre Woodard is a treat in his too small role.

So much horror is piled upon horror in the masterful film directed by Steve McQueen, that the first time you see it you are so swamped by the constant brutality, the smaller incidents just get blurred into one stupefying whole. Images like Solomon screaming “help!” from his basement jail, as the camera objectively pans up to a tranquil matte shot of Washington, D.C. in 1854.One notes that the capitol dome was still under construction then. And nobody hears Solomon scream.

And when an unrecognizable Brad Pitt turns up as the scraggly bearded, white Canadian house builder Samuel Bass, you cheer his arrival. An incipient Abolitionist, he’s the cavalry riding in a the last-minute. And yes, as the title implies, there is a happy ending. And it’s Pitt. He’s also the producer of this film, which, according to director McQueen, would never have been made without him.

It also becomes clear that Fassbender and Nyong’o are going to sail to Oscar victory in their Supporting Categories. NOBODY is going to be able to touch them. Their performances are staggering, unforgettable, as is Ejiafor’s. But his Northrup is so powerful that you really do need to see it again to get all the nuances McQueen has built into their performances and into the film. Pitt and McQueen are also Oscar-bound as producer and director of this unforgettable film.

And the audience? There was a lot of audible sobbing at the end, but then when the titles coming up, thunderous applause. And this is something you never see happening with the general paying public. But applaud they did!

I’ll say it again, it’s a masterpiece of our times that you CAN NOT miss.

And Then…He Didn’t Like it…Jeff Wells, that is, and “Saving Mr.Banks”

I feel very sorry for Jeff Wells right now. He flew half-way around the world to post his review of “Saving Mr. Banks” and he was well, disappointed by it. That’s really a bummer. To spend all that money and sit for ten hours in coach, to see a movie that you thought you were going to love, then didn’t…

Well, you can read Jeff’s reaction here at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

But the ones who benefit by this are we, his readers, who are delighted by these dramatic,colorful postings. So thank you, Jeff, for doing this for us.

Long story short he didn’t like the movie. AND he didn’t like Emma Thompson‘s performance as P.L. Travers, one-note and irritating. Grating, I think was the word.

But all the others who’ve seen it and there are PLENTY of reviews all over the internet now, seem to LOVELOVELOVE Emma Thompson’s tart take on Travers. the Australian/British authoress of “Mary Poppins.

The praise for her is unanimous except for Jeff Wells. Most feel the film though isn’t what it’s cracked up to be and are up-and-down on Tom Hanks’ Disney.

Gregory Ellwood of www.hitfix.com feels, however, that Hanks will win his third Oscar for playing Walt Disney. His “Capt. Phillips” is a huge hit, and he’ll probably get a nomination for that, too.

But will T.Hanks be able to knock out Michael Fascintating Fassbender in that category?

Jared Leto, who is in drag for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is the other name that keeps cropping up in that category’s conversation. But the Academy is queasy about giving Oscars to drag queens. Remember Jaye Davidson in “The Crying Game”?

I was soooo sure that he’d win, but OF COURSE, they gave it to Gene Hackman that year for the “Unforgiven.”

Fascinating Fassbender, however….that’s a TITANIC unforgettably frightening performance! If you’re scared during “12 Years a Slave“, it’s Fassbender’s evil Epps that you’re scared of…Just saying…

They DO reward scary villains in this category. Javier Bardem  as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men“? Remember who frightening he was in that Dutch Boy haircut?

And Fassbender is playing a real-life character, too. There was a scary slaveholder named Epps. There was. Versus an amiable Walt Disney? Crazy stuff…

Michael Fassbender’s Non-Campaign for Oscar for “12 Years A Slave”

Michael Fassbender’s declaration in the current GQ mag that he’s not going to campaign for an Oscar for his Supporting Role(really a lead) In the monumental “12 Years A Slave” is just a tiny bit disingenuous to me for voila! There  he is on the cover! Looking great, I might add, and very much a winner already.

At Toronto, he seemed to me to be cramming every minute with press time. I sat through a press conference with him and the director Steve McQueen and the rest of the brilliant cast. And he was of course, fascinating. http://www.FascinatingFassbender.com is a website that is worth checking for all things up to the minute on Fassbender.

But at that press conference, he talked openly and freely and feeling about the character of the slave-owner Epps that he embodies so magnificently and so frighteningly in “12 Years a Slave.”

“I don’t see him as evil or a villain. I see him as a person. A businessman who is protecting his property.” I wasn’t taking exact notes, but it was words to that effect that sort of stunned people there when he said it. Because he seems to be the absolute embodiment of evil.

But an actor, a really good actor, and Fascinating Fassbender is a brilliant actor, ALWAYS has to humanize a character for himself and see the world through that character’s eyes, as he has so memorably done.

He was on Charlie Rose, too, with Steve McQueen and Chiwetel Ejiafor(I think you can watch that on You Tube on http://www.youtube.com/CharlieRoseShow.) So he did A LOT of publicity, and he did it early and now has gone off to New Zealand to film “Macbeth” and HE’s playing yes, Macbeth.

He did a lot of press already and now he feels he’s done enough. After “Shame” everybody in Hollywood now knows who he is, and then when he didn’t even get nominated(I knew he wouldn’t. And said so. All that nudity and urinating on camera! i mean, it was riveting, but the SWORM, the Straight White Old Rich Men, who form the bulk of the Academy were shocked.) And he was devastated when he didn’t get nominated, and now in GQ he says he wants no part of the process, which he found humiliating and this time is going to sit out Phase I of the Oscar season, which is now upon us.

October, November and early December is when you build buzz and the Oscar campaign machinery begins to shift into full gear. Then the nominating ballots are sent out around the holidays and the nominations themselves are announced in January, which is the start of Phase II.

But after the nominations come out in January and he starts winning awards(how can he not? I mean, they ALWAYS award the white guy, even a villain, in a black movie, like they did just last year for “Django Unchained”s Christophe Waltz) and he’ll come back to pick up his trophies the same time Mo’nique did in Phase II.

And this year the Oscars aren’t being handed out til MARCH! Because of the Olympics, so it’s a super-long Phase II.

Like The Terminator, he’ll be back.

I predict these things.

At NYFF, ” 12 Years a Slave”s Magnificent Achievement Dwarfs All Others

“12 Years a Slave” I’ve never really seen anything like it. I feel it is one of the greatest films of all time, Simply one of the greatest films ever made and yes, I saw it first at TIFF, where it leveled all comers, and now over a month later at the NYFF, the impact is the same. Nothing has changed. It’s a month later and really there’s nothing going to stop it.

It won the Audience Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival and this is just the first step in the many, many awards that are going to come its’ way. It’s seriousness makes “Django Unchained” look like a joke. And yes, it did win two Oscars. Both for the two white men who were nominated. Quentin Tarentino who got his second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Christophe Waltz, who stunned all Oscarologists (EXCEPT Tom O’Neil at www.goldderby.com) who didn’t predict it. Waltz won of course for Best Supporting Actor.

This year it will be very, very different at the Oscars I predict. But if we look at the precedent being “Django” as the only other film in recent years to have Slavery as its’ main subject , the white guy in Supporting, this time Michael Fassbender, might just get lucky and win just as Waltz did. He’s playing the evil slave owner Epps, who prides himself in “breaking” troublesome slaves. Being sold to the Eps plantation is akin to being sent to Hell.

And Fassbender, who’s star has been on the rise for years now, mainly due to his other two collaborations with British director Steve McQueen, the harrowing “Hunger” where he lost something like 40 pounds as a Irish hunger striker, based on a true story and yes, also as the lead in “Shame” playing a slightly lighter topic as a sex addict, who is naked for sooo many of the scenes in that film. Also, he’s in “X-Men:First Class” and so he’s well situated to FINALLY be nominated for “12 Years a Slave” and he may win.

The film is certainly going to win Best Picture. Despite “Gravity”s overwhelming box-office achievement this weekend, I don’t think the Academy is ready to embrace 3-D, even yet. And since so many voting members watch the nominated films on screeners or DVD copies of the nominated movies, at home on their television sets, 3-D and certainly IMAX is going to look like not much of anything, compared with the gargantuan thrill it provides on the biggest of Big Screens. It should pass $100 million domestic at the box-office in the next week or two. At most.

But all this is to say that “12 Years a Slave” is going to look just fine on DVD. It’s a film of intense close-ups, and unflinching brutality. And of course, it takes a British director to finally tell the truth of this utterly American horror story that was slavery in the pre-Civil War South. McQueen could become the first Black director to win an Oscar. I think if they give it to the film they are going to give it to him, too.

And also his leading man,  the extraordinary British actor, Chiwetel Ejiafor, who as the freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery, is called upon to do things that no actor in the history of film has ever been asked to do before. He’s breathtaking! The levels of pain AND strength, the inner resources and resilience of spirit he brings to Solomon Northrup are astounding. And his and director McQueen’s intelligence inform every shot. It’s staggering in its’ immensity. But it’s all done utterly realistically and  with total naturalism.

The unimaginable atrocities that are depicted here are ALL TRUE.

And last but not least, we have to praise the Oscar chances, and the rise from complete obscurity of its’ ingénue star, Lupita N’yong’o, the young African-American actress, who plays Patsie, the beautiful slave who endures the most unmentionable cruelty, sexual and otherwise by Fassbender’s evil Epps. She will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress for sure, and will give Oprah Winfrey a run for her money in that category.

It’s overwhelmed all comers I feel at the New York Film Festival, just as it did previously at Telluride and Toronto. You see, nothing much has changed since audiences saw it in September. And oh yes, I have seen something like it before! It was also in the capable hands of Fox Searchlight and the name of the film was “Slumdog Millionaire” which debuted and wowed at Toronto and went on to wow the world and win every prize in sight, including the Oscar. It’s one of those kind of years. The word is unstoppable.

Oscar Shocker? White Stars Knock Black Stars Out of Best Actor Race

Sad, but true. In what is being touted as the best year ever for the recognition of Black film making, with “12 Years A Slave” steam-rolling every Oscar category in its’ path, the Best Actor race may sadly be the same old same old-as in The Same Old White Faces.

There were FOUR possible Black Best Actor candidates. I’m using the word Black because two of them are British and therefore the term African-American is not totally apt here. Chiwetel Ejiafor for “12 Years a Slave” is British, and so is Idris Elba “Mandela:Long Walk to Freedom.” The other two being Forest Whittaker (already an Academy Award winner in this category) for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler‘”and Michael B. Jordan for “Fruitvale Station.”

I’m afraid when the nominations are announced in January only Chiwetel Ejiafor is going to be the last one standing. And the hue and cry resulting from this happenstance, may very well secure his win. WHICH HE TOTALLY DESERVES!!! “12 Years a Slave” is a masterpiece!

I have no trouble saying that “12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar in September. In Toronto, to be exact. At TIFF’13. I know. I was there. I saw it.I felt it.  It was seismic. The ground was trembling. It was like an Academy Award earthquake!

And the words on everyone’s lips formed a mantra “’12 Years a Slave’ has already won the Oscar in September!”

And lo and behold, it did go on to win the Toronto Film Festival Audience Choice Award for Best Picture. One of the only awards that non-award-giving TIFF gives out. And it’s the audience at TIFF that voted for this.

And I think it’s going to dominate in every category that it’s nominated for. Particularly Best Director(Steve McQueen), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress ( dazzling newcomer) Lupita N’yong’o. Yes, I think Jeff Wells http://www.hollywood-elswhere.com is right in saying she could beat Oprah Winfrey in this category. Oprah being in the running for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

But back to the lead in this story. The SWORM which IS the Academy (Straight White Old Rich Men) are going to make sure that Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Bruce Dern all end up nominated in this category.

Hanks certainly landed with a big splash on Friday night, opening the New York Film Festival with “Captain Phillips.” Everyone, critics and audiences alike were ecstatic in their praise. Also of Barkhad Habdi as the main Somali pirate. There could be a surprise nomination there. No one saw that coming. But there it is.

Robert Redford’s solo performance in “All Is Lost” is a career-capper, too, by all acounts, and so is Bruce Dern’s in “Nebraska.” Up against these Hollwyood legends, I fear Whittaker, (“He already has an Oscar “) and Idris Elba( his film did not wow the critics or audiences at TIFF) and newcomer Jordon(“He’s young. He can wait.”) will all cancel each other out and leave Chiwetel as the last Black man standing.

And he could win. Satisfying EVERYONE. I hope.

I’m figuring the #5 slot is going to go to the long-overdue, career-changing Matthew McConaughey, who, yes, scored mightily, yes, at TIFF, for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

So much was decided at TIFF this year, I just couldn’t believe it.

When “Mandela” bombed, as did “The Fifth Estate,” those two films were quickly taken off the Oscar table.

It doesn’t bother me that “12 Years a Slave” is the presumptive winner. It deserves it.  It’s one of the greatest films ever made and deserves to be acknowledged as the masterpiece it is.. The injustices and horror of slavery that it depicts, just SCREAM “AWARD THIS!” All the other films coming up this year simply in terms of subject matter seem picayune by comparison.

The fact that in the Best Supporting Actress category, which some refer to as “The Booby Prize” of the Oscars,” there could very well be a historic TRIO of African American nominees, Oprah Winfrey, N’yong’o( She’s an American. She went to the Yale School of Drama! Yes, she did!) And past winner Octavia Spenser for “Fruitvale Station”. That would be terrific precedent-breaking situation. But in the Best Actor category, sadly, no. The status quo will, I fear,prevail.

Oscars at TIFF~ “12 Years a Slave” & “Gravity” Both will win major awards!

Overwhelmed by all the great movies I saw at TIFF’13 this week, but two stood out as already dominating the Oscar conversation. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity.” Is it too early to say the race for Best Picture and Best Director is over? No. It’s not. The Academy can not deny “12 Years a Slave” one of the best films I’ve ever seen, or will ever see, one of the greatest films of all time, will win Best Picture and its’ director Steve McQueen, will become the first ever black man to win an Oscar in that category. Thus breaking the age-old tradition of awarding only white men(Exceptions – Kathryn Bigelow & Ang Lee {twice}).

It will be given a run for its’ money by “Gravity” Alphonse Cuaron’s dazzling 3D epic of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney lost in Space. It will win every technical award it’s nominated for but I think the real surprise here is Sandra Bullock, who is basically the ONLY character in the entire movie. It’s a one-woman show, and she’s giving the performance of her life, and will certainly be nominated for this breath-taking solo achievement that no one, including myself, ever thought she was capable of. She will definitely be nominated for Best Actress and I will go one step further. If ANYONE can upset Cate Blanchett’s Oscar chances in that category, it’s Sandra Bullock.

Are they really going to give an Oscar to an actress playing RUTH MADOFF?!? Blanchett’s triumph is that she makes this extremely unlikable, maybe even vile, woman sympathetic, but is she THAT sympathetic? I mean, you’re left at the end with an utterly unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Whereas when Sandra Bullock(SPOILER ALERT!) kisses the earth in “Gravity” and stands up and proudly walks on that beach, I thought “OMG! She’s going to win another Oscar!” And in a year that is shaping up as having ONLY former winners nominated(Blanchett, maybe Streep, maybe Julia Roberts, maybe Judi Dench and maybe Kate Winslet), Bullock STILL America’s sweetheart pulls off a cinematic achievement in that except for the very brief George Clooney, she’s the ONLY  PERSON IN THE ENTIRE PICTURE. SHE HAS TO CARRY THE WHOLE THING, and YOU LOVE HER! She’s utterly sympathetic and Cate Blanchett’s triumph is that she’s NOT, but Bullock’s Dr. Ryan, you just love and want to get back to earth, and I think the actors branch as well as the below-the-line voting members are going to acknowledge that unique one-woman achievement.

Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman passed on this role. And I think they are going to regret it when Sandra Bullock wins her SECOND (unbelievable!) Best Actress Oscar, a sentence I never thought I’d be typing!

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