a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Snow’

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Makes DGA History by Winning 2-in-a-Row

Alejandro 1In a surprise win Saturday night, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made history at the DGA (Director’s Guild of America) when he won Best Director for “The Revenant” after winning LAST year for “Birdman.” You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I really did think it was  going to be just about any one else. But I think the #OscarSoWhite controversy was very much on the DGA’s mind. And Inarritu IS Mexican and considered Hispanic, so his award speaks to Hollywood-ers wanting to right that perception. This may mean he’s going to win at the Oscars now, too.

And he broke into tears and gave a very moving speech about Mexicans in America and Donald Trump. Including the all Mexican kitchen staff that was “Making you sandwiches tonight.” I’m sure at the DGA’s grand banquet, they were dining on more than sandwiches.

But it is important to note Inarritu’s  historic achievement. He broke records and stats. And I only wish his two-and-a-half hour schlog of a film “The Revenant” were that short and that pointed and that moving.

Besides making film and racial history, what else did this win mean? Well, it’s knocked “Mad Max:Fury Road” out of any serious consideration for Best Picture or Best Director. Many were predicting 70-something Australian George Miller winning, but alas that was not to be.

Pete Hammond kind of tipped everyone off when he mentioned to Tom O’Neil that Inarritu was NOT going to be introducing the award as the previous winner historically does. He told Tom on one of the excellent podcasts on Gold Derby just this past week about Inarritu not making that announcement. “He can’t say, ‘The Winner Is Me!'” Hammond noted. Though evidently Irving Berlin did just that one Oscar year back in the day.Alejandro & Leo 1

This pushes “The Revenant” forward just at the time the Oscar voters are FINALLY getting their ballots towards the end of the week.
Leo will win and now it looks like it’s going to be Inarritu is going to win, too. Will the wealth spread to other of the eleven nominations? It just might. And it might sweep in Tom Hardy, too, in Supporting Actor.Tom Hardy 1

The one really touching, true moment was Hardy talking about his being scalped alive during an Indian attack, and SURVIVING! Since “The Revenant” is facing off against “Mad Max” in many, if not all, of the below-the-line categories, the win may cause a “Revenant” sweep.

But what of Best Picture? I don’t think THAT’s going to “The Revenant” too.”Spotlight” and “The Big Short” the “serious” smaller films, with less nominations. but mucho gravitas will score I’m betting. I think “Spotlight” which is being screened at the Vatican this week is the one who will win. It could get Best Original Screenplay, too, and that’s where Tom McCarthy will score. And THEIR Supporting Actor, if that’s the case, twice-nominated Mark Ruffalo could get swept in, too. PLEASE!

Anybody! But “Mumbles” Stallone!

“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!

 

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Going to the library in the Snow

Going to the library in the Snow

I went out today to return something overdue to the NY Public Library and wham! Got hit in the face immediately with ANOTHER snow flurry, coming down fast and furiously out of nowhere. A simple trip suddenly gotten more complicated by this unexpected(by me) blast of whipping snow flakes.

It didn’t SEEM like it was snowy when I left my place and went downstairs, but by then, everything had changed, and it was a full smack of wet frost in the face!

The snow was swirling around suddenly furiously in a way that reminded me of when I experienced snow flakes IN JUNE when I was in Iceland a number of years back. Even in Summer, Iceland was what we might call wintry. Suddenly nostalgic for Reykjavik, I plunged onward my tracks leading me inevitably once again to the cross-town bus.

These flurries weren’t a full-on storm like I had experienced on Tuesday, which was really intense. These snow crystals were more charming, decorative even. Changing the harsh midtown landscape into something absorbing to contemplate as every twist of the wind amongst the skyscrapers blew flakes this way and that. Random. Willy nilly. Dancing white confetti.

And then there were the LIONS. Standing or rather perched majestically in front of the main library building. Unchanging always, but now snow covered and delightful to contemplate in their suddenly changed whiteness. Those two lionine scupltures are the symbol of New York City to many, and I’ve seen them there since childhood.

I couldn’t remember when the first time I’d seen them was. Probably on one of my mother’s early jaunts into Manhattan to educate and edify us in the ’50s. Was it to see the original run of Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”? Which must have been my first introduction to Times Square.

I remember my mother pointing out the Camel’s cigarette sign that blew O-shaped smoke, and wondered why she was suddenly admiring something that she always said was bad, which was smoking…

Or were we any nearer when she took us to see the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas show with the Rockettes? The movie being another Disney one “Babes in Toyland” with Annette Funicello, the former Mouseketeer. I was just enchanted. Seeing it recently I was appauled, but that day it was all glorious, as was my introduction to the Radio City Music Hall, which overwhelmed and enchanted me.

Another unchanging symbol of New York. As are those steadfast Library Lions, now draped royally in white. May they always reign over their Broadway domain.

Out in the Blizzard~ Neon Doesn’t Change in the Snow

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Well, the snow is over. But it’s sooo cold….I don’t know which is worse…Snow can be fun. The single digit cold isn’t.

Yesterday traveling through mid-town Manhattan on a bus took ten times the time it usually takes to go from here to there….Of course, it WAS scenic…The Snow turning even the grittiest urban eyesore into something beautiful to look at…Piles of junked cars became artful sculpture in the white.

But I did notice one thing. Neon doesn’t change in the snow. As my bus went SLOOOOOWLY through the Times Square area, the bright Neon signs were as garish as they’ve ever been and just as visible, just as readable. A mad, blinding blizzard in New York doesn’t stop the advertising from being read quite clearly. Skyscrapers, too, looked the same, although the swirling snow was visibly engulfing them, making their tops disappear into the white. So they seemed surprisingly shorter,in the mad swirl, but the Neon signs, no. The Times Square area continued its’ blazing, blaring,non-stop Broadway ballyhoo-ing. 

When it’s snowing it isn’t THAT cold out.It was around 30 degrees, or a bit less. The snow changes everything in such a mechanical city as New York. It slows down into the slowest of motions and interferes with everything, except of course, the subways.

As we approached Second Avenue, I heard on the bus’ intercom that a Select Bus, one of the new, super-long buses they’ve been introducing with a huge, accordion bend (or two) in the middle had “jack-knifed on Second Avenue.” I asked the bus-driver if the other buses were running on Second Avenue and he said he didn’t know. And I wondered if I should get out where we were Third Avenue, which I thought also went downtown.(It doesn’t.) And he said “I can’t tell you what to do. It’s up to you. You can take the risk.” Which left me completely confused. Thanks a lot. 

But I could see the traffic running, racing even on Second Avenue, so I thought “Well, the traffic certainly hasn’t slowed down. So the buses must be running.” They weren’t. I waited and waited on Second Avenue with dozens and dozens of other people. Bundled up they all looked like Russian peasants. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores, trying to get downtown.

I ducked into the warm, friendly lobby of the WPIX building. I must’ve been there for over a quarter of an hour, then I finally decided to walk back from whence I came. To Third Avenue, where the buses also went downtown. Or so I thought. No. The traffic was all going uptown. And at that point I was seriously considering giving up and going home. But no. As I trudged into the driving white mess, I saw a colorful subway sign.My heart leapt! Civilization! So that’s what I did. I went down into the subway. I had never seen this entrance before, AND it had an escalator going down, so that’s what I did. And I eventually got where I was going.

Moral of the story, when it’s a blizzard in New York City, take the subways. They NEVER stop.

I should’ve taken the subway in the first place.

It’s Snowing in NYC

I love snow. I love to LOOK at snow. Going out it in is another thing entirely, but today I must. I could’ve cancelled everything as many in the city do on a day like this. But I’m going out in it. And tonight I’ve got “Machinal” on Broadway. I’m seeing it with one of my theater-going friends who also just confirmed, so I AM going. And the press agent just sent me an email, confirming my presence again. So I’m doubly committed.

I do have a new winter coat now, but the secret, I think, really, is layering. Which I am doing as we speak.

Subway or bus? I’m leaving super-early because the buses may be running slowly, of course. But the subway steps are treacherous in this weather. So I guess I’m opting for the bus.

Looking outside my window this morning was a total shock! Snow everywhere! Was this predicted? Too busy reading and writing my blog last night to notice the weather reports and catching up with Downton Abbey, natch.

More on that soon. HUGE event happened in Episode 2, but I’m STILL staying away from spoilers at the moment, but BOY is Mrs. Hughes having one challenging season!

Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” Delights at Symphony Space

I had a truly magical, joyous experience stumbling in to the Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of the little-seen “Patience” at the Symphony Space in the deadening cold that New York is now experiencing. I didn’t think I could ever laugh or respond, it was such a frigid night. But “Patience” rewarded my patience by having me laugh myself warm and silly at the lyrics’ surprising, sharp, satiric wit. It was the essence of camp, and an utter delight.

The G&S Players are a group of very dedicated Savoyards,as the ardent admirers of Gilbert & Sullivan’s marvelously giddy operettas are called. And these super singers have dedicated large portions of their life to appearing in, and TOURING, these wonderful masterpieces of wit and nonsense.

“Patience” is rarely done and may be the least known of the G&S canon. It was first produced by the  Richard D’Oyly Carte at the Opera Comique in London on April 23, 1881 and on October 10 it transferred to the Savoy Theater which Carte had just built.  Hence, the term Savoyards. “Patience” was also the first production to be entirely lit by electric light. It ran and ran.

I had seen a production of it by the English National Opera in London in the early 70s, but though magnificently sung, it wasn’t funny at all. I don’t think those tres serieux opera singers got the joke. But the Gilbert and Sullivan players sure do. I couldn’t stop laughing.

The character of Bunthorne, “a fleshly poet” was thought to be based on Oscar Wilde himself, and it was a satire of the whole Aesthetic Movement, which was all the rage in England at the time. But Wilde himself took no offense at its’ depiction and joined with D’Oyly Carte to go on a publicity tour to promote “Patience” and the Aesthetic movement all across America, where it hadn’t really ever caught on.

Oscar knew great PR when he saw it, and seized the opportunity, arriving in America and stating famously to customs “I have nothing to but my genius.”

The plot of “Patience” has two rival poets, one Reginald Bunthorne, the other Archibald Grosvenor, who in this production looks like Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde’s young, notoriously blond and good-looking young lover, sought after by a chorus of “20 Lovesick Maidens We”, who reject the 20 Dragoons they are supposedly engaged to, because of their adulation of Bunthorne. Then in Act II the fickle maidens switch their affections to Grosvenor, played & sung marvelously by David Macaluso. The slim James Mills camped himself dizzy in the role of Bunthorne, not a “fleshly” poet, but an athletically lithe, hilarious one. His “Magnet and the Silver Churn” was terrific fun.

In the reduced scope of this  production on the tiny stage of the Symphony Space on Upper Broadway, I counted only about 14 maidens, and the pit orchestra was also ONSTAGE. Supposedly hidden behind a black-draped panel, which at one point fell down, revealing the suitably embarrassed conductor and musicians. As I said, it was the essence of camp. And the aesthetic of camp allows for this.

Patience is the virginal village milk-maid whose affections, both poets vie for. In this production, however it was the basso profundo contralto actress/singer playing the plain, aging, massive Lady Jane ,Cáitlín Burke,who really knocked my socks off. She has the wonderful Act Two opening aria, accompanying herself on a cello, and lamenting her fate as she ages and “more corpulent grow I,” as she waits for Bunthorne to return her unrequited love.”There will be too much of me  in the by and by.”

We can all relate. I haven’t laughed so much in a theater in years!

I See “Llewyn Davis” for the Second Time & LOVED it!!!

I don’t think I have been more wrong or had such a wildly different reaction to a film, than I did seeing “Inside Llewyn Davis” for the second time. The first time I wrote “I was bitterly disappointed.” But this time I laughed my way through it and was enchanted! I couldn’t believe it! I had a blast! I found it uplifting! I had a marvelous time this second time, because almost unlike any film I’ve ever seen I couldn’t stop thinking about it and went back to see it AGAIN! And I loved it!

The first time I saw it was at a jam-packed critics’ screening in a too-small Soho screening room. And no one laughed. Except at John Goodman. Critics don’t react. But this second, paying audience(including myself) roared with approval. It was a very transformative experience.

This time I just LOVED it, and I got what the Coen Bros. were trying to do with it, which is to depict grief in show business. with a small “b”.

It didn’t really register that Llewyn played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac, is still reeling from the death of his beloved singing partner, a guy, who threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge. John Goodman’s character reacts the most violently to that statement of fact. His drugged out jazz musician says “He jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge? Who does that? You jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.” And the audience roared.

And Llewyn cringed. He’s just full of unexpressed pain in the tragedy that has enveloped his life and him left so lonely. You get the impression this time that he depended on his late partner for everything. He brought harmony, more than just vocally into his life.

So Llewyn’s violent reaction when a friend, a woman(played perfectly by Robin Bartlett) starts harmonizing with him and he explodes at her and ruins a perfectly nice dinner party, we now see that it’s because it’s his late partners’ lines and harmonies that she’s filling in. Now wonder he exploded at her!

And this time, my heart just went out from the get-go to Llewyn. Oscar Isaac’s quiet power, the charisma of his pained dark eyes and his sad, sad solo singing…well, it’s heart-breaking.

The Coens have decided to explore failure and also grief in all its’ aspects, as it pertains to the Greenwich Village Folk scene of the early ’60s. And besides by blowing up at nearly every one he meets(he’s got a mean streak and a temper), his sadness is expressed in his singing. Like in the opening number “Hang Me, O Hang Me”. It really was about his lost partner’s death. And it immediately involved me. Now that I knew that that’s what this film is about.

He pours his heart out in a singing audition in an empty nightclub in Chicago that he has hitchhiked to in a snowstorm(with a cat). He sings an English ballad a very sad song indeed about “Queen Jane” to a stone-faced, cadaverous night club owner (F.Murray Abraham) who reacts by saying “There’s not much money in this.” And he advises him to “get back with your partner.” Llewyn looks like he’s about to tell him that his partner just committed suicide, but chooses not to and just says, “Yeah, right.”

And he has no winter coat, and his falling-apart shoes are soaked through to the socks. And it continues to snow in Chicago. Everything in Llewyn’s life is winter and snow. Bleak, bleak, bleak. The Coens are keeping it really real.

But I saw it this time as a joyous tribute to survival even if  EVERYthing isn’t going your way. NObody has it as bad as Llewyn does in this movie. It’s Schadenfreude for the audience in spades. I thought of the book of Job. And yes, the Coens are torturing him, their main character, as they often torture their protagonists.

In a normal movie about a singer, he would succeed through his music at the end. But that moment never comes.

Prepared for that, I braced myself for the unnerving ending, and this time it didn’t shock with its’ brevity or annoy me, it left me singing “Inside Llewyn Davis” praises for being startlingly original and as unique a piece of American film-making as I’ve ever seen

Bravos to all involved! It just is a film that you HAVE to see TWICE! At least! And I’m running out to get the sound track album! And all the singing and playing was done live by Oscar Isaac and co. under the expert tutelage of T-Bone Burnett. I bet T-Bone wins a Golden Globe in a couple of weeks for Best Music.

I wish the Best Actor race wasn’t so cruelly crowded with vets and heavyweights giving the performances of their careers. Oscar Isaac should be nominated for Best Actor for his indelible, unforgettable performance. I can’t wait til I see it again!

Oscar Best Picture Race~Is It Really Down to Three?

New York’s just had its’ first major snowfall, Christmas is around the corner, and can the Oscar race for Best Picture be just down to three films already?

To judge by the major Oscar websites, it already seems a done deal. With “12 Years a Slave”, “Gravity” and unbelievably “American Hustle” being judged the only three that could. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone has another great “State of the Race” piece and she sees it this way at http://www.Awardsdaily.com and so does Tom O’Neil at http://www.goldderby.com

But interestingly though they came to the same conclusions about THE THREE. Sasha has “12 Years a Slave” is on top, and Tom O. is sticking to “Gravity.” Me? I’m on Sasha’s side. And I hope that’s the way it plays out.

I saw “12 Years a Slave” for the THIRD time last night, and was bowled over by it all over again. It’s beauty.It’s musical score by Hans Zimmer. The cinematography, director Steve McQueen’s expert use of his large cast. There’s not a weak one among the vast ensemble. And the writing is so good! And it’s a true story!John Ridley is the screenwriting, based of course on the now best-selling book by Soloman Northrup. First published in 1856.

And Lupito Nyong’O and Chiwetel Ejiafor broke my heart all over again.

I can’t even imagine sitting through “American Hustle” Three times. Maybe to figure out its’ dense con artist plot within a plot within a plot. But not even Jennifer Lawrence’s hilarious mob wife would get me back a second time. There’s not enough hours left in my life.

“American Hustle” benefits greatly from being the new kid on the block as it were. “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” have been going strong since Toronto Film Festival, which is where I saw the both of them. And that’s a problem, too. Keeping the momentum going this long. Both Fox Searchlight and also Warner’s have that as a task they must fulfill.

I just  got a press release that it’s going to be re-released, though I just saw it for the third time, as I’ve said, last night. It’s made $35 million, which is no small amount of Oscar change. And the nominations are only now about to be mailed out to the membership.And of course, those all important DVD screeners.

Seeing movies on the big screen is the only way, really, to see these important films, IMHO. I saw “Her” tonight. Cute. With a small “c”. But with so many films these days being so dark and so tragic, “Her” is really a sweet, sweet love story…about a man(Joaquim Phoenix) who falls in love with his Ciri-like Operating System, voiced magnificently by the totally unseen Scarlett Johansson. It gains by comparison. It aims to be GENTLE. And it refreshingly is.

It’s a futuristic love story, but that’s all it is. Filmed in Beijing, it looks like it really HAS been shot in the future, too.

In any other year, Joaquim Phoenix’s kindly, lost, dweeb Twombly would be in the best actor race. Most of the film is ONLY shots of his face. I didn’t know if it would sustain, if he’d be that riveting, but newsflash, he is. TOTALLY different from his disturbed loner Freddie Quell from last year’s “The Master” which, yes, indeed he WAS nominated for Best Actor for. But this year Best Actor is so crowded, he hasn’t a chance to get in.

He hasn’t turned up in any of the precursor critics awards. And neither, strangely has Tom Hanks for “Saving Mr. Banks”. His Disney on Disney performance is not going down or turning up anywhere.  At least not yet.. NOBODY nominated him for this Supporting turn, whereas they ALLLLL nominated him for “Captain Phillips” as Best Lead Actor and they’ve nominated Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi in all three major races, too. For Best Supporting Actor.

He and Daniel Bruhl  of “Rush”as well have been nominated for the SAG Award, the Golden Globe award and also the Critics choice awards, something NOBODY could have seen coming, but yet, there they are. They made the golden trifecta that you NEED to get to be nominated for an Oscar.

Oprah was left out of the Golden Globes in Best Supp. Actress for “The Butler”. So does that make her vulnerable? Or just simply unpopular with the Hollywood Foreign Press?

And Robert Redford not being nominated for a SAG award for Best Actor for “All Is Lost” is still the most shocking snub. And it WAS nominated for Best Stunt Ensemble, which is really crazy weird because HE IS the Ensemble, in this one person movie.

That, yes, can be seen as merely stunt work.And it IS incredible stunt work. For a 77-year-old man to be doing all that running (around his sinking yacht), climbing the mast, swimming with sharks…well, he’s certainly in good shape for his age. And his agility is amazing. But is that great acting? Well…

It’s also  almost totally silent.

He says one word and one word only “FUCK!!!!!” when he begins to finally sense the utter desolation of his desperate situation. IF ONLY THAT WEREN’T HIS ONLY WORD…And I thought, “Well, he’s lost the Oscar. Right there.”

In this tough field, he’ll be lucky to be nominated. And he’s not actively campaigning as the other 77-year-old in the race for Best Actor is, Bruce Dern, for “Nebraska”. He’s everywhere. In L.A. Guess he’ll be showing up in New York to pick up his National Board of Review award for Best Actor. He won that, Bruce did. And he also triumphed at the L.A. Film Critics.
But neither of them are going to win against “12 Years a Slave”s majestic powerhouse Chiwetel Ejiafor.

Oscar on its’ way to being “Tattoo”-ed? Fincher’s GREAT re-do nails it!

I can’t begin to tell you what a wonderful experience it was to be soooo totally surprised, stupefied and blind-sided, and deee-lighted to be so, by David Fincher’s re-do of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I’m kinda hog-wild about it. I think it’s an instant classic.

Shocked that material I knew so well ~ I saw all three Swedish movies and read all three blockbuster books and was totally entranced by all of them, and I  could not BELIEVE that a director whose work has been so notoriously uneven, really could re-invent, in a completely NEW, a startling way, a movie we’ve actually already seen. As recently as last year. Which is when I caught up with it.

I mean, really! Quelle shock! Quelle surprise! And how wonderful to suddenly see David Fincher turn into Alfred Hitchcock, in all of the best possible ways. I mean, Fincher has really done the IMPOSSIBLE. He re-thought and re-shot a re-make and made it all utterly, entirely entertaining.engrossing and WATCHABLE. All nearly three hours of it! Yes, it’s that long, dear readers, dear cineastes.

Fincher wants you to go through an epic, an ORDEAL, as his Viking goddess, Lisbeth Salander, becomes a true immortal Norse Mythological Heroine in his hands, and in Rooney Mara’s equally stunning performance ~ It’s a SAGA! An Icelandic SAGA! Or in this case Swedish.

Lisbeth Salander is  on par with Brunnhilde, these days. But, oh wait! That’s German! But yes, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” has that on its’ mind, too. Nazis. And there’s a lot of them. And they populate Sweden and esp. this film (and the book, too. No Fincher didn’t ADD them. But he did ad a cat… )

And there’s a LOT of Swedish politics and rage against the supposedly perfect Swedish social machine. Where corruption exists on all levels, mostly high, but mid-range, too, as exemplified by the beaurocrat Bjurman(a really slimy pig of a politico played here Yorick Van Wageningen.) His rape of Salander jump-starts the film into hyper-space, if the film’s opening five minutes of INCREDIBLY dark and oily, inky black  titles  with pounding music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, that turn into blood and then into fire, didn’t already blow you there.  I don’t ever remember Opening titles getting applause!

How DID he do this???

Welllll, there is a biiiiiig difference between a $15 million budget which is what all THREE Swedish films had, and the something upwards of $150 milllion that this “Tattoo” was inked with.

Quelle difference! But it’s not just the money. It’s how Fincher USED the money, wisely. It’s superbly shot in a de-saturated, almost black and white tone, by his great cinematographer, who makes Sweden look black and BLUE.  There are snowscapes upon snowscapes of incredible beauty. Some thing the original Swedish version directed by Niels Arden Oplev did NOT do.

Oplev’s Stockholm looked glamorous, beautiful, colorful, intriguing, inviting. It made you want to go there. It was a celebration of Stockholm. It was if we’d never seen it before. Oplev WANTED you to go there.

There is no color whatsoever in Fincher’s version. It’s all chilly, foreboding, FREEZING. Everything seems like it’s happening in a new Ice Age. And he’s more interested in frightening the living daylights out of you by the winter gloom. It’s as though the two “Tattoos” were filmed in two totally different cities. One you’d want to go to and one you wanted to run from.

And there is a LOT of darkness in Lisbeth Salander’s world, the world that Steig Larsson created for her. It’s a Nordic vision of hell, and it’s so rotten you can also smell the stench of decaying souls. Lisbeth’s last scene takes place, metaphorically, next to a dumpster, as once again, it’s snowing.

And the suspense! Not since Hitchcock, as I said. My hero. He was the greatest of great filmmakers IMHO. And that Fincher is able to sustain this for NEARLY three hours is absolutely astonishing.

There are SOME bright lights shining in this land of the midnight sun, and it’s all in the casting. The excellent ensemble boasts a rubicund Christopher Plummer as the rich guy who hires the down-on-his-luck Blomkvist. And Blomkvist is magnificently played by none-other than James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. He’s the hero and we all know it. And a helluva nice guy. A journalist who’s a crusader against corruption in all forms, Henrik Vanger (no, not WAGNER, but you get the drift) hires the hapless Blomkvist to track down the disappearance many years prior of a beloved neice, Harriet.

Add a perfectly cast Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Joely Richardson, who’s never been better and you’ve yourself got a superb group of players. Down to the smallest bit part, Fincher has assembled a great, an historic ensemble of actor’s actors. One of the best ever for his kind of thriller-diller shockeroo. But that’s what Hitchcock did, too. He always had THE BEST actors, and by doing so elevated the genre.

That’s ONE plot, the Harriet plot. Then there’s an Agatha Christie-esque mystery-within-the-mystery, which is the real core of the story. THEN there’s the great love story that develops between Blomkvist and Salander and SHE’S definitely the one on top here.

One of the great successes of Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy is his reversal, his up-ending of the usual sexual expectations in a genre like this. And both Mara and Craig are totally up to and under it. They were hot together when their relationship starts to turn carnal. And it does! We suddenly see what is keeping all those Swedish nights so warm!  And like in Ingmar Bergman’s great cinematic ouevre, it was always about the women.

And Lisbeth Salander is one of the great fictional heroines of our time, and Noomi Rapace in the Swedish films did a beautiful, mystifying job. She was as glamorous and intriguing and complicated as the Sweden that was depicted in the previous films.

Rooney Mara has large, almost gigantic blue eyes, They seem to dwarf her completely. Noomi had dark, impenetrable, almost black eyes. What WAS going on behind them in all those intense close-ups of her throughout the first three films?

With Mara’s enormous orbs, we SEE what is going on inside her much, much more clearly, and yes, there is ultimately a vulnerability that Fincher finally reveals in the film’s last scene which was like a cinematic sucker punch.

And Rooney and Oscar? Well, I’ll write more about that tomorrow!

Heat Wave in New York today! Ugh! Tomorrow, James McAvoy of “X-Men” Yay!

Ok, it’s going to go into the 90s again today in New York City! I have been reluctant to write about just how bad the heat gets here, because heat effects me greatly. The cold, not so much. Guess I’m a true Celt in that sense. With an ethnic background of Irish-English-Scottish-German, I’ve always been better in cooler climes and weather. And New York in the summer is a bummer

Me, I prefer the blizzard we had this winter. Worst winter in NYC in my memory and I hope this summer doesn’t match last summer which was a 90 degree heat wave through almost all of July and August!

I got drenched by stupidly misjudging the rain one day on my way to tape my Tony show. You can see it here www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

I was soaked, then had to sit in the air-conditioning for four hours or more at the lovely Bombay Palace Restaurant while we were filming. Then got sick from it and developed what was probably Walking Pneumonia.

I wonder if people realize how strenuous it is to keep doing a weekly TV show? Esp. when you’re sick.

Also for the first mega-heat wave last week, which lasted five days, I didn’t have any air-conditoner. I thought I was going to die. And got sicker. But fortunately, I went to the doctor, got the right antibiotics AND a brand-new air-conditioner and am fine now.

The doctor said “Rest and lots of liquids” so basically what that amounts to in New York is staying IN ALL DAY. Or at least til the Sun begins to set.

I’m getting ready to do Editfest this weekend, which is this really neat two-day festival of all Editors, mostly film, but TV, too, talking about Editing.

As someone who does a weekly show, I have a new mantra “You can never know enough editors!”

Fortunately, it doesn’t begin til after the heat wave is supposed to be over. But we’ll see. I basically don’t trust the weather men, anymore. They almost always seem to get it just a bit WRONG. So I hope this heat wave will be over by Friday. And Editfest.

I’m interviewing James McAvoy via Satellite tomorrow. I think he’s in London. For “X-men: First Class” which is very exciting, esp. since I liked and actually SAW the movie!

This franchise will put James in the multi-millionaire category. Where he belongs. And he’s so good in this film, too. Never your typical leading man, he’s so right for the good guy, Professor Xavier. Can’t wait for that moment!

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