a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Sunset Boulevard’

TIFF ’11 Begins! And the Oscar Race is ON!

Just a quick HALLO from Toronto! Yes! I’m at TIFF 11 my 13th consecutive year here and I always have the time of my life at the Toronto International Film Festival.  You just NEVER know what magic can happen here! And it always does in one way or the other.

VERY hard to top getting Colin Firth and Tom Hooper BANG right out of the box for “The King’s Speech” ON THE VERY FIRST DAY last year! And then having Tom Hooper naming me “The Oscar Messenger!” Hard to surpass that…but there’s lots of buzz on the ground level, particularly surrounding the great Glenn Close for her performances AS A MAN in “Albert Nobbs”! Yes! And as improbable as that sounds, people who have already seen it have responded very enthusiastically. And don’t forget that Hilary Swank WON the first of her two Oscars for playing a cross-dressing man in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Which also started its’ Oscar career here in Toronto, and THAT was deemed REALLY improbable. I’m seeing it “Albert Nobbs” shortly.

I interviewed Glenn, and I’m not making this up, about her WIGS when she was on Broadway a while back(Seems like a lifetime  ago) for the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section. Yes, I did! I was in Beauty School at the time. YES! I was! And I liked her tremendously. So here we are once again on a collision course. With me do to interview her in New York closer to the opening of the film around Thanksgiving. Just so it’s FRESH in Oscar voters movie-filled mine.

“Albert Nobbs” is set in Ireland, so here, in English Canada, which is Ontario, which is where Toronto is, it’s BOUND to have a good, strong reaction.

Check out Oscar Goddess’ Sasha Stones great posts from Telluride’s Film Festival! She saw it there and loved it. And BOY did she love Telluride and wrote very strongly and movingly about it. http://www.awardsdaily.com  She went there with Jeff Well’s who blogs his brains out on a daily basis at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

So that’s TWO views on Telluride that actually differ wildly on the films they both saw.

Another film that was there, and also in Montreal, and is now here, too is the fantabulous French film “The Artist” which I wrote about at awards daily . It’s the B&W silent movie that I think the Academy is going to fall madly in love with.

It’s ABOUT them. Hollywood in  ’20s.

And I’m looking forward to talking about a things Oscar with Anthony Del Col of http://www.killshakespeare.com

Yes, he’s going to be on my show and on my You Tube Channel, too. And of course, you can see MUCH MORE of the Montreal Film Festival at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Skies are gray today in TO. But nothing like the wild rain predicted. Not even drizzling. Ooops! Just looked out the window! Yes, it IS raining! Torrential downpour in NYC as I flew out of Newark. THAT was scary! BUT I’M HERE! And TIFF ’11 begins! I always feel like it’s a miracle!

Yes, I do. But it’s real!

Betty Buckley “Buckles” at Town Hall

For one night only, Broadway Legend Betty Buckley( or Betty Buckles as she’s known to friends) held sway at the equally legendary, all-purpose booking site Town Hall.

Lately Town Hall has been the site of a resurgence of activity promoting the Great American Song Book in all the years of its’ glory with Scott Siegel’s long-running critically acclaimed “Broadway by the Year” series.

Never one to pause for a moment, Siegel also started a  Broadway Cabaret Festival in October, a weekend, three days of non-stop show tunes and belters. And Betty Buckles was the centerpiece evening. On Saturday night, natch.

I was at turns delighted and frustrated by Miss Buckles who I had seen in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” and who I thought was the best of all the singing, stair-climbing Norma Desmonds …And I couldn’t wait to hear her revive at least a couple of numbers. But she did none of them. Nada. Zilch!

But FINALLY we did hear her, admittedly reluctantly, sing the living daylights out of her iconic signature tune “Memory” from Lloyd Webber’s “Cats,” and sing it she did! And she acted it, too. Turning into Grizabella, the Glamour Cat right before our delighted eyes, feline stance and movements, etc…

And the crowd went wild.

But it was a pretty long, dry-ish wait for that Golden Moment.

I have a theory about Betty Buckles, and this evening proved me right, I think.

She has an unusual voice, a belt that is now close to a rasp. And she was pretty rasp-y through at least the first three numbers. She then began to relax a bit, and her voice got more under control and mellifluous as she then launced into her 50 min.(!) first act. There was then the LONGEST intermission this side of Liza Minelli, and then ANOTHER long second act. The minutes flew by like hours.

My theory, and she proved it that night, is that she is a great singing ACTRESS, as opposed to a great singer. Her voice is very unusual. She just did an album with T-Bone Burnett and I can’t wait to hear that colloboration. She did the blues numbers she chose, like Billie Holidays “Been Down So Long,” surprisingly well.

But mostly she stayed away from Broadway show tunes that she was associated with and gave us one obscure cabaret song after another. Some really worked like “A Ghost in This House” whereas others were mostly just OK.

She did a fair rendition of shows she never got cast in like “Annie Get Your Gun.” “Lost in His Arms” was  nicely romantic. And a couple of “King and I”s, like “We Kiss in the Shadows,” which she hooked up with the latest gay teen suicides, which was admirable.

But the songs she sang from the shows she didn’t get, showed unfortunately kind of WHY, she didn’t get them. Hence my hunger for her dramatic Norma Desmond ditties, which went unsatiated, as I said.

She also made the wonderful annoucement that she has come out of semi-retirement in Texas, where she’s from and now lives. “You must understand that I’m a cowgirl, ” she said close to the opening of the show.

 She told us that she is now in residence in San Francisco, where she is workshopping a Broadway-hopeful musical version of Arimsted Maupin’s “Tales of the City.” “And I’m playing Anna Madrigal!” she declared triumphantly, and again the crowd roared its’ approval.

But then, frustratingly, she didn’t sing any numbers from it!

So although her patter between the songs was informative, bitchy, behind-the-scenes fun, her cabaret song-after-cabaret song underwhelmed.

But it was thrilling to see her in the flesh. A bona-fide Broadway icon, now facing late middle age…Her “September Song” was VERY good.

She addressed the topics of lost love and aging in her musical choices over and over and over again…

So all-in-all I’d say Betty Buckles was a mixed-bag at Town Hall.

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