a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Teenager’

Greta Gerwig is a genius! Her first film “Lady Bird” Is Brilliant! Will be nominated for many Oscars!

Greta Gerwig is a genius! There are no ifs and or buts about it, she just IS! Her new film “Lady Bird” is so brilliant, you can’t believe it. And she wrote it and directed it, too! Superbly! We’ve all known her as an actress. She emerged in her early 20s to become the Queen of Mumblecore. But she’s the Queen of Mumblecore no more! In her 2O’s, she seemed to be in every single Indie film that was happening during “The Mumblecore Period”. I never thought she was mumbling. Her light as a quirkily original young actress, always outshone most of her films. One notable exception was Whit Stillman’s witty,wicked take on college sororities,”Damsels in Distress.” Stillman and Gerwig seemed a perfect match. Later she began to turn up in more adult roles, like Mike Mills’ “20th Century Woman” and last year’s “Jackie.”

Indeed her style and wit seems the most similar to Stillman’s fizzy blend of champagne and real pain.

“Lady Bird”s big shocker and also its redemption is that is based in HIGH SCHOOL! Yes, it’s a coming of age story. That old trope which seems as ancient as time immemorial. A young teenage age girl struggles to find herself and to come to terms with her harassed embarrassment of a nagging mother. How cliché is that? But in Gerwig’s amazing young hands she turns this time-worn epic into something quite wonderful and new. In that alone, it’s amazing. It transcends genre, time and place.

She seems to have invented teen-ager-dum, or rather re-invented it. Set in the mid-1980s, we see Lady Bird fighting with her frazzled Mom. Sairose Ronan plays Lady Bird and Laurie Metcalf her Mom, and BOTH are going to the Oscars this year  with a ton of other nominations. Including, yes, Gerwig herself, breaking in to the male-only best directing category as well for sure the Best Original Screenplay category.And young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who plays Lady Bird so convincingly at the same time, she seems to be channeling Gerwig herself. As is we’re seeing a halo-gram projection of Gerwig’s inner life. As she desperately tries to escape her ho-hum life in Sacramento “the mid-west of California” and go to a college in the East where it seems everything is “more exciting in a place like, y’know, Connecticut.’

In the first amazing scene in the film, we see her fighting with her mother about this who is adamant that she go to a Community College in Sacramento. Lady Bird screams and jumps out of the moving vehicle. And that’s just the first scene of the movie!

We’re with Lady Bird every step of the way, as she continues her fight in every aspect of her life in Sacramento. Especially the hide-bound Catholic school she attends where all the students have to wear the traditional uniform of the blue  plaid skirt and ugly, flat-chested navy blue jumper.

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How did Gerwig pull off this amazing double hat trick of writing & directing a major motion picture? At the press conference at the NYFF last month, she told a room of spell-bound press (pictured above ^) that being ”a film director is what I always wanted to be” And that as a much-employed actress, she was always studying just how all the great directors she was working with were doing it. An apt student, very much like Lady Bird herself, she clearly didn’t miss a trick.

And it has to be said that young(21) Saiorse Ronan is something of a genius herself. She plays the title role so that you love her AND hate her. She’s died her hair nearly every color of the rainbow, but it’s not becoming.

Lady Bird 11And she’s the first potential Best Actress nominee that has every played the leading role in a film with a full face of realistic teenaged acne. Ronan at her early age has been nominated TWICE already. For Best Actress just last year in “Brooklyn,” and for playing the villainous child Bryony Tallis in “Atonement.” And she’s really quite a good-looking young lady. Ingenue! Oscar can’t resist that word. Ingenue! She might be the one that takes the Oscar home this year. AND she’s Irish playing a convincing Californian….

And now that the film “Lady Bird” itself is such a success on every level, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of Gerwig herself in front of the camera. She’s going to continue on with writing and directing and I hope she never stops! Her talent seems unfathomable and endless. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Oscar Winner “A Separation” Out on Blu-Ray& DVD Aug.21!

“A Separation” the incredibly powerful Iranian winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film deserves all the awards that were thrown its’ way this past year. And its’ brilliant director Ashgar Farhadi was named One the Year’s 100 Most Influential People by Time Magazine, and it plays RRRREALLLY well on DVD, and now it’s coming out on Aug. 21 on Blu-Ray AND DVD.  It’s essential viewing. It’s not to be missed.

The subject, as the title says, is a divorce. Or what starts out really as a trial separation between a secular, middle-class couple soon escalates into something much bigger, a tragedy that is universal as well as thoroughly specific to its’ locale, which is modern-day Iran.

It is simple in the extreme, shot entirely on one camera, as unbelievable as that sounds. And the Special Features feature a commentary with the director/writer which is insightful as well as informative, and enhances the riveting experience of “A Separation” in ways I never expected it to.

Farhadi, for all his talent, has a very monotonal delivery, and I fell asleep at least several times trying to get through the dense translation. And although one of the striking things about the movie is its’ seeming refusal to take sides between the husband Nader(Peyman Mjadi) and his beautiful, Ava Garner-esque, Western-looking wife, Simin, a real screen beauty Leila Hatami, in the director’s commentary Farhadi is clearly blaming the woman in this situation and siding firmly with the hard-working suddenly single father of a teenage daughter, who his commentary reveals to be the character closest to his heart. Although his real life daughter Sarina Farhadi is playing the daughter in question here, her semi-flat portrayal hinders the film from really siding with her in this domestic conflict, that is unraveling her life, as well as that of her parents.

Termah(as enacted by Sarina Farhadi) is kind of a teenaged lump, barely reacting to her explosive family situation. I wonder if that was intentional.,or accidental. That she is supposed to be so numbed and unresponsive for a reason. The world that she suddenly finds herself in, following her mother’s exit from her life, is frightening and paralyzing in the extreme. But Termah is just non-reactive.

To make it worse, her father is taking care of HIS Alzheimer-ridden father in their own home. And he is a devoted son.  So when Simin exits, he hires a maid who turns out to be pregnant, and also an extremely religious, working class woman, brilliantly played by Sareh Byant, who is the real emotional core of this complex family drama. She is accused pretty quickly of stealing, and a miscarriage and a vituperative court case result, locking the two families from two different classes in a war that could turn violent and deadly at any minute.

The court, that all these fiery issues are disputed in is also a shocker, a bare, sweaty room, roiling, teaming with life, simple chairs and no lawyers present. Or juries, or court rooms, as we know it,as the two families have at each other in a savage, unrelenting fashion. You don’t want to see this. You don’t want to be involved. But Farhadi’s skill as a filmmaker, draws you in and you can’t look away.

Farhadi, who has a theater background, we find out in the illuminating Special features, brings the drama of a very skilled playwright to bear in this gut-wrenching movie. And of course, it’s an intimate view into a world we, here in the West, never see. Women in chandors. A religion that does not permit a man to touch a woman unless they are married. Women who must keep their hair covered at all times, it’s shocking but enlightening, in that it’s a world we should know more about, but don’t. And the most shocking thing is how familiar it all seems. We are all one, Farhadi is saying.

Time Magazine noted in its’ estimation of Farhadi’s great work, that he, in the illuminating, persuasive way “A Separation” has engaged audiences internationally, is really a great ambassador for World Peace.

Its’ use of intense close-ups and two or three person scenes in cramped stiflying locations just compells and educates at the same time, and on a DVD viewing, all this is enhanced, not diminished. I’ve watched “A Separation” twice now, and want to watch it again. It just grows and grows in your mind. I’ll tell you one thing, you’ll never forget it.

“Gun Hill Road” terrific new transexual indie!

I predict that the critics will be throwing their collective hats into the collective air above them in hailing the arrival of “Gun Hill Road,” a terrific new Indie about of all things, a Bronx teenage transsexual! And that one of those hats may just land squarely on the very pretty Hispanic head of Harmony Santana, the Latino/Latina actor/actress who gives one of the greatest debut performances I’ve ever seen. Is Oscar listening?

Harmony reminds you a LOT of Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game” who ended up with a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1992 for playing a tranny who was passing who hooks up with the IRA. He lost to Gene Hackman in “The Unforgiven” but that startling nomination is there forever. I thought in one of the first years I was predicting the Oscars on my TV show that he would win. Scott Siegel(yes, he’s been on my show THAT long) said it was gonna be Hackman. I should’ve listened.

The New York Times is hailing Harmony, too, in a full-blown, star-is-born feature article pointing the way to a future career for Harmony and also to PERHAPS major awards kudos at the end of the year. If Jaye Davidson can pull of this Oscar hat trick, Harmony Santana can, too!

And yes, as the New York Times so delicately points out, she IS a transsexual playing a transsexual which is a rarity indeed in features.

Out of Sundance via NYU Film School, it is, believe it or not, the “Thesis Films” of its’ VERY talented young director/writer, Rashaad Ernesto Green, who I knew as a wonderful young African-American acting student at NYU’s famed Grad Acting Dept. He was a memorable, sexy, wounded Brick in a production there of Tennessee Williams’ classsic “Cat on a Hat Tin Roof.” And his classmate Corey Stall played Big Daddy. And Corey is lighting up the screen this year in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”  and he may be Oscar nomination bound, too! I’ve now seen “Midnight in Paris” SEVEN TIMES! An all time record for me!

But back to Rashaad Ernest Green and his wonderful new film “Gun Hill Road”!

Upon graduation, Rashaad had to face the “pounding the pavements” reality of an actors’ life in New York City and this drove him quick smart back to the haloed halls of NYU Film School, this time, to get yet ANOTHER Master’s Degree this time in film.

And boy has he struck pay dirt with “Gun Hill Road”! It’s gone from Sundance to major distribution where it is going to be opening at the Angelika as well as the AMC 42nd St.  this Friday!

If you can’t wait, you can see me interviewing him and Harmony and soon Esai Morales, too, as the jail-house dad, on my You Tube Channel here ~ at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

They’re all going to be famous tomorrow. Or thereabouts.

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