a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Texas’

Live Blogging the Tonys! Tommy Tune’s Acceptance Speech! Breaking News!

Tommy Tune

BREAKING:

TOMMY TUNE’S

10th TONY ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

 

DELIVERED LIVE FROM RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL

MOMENTS AGO

AT THE 69th ANNUAL TONY AWARDS

UPON THE ACCEPTANCE OF TUNE’S

2015 LIFETIME ACHEIVEMENT AWARD

 

“Right now I’m thinking of Texas in the 50s. You see, my father’s great dream for me was the same as every Texas father’s dream for their first born son – they wanted us all to leave Texas, go to New York, and dance in the chorus of a Broadway show. And I did it and I loved every single time step. Especially tonight – this is a great honor. My father thanks you, my mother thanks you, my sister Gracey thanks you, my brother Peter also, and I want to thank each and every one of you who through the years have either attended or contributed to my Broadway offerings. They would not have worked without you. We know that Broadway has a universal mystique, and I am proud and humbled to be part of our Broadway universe. It is vast and inclusive and I believe that all of it, ALL OF IT, is simply an expression of love. What I did for love. What we do for love. On with the show.”

In a few minutes, Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth will start co-hosting the Tonys. I don’t know how I feel about them, singly, or together.

 

 

“Hands on a Hard Body” a Warm-hearted Musical Hits Home

I really did enjoy the recently opened “Hands on a Hard Body” the surprising, innovative musical hit that just opened on Broadway starring one of my favorite Bway actor/singers Hunter Foster. Yes, THAT Hunter Foster, who is the very, very talented older brother of the much more famous Sutton Foster, she who has now two Tonys and Hunter doesn’t even have one!

Hunter does however have a Tony nomination for “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Perhaps the super-duper “Hands on a Hard Body” will change all that. Certainly, it COULD. Hunter has the role of his career here playing the much-older-than-he-is, bad-ass, red-neck lead Benny Perkins.

Based on a much-respected but little-seen real-life documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hard Body” traces the journeys of its’ dozen or so working class Texan characters, who have accepted the daunting challenge of standing with their hands on the hard body of a brand spanking new, gleaming, red as rose Nissan pick-up truck. Whoever can last the longest, in this rather unbelievable, but true competition wins the truck. And hopefully a bigger piece of the American pie, than all of them presently have.

Yes, a cast of have-nots, singing their Country and Western hearts out, to the tune of our sluggish economy and the stagnant social mobility that used be the American Dream.

Contempo, yes, to the max. But I liked that. And I REALLY liked all these characters, and their elucidation musically by Trey Anatasio (of “Phish”) and Amanda Green. And literarily by Pultizer-Prize winning librettist Doug Wright. Who wrote “I Am My Own Wife”. I liked this MUCH better than “Wife”, and was so pleased that there were relatable characters of all ages, sizes and genders singing their hillbilly hearts out.

The way the Musical Numbers are listed in the maddening program, without the names of the characters or actors who are singing them, it’s hard to single out just who sang what. But I found much to my delight(and hopefully yours, too) that every song was a winner.

Hunter Foster really dominates here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did receive a Tony and/or Drama Desk nomination for his memorable meanie, whose big number was certainly “Hunt with the Big Dogs”, which ended the first act with a BANG! But he also sang many other terrific tunes, too.

Top-tapping music and amazingly interesting choreography by Sergio Trujillo kept “Hard Body” (and the red truck, too!) moving so much that you never noticed its’ seemingly static premise. Kudos are due, too, to its’ sharp director Neil Pepe.

Particularly so during Hawaiian belter Keala Settle’s roof-rasing “Joy of the Lord” which had the larger than life Ms. Settle pounding away on the truck until it turned it into a percussive instrument! Tony/Drama Desk and more nominations are CERTAINLY headed her way for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Giving her a run for her awards’ money in that category will be Dale Soules, whose Texas rasp, made me feel like she had just wandered in from the Grand Ole Opry, instead of an extensive career in theater.Her big number was “It’s a Fix!”

Also registering powerfully were Jon Rua as born-in-the-USA hispanic kid with a dream who wants to win the truck, so he can sell it and he can go to school and be a veterinarian. His soulful “Born in Loredo” is marvelously moving and mesmerizing. As is the Iraq war vet with PTSS, David Larsen,in his “Alone with Me” solo that also brings down the house. As do they all.

I love that a Broadway musical takes risks like “Hands on a Hard-Body” does. And reaches and fulfills them. I hope audiences find it as enjoyable and moving as I did!

March Doldrums…Oscars are over. What next? Holland Taylor as Ann Richards

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, the Oscars are over til, well, at least Cannes. Which is in May. Not that I’m going. Tres cher as the French say. And since every one else in the blogosphere will be there, one might as well stay put and not endure the French sun(too hot) or the humiliation if you get the wrong colored pass. You see, in Cannes, everything for the Press is determined by what colored press pass you get.

A certain color will let you march right in to the press screening you desire to go to. But if not, you have to line up with all the others who don’t have the right colored pass and wait til the other colors file in past you, taking up all the good seats. Well, sod that, as the Brits say.

Lining up in Toronto is enough of an ordeal in itself. You sometimes have to get there an hour early to get in to what you what to see. I’m remembering back to the “King’s Speech” which was at 8:45 AM, and yes, there was a line. A very long one. But as I got there particularly early, in fact, I was the FIRST ONE IN LINE, I knew I’d get in.

No such guarantee in Cannes…

Meanwhile, what else does one do in New York in March? Well, being a Voting Member of the Drama Desk, I being to start attending Broadway shows once again.

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, I foresake the movies for the plays, and last night I did just that starting my theater-going Spring season off right with the imploding powerhouse that is called “Ann.”

It’s a one-woman show about the late, great governor of Texas Ann Richards who was one hell of a gal, a real Texas broad who liked trail-blazing as much as she loved talking trash as well as liberal politics.

And Ann Richards is a great under-known American political figure and being a female Texas governor is no mean feat. And the real Ann Richards did it ALL.

Unfortunately, Holland Taylor, the actress who has the audacity to shoulder her story as a one-woman show at the cavernous Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont, has chosen not only to act alone on a over-sized stage that a musical would be lost on, but also to have written the wobbly book as well. *sigh* It could’ve been great. But it’s only a little less than so-so. The road to theater hell is paved with good intentions. Although “Ann” is more like purgatory.

Taylor, an actress who is now somewhere in her seventh decade, is someone I feel I’ve seen acting since forever. A typical WASP matron type, I remember her being grandly soused in a supporting role in A.R. Gurney’s “The Cocktail Hour,” and she’s been in many, many plays and television shows, and she was always, well, serviceable. Just OK. But not a star, by any means.

I guess she’s most widely known now for “Two and Half Men” and I don’t know who she’s playing on it, but it’s made her well-known and probably cemented her fortune, since she’s been on it since the beginning. Me, I’ve never watched it….And there’s certainly big bucks behind the lavishly produced one woman show that is “Ann”. If only Holland Taylor hadn’t written it herself.

She’s not much of a writer, but here, as an actress, for the first time in her long career, she truly dazzles. Esp. in the long, first introductory section where she is basically directly addressing the audience, as Richards, telling her uber-colorful life story. She really does shine here. And she’s basically quoting sassy, saucy lines that Richards actually said. And in this, she’s quite fine. And funny, too and endearing. You start to love her.

BUT—

She’s so good in this, so much so that when she begins to falter in the second act of the play, and even before that, you feel a sinking frustration that a great theatrical opportunity is being blown here.

“Ann” is just TOOOO long.

The minute Michael Fagin’s stunning set for the Governor’s Office is revealed, then moves forward in space towards Holland/Richards, it’s a dazzlingly theatrical moment, and the first act should’ve end THERE. But no, no. It goes ON and ON for quite sometime where we see Ann As Governor in action, as Ms. Holland takes her seat in the Governor’s chair.

And when she sits down, so does the play. And it never really stands up again. THEN there’s a SECOND act, with basically the SAME territory covered in the Governor’s office setting AGAIN, til I just wish she’d step forward onto the apron, relate directly to the audience and shineshineshine again. Finally she does, and I have to admit I admired Holland Taylor’s pluck, but basically about the time Ann was entering her 7th decade, I felt I had been there just about as long, and was ready for her to ascend into Demoratic heaven. And she does.

Why didn’t she get a PLAYWRIGHT to help her? The EGO of the actress in this regard is overwhelming. And terribly misguided. Or a director to help her shape this unwealdy piece of barnstorming? Benjamin Endsley Klein, whoever HE is, was listed as the director, but it seemed Ms. Taylor was out there flying blind. Oh well. She’s a good enough actress and is having the time of her life bringing the exuberant Ann Richards back to life, to make it worth your while to sit and watch her display herself for two hours. But be warned. You’ll be underwhelmed. But you’ll still like Holland Taylor, but you just wish somebody could’ve said STOP!

“Tree of Life” Brad Pitt’s very good & Jessica Chastain makes a spectacular debut, but THOSE DINOSAURS!

What a self-indulgent, beautifully photographed and  very well acted mess “The Tree of Life” is! I’d say it wasn’t worth the price of admission. I left feeling queasy, like I had just seen a 3D movie, but it wasn’t in 3D!  And at the public screening I attended tonight two women were talking very loudly about getting their money back.

Brad Pitt is probably the best he’s ever been in this as the grown Sean Penn’s memory of a stern, but ultimately loving father…But is it enough to win him his long sought-after Oscar?

I wonder…

You have to weigh, or rather wade through, a good half hour or more of primordial ooze and yes, even what looks like Velosoraptors, who seem to have wandered in from “Jurassic Park”! No. I’m not kidding!DINOSAURS! Before you get to the sometimes gripping family drama, that seems more like a memory piece, than a crafted film. If you even call “Tree of Life” that.

I could follow it, but judging by the comments I was hearing, when it was over, from fellow audience members, most couldn’t. Or they got it wrong. “Which son died?” I heard that over and over again.

I THINK it’s the story of an adult male in an urban city (could be Texas. We don’t ever really know) who is played with great stress by Sean Penn, doing a much as he can with virtually no dialogue whatsoever.

Ditto the glorious screen debut of the stupendous, beautiful redheaded young actress Jessica Chastain, who is going to be coming at us in so many movies this year, it’s unbelievable. She’s going to have a very, very BIG screen career. And “The Tree of Life” for all it’s flaws, launches her into the cinematic stratosphere here. At one point, Malick even has her flying through the air, as the embodiment of motherly beauty. And that moment was charming.

But again ,like Penn, she has virtually no dialogue whatsoever, and that she registers at all playing the essence of young feminine beauty and motherly love, in what is basically a silent film debut is very, very impressive.

I saw much of Jessica’s work at Julliard when she was an undergrad there, and I must say I predicted all this would happen to her. She’s dazzling. Amazing. A great young, scintillatingly beautiful actress, with a tremendous range. She can play anything. Classic or modern and she here is made to make one reminiscent of Cate Blanchett, who also had a nearly wordless role opposite Brad Pitt as his wounded-by-a-sniper wife in “Babel.”

Which reminds me of how really, really good Pitt was in that film as a distraught husband. He’s really, really fine here, too, as again, the nearly wordless father. Though he does have MOST of the dialogue of the film, what little there is of it.

I would say a nomination probably, and with a smart Oscar distributor like Fox Searchlight is known to be, behind this monumentally difficult of a sell, he just may score another Best Actor nod. And yes, it’s been selling out. The house, despite the walk-outs was packed.

But it’s an uphill battle with this part of the tough, disciplinarian Dad to get Pitt to the podium for the win. But if anybody can do it, Fox Searchlight can.

The film, if you keep paying attention, and cutting it monumental slack, which I’m actually doing here, is about letting go of your own past. In this case, I THINK it was the guilt the grown Penn feels towards his difficult relationship with his dad, Brad Pitt, and also the death of his younger brother.

Or I THINK it was the younger brother who dies. The sullen main child was meant to be the kid version of Penn. But many audience members weren’t sure. The recalcitrant child is played very well . I think he may actually have the most lines in the film, after Pitt. We see most of this film from his sullen, angry eyes. But many in the audience were confused. And WHAT will the Academy make of this confounding film, with no clear plot line?

All this happens to this typical Waco, Texas WASP church-going middle class family. And the recalcitrant child spends the rest of his life coming to terms with it as he turns into Sean Penn. Right? Or maybe I’m not right. It’s genuinely confounding.

Or something like that.

The cinematography, especially of all of the planets and the protozoa and the lava and whatever else it was we were witnessing at the LONNNNNG, slow, agonizing start of this film, is indeed breathtaking. And the images, hold you, even though it’s very difficult to puzzle out just what the truly frustrating iconic director Terence Malick is up to. And the answer is, well, EVERYTHING. He’s trying to get everything that ever happened in the entire history of the universe into this one film. No wonder it’s running time is over two and a half hours!

It’s Malick, being Malick, so I knew there would be a lot of photographs of leaves and esp. leaves of grass and there are. But it’s a shame that Fox Searchlight or whomever didn’t reign in Malick’s incredibly self-indulgent impulses. It’s very long, arduous experience. It’s work. Not fun. And certainly not entertainment, but Malick probably never intended it to be anything else but portentous. I was going to say PREtentious. But it is that, too. IN SPADES.

But there is a moment in the end where things are getting wrapped up that the film does redeem itself. But by then, as good as he is Brad Pitt may have lost his Oscar.

It’s a restrained, understated, subtle performance and I liked it. But Oscar doesn’t do subtle…usually…

It won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. But here, most people were heading for the door.

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