a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘The Artist’

Past Best Picture Oscar Winners I Adore (& Own & Re-Watch)

Oscars Now that’s it all over but the shouting (on Oscar night, this coming Sunday, Feb.28), I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic about other films that have one Best Picture in the past and really won my heart. Some I’ve watched over and over and over again. Some I own. I love them so much I always want them to be with me or near at hand anyway to play at any time.

  1. Gone With the WindGone With the Wind
  2. All About EveAll About Eve
  3. Tom JonesTom Jones 1
  4. The King’s SpeechThe King's Speech
  5. The ArtistThe Artist
  6. Lord of the Rings Part 3, Return of the KingSam & Frodo
  7. Twelve Years a Slave12 Years a Slave 2
  8. RebeccaRebecca 1
  9. Midnight CowboyMidnight Cowboy
  10. No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men 1

“Son of Saul”s Geza Rohrig Talks Oscar

Son of Saul 3

Unknown Hungarian actor and poet Geza Rohrig has found himself catapulted by the Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner, the excoriating, unforgettable “Son of Saul” into the middle of the Oscar race.
“It’s all very nice,” he says modestly,” But I cannot make these things happen.” But they ARE happening, as Sony Pictures Classics begins to propel “Son of Saul” into all categories including Best Picture, not just Best Foreign Film, and Rohrig into Best Actor.
Part of that propulsion is the unaffected, unassuming Rohrig giving interviews on just that topic and “Son of Saul” in general, in New York’s Sony Building, gayly decorated for Christmas. And guarded like Fort Knox.
The security getting into the upper reaches of the Phillip Johnson designed skyscraper was intense. I had to even show my passport, which they photographed!
But at the top of a winding staircase, festooned with evergreen and red and white Christmas balls sat Geza Rohrig, in a large corporate conference room. He was casually dressed  in a gray T-shirt and jeans, wearing that flattened black cap, he is most often photographed in these days and a several day growth of actor’s stubble. Looking the absolute scruffy antithesis of the corporate Christmas milieu surrounding him.
He seems stunned but pleased and a little overwhelmed by all the awards talk revolving around him.
“But it is very good for the film. I hope it allows more people see it.”
I point out that Hollywood has a recent history, almost a tradition, of awarding previously unknown foreign actors, who give extraordinary performances, with an Oscar. Marion Cotillard with “La Vie En Rose,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” and Jean Dujardin in “The Artist.” Last year, Marion Cotillard popped up again in Best Actress for a Belgian film in French “One Day, Two Nights.”
Rohrig smiled when I told him this. It was something I hadn’t seen before. He doesn’t smile much in “Son of Saul.”
There’s no doubt about it. Geza Rohrig has one of the great screen faces. His face, ravaged, sullen, dirty, frightening is front and center in the middle of the screen in a very, very tight close-up for almost every shot in the film. Set in Auschwitz itself, the most notorious and horrifying Nazi death camp of all, we only see what is happening in the edges of the screen.
Except for Rohrig’s astoundingly expressive face, which is IN focus, the periphery is out of focus. It’s as if his character, the Sodocommandant Saul is seeing only what it is necessary for him to see, only what he can glancingly observe, as he is made to do the dirtiest of the Nazi’s dirty work.
At one point, a Nazi commandant complains in German, “We are getting 10,000 more tonight!”
Rohrig estimates that 20,000 Jews were killed per day. “And one in three were Hungarian Jews.”
Rohrig is a Jew himself. He describes himself as “Modern Orthodox,” and Laszlo Nemes, the gifted young Hungarian director is Jewish and this is his first film. Nemes claims it took him a very long time to get “Son of Saul” made.
Says Rohrig, “It was very hard to get the money to make this film. People did not want to give money to the story of a Sodocommandant. It was too controversial. They were the lowest of the low. They were Jews who killed Jews. People did not want to see this. They did not want this story to be told. Sodocommants were just as much victims as the other Jews. They were going to be killed, too. But they were lied to, and told them that this is what they would have to do if they wanted to survive. Of course, every four months they then were killed, too.”
Sodocommandants were the burly, muscular Jews who were kidnapped by the Germans, but saved to do the hard, horrifying labor at the concentration camps, herding the thousands into the gas chambers, locking the doors on the victims, and then taking out the “pieces” as the Nazi described the dead bodies, and putting them in the blazing furnaces.They then had to shovel out the ashes of the dead and dump the ashes in the nearby river.
All of this we see Rohrig’s Saul do, doggedly punched, pushed and pulled literally every step of the way.
But of course, it didn’t save them.
“They were liquidated every four months. I think that we see Saul in his second month there. He is in deep  trauma. He can’t react. He is like a robot.”
It is to Rohrig’s everlasting credit that Saul Auslander (literally Saul the outsider) paints such an indelible portrait of a Sodocommandant, who is still sentient and who is trying desperately to hold on to his sanity as the world around him becomes more and more insane.
He even believes a dying boy from the gas chambers is his son, and goes on a missiion to save the boy’s dead body and give him a proper Jewish burial. He searches the hundreds of daily, new arrivals to see if one of them might be a rabbi.
“He is in hell,” says Rohrig simply.
Rohrig has had a lifetime fascination with Auschwitz. As a young student of 19, at a Hungarian Arts School, he traveled there to see it and then returned to rent a room near Auschwitz and stayed there for a month.
” I went to Auschwitz every day and stayed there all day long. I had to see it. I had to absorb it. It was the end of my childhood. It was the end of my innocence. I learned just what the world was. I saw a pile of children’s shoes…”his voice trailing off. As if unable to explain the impact of the death camp on him as a young man.
It has stayed with him to this day, and it is probably that profound knowledge and the sensibility that drew director Nemes to him for this demanding role of Saul.
Rohrig gives Nemes all the credit. “It is not me. It is him. It is his vision.”
Rohrig read the script and auditioned and was cast in the part, and what changed as they worked on it and tried to raise the money to shoot it, was the radical placement of the camera.
“It was RIGHT HERE,” he says gesturing,”30 inches away from my face. It was THIS close all the time. It was very heavy, all that equipment.It was always following me.”
Nemes’ camerawork captures every glance, every tiny movement of  every muscle in Rohrig’s ravaged face. Sometimes we see it with the back of his head in the shot. Even the back of Rohrig’s head and his hunched hairy shoulders are expressive. And on the back of his dirty clothes is sewn a gigantic yellow Jewish star.
“We have to try to understand how human beings could to this to other human beings. But it is not just the Jews. There are genocides that are happening today. Darfur.Rwanda. It hasn’t changed. I am very pessimistic. There is still evil in the world.”
,
This was the day of the San Bernardino shootings.
“But it is my job, Laszlo and me, to stand up and tell this story over and over and over again. So people don’t forget. But we wanted to tell it differently. From one person’s perspective. It is one day in his life. We just wanted the audience to see what he sees. It is the great thing Laszlo has done with this film. He wanted to put the viewer THERE.”
And Rohrig and Nemes have succeeded mightily. Just that week it won the New York Film Critics Best First Film and the National Board of Review named it the Best Foreign Film. And Oscar is knocking on their door.
“Well, we will see. I go to L.A. soon.(Rohrig currently lives in the Bronx) They should give something to the cinematographer and the sound, too, ” he says perspicaciously. And I agree. For while, you don’t SEE everything, you HEAR it. The sound design and mixing are incredible on “Son of Saul.”
It’s one of the best films of the year. And one of the best holocaust movies every made, and one of the greatest films of all time.

 

Oscar, Oscar, Who’s Got the Oscar(Buzz)? Geza Rohrig, anyone? Don’t laugh! It could happen!

son of saulArmy of OscarsI can’t remember a year when Oscar was so upside down and backwards. And maybe that’s a good thing. Since when has Best Actor been skimpy and Best Actress so jammed?!? I can’t remember when, if ever, this hMatt Damon 1as not happened before. Simply. Something new under the Hollywood sun and how rare is that?

What the Tom Toms are beating is that Michael Fassbender and “Steve Jobs” are currently dying the Oscar death, being yanked mid-run from so many theaters across the country that it’s almost uncountable. Just go and and try to find that movie tonight at a theater near you. Nobody’s going. Where are they? They’re all having a grand ole time at “The Martian” which even in Imax and 3-D is still playing everywhere, and Matt Damon is going to be nominated for Best Actor and director Ridley Scott could win Best Director.

Matt has never won Best Actor, although he did win way back when he was a mere slip of a lad for co-writing the Best Screenplay with best bud Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting.”

But Matt has some stiff competition from Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” which is just about to explode into cinemas as “Steve Jobs” hastily departs. Also Michael Fassbender will NOT campaign. And Matt Damon and Eddie Redmayne are EVERYWHERE. Or soon will be. At every Hwood party and gathering that they can possibly get into, charming everyone, everywhere.Eddieandlilli

And then there’s the darkest of dark horses in one of the Best Films of All Time, never mind this year.It’s Geza Rohrig, the unknown Hungarian actor. who is playing the title role in the just-about-to-be-released masterpiece “The Son of Saul.” Don’t laugh! It COULD happen!

The Academy has a thing about nominating unknown foreigners. Hell, they even sometimes WIN, like Jean DuJardin in “The Artist.” Or Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” way back when. It’s an Academy tradition.

I’ve heard that Sony Pictures Classics, who has the magnificent, smart honor of releasing “Son of Saul,” is going to throw everything including the kitchen sink at it, Rohrig, Best Picture and Best Director, too for Laszlo Nemes. It’s his first feature. He’s got a great story to tell, and so do his cinematographer Matyas Erdely and particularly his sound editor and sound mixing team. It was in post-production for something like five years!.

And this is also Rohrig’s first film. He’s a 39-year-old poet, of all things, who lives in Manhattan.

Did I say it’s set in the middle of the Halocaust at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp? Since this incredibly tight close-up is ALWAYS (or almost always) focused on Rohrig’s desperate face, he’s front and center EVERY second of this darkest of dark films. It may be considered the best film ever made on the Holocaust.And Rohrig carries it.

Rohrig’s painful, gut-wrenching performance will be hard for Academy members to ignore. His ravaged. savaged face IS the whole fllm. And since we never see much outside of his peripheral vision, we HEAR it! And it’s blood-curdling. As he, Saul, a Sodocammadant, a Jew, who has to do all the dirty work that no one else will do. He has to herd the Jewish victims to their deaths, slamming the gas chambers doors on them,listening to their screams, then quickly taking all “the pieces” as they call the bodies out, and scrubbing the floors clean so the next group won’t see any of their blood.

It’s going to score in soooo many categories its’ going to make pundits heads spin, who’ve left him, and it, off most of their current lists. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, the Vulcan award for sound design, the Francois Chalais prize, and the Fipresci. How can the Academy ignore these distinctions?

Watch out of “Son of Saul” is all I can say. To ignore it’s profound achievement is to ignore what is going to soon be considered an un-disputed masterpiece.

I’m the Oscar Messenger. I’m telling you the Oscar Message. I’ve read it already and this year it was written in Hungarian and said “Son of Saul”

Eddie Redmayne Wins Best Actor SAG!!!!!!

Theory 6WOWOWOW! Eddie Redmayne just won the Best Actor Award at SAG for “The Theory of Everything.” Playing the multi-disabled astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, Redmayne had to literally twist himself into a pretzel, literally and figuratively. Congratulations, Eddie!

This is a very important win for him. People kept saying it w as going to go to Michael Keaton for “Birdman” which just won the Producer’s Guild Award LAST night for “Best Picture” trouncing “Boyhood”, the presumed front-runner.

But this is his FELLOW actors chiming in. And the actors know, Redmayne was playing a CHARACTER, whereas Keaton was playing himself in “Birdman.” Not such a difficult feat.

“The Degree of Difficulty” the actors always go for that. This is just tremenous good news!!! I’m so happy for Eddie!

And also if we throw ourselves back a couple of years ago, this is where Jean DuJardin won for “The Artist.” And then he went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

The guild awards reveal A LOT. What the industry, not the critics are thinking. And now this puts Eddie in the pole position to win at the Oscars. And he’s only 33! Plus, lest we forget he just won the Golden Globe Award, too, for Best Actor Drama.

WOWOWOW!!!

Oscar Chances of “Birdman” Yes? No?Maybe?

Dear Readers, dear cineastes, dear lovers of theatre, I don’t know quite what to say about “Birdman”. I liked it. It’s shot in my hood, the theater district in Manhattan. It’s all about the theater, But somehow it also seems quite critical of the theater. Not that the Academy would mind that at all. It’s also extremely critical of Hwood, too. “The Artist” is this not.

This was the film that got the most Oscar buzz and internet chatter going at the New York Film Festival so far this year.

Filmed almost entirely(it seems) at the St. James theater, which I overlook, I can’t believe it missed all this just going on right downstairs.

But the Academy will probably like this a lot. Especially the dominant Actor’s Branch. While it is critical of the theater, it revels in the Art of the Actor. And they will go for that hook, line and sinker. Or will they?

I think Michael Keaton is going to get nominated for Best Actor for sure. Having finally seen his performance, I can say that. But will he win? It’s a) a comedy and b) he’s got the stiffest competition imaginable this year in that category c) he’s playing a likable/unlikeable self-centered asshole.

The most likely winner out of the many nominations this film would seem to be heading towards is Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor. His no-holes-barred, over-the-top(almost) hysterical depiction of a narcissistic theatre(with an re) actor may be the big award that “Birdman” gets. It may get nominated for Best Picture, and probably will. But it seems about nothing more(nor less) of the inside of his aging actor’s head. Keaton, I mean. The ego that eats everyone around it alive. It’s fun, but also not fun to see this. One moment I was screaming with upexpected laughter, the next I was gagging at its’ excesses…Call it stedicam nausea.

Emma Stone is also proably assured of her first Oscar nomination for playing Keaton’s smart, sexy,mouthy teenage daughter.Compare this to her tepid performance in Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight” where she seemed completely at sea. Innaritu really directed the hell out of his actors in this, and in a very good way.

But this film is filmed annoyingly in steadicam. It makes you dizzy, and it’s also a fantasy. And the ending is, well, equivocal, to put it spoiler-free.

I can see it losing to a film with more social relevance. Like for instance “The Theory of Everything” and I think it’s a battle for Best Actor between Eddie Redmayne’s superb Stephen Hawkings and Keaton’s aging asshole.. Redmaybe is young. That’s the only thing standing in his way.”Everything” is a triumphant movie in a big way. It’s uplifting. “Birdman” is icky. But it’s still fun…but…

“The Theory of Everything” is probably going to “My Left Foot” its’ way all the way to the Oscars. I thought that when I saw it at TIFF as they crowd went wild. And it’s NOT the terribly disjointed, depressing, but also socially relevant film that “Imitation Game” is. The Academy doesn’t vote Best Picture to gay films, which is what “Imitation Game” is. But Benedict Cumberbatch will be nominated. AND Keira Knightley, who will join Emma Stone in Best Supporting Actress. Which they will both lose to Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood.”

But I found”Birdman”  enjoyable  almost in spite of myself. It’s my kinda film.I love films about the theater. And I couldn’t identify more with the character’s quest to do great Art on Broadway.  But is it the Academy’s taste? Theater? Theatre? Does it justify all this awards hype? Well, yes,no and maybe.

Comedy can win, and often does, in Best Supporting Actor. So Edward Norton get your acceptance speech ready. Michael Keaton, um, not so fast.Birdman 1 Birdman 1

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Berenice Bejo via Satellite from Paris! Her Oscar campaign starts NOW!

The lovely and charming Berenice Bejo via Satellite from Paris!?! Her Oscar campaign for “The Past” by Ashgar Farhadi starts NOW! She was nominated for an Oscar two years ago for “The Artist” for Best Supporting Actress for Peppy Miller. And her role in “The Past” is a 360 degree revolve from the Black and White silent film that made her famous. “The Past” she is speaking perfect French as a Parisian housewife trying to get a divorce and dealing with three children. It’s an incredibly intense film about families, children, divorce and love.It’s brilliant and she’s brilliant in it! She won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival this year for it.

Oscars in November ~ Where We Stand Now

OK. It’s on! The Oscar season has more than officially started. We are in what’s called “Phase One”  and as I’ve been saying since Toronto. It was all over as soon as I saw “12 Years A Slave.” Nothing could touch it. Nothing has.

Of course, it’s a very bad position to be the front-runner from the get go, but quality is quality and this is one of the greatest films of all time, a masterpiece, and the Academy cannot deny it it’s due. AND it’s making money, too.

I was worried when it first unspooled at Telluride that the praise was too deafening to be true. But when I saw it, the hosannas were understated. It’s one of the greats.

I was also worried that it was too much too soon. Could it sustain all the way though this LONG Oscar season, which doesn’t end this year until MARCH!

But it has been sustaining and people are going to see it, placing it at a strong #7 now on the Box-Office Top Ten for two weeks in a row.

And the critics awards aren’t going to be handed out for another 2-3 weeks or so. And when it starts, I’m telling you it won’t stop. “12 Years a Slave” is going to win EVERYthing!

The Best Actor race is much more variable with Chiwetel Ejiafor still out in front in my estimation. That’s for playing the title role in “12 Years a Slave”. And the Academy is poised to make history, which it often doesn’t shy away from doing, by giving Steve McQueen an Oscar for Best Director. He would be the first black man to ever win this award, shockingly.The news this year is that African-American and Black films and stars have all arrived and are here to stay, with performances that should be recognized. I am also predicting a record number of AA nominees this year. Maybe the Most In Oscar History. Call it the Obama Effect hits the Oscar big time this year. And I think that’s a good thing for everybody.

“12 Years a Slave” two months after TIFF is still a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. And thank goodness, everyone is getting on board.

The Gurus of Gold (which I used to be one for several seasons) has both 12YAS, McQueen and Ejiafor in the number one spots in their respective categories. And Lupito Nyong’o, too for Best Supporting Actress. The brilliant actress whose family really is from Africa(her father was a diplomat and politician) and she’s a Yale School of Drama graduate to boot. That stunning performance as Patsey, the tragic slave heroine will haunt your dreams. I can never stop praising her searing, magnificent performance. And Lupita is growing on the Awards Circuit every day, giving gracious, intelligent interview after interview. She’s the Cinderella story of the year, and she’s more than ready for her close-up.

And I still say Michael Fassbender’s multi-faceted turn as the villainous slave-owner Edwin Epps will also win the German-born, Irish actor a Best Supporting Actor Award. He’s got the industry cred behind him, with many many starring roles in movies lined up and coming out one right after the other.So Hollywood has a vested interest in him becoming a bigger and bigger and bigger star. His getting this award will validate all those expensive movies that have already invested millions in him becoming one of Hollywood’s new, true stars. Who also happens to be a great actor, too. And I think his non-campaigning  campaign is only going to help him. Silence is sometimes golden. Ask Garbo, if she were still alive. Ask Jean DuJardin and Michel Hazanaviscious. Hell, ask Mo’nique.

And the fascinating Fassbinder’s  got the title role in the controversial “The Counselor” out now. He’s also one of the leads in the X-Men franchise, and on and on and on. He’s what movie stars are made of, and so is Lupita Nyong’o.

Best Actress I feel personally is going to go to Sandra Bullock for “Gravity.” A sensationally popular mega-hit, which people are seeing over and over again, Bullock, or Sandy as she’s know to one and all in Hollywood, is the only person in 95% of the movie. George Clooney is barely in it. Spoiler alert.

With “Saving Mr. Banks” on the horizon, and two other major players “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” still unseen, it’s non-sensical to even call everything as I have been calling it since Sept. and Toronto. But hey! It’s the Oscars! It’s the Silly Season as David Karr of the NY Times so accurately called it, back in the Golden Days when he was the Times’ Oscar guy. He called himself “The Carpetbagger.” Because that’s what he felt like being a TImes financial reporter covering the Oscars. And so yes, it’s silliness personified.

But then so are the three unseen films which cover “Mary Poppins” back story, and financial guys at different end of the social spectrums. And different eras. Call me irresponsible, but I don’t see anything in the subject matters of these three films, all maybe comedies, We don’t know for sure yet. But yes, they all seem picayune by comparison.

But I can tell you what will win Best Animated Feature already Disney’s “Frozen” and Best Song “Let It Go” From Frozen.

And I don’t see any of these last three films really shaking up The Race.

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