a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Toronto’

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!

After the Storm

The “sun” is out. I mean, there’s light. The sky is a white-grey, but it’s not raining and no wind. Also no buses or subways and the elevators are still closed in my building. The flickering of lights I saw briefly last night was probably the lower part of Manhattan losing power.

There was a screening of the now ironically titled “Silver Linings Playbook” for this afternoon which I missed at Toronto, when everybody and his mother fell in love with it and it won the Audience Award at TIFF.Then did the same thing at the Hamptons film fest.

I may take to the stairs and walk there. It’s a Weinstein Co And nothing stops them in their quest for Oscars, as we all know. Otherwise, I would think it was cancelled. It might be. No replies to my email queries.

Lower Manhattan badly hit. But I’m getting cabin fever just staying inside.

Best Actress Race – Pre-Festivals, Pre-TIFF

So, just where are we now with the only race I feel that has some clarity this early, and on the other hand, is also wide open? Certainly compared with last year’s Best Actress race. Which was locked and loaded VERY early on in the season, if you remember. But perhaps you don’t. Rooney Mara’s sneaking in at the last-minute with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and her star-making turn as Lisbeth Salander, was the only surprise within that top category last year.

This year, with the exit of presumptive front-runner Carey Mulligan’s “The Great Gatsby” being shifted to NEXT SUMMER! GLACK! It’s mustn’t’ve so Great after all!

With Mulligan’s departure, this leaves many, many openings, so some surprises from the Indie world, like the stunning, scary tour-de-force of  veteran character actress Ann Dowd in “Compliance.” And certainly with Qu’venzahne Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” still hanging in there in release after three months, and still making money for Fox Searchlight.  That’s two Sundance ladies, although one is only 8 years old and the other well past 50. THAT’S interesting right there, in and of itself, it’s a unique pairing…IF it happens…Sundance didn’t have any gals in the Best Actress round-up last year, now it is making up for lost time with TWO.

Then there’s the absurd rumor that BOTH could go Supporting! Uh-oh! Category confusion! The dreaded Oscar disease that killed Viola Davis’ chances last year(among many other reasons).  If NEITHER Dowd nor Wallis end up in Best Actress, the category is RRRREALLY wide open.

Remaining are the soon-to-be-seen Helen Hunt, also out of Sundance, come to think of it with “Sessions.” She’s won previously of course and that always sort of hurts. Unless it’s a category with all previous winners. That was for “As Good As It Gets” where she played a worldly-wise waitress. Opposite Jack Nicholson.

Another previous winner Marion Cotillard has a VERY strong shot, it seems, with “Of Rust and Bone” which won her screaming raves out of Cannes this year. But NOT the Best Actress Award there. Which was a surprise.

She, too, is a previous winner for her incandescent, unforgettable Edith Piaf in “La Vie En Rose”. She’s also in TDKR, too, remember this year. Something every Academy Voting member will have seen, even if it gets neglected in the nominations and I think it will…. But “Of Rust and Bone” is in French.

They COULD hold that against her. Since also acting in French this year is another Cannes contender, which DID win the Palme d’Or, Emmanuelle Rivas in “L’Amour.” TWO Best Actress nominees BOTH acting in French? I don’t think so. But if anyone can score acting in her own language once again it’s the beautiful Maid Marion.

Also soon to be seen at Toronto, along with “Rust and Bone” and “The Sessions” is Keira Knightley’s new star-turn as “Anna Karenina.” Directed by the extraordinary British helmer Joe Wright, who guided Knightley to her first and so far only Oscar nomination in “Pride and Prejudice.” Will this be a lucky charm once again for this dynamic duo? Or will she just fall short of a nod, and get snubbed, like she did for “Atonement”, which was certainly nomination-worthy in MY book.

And then there’s the darling Laura Linney, ALSO at Toronto, along with Hunt, Cotillard, and Knightley, WOW what a line-up! I’ll just be running from one Best Actress possibility to another in two weeks. Laura Linney has been picked by Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby as the Numero Uno Best of the Best for “Hyde Park on the Hudson.” She has been nominated three times before and this would make FOUR. She’s playing a real person, FDR’s until now, unseen and unrecorded mistress. And everybody loves Laura. She’s everywhere. She got a critically lauded TV series “The Big C” AND she introduces “Downtown Abbey” on PBS with great class and style. She’s due, if anyone is!

And perhaps even more importantly, “Hyde Park on the Hudson” has now ALSO been picked up by the NEW YORK Film Festival, which doubles Linney’s(and the pic’s) prestige chances. Neither “Of Rust and Bone” nor “Anna Karenina” has scored THAT particular double festival whammy.

Well, in two weeks time all will be revealed….And unless some one pops up in a year-end movie, like for instance, Anne Hathaway being put in lead, not Supporting for “Les Miserables” By George, I think we’ve already got our Oscar lady ducks all in a row! And all at Toronto, too! I can’t wait!

Oscar God Dave Karger’s Toronto Must-See List is Out!

Oscar God Dave Karger has got his top  ten list of must-see films coming up in September at the Toronto Film Festival  up and out and at’em at http://www.ew.com. Dave is RRRRRReally good at this. Though last year with that EW “Oscar Issue” cover of George Clooney and Viola Davis getting out of a limo in full Oscar drag(Tux and shimmering gown) has never been able to leave my mind. Both notoriously lost to Jean Dujardin and Meryl Streep, lest we forget…

And Toronto is RRRRREALLLLY well known as an Oscar launching pad. More and More so every year. And yes, I’m going there, once again, my 14th year in a row, and I’ll be blogging from there letting you know what’s what. I am the Oscar Messenger after all. I have to be RIGHT about these things.

Of Dave’s picks, I am really looking forward to “Anna Karenina” directed by Joe Wright. Could this be Keira Knightley’s big year? Or is it the lovely Laura Linney in “Hyde Park on the Hudson”? They are both there this Sept. and so is Marion Cotillard’s Cannes stunner “Of Rust and Bone.”

I think right there you have three out of the five Best Actress nominees.

The pictures they’re in….Not so sure about. But those performances I see all three getting in.

Toronto or TIFF as it’s abbreviated has had QUITE a history with Oscar.

But I will say, no one thought “The Artist” which was there was The One at the time. I kept hearing “We haven’t seen the Best Picture of the Year” yet.” EVERYBODY was telling me this, and as a matter of fact, yes, we had. It was “The Artist” and Harvey Weinstein was soft-pedaling “The Artist” at TIFF last year. And that was a good idea.

“The Sessions” raved about at Sundance is also a possible contender and is on Dave’s list. But that is something only in the performances, I think.

Not Best Picture.

David O. Russell’s “Silver Lining’s Playbook” ia a Weinstein film, too. But I don’t know….I’m not getting strong Oscar vibes from people like Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Sullivan(yes, HER again).And that title. It’s difficult to pronounce, a real tonque-twister.

There are others on Dave’s list, so go check it out. I just think they’re wrong. So I’m not repeating them here.

But yes, to “Anna Karenina”, “Hyde Park on the Hudson” and “Of Rust and Bone.” Those arr MY top three. And today it’s a month until I leave for Montreal, which I go to first, always, before Toronto and which is where I saw “The Artist” for the first time.

In French-speaking Montreal, THAT was the #1 raved about film last year, and I’m soooo glad I saw it there. It was absolutely magical.

As Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone always says “Don’t underestimate Harvey Weinstein” And of course, she’s right.

Sasha also sez “Don’t underestimate Dame Judi Dench.”

SHE’s in the early-part-of-the-year hit film, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” that is continuing to break box-office records on BOTH sides of the Atlantic.So it is not playing Toronto. It’s all and only the new films there, comme tous les jours. And which category will they put Dame J. in? Most think supporting, though she is the lead in that film, certainly, the central character.

“Argo” Ben Affleck’s new film is being heavily buzzed, but they didn’t nominate his “The Town” last time around, so I’m skeptical.

And some of the biggest Oscar contenders are waiting til LATER. Like of course, “Les Miz” and “Lincoln” and Harvey’s “Django Unchained.”

Wish I was already on my way there! J’attends avec impatience!

Who will win the Audience Choice Award at TIFF?

Well, it’s an important Oscar question and somebody HAD to ask it. Who will win the Audience Award at TIFF? Last year, the award went to, and I knew it would, “The King’s Speech” which had a groundswell of opinion and support at last year’s TIFF. It was on everyone’s list. And at the top at that and beloved, even then.

So when it eventually went on to win the Oscar, I wasn’t surprised.

Of course, this was an award granted by English Canada, to an English film.

This year, I felt none of that consensus. So predicting this award is virtually impossible. Or is it? Well, I’m going to do it any way or at least list some films it MIGHT be.

“The Artist” I thought, after seeing the tumultuous, joyous reception it got at Montreal and that I heard that it got at Cannes,  I thought this would be a slam dunk. Oscar Goddess Sasha Stone loved it. And I did too. The black and white and SILENT hat trick is a truly marvelous cinematic achievement. A French film about the Silent Film Era AND in black and white! How can this film overcome all that to win people’s hearts? But it does. This is what I thought going in to TIFF.

But—

I didn’t feel “The King’s Speech” groundswell/consensus at TIFF. It should’ve been there. But it wasn’t. This surprised me. Maybe it has something to do with this being a French film….and well, y’know, there is still much antipathy to the French speakers in the OTHER big Canadian province, sad to say. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. And this may explain the lack of amour for the marvelous “Artist.” I don’t think Toronto audiences ever have rewarded a French film in this category. The only one they award!

Maybe it will eventually triumph with the Audiences of Toronto. But there’s also the George Clooney movie “The Descendants” which unfortunately I haven’t seen, but will catch up with soon at the New York Film Festival, which is already upon us.

Many people liked this Alexander Payne film. His “Sideways” had that same TIFF launch, also, many years back, and that also went on to win the Audience Choice award. “Sideways”  went on to win many, many Oscar nominations but only won one, for Alexander Payne for Original Screenplay. But I think Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” has that one sewn up. They loved George. I did sense I was in the middle of Clooney-mania…but…was it his performance more than the film? Or will Alexander Payne after a long absence from center stage be back in the spotlight, and an Oscar front-runner, if “The Descendants” wins this important award, from the people of Toronto, remember. NOT the press. No critics were involved. TIFF doesn’t hand out prizes like Cannes, and Montreal, and many other festivals do. It’s the people’s choice.. And Torontonians are such committed, avid film buffs all. They literally have to suffer and go through hell to see these movies, the demand is soooo great. They sell every seat. Yes, they do.

Then there’s also “Machine Gun Preacher” which was the best film I saw. Will socially conscious Toronto audiences respond to its’ challenging subject matter? The genocide in Sudan and Darfur. A subject that has never been treated by a mainstream award-worthy film? Like “Slumdog Millioniare” a film I didn’t take seriously til it won here. And then I was like, “Whoa! Have I missed something?” And “Slumdog Millionaire” as improbable as it sounded at the time, WAS the film you were hearing about constantly.

I didn’t see “Shame” or “Ides of March” but the reaction to both was mixed . I would be SHOCKED, SHOCKED! if it was Toronto home boy David Cronenberg’s latest misfire “A Dangerous Method.” Toronto audiences…do they have a habit of embracing their own? Not so much….but…

Well, it may be one of these films. There. I’ve narrowed down the list and lessened the unbearable suspense.

On Sunday, we’ll know.

Back in New York, it’s freeeezing! TIFF is just about over, but the Oscar race is just beginning!

I’m back in New York from the increasingly chilly weather of Toronto, and I hate to leave TIFF, as always. It’s like the circus is packing up and all the excitement is dying down…til next year…OR til the New York Film Festival starts, which is Monday! The press screenings I mean.

Which like TIFF, in some kind of weird film festival tradition are almost always held at ridiculous hours of the morning!

But I digress! I come back to find that while my own personal TIFF is now done, the Oscar race is only just beginning! But you all knew that already!

Jeff Wells of www.hollywood-elsewhere.com is still there, blogging his brains out. And having a completely different perspective on the race than I do. And that goes for Oscar goddess Sasha Stone of www.awardsdaily.com

who is comfy and warm in sunshine-y L.A….

Sasha has a particularly interesting take on the Best Actor race. As does Jeff. But both of them leave out Gerard Butler and his career-changing performance in “Machine Gun Preacher” completely! I beg to differ.

The night I left I was delighted to see ET Canada do a whole segment on Gerard and his Oscar chances. And the films’ too!

And I also have to beg to differ about Brad Pitt and “Moneyball.”

“Moneyball”? REALLY? A baseball movie? I mean, they DO like to keep nominating him for the star-power he brings to things…but if he’s going to be nominated this year for anything it’s Terence Malick’s “A Tree of Life”…which is serious, and pretentious enough for the Academy.

Or maybe in  this case, toooo pretentious. I predict that first 45 mins. of primordial ooze is something that is NOT going to keep those “Tree of Life” screeners from being ejected from Academy voters’ DVD players…

However Sasha and Jeff ARE right about George the Clooney being everywhere and charming everyone and everything in sight. I didn’t get to see EITHER of his two TIFF movies “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” which everyone says is the better of the two.

But I don’t personally think that David Cronenberg’s TIFF bomb “A Serious Judgement” is going to get any serious Oscar consideration whatsoever. And that neither of its’ leading men, Viggo Mortensen or Michael Fassbender are going to be nominated for Best Actor or ANYthing for this film.

Anthony Del Col, and also Critic of Critics Thelma Adams join me at www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

for some VERY spirited Oscar buzz talk from TIFF. Thank you Anthony! Thank you Thelma!

Thelma’s segment is not up yet, but stop-the-presses Anthony is! And it’s great! Take a look as we try to parse Tilda Swinton’s Oscar chances for “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin.”

It was Anthony’s idea to sit-in with me for a running Oscar commentary at TIFF. This is Anthony Del Col of “Kill Shakespeare” fame and he’s VERY good at this!

As he is at everything! We taped two complete episodes which equals something like six videos in You Tube time and I can’t WAIT for you to see them all!

I also have to point out that “The Ides of March” was underwhelming everyone I spoke to. Especially Anthony and Thelma, as you’ll see. I don’t think “Ides” is an Oscar slam-dunk by any means, though Oscar god Dave Karger says so.

If the TIFF tea leaves are being read right by me & co., it’s “The Descendants” all the way. Which means also if Ryan Gosling is nominated for anything, or more accurately for any of the two of his films that are out now, it’s going to be “Drive” that drives up people’s (and Oscar voters) temperatures and not “Ides.”

When you’ve got two films in Oscar play at a place like TIFF, one is usually going to eclipse the other, and I think that’s what happening with “Ides” and “Descendants” and “Drive.” The two “D”(entitled) movies are faring better on the TIFF buzz circuit, I would say.

But it WAS interesting in that there was no clear front-runner AT ALL. Not like “The King’s Speech” was last year and others like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men” were in other years’ at TIFF.

So I’m back, dear readers, dear cineastes, dear theatre-lovers of literature, and tomorrow night the BROADWAY season starts with a revival of “Follies” one of Stephen Sondheim’s greatest, so when the autumn breeze starts freezing the trees, I feel like TIFF’s warmth was one big fever dream!

TIFF winding down…Mira Sorvino & Nancy Savoca delight in “Union Square”

As the temperature begins to drop up here in Toronto, we ARE in Canada, as festive and glamourous as TIFF always makes it seem like it’s Hollywood  But as the wind blows off Lake Ontario, the season begins to change here in a  mouse-click. Yes, the leaves are beginning to turn red here and there. The famous Canadian Maple Leaf insignia is everywhere, and always symbolizes Fall, and it’s starting to feel like it here in the shade. The bright Canadian sunshine makes the sunny side of the street still feel like summer, but uh oh, on the other side….it’s autumn!

And I had the toasty warm delight this chilly morning of interviewing the lovely “Union Square”s star Academy Award Winner Mira Sorvino and her equally warm and delightful director Nancy Savoca.  “Union Square” is a femme-centic film starring Mira and this year’s Tony Nominee for “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”s Tammy Blanchard. I had the great privilege of having Tammy as a guest earlier this year and she is almost totally unrecognizable as Mira’s austere, repressed sister Jenny. Lucy (Mira) is basically having a nervous breakdown on her cell phone in Union Square and turns up on her estranged WASP-y sister’s Jenny’s, doorstep, also in Union Square and suffice it to say, your perception of good ole Union Square will never be the same again.

The super wonderful Savoca, who is at the top of the list of today’s female filmmakers, hits it out of the Ball Park again with this heartwarming(but not at all treacle-y) story of two young women who just can’t get along, but have to. Being sisters.

To give any more away would be to spoil, “Union Square”s delights, but I will reveal that these fighting feisty girls mother is played in a surprise cameo by Patti Lu Pone(!) Whom I whole-heartedly adore.

So I’ll leave the rest of “Union Square” unrevealed until it plays in a theatre NEAR YOU. Hopefully very soon. You’ll love it. I did.

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