a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Vanessa Redgrave’

Disappointing Oscar hopeful “Foxcatcher”

Foxcatcher 2

I was soooo disappointed in "Foxcatcher", a film that has been touted as an Oscar hopeful since its debut at Cannes, and followed by TIFF, and the NYFF. But I was just not on board with this film. Bennett Miller, who directed "Capote" to great acclaim and netted an Oscar for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a director I admire. And though he directed the baseball saga "Moneyball", he has a penchant for tackling gay themed projects.

Which he is doing once again here with "Foxcatcher." Except that he isn't. He's totally de-gay-ed a VERY gay story, ripped from yesterday's headlines about Henry E. Dupont, the very rich and very weird scion of the Dupont family. They had so much money, Henry basically felt he could buy anyone or anything.

And he was gay, although you'd never know it from this incredibly closeted movie. I mean, how can you take the homo-eroticism and also the homosexuality out of this, what should have been a Big Gay movie? Except that it's not.

If you think wrestling in and off itself is exciting, which I don't, you might like this movie. But Henry DuPont was clearly a predator, creating this camp of muscle-bound young men, who he was purportedly training for Olympic wrestling.

Everyone thinks that comedian Steve Carell is going to get an Oscar nomination for his cold, rabbity portrayal of DuPont. It's true he's almost unrecognizable with this humonguous fake nose. He also attempts a monotonal speaking voice for DuPont, which is irritating. OK. So he's not relying on his comic chops. So?

So what do we get?

What he gives us is just a two-dimensional creep. Not the three dimensional one that Jake Gyllenhaal is currently essaying so well in "Nightcrawler." Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler is obsessed with things that actually are depicted in the film. Money, power, violence, fame,tabloid television.

Dupont is obsessed with men and what's missing is the gayness. It's so toned down, repressed, if you will, that it seems that DuPont is totally in the closet, which he wasn't.

You think wrestlers are hot? In this film, they are cold.And so is the whole film.

"Foxcatcher" is the most unsexy movie imaginable. You can't do what is essentially a gay movie and leave the gayness out of it. I mean, c'mon! It's 2014 already!

And as the plot reveals, or rather, doesn't reveal that DuPont is super obsessed with one wrestling hopeful Channing Tatum( who BTW is turning in the really stellar performance here ), to the point that he moves him on to his estate which is called Foxcatcher. And yes, they do have horses and presumably hunt foxes. His domineering mother, Vanessa Redgrave, who is totally wasted here, with one mere scene of dialogue, is a formidable presence clearly. And Mrs. DuPont does NOT approve of her son's zealous pursuit of the sport of wrestling. She calls it "a low sport" and wishes Henry would stop importing all these young wrestlers to the grounds of their estate. She wishes we would, well, catch foxes at Foxcatcher, and not healthy young male wrestlers, everyone a beauty.

I guess we’re supposed to draw the parallel that he collects handsome athletic young men, the way that his mother collects horses.

Of course, this doesn't end well. And based on a true story, the events, when they at last unfold AFTER TWO HOURS, are baffling rather than revealing. Or tragic. As they should've been.

The only scene that approximates what may have been an homosexual affair is where DuPont and Channing's character snort cocaine together on DuPont's private plane.

The violence that in the end ensues is totally shocking in that it makes no sense with what we have seen before.

Mark Ruffalo, as Tatum's smarter, married brother is also wasted pretty much here. Which is a shame. But then so is Redgrave.

So what we are left with is a very cold, remote film about this weird rich guy that makes no sense.

Miller tried this de-gay-ing thing, too, with "Capote" but in that case it worked, because Truman Capote was sooooo gay, no matter how toned down you made him, he was still VERY gay.

Do we need another portrait of a gay psychotic? Well, I for one was looking forward to this film, given its' festival hype. But I was severely disappointed. It shed light on nothing. It's a gay film for straight people in that case. Maybe straight people will think that SUGGESTING DuPoint's sexuality was enough. To me it was just a big cop-out. I expected more from the talented Bennett Miller than a lot of tense, conversational scenes that illuminate NOTHING.

Gay people are going to be very disappointed with this closet of a movie.

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

Phillip Seymour Hoffman & I

It’s soooo difficult to write about the tragic passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because I looked so much like him & was mistaken for him almost constantly.

Especially when he played Truman Capote and won an Oscar for it. Then didn’t acknowledge the real person whom he was portraying so memorably. I got very angry about that more than once, especially at the National Board of Review awards that year when he didn’t even mention Truman or that he was playing a gay character. Nothing. Zip. In that acceptance speech that night or when he went on to win every award in the world that year for “Capote” culminating in the Oscar.And it was the year of “Brokeback Mountain”, too. The Year of the Queer, if ever there was one.

Contrast these acceptance speeches to what Jared Leto, who keeps winning and winning for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” has been criticized for, which is leaving out People with AIDS He’s corrected that.

Phillip never did. He didn’t think it was appropriate, at that time. 2006 which seems like 100 years ago in gay life.

Phillip saw the resemblance between us, too. I remember sitting in the front row of a press conference at the NYFF, can’t remember the name of the film, but he played yet ANOTHER gay part, this time a drag queen named Rusty. And he REALLY looked like me, when I lived in drag in the early ’70s. And he kept turning to look at me in the audience and was clearly disconcerted by the resemblance as I always was.

But for a straight man with a family and children, he played many, many gay parts both before and after Capote. He looked so much like me in some films especially “Boogie Nights” where he heartbreakingly played a young, long-haired P.A. who had a crush on Dirk Diggler. That part was an enactment of me in the ’70s, friends commented to me. It was unnerving. But of course I appreciated the intelligence and the power that went into that characterization.

We came officially face-to-face in the interview for “When the Devil Knows You’re Dead” which I posted in the previous piece here on my blog. And he was as uneasy about the striking resemblance as I was. It was uncanny sometimes. He was a blond. I was a redhead. But my god, it was an unusual similarity. Too close for comfort, and as you can see in the interview, Phillip is strangely scratching himself throughout. It was weird.

I met him many, many times at press events and junkets after this interview, and he always acknowledged me with respect. He played soooo many gay characters, and there I was the living embodiment of the roles he always claimed were “very difficult” for him. Esp. Capote.

He was one of the greatest actors of our time, or any time. He made 50 movies. He was excellent in all of them.

From the Tod Solendz film “Happiness” where he played a creepy telephone stalker that broke him open to a wider recognition. To his last final great role of Willy Loman on stage live in “Death of a Salesman.” It was a great privilege to have seen him onstage in that iconic role. He was clearly too young for it, but there was a desperation about a forty-something man playing someone who was supposed to be twenty years older. And at the end of his life. And as the title says, it was about “Death”. Willy Loman kills himself at the end of the play. It was oddly prescient like Phillip KNEW something.

There was a tremendous rough, urgency to his performance. Like he had to do that part, and he had to do it NOW. Like he knew there was no time left. And it turned out, there wasn’t.

He had played the part in High School, too, according to published reports. He was kind of obsessed with it. Willy Loman is certainly one of the great roles in one of the great plays of American Theater.

And for the record, in all my encounters with him over the many years I was covering him as a critic and entertainment journalist, I never saw or even THOUGHT of anything drug related in reference to him.

He won the Oscar the year of “Brokeback Mountain” when many said that Heath Ledger should’ve won it. And then Heath died in an equally tragic way in similar circumstances.

I wonder if that bothered him. It bothered me.

And then he went on to play even MORE gay roles…Guilt over “Brokeback” and Heath not winning? Who can say?

But the point is he played them all brilliantly, and with a range that we have almost never seen in an American actor.

His agent, whom I mention in the interview, Sarah Fargo “found” Phillip right as he was graduating from NYU UNDERgrad it should be noted. And not their illustrious Graduate Acting Program.

And it was Sarah, who became one of his life-long friends, who jump- started his career by getting him seen and into roles and projects where someone who looked like him would normally not have been seen and seen so quickly. He was a character actor, not a leading man, and I think he always saw himself that way.

He always gave himself 200% to any part. And EVERY part. How different was he in “Boogie Nights” and as the baseball manager in the baseball movie, whose name escapes me at the moment? ETA: “Moneyball”

Or in the indelible preppy monster/alcoholic Freddie that Matt Damon dispatches so abruptly in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”? Or the creepazoid/charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd in “The Master”?

And now that I think back on it the role that he was only moderately effective in was perhaps the role that was closest to him in real life as events have shown,the alcoholic Jamie Tyrone, in the incredible revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Starring Vanessa Redgrave as the tornado/virago of a drug-addicted mother who terrorized her hapless family, she blew on to the stage with hurricane force and pretty much stayed at that unbelievable level of performance throughout the plays three acts.

She was like a demon unleashed and she frightened the wits out of her family and CHANGED THE BLOCKING every night, though not the lines, which I could hear with crystal-clear clarity even sitting in the rear of the orchestra. Phillip shrank from her as his character was supposed to. And she throttled the living daylights out of Robert Sean Leonard every night, but you never knew WHEN she was going to attack him. I saw it twice. I’ll never forget it.

Phillip’s untimely death is such a shock and an incalculable loss to American film and American theater. Maybe leaving us soon so was his way of saying “I’m done now. I’ve nothing more to give. I’ve said what I had to say.” And now he’s gone. In the most lurid way possible. With a needle in his arm.

That small detail will haunt all of us who knew him, and the many millions who knew him through his work. But to know him that way or any way was to love him.

His great, hungry spirit will always be with us. Our hearts go out to his surviving family and friends.

That he will be missed is an underestimate.

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Terence Stamp via Satellite from Hollywood!

We talk about his critically acclaimed performance in “An Unfinished Song” co-starring with Vanessa Redgrave. They play old age pensioners near the end of their lives. And Terence & I also talk about his “singing” all through the classic “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” and he says lip-syncing, which he was doing so expertly in “Priscilla” was much more difficult than real singing.The fact that this is being brought out by the Weinstein Co. makes both Terence and Vanessa possible Oscar candidates.Since you can never underestimate Harvey Weinstein!

As Oscar Gets Nearer & Nearer, Supporting gets more Cloudy, Not Clearer

With the Oscar Nominations getting nearer and hearer, next Tues, less than a week now, some things are getting more and more cloudy, not clearer. We seem to THINK we know who the winners are going to be(and maybe except for Best Actress) everybody may be right. Or ARE they?

Christopher Plummer is going to win Best Supporting Actor. We’ve know this since May. But who is going to be nominated alongside him? And does it really matter? Well, it matters to those of us who are Oscar-obsessed, which means YOU since you’re reading this. And moi, aussi, of course.

Yes, to Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier in “My Week With Marilyn.” BUT everybody else in that category is a maybe, and this is one of the several main categories where there are going to be surprises. In the nominations. Not the winners. Or maybe the nominations will REALLY shake things up!

The suspense is killing me!

Will Jonah Hill of “Moneyball” get nominated for a mediocre performance at best? Is THAT an Academy Nomination?An “Academy Performance” No, it’s just a very big part( who is standing next to Brad Pitt) and played by an actor who we thought couldn’t do that. Even as meagerly as he did it…

Mark Harris of www.grantland.com has done a marvelous job of parsing all this as of course the great Stu Vanairsdale at www.movieline.com They both are essential reading at this point.

Mark Harris brings up the interesting “Norbit” plot-line. Arguably it was the release of “Norbit” a critically reviled low comedy right in the middle of Oscar voting that killed Eddie Murphy’s win for Supp. Actor for “Dreamgirls”. But HE was already nominated when this happened. Jonah Hill has not even been nominated YET and “Norbit”-like bomb “The Sitter” in which he stars, is playing at a theater near YOU.

Could that knock him out of contention? It could.

So could the lack of interest in “Warrior” knock Nick Nolte out in the prize-fight movie that critics raved about but no one went to see. Will the Academy Voters, so busy at this time of year, have the time to watch “Warrior” ONLY for a Supp. Male Performance possibility? Nobody’s claiming he will win this.

They’ll PROBABLY watch “Drive”. But with no SAG nomination for Albert Brooks, another comedian-turned-actor this season, and now, SHOCKINGLY no BAFTA nomination, will Brooks get left out too? Are Brooks and Jonah Hill too “samey” as they used to say in England.

WHO could replace them? Well, Armie Hammer who DID get a SAG nod for his moving turnas Leonard DiCaprio long-term lover in “J.Edgar” They will have watched “J.Edgar” Whether they like it or not is another question. ME? I LOVED it. It was on my Ten Best List.  As was “Drive” come to think of it.

Armie could benefit from “J.Edgar”s seeming lack of support in other major categories, though I do think “J.Edgar” COULD surprise,too. It’s Clint after all. Clint Eastwood. And they LOVE Clint.

So surely could Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris” Stoll’s beautiful, nuanced, scary performance in a film that is very likely going to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (it’s been winning that award all over the place, BFCA, Golden Globes, etc) AND Best Director, so surely could not this momentum sweep in at least ONE actor in “Midnight in Paris” gigantic, superb ensemble?

Jeff Wells, whose site www.hollywood-elsewhere.com is essential reading, too, has been going on and on about Stoll’s excellence, and how he wasn’t even AT the Golden Globes. Woody was a guaranteed no-show. They had room for Corey. But no. They didn’t.

I’m thinking that they Academy might, however. Knowing Stoll’s work for YEARS on the NY stage, I know what  a powerful, deep acting talent he has. Maybe the Academy will sense that, too. And the NEW YORK-based Academy Members who attend the theater regularly(and they all do) will know Stoll’s work too.

SOME member of the cast of “Midnight in Paris” should be honored. And if it’s anyone it’s him.

Then there’s the problem of “Extremely Loud, etc. etc.” ELAIC and the mute Max Von Sydow. He could sneak in here, too. I was at an Academy screening and he got a terrific amount of applause at the end credits when his name came up. The NY  audience I saw it with also, seemed to like it. Or liked some of it. The subject, 9/11, was not something most of these people wanted to see re-visited.

But who got the most thunderous applause for that film? Thomas Horn, the young boy who plays the lead. Now THAT would be a big surprise. And the Academy has a history of honoring children in leads in Supporting. See Hailee Steinfeld last year…And Horn surprised by winning “Best Young Actor” at the Critics Choice Awards(the BFCA) just last week.

And then there’s the always nominatable Sir Ben Kingsley in the much-liked “Hugo.”

THREE surprises in the Supp. Acting category nominations? Impossible you say. But this has been a very difficult year to predict. In some categories, and this is one of them.

And the Supporting Actress category would be blown wide open by the entrance of Vanessa Redgrave for “Coriolanus” and also, incredible as it may sound, Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike in “My Week with Marilyn.” Yes, and Dame Judi got a BAFTA nod. Vanessa did not. But the PERFORMANCE!!! TOWERING!!! And Degree of Difficulty ~ Shakespeare.

Vanessa has been nominated for NO precursor awards so far.NO-thing. Nada.Zilda. But if she did she would land like a bomb exploding all expectations so far. And if BOTH she and Dame Judi made it in. Impossible, you say? But both Redgrave and Dench are in WEINSTEIN CO. movies.

I rest my case.

More about the other categories soon

“Oscar Race” EW Cover w/Clooney & Viola Davis. Controversial? Accurate? Embarrassing?

I really wonder if the venerable Entertainment Weekly has jumped the shark this week with its’ “Inside the Oscar Race” cover prematurely, I think, showing George Clooney in a tux (nothing new), but at his side,, resplendent in a white ball gown, is Viola Davis! THIS is new! And the cover states “Front-runners George Clooney (The Descendants) and Viola Davis (The Help).” WHAT???

I thought Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams were the two heavyweights for Best Actress! But the usually reliable Oscar God David Karger is plunking his two cents down (and EW is presumably totally backing these choices), and inside we see V.D. depicted holding what looks like an award, or a Golden Globe, or SOMEthing, when on closer look it is seen to be a hand mirror. A bejeweled one, but a HAND MIRROR!

This is the kind of thing that INFURIATES Academy Voters, who are voting or rather nominating, right now as you read this. Many of them perhaps have not even sent their ballots in yet or filled them out, and here is EW acting like IT’S ALL OVER! BAD MOVE, EW!

I would be OK with this if it was a year where this was TRUE, but George is fighting for his life in Best Actor, (He’s got one already and “The Descendants” is depressing.) against his BFF Brad Pitt, who, BTW, just won Best Actor from the prestigious National Society of Film Critics. Take THAT, EW! They seem to be saying. And the Best Actress race is all over the place, between those three ladies. Williams, Streep & Davis.

And Viola Davis, as talented as she is, has not yet won ONE major award yet for “The Help”! A cover like this and a lay-out and an interview like that, may infuriate Academy types into NOT voting for her, when the time comes. And it IS a Supporting Performance in most peoples’ books…including mine.

But to photograph her looking so RADIANT and BEAUTIFUL and AIR-BRUSHED to death, well, we’ve never seen her like this before. And acting like she’s already won! But she hasn’t!

I fear this cover is going to make AMPAS voters feel like “Wait a minute! Don’t tell US who’s won!” or who to vote for. MISTAKE! This is what the Board of Governors was actually warning people about this year.  See Scott Feinberg’s excellent analysis of this at www.hollywoodreporter.com where Scott now is writing “The Race.”

And Jean Dujardin of “The Artist” is the one who most Oscar experts are picking for Best Actor. But not to EW.

I totally agree with Dave Karger with his choice that “The Artist” has already won Best Picture and is waaay out in front in that category. He’s right about that. But I would not be a very good Oscarologist myself, if I didn’t feel it incumbent on me to say “WAIT A MINUTE! Hold your (War) horses, EW!”

What they are doing is championing or campaigning for Clooney/Davis with this glossy cover and the even glossier interview inside. Acting like it’s a done deal. That is SOOOO BAD in Oscar campaigning terms.

And I know Dave Karger is familiar with Oscar 101.

I’ve NEVER seen EW so blatantly Up a Duo from two different films, yet, who may not be pictured together ever again this awards season. How embarrassing! But EW is nothing if not BOLD.

However, their first Oscar cover of the season isn’t a NEWS issue. It never is.

Didn’t they depict “Finding Neverland” once upon a time? Oy vay.

And there was once an Oscar issue like this with three actresses shown. I think it was Jennifer Connelly and Nicole Kidman and somebody else. And that third lady did not get nominated. I can’t even remember who she was. How embarrassing was that for her? And presumably for the magazine. But guess not, cuz they’re doing it again!

But some of you will remind me who that third gal was, who didn’t get nominated.

And even though Michelle Williams is splattered all over the INSIDE of the magazine in their for real predictions section on who’s going to be nominated…that story/interview on George ‘n’ Viola’s friendship was a little grating and self-serving. And yes, both of them are acting like they’ve ALREADY WON! NO! They haven’t!

THIS IS A HUGE OSCAR “No!NO!”

George has picked up a couple of critics awards, but Viola has gotten none, separately, herself, for Best Actress. Though “The Help” has gotten kudo-ed for Ensemble in several places.

This is the kind of cover that could de-rail a campaign. SERIOUSLY. Dave, what were you thinking? Well, obviously, he thinks he’s right.

I beg to differ.

And inside, though, his predictions themselves, were pretty spot-on for who was going to be nominated for Best Picture, Actor and Actress, though he’s got Michael Fassbender in there, and I think it’s Demian Bichir. Although Demian DOES receive a cute consolation prize, a “For Your Consideration” box.

But his supporting picks were all over the place, especially in Supporting Actress.

I was shocked at how wobbly his Supporting predictions were and yes, the Supp. Actress category is historically the hardest to predict. He’s got Berenice  Bejo (yes, she’s nominated for a BFCA, Golden Globe and a SAG) Ditto Octavia Spenser. He’s got Janet McTeer pictured, and I think that’s right. And Jessica Chastain for “The Help” which seems to be what she’s inevitably nominated for, though, it’s the least of her EIGHT performances this season! And then he has Melissa McCarthy, who EW just had on another of their covers recently as “The Queen of Comedy”. This would be for the gross-out “Bridesmaids.”

He doesn’t mention Vanessa Redgrave AT ALL. NOWHERE. And I think she WILL TURN UP here. Especially after being snubbed by BAFTA!!! Can you believe it?

I’m sure it’s the ghost of her earlier-in-life, extreme left-wing policies from the ’60s still haunting her. But if the Academy, Anglophile Lefties all, (well, the majority anyway) will over look Redgrave’s policy and put her in where she belongs and she could win this for her ASTOUNDING performance in “Coriolanus.”

Karger also gives Carey Mulligan from “Shame” a “For Your Consideration” box. And that is valid. She was great, if not greater, than Michael Fassbender in “Shame.”

We all know Christopher Plummer is going to win his career award in Supp. for “Beginners” and Dave Karger duly notes this. The other nominees, in this category, though, except for Kenneth Branagh are all up in the air. ESPECIALLY, his pick of Max Von Sydow for “Extremely Late and Incredibly Distasteful”! I don’t think so.

He’s got Jonah Hill and Albert Brooks in there but they were overlooked by SAG, and Nick Nolte and Armie Hammer WERE SAG-nominated, which he notes, but doesn’t see them getting in.

Who could pop up here, unexpectedly, is Corey Stoll for his finely etched portrait of Ernest Hemingway in “Midnight in Paris.”

And Kathy Bates and/or Marion Cotillard could be two last-minute  pop-ups from “Midnight in Paris.” They both just were named on the BAFTA long list…So they’ve been noted there.

Oh, and that BAFTA long list!…well, let’s just say it’s TOO LONG to even bother with at this point. But as always you can check out www.awardsdaily.com for a much closer look at that ENDLESS list, on which nearly everybody who made a film this year, is on. Wait for the BAFTA nominations themselves. But Beth Stevens, at Awardsdaily does a really good job at parsing them, especially in the comment section.

Oscar’s Pesky Supporting Categories. Mucho loco.

Oh, those pesky Oscar Supporting Categories! They are sooo hard to pin down, always, but this year’s there’s so much movement it makes the potential nominees look like Mexican jumping beans!

And no SAG didn’t match the Golden Globes, and they both didn’t match the  (Broadcast Film Critics Assoc.) But look who these groups REALLY represent. Look closely. And the first thing you may notice is that the Broadcast Film Critics, is made up, of mostly, well, film critics.

And there are NO film critics in the Academy. Repeat after me. THERE ARE NO FILM CRITICS IN THE ACADEMY.

And Stu Vanairsdale’s www.movieline.com excellent depiction of the Hollywood Foreign Press as “swag monkeys” is sooo apposite I want to adopt it just for my own, but yes, that defines them. ABSOLUTELY. And also, they are PRESS. And yes, repeat after me…no don’t bother. There’s no press in the Academy either….

So the fact that Michael Fassbender didn’t get a SAG nom is much more significant than it may at first seem. AND he’s urinating on-screen. Literally pissing his nomination away. And that’s how Demian Bichir got HIS SAG nom, playing a heroic Hispanic gardener. Yeah, this category this year . It’s a pisser.

But also not nominated for SAG was Albert Brooks from “Drive” and that make me wonder. He was nominated for Supporting Actor by both the BFCA and the GG, but to be left out of SAG may be fatal.

Why was Brooks not nominated for “Drive”? Maybe because THEY DIDN’T WATCH “DRIVE.” SAG gave nothing to “Drive” whereas the BFCA nominated it A LOT.

Who was nominated in Brooks’ place? Armie Hammer for “J. Edgar!” Stupendous in “The Joy of Typing” as BOTH Winklevoss twins, he’s riding a crest of good will. And Academy members keep exclaiming “I loved J.Edgar!” Which is something obviously Stu V. isn’t hearing.

And Hammer benefits by being in Leo DiCaprio’s shadow. He gets to kiss him, after all (Degree of difficulty!) And even though “J. Edgar” was left off the PGA list, it made MY Ten Best, and I STILL think it’s another Clint Eastwood masterpiece. THAT could be a surprise BP pop-up on Oscar Nomination Day, which is Tuesday Jan.24.

AMPAS members are voting right now on their choices of nominations. Yes, they are. And so what’s on their minds? Well, “The Artist” for one, which is going to get more nominations than any other film this year. And Berenice Bejo is on her way to a for sure Best Supporting Actress nomination and possibly even a win, in my book.

The Argentinian/French beauty carries as much of the film as the stalwart Jean Dujardin, who did win the Best Actor prize in Cannes this year. And she got a BFCA, a SAG nod, and also a Golden Globe nomination. So she was the triple crown of nods as it were.

And she also just won BEST ACTRESS in the Rome Film Festival which just wrapped last week.

So she’s definitely on a roll, and she’s also married IRL to “The Artist” s front-runner for Best Director Michel Hazanaviscius. And HE’S probably going to win Best Director across the board, and if she won, too, that would be the first time in Oscar history that a husband and wife team won double Oscars, a quaint touch that the Academy may very likely find too charming to resist, too. Just like their movie!

They’re French, and SOOOO in love! And so happy!

Berenice’s main competition is Octavia Spenser for “The Help.” Spencer, an unknown up until this season, also was a recipient of a SAG, BFCA & a GG nod. So she’s almost assured of a nomination. But she’s an Academy newbie. Her memorable performance as the foul-mouthed Minnie is the kind of role that gets nominated but doesn’t necessarily WIN awards.

And there was that shitting in the pie scene. Unlike Michael Fassbender, we don’t SEE her doing it, thank god, but she does do it, and then serves it to Bryce Dallas Howard, RON HOWARD’S daughter! in real life, who plays the villainess Hilly so well here in “The Help.”

Stu V. and Tom O’Neil at www.GoldDerby.com and many others have her as a frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but I wonder….

I do NOT think the Academy is open-minded enough to award TWO African-American actresses in ONE year. One of them, maybe, but not both. And Viola Davis is pictured and named as “The Frontrunner” on this week’s Entertainment Weekly annual Oscar issue. She’s pictured with George Clooney, which actually could be the kiss of death. They could BOTH not win.

And the two “Help” women, may split the “Help” vote. And neither wins.

It’s a very interesting year in that the actress categories are so up-in-the-air.

And it just goes to show that Meryl Streep’s reviews for “The Iron Lady” were sooooo bad that they vaulted Viola Davis on to the cover of EW!

And Shailene Woodley of “The Descendants” was not nominated for a SAG award either.  Too young, merely a teenager. But Janet McTeer of “Albert Nobbs” was…and Stu V. has Glenn Close of “Albert” slipping out of the locked five in Best Actress, being replaced by Rooney Mara. I don’t see that happening. But Janet McTeer has ALSO scored the trifecta of BFCA, SAG & GG.

And then there’s Jessica Chastain & her 5000 films she was in this year’s problem. What to nominate her for? Well, if it’s for “The Help” (a good perf, but not great) she’d also be splitting the “Help” vote with Spencer and then…and then…Berenice Bejo wins!

And Vanessa Redgrave could win in this category, but she’s been nominated nowhere so far and it seems like NO body is watching “Coriolanus.”

And then there’s sweet Carrie Mulligan who shows HER nether regions in “Shame.” But oh yes, since she’s a young girl, that could help her…but so far…No nominations…which is a REAL shame.

And Christopher Plummer? He won this race, Supporting Actor, the minute his marvelous film “Beginners” opened in May. The question that plagues us Oscar-ers and Oscar-ettes, is who’s going to be nominated in that category and lose to him. Plummer has never seen so, well, plummy. And he’s experiencing the most attention and love he’s perhaps ever gotten in his long and very chequered career. He’s very grand, too, as Herbert Wanger in “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s his year. He’s everywhere!

Oscar Race Changes AGAIN ~ IN A DAY! With Leo as Gay J. Edgar!

It’s now really for real November and we now really for real are in OSCAR SEASON! Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, November is the really hot-cha month when all the good stuff  starts happening. Or not…

Like this morning I started off the day with the beauteous and beneficient Kristen Scott Thomas calling me via satellite from Paris! Oui, oui, bien sur, mes amis! That’s where KST really lives most of the times, though she is of course, thoroughly English. And guess who? Harvey Weinstein is at it again, and this time he’s decided to throw an early season opener “Sarah’s Key” that sort of blipped by unnoticed by most (I knew it was there. I just didn’t get to it. Then it was gone.) Well, he’s putting “Sarah’s Key” back into some theaters and also releasing it on DVD and so Kristen Scott was calling me at a very early hour of the morning here where I am, but for her in Par-ee it was a comfortable middle of the day, a beautiful day to hear her tell it. And you will, and see her, too, coming up on my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and also on my TV show.

The Best Actress race is really packed at the top this year already. There’s really no room with supposed locks – Meryl, Glenn Close(as a man!), Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, and Viola Davis for “The Help”. Lots of competitsh for that fifth slot. Although there’s always the Golden Globes with their ten slots and I think Kristen will fit very nicely in there. For “Sarah’s Key.” Yes, I’ll mention the name of the film again…

And meanwhile, back at the AFI opening in LA, Leonardo Di Caprio really did upend expectations with the(I knew it all along) very GAY J. Edgar, Or Gay Edgar, as I and many  people I know are calling it. Not necessarily derisively, either. This is the story that dared not speak its’ name in J. Edgar’s lifetime, and with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, penning it. He won for “Milk.” What else COULD it be?

And Clint Eastwood has evidently told it quite while and Leo a great, great actor as well as star has never won an Oscar. Yes, ladies and gentle person’s, it’s true. And now that he’s evidently giving the performance of his career as this tormented closeted gay man of the ’30s & ’40’s. Oh, and the ‘6os and the ’70s, too, who could never come out of the closet. And neither could his supposed lover who took the name “very close friend” Clyde Tolson, here embodied by none-other than the super-hunky Winklevoss Twins themselves, Armie Hammer, and HE’S supposedly got a supporting Actor nomination in his future now, too.

So with Leo on board, I think it’s buh-bye for George O’Clooney’s Oscar hopes. He already has one. For “Syriana” for Supporting. But still…

Leo’s been nominated three times AT LEAST and never won and now it looks like with Clint Eastwood at 81 at the helm, we may finally see Leo’s Titanic Oscar ship finally pull into port…

And oh yes, the Academy has decided to honor Vanessa Redgrave, I’m not quite sure how. A dinner? A plaque? She’s already majorly in the Supporting Actress race for “Coriolanus” and now…well now, I think this is the Academy saying VOTE FOR HER! Forget her politics of the past. And let’s give her an Honorary One, or whatever it is they’re doing. And giving it to her. All her. Just her. In one Vanessa-filled night in London…well, if it’s not taking place in Hollywood itself, it really ISN’T rrrrreally official…but it’s the Academy’s way of saying “VOTE FOR HER!”

She’s 72 or 73 or 74 and her beautiful daughter Natasha died so tragically and young during the filming of “Coriolanus”…and she’s BRRRRRILLLIANT in it. And oh yes, who’s the Producer? Harvey Weinstein. Oh yes, him again. So yes, I think THAT category just got closed, today, too.

So right now King George has been de-throned by Prince Leo. And the Academy is giving Vanessa Redgrave their version of an honorary knighthood…”Sarah’s Key” is coming out AGAIN.

And “War Horse” was “sneaked” all over the country this week, and it seems people like it, they really like it.  So last week “The Descendants” was the front-runner, but now I think “War Horse” was galloped back on top.

You can see a very astute young You Tube film critic/star (y’know, like me *cough*cough*)over at www.awardsdaily.com and you can hear what he has to say about being lucky enough to have stumbled in to one of these “War Horse” sneaks…It’s a custom as old as the Academy itself. Showing a film to a surprised audience in the hinterlands…Even “Gone With the Wind” was introduced this way…”War Horse” is gonna be a tough one to beat. It’s STILL playing to sold-out houses in New York’s Lincoln Center, and it won the Tony for Best Play last year, though the writing was atrocious. I nearly left at the Intermission, but I stayed…and was amaaaazed by its’ powerful second act.

Michelle Williams Breaks Your Heart & Will Win Her First Best Actress Oscar for “My Week with Marilyn”!

I’m just rushing back from a packed, packed, packed Press Screening at the New York Film Festival this morning to rave and rave about how wonderful “My Week with Marilyn” turned out to be! Michelle Williams has just won the Oscar for Best Actress!!! She is HEARTBREAKING! And there’s so much NEW Marilyn info here. We think we know MMs story, but “My Week…” meticulously shows us that, we do not. There is more to be told And Michelle Williams! OMG! She is beautiful beyond belief, sexy, and she rips your heart out, too! It’s an Academy Award performance FOR SURE! Close the category! Nobody can top her!

And director Simon Curtis could be on his way to the Oscars,too, with this film.  It’s so good in all its’ aspects it could win Best Picture. And so could Kenneth Branagh, who’s definitely got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his future playing the egotistical, blue meany Sir Laurence Olivier, and so may Dame Judi Dench as a hilarious Dame Sybil Thorndyke, the only person on the film set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” who seems to be kind to Marilyn and sees and understands the torments she’s going  through. Dame Judi shows you that Olivier did not HAVE to behave the way he did to Marilyn. She tells him to “stop bullying her!” but of course, he does n0t and therein lies the conflict and the plot of this  spectacularly surprising, fantastically good movie.

And you just HATE Zoe Wanamaker asthe black-clad, matronly Paula Strasberg, who is Marilyn’s Method Acting coach. Paula accompanies her to England to film (true story) Olivier’s production of this Terrence Ratigan play that was a hit for him in the West End, where he played opposite his real life wife at the time Vivian Leigh. Played here by Julia Ormond, in a kind of throw away part. Wanamaker, as Strasberg, maddeningly interferes in every aspect of the production she can. Actually making things worse for the hapless Marilyn. And this is a true story, too.

IRL as he does in the film, Olivier REPLACES Leigh in the “Showgirl” role for the movie with Marilyn, hoping that she would renew him “make him feel young,” but instead Marilyn’s constant latenesses to the set and difficulty with Olivier in nearly every aspect of making this troubled , true Hollywood story , is making him feel very, very old. And draining him of every ounce of vitality he hoped he would have making this , his dream project of a movie.

And this is all true, and the fact that it is will resonate heavily with the Academy and Michelle Williams’ magnificent performance just breaks your heart, in ways that you wouldn’t think a film like this, a Hollywood biopic, could. It really is a profound story that goes beyond everything you might expect. And it’s a love story, too.

Williams and director Curtis take you SLOWLY inside Marilyn’s torment and insecurity. At the start of the film she is singing(and Williams uses her own voice to sing) one of her signature songs and we see Eddie Redmayne’s character of the Young Boy that is Colin Clark, watching her with a huge, freckled-faced smile,looking up adoringly at her in a darkened 1950s British movie house.

Then we see Clark, and his upper class family, who is shocked, SHOCKED that he wants to get a job at all, and in MOVIES. No less, and we see him worm his way into Shepperton Studios and become the third assistant director on “The Prince and the Showgirl.” This starts the movie.

Olivier is portrayed as a martinet, to say the least. And he is trying to find a way to work with Marilyn, who has no training whatsoever, but who as just discovered and embraced Method Acting and the Actor’s Studio in New York, hence her connection with Paula Strasberg, who ran it with her husband the legendary Lee Strasberg.

And the film is all about great acting, and great actors and how Olivier and Monroe are both united in their desire to do great work, but separated by the ocean of cultural differences and acting techniques.

And Olivier in the end admits that Monroe “had the greatest of instincts but no training whatsoever” and the film says that he is a great stage actor trying to be a film star and that Monroe was a great movie star trying to be a great actress. And clashes ensue.

Situated between her just-married status to playwright Arthur Miller, and before her greatest success of all time in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot”, the film’s screenplay by Adrian Hodges is witty, insightful, and doesn’t pull its’ punches when it comes time to get to the crux of the matter…Marilyn’s brief, week-long love affair with Colin Clark(Redmayne), and the heartbreak Arthur Miller AND Colin Clark are in for with Marilyn.

And Michelle Williams goes beyond herself. In the role of her career, she totally rises to the occasion and does the best work she’s ever done, in a role that on paper at least may seem impossible to play. But play it she does! She gave me goose bumps. Chills. She made me cry. In fact, she did everything that a great actress is supposed to do in a great role.

And I can’t help but feel that Marilyn herself would LOVE this intrepretation of her oft-told story.

And the Academy? Well, this wonderful film should make them all feel as guilty as hell about what happened to Marilyn in her short lifetime. AND she was never nominated for an Oscar, as Michelle Williams will surely be. The pitch perfect Branaugh and wryly hilarious and touching Dame Judi are other very possible nominations here, too, in Supporting. In a wide open category of Supporting Actress, Dench could score again in a part that is longer than the one she won for in “Shakespeare in Love”, Queen Elizabeth I. THAT part was so tiny that maybe Oscar will feel guilty about THAT, too, and Dame Judi could win over Vanessa Redgrave…who is beyond awesome in “Coriolanus.”

And Harvey?

Well, he’s got his hands full of Oscar possibilites this year. With the sure-fire “The Artist” and now this marvelous “Marilyn” and the still unseen Meryl Streep/Margaret Thatcher vehicle “The Iron Lady”, the Weinstein’s Oscar cup is running over this Awards season, which is now ON.

Just look at the Suppporting Actress possiblities he’s got. Dame Judi, Vanessa Redgrave and Berenice Bejos for “The Artist.” Will a non-Weinstein actress even have a chance?

But I do think Michelle Williams is the front-runner now. CLOSE THAT CATEGORY! All the S.W.O.R.M. that make up the Academy, the Straight White Old Rich Men will all vote for her.

This movie is sooo good it’s like a new movie starring Marilyn Monroe herself. And as always the public cannot get enough of her.

“The Envelope, Please!’

TIFF ’11 Lists, Best, Worst, Couldn’t Get In To See, etc.

So, in short form,(I hope) some TIFF lists ~

Best Film – Machine Gun Preacher

Runner-Up- The Artist, Drive, The Skin I Live In, Coriolanus

Best Actor – Gerard Butler in “Machine Gun Preacher”

Runner-ups- Ryan Gosling “Drive,” Ralph Fiennes in “Coriolanus”, Jean Dujardin “The Artist”

Best Actress – Elena Anaya “The Skin I Live In” (Pedro Almodovar’s hot new film)

Runner-Up- Tilda Swinton “We’ve Got to Talk About Kevin,; Rachel Weisz “The Deep Blue Sea”

Best Supporting Actor- Gerard Butler “Coriolanus”

Runner-Up – Tom Hiddleston & Simon Russell Beale in “Deep Blue Sea”, that adorable  little dog in “The Artist”

Best Supporting Actress- Vanessa Redgrave “Coriolanus”

Runner-Ups – Marisa Peredes in “The Skin I Live In”, Tammy Blanchard in “Union Square,” Berenice Bejos “The Artist”

Worst TIFF “Rendition”-like Bomb (It died in one TIFF screening) – “A Dangerous Method”

Films I Tried to See, But Couldn’t – “Shame”, “Descendants”, “Albert Nobbs”

Hoping to See Soon – “The Ides of March”

Couldn’t Care Less About Seeing – “Moneyball”

TIFF begins before it starts. Coriolanus’ Ralph Fiennes Masterpiece

As I quoted John Steinbeck earlier, before I left for Montreal, “Trips begin before they start.” And now TIFF has begun with a BANG! as I got to see a pre-TIFF screening of “Coriolanus,” which is the great Ralph Fiennes directorial debut as well as perhaps the best he’s ever been as an actor, which is saying A LOT .

As Coriolanus, himself, one of Shakespeare’s most troublesome heroes or anti-heroes or a character who heretofore has been virtually un-classifiable as well as over-looked. In doing all this re-imagining so magnificently, Fiennes has created his own masterpiece. It’s the absolute pinnacle of his career as an actor, and he’s the pretty damn good first time director, too!

Shakespeare’s great leading men were all supposed to be characters who had ONE tragic flaw, and Coriolanus’ was that he was supposedly “too proud.” And that has been the long and the short of it for centuries. Until now.

Ralph Fiennes has brilliantly re-thought and re-configured this tragedy and made it something very, very modern and timely and something that is definitive and totally his own. It’s an overwhelming Shakespearean as well as cinematic achievement.

In setting it in some kind of war-torn Eastern Europe setting -Bosnia? Serbia? and loading the first half hour up with almost unbearably unwatchable bloodshed, explosion, bombs, etc., he effectively illustrates that THIS is what Coriolanus can do. Make war. Kill people. Destroy every thing in his path. He’s the ultimate adrenaline junkie, like Jeremy Renner’s indelible soldier/killer character in “The Hurt Locker.”

And after that bloody initial first section of the film, which I thought was a tad overdone and overlong and not Shakespearean at all, and goes on forever, “Coriolanus” settles down to become what I have always believed it to be, Shakespeare’s only play about MOM.

Whether this is a veiled portrait of his own mother, Mary Arden, who was a staunch Catholic, in the Elizabethan days, when that meant death, Volumnia, always a good part, to my mind, here in the hands of the great Vanessa Redgrave, becomes one of Shakespeare’s most frightening and powerful villianesses. She practically tops Lady Macbeth here in that she’s Coriolanus’ MOM. The all-powerful, passive-aggressive military MOM, she  is as blood-thirsty and dangerous as any she-wolf-hound and as any of Shakespeare’s great bad gals.

Redgrave’s chilling performance vaults Volumnia into the ranks of one of the best characters that Shakespeare ever wrote, simply and forever.

And as she utters the foulest and most outrageous of Shakespeare’s dialogue, she is ever-so elegant and o so charming and as sweet as apple crumble  pie. She’s utterly, completely reasonable. Every inch a lady. She’s never a shrew, and she’s FRIGHTENING!

Shakespeare never really wrote about the topic of MOM so completely before or after. And Coriolanus, as Ralph Fiennes’ plays him so persuasively, is one sick puppy. A military one-man killing machine, he cannot deal with people or politics and gets ousted as consul by the people of Rome in mere hours or days after he is elected, because he simply can’t speak to them. He refuses to show them his wounds, literally, and the Roman rabble turns on him, in a split second and he is ousted from his home, his family, his country and labeled a traitor, simply because in modern terms, he has no social skills whatsoever.

He’s a great soldier, a great general, but all he can do is fight, fight, fight. He’s not humble about anything. And when the battle is over, he can’t stop fighting, with everyone around him, until the only person he has left to fight with is himself. As Fiennes’ character begins to lose it you realize that he is playing a self-destructive, mentally ill man. A paranoid, certainly. A schizophrenic, yes, perhaps.

But Fiennes’ in his interpretation, places all the blame for Fiennes’ descent into hell, squarely on the broad shoulders of  MOM, Vanessa. And Ms. Redgrave, now well into her later years, shows time does not stop for genius, as she lays her great actress’ s hands on Volumnia and shakes her and inflates her, until she grows and grows in to this GIANTESS of all-devouring, but socially sweet matron/dragon. She scares even as she charms, and her ultimate scene, the scene where outside the walls of Rome, she pleads for her city and for her vengeful, bat-shit crazy, beautiful son to come back to her. Come back to Rome! and Shakespeare and Fiennes has her kneeling over and over again pleading, cajoling, manipulating, begging, and that scene alone, says Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

Redgrave also speaks Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter as if it were conversational speech. Another achievement. And since Volumnia’s lines and character are not as well-known as, say Lady Macbeth, every word she utters, every moment she has, seems absolutely FRESH.

I think one of the greatnesses of this instant classic of film, is that it redefines both Coriolanus and Volumnia as two of Shakespeare’s greatest characters, though until now they never appeared as such. The over-possesive mother and the wounded, crazy child.

Coriolanus’ problem was not that he was “too Proud”. It was his mother!

And Redgrave may very certainly be looking at another Oscar here. It’s going to be hard for any of the other ladies, who may be nominated as Best Supporting Actress(though in this film, she’s really the co-lead) to come up to ,or top this towering actress’  career-capping achievement in “Coriolanus.”

So what Fiennes has done is make this not a play about a patrician soldier, a play, or rather, a film about a play about a man at war with himself, and actually, a film about a man at war with his mother.

A mother who completely mis-reads and over-pushes and over-dominates her war-talented son. Fiennes and Redgrave do a memorable pas-de-deux here on Shakespeare’s only really stab at motherhood, literally. And stab at it, he does.

And with Harvey Weinstein as producer, you can be pretty sure both Fiennes and Redgrave are going to the Oscar dance this year. And Redgrave is certainly now the front-runner in her category. And how! And I hope she staggering achievement as Volumnia doesn’t overwhelm Fiennes’ Oscar chances as Best Actor. Or Best Director. Or both. It could. And it might. And his expert Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt.2” may hurt him here. Or help him. It certianly could be confusing to Oscar voters. Maybe he’ll be nominated for BOTH performances!

Jessica Chastain as Coriolanus’ weepy, weak wife has virtually nothing to do except cry. And Gerard Butler is OK, but not Oscar worthy as Coriolanus arch-enemy, the king of the Volscians. (sp?)

More complex as more aptly a possible Supporting Actor nominee is British actor Brian Cox, who FINALLY gets a part he get sink his teeth into, as Coriolanus’ mediator, explicator and finally tragic go-between.

But the film is Fiennes’ and certainly Redgrave’s. Vanessa is the one to beat. But Fiennes is fine, fine, fine, too. The envelope, please…

Redgrave’s only Oscar blockage is her previous win decades ago for Julia, and her politics, but the Academy may overlook all this because her Volumnia is  so stupendous, charismatic overwhelming and frightening. She LOVES war more than any of the men in the film, and she has brought up her only son to be a killing machine, but she has not been able to make him a man.

And in Shakespeare’s play about a war against MOM, who do you think wins?

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