Monday, February 20, 2017

Oscar Picks

I've titled this Oscar picks as they are who I WANT to win - not who I think the Academy will end up choosing. First, I want to start by saying that yes: I am a huge fan of musical theater. So it may surprise people to find that I'm not on the La La Land bus this season. I thought the movie had great moments with beautiful filming and great cinematic choices. The leads were adorable and impressive in what they could do in a musical. That said - I don't feel it deserves the accolades it has been getting this season. Perhaps people just want to be uplifted this year, but for me - there were other performances and films that are more deserving.

So without saying anymore, here are my choices for the upcoming Oscar Ceremony.

BEST PICTURE



Lion & Moonlight are my two favorites

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE



I really thought I was going to say Denzel, but then I saw Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge and I was captivated by his performance. (Side Note: I wish Joel Egerton from Loving would have been in this category over a few of the others.)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE



Natalie Portman disappeared into the role of Jackie Kennedy. Would love to see her win.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


I grew up with Texan men like the character Jeff Bridges plays in Hell or High Water. Never saw him acting.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


Viola, Viola, Viola Davis for Fences.

CINEMATOGRAPHY



Here is where I would award what is great about La La Land.

COSTUME DESIGN


Florence Foster Jenkins transports us to a time period that I love!

DIRECTING


I found Moonlight amazing and what Barry Jenkins was able to do with the script - told in 3 parts - was moving and exceptional in its simplicity.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)


If you haven't watched 13th yet on NETFLIX, you should.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)


I can't get that La La Land theme out of my head.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)


I believe a song shouldn't only be a great song, but one that gets in your mind and you can't let go of. There was a reason Can't Stop the Feeling! was the song of the summer!

PRODUCTION DESIGN


I'm torn between Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Passengers - both very different designs that took me away.

SOUND EDITING & SOUND MIXING


Some very interesting sound was going on in Arrival and I think the film should be awarded for that.

VISUAL EFFECTS


There are so many choices, but I was blown away by Doctor Strange.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)


I really loved Hidden Figures and want to see it awarded for bringing us such a wonderful story.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)


I know Hell or High Water is not the popular choice, but I haven't felt for the bank robbers this much since I saw Kevin Costner in A Perfect World in '93. (Watch THAT movie if you get a chance!)

Friday, February 17, 2017

She's Come Home At Last

As I watched Glenn Close make her entrance on the stage at The Palace in Sunset Boulevard, I couldn't help but wonder how it feels to return "home" to a role she did 22 years ago. To return home to Broadway and all her fans in the dark. No, she didn't go the route of the aging actress Norma Desmond that she portrays, but there are definitely moments that she must be living some sort of similarities.

I've heard this production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical compared to the concerts at City Center, but I compare it more to the concerts usually done at Lincoln Center where the huge orchestra is right on stage and the performers do the show in front of them. First done in London and directed by Lonny Price, producers decided to bring that production back to New York and we are lucky they did.

I love this production! The moment the orchestra starts you realize how incredible it is to hear the lush sound from a 41 piece orchestra and Lloyd Webber's music has never sounded so amazing. I saw the original on Broadway with the mammoth set of a mansion that moved up and down and  rivaled the falling chandelier in another Lloyd Webber show, but in Price's production stairs and platforms take the place and I never missed it. Instead we can pay attention to the wonderful performances that are occurring each night on that stage for this limited run (which has been extended through June). We can hear the words written by Don Black and Christopher Hampton based on the Billy Wilder film and follow the full story instead of making the mansion another character that looms over the entire production.

Glenn Close has changed the way she plays the silent film actress who was forced to give up her profession once talkies came into play. At 50, she is considered over the hill and washed up. When Ms. Close first played it, she was in her late 40s and stayed true to the iconic performance of Gloria Swanson from the film version. But now, being in her late 60s brings a vulnerability and fragility to the role that is more moving and heartbreaking. She displays the importance of having an actress in a musical - and before people slam her aging voice....so what! That's what happens to the voice, it starts to go. And it works perfectly for this character when a note doesn't always come out exactly as planned. I loved her performance and tears came to my eyes when she sang "As If We Never Said Goodbye" in Act II.

Some of the British cast was brought over with Ms. Close and while NY critics weren't the kindest to them, I don't get the animosity. Michael Xavier is a perfect Joe Gillis - the out of work writer who happens upon the home of Ms. Desmond and ends up working for her. He has layered this character in a way I don't recall seeing 20 years ago. The cockiness is there, but I also believe he cares for Norma. And his singing voice is flawless. He hits those notes effortlessly and it's beautiful. Siobhan Dillon is a great Betty Schaeffer with a bit of a confidence that is refreshing. Fred Johanson adds a creepiness to Max (the man servant who harbors love for Norma and sees to all her needs) that adds to the weirdness of her home. He also has an amazing baritone that soars through the Palace. The rest of the cast are all quite nice in each role they play around the main story.

I must give a shout out to Mick Potter who did the sound design as I heard every word which isn't always easy especially with that huge orchestra on stage. I also love Lonny Price's choices in staging/storytelling which shows how a fresh director's eye can change a piece that has been done before. From the floating body to the young Norma's "ghost" lingering around the mansion - I loved it all! (Of course, I have to say that as I added a  young Anna and Angel when I directed a production of The Rink so I like playing with past/present.) 

If you saw the show 20 years ago, return. If you've never seen it - make this your first time. You get to see a star on stage and witness the largest orchestra that Broadway has ever heard. So worth it!  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The American Transition

At 47 years old I've seen many transitions of new presidents in our country. As a child, I had an entire  folder on Jimmy Carter. I grew up during the Reagan administration and stepped out into the world as Clinton held office. There have been moments where my choice didn't win, yet I still respected the office and all that it entailed for our country. There were many that felt the junior senator from Chicago wasn't ready to take on the role and yet he was voted in twice and under his watch my own relationship - my very livelihood was given the same recognition and rights as others.

And then 2016 happened and everything we had known about the office of the president was turned upside down. A large portion of the country wanted change. That's nothing new. People always want change each time we have an election. Usually it means it goes back and forth between parties, but this was different because it was an outsider this time. He was going to drain the swamp of DC and change the rulebook. He started his transition and suddenly the things he said during his campaign seemed to go out the window. He started acting as president with foreign countries before he was ever sworn in. He wants people in Washington that don't even know how Washington or the White House works. There are numerous positions to be filled (over 4,000) to create a peaceful transition, yet many of those are still waiting to be filled. 

People say to wait and see. Give him a chance. Yet over and over the man who will be the oldest president ever continues to use social media to share lies and attacks showing a lack of character, respect for the office, and respect for the people of our country. However WE'RE the ones that people say are not respecting the office because of our feelings for him.

If you think the protests and marches are about our person not winning, you are simply not paying attention to the transition. I've been called a whiny liberal snowflake who is upset over Hillary Clinton not being president. In the words of the incoming president: WRONG. I am upset over the loss of our country. I think that makes me a patriot. My feelings over Trump have nothing to do with Hillary. They have everything to do with how the rest of the world is viewing the USA under these oddest of circumstances. My feelings are based on what the man says and does and how it goes against everything I feel America is built on. A sense of decency is an important attribute I want to see in a leader and I've never seen that in his man. If you think "Love Trumps Hate" was a slogan for another candidate, you don't see that aligning yourself with a hateful leader of another country shows a lack of love for the very country we live in. We are swearing in a man that will continue to build up his own company/brand using America as collateral. If you are closing your eyes to all of these things, that is on you. I respect those that are marching against someone who doesn't seem to understand the new job means country before self. 

This is different from any other transition I've seen in my life. I mourn the end of the era as Obama leaves office and takes with him the grace, dignity, and temperament needed to lead our country. He has shown this over and over the past few weeks. I even respect him for going through the motions he must go through on Friday to turn the power over, but that doesn't mean I need to watch it. The end of an era is often overused. In this case...I truly feel it. 

Thank you, Mr. Obama. I'm sure it's hard for you to know that as you leave, there are many that feel you take with you any sense of comfort we have as Americans. 

Now we wait and see.