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!