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Entries in Broadway and Stage (119)

Tuesday
Oct212014

Top Ten Oscar Theater Movies Or (The Unexpected Hook of Birdman)

For the concerns in some quarters that Birdman might be too cerebral or idiosyncratic for Oscar, I offer thisfoolproof rebuttal: It's about the theater!

Oscar has a long history of mad love for theater movies from early musicals which were often about vaudeville through biopics about theater giants and on to today's more playful genre hybrids. Even when the Academy doesn't fully commit to its latest greasepaint and footlights suitor, it will often give him a quick kiss in the form of a nomination or three.  Some examples: To Be Or Not To Be (1942 & 1983), Being Julia (2004), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), The Producers (1967), 42nd Street (1934), and The Bandwagon (1953). While it's true there are exceptions that they completely ignore (Stage Beauty, Waiting for Guffman, Opening Night) it's a subject matter that appeals to showbiz people and showbiz people like congratulating their own.

OSCAR'S 10 FAVORITE THEATER MOVIES


Why didn't you include Cabaret, Black Swan or Chicago in this list?:
I opted not to include films about cabaret, ballet, opera, etcetera but events more traditionally associated with "the theater" like plays, musicals, revues. I opted not to include Chicago since the vaudevillian references are atmosphere but not really related to the story as told but the story before the story and briefly after it if you will though there's definitely a case for including it. If you do include it it's #3 in this list with 13 nominations and 6 wins.

Honorable Mention: Best Foreign Language Film Winners with a theatrical bent include Hungary's MEPHISTO (1981) and Spain's ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (1999)

Runners Up: The all star actressfest known as STAGE DOOR (1937), discussed earlier this year, received 4 nominations including Best Picture & Mike Leigh's exquisite TOPSY-TURVY (1999) took 4 nominations and a win. And just barely missing the list is THE DRESSER (1983) with 5 nominations including Best Picture. While The Dresser seems to have been all but forgotten (was it not readily available enough for home viewing?) Oscar really went for it this intimate relationship drama at time including a double lead actor nomination (the second to last of its kind - Amadeus closed out the practice for men the following year and category fraud began to run rampant) for Tom Courtenay as the dresser and Albert Finney as the theater star he works for during a production of King Lear.

10 STAR! (1968) 7 nominations 
Though this notorious flop, recently discussed in our celebration of Robert Wise's centennial, ended Julie Andrews time as the #1 box office star in the world, The Academy responded with much greater initial enthusiasm than the public to this super long critically massacred biopic about stage star Gertrud Lawrence.

nine more encores after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct092014

Stage Door: "You Can't Take It With You" & "From Here To Eternity"

The Best Picture winners of 1938 and 1953, which were based on hit plays and best selling novels respectively, have moved to the stage. Let's take a look...

Annaleigh Ashford dances up a comic storm in "You Can't Take It With You"

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU
For this Broadway revival of the classic 30s comedy, famously moviefied by Frank Capra back in the day, they've gone all star: James Earl Jones plays the tax-avoiding follow-your-dreams grandfather, Broadway vet and A+ comic actress Christine Nielsen (recently Tony nominated for Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike) is the easily distracted mother of a large brood, Rose Byrne her gorgeous daughter (essentially the 'Marilyn Munster' of this band of eccentrics), Fran Krantz from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods her rich would-be fiancee and Annaleigh Ashford, who has been on such a brilliant role these past couple of years with her ex-hooker lesbian receptionist on Masters of Sex and as a factory girl in Broadway's Kinky Boots, is the dance-crazed busybody.

If you've boned up on your 1930s Best Picture winners you'll know that those are the roles once inhabited by Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington (Oscar-nominated), Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart and Ann Miller; tough acts to follow all.

As it turns out the theatrical and farcical antics of this family play better on stage...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct032014

Linkside Out

All the news stories we didn't get to and/or articles we like with a wee slant toward the stage this morning... itching to see a show again.

Guardian on the homophobic charges against the MPAA. That über obnoxious organization has struck again. Pride is the second gay movie this year without sex scenes or nudity to be slapped with an R rating.
/Film The Twilight Saga may well be back after some short films. When I first heard this news I groaned and rolled my eyes but then I read the plan and it's sort of a support young female filmmakers thing so it sounds kind of cool, actually. Pit that Twilight is so obnoxious 
The Playlist ranks all 35 of David Fincher's music videos. I used to be so obsessed with him because of Madonna. It's possible that I already linked this? I don't know. But their rankings are fairly good.


Vulture says it's been an amazing year for animation. We just haven't realized it yet. It's all those hard to find foreign toons, it is
Rope of Silicon is doing a Best Movies series and looks back at David Fincher's Se7en. That would probably be on my 100 movies list, too
Cinephilia and Beyond looks at Bob Fosse's masterpiece (one of 'em) All That Jazz
My New Plaid Pants bookmarked! Jason tells us about a Montgomery Clift documentary that I didn't even know about
Variety Jane Fonda and Viola Davis are charitable people. They look great together at an annual Rape Foundation brunch

Netflix, the Disrupter
New York Times on the Crouching Tiger sequel Netflix / IMAX deal
CHUD Netflix going into the business of Adam Sandler movies 
Variety wonders what Netflix's motives our with their recent feature film announcements 

Imelda Staunton rehearsing. Photo by Johan PerrsonOn Stage and Film Interest
Broadway World Imelda Staunton is in theaters now in Pride (and she's delightful in it) but she's also returning to the stage. She's in rehearsals for that mammoth role of Mama Rose in a London production of Gypsy. See photo left. 
The Hairpin wonderful personal essay on seeing Lindsay Lohan's stage debut in Speed the Plow
NYC Theater Interesting. The Laura Pels Theater on 46th street will be doing a stripped down production of Into the Woods while the movie plays in theaters. December 18th through March 2015
Theater Mania Audra McDonald might do a film musical!!! She's rumored to be involved in the stage to screen transfer of Michael John Lachiusa's Hello Again. If only someone would push his Wild Party musical to the screen
Playbill Ewan MacGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal just made their Broadway debuts in The Real Thing 
Variety Normally movies that become stage musicals are semi-recent hits. But next Spring Broadway will get Doctor Zhivago, once a super-sized smash movie hit from 1965. The song score combines talent from two fine musicals (The Secret Garden and Grey Gardens) so I'm excited.
Theater Mania David Burtka (NPH's other half) will be doing a cabaret show at my favorite cabaret spot directed by Neil Patrick Harris. I imagine this is the type of thing that people will judge harshly just hearing about it like "connections!" but I've seen Burtka in two stage productions and he's very talented

Three hot & short exit videos to wrap

1. We'll start with the best one. Making a Marie Antoinette style dress out of Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette script. Love this.

2. Here's the first teaser for Inside Out, Pixar's 2015 release. And Pixar would like to remind you that they made it and that they made all those other movies you love to. BTW they were made by Pixar and did I mention that Pixar made this?

 

3. Inherent Vice's trailer which you've probably seen. We would have done a Yes No Maybe So on this one except that the New York Film Festival is in full swing which will render it immediately disposable since there'll be a review this weekend. The voiceover in this trailer reminds me of Annaleigh Ashford (from Masters of Sex) but she's not in the movie. I wonder who the voice belongs to?

Sunday
Sep282014

Denzel Still Rules The (Box Office) World. But Why No Artistic Risks?

Is there any movie star more consistent than Denzel? Pro: No matter what he makes, it opens big. Con: Maybe that's because he's just not a risk taker. He may be our least adventurous megastar.

TOP O' THE BOX OFFICE
1 EQUALIZER $35 million NEW
2 MAZE RUNNER $17.5 (cum. $58) Review
3 BOXTROLLS $17.2 million NEW best animation studio right now

On the stage he only appears in time-tested prestige pieces (Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson or Shakespeare plays). Onscreen he only makes two kinds of movies: disposable action thriller flicks & would-be prestige dramas. The Equalizer, adapted from a television series, is obviously one of the former. People won't remember he made it in a couple of years as a newer model surfaces to replace it. 

Washington hasn't altered this pattern in twenty years -- take a look for yourself if you don't believe me -- unless you count his curiousity about directing (both of his efforts were pitched towards awards gold but neither The Great Debaters nor Antwone Fisher won Oscar nominations). In the first decade or so of his stardom things were a teensy-bit rangier since the prestige pieces were sometimes full-fledged costume dramas (he doesn't do those anymore really) and the mainstream flicks were sometimes romantic (nix on that, too, nowadays). There were even one or two comedies (gasp)!

It'd be nice if he got the balance better. Many major stars try the '1 for them, 1 for me' approach to maintain both audience favor and critical ardor. But it's easy intead to imagine that Denzel Washington's preferred pattern of '5 for them, 1 for Oscar' might actually be a result of 'all for me'; maybe he just has extremely limited taste in movies? It wouldn't be the first time a bonafide superstar had no interest in cinema as art

Viola and Denzel in their 2010 Tony winning roles. The following year Viola won box office gold with The Help. But still no film version of FENCES.

Still as he tops the charts yet again with another violent man-fantasy, one wishes he would use his clout for good. Why isn't he using that financial and creative muscle to push important work to the screen? Couldn't he at least do the right thing in a completely self-serving way? Why not try for a third Oscar for Fences? Supposedly he's going to direct and star in it but things never seem to get moving towards actual filming and there've been rumors that he's doing it for roughly, oh, ever. Denzel and Viola Davis, his original co-star, who has more than earned another big screen big opportunity lead role after the box office / awards success of The Help, both won Tonys on stage. What's more it's positively insane that nobody ever adapts August Wilson's plays for the big screen. Viola has starred in three of them on Broadway, winning two Tonys in the process. Why isn't this a primary mission for the actor to get at least a few of them on the big screen - preferrably with Viola starring - since he has more money than God, they're important works in African American history, and he also produces now?! 

Denzel could get Fences done quickly if that's what he really cared about getting done. There is no way that the money wouldn't be there immediately if he said "sure I'll do that action movie. But Fences is what I'm doing next. And until I do it no more waving guns around for you!" There is nobody who isn't an idiot in Hollywood who would say no to helping him get it done with gazillions for more gunplay on the line the following fiscal year.

But back to the now ~ What did you see this weekend?

Monday
Sep222014

Fiddler on the Roof is 50

Fifty years ago today, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway and was an instant success with audiences and also won 9 Tony Awards including the big kahuna Best Musical. It would become the longest running musical in Broadway history until it was surpassed by that crop of 80s mega-musicals from Britain. The musical has been performed countless times since in stage productions all over the world and four revivals on Broadway (76, 81, 90, 04). 

Best Actor nominee Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971)

By 1971 there was a movie adaptation that was nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture and I don't believe we've ever discussed it. That ain't right. I've been thinking about 60s and 70s musicals a lot recently due to that book "Roadshow!" and while the movie studios were definitely overinvested in the genre after the gargantuan back-to-back mega hits that were Mary Poppins and Sound of Music occassionally a hit would crop up within the string of flops that killed the genre thereafter. It helped that Norman Jewison was helming. As "Roadshow!" recounts:

I've never seen a distributor, an exhibitor... or the head of a studio ever improve on a film," said Jewison, "Only creative people can improve on a film." Cinematographer Oswald Morris said, "Norman was under hideous pressure from United Artists to keep costs down. To give him his due, he withstood all this; he had a vision for Fiddler, which he wasn't prepared to compromise, no matter what the front office said, and I greatly admire him for this." Jewison immersed himself in classic Jewish culture. I think he knows more about Judaism today than I do," said Topol. Fiddler lyricist Sheldon Harnick noted that Jewison, "isn't Jewish, but he did so much research in preparation for the film that he became quite knowledgeable about things Jewish. As a result, either Topol, or someone else suggested that he should be made an honorary Jew and renamed Norman Christianson!"

When signed, Jewison was hot off the double Oscar success of The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966) and In the Heat of the Night (1967) with his best work still far in the future; That's Moonstruck (1987) -- you know this to be true!

Critical reactions to Fiddler varied and some people objected to its relentless downplaying (within the marketing) of the Judaism of the story, but it raked in big bucks. Or as "Roadshow!" puts it: 

Roughly half of "The Sound of Music"'s earnings, but half of "Music" still qualifies as a blockbuster.

My last visit with this property was not the movie but the stage show's gorgeous 2004 revival starring Alfred Molina (the set design and lighting were just exquisite stage triumphs but it weirdly won no Tonys despite plentiful nominations) and I was stunned to realize or, rather, remember that virtually every song is a classic. It's one of those musicals.

What's your favorite number in that show and do you like its film version?

Friday
Sep122014

Stage Door: This is Our Youth

Here's Matthew Eng on a theatrical revival in NYC of interest to movie fans...

There’s always a bit of wariness involved when approaching our favorite artists’ earliest works, a back-of-the-brain hesitancy that carefully warns us to temper our expectations for these formative, often preliminary pieces. You know what I mean: those scrappily ambitious but almost inevitably uneven calling cards, the ones that were created pre-renown, even pre-agent. They were toiled over on the side, while dwelling in dubious “studio” apartments during stationary years spent wage-slaving in temp jobs, originally imagined while dawdling on a dorm mattress or in a childhood bedroom, when success was a foreign and totally faraway desire.

Success has surely been a much more familiar if nonetheless scattered concept for Kenneth Lonergan in the years since This is Our Youth broke out Off-Broadway in 1996, launching his own career on stage and screen, as well as those of original cast members Josh Hamilton, Missy Yager, and, most notably, that trusted Lonergan staple, Mark Ruffalo. I’m not overly acquainted with Lonergan’s playwriting aside from Youth, but as an ardent fan of You Can Count on Me and Margaret, it’s easy to see the same writerly penchant for considerate, character-driven narratives that would give us both Sammy and Terry Prescott, and (after much delay) Lisa Cohen and her entire, erratic orbit of friends, family members, and tragic, tenacious, and tough-talking passersby.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep092014

Stage Door: 'As One' by Kimberly Reed

Glenn here to discuss the latest excursion to the live stage.

It can be easy to bemoan the fate that befalls many female filmmakers. Lord knows I have often found myself lamenting the post breakthrough careers of the likes of Patty Jenkins, Courtney Hunt and others. Those filmmakers for whom a great early work somehow doesn’t permit them the same carte blanche movie projects as male directors like, for example, Marc Webb who got The Amazing Spider-Man off the back of a slight, but popular romantic comedy whereas Kimberly Peirce won her star an Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry and yet it took nine years for a follow-up. Still, as frustrating as it must be to them and to moviegoers when (I assume) financing doesn’t come to them quite as quickly or as robustly as it might another, we thankfully live in a society that doesn’t mean they have to sit around idly letting their creative juices stop flowing. One of the benefits of the expanding TV universe, for instance, is a greater opportunity for female directors like Jodie Foster, an Emmy nominee for directing an episode of Orange is the New Black, and Jennifer Lynch, for whom Teen Wolf and Psych have allowed more opportunities than film ever has.

This is basically a far too long roundabout way of getting to Kimberly Reed, the director of the fantastic 2008 documentary Prodigal Sons. That film’s autobiographical nature wherein Reed documented her small town high school reunion having since transitioned only to then be simultaneously confronted by the realization that her adopted brother is the biological grandson of Hollywood royalty was perhaps suggesting that film wasn’t always the direction she wanted to take her career. Yet it was an exceptionally good movie, and one that deserved to breed a wider voice for Reed and issues of transgender (six years later and it has finally reached the mainstream). For what it’s worth, I only cottoned on to to Prodigal Sons after having read about on The Film Experience.

While I am unaware of what Reed has been doing in the intervening years, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she was one of the names behind As One, an intimate chamber opera that played this past weekend at BAM in Brooklyn. Many artists will find any means necessary to tell the stories that are inside them and whether Reed had a hard go of it getting a second film off the ground or not, the emergence of her point of view in any creative outlet is something to cherish.

More after the jump...

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