Actor Geoffrey Rush turns 70

Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winner

ShineAlthough I’ve seen or heard the actor Geoffrey Rush in a number of movies, I always associate him with one. And no, it’s not Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s Shine, from 1996. IMDB notes: “Pianist David Helfgott, driven by his father and teachers, has a breakdown. Years later he returns to the piano, to popular if not critical acclaim.”

Rush won the Oscar for Best Actor. The film received several other nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Dramatic Score. I bought the CD of the score; it is recommended.

Sometimes, it’s one movie that propels a performer from a working professional to someone who people can recognize by name. But I know almost nothing about the man’s life, other than he’s from Australia.

Again, from IMDB: He was born “in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, to Merle (Bischof), a department store sales assistant, and Roy Baden Rush, an accountant for the Royal Australian Air Force. His mother was of German descent and his father had English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. He was raised in Brisbane, Queensland after his parents split up…”

“He performed in theater for a number of years… Film-goers finally began taking notice of Geoffrey after his performance in Children of the Revolution (1996).

“This led to THE role of a lifetime as the highly dysfunctional piano prodigy David Helfgott in Shine (1996). Rush’s astonishing tour-de-force performance won him every conceivable award imaginable, including the Oscar, Golden Globe, British Film Award, and Australian Film Institute Award.”

After SHINE

“Shine not only put Rush on the international film map but atypically on the Hollywood ‘A’ list as well. His rather homely mug…” Ouch. OK, he’s certainly not classically handsome, but…

His “completely charming, confident and captivating demeanor” allowed him to “more easily dissolve into a number of transfixing historical portrayals, notably his Walsingham in Elizabeth (1998) and Leon Trotsky in Frida (2002),” both of which I saw.

I’ve also appreciated his work in Shakespeare in Love (1998), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; Lantana (2001), a murder mystery; Finding Nemo (2003), voicing Nigel the seagull; and The King’s Speech (2010) as Lionel Logue.

“Rush’s intermittent returns to the stage have included productions of Marat-Sade, Uncle Vanya, Oleanna, Hamlet, and The Small Poppies. In 2009 he made his  Broadway debut in Exit the King,” written by Eugene Ionesco, co-starring Susan Sarandon, and co-adapted by Rush. He got a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance.

On television, he played Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004) on HBO, for which he won a Primetime Emmy Award, meaning he’s won the acting Triple Crown.

“His marriage (since 1988) to Aussie classical actress Jane Menelaus produced daughter Angelica (1992) and son James (1995). Menelaus, who has also performed with the State Theatre of South Australia, has co-starred on stage with Rush… She also had featured roles in a few of his films, including Quills (2000) and The Eye of the Storm (2011).”

Geoffrey Rush is a successful, talented actor, who largely travels below the radar of a lot of people.

The rest of the Oscar-nominated shorts

Back in April, I wrote about the Oscar-nominated shorts I had seen to date. I’ve since seen all of the rest of them. I’ll tell you how at the end.

Short Film (Live Action)

The Present (Palestine, 24 minutes), IMDB: “On his wedding anniversary, Yusef (Saleh Bakri) and his young daughter set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift. Between soldiers, segregated roads, and checkpoints, how easy would it be to go shopping?”

Not easily at all, as it turns out. One can’t but help think the guys at the checkpoint weren’t so much protecting as being schmucks. But it does have a nice ending.

Feeling Through (USA, 18 minutes). IMDB: “A late-night encounter on a New York City street leads to a profound connection between a teen-in-need (Steven Prescod) and a DeafBlind man (Robert Tarango).” Touching and effective. The only one of these I saw before.

Two Distant Strangers (USA, 32 minutes). IMDB: “A man trying to get home to his dog gets stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a cop.” OK, it’s a young black man and a white cop. A warped Groundhog Day. Unsubtle but with a thought-provoking impact. The Oscar winner, and rightly so.

Ayn Levana (White Eye) (Israel, 20 minutes). IMDB: “A man finds his stolen bicycle, which now belongs to a stranger. While attempting to retrieve it, he struggles to remain human.” Having had bicycles stolen from me, I could definitely relate. Does the new owner need it more than the original owner? Issues of immigration are also involved. A good film.

The Letter Room (USA, 33 minutes) IMDB: “When a corrections officer (Oscar Issac) is transferred to the letter room, he soon finds himself enmeshed in a prisoner’s deeply private life.” What would you do in the same circumstances? Especially since his life is pretty much his job? Isaac, who plays Poe Dameron in the last Star Wars trilogy, is very effective here.

Animated Films

Burrow (USA, 6 minutes). IMDB: “A young rabbit tries to build the burrow of her dreams, becoming embarrassed each time she accidentally digs into a neighbor’s home.” Pleasant, light fare.

Genius Loci (France, 16 minutes). IMDB: “One night, Reine, a young loner, sees the urban chaos as a mystical oneness that seems alive, like some sort of guide.” A surrealistic…something. I’ll admit I don’t really get it. Something with her sister and a baby and a muse.

Opera (South Korea/USA, 9 minutes) IMDB: “Our society and history, which is filled with beauty and absurdity.” That doesn’t tell you diddly. From Indiewire: A Provocative Animated Short Confronts Never-Ending Polarization. “It consists of a giant pyramid with cyclical activities.” It’s almost hypnotic.

If Anything Happens I Love You (USA, 13 minutes). IMDB: “In the aftermath of tragedy, two grieving parents journey through an emotional void as they mourn the loss of a child.” And without dialogue, but great use of shadows, you can feel the sense of disconnectedness this couple is experiencing, long before you know why. It’s quite extraordinary and deserving of the Oscar.

Yes-People/Já-Fólkið (Iceland, 8 minutes).  IMDB: “One morning an eclectic mix of people face the everyday battle – such as work, school, and dish-washing. As the day progresses, their relationships are tested and ultimately their capacity to cope.” It’s a story about the mundane, which can be rather interesting, but this wasn’t, at least for me.

If Anything Happens I Love You

Highly commended

The animation nominations run less than an hour, so the packagers usually throw in a few more to create a 90-minute program.

Kapaemahu (USA, 9 minutes) IMDB: “Kapaemahu reveals the healing power of four mysterious stones on Waikiki Beach – and the legendary dual male and female spirits within them.” It was very affecting, telling a story I did not know. You can see it here.

The Snail and the Whale (UK, 27 minutes) IMDB: “A tiny snail goes on an amazing journey by hitching a ride on the tail of a huge humpback whale. Based on the picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.”  It’s a sweet story, with some star power, with the late Diana Rigg as the narrator and Sally Hawkins as the snail.

To: Gerard (USA). IMDB: “A sprightly elderly man brightens the day of a little girl through magic.” A guy from Dreamwork produced this, and it’s very good.

I suppose I would have replaced Burrow, Yes-People, and possibly Genius Loci with these three.

Documentary

I reviewed all of these – Do Not Split (USA/Norway), Hunger Ward (USA), the winning Colette (USA), A Concerto Is A Conversation (USA), except one.

A Love Song For Latasha (USA, 19 minutes.)  IMDB: “The injustice surrounding the shooting death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins at a South Central Los Angeles store became a flashpoint for the city’s 1992 civil uprising.

As one critic noted, “The decision to embrace poetic abstract over reenactment is an easy one to make. And that’s exactly what Sophia Nahli Allison does.” It may be a bit confusing for some but it’s worthwhile.

I’d say either Latasha or Collette was the best film.

My local Landmark Theatre, Spectrum 8 offered packages to see one, two, or all three packages. Obviously, I picked the latter, for a total of $30, not much more than the price of three in-person tickets. I ordered them in mid-April and had until mid-May to start watching them. Once I started, in the first week in May, I had until the first week in June to see them all.

The less-than-satisfactory Oscar post

I saw all the Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay noms!

EmmaYeah, it’s been a less-than-satisfactory Oscar viewing season for me. I haven’t seen many of the nominees, certainly in comparison with most years. Although, seeing THREE Best Picture nominees in the last three days, which I haven’t yet reviewed, has made the list a bit more complete.

So this is a post for this moment, and I’m hoping to see the others eventually. The ! means I saw it. I’ll link to my reviews the first time.

BEST PICTURE
! The Father – I just saw this; well-acted, of course, depressing and a little stagey
! Judas and the Black Messiah – I saw this yesterday; the best in my opinion.
Mank – this played at the newly-reopened Spectrum Theatre, but I didn’t catch it.
! Minari 
! Nomadland. I’m aware of the controversy over how the movie doesn’t fully address the working conditions at Amazon, which the book apparently does.
! Promising Young Woman – I just saw, and I liked it a lot
! Sound of Metal – this is the movie I saw the earliest of the nominees, the only one before the noms were announced. It’s very good.
! The Trial of the Chicago Seven. Good film.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
! Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy – she’s overdue, but this movie reviewed terribly
! Olivia Colman, The Father. She’s very strong in a demanding role.
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
! Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari – my favorite

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – all great performances
But it is absurd that the two leads of Judas are both up for best supporting. I blame the studio.
! Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
! Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
! Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
! Paul Raci, Sound of Metal – probably my #2 pick
! Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah, narrowly my #1 pick

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round – Denmark. A good film but this is the only one I saw in the category.
Better Days – Hong Kong
Collective – Romania
The Man Who Sold His Skin – Tunisia
Qu Vadis, Aida? – Bosnia and Herzegovina

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
! Time 

ORIGINAL SONG
! Fight For You from Judas and the Black Messiah
! Hear My Voice from The Trial of the Chicago 7
Husavik from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
lo Sì (Seen) from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)
! Speak Now from One Night in Miami – my rooting interest

Screenplays and other things

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
! Wolfwalkers 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
! Borat Subsequent MovieFilm
! The Father
! Nomadland
! One Night in Miami – my favorite of the four
The White Tiger – there’s a 2021 movie called White Tiger about a tank. That isn’t this movie.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
! Judas and the Black Messiah – my #1 pick
! Minari
! Promising Young Woman – my #2 pick
! Sound of Metal
! The Trial of the Chicago 7

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
! Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal – excellent
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – like a lot of others, I’d be thrilled if he wins posthumously
! Anthony Hopkins, The Father – great, as usual
Gary Oldman, Mank
! Steven Yeun, Minari

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – I always root for her
! Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday – she is WAY better than the movie; review soon
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
! Frances McDormand, Nomadland
! Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman – possibly my favorite

DIRECTOR
! Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
! Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
! Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
! Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman. My pick.

The techie awards

PRODUCTION DESIGN
! The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

CINEMATOGRAPHY
! Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah
Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Dariusz Wolski, News of the World
! Joshua James Richards, Nomadland – I can imagine this winning
! Phedon Papamichael, The Trial of the Chicago 7

COSTUME DESIGN
! Emma – hmm. I bought this DVD for my wife and we watched it some months ago, but I never reviewed it. It was pleasant enough, not great. But the costumes WERE fabulous.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
! Sound of Metal – the sound, and lack of, is pivotal here, and very effective

ORIGINAL SCORE
Da 5 Bloods
Mank
! Minari
News of the World
Soul

VISUAL EFFECTS – I’ve seen none
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

FILM EDITING
! The Father
! Nomadland – will probably win
! Promising Young Woman
! Sound of Metal – rooting interest
! The Trial of the Chicago 7 – secondary rooting interest

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
! Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio

 

Oscar-nominated shorts for 2020

Hong Kong, Yemen, NYC

Feeling ThroughNormally, when I want to see the Oscar-nominated shorts, I go to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, one of the Landmark Theatres. I generally view the Live-Action or Animated films. Unfortunately, that’s not an option; it just re-opened, but I’m not ready to go out. Nor is watching the documentaries at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.

Luckily, they are online and I see at least some of them. This Rotten Tomatoes link from March 16 is a good starting place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually SEE any of the Animated Films.  Burrow, about a rabbit, is on Disney+; it doesn’t even have a trailer.  Genius Loci has a trailer on YouTube, which is lovely, but I can’t find how to access it fully.

If Anything Happens I Love You is on Netflix. “Grieving parents journey through an emotional void as they mourn the loss of a child in the aftermath of a tragic school shooting.”  Opera has bits on Instagram, but I don’t know how to access the whole thing. Vimeo has a teaser for  Yes-People.

Documentary (Short Subject)

I fared better in this category: 4 out of 5.  Colette (24:50) is on YouTube. A 90-year-old woman who was part of the French Resistance sees, for the first time, the Nazi camp where her brother died. It’s a touching character study of a woman who thought she was tougher than she was.

A Concerto Is a Conversation (13:24) is on the NYTimes.com site. “A virtuoso jazz pianist and film composer tracks his family’s lineage through his 91-year-old grandfather from Jim Crow Florida to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.” Warm conversation between the two men.

Do Not Split (35:38) is on Facebook. It “follows activists in Hong Kong as they endure violent stand-offs with police and grapple with the new restrictions imposed by mainland China.” Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand the particular strategies employed by the protestors at certain times.

Hunger Ward (45:00), from MTV,  is on something called PlutoTV. It’s about the bombing of Yemen, and the devastating effect it has on children. A six-year-old weighs 15 pounds. And it’s tough on their caretakers. Think of all of those news reports you’ve seen of exhausted and frustrated COVID nurses; that’ll give you a taste. Check out HungerWard.org to get involved.

The one I didn’t see was A Love Song for Latasha (19:00) on Netflix. “The killing of Latasha Harlins became a flashpoint for the 1992 LA uprising. This documentary evocatively explores the 15-year-old’s life and dreams.”

Short Film (Live Action)

The only one of these films I saw so far was Feeling Through on YouTube (18:25). A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man at a bus stop. This is the film with which I was most familiar. “The film was inspired by a chance encounter with the first DeafBlind person director Doug Roland met late at night in New York City.” Marlee Matlin, an executive producer, and an Oscar-winning deaf actor promoted the film on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

The Letter Room (32:00) has a trailer on Vimeo. “When a kind-hearted prison officer (Oscar Isaac) is transferred to the letter room, he soon gets involved in an inmate’s personal affairs.” One CAN see the film for $6.99. Also with a trailer on Vimeo is The Present. It involves a Palestinian father and his young daughter at a border.

Two Distant Strangers has a trailer on YouTube, but I don’t know how to see the whole thing. “Cartoonist Carter James’ repeated attempts to get home to his dog are thwarted by a recurring deadly encounter that forces him to re-live the same awful day over and over again.”

Finally, White Eye likewise has a YouTube trailer, and I’d like to know how to see the film in its entirety. “A man finds his stolen bicycle and it now belongs to a stranger. In his attempts to retrieve the bicycle, he struggles to remain human.”

Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

fuzzy wool

Best-Animated-Short-Oscars-2020After the Oscars, and indeed, just before the package left town, my wife and I finally saw the Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation.

The first, and the one that Indiewire ranked the least, was Hair Love, which won. “The Sony Pictures short — which screened last year before ‘Angry Birds 2’ in theaters — started as a Kickstarter campaign.” It was later adapted into a children’s book.

I had actually already seen Hair Love on CBS Sunday Morning. It was about a young black girl and her father being overwhelmed trying to fix her hair. Been there! I thought it was quite moving, even on second viewing.

Daughter, from the Czech Republic’s Daria Kashcheeva is also between a girl and her father, but far more melancholy. The title character is “startled by a bird crashing into the window, which in turn sparks a series of somewhat-difficult-to-follow memories in which she imagines herself to be a bird.”

I was a tad confounded by the narrative. But the technique, which appear to be puppets made from papier-mâché, was impressive. The “camerawork… mirrors the shallow focus and shaky, handheld technique used to convey emotional turmoil and confusion in live-action movies.”

China girl

Sister is a China-US project. As Variety notes, its stop-motion “represents the most successful marriage of concept and technique among the nominees, but hinges on a twist that’s best not revealed here.” Yet, annoyingly, Indiewire DOES tell too much.

The “puppets have been assembled from fuzzy wool, which the director lights in such a way that they look alive. Stray squiggles of loose material complete the illusion, vibrating even as the dolls sit still… The underlying script is so strong… that [the limited facial features] merely reinforce the film’s humor. For instance, “the hungry infant swells to fill the entire nursery, then comically deflates like a balloon…” And that really IS funny.

Quite often, these shorts show people coping with Alzheimer’s. The French stop-motion entry Mémorable deals with an elderly artist. “Director Bruno Collet has designed his main character to resemble one of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portraits.”

He “remains determined to paint, asking his wife to pose without realizing who she is,” and it is a marvelous portrayal. “Nicolas Martin’s string score adds resonance to the couple’s predicament.” Possibly my favorite.

Kitbull is about “a rowdy stray kitten attempting to survive a stormy night in a heap of trash. The cat “encounters a pit bull… being subjected to abusive owners.” It is a wordless story about the value of negotiation. It was “produced as part of Pixar’s SparkShorts program, which finances independent shorts by young Pixar artists.” It’s not bad.

Also-rans

As always, those who catch the program in cinemas will be treated to a handful of “highly commended” shorts. A stop-motion project, Henrietta Bulkowski tells a parable about overcoming differences. Variety says, “The animation’s nice, but the story feels rigged to prove a point…” This features Christina Hendricks and Chris Cooper as voice actors.

“Carol Freeman’s The Bird & the Whale represents a painstaking job of hand-painted oil-on-glass animation, though the story… doesn’t quite work.” I’d agree with that.

“Computer-animated French entry Hors Piste is hilarious in its retro-toned, well-timed slapstick humor.” It features “a number of clever gags involving a bumbling high-altitude rescue squad.” We’re talking LOL funny.

The two-minute CG Maestro from the team behind 2018 nominee Garden Party, shows them pushing their photoreal animal animation to new levels.” It is essentially one joke, but it’s visually amazing.