15 Feb 19
As Oscar night, Sunday February 24th, nears, what about those 20 Oscar nominated actors? Check out these earlier performances to see why this year’s nominations are hardly accidental. One magazine just did a look back at Sam Elliott – “A Star Is Born” Supporting Actor nominee – and skipped “Lifeguard”! This is crazy because “Lifeguard” was not just his breakthru role, it set the template for Elliott’s career: The soft-spoken man’s man of few words who lives by an unbending code of honor.
With Glenn Close, seven times a nominee now with “The Wife,” there are several key performances in a brilliant decades-spanning career. Albert Nobbs, a woman living as a man in turn of the century Ireland, was her sixth Academy nomination. “Dangerous Liaisons” (‘89) showcases a most evilly seductive Close. And of course: nutty Alex, who will not be wronged and left as a one weekend stand, in easily her most famous, most celebrated role in “Fatal Attraction” (’87).
LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 06: Actor Viggo Mortenson attends the AFI Director’s Screening of “Eastern Promises” at the ArcLight on December 6, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Viggo Mortensen, a Best Actor nominee for the third time with “Green Book,” has several exceptional showcases in a career that has been marked by selectivity. Always serious and reflective, he won notice directed by Sean Penn in the 1991 “The Indian Runner” and then starred in two high-profile 1998 remakes: “A Perfect Murder” opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas, reworking Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder,” and Gus van Sant’s color, shot-by-shot copy of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” opposite Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn. It was being paged from New Zealand by Peter Jackson that made Mortensen a global star. Jackson was several weeks into filming his gargantuan trilogy simultaneously when he decided to replace the actor initially cast as Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings.” Looking as if he was born to ride wildly through pristine landscapes to save the world, Mortensen went from Middle Earth to his first Oscar nominated lead performance with David Cronenberg’s 2007 “Eastern Promises,” a London-set underworld story. A key sequence saw Mortensen’s heavily tattooed Russian gangster naked in a sauna, trying to survive an attack by knife-wielding hired assassins.
Actors Amy Adams, and Patrick Dempsey pose together at the World Premiere of Disney’s “Enchanted” held Nov. 17,2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Amy Adams, a Best Supporting nominee for “Vice,” shares with Close the honor of being recognized six times now without a win. Key to Adams’ career are two must-see films. First, the movie that made her — at 30 – into a star: “Junebug” (2005), an offbeat, low-budget dramedy with Adams as an upbeat pregnant woman who remains optimistic despite much evidence to the contrary. It’s the first of her Oscar nominated roles. Then came her delightful, in every sense, Disney debut with the musical “Enchanted” (2007), a self-mocking rom-com that propelled her onto Hollywood’s A list.
AcornTV’s criminally-charged double whammy
AcornTV has two new crime series this month. The Dutch 12-episode “The Oldenheim Twelve” premieres Feb. 18, followed a week later on Feb. 25 with “London Kills: Series 1,” a procedural detective series revolving around an elite murder squad. Holland’s “Oldenheim” is startlingly good (English subtitles!). As it begins it echoes a now-familiar international murder mystery series premise: the gorgeous, lovely teenage girl who suddenly disappears and whose desperate search reveals all sorts of secrets of just about everyone. The French version of this had a girl go missing at her 16th birthday celebration. It was powerful, contrived yet effective. “Oldenheim” however has an enviable “reality” with its bizarre, genuinely puzzling premise: Yes, yet another beautiful young girl disappears – this time after a forbidden midnight swim with her boyfriend. But that it turns out is just the start. Soon others are disappearing – day by day — and in this small village there’s no clear connection among those suddenly gone. Among the characters, most prominent are a young woman just returned from years away in the Middle East as a war-time photographer, her germaphobic realtor sister and their grumpy, morose, guilt-ridden artist father who can’t forgive himself for accidentally killing a 7 year old girl who a year ago had run out in the street before he could stop. There’s also the obsessive, hideously unpleasant dead girl’s father who has a shrine to his daughter in his cabin, his soon to be ex-wife who forgives the elderly driver who killed her little girl and an underground drug dealer. Much of the town’s layered social order becomes apparent through the detective and his cop partner as they play catch-up to whomever is doing these disappearances. Wonderfully well scripted and acted, this is one series that truly casts a spell.
In contrast “London Kills” rates as both familiar and intriguing. As a procedural that follows clues and leads in solving a crime, the pacing is stop and go. Sharon Small, a familiar face from the Inspector Lynley Mysteries, is a bit frightening in her intensity as the detective who only thought she’d be running a homicide case when, surprise, her boss returns from leave. He too is coping with the mysterious disappearance — of his wife! While conventional wisdom says she is dead, Hugo Speer’s detective can’t accept that. He is so off-putting, you kind of wish he’d go back home and be miserable by himself and let his murder squad go their own way.
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 10: Winner of the Leading Actor award for Bohemian Rhapsody, Rami Malek poses in the press room during the EE British Academy Film Awards at Royal Albert Hall on February 10, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Critics had their own ideas about what the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, PG-13) should be. They wanted to see the nitty gritty about the British band Queen’s many troubles, they wanted to wallow in the charismatic if closeted Mercury’s sex-soaked escapades. Instead Bryan Singer fashioned an upbeat ode to the outsider who became with his band eternally beloved. A true original in his rock-star style flamboyance, Mercury is rendered with such fidelity and supercharged energy by Rami Malek that “Bohemian Rhapsody” becomes a story for the ages. And the year’s most surprising smash hit, nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor (but not Best Director since Singer was fired from the film just weeks before principal photography wrapped). The bonus here is the complete recreation of the Live Aid Queen performance and a behind the scenes “Recreating Live Aid.”
Has it really been 30 years since Disney scored by giving a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale a happy ending? That would be “The Little Mermaid Anniversary Edition” (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, Disney Blu-ray, G). Ariel (voiced and sung by Jodi Benson) is the rebellious, 16 year old mermaid, an underwater Royal, who defies her father King Triton and bargains with a devilish sea witch, the octopus Ursula (Pat Carroll) in order to meet human Prince Eric on land. The song “Under the Sea” won the Oscar as did the score. The Blu-ray extras have composer Alan Menken with iconic Disney leading ladies sharing musical memories, a Sing-Along mode, an inside look at the cast recording sessions and “Stories from Walt’s Office: Gadgets and Gizmos.”
Before Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the announced American remake, the Danish thriller “The Guilty” (Blu-ray, Magnolia Home Entertainment, R) is the one to check out. An imaginative tour de force, “Guilty” director and co-screenwriter Gustav Moller situates his story and troubled protagonist in one spot for the entire film: The police emergency desk. What began as a routine night for this cop on desk duty becomes a life or death thriller once he’s contacted by a kidnapped woman who is in a car taking her only God knows where. Soon it becomes obvious the clock is ticking, options are dwindling and his own “personal demons” may derail his best efforts.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 25: John C Reilly attends the UK Premiere of Disney’s “Ralph Breaks The Internet” at the Curzon Mayfair on November 25, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Disney)
An Oscar nominee as Best Animated Feature Film “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital, Disney Blu-ray, PG) is a 6 years later hit with Ralph (John C. Reilly, reprising his original role) taking petite pal Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) on a quest to find a part that will save her video game. Inventive, dazzling in its scope, this “Ralph” speeds along parallel tracks. There’s Ralph trying to find the part as Vanellope discovers a new side of life in this internet world and Ralph’s realization that at journey’s end he may actually lose the one friend, his only friend. Bonus: Deleted scenes, Easter “eggs” and a behind the scenes visit with Disney Animation as they created the wild and wooley internet we see.
Heavy duty iconic stars Robert De Niro and Bill Murray team up with Uma Thurman for 1993’s “Mad Dog and Glory” (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R). Is this a misogynistic tale? When De Niro’s Chicago detective inadvertently saves the life of Murray’s mobster, how’s a guy to show his thanks except by sending, for one week only, a present in the shape of Thurman? The screenplay is by Richard Price (“The Wanderers,” “Sea of Love” with Pacino) but the real auteur here is director John McNaughton (born 1950). His no-budget 1986 “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” won the Chicago native critical devotees. In 1998 he triumphed with the now-classic sexteen noir classic “Wild Things” with Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Denise Richards and Neve Campbell (it really demands to be seen at least once). The “Mad Dog” Blu-ray, beyond archival interviews with producer Martin Scorsese, McNaughton, De Niro, Murray and Thurman, offers McNaughton’s audio commentary.
A woman’s story, produced and written by women, the 1994 “The Favor” (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R) would be known today not for its feminist themes but having Brad Pitt, shirtless and skinny wearing glasses, as a commitment-wary hottie. “Favor” is meant to be a quirky, Fellini-esque portrait of a housewife (Harley Jane Kozak) in midlife crisis. With a devoted husband (Bill Pullman), 2 adorable kids and a house Nancy Myers could love, people might wonder: What’s her problem? It seems she’s become fixated on The One That Got Away, namely a high school beau she knew at 16 and now wonders whatever happened to him. So when her single and sexually liberated bestie (Elizabeth McGovern, garishly made up and trying to be low key) is off for a business trip to Denver, she implores her – as a FAVOR! – to look him up. She not only looks (Ken Wahl, with his trademark mullet), she is conquered, so to speak, prompting further angst and fantasy daydreams in our heroine. Kozak seems modeled on Diane Keaton, the film very tentatively aspiring to something the French often manage effortlessly.