Sweet Charity (c) Courtesy of Film Forum
The Interested Bystander
"New York is my Personal Property and I'm gonna split it with you." I review mostly movies and New York theater shows. I am also an awards prognosticator. And a playwright.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Friday, March 10, 2023
Final 2022-23 Oscar Predictions: Up Your Odds to Win Your Oscar Pool
Oscar Class of 2022 (c) Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Science
Here are my Oscar prediction and one longshot (with percentage of likelihood) in all the categoriesas well as The Interested Bystander’s own preference if I was an Oscar voter. You will see that some of the categories are slam dunks (90% and higher) but this year is a lot harder to predict than usual.
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Film Review: This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films, Part 2: "Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” “All That Breathes” and “EO”
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (c) A24
Catching up on some more Oscar-nominated films (this one focusing on human/animal relations) before the big night (Sunday, March 12).
Film: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
In Cinemas, Steaming On-demand and on Showtime
I was unaware of the phenomenon that is “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” from the many shorts of YouTube to its cult following that led to its big screen debut in the early to mid-aughts. So, when a feature film was released, I was resistant to seeing any movie in which we follow the misadventures of a sentient shell named Marcel (voiced by co-creator Jenny Slate) living a carefree life in an Airbnb. Why would I care about this oddly shaped creature with one eye and shoes? Thankfully, I finally caught the film months after its release and it’s as charming as its reputation promised. Marcel’s daily life is similar to Pee Wee Herman’s at the start of his “Big Adventure” – Marcel has devised Rube Goldberg contraptions to help him get around the proportionally huge house and garden. The garden is where Marcel’s only relative lives, his nana Connie, played by the invaluable Isabella Rossellini. The latest resident of the Airbnb is Dean (played by co-creator and the film’s director Dean Fleischer-Camp), who just happens to be a filmmaker and decides to make a documentary about Marcel. The best things about the film, in addition to the wonderful voice work by Slate and Rossellini, as well as the astonishing animation, has to be the script (co-written by the creators with Nick Paley). Marcel is such an innocent soul, and his inquisitiveness as well as his interpretation of the world is just irresistible and hysterical, with wonderful observations about life, dogs and Leslie Stahl. The plot, when it finally arrives, surrounds the fate of the rest of Marcel’s family who disappeared when…well, I won’t spoil that. With Dean and (again) Leslie Stahl’s help, Marcel begins his search, which gives the movie its shape, but it really is unnecessary. I would have been happy just watching Marcel read the yellow pages and hearing whatever thoughts pop into his head. While I admire the front-runner for Best Animated Feature, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” my vote has to go to this undermollusk with a heart of gold.
Friday, March 3, 2023
Theater Review: First-Rate Plays to Catch This Winter: “Wolf Play” at MCC, “black odyssey” at CSC and “The Wanderers” at Roundabout
Wolf Play (c) Julieta Cervantes
Play: Wolf Play
Spoiler alert: “Wolf Play,” the wonderfully wacky but sincere new play by Hansol Jung, produced by MCC after a successful earlier run at Soho Rep, is great. But I had my doubts at the start of the play when the very earnest actor Mitchell Winter talks to audience in a prologue with rhetorical questions about the meaning of acting and theater that usually rubs me the wrong way. But it turns out, in retrospect, that it helped ease the audience into the remarkable, breathless staging of director Dustin Wills. After the prologue, Winter picks up a simple wooden puppet and imbues it with life as they become Jeenu, a six-year-old Korean boy whose short life so far has been so harrowing that he protects himself by believing he’s a wolf. Jeenu is an orphan being brought to his new parents – Robin (Nicole Villamil) and her partner Ash (Esco Jouléy) – in San Francisco by his current adopted father Peter (Christopher Bannow) in a crazy but real practice in which people sell children through illegal means, which in the case of Jeenu, takes place through Yahoo message boards. While the play could have stayed in this realm of TV issue movie of the week, Jung uses this as a stepping off point to a creative investigation of this young boy’s psyche and this chaotic but surprisingly nurturing world that includes, of all things, boxing. And believe me, there’s more, but people should experience in person the wonderful synergy of this wonderful cast working like a well-oiled machine, constantly in motion but always finding the heart of this whirlwind of a play, on a helter-skelter set by You-Shin Chen and a truly astonishing lighting design by Barbara Samuels that helps situates the audience to the play’s many locations. I was taken aback by how truly transporting this ambitious play and production was.
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Oscar Predictions – February 2023
Michelle Yeoh (c) Thomas Laisné courtesy Richard Mille
Turn Down for What? How about Michelle Yeoh?
This is my penultimate Oscar prediction column before my “Win Your Oscar Pool” final predictions in March. And while I don’t think I can influence anything, I do want to make a last moment plea that Oscar voters rewatch “Everything Everywhere All at Once” to admire the many faces of Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang in her many incarnations across the multiverse. She won a very deserved SAG Awards on Sunday, but she will need more support than just the actors’ support to beat the formidable Cate Blanchett (who has already won two). I enjoyed all the actresses nominated, but to see the hard-working Yeoh put her trust in DGA Award winning directors Daniels, who directed a farting Daniel Radcliffe movie and the DJ Snake and Lil Jon music video for “Turn Down for What” in a role written for Jackie Chan could have been a career-ending move.
And she triumphed. Give it a think.
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