THE MOVIE AWARDS GO-ROUND

       For those that follow the movie industry in terms in what titles are deemed to be billed as “great” and “awards worthy”, it seems that between early January through late February, every movie based organization worth their salt hands out prestigious awards that recognize their greatness in terms of what the group finds noteworthy. The Editors Guild hands out prizes for the best in visual image editing–formally known as “film editing” since nearly all movies are not cut on film stock anymore although it may still be shot on this device. The Art Directors group awards figurative citations noting the best in art and set direction, Cinematographers do their part in their awards program on how films are captured for their visual look. The costumers trade group presents trophies for how the clothing worn by the cast members in a particular feature match up to the movie itself, be it a period piece, a fantasy them picture, or a title taking place in the present time. Even group that review and comment on movies have their own awards programs as well with their say on what’s the best in this category, and better in another category. And the list of awards giving clans for feature films goes upward and onward.
     In spite of all of this recognizing, it seems that only a selected group of movie titles are in this running for the best this or best that. It tends to be for the most part, movies that are released to the public at large between October 1st and December 31st. These same titles are usually melodramas that tend to cater to an older demographic that are 50 years (perhaps 60?) and older. They also tend not to be what’s called “blockbuster” titles either! Over all, these are the kind of films that are noted in the media to be worthy to be considered for any type of prize or certificate.
     Of course, there is nothing wrong to give credence for a movie that has noteworthy value in terms on how great it can be. In fact, it’s more of an honor for a flick to be known for how well its written, how much the cast brings its characters to life, and how this title is the best of its kind. The only element to all of this back patting is the fact that it’s nearly always the group of titles that are released within the last three months of the calendar year. Anything else outside of this realm are either ignored, or totally forgotten.
     This writer is a person that creates a film review hear and there. For myself, it’s not necessarily possible to see every feature film that comes down the pike as there isn’t enough time in a day to watch movies, even if it’s for entertainment sake. (There are a few exceptions, but overall, this notion still applies!) And since this same writer is also a member of a group that hands out awards for the best of this and that, I can’t totally judge what movies may be good in selected notions, and not so great in others.
     Drama films may be intriguing for what they are, but it all depends on the drama’s topic(s) in question. Many of the titles set for nominations cover a lot of subject matter. Some just tell a story of a single person or a group of people going through some conflict. It’s a mix of total fiction and those ”based on a true story”, even if a good part of that so-called “truth” holds a lot of creative license.
     But getting back to the movies in general for a moment. Looking upon what films made money and what didn’t, it still appears that people are still willing to head on over to a theater–be it a post modern “shoe box” multiplex, a neighborhood “budget” theater, or those new finagled “deluxe” theaters where one sits on “Lay-Z-Boy” type lounge chairs where waiters offer services to provide concessions that are of the gourmet variety, along with a selection of beverage that do include alcohol. Even those many of these same folks can and do watch flicks on any electronic device that has a video screen, they are able to plunk down the admission fee raging from $3.00 up to $20.00 and more! These same folks perhaps have a home theater where one can watch a title on a screen as big as 80” with a booming sound system right in their own living room. The only few differences are that they are not watching the picture with a group of strangers (for the most part), and they don’t get to go out of the house. But in spite of all of this reach, people will pay to see a feature as its been done for 100 years and more.
     So hear is to all of the flicks that will be noted for their awards nominations, and perhaps may take home a trophy or two. Time will tell if those movies that won the best of this and that will still be remembered one year from now. When it comes to favorite movies, time, tide, and the public taste will give these same features their overall staying power.
     As a final note, the folks over at Turner Broadcasting will once again present the annual Turner Classic Films Festival of Movies, taking place in Hollywood in the springtime offering a load of vintage movies that one can see on the big screen. Granted, they are not necessarily “rare” titles per se, just ones that have kept up with the test of time. These same flicks may not have been award winners back in their day, but are favorites to the public in general. Those films, it spite of how old they may be, are really the best movies of all time!
    PS..On a related note, details on other movies awards is listed within this issue below.
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                                         NEWS AND REVIEWS
     Theater Palisades opens their 2016 season of plays and musicals with Noel Coward’s HAY FEVER, a comical piece that sets a family living in the English countryside inviting friends over for what’s expected to be a pleasant weekend, only to experience anything but!
      It’s the early summer of 1925, a time in Britain where quaint elegance is at its apex. Within the county homestead of the Bliss clan, Judith (Yvonne Robertson), who once graced the stages of London, and her spouse David (Phil Bartolf), a writer of novels, desires to have a few guests over for the weekend. Their two fully grown offspring Sorel (Casandra Orrantia) and Simon (Tyler Frost) living within the same household, also invite guests of their own for the little settee. Sorel summons Richard Greatham (Mark Davidson, an English diplomat. Judith brings in Sandy Tyrell (Przemek Jaremko), while Simon welcomes Myra Arundel (Anna Carlise). Rounding out the party is Jackie Coryton (Holly Sidell), a progressive flapper type. Things begin to become interesting where flirtatious liaisons come about, ranging from misapprehend meetings, covert allurements, along with libelous visions that come about during one rather amusing weekend within the English countryside!
    The play, written by the master of British witticism and sally of the last century, has all of the charm and appeal one can expect from this stellar playwright. The time era that this play takes place (1920’s) is actual as it was first presented in 1925–the year that all of the stage tomfoolery occurs. Each cast member takes hold to their roles within the same manor as what Coward intended; A performance that deems charm, finesse, and most important, presenting itself as witty in a pleasant method, never as a stuffy and aloof characot. Out of the team of nine players as seen in this production, perhaps the one that stands out is Yvonne Robertson as Judith, the character that is the one time player of the theater that never lost her allure, and perhaps only gained such a manor. That notion of seasoning was the unwritten rule of the time perhaps where age and elegance were mutual bedfellows, rather than the opposite in today’s post modern and domestic landscape.
     The play’s director Michael Worden, keeps the pacing up though its three acts-a common stage play format unitized at the time–from its opening scene to its final number. Sherman Wayne, a Theatre Palisades rep crew member, once again takes charge in the set and lighting design that shows a humble homestead one could find within the English countryside of the period. Then again, it would also work within a local (read: American and perhaps Canadian) countryside manor. The cast may play their performances with elegance, but the stage set is compliant–the way it should be!
     Noel Coward plays have made a quaint comeback within the last few theater seasons across the stage floorboards, from the big playhouses to regional and community theater spots. This interest in subtle humor from Britannia is the reason why such plays as HAY FEVER brings the theater audience back. And the folks at Theatre Palisades, a group that’s been around the community of Pacific Palisades for 45+ years, know their stage material, and it shows!

     HAY FEVER, presented by Theater Palisades, performs at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road (off Sunset Blvd.), Pacific Palisades, until February 21st. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For more information, call (310) 454-1970, or visit online at http://www.TheatrePalisades.com
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     Steven Dietz’s PRIVATE EYES, a comical drama opening at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica, tells the saga about an affair between two people that may or may not occurred, and the person that suspects the episodes taking place or not.
     The scene opens at a rehearsal hall where Lisa (Kelsey Peterjohn) arrives to audition for a part in some play. Matthew (Eric Pierce) who is conducting the casting, has her read for a part that has her portray a waitress. This scene then morphs into her meeting the play’s director Adrian (Chris Silvestri), an errant British man of the stage. The scene later changes into another episode where Matthew, the person originally doing the casting, suspects that his spouse Lisa–the woman casting for the role–is having an affair with Adrian the director. When Matthew reports this affair to his therapist Frank (Mouchette Van Helsdinger), Frank, who is female in spite of her male given moniker, suspects that this scene is part of Frank’s illusion. Then there is Cory (Taylor Patterson), who seems to know about everyone’s affairs–the cheating variety or otherwise. How does Cory know what’s behind to everyone’s business? Is she part of this fling, or just stalking from behind the scenes? And is Matthew, Lisa, and Adrian part of a play rehearsing, or living a real life?
     This play written by Steven Dietz, tells a story that starts out as an audition, then changes around in a semi linear pattern. It blends a standard domestic “crime” of sorts, and presents it as a play-within-a-play variety, at times giving the audience an illusion if the affair is reality or part of an invisible play whose title is never reviled, or not made clear anyway.
      Within this Morgan-Wixson performance, the cast of five hold a unique character as depicted. Eric Pierce as Matthew and Kelsey Peterjohn as Lisa could have arrived from a romantic comedy back when “rom-coms” were cute and charming. Chris Silvestri as Adrian plays his role as a Brit who feels he’s superior in a low key way, never really in a mean method of arrogance. Mouchette Van Helsdinger as the therapist would be a type that would question any one of her clients that sees her as a therapist–with the hourly rate to boot! And rounding out the cast is Taylor Patterson as the mysterious Cory, who could be the mastermind to everyone’s liaisons–but why? Brandon Baer directs this play in the same procedure as a murder mystery, with plenty of plot twists throughout finally reviling just “whodunit”.
     A notable point to mention is the set design by Justus Bradshaw, consisting of a rather drab appearing backdrop that could double for an artist’s loft, or a factory wall and set of windows. This scenic view adds to the mystery to its plot points where it’s never known just what is real, or what is just part of a play.
     PRIVATE EYES doesn’t speak for gumshoes. Although it can take the skill of a detective to find out what’s the solution, it nonetheless provides a clever piece of writing that gives a workout of both the theory to it all, as well as to the heart.

     PRIVATE EYES, presented by the Morgan-Wixson Theatre Guild, and performs at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, until February 7th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. A special talk back session where the cast and crew discuss their performances as well as take questions from the audience, takes place after the performance held on Sunday, January 24th.
     For more information as well as ticket reservations, call (310) 828-7519 or via online at http://www.Morgan-Wixson.org.
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     The 21st Annual Critic’s Choice Awards program on January 17th, taking place at the the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica hosted by T. J. Miller and announced by WIlliam Shatner, airing on the A&E Networks.
     This year’s event combined the awards for features films as dictated by the Broadcasters Film Critics Association, and for television/video through its sister group, the Broadcast Television Journalist Association. This was the first time these two trade organizations hosted a single awards presentation.
     Among the many awards presented for both theatrical films and for television/video titles, two special citations were presented. The MPV Award was presented to Amy Schumer for her success in her comic talents as witnessed on stage, television, and now feature films with her appearance and her screenwriting role for the Universal release Trainwreck. The Genius Award was given to Industrial Light & Magic for their forty years of providing special and visual effects seen in movies, and on TV/video programming.
     For a complete listing of all nominees and winners in all categories, visit the official Critic’s Choice Awards web site at http://www.CriticsChoice.com    
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    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) announced their nominations for the 88th annual Academy Awards on January 14th.
     The following titles and names received the nomination for the following catagories:

                                                         Best Actor
                                              Bryan Cranston-Trumbo
                                              Matt Damon-The Martian
                                      Leonardo DiCaprio-The Revenant
                                       Michael Fassbender-Steve Jobs
                                       Eddie Redmayne-The Danish Girl

                                                      Best Actress
                                                    Cate Blanchett-Carol
                                                     Brie Larson-Room
                                                  Jennifer Lawrence-Joy
                                             Charlotte Rampling-45 Years
                                                 Saoirse Ronan-Brooklyn    

                                                      Best Director
                                             Adam McKay-The Big Short
                                     George Miller-Mad Max: Fury Road
                                     Alejandro G. Iñárritu-The Revenant
                                              Lenny Abrahamson-Room
                                                Tom McCarthy-Spotlight         
        
                                                       Best Picture
                                             The Big Short (Paramount)
                                     Bridge of Spies (Touchstone/Disney)
                                               Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight)
                                    Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)
                                                      The Martian (Fox)
                                                     The Revenant (Fox)
                                                          Room (A24)
                                           Spotlight (Open Road Films)
     Chris Rock will host the awards ceremony, taking place on Sunday, February 28th at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center-Hollywood, and airs on ABC.
     For a complete listing of nominations, visit the official AMPAS web site at http://www.Oscars.com
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     On January 12th, The Golden Raspberry Foundation (RAZZIES) announced their list of nomination for the worst in feature films released in the previous calendar year.
     The following titles and names has been selected for the worst in the following categories:
                                                Worst Actor
                                         Johnny Depp-Mortdecai  
                               Jamie Dornan-Fifty Shades of Grey
                               Kevin James-Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
                            Adam Sandler-The Cobbler and Pixels
                             Channing Tatum -Jupiter Ascending

                                             Worst Actress
                             Katherine Heigl-Home Sweet Hell
                             Dakota Johnson-Fifty Shades of Grey
                                   Mila Kunis-Jupiter Ascending
                             Jennifer Lopez-The Boy Next Door
                                    Gwyneth Paltrow-Mortdecai

                                           Worst Director
                             Andy Fickman-Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
                   Tom Six-Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence)
                         Sam Taylor-Johnson-Fifty Shades of Grey  
                       Josh Trank (& Alan Smithee?)-Fantastic 4  
              The Wachowskis (Andy & Lana)-Jupiter Ascending

                                              Worst Picture
                                             Fantastic 4  (Disney)
                                   Fifty Shades of Grey (Universal)
                                  Jupiter Ascending  (Warner Bros.)
                             Paul Blart Mall Cop 2  (Sony/Columbia)
                                            Pixels (Sony/Columbia)
      The Razzie Awards will take place on Saturday, February 21st at a location to be announced.
      For a complete listing of nominations and other details, visit the official Razzies web site at http://www.Razzies.com
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