Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Toronto Critic’s Pick: Benedict Cumberbatch Bristles with Brilliance in ‘The Imitation Game’

Comments Off 05 October 2014

Cumberbatch as Alan Turing

Cumberbatch as Alan Turing


Taking its place among those handsome biopics the British do so well, The Imitation Game tells the fascinating (and ultimately tragic) story of mathematician Alan Turing. A day after the UK enters the Second World War, the Cambridge-educated Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) arrives at Bletchley Park, a top-secret center for breaking military codes used by the Germans — and is soon put to work on cracking a heretofore impenetrable code called Enigma. As presented by director Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), the mercurial Turing is impatient with social conventions and the accepted chain of command. And he is harboring his own risky secret: he prefers bedding boys to girls, resisting even the charms of Joan Clarke, a particularly fetching fellow code-breaker (played by Keira Knightley).

Cumberbatch, as you might expect, bristles with brilliance in the role – and should be considered an Oscar frontrunner. We’ve seen him as Sherlock Holmes, so we never doubt that he packs more brainpower than anyone else on the Enigma-busting team. But, unlike the emotionally cold sleuth, Turing is a real-life historical figure, sensitive and troubled. He feels deeply and passionately for his life’s work, and tears often flood his eyes, a repressed stammer forcing itself on his lips. The performance bears so many shades of varying emotion, on the surface and deep below, that it is nothing short of miraculous.

Among Turing’s many challenges, so vividly embodied by Cumberbatch, is one of identity: who he is, must remain an enigma. The mathematician and crossword-puzzle fanatic cannot make public his proclivities, no more than he can share who he fully is: A genius of visionary foresight into the still-embryonic field of artificial intelligence, and one of the pioneers behind the development of the modern computer.

While ultimately breaking Enigma, and turning the tide of the war in the Allies favor, Turing did not survive to enjoy the ascendance of democracy in his post-war life. In 1952, the police charged him with gross indecency after he acknowledged that he was in homosexual relationship. A judge imposed a sentence of chemical castration. He committed suicide a year later.

Some may know Alan Turing from the play turned TV film Breaking the Code, starring Derek Jacobi, or the movie Codebreaker or even the recent musical, A Man from the Future,composed by two members of the Pet Shop Boys. Yet, with cult-star Cumberbatch in the lead, the Turing triumph and tragedy will reach a much wider audience. Hopefully the film’s message of hard-won tolerance, and the sacrifices made by lesser-known martyrs to the cause, will bolster the continued struggle for equality for all.

The Imitation Game opens in theaters on Nov. 21

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Celebrity, Movies

RIP Lauren Bacall: One Hell of a Dame

No Comments 13 August 2014

Dames of New York

Dames of New York

She was an icon. And she was real. The night I was the Chair of the New York Film Critics Circle I asked her to give the NYFCC Award to Pedro Almodovar — because she liked his work and he adored her. I was warned that she would be tough. She wasn’t. She was just real. Me and Lauren Bacall, NYFCC 2005 And although there was a lot of star power in that ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel including Clint Eastwood and Clive Owen, she brought a level of class, of gravitas, of where we’d been and where we could always return to — the movies. Me and Lauren Bacall, NYFCC 2005 Full-length

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Celebrity, Movies, Television

9 Things I Learned About Jason Momoa While Breaking Bread at Sundance

1 Comment 05 July 2014

Writer, Director, Star, Easy Rider, Khal Drago: Jason Momoa

Writer, Director, Star, Easy Rider, Khal Drago: Jason Momoa

Tuesday night, July 8th, I’m going to host a Jason Momoa double header: a Meet the Filmmaker Q&A at the wonderful Apple Store in Soho at 5 PM, followed by an Evening with the Actor conversation and screening of the biker movie he wrote, directed, costumed, and starred in, Road to Paloma, at the 92nd Street Y. The first one’s free; the second requires tickets.

Momoa, as I learned at a dinner hosted by WWE Studios President Michael Luisi  in Park city last January, is a very fun and accessible guy. Here’s my Yahoo dispatch from that feast:

Cross that one off my bucket list! Last night I had dinner with Jason Momoa, the actor who bedded the Khaleesi in some of the hottest love scenes on TV as the Dothraki king Khal Drogo in HBO’s Game of Thrones. The occasion? WWE Studios was hosting a dinner for a dozen or so to celebrate the SAG winner’s directorial debut, Road to Paloma. He also wrote the Native American biker drama, which co-stars Momoa’s wife Lisa Bonet and comes out in July.

Here are nine nuggets that emerged over steak and fried chicken at Butcher’s in Park City:

1. There’s no truth to the rumors that he was cast as Aquaman in the delayed “Batman vs. Superman” movie – but he’d be happy to make it a reality if he were asked. [Update: He's still not talking but in June, People Magazine reported that everybody's favorite Dothraki had been cast as Aquaman in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.]

[Related: My Us Weekly Review of Conan the Barbarian]

2. Although Momoa, 34, was born in Hawaii, his parents split. His mother raised him in Iowa – Madison County to be exact. One of his high school buddies actually had a role in the Meryl Streep-Clint Eastwood movie The Bridges of Madison County.

3. When you’re 6′ 5″ and very muscular, ordinary chairs are too small for comfort – and he tends to tip back in them to the danger point.

4. Momoa has a number of tattoos – one on his arm said, “Pride of Gypsies,” which is the name of his company. Another on his upper arm just above the elbow is rows of black triangles that represent shark’s teeth – so that when he’s in the water, sharks will recognize him as one of their own.

Flashback to "Easy Rider" on "Road to Paloma"

Flashback to “Easy Rider” on “Road to Paloma”

5. His dream project is to write and direct what he calls his “Braveheart.” It’s a heroic historical drama based on the true story of the Koolau Rebellion, or the Leper Wars on Kaua’i. As Momoa pointed out, Jack London immortalized the relatively little-known conflict in his short story “Koolau the Leper.”

6. Momoa has two children, 5 and 6, with wife Lisa Bonet. He kept in touch while in Park City by talking on his phone with them while snowboarding down a mountain.

7. While shooting the first season of Game of Thrones in Ireland, Momoa had more than a few awkward moments. When he went to the local pub, he didn’t exactly blend in. Who was this giant guy with, as Momoa put it, a “70’s porn mustache” and eyeliner? He was just an actor studying his lines – in Dothraki – and calling for another glass of Guinness. By the time he returned to shoot the second season, the locals were buying him beers and calling him “mate.”

8. On February 27, the Sundance Channel will premiere The Red Road, a twisty contemporary noir in which Momoa plays a lead role as a New Jersey Native American with a mysterious past opposite New Zealander Martin Henderson, Julianne Nicholson, Tom Sizemore and Bonet.

9. Momoa, a big man with a big heart, gives good hug – and is the absolute life of the party.

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Celebrity

MAKERS Portrait: Jane Lynch

No Comments 30 June 2014

Every woman has a story, and that of the hilarious and brave Jane Lynch (Glee, Best in Show) is a big wake-up call to being true to oneself. This is one of the many video portraits developed by the AOL MAKERS series:


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Celebrity, Movies

John Waters and David Cronenberg Get Naked – ‘Naked Lunch’ – in Gay Mecca Provincetown

No Comments 26 June 2014

Cronenberg, Winger, Waters at the Provincetown Film Festival (via capecodonline)

Cronenberg, Winger, Waters at the Provincetown Film Festival (via capecodonline)

Directors David Cronenberg and John Waters incite in me the excitement often reserved for teenage girls at the premiere of The Fault in Our Stars. The pair are the definition of sophisticated no bullshit, two men very much in touch with their obsessions and capable of drawing an audience along. Over the course of their wide-ranging discussion on the Provincetown Town Hall stage, their dialog trended toward Cronenberg’s adaptation of William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch.

When I’m asked about successful literary adaptations, Cronenberg’s 1991 hallucinogenic fantasy starring Peter Weller and Judy Davis is high on the list. Here’s a bit of the conversation between icons Cronenberg and Waters:

JOHN WATERS: Remember when we got to say, how did they ever make a movie out of Lolita? Well, I think with Naked Lunch you did a wonderful job, so how was Burroughs with you?

DAVID CRONENBERG:Burroughs was great. His public persona was very intimidating, and he was very sort of plastic and cynical, and kind of mean. But on personal time, he was really quite sweet, and very generous. He loved the concept. He loved the script that I had written. I did submit it to him but said, really, I don’t think I can make this movie just from your book. I don’t know if you’ve read the Naked Lunch, but it’s a difficult one to think of as a movie.

I said, I feel I need to incorporate a lot of stuff from your actual life…I understand if you don’t want me to, and in particular, I was talking to the fact that he shot his wife, which was a crucial moment, of course, in his life, but also as a writer. He said, I don’t separate my life and my art, and you can just go ahead….

JW: Did you do drugs with him?

DC: No. Actually, at that time I think he was just doing methadone.

JW: Oh, methadone. Got it. I smoked pot with him. Did you go to the bunker, or –

JC:: I didn’t, but I did go to Tangier with him.

JW:: Oh, wow.

DC: And met Paul Bowles, whom he hadn’t seen for seventeen years. I sat right down with the two of them, the authors of Naked Lunch and The Sheltering Sky, so there is a connection. [He looks out into the audience and sees Debra Winger, who starred in Bernardo Bertolucci's film adaptation of Bowles' classic novel set in North Africa.] Bizarre, but it is there.

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The Best Picture Oscar List

The Imitation Game
Boyhood
Unbroken
Foxcatcher
A Most Violent Year
Birdman
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Whiplash
Into the Woods

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