Oscars 2015 Recap: The Broadcast’s Most Emotional Moment

First of all, let’s get best dressed out of the way:

Emma Stone

Emma Stone blew everybody out of the water (and got covered in seaweed?) with this chartreuse Elie Saab number

My initial reaction: “What is that, seaweed?? WTF she looks like an alien!” Second reaction: “Ohmygosh it’s like. Seaweed. Like sexy glamorous seaweed. She’s a sexy glamorous bug-eyed alien.” By the end of the night: “Wait, everybody at this year’s Oscars is dressed so conservatively and here’s Emma Stone, national treasure, resident alien supermodel, dressed in a wildly unusual and eye-catching color. Not only does nobody else on this carpet stand out like she does, nobody in all of awards season dared to wear something as bizarre and striking as this! And look at that face!! She freaking KNOWS. All hail, bitches!!!”

Anyway. Patricia Arquette’s speech was great, and Meryl and JLo’s joint reaction was even better. I’m happy for Julianne, I don’t really have words for what happened with Menzel and Travolta, and seeing Julie Andrews did my heart good. The ceremony was full of some unexpectedly cathartic moments; in defiance of #OscarsSoWhite we were treated to a rousing performance of Selma‘s “Glory” followed by an unabashedly political speech from John Legend and Common. Here’s hoping the Academy can pull their head out of their asses a bit more and open their minds to films that aren’t only biopics centering on brilliant misunderstood white dudes.

But for me, I must admit, the most emotional part of the broadcast – tears spring to my eyes just thinking about it – came somewhere in the middle….

 

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Smart Pick of the Month: Bob’s Burgers

I know I’m late to this party, but Bob’s Burgers has been getting me through the cold hellish madness of February in NYC. As the snow outside lather-rinse-repeats itself into grotesque gray slush, I’ve been curled up with Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene, and Louise Belcher, laughing at their endearing foibles and astonishing comic timing. It’s a show about losers, but a family of losers – there’s too much heart for us to ever be laughing at their expense. The above clip is from the season 5 premiere, where the cast to sings the title song from their theatrical mashup of “Working Girl” and “Die Hard,” joined by Carly Simon.

“Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl” is basically my 2015 motto.

Which Spirit Is Moving Her, Exactly?

Over at TDF Stages I wrote about Little Children Dream of God, an enchanting, funny, and voodoo-infused new drama from Jeff Augustin. I was lucky enough to chat with Augustin and director Giovanna Sardelli about how they evoked Haitian magic in Roundabout’s underground black box theater. See the show!

Little Children Dream of God

A scene from ‘Little Children Dream of God’

Some demons are imaginary and some of them are real, and during a climactic moment in Little Children Dream of God, they all engulf the stage.

Jeff Augustin’s play, now in Roundabout’s Underground series, follows a Haitian immigrant named Sula, who has floated to Miami on a car tire in search of a better life. Eventually, though, her past catches up with her, which leads to an explosion of voodoo power: Frantic drums tear through the speakers; dazzling light fills the tiny black box stage; and actress Carra Patterson stamps her feet and waves her hands, controlled by something guttural and fierce.

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Smart Review: NEVERMORE

I recently sat through a musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, and if you couldn’t tell by my use of the phrase “sat through,” it didn’t quite thrill me. Here’s my TheatreIsEasy.com review of Catalyst Theatre’s Nevermore, which I sincerely wish I could have titled “Edgar Allan Nope.”

Nevermore

This critic shall sit through an Edgar Allan Poe musical NEVERMORE GET IT

BOTTOM LINE: Although designers may appreciate the elaborate steampunk costumes, this Edgar Allan Poe musical neglects and reduces its subject to a series of basic bullet points.

In last year’s Red Eye to Havre de Grace, New York Theatre Workshop staged Edgar Allan Poe’s last days with innovative theatricality and exquisite dread. It may not seem fair to compare such an achievement to Catalyst Theatre’s Nevermore, now playing at New World Stages, but both productions do in fact share a protagonist, despite vast cosmetic differences. Where one was a haunting meditation on the cost of genius, the other is a musical confection that shrinks, flattens, and buffs our collective image of Poe to a sickly-sweet shine. Indeed, were the man himself to rise from the grave and stalk the theatre’s aisles, he might not even recognize this quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

Nevermore deploys a familiar aesthetic, a kind of glamorous moroseness made popular by everyone from Margaret Keane to Lemony Snicket. Designers take note: Bretta Gerecke’s black and white garments are a marvel of ingenuity. Although at odds with her curiously industrial set of metal bars and sliding doors, the Victorian steampunk vibe allows the designer to hide elaborate delights in her handiwork. As the cartoonish cast of narrators embody the players in Poe’s life, the whole thing looks like an unusually dark children’s TV show meant to educate but mostly dazzle. It’s a Disneyland ride as brought to you by the Addams Family. It’s Tim Burton’s Seussical.

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A Smart Playlist to Kick Off 2015

Wait, it’s 2015?? But that’s the year Back to the Future 2 features flying skateboards! Here are the songs I’ve been enjoying since 2015 began – some overlapping 2014 just a bit. Here’s hoping this year gives us more weird mega-pop like Sia, under-the-radar folk like First Aid Kit, and irresistible fabulousity like Stromae. And maybe less blinkered tackiness pretending to be “Fancy.” (Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are a decent start, wouldn’t you agree?)

Jam on:

Raf Rundell and Joe Goddard’s boldly bizarre second album folds time and space; you can travel from the streets of South Africa to 1970s London clubs and back again while listening. This is their most straight-up pop song and I can’t stop gyrating.

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If I Ran The Oscars: 2015 Edition

All right here’s the thing I took a melatonin pill about eight minutes ago so I have until that sucker kicks in to scrawl down some thoughts on this year’s Oscars. I’m telling you right now, this shit’s not gonna be perfect. Honesty and authority: those are the values guiding my 2015 resolutions. So in the spirit of practicing honesty and authority, I’m going to describe who would win which Academy Awards if I ran the show. My verdicts will be honest and backed with real evidence (my well-informed opinions, duh) and they will be declared without apology because authority.

Selma

The 2015 Best Picture Winner (if I was running this bitch)

Some of the things I’m about to say are going to sound blasphemous or even kind of inflammatory but that’s kind of the point – we all have different perceptions and tastes and come tomorrow morning, we’ll all have plenty of snubs to bitch about. With the surfeit of awards shows plaguing red carpets everywhere (am I complaining no I am not) the Oscars at this point don’t hold a lot of surprises (Keaton, Moore, Simmons, Arquette, Linklater & Boyhood, let’s just call it right now) but there’s still something fun about an award that signals the very top of an industry’s craft, even if it’s just because some dude says it’s so. And as long as we all acknowledge this months-long process of back-patting is little more than a sham, in an echo chamber, dressed in a very pretty gown, we can bitch about snubs all we want. Because it’s about culture, people. And taste. I have it, you don’t. Let the rabble-rousing begin!

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Smart Reads: Jack Smart Edition #4

It’s almost 2015, bitches. Let’s do this.

Jenny Slate

“Guess why I smile? Uh, because it’s worth it.” – Marcel the Shell

Famous people:

  • “I have arms. I’m a pretty good fighter.” – Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard.
  • “You have to have Darth Vader, you can’t just have Obi-Wan Kenobi.” – Inherent Vice scene stealer Josh Brolin!
  • “I can’t look at myself in the mirror if [my] standup sucks; that’s like being a chef and cooking a fake cake or something.” – my longtime hero Jenny Slate, whose fantastic performance in Obvious Child would have my vote for Best Actress.
  • “He’s just a totally fucked-up mess for the rest of his life. But a strong one.” – Logan Lerman on his character in the WWII thriller Fury.
  • “Until I can find the emotional truth of the character, by sitting with people and hearing their experience—that’s the only way I can find how to emotionally connect.” – the faaabulous Michelle Monaghan (just Golden Globe-nominated for her work on True Detective) on her indie showcase Fort Bliss.

Industry pros:

  • Director JV Mercanti offered some useful advice I’d never heard before…
  • Eric Tucker of up-and-coming theater company Bedlam is making some truly tremendous theater to get himself and his friends on the map…
  • Micah Stock gets to share a stage with Nathan Lane and Stockard Channing every night in It’s Only a Play
  • Curious about how some of 2014’s best movies were cast? Check out The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Douglas Aibel, Pride‘s Fiona Weir, Interstellar‘s John Papsidera, A Most Violent Year‘s Tiffany Little Canfield, & Selma‘s Aisha Coley…
  • And most importantly, 33 pieces of advice from actors who chatted with Backstage this year!

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