Friday’s TV picks: David Oyelowo riveting in ‘Nightingale’

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

David Oyelowo mesmerizes in ‘Nightingale’ on HBO, but that only goes so far.

“Titanic” may be one of the most technically ambitious and expensive movies ever made, but “Nightingale,” a film that will be shown Friday on HBO, seems even harder to pull off because it is so astoundingly simple.The HBO original film “Nightingale” (HBO at 9 p.m.) stars Golden Globe-nominated actor David Oyelowo (“Selma”) as a war veteran whose life begins to unravel as he addresses the unseen followers of his video log about his obsession with an old Army buddy. Premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival, this intentionally claustrophobic look at one man’s surrender to insanity made its way to Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, and thence to HBO.

RETURNING SHOW: “Alaskan Bush People” (Discovery at 9) returns for a third season with Ami in desperate need of medical attention while the boys try to find work to pay for a wood-burning stove. From the opening moments, it’s obvious what Pitt and HBO saw: Oyelowo, who recently delivered a very different but equally powerful performance as the Rev. I will take that to my grave.” British-born David has starred in numerous films recently which highlight America’s racial conflicts over time, including 2012 feature Lincoln and 2013 release The Butler. Also, if you’re a few episodes behind and in need of a show recap, a season countdown precedes the premiere. “Great Performances” (MPT at 9) pays tribute to conductor Andris Nelsons’s first concert leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After a chance reunion in a library, Peter desperately wants to strike up the friendship again, despite the many signals, from both Edward and his wife, that Edward isn’t interested.

So when President Obama recited the Gettysburg Address, a speech originally delivered during America’s Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the thespian felt moved by the historicity of the words. “You have a black man as the leader of this nation. Among his many problems, Peter is deluded, and he nonetheless begins to plan a dinner for Edward, dreaming up elaborate ideas about what he’ll serve and what he’ll wear.

RETURNING SHOW: On the 10th-season premiere of “What Would You Do?” (ABC at 9), a teenage girl appears to be meeting someone she met online and a nanny tries to sway a child to pick a doll with a certain skin color. The already canceled apocalyptic series “The Messengers” (CW at 9) chugs on with the messengers racing to stop the next Horseman and uncover a cyber-scheme that could kill thousands. The Gettysburg speech resonated even more with the British-born Oyelowo, who plays a soldier who recites part of the address to President Lincoln in 2012’s Lincoln. Daredevil and wire-walker Nik Wallenda stops by “Say Yes to the Dress” (TLC at 9) with his acrobat wife, Erendira, to shop for a gown for their vow renewal. Though a bit similar in theme and construct, “Nightingale” is no “‘night, Mother.” We meet Peter as he speaks to his laptop, making a video in which he explains why he has just killed his mother.

Host Don Wildman examines a novel contraption that was once deployed to save a bevy of wild beavers in Boise, Idaho, and the history behind Mother’s Day in the United States on “Mysteries at the Museum” (Travel at 9). He has romanticized his time with Edward to the point of absurdity, and at moments in “Nightingale,” he acts as though he’s in love with his former buddy. Then, reality television overlord Ryan Seacrest is on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC at 11:35), with actress Brittany Snow and a musical performance from Imagine REO SpeedDragons, a union of members of the bands Imagine Dragons and REO Speedwagon. He muses aloud about his “love that knows no boundaries” for Edward, and he says, “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for that man.” The possibility that Peter has sexual feelings for Edward is clearly afoot, but his orientation is never nailed down in the script, by Frederick Mensch.

In The Butler, we look at 80 years of American history, from the early 1900s to President Obama’s ascendancy,” David noted. “Literally, my filmography has that 150-year chapter from the Civil War to today embedded within it.” “I was sent a beautiful clip from a 10-year-old girl talking about the effect Selma had on her and the fact she didn’t know about these events,” he recalled. “It’s made her not only want to know more about them but to make the world a better place. He talks — into the camera on his computer, on the telephone and even across an empty room — but it’s not clear who is listening, if anyone. “Nightingale” unfolds without divulging the line between reality and delusion, turning Peter’s monologues into a scavenger hunt dotted with clues to his true story. A one-man movie is an extremely difficult conceit to sustain. “Nightingale” is obviously bravura television, a showcase geared more toward critical acclaim and acting awards than ratings.

What could have been an evocative journey into the mind of a lost veteran, as he opens up his thinking across a one-man show set entirely inside his house, is more like a quasi thriller revolving around a very mad hatter. As Peter attempts to begin his new and “liberated” life, which includes a more open relationship with his friend from the Army, the first thing he begins to do is redecorate, beginning with an iPhone. Inspired, in fact, by a 2003 matricide in his native Palatine, Ill., screenwriter Frederick Mensch leverages in fiction the inevitable question: What could lead to such a crime? Roman Polanski’s 1965 classic, “Repulsion,” focuses on the distorted fantasies of a sexually repressed young woman played by Catherine Deneuve, but there are other characters in the film, notably the intrusive men who set off her homicidal fugues.

We learn about that probability at the very beginning of the story, which turns everything that comes after it into the musings of a demented killer — not exactly Baby Jane Hudson from “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane,” but not NOT her, either. Convenient tropes — Peter was in the Army, though it is unclear whether he saw any action; Peter’s mother was controlling and possibly homophobic, though it is unclear whether his friend was ever, indeed, his lover — are crisscrossed in the rather cynical assumption that these things somehow prime a person for murder. Tom Hanks goes a little bonkers while alone on a deserted island in “Cast Away,” but the film brackets his seclusion with scenes from before and after.

If we’d been able to find sympathy with Peter first, and later learn about his twisted violence, the movie might have had a chance to develop an impact. In “Buried,” Ryan Reynolds is a hostage held in an underground coffin in Iraq, but the audience is privy to both ends of his cellphone conversations with his captors, his family and State Department officials. “The Man Who Sleeps,” a 1974 French film that had only one character, a young man trapped in a trance of alienation, ruffles the monotony with Paris street scenes, customers in cafes and an unseen female narrator who addresses the hero in the second person. “All Is Lost,” which starred Robert Redford as a man sailing solo across the Indian Ocean, comes the closest to “Nightingale,” but that 2013 movie at least had the drama of a sinking ship in a storm. Instead, we’re just watching very bad get worse, with no surprises and very few philosophical or psychological insights. (By the way, I’m assuming that Mensch uses the names “Edward” and “Snow-den” in such close proximity for a reason, but I’m not sure what that reason is.) The movie features a number of devices that attempt to add variety to the monotony of being in the same home throughout.

Peter talks on his phone and his mother’s landline a lot — to his sister, to Edward’s wife, to his mother’s friends, who are wondering where she is — and he films videos of himself on his phone and his laptop that we watch. When his friend does not return his phone calls, Peter blames the man’s wife, harassing her with such ferocity that it seems impossible that she never calls the police. There is a far glimpse of a neighbor through a window, and at one point a man hollers at Peter through the door, but that’s about it, and even those signs of an outside world could be illusory.

The minute a three-paneled mirror arrives at the door for his mother (“Can’t afford HBO but we can afford this,” he mutters, a weak in-joke), we know we’ll be seeing him in it before all is said and done, a fractured man. With his sub-managerial job at a local store, his sexual issues and his internal war between feelings of inadequacy and self-aggrandizement, Peter is pitched as an Everyman in extremis. He expresses yearnings and fantasies that are so real to him and so ardently described that it’s hard not to wish at least some of it true. “Nightingale,” a deep dive into delusion, is itself a dream-come-true. The likelihood of a first-time screenwriter making it to HBO are slim, and “Nightingale” is the first screenplay from the Black List website to be produced by any film company.

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Finding the ‘Joy’ in Jennifer Lawrence

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Joy’ review: Jennifer Lawrence cleans up in enjoyable biopic.

Writer-director David O. Their latest collaboration — following in the footsteps of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle — is a biographical picture about the life and times of Joy Mangano.Jennifer Lawrence groans when she’s asked about singing the classic Nancy and Frank Sinatra duet Something Stupid with co-star Edgar Ramirez in her new film Joy. “David [O Russell, the movie’s director] texted me last night to ask if he could put it on the soundtrack and this is what I texted him back,” the actor says as she digs around for her mobile phone and reads out her response verbatim. “‘David, no!!!’ and it is three exclamation marks.In a very abbreviated nutshell, that actually happened to Joy Mangano, 59, the fabulously successful Long Island entrepreneur/inventor and HSN pitchwoman whose rags-to-riches journey started with the invention of a mop.

Russell has made three kinds of movies: offbeat romances (“Flirting With Disaster”), surreal comedies (“I Heart Huckabees”) and dramas about dysfunctional yet appealing families (“The Fighter”). In real life, Mangano is the Long Island housewife and inventor who became famous and eventually rich after bouts of near-bankruptcy, by creating and marketing her Miracle Mop. Out Boxing Day in Australia, the film stars Jennifer Lawrence in the fictionalised life story of Joy Mangano, a single mum from Long Island who made her fortune selling a mop. On Christmas Day, “Joy,” a movie inspired by her struggles as a divorced, single mother turned mogul by way of that mop, will open at movie theaters across America.

This was before she hooked up with the giant Home Shopping Network, becoming their most effective pitch person and eventually selling her parent company, Ingenious Designs, to HSN. Gross, I can’t listen to it; I have to go to bed.’ And I said yes, but it’s a groaning, reluctant yes.” It’s the kind of unfiltered moment you come to expect when interviewing Lawrence, who may now be one of the most famous actors on the planet but still blurts out whatever she’s thinking with such self-deprecating charm it’s impossible not to be, well, charmed.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Miracle Mop inventor and QVC pitchwoman Joy Mangano glues the movie together, but it threatens to unravel at any time. Lawrence, 25, looks genuinely surprised when complimented about how unchanged she seems from our earlier interviews before the fame and Oscars. “But there would be no reason to change,” she says with a shrug. “I just have a job and I love my job. In the film, Lawrence’s Mangano is a colourful character, a single mom with a unique relationship and friendship with her ex-husband, and an enterprising woman who parlays her creativity into an incredibly successful business.

Mom (Virginia Madsen) stays in her bedroom and watches soap operas, until she falls for a Haitian plumber (Jimmy Jean-Louis) who fixes a hole in her bedroom floor. She landed minor roles on TV shows such as Monk, Cold Case and Medium before her 2010 indie film Winter’s Bone led to her becoming the second youngest best actress Oscar nominee in history. This is true even when the film tilts off its rocker with a bit of Russell-esque madness built into the screenplay, and with the director failing to always keep the energy going. That resulted in not only a string of critically acclaimed films, an Academy Award and another Oscar nomination, but also her very own mega-franchise as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Joy’s grandma (endearing Diane Ladd) delivers messages of empowerment and smooths over constant fights, but she’s opposed by the money-grubbing rich woman (Isabella Rossellini) who dates Joy’s dad and sends negative messages about her. Lawrence’s endearing habit of speaking her mind resulted in a controversial essay she penned on Lena Dunham’s website about her discovery during the Sony hacks that she was being paid less “than the lucky people with dicks” on her recent films, including American Hustle. “I completely understand when people say actors shouldn’t talk about politics and things they don’t know about, but this was my gender at stake and it was being threatened with unfairness and I thought, ‘What is the point of having this voice if it’s not to speak out for myself and for everyone else who can’t?’,” she says unapologetically.

Upon learning that Lawrence would be playing her mom, Miranne says, “I braced myself so I wouldn’t fall on the floor.” As for Mangano, she says Lawrence playing her “made me feel old, number one. Lawrence hangs out with a posse of celebrity girlfriends, including Amy Schumer and singer Adele, but the reason is simple. “The friendship gets expedited a lot when you meet someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt has no agenda,” she says. Draining her savings and taking out loans, she started off small, selling her mops to local boat owners. “She persuaded QVC to take a thousand, but sales were poor and they tried to send them back,” says Mason. “She suggested letting her demonstrate it herself, and the channel agreed.” Sales skyrocketed and Mangano’s career as a QVC pitch woman was launched. That’s so amazing there aren’t even words.” Mangano and her three children didn’t view “Joy” until the Dec. 13 premiere in Manhattan, though a family outing to see “Trainwreck” included a trailer.

This is, after all, the self-confessed reality-show junkie who confessed in a recent Vogue interview that on the night of her 25th birthday party, friends surprised her with a visit from reality queen Kris Jenner, who presented her with a cake inscribed, ‘Happy Birthday, you piece of shit!’ The only time she seems tongue-tied is when asked about her relationship status, after a four-year stint with X-Men: First Class co-star Nicholas Hoult and a year with Coldplay singer Chris Martin before their breakup earlier this year. “Next!” Lawrence says in a no-nonsense voice, pausing as she decides if she’ll continue that thought. For one thing, Mangano’s childhood is not that interesting for a film, despite some flashbacks to her as a youngster (when she is played by 10-year-old Isabella Cramp, who does actually look like we imagine Lawrence could have at the same age). A satire on the acquisitiveness of the public? (Here, QVC foists unnecessary things on gullible viewers who could better save their money.) Russell doesn’t seem to know. And, of course, the grave ending would be a lie: Mangano is very much alive at the age of 59, still inventing, still pitching products, still a superstar of the American home shopping universe. There’s the Clothes It All luggage system, essentially a rolling suitcase with a removable garment bag, and the Super Chic vacuum, which releases fragrance into the air.

If I even casually say something to a reporter, that quote haunts me for the rest of my life,” she says, “so I am never, ever, ever talking about boys again!” I don’t think any of us brought enough tissues!” A good portion of the film was shot last winter in Boston, and though the always-busy Mangano was twice scheduled to visit the set, snowstorms made travel impossible. He has mixed genres successfully before, as in the anti-war comedy-drama “Three Kings,” but the blender often grinds to a halt in “Joy.” Just as we’re getting used to the realism of Mangano’s fight for respect, Russell photographs Rossellini as if she were a gargoyle.

One of her creations, the thin and velvet-covered Huggable Hanger, remains a bestseller for HSN, at more than 300 million sold, and was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Yet in “Silver Linings Playbook,” Cooper, De Niro and Russell all supported her with fine work; here they lay back and make the movie a one-ring circus where she has to be acrobat, bareback rider and clown.

He had a presence all of his own.” At one point, Miranne says, “Jennifer grabbed Joy’s hand and said to David, ‘Look at the nails, a French manicure.’ ” (That manicure is a Mangano signature.) Lawrence revealed that in studying for her part as Joy, she watched recordings of the inventor’s early pitches on HSN, including ones for “Huggable Hangers” and found her so compelling that she wanted to buy them on the spot. There is something special when creative people get together.” Mangano’s take on Lawrence? “She’s beyond her years, so brilliant, hysterical and so talented.

Critically, Russell’s sense of wonder and beauty turns elegiac moments — especially when Joy Mangano becomes fully realized as a woman and as a business executive — into scenes of great beauty. Lawrence recently said on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” that the movie was “half Joy Mangano’s story and half [Russell’s] imagination and other powerful, strong women who inspired him.” The director mined much of his Mangano material by phone.

The cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Lucci (in a mock TV soap opera that gives Joy some of its silliness) and even Melissa Rivers as her late mother Joan Rivers. There’s no situation Joy cannot overcome or circumvent.” At a Newsday photo shoot at Mangano’s luxurious but serene 42,000-square-foot mansion on 11 acres in St. As for parting advice for the ambitious? “If this movie inspires even just one more person to believe in themselves and to go after their dreams, then it’s made a very special impact in this world.

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