Every once in a while, you have to thank the universe for the gifts it gives you. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work on a new untitled project by director, Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace.) However, technically, I wasn’t in front of the camera. I was able to be a stand-in for none other than Kathy Bates. I’m not sure how in the world I got the call at 6:00 in the morning,  let alone how I got called in to be her stand-in. Yet, I was excited to be back in an environment I love and learn from every time I work on a film. I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the observations I made during my three day work week. Honestly, it was like one big master class. I got to watch Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Shannon & Rachel Weisz work, rehearse, and just be. well, normal human beings. More importantly, I got to be a part of something that will no doubt yield wonderful performances from its cast members. I also learned more about the ins and outs of the process in three days, than I have in a long time. I was there to do a job and contribute to what they needed at the time. That pretty much sums it up about the film industry in general, you do your job for the time allotted and move on. I’m glad that i got the opportunity to work with and learn from four of the most talented actors in the business.

It’s the best day of the year! Oscar day! Will host Neil Patrick Harris deliver a fantastic show? Probably. As far as predictions go, this year is a tough one. There were amazing movies of all different subjects and genres. As far as acting performances, there are some surprises in those races. Who knows, Bradley Cooper might come up from behind and take the statue away from Eddie Redmayne or Michael Keaton for Best Actor. However, if I was a betting woman, I would think that it’s Keaton’s year. The same goes for the Best Actress. I mean, where did Marion Cotillard’s nomination come from? I don’t think she was on anyone’s prediction list. However, I think it’s safe to say Julianne Moore has waited long enough to take home an Oscar. I hope she has picked a place to put her much-deserved accolade for her awesome performance in Still Alice. The other categories of Best Supporting Actor and Actress are pretty much givens as well. J.K. Simmons, prepare your speech now for Best Supporting Actor. I think this year’s surprises will come with the Best Picture winner (Selma or American Sniper could be surprises), director, and writing, simply because the races are more interesting. The fun will come with Neil Patrick Harris and his impeccable hosting abilities. Watch on ABC tonight @ 7:00!

Selma director, Ava DuVernay, and her lead actor David Oyelowo (who portrayed  Martin Luther King, Jr.) got seriously overlooked this morning as the Oscar nominations were announced. Even though Selma received a Best Picture nomination, it failed to get recognized for its directing and acting efforts. Also on the acting front, Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Amy Adams (who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) weren’t able to secure nominations. Clearly, Jennifer Aniston and her team have been campaigning for an Oscar nomination for a while. She’s received a SAG Award nomination, and it’s clear that whomever is in charge of her publicity, wants her to win. I think it’s safe to say that both Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston lost their spots to Marion Cotillard this year, for a film I wasn’t even aware of called Two Days, One Night.

Another point that people have been making in various other blogs about this year is the fact that all of the nominees are in fact, white. Apparently, the average Oscar voter is 63 years old, white, and male. So there’s that…Also, what’s up with no nomination for the Lego movie?

The Oscars are tomorrow night. If the Independent Spirit Awards from tonight are any indication, this Oscar race is going to be one to watch. Given the fact that the competition for Supporting Actor is pretty much a given (Congratulations to Jared Leto ahead of time. He just won an Independent Spirit Award. If he doesn’t win, I’ll be really surprised.) Also, congrats to Lupita Nyong’o, unless they give Jennifer Lawrence two Oscars in a row. She’s 23. She’s got time. Cate Blanchett will probably take home the Best Actress Oscar, unless Sandra Bullock comes up from behind. But who knows? This year seems to be a little up in the air for Best Actor and Actress. If the results from the Golden Globes sway voters at all, Amy Adams and Leonardo DiCaprio could take home Oscars instead. Matthew McConaughey is pretty much battling it out with Leo. Chiwetel deserves Best Actor in my humble opinion. Frozen will win Best Original Song (duh.) And Gravity director, Alfonso Cuaron has been sweeping the awards for Director. Then again, since Steve McQueen just won for 12 Years tonight at the Independent Spirit Awards, he could win as well. Best Picture is anyone’s game, but my money is on 12 Years a Slave. But who can tell? American Hustle might be a stealthy one and take the top prize. 

untitled (9)The 86th Annual Oscar nominations were announced this morning. The winners will be revealed during the live telecast on Sunday, March 2, 2014, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Here are some initial thoughts about the pending awards ceremony.  The Golden Globes, as well as this Saturday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards have always been good predictors of who will take home acting’s ultimate honor, the Oscar. Given who won at this year’s Globes, as well as those who didn’t, this year’s Oscar race is definitely going to be very interesting. At the Golden Globes, lead acting awards went to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, Leonardo DiCaprio in the Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine and Amy Adams for American Hustle, which was somehow thought of as a comedy, but that’s the subject of another post all together. In the supporting category for the Golden Globes, Jared Leto won for Dallas Buyers Club and Jennifer Lawrence (last year’s Best Actress Golden Globe & Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook)  won for American Hustle. In years past, those who have won in those categories have often gone on to take home an Academy Award. I think the actors from Dallas Buyers Club have strong chances to win in their categories. However, Leonardo DiCaprio and Chiwetel Ejiofor could shake up the Best Actor category. Or, who knows, Bruce Dern might come out of the woodwork and surprise us all. In the Best Actress category, either Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock could definitely surprise us if Cate Blanchett or Amy Adams don’t take home a statue.  In the supporting actress category, honestly, I want Lupita Nyong’o to take it. I honestly think she was the most impressive out of the supporting actresses and the fact that she didn’t win at this year’s Golden Globes, to be honest, was upsetting. I definitely would love to see Jared Leto win for Best Supporting Actor (I think he’ll win) but I wouldn’t count out Michael Fassbender. He had an equally as impressive role as the plantation owner with a heart of stone in 12 Years a Slave, and it is very difficult to play that type of villain. Honestly, this year is actually a really difficult Oscar race. It’s going to be very interesting to see who takes home acting’s top prize. To see the list of nominees go to: http://oscar.go.com/nominees

And check out this amazing featurette about Jared Leto’s transformation into Rayon:

Richard Jenkins and Haaz Sleiman in “The Visitor” (2007)

There are certain actors I have a deep seeded need to work with. I want to learn as much as I can from them. Richard Jenkins is one of those actors. He’s “that guy”  you’ve been seeing in movies and television shows for years.  You definitely know his face, but not necessarily his name. His IMDB resume dates all the way back to 1975. Yet, it wasn’t until he starred in the 2007 indie film The Visitor, that the world, and the Oscars, took notice. He received his first nomination for the first leading role of his career. When talking about his experience while filming The Visitor, he states, “I would say ‘I’ll go back to my trailer now’, and they’d say, ‘No, no, you’re in the next scene. It’s one of those things that I didn’t know if I would ever get an opportunity to try. I’ve been waiting my entire professional life for this experience.”

Some actors wait their entire careers to have the “leading man” or “leading lady” experience. Some people never get there. I’m a character actor myself, so who knows when, or if, I’ll get there in the feature film realm. I’m glad that Jenkins has gotten the recognition he deserves. And you know what? Right after his success with The Visitor, he went right back to doing character work. And personally, it just goes to show me, as an actor, that it is ultimately about he work. It’s not about who has the biggest part, or the most lines. It’s about the work, and what you can bring to it as an actor. In this film, he brings his “A” game. He gives it everything that he’s got, and it shows. His years of experience as a character actor just might have prepared him for his moment in the sun. He’s fantastic in the film. I have always been a huge admirer of his work and I am glad he finally got his moment to shine:

So, Mr. Richard Jenkins, if you are reading this, from one character actor to another: Bravo! And I want to work with you.

Viola Davis in “Doubt” (2008.)

To help those who want to win Trivial Pursuit, here’s some trivia about movies and actors you might find interesting.

  • 10 years before the teen phenomenon Twilight (2008), Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, & Paul Newman starred in a murder mystery with the same name, Twilight (1998.)
  • [on losing the role of Frankie, which had been written for her by playwright Terrence McNally (which she originated onstage,) to Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie version of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune] “I thought it was wonderful to see a love story about people over forty, ordinary people who were trying to connect. We haven’t seen it before, and I don’t think we will see it with this movie Frankie and Johnny (1991).” It is actually known that Bates has lost several film roles adapted from plays in which she has originated roles (‘night, Mother also being lost to Sissy Spacek on film.)
  • In 1999, Judi Dench won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love having only appeared on screen for 8 minutes (4 scenes.) For her 2008 performance in Doubt, Viola Davis was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for appearing in two scenes. The second scene lasts 10 seconds and she does not speak.
  • Actor Hector Elizondo appears in nearly all of director Gary Marshall’s films, ” Appears in so many Garry Marshall films that his credit in the beginning of Exit to Eden (1994) was ‘As Usual… Hector Elizondo.'”
  • Before appearing in the 2012 film version of musical, Les Miserables, actor Eddie Redmayne won a Tony Award in 2010 for his role in Red…he won Best Featured Actor in a Play.
  • Actress Tracie Thoms, auditioned for the stage musical Rent 8 times without winning a role. She went on to star in the 2005 film version of the musical as Joanne. She went on to appear onstage in the same role in the final months of the show on Broadway.
  • Actress Julianne Moore didn’t make a movie until she was 29.
  • In the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie smashes the palm of his hand on the dinner table, the actor broke a glass under his hand and really began to bleed. DiCaprio ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. This take was the one used in the film.

Short films don’t get the recognition that they deserve. They are often the springboards for feature films.  The 2006 feature film Cashback, was actually the expanded version of its 2004 counterpart. In fact, the feature film version of Cashback includes the full 18 minute Oscar-nominated short film within it.  Short films have a running time of 40 minutes or less, and are fairly easy to overlook. However, many actors, from big name stars, to every day working actors, participate in short films. I have done several short films that can rival any feature film in terms of their quality and production values. They are fun and a great way for us actors to build our resumes.

The 2009 short film, The New Tenants, won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2010. It is a Danish Live-Action short film that stars name-actors like Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, The Whole Wide World) Kevin Corrigan (The Departed, Superbad) and Liane Balaban (Last Chance Harvey.)

Summary via IMDB: A prying neighbor, a glassy-eyed drug dealer, and a husband brandishing both a weapon and a vendetta make up the welcome wagon. Set amidst the as-yet-unopened boxes and the hopes for a fresh start of two men on what might just be the worst moving day ever. Their new apartment reveals its terrifying history in a film that is by turns funny, frightening, and unexpectedly romantic.

It is definitely worth checking out. In fact, here is the film in its entirety. The running time is 20 minutes 41 seconds. And it’s totally worth it. From the acting, to the simple plot, to the cinematography, it’s a wonderful film: