Sunday, November 29, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Change. Faith. Forgiveness. That's what at the heart of DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE, an original holiday musical currently airing on Netflix. I expected this production, which runs 1 hour and 38 minutes, to have more corn than a Kansas City picnic on the 4th of July. Well, it is sentimental without being schmaltzy. To be honest, I had a couple of tears in my eyes come the end of it. If this feature aired on ABC or CBS after a network presentation of the beloved Charlie Brown Christmas special, I'd leave the channel right where it was and enjoy it. DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE is exactly the holiday tonic we needed, especially in an emotionally, physically and financially brutal year such as 2020 has been. It's something comfortable and warm you can slip into, like a favorite pair of slippers. This mirthful and poignant feature reminds us that Christine Baranski, Treat Williams and Jenifer Lewis, stars of the production, are veteran musical talents Baranski and Williams have Broadway credits. He was in the movie version of HAIR. She was in the movie version of MAMMA MIA! Jenifer Lewis, now a regular on the hit BLACK-ISH sitcom, was one of Bette Midler's Harlettes, her fabulous back-up singers, in her 1970s concerts. You can see Lewis as a Harlette in one of Bette's numbers in BEACHES. Each actor has a number in DOLLY PARTON'S CHRISTMAS ON THE SQUARE.
The show also reminds us that Dolly Parton is one of our premier songwriters, a most prolific composer who has written for her country albums, for movies, Broadway and TV. Parton wrote all the songs we hear in the original production, directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen.
Baranski plays the woman who pretty much owns a small town. She's a cold, corporate character who plans to sell the town to make her corporate dreams come true. She plans to sell the town to a mall developer. She's handing out eviction notices at Christmastime along with her version of stimulus checks so that the residents can move on with their lives. Somewhere else. She's a bit like Mr. Potter in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with a dose of Senator Mitch McConnell. Some townspeople have known Regina Fuller for years but they do not know what covered her heart with a hard frost in Fullerville over the years. What changed her?
Christine Baranski is wonderful in the role. She never gets overboard into caricature and me Regina Fuller just a female Scrooge. You see her corporate exterior. You also see a heartbreak behind the eyes. In this fantasy, Baranski makes Regina Fuller a believable character. The story takes place in a small town and director Debbie Allen keeps a cozy small town intimacy and feeling throughout it. Being a Dolly Parton production, there is diversity and inclusion in the town church. The congregation is black, white, brown, young, old, straight and openly. As for Dolly, she appears as a homeless person who's really a Christmas angel.
I absolutely loved the duet Christine Baranski's character has with the little girl, Violet, who helps her bartender dad. Violet calls herself "an old soul." Jenifer Lewis gets a rousing church number that would fit perfectly in real-life church services for moments of praise. Another church number, with the entire congregation singing that Regina Fuller is "The Wicked Witch of the Middle" is a hoot. I repeat -- Dolly Parton wrote all the songs. Here's a trailer.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
This season for Oscar buzz has begun. The Oscar nominations will be announced on March 15th of next year and critics such as Anne Thompson of INDIEWIRE and Clayton Davis of VARIETY have mentioned Viola Davis as ripe for another Best Actress Oscar nomination thanks to her performance in MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM coming to Netflix.
Whoopi Goldbert was a Best Actress Oscar nominee for 1985's THE COLOR PURPLE. She won the Best Supporting Actress for 1990's GHOST. She then reigned for nearly 20 years as the most Oscar-nominated Black actress in Hollywood history. Eventually, the extremely talented Whoopi Goldberg had very few good Hollywood film offers and she also turned to TV, becoming a regular on the hit ABC daytime talk show, THE VIEW. Viola Davis tied Whoopi's record when her performance in 2011's THE HELP brought her a 2nd Oscar nomination. However, after that Best Actress Oscar nomination, she was miffed to find that Hollywood had no other good script offers for her. She, too, turned to TV and starred on the hit ABC prime time series, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, for steady employment and exposure. Then came FENCES in which she and Denzel Washington recreated performances that earned them Tony Awards for the Broadway revival.
Also getting Oscar buzz for the Best Actress category next year are Sophia Loren for her return to film as a Holocaust survivor who befriends an angry Black street kid in the drama, THE LIFE AHEAD, currently on Netflix and Meryl Streep. Streep who stars in the upcoming upcoming musical comedy, THE PROM, based on a Broadway show. Clayton Davis of VARIETY wrote "...Meryl Streep is irresistible...her chances for securing her 22nd Oscar nomination are looking good." Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are tied at 3 nominations. I'm hoping Viola Davis makes Hollywood history and secures her 4th Oscar nomination.
MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM stars Viola Davis, the late Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo. It hits Netflix on December 18th.
Click onto this link to see a trailer: https://youtu.be/ord7gP151vk.
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