Also tomorrow night, Me and Orson Welles is hosting a rebroadcast of Orson Welles' famous radio narration of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. They will air it at 8pm EST, which happens to be 71 years to the minute after it was broadcast originally. If you'd like to listen in, click here.
In review and screening news, there was a screening last night in LA and Jack Black was there. I love Jack Black, that is all.
The Terrace Theater review was actually from a different screening fwiw.
There was a lovely review that popped up:
Richard Linklater revisits Orson Welles’s theatre company and puts Zac Efron centre stage. It’s a crazy combination says Stieg Ingarsson, but by gawd, it might just work.
If you were making a film set in 1937 about the Mercury Theatre and the great Orson Welles, I somehow doubt that the cheeky teen star of the High School Musical franchise would be top of your list for a central role. But then you’re not Richard Linklater. The man behind such arthouse favourites as Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly, Before Sunrise and School Of Rock (ahem) is back with Me And Orson Welles, and his leading man is non other than Zac Efron himself. Fortunately, and before you all burst blood vessels, our Zac is cast in the role of the ‘Me’ of the title, rather than the fiery giant of stage and screen.
Efron is Richard Samuels, a kid still in school but with big dreams of stardom, who stumbles into a production of Julius Caesar through some nifty snare drum work and an ad jingle. Once in, and with the small part of Lucius his own (a role that mainly involves playing a ukelele disguised as a lute), he is on a rollercoaster of confrontation, romance and theatre, darling, as the Mercury company tries to get the doors open on time.
Starting relatively slowly, the film initially overindulges on the thespian references, with lots of knowing in-jokes about the theatre. The one thing actors seemingly struggle to do well is play actors; they are too hammy in their self-parody, perhaps needing to emphasise the subtlety of their own performances. But once it has settled in, the company is strong, with a brilliant turn from Ben Chaplin as an over-confident star who suffers from severe panic attacks; and some engaging stuff from the rapidly rising Leo Bill.
Claire Danes plays Sonja – the theatre administrator assigned to the role of minding young Samuels – and does so with some aplomb. She is always believable as the object of the actors’ lustful desires, a hard-headed woman who does whatever is necessary necessary to further her career. But you can’t talk about this film without flying the flag for the two male leads. Zac Efron is a revelation. Likeable and compelling to watch, you’ll be rooting for him throughout (despite the occasional desire to holler ‘Go Wildcats’ when things go well). It’s impossible to say, yet, whether he will ever shake off High School Musical but in taking this role, he has taken a large step towards establishing himself as a serious actor.
And another serious actor is required to play the biggest role of them all, Orson Welles himself. Christian McKay, a star of the boards rather than the silver screen, is quite simply brilliant in the role of a loud, brash bully who no-one likes but everyone respects. It’s no surprise he’s been nominated for a British Independent Film Award for most promising newcomer. His presence fills the screen and the whole experience seems somehow smaller when he is absent.
Stylistically, the film is fabulous. The costumes, the sets, the props all recreate the Big Apple atmosphere of the 1930s, and a Duke Ellington-led soundtrack completes the effect beautifully.
Me and Orson Welles is a good film: it’s warm, entertaining and amusing. It’s not, however, a great film. I struggled to see the need for what must have been a ten minute montage of the play towards the end. It’s a common flaw of plays within film:s either we have been told how wonderful the production is, and then it fails to impress, or as in this case, after an hour or so of self-parody the cast appear determined to prove that they can do Shakespeare. The abridged Julius Caesar they put on may mollify their egos, but it does so at a cost to the film’s pace. Some of the casting was also questionable. Eddie Marsan’s harassed theatre manager, for example, fails to convince.
It’s another positive addition to the Linklater canon. He’s a director who is becoming more diverse with every film he makes, and this one has the advantage of introducing the unknown McKay, who could well clutching a variety of statuettes come the new year. It's not for everyone, and Efron’s legions of fans will likely be left cold, but anyone with even a passing interest in theatre, or indeed the era, will find something to cherish in it.
Rating on a scale of 5 stage-door autograph hunters: 3
Also there was an interesting discussion of McKay's Oscar chances was in the LA Times.
Back from the dead: Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles in Oscar race?
by Pete Hammond
Orson Welles, another great name from the ghosts of Oscars past, is also starting to turn up prominently this award season, but in his case he's being channeled by Christian McKay, whose phenomenal and uncanny impersonation of the legend is the driving force of "Me and Orson Welles," another indie trying to get a foothold in the Oscar race. Opening fairly wide on Nov. 25, this 2008 Toronto International Film Fest entry has genuine box office bait in costars Zac Efron, as the 'Me' in the title, an idealistic young actor taken under Welles' wing, and Claire Danes as a love interest for both. Efron and Danes are quite good in this highly entertaining film, but it's McKay who dominates, as you swear the young Orson Welles has returned from the dead. Although McKay could probably qualify as either a lead actor or supporting actor, depending on how you look at it, a run in the supporting category could possibly gain some traction. There aren't a whole lot of contenders there right now, and the academy has shown itself to be a sucker for performances based on people they know, love and, in this case, have even given Oscars to (Welles shared a writing award in 1941 for "Citizen Kane" and also received an honorary statuette in 1971). English actor McKay was nominated this week as most promising newcomer by the British Independent Film Awards.
Of course, with the high costs of campaigning and big-name competition, the Oscar odds are long for both of these independently made and distributed period films, but they are counting on the fondness for a couple of legendary last names that both start with a 'W' to get them through the academy's door this year.
Oh and one random thing... I keep reading how Zac has been invited to and is anticipated to be at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix along with other actors including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Gerard Butler and Daniel Craig. Also listed as invited, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates.
I have serious doubts about this (though you never do know, lol) but what a group of guys to be listed with.