There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
It was a great big morning for the Great White Way: The nominations for the 66th Annual Tony Awards were announced on Tuesday with the adapted musical Once leading the pack with 11 nominations. Broadway vets Kristin Chenoweth and Jim Parsons read the names of the nominees, which included some of their fellow Hollywood elite like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield, who earned nominations for their work in the harrowing play Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. (Cynthia Nixon, James Earl Jones, John Lithgow, Frank Langella, Stockard Channing, and Mike Nichols are among the other notable nominees this year.)
Though Once, the stage interpretation of the beloved 2007 indie breakout, is out in front with 11 nominations (including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Choreography, and nods for its two leads Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti) The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Nice Work If You Can Get It follow closely with 10 each.
While it was no surprised that surefire things like the hit musicals Newsies and Follies earned Tony nods (8 each, to be exact) there were a few snubs and shockers. Most notable was the lack of a nomination for Evita star Ricky Martin in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (the show itself surprisingly only earned three nods total) and Samuel L. Jackson for his turn as Martin Luther King Jr. in the play The Mountaintop. But, perhaps the biggest surprise of the morning was that the troubled-from-the-start production Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark received two Tony nominations.
Here's the full list of nominees and recipients, including Hugh Jackman, who will be given the Special Tony Award:
Leap of Faith
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Other Desert Cities
Peter and the Starcatcher
Venus in Fur
Best Revival of a Play
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Best Revival of a Musical
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Jesus Christ Superstar
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
James Corden - One Man, Two Guvnors
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
James Earl Jones - Gore Vidal’s The Best Man
Frank Langella - Man and Boy
John Lithgow - The Columnist
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Nina Arianda - Venus in Fur
Tracie Bennett - End of the Rainbow
Stockard Channing - Other Desert Cities
Linda Lavin - The Lyons
Cynthia Nixon - Wit
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Danny Burstein - Follies
Jeremy Jordan - Newsies
Steve Kazee - Once
Norm Lewis - The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Ron Raines - Follies
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Jan Maxwell - Follies
Audra McDonald - The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Cristin Milioti - Once
Kelli O’Hara - Nice Work If You Can Get It
Laura Osnes - Bonnie & Clyde
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Michael Cumpsty, End of the Rainbow
Tom Edden, One Man, Two Guvnors
Andrew Garfield, Death of a Salesman
Jeremy Shamos, Clybourne Park
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Linda Emond, Death of a Salesman
Spencer Kayden, Don’t Dress for Dinner
Cella Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher
Judith Light, Other Desert Cities
Condola Rashad, Stick Fly
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Phillip Boykin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Michael Cerveris, Evita
David Allen Grier, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Michael McGrath, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Josh Young, Jesus Christ Superstar
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Elizabeth A. Davis, Once
Jayne Houdyshell, Follies
Judy Kaye, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Jesse Mueller, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ghost
Best Direction of a Play
Nicholas Hytner, One Man, Two Guvnors
Pam MacKinnon, Clybourne Park
Mike Nichols, Death of a Salesman
Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Direction of a Musical
Jeff Calhoun, Newsies
Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Diane Paulus, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
John Tiffany, Once
Best Book of a Musical
Nice Work If You Can Get It
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Bonnie & Clyde
One Man, Two Guvnors
Peter and the Starcatcher
Rob Ashford, Evita
Christopher Gattelli, Newsies
Steven Hoggett, Once
Kathleen Marshall, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Best Scenic Design of a Play
John Lee Beatty, Other Desert Cities
Daniel Ostling, Clybourne Park
Mark Thompson, One Man, Two Guvnors
Donyale Werle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley, Once
Rob Howell and Jon Driscoll, Ghost the Musical
Tobin Ost and Sven Ortel, Newsies
George Tsypin, Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark
Best Costume Design of a Play
William Ivey Long, Don’t Dress for Dinner
Paul Tazewell, A Streetcar Named Desire
Mark Thompson, One Man, Two Guvnors
Paloma Young, Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Follies
ESosa, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Eiko Ishioka, Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark
Martin Pakledinaz, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Best Lighting Design of a Play
Jeff Croiter, Peter and the Starcatcher
Peter Kaczorowski, The Road to Mecca
Brian MacDevitt, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Kenneth Posner, Other Desert Cities
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Christopher Akerlind, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Natasha Katz, Follies
Natasha Katz, Once
Hugh Vanstone, Ghost the Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play
Paul Arditti, One Man, Two Guvnors
Scott Lehrer, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Gareth Owen, End of the Rainbow
Darron L. West, Peter and the Starcatcher
Best Sound Design of a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Clive Goodwin, Once
Kai Harada, Follies
Brian Ronan, Nice Work If You Can Get It
William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
Bill Elliott, Nice Work If You Can Get It
Martin Lowe, Once
Danny Troob, Newsies
Isabelle Stevenson Award
Special Tony Award
Actors’ Equity Association
Neil Patrick Harris who tweeted, "Tony nominations. The biggest day in the world for a very small faction of people" will host the show for the third time in his career. The 66th Annual Tony Awards will air live from the Beacon Theater in New York City on CBS on June 10 at 8 PM ET. Which shows and stars were you glad to see get Tony nominations? Who got snubbed? Sound off in the comments section below, Broadway babies!
Neil Patrick Harris To Host The 2012 Tony Awards
Hugh Jackman To Receive Honorary Tony Award
Once the Musical: Can an Indie Hit Become a Broadway Smash?
Is Diane Sawyer further honing in on the turf of Barbara Walters?
Probably, as the name game of ABC's venerable television magazine "20/20" continues.
USA Today reported Tuesday that head honchos over at ABC news are once again thinking of renaming the Wednesday's edition of 20/20 (it was changed from "PrimeTime" just last season to reflect the network's decision to consolidate all its news magazines under one unifying brand name) to "20/20/Primetime."
The name might change but the anchors will apparently remain the same. The future "20/20/Primetime" will continue to be hosted by Sawyer and Charles Gibson. But unlike its former "20/20" incarnation, it will air live (like "PrimeTime" once did) and feature correspondents Chris Wallace, Jay Schadler and John Quinones ... (all from "PrimeTime") and a distinctive editorial style that is more reminiscent of ... "PrimeTime."
TELEVISION AWARDS: The Alfred I. Du Pont-Columbia University Awards for excellence in television reporting were handed out Tuesday.
The top honor went to Bill Moyers' "Public Affaires Television" for its documentary on the post-apartheid South Africa. The Silver Batons were shared by Diane Sawyer's "20/20" report on unwanted children in Russia; Bob Simon's "60 Minutes II" report on the Serbs massacre in 1995; "Frontline's" story on the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda; and CNN's Candy Crowley for her coverage of the Clinton impeachment process.
FOX TALKS: Michael J. Fox came out of the woodwork on "Access Hollywood" on Tuesday to discuss his decision to leave "Spin City."
In the two-part interview (the second part will air today), Fox asserted that his current health condition hasn't deteriorated to the point where it prevents him from performing and that his exit is solely based on his preference to spend time on things other than acting.
"Certainly, it is a progressive disease, it doesn't get better," Fox told host Pat O'Brien. "But it hasn't debilitated me. So I thought, 'If that time comes, if it comes when my ability to do things is severely impaired more than it is now, if I'm in the middle of a show or a season, then I have no choices.'"
Fox continued, "So I wanted to make the choice while I could. It wasn't about taking a turn, I didn't suddenly take a turn, it wasn't like I hit a wall. I feel good and I'm happy and I have energy and there's stuff to do."
Fox went on to say that he supports ABC's decision, whether the network decides to continue "Spin City" or not, and will work with the show's producer to come up with the best way for his character's exit.
CAMEO: James Garner will come out of TV retirement to guest star on CBS's "Chicago Hope" this spring. Garner is slated to appear in the drama's last four episodes as a millionaire who takes over the hospital. The actor was last seen on the tube in "Rockford Files" 20 years ago.
WHAM, BAM: "The Sopranos" continues to make television history, as it became the most-watched original drama ever on cable with its season premiere Sunday night. The same episode is predicted to pull in a total of 11.5 million viewers for its four repeated airings this week on HBO.