RIGHT NOW WITH RUSSELL: Bradley Cooper makes remarkable ‘Maestro’

Oscar bait! You simply cannot miss Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal portrayal of legendary American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro,” playing at The Neon through Dec. 24 before it begins streaming on Netflix.

With fast-talking flair and sharp intensity, the 48-year-old, nine-time Oscar nominee gives the performance of his career in a film he also directed and co-wrote. He previously pulled triple duty in 2019 for “A Star is Born” but “Maestro,” centered on the tender love story/soulmate connection between Bernstein and his devoted wife Felicia, is far more complex in scope and artistry.

Here are three key takeaways:

Makeup: Japanese makeup artist Kazu Hiro ages Cooper over a period of 50 years. The introspective opening in which Bernstein reflects on his life while seated at his piano is immediately striking in close-up and sets the perfect tone due to Cooper’s uncanny resemblance to the brilliant, complicated and deeply flawed icon.

Authenticity: Cooper, embracing vulnerability, actually chose to tell this biopic authentically. In other words, he wasn’t afraid to delve into what other cool, masculine Hollywood titans would’ve ignored or diminished: Bernstein’s homosexuality. The composer had three children with Felicia (an outstanding Carey Mulligan), but his desire for men, an extension of his “love of people,” fractured his family, specifically his marriage. At the 1971 world premiere of his choral “Mass” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Bernstein, moved by the beauty of his music, grabs the hand of his young admirer Tommy Cothran (Gideon Glick) instead of Felicia, who leaves dejected and enraged. Also, in the 1940s, Bernstein had a relationship with clarinetist David Oppenheim (Matt Bomer), and when they are reunited years later with David’s wife and child in tow, they briefly walk side by side without saying a word – one of Cooper’s strongest directorial choices.

Music: Bernstein’s familiar, energetic and amazing compositions are sprinkled throughout and rightfully so. Cooper surprisingly bypasses the creation of “West Side Story” (it would’ve been nice to see recreations of or backstories about the original production akin to the flavor of the Emmy-winning FX miniseries “Fosse/Verdon”), but at least “Fancy Free,” Jerome Robbins’ classic wartime ballet that inspired “On the Town,” is in the mix. Cooper’s lighthearted dancing as Bernstein imagines himself in the ballet is a real treat. Musical highlights include a soaring rehearsal of “Make Our Garden Grow” from Bernstein’s “Candide” and a glorious sequence set at Ely Cathedral in England in which Bernstein passionately conducts Mahler’s gorgeous Resurrection Symphony. Cooper shaking to the core in ecstatic euphoria as Mahler’s masterpiece swells is one of the reasons he seems guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and perhaps his first win.

Here’s what else you should know right now:

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

‘Barbie’ leads Critics Choice Award nominations

On the heels of the Golden Globe nominations announced Monday, “Barbie” continues to impact awards season.

Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster received 18 Critics Choice nominations Wednesday followed by “Oppenheimer” and “Poor Things” with 13 nods each. Best Picture nominees include: “American Fiction,” “The Color Purple,” “The Holdovers,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” “Past Lives” and “Saltburn.”

“The Morning Show” leads the television contenders with six nominations including Best Drama Series and Best Actress in a Drama Series nominations for Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

The 29th annual Critics Choice Awards will air live Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024 on The CW from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. For a complete list of nominations, visit criticschoice.com/critics-choice-awards.

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ to end in 2024

Larry David is officially hanging up his curmudgeon hat.

HBO’s long-running hit comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which debuted in 2000, will air its 12th and final season beginning Sunday, Feb. 4. 2024 at 10 p.m. on Max. The season will consist of 10 episodes. The final episode will air April 7, 2024.

In addition to David, the cast includes Cheryl Hines, J.B. Smoove, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Richard Lewis and Ted Danson. Vince Vaughn and Tracey Ullman are also expected to return.

The critically acclaimed show, which relies heavily on improvisation, has earned 51 Emmy nominations and two wins throughout its run. It has also received five Golden Globe nominations and one win.

Credit: Liam Daniel

Credit: Liam Daniel

‘Bridgerton’ sets 2024 return

Dear reader, Netflix’s hit period drama “Bridgerton” will return for Season 3 in spring 2024. The season will be split into two parts with the first half premiering Thursday, May 16 and the second half on Thursday, June 13. Each part will consist of four episodes.

Season 3 will focus on the budding romance between Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and her old pal, Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). It’ll be interesting to see how this couple leaves its mark on London society and within Lady Whistledown’s witty commentaries.

Right Now with Russell spotlights pop culture every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in film, music, books and TV to the buzz of awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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