Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Best Actress 2017: Judi Dench in "Victoria & Abdul"

I managed to get myself to the theater recently to catch a showing of Victoria & Abdul. It was 1997 when Judi Dench sort of burst onto the Oscar scene for her performance as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. I'm sure to this day, many believe she was deserving of the award for Best Actress, which she lost to Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets. Fast forward twenty years, and she's portraying the same character, this time in the queen's final years, when she meets and forms a bond with an Indian subject named Abdul Karim. 

The film itself is fine. I'm a big fan of movies depicting British monarchs, so I'd have been OK seeing it even if there weren't buzz around Dench. I definitely prefer Mrs. Brown, as V&A was pretty predictable and sanctimonious at times. They did a nice job of depicting how awful her family was to Karim (and to her), as her affections for this man disrupted the normalcy of the royal family. 

At this point in the season, Dench is most likely not going to crack the top five for Best Actress. But she does have a few things going for her: one, she's Judi Dench, and the Academy loves her. Two, it's a rather good performance from her, even if the film itself is only at 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Three, it's been doing quite well at the box office (at least foreign), as it's taken in $60 million worldwide. 

This wouldn't be the first time an actor was nominated twice for the same role. Coincidentally, Cate Blanchett did it for portraying another English Queen, Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, and then nine years later for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I happen to think both she and Dench were robbed for the former of their two films. 

Right now, although The Post has yet to screen (I believe the first will be for Academy members on Sunday in New York), the top five contending for Best Actress seem to be fairly firm at this point, with Meryl, Frances McDorman (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Even though there will apparently be an embargo on reviews after The Post's screening this weekend, I'll keep an eye out for any prediction changes from pundits who were privy to reactions from the Academy. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Anna Wintour interviews Meryl Streep about "The Post"

I thought this was a joke when I first saw the headline, but it's not. And it's amazing. I love listening to Meryl talk about stuff like this and didn't think it was possible to enjoy her any more than I already do, but this may have done it. Check out the special Vogue December cover below. Let the campaign officially begin.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

First trailer for "The Post"

I was up pretty late watching the returns come in for the Minneapolis mayoral race and thank goodness I did, as just before I was about to close my laptop and head to bed, I got an alert that Stephen Colbert premiered the first trailer of The Post on his show tonight:

As is typical, when I've been impatiently waiting for something like this to drop, it's difficult for me to be objective right out of the gates. Main reaction is that the trailer really puts Meryl front and center, in that this is a story chiefly about her character. Many pundits have questioned how large of a role she'd have.  This, in my opinion, puts that curiosity to rest.

Friday, November 3, 2017

New production stills from "The Post"

A pair of new production stills were released today by Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times:

Both are of Meryl with Tom Hanks. I'm guessing the first one might be from one of, if not the very first scene of the film, in which Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee get introduced to us and we learn about their prickly relationship over a lunch meeting. The two photos make the cinematography and production design look very high quality. Janusz Kaminski (director of photography) works with Steven Spielberg on almost all of this films, and the window lighting in the top pic seems very much him.

With the handful of stills that have been released over the past two days, my guess is that we can expect the trailer this week, hopefully sooner than later. Gird your loins.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

First look at "The Post"

The first official still from The Post was revealed earlier today:

It seems a bit strange that "Fotogramas" is the publication to show the first official pic from the movie, as I've never heard of it. Regardless, i's a great photo and I'm guessing that we'll be getting a trailer within the next two weeks, likely revealed online by mid next week and attached in theaters to Murder on the Orient Express, another 20th Century Fox film, set for release on November 10. Can't wait!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Results of poll #5

We had the highest number of votes for a poll thus far with the latest question, "with which director would you most like to see Meryl work?" I provided a list of ten names, and over sixty people chimed in with their choice. I happened to vote for Todd Haynes, who also just happened to be the overwhelming top vote-getter, with 35% of those voting selecting him. Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson were distant second and third place finishers, respectively. Someone mentioned in one of the comments that they'd like to see her work with Xavier Dolan, and I can't believe I didn't include him in the list because I've blogged before about the fact that he wanted to work with Meryl and had even written a script for her in the past.

Haynes most recently directed this year's Wonderstruck, starring Julianne Moore, but has nothing listed on IMDb Pro as a definitive next film. The two "in development" projects listed under his name include biopics of singers Peggy Lee and Lou Reed. Reese Witherspoon was attached for the Lee project, with Haynes coming on board in 2014, but nothing has come of it yet. Even if both of those two projects are the next films he directs, there's still plenty of time for him and Meryl to eventually team up for something juicy. When and if that ever happens, I'm confident it would be something very special. Maybe a biopic of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer with Jessica Lange?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Best Actress 2017: Emma Stone in "Battle of the Sexes"

It's been a month since I've had the chance to see a film involving a Best Actress contender. I had wonderful intentions of seeing Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, but based on the reviews and my low expectations of it's Oscar-earning prowess, I've held off. Instead, I swung by a local theater on Thursday after work to catch a screening of Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes.

Tennis has been a major interest for me since I was a kid. I've played off and on since I was 12 and have closely followed professional tennis ever since. Billie Jean King was before my time, but I was course aware of her from a young age, knowing that she had been the top ranked player at one point in the '70s. I've had the opportunity to attend matches at the national tennis center named after her in Flushing, NY, so I went into the film a little skeptical about what it may look like if they were going to reproduce major sections of her historic match against Bobby Riggs. I've since learned that the tennis scenes were portrayed by actual pros.

For those not familiar, the story surrounds the events leading up to Billie Jean King's exhibition matchup against former professional player Bobby Riggs. Spoiler alert: King beats Riggs after he had successfully defeated the then current number one-ranked women's player, Australian Margaret Court. It happens to be a socially topical story, as in the film King and other players on the women's tour are faced with overt sexual discrimination and a fight for equal pay. Emma Stone does a fine job in capturing King's struggle, as well as her mannerisms and speech. I have to admit, I tend to always see Emma Stone in her roles versus forgetting her and just seeing her character. But I didn't mind in this case, as she portrayed King as a very sympathetic and character, who unfairly had to hide her sexuality for fear of damaging her career.

The film has gotten wonderful reviews, particularly for Stone. I wonder if its release was a little too early for it to make a huge splash on the awards circuit, however. Its theme is wonderful and it's a crowd-pleaser as well, but in this year's delightfully stacked Best Actress race, not to mention that Stone is last year's winner, my guess is that she'll be the first one out the of top five for Oscar.