Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sizing up the 2016 competition: Emma Stone in "La La Land"

Well, it's been almost two weeks since I've seen La La Land.  In that time, the film set a new Golden Globes record with seven wins, earned $68 million in cinemas and Meryl is making international news for ripping on president-elect Donald Trump during her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award.  Bypassing the furor over Meryl's comments, we should probably talk about Emma Stone and the likelihood that she will not only be nominated for Actress in a Leading role at the Academy Awards, but also win.  She of course won the Globe last weekend for Actress in a Comedy or Musical, but what was perhaps equally telling was that her closest likely challenger, Natalie Portman (Jackie), lost out to Isabelle Huppert for Elle in the drama category.  I'd say this cements Stone as the comfortable front-runner for Oscar.

I enjoyed La La Land.  Typically up for most musicals, it took my a little while to get into the film, but once I did, it was highly entertaining.  Stone does a very nice job portraying Mia, a struggling actress in present-day Los Angeles. Mia is always busting her butt and pounding the pavement for what will hopefully result in her big break.  Of course a love interest throws a snag in her plans, as she falls head over heels for Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an equally struggling musician.  The movie follows the pair through their successes and failures individually as well as a couple, conveying the ubiquitous 'personal versus professional' struggle that plagues job-seeking artists.

I have to admit I'm a bit of a snob purist when it comes to vocals in movie musicals.  Both Stone and Gosling do a fine job, but they're just not great singers.  It was a tad distracting for me, actually.  Nowhere near Russell Crowe in Les Mis or Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! distracting, but I found myself wishing they impressed me more.

The main attraction here is the film itself.  Maybe I'm just getting used to Meryl being by far the best thing in mediocre films (Florence aside) that it's difficult for me to appreciate a standout performance when the cinematography and screenplay somewhat outshine the actors.  The fact that La La Land is something both fresh and visually stunning is a great boost to the chances for Stone's to get further awards recognition.  I definitely prefer Streep's performance this year, but I expect Emma's film to carry her across the finish line.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Streep receives 15th BAFTA nomination

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced its nominations earlier today and Meryl made the cut with her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins.  This makes is fifteen BAFTA nominations for Streep overall, having won twice, for 1981's The French Lieutenant's Woman and 2011's The Iron Lady.  Congrats to Hugh Grant as well as he was nominated in the Supporting Actor category.  The other ladies nominated alongside Streep were:

Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natlie Portman (Jackie)

I read somewhere that Globe winner Isabelle Huppert was apparently ineligible for BAFTA this year, as her film Elle was not yet released in the UK.  I think that's why we see Emily Blunt on this list, plus she's a Brit.  Interesting fact that Streep has never received nominations for Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA for a film without then getting an Academy Award nod, so she is in very good shape at the moment.  Oscar nominations are announced two weeks from today on the 24th.  

The BAFTA ceremony will be held February 12 and the full list of nominees can be read here

Congrats, Meryl!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Streep gives moving speech in acceptance of Cecil B. DeMille Award

As expected, Emma Stone took the award in Meryl's category tonight, but the biggest moment of the evening went to our girl as she provided a riveting speech in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement.

I don't think anyone expected Meryl to be so cutting in her criticism of Donald Trump.  Never actually mentioning his name, she instead invoked her late friend Carrie Fisher in stating "take your broken heart and make it into art."  She called upon the "principled" press to bear the standards of truth and bolstered the work of her fellow artists saying "an actor's only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like."

So proud to be a fan of this woman.  Brava, Meryl.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My 2017 Golden Globe predictions

Happy Golden Globes weekend!  I'm looking forward to this year's show more than usual since Meryl is set to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award and we'll likely get a great speech and career retrospective.  The fact that she's nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins is just gravy.

Below I've listed my winners predictions.  As usual, I mostly focus on the acting categories but am including in the two Best Pictures as well.

Best Picture-Drama
Manchester by the Sea (I would not be shocked if Moonlight won but I loved both, Manchester more though)

Best Picture-Musical or Comedy
La La Land (I'd be very surprised if it didn't win...great chance at Best Picture at Oscars)

Best Actress-Drama
Natalie Portman-Jackie (pretty likely here, a Negga win would really spice up the Oscar race)

Best Actor-Drama
Casey Affleck-Manchester by the Sea (close second Denzel)

Best Actress-Musical or Comedy
Emma Stone-La La Land (Meryl's win is for lifetime achievement)

Best Actor-Musical or Comedy
Ryan Gosling-La La Land (I guess I don't see a viable alternative here)

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis-Fences (she better win everything from here on out)

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali-Moonlight (I think and hope he'll take this)

Last thought: I can't wait until Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host again.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Will Meryl star in a 2016 Blacklist script?

Happy New Year, everyone!  I know many are thrilled that 2016 is finally over.  With that, we have much to look forward to in 2017 in regard to Meryl projects.  Despite not having any lead film roles confirmed at this point, my powers of speculation remain at full strength.  The first quarter of this year will no doubt be dominated by the awards season and how Streep will fare.  We already get to look forward to this Sunday, where she's nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins at the Golden Globes.  She will also be recognized with the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, which truthfully I'm anticipating more than any chance she has at winning for Flo Fo.  BAFTA nominations are announced two days after the Globes ceremony with the Oscar noms coming on the 24th.  January wraps up with the SAG Awards on the 29th, where Meryl again is in the running as Florence.

Little has been mentioned about The Nix in the last couple of months, but I expect that to film sometime third or fourth quarter. Mary Poppins Returns will likely see its scenes wrapped before year's end as well.  Beyond that, the calendar looks pretty barren for our girl.  This provides the opportunity for almost limitless speculation about what may be in store for Meryl.  Last year was the first time I singled out a specific role for her based on the annual Hollywood Blacklist that is released each December.  I maintain that portraying Diana Nyad in a biopic could be a wonderfully challenging role for Meryl, but unfortunately I haven't found a single word about the chances for production of that script since it made the list a year ago.  And as much as it pains me to say it, The Good House may remain in development hell indefinitely.

Which brings me to this year.  When 2016's Blacklist was revealed a few weeks ago, you better believe I immediately combed it for potential projects that could realistically involve Streep.  Similar to last year, my eyes were drawn to a particular spec, which just so happens to sit in a three-way tie for second place with 35 overall votes, behind the Madonna biopic Blond Ambition, which received 48.  Written by Liz Hannah, The Post is an account of the efforts of Ben Bradleee and Katharine (Kay) Graham to publish sensitive information about the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers, in the Washington Post.  The film would take place in 1971 when Graham, the publisher of the newspaper, was about 54 years old.  Yes, this is over a decade younger than Meryl, but a 54 year-old in 1971 in my opinion would be totally do-able for Meryl at 70.

I was lucky enough to read the script over the Christmas holiday.  Obviously I pictured Meryl as Kay the entire time.  It went very quickly, as it is written beautifully, and the story is interesting and at times suspenseful.  This project seems like it would be more likely than Nyad to 1) actually get funded/filmed and 2) involve Meryl.  It's a political thriller-ish story, which happens to be fairly topical for current times.  A story about the White House trying to stifle journalists from publishing damaging (yet true) stories seems eerily similar to what I imagine president-elect Trump will continue to do to newspapers he happens go disagree with.

On October 31, Pascal Pictures purchased the rights to the script, but I've found nothing further that suggests it's anywhere near being greenlit.  One has to wonder if we may hear something within the next few months about whether or not this great story will make it to the screen.  Could this be the 2018 lead role we've been waiting for?

Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee in 1971

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sizing up the 2016 competition: Ruth Negga in "Loving"

A few days ago I was able to see Jeff Nichols' film Loving.  The biopic follows the legal struggles of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia during the 1960s who appeal the statute that outlaws their marriage in the state.  Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in the title roles.  Earlier this year, it was widely regarded that Negga would challenge not only for an Oscar nomination, but possibly even a win.  Following last year's #OscarsSoWhite debacle, this season's slate of films in contention for awards recognition thankfully includes a more diverse group of actors.  One has to imagine that Academy members are anxious to show their willingness to be more inclusive in their voting choices.

As it turns out, Negga is the only black woman who stands a chance at a nom in the Lead Actress category, following the announcement that Viola Davis will be campaigned in supporting for Fences.  Even so, the chances for Negga at this point seem quite smaller following the SAG nominations announcement that excluded her.  She did get a Golden Globe nod for Actress in a Drama, however.  But is she for sure out?  I don't think so.

Knowing that Negga's "buzz" has somewhat fizzled over the past few months, I was expecting to be rather underwhelmed by both her performance and the film itself.  While I agree with some reviewers that her performance is subdued and the film bit slow, I thought it was absolutely a role that could garner great attention.  It's not flashy and lacks a big "Oscar scene," but she left me completely empathizing with her and the plight of her family.  Racial injustice stories often make me angry when I watch them and Negga's portrayal of a sort of dutiful, unassuming, yet persistent character added to my reaction of exasperation for her troubles.

Few have Negga cracking the top five, but if anyone squeezes out Meryl, I have lingering feeling it may be Negga instead of Annette Bening (20th Century Women).  Less likely would be that both Negga and Bening get in over Streep and maybe Isabelle Huppert (Elle).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Streep to be honored by Human Rights Campaign

For her contributions to the LGBTQ cinematic canon, the Human Rights Campaign will be recognizing Meryl at their annual gala in New York City with the 'Ally for Equality Award' on February 11.  Particularly, her work on Mike Nichols's 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America and 2002's The Hours continue to be influential examples of queer individuals on screen.  She has been a voice for gender and LGBT rights for decades, while her extensive variety of portrayals of complex, funny and outspoken women has secured for her icon status in the community.  

Congratulations, and thank you, Meryl.