Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meryl's Oscar chances for "Florence Foster Jenkins"

We're pretty much in the thick of things for Oscar prognostication.  Fall festivals are in swing and the Best Actress race has now shown us its horses.  With all likely contenders known, I'd like to break it down a bit to sort of take the pulse of Meryl's chances.

Firstly, if we simply look at Streep's performance and the quality of the film as reviewed by most critics, she's in terrific shape.  Great to rave reviews for her performance and an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes place her in definite contention.  Florence Foster Jenkins has by no means been a box office juggernaut, but it's sitting at a respectable $26.6m and will likely settle at a little over $27m.  As a summer release, it'll be a tad more challenging to keep Meryl fresh in voters' minds, but she's done quite a bit of press for the film, something she typically only does when the picture can potentially make an awards push.  With most of the above factors in her favor, she's still in my opinion going to be on the bubble.

Natalie Portman shot to the top of many people's list over the last week or two after Jackie debuted at Venice and Toronto.  Viola Davis has been a strong contender from the moment it was announced earlier this year that Fences would get a theatrical release.  Before I go any further, however, I'd like to provide the latest rankings from my go-to Oscar contention source, Awards Watch.  The current monthly poll (190 voters) has the following top ten:

1. Emma Stone (La La Land) 94.74%
2. Natalie Portman (Jackie) 93.16%
3. Viola Davis (Fences) 88.95%
4. Amy Adams (Arrival) 68.95%
5. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) 35.26%
6. Ruth Negga (Loving) 31.58%
7. Isabelle Huppert (Elle) 28.42%
8. Annette Bening (20th Century Women) 18.42%
9. Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals) 7.37%
10. Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) 6.32%

Ruth Negga for months hovered between 1st and 3rd, but with a few more films actually being seen, the sense I'm getting is that her role isn't flashy enough.  That said, after two years of #OscarSoWhite, I wouldn't be at all surprised if both she and Davis made it in, which would be great.  Emma Stone and Natalie Portman seem like the closest thing to locks at this point.  Considering we haven't even seen a trailer yet for Fences, unless it appears to be a total pile of shit, Davis will be a lock as well.

I'm skeptical about Amy Adams.  Despite fantastic reviews, the sci-fi subject matter of Arrival may be less Academy-friendly than many of the others on the above list.  I'd be thrilled for Bening if she made the top five, but that's seeming less and less likely as the race begins to tighten.  Keep your eye out for Jessica Chastain, however.  Miss Sloane's gun control theme captures the zeitgeist.  This film as well, howeverhas yet to be seen.

Ultimately, I'm glad there's a strong list of contenders, which means there's at least a viable, if not thriving crop of scripts for leading ladies on film.  As more and more actresses move to TV for challenging parts, let's hope the trend continues regardless of whether the screen is big or small.  If I had to guess now, I'd predict Meryl will squeak into the top five.  A Golden Globe nod should be a cinch, and if we see Streep garner of SAG nod as well in December, she'll be in the best position possible for her 20th nomination.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thoughts on production of "The Nix"

My copy of Nathan Hill's novel The Nix arrived today.  I'm excited to begin reading and being that it's been about a week since it was announced that the book would be turned into a limited series starring our girl, I thought I'd add a few more thoughts.  To my knowledge, there hasn't been any additional info on the details of the project since the day it was announced.  All we know is that J.J. Abrams would be producing (along with Meryl?), it it going to be on television and that Abrams would likely direct at least "a few" episodes.

Certainly there's a lot of info we can find on the actual plot of the story, and readers are of course welcome to explore that info to whatever level of detail they choose.  I'll likely create a post or two as I discover the 600-page tale, but will be sure to add spoiler alerts.

Big things we don't know for sure:  who will write the screenplay, how many episodes there will be, on which network it will air, who will direct, when shooting is likely to begin and of course, who else will star.  The main character sounds like it's actually the son, Samuel, but from what I understand both he and his mom, Faye, seem like leads.  No doubt I'll be picturing Meryl whenever her character is present or referenced in the story, but I'll have to wait and see who comes to mind to portray Samuel.

Thinking about how glad I am that we have at new project to obsess talk about, I couldn't help but look back to the fall of 2014, just after it was announced in October of that year that Streep had signed on for Florence Foster Jenkins.  We essentially had five major projects that were either about to or expected to come to fruition: Into the Woods, Ricki and the Flash (which was filming), Florence Foster Jenkins, The Good House and Master Class.  Now I'm just hoping beyond all hope that The Nix actually sees the light of day, as we know nothing is ever guaranteed.  Considering the fact that Meryl may be co-producing, I agree with a commenter here that it may be more likely to happen if Streep has a stake in the production herself.

Until we get confirmation, I'll just have to remain patient and enjoy envisioning Meryl in the pages of The Nix.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Streep in talks for limited television series "The Nix"

As many of you are already finding out, multiple sources are now reporting that Meryl Streep is in talks to star in a limited television series based on Nathan Hill's 2016 novel The Nix.  J.J. Abrams (who in the past has said he'd like to work with Meryl) is set to produce along with Hill, and I've read that Abrams is likely to direct at least a portion of the series.

I had not heard of the novel prior to this news so of course I'm going to have to quickly add it to my reading list.  The snippet of info from the Hollywood Reporter describes the book as:

Hill's critically acclaimed debut novel follows a man named Samuel Andresen-Anderson, whose mother, Faye, reappears decades after she abandoned the family. She becomes the center of controversy for allegedly committing an absurd crime, and Samuel must dig back into her secretive past to try to save her. The novel is described as a sprawling satire that spans from the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond.

Sounds like it could be a wonderful role for Meryl and we're getting our appetites whetted with what seems to be a more meaty project from her.  Let's keep in mind however that from what I've read, there is no writer yet (maybe author will do the screenplay) and no dates for when production is set to start.  Simply because Meryl is "in talks" doesn't mean it's a sure thing.  Just ask The Good House.

Regardless, this is one of my favorite times in the trajectory of Meryl's projects.  Learning of the news, and when possible, deep-diving into understanding the material.  Hope this gets off the ground!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Accents Mastered updated

I watched Prime a couple weeks ago and within a minute of Meryl's first scene I realized that I've erred in not including this film as one of her accents mastered.  It doesn't seem like a huge change from Streep's natural voice, but there is definitely a bit of New York in there.  I had every intention of adding the title to this section but am just getting around to it now.

Doing a little searching I figured out that she's doing some form of a Manhattan accent.  Originally I googled "Jewish New York accent" to see if anything specific came up.  As there isn't exactly a "Jewish" accent, it's likely that Yiddish in some way shaped the language of the Jewish community in New York.  As Lisa Metzger lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we're going with "Upper West Side."

The updated list is as follows:

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)--Tennessean
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)--British (specifically Received Pronunciation)
Sophie's Choice (1982)--Polish (in English and German)
Silkwood (1983)--Texan
Plenty (1985)--British (I think it's also RP)
Out of Africa (1985)--Danish
Ironweed (1987)--Irish-American
A Cry in the Dark (1988)--New Zealand (with strong layers of Australian)
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)--Italian (Meryl calls it Iowatalian)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)--Northern Irish
Angels in America (2003)--Yiddish and Bronx (in separate roles)
Prime (2005)--Manhattan (specifically Upper West Side)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)--Midwestern
Doubt (2008)--Bronx
Julie & Julia (2009)--Boston Brahmin
The Iron Lady (2011)--British (again RP)
August: Osage County (2013)--Oklahoman
The Homesman (2014)--Central Plains Midwestern
Suffragette (2015)--British (Received Pronunciation)
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)--Mid-Atlantic

Monday, August 29, 2016

Let's Talk About..."It's Complicated"

Since the inaugural post for this section in March I've inadvertently left it dormant.  I watched It's Complicated very recently so thought it would be an appropriate next entry.  One of my favorite things about re-watching Streep films is that I catch these little things I missed in previous viewings.  Of course one does that with every movie, but particularly with Meryl there are so many layers and subtleties to her performances that it's next to impossible to notice everything on the first go around.

I think we tend to think of this picture as a rom-com and total lifestyle porn.  It probably is, but Streep's character of Jane Adler goes through some pretty complicated interesting emotional situations.  The modern family dynamic following divorce is explored from the point of view of an independent mother of three adult children.  Let's not forget that the film came out when Meryl was 60 years old, which makes the fact that it made $112 domestically pretty astonishing.  At the end of 2009 Streep had sort of cemented her 'later-bloomer' box office draw standing.  Following 2006's The Devil Wears Prada, 2008's Mamma Mia! and summer 2009's Julie & Julia, we'd enjoyed an unprecedented string of commercial successes for Streep which she has yet to match.  The four films mentioned averaged $119 million in the U.S.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Florence" at the box office

Florence Foster Jenkins is entering its second full week in cinemas. I thought it'd be a good time to take the pulse of the film's box office performance.  Up to this point, I'd say it's doing ok.  Knowing that its aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes was certified "fresh" at 86%, I had thought it might be a bit of a sleeper success this summer, as a niche option for adult movie-going compared to the typical tentpole superhero flicks.  Ultimately, however, the film has basically fared identically to the the less-than-stellar Ricki and the Flash a year ago.   At the same point in 2015, Ricki sat at $15.2m, while Florence has netted $15m.

I wonder if the overall quality of Florence might give it a bit better lasting potential, however.  I definitely have to agree with the critics that Florence is a better film, which possibly could result in word-of-mouth sustaining potential.  If that were the case though, I think we would've seen a bigger jump in its second weekend, where instead, it did the same numbers as Ricki.  If the trend continues, we should expect that Florence will top out around $26m domestically.  On an estimated $29m budget, that total would technically make Florence less financially successful than Ricki, which only cost around $18m.

It's not as if on paper Florence would be a huge draw.  A 1940's-era dramedy about a bad opera singer doesn't exactly scream blockbuster.  Getting an overall sense of whether the film has met expectations is therefore a bit tricky, but I'd wager the studio was hoping for better.  That said, it's by no means a flop, and I think those involved are likely pleased with the overall quality of the film.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The end of "Master Class"?

Thanks to an anonymous post, earlier today I was alerted to an article in "Out" where Meryl is apparently quoted in a press junket saying that she will not be pursuing Master Class, the HBO production of Terrence McNally's play about opera diva Maria Callas.  Mike Nichols was set to direct the film prior to his death in November 2014.  Production was to begin in early 2015.

What's interesting, however, is that I decided to search for any other news on this possible quote, and the only other recent blurb I found was this from the Boston Herald, where again Master Class is mentioned.  A direct question was posed to Meryl asking "where does that stand?"  Her quoted answer here is a bit less definitive.  She explains that after Nichols' death and the depth to which the two of them had gone into preparations for the production, she essentially lost interest in doing it without him.  But it seemed a bit ambiguous in regard to the possibility that she would be open to doing it if someone else were at the helm.

My take away from this information is that Master Class is not going to be made with Meryl Streep starring.  I don't think it's 100% dead, and being that it's such a compelling story and has gone through so many struggles to come to the screen, I hope it does eventually get made, even if it doesn't star Meryl.  However, I'm surrendering hope that Streep has any immediate involvement in the film.  Unfortunate.