Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Film review: "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006)

Ok, I have to qualify the fact that Sophie's Choice is my favorite Meryl movie. The overall performance is amazing enough, for me, to make it my favorite. That said, Meryl's turn as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is probably the role I've technically watched the most. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger, recounting her days as a peon assistant to the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, Anna Wintour. The magazine's name is changed to "Runway" for the film, and we follow poor, hapless (and icky-clothed) Andrea Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, as she attempts to keep her head above water in this skinny bitch-eat-skinny bitch world of high fashion. Btw, Miranda refers to Andy as the "smart, fat girl." She's a size 6.

I absolutely love this film for several reasons. First and foremost, it's extremely quotable. Rare is the day that my bf and/or roomie don't roll our eyes at each other and say, "by all means, move at a glacial pace, you know how that thrills me." As always, Meryl's performance is impeccable. I have to say, it's a role unlike any other she's ever played. Now, of course she's known for choosing very diverse roles, blah blah blah, but in this film we're sans accent, and Meryl's character is a very modern, ball-busting executive. And, the clothes she got to wear?! Don't even get me started. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech she described wardrobe as special effects for this film. I would add that it was almost like a beautiful, uncredited character. I'm such a homo. Check out this clip that includes a fun insight into the business:

It's interesting in this movie how Meryl chooses to make herself seem so inaccessible and in control. My favorite thing is that she never raises her voice, almost speaking extra softly. We tend to think of high-powered execs as loud and in your face. Instead, Meryl's choice for Miranda forces people to shut the hell up when she's talking or you won't be able to hear her. I've had elementary school teachers who've employed this trick with success.

Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci play fantastic supporting roles in the film, particularly Blunt in my opinion. She delivers some great one-liners like "oh I'm sorry do you have some prior commitment? Some hideous skirt convention you have to go to?" Cracks my shit up. It's overall a comedy/dramedy I guess, but there really are some great acting moments. Meryl manages to get us afraid of her, only to turn right around and somehow make us feel sorry for her when she reveals her husband's divorce wishes. Not many people can negotiate those tricky nuances so convincingly. Oh who am I kidding, no one comes close.

Meryl received her 14th Academy Award nomination for the role (breaking her own record). Duh.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pearls of Wisdom-- Meryl's 2010 Barnard College commencement speech

This weekend I took a road trip up to International Falls with my friend Carolyn to visit our friend Kimmy. Mind you this was a five hour drive to the border of Canada on a Friday night, and it is by no means scenic (considering most of the drive was in the dark). Carolyn wanted to close her eyes for a bit while I drove, so before she would no longer be available to flip through songs for me, I asked if she'd open up the youtube clip of Meryl's commencement speech at Barnard College last year on my phone so I could listen to it. After assuring me that I was completely weird, she obliged by cuing up the video.

I've watched this video a few times, and I heart it for the insights and humor Meryl provides in it. As many of you know, she attended Vassar (a women's school at the time) for her undergraduate studies. In this speech, she eloquently delivers her perspectives on how the world has positively changed for women, and the so-called "adaptation of men." Love it. She accomplishes this through a self-deprecating look back at how her abilities as a convincing actor were established and honed. I loved this segment (where she describes herself in high school). Meryl's recollection is so introspective and intelligent, articulating how she transitioned into a young woman who didn't defer to men. Before I add anything else, it's probably best you just watch the speech:

She's such a great speaker. In particular toward the end, I enjoy how she passes along suggestions about keeping alert, studying the world with empathy, and staying involved in the lives of family members. Overall a very (per Joe) humanist speech, and it makes sense to me. I'll end with my favorite quote: "No matter what you see/hear me saying when I'm on your tv holding a statuette and spewing...that's acting. Being a celebrity has taught me to hide. Being an actor has opened my soul."

Ok, reading this back it seems a bit serious and corny but whatev. Meryl's a smarty.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"August: Osage County"--please happen!

It's been close to a year since there were about 500 articles announcing that Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were in talks to star in a film adaptation of Tracy Letts's play August: Osage County. Aside from a few blurbs I could find here and there (particularly on, there hasn't been much news about it. I was fortunate enough to see this play in the spring of 2010 when it came to St. Paul, and it was fantastic. Yes, it was long, but it was a compelling familial drama with some challenging acting roles. Who better to tackle this than our girl Meryl?!

Streep would be playing the pill-popping family matriarch Violet Weston, with Julia Roberts as her eldest daughter. In my very first blog post, I used Julia as an example of an actress who is typically less than convincing to me in many roles. This is not to say I'm not entertained by several of her films, but I'm of course anticipating Meryl's performance more.

In the stage production I saw, Violet was played by Estelle Parsons. I grew up watching her as Roseanne's mom, Beverly (interestinlgy the name of Violet's husband in 'August') on the sitcom Roseanne. I was very impressed by Parsons in the production I saw, and to be honest, I think it might be difficult for me to see someone else in this role. Is it possible Meryl won't do it justice? I can't believe that thought even came into my head (just paused to slap myself). If the film does eventually come to fruition, I'm sure Streep will shine.

In unrelated news, the Minnesota Twins need to figure. it. out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thatcher clan pissed after "Iron Lady" screening

Big shocker that friends and relatives of Margaret Thatcher are sour about how she's depicted in The Iron Lady. Of course I haven't seen the film yet, but what the hell did they expect? I mean no disrespect to Lady Thatcher as a person or to her "service" in the U.K., but get serious Thatcherites. There exist people on this earth who don't exactly consider her or her politics the bee's knees. For crying out loud she and Ronald Reagan were basically separated at birth. I'm not suggesting everything she stood for was completely awful, and I'm not her personal historian, but as a thinking human being I am able to comprehend that the sun doesn't rise and set in capitalism's figurative pants.

As for Meryl, from what I gather she seems to be a relatively liberal, progressive, feminist woman. I certainly don't presume to know all of her personal viewpoints, but she's an intelligent person and no doubt recognizes and appreciates the impact certain people may have made on history. When the film began shooting, Meryl was quoted as saying, "I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervor and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own!" Not exactly a slap in Maggie's face.

With all the attention this is getting and the controversy surrounding the comments being made by those close to Thatcher, all I can think is that it's going to translate into box office success. As far as I'm concerned, the more people that see a Meryl movie the better. Historically Meryl hasn't always been a huge box office draw, but in the last five years I think she's been hovering around the top five grossing actresses with hits like The Devil Wears Prada, Mama Mia!, Doubt and Julie and Julia. It looks like The Iron Lady may just keep the ball rollin'. So to those who were "insulted" by what they considered the filmmakers taking too much license in this (fictional) movie regarding Thatcher's personal life: boo fucking hoo.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Great Hope Springs" begins filming

Evidently Meryl's next project, Great Hope Springs, begins filming today in Connecticut. The film stars Meryl and Tommy Lee Jones as a married couple who seek counseling from a relationship guru played by Steve Carell. I'm guessing a release date in early 2012 will be in store. With this film following the biopic The Iron Lady, it reminds me of two years ago when Meryl followed up Julie & Julia with It's Complicated. I have to admit, I thought It's Complicated would be sort of hokey and too much slapstick. I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully I'll be similarly amused by Great Hope Springs, considering I tend to find most film comedies annoying. Meryl actually does pretty well with comedies, so I'm looking forward to it. More to follow...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My first film review: "Sophie's Choice" (1982)

To be honest, I was a little worried that I might be blowing my wad a bit early by choosing this film for my first review. But what better way to inaugurate this blog section than with the performance that many (myself included) consider to be one of the greatest roles ever brought to the screen? Let's get all the accolades out of the way. Awards Meryl garnered for this role included, but are not limited to, those from the National Society of Film Critics, the L.A. Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Golden Globes, and of course, the Academy Award for actress in a leading role in 1983. Chill out if you think I made a mistake by listing it as 1983 when in the post title it says "1982." We all know Oscars are awarded in the calendar year after they are released to theaters. Director Alan J. Pakula stated that it was the closest he had ever seen someone come to genius in acting. I absolutely love hearing shit like that about her. Hokay, on to the meat and potatoes.

So, what is the big deal about this performance? To start, it's an ostensibly challenging role to pull off. Meryl plays Sophie Zawistoska, a Polish concentration camp survivor during World War II who becomes a refugee in Brooklyn, NY. The film deals with Sophie's life in Brooklyn, where she lives with her schizophrenic boyfriend, Nathan, played by Kevin Kline in his film debut. They befriend a southern writer, Stingo (from whose point of view the story is told), played by Peter MacNicol, and spend a summer together.

As an American, Meryl had to learn to speak with a Polish accent, speak a lot of German and Polish, and even managed to figure out German with a Polish accent. I hope the Germans/Poles who have seen this film appreciate this last bit of mastery because, let's keep it real, nobody can tell Learning lines, and of course grappling with the difficult subject matter of the atrocities of the war are all rather perfunctory aspects of Meryl's approach. She has on more than one occasion made clear that these outward aspects of language and lines make up a very small portion of what goes into her roles (although it helps, duh).

Stingo (not a typo btw) totally has the hots for Sophie and tries to be a shoulder for her to cry on while she manages the ups and downs of Nathan's goofy behavior. About a third of the way through the film is where we first see Sophie and Stingo alone together. Stingo comes home from a failed date with hickeys all over his neck (a scene which includes my favorite line from the film, "fucking fantastic fucking"). Sophie starts to reveal some of the crap from her past in Poland, including her family and the war. Hands down, one of the most perfectly delivered scenes I've ever seen. Not relying simply on words, Meryl uses expressions, strategic pauses, and inflections, managing to convince me momentarily that this is the true history of the woman I'm seeing onscreen. See for yourself:

My personal favorite portion of the film is during the flashback to Poland and Auschwitz. Undoubtedly because Meryl is impressive with the languages, but more interestingly, it's where I notice a paradox in her character. While in Brooklyn, Sophie typically acts very bubbly, fun, playful, a bit ditzy, and she and Nathan get it on like rabbits. In the flashback scenes, which of course take place prior to her arrival in Brooklyn, we see a more reserved, careful person. Certainly it's in part because she's probably scared shitless of the Nazis, but I feel it's also Meryl being cognizant and sensitive about the fact that the Sophie prior to the Holocaust was a very likeable, comforting, maternal figure; someone we as audience members wouldn't dream of harming.

This contrast makes the horror of her "choice" scene that much more dramatic. Meryl in interviews has stated that she only read that scene once and couldn't stand reading it again. For those of you who haven't seen it, one, do so the instant you finish reading this, and two, I'm playing spoiler. Sophie is forced to decide which of her children she gets to keep. The other will be taken away and likely killed. She refuses, but at the risk of having them both taken away, she ultimately hands over her daughter. A great piece of cinematography/sound editing is used during this scene. While the little girl is being taken away screaming, we see Meryl with her mouth open and it sort of seems like it's her screaming and not her daughter. Meryl has said in an interview that she really thought she was screaming and that nothing came out. Not sure I believe that, but like Sydney Pollack once said, "I love Meryl Streep so much that I would never contradict anything she said."

Pretty heavy stuff in Sophie's Choice. It ends with Sophie and Nathan committing suicide by ingesting cyanide. Totally makes you want to Netflix it like right now doesn't it? Seriously though, if one is able to look past the unsettling nature of the subject matter, it's a powerhouse performance, a thinker, a tear-jerker (Entertainment Weekly listed it as the second best tear-jerker in history right behind Terms of Endearment), and overall a film absolutely worth seeing. Without question Meryl deserved every honor she received for this performance, and I feel it set the precedent by which all performances should be judged. Well done, Meryl. After seeing it, I think I rented nine Meryl movies and watched them all in two days. Shut up.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Official website

Word on the Streep is now officially it's own website: For the zero of you who have this blog in your bookmarks, update it. Of course, you can continue to use, but the former is faster (and way easier to remember). Yay Meryl!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ooooo! Fun new stuff on Word on the Streep!

Things are coming together people. As you can see, there are a few new things on the blog. Probably most noticeably, there is a countdown to Meryl's newest film release in the upper right corner of the home page. Just below that, I've added some helpful links that I encourage people to utilize for all things Meryl. My personal favorite is They already have deatailed 2012 Oscar predictions. Obsess much? Oh wait.

As I mentioned in my original post for this blog, I'll be adding some sections that will begin showing at the top of my page soon. My first attempt (I say that because I'm such a boob at computer stuff sometimes and Joe has to hold my hand. By the way, thanks babe for all your help today) will be at adding a "Tell Me Your Favorite Meryl Movie" tab. If you see it when you read this post, it worked! Mine should be the first added. Oh, and add yours as well in the comments section.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"The Iron Lady" teaser

So, I just got home from an annual volleyball tournament and I'm surly because we did not do well. Not embarrassing by any means but disappointing. Posting my first real info on Meryl is therefore least that's what I'm telling myself.

I'm sure most people know that Meryl has not had a film come out in almost two years. This lacuna, although distressing, makes the upcoming release of The Iron Lady that much more appealing. It's set to debut in U.S theaters on December 16, coincidentally my friend Scooter's birthday, who's also a big Meryl fan. One can guess what I'll be making him do on his birthday.

The film is a sort of biopic of former U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher. I guess my overall impression of Maggie tends to be that of a nutty, right-wing, union-busting harpy. Nonetheless, a formidable woman. Totally up Meryl's alley. Of course Meryl dons Lady Thatcher's distinct British accent (and gross teeth unfortunately). Historically, Streep is known for her ability at perfecting such accents. I think I'll probably add a link on the blog eventually of all the accents she's done on film. Enter Joe.

Meryl gets a bit of flack for this sometimes, being criticized that she's just a cerebral technical actress. Mimicking diphthongs like some parrot I suppose. She's been quoted as thinking of herself as the opposite: "I'm always baffled by this question (why do you work on accents?)... How could I play that part and talk like me?" Take that you stupid reporter.

On July 7 of this year the international teaser trailer for The Iron Lady was released and Meryl fans went apeshit, myself included of course. It was cleverly delivered with Meryl as the money shot at the the very end. I'm a bit surprised the full trailer hasn't been released yet, but soon enough I should think. Watch it below in case you've only seen it three or four times.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Genesis of a Meryl Streep blog

On the recommendation of my boyfriend, I have decided not to limit my endless talk about Meryl Streep to friends and family alone. A blog, incidentally, was the answer. So thank you, Joe, for setting this up for me. I doubt his intentions are completely altruistic, as having an outlet for my thoughts about the work of this great actor should hopefully spare his ear on occasion. Unfortunately for him it'll probably increase the frequency with which he hears about/watches all things related to Meryl. What a trooper.

So why the weird/lame (fill in the blank) obsession with Mary Louise Streep? My interest started in 2003 during winter break of my first year of grad school. Had some extra time on my hands, and as an avid film watcher/film award follower, I wanted to understand what the big deal was about Meryl. "Greatest living actress." "Best of all time." "Most Oscar-nominated woman ever." Up to that point my exposure to Meryl was limited to Death Becomes Her and a failed attempt a few years earlier at sitting through a slow-moving Out of Africa. So, I rented the film for which she won her only lead actress Academy Award: Sophie's Choice. Here I saw an American actress from a middle class upbringing in New Jersey convince me that she was a Polish concentration camp survivor. She spoke Polish, English with a Polish accent, and German with a Polish accent. What struck me was that she did indeed convince me. She suspended my disbelief of her as this person, as she subsequently does so with each varied role.

I understand the challenge of accomplishing such a feat. Although I enjoy several films by Julia Roberts, for example, I always know I'm watching Julia Roberts. For me, Meryl Streep has no match. Some come close: Robert De Niro, Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson. However, looking back over the body of work Meryl has built, with all its variance, complexity and difficulty, I believe it's the best an actor can do.

Of course I need some order to this blog, and as a newbie I'm not certain how I'll manage my posts, but here are a few ideas of what I expect to tackle: film reviews (duh), Oscar watch, discussion about her colleagues' views on her (including directors, actors, writers), director's commentary reviews and what she has in store for upcoming projects. I will attempt and at times likely fail at not making this all seem like another weird star-fucker rant. Bear with me and I hope you enjoy reading.