Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not so fast

No sooner did I finish up my last post a few days ago did Meryl drop in rankings almost across the board among Oscarologists. I can only attribute this to the lack of major publicity about The Iron Lady recently. Yes, there was a blurb about a screening in Beijing, but not a lot of traction gained. Specifically, where Meryl was previously leading on all three sites, she is now third on rope of silicon, second on movieline and where a week ago she held 9:10 odds on gold derby, she is now even at 1:1. Viola Davis has been surging, helped along by a proven performance in a film that is well-received by critics and the general public. In addition, she gave a nice speech at the Elle Women in Hollywood event. Again, we'll see how things inevitably get shaken up as The Iron Lady nears its premiere. I'm not too worried. As Billy Bob Thorton says in Primary Colors, "The media giveth and...go fuck yourself."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The Iron Lady" to screen in.......Beijing?

Simply Streep is reporting that The Iron Lady will be given a special screening on November 19 in Beijing, China as part of a new U.S.-China Forum on Arts and Culture. Interesting choice, considering it's a film from French and British production companies about a Brit. I guess since Meryl is American it's ok (?). If we don't get a full trailer in the U.S. before then, at least we'll have a few opinions on the actual film, apart from the already scathing reviews from a couple of right-winged boobs. End of November will be so "game on" in regard to the awards season. Critics' circle awards will be right around the corner by that point and all the major best actress contenders' films will have been at least screened, so prediction pundits will be unable to err without ample justification. Bring. It.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oscar watch update

Meryl now leads the gold derby predictions at 9:10. Not too shabs. I feel like things are in a bit of a lull right now. We're coming up on November in one week and still no Iron Lady trailer. We know that when it comes out there will be a lot of new buzz around Meryl, regardless of whether it's good or bad. With the trailers for My Week with Marilyn and Albert Nobbs being released over the past couple weeks, Michelle Williams and Glenn Close have had their respective bumps. Viola Davis continues to be a strong presence as well (and is the frontrunner according to many), but her film has been out for a while and therefore lacks that springboard. To see the latest "expert"predictions, go to

Friday, October 21, 2011

Great Meryl article

So, I was doing my daily google news search of Meryl this morning (yes, daily) and I came across a great article by Eric Snider from In "What's the Big Deal?: Sophie's Choice," he answers the same questions I had years ago that ultimately led to my infatuation with Meryl's work. It's a great read and he's far more eloquent in discussing the importance of this great role than I was in my own film review, so enjoy. Speaking of eloquence (or lack thereof), I just got back from the gym after a ten hour day at work and my brain is a bit mushy so I'm going to just link the article and leave it at that. To see more from Eric, check out his website at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Accents Mastered

At home with Joe and his friends Erik and Nate watching the Brewers hanging on in the NLCS (Joe is a Wisonsinite) and I thought I'd follow through on one of my original post ideas for Word on the Streep. Meryl historically has an affinity for learning accents to embody her characters and I feel it appropriate to list those she has mastered. Some critics (Katharine Hepburn included) think Meryl relies too much on technique in her work, accents in several roles presumably being a manifestation of that. I like to quote Meryl when she has been asked about this: "I'm always baffled by this question... How could I play that part and talk like me?" For me, it's just another component of what makes up a very convincing performance. The following is a chronological list (hopefully complete) of the accents utilized by our favorite onscreen polyglot.

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)--British (specifically Received Pronunciation)
Sophie's Choice (1982)--Polish (in English and German)
Silkwood (1983)--rural Oklahoma
Plenty (1985)--British
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)--Irish
Angels in America (2003)--Yiddish and Bronx (in separate roles)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)--Midwestern
Doubt (2008)--Bronx
Julie & Julia (2009)--Boston Brahmin
The Iron Lady (2011)--British (again Received Pronunciation)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Due" my ass

I happened to be checking out's weekly Oscar prediction update this evening and decided I needed to post. Best actress is apparently the most hotly contested race and everyone is so damn fickle about his/her predictions. Meryl has always been a strong front runner and currently has her as 5:6 odds to win(?!). Glenn Close has been much talked about but now quieted. Viola Davis fans were trumpeting her inevitable win for weeks. Now that the trailer is out for Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn people are freaking out about her as if it's a done deal.

I happen to be one of those who thinks awarding an Oscar should be a little bit more about the performance and not all the other lame factors that voters think makes someone "due," which could include age, number of previous nominations, popularity of films, a snub. Meryl has been awarded two Oscars for her many roles. That's two more than the vast majority of actors, yet some think she's due because along with those two wins, she has fourteen losses, with her last victory coming for 1982's Sophie's Choice. I think some people think all those other nominations count enough as a consolation for Meryl. Somehow her body of work being almost perennially recognized by the Academy is adequate. Despite my love for Meryl, I hold her to the same standard as others when opining on whether or not I think she should win. Granted, she's so damn good that anything close to her best I feel could win, but not always. For example, I would've given the Oscar to Cate Blanchett in 1999 for Elizabeth and to Hilary Swank in 2000 for Boys Don't Cry, both over Meryl.

However, in her last two nomination years, I feel Meryl delivered superior performances to both Kate Winslet in The Reader and Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (duh). This, coupled with the fact that Meryl has gone almost thirty years of being consistently nominated and not winning, makes my mind start to wonder. Do I think she's "due?" I hate thinking that, but after reading on movieline regarding Streep's Gold Derby odds, "It’s not because it’s safe, it’s because, at least on paper (and especially after Julie & Julia got Blind Side-d), Streep is due." I forget how silly it was that Bullock was awarded over Meryl's performance as Julia Child. Fine, it's not Sophie, but enough already. Start comparing Meryl to the rest of the field again and not just to herself. If that were done she'd likely have five or six Oscars by now. But that's not how it works. Therefore, maybe she really is (ugh) "due." Perhaps voting members of the Academy won't want The Help or My Week with Marilyn to "blind side" Meryl this year. Then at least we could all shut up about the speculation for a while.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Film review: "The Bridges of Madison County" (1995)

I spent the entire weekend in a continuing education course entitled "Evaluation and Treatment of the Complex Shoulder" which was very good, but made it absolutely necessary to schedule the day off. I therefore made plans with my friend Scooter to hang out at his place today and just lie around grazing on junk food. As I've mentioned in previous posts, Scooter is also a Meryl fan and we therefore watched Silkwood and The Bridges of Madison County. In between those we watched African Cats but Meryl of course isn't in it (although I'm sure she could play a member of the genus panthera better than anyone if given the chance).

Bridges sort of brought Meryl out of a slow period in regard to the quality and recognition of her films. It was between 1990 and 1995 that she went the longest between Oscar nominations in her career. Director Clint Eastwood said when deciding on who should play the lead of Francesca that he only made one call. Meryl accepted, luckily for him, since he reportedly had no backups in mind. I'm sure he would've figured it out, but it's fun to know he wanted the best and therefore chose Meryl.

The film takes place in Iowa and Meryl plays Francesca Johnson, an Italian war bride living on a farm with her husband and two children. The story actually starts with her adult children going through her belongings after her death and all of the scenes that include Meryl are flashbacks to 1965. The children find out that their mother had an affair while they were at the Illinois state fair for four days with their father. Eastwood plays Robert Kinkaid, a National Geographic photographer who happens to be in town over those four days to shoot what else but the bridges of Madison county.

Francesca finds Robert and his job very exotic and attractive, and the two essentially start an affair while the rest of the family is gone. Meryl does a great job of portraying a very typical life of a wife and mother in rural Iowa in the 60's. Very mundane (at least to Francesca), repetitious, thankless. It's not the life she saw for herself when she decided to follow her husband from Italy. We can see the tempered excitement that Meryl is able to convey at how interested she is in this man who represents a life far more fulfilling to her and one in such contrast to her daily routine.

Scooter at one point mentioned that he forgets that he's watching Meryl. He said, "she's Francesca." Yes. Accent perfected of course, Meryl manages to get us in her corner when really she's doing something that most people wouldn't consider particularly noble. But we get it. She wants so badly to see more, to do more, to have a job, to get out of the house. Yet the prospect of leaving her family so abruptly is ultimately something she cannot do. Here is where we see Meryl doing some of her best stuff. I find myself wanting her to leave with Robert so badly and we can feel her internal conflict as she weighs her personal interests with her sense of duty to her family. The climax (at least for Meryl's acting in my opinion) is when she's in the truck with her husband near the end of the film and she has to watch Robert drive away in the rain. We can't tell if she's going to leave, if she'll just jump out of the truck and run after him . Her sadness is so believable and I love how convincing she is at showing that emotion with the struggle of trying not to let her husband see that she's upset. We've all been there, whether in a relationship or any number of other situations, and I think it would be a tough emotion to negotiate for an actor. Meryl of course masterfully delivers:

Amazing stuff. I do have to mention that I hate the performance of the guy who plays her adult son. I think he's just an awful actor and makes lame choices with his lines. Not sure what Eastwood was thinking with the casting. Maybe he was a nephew or something, but ew. The portions with Streep and Eastwood are by far the most interesting in the film, and if you can stand the substandard performance of the son, you'll love it. Meryl received her 10th Academy Award nomination for what I consider one of her top five screen performances.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meryl still in front

Not that it really means anything at this point, but Meryl remains at the top of the best actress prediction leader boards on, and Things will undoubtedly get mixed up a bit as additional films are screened in the coming weeks. In particular, My Week with Marilyn will be premiered soon. I watched the new trailer this morning and I'm actually really looking forward to it. I've always enjoyed Michelle Williams, and biopics particularly suit my fancy when looking at acting prowess. So far from the bits from the trailer, I'm optimistic. I get spoiled with how convincing Meryl is but I feel that helps me maintain an objective eye on other people's roles. Certainly acting is more than just mimicking, but if one is playing a known person, especially one as iconic as Marilyn Monroe, I want to believe I'm watching something close to Marilyn herself, and not an actor obviously pretending. Meryl will have the same task in The Iron Lady of course, but even from the teaser trailer, she seems up to it. STILL waiting for the full trailer...

On a side note, Olivia Colman, who plays Carol Thatcher (Maggie's daughter) in The Iron Lady recently made some comments about what it was like to work with Meryl. You can find the blurbs here: My favorite quote is that because of all the prosthetics, she was momentarily able to forget that Meryl was "stratospherically wonderful." Double the hyperbole, please.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Academy Awards analysis (1981)

Before I begin, can I just express my bewilderment as to why The Iron Lady full trailer isn't out yet? Either it's a shitty movie and they want to prolong the buzz they got from the teaser, or because the film is good enough they think they can wait it out. Either way, get on it!

Anyway, 1981 saw Meryl in her first film for which she was nominated as actress in a leading role. The French Lieutenant's Woman also ushered in a slew of performances that reputed Meryl as a great master of accents. In this film, interestingly enough, it was British.

This was Meryl's third Oscar nomination in four years, having won two years prior for Kramer vs Kramer in a supporting role, essentially assuring what one would think would be an also-ran status, based on conventional wisdom. On the contrary, Meryl was actually one of the favorites for the award that night, along with Diane Keaton for Reds. Sidebar--as listed in my Oscar book, Reds was nominated for a shit ton of awards and I haven't seen it. Perhaps something I shall have to remedy. Regardless, it's interesting to see that the Academy was still taken with Meryl at that point. I guess it makes sense. When someone is young and impressive but he/she hasn't been in many leading roles, we get excited when those actors appear to be up to the challenge.

Instead, Katharine Hepburn received her record fourth Academy Award (also record 12th nomination--which Meryl broke in 2003), all for actress in a leading role. The complete list of nominees for the March 1982 ceremony was as follows:

Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond)
Diane Keaton (Reds)
Marsha Mason (Only When I Laugh)
Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City)
Meryl Streep (The French Lieutenant's Woman)

Ugh, I could only find one clip on the web for the award ceremony and the embed was disabled so forgive me and use the link below to see.

Diane Keaton, that hair Hepburn of course wasn't in attendance, apparently busy in a play on Broadway. I had originally thought she never attended because she had considered the awards ceremony vulgar, that there shouldn't be winners, it's art, blah blah blah. But the only quotes I can find are reasons to the effect of "...I'm afraid I'm not going to win." Kate has also been quoted as saying Streep is her least favorite actress because she's too cerebral and relies too much on technique. Meryl in fact considers herself the opposite of a technical actress. I used to get peeved when I would think about Hepburn's comment, but I actually really enjoy her. She was a tremendous actress, a legend and a progressive, so I won't say anything disparaging about her or her tremors, or her extramarital relationships, or her haughty east coast accent, or the fact that she always (self-admittedly) played herself in films. I'm too classy for that. Either way, I'm just glad Meryl is able pull one over on me time and time again.