Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Snubs #2: "Marvin's Room"

Jeeze, it's been since the inaugural post of this section on May 21st that I've covered a "Snub."  For my second entry, I've chosen 1996's drama Marvin's Room.  Meryl stars alongside Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio in Scott McPherson's adaptation of the play by the same name.   Incidentally, this was Meryl's second of what is now five films that were adapted from a play (Plenty, Marvin's Room, Dancing at Lughnasa, Doubt and August: Osage County).

This film is a good case of the what I consider the Academy spreading the wealth in Best Actress.  Meryl had been nominated the year before for The Bridges of Madison County.  For Marvin's Room she earned a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress-Drama and as part of the cast for SAG.  Her co-star Diane Keaton was nominated for the Globe, SAG and Oscar, winning none.  In the film Meryl plays Lee, sister to Bessie (Keaton).  The two sisters have not seen each other in 20 years, as Lee left the Floridian family to move to Ohio with her husband.  Bessie, who now has leukemia, stayed behind to care for their ailing father.  Lee pays a visit to have her and her sons' blood tested as a possible life-saving marrow match for Lee.

What I really like about Meryl's performance in this film is that, with the exception of her sort of campy performances as Mary Fisher (She-Devil) and Madeline Ashton (Death Becomes Her), this is the first role where we really get to see Meryl play a serious character who isn't particularly likable. Some may insert Lindy Chamberlain here, but I disagree.  People didn't like Lindy's public persona.  But in A Cry in the Dark, we get an intimate look and Lindy the woman, and I found her nothing but likeable and someone with whom to empathize.   Lee conversely reminds me of a cranky, middle-aged,  small-town neighborhood mom.  I know the type well.  In short, Lee's an incredibly selfish person who doesn't treat her family very well.  Yet, Meryl (again) convinces me.  Despite me having seen her in countless "nice" roles, I forget it's anyone other than mean Lee.

Of course when there's a story that basically involves two lead women, it's a tough sell to push both for awards.  Bessie is the meatier of the two roles.  She's the super sweet caregiver who stayed to care for an ill family member, and on top of that, she gets diagnosed with cancer.  A bit heavier and a bigger vote-getting role.  The film was distributed by Miramax, and in the mid 90's I wasn't really paying attention to things as closely as I do today, so I'm not sure what the campaigning was like then.  My guess is that the Weinsteins saw Keaton's role as the better vehicle for awards that year.

The Oscar nominees were as follows:

Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies)
Diane Keaton (Marvin's Room)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient)
Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)

Frances McDormand took the award for her portrayal as a Minnesota homicide detective in the Coen brothers' quirky noir piece.  Don't hate, but I've never seen the film.  I know, I know.  This is particularly strange considering I was born and raised in the North Star State.  I can remember seeing previews for the film when I was 16 and asking my dad why the characters were talking the way they were.  Evidently my Midwestern accent wasn't that strong because their speech seemed completely foreign to me.  Neither have I seen Secrets and Lies nor Breaking the Waves.  I'm definitely going to make a point of watching Fargo, and with what I've read about Secrets and Lies, I may have to give that one a look as well.  The English Patient was super boring the first time I saw it, but that was a huge film that year, again produced by Miramax.  Blethyn did win the Globe for Lies, but McDormand won the SAG, so I suppose she would've been the frontrunner. Although if Madonna won the Globe over McDormand for Evita, who knows?

Bottom line: Keaton deserved her nomination, and again, pulling a Thelma & Louise with a double lead nomination is a pretty tall task; it's much more common in supporting.  Considering Emily Watson wasn't nominated for the SAG, I say she would've been the odd woman out had Meryl snuck in the top five for Oscar. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Screenplay thoughts from "August: Osage County" writer Tracy Letts

Happy Thanksgiving.  I have many things for which to be thankful this year:  family, friends, health, home, Meryl.  In no particular order.  I'm very excited to indulge in the great American pastime of overeating in about two hours...for about two hours.

Yesterday I came across an article from the Los Angeles Times which has a few quotes from playwright Tracy Letts regarding his own upcoming film adaptation of the play August: Osage County.  Have I mentioned this movie before?  As we know, filming wrapped last week.  I'll let you guys read the article, but I was pleased to read Letts reporting that he attempted to remain very faithful to the original play saying, "it's very recognizably the same piece."  Of course he's taken some things out (like scenes with Sheriff Deon Gibeau) and perhaps rephrased a few lines that might sound a little too theatrical onscreen, but I think he's likely kept the juiciest stuff that has made the story so memorable. 

Letts's two previous plays for which he adapted a screenplay, Bug and Killer Joe, were not exactly blockbusters.  Neither of those plays were as wildly successful commercially or critically as was August: Osage County, however.   And with the star-studded cast they lined up for its film adaptation, I'm optimistic that there's a better chance of it doing well.   I don't need it to make $200 million at the box office.  I just want it to win Meryl her fourth Oscar.   

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"August: Osage County"--that's a wrap

Filming has evidently been completed on the set of Meryl's latest film project, August: Osage County.  This means that all of the footage for which Meryl will hopefully receive her fourth Academy Award has already been shot and recorded.   It reminds me of a thought I had about a month ago watching Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.  It was interesting to think that most of the footage Hepburn shot for that film likely took place before she had won her second Oscar for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in April 1968.   The Lion in Winter was of course released later in 1968, for which Hepburn won her second consecutive, and overall third Academy Award for Best Actress.  Fingers crossed that Meryl has similar luck in early 2014, sans tying with another actress.

The shoot was only about eight weeks long, but I suppose this was adequate, considering we know that the majority of the story takes place inside a single house.  I've been snooping around the internet for any tidbit of info I can find regarding shooting, promotional stills or quotes from cast and crew.  Lately the finds have been pretty sparse, but this week I was able to find a few photos from the wrap party for the film earlier this week.  Here's one of Meryl enjoying a glass of wine.  I also prefer the white.  Atta girl, Meryl.  

We can hopefully look forward to a few more formal production stills in the next few months.  Certainly the main film buzz these days centers around the current season's Oscar prognosticating, which is no doubt in full swing.  Come Monday, February 25 however, attention will begin to shift toward films of 2013.  It'll still be fun this season to look forward to a Golden Globe nomination for Meryl in Hope Springs, but I think her chances of an 18th Oscar nom for Springs are pretty bleak at this point.  Although she'll hopefully present Best Actor at the ceremony, quite possibly to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (which I'm seeing tomorrow btw).  That would be a fun sight, seeing Meryl and her male acting equivalent sharing the stage at the Academy Awards.  Even more fun would be if he handed the trophy right back to her for August: Osage County a year later.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Meryl up for Indie Film award

Ugh.  This is like week-old news but I figured I'd eventually have to comment on it.  I haven't bothered up to this point because it's small ball and pertains to a film that was released almost a year ago.  According to The Telegraph, both Meryl and Judi Dench have been nominated for Best Actress for the British Independent Film awards.   Dench is nominated for this year's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, while Meryl is being recognized for her work in The Iron Lady, which was released in the U.K. in early January.  Considering Meryl has already won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for her role in this film, I'm not getting particularly excited about the prospect of her winning this award some nine months later.  However, it's nice to see Meryl recognized, and it's been five days since I've blogged so this fills the void.  The nominees for Best Actress are as follows:

Alice Lowe (Sightseers)
Andrea Riseborough (Shadow Dancer)
Elle Fanning (Ginger and Rosa)
Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Merigold Hotel)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

I really don't know what to expect or predict with this lineup.  I want to say Meryl will run away with this but I know very  little about the history of these awards and how they tend to go. We'll just have to wait until December 9th when the recipients are announced.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"August: Osage County" promo flyer pics

Before I discuss this info I just have to say yay America and yay Minnesota!  Great choices on president and Minnesota ballot initiatives.  Ok.  Thanks to Regina over at FYC Meryl Streep, we get a small glimpse of Meryl as "Violet" in a new promotional flyer for August: Osage County.   It's a rather small pic (of a pic) but it also shows head shots of Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson and Ewan McGregor.  I agree and have mentioned before that Meryl's wig reminds me of her look in Silkwood, which also takes place in Oklahoma.  In my last post I was wondering when we could expect some official photos from the film.  Regina seems to think we can expect them rather soon, as we know filming will be wrapping up by the end of the month.  Here's hopin'. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

"August: Osage County" production design

I came across an article in which David Gropman, the production designer for August: Osage County, is interviewed about his work on the upcoming film.  I'll let you have a read, but it was fun to learn that this is the same man who worked on Marvin's Room and Doubt.   He's also billed as the designer for Life of Pi, which I have yet to see, but looks incredibly visually striking.  Thanks to my obsession with Meryl and her participation in August, I'm learning a bit more about what an enormous undertaking making a film actually is.  This film doesn't have super high production costs, but it's basically mostly shot in a single house with no major special effects or lavish scenes.  After reading this piece however, I realize that there is so much detail that we often take for granted in creating a believable visual setting for a story.  I also learned that the film takes place in 1998, which is a bit earlier than I had previously thought, but that matters little.

Filming is set to wrap up around Thanksgiving, so hopefully in the next couple of months we may get a screen capture or two of miss Meryl in her role.  I don't really know what a typical timeline is for releasing production stills, but I recall our first glimpse of Meryl as Margaret Thatcher in February 2011, and that film was released ten months later.  If we're expecting a late 2013 release for August: Osage County, maybe January/February is realistic for some new pics.

Don't forget to vote!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Oscar chances update

As Barack Obama's statistical chances of a repeat win for the presidency continue to improve this week, Meryl's chances at repeat Oscar gold have drastically decreased.  Let's get something straight, however: no one, myself included, has been under any illusions that Meryl might actually win a fourth Oscar for Hope Springs. But for a brief period this fall, it looked like she stood a reasonable chance at an 18th nomination.  Gold Derby currently has her dropped to #11 on the Best Actress poll. With Jennifer Lawrence surging since Toronto for Silver Linings Playbook and both Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) recently added to the mix, Meryl has been left by the wayside.  I mean seriously, they now even have her behind Laura Linney, whose film Hyde Park on Hudson got shitty reviews, and Helen Hunt, who's being campaigned in supporting for Christ's sake. 

I think Meryl is still basically a lock for a Golden Globe nod, but I'm finding that the Best Actress Academy Award race is looking more like I thought it would earlier this year, despite the glimmer of hope over an early autumn fortnight.  Possibly not that dissimilar to what many Republicans are thinking to themselves right about now...