Monday, December 30, 2013

Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks"/Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #9

Yes, this is a dual-purposed post that will cover both my opinions on Emma Thompson's performance in Saving Mr. Banks and the prospect that Meryl could've portrayed P.L. Travers in place of Thompson.   Last night I saw the film and rather enjoyed it.  I'm a big fan of several Disney movies, and although I think Mary Poppins is 60% shitty, I am in love with Dame Julie Andrews.  A film therefore about the behind the scenes process of getting it from book to screen was sort of a no-brainer when it comes to pleasing this blogger.

Like American Hustle, I thought the film was good. I don't think any part of it was particularly fantastic, and I thought the flashback scenes were by far the weakest part of the film.  They were no doubt necessary but probably too much.  Emma Thompson (whom I absolutely adore) does a fine job.  Is there anything particularly challenging about this role though?  I'm not least how Thompson played it.  It became too one-dimensional, as the woman just seemed chronically unhappy.  We are shown why with the flashbacks, but I was hoping to see her humanized a tad more in the portrayal so that I actually cared about her.  Thompson showed us some of that when the character realizes that she has to make a few concessions with her demands, I just wanted more.

Current rankings for the year as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
6. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
7. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

These critiques on Thompson are getting pretty picky, as I thought it was a nice performance.  I imagine though that the dimension I was looking for and the extent to which she let go of her stranglehold on production of Poppins, would've been provided by Meryl.  Technically Meryl would've been a better age for the film as well, as Travers would've bee in her 60's when all this was going on.  I usually don't compare what I feel Meryl would've done in someone else's role during Oscar season, but we know there are several sources that reported early last year the rumor of her possible collaboration with Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks.  When news arrived of this possibility in February 2012, I posted about it and suggested that it would be fun to see Meryl join with Hanks, as the two had never worked together in a film.  I also thought Meryl would get to try her hand at an Australian accent again, but I've since learned that although Travers spent part of her childhood in Australia, she lived in England most of her life and sounded quite British.

It became clear however as the months progressed that Meryl was not going to be involved with this picture, as filming was to begin in fall 2012, the same time as August: Osage County.  I had no qualms about it at the time because I was sure August would be the far superior project.  This is not to suggest that Meryl made the wrong choice, rather to say the popularity and expectation of Saving Mr. Banks doing well has surprised me.  As the original script was blacklisted, it had been around for some time.  Had things got going say six months earlier, they could've perhaps began filming in California (as almost all shooting was done around L.A.) in early spring 2012.  Meryl was around the area a lot anyway for all the awards shows after the storm of Iron Lady nominations.  I can't imagine why, if filming were wrapped by May 2012, the film couldn't have been ready for limited release by December of last year.  That would've been nice spacing between Banks and Hope Springs (released in August), and would've provided Meryl another vehicle for awards recognition.  I wager we would've seen her double nommed at the Globes and in better contention for Oscar.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Amy Adams in "American Hustle"

Last night my friend Scooter and I got together for a night of distraction and decided to start our evening with a viewing of American Hustle.  Amy Adams is in contention for Best Actress consideration at the Oscars for her role as con artist Sydney Prosser.  Overall, I thought the film was good.  Scooter and I both gave it a B.  It was entertaining, occasionally funny, nice to look at.  Of course the script and directing are top notch but the most notable aspect is the performance by its ensemble cast.  Christian Bale, Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner all deliver fantastic and memorable performances.

Adams in my opinion is absolutely in the accurate category of Lead Actress.  She and Bale are in it from start to finish, the events surround their relationship and work, and the two narrate the story.  That being said, I don't think the character and portrayal of Sydney is the type that would tend to receive first place votes among Oscar voters.   Part of the issue is that although I think Adams is being campaigned in the correct category, the work of the main four cast members is such a collaboration that it's difficult to stand out, with the exception of Jennifer Lawrence's role, which is loud, flashy and the smallest of the four.

Adams does excellent work in this film and I feel it's lazy to say this, but her British accent left a bit to be desired.  This could've been a more impressive performance considering half of her role is basically a character within a character.  But the difficulty I had discerning if she was donning her accent at times was distracting and the distinction between Sydney and her con alter ego Lady Edith didn't display enough contrast and was therefore less compelling to me.   Had that been in place in addition to Adams's couple of dramatic scenes early in the picture I feel her chances at individual recognition could've been considerably strengthened.

I watched Saving Mr. Banks tonight and hope to do a special combination post of Emma Thompson's performance and Shoulda Coulda Woulda sometime tomorrow.  Up to this point, I'd rank the Best Actress performances in contention as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
6. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Streep in new Entertainment Tonight video

I saw an article with this video today and thought it was a cute little tribute to Meryl which included some snippets I had never seen.  Good plug for August: Osage County as well. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Streep receives Best Actress award from Nevada Film Critics Society

Okay, this is barely third tier for critics groups go, but it's great to see Meryl grab the first prize!  She's been nominated by most groups but hasn't broken through up to this point so it's nice to see her recognized, however non-prestigious the awards body may be.  Meryl also appeared on The View today to promote August: Osage County:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Streep to receive Icon Award

Deadline is reporting that Meryl will be the recipient of the Icon Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival.  The award "honors a creative talent who, through the course of his or her career, has created a body of work which symbolizes the highest level of achievement in the motion picture art form."  No brainer I guess.  The ceremony will be held on January 3rd.  Congrats, Meryl! 

And in case anyone was wondering what the hell is going on the the August: Osage County release date, the plan is that it will now open in New York and L.A. on December 27 and go wide January 10.  Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood nicely explains the reasoning here.  I hope Harvey knows what the hell he's doing. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adèle Exarchopoulos in "Blue is the Warmest Color"

Oral fixation much?  That's what I couldn't help thinking about writer, producer, director Abdellatif Kechiche when watching much of this film.  There is so much focus on mouths!  Eating, smoking, kissing, sucking, fucking, more eating, more smoking, snot running down mouths.  Jeeze.  So after taking a cold shower I was able to more fully process this three hour French film and the fantastic performance given by its dazzling lead, Adèle Exarchopoulos.  

The story follows Adèle as she finds herself attracted to a stranger she bumps into on the street, Emma (played by Léa Seydoux).  The two end up officially meeting and developing a several year relationship that ends with Emma kicking out Adèle, who confesses to cheating on Emma out of jealousy/loneliness.  

Clearly Exarchopoulos is a young actress; for crying out loud she was 18 when filming took place.  Notwithstanding the obvious fact of how challenging her youth may have made the lengthy lesbian sex scenes, she adeptly conveyed a troubled young adult struggling with a very confusing and challenging life situation.   The story itself isn't particularly fresh.  Young love, confused sexuality, jealousy, insecurity.  But this is done in such a raw and honest way.  I commend Exarchopoulous on her ability to negotiate the emotions that would accompany all these events.  From the mixed feelings she has about a boy who shows interest, the exciting yet confusing attraction she has to Emma, to having to deny to friends that she's seeing a woman and putting on a good face at work for kids when all she wants to do is bawl her eyes out for having screwed things up with Emma.  

I suppose it's difficult to know how much of a performance comes from a director.  With youngsters I imagine it's more of an influence.  Add that to reports that director Kechiche was very demanding and even overbearing at times, and I wonder even more how much of Exarchopoulos's choices were her own.  I guess I don't really care, as the performance was wonderful to watch.  Her chances for Academy Award recognition seems slim to me, however.  She's already been passed over by the Screen Actors Guild and The Hollywood Foreign Press.  Being a three hour subtitled film rated NC-17 doesn't  help much with getting Academy members  to see it either.  Regardless of awards, the film and its performances were triumphs.  Here are my current personal rankings for Best Actress this year:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Judi Dench (Philomena)
5. Sandra Bullock (Gravity

Monday, December 16, 2013

Streep nominated for Critics' Choice Award

This morning Meryl was nominated in the Best Actress category for her role as Violet Weston in August: Osage County by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.   There are six nominees in each acting categories, with Best Actress rounding out as follows:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
5. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
6. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

This nomination, along with her SAG and Golden Globe nods, puts Meryl in good contention for Oscar recognition.  A noticeable omission is Amy Adams in American Hustle.  Considering her costars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were all nominated in Lead Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, respectively, this does not spell good news for Adams.  She had to settle with a nomination in the Comedy Actress category, a noteworthy consolation considering one can be nominated in both that and the main Lead Actress category simultaneously.  This is further evidence that we may end up with the first Lead Actress lineup of all previous winners at the Oscars this year with the five listed above (sans Larson).  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Streep nominated for Golden Globe

As expected, Meryl was nominated for a Golden Globe this morning for her leading role in August: Osage County.  This comes one day after her nomination from the Screen Actors Guild.  These are essentially the two biggest precursor award to the Oscars.  It'll be interesting to see if Meryl gets a BAFTA nomination in a few weeks but I'm not holding my breath on that one.  Here's the list of Lead Actress nominees in both categories.  No major surprises, with the possible exception of no Adèle Exarchopoulos.  And no Oprah in supporting?! Snap.

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

Musical or Comedy
1. Amy Adams (America Hustle)
2. Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
3. Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
5. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Streep receives two SAG nominations

The nominations for the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced this morning and I'm pleased to report that our girl Meryl was recognized with nominations for her leading role as Violet Weston in August: Osage County as well as for being part of the ensemble for the film.  Julia Roberts was nominated for her supporting role as Barbara Fordham.  Congratulations to Meryl, Julia and the fantastic cast of this film.  The five nominees for Actress in a Leading Role are as follows:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
5. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

These were my predicted five but it was a pretty easy five to predict.  I've read that since American Hustle screeners were some of the last sent to SAG members that Amy Adams may have trouble getting in.  I don't buy that suggestion now, as Jennifer Lawrence got in for supporting, as did the ensemble.  Adams will get nominated for a Globe tomorrow and absolutely still has a chance at an Oscar nom, especially as support for her film grows in the coming weeks.

What was interesting to see was the support for both Oprah Winfrey and Forrest Whitaker for their performances in Lee Daniels' The Butler.  With those two nominations, Dench and the August girls,  The Weinstein Company landed five individual performance nominations to lead all studios.  Despite knowing Harvey's voracity at acquiring nominations for his films, I was skeptical of how well his films would do.  But many of the films he has in the running this year are rather "actory."  It's not a guarantee that this will translate into Oscar nominations, but I'm very glad he's in Meryl's corner.  Here's hoping his pushing of Judi Dench doesn't hurt Meryl's chances.  Regardless, I'm pleased with Meryl's nomination(s) and fully expect another one tomorrow morning.

Coincidentally(?), a new promotional clip of August: Osage County was released this morning, attempting to paint this film as an "outrageous comedy."  I guess that's sort of accurate, but the sugar plum fairy-ish music in the background is a bit much perhaps.  But hey, that's marketing.  As long as it gets butts in the seats.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The state of the race and SAG predictions

With the Screen Actors Guild nominations set to be announced tomorrow morning, I thought it best to take stock of where the Best Actress race stands, in particular as it pertains to Meryl's chances at recognition for her work in August: Osage County.  Several critics groups have given out their awards and/or nominations.  Thus far Meyl has been nominated by the following organizations:

Satellite Awards
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Associations
Detroit Film Critics Society
St. Louis Film Critics
Phoenix Film Critics Society

Not exactly cream of the crop.  Nothing from New York, L.A. or Boston.  Not a huge deal as the televised awards are a whole different ball game.  I'm predicting Meryl to be nominated for a SAG and I think the film has a great chance at an ensemble nod as well.  That said, it's not impossible for her to miss based on the predictions I've noticed throughout the web.  The Golden Globe noms are announced Thursday morning, but Meryl missing there is next to impossible.

Were she to be snubbed tomorrow morning, I think her chances at an Oscar nomination will dramatically decrease, as the actors branch is the largest in the Academy.  Fingers crossed!  My SAG predictions for Actress in a Leading Role:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
 alternate: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Monday, December 9, 2013

First set pics of Meryl in "The Giver"

Ok, I thought Meryl was already finished shooting in South Africa for The Giver.  Evidently not, as last week the first set pics were snapped of her in costume as the Chief Elder.

Fun wig, Mer.  She's typically pretty involved in the styling for her roles, as I'm sure she has a specific idea of how to characterize each portrayal physically.  It's been a rather "wiggy" career year for her, following Violet Weston's Liz Taylor do in August: Osage County and the set pic from Into the Woods a few months ago featuring a twig-infested witch's mane.  The Giver is set for an August 15th release.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Release date postponed for "August: Osage County"...again?

Ugh.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that the release date for August: Osage County is being postponed yet again.  The film was originally to be released November 7, then got moved to Christmas Day.  Now it's possibly being pushed back two weeks to Friday, January 10.  This was the only article I found making this claim, but it'd be pretty weird if it were just made up.  There are several films being released within a week's time of Christmas, so perhaps Harvey Weinstein wants to make August's opening a bit less competitive.  If I hadn't been able to see this movie at the Twin Cities Film Festival in October I would be livid at this point.  I think I'll wait for further confirmation before adjusting the countdown calendar to the right.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Eat the fish, bitch!"

A delightful new clip was released today from August: Osage County.  It's the famous "Eat the fish, bitch!" scene, with Julia Roberts bringing it home.  Meryl has some funny facial expressions.

Great stuff.  I gotta tell ya, I'm a little nervous about Meryl's Oscar nomination chances.  I know this role is pure bait and the film will likely do fine at the box office, but so many pundits and blogs I've browsed have Meryl predicted at 4th or 5th place.  Or not at all.  I still think that she'll get nominated, but I don't like when her placement doesn't feel safe.  As I've said before, the SAG and Golden Globe nominations next week will be extremely telling.  If Meryl lands nominations for both, that'll be some nice momentum going into the film's nationwide release around Christmas.  Hopefully buzz and good box office will be enough to accumulate a few first place votes among the Academy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New promo for "August: Osage County"

This afternoon a promotional video/trailer was released for August: Osage County.  It includes some new footage of Meryl and others, with excerpts from a press conference last month which involved both Meryl and Julia Roberts.  In theaters in less than three weeks!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Meryl nominated for Satellite Award

"What's a Satellite Award?"  So came the question from Joe when he asked what I was going to blog about tonight for my 300th post on Word on the Streep!  The answer I gave was pretty vague, as I actually don't have a fantastic grasp on what they are either.  All I know is that they're given by the International Press Academy, which is a group of journalists who cover cinema, tv and print media.  Essentially they're the first organization to announce awards nominations and last to present (the week after the Oscars).  They also nominate eight potential winners in each category, so basically it's like "if you're in a non-shitty film fourth quarter of're in."  The complete list for actresses in a leading role is below.  Zero surprises.

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Enough Said)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Judi Dench in "Philomena"

Enjoying a long holiday weekend, I decided to catch a showing of Philomena this morning.   Dame Judi Dench has been getting rave reviews, and with the film currently at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes I thought I better size up the "competition."  I know, I know, film awards shouldn't be about competing, but I expect Meryl to be in contention for recognition for her work in August: Osage County so it's fun to have motivation to do a bit of comparative shopping on this Black Friday.

The crux of the story is that Dench portrays real-life woman Philomena Lee, an Irish woman had her out-of-wedlock son taken away from her while staying in a convent.  She is helped in her quest to find him fifty years later by a journalist who has been convinced to write a human interest story about the effort.

My gut reaction was that Dench was very effective (as usual) in her portrayal of Lee and I overall enjoyed the film.  But I can't help feeling that the story itself is best thing when compared to both the film and Dench's performance.  Without going into spoiler territory, the fact that it was a true story was almost unbelievable, in that reading the events of Lee's life at the convent may have given me just as strong of a reaction as if I were to see it unfold onscreen.  This doesn't take away from how well the film is directed by Stephen Frears or the excellent jobs that both Dench and her co-star Steve Coogan manage to do.  It just didn't seem like a portrayal that was something drastically different from what I've seen from Dench give us before.  

I would not consider this the best performance I've seen from Dench in her career.  Her turns in Mrs. Brown and Notes on a Scandal are superior in my book, and in a year with so many heavy performances from major players in high-profile films, I think it'll be tough to squeak out a win for the Oscar.  I'd be shocked if she were not nominated, however.  Among the top contenders I've seen so far this season for Best Actress, I'd rank their performances as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) and Amy Adams (American Hustle) in the coming weeks.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Meryl talks "August: Osage County"

Last night there was a live Q&A after a SAG screening for August: Osage County in New York which included Meryl, director John Wells, screenwriter Tracy Letts and several other members of the cast.  I was fortunate enough to be able to watch it live last night.  Check it out:

I like that Meryl was able to speak a bit about her character Violet, in particular how "theatrical" she sees this woman. Some of the negative reviews Meryl is getting complain that she's "over the top" in her portrayal. It was nice to see Meryl explain (not that I needed convincing) that her character was prone to theatrics.

Two additional interviews have been posted to You Tube. The first is only on August: Osage County.  The second includes a bit on her recent wrapping of Into the Woods in London, in which she discusses the new song that Stephen Sondheim had written specifically for her as the Witch.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On-set interviews with Streep, Roberts for "August: Osage County"

Today a pair of interviews were released of both Julia Roberts and Meryl from the set of August: Osage County.  It's the first video we have of Meryl talking about her role as Violet.  The third video below is b-roll footage from the set.  My cup runneth over.

Monday night there's going to be a live Q&A on The August Facebook page with Meryl, director John Wells and screenwriter Tracy Letts.  Can't wait!

Friday, November 22, 2013

And a fourth clip from "August: Osage County"

It's been a blitz of clips this week from Meryl's upcoming film August: Osage County.  Today a fourth clip has been released, again from the dinner scene.  This time Meryl takes center stage.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Two new clips from "August: Osage County"

The first is a conversation between Meryl, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregror.  The second is a bit of the famous dinner scene, not very Meryl-centric however.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

John Wells on Meryl in "August: Osage County"

Deadline's "Contenders" includes August: Osage County, and director John Wells mentioned Meryl in a recent discussion of the film:

In other news, Meryl is evidently being inducted into the Actors Hall of Fame.  I've never heard of this foundation but a ceremony will be held in California on February 9th.  I have no idea if Meryl will be attending, but I'm leaning toward "no."  The full list of inductees is as follows:

Julie Andrews, Robert DeNiro, Judi Dench, Robert Duvall, Kirk Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Olivia deHavilland, Hal Holbrook, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, William H. Macy, Maggie Smith and Meryl Streep.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Film clip from "August: Osage County"

A clip of Meryl and Julianne Nicholson in August: Osage County showed up on YouTube today. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meryl Streep as Susan Boyle?

U.K. tabloid Metro revealed today that Meryl has been approached to play Susan Boyle in a film about the Scottish singer's life.   I vaguely recall reading something about a possible biopic on the Britain's Got Talent songstress a while back.  More recently The Guardian reported that such a film was indeed moving forward. 

If Meryl has truly already been approached, I imagine there's a script out there.  As usual we'll have to wait for more info as to whether or not this project will actually include her.  If nothing else this role would provide Meryl the opportunity to don yet another U.K. accent, having already tried her hand at Received British (The French Lieutenant's Woman, Plenty and The Iron Lady) and Irish (Dancing at Lughnasa).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"August: Osage County" cast Q&A

Last night the Weinstein Company organized a Q&A with some of the cast of August: Osage County, hosted by John Horn, a film writer with the L.A. Times.  Sadly, Meryl wasn't able to attend as she's still in London hard at work on the set of Into the Woods.  It's a fun panel which includes producer George Clooney.  Some nice comments about Meryl, particularly from costar Chris Cooper.  Click on this link to view the video.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Streep interview on "August" and "Into the Woods"

Meryl is busy filming Into the Woods in London, but thankfully she had a few moments this week to sit down for an interview to talk about the Sondheim adaptation and the soon to be released August: Osage County.  This is basically the first we've heard from Meryl on the story and development of both August and her character, Violet:

“The reason I did was [that] a very dear friend said to me, ‘You had a great mother. She gave you your appetite for experience, curiosity, sense of humor. Your mother sang in the kitchen and mine hit me. Your mother made you feel you could do anything. Mine made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. You have to do this for me and for all the girls like me who had bad mothers, who made it in spite of that, who got out, and for all the ones who didn’t and to let them know it’s OK to leave that behind.’"

“She really made a case. I thought, OK, because when you’re a young actor, you think, oh yeah, it’ll be so cool to imagine having cancer and what’s it like to be close to death and then your family hates you…I really want to take that all on.  When you’re older and things happen to you, you bleed more easily. It costs more to go into that territory. You just don’t want to…but, I thought, I am going to do that for my friend because it made sense to me."

It's a great article with some fantastic insights from Meryl about Violet and her role as The Witch in Into the Woods.    Coincidentally, August: Osage County is currently up to 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New pics from "August: Osage County"

Now that I've seen this film I get a little complacent about something as seemingly small potatoes as new production stills, but it's been a slow Meryl week, so enjoy.  Thanks to the Meryl Streep forum for use of these pics.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thoughts on "The Testament of Mary" / Wish List entry #3

In addition to finishing The Good House this week, my copy of Colm Tóibín's audiobook of The Testament of Mary arrived at the library.  It's not particularly long, just about three hours, so I finished it in a day.  Meryl of course is fantastic in her reading.  Her voice is so soothing, and her interpretation of the title character makes for a compelling listen.  For those unaware of what this book is about, it's a look at Mary the mother of Jesus in her old age and the aftermath of her son's death.  She does not believe he was the son of God and recalls/retells several events leading up to his last days which contrast with history's traditional views of Christ.

Before I listened to this book, from what I understood I thought it would be difficult to adapt it into a film version.  It had a brief run as as stage play on Broadway earlier this year starring Fiona Shaw in a one-woman show, so the idea of it as a performed work is obviously not out of the question.   After having finished listening to it, I'm convinced that not only it could work as a film adaptation, but that it would be amazing to see this story brought to the screen.

The most enticing prospect of seeing this on film would be the aforementioned contrasted depiction of what Tóibín provides as a fictionalized look at a woman and the traditionally-held Christian view of her as the mother of God.  Obviously such a contrast would provoke some strong opinions on the subject, particularly in the United States, but that makes it so much more interesting.  It wouldn't have to be a political statement, instead a reimagined look at woman whom we may think we know well, but in truth know very little about.  I remember thinking while listening to the book that in reality it's a more likely and believable historical interpretation of Christ's life than what we can read in the Bible.

Were such a production to come to fruition, like Doubt and August: Osage County the setting could be opened up considerably from the stage version.  I imagine it could be filmed in or around the Middle East, with Meryl styled to look like an Israelite Jew from the first century, which would be quite a departure from any other character representation I can recall seeing from her in the past onscreen.

I don't know exactly what ultimately made Meryl decide to become involved with the audio version of this novel, but obviously the story connected with her in some way.  She has narrated numerous other works over the years, but this is the first that could arguably be made into a film where Meryl could star as the main character.  The only other would be the first book she narrated this year, Norah Ephron's Heartburn.  And well, we know that book's film history.  Consider this another kick in the pants to the universe to make this happen. 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thoughts on "The Good House"

Happy Halloween!  Last night I finished Ann Leary's novel, and suffice it to say I consider it an enjoyable read.  I can definitely see why the project drew Meryl's attention.  Hildy Good is a delicious character.  She's intelligent, successful, shrewd and intuitive while at the same time being bitter, spiteful, finagling and tragically in denial about her rampant alcoholism and how it negatively affects every aspect of her life.  I want to be careful not to paint a picture of this story as a stereotypical portrayal of an out of control drunk staggering around on the screen or that it may be Violet Weston redux, as the setting and scenarios surrounding Hildy are enjoyably intricate and different from anything else I've seen Meryl do.

Without giving away too many specifics about the plot, the book takes place near Boston, so I'm guessing we'll hear some variation of a Boston or Eastern New England accent from Meryl.  Early on in the story Hildy befriends a younger woman, Rebecca, who is new to town and therefore unaware of Hildy's drinking.  Numerous complicated events entangle the two women and other members of the town, including Hildy's love interest Frank, who is to be played by Robert De Niro. 

At this point no one has been cast as Rebecca, but while reading the book I couldn't help but imagine how great it would be to see Jessica Chastain in the role.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing how a film adaptation will turn out.  Hopefully Michael Cunningham provides a great script and a suitable director joins the project.  If so I feel this has the potential for being a fantastic film and performance from Meryl.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Streep in South Africa for "The Giver"

News is out from Cape Town that Meryl is in town filming the upcoming adaptation of The Giver.  She was apparently spotted sipping a Viognier (a white I've yet to try) at her hotel.  I had thought that Meryl may have been able to shoot her scenes in London since she has been on location filming Into the Woods, but evidently not.  It actually makes more sense for her to film on the main set, as her role as the Chief Elder in The Giver requires a scene with most of the cast and likely many extras, which I imagine would be difficult to film separately.  Her scene is likely going to be quite small, however, so I imagine she wouldn't be in South Africa much longer than a week. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Film review: "August: Osage County" (2013)

Three and a half years ago, Joe and I attended a performance of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County in St. Paul.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the fiery performance of Estelle Parsons as family matriarch Violet Weston.  One can imagine my excitement when six months later it was announced that Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were planning on starring as mother and daughter in the film adaptation.

 Despite a few delays and my worry that the film would never be produced, in the fall of 2012 production was underway in Oklahoma.  I was fully prepared to have to white knuckle it until Christmas 2013 to see this movie, but the Word on the Streep gods shined down on Minneapolis and the Twin Cities Film Festival last night to provide a lucky few the opportunity of a sneak peek.

The film centers around the women of the Weston family, as three daughters return to their childhood home and their pill-addicted mother (Streep) after their father Beverly goes missing.  After we learn of Beverly's death, family secrets and festering grudges come to light.  Julia Roberts gives what I consider the best performance of her career as the eldest sister Barbara, and enjoys the most hotly contested scenes of the film, battling it out with her stumbling, rarely fully coherent mom. 

Unsurprisingly, Meryl towers above the rest of this superb cast in what will likely go down as one of her most challenging and complex performances.  Her Violet, while one minute spewing profanity after slurred profanity, is the next minute tender, quiet and lucid.  She dominates the famous funeral dinner scene in a way that made it impossible for me to take my eyes off of her and left me wishing the 20-minute scene were longer. 

My favorite moment of Meryl's however is later in the film when she tells her daughters a story about her own mother.  I feel here is where we really get a sense of who Violet is and where she comes from.  We see the monster reduced to a broken-hearted, vulnerable little girl, perfectly captured by Meryl's nuanced choices. 

The film itself is well made.  I enjoyed how director John Wells opened up the setting to include the Oklahoma landscape, as it added a great sense of isolation and character.  The story very closely followed the original play, despite having pared down a few of the roles.  Splendidly supporting Streep and Roberts were fine performances by Julianne Nicholson, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale and Benedict Cumberbatch.   

I'll be interested to see what I think of the movie when I see it again in a few months.  It's been a challenge for me to objectively describe this film, as I'm very familiar with the original story and have been anticipating it for so long.  But I feel I've done it justice.  Score it another bravura performance for Meryl, one which I can't imagine won't make the cut for the top five come Oscar nomination morning. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Streep in female version of "The Expendables"?

I'm taking this rumor with a huge block of salt.  Yesterday an article popped up (from a Bulgarian source mind you) suggesting that Meryl will be shooting an action movie with Cameron Diaz near Sofia.  The article compared the project to The Expendables, and is evidently being produced by action film producer Avi Lerner.

This type of movie seems very unlike most projects Meryl typically does.  She's been on record saying that she thinks it's important for actors to be aware of what they're "putting out there," in regard to violent films.  I certainly enjoy when Meryl does a variety of roles, but this just seems too out there.   As usual, time will tell if we end up getting any additional information suggesting this project is legit.   I wouldn't hold my breath. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cast of "August: Osage County" accepts Hollywood Film Award

Last night several members of the cast of August: Osage County were on hand to accept the Hollywood "ensemble" Film Award:

Julia Roberts also took home the best supporting actress honor.  Meryl obviously wasn't there as filming is currently underway for Into the Woods in the U.K.   In far more exciting news, last night I learned that the Twin Cities Film Festival has added a second showing of August: Osage County on Thursday night, and I got a ticket!   So excited to see this movie in two days.  Expect a review by Friday or Saturday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"August: Osage County" possibly being pushed comedy at the Globes

I say "possibly" because Gold Derby hasn't exactly been spot on with their revelations this awards season.  The latest news is that August: Osage County will be submitted in the Musical/Comedy category at the Golden Globes.  This obviously means that Meryl will be up for Best Actress in the category.  The Drama category is already plump with contenders, and considering August doesn't have overwhelmingly shining reviews, it makes sense for Harvey Weinstein to make this move.  Here's how I see the actress categories likely shaping up at the Globes:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5.  Amy Adams (American Hustle)

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
3. Julia-Louis Dreyfuss (Enough Said)
4. Sandra Bullock (The Heat)
5. Melissa McCarthy (The Heat)

Realistcially Blanchett, Dench and Thompson could just as easily be in the "lighter" Musical/Comedy category.  If August indeed stays in this category, it will exponentially increase Meryl's chances at winning the Globe, which in turn would be a nice boost for FYC ads come Oscar voting time. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Susan B. Anthony project gains a bit of steam

A couple of months ago I posted a "wish list" entry about Meryl portraying 19th-centrury suffragist Susan B. Anthony in a feature film.  In it I included a link to an online screenplay by writer Helise Flickstein about the lives and work of Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  At the time, the script had no backing or buzz to speak of.  This week I've learned from Flickstein that the script has caught the attention of a couple of producers with Circa Productions and that they're going to pitch it at the American Film Market in early November.  In addition, Roseanne Barr has evidently shown interest in participating.  She-Devil reunion, anyone?

Despite this all being very preliminary, I'm so thrilled at the idea of this even being considered for production.  So many other things would certainly have to fall into place for Meryl to be involved, but remember that Streep herself stated last year that she wanted to do a film about Anthony and Stanton with Kathy Bates.  That chance just took one important step closer to reality.  Were this project to get financing, Streep could likely be sent the script (maybe Roseanne could give her a call to nudge her participation), deals could be worked out, directors sought, and we could be on track for filming by 2015.  Just in time for a possible 2016 release where our first viable female candidate for U.S. president may be in the grips of her campaign. 

This project has been a 10-year journey for Flickstein.  Best wishes in the coming weeks that The Revolutionists continues to move forward. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Streep to receive Monte Cristo Award

I thought it would be a nice change of pace to post about something unrelated to Meryl's film work. Today it was announced that she will be the recipient of the Monte Cristo Award from the Eugene O'Neill Center for "her monumental achievements and contributions to the American theater."  I recommend reading the article, as it gives a nice bit of insight into Meryl's fledgling experiences in acting.  It's where she honed her incomparable skills after what she had called a very "intense education" at Yale Drama school.  The award will be presented at a ceremony held in New York on April 21.  Congratulations, Meryl.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New poster for "August: Osage County"

My co-worker Erika and I just got back from a weekend in Chicago visiting our friend Tiff.  The city's film festival began this weekend and lo and behold, August: Osage County is on the schedule.  Sadly, I headed home a day too early to catch it, as it shows tomorrow evening.  Rats.  I'll have to settle for this fun new movie poster that just debuted.  Great action shot of the dinner scene!  I anticipate this being a successful marketing tool for the film.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cast of "August: Osage County" receives Hollywood Film Award

The cast of Meryl's upcoming film August: Osage County will be awarded the Hollywood Ensemble Acting Award for 2013.  My first reaction to this news was "big deal."  I know very little about this award, but needless to say it's not particularly prestigious.  I'm sure it's a nice recognition nonetheless, but I wonder if any of the major stars of the film will be attending the ceremony on October 21st in Beverly Hills.  Julia Roberts I imagine would be the most likely, as last week we learned that she's been awarded the Supporting Actress award to be presented the same night.  Julia's award suggests she's officially being pushed supporting, an idea further advanced today by updated predictions and a little blurb from the folks at In Contention.  Looks like Meryl may stand alone in the Lead Actress race for the film.  This customer satisfied.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sandra Bullock in "Gravity"

Houston, we have a problem.  Now having seen both Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine and Sandra Bullock in Gravity, doubts are increasingly building in my mind for Meryl's chances to be a threat in the Best Actress Oscar race this year.  Yesterday my friend Scooter and I sprung for 3D IMAX tickets to Gravity, and needless to say, both of us were very impressed.   

The true star of this film is without question its spectacular cinematography.  Bullock however does a fantastic job in the role of Dr. Ryan Stone, who gets marooned in space following a debris collision.  I'm sure it's a challenging prospect to have so much time alone onscreen.  Much of the film has little dialogue, with Bullock basically having to portray someone in a constant state of fear and anxiety.  In that sense Bullock was particularly effective at drawing me in.

An enormous asset to Bullock's chances is going to be the tremendous box office returns her film will garner.  Already in its opening weekend Gravity set an October record with $50 million earned.  With the moderate reviews that we had for August: Osage County out of the Toronto Film Festival, Meryl will likely have nowhere near the word of mouth publicity when her film is released at Christmas.  I expect August to do well, but $100 million would be a tall task, something Gravity will accomplish in a matter of three weeks.   Add that to the fact that Meryl's performance reviews, while good, aren't amazing.  I still expect a nomination but vying for the win right now seems like a very tall task.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grab bag

The post title refers to the fact that I'll be briefly touching on a handful of random topics.  The first is that last night Joe and I were pleased to be invited to our friend Annie's place for dinner and Meryl.  She selected Adaptation.  We all thoroughly enjoyed it of course, along with the delicious roasted chicken apple crisp!  Thanks again, Annie.  Joe astutely observed how Meryl in particular had the difficult task of portraying a real person (Susan Orlean) for the first half of the movie and has to completely switch gears and then portray someone who really has no connection to the original character's motivations and typical behavior (hope I didn't butcher that, babe).  I commented that it was likely good practice for what would be her upcoming participation in Angels in America, where she took on the task of four different character depictions.

In other news, tickets for the Twin Cities Film Fest's showing of August: Osage County go on sale tomorrow.  It's showing Saturday, October 26.  I'll be out of town that weekend, but if anyone is in the area and gets a chance to attend, report back!

Lastly, I saw an article today which claimed to show a "first look" at Johnny Depp as the Wolf in Into the Woods.  As you can see from the photo below, I'm guessing he's not actually in costume.  The second pic shows Jack's "beanstalk."  Filming is currently underway in and around London.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Holmes, Swift join "The Giver"

Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift (ugh) have evidently joined the upcoming film adaptation of Lois Lowry's novel The Giver.   Not like I'm thrilled about Katie Holmes being cast, but at least she's an actress.  She is to play the main character's (Jonas) mother.  No word on which role Swift may play.  Maybe the previous "Receiver"?  Hopefully whichever part it is, it's small.  Fingers crossed that she surprises me.  

The article linked above mentioned that shooting is to begin in South Africa on October 7th, with Meryl's scenes potentially shot in the U.K. where she's currently filming Into the Woods.   That would make sense since the filming schedules overlap so much.  Here's where we stand on casting for The Giver as of today:

The Giver:  Jeff Bridges
Jonas: Brenton Thwaites
Chief Elder: Meryl Streep
Jonas's Father: Alexander Skarsgård
Jonas' Mother: Katie Holmes
Lily: Emma Tremblay
Asher: Cameron Monaghan
Fiona: Odeya Rush
annoying: Taylor Swift 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

First look of Meryl as "The Witch"

Entertainment Weekly has posted the first pic of Meryl in character as the Witch in Into the Woods:

My first reaction (aside from her looking like a cross between the French lieutenant's woman and Aunt Josephine) is that this styling makes her seem rather young.  I think it's the hair.   It makes sense because although she's supposed to look haggard as the old witch, just from this one shot we get a sense of a character who looks a certain age but is young.  If she looks this good in the "before" shot, I can't wait to see how she looks when her youth and beauty are restored. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First cast pics from "Into the Woods"

Broadway World has posted the first pics of the cast from the currently filming Into the Woods.  It appears they're filming Cinderella's (Anna Kendrick) wedding, with her Prince, Chris Pine which takes place at the end of Act I.   Included in the link are pics of many of the other cast members in various scenes from early shooting.   Sadly, Meryl is in none of these, as the Witch is not present at the wedding.  We'll get a few glimpses of her soon enough I should think.  Filming reportedly took place at Dover Castle.   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First set pics from "Into the Woods"

Earlier today Broadway World provided us with the first looks from the set of Into the Woods which is currently filming near London.  Sweetheart Anna Kendrick was kind enough to post a pic of the woods to her Twitter account:

Looks pretty cool.  Also shown was an "in-construction" version of what is to serve as Rapunzel's castle, which evidently was at one point an old abbey in Surrey. 

Meryl will no doubt be in scenes in and around both of these sets.  Keep 'em comin', Anna!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"The Giver" set for release in August 2014

Word is out that The Giver is set to be released by The Weinstein Company on August 15, 2014.  Seems like a good slot for a science fiction-y film that would appeal to a Harry Potter and Hunger Games crowd.  As you can see to the right, I've updated the films countdown to include The Giver.   Three movies with scheduled release cup runneth over.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Meryl rumored to be in talks for "Cowboys and Indians"

The Times of India is reporting that Meryl may be in early talks to star alongside Indian actress Padma Shri Sridevi in a film entitled Cowboys and Indians (dots, not feathers).   From the article I've linked, they gave no indication what the story actually involves or when filming would be expected to begin.  I did a quick Google search to 1) find out who the hell Sridevi is (apparently she's a big deal in India) and 2) see if there is any other info on what this film may entail.   I came up short. It would be cool to see Meryl involved in a film with some Asian influence.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Into the Woods" filming underway, Crawford confirmed as Little Red

Disney sent out several press releases today indicating that filming has begun on the adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods.   Evidently the first week of shooting is complete in England.  I wonder if Meryl was involved in this completed filming, as it was reported last week  that she missed the Toronto Film Festival premiere of August: Osage County due to illness.

The more interesting thing about the filming updates is that Lilla Crawford is now confirmed as Little Red Riding Hood.  Like most others, I thought that Sophia Grace Brownlee had been confirmed in the role.  Some other sources are suggesting the Brownlee was replaced by Crawford, but apparently Disney never officially confirmed Brownlee's casting last month.  It's strange because I think Sophia Grace's family tweeted that she was indeed cast, and even Ellen Degeneres may have mentioned it at some point as well.  I don't know when we'll know if her original involvement was just a rumor or if Brownlee was actually replaced.  If the latter is the case, I kind of feel bad for the kid, but I'm sure a lot of people are breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing she won't be in the film after all.  Regardless, Crawford seems like the better choice.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Second trailer for "August: Osage County"

Two days after its world premiere in Toronto, the Weinstein Company has released a second trailer for August: Osage County.  If there was ever a thought of Meryl going supporting, I feel like this trailer has completely squelched that possibility.  Like the first trailer, this is representing the film as a comedy, but I understand that.  One, the script is at times very funny, and two, producers want it to look appealing to mass audiences.  What's different about this trailer from the first is that Meryl seems to be the main focus of the story.  Based on the clips I could even buy Roberts as supporting. 

There is also news today that after its debut many people were disappointed that the film's ending was a bit different from the original play's.  I don't want to give it away, but suffice it to say that they've obviously filmed it both ways and director John Wells and screenwriter Tracy Letts will be duking it out with Harvey between now and Christmas to decide which ending the wide release will include.  As this post goes live, the film stands at 70% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after ten reviews counted.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meryl to "officially" be campaigned in lead for "August: Osage County"

After last night's premiere of August: Osage County, the Weinstein Company is evidently "officially" putting Meryl in lead and dropping Julia Roberts to supporting (although I think there's still good chance of both going lead).  This was sort of expected, and truthfully where things likely stood prior to Tom O'Neil's report about Meryl possibly going supporting last month.  After having read some official reviews, praise for Meryl's performance is almost unanimous.  Roberts is getting mostly good to great reviews too, but without question the standout is Streep.  I wish more people thought as highly of the film as they do the acting, but the general sense I get is that people who have seen the play find the film a lesser version of a great story.

Bottom line it that Meryl looks like a strong contender for awards recognition this year and audiences at the screenings seem to be eating it up, even if critics aren't blown away.  At least there's hope for respectable box office returns come Christmas.  That can often propel buzz about the film and its stars.  I can't wait to see this.  The Twin Cities Film Fest should be announcing its October lineup soon!  

  "They're putting me back in lead!"

Monday, September 9, 2013

"August: Osage County" premieres at TIFF, Meryl absent due to illness

Sadly, it's been reported that Meryl was unable to attend tonight's world premiere of August: Osage County at the Toronto International Film Festival.   Hundreds of tweets are pouring in of reactions to the film.  There are far too many to sift through for favorites, so I'll just link to the IMDb page that lists many of them.   Of course, tweets are pretty much all over the place in regard to opinions.  However, if we can take away anything from this plethora of reactions, it would have to be the almost universal praise for Meryl's performance as Violet Weston, and based on this how it seems like a realistic expectation that she would go lead at this point.   Responses to the film are overall good, but not great.  I don't really want to say much more at this point other than I'm absolutely loving all the chatter about the film and Meryl.  The real story will be how actual critics respond to the film within the next 24 hrs.   Stay tuned and feel better, Meryl!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine"

Wow.  Although this film depressed me a little bit, I left amazed by Blanchett's performance.  In Blue Jasmine, she plays a New York socialite who, after her husband's imprisonment and suicide, seeks help and lodging from her estranged sister in San Francisco.  The character of Jasmine is basically an awful human being.  When wealthy she ignores and is embarrassed by her well-meaning, albeit unsophisticated sister, played by the delightful Sally Hawkins (who may challenge for a supporting nod herself).  When at rock bottom, she expects her sister to upend her own life to accommodate her.

It's the typical high-society game where she cares far more about herself and how she appears to her shallow circle of jet-setting "friends" than she does about family or a meaningful relationship.  What's so striking about Blanchett is how exquisitely she makes us believe that she's hovering on the edge of madness.  In some parts its obvious, where she stares off into space or talks to herself, for example.  At other times, it's far more subtle.  Slight facial expressions, posture, the way she holds a martini.  For crying out loud she got to play drunk, crazy and desperate all in one role.  Sort of reminds me of Violet Weston.

This is going to be a VERY difficult performance to top at major awards ceremonies.  The film itself is good and Blanchett has without question never been better.  I consider her and maybe Jessica Chastain as the heirs apparent to Meryl's film legacy.  Blanchett has won one Oscar, for Supporting Actress in 2004's The Aviator.  Many feel she was robbed of a win for her nominations in Elizabeth and I'm Not There (myself included).   She has a strong narrative to recognize her body of work with a lead win this year.  Meryl's performance in August: Osage County will have to absolutely raved by critics when it opens Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival if we're going to see her challenge for the win.  That's assuming Meryl is put in lead, which is probably still technically up in the air.  As I've said before, Toronto will likely be very telling.  After August is screened, Cate may have to start looking over her shoulder.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Meryl going back to lead?

Now Tom O'Neil over at Gold Derby is reporting that after a final cut has been completed of August: Osage County for its world premiere in Toronto in two weeks, it looks like the consensus may turn out be that Meryl is indeed lead after all.  Duh.  Apparently a "final decision will be announced within days."  While I'm personally pleased by the prospect of Streep getting nominated in lead instead of supporting, the original story that came out a few weeks ago about category placement is seeming more and more like a ploy by Harvey Weinstein and O'Neil to get buzz going.  Kudos to both, because it worked beautifully.  I've no doubt that with this new revelation the blogosphere will fucking explode...again.  Latest production still:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Octavia Spencer in "Fruitvale Station"

Joe's working tonight so I decided to catch Fruitvale Station on the way home from work.  Like last weekend when I saw Lee Daniels' The Butler, I went with the purpose of viewing a particular performance, but I've also just wanted to see this movie for a while and I'm worried about getting too far behind during awards season.

First reaction is that it's a better film than The Butler.  Yes, it's a very different movie, but I responded very nicely to the documentary feel of it.  Michael B. Jordan (Oscar Grant III) is every bit as good as his reviews.  I happened to be impressed with Melanie Diaz as Oscar's girlfriend, but Octavia Spencer was definitely the standout supporting role.

The film itself is short (only 85 minutes), and she didn't really have much to do in the first 2/3 of the film.  In the hospital scenes, however, she really shined.  She so convincingly portrayed a mom trying to hold it together in the worst moment of her life, before breaking down with a sense of guilt for having suggested that Oscar take the train.  What she intended as an act of concern resulted in her son being put in harm's way.  I know nothing about Oscar Grant's real mother, but through Spencer's performance I believed her history as a mom who always tried to do right by her child.  I highly recommend seeing this film.

It almost seems vulgar to pit Spencer and Oprah Winfrey's roles against each other in a comparison, considering the importance and poignancy of their films' subjects, but this is after all a candid blog.  Spencer's was the less showy role, but with what she had "to do" in the film, without hesitation I would place her performance above Winfrey's.  That said, having won last year for The Help, there isn't a cat in hell's chance of a repeat win for Octavia.  So far this is Oprah's to lose. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Streep headed to South Africa for "The Giver"

Sources are reporting that Meryl will be heading to Cape Town in late September or early October to begin filming The Giver.  The shoot is expected to last six to eight weeks.  We all know that Meryl is currently busy rehearsing/shooting Into the Woods, which is expected to wrap prior to Christmas.  I imagine this situation is sort of like when she was working on Kramer vs. Kramer and Manhattan simultaneously back in the late '70s.  With a brief break from London, Meryl will likely be able to complete her work on The Giver in a week's time.  I love how many projects Meryl has going this year. 

PS--The Telluride Film Festival begins tomorrow in Colorado...the official start of awards season (smiley face emoticon).  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sizing up the competition

With the expressed purpose of judging Oprah's performance, I invited my friend Kristan to join me for a viewing of Lee Daniels' The Butler last night.  After last week's news of the possibility of Meryl going supporting for August: Osage County, I figured I better start seeing some films, considering I'm going to have to now check out both lead and supporting contenders for Best Actress.  I still think it's up in the air which category Meryl will be placed in eventually.  Toronto may help give us a better indication in a couple weeks.

So, The Butler.  It was better than I had expected, frankly.  I don't want to get into too much of a full review of the the film, but suffice it to say I was entertained.  More of the story focused on the Civil Rights Movement than I had anticipated, which was a small, albeit welcomed surprise.  Not that I really learned much or was challenged by the makers of the film to ponder many deep questions, but it was an admirable homage to the heroes of the time.  

Winfrey was in quite a bit of this film.  I can see how one could argue the role being lead, but supporting is probably a more fitting category. Her performance overall for me was...fine.  I don't know how much acting training she has but we know she's only done three films.  This inexperience coupled with the fact that she's so iconic to me as a TV personality made it difficult to see her as someone other than who I'm used to seeing.  I never quite believed Gloria as a cheating alcoholic.  An accent that sort of came and went like the wind didn't help much either.  As an old woman in her final scene, all I could picture was the dream scene with Michele and Sandy Frink from Romey and Michele's High School Reunion.  I doubt that's the effect Daniels was going for.   

My criticisms and the goofy presidential cameos in this film notwithstanding, I'm thrilled for Oprah and I'd be shocked if she weren't nominated for an Academy Award.  And as of right now, she probably has the best chance for the win.  It doesn't necessarily take an exceptional performance to get votes.   A bigger factor much of the time is the narrative.   Were Oprah new to the scene, I doubt we'd make much fuss about her in this film.  Ultimately I found it an unremarkable performance from an incredibly remarkable woman.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Meryl's role in "The Giver"

So, I got a copy of The Giver from the library and read it while on vacation last week.  I wish I had when it came out when I was 14.  It's a great story, albeit a bit depressing at times.  I don't want to give away spoilers but suffice it to say that I liked the ending.

Meryl's role will be rather short.  She plays the Chief Elder.  Her only scene in the book is when she announces each child's future occupation in an important annual ceremony.  While reading that scene all I could picture was Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall.  It will certainly be interesting to see how Meryl interprets the role.  I don't imagine her having to do much soul searching for it.  However, I think this film has the potential to make a shit-ton of money at the box office, so if that happens it'll be nice that Meryl's involved and widely seen. 

In other news, a new production still for August: Osage County was released today.  I think they titled it "thanks for agreeing to go supporting."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Meryl to attend Toronto International Film Festival

The latest news is that Meryl and Julia Roberts will both be attending the world premiere of their upcoming film August: Osage County at next month's Toronto International Film Festival.  August will be shown on Monday, 9/9 and Tuesday, 9/10.  Less than three weeks, folks!  After this release we'll be provided a wealth of reviews and opinions on the film and its stars' performances.  I'm hoping that we'll also get a little bit of light shed on whether or not Violet Weston will be believable as a supporting role.  Regardless, I just hope it's a great film and even greater performance from our girl.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wish List entry #2: Susan B. Anthony

Winding down a week long vacation in the Pacific Northwest (which has been amazing btw), Joe and I have decided to finally spend a much needed evening in.  I'm getting a chance to do some reading and thought I'd update my blog with a wish list entry.  With the dust somewhat settled on the tragic news of Meryl going supporting for August: Osage County, I'm momentarily turning my attention to a film role possibility that I would be thrilled to see her portray.

In an interview early last year, Meryl indicated that she had discussed with Kathy Bates an interest in doing a film of 19th century civil rights activists and women's suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  If you're at all familiar with either activist's appearance, you'd understand why it's pretty likely Meryl would play Anthony and not the other way around.  Meryl had been busy promoting the proposed Women's History Museum on the National Mall, so perhaps the story of Anthony and Stanton was at the forefront of her mind at the time.  Regardless, not much more was mentioned about it after that initial revelation.

What's interesting is that after doing a little searching, there's actually a script floating around by a writer named Helise Flickstein about the two women entitled The Revolutionists.  There's even a link to a PDF copy of it online.  I haven't read it (yet), but I don't have particularly high hopes for its chances at getting produced.  That said, I like that there's at least some semblance of an interest in getting the story of these two incredibly important figures in U.S. history to the big screen.  As the writer of the screenplay points out, there's a potentially historic election coming up in 2016.  Were Hillary Clinton to be in the mix for election as the first female president of the United States, what great timing it would be to release a film about the two women who drafted the Constitutional Amendment that prohibited restricting the vote based on one's gender.

If Meryl's participation in The Good House pans out, I'm guessing filming would likely begin in the second half of 2014 with a late 2015 release planned (Oscar territory).  If the Anthony/Stanton picture were to happen, we'd still have two years from now before they would need to begin filming in order for it to be in theaters by summer 2016.  Perfect, right?!

It's been too long since Meryl has done one of her "buddy" projects, a la Death Becomes Her with Goldie Hawn, Marvin's Room with Diane Keaton, or (although never made) Mary Stuart with Glenn Close.  So, Meryl and Kathy, clear your schedules.  Ms. Flickstein, perfect that script and find a buyer.  Everyone else, spread the word.  This project needs to happen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Streep likely going supporting for "August: Osage County"

Meryl fans everywhere are damn near in shock.  Tom O'Neill over at Gold Derby has indicated in a recent article that Meryl has agreed to be campaigned in the supporting category for August: Osage County.  This is huge news.  A debate that seemed mostly settled has now resurfaced, in which the blogosphere opines on category placement for both Streep and Julia Roberts.  Most, myself  included, assumed that Streep would go lead, therefore making it difficult for Roberts to get nominated alongside her in the same category...a feat not accomplished since 1991's Thelma & Louise.  An argument can be made for either Streep or Roberts to go supporting.  Truth be told, I think the amount of screen time (which Roberts no doubt will have more of) is always an easier, if not accurate, indicator for people to wrap their brains around when deciding placement.

But with the lead category becoming saturated with the likes of heavy hitters Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and possibly Amy Adams, I can understand Harvey Weinstein's rationale.  Streep won last year in lead for The Iron Lady, and the current supporting category is much less full.  Right now, only Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station) and Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler) seem like good bets at this point.  Spencer, like Streep, just won the Academy Award in 2012 for Actress in a Supporting Role for The Help.  There's no strong "due" factor for her obviously so it wouldn't hurt Streep's chances.  I haven't seen Oprah's performance yet, but I can't imagine it being stronger than Meryl's as Violet Weston, a role for which I firmly believe would be an extremely difficult role to beat in lead had Meryl not won last year.  That recent win helps explain why Meryl is perhaps cool with going supporting now, as opposed to for One True Thing, The Devil Wears Prada, or Julie & Julia.

As this news proves, only time will tell where everything will end up.  Suffice it to say that I was looking forward to Meryl being in the hunt for a lead win, but as things progress, that was seeming less likely considering the aforementioned factors.  Maybe we'll be calling Meryl a four-time Oscar winner next year after all.  Two wins in both supporting and lead wouldn't be too shabby, right?  Don't forget though, she still has to break the record at some point.  I was just hoping she could at least tie Katharine Hepburn for lead wins.  Not that she still couldn't, but I thought August: Osage County would be the perfect vehicle.  Turns out it still may be, just in a different category.  Can anyone tell the difference between an Oscar statuette for lead and supporting wins?  I didn't think so.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Two years of Word on the Streep

Today is the two year anniversary of Word on the Streep.  I just wanted to give a shout out to any and all readers!  After more than 250 posts, it's been more fun than I could have anticipated.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the thoughts, viewpoints and feedback from commenters and hope you've enjoyed the site.  The next six months is going to be jam-packed with Meryl news.  Stay tuned! 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

First production stills for "August: Osage County"

With all of the upcoming project news this week on Meryl, it's easy to forget that she has a big film coming out in four months.  That still seems so far out, but I'm satiated by the small tid bits, like table scraps to a dog, we're thrown on occasion...the trailer, early screening, news of premiere at TIFF and now, a couple of production stills.  Have a look:

Thank you to the Meryl Streep Forum for these pics!  The one on the bottom is obviously from the famous dinner scene, where Meryl will no doubt leave us all jaw-dropped and salivating (again like dogs) from her amazing performance.   Christmas really can't come soon enough this year.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sophia Grace Brownlee rounds out main cast of "Into the Woods"

Now that I don't have cable television, I basically never watch network shows, especially if they're on in the morning.  One can therefore understand that after I read Sophia Grace Brownlee had been cast as Little Red Riding Hood, I was like, "who the f*ck is that?"  The 10 year-old British You Tube sensation has apparently become a household name after appearing on the Ellen Degeneres show a couple of years ago with her cousin Rosie.  Subsequent appearances on the show have increased her popularity, evidently enough to get a role in a huge motion picture. 

Of course the blogosphere is in an uproar, crying that she's too young to play the role of Little Red and that her interaction with the Wolf will now seem either creepy or far too watered down to make the original lyrics make sense.  I'm going to withhold my judgement for now, as I'm sure the casting agents and director Rob Marshall have a good reason for their choice.  They obviously think the roles of both Red and Jack should really be children as Daniel Huttlestone (who turns 14 next month) has been confirmed as Jack.  Huttlestone has stated on his Facebook page that he's begun rehearsals and even posted of photo of himself with James Corden, who'll play the Baker. 

With just a handful of small roles unannounced, here's the official cast:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
The Baker's Wife: Emily Blunt (confirmed)
Cinderella's Prince: Chris Pine (confirmed)
Rapunzel's Prince: Billy Magnussesn (confirmed)
Cinderella: Anna Kendrick (confirmed)
Rapunzel: Mackenzie Mauzy (confirmed)
Cinderella's Stepmother: Christine Baranski (confirmed)
Lucinda: Lucy Punch (confirmed)
Florinda: Tammy Blanchard (confirmed)
Jack's Mother: Tracey Ullman (confirmed)
Jack: Daniel Huttlestone (confirmed)
Little Red Riding Hood: Sophia Grace Brownlee (confirmed)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Streep to join cast of "The Giver"

Mere hours after we learned of Meryl being linked to The Good House, Deadline is now reporting that she has also signed on to join Jeff Bridges in the upcoming film adaptation of Lois Lowry's Newbery Medal-winning children's book The Giver.  Holy hell!  Evidently Bridges, who will play the title role, has owned the movie rights for like 20 years.  A bit on the story from Wikipedia:

The novel follows a boy named Jonas through the twelfth year of his life. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to "Sameness," a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of "Receiver of Memory," the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, in case they are ever needed to aid in decisions that others lack the experience to make. When Jonas meets the previous receiver—The "Giver"—he is confused in many ways. Additionally, the Giver is able to break some rules, such as turning off the speaker and lying to people of the community. As Jonas receives the memories from the Giver, he discovers the power of knowledge. The people in his community are happy because they do not know of a better life, and the knowledge of what they are missing out on could create major chaos. He faces a dilemma: Should he stay with the community and the safe, consistent but shallow life it offers, or should he run away in pursuit of a life full of love, color, choices, and knowledge, but also potentially full of danger?

Meryl would play the Chief Elder, "an authoritarian in charge of keeping control in a society that seems utopian."  This should be a rather small role, and reminds of Meryl's participation in 2004's Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events.  She has remarked that her children enjoyed that series of books, so I venture a guess that The Giver was also circulated material in the Gummer household.

Produced by The Weinstein Company, the film is set to begin shooting in South Africa in October with Australian director Phil Noyce at the helm.  Don't worry about this getting in the way of Into the Woods, y'all.  Meryl's work in The Giver is not likely to require and extensive amount of time.  Regardless, she's really going for it these days.  After yesterday's news, we can likely expect a total of five film releases involving Meryl between now and 2015 (August: Osage County, The Homesman, Into the Woods, The Giver, The Good House).  

Considering Joe was the one who wanted to see the play August: Osage County three years ago, and that he has long been a huge fan of both Into the Woods and The Giver, it makes me wonder if my boyfriend isn't secretly Harvey Weinstein.  Turns out he's probably just a far more interesting person than I am.  Either way, I'm thrilled with Meryl's upcoming participation in these rich projects.  And just when I thought it was a slow time for Meryl news...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Streep, De Niro to team for "The Good House"

As speculated in my post from June 16 of this year, Deadline (among other sources) is now reporting that the author of The Hours, Michael Cunningham, is indeed working on a script for Meryl. At the time, we had no idea if it was going to be an adaptation or his first original screenplay.  We now know that it will be an adaptation of Ann Leary's bestselling novel The Good House which will see Meryl pair with Robert De Niro for a fourth time.  De Niro's Tribeca films will pair with FilmNation to produce.

Needless to say, on paper, this seems like complete Oscar bait.  Two legends collaborating on a story adapted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author from a hugely popular novel.  Here's a good synopsis of the story I found:

Hildy (Meryl) Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of an historic community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. Hildy is a descendant of one of the witches hung in nearby Salem, and is believed, by some, to have inherited psychic gifts. Not true, of course; she’s just good at reading people. Hildy is good at lots of things. A successful real-estate broker, mother and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, staged an intervention and sent her off to rehab. Now she’s in recovery—more or less. Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy needs a friend. She finds one in Rebecca McCallister, a beautiful young mother and one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca feels out-of-step in her new surroundings and is grateful for the friendship. And Hildy feels like a person of the world again, as she and Rebecca escape their worries with some harmless gossip, and a bottle of wine by the fire—just one of their secrets. But not everyone takes to Rebecca, who is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell (De Niro), an eccentric local who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to cover her own tracks and protect her reputation. When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.

Boston accent in store?  There's no word yet on who will play Rebecca.  My first thought is how amazing it would be to pair Meryl with Cate Blanchett, but on paper this seems a little too much like Notes on a Scandal to get Blanchett to bite.  I've read that it's kind of a dramedy, or dark comedy.  I'm hoping that means it will lean more toward August: Osage County than Hope Springs.  Not that Hope Springs wasn't a good movie and great performance from Meryl, but I like the heavier stuff.  Plus I absolutely live for films that garner awards buzz, as it gets people talking about Meryl and how incredible she is at giving us brilliant performances time and time again.

I'm guessing filming will likely take place mid to late next year.  Plenty of time for me to read the book (which I'll more than likely request form the library today).  Great news!