Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ok, ok. Streep confirmed for "The Homesman"

I'm willing to say it now.  Shobiz 411 is reporting that Tommy Lee Jones is looking forward to directing not only Meryl in The Homesman, but her daughter Grace Gummer as well.  I had no idea that Grace was attached to this picture, and have no idea what role she'll be playing.  How great would it be to see her working in a scene with her mom even if it's just for a moment? 

Roger Friedman wrote the article and claims he heard directly from Jones that he is indeed going to be directing Streep and Gummer:

What was he up to next, I wondered? “Horses, and the fresh air. I guess they’re going to call this movie a western, The Homesman.  It’s more than that.” By the way, he did tell me hasn’t talked to his old friend and roommate Al Gore in some time.  And is he ready to take on Meryl and her daughter? “Yes. I am,” he said, which is loquacious coming from Tommy Lee Jones.

He's not exactly overdoing it with specifics, but with all the reports of Meryl's involvement, there really haven't been any quotes from those involved about Meryl's participation.  Evidently Hilary Swank was quoted in The Daily Telegraph this weekend that she's excited to watch Meryl work, but that was only on hard copy and I haven't actually seen it in print online. 

The filming is to begin this spring.  It sounds like it could be a fairly arduous endeavor so I'm not sure if they're shooting for a late 2013 release.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to another Meryl movie. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar season comes to a close

Well, it wasn't my grandest performance of Oscar predicting this year.  I was a bit behind in my season ballot totals with friends Kristan and Niccole and made some unconventional choices for Oscar, resulting in my going thirteen-for-twenty in predictions (we don't do the shorts).  I even lost to Scooter, who nearly wet himself when he realized he had beaten me with fifteen correct picks.  Kudos, Scoots.

And can I just say that Meryl weirded the shit out of me by apparently opening the envelope for Best Actor during the performance clips last night.  I think everyone in the audience and at home was caught a bit off guard by it.  I suppose I should give her a break.  It was her first time presenting a competitive Oscar so maybe we can chalk it up to inexperience(?).  Although she has been to like  a hundred of these ceremonies.   Hopefully we'll get another chance to see her present.

Which leads us into the next season.  The Hollywood Reporter was on top of things today and has already released a list of films lauded with frontrunner status just one day post Academy Awards ceremony.  If you've somehow happened upon Word on the Streep over the last year, you'd know I've been shamelessly and borderline obsessively promoting and speculating over Meryl's upcoming film August: Osage County.  An official U.S. release date has not been set, but we can expect it to be November or December of this year.  This has all the makings of a major Oscar vehicle in a number of areas, particularly in the female acting categories.   I loved the play and am very much looking forward to to the cinema version.  I just hope its actual quality even slightly approaches the buzz it's receiving.  Game on for nomination #18.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Oscar predictions

The night has arrived.  Meryl of course isn't up for anything, but we know she'll be presenting Best Actor in a Leading Role, undoubtedly to Daniel Day-Lewis.   I read an article today that confirmed she was at rehearsals.   Day-Lewis's category is one of few this year that seem like a slam dunk, so without further ado, my predictions are as follows in the top six categories:

Best Picture: Argo
Best Director: Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel-Day Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Leading Role:  Emmanuelle Rive (Amour)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

The only three I feel confident about are Day-Lewis, Hathaway, and Argo for picture.   Director may go to Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.  Riva is a risky choice and it's very possible that Jennifer Lawrence will take it, but I just have a gnawing feeling it'll be Riva.  It would be a nice 86th birthday present for her, plus I kind of want to see if David O. Russell (director of Silver Linings) throws a fit if Riva takes it over Lawrence.    Supporting actor is probably tougher, as many are predicting Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings), but if it's not Jones, I think it's more likely to be Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained.  He gave the best performance among the five, despite it arguably being a lead role, in my opinion.

It's been a while since there have been so many uncertainties among the top categories.  That makes for an exciting show.  Happy Meryl watching, everybody. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #7: "The Last Station"

It is well documented that Meryl was scheduled to star in the film adaptation of Jay Parini's novel chronicling the final months of Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  Meryl would've played his wife, Countess Sophia Andreyevna Tolstaya.  Of all my "shoulda coulda woulda" roles, this is the one that Meryl was probably closest to actually portraying.  She and Anthony Hopkins were signed on to star in the picture, but as so often happens, money and schedules complicate things.  Director Michael Hoffman recalls:

I just couldn't get the equity together in time. ... The financing of these movies is so difficult. ... When The Devil Wears Prada happened, and Meryl was besieged with offers, we were trying to find a gap in her schedule, and in Tony's, because they're both very much in demand.  It was a frustrating process.  Then Helen Mirren's British agent said, "I read the script, and I think Helen will really like this."  I thought that was great, but I was confronted with a dilemma.  Meryl was a great friend of the project. 

Damn schedules.  Alas, Helen Mirren joined Christopher Plummer in portraying the Tolstoys.  The film takes place in 1910 and follows Tolstoy's disciples and their tricky battle with Sophia over property rights in the event of her husband's death.  Sophia is a bit of a prickly character, defending her family's assets against "Tolstoian" followers, led by Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) who, like Tolstoy himself, detests material possession.  Joined by Tolstoy's new secretary Valentin Bulgakov, played by James McAvoy (amazing), Tolstoy is convinced to agree to a new will that signs all his works over to the public domain.   This was evidently reversed a few years after Tolstoy's death, so Sophia got her way after all.

There are some great dramatic if not histrionic scenes for Sophia in this role.  One in particular I enjoy is during a dinner scene (during which they play Puccini's aria "Un bel di" from Madama Butterfly) where Sophia gets so worked up that she resorts to throwing dishes and ends up on the floor gasping for air.  That probably would've been fun for Meryl.  Another of my favorite, less crazy moments:

One of the more compelling possibilities would have been to hear Meryl doing a Russian accent.  I know it's not a guarantee that she would've done one, considering everyone in the 2009 film has a British accent.  These people would've been speaking Russian, not English with a Russian accent in real life.  However I picture Meryl finding it easier to portray Sophia by demonstrating at least a little beet of a Russian sound.  In fact, I wish the actors in the film had decided to try it.  Russian speech and consonants are so facially physical that it seems to me it would have ultimately been more convincing for the film's setting, instead of it seeming rather like another English period piece at times.  I think Meryl could have persuaded them.

Both Mirren (lead) and Plummer (supporting) were honored with Academy Award nominations.  Meryl joined Mirren with a nod for Julie & Julia.  Sandra Bullock took home the award for her performance in The Blind Side.  No, seriously. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The Homesman" looking for extras

I'm bothering to write about this because I want to comment on any news that includes Meryl's name as attached to this project.   As I've mentioned before, I'm still not one hundred percent satisfied that Meryl is indeed going to be in this movie.  I'd just prefer to have one of the actors, particularly Tommy Lee Jones or Meryl herself, indicate that she is in fact taking part. 

An encouraging fact is that any recent news has included Meryl's name.   Today an article came out indicating that extras are being sought for the production of the picture.   Meryl again was mentioned, so this adds to the likelihood of her involvement.  Shooting is expected to start in the next couple of months.  I'll be keeping a close eye on this project (duh).    That's all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Snubs #3: "The Hours"

Meryl's performance of Clarissa Vaughan in the 2002 adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours earned her nominations for a Golden Globe, BAFTA and several critics groups awards...but not for Oscar.   The chances at a nomination for lead actress in this role, in this year, were stacked against Meryl.  For one, she was nominated in supporting for Adaptation that year (another "snub" for not winning imo), and the Best Actress category was kind of crowded.    The nominees were as follows in lead:

Salma Hayek (Frida)
Nicole Kidman (The Hours)
Diane Lane (Unfaithful)
Julianne Moore (Far from Heaven)
Renée Zellweger (Chicago)

Kidman's role was arguably supporting if we look only at screen time, considering it was under 30 minutes if memory serves.  But her character of Virginia Woolf is sort of intertwined with the other two main characters (Meryl and Julianne Moore), so it's passable.  Moore was nominated in supporting for her role as Laura Brown.   So yes, Moore was nominated in both categories that year.  For Meryl to be nominated in The Hours it would've happened in lead, which means she too would've been nominated in both categories that year.  Adaptation was a slam dunk as far as Oscar noms go, so unfortunately, she was the odd woman out in lead despite moments like this, courtesy of Simply Streep:

Had this film been released in a year where Meryl had no other performances of her own to contend with, her chances at a nomination would've certainly been much better.  That, coupled with the fact that there was a more baity lead role in the same film (Kidman) meant it just wasn't going to happen.

So, who should've gotten the axe had Meryl been nominated?  This is a really tough one.   Despite Moore being nominated in both categories, her performance in Far from Heaven was too good to dump.  My choice would unfortunately have to be Diane Lane.  I've seen her performance and it is fantastic.  But researching pre-season awards and nominations, Lane seemed to have the fewest, despite getting Globe, SAG and Oscar nods.  Like I said above, this year was pretty packed and all five honorees were well-deserved.  Meryl had to settle for her supporting nomination in Adaptation, eventually losing to Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, whose awards campaign was (stealthily) switched from lead to supporting mid-season.  Well played, Harvey.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Margo Martindale dishes on "August: Osage County"

Margo Martindale, who plays Mattie Fae in the upcoming August: Osage County, was recently interviewed about her participation in the film and interaction with Meryl.  The pertinent sections are as follows:

You’ve been an amazing character actor for years, but you’ve got a big 2013 ahead of you. There’s The Americans, but also Beautiful Creatures and August: Osage County, as Mattie Fae Aiken. Are you excited or nervous or both?

"I’m nervous. August was a wonderful, incredible two months. It will look beautiful. The script is magnificent. The actors are all fabulous. Will it all work? That will be a mystery. I was wildly happy to get that part, and I said to myself, after seeing it on Broadway, “I want to play that in the movie.” Rondi Reed, who played it on stage, I couldn’t have perfected that. There was no need to do it on stage. So I decided to set my sights on the movie."

You’ve worked with Meryl Streep, who plays your sister Violet, a few times in your career. Did that previous experience with her help build your relationship as sisters?

"Tremendously. We spent our off time together. She’s a great, great person. These sisters really lean on each other, and I’ve known Chris Cooper, who plays my husband, since 1981. I love him so much."

 It makes me a little nervous that she said "will it all work?  That will be a mystery."  Yikes.  Although I suppose she doesn't have any way of knowing if despite a great screenplay and cast the editing will pull it all together in a way that makes it a effective, seamless picture.  Can't believe I still won't see this film for like nine months.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #6: "Shadowlands"

What's this?  Another "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" already?!  My reasoning will become clear in the next couple of months when I tie a few things together in a retrospective look at Meryl's entire film career.  Before I can do that, however, I need to tackle a couple more films I wish Meryl had ended up doing.  1993's Shadowlands was not on my radar until a few weeks ago when I read a great article from last year by Michael Burge.  After a little digging, I discovered that Meryl was indeed considered for the lead role of American poet Joy Gresham, which ultimately went to Debra Winger.

Of course I had to watch the film before I decided to write about it.  What makes the possibility of this film compelling is that it too (like The Remains of the Day and Thelma and Louise) was made during what Burge called in his article Meryl's "wilderness years," a term I love and am going to steal.  It also could've seen her team up with Anthony Hopkins (again), an onscreen chemistry which I'm certain would've worked exceedingly well.

In this film (unlike The Remains of the Day) we actually get a payoff for the couple, in that they officially express their feelings for each other and end up together.  As stated, Meryl would've played real life poet Joy Gresham, who after her divorce emigrates to England with her son, where she befriends well-known author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis (Hopkins).   The two enter a marriage of convenience in order for Joy to attain English citizenship.  After her diagnosis of bone cancer, however, the two make known their true affections for each other and officially tie the knot "before God."

This film provides some great acting opportunities.  Debra Winger does a great job, having received an Academy Award nomination.  Like Winger, we probably would've seen Meryl with a bit of a New York accent, and a fun, mildly imprudent personality which contrasts well with Lewis's reserved demeanor.   One of the more challenging areas includes her interaction with her son, and their grappling with her inevitable death.  Part of me thinks that director Richard Attenborough knew how effectively Winger plays the part of a terminally ill mom saying goodbye to her son, considering another of her Oscar-nominated performances in Terms of Endearment.   That's a role up to that point we really hadn't seen from Meryl.   I'm sure it would've only fueled the criticism of Meryl's most prolific detractor, the late Pauline Kael, who wished we could see her "giggle more and suffer less."  I'd just assume see her in the best role, regardless of how funny or serious it is.  Another one missed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meryl unable to make it to London

Well, at least this will make her appearance at the Oscars a little more special.  She missed the Golden Globes because of flu, and now the BAFTAs due to winter storm Nemo.  BAFTA released these two tweets during the ceremony last night to pacify her rabid fans:
I had kind of anticipated this.  It's not like Meryl was up for an award, and I can't imagine she felt particularly compelled to put herself in harm's way during a blizzard just to present.   Patience, grasshoppers. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Meryl scheduled to appear at the BAFTAs

The issue now is whether or not she was able to fly out of the east coast to get there.   Winter storm Nemo has dumped feet of snow on certain areas and thousands of flights have been cancelled.  We'll have to see at tomorrow's show if she managed to make it.

I historically haven't really given much clout to BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), but the more I think about it, it's a huge deal.  Big stars show up for the ceremony and it's probably best to consider it one of the important predictors of Oscar results.  They have some different rules regarding timelines, and I notice that they tend to favor British actors and films , but I wager it's still a big honor for recipients.

I was surprised that Meryl's win last year for The Iron Lady was only her second BAFTA award.  The first was not even for Sophie's Choice, but for The French Lieutenant's Woman, where (surprise surprise) Meryl plays a Brit.  I'll leave you with a clip of Meryl's acceptance speech (and shoe mishap) from last year's ceremony.  Nerve-wracking being up for a British award for playing a former Prime Minister!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #5: "The Remains of the Day"

Housekeeper Miss Kenton in 1993's The Remains of the Day, one of only two or three feature film roles for which Meryl Streep was actually turned down(!), is my latest entry in this unintentionally fallowed section.  It's unfortunate writing about a film role which Meryl actually really wanted but did not ultimately get to portray on screen (see my post on Sweet Dreams).  In this instance, it's particularly disappointing, considering the film took place during a period where Meryl had uncharacteristically strayed from her typical dramatic turns in order to try her hand at shitty comedic roles.

Remains begins as a sort of flashing back of Miss Kenton's (Emma Thompson) former position as housekeeper for a wealthy Englishman on a large country estate in the years leading up to World War II.  Twenty years later, having left her husband, she finds herself in need of return to work in service.  She therefore writes the head butler, played by Anthony Hopkins, who eventually  tries to persuade her to return to Darlington Hall, which is now owned by a former U.S. Congressman (Christopher Reeve).   The flashbacks show us an unrealized romantic relationship between Miss Kenton and the private and seemingly unemotional Mr. Stevens (Hopkins).  All this takes place against the backdrop of rising Nazi influence in Western Europe, a party which Darlington Hall's owner becomes closely linked.  Having never appropriately expressed his affections, the film basically ends with Mr. Stevens waving goodbye to a sobbing Miss Kenton, who regrets not having made her own feelings more known prior to leaving Darlington Hall, ultimately marrying a man she never really loved the way she did Stevens.

It would've been fantastic to see how Meryl interpreted that scene.  Miss Kenton is a borderline supporting role in my opinion, but both Hopkins and Thompson were deservedly nominated for Academy Awards in lead. In total the film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, despite winning none.  It's an absolutely fabulous script and was obviously very well received by critics.  No wonder Meryl had been so interested.

The events which led to Meryl being replaced are only hazily documented.  Evidently Mike Nichols (who had directed her in Silkwood, Heartburn and Postcards from the Edge) was set to direct the film in the early 90's.  He had Meryl and Jeremy Irons read for the leads but deemed the two unsuitable for the roles.  Meryl's agent, who was also Nichols's agent, failed to inform her of this and she therefore sort of lost the part behind her back.  This resulted in Meryl switching agents and living with a bit of a chip on her shoulder about what had taken place.  Apparently all is fine now, but I can easily understand Meryl's anger, considering it was the kind of part that was no doubt becoming few and far between after turning 40.  Thompson was 34 when the film was released.  This isn't to say that Meryl was replaced due to age, but her outrage in my opinion speaks to the leanness of great roles for women at that time.  The film ended up being directed by James Ivory.  1993 instead saw Meryl star alongside Irons in the forgettable The House of the Spirits.   Huge opportunity missed.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Meryl to present at Academy Awards

Well I'm glad to see news of this being confirmed so soon, considering Meryl missed the Globes due to illness.  It's customary to have the previous year's acting winners present to the opposite gender at the ceremony.  No doubt Meryl will be presenting Best Actor in a Leading Role.  They tend to alternate the order from year to year as well, and since Meryl was the final acting award of the night last year, this year it will likely be Best Actor.   Which of course means she'll basically wrap up the night handing the Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance as Abe Lincoln.  That'll be a fun sight.  As I've said before...the inverse needs to happen a year from now.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Meryl looking more likely for "Into the Woods"

Fasten your seat belts, musical-loving queer baits.  Last night, news surfaced that composer David Krane (Chicago, Nine) sort of let it slip that Meryl will indeed tackle the tall task of portraying The Witch in Rob Marshall's upcoming film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.  I'm tentatively considering her confirmed for this role.  Ahhh!  Krane will evidently be doing the arrangements for the film.  I learned that he had previously worked with Meryl in 1977 on a Broadway musical entitled Happy End, for which Meryl won a Drama Desk Award.  Learn something everyday.

There is no word yet as to when shooting will begin, but if there's already (loose) confirmation of Meryl's participation in January, I anticipate a 2013 start date, which means it could be ready for a late 2014 release.  You know what that means.  If this picture turns out more like Chicago than Nine, Meryl stands a chance at awards recognition.  If she ends up getting an Oscar nomination next year for August: Osage County, and follows that win(!) with another nomination the next year for Into the Woods, that would total six lead acting nominations in nine years.  I've agreed with Regina over at FYC Meryl Streep that Meryl's past decade of roles might actually outdo her amazing run in the 80's.

This fantastic development piggyback's the news of Meryl's involvement in Tommy Lee Jones's The Homesman, which is set to film this spring.  There's been a little confusion as to which role Meryl will actually be playing in that film, but most of the articles I've read indicate she'll be one of the "crazy" women being transported, while a lone article suggests she'll portray the spinster school teacher who assists Jones in actually transporting, a role I was under the impression (and still am, frankly) Hilary Swank would be portraying.  I'm sure we'll get clarification on that soon enough.  Who knows, maybe The Homesman could be an awards vehicle as well in supporting.  Regardless, I'm thrilled to learn that we'll get to see Meryl in another musical.  I've no doubt she's working on perfecting her pipes.  That role ain't gonna be no vocal cake walk.