Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Academy Awards analysis (1995)

After a five year break between Oscar nominations (her longest to date), Meryl received her 10th nod for her role as Francesca Johnson in 1995's The Bridges of Madison County.  This was a highly coveted role for many Hollywood actresses, with star/director Clint Eastwood notably quipping that when it came casting Francesca, he only made one call.

Looking back at the awards season in early 1996, the leading women's group was fairly strong that year.  Of course I wasn't following things then as closely as I do now, but from what I can gather, Meryl was pretty much a shoe-in for an Oscar nom.  She had just come out of her "wilderness years" of the early 90's, and hot off the moderate box office success of 1994's action film The River Wild, Streep donned another accent to embody this Italian war bride.

Eventual winner Susan Sarandon was a pretty safe bet that year, however.  She had never won before, and this was her fourth nomination in five years.  While Sharon Stone won the Golden Globe in drama for Casino, Sarandon won the SAG (where Stone was not nominated).  Streep was nominated for both.  The full list of Academy Award nominees is as follows:

Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking)
Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas)
Sharon Stone (Casino)
Meryl Streep (The Bridges of Madison County)
Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility)

With the above list and despite Stone winning the Globe, I think Meryl was realistically #2 behind Sarandon that year, be it a distant #2.  By this point Meryl had gone thirteen years without a win and this made it six straight losses.  Thompson had won just three years earlier and I think Shue likely came in fifth.  I'm a fan of Sarandon (and Thompson) and think this was well deserved.  It would take Meryl another seven nominations over sixteen years before winning again for The Iron Lady, her 17th overall. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Film review: "Adaptation" (2002)

It has been far too long since my last review.  And since there's a brief lacunae in Meryl project updates this week, I thought it would be a great time to review one of Meryl's finest performances, that of author Susan Orlean in 2002's Adaptation.  I saw this film in the theater right around the time I became a huge Meryl fan.  For reasons unknown to me, I didn't see it again until about two years ago with Joe.  The film happens to be one of his favorites.  He had to "remind" me about some of the plot details that diverge when the film's script is taken over by Donald, the fictional twin brother to real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

Directed by Spike Jonze, the story follows Charlie as he attempts to adapt Orlean's book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay.  Kaufman in real life had great trouble adapting the book and ended up creating a screenplay that included himself and his struggles.  He invented a twin brother (Donald) for his character, also a screenwriter, but the antithesis of Charlie's artistic approach to film writing.   The first half of the film is sort of meant to be what Charlie's storyline would look like onscreen, with the latter half more through the view of Donald, as he takes over for his brother when Charlie's writer's block becomes too much.

We therefore see Meryl (Orlean) at the beginning of the film in more of a professional character, as she follows eccentric horticulturalist John Laroche, getting info for her story on him and his arrest for alleged orchid poaching.  The fascinating moments in Meryl's acting come when, satirically, she portrays Orlean falling in love with Laroche and snorting drugs that were harvested from orchids to provide hallucinogenic effects.  See below.

Fabulous. I think believably playing drunk, high or crazy has got to be one of the most challenging prospects in acting.  It could so easily come off as goofy or distractingly over the top.  Here, Meryl plays it subtly and brilliantly.  The story progressively gets more typically thriller-like, again a satire on actual events demonstrated by writer Charlie Kaufman's fictional brother turning the story into a more formulaic Hollywood money-maker.

The Hours was released around the same time as this film. I consider 2002 as the year that sort of started Meryl's turn as a box office draw.  Her work in these two films, followed by HBO's Angels in America, The Devils Wears Prada and Mamma Mia! solidified her position as a heavyweight in the unlikely decade of her 50's.

Meryl of course was nominated for an Academy Award for Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Orlean.  Catherine Zeta-Jones took home the award for her work in Chicago.  Despite how much I loved Chicago and Zeta-Jones in it, Meryl was robbed that year for Oscar.  It was such an amazing depiction and negotiation of a complex character and story.  She settled for a Golden Globe.  Chris Cooper won the supporting Oscar for portraying Laroche and in his acceptance speech said working with Meryl was like "making great jazz."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Blunt, Baranksi up for "Into the Woods"

Sheesh, Disney is hopping right to it figuring out the cast for Into the Woods.  The lastest news is that Emily Blunt is being considered for The Baker's Wife, while Christine Baranski is rumored to be in negotiations for The Stepmother.   This would be Blunt's second film alongside Meryl, following 2006's The Devil Wears Prada.   Baranski, who previously worked with director Rob Marshall in Chicago, more recently paired with Meryl in 2008's mega-hit musical Mamma Mia!  So far pretty much anyone who has been "in talks" has essentially been confirmed in one role or another.  Here's where we are:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
Cinderella's/Rapunzel's Prince: Jake Gyllenhaal & Chris Pine (rumored)
The Baker's Wife:  Emily Blunt (rumored)
The Stepmother: Christine Baranski (rumored)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gyllenhaal and Pine in talks for "Into the Woods"

Well done, Minnesota, for getting marriage equality signed into law today!  Speaking of, as if the upcoming film adaptation of Sondheim's musical Into the Woods weren't already a gay magnet (gagnet?), The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Jake Gyllenhaal and Chris Pine are in talks to star as the two princes.  Yum.

I wasn't aware that either of these two gentlemen were capable of singing well.  Again however, we know Sondheim would prefer great actors who can sing over great singers who can act.  Both Gyllenhaal and Pine have fine acting chops, and certainly wouldn't do much to deter fans from showing up in theaters.  I'm personally excited to see Chris Pine in Star Trek Into Darkness within the next week or so.  For Gyllenhaal, this would be his second film with Meryl, following 2007's Rendition.  Here's where the cast list stands after this new bit of info:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
The Baker's Wife: Nina Arianda (rumored)
Cinderella's/Rapunzel's Prince: Jake Gyllenhaal & Chris Pine (rumored)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Depp, Corden confirmed for "Into the Woods"

With all of the hullabaloo surrounding yesterday's release of the first trailer for August: Osage County, I'm sure few people noticed that casting updates were revealed for Meryl's upcoming film Into the Woods.  Broadway World is reporting that both Johnny Depp and James Corden, previously rumored, have indeed been confirmed for the film as The Wolf and The Baker respectively.

The article includes information about the new material Stephen Sondheim has written for the film version.  One song is a duet for the Baker and his wife called "Rainbows"  The other is evidently for the Witch.  Normally I would think this is fantastic news for Meryl, as more material would normally mean more screen time.  However, rumors are floating around that the new song is a replacement for "the Witch's lament," I song I happen to particularly enjoy.  More perplexing is the fact that Rapunzel is reportedly not killed off in the film version.  As The Witch's daughter, Rapunzel's story being changed will inevitably change The Witch's.  It'll be interesting to see how they negotiate such a big difference, particularly as it pertains to Meryl and her character.  I don't want to start speculating about it in a negative way already.  I'm inclined to believe that Meryl pulls quite a bit of weight these days with the trajectories of her characters' arcs, so I'll surrender my anxiety to her expertise.

Here's where we stand on the cast:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
The Baker's Wife: Nina Arianda (rumored)

Friday, May 10, 2013

First trailer for "August: Osage County"

Without further ado...

It's exciting to have our first action shots of Meryl and the rest of the cast.  My main reaction upon seeing this the first time was "wow, they're sure trying to make us think this is a lot 'sunnier' of a story than it really is."  Literally the film production looks more sunny than the play, as they've obviously opened up the story to include some of the dialogue in areas outside the Weston home (which we expected).  The reason for the brighter and somewhat lighthearted feel to the trailer is likely a marketing ploy.  Not too many people rush out to see a depressing or disturbing story.  Although there are certainly comic parts to this script, the overall tone is dark and at times rather intense.

We already know from Tracy Letts himself that the film closely follows the play, so we should expect the full film to include all the aspects that develop this more complicated and engaging storyline.  Meryl is in a fair amount of the trailer and as expected, dons an Oklahoman accent.  To me it actually sounds like she's trying to sound a bit like Margo Martindale, which would make sense, as the two play sisters in the movie.  There aren't many really baity clips of her shown.  There are a couple cute lines from the dinner table scene, and we briefly see the start of her physical altercation with Julia Roberts (Barbara), but we obviously get essentially no sense of what that entire amazing scene will provide the audience when seen in its entirety.

This trailer arrived sooner that I expected.  I imagine we'll see a second sometime late summer perhaps, this time possibly showing a bit more of an edge to the plot.  Although I wouldn't be surprised if this first trailer is how they plan on promoting the film.  It's a bit disingenuous to be honest, but hey, get as many butts in the seats as you can.  Maybe Harvey wants to keep open the possibility of pushing musical/comedy categories at the Globes.  At his point, Meryl looks like an even stronger candidate for her 18th Academy Award nomination.  All that remains to be seen is how well the film works as a whole.    Can't wait!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Casting news heats up for "Into the Woods"

As expected, casting rumors abound for Rob Marshall's upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods.  The latest is that Tony award-winning actress Nina Arianda is in talks to portray The Baker's Wife alongside James Corden's Baker.  The two were both involved in the table reading that took place last fall.  In general we can probably consider anyone who participated in that table read to be in consideration for a role, but unless there is specific news of an individual, I'm not going to include them in my casting list.

I hadn't realized this last year, but evidently last spring Emma Stone had met with Rob Marshall to discuss a role in the film.  I imagine she'd be up for either Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella.  She was recently spotted chatting up James Corden at a comedy event.  Stone however may possibly encounter a scheduling conflict as she is expected to begin filming a new Woody Allen film in France this summer.  Again, only time will tell whether or not any of these folks will be officially cast.  Thus far:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Baker: Johnny Depp (rumored)
                   James Corden (rumored)
The Wolf:  Johnny Depp (rumored)
The Baker's Wife: Nina Arianda (rumored)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Poster for "August: Osage County" revealed

The first poster for August: Osage County was released yesterday afternoon.  Have a look:

I was a little unsure what I thought about it at first.  I was sort of expecting them to possibly use a real still of the house rather than the more abstract "dollhouse" image.  But I think the way it's represented is smart.  Like a pressure cooker with it's top finally blown off from the tumult of the Weston family, the cast members names steam out of the house one by one.   Meryl of course receives top billing. 

It's nice to finally get a little bit of promotional activity about this film.  We can hopefully expect a few production stills within the next month or two, followed ultimately by a highly anticipated trailer which I imagine will be released no later than July.  Let the advertising onslaught commence.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More casting speculation for "Into the Woods"

Broadway World is reporting that British actor James Corden is in talks for a role in Into the Woods.  I know, who?  Apparently he's a rather popular actor in the U.K.  He recently met with director Rob Marshall to discuss his participation in the film.  From what I can gather, Corden may be up for the role of The Baker.  If this is indeed true, it would add some weight to the rumor that Johnny Depp is signing on as The Wolf.  Corden may have a scheduling conflict, however.  Regardless, here's where we are on the cast as of last night:

The Witch:  Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Baker:  Johnny Depp (rumored)
                  James Corden (rumored)
The Wolf:   Johnny Depp (rumored)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Into the Woods" to begin filming in September

Playbill is reporting that Into the Woods is set to begin filming in London this September.  This is in line with previous reports that not only was the production going forward, but that it was set to begin work this fall (October).  A late 2013 filming schedule should ensure a 2014 release.  My guess would be either Thanksgiving or Christmas, considering it's Disney.  Prime placement for Oscar consideration.  Not that I've really been doing this lately, but I will no longer be describing Meryl as "rumored" for this film.  It's happening.

This info comes off the heels of speculation of Johnny Depp's participation in the project.  Most sources are suggesting him in the role as The Baker.   However, a more realistic possibility that has been brought up around the web is that he may portray a "sexy" Wolf.  The latter seems more up Depp's alley, considering his affinity for eccentric and garish characterizations.   Time will tell of course.

The next two years are going to be insanely abundant with Meryl film news.  Yay me.