Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Academy Awards analysis (1999)

Poor Meryl didn't have a chance this year.  She's probably considered by many as more of a filler nominee in a weak year, having replaced Madonna in the lead role of Music of the Heart.  The season was dominated by eventual winner Hilary Swank and Annette Bening.  Swank, for her role as a transgendered young man in the ultra low-budget Boys Don't Cry, earned numerous critics awards including the Golden Globe for Drama.  While Bening won fewer critics awards for American Beauty, she received the SAG award and BAFTA (although in 2000 the BAFTAs were still held after the Oscars, so their predictive value was null).

As mentioned, I consider Meryl's nomination this year as a bit of an afterthought.  Her extensive body of work, the fact that she learned to play the violin and a decent campaign by the studio likely helped to get her recognized.  There are a handful of more impressive performances for which she was not nominated that may make this one seem a bit of an eyebrow-raiser to some.  I happen to think she's fabulous here as usual, and I actually really enjoy the film.  It's just not quite as baity as we typically see from Meryl.  I'm actually kind of impressed that the Academy was able to recognize some of the subtlety in her performance as an ordinary woman who accomplished extraordinary things.  The full nominee list that year is as follows:

Annette Bening (American Beauty)
Janet McTeer (Tumbleweed)
Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair)
Meryl Streep (Music of the Heart)
Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry)

Swank is sort of like a better version of Anne Hathaway when accepting this award.  The end of her speech is fantastic in my opinion but she just seems to come off as a bit too earnest and sanctimonious during the rest of it.  Had Bening managed to take the award, American Beauty would have become only the fourth film in history to score wins in the top five categories (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay).  The others of course being It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).  Incidentally this year made it eight straight nominations for which Meryl walked away empty handed.  Bring on the 21st century!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Multiple casting updates for "Into the Woods"

Broadway World is reporting "confirmation" of several roles for the upcoming Rob Marshall film Into the Woods.  The majority of the names we've already covered in previous posts, but a few of the names are new.  Here's where we stand with just a few short weeks prior to shooting:

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 (rumored)

Daniel Huttlestone was not mentioned as "confirmed" in the article, and we have no news whatsoever thus far on who might portray Little Red Riding Hood.  New names to the above list from previous posts are Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard as Lucinda and Florinda (Cinderella's stepsisters), respectively.  Guess that's a definite no on Megan Hilty, then.   I had never heard of either of these actresses, but it looks as if both have worked extensively in TV and film.  Blanchard appears to have more stage experience, having bagged a couple of Tony noms in the early 2000's (including one for the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying).  Their roles aren't huge so I'm not too worried about it.   The Broadway World article also lists Baranski as "Cinderella's Mother."  I imagine this is just a typo, as all other sources I've read have consistently listed her as "Cinderella's Stepmother."  Excited for this to finally get underway!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"August: Osage County" set for world premiere in Toronto

Several sources are reporting that Meryl's upcoming film August: Osage County will receive its world premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.  The film will be a gala event for the festival, which runs from Sep 5-15.  SO excited about this!  It's not as if this news means I'll see the film any sooner than Christmas (Toronto isn't too far from Minneapolis though...should I go?!?!), but it does mean that we'll get a shit ton of reviews and countless opinions on Meryl's performance and the film itself

The TIFF website indicates that August's running time is 130 minutes.  The length of the picture has long been a source of speculation, as the play runs well over three hours.  I was anticipating about 2.5 hours for the film, so I'm a little surprised that they were able to pare it down to 2 hours, 10 minutes.  It's still longer than an average film, but I'm hopeful that none of the juicy stuff is missing. 

Other notable films making either their world or North American premiere at the festival which happen to star possible Best Actress contenders include Philomena (Judi Dench), Gravity (Sandra Bullock), Blue is the Warmest Color (Adele Exarchopolous), The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her (Jessica Chastain) and Labor Day (Labor Day)Let the bloodbath begin.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Magnussen set to replace Gyllenhaal in "Into the Woods"

According to Deadline, Tony-nominated actor Billy Magnussen is in negotiations to replace Jake Gyllenhaal as one of the princes in Disney's upcoming musical Into the Woods.  Gyllenhaal dropped out last week due to scheduling conflicts.  Magnussen is probably best known for his recent pants-dropping turn as "Spike" in the Broadway play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, for which he received his nomination as Best Featured Actor in a Play.  I don't know much about his singing ability, but the couple of clips I've checked out on You Tube demonstrate that he has a clue.  I can't imagine he's any worse than Gyllenhaal would've been vocally.

The Deadline article suggests that he'll be be playing Rapunzel's Prince.  IMDb continues to list Chris Pine in that role, so I guess we don't really know who will play which prince.  I've been listing Gyllenhaal and Pine as either/or, so I'll continue to do so with Pine/Magnussen.  With how quickly Magnussen was snatched up, I imagine he was one of director Rob Marshall's first backups.  Here's where the cast list stands as of this news:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
Cinderella's/Rapunzel's Prince: Chris Pine (confirmed)/Billy Magnussesn (rumored)
The Baker's Wife: Emily Blunt (confirmed)
The Stepmother: Christine Baranski (confirmed)
Stepsister: Megan Hilty (rumored)
Jack's Mother: Tracey Ullman (confirmed)
Jack: Daniel Huttlestone (rumored)
Cinderella: Anna Kendrick (rumored)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gyllenhaal out of "Into the Woods"

This cast just got a little less good-looking.  Several sources are now reporting that Jake Gyllenhaal has had to drop out of the upcoming film Into the Woods due to scheduling conflicts.  He is going to be filming two films this fall, the first of which, Nightcrawler just received the green light, which apparently trumps his involvement in Woods.  

My initial reaction when I thought about Gyllenhaal not being in the film was "oh no, now he won't be able to say he's been in a movie with Meryl."  How quickly I forget Rendition.   The next thing I thought was which hunky actor they'll get to replace him.  We don't know a ton about Gyllenhaal's vocal ability, be suffice it to say he's not exactly known for his singing prowess.  Aaron Tveit, anyone?

This news leaves the cast listing as follows:

The Witch: Meryl Streep (confirmed)
The Wolf: Johnny Depp (confirmed)
The Baker: James Corden (confirmed)
Cinderella's/Rapunzel's Prince: Chris Pine (confirmed)
The Baker's Wife: Emily Blunt (confirmed)
The Stepmother: Christine Baranski (confirmed)
Stepsister: Megan Hilty (rumored)
Jack's Mother: Tracey Ullman (confirmed)
Jack: Daniel Huttlestone (rumored)
Cinderella: Anna Kendrick (rumored)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Meryl headed to London soon to film "Into the Woods"

Gossip columnist Liz Smith's latest report indicates that Meryl is headed to London in three weeks to begin filming "Into the Woods."  Smith evidently had lunch with Meryl's press agent Leslee Dart, who was happy to provide a portion of Streep's summer itinerary.  This info, assuming it's accurate, falls completely in line with previous reports that shooting was to begin in August or September.

I've seen some concern on the blogosphere about whether the film was going on as planned.  There haven't been any casting updates for several weeks and a recent Hollywood Reporter interview in which the chairman of Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn failed to include Into the Woods in his list of upcoming films for 2014 was enough to get rumors buzzing.  The word of mouth update from Meryl's press agent, however should hopefully be enough to squelch the doubts.   Into the Woods is set for a Christmas Day release, 2014. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Film review: "Death Becomes Her" (1992)

In the early 90's Meryl and Goldie Hawn were interested in doing a project together.  As I've already covered in one of my early shoulda coulda wouldas, Thelma & Louise was on the radar as a possibility.  For several reasons you've hopefully read in the aforementioned link, it didn't pan out.  A year later the two ended up starring alongside each other in the campy, now cult-classic film Death Becomes Her.

By 1992 we saw four consecutive Hollywood films from Meryl with She-Devil, Postcards from the Edge, Defending Your Life and Death Becomes Her.  This move was likely a combination of choosing more "commercial" roles as she approached 40, and wanting some stability for her family.  In my opinion it's her roughest patch in terms of film quality, but I'll cover that in more depth in a future post.

This film marked the first time Meryl had to contend with extensive green screen work, as she and Goldie's characters go through a series of bodily transformations.  The film tells the quirky story of two "frenemies," Madeline Ashton (Meryl), an aging actress who steals Helen Sharp's (Goldie) plastic surgeon fiancĂ© (Bruce Willis).  Helen becomes morbidly obese, obsesses about the breakup, and develops a homicidal attitude toward Madeline.

Here's where it gets weird(er).  Several years later Helen and Madeline meet again.  While Madeline is looking rather aged despite her extensive and expensive efforts, Helen is miraculously transformed into a svelte beauty.  Turns out the physical transformation came from a potion that Madeline eventually gets her hands on as well.  The two discover each other's secret and after attempts to do away with one another, end up together with nothing but their broken bodies and lonely minds.

Not exactly what we're used to seeing from Meryl.  As always she's brilliant in the role.  I particularly enjoy how well she portrays someone who's image obsessed while making the character seem more physically unattractive than she probably is.  It helps tremendously with the contrast of her post-potion appearance.  While Madeline is a desperate, pathetic person, Meryl manages to portray her more comically tragic than anything.  Initially hating her, we begin to feel sorry for her.

Commercially the film was reasonably sucessful, won the Oscar for its CGI visual effects and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Meryl.  Not too shabs.  Although I get a kick out of the film for is goofiness and camp, I tend to consider it an unnecessary misstep for someone of Meryl's expertise.  She's been quoted as saying she thought working on a film with such detail on special effects was incredibly tedious and that Death Becomes Her would be her one and only.  No protestations here. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Update on Best Actress race

I know it's kind of unsavory calling it a "race," considering it really shouldn't be about competition.  Alas, with millions of dollars being flooded into promotional FYC campaigns, I don't feel too bad about perpetuating it. 

We're now halfway through 2013, which essentially means little when it comes to films that may vie for critical accolades.  The great majority of contenders will of course be released third quarter.  I thought it may be a good time, however, to assess where things stand.  Meryl certainly continues to hold steady near the top of most pundits' predictions for her hotly anticipated role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County.  I'll just list the site and which slot they're predicting our girl.

Gold Derby: 1st overall among editors/experts/users at 21/10 odds to win.
Awards Circuit: 2nd behind Naomi Watts in Diana
Rope of Silicon: 4th
Chris Tapley at Hitfix: 2nd behind Judi Dench in Philomena
Anne Thompson at Thompson on Hollywood: listed only as a "contender."
Awards Watch forums: 1st with 85% predicting her to be nominated. 

We are so early in the race so all of these predictions are basically shots in the dark, but Meryl is essentially the frontrunner, on average, among all sites and opinions. 

Happy 4th!