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.