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.