Monday, December 30, 2013

Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks"/Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #9

Yes, this is a dual-purposed post that will cover both my opinions on Emma Thompson's performance in Saving Mr. Banks and the prospect that Meryl could've portrayed P.L. Travers in place of Thompson.   Last night I saw the film and rather enjoyed it.  I'm a big fan of several Disney movies, and although I think Mary Poppins is 60% shitty, I am in love with Dame Julie Andrews.  A film therefore about the behind the scenes process of getting it from book to screen was sort of a no-brainer when it comes to pleasing this blogger.

Like American Hustle, I thought the film was good. I don't think any part of it was particularly fantastic, and I thought the flashback scenes were by far the weakest part of the film.  They were no doubt necessary but probably too much.  Emma Thompson (whom I absolutely adore) does a fine job.  Is there anything particularly challenging about this role though?  I'm not least how Thompson played it.  It became too one-dimensional, as the woman just seemed chronically unhappy.  We are shown why with the flashbacks, but I was hoping to see her humanized a tad more in the portrayal so that I actually cared about her.  Thompson showed us some of that when the character realizes that she has to make a few concessions with her demands, I just wanted more.

Current rankings for the year as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
6. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
7. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

These critiques on Thompson are getting pretty picky, as I thought it was a nice performance.  I imagine though that the dimension I was looking for and the extent to which she let go of her stranglehold on production of Poppins, would've been provided by Meryl.  Technically Meryl would've been a better age for the film as well, as Travers would've bee in her 60's when all this was going on.  I usually don't compare what I feel Meryl would've done in someone else's role during Oscar season, but we know there are several sources that reported early last year the rumor of her possible collaboration with Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks.  When news arrived of this possibility in February 2012, I posted about it and suggested that it would be fun to see Meryl join with Hanks, as the two had never worked together in a film.  I also thought Meryl would get to try her hand at an Australian accent again, but I've since learned that although Travers spent part of her childhood in Australia, she lived in England most of her life and sounded quite British.

It became clear however as the months progressed that Meryl was not going to be involved with this picture, as filming was to begin in fall 2012, the same time as August: Osage County.  I had no qualms about it at the time because I was sure August would be the far superior project.  This is not to suggest that Meryl made the wrong choice, rather to say the popularity and expectation of Saving Mr. Banks doing well has surprised me.  As the original script was blacklisted, it had been around for some time.  Had things got going say six months earlier, they could've perhaps began filming in California (as almost all shooting was done around L.A.) in early spring 2012.  Meryl was around the area a lot anyway for all the awards shows after the storm of Iron Lady nominations.  I can't imagine why, if filming were wrapped by May 2012, the film couldn't have been ready for limited release by December of last year.  That would've been nice spacing between Banks and Hope Springs (released in August), and would've provided Meryl another vehicle for awards recognition.  I wager we would've seen her double nommed at the Globes and in better contention for Oscar.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Amy Adams in "American Hustle"

Last night my friend Scooter and I got together for a night of distraction and decided to start our evening with a viewing of American Hustle.  Amy Adams is in contention for Best Actress consideration at the Oscars for her role as con artist Sydney Prosser.  Overall, I thought the film was good.  Scooter and I both gave it a B.  It was entertaining, occasionally funny, nice to look at.  Of course the script and directing are top notch but the most notable aspect is the performance by its ensemble cast.  Christian Bale, Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner all deliver fantastic and memorable performances.

Adams in my opinion is absolutely in the accurate category of Lead Actress.  She and Bale are in it from start to finish, the events surround their relationship and work, and the two narrate the story.  That being said, I don't think the character and portrayal of Sydney is the type that would tend to receive first place votes among Oscar voters.   Part of the issue is that although I think Adams is being campaigned in the correct category, the work of the main four cast members is such a collaboration that it's difficult to stand out, with the exception of Jennifer Lawrence's role, which is loud, flashy and the smallest of the four.

Adams does excellent work in this film and I feel it's lazy to say this, but her British accent left a bit to be desired.  This could've been a more impressive performance considering half of her role is basically a character within a character.  But the difficulty I had discerning if she was donning her accent at times was distracting and the distinction between Sydney and her con alter ego Lady Edith didn't display enough contrast and was therefore less compelling to me.   Had that been in place in addition to Adams's couple of dramatic scenes early in the picture I feel her chances at individual recognition could've been considerably strengthened.

I watched Saving Mr. Banks tonight and hope to do a special combination post of Emma Thompson's performance and Shoulda Coulda Woulda sometime tomorrow.  Up to this point, I'd rank the Best Actress performances in contention as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
6. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Streep in new Entertainment Tonight video

I saw an article with this video today and thought it was a cute little tribute to Meryl which included some snippets I had never seen.  Good plug for August: Osage County as well. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Streep receives Best Actress award from Nevada Film Critics Society

Okay, this is barely third tier for critics groups go, but it's great to see Meryl grab the first prize!  She's been nominated by most groups but hasn't broken through up to this point so it's nice to see her recognized, however non-prestigious the awards body may be.  Meryl also appeared on The View today to promote August: Osage County:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Streep to receive Icon Award

Deadline is reporting that Meryl will be the recipient of the Icon Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival.  The award "honors a creative talent who, through the course of his or her career, has created a body of work which symbolizes the highest level of achievement in the motion picture art form."  No brainer I guess.  The ceremony will be held on January 3rd.  Congrats, Meryl! 

And in case anyone was wondering what the hell is going on the the August: Osage County release date, the plan is that it will now open in New York and L.A. on December 27 and go wide January 10.  Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood nicely explains the reasoning here.  I hope Harvey knows what the hell he's doing. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adèle Exarchopoulos in "Blue is the Warmest Color"

Oral fixation much?  That's what I couldn't help thinking about writer, producer, director Abdellatif Kechiche when watching much of this film.  There is so much focus on mouths!  Eating, smoking, kissing, sucking, fucking, more eating, more smoking, snot running down mouths.  Jeeze.  So after taking a cold shower I was able to more fully process this three hour French film and the fantastic performance given by its dazzling lead, Adèle Exarchopoulos.  

The story follows Adèle as she finds herself attracted to a stranger she bumps into on the street, Emma (played by Léa Seydoux).  The two end up officially meeting and developing a several year relationship that ends with Emma kicking out Adèle, who confesses to cheating on Emma out of jealousy/loneliness.  

Clearly Exarchopoulos is a young actress; for crying out loud she was 18 when filming took place.  Notwithstanding the obvious fact of how challenging her youth may have made the lengthy lesbian sex scenes, she adeptly conveyed a troubled young adult struggling with a very confusing and challenging life situation.   The story itself isn't particularly fresh.  Young love, confused sexuality, jealousy, insecurity.  But this is done in such a raw and honest way.  I commend Exarchopoulous on her ability to negotiate the emotions that would accompany all these events.  From the mixed feelings she has about a boy who shows interest, the exciting yet confusing attraction she has to Emma, to having to deny to friends that she's seeing a woman and putting on a good face at work for kids when all she wants to do is bawl her eyes out for having screwed things up with Emma.  

I suppose it's difficult to know how much of a performance comes from a director.  With youngsters I imagine it's more of an influence.  Add that to reports that director Kechiche was very demanding and even overbearing at times, and I wonder even more how much of Exarchopoulos's choices were her own.  I guess I don't really care, as the performance was wonderful to watch.  Her chances for Academy Award recognition seems slim to me, however.  She's already been passed over by the Screen Actors Guild and The Hollywood Foreign Press.  Being a three hour subtitled film rated NC-17 doesn't  help much with getting Academy members  to see it either.  Regardless of awards, the film and its performances were triumphs.  Here are my current personal rankings for Best Actress this year:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Judi Dench (Philomena)
5. Sandra Bullock (Gravity

Monday, December 16, 2013

Streep nominated for Critics' Choice Award

This morning Meryl was nominated in the Best Actress category for her role as Violet Weston in August: Osage County by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.   There are six nominees in each acting categories, with Best Actress rounding out as follows:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
5. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
6. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

This nomination, along with her SAG and Golden Globe nods, puts Meryl in good contention for Oscar recognition.  A noticeable omission is Amy Adams in American Hustle.  Considering her costars Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were all nominated in Lead Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, respectively, this does not spell good news for Adams.  She had to settle with a nomination in the Comedy Actress category, a noteworthy consolation considering one can be nominated in both that and the main Lead Actress category simultaneously.  This is further evidence that we may end up with the first Lead Actress lineup of all previous winners at the Oscars this year with the five listed above (sans Larson).  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Streep nominated for Golden Globe

As expected, Meryl was nominated for a Golden Globe this morning for her leading role in August: Osage County.  This comes one day after her nomination from the Screen Actors Guild.  These are essentially the two biggest precursor award to the Oscars.  It'll be interesting to see if Meryl gets a BAFTA nomination in a few weeks but I'm not holding my breath on that one.  Here's the list of Lead Actress nominees in both categories.  No major surprises, with the possible exception of no Adèle Exarchopoulos.  And no Oprah in supporting?! Snap.

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

Musical or Comedy
1. Amy Adams (America Hustle)
2. Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
3. Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
4. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
5. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Streep receives two SAG nominations

The nominations for the 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced this morning and I'm pleased to report that our girl Meryl was recognized with nominations for her leading role as Violet Weston in August: Osage County as well as for being part of the ensemble for the film.  Julia Roberts was nominated for her supporting role as Barbara Fordham.  Congratulations to Meryl, Julia and the fantastic cast of this film.  The five nominees for Actress in a Leading Role are as follows:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
5. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

These were my predicted five but it was a pretty easy five to predict.  I've read that since American Hustle screeners were some of the last sent to SAG members that Amy Adams may have trouble getting in.  I don't buy that suggestion now, as Jennifer Lawrence got in for supporting, as did the ensemble.  Adams will get nominated for a Globe tomorrow and absolutely still has a chance at an Oscar nom, especially as support for her film grows in the coming weeks.

What was interesting to see was the support for both Oprah Winfrey and Forrest Whitaker for their performances in Lee Daniels' The Butler.  With those two nominations, Dench and the August girls,  The Weinstein Company landed five individual performance nominations to lead all studios.  Despite knowing Harvey's voracity at acquiring nominations for his films, I was skeptical of how well his films would do.  But many of the films he has in the running this year are rather "actory."  It's not a guarantee that this will translate into Oscar nominations, but I'm very glad he's in Meryl's corner.  Here's hoping his pushing of Judi Dench doesn't hurt Meryl's chances.  Regardless, I'm pleased with Meryl's nomination(s) and fully expect another one tomorrow morning.

Coincidentally(?), a new promotional clip of August: Osage County was released this morning, attempting to paint this film as an "outrageous comedy."  I guess that's sort of accurate, but the sugar plum fairy-ish music in the background is a bit much perhaps.  But hey, that's marketing.  As long as it gets butts in the seats.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The state of the race and SAG predictions

With the Screen Actors Guild nominations set to be announced tomorrow morning, I thought it best to take stock of where the Best Actress race stands, in particular as it pertains to Meryl's chances at recognition for her work in August: Osage County.  Several critics groups have given out their awards and/or nominations.  Thus far Meyl has been nominated by the following organizations:

Satellite Awards
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Associations
Detroit Film Critics Society
St. Louis Film Critics
Phoenix Film Critics Society

Not exactly cream of the crop.  Nothing from New York, L.A. or Boston.  Not a huge deal as the televised awards are a whole different ball game.  I'm predicting Meryl to be nominated for a SAG and I think the film has a great chance at an ensemble nod as well.  That said, it's not impossible for her to miss based on the predictions I've noticed throughout the web.  The Golden Globe noms are announced Thursday morning, but Meryl missing there is next to impossible.

Were she to be snubbed tomorrow morning, I think her chances at an Oscar nomination will dramatically decrease, as the actors branch is the largest in the Academy.  Fingers crossed!  My SAG predictions for Actress in a Leading Role:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
4. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
 alternate: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Monday, December 9, 2013

First set pics of Meryl in "The Giver"

Ok, I thought Meryl was already finished shooting in South Africa for The Giver.  Evidently not, as last week the first set pics were snapped of her in costume as the Chief Elder.

Fun wig, Mer.  She's typically pretty involved in the styling for her roles, as I'm sure she has a specific idea of how to characterize each portrayal physically.  It's been a rather "wiggy" career year for her, following Violet Weston's Liz Taylor do in August: Osage County and the set pic from Into the Woods a few months ago featuring a twig-infested witch's mane.  The Giver is set for an August 15th release.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Release date postponed for "August: Osage County"...again?

Ugh.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is reporting that the release date for August: Osage County is being postponed yet again.  The film was originally to be released November 7, then got moved to Christmas Day.  Now it's possibly being pushed back two weeks to Friday, January 10.  This was the only article I found making this claim, but it'd be pretty weird if it were just made up.  There are several films being released within a week's time of Christmas, so perhaps Harvey Weinstein wants to make August's opening a bit less competitive.  If I hadn't been able to see this movie at the Twin Cities Film Festival in October I would be livid at this point.  I think I'll wait for further confirmation before adjusting the countdown calendar to the right.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Eat the fish, bitch!"

A delightful new clip was released today from August: Osage County.  It's the famous "Eat the fish, bitch!" scene, with Julia Roberts bringing it home.  Meryl has some funny facial expressions.

Great stuff.  I gotta tell ya, I'm a little nervous about Meryl's Oscar nomination chances.  I know this role is pure bait and the film will likely do fine at the box office, but so many pundits and blogs I've browsed have Meryl predicted at 4th or 5th place.  Or not at all.  I still think that she'll get nominated, but I don't like when her placement doesn't feel safe.  As I've said before, the SAG and Golden Globe nominations next week will be extremely telling.  If Meryl lands nominations for both, that'll be some nice momentum going into the film's nationwide release around Christmas.  Hopefully buzz and good box office will be enough to accumulate a few first place votes among the Academy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New promo for "August: Osage County"

This afternoon a promotional video/trailer was released for August: Osage County.  It includes some new footage of Meryl and others, with excerpts from a press conference last month which involved both Meryl and Julia Roberts.  In theaters in less than three weeks!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Meryl nominated for Satellite Award

"What's a Satellite Award?"  So came the question from Joe when he asked what I was going to blog about tonight for my 300th post on Word on the Streep!  The answer I gave was pretty vague, as I actually don't have a fantastic grasp on what they are either.  All I know is that they're given by the International Press Academy, which is a group of journalists who cover cinema, tv and print media.  Essentially they're the first organization to announce awards nominations and last to present (the week after the Oscars).  They also nominate eight potential winners in each category, so basically it's like "if you're in a non-shitty film fourth quarter of're in."  The complete list for actresses in a leading role is below.  Zero surprises.

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (Enough Said)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)