Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #10: "All the King's Men"

Ok, this is going to be the one Shoulda Coulda Woulda where most people will think Meryl totally dodged a bullet by not doing this picture.  In the fall of 2004 it was announced that she had signed on to play Sadie Burke in the film remake of the 1949 film based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the King's Men.  Shortly before filming was set to begin, Streep dropped out, with the best explanation being "a busy schedule in 2005."  Whatever her reasons, I doubt it truly was due to schedule, as All the King's Men began filming in December 2004 and likely ended in February or March 2005.  Meryl wasn't scheduled to shoot anything else until summer.

The original film in 1949 was a big success.  Broderick Crawford won an Academy Award for his performance as Willie Stark, as did Mercedes McCabridge, in the supporting role Meryl was set to play.  Sean Penn took over as Stark, while Partricia Clarkson reprised the role of Burke after Streep's departure. 

I haven't read the book but I've seen both versions of the film and evidently the 2006 remake is more faithful to Warren's novel.  The 1949 film version of Sadie Burke is a larger role, however.  Regardless, it's not surprising to me that Streep was drawn to this story.  We know that Meryl was less than thrilled with the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004, and a few of her film choices may represent that sentiment.  Only a few months before All the King's Men began filming, Streep starred in another remake of a political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate (coincidentally in a role that garnered the role's originator, Angela Lansbury, an Oscar nomination as well).  Three short years later in 2007, Streep would star in two additional politicized projects, Rendition and Lions for Lambs.

Despite the professional pedigrees of the individuals brought together for this film remake, it ended up being a major flop both critically and commercially.  It currently holds a lifeless 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.  So why the hell would I want Meryl to be in it?!  Well, because as part of my upcoming re-imagined Streep filmography, I want to be able to include at least one project that could've garnered awards attention each calendar year of Meryl' career, unless the film(s) otherwise serve some kind of personal or socially-conscious purpose.  With Prime being the only film Meryl had released in 2005, All the King's Men seemed a plausible addition to fit my criteria, but it requires some major adjustments.

Like so many critics, I agree that All the King's Men is not a particularly effective film.  It's beautifully shot amid the background of the early 1950's, but it seems like director Steven Zaillian just wasn't able to put together a flowing work.  Zaillian is an Academy Award-winning screenwriter but directing was a relatively new role for him.  Obviously Meryl found the script to be worthy of her participation and certainly that's never a guarantee of success, but it seems pretty clear that this may have been improved at the hands of a different director.  Maybe Steven Spielberg?  He's made it known that he would like to direct Meryl in something and had teamed with Zaillian for Schindler's List in 1993 (which won Zaillian his Oscar).  All the King's Men may not seem very "Spielbergy" but let's remember that he also directed less epic yet very good films such as Munich and Catch Me If You Can.  

Then there's the cast.  I happen to think Sean Penn was good, although may have been served well by some nuanced directing in regard to how "big" he went with the role.   Many people were particularly critical of the questionable Louisianan accents of the actors involved.  Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins (all Brits) were distracting with the variability of their speech.  Hopkins didn't even seem to attempt to sound anything other than Welsh.  For Law's role of reporter Jack Burden, perhaps Matthew McConaughey would've been more believable?  For Kate Winslet's Anne Stanton maybe a young Jessica Chastain?  For Hopkins, Donald Sutherland or Robert Duvall?  Poor James Gandolfini in the seemingly fitting role of Tiny Duffy couldn't convince us he was anyone other than a dumber version of Tony Soprano.  I bet John Goodman could've managed it well.

Unfortunately, none of these substitutions took place.  The film was originally slated for a late 2005 release, but re-edits after likely poor reactions to screenings caused the film to be delayed to the second half of 2006.  It was anticipated in Entertainment Weekly that the film would be a major Oscar contender, but to no avail.  It's too bad because the story is such a great one, and the role of Sadie Burke seems so up Meryl's alley.  A southern woman in the 1950's in a male-dominated field who finds herself at the forefront of major political corruption and who happens to be in love with her flawed boss?  An unfortunate opportunity missed.

I realize this post is particularly far-fetched, but it's been a fun one to reconstruct in my mind with different players.  I'll leave you with a clip of the alternate version for the film's somewhat abrupt ending, featuring Clarkson and Law. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Anna Kendrick on Meryl in "Into the Woods"

There is a pair of videos I'd like to share.  The first is a quick blurb of Anna Kendrick talking about her experience in Into the Woods, at the end of which she mentions how "intense" it was watching Meryl perform "Last Midnight."

The second is a recent Vanity Fair video where several actors are asked what their favorite Meryl Streep movie is.  At the end, we again see Anna Kendrick, this time saying "it's going to be Into the Woods because her singing 'Last Midnight' is going to be epic."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meryl on Ellen

The interview was taped the morning of the Oscar nominations, which is why Meryl is so obviously excited about the news of her nom for August: Osage County.  

This afternoon I received my copy of Anatomy of an Actor: Meryl Streep, the new book by Karina Longworth.  Even Joe had to spend several minutes perusing the pages.  Excited to get started on it!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

SAG predictions

Ok, I'm like 99% sure Meryl won't win tonight but I'm still riding high from her squeaking out a nomination from the Academy two days ago.  Since the SAGs only involve acting categories, I thought I'd list my entire predictions in order of liklihood of winning.

Best Ensmemble
1. American Hustle
2. 12 Years a Slave
3. August: Osage County
4. Dallas Buyer's Club
5. Lee Daniels' The Butler

Best Actress in a Leading Role
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)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
1. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer's Club)
2. Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
4. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
5. Forrest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
2. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
3. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
4. June Squibb (Nebraska)
5. Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels' The Butler)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyer's Club)
2. James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
3. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
4. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
5. Daniel Brühl (Rush)

I may be kicking myself for picking Nyong'o over Lawrence, but hey, Lupita won Critics' Choice two nights ago.  Plus I just don't want to vote for Jennifer Lawrence anymore.  James Gandolfini may be a spoiler, as voters have a tendency to award actors posthumously.   Also watch for Dern.  Although I have him in second place, he's been around for a long time and this is an opportunity for actors to give him his due.  I'd be shocked if Cate Blanchett didn't win.  She better.   

Friday, January 17, 2014

NRA project gets a title and first look at "The Giver"

Two days ago I reported that Harvey Weinstein happened to mention to Howard Stern that he was planning a film starring Meryl Streep that was a sort-of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington takedown of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Well yesterday afternoon the project's title was revealedThe Senator's Wife.  I imagine Meryl would portray said wife.  Sue Miller wrote a book with the same title in 2008 but I looked it up and it appears to have nothing to do with gun legislation, so just a coincidence I guess.   No word yet on when filming may begin or if there's even a script ready.  Maybe this could be a good political statement film to release in a big election year and then a Susan B. Anthony film could wait until 2017 when Hillary Clinton is actually president.  Sorry about that whole bridge thing, Governor Christie.

In other news, I noticed on the Meryl Streep forum that there's a new promotional flyer for The Giver:

Ok could Brenton Thwaites be any cuter?  If you can read the print, you'll learn that they've evidently taken several liberties in the movie with regard to the original book.  In particular, they indicate that the role of the Chief Elder (Meryl) will have "more to do."  As I've previously posted, in the book Meryl's role is quite small.  It'll be interesting to see how they beef up that role, considering Meryl's getting top billing.   Excited for both projects!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Meryl Streep receives 18th Academy Award nomination

Whew!  I had resigned myself to the fact that Meryl would be left off the list this year.  As they began announcing nominees this morning, I quickly realized that they were listing them alphabetically, which I don't think they always do.  I knew immediately that we'd know quickly how the Best Actress race was shaping up, as Amy Adams would be the first name mentioned if she were included.  This also meant that the last name mentioned would be either Meryl's for August: Osage County or Emma Thompson's for Saving Mr. Banks, as Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench were all slam dunks in my mind.  Well, lucky for me it was Meryl's name that was the last to be read, eliciting some audible gasps from the crowd.

This of course means that Emma Thompson's nomination run ends today, having already been honored with the Golden Globe, SAG, BFCA and BAFTA.  It's too bad as it's been since 1996 that she was nominated for her beautiful work in Sense and Sensibility.  Alas, as many (myself included) were predicting that Amy Adams was looking good for a nom, that last spot was between Meryl and Emma.  I really hope that no moron tries to suggest that Meryl in any way sabotaged Emma's chances by the speech she gave at the NBR awards last week.  That was the night before the last day of Academy voting so it's unlikely it had any effect in either direction.  Regardless, if one understands the speech and what Meryl was actually saying, it was a wonderful tribute to Thompson and her work in Banks, and Meryl was in no way giving her a backhanded compliment.

So, the five nominated ladies for Actress in a Leading role are:

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

I was glad to see Julia Roberts get in for August as expected, and with that it looks like those were the only to nominations for the film.  A few notable surprises from elsewhere in the nominations:  Tom Hanks snubbed from Lead Actor for Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. Banks left out of Best Picture, no Oprah for Supporting Actress in Lee Daniels' The Butler (good), Jonah Hill getting in for Supporting Actor in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Sally Hawkins making it in Supporting Actress for Blue Jasmine (much deserved).  Director David O. Russell was nominated for the second straight year for Best Director for American Hustle, and his film got nominated in all four acting categories for the second straight year as well with Adams, Jennifer Lawrence in supporting, Bradley Cooper in supporting and Christian Bale as a bit of a surprise squeaking in for lead.  The full list of nominees can be seen here.

Just to give a little perspective on how incredible Meryl's Oscar nod tally is, with this morning's announcement, she now holds as many nominations as Jessica Lange, Glenn Close and Sissy Spacek combined.  The long list of Streep's Academy-nominated performances is now as follows:

1978--The Deer Hunter (Actress in a Supporting Role)
1979--Kramer vs Kramer (Actress in a Supporting Role)
 1981--The French Lieutenant's Woman (Actress in a Leading Role)
1982--Sophie's Choice (Actress in a Leading Role)
1983--Silkwood (Actress in a Leading Role)
1985--Out of Africa (Actress in a Leading Role)
1987--Ironweed (Actress in a Leading Role)
1988--A Cry in the Dark (Actress in a Leading Role)
1990--Postcards from the Edge (Actress in a Leading Role)
1995--The Bridges of Madison County (Actress in a Leading Role)
1998--One True Thing (Actress in a Leading Role)
1999--Music of the Heart (Actress in a Leading Role)
2002--Adaptation (Actress in a Supporting Role)
2006--The Devil Wears Prada (Actress in a Leading Role)
2008--Doubt (Actress in a Leading Role)
2009--Julie & Julia (Actress in a Leading Role)
2011--The Iron Lady (Actress in a Leading Role)
2013--August: Osage County (Actress in a Leading Role)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Streep to team with Weinstein for 'NRA takedown picture'?

Howard Stern interviewed filmmaker Harvey Weinstein today on his radio show.  Weinstein's focus was ostensibly to promote August: Osage County, and it was extremely interesting to listen to him discuss how he chooses to back certain scripts, why getting Oscar nominations is an important marketing strategy for films, and how AMPAS evidently hates The Golden Globes.  One side comment: Harvey, I'm sure your daughters know "the business" like you suggest, but if they held up four fingers after seeing a screening of August to indicate that Meryl would be the first to win four Oscars, they may be too young to remember a former actress by the name of Kate Hepburn.  But whatev.

By far the most compelling part of the interview for me (obviously) was when Weinstein revealed, perhaps prematurely, that he plans to produce a film involving Meryl which is sort of a takedown of the National Rifle Association.  When Stern asked him if it was going to be a documentary Weinstein replied "nope, it's going to be a big movie."  He said the project will be in the vein of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and that the NRA will "wish they weren't alive" when he's done with them.  Jeeze.  I love when Meryl chooses projects that have a "message" or at least opens people's eyes to issues she finds important.  Silkwood, The Manchurian Candidate, Rendition and Lions for Lambs come to mind.

I have no idea if there's a script or if this is a done deal, but the way Weinstein spoke of it, it sounded like a sure thing.  I doubt it's ready for this year.  Hopefully Meryl films The Good House this summer/fall, and I can't help hanging on to the hope that a script works out for her to portary Susan B. Anthony in a movie that would be released in 2016 (an election year).  Maybe a script for the NRA project will come together by next year with a shooting schedule sometime in 2016 for a release in 2017.  But my gut tells me that this may happen sooner than later.  Regardless, it's always exciting to learn of potential new projects involving our girl.

I'll end this post with a video of the Stern/Weinstein interview and more importantly a call to secular prayer for Meryl's chances tomorrow morning.  Tune in at 7:30 am Central Time for the 86th Academy Award nominations.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Amy Adams takes Golden Globe

Damn.  Even though I predicted Adams winning last night I was of course hoping Meryl would take it.  Congratulations to Amy, as I thought she gave a lovely speech.  I think it's her first major award in any category.  While I'm thrilled for Adams, this obviously does not bode well for Meryl's chances at an Oscar nomination Thursday morning.  Academy ballots were due Wednesday last week so Adams's win will have no bearing on Meryl's chances, but what it can tell us is where the collective industry mind happens to be at the moment.  Obviously everyone has a boner for American Hustle, and although August: Osage County did reasonably well in its first nationwide expansion this weekend, it will get nowhere near the numbers Hustle is likely to bring in.

Here's the breakdown on precursor nominations for our top six contenders:

Cate Blanchett (Globe win)
Sandra Bullcok
Judi Dench
Emma Thompson

Meryl Streeep

Amy Adams (Globe win)

On paper I'd rather have Meryl's precursor tally, but Adams's win over Meryl in the same Globe category (Musical/Comedy) probably trumps that.  There is of course precedent for winning a Globe and then not being nominated for Oscar.  A couple of notable mentions include Kathleen Turner who won the Globe for 1985's Prizzi's Honor (which was nominated for Best Picture) and was then passed over for an Oscar nom, while Madonna won for 1996's Evita (over Frances McDormand in Fargo) only to be snubbed while McDormand was not only nominated but ended up winning the Oscar.  Both of these occurrences were in the Musical/Comedy category. 

This year could possibly be somewhat similar, although the cards are stacked against Meryl in my opinion considering the aforementioned box office success of American Hustle and its far less polarizing reviews compared to August: Osage County.  There's always the possibility of Emma Thompson or Judi Dench maybe missing out but I just can't picture either of them getting snubbed.  As of tonight my predictions for Thursday are:

1. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
2. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Emma Thomspson (Saving Mr. Banks)
5. Amy Adams (American Hustle)

6. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

In the name of all that is holy I hope I'm wrong. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Golden Globe predictions

Gird your loins, folks.  Tomorrow it gets real.  We all know Meryl is nominated for August: Osage County in the Musical/Comedy Lead Actress category at the Golden Globes.  I'm skeptical about Meryl's chances for pulling out a win here, unfortunately.  Picking Amy Adams, however, is tricky because if I had to bet I'd predict Meryl over Adams for an Oscar nom come Thursday.  American Hustle has been surging with popularity, and with Adams's nom over Meryl at BAFTA earlier this week, I'll have to seriously consider changing my mind regarding Oscar predictions(!) if Amy pulls out a win tomorrow night.  I think there's an outside chance for Julia Louis-Dreyfuss to be awarded, but it's slim.  Here are my predictions (ranked in order of most likely to win) for the Lead Actress categories:

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

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"The Homesman" to debut in Cannes

Remember this movie?  It's probably been months since I've mentioned it, but that's because there's been nothing to mention!  Today I discovered that IMDb lists the film as scheduled for a debut at the Cannes Film Festival on May 22nd.   It's also evidently being shown in Telluride and Toronto before a limited release in the U.S. on October 3rd.  With The Giver in August, The Homesman in October and Into the Woods in December, it's going to be Meryl smorgasbord in the second half of '14.  Bring it on!

In other news, did anyone else see or read Meryl's tribute to Emma Thompson at the National Board of Review Awards from Tuesday night?  The comments about Emma are all very nice, but the meat of the introduction included calling Walt Disney an anti-Semitic misogynist.  I wonder how that would've come out in Meryl's performance had she ended up doing Saving Mr. Banks?  Loves it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

No BAFTA nomination for Streep

Although disappointed, I expected this outcome.  The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is  a different body than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.   Historically BAFTA leans more toward recognizing British actors and filmmakers.  Films that are a bit more Americana are vulnerable at these awards, and for pictures like August: Osage County and Dallas Buyers Club, the writing was on the wall (but congrats to Julia Roberts on her supporting nomination!). 

This is not to suggest that Streep isn't vulnerable for being snubbed next week for an Oscar nom.  I just don't think her lack of a BAFTA nod is the end.  Meryl has already been nominated for a Globe, SAG and Critics' Choice award.  I'd rather her have all of those three than a BAFTA if I were to assume any predictive value in the precursors.  Plus, today is the deadline for Oscar nomination ballots, so they're basically already decided.  Here are the BAFTA noms for Leading Actress:

1. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
4. Judi Dench (Philomena)
5. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

At this point, I feel Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Judi Dench are locks for nominations.  Adams, Thompson and Streep are fighting for the fourth and fifth spots and I would predict them as:

4. Thomspon
5. Streep
6. Adams

The full list of BAFTA nominees can be seen here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Q&A with Meryl & Margo

That Q&A I thought Meryl was going to do yesterday with her August: Osage County costar Ewan McGregor turned out to be with Margo Martindale instead.  This film is starting to seem a bit like one of Meryl's buddy pictures with how chummy these two women are on the campaign/publicity circuit, particularly following their jovial embrace at the Palm Springs Film Festival Gala two nights ago. This Q&A was one of my favorites.  Sorry it's in three separate videos.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Streep accepts Icon Award at Palm Springs International Film Festival

Last night Meryl's August: Osage County costar Margo Martindale presented her with the Icon Award at the 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival.   This award had been given out only once before (to Michael Douglas), and is meant to recognize one who "through the course of her career, has created a body of work which denotes the highest level of achievement in the motion picture industry."  Ewan McGregor was also on hand at the Awards Gala to present his costar Julia Roberts with the "Spotlight Award"(?).

I watched most of this awards presentation online and I have to say that some of the people were a bit tough to take.  Sonny Bono's widow in particular, although I'm sure she's a very nice woman, was next to insufferable as a public speaker.  Regardless, these recognitions provided some nice publicity for August, which opens nationwide on Friday.  Harvey Weinstein was in attendance, and will evidently be traversing the coast of California today between screenings and Q&As for both August and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  I've even read that Meryl and Ewan McGregor will both be participating in said Q&A.  Keep the ball rollin'. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Streep, "August: Osage County" honored by Capri Film Festival

Broadway World is reporting that Meryl has been named Best Actress for her role in August: Osage County by the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival in Capri, Italy.  The film was also awarded Best Film and Best Acting Ensemble.  Chris Cooper was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This sort of came out of nowhere.  I don't think it's particularly prestigious either, as not many people are talking about it.  I'm tempted so think that Harvey Weinstein has the folks who run this festival in his back pocket, as this makes it four consecutive Weinstein Films that have taken the prize, following The King's Speech, The Artist and Silver Linings Playbook.  The fact that Idris Elba and Naomie Harris were awarded Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (another Weinstein-backed film which has had very little recognition thus far) contributes to my feeling that this isn't exactly an overwhelming honor.

Regardless, congrats to all the award recipients, especially Meryl and the cast of August: Osage County.  Looking forward to seeing the film for the second time next weekend!