Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Ricki and the Flash" released to home video

Ricki and the Flash is now available for purchase on DVD, Blu-ray and HD download.  Of course I purchased it on ITunes and last night I watched the special features, which is the best part of movies released to video.  There's a brief 'making of' feature with commentary from Meryl and director Jonathan Demme.  It was also fun to see Audra McDonald applaud Meryl's performance saying "of course she's believable as a rock star.  She's believable in every role she's in!"

I won't spoil the rest so you'll have to get a copy yourself.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"Africa" film back on track?

Before getting into the news, let's just remember that Meryl was barely even mentioned as attached to this project when I first learned of it back in March.  However, I've been intrigued by its possibility since the announcement.  Not so much for the role Meryl would play, more for the conservationist ideas against the backdrop of the African continent.

Not long after this first being brought to my attention, I reported that the film had been essentially scrapped.  Now, several articles are swirling around with quotes from the story's real-life main character, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, saying that it's definitely going to be made.  In Kenya, no less.  It's also reported that Leakey (set to be played by Brad Pitt) has asked would-be director Angelina Jolie to "tone down" the violence and sex in the film.

If all this is true, and the Kenyan government is really getting behind it to possibly help with funding, would this get rolling in 2016?  By the slim chance Meryl actually were involved, her rumored role would be that of Leakey's mother, Mary.  I can actually see Meryl being interested in promoting something like this, bringing awareness to the awful ongoing poaching of elephants in east Africa.

I'm certainly not holding my breath, but even if Meryl gets nowhere near this, I'd still like to see the film come together.   We'll have to see if there's more confirmation from either Jolie or Pitt's reps.  As this goes to post, the film is no longer listed on either's IMDb pro page.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Film review: "Suffragette" (2015)

After a couple of weeks, I finally got around to seeing this film today.  Having attended a wedding last night, Joe and I headed home from Sioux Falls this morning and I made it to a 1:10 showing at a nearby cinema.

I have to admit that I wasn't particularly anxious to see this movie.  Meryl's in it a for just a few minutes, it's getting only decent reviews and there's been a fair amount of controversy surrounding the nature of the film's social concerns.  It's difficult not to have one's opinion of a film influenced by these potential biases.  Regardless, I did my best to maintain an open mind.  

The film follows a young woman named Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) as she finds herself increasingly drawn into and involved in the women's suffrage movement that peaked in the second decade of 20th century London.  As her involvement gets her into trouble with the law, Maud finds herself shunned by her husband, neighbors and coworkers, ultimately being prohibited from contact with her own son, George.  Her husband Sonny informs her that in her absence, he is incapable of raising their son and has chosen to give him up for adoption.  Maud becomes more deeply involved in the suffragette cause, taking greater risks in her attempts to make their cause known, culminating in the death of her ally, Emily Davison. 

Meryl has about four minutes of screen time halfway through the picture.  I had already seen the entirety of her performance via preview clips, nevertheless it was still enjoyable to see her performance in the context of the entire story.

Although there was some questionable camera work (strange close-ups) and the pacing seemed a bit hectic at times, I found myself rather moved by the story.  In particular, Carey Mulligan was very effective at portraying a woman who was essentially desperate.  Desperate to imagine herself doing something with her life beyond working in a laundry sweatshop.  Mulligan made me feel her sense of helplessness, presenting a broader understanding of what it must have been like for countless women of her position at that time.  I found it to be a very effective and memorable performance.  Strong supporting performances by Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and Brendan Gleason all add weight to the film's heavy subject matter.

I don't want to get too deep into some of the controversy surrounding the fact that this film depicts the plight of white women only.  The beef isn't without merit, but I hope people consider the nature of the era this film aims to depict.  Circa 1915 London, I'm not sure how many women of color were on the front lines of the specific struggle of the women presented in this movie.  If we look at pictures and film reels of protests from the time, I think we'll find the historical figures involved accurately represented in Suffragette.  

This isn't to say that a film addressing the wider landscape of voting equality wouldn't be an admirable endeavor.  Particularly in the United States, where the women's suffrage movement often had a contentious relationship with the black suffrage movement, it would be interesting to see how a film would negotiate the historical delicacies that today many might consider ironically oppressive.  Meryl and Kathy Bates better get crackin' on that Susan B. Anthony/Elizabeth Cady Stanton vehicle.

Regardless of the film's criticisms and thus far tepid box office returns, Suffragette, like any film which attempts to bring attention to the struggle of a subjugated population, is definitely a picture worth seeing and appreciating.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Academy Awards analysis (2006)

By the time The Devil Wears Prada was released, we had experienced the longest span between Lead Actress nominations of Meryl's career.  The five-year break between Postcards from the Edge (1990) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995) was the greatest gap in nominations, but I was surprised when I considered that in 2006 it had been seven years since being nominated for a lead role.  Yes, there are many who consider Miranda Priestly a supporting character in the film, but the vast majority of Streep's multiple nominations from that year were indeed in the category of lead.

This film also marked an important turning point in the history of Meryl's career.  Possibly for the first time in her 30 years on screen, she became bankable.  The wonderful performance in cinemas brought Meryl into great demand for a handful of roles that may never had seen the light of day had Prada not been such a hit.  Within three years of this film's release, the success of Mama Mia!, Julie & Julia and It's Complicated solidified Streep's status as a bonafide, if not unexpected, box office draw at the age of 60.

Despite Prada's success, another actor's work the same year completely outshone the others.  Helen Mirren's  performance as Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen Frears' The Queen ultimately became one of the most dominant on the awards circuit in history.  Doing a quick check, a non-exhaustive list of Mirren's wins that year include the following:

Academy Award
Screen Actros Guild Award
Golden Globe (drama)
Critics' Choice Award
National Society of Film Critics
New York Film Critics
Los Angeles Film Critics

It's possibly the biggest slam dunk of the 2000's for lead role.   Many consider Meryl to have been a distant second in the Oscar race that year, with the rest of the crew considered also-rans.  The full list of nominees that year is as follows:

Penélope Cruz (Volver)
Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal)
Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Kate Winslet (Little Children)

I've seen all but Cruz's performance, with my personal favorite (aside from Meryl) being Dench in Notes on a Scandal. In any half a dozen other years before or after 2006, Dench would've been very difficult to top in my opinion.  Great year for women's roles. Incidentally, this was Meryl's 10th consecutive loss at the Academy Awards.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Accents Mastered updated

Ok, I know this is sort of a lame post, but I realized I have not added Meryl's role as Emmeline Pankhurst to the "accents mastered" tab on the blog.  The updated list should therefore be:

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)--Tennessean
The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)--British (specifically Received Pronunciation)
Sophie's Choice (1982)--Polish (in English and German)
Silkwood (1983)--Texan
Plenty (1985)--British
Out of Africa (1985)--Danish
Ironweed (1987)--Irish-American
A Cry in the Dark (1988)--New Zealand (with strong layers of Australian)
The Bridges of Madison County (1995)--Italian (Meryl calls it Iowatalian)
Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)--Irish
Angels in America (2003)--Yiddish and Bronx (in separate roles)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)--Midwestern
Doubt (2008)--Bronx
Julie & Julia (2009)--Boston Brahmin
The Iron Lady (2011)--British (Received Pronunciation)
August: Osage County (2013)--Oklahoman
The Homesman (2014)--Central Plains Midwestern
Suffragette (2015)--British (Received Pronunciation)

As this goes to post, Suffragette is sitting at a respectable 73% on Rotten Tomatoes with 118 reviews counted.  The film is being released in several additional U.S. cities this weekend, including Minneapolis (although at a single theater).  I usually attend Meryl openings with Scooter but he had to make a crucial work-related sacrifice and give a speech in Hawaii this weekend, so I'm not positive when I'll get around to catching it.  I've already seen the entirety of Meryl's performance in preview clips, and although the film no doubt includes important societal messages, for whatever reason I'm not super anxious about seeing it immediately.  If it were a performance that lasted longer than three minutes, I'd be singing a different tune.  Still interested to hear what everyone else who's seen the movie has to say.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"The Good House" still in development?

As I mentioned I would yesterday, I'd like to comment on an article from Screen Daily that came out a couple days ago that mentions The Good House.  If you scroll down toward its end, you see they write that "Glen Basner's New York outfit is in development of The Good House, set to star Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro."

I concede that this is barely a mention, but the fact that it's being mentioned at all sparks ongoing questions about the film's possible production. Things haven't been looking good for this picture.  It's been about 27 months since it was first revealed that the book was going to be made into a film starring Streep and De Niro.  We all know that between then and now, Meryl joined Suffragette, Ricki and the Flash, Master Class and Florence Foster Jenkins.  All but one of these have come to fruition, but we also understand the special circumstances which prevented Master Class from getting made, namely the unexpected death of its director, Mike Nichols.

I maintain that The Good House still has life.  We know that Michael Cunningham was working on adapting Ann Leary's novel as early as June 2013.  After Roadshow announced in December last year that it had acquired a 33% stake in FillmNation, The Good House, along with The Founder, were the two films listed as funded for production.  We know The Founder has wrapped and will be released next fall.  If people think the delay on The Good House is the script being too difficult to adapt, I just can't imagine Cunningham didn't have enough already complete and satisfactory for producers to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down by as late as last year.  It may have gone through a few permutations, and they may still be fine-tuning it, but it seems reasonable to me that the "powers that be" still want it made.

Now we need a director.  We also need the two main stars to have open schedules.  If Meryl wanted an extended break after Florence, and there are still a few things they're working out in the script, it seems like the perfect opportunity to not rush the process and perhaps begin filming late 2015 or any time in 2016.  I know we get anxious without any definite film projects for Meryl, but we know more will come.  Even if she decided to take all of 2016 off from filming, we'd still likely only have a single calendar year where she didn't have a film out.  That's certainly not unheard of and it seems particularly unreasonable to attribute a furlough of this length to anything other than Streep's own wishes for a break.