Monday, December 26, 2016

Sizing up the 2016 competition: Ruth Negga in "Loving"

A few days ago I was able to see Jeff Nichols' film Loving.  The biopic follows the legal struggles of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia during the 1960s who appeal the statute that outlaws their marriage in the state.  Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in the title roles.  Earlier this year, it was widely regarded that Negga would challenge not only for an Oscar nomination, but possibly even a win.  Following last year's #OscarsSoWhite debacle, this season's slate of films in contention for awards recognition thankfully includes a more diverse group of actors.  One has to imagine that Academy members are anxious to show their willingness to be more inclusive in their voting choices.

As it turns out, Negga is the only black woman who stands a chance at a nom in the Lead Actress category, following the announcement that Viola Davis will be campaigned in supporting for Fences.  Even so, the chances for Negga at this point seem quite smaller following the SAG nominations announcement that excluded her.  She did get a Golden Globe nod for Actress in a Drama, however.  But is she for sure out?  I don't think so.

Knowing that Negga's "buzz" has somewhat fizzled over the past few months, I was expecting to be rather underwhelmed by both her performance and the film itself.  While I agree with some reviewers that her performance is subdued and the film bit slow, I thought it was absolutely a role that could garner great attention.  It's not flashy and lacks a big "Oscar scene," but she left me completely empathizing with her and the plight of her family.  Racial injustice stories often make me angry when I watch them and Negga's portrayal of a sort of dutiful, unassuming, yet persistent character added to my reaction of exasperation for her troubles.

Few have Negga cracking the top five, but if anyone squeezes out Meryl, I have lingering feeling it may be Negga instead of Annette Bening (20th Century Women).  Less likely would be that both Negga and Bening get in over Streep and maybe Isabelle Huppert (Elle).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Streep to be honored by Human Rights Campaign

For her contributions to the LGBTQ cinematic canon, the Human Rights Campaign will be recognizing Meryl at their annual gala in New York City with the 'Ally for Equality Award' on February 11.  Particularly, her work on Mike Nichols's 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America and 2002's The Hours continue to be influential examples of queer individuals on screen.  She has been a voice for gender and LGBT rights for decades, while her extensive variety of portrayals of complex, funny and outspoken women has secured for her icon status in the community.  

Congratulations, and thank you, Meryl.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dick Van Dyke officially joins "Mary Poppins Returns" cast

Several sources are reporting today that Dick Van Dyke has officially joined the cast of the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns.  Earlier reports have suggested that both he and Julie Andrews were in talks to make cameos, but it sounds like it's less likely Andrews will be participating.  Both of course starred in the original 1964 film.   The article I linked above stated that filming is already underway in London, which is complete news to me.  IMDbPro is usually pretty good about listing start dates, and it still has it listed as "pre-production."  That certainly doesn't guarantee that it hasn't started, and considering the film won't open for more than two years, post-production will likely be extensive.

The article also quoted Van Dyke as stating that Angela Lansbury is part of the cast, but I have seen no further information on whether that is true, nor which role she would be playing.  The main cast members up to this point for the project include:

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins)
Meryl Streep (Topsy)
Ben Whishaw (Michael Banks)
Emily Mortimer (Jane Banks)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Jack)
Christian Dixon (The Milkman)
Colin Firth (William Weatherall Wilkins)
Dick Van Dyke (old banker?)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Streep lands SAG nomination

Woo hoo!  Meryl received a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild this morning for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins.  Her co-star Hugh Grant was also recognized in the supporting category.  This is a very good sign for Meryl's chances at her 20th Academy Award nomination next month.  I'm pretty sure the only other time she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and SAG and didn't get an Oscar nomination was for 1994's The River Wild.  Joining Meryl in her category were the following actresses:

Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)

I'm rather surprised by Blunt making the top five.  I was more expecting Annette Bening.  Stone and Portman were slam dunks, and I think those two and Adams are at this point shoe-ins for Oscar noms.  The Academy will announce their nominations on Tuesday, January 24.   The full list of SAG nominations can be seen here.

"Look, darling, we're both nominated."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Streep receives record 30th Golden Globe nomination

Breaking her own record, this morning the Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated Meryl for the 30th time for a Golden Globe Award.  As expected, Streep was included among the five actresses nominated in the Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy category for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins.  Excited to see that both Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg were nominated as well, for Actor in a Musical/Comedy and Actor in Supporting Role in any Motion Picture, respectively.  I thought Grant had a pretty good shot here, but wasn't necessarily expecting Helberg.  In addition, the film received a nom for Best Picture Musical/Comedy, so it's nice to see the love for Florence!  

Joining Meryl in her category were:

Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Lily Collins (Rules Don't Apply)
Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)
Emma Stone (La La Land)

It's almost a foregone conclusion that Emma Stone will win, but ya never know.  There were a few surprises/omissions that I'll have to let sink in a bit before discussing.  I'm interested to see what peoples' reactions are.

The Globes will be handed out on Sunday, January 8.  Don't forget that Meryl will also be honored with the Cecil  B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, so even if she doesn't win her category, we'll get to see a bunch of her.  The full list of nominees can be seen here.

In other news, while not in attendance, Streep actually WON the Critics' Choice Award last night for Best Actress in a Comedy.  This is a bit ironic considering my original post attempted to report that she hadn't even been nominated.  This award is super small potatoes in the grand scheme of 'awards season,' but it's nice for her to be recognized regardless.

On to SAG Wednesday.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Previewing Golden Globe and SAG nominations

Next week will be very telling for Meryl's chances at landing her record 20th Oscar nomination in January for Florence Foster Jenkins.  Dark and early Monday morning, the Golden Globe nominees will be revealed, where she is expected to be recognized in the category of Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.  She is likely to be joined by Emma Stone (La La Land), Annette Bening (20th Century Women) and Kate Beckinsale (Love and Friendship).  That fifth slot in this category is a bit tough to choose, but my money is on Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris.  

Revealed two days later, the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations are more of an enigma for Streep, and will be much stronger predictor of her chances for Oscar than are the Globes.  Stone is for sure in at SAG, as is Natalie Portman (Jackie).  Those are perhaps the only slam dunks in the category, but I'd be shocked if Amy Adams (Arrival) weren't nominated.  Ruth Negga (Loving) has perhaps her best shot at SAG.  That would leave one more slot.  Meryl will have to contend with Bening, Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and longshot Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures).

Actors love Streep and despite strong showings from a larger than usual field this year at SAG, I have hope that she'll sneak into that fifth spot.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

No Critics' Choice Nomination for Meryl (just kidding)

***EDIT:  After this went to post it was brought to my attention that Meryl was indeed nominated in the comedy category, as was Hugh Grant.  I'm disappointed to have missed this seemingly obvious piece of information and apologize to readers for the misinformation.  Congratulations, Meryl!***

The Critics' Choice Nominations were announced this morning and unfortunately Meryl was not on the list.  I wasn't necessarily expecting her to make the cut, but considering these are the first of the major televised awards to be announced and that they nominate six actors, it doesn't exactly boost my confidence in Meryl's chances for recognition from other bodies.  The nominations for Actress in a Leading Role were:

Amy Adams (Arrival)
Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Emma Stone (La La Land)

This is a fantastic list and I'm sure all are well-deserving.  So far I've only seen Arrival, but most of the remaining will be accessible within the next month. Meryl's chances should increase considerably in a of couple weeks when the Hollywood Foreign Press reveals their nominees for the Golden Globe Awards.  If Meryl doesn't snag a nod there we can kiss any chance at her 20th Oscar nomination goodbye.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Florence Foster Jenkins" getting re-release

With awards season looming, Paramount is set to re-release Florence Foster Jenkins in several major cities starting Friday.  No doubt they want to boost the film's presence in the minds of voters.  Golden Globe nominations are announced on Monday, December 12 and SAG two days later.  Glad to see that the studio is taking it seriously.  I think the best chances for Meryl are by far at the Globes, but if she happens to snag a SAG nom in addition to a Globe, Oscar seems within grasp.  BAFTA is real chance this year as well, considering the film's U.K. director/production.

In other unrelated news, in maybe a bit of a surprise announcement, Meryl is going to be honored by The Costume Designers Guild with a 'Career Achievement Award.' The award "honors individuals who demonstrate unwavering support of costume design and creative partnerships with costume designers."  Streep will join designer Jeffrey Kurland in a presentation in Beverly Hills on February 21. I tend to forget that Meryl took her theater degree in costume design, so not surprising that she understands the importance of developing a character through close collaboration with designers.

These two announcements in addition to the Cecil B. DeMille award she's set to receive during the Golden Globe ceremony on January 8 keep her at the forefront of the race, despite the film for which she will hopefully be nominated being released six months ago in the U.K.  I like how things are shaping up for Meryl's chances.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #14: "Julieta"

Pedro Almodóvar's 20th film, Julieta, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.  It was at this time that several articles came out describing how Almodóvar had originally wanted to have Meryl in the title role for his picture.  Sometime after meeting in 2003, the director evidently contacted Meryl and pitched his idea to her about the film.  From what I can understand, this likely would have been after 2009, when Almodóvar purchased the film rights to Alice Munro's book of short stories entitled Runaway.  The interesting twist in the casting was that Streep was to play Julieta (Juliet) at three very different stages of life: ages 20, 40 and 60, without the aide of makeup or special effects, something described by Almodóvar as "Ingrid Bergman-like."  Despite scouting filming areas in both parts of Canada and New York, the director unfortunately didn't feel like he had a comfortable grasp of American culture or the English language to successfully make the film he originally envisioned.

I had the opportunity to see the film this weekend and have to admit that it's difficult for me to imagine Meryl playing the character all by herself, at least if it took place now or in the past five years.  We see Julieta as a young woman and the circumstances around the conception and raising of her child to the age of early adulthood.  The nature of the story goes back and forth between different points in time and actually begins with her likely in her early 50s, wondering about the whereabouts of her now estranged daughter.  I understand that it would've taken some artistic license to not break up the role, but Almodóvar apparently believed that Streep deserved to negotiate the entire character herself.  I'm sure that would have been fascinating.

Being that the character spans a couple decades and ages of 20s to 50s/60s, it seems natural to have two characters.  As it pertains to the possibility of Meryl actually being in the film and when it could've been made, I agree that splitting the role between two actresses may be the best way to go.  I totally love the novelty of Streep playing it in its entirety, but if it were to be made with her today, maybe she could've had this be a film she and her daughter Grace could share.  It would be a big role for Grace, but I think she'd be up to it.  Or maybe Kate Winslet?  Streep's part would also then be the smaller of the two.  Were the film to have happened earlier, like five to ten years ago, I'd be more inclined to expect Meryl alone.

Where I struggle in my brain of course is trying to fit this film into the "reimagined filmography" timeline that I've created for myself.  Could we switch this with 2007's Dirty Tricks?  I realize that Almodóvar didn't even purchase the film rights to Runaway until 2009, but the book was published in 2004 and often we see film versions of books within a couple years.  We also know that Ryan Murphy still has the rights to Dirty Tricks.  Martha Mitchell would have been in her mid 50's at the time of that story surrounding the Watergate scandal, no problem for Meryl age-wise, and a political film release in 2017 would absolutely capture the zeitgeist.  After all considerations, however, being that Almodóvar's main reason for not making this in English was that he struggled with the language, if it were going to happen with Meryl, it was going to happen later than sooner.

Nothing has to be decided at this moment, but Julieta is a lovely film and very interesting character.  Any chance Meryl would have to work on a project with an auteur director needs to be snatched up, so it's a shame we weren't able to see this ultimately come together with Almodóvar and Streep.  Add it to the list.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Streep to make big bucks for "The Nix"

Among other sources, Vanity Fair reported the other day that Meryl's salary has been revealed for the upcoming limited series adaptation of Nathan Hill's novel The Nix.  $825,000 per episode.  Now before you think that this is a crazy number for a single television episode, let's remember that it's quite possible that the entire series is fewer than five episodes, and based on the book, I wouldn't be surprised if Meryl is not in all of them.

What I get most out of this info is that The Nix is likely a sure thing.  I can't imagine we'd have salary negotiations public if this weren't really going to happen.  Still no word on when filming is set to begin, other cast members or even which network will air it, but considering the project was only announced two months ago, this news is good.

I still really want a great film lead role for Streep, though.  In the Vanity Fair article cited above, it was mentioned that Robert De Niro would also be making a haul for his work in David O. Russel's upcoming mafia television project that apparently is set to air in 2017.  De Niro has so many acting projects going at this point that it's difficult to see how he'd be able to squeeze in The Good House at any point over the next year with Meryl.  That's of course assuming that that project isn't totally dead, which it probably is.  Still carrying the torch of hope for that one.  Regardless, glad to know there's at least something in the pipeline besides Mary Poppins Returns. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sizing up the 2016 competition: Amy Adams in "Arrival"

I don't think I had seen a movie in an actual theater since seeing Flo Fo in London in July, but this weekend Joe and I had some time to kill on Saturday while in Madison for his dad's birthday.  Not really realizing that Arrival had opened, it was the perfect flick to catch that afternoon, and it provided an opportunity for me to see the first contender for Best Actress (besides Meryl of course) in action.

Super quick synopsis: linguist Louise Banks (Adams) is tasked with trying to communicate with aliens that have landed in various parts of the world.  She essentially deciphers their language and learns that it allows one to think a different way, where essentially time ceases to be linear, providing glimpses into the future.

The main attraction here is the story, not so much the characters, in my opinion.  Adams does a great job with her character, in that she had to portray a someone at different levels of awareness of her own experiences.  What dos that mean?  Basically that she had to grapple with these flashbacks/flashforwards while simultaneously dealing with the overwhelming pressure from the government to prevent war.  I can't help but be reminded of Sandra Bullock in Gravity.  Sort of sci-fi, female professional, loss of young daughter, isolation, pressure-cooker scenarios.  Likewise certainly nomination worthy.

Great strengths for this film are that it is very well received by critics (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and will perform spectacularly strongly in cinemas.  Florence Foster Jenkins similarly garnered good to great reviews, but its summer release and meager box office returns no doubt put it at a disadvantage as far as visibility.  Then again, Meryl is kind of in her own category when it comes to nominations.  When comparing characters and performances only, Meryl wins hands down between these two.  Of course I'm biased, but I expect I may be singing a different tune after I see Jackie.  Until then, I have to say Meryl is still in first place.  Many more to come.   

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Thinking about Susan B. Anthony

Last night went the opposite of how I had hoped.  Like many this morning I felt sad (still do), disappointed and disturbed by the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton for president of the United States.  Frankly, I'm embarrassed for my country.  In some small way maybe posting about this will provide a bit of catharsis.  I saw a quote earlier today that read something like "it's not the political loss we mourn, it's the loss of humanity."  That kind of sums it up.  Trump presented himself as one of the worst people I've ever seen request my vote.  His policy plans aside (which are ca-razy), he has unfortunately emboldened an undercurrent of racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia in our country.  It's 2016.

That said, I'm not rioting in the streets or telling friends on Facebook to delete me if they voted third party.  We get a choice.  And now we have to allow president-elect Trump the opportunity to lead.  My hope is that we'll be as wrong about his presidency as we were about who was going to get elected.  Let's remember that Hillary Clinton still made history.  She was the closest any woman has ever gotten to being president of the U.S.  It's a shame it didn't happen this time (the reasons for which I won't get into), but I'm trying to be practical about it from an historical standpoint.  That got me thinking about Susan B. Anthony, and therefore Meryl, of course.  Yesterday at Anthony's grave in Rochester, New York, the scene was almost that of a pilgrimage site, with thousands paying respects to this pioneer, on a day where many cast their votes for a possible female president for the first time in their lives. I find solace after Clinton's loss in the fact that Anthony worked most of her long life for a result she was never able to enjoy in her lifetime.  Women's suffrage eventually happened though, in large part due to that work.  We won't always win on the first or second, or maybe even third try.  But each loss can serve to further mobilize efforts to continue fighting for what is right.

I'm sure Meryl is bummed today as well.  We know she was a vocal supporter of Clinton during the campaign.  People are now going to be even hungrier to see a woman take the top office in the future.  I certainly hope for Meryl's and everyone's sake that it happens in her lifetime.  Who knows?  Maybe all the fuss over this election cycle will spark interest in finally getting a film adaptation of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's work brought to the silver screen, as I've previously wished.  Regardless, starting today I'm sure a lot of us are thinking #ElizabethWarren2020.  Take care of each other, America.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Streep to receive Cecil B. DeMille Award

Well this is a surprise.  Multiple sources reported a bit earlier today that Meryl will be the latest recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award, given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at the Golden Globes ceremony in January.  Although I wasn't expecting this news, it was a matter of time before Streep was chosen for this recognition, so I suppose now is as good a time as any.

One of the fun parts about this is that it's fairly likely that Meryl would be at the ceremony anyway if/when she gets her 30th overall Globe nomination (a record, of course) for Florence Foster Jenkins.  I've been trying think if there has been anyone who received the DeMille Award and also been nominated that year in a regular acting category.  I'm sure it's easy to search out, but wouldn't be surprised if Meryl is the first.

It'll be fun to watch the tribute to Meryl during the ceremony, and this news also adds to the publicity/campaign for a possible 20th Academy Award nom (again, a record) for Florence.  


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

John Logan named showrunner for "The Nix"

The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that John Logan (Showtime's Penny Dreadful) been named the showrunner and executive producer of The Nix.  I had to look up exactly what "showrunner" involved, and its definition is exactly what I expected: the person who has creative authority and management responsibility for a television program.  This is the first news on this project since Meryl's involvement was announced in early September.

It's great to learn that this is moving forward.  No news on who will be adapting the novel for the limited series, nor has a network been named.  To this point, Streep is the only actor attached to star, while J.J. Abrams, one of the producers, is expected to direct a portion of the series.

I finished the novel this weekend and have to say that I'm a little perplexed as to how Meryl was drawn to this story as far it potentially providing a juicy role.  Her character of Faye is incredibly complex, it's just that over the course of the 620-page book, the 60 year-old Faye is present for about 50 pages.  It seems more likely that since Meryl is a co-producer (which she hardly ever does) she was more attracted to the overall story.  It spans several decades and delves into the American political landscape of both the 60's and present day.  Author Nathan Hill does a brilliant job weaving the characters' interactions over the years and how it shapes Faye and her son, Samuel.  I can't imagine how they'll make a screen version of this without having a "younger" Meryl cast.  This could also be a huge opportunity for a 30-something actor in the role of Samuel.  I'm excited to hopefully hear more news soon on casting.

With this news, I imagine that we could see filming sometime in the second half of 2017.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The state of the Best Actress race

Happy Halloween. With November a day away, we are in the thick of things for film awards prognostication.  The majority of movies in contention will be released between now and the end of the year.  With that in mind, I think it's a good idea to sort of take the pulse of the current Best Actress race and how Meryl factors into the conversation.

One of the biggest pieces of info and how it affects the race was the news last week that Viola Davis would be campaigned in supporting for Fences. This is a huge deal as far as Meryl's chances are concerned.  For months Davis has been hoavering around the top of the heap as most likely to get a lead nom, and with her out the picture, Streep's chances increase significantly.  The problem is that Meryl may have been sitting in 7th place before Davis's departure.  Let's break it down.

My go-to site for awards predictions is of course Awards Watch, and their predictions for the second half of October were as follows:

1. Natalie Portman-Jackie (96%; 234 votes)
2. Emma Stone-La La Land (95%; 233 votes)
3. Annette Bening-20th Century Women (78%; 190 votes)
4. Viola Davis-Fences (66%; 161 votes)
5. Amy Adams-Arrival (55%; 134 votes)
6. Isabelle Huppert-Elle (32%; 78 votes)
7. Meryl Streep-Florence Foster Jenkins (25%; 60 votes)
8. Ruth Negga-Loving (22%; 53 votes)
9. Jessica Chastain-Miss Sloane (10%; 24 votes)
10. Taraji P. Henson-Hidden Figures (3%; 8 votes)

It would be nice to see at least one non-white woman get nominated.  But as I've mentioned previously, despite many having praised Loving and its actors, some feel Negga's role just isn't juicy enough.  Bening has come on strong in the last month, likely due to her film having actually beeen seen and reviewed now.  20th Century Women doesn't go wide until Christmas, but I doubt her chances are going to depend much on box office.

Isabelle Huppert is looking for her first Oscar nom and French actresses have done well with the Academy over the last decade.  Arrival hits theaters next weekend so its expected box office clout can only help Amy Adams.  Regardless of Jessica Chastain's chances, I'm personally really looking forward to seeing Miss Sloane.  Coming in at 10th, it's nice to see Taraji P. Henson make the cut (get it, Cookie!), but she is indeed a very long shot.  The only two who seem untouchable are our leaders Natalie Portman and Emma Stone.  Of course we have to wait until December for both of their films, however.

Which brings us to Miss Meryl.  I'm less confident about her chances today than I was a month ago.  At that point, there were still a handful of performances that no one had seen.  Now, each of the top ten films have (with the exception of Hidden Figures) had reviews counted.  Before we knew the quality of certain films, it was easier to compare Meryl since we knew full well the quality of her performance and Florence Foster Jenkins the film.  It was quite possible that Annette Bening, Natalie Portman and Jessica Chastain would quickly fall out of contention had their films and/or performances been panned.

What Meryl has going for her, however, is an intangible quality that is so regularly recognized by her peers.  I have my own reasons for enjoying her, but it is clear that three generations of Academy voters revere her and her work.  Also, her performance in Florence is brilliant, and the film is a delight.  The big kicker is going to be the SAG nominations, which are announced  December 14.  I'm confident that a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy is in the bag (incidentally to be announced two days before SAG noms).

Worst case scenario is that Meryl is snubbed for Oscar and then a narrative builds for a stronger case the next time she has a lead film role.  Which will be...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Streep attends Tokyo International Film Festival

Well Miss Meryl has been quite the jet setter lately.  I actually don't remember if I knew that in addition to her appearance at the Rome Film Festival earlier this month that she would be also be attending the Japanese premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

It's good to see that Streep is trying to keep Florence visible in the press, continuing a pattern of fervent promotion she has undertaken following the film's European release this spring.  By most accounts it would seem likely that she's gunning for her record 20th Oscar nomination, a possibility that became much more likely following the news Sunday that Viola Davis would be campaigned in supporting for Fences.  More on that in a future post very soon.  Let the games begin.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Colin Firth joining "Mary Poppins Returns"

A few days ago, multiple sources reported that Colin Firth is in talks to join Mary Poppins Returns.  Firth's character is expected to be that of William Weatherall Wilkins, the president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, a role that I doubt will be substantial in size, possibly even the caliber of a cameo.  Meryl of course worked with Firth on Mamma Mia! in 2008, so it'll be nice to see the pair reunited on screen.  No word yet, however, if the two share any scenes.

The cast is rounding out nicely, with the following list taken from IMDb:

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins)
Meryl Streep (Topsy)
Ben Whishaw (Michael Banks)
Emily Mortimer (Jane Banks)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Jack)
Christian Dixon (The Milkman)
Colin Firth (William Weatherall Wilkins)
*cameos by both Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke are expected

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meryl attends Rome International Film Festival

Today Meryl walked the red carpet at the Rome International Film Festival, promoting the Italian premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins. 

Looking good as always, Mer.  The Hollywood Reporter's article covering Streep's appearance quoted her making a few comments about the current U.S. presidential election.  As we know, Meryl has been vocal about her support for Hillary Clinton, and in the interview, she doesn't hold back on what she thinks of Donald Trump:

    "I don't feel that I have to make any further pronouncements on the sexism of the Trump campaign.  I think they're doing a very good job on their own. Or he's doing a good job on his own. I'm not sure his campaign knows quite what to make of it, but I feel in 20 days we'll have a President Hillary Rodham Clinton, president of the United States, and all this will be moot."

Love her.  Streep further lent her hand this week in drawing criticism to Trump for his treatment of women in a 'Humanity for Hillary' commercial.  She's literally in it for two seconds starting at 2:25.

I don't usually give a ton of coverage on this blog to Meryl's political leanings, but I think in this case it bears a shout-out.  #I'mWithHer

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Update on reading "The Nix"-part 2

I'm sort of taking my time with this book (fall is busy!) so it's been a while since I've posted about what we might be able to expect from Meryl's possible character, Faye Andresen-Anderson.  Yup, that's her full name.  As I mentioned in my last post about the novel, after a third of the way through it I was a bit surprised by how little of 60 year-old Faye was actually in it.  Well, I'm currently on page 474 of the 620 page book and we've had zero additional time for Meryl's role since my last post.  The character of Faye is in it a fair amount shortly before this point in the book, but it's college student-age Faye.  Much of the story is background on the characters going all the way back to the late 1960's.

So, there's not really much more to tell about what me might be able to expect from Meryl, but fear not.  The chapter I'm about to read jumps us back to 2011 where 60 year-old Faye is front and center, so I'm guessing and hoping that much of the remaining quarter of the book heavily involves her and her son, Samuel.  We've gotten much or all of the backstory so what's left to learn we hopefully hear from Faye herself.  It should be good.  

Considering that such a large novel unexpectedly provides a rather modest role for Meryl's character, I wonder if the TV development will be planned more like I remember Game Change being for HBO.  I read that book prior to the adaptation and if memory serves, less than a third of it was about Sarah Palin; the majority was about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but the film version strongly centered on Palin.   We don't know how many episodes The Nix will have, but I think it's possible that they will pare down the novel to focus much of it on the second half, considering the announcement of the project included Meryl's involvement.  That said, I think it is very possible, if not probable, that one or two episodes wouldn't involve Meryl at all.  

I'm very much looking forward to finishing up the book over the next few days so I'll be able to get a better sense of how Meryl might approach Faye.  Stay tuned.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Florence Foster Jenkins" officially coming to video in December

Broadway World reported yesterday that Florence Foster Jenkins will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on December 13.  The digital HD release is a couple weeks earlier, November 29.  Interestingly, the Blu-ray/DVD release is sandwiched right between the Golden Globe and SAG nominations announcements, which happen to take place on December 12 and 14, respectively.  Not an accident, I presume.

Click on the link above to get more detail on the special features that are attached to the home video release.  Hopefully Meryl will at the very least receive a Globe nom, which will help with marketing.  Hard to believe these nominations come out in just two months!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Updates on "Mary Poppins Returns"

I've been a bit lax in my coverage of Mary Poppins Returns, partly because I'm annoyed that for a while this was the only real project we had to look forward to, and partly because Meryl isn't really expected to have very substantial role.  But it's worth keeping track of the project, as a few updates have taken place regarding the casting and filming schedules.

Emily Mortimer reportedly joined the cast this week as Jane Banks, rounding out the main characters.  Emily Blunt, who is in place to portray Mary Poppins, gave several interviews this week to promote The Girl on the Train, and in them discussed a bit about Mary Poppins Returns.  She described that rehearsals will begin in November, which suggests filming will begin within a couple months afterward.  Considering the release date is already set for Christmas Day 2018, we're likely looking at an extensive post-production period.  I'm guessing the special effects may be substantial.

As we know, Meryl has been cast as Poppins's cousin Topsy Turvy, a role that is not expected to be particularly large.  With that in mind, it'll be interesting to learn exactly how much time Meryl is going to have to devote to filming.  If her time commitment is modest, it would certainly provide for participation in other projects.  Again, understanding that The Nix limited series is not a sure thing, we don't have a great understanding on when actual shooting would take place.  More to come on that soon, hopefully.  I'd also like to re-open the question of what people think the likelihood would be if Meryl had been officially cast in Saving Mr. Banks a few years ago that she would now be doing this role.  Are the two projects too similar?  I personally think she would still do Poppins, because my guess is that it's more about working with director Rob Marshall again, after having starred in Into the Woods under his helm.

As we impatiently wait for news about various projects, here's the updated cast list for Mary Poppins Returns:

Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins)
Meryl Streep (Topsy)
Ben Whishaw (Michael Banks)
Emily Mortimer (Jane Banks)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Jack)
*cameos by both Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke are expected

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Florence Foster Jenkins" maxed out

I think it's safe to say that the 'stats' for Florence Foster Jenkins have reached their peak.  With 176 reviews counted on Rotten Tomatoes, the film sits at a strong 86%.  Its score on Metacritic rests at 71 (generally favorable reviews), with 46 counted.  A handful of theaters are still showing the movie across the U.S., but with a box office haul of $27.1 million as of yesterday, it likely will not reach $28m.  The receipts are just barely better than last year's Ricki and the Flash ($26.8m), but the critic responses fared much better for Florence, which bodes well for Meryl's chances at awards recognition.  DVD/Blu-ray and digital downloads are expected in the States sometime in December.  My understanding is that it's being released in the U.K. and Australia this week.

When Meryl said in late 2014 that Florence would be her last project for a while, it unfortunately turned out to be quite true.  That film wrapped in July 2015 and I see no reason to expect that she will film anything earlier than the second half of 2017.  Her IMDbpro page still lists Master Class as "optioned," but that isn't happening.  We know The Good House has dropped off her page (although it's still listed on the FilmNation website as "in development" with Streep and De Niro).  Since Mary Poppins Returns is not being released until Christmas 2018, for all we know Meryl's small role may not film for over a year.  I've seen nothing further on The Nix since its announcement nearly a month ago.

I'm looking forward to early December to see if Meryl squeaks into the top five for the Golden Globes and SAGs.  This quiet time in her work schedule is the worst.  At least we'll get to hear a bit form her at the Rome Film Festival later this month.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Update on reading "The Nix"

I'm about a third of the way through reading The Nix, so, as I said in a previous post that I would, I'm going to briefly provide a few thoughts on what we might be able to suspect from a screen version.  If you don't want any spoilers on the story, you may not want to read any further, but I won't go into super crazy detail.

Most of us have probably already read at least a short synopsis of the main points of the story.  The main character, Samuel, is between a rock and a hard place when a publisher for whom he is supposed to be writing a book drops him and informs him that they're suing for interest.  To prevent this, Samuel agrees to write a book about the backstory of his mother, Faye, who recently became national news for throwing some gravel at a conservative governor who's a prospective candidate for president.  Faye left Samuel and his father without warning when Samuel was eleven years old and is about to come in contact with her again due to his intention to write this tell-all.

Well, as I said, I'm about one third of the way through the 600 book and thus far, the 60 year-old version of Faye has been a character for about five pages.  Although I really enjoy the backstory of Samuel as a child and the events leading up to his mother leaving, I realized pretty quickly that if the limited series truly captures the book cover to cover, Meryl may only be in 2/3 of it.  I also can't imagine how they would not have a younger version of Faye, meaning a different actress.  Meryl can pull off playing someone quite a few years younger than she is, but can she portray late 30's or early 40's?  My guess is no, but if anyone could do that I suppose it would be Meryl.

I'm just getting into the section of where Samuel is seeing his mother again for the first time since he was a child.  The way Faye is described I couldn't help but picture Meryl as Violet Weston, but as she does with every character, if and when this comes to the screen I'm confident she will provide us with a unique and fresh persona.  I'm also confident that the juiciest parts are yet to come, and imagine that the remainder of the book with include much of modern Faye.  I'll be excited to read about her hidden backstory which Samuel is itching to learn himself, including the "why" of her leaving.  At my current point in the book, after Faye provokes Samuel to simply ask the question he's been wanting to ask for twenty years ("why did you leave me?"), her swift response is basically "I can't tell you. It's private." Ouch.

More to come as I read further.  No doubt Faye's reasons and private history will fill us with fun anticipation of how Meryl will negotiate the character.  Until then, let's also continue to wonder when the hell Meryl will have her next leading film role.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meryl's Oscar chances for "Florence Foster Jenkins"

We're pretty much in the thick of things for Oscar prognostication.  Fall festivals are in swing and the Best Actress race has now shown us its horses.  With all likely contenders known, I'd like to break it down a bit to sort of take the pulse of Meryl's chances.

Firstly, if we simply look at Streep's performance and the quality of the film as reviewed by most critics, she's in terrific shape.  Great to rave reviews for her performance and an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes place her in definite contention.  Florence Foster Jenkins has by no means been a box office juggernaut, but it's sitting at a respectable $26.6m and will likely settle at a little over $27m.  As a summer release, it'll be a tad more challenging to keep Meryl fresh in voters' minds, but she's done quite a bit of press for the film, something she typically only does when the picture can potentially make an awards push.  With most of the above factors in her favor, she's still in my opinion going to be on the bubble.

Natalie Portman shot to the top of many people's list over the last week or two after Jackie debuted at Venice and Toronto.  Viola Davis has been a strong contender from the moment it was announced earlier this year that Fences would get a theatrical release.  Before I go any further, however, I'd like to provide the latest rankings from my go-to Oscar contention source, Awards Watch.  The current monthly poll (190 voters) has the following top ten:

1. Emma Stone (La La Land) 94.74%
2. Natalie Portman (Jackie) 93.16%
3. Viola Davis (Fences) 88.95%
4. Amy Adams (Arrival) 68.95%
5. Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) 35.26%
6. Ruth Negga (Loving) 31.58%
7. Isabelle Huppert (Elle) 28.42%
8. Annette Bening (20th Century Women) 18.42%
9. Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals) 7.37%
10. Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) 6.32%

Ruth Negga for months hovered between 1st and 3rd, but with a few more films actually being seen, the sense I'm getting is that her role isn't flashy enough.  That said, after two years of #OscarSoWhite, I wouldn't be at all surprised if both she and Davis made it in, which would be great.  Emma Stone and Natalie Portman seem like the closest thing to locks at this point.  Considering we haven't even seen a trailer yet for Fences, unless it appears to be a total pile of shit, Davis will be a lock as well.

I'm skeptical about Amy Adams.  Despite fantastic reviews, the sci-fi subject matter of Arrival may be less Academy-friendly than many of the others on the above list.  I'd be thrilled for Bening if she made the top five, but that's seeming less and less likely as the race begins to tighten.  Keep your eye out for Jessica Chastain, however.  Miss Sloane's gun control theme captures the zeitgeist.  This film as well, howeverhas yet to be seen.

Ultimately, I'm glad there's a strong list of contenders, which means there's at least a viable, if not thriving crop of scripts for leading ladies on film.  As more and more actresses move to TV for challenging parts, let's hope the trend continues regardless of whether the screen is big or small.  If I had to guess now, I'd predict Meryl will squeak into the top five.  A Golden Globe nod should be a cinch, and if we see Streep garner of SAG nod as well in December, she'll be in the best position possible for her 20th nomination.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thoughts on production of "The Nix"

My copy of Nathan Hill's novel The Nix arrived today.  I'm excited to begin reading and being that it's been about a week since it was announced that the book would be turned into a limited series starring our girl, I thought I'd add a few more thoughts.  To my knowledge, there hasn't been any additional info on the details of the project since the day it was announced.  All we know is that J.J. Abrams would be producing (along with Meryl?), it it going to be on television and that Abrams would likely direct at least "a few" episodes.

Certainly there's a lot of info we can find on the actual plot of the story, and readers are of course welcome to explore that info to whatever level of detail they choose.  I'll likely create a post or two as I discover the 600-page tale, but will be sure to add spoiler alerts.

Big things we don't know for sure:  who will write the screenplay, how many episodes there will be, on which network it will air, who will direct, when shooting is likely to begin and of course, who else will star.  The main character sounds like it's actually the son, Samuel, but from what I understand both he and his mom, Faye, seem like leads.  No doubt I'll be picturing Meryl whenever her character is present or referenced in the story, but I'll have to wait and see who comes to mind to portray Samuel.

Thinking about how glad I am that we have at new project to obsess talk about, I couldn't help but look back to the fall of 2014, just after it was announced in October of that year that Streep had signed on for Florence Foster Jenkins.  We essentially had five major projects that were either about to or expected to come to fruition: Into the Woods, Ricki and the Flash (which was filming), Florence Foster Jenkins, The Good House and Master Class.  Now I'm just hoping beyond all hope that The Nix actually sees the light of day, as we know nothing is ever guaranteed.  Considering the fact that Meryl may be co-producing, I agree with a commenter here that it may be more likely to happen if Streep has a stake in the production herself.

Until we get confirmation, I'll just have to remain patient and enjoy envisioning Meryl in the pages of The Nix.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Streep in talks for limited television series "The Nix"

As many of you are already finding out, multiple sources are now reporting that Meryl Streep is in talks to star in a limited television series based on Nathan Hill's 2016 novel The Nix.  J.J. Abrams (who in the past has said he'd like to work with Meryl) is set to produce along with Hill, and I've read that Abrams is likely to direct at least a portion of the series.

I had not heard of the novel prior to this news so of course I'm going to have to quickly add it to my reading list.  The snippet of info from the Hollywood Reporter describes the book as:

Hill's critically acclaimed debut novel follows a man named Samuel Andresen-Anderson, whose mother, Faye, reappears decades after she abandoned the family. She becomes the center of controversy for allegedly committing an absurd crime, and Samuel must dig back into her secretive past to try to save her. The novel is described as a sprawling satire that spans from the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond.

Sounds like it could be a wonderful role for Meryl and we're getting our appetites whetted with what seems to be a more meaty project from her.  Let's keep in mind however that from what I've read, there is no writer yet (maybe author will do the screenplay) and no dates for when production is set to start.  Simply because Meryl is "in talks" doesn't mean it's a sure thing.  Just ask The Good House.

Regardless, this is one of my favorite times in the trajectory of Meryl's projects.  Learning of the news, and when possible, deep-diving into understanding the material.  Hope this gets off the ground!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Accents Mastered updated

I watched Prime a couple weeks ago and within a minute of Meryl's first scene I realized that I've erred in not including this film as one of her accents mastered.  It doesn't seem like a huge change from Streep's natural voice, but there is definitely a bit of New York in there.  I had every intention of adding the title to this section but am just getting around to it now.

Doing a little searching I figured out that she's doing some form of a Manhattan accent.  Originally I googled "Jewish New York accent" to see if anything specific came up.  As there isn't exactly a "Jewish" accent, it's likely that Yiddish in some way shaped the language of the Jewish community in New York.  As Lisa Metzger lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we're going with "Upper West Side."

The updated list is as follows:

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 (I think it's also RP)
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)--Northern Irish
Angels in America (2003)--Yiddish and Bronx (in separate roles)
Prime (2005)--Manhattan (specifically Upper West Side)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)--Upper Midwestern
Doubt (2008)--Bronx
Julie & Julia (2009)--Boston Brahmin
The Iron Lady (2011)--British (again RP)
August: Osage County (2013)--Oklahoman
The Homesman (2014)--Central Plains Midwestern
Suffragette (2015)--British (Received Pronunciation)
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)--Mid-Atlantic

Monday, August 29, 2016

Let's Talk About..."It's Complicated"

Since the inaugural post for this section in March I've inadvertently left it dormant.  I watched It's Complicated very recently so thought it would be an appropriate next entry.  One of my favorite things about re-watching Streep films is that I catch these little things I missed in previous viewings.  Of course one does that with every movie, but particularly with Meryl there are so many layers and subtleties to her performances that it's next to impossible to notice everything on the first go around.

I think we tend to think of this picture as a rom-com and total lifestyle porn.  It probably is, but Streep's character of Jane Adler goes through some pretty complicated interesting emotional situations.  The modern family dynamic following divorce is explored from the point of view of an independent mother of three adult children.  Let's not forget that the film came out when Meryl was 60 years old, which makes the fact that it made $112 domestically pretty astonishing.  At the end of 2009 Streep had sort of cemented her 'later-bloomer' box office draw standing.  Following 2006's The Devil Wears Prada, 2008's Mamma Mia! and summer 2009's Julie & Julia, we'd enjoyed an unprecedented string of commercial successes for Streep which she has yet to match.  The four films mentioned averaged $119 million in the U.S.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Florence" at the box office

Florence Foster Jenkins is entering its second full week in cinemas. I thought it'd be a good time to take the pulse of the film's box office performance.  Up to this point, I'd say it's doing ok.  Knowing that its aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes was certified "fresh" at 86%, I had thought it might be a bit of a sleeper success this summer, as a niche option for adult movie-going compared to the typical tentpole superhero flicks.  Ultimately, however, the film has basically fared identically to the the less-than-stellar Ricki and the Flash a year ago.   At the same point in 2015, Ricki sat at $15.2m, while Florence has netted $15m.

I wonder if the overall quality of Florence might give it a bit better lasting potential, however.  I definitely have to agree with the critics that Florence is a better film, which possibly could result in word-of-mouth sustaining potential.  If that were the case though, I think we would've seen a bigger jump in its second weekend, where instead, it did the same numbers as Ricki.  If the trend continues, we should expect that Florence will top out around $26m domestically.  On an estimated $29m budget, that total would technically make Florence less financially successful than Ricki, which only cost around $18m.

It's not as if on paper Florence would be a huge draw.  A 1940's-era dramedy about a bad opera singer doesn't exactly scream blockbuster.  Getting an overall sense of whether the film has met expectations is therefore a bit tricky, but I'd wager the studio was hoping for better.  That said, it's by no means a flop, and I think those involved are likely pleased with the overall quality of the film.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The end of "Master Class"?

Thanks to an anonymous post, earlier today I was alerted to an article in "Out" where Meryl is apparently quoted in a press junket saying that she will not be pursuing Master Class, the HBO production of Terrence McNally's play about opera diva Maria Callas.  Mike Nichols was set to direct the film prior to his death in November 2014.  Production was to begin in early 2015.

What's interesting, however, is that I decided to search for any other news on this possible quote, and the only other recent blurb I found was this from the Boston Herald, where again Master Class is mentioned.  A direct question was posed to Meryl asking "where does that stand?"  Her quoted answer here is a bit less definitive.  She explains that after Nichols' death and the depth to which the two of them had gone into preparations for the production, she essentially lost interest in doing it without him.  But it seemed a bit ambiguous in regard to the possibility that she would be open to doing it if someone else were at the helm.

My take away from this information is that Master Class is not going to be made with Meryl Streep starring.  I don't think it's 100% dead, and being that it's such a compelling story and has gone through so many struggles to come to the screen, I hope it does eventually get made, even if it doesn't star Meryl.  However, I'm surrendering hope that Streep has any immediate involvement in the film.  Unfortunate.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"Florence Foster Jenkins" part 2

Florence Foster Jenkins opened nationwide yesterday.  So, in traditional fashion, I met up with Scooter and his new beau, Joe (copycat), to take in the movie for a second time.  In a much larger theater than the one (my) Joe and I experienced in London, what most struck me about this second viewing is how truly funny the film is.  I recall a fair amount of giggling in London, but this time people were doing what I call the "quiet laugh," where they're laughing so hard you don't really hear much actually coming out after a while.   This made me laugh harder as well, particularly after a few of the sort of 'barks' that come out of Meryl's mouth during her Carnegie Hall performance.

The theater wasn't completely full, and of course our trio was probably on average fifteen years younger than the majority of viewers, but that's typically standard operating procedure for many Meryl films.  In general this encore experience solidified for me that not only is Florence a great film, but that Meryl's performance is truly astonishing.  Specifically how challenging, and therefore how impressive it is to achieve the nuanced "badness" of singing she was adept at portraying.  On multiple occasions last night I found myself thinking "nobody else could do that."

Its opening night gathered a modest $2 million on a total of about 1500 screens...half the number of theaters for the six films above it Friday night.  Hopefully everyone gets out there and sees it!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Five years of Word on the Streep

Today is a big day.  Not only does Florence Foster Jenkins open wide in the United States, but it also marks the five year anniversary of Word on the Streep! After over 600 posts and page hits from six continents,  this blog continues to be a thoroughly enjoyable endeavor.  Much of that enjoyment has come from the wonderful dialogue I've been privileged to have with readers and commenters over the years.  Your thoughts and opinions help make the experience that much more thrilling.  For that, I thank you!  And as always, thank you, Joe, for setting it up.

I'm excited to see what Meryl has in store for us in the next several years.  No matter what it is, I'm sure it'll be special.  Here's to another five years!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Streep talks "Florence Foster Jenkins" on Reel Pieces

With Florence Foster Jenkins set to make its U.S. debut in under a week, we're seeing a lot of Meryl for promotional purposes.  Earlier this week, she and her castmates Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg joined moderator Annette Insdorf for a conversation about the film.

I don't really have much to say about it.  It's a fairly long interview, and I sometimes feel bad that all the questions from the audience almost always seem to be directed only to Meryl.  But of course if I were allowed a question it wouldn't be for either of the men.  Glad to hear also that Meryl says she can't resist opportunities as they come and implies that she'll continued to do so because she loves her work.  She's also up for a run on stage.  I know that will please many readers.

Happy Olympics!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Academy Awards analysis (2008)

As I discussed in the last post of this section, by 2006, Meryl had gone the longest she's ever spent without a lead acting nomination at the Oscars.  Running into Helen Mirren's performance in The Queen that year meant that despite ending the lead nomination drought, she would go home empty-handed.  The period after that year, however, would begin a decade-long wealth of high-profile lead roles which garnered for Streep unprecedented (for her) box-office success, critical accolades and industry honors.

So by the time Doubt hit theaters in late 2008, she had already enjoyed financial success in both The Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia!.  A starring role as famed chef Julia Child for 2009's Julie & Julia was already in the can as well.  It had been since Sophie's Choice (1982) that she had received a major awards win for a leading role, and ten straight losses at the Academy Awards could maybe even persuade the most jaded member to finally give Streep that elusive second lead trophy.

At the Golden Globes that year, Kate Winlset took home the awards for both lead drama and supporting categories for Revolutionary Road and The Reader, respectively.  It was a pleasant surprise when at the SAGs, just a couple weeks later, Meryl was recognized for her role as Sister Aloysius, holding off Winslet.  What seemed like a sure thing for Winslet turned out to cast some doubt on whether she would be able to come through at the Oscars.

Well,  Winslet's role in The Reader then ended up being campaigned in the leading category at both the BAFTAs and Academy Awards.  She was doubly nominated at the BAFTAs in lead (Revolutionary Road), but there is a rule at the Academy Awards that one cannot receive two acting nominations in the same category.  Thus, The Reader won out and Meryl made it eleven straight losses.  She'd be back the following year for the aforementioned Julie & Julia. 

The full list of nominees in Meryl's category that year were:

Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Angelina Jolie (Changeling)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River)
Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Below you'll see Meryl's SAG win with the Best Actress Academy Award presentation following.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Streep in talks for "Mary Poppins Returns"

Well, it may not be the project many had in mind, but multiple sources are reporting this evening that Meryl is attached to star in Rob Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns for Disney.   Streep's character would be 'Topsy,' cousin to Poppins, who is to be portrayed by the great Emily Blunt.   Obviously Marshall was pleased with the work of both actresses on Into the Woods.  

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  It's not particularly surprising that Meryl is choosing to re-team with Marshall.  We know that he wanted to work with her again, possibley on Follies.  The role of Topsy is apparently a supporting one, so I wonder if this is more of a cameo situation.  IMDbPro has had it listed as in "pre-production" since February, and a release date has already been slated by Disney as Christmas Day, 2018.  Does this mean that filming won't start until 2017?  I'm guessing that it may start later this year with be a ton of special effects which require an extended period of time in post.

With what seems to be a fairly minor role that may not take up much time for Meryl, I doubt it will prevent her from possibly participating in a leading role in a film, should one get greenlit.  Regarldess, I'm glad we have some info on a new project, albeit another seemingly light, musically-themed film.  I'm anxious for some meaty stuff from Meryl agin.  All good things to those who wait...right?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Streep speaks at DNC

I purposely tend to avoid posting about non film-related news on Meryl.  But when there's this much coverage on a specific topic or event, I feel compelled to add my two cents.  Last night Meryl gave a brief speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  If you haven't already seen it, please watch below.

She's getting a lot of comments on her American flag frock.  Leave it to Meryl to go against convention and don something patriotic instead of Prada.  Her jubilant scream at the speech's onset was a nice touch as well, beginnin what was to be a fiery endorsement of her pal Hillary Clinton.

With all the examples Meryl gave of remarkable women in U.S. history, doesn't it just beg for someone to produce a film on the history of women's suffrage in America?  I'm talking about Meryl teaming with Kathy Bates and starring as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in a feature film, just like Meryl suggested back in 2012.  If Hillary pulls off the win in November, maybe it'll spark the production of the project.

Speaking of buddy projects, I've discussed in the past how great I think it would be if Ryan Murphy ended up making Best Actress. We know that the project got picked up for TV by FX and is currently filming as an eight part series entitled Feud, with Susan Sarandon (Bette Davis) and Jessica Lange (Joan Crawford) starring.  Had Meryl been cast as Crawford, we could've seen a fervent Bernie Sanders supporter (Sarandon) working alongside a fervent Clinton supporter (Streep).  Considering the vitriol Davis and Crawford had for each other, could there be a more perfect backdrop for this production?  Picture two actresses whose preferred candidates have been broiled in an impassioned campaign, culminating in Clinton's official nomination this week while bawling Sanders supporters struggle to surrender their allegiance (as a Bernie supporter I don't mind saying this).  It would allow for a fantastic backstory to production.

Alas, still nothing in the hopper for Meryl.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Film review: "The River Wild" (1994)

By 1994, for the first time Meryl had experienced a bit of a drought in film recognition.  Despite 1991's Defending Your Life doing well with critics, it failed to make much of a splash at the box office.  Death Becomes Her fared a bit better, despite the strangeness of its plot. And The House of the Spirits a year later...well let's just say it was time for something different.  The River Wild provided that change of pace.

Directed by Curtis Hanson (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, L.A. Confidential), this was the first time we saw Streep in an action-packed, psychological thriller.  Up to this point Meryl had not really done anything like what we'd consider a conventional "popcorn" movie.  And as I've thoroughly covered in the past, the early 90's was a departure from Meryl's historical blueprint for film choices.  Regardless of her reasons for choosing these scripts, had her series of comedies during this time garnered her more recognition, I wonder if she would've participated in River.  But so it goes.

The picture follows Gail (Meryl), a former rafting guide who now lives in Boston with her husband Tom (David Strathairn) and two children.  The family is planning a rafting trip out west where Gail grew up, but as we learn has become a pattern, Tom has to cancel last minute due to his busy work schedule.  Gail and her children depart without Tom, but he ends up showing up after all.  Upon the family's arrival in Idaho, they meet up with Gail's parents.  Here we get to see Meryl utlizing American Sign Language, as her character's father is deaf.  The family's ability to sign serves an important function later in the picture.

Before embarking down the river (the young daughter stays ashore with Grandma and Grandpa) the family meets a trio of men planning the same rafting trip.  Something seems a bit "off," but Tom's really the only one who doesn't trust them at first.  I rewatched the movie this afternoon and recall thinking that at this point in the film I just want everything to stay like this; the family is together, the scenery is beautiful and we can expect a lovely trip.  Of course that's not what happens.  We quickly learn that Tom's assumptions about the men are correct.  Reconnecting with the men (now down to just two of them) downstream, Wade (Kevin Bacon) and Terry (John C. Reilly) join up with Gail and her family under the guise that Gail will help them to more safely make it down the river.

We quickly learn that Wade and Terry are actually on the run from the law, having robbed a cattle auction and now hoping to escape to Canada.  Gail's family is essentially taken hostage, forcing her to help them make it through the tough rapids.  Tom runs off to avoid being shot after a failed attempt to take Terry's gun, and most of the second half of the film is a back and forth of missed chances for escape.  Eventually, with Tom singnaling his presence with sign language markings on a cliff and Gail devising a plan to knock Wade and Terry out the boat, the family frees themselves, having endured several dangerous and violent experiences.

Despite the plot being rather predictable, Hanson's film  manages to provide its share of suspense.  The backdrop of the action is breathtaking, and if nothing else the film is worth watching for its cinematography alone. The acting, not surprisingly, is very good.  As she always does, Meryl succeeds at creating a believable history for Gail.  We're able to see through her reaction to Tom's news that he won't be joining the family that their marriage has not been on the firmest ground lately.

Joseph Mazzello, who plays their son Rourke, does a fantastic job. I imagine it was a challenging role for a child, having to go through the full specturm of emotion, from elation at family adventure, to the fear and sadness of he and his parentss lives being in danger.  Streep too negotiates this well.  Gail is a physically and mentailly tough woman, but pulling it together for the sake of her family's safety is an essential action even she struggles to manage.  Faced with these threats, one would have to become almost robotic to get through the ordeal.  We feel that struggle and the building intensity of Gail's desperation up until the film's climactic final scene.

Phyical transformation is nothing new to Streep, but this role was a bit different.  Instead of simply losing or gaining weight, or donning a wig, her appreance change comes in a sort of "buff" physique.  Navigating the rapids had to be a grueling physical task, but I'd guess she went beyond what would be necessary for the film.  It likely took months of work to get herself as strong as she looked.

The film did OK at the box office, with about $47 million domestically and $94m wordlwide.  Streep earned both Golden Globe and SAG (in its inaugural year) nominations, with Kevin Bacon receiving a Globe nod in supporting as well.  It was a needed change in the trajectory of Meryl's screen career, and she herself has said that she left the experience of filming The River Wild with a lot of important life lessons.  I'll leave it up to the reader to envision exactly what those lessons may be.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Streep promoting "Florence Foster Jenkins"

Over the past few days, a pair of videos have become available of promotional activities in which Meryl has participated for Florence Foster Jenkins. With the U.S. release of the film less than a month away now, it's not surprising that there's a bit of a boost in visibility for the film.  Having been in Paris this week, for example, Meryl's face was on every street corner promoting the Bastille Day release of the film, which was nice to see.  Today, there was a spot about Jenkins and the film on CBS Sunday Morning, including a brief interview with Meryl:

The other video of interest was a press confernece in New York which included Meryl, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg.  Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to embed that video but it can be found here on Simply Streep.

In case you were wondering, there is no other news on future projects.  Grrr.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Film review: "Florence Foster Jenkins" (2016)

Joe and I were on holiday in London over the weekend.  After a long flight from Minneapolis, we got settled into our hotel, enjoyed some grub and a pair of pints, and figured we'd just make an early first night of it since we were pretty beat.  For the hell of it, I decided to see if by chance Florence Foster Jenkins was still showing anywhere.  Lo and behold, there was one theater in Leicester Square with an appropriate show time.  So a quick hop on the underground and before I knew it, we were sitting down for the film.

The theater was the smallest I've ever experienced in my life, with literally about twenty seats available.  Joe joked that I could tell everyone on the blog that the place was packed, and truthfully yes, there were only a couple of seats open.  Despite fighting some fatigue from the flight and brews, I was pretty excited that it worked out for us to see the film so last minute.

We are introduced to Meryl's character, Florence Foster Jenkins, as she is lowered from the rafters during a musical tableau as part of her participation in one of multiple organizations patroning the arts in 1940's New York.  Soon she confides in her husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), that she would like to take singing lessons, and the two arrange for an instructor and begin to audition pianists.  During the auditions is where we first see Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon, the smiley, giggly accompanist whom Jenkins chooses. Quickly, however, we learn during her practice sessions that Florence's aspirations for performing border on the deulusional.  She's absolutely terrible.  The crowd in our theater totally ate up the scenes where Meryl is singing.  Joe and I cracked up as well, it's almost impossible not to.

As Bayfield indulges his wife's interests, Florence begins to perform for her society friends.  No one really has the nerve to tell her the truth about her lack of ability.  Her gal pals placate her and she ultimately gets the brilliant idea to stage a recital at Carnegie Hall.  Bayfield tries to completely control the audience list, as to prevent any bad press getting out and Florence discovering that most people are laughing at her, not praising her.  One critic does make it in, and depite her husband's best efforts, Florence eventually does read some terrible press.  The shock of it exacerbates her already fragile health (she contracted syphillis from her first husband on their wedding night) and we watch her finally decline.

Ok, let's break down a few things.  First and probably most notable is that the pic is thoroughly entertaining.  People were howling throughout the entire film.  Meryl does a fantastic job of butchering her arias, and like we've heard her say in interviews, she tried to first sing them well, and then learn where to go off.  That tactic proved successful.  I'm really hoping that the shear enjoyment the movie provides will make it a word-of-mouth box office success when it finally arrives in the States next month.  It's shot beautifully, and director Stephen Frears adeptly brings out the humanity in the film's title character, reminiscent of his recent female-driven biopics The Queen and Philomena. 

There were touching moments between Streep and Grant.  Although his character has a mistress and he seems to be a bit of a leech, we get a sense that he truly loves his wife, if not necessarily in a traditionally romantic way.  A failed actor himself, Bayfield could have easily fallen into the jealous husband type, resenting his wife's attention for performing badly, while he wonders why no one ever wanted to hire him to perform Shakespeare.  Instead, there's is a tender pairing, and I found myself rooting for both of them.

Simon Helberg was a riot throughout the film.  His facial expressions the moment he first realizes that his new patroness has no talent are worth the price of admission.  There's a really nice moment the two share at the piano.  Florence stops by his apartment unannounced and divulges how long the days feel when her husband is away.  Further confiding how she can no longer effectively play piano due to the effect syphillis had on her hand, she and McMoon join for an impromptu Chopin prelude, Cosmé playing with his left hand, Florence her right.

Spoiler:  I wasn't expecting Jenkins to actually die in the film.  One of my favorite moments in the film is at the end where, with Florence on her death bed, we get to hear what she wished her voice actually sounded like.  Here Meryl is performing a lovely song with her own voice, except trying to sound good, which she does.  This too was unexpected, yet delightful.  With the film already holding a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, I hope the praise continues as more reviews roll in when it hits U.S. theaters August 12.  This performance has Golden Globe written all over it, and Meryl will definitely be in the running for her 20th Oscar nomination.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thoughts on "Master Class"

I know we're all struggling a little bit with the dearth in project news for Meryl.  I'm sad to report that as of today, The Good House has dropped off of her IMDbPro "in developement" section.  That film is currently categorized as "developement unknown," with no actors attached.  Interesting sidebar: my mom told me that she saw Ann Leary in an interview last week for her new book The Children, and happened to mention The Good House (I had recommended it a while ago to her and now she's for sure planning to read it).  Leary also discussed the possiblity of a film, but that basically Meryl was not a sure thing.  Not surprising that it's off Meryl's page (and Robert De Niro's for that matter).

That leaves us with Master Class.  Over the weekend I read Terrence McNally's play, on which the HBO film was to be based.  I felt compelled to mention it here because of course I couldn't help myself from picuring Meryl the entire time I was reading Maria Callas's zingers.  After having finished it, I'm more bummed than ever that it might end up in perpetual movie limbo. Forgetting the fact that I'm already a huge opera fan, Callas in this story is a wonderful character.  Fiery, intelligent, direct, vulgar at times and constantly trying to tell the audience that the class is not about her, despite the fact that every event in the play ends up turning the focus squarely and solely back on Maria.  She also readily transitions between speaking in English (which would be with a Greek accent), French and Italian, with a bit of German here and there.

Alas, I wonder if the next project we get from Meryl will be something completely unkown.  Recall that she had a meeting about a film project in London in May while there for the premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins, but she reportedly wasn't ready to divulge any details yet.  Since the start of her film career, Streep has never gone more than a single calendar year without filming something (although January 1999-January 2001 is a full two years).  If 2016 goes by without anything, I think it's highly unlikely we won't see her shooting something in 2017.  Nyad, anyone?  And I'm still holding out hope for The Good House.  Even if Meryl isn't involved, I'd still love to see Hildy Good brought to life on screen.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The Devil Wears Prada" ten years later

For about a week now, multiple sources have been doing retrospecitves on The Devil Wears Prada.  Tomorrow (June 30) marks the 10-year anniversary of the film's release.  Initially I didn't think to blog about it, but the more I thought, the more I realized how pivotal the film's success was to Meryl's future filmography.

In partiuclar, there's a great article from Variety where they interview Streep and co-stars Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt.  Points of interest for me were how Meryl insisted on including a scene which described the fashion industry (my favorite Meryl scene of the film) and one where she has her makeup removed and is without her "armour" (my second favorite).

The June 2006 release of this film started the string of successful projects with summer debuts, which made Meryl a bonafide box-office draw for the first time in her career, while approaching the age of 60.  Following Prada we saw Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia and It's Complicated, all big money-makers.  I'd arguably throw Hope Springs in there as well.   And even last year's Ricki and the Flash, while not nearly as commercially successful as the others in this list, still well surpassed its budget.  By all accounts Florence Foster Jenkins will continue the streak in August.

It's impossible to know the extent to which The Devil Wears Prada solidified projects for Meryl.  I remember director Norah Ephron suggesting that Julie & Julia wouldn't have come together without Streep's recent successes.  I'm just happy it opened more doors for Meryl, as her continuing to accept plum roles is what's most important for me.  Let's hope it keeps going! I'll leave you all with my fav Meryl moment from Prada.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy 67th, Meryl!

Yes, it's our girl's birthday.  Wherever she is, I hope she's enjoying the day. I don't have any retrospectives to offer to mark the milestone; maybe I'll save that for when she turns 70.  I will, however, take this opportunity to let everyone know that it was announced yesterday that Meryl will be attending the Rome Film Festival in October.  This isn't necessarily super newsworthy in itself, but it provides a glimpse into her fall schedule.  I doubt she has plans to film anything around that time if she'll be heading to Rome.  Maybe this really is going to be very similar to the 2010-2011 filming schedule she had...where no filming took place in 2010, but we got two in 2011.  I would lose my shit if 2017 brought us production of both The Good House and Nyad.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Streepers anxious to know what's next

Probably not since 1999 have we had a similar dearth of confirmed screen projects for Meryl.  One could argue that we're in a very similar situation to 2010, where by early summer of that year Streep hadn't filmed anything in a year and we knew of zero films which she had in the pipeline.  Shortly after, it was announced that she would star as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.  That film went into production in early 2011, was released later that year and of course earned Meryl her third Oscar.

The similarities between 2010 and 2016 may unfortunately end there, however.   I realize that I've speculated ad nauseam on the status of The Good House, but by most recent accounts that's a 'maybe' at best.  Were that to actually get pulled together, I don't think it would be unreasonable for that to begin shooting in early 2017 with a release date planned for later that year.  One of the problems with this filming schedule may in fact be the other confirmed actor...Robert De Niro.  The other day it was announced that he was in talks to star in a film adaptation of the the novel The War on Grandpa.  He also has The Irishman lined up, which is said to begin filming next spring.  On top of this, earlier this week we also learned he will make his directorial debut on Broadway in December.  That doesn't leave a lot of room for him and Meryl to team up and play Frank and Hildy.  This House is looking less Good. 

The other project that remains an enigma is Master Class.  After the sad and unexpected passing of director Mike Nichols in November of 2014, the HBO film was put on hold.  Filming was set to begin in January 2015 with a likely release later that year.  Just today I happened to think about the Emmy nominations coming up next month and how we'd likely be expecting a nomination for Meryl in the role of Maria Callas.  For months now I'd given up on the hope of ever seeing this project involving Meryl until several weeks ago.  While Streep was in London for the premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins, she gave an interview where it seemed possible that Master Class may still be on her radar, jut not anytime soon.  It got me wondering if Meryl would still be able to portray Callas in a couple of years.  Callas was in her late 40's during the masterclasses at Juilliard, while Streep will turn 67 next week.  The more I think about it though, if anyone can play someone 20 years younger, it's Meryl.  Callas's age in the play isn't of particular importance.  Meryl would just need to be passable for early 50's.  No prob within the next few years in my opinion.  It would be amazing if this eventually came to fruition.  After Faye Dunaway struggled and failed to get it to the screen, the project now almost seems doomed. The film remains on the 'in development' section of her IMDbPro page (along with The Good House), but I'm not holding my breath.  Just in case, however, my copy of Terrence McNally's original stage play is in the mail.  

With Jessica Chastain's gun control film Miss Sloane already in the can, it has seemed particularly unlikely to expect that The Senator's Wife will ever see the light of day.  The horrific Orlando massacre is sparking a much-needed dialogue for passing laws to restrict access to certain firearms, so I wonder if we'll also see a barrage of films from Hollywood that, like Miss Sloane, aim to tackle this topic.  We know Meryl regularly likes to be involved in projects that have important messages.  I certainly think it would be a great platform for Meryl to go after the NRA, but the plot just seems way too similar to Miss Sloane to expect anything to come of it.             

So, that's it?  Well, one of the small concessions about Meryl not having anything set in stone is that it's fun to dream predict.  A few months ago I queried whether Streep would be interested in the script Nyad, a biopic about marathon-swimmer Diana Nyad.  Doing a little snooping I discovered the blog Deconstruct the Script, where one of the scripts "deconstructed" is in fact Nyad.  Noting its appearance on the 2015 Blacklist, the author of the blog was mostly complementary on the script's quality.  While we may disagree on whether or not Nyad's swim from Cuba to Florida was pure narcissism (I expect her motivation was more complicated than that), the script was described as a project that had well-written characters and "beautiful, elegant" form.  Knowing a bit about Diana Nyad, this could be a film role Meryl could really sink her teeth into.  As I described in December, so many boxes would be ticked for a baity role in this picture: biopic, age-appropriate, physical transformation, history of abuse, lesbian.  Who other than Meryl would be more adept at effectively bringing Nyad's incredible story and humanity to the screen?  Probably no one.

Not unlike a gun-control film, were Meryl to get her wish and star with Kathy Bates in a film about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, we'd have another zeitgeist project to look forward to.  With the current U.S. presidential campaign excruciatingly underway, a female being a major contender begs for a film depicting the historic struggle to secure women's suffrage.  Plus I enjoy Meryl's buddy projects.

Although portraying real people is always an enticing prospect, were all of the above projects to come to fruition, three of the roles (Maria Callas, Diana Nyad and Susan B. Anthony) would be biographical.  Couple that with Meryl's current title character, Florence Foster Jenkins, and it's possibly a bit heavy in the biopic department.  This is one of the reasons I wish The Good House would come together.  Original stories allow for a particular kind of representation, and possibly my favorite aspect of watching Meryl work is how convincing she is at making me believe her character's history.  That's likely a bigger and more gratifying challenge if there isn't a real person to reference.

In this same vein, we know that in recent years directors such as Joel Hopkins, Xavier Dolan and Pedro Almodóvar have all commented on their interest in working with Meryl.  I would expect any projects that teamed Streep with these gentlemen would not be a biopic.  Rob Marshall expressed interest in a film version of Follies, and after the success of Into the Woods, revealed that he would love to have Meryl aboard.  With the recent news of a film version of Wicked getting the green light, buzz around the internet inevitably suggests the possibility of Streep being cast as Madame Morrible.  Neither of these last two projects seem like a crazy idea, knowing Streep's affinity for musical films, especially the past couple of years. 

So many possibilities!  Although I get a little nervous not knowing what's next, I take solace in the fact that we WILL get more of Meryl.  I believe 100% that she loves working and hopes to do it as long as she can.  By all recent accounts, Florence Foster Jenkins is going to be a success on multiple levels, setting Streep up for a similar situation in which she found herself after her successes in 2009; films that may have executives tentative about funding may actually be given the OK.

Hang in there, Streepers.  I have a feeling the next five years are going to be special.