Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mike Nichols tribute and my SAG predictions

Last night PBS aired a one-hour documentary on the life and work of director Mike Nichols.  Streep of course worked with Nichols in Silkwood, Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge and Angels in America. Their collaboration on Master Class unfortunately never came to fruition, as Nichols passed away two months prior to when filming was set to begin last year. The tribute, while short, was fantastic.  By far my favorite moment was when Nichols began to discuss Meryl's work in Silkwood, became emotional, and had to stop, saying "I don't think I can talk about Meryl." No doubt he saw something very special in her.

In other news, the SAGs are tonight so I thought I better post my predictions.  Winners indicated with an asterisk*:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
1. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
2. Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
3. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)*
4. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
5. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
1. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
2. Brie Larson (Room)*
3. Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold)
4. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
5. Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Christian Bale (The Big Short)
2. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)*
3. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
4. Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
5. Jacob Tremblay (Room)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Rooney Mara (Carol)
2. Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
3. Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
4. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)*
5. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

I'm way less confident in the supporting categories than lead.  It's quite possible that Elba will be recognized following his Oscar snub, a la Ben Affleck for Argo at the Producers Guild.  A few surprises would be fun for a change.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This Meryl-less awards season

It's funny looking back to a little over a year ago when, shortly after it was announced that Meryl would being starring in a biopic about Florence Foster Jenkins, I thought that 2016 might be one of the most dense awards seasons Meryl will ever experience.  Fast forward to today, and not only was Meryl not nominated for a single award in any screen performance this year, but many people are relieved that she's not at all involved with the shit storm that has ensued following the Academy's failure to nominate a single actor who is not white.

Before Mike Nichols's passing in November 2014, I had envisioned a possible scenario in which Meryl could feasibly be nominated for three Golden Globe awards in three different categories this year:  Actress in a Television Movie or Miniseries for Master Class, Actress in a Comedy/Musical for Ricki and the Flash and Actress in a Drama for Florence Foster Jenkins.  It seemed possible, if not probable, that they'd release Florence before year's end since it wrapped in July last year.  I now also doubt it'll go drama, but I suppose it wouldn't have been completely unrealistic to hope for two nods in Musical/Comedy, as it's happened for Meryl before with Julie & Julia and It's Complicated in 2009.  Despite having high hopes for the success of Suffragette, I never expected Meryl's role to garner any awards traction.

Alas, zip. And that's OK.  Master Class was obviously never made so we can't be upset about her not being nominated for that, and Florence Foster Jenkins will have its chance next year.  I maintain that Meryl should've made the top five at the Golden Globes for Ricki, but will be the first to admit that the film fell far short of expectations.

Now to the shit storm.  The lack of inclusion of any actor of color among this year's Academy Award nominees is tragic.  Perhaps I'm in the minority opinion however in believing that the issue is not necessarily with the Academy.  The films have to be there.  How are non-whites going to be nominated when there is a dearth of roles and stories that get green-lit for black actors?  The great Viola Davis had similar thoughts when she was quoted recently as saying:

"The problem is not with the Oscars. The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system. How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role?"

Agreed.  If there were a huge variety of high-quality films involving black actors with great performances from which to choose, and the Academy still overlooked them, then I'd be singing a different tune.  We can debate whether Idris Elba should've been nominated based on the quality of his performance (I say yes), but I think there's no persuasive argument that suggests the playing field is level in regard to actually getting performances like his on the screen in the first place.  Recent comments by both Charlotte Rampling and Michael Caine don't exactly bolster confidence in people's ability to understand the bigger issue. 

As far as Meryl staying clear of the controversy, many point to the backlash she and others experienced during the promotion of Suffragette for wearing shirts that said "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave."  I think it's nonsense.  I can appreciate how in the context of race relations in the United States it seemed like a poor choice.  I also realize that I approach these topics through the gaze of a white male.  But I have to believe that we're smart enough to think critically about categorical differences.  Although slavery and its ongoing pervasive negative effects on African Americans in the United States is a repugnant stain on our nation's history, there exist other populations globally who have historically been equally as oppressed.  And it's not exclusive to a specific skin color.  We know that slavery is much older than racism.  So, appreciating that it's OK to acknowledge that oppression of any group of individuals, women in the case of Suffragette, is abhorrent and should be spoken out against, perhaps it's a bit more palatable seeing Meryl or any white woman wearing such a shirt.  It also just happened to be a direct quote from Emmeline Pankhurst, Streep's character in the film. 

How fitting that only yesterday it was announced that Joseph Fiennes (a white man) will be portraying Michael Jackson (born a black man) in a U.K. television show.  Is this bad timing or perfect timing?  It opens a huge can of worms, and hopefully a thoughtful discussion about what this means.  Of course many people are outraged, while I imagine there are almost as many asking "how could a black man portray Michael Jackson circa 2001?"  The questions are important and demand a conversation about what it means to act, or what acting should be. 

I've exhibited few qualms about my interest in seeing Meryl portray former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.  It's a purely selfish desire for me to be excited about seeing my favorite actress as a character few would ever expect her to inhabit.  No doubt Meryl could do it in a way that wouldn't be a caricature.  But it won't happen.  Maybe it can't or shouldn't happen.  But the reason it can't or shouldn't happen isn't about acting.  It's about the fact that certain groups of people have been oppressed for centuries in our nation, and giving a job to a white actor who would be portraying a person of color takes us a step back.  It would be great it we didn't have to think that way.  Imagine non-traditional, race-blind casting in all genres.  I'm not sure we'll get there in my lifetime, but before it can even be a consideration, the steps I've outlined above have to happen first.    

I'll leave you with what has been a favorite video of mine.  In 2012 Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer appeared on the Tavis Smiley show to discuss their performances in The Help.  The actresses' comments, particularly Davis's, have and continue to be educational and a great perspective for me on the topic of race in the film industry.  Enjoy.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Win a chance to meet Meryl

So, something popped up in my Facebook feed this morning while I was waiting at the auto shop. The "suggested" article, showed Meryl's face and the headline read something to the effect of "join Meryl Streep on the red carpet."  Out of mild curiosity, I clicked on the link and sure enough, Omaze was promoting a chance to join Streep on the red carpet for the premiere of Florence Foster Jenkins (no info on when the actual date is, unfortunately).  I assume it'll be in New York City.

I had never heard of nor of the 'RED' campaign, so before considering a donation, I did a little further investigation.  Turns out Omaze is a legit site that pairs with non-profit organizations to provide potential donors the chance at a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience.  Bono started RED in 2006 to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, where 2/3 of the those infected worldwide live.  In exchange for a donation, my name is now in a random drawing to join Meryl at the premiere.   I've included the details below.  It's a good cause and enticing opportunity.  I can barely imagine how I'd react if my name were actually drawn, but with a $100 donation, my name is in the hat 1000 times.  And I got a t-shirt.

RED website
Omaze website with details on how to enter to meet Meryl

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reaction to nominations and Streep to hold masterclass

It's nomination morning so of course I made sure to watch the announcement live.  We all know that Meryl wasn't in contention, but so much of this blog surrounds her status as an almost perennial nominee.  As usual, I'm mostly interested in the acting nominations, but I'll throw out a few thoughts on other categories as well.

Lead acting nominations were super predictable, with all ten nominees unsurprising.  The most glaring snub to me was Iris Elba being left off the supporting actor category.  Most sources I examined had him at least in their top three for his role in Beasts of No Nation.   With his absence, all twenty acting nominees are white.  Not great.

I was wondering if Alicia Vikander was going to get in for Ex Machina, but it turns out that category fraud won out, and she was nominated in supporting for The Danish Girl instead.  A reasonable consolation I suppose considering her performance in the latter absolutely could've made the top five in lead.  I'm glad Rachel McAdams made it in.  Although not a flashy role, I enjoyed her in Spotlight.

My only real surprise in non-acting categories was that Todd Haynes was left off the director list for Carol.  Lenny Abrahamson for Room was the more unexpected nomination in that group, but well-deserved.  Props to Inside Out for landing an original screenplay nod.  The full list of nominees can easily be found here.

In Meryl related news, the Hollywood Reporter revealed this morning that she will conduct a masterclass in Berlin on February 14.  Streep will be in town to serve as the jury president at the 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival, which runs February 13-18.  I guess I don't really have much to add to this announcement.  Not being super familiar with what Meryl's role will actually be as jury president, I'm anxious to see what her thoughts, comments and feedback are for the festival's talent.  It'll be nice to see her in some action.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Golden Globe predictions

Awards season officially starts tomorrow with the Golden Globes!  I realize that Meryl isn't even nominated this year, but I always like to throw in my two cents on whom I think will get recognized. I've placed an asterisk* next to the names of those I think will take the trophy. As is my wont, I'm only concerning myself with the acting categories for film.

Best Actor (Drama) 
1. Bryan Cranston  (Trumbo)
2. Leonardo DiCaprio* (The Revenant)
3. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
4. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
5. Will Smith (Concussion)

Best Actress (Drama)
1. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
2. Brie Larson* (Room)
3. Rooney Mara (Carol)
4. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
5. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy)
1. Christian Bale (The Big Short)
2. Steve Carell (The Big Short)
3. Matt Damon* (The Martian)
4. Al Pacino (Danny Collins)
5. Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear)

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy)
1. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
2. Amy Schumer* (Trainwreck)
3. Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
4. Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van)
5. Lily Tomlin (Grandma)

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
1. Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
2. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
3. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
4. Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
5. Sylvester Stallone* (Creed)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
1. Jane Fonda (Youth)
2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
3. Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
4. Alicia Vikander* (Ex Machina)
5. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Couple things: The Martian is not a comedy.  After seeing Joy however, I take back what I said about that not being enough of a comedy to be in that category.  Mark Rylance could totally take it from Stallone, and Jennifer Jason Leigh might prevail over Vikander.  I really hope I'm right about Amy Schumer, and wouldn't mind at all if Saoirse Ronan beat out Brie Larson.

Of course I still believe that Meryl's performance in Ricki and the Flash was a no-brainer for a nom, but a year off will make next year more enticing.  I also believe that had Master Class been made, Meryl would be in the running tomorrow for Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Alas, we came up empty this go-around.  Congrats and good luck to all the nominees.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New year, new possibilities

Happy 2016!  I hope everyone safely survived New Year's Eve and that we're all energized for the upcoming awards season.  Living in Minneapolis, where in January the average low temperature is in the single digits, going to a bunch of movies and enjoying the buzz surrounding the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA and Academy Awards helps me endure the frozen slog.

This will be one of the rare seasons where we won't see any of Meryl.  I'm disappointed that Ricki and the Flash didn't garner her at least a Golden Globe nomination, but I suppose it only whets the appetite for things to come.  2016 brings with it multiple unknowns as it pertains to Streep's screen career.  The one film we know will be released this year, Florence Foster Jenkins, doesn't even have a U.S. release date yet.  But in a way, the lack of certainty makes my tendency toward unabashed speculation a little more fun.

So what will 2016 bring?  I'm guessing Florence will get an awards-y fourth quarter release.  The more compelling questions surround when Meryl's next official project will be firmly established.  Ad nauseam I've blogged about my hopes for The Good House.  Were that film to come to fruition, word could come anytime.  It seems a reasonable timeline to film this fall, allowing for a 2017 release.

Then there are those pictures on my personal wish list, any of which being announced would make my head spin.  There was some speculation last summer that Meryl may join Amy Schumer's untitled mother-daughter action comedy, but I'm mostly interested in Meryl's participation for the reasons I explored here.  An adaptation of The Testament of Mary is a huge pipe dream, but worth another mention.  Then there are the biopics, three of which I currently consider major interests of mine: Susan B. Anthony, Indira Gandhi and Diana Nyad.  None of these are "likely" to happen, although the last isn't completely crazy.

Regardless of Streep's next project (maybe she in fact won't film anything in 2016), I hope she's able to team with great directors on even better scripts.  Despite the paucity of established upcoming roles, the overwhelming likelihood is that, although we don't know exactly when, Streep will continue to deliver numerous outstanding performances in the years to come.  Didn't someone once say that patience is a virture?  Ugh.