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.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Streep garnering Oscar buzz for "Florence Foster Jenkins"

Among other sources today, Variety has reported on the screening of Florence Foster Jenkins that took place last night at Carnegie Hall.  Evidently Paramount is trying to generate early buzz leading up to the film's August 12 release here in the States.  The film, which was introduced by my favorite soprano Renée Fleming, evidently began to generate awards consideration predictions among the attendees, particularly for Meryl of course.  Following the screening, Meryl participated in a Q&A with costume designer William Ivey Long, of which I unfortunately cannot find video!  I'll add that if it ever turns up.

As we all know, this would be Streep's 20th Academy Award nomination.  Combined with the fact that the film already holds 91% on Rotten Tomatoes with 47 reviews, Meryl is a shoe-in for at least a Golden Globe nod and will be in the conversation for Oscar, which makes my awards season that much more enjoyable.  If this were to do well at the box-office, we may be looking at prospects for Hugh Grant as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Meryl as "The Donald"

I couldn't pass up posting about this.  Last night at New York's annual Shakespeare in the Park gala, Streep transformed herself into the presumptive Republican presidential candidate and performed a tune with Christine Baranski.  There isn't really much I want to say about it, other than that I love the fact that Meryl is making fun of Trump.  Is this eligible for a Tony??  The video can be seen here.

                                  Top Trumps! On  Monday night Meryl Streep turned her talents to a US legend, transforming into presidential hopeful Donald Trump for the 2016 Public Theater Gala at Delacorte Theater in New York

Friday, June 3, 2016

Film review: "Ironweed" (1987)

For whatever reason, it came to mind last week to re-watch Ironweed.  I had originally seen it when I began my Meryl obsession in 2003, and then again sometime within the past five years.  Having had difficulty remembering the full plot of the film, it was a good one to review.  I'm glad I decided to, as there were multiple things that seemed new to me in the movie.

The film itself is based on William Kennedy's 1983 novel of the same name, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  I happened to find some background info on the making of the film from Kennedy's perspective which can be read in full here.  Of interest, Meryl was the only person considered for the role of Helen Archer, having requested the script and agreeing to join three days later.

Set in Depression-stricken Albany, the film tells the story of Francis (Jack Nicholson), a former professional baseball player who, after dropping his infant son twenty years ago (causing his son's death) returns to his hometown and to the family he left behind.  Helen (Streep), a former singer/pianist, is one of Francis's drinking pals and seemingly a love interest.  Helen is terminally ill without an undisclosed ailment, and having met back up with Francis at a soup kitchen, we learn of the pair's friendship while bits of Helen's past are revealed through Meryl's astute characterization. Throughout the picture we are regularly exposed to the hallucinations Francis experiences in seeing visions of individuals whose death he had been responsible for (totally had spaced this from previous viewings).  The whole story unfolds over the course of just a few days, with the overarching theme being the collective experience of "bum" life during a destitute period of American history.  When Francis returns to the family he abandoned, we get a brief sense of the possibility of redemption. But when he declines his wife's offer for him to return home permanently, we learn that he may not really be interested in returning to his former life.

This was an area of the movie that seemed a bit of a stretch to me.  Maybe it's how people would've behaved at the time, but Francis's wife seemed a tad too calm when he returned.  She just welcomed him in, started preparing the turkey Francis had offered and introduced him to his grandson.  The silent sufferer-type, I guess.  The daughter's reaction was a bit more of what I'd expect, but even she got over it relatively quickly.

Now let's get to Meryl.  Continuing  her delightful string of varied characters, Streep once again does a fantastic job convincing us she's someone else.  Particularly in this role, which was an invented one, Meryl succeeds in establishing a sense of history for Helen.  Every time she was on screen I got a sense of what a great loss it was, in that she had been such a successful musician and ended up an impoverished alcoholic.  Her fall from grace is best captured in the wonderful scene in which she sings a tribute to her "pal" Francis:


I'm pretty sure this is the first time Meryl really sang in a film role.  She sang in Silkwood but not really as part of the character, just in the background.  Helen eventually succumbs to her illness, alone in a hotel room with and old favorite record playing on a phonograph.  Is it bad that I couldn't help feeling relieved for her?  Also I was so pleased when she finally got to shower, only to watch her expire on the floor minutes later.

Homeless, alcoholic, terminal disease, accent...those things on paper these days of course scream Oscar bait.  Of course Meryl did indeed receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Nicholson also nominated), her overall seventh.   Astonishingly, this was her fifth of six nominated roles in the 80's, the last coming in 1988's A Cry in the Dark.

Overall, this is a well-made film, albeit depressing.  Several reviews on Rotten Tomatoes basically blast it for being grim, painful and a film without an audience.  They may be right about all but the last comment, as not every story needs to end happily or make us feel warm inside.  Sometimes there is enjoyment to be had in simply witnessing an authentic human experience, despite how disturbing or upsetting that experience may be.