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.