Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Check out "Months of Meryl" weekly series at The Film Experience

I've been following the weekly series Months of Meryl over at The Film Experience. Two gentlemen, John and Matt, are brilliantly dissecting every single film role Meryl has been in since her debut in 1977. One or two readers of Word on the Streep have mentioned this series recently, and now that they're through the 80's, I wanted to post about it, mostly to recommend that everyone check it out.

There's been a lot written about Meryl and countless reviews of her performances. I have to imagine that both John and Matt come to this project at relative fans of Streep's work.  That said, they don't hesitate to point out where they think both she, the director or any other actor or filmmaker come up short...even way short. What I've found most enjoyable is how thoughtful and painstakingly they've managed to articulate their opinions on each film. It's way more layered and nuanced than I think I'd be capable of describing...perhaps because I'm biased by my mad interest in Meryl. After all 52 weeks are complete, I think it would be an amazing little book, with photos added of course.

I'm very much looking forward to them discussing her "wilderness years," hoping they go into a bit her rationale for staying local for filming in the early 90's.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Poll #7: Will Meryl ever win another Oscar?

For poll #7, I've gone a little bit different route. I'm asking whether readers think Meryl will ever win another Oscar. Everyone has an opinion on this, I'm sure. Off to the right you'll see the options I've provided for the poll.  One could may simply want to answer yes or no, but it's more fun to get as specific as possible in our predictions. 

I'll be the first to vote and say that yes, I think she will win another Oscar. My guess is that it'll happen sometime in her 70s or early 80s, as a sort of Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond moment. The older she gets, the less likely it'll be a win for a lead role, in my opinion. So with that in mind, I think the safest bet would be for a biopic. My preference of course would be in a book adaptation or original screenplay, but I'm just going off of what I think is the likeliest. 

I'm interested to see people's choices!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

More set pics from "Big Little Lies"

Meryl was spotted alongside Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman filming a scene Monterey for the new season of Big Little Lies.


A couple more pics can be seen here. No official word yet on release dates, but I'm guessing season 2 will debut on HBO around February, 2019.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More casting updates for season two of "Big Little Lies"

It's been reported that Martin Donovan and Crystal Fox have been cast as Bonnie's parents in the currently-filming second season of HBO's Big Little Lies. For those who've read the book, Bonnie's (Zoë Kravitz) backstory included a history of abuse, which apparently made her perceptive to Perry's abuse of Celeste and therefore more naturally the one to push him down the stairs. There had been some speculation for a while about who might portray her parents. Many buzzed that it could be either or both of Kravitz's real parents, Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. Alas, no relation, but it'll be nice to see a deeper look into her character in the upcoming season.

Martin Donovan
Crystal Fox

Thursday, April 5, 2018

First look at Streep in "Big Little Lies"

Nicole Kidman posted a photo to her Instagram that includes our first look at Meryl in character as Mary Louise Wright on the set of Big Little Lies.

A post shared by Nicole Kidman (@nicolekidman) on

Meryl of course plays mom to the late Perry Wright, who was portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård in the first season. She comes to Monterey concerned for the well-being of her twin grandsons. Kidman's character, Celeste, of course plays their mom.  

I have to admit that Meryl's look here is dowdier than I had expected. I thought she'd maybe look super duper posh. It's hard to tell from one photo, though. I maintain that Meryl's character will be an abused person as well, as that behavior is almost always learned. Maybe Perry's father was the same way toward Mary Louise as Perry was to Celeste?  Great character to watch Meryl unfold!



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Casting updates on "Big Little Lies" season 2

Filming is of course underway on the second installment of HBO's Big Little Lies. No glimpses of Meryl on set yet. In fact, we're not even sure if any of her scenes have been shot. Considering she's a supporting character, I wonder if in her contract she's worked it out to be able to shoot all of her scenes in like two weeks or something. Or maybe just one or two days a week over the course of the filming schedule. I remember when I was an extra in A Prairie Home Companion, I showed up on a Wednesday and learned that Meryl was contracted to film only on Tuesdays. Alas, I didn't get to see her.

Yesterday, several sources had casting updates for the show. The only one I really care about is Robin Weigert, who played Dr. Amanda Reisman. Her scenes with Nicole Kidman in the first season were my absolute favorites. This may be a long shot, but I would very much enjoy if somehow in the second season Meryl's character joins Nicole's for a session with Dr. Reisman. Mind blown. Plus, it's fun that Weigert had a bit part in Angels in America, so this will be a little reunion for her and Meryl.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Meryl as Princess Leia?

Apparently there is a petition online for Meryl to be considered for a recasting of Carrie Fisher's iconic role as Princess Leia in Star Wars: Episode IX. Shooting is expected to start this summer with J.J. Abrams directing. 

This is of course a huge rumor, but it got me thinking.  First of all, at initial reaction I don't think it's a good idea. Not that I'm a rabid fan of Star Wars, but I think it would be super weird to all of a sudden see the character of Leia as anyone else, much less someone as equally iconic as Meryl Streep.  Some things are sacred.  I also happen to think that Meryl wouldn't want to touch this role with a ten foot pole, as it may be impossible to ever match the expectations of what this historic character has meant to countless people.  Not unless Streep were really desperate for work would I expect her to be up for this. 

That said, Fisher was a good friend of her's, dating back to when Meryl starred in the semi-autobiographical adaptation of Fisher's book Postcards from the Edge in 1990 (which of course earned Streep an Oscar nomination).  Also, with Meryl's recent teaming with Abrams on the potential of bringing Nathan Hill's novel The Nix to the small screen, it's possible that it's crossed his mind, were it ultimately decided that they wanted to recast the role for the final installment.

Star Wars: Episode IX is scheduled for a December, 2019 release. I doubt Meryl will be in it.  But could you imagine the attention it would bring?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The next five years

With filming underway for season 2 of Big Little Lies, I thought I'd do one of my favorite things and post about my wishes/predictions/expectations for Meryl's upcoming filming schedule. Let's jump right in.

We already know that 2018 will bring us two feature films involving Meryl in likely rather small roles: Mama Mia! Here We Go Again July and Mary Poppins Returns in December. It's interesting that both roles are in sequels, something I don't think Meryl has ever done before, nor had I expected her to. But they're not the traditional "this film was good so let's make sure we immediately bank on the first film's success," as Mama Mia! is ten years later, and Mary Poppins over fifty. Big Little Lies is likely to release to HBO first quarter 2019, which leaves us to speculate about what roles will be in her near future.

The only other realistic possibility that has already been announced is the limited series The Nix. Nathan Hill's novel has reportedly been adapted into about nine episodes for television, but it has yet to land a distributor.  Maybe we'll see that come to fruition for filming this summer or early fall, but if J.J. Abrams is expected to direct any of the episodes, he likely won't be available until 2019, as this year he'll be busy on some obscure little indie pic called Star Wars. 

Let's say The Nix does eventually happen but that its filming is postponed to spring/summer 2019. That would likely mean a 2020 release.  Not a bad idea considering its a politically charged story and that will be an election year that is certain to have tensions running high. Call me obsessed, but I've also been thinking lately about how great it would be to see The Good House filmed for television in a limited series a la 2014's Olive Kitteridge on HBO, starring Frances McDormand. It would provide a more thorough delving into the lush character of Hildy Good, without the constraints of the two hour package typically required for film. The story would work nicely as four episodes and if were somehow already planned, could be ripe for filming this fall.

I would expect that a limited series for The Good House would release on television fourth quarter 2019, again like Olive Kitteridge. That brings us to 2019. I've previously posted how great it would be to see Meryl star in Nyad, as marathon swimmer Diana Nyad as she battles to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark tank. A summer/fall shooting schedule would be adequate for a summer 2020 release. A handful of Streep films have done very well in that August time slot, which, in 2020 would coincide with the summer Olympics. What better marketing tool to have for an inspirational story about a competitive swimmer?

The following two years could be relatively conventional. A lead role in a Greta Gerwig vehicle for a 2021 release, followed by a sure to be mind-blowing pairing with Jessica Lange as Edith Windsor and Streep as her wife, Thea Spyer.

The whole schedule could look something like this:

2018
Mama Mia! Here We Go Again (July)
Mary Poppins Returns (December)

2019
Big Little Lies (~February)--TV
The Good House (~November)--TV

2020
The Nix (~May)--TV
Nyad (August)

2021
Greta Gerwig project

2022
Edith Windsor/Thea Spyer biopic with Jessica Lange

The proposed timeline would be a delightful combination of lead and supporting roles on television and in film, of biopics, literary adaptations and original stories.

Why not, right?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Domestic box office for "The Post" tops out

After this weekend, we'll likely have our rough final numbers for the domestic box office haul for "The Post."  It's currently only in 159 theaters across the U.S., so the returns are diminishing significantly. Couple that with the fact that it didn't get much of a boost after the Oscars, as it was completely absent from the winners' list, and it's pretty easy to see where it will end up.  As this goes to post, the film has grossed $81 million on a $50m budget.  Not too shabby for a political drama with no special effects. In foreign markets it has taken in another $73m, bringing its worldwide total past $154m. It's just starting to get released in Asia, so I expect that foreign number to bounce a bit before all is said and done.

I'm not super concerned typically with major box office success just for the sake of it, but I enjoy when Meryl's films do well commercially because it means it's far more likely for projects she'd be interested in doing to get greenlit. The film will be available on digital media on April 4, with its DVD/Blu-ray release date set for April 17.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Filming begins next week on season 2 of "Big Little Lies"

Reese Witherspoon, who of course stars in and executive produces Bit Little Lies, has revealed that filming will start next Friday on season 2. To be perfectly clear, she states that they're "starting" next Friday, so I'm not exactly sure if that truly means principal photography, or just officially showing up for work and doing table reads or something. Regardless, it's exciting to know that things will be underway soon.

This news also tells me that the timing of the project means Meryl's fall should be completely open (at least in regard to filming anything), so maybe we can look forward to something being announced. Seems like the perfect opportunity to sign on for a lead film role that could be released second half of 2019.

Monday, March 5, 2018

No Oscar for Meryl and first trailer from "Mary Poppins Returns"

It's not like anyone was expecting Meryl to win, but last night she lost for the the fourth consecutive time at the Academy Award, bringing her overall total to 3-for-21. Congratulations to Frances McDormand, who, as expected, took the Best Actress prize for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This was McDormand's second win, after 1996's Fargo.  

Streep looked amazing on the red carpet, and of course got mentioned in host Jimmy Kimmel's monologue. Hard to believe it was just under a year turnaround from when it was announced she would be starting in The Post to when the awards season wrapped up. That's some crazy quick work. The quest can now begin for Meryl's next nominated performance. My guess it will be in something she has yet to announce.


The only real upset was The Shape of Water taking Best Picture over Three Billboards. Not a huge surprise, considering Guillermo del Toro won director, while Martin McDonagh (director of Three Billboards) wasn't even nominated.

In other news, the first trailer for Mary Poppins Returns was revealed during the Oscar telecast.  It's not much more than a teaser, as we barely see Emily Blunt and none of the other main cast members except for Lin-Manuel Miranda. I hope that we get a full trailer or at least a few stills of Meryl's character Topsy within a month or two.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My 2018 Academy Award predictions

The Oscars are on Sunday!  I'm putting this out a little early because I'll be traveling to sunny New Zealand and am not sure when I'll get a chance to post this weekend.  My choices are sort of lame because almost everyone at this point will (or at least should) have the same predictions in the picture/director and acting categories.  I'll provide my guesses for winners as well as a potential spoiler. Sad to say, Meryl will not be coming anywhere near a win this year.

Best Picture
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

alt. The Shape of Water

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

alt. Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

alt. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Actor in a Leading Role
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

alt. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

Actress in a Supporting Role
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

alt. Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Actor in a Supporting Role
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

alt. Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

To be honest, I'll be really surprised if any of the above six picks don't win.  For a race that seemed rather open only two months ago, this now seems like one of the most predictable seasons in recent memory.

Happy watching!


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Results of poll #6

Poll #6 is closed and the overwhelming choice for whom people would like to see Meryl star with as a co-lead is none other than the great Cate Blanchett. I guess it's not that surprising...arguably the two greatest actresses working today.  Who wouldn't be interested in seeing them pair up? Jessica Lange came in a distant second (whom I voted for). I think it would be really interesting to see those two team for a biopic of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer (Streep as Spyer). In third we have Sigourney Weaver. I've actually thought that she or Jodi Foster would be good choices to play best friend Bonnie Stoll, were Streep to take the title role in the Blacklist script Nyad. 

Sins of omission from the list options: Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Kathy Bates. 

There were a few great suggestions for the next poll.  Any others?  These might be my favorite posts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Let's talk about..."Big Little Lies"

OK, I'm doing something a little bit different with this post. I realize that Meryl has yet to even shoot a single scene for HBO's series Bit Little Lies, but it's been a year and a half since I've posted in this section and have been wanting to discuss her upcoming role as Mary Louise Wright. With that in mind, for those of you who've seen the show, I'm interested to hear both your thoughts on the first season as well as any ideas or predictions for next year's. I re-watched all seven episodes with a friend on Sunday just to refresh my memory on the story.

Yesterday, several articles were released with quotes from both Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern about how excited they are for Meryl to join the cast. We don't know a ton about Streep's character, other than that she's playing the late Perry Wright's mother, Mary Louise, who comes to Monterey concerned for her grandchildren and looking for answers about the nature of son's death. There's a possibility of flashback scenes, which means Alexander Skarsgård may return for a few episodes. We can also expect some conflict with Kidman's character, Celeste, as apparently the two had a contemptuous relationship at times as mother and daughter-in-law.

Kidman is quoted in the articles from Wednesday as saying that both she and Reese Witherspoon ead the script for season two and thought Streep would be wonderful in the part. Let's not forget that author Liane Moriarty wrote the character with Meryl in mind. Knowing that domestic abuse is often an evil passed down from generation to generation, will Mary Louise be a survivor as well? Will it be a situation where Mary Louise resents her daughter-in-law for not being able to "handle" an abusive husband like she did? Will she be in denial about her son or will she accept the fact that in reality he was a monster and ultimately show empathy for Celeste?

Can't wait.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Poll #6: With which actress would you most like Meryl to star as co-leads in a film?

Hey folks. It's been a while since I've done a poll, so off to the right you'll see the latest. I've always enjoyed when Meryl's sort of "buddy" projects with her contemporaries. Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room or Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her, for example. I thought I'd see what people's interests are on whom they'd most like to see Meryl star alongside as co-lead in a movie. The actresses I've chosen are mostly in her age demographic, realizing that Blanchett, Foster and Davis are a bit younger.  And don't give me crap about Oprah. The world would flip if they did a big film together. 

Happy voting!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Update on box office totals for "The Post"

The Post is entering its fourth weekend in wide release. To date, the film has earned about $62 million at the domestic box office and $24m foreign, for a worldwide total of about $85m. This weekend already has estimates for another $6m, which would bring its U.S. total close to $68m.  Against a budget of $50m, these are decent receipts. I've read that a film typically needs to make at least 2-2.5 times its budget to actually see profits, as marketing and other costs I probably don't fully understand factor in greatly. Overall though, I imagine that 20th Century Fox is pleased with the results.

What I like most about the fact that the film should have no problem getting over $75m domestic is that it reinforces Meryl as a financial draw for films. Of course I like that good numbers also show that people are actually showing up to her films too, but I care more that it keeps doors open for projects to get greenlit for production.  I remember reading that after The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl was "besieged" with offers due to the film's success, which is apparently what got Julie & Julia off the ground. 

With her only future projects at this point being for TV (Big Little Lies and The Nix), it's exciting to look forward to, and of course speculate on, what might be her next big role for the silver screen.  

Any guesses?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Second trailer for "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again"

A new trailer was released yesterday for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and it somehow seems that Meryl is in the film even less than the original trailer suggested?



It's now an established fact that Meryl basically has only a cameo in this second installment.  I wasn't a huge fan of the first film, other than the fact that it made a shit ton of money which always helps getting future projects greenlit, so I'm not super bummed.  That said, Here We Go Again actually looks like it might be a better-made movie? God bless Phyllida Lloyd, as the pair of Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady were both historical successes in  Meryl's career trajectory, but she's not exactly an auteur.  I'll see the film regardless of course.

What's interesting is that likely the next three screen projects we have from Meryl are essentially sequels to what were very successful originals: Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins and Big Little Lies. I've maintained that Meryl would be averse to sequels, and I think that's still the case, actually, as the deterrent is more about returning to the same character than it is about the project itself.  The only real return to the same character is in Here We Go Again, and as we're learning, that's barely a drop in the ocean.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Streep joins "Big Little Lies" for season 2

Hot off the news that Meryl earned her (own) record-breaking 21st Academy Award nomination yesterday, HBO announced this afternoon that Streep would be joining the cast of their ratings and awards juggernaut, Big Little Lies for season 2.

I'm dying. I absolutely LOVED this show. I watched the entire first installment, then intended to be a limited series, in a single day last summer and thought it was one of the best I'd ever seen. Now that they've picked it up for a second season, apparently the mother of abusive Perry Wright has been added into the mix, which is the role that Meryl is set to play. Interestingly, the character's name is Mary Louise, which happens to be Meryl's real name.

From what I can gather, Mary Louise comes to Monterey looking for answers after her son's death. No doubt we'll get to see Meryl in some great scenes with Nicole Kidman. There's no official word yet on whether there will be any flashback scenes with Perry (played by Alexander Skarsgård), but I'll bet Skarsgård is hoping to high heaven there are, as he'd get to share the screen with the queen.

I'm not sure when filming is set to begin, but I imagine sometime this spring or summer. The second season will air sometime in 2019.  Curious to see if we get any updates on The Nix as well. If so, it could be quite the couple of years at the Emmys.




Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Streep earns 21st Academy Award nomination for "The Post"

Whew. As the nominations were unfolding, I was getting pretty nervous about a snub with how things were shaping up for the The Post. Thankfully, Meryl's named was announced in the Lead Actress category and she received her 21st Oscar nomination for her performance as Katharine Graham. The only other nomination the film received was Best Picture.

To be honest, I'm not super surprised by the total tally for the film. I think it's a wonderful movie and should've been recognized in additional categories, but this was a very strong year for quality films and The Post was late out of the gate. And they'll be able to use the Best Actress and Best Picture nominations as a marketing tool to boost the box office over the coming weeks.

Ultimately, it ended up being the consensus five in the Best Actress category, as Meryl was joined by the following four women:

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Couple of small surprises in the acting categories: Denzel Washington getting in Best Actor over James Franco, Three Billboards getting two for Supporting Actor (meaning none for Call Me by Your Name) and Leslie Manville getting in over Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress.

Perhaps the most interesting snub of the morning, however, is that of director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards). After its strong showings at the Globes and SAGs, it had sort of established itself as the Best Picture frontrunner.  The film received a lot of love in other categories, but it's pretty rare that a film that ends of winning Best Picture is absent in the Best Director category. I believe Argo was the last time that happened (maybe only time?).  Happy for Greta Gerwig, as she was nommed in both director and original screenplay.

The full list of nominees can be seen here, and the awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 4.  It's a little later this year due to coverage of the Olympics.

Congrats, Meryl!


Monday, January 22, 2018

Predicting Meryl's Oscar chances

Academy Award nominations will of course be announced tomorrow morning, and Meryl is in the running for her 21st nod. Only a year ago at this time, she had no definitive projects in the pipeline for 2017 until it was announced in March that Steven Spielberg would direct her in The Post. The film is currently in its second week in wide release, and is already up to $45 million domestically. Were it to snag a few Oscar noms, it would be a helpful little marketing tool.

So what do we think the likelihood of Meryl getting nominated is? To the casual observer, it seems like a foregone conclusion: prominent director, biopic, captures political zeitgeist, best reviews Meryl's received for a lead role since The Iron Lady, 88% on Rotten Tomatoes/Metacritic score of 83, promising box office. Streep has gotten in for a lot less. How could she possibly miss this year?

One of the reasons it may be tough is the fact that there are so many wonderful performances this year in equally wonderful films. Frances McDormand, Sally Hawkins, Saoirse Ronan, Jessica Chastain, Margot Robbie, Judi Dench, Annette Bening, Michelle Williams. There's a lot of competition and Meryl isn't exactly the fresh new face on the scene. Another reason is that she's been relatively absent from recognition among most critics groups this season. Yes, she received the National Board of Review Award, but other prominent voting bodies have rarely even included her among their top five. Not that this has necessarily stopped her before, just see Into the Woods and August: Osage County. Most pundits I've read have Meryl predicted in their top five, but generally toward the bottom of the list. 

Maybe I'm being paranoid, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has historically been rather fond of Meryl's work. And if I'm being realistic, imagining the actors' body of the Academy, with their preferential ballots, having Meryl so low on their lists that she would place no higher than sixth overall?  That seems unlikely.  Ultimately, I'm predicting the following five, which seem to be the general consensus among Best Actress contenders at this point:

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Meryl Streep (The Post)

Regardless of whether or not Meryl is nominated or snubbed, her performance as Katharine Graham is exquisite and will be remembered as one of her finest.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

SAG winners predictions 2018

Although Meryl (and The Post) were completely shut out for SAG nominations this year, I'm still going to post my predictions in the film acting categories. One of the joys of this year's race is how competitive each category is, as there are multiple "frontrunners," but the certainty of any one win is less secure than an year in recent memory.

Outstanding Cast
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

alt: Get Out

Female Actor in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

alt: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Male Actor in a Leading Role
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

alt: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

Female Actor in Supporting Role
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

alt: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

alt: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

If my predictions turn out right, Three Billboards will position itself as the strong frontrunner in several Oscar categories, including Best Picture.  Academy Award nominations are announced Tuesday starting at 8:22 EST.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Film review: "The Post" (2017)

It's hard to believe that it was only twelve months ago when after having read a copy of the Hollywood Blacklist script, The Post, that I blogged about what a fine opportunity I thought it would be for Meryl to play the film's central character, publisher Katharine Graham.  Fast forward two months later, and it's announced that Steven Spielberg had signed on to direct, with Streep and Tom Hanks set to star. The film was fast-tracked into production and with filming wrapped by July, here we are at the movie's nationwide opening weekend. And what a weekend it's likely going to be.

Last night, I joined my friend Scooter for a 6:40 showing of The Post, not far from my home in Minneapolis. Despite the subzero temperatures, it was the busiest I've ever seen the large theater complex, with folks forced to wait in line after purchasing their tickets just to get inside the main area. It was nice to see that our theater was completely full.

The film starts out with a brief background on the Vietnam War, setting up the conflict that would engulf the film's plot, about whether or not the Washington Post should publish classified documents from a study that were leaked from the Pentagon. In the papers, the folly of the U.S.'s involvement is explained in some detail. Matthew Rhys (whom I adore from The Americans) gets some nice screen time here as former military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg.

Meryl of course portrays Graham, who at this time in her life and career is less than confident in her role as the paper's publisher, a role that had essentially become hers by default after her father's death and husband's suicide. The acquisition of the Pentagon Papers puts her in a tricky situation, as an injunction from the White House threatens disaster. As we all know, the Supreme Court sides with the paper and the publishing is allowed to continue.

OK, now that a brief plot synopsis is out of the way, let's get to some aspects of the film's quality. Both Scooter and I really enjoyed it and remarked at how quickly it went by, with the suspenseful pace always keeping us on the edge our seats. Meryl does an exquisite job of showing us the significant lack of confidence and almost paralyzing trepidation Graham had at making big decisions that often involved the viability of her company. Being that the paper was tied up with the history of her family, and that many on the board weren't convinced as a woman she was suitable for the job, decisions surrounding the company's fate were particularly taxing. How she transitioned throughout the movie into a decisive boss was enjoyable to experience. It was by no means a broad or showy performance.  Instead, it was measured, subtle and touching. In the original version of the script I had read, there was a moving speech that she gave in front of the court which I was looking forward to seeing, but sadly was either cut after filming, or cut completely from the screenplay. I wonder if it seemed a bit too "on the nose" to keep in the film.

Tom Hanks similarly does a fine job as editor Ben Bradlee. A lot of people have complained about Hanks's somewhat affected speech patterns in the role, but I never felt distracted by his choices, and thought his moments were Meryl were strong and at times funny. A standout was Bob Odenkirk as journalist Ben Bagdikian, who manged to acquire the papers from Daniel Ellsberg and was instrumental in the ultimate decision to publish.

Regular Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski provided an aura of the 1970s with an almost glossy effect in many scenes, highlighting the smoke-filled, often neutral tones of that era. John Williams's rousing score contributes to the sort of time-crunch angst we feel in their race against the clock. And there's probably not much left to say that hasn't been said about Spielberg. While the film is often intense and fast-paced, we get a real sense of intimacy with the characters and their struggle through the grueling and likely terrifying process of first acquiring the papers, deciphering them and then waiting to learn their fates in the aftermath of publishing. Scooter and I both enjoyed and appreciated the shots of how a newspaper is physically pulled together in the shop for each printing. For something that is as ubiquitous as a daily paper, that was a process neither of us had ever really seen before on screen.

The film is a perfect allegory to the preposterous political environment in which we currently find ourselves. Using real recordings of phone conversations of former president Richard Nixon was a painful comparison to what is so evident in today's administration and its constant attacks on the free press. The Post was an important reminder that the first amendment right of free speech is excellently demonstrated in journalistic integrity. As justice Hugo Black opined in the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling, "in the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors."

I'm glad Meryl was able to participate in the making of this movie.

 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A brief update on "The Nix"

A few days ago, I came across a radio interview author Nathan Hill gave for a local station in Florida last week, and in it, he discusses the upcoming limited series project for the The Nix. Starting at 49:00, he and the interviewer discuss the stage the project is in and development of it. I'm posting about it because the script now seems to be nailed down to nine episodes (which is news), but the part that discouraged me a bit was that they're apparently still searching for a distributor.

Now, "searching for a distributor" could mean several things. Recall that in September I posted about the possibility that The Nix had been picked up by Amazon, as it was listed as a project in development for the studio when they announced plans for their 2018 production spending. It's possible that there is more than one company interested, and that they're hashing out whom to choose. That's probably wishful thinking, but with the nature of the novel's story and the fact that Hill is still discussing it in a manner that suggests it's very much alive, I'm optimistic for chances of production getting underway this year.

With Meryl producing, this would potentially be an interesting scenario were the limited series to gain awards traction, not unlike the situation we've seen this year with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in their promotion and discussion of their exceptional show Bit Little Lies. We just need someone to say "here's the money. No go film it!"

ps-I'm seeing The Post tonight and am of course agog.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"The Post" shut out at BAFTA

Like the SAG nominations last month, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has left The Post bereft of nominations. To be honest, I almost forgot about these nominations being announced, since I had no expectations for Meryl getting in, but it's never good when your film is completely shut out.

Couple things to think about, though. The top four ladies I'd expect to get noms for Lead Actress from almost any body (Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan) did. The shock to me was that Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul), a favorite with BAFTA and already a nominee at the Globes and SAG, was passed over in favor of Annette Bening for Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool. Despite the miss, I think this bodes well for Meryl for a few reasons: if Dench can't get in at BAFTA, she's far less likely to get in with AMPAS (Academy Awards). Also, Bening, like Dench, is in a British film, which tends to help. We should remember that The Post is a decidedly American film that likely was seen by fewer voting members of BAFTA due to its late release, and it doesn't open in U.K. theaters until next week.

All that might be a bit of rationalizing, but I'm also trying to stay positive for Meryl's chances at a 21st Oscar nomination. I still think it'll happen, but I have to admit I'm a little nervous. Her many television appearances this week (Kimmel, Ellen, Graham Norton) should hopefully help boost box office a bit, with the film going wide in the U.S. this weekend.  I have plans to see it on Saturday evening.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 Golden Globe predictions

It's really difficult to call winter my least favorite season, because it includes possibly my favorite period of the year: awards season! Tomorrow night, the Hollywood Foreign Press will hand out their Golden Globe Awards for achievement in film and television.  As usual, I enjoy predicting the winners in the acting categories.  Check out the starred(*) names below among the nominees for my winners selections.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
1. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)
2. Daniel Day Lewis (Phantom Thread)
3. Tom Hanks (The Post)
4, Gary Oldman* (Darkest Hour)
5. Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
1. Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game)
2. Sally Hawkins* (The Shape of Water)
3. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
4. Meryl Streep (The Post)
5. Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
1. Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes)
2. Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver)
3. James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
4. Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman)
5. Daniel Kaluuya* (Get Out)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
1. Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul)
2. Helen Mirren (The Leisure Seeker)
3. Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
4. Saoirse Ronan* (Lady Bird)
5. Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes)

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture 
1. Willem Dafoe* (The Florida Project)
2. Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)
3. Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
4. Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
5. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
1. Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
2. Hong Chau (Downsizing)
3. Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
4. Laurie Metcalf* (Lady Bird)
5. Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)\

In my opinion, this is by far the best chance Meryl has at picking up a major televised award this year. The Post was completely shut out at SAG, and it's not even a foregone conclusion that she will get an Oscar nomination. But the HFPA love her, and if she were to come away with a win in this category tomorrow, I'll relax a little in regard to her chances for a nom. Let's not forget her speech last year at the ceremony (see clip below)? She is in a film about the importance of a free press, and they might want to reward her.

For the other categories, I would not be surprised is Frances McDormand, James Franco or Christopher Plummer won. I think the entire rest of the season for Supporting Actress will come down to Metcalf and Janney (with Metcalf likely taking Oscar). I'm probably out on a limb a bit with Daniel Kaluuya, but right now it just sort of feels right.  I'd love to see Timothée Chalamet make the upset, and I think Margot Robbie is a distant second behind Saoirse Ronan.

Super excited for Sunday!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New scene released from "The Post"

Happy New Year, everyone! As I patiently wait for January 12 to roll around, I'm sucking up any and all clips I can get of Meryl in The Post. Earlier today, a new video was released by HBO Screening Room of director Steven Spielberg and his two stars (Streep and Tom Hanks), discussing a key scene early on in the film:



I can remember reading the script about a year ago and specifically thinking about this scene, where Meryl's character Katharine Graham sort of tussles with her editor Ben Bradlee. The two bicker about the style section of the paper and, as they discuss in the video, at times it seems more like Bradlee is Graham's boss, not the other way around. It sort of sets the stage for a transformation that I'm sure Meryl negotiates wonderfully as the film progresses.

Getting excited for this and the Golden Globes Sunday!