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. Now 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!