Sunday, November 29, 2020

Interview on "Let Them All Talk"

Streep was joined by co-stars Dianne Wiest and Candice Bergen for a virtual CBS Sunday Morning interview on their upcoming film, Let Them All Talk.

It's the most info we've gotten on the plot and the characters' histories and motivations. I'm actually looking more forward to this film than The Prom, if I'm being honest. 

There's been so much confusion and misinformation on whether this picture is going to compete in the TV movie or feature film categories for awards. Sources at Awards Worthy seem to have info which suggests it is going to be campaigned in the film category. Gold Derby now also has it listed in its odds list for film nomination and wins. If it indeed will be considered a feature film, I think it bodes well for Meryl's nomination chances. The TV Movie/Limited Series category is always so packed for Lead Actress. With both The Prom and Let Them All Talk, Meryl has a realistic chance of getting double Golden Globe nominations in the same category (a feat she previously accomplished in 2010 for Julie & Julia and It's Complicated, winning for the former). 

Let Them All Talk will stream on HBO Max on December 10. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Full trailer released for "The Prom"

 Yes, there is indeed much to be thankful for. Netflix has released it's first full trailer for The Prom.

What a wonderful explosion of color and gayness. I have to admit, I don't expect much out of this film other than a good time, catchy tunes, and a little tug at the heartstrings. I'm game for all three. 

I'm glad they put more focus on the teen lesbian couple than they did in the teaser. It is after all about them. Meryl looks amazing, even if she wasn't in the trailer all that much. It'll be a fun surprise seeing her solo performances. Nicole Kidman's accent was distracting, and I didn't particularly get good vibes from the few clips they showed of Kerry Washington. That's tough in a trailer like this one, though. It's a tad manic and there's so little chance to really process what you've seen at first. 

We'll get to see the full show on December 11!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Recasting 1995: "Copycat"

I've had a morbid fascination with serial killers since I was in my early teens. Maybe it was my affinity for The Silence of the Lambs. Or perhaps the fact that I can remember Jeffrey Dahmer being in the news so much the summer before I entered sixth grade. Horror films of the 80s ran rampant with boogeymen-like slashers like Jason Voorhies, Michael Myers, and my all-time favorite, Freddy Krueger. But those depictions were such stylized, almost campy portrayals that, while probably based on real killers, felt a bit clowny as I got older. 

With the advent of more realistic, and ultimately scary murderers on screen in the 90s like Hannibal Lecter, there was more focus on the minds and motivations of these elusive creatures--a character who makes us think a bit more about how a human being can turn out like that. We could imagine the real possibility that we might actually know one of these guys (or girls) without ever knowing it.

The 1995 films Seven and Copycat captured this appeal for me. Both are films I actually saw in the theater, with Copycat being the first from this recasting project. Sigourney Weaver has commented that she is most proud of her work in this film, portraying the agoraphobic criminal psychologist, Dr. Helen Hudson. I think it would be a delicious role for Meryl. 

After Helen is nearly killed by escaped prisoner Daryll Lee Cullum (creepily played by Harry Connick Jr.), she secludes herself in a fancy apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area. Holly Hunter and Dermot Mulroney are detectives who seek Helen's help in catching a serial killer, whose modus operandi is copying famous serial killers like the Boston Strangler, the Hillside Strangler, and Son of Sam.  Helen is very reluctant at first, spending her days with the shades drawn, a drink in her hand, and her computers logged in to chat rooms (which by the way seemed SUPER advanced at the time this film was released). But she eventually relents, and ends up realizing she's the main muse of the killer they're all trying to capture.

I probably watched this movie about fifty times before going to college. I loved how it gave us a bit a history on a few of the more notorious serial killers of the 20th century. And nothing's scarier than being able to imagine so vividly a dangerous thing realistically happening. The scenes where the killer is actually in Helen's apartment, both with and without her knowing, were particularly intense for me. It seemed so easy to think "just get the hell out!" But Helen can't. She's paralyzed by her fear of the outside, to the point of almost losing consciousness if she tries to take even a few steps beyond the threshold of the front door. I can't even imagine the terror of being a prisoner in your own home, on top of the overwhelming anxiety already present that serves as the watchful guard preventing you from escaping.  

I would've loved to see Meryl and Holly Hunter going head to head in this. Their interaction starts out a bit cold, and I absolutely love how prickly Weaver portrays Hudson at times. The snotty head movements she gives when having to field a question she finds either too naive or too bold. But they form a great team eventually. 

It's easy to see how Meryl would not have been the first choice for this film. She hasn't historically done thriller or action or gun movies. But there's a lot to do with the character of Dr. Helen Hudson. I'm having trouble thinking of role where Streep would have to portray fear this often. And it's a complicated fear. of course, especially when portraying a brilliant woman who was probably excruciatingly rational and in control prior to her violent encounter with Cullum. There's a paradox in that which I bet Meryl would've enjoyed negotiating. 

Weaver bemoaned the fact that Copycat sort of got "lost in the shuffle of thrillers" at the time. No doubt she's referring to David Fincher's Seven, one of my all time favs and a superior film to Copycat in my opinion. But she's probably right. Copycat is under-remembered and underappreciated. It had a decent show at the box office, again something that likely would've been stronger had it not been up against films in a similar genre at the exact same time. And it was generally well-received by critics, many of them praising the dynamite performances of its two tough, female leads. 


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Streep receives Grammy nomination

The Grammys announced their nominations this morning, and Meryl is up for Best Spoken Word album for her narration of Charlotte's Web. 

This is Streep's fifth Grammy nomination for a spoken word album. The Mamma Mia! soundtrack was nominated as a compilation, but Meryl wasn't personally nominated for that. She's yet to win, of course. With the list she's up against this year (Rachel Maddow, Ronan Farrow, Ken Jennings, and Flea), I'm not exactly holding my breath. 

But fun to consider her getting 3/4 of the way to an EGOT!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Soundtrack to "The Prom" set for December 4 release

Broadway World reported this morning that we'll get the soundtrack to Ryan Murphy's The Prom a week ahead of its release on Netflix. 

While I'd love to experience the songs for the first time when I see the movie (particularly Meryl's individual performances), I'm pretty sure I'll have a tough time waiting.

The Prom will stream on December 11. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Recasting 1994: "Dolores Claiborne"

I'm providing a bit of a spoiler right from the start of this post. The next three years of recasting will consist of films that all had their theatrical releases in 1995. Conveniently for my brain--which wants really badly to be able to picture a realistic shooting schedule for the projects into which I'm retroactively inserting Meryl--all three are spaced out rather nicely in regard to their original filming. 

The first of those happens to not only be a great role, but one of my favorite movies. It's widely known that Stephen King had Kathy Bates in mind when writing his novel, Dolores Claiborne. She'd won an Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in the film adaptation of Misery five years prior. It seems only fitting that she'd take on the title role in another of King's psychological thrillers. 

For me, the title role in this film is less of a stretch than the previous one for which I subbed out Kathy Bates in favor of Meryl (Fried Green Tomatoes). At the heart of the drama are the relationships between Dolores and her estranged daughter, Selena, and Vera Donovan, the woman whom for decades Dolores has served as a domestic. Dolores is arrested for Vera's murder, but really she was just found in a compromising position after Vera fell out of her wheelchair and was near death at the bottom of the stairs. 

Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) comes in from her hotshot job as a journalist in Manhattan to help her mother out, and it's quickly apparent that the two do not get along. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Selena's contempt for her mother dates back to when Dolores was under suspicion for the death of Selena's father. Christopher Plummer plays the disgruntled detective who's convinced Dolores got away with murder twenty years prior. 

For being a "thriller," this has always just felt like a great character drama to me with a lot of focus on a troubled family. The strained relationship between mother and daughter is heartbreaking because Selena has repressed the memory of (another spoiler alert!) her father sexually abusing her. She's gone through life just assuming her mother was likely responsible for her father going missing, and worse, that he didn't deserve it. Whether he had it coming is up for debate, but without the context of knowing he abused his daughter, it's a lot easier not to feel back when Dolores tricks him into falling into an abandoned well. 

While the complexities of the Dolores-Selena relationship are meaty, my favorite is actually the salty back and forth between Dolores and Vera. There's something weirdly relaxing in the scenes where Dolores is shown toiling away to keep the house looking perfect. It's sort of that Downton Abby or The Crown effect. Everything is so clean and perfect all the time (which is easy as long as you can have someone else do it for you). 

And despite Vera being such a hard-nosed rich bitch of a boss, we get to see a speck of her humanity after Dolores reveals that her husband, Joe, (portrayed by the great David Strathairn) has foiled her plans to run away with Selena.

Great stuff from Judy Parfitt. I have to admit that Kathy Bates's accent is a little distracting at times. It's almost routine at this point to assume Meryl would've nailed it, but I imagine it's one of those trickier ones as far as they go for the United States--like Boston or a specific borough of New York. 

There's so much to do in this role. With it spanning a couple decades of a life essentially given up in the service of one person (Vera) and for the sole benefit of another (Selena), Dolores really is the heroine of the story in every way. It's another one of those "difficult" scenarios that we know Meryl covets. Yes, it's probably wrong that Dolores premeditated her husband's death, but was the world--or Dolores and her daughter--worse off as a result? Probably not. 

I really feel the timing of this movie's original release is what got int he way of awards recognition for Kathy Bates. It was filmed in Nova Scotia from April through July 1994 and released in March of '95. Historically, films released that early aren't major players at awards ceremonies (I'm aware of The Silence of the Lambs). It seems the type of picture that could've been ready in time for a December release. '94 was a much less crowded year in terms of quality lead performances than '95 was. Had the studio opted for a fourth quarter release in the year it was filmed, I wonder if Bates and others may have been on more people's radars. 

With director Taylor Hackford at the helm (An Officer and a Gentleman, Ray), the film was generally well-received by critics and a modest box-office success. Alas, Bates and Leigh only managed Saturn Award nominations. Parfitt, in retrospect, seems a perfect contender for Supporting Actress. A pity and and oversight in each case as far as I'm concerned. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Trailer released for "Let Them All Talk"

HBO Max has released a trailer (and a streaming date!) for Let Them All Talk.

We've known so little about the actual story for this movie that's it great to finally get a sense of what it's about. I like the chilly interactions between Meryl and Candice Bergen's characters. And Meryl's role actually seems like it might be that of...kind of an awful person? Or least annoying and pretentious. Either way, I'm happy to see there's some meat on the bones of the character. 

What's craziest is that this will be available to stream on December 10, one day before The Prom! Our cups runneth over. 

Up to this point, my understanding has been that this will actually be placed in the film category for awards eligibility. Interesting that Gold Derby still has it under TV movie. It'll likely be considered a comedy, so I think Meryl's got a decent shot of two Globe nods this year. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

New song released from "The Prom"

 Netflix has released a "lyric video" of one of the songs from The Prom.

I had seen a week or so ago the audio-only for one of the songs released, but this video includes a little bit of new footage as well. The song is OK, nothing fantastically special. Obviously I'm most interested to hear Meryl's performances. Not sure if we'll see or hear any of those in upcoming promotional footage. 

The Prom will be released to the streaming platform on December 11. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Recasting 1993: "The Piano"

1993 is probably one of the strongest years for lead actress performances on film in memory. Three of the four roles nominated for an Academy Award were those that Meryl was at least vaguely connected to in some way (The Remains of the Day, Shadowlands, and Six Degrees of Separation). I included those three films in my reimagined history of roles for which I wish Meryl had ultimately ended up doing. 

But what of the role that actually won that year? Holly Hunter's widely acclaimed performance as a mute Scottish woman sold into marriage in New Zealand pretty much swept the awards circuit that year, in a way I don't think I'd ever seen nor have since. Helen Mirren came close for 2006's The Queen, but Hunter really swept. Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, (there were not SAGs yet), Cannes, critics bodies for L.A., New York, Chicago, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, and London. Considering that she was up against great performances by Emma Thompson, Stockard Channing, Debra Winger, and Angela Bassett, it's easy to say it was a stunning portrayal. 

I bet Sigourney Weaver was probably kicking herself at the time. She was director Jane Campion's first choice for the role, but declined it, apparently saying she was "taking a break from acting." Weaver's consideration is something that actually helped me picture Meryl in this role, as the two are only a few months apart in age. It therefore doesn't seem like that would've been a reason Meryl couldn't have slid into the part. Plus, her co-stars would've been Harvey Keitel (ten years older) and Sam Neill, whom she's already starred alongside in 1988's A Cry in the Dark.

The film depicts Ada and her young daughter, Flora (portrayed by Anna Paquin in her Academy Award-winning performance), as they're dropped off on a beach in New Zealand in the mid 19th century. Ada is essentially sold into marriage by her father to Sam Neill's character, Alisdair. Ada is mute "by choice," and can hear just fine, but hasn't spoken since she was a child. Flora serves as her interpreter. Alisdair sells Ada's piano to a forrester, Baines (Keitel), and Ada is furious. Baines is willing to give it back to her by "exchanging" a certain number of piano keys for what amount to sexual favors. Ada eventually falls for Baines and the two have an affair. Alisdair eventually learns of it and (spoiler) chops off one of Ada's fingers. It all turns out OK for Ada and Flora in the end, as they leave Alisdair and end up with Baines in a different part of New Zealand. 

Wow. It's an intense and beautifully filmed movie. This is a good example of one of those "risky" roles we don't necessarily see Meryl do. The nudity might have turned her off to the project, but the opportunities for emoting when you aren't able to speak! Meryl has a limitless treasury of facial expressions from which to draw. This seems right up her alley (although Hunter does have a short voice over with a Scottish accent). 

The film was almost universally praised upon its release. It won the Palm d'Or for Campion at the Cannes Film Festival. She was also nominated at the Academy Awards for director and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning for the latter. It's so rare we get female directors, much less those who direct Best Picture nominees. I truly wonder if the only way Meryl can put herself in a position to win another lead Oscar would be if she were to connect with an auteur director on a picture with really tricky or sensitive subject matter. It's maybe the last territory we've yet to see Meryl traverse. Something we'd normally expect Isabelle Huppert to be in, for example. I don't blame her for her choices though. She knows her strengths, and maybe, just maybe, she believes she has limits to what she can effectively convey on screen. 

I say "try me."

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Recasting 1992: "Blue Sky"

Up to this point in my recasting project, I don't think I've bumped any film greater than one year forward or back from its original release date. But this week's example is sort of a special case. It's widely known that Jessica Lange won her only Lead Actress Academy Award for her performance as a bipolar housewife for Blue Sky in 1995. But the movie was actually filmed in mid 1990, shelved after the bankruptcy of Orion pictures forced them to delay its release until 1994. Incidentally, this happened to be three years after the director, Tony Richardson, passed away due to complications from AIDS. 

What a history! And I haven't even described how Meryl fits in. Let's start with the role itself. It's sort of what I've come to understand as a quintessential Jessica Lange role: Sex appeal with a hint of crazy. See Frances, Crimes of the Heart, Feud, The Politican. Lange has said herself she's fascinated by characters on the brink of madness, and it certainly shows in her filmography. Meryl, on the other hand, surprisingly doesn't seem to portray too many characters with mental illness. Plenty, Postcards from the Edge (maybe?). Some might make a case for Ironweed and August: Osage County, but it's probably a stretch. 

The lead in Blue Sky is of Carly Marshall. She's married to Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), who's a nuclear engineer in the military in 1962. Carly feels stifled by the banality of life on an army base when the family has to move from Hawaii to Alabama. She's a bit of a vamp, which tends to embarrass Hank, who finds himself making excuses for her when she behaves in a way that isn't necessarily perceived as befitting an army wife. 

Already this seems like a role we'd be surprised to see Meryl do. She made it a point early on in her career to not accept roles that could pigeonhole her into a certain kind of actress. It wouldn't have been too difficulty for her to fall into the sort of suffering girlfriend, like we saw in The Deer Hunter. Unlike Lange, Meryl has never really been cast for her looks. Not that she couldn't be, she's beautiful. But she's always been more inclined to be a character actress. Had this role in Blue Sky come along in 1989 (remember, it was filmed in '90), I think it could've been a very interesting opportunity for Meryl. Imagine her turning forty and coming across this script. What a great way to sort of show off how you've still "got it" than to portray someone as beguiling as Carly? For Lange it seems like second nature. For Meryl, I think it would be a stretch, which is why it would be so amazing to watch!

What a contrast in personality between this character and Evelyn Couch from Fried Green Tomatoes. Had this filmed like it originally did in 1990, it would've been planned for a release the same year as Fried Green Tomatoes. But let's just pretend that Blue Sky someone how found it's way to the light of day two years after its release instead of four. Either way, it would've been on either side of Fried Green Tomatoes, and the contrast in roles in back to back years would only serve to make the fact that they were portrayed by the same person that much more exciting. 

The film overall did fairly well with critics. But Lange was the real story here, winning both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, among a half a dozen other nominations from critics groups and the Screen Actors Guild.