Sunday, April 30, 2023

Season 3 of "Only Murders in the Building" to premiere August 8?

Variety is reporting that Steve Martin casually revealed on stage last night that season 3 of Hulu's Only Murders in the Building will premiere on August 8. Martin is on tour with co-star Martin Short on their You Won't Believe What They Look Like Today! show. 

It seems unlikely that they'd randomly reveal a date without it being correct. It's believable, as we've been expecting that the show would likely come back sometime this summer. We'll wait until official word comes from the network, but I think it's safe to say that August is when we'll get to see Meryl in action again. I've updated the countdown on the right of the home page. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Streep honored with Princess of Asturias award

Multiple outlets are reporting that Meryl has been awarded Spain's prestigious Princess of Asturias award. According to Wikipedia, the award is given to "individuals, entities or organizations from around the world who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, and public affairs." Notable winners in recent years are Bob Dylan, Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola. Not a lot of ladies. The award comes with a prize of 50,000 euros and is set to be presented at a ceremony in Spain in October. No word yet on whether or not Meryl will attend. 

This recognition probably has nothing to do with anything else, but along with the recent Streep Performing Arts Center dedication by SAG and the anticipation of Meryl's work in season 3 of Only Murders in the Building, it almost feels like there's a bit of a PR push the likes of which we see when people are making little comebacks. Not that Meryl really needs a comeback, but she's been sort of "quiet" in the last couple of years (I know, I know she's taken similar breaks), and I've speculated that 2021 in particular felt like she sort of just dropped out of all rumored or announced work. It seems like we might be ripe for a big announcement on an exciting project in the coming months. Here's hopin'!

Congratulations on your award, Meryl. Well-deserved as usual. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Recasting 2018 (supporting): "Sharp Objects"

Not long after Meryl starred in the second season of Big Little Lies, I came across an interesting article that bemoaned the paucity of good screen acting roles for women of a certain generation. Specifically, the article honed in on the fact that female characters for which much of the television awards recognition came that year (at least in the supporting categories), happened to be of women one might tend to describe as "crazy." There was Meryl's nutty mom trying to commit her daughter-in-law in BLL, Jessica Lange in The Politician (shocking that Lange took a role as a disturbed person eye roll), Patricia Arquette in The Act. This last one showcases a mother with a psychological disorder called Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which someone makes someone else, or keeps them, ill for attention. There's good points to consider in the question of why there weren't or aren't better roles than crazy moms for these ladies. It's a debate certainly worth having. That said, I don't think such characters should automatically be removed from the screen. There's definitely some truth and real-life examples that substantiate this sort of depiction, even if in 2019, there happened to be a large number of them all at once, making it seem perhaps a bit like veteran actresses are getting relegated to portraying an archetype of unstable loons. 

In director Jean-Marc Vallée's (season 1 of Big Little Lies, Dallas Buyers Club) HBO limited series, Sharp Objects, we see another one of these characters who demonstrates the same illness as that of Arquette's. Based on Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name, Sharp Objects follows a journalist, Camille (Amy Adams), who returns to her southern hometown and to the peculiar mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), from whom she is estranged. Camille investigates the death of two teenage girls in her hometown in Missouri, which antagonizes her mother, who's a wealthy owner of a hog factory and is consumed by maintaining appearances of being a refined Southern belle. But as it turns out (spoiler alert), Adora is responsible for the death of Camille's sister years ago and is currently doing the same thing to Camille's younger half-sister, Amma (portrayed by the stellar Eliza Scanlen). Additional spoiler(!): Amma is the killer of the teenage girls in town.

I've seen interviews with Patricia Clarkson where she talked about how she approached her role. I imagine it's not a unique response among actors when she described Adora as someone for whom she had to have understanding, or even love. That may be the key to convincingly and humanely portraying any character. We all believe in what we want and what motivates us, no matter how vile or incomprehensible that may be to anyone else. It's why I think it's OK that we see these types of characters for veteran actors. Not that being mentally ill is the only facet of a character that could possibly make a woman over 50 interesting, but I don't think it's something that needs to be shuttered from depiction. And I think it's done tastefully and with compassion in this series. I also just love the setting. For whatever reason, I've always been drawn the gentility and refinement of certain southern customs (definitely not the slave-owning one), and Sharp Objects has many of those on display, including the gorgeous house Adora lives in and the fact that it's always sunny and hot and yet people don't seem to be sweating that badly. 

The production was a major critical success, currently holding a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 78 score on Metacritic. Along with Emmy and SAG nominations, Clarkson won the Golden Globe for Supporting Actress. I tend to think winning this category at the Globes is a little more impressive, because the nominees are drawn from the categories of series, limited series and television movie. Clarkson definitely deserved the win. Amy Adams made the rounds with noms at all the major awards shows as well, although she didn't manage to win any of them (unless I start counting the Critics' Choice Awards). The show itself also managed a Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Best Limited Series, while Vallée was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for his directing.  


Thursday, April 20, 2023

Filming wraps on season 3 of "Only Murders in the Building"

Selena Gomez posted a sort of "wrap" pic on her Instagram today with our favorite girl. 

I think it's worth repeating that it's possible that Meryl's participation in this will bolster her recognition among a younger generation of fans. Gomez has a whopping 412 million followers, and when she posts things like this, just with her and Meryl, I expect some youngsters will take notice. 

Still no word on the official release date, but I've read speculations that it will be sometime this summer, which seems reasonably likely.  

Monday, April 17, 2023

Recasting 2017 (supporting): "I, Tonya"

As I hinted at the end of my last post in this series, one of the roles for which I've sort of coveted for Meryl has been Allison Janney's Academy Award-winning performance in I, Tonya. It's well-known that screenwriter Steven Rogers wrote the part for Janney, as the two were longtime friends. It's therefore very unlikely that Meryl would've gotten near this role, even if she had been interested. But that's the fun of this project--getting to imagine that Meryl would've somehow had a connection that would've placed her in the running. 

The role itself is that of LaVona Golden, mother of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding. This is where I'm so drawn to this movie and character. In early 1992, at the age of 12, I watched the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on TV. I don't recall exactly why I was so into it, but I recorded it on our VCR and watched it over and over. I could remember the "Battle of the Carmens" from Calgary in 1988 between German Katarina Witt and American Debi Thomas, both of whom skated their Olympic long programs to the music of George Bizet's opera of the same name. It was an intense competition with a lot of media coverage pitting the two skaters against each other. The results were ultimately disappointing for me, as Thomas had a bad skate and finished with only a bronze. We didn't have a VCR in '88, so the memories of it (which included a very young Ekaterina Gordeeva--a pairs skater with Sergei Grinkov--as the media darling of the games), along with vague memories of Japan's Midori Ito being the first woman to land a triple axel in '89, remained just that, memories. 

I think it was my ability to rewatch the U.S. Championships and soaking in the spectacle of Tonya Harding, who by then had become the first American to land a triple axel (in Minneapolis!) the year prior, that sort of sucked me in to the events leading up to that year's Olympics in Albertville, France. Harding was the reigning U.S. champion, but she had finished second to fellow American Kristi Yamaguchi at the World Championships the year before. Incidentally, Nancy Kerrigan finished third at the worlds in '91, making it a clean sweep for America on the podium. The skating itself was fascinating to me, but the drama of waiting to see who would take home the top prize at the Olympics was probably the most entertaining bit of it all. 

For whatever reason, I was sort of pulling for Tonya in '92. Maybe it was because I liked that she was the best jumper. She also felt more like the small-town rural girl with whom I more closely identified. Not that I didn't love Yamaguchi too, just that there was something about Harding that felt like she needed more rooting for. In the end, Haring had a disappointing Olympics, and ended up returning two years later for the Games in Lillehammer, Norway. 

It's basically Harding's life leading up to these second games and the wild ride afterward that make up the events of this movie. Very few people are unfamiliar with the story of how Harding's dumb husband tried to mastermind clubbing Nancy Kerrigan to try to prevent her competing at the Olympics, which would have paved the way for Harding to more easily take gold. It didn't work the way they wanted, and Tonya was eventually banned for life from competing due to her somewhat oblique involvement in the scheme. Not as many people knew how rough of an upbringing Harding had, which is vividly depicted in the scenes involving her mother. 

It's easy to draw parallels between this character and Violet Weston, Meryl's character in her August: Osage County. They're both rather unfeeling mothers, who, under the guise of giving their daughters a leg up, sacrifice their own upward mobility, only to later resent their children when they don't succeed to the level their mother's expect. It's an age-old example of trying to live vicariously through one's children. There's a hint of love in it I suppose, but ultimately it feels more like a harmful obsession that's based in vanity and jealousy. That said, it's sort of fascinating. And while I'm not a big fan of inserting Meryl into roles that seem too similar to one's she's already done, the fact that this particular role is set in a world that's so embedded in the memories from my childhood, I found it impossible to pass up.  

Allison Janney's performance was one of the most dominant in award season history. She swept the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Academy Award, in addition to multiple critics' groups awards. Margot Robbie earned nominations in Lead Actress in all the major televised ceremonies as well, but lost out to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri most of the time (as was Meryl for her performance in The Post, incidentally her most recent Academy Award nomination). I, Tonya was generally well-received by critics, holding a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 77 score on Metacritic. With a meager $11 million budget the film ended up being a financial success, earning nearly $54 million worldwide in box office receipts. 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Recasting 2016 (supporting): "The Wizard of Lies"

In the wake of the 2008 recession, financier Bernie Madoff was exposed as the perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and died there in 2021. Director Barry Levinson's (Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man) HBO movie, The Wizard of Lies, stars Robert De Niro and depicts Madoff's fall and the toll it took on his victims and family. 

I'm recasting the role of Ruth Madoff, Bernie's wife (originally portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer). First off, this is one of the few scenarios where Meryl is actually more age-appropriate for the role than the original actor was. Most of the movie takes place in late 2008, when Ruth Madoff would've been 67. Wizard of Lies was filmed in the fall of 2015, when Meryl was 66. Pfeiffer at the time was only 57, and looked young for her age. But no biggy. 

Prior to Bernie's arrest, Ruth Madoff seems like kind of a boring person. She'd been the wife of a super wealthy New York stock broker for decades (they were married when Ruth was 18), and from what I understand, she didn't do much other than live an extravagant life. She says herself in the movie that she hasn't ever really done anything on her own, and when faced with the prospect of her husband, who'd been her entire life, being whisked away to prison, I can only imagine how terrifying and discombobulating that would be. Not that I feel particularly sorry for Ruth Madoff, but from a character standpoint, it would've been very interesting to watch Meryl convey that kind of shock of reality that had to have hit her. I believe that for the most part, Madoff was in the dark about her husband's crimes, and the media's portrayal of her, on top of the dizzying scandal, had to have been humiliating. 

I really enjoy Michelle Pfeiffer, but the accent is a bit cartoonish. Other than that, I think she did a superb job in the role. This is the type of timely story and difficult topic to which I feel Meryl would be drawn to. I say "difficult" because it's easy and maybe even natural to want to vilify Ruth Madoff. It's tough to sympathize with the super rich who are responsible for wiping out the life savings of a lot of people (even if Ruth may not have been directly involved). I think it would be a challenging prospect to humanize her, which I feel Meryl would certainly manage to do. 

The Wizard of Lies was fairly well-received by critics. It has a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 67 on Metacritic. De Niro and Pfeiffer were both nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes (De Niro also earned a SAG nom), neither coming away with any wins. The movie was actually released in the spring of 2017, but with the film's 2015 filming schedule, it would've been no problem having it ready by fourth quarter 2016, thus my bumping it up a year. My selection next week for 2017 is one of the roles for which I was inspired to undertake this supporting recasting project in the first place. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Recasting 2015 (supporting): "Trumbo"

Two years before Judy Davis's Emmy-nominated portrayal of Hedda Hopper in the 2017 limited series, Feud, Helen Mirren managed to score a nomination at almost every major precursor before being snubbed at the Oscars for portraying the same character in Jay Roach's film Trumbo. The film is a biopic centered on Dalton Trumbo (played by Bryan Cranston), a Hollywood screenwriter who becomes blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the early 1950s for being a communist. 

I rewatched the film last week and two things stuck out to me: 1) the fact that for whatever reason watching movies either from or set in the 40s and 50s feels really nostalgic to me (I just enjoy the styling and how everything seems really clean--despite everyone smoking, which I don't mind--and in its place), and 2) I'd forgotten how awful of a person Hedda Hopper probably was in real life. 

Hopper was a gossip columnist who had an astounding number of readers at the height of her popularity in the 1940s. This afforded her some level of power in regard to influencing how folks in the entertainment industry were perceived. I imagine this no doubt affected the behavior of Hollywood stars, even up to the decisions made by studio heads like Louis B. Mayer. 

Those "pissants" are members of the Communist party, who became targets of a witch hunt in the 1950s largely led by senator Joseph McCarthy. Hopper was a huge supporter of the HUAC. It's hard not to see the parallels and similarities to today's political world, where fear-mongering is the name of the game for certain groups, individuals, and even networks. Of course, there's not really much basis in all the effort to excoriate people who are simply demonstrating their constitutional rights of free speech. But there were a LOT of people freaking out in the aftermath of World War II, and anything or anyone in the United States that came close to resembling or sympathizing with the Soviet Union became a huge no-no. It's sort of ironic, considering the attempts to safeguard "American" values by shunning free speech ended up, as far as I can tell, more resembling fascism than patriotism. It was to the point that Trumbo was jailed for close to a year. And after he got out, he had to take lesser work under a pseudonym to make ends meet for him and his family. But the quality of his work continued to make him sought after, in a hush-hush way, by some major stars. 

My understanding is that Hopper had dreams of being a movie star, but as her acting career waned in the 1930s, she turned to writing. This makes me wonder how Meryl might have negotiated this into her character. It's hard not to picture there being some sort of lifelong resentment a person might hold if they were sort of "unwanted" by a group or industry by a certain point, especially when that person ends up acquiring a powerful and poisonous pen. Maybe it'd be part of humanizing Hopper a bit more, in understanding her motivations for her often unsupported and ultimately damaging tactics she implemented in entertaining her readers. That venom and that fear comes from somewhere. 

As referenced above, Mirren landed nominations at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and SAGs (shocking that she missed BAFTA), and then missed out on the Oscar nom. I suspect Rachel McAdams was the last to squeak in there for Spotlight, which, while probably a better film than Trumbo, McAdams's performance was not in my opinion better than Mirren's (and I don't even think Mirren's was all that amazing--the accent...yikes). Cranston was nominated everywhere but won nothing. Trumbo made no money but was generally well-received by critics, with a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. I can see myself returning to it again in the future, as it contains the aforementioned cinematography I enjoy and is about movies!