Posts Tagged ‘Meryl Streep’

History’s First Draft

The Post

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stulbarg, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie

Before Julian Assange, before Edward Snowden, there was the Pentagon Papers.

A top level government study on how the Americans had been involved in Vietnam way before the infamous Vietnam War and how during that bloodletting fiasco, the Americans realized that they were losing the war in South East Asia, yet still continued to send troops in to fight the Viet Cong.

The leaking of the Pentagon Papers, firstly by the New York Times and then more pertinently by The Washington Post during the Nixon administration is the source of Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s fascinating film The Post starring two Oscar winners, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) as owner of the Post, Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/ who seizes on the story of a decade and pushes for his newspaper to release the classified documents despite the possible legal or financial consequences.

Streep as usual, is superb as the doubtful and affluent socialite Katherine Graham who inherits her father’s newspaper The Washington Post upon her husband’s death and then is forced into an invidious position when she is called upon to make the critical decision on whether to let the newspaper publish the Pentagon Papers at a time when New York investors are eagerly awaiting The Washington Post Company’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the American Stock Exchange, which could hugely benefit the fortunes of the struggling newspaper.

Spielberg packs a lot into The Post, and it would be advisable for viewers to read up thoroughly about that crucial historical period in 1971 which was so decisive and widely regarded as the turning point of American press freedom. All these events occurred prior to the Watergate scandal.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers ultimately changed the American public’s sentiment on the viability of troops in Vietnam and the legal outcome after the Supreme Court ruling elevated Katherine Graham to a media doyenne, a feminist and a massively influential woman who changed the business world’s view on how a single woman can influence and transform a media empire.

There is a solid supporting cast of actors in The Post to add gravitas to a riveting tale of journalistic bravery, including Sarah Poulson as Bradlee’s wife Toni who gives her own feminine perspective on why what Katherine Graham was doing was vitally important and brave. Other supporting actors include Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Phys, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons and Tracy Letts.

In the age of the Internet, Fake News and a 24 Hour news cycle, The Post is a critical film to watch and be discussed and is especially relevant in 2018 as back then in 1971, which basically implies that at every historical junction, the media must always hold the country’s government accountable. After all, the news is History’s First Draft.

My only criticism is that screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer should have contextualized the dramatic events more efficiently so that a 21st century audience could appreciate the bravery of publishing critical information without fear or favour.

The Post is brilliant viewing and a highly recommended film about press freedom under a sinister government which makes the film’s ending all the more relevant. The Post receives a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Read more on Katherine Grahamhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Graham

Read more on Ben Bradleehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee

 

 

 

Heroic Heiress

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Christian McKay, John Sessions

No actress plays a diva quite like Oscar winner Meryl Streep. First it was her brilliant portrayal of the Fashion Editor Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. Now in the capable hands of The Queen director Stephen Frears, Streep plays the delusional American heiress Florence Foster Jenkins opposite British star Hugh Grant.

For once Grant holds his own opposite Streep and as a rather stylish couple in Florence Foster Jenkins set in lavish New York musical circles in 1944 as the Second World War is drawing to a close.

Jenkins who unfortunately had an awful singing voice but believed that she could sing beautifully, enlists the help of accompanying pianist Cosme McMoon wonderfully played by Simon Helberg from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory. Helberg acts with his eyes and his expressive disapproval of Jenkin’s awful voice is soon transformed into a fondness for the eccentric heiress who genuinely thinks her voice is superb.

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Naturally her singing ambition is encouraged by her husband St Clair Bayfield fabulously played by Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility). In a complicated arrangement Bayfield enjoys his conjugal activities with the gorgeous Kathleen, played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) who isn’t impressed with Jenkins rise in popularity.

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Three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady) nails her interpretation of Florence Foster Jenkins as a lonely American heiress who due to an unfortunate illness, namely syphilis, is never able to have children so she sets her sights on conquering the fickle and snobbish world of classical music and in turn believes she has the makings of a star.

Her crowning achievement came during the infamous concert at Carnegie Hall where to bolster audience numbers she gave free tickets to inebriated American soldiers about to embark on a foreign war. Remember this is the golden age of radio and Jenkins exploited this medium to its fullest, soon becoming a favourite for her willpower rather than any inherent lyrical traits.

Assisted with a witty script by Nicholas Martin, Frears approaches the tale of Florence Foster Jenkins in a high camp fashion, making the film a poignant and hilarious tale of the diva whose fabulous costumes and awful singing made her the heroic heiress of New York.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful film and will sure to garner some recognition for the sumptuous production design and brilliant costumes in the approaching awards seasons.

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Simon Helberg is particularly superb as McMoon who is mesmerized and scandalized by the life force that was the flamboyant Florence Foster Jenkins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Foster_Jenkins.

This film is highly recommended viewing, a wonderfully acted tale of an heiress who certainly made the most of her fifteen minutes of fame despite popular opinion.

65th BAFTA Awards

THE  65th BAFTA AWARDS /

THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 12th February 2012 in London

BAFTA WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORY:

The artist

Best Film: The Artist

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin – The Artist

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Best Actress: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

beginners

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – Beginners

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Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer – The Help

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Best British Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy directed by Tomas Alfredson

Best Original Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Best Adapted Screenplay: Bridget O’ConnorPeter Straughan – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges – The Artist

The Skin I live In

Best Foreign Language Film: The Skin I Live In directed by Pedro Almodovar

Source: 65th BAFTA Awards

69th Golden Globe Awards

69th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 15th January 2012 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

descendants

Best Film Drama: The Descendants

The artist

Best Film Musical or Comedy : The Artist

Best Actor Drama: George Clooney – The Descendants

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Best Actress Drama: Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady

Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin – The Artist

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Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn

beginners

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer – Beginners

help

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer – The Help

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Best Director: Martin Scorsese – Hugo

A Separation nader_and_simin_ver2

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/69th_Golden_Globe_Awards

67th Golden Globe Awards

67th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 17th January 2010 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

avatar

Best Film Drama: Avatar

Best Director: James Cameron – Avatar

hangover

Best Film Musical or Comedy: The Hangover

crazy_heart

Best Actor Drama: Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart

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Best Actress Drama: Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side

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Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Robert Downey Jr. – Sherlock Holmes

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Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Meryl Streep – Julie and Julia

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Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds

precious

Best Supporting Actress: Monique – Precious

white_ribbon

Best Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon (Germany)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/67th_Golden_Globe_Awards

 

 

64th Golden Globe Awards

64th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 15th January 2007 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

babel

Best Film Drama – Babel

departed

Best Director: Martin Scorsese – The Departed

dreamgirls

Best Film Musical or Comedy: Dreamgirls

last_king_of_scotland

Best Actor Drama: Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland

The Queen

Best Actress Drama: Helen Mirren – The Queen

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Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat

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Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Meryl Streep – The Devil Wears Prada

Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls

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Best Foreign Language Film: Letters from Iwo Jima (Japan/USA)

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/64th_Golden_Globe_Awards

Not So Happily Ever After…

Into the Woods

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Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lucy Punch, Tammy Blanchard, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Murzy

Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago director Rob Marshall strikes gold with this cinematic adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Into The Woods featuring a fabulous ensemble cast made all the better by Meryl Streep playing the meddling Witch.

Imagine Little Red Riding Hood teaming up with Jack the Giant Slayer, Cinderella and a forlorn Rapunzel, that is Into The Woods, a wonderful mixture of all the classic fairy tales thrown together in a delightful musical which is hinged with darkness and loaded with metaphors and familial moral codes about life’s unpredictability.

Director Marshall brings out the best in his cast including a superb performance by Emily Blunt as the barren Bakers Wife along with the irrepressible Meryl Streep as the evil Witch who asks the Baker, played by British actor James Corden to collect Cinderella’s golden slipper, a white cow, a lock of Rapunzel’s hair and a red cape naturally belonging to Red Riding Hood.

Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in The Air) holds her own as the doomed Cinderella who is wooed by a shameless prince played by Chris Pine (Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit, Horrible Bosses 2). Cinderella’s evil stepmother is superbly played by Christine Baranski of The Good Wife fame and The Birdcage. Audiences should also watch out for British comedian Tracey Ullman who plays Jack’s exasperated mother. Child stars Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford are amazing as Jack the Giant Slayer and Little Red Riding Hood.

Three times Oscar winner Meryl Streep reunites with her Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt, and it is clear that both these actresses keep this wonderful musical firmly rooted in brilliance. Blunt is absolutely amazing, delivering some quick witted lines and belting out some wonderful songs while Streep relishes the chance to play the blue haired vain and selfish Witch who is desperate to reclaim her lost beauty by reversing a curse placed on her. The Witch also incidentally holds her daughter Rapunzel played by Mackenzie Murzy hostage in a tower and much to her horror, has fallen for a young but clumsy prince played by the gorgeous newcomer Billy Magnussen.

Oscar nominee Johnny Depp who was spine chillingly excellent in another Sondheim musical film, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street makes a brief appearance as the cross dressing wolf who terrorizes Little Red Riding Hood.

Even though Into The Woods is aimed at children, there are certainly slightly darker adult undertones to this extraordinary film as unlike the fairy tales, not everyone lives happily ever after. For those that enjoy expertly directed and acted big screen musicals, like Chicago, Les Miserables and Hairspray, then Into The Woods is definitely recommended viewing.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods is a truly imaginative, witty and fabulous fable sure to enchant both adults and children alike and as a stage production it would be equally extraordinary to watch.

60th Golden Globe Awards

The 60th Golden Globe Awards

Took place on Sunday 19th January 2003 hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association

Golden Globe Winners in The Film Categories:

The hours

Best Film Drama: The Hours

chicago_ver1

Best Film Musical or Comedy: Chicago

about_schmidt

Best Actor Drama: Jack Nicholson – About Schmidt

Best Actress Drama: Nicole Kidman – The Hours

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Best Actor Musical or Comedy: Richard Gere – Chicago

Best Actress Musical or Comedy: Renee Zellweger – Chicago

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Best Director: Martin Scorsese – Gangs of New York

adaptation

Best Supporting Actor: Chris Cooper – Adaptation

Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep – Adaptation

talk_to_her

Best Foreign Language Film: Talk To Her (Spain)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/60th_Golden_Globe_Awards

Utopia Unraveled

The Giver

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Director: Phillip Noyce

Stars: Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Jeff Bridges, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan

Australian director Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence, Salt) takes on the big screen adaptation of the 1993 Lois Lewry allegorical Sci-Fi novel The Giver.

Shot mostly in Cape Town, with the iconic Greenpoint stadium as its main focal point, The Giver follows a Utopian society on a mesa, a sort of elevated plateau where a seemingly perfect yet ominously drugged society exists. Imagine a society with no colour, no differences, no desires and no envy, a society in which all the deeper human emotions have been eradicated.

Brenton Thwaites last seen in Maleficent, has a more prominent role as Jonas a young man who definitely realizes that this version of Utopia in which he graduates into is not quite as it seems. The Utopian Society is presided over by the Elder, in a strange casting choice for Meryl Streep to appear in a sci-fi thriller. Naturally Streep inhabits the role with just the right amount of malice and omniscience to scare the citizens of this perfect world.

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Upon his graduation, Jonas is assigned to be the receiver of knowledge and must leave his constructed parents played in a deadpan fashion by Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard and visit The Giver, a bearded and wise Jeff Bridges, who transports all of the society’s so called memories, painful and exhilarating to Jonas via human touch.

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The Giver being the keeper of knowledge naturally lives in a library called The Edge, beyond which is Elsewhere. This film is purely allegorical and philosophical and whilst Jonas’s courageous attempt to escape the Utopian society are fraught with potential danger and deception, his rebellion is not based on a motivated counterpoint, nor for that matter is the real reason for creating such a bland uniform society. In essence Jonas is escaping a bizarre pristine gated community.

The Giver could have been a real significant sci-fi thriller yet despite some flamboyant directorial embellishments which include a whole series of memory flashbacks of human emotions, wars and iconic leaders, the film does not live up to its hype as something truly astounding unlike the Tom Cruise sci fi Oblivion. There are no twists or turns, more an allegorical tale about the importance of celebrating difference and appreciating individuality, two aspects which this Utopia suppresses ultimately leading to Jonas’s rebellion.

Despite the casting of Oscar heavy weights Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, The Giver comes off as a mediocre version of The Hunger Games without the intensity or the violence. Thwaites as an actor holds his own as Jonas while the rest of the cast seem to pale literally in comparison except for the baby Gabriel, whom Jonas is desperate to save.

Then again babies don’t need to act, they are spontaneous. Its only constructed organized society which restricts adult individuality and creates a utopian order which given time will always unravel naturally. The Giver is bland viewing shot alternatively in black and white with dashes of colour, a narrative without much cathartic release, leaving lots of implausibility and questions. The film also stars Country Music Singer Taylor Swift as the mysterious Rosemary, Odeya Rush as Jonas’s love interest Fiona and Cameron Monaghan as his dubious friend Asher.

Oklahoma’s Malevolent Matriarch

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August: Osage County

Director: John Wells

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard

The Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County comes to the big screen with a stunning ensemble cast headed by the incomparable and superb Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Devil Wears Prada) as the pill popping matriarch of the Oklahoma based Weston family, who all gather together when Violet Weston, a malevolent matriarch played by Streep alerts her clan to the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of her heavy drinking poet husband, Bev Weston, a brief appearance by Sam Shepard. Oscar winner Julia Roberts plays the feisty eldest daughter Barbara who drags her straitlaced husband Bill Fordham played by Ewan McGregor and their teenage daughter Jean played by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin.

Incidentally the playwright Tracy Letts is also an actor who recently appeared on the Award winning show Homeland. His take on an all female dysfunctional family in his award winning play is both perceptive and wonderfully written with Streep and Roberts savouring some of the best lines like – “Bitch, eat your Fish!”

August: Osage County takes themes of addiction, inter-generational communication along with family secrets and rivalry to new heights as the entire Weston clan gather, but the plot is really anchored by the fierce exchanges between a disorientated Violet and her outspoken daughter Barbara, in a career best performance by Julia Roberts. Streep earned her 18th Oscar nomination in 2014 for her almost tragic yet bitter performance of Violet Weston, a woman who clearly has not had an easy life on the mid-Western plans and has to cope with all the hardships including bringing up three daughters and an inebriated poet as a husband.

Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, Eat, Pray, Love) also earned a 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her brilliant performance as Barbara, a woman whose marriage is failing and is battling to cope with a rebellious teenage daughter, an uncooperative cheating husband and a matriarchal and incredibly demanding mother. The onscreen tension between Violet and Barbara is beautifully played out against the vast Oklahoma plains, with the landscape providing an emotional resonance to all the familial conflict that the Weston gathering produces where everyone’s own miserable secrets, faults and deceptions soon come to light amidst the hottest month of summer: August.

Director John Wells interweaves the chaotic scenes at the Weston mansion in rural Oklahoma with gorgeous shots of the mid-Western plains, giving a sense that these characters are grappling with not only their own turmoil but their unique identities apart from those prescribed by being part of a larger family group. And what a family it is.

Violet Weston’s two other daughters are the pacifying Ivy played by Julianne Nicholson and the free-spirited youngest Karen, played by Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear) both of whom have to heed the dominance of their mother and eldest sister, along with the bitter rivalry which ensues.

As with all plays that are turned into film adaptation, much like the four character play Doubt, August: Osage County drives its narrative purely through an electrifying and barbed script, with Streep and Roberts delivering some vicious one-liners. The rest of the cast including Chris Cooper as Uncle Charlie and Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave) and Dermot Mulroney provide a theatrical sounding board for the predominantly female driven story of rivalry, deception and loneliness.

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What elevates August: Ossage County out of pure melodrama, although some aspects of the plot are questionable, is the groundbreaking and utterly absorbing performance of Streep and Roberts as mother and daughter Violet and Barbara fighting each other and their own apparent faults significant in the touching scene when they are both wondering aimlessly through an Oklahoma hayfield. This onscreen rivalry ironically is a reversal of Streep’s performance opposite Shirley Maclaine as Hollywood daughter and mother in the 1990 film about drug addiction, Postcards from the Edge based upon the best selling novel by Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.

August: Osage County is a compelling family drama, at times hysterical, at times poignant but a wonderful and incisive examination of a complex family dynamic which forces each member to  come to grips with their own flaws whilst becoming aware of a collective sense of misery, loss and impending loneliness. This film is a master class in ensemble acting and highly recommended viewing.

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