Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong

America’s newest sweetheart (and the Oscars’ latest Supporting Actress winner) Lupita Nyong’o has been very careful about her job choices (read: she hasn’t eagerly snapped up anything and everything that has come her way) since capturing our hearts with last year’s wrenching turn in 12 Years a Slave, but that seems to be steadily changing (and with so far very good results). Just yesterday, Nyong’o’s highly anticipated involvement with a project you may have heard of — Star Wars? anyone? anyone? Bueller? — was announced to general enjoyment from fans of both the actress and the beloved franchise, but that’s not the only big endeavor that the actress has taken on lately, and it’s certainly not the only one you should be excited about. Nyong’o’s apparent interest in picking and choosing the next big roles that will help shape the rest of her career also has a literary bent, as she recently snapped up the film rights for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s best-selling novel “Americanah,” a move that may signal her intention to also star in the feature.


12 Years a Slave

It’s been rumored since before the initial cast announcement, but the Star Wars: Episode VII production has made it official. They’ve announced via press release that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has joined the cast. With an acting squad (which is what all casts should be called) that’s focused on prestige talent more than mere name recognition, this hire is one that potentially touches on both fronts. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the release says nothing about the role that she’ll play. The same goes for Gwendoline Christie. The Game of Thrones co-star who absolutely rocks as the lordly lady of Tarth has also signed on to fight long-ago battles in a galaxy far, far away. Hopefully they’ll give her a sword instead of a lightsaber. The lack of details is probably cold comfort for fans and for those skeptical of the male/female ratio of actors. If you’re foolishly keeping score, it’s 5/11, but raw math doesn’t matter here (even if it’s pretty damned close to 50/50). What matters is the size of the spotlight on these individual characters and the actors who portray them. Without story details, we now theoretically have a Star Wars movie where there’s room for a young black man (John Boyega), a young black woman, and another young woman (Daisy Ridley) to save the universe from Max von Sydow. Can we have at least a little celebration for the diversity at work here?


Jennifer Lawrence House at the End of the Street

In a stirring example of how poisonous the populist view on fame can be, Twitter was bubbling during the Oscars with negative comments about the same actor that made it glow with radioactive sunshine exactly a year ago. Of course, you can find steaming piles of antagonism about anyone on Twitter, but the response to Jennifer Lawrence that night was notable enough that Slate convened its XX writers for a thinkpiece conversation about her downfall that might make you slightly dumber if you read it. As a discussion about and a product of a limited view of celebrity, it reduces otherwise intelligent pundits to waxing poetic on whether we “like” someone we’ve never met. That’s the alien nature of extreme popularity. We don’t know Lawrence or her media-narrative-necessitated rival Lupita Nyong’o, but we have opinions about them beyond the work they produce. We see high profile actors on red carpets giving their opinions, spilling breath mints at press conferences and falling down at major award shows. Yet, apparently, we’ve become so cynical as a culture that even falling in love with naturalistic behavior (amid a sea of practiced, polished fakery) isn’t safe from suspicion that genuineness is also just an act.


Ursula in The Little Mermaid

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Supporting Actress

Every year, the Academy Awards kick into two extremely important categories quite early, swiftly doling out Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actors statuettes before most people have settled into their seats (both at the ceremony and at whatever shindig viewers are throwing in the safety of their own home). It’s a whirlwind and it’s a hell of way to start off the show, but damn if it doesn’t always feel a bit stilted. These are big awards, you guys, and they so often signal the arrival of new talents to watch out for, the kind of thespians we might soon see going for leading awards. Give them some space! The Supporting section also allows for a great variety of nominees, recognizing performers of every age, from veterans to newbies, and from every kind of performance, from those who appear alongside leads throughout features and those who show up for a memorable minute or so. This year’s Best Supporting Actress field, however, places a premium on heft — at least, on hefty performance time — including five actresses who quite easily helped make their features sing, and a few that might just have squeaked by with a Best Actress nomination instead (sorry, Julia Roberts). But who will win? Oh, we don’t know, but we’ve got some ideas. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Supporting Actress along with my predicted winner in red…


Scene of 2013

Far more movies than any one person can watch get produced and released every year. That’s why film fans get so anal retentive and self-important when they’re trying to decide what they’re going to declare their favorite film of the year. When you take movies as seriously as people like us do, year-end ratings and rankings can get pretty stressful. So just imagine how much harder it is to try to narrow down every scene that gets shot for every movie each year to one, definitive, best scene of the year. It’s enough to produce a healthy layer of flop sweat. Last year it was an accordion interlude, but this year we’re naming two scenes as our Scene of the Year because of how closely they work in tandem with one another. They’re also about the furthest from last year’s winner as you can get. Without further ado, the FSR staff has chosen The Hanging Scene and The Whipping Scene from director Steve McQueen’s affecting historical drama 12 Years a Slave as the Scene(s) of 2013.


East River short

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  We can add this week’s Short Starts selection to last week’s list of Movies to Watch After You’ve Seen 12 Years a Slave. There, I included mention of In My Genes, a documentary about albinos in Africa directed by Lupita Nyong’o, the breakout star of the new Steve James film. Now I’d like to share her only prior film acting gig, an award-winning silent short called East River. It was made by Israel-based writer-director Marc Grey and follows the inter-borough travels of a man (Tommaso Spinelli) who has just arrived in New York City. Nyong’o plays a Brooklyn photographer he encounters and may or may not have a real relationship with. The confusion is more mystifying than frustrating. The simple synopsis that comes with the short offers little help: “An interloper wanders uncommon spaces and fashions deceiving relationships amidst the industrial ruins of Brooklyn.” The plot is not as important as the semi city symphony that arises out of the man’s wandering. In Manhattan he visits Central Park, Times Square, Chinatown, a downtown club. Over the title waterway he bikes over each of the three bridges to get into Brooklyn on different days, and once there he can mostly be spotted in Williamsburg, Gowanus and Red Hook, which is where he spots Nyong’o’s character for the first time.


ejiofor kinky boots

This weekend, the exceptional 12 Years a Slave began its initial expansion into wider release. Currently, the Steve McQueen film is playing in 123 theaters around the country, so a lot of people are just getting the chance to enjoy its brilliant performances and to be horrified by its most powerful scenes. When they exit the cinema, while wiping the tears from their eyes and attempting to rid their throats of the lump that’s been lodged there for at least half an hour, audiences are going to be curious about who Lupita Nyong’o is and where they’ve seen Chiwetel Ejiofor before. They’ll also be interested to know that they’ve just watched a remake, of sorts. 12 Years a Slave still has a ways to go before it reaches the mainstream, Middle America mall crowds. But when it does end up on a few thousand screens and watched by millions more, this guide will be here to recommend past films from the makers and stars of the movie, as well as some other relevant titles worth checking out.

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published: 12.17.2014
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