Meryl Streep

meryl streep in a prairie home companion

With VOD numbers still kept a secret by most of Hollywood, it’s tough to tell if Diablo Cody‘s directorial debut, Paradise, was any kind of success when released last fall. But reviews were not good (our own Jack Giroux gave it a ‘C’), and no one was really talking about it, so let’s just assume it was at least a cultural failure if not also financial. Considering neither Young Adult nor Jennifer’s Body were hits, either, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter could use a shot of relevance. And that shot seems very likely to come with a report from The Wrap that none other than Meryl Streep is set to speak Cody’s dialogue in a new movie directed by Jonathan Demme titled Ricky and the Flash. Demme himself hasn’t been in the spotlight much in the past five years and could also use this intriguing project. He’s actually been making a bunch of films — primarily docs like Neil Young Journeys and I’m Caroline Parker (and many others even smaller) — but his last major feature was 2008′s Rachel Getting Married. He has worked with Streep in the past, on the arguably unnecessary Manchurian Candidate remake and, as producer, Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. Also, he’s proven himself to be something of a music film master, having directed one of the best concert docs of all time in Stop Making Sense and been involved with interesting soundtrack-significant efforts like That Thing You Do! (Rachel was a kind of musical, too), so he’s a good […]

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The Giver Movie 2014

Lois Lowry‘s landmark YA novel was a massive part of growing up in the era of Jurassic Park. It’s taken a long time to see The Giver in movie form, but it’s finally here with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep leading the charge into the perfect future. For those who haven’t read the book, it takes place in a pristine, peaceful society, but like in all too-goo-to-be-truetopias, they’ve traded something fundamental for what they consider happiness. Namely, they store emotions, memories of the past, and really any experiences that don’t land on the middle axis inside a single member of society called The Receiver (Bridges). When a young boy named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen to take over the job, he learns the true nature of pain, pleasure and the high cost of a uniform society. Check out the trailer for yourself and be wooed by all the Oscar caliber acting:

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Actress

Call it the innate sexism that exists in Hollywood, but many years, the Best Actress category is less interesting than the Best Actor category. This can easily be blamed on the fewer great roles for women in movies today. However, this year, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Not only is this an incredibly strong field for the films they’ve appeared in, this is an incredibly strong field for the actresses themselves. All five women in this category are previous nominees – some of them many times over. (I’m looking at you, Meryl Streep, with your list of nominations almost as long as your list of hairstyles over the years.) Regardless, the Best Actress crop is a fertile one this year, featuring some fantastic performances in some really excellent films. As predictable as it might appear, it would be no surprise if things took a turn for anyone on this list. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actress along with my predicted winner in red…

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Meryl Streep

By the powers of Athena and all the powerful goddesses who have come before and after her, Meryl Streep, maybe the most righteous female of all, has joined the cast of a film called Suffragette. The film, directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and written by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame) chronicles, naturally, the beginnings of the  women’s rights movement that blossomed in the late 19th century. Streep will portray British activist Emmeline Pankhurst, a significant figure in the feminist movement and the suffragettes’ battle to get the right to vote. Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union and caused a firestorm with her rallying; after one particularly volatile outing, she and her fellow sisters in arms were sent to prison for disturbing the peace, where they then staged a hunger strike to secure themselves better conditions.

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Some people have a routine of eating two eggs for breakfast, reading the news and brushing their teeth before heading to work; Meryl Streep has a routine of getting Oscar nominations. She’s earned her 18th with August: Osage County, and to celebrate her cultural dominance we’ll speak with Karina Longworth, author of “Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor,” about Streep’s rich career arc. Plus, Geoff will answer three of your screenwriting questions, we’ll finally reveal who won the Prestige-Off and Rob Hunter will give us the movies from Sundance you need to look out for. You should follow Rob (@fakerobhunter), Karina (@karinalongworth), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #47 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Following the announcement of any year’s Oscar nominations, the search for records and other interesting trivia among the contenders is expected. One of this year’s most notable findings has to be that the 86th Academy Awards has broken the record for average age among the best actress nominees: 55. That’s not just interesting, it’s possibly even important. For all that’s said about Hollywood favoring young women and how actresses’ careers are done by the time they reach 40, this could be used as further evidence that older ladies are not unwelcome on the big screen. But is it really relevant to the businesspeople in Hollywood that the leading actresses of prestige pictures are veering older, their average this year being even higher than the best actor contenders (47)? The true measure for whether last year’s movies prove that not older women but women in general deserve more respect in the film industry is instead with the box office. And, well, the grosses of the nominated movies is pretty notable in this case, too. Thanks mostly to Gravity, the average domestic take for the movies nominated in the best actress category is $90M compared to that of the best actor nominees’ $34M. Nearly three times as much.

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The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Isn’t it always great to see your family? Don’t you just want to give your parents a call right now and hear what they’ve been up to and also hear at the same time about how you never call? Mmm, guilt. Take a little solace in the fact that whatever you and I are dealing with back at the ranch isn’t as bad as the Weston family’s situation in John Wells‘ August: Osage County. The adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play isn’t hitting theaters until December 25th, but it’s gaining steady buzz for the awards season track up until its premiere.

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thegivers

It seems like director Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger, Salt) is pretty close to filling out the ensemble cast for his upcoming YA adaptation The Giver. Though it was published in 1994, author Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” is one of those stories set in a future world that are aimed at young people and happen to be all the rage these days. Its world is one that’s free of poverty, disease, and most every kind of hardship, but it has a secret about how it got that way–a terrible secret–and always one person, called the Receiver of Memories, is chosen to hold what that secret is. Already Noyce has young Brenton Thwaites signed up to play the protagonist, Jonas, who is the new kid chosen to hold the memory, Jeff Bridges as the title character, who acts as the boy’s mentor, Meryl Streep as the villain of the piece, who also happens to be the leader of the society and the one who gives the children their roles, and Alexander Skarsgard as Jonas’ impossibly attractive father, and now there are new reports that he’s just signed a duo of actresses who are going to pretty up his ensemble even further.

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INTO THE WOODS

[Click to massively largify] This movie looks like it’s going to be awesome. You’ve got the pedigree of Steven Sondheim and James Lapine matched with an intriguing cast that features Meryl Streep in the spotlight, and in our first look at Into the Woods, she’s looking a bit like the witch from Big Fish minus the eyepatch. The character is desperate to regain her youth and beauty, so she makes a bargain with a cursed baker (James Corden) to un-hex him if he brings her a bunch of bizarre items. Along the way, he runs into all sorts of fairy tale characters — Jack with his magic beans, Cinderella and Rapunzel to name just a few. It’s a really fun musical with a dark sense of humor, and we’ll get to see if Rob Marshall and company can bring its spirit from the stage to the screen in December 2014.

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August Osage County

Fresh out of its showing at TIFF (read our own Kate Erbland’s review) comes the second trailer for John Wells‘ August: Osage County, the story of a large and cranky family that comes together for the funeral of their patriarch. The high-profile project, based on Tracy Letts‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, is nothing to sneeze at; when most of your cast has already won an Oscar or been nominated, you know it’s probably smooth sailing until awards season. While the first trailer focused more on Meryl Streep‘s vicious Violet Weston and her cutting remarks (here’s Scott Beggs’ writeup of the first trailer for comparison), the new incarnation seems to remove a teensy bit of Meryl’s bite to focus more on the larger family as a whole. And while Lord knows we all love ourselves a mean Meryl, by featuring more of the Westons, it gives a better look into their deep bitterness and dysfunctionality. Celebrities — they’re just like us! Check out the trailer for yourself here:

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August Osage County

The dysfunctional family drama can pack it in now, because the genre has reached its zenith with John Wells’ spectacularly entertaining and unsettling August: Osage County. Adapted for the screen from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, Tracy Letts has effectively moved the traumas of the supremely effed up Weston family to the big screen, ensuring that droves of film-goers will be able to reason, well, at least I’m not part of that group just in time for an awards season the film will surely clean up during. Starring a tremendously talented cast, the film hinges on Meryl Streep as maddening matriarch Violet Weston and her control freak daughter Barbara (played by Julia Roberts in one of her finest performances), and the two do not disappoint in the slightest. Despite heavy subject matter (suicide, incest, drug abuse, alcoholism, infidelity, oh my!), the film still includes plenty of humor to keep it humming right along, fully engaging its audience all the way. Set in – well, you know this – a steamy week or so in August in Oklahoma’s Osage County, the film opens with Weston family patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard) conducting an interview of the family’s new cook and aide Johnna (Misty Upham). Before the pair can finish the briefing of duties, the volatile Violet comes to after another night of pill-popping, only to stumble down into Beverly’s booze-filled office to offer color commentary and first class slurring. She’s a wreck, through and through, and it’s no […]

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Robert De Niro began repairing years of poor career choices with Silver Linings Playbook last year, and it looks like he might try and continue this trend with The Good House (for sanity’s sake, let’s just sweep The Big Wedding under a rug and never speak of it again). Also starring Meryl Streep, The Good House is an adaptation of Ann Leary’s similarly-titled novel, and it will be written for the screen by Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Hours,” which became another film starring Streep a few years back. There’s no word yet on who’ll direct. The combination of Cunningham with Streep and De Niro (who previously worked together on The Deer Hunter) sounds like a match made in heaven. The book’s subject matter, however, paints an entirely different picture. The novel tells the story of Hildy Good (Streep), a realtor and recovering alcoholic whose perfect routine is thrown into disarray by the arrival of a new friend (who hasn’t been cast yet) and an old flame (De Niro). The story is described as a dark comedy, but the synopsis bears an unpleasant resemblance to sugary-sweet romantic comedies that have been dotting Streep’s filmography in recent years – Hope Springs, It’s Complicated, and the like. Hopefully, The Good House will end up a dark comedy with some bite to it, rather than something you watch solely because it’s on TV and the remote’s too far out of reach.

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August Osage County

Emerging from work that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008, Tracy Letts has adapted his black comic play into a film with John Wells at the helm, and August: Osage County is downright overflowing with prestige. It also looks awkward enough to make Home For the Holidays feel like an old, warm blanket. To that first point, let’s do the math on the people involved: Oscar Winners: Meryl Streep (3), Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, George Clooney and Grant Heslov (Producing) Oscar Nominees: Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard Not too bad. Undoubtedly, a lot of people will be clamoring pre-release for Streep to win her fourth Oscar, but you know what would be even better? Getting Margo Martindale her first. That woman is a powerhouse whose earned her spot on the Academy stage. If this trailer is any indication, she might find herself with a nice shot at Best Supporting Actress and Best Inappropriate Comments. Check it out for yourself:

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Bully Contest

One of the most popular and powerful documentaries of last year, Lee Hirsch’s Bully is a film about the continuing crisis of bullying, which affects kids nationwide. In our own review, we call it “an intense, heartbreaking movie that every parent and school official should see.” Now it’s also a particularly important topic relevant to discussions of school violence. And it finally arrives on home video this Tuesday (February 12) on the heels of winning the Audience Choice award at the 2013 Cinema Eye Honors and finishing out the year as the fourth highest-grossing doc of 2012. You can go ahead and buy a copy right away, or you can try to win a DVD from Film School Rejects, and we’ll throw in a couple promotional anti-bullying rubber wristbands, on which are printed “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND.” The DVD, from Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Compay, features a bunch of bonus tracks, including six deleted scenes (half of which star the teen subject Alex and then one each for Kelby, Caine and Jake). There are also other videos of Alex updating us on how he’s doing today and his appearance on Good Morning America. Another bonus video stars Meryl Streep talking about the film and the issue. 

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As any of us who’ve dressed up as movie characters for Halloween know, it’s the distinctly designed roles that make for the most interesting costumes. Nobody is dressing up as Alex Cross or Aaron Cross this year — not because their movies weren’t popular, but because the characters don’t have a very recognizable look. Peruse the popular suits for sale and clever homemade ideas this year and you’ll find mostly characters who wouldn’t be what they are without the craftwork of costume designers and makeup artists. That’s why I consider theirs the Halloween categories at the Oscars. And yet, the best and most common outfits and frightening faces aren’t necessarily those that tend to be recognized by the Academy. This year’s list of popular movie-related costumes predominantly consists of superheroes, which has been the norm for a while, but there are even more timely examples represented now thanks to the The Avengers featuring so many masked and caped crusaders. Also, we had another movie starring the Caped Crusader. And while once again Linda Hemming will be nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for a Batman movie (she was nominated for Batman Begins and won for The Dark Knight), it’s very unlikely that The Dark Knight Rises will earn her a second Oscar nomination let alone win (she won her first time nominated, for Topsy-Turvy).

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“Newsweek,” the 79-year-old magazine is stepping into the present by axing their print edition to go fully digital in 2013. Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown announced the shift yesterday (tellingly on the Daily Beast site), and the polarized responses of crushing nostalgia, predictions of ultimate failure and it’s-about-time praise came from all corners of (again tellingly) the internet. Whether it’s a signal of internal trouble or not, it’s where our world is heading, which is why it’s particularly encouraging in this time of transition to look back on some of the “Newsweek” covers of the past to discover that history tends to repeat itself. Someone should package that up and coin a phrase about it. Of course, all of our choices are movie-themed, but as you’ll see from the selections, the ghost of the present seems to haunt the past even in the examination of the popular art. Even without the deep sentiment, it’s still fascinating to let nostalgia well up for the times gone by caught by these covers.

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Some of you may already know me by my Twitter handle: @thefilmcynic. It’s a name I’ve gone by for nearly a decade (so, before current social media outlets), because I’m very cynical about the film industry and try to keep my expectations low. I’m also very cynical about the Academy Awards and awards season in general, because we devote so much focus on them — with a wide spectrum of positive and negative angles — and they’re really a bunch of malarkey (much like the V.P. debate, which has inspired my newfound obsession with that word). So, the higher ups at FSR have asked me to write a cynical column devoted to the Oscars. The first one is inspired by the films Seven Psychopaths, Looper and Lincoln and their celebrated performances. As someone who has studied acting (I’m not very good at it), I’ve long taken issue with the way people look at film performances, because there are just so many different kinds. But there are two real distinct types that we tend to recognize while watching and writing about movies that aren’t acknowledged by the Academy: realistic and artificial. The former has been a big favorite since method acting came into play, though it doesn’t necessarily apply to that style nor does that style necessarily always mean realism. The latter could be more expressive and therefore goes back to the dawn of cinema and its silent performances or could even be more stiff, if that’s what’s intended. Directors who […]

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It’s quite convenient that David Frankel’s Hope Springs kicked its original title – Great Hope Springs – because such a tiny edit saves the film from a rash of mocking spins on its name. Just Okay Hope Springs. Totally Adequate Hope Springs. Hey, Not So Bad Hope Springs. The film, which centers on the crumbling marriage of Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and their apparent last ditch effort to save it by way of an intensive relationship workshop with therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), is perfectly acceptable stuff, but it’s by no means “great” and it’s not nearly as frank, honest, and mature as it would like to be. Instead, it’s a gentle enough take on the romantic comedy for the older set that struggles to find its tone and aim, before settling into something that’s strangely pleasing and oddly compelling. Hope Springs is both a rare bird (how often do we see mature studio films that examine faltering marriages and place importance on the value of lovemaking?) and a strange duck (how many films about faltering marriages encourage a first act of chuckles and titters before dropping the emotional boom, and repeatedly?).

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Good luck untangling the twisted mess that is the family tree at the center of Tracy Letts‘ soon-to-be-adapted play, August: Osage County. Of course, that’s all part of the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning production, but it makes confirming casting notices for John Wells‘ film version a real beast. Letts’ play centers on the Weston family, led by patriarch Beverly Weston and his sick, pill-popping wife Violet. Set during the month of August in the Weston’s hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, the play opens with a prologue that features Beverly as he attempts to hire a nurse for his, for lack of a better word, cracked out wife (to be played by Meryl Streep). While that introduction might make it seem as if it’s Violet who will soon wither, Act One hits us with the hard truth – Beverly has committed suicide, leaving Violet alone to deal with his death and the rest of their family. They are not a happy family. And they have much bigger issues to deal with than just one measly suicide. Most of the conflict of August: Osage County is between the various Weston women – especially between Violet and her eldest daughter, Barbara Fordham (Julia Roberts) – but there are two other Weston girls to cast, and it’s now been revealed that rising star Andrea Riseborough will be one of them.

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