The Iron Lady

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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Just look at Meryl Streep, looking austere and keeping her upper lip incredibly stiff. Unimaginably stiff. The stiffness alone is enough to make The Iron Lady a formidable movie, and now you can own it on DVD for free. We’re giving away 2 copies, and all you have to do is hop down into the comments section and tell us how you’d fix the government. It’s a contest only open to US residents (sorry about that world), but feel free to fix any country’s government you want. Two (2) winners chosen at random will each win a copy of The Iron Lady on DVD. Now, fix the world:

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Week In DVD! This is actually the third anniversary of my stewardship of the column, and I want to thank all of you for stopping by each and every Tuesday to check out the week’s best and worst DVD releases. I’ve discovered countless fantastic films over the last three years, and I hope some of you can claim the same. Or even just one of you. This week’s releases include an utterly terrible biopic (with great makeup!) of Margaret Thatcher, Werner Herzog’s best documentary from 2011, a bland alien invasion flick set in Moscow, a powerful boys-in-prison drama from Norway and more! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Conversation Piece Burt Lancaster plays a retired American living in Rome whose quiet life is interrupted by a quartet of rude and rambunctious neighbors. They talk their way into renting his upstairs apartment, and over the course of the months that follow they worm their way into his life with interruptions, destruction, seduction and endless conversation. Luchino Visconti’s film is a beautifully shot tale of clashing ideals and intellects unafraid to mix political discussion with homoerotic undertones and black comedy with a sexy teenage seductress. Raro Video has done a fantastic job with the film’s first widescreen, English language release in the US, and while the link here is for their new Blu-ray transfer a DVD version is also available.

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. It’s finally here! The time of year where I can write a paragraph that no one will read because they’ve already scrolled down to see who’s won. But even though this won’t be seen by humans, here’s a personal reminder that this night may be about politics and back-slapping, but it’s also about the splendor of cinema. It’s about the magic of movies. The genius of thousands of images all strung together with blood, sweat and tears to create characters and a journey through the heart of a story. There are some great stories on display tonight. That’s what matters second most. What matters most, of course, is crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Actress

In recent years, the Best Actress Oscar has been a far more compelling race than the Best Actor Oscar. Where Best Actor winners have been those whose time has come (like Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart or Colin Firth in The King’s Speech), the Best Actress Oscar has been a tighter and less predictable race. The roles that have won Best Actress have been increasingly edgy over the past decade or so, as well as honoring relatively younger actresses (including Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, and Hilary Swank). This year offers an interesting mix of candidates who cover a range of ages and experiences. The actresses in Hollywood should be proud that their top roles are about such challenging subjects as sexual identity and female empowerment. This is a more radical turn from the Best Actor field, which has roles dealing with relationship drama, sports and spying. To quote an old cigarette campaign for Virginia Slims, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” It’s been a long way from the early days of Hollywood where more traditional damsel roles were far more prominent. The meatier roles and blockbuster heroes continue to go to male actors, but the real depth of character and challenging subject matter has been making its way to the women of Hollywood, if in a smaller degree at least a more noticeable degree. Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red…

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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An old woman enters a small corner shop in London for milk and finds herself shuffled about, ignored and treated like just another no-name pensioner. What the clerk and other customers don’t know though is that this elderly lady in a head scarf, glasses and overcoat is actually their former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She played an integral role in the shaping of the Western world due to her policies and length of time in office, and was at one time as reviled as she was revered. The Iron Lady is similar in that the film’s outward impression is far removed from the inner truth. The film should be, and by all accounts is meant to be, a look at the fascinating and historical life and times of the UK’s first and only female Prime Minister. But instead, the movie lets all of that fall by the wayside as it focuses on Thatcher as an old woman struggling to let go of her dead husband. Meryl Streep (and the film’s make-up department) brings the historical figure to life with an amazing and expressive performance, but it’s wasted on a film more interested in lost love and the onset of dementia than it is in telling an engaging and relevant story.

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Culture Warrior

In a recent article from The Atlantic, business journalist Derek Thompson poses several compelling questions about the business model of contemporary theatrical distribution. Why, he asks, must we pay the same for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as we do for Young Adult at our local multiplex? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the comparably underperforming film, Young Adult, were distributed with lower ticket prices in order to cultivate greater competition against wintertime blockbusters, and thereby (perhaps) gain a slightly greater audience for a film whose appeal is limited by comparison? After all, movie studios don’t so much “give audiences what they want” as much as they calculate degrees success (if you don’t believe me, go ask your local AMC to bring A Separation or Carnage to your theater), so why don’t ticket prices reflect this already-transcribed fate? It’s an interesting scenario to imagine, but one that becomes more difficult to envision once one parses through the details. As the author points out in his #4 reason why we have “uniform pricing,” varied pricing would likely create an unwarranted stigma against less expensive films, much like straight-to-DVD films have. That said, two other assumptions informing Thompson’s provocative question warrant further exploration: 1) we as consumers already have varied pricing, and we have developed patterns of determining a film’s “worth” in our choosing of where and in what conditions we see a film, and 2) movies would largely benefit if the perceived value of the opening weekend lessened significantly.

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Kevin Carr

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr looks at his list of New Year’s resolutions. However, since he was a little drunk when he wrote them and his handwriting is sloppy, he thinks it reads to “exorcise more” instead of “exercise more.” So, he hops a plane to Rome and sneaks out to the theater late at night to check out the latest first-of-the-year release, The Devil Inside. After waking up from a quick nap in the theater as a result, Kevin heads back to the states to catch some last-minute award films in limited release.

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The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Movie posters can rise to level of works of art, can be tame or daring. They are of course advertising. A good poster makes you want to know more about the movie and the more you want to know the more you’ll want to spend your money to see the film. With that in mind, we’ve assembled our favorites of 2011, broken down into fancy categories for your reading and viewing pleasure.

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Is there really any doubt? With Meryl Streep‘s consistent successes and the added bonus of a win for The King’s Speech last year, all that The Iron Lady has to do is prove that it’s not a carbon copy with a female in the lead to make Academy voters happy. There’s a shot in the new UK trailer for the film where Streep, as former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, stands tall with her chest out and her chin held out in the air. It’s followed immediately by a somber shot where she hangs her head low while seated in the shadows. I can only assume that the film will focus on both aspects of her life, the trials and triumphs, the personal and the political. She’s joined by the brilliant Jim Broadbent, and the whole basket of crumpets was directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, Macbeth). It’s a gorgeous trailer. Check it out for yourself:

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The resemblance isn’t nearly as striking as Meryl Streep’s turn as Julia Child, but it’s a safe bet that the phenomenal actress will make The Iron Lady her own and sink right into the role as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This is definitely not the first time Thatcher has appeared on film (as herself or played by an actor), but it’s the most high profile to date. This is the second feature from Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd. No word yet on whether it will be a musical, but it is in its second week of filming. Check out Streep as Thatcher for yourself:

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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