Friday, June 21, 2013

Meryl Streep Is Magic

She has a new movie coming out and you can see the trailer in this blog piece.
It is no secret that I love me some Meryl Streep.  This love affair goes back to the late 1970s when I  noticed her small but memorably snarky role in Julia opposite Jane Fonda.
On TV, millions of us followed her story in the must-see historical NBC mini-series, Holocaust.  After that, came her work in The Deer Hunter (her first Oscar nomination and Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1978), Woody Allen's Manhattan and her first Oscar win as Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer.  The rest is Hollywood history, as you know.  I first interviewed her when she was promoting Sophie's Choice.  The 1982 movie would bring Meryl her first Best Actress Oscar.  She'd recently made the cover of Time.
The stars of Julia were Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.  Meryl had a minor role.  She now has a historic 17 Oscar nominations to her credit.  That's more than any other actor, male or female.  I think it's now an Academy rule that she gets a nomination whether she worked in a picture the previous year or not.  Her third Oscar and second Best Actress victory came for playing Britain's Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011).

Later this year,  La Streep will show us that not everything's OK in Oklahoma.  She stars in August: Osage County as the mother of a dysfunctional family.  Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale and Abigail Breslin co-star.
I really dig Ewan McGregor too.  He's one of those actors under 50 who is consistently good and long overdue a first Oscar nomination.  Look at the range of his performances in Trainspotting, Young Adam, Big Fish, Down with Love, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Ghostwriter and his musical performance in Baz Luhrmann's overstuffed Moulin Rouge!  Two other equally fine, never-nominated actors in that same "under 50" category are Guy Pearce and Sam Rockwell.

The movie also stars actor and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Sam Shepard.  The August:  Osage County screenplay is by Tracy Letts, adapted from the play he wrote.  Tracy Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for that dramatic play.  Also an actor, he gave us one of the most heartfelt, moving acceptance speeches when he won a Best Actor Tony for his performance as George in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  The revival originated in Chicago and was transferred to Broadway after rave reviews.  Some predicted the Tony would go to Tom Hanks for his Broadway debut.  Here's Tracy Letts:
A Tracy Letts screenplay made me really notice actor Michael Shannon for the first time.  Based on another play he wrote, Letts wrote the screenplay for Bug.  This is one unusual 2006 indie movie about two losers in an Oklahoma motel room.  The line between reality and delusion is gradually but definitely erased.  There's also fear of a bug infestation.

I could not take my eyes off of Michael Shannon as the emotionally fractured Gulf War veteran.  He has a Boris Karloff look about his eyes that added to the disturbance in his character.  Ashley Judd is the physically abused wife who ran away.  Harry Connick, Jr. plays the wife beater.  Without singing.  This Tracy Letts drama thriller was directed by William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection.

Michael Shannon is on big screens now as Zod, Superman's nemesis in Man of Steel.

Summer is the time for men in tights and special effects.  Action heroes like Superman, Spider-Man, The Avengers and such.  It's also the season for wacky, broad comedies.  Fall is the season for more mature, sophisticated fare.  Films that you actually have to listen to because they're character and dialogue driven.

August:  Osage County is scheduled to open in November.

Magic Meryl.  Reportedly, there will be magic spells in her next assignment.  She's playing The Witch in a movie version of Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale-based Broadway musical, Into the Woods.  Johnny Depp, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Tracey Ullman are slated to play other storybook characters.

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