a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Hailee Stanfield’

I Finally See “True Grit” A Wordy Woodpecker of a Western

Well, I guess Paramount did hear my blog screams and they sent me quite unexpectedly a DVD screener of “True Grit.” FINALLY!

“True Grit” is the latest oeuvre from the redoubtable Coen Brothers, and it’s…Ok…sort of…I mean, it’s good. Although some parts of it strain credulity. Especially the overwrought, arch script, which Jeff Bridges manages quite, quite well. And Matt Damon, too. But poor 13-year-old newcomer Hailee Stanfield has the most demanding role, verbally, that perhaps has ever been written for a tween actress.

It is to her credit that she ALMOST pulls it off. But I was always aware that it was DIALOGUE being written and spoken, and not the character’s own voice speaking.

Her child/woman dichotomy is also, paradoxically, the most unusual part of this western. Yes, the Coen’s are doing a Western. A real traditional attempt at the genre in the classic John Ford manner. And Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography is up the task at hand. And so is Bridges. But Ms. Stanfield…well, I’m of two minds about her “performance.”

Either it’s one of the most impressive screen debuts of an ingenue ever in a very challenging role that has already netted her a SAG nomination for Best Supporting Actress, though she is ostensibly the lead. OR it’s a career ender. It’s the beginning AND the end for her. Which one is it?

Like her or not, and I’m not totally sure that I do, you can’t get away from her in this film that is mostly, as the British would say, a  three-hander. That is a three person play. And again, the script does seem overly theatrical, for a Western. The three hands being Bridges, Matt Damon and Ms. Stanfield.

We’ve never seen or heard any Oater where people talked in such highfalutin rhetorical terms. Sheesh! They could’ve almost been in a Restoration Comedy some scenes are soooo over-written. Especially at the beginning of the film. Which is very slow getting started and a lot of that is due to the clusters of almost unspeakable, and certainly almost unpronounceable verbiage  the  Coens have saddled their three leading actors with. Or in Ms. Stanfield’s case, crippled with. I know we’re supposed to believe that SHE has “True Grit.” But talk about overkill!

With the surprise SAG nomination for Stanfield, her fellow actors are obviously Haillee-ing her arrival, big time. You do feel sorry for her in that she has scene after scene after scene where her voice is Woody Woodpeckering the screen, with its’ rat-a-tat ryhmns. And you feel like I always felt like with Woody Woodpecker that I need to watch his cartoons like a need a hole in the head.

Let’s face it, the Coens are not known for their work with child actors.

But they have to take pains at the beginning of the film, to established her hard-headed, stubborn as a mule character, so that we believe and care about her all the way through the film. It’s her journey. And the coda at the end of the film, which I won’t give a away as it’s a semi-spoiler, but the film visual images are striking. And rather unforgettable.

And then there is the unvarnished delight of Roger Deakins’ breath-taking scenic vistas of the wild west. Between this film and “Meek’s Cut-Off” I feel like I’ve actually BEEN there and back this filmic fall season.

Matt Damon is very funny as a Texas Ranger named Le Bouef, but which they all pronounce “Le Beef” as in meathead. He’s the comic relief. And Bridges’ scenes with Mr. LeBeef are just terrific stuff.

I don’t know WHAT the John Wayne version of this was like. I’m sure this is a thousand times better and Rooster Cogburn won Wayne his only Oscar and it is to Bridges’ everlasting credit that he really does excel in this part, as well.

It’s sooo close to his Oscar-winning turn as Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart.” A has-been boozing singer v. this time a has-been boozing gunman. That Bridges’ makes the Coens stick-in-the-mouth dialogue that HE has to say look and sound effortless as a horses’ snorting. Well, that’s the sign of a consummate actor at the top his craft.

Is it almost tongue-twistingly unprounceable? Well, Bridges attacks each line like his eating a mouthful of steak. Chewing the scenery has never been such a sumptuous meal. And if Oscar remembers “True Grit” for anything, it’s bound to be Bridge’s excellent crowing Rooster of a performance.

If SAG, the Screen Actor’s Guild, hadn’t voted l’il Miss Woodpecker a Supporting Actress nomination, I would say she didn’t have a chance. She knocked out Jackie Weaver of the dreadful Australian “thriller” “Animal Kingdom.” But since the 2ooo plus members of the SAG nominating committee hadn’t included her, I would say she didn’t have a chance in hell of getting in. She’s no Sairose (sp?) Ronan.

But they do like nominating under-age actresses, esp. in this category and especially lately. Think Abigail Breslin of “Little Miss Sunshine.” as well as the aforementioned Ronan.

I think Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography is the strongest  award element here as well as Jeff Bridges stellar performance. Deakins could actually win in this category and I’m also sure that “True Grit” as mixed as my reactions were to it, is going to be nominated for one of the Ten Best Picture slots.

No, though, to Best Director chances of the Coens, for this Western mishmash. But if they can get nominated for “A Serious Man” last year, then they could get nominated for this — in a field of Ten, sure. Why not?

Hollywood, unbelievably, has come to love the Coens. But you can’t help compare this too well-spoken Western to their other trip West which was “No Country for Old Men.” Now, THAT was a masterpiece and won the Oscar…But “True Grit” is not NCFOM. Not by a mile there, pard’ner.

Golden Globe Nominations! King’s Speech leads with 7!!!

Very gratified to report that the wonderful “King’s Speech” which I have been championing ever since I saw it at its’ first press screening at Toronto received seven Golden Globe nominations this morning. More than any other film, and that usually means it’s going to win!

It was nominated for Best Film -Drama, Best Actor, the wonderful Colin Firth, Best Supporting Actor, Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actress, Helena Bonham-Carter, Best Director, Tom Hooper(who named me “The Oscar Messenger” after all, LOVE him!), Best Screenplay and Best Score.

Congratulations to Colin, Geoffrey, Helena, Tom and to Harvey Weinstein who produced all this magnificence.

Yesterday that OTHER FILM, whom I will not mention by name any more, won all the critics’ awards across the country, and today, “The King’s Speech” is on top!

Also nominated for Best Actor -Drama was Ryan Gosling, whom I just interviewed for “Blue Valentine.” That is going to be up on YouTube shortly and Best Actress-Drama- Michelle Williams for the same moving film, whom I also interviewed. And she’ll be coming soon, too. www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Omissions~ They left  out a LOT of possible contenders like Jeff Bridges, and Hailee Stanfield from “True Grit”. In fact, “True Grit” (which I STILL haven’t seen) was shut out completely. And Danny Boyle for Director and “127 Hours” were not nominated, though its’ star James Franco was. Franco was expected. The shut out of “127 Hours” and Boyle were not. Nothing for Robert Duvall in “Get Low.” Nothing for “True Grit” other than the despised Jennifer Lawrence’s expected but undeserved nomination. Will somebody please put a stop to that woman! Her adulation in that faux-Ozarkian indie is incomprehensible to me.

And Leonardo Di Caprio was left out ~ TWICE! For “Shutter Island” AND for “Inception” Yikes! Methinks this was not category confusion but actual, for real, MOVIE confusion. There were astounding similarities in the plots of both movies. And certainly Leo’s characters.  So Leo got left out twice, but Johnny Depp was nominated TWICE for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. For “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Tourist.” BOTH Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were nominated for “The Kids Are All Right” in the Musical/Comedy Best Actress category.

And sadly “Another Year” was nowhere to be seen. No Mike Leigh. No Leslie Manville. And also no Noomi Rapace for “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Sadly.

IN were Jackie Weaver for “Animal Kingdom.”!!! And Mila Kunis, and NOT Barbara Hersey for “The Black Swan.”  I think the Academy will correct that. And switch the two. This is for Best Supporting Actress, and as I predicted BOTH Melissa Leo and Amy Adams got in for “The Fighter” and they will cancel each other out, leaving the way for her Royal Highness Helena Bonham-Carter to win here. And at the Oscars, too, I’m betting.

And Michael Douglas DOES go supporting as Peggy Siegel told me he would, also back in Toronto. For “Wall Street 2” which I enjoyed immensely. And NO Mark Ruffalo for “The Kids Are All Right” though it scored big everywhere else and won him a Best Supporting Actor nod from the New York Film Critics. So Douglas is IN. Ruffalo is now OUT?

After “The King’s Speech”, came “The Fighter” with six nominations, as I predicted. And THAT OThER MOVIE also got six. Best Foreign Film nominations included Tilda Swinton’s “I Am Love.”

These nominations HELP all those nominated, but hurt the ones unexpectedly left out, like “True Grit” and “Another Year.”

For the complete list, see www.awardsdaily.com

Best Supporting Actress~Unknown Aussie Jackie Weaver’s Uphill Fight

I have to say thank you to Sony who IMMEDIATELY sent me a screener of “Animal Kingdom” Right as soon as I mentioned that I hadn’t seen it ~ in the previous post yet!

And I couldn’t believe it! But the power of This Humble Blog grows and grows! And I IMMEDIATELY set everything aside to watch it! And it sucked…

I’m sorry to say. And David Poland of www.moviecitynews.com was right when he said  in his Hot Blog that Jackie Weaver has no chance at an Oscar nomination. The film is not very good at all. In fact, it’s downright bad. And Ms. Weaver is better than everybody else, but that isn’t saying much.

And her character whom someone refers to early in the film as “Grandma Smurf” is pretty much exactly that. She’s quirky, odd. Very eccentric looking and she’s does POP as it were against her dreary, murky Australian underworld/suburban background. And she’s the only one you remember vs. her many Aussie gangster sons. I could barely understand what any of them were saying, their accents were so thick, the film really could’ve used sub-titles.

And it was a good idea of Sony Pictures Classics to send out the DVD so early in the awards season to the various members of the various voting bodies. Because, that, and nothing else really landed Jackie Weaver this odd-ball win. But apart from a few big scenes at the end of this ENDLESS film, she really doesn’t get to grandstand until nearly all her sons are dead…and then, well, not so much…but you do remember her. But  voters are going to have to wade through most of a very tedious, confusing(which son just got shot?)schlog before they’re rewarded(sort of) with Weaver’s good scenes at the very end of the film.

But it isn’t “an Academy performance.” And I don’t think she’ll be nominated. Not in a film that’s as bad as “Animal Kingdom,” A box-office dud,  from early in the year, AND it’s unintelligible. Those ACCENTS!

Not when you have two terrific performances in “The Fighter” that could go into this category, always the weirdest, but I personally have always loved it. Best Supporting Actress that is. That would be Amy Adams and Melissa Leo also doing heavy accents. This time hailing from the slums of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Melissa Leo’s monstrous mother Alice Ward in ” The Fighter” is similar to Jackie Weaver’s Australian Ma Barker, but Leo is better. And so is Amy Adams. And so is the wonderful Helena Bonham-Carter in “The King’s Speech.”

Helena BC also has great turns in “Alice” AND “Harry Potter” as I’ve said previously. AND she’s been nominated before. As Melissa Leo was last year for “Frozen River” and Amy Adamas – twice for Supporting in “Junebug” and “Doubt.” Helena also was nominated for “Howard’s End” a long time ago. And now that she’s married to Hollyweird’s own Tim Burton, she’s definitely on the Academy’s “to do” list. In the sense that she’s never won.

Also always a bridesmaid and not yet a bride is Kristen Scott Thomas for “Nowhere Boy,” a biopic about the young life of a pre-Beatles John Lennon.

Scott is unrecognizable as Lennon’s prim and proper aunt Mimi. And Anne-Marie Duff is just as good as Lennon’s crazy biological mother, Julia. Both were nominated for the BAFTAS last year. either won. Mo’nique did….And Scott-Thomas was nominated for Best Actress for “The English Patient.” Which won every award in the book a few years back, when Harvey Weinstein really WAS the King of the World.

And let us not forget the beauteous Marion Cotillard in the mind-blowing “Inception.”

There’s also Miranda Richardson for “Made in Dagenham.” A film which I loved, personally, but seems to be fading with the public….Too British….IF a film can ever be said to be “too British.”

And Leslie Manville’s WIN for Best Actress from the National Board of Review is pretty much going to guarantee that Sony Pictures Classics, who has SOOOOO many of these marvelous women in their wheelhouse this year, is PROBABLY going to just go on campaigning for her in the Leading Actress category.

Maybe Natalie Portman and Annette Bening will cancel each other out and Manville will win the Oscar, too….But probably given the SWORM’s propensity for voting for cute young women to win Best Actress…Manville’s memorable Mary is probably too much like they would be voting for their wives. If you know what I mean.

And then there’s Naomi Watts sooooo wonderful in”Mother and Child”. And now comes Hailee Stanfield, the girl with the pigtails, in “True Grit” which I haven’t seen yet. People are talking her up for Supporting. But she’s a complete unknown…and they’ve held the film back for soooo long…Sometimes that strategy backfires…

Like I haven’t seen it yet. It’s the last one of the majors. And now it’s time for me to yell at Paramount! Hey Paramount! I have to do my Year’s Ten Best List VERY soon and you haven’t let me see your “True Grit!”

Let’s see if I get a response to THIS scream!

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