a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Margo Martindale’

DGA & BAFTA Upsom Downs ~ Who’s In, Who’s Out as Oscar Nom Balloting Closes

The Phase I of Oscar Season, as it’s called closed today with the due date of the nomination ballots this afternoon at 3pm.

So it’s done. It’s over. And while everything seems like it’s set in Stone(as in Sasha Stone), is it really? There’s always surprises. Like for instance “Dallas Buyer’s Club” and its’ performers being totally shut out from BAFTA. Ditto Meryl Streep for “Best OverActressing” for “August: Osage County.” And Robert Redford for “Best Non-Actoring” in “All Is Lost.”

I remember soooo well my thinking that the notorious Melissa Leo was dead-in-the-Oscar-water, when SHE wasn’t nominated for a BAFTA for “The Fighter,” but guess what? She WON! So those rules don’t necessarily apply. However, someone like Jonah Hill’s being nominated NOwhere, means that’s where he’ll probably stay.

And it forecasts not very easy waters ahead for veterans Streep or Redford. Today it feels like someone. Probably Leonardo Di Caprio is going to take Redford’s place in THE FIVE.(in the tighttightight Best Actor race.)

The DGA nominated the directors of “12 Years a Slave”(Steve McQueen), “Capt.Phillips” (Paul Greengrass), “Wolf of Wall Street”(Martin Scorsese), “Gravity” Alfonso Cuaron and “American Hustle” (David O. Russell). I think we can safely say that all those five films WILL be nominated for Best Picture Oscar, when the nominations are handed out Tuesday morning. 8:45AM EST.

But what about the actors in those films? Well, they’ll all have an easier ride than those that aren’t in a DGA film.

So that’s good news for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’O, and Michael Fassbender, Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, Leo, but not Jonah Hill, Sandra Bullock, and only perhaps Jennifer Lawrence from “American Hustle.”

Everyone else, except the winning frontrunner Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine” is in doubt. Not serious doubt, but doubt nonetheless. I wonder if this hurts Bruce Dern’s chances, although he surely will get a nomination for “Nebraska” and also I wonder now about June Squibb…

And then in another universe entirely are the Weinstein films, all orbiting around their own sun, Harvey, who knows better than anyone in any world, how to bend the Academy to his will and the will of his FIVE films, or six, if you count “Ten Feet From Stardom.” I loved that movie and I bet that’s his big winner this year. It’s the wing-ding of a doc about back-up singers.

But he’s also got “Philomena”, “August:Osage County”, “Lee Daniel’s The Butler”, “Long Walk to Freedom” and “Fruitvale Station.” A workaholic (and who isn’t in the Oscar race?)Dame Judi Dench is probably in like flint for the grieving mother in “Philomena” and didn’t Harvey surprise us all by getting JACKIE WEAVER nominated for Best Supporting Actress for a non-performance of epic non-magnitude in “Silver Linings Playbook”? NOOOOOObody expected THAT.

And why, when she certainly didn’t deserve it, did she get nominated? Well, the Voters SAW her, when they went to look at “Silver Linings Playbook”. There she was playing Bradley Cooper’s mom and Robert De Niro’s wife, and lazy voters that they are, they wrote her name down(probably at Harvey’s suggestion) and a clearly not-winning performance, it was nevertheless a nominated one.

Who of those movies is no one talking about at all, esp. in Supporting, always a flibbertijibet of categories? Well, there’s Naomi Harris who is just terrific as Winnie Mandela, in what is clearly a leading role, in “Long Walk to Freedom.” But will enough people have watched that? There’s Margo Martindale, whose role in “August:Osage…” has been all but eviscerated but she has made an impact and is on many radars. And an obvious choice previous Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spenser for “Fruitvale Station” who was just awarded her Best Supporting Actress trophy tonight by the National Board of Review. So she’s not exactly obscure. Melonie Diaz for “Fruitvale” would be a VERY big surprise. She was just as good as the grieving girl-friend of the slain lead character…

And poor “Inside Llewyn Davis” left out in the cold…just like it’s leading character…and the break-out star of this year, Oscar Isaac…I think it could very well get a Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography and maybe Best Score and Song”Please Mr. Kennedy” or another song from “Llewyn.”

I loved Scarlett Johansson’s magnificent voice work in “Her” but aren’t there Academy rules against parts that are just voice-work? Maybe there are and maybe there aren’t. She’s never been nominated so THAT would be the surprise of surprises…And of course, Joaquin Phoenix would be a total surprise if he broke in Best Actor. But he did just that last year for “The Master” when everyone was counting him out(including me). So would the aforementioned Oscar Isaac and/or Michael B. Jordan for “Fruitvale” in Best Actor…And don’t forget Sally Field as Cate Blanchett’s lovable sis in “Blue Jasmine.” The Golden Globes included her in, and not Oprah. Could happen again.

We’ll just have to wait and see! But I can’t wait any longer!!!! I WANT TO KNOW NOW!!!

” August:Osage..” What Went Right? What Went Wrong?

Now, with the announcement that Meryl Streep will be in the lead category and Julia Roberts is now in Supporting(over her dead body!) and that the ending may be changed as well for the former Oscar front-runner “August:Osage County” WHAT is going on over there, there being the Weinstein Co., with that movie?

Stage to page, difficult transition, for this Pulitzer-Prize winner that I adored so much I saw it three times onstage and was delighted that my stay in Toronto for TIFF was just long enough to cram this in. I was even there the first one on line for the Press and Industry screening, as I predicted I would be, dear readers, dear cineastes, but I wasn’t prepared for the mess I saw unspooling before me on the screen.

It starts off fine with Sam Shepherd doing a great turn as Beverly, the doomed patriarch of the Westin family, hiring the only surviving member of the original Bway cast Missie Upton, as the taciturn Indian girl Janaa, he is hiring as a housekeeper for his pill-crazed wife, Violet(Meryl Streep).

It’s a great, showy role, god knows, and Streep eats every piece of scenery in sight, and pretty much chokes on it, which is the problem. She seems not addicted to pills as she claims but to over-acting. I haven’t seen her show-boating a role like this since the remake of “Manchurian Candidate,” which all but ended director Jonathan Demme’s career.

Doing the Oklahoma accent so accurately, and playing an addicted person, pretty much guarantees her a nomination, but no win, in the Best Actress category, where she so rightly belongs.

But since it’s Streep, she doesn’t so much disappear into the character as much as she keeps popping out and waving a white flag, saying “It’s still me! It’s Meryl! I’m not really this evil witch of a character I’m playing! It’s only acting, folks! Don’t be scared.” But this is the problem, it’s also the problem I experienced when I saw Estelle Parsons take over from Deanna Dunagan as Violet Westin on Broadway. Estelle played her warm and cuddly, too, as Meryl does. When Dunagan was just a clear and simple horror. You hated her. You were afraid of her. You couldn’t believe she was doing and saying the things she was doing to all her assembled family. But Dunagan had the hidden plus of being an actress unknown to us. Meryl is hardly that. She’s still adorable, warm and cuddly Meryl under the bad wig and the age make-up.

So you never are really afraid of her. She’s not a dark force, but an amusing one. She doesn’t miss a laugh line. Her comic timing is impeccable. So yes, she will very likely get ANOTHER Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the most nominated actress in Academy history.She’s not the MOM-FROM-HELL you want to escape from, but the wise-cracking fun-loving observant Mom you want to stay with.

But her likability robs the film of its’ dramatic fulcrum. There’s now no antagonist there. And also it reveals “August:Osage County” to have no plot.

And cutting it’s over three hour length onstage(there’s nearly an hour missing) really hurts it, too. Margo Martindale is fine as the plumb sister but her part is virtually gone. On Broadway, Rondi Reed, another Chicagoan actress like Deanna Dunagan, won a Tony as did Dunagan. The part has been so reduced here on film, I doubt that Martindale will get an Oscar nomination.

Violet’s sister is supposed to be the warm and cuddly one, not Violet, so again the play becomes unbalanced. So what, really is going on here? It’s simply a series of humiliation scenes as one by one Violet verbally attacks every single member of her family and alienates them, perhaps forever. But as Streep plays it, she seems to be giving each member of her clan the dose of truth-telling they so sorely need, and you think, yes, she’s right. Her children are all ungrateful, self-absorbed brats.And yes, the deserve a dressing down. At the very least.

And yes, one by one, they leave her. And we all see this coming a mile away in the movie. And the supporting roles of which there are almost too many to list her are all so cut down, it’s hard to feel anything for them, as Violet knocks off each and every one of them almost systemically. Too systemically for a supposed drug addict…

And totally missing to is the part of Janaa, the Indian girl, who in the play presides and oversees the goings on of the crazy white people below, from her attic room in the see-through skeleton of a house that was the brilliant setting of the play onstage. We were always mindful of Janaa watching, watching, watching…and as it turns out, waiting.

And in the climatic scene, which is now gone completely from the movie, we see Violet, pathetically abandoned and alone, crawling up the stairs of the three story house, screaming “Janaa! Janaa!” That is a shattering image I still can’t get out of my mind.

And much is made during the course of the play about the land that the house is on, in fact all of  Osage county, originally belonging to the Indians, and in the end, it is indeed the Indian girl Janaa who is left stoically standing as the whites below massacre, lacerate and abandon each other.

You totally understand why all of them want to get away from Violet. As did her suicided husband Beverly(Sam Shepherd) at the beginning of the play. They flee with reason.

The great, grand surprise of the movie is how good Julia Roberts is as the angry, reasonable daughter, who stands up to her mother. This is now the main conflict of the movie. Almost nothing of Roberts’ role has been cut out for the truncated screen version, and so she has a LOT to play and Roberts to her credit, gives the performance of her career as the daughter who stands up to her mother, but even she can’t take it in the end.

My question is ~ who in the film version would ever leave cuddly, jocular, joke-filled Mamma Mia Meryl Streep? The hour that is lost makes the children now seem like ingrates and Meryl’s Violet is the unjustly abandoned one.

Which is not right. And NOT why I saw this play three times and why it won deservedly the Pulitzer Prize.

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