BEST ACTRESS

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This year, it feels like there is Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine and everyone else.  It isn’t that anyone is confident Blanchett can win. When Anne Thompson suggested Blanchett was the frontrunner she was was pounced upon by many of her colleagues who said the often heard Oscar season phrase, “no way.”  Even still, here it is September and a few performances insist upon sharing the spotlight. Most of the challengers, and even Blanchett herself, are prior Oscar winners.  That means that the winner this year, at least so far, is likely to be a repeat winner.

Blanchett’s first and strongest competition (so far) comes from two such previous  winners, Sandra Bullock (won lead for The Blind Side) in Gravity and Judi Dench (won supporting for Shakespeare in Love) in Philomena. The urgency to reward a winner tips in Blanchett’s favor, however, given that Bullock has won fairly recently, and Blanchett has an impressive grossly under-rewarded body of work behind her.  Not having yet seen Philomena, it’s hard to gauge how good or powerful or undeniable the role is.

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Admirable job by Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) at the Daily Beast. He never prods Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos to say any more than they want to say, but simply allows the conversation to unfold naturally when it’s clear they’re eager to be candid. After a few minutes talking about their first experiences falling in love, Marlow asks an obvious question and the floodgates open wide.

(Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, and based on a graphic novel by Julie Maroh, Blue tells the story of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), an awkward but beautiful 15-year-old girl whose initial sexual forays leave much to be desired. All that changes when she crosses paths with Emma (Léa Seydoux), a blue-haired college student studying art. It’s love—or is it lust?—at first sight, and before long, the two are inseparable).

This is a very immersive role that demanded a lot from both of you. You must have had a lot of trust in Kechiche before signing on to this.

Léa: The thing is, in France, it’s not like in the States. The director has all the power. When you’re an actor on a film in France and you sign the contract, you have to give yourself, and in a way you’re trapped.

Adèle: He warned us that we had to trust him—blind trust—and give a lot of ourselves. He was making a movie about passion, so he wanted to have sex scenes, but without choreography—more like special sex scenes. He told us he didn’t want to hide the character’s sexuality because it’s an important part of every relationship. So he asked me if I was ready to make it, and I said, “Yeah, of course!” because I’m young and pretty new to cinema. But once we were on the shoot, I realized that he really wanted us to give him everything. Most people don’t even dare to ask the things that he did, and they’re more respectful—you get reassured during sex scenes, and they’re choreographed, which desexualizes the act.

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(Press Release) London, 30th August, 2013: – The 57th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express is delighted to announce that the Festival’s American Express Gala will take place on Wednesday 16 October at the Odeon Leicester Square with the UK Premiere of Stephen Frears’ PHILOMENA, the moving, funny and at times shocking true story of one woman’s search for her lost son.

Academy Award ® winner Judi Dench plays the title role, with BAFTA winner Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith. The screenplay is written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith. Pathé release the film in UK cinemas on 1 November 2013.

Stephen Frears, Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are all expected to attend the American Express Gala.

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Rooney Mara has signed on to co-star opposite Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’ Carol, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novella, The Price of Salt — a tale some have incorrectly assumed is a suspense thriller. It’s not. It’s a bold romance with a tense road-trip that outdoes Thelma and Louise.

From a review in Slate (a link that you shouldn’t read in its entirety unless you want to know too much):

Highsmith’s novel preserved the trashy, sexy feel of the pulps but combined it with a grown-up love story that turned the tables. When the novel opens, Therese Belivet is working as a temporary sales clerk at Christmas in the toy department of a large New York department store… Without really intending to, she has managed to acquire a self-absorbed suitor named Richard whose lumpish sexual overtures leave her dismayed. (Highsmith is surely the first major writer to capture from deep inside that mysteriously appalled, don’t-want-to feeling many budding lesbians experience while attempting—for form’s sake—to make it with a guy. “It made her feel self-conscious and foolish, as if she stood embracing the stem of a tree.”)

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'Gravity' Photocall  - The 70th Venice International Film Festival

'Gravity' Photocall  - The 70th Venice International Film Festival

More pics at JustJared

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The beautiful and talented Marion Cotillard has replaced Natalie Portman for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders).

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One of the biggest surprises of 2013 so far is Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12. It’s the kind of movie that seems “too little” to break through to Oscar, and maybe will only land at the Spirit Awards. But the truth of it is that Brie Larson’s performance as Grace will probably capture enough hearts to break through in a very crowded category.

(minor spoiler warning)
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Screencaps after the jump. Swiped from Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon

UPDATE: Translation transcript after the cut. Thanks to Aurélien at Rope of SIlicon via our good pal, Arnaud Trouvé (@CineCharlie)

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It is kind of astonishing that the  Hollywood Reporter would cover the Oprah story from the point of view of, what looks to me like, right wing bloggers. Clearly, the HR is unaware of the standard position said bloggers have been taking for the last many decades on racism? It doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s backwards. White people are the ones being discriminated against. Racism had nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin case. Why? Because racism evaporated after the Civil War. To not know where these “bloggers” stand, and worse, use them as a valid reference, is shoddy. A quote from the story:

Meanwhile, some media pundits — mostly on the political right — are noting that Winfrey is telling the story while promoting Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a movie largely about the black civil rights movement, and they are suspicious about the timing.

“Did the media even wonder for a moment how a potentially exaggerated, racially charged anecdote of this kind might help to sell Oprah’s upcoming film?” wrote John Nolte at Breitbart.com. “Did no one in media wonder if such an anecdote mixed with the promotion of a film based on a racial theme might be a little too neat?”

The Weinstein Co., which is distributing Lee Daniels’ The Butler, declined comment. Reps for Winfrey have not yet responded to a request for comment.

So now Breitbart is a “media pundit”? Oh rilly? That’s like calling Fox News news.  Try again, Hollywood Reporter. That is no “media pundit” that is a “right wing blogger.” Saying “mostly on the political right” doesn’t quote cover it.

You know, call me crazy, but I think Oprah has proven herself beyond any reasonable doubt and you know, I’m just going to take her word for it. I know, a shocker.  Surely she has to be a liar, being that she’s a “powerful billionaire and cable network owner.”  Ooooo, scary Oprah coming to get you. Better run and hide scared right wingers!  Here’s a thought – go and hide behind the Koch brothers. They’ll protect you against this evil witch of the cable airwaves!

The right wing, or the hysterical right I should say, is invested in you believing that racism has been eradicated. This is how they managed to overturn key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. All black accusers are liars. All white defenders are heroes. And so it goes.

[UPDATE: Zurich boutique owner apologizes after the cut].

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Gold Derby is reporting that Meryl Streep has agreed to go supporting for August: Osage County. Of course, we know that only suggestions can be made and if that the Academy decides to put her in lead they can. Presumably this is to clear up the field for Julia Roberts to go lead, also for August: Osage County:

Two years after winning Best Actress for “The Iron Lady,” Streep has agreed to drop down to the supporting race for her role as Violet, the pill-popping, booze-swilling momma in “August: Osage County,” a Weinstein Company source tells Gold Derby. That means Streep will compete against Oprah as the hooch-guzzling wife of the title star of “The Butler,” which is also a Weinstein flick. Hmmm … what is Harvey thinking?

But I have a sneaking suspicion, and I could be dead wrong here, that Oprah will not go supporting, but will go lead, opposite the film’s other lead, Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Should Oprah win she would only be the second black woman in 86 years of Oscar history to do so. That would be fitting both the role she plays on screen, and her position in the world.

Both films are being handled by the Weinstein Co. Don’t expect to see Meryl Streep win against Oprah in supporting, however. Let’s say Streep gives the best performance of her career (topping Sophie’s Choice) well then, sure. If you are going to pick between Streep and Oprah you ain’t picking Streep, just saying.

As for lead actress, Julia Roberts will have to stare down Cate Blanchett, who has only won in supporting and is way overdue.

(thanks again to Paddy at ScreenOnScreen)

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Now that Blue Jasmine has opened with the best premiere numbers of Woody Allen’s career, the film will be seriously considered for several Oscar nominations – Best Actress for sure, if not Best Picture. But there have been some rumblings in reviews and out of the mouths of well-placed New York film critics that it’s a modern-day update of A Streetcar Named Desire.  If Woody Allen had wanted to do a spin on that movie, he could have done so; after all, he made A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.  But to draw a closer parallel and one that better suits the brilliance of this film we need only look at Stardust Memories to see how it corresponds so beautifully to Fellini’s 8 1/2. At the time, Woody was accused of being a Fellini (or Bergman) imitator. It was well known that Woody admired both directors so when Stardust Memories came out, in black and white, the same rumblings were heard: it’s Woody riffing on Fellini. But after all of these years, Stardust Memories shines as one of the director’s best and most accomplished films; the framework may resemble 8 1/2, to be sure, but the themes, the characters, the ruminations bear Woody Allen’s own unique imprint.

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Rumors abound about The Canyons, Paul Schrader’s pic funded by Kickstarter and notoriously starring the notorious Lindsay Lohan. Thing is, if you’re troubled long enough, if you can just hold out past the bad patches, you will eventually be respected just for being someone who can’t hold it together. By the time society is done throwing stones, redemption can’t be much farther behind. And there isn’t anything the hungry beast likes more than a redemption story following a fall from a high place.

Nonetheless, writing for Variety, Scott Foundas says about Lohan:

The first in the new wave of Kickstarter-funded features instigated by established old-media types, Schrader’s ultra-low-budget (reportedly $250,000) but handsomely made study of low-level Hollywood hangers-on has earned much prerelease attention for the casting of real-life porn star James Deen and the troubled Lindsay Lohan (also one of the pic’s co-producers). But the end result is hardly a joke, not least for Lohan’s fascinating presence, far closer to self-revelation than self-parody. Between VOD curiosity seekers and adventurous arthouse-goers, “The Canyons” is sure to see solid returns on its modest investment, while pushing Schrader back into the zeitgeist after a long fallow period.

“The Canyons” doesn’t engender much sympathy for its characters — even nice-guy Ryan (convincingly played by Funk as just another pretty, none-too-bright face in the crowd) ultimately comes across as a cipher, to say nothing of Gina, who seems less concerned about her boyfriend’s infidelities than about the possibility of losing her credit on Christian’s movie. The major exception is Lohan, who gives one of those performances, like Marlon Brando’s in “Last Tango in Paris,” that comes across as some uncanny conflagration of drama and autobiography. Lohan may not go as deep or as far as Brando, but with her puffy skin, gaudy hoop earrings and thick eye makeup, there’s a little-girl-lost quality to the onetime Disney teen princess that’s very affecting. Whenever she’s onscreen, she projects a sense of just barely holding on to that precarious slide area in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.

Lohan, in and out of rehab, is happy and relieved that her narrative might become a redemption story that gives her a place in Hollywood as someone who can still act.   As part of her redemptive rise Lohan will be interviewed and perhaps mentored by Oprah.

That, and more treatments at a New Jersey alcohol addiction rehab or wherever it is that Lohan has her next major relapse.

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The map of Woody’s New York tracked his own meandering transformation from outsider to insider. The finest of his east coast films rise as landmarks that climb ever higher on the city’s skyline marking his own ascent to Manhattan’s best addresses. He reached the peak of that exclusive plateau where he wanted to be — and then, after finally arriving, he left it. Now in Blue Jasmine he looks back and condemns the club he so badly wanted to join and in so doing has made his best film since Crimes and Misdemeanors. Blue Jasmine is the first of Allen’s late-career films to revisit potent themes of conscience, money and morality — his trademark obsessive questioning which got diluted after more mundane personal anxieties consumed his loftier philosophic ones.

Many fans of Woody Allen’s films were shocked to find a man of seemingly high moral character take such a dramatic fall when he fell in love with, and married, the sister of his own son (Soon-Yi Previn the adopted daughter of his 12-year paramour, Mia Farrow). After that, Allen’s films ceased to seek such stringent moral probing. Perhaps he felt like a hypocrite. After that, Allen’s films ceased to seek such stringent moral probing. Perhaps he felt like a hypocrite. Perhaps he was trying to rationalize and resolve his own behavior with his sense of right and wrong. Either way, he seems to have finally reconciled it in his own mind and has returned, with Blue Jasmine, to the much-needed moral high ground, but this time there is no fuzzy ambiguity, no internal debate about whether murder is still a crime if no one ever catches you. What Bernie Madoff and the other banksters of Wall Street did to the working class was wrong. Period. Wrong when measured against the law, wrong when measured against our collective sense of justice.

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One of the most anticipated films this year has to be Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which became part of the unending hype machine that is Comic-Con over the weekend. The film’s star, Sandra Bullock, came out to Hall H for the first time, along with Alfonso Cuaron and the film’s producer David Heyman. What’s clear from the outset is that Gravity is going to be about two things – the internal journey of the film’s main character – Bullock, whose part is going to be that rare creature in Hollywood that won’t have her sleeping with someone to justify her existence. Gravity is going to be about what happens as she become unattached to anything that can safely bring her back to earth, to the people she knows and loves, to the life she has built so far.
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Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers, the woman who penned what would ultimately become Disney’s Mary Poppins. Read the New Yorker article about her here.


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Although I really hate promoting anything to do with Bret Easton Ellis, Paul Schrader and Lindsay Lohan are worth the time to check out this trailer for The Canyons. Of course, Lohan’s breasts are on display but what the hell, right? If she wants to spin the narrative that she is a tragic love doll one step away from a glamorous demise, that’s her choice. I predict it will become a camp classic.

The synopsis: While calculating young movie producer Christian (Deen) makes films to keep his trust fund intact, his actress girlfriend, Tara (Lohan), hides an affair with an actor from her past. But Christian becomes aware which thrusts the young Angelenos into a violent, sexually-charged tour through the dark side of human nature.

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On our podcast over the weekend, we were discussing some of the best performances … ever. In 1982 Dustin Hoffman did Tootsie, Paul Newman did The Verdict, Ben Kingsley did Gandhi and Meryl Streep did Sophie’s Choice. While Streep’s stratospheric rise happened just before she reached the apex with Sophie’s Choice, journalists weren’t quite ready to surrender to the force that was and is Meryl Streep.

I personally think that Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice is the best performance by any actor ever, male or female. But that got me thinking and wondering what others I would add to the list. Off the top of my head I would say, in no particular order (but with an eye on transformation, becoming someone other than the actor) – obviously my own personal choices, this list of names:

[Note: a few of of these performance missed out on an Oscar nomination but we’re making up for the omission and including them anyway — Ryan].

Meryl Streep, Sophie’s Choice
Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire/On the Waterfront
Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor/Sandy Dennis/George Segal, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Mary Tyler Moore/Timothy Hutton, Ordinary People
Bette Davis, All About Eve/Now Voyager/The Letter
Jack Nicholson Carnal Knowledge/Five Easy Pieces/One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Louise Fletcher, Cuckoo’s Nest
Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter
Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia/The Stuntman
Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind/A Streetcar Named Desire
Robert De Niro, Raging Bull
Judy Garland, A Star is Born
Frances McDormand/Steve Buscemi/William H. Macy, Fargo
Ben Kingsley, Sexy Beast

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The summer movie season heats up with two great performances in two very solid indies. Greta Gerwig in ‘Frances Ha’ and Matthew McConaughey in “Mud’. Finally, something to cheer about in a summer movie season lacking in ambitious thought.

In Noah Baumbach’s ‘Frances Ha” Greta Gerwig gives a performance that will surely be remembered by critics at years end. She’s so damn good as Frances, a 27 year old yuppie New York girl looking to find herself and refusing to let go of her dream as a professional dancer. This is a far cry from the “Sex And The City” females and more like the ones portrayed in Lena Dunham’s brilliant HBO series “Girls”. In fact, comparisons will be made just by the casting of “Girls” regular Adam Driver. It’s more than just that. Just like Dunham’s show, Frances Ha is the about the coming of age of women that have a hard time embarking in adulthood and just like that series’ best episodes there is an episodic uncomfortableness to Frances’ every day situations. At times you just cringe at the situations she puts herself in.

Gerwig -with her long wavy blonde hair and a clumsy posture- is spectacular in more ways than one. She brings realness to a character that could have easily delved deep into caricature. It doesn’t happen here. Instead Baumbach, in his best film since “The Squid And The Whale”, launches the career of a new star. Gerwig’s gestures, movements, facial expressions are spot on and make you fall for Frances – flaws and all. Her life is a confusing mess, while her best friend/roommate finds love and moves out. She is down on cash, single, awkward and in search of herself. She acts younger than her age, takes things one day at a time and doesn’t think much about the future. At some point living this way catches up to you. It caught up to me in my life and it caught up to many other late twenty somethings that I knew of. Baumbach’s character study doesn’t cozy up to any conventions. He speaks the truth for my generation and creates a sort of wake up call. Shot in beautiful black and white he proves that “The Squid And The Whale” was no fluke. With all that being said “Frances Ha” is the Greta Gerwig show, Oscar pay attention.

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