BEST ACTRESS

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The plot: A young woman joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small town roots. But she ends up as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay instead, where her mission is far from black and white. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees. A story of two people, on opposite sides of a war, struggling to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. And in the process, they form an unlikely bond that changes them both.

Camp X-Ray in theaters and on VOD on October 28.

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In a survey of roughly 1,000 readers, Reese Witherspoon’s Wild topped the list of most highly anticipated of the Toronto lineup. Fandango readers give a good indication of what movies are likely to make the most money, and which stars their readers prefer (usually big stars).

1. “Wild” (Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern)
2. “The Equalizer” (Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz)
3. “The Judge” (Robert Downey, Jr., Robert Duvall)
4. “Foxcatcher” (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum)
5. “Men, Women & Children” (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner)

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What do you when your presumed frontrunner is no longer in the Oscar race? It’s been announced that Focus World will not give Maps to the Stars an Oscar run (what a shame) and thus, Julianne Moore will not be a contender. I personally think the role and her overdue status give her the stuff to drive it home to a win (think: Charlize Theron in Monster). I also think it’s premature to assume the Oscar voters are too soft to handle a movie like this. Most of them came of age during Ken Russell and Robert Atlman, for chrissakes.

Anne Thompson:

Julianne Moore can kiss goodbye to any hopes she was nursing for an Oscar campaign for David Cronenberg’s Cannes Best Actress winner “Maps to the Stars,” which is set to play Toronto and New York festivals. Canadian distributor eOne was going to distribute the film stateside, but it has now sold U.S. rights not to Universal specialty distributor Focus Features–the arm that would handle an Oscar effort–but Focus World, their digital distribution arm, which plans an early 2015 release.

It’s moments like this that I feel embarrassed spending so much time investing in a race that must cater to soft-palmed, comfort-seeking upper class wimps who can’t handle the truth. How in the world can anyone be in the business of rewarding best when best must always come with a disclaimer: “When we say best we don’t really mean that. We certainly don’t mean highest achievement in film. We mean something on the order of it makes us look good. It makes us FEEL SOMETHING and it sends us out into the world feeling happy about our lives.”

While I can understand the urge to always lean towards idealizing the human condition, I can tell you that nothing scratched off the top layer of Hollywood like Maps to the Stars. Bruce Wagner’s script is easily one of the year’s best and two performers – Julianne Moore and Evan Bird are spectacular. Years from now no one will believe why Maps to the Stars was not Oscar nominated. They probably figured that Moore plays a character so unlikable her chances of winning were slim. I disagree with that assessment as it is often the darkest turns by the nicest actors that win Oscars.

Or to put it another way: Maps to the Stars is the movie Hollywood deserves.

With Julianne Moore out of the race that opens up the Best Actress race considerably. We’re still looking at the following potential nominees:

Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl – with Julianne Moore out of the race this will put Pike squarely in the spot of the darkest female anti-hero in the mix.
Amy Adams for Big Eyes – an overdue actress the pundits have much faith in winning.
Jessica Chastain for Eleanor Rigby or Miss Julie – again, very much overdue for a win and having another spectacular year of performances
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Hilary Swank now a slam dunk for The Homesman
Reese Witherspoon in her most raw and challenging performance to date.

There are several borderline actresses would could make a run in lead – Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. These are roles that could go either way.

Other names include:
Shailene Woodley for The Fault in Our Stars
Anne Hathaway for Interstellar

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Every year after Telluride there is the sense that bigger, better movies could still come along that might overtake the race. I remember this most profoundly in 2012 when Argo came, was very popular at Telluride but didn’t really pick up its major Best Picture heat until the one-two punch of Affleck and Argo winning the Golden Globes and Critics Choice just as Ben Affleck received his Best Director snub. That the movie wonlo those two significant awards could have meant the movie was destined to win no matter what. But the Globes aren’t the best or most reliable barometer to predict Best Picture, even if the Critics Choice often are. It was the Affleck snub that set up the much-needed narrative giving the film’s general likability a much-needed sense of urgency. That was also the first time the Oscar ballots for Best Director were turned in before the DGA announced. Last year and this year will also see that same scheduling shift but the Affleck snub was perhaps one of the most surprising things I’ve ever seen happen at the Oscars. It ended up having a profound effect on how the Oscar voting is conducted, because now it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to split Picture and Director. Now we can look at a movie like Birdman and comfortably say “it could win Best Director even if it doesn’t win Best Picture.” The unity of picture and director has been severed both by Affleck’s snub, and by the number of Best Picture entries compared to the smaller number of entries for Best Director.

Remember, from 1931-1943, back when the Academy had more than five Best Picture nominees, the only film that ever won Best Picture without the director at least being nominated, was Grand Hotel — a situation so strange in retrospect it looks like a slip-up. So it was highly unusual that Affleck carried his film to such a successful win without getting a director nomination, or perhaps because of the lack of the best director nomination. Either way, in 2012, after Telluride, Argo was mostly regarded as a well-liked film but not the one everyone was thinking would win Best Picture.

Now we find ourselves at the end of Telluride with a similar dynamic in play. Everyone is looking forward to the upcoming films that haven’t yet been seen — Fury, Gone Girl, Unbroken, Men, Women & Children, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Inherent Vice. Telluride, right now, feels like it always does when it ends. Somehow though, in recent years, the eventual Best Picture winner does turn out to be a film that was seen in Telluride — just not overhyped or overpraised, thus making it a target.

Even still, I can’t say there was any film I saw this week that seems like the winner. We don’t know how it will all play out. We don’t know what combination of films will barrel toward the finish line, so we can’t see which one isn’t like the others. Not yet.

The actors have to like it. Oldish people have to like it. It has to have “gravitas” to win. Directors have to respect it. You have to be able to sit anyone down in front of it and they will get it, if not love it. It has to be a movie that isn’t divisive. In an era of bravura filmmaking and risk taking that usually leaves the winning film to the most conventional, at least these days, perhaps unless they go back to five.

Still, in order for a film like The Imitation Game to win — right now the only movie that played here that seems like it has the stuff — the other movies upcoming will have to stumble. That sometimes happens when expectations are raised too high — thus backlash takes hold. It’s hard for a movie like The Imitation Game to attract backlash because no one is really expecting it to win. That gives the film a huge advantage over the films that have to carry the frontrunner albatross. It is also the one movie no one is going to hate. And that is often what defines a modern Best Picture winner in the era where everyone has a voice, a twitter, a tumblr, etc. Big Oscar Movies are often attacked simply because they seem like a movie that could win.

The Imitation Game backlash would only then come from those who perceive it as Oscar bait, an attitude I’ve seen already crop up on Twitter.

Your three best bets for Best Picture out of Telluride:
The Imitation Game
Birdman
Foxcatcher

Beyond Best Picture, though, what else took hold? In the Best Actress race, Reese Witherspoon and Hilary Swank emerged strong for Best Actress contention. They are putting themselves out there early and both came to Telluride to help promote their films.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Carell and Michael Keaton are the three strongest Best Actor contenders right now.

Mommy, Leviathan, Wild Tales all came out of Cannes and all seem to be very promising in the Best Foreign Language category.

Other performances that remain standouts would include Laure Dern, a supporting contender for Wild, Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher, though Best Actor is already so crowded it’s likely only Carrel will get in. Mark Ruffalo will have a place in line for supporting for Foxcatcher. Keira Knightley is a strong bet for supporting for The Imitation Game, along with Emma Stone for Birdman.

The Imitation Game is the only film that really popped exclusively here in Telluride, being seen for the first time as Argo, 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech all had been. Birdman was a Venice get already and landed at Telluride with extremely high praise to live up to.

With The Imitation Game here in Telluride we have our introductory sentence to the longer piece that will be written about this year. As it always is with the Labor Day end to the festival it feels like the best is yet to come. What is coming is the unknown. We don’t know how things will shake down. We wait. We wait.

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The first day of Telluride was a rough one. Most of us were doing the big three: Wild first, after the Patron’s Brunch, then taking the gondola back down, racing over to the Werner Herzog for The Imitation Game, and then zooming back across town to catch Rosewater. That was the plan. Some of us made it, some of us didn’t. The only reason I made it was with the kind help of The Wrap/Indiewire’s Chris Willman, who had a car by some miracle and shuttled a few of us across town.

In Wild, Reese Witherspoon plays a woman who is recovering from the death of her mother, and all of the ways that unbearable grief destroyed her life when she stopped participating in the world. She decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, a two-month odyssey that is mostly left in the “more capable” hands of men. The silence of the trail, the endurance of the journey, the miles of untouched wilderness begins to uncover what’s been buried as she finds herself more than capable, ultimately, of accomplishing this seemingly impossible goal. Laura Dern plays her mother in flashback, a domestic violence victim who ends up raising her two children on her own, eventually going back to school to try to better her life. We learn through the film what her presence meant to her daughter, how strong that love really is. This is the worst nightmare for a parent — to imagine the grief of your children in the event of your death. Well, let’s say it’s the second worst nightmare for a parent.

Witherspoon is rough around the edges, raw as you’d expect, given Jean Marc Vallee’s style. She plays a slightly unlikable, prickly character who doesn’t mince words. We spend nearly the whole movie with her so the key to this film is whether or not her journey moves you, whether it connects on some meaningful level. I think the film achieves the goal it set out to reach and it’s refreshing, frankly, to see a movie that’s about a woman that isn’t necessarily about her relationship to a man. It is a film that celebrates the importance of mothers as teachers and isn’t afraid of the emotions that brings us. I personally have a mental roadblock against movies about a woman (or a man’s) inner journey to self-discovery. But it’s hard to complain about a film about a woman these days since we don’t really have the luxury of complaining. Plenty of people who came out of the Chuck Jones loved this film, including a prominant Academy member. I expect Witherspoon to be a strong contender for a Best Actress nomination, and perhaps Laura Dern for supporting. But this, like many films you see at a festival, will depend somewhat on how the critics respond to it, or if it makes enough money to silence them.

The Imitation Game, from Norwegian film director Morten Tyldum, is another true story. Alan Turing was a mathematician, philosopher, logician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist, educated at Cambridge and Princeton. He led the team that reverse-engineered the German’s Enigma machine and created a computational device to crack the impossibly complex codes being used by Nazi Germany during World War II. The film is an inspiring account of Turing’s genius in building a device that allowed the Allies to know which specific targets the Germans intended to strike, as well as the deplorable story of a gay man outed, convicted of “gross-indecency,” persecuted, and publicly humiliated. Just last year, on Christmas Eve, Queen Elizabeth II issued a pardon for Turing. Any more plot details would be to ruin it for you. It is an involving, touching biopic of a man who was probably autistic or certainly on the spectrum of Asperger’s. Though the film chooses not to explicitly depict Turing’s relationships with men as an adult, it does explore his same-sex attractions in boyhood. For this, we can expect push back from some in the gay community who might have hoped to see a more frank portrayal of Turing’s sexuality to drive the point home. While that aspect of Turing’s life might be interesting in a movie focusing on that angle, The Imitation Game has other things on its mind. It was a crime to be gay back then, so much so that just looking at another man could land you in prison, as it does with this character eventually.

But Turing (and this should go without saying) was more than just his sexuality. Gay characters, like women and other minorities, are often defined by their various communities as needing that to be the only thing and the most prominent thing that defines them. They must carry the burden of their communities — to right the wrongs of the past, to educate the public on the right way to think. It’s a heavy load and a lot of responsibility. What I liked about the films depiction of Turing is the way it’s mature enough to know that being gay is but one facet of a person’s life. Yes, it’s a movie about a gay genius, but his gayness is incidental to his genius. His work and his accomplishments were far more important to him that his sexuality, and those accomplishments are rightfully the movie’s true focus. The same goes for the female character — her being a woman wasn’t the only thing that defined her — in fact, her own sexual needs come second to her passion for her work.

The critics are already throwing around those irritating catch phrases — flawed and uneven — as though this film, or any film, was not a work of art but rather a new product off an assembly line, expected to adhere to an agreed upon standard. What is that standard? It is the uniform tastes of those who call themselves critics. Film criticism has changed too much, so dramatically, one has no choice but to trust oneself anymore. Sure, long reads by great writers are always going to be welcome, but this panel of jury members waiting with their thumbs up, thumbs down? Not my favorite thing about Oscar season. Let the wine breathe for a minute before you drink it down.

What I loved about The Imitation Game was the rich development of the characters, particularly the two leads — the sublime Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, and Keira Knightley, who plays what would have been Turing’s beard, had Turing been the kind of man to live that way. But to have a male lead in a film have interest in a female character for nothing more than her mind and her friendship? Practically unheard of in 2014. There is one scene with Knightley that was like knocking down every silly stereotype women in these types of films fulfill — the nurturer, the protector, the inspiration. No, this woman is there to do good work and to uncover the part of herself capable of doing that in an environment that was not friendly to unmarried women who were brilliant in math.

Cumberbatch brings bits of Sherlock into the role here, the part of that character that also chafes against social interaction while relying on his own connection to his high intelligence. But unlike Sherlock, Turing is far more vulnerable, and thus, much more sympathetic. Heartbreaking is probably the best word. Cumberbatch anchors this film through its rough patches, though I can see the reviews coming that talk about the “flaws.” We all look for perfection heading into the Oscar race (not our jobs), and thus, we sometimes collectively crush films that deserve consideration.

Knightley seems to be enjoying a fruitful career, given that she fits nicely into so many different types. All she ever really has to do is be her pretty self and she often fulfills what’s required of her. But every so often she steps outside her comfort zone and a strength emerges. She’s often fiery, and she’s often charming – but it is rare to see her handle so many conflicting feelings at once, her big brown eyes betraying hidden fragility. But it is Cumberbatch’s show, despite the strong supporting cast. You can’t take your eyes off him. It will be counted as one of the best performances of the year. As for the rest of its Oscar placements, we will have to wait for the reviews.

Finally, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater is the third true story of this first day in Telluride. To see this film and think it not Jon Stewart-y enough is to reveal how little one knows about Jon Stewart. To say this film would be ignored if Stewart hadn’t directed it is also wrong. It will be judged more harshly because Jon Stewart directed it. He is such a dominant presence in our American culture, so beloved, so funny, so woven in to how we interpret modern political analysis — it’s hard to separate Stewart from the brilliant film he’s made. Four years in the making, Rosewater was a labor of love for Stewart, whose own participation in the imprisonment of Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) might have been part of the reason he wanted to make the movie.

It’s a film about oppression of voice, the eternal and ultimately futile quest to destroy the brave act of bearing witness against corrupt regimes. The more people see it, the more they will know what the fuck went on in Iran during this time, but really, it is less about Iran specifically as it is about the nature of oppression and torture. Torture is not, Stewart said in the Q&A after the film, hidden away in grimy, dark rooms. It is institutionalized, accepted, and it’s everywhere.

Stewart approaches the work as he approaches his own career, refusing to define it as any one thing — humor is woven throughout, with much of the film looking like news footage we’ve seen and ignored every day of our lives as it blares out in monotone on international news programs like CNN. We just tune it out, don’t we here in America? Another day, another bombing. Another day, another journalist murdered. This matters to Stewart, the telling of this story. It is bigger than his own need to be validated as a director. It is about as far from an ego project as you can get. And even still, his primary goal will be to get his own celebrity out of the way to tell this story. Inexplicably, he more than accomplishes that here. Rosewater (along with Imitation Game) is not only one of the best films I’ve seen this year but one I will keep telling people to see and you know, the last thing I might say about it is that it was directed by Jon Stewart. Funny, that.

Stewart has already given back so much, when you consider everything he has done and continues to do just by being funny and occasionally biting and sometimes angry. But his sincerity here is equally effective in helping us edge closer to what is really important about our lives here and what isn’t.

All three of these films are anchored by vivid, memorable performances by actors who will likely be recognized by the end of the year, their true stories somehow shapeshifted into the Oscar publicity tour, one that is never easy to reconcile with the inside-out emotion the films themselves convey. A reminder that each of these films — and all great films — deserve to be regarded in terms above and beyond their “Oscar potential.”

So this is the good part. The bad part will be waiting on the reviews.

I will be writing longer pieces on all three of these films but this was my first take…

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Jessica Chastain looks like she just sipped some red wine, with those bee stung lips and heavy lidded eyes. Chastain is going to have quite a year, with this, Miss Julie, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Interstellar and A Most Violent Year.

Colin Farrel also seems to be digging up some good stuff here.

Two clips from Miss Julie just turned up over at ONTD.

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Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, the stars of the Clouds of Sils Maria, pose here for Germany’s Interview. It was just announced that the film will hit the Toronto Film Fest in September.

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David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars releases a few more details about the plot – it’s a surreal thriller that takes a bath in the concentrated desperation of Hollywood. This new trailer gives a rough outline of the plot. But believe me, there’s more. A lot more.

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In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, director Rob Marshall confirms he has cut the new Stephen Sondheim song which was written for Meryl Streep’s Witch from the final cut of Into The Woods.

Last year, Streep revealed that Sondheim had written a new song for her character, “I have a new song that Sondheim wrote for me, so it’s all very, very. He gave me the manuscript of it and he wrote, ‘don’t f**k it up!'”

However, Marshall said the new song has ended up on the cutting room floor, saying, “We’ve been incredibly faithful to the original.” He promised people wouldn’t be disappointed and added, “I don’t think people will be remotely ready to hear her sing this material. The power from her is off the charts.”

The song would have been eligible for Best Original Song at the Oscars. It will however feature all the classic songs including “Children Will Listen,” “Giants in the Sky,” “On the Steps of the Palace,” “No One Is Alone” and “Agony,” to name a few.

Check out the latest still of Streep as The Witch.

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Do you think it matters that the song was cut or not?

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“Blondes are like white mice, you only find them in cages. They wouldn’t last long in nature. They’re too conspicuous.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

A wonderful wedding photo of Nick and Amy in better days. But if you look closely you can see more context, waves of anxiety perhaps? This is the second Gone Girl cover for EW. The original was a sendup of John and Yoko’s famous Rolling Stone photo but this time Yoko is the corpse bride.

This cover lifts an eyebrow to the kinds of covers we see nearly every week at the supermarket check-out counter. Who’s married now? The perfect wedding, the perfect pretty illusion.

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Thanks to Joey for the heads up.

EW also pays tribute to Robin Williams in a separate cover issue, with tributes to his top ten performances.

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The first cover:

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It’s a frustrating conundrum, this Patricia Arquette thing in Boyhood. There seems to be some confusion as to whether she will go lead or supporting. When this subject comes up I always go to Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. She is, to my mind, a supporting character but she won in lead and never stopped winning in lead. Arquette seems to me too big of a star with too much of a career behind her to be considering supporting and yet many in my field are saying supporting is where she has the best chance to win.

Boyhood is clearly about a boy, a young kid growing up from age 9 to 18. Arquette plays his mother, who also clearly evolves dramatically from the beginning of the film to the end. Her character changes from young mother to college professor. All of the characters in Boyhood evolve because they have been evolving in real life, for one thing – but they also consider who their characters are when they re-assembled with Richard Linklater to film every 12 years. When I interviewed Arquette (to be posted soon) she talked about spending time considering who her character would be — different from who she herself was — at a given point in time, even considering whether she would be wearing her hair long or short but also where she’d be emotionally. Since the film jumps forward in time, Arquette had to figure out how to go from young mother, to tired single mother, to rescued but then abused wife, to single mother again, to rescued then physically abused wife, to finally, self-possessed, confident woman. Hers is one of the most notable trajectories in the film.

And yet, one can make the argument for supporting being her better chance to win, but her part being TOO BIG for the supporting category.

Anne Thompson has just put out her Oscar predictions — she never predicts films she hasn’t seen so her list is preliminary, not what you generally see around the web, which are SIGHT UNSEEN predictions. She currently has Arquette in lead, not supporting.

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New stills have been released from Before I Go To Sleep. The thriller stars Nicole Kidman as a woman who suffers memory loss each time she goes to sleep. Colin Firth plays her husband, who, along with her doctor try to help her remember her life.
She discovers she has been making a video diary to help her recall her life, she says, “My name is Christine Lucas. As I sleep my mind will erase everything that I know – everything that I did.I have to remember.”
The video diary helps Christine get closer to the truth.

Check out the new images below:

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Kidman discovers the camera

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Firth and Kidman reunite

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Before I Go To Sleep is based on the book by SJ Watson and is out in September. The film will also see Kidman reunite with Firth who last starred together in The Railway Man.

 

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“A young woman joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small town roots. But she ends up as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay instead, where her mission is far from black and white. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees. A story of two people, on opposite sides of a war, struggling to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. And in the process, they form an unlikely bond that changes them both.”

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Deadline reports that The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby will be shown in its two parts, beginning October 10. The combined version will be released September 12. This is a film you luxuriate in every second — three hours of it would be heaven. Both Richard Linklater and Ned Benson are playing with form in cutting film up and re-arranging it back in unexpected ways. While Michael Apted surely did this with his Up series in documentary form, it’s rare to see filmmakers stray from the usual pattern of making a film, editing it and releasing it. It exists as a whole and complete thing, except when directors decide to recut their films later (none of these ever top their original).

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Ned Benson, with Eleanor Rigby, has breathed full life into each one of his characters but most importantly, the female characters. Romantic comedies these days tend to either turn into glossy high end fairy tales designed for mass female audiences or they’re quirky indies involving a manic pixie dreamgirl and some dude who comes of age within it, learning from her, becoming a man as a result of his association with her. That’s fine, of course, taking its cue from the grandaddy of all – Annie Hall. But how nice to see a deeper love story where what’s going on inside the woman matters too. There’s also something about these actors who are so well cast you could watch them all day, chief among those, Jessica Chastain who has a kind of magic about herself that makes you curious about every flicker of emotion on her face. She is endlessly watchable.

Chastain is having another one of those years where she’ll be in multiple Oscar contending Best Picture, starting with Eleanor Rigby, but also Interstellar, A Most Violent Year and Miss Julie.

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For real. No Katniss, though.

Continue reading…

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**Slight Spoiler Warning*** Women don’t get to be anti-heroes much, at least where Oscar wins are concerned, whether male or female, voters prefer good or admirable characters to dark ones.  Good girls usually suffer no pushback but bad girls? They don’t get off so easy. It can get a little sketchy nowadays when a female antihero presents herself. The notion that women ought to always be portrayed is a positive light severely limits both the opportunities for actresses but also for women in the full spectrum of the human experience. A similar problem afflicts minority actors when they get sick of being stuffed into stereotypes — like black maids or street thugs, Chinese laundry attendants, etc. Women are stuffed into stereotypes too and sadly many of these roles are often delivered in an effort to portray them in a good light.  Some of the best performances on screen have been actresses taking on dark or sometimes soulless characters. Some of those have won Oscars (Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and some of them haven’t (Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction or Dangerous Liaisons or Reversal of Fortune).

By my count, since 1970, good characters or heroines have accounted for 35 of the 44 Best Actress winners. Only 4 could be counted as flat-out bad (Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and 5 could be counted as “complicated,” like Helen Mirren in The Queen or Kate Winslet in The Reader — they are mostly good but they are allowed complexities.  Contrast that with Best Actor where I counted 9 “complicated” winners, 6 flat-out bad and 29 good, or heroes. There isn’t a dramatic disparity between the sexes — though men have a slight advantage removing themselves from the “good” category and still winning — but it isn’t really so big it makes much of a difference.

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This year, the likely Best Actress contenders range from flat-out bad to complicated, to good.  It’s still too early to tell how things might shake down in that regard — so it’s difficult to say which characteristic will dominate. In our poll, AwardsDaily readers have these five predicted:

Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Jessica Chastain, Eleanor Rigby

Close behind are a few others who may have a shot:
Hilary Swank, The Homesman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Michelle Williams – Suite Française
Jessica Chastain – Miss Julie
Nicole Kidman – Queen of the Desert

Amy Adams, as I recall from the footage in Cannes, plays a “difficult” character. But in subsequent readings of early screenings of the film it doesn’t sound that way. So right now I’m just not sure where she fits. course, it’s just too soon to know. These five can be considered this way:

The Good
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Jessica Chastain, Eleanor Rigby
Amy Adams, Big Eyes

The Bad:
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Both Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars, and very likely Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl will represent this year’s anti-heroines. Both roles dwell in the 2014 zone of Kim Kardashian instagram devotion, the cancer of tabloid beatdowns of women on a daily basis, selfies, the incurable disease of self-improvement all pointing to what we women are afflicted with every day of our lives: the pressure to be all things: pretty, young, popular, thin, desired.  While we wait to see what writer Gillian Flynn, director David Fincher and actress Rosamund Pike do with the literary sylph “Amazing Amy” there is much we can glean from the character as written in Flynn’s book.

To my mind Amazing Amy from the book is the Frankenstein’s monster that the male gaze and the culture of overly-competitive women have created — and deserve. I dread the many articles that completely miss the point of the character Flynn wrote, a woman whose point of view must be taken into consideration when examining her character. The reason the book is so successful with women is that WE KNOW. We have grown up stuffing ourselves into the forms people want to see — what men want to see, what women want to see. We’ve been the object of bitchy middle-school girls snickering at our outdated jeans, we’ve been in on gossip clusters of girls talking about sluts. We’ve been watched by men who either lust after or reject our physical appearance. We’ve grown up shaping ourselves this way and Amazing Amy has MASTERED this shape-shifting. She has taken control of these requirements and delivered the “perfect” answer.

It is my hope that people, especially women, will get this and not fly off into the fascist notion that “all female characters have to be portrayed in a positive light.” If you think that’s true then talk to me about the tabloids. Cottage cheese thighs on women at the beach! So and so is cheating on so and so. Bad plastic surgery! Stars without makeup. Do we really think men are driving this disgusting industry? Sorry, ladies. I wish we could blame men for that one.

These fears and insecurities and mean-girl impulses weave cleverly throughout Flynn’s novel, all the while giving us a filter — what each character sees and how they interpret what they see.  It’s a magnificent novel written by a brilliant writer. The most famous passage in Gone Girl is the concept of the “cool girl,” a thing that will live on forever which is a description only we women understand.

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”

When I first read this I was stunned that anyone could dig down that deep and be that observant to finally acknowledge in print what many of us girls have long known about fitting into very contradictory requirements of men.  They want you to eat but they don’t want you to be fat. They want you to be funny but not too smart. We all get it.  Another observer of this phenom is the funny and insightful Heather Harvilesky at The Awl. Check out this post.

Bruce Wagner does not pull punches where Julianne Moore’s character is concerned in Maps to the Stars — again, she is the sum total of our youth-obsessed culture  and the competition for Most Famous or Relevant person. But Wagner spreads the ugliness around to inevitably point the finger back where it belongs: squarely at us, the consumers.

In both cases, there will be some major pushback. Men could very well recoil in horror, while women might be inclined to take the “it’s misogynist” approach.  Either way, I suspect 2014 is going to get ugly.  So that brings us to the Oscar race.  After watching Maps to the Stars in Cannes, Pete Hammond said that it was a shame Julianne Moore was so unlikable in Maps to the Stars — she would win the Oscar otherwise.

Other potentially difficult female characters who dwell on the darker side would include Meryl Streep as the Witch in Into the Woods, Marion Cotillard as Lady MacBeth — if it’s released this year — and Anne Dorval in Mommy.  On the rest of the list, the women are admirable characters.

When I look back on Hollywood history, especially when actresses dominated, there was room for a full spectrum of types. Who can forget Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in All About Eve, for instance.   Would All About Eve get made today? Probably not. With so few films driven by female characters now is not the time to limit women to only those reflected in a good light. Well, at least not until tabloids disappear from supermarket shelves and gossip sites fade away.

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The Weinstein Company released two photos from Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, starring Adams as Margaret Keane. Keane was a painter, famous for painting children with big eyes. Christoph Waltz plays her husband, Walter. Big Eyes is a true story, and we all know how the Academy love biopics.
The first photo shows Adams as Keane by a painting, the second photo shows Waltz and Adams. Take a look at the photos below:
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Big Eyes is set to open on December 25.

actress poll

You can choose as many as 10 actresses. The consensus will sort things out.

Continue reading…

woods

The official synopsis hardly does it justice: “Into the Woods is a humorous and heartfelt musical that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.”

Hi-fidelity version here. (“What that means is that it’s the highest quality fidelity.” — Boogie Nights)

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The Playlist posted pictures from the trailer and the trailer, which apparently will only screen in the UK. The film Salomé was shown in Venice in 2011 but is just now getting released. From the website:

“Salomé: At a birthday feast for King Herod (Al Pacino), his stepdaughter, princess Salome (Jessica Chastain) discovers the imprisoned John the Baptist and is immediately infatuated with him. Rebuffed by the prisoner, Salome entices her lecherous stepfather with the promise of completing the erotic Dance of the Seven Veils, if the King will grant her one wish. Herod agrees to any wish in order to have his desire sated. Following the dance, Salome demands the head of John the Baptist. Herod offers her anything but that, and Salome stubbornly refuses to change her wish. Realising his attempt to change her mind is futile, Herod reluctantly orders the beheading and shortly thereafter orders the death of his stepdaughter.

Wilde Salomé: In this unique documentary, Director/star Al Pacino takes us on a personal journey as he unravels and re-interprets Oscar Wilde’s once banned and most controversial work SALOME, a scintillating tale of lust, greed and one woman’s scorn. Using a mix of documentary, fiction and improvisation, the viewer gets a rare look inside the mind of one our greatest (and most unique) actors.”

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