Tilda Swinton



Three of the year’s strongest female performances threaten convention, the one that says females are usually cast as supporting, loving, noble characters who give of themselves in the service of the male lead.  It’s not always the case, especially not so in the Best Actress race; what better way to get attention from Oscar voters than to go dark.

But in a year of such uplifting, feelgood films with admirable male leads, it’s interesting that when you look over at Best Actress, the reverse is true. With the exception of Viola Davis in The Help, the females are either not likable, or existing in their own ways on the fringes of the norm.  However, because women are a minority, they are always going to be held to the good role model/bad role model test.  Men, unless they’re Black or Hispanic, don’t really get held to this restriction.  But women – the dark always turns to whether women can be unlikable and still be strong Best Actress contenders.  Such was the case last year with Natalie Portman who played a prickly dancer in Black Swan.  Her ability to drive the story, to earn our pity and to fascinate us with every turn of her head inevitably won out — the warm fuzzies didn’t.

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Jeff Wells has gone to bat for Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady:

You can dribble the Viola Davis basketball all over the court and shoot swish shots to your heart’s content, but that won’t change the fact that Meryl Streep’s freakishly dead-on performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (Weinstein, 12.30) seems like a much more likely winner of the Best Actress Oscar right now. As far as I’m concerned it’s a Streep vs. Michelle Williams (i.e., as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn) contest with Davis half-elbowed aside.

There is no doubt that Streep turns in yet another brilliant impersonation with The Iron Lady. At some point while watching her in the film you forget completely that you’re watching Meryl Streep doing Margaret Thatcher and you feel like you are really watching Margaret Thatcher — and all of the good and bad that goes along with that. It’s sort of the same quandary Leonardo DiCaprio finds himself in in J. Edgar. We believe he’s J. Edgar. But then we have to deal with our feelings about J. Edgar.

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(Thanks to Joan.)

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Why does it seem like the beginning of October is already too late to push through an Oscar contender?  If you’re a big star in a big movie you’re already on the radar of those who write about Oscar buzz, a thing that increasingly has no there to it.  But if you’ve just given the performance of your life in a movie nobody has seen how does your publicist get enough people to see your performance to find a spot for you in the already crowded acting or Best Picture categories?

This moment in the Oscar race is what I always think of as the Million Dollar Baby zone.  Clint Eastwood brought that film in at a time when there were less media outlets focused on the race, as many of them are now, and when those of us who were focused on the race – it was like me, David Poland, Tom O’Neil and Kris Tapley and a few others – had our radars tuned to The Aviator, which seemed, at the time, like it might finally be Martin Scorsese’s big Oscar win (he would later go on to win big with The Departed, nothing less than one of the best films ever to win the award).  But then people saw Million Dollar Baby. I’ll never forget reading Poland’s site the day after that screening — there was simply no question what movie was going to win and win big.

What I now wonder looking back at those seemingly innocent times, with all of the chatter we have now, so many hunters stalking Oscar prey, where the demand far exceeds the supply, would we have already been well aware that Million Dollar Baby would have been the big Oscar winner? Would it be showing up on Oscar charts as the de facto frontrunner? So much has changed since then.

Either way, and for whatever reason, after Toronto it always feels like the window of opportunity to break through gets smaller and smaller as the days go by.  If you’re not considered a major contender already, by October, your chances are slim.  But they’re not zero.  Late entries can sometimes shake up the race, like The Reader did when it bumped The Dark Knight, altering Oscar history while doing so.

On today’s Off the Carpet column, Kris Tapley looks at the Best Actor race, but specifically at those performances that could be overlooked.  I had no idea he was writing this, and I was writing a similar piece at the same time (great minds…) only mine covers Best Picture and Actress too (albeit not as thoroughly as Kris…).  So you want to head over there to In Contention to read that piece.  

Oscar buzz is now and has always been something undefinable – it’s like sexual attraction: you know it when you feel it.

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There probably isn’t a better actress working in Hollywood who hasn’t yet won an Oscar than Glenn Close.  Charlize Theron, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Hudson, Marisa Tomei, Sandra Bullock have all collected their Oscars.  So to say that Close’s Oscar worthy role in Albert Nobbs is a long time overdue is to spotlight the obvious.  Oscar voters like to think that they vote for the most deserving in a given year with little regard to whether they’ve won before or not.  However, their voting history, upon closer inspection, reveals their preferences year in and year out.  What does winning an Oscar really mean? It means that, in any given year, the Academy “liked” the actress, the character she plays or in some cases their actual performance itself enough to vote for them.  It is an anonymous vote with no consequences attached.  No one is ever accountable for their choices because it is THEIR club.  But few actresses have done more to earn a place in that club than Glenn Close, which is why it seems odd that so far an Oscar win has eluded her.   It’s hard to not cry foul when you look at the performances she’s turned in – one brilliant, expressive performance after the next.

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The concept and editing work is simply stunning on the 2 Kevin trailers we’ve seen this week. Watch the international version again after the cut.

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Huge improvement. A few days ago we were shown a disappointing generic template design. Now upgraded to one of the best posters of the year. Compare after the cut.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin Bande-annonce by toutlecine

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Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up distribution rights to Lynn Ramsey’s We Need to Talk About Kevin following its Cannes premiere. Oscilloscope acquired Meek’s Cutoff earlier this year and is building a solid reputation showcasing quality indie productions. They handled Wendy and Lucy in 2008 and shepherded The Messenger to two Oscar nominations in ’09.

Some Mother’s Son: We Need to Talk About Kevin

So many times now we’ve had to endure another tragic news story Рsome disgruntled teen has shot the whole school down and then killed himself.  Sympathy goes to the victims and their parents, as well it should. Hatred and blame have to go somewhere, especially when the shooter has taken his own life.  The first thought on everyone’s mind is always “what kind of a mother could raise such a monster?”

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Sasha’s review will be up shortly. Until then, we’re seeing a range of mostly deep enthusiasm from other critics blown away to various degrees today.

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a lot of things: A visual essay on the color red, a triumph of sound design and musical-visual counterpoint, a chronologically disordered, collage-style portrait of a family’s disintegration; a character study of a woman who surrendered her urbanity and her independence for her family and reaps the whirlwind from those seeds of bitterness. It’s also a non-American director’s movie about the soullessness of American suburbia, which bothers me some because it’s so hackneyed but might bother me more if it weren’t so convincingly rendered. But when you break it down to essentials, it’s a monster movie — and I think all discussion of its craft and subtlety (which are considerable) or about how great or how evil it is are constrained by that fact.

The monster isn’t Eva, although she may have some doubts about that. The monster is her lithe and handsome teenage son Kevin (played by Ezra Miller in the present tense, and even more unnervingly by Jasper Newell as an almost affectless younger child), who has, we gather, committed an unspeakable, headline-grabbing crime. We know that from the beginning of the movie, by the way; Ramsay hopscotches compulsively backward and forward through time, frequently alighting on the night when Eva must push her way through a crowd of stricken onlookers and emergency vehicles surrounding her son’s high school. It’s the scale of Kevin’s monstrous act, and its tangled prehistory, that are gradually revealed.

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Being described as an ’emotional thriller,’ We Need to Talk About Kevin stars Tilda Swinton,

We Need To Talk About Kevin is an emotional thriller, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) and starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller as Kevin. Directed by Lynn Ramsey (Ratcatcher, Movern Caller) whose short film Small Deaths won the Prix du Jury Prize at Cannes in 1996.

Eva puts her ambitions and career aside to give birth to Kevin. The relationship between mother and son is difficult from the very first years. When Kevin is 15, he does something irrational and unforgivable in the eyes of the entire community. Eva grapples with her own feelings of grief and responsibility. Did she ever love her son? And how much of what Kevin did was her fault?

Two more clips after the cut.

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Darren Aronofsky picks up Natalie Portman’s Best Actress BAFTA, after the cut.

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Later today or tonight, our Moveiegasm podcast will go up. But here is the 8th episode of Oscar Poker. Jeff Wells, Phil Contrino, Scott Feinberg and I discuss many things. Our podcasts, both of them, keep going up in length of time.¬† But there isn’t any point in cutting in. If you get bored, just stop listening. We talk the sex in Tilda Swinton’s I Am Love as being more explicit than the sex in Blue Valentine (hence the head-scratcher about the MPAA rating). Jeff and Scott talk about how much they both loved The Fighter and why they feel it is definitely one of the ten Best Picture contenders of the year (I still haven’t seen it because I am the Queen of Lame). They compare it to The Town. Phil Contrino and I are both fans of The Town and feel it is also deserving of Best Pic consideration. We touch a bit on Christian Bale’s performance, though, and whether we think he can still win the thing, even with his reputation. So, give it a listen if you care to.



Jeff Wells and Kris Tapley sit on opposite ends of the teeter-totter with their opinion on Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs. Jeff lays into Kris and his ilk pretty hard, writing, “In my initial 10.20 review of Love and Other Drugs, I predicted that it would run into trouble from “the Eric Kohn-Guy Lodge nitpick crowd.” Neither of these two have run a review yet, but In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, whom Lodge writes for, gave Ed Zwick’s film a little slapdown today, so my prediction was…well, vaguely accurate.” Meanwhile, Tapley posted a video of the infamous LexG, commenter extraordinaire at HE and MCN.

In Scott Rudin news, Deadline’s Mike Flemming reports that Rudin has picked up Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares and has chosen Tiny Furniture’s Lena Dunham to write and direct.¬† Got to love that Scott Rudin, making the world a better place one great movie after the next.

Much chatter about Tilda Swinton and whether she can make it in the Oscar race or not, thanks in part to Jeff Wells asking the question in the first place. Anne Thompson calls her performance “simply superb.”

My new favorite Oscar bloggers on the scene this year include Cinemablend’s Katy Rich, who is doing The Oscar Eye, and John Lopez at Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men. Don’t miss his column on the Best Actress race, putting it down to Bening v. Portman.

Frustrating to have a good feeling about a film but be unable to confirm our gut instinct because it’s still in the protected pocket of limited release. We’ve posted as many relevant items as we can find about I Am Love (click the topic tags to find them), but it’s been hard to get a handle on what an exquisite thing of beauty it might really be. Three clips after the cut help to give us a sense. The music by John Adams is especially vibrant, and its unusual prominence on the soundtrack gives it a striking front-and-center emphasis. Such an opulent stylistic flourish is a risky artistic choice — reminds me of the shifts in color intensity in A Single Man — so it’s a good thing the decision seems to work brilliantly.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe earned three Oscar nominations and won for Best Makeup. Some of the novelty had faded for the second Narnian adventure and the Academy overlooked Prince Caspian. If the trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Trader seems to have a cleaner more coherent visual scheme than the first two installments, maybe some credit goes to 2-time Oscar nominee Dante Spinotti. The Narnia films have shown an impeccable sense of craft, and I’m happy to sacrifice a little wow factor for tasteful restraint. Tilda Swinton’s return as the White Witch is all the wow I need.

The great thing about all of these Tilda Swinton interviews that are popping up is that it gives us the rare opportunity to listen to the intelligent actress wax philosophic. ¬†Interviews can mostly be, and are mostly by-the-numbers – and that’s fine. ¬†The point of them is to make the reader (or the writer) feel like they know the person and if they know them they’re more involved with them. ¬†But every once in a while someone comes along who gives good interview – Twilda Swinton is one. ¬†Here she is talking to the Star Ledger’s Lisa Rose about I Am Love, a project she’s been developing with Luca Guadagnino for more than a decade:

Q. Pasolini is pretty sensational.

A. If it’s Hitchcock, you’re on the edge of your seat or if it’s Douglas Sirk, your heart is wringing out. Luca and I also talked about love and we wanted to make a film about the revolutionary capacity of love and about nature, beyond food, into the garden and into the trees. It’s about not only the glory of nature but also the brutality of it and the fact that love can tear you apart.

Q. I thought that was an interesting dichotomy the way you see these formal settings in the mansion contrasted with natural settings. The two things are juxtaposed against each other. I think that reflects a character looking for where she belongs. Am I reaching?

A. No, you’re going into the world of it. It’s seeping into your pores. We were looking into the particular denial that is the benzene of high capitalism — I’m driving into the curve here, but there’s something deeply inhuman about all that wealth and the way in which it’s predicated upon denial. You have that in the scenario and in the heart of it you put this depth charge of love. When Emma tells her husband she loves Antonio, he says to her, “You don’t exist.”

More Tilda here. I Am Love opens next weekend.

Meanwhile, my favorite Tilda Swinton role ever after the cut.

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Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly start filming We Need to Talk About Kevin this week in London.  The film is based on the novel by Lionel Shriver and is about a man who goes on a rampage two days before his sixteenth birthday.  His mother must then deal with her own feelings of grief and responsibility.  Kevin is played by Ezra Miller, a relative newcomer.

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Sent to me via Twitter, @agadenreach. Described on IMDb as “A tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan. The film follows the fall of the haute bourgeoisie due to the forces of passion and unconditional love.”

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