Oscar History

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Entries by John Guerin (32)

Jan 04 2019

Months of Meryl: An Epilogue

JohnandMatthewwatchedevery single live-action film starring Meryl Streep.

Meryl has been a superstar for 40 years now

MATTHEW: You never forget the performers who first reach out to you from an illuminated screen and lay claim to your gaze,mind,and devotion.Before I knew anything about the art of screen acting,I knew about the miraculous and almost mythic marvel that is Meryl Streep.Months of Merylwas an undertaking that exhausted and aggravated me without end: for every unparalleledSilkwoodin Streep's filmography,there are at least twoThe House of the Spirits;for every forgotten or underrecognized gem likeThe Seduction of Joe Tynan,One True Thing,orA Prairie Home Companion,there are at least threeStill of the Nights,Primes,orDark Matters.But,more importantly,this project illuminated a great deal about a veteran artist whose empathetic interest in the lives of others moved me at such an impressionable age and will never cease to do so.

Watching and writing about Streep's films side by side by side for well over a year has not taught me a single overarching lesson,but only deepened my appreciation for her mastery...

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Dec 27 2018

Months of Meryl: The Post (2017)

JohnandMattheware watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep.

#52 — Katharine "Kay"Graham,pioneeringWashington Postpublisher who authorized the printing of the Pentagon Papers.

JOHN: Since it was first announced in March of 2017,deep into the first hundred days of the Trump presidency,The Postmoved at a breakneck speed from rewriting to shooting to post-production before it quickly arrived in theaters in December of that year.Spielberg had paused production on his historical dramaThe Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortaraand after reading a spec script by Liz Hannah,set the gears into motion onThe Post,assembling his usual team (cinematographer Janusz Kaminski,composer John Williams,editor Michael Kahn,among others),along with two screen legends who had never before shared a single frame.This urgent sense of timeliness is palpable inThe Post,which is both a riveting period piece about a landmark historical moment and a rousing paean to the free press in our distressing present...

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Dec 13 2018

Months of Meryl: Suffragette (2015)

JohnandMattheware watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep.

#50 —
Emmeline Pankhurst,key leader of the women's suffrage movement in the United Kingdom.

JOHN: Vandalizing storefronts,detonating mailboxes,carrying out prison hunger strikes — these are but a few of the risky tactics employed by women in the British suffrage movement in and around London circa 1912.Sarah Gavron'sSuffragettechronicles the movement's pivot to such dangerous gambles in an effort to draw attention and spark action for the cause."Deeds,not words"became the new mantra after years of respectable yet unsuccessful solicitation of a woman's right to vote.These radical activists,led by Emmeline Pankhurst and visionaries like Emily Wilding Davison,Edith New,and scores of others,believed that civil disobedience and militant action were the only ways to disrupt the status quo and achieve women's suffrage.This crucial moment of history has rarely been represented on screen,save for glimpses of the movement inMary Poppinsor in a handful of documentaries,despite the exciting and provocative elements inherent in this important story.

Unfortunately,"Important Story"could appropriately serve as the tagline and governing principle of Gavron's misguided though well-intentioned film...

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Nov 08 2018

Months of Meryl: August Osage County (2013)

JohnandMattheware watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep.

#45 —Violet Weston,the cancer-stricken,drug-addicted matriarch of an Oklahoma family.

MATTHEW: Tracy Letts' high-octane,Pulitzer Prize-winning family dramaAugust: Osage Countywas the toast of the 2007-2008 Broadway season,which made a cinematic adaptation all but inevitable and the star involvement of Meryl Streep an equally foregone conclusion.The vituperative,pill-popping Violet Weston is the crowning achievement of Letts' play and arguably the meatiest dramatic role to come along for sexagenarian actresses in the past 15 years.The part has been previously interpreted on stage by the Tony-winning Deanna Dunagan (who originated the character in the initial Steppenwolf production),Estelle Parsons,and Phylicia Rashad,any one of whom could have bowled us over in an alternate film,as might have rumored candidates like Jessica Lange,Sissy Spacek,and Glenn Close.This isn't to take away a single merit from Streep's no-holds-barred work,but rather acknowledge that Streep herself is the rare and defiant exception who proves the rule that actresses over the age of 50 are anathema to Hollywood's gatekeepers.

Before falling in love with the eye of the camera,Streep was first and foremost a creature of the theater...

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Nov 01 2018

Months of Meryl: Hope Springs (2012)

JohnandMattheware watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep.

#44 — Kay Soames,a lonesome woman trying to revitalize her stagnant marriage

JOHN: Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep have screen personas as disparate as the parts of a taijitu.While Streep actively courts her audience with vital charisma or some captivating form of transformation,Jones seems just as satisfied to pretend that the audience isn't there,rarely soliciting our sympathy or even our attention.What a surprise,then,to see each actor force the other to explore previously untapped potentials in this later stage of his/her career and deliver a performance as nuanced and exciting as the very best work in their respective filmographies.

In David Frankel'sHope Springs,Streep and Jones are Kay and Arnold Soames,a couple married for 31 years who now regard each other like estranged roommates.They rarely speak to one another aside from the occasional "good morning"and "good night."A hug a day is the extent of their intimacy;they haven't had sex in almost four years...

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