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Tuesday
Dec312013

The Thing I Ended Up Writing While Trying to Write The Review of "August: Osage County"

They do right by the first scene at least trimming the interminable opening of the Pulitzer and Tony wi. Beginning with the opening, Nathaniel, really? Do you groan audibly when someone says "That scene was so much better in the play / book / original source material" which is the culture snob's version of "FIRST!"  ok you'll need to discuss that effect but awkwwwward... EXT. Weston Family Home, Oklahoma. A car pulls int NO.  Violet Weston is a piece of work. But then, so it August: Ohmygod.. this is so not going to work.

"Eat your fish, bitch. Eat your fish.

... tempting, but where are you going to go from there if you start with Tracy Letts muscular punchy words and move on to your own dumpier nudgy ones? STOP.

You see where I'm going with this? Each time I've attempted to write about John Wells' adaptation of Tracy Lett's stage masterwork August: Osage County, barring a few brief stabs at some element of my discontent or, more likely, some reaction to its Oscar campaign no review has emerged. Obstacles of time, desire, interest, or awards season fussiness surges up and scatters my thoughts when I sit down to write one. 

Take this clever piece of FYC swag, a glorified envelope in the shape of a cardboard house.... [more]

When you open it up, you find the FYC fold out inside. It's the AMPAS equivalent of a "buy our product" brochure! This part of August: Osage County, its Oscar campaign, is easier to process. See, I always knew I would have some trouble seeing the film on its own merits (my problem, not the film's) due to my great love of the stage play, but therein lies the danger of personal baggage. Sometimes you can neatly check your baggage or shove it in the overhead bin but other times you end up buried in it, uncomfortable for the rest of your journey.

In my "worst of 2013 " piece I mentioned the release date of August as a particular thorn in my side:

August: Osage County... still not open. And promoted and teased in such a way that I fear one can't discuss it and that it can't even exist without the context of its Oscar campaign. Will the movie magically dematerialize on March 3rd when the Academy closes up shop for the season?  

I was joking but the truth of it hit me like a ton of bricks, or at least fell on me like a cardboard house. Whenever I think of August: Osage County I think of it in terms of the Oscars.

This happens less often than you'd think given the Oscar punditry I'm known for. Usually it's easy to separate films from campaigns but in this case the hunt and lust for Oscar, either real or imagined, seems to make a corpse of the actual work and the campaign becomes its restless ghost. It's not so much that AOC is a film made expressly to compete for Oscars, hardly a new or rare sin, but that the film has had no oxygen outside of that stifling quest... debuts at festivals and multiple academy screenings and no regular theatrical screenings until literally the first day of Oscar voting. Coincidence?  

When the stage play premiered it was a certain Tony threat but the conversation was less about future awardage than about Tracy Letts' writing and the incendiary, funny performances. Point me to one review or article or conversation about August: The Movie that DOESN'T mention the Oscars. It's the golden filter through which this film is contextually and continually seen. This happens to other films of course. 12 Years a Slave, for example, premiered at Toronto and instantly had a "Best Picture" banner foisted upon it. But the movie was strong enough to break from the awards ghetto and prompt other conversations, too: discourse about American history, depictions of slavery in cinema, racial politics in movies, school curriculums and such. Many of those conversations have had lots of room to breathe outside of the presumed Oscar competition.

Oscar has become the only context for August, so shall we live-blog this FYC brochure in place of a traditional review? Hopefully that still brings us to opinion and the movie.

cover image
I love the film's rather brilliant and thankfully unusual poster, which shows a fight between Barbara (Julia Roberts, protagonist) and Violet (Meryl Streep, basically the antagonist) with nearly the whole cast in view. This is more people in one image than John Wells the director is adept enough to generally cram in, so it feels exciting. If you don't know the image within context, you can almost mistake it for a dogpile on Meryl Streep, perpetual Oscar queen. GET HER!

foldout 1
"Acting with a capital "A", goes the quote from Screen Daily which ends with "...practically hums with sharp dialogue and good quips" ...and all of that is totally true. Tracy Letts's dialogue is to die for and the movie leaves much of it alone, intact from the stage, which is a good idea. But "Acting with a capital "A" also makes you a target for vicious slapdowns like the one A.O. Scott gave the movie, deeming it a "thespian cage match" You'd think Thespian Cage Match would be a compliment but with A.O. notsomuch. I'd like to say this about Streep's performance: I love that she has the confidence to act entire scenes with her eyes completely covered from view in those huge black sunglasses. She's such a strong performer -- I've never understood the complaint that she acts from the neck up because her whole body is into it -- that you don't even need the eyes, which are usually a movie actor's chief tool.

foldout 2
This one is split between an add for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and here is where I start to bristle. I don't know who reviewed the picture for Variety from which the quote is pulled but they claim that John Wells directed it with "delicacy and vigor" and did an "impressive job". If by delicacy and vigor you mean "timidity and mediocrity", sure.

As for the screenplay, this one is far more successful than its recent siblings like Doubt and Carnage, both of which were dramatic and comic powerhouses on stage but weirdly hammy and flat, respectively, onscreen. August is neither of those things in execution but it's no unqualified success either. But, since so much of the play is intact, it still "plays" as it were as a film. It also avoids that typical movie problem of desperate attempts to "open" it. Though there are outdoor scenes in the film version, they never feel like they spring from a wish to pretend that it didn't come from a play. 

That said I hated August's already controversial new ending, despite it being well acted by Julia Roberts. It ends August on a much different cathartic release note and though you should adapt and tweak when you're moving from one medium to another, you really shouldn't alter the things about a property that can't be improved upon. [SPOILER ALERT] The play ends with Violet tottering around her house realizing she's been completely abandoned by the family she's been driving away one by one for the entire play. Structurally it's like  crowded tight circle with Violet as its explosive center, eventually expelling them all. But you stay with the infuriating mean center. The entire story builds up to and earns that original ending emotionally --  even though, yes, it's bitterly sad after all the caustic comedy. The film hedges, leaving Violet's ending vaguely intact if defanged and drives away with Barbara. This kills the crucial drama of sudden earned emptiness... because WE aren't abandoned at all. We get to escape with a companion (Barbara). Hollywood tends to be afraid of sad endings but the play's enormous success is enough proof that audiences don't mind a little extra twist of the knife in a dark comedy if they've loved all the previous stabbings. [/SPOILER]

foldout 3
Splits the page between Meryl (Best Actress) and Julia (Best Actress... but there's a typo calling her "Supporting". Huh? That's odd) . The quotes are the usual effusive praise, particularly with Julia who gets a couple of "best work ever" notices. It pisses me right off that the Time and The Daily Beast have hired critics that have never seen Erin Brockovich (2000) to write about the movies! Meanwhile the LA Times blurb for Meryl made me giggle because you can read it as bitchy snark just as easily as you can read it as a rave. It's all in the tone of your voice. Try it. Read it out loud to yourself right now.

The moment Meryl Streep stumbles on screen, face pale, hair shorn, voice slurred, you can picture Academy members reflexively writing her name on their Oscar ballots. This is acting."

"This is acting." That is factually correct, blurb whore, good job. 

foldout 4
Best Supporting Actor ads for Ewan McGregor & Chris Cooper. The Huffington Post says Ewan "comes out swinging and scores knockout punches from start to finish" so they must have seen a different cut of the film with Ewan playing a different role. Mr. Barbara (I forget his name) has never been that great of a role. I am a huge McGregor nut and I like his body of work but this one is not a big swinging deal.  Chris Cooper gets a simpler "...is excellent" which is true; also stingy. He's so good as Uncle Charles that I suddenly remembered how exciting he was back in the days of Adaptation (2002)  before his face became burdened with ubiquity. 

foldout 5
We see Abigal Breslin and her Sullen Teen Eyeliner and Benedict Cumberbatch. Variety says "Benedict Cumberbatch is touching" and I want to add "..his hair." Neither of these performances really did anything for me. Not bad, not good, just there.

fake out ending
The pamphlet abruptly ends with a list of all the eligible Oscar nominations they would like to receive which, if you'd like me to count (yes I know you would) totals 23, or 9 more than Titanic and All About Eve, the current most nominated films of all time. AOC would like nominations in all the standard categories plus 5 Best Supporting Actors (A WHOLE LINEUP) and 5 Best Supporting Actresses (A WHOLE LINEUP).

POP QUIZ/COMMENT SURVEY
Have you ever seen a movie you'd be comfortable hogging the entire supporting lineup in either category in its year?

They are actually campaigning 6 women for Best Supporting Actress. Had they campaigned Julia correctly in Best Actress they would technically be eligible for 24 nominations. It is at this point reading that I am horrifed and angry on Margot Martindale's behalf that not only is Julia stealing her nomination -- I love Margo in this movie as Mattie Fae-- but she didn't even get her own foldout. A third of a second later the truth comes out: the brochure is double sided. We're only half done.

foldout 6 
Juliette Lewis and Margo Martindale get their page now. Margo gets the dullest quote this side of Chris Coopers "...is a worthy Oscar contender" That's it? No fabulous turns of phrases? Juliette gets a fun quote from Variety "...a hoot as the daughter hanging on to her carefree youth with all fingernails firmly dug in."

foldout 7
This one is shared by Dermot Mulroney and Julianne Nicholson who get a "superb" and a "quiet revelation" respectively. I can't speak to the "superb" (were they paying madlibs?) but I used to crush hard on Dermot in the 90s so I have no animosity for him and it's cute that he and his My Best Friend's Wedding are onscreen together again, albeit not interacting much. The casting of this film is so strange. Not strange as in unusual but strange as in very late 1990s, right? I digress. Julianne Nicholson has been banging around TV and movies for so long with so little reward that I'm altogether happy for her that she is in two high profile projects simultaneously. But she's much more of a 'quiet revelation' in the other: Masters of Sex. 

foldout 8
Sam Shepard and Misty Upham finish out the cast list with the tiniest parts of Beverly (the family's father) and Johnna (the family's maid/cook). Shepard vanishes after his opening monologue since it's hard to reappear in a movie after your character's suicide. This is not so much a spoiler as a plot kick off. The smartest move Letts made in the screenplay adaptation was to convert Beverly's very lengthy opening act monologue into a brief job description conversation with the hired help.

Misty is the only actor who doesn't get her own personalized blurb. She gets a "the movie's acting is uniformly superb" which would be a so much funnier as a swipe if the word "uniformly" wasn't there. I personally don't know why Misty Upham is in this movie. But then the character of Johnna has always felt a bit like the play's only real trouble spot because her role is either too obvious or too underdeveloped. The shorter time frame of the movie and its new ending only further deemphasizes her.

foldout 9
Pushes the art direction with a shot of the Weston family at dinner, presumably all staring at Violet (who would be seated where the camera is) and makeup with a shot of Meryl getting a powder from the makeup team (Carla White and J Roy Helland). You may recall that Meryl thanked this same hair and makeup man profusely during her Oscar win for The Iron Lady

foldout 10
Asks that you consider the editing (I'd rather not!) and cinematography (why not, convince me!). The editing by Oscar winner Stephen Mirrione is one of the film's weaker elements. It's possible that the shots just weren't there to work with but there is so much cross cutting that kills potentially subtle and exciting bits of performance and the crucial "I'm running things now" fight (the one on the poster) is badly botched with mismatched cuts. You lose the thread of what's happening and it's actually even hard to follow what Barbra is doing or shouting. Pity because it's the most electric moment in the source material. 

foldout 11 
Sound and Score and Song are the last things they'd like us to consider. The piano scene with Little Charlie and Ivy is kind of a lovely oasis in the midst of the movie's plentiful noisy moments of family feuding. I don't remember it from the stage play but the stage play was so long ago and so very long (an hour longer than the movie!) that it's possible it was in there. If it wasn't, why aren't they pushing that as "Best Original Song" instead of that Kings of Leon song which is kind of jarring. Taking a cue from the movie's release strategy, it seems to only exist in order to win an Oscar nomination. 

If you don't still know my feelings about the movie after reading this live blog of its Oscar campaign brochure, you surely know my feelings about the Oscar campaign brochure and, as previously posited... are they not the same thing? 

Grade?
Oh the complex matter of grading. Let's go like so: The Stage Play: A+; Dreams for the Movie: A; Fears for the Movie: D; The Acting: The gamut from A through C+... but enough about Juliette Lewis! Let's say it's mostly B+ across the board with Streep, Cooper and Martindale getting friendliest with the A;  The Direction: D+ (no personality, no inspiration, gets in the way with the rote shot/reverse shot camera language); The Casting: C; The New Beginning: A-; The New Ending: C-; The Screenplay: A-/B+; That scene where the camera goes all drug addled sloppy wild dizzy as if mimicking Violet's own disorientingly wobbly breakdown: F (Jesus Mr Wells, Meryl Streep is ACTING that. You don't have to help her -- she's better than you. It's as silly as those damn amateur-hour canted angles in Doubt; Meryl's Love of Starring in Stage Adaptation of Great Plays For Journeyman Directors When A Real Auteur Might've Made an Actual Classic: D; That brief moment (not in the play) where Meryl runs through the Oklahoman landscape with a pathetic 'hasn't run or exercized in years' limp-armed clumsiness: A; "Eat your fish, bitch": A-; The movie itself: B- 

 

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Reader Comments (62)

I have to wait until next Friday to see it.... But all that you have said feels accurate. Why couldn't Mike Nichols direct this thing?? He loves Meryl and Julia and would have handled this material better... Still think Streep is the only real shot at an Oscar nomination...

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Oh my god, this killed me. Hahha.

So true though. I've only started hardcore following the Oscars in the past like five years since I'm only 20, but this has to be the worst case of "movie just for released for Oscars" that I've noticed. It's not like The Iron Lady, where it was just made to win Meryl Streep an Oscar; I don't think this was just made to win Oscars when the source material really is that good. But geez, I was waiting all year to see this. Then it got pushed back to Christmas, but I was planning on seeing it then. And now all of a sudden it got pushed back again. It literally just qualified for awards and hasn't even come out yet. That's the issue I feel like I've heard so much about this movie and seen previews for months now, and it's gotten all these nominations for awards and yet no one's seen it aside from film critics. It's just ridiculous. And the first issue with this was the lousy choice of director.

The worst part of all is I even wanted to see it after the so-so reviews were coming out. But now, it's taken so long that I've just lost interest. I don't care about this movie at all anymore. They killed it for me.

I hope Meryl and Julia miss out on Oscar nominations morning. It just doesn't seem right, especially with the unfair and blatant category fraud.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I haven't read/seen the play and have yet to see the film, but this is post is top-notch. Oscar worthy even.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I really don't want to see this film. I loved the stage play too much.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Gow

That reads like it was cathartic to write, Nathaniel. I hope it was. I missed the play when it hit Toronto, but I've been dying to see this film. Agreed about the release date, it keeps seeming like it'll be in theatres here, then it never is!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanny Hall

"The Acting: A through C+... but enough about Juliette Lewis!"

Was Juliette Lewis not good?

Also, I want to hear what you really think about Julia's performance. I think that's what I'm most intrigued by. There are quite a few champions of her performance in this film and I know you don't think it's better than Erin Brokovich, but what do you think?

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Phillip H -- A through C+ indicates all of those grades... Juliette is kinda all over the place from perfect/awesome to 'i see what you're doing but is it working?'...

as per Julia. i think i mentioned before i think she's good in it but it's a VERY difficult part and for me she didn't sell the "becoming her mother" part that is so crucial to the arc. The only way i ever got that was from the dialogue of the other characters. Otherwise she's good in it and i love the 'eat your fish, bitch' refrain.

December 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Meryl is terrific in this movie...too bad she is getting slammed due to the
backlash from The Iron Lady...

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I really liked the movie - never seen the play though so I don't have anything to compare it to. Good for me . And say what's you want about chewing the scenery , the Violet role is written like that . So there. And also, I liked Julia Roberts very much but really , she won Oscar too you know. It's not like Meryl Streep would be stealing from a baby or anything.
Anyways, very entertaining without any cocaine fueled orgies - now Meryl Streep as the female version of The Wolf of Wall Street - that would really be chewing the scenery :-)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

I always thought the play was overpraised (I did not see the Broadway production). Do you think there's a chance I might enjoy the movie a little bit more?

I'm pissed. I was totally convinced that Margo was going to get nominated, but then, of course, the travesty of the two lead divas alternatively becoming supporting actresses happened.

It's a shame. Actresses like Margo don't get projects like this every year.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Me -- that is TOTALLY whats happening. I thought she was really strong in it, too. but people have had it with her... its' the usual response once you've played the overdue card hard. ee also: kate winslet or the way everyone just forgot about susan sarandon the second she finally won (though i dont remember being shameless with the campaigning)

December 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

peggy -- if you thought the play was overpraised maybe you will like the movie more. certainly it can be hard for me to enjoy whats good about movies that i think are vastly inferior to their source material. it's the expectation versus reality problem that we all have if we're pre-attached to something whether it's from a book, or from a favorite director or what have you.

December 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I think I'd rather just stay home and reread the play.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Reading this was WAY more entertaining and rewarding than watching that godawful movie. Thanks Nathaniel! I would've rated the movie as a whole a D though. Had it gone in a completely none awards-bait direction and aimed for camp, it would've at least been watchable.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJase

I do not understand the meryl campaigning backlash... Iron Lady was the first time in that she actively played the politics and won... And after losing so many who can blame her?
And I do not see why campaigning for August is unseemly? It's Weinstein not Streep.
She has been filming projects elsewhere?

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Seriously, were Mike Nichols (the master of stage-to-screen adaptations) and William Friedkin (who worked so well with Letts's Bug and Killer Joe) unavailable to direct this? You'd think Harvey would have been all over them. Btu instead we get the blandest of the bland.

Which brings me to: Would this movie only exist in terms of Oscars if anyone other than Weinstein were releasing it? I feel like our perception of Weinstein plays as large a part in this as the "strategy" around the film does.

It also shows how far Hollywood has come: Way back when, adapting hit stage plays into films was simply de rigeur, Oscars or no. Now, it's reserved for big shiny hit musicals and the most prestigious of prestigious plays which cause producers and actors to have visions of Oscars dancing in their eyes.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

"Benedict Cumberbatch is touching" and I want to add "..his hair."

You should give Comment du Jour to yourself, Nathaniel.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

If I see another TV spot for this movie, I might start throwing things at my TV.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarina

Jamie -- I'm not surprised that you don't understand the backlash because you basically act like a hooligan when it comes to Meryl. I love her too and I hated her campaigning including the constant praising of Thatcher as "a figure of awe," especially for women.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Julia Roberts is outstanding, she is the big revelation of this movie even if Nathaniel will never be able to recognize it. She is my absolute winner in the supporting category though it´s true that she must be nominated in the leading category and maybe she would be also my winner in that category.

I enjoyed A:OC a lot and Meryl is also terrific. I don´t understand at all the critic´s reception to this movie. It´s a great entertainment with amazing performances and great dialogue.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelen M

That was a great read with more insight than I think a traditional review could even achieve.

Regarding the pop quiz, what came to mind was any combination of 5 from the following supporting actors in Magnolia: John C. Reilly, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and Jason Robards were all great.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDean

i think griping about the director choice is kind of too late. the movie's done and it's quite good, entertaining and really well acted. harvey is selling the film a little too oscar bound, perhaps he thinks it will make the film a bigger hit if it has that going for it. it's just a film, people. don't get overemotional.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterikot

Peggy Sue: I am a proud "hooligan" when it comes to Streep😄
Haters gonna hate.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

What a great read. Thanks.

I love how the blurbs are obviously written by the PR department who only read their own material and just don't get it that you open yourself up to MAJOR grief when you use phrases like "This is Acting with an A." I was lucky enough to watch one of the best acting coaches in NYC a few times and this sort of line was an insult when he threw it at an actor.

I would imagine he bad director choice was more about money than anything else. That is an expensive cast and as far as I know, only Woody can get people to work for scale just for the pleasure of working with him.

Every year there are things done to films just for a nomination. The new song for Les Miz last year being recent. At least Harvey is being obvious about begging for Oscar, although when you aim only at the top, its much easier to be prevented from reaching it.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

The real question Peggy is why can't the most nominated performer in Oscar history campaign like everyone else on earth?
And she even despises doing it...

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Pop Quiz answer - Nashville in 1975. I'd have been happy for the entire Supporting Actress field to be ceded to that film's female cast members in almost any combination. (Ronee Blakely, Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Chaplin, Gwen Welles, Shelley Duvall, Barbara Baxley, Barbara Harris, Karen Black - the only problem is, who do you leave out?)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaika

Precisely because she's the most nominated performer in Oscar history, I strongly believe she should be above that.

(and a little balance on her views regarding Maggie wouldn't hurt)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Jamie: Streep is in a bad spot with AOC. Its not a good film (at least nothing as good as the play, which a lot of the academy will remember fondly and she isn't as good as the woman who won the Tony---her physicality is wrong if nothing else), and as the "most nominated actor in Oscar history." she also carries some baggage that others don't and it could backfire on her if she isn't careful. If she goes full tilt at wanting the award, she will face a lot more criticism than she is now. She also can't totally refuse to campaign because it would look like she is dissing the film which I don't think she would want to do even if she is unhappy with the work.

No one from Carnage was really hurt by the misfire of that film. This one is different because Harvey is pushing it so hard and it just isn't up to the fight. It should have been released in August and allowed to die quietly with perhaps a little love for Cooper and Martindale.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Nashville, Gosford Park, Room with a View, Howard's End, The Player, Black Hawk Down (at least for the guys)....

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Henry- Weinstein is pulling the strings for the campaign - not her. Probably in her contract. I honestly think Streep knows she is not gonna win this year- have we forgotten it was almost 30 years since the last win?
And Iron Lady Oscar campaign was not even about he movie or Thatcher- it was the narrative that she had been a loser for 30 years and shame on you for not giving her another oscar....

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Nichols is above doing a Weinstein movie. That's for hacks and trophy hogs.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I thought it was tacky, but clearly I was the minority because she won (over the marvelous Viola and the long overdue Glenn Close).

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Thank you for reminding me of my favorite part of AOC, which I will now quote for the rest of the day: "Eat your fish, bitch! Eat your fish! Eat your fish! Eat your fish!"

This is also my favorite TFE review of the year, since it voices all of the concerns I had about the movie in a delightful way. Lovely way to start a morning, laughing into my coffee over a movie I otherwise didn't enjoy much. Bless this review.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Pop Quiz answer: The closest I can get is Best Supporting Actor 1974, when The Godfather Part II could legitimately lay claim to all five nominations: the three it did get (Robert De Niro, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg), John Cazale, who should have been nominated and won, and Gastone Moschin as the Black Hand. Amazing to think that the wonderful Robert Duvall was bettered by six other men in the film (the above five + Pacino).

The problem is that I wouldn't have wanted the film to monopolize the category as that would have meant no nomination for Fred Astaire (who is the best thing about The Towering Inferno and probably came closest to beating De Niro) or Jeff Bridges (who is really good in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and deserved his nomination). And that still leaves out John Huston, who would have been a worthy nominee for Chinatown, and Robert Shaw, brilliant as ever in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. And I'd have even lobbed Christopher Lee into the mix for The man with the Golden Gun! What an amazing line-up.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

re: Johnna, I think AO Scott's dissection of the character being a stand-in for the audiences having a bit of privilege over these characters by making the single minority character the most normal, inoffensive was a really potent shot. Scott mentioned had this movie been in the deep South, the character would be black or in the Southwest, a Mexican.

re: Meryl, 2011 was such a great year for actresses and the Oscars blew it with too many 'overdue' narratives in truly horrific movies with Close and Streep. I cannot say I would've nominated anybody from that group in the following year or the previous year.

This movie's on Clooney and Heslov. They need to stop using projects with a repertory too full of friends but especially give your friend the director's chair. You know what would've been really inspired: Just letting William Friedkin direct this as he has with Letts' other, darker plays. It is not the first fit you would imagine but come on, The Boys in the Band was not all that bad on-screen.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Cmg....

I would not have nominated anyone from that group the following or
Previous year.

What does this mean. The group was nominated in 2011 for movies released
In 2010. Where does following and previous come into play?

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe

I had a similar question to that of Peggy Sue, is it enjoyable as a movie itself without comparing it to the play? Or is it like Doubt (as loud and big as possible line delivery?)

(Drunk) good wishes for the New Year for everyone! And say no to category fraud (just to optimize the soapbox ;)

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I did not see or read the play and the trailer for the movie just made me cringe- because yeah this is how I want to spend Christmas at the movies - with loud annoying relatives?! A lot of plays get a lot of acclaim but once they reach the screen they just turn to crap- yes you can dress it up with all star hams but it still taste like leftovers.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I saw the play and the movie... although I don't always agree with Nathaniel, I feel his excellent review here was spot on...

The ending really killed me... when I saw the play, the ending hit me in the stomach where I couldn't breathe... the movie ending "too Hollywood" and not as realistic IMO!

I thought Streep was excellent .. I did not llike her in Doubt, but here she uses every niche in her being ... I am like Jamie ..I adore her, but when there are faults with her acting, I do see them.

I have to say, Roberts was very good... she was far better than I thought she would be wheen she was announced fro the part.

I agree,too, Wells was not up to making this project work well.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrick

Streep should have won for her joyous performance in Julie & Julia---less
backlash and it would have been seen as a more deserved win than TIL...
I.know Streep loves to work and this backlash will dissapate. I speculate
the great Meryl will win a 4th Oscar in her 70's (Hepburn) for a smashing
Supporting turn in an indie type movie helmed by a first rate director...

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe

"it's just a film, people. don't get overemotional."

This is one of the stupidest things I've read on here, considering it's a film blog in which most of the people on here have either devoted their life to film or have a huge passion for it. Lol.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I must say that I'm glad I haven't had the chance to see the play, so I can't really be disappointed in the adaptation when it arrives here. I do think that the casting seems a bit "Let's get as many names as possible without making sure they work well as an ensemble" but that's the new Weinstein tradition.

And I'll gladly take uneven Juliette Lewis over no Juliette Lewis. I always find her interesting and she doesn't work enough.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Only 30-40 more years until HBO does their version of it, right?

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Love, Love Julliette Lewis. My God, somebody give her a movie ....

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

The movie is a straight-up C if I'm feeling generous. It is the disappointment of the year for me. That said, the wonderful thing about Streep's performance is how well she has captured Margo Martindale's dialect, making them quite believable as sisters. Every time the trailer plays somewhere and I'm not watching it, the audio fools me into thinking that Streep is MM.

Best Supporting 5s: Boogie Nights, The Women, Short Cuts, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I agree with Jamie, it Harvey's obvious and tacky campaigning. The man has no limits. He does this every year. Don't people know?

Streep should be allowed to campaign, just like the rest of them. Since Harvey won Oscar for Streep 2 years ago for Iron Lady, Streep is probably being gracious to help push the film this year.

I saw the play in Boston with Estelle Parsons a few years ago and was bored with it. The play is over-wrought, IMO. I do however look forward to Streep's performance, as usual. Happy to see Nathaniel gave her performance an A-.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

ME- I was addressing Peggy Sue's comments about Streep/Viola/Close Oscar year. I can't really get into any of the nominated performances being worthy and not just because it was a strong year for actresses, which I noted by stating none of those performances I would nominate in weaker actress years.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I came here looking for a real review of "August: Osage County" and get this instead. Puzzling. I'll see the film whenever the hell it comes to my area. Loved the play to no end, and I personally can't wait for Meryl, Julia, and Margo to light up the screen. The haters be dammed. Eff 'em. What the hell, critics? First you champion Meryl to win an undeserved Oscar for "The Iron Lady," and now you turn against her for what could very well be a legitimately great performance hiding in a shitty film b/c now you've "seen the light"? Reap what you sow, you know. I'll be entertained regardless.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLandon

Streep is pretty much the only contender for an Oscar nom. But will the Academy think she has had too many noms and wins already that 'enough is enough'. Will Amy Adams grab the 5th slot for the totally overrated and unworthy American Hustle?

And will Julia Roberts get a support nod - for a clear category fraud performance - or will Margo Martindale sneak in as the 'surprise' nominee that the Academy loves to do now and then.

In my books August is better than American Hustle - and sadly August will probably get ZERO noms and Hustle will get about TEN or ELEVEN.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I am not sure if the Amy Adams role is even worth the nomination? Not sure why people are so intent on forcing that narrative? Does Adams really deserve that many Oscar nominations?

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

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