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Friday
Nov072014

AFI Opening Night: A Most Violent Year Spawns A Most Excellent Party

Dear readers, though I have crashed a bit mood-wise (blame my Gemini nature) on this Friday the first 24 hours in Los Angeles for "The AFI Fest Presented by Audi - they expect everyone to say that since it rolls right off the tongue! -  were euphoric. It was surely a good omen that all the emails and tweets awaiting me once I was out of airplane mode were about The Fabulous Baker Boys 25th anniversary photo reunion. My favorite new compliment that I plan to use whenever I can think of a way to use it came from devout reader / awesome Canadian Cory who wrote:

Congrats on this existing".

In fact, that's exactly what I should have said to JC Chandor at the after party for A MOST VIOLENT YEAR's gala premiere. [More...]

But he was the last person I spoke to on my way out and the vodka had loosened my tongue. I only mustered a teasing "You're three for three. Don't be nervous about #4 or anything!" to which he squeezed my arm, gave me this kind of look, and was absorbed into the partying crowd behind us.

You generally only have a moment with any celebrity at these parties for 800 of their closest friends but somehow yours truly managed to talk to several of them for your vicarious pleasure (it helps to be in the VIP section and to be brave once you're there... which is harder than you'd think). Katherine McPhee stood directly behind me with her Scorpion co-star and boyfriend Elyes Gabel (who has a key role in A Most Violent Year). She was there for a good ten minutes and I spent it fantasizing that it was Megan Hilty behind me instead. Recast!

Jessica Chastain looked like a million bucks in a metallic blue dress, matching fingernail polish and hair the color of the fire of the gods. We'd met a few years back by telephone (flashback!) but face to face is infinitely more exciting. I compared her future well wishers behind me to a strange showbiz wedding line which she seemed to enjoy and then I threw some actress-obsessiveness at her. 

Nathaniel: Loved you in this movie. I worship Michelle Pfeiffer so it was a treat to see you giving a little Scarface.
Jessica: I was LIVING for that hair!

Just then a conversation broke out between two people who were trying to muscle in past me to speak to her simultaneously until they realized they knew each other and started talking to each other instead. Jessica and I were amused at the impromptu reunion  "You're bringing people together, Jessica!"

[TRAGEDY: We snapped no photos of Jessica though she was doing selfies with people, because both of our phones died because of our Oscar geekery earlier in the evening. Lesson learned.]

Despite the recent online controversy about her contractual conflict in promoting this film during Interstellar's launch (with the exception of this gala apparently) there's zero doubt where her Oscar bread is buttered--  it's not in outerspace but in 1981's crime ridden New York. Jessica has a large crowd-pleasing role as the tough-talking wife of a surprisingly straight-laced businessman (Oscar Isaac, who carries the movie). At first Chastain's performance seems to be in a fairly broad register but she keeps on surprising with fine dramatic shades and subtext, and her impressive facility with comic riffs on a character without ever cheapening their core drama (which she also harnessed in The Help come to think of it) serves this movie very well. It's a fairly heavy film and her scenes pop in a major way, sometimes puncturing the tension just when you most need it to be punctured. She's missing for long stretches of the movie since it's really the husband's story and she'll be campaigned supporting. That's fair (even if the categorization is a toss-up) and you should absolutely expect her to be nominated.

Shortly thereafter I was denied David Oyelowo by a woman who just wouldn't let him go. He looked in need of rescue but I could not manage. Oscar Isaac swung by and Anne Marie and I talked to him a bit. Turns out his role was originally marked for Javier Bardem but when that didn't work out it was Jessica Chastain who suggested him to Chandor. "We went to school together. We're old friends," he explained. We also had this exchange (which I've let Oprah act out for you):

 

 

 

Oscar lingered for a bit more but I've forgotten what we said. When I asked Anne Marie to fill in the blanks, 'what did he say? what did he say?'  she had only this blank guilty confession

"...was. staring. into his beautiful brown eyes"

Before we left we chatted for a good long while with our favorite prison warden from Orange is the New Black (Alysia Reiner holla!) who told us she could not believe her good fortune with that show because she originally thought it was a two-line role. She feels just as lucky again with HTGAWM. We also said hi to a very smiley Kate Burton (who Anne Marie loves) on the way out. I swear that everyone at this party was in a fine fine mood. Good movies do that to people. 

 

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Reader Comments (15)

Thanks for the great write-up, Nathaniel! I so look forward to seeing this film.

That being said, should we really expect Chastain to be nominated? I have no doubt that she's great in the film, but it's a late release from a fledgling distributor, she can't really campaign for it (and will be in Europe shooting when her 'Interstellar' obligations end), may have been submitted to SAG in lead, and it doesn't sound like this film will be a contender for major nominations. Will voters make it a priority to watch AMVY with ballots due so early?

Plus, she may lose a few votes to Interstellar. With all of the factors already working against her, that's a problem.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike M.

People crowing about Oscar Isaac need to see BALIBO from 2010. His first great performance. It's on Netflix. I am, however, instantly more excited for this film.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Could she win?

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The Elvira vibe is undeniable!

I know you think she's charming, marvelous and the future Nobel prize winner, but don't you think her performance in Interstellar is absolutely boring?

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

That's OK, I am sure Katharine McPhee was hoping that Brad Pitt was behind her instead of YOU!

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermemme

It's not her performance n Interstellar... it's her role. Very poorly written. And she does her best to elevate it.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

Very happy you (and everyone else, it seems) liked this movie so much ... it's probably my most anticipated remaining film of 2014. Love Oscar, Jessica and JC.

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Let Jessica promote A Most Violent Year! Leave Brit...Jessica Alone! This is very disrespectful....*flicks cigarette*

November 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Agree, Glenn. I'd even go so far as to say it is still his greatest role on film (although there are a couple of close contenders in second place). That film needs to be seen by more non-Australians.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

I saw a movie yesterday with a McPhee lookalike and it was distracting. She had the same perma-glum expression on during the whole film as well.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Is it me ordoes Jessica look different.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

memme - fair point

mike m - these are all good points and now you have me worried about it, damn you ;)

cal - she could if the movie itself picks up more steam.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I don't think Intersteller will figure in acting noms......it's not that sort of film. But I think the work could help Chastain with a nomination for this. She certainly has a lot of ducks in the pond, most getting good traction (and none being downright stinkers on her part) and this one sounds like the best bet. Unless they all cannibalize each other in the voting, I could see this being the one. And, she has more than proven herself worthy with her past work.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

... and congrats to me for my blurbs existing on my favorite website! And also picturing Chandor making that Gylenhaal face wins my day.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCory Rivard

I am so happy that this turns out great despite that dreadful release date. I still don't get why they don't release this a bit earlier like late November or early December.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

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