I seriously don't know why casting directors exist anymore because there are apparently only 3 actors for every type of role since famous actors are always cast in exactly the same ways. Need an eccentric older British actress to play someone magical? GET HELENA BONHAM CARTER!
You've probably already heard that everyone's favorite former Victorian china doll turned black arts ghoul turned Burton Queen will play the Fairy Godmother in the new live action Cinderella. (Thankfully this is NOT a musical. I love Helena but I beg her to stop doing musicals!) Somewhere Johnny Depp is grinning like a cheshire cat as they made a blood pact in the early Aughts to never play anything but cartoon characters again!
Regardless, she'll be great fun in the role and there is a mild twist to this casting actually. For many years now, The King's Speech aside, Helena has been automatically associated with Demented Wickedness. Unless they rethink the whole story this time she's crossed over to the light!
We haven't discussed this film much beyond the casting of Cate Blanchett as Wicked Stepmother which was something of a surprise (if only because it's been a few years since Cate Blanchett was one of the 4 people who were cast in everything without fail) but I'm curious.
Kenneth Branagh and his casting director have clearly been watching their tellys since they've pulled from Downton Abbey (twice...and yay on McShera as Drizella!!!) and Game of Thrones (Madden gets a happy ending this time!). Branagh is hit and miss as a director but he started off so strong (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Dead Again are all just spirited joys to watch, aren't they?) that I'm always hoping he'll recapture that. But am I the only one who found Lily James almost unbearbably irritating on Downton Abbey? Let's hope that was just her flighty petulant character confusing me!
How long do you suppose Hollywood's recent fascination with fairy tales is going to last?
And if the expiration date is near, which fairy tale do you hope they rethink / revive / regurgitate soon.
I've seen a lot of theater since moving to NYC in January 1999 (wow. so long ago!) and four have stuck with me and become my informal holy trinity quadrilogy of modern showtunery: The Light in the Piazza (Adam Guettel), The Wild Party (John LaChiusa), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask) and the one I've listened to the most and feel the most proprietary about: The Last Five Years (Jason Robert Brown).
For reasons which mostly have to do with equal parts scheduling problems, lethargy, and a case of "what if the lightning is no longer in the bottle?" worry, I did not see the recent revival of the latter. But my trip to The Last Five Years's original run with Norbert Leo Butz (brilliant) and Sherie René Scott (always a treat) is one of the definining theatergoing moments of my life. I loved everything about the musical in which you watch a 20something couple's troubled relationship told backwards (Hers) and forwards (His) in time as they both monologue/sing to the audience. They only ever sing together once when the stories meet in the middle.
When news broke that it was going to become a movie I wondered how they'd possibly get around the two character theatrical conceit but they've announced that for the film version they'll be singing to each other and the songs will be adjusted to accomodate this major change. My greatest worry is the casting since total two-handers require both hands to work.
Though noone is likely to replace Sherie René Scott in my heart Anna Kendrick is very talented, has good comic timing, and sings well, so I'm not worried about "Cathy". What worries me is "Jamie". Jeremy Jordan (from the late Smash) gets the tricky husband part. Jamie is super cocky, super talented, super charming, and secretive. All four of those traits ostensibly defined Jeremy's role on Smash but he was terrible at playing the "charming" part and just came across as a complete asshole whose career was handed to him on a silver platter but he just had to be all bratty about it anyway. In order for this musical dramedy to succeed he'll have to give the performance of his life and remember not to push the cocky assholism (it apparently comes naturally!) and work very hard on the charming part, the part that might draw a woman to him in an initially loving and supportive relationship.
I did not see Jeremy Jordan onstage in Newsies (did you?) so perhaps he was charming in that but when I saw him in Bonnie & Clyde The Musical he had the same problem... the "run away with me" charm necessary for any successful take on Clyde Barrow was mostly absent and he just seemed angry. Maybe it's an age problem (Jordan is 28) but he's so bratty for lack of a better word. I hope to be converted since I love this musical so much it's like a part of me, but I am, as of yet, not a fan. If you are please talk me into reconsidering in the comments!
While I wait I will just stare at this NSFW photo (after the jump) to try to generate warm feelings for Mr Jordan...
Tim here. The career and talents of Nicole Kidman have been well-examined at the Film Experience through the years, but never by me. So I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence if I take advantage of her birthday to launch into a little celebration of my favorite working actress, one of the only people in the world with a legitimate claim to being both movie star and serious artist. For every big bit of Hollywood nonsense she deepens and improves with her steady presence, there’s an adventurous, even dangerous film that she makes with some of the most interesting directors out there, and she’s equally great in both modes, the odd Stepford Wives remake notwithstanding.
To celebrate, I'd like to share my 5 favorite Kidman performances, in chronological order:
Grace Stewart, The Others (2001)
I yield to no one in my love of Moulin Rouge! and Kidman’s performance therein, but this has always been my pick for her best performance of 2001, and not least because Alejandro Amenábar is less interested in ceding huge chunks of the film’s landscape to her than Baz Luhrmann. Providing the human core to an abnormally handsome, ultimately generic haunted house movie couldn’t have been anyone’s idea of a rewarding assignment, but Kidman dives with intelligence and restraint into the role of a stern matriarch, terrified by the empty old house she lives in. She turns out a leading performance that is deeply sensitive and wounding (that meeting with her husband!) while also paying scrupulous attention to the mechanical needs of the horror script. She’s especially good at converting the twist ending from something ludicrous into a genuinely moving moment.
In an effort to say at least a few words on everything I see this year, here are three short takes on recent pictures we haven't discussed much. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've seen 'em (or want to).
Modern dancer Frances (Greta Gerwig), suddenly apartment hunting when her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out, struggles to get her act together while her friends are increasingly settling into career and relationship grooves
Quickie Take: Less an explicit psychological mural than a suggestive sidewalk sketch but what artistry! Palpable energy and magical color. [In black and white]. A-
Best in Show: Greta Gerwig but then she IS the show. The supporting cast is fine too including newcomer Mickey Sumner as best friend Sophie, Broadway star Charlotte D'Amboise as a dance guru, and Grace Gummer as an irritated former classmate.
Oscar? I'd love to emphatically promise that it has a true darkhorse shot at Actress (Greta Gerwig is at her most Gerwigian and it's beautiful), Director (this is arguably Noah Baumbach's finest film), Editing, and Original Screenplay (at least!) but these days little charming movies stay little (sigh). I know I sound like an ol' curmudgeon - GET OFF MY LAWN - but in truth this movie made me feel young... post-college young to be specific. Quarter century life crisis!
Sandy Patterson (Jason Bateman continuing his variety-free post Juno rut), family man and accountant, must apprehend conwoman "Sandy Patterson" (Melissa McCarthy) to undo the damage she's done to his reputation and bank account.
Quickie Take: Lazily assumes joke-free laughs. Shamelessly pursues atonal "Redemptive Arc". Excruciating length, rail thin characterizations, plot girth D-
Best in Show Melissa McCarthy wins the only laughs but at what price? Rex Reed is an a-hole but maybe he had a a teensy-tiny possible point embedded in the awful rhetoric of his infamous "hippo" review.
Oscar Chances? LOL. No, but it might unfortunately hurt the next Melissa McCarthy's chances at hardware for a Bridesmaids style comic breakthrough; This is what you've chosen to do with that well-earned goodwill?
A young teenager (Tye Sheridan) discovers a wanted man (Matthew McConaughey as "Mud") holed up on a nearby island in an abandoned motorboat, awaiting word from his woman (Reese Witherspoon) who is herself in some kind of trouble.
Quickie Take: Emotionally expressive, rarely weighed down by repetitive structure. Never content to do just one thing per scene, Mud attempts coming of age adventure, family drama, and romantic thriller with nearly equal flair. B+
Best in Show: McConaughey but the whole cast is strong and Sheridan proves that Terence Malick was on to something when he cast him in Tree of Life. He's beautifully natural onscreen, never "child actor" forced. Can we start campaigning for him to receive a Best Young Actor nomination at the BFCA Critics Choice Awards next January?
Oscar Chances? Like Magic Mike before it, it will more likely bolster Matthew McConaughey's shot at an actual statue for something else entirely. Still, both Oscar and career opportunities are all about momentum and this movie, so quick on the heels of Take Shelter is setting writer/director Jeff Nichols up to break through in a major way. If he keeps up this pace and this quality, what a career he's going to have.
And Also: Congratulations to longtime frienquaintance Kris Tapley on getting the poster quote!
French Toast Sunday 5 best summer movies? Confession: I have never seen Crooklyn but always wanted to.
Gawker on Cher's wiggy performance on The Voice
The Local did you hear this story about how a French teacher an 11 year-old class Saw? WTF? At least pick a classic horror with artistic historical merit.
Guardian the next Star Wars sequels are looking for a teenage female lead? Whoa. I guess Hunger Games and Twilight are even more influential than they appear to be
Variety Miss Saigon is returning to the boards but I'm personally still curious as to why the movie version has never happened?
My New Plaid Pants the three things you need to see from the Anchorman 2 trailer
Los Angeles Times Show Tracker the women of Mad Men speak about the impending end
Film Flare awww, I had totally forgotten about "Elizabeth Taylor" on Sex & the City
The Cinematic Katzenjammer Shailene Woodley cut from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (ahem, 5). What, no Mary Jane? Seems odd to cut her just as her star is rising
Empire speaking of which. Here's more on her Hunger Games which is called Divergent
Hark, A Vagrant! takes on The Secret Garden
Awards Daily asks why Leonardo DiCaprio is so often ignored by the Academy (brought on by The Wolf of Wall Street trailer). I know he has many devout fans and I am often criticized for not adoring him wholeheartedly these days but I disagree (and muchly) with the notion that his work has improved with age. I still think he has beautiful moments in several of his recent star turns but as a whole from film to film he is not pushing himself and is deeply repetitive in his acting choices (not just in the surface role similarities I've mocked like his run through The Dead Wives Club).
But I harbor no illusions that the Academy shares my opinion of his gift...
I think it's as simple as this: Leading Men who are considered beautiful always have to fight harder for Oscar love. That's all there is to it (well, that and them preferring five other people each time he's missed out). Paul Newman and Jeff Bridges, two of the best screen actors of all time, didn't win until their 60s and Leo isn't nearly that good! Plus he's only 38 years old. Leo has the same amount of acting nominations as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp and the similarities are instantly noticeable, aren't they? Good looking marquee value men who are often viewed as STARS first, ACTORS second (whether or not that's an accurate description). I have no doubt Leo will eventually win -- and I think nominations will be much easier to come by in his 40s after whatever hiatus he plans to take -- but I think if it doesn't happen for him with Wolf, he'll have to wait until at least his mid40s and possibly much longer as many desirable leading men have had to in the past. I'm not sure why everyone expects the rules to be different for this one actor. The question of why not yet is as simple as the male dominated Oscar's completely obvious binary gender standards: they usually like to award female actors for being young and hot and, to some extent, new; and they usually like to award male actors for their bodies of work when they have stood the test of time (and are less sexually threatening).
Oooh, I totally wanna watch this. Oprah is talking to four black actresses on their unique struggles in Hollywood on her new network. (Do I even get this network? I do not know)
Alfre Woodard (that's enough right there!), Viola Davis (YES), Phyllicia Rashad (makes sense) and Gabrielle Union (Bring it!) which is a classy lineup, don'cha think?
The Film Experience on facebook. You haven't "liked" us yet. Rectify!
Like the rest of the world I was stunned to hear that James Gandolfini died suddenly earlier today of a stroke while vacationing in Italy. He was only 51 and there was every reason to believe that more great work was ahead of him since male character actors of great reknown can work for as long as they'd like really in Hollywood's male-centric world.
My most recent fond memories of the actor were the gentle surprise of his comic timing when we meet him in a frisky scene in In the Loop (2009) in which he flirts with Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy) by joking about bestiality