More adventures from Oscar's holiday festive campaign trail. This time the Oscar frontrunner (Spotlight) and an Oscar possibility too many people are sleeping on (Youth)...
Should Jane Fonda ever tell you you have good tastes in movies, it'll get you drunker than whatever cocktail is in your hand. My personal guarantee to you! If, hypothetically speaking, you're a self-proclaimed actressexual cinephile Oscar pundit (ahem) and two of your favorite movies of all time happen to be They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969) and Klute (1971), and Jane Fonda says this aloud to you, you might feel a little like you've peaked. Is this real life...?
The 77 year-old American icon, along with her Youth co-stars Paul Dano and Michael Caine were the glitziest guests of Fox Searchlight's holiday party in New York City last week. (If the star's of the company's buzziest contender Brooklyn were at the sprawling extravaganty catered party at the Park Hyatt -- truffle shavings? why not! -- I unfortunately didn't spot them).
True legends aren't often as accessible as Jane Fonda was at this particular party, gladly taking selfies with multiple fans and chatting about her movies and Youth, too. Many people have referred to Fonda's work in Youth as a "cameo" including probably myself at one point or another and while that might be factually true it's not spiritually true. You'll hear everything from 4 minutes to 9 minutes about her screentime depending on who you're talking to but screentime is rarely an accurate barometer of impact. Youth spends so much time obsessing on her character, the Fonda-like "Brenda Morel" (not coincidentally also a multiple Oscar winning bonafide legend who has recently made a new home in television) that when she arrives it's with the power of a rumbling fault line, tectonically shifting the movie's entire landscape. Youth as a film experience is basically pre-Fonda and post-Fonda in the telling. I fully expect her to be nominated and have for months now.
Paul Dano is the only actor in Youth that is not working some strange voodoo of their own persona fused with character work. He's playing a full fledged movie star best known for a franchise he despises... and though I expected Keitel to be winning the traction as Supporting Actor, it appears that some people are in Dano's corner. He was in good spirits at the party, and possibly filled with spirits from the open bar (sorry, that was me - I'm projecting) Dano keeps being paired with estimable superstars or genuine acting powerhouses: Day-Lewis, Jackman, De Niro, Caine, Fonda (though he doesn't share scenes with the latter). I asked him if this trend was disconcerting or intimidating for him on set? 'Are you kidding me?' he answered, excited. 'I love it. I hope it'll make me better.' I won't spoil one of Youth's most disturbing surprises which involves Dano's actor character preparing for a new role but I asked him about that soon to be infamous scene. As it turns out he filmed it on his 30th birthday which is now, he admits, 'the weirdest birthday of my life.'
Less celebrity hobnobbing occurred at the last party I attended in Los Angeles which happened to be for Spotlight (you know how sometimes you're shy and sometimes you're extroverted? Same) but the "light supper" event was well-attended and the town's love for the movie was palpable. Writer-director Thomas McCarthy was surrounded by well wishers, a nice mix of Academy members (former 80s Best Actress nominee spotted!) and journos the whole night. I did say a brief hello to Michael Keaton who I had met a couple of times during his Birdman run last season. "Welcome to Round Two!" I said stupidly. Was he ready for all this again, so soon? He assured me it felt much different this time -- the pressure was off since it wasn't so focused on him. It's too soon to say if the "all supporting" Oscar campaign for Spotlight will pay off with the acting branch, but I personally think it was the right call. It's the very definition of an Ensemble Picture. Can anyone beat that team for SAG's upcoming top prize?