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Entries in Lady in the Van (5)

Monday
Apr252016

The Furniture: The Lady with the Van Paints a Crime Scene Into a Home

"The Furniture" is our new design series. Here's Daniel Walber...

The Lady in the Van begins with a bloody hit-and-run accident. The title van-driving lady, played by Maggie Smith, collides with a young man and leaves him for dead. On the lam, bound by necessity to a vehicle that may also be a murder weapon, she finds her way to a quiet neighborhood full of artists and bourgeois intellectuals.

Then it turns into a delightful comedy about the social anxieties of Alan Bennett.

It’s a bit abrupt, to be honest. And it may take a fair while to warm up to the neurotic, Adaptation.-style doppelgangers that represent the split personalities of the playwright protagonist. The vans themselves, though, quite effectively capture a much more gradual transition, one that charts Mary/Margaret’s arc with care. What begins as an all-in-one murder weapon and crime scene becomes a home. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr192016

Newish Home Viewing: The Lady in the Van, The Oscar in the Franchises.

Here's what's new recently for your eyeballs.

Newish to DVD/BluRay
Fifty Shades of Black. Marlon Wayans sends up the Grey S&M movie.
The Force Awakens. Not available for rental yet but when it is we shall rewatch
The Forest. In which Natalie Dormer enters Japan's Suicide Forest to confront true terror: the reviews of Gus Van Sant's 'Sea of Trees' which is also set there.
Ip Man 3. For your completists. I haven't seen any of these since I figured The Grandmaster covered it for me. You?
The Lady in the Van. In which Maggie Smith gets grittier and descends the economic ladder for once. Maintain high society snobbier via her delusions of
Norm of the North. Animated. Though probably nothing we need worry about over here.
The Revenant. That which did rob George Miller of his rightful Best Director Oscar in February.

new to streaming
AJIN (S1) on Netflix. An anime sci-fi series about a teenager who realizes he is not human. Cue: suspenseful music, giant expressive eyes.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S2) on Netflix. I haven't started yet due to travels. Can't wait to see my Jane Krakowski again. Tell me NOTHING. 
Mad Max on Amazon Prime. The original. Roughly 20 years before everyone realized Mel Gibson was also Mad.
Kong, King of the Apes (S1) on Netflix. This is a kids sci-fi series about Kong battling robot dinosaurs or some such. Has Netflix been doing kids series for awhile and we're just now noticing?
Tangerines on Amazon Prime. Not the awesome LA trans hooker comedy but the Estonian Oscar nominated drama.

A BURNING QUESTION: WHAT'S WITH OSCAR'S FRANCHISE FICKLENESS?
All the Bourne films (2002-2012 - 4 films thus far) and all the X-Men films (2000-2014 - five films thus far) have been reissued on DVD & BluRay for the obvious reason: new theatrical outing about to happen. This prompted head spinning when randomly thinking about their Oscar histories. Weirdly both series have been popular from the start with audiences but have just one film within them that Oscar responded to: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, 3 Oscar noms/wins) and X-Men Days of Future Past (2012, 1 Oscar nomination).

Rehearsing a fight scene for Bourne Ultimatum. Photograph by Greg Williams

Isn't it fascinating how non-patterned Oscar is with franchises as a general rule? Sometimes they're not into them at all and then all of a sudden they are (those franchises and James Bond of course). Other times it's steady if halfhearted interest (superhero films in particular categories). Often it seems vaguely disconnected to the particulars of individual films. Consider this: Batman Forever is easily the Academy's second most all time favorite Batman film? WTF.  They've also been weirdly sporadic in Harry Potter love ignoring one of the best entries (Order of the Phoenix) that actually worked hard for an Art Direction nomination while rewarding the film that took place mostly in a tent (Deathly Hallows Part 1).

On the broad surface of things you'd think that Oscar voters, many of whom are ordinary working people who just happen to be in showbiz (like Emmy voters) would treat franchises the way that Emmy treats TV... which is all franchises. Not that we recommend this! With Emmy if they don't notice you at beginning they almost never do -- and they're loyal to the point of stupidity if they like you at all! Oscar doesn't really equate with that at all in ongoing narratives. What do you make of that? I ask because I'm not sure. I don't have all the answers!!! Is it just happenstance involving the every shifting competition in each calendar year at the movies?

Saturday
Nov072015

AFI Fest: Lady in the Van

Anne Marie here reporting from Hollywood & Highland.

Let's be honest: there's probably only one reason you (or anyone) is interested in The Lady in the Van. If you own a copy of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you kept watching Downton Abbey even after Julian Fellowes killed two main characters and the series lost focus, then I have good news for you: you will love The Lady in the Van. Dame Maggie Smith is in top form, and the movie is devoted to giving her a variety of small acting moments that pop up in awards show montages and internet gifsets. Even if the rest of Nicholas Hytner's movie is unrelentingly average, Dame Maggie Smith is a delight.

First, let's talk about Maggie. In the last 20 years, the Dame has made a career of playing colorful, curmudgeonly women, effectively destroying - along with her Dames in Arms Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, and Angela Lansbury - the idea that older actresses aren't interesting. (There's a question to be asked about why all of these successful, terribly interesting older actresses are British, but that's a tangent for another day.) As the titular homeless woman who parks in the driveway of a put-upon playwright (Alex Jennings) for 15 years, Maggie Smith continues this fine tradition. Alternately infuriating and empathetic, crazy and charismatic, disgusting and distinguished, Smith creates a character so bizarrely contradictory that you understand why the writer allowed himself to be inconvenienced for almost two decades beginning in the 1970s. Sitting next to Nathaniel and eurocheese, I don't know that I've seen a festival audience react as gleefully to a moment so small as when Dame Maggie Smith, clad in a nightdress and a smelly rain coat, cracked a small private smile while riding a duck on a merry go round.

The rest of the movie is about what you'd expect from a BBC drama - familiar character actors, comedy stemming from British polite timidity - with one exception. The playwright Alan Bennett (who adapted his own play for the screen) splits himself into two characters: the man living the events, and the writer observing them. At first, the conceit is fun, since it gives the observing ego a chance to make the snide remarks that polite British gentlemen just won't say. However, as with many movies that rely on narration, eventually the writer gets didactic, and begins informing the audience how to think and feel about his story. But what he refuses to comment on is more interesting. While he was busy belaboring the connection between his guilt over his ailing mother and the homeless woman he allows to sleep in his yard, I was more curious about his closeted sexuality in Margaret Thatcher's England. 

Ultimately, as a showpiece for Dame Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van delivers. As a BBC drama, it's a little more interesting than usual. Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, and James Corden all make appearances, but are criminally underused. There's one reason to see The Lady in the Van. But it's a good reason in itself.

Grade: Maggie Smith A / Rest of the movie C+ Total = B

Oscar Chances: In a less competitive year, Dame Maggie Smith would be a shoe-in for a Best Actress nomination. As it is, she probably won't make the cut.

Monday
Sep072015

Lady in the Van: Maggie in 4 Gifs

Manuel here to welcome another Best Actress hopeful to the fold. Yes, it was unclear whether two-time Academy Award winner Maggie Smith’s vehicle, The Lady in the Van, would indeed get a US release this fall in time to qualify for awards consideration but with a Toronto Film Festival special presentation, a December release plan, a new poster and a new trailer, we have to welcome Smith to the race. More...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug252015

Bring Link On

Mic Manuel on the transgressive feminism of Bring it On 15 years later
Grantland Mark Harris on four takeaways from this summer's box office - great piece as usual
Stuff this piece is old but I was shocked to learn (sorry if I'm way late) that the 80s posters (like Madonna's debut album) in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night weren't real. I loved that vampire bedroom!
Awards Daily reshares the Lady in the Van trailer. I guess it's back on for 2015? Such a crowded year for Best Actress already but I'm expecting an onslaught of "weak year for best actress" pieces any moment since we get those every year even when it's a good one
A Fistful of Films shares his personal awards from 1988 - fun choices including Married to the Mob and Salaam Bombay both of which are underloved 

Empire I'm trying to avoid reading about the new Star Wars -- doesn't anybody like to be surprised in the movie theater anymore? -- but I ended up clicking on this piece about Kylo Ren (with the jagged lightsaber) and now I'm more excited about the premise behind the villains
Empire Léa Seydoux offered female lead in Channing Tatum's Gambit
Pajiba catches us up on what's going on with Tom Hardy's TV projects including a new one called "Taboo". (Somehow Tom Hardy is making time for TV every year despite his ever increasing In-Demandness in big movies, too)
Guardian the great Jacques Audiard will make his English Language debut with The Sisters Brothers. John C Reilly headlines. Audiard's past leads have tended to be fascinating dangerously sexy actors like Matthias Schoenarts, Romain Duris, Vincent Cassel and Tahar Rahim. John C Reilly as follow up? 

Stage Door
Playbill Kevin Bacon will star in a stage adaptation of Rear Window in October.
THR fun guests at Taylor Swift's Monday concert including Ellen Degeneres
Playbill Top US colleges for Theater Majors? from NYU to Florida State via the highly specific metric of which colleges are represented on Broadway right now
Theater Mania Steven Pasquale on a painful audition. He has been working on stage and TV forever and somehow people don't realize how incredible his singing voice is. Movie musical please.

For LOLZ
"Rock Dentistry" fun tumblr of the moment 
The Poke lost Stephen King books recovered. Need to read "Brian's Arse"
EW "how the internet would have GIF'ed the first MTV Music Video Awards" - the title is more exciting than the GIFS chosen but a highly worthy topic and of course, the internet would have GIF'ed the hell out of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" 
and
"Hi, I'm Marvel... and I'm DC"