Oscar History

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Entries in Months of Meryl (12)


Months of Meryl: "Out of Africa"

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 


#12 — Karen Blixen, aristocratic Danish author who owns a coffee plantation in Kenya during the first decades of the twentieth century.

JOHN: Did Karen Blixen once have a farm in Africa? Like a marching zombie with arms outstretched, Karen intones this mantra via voiceover several times during Out of Africa, either because she remains in disbelief at her accomplishment or feels compelled to remind the viewer of a reason to focus on Ms. Blixen amid Sydney Pollack’s African travelogue.

Out of Africa tells the tale of Karen Blixen, a headstrong woman who relocates from Denmark to Kenya circa 1914 to marry her lover’s twin brother (Klaus Maria Brandauer), run a short-lived coffee plantation, and eventually fall in love with English game-hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). Out of Africa was a project that piqued but ultimately eluded such directors as Orson Welles, David Lean, and Nicholas Roeg. As envisioned by Sydney Pollack and distributed by Universal Pictures in 1985, it's a colossal Hollywood production that endlessly reveres the natural beauty of its Kenyan environs while dodging engagement with the colonialist specificities of its time and place...

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Months of Meryl: Plenty (1985)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

Charles Dance and Meryl Streep in "Plenty"

#11 — Susan Traherne, resistance fighter turned diplomat’s wife with a gnawing sense of unease about the life she must lead.

MATTHEW:  “I just wish she were more ordinary,” a persnickety commercial director grumbles about an offscreen model hired to play the mother in a promo for dog food. “Will the audience identify?” he frets. We’re in England in the postwar 1940s and Susan Traherne, a former agent in the French resistance, is rolling her eyes through a mind-numbing advertising job that she will promptly vacate. The scene is quick but Susan walks out just in time for the director’s comments to resonate as a sly statement on the woman herself, the reliably erratic anti-heroine played by Meryl Streep in Fred Schepisi’s tepid cinematic adaptation of David Hare’s Plenty. Will an audience identify with a figure so brazenly, even coldly unconventional? And does such identification even really matter...?

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Months of Meryl: Falling in Love (1984)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#10 —Molly Gilmore, a married woman who, against her better judgment, falls in love with a married man.

JOHN: Falling in Love is my favorite movie. Well, not exactly. I only just watched it for the first time, so I can’t exactly gauge the extent of my affection. But I’ll repeat: Falling in Love is my favorite movie. It’s hard not to fall in love (sorry) with a movie where Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro have an affair in 1983 New York City, aided by best pals Dianne Wiest and Harvey Keitel. After a chance encounter at the beautiful Manhattan bookstore Rizzoli on Christmas Eve, the two meet again months later, care of the blessed Metro North, and eventually have their desires and marriages tested. One could say it’s a Mazursky-inflected Deer Hunter reunion, minus the wit, or The Bridges of Dobbs Ferry, minus the tension. But Falling in Love is an almost lovingly clichéd brief encounter featuring two unexpectedly nuanced lead performances. It’s cinematic comfort food of the loveliest order.

Streep is Molly Gilmore, a graphic designer with a stiff doctor husband (David Clennon) and a dying father (George Martin), and nearly nothing else of a backstory to report. In our last entry I noted that Streep as Karen Silkwood is ostensibly the closest character to her own personality that she had yet played, but Falling in Love quickly bucks that distinction...

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Months of Meryl: Silkwood (1983)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#9 — Karen Silkwood, a real-life chemical technician turned labor union activist and whistleblower.

“Karen Silkwood has come to stand for so many things to so many people that I had to start all over again in trying to play her as a person, not a symbol. I really don't think we can know much about people after they're not there to tell us. All their real, real secrets die with them. At the end of this whole experience of making this movie, I thought about those minutes before Karen's car went off the road, and I missed her.”
— Meryl Streep, 1983

: Meryl Streep appears in every scene and what feels like nearly every shot of Silkwood, which marked the first but certainly not the last time that the actress would play a real person. Streep’s career was technically still in its early stages when Silkwood’s cameras began rolling in Texas in 1982, but it was already replete with shelves of awards and a peerless level of respectability that prompted co-star Cher to crack this gem about first meeting Streep: “I thought it was going to be like having an audience with the Pope” 

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Months of Meryl: Sophie's Choice (1982) 

Hi, we’re John and Matt and, icymi, we are watching every single live-action film starring Streep...

#8 — Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish Holocaust survivor now fighting back personal demons as a Brooklyn émigré.

JOHN: Meryl Streep is as defined by Sophie’s Choice as Tiffany's is by diamonds. Her “choice” is perhaps the most notorious scene in Streep’s oeuvre, known by people who have no idea that The Deer Hunter or Silkwood or Ironweed even exist. In only our eighth entry, we have already arrived at the performance in which the legend of Streep was crystallized forever...

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Months of Meryl: Still of the Night (1982)

Hi, we’re John and Matt and, icymi, we are watching every single live-action film starring Streep...

#7 — Brooke Reynolds, a Waspy urbanite and unlikely femme fatale with a shady past and a killer blonde bob.

MATTHEW: No actor, not even the oft-cited Greatest Actress of All Time, is immune to the inevitable and indisputable stinker. Seven projects in and just touching the surface of true-blue movie stardom, Meryl Streep finally made her first real turkey...

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Months of Meryl: The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

Hi, we’re John and Matt and, icymi, we are watching every single live-action film starring Streep...

 #6 — Sarah Woodruff, an outcast of ill repute in Victorian England, and Anna, the philandering actress playing her...

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Months of Meryl: Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Hi, we’re John and Matt and, icymi, we are watching every single live-action film starring Streep. Previously Julia, The Deer Hunter, Manhattan and The Seduction of Joe Tynan

 #5 — Joanna Kramer, a mother and divorcée embroiled in a messy custody battle.

It’s 1980. Kramer vs. Kramer is a critical and commercial smash (the top-grossing film released in 1979). The dawn of a new era approaches and one actress is anointed as its icon...

“The face is beautiful but anguished, haunted by sorrow, despair, determination and love. Can one face express all these warring emotions, with a grave dignity that adds a deeper beauty to the physical structure? Meryl's face can and does in the extraordinary first image of "Kramer vs. Kramer". This first shot of a superbly crafted film prints indelibly upon the eyes and consciousness of the audience the face of a young actress who, at 30, may become the strongest performer of her generation, first American woman since Jane Fonda to rival the power, versatility and impact of such male stars as Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino...

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