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Ashley Judd, Pulp Queen

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Entries in Best Actress (515)

Thursday
Apr122018

Months of Meryl: A Cry in the Dark (1988)

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

 #15 — Lindy Chamberlain, a New Zealand matriarch wrongfully convicted of her child’s murder.

MATTHEWOne evening in August 1980, Azaria Chamberlain, the two month-old daughter of New Zealand couple Michael and Lindy Chamberlain, was taken while the family was camping near Ayers Rock. She was never found again. Seconds before Azaria disappeared, Lindy claimed to have seen a dingo rummaging through the tent where her daughter lay sleeping, putting forth the soon-to-be-infamous story that a dingo had taken and perhaps eaten her baby. A seedy, sensationalist media frenzy ensued, with the Chamberlains’ faces splashed across the covers of obsessive tabloids and speculative segments of nightly news programs as many, including the New Zealand high court, viciously questioned the veracity of the family’s explanation.

None of Meryl Streep’s vehicles have entered the cultural lexicon with quite the same measure of gleefully ubiquitous parody that has surrounded and even overshadowed Fred Schepisi’s 1988 docudrama A Cry in the Dark, also titled — and released in Australia and New Zealand as — Evil Angels after the John Bryson true-crime bestseller that first chronicled the Chamberlain family’s legal ordeal. A Cry in the Dark’s devolution into little more than a widely-known (though often misquoted) punchline has proven to be both admittedly hilarious but also fairly odd, especially considering the gruesome events from which this gag originates...

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Thursday
Apr052018

Months of Meryl: Ironweed (1987)

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

 #14 — Helen Archer, a dying homeless alcoholic.

JOHN: Behold, the most devastating sequel to Heartburn imaginable. Directed by Hector Babenco and adapted by William Kennedy from his own Pulitzer-winning novel, Ironweed follows Francis (Jack Nicholson) and Helen (Streep), two homeless drifters biding their time and eking out their lives in Depression-era Albany. At nearly two and a half hours long, Ironweed is a bleak, wrenching study of poverty with nary a promise of redemption in sight. We’re talking about a movie whose most uplifting and musical scene is chased with a crushing dose of hopeless reality, a movie in which dogs assail a woman’s frozen corpse outside a church, digging graves is considered a good day’s work, and ramshackle vagrants pray they drink enough liquor to die in their sleep. It’s a tough sell and an even tougher sit, but Ironweed features one of Streep’s most spellbinding transformations.

Helen Archer does not make her entrance for a good twenty minutes. First we watch Nicholson’s Francis dig graves, slug whiskey, and fecklessly address the headstone of his deceased infant son, who he dropped and killed in a drunken daze. In the basement of a church serving free hot meals for the homeless, Helen slips through the door, a regular who, after some time away, returns to more of the same, reuniting with her moribund companion Francis. Streep’s Helen is shrewd enough to get herself warm and fed, but something about Helen suggests that she isn’t entirely there; it’s almost as if she is suspended halfway between life and death, past and present.

Helen, who we will come to learn is a former singer and concert pianist, constantly recollects the glory of her dashed dreams with utmost clarity, as again Streep is able to conjure a memory so expressively that one believes it to be as true as fact...

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Tuesday
Apr032018

Glenn Close and the next Best Actress competition

by Nathaniel R

Glenn Close is "The Wife"

Happy news to share or remind you of if you've already known (this is not a 'breaking news' specific post, just newsy). Sony Pictures Classic is NOT waiting until the dread last weekend of the year to release the new Glenn Close vehicle The Wife.  (Post Christmas releases in Los Angeles and New York rarely work for Oscar hopefuls but studios have been loathe to give them up, hoping that Oscar fever will rescue their commercial prospects despite not putting the effort in of releasing them before Christmas). The post Christmas pray-for-a-midnight-miracle attempt is what doomed Annette Bening's chances two years in a row for Best Actress nominations (20th Century Women and Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool were released on December 28th and December 29th respectively in 2016 and 2017).

No, The Wife is trying the summer player / Best Actress momentum game (which works out more often than New Years Eve hopefuls). The film hits theaters in limited release on August 3rd and will platform from there. I think it's the best work she's done in a couple of decades so I'm hoping y'all like it too. Whether or not her perpetual "overdue" status paired with what we're assuming will be strong reviews (at least for her if not necessarily the film) will lead to a nomination or win will depend a lot on her as yet unknown competition; it's not the undeniable kind of ferocious big meaty star turn but more of a finely calibrated character study. But who will that competition be...

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Thursday
Mar222018

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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Saturday
Mar102018

Retro Randomness: Come to the Stable (1949)

by Nathaniel R

Have you ever queued up an old movie no one talks about anymore hoping to discover a gem?

You imagine that it's only been forgotten or is underdiscussed due to the vagaries of when and where movies are available in the ever changing landcape of viewing technologies, Such was my fantasy when I sat down to watch Come to the Stable (1949). This French nuns in New England comedy was my biggest viewing gap in 1949 Oscar history. In fact, I didn't even know it was a comedy.

Alas the fantasy of stumbling upon a forgotten gem didn't last long. Still, Come to the Stable's tagline must have been true in 1949. It read...

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