Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

Review: The Laundromat

The Laundromat

I’m a bit of Soderbergh skeptic. That combined with the tepid response from this year’s festivals meant that I went into The Laundromat with fairly low expectations. This must have worked in the film’s favour, though, because I had far more fun with it than I expected to.

Borrowing a healthy helping of self-referential winks and fourth wall-breaking from The Big Short, Soderbergh’s latest follows the Panama Papers scandal with a breezy, sardonic “explainer” approach. And while Soderbergh’s grasp on the film’s “meta” aspect sometimes feels ham-fisted (e.g. the film’s thudding final scene) there’s enough wit and genuine glee to make for an entertaining watch. It also helps when your narrators/guides through it all are as effortlessly charming as Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman.

The rest of the cast here is stacked, too. Delightful faces arrive throughout (in some cases only to exit a few minutes later) and many of the film’s lesser-known actors fit seamlessly into Soderbergh’s starkly, subtly off-kilter worldview, feeling right at home alongside the likes of Meryl Streep.

This works with the film’s sometimes episodic approach. Inevitably, some vignettes work better than others, but when they work, the film really pops. This is especially true of the scene between Rosalind Chao (one of those less familiar faces giving a standout performance) and Matthias Schoenaerts, who square off in a business deal late in the film. To say more would get into spoiler territory, but that sequence is a wonderful showcase for Soderbergh’s chops when it comes to directing clear-eyed suspense.

I do wish the rest of the film had more of that kind of bite to it, though. Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns take a largely comedic approach, but some of the punchlines don’t have quite the impact they seem to be working towards during the (sometimes lengthy) buildup. It’s an entertaining watch, but it alternates at times between being too heavy-handed or too vague to have the intended impact.

Being a Soderbergh project, though, there are still some wonderful details included. One small thing I particular appreciated was the subtle focus put on the secretaries and assistants playing witness from the sidelines. Sometimes they try to reason with their wayward bosses, and sometimes they just observe, but they’re always in the frame bearing witness to the corruption. It’s a surprisingly subtle “show don’t tell” touch for a film that does an awful lot of telling.

I guess this all comes with the Soderbergh territory and it worked well for me here. He’s a director who’s always willing to try new things, and while it certainly hasn’t all worked, there’s always something interesting happening in his films. The Laundromat doesn’t have the crackle that some will crave, but given the subject matter its slightly scattered tone somehow feels just about right.

2012 Oscar Winner Predictions!

Well, it’s finally Oscar weekend. In honor of that, I’m posting my final set of predictions for who I think will take home the Oscar in each category. Click here to see the full list of nominees.

Picture: The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Actor: Jean DuJardin, The Artist

Actress: Viola Davis: The Help

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Original Screenplay: The Artist

Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Animated Feature Film: Chico & Rita

Cinematography: War Horse (tough pick!)

Art Direction: Hugo

Costume Design: Hugo

Make-Up: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Film Editing: Hugo

Sound Editing: War Horse

Sound Mixing: Transformers Dark of the Moon (no idea with this category)

Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Original Score: The Artist

Original Song: “Man or Muppet”, The Muppets

Foreign Language Film: A Separation

Documentary Feature: Pina

Documentary Short: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (yay for guessing!)

Live Action Short: Time Freak (ditto!)

Animated Short: A Morning Stroll (and again!)

What to Expect from Next Week’s Oscar Nominations

With the 2010 Oscar nominations coming February 2 (same day as Lost starts!), I’ve decided to compile a guide with my predictions for the nominees. It’ll be interesting to see how they stack up to the final results. The contenders that I list as “locks” are the ones that I would be highly surprised the see snubbed. “Good bets” are those who have a good shot at being nominated, but could miss out. And the “best of the rest” are those who I feel could either fill the rest of the category, or bump one of the good bets.

 

Best Picture


The big buzz with the Best Picture category this year (aside from its complicated new voting procedure) is the fact that there will be ten nominees, as opposed to the usual five. This leaves a lot of room for films that wouldn’t normally get recognized to be nominated, yet there are really just a handful of films competing for the win.

The Locks: There’s virtually no chance that Avatar will miss out on a nomination, especially after its Golden Globe win. The blockbuster definitely has a good shot at winning the whole thing. Right now, it seems like the only other two movies that have a shot at winning are The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. And while it has the disadvantage of not being in theatres during awards season, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is also pretty much guaranteed one of the ten spots, as is Precious, despite its slight loss of momentum since its big win at TIFF.

Good Bets: A lot of people thought that Wall-E should have received a Best Picture nomination last year, so with ten slots available this year, the beloved Up is bound to get Pixar its first Best Picture nomination. Invictus may have gotten snubbed at the Globes for Best Drama, but I think the Academy will make room for Eastwood’s latest project.

Best of the Rest: The last three slots are really hard to call. There are nearly a dozen films that could fill those spots, but none of them have much of a shot at snagging the win. I think An Education and A Serious Man have a pretty decent shot at receiving a nomination based on strong critical reception and acclaimed performances. The last spot is even harder to call, but if I had to guess, I’d say The Messenger might sneak in. But there are plenty of other options. Crazy Heart has the benefit of a powerhouse performance from Jeff Bridges to help propel it into the mind of Academy voters, as does A Single Man, with Colin Firth’s acclaimed performance. The Lovely Bones and Nine were once considered to be major contenders, and though they’ve both received poor reviews from critics, there’s a slim chance one of them (more likely Nine) might still make it on the strength of their directors and casts. Star Trek and District 9 were acclaimed sci-fi blockbusters, but with Avatar already fitting that description, their chances are slimmer. And speaking of blockbusters, don’t be too shocked if The Hangover gets one of the spots.

Wishful Thinking: I’d love to see (500) Days of Summer get some recognition, but with its loss at the Golden Globes, it’s chances are not good. Even less likely to receive a nomination is Spike Jonze’s wonderful Where the Wild Things Are.

 

Best Actor


The Locks: It’s currently a race between George Clooney for Up in the Air and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. And with his win at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it seems like Bridges has all but secured his spot at the podium Oscar night. Colin Firth is also bound to pick up a nomination for his work in A Single Man, but unless there’s some kind of upset, he’s unlikely to win.

Good Bets: Despite Morgan Freeman‘s snub at the BAFTAs, and Invictus‘ exclusion from Best Picture at the Globes, I still don’t think the Academy will ignore Freeman for his turn as Nelson Mandela. That’s the kind of role that the Oscars live for. As for the fifth spot, the previously underappreciated Jeremy Renner has a good shot at rounding out the category for his work in The Hurt Locker.

Best of the Rest: I think that the five men listed above will be the five to get nominated. It’s hard to get a sense of other actors’ buzz, since everyone seems so sure of the five nominees. But if there were to be an upset, it could be from The Road‘s Viggo Mortensen. Ben Foster and Sam Rockwell have also gotten loads of praise for The Messenger and Moon, but I don’t think that either of them will have the momentum to steal Renner or Freeman’s spot.

Wishful Thinking: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer. With the Globe nomination, he has a tiny shot at getting a nomination, but it’s highly unlikely that the Academy would recognize such a young actor for a comedic role. And Max Records gave one of the best performances from a child that I’ve ever seen in Where the Wild Things Are.

 

Best Actress


The Locks: As bizarre as this may sound, it’s likely that either Julie & Julia or The Blind Side will have given us an Oscar winning performance. Meryl Streep was considered a frontrunner since J&J‘s release, and now Sandra Bullock has unexpectedly become a major contender in the Best Actress race. They won their respective categories at the Globes and tied at the Critics Choice Awards, and now it looks like they’ll be facing off for Oscar gold. Poor Carey Mulligan.
In the wake of all of the Sandra Bullock excitement (who knew such a thing existed?), it seems like she’s been pushed aside a bit. With a slew of critics’ awards for her performance in An Education (including a win from the National Board of Review), Mulligan will almost certainly be nominated, but I’m doubtful that she’ll be able to beat the two heavyweights in this category.

Good Bets: Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is likely to get recognition for her emotional performance in Precious, but the fact that this is her first film could hurt her chances slightly, as might all of the focus being put on Mo’Nique’s performance.

Best of the Rest: For those keeping track, that leaves one spot available in this category. Helen Mirren seems like the most likely choice for her work in The Last Station. She would be my guess to round out the category, but it’s possible that the Academy will want to recognize someone new (since Mirren won just back in 2006 for The Queen). Emily Blunt has been getting rave reviews (and a Golden Globe nomination) for The Young Victoria. She’s a respected young actress, and she might be rewarded for her work in the period piece. And perhaps one of the youngest, most respected actresses in Hollywood is Saoirse Ronan, who received a supporting nod for her work in Atonement two years back. But the fact that the lead Actor and Actress categories rarely recognize child actors (not to mention the critical ravaging of The Lovely Bones) won’t help her chances any. Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Michelle Monaghan (Trucker) also got great reviews for their performances, but they and their films have been largely overlooked this awards season.

Wishful Thinking:
Zoe Saldana may never have appeared in non-blue form during Avatar, but she gave a raw, fearless performance.

 

Best Supporting Actor


The Locks: Having won just about every precursor award in existence, there is no way that Christoph Waltz won’t be nominated for Inglourious Basterds. And while he’ll likely be adding one more award to his collection on Oscar night, the excitement in this category is surrounding who the other four nominees will be (yes, they’re still going to bother). There are about seven men fighting for four spots in the line-up. Woody Harrelson is probably the only one of them who’s more or less guaranteed one of those spaces.

Good Bets: Veteran actor Christopher Plummer has a good shot at being recognized for his work in The Last Station, as does double Globe nominee Matt Damon for Invictus, despite the fact that both of them recently missed on a BAFTA nomination, and that Plummer was snubbed at the Critics Choice Awards. And while critics haven’t liked The Lovely Bones, most of them have been raving about Stanley Tucci‘s turn as a killer. The only thing that might hurt him is that he may lose a few votes for those who wish to nominate him for his charming work in Julie & Julia instead.

Best of the Rest: It’s definitely possible that Alfred Molina could sneak in to this category thanks to early raves for his performance in An Education. And while he doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign going, many critics latched on to newcomer Christian McKay for his performance as a young Orson Welles in none other than Me and Orson Welles. It would probably be considered far more surprising if Alec Baldwin got a nomination for It’s Complicated, or if The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie managed to snag a spot, but I wouldn’t count either of them out yet.

Wishful Thinking: I know it’s an odd choice, but I think that Zach Galifianakis gave one of the funniest, most memorable performances in a long time in The Hangover.

 

Best Supporting Actress


The Locks:
Mo’Nique‘s win for her monstrous turn in Precious has been locked up for a while now. Her only possible competition is from Up in the Air‘s Anna Kendrick, but at this point, it’s Mo’Nique’s award to lose.

Good Bets: Kendrick’s co-star Vera Farmiga has a very good shot at picking up her first nomination and rounding out a trio of acting noms for Up in the Air. If the wonderful Julianne Moore gets a spot in the line-up for her apparently brief role in A Single Man, she’ll have to settle for her fifth consecutive loss come Oscar night.

Best of the Rest: Once again, we’re left with one spot, and several candidates. Marion Cotillard (who I believe has now had her campaign switched to the supporting category) and Penelope Cruz have won praise for their work in Nine, but a after being shut out for all five Golden Globe awards, and all ten Critic’s Choice Awards that it was nominated for, the film’s chance at any Oscar nominations seems to be sinking fast. Meanwhile, Inglourious Basterds seems to be gaining strength as the awards season progresses, so either Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger could steal the last spot. The other contender is Samantha Morton, who is not only receiving accolades for The Messenger, but is also coming off of a decade full of acclaimed performances. Forced to make a prediction, I’m guessing that Cotillard might still be the fifth nominee.

Wishful Thinking:
Emily Blunt was fantastic in the criminally underrated Sunshine Cleaning. She balanced humour and depth with a subtlety similar to that which Anna Kendrick is being praised for.

 

Best Director

The Locks: Despite what he claims in this Rolling Stone article, James Cameron clearly learned nothing from his “I’m king of the world!” debacle at the 1998 Oscars, judging his Na’vi-tinged Golden Globe acceptance speech in any indication. But douchebaggery aside, Cameron has a good shot at adding another Oscar to his mantle for Avatar. His main competition is in Kathryn Bigelow who is being praised for her gritty direction in The Hurt Locker. Just to keep things interesting, it so happens that Cameron and Bigelow are ex-husband and wife (Bigelow was his third of five wives). If Bigelow gets nominated (which she surely will) she’ll be only the fourth female director to get recognized by the Academy. This could be the year that a woman finally wins Best Director.

Good Bets: With his third film, Up in the Air, Jason Reitman gave his most mature work yet, and he’ll likely be rewarded for it with his second Oscar nomination. Also in contention is the always interesting Quentin Tarantino, whose Inglourious Basterds struck a chord with viewers and critics alike.

Best of the Rest: At this point it seems to be a toss-up between Lee Daniels (Precious) and Clint Eastwood (Invictus) for the fifth spot. Neither will win, but it depends on whether the Academy wants to recognize a promising new director, or a reliable vet. My guess is that Daniels will take it.

Wishful Thinking:
Spike Jonze, as always.

2009 in Film: Comedies

So far, 2009 is shaping up to be a decent year for movies, I think. There’s already been some great films released, and Oscar season is getting started. I recently watched I Love You, Man and Away We Go, which had been two of my most anticipated movies from earlier in the year. Both we great, and it got me thinking that 2009 seems to have been an exceptionally good year for comedies. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen as many dramas, but so far seven out of my top ten favourite movies of the year are comedies. Of course, not every comedy was good. For every Away We Go there’s a Confessions of a Shopaholic. But I’ve seen some fantastic comedies with some very strong performances. I thought I’d share some of my favourite comedic performances of the year. Since I think comedies are always criminally underrepresented in the awards season, I’ll give my two cents on who I think is deserving of nominations, and who actually has a chance. I might update this list as awards season gets closer, and as I see more movies from 2009.

Oh, and since I only seem to get comments on the posts where I encourage them, be sure to leave comments on which choices you agree/disagree with, and your own opinions on your favourite comedies of 2009!

Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia
Meryl Streep can do no wrong (well, except maybe Mamma Mia…), and she’s given some great comedic performances this decade (Adaptation and The Devil Wears Prada both gave her Oscar nominations). Her performance as legendary chef Julia Child was delightful (though the movie as a whole was just decent). She had the voice, the body language, and the spirit down pat.

Award Season Prospects: This is the only performance on the list that’s guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination, and she just might win the whole thing.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt – (500) Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favourite young actors, and I was excited to see him return to his comedy roots after all of the heavy movies he’s made this decade. His comedic timing is brilliant, and at times, he’s pretty hilarious here. This is not a typical romantic comedy, and Levitt elevates his performance so far beyond the usual acting in those types of movies. It’s a subtle performance, but the genuine warmth and feeling that he brings to this role is unusual.

Award Season Prospects: Based on what I’ve seen this year, I think he’s worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. But that category is always overstuffed, so I’d be shocked if he got one. A Golden Globe nomination is possible, but sadly, still a bit of a stretch.

Maya Rudolph – Away We Go

Most people know her from her great comedic work on Saturday Night Live, and I was really surprised by how good Maya Rudolph was in Sam Mendes’ Away We Go. It’s considered a comedy, but there are a lot of scenes (especially in the latter half of the film) that are entirely dramatic. My mom said she found the film depressing, but I disagree. And I think a lot of that has to do with Rudolph’s vibrant performance. Her character is pregnant, and both worried and excited for the future. I thought Rudolph gave a very genuinely likeable and optimistic performance.

Award Season Prospects: I think a Golden Globe nomination is possible.

Amy Adams – Sunshine Cleaning

With two Oscar nominations already under her belt, obviously Amy Adams is a fantastic actress. She’s got a great screen presence in every movie that she’s in, and Sunshine Cleaning is no exception. It’s a comedy, but there isn’t a ton of laugh-out-loud kind of laughs. It’s just not that kind of movie. But Adams does a great job with the subtle humour, and the human drama that the role calls for. She was good in Julie and Julia as well, but this is the more interesting role and performance.

Award Season Prospects: Sunshine Cleaning was under the radar, and got somewhat mixed reviews (though I loved it). I think that Adams is worthy of a Golden Globe nomination, but it may or may not happen.

Emily Blunt – Sunshine Cleaning

Starting off as the more comedic character in Sunshine Cleaning, Emily Blunt played the mix between comedy and drama perfectly. Something about her screen presence is magnetic. Blunt had a few scenes that really showed off her acting skills (everyone talks about the “tressling” scene), as well as a bunch that allowed her to be sarcastic and curmudgeonly, which she does very well. She’s great in those roles that blur the line between humour and drama (The Devil Wears Prada, The Jane Austen Book Club)

Award Season Prospects: I’m not sure if her performance qualifies as lead or supporting, but I’m not sure if her chances are great, either way. I’d love to see her get some kind of nomination for her work here, though.

Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover

Oh, God. I can’t even think of this performance without giggling a little. There were so many hilarious moments in The Hangover courtesy of Mr. Galifianakis. I like Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms a lot, too, but this guy stole the show. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t know much about Galifiankis, I’m sure you’re a bit puzzled by all the fuss. To which I say, go see The Hangover.

Award Season Prospects: Hey, remember when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for wearing blackface last year?

Jesse Eisenberg – Adventureland

Oddly, this is only the second ugliest t-shirt that appears on this list. Anyways, some people call Jesse Eisenberg the poor-man’s Michael Cera. But I think that he’s some alternate version of Michael Cera who is capable of conveying genuine emotion. Don’t get me wrong. I love Michael Cera, but I was really impressed by the earnest, sweet performance that Eisenberg gave here. He’s still funny and awkward, but there was just something very real about his performance, like he wasn’t constantly worried about being clever and funny.

Award Season Prospects: Not great. It’s not the kind of performance that usually gets recognized, sadly.

Paul Rudd – I Love You, Man
I’ve been a fan of Paul Rudd for a while now. I first noticed him on Friends, and then I went back and loved him in Clueless. So after a string of iffy movies and supporting roles, I was glad to see him starting to get the leads in major comedies. Role Models was a lot of fun, and he topped it with this year’s I Love You, Man. He is so incredibly awkward (“Slappa da Beeaaaass!”) as Peter, a man with no male friends, but so charming, too. There’s something about Paul Rudd that you just want to root for.

Award Season Prospects: Hilarious performance, but just not award-worthy.

Chris Messina – Away We Go

Alright, so it’s a really small role and not even an especially comedic performance, but I just wanted to talk about how impressed I was by Chris Messina in Away We Go. The movie is split into different parts, and when Burt and Verona travel to Montreal, they meet up with Messina’s character, who Burt went to college with. He has a great monologue, and Messina delivers it perfectly. His character starts off as seeming like a laid-back guy, but as we learn more about his and his wife’s circumstances, his character takes an unexpected turn. It’s a really understated performance, but that whole section in Montreal was my favourite part of the movie, partly thanks to Messina’s performance.

 Award Season Prospects: Not a chance.

Zac Efron – 17 Again

I’m probably not helping my case by choosing a photo from the most shamelessly pandering scene in the whole movie. But whatever, I thought Zac Efron actually did a good job. He proved on SNL that he has comedic talent (I loved the “I AM YOUR MOTHER!!!” sketch. Anyone who can keep a straight face through that earns my respect). I’m not a fan of the whole High School Musical franchise (though there was an unintentionally awesome scene in the third movie where Efron breaks into the school at night and basketballs start raining down upon him. ANYWAYS.), but I thought he made this otherwise iffy movie a lot funnier (well, him and Thomas Lennon).

 Award Season Prospects: Ha.

Comedies from 2009 That Look God-awful, and I Vow Never to Watch:

  1. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
  2. Bride Wars
  3. The Pink Panther 2
  4. Dance Flick
  5. Miss March
  6. I Love You, Beth Cooper
  7. All About Steve
  8. Duplicity
  9. My Life in Ruins
  10. Imagine That
  11. Post Grad
  12. The Ugly Truth

 

Comedies from 2009 of Interest That I Still Need to See:
Big Fan

The Brothers Bloom

Bruno

Extract

Funny People

The Informant!

It’s Complicated (upcoming)

Pirate Radio (upcoming)

A Serious Man

Taking Woodstock

Up in the Air (upcoming)

Whip It!

World’s Greatest Dad

Zombieland