March 2019 Viewing Diary

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017; d. Catherine Bainbridge)
Mum came and visited me and we watched this amazing documentary about the contributions Native Americans have made to music. It starts with Link Wray. I loved this documentary and was very excited to show it to Mum. She loved it. We had some really good talks about it. (I grew up with Buffy Sainte Marie albums, since they were in my parents’ collection.)

Eighth Grade (2018; d. Bo Burnham)
This was the second movie Mum and I watched together during her visit. I reviewed for Ebert. I had a feeling she would love it. She so did.

Ministry of Evil, Season 1, episode 1 (2019)
I only watched the first episode of this, but it was right up my alley. Cults. California. Hippies. Cult leaders who are so CLEARLY charlatans. Interviews with survivors. I’ll finish it eventually.

Gloria (2013; d. Sebastián Lelio)
I re-watched in preparation for the remake, which I was reviewing. It’s excellent.

Gloria Bell (2019; d. Sebastián Lelio)
Lelio remade his own movie, with Julianne Moore in the lead. I liked it. I reviewed for Ebert.

Quantum Leap, Season 1, episode 1 “Genesis: Part 1 – September 13, 1956” (1989; d. David Hemmings)
I haven’t watched these in years, since my Dean Stockwell Manic Phase, circa 2006. It was so fun to “leap” back in! I had forgotten a lot about it, especially how it takes some time for Sam and Dean (huh … check that out, Supernatural people) … I mean, Sam and Al … figure out what happened. Sam’s memory has been wiped, so he has to fly (literally, in the pilot) by the seat of his pants.

Quantum Leap, Season 1, episode 2 “Genesis: Part 2 – September 13, 1956” (1989; d. David Hemmings)
The two-part pilot is masterful and looks very VERY expensive. It’s like a mini Right Stuff. They pulled out all the stops. It occurs to me that there are similarities with Supernatural in that there is no standing set (or there wasn’t until the bunker came along). In every single episode of Quantum Leap, they had to create a whole world from scratch.

Quantum Leap, Season 1, episode 3 “Star-Crossed – June 15, 1972” (1989; d. Mark Sobel)
Teri Hatcher is beautiful in this episode. And dammit one of the scenes made me cry.

Quantum Leap, Season 1, episode 4 “The Right Hand of God – October 24, 1974” (1989; d. Gilbert M. Shilton)
This is some pretty sentimental shit, gotta say! You expect Bing Crosby to stroll into a scene.

Supernatural, Season 14, episode 14 “Ouroboros” (2019; d. Amyn Kaderali)
There were some good scenes here. But let me say just one thing. Now that the cast is so crowded … we are deprived of Sam and Dean reacting to things side by side, them together, having to improvise. This scene was funny but it would have been funnier if it had been Sam and Dean. I got into a disagreement with some lady on Twitter who kept babbling about how it was better with the large ensemble, and now Sam and Dean weren’t as close (“codependent”) and that that was a good thing – what are you smoking?? – and I did a little bit of digging into corners of the fandom I never visit, and now I realize that her words were code for: “If the brothers aren’t codependent, then that means Destiel can happen.” So basically: Sam is now a PROBLEM that needs to be SOLVED, to clear the way for Destiel. But that’s not what she said to me. She said, “I just love how the bond has been broken, leaving room for more people, their found family, blah blah woo woo.” She positioned herself as a voice of authority, and I found her very aggressive – she was really trying to SELL me on her interpretation and I don’t even know her, she never comments here. It was weird. At any rate, I did some digging and now I get what she was REALLY saying. Let’s just say: I disagree.

The Souvenir (2019; d. Joanna Hogg)
Oh my God, it’s so good. I’ll be writing something about it.

Finding Steve McQueen (2019; d. Mark Steven Johnson)
I reviewed this for Ebert. I liked a lot of it.

The Wedding Party (1962; d. Brian De Palma)
A lot of firsts here. Brian De Palma’s first film. Robert De Niro’s first film. Jill Clayburgh’s first film. I wrote a little bit about it here.

The Local Stigmatic (1990; d. David F. Wheeler)
Interviewing Dan about his book began a binge-watch of epic proportions. Not of one particular thing, but of movies I wanted to re-watch with Dan’s observations in mind. I actually had not seen this but Dan spoke so highly of it it was first on the list. The whole thing is on Youtube. Highly recommended.

Mean Streets (1973; d. Martin Scorsese)
It still leaps off the screen, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. It’s so damn PERSONAL.

Longford (2006; d. Tom Hooper)
Discussed with Dan. I had never seen. Samantha Morton’s performance is as fantastic – and frightening – as promised.

Unrelated (2007; d. Joanna Hogg)
Tom Hiddleston as youthful sexual carefree possibility … with some darker undertones. This has been a Joanna Hogg month for me. I love her.

Shattered Glass (2003; d. Billy Ray)
This movie is so good. No matter how many times I’ve seen it (and I saw it in the theatre when it was first released: the whole story had fascinated me) it always impresses me with its slow and super quiet build. Unbelievable performances and I fluctuate on who’s “the best” before I say: EVERYONE is good in this. Hank Azaria, Peter Sarsgaard (his best), Hayden Christensen, Chloe Sevigny, Melanie Lynsky, Steve Zahn, Rosario Dawson … fantastic film.

The Godfather (1972; d. Francis Ford Coppola)
It’s been a while since I’ve watched this movie. I know this movie so well I can anticipate cuts, edits, lines … it’s IN me.

The Godfather: Part II (1974; d. Francis Ford Coppola)
One of the best gestures in all of cinema. One of my favorite moments of any actor ever.

The Godfather: Part III (1990; d. Francis Ford Coppola)
It’s worth it for the Keaton-Pacino scenes and it’s worth it for this moment. I can’t tell you how many times I reference it in my own life. I mean, haven’t we all felt this way, even if we aren’t part of an international crime family?

Supernatural, Season 14, episode 15, “Peace of Mind” (2019; d. Philip Sgriccia)
It had its moments, that’s for sure!

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969; d. Sidney Pollack)
A bleak masterpiece. It doesn’t blink.

The Last Clean Shirt (1964; d. Alfred Leslie)
A collaboration between artist Alfred Leslie and poet Frank O’Hara. For something I’ve been working on. If you Google the title, you can watch the whole thing on Vimeo.

Requiem for a Dream (2000; d. Darren Aronofsky)
I put myself through this again for Ellen Burstyn’s “red dress monologue,” referenced by Dan in our interview. I saw this in the theatre in its first release and thought: “Okay, never need to see THAT again.” It’s amazing how it stuck in my head with such clarity.

Bed Among the Lentils (1988; d. Alan Bennett, Stuart Burge)
Again, inspired by my interview with Dan. This is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It’s 49 minutes long. The whole thing is on Youtube. I wrote about it here.

The Dropout (2019)
Like so many of us, I became obsessed with Elizabeth Holmes, she of the baritone voice (who are you kidding, lady), this past month. I read the book. I haven’t seen Alex Gibney’s documentary yet. But I did watch the special on ABC. The whole thing is so fascinating to me.

1900 (1976; d. Bernardo Bertolucci)
I had some serious deja vu moments this month because I was going over ground I’d gone on before years and years ago when I first got into acting. 1900 is 5 hours long, and has a kind of tortured release history. But it was released in theatre – at that length – and yes, it is a commitment – but come on, it’s Bertolucci, Depardieu, De Niro, Dominique Sanda … it’s certainly worth it. The politics are often ridiculous, but it’s not meant to be subtle. Plus, it’s got De Niro and Depardieu getting simultaneous handjobs. What’s not to like. While so much of this is a mess … it’s kind of a beautiful mess. With one stunning shot after another. (Vittorio Storaro shot it.)

Supernatural, Season 14, episode 16 “Don’t Go in the Woods” (2019; d. John Fitzpatrick)
There was some element of fucked-up-ness here that I liked: the message of “don’t lie” and when is it right to lie, is it ever right to lie, and how Jack hurts his lesbian friend and then lies to Sam and Dean just as they are coming clean and “telling the truth” to him and so … the Winchester Belljar continues. Jack has absorbed the “lie. always” message. Sorry, Twitter lady, who thinks breaking the bond of codependency is good television mainly because it clears the way to Destiel … we appear to be watching different shows. Normally I live and let live but not when you so much can’t let it go that you bombard me with DMs telling me why I’m wrong, and criticizing how I “interact” with the show, even when I tell you not to DM me, to just leave me alone. My first real run-in with another aspect of the fandom, believe it or not. Maybe because “endgame” is coming down the pike now for real, people are getting super stressed out?

Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970; d. Jerry Schatzberg)
So good. My kind of movie. A woman having a nervous breakdown. It flat out would not be made today. It’s too quiet, too character-oriented. Faye Dunaway’s best as far as I’m concerned.

The Holocaust, episode 1 (1978; d. Martin Chomsky)
I decided, almost spur of the moment, to watch Meryl Streep’s movies in chronological order. There’s very little I haven’t seen already. I might have missed one or two, so all of these are re-watches. But I wanted to see it in order to get a sense of what has happened.

Manhattan (1979; d. Woody Allen)
Streep as the gorgeous and cold ex-wife turned lesbian. Boy, this movie has issues. This is not news.

Paradise Recovered (2010; d. Storme Wood)
Small side route. I fell down into a cult rabbit hole and somehow found mention of this movie which was partially sponsored by one of the only organizations that helps ex-cult-members – or people who suffered under spiritual abuse – to re-enter society. I really enjoyed this film. I recommend it.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979; d. Robert Benton)
She really is so good in this. But you know who else is good? Jane Alexander. Both nominated for Oscars. Hell, everyone was nominated. Dustin Hoffman felt the threat of Streep, and pulled all these power trips, slapping her, throwing the glass against the wall without warning her. In one scene, her entire chest area is blotchy red. That’s not makeup. That’s real. (You’ll notice Streep never worked with Hoffman again.)

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981; d. Karel Reisz)
This was around the time in my life when I started seeing her movies, as they unfurled in real time. Or maybe Sophie was the first one I saw.

Alice at the Palace (1982; d. Emile Ardolino)
Now this I had never seen. Streep played Alice in a celebrated production in New York which was then filmed for TV. Debbie Allen as the Red Queen. It’s really something else, people. Lots of fun. So inventive. And she is so in the moment. So so free as an actress.

Still of the Night (1982; d. Robert Benton)
A noir-ish thriller, with Streep as the chilly mysterious and possibly murderous blonde. It’s fascinating to watch this in order. Because you know what’s coming next … after what’s coming next, she’ll never have to play a cookie-cutter role like this one again.

Sophie’s Choice (1982; d. Alan J. Pakula)
I’ve only seen this a couple of times. Because … who needs to see it again? It’s brutal. You believe she is actually thinking in Polish. She isn’t just doing an accent. She’s translating the words into English in her head before speaking. She’s a phenom.

Silkwood (1983; d. Mike Nichols)
One of my favorites. I watch this one more than I watch a lot of other Streep movies. Everyone’s good. And just consider what it was like back in the early 80s, to go from Sophie’s Choice to this. Imagine what the reaction was. Nobody knew what hit them.

Falling In Love (1984; d. Ulu Grosbard)
This is such a weird movie. I own this one too. There is literally nothing between these two characters. They aren’t characters. You’re supposed to think it’s this great missed-connection love but … what? When they move to go to bed, you wince, because it just hasn’t been established that there’s any relationship between the two of them. None of this is the fault of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. And the fun of this – or, not fun – but the reason this is interesting is to watch two stars make something interesting, by the sheer power of their personalities AND how well they listen to each other. In particular De Niro is very interesting here. This may be his most naked performance, honestly. Because he’s not doing a character. But still. Snoozefest. Also, everyone’s so wealthy. It’s alienating.

Out of Africa (1985; d. Sidney Pollack)
It’s funny: Streep is great but are these great movies? Has she been in a GREAT movie? I think the only one that could be classified as such is Deer Hunter. There’s much here to love, of course, and plenty of colonialism, and also great scenework between her and Redford (who’s great). She’s an interesting case. If her timeline had been different, if she had “hit” in 1972 as opposed to 1982, the movies she would have appeared in would have been very different.

Heartburn (1986; d. Mike Nichols)
When all is said and done, this may be my favorite Streep. It’s another one I pop in all the time.

JT Leroy (2019; d. Justin Kelly)
With Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern. I’ll be writing something about this. It’s fascinating.

Ironweed (1987; d. Hector Babenco)
This is some bleak shit. Again, all of these I saw first-run, and usually with Mitchell.

Fast Color (2019; d. Julia Hart)
I will be reviewing for Ebert.

All About Nina (2018; d. Eva Vives)
I reviewed this for Ebert. It’s so damn good. It’s on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it. It’s just as good as I remember and the same moment – “My name is Geronimo but you can call me Smoky” – made me laugh out loud.

She-Devil (1989; d. Susan Seidelman)
“I am an ARTIST.” hisses Meryl Streep, on all fours on the bed, facing away from the camera, shaking her ass when she says “artist.” You almost can’t believe it’s happened. It became instantly mythologized for Mitchell and me. We DIED. And we still say it. “I am an artist” (butt jiggle). This is when people started getting confused about what Meryl Streep was doing. This is when I – and all my actor friends – started getting even more excited. This moment too: I can’t explain why it is so funny to me, but I rewound it 5 times to see it again.

The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019; d. )
I will be reviewing for Ebert.

Postcards From the Edge (1990; d. Mike Nichols)
Mitchell and I can recite this one from beginning to end. “I don’t have a generation.” “Then I think you should get one.”

Archipelago (2010; d. Joanna Hogg)
More Joanna Hogg, and again with Tom Hiddleston. Fascinating.

Caprice (1983; d. Joanna Hogg)
Joanna Hogg’s genius student film, starring Tilda Swinton as a young “plain” girl who becomes trapped in a fashion magazine. It’s really something. Like I said, it’s been a Joanna Hogg kind of month.

Exhibition (2014; d. Joanna Hogg)
Phenomenal film. (With Tom Hiddleston in a very small role). It’s about a relationship, it’s about architecture.

Us (2019; d. Jordan Peele)
Jen and I went to go see this yesterday. Miraculously, I had managed to avoid spoilers.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 9 “Home” (2005; d. Ken Girotti)
I realize that looking in the rear view mirror is no way to go through life, but just popping in eps from earlier seasons is like … you really have to confront how far the show has fallen. I’m sorry if this hurts people to hear. It hurts me to say. Watching this, watching Sam and Dean, and only Sam and Dean … was like HEAVEN after such a crowded ensemble of people I don’t care about for three years. I get that they needed to expand for more characters. And for the most part, they have managed that without compromising the main bond, which is the Sam and Dean bond. That has suffered in the last 3 years. Especially Sam. But let’s not get sad or regretful. Let’s celebrate what we have. Sam and Dean stepping, tentatively, back into their past, reaching blindly. You realize how much John keeps from them. Also, the DARK COLORS. And Jensen’s FRECKLES. It’s all quite gorgeous.

Supernatural, Season 1, episode 10 “Home” (2005; d. Ken Girotti)
I love her.

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26 Responses to March 2019 Viewing Diary

  1. M says:

    Check out the 60 Minutes interview with Glass — he’s even more of a worm than depicted in the movie! Really makes your skin crawl.

  2. mutecypher says:

    Meryl is so beautiful in her entrance in Manhattan. Gorgeous, as you say. It’s probably my favorite scene in the movie since it ends with Woody’s pathetic “of the two of us I wasn’t the immoral psychotic promiscuous one. I hope I didn’t leave anything out.” We’re all convinced now, dude.

    She had such a great stretch of films in the 80’s establishing herself: Sophie’s Choice, Silkwood, Plenty, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (I really liked the movie, I thought the screenplay had a much lighter touch than the didactic novel), Out of Africa, all the ones you named. Not being a good observer of acting styles I was unaware of how much she changed things. I just knew that everyone began talking about her as the gold standard – and then the inevitable backlash. “Another damned thick book. Scribble, scribble, scribble, Eh Mr. Gibbon.” “Oh Meryl, another accent(sigh).” Mediocrities gotta mediocre.

    //Streep is great but are these great movies? Has she been in a GREAT movie? //

    Any theories about this? Does she lack a great collaborator?

    • sheila says:

      // Does she lack a great collaborator? //

      It’s not that, I don’t think. She’s bigger than any movie could possibly hold her. The reason to see her movies is HER. Whereas, if you watch Chinatown – or All That Jazz – or Five Easy Pieces – you’re watching the MOVIE.

      For a brief decade – the 1970s – the leash was off, the studios had crumbled, and suddenly difficult bleak nihilistic even movies came into the mainstream. Movies like Deer Hunter – which she was in, but in a small role.

      As we all know, Star Wars/Jaws were the game-changers. Almost overnight, difficult adult movies became unbankable. We still live in that aftermath today. Thanks a lot, Star Wars.

      Meryl Streep began her rise right around this time. It was almost perfect – I think she can do anything, but her particular gift was suited to the kinds of movies she did. Where she could be totally inventive, imaginative, and kind of lift the game of the movies – that’s what she did. In a pretty bleak era for movies – the 1980s – she was doing all this crazy difficult shit, elevating everything. But the movies … hm. Book adaptations, literary films, etc. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Ironweed or Out of Africa. To the contrary. It’s just that … they aren’t masterpieces. It’s weird, to have this great actress – the most famous actress of the last 50 years – with the most Oscar noms ever – to be in so many movies that nobody’s going to want to see twice, after they see them once to revel in her.

      There isn’t another actress like this. She’s unique in this regard.

      And she’s bigger than any collaboration. Dan calls her an “actor auteur” and that’s the most accurate way to describe it. You don’t put her in a movie so you can collaborate with her. You put her in your movie and stand back and let her do her thing. (See: Bridges of Madison County – one of her better movies, I think – Clint did right by her.)

      She’s a unique case and the rules that apply to other actors don’t apply to her.

      • mutecypher says:

        I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada more than once, and it’s for the sweet and astringent of Anne and Meryl. Does that come close to a great movie, you think? I’m not arguing for it, just it’s the only one that comes to mind of hers that I have watched more than once. Except Manhattan, which I think is great.

        I completely get what you are saying about Chinatown and All That Jazz.

        Does the Norma Desmond line fit, “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small?”

        • sheila says:

          The pictures definitely got smaller. Perfect way to look at it.

          I think Devil Wears Prada is one of her best performances, period!

          But … great movie? I don’t know. It’s certainly endlessly watchable and she’s been in a couple of those, I think. Postcards, Death Becomes Her, Heartburn (although it’s not to everyone’s taste) … If I’m channel surfing and Devil Wears Prada is on, I’m watching it!

          I wish there were at least one Chinatown in her filmography. But that might not be her thing. She may not NEED it. I mean, she clearly doesn’t.

  3. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Interesting commentary on Meryl Streep. While I respect her abilities as an artist, she has never been a favorite of mine because I only see her acting the character, but rarely being the character. I liked her in Kramer vs Kramer and you are so right about Hoffman being a real creep towards her (but isn’t he like that with all of his female leads?) and in The Post. But I’ve never fallen under her spell. Mutecypher makes a good point about needing a good collaborator. Great movies and plays are rarely solo endeavors. The best ones play like symphonies and Streep doesn’t always get to play with best instruments. Bad analogy, I know, but in most of her movies, she’s the soloist and that’s not always a good thing.

    • sheila says:

      Carolyn – I think you put the nail on the head, although I love her work more than you do. She is a soloist. It’s the perfect way to put it.

      This isn’t 100% accurate – as she’s wonderful with other actors – watching her and Nicholson together, or her and Shirley MacLaine – is wonderful. She’s always in the moment.

      But in terms of the MOVIES – she’s a soloist.

      If you look at the movies of the 70s – Chinatown keeps coming up for me: Faye Dunaway is extraordinary in that film. But the film itself is more extraordinary than she is. The whole THING is extraordinary. It’s a classic. For reasons far more than just Faye Dunaway is great.

      Meryl is often the best thing in whatever movie she’s in.

      One of my takes is is that she is a gifted actress but she is a brilliant – as in world-class – comedienne. When she gets to be funny – she goes somewhere ELSE. She’s on a whole other level.

      Critics don’t take comedy as seriously as drama (silly critics) … and so the response to, say, She-Devil or Death Becomes Her (where she is BRILLIANT) – was like, “Well, THIS won’t get nominated for Oscars – what is she doing – this is fluff – this is not worthy of her.” I think there’s a lot of missing-the-point with Meryl. Comedy unleashes her.

      and yes, Hoffman is a bully. Great actor but he can be a bully! and he certainly bullied her, and she has not been shy in saying so!

      • Rinaldo says:

        One of my takes is is that she is a gifted actress but she is a brilliant – as in world-class – comedienne.” I’ve been thinking that for a long time. I admired her from the start, but the first time I was totally HERS (in my inept amateur non-actor way, I thought of it as BEING a character rather than DOING things) was in Death Becomes Her, which nobody talks about now. Here was (or seemed to be) this contemporary person just enjoying herself, and I was sure enjoying watching her. And since then I’ve seen it in everything she’s done.

        Her comedic skill was there at the right times in Heartburn too, though ultimately (I adore the book) I don’t think she or Nicholson (yes, I know he was a replacement) were ideal for their roles — at that date I would have cast Julie Kavner and Ron Silver. The rest of the cast was dead-on perfect.

        • sheila says:

          Rinaldo – I definitely think Death Becomes Her is one of her very best. It’s also so damn relevant now – especially as all of these leading ladies from the 80s enter their elderly years. They are not taking supporting roles, or fading into the background – as actors from earlier years were forced to. They are a force to be reckoned with – total pioneers – and there is no template for what they’re doing. Jessica Lange, Streep, Glenn Close – Last night I saw “Diane” – starring Mary Kay Place – and so far it’s my favorite movie of this year. I am thrilled. She stars in it. I’m so happy about this.

          Death Becomes Her was calling out Hollywood on this age-thing – and I think it’s a message a lot of people don’t want to hear. Women getting older is something people don’t want to see – I’m speaking generally – men getting older is no problem.

          She’s hilarious in Heartburn. I’m going to write something on it. For me, it’s one of her best – and it also announces “I’m not just made for epic historical dramas. I have endless stuff to give in all kinds of characters.” It’s thrilling!

  4. Todd Restler says:

    Love these lists.

    Re: The Godfather films. Have you seen the “Godfather Epic”, where they string the movies together chronologically? So it starts with all the De Niro stuff and then moves to Brando and Michael. It’s a really fun way to watch it.

    It’s amazing the way The Godfather (I) dialogue has seeped into our culture. “Offer he can’t refuse”. “Go to the mattresses”. “Ba Da Bing! ” “One day, and this day may never come…”. “Today I settle all family business.” “Leave the gun, take the canoli”. It’s staggering, really. It’s the definitive American movie in my opinion. I love the sequels, but without Caan and Brando, I don’t think they match the original.

    Re : Requiem For A Dream. I saw this only once, yet I regularly cite it as among the very best movies of the last 20 years. Weird. I still remember it so well. One very minor moment that always stuck with me was when Ellen Burstyn called her Doctor’s office because she was concerned the pills were having negative effects, and the woman on the phone was like “Oh, you’re just starting to like them too much!” Like, “Yeah, you’re addicted. Of COURSE you’re addicted. That’s just what happens. No worries, we’ll just prescribe more. Or additional. Or something else.” Made my stomach turn, and it’s probably the least stomach turning scene of the movie. I imagine it takes an incredible commitment on the part of the actors to pull a film like this off. It’s an incredible accomplishment. Even if I never want to put myself through that again, of the movies I’ve only seen once (and I love to re-watch), it’s probably the movie that has made the biggest impact on me.

    Re: Shattered Glass Unlike Requiem, I watch this movie constantly. It’s like each time I watch it I expect someone to call bullshit on Glass sooner, but they never do. Sarsgaard is so good – it’s one of my favorite performances of all time. Because he simply can’t believe the truth staring him in the face. And the way he acts on their journey, when they find that building lobby, and then the restaurant, and Glass just keeps lying past all reason, it’s just amazing to watch Sarsaard’s face. He’s ashamed he was duped so successfully. Christensen deserves plenty of credit too. That 20 minute or so stretch is one of my favorites in film. The tension has a palpable feel to it that is visceral and hard for me to explain.

    Re Streep : I love how you highlighted her comedic talents. She gets all this “serious” talk, like all she is is her “depth”. But she’s incredibly human to me in comedy. Postcards was amazing; even though she’s “playing” Carrie Fisher, she really seems like she’s playing herself. But my favorite role of hers is, of all things, in “Defending Your Life”, with Albert Brooks. I love that movie. She just seems so natural and comfortable in that role where she’s basically a nice, regular person. And I would agree that The Deer Hunter may be her only truly great film, but that’s just a reflection to me of just how hard it is to make a movie that becomes Canon. It’s a fluke when it happens, otherwise it would happen more often.

    • sheila says:

      // It’s staggering, really. //

      It really is. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the films. The first two are masterpieces – and I know a lot of people say Godfather II is even better than the original – but I don’t think so. The journey of The Godfather is the true Epic, in the most classic sense of the word. Michael’s journey – from protected outsider, to the ultimate insider. There’s the scene where he “takes over” the family – well, two scenes really: when he goes to the hospital to guard his father. That’s his first moment of accepting what it means to be part of this family, and his actions are automatic – so automatic you may not even realize what is happening with him. It is the second moment though – in the Godfather’s study – when he offers to go kill Sterling Hayden, etc. The WAY he sits in that chair. Like a king. Arms on the side of the chair, legs gracefully crossed, not moving at all. It doesn’t seem that those present – Caan and Duvall and everyone else – truly realize that what is happening is a total and complete power transfer. MICHAEL knows. His posture in the chair tells us all we need to know. It’s just incredible acting.

    • sheila says:

      // “Oh, you’re just starting to like them too much!” Like, “Yeah, you’re addicted. Of COURSE you’re addicted. That’s just what happens. No worries, we’ll just prescribe more. Or additional. Or something else.” Made my stomach turn, and it’s probably the least stomach turning scene of the movie. //

      Such a good point!! I felt the same way. It’s a great counterpoint to the illegal drug-taking by the other characters – hers is perfectly legal, but now – 20 years later – look at the scourge Oxy and other prescription drugs has wreaked on this country. It’s astonishing – and how is it even to be stopped? It’s a plague. Requiem for a Dream really called that out – how insidious it begins – “it’s prescribed by a doctor, I’m not an addict” – and where it leads.

      You know what scene REALLY got to me?

      When her two friends go visit her in the hospital at the end. Stand up when she enters the common room, looks of horror on their faces at her appearance – and then – briefly – the two of them sitting on the bench outside the hospital, hugging and weeping.

      It’s almost the only “outsider” glimpse we get in the whole movie – people who AREN’T addicts – and in that embrace you feel the real cost. It really really moved me. I had forgotten about that moment.

    • sheila says:

      Sarsgaard is so amazing in Shattered Glass I find his performance – of this kind of nondescript guy in khakis – absolutely riveting. Thrilling acting. “We are all going to have to ANSWER for what we allowed happen here.”

      I have goosebumps.

      And yes, Christensen is just amazing. “Are you mad at me?” It really gets at the heart of his sociopathy I think – the hollowness of him. I have gone back and read some of those pieces – in particular “hack Heaven” – and it’s (frankly) amazing that these pieces didn’t raise red flags. Incredible.

    • sheila says:

      // But my favorite role of hers is, of all things, in “Defending Your Life”, with Albert Brooks. //

      YES. One of my favorites. She’s so easy and wonderful in light material. Great movie.

      // but that’s just a reflection to me of just how hard it is to make a movie that becomes Canon. //

      True, but I think it’s more a reflection of how movies changed in the 80s. Post- Star Wars/Jaws – and how suddenly every movie in the 80s was about teenagers, and starred teenagers (totally not the case in the 70s. Movies in the 70s were made for grownups.)

      It’s interesting. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with Sophie’s Choice and Ironweed – of course not, far from it. It’s just they’re not going to be on any list of Great Films – or even iconic/zeitgeist movies – unlike, say, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction – they’re movies surrounding Streep’s performance. She’s unique.

  5. Carolyn Clarke says:

    You’re right about her as a comedienne. I enjoy her much more in The Devil Wore Prada or even The River Wild where she played the action adventure heroine. She seems freer and less dragged down by the drama. I forgot about Bridges of Madison County and she was good in that although I don’t think Clint Eastwood gets enough recognition as a director. He seems to know what to do with actors and doesn’t get in their way.

    //Meryl is often the best thing in whatever movie she’s in.// Maybe that’s the problem. She scares or intimidates lesser actors but a Nicholson or MacLaine aren’t intimidated by anyone so it’s fun to watch. I would have loved to see her with some of the elder statesmen/women like Bette Davis or Spencer Tracey. Can you imagine what George Cukor or Billy Wilder would have done with her?

    • sheila says:

      // although I don’t think Clint Eastwood gets enough recognition as a director. He seems to know what to do with actors and doesn’t get in their way. //

      I totally agree. Bridges was such an interesting choice for him – it stands out – and I think they’re beautiful together.

      Did you know that in the 1980s, Bette Davis wrote Meryl Streep a letter saying something to the effect: “I have been wondering who will take up the torch for me – and I’ve now discovered you – and it’s you.” Such ego – ha!! – but I think Bette was right. Streep is doing the kind of work Bette did – the movies aren’t as good – but she’s working in the same way. Davis saw it immediately.

  6. Jeff says:

    I’ve been an education lobbyist for more than 20 years, and I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t heard someone recite (and sometimes it’s me) that Pacino line from Godfather III. It’s almost like code for us now.

  7. Todd Restler says:

    Re: Falling In Love

    This movie used to be on a lot in the “early” days of cable TV, and I’ve seen it several times. It seemed very “mature” when I was younger, less so now.

    By FAR the best screenwriting book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a bunch) is “Good Scripts/Bad Scripts”by Thomas Pope. He breaks down several screenplays. This was one of the “Bad” scripts. He basically said what you said, that there is no “there” there with these characters. Interestingly, he said the spouses of Streep and De Niro should have been the main characters, since they were the ones the story was actually impacting. He found those characters much more interesting.

    He said the Director (Ulu Grosbard) took a lot of heat for the movies’ lack of box office success, and he didn’t get another directing gig again until “Georgia” 10 years later. Pope made the point that the only reason the movie is even watchable is because of the “crisp” direction by Grosbard, and that the failings of the film are entirely at the script level.

    • sheila says:

      Todd – wow, I have not read that book. Sounds excellent. I love analyzing stories, what works, what doesn’t, why.

      // Interestingly, he said the spouses of Streep and De Niro should have been the main characters, since they were the ones the story was actually impacting. He found those characters much more interesting. //

      Such a good point! Especially De Niro’s wife – and that actress used to work all the time and she was always excellent. Her name escapes me – maybe she still does work all the time, Ill have to look her up.

      // Pope made the point that the only reason the movie is even watchable is because of the “crisp” direction by Grosbard, //

      Hmmm. I would say the only reason it is watchable is because of Streep and De Niro.

      Too bad about Grosbard, though – the marketplace is brutal that way.

      The script is just a total nonentity – it’s baffling to watch in a way. You should ache to have these people get together. Instead you’re like … these people are just bored. What on earth draws them to each other? There’s zero specificity in the characters. So weird.

      • Todd Restler says:

        It’s the BEST for “analyzing stories, what works, what doesn’t, why.”

        He breaks 25 screenplays down into their structure, using charts and graphs with things like time vs. tension, etc. I read something from that book almost every week.

      • Todd Restler says:

        Jane Kaczmarek played De Niro’s wife. Best known as Bryan Cranston’s wife on Malcolm in the Middle. Still working mostly on TV.

        To bring it full circle I was lucky enough to see Cranston on Broadway in Network two weeks ago. Best show I’ve ever seen (but I’m somewhat obsessed with Network) and Cranston was incredible.

  8. Todd Restler says:

    From Ebert’s “Falling In Love” review:

    “I’m sure there was some sort of story conference about how it would be fun to reprise a classic Meet Cute. I’m sure they had a lot of story conferences on this movie, giving one another pep talks about how the movie’s total lack of substance was really a style decision. But it’s just a cop-out. How can you put Streep and De Niro in a movie and not give them characters to play or interesting things to say? It’s a waste of resources.”

    Spot on as always.

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