Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Casting Coup: August: Osage County

It's been a while since we did one of these, but busy times at the Film School, folks. Busy times, indeed.

To be honest, two women set me on this course. One was dear Becca, who suggested I start it up again, but go bi-weekly instead of weekly. Let's see how that goes. The other was the lead actress for my first short (!!!), who brought a copy of today's Coup with her to set. It is a Tony award-winning play, whose movie rights were recently purchased by The Weinstein Company. It's a dark comedy/domestic drama (yes!) that happens to be an ensemble piece (YES!!), but centers around middle-aged women (YEEESSS!!!)

They usually like to use more cinema-friendly stars when going from stage to screen, but I think I found a nice in-between. Without further ado, I give you....

[quotes/character info from www.augustonbroadway.com]


Who is He: Barbara Weston's high school sweetheart has remained in their Oklahoma hometown, rising from a turbulent home life to become the county sheriff. 47 years old.

Quotes: "I can't tell you how many times I've thought about the Weston sisters over the years."

"I thought if you were going to be staying here a while, we might get some lunch someday. Catch up? It's been a long time."

My Choice:

Robert R. Shafer (TV's The Office)
Although 50 years old, Shafer looks like a small-town sheriff. He has a face you can't help but trust, and those who know and love Bob Vance are well aware of his huggable, teddy-bear quality. He can bring the same warmth and affection he has for Phyllis over to Barbara.

Who is He: Karen's fiancé, age 50. This thrice-divorced newcomer boasts of unnamed (and shady-sounding) business deals while attempting to charm his future in-laws.

Quotes: "You a little dope smoker? Well then you are in luck… Because I just happen to have some really good connects. And I am going to hook you up."

"I'm white and over 30. I don't get into trouble."

My Choice: SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble in a Comedy Series (Ally McBeal)

Greg Germann (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Friends with Money)
Got the age spot-on. And in the two films I mention, he's a smarmy ass and a likable fellow, so he can portray both what the family sees and what Karen sees. And he has a face you want to punch. It just sends me there.

Who is She: The 26-year-old housekeeper, hired by Beverly to run the chaotic Weston home, Johnna is a salt-of-the-earth Native American who makes an amazing green bean casserole.

Quotes: "When a Cheyenne baby is born, their umbilical cord is dried and sewn into this pouch. Turtles for girls, lizards for boys. And we wear it for the rest of our lives. Because if we lose it, our souls belong nowhere and after we die our souls will walk the Earth looking for where we belong."

"I'm familiar with this job. I can do this job. I don't do it for you or Mrs. Weston. Or even for Mr. Weston. Right? I do it for me. I need the work."

My Choice:

Julia Jones (Hell Ride)
Jones is a beautiful, 27-year-old Native American actress who is rather new to films. Sure, she may be lovelier to look at than Johnna is supposed to be, but come on -- this is film, people. We need some S.A., after all. And she's quite good.


Who is He: Mattie Fae's saintly husband, age 60, provides an island of sanity in a houseful of high-strung Weston women as well as a soothing presence for his adult son, Little Charles.

Quotes: "I don't understand this meanness. I look at you and your sister and the way you talk to people and I don't understand it. I just can't understand why folks can't be respectful of one another. I don't think there's any excuse for it."

"We've been married for 38 years. I wouldn't trade them for anything. But if you can't find a generous place in your heart for your own son, we're not going to make it to 39."

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Adaptation.), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Adaptation.), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Seabiscuit, Adaptation., American Beauty) and Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Capote, Seabiscuit, Adaptation.), SAG Award Winner for Ensemble in a Motion Picture (American Beauty), Emmy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/Made for TV Movie (My House in Umbria)

Chris Cooper (October Sky, Married Life, Syriana)
Cooper has that world-weary look that marriage into the Weston family gives a man. He is also someone I would turn to for protection and understanding, though the movies seem to like him better as a stern, no-nonsense figure. Please to read the above quotes in his voice and tell me he's not perfect.

Who is He: At 37, the son of Mattie Fae and Charlie still answers to "Little Charles" and is a rather pathetic lost soul.

Quotes: "I know how they feel about me…all of them…I see how they are. I don't blame them. I'm sorry I let you down, Dad."

My Choice:

Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Old School)
Wilson is handsome, yet approachable, which is the kind of look I like for this character. He can also play that slow kind of awkward needed for this part. Also, movies in which he is more supporting than lead tend to do better, box office-wise.

Who is She: Violet's plainspoken and rather flirtatious younger (57) sister is drawn back home by Beverly's disappearance, arriving with her long-suffering husband, Charlie, and their grown son, Little Charles, in whom she is bitterly disappointed.

Quotes: "Let me tell you something, Charlie Aiken: You ever get any ideas about just up and taking on, you better believe…I'm gonna give you about three days to get your head straight and then it's all going up in a blaze of glory."

"Little Charles isn't complicated, he's just unemployed…Honey, you have to be smart to be complicated."

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (Educating Rita) and Best Supporting Actress (Billy Elliot), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actress (Educating Rita) and Best Supporting Actress (Billy Elliot), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Actress (Personal Services) and Best Supporting Actress (Stepping Out), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress - Musical/Comedy (Educating Rita), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Billy Elliot), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Billy Elliot)

Julie Walters (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Mamam Mia!)
Yes, OK, she's British. But she totally rocks the house, and I'm sure she can do an American accent. Mattie Fae has a neat balance of the comic and the pathetic, a balance that Walters should find easily. Check out her sad, desperate performance in Billy Elliot.

Who is She: The eldest daughter, age 46. Barbara lives in Colorado with her professor husband, Bill. Trouble is brewing in their marriage as they arrive home with their 14-year-old daughter, Jean.

Quotes: "I'm sick of being fair! I've seen where being fair gets me! I'm sick of the whole notion of the enduring female. GROW UP! 'Cause while you're going through your fifth puberty, the world is falling apart and I can't handle it! More importantly, your kid can't handle it!"

"You don't get it do you? I'M RUNNING THINGS NOW!"

My Choice: Emmy Award Winner for Best Actress [twice] and Best Supporting Actress [twice, plus two more nominations] in a Drama Series (The West Wing), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress [twice] and Best Supporting Actress [twice] in a Drama Series (The West Wing), SAG Award Winner for Best Actress [twcie] in a Drama Series (The West Wing), Best Ensemble [twice] in a Drama Series (The West Wing) and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (American Beauty), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress [thrice] in a Drama Series (The West Wing), Best Ensemble [four times] in a Drama Series (The West Wing) and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (The Hours, Hairspray)

Allison Janney (Juno, Drop Dead Gorgeous, 10 Things I Hate About You)
Janney, though primarily known for her TV work, is always a force to be reckoned with. She's becoming more and more mainstream, thanks primarily to Hairspray and, especially, Juno. Barbara is more or less the protagonist, and it's about time Janney carry a film. The woman is Number 10 on my list of Crushes of July. I need more!

Who is He: Barbara's husband, 49. A college English professor, Bill travels to Oklahoma to support his wife, though their relationship is under strain.

Quotes: "Violet really has a way of putting you in attack mode, you know it?"

"You're thoughtful, Barbara, but you're not open. You're passionate, but you're hard. You're a good, decent, funny, wonderful woman, and I love you, but you're a pain in the ass."

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The River Wild), SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Murder in the First) and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Mystic River)

Kevin Bacon (Footloose, Death Sentence, Apollo 13)
Perhaps one of the greatest and most underestimated actors of his, or any, generation, Bacon can play subtle just as well as he can chew the scenery. The man is incredibly versatile, and his role as the adulterous husband is a surprisingly sympathetic one. Instantly recognizable, of course, since he has that game named after him and everything.

Who is She: Precocious fourteen-year-old daughter of Barbara and Bill, Jean smokes pot (over the disapproval of her parents) and forms some unlikely alliances during her visit to Oklahoma.

Quotes: "What sucks now is that Mom's watching me like a hawk, like she's afraid I'll…become some heroin addict or shoot everybody at school. Or God forbid, lose my virginity."

"When you eat meat, you ingest an animal's fear."

My Choice: Academy Award/BAFTA/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Atonement)

Saoirse Ronan (City of Ember, I Could Never Be Your Woman)
In the two movies I've seen her in, Ronan has already demonstrated considerable range, as well as an amazing handling of accents. I think she has a brogue in real life, but her upper-crust English accent in Atonement was appropriately polished, while her American accent in City of Ember was scarily flawless. I ask her to bring her amazing talents to the role of a pot-smoking, Middle America teenager.

Who is He: An award-winning poet, 69-year-old patriarch Beverly is also an alcoholic. His disappearance puts in motion the Weston family reunion.

Quotes: “My wife takes pills and I drink. That’s the bargain we’ve struck…one of the bargains, just one paragraph of our marriage contract.”

“I know how to launder my dirty undies…done it all my life, me or my wife, but I’m finding it gets in the way of my drinking. ‘Something has been said for sobriety but very little.’”

My Choice: Emmy Award Nominee for Best Individual Achievement - Informational Programming (I, Leonardo: A Journey of the Mind), Golden Globe Nominee for Most Promising Newcomer - Male (Diary of a Mad Housewife), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Good Night, and Good Luck.)

Frank Langella (Superman Returns, Lolita, Frost/Nixon)
It's a cameo, only appearing at the beginning, but it's so very juicy. Let Langella take over. He exudes the poet's spirit. And he's fucking awesome.

Who is She: Ivy, 44, has dutifully stayed close to home, working at a nearby college and enduring her parents' emotional abuse.

Quotes: "Don't lay this sister thing on me now, all right? I don't buy it. I haven't bought it for a long time. When I leave here and leave for good, I won't feel any more guilty than you two did."

"What if the truth of the matter is that Beverly Weston never liked you? That he never liked any of us, never had any special feeling of any kind for his children?"

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress (You Can Count On Me, The Savages) and Best Supporting Actress (Kinsey), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Mystic River), Emmy Award Winner for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie (Wild Iris, John Adams) and Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Frasier), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actress - Drama (You Can Count On Me), Best Actress - Musical/Comedy (The Squid and the Whale) and Best Supporting Actress (Kinsey), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress (You Can Count On Me), Best Supporting Actress (Kinsey) and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (Mystic River), Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (The Nanny Diaries)

I would love to see her work alongside Janney. Linney is the Queen of Subtlety, bringing a character's full history into a single line of dialogue. The woman is just incredible to watch, and with a dry, biting role like this, she could really excel. I know I wasn't a big fan at first, but holy crap. Count me among the faithful.

Who is She: The youngest at 40, Karen escaped to Florida, where she embarked on a quest to find fulfillment and happiness, most recently with a fiancé named Steve.

Quotes: "I guess what I'm telling you is that I'm finally happy. I've been really unhappy for most of my life, my adult life. I doubt you've been aware of that."

"I'm no angel myself. I've done some things I'm not proud of. Things you'll never know about. Know what? I may even have to do some things I'm not proud of again. 'Cause sometimes life puts you in a corner that way. And I am a human being, after all."

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe/SAG Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Gone, Baby, Gone)

Amy Ryan (Capote, TV's The Office, Dan in Real Life)
Ryan is a prime example of the Linney Effect: blonde actress who underwhelmed me the first time around, only to have me fall totally and incurably in love with her. She is a marvelous thing, who can play both the dingy (Helene McCready) and the dorky (Holly Flax). So, she'd basically have Holly's apparent naivete with Helene's worldly knowledge. She'd make the role a triumph.

Who is She: The 65-year-old matriarch of the Weston clan, Violet is addicted to pills and lashes out at her three daughters (and everyone else she encounters) when under the influence. A tour-de-force role.

Quotes: "I am a drug addict. I am addicted to drugs, pills, 'specially downers. Y'see these little blue babies? These are my best fucking friends and they never let me down. Try to get 'em away from me and I'll eat you alive."

"My momma was a nasty, mean old lady. I suppose that's where I get it from."

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Hannah and Her Sisters, Bullets Over Broadway), Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Parenthood), BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Radio Days), Emmy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (In Treatment) and Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Road to Avonlea), Emmy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie (The Simple Life of Norah Dearborn), Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Bullets Over Broadway), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Hannah and Her Sisters, Parenthood), SAG Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Bullets Over Broadway) and Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture (The Birdcage), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble [twice] in a Drama Series (Law & Order)

Dianne Wiest (Edward Scissorhands, Footloose, Dan in Real Life)
Besides having worked with half the people already cast here, Wiest has never stopped working, ever. When she's not in a film, she's on the stage. If she's doing neither, she's got a TV show she's working on. Oscar fans everywhere claim hers is a rarity: right actress, right roles, right wins. Now she's back in the public eye, having done a Steve Carell and won an Emmy, and she's got Synecdoche, New York just around the corner. Lordy, she could tear this shit up.

But don't take my word for it. You tell me: Is this a film you would rush out to see?

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's Here! It's Finally Here!

It happened. After about nine months or so of anticipation, worry, second thoughts -- it's here. Oliver Stone's W. has arrived at the cinema.

And what a movie it is. Much like Nixon, it confuses the word "fair-minded" with "crying, pitiable protagonist." But fuck me, Nixon was great. And I have to say, I loved W. Not the same way I love the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man, either. This is love Speed Racer style.

Yeah, the first quarter is a little shaky. Like Nixon. The cutting back-and-forth chronologically does not always work. But once Laura (a perfect Elizabeth Banks) steps into the ring, the movie finally finds its footing runs with it. We get a fascinating study of a cool guy who was put in a position he was not ready for. And it works. It's just absolutely incredible the way Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser have crafted this thing. For a story told too soon, it feels just right.

Josh Brolin is incredible. He does Bush just enough to avoid caricature, or a mere imitation. He gives us a Man, not a Character. We want to shoot the shit with him. We sympathize with his daddy issues. We like the guy, we care about him. Yet at the same time, we shake our heads at his arrogance, his ignorance, his -- dare I say it? -- stupidity. It's pretty powerful, I must say.

Okay, so maybe it was fair-minded. But if so, only to the few. Brolin's Bush is awesome, Banks' Laura is sweet, James Cromwell's Poppy is well-defined (if not always engagingly portrayed), Ellen Burstyn's Barbara is lovable (for me, at least), and Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell is, well, the tits -- the only voice of reason, the sole soul. The rest of the gang -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove -- are either hand-wringing Bond villains or just plain "out-of-touch with reality." In these respective roles, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, and Toby Jones are, respectively, kick-ass, decent, and thumbs-up.

I'll tell you who isn't, though: Thandie Newton. Why does she get cast in movies? Why do people want to throw praise and awards on her? There must be something about her on-set manner that fools directors into thinking she's giving good performances. Her hammy Condi Rice impression is barely worthy of a MadTV sketch, much less a political drama. Sure, it's satire, and there are a few winks thrown here and there, but holy shit, did no one think to reign her in? Does Thandie Newton have a wrangler? Were Tracie Thoms, Anika Noni Rose, Sophie Okonedo, even Halle Berry -- were they all too busy? Good God, Stone, don't give me a great movie then force me to watch Miss Community Theatre almost single-handedly disembowel all the quality in the room.

Whew. Anyway. Newton notwithstanding, W. is great. Weiser's screenplay is spot-on, Stone's direction is superb, the score is beautiful, the actors fantastic. It's not for everyone. Mom, Grandparents, some aunts and uncles, and at least one of my sisters would not like it. Even some democrats I know probably wouldn't like it. For me, this is one of the best movies of the year. ***3/4

Friday, October 10, 2008

This is Delicious

This amazing concoction you see in my hand is a drink improvised by my roomies for my personal pleasure. I think it was going to be a prank, then an experiment. Now...it's a revelation!

Ben says the ingredients are top secret, but I can tell you this: candy corn. And heaven. Actually, it's pretty much pure sugaryness. Like, I can feel my teeth rotting already.

It's called The Blue House Special: Fall. And I def recommend it for Hallowe'en and Thanksgiving. Except the ingredients are secret.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It Begins

Holy crap, holy crap. My favorite time of year is finally upon us: The Oscar Season.

Two films have already delivered their screeners, both with prospects in the acting categories. Last week, it was the independent Frozen River, and rumor has it that Melissa Leo may find herself a nominee for Best Actress. Elegy joins the fun this week, just in time for its release in my neck of the woods. Philip Roth, whose novel The Dying Animal serves as the film's basis, has himself declared Penelope Cruz to be quite good (Best Actress?), and the role should be a wicked good turn for Ben Kingsley (Best Actor???).

Meanwhile, three For Your Consideration websites are up and running. Paramount Vantage has The Duchess, with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes; Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Edward Zwick; and the highly anticipated Revolutionary Road, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Kathy Bates all attending an eleven-year reunion, directed by Sam Mendes. Universal has yet to complete links for Changeling, Flash of Genius, or The Tale of Despereaux. But it's front-runner, Frost/Nixon, is up, as is early favorite Mamma Mia!. Miramax is all about actresses this year, giving us Doubt (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams), Happy-Go-Lucky (Sally Hawkins), and Blindness (Julianne Moore), which also comes out here today.

It's a busy weekend for me. Two full days of crew drills, then a meeting with my own crew to prepare for the pre-production meeting. A Pre-Pre-Production Meeting Meeting, if you will. Not to mention Blindness, Elegy, Choke, Flash of Genius, and so many others. Whoo! Life is picking up!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blanche, She Has Problems

How many times during The Golden Girls did Blanche flirt with a man who later turned out to be...different? The blind guy, the paraplegic, the widower who's only slept with one woman--all have fallen under Blanche's spell, teaching her a lesson about perception, only to disappear from the show entirely, opening Blanche up to more rendezvous with men she is embarrassed to be seen with. At least this one allows the man to be human by being a fuck-head. "It never occurred to me you could just be a jerk in a wheelchair."

They did this on Designing Women, too. The Delta Burke character--something Sugarbaker--fell for a blind guy, and learned a lesson about not relying on her looks alone to nail a man. And she delivered a monologue with loud synth in the background. Man, Designing Women is fucking annoying when the girls are learning shit. Whatever. I've only seen five episodes, and each time it was only for Julia Sugarbaker. Lordy, I love Dixie Carter.

So, which shallow Southern belle do you prefer? Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux, nee Hollingsworth, or fucking Delta Burke?