In a year which brought Viola Davis, Michelle Williams, Glenn Close, and Rooney Mara all giving electrifying, fully-developed and fascinating female characters, it was Meryl Streep, my goddess, my queen, who deservedly took home Oscar gold. Her performance in “The Iron Lady” was considered a front-runner even before it was released. Yet, when I saw the film I was completely blown away by her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher.
Beyond a detail perfect imitation of the British Prime Minister, Streep imbues the role with such emotion, grace, and courage. In the scenes where Streep plays an elderly Thatcher, I was moved to tears thinking about the plight of the elderly who ache for the past and loved ones long gone. As Thatcher the Prime Minister, I found her formidable and persuasive. i had to take several minutes to remind myself that I’m against the flat tax after her stirring speeches.
When Colin Firth read Meryl Streep’s name, my brain froze in shock that my dream of seeing Streep win was coming true. Her speech was everything I could have wanted as she thanked her long time husband, her devoted hair and makeup artist, and the entire Academy that she holds as dear friends.
Streep has two interesting projects coming up. First “Great Hope Springs,” a comedy with Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell about a middle aged couple going for marriage counseling. David Frankel who directed Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” is at the helm. Second, she’ll be starring with Julia Roberts in film adaptation of the stage play “August, Osage County.” Whatever Meryl Streep does is golden and all I can say is more please.
Since the film I like the least (“The Artist”) seems to be the front runner for most awards, I’m not going to make predictions. Instead, here are my Oscar hopes ranging from incredibly likely to fanciful dreams.
Martin Scorsese Wins Best Director
Why: Besides the fact I love Scorsese completely and think everything he does is wonderful, I do believe “Hugo” is a great film and uses 3D in a way that enhances the storytelling and never feels gimmicky.
How Likely: Actually, pretty darn likely. The Academy loves Martin Scorsese and may choose to split Best Picture and Director between “The Artist” and “Hugo.”
Stuart Craig Wins Best Art Direction
Why: For eight films Craig and his team of movie magicians took the vibrantly imagined world of JK Rowling and brought it to the screen. Much of the fanciful sights in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” are filmed in camera, with digital effects added in later. Craig is responsible for much of what makes HP real and wonderful for fans.
How Likely: 50/50. Stuart Craig has won twice for “Gandhi” and “Dangerous Liaisons” so is no stranger to the Academy. But voters may not be as discerning in the bottom categories and forget Craig’s great work.
Gary Oldman Wins Best Actor
Why: More than awarding the best acting achievement of the year, I feel Oscars should recognize a particular actor’s best career achievement. It’s shocking that “Tinker Tailor Solder Spy” is Gary Oldman’s first acting nomination after a lifetime of bold, scene-stealing, and fantastic performances. Yet, Oldman really is his best as George Smiley and loved playing the part.
How Likely: Unfortunately, not bloody likely. Even the Brits gave Dujardin best actor. Where’s the love? Where’s the national loyalty?
Woody Allen wins and shows up to collect Best Original Screenplay
Why: “Midnight In Paris” is my favorite movie of the year and I wish it had more momentum in the leading categories. The script for “Midnight” is wonderful and each time I see the film, I find something else about it to laugh at or cherish.
How Likely: Pretty likely for the win. Not likely at all for the showing up part.
Meryl Streep Wins Best Actress
Why: Meryl Streep has not won an Oscar in almost 30 years and she gives a towering performance in “The Iron Lady.” It’s Meryl time, period.
How Likely: Somewhat Likely. Streep won at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, which are good signs. Though, Viola Davis took the SAG Awards, so I’m not declaring victory on this one yet.
Prominent Star Wars references when James Earl Jones wins the Thalberg Award
Why: James Earl Jones is an iconic actor with many wonderful film performances, yet I hold his voice work as Darth Vader so close to my soul that I need many Star Wars references. And I don’t care what the LA Times thinks, this is Jones’ EGOT!
How Likely: Pretty likely, Billy Crystal is hosting after all.
Uggie the Dog
Why: Because America loves Uggie and it was a great year for Jack Russell Terriors in cinema.
How Likely: Almost Assured. I can’t say much about “The Artist” in the way of priase, but I will admit Uggie is pretty awesome. What would be better than to have the best acting talent in the film share the stage with Billy Crystal?
Daniel Radcliffe or Michael Fassbender present awards
Why: I think when it comes to promoting films, Radcliffe and Fassbender win the MVP. There isn’t anyone or any venue where they won’t give an interview. What better time to show up than Hollywood’s biggest night.
How Likely: Since I make it my business to know all things Radcliffe or Fassbender and haven’t heard anything about presenting, I’ll just hope to be surprised.
Meryl Streep Kissing Random People
Why: If you present an award to Meryl Streep, you are going to get a kiss. If you are Ralph Fiennes or Colin Firth, Meryl Streep is going to make out with you on stage. That’s her thing and I can’t wait.
How Likely: 100% likely since Firth is presenting. And if she doesn’t win, I’d bet money she’ll grab Viola Davis and kiss her anyway.
The Muppets Perform Anyway
Why: The Muppets should be hosting the show in the first place and were robbed of their chance to preform a variety of songs by the lackluster best Song Category and further ridiculousness of cutting the performances. Miss Piggy hosted the BAFTA Red Carpet like a champ. Bring on the Muppets!
How Likely: Pretty Likely. I bet Billy Crystal includes The Muppets in his act.
I was really surprised and disappointed not to see “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” in the Best Costume Design category this year. More than any other film, the clothes on display are integral in telling the story. The film, based on the novel by John le Carré and multi-part miniseries, condenses a large amount of exposition to elevate the tensions and betrayals between characters.
The costumes fill in the personalities and histories of characters. For instance, Control (John Hurt) often insults Toby Esterhase’s background, giving him the code name “Poor Man” because Rich Man would be “inappropriate.” Yet, Esterhase is the most stylishly dressed of the Circus high command with his tailored three piece suits, bow ties, and accompanying pipe. The costumes convey Esterhase’s need for acceptance and his tendency to over compensate for his humble beginnings, a weakness that is exploited by the mole.
In other ways costumes quietly, but importantly add urgency to scenes. Without noticing, every scene with Gary Oldman’s masterful George Smiley feels like an interrogation where time is quickly running out for the other character. Oldman’s stillness and intensity raise the stakes, but so do the costumes. Smiley almost never takes off his signature trench coat. An odd suit of armor, Smiley’s trench coat make me attuned to his movements because at any point in the conversation, he could get up and leave. He’s never settled, never truly comfortable, always on the lookout, always ready to act. It also makes him more of an outsider and detached; exactly the kind of person able to catch the unsuspecting mole.
Next there’s Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), a medium level intelligence gatherer and loyal soldier to Smiley. Guillam breaks with much of the Circus style conventions, opting for slimming fits and bright colors. Guillam takes Colin Firth’s Bill Haydon proper British gentleman style and adds a bit more flair. What could the costumes be insinuating? Perhaps his style clues us into Peter’s personal life. Or its curious that Guillam dresses like he would fit in well with Haydon and Esterhase, but is remarkably dedicated to Smiley.
Last and my favorite is Tom Hardy as Ricky Tarr. From the first moment you see Ricky, clad in a bomber jacket, jeans, and multi-patterned shirt you think he is the farthest from Special Intelligence officer. And he is incredibly incompetent, but well meaning. Tarr’s casualness sets a strong contrast to Peter and makes us wary of his implied recklessness. All this tells us more about Smiley, setting him as the one person in the Circus who sees beyond appearances and facades to the truth. The costumes in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” are wonderfully precise, rooted in character, and beautiful to behold.
Looks like we won’t be seeing Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger, and Pete until 2012. While we wait to see our favorite ad man, I’ll be watching these films for my fill of 60’s fashion, social and abusive drinking, marital unrest, and the corporate rat race.
THE APARTMENT (1960)
Without Billy Wilder, there would be no MAD MEN. PERIOD. The opening shots of Sterling Cooper offices in the pilot are direct lifts from Wilder’s 1960 masterpiece. The film even gets named checked by Joan and Roger in Episode 10 “The Long Weekend.” Wilder’s snappy dialogue and vivid characters probably provided MAD MEN writers with inspiration as well. Wilder’s hero, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has ambitions for management and lets execs use his apartment for their dalliances. Once he realizes the murky machine he’s mixed up in through his relationship with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), he longs to be more than a corporate stooge and regains his dignity. How Wilder orchestrates tender moments with comedy and devastating drama is rarely out done on MAD MEN or anything else. Two episodes that come close for me are Episode 7 “Red in the Face” from season 1 and “The Suitcase’ from season 4.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008)
Don and Betty’s fights on MAD MEN never came close to the fervent hatred trading between Frank and April Wheeler in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the Wheelers hope a whimsical move to Paris will save their doomed marriage. Like the Draper marriage, the union crumbles under the weight of a lie.
The Year of Firth comes to pass in victory. Firth held court at the Oscars all night looking stately in the front row. His speech was clever and funny.
Walking out of seeing THE KING’S SPEECH, I knew Firth would win. His performance anchors the film and makes it soar.
Up next, Firth will appear in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY with Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy. The film is based on a John le Carré novel, same author as THE CONSTANT GARDENER.
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