Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 121 – Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins is back after a mere 54 years since the first film. The kids have grown up, life has grown difficult, and a magical undying supernatural flying nanny is precisely what they need.

What they don’t need are new ideas. Mary Poppins Returns copies the structure and concepts of the first film almost to the point of parody, today’s Disney operating in a world in which people apparently want low-effort, straight-up nostalgia (as their spate of CGI-laden remakes of their animated classics can confirm). However, the film has its charms, in time the songs may become memorable – one can rarely tell on first viewing – and children are sure to love it as previous generations loved the last.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 83 – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

It’s been out for four weeks and finally we decide to grapple with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Mike has just recently caught up with the first film, a jukebox musical that José disliked, and both are disappointed with the sequel’s lack of skill or even instinct as to what makes a musical actually work. Mike points out some elements of story structure he found original, and Jose is impressed with how the film juggles its vast cast of characters, but they disagree on Cher. (Spoiler: José really loves Cher.)

Neither comes away really having enjoyed the film, though neither is really the target audience either. But there’s fun to be had in critiquing it!

 

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 37 – The Post

the post

Spielberg. Streep. Hanks. Nixon. A political thriller that adopts some clichés and slightly sidesteps some expectations, The Post is a historical drama that follows the internal conflict at The Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers scandal.

We find plenty to talk about in its parallels with the Trump White House and the current President’s attacks on the news media; its careful but stilted style; its relationship to the 70s cinema it evokes; its central figure of a woman out of place in a world of men; and the balance between its nationalistic boosterism of the US Constitution and American exceptionalism on the one hand, and its surprisingly direct denunciation of the powers that be in Washington. You can literally hear Mike learning about the Nixon era, live!

Also discussed: Mike loves Bridge of Spies, Jose doesn’t love Bridge of Spies, Mike thinks Spotlight is uniquely brilliant, Jose espouses his theory on Meryl Streep’s stardom, and why is everyone in the Post’s newsroom over 65?

Recorded on 22nd January 2018

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

You can download it from i-tunes here.

We also now have a dedicated website.

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Florence Foster Jenkins (Stephen Frears, UK, 2016)

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I loved Florence Foster Jenkins and I didn’t expect to: Hugh Grant, Meryl Streep and Simon Helberg (from The Big Bang Theory) are terrific and it’s laugh-out loud funny, camp, touching. Stephen Frears is really superb in creating and maintaining a tone for the film that allows us to laugh at but also feel for all of the characters involved.

Meryl Streep plays Florence, the deluded society lady who lives for music, loves performing it, and hires out Carnegie Hall so she can share her gift with the world. Streep’s performance is a tricky one: she could have sung badly and simply grate our ears; or she could have made the singing comic but go a bit too broad and we would lose sight of the person, her delusions and vulnerabilities. Her performance is a tour de force: I laughed at each wrong note, incrementally, and more so because of the relish with which Street acts it out. She’s greatly aided by her costumes, enormous vulgar tiaras, piles of bracelets and necklaces and gigantic tassle earrings that teeter dangerously with each note and frame Streeps’ eager and gleeful eyes. It’s what she lives for.

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Hugh Grant has always been under-rated. There’s been no better light comedian in the last two decades. As St. Claire Bayfield, Jenkin’s watchful husband, he’s not just funny but touching. He’s the man who makes all of Florence’s delusions possible; who cocoons her against a too harsh world; and that takes charm, and money, and steel and a considerable amount of self-sacrifice. He keeps reiterating the happiness of the world they’ve created for each other; and his performance makes you believe it. But Grant also conveys the sadness and strain of the failed actor; one who loves to recite and has played in Hamlet but too hastily adds that not the leading part of course; the toll of looking after her needs; and the price he’s paid. Grant gets each laugh and also, perhaps for the first time, not only evokes Hugh Grant but also simultaneously embodies a complex character, one we believe in, where dreams of art and acclaim, what he provides for her, have faded; and he’s been left only with her and what she provides for him: riches and glamour; it’s part of the greatness of his performance that he makes us understand both how little and how much that is.

If Grant hasn’t been given his due, neither has Frears. After, landmark films for forty years (from My Beautiful Laundrette onwards) and after the extraordinary work of restrained emotion that was last year’s Philomena, doesn’t the man deserve more credit? Who else can maintain and sustain a tone in which delicacy of feeling, farce, drawing room comedy and melodrama, can co-exist so easily in a period setting?

I recommend it.

 

José Arroyo

 

Hope Springs (David Frankel, USA, 2012)

hope springs

You may have to be middle-aged to like this movie but I am and I do. It’s not a great film. Visually it looks like a TV movie with lots of close-ups and hand-held camera. It’s a bout a devoted middle-class couple, Kay and Arnold Soames (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) who love each other but have given up on their sex life. She wants to do something about it. He’s happy to let it be. They end up seeing a therapist (Steve Carrell).

The device of the therapist which structures the movie is by-the-numbers plotting and the Steve Carrell character as a character is extraneous: the movie needs the  figure of therapist to tell the story but that therapist could have been anybody. The story itself exhibits a corny and rather naive belief in therapy so beloved by American culture – as if counselling were a cure-all religion with the therapist as a new, less judgmental, priest – it’s a religion with an overt cash nexus — pay money and the therapist promises to deliver a better, happier life —  but with no threat of fire and brimstone.

False as the film is, there is nonetheless something that rings true about the depiction of the relationship itself. The little every day things, awkwardness, loneliness, failed attempts to communicate with a partner, the fumbled and unrealized efforts at sex. The audience I saw it with reacted appreciatively to all these attempts, as if they too knew what the film was talking about.  They recognized themselves in Streep and, even more so, their husbands or partners in Tommy Lee Jones.

Streep is both actressy, which is to say fake, and true. One just has to accept that it doesn’t matter that she rarely ‘is’ on screen, that she always ‘Acts’. Her careful construction is such a good indication of the ‘true’ that it passes itself off as the real thing. Tommy Lee Jones is terrific: angry, embarrassed, quarrelsome, loving, afraid to say how he feels, afraid to lose her, loving and in love without being attracted. It’s a great performance. One has to give Streep her due as well, it’s a ‘great-lady-as typical-hausfrau’ performance, but the way she crosses her legs, how she dares to show her wrinkles and botch her blow job is quite daring. These are great actors taking risky chances that pay off. Too bad the movie isn’t better. But let’s appreciate it for what it is: an exploration of middle-aged sexuality that rarely appears on screen and that Streep currently seems to have a monopoly on (e.g. It’s Complicated). I’m very glad I saw it.

José Arroyo