Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Julianne Moore’s Long Red Carpet to the Oscars

No Comments 21 May 2015

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in 'Maps to the Stars' and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in ‘Maps to the Stars’ and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Can it be only a year since Julianne Moore owned the red carpet at Cannes — and won the festival’s Best Actress — for playing a diva on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Maps to the Stars? And then David Cronenberg’s bitter little Hollywood pill lost its way to the theaters and what had once seemed like Julianne’s yearstumbled. And then came Alice, Still Alice and Moore was back in play. Here’s my interview of Moore for the New York Observer that appeared on January 21st on finding Oscar without a map:

It was a lunch at Le Cirque, it was star-studded, and actress Julianne Moore was at Table One. The star of Still Alice—a tough, raw portrait of an academic, wife and mother coping with the disintegration of her identity due to early-onset Alzheimer’s—looked, at 54, terrific. Friends surrounded her: Kate Capshaw, wife of Steven Spielberg, on her right; Ellen Barkin to her left. The mood was hopeful, even giddy, with a side of wood-knocking: Ms. Moore was and is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Academy Award. Last week, she received her fifth nomination and, if it happens February 22, this would be her first win.

It’s no coincidence that Cate Blanchett held down that same circular table last year on her juggernaut to the Oscar for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, also, not coincidentally, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. But while Ms. Blanchett held the Best Actress lead from a midsummer release to the Oscars, it’s not an easy position to maintain. Ms. Blanchett’s frontrunner status could easily have been torpedoed by the abuse scandal surrounding director Woody Allen Continue Reading

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Movies, Oscar Race

Contenders 2016: From the Palmes d’Or to the Oscars

No Comments 18 May 2015

Cate Blanchett in the title role

Cate Blanchett in the title role

We hate to be looking over someone’s shoulder like Carol/Cate but we know that somewhere, beyond next winter, the movies of sunny spring will be competing for Oscar. And right at the front of that long red-carpet march is Blanchett, only two years out from her Best Actress win for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. (Like Blanche DuBois, we’re constantly looking at the past and struggling with the disappointments of the present.) Blanchett was the queen of Cannes 2013 — and no one could catch her. So, I’m tossing out some ideas generated by Cannes for Contenders:





Todd Haynes (Carol)

Paolo Sorrentino (Youth)


Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Emily Blunt (Sicario)

Marion Cotillard (Macbeth)

Emma Stone (Irrational Man)


Rooney Mara (Carol)


Michael Caine (Youth)

Michael Fassbender (Macbeth)


Woody Allen (Irrational Man)

Yorgos Lanthimos, Elthymis Fillipou (The Lobster)


Phyllis Nagy (Carol)


Son of Saul
The Assassin

The Other Sister

[Related: From THR Study: In Cannes vs. Oscars, the Winner is….]


Inside Out




Richard Deakins (Sicario)

Edward Lachman (Carol)

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Movies, Oscar Race

Outtakes: Oscar Winner Catherine Martin on the Nexus of Costume and Production Design

No Comments 06 May 2015

Baz Luhrmann and wife -- CATHERINE MARTIN!!! -- at the Met Gala

Baz Luhrmann and wife — CATHERINE MARTIN!!! — at the Met Gala

Despite hubby Baz Luhrmann and the preening, prawning Gatsby of Leonardo DiCaprio, Costume and Production Designer Catherine Martin squeezed two Oscars out of that sad puppy. And I doubly respect her. When we talk about women in Hollywood, sometimes we overlook the crafts where women dominate, like costume design and casting. I recently wrote a Tribeca Film Festival preview piece for Variety and interviewed Martin at medium length. We only used one quote about New York. No worries. That’s the collaborative process. But here are the outtakes from that interview — and they’re fascinating.

Me: How rare is it to be both production and costume designer – and how do the two influences each other in your work?

Catherine Martin: When you live it, it’s very difficult to imagine another way of being, and you don’t think of
yourself as a rare bird. I think one of the great advantages for me, in terms of being a costume and production designer is you get to harmonize how the costume and set work together in a very instantaneous and very real way.

Leo the tasty macaron in a vivid example of Martin's complementary production and costume design.

Leo the tasty macaron in a vivid example of Martin’s complementary production and costume design.

Can you address ways in which your costume design has influenced contemporary fashion – and, how, inversely, in films like The Great Gatsby you researched the historical period and then creatively reinvented the looks in collaboration with you husband, Director Baz Luhrmann, and his thematic re-imagining of the period?

CM: Oh my goodness, this is a very complicated question. I think you never go into a work, thinking very much about how you’re going to influence someone, rather you go into a work trying to understand the director’s vision, the vision of the author, the lives of the characters, and if they fit in historical context, what existed at the time, what were the signs and symbols that the clothing of the time captured, what do they say to the contemporary audience when you saw someone walking down the street. So I think very much one of Baz’s focuses on all the films is to really examine in the fullest possible way, how it felt to be a character in a period that you’re exploring, how it felt to wear their clothes, how it felt to walk in their shoes, and those signs and symbols that those garments gave off to their contemporaries. Continue Reading

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Criticism, Oscar Race

Office Politics Gone Wild: Why you must see ‘Two Days, One Night’

No Comments 30 December 2014

Two Days One Night
Naturalistic and probing, in Two Days, One Night, Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike) tell an apparently simple, linear story with astonishing depth. Recovering from depression, wife and mother Sandra (Marion Cotillard) returns to work at a solar panel factory after sick leave. Once there, she discovers that her bosses have made her co-workers a Sophie’s Choice: take a thousand Euro bonus and lay-off Sandra, or save Sandra and sacrifice the cash.

It’s not surprising that Sandra’s colleagues choose the bonus over their colleague’s needs. But, when management allows a last-minute recount, Sandra’s husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) urges her to visit each and every individual to plead her case. This reluctant quest — a married mother on the verge of a second nervous breakdown travelling door-to-door over two days and one night — opens up a working class world to the audience. We see into the lives of the others from the factory and their impact on the sobbing Sandra.

Oscar-winner Cotillard (Ma Vie en Rose) portrays Sandra in jeans and a tank top, bra straps showing, hair clutched uncombed in a pony-tail; far more unkempt than the actress who plays her, who is the face of Lady Dior handbags. As Sandra, Cotillard’s walk rides low in her hips, she pops Xanax and, defeated, she retreats to her bed where she lies in a fetal position under the duvet. But none of this is overwrought. She melds perfectly in the Dardennes’ matter-of-fact style; the first true star these Belgian brothers have cast as a lead.

[Related: TIFF Critic’s Pick: ‘Two Days, One Night]

Cotillard has become one of my favorite actresses. Whether in high-gloss blockbuster mode in The Dark Knight Rises or period perfect in The Immigrant, she works from a very quiet core. Her characters always have a life beyond the screen, a before and after. These women don’t ask you for permission, they compel you to watch. The biggest emotions register in tiny gestures.

While Sandra’s struggle and transformation is central to Two Days, One Night, the drama is less a star vehicle than an ethical exploration. Do you leave your morals at the door when you clock in? You may treat your family humanely at home, but the actions taken in pursuit of a paycheck also define your character. In reality, what you do at work is as much who you are as your private identity. In this competitive economy of layoffs and job insecurity, that certainly is cause for reflection, whether you’re American or Belgian

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Criticism, Movies, Oscar Race

Review: You Must Go ‘Into the Woods’ with a Magical Meryl Streep

No Comments 29 December 2014

Chris Pines cuts a charming, if callow, figure

Chris Pines cuts a charming, if callow, figure

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, as directed by Rob Marshall, from James Lapine’s screenplay, is movie musical bliss – better than Marshall’s Oscar-winning Chicago and so much better than his miscast, misbegotten Nine. From the prologue with its swooping camera that establishes many of the fairy tale characters – the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt), the Baker (James Corden), Witch (Meryl Streep), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Jack the bean-stock boy (Daniel Huttlestone) and on and on – audiences who love the wit and wisdom of Sondheim will be bewitched and transfixed.

Once upon a time, as these remixed Brothers Grimm fairy stories go, the infertile Baker’s Wife makes one of those apparently simple yet Faustian bargains. Her neighbor the Witch (a role originated by Bernadette Peters on Broadway) reveals that the Baker and his family are cursed (it’s a part of that Rapunzel thing). To reverse the spell and become pregnant, the wife must take her husband Into the Woods – over to the dark side – to collect four items. Suddenly we’re in Fertility: the Musical!

All hideous warty witchy wants is a white cow, a red cape, some yellow hair and a golden slipper. What could go wrong? Well, remember, all the Wizard of Oz wanted was a broomstick but the coward neglected to mention to Dorothy and her pals that they would have to kill the Wicked Witch to retrieve it. Oops!

[Related: The Roundabout Theater Company’s ‘Into the Woods’]

The wife’s desire for a child is so all-consuming that the resulting quest for the four ingredients launches a movie about conflicting wishes, moral quandaries and unexpected consequences. The musical relies on the chain of songs to tell the story without pausing for dialog or showy business. There’s no Mickey and Judy reminding us that we’re putting on this performance in a barn – this is sophisticated stuff.

From Streep to Depp as the Wolf (he comes in one size: big and bad), the cast is universally genius, although critics seem to be picking and choosing favorites in a way that diminishes the ensemble’s beauty. Streep – the perennial Oscar nominee is bound for a supporting nod here — relishes playing the enchantress that upends the Baker’s marriage. She sings her witch into Shakespearean depth, as if one of Macbeth‘s crones got her rightful spot to move the plot further while pushing aside the Lord and Lady and their puny human problems. Both Blunt and Kendrick sing beautifully and soulfully – these are not just tunes but deep expressions of feeling: ambivalent, overwhelming, frightening, and occasionally deceitful.

Chris Pine (yes, the Star Trek reboot captain) deserves the notice he’s getting as the feckless Prince that woos Cinderella to a not-so-happily-ever-after. His duet, “Agony,” with his brother, Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen) is a rollicking charm-off that echoes Lancelot’s crowing narcissism in Camelot‘s “C’est Moi.” But this Prince Charming’s role is critical, the idea that he is just a pretty face and good manners, and not painted any deeper adds to the resonance of his seductive duet with the Baker’s Wife, “Any Moment.” Chunks of the seize-the-moment, damn the consequences song could be quoted here but let’s stick with “Right and wrong don’t matter in the woods; only feelings.”

[Related: Chris Rock Pushes ‘Top Five’ onto my Top Ten]

Having debuted on Broadway in 1987, following a run at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in 1986, the musical, riding on Lapine’s brilliant book, carries with it the mournfulness of the AIDS epidemic that raged while it was being composed, polished and produced. Going Into the Woods, or the pines, or the rambles, could bring moments of bliss where right and wrong didn’t matter, only feelings. But not everyone was making it out of those woods alive. Some would become casualties, and others would survive, saddened and sobered, with an altered sense of life’s fragility. Death was a high price to pay for a “shimmering and lovely and sad” moment in the woods — and that’s no fairy tale.

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