Tag Archives: meryl streep

Meryl Streep in The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

There were better supporting actress turns this year, namely the females in Inglourious Basterds followed by the females in Up in the Air. Hell, there were even better Meryl Streep performances this year. However, we are honoring actressing at the margins today and while voice acting doesn’t fit the traditional definition of acting, it still requires creating a character. Animated characters can be given a new depth based solely on the intonation of the voice actor behind it.

Mrs. Fox is no exception. Meryl’s gentle soothing voice was the perfect complement to Clooney’s wily Mr. Fox. Mrs. Fox is a very typical female role — the supporting wife (this time, it just happens to be animated). You can tell from Meryl’s performance that Mrs. Fox has had to use a lot of patience over the years, but in spite of the repeated follies from her husband, there is still something magical in their marriage. Mrs. Fox is also fiercely maternal, a characteristic she puts to good use when she needs to protect her family. Throughout the truly fantastic cascade of events propagated by her husband, Mrs. Fox keeps a calm and Meryl controls her character from histrionics. Mrs. Fox keeps cool to stay in control while Mr. Fox tries to be cool and loses control. What is really remarkable is that the voice actors not only have to portray a character without body language, but they have to portray a Wes Anderson character without body language. The quirkiness of the stop-motion definitely helped, but it is a testament to Meryl and George (Clooney) that you can almost picture them in a live-action version of this movie.

*This post is a part of the Class of 2010 Supporting Actress Blogathon*


The Lindsay Lohan Filmography, Part III

7. I Know Who Killed Me (2007) SPOILERS FOLLOW (but if you have not seen it by now, I doubt you will seek it out)

Why isn’t this the lowest ranked movie on the list, you ask? It is the epitome of high camp without even trying to be and that folks, is quite impressive. This movie has it all: twins separated at birth, stigmata, color symbolism that hits you over the head with the force of a piano dropped from forty stories, creepy psychopaths, missing digits, good v. evil, rich v. poor, roses EVERYWHERE, and Lohan as a “dancer.” The screenwriter must have just gotten out of third period AP Literature and decided that he would try his hand at the art of symbolism, but then realized that people may not get it, so he would have to tone down the subtlety a little bit. The product is what one would get if one were to mix together The Bible + Law and Order: SVU + wealthy Renaissance artists’ love of indigo + a tiny dollop of Jerry Springer.

As if you needed more convincing about the brilliance of this film, allow me to point out that this is actually TWO Lohan performances in one. She gets the juicy roles of playing both Aubrey and Dakota. With those names, it is surprising they both didn’t end up as strippers. I am glad Aubrey got to grow up in privileged suburbia, so that we could witness the full range of Lohan’s skills as she goes from prim, intelligent schoolgirl Aubrey with her white blouse and black-framed glasses to trashy Dakota in her cherry red two-piece and heavy makeup. Perhaps this transformation is best exemplified when Dakota assumes Aubrey’s role and very loudly fornicates with Aubrey’s extremely chaste boyfriend. The uncomfortable face of Aubrey’s mother (played by Julia Ormond) listening from the kitchen below is fantastic. Most importantly, though, the film finally gave Lohan the opportunity to show her dedication to the craft by taking those pole-dancing lessons. Somehow, that does make the world a better place.

6. Bobby (2006)

This movie could have been brilliant; what went wrong? The main problem is that there were too many characters. The point of the film was to take a snapshot of the American political scene and more broadly the American pulse as shaped by Bobby Kennedy. That effect could have been accomplished with about half the characters that ended up being included.

Lohan’s character was actually one of the more interesting ones and Lohan showed great restraint and a real promise for being a dramatic actor. There was a glimmer of hope that Lohan could make it onto the A-list, especially after her co-stars raved about her. At this time, Lohan was a party girl, but when on set, she did her job with the utmost professionalism. She did the international award circuit and showed up looking like royalty at the Venice Film Festival. It was not until later that she hit her downward spiral. In any case, her role was one that actually should have been fleshed out as it left me sympathetic, but curious as to where life would take her next. It is certainly safe to say that Lohan is currently not a bankable lead actress, but she could still be quite good in supporting roles.

The other major problem with this film in general was the overt idealism it was trying to peddle. Bobby Kennedy, even though physically not in 99% of the scenes, was in every scene and he was a one-dimensional character. People watch movies for the conflicts, to see the resolution, to reconcile different viewpoints. Kennedy was painted in such a way that there was nothing to discuss after watching the movie. There was no point of contention. All the characters, despite coming from widely different backgrounds, felt exactly the same way. The film was well acted, but does it matter if no one bothers to remember it?

5. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

I’d say this movie marks the height of Lohan’s fame. She had just come off of Mean Girls and a fantastic appearance on SNL when she began filming for PHC. Playing Meryl Streep’s daughter, she had to dye her hair blonde and with that came the drugs, the eating disorders and the beginning of her downfall. It has been four years, but Lohan finally dyed her hair back to her natural red, so hopefully this is the sign of an upswing.

In any case, Lohan plays the daughter of Streep and niece of Lily Tomlin. A lot of talent in that family if I may say so! This film was directed by Robert Altman, whose main forte is getting the actors to talk to each other rather than getting them to talk to the camera. I was curious to see what an acclaimed director could do with Lohan. More importantly, I was interested in how Lohan would compare to the rest of the venerable cast. Admittedly, she did not have the nuance or the off-the-cuff spontaneity needed for an Altman picture, but she held her own for the most part. Additionally, she was able to showcase her singing voice as part of the radio variety show. The most promising feature of PHC was proof that Lohan can take serious dramatic roles and handle them. Furthermore, she proved both on-screen and on the publicity tour that she is capable of taking advice from those that are far more experienced than her. PHC has often been compared to a homemade rhubarb pie and Lohan knows she’s not the center, but a contributory slice – a scrumptious slice at that!

Sophie’s Choice (1982) v. The Reader (2008)

These two films share so much in common that it is surprising strong parallels have not been drawn before. Both films highlight strong female performances (coincidentally both include German accents), the holocaust, a difficult decision to be made that changes the protagonist for the rest of her life, tragic endings, younger men falling for older women and holocaust victims that move to the United States.

If we go one step further in analyzing Meryl Streep v. Kate Winslet, the similarities get more eerie. Both were 33 years old when their respective films came out. Streep gave the performance of her lifetime in a flawless Polish accent and won an Oscar. Winslet has been evolving ever since her debut in the mid-90s and many agree she has peaked in 2008 and expect her to win this year’s Oscar. Her performance was in a natural German accent. Both actresses were double nominated at the Golden Globes. Both actresses are versatile in both drama and comedy. Both hold records when it comes to Oscar nominations: Meryl Streep has the most Oscar nominations of any actor in history and Kate Winslet is the youngest actor to reach six Oscar nominations. And of course, both are nominated against each other for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The characters themselves were fundamentally different, as one was a prisoner in the concentration camp while the other was a guard. Yet, the trauma in the camps tore both sides apart. Both Streep’s Sophie and Winslet’s Hanna shrouded their pasts in mystery to cover up the decisions they made in the camps. Sophie was more conscious of her wrongdoing than Hanna, but both lives were irreparably damaged in the end, precluding them from leading normal lives once they had reached “freedom.” Their decisions destroyed not only their own lives, but impacted those of the men around them. While Nathan was a paranoid schizophrenic in Sophie’s Choice, his suspicions of how Sophie managed to survive the concentration camp fed his paranoia. Furthermore, Sophie’s story dashed the optimistic naivete Stingo embodied. In The Reader, Michael Berg was never able to have another successful relationship after Hanna. It seems that anyone that went through the camps, either prisonder or guard, emerged as only a shell of who they were before. After they are let back into society, their emptiness acts as a black hole, sucking the life from everyone around them and exponentially magnifying the emptiness.

Neither film attempts to answer which decisions or which actions were right nor do they place blame on their protagonists. At one point while on trial, Hanna says “What would have you have done?” and the same question can be applied to Sophie. Both women had to make decisions that fractured their humanity, but they were placed in situations that none of us could fathom being in. None of us can know what we would have done and we should pray every day that we will never have to know. And thus, we cannot judge either of these women for what they had done. We should not judge these women for making impossible decisions in situations that never should have existed.