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Rooney Mara (#110 of 12)

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

Focus Features

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

True story: When I saw Titanic on opening night in New York City, Sam Waterston was sitting behind me and, within seconds of the credits rolling, was calling bullshit on the film. Almost 20 years later, his daughter, Katherine Waterston, gave two of the best performances of her young career in Queen of Earth and Steve Jobs, and given the response from critics and awards groups, it’s almost as if she never gave them. That Kate Winslet, a great actress who so artfully disappears into her role of Joanna Hoffman in the latter film that you barely notice her spotty accent work, has arguably robbed Waterston of her time in the sun probably has everything to do with name recognition alone. Or, and maybe Sam will agree with me here, the Golden Globe and BAFTA trophies that Winslet has collected for her turn may be explained by some weird reflex by which Titanic enthusiasts see a win for Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as a two-for-one special.

Cannes Film Festival 2015 Carol

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Cannes Film Festival 2015: Carol
Cannes Film Festival 2015: Carol

Adapted by Phyllis Nagy from Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, Carol is a continuation and refinement of Todd Haynes’s signature concerns, slotting into his filmography like a wintry, understated cousin to Far from Heaven. While the normative forces of society once again threaten a burgeoning love affair, this time around it’s the wistful glances, passing touches, and wordless complicity of love itself that take center stage.

It’s Christmas 1952 and Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a smart, unassuming wannabe photographer, is making ends meet by working at an upmarket department store. One customer cannot help but catch her eye: the older, married Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), who follows her sales suggestions without hesistation and just happens to leave her gloves on the counter as she walks off. The return of the items ushers in a lunch, which in turn ushers in drinks at Aird’s country house, with Carol’s angry, soon-to-be ex-husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), the only real fly in the ointment. The growing attraction between Carol and Therese is never verbalized, but rather emerges with organic grace in gazes and gestures. The most ravishing example of this comes when Carol drives Therese to her estate for the first time, Therese’s eye wandering across the landscape of Carol’s face as the car enters a tunnel, its gleaming lights illuminating and obscuring Blanchett’s smile in equal measure, before one immaculately gloved finger presses the necessary button and the strings on the soundtrack merge with the song that now starts up on the car radio.

New York Film Festival 2013: Her Review

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New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Her</em> Review
New York Film Festival 2013: <em>Her</em> Review

A man falls in love with an operating system. Sounds like the makings of a biting satire on the supposed lack of human connection in the digital age. But one of the most surprising things about Spike Jonze’s new film, Her, is in how it steadfastly refuses to see this predicament from the cynical perspective one might expect. Plenty of ink has been spilled by now about the ways in which technology has had the effect of isolating people from one another even as some of those forms of technology—like Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media—have promised otherwise. With Her, it’s as if Jonze said at the outset of the film’s conception, “cynicism’s easy,” and decided not only to take the central romance at least halfway seriously, but to dare to suggest that there may actually be some legitimate validity in falling in love with artificial intelligence.

Watch the Trailer for Spike Jonze’s Her, Starring Joaquin Phoenix

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Watch the Trailer for Spike Jonze’s <em>Her</em>, Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Watch the Trailer for Spike Jonze’s <em>Her</em>, Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Watch the first trailer for Warner Bros.’s Her, a sci-fi romance directed by Spike Jonze and starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with an advanced Siri-like operating system named “Samantha” played by Scarlett Johansson, who reportedly replaced Samantha Morton earlier this year. According to the official synopsis, the film, Jonze’s first narrative feature since 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are, “explores the evolving nature—and the risks—of intimacy in the modern world.”

Understanding Screenwriting #108: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, & Smash

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Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>
Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>

Coming Up In This Column: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, Smash, but first…

Fan mail: David Ehrenstein, reacting to my comments on Cat Ballou, thought that all the things I liked about the writing and acting came together “thanks to efforts of that controversial new-fangled invention known as the Director.” I didn’t get around to mentioning the director, Elliot Silverstein, because this is one of those films, like M*A*S*H (1970), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Thelma & Louise (1991), that succeeds in spite of its director rather than because of him. Silverstein is very sloppy about where he puts the camera and the acting is all over the place. This was his only truly successful film, and he soon went back to television, where he started.

Side Effects (2013. Written by Scott Z. Burns. 106 minutes.)

Better than Hitchcock. Both Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick were interested in psychiatry. In the mid-’40s, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to buy a novel that was, according to Hitchcock’s biographer, Donald Spoto, “a bizarre tale of witchcraft, satanic cults, psychopathology, murder, and mistaken identities.” (The background material here is from Spoto’s The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.) Hitchcock presented some ideas on how a movie could be made out of the material to Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay for Spellbound (1945). Hecht’s version deals with an amnesiac who replaces a man scheduled to become the head of a mental hospital. The amnesiac is accused of murder and with a helpful female psychiatrist works out his problems. Since she’s played in the film by Ingrid Bergman, he falls in love with her as well. The film was a commercial success, but it’s rather clunky, like many ’40s films about psychiatry. And like many Hitchcock films, it’s less about character than about giving the director a chance to show off. As befits Selznick, the film is a slick production with stars (Gregory Peck as the amnesiac) in a romantic mode.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Actress

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Actress

At this point, being a Meryl Streep diehard who also cares about Oscar hoopla is a kind of brutal self-flagellation. Year after year, be it a silver fox in a royalty role, a can’t-miss Brit in a Holocaust film, or a rom-com sweetheart awarded for years of box-office gajillions, there’s always someone younger, fresher, or less-anointed to make voters feel better about passing on Streep, their near-perennial Oscar queen. This year, of course, the guilt-free alternative is Viola Davis, whose movie-carrying brilliance in The Help is fortified by the unavoidable race discussion, which, whether you pray at the church of Tate Taylor or Tavis Smiley, is all but certain to catapult her to victory. Up to now, Streep and Davis have more or less split the precursor trophies, and Streep has a fresh Kennedy Center Honor and Berlinale career kudo in her corner, but it’s next to impossible to imagine Davis’s snowballing awards narrative being derailed in the place where it would wring the most tears. Yes, a 2012 Best Actress win for a black woman in a maid role sends all kinds of regressive messages, but stronger yet is the voter urge to self-congratulate by coloring Oscar history, however sad the truth of the matter. Indeed, Streep had better hope she stays in her seat, for a win might make her look as monstrous as the shrew she so embodies in The Iron Lady.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

If you want a good cross-section of Oscar habits, look no further than this year’s top five candidates for Best Actress. In Michelle Williams, you have the eternally baity case of star playing star, and this time the star being played just might be history’s brightest. In Tilda Swinton, you have a classic case of Academy catch-up, wherein voters nominate a brilliant talent for minor work as a means to remedy past snubs. Category fraud is exemplified by Viola Davis, whose push as a leading star is, admittedly, a falsity of the filmmakers and not of any voting body, but who should nevertheless be considered as supporting. In Glenn Close, there’s you’re wholly undeserving knee-jerk nominee, armed with a shameless checklist of Oscar-y draws like gender-bending, homosexuality, uglification, makeup effects, period details, decades-long commitment, and “past-due” desperation. And as for Meryl Streep, well, she’s an Oscar habit in and of herself, isn’t she?

On the Rise Rooney Mara

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On the Rise: Rooney Mara

Columbia Pictures

On the Rise: Rooney Mara

There are a lot of breakout stars, but there aren’t too many like Rooney Mara, a relative unknown who, thanks to Hollywood’s juiciest female role, has been fiercely groomed for superstardom and hurled into the popular conversation. Recent ingenues like Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Lawrence have seen their directors’ good faith pay off at modest festival unveilings, where their out-of-nowhere performances wowed crowds and set off storms of buzz. Mara, however, has been programmed to be in their company, her out-of-nowhere impact predetermined by a director of similar good faith and a character who entices just about everyone, from magazine editors to goth lesbians to book-loving grandmothers. A molded muse if ever there was one, Mara went from stealing scenes in David Fincher’s The Social Network to morphing into the auteur’s vision of pop culture’s baddest vigilantess since The Bride, maybe even since Ellen Ripley. Her pierced, paled, and punked-out new look—a world away from the pretty, conservative chic she displayed as The Social Network’s Erica Albright—began trickling out in glimpses, with outlets like W Magazine carefully unrolling the black carpet to introduce the stateside incarnation of Lisbeth Salander. We were beckoned, and we gladly took the bait, yet through it all Mara remained silent and mysterious, an inaccessible figure literally poked and prodded as she assumed her fated, scrutinized position as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.