From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
The Grammys were just a few weeks ago, but it’s already time for another round of endless applause. Even if flashy evening gowns, long-winded acceptance speeches, and Brad Pitt don’t pique your interest, you can still make Sunday night an excuse to celebrate. There’s nothing like a good atmosphere, a great crowd, and some well-priced drink specials to ramp up your enthusiasm.
If you’re willing to venture outside of Borderstan territory, there’s still time to catch up on the year in cinema and pick a favorite to root for in the “Best Picture” category. AMC Theaters in Georgetown has shown all nine nominated films. You can see five of them this Saturday for $40.
Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW. Make your dreams of getting backstage at the Black Cat finally come true. There is no cover Sunday night for the “Stars in Bars: Oscars Viewing Party on the Backstage.” Doors open at 7 pm, and Food for Thought Café will be open during its usual Sunday hours (8 pm to 1 am.).
The Heights, 3115 14th Street NW. Starting at 5 pm., The Heights will host its Second Annual Oscar Watch Party. Check out the Best-Picture-nominee-themed food and drink specials here. Everything is under $10, except for the “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a pitcher of St. Germain, Jose Cuervo, lime, cucumber, and simple syrup — surely the recipe for a winning night.
Helix Lounge, 1430 Rhode Island Avenue NW. Helix Lounge, at the Helix Hotel, has also formulated some cinematic cocktail specialties. From 5:00 to 11:00 p.m., you can sip on a “Red Carpet Cosmo” for $8.00 while enjoying a “Spiel-Burger” with fries for only $6.50.
Nellie’s, 900 U Street NW. If you’re looking for an alternative to the red carpet atmosphere, stop by Nellie’s after 7:00 p.m. to watch the Oscars. You can toast to the winners — or drink for the losers — with $4 Mimosas, Nellie draft beer, rail drinks and Bloody Marys or $15 pitchers of select beer.
From Mary Burgan. Email her at [email protected].
The Oscar nominations are out and the last-minute scramble to see nominated-movies is on. Today Mary reviews the performanes of Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, both nominated for Actress in a Leading Role.
Many reviewers of The Iron Lady have been too hard on a movie that should deal more seriously with politics, since it’s about a politician. Or so they complain, But the film is far less concerned with political rights and wrongs than with a particular human life, that of Margaret Thatcher, recalled in vivid fragments through a mind beginning to fail.
Given that focus, the film must portray a consciousness that has become unable to discriminate clearly between past and present. The movie as written and directed gives Meryl Streep the opportunity to project this extraordinary, fluctuating state of awareness. It is hard to see how it could have done so while dramatizing political issues and events in anything like their real-life complexity.
Of course, Streep looks so much like Thatcher that the two images simply merge in the film. As a result I felt much more genuine empathy with Thatcher in The Iron Lady than I had expected, and while primary credit for that surprise has to go to Streep, I think the others involved in making the movie deserve credit for making it possible.
The script takes advantage of Thatcher’s famous take-no-prisoners language in her rise to power. There is delight in her forcefulness, even when the film has her enunciate non-politically correct statements, such as the on her decision to defend the Falkland Islands in 1982: “With all due respect, sir, I have done battle every single day of my life and many men have underestimated me before. This lot seem bound to do the same, but they will rue the day.” In Streep’s portrayal, Thatcher never merely speaks; she enunciates.
Special notice should go to Jim Broadbent, the British actor who portrays Denis Thatcher both as an easy companion and a comic inhabitant of Margaret’s senescent daydreams. His appearances are not so much justifications of Thatcher’s political decisions as occasions for witty or sentimental relief. In all, then, The Iron Lady managed to win over this resolutely liberal — “wet” in Thatcher language — viewer.
Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
The interaction between inner and outer lives is a significant feature of Albert Nobbs, another film that gives a major American actress plenty of room to display her talent. In Albert Nobbs, the actress is Glenn Close. Like Streep, Close is nominated for an Oscar this year for a bravura performance that embodies the title character. But such a simplistic conception of Close’s role in Albert Nobbs, like Streep’s in The Iron Lady, neglects that fact that each film amounts to more than its title character.
Close does play the role of “Nobbs,” a diminutive, cross-dressed male waiter in late 19th Century Dublin, with an intensity that warrants her Oscar nomination. But that intensity is almost too much of a sad thing. The rest of the cast sustains the story’s interest, as Nobbs’ stunted life slowly modulates into something more than a mindless waste. It becomes tragic.
Albert Nobbs is less a self-indulgent star vehicle than a sensitive study of the ways in which servants in a marginal but pretentious Dublin hotel can finally pay homage to a life they barely knew. The film achieves this revelation through a number of fine performances — Mia Wasikowska as Helen, the flip chamber maid who eventually becomes the object of Nobbs’ affections; Pauline Collins as Mrs. Baker, the flirtatious but grasping hotel owner; Brendan Gleeson as an alcoholic resident doctor who has enough insight to summarize the import of the story, and Janet McTeer as a house painter employed for a day or so by Mrs. Baker
Nobbs has no idea who he/she is, but Hubert Page, another cross-dressing woman and self-acknowledged lover of women, is a fully aware and serves as a tough/tender liberator. It’s all very Irish and repressed, though there’s never a priest or nun in sight.
Albert Nobbs shares the brilliance of the story of The Iron Maiden, and not just because talented actresses spend themselves without stint in their roles. Each movie is more than a starring role.
It would be a shame to choose sides. Just go to see both.
From Mary Burgan. Email her at [email protected].
I wrote my last post about the 2011 movies on November 29, and although I am sure that Borderstan readers have already seen their share of award-ready movies, I should explain my silence.
Without indulging in too many details about the bodily conditions that put me out of commission this winter, let me say that a mid-October surgery on my lumbar spine led to a late December surgery on my thoracic spine. I now have a totally reworked total spine, with so much titanium holding my back together that I feel like a figure in an action movie. The only difference between me and a reworked Angelina Jolie is that everything hurts… and that my lips are not that full nor my glances that sultry.
So it’s back to the movies. I worry that I’ve been left out of the movie award scene since last October. They have been advertised and exalted while I was in the hospital, and I’ve actually managed to see a lot of them between my bouts with the surgeon, and I’ve been trying to catch up. Even so, the excitement of the awards season is not there. Is it me or them?
This Year’s Oscar Contenders
I’ve seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Artist, and The Descendants, but although each is an intelligent film, none left me with the excitement that I expect to feel for Oscar contenders. I hoped to get some of this excitement from Hugo, remembering how charmed I was with Up several years ago. I have a special weakness for children’s movies, and I was excited about the prospect of a Martin Scorsese film for children. I was relieved that there would be no gory Good Fella bodies suddenly appearing–that the population of actors in Hugo would be benevolent with one another.
But I found that Hugo was, well, boring. The figure played by Ben Kingsley slightly was menacing and never very cuddly; there needs to be one cuddly figure in a children’s movie, right? And I don’t need the endless wake-up spectral figures of a Harry Potter film to be entertained. But Scorsese seems to be wearing kid gloves in Hugo because the film really is an adult homage to films past. It reveres them too much, perhaps?
The same holds true for The Artist. It features two very attractive human actors and a scene-stealing dog. But there is no color and no sound, and the final result, for me at least, is the realization that modern movies in sound and color are wonderful. Film styles of the past were delightful, but I’m not convinced that they can carry a whole movie, especially one that adopts the familiar plot of a silent start losing his hold when sound comes in with a newcomer girl getting all the stardom.
And so the Oscar nominees have not earned much excitement from me. I like actors’ movies, so in what seems a lean year, I’d put my money for the final prize on ensemble films like The Descendants. It amazes me that a wonderfully intense film like Margin Call has just one nomination on the score board (for best original screenplay). I thought that was one of the best of the year.
The race is on. I haven’t yet constructed my list of personal winners. If you’ve done yours, how about sharing it with Borderstan readers? Just add it as a comment, below. Or wait until later and send it in. Anticipation is half the fun in the Awards Season.