Media and Industry Get a Gander at Spielberg's War Horse and Streep as The Iron Lady

Awards
by Anne Thompson
November 25, 2011 6:05 PM
6 Comments
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Steven Spielberg's War Horse DreamWorks

Sight unseen, many predicted that with Steven Speilberg at the helm, World War I drama "War Horse" was the film to beat for best picture and Meryl Streep the front runner for Best Actress in Phyllida Lloyd's Margaret Thatcher biopic "The Iron Lady." At last, in advance of the November 29 New York Film Critics voting, both films are being screened for media and industry alike. The verdict? Yes, they are in contention for awards. "War Horse" will win multiple nominations including best picture and director; it could win the big prize because it boasts the epic scale and scope missing in the race so far. And Streep will vie with Viola Davis for best actress, for channeling Thatcher in a weak biopic that is eerily similar to "J. Edgar," as an older public figure looks back on their rise to power.

It's easy to see what Spielberg responded to in the London and New York hit play "War Horse." To regard the ravages of war--something we have all seen at the movies countless times before--through the eyes of a noble beast, was irresistible. In the theatre, grown men and women weep over this beautiful "miracle horse" and the various folks who look after him, from the Devon farm boy (Jeremy Irvine) who raises the show horse his farmer parents (Peter Mullen and Emily Watson) can't afford and the British cavalry officer (Tom Hiddleston) who rides him into battle to various folks on the both sides of the war who either try to kill him or save him. Niels Arestrup ("A Prophet") is especially effective.

Meryl Streep as The Iron Lady

This unabashedly manipulative movie adapted by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis hews closely to the stage play. Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and composer John Williams aim for an old-fashioned emotional style in the classic John Ford mold--some shots are out-and-out homages. The harrowing World War I sequences are more naturalistic in tone. At the Academy screening I attended Friday morning, the emotion in the room was palpable, the applause at the finale enthusiastic. While I would have preferred a less stylized studio glossy aesthetic, nonetheless I wept buckets.

Streep, meanwhile, delivers an extraordinary performance under heavy makeup as the often inspiring Thatcher in a dull and repetitive feminist biopic. In a competitive year, while it's 29 years since Streep won Best Actress for "Sophie's Choice," our finest screen actress may yet again be overlooked in favor of a younger more compelling stage-to-screen performer. This time it's "Doubt" fellow nominee Davis, who has never won and has all the good will for "The Help" behind her.

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6 Comments

  • J. Sperling Reich | November 27, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    Let's not forget that the Academy often rewards actors and actresses for roles following close behind the one they actually should have won for. Maybe the same will happen again with Meryl Streep.

  • med | November 26, 2011 3:27 PMReply

    Anne - you were on the band wagon for Streep in Julie and Julia and when Bullock became the frontrunner you chirped that Streep should receive special consideration for her next nomination. Your memory seem to be similar to Thatcher in her later years.

  • saw see | November 26, 2011 2:15 AMReply

    ---Moral aibis galore, but NO repentance from the franchise
    slum Holywood mafia for its KEY role in predicitve
    programming tech worship, globalism and EUGENICS.

    Just a little REALITY CHECK on this, the again 'overlooked'
    60th Anniversary of the awesomely relevant

    ---------------------------KOREAN WAR-------------------------------

  • AJ | November 25, 2011 8:44 PMReply

    Anne, did you see "In the land of blood and honey"?
    How was the movie?
    Why nobody is talking about it?
    And it has any chances in awards season? For which awards?

  • Jose Costa | November 25, 2011 7:34 PMReply

    Question for Oscar Talk, maybe:

    Hi, I'm from Brazil and I really enjoy listening to Oscar Talk, congratulations for the show! I’m a fan of Steven Spielberg and I’ve read both your comments (Kris´ and Anne’s) on War Horse and, maybe not surprisingly, they are quite similar.

    For a long time the Academy refused to acknowledge Spielberg’s talent, until Schindler’s List made it inevitable. Do you believe it is likely for War Horse to repeat something like Saving Private Ryan versus Shakespeare In Love and maybe win only one of the Best Director / Best Picture categories?

    And we all know that the Academy has its mysterious ways, so, thinking ahead – next year’s Oscar Talks, don’t you think that if War Horse really does win one of these two, or maybe both, Lincoln’s chances will be reduced? (Like, “we know Russell Crowe is excelent in A Beautiful Mind, but we already gave him an Oscar for Gladiator, to compensate for The Insider”) I know it’s to early to talk about Lincoln, but it’s cast, director and subject matter sure makes it Oscar-friendly.

  • sean | November 25, 2011 7:32 PMReply

    Anne, was it an Academy screening for THE IRON LADY? If so, what the reaction to the film and Streep's performance?

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