It's Oscar season, and Harvey Weinstein is back. He's blogging at HuffPo about how his daughters consider him to be cool, and crowing about "The Artist" in the NYT. Lo and behold, Weinstein's canny pre-Cannes acquisition "The Artist" came out ahead at the New York Film Critics Circle with best picture and director and lead the Indie Spirit field with five nominations, while Meryl Streep won best actress for "The Iron Lady" from the NYFCC and Michelle Williams earned an Indie Spirit actress nod for "My Week with Marilyn."
TWC welcomed the good news after critics divebombed their upcoming Madonna movie "W.E." at fall film festivals. Finally, Weinstein's editing tweaks on "The Iron Lady" and "My Week with Marilyn" managed to squeak both movies by as showcases for great actresses who rise above weak material.
While Weinstein showed his girls "Roman Holiday," the inspiration for "Marilyn," comparing them and touting "Marilyn" as "a movie about making movies" reveals the film's flaws. Yes, Williams delivers a dynamic performance–so strong that we don't mind that she doesn't really resemble Monroe. But beyond riveting performances from her as well as Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Eddie Redmayne, the Simon Curtis movie is schmaltzy and drenched in style and an overbearing score. This film about the love of making movies is schizophrenic, trying to achieve two things at once. Williams digs for the truth of what it meant to be Marilyn, while the film chases after the male fantasy of what it was like to sleep with Marilyn.
Phyllida Lloyd's"The Iron Lady," on the other hand, starts off strong as an inspirational feminist biopic about Margaret Thatcher's astonishing rise to power by sheer will, pluck and determination. She had to hold her own in Parliament, which is tough to do for a male politician, much less a female. But the movie's framing device of old Thatcher flashing back to young Thatcher wears thin; the structure becomes repetitive. Still, Streep shines and deserves all the accolades she gets for the latest in a long string of masterful and entertaining roles.
Finally, credit Weinstein for recognizing that "The Artist" would pop and knowing that he had two great actresses and performances, no matter how weak their vehicles were. (Richard Rushfield comments on the strong actor/weak movie trend here.)