the oscars

Obst (and Everybody Else) Loves Meryl Streep

From: Lynda Obst

Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 4:10 PM

To: David Edelstein

Subject: RE: Deaf Jam

Dear David,

With such a trenchant understanding of why Iwo worked, I’m surprised you didn’t like it more, and particularly surprised you didn’t see that that is exactly why I think Flags was a nonstarter. Seeing a movie based upon the experiences of heroic WWII GIs — a movie that necessarily calls to mind Saving Private Ryan and the attendant celebration at Normandy that brought together the French, President Bush, and Steven Spielberg — not only do I not know what else there is to say, I can’t separate the clichés from the profundities. Also, the acting was much better in Iwo.

Virtually every scene she was in was a delight, and any scene she wasn’t in I can’t remember. That’s carrying a movie on your back. Minimalist performances that happen to be letter-perfect can be Oscar-worthy, too. They’re just not over the top. Unlike Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Departed, which almost took you out of the movie — in contrast to those given by Alec Baldwin and Marc Walberg, neither of whom I even recognized. The Devil Wears Prada was beloved because Meryl played a fully realized human being, not a monster. Her performance delivers the entire cacophony of female ambition and its life costs: She is brassy, bossy, mellifluous, and polished, and her private life plays out in the minor key.

On to Babel’s many outstanding performances: I must say I thought Brad and Cate were terrific — and overlooked. Maybe they had too much going for them this year. Cate was breathtaking in Notes, and Brad was certainly everywhere, but Babel was his most subtle and adult performance. I had no idea what the Japanese plot was about either, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Rinko. Not her twat, I want to be clear, but her whole person. This is partly her, partly the magic of Inneratu and his cinematographer. The movie held me all the way, even when I couldn’t figure it out. As opposed to Volver, which merely frustrated me. But I think I’m alone on this.

Doc-wise, I do think Al is a lock, if for no other reason than most everyone has seen it and it’s such a hassle to see the other documentaries. Also, let’s face it — the Zeitgeist determines the doc, and the Zeitgeist is with him. Will this launch his 2008 campaign, as Chris Matthews thinks? This is a question for someone in a higher pay grade than me. Personally, I loved Rachel Grady’s Jesus Camp, an underdog. Ted Haggard revealed his sleazy, scary self in the movie, well in advance of his public humiliation.

As for diamonds — you know they’re all freebies. Harry Winston and all the jewelers (maybe even De Beers themselves) will be pushing their wares this year, of course. It will be an important moment for the diamond lobbyists. And my guess is yes, you will be seeing actresses with them on. Do you see E! Entertainment grilling people on the red carpet? Imagine Vanessa Minnillo demanding to know whether Cameron Diaz is wearing conflict-free diamonds. “Chanel,” she’d answer.

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Obst (and Everybody Else) Loves Meryl Streep