A Roundtable Chat with actress Lesley Manville (“Another Year”)

A classic case of an “overnight success” who’s been working successfully for decades, Lesley Manville was just starting to be able to bask in the glow of a job extremely well done during the junket for “Another Year” last month. A few weeks later, the already simmering Oscar speculation around her performance in the latest film from maverick English director Mike Leigh got an early boost: she won the Best Actress award from the influential National Board of Review alongside a number of nominations elsewhere.

anotheryear-14

Lesley Manville began her career on the stage and British television, making her film debut with a minor role in Mike Newell’s 1985 melodrama, “Dance With a Stranger.” In 1988, she appeared in Mike Leigh’s worldwide breakthrough comedy, “High Hopes,” the first of six films so far with the director known for his uniquely collaborative approach. Notable roles in Leigh’s historically-based “Vera Drake” and “Topsy-Turvy” followed, along with numerous less well known films and television shows. It’s possible that she’s best known to the mass U.S. audience as Mrs. Cratchit from Robert Zemickis’ motion-capture “A Christmas Carol.”

In “Another Year,” Manville portrays Mary, a lonely and progressively more depressed alcoholic whose visits to the home of a contented therapist coworker (Ruth Sheen) and her husband (Jim Broadbent), become increasingly painful. It’s a powerful and all too real-seeming portrayal that has hit Manville’s career with enormous force.

Even without a huge number of awards, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of Manville from now on. During the post roundtable chatter, I half jokingly suggested that she should work on her American accent, and she reminded me that she had just recently finished doing the very American play by John Guare, “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Things got a bit interesting late in this group interview, when one of the other writers present asked a question which Manville, perhaps stung by some past public discussion of her short-lived late 1980s marriage to Gary Oldman, deemed overly personal. With a little luck, Lesley Manville will have to deal with more prying from less from the press in years ahead.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

Leave it to Steven Moffat to take the annual “Doctor Who” Christmas special tradition and finally get it right. Given how adept the man is at penning this series at this point, this should probably come as no surprise, and yet, for me at least, it did. I’d learned over the years to set my expectations very low for these holiday outings due to Russell T. Davies’ mind-numbingly action-oriented yearly offerings. I do love Davies, but his Christmas stories always ranked pretty low for me, or rather I cut him and his holiday specials an immense amount of slack, as in interviews he was always going on about how most of the audience is drunk anyway, and are basically looking for mindless fare on Christmas night. So that was his approach and it worked well as far as the U.K. viewing figures were concerned it seems.

To be fair, they got better as they went along, with only the bloated disaster yarn, “Voyage of the Damned,” bucking that trend, although last year’s episode was barely even a Christmas tale, being the first half of “The End of Time” and all. More than anything else, though, what was most disappointing about Davies’ Christmas outings is how none of them ever became holiday traditions for me as a “Doctor Who” fan, which is pretty amazing since there were four to choose from. Indeed, the best Christmas tale the series had unveiled prior to this past Saturday night was Season One’s “The Unquiet Dead,” penned by Mark Gatiss, which of course wasn’t even a holiday special. As you’ll no doubt remember, “The Unquiet Dead” detailed the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) meeting Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) right before Christmas in 1869 Cardiff, and here we are, well over five years later, returning to Dickens once again, and once again we discover that Dickens and “Doctor Who” make for a potent combination.

At its start, “A Christmas Carol” alarmingly resembles a Davies-era holiday adventure, with a giant spaceship plummeting through the atmosphere towards the ground below. Honestly, I was scared at this point – not over the potential fate of Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), but that I was being set up for “Voyage of the Damned II.” But the story quickly shifts gears into far more character driven territory, as we move onto the surface below and meet the cantankerous Kazran Sardick, played by the great Michael Gambon. Most people equate Gambon with Dumbledore these days, and with good reason, because it’s the role he’s been seen in more than any other. Myself? I first became acquainted with the man 20 years ago via Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover,” in which he played the thoroughly despicable Albert Spica alongside Helen Mirren. His performance in that film is so perfect, playing such an awful man, that to this day it’s the role I still associate him with the most, and it was cool to see him return to that shouting, obnoxious type of character. It’s interesting to note the decision to give neither Gambon nor the other high profile guest star, Katherine Jenkins, billing in the opening credits, while Gillan and Darvill – neither of whom have an enormous amount of screen time during the hour – are credited at the top.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

Post-Turkey Day film news bites

A few items as Hollywood finishes digesting its turkey and stuffing.

* Paramount has picked up “Area 51,” the science fiction follow-up to the ridiculously profitable “Paranormal Activity” from writer-director Oren Peli. Somewhat to my disappointment, this one will also use the “found footage” gimmick, though I guess we can assume that with an exponentially larger budget — $5 million (about enough to pay for craft services on some films) as opposed to $15,000 — Peli will at least attempt to spread his wings creatively. One reason to give him props, however, is that the film has already wrapped principal photography. We can’t accuse the Israel-born former video game designer of failing to strike while the iron’s hot!

Matt Damon and Julia Styles in * It appears that The Playlist broke the story that it appears that the very talented Paul Greengrass has left the helm of “Bourne 4” and if he goes, Matt Damon may not be far behind. Still, at this point it’s a tale without an ending in more ways than one

* Kim Masters considers “Avatar” and Robert Zemeckis’s motion capture and 3-D work as featured currently in “A Christmas Carol.” To me, they’re creatively too different beasts in that James Cameron‘s creations aren’t trying so hard to be realistic, which I think is the real reason for the “ugly” problem with the creator of Roger Rabbit’s more recent work. As for the “Avatar” characters, I’m not sure I’m going to love them yet, either, but we’ll see when the movie’s out. I’m also not at all sure that movies need to be revolutionized in quite this way.

* Over at Film Threat, Gary Morris of the highbrowish Bright Lights Film Journal is interviewed. Among the topics: interviews like this one. Don’t fear the meta. (H/t The Auteurs on Twitter.)

* It technically ended yesterday, but the Boris Karloff Blogathon, hosted where else but at Frankensteinia, lives on with tons of material still coming in submitted by innumerable bloggers about the late, great character actor who originated the role of Frankenstein’s monster in 1931. Definitely worth many looks.

The vocal there is quite obviously reconstructed using the original recording by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. If you want to hear the actual vocal from the 1965 episode of “Shindig” featuring the real Boris Karloff, you may hear it here.

  

Related Posts

“New Moon” rises while sinking; Thanksgiving box office gets hit on “The Blind Side”

My Wednesday prediction that this would be a healthy Thanksgiving weekend at the box office certainly proved true — and it was nice to see it wasn’t at the rest of the economy’s expense: holiday shopping actually went up slightly this year and went up a lot more virtually. Also, the movie everyone expected to hit number actually did one hit number one. However, looking beneath the surface just slightly, movie consumers were making some interesting choices.

The argument prognosticators were making last week was that Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” pretty much had to come out on top because, considering its $142 million+ opening weekend, even if it suffered a catastrophic drop in its second weekend, it still would be ahead of everything else, and that’s pretty much what happened. The vampire-werewolf-human love triangle dropped a massive 70% but, as reported by Box Office Mojo‘s weekend chart and trade mag writers jolly Carl DiOrio and Pamela McClintock, it still earned an estimated $42.5. That was a mere $2.375 million ahead of this week’s surprise #2 film, “The Blind Side,” which not only actually won the box office race on Thanksgiving day (which is not included in the weekend tallies) but came refreshingly close to winning the weekend with $40.125 million. The five day total for the films offer a bit more air between the #1 and #2 spots, with an estimated $66 million for “New Moon” and just over $57.5 for “The Blind Side.”

blindside

The impressive aspect of the Sandra Bullock-led sports film/cross-cultural family drama combo is that it did something I don’t remember seeing whenever I’ve been paying close attention to grosses.  In a world where we think it’s good if a film drops less than 45-50% on its second weekend, “The Blind Side” actually climbed 17.6% on its second go-round without a significant expansion (it went from being in 3,310 theaters to 3,340). I haven’t seen the film but I will say that this seems to be a sign that it’s possible what attracts most audiences today isn’t so different from what attracted them 50 or 75 years ago.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas

The trio behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” has cooked up some of the most unpolitically correct humor in the history of TV, but for “A Very Sunny Christmas,” they’ve dialed it down considerably, instead relying on more gratuitous tactics – like language, nudity and gore – to score laughs. Split up into two stories, the holiday special follows the gang as they prepare for Christmas Day. While Dennis and Dee try to teach Frank a lesson by taking him through his own version of “A Christmas Carol,” Mac and Charlie try to cope with the fact that their Christmas memories aren’t as great as they remember them. The episode culminates with a Claymation musical number that features Hermey the Mischief Elf, Sam the Snowman, and the California Raisins dressed up as KKK members.

Though the former subplot definitely has its moments (a sweaty, naked Danny DeVito not being one of them), the latter is easily the funnier of the two, whether it’s Mac losing his temper or Charlie going nuts on a mall Santa. Still, for a show that’s just beginning to earn an audience beyond its cult fanbase, it takes a lot of nerve to release a 42-minute Christmas special straight to DVD. Though you can’t really blame the creators for making this kind of executive decision (this has Fox’s greedy little fingerprints all over it), the show itself really could have been a lot better. Instead, you get a mediocre extended episode for about five dollars less than the cost of an entire season. It’s not exactly a great way to win over new viewers, and certainly not the way to treat old ones either. This is strictly for diehard fans only, but even they may have issues with ponying up the cash for something that FX is bound to air for free eventually.

Click to buy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas”

  

Related Posts