What These Character Posters Tell Us About Dark Shadows

There is nothing I love more than character posters because they are usually the worst thing ever. Need proof? Remember the character posters for What To Expect When You’re Expecting? They are awful. The posters for The Hunger Games? Also terrible. (Mostly because we’ve inundated by promotional material for The Hunger Games since November.)

So today the character posters for Dark Shadows, the latest Tim Burton-Johnny Depp collaboration, hit the Internet. These posters are quite…neon. This doesn’t bother me because I love neon like Justine from Melancholia loves the apocalypse. I know nothing about Dark Shadows except that it is about supernatural beings, Johnny Depp is a vampire, and the trailer disappointed everyone. This is more than enough information for me to judge these posters.

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Melissa Leo and the Best Supporting Actress Race

Of the six main Oscar categories, the only race still up for grabs is the best supporting actress race. After winning the Critics Choice Award and the Golden Globe, The Fighter‘s Melissa Leo seemed the obvious front runner. But when the BAFTA nominations were announced yesterday, Leo was noticeably absent from the ballot. Leo may have the lead in American critics circles, but across the pond Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech), Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham), Amy Adams (The Fighter), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan), and Lesley Manville (Another Year) are who made the cut.

In a way, I am not surprised. Leo is one of the best actresses working in Hollywood. She is on par with Meryl Streep, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Her tendency to take on gritty and unflattering roles, most notably Ray Eddy in Frozen River, also makes her one of the most under-appreciated actresses.

Compared to her The Fighter co-star Amy Adams, whose performance is remarkably and wonderfully against type, Leo is her always hard-edged self. There are few actresses who could play Alice the way that Leo did and it is a character that works into her character actress strengths. This is why Leo’s performance can easily be lost in the shuffle.

I have read some rumblings that Leo’s award winning streak is in some ways making up for her not winning the Oscar for Frozen River. I could not disagree more. Leo’s performance in Frozen River did not receive 1/3 of the accolades that she has received for The Fighter. As far as independent films go, Frozen River did have the momentum going into the Oscars that Winter’s Bone has. Moreover, I do not believe that Frozen River has been seen by a large enough audience, even though it has been two years since its critical success.

The best supporting actress race is still a three-way race between Helena Bonham Carter, Amy Adams, and Leo. If Leo wins the SAG, the Oscar is likely hers. But I am still skeptical because Leo is always the consummate character actress. For some reason, I believe this works against Leo while Adams’ extreme likability factor works in her favor. (There are endless possibilities in this category that I am just wrapping my head around.)

I’ll leave you with this thought of mine from the Golden Globes that sums up my understanding of Melissa Leo’s acting career:

So what are your thoughts on Melissa Leo and the best supporting actress race? Sound off below.

Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

King George VI was not supposed to become the king of England. The second son of King George V endured ill health as a child and a stammer caused him to live in the shadow of his older brother Edward. But with the Second World War looming in 1936, King Edward announced his intention to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. After less than a year as the ruling monarch, Edward abdicated the throne to his younger brother. At a time when nations did not need weak leaders, King George, stammer and all, was expected to lead the United Kingdom through war time.

Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech is this story of how a man born into certain expectations rose above his apparent limitations (that st-st-stammer) to become the voice of his people.

Colin Firth portrays King George VI; Helena Bonham Carter is his wife, Queen Elizabeth. After a public speaking disaster at the Empire Exhibition in 1925, where the film begins, the then Duke and Duchess of York seek the help of an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

At first the men clash. Duke Albert is ashamed of his stammer. Even as an adult, when Edward (Guy Pearce) calls him “B-B-Bertie,” Albert recoils. And Logue is a stubborn instructor, insisting that if his methods will work then he will be called “Lionel” and the Duke will be called “Bertie”. With the coronation looming, they work out their differences, with Logue getting at the root of Albert’s stammer and they move towards perfecting the king’s speech. The scenes between Firth and Rush are a fine acting duet; they carry the film.

The King’s Speech is in many ways about the circumstances that conflict leaders and how they handle what is expected of them. In 1936, King George had no choice but to conquer his stammer because it was his duty to the nation. Yet The King’s Speech is not a historical film that questions the role of the royal family, even when Albert shares his poor little rich boy tale. And his brother who is supposed to be a villain of sorts – well, you wind up not minding him. (When you read up on Edward’s post-abdication whereabouts, you might think otherwise.)

But what works best about The King’s Speech is that it does not preach about the historical moment it visualizes. Instead it depends on the strengths of its performers – Firth and Rush especially – to tell an exceptionally entertaining story.

First Look: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have partnered for the seventh time. This time for a remake of Alice in Wonderland and the first pictures of the film look absolutely fantastic.

According to producer Richard Zanuck, “The book itself is pretty dark. This is for little people and people who read it when they were little 50 years ago.”

Follow this link to see pictures of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Matt Lucas) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, in yet another perfect role).

Until we can see some footage for what is guaranteed to be a trippy and cool adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s book, here is a clip from the Disney 1951 animated film.

Alice in Wonderland will be released March 5, 2010.