Hollywood came to Boston last week. A star-studded cast of Meryl Streep’s admiring colleagues and fans converged on Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre to fete the actress who, with an unsurpassed 13 Oscar nominations and two wins, is among the most celebrated of all time. As of last Wednesday night, she could add the Coolidge Award to her list of accolades.
Now in its third year, the Coolidge Award was established to showcase a “film artist whose work advances the spirit of original and challenging filmmaking,” and to draw “public attention to the contribution the Coolidge Corner Theatre has made to expanding film culture in New England.” Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) and three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now) are its past winners.
On March 13, the Coolidge Corner Theatre began its month-long celebration with a series of seminars and a retrospective of some of Streep’s most acclaimed roles. The Monday-night screenings included The Deer Hunter, Silkwood, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Sophie’s Choice, while Out of Africa screens on April 17 at 7 pm. The centerpiece of these screenings was the local premiere of Robert Altman’s new A Prairie Home Companion.
Last Wednesday afternoon, following a media screening of his film, Altman appeared at a press conference accompanied by three members of his large ensemble cast — Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, and, of course, Streep.
“I don’t think we’ve had this much excitement at the Coolidge since Michael Moore popped his head in during the Democratic Convention,” exclaimed publicist Marianne Lampke. Altman was in town for the convention as well. “You were here?” Lampke asked. “But you didn’t drop in . . . .”
Altman, exhibiting some of the spry wit he displayed when he accepted this year’s honorary Oscar, shot back with a devilish grin, “I wasn’t invited.”
Asked about her reaction to being chosen as the latest recipient of the Coolidge Award, Streep said, “This award is really celebrating not so much me, as it is an independent art theater. I think it’s a really important thing, and I’m proud to help out.”
The two-and-a-half-hour-long award ceremony was a sold-out, red-carpet affair. It kicked off with a string performance by students from the Brookline Music School. Local songwriter Patty Larkin played her hit “Angels Running” because “Cher covered it. You get the idea — Meryl Streep. Silkwood. Cher . . . Patty Larkin — 35 degrees of separation.”
Robert Brustein, founder of the Yale Repertory Theatre and Cambridge’s American Repertory Theatre, reminisced about Streep’s early years: “In a Hollywood community not particularly marked by selflessness, generosity, or commitment, Meryl remains one of the few American stars who bring great honor to her profession, passion to her social commitments, devotion to her family and” — in a sentiment that echoed strongly throughout the evening — “loyalty to her friends.”